Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ella's Birth Story

As so many of you know, our lives were forever made better on November 10th, 2015. 
But let's go back just a little bit! 

Earlier this year, Valentines Day to be exact, we signed papers with an amazing woman named Susan VanSyckle of Christian Adoption Consultants and officially began the adoption journey.  There were times of such hope, laughter, fears, tears, disappointment, anger, excitement and most of all the feeling of the unknown. My husband likes to say I have "control tendencies". I say I like to be "in the know, of all things." So, to relinquish control of every detail, of something so huge and life changing, might have been the biggest test I've ever endured. 

For a super brief overview of how adoption could go, this is it: 
Homestudy : Takes about 8-12 weeks. It's things like background checks, fingerprints, child abuse checks, doctor visits for medical clearance, biographies, and social worker visits to evaluate your home/marriage/children/family history/financial state. This is a clearance from the state for you to bring a child into your home and is required for any adoption. 
Agency Placement: You choose an agency you want to work with to find a birth mother. Normally a fee is required to sign with an agency. Agencies work with birth mothers to make sure they are confident in their decision to adopt out, among other things. 
Presentation of Adoptive Profiles: You see "situations" once you are with an agency of birth mothers and their histories. You get the option to "present" to a birth mother. Which means you want her to look at your profile and want to be the one she chooses amongst all the others. There are often many "no's" before an adoptive couple hears a "yes". 
Matching: Birth Mother says she wants you as the adoptive parents. And the adoptive parents say yes to the birth mother. A portion/all of the adoption expenses are due at that time, depending on the due date, etc. 
Birth: Every situation is different. Some birth moms want adoptive parents there. Some don't want to meet. Some develop relationships way before the birth and continue a relationship years after. 

So, disregard every bit of what I just wrote. 
And I'll tell you the Henderson version of our adoption :) 

From April (when our Homestudy was approved) through October, we saw nearly 50 different situations from expectant birth mothers. (It'll take another day for me to get into that entire emotional, physical and spiritual process of seeing these situations and praying each one through). 

Despite what I thought at the beginning of this journey, November rolled around and we had not said YES to being presented to one birth mother. Not one single time. I would cry to Cory and tell him "if we never present, we can never be chosen".  And he would often times cry with me, all the while knowing that neither of us were settled on presenting to any situation we had seen so far. We agreed at the beginning of this that if both of us weren't 80% about a situation, we would not present. So, we sat with November upon us and had honestly relented it would be 2016 before a baby would enter our home. The situations we were seeing were due dates of Feb, March, even April at this point. My Mom heart had been settled and I told the Lord I was okay to walk out the holidays without our family of five. And I truly was leaning into the Lord and trusting. 

And then on November 4th, a Wednesday afternoon at little after 5:00, I saw a name pop up on my phone. I grabbed the call with no idea what a lady I've come to love name Tara, was about to tell us. 

As she spoke, it was almost like I was in a tunnel. 
And different than anything before. 
Here's what I remember: 
"Joy, we have a baby that's been born. 
A few things were different than what you guys had been "open" to, but for some reason we wanted to call you and Cory first. 
If it doesn't sound right to you, that's okay. But we just thought we should call. 
Story is, baby was born last week. 
Birth mom has already signed relinquishment papers. 
Baby was born 7 weeks early and is in NICU but only because baby isn't sucking correctly yet. 
That's normal with preemies. Baby was born 5 lbs 2oz but has lost a little. 
Birth mom is caucasian and birth father is african american. 
Doctors say everything seems on track and they are putting baby in the step down NICU today. Before we called anyone else, we wanted to call you guys. 
I can give you up to 24 hours to make a decision, but then we must move on.  
Does this sound like something you and Cory would be open to?" 

The only two things I remember asking were "Tara, you didn't say whether this was a boy or girl." Her response was "Oh, it's a baby girl." Anyone who knows us closely, knows we were open to either. But the Lord had rested a girl on our hearts for a while. My second question was "Does she want an open, semi-open or closed adoption." When she answered semi-open, I think I knew with every fiber of my being that this could possibly be the one. 

