Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Who is Joy in the Journey: Meet Sarah

I'm Sarah, the newest member of the Joy in the Journey team, and a Jesus follower who is passionate about loving God and loving people. I have a huge heart for adoption, orphan care, and supporting and connecting with adoptive families.

My husband Matt and I have been married for 11 years. He makes me laugh, gets my weirdness, encourages my heart, helps me pursue my passions, and is an amazing father to our children.

We talked about adoption before we were ever married. In fact it was part of our conversations before we even started dating! We always knew adoption would be part of our family, and are so humbled and thankful for the story God has authored for our family.

I’m incredibly blessed that two of the cutest, sweetest, craziest, silliest, and most energetic toddlers in the world (not that I’m biased or anything) call me mommy! Our sons were adopted from Taiwan. They are less than 14 months apart and are biological siblings. Levi just turned 3 and came home December 2011 when he was 6 months old. Ethan will be 2 in August and came home in September 2013 when he was 13 months old.

Life with two toddlers is crazy, messy, and exhausting, but yet also full of sweet cuddles, laughter, and joy. After teaching elementary school for 9 years, I am grateful to now be a stay-at-home momma to my boys. I’m finding that motherhood is simultaneously the most absolutely wonderful and yet hardest thing I’ve ever done!  I am so thankful to my adoptive mommy friends who are helping me navigate this journey and who encourage and support me, who pray for me, and who laugh and rejoice with me.

I've seen just how vital true, deep, Christ centered friendships are to each of us…especially those of us who are walking through the adoption/foster care process and motherhood. I am passionate about supporting, helping, and connecting with other adoptive families. Last fall my heart was longing to be more actively involved in the adoption community and to help others who were going through the adoption and foster care process. My husband and I began praying that God would open up an opportunity for me. Not even two weeks later the original three Joy in the Journey ladies called! I am thrilled to be part of the Joy in the Journey team and absolutely loved seeing the amazing things God did at our retreat last year, and what He is doing through the blog, and in our Joy in the Journey community.

It is my prayer that this ministry will help adoptive, foster, and interested mommas to connect with others who also passionately love the Lord and who are walking similar paths. Our desire is that this will be a safe place where we can come alongside of each other, be real, cultivate relationships, grow and learn, and where we can support, uplift, and encourage one another. It is my prayer that together we will pursue true Joy.

I truly hope that “Joy in the Journey” will not just be a name or catch phrase, but rather reflective of how we, mommas whose lives have been blessed by adoption and foster care, live each step of this life long adoption journey. Let’s walk it together!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Who is Joy in the Journey: Meet Shannon

I am 1/3 of the group who sat in the booth that night a year ago, sharing our pictures, shedding some tears, and dreaming up big dreams. Welcome to our blog! 

I am an active, stay at home mama who happens to have been blessed with two of the world’s most beautiful children (and a pretty fantastic husband, if I do say so myself).  

Our oldest, Lili, is about to embark on the big bad world of 1st grade (somebody hold me). Lili was adopted from Taiwan, and has been home with us since she was 8 months old. 

Elijah, who will turn 3 this month, was adopted from Ghana, Africa. We were able to bring him home just after his first birthday, and we will be celebrating his second Gotcha Day at the end of August. 

I am passionate about faith, family and fitness, and I love connecting with others who share my passions. Seeing our vision of an adoptive mama retreat become a reality has been truly exhilarating. My prayer is that, through our blog and upcoming retreat, we will be able to bring a connection to adoptive mamas that is hard to find. Adoption is a beautiful, horrifying, tedious, overwhelmingly glorious process. And who better to share this with than other women who have been there and done that.

I pray that through this blog, and ultimately at our retreat, we can touch on topics not common in most circles. We will hear from experts with all types of adoption experience, including international adoption, domestic adoption, independent adoption, agency adoption, foster care, adult adoptees, etc. I pray that this becomes an open forum to discuss the joy and the heartache that comes with the magnificence of adoption. 

