I know many of you have been asking for details of our walk to Joy, pics., and the whole God story. We have been home only a week after traveling 3500 miles in a 15 passenger van pulling a trailer that had a playhouse on the back of it half that time. We are flat out exhausted! And yet, each day we get up and work. Steve goes to work and keeps his day job while I stay home and try to get a load of laundry done, maybe fix a meal if it’s a decent day, and do a few other things in between feeding babies, diapering, changing outfits, burping, and holding. If any of this post rambles or blurs in my writing, please forgive me. I am utterly exhausted. Yes, our children are doing tons of work and giving us tons of help, but they too are tired as they have all of our livestock to care for along with their regular chores. We are all in this together.
On May 13, 2014, we received a phone call that our birthmom was in labor at the hospital and would have the baby either that day or the next. I frantically called Steve. I tried all of his numbers and could not reach him. I had to call a friend that works with him and ask him to tell Steve that our baby was coming.
Princess 1 began baking tons of muffins for our road trip. I finished up our packing. Steve hurried home after he tied up loose ends at work for the next couple of weeks.
As we were filling the van with our coolers of milk and luggage, we got the call! Joy Elizabeth was born at 5:07PM Central Time weighing 7lbs. She came before we even got on the road!
Just two days before the interstate had been shut down in the state next to us do to a huge snowstorm. We asked everyone to pray for clear roads as they had just opened it back up.
We had an awesome team of friends from Indiana that kept in contact with us daily as we traveled. They would check in and ask if we needed prayer for anything and how our drive was going! It was an absolute life-saver as we did not hear from anyone in UT during our drive except when we reached out a couple times asking for prayers. 😦 We are still the “new kids on the block”. I was woken up some mornings to texts going off from IN friends asking how things were going and where we landed the night before. These dear friends literally prayed us through each state we drove through and then got on our Facebook group and shared our prayer requests as they came up. I cannot say enough wonderful things about these beautiful, sweet, Christian friends. By the end of our trip, I wanted to move back to IN just to be with them. Thank you Tina, Heidi, Danielle, Heidi, Jean, Karen, Lisa, Lacey, Joanna, Jessica, Joyce, Jessica, Kristi, Deb, Amanda, and so many more! Thank you to all of your families too, who joined you in prayer and prayed for our trip to Joy and back to UT. Thank you to all of you who planned such a sweet gathering with our family while we stopped over in IN for a day and a half. You all have been the hands and feet of Jesus like none other. We cannot thank you enough. You mean so much to us!
The first night we drove until 12:30AM. We landed in Rawlins, WY. There we crashed into a hotel room and slept for a few hours. Meanwhile, we had texts coming from our birthmom asking where we were. She and I continuously texted throughout our whole trip as well. She prayed for us daily on our drive as well. So blessed by her love and prayers.
It was on this first night that we realized that Steve forgot his deodorant and I forgot my toothbrush and toothpaste! Yuck!
We also drove through areas that had 2 feet of snow in the middle of May! Unbelievable. Now we can tell Joy someday the story of how we drove through snow, rain, and sun to get her. 🙂
May 14, we drove until midnight. We landed in Park City, KS. But before that, we met with our first horse motel client since the loss of our barn, on the road. She gave us the money for the stall and we gave her the paperwork to fill out and give to our oldest sons when she arrived at our ranch.
May 15 just 3 hours from our destination and we receive a call asking for paperwork that needed to be notarized. What??? We had to frantically look for a bank and a Staples to get our paperwork notarized and overnighted to our lawyer. Coincidentally (is anything coincidental?) God had our bank literally across the street from Staples! 🙂
Our birthmom was still texting with me the whole way through. She was letting me know how Joy was doing and that she was praying for us.
Literally two minutes before we pulled into the hospital parking lot, we received another call from our paralegal. Her message? The hospital was refusing to sign as a second witness to the release of Joy to us, the adoptive parents. Yet, in northern AR this had not been an issue with the hospitals. When pushed further, they claimed Joy suddenly had an eating issue and would not be released for awhile. They even went so far as to say we may have to do the “exchange” in their parking lot of Joy from her birthmom to us! Ludicrous!
As we pulled up to the hospital, we spotted two police cars parked at the front door. Nothing like making a person a little nervous after what we had just been told on the phone. We were allowed in to meet our birthmom and Joy. We sat with her for several hours and then went to our cottage. The hospital told us to come back the next day and meet with an administrator in the morning. We were there the next morning at 9AM to meet. She told us they would not sign as the second witness for releasing Joy. Nice. Here we sat in Small Town America where everyone knows everyone and we needed a second witness to release Joy to us. How would we do that? God knew! He had had another Marshallese baby born just a day after Joy next to our birthmom’s room. The adoptive parents flew in from the west coast. We ended up meeting them and deciding we could all trade signatures as the second witnesses. God is awesome! He planned it all perfect as always.
