The Thanksgiving Phone Call that Changed Our Lives

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Author: Keri Nikkel


It was Thanksgiving Day. My husband Matt and I were at my in-laws, busying ourselves with laughter, food prep, and good conversation. Finally, the time came to eat. All the smells that had been tempting us for hours were about to be enjoyed. The food was set out buffet style in the kitchen, and we lined up one by one, each person grabbing a plate and creating mountains of mashed potatoes and turkey. I took a plate and held it out for Matt, but he wasn't looking, he was on his phone. I rolled my eyes, thinking he was playing a game or checking NFL scores. But no, he had a missed call from our adoption case worker. Confused, we snuck off to another room to call her back, and heard the most unbelievable news I ever heard.

We had been chosen by a birth mother.


Eighteen months before that our adoption process had started. And the three years prior were full of doctors visits and no explanations. This process was full of uncertainty and hard work, which meant this control freak had a hard time not being in the driver’s seat. We experienced multiple delayed training classes, desperate fundraising to make the next big payment, a home walk through on our anniversary, and being one of 18 families waiting for a child. By the time we got the Thanksgiving call, we had become accustomed to waiting. And during the wait, I learned what God already knew, that I needed to experience that burdening season so I could learn that only He had control. He is worthy of being trusted with my deepest desires.


Twelve weeks passed between that Thanksgiving call and the time of the birth. That may not seem like much, but the anticipation and uncertainty made it feel like eternity. We loved on and built a relationship with the sweet woman who chose us, and were honored to be invited to witness her pastor pray over the unborn babe. Although, I could feel God strengthening us and leading us forward, I still felt like I was holding my breath—waiting for something to go wrong. Each day the enemy was quick to tempt me to be swallowed up by fear, and each day I had to make the choice to trust that God was bigger.


“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV


No matter the outcome, God knew what was best for the baby and for our family. My prayers turned from, “God, please let this baby come home with us” to “God, I know you have a will for this child. Please place him exactly where you want him, even if that isn’t in our home.”


Valentine’s Day was a Sunday. We went to church, holding secret that induction would be happening the next morning. Making small talk, all the while trying not to be constricted to death by uncertainty. Afterwards, we headed home, packed the car and drove to the town where she lived. Tossing and turning most of the night, we woke early and made the 10 minute drive to the hospital. The short drive felt like a never ending tunnel. I sat in the passenger's seat, wringing my hands until we saw the tan brick building. We parked the car, slowly walked in and joined our case worker in the waiting room.

After thirty minutes of nervous chatter a nurse walked in, “she would like you to come up now.” My stomach dropped. We took the elevator up, and in what seemed like slo-mo we walked past the nurses' station. Each one of them staring at us, giving hesitant smiles. When we reached her room I knocked on the door. A friend of hers (whom we had met before) greeted us and brought us in. In that moment, peace washed over me and I knew. God would be glorified here, whether I go home as a mommy or not. What mattered was supporting this precious woman and her excruciating decision. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 NIV


After two days of feeling all the feels and caring for a sweet baby boy, we took the two hour drive home as parents. The selfless love of a mother was the way I became one, and the details leading up to us bringing our son home minister to my heart every day. God also gave me an overwhelming love for a woman who chose life for a child who calls me Mama. And a trust in Him, that gives me courage in uncertainty.

Our lives have changed, and so has my faith. Not because this time I got what I wanted, but because God helped me learn to trade in fear for peace, control for obedience, and sadness for joy.
“LORD, you establish peace for us;
all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”
Isaiah 26:12 NIV


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Readers, Do you have a story of how God showed you hope in a tough circumstance. We would love to help you share it. Check out our submissions page for details.


Keri is a wife and new mama, who loves Jesus and believes we are all given a story that can be used to encourage others.




Dear Adoptive Parents

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Author: Sarah Dohman

Dear adoptive parents,

There is something I want you to know, and I am unashamedly going to steal a line from NBC’s Parenthood’s patriarch, Zeek Braverman, to do it.

“I hear you, and I see you.”

I hear you.

I hear your earnest, heart-filled desires to bring children into your homes. You pour out your hearts to God. You ask for wisdom, for guidance. Sometimes you are asking God for direction because you are unable to have children of your own. Sometimes, your families do not feel complete until your adopted son or daughter is busy growing up alongside your biological children, their siblings.

