Wednesday, January 29, 2014

FAQ's: Burning Questions About Our Move

In just a few days, we're heading up the road to Asheville as a family.  

It'll be the typical circus as Brian will pull a Uhaul and bring the two dogs with him, (one of whom is a nervous, pukey rider).  I'll be driving by myself with the two little ones. Inevitably, someone will throw a toy out of arm's reach in the first five minutes and scream about it for the next four hours. 

Good times. 

We've gotten lots of questions about our move and the future.  Here are some of the more popular ones we've been answering. . .   

1. What is TD going to do?  Before we could consider taking the job, we needed to get TD's thoughts on moving.  From the first conversation we initiated with him, TD expressed to us that he wanted us to take the job.  He was excited for us as a family and knew it would be a good fit.  However, he personally wasn't ready to go.  He has four months left of high school and wanted to finish school before moving. We totally understood he choice and started praying for a family that would be able to offer a good short-term fit for him.  Just one day after we accepted the job, a place for TD to finish out the school year was figured out. 

Over the course of the fall semester, he had been spending a good amount of time with the new children's pastor at our church and her family.  He would consistently express to us how much he enjoyed being with the family (and he's not one to express ANY emotion.)  It was a clear choice for us to ask them to consider taking in TD for a the remainder of the year.  They are former foster parents and have invited quite a few teens into their home over the years.  They readily agreed.

TD is excited about moving in with them and will stay until he graduates at the end of May.  At that point, he'll decide whether he is going to move in with us and work or go to college/trade-school full-time or head out on his own. 

We are so proud of him and can't wait to see him walk across the stage to receive his hard-won diploma in a few short months! 

2. Are you going to work in NC?  Nope and I can't wait! I've worked full and part-time for the past three years at a wonderful and super-supportive non-profit in Montgomery.  This will be the first time I will be able to be at home all day. Looking forward to not rushing out the door every morning trying to scramble dropping off the boys to daycare and still make it to work on time.  Being home full-time is going to have its own set of challenges, but I am excited about the ability to have regular play dates and form connections with other moms in the area. 

3.  What is the name of the church?  Biltmore Baptist 

4. Will you be closer to your family? Yes, another huge plus for us.  My parents will be within one day's driving distance now and Brian's family is at least an hour closer.  Added bonus: Knoxville, TN is only two hours away.  Easy driving distance from Brian's sister and her family and UT football games. 

5. Are you going to be foster parents in NC? At some point, probably yes.  But for now, we are not going to pursue anything. These past three years of our international adoption and foster care process have been so very stressful and emotionally tolling on us.  We are excited about the opportunity to take some time to exhale and just enjoy the family that God has given us.  

6. Will you have room for visitors?  Yes!!! Just know that the guest room is five feet from the boys' room. And they wake up jumping and yelling.  Loudly. 

I know y'all just couldn't sleep at night without those answers.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Long and Winding Road to Asheville

When the phone call about a prospective job at another church came in late summer, we weren't looking to leave Montgomery. My comment to Brian was, "there's really no way this will work out. It's going to take a miracle for all the pieces to fall into place." 

That's me, folks, full of faith.

And five months later, I'm packing up our house and we're heading to Asheville, North Carolina.

What had to line up and fall into place, did exactly just that.

From the very first conversations with the church, we were excited about the potential for Brian and our family, but tempered our expectations.

We weren't leaving Montgomery without Jayden. We believed that God had ordained J-man to be a permanent legal fixture in our family.  There was nothing we would do to jeopardize this gift.  It was a risk we weren't taking.  

At that point, we couldn't even leave the state for a one-day trip without permission from DHR, so moving to North Carolina was out of the question.  Everything had to be wrapped up with his case before we would be going anywhere and DHR had told us to prepare for a wild ride that could take years.

As the conversations with the church increased and we grew more and more intrigued, we also very candidly shared with them about our situation.  There would be no question of our commitment to  Jayden. He came first.

They understood and let us know that they had joined in with so many across the country who were praying for our son's story.

November 20th was one of the biggest days for Jayden's future.  A judge would decide whether or not he would be adoptable.  If she ruled that day, she could determine to prolong his stay in foster care or terminate parental rights, thereby freeing him for adoption.  She also could hold off on a ruling and instead make decision weeks or months later. We were told not to expect her to make a decision, and if there was a ruling made, to expect his case to be prolonged, though the evidence was very clear-cut.

We walked into the courtroom and the judge quickly informed us that she only had an hour before she had to leave.  Most likely the case would be continued.  We had already waited a year for this court date and it was possible we would have to be delayed another six months. My heart sank.

Thankfully, every lawyer, social worker, and witness in that courtroom that day was prepared and ready to testify to the facts.  With just three minutes left, the lawyer gave her closing statement.  I clenched Brian's hand and waited nervously for the judge to respond. After what seemed like an hour-long pause, she granted the termination of rights, immediately got up, and left the courtroom.

Everyone in the court room was so stunned they just looked around at each other in disbelief.  A miracle had occurred. 

He was on his way to having a permanent, forever family.

It was a tremendous leap in the process, but there were still more hoops to jump through and papers to be signed.