The adoption road is long, and sometimes it can be hard (ok, it IS hard). But our goal is to focus on the joy that comes not only when the adoption process is complete, but through out the entire journey. Won't you join us?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Who is Joy in the Journey? Meet Jen

Repost from July 9, 2013 {with a couple of updates}...

I'm Jen, one of the dreamers that felt called by the Lord to help foster meaningful connections for adoptive mamas.  I am a Christ-follower and mother who happens to work outside the home for about 9 months out of the year as a school counselor.  It's such an honor to get to advocate for 4th and 5th graders during the school year in this position and I am thankful for this ministry.  I have been married to an amazing man of God for 14 years and am so grateful for the partnership that we have.  He not only tolerates my crazy ideas, but supports them in every way {by the way, honey, we're planning an adoptive mama retreat and a new blog.  It will take hours and several dinners away from you to plan and carry out.  Thanks for being awesome. <3 }

I have been an adoptive mother for just over two years, a title bestowed upon me when we adopted our son, Bekele, from Ethiopia and brought him home last summer.  My journey to motherhood began several years prior when I gave birth to our daughter, Melia (now 9) and subsequently our son, Camden (now 7).  Adoption for all of us has been an amazing journey and picture of Christ's love and faithfulness.  We are grateful every day that God chose us to be the parents of these three amazing children who became a part of our family in two very different ways. 

Through our adoption of Bek, we made some amazing connections with other adoptive families, a community of people who just "got it".  Their friendships were and continue to be such a blessing in our lives, through the good, the bad, and everything in between on this journey of parenthood.  This, in conjunction with an event that I had the opportunity to be a part of, birthed a desire within me to foster connections in the adoptive community.  I believe that the encouragement of other people who are going through the same family changes as well as from those who have been there, done that (and found JOY through it) is priceless.

And that is exactly what I pray this blog and the retreat will do (and has been doing) for you...encourage, foster connections, open communication, address the tough issues, and ultimately bring you to the joy that can be found through Christ regardless of your life circumstances.  I pray that through it all, you find joy and blessings in this journey of adoptive parenting.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We are so blessed to offer an amazing giveaway from Subsidy Shades
Here at Joy in the Journey we LOVE Subsidy Shades!  Not only do we love to rock their shades, we love the ministry and most importantly the people behind this company.  Read their story below...
Hi! We are Melissa, Robert and Jacquie. We are a young family of three, having adopted Jacqueline through infant domestic adoption. Adoption has certainly blessed our lives! In 2012 we started the process and in 2013 our tiny bundle of joy arrived weighing in at just 5 pounds! Our adoption costs have been tremendous. Jacquie’s sweet birthmother is a single mother to four children and had major health complications during her pregnancy. Being the adoptive parents we were responsible for all of her costs during that time. Her adoption cost us nearly $60,000. Last summer Jacquie’s birth family became homeless on the hard streets of Detroit. With the help of family and friends we were able to fly them in to our home, to live with us while we raised funds to purchase them a residence. We were able to get the family a forever home but were unable to reach our fundraising goal. Happy to help, we were put in another tight financial situation. Today, Jacqueline is a thriving one year old. We are starting the adoption journey again! (Are we crazy or what?!) Robert and I are so excited to expand our family through another infant domestic adoption and give Jacqueline a brother or sister of the same race. In order for us to do this, we need your help. We have created Subsidy Shades to help our family (and families like us) who need financial assistance in the adoption process. All proceeds of Subsidy Shades go directly to a fund to help expand our growing family. We love our family, friends and kind strangers so much! Rock those shades and spread the word! Much love! – The Mugar’s
Subsidy Shades mission to raising funds to help create forever families via adoption through stylish affordable fashion. You can contribute to the future of a child. 100% proceeds donated.

So now to the giveaway!

ONE lucky winner will get to pick any pair of shades from Subsidy Shades! 

