Choose Joy

There is no better time to write a post about the Choose Joy conference than right NOW when I am not feeling very full of joy at all. I'm choosing joy today in the midst of some spiritual attack, but like we talked about, choosing joy doesn't always mean feeling happy.

We had an amazing amazing amazing time. I realized as the trip got closer, a lot of people were unaware of the details of the trip and what/how we won, and then I realized that that's because I did a horrible job of blogging about it, so I'll start there.

When I was pregnant with Elsie, I started following an organization called "Faithful Adoption Consultants (FAC)" on instagram based on recommendations from friends. I am not on facebook often, but they post on there too and if you have a facebook account or an IG account, you NEED to follow them. They are such a beautiful group of people and they match families with babies who need homes super fast...and super prayerfully (which is even more important.)

Their posts made my heart so happy, and I continued to follow them as we walked through losing Elsie and into having our homestudy done with an adoption agency in Greenville.

About three months ago, and while our homestudy was being processed, I saw a post on instagram from FAC that linked a 'giveaway' post with two other instagram accounts: the first being "@ChooseJoyEvent" and the other "@TheAdoptShoppe." (ALL worth following if you are even just mildly interested in adoption..) So this post pops up and it says that you can enter to win "the biggest adoption giveaway ever," which included an expenses paid trip to a conference called Choose Joy, a fundraising packet from the Adopt Shoppe, and a consultation with FAC. I reposted the photo with the proper hashtag for the giveaway and then I literally forgot about it because I have never in my life won anything. Ever.

A week later I log onto instagram to post a picture of Chris jumping at a trampoline park because we were having a SUPER crappy couple of days and we decided we needed some trampoline therapy. We leave, I go to post, and I find out that we won the stinking giveaway. And then I saw that there were over 500 entries.

I flipped my lid. Ask Chris. It's true. And at that point I didn't even know where the adoption/infertility/infant loss conference was because I definitely did not think we were going to win so I obviously didn't research it!

As directed, I emailed Emmy, the beautiful human being who created the Choose Joy conference, and let her know that we were claiming our prize, and everything got set up from there! The conference was in Laguna Hills, California, and we were flown out there to stay and attend the most amazing conference I've ever been to in my life.

The conference focused around infertility and adoption, and we were each able to pick four breakaway sessions to attend throughout our time there. Chris and I went to one together, but then there were a few sessions geared towards men only, so he wanted to make sure he went to those. I'm glad we split up because we are now able to compare notes on a variety of subjects! Good plan, Tates. We were only at the conference for a day and a half, but it seems like it was much longer because of how deeply you connect with everyone there. Everyone there had a story that involved unimaginable pain. As one of the speakers told me, it totally sucks that this conference has to be a thing, but because it is...I'm extra thankful that I was in a room with tons and tons and tons of people who have stumbled into the world of parenthood with one tragic situation after another. It was a room full of people who have not had it easy when it comes to growing their families, yet it was a room full of people who were straight up BRAVE.

The only way I can adequately describe the conference is that every aspect of it was so God-breathed. His hand was all over it. It was tangible and apparent and undeniable. 

There were people in that room who are still waiting for children, like us, and others who have traveled a hard road and finally have grown and adopted and conceived, and all the good things. What struck me about everyone there was that there was intense courage and intense determination--and it was exactly what my heart needed.

Almost everyone in that room could be described as unashamedly wild and fired up about growing families and orphan care, and they are all people that are determined to encourage the world out of their comfort zones when it comes to loving God and loving others. Like..for real..what even is a comfort zone? I don't even know anymore because these people love without boundaries.

Fear became laughable and courage became the norm in my heart and mind, and there was simply healing in the power of numbers. I was absolutely heart broken at times as I listened to the stories of everyone there, but then my heart would immediately fill with gratitude and awe as I realized that THIS...this is how God likes to use our stories of pain. To grieve and mourn use our stories to empower and not as an excuse to live paralyzed with fear.

It's also not a secret that Chris and I have always always always loved blended families and transracial adoption, but there was something very sweet about going to this conference on the west coast where blended/multi-ethnic families are much more normal there. We heard multiple people with children of different races talk about how most of their experiences in the world of transracial adoption has been positive, even if they do get extra attention in public. Everywhere Chris and I went, we saw families of all sizes and colors and there absolutely was a different aroma in the air of acceptance and peace. Transracial adoption is a much more polarizing subject in the south, and it is a subject I was able to talk about with people who have been there..maybe not in the context of a culture that is still very much struggling with racism, but nevertheless it was helpful to get it out and explore the subject matter in a safe environment.

We were just encouraged that nobody was afraid to have their family look different than what many of us perceive to be "normal." We have never believed in the concept of being "colorblind," as we believe that racial background is a beautiful (and sometimes hard) part of each of our stories, but we simply believe that our identity in God is greater than any other factor we could identify with here on earth, and we whole-heartedly believe that we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3:28.) We look forward to having a family that is a representation of many nations...and we will never pretend that this doesn't add an extra layer of parenting to be aware of...we just know that God loves adoption. And that no matter where we come from, we were all orphaned and he has taken us in without discrimination. There was just something so encouraging about being surrounded by people who aren't afraid of looking different.

Most of all--we just felt so supported, loved, cared for, and prayed for by everyone we came in contact with. We are so excited to have made friendships that we are sure will last for a very long time..and we are going to do everything in our power to return to ALL the Choose Joy conferences we can.

It was dreamy. It was amazing. We are certainly still walking this road of healing and grief, but we are literally not ever giving up and sometimes you just need to be reminded that you are never giving up....not an option.

To all of the Choose Joy people--

just THANK YOU for being so freaking incredible.

I never imagined I could be so grateful for social media.