Friday, September 13, 2019
Friday, July 5, 2019
Caldwell child #6 is on the way, scheduled to be here in late January 2020.
So this baby is very unexpected, but such a blessing to think that God would entrust us with another precious child. As Psalm 127 says, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them”. I think ours is filling up!
After all, eight is great!
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
This is an exciting week for our family, as at the end of the week, we will discover how the tie between estrogen and testosterone will be broken!! After much prayer, Zack and I decided to have the first trimester blood work performed (an added bonus, of course, is getting to find out the sex of the baby sooner!). Because of my age and medical history, my doctor also suggested it. Zack and I knew that the results wouldn't change anything, but would help us be more prepared, if necessary. So we look forward to revealing our results this weekend with our parents who are coming to visit for this exciting time!
Pregnancy certainly is a miraculous thing. I have always marveled at how God created life out of nothing, how he forms us in the womb, and all the amazing intricacies of his creation. There is no doubt there is a creator, God, when you view His handiwork. Being pregnant has brought a new perspective to all this for sure! Each day I enjoy learning new facts about all that's going on in this little miracle living inside me...and so do my kids!
Speaking of miracles, I recently have been reading a book given to me by my amazing mother in law. It's written by Karen Kingsbury and titled, "A Treasury of Adoption Miracles: True Stories of God's Presence".
It has some amazing, miraculous stories of adoption. As I was reading it this week, I began to think about how, really, each and every adoption is a miracle, just as is each and every life God creates. My own adoption is a miracle. The adoption of my four children are all miracles. My life has been a story of adoption miracles. And truly, it has. So, I decided to spend some time on this blog post telling "my story".
Many of you are familiar, at least somewhat, with my adoption story. Many of you, however, might not even know that I was adopted as an infant, and what entailed over the next several years of my life. From the outside, it might have looked more like a nightmare than a miracle, and at times, I am sure my parents felt like they were living through a nightmare.
It really is an amazing story and quite interesting to hear. I wish my parents could tell it to you, the reader. A book could literally be written about it, not only because it's an interesting, unusual and emotional story, but because the legal battle with my birth father spanned the course of about 13 years. Yes, 13 years.
It all began when I was born on August 21, 1982 in a hospital in Louisville, KY, to a very young lady, my birth mother. She felt that she didn't have the support system or means to provide the life that she would want her child to have, so she had chosen my parents to adopt me. A co-worker of a cousin to my mother knew of the situation through a friend of a friend. I am not sure about all the details and how they got it all worked out, but I just know I am thankful they did! From what I have read in newspaper articles and from his own statements, my birth father was supposedly not on board with me being placed for adoption. He attempted to not allow me to go with my mom and dad from the hospital, but a judge denied his request.
When I was 4 days old, I was brought home to the small town of London, Kentucky by two beautiful people, my mom and dad, Glenn and Linda Toney. Here are those beautiful people....
They had tried to conceive a child biologically but had not been successful due to my mom's medical issues. They had also attempted to adopt through the state of Kentucky, but had grown weary of the long wait. Many people in our small community of "Swiss Colony" knew of my parents longing to have a child, and, well, that's how they ended up with me!
I was received with open arms from everyone in my community, the way I understand it. My parents had a wonderful support system, and my adoption was finalized on March 11, 1983 in my hometown of London, KY.
To my parents knowledge, their attorney had performed everything legally needed to terminate my birth father's parental rights, and had done so in the proper way. Unfortunately, there was some room for debate in this area, and thus ensued what would be a 14 year long custody battle. Again, it would be impossible in one blog post to document what occurred in those 14 years, but in doing some research (it is strange doing research about your own life), I found this timeline published in the Courier Journal. For those of you not from the Kentucky area, the Courier Journal originates in Louisville, KY and is the most widely circulated newspaper in the state of Kentucky.
Because of the back and forth nature of the court battle, and the decision in 1986 that restored my birth father's parental rights, there was a time when my birth father legally could have taken custody of me. Actually, an entire year passed from the time his rights were restored, until the time the ruling was appealed in my parents favor. During this time, he would call my mom at night and threaten to come get me. My mom would beg him to please not do that. My dad worked the night shift at UPS during that time, making these nights even more terrifying for my mom.
