My Journey

I was born in Nashville, TN in 1975 to a wonderful Christian family.  I had a great childhood, filled with many wonderful memories.  I was nurtured, loved, and well cared for. 

My father was a Pharmacist and owned a small drug store close to our home.  He was a hard worker and instilled that value in my brother and me.  We were very close, sharing the typical “father/daughter” relationship.  I have many fond memories of times spent together at football games, on family vacations, summers on the lake, but especially the few times I talked him into shopping with me!  He had high expectations of my brother and me.  He expected us to be polite, respectful, and kind to others.  He expected us to study hard and do our best in school.  But, most importantly, he taught me to not treat people differently because of their social class, economic standing, or race.  He interacted with many different people on a daily basis and treated them all the same.  Our family was changed forever in 1992 when he died suddenly of a stroke at the young age of 45.  Our family became even closer because of the strong foundation he had prepared for us and we were able to help each other grieve our loss.  We speak of him almost everyday; his memory still lives on in our family.  Because he was a Christian, we know we will see him again one day.  If I had one wish in this life it would be to see him with his grandchildren because he would have been a wonderful grandpa!

My mother is the true “steel magnolia” of our family.  As a young teenage girl, she had one ambition in life…to marry my dad.  They were high school sweethearts and her dream came true on May 3, 1969 when they were married…even though a wedding was planned and invitations were bought they eloped one weekend in Ringgold, Georgia!  My dad was in pharmacy school in Memphis and my mom was living in Nashville.  He didn’t want to go back to Memphis alone so off they went to get married one month before their scheduled wedding date.  My mom said it was the best decision they ever made!  Ha!  A few years later she had my brother and then completed the family with me.  She was a stay at home mom most of our childhood.  She kept everything going and made sure everyone was healthy and happy.  When my dad bought the drugstore, after we were in Elementary School, she worked with him.  She was the spiritual leader of our home.  She taught Sunday school at church for over twenty years.  She attended youth camps and Children parties throughout the years and was active in every part of our lives.  Our home was always the home friends and family came to during weekends, summers, holidays, or just to hang out.  My friends always confided in her, everyone respects her!  After my dad died, she opened a licensed home daycare which she is still running today.  We have a very close, unique relationship.We are alike in a lot of ways.  She has taught me how to rise above broken dreams and tragedy.  I respect her more than any person I know.

My brother and I have always had a very close relationship.  However, as children we were different in many areas.  He was the study geek and I was the socialite.  He was the athlete, and I was the priss.  He was the healthy eater, and I was the one constantly struggling with weight.  He was neat and organized, and I was a pack rat.  Now in our 30’s, we are more alike than different.  We share the same values of Christianity, family, home life, giving back to society, and living a life of integrity.  We talk every day about some current world issue, family situation, or church event.  I respect and value his opinion.  He is an Attorney in Nashville and is married to my wonderful sister in law, Ambre.  Ambre is a Physicians Assistant and together they gave me the best gifts in the world!  My niece Madison and my nephew Eddie!  Madison and Eddie have a way of making everyone laugh and have a good time as most children do.  I have so enjoyed watching them grow and change through the years.           

I was extremely fortunate to have a relationship with all 4 of my grandparents and 3 of my great grandparents as a child into my teenage years.  Now, I have 2 grandmothers living and in good health.  They are excited about my adoption.  Both sets of my grandparents were our neighbors for much of my childhood.  Even now, one of my grandmothers lives next door to us.  Additionally, I have a wonderful support network of aunts, uncles, and cousins who are very close to me and very supportive.  When we are all together it’s sort of like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (we are not Greek but we are loud and crazy!) meets “The Jeff Foxworthy” redneck show with a few professionals mixed in with a few hippies…it’s very interesting and I really do love it!! 

As a child, I was a total girl.  I loved pink, dolls, barbies, the phone, dress up, make up, jewelry, etc.  I made friends easily, however I spent most of my time with my brother and our cousins…we have 17 first cousins!  I was an average student in school, smart enough to “get by” with less effort than I was capable of.  I ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.  I had a chalkboard in the garage and every day I would do my homework on the chalkboard, teaching myself key concepts, but more importantly teaching my pets and stuffed animals!  The things I wanted most as a child were teacher manuals, colored pens, and an overhead projector!

