Meet some of my long-time friends Jonathan and Jessica Taylor, and welcome to their raw, redemptive love story. The heart of this brave family is a captivating one, a magical and adoring one. When you know them you cannot help but to be a little stirred, maybe even a little uncomfortable, yet awakened. They are a family that looks for the uninvited and the marginalized, and this is an adoption story that continues to evolve and sings the very heart of a similar tale accomplished 2,000 years ago. Their passion is driven by a responsibility to act, not seen as an unusual task but a necessity. Learn, laugh and be challenged as you read. A story that is to be continued...
Q: How did you know you wanted to adopt?
Jessica: I never really had the desire to birth a child. Actually, for most of our marriage, I was okay with not having kids. Year 7, we had a conversation and agreed that we felt good about trying to conceive, so we went off protection. In my heart and in all honesty, I was still on the fence about it. I hated that feeling because I knew Jonathan wanted a child, but I was content with it being just us two. So, we tried for a couple of years and never got pregnant. Looking back now, I can see that God had a plan for what would soon take place in our lives.
Jonathan: People would often ask if we were getting tested for answers as to why we were unable to conceive. But we never felt compelled to. We didn't want to be tempted to blame one another, so we always said...if God wants us to have a child, then he will give us one.
Jessica: The Lord started preparing our hearts many years before adoption ever entered our minds. Adoption has always owned a piece of us. We've worked with teens now for almost 9 years, and we felt God gave those kids to us to take care of, to adopt, and we took that seriously.
Jonathan: The conversations started when we began traveling for missions work overseas. We had taken a trip to Kigali, Rwanda and felt God preparing our hearts. While there, I met a missionary named Kelly. I asked him about his children (he had adopted several), and how he could afford to pay for each child since adoption was so expensive. I can recall him laughing at my question stating that...“if God calls you to adopt, he will take care of it.” He explained that his church family was very supportive of their adoptions and that all of his expenses were now paid for. I realized that it was all about patience, timing, and believing that if God has called us to this, then He will provide. So by the end of the day my mind was racing. Is it time? How many kids do we get? Where from? How do we pay? The next morning we were preparing to eat breakfast and had just finished with our morning devotions. There was a pavilion that we sat at for all of our meals and gatherings. It had an amazing view of the capital city of Rwanda. As we stood there discussing plans for that day, I looked at Jessica and said exactly what I was thinking...“I think we should adopt.” She looked at me and said without hesitation that she thought so too. There wasn’t much more to discuss after that. God was simultaneously giving us hearts to adopt and to walk this out together.
Q: Share with us your story about Grace.
Jessica: We were sent this black-and-white photo of a blond-haired baby girl. There was nothing glamorous about her picture. It was obvious to us that she had experienced some difficulties. As we were looking at the picture, our adoption agency was telling us about her history, how she had been abused at eight months, and as a result she was admitted to the hospital with head trauma and a broken rib. It was there that the mother was arrested for child abuse and Grace would spend the rest of her time in an orphanage until we brought her home. Grace was diagnosed with Shaken Baby Syndrome, and because of the trauma to her head she was blind in one eye. She also had trouble with development in her left arm due to it being tied behind her back so she would not hurt her rib. At this point we were scared. We could possibly be adopting a child with severe disabilities that might prohibit her from living a normal life.
Jonathan: We were given a few weeks to make our decision. So, we began to educate ourselves on the issues that we were aware of and just pray that God would direct our path. We sat and looked at the picture…. looked at each other… looked at the picture…. looked at each other… talked about it…. PRAYED...then repeated the whole process. Russia is also one of the most expensive countries to adopt from. It was not our first choice. We inquired about several other countries before making our decision, but as each door closed, we began to have a heart and growing desire for this country.
Jessica: Over these two weeks, the questions and concerns would play in my mind for hours. I remember laying on my bed writing in my journal one evening, when God so clearly spoke saying, Jessica, if this baby was inside of you and you found out she had disabilities, would you abort her? No, God. The same should be true for this child. She is yours. And I have given her to you. Immediately, an incredible peace came over me. This was our girl, and she was special and deserved a chance to thrive in a healthy, loving environment, and we could give her that.
Q: What was the adoption process like for you?
Jessica: The waiting was hard. There were many tears, many thoughts. I'd sit wondering about her...what was she doing? Is anyone holding her? Did she have someone to love her until we could get to her? And I would pray for God to protect her. To sing to her. To send her an angel. To shower His favor upon her life. Her safety was always on my mind, and God was faithful through all of this. When we got to Russia and the Dr. examined her, he said everything looked wonderfully and that she was favored and well-loved in the orphanage. That was a special moment for me; God had heard me and honored my prayers.
