Friday, February 3, 2012

Created for Care 2012: Lake Lanier Islands

Last weekend was an amazing weekend surrounded by amazing women!
My friend K and I went to the Created for Care women's retreat. Created for Care is an organization started by Andrea Young after she was united with her son from Ethiopia. She found that women needed the connection with other adoptive moms to talk about and share the REAL issues and experiences with adoption. She also felt the need to connect on a level where God is the focus first. Adoption is a BEAUTIFUL experience, but is not for the faint of heart.

The conference is for women who are considering adoption or supporting a family adopting, women in paper phase or a waiting family, or have already come home with their children domestically or internationally. There's another retreat in March so check out the Created for Care Website.
K and I arrived late Thursday night to the Legacy Lodge in Lake Lanier Islands in Georgia. Um, can you say, "BEAUTIFUL?!?!?"
Lets just say that these Florida girls were THRILLED to drive North to spend a weekend in the deep South...HA!
The lodge was gorgeous! Friday we registered for the conference and attended our first breakout session and worship. This was both K and I's first C4C retreat and we were not completely sure what to expect, but let me to was AMAZING! 433 women strong singing as we began worship. God was definitely in the midst of us during worship. We were moved Friday evening. We knew this weekend was going to be special!

Friday evening the C4C team shared a movie with us call Moving On: Love is Winning. Here's the official trailer:

'Moving On' Official Trailer from Light Gives Heat on Vimeo.

This movie was soooo beautiful! Morgan and her husband taking a HUGE leap of faith for The One through their adoption of their little one. God has really worked through them to help the people of Uganda. Check out their org @ . If you're interested in sharing the video at your church or school just let them know!
Saturday Sabbath morning we woke to the most beautiful sunrise over Lake Lanier. God really gave us a beautiful site to begin our day. We drank PLENTY of coffee and headed down to the main room for worship before our sessions.

All of these seats were packed with women worshipping. There was something so very special being in a room who understood the process and journey you take through adoption. So many different paths leading to adoption and yet we were feeling like family. It's really hard to explain the connection, but there was a bond we all had simply through women of faith and adoption. The labor of love which goes into this process is staggering. "Family" has little to do with DNA and genetics.

Between our breakout sessions and before meals we were able to check out some of the booths set up.
147 Million Yep, that's Suzanne (who, btw, is HILARIOUS!!!).
Handmade magazine beads by the women in Uganda. So many beautiful colors!
Sabbath I was able to meet sweet Stephanie from our agency, All God's Children International. They are just behind us in waiting so it's been so great taking this journey together with similar timelines.
K and I. K is 9 months home with her son from Ethiopia. You can kind of see our name tags. They were really neat. They had our names, blog URLs and then the flag from which country we were or had adopted from. Not too many United States flags (more on that later).
Saturday night we all changed into our PJ's and went to a session where there was a panel of adoptive moms (both domestic and international). C4C had an open session for all of us to ask them questions. This was a great session! During this session a girl got up and asked a question that hit home for me and I just lost it. I mean...UGLY crocodile tears from me!!! LOL Afterwards, I went over to introduce myself and let her know she was not alone in her journey. I just felt like this was what I was supposed to tell her since our type of journey can often leave you feeling like there are not many who really understand. Saturday night she, another girl and I talked till after 1 am!!! Um, that is INSANELY late for me! I truly believe God lead us all together as each of our journeys had virtually been the same. There's so much power in knowing you're not alone and having people around you who truly "get" what it's like to walk in your shoes. I knew I had made a dear friend that evening.
Here we are the next day. I think we washed up nicely given little sleep! HAHA! What is so crazy about meeting Shannon is that she lives in Chattanooga AND is friends with two of my friends!!! I had no idea until we became friends on Facebook that we had these mutual friends. Small world! Looking forward to following their journey and seeing how God works in their lives.
Some of our amazing session leaders were kind enough to take a photo with us. These women are so deeply in love with God that it just simply radiates. I loved hearing their stories and inspiration. I hope to one day have such a relationship with God.
Where do I even start when speaking about Angie (in the middle)??? Friday, we chose to eat at Angie's table. Each session leader hosted a table for all of us to choose from. One of my besties couldn't come this weekend due to a family emergency so I wanted to join sessions that I could share with her. Angie is an amazing person who shared her family with us. Her family has been united with four children through open domestic adoption. She shared with us what open adoption looks like. Friday evening she asked me what session I was signed up for and then suggested I jump ship and join hers. So....I DID! I was soooo blessed to hear Mac Powell's (Third Day lead singer) wife tell their family's journey to domestic adoption. Angie then shared their story...OHHH, I was moved. The hubs has always loved the idea of adopting domestically. I have been the one reluctant. This session changed everything for me, especially on the topic of levels of "open" (meaning how often you keep in contact with the birth mom). There's an organization here in Orlando called A Chosen Child which is faith based that we spent many hours talking with. What I loved about Angie's testimony is her love for her children's birth mom's and the relationship they have. You often hear people talk about the beauty of adoption and the helping with the orphan crisis, but little do you hear about the agony of a mother giving her child up to adoption out of her difficult circumstances. These birth moms love their children soooo very much that they are willing to allow us to raise their children and provide them the life they are unable to provide. HEARTBREAKING!!! What sacrifice. What will be our greatest joy will be a birth mom's greatest heart break. Adoption is a solution to really sad circumstances of this world. Our agency here, like Angie's, provides the birth moms counseling and help after the adoption for as long as they need. I love that!

