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A good friend of mine told me once to "shake everyone's hand that God puts in your path, because everyone has a story that needs to be heard and no one else may give them the chance to tell it." This is my story. I tell it with the prayer that God uses it for His glory, and He sends it to whoever needs to hear it.

My wife and I are the proud adoptive parents of Parker and Emma. Parker was born on October 13, 1998, and eleven months and twenty days later Emma came into the world on September 23, 1999. Though they are still babies, they have taught me so many things in a short time. One of those things is that God creates families however He sees fit, and I am not one to question his methods! In our case, He chose adoption and He chose wisely. My kids have also taught me that sometimes God's greatest gifts are the prayers that did not get answered. At least not the way I wanted them to be.

We tried to conceive a child for what seemed like eternity. I could write a book on the horrors of infertility and the effects it has on every aspect of your life, as anyone who has been down that lonely road undoubtedly could. My wife and I felt that God had abandoned us. And if that were not bad enough our families constantly gave us well intended but horrible advice. "You're too stressed about it! Just relax and it will happen." I swear if I had heard that one more time I would have gone postal and ruined Christmas dinner. It also seemed like every other couple we had ever known was suddenly pregnant. I will just say we were not the happiest couple in the room at the endless string of baby showers.It was around February and our doctor had advised us that the next thing to try was invitro-fertilization. Adoption was already in our thoughts, and the prospect of a fifteen thousand dollar medical procedure that would not be covered by insurance and was not guaranteed to work was the confirmation we needed to start our adoption journey. And when we started that journey we discovered that though God had closed one door, He had opened another and we just had not noticed yet.

Through the internet, a few phone calls, and a seminar, we were led to a wonderful woman named Marcia Barker and her organization, Adoption Information Services. Marcia is an adoptive parent who works to help other prospective adoptive parents get through the process as quickly as possible, and she helps them find the resources that best suit them. When you start looking into adoption, you have to answer a lot of questions that you would have never otherwise considered. What race of child? How old? Special needs? Domestic or international? What country? Marcia and her staff helped us through all of that and matched us with some attorneys that we felt would be best suited to help us.

We had an initial meeting with our attorneys, and right away knew we were on the right path. John and Barbara Bados have four adopted children and knew from both sides of the table what we were going through. One of the things they asked us was if we could take a child with no advance notice, to which we fervently agreed. That would come to be the most important question anyone ever asked us.

We checked in with the Bados at least once a month, and usually once a week for the next several months. Since we live in Georgia, all we could do was call. That time of waiting was hard. We had been through the home study, which I have come to find out many marriages do not survive. We had done everything in our power to facilitate the process, and now all we could do was wait. And we waited. And we waited.

We woke up the morning of Wednesday October 14, 1998, and got ready for work like any other morning. As I was leaving, Shea stopped me and said that she felt like it was time to give the Bados a call to check in. We agreed to meet at home for lunch to make the call. That afternoon we called to Oklahoma, expecting to get the machine at the office and say hello. Our attorney answered the phone. I told her we were just checking in, and she said, "Well I guess you got the message." I asked her what message she was talking about, and she informed me that a woman named Julie, who had just given birth to a baby boy, contacted her the night before. She wanted to place him for adoption because she was unable to care for him. Barbara said at the time she got the call, she was representing us and one other couple who had agreed to take a child with no advance notice, but she did not feel right about calling one over the other, or calling both of us only to have one get disappointed. So, she prayed that God would have the couple that was supposed to have this child call her. That was the message she was talking about. She told us that she was leaving to see the birth mother and had to present our portfolio along with the other couples' portfolios they represented, and we needed to pray she picked us.

We started calling everyone we could reach and told them the story. We ignited a prayer chain of friends and family from Georgia to California. Barbara told us that they would call us that evening, so believe it or not we had to go back to work and attempt to be productive for the rest of the day. We both got home about five o'clock and sat anxiously waiting by the phone. Shea's mom came to sit with us because she was too nervous to stay at her office. About 5:30 the phone rang. It was John Bado telling us Julie picked us, praise God! Praise God! He also told us we would need to be in Oklahoma City the next morning as early as possible. There were tons of details to be worked out. We did not own a shred of baby stuff and had to go to a 24-hour Wal Mart at midnight to shop for baby clothes and a diaper bag.

