An adoption process began after years of surrendering and waiting on God’s timing. Her heart stirred with the dream of twins. Just when it looked like that dream would become a reality, the tables turned and dreams shattered. But God is the best Author and His stories are better than what we imagine. CAC mama, Gwen, powerfully shares below about their family’s adoption journey:
As a child, motherhood wasn’t something I dreamed of. Marriage, sure. Travel and a career that involved nature and adventure, definitely. But motherhood… it just seemed distant and vague and not something that I could see for myself. So how in the world, you might wonder, did I come to the place in life where I am the mother of not one or two, but FIVE amazing little people? Well, some days I survey the beautiful chaos that is our house and wonder the same thing! As with so many of your amazing stories, ours is one with twists and turns, hopes and heartbreak and the work of the God who knows the deepest dreams of our hearts.
Though the “career” wasn’t one I had anticipated, by the time I turned 25, I had filled a passport traveling to countries in Africa, Asia, India and Central America, engaging with widows and orphans and those overlooked by society. Those trips in my early 20s wrecked me in all the best ways. God used them to open my eyes to His heart for people of all nations and His passion for the plight of the oppressed and downtrodden. And while I am most certainly still on a journey of learning His heart, it was in those years that God opened my heart to motherhood and adoption.
So when I met Dave on a blind date in April 2007, adoption was part of our very first convo. I know, it’s a bit much for a blind date!!!! But we look back and realize it was a divinely orchestrated conversation that set the stage for what God wanted to do in and through us in the days to come! Much to our surprise, we found ourselves expecting our oldest within our first year of marriage. My sister had given birth to fraternal twins a few months after our wedding, so part of me very much expected to find two little heartbeats at that first OB visit. But twins were not the plan this time around and we welcomed our first little love in 2009. After Aden, we asked God whether to keep having biological children, start the process of adoption or stop altogether. We felt like God said to keep trying for biological kids, so we added Carson to the mix in 2011 and then Callen in 2012. Right around the time Callen was born, we felt strongly that for the first time, God was saying to “stop and leave space.”
So we did. We took permanent measures to prevent a future pregnancy and I began researching international adoption agencies. Less than a month after Callen came home from the hospital, I handed Dave a packet of paperwork to get us started on the road to adoption. He took one look at it and handed it back, emphatic that with three kids 3 and under, this month was NOT the time to start a home study. So I let it go for a bit and then brought it back up. Again, it wasn’t time. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Several times I approached the subject, yet every time Dave gently pushed back. I wrestled with God, afraid that we would lose sight of our desire to adopt in the midst of the craziness of having three little boys, afraid that if we grew too comfortable as a family of 5 that we wouldn’t have the courage to rock that boat. Our hearts’ desire was to follow Jesus no matter what He asked of us and yet I was letting fear dictate my expectations and drive me in a direction God wasn’t going in. One morning, in the way that only He can, God asked me to surrender it, to put it “on the shelf” in my heart, to trust Him with my dreams and to stop pestering my sweet husband about starting something before we were ready. So I did. And it hurt. But I have found there is always freedom in surrender.
The days rolled into years and still God said to trust Him, to keep my hands open and my heart surrendered. One year, two years, five years went by before the Holy Spirit whispered that it was time. Time to dust off a dream, time to rock the boat. When I brought it up to Dave, to my surprise. he too felt like it was time. We talked and prayed and processed our thoughts with other adoptive families and quickly realized that while we had always thought the plan would be to adopt internationally, that God was directing us toward private infant adoption. Our youngest was 5, we had given away all our baby gear, it felt totally left-field and yet rang true in our hearts. A college friend and fellow adoptive parent pointed us to CAC and we began the process. We knew we wanted to adopt a baby girl, as Dave had always wanted a daughter, but when it came time to check boxes on our home study paperwork, I felt this strong desire for twins rise up in my heart. We went ahead and checked the box for multiples and then laughed about it, because we remembered how difficult it was for my sister when her bio twins were infants and figured that one infant was crazy enough, much less two!
We began submitting books to baby girl situations and were passed by for several, when, out of nowhere, an acquaintance approached us about a local non-agency twin situation. I hadn’t told anyone about my growing desire for twins and was floored when she mentioned it to us. It was not with an agency and we knew some of the risks involved in such a case, but we prayed about it, sought counsel and felt strongly that we were supposed to go ahead with it, despite the risks. We invested our hearts and our prayers into the birth mom, the woman who brought it to us and the beautiful babies we hoped to bring in our family. As their due date drew near, we assembled cribs and bought carseats and diapers and made space in our home and our hearts for these little ones. So naturally, we were devastated when we received a call a few weeks before Christmas letting us know that the twins had been born, but that the adoption was not going to go through. To add insult to injury, we found out a few weeks later that the acquaintance who connected us to the situation, a woman I had considered a friend, hadn’t been entirely honest about the dynamics at play. Heartbreak, betrayal, confusion, loss.
In my pain, I struggled to understand why in the world God would’ve directed us into this situation, why He would’ve led us into this knowing what the outcome would be. Did we hear Him wrong? Did we overlook something crucial that could’ve saved us the heartache? Like the Israelites at the Red Sea, I saw only the churning waters, not the path forward. Many mornings, I spent my time with God laid out on the nursery floor, sobbing into the carpet as I laid all my questions and emotions at His feet. I would put “King of My Heart” on repeat and alternate between wailing and whispering “You are good, You are good, You are good.” It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t poetic, but it was powerful. In the snotty mess of my pain, He met me again and again. Not with answers as much as with peace and assurance that He is truly good in all things, even when my heart is hurting and I don’t see the way forward.
Christmas and New Years came and went and after a time, we felt the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit to get up and get back in the game, to start seeing situations again, to risk with our hearts again. Only now we knew that what our family wanted, what our family needed wasn’t just one baby. It was two. And that felt scary. How long would it take to see twin situations? How long would it take to get picked? What if we never got picked? All the doubts, all the thoughts rolled around in my heart, vying for my attention. It was a daily fight to keep my thoughts surrendered, anchored in the truth that God loves me, He knows my heart and He gives me what is best. To our surprise, we quickly received word of a twin situation (through CAC this time!) and with shaking hearts, submitted a book. Soon thereafter, the agency called to let us know that the birth mother had chosen us! We were elated, overwhelmed by the kindness and faithfulness of God. At our lunch with her a few weeks later, the twins’ amazing birth mom said that one of the reasons she picked us was because “we were ready, we had all the stuff already.”
The twins came by surprise a few weeks after that meeting and our family stepped into a treasure greater than we could’ve imagined. Camden’s name means “from the winding valley” for that is what this journey has been. We could never have anticipated the way this story would unfold, the way God would navigate us through the twists and turns to bring us into spacious places and give us what our hearts had barely dared to dream of. Camden, Blakeley and their birth family are a gift we didn’t know we needed and couldn’t imagine life without. He knows us, He loves us and He delights to give us what we need.