Jonathan: There are 4 things that come to mind: the paperwork, the finances, leaving Grace, and senseless questions.
The Paperwork: When beginning our journey, we were told of what the adoption world called, "paper pregnancy." No one could have prepared us for all that it would require. We had multiple doctors visits, several fingerprinting appointments (locally and afar), signatures, notarizations, apostils, and trips to seminars...so many copies, so many signatures, approvals, appointments, and the list goes on. But we completed the requirements step-by-step. We spent so much time in offices and waiting rooms that the workers at each location could call me by name. Looking back, God clearly had a sense of humor.
The Finances: Russia is one of the most expensive countries to adopt from. We fundraised the best we could and sacrificed the extras so that we could have more available funds. We went as far as to take a second mortgage out on our home so that we could cover the expenses. We had to consider a few things: we would need two round trip airfare tickets, a two-week hotel expense for our first trip to visit Grace, four overnight train tickets, a 1-month apartment rental for our second trip over, and food expenses. That’s just a small portion of the spending. Once we went for our second trip to Russia, it required several payments that were unexpected, and we had to borrow money from a credit card. We often wondered where this money was actually going. One of the most concerning moments was when Grace was examined by a physician before we could take her to the US Embassy in Moscow. The examination was done in the back seat of a mini-van for a $500 cash exchange. It was little payments like this that added up.
Leaving Grace: Russia required that you visit the child at least once before coming back several months later to bring your child home. This was the most difficult of all challenges. I had never stepped foot into an orphanage before visiting Russia. I didn’t know what to expect. Settled behind rusted car garages, crumbling buildings, and busted up roads, lay the orphanage that Grace called home. Once arriving and walking through the door, I was left standing, struggling to breath and doing my best to not let my worry show. The smell of leaking natural gas from the furnaces scattered throughout the building literally took your breath. We were taken into a large room with several toys and told to wait. There they would bring Grace to us. And then, I remember seeing her for the first time. This beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl, came peeping around the corner to meet us. We were concerned she wouldn’t want us. Yet, those moments of fear were wiped away when she wobbled her way one step at a time directly to us. It was in that moment that our doubts no longer existed, and we knew she was ours. This made us stronger. But even in our strength, we knew in the backs of our minds that in several days we would have to leave her without any contact. So, the day arrived, and it was heartbreaking and like nothing we had experienced before. However, this only drove us to work faster and pray harder. It was difficult, but also the most rewarding time during our adoption. We were being stretched, but God was close. We had no choice except to trust that He was in control.
Senseless Questions: What I mean by senseless questions, is that we received countless insensitive remarks during the course of the adoption. I hope this helps to educate people on what not to say to someone who is considering the process. Why are you adopting? It’s biblical and we want kids. Why aren’t you adopting from America? We don’t agree with the system and even the orphans here have a better chance than those elsewhere. Will she speak American? Really… American? Uhmm no we plan on teaching her English. Are you going to have kids of your own? Yeah, her name is Grace. She is definitely our own. Even looks like her daddy. Does she speak Russian still? (as they say a phrase in Russian) – lets be for real, she didn’t speak Russian before. She was a baby. Are you gonna have real kids? No I don’t think so, we like expensive fake kids from other countries! Seriously? She is as real as it gets. Is something wrong with one of you...is that why you can’t have kids? Yes, something is wrong. I'm about to turn into a green monster and show you something crazy! Simply put: These did not move us. The questions, the comments, the reasons people may have...we were following God's prompting, and we knew our responsibility was to take care of the widow and the orphan...and that’s what we chose to do.
Q: How did your family (including Grace) adjust to your new life?
Jonathan: We knew that with adopting Grace, we'd have a long road of surgeries. Because of the trauma to her head and the damage to her eye, our doctors determined she needed to have corrective surgery to align her eye properly so that she could control it and so it would be in sync with her other eye. The doctor determined that the surgery could not repair her vision, but it did correct the alignment. We knew these procedures would be costly; however, we didn’t want to cause her struggle later on because of something that we had the opportunity to fix.
