Monday, November 21, 2016

National Adoption Month: ABCs of Adoption: K-P

In honor of National Adoption Month, members of the adoption triad are sharing their adoption stories on social media. Throughout the month of November, I'll be using "The ABCs of Adoption" as a guide to help me share my heart on adoption topics. 

Click here to read The ABCs of adoption A-E & here to read F-J! Search #btgadoption on Instagram for more beautiful, honest, inspiring & raw adoption stories.


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K is for...Knit & Baby "K"  



"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." ~Psalm 139: 13-16

 

2 years ago at this time we were still just dreaming & hoping about being matched with our "Sweet Baby K" 
Little did we know that we would soon hear about Izzy's birth mom for the first time! 
Last year at this time we felt strongly that another baby was coming to our family through adoption & were preparing our finances & hearts for another adoption. Little did we know that Noah was already growing in his birth mom's womb!  
This year we are snuggling our sweet babies with grateful hearts & continue to have open hearts to whatever avenue God wants to use next to grow our family. Isabel & Noah...you are our dream come true & answer to so many prayers! Never doubt that you were knit together fearfully & wonderfully by God for great purpose. We love you both so much!



L is for...Labor of Love 

Adoption is truly a labor of love! In the summer of 2014, we were knee deep in the adoption process. One day, as I was working on fundraising orders & praying for our baby-to-be, the Lord spoke to my heart. He told me that this was all just a part of my "labor" for our baby. The word I received that day really changed my outlook on our adoption journey & gave me the strength to continue pouring my heart & soul into the process. 
My "labor" was long & painful...it started with me on my knees, years before my children were born. My labor was one of the heart. My labor was one of determination, grit & sacrifice. My labor involved many choices, endless tears & lost sleep. My labor included stacks of paperwork, hours of Home-study interviews, numerous fundraisers & tons of research. My labor included overcoming fears, dying to self & surrendering my plans. Some days I felt like it was all too much, felt like I couldn't go on...but even in my weakest moments my deep desire to be a mother gave me the strength to push on. Every step of the way, my incredible husband was holding my hand & pushing alongside of me. Our "labor" may have only been one of the heart & soul, but nonetheless, it was a labor of love.






M is forMotherhood 


After infertility became part of our story & God made it clear adoption was the path He wanted to use to grow our family, I had to mourn the path to motherhood I'd always envisioned for myself. I had to surrender my plans before I could fully embrace new dreams. As I surrendered, God began to put new desires on my heart. My vision for my family became less about what I'd imagined & more about His heart for the precious children He was calling us to through adoption. 

Although my journey to motherhood was much different than I ever imagined it would be, it was no less beautiful. My heart longed for these babies years before they were ever in my arms...before there was even hope for these precious souls, I wanted & loved them. When they were each placed in my arms, everything that it took to get to them faded away...Suddenly I was just a mom looking down at my baby with love & awe for the first time. So thankful now for the beautifully broken road I had to walk to get to this place of JOY. I'll keep walking this road of infertility, adoption & motherhood with faith & hope because I know that God has a purpose in every twist & turn. 




N is for...Noah's Adoption Story 



Right before Noah was born, Joylynn Breaux of Cher Bebe Birth Stories (located here in Baton Rouge) reached out to us & offered to bless us with a video of Noah's adoption story. 


We are excited to finally share our video for the first time in honor of National Adoption Month! We pray our testimony of the Lord's faithfulness, provision & love will encourage the hearts of many. 
Here's a glimpse of our story

More information about Cher Bebe Birth Photography can be found here: 
 So blessed by the thoughtfulness & talents of Joylynn!




O is for...Open Adoption 

Our main focus with open adoption is doing what's best for our children. We want Izzy & Noah to know where they came from & have access + connections to their biological history. In our home, openness means that our kids will always have the freedom to process, ask & feel about their adoption stories & birth families as needed… Openness means no secrets & no shame about how they came into the world & into our family.
Open adoption means being committed to communication. Open adoption means creating boundaries...working to keep relationships with the birth family healthy, respectful & focused on each child's best interest. Adoption is complex & involves so many raw emotions. Sometimes having open relationships is hard & can get messy, but honestly isn't the same true of all relationships? In our experience, the beauty, redemption & love in open adoption outweighs the "tough" by far! 


