Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Foster Care? Sibling Set? Not ME! And Then God Laughed...

My husband and I felt called to adoption three years before we first met our children. In 2009, we received an unexpected infertility diagnosis giving us less than a 2% chance of conceiving. In that moment, our picture of how our family would be built was dramatically altered. Initially, this was devastating. We wanted to be parents, even felt called by God to be parents, but it seemed as if our deep desire would not be met.

In response to this shocking news we prayed, grieved, sought counsel, scoured Scripture, considered medical options, met with an adoption agency, and read books on adoption, infertility, etc. Then over the course of a few days God used a new family in our small group from church to encourage us toward adoption. We stepped out in faith, trusting and absolutely believing that adoption is what God had for us.

Over the course of those three years of waiting, God confirmed over and over our call to adoption. We met incredible families, saw the Gospel in action, and rejoiced in the birth and adoption of many children in our community of friends and family.

Initially, we worked with an adoption agency, stating we were only open to very young children. After that agency shifted to working with families interested in older children, we worked with our attorney pursuing a private birth parent adoption. Then after a number of failed connections, we took a year off - to pray, to consider what was nextit was during that time I clearly stated, Ill never do foster care. Theres too much risk, too much uncertainty.

After a year of waiting and more near misses,my husband came home from work feeling led to talk about becoming foster parents with the intent of adopting a child. Predicting my reaction would not be favorable, he was hesitant to bring it up, but felt compelled to ask. Shockingly, the Holy Spirit had been at work on my heart. My response shocked us both as I said, Okay. Lets learn more.

After lots of questions, more paperwork, interviews, fingerprints, and background checks, we became licensed foster parents in February of 2012. On March 6, 2012, we were introduced to two precious kids in a Starbucks an hour north of our home.

Zoe, who was nearly three at the time, came bounding through the door, then timidly approached us as the social worker introduced us to their current caregivers. By the end of the conversation, she had climbed up on my lap, but remained skeptical of my husband. Our son, Logan, who was an infant, initially slept in his car seat, unaware of what was taking place, but gradually woke up and willingly sat in my husbands lap. Our first picture together as a family captured this momenta moment we never could have envisioned. I was elated. I was going to be momto these kids!

