week three

IMG_5710.JPG My girls are three weeks old today. Lo and Rhyann have been home a week and it doesn’t even seem real.

They are changing daily and their personalities are already distinguishable. They are eating like champs and finishing their bottles much faster and with a lot more intention than they were in the NICU. Although they came at 34 weeks and were really good at the suck/swallow/breathe task, they had a hard time finishing their bottles before conking out which was a huge concern. But, NOW! my girls chug their milk and enjoy eating! I’ve even increased their feeds and they’re doing an awesome job with taking more milk!

Rhyann and Lo are super sweet and cuddly, but have flipped the script on us! I’ve been earning my title as “new mom” over the last couple of days! The girls used to sleep so. well. and days/nights with them were a breeze!
Now they fight their sleep and wake up crying in between feeds just wanting to be held which they never did before. So, our nights have been kinda long and mama is exhausted. Luckily, we’re all able to catch up on sleep between their morning feedings. They’ve also claimed my chest as their favorite place to relax at the end of the day so we spend a bit of time just lounging together. They don’t quite fit on my chest as comfy as before, but they don’t seem to mind sharing the tight space!

IMG_5708.PNG Even though everything they do just about makes me nervous, I’m starting to relax more and more. I was never afraid of them, I think being a mom makes you hyper sensitive to every possible thing that could possibly go wrong. And, I’m a slight hypochondriac who self diagnoses and WebMD is only a click away, so……………. I’ve had to keep myself same by asking a ton of really ridiculous questions to my sisters. Lol. We laugh and move on.

3 weeks in, 1 real week in the trenches and I’m really enjoying being these little girls’ mama. I’m looking forward to seeing them intentionally smile and hearing their voices & laughter!

These gals make my day every day!

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meet madison & nolan!

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There’re very few things about our adoption journey that I love more than meeting other adoptive mamas. Even though I’ve said it twelve thousand times, I can’t verbalize enough how important and impactful a community of God craving women are during this journey. The instant connection that is made is so encouraging, uplifting, and spiritual.  We know that all of this is about Jesus so we’re all coming from the same place. Every single one of us  desire to serve and share God to little people who we pray will grow up to do remarkable things for the sake of Christ. Although every family’s journey is different, there are God planned similarities that bind us mamas together in an incredible way.  It’s amazing to see how each friendship made serves a spectacular purpose in a very specific way.

Two major things that I believe that are very close to most adoptive mamas hearts are community and relationship. Through community, we build a network of support and real to the bone friendships. It’s also through these relationships that these friendships and connections find their value, families are formed, and often simultaneously kept together. We know that by openly sharing our experiences and convictions enables us to enjoyably share God’s love for us and encourages others to keep moving! These testimonies also remind families that this idea  that God gave you about bringing a stranger child into your home isn’t far fetched, it’s not unreasonable, and yes you too can impact and be impacted by a child in an unimaginable way by just going when God say move.

So all of that paves the way to amazing opportunities such as this one…..
I’m humbled and honored to share two things with you today.

FIRST, I want to introduce you to my friend Madison Vining who I met through  social media! She’s an amazing wife, mama, and Tulsa, Oklahoma based photographer who is here to share her family’s adoption story with you!!! We have the same love for adoption & sharing Jesus!! lol. We thought it would be neat to interview each other and share perspectives, thoughts, and  stories about our experiences!

SECOND, you have an awesome opportunity to impact another family by participating in our GIVEAWAY!!! Each entry positions you to have $100 donated to the Crisis Pregnancy Outreach in your name! The Vining’s youngest and most recent addition, Nolan, was adopted through Crisis Pregnancy Outreach based in Tulsa, so it’s a very special contribution for Madison and I am very sensitive about donating towards others’ adoptions! So, this is a neat little win-win situation for everyone involved!

Without further delay,
please meet 

Madison Vining.
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Tell us a little bit about who Madison is…
I have lived Oklahoma all my life and have been with my hubby since the 8th grade (we got married at 19). I have 3 little ones: Cade who is 5, Story who is 2.5, and Nolan who is 4 months. We adopted Nolan the day before Valentine’s Day this year. I am a photographer and am pretty spontaneous and creative in all areas of life. “Laid back and mildly inappropriate” describes my personality ; )

 What caused you to pursue an open & domestic adoption after originally planning to adopt internationally?
We had just dipped our foot into the process of adopting internationally, looking at Columbia (which is funny… because we ended up with a child who looks like he could totally be Columbian! God is great like that.)