I knew I was adopted from a very young age. It was a fact that my family celebrated, and that I felt very special because of. However, I knew nothing of the threatening my mom had to endure, or anything about any of the court proceedings. I knew nothing at all, other than I had wonderful parents, an amazing extended family, and a pretty awesome life, overall. It was a happy childhood.
One story that has always amazed me occurred when I was around 7 or 8 years old. My birth parents made a surprise visit to our home that evening. Somehow, they had found our home, and though not visiting as a "couple" they supposedly were visiting for the purpose of securing a picture of me to give to my birth mother's father, who was dying of cancer. My birth father, we would later learn, had ulterior motives.
I was in my room playing my Nintendo that night. My dad has told me this story several times, and he always notes that I never closed my door when I played Nintendo. But for some reason on that night, I decided to close my door. When my birth parents arrived, my mom immediately called her parents and sister. My grandpa came over with a shotgun (gotta love Kentucky) and my uncle came over and stayed with me in my room while I played Nintendo. I had no idea anything was going on, I was just concerned with advancing on to the next level in Mario. My parents called their attorney and were advised by him to not give my birth mother the picture, but my parents tender hearts made the decision, and they gave her the picture anyway. My parents learned shortly after the visit that the father of my birth mother did pass away.
Curiously enough, the very picture they gave my birth mother appeared in the Courier Journal (the newspaper I mentioned earlier) along with a front page story, written from the viewpoint of my birth father. It did include the "facts" of the case, but certainly appealed to sympathizers for my birth father. In doing my "research", I found that my adoption case/story appeared in the Courier Journal at least 4 times, with three of those times featuring a front page story. My parents never commented about the court proceedings, and did so per the advice of their attorney. Therefore, almost every story that was published in the Courier Journal was heavily weighted from the viewpoint of my birth father. Here are some examples of the headlines and a few excerpts from some of the stories:
In 1996, when I was 14 years old, my adoption case was settled, legally, once and for all. Throughout the 14 year long battle, our case had reached the Kentucky Supreme Court twice, and had been sent to the United States Supreme Court of Appeals, but was never heard. The financial costs associated with the 14 year long battle literally cost my parents everything they owned, including our house. The emotional costs were high as well. Because of the stress of the case, my dad began having seizures and actually passed out while driving his UPS truck, which further complicated our financial situation. My mom has dealt with heart issues for as long as I can remember, no doubt at least partially because of the stress and anxiety of the custody battle. This case definitely took a toll on them in many ways. But through it all, my parents provided the most loving and stable home that I could have imagined. My childhood was full of happiness, and I believed we were blessed. I will never know how they did it, aside from eventually having an amazing attorney who knew adoption law inside and out, the support, prayers, and generosity of family and friends, and of course and most importantly, their faith and trust in God.
I began this blog post speaking about miracles. Maybe after reading this, you aren't quite sure what the connection is, or how any of my adoption story could be considered a miracle (it was quite a mess!)
Well, I find it quite miraculous that I was adopted by two of the most loving, kind, selfless people that I have ever met. That out of all the people who could have adopted me, I was given these two parents. That I have my mom's eyes and love for hospitality, and my dad's love for music and sometimes his temper. That I grew up with the kind of relationship with my parents that I would just as soon as hung out with them on a Friday night than to have gone out with my friends. That I could approach them at any time, with any problem, and I knew they would listen. We have always been the closest of close. I don't know what I would do without them.
I find it miraculous that God can take what was intended for bad and what seemed like a desperate situation at so many points in time, and use it for good. That He could use the trials my family faced throughout my adoption to build perseverance, character, faithfulness, and a deep, deep love for one another. That, because of my adoption and the impact it has had in, and on my life, God opened my heart to adoption, and we now have four beautiful, precious children from all over the world (more on this in the next blog). Not only this, but God has used my parents, and now Zack and I, countless times to minister to families who have had difficulties in the adoption process, or whom are considering adoption, etc. He, the one true and Sovereign God, has brought beauty from ashes in many ways. And that truly is the picture and beauty of adoption, in my opinion.