If Brian was to begin working at the church, he would need to fill the position by February 1st.  We were already in the middle of December, and still waiting on some important signatures and looking at a two-week wait period after that signature came.  

Once the appeal period was over, there was more paperwork for us to sign and then we couldn't finalize Jayden's adoption for another thirty to forty-five days.  It was looking like late February or early March before we could leave the state with our son.

The timeline just seemed insurmountable.  Though we would have loved to partner with the Asheville church, we didn't want them to wait on us and a process that was unstable and unpredictable. Everyone had been in limbo for too long.  

So the answer had to be "no."

It was frustrating, disappointing, and honestly, really confusing for us.  

Were we not hearing God correctly?  Would He bring us this far on the journey only to leave us still feeling unsettled?   

A week went by, and then things started happening.  

We had finally made it into the appeal period.  The fourteen-day countdown had begun and a gracious church had called us back.  They were unsettled with our answer as well. 

Many variables were still in flux- if we were meant to go to Asheville, Jayden's finalization would have to be completed. We were looking at least another month to a month and a half before a court date. 

Or so we thought. 

We passed through the appeal period with DHR working diligently to compile all of the necessary paperwork to finalize.  They put us in contact with a lawyer who had worked with other families to waive the 30 day wait period for extenuating circumstances.  The lawyer told us she thought the finalization could be pushed through before the end of January.  We were hopeful. 

The appeal period ended on January 2nd.  We signed the consent to adopt paperwork on January 6th, applied for a waiver the next day and that afternoon we received a call confirming our court date.  We would be finalizing our son's adoption one week later.  

Five months after stating that there was no way everything would fall into place for us to accept the job, it did.  

Funny how that happens. 

Leaving Montgomery and our church here has been a bittersweet decision for our family.  When I moved here five years ago, I had just become a wife. In a few weeks, I'll be leaving as a mother of three boys, two of whom we met in this city.  

Yet, we know that it is time for us to go and God has made it clear that Asheville is our next home.  Brian will be filling a new role, as the young adult pastor and we'll both be starting an orphan care ministry at the church. 

I wish I could include every detail of the past few months and the ways in which God has orchestrated our move, but this post is already way too long. 

I can confidently say that amidst the chaos of packing and nervous anticipation of the unknown, we are expectant and excited for what is to come in Asheville, NC!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Open Adoption: The Story of How Adopting Our Son Expanded Our Family By More Than Just One

As adoptive parents, one of the most important things we want to give our sons is as much of their history as possible.  The time with Jayden living in our home stretched from weeks into months, and I began to pray regularly that he would one day have the opportunity to build a relationship with some of his biological family members. 

Since we had welcomed him into our home at such a young age, we assumed that we knew most of his backstory and family history. Based on what we had been told and the circumstances surrounding his situation, our hopes for Jayden having a safe and healthy relationship with his bio family seemed unlikely. That was, until this past August. 

We got a call from DHR on a Monday morning.  His Great-Aunt Julia (who goes by JuJu) wanted to meet him.  She had not learned of Jayden's existence until very recently and was, obviously, very concerned that one of her family members was in foster care. 

My heart dropped and I nervously paced while talking with his social worker.  While Brian and I had always prayed that Jayden would have a permanent home in a safe, loving environment, we had also prayed it would be with us.  

It was decided by DHR that we would meet with JuJu that Friday morning.  She would have the opportunity to get to know us and decide if she would petition for custody, which was her right as a family member. 

That week was a blur, but it was filled with a lot of prayers, tears and extra snuggles with our boy.  We weren't sure what Friday would bring.  

We headed into the meeting with a few things on our heart. 

First and foremost, we wanted JuJu to know that though Jayden had been in foster care for most of his life, not one minute had gone by when he was not loved or wanted.  

Second, we wanted her to know that J-man had never been our "foster child." He was, simply, our son.  Even if he ended up leaving our home that day or never shared our last name, he would always be a member of our family.  We weren't his "babysitters" and he wasn't a "paycheck."  He was our much loved and treasured gift.  

Third, we wanted her to know that if she decided not to file for custody and chose to leave him in our care, our desire was to remain in regular contact and communication with her.  In the state of Alabama, DHR only facilitates closed adoptions. This meant that if and when we were able to adopt Jayden, the file would be closed and no information would be given to anyone (including his biological family) about his whereabouts or his adoptive family. 

Brian and I have always believed that open adoption is the route for our family, if there are stable and healthy relationships that can be maintained.  But there was nothing legally binding that could be used to assure his aunt of our desire.  If Aunt JuJu decided that her nephew's best interest was to remain with us, she would have to blindly trust us and rely solely on the word of two random strangers. It was a lot for us to ask. 

We walked into DHR that Friday morning, full of nervous energy. There was both excitement to meet a biological family member and anxiety about the unknown course of our family's life. 

Just inside the lobby, we all met and hugs were given all around. Immediately, it felt like we were family.  

JuJu understood that Jayden needed a little warming up at first, so there was some time for me to share our photo books from the past two years. I wanted to give as much information about him as possible by filling her in on his milestones and adventures.  We wanted to paint the fullest picture of the life he had lived. 