One night I was on Facebook and saw an acquaintance post a photo of her newly-adopted daughter. I didn’t know they had been in the process of adopting so I sent her a message congratulating her and asking questions, which she so graciously answered. Her daughter had been adopted through Crisis Pregnancy Outreach here in Tulsa, and she explained to me the opportunity they had been given to minister to their daughter’s birth mom. All I can say that is that I had a heart change during that conversation. We were pursuing adoption as our first choice for growing our family, and so all along our intentions were to help a child, but the concept of the birth mother had honestly never entered my mind. Once I started thinking in a new way and seeing how we could maybe make a bigger impact in not just a baby’s life, but a woman’s life as well, and also have background information for our child when they are ready to receive it, I was totally convinced that this was the type of adoption that we were called to. My husband wholeheartedly agreed, and so off we went!

Has adoption changed your way of thinking about life, your personal relationships, and/or your relationship with God?
To try and explain all the ways in which I have been changed seems impossible!

I guess the main theme is that, layer by layer, things have been stripped away to where it’s obvious that I am called to love relentlessly and tirelessly and without stopping to think about it. I’ve also had to let go of a lot of control, and in that, I have been molded and shaped more through this process than through any other period in my life.

As for my relationship with my husband: adoption has deepened our love infinitely. Seeing him wholeheartedly welcome another man’s child as his own… if only the world were full of more men who are capable of that kind of love. My husband, now even more so than before, is my rock and the most amazing example of Christ’s grace and compassion. 3bedS

 Can you give some hindsight wisdom about your experience with adoption?
One suggestion I have is to surround yourself with people who “get it.” People who truly want to know how you are doing and how they can be there for you. One of the biggest helps through this was for a few of our friends to call and say, “What specifically can we be praying with you about today?” Find those kinds of friends. (If you are reading this and are in need that kind of friend… I am happy to be it! : )

 How did you prepare your bio children for the adoption?
Many of our friends have adopted or are in the process, and they have several adopted friends, so it’s a topic they’ve always been somewhat familiar with. A year ago when we began the application process, we started talking more about it and made sure to use age-appropriate terms that they understood. Our 5 year old understands adoption more than most adults. He loved praying for our baby’s birth mom. And every time we’d hold a friend’s baby he’d say, “Cute baby! Did we adopt him?” : )

We also read a lot of adoption books. Our favorite one is “A Mother for Choco.” Anyone with young kiddos, whether you’re adopting or not: buy this book! It is wonderful.3bed7S

 Do you have any advice on preparing young children for the realities of bringing another child into your home?
What worked for us was talking about it regularly. By the time it actually came, the kids were fully ready and the transition was really seamless. It is never too early to begin prepping them for the change. You never know, you could receive a baby with two hours’ notice like we did! : )

 What practical advice would you give to someone preparing to begin the adoption journey?
Know that it will probably not go the way you expect it to, and know that that’s amazing. I’ve learned that God’s plans for us are always better than the plans we have for ourselves. When you can, be open to things you didn’t necessarily foresee. We were waiting for a newborn and ended up with a 3 month old, and he is totally our son! : ) SPL16S

Did you have any concerns about having an open adoption?
Oddly, no. I know the concept sounds totally terrifying to most people, but once we knew that an open adoption was what we were supposed to pursue, we educated ourselves on every possible scenario (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and we still felt at peace. One thing I wish more people knew was that open adoption is not co-parenting. An adopted child is your legal child, and you set the rules when it comes to their safety and well-being. If someone is not safe or healthy for them to be around, that is ultimately your call to make. But open adoption is such a beautiful thing if you can find common ground. We feel that the more people our kids have in their lives that love them, the better!

 What is your relationship with your birth mother?
Our relationship with Nolan’s birth mother is, of course, still very new. But the love I have for her is unlike the love I have for anyone else in my life. I may not agree with some of her decisions, but I love her heart and I love her love for Nolan. When Nolan does something adorable, my first thought is “I can’t wait to tell A.” She’s the only person who loves him as much as we do, and it’s a very special bond. I am grateful literally every single day that she gave Nolan life and that she was willing to break her own heart to do what was best for him. She is a hero.SPL14S

 Can you speak to fundraising and sharing with your community your dreams/plans of adopting?
Of course! I am pretty open, but choosing how and when and what to say about our adoption journey was a struggle for me. I wrote a blog post announcing that we were in the process of adopting and tried to kind of shed some light on open adoption in general, because a lot of our friends just had no idea about it.

To raise funds, we created a little online shop called Vine & Ever. You can check it out HERE!!! It was a fun way to stay busy, spread the word about adoption, and bring in some funds that would ultimately help to bring Nolan home. Now, our hope is to help other families fund their adoptions.