Ultimately, as our children get older, it will be up to them to determine what kind of relationship they want to have with their birth families. Until then, we are committed to doing our best to cultivate healthy relationships & keep doors open 
Finally, open adoption is an incredible opportunity for us to bring the hope & love of Jesus into broken situations. Openness means desiring & seeking healing...for all involved, but especially for our precious kids & their beautiful birth moms




P is for...Positive Adoption Language + Privacy/Protect 



Positive Adoption Language...is SO important y'all! The way our children hear their stories talked about will shape how they view themselves. 
For the most part, people we encounter speak positively about adoption, but too frequently we still hear negative/careless language or comments that make our jaws drop. When something is said that doesn't sit right with me, I usually pause, take a breath & then respond with emphasis on the correct phrasing. I try to give lots of grace with a dose of education when this happens, because I'm well aware that even with the best intentions, I definitely haven't always gotten it "right" either. Until adoption is an intimate part of your life, you can't truly understand how important it is to speak about all things adoption with respectful language! 
With that said, if you're someone who interacts with our family on a regular basis, knows our story & talks to us regularly about adoption, I am going to ask you, for the sake of our precious babies who deserve to have their stories spoken about with the upmost love & care, please make every effort to educate yourself & use appropriate adoption language!  When in doubt just ask us about correct phrasing & follow our lead! We are SO appreciative to everyone in our life who loves our family so well by being intentional & making every effort to learn & use "better" adoption language.


 There's SO much more to say on this topic, but I'll try to wrap up this novel by giving more perspective + examples: 


-Our children weren't "unwanted/unloved" or "given away/given up or abandoned" by their birth moms. Izzy & Noah's birth moms loved them deeply & wanted the very best for them. They intentionally "made an adoption plan" & "placed them for adoption" by carefully choosing us to be their parents. 


-We refer to our childrens' biological parents/family as their "birth parents/birth family" Cary & I were specifically chosen by both of our childrens' birth moms to be "mom & dad" to our babies. So if you ask me about my child's "real mom" or even "mom" I'm just going to assume you're asking about me. It gets old to constantly feel like I have to defend my title as "mom" just because our children came to us through adoption. 



-If you ask us if we are going to have our "own kids" we will immediately clarify that Izzy & Noah ARE our "own kids" While we would still love to have "biological children," we are honestly just as excited about the option of continuing to grow our family through adoption. We know God's plans are best aka Izzy & Noah are "His best" for us & we love them with ALL of our hearts! WE consider ourselves to be the "lucky ones". Also, although our children were both adopted & are not "biological" siblings, let me assure you that they are "real" siblings! 

Please hear me when I say that I'm all about educating, giving grace, acknowledging the complexities in adoption & agree that not all adoption situations are beautiful & loving. With that said...there's a line! If you have something judge-mental to say about birth moms, something stereotypical about adoptees, something disrespectful about (adoptive) moms or negative about adoption, please just show our family some respect by keeping it to yourself! Our family isn't "second best", our children aren't "damaged" & we LOVE our babies' birth moms so there's simply no place here for your negativity. As a momma bear, please understand that protecting my family will always be my top priority.

Privacy & Protect…
Obviously we love sharing our hearts & experience with adoption! As you've probably noticed, we've chosen to keep most details about our childrens' birth families private. We don't share pictures or details simply because we don't feel like that part of the story is ours to share. Our children didn't have a choice in how their story started, but they will have a voice in how it's shared. There are some questions we are asked about our childrens' stories that we choose not to answer out of our desire to protect our childrens' hearts & privacy. 

That was a difficult post for me to write. If you read it all the way through, thanks for bearing with me! I appreciate your willingness to hear my heart & extend grace to me as I try to share on these adoption topics with honesty + grace! We truly love talking about adoption & don't ever want anyone to be afraid they can't ask or talk to us about it, we just really appreciate your respect & sensitivity when doing so!

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Hope y'all are enjoying reading along this month as I share our story! Search #btgadoption on Instagram for more beautiful, honest, inspiring & raw adoption stories.