I immediately hung up and called Cory. Now, he is always in a preservice meeting with leaders right around this time. I'm sure the sheer fact I CALLED him (I am not a phone person) scared him. When he answered and I was out of breath and my voice was shaking, he was in fact scared and wanted to make sure me and the kids were safe and okay :) After I told him about the call with Tara, he was in as much shock as I was. As soon as we hung up, he unknowingly-to-me called Tara himself to ask questions. 

Fast forward to the next morning, and we are pulling every medical record we have from baby and birth mother, getting them to our doctors, nurses, and professional village. We wanted to first and foremost know what we were walking into. Knowledge is power. From everything we walked away with, nothing moved us or swayed us from the decision we knew was happening in our hearts. 

We called Tara first thing Friday morning and told her yes. 
We actually said the words "Yes"!!!!! 
Unfortunately, by the time logistics, attorneys and paperwork could be taken care of, we were saddened to know that we needed to wait until Monday to head to Florida. If we were to go over the weekend, we would not have legal papers to see her, so we were advised to just wait the weekend out. Talk about the longest wait.

At the same time, baby girl was doing SO well, that she was discharged from the hospital. So, at 10 days old, she was released into a private cradle care home that works with our attorney. Monday morning rolled around and we got the official call around 10am to COME TO FLORIDA TO GET YOUR BABY!!!! We checked the kids out of school, and headed on our way! 

I'll never forget the few moments as we crossed the bridge into Jacksonville. The sun was setting and it was a scene so beautiful I had rarely seen anything like it before.  As cliche as it sounds, Cory and I couldn't make eye contact. As we were listening to some worship, we just simply heard the sniffling from each other. I knew in that moment that God had been writing this story long before I ever knew any detail. I knew that in just a few moments our lives would forever be changed. We were about to meet our daughter. 

We stopped about 7 minutes before we got to the cradle care home so that we could all freshen up and change from t-shirts to actual clothes. This was our last picture as a family of four, in the parking lot of a shopping plaza! 

We arrived to the home around 6pm where "Memaw" was taking care of our baby. We all got to hold her, I fed her, and changed her diaper. And then we had to say goodbye until the next day. 

The next day at 1pm, we walked into the attorneys office to sign papers for Ella Kate Henderson to become ours! While we were signing documents, the amazing cradle care grandma let Autumn and Easton hold Ella in a playroom. The birth mother called while we were there and asked if we could meet with her on Thursday (two days later). The attorney advised us that this was not required of us, and it was up to us. Cory and I had decided that we wanted to be honoring of her and that we would come back on Thursday for the meeting. 

So, with a car seat we had just purchased the day before, a couple diapers and one bottle, we left the attorneys ... and headed to Target! We had no preemie clothes. No preemie diapers. No formula since she was on a special preemie kind So, shopping was on the agenda! The kids thought it was like Christmas! 

The day after we brought her home (hotel) she had a cardiologist appointment for a heart murmur. Nothing like a two hour EKG and ultrasound to throw you right into Mommy mode. Cory looked at me during the ultrasound and said "I think you need some medicine to calm your anxiety right now." When I told him we had left in such a hurry, I didn't even bring Ibuprofen with me, he knew it was going to be a tough appointment for me. Thankfully after the two hours of tests, the cardiologist told us Ella has ASD. One of the flaps that immediately close when the umbilical cord is cut, simply didn't close all the way. It's a normal thing in babies, and especially preemies. He said 80%plus chance that it will close up on it's own by the time she is a year old, and we will do another test at that point simply to make sure. We walked out and said "we will celebrate every victory. This is a huge one." 