 What areas did you need to lean on God the most about during your journey?
The waiting. It’s like being pregnant with no due date. Your baby could come in 2 minutes or 2 years, and you have no idea. You also (or at least in our case) don’t know anything about the baby you are waiting on: its gender, its race, its circumstances. For someone who is usually a planner, that was a huge faith stretch for me.

But oh my gosh… was it the most amazing rush when we got that call.

 In what areas were you most challenged in? (marriage, personal concerns/thoughts of perceptions, etc.)
My lack of patience and need for control were by far the things that were most challenged! : ) I can’t say that I am “healed” of my impatience/control-freakness, but I am WAY more apt to let things go and give them to God than I used to be. I have learned that I am not in control, and when I’m not in control is when the best things happen!

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NOW, FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!! 

As I mentioned before, in honor  of  baby Nolan and  Crisis Preganncy Outreach, you have the awesome opportunity to  have $100 donated in your name!
We only ask that you do a few things:
1. Like Madison’s blog page on Facebook
2. Follow Madison on Instagram 
3. Like UnashamedGrowth’s blog page on Facebook
4. Follow me on Instagram
5. COMMENT below!!
Let us know how adoption has impacted your life in any way! We’d love to hear your experiences and  even a fav scripture you have that compels you to love with that “anyway” love of Jesus – regardless of relationship!

Our WINNER will be selected on APRIL 4th!!!!

I hope you enjoyed Madison’s story! She is definitely a wonderful woman who is eager and intentional about serving God in a way that helps funds adoptions in an insanely adorable, practical, and cost effective way! Be sure to head over to Vine & Ever (click. that. link!! :))!! I know you will love everything you come across! You won’t ever regret it!

I’m in love and encouraged with this entire concept of adoption and how it so represents Christ, his love towards us, and the absolute definition of what the action of love really looks like. If you are on the fence or feel your heart strings tugged a bit at the thought of adoption – please pray about the when, how, and where. God is faithful and will definitely answer your prayers! Let me know & I’ll be praying for you too! I’m always willing to chat if you want to talk

{{ Madison also interviewed me! You can find that post on her blog! Just click here! ENJOY!!! }}

…. here’s to community and loving one another!

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… created and beloved

Over the past year and a few months, I have graciously been a part of a community of women who have supported, encouraged, and been true friends to me. Women spread all across the country who I have come to know, whose children I’ve watched come into their homes by birth or adoption and grow. For months we’ve emailed, texted, and had heart to heart phone conversations.

Now, allow me to top the heartfelt off with a large dollop of random – I met all of these women on Instagram.
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But, this weekend – I met them, for the first time, in person. And, we knew each other – not in the biblical sense but in the sister to sister I know where you are kinda way. In the way that causes you to hug so tightly forever and tears stream down your face because you KNOW they just get it. We caught up, we prayed, cried, worshipped, and ate. We had late night talks in pj’s and drank wine. We escaped families, work, and all obligations for a couple of days to come together for the Created for Care Conference in Georgia for a weekend of community.

So, let’s add a few sprinkles of crazy on top of the dollop of random, and let me tell you how grateful I am for trusting God about this conference.

If you know me, you know that I do not talk to people I don’t know. I know I come of either really rude or intensely snobby, but I honestly freeze up and have no words when it comes to talking to people I’ve met for the first time. I’m sorry. So. Enter Instagram where it’s okay to follow the lives of people you don’t know and gush. As our adoption story unfolded, I became more and more involved in the (amazing) adoption community on IG. As I was stalking  going through IG in August, I ran across a page publicizing a Christian adoptive mama conference. In Georgia. In a very un-Alaina like way, I go online and register. Then don’t think much of it. Fast forward to February, my adoptive mama friends are increasing; all these women I’ve come to just uhdore are planning to go to this conference in either February or March. I’m stoked. We’re talking about it and getting excited. A Facebook group was formed, dinner assignments have been emailed and we’re emailing and texting like mad. (Because those are the things you do with people you’ve followed for a good portion of a year and plan to see each other.) So. another God act that’s very un-Alaina like… I went solo. And, decided that I need a roommate and that a carpool for the hour drive from the airport would be cool. And, in another very un-Alaina like way, I post my conundrum on the FB group. And, people respond. I find my roommates on this group and plan to hop in a car my fraaaand, Wynne who I met online, and her friend who I didn’t know.

We meet at the airport and I have a bite with her and other of her friends while we wait for our other car pool buddy.

