After 1272 days (that's 3 1/2 years, folks!) in the loving foster care of my daughter Emily and son-in-law Zach, Ellie and Koda Whaley became legally and permanently a part of our family yesterday!
I cannot even explain the immense joy in that courtroom yesterday when Zach and Emily officially ADOPTED these two gifts from God! My cheeks hurt from smiling so much...and a few tears of joy were scattered throughout the room too.
This is the first family photo I took of Em and Zach, way back in May 2018, when they had only had the two little ones a short time.
Ellie was only 3 years old and Koda was just 11 months, not even walking yet.
We fell in love with them right away, but always knowing in the back of our minds that they could be returned to their biological parents at any time. But, as love works, it's either 100% or nothing...and from the beginning we were all 100% in, not knowing what the future held.
But God knew! All along He had been preparing Em and Zach and all of us to grow our family in this special way, while at the same time giving two precious little ones of His a second chance for a wonderful life.
And what a steep parental-learning curve Emily and Zach had to navigate! They went from a couple to a family of 4 with literally one phone call, no time to "prepare" or grow into their new roles. It has been a journey of countless frustrating moments but also boundless joy as they worked their way through the ins and outs of not only full-time parenting but also the child care legal system.
But yesterday it was ALL WORTH IT!!!
I can tell you this family is loved...27 family and friends were present in the courtroom, not counting 3 other supporters from the legal side of things, some driving 3 hours to be there.The hearing was in the middle of a weekday and there were many others who were present in spirit and praying for them who were not able to physically be there.
A few scenes from the very short-but-sweet day in court...
Ellie and Koda with their "Before" photos...that day 1272 days ago that CPS removed them from their "home"...
They've been totally spoiled loved on by their older cousins and church friends!
Zach and Emily were sworn in and asked a few questions...
The gallery was filled with supporters!
Koda was fascinated with the microphone, breaking up the nervous tension in the room like only children can...
After the judge made the ruling...
...he invited the children to come up and strike the gavel...
Ellie took advantage of the opportunity and smacked it hard!
Days like this have to be favorites for judges, bringing such happiness to so many people.
This was Emily and Zach's lawyer...she specialized in cases like theirs. What a fulfilling job!
The children spent many, many hours with their case worker, who was all-smiles all day long and even took some photos for us.
Great-Grandpa Kenny was there to celebrate with us! He said Ellie and Koda are #17 & #18 on his great-grandchildren tally, with 2 more on the way.
These children have no idea that they hit the jackpot when it comes to getting new parents! But someday, when they are older, they will understand.
For now, they are just thrilled to finally have a permanent home.
Ellie was excited about the gifts she got from the family court folks.
Grandparents on Zach's side...Myra (Zach's mom) and Rod...
Steve (Zach's dad) and Peggy...
Rearing children takes a village...
...and what a great village they have!
We praise God for His faithfulness to answer prayers,...
...and for giving second chances.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."