Thursday came.  It was time to go back to the attorneys office for our supervised visit with the birth mom. I'm not sure how to accurately describe the emotions leading up to that moment, so I don't even think I will try. We walked into the attorneys and Tara sweetly smiled and said "she's in here, but she's very upset." We walked into a room where a beautiful woman was visibly emotional and crying. She hugged us both and the first thing she said was "thank you, thank you." We exchanged just a few words of greeting as she looked at Ella in the car seat and cried some more. She commented how beautiful she was. We told her that she in fact was beautiful and that she had done a great job. The case worker reiterated "Yes, you did that. Look at her!" The birth mother had not been able to hold Ella in the hospital. When she was born, she went straight into NICU. So, she asked if she could hold her and we told her absolutely. I remember Cory trying to unbuckle her, and I think he was so nervous he just couldn't get her out! I went over and got her out, wrapped her in her blanket and handed her to her birth mother. She stood rocking her, crying and telling her how sorry she was. And then continued to thank us. After a few moments, she sweetly handed Ella back to me. I sat down holding Ella and she sat down beside me. She had one question for us and that was "if we would love her as our own". She herself had been moved around in foster homes and family homes as a child, and never treated the same as the biological children. Before I even had a chance to answer, Cory looked at her with tears in his eyes and said "I promise you that we will treat her as good as our older two, if not better. She is already so loved." That is all that the birth mother needed, because she cried again. And said "I need to go." Before she left, I gave her a necklace and explained that Ella will have the same one when she is older. She asked me to put the necklace on her. We then hugged again and as quickly as we had arrived, we were leaving. 

It seemed so surreal. And so peaceful all at the same time. 
I think she needed that closure. 
And we needed that closure. 
As Cory put it, we were able to see that she had a tender heart. 
As tough and as uncharted territory as it was, it was good for us all. 

We left the attorneys office and drove straight to where our almost entire family all got to meet her. Tell me the Lord is not into details! We can now say that ALL of us were born in Florida. It seems a small detail to some, but it was one my Momma heart wanted throughout this whole time! After 13 days of being in Florida we got the ICPC clearance call that we could go HOME! This was one of the many pit stops I'm sure we will make in the years to come because sweetness was hungry! 

To sum this up, let me tell you that this sort of story is rare. 
Things don't happen like this, or fall into place like this, or have so many risk factors removed from adoption. We had never planned to adopt an already born baby. I never saw myself getting her from an attorneys office instead of a hospital. I had a "birth story" all laid out. Yet, in all the ideas we have of the way things should go, God totally goes before us and sees the situation so much better. We didn't have to worry about a birth mom changing her mind like so many people unfortunately do, because papers had already been signed. We didn't have to wonder if our daughter would be born with this or that, simply because she was already HERE and we could see her with our own eyes! We never once presented ourselves to a birth mom. We had an attorneys office "feel like" they should call US. People, that's huge. God spared us in so many ways we will probably never even know. 

I tell people so often who ask about why we would adopt. That's the easiest question to answer. 
Redemption, plain and simple. 
We were once redeemed. 
Chosen by a God, who saw our imperfections, and still said yes. 
Saved from death, to life. 

Adoption is messy. 
But it is oh so beautiful. 
It is heartbreaking. 
And it is life giving. 

To see Ella's face and know that her destiny could have been death. 
Could have been abortion. 
Could have been a life apart from us. 
Adoption is worth it. 
Adoption is redemption. 

There is SO much more I want to say about our emotions, about our hearts, about Autumn & Easton. 
But this is simply to let you all know of Ella's introduction to our lives. It's a scratch in the surface of the entire journey. I'll write out soon some of the process of our hearts. For now, know that our arms and hearts are full. We feel honored that the Lord orchestrated such a rare, yet beautiful exchange for us to bring her into our lives. We will never be the same again. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Last Leg : Pick A Sticky

As most of you know, our sweet Ella is here!

Her birth story and journey to us is not anything we expected or could have imagined.

But it was perfect.

There is so much to share. And there are some details that will be hers to keep.

But the beautiful ending is that she is now and forever a Henderson :)

I can't wait until we can get clearance to come and get into a routine! And so that we can sit down and divulge all the sweet details of our girl!

Until then, we would like to ask you for one last push.


