My husband and I agreed, even before marriage, that adoption was something we hoped for our family. Early in our marriage we had a surprise pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage. Although it was a hard and emotional time, it made us aware that we were ready for children. We didn’t care if that meant biological or adopted, so we prepared ourselves for both venues. For the next four years we would embark on the scariest journey of our lives, to date. We fostered. We had a total of five children, ages 4 months to 5 years old, in our home during those four years.
Although all of the children we fostered would eventually leave our home and return to their biological family, there was one resounding common factor…. we didn’t regret taking any of them in. Some of those children went home to situations we consider healthy and some did not. Though our heart break at their departures, was worse than anticipated, we would relive it 1000 times over if that meant they were able to feel safe, secure and loved during the short season they were with us. In those four years, as it became more and more evident, biologically speaking, that we couldn’t be parents, we began to pursue adoption move aggressively.
During that time, we got a phone call from from DCS about two children, a girl age 4, and a boy age 1, that were “legal risk” (meaning adoptable as parent’s rights has already been revoked). The process took a month, but we were voted to be the adoptive family. We painted the bedroom half pink and half blue, so that these precious siblings could stay in the same room with the only other person that would feel familiar to them. We bought the appropriate clothing, supplies, bedding etc and told our family and friends about the new change that was coming for our lives. We were elated. Two days later, while tidying the room, I got another call. This time the social worker told me “an aunt has gotten out of jail and the children are going to be placed with her”. I quickly hung up the phone, as to not “shoot the messenger”. We were crushed, our hearts knew God had different plans but our flesh was far more in control that day. We cried lots of tears and a season of depression took over for both my husband and me. After some time, we stood ourselves back up, got another foster call about two kids, a boy age 1 and a girl age 4. The exact set up as before, only we knew these kids would be temporary. Our hearts were longing to adopt, but how could we say no? After all, sitting in our house was a pink and blue room, fully stocked for kids of those exact ages. God paved the way so clearly that He knew, saying no wasn’t even a possibility for us. It was a long, hard two months. God had a lot to teach us with that placement. But again, I want to point out: No regret.... I wouldn’t take it back.....Not Any of it. **Jump ahead with me a bit**
We tried to adopt 8 more children and each one fell through for uniquely challenging reasons: family members showed up, miscarriages happened, paperwork fell through. One pregnancy we walked through step by step, receiving pictures of bio mom’s belly, ultra sounds, verbal updates and so on. 7 months in, we were made aware that the pregnancy was completely a façade. We later would be invited to court and have our phone records subpoenaed to confront that situation. The pain was real, the anger was strong, the fear was overwhelming…....it was nothing like we had ever faced before. Deeply shaken by this entire event, we then decided to try to go through an agency to adopt. We quickly learned that we needed an almost immediate budget of 40-60,000, which we didn’t have. I would love to tell you that we handled that with the joyful attitudes on James Chapter 1 and smiled throughout our “trials” ......but admittedly, we did not. Instead, we threw an enormous pity party! Guests of honor? Me and my husband. We sulked, for a long time. We battled bitterness, depression and immense heart ache….. until ..... finally we cried out to God and asked for forgiveness.
We needed him to forgive us for trying to be in control. We needed him to forgive us for pouting when we knew he had already given us the gift of eternity with Him....... and at the expense of his son’s death on a cross.
After asking for forgiveness, we finally “gave up” and told God, His will be done. For the first time during that journey, we genuinely meant it. If God didn’t have parenthood in mind for us, we didn’t want to either.
In December of 2015, we decided to “close our home” to foster care and adoption. We also ended all medical attempts of biological pregnancy.
January 3rd of 2016 (three weeks after closing our home and getting rid of all of our supplies) a beautiful baby was born, but we wouldn’t learn that until a few days after the fact. A friend contacted my mother in law and said, there’s a baby, drug exposed, in the hospital, alone, and the mother wants a family to adopt. Long story short, with very guarded hearts, we pursued this baby.
Impossible hoops had to be jumped through, and unlikely legal circumstances had to be accomplished, but God just simply did it.
He did it all, through the intricate web of some amazing vessels, namely an incredible social worker that fought tooth and nail for us.