As many of you know we have been busy planning our 2015 retreat and registration is just around the corner.  Our theme this year is "Intentional".  We believe this means that we are all called to live intentionally, following His direction for our lives.  As a team we have not been able to nail down a bible verse that we feel fits this theme.  So that is where you come into play!  

There are two ways to enter this giveaway:
1. Go to our Joy in the Journey FB page  comment on the post about this giveaway with a verse that you think fits our theme "Intentional"
2. Go to our IG @joyinthejourney2014 and comment on the picture with this giveaway with a verse that you think fits our theme "Intentional"

(If you put a DIFFERENT verse on our FB and IG then you will get 2 enteries.)

Winner will be announced on Thursday, July 17 at 9pm CST. 



Friday, July 11, 2014

What is the Joy in the Journey Retreat?

When the idea for the Joy in the Journey ministry was birthed, it began with a spark of an idea that a retreat could take place in the heart of the country, right in Southwest Missouri.  The idea quickly spun into the Joy in the Journey ministry and has taken on a life of it's own, including not only the retreat, but the blog and social media connections as well.  The various means of connection have served as an amazing blessing to the Joy in the Journey team, allowing us to encourage adoptive families, advocate for adoption, foster connections, minister to hurting hearts, advertise adoption fundraisers, and feature amazing companies through giveaways.

When it comes right down to it, though, the Joy in the Journey Retreat is the one weekend that is the very heart of the ministry.  Following are some frequently asked questions regarding the Joy in the Journey Retreat...

Who should attend the Retreat?

Any adoptive, foster, or prospective adoptive/foster mom

What can I expect from attending the Joy in the Journey Retreat?

You can expect a weekend full of encouragement and connection with other adoptive and foster mamas where you will be poured into and taken care of.  The weekend will include main sessions, breakout sessions, worship times, meals, connection times, and some recreation time.

When is the Retreat?

This year's retreat will be March 27-29, 2015.  We have extended the retreat one night/day to foster additional time for sessions and connections.

Where is the Retreat?

The retreat will take place at Maranatha Bible Camp/Retreat Center in Everton, MO.

How much is the Retreat?

This year's retreat will cost $100.  This includes 2 nights' lodging, 5 meals (dinner, breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch), snacks, all the coffee you can drink, and an AWESOME swag bag.

How do I register for the 2015 Joy in the Journey Retreat?

This is the tricky part.  Registration for the retreat will go live on October 24th, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. CST.  If you are planning to attend the retreat, you will definitely want to be prepared to register by purchasing your ticket at that time.  Slots are limited based on space at the retreat center and will go quickly.  Last year's retreat was full within 7 days of going live and we anticipate this year's to fill up even faster.

How do I know this retreat will be worth the trip/registration fee?

Honestly, the best way to answer this question is to have you click here and see for yourself...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What is Joy in the Journey?!

As July is our birthday month, our plan is to revisit some of our initial posts on the Joy in the Journey ministry and reintroduce you to our team.  First up is a repost of our very first post from July 2, 2013, with some updates added in...

We sat in a booth at a local restaurant in our hometown of Joplin, Missouri.  It was April 2012 and the three of us came to dinner with heavy burdens.  Each of the three of us held pictures of longed-for babies in our hands that we displayed as the proud mamas that we were.  Through our laughter and our tears, we shared our journeys with each other, connecting in a way that only waiting mamas can understand.  Our emotions were scattered, but the fellowship with each other, with other ladies who “got it,” was pure refreshment to our souls.

We marveled at how God had crossed our paths and how, after only a couple of hours that evening, we had built a deep bond and had discovered a glimpse of joy through connecting with others on the journey of adoption.  We dreamt big that night, or so we thought.  We knew that the connection and rejuvenation we had received should be shared with other women.  That’s when we realized our common goal: ministering to other adoptive mamas in all stages of the adoption process.

