“We were married when I was 19. We met, fell in love, and got married within a year. Kids were something we talked about from the get-go, but we weren’t actually trying when we found out I was pregnant for the first time.
Since getting married 9 months prior, I had gained about ten pounds, and I had actually joined Jenny Craig to lose some weight. So when I discovered I was pregnant, I was so relieved I didn’t have to diet any longer. Sounds like a 20-year-old right? I mean, after all, you are supposed to gain weight when you are pregnant right? Let’s just say, I got quite large, but don’t we all get one of those pregnancies? The kind you learn from and say, ‘I’ll never get let myself go like that again!’
Well, being first-time parents wasn’t going to stop us. We continued to travel with my husband’s career as a Christian artist. I continued my education and worked, and we took our son everywhere, even on dates. I remember sitting in the movie ‘Sixth Sense’ with our son, a toddler at the time, and something suspenseful happened in the movie and he said something hilarious, and the entire theater of people started laughing. Our son just adapted to our lives as a young married couple, and he learned to fall asleep literally anywhere. It was how we rolled. And we weren’t in any hurry to have another. We waited more than 3 years to try for another baby, but this time we were very adamant about wanting a girl. We wanted a girl so much that we purchased a book called ‘how to choose the sex of your child.’ It worked! Well, at least that’s what we like to think. We had a 50/50 chance. I still remember my husband grabbing the pee stick out of my hands and running to the kitchen. He stared at it for a few seconds and then said, ‘Hmmm, it doesn’t say.’ I said, ‘It doesn’t say what?’ He said, ‘It doesn’t say if it’s a boy or a girl!’ So 3 months after our firstborn son Baylee turned 4, we had our first baby girl Hadlee. Unfortunately, Hadlee came just one day before the 9/11 attacks. We woke up our very first morning home from the hospital to a call from John’s mom telling us to turn on the TV because a plane had ‘accidentally’ hit the World Trade Center. We couldn’t believe our eyes. I remember sobbing uncontrollably at the news, night after night as I would nurse and I was so scared. It was a very bittersweet time for my husband and me.
We moved, even after we said we would never leave our hometown and said John would never be a music pastor. God called us to do just that. Our little family of four picked up everything and moved clear across the country from Georgia to Colorado to help be a part of a church plant out there. I was again in no hurry to have another. I had Hadlee in pre-K and potty trained, and I had a part-time job as a Speech Therapist, and our little life and family was good. Well, to my surprise, I was feeling a little under the weather one morning, so I took a pregnancy test before work and found out all by myself I was expecting. I decided this time I was going to surprise my husband. I had my friend purchase some baby cupcakes and baby carrots and a few other things and we had a little celebration at their house later that day. We all knew, but of course, John had no clue. We had to emphasize ‘BABY’ when he started asking, ‘What’s going on, what are we celebrating here?’ It came as a sweet surprise and we both were so excited. I remember telling our church family when we prayed over a meal together and John thanked the Lord for the growing baby in my tummy. Everyone celebrated with us. Sophee Josephine was born sunny side up after 3 hours of pushing, and one of my hardest deliveries yet.
After Sophee, my family started asking if we were done. My mom even called and told me I needed to make John an appointment for a vasectomy. I had come to terms she needed to be our last, but something in me just felt like we shouldn’t do anything permanent, so I didn’t.
Three years into living in Colorado, Sophee was 2 and a half, my husband gets a call from a major record label and they want to fly him to Tennessee and basically offer him a deal as a recording Christian artist. So within 3 months, we were moving back to Georgia so my husband could start his dream career and tour as an artist, and I got to finally be a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, my dream. A year into his new career and only seeing him a couple of days a week, let’s just say passion wasn’t an issue in our relationship, and we conceived another child. We were headed to the movies one afternoon and had a conversation that I might be pregnant, so like my husband always is, very impatient, he stopped at the drug store and made me go in and buy a pregnancy test. I refused to take it in the drug store bathroom but caved when he asked me to take it in the movie theater restroom.