For almost two hours, we talked about Jayden, our family dynamics, and her side of the family.  There were many pieces she was able to fill us in on. We learned about a huge side of the family that had never existed to us. It was exciting to envision the possibilities for future family connections. 

After talking together for a while, Aunt JuJu shared her thoughts on the entire situation.  She had come that morning with every intention of filing for custody of Jayden. He was her blood relative, great-nephew, and she wanted what was going to be the best for him. 

Yet, in the first moments of meeting us, she saw how Jayden called Brian, "Dada," and clung to him for dear life. She observed the way he was bonded to us and to his brothers, Tyson and TD. 

With a selfless perspective and a level grace that I could only hope to have one day, Aunt JuJu gave us a precious gift. 

Instead of petitioning for custody, she entrusted us with her great-nephew. 

The fact of the matter is, that she didn't have to even meet with us.  She didn't have to sit and listen to us talk about our family.  JuJu could have just filed a petition and won custody of him a few weeks later, guaranteeing his departure from our home. 

Instead, she drove three hours to get to know us and her great-nephew.  Then she spent the rest of the weekend sharing about our meeting with the rest of her extended family.  She answered their questions about his well-being and his future and went to bat for us, advocating for him to stay in our home. 

This is an amazing woman with an open heart and mind that I'm now excited to call family. 

Aunt JuJu is an answer to so many prayers for our son. Though Jayden will now legally be a "Word," he will have biological family members consistently in his life.  Generations of family histories will be passed on to him, a gift that we could never give him. 

Since August, we have kept in regular contact with Aunt JuJu, as well as his Great-Grammy in Michigan, and his Great-Great Granny who also came to his 2nd birthday party. 

A simple blog post cannot truly convey how grateful we are for our son's biological family.  Over the past six months, they have welcomed us into their family with open arms.  After every conversation with Aunt JuJu, we walk away feeling affirmed and encouraged as Jayden's parents.  She is such a blessing.

Open adoption has provided us with not only a son, but also an extended family across the country.  The prayers I whispered in our first few months with Jayden have been answered in ways I could have never imagined. 

God's story is always, always, always better.   

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Newest Word

For the first time since I started writing this blog three years ago, we are no longer waiting on a Word. 

May I introduce you to Jayden David Word, our "J-man."  

He was our first child, placed into my nervously shaking arms when he was just two weeks old.  Two years ago, we didn't know whether he would be with us for a month, a year, or longer.  

It never mattered.  He was our son. No length of time, last name, or his future plans would dictate our love for him.  From the moment he entered our home, we counted each day we were given  with him as a gift. 

Jayden had his very first bath in our kitchen sink, took his first steps in our living room, and has spent the last 765 nights getting smothered with our bedtime kisses. 

Yesterday, Brian and I sat with him in front of a judge, and expressed our desire to love, guide, and care for him forever. 

While we answered a few questions from our lawyer, Jayden spent the time yelling out in the courtroom, "Baby!" as he scanned the room for his little brother.  When he located Tyson, he realized that his brother was eating a snack and proceeded to scream, "Snack! Snack!" until he got one too. 

Thankfully, the judge didn't seem to mind pretzels crumbs dropping all over the floor in his courtroom.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this family of mine. 

I've got much more to share, but for now, I'll leave you with some pictures of our special day.  

We are so very grateful for this little life that God has entrusted us with - he is our absolute joy.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Let me clear things up real quick. (Because I know some of your minds already went there!)

This is not a post about a new addition to the Word family. 

This is a post about a word.  My word. 


Eager anticipation for the future.  Hopeful.  Excited for what is to come. 

It's a word that I'm loving as we head into 2014.  

It's no surprise that this past year was one of our best and one of the toughest we've ever had. 

We are coming out of 2013 absolutely exhausted. 

From adjusting to life with two toddlers, being diagnosed with Lyme, months of uncertainty J-man's future, Brian's hectic schedule, little ones who stay sick consistently, we are weary.  


It's a word that has been pressed on my heart as we delve into a new chapter of our life. 

We are entering 2014 hopeful for many things. 

  • Rest and reprieve 
  • A definitive answer to J-man's future
  • Full healing of my Lyme Disease
  • Renewed vision of our purpose as a family
  • TD's graduation from high school

2013 was a year full of extreme highs and difficult lows.  We rejoiced at the arrival of our son Tyson.  We sat in anxious uncertainty for months over J-man's situation. We were reminded daily of the beautiful gift of our three boys. We struggled to understand why I would be hit with debilitating joint pain at a time when I needed my health the most.  We have had new and exciting opportunities presented to our family.

We have trudged through the valley and shouted from the mountaintops this year.  We are grateful for the journey, but relieved to have put that leg of the adventure behind us. Through every single minute of the last 365 days, we have never doubted that God is near.  We have questioned timelines, circumstances, and outcomes, but we have not once wondered whether He is good.

I'm heading into 2014 with many more gray hairs, a few more wrinkles (I'll call them Love Lines), eyes going a little wonky (thanks Lyme), and a house full of energetic boys (putting it mildly)

Ready for 2014. 

Is there word you have chosen for the year? I'd love to hear about it!