As a teenager, I loved to be with my friends.  Even more than hanging out, however, I loved to make money!  I started babysitting when I was 12 years old and continued babysitting through my 20’s.  I learned many things (some good, some bad) about parenting styles, the life of a working mom, and raising children in this generation from the families I babysat.  As I got older and on throughout college years, I worked at our family owned drug store, department stores, various offices as a receptionist/secretary, as a youth camp counselor (Centrifuge), and was even the Children/Youth Minister at my home church for about two years.  These were great experiences for me and prepared me for life experiences.

I graduated from college in 1997 and started teaching elementary school.  I went on to graduate school while I taught and earned a Masters Degree, + 30, and National Board Certification.  My interests outside of teaching are cooking, scrap booking, traveling, shopping, and blogging.  I have a very strong network of Christian friends. 

I became a Christian at the young age of 8 years old.  Even at that young age, my decision was very real to me.  We were always active in my church, attending Bible Study and Worship weekly along with other activities that were appropriate.  I started teaching Sunday School with my mom when I was 16 years old.  When my dad died, I was 17 years old; this had a very dramatic impact on all areas of my life, but especially my Spiritual life.  I learned for the first time what Jesus as Lord of my life meant.  With the “foundation” (my dad) of our family now gone, I had no one else to turn to except my Heavenly Father.  God gave me a promise that day, in 1992, that has now become a generational promise to me:  Psalm  68:5 says that ‘God will be a father to the fatherless’ and I took that to heart in 1992 and I did again in 2006 when I began my adoption journey to bring my daughter into a single parent home without an earthly father.  I’ve had many great spiritual mentors throughout my life, but I’ve learned more from my mom than anyone else. 

My motivation to adopt stems from the intrinsic desire within me to be a mother.  I had one goal for my life… to marry and have a large family.  As I get older I realize the marriage part of my dream may not happen, although I hope it does!  I've dated a lot through the years and have met some really nice guys and a lot of really strange guys...either way, none of them have been the one!  I know I can live my life and be fulfilled, even without marriage.  (my aunts tell me it takes a really great man to beat no man at all!)  But the one part of my dream, my natural born desire as a woman, to have children will never go away.  Deep within my soul I know I am suppose to be a mother.  Every part of my upbringing has trained me for this “job”.

I started considering adoption as an option for me when I was 27 years old.  I did not meet the age requirement (30 years old) to adopt from China and so I just kept it in the back of my mind.  I spent a few years paying off debt, reading about adoption, completing my advanced degrees, etc.  Finally, in 2005 I began to seriously have a feeling, an urging inside of me to be a mom.  I wasn’t sure if it was the right timing, but God started to lay things in order to confirm things for me. 

In 2006 I decided to use America World Adoption Agency after attending several informational meetings.  They are a Christian agency and are highly recommended.  They are a very professional agency to work with and I’ve been so happy with them.  I was placed on the singles waiting list in 2006 because at the time China only allowed a small percentage of their adoptions to go to single parents.  After an 8 month wait I completed my paperwork and was LID (log in date) with CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs) on February 25, 2007.  Shortly after my LID China closed its doors completely to singles for adoption; however I was grandfathered in under the old rules.  Suddenly God’s timing made sense!  If I had waited any later to begin the process I would not have been able to adopt from China. 

As time slowly passed by, it became clearer the wait time for a NSN (non special need or “healthy”) child would be ridiculously long.  I had always researched the ‘surface’ of Special Needs adoption but told myself as a single parent there is only so much I can handle.  I was using my ‘singleness’ as a handicap for fear of the decision I would have to make if I joined the SN “line”…the decision of not accepting a “perfect” child.  As any parent does, I wanted my first child to be perfect.  I didn’t want to feel the need to explain away some birth defect or special need when I first showed her picture to friends and family.  Then a friend told me…you are thinking of your “singleness” as a detriment and you should consider it a gift!  She said, if you choose special needs you are fortunate to have no other children and no spouse to pull you away from focusing on your child.  Whatever the need is you would be able to focus solely on getting treatment for her.  Well, I kind of put that in the back of my head and let it “simmer” over time.  I just couldn’t believe that God would expect me to be a part of something so big.  I couldn’t believe that he thought I was strong enough to handle {anything} much less a child that may need extra care.  I started to research certain special needs more intently and as I read and studied my heart began to change.  My idea of “perfection” changed and God slowly reminded me all of my many imperfections.  But yet he loves me so unconditionally.  I read about families who had already made the journey through special needs adoption and they lived through it! 