We left the introduction meeting and told the social worker we would like these two siblings to be placed with us. She agreed it was a good fit and let us know that the children would come to our home a few days later for a sleepover visit and then move into our home officially a few days after that. We left the Starbucks excited but nervous. We couldnt wait for Tuesday!
Thankfully we had three days before the kids were set to arrive to assemble their rooms, purchase bedding, rearrange our small home to allow for two children, and share our exciting news with family and friends. We were overwhelmed by the amazing generosity of friends and our church community who dropped off diapers, clothes, toys, furniture, strollers, gift cards, meals, and everything we needed to welcome Zoe and Logan into our home.
We felt ready to welcome them into our family. The sleepover visit day arrived. We drove up to the same Starbucks to pick the kids up. We were nervous, but excited. We loaded the kids into the car without much fanfare and waved goodbye. Then the four of us were alone. We had no idea what to do, so I nervously started singing songs like Jesus Loves Me,” “Twinkle Twinkle,and anything else that came to mind.
We arrived home and instantly realized the challenge of a newborn and a toddler for two people who had never been parents before! It was hard. Really hard. There were lots of tears, awkward moments as my husband and I tried to figure out how to change diapers, run a nebulizer, and administer medication to very little people. Both of the kids were sick, so neither slept well. We were up most of the night, and were then of course exhausted the next morning.
That morning, we packed the kids back into the car, took them back to the Starbucks to meet up with their previous caregivers and allow them to have one more night with the kids. We would officially take placement the next day.
We drove home in a much quieter car than the one that had arrived. We walked into a quiet house and missed those two kids. It was very confirming. We missed them! With all of the challenges, exhaustion, and difficulty, we missed them. We already felt a deep love for them.
We slept. We ate when we wanted to eat. We ran errands alone as we anticipated their official move in day on Thursday.
But when Thursday morning came, I woke up with a pit in my stomach. I was afraid. I was afraid to go get the kids and I was afraid not to. I was frozen. I was riddled with nausea and uncertainty and kept thinking about how easy life was without kids, even though it was the very thing I had spent years of my life desiring, praying for, and pursuing. It was now before me and I was paralyzed with fear. I did not want to go pick the kids up.
I tried to talk my husband out of going. I tried desperately to think of a reason that would mean we shouldnt or couldnt go pick them up. My husband was confident in moving forward and didnt understand the depth of my fear as he hurried me out of the house to head north to Starbucks.
On our way out of town, we stopped by a friends house to pick up an item for the kids. When we stopped by, she could tell something was wrong. I was not myself. I was pale, clammy, and in retrospect was having some type of panic attack. She encouraged me and committed to praying for me. I was a mess.
The entire drive north, I talked to my husband about not going. I was AFRAID. He rightly asked questions, never forcing me to do anything, but challenging me to step out in faith. He prayed for me as we drove and then encouraged me to read every verse in my Bible that I could find on fear out loud. And so I started reading. I read the Truth of Gods Word. Instantly I was reminded of Gods love, protection, and care for me. Not that this was easy, but that he was WITH me in it.
We pulled up to the Starbucks, got out, and the moment, the exact moment, I saw the face of my daughter, every single fear washed away. When her face lit up when she saw us, held my hand, and with a smile got into our car, I was so incredibly thankful for my husbands faithful obedience to Gods call.
And I have been thankful for Gods call, faithfulness, and my husbands leadership every day since.
I have spent many moments of the last two years afraid. I was fearful for Zoe and Logan to go to their birthparent visitations. I was afraid of them being reunified with their birthparents. I was nervous with each court hearing. But in it all, my good and faithful God has been with me, comforting me, reminding me of who he is and the good work hes been doing in my heart.
A dear friend reminded me of Isaiah 41:10 early on in our adoption journey: 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.(ESV)
While my fear was initially paralyzing, God used it to teach me about who He is. He taught me that He is with me. He has allowed me to teach my daughter that as she was fearful to attend visits with her birth parents. God never leaves us. He is always there.
Over the course of the two years Zoe and Logan lived with us while still in foster care, we had many opportunities to discuss Gods faithfulness, provision, and grace, even though we did not know how their case would end up and if we would be able to adopt them. Through much uncertainty and turmoil, we were thrilled when Zoe and Logan became legally free in October of 2013 and then we were able to finalize their adoption in January of 2014. What a day of rejoicing that was!
We dressed up in fancy clothes, joined with our friends and family, and went to the courthouse for a judge to formalize what we already knew to be trueZoe and Logan were our children. That had been true in our hearts and now it was true in the eyes of the state.

Standing in the courtroom, stating the names of our children with our last name, promising to care for them all the days of my life, and having a judge forever change all of our lives through adoption was a precious gift to me.

I have learned so much about Gods love for me through this whole process. Despite my fear, he was steadfast and faithful. In my weakness, he is strong.
Mackenzie Ellis is a pastors wife to her high school sweetheart, mama to two amazing kids who were adopted through the foster care system, former elementary school teacher, and self taught gardener with an eclectic style. She and her family live in Seattle where she enjoys spending time with family, sipping vanilla lattes, eating Thai food, and talking about adoption with anyone who will listen.


  1. What are wonderful story. Congratulations on your precious family! My husband and I are just beginning this journey. We have already have 3 bio teenage kiddos but feel God is leading us to foster care and adoption. WE are nervous and excited. Do you have books that you would suggest for foster care to adopt or anything else you know is helpful?

  2. Congratulations on having 2 beautiful children be brought into your lives!! We have adopted 6 kiddos so far and have one bio kiddo.....we are getting our next sibling set via foster care as they are transitioning into our home via weekends til school is finished!! Sending you tons of positives vibes for your wonderful future together!!

  3. CA Renfroe, I'd suggest Wait No More by Kelly Rosati for a book about foster/adopt. Praying for you as you begin this journey!

    1. Thanks. I will check it out! And thanks especially for the prayers!