Please don't hear me say that adoption is a cake walk. Adoption isn't always easy. Being part of the adoption community, I know of many families who struggle daily with adoption related issues. Not every adopted child feels favorably towards adoption, as some children have been placed in very negative circumstances due to adoption. In my case, the adoptive process was difficult, but the relationships I have with my mom and dad are priceless to me. Adoption has been a tremendous, unspeakable blessing to me.
We live in a flawed, sinful world, and that sin taints everything. We are all born into the world as sinners, and we take this sin with us into our relationships, whether those are biological, or are formed through adoption, etc. None of us, or our relationships, are exempt.
The most miraculous news of all is that there is an adoption that we all can be a part of, one that only brings life, light, and love, and that is secure for all eternity. We can be adopted into the family of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:5 tell us that God chose us, before the creation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight, and that in love, he chose us to be adopted as His children, through his son Jesus Christ. This means we have the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, not only now, but forever. This is the very best adoption of all.
Thank you for taking the time to read "my story". It really isn't just my story, as God clearly knit the story together using various people, circumstances, etc, as He does with every story. What an amazing God we serve. I don't ever want to miss a part of the story He has for my life....how about you?
Friday, March 23, 2018
"How did this happen??!!" to quote my mother in law 😊 All we can say is Proverbs 16:9, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps". We felt very content and our lives were very full with our 4 kiddos….so I can only imagine having a 5th will only sweeten this family God has given to us.
To be honest, having children biologically was never something really in our plans. I plan to write an entire blog post on this later, but Zack and I felt called to adoption from the very beginning of our marriage. Through different experiences God allowed us to have both independently, and as a couple, adoption is how we felt called to grow our family. And once we adopted, God fulfilled any desire to grow our family and parent children. So, having a child biologically just really wasn't on our radar….but it certainly is now!
I began to suspect something was up when we were staying a few days in a hotel in Winston Salem before we closed on our house. I noticed the usual pregnancy symptoms…but honestly, I just figured the stress of being separated from Zack for 6l weeks due to his job, selling and buying a house, and moving were just throwing things off. On the day we closed on our home here in NC, I decided that I better check, just to make sure. So, while I was at the grocery, I decided to pick up a pregnancy test. Self checkout, please!!
I was shaking as I carried in the groceries, but I tried to carry on as normal, as I was surrounded by my mom, our kids, and the painters and other workers doing a few fixes in our home. I ran into the bathroom downstairs and read the directions as fast I could. I struggle with even peeing in a cup (sorry if that's too much info ) so I wanted to make sure I got this right. I did the deed then laid the test on the vanity with shaking hands, and waited, but I didn't have to wait long. As soon as the urine passed the little window, both lines appeared and my heart was beating a million miles a minute. Could this really be happening!? I double checked what I was seeing and compared it with the little instruction pamphlet. Yep, two pink lines meant….pregnant!! I shoved the test inside the box and stashed it under the vanity. I walked out like no big deal and realized that our world had just changed! In an amazing, blessed way of course, but still changed dramatically! A thousand thoughts were going through my mind until I heard little Eden's voice, "Mom, what's this?" You guessed it, she had found my secret box under the vanity. I quickly stole it away and put it in my pocket, and mumbled, "Oh nothing".
The next few minutes I thought about how to tell Zack, then my mom and dad. Zack was at work, though I was supposed to be meeting him soon to secure a U-HAUL so we could finish unloading our storage unit. I was supposed to drive the van with the trailer hitch, but my mind was so blown that I drove the wrong van all the way there, lol. I told Zack I had a good reason for my mistake, then I pulled the test out of my pocket. I can assure you, he was in shock as well! He was thrilled, though overwhelmed. He wanted to tell everyone immediately, but I assured him we needed to think through some things first . I also wanted to take another test, just to be sure. So, the next day, I went back to the grocery store, only the self checkout lane was closed, so the poor teenage boy that was my cashier and I had an awkward conversation, to say the least.
