Our Adoption Story, Part 1

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

This is the story of how we became a family- in 2 parts. 

Let me start at the beginning...

In case you haven't heard our story, Joel and I {Lauren} were 14 when we met at a Disciple Now weekend {a weekend where youth stay all over the town in homes of other church members}. It was October 31st, 2003 to be exact. Most of you know the story... he walked in his house {which was my host home for the weekend} and my heart melted with one swoop of that shaggy blonde hair and big blue eyes... and that sideways smirk.

We started "dating" after that weekend {whatever datinglooks like at 14} I knew this guy was special. He seemed shy but super friendly and likable. After deciding to focus on my relationship with Jesus the following January, we remained friends for years. 

I cannot recall the first time I heard God speak to me about Joel, but in 2004 when Joel and I were just friends, God impressed upon my heart that I would one day marry Joel. That following Christmas I told Joel's grandparents I would marry their grandson one day {apparently I thought they needed to know- which is great because I don't really remember that conversation, but years later when we married, they sure did and told me all about it}. At the same time that I heard God speak that Joel was my husband, I also heard Him whisper that we would have a son. 

The year God told me that Joel would be mine. (We were not a couple, but he reluctantly agreed to go to a dance with me anyway. haha). 

I would beg God to know more. He would give me the number 27 repeatedly. That number was my sign and I clung to it. Biblically speaking, the number 27 means "the naming of a son". I knew these two things were promises from above. I treasured these promises.

{I know this might all sound crazy, but I told several people in my life, and they can attest to these promises God made me. And maybe, if you've never heard from God, it might sound strange, but I wanted to hear from God, so I pleaded with Him, and He answered me. I never asked Him specifically to reveal these things to me- that I would be a mom or a wife, this is just what He gave to me. And later when I needed them most, as you will read more about below, He knew I could count on Him. I would need to cling to them like I could never imagine. So Him telling me these things years before, it was for my heart and one day a much deeper faith.}

For years I thought we would birth a son at 27. It just made sense in my finite mind. So when 27 rolled around and we were barren, my heart wasn't disappointed, because I knew God would come through for me again, just as He did with Joel. You see, Joel died in 2009 at the scene of a horrendous car accident. You read that right. He died. He was 20 years old and thrown nearly half a football field. His spine was entirely separated internally from his skull- an accident that no adult in this hemisphere has lived through, except Joel. He was taken from one hospital to another in a helicopter and somehow God showed up. Or rather, He showed out. Joel was raised from death to life for a bonus life. Joel's encounter with God is one only he can tell, but simply put, God said He wasn't finished with Joel here on earth yet.

This story isn't about where Joel and I were at the time of that accident, but I need you to know that we hadn't spoke since shortly after graduating high school 2 and a half years earlier. We went our separate ways, and the accident was a wake up call for us both. And it took years to get to the point of dating and then marriage, but in September 2013, when Joel became my husband. Goodness y'all it's been 5 years {in a couple weeks}.

We started trying to have a family the good ole fashioned way a year after we were married. By this time we had we moved from South Carolina to Florida in 2014. I had always had adoption written on my heart, but I wasn't even having that conversation with Joel at the time. We bought our first home together and moved from Palm Coast to Jacksonville in March of 2016, to be closer to Joel's extended family and health resources.

The big moment we decided to move to Jacksonville, FL.

By this time we had been trying for a family for nearly 2 years. Negative test after negative test, infertility was winning and toying with our emotions. However, my own heart was convicted that we would never do IVF. First, we are a one-income family {so financially it just didn't make sense for us} and second, I hate doctors {Joel has enough to go around- anyone need any?!}. I am a home birth, give me a doula and midwife, all natural kind of girl. Hospitals freak me out. So IVF from cost to the invasiveness were a firm "NO!". But more than those things, I knew that there were kids that had been orphaned who were in desperate need of a family. Pouring out money for a chance to find out what our infertility issues may be, whether it's me or Joel, it wasn't worth it to us. There were kids here in our own city and neighborhood that needed love and stability. And that's something we knew we could give.

In 2015 a friend of mine's sister was adopting twins from foster care. I was hooked. God was preparing my heart and I would talk to Joel about it all the time. But it wasn't until 2016 that Joel and I began to consider adoption the way to grow our family- sooner than later. In May of 2017, we began telling our immediate family we had planned to adopt. By July that year we were in class and ready to learn about how to become a family and care for a child whose heart was wounded and abandoned. 

Our Adoption Announcement.

I've always had a desire to have a BIG family. I told Joel I wanted 3 or 4 kids. He wanted a max of 2. However in our journey to become a family, at one point I had him considering a set of 3- two twin boys and a girl {hahaha}. I told him "I had already made our minds up" and we should do it so not to sep