Funny story, I didn’t know what the lines meant–it was a new type of test I had never used and I had left the box in the car. I ran to the car to grab the instructions while my husband and three kids watched me. I just swung my arms in a rocking cradle motion as I walked towards them. When I reached them, we all embraced and started crying right there in the middle of the theater lobby. Ezekiel was our first Christmas baby, born a week before Christmas. At this time my relationship with the Lord was at its deepest. I was on my knees a lot in my prayer closet, growing and seeking His wisdom for our family. And in a very intense moment of prayer in total humility and submission to God, I told the Lord, ‘I give you my womb. I won’t do anything permanent so you can bless us with as many children as you have for us.’ John was on the same page and we decided together children were a blessing from the Lord and He could give us as many blessings as He wanted.
Three years later came Josiah. He was our second planned child. He was prophesied over in my womb that he would bring a lot of joy to our family, but in particular to my husband. What we didn’t know at the time was that Josiah would be born the day before John’s mother would pass away in the same hospital, only six floors beneath us. Instead of her coming to visit her new grandson as every grandmother would, she arrived in an ambulance on life support. It was so difficult seeing the family members come up one by one to see me and the baby after visiting with Joyce on life support just before. My husband rose to the occasion like never before. I’d never seen such strength rise up in him before. God was so good to us and we felt so treasured and adored during that time of grieving. When Josiah was about 1 month old, I looked at my husband and said, ‘It’s time…it’s time to bond with your son.’ And just like that, my husband transitioned from grief to joy. I still remember a video I made of him holding Josiah for the first time after that conversation. It was such a beautiful breakthrough.
Now, adoption was an entirely different type of desire than having kids. My husband had always wanted to adopt, ever since we started having children. I, on the other hand, was having no issues having my own biological children, and I didn’t see the point. Well, 6 months after my fifth child was born, I came down with what my husband called ‘the adoption virus.’ We had just spent a week with a community of friends and many of the families had adopted children from China. I guess that’s how God changed my heart, because the kids were all really drawn to me. It was at this point in time when God began to open up my heart to the idea of adoption for the first time. It was more like the flood gates broke open and it was all I could think about. The desire was so strong that on the way home, I told John and we spoke our mutual desires into reality. We began our journey of finding our daughter, but we ran into more obstacles than we had imagined. And the obstacles and hurdles were getting the best of us and we started doubting and fighting and debating if we were doing the right thing.
And then God intervened! Both John and I had an epiphany and decided it was time to pray and fast about this. During our fast, John got her name, I got a word, John had a dream, and then God confirmed it all through some friends. Our daughter’s name was Ana and she was 10 years old and in an orphanage in Ukraine somewhere. Well, we found this little girl with the same name, age, and country, exactly like had been revealed to us through our fast. The surprise to us was that she came with ‘an amazing 14-year-old brother.’ That was someone else’s words, not ours. At the time, we already had a 14-year-old son and were a bit freaked out. So fast forward a little bit, we signed up to host them over the summer through a program called P143 (that stood for 143 million orphans in the world) to see if they were a fit for our family, and we fell in love. We actually started the adoption process while they were still visiting because they both clearly needed parents and we had bonded over the month we had hosted them. Things were moving super fast, but we were okay with it because these kiddos weren’t getting any younger, age 9 and 13. Well, about a month before we went over to Ukraine for our first adoption visit, we received a call from the agency in Ukraine saying that there was some news. Maxim and Ana have another sibling. She’s 12 years old, and she’s been living in an entirely different orphanage than her siblings. We then found out that the way Ukrainian law is, you can’t separate siblings. So she would have to be adopted with her siblings unless she gave permission for them to be adopted without her. Then he said, ‘But not to worry, we won’t charge you any more for her. She will be FREE!’