Then I started to attend a new church and went to an all women’s Bible Study class on Sunday mornings.  The teacher of the class was a wonderful Christian woman with a hand deformity.  She had no palm and only two fingers on each hand.  I was immediately in awe of her ability and self confidence.  She was fully capable of doing anything she set her mind to and I wondered about being born with that sort of difference in China…they would abandon the child for sure.  But what a perfectly wonderful life the birth parents would miss out on because the child could still live a healthy and normal life.  For years I went to class, I saw her hands and I knew in my heart that was what my daughter’s special need would be.  Even before I applied for special needs I knew God was preparing me for a hand deformity or finger deformity.  I never spoke to the teacher about it; it was a large church and a large class so I was able to get “lost in the shuffle” all the time God was preparing me for a big decision in the future.  I was getting ready, but it would take time!

You see, having an obvious physical difference is something I have grown up with because my mom was born with a condition called lymphangioma.  It is a rare birth defect in which benign tumors block the lymphatic system in the throat and neck area.  She was lucky she was born in the 1940’s and even with medical care not as advanced as it is today she was able to survive multiple surgeries to removed the tumors.  She suffered paralysis on one side of her face because of a surgery and has many scars, but she survived and has lived a healthy life ever since.  I never notice her facial difference and anyone who knows her doesn’t notice it either.  When we are out in public she may get the occasional stare, especially from children but it’s never been an issue for us.  As she grew up she learned ways to compensate for her difference by having a quick wit about her (She was voted wittiest in her graduating classJ).  This made her find friends easily and nobody ever made an issue of her facial scars or paralysis.  I think the key to her success was that her mom was busy raising 6 kids and didn’t have time to show her “pity” or “sympathy” but just got her treatment and moved on with life.  I think this is what most mothers to special needs children do…treat them the same. 

In the fall of 2009 I finally felt God telling me to complete the special needs application.  He was really asking me “do you trust me?” and I {albeit} hesitantly said yes!  I was scared of what I might see, scared of what he may expect me to handle, and scared of “rejecting” kids who needed a home.  I had to be realistic, but yet trusting of his guidance.  I completed the special needs application and checked off many special needs I would be willing to consider.  (In the back of my mind knowing it would eventually end up being a hand/foot or finger/toe deformity of some kind...but I told nobody)  Immediately I got a referral of a little girl with a hand and foot deformity!  Of course, I already knew this was what I was facing, right?  Her deformity was a little more complicated and she was an older child.  I didn’t feel peace about it, and did not accept her referral.  I changed my “preferences” with my agency so they would only show me girls ages 0-2 years as I wanted as young as possible.  I saw a couple other referrals that were not a match and then in January I got a referral for a 9 month old who also had a hand and foot deformity.  She was beautiful and I grieved over her file!  But, her condition was severe and after talking to doctors and specialists I knew she may need prosthesis in order to walk.  I wasn’t ready for that.  I was an emotional wreck and I doubted the whole process. 

I had been ready and willing to accept whatever child China had matched with me in the NSN (non special needs) line.  It’s a much more “romantic” process…you wait your turn, they match you, you accept, the end.  But in the special needs line you are put in control of “choosing” your child because you have to be comfortable with their particular special need and only you can decide that.  So by February 2010 I had looked at 5 files to review and had not felt a peace about accepting any of them.  However, I had learned a lot from the doctors I had spoken with in those months.  I learned that all you need in order for your hand to be functional is a thumb and one finger.  So I began praying that the Lord would give me a referral of a child with enough fingers and toes to function.

Then, on February 4, 2010 I got a call at school from my agency to review a file.  I was hesitant and shocked.  I looked at her information and she seemed healthy…17 months old with a finger and toe deformity.  Of course!  God…I’m hearing you!  Again, he’s asking me “do you trust me?”…I looked at her pictures and she had thumbs on both hands!!!  She also has at least one finger on each hand!  I looked at her feet…she was only missing one toe.  She seemed perfect to me and I thought this is it!  God has answered my prayers and given me something that seems manageable to me.  Later in the day the doctors confirmed that she was healthy and in good condition and on February 5, 2010 I officially accepted her to adopt! 

This journey through adoption has been the greatest adventure of my life!  I have met the most incredible people along the way.  God has shown himself to me in ways I could have never fully understood except through adoption.  I don’t know where the future will take me, but I am learning to trust in him because only he knows what is best for his children.  I will know what is best for my daughter because He will show me!   
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