In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – what it is like to walk in their shoes. I am excited to introduce you to my lovely friend Johanna Puelston. She and her family have been on a journey to adopt a child – just waiting to hold their new little one in their arms. Today she is going to tell us more about their story, and what we can do to help! Let’s join our friend as she tells us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, Ginger
Adoption – the idea and desire was planted in my heart years ago, quietly and without fanfare. Throughout my life, I’ve brushed up against it in many ways. Families I knew adopted, kids who were adopted in my classes at school, friends who chose to adopt instead of pursuing a biological family, family who fostered to adopt, etc. and so on. It was prevalent. It made my heart happy. I knew it was part of the Father-heart of God.
When Kyle and I married, we talked through the “what ifs.” We knew that if, for some reason, we weren’t able to build our family through biological ways, we’d definitely adopt. We thought perhaps we’d adopt in addition to biological kids. But that was years ahead at the time, or so I thought. Fast-forward a few years. Our son, Jackson, was born in 2009 – we started the adventure of parenting. He lit up our lives with his smiles and happy-go-lucky personality. Parenting was hard, but so wonderful.
In early 2010, Kyle flew to Haiti with a missions team to help after the hurricane: medical clinics, home rebuilding, infrastructure bolstering, etc. He took photos and came back with stories. One particular photo tore me up. The thought of hundreds, even thousands of children without parents, without a home, gripped my heart. I started to research Haitian adoption, but we didn’t meet the requirements – we were too young. That desire was set on a shelf for later.
In the meantime, we began to ask God “What is our part now? What would you have us do? How can we affect change and love the orphan in our own backyard?” So we became foster parents – which is a story in itself, another post for another day!
We had a second child, a spunky little girl we named Taylor, in 2011. That year we had a conversation about adopting. What was holding us back? Why did we place it far in our future? Could now be the time to start a journey toward adopting? We took the first steps. We asked God many questions, and prayed for direction. There was an adoption conference, we chose an agency, and we filled out enough paperwork to kill a tree…or six.
Our journey began with a step toward a great need. With hearts that desired to obey Christ and “do justice and love mercy.” Not a desire to “rescue” a child or a pretense of being some kind of savior, but a desire to love, a desire to be a family for a child without one. As we read more, learned more from other adoptive parents, and started understanding more about adoption, our hearts were even more certain that this was God’s call for us.
“Adoption is not easy, and children are indeed needy. It’s important to realize, then, that we adopt not because we are rescuers. No, we adopt because we are the rescued. And in this way, the gospel uniquely portrays, compels, and ultimately sustains adoption.”~David Platt
We looked at adopting from the Democratic Republic of Congo and found an agency to do our home study. Amazing friends and family helped us reach our first financial need. We took required classes, read blogs and researched.
Then, about six months into the process, we learned we were expecting a sweet surprise baby at the end of 2013. At first, I was slightly mortified, thinking we’d really messed up the plan – our plan anyway. Number three was supposed to be adopted, not homegrown! So our steps toward adoption slowed, but didn’t halt altogether.
I was tempted to be frustrated that our plan was “messed up,” but then I remembered that very seldom does God’s plans for us go the way we think they will or should. My pregnancy progressed and we waited for Baby to arrive, and through more amazing twists and turns that could only be authored by God, we finalized our home study not for a child from the Congo, but from Haiti – the very country that was on our heart at the beginning of it all. The short version is that their requirements for adoptive families changed and we now met them.
Through all of these uphill climbs and surprising turns, I was reminded of this paragraph from John Piper’s book “A Sweet and Bitter Providence”:
“The life of the godly (or the adopting family!) is not a straight line to glory (or the child), but they do get there.The life of the godly is not an interstate through Nebraska, but a state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rock slides and precipices and dark mists and bears and slippery curvesand hairpin turns that make you go backwards in order to go forwards. But all alongthis hazardous, twisted road that doesn’t let you see very far ahead there arefrequent signs that say, “The best is yet to come.” And at the bottom right cornerwritten with an unmistakable hand are the words, “As I live, says the Lord!”
That perfectly explains how I feel – the road leading to this child of our heart is winding and twisting and I can’t see very far ahead. But! I know the Driver who is expertly navigating this for us. He knows our hearts. He sees our child. Time and again in my lifetime, God has clearly hemmed me in before and behind, in ways I can’t see at the time, to bring me to a place where He pours out His blessing in a gracious way. It’s always far better than if I had gotten “my way”.
“My friends: adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him.”~Derek Loux
The process to adopt from Haiti will take up to two years, and will cost around $30,000. We hope to have the first payment ($13,000) ready by the end of April, so we can proceed with the next steps and receive USCIS clearance to bring a child from Haiti to the United States. We are planning a few fundraisers for this spring and are pinching pennies wherever possible to save, save, save!
People have graciously helped us by purchasing our Do Justice t-shirts from www.dojusticelovemercy.bigcartel.com or amazing gourmet coffee from www.justlovecoffee.com/puelstonadoption. We have also set up a tax-deductible donation account with AdoptTogether: www.adopttogether.org/thepuelstons. It’s been so amazing to have the love and support of so many friends, family members and even complete strangers! The money helps practically, but the prayer and encouragement is even more needed and valuable to us.
This winding road and the bumps along the way may feel confusing and not at all how we would have planned the trip…but I know that at the end of it all, there’s Grace. There is hopefully a child who will now know the love and beauty of a family. There is Love and Mercy and a God who pours it out like a waterfall upon His children. I can’t wait to see the view from the next pit stop, the next historic overlook on this crazy adventure. Most of all, I can’t wait to hold our next child in my arms.
Thank you so much, Johanna, for sharing your journey with us today! I love that no matter what twists or turns come your way, you are still trusting in the Lord as you “do justice and love mercy” and obey His adoption calling for your family. What a wonderful testimony – I can’t wait to see which little treasure comes to be part of your family! I see some gourmet coffee in my future!
To read more stories, or if you would are interested in sharing your story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes. ~ Love, Ginger
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