I was freaking out a little. We already had five children. I mean, we didn’t signup for this. I was homeschooling four of our children already. Our house wasn’t big enough. There is no way my husband’s career would support that many children. We came up with a brilliant plan (probably not even legal) to adopt her out to another sweet family close by after returning home from Ukraine with all three. We actually even put a few feelers out there and started getting calls back immediately from others who were interested. We took our kids to get a treat and we were sitting around eating yogurt when we started getting some calls of people interested in adopting her, one after the other. I said, ‘I feel jealous for her.’ Then John said, ‘I know me too.’ It wasn’t a relief, it just felt wrong! So we spoke to our kids and my girls said, ‘Mom, we can’t give her away,’ and my older son said, ‘It’s the right thing to do.’ So with a peace that passed all understanding, loads of faith, and confirmation God knew we needed, we decided to take her too. And about three days before we headed over to officially get our Ukranian kids, guess who wasn’t feeling so well? Me! Turns out I was expecting our sixth child. Yep, I was now pregnant in the middle of adoption, like you hear so often happens. So we literally went from having five to nine kids in only 1 year. And of course, we were definitely done after that… Right?
Fast forward 5 years, I guess God needed to even out the scoreboard because we were now expecting our fifth girl, and we already had five boys. Her name, Journee Nova Faith meaning ‘new journey of faith,’ was so symbolic of what God had been doing in our lives over the past 23 years. We had definitely been on a journey raising all these kids, and on a musician’s salary. Now God had called us to pick up and move our big 15 passenger van and drive the family all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast for my husband to once again become a lead worship pastor at a local church in northern California. God did so many miracles during the new season and one of those miracles was Journee. We always felt like we were supposed to have another girl. We even had a password with her name for 2016 for a 2-year span. But we were told we probably wouldn’t be able to conceive any more children after our last baby, due to some health issues: my autoimmune disease, and John’s testosterone levels. It wouldn’t be healthy and it wasn’t very likely it would happen. Because I had been called to pursue an online social media business to help supplement the now increasing income demands of our large family, I took on a business where I could work from home. And of course, I had to go all-in with these all-natural products and get behind them 100 percent. Little did I know, it was going to be the very products that would turn our health around, getting us both balanced and healthy hormonally allowing us to conceive once again.
We were ecstatic! I think our family and friends by now had accepted the fact that we didn’t care what they thought about our willingness to continue to grow our family. Our view was, another child equals another blessing from the Lord. And what a blessing of pregnancy it was, as well. It was, by far, my healthiest and most joyful pregnancy ever, thanks to my physical, emotional, and mental health, and she was my first ALL natural delivery at age 43. She is currently 7 months old and is the biggest source of joy in our family’s lives today.
Our story isn’t magical. Our family isn’t perfect. Our faith isn’t unwavering, we are just two faith-filled souls open and willing to receive everything God has for us. I often think about several things: what if I had gotten John an appointment for a vasectomy when we were in our early 30’s after number three? Would we still have adopted? Would we be totally different people? And I think about how short life is here on this earth compared to eternity with Christ and an eternity with our children. We will plan to have all of our children in heaven with us forever. So, yes, the cute baby stage goes by fast and they become opinionated preteens, teens, and adults. Yes, three little boys in a row are a lot to handle most days. Yes, we have to make a lot of sacrifices for a family our size with 10 children. Yes, adopting three older orphans has been one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. But what an itty bitty tiny sacrifice when compared to the enormous reality of eternity. We’ve allowed God to bring seven more lives into the world, and save three. That’s worth it!”
Read more touching stories like this:
‘I don’t want you to go home. You can stay with us.’ Arlo was just an hour old. ‘That would be wonderful,’ I accepted.’: 2 moms come together for the love of their son in open adoption, ‘It wasn’t weird, it wasn’t awkward, it’s everlasting love’
‘I was still in I-might-die-at-any-moment panic mode. Nothing could change that. ‘Do you guys know Jesus loves you?’ Except that.’: Woman pursuing international adoption sits next to very religious man on flight
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