After having dinner with Angie and then hearing her session I began noticing people's name tags at the conference: Uganda, Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, China, Korea...and a few USA. A few United States flags. This realization bothered me. I've recently come to see some exposed misconceptions and short-comings I had with domestic adoption. I began asking myself the question, "Why so few United States flags?" Is the reason because Created for Care is not as known in the domestic adoption world or is this an accurate reflection of the adoption community as a whole? Then I began looking at the booths set up at the conference. I can't remember now, but I do remember the majority were for support to African countries. The nudge hit me like a ton of bricks. I spoke with the hubs about this and we both had said we would do domestic with our second adoption through A Chosen Child and now we were 100% certain God would take us this direction. I am troubled by the lack of US flags on name tags. I do believe it's quite possible that the knowledge base is not as available on domestic as it is internationally. I think it's easy to look at the need in third world countries because it's so vast, but our country also has need. Please know that by no means do I have anything against international adoption and we're completely committed to our Ethiopian program, but I felt the imbalance this weekend. There are mothers in our own country who are pregnant right now having sleepless night wondering how they will be able to care for this child in their womb. They may even be considering an abortion. I would love God to allow us the honor and priviledge of being a solution to one of these mothers.

So that was a long story, but Angie's family's testimony changed my heart on so many levels. My friend K is also a changed women after this session. CANNOT wait to see what's in store for our two families domestically!
At the end of the conference I was able to grab a picture with two VERY special women from our agency: Courtney (brunette) and Alison (blonde). Both of these women have a fierce faith! They both are so incredibly positive and supportive to all of us in our agency as we walk through this journey together. Meeting them in person and giving them hugs was a HUGE highlight for me that weekend.

The weekend came to a close and I found myself wishing for one more day so I could meet more people from our agency. I missed the time they all planned to meet since I was talking with the girls Saturday night. There's next year right!?!?! I seriously cannot wait!
Last and CERTAINLY NOT least, on the way out of Atlanta, K and I stopped to meet one of my DEAREST best friends...Heather. We had lunch with her at Mellow Mushroom...HEAVENLY! Getting to see her was like being home. I really could go on and on, but I think this post has gotten long enough already!!! HA! Seriously though, so great to see her on our way home. I love ya girl and miss you tons!!!

We went into this weekend a little uncertain and maybe a little nervous, but left feeling spiritually filled and refreshed. I loved meeting women from our agency and other new friends. I look forward to next year when I can meet even more ladies. I am sooo thankful we were able to attend. We purchased our tickets from other ladies who were no longer able to attend at last minute.


1 comment:

Courtney said...

Such a great post, Erika! I'm still trying to figure out how to put mine into words :). I also was so moved by the domestic adoption stories. Can't wait to see how God uses this in lots of lives!