The next day, two police cars were found parked right behind our van. Hmmmmmm…..
We then requested an attorney to come to the hospital to give us the forms to sign and witness our witnessing. However, before we got back to the hospital, the chief nurse had sent the attorney away and said he was not needed. What???? Steve had been saying all along that the head nurse guy was setting us up as he is the one that had by this time called CPS on us and had the Marshall Islands officials contacted. The officials and CPS questioned our birthmom extensively. The hospital also took Joy away for a few hours in the morning and would not say why they took her. So, when we were all standing there and the chief nurse came up and said he sent the attorney away, he told us we could do the “exchange” in the parking lot. No sir!!!! We were not going to be set up for CPS to be called again. It was already being implied that we swooped in to strong arm our birthmom and take her baby away from her. No, we were not doing an “exchange” in the parking lot. I spoke up and said I wanted the attorney called back and that I wanted everything in writing so that there would be no question. The attorney came back a few minutes later and we all signed as the second witness for each other. Praise God! We were legal and ready to go to the cottage to await finalization in a less than a week!
Keep in mind that all these things happened while we had four of our youngest children with us during this time. They had to hear many hours of discussions, watch tons of paperwork be signed, and wait and wait and wait and wait. They were awesome, but very tired.
Interestingly, during this whole time, by May 16 Joy had gained 3 ounces. Not bad for a baby with an eating issue!
Finally on May 16 at 5:30PM, Joy was legally released to us! We took her back to our cottage!
Steve worked during the daytime on his computer, I cared for our babies, and our children played in the creek outside our cottage. The cottage that we were blessed with staying in had plenty of room for all of us. It was a cottage that children were not allowed to stay in, but the owner knowing our situation allowed us to all stay there.
Steve sweetly named the moments when both babies were crying, “babies in stereo”. 🙂
Over the next couple days we continued to enjoy our time together in the cottage. We all took turns holding Joy and Seth and caring for them.
On May 19, we met our birthmom and her two friends at a park about an hour away for dinner that evening. On our way back to the cottage that evening, we were pulled over by a state trooper. Steve had missed the change in speed sign and of course, with out of state license plates, that meant a visit from a trooper. Nice. Thankfully, we only received a warning. Shew!
On May 20, Steve did our laundry at the laundromat with Prince 4. We were also asked on this day if we would mind having our birthmom and translator in court the next day for our hearing. This would hopefully, prevent our case from being held up if the judge chose to speak with our birthmom about this. Judges in northern AR have started questioning birthparents, so, we were being proactive. We had already endured enough. We didn’t need to be detained longer.
May 21, our 26th wedding anniversary and Steve and I were standing shoulder to shoulder leaning over the babies on the bed, changing their diapers while they cried. I looked at Steve and said, “Twenty six years ago today at the altar, did you ever imagine you’d be doing this now?” He laughed and said, “I wouldn’t have married you if I knew that then.” We both laughed as I had only wanted one child and he had wanted two when we married. My, how God does amazing work!
After most of us were dressed in court attire, we headed to the courthouse. Prince 4 had pants that were two short, white sport socks, and two right shoes. He had packed himself! So, he went to court in shorts! In this small town they just so happened to be having a huge murder trial that day! There was no room for us! They had to squeeze us into the judge’s chamber and he came in and gave us a couple minutes. After that we were FREE! Joy became ours officially! We went downstairs and took pictures with our birthmom and children. Then we were off! We had finalized two adoptions in exactly 5 weeks!
We threw our bags in our car and headed north to pick up donor milk from two different ladies. God was providing plenty of milk for Seth and Joy on our trip! Praise the Lord!
We arrived in Jonesboro, AR at 7PM that night. It was nice to get in before midnight for a change. The next morning, Steve spent a few hours with his friend and touring his plant. I stayed cooped up in the hotel room with our 3 children and two babies. Fun!
Speaking of hotels, we stayed in some real dives! We had bashed in bathroom doors, missing locks, windows with a view of the trash and truck stops, and tight spaces. And who thought of making the sink next to the toilet??? I hated filling milk bottles nightly next to the toilet! Yuck!
I got to thinking that we would probably score pretty high on the stress tests. You know the one that asks you all those questions? Well, we’ve had our family grow from 8 to 10 people in 7mths., lost our barn and possessions, lost our truck, lost our dog, and traveled halfway across the country. All this in just 7 months time. I think that would put us up in there in stress, don’t you? God is good.
May 22 brought us to Spencer, IN. We arrived by 1AM and literally fell into bed. One thing I did learn during this day was that I can make 4 diaper changes in under 3 minutes in a van seat! Pretty good, huh?