Since our sweet girl was unexpected in the most beautiful way, we had not finished raising all of the funds needed for the entire adoption process.

We have a remaining $8500 to finalize the adoption.

Here's how you can help ....

We have numbers on a sticky 1 - 150. And we are asking that you pick and number and donate that number amount. When you choose a number, the sticky comes off the wall. You can donate a few ways: Paypal by choosing "donate to friends and family" and using the email coryandjoy@gmail.com OR you can donate at www.gofundme.com/coryandjoy

With each donation, please send us your mailing address. We have a self addressed note we want to mail to you. This will be a short note for you to write to our Ella. We feel like your words will speak life to her one day and she will know how much she was loved and prayed for!

We love you all and cannot thank you enough for your love, prayers and support the entire way through this!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

What Was He Thinking

I remember sitting down at LongHorn last December as we opened up the floodgates about adoption.

I guess it was a total "lay it all on the table" day.

Because, as if the decision to officially enter into adoption wasn't enough, my sweet husband had one more thing he wanted to share heart about.

You see, for years he has wanted to go back to school. Like, school, school.

So, now here we are in September.
And my amazing husband has tackled three semesters of classes at Liberty University this year.
He also attended a week long "Intensive" at the LU campus back in May.
And just this week he started a new semester of classes.

I tell him he's all his teachers favorite. I think more often than not, he's the highest grade in the class. I giggle at him, because he doesn't just want to "wing it", he wants it to be the best it can be. SO, even after 14 years of preaching and teaching, he'll mull over a paper for hours before he turns it in. It's funny. And cute. (Oh yeah, and sometimes a teeny-weeny bit annoying. I wanna scream "It was great the first draft! Just hit submit!")

Our Autumn started high school this year. So, when we found out she had a math class during first semester, my husband decided he would take a math course this semester too. It's kinda cool they get to do that together!

So, while some days I wanna say "What were you THINKING??????"
More times than not, I'm more than willing to shush the kids for an hour while he studies. Or drag them to Publix so that the house is quiet. Or read his paper and give him my thoughts.

Sometimes it's not about what makes sense. It's about what's in your heart, and you go for it!
I'm thankful for a husband who has determination and heart to go after what he feels called to.

Here's to some more crazy wild months ahead!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Yeti Cooler : Adoption Giveaway (Completed)

WINNER: Ticket #214253
Kaycee Sites
Watch the Announcement Video Here:

Who doesn’t love a YETI cooler?
And even better than that, who doesn’t love a SPECIAL EDITION SEAFOAM YETI
that you can NO LONGER PURCHASE!!!
(I call it more MINT, but what do I know?!)
This 20 qt Roadie YETI cooler retails for $249.99.
Seriously, I myself do not even own a YETI cooler and had my eye on this one for months.
Now is your chance to put your name in the hat to own it yourself!

So, here’s how the Giveaway is going to go!
Each entry to the giveaway costs $5 and can be paid for using the
Paypal Button on the sidebar on our blog.
{Once you have made your donations, email me at coryandjoy@gmail.com and
tell me how many entries you paid for, including your name and mailing address}
You  may purchase tickets in person if you do not have a PayPal account.
Here is an example of what your email would look like:
Kelly Kapowski, 111 Awesome Drive, Columbia, SC 29210 
$50 (10 entries)
 I will email your donation specific number within 24-48 hours of receiving your donation.
Giveaway is open from TODAY-August 7th at noon/EST.
A winner will be drawn and announced by video on the evening of August 7th!
All profits from this giveaway will go directly towards bringing home our sweet miracle.  
*This is open to US shipping only*

Other ways to connect with us:
Instagram: @onejoy
Twitter: @coryandjoy

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Matching Grant

I have been having a rough few weeks emotionally. 
The "situations" of birth mothers have slowed down, almost to a standstill. 
I often go up to the room we have converted to baby H's room and just stand and look. 
I see the crib we picked out. I see the sweet little baby girl and baby boy shoe's that we placed inside the crib during the "wait". 
I want to take A & E shopping so they can get the baby something and connect deeper. 
I've been growing a little impatient, and honestly a little irritated, every week that passes and we are another week further into the process and still waiting.

