Howdy y’all! Welcome to the official Addy’s Hope Adoption Agency blog! I wanted to take this first post to introduce myself – and my family! My family is a HUGE part – ok really the only reason – why I do what I do! It is through our own personal journeys of adoption that I have learned what I know, and felt what I feel. Grab yourself a cup of coffee & pull up a chair, this might be a bit of a story to get through the entire bunch, but here we are….
I was raised by amazing parents and had a near perfect childhood! We had our dysfunction as all families do (don’t tell my parents I said that!), but overall I had what I called a “Beaver Cleaver” family. And I just showed my age with that analogy! I grew up in the same house from the time I was 18 months old until I graduated from Permian High School in Odessa, Texas. I went on to earn a degree in education from Texas Tech University in Lubbock – GUNS UP! I would return home to teach for five years – realizing teaching was not my calling after all but knowing kids still are!
It was in those five years that I met and married my partner in crime – John! He grew up in a small West Texas town just miles from me, but we didn’t meet until after we had both graduated colleges. When we married, our “how many children do you want” conversation went something like:
John: I want two, or three, or maybe just one.
Me: I want at least three, but we can’t have an odd number, so we will need to have four.
He married me anyway! ;)
Then God: I am going to give you 9!
And so it was! We have Paizley -24 (adopted through the state at age 15 and mother to my amazing grandbabies – Ezra 5, Uriah 3, and Amarize 2), CallieAnn -19 (biological), Noah - 18 (adopted as an infant), Toben – 14 (adopted from Liberia at age 3), Ava – 13 (biological), Madison -9 (fostered starting at 7 weeks and adopted at 2), Journey – 8 (biological), Ella – 7 (first a grandchild and now a child), DJ – 6 (first a grandchild and now a child). And this is the story of how they all became mine!
Our first experience as parents was becoming pregnant immediately after deciding to try despite being told by doctors it would take years. We would learn at our 10 week appointment that something wasn’t exactly right with the pregnancy, but no definite answers. I would carry our Hope three more weeks before losing her to a miscarriage. I look back on that experience now and know without a doubt God was teaching me the most valuable lesson He knew I needed for being mother to the children He would call me to – my children are not mine. They are HIS! I have the honor and privilege of raising them and training them for His purpose, but it is for His purpose that they are on this earth, not my pleasure. We would become pregnant again three months later, and our amazing first born would enter this world making my dream of being a mother a reality! CallieAnn Grace was all I had dreamed and more in a baby! I LOVED being her mother! In her first year of life, John would take his first principal position, and we would move to a small farming community in the panhandle of Texas. The school had 170 kids in pre-k through 12thgrade! I would learn in this place that I LOVE country life and love country people! It is through the people here that we would welcome our second child to our family. Noah John was born just three weeks after we knew he existed. We got a call at 5:30 am telling us his brave birth mom was headed to the hospital, and at 7:30 am, he entered the world a healthy beautiful baby boy! I would get the honor of holding him just 12 hours, a massive packing spree, a plane ride, and a car drive later! We brought him home at 48 hours old, and I was once again in love with being a mother! Noah’s circumstances were everything we said we would not do in an adoption – but God said he was our son, and we said yes! I am so thankful we said yes! I can’t imagine my life without my boy!
Two years later we would make a move back to West Texas and family. We had free school housing, but in a crazy move that made sense to no one but the God who asked us to do it, we bought a nearly condemned farm house to redo and move into. We know now that was because God was going to call us to adopt two girls that we had no room for in our free school housing. We would begin the process to adopt 3-year-old twins from Sierra Leone West Africa. Three months into the process we would receive a devastating phone call. One of the twins, Addy Joy, had contracted cholera and passed away. I had no idea what cholera was. After a quick google search, I realized it was an illness that no child in this time should die from! It is contracted through contaminated water and is cured with antibiotics and fluids – none of which were available to her in her country. It was through Addy’s death that God would call us to start Addy’s Hope. Originally, we started it because we knew that there were children who without adoption, faced sure physical death. We now understand that the spiritual life of children is of vital importance in adoption as well! We operate from that principle in the work we do with children and families.
We would continue to work toward bringing Addy’s twin, Eden home for the next 18 months. I would travel to Sierra Leone by myself to complete her adoption. It was the most amazing and heart wrenching experience all rolled into one! She bonded immediately with me. When we had to leave three weeks later to what we thought would be a three-day trip to Senegal to get the children’s visas (two other families were also adopting), they had to literally rip her from my neck because she would not let go of me. It was one of the hardest things I have had to do in this life! That was in 2005, and it was the last time I would see her. We would learn 5 months later that the agency we were working through had falsified information and the US Embassy denied her orphan visa to come home. So while she was legally our daughter in Sierra Leone, we could not bring her home. The adoption laws had changed by this time (no thanks to UNICEF and Save the Children – if you love children, DO NOTsupport these organizations without doing your research!), and we would have had to live in Sierra Leone for 6 months to redo the adoption with the correct information. We did not feel that was something we could do, and after much prayer and heart ache had to reconcile that the journey had come to an end – for that time. I still pray I will hug her neck one day whether that be on Sierra Leone soil or here in the US – maybe she will even be able to come over and attend college here with us as her sponsor. But only God knows if or when those things will happen, and I trust His perfect timing – now! Can’t say I felt that way when I got off the plane from Sierra Leone without my precious girl – but that will have to be a story for another time!