It wasn’t until a year later that our dreams were made even bigger when the Lord revealed how we could best do this in our community.  It was at that time that the inspiration for a local retreat open to adoptive mamas in all stages of the journey was realized.  Once we caught the vision of this retreat, we began to meet and work out the logistics.  Well, the truth is, God began to work out the logistics.  Throughout the process of planning the first ever Joy in the Journey retreat, He showed up again and again, working out the details and confirming that He is in this and that His heart is for this process…both for adoption and for finding and fostering Godly connections.  He is good and He gives us Joy in our Journey, even when things are difficult.

Fast forward several months and we were so encouraged and inspired by the love and support we'd received through the ministry.  The blog had taken off, many gifted writers with a heart for adoption had signed on and shared their hearts, and the ministry was larger than the three of us could handle.  It was at that time the Lord revealed our need for a fourth team member and it quickly became apparent who He had in mind.  When we approached our fourth team member about the possibility of joining us, she immediately said "YES!" and revealed that God had been stirring in her heart for this ministry opportunity.

Our Crazy Team

Our prayer is that this ministry has blessed your heart as an adoptive, prospective adoptive, and/or foster parent.  And, if you are able, our additional hope is that you will join us for our second annual retreat…a place where you will be able to relax, rejuvenate, and make lasting connections that will help to foster joy in your own journey.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Happy First Birthday {Giveaway}

We're celebrating our birthday over at the Joy in the Journey FB page.

Click here for details and to enter!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Four Letter Word: WAIT

I was asked to guest post on this blog about waiting… and honestly I didn’t want to. First of all I have a very hard time articulating my feelings into words, especially words that make sense. Second because I am the worst person to write about waiting. To me the word “wait” is a four-letter word that must never be uttered in my presence. And lastly because well frankly I’m new to the adoption world and I feel completely unqualified to write anything regarding adoption because I’m barely surviving myself. There it is, the truth. So bear with me as I squeeze this blog out, which I have been putting off writing for a month.

I was asked to write about how God came through for us during a waiting period, regarding our adoption.  May I just suggest that it felt like our entire adoption was a waiting period and it is hard to pinpoint one exact moment where I felt God “came through” because He has been writing this story for longer then I have been alive. So I guess I’ll briefly explain our situation and how God came through and is still coming through.

A year ago in March I fell in love with a picture. So many of us can relate to that one statement. The moment when you finally hold the long awaited picture of a child you’ve dreamed about in your hands… But my picture was not what I expected, and we weren’t thinking of adopting, and the picture held a boy that was 15 and from a country I had never heard of before, Latvia. I have a dear friend who had been sharing her heart to me about an organization called New Horizons for Children. This organization brings orphaned children (mostly social orphans, which means they have at least one living parent but has lost custody of child) for 5 weeks in the summer and 4 weeks in the winter to families who have chosen that child and paid their fees to get to America. The children stay with the family, attend all family activities (including church) and then return back to their country (Ukraine, Latvia, China and Philippines) after the period of time is over. I had listened to her talk about this organization and thought she was nuts. She had two smaller children (5 and 6) and she was trying to get a 15-year-old boy to come stay at her home for the 5 weeks during summer. But I listened, promised to pray, promised to support her but told God “I’m not doing that”… famous last words… I saw a picture, of a blonde hair, hazel eyed, dimple chin boy in blue and my world shifted.