Then last week, a few people stopped and looked me in the eyes. 
You know, the ones who can read you well. 
And they asked how I was doing. 
It was good to express that some hope has felt lost. 
That I never knew the ups & downs of this journey. 
I didn't think we would be the ones who would be stuck in the "wait". 

Then during the course of the rest of the week, I got multiple random texts from people I love dearly. 
I almost wanted to say "Did my husband tell you to text me?" But I knew that even though that's something he would do, this was the Lord. 

One in particular was my sweet friend & fellow pastor wife, Jenny. She texted me while I was out of town for work last week and asked if could FaceTime for a minute. When I did, I got the pleasure of seeing her living room filled with her middle school girls who were preparing a drive-thru coffee & baked goods fundraiser for us. 
People they have never met. 
A baby they can't tangibly see. 
A lady that their sweet pastors wife simply asked them to love on. 
And I fell to pieces after I facetimed and realized that this is SO much bigger that me! 
These girls are BEING the gospel. 
I mean, seriously, how sweet are they?! 

Within almost an hour of facetiming this middle school small group, my husband sent me a text that said "So we got a $5000 match?" Now, I was at a work event and wasn't on my email much that day, so I hadn't received the news yet! 

Isn't it just like the Lord to take my mully grubbing, loathing and doubting self ... and turn it into a small group of middle school world changers, a phone filled with encouraging texts, friends speaking life to me, and an organization approving us for a $5,000 match?!!!! 

I know that we don't have a birth mom or baby in sight. 
Literally, it feel like a million months away. 
But I am trusting that He is working ALL things for the good of our family. 
Because we love Him. 
And we entered this process trusting. 
And that's how we will walk through it. 
And that's how we will finish it!

Regarding the Matching Grant: 
Hand In Hand Christian Adoption, Inc has approved us for a matching grant up to $5000. 
All donations through this grant are tax deductible. 
If we are so blessed to get over the $5,000, the donations will still be tax deductible for you and we are able to accept donations all way until July 28th, 2015. 
** Checks cannot be made out to us. 
They must be made out to Hand In Hand Christian Adoption** 
The envelope must be addressed this specific way, in order for us to get credit. 

Hand In Hand Christian Adoptions, Inc
James Cory & Joy Henderson
18318 Mimosa Court
Gardner, KS 66030

No gift is too small. Every donation will be dollar for dollar matched! Please pray about giving and helping us to be a step closer to bringing home the perfect baby for us. 

Feel free to call or email with any questions that you have. We would be more than happy to talk to you :) 

-Cory, Joy, Autumn, Easton

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

FAQ. Updated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are you adopting from?
We are doing a domestic adoption, so our birth mom could be from anywhere in the US.
Most situations we have seen have been from Florida though. 
Go figure :)  

When will you have Baby Henderson?
The average time our agency says is 6-10 months. 
We officially began in February, 
so we are praying for a baby by the end of summer! 

How much does adoption cost?
Our financial needs for this adoption will be around $40,000. 
This is a lot of money to raise fast! 
This is a quick adoption process and we have to raise all 
of our funds before we bring our baby home! 
Please consider helping our family in any way you can. 
Read a blog from our consultant here in regards to adoption costs. 