So off we went, just my husband and me, to Knoxville to meet OUR baby girl. Still heavily guarded due to our history, we didn’t tell a soul! After all, who would even believe us at that point?!?!
As we stepped off the elevator, it genuinely felt like a movie. Each step felt slow, my heart beat sounded loud, voices around were muffled, and I was seriously worried that I was going to faint with anticipation.
We walked into the room and there laid a 19-inch, 6-pound baby girl, covered in wires from head to toe, but all together she was perfect. As we picked her up, we were overcome by emotion.
As all that was happening, we had continual visitors, (doctors, nurses, security officers, and what they call “cuddlers”) for days. All of them came to us, cried, embraced us and said “we have been praying for 315 (her room number) to find a family”. We cried, they cried, and it was a sloppy beautiful mess.
Karis healed us, in a way only she could. God knew that her story was one we needed to see, feel, and share first hand.
Later we met the biological mom in court. She sat down beside me and with soft tears flowing from her eyes told me “I was raped in a bar, I have no idea who the father is and I couldn’t bear to see the baby”. She was nothing like I had sinfully pictured. No ..... she was sad, broken, wounded, and in serious emotional pain.
As I sat there processing, I couldn’t stop myself from asking why she chose life, despite having the world’s one secular “reason” to abort…..and she looked up, made eye contact for the first and only time and said “it was never her fault”. I didn’t need to know anything else.
It’s never my goal to act like that mom didn’t make bad choices. She made lots of them and our baby girl went through a lot of hard things because of those choices, including serious withdrawals for the first several months of her life. But praise God, when it mattered the most, this lady chose life despite a wicked tragedy, and because of that brave choice, we became parents.
Nine months later, we found out we were pregnant, without any medicinal help.
People like to say “you all finally relaxed and stopped stressing” and I know they mean well but they are wrong. So I would politely remind them:
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God’s ways are not our ways and praise His holy name for that. I believe fully that He closed both the door to adoption and our womb during those long…. hard…. four years, so that Karis would come to us.
If you know our Karis, then you already know, our lives are better and way more entertaining with her!
We shared Karis’s story for the first time last January. We creating a short video and as that video got more shares, our news feed began filling up with pro-life groups. We saw over and over again that the number one complaint from pro-choicers was that Christians are only pro-life in the womb. Their point being, once the baby is born, there isn’t a lot of help or support, and typically a lady who finds herself faced with the “choice” isn’t in a position of life where she feels good about parenting.
As Christians, we have a twofold job, 1: expose the darkness of abortion….. 2: reveal the light and love of Christ… The second cannot be overlooked.
So with prayer and heavy conviction we started a ministry called “Life Beyond the Womb” where our goal is to encourage Christians to answer their biblical call to action: James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God is this, to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world” . We try our best to provide as many resources and ideas as we can.
The biggest combat we hear is “I can’t foster because________, I can’t adopt because_____…” Some reasons are legit, but honestly, some are not. Whether you’re 10 or 110 there are things you can do! That list is not limited to fostering and adoption only.
If you aren’t ready to adopt, maybe you could foster, and if you’re not ready to foster, maybe you could sponsor. If you’re not able to sponsor, maybe you could donate, and if you aren’t able to donate, maybe you could volunteer. There are loads of palpable ways that you could get involved, no matter your age, or financial status! People often say that the “big C” (Church) could end the orphan crisis by adopting. I can’t fully agree to that. I think the idea is that statistically speaking, if every church had two families that would adopt, there would be no more orphans. However that only applies to “today’s orphans”! Tomorrow will bring thousands more. So if we want to truly be a part of ending the orphan crisis, we have to start at the top: James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
I love the little “punch” the Bible gives at the end of verse 16…”what good is that”?
Christians that is our call to action. Sometimes that is as simple as inviting someone to church, or listening to their story without judgement, or giving to them financially, or helping them physically, or educating them, or just surrounding them with Christian brothers and sisters!!
People with a support system are a LOT less likely to choose abortion, a LOT less likely to be forced into a position where they can’t keep their child.
As Christians, we were adopted into God’s family. We were spiritual orphans doomed for eternity alone and in misery. Christ came in and rescued us because He loved us. So why should we pour into others? 1 John 4:19, We love because He first loved us.
Lauren Darst Bible