The last thing that John said before hanging up was that although Julie had picked us, her decision would not be final until she went before the judge and terminated her rights. He told us we needed to pray that she have peace in her decision. So we got back on the phone and re-ignited the prayer chain, asking prayer for Julie's peace in her choice to place her baby boy with us. Prayers for Julie's peace went up all over the country.

Thanks to a family friend with good connections, we landed in Oklahoma City via Learjet at seven o'clock the next morning. We had not slept a wink. We got to a hotel and called the Bados to let them know we were there. John told us we would be meeting Julie at the courthouse that afternoon. She wanted to meet us and talk before she went before the judge. We were excited and scared about seeing her. What do you say to a woman who is going to give you her child to raise as your own? I do not know that we talked all the way to the courthouse. We just prayed that God would put the right words in our mouths and He would bless the time we had with her.

We got to spend about thirty minutes with Julie before she met with the judge and signed the papers. She turned out to be a good person going through a bad time in her life that, praise the Lord, had enough love for her child to do the best thing for him at the time. After she came back from meeting with the judge, she walked in smiling through tears and telling us congratulations! She had one request, which was to be able to come with us to the hospital where my son was and give him to us herself. We agreed and were happy that she wanted to do it. It was a 2-hour drive from the courthouse to the hospital. That was the longest drive of my life. When we got to the hospital our social worker and personal angel, Mrs. Judy White, took us to the L&D floor and put us in a room. We got there before Julie, and we came to find out she had ridden with her best friend and they stopped to get Parker a teddy bear and a card.

Shea and I were sitting in the room, video camera running, when the nurse wheeled in Parker in the hospital bassinet. She scooped him up, walked over to me, put him in my arms and said, "Here's your baby." That was something we thought we might never hear. I do not have words for what that moment was like. It had been an incredible journey; one of the most difficult and wonderful things I have been through. Everything in my life had been put to the test; my faith, my marriage, my livelihood, my reasons for being alive. But that moment when that little boy was put in my arms, it all vanished. I was holding my son with my wife by my side, and God had his arms around all of us. For just a few minutes the world was silent and we stood there being quietly showered in God's amazing grace.

Julie arrived shortly thereafter. We had put Parker in the bassinet when they told us Julie was coming down the hall. She came in the room and hugged us, then went over to Parker and scooped him up. She held him close and kissed his little forehead. We all stood there talking and hugging for about an hour. The emotion of that time is something I cannot describe except to say God was with us in that room and He blessed every word that was spoken. Just before Julie left, she hugged Parker one last time, kissed his cheek and said, "I love you. You'll never know how much I love you." Then she handed him to me and quietly watched Shea and I holding Parker. Then she put her hand over her heart and said, "This feels right. I didn't know I'd feel this much peace." We all hugged again and we told her we loved her, and she left. Our social worker got this entire scene on videotape. Every time I watch it and the word "peace" comes out of Julie's mouth, I am shaken by God's love.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that we tried to conceive a child for over 2 years. From the night that we decided to give the struggle to God and turned on the computer to look for adoption resources to the day that Julie put Parker in my arms, exactly 8 months and one week passed. And Parker was born 3 weeks early. I guess that was God's way of reminding me that His timing is perfect.

Just when I thought I had been given enough miracles for one person's lifetime, the phone rang. It was eight months later and Judy White was calling from Oklahoma to tell us that Julie had gone to her doctor for an appointment to have her tubes tied and found out she was pregnant again. She had known for a couple of months, but had hesitated to have us contacted because she was embarrassed. Judy told us later that although Julie was concerned about what we would think of her, she wanted us contacted anyway because it would be a chance for this baby to grow up with a sibling. The Bados told us that in their many years of adoption placement, they had never had a situation like this one. Shea and I prayed over the decision and discussed it with our families, but there was only one answer and we knew it. We agreed to take the child. We found out shortly thereafter that it was going to be a little girl. We decided to name her Emma.