The second test confirmed the results of the first, so we were pretty sure we had a 5th child on our hands! The next day I told my mom before church, she and I together Facetimed my dad, and later that day Zack and I called his parents after church. All grandparents were shocked, thrilled, and excited. Now they are just totally elated!
I am thankful that so far I haven't had anything more than nausea off and on everyday (not just in the morning….Morning Sickness is inappropriately named, in my opinion ), and have just been flat out exhausted. One of the most interesting things is that I have had an extreme aversion to certain smells, unfortunately those smells happen to be the smells of our home. So, I just wear a mask in most rooms. I can stand to be in the kitchen and most of the time our den, and my bedroom and bathroom are okay. Walking into the living room, foyer, hallway, basement, and any of the kids room results in some serious gags. I actually have a box of surgical masks I have been wearing, and that seems to keep the nausea at bay, though I do get some weird looks from the neighbors if I forget to take the mask off when I go outside.
Yesterday was my first ultrasound, and we are thankful that everything seems normal and that the heartbeat of the baby is strong. My mom and Eden were able to be there, and Eden couldn't help herself when she first saw the baby- she let out the longest "Awe!" followed by, "The baby is adorable!". Zack unfortunately was out of town due to work, but with the wonders of technology, I was able to send him the photos and video, to which he responded, "Wow, wow wow!". As this is our first ever pregnancy, and as I am early in the pregnancy (9 weeks), we know that there are still many unknowns. We also realize we are totally clueless about anything to do with being pregnant, and all that having a newborn entails. We trust God is in control of every aspect, and we look to Him for our joy and peace throughout this process.
Switching gears….We have also moved on up North in location, to North Carolina. The weekend of February 18th, we said goodbye to our home for the past 3.5 years in Charleston, SC, and began a new adventure in the other Carolina state.
First, just to catch you up on the family (I realize that almost two years have gone by since my last blog post. That is rather shameful, and though my mind had lots of ideas and topics I wanted to blog about, I guess other priorities just won out…not saying that those priorities were better, or more important).
Caleb is in 4th grade and keeps us on our toes! He is full of life and laughter, and has had no problem making friends here. He (like his mom and dad) loves this time of year because March Madness is in full swing-he is my basketball watching buddy. He is also playing soccer and beginning Tae Kwon Do.
Eden is 4 years old now and though tiny for her age, has a huge heart and is a little firecracker! She made the most seamless transition into our family in almost every way. She has acquired English amazingly and is very articulate….just ask her brothers! She won't start Kindergarten until 2019 and that is just fine with her. She is looking forward to beginning gymnastics soon!
So, how did we get from one Carolina to another? For some time, Zack and I had been praying about a job opportunity that would allow us to be closer to home, (Kentucky will always be home) as the trip for us and our parents was starting to get old, yet we all desired to be a part of each others lives as much as possible. We also missed the Kentucky like seasons, hills and mountains, etc. God certainly was gracious to us during our time in South Carolina, and to be honest, we struggled to know if it was selfish to pray for God to open an opportunity for us to closer to family, as everything was going just fine in Charleston.
During the early spring and summer of 2017, we had three different possibilities that seemed "sure things", not work out. The first would have put us in Nashville, TN., the second outside of Atlanta, and the third in Greenville, SC. Each time the door seemed open, but then would eventually close. The first opportunity in Nashville was offered to us, but we just didn't feel like it was right for various reasons. The second and third seemed so sure that we even put our home on the market, but then at the last second, the opportunities were removed. As 2017 began to come to an end, we began to think that maybe it just wasn't God's will for us to leave Charleston at this time. Then Zack got two phone calls from two different companies around the same week, and things got kicked into high gear, to say the least. Both opportunities would have taken us North- one way North, to Cincinnati, the other to North Carolina. In the end, it was a pretty easy decision. Zack accepted his current position in North Carolina around Thanksgiving and was to report the first of the year.