With love, Tyler 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

National Adoption Month: Our Journey to Noah (Video)

Right before Noah was born, Joylynn Breaux of Cher Bebe Birth Stories reached out to us & offered to bless us with a video of Noah's adoption story. We were deeply touched by her thoughtfulness & excited for the opportunity to capture our joy over our miracle boy on film! 
Shortly after Noah was born, Joy came to our home one Saturday morning & captured video footage of our little family. We are excited to share our video for the first time in honor of National Adoption Month! We pray our testimony of the Lord's faithfulness, provision & love will encourage the hearts of many. 

Click the link to watch our video:

Thank you Joy for blessing our family in such a special way.  We will cherish the video forever! 

About Cher Bebe:
Cher Bebe is proud to be the only full service birth photographers in Baton Rouge. They've had the honor of capturing over 175 births since 2012. They have experience at every hospital in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas along with birth centers, home births, water births, cesarean, VBAC, epidural, surrogate, preemie, twin and triplet births. 
Joy is wonderful to work with! She is not only talented & passionate about her job, but also has a beautiful heart. If you're looking for a birth photographer in the Baton Rouge area, we highly recommend Cher Bebe! 
Contact: cherbebebirthstories@gmail.com

With love, 
Tyler 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

National Adoption Month: The ABCs of Adoption: F-J

  • In honor of National Adoption Month, members of the adoption triad are sharing their adoption stories on social media. Throughout the month of November, I'll be using "The ABCs of Adoption" as a guide to help me share my heart on adoption topics. Click here to read my first post, The ABCs of Adoption: A-E. 


    F is for…Family



    This is my family...my everything! We were brought together by adoption. Love, commitment & sacrifice made us a family. When I look back at our journey to bring Izzy & Noah home, I see God's grace written over every twist & turn. I see the Lord's goodness & His redemptive LOVE. I am a blessed & grateful momma! 

    F is also forFaithful Adoption Consultants 
    In 2014, we set out to adopt for the first time. We began researching adoption agencies & were immediately overwhelmed. After days of research, we still felt lost... How we were going to make such a big decision? A few days later, by God's grace, we were introduced to a great couple who took the time to share their experience & heart for adoption with us. I remember hanging. on. every. word. & feeling my heart swell. For the first time in our journey to become parents, I suddenly felt so much less alone & deeply encouraged! Through this connection, we were recommended to FAC. After that conversation & a little more research & prayer, we felt confirmation from the Lord that using Faithful Adoption Consultants was the right choice for us. We signed on with FAC in April 2014, started our Homestudy the same week, starting fundraising like crazy & became active in August. On November 25th, 2014 (2 days before my 25th b-day) we received THE phone call that all couples in the adoption process long for...we were matched with a baby girl due in February of 2015! Getting the news was one of the happiest & most surreal moments of my life! The next 2.5 months leading up to Isabel's birth were filled with many ups & downs...we had days of joy & celebration & also days of fear, doubt, devastation & frustration as we walked out some hard realities that often come with adoption. God used that time to strengthen our faith, challenge us to truly trust Him & to extend love & grace in a whole new way. Through it all, our consultant Jessica was only a phone call or email away to offer counsel, advice & prayer. Finally, on February 12th, 2015, the most perfect baby girl we'd ever seen, our Isabel Grace, was born. It was truly love at first sight for us! 

  • Just seeing her beautiful face for the first time made every single difficult part of our journey fade away & redeemed all of our pain & waiting. So incredibly thankful that the Lord led us to Faithful Adoption Consultants. We love their hearts, we love that they treat their job as a ministry, we love the way their encourage their clients to love birth families big & well. If you're searching for direction in your adoption journey as far as choosing an agency or consultant, we highly recommend considering FAC. 

G is forGrief 



Adoption is complex. It's emotional. It's hard. As much beauty, love & hope come with adoption (especially on our end as parents blessed with our precious children), we HAVE to acknowledge that adoption is born from a place of loss, brokenness & grief. I don't know how our children are going to feel about their adoption stories. I don't know how much they will struggle with feelings of loss & grief. I don't know to what extent they will question their value & identity as they grow up to understand what adoption means to them personally. As much as it hurts my heart to think of them hurting (I literally have tears rolling off my face right now just thinking about it), I know that loving them fully & deeply means giving them the complete freedom to process, feel & grieve as they need. I pray daily for the strength I'll need to put myself & my feelings aside as my precious children begin to explore who they are, where they come from & what that all means. It's hard as a mother to know that my love won't always be enough, but I think it's important to recognize that it won't always be & accept that now, before their questions & processing start. I pray for grace to answer their questions with tenderness, honesty & love. I pray that by having parents who are willing to recognize their loss, foster open adoptions/connections with birth family + culture & help give them every resource they need to find the answers to the deepest & most desperate questions of their hearts, our children will be able find healing & wholeness. I pray everyday for God to give us the grace, strength & love to raise these sweet babies to know how deeply they are loved & cherished by Him, by us & by their birth families.

