Family Ever After: Our Adoption Story

“I’ve been thinking about adoption,” I said as we drove to Children’s Hospital for the last time.

“Me too,” said my husband.

With tears in our eyes and the deepest of sorrow in our souls, we spent three more bittersweet days with our dying daughter. We surrendered her to Jesus, ushered her into heaven, and drove home with an empty back seat, weary and overcome with grief.

Our almost 2-year-old son was once again an only child.

This was not how we had imagined growing our family.

We always knew that adoption would be a part of our lives, but in our perfect plan we would have our biological children first and then continue to add children through adoption.

But after two unplanned albeit necessary c-sections, my body was now limited in how many children I could grow in my own womb. Additionally, I needed to wait at least a year until trying to conceive again.

Even assuming my next pregnancy and delivery would happen without any complications, the thought of waiting that long to have another child felt like an eternity.

Maybe God was leading us down the road of adoption now. Or maybe we were crazy.

Were we being impulsive? Were we just desperate for a baby to hold? Were we rushing through our grief?

We prayed and prayed. We sought counsel from people who love us enough to tell us the truth. And the resounding affirmation was: Yes. Adoption.

It had always been on our hearts, so we knew we weren’t being impulsive.

We did long for a baby, but we knew we weren’t desperate. We weren’t grasping for a rebound baby. No child could ever replace our daughter. We were seeking a beautiful, unique addition to our family. We love being parents and we desire to have several children. We wanted to keep growing our family.

We weren’t rushing through our grief. Adoption takes time. And we knew that our grief would change and certain healing would come even as we continued to move forward.

So we took our first step and contacted Christian Adoption Consultants and Burlington United Methodist Family Services.

Then we filled out mounds of paperwork. We prayed. We went through hours of training. We cried. We read piles of articles. We grieved. We completed a laborious home study. We hoped. Then we were ready to start presenting to expectant birth families. We waited.

And a whole new wave of doubt and fear crept into our hearts. What if the adoption fails and we lose another baby? What if the birth family lies to us about health issues? What if we unknowingly get matched with a very sick baby? Our hearts can’t possibly endure the NICU again. Or worse yet, death. What if…?

But it seemed like every fear we uttered in prayer was replaced with a stronger promise from the heart of God.

I will never leave you or forsake you. (Deut. 31:6)
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13)
There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear. (1 John 4:18)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

There are no guarantees in adoption. There are no guarantees with biological children. But these things are guaranteed: God is loving. God restores. God sees. God redeems. God heals. God saves. God is powerful. God is for me. God provides. God is good.

Day by day, we trusted God to direct our path in his perfect will.

And then we got the call – just 5 1/2 months after beginning our adoption journey. We were chosen by a courageous birth mother in West Virginia. Her baby boy was due on August 5th – less than a month away.

On August 8th he made his grand entrance into the world:
Sawyer Levi / 8 lb. 7 oz. / 20 in.


In God’s sovereign plan, he chose to intersect the lives of our family with Sawyer’s birth family, each with our own journey of heartache, and forever join our hearts through the life of this beautiful baby.

We spent three precious days in the hospital with our baby and his birth mom, then we drove home with a sleeping infant in the back seat, our hearts brimming with restored joy and a renewed sense of hope.

On April 10th he officially and forever became a part of our family.

It’s almost impossible to describe all of the ways Sawyer has enriched our lives. Or the ways God has used him as an instrument of healing in our hearts. Or the elation we feel when Caleb kisses and hugs his little brother, reads to him, comforts him, and pokes him a little too hard like big brothers do. Or the ways our faith has been strengthened because God called us out into the unknown.

We know all too well that not every story has a happy ending on this side of heaven. But we know with an even deeper confidence that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purposes” (Rom. 8:28).

We praise the Lord that he can miraculously bring beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61),  that he can take seeds of sorrow and create joy (Psalm 126:5), that he withholds no good thing from those whose walk is blameless (Psalm 84:11).

This is certainly not the way we imagined growing our family. But we are thankful that we’ve never walked alone. And we are thankful that even though sorrow may last for a night, joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

We now have a little blue-eyed cutie pie to snuggle with every day, squishy cheeks to cover with kisses, and tiny toes to tickle. His laughter and gummy smile fill our home with endless delight. We have this incredible baby to love and cherish and nurture.

The Lord has done great things. And we can finally say:

Welcome to our family Sawyer Levi Smith. We love you forever, our dear son.

To the Lady at the Grocery Store Who Didn’t Judge Me

Dear Lady,

You saw me struggling in the parking lot. In the rain. With frizzy hair and donning a very unattractive outfit, two small kids in tow.

Minutes before I encountered you, I was trying to keep my composure as my 3-year-old’s world fell apart because I told him he couldn’t get a balloon. We don’t always get what we want, right? And although it’s tempting to placate a tantrum by giving in, I stood my ground at the risk of public embarrassment, knowing it was better for his character in the long run, albeit hurtful to my pride in the here and now.

So I was carrying said child (who weighs 40 pounds might I add) on my hip, while he was crying loudly and squirming, as the baby sat in the cart. (This was only shortly after a few strangers complimented my darling, well-behaved kids. My, how the tide turns quickly…) I awkwardly and embarrassingly tried to push the cart to the self-checkout line one-handed. Buying my four items seemed to take an hour. And then I still needed to go to the regular checkout line afterwards because no one knew how to help me buy stamps at the self-checkout. As we were leaving the store, my mobile child was lured to the evil machine that dispenses bouncy balls, and it took quite an effort to convince him to walk away from it.

As we traversed through the parking lot (did I mention it was raining?), we finally arrived at our vehicle, only to discover that my oldest had inconspicuously placed a stuffed animal toy ball thing at the bottom of the cart, and I quote, “Because my other toy balls at home are lonely.” Stifling my frustration, I attempted to hoist him into the cart so that we could go back into the store to return the stolen item.

And then an angel appeared. Strangely enough, the angel looked a lot like you. You were with your son, beginning to load groceries into your car that was parked next to mine.

You noticed me and asked if you could help me push the cart while I put the kids into the car.

“Have you ever had a day like this?” I said to you with a look of defeat. And you responded with an emphatically compassionate, “Yes.”

I explained that I was actually on my way back into the store to return the furry contraband. So you offered to take the toy into the store for me.

I gave a sincere “Thank you,” but I really wanted to wrap you in a hug. You were a stranger. You could have judged my parenting on account of my wiggly, emotional child. You could have quietly put your groceries into your car, pretending not to notice me. But instead, you offered compassion. To me, a total stranger.

You touched my heart today. And you taught me a valuable lesson: When there’s an opportunity to offer compassion instead of judgment, do it.

I hope to be like you when I grow up.