You are heard when you request prayers in pursuing which avenue of adoption to take: foster-to-adopt, infant adoption, overseas adoption. I hear your passionate voices when you speak of the children who are yet to join your home, or who already have. You are heard.

I see you.

I see you raising money by creative pursuits and unique inspiration. The t-shirts, the puzzle pieces, the jewelry, and the garage sales.
I have seen your friends sell their possessions to help you pay for your adoption.

I see how much it costs to adopt a child, and yet, you do not complain.

I see your trust in God’s provision.

I see the hope you have for bringing home your child.

I see you waiting years for your child, without hesitation.

I see you loving your adoptive son or daughter exactly as if they were your biological child. You are seen.

In Ephesians 1:3-10, Paul writes,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Sweet adoptive parents, the beauty of this passage is that God chose us He predestined us. We are adopted by God the Father, just like you adopt your son or daughter. As you persevere through the painstaking trials to adopt your child, to get to your child, you are a direct reflection of God the Father. I am a firm believer that the child you adopted is specifically hand-picked for your family.

So, adoptive parents, hear me. “I hear you, and I see you.”

I hear your prayer requests, and I will not stop praying until your child comes home to live with you.

I see your efforts in raising money to bring home your child, and I will support you in doing so with time and money.

I hear you share your challenges as you raise your son or daughter, and I have hope for you as your family begins to meld together.

I see you raising your sons and daughters. And I want you to know, I am on my knees asking God to care for you as you care for your child.  

Adoptive parents, my dear friends, you are precious. You are called. You echo the heart of God.

I hear you. I see you.


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Readers, Do you see the needs of adoptive parents? Consider how you could help today.

Sarah believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blogand you can find her stories for Anchored Voices under the tag Sarah.




Temporary Dad

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Author: Josh Hawes

I experienced something most fathers simultaneously dread, and consider one of their proudest moments in life. I took the arm of a young woman dressed in white and escorted her down the aisle to give her away to the man she loves. Though she wasn’t my daughter, and in actuality is slightly older than me, it was an honor and a privilege to usher her to the one she wed.
My wife and I desire to be hospitable as a way to show others the welcoming love of Christ. At various points throughout our marriage, even before becoming foster parents, we have had people live with us. Some stayed for a day or two to hide from an abusive ex, another for a year until she got married. One was the girl I walked down the aisle. We also long to care for the orphan. We have had 10 foster children, nine of which were in the last twelve months.
As they joined us in ones, twos, and fours, I began to notice a trend.  Almost without fail, they entered our home partially due to an absent or failed father. Some of these men were too controlling, some were absent, one left by death, and many were weighed down by the consequences of poor life choices. While I was not a replacement for these individuals’ dads, God revealed the deep strength of his Father’s heart more each time. I will never be Dad to the woman I walked down the aisle, but for one fleeting moment, I stepped up as Temporary Dad.
Our most recent foster daughter recently went home. As she prepared to leave she questioned her mom about when she would get married so she could have a dad. A discussion ensued with her and her mother about marriage and wisdom, but one part stood out to me; our foster daughter said, “Well of course Josh will always be my dad, but…”
While incredibly cute on the surface, her statement magnified the pressing need for fathers. This child’s statement demonstrates  how great the effects of being willing to step into someone’s life and fill a role, even for a short while can be. It is always inconvenient, it always hurts, and it is always worth it.
God is the true father to the fatherless, and for those who call Him their own, they are often called to father others. Sometimes this looks like adding a member permanently through adoption, or maybe it is helping a person make a budget, shop for a car, break up with their boyfriend. In whatever way God may call us, being someone’s temporary dad can make an impact for life. Moreover, it shows the heart of God the Father when you do it in His name. For His is the name that lasts eternally.
Our names, our actions, they are but a blip on the radar of time. Even with my adopted daughter, I cannot promise to always be there. She will be graduating in two and a half years. When she is in college, I won’t be able to protect her. When I get to walk her down the aisle, I will be handing over her protection and leadership to another man. Tragedy could strike and I could go to be with Jesus, leaving my family here. We are, all of us, temporary. So I have to hope and trust in something bigger than myself, knowing I am not enough. I know that God is the  better dad, the better husband, and the best provider.
I can trust him with the prayers I have prayed for my temporary daughters, sisters, and sons. I can trust Him with the chaos of this ever changing world. I can trust Him with all that I am, have done, or will do. For He is the never failing eternal Father.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” Ephesians 1:3-4

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Readers, How can you help others to find wisdom, hope, and trust in our Heavenly Father?