All of our children had begun to really tire of the bugs and heat by this time. Funny how quickly they forgot about the humidity and bugs. 🙂 And our children asked what the red glow in the sky was. The sun setting. We don’t see that in the mountains. We see a sun going behind a mountain. It was at a stop on this day that I was reminded of the sweetness of our children. Princess 2 sang “Home on the Range” behind me in the car while I fed Joy at a gas station stop. Prince 4 helped Steve fix the trailer lights at this stop too. Princess 1 held Seth and played with him while we waited on Steve. I am truly blessed.
May 23 brought my dear friend, Tina, to my door of our hotel room! She and her daughter came to take us to the grocery store, and then back to her house to bake. It was such a sweet time with an old friend, baking and talking at her dining table. I will always treasure that memory. While we spent the day together, Steve and Prince 4 went to our old house to load our playhouse on our trailer. Do you remember the story of the playhouse that Steve built? It had moved from IN to CT and back to IN with us. But, this time, the company said they couldn’t move it and would give us the money into another playhouse. Then the playhouse company gave us part of the money back after our children talked and prayed about it and decided they wanted to adopt again instead of have a playhouse. Well, since we still own our house in IN and the playhouse was not up for sale, we were able to bring it back home with us. This is the adorable two-story Cape Cod that Steve built. It is made to last forever.
That night we met with dear friends at a state park and had a meal together. Such a sweet memory. I wish I could have taken you all back with us! We had such a wonderful time seeing everyone again. You all definitely need to come see us!
May 24 began our trip back to UT. The playhouse brought us tons of questions, stares, and stories. Every time we stopped we had either a man in the playhouse having his pic. taken, a WWII/Korean/Vietnam veteran talking with us, a biker couple saying,”Hallelujah, Praise the Lord” as I shared our God stories of adoption and love, guys saying, “Hey, did you bring your house with you?” and more. I also met a sweet lady in WY that is a Christian as well. We exchanged emails and hopefully, they will come visit us sometime soon. The Lord just poured people into our path because of the playhouse and I was able to get out and share our stories/faith with people all over the country. Steve would be paying for the gas or pumping while I was sharing our faith. It was an awesome experience. If I didn’t get out of the van, people would come to my window to talk. We said we need to take the playhouse on the road to share our faith all across the USA. LOL! We could share about adoption so much. Every morning as we came out of the hotel, we would find people outside taking pictures of our playhouse and wanting to ask us questions! It was like we were moving a “star” across country. 🙂
May 25 was the same all over with pictures and stories.
May 26 brought us down to the last of our food- two cans of tuna, a few snack bars, an avocado, a few chips, some boiled eggs, bananas, and apples. We were determined to make it home without having to stop and grocery shop. And we did!
Some of the other sweet moments on this trip were the first time I help Joy in my arms next to her birthmother at the hospital, watching our daughters really step up to the plate and take over in caring for the one of the babies while we cared for the other, the God stories I was able to share with so many people (you all that know me, know I cannot keep my mouth shut about my faith! Well, God used my mouth again), the people we met and became friends with while traveling 3500 miles, eating out of coolers daily (no we did not eat at even one restaurant or fast-food place- we did it totally out of coolers and saved tons of money!), being stuck in a traffic jam on the highway and stopping at a rest stop during that time where Steve teeter-tottered with our children, the beautiful voices of our children singing on the trip (Yankee Doodle, Home on the Range, Davy Crockett, and more), the beauty of this land that God created, the amazing people He has placed in this country, filling bottles every night in the hotel bathrooms, drying our clothes on the windowsill of the hotel room because the one dryer in the hotel did not work, and last, but not least, I am amazed at the “lines” that we have crossed in the past 7 months. We have crossed lifestyle lines (drugs and other unlikable things), ethnic lines, language lines, and many state lines for our babies. As I tell people often, my God does not live in a manmade box. My God is sovereign and capable of doing so much more than I can dream of! Steve and I often talk about how humbling it is to see how much He loves us and how many mountains He has moved for us in our marriage. God is good. He is so good!
Joy is doing wonderful! She actually sleeps better than Seth. However, Seth still has to fight the eczema from his immune system being compromised from the drugs, and his nervous system still has some kinks to work out. So, that makes sleep for him a little more difficult. We continue to pray that he will sleep better soon. Steve and I are so exhausted though. We know many of you have expressed interest in who we adopted through, how to go about adopting, how much it costs, etc. We are here and will answer questions to the best of our knowledge with full honesty. Ask away. As for pictures, we do not post pictures on facebook or the internet. We do however email or mail them to our friends if they ask. 🙂
We continue to walk in faith daily as God continues to give us story after story to share with others. If you don’t know Him, you are missing out on something wonderful. You too, could have story after story to share. Maybe you do have the stories, but are you sharing them? So humbled that He sent His son to die on that cross for our sins.
This has been our walk to Joy!