Our surprise and elation over the news about baby Emma quickly turned into deep concern. Julie's ultrasounds were not going well. There was indication of several problems, so she was referred to the University Medical Center in Oklahoma City for a second opinion. After more ultrasounds and an amniocentesis, the doctors concluded that the amniotic fluid was too low, and there was strong indication of skeletal dysphasia. They told us Emma's lungs were not developing properly and that she would have skeletal problems that could range from dwarfism to life-threatening conditions. They scheduled a delivery date of September 23 and told us to pray.

It seemed like there was a doctor's visit every week, and each time the report got worse. Those months were unbearable. The whole time we prayed for a healthy baby and that God would take all the horrible things away and make her whole. Two days before delivery Judy White called to let us know that a final ultrasound had been done and things were not good. Emma's lungs would not be able to breathe on their own and they had no idea what kinds of skeletal and developmental problems she would have because of the low fluid levels. She advised us that we should consider staying in Georgia because the doctors said Emma would not live more than a few minutes after delivery.

We were scared, but we decided that even if Emma only lived a few minutes, those were our minutes and we would be there to love her. So, the Grandmas worked out keeping Parker, we packed our bags, and we got on a plane to Oklahoma City. Before we left we told our families that we had been warned of possible complications and asked everyone to pray for Emma to be healthy and happy. We did not let anyone know specifically what the doctors told us and that she was not supposed to survive. We also called Judy and asked her to bring her baby car seat to the hospital so we could take Emma home.

Judy met us at the hospital. We went to a waiting room while she went with Julie to the delivery. As she left Shea and I prayed for God to heal Emma and bring her safely into the world. The delivery took about an hour, and we prayed harder in that hour than we ever have in our lives. After what seemed like an eternity, Judy walked in the door crying. I knew by the look on her face that God had answered our prayers. All she could say was, "She's fine, she's fine, she's fine." We all held each other and cried and thanked God. I had the same feeling at that moment that I had experienced 11 months before when Parker was placed in my arms. I knew we were in God's hands.

After about twenty minutes, Julie's doctor came to see us. He wanted to meet us and tell us what had just happened. I will never forget his words. He said, "Sometimes in medicine we are wrong, and thankfully this is one of those times. There is no medical explanation for what just happened in that delivery room, because the baby I looked at on ultrasound two days ago is not the same baby I just delivered. The baby I saw was not going to live, and the baby I just delivered is perfect! All I can tell you is that your prayers must have worked." He had just witnessed a miracle from God, and I could see it in his face.

Emma stayed in the hospital for a little less than a week while they ran some tests and made sure that everything was okay, and it was. We decided that after all that happened to bring her into the world, her middle name would be Grace. We know she is ours by the Grace of God and no other reason.

I cannot begin to explain the blessings that these two little people have brought to our lives. They are the happiest kids in the world. No words can express the joy in my heart when I wake up every morning to my son calling, "Daddy, daddy, wake up!" No words can describe the tears that come when I walk in the door from work and they run to me with their arms up in the air to get their hugs. I pick them up and they squeeze me tight and I just cry. To be loved like that is almost more than my heart can take. Some days it feels like it is going to explode! My kids have brought me as close as I feel my limited human understanding can come to comprehending God's love for me and all of His children in this world.

Adoption chose me long before I knew I would choose adoption. Since Parker came home it seems every month a total stranger calls us looking for help. They have heard our story from a friend of a friend of a friend, and they are desperate for some hope that someday they might become parents through adoption. It is those times that I am so thankful for this part in life. I share my experiences and I can hear the hope building in the voice on the other end. Shea and I consider it a blessing and an honor to help other people start their adoption journey. We would not have things any other way.

As I finish this story, I am happy to announce that my wife and I have managed to get something right, because we are expecting baby number three this April! Emma is going to be a big sister after all! The entire time we were trying to conceive and the doctors could not explain why it was not working was frustrating. Now, the reason is clear. God already had a couple of kids picked out for us, and He just had his own delivery plan. And what a good plan it was.

It is my prayer that this story reaches whomever it can help bring hope to. I have so much I could say that it is hard finding one thought finish with. I will try this one because it worked for me. God made you and He knows you. Have the faith to give your dreams to Him, so that He can give you a glimpse of the dreams that He has for you! >
God Bless You,
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