There is a place deep within my heart where the joy in documenting an adoption lives. It is a sacred place reserved for events in which a child is rescued and a family is created. Watching a child enter into a family is a deep reminder of grace, of belonging, of hope and of joy. Born out of deep tragedy and loss, adoption reaches in and says you are not alone; you are wanted and loved, FOREVER. To document such a day is precious. When it is on behalf of your own family, it is priceless. This is our story, the story of Jonathan.

Adoption first touched our family a few years ago when my dad lost his job in the crazy dive the economy took. Choosing to glorify God rather than chase comfort he took early retirement and my parents adopted 4 siblings in need of hope. It has been a path full of twists and turns with much heartbreak and struggle. It has also been a road full of joy and laughter, silliness and singing. It soon became clear that Dominic, the only boy out of the 4, could use a brother. So when Jonathan’s story touched their hearts, my parents once again opened their home to a child.

On paper this child should be a hopeless case. He was said to have mental and physical delays, to have very few verbal skills and to need intense care. He was living in a group home and written off as a child who would never thrive in a family. Ten months later it is so hard to believe the he is the same child described above. He has not only fit into a family but is thriving and growing, making up for lost time. He is indeed verbal and getting him to be quiet is now the problem. He must ask 100 questions a day. He is physically strong and his upper body strength is beyond any 4 year old I have met. Maybe he will be a gymnast one day, except I guess he will soon outgrow the height requirement for gymnastics, so maybe it is basketball instead. He loves music and calls the church musicians by their instrument, “drummer boy” and “guitar guy”. He even sets up his own play drum set and rocks out to hymns at home. It is not always easy, there are still growing pains. Learning to listen is not always easy and there are years of neglect to make up for however he is now on the right path. Adoption has truly rescued this child spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

The only thing left to do was to make it legal and official. So on a beautiful February day we piled into the courtroom to celebrate adoption day. I am so pleased to say I am now big sister to 7 amazing individuals!

Mom and Dad – your beautiful dedication to living out the gospel is a powerful legacy. I am so blessed to be your daughter. To watch first hand as you enter into the pain and suffering of the world and make a tangible difference. You have indeed changed the world for these 5 kiddos. Their life path is eternally different because you selflessly moved in their lives first through fostering and then through adoption. I know it has not always been easy and there are more challenges ahead yet I know by the grace of God you will continue to rescue these precious ones. -xo, Erin

While Jonathan was still a part of the foster system, the Loma Linda Fire Department graciously used their influence to come alongside him and advocate for his adoption. We were all so touched to see them join us to celebrate the day.

When it came time to go into the courthouse you could tell a momentary panic set in. This place does not hold very many pleasant memories for foster children and Jonathan is no exception. He needed comforting from both parents and reassurance that this was a good thing.

After a bit of waiting in the hall papers were signed and we were ushered into the courtroom. I always love watching the judges and courthouse staff as they clearly enjoy these proceedings. I can only imagine all the pain they experience on a daily basis so I am sure adoptions are a light in the darkness for them too.

Not only does he have a new family, he has a new name. While he kept his birth name, Jonathan, he took on my dad’s middle name, Alan. When the judge pronounced him Jonathan Alan Stryffeler, his surprised voice echoed through the room, “who me?” It was such a sweet moment to watch him be told that yes indeed that is who he is now. At four years old this is a hard concept to grasp but one that has deep significance on his young life.

Sometimes it is hard to know if he understands what is going on. This moment made me smile at the wisdom of babes. The firefighters brought the poster they made with Jonathan’s image on it. His social worker and fire department staff were excited to give it to him. When we unrolled it to take a look barely glanced at it, jumped over it and said “I don’t need that anymore” before he ran off to play. I had tears in my eyes.

Adoption day is truly a day for celebration so we headed over to our favorite pancake house in Yucaipa. The staff was so gracious to us and brought out a plate of cookies to celebrate. Other restaurant patrons clapped and congratulated us. It is amazing to see how adoption brings a community together.

If this story has touched your heart please consider fostering and adoption for your own family. You can get more information on adopting from the foster system in your state at Adopt Us Kids. You can also read more on the beautiful power of adoption from one of my favorite adoption advocates, Jason Johnson, on his blog here. I also LOVE documenting adoption stories, see The Avis Family and The Fones Family for my other adoption stories, and contact me today if you or someone you know has an adoption story of their own to tell.