Criminal Minds story in the making one would think.
But, it was perfect. Everything it was supposed to be.
And, I had a good time.

This conference was everything spectacular in the ways that I would have never imagined. Aside from the fact that I almost died running a 5k with the steepest of hills and highest altitude I’ve ever run in, I had an amazing time. The good thing about my run is that although my time was a couple of minutes higher than normal and my Strava app crapped out on me, I wasn’t running for an hour like I thought I’d been. And, I got a cool little much & water bottle after crossing the finish.

My favorite part of the actual conference was Beth Gukenberger…  look her up, you won’t regret it; she was nothing short of amazing. She spoke some downright truths that stung, shed light on concepts I’d never thought of, and encouraged me in so many ways. Told stories that laid. us. out and caused us to thank God for the goodness He shows towards others. On my flight home, I edited pictures and went through notes from the weekend connecting dots I hadn’t thought of and jotting down questions I’m eager to find answers to. I was challenged in my thoughts of raising adopted children and left with a desire to pursue God even more than before. Felt empowered to do what we were created to do – be the hands and feet of God.

Another interesting to d0…. be it that I was the only black woman at the retreat (aside from a panel of speakers that spoke to raising Black children in non-black households),  I had an interesting experience. (And, yes… I’m still going back next year.) This is going to sound crazy and very racist but… in an effort to continue to be honest about my experiences, I’m going to say it. Because, I want to and then because it’s true.
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First, I love that my White friends have no issue with adopting children (for one) and adopting African or Black children. None. At. All. I love that. I admire how they follow Jesus so closely that they take the commission to caring for the orphan and the shared idea of adopting because we were adopted by a God who loves us so deeply, so literally and with great passion. With the number of kids they already have not prohibiting them from adopting more children more than once. Or, having a family of soley adopted children of different races.  It’s not my favorite fact that adoption in the African American community is rare. I do recognize that there are Blacks who adopt but in real life, it’s not many at all. (And, I’m eager to find a group of families that do!) And, I find that sad and disappointing. Granted, I was one of the women who literally said, “I want my own kids before I adopt”… I think about that and am ashamed a because it came from such an arrogant, short sighted, and self absorbed place. So, I get it but man to open the eyes of others about adoption would be a huge, huge experience. Although adoption is not easy; it is beautiful and world changing on so many different levels. Your view of your relationship with God and people changes dramatically, the ends you’re willing to go to, and the way you so easily connect with others going through the same or nearly the same processes is scary and moves you to bunk with with people you don’t know. And, you’re okay with it because you realize that God is bigger than so many of the things we tend to focus on.

One of the major stand out phrases of this past weekend was “… we don’t have to, we get to…” and I cling to that and love thought deeply. It’s so applicable to every aspect of your life. You don’t have to respect your husband, you get to. You don’t have to honor God, you get to. You don’t have to forgive others, you get to. You get to. It’s a privilege you get to do because of the grace of God. That’s huge! We have the humbling privilege of bringing these children out of hard places and raising them to love and serve God BIG. The tough, sad, and difficult things that are placed in front of us are both humbling and challenging simply because we are called to do them for the sake of The Lord’s name. It’s the tough stuff that honors God. That’s where we’re weaned off of milk. That’s where we’re stretched to depend on our God soley because he’s leading us to hop out of pretty amazing boats into deep waters where we have no choice but to trust the one we claim to love.

The theme of the conference was “Be love, Be loved, Beloved.” and how fitting. How fitting is it to gather these women together who have stretched themselves thin, who willingly go through the worst of the worst, the saddest of the sad, and come out on the other end praising a God whose plans put them in protected yet difficult places….

Can’t help but find comfort in Isaiah 40: 26-31….
How sweet it is to know that He, the creator and sustainer of all, sees us and gives us strength to do the things He calls us to do when we grow weary and want to just quit.

This God we serve and seek so fervently after has greater things for us to do… He has people for us to reach, love on, and be there for. He has people to become ‘our’ people. If we would just step out, he would provide our people and resources to be there for us. to lean on. to gain wisdom from. to form a community of believers with. He’d give us people to ‘go’ with.

We get to practice Heaven right here. We get to show the love of Jesus to others. We get to be there for our sisters and brothers who are standing by our side.

So we can hop in cars and share bathrooms with our Jesus loving friends because our focuses are bigger than ourselves.
We can offer and implore others to come along side of us because of the need and friendship.
It’s about Jesus and what he’s called us to do.

Be love.
to others.

Be loved.
by others.

And, bask in the presence of, relinquish our desires to, and find comfort in the one who calls us His
Beloved.

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