God knew the news was coming that she wasn’t coming home. So in His infinite wisdom and sense of humor, two months after returning from Sierra Leone I learned we had a baby on the way – by the pregnancy we thought we were preventing! Ha! God showed us! I actually told John I was pregnant by waking him up and telling him he won – he would go back to get Eden because I was pregnant! We had been “discussing” who would go back to get her when the visa was approved. Our sweet Ava would enter the world in the spring of 2006. I was 5 months pregnant with her when we would learn that Eden would not be coming home. I often said the pregnancy is what kept me breathing through that awful time because I knew I had a life besides my own – the one inside of me - that I had to sustain.
Between trying to adopt Eden, being pregnant, having two then three children, and moving to a new town, we started Addy’s Hope Adoption Agency! After I returned from Sierra Leone, we were contacted by a Pastor in Liberia who wanted us to work with him to place children out of Liberia into US families. That partnership would ultimately be responsible for 38 children being placed in Christian homes over the course of a 4.5 year period. All that transpired in that time would be a novel all on its own! But the most amazing event of that time was bringing home our Toben Obadiah! When John told me that he felt God was calling us to adopt this little boy, I wanted to fight it with everything in me! I was not ready to open my heart to another international adoption. What if it ended the same way Eden did? But ultimately, I submitted my fears to God and agreed to move forward. It’s how Toben got his name – it means “believing God is good”. It was a natural choice since agreeing to move forward with adoption again meant I had to just make a decision to believe God was good even though I really didn’t “feel” He was good. Toben would come home just months after we made that decision in a parting the Red Sea trip that really should be made into a Lifetime movie! While I was scared to start his adoption for fear of loss, I am so thankful we did it! Toben has been a blessing from the day he came home!
I had my two boys, my two girls, and my multi-ethnic family. I was a happy camper! My life was complete! …so I thought.
Anyone else relate to God wrecking your life just about the time you think you have it made?! Well, shortly after Toben came home, the President of Liberia would place a moratorium on adoptions out of Liberia. We had 65 children and 8 full time staff in our orphanage in Liberia to support. God provided in miraculous ways, and we were able to care for the children and pay almost all the staff salaries. During this time John and I heard God call us to foster care personally. I said I wound neverfoster. But here we were. We were not even licensed yet when we would receive a 7 week old beautiful brown bundle of joy as a fictive kin placement. That again will have to be a story for another time! We would foster one other precious baby before our home had too many kid to continue fostering. This baby would eventually be returned to his mother! We were thankful for that! She loved him and wanted to provide a life for him….and fostering was never meant to be permanent!
In our foster journey, we learned that there were thousands of legally free children in Texas who needed adoptive homes. They languished in the foster system because no permanent home could be found. I looked at John and said, “We can’t adopt them all!” To which he sternly replied, “No, we can’t!” Because he knew if I could find a way, I would! And while we did not adopt them all, we did adopt a precious 15 year old girl who would become our Paizley Faith! She came to our home November 23 and opened our eyes to older child adoption – the need, the trials, and the joys. And that is how our They Wait program began. God provided a wonderful ministry to take over our work in Liberia. We handed over our amazing orphanage and land to this ministry who has carried on our dream for the community where we built it! We would work to get our domestic license as an agency, and then our in-state adoptions contract with DFPS. We were ready to roll!
In case you lost count, we were up to 6 children! But wait, there is a twist – you know how everyone says that as soon as you adopt, you get pregnant? Well I always said that only applied to people who adopted out of infertility, not out of calling! But God in His infinite wisdom and sense of humor again created a life that we thought we were preventing. And oh how thankful we are that He did! So four days after committing to adopting a 15 year old, we found out we were pregnant! God had already sealed Paizley in our hearts as our daughter, so we knew we would move forward unless CPS or our agency had a policy that would not allow it. Nine months later, Journey Josiah entered this world and became child number 7! After adding to our family at both ends – adding the oldest and the youngest - surelywe were done!
However, through some circumstances over the next two years, we took custody of our first two grandbabies. Ella Esther and Deacon Jude would become our 8thand 9thchildren!
And that’s how God built our family! It is through these stories that He has given me the love, empathy, and compassion for children from trauma and the families who commit to love them! It is through my journey as a mother that my passion for helping families has been and continues to be birthed! I walk the path with you! I am in the trenches of navigating the mental health world, medical care, and sensory tools with you – just to name a few of the things we as parents may be facing that we never dreamed would be part of our story!
I hope to provide you with encouragement for the journey – this is a marathon, not a sprint! I hope to allow you to learn from my mistakes – there are many! And I hope to make you feel less alone on this path you may have not really known you were choosing to walk when you said yes to adoption!
Your fellow mom in the trenches,