Today’s post comes from a very sweet friend of mine, Abby Hysmith. She and her husband, Ryan have great big hearts full of love; love that they want to share with not only their biological children, but also with any children God sees fit to place in their care. Their story is a beautiful one. We hope you enjoy it and that maybe, just maybe, it will spark an interest in adoption in your heart. ~Ashley
I am so honored and excited to be able to share a little about our family with The Ruffled Mango readers. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and I am always happy to share and encourage in any way that I can.
I wanted to share about our family’s journey of adoption and how it has blessed us beyond belief. First, I should admit that this is actually the second post I’ve written. The first one turned into the first draft of my memoir so I’m going to be a little more pragmatic this time. Second, even though our family has been personally touched by adoption, I definitely don’t have all the answers to some of those really big, hard questions we seem to be facing as Christians and as a nation. I know that adoption cannot be the only answer for the orphan crisis and the many abortions that are taking place in our world. I do know that adoption has blessed our family, and that is something I get to write about today.
Our family started out very traditionally, the way many families start. Boy meets girl (at Christian University), boy asks girl to marry him, boy and girl get married on a lovely June day in 2009, and welcome a sweet little blonde baby boy into the world two years later (2011).
<<enter less predictable plotline>> When Brody was almost one year old, we started the process to adopt two children (younger than our son) from Ethiopia. One year later we moved towns, built a house, and my husband changed jobs – so we updated all of our paperwork. About 3-4 months later we learned that the Ethiopia program with our adoption agency was having some difficulties and might not open back up. We immediately switched to the Lesotho (tiny country landlocked by South Africa) program and began updating our paperwork. Two months later we got an email, quite out of the blue, from our agency inquiring if we were interested in ALSO being a part of their domestic adoption program and would we want to be considered immediately? Eight days later, we brought home a six-week-old little boy…our wild man, Wyatt (2013).
We enjoyed our new family of 4 in 2014 without much news of our international adoption. As 2015 began, we honestly were not optimistic that our adoption would see any progress this year. We still trusted God’s plan, though. In February we learned that I was pregnant; in June we got to see the face of a precious little boy in Lesotho. We are doing everything in our power to bring him home as soon as possible; if I blank out on a conversation with you to check my e-mail, I apologize; I’m an obsessive waiting adoptive Mama…it’s not personal. Oh yeah, and just for fun, we chose not to find out the gender of our baby this pregnancy.
Ryan and I talked about our desire to adopt before we got married. It was something that we planned on doing to grow our family from the beginning. If you had asked me what our “ideal adoption scenario” would be, I would not have answered with the same story I just shared. I am so thankful that no one asked me and that God has been in control the whole time.
One of my favorite songs we sing at church is “If You Say Go.”
If You say “go” we will go
If You say “wait” we will wait
If You say “step out on the water”
And they say it can’t be done
We’ll fix our eyes on You and we will come
Your ways are higher than our ways
And the plans that You have laid
Are good and true
If You call us to the fire
You will not withdraw Your hand
We’ll gaze into the flames and look for You
Every time we sing it I think about a lot of different life situations that seem like they can only be managed with the guidance of our Heavenly Father. Stepping out on the water would obviously seem really foolish to most people. I always identify with Peter in Matthew 14. I give him a lot of credit for being the first one to say, “Just tell me it’s okay and I’m in!” But once he climbs out of the boat and starts walking for a few moments, he sees the wind and gets scared. When he gets scared, he takes his eyes off Christ and begins to sink. I also tend to “jump out of the boat first” and proudly walk towards Jesus…until I realize there are other elements that could knock me over or cause the waters to be rough. As Peter begins to sink he is apparently close enough for Jesus to be able to reach out his hand and pull him up. When Peter cries out in fear, Christ pulls him up. He doesn’t tell him that he’s proud of his courage just for trying, or even say “Don’t worry, I’m here.” Jesus calls Peter out on his lack of faith. “Why did you doubt?” Yikes, no credit for trying?
When we mention to anyone that we have adopted/are adopting, we almost always hear one of three questions:
Isn’t that really expensive?
Doesn’t adoption take a really long time?
Aren’t a lot of countries unpredictable or can’t a birth mom change her mind?
To which we answer: Yes.
Ryan and I often say to each other, “Adoption really isn’t for the faint of heart.” But as Christians we aren’t called to be faint of heart. Predictability and absence of heartache are not promised to us – or even advised. We have had plenty of moments where we felt the need to sit down so that we wouldn’t “faint in the day of adversity” and lots of times we started sinking in that water. We saw the wind and it scared us.
I want to share some of the things that have strengthened our faith throughout this process, along with some practical things that make adoption possible for any family:
- If you are feeling that adoption is something God has planned for your family but you are overwhelmed, I recommend calling an adoption agency. Or calling 5 adoption agencies. Ask them all of your questions, tell them your family situation, and see what your options are. Your age might preclude you from some programs right now. Learning when payments would be due and what kind of expected wait time you’d be looking at might help. Sometimes this is the hardest part—stepping out on the water. If you want to adopt, you have to start that process somehow; just keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, not the wind.
- If you have begun the process of adoption or fostering, you will really be blessed by attending an adoption conference like Empowered to Connect: Sponsored by Show Hope. They host a couple of events each year in different cities, but you can often find a group that is going to live stream the conference somewhere close by. Not only will you learn a lot, you will be sitting in a room with hundreds of parents who have something in common with you. If you cannot attend a conference, you can follow adoption blogs, seek out other adoptive families to bond with, and read books about adoption or stories about orphans that can help you learn more about their experiences. Some books I have read and been blessed by are: Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis, Jantsen’s Gift by Pam Cope, Running for My Life by Lopez Lamong, No Greater Love by Levi Benkert, and The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis. Most of them are more like memoirs or biographies, but they definitely spoke to my heart about adoption and orphan care.