Josh Hawes is our first male voice here at Anchored Voices, and it is an honor to have him. He is a hard worker, husband, father, and foster father who is trying to faithfully walk through life as he is made more like Christ.



When the Adoption Fell Through

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Author: Holly Hawes


The night before it all fell through my husband had a dream that skated on the edge between sleep and wakefulness. The kind where you think your dream-life actually happened, only to wake and find it never existed at all. He was holding her, a girl we planned to name Harper, sleeping on his chest. It felt so real; the warmth and weight of a tiny body snuggled up, safe, and peaceful in daddy’s arms.

Then the phone rang like a chill shivering up the spine of a silent September morning. It was over.

We’d raised money, poured over her pictures, completed an expedited home study, and talked to a myriad of lawyers. We had done anything we could to make the dream a reality. The flight was practically booked to bring our little girl home when we were told it wouldn’t be needed.

Something I was sure was ours turned out to only be vapor. Worse, a dream I was sure had been planted in my heart by God suddenly withered for reasons I could not fathom. Why this cruel, quiet reality? Why not this child? Would we ever become parents?

The following weeks were a rollercoaster. I was sad. I was angry. I was embarrassed. I thought I looked like a fool for hoping this adoption process would actually come through. I’d been so vocal about the path I thought God had placed us on. Had He failed? Or had I failed to hear?

Before we lost her officially, I had begun to lose hope. One day I opened the Bible to a random page, desperate to be reassured that all would be okay.

Romans 8:31 jumped off the page. “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

That was it. I posted on my personal blog and Facebook about the latest adoption challenge with the hashtags #ifgodisforuswhocanbeagainstus & #adoptionrocks.

The truth? I had equated God’s goodness with Him giving me what I want. In my eyes His faithfulness would ensure that the road would be smooth, and this circumstance would turn out in our favor. In reality, the theme of that chunk of scripture assures me that no trial or suffering could separate me from the love of Christ.

I had been reading the Bible like it was a crystal ballall about me and my circumstances and the next step to take.  Not as it truly is, a story of God and what he’s done to rescue his people. My quick interpretation of one verse was entirely backwards.

But the truth gave so much freedom:
  • I could be weak, because the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. Romans 8:26
  • God is working for the good of those who love him, according to his own purpose. Which means He would lead us to His purpose and somehow it would be good (8:28). Even when, even though, we weren’t taking home this child.
  • God gave his only son on my behalf (8:32). He is not holding out on me. Nothing can separate me from His love.(8:35)

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult. I knew He had been leading us to adoption, and when it fell apart I couldn’t see why the path suddenly became a dead end.

***

A week later, we were told a heart-wrenching story of an older teen girl who desperately needed a place to stay.  She had been trafficked and needed to not go back to the area she was from.  I casually asked what it would take to become foster parents, since we already had a home study completed. I figured that since we had no other children, and we had been told, because of our young age, that we’d wait for up to three years for one we might be able to help. That situation ended up not being a good fit. We didn’t live in the right place.

A week later we received a life changing phone call. Could we be just foster parents? For up to a year? A 12 year old girl, who had been in an adoptive placement needed to move. Today. Everything in her life was falling apart, and we lived in the right town.

Three years later, she is our daughter. Rather than being in the potty training stage we are about to start driving lessons. I didn’t see that coming, but I’m so glad it did.

We’ve marveled over and over how God put us together. I can see the way He weaved our stories into one. How for her 5 years in foster care God’s people loved her, held her hand, and walked her right to our unlikely doorstep two weeks after we thought our adoption dreams had been decimated.

The dreams we held onto were far too small—we had no idea.  The destruction of one hope led to another being fulfilled. Our daughter was in need of us on the other side of that suffering and pain. God hadn’t failed; His promise stood true. He hadn’t told me that we wouldn’t suffer pain and loss, but reminded me that nothing could separate us from his love because He knew I would need the reminder.

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Readers, What hope helps you to trust God with your deepest desires?

Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.