    H is for...Hug 



    The first image that came to my mind when I thought of H words + adoption was Izzy's birth mom & I reaching out to embrace each other in a long hug the first time we met. That beautiful moment is forever etched into my memory as a moment of God's incredible grace. Grace in God's provision for me as a young woman longing for her first child, grace for "C" in having the option of adoption when faced with an unplanned pregnancy & grace for our precious Isabel Grace's future...grace on grace on grace for our beautiful girl who God created so intentionally & perfectly for LIFE!!! As we hugged, we clung to each other & God knit our momma hearts together in love for our girl + His purposes & glory. 

  • I is for...Infertility & Insomnia 



    Infertility 
    The Lord used infertility to bring our precious babies into our family through adoption. He has used infertility + adoption to completely turn our lives upside down & increase our faith tremendously. Our perspective about our infertility diagnosis has changed SO much since we received it in late 2013. When we were first diagnosed, our dreams were shattered, our hope was crushed. We couldn't fathom how two healthy young adults in our mid 20s could BOTH be diagnosed with infertility. We've struggled a lot with big questions & hurts over the last few years. Looking back now, we see purpose & beauty in the way our journey played out & have so much hope for the future of our family. Most days I'm now able to honestly pray, "Lord, if infertility is a part of your continued will & plan for us, give me the faith & perspective to embrace it with joy & peace." I don't know if our journey with infertility is a temporary or a long-lasting one...but what I DO know is that our God has nothing but love & wants HIS BEST for us, His beloved children. 

    I is also forInsomnia 
    Y'all, the struggle is real! When we were going through the process of adoption (both the first & second time, but especially the first), I had MANY sleepless nights. In fact, I had more sleepless nights than decent nights of sleep. I was up many nights praying, planning, hoping, dreaming, crying & working on everything adoption related. It was during those sleepless nights of longing & praying that God not only increased my love & desire for our future children but also put deep compassionate in my heart for the birth mommas of our precious babies. 
    So shoutout to all you mommas-in-waiting currently dealing with insomnia...I feel you! Be encouraged that this is part of your journey & growth...part of your labor of love for your sweet child. One day you'll look back on these nights with a strange fondness because you'll finally be able to see that in your hours of sleeplessness & desperate longing, God was with you, wiping every tear & hearing every cry of your heart... 

  • Even when you couldn't see it, He was answering prayers & moving in ways you could have never imaged He is so good friend! Be encouraged! And for goodness sakes, try to get some rest!
J is for…Joy!


Keeping it simple by letting this photo speak for itself… 
Joy, so much joy! 

Hope y'all are enjoying reading along this month as I share our story! Search #btgadoption on Instagram for more beautiful, honest, inspiring & raw adoption stories.
With love, Tyler 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

National Adoption Month: Orphan Sunday


The more I walk this adoption journey, the deeper I understand that this calling is so much more about God's heart & purposes than it is about my hopes & dreams for my family. The more we understand the Father's heart & surrender our plans to Him, the more open we become...more open to loving without limits, without specifications, without our own agendas getting in the way. The more we embrace HIS heart for orphans, for birth moms, for kids in foster care, for infants exposed to drugs in the womb or diagnosed with disabilities, the more adoption becomes less about us seeking our "perfect family" & more about us laying down our lives so His love can transform hearts, lives, families & the world! The more we understand God's heart for adoption, the more willing we are to sacrifice it ALL for the sake of the Gospel & His precious children. After all, as Christians we know what it's like to be spiritual orphans who are adopted with open arms by a Father who lavishes us with His love & promises us an eternal inheritance. 