How can I help? 
Attend An Event.
May 26th
Texas Roadhouse
Ten Percent Tuesday
400 Columbiana Drive
10% of your entire bill will go to #bringhomebabyhenderson
*Get a flier from us before or that night at the event *
May 29th 
Bingo, Team Trivia & Silent Auction 
2700 Bush River Road 
Columbia, SC 29210
Bingo from 5-7 $1 a card. Winner of each round will go into a drawing for a Flat Panel TV. 
Team Trivia: 7-9 $10 person/ 4 people per team / 10 Rounds. Winners get Best Buy Gift Cards
Silent Auction: 6-8 going on simultaneously to Games in Foyer. Winners announced at 8PM .
May T-Shirt Campaign
100% of proceeds from our Big Cartel Shop goes straight into the adoption fund. 
We would like someone from each state representing us by wearing our 
#Bringhomebabyhenderson shirts designed specifically for us. 
Go Fund Me
This is just a simple and easy site to donate. 
This is actually where we will keep our entire donations updated, whether online or off. 
Send a check. 
(Please make checks payable to Cory or Joy Henderson) 
Cory Henderson
2700 Bush River Road
Columbia, SC 29210
Donate via Paypal. 
You can send money to friends and family and you won't be charged fees. 
Our paypal email is coryandjoy@gmail.com
Adoption is no small task. 
We are opening our hearts and leaving them wide open to many people who we don't know at all. 
Pray for A & E's hearts to remain undamaged in this initial process.
We all know of failed adoptions, and we are speaking specifically against anything the Lord would not want or seek for our family. We know He has the perfect baby and the perfect scenario for us. We just want to walk uprightly through it from beginning to end. 
Pray for our Birth Mom. She's carrying a life. A life she will willingly entrust to us for the rest of that babies days. 
Pray for our babies health. Pray that wholeness is being spoken into his/her life right now. 

Where are you in the process?
December: We made our decision to officially begin the adoption process
January: We spoke with Christian Adoption Consultants and got the Adoption Agreement in hand
February: We signed official documents, told our children, family and church about Baby H
March 6: We had our first home study visit with Night Light Adoption Agency
April 17: Home Study is completed and Approved. 
April 22: Profile from Christian Adoption Consultants is Complete
In Process: Our Profile goes out to expectant Moms and Birth Mom chooses us
To Be Announced:  We choose to accept the Birth Mom's choice
To Be Announced: Baby's Due Date
To Be Announced: BABY IS AT HOME WITH US!!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Real Deal

I want to be transparent on this journey.

My mind swims as I read situation after situation of birth moms who are choosing to give their child life. Today, my heart aches. It literally aches. The tears are hot in the corners of my eyes. I pray at work that no one looks me straight in the eye. My heart is breaking. I see papers with a name of a mom who is carrying a baby to term. Only to give someone like us the opportunity to love, raise and parent the child she has carried. The baby she has felt move in her stomach when she is trying to sleep. The baby who might kick her in the ribs when they need more room. The baby who she has got to reach down and rub for months. The baby who gets the hiccups at the oddest of hours. The baby she has most likely seen the face of on an ultrasound. The baby who she will soon her it's first cry.

I read a situation last week where Mom found out at 24 weeks she was pregnant. When she was told the news, she was going to have an abortion. But she was too far along. So, she is choosing to let someone adopt her sweet baby. I wept over her. For her honesty. For Gods timing. For this baby who she is choosing to gift to someone. For this life that will now be breathing the same air as us. For this child who will live. Mom's name will forever be on my lips in prayer.

Will you join with us as we journey this out?
You see, it's not just "getting a baby".
It's "giving a life".
A life to a child who might otherwise end up an orphan.
Or worse yet, might not be given the chance to live.

We wrote the following paragraph in the closing of our profile that each Mom will see as she carefully makes some huge decisions:

"We will speak honorably of you in our home and to our child. We pray for you, birth mother, often. Each night our children lay down with us to pray, please know we are already lifting you and this baby up to the Lord. We are praying safety and health. We are praying for you to believe in us, to trust us to walk this life with this child. And we will continue to pray for you and speak of you over the years both privately and publicly. We will let our child know that he/she is adopted and loved, but that adoption simply means they were “chosen”. Chosen by you to allow us into their lives. Chosen by us to love and raise them the best we know how. It will be our honor to love and raise this precious gift."

Will you whisper prayers for the Birth Moms who I am discovering are all around us. The brave women who choose life for their babies. And then they make an even greater sacrifice after birth and let someone pick up the torch and run the rest of the race.