My “plan” for adoption was my husband and I would adopt a dark baby from Africa someday. However, God had other plans for my family and so the “waiting” began. We had looked into the possibility of adopting A (the boy in the picture) because I was convinced I had heard from God that he was my son, my husband had not heard that message yet however, but he agreed to look into how much it would cost and what it would take to adopt him so we could be prepared. This was my first opportunity to “wait”. “Wait” for my husband to hear the same call I had, to be touched in the same way I was by the shy grin. To be moved to a place where you couldn’t forget the face of a child who didn’t share your DNA. I would plea and beg God to show my husband what He had shown me… And I waited, and waited and waited. (And bugged, cried, pouted, yelled, pouted, cried some more to my husband to hear God’s voice just like I had…. Not the thing to do)
During my “wait” for my husband to hear what I had heard from God, I began talking to adoption agencies on if this boy was cleared for adoption and what it would take to bring him home. I was told by two agencies that work primarily with Latvia that it was impossible to adopt A. In Latvia there is an age law that states that both adopting parents have to be at least 18 years older then the child they are wanting to adopt. I am 19 years older my husband is 17. I was told time and time again it was impossible, Latvia NEVER made exceptions, and to find him another family. So I waited, for a HUGE mountain to be moved. For God to come through on His promise that I knew He made for me that first day in March when I saw the picture.

I would like to say that my “waiting” was over fast and that God answered my prayers immediately, but as we all know it doesn’t work like that. I remember sitting in church one Wednesday night and finally releasing the boy in the blue shirt to God. I remember sobbing and saying “God if this is what you want then you will have to move this age law. I can’t but you can. Until then I will trust you.” I wish I could say that I trusted God going forward and never took up worrying or angst again, but that is just not true. I’m human and worrying and angst are two of my favorite past times (hello, I’m a Mom). But at that moment I felt peace, like God was about to do something big and I had to just wait for it. And guess what? He was about to do something big, no HUGE! He was about to change the game.

I got a Facebook message two days after that Wednesday night. (I love Facebook) It was a friend who had heard from a friend that Latvia had passed a new law regarding the age law. And that should a relationship be established the law was not in effect, but it hadn’t been tested by international adoption. So the first thing I did (like any good Christian wife) I called up my husband (who was not sold yet) and told him of yet a way God was providing. (“See, I told you.)  Then I called our adoption agency (who we had not paid a dime to at this point but who are THAT fabulous and asked about this new law. They confirmed that it was true and that the lawyer they worked with in Latvia was willing to take on our case provided we understood that we could lose. I felt like God had provided the path we were to take and I was ready to jump on it, but my husband was not there yet (still, ugh) and so my wait continued.

There was the waiting until our A arrived. The anticipation, the nesting that took place getting his room ready, buying him clothes, setting up appointments for him. There was fear and uncertainty about our path and about the unavoidable good-bye at the end of hosting but I waited until that moment when I would finally see his face. July 29th or rather July 30th thanks to delay’s at 12:45 am I saw him in a distance. He was at the back of the group. He still had the blond hair, hazel eyes, dimple chin, but now he was looking at me and all I could do was say, “There he is” and run towards him. We hugged awkwardly and tried to pronounce each other’s names and figure out if he spoke Latvian or Russian. But the moment he smiled at me is a moment I will never forget, from that moment I was his and he was mine. And now the long wait was about to ensue, the wait to bring him home forever.

We began adoption paperwork (yes my husband “saw the light”, less then a week after meeting A) the day A left us to return back to Latvia. We got our home study and paperwork filed and dossier sent to Latvia in record time (less then 2 months). Then we began waiting, and waiting, and waiting for an answer. Would they say yes we could adopt him or would A become another statistic being raised in an orphanage without parents? I would love to say that I waited patiently, calmly, confident in God’s ability and trusting Him completely… The truth is I was a MESS!!!! I would hear “oceans” by Hillsong United and sob. A is all I thought about. Adopting was all I talked about. I was a certified mess… But I love how God uses the messy parts of our lives and makes them beautiful. The moment I received the email about our referral I was in Michaels and could not break down and sob, or jump up and down, and as God would have it tell anyone for 2 days. I had received my miracle, my waiting was done (so I thought) and I was “home free”………….. Oh how silly of me. My wait was just beginning once again.