- Do not be afraid or too proud to do fundraisers for your adoption. They are definitely becoming more common and we have executed, or been blessed by, approximately 57 fundraisers. Maybe not 57, but it has been over 3 years. To name a few:
- T-shirt/Jewelry sales
- Thirty-One party
- An amazing benefit dinner at our congregation in Nashville put together by friends
- Spirit Night at Chick-Fil-A
- Mega Huge Yard Sale
- College of Business students at Freed-Hardeman University (where Ryan teaches) put together a Chick-Fil-A lunch day and a change collection drive to bless us (and another adoptive family as well)
- The Freed-Hardeman baseball team honored our family at a fun Halloween ball game with carnival games and concession stand proceeds
- Many people have given us money—small, medium, large, and humongous amounts
- We have sold many of our things on Ebay, Craigslist or to friends—some $2 items and some $1,000 items and everything in between.
Type in “Adoption Fundraising Ideas” on Pinterest and you will be blessed with more possibilities than you could ever implement. You will find that if you start trying to raise some funds, you will have some very loyal and helpful friends that will be your advocates. It’s hard to keep asking for money for yourselves, so if you are a friend of an adoptive family, I know from personal experience that it is very encouraging to have others be your “marketing department.” You don’t have to adopt a child into your family to be pro-adoption. Some people’s gift and way to serve is to support other adoptive families.
There are many adoption grants available to adoptive families; they are applied for much like a college scholarship with different criteria and requirements for each one. I have heard of a number of families that fund their adoptions almost exclusively from grants.
Another option available to help with the cost is an Adoption Loan. These are similar to any loan you might take out on a house or car, and are often given with the Adoption Tax Credit as the main terms of repayment.
We recently learned about Adoption Airfare, a group that specializes in getting discounted flights for mission trips, humanitarian relief, and adoption travel. They can also help arrange tricky travel situations and hold flights for a long time.
- Take on another challenge that will help you practice endurance, self-control, and patience. Since we began our process I have trained for and run almost two half-marathons. I was not a runner previous to that first race. When we lived in Nashville we trained hard and ran a half marathon together in February 2013. We started training again that fall to run the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon in December. The race was canceled about 12 hours before the starting time due to bad winter weather. We had spent a lot of time preparing for that race and it was pretty disappointing not to have the opportunity to see that hard work in action. I felt that I had a unique perspective on the situation because we had just learned about a month and half previously that the 18 months we had spent working towards adopting from Ethiopia were going to have to change direction. Just like God didn’t use those 18 months to do nothing, He didn’t let me train to run 13.1 miles and not get anything out of it.
- Celebrate milestones in your adoption, not thinking about how long the next step might take. If you mail in an application, celebrate with some ice cream. If you made it through your home study visits without passing out or looking like a complete moron, go out for dinner. If your dossier gets sent to another country, buy a scarf with that country’s colors, or go out for dinner and ice cream. If you are officially put on a waiting list for birth moms, go on a picnic. If you get a letter in the mail from USCIS that they need a copy of your marriage license again because apparently they clean out their drawers pretty often, mail them that marriage license and eat pizza. When you finally get a phone call or a picture of your child, print it off, make copies, tell people, celebrate, PRAY, and just be happy before you think about all the what ifs and whys? It’s okay if not everyone understands why it’s so exciting to get a letter that says, “We are currently processing this piece of paper for you; it doesn’t mean it will be approved, but we’re working on it.” Celebrate anyway because it at least means your application didn’t get lost!
- Remember that God knows how your story ends and that He is in control. This is so very hard in any situation in life. I’ll be honest; right now I am the Mama who could go into labor at any time and am also waiting desperately for the next step in our adoption to be complete so we can be a step closer to bringing our sweet boy home. Those are two situations that I do not get to control. I want to scream at all the Target e-mails I get (22 times a day) thinking it could possibly be an email from our agency or USCIS (Customs and Immigrations). Every time I feel a weird tightness in my stomach I make a mental list of what I need to do if today should happen to be the day I had a baby. If you see me and I have a wild look in my eye, that’s why. I’m a little bit crazy. But I do have moments where I know that God knows the exact minute my baby will be born and each little scenario leading up to that moment. When I can’t kiss and hold my little guy on the other side of the world, I trust that God has put someone there to hold him and squeeze him until he can be with us. Every little thing that has happened in the past 3 years and and 4 months has led us here, because someone besides me was in control. The simple plans are not always the best, but God’s plans are awesome.
Our family covets your prayers as we add two little ones to our family over the next few months. We pray that the birth of the baby I’m carrying is safe for us both. We pray that the many people who are handling our adoption process will be able to do it with speed and efficiency so that our boy can be an orphan no more. We pray that the hearts of our two boys at home will be open and loving to new siblings.
We pray for orphans all over the world to be able to know what love and family feels like – and most of all, that they know about the love of Jesus. We pray that more Christian families can and will adopt and that we all do what we can to support children at risk of becoming orphans and families at risk of being broken apart. We pray that more birth moms will choose life for their babies and that we can all support them, either through adoption or just helping them through the tricky job of parenting. We pray that God can shine through in all the dark places in our country and around the world where children don’t have families.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27