Jessica: Jonathan and I made a decision that we would be the only ones to feed, change, hold, kiss and take care of every other need she had for the first several months. We were told how important it was to build that bond in those first initial months. Helping Grace with that attachment process was vital in our family. We did not leave her in daycare or any other activity without us being present. We wanted to assure her that we were near and we were her parents. The first months had their challenges and hurdles. As you can imagine, it was difficult on our parents, because they wanted to to hold Grace and be close to her. They were in love with her already and were desperate to assume their roles as her grandparents. There were moments when Jonathan and I had some hard conversations with friends and family, and strong boundaries were set in place so that Grace felt relationally secure...and that was not easy. Most people who do not have experience with the adoption process are not aware and do not understand the necessity of it all. It helped that my parents came with us to training seminars. There are so many various factors within adoption that affect the parents and grandparents, so their support was essential. We held tightly to the advice given, and as a result, Grace transitioned beautifully.
Q: How is Grace today?
Jonathan: Grace is now 4-years-old. She is as normal and as healthy as any other! We took her to UAB in Birmingham, and they were amazed that there were no signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome and that she was developing so well.
Jessica: She had MRIs on her brain and the doctors could see the collateral damage done to her frontal lobe, but she can do everything, and more, expected for her age. They call her a miracle baby!
Jonathan: She has won over the hearts of her grandparents, and they do their best to make sure she gets exactly what she wants. We knew alongside of loving friends and family, Grace would thrive. Every holiday is extravagant and messy and grateful. She loves the beach and looks forward to family vacations. We go big, because we have a lot to celebrate in Grace, and we are just thankful that we were chosen for such a special little girl.
Q: And I hear that you have a new member to the family?
Jonathan: Yeah. In October of 2013, we felt the stirring to adopt again. Jessica and I had taken a cruise to celebrate our anniversary, and it was the first time we had been able to get away for a trip being just us. Still a little unsure because of the debt from Grace's adoption, we started praying. We enjoyed our trip and our time together, and as the trip was coming to and end, we had a lot to consider. We believed the Lord was in this and that he would take care of the details. By the end of October, we felt the nudge in our spirits confirmed and so began the process. We searched and found our agency, and chose to adopt a baby girl from China. This time we were more prepared. We quickly organized, made appointments, received necessary signatures, collected appropriate approvals, and had our home study complete within several months. We expressed that we would accept a child with minor correctible problems, and by the middle of December we had a referral. This little girl had a cleft lip, cleft palate, and possibly a alveolar cleft. We knew that she would need multiple surgeries throughout her childhood years in order to correct these issues. Again, financially this would be an uphill climb for us; however, we could not deny the love that God had already placed in our hearts for this little girl. We read her tragic story, and it broke us. She was left abandoned with only a note with her name and birthday. Somewhere along the way, a young mother was stricken with fear strong enough to leave her child on the side of a road. We came to the same conclusion as before, God gave us this child as our own and there was no way we could reject her. We accepted her referral and were matched by the end of December. Our process has moved along faster than anticipated, and we have paid in cash for every payment up to this point. We still have $15,000 to raise for this adoption. We are believing that God will be faithful in providing and are hoping that with the funds available and paid, we will be traveling to get our daughter by September or October of this year. We are naming her Oliviya Kate Taylor.
Q: What advice would you give for anyone who is considering adoption?
Jonathan: I'd encourage you to ask Jesus for guidance, courage, and strength. It is a challenging journey, full of unexpected changes and trials, that could easily deter you. Expect the difficulty and struggles, but rest in the confidence that God has a special somebody waiting to fill your arms...and He's faithful to see that to completion. Not everything is strenuous; so much of the adoption process is full of joy and excitement. When choosing an agency, don’t rush out to the first one you see. Find one that will be open and transparent about the joys and difficulties of each country. They all pose different challenges and requirements. Be patient and let God guide your steps and your heart. Pray as a family, and seek God's will. He is faithful.
Jessica: During this process, The Lord opened my eyes to something I never considered before. Although Jesus was Mary and Joseph’s son, he first belonged to God. God found them worthy to adopt Jesus as their own...to protect, love, and care for him on this earth. Misunderstood in the eyes of others, they said yes. With faith and uncertainty, scared, unsuitable, unsupported, and poor, they said yes. Adoption is close to God’s heart--it is His heart. It is how our God chose to begin Jesus’ ministry on this earth. So that's how we've chosen to look at this valuable, sometimes grueling, process. If it is important to God, it should be important to us.
If you're interested in supporting the Taylors to help fund their adoption, click HERE and enter firstname.lastname@example.org as the email. Thanks in advance!