We knew this meant we would be separated for some time- until our house sold. Zack would commute early Monday morning and stay through the week, then come home on Friday evening. I would be with the kids during the week and get our home ready to sell. It certainly wasn't the ideal situation, but we also knew the commute and separation wouldn't be forever. We listed our home around Thanksgiving, and we had it under contract the early part of January. We were thankful it didn't linger on the market too long. Getting a house "show ready" with 4 kids can be a little maddening, and we had some interesting prospective buyers….some wouldn't come in our home because the driveway wasn't long enough, some became upset because we asked all potential buyers to remove their shoes or wear the provided shoe covers- in our minds we were preserving the floors for someone who would buy our home…not everyone shared our perspective however! Others would cancel just a few minutes before a showing was scheduled. Needless to say, we prayed fervently for a buyer for our home! Wouldn't you know it, the family that ended up buying our home came the weekend I came down with a stomach bug and literally couldn't get out of bed… we had four showings scheduled! Thankfully my in-laws happened to be in town and helped get the house ready. Zack also knew the drill and directed traffic. A few minutes before the scheduled showings, he carried me out to the car, robe and all, and I just laid in the backseat until the showing were over, while he perused the neighborhood.
We already had a home picked out here in Winston-Salem from our house hunting trips, so once our house was under contract, we were able to make an offer on the home here in Winston. We were hoping to find a home with a basement, a larger yard than our home in Charleston, and in a neighborhood where there would hopefully be lots of other kiddos for our kids to play with, as they had grown accustomed to that in Charleston. Graciously, God answered those prayers. Our street is full of kids, we have a small basement that is a great little hangout spot, and a bigger yard with beautiful trees and privacy. More than we deserve!
The kids seem to be adjusting well to school. I am always amazed at their resilience. Eden is here with me, and will be for another year, as she can't begin Kindergarten until August 2019. I am working on getting my school counseling certification for North Carolina, so that when it is time for me to return to work, I will be ready (still determining when that time will be, especially with our new addition coming). My job may always be inside our home, which would be fine with me!
We knew when we moved, the most difficult aspect would be finding a church home. Not because there aren't wonderful churches here in Winston-Salem, but because we so dearly loved our little church family in Charleston. I say[RC1] "little" because we were members of a church plant when we left Charleston, and though our congregation was small in number, we were full of love for one another and for the Gospel. I can't say that I was excited about the church plant in the beginning (this should also be a blog post because God has done an amazing work in my heart in this area), but I can now say that I truly, truly, miss this fellowship, as does our entire family.
A quick rundown: a few weeks before we left for China in 2016 to bring home Eden, our current church at the time had a division that resulted in the current Pastor resigning and many members leaving. Our family was one of the families that decided to leave during this time (once we returned from China). Our hearts were broken over the events, but we felt we had no choice but to leave the church. We weren't prepared to bring home Eden to an unknown situation in terms of our faith community, but that is what happened. In the beginning, I was very, very unsure of becoming part of the church plant, not because of the events that led to its formation, the leadership, the theology, or anything like that, but because there wasn't very much structure in terms of kids church, Sunday School, youth group, etc. Of course, when any church is in its infancy, none of those things just automatically happen, and that is okay. This was our first experience being part of a church plant, and there were many things I just didn't get and struggled with. Didn't I say I needed to write an entire blog devoted to this? I better just do that. Let's just say that I am so thankful that God is so gracious and patient with our hearts, and I am forever grateful that He allowed our family to be part of such a sweet fellowship.
We have visited a couple different churches here, but have yet to feel fully called to a church home. There is definitely a huge hole in the life of our family as we miss the community that results when Christians fellowship, worship, and serve with one another. We pray that God will lead us to a church home very soon.
So, there you have it, the quickest run-down I can give you of our lives over the last almost-two years. It has been an adventure in so many ways. The one thing that has remained the same- the steadfast, faithful love of God. Scripture says in Hebrews 13:8 that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." So many things in this world can change- our location, our profession, our health, our church, our families. But praise be to God that He is unchanging, as is His love for us