We had received a referral for A but would not get travel dates until he was hosted again to make sure he truly wanted to be adopted by our family. WHAT! I couldn’t just get on a plane and go get my kid? Seriously? Ok fine, so we hosted A again and were told we would travel within two weeks of him returning. 2 weeks passed, 4 weeks passed and once again I was a mess. I just want my son. I didn’t care about the government crap, I just wanted my son. Why was this going on? And I worried and fretted and cried and begged God and lost my temper and was pissed because the path I thought God had provided was taking so much longer then I expected. But then we got the call and we headed on a jet plane into the great unknown, just me, my husband and our 5 year old.

The moment I knew the wait was worth it? The moment I walked into that courtroom and saw him sitting there. He had on his red jeans that he loved so much, an Addida's zipper jacket, and his shoes we had sent him home with. It took every ounce of control I had to not run over and grab him, but I just smiled like crazy and sat down. We brought our son home (the impossible adoption) on March 5 and I thought once again the wait was over. So when I was asked to write this I thought I really have come through the hard part and am done with waiting, yay, I survived. But once again, I was wrong. My hardest wait was about to happen and it just so happened it began while I was writing this.

According to Latvian law if the child is above the age of 14 he or she decides if he/she wants to be adopted and on the second trip to make it official in Latvia they must stand before the court and make their choice. American parents or former life. I thought we had this in the bag, bonding was going mostly good and our boy had assured us he was going to say yes, until we landed in Germany and once again my world shifted and the longest wait of my life began. My son decided in Germany that he could no longer be apart of our family (for many reasons) and he was going to say no in court. And so began my husband and I’s nightmare of waiting. We had 3 days before court and our son never wavered, he was going to say no. So we prepared as best we could, and prepared our 5 year old for the no that would change our life forever. And I waited, waited for yet another miracle, and I sobbed, and yelled at God, and prayed in a Russian Orthodox church in a small town in Latvia (without my head covered which I have learned is a no-no) and pouted and sobbed some more (see I don’t learn) and waited for court. And the day of court arrived and I had tons of people back home praying for my miracle, up at 2 am in the morning their time praying, and God moved. He heard our cries and A changed his mind and said yes in court. And once again I thought “my wait is over” and I cheered. God had once again made a miracle out of my adoption story and I felt certain He wouldn’t ask anymore from me….

But the truth is our “waiting” is never truly over. Sure we will get our child home and life will move on but we will always be waiting. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for healing to take place, waiting to be called Momma and Daddy, waiting for them to learn to speak English, waiting to figure out public school for them or homeschool, waiting, waiting, waiting… God didn’t call us to this path because it was easy. If you have walked this adoption or foster care path you know how hard it truly is and there are moments, or hours that you want to give up and not try anymore. But God brought you to your child(ren) because you could fight for them, because you were strong enough, because of out of all the women, couples, people in the world only you are perfectly qualified for that child(ren) and although the wait at times is horrendous, tiresome, painful, and long (sometimes too long) you are strong enough to endure it. You have all you need to endure this wait! You don’t have to be the “perfect Christian”, you don’t have to “do it right” during the wait, you just have to endure and try to trust that God has it all planned out.

For me, I’m now waiting to get into a routine. Waiting to figure out why some days are really good and some are really bad. Waiting to figure out how to balance a 5 year old and a demanding 16 year old. I’m waiting for my son to find peace with his decision and peace in his life. I’m waiting for healing of his heart. My wait is just begun and this will be the longest wait yet. But this time I’m not sobbing (most the time), not begging and pleading (most the time), I’m facing each day as it comes. I’m trusting God that what He has called me to I am qualified for, even when I don’t feel I am, and I’m going to wait for HIS timing with as much peace as I can muster on an everyday basis.  I never thought I would say this but I am thankful for the wait. Thankful for what I’ve learned through it, even though it’s still a four-letter word for me. J

Catrina Steinmann
Stay-at-home Mother of a biological 5 year old and adopted 16 year old
Married almost 13 years
Nixa, Missouri