 As the Church, we are mandated to care for orphans: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." ~James 1:27 


 There are SO many ways to be involved in orphan care & adoption. You can adopt, foster, donate, serve, educate, pray & the list goes on! Last year I wrote a post giving some tips on loving & serving adoptive families well. You can find it by clicking here: The 93% Giving Support

 As Christians we need to be on our knees in prayer for children without a family, giving financially to orphan care & adoptive families, loving birth moms unconditionally in their brokenness & pain, mentoring foster kids, supporting foster families in practical ways, educating & challenging those around us (including our own churches) to do more & give more in this important area. We are all called to step up, answer the call & love without limits. This will look different for everyone who gets involved…We all have a role to play!

 We have personally answered this call by adopting, loving our childrens' birth families through open adoption, advocating for the voiceless through social media, donating to organizations that support orphan care & adoption, donating to families who are adopting, learning more about other avenues of adoption & being open to them, & constantly praying for guidance on what's next as we continue to grow our family. 



Orphan Sunday challenges me every year to reevaluate how my family can do more, give more & be more involved with all types of adoption. I hope you're personally challenged as well. I hope churches are convicted & challenged to better educate parishioners on the call to care for orphans & to better support adoptive families (emotionally, financially & practically). 



We've been able to adopt twice in two years because we have the most incredibly supportive family, friends & community standing with us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to each & every person who has blessed us in thoughtful, generous & amazing ways throughout our adoption adventures! Your prayers, support, donations, meals, gifts & your LOVE has literally changed our lives. We are deeply moved & appreciative! It truly takes a village to bring home a child through adoption...we are so thankful for our village! 

I'm going to close this post by sharing with you this POWERFUL message I read today. I hope it moves you & inspires you to action!

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"I'll take anyone."
Those were the words Davion Only spoke over a crowd at a Florida church just weeks ago. Davion Only, a 15 year old orphan pleading his case.... for a family.
"I'll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don't care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be."
This young man's story went viral, not only in the adoption community, but across the entire nation. Thousands of people called inquiring about this young man. Thousands.
And all I could think is, this couldn't be more backwards.
Yes, backwards.
The Christian adoption community went haywire over a young man asking for a family. The big news...he'll take anyone. Now here is my question, why aren't we as Christians saying the same thing about orphans? All orphans. Here, there, yon. Black, white, purple, typical, challenged, exceptional... you name it. Why aren't we lining up saying the same thing Davion Only was brave enough to say, "We'll take anyone." How amazing would this world be if more people were like this young man?
I don't care who you are, you are a family and I need a family. Now turn this message around. I don't care who you are, what country you are from, what your challenges are, you need a family and I am here. Can I be your family? 
The world oohed and ahhed over Davion's words.
I'll take anyone.

Turn it around, people.

TURN IT AROUND.

I have a family.

I have the one thing an orphan needs.

Why in the WORLD wouldn't I offer that to him or her?

How can I not???

I'll take anyone.  Any one.

Church.

People who call themselves the church, say it... I'll take anyone. Any orphan. Any child that does not have a mom or dad. Any child who lives a tortured life thinking God has forgotten them and they are not worthy of a family. Church, say it, I'll take anyone. Any orphan who has lived in pain, suffering, has cried out only to have no one answer their screams. I'll take anyone. I'LL TAKE ANYONE.

Any orphan. It doesn't matter. They have no one. All they want is someone to care ABOUT THEM. I'll take anyone.  Any orphan. I will not live my life knowing I can do something. Church, say it!! The ORPHAN SHOULD NOT BE THE ONE SAYING I'LL TAKE ANYONE.

YOU SHOULD.

Matthew 11:28-30 
Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you
and learn from me,
for I am gentle
and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy
and my burden is light.”

I'LL TAKE ANYONE.

It's Orphan Sunday. 

Do something.

Help an adopting family.

Consider adoption.

DO SOMETHING.

-Renee Tam 

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With love,
Tyler

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Shop Small Christmas Guide 2016

My friend Kailey Birkeland of Cheers to Plan A has put together a Small Shop Christmas Guide


 The list is compiled of small shops, businesses & crafters, many of which support adoption & orphan care. Last year we did almost all of our Christmas shopping from Kailey's guide. LOVE being able to give unique gifts, support small shops & give back to important causes all at once! 

Check it out & get to shopping: