Celebrating Our Family: The Adoption of Arianna

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After 2 years, 3 months, and 1 day, Greg can finally say that Arianna is legally his! On October 5, 2008, I gave birth to my amazing and beautiful daughter, Arianna. Most of you know that I chose to raise Arianna as a single mom, since her biological, ah, donor was no longer involved in my life. When I first found out I was pregnant, I felt so alone and confused, but within hours minutes of knowing I was pregnant, I was fully, deeply in love with the baby inside of me, regardless of the situation I was in. What led me to move to South Carolina was a love of teaching, a love of those who were not as fortunate as myself, and a love of taking what God gives you. These three loves were affirmed prior to my move while attending a Bible Study on “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. (I firmly believe that my journey to SC was to teach in a low-income area, to have Arianna, and to meet [and fall in love with] Greg.) Therefore, with that background, I knew that I had to love and raise the child God had placed in my care, even if it meant doing so alone.

Well, on the morning of October 5, my dear friend Greg had happened to spend the night on our (my roommate Mallory and my) couch like he usually did after a night out. Just a few hours after he had fallen asleep, I walked past him and up the stairs to wake Mallory and tell her my water broke, it was time to go to the hospital. Greg was NOT happy I walked the stairs and demanded (ok, we know Greg, it was gentle and loving) that he was going along to the hospital. Knowing full well the guy didn’t like hospitals, I protested and told him I’d just leave him my key, he could go home when he was ready. He insisted, however, and climbed in the backseat of my Sebring while Mallory grabbed the hospital bag and took off for the hospital. Greg stayed with me and Mallory (and Kim, Dustin, and my parents) throughout the 15 hours of labor and was the 2nd man (after my dad) to see/hold Arianna. From that very moment, he became her father. Although it took a few months for Greg and I to realize our love for each other, he was in love with that little angel from the very first cry he heard down the hallway from the Operating Room.

Things happened for us quickly, and soon Arianna was saying her first words–Daddy–and associating them with Greg, who would soon become her father by our marriage in 2009. It was evident that we needed to get Greg legal rights to Ari since he was going to be primarily a stay-at-home dad and I was driving a long distance to work (one never knows what could happen). After pulling our money together and finding a lawyer we trusted, we began the process in May or June of 2010. The process, all things considered, went smoothly; however, there are a lot of periods of “once this happens, wait x days for this to happen” in an adoption process. Finally, in December, we had our first hearing, and then on Thursday 1/6, we bundled up the kids, my parents, and my aunt and headed back to the courtroom. It was Adoption Day! Arianna was pronounced legally Greg’s! There will never be enough words to say how ecstatic we are for this process to be done and Greg and Arianna to truly be family.

Thankfully, Greg and I both come from an extremely supportive family system. When my mom’s family found out we were making things official, they wanted to throw a get-together for celebration. So, last night, we gathered at my Grandma’s and celebrated Ari & Greg with dinner, cake, and fellowship. The emotional sap in me wanted to have a mini adoption ceremony, something that made the “legal and official” more celebratory. My dad, a minister, happened to have in his sermon series an adoption related sermon for last Sunday, so he and I together said words in the presence of our family prior to the dinner. As I read the words (below), my tears could not be held back. Arianna asked, “Mommy sad?”, and we had to tell her Mommy was so happy and loved her so much. Tears came out of most everyone’s eyes as we talked about Greg and Arianna and what they meant to me. Once I was done, Dad read a part of his sermon, calling out specifically the quote about how it takes no brains or emotion to be a biological father, but it takes a real man to be a dad. This is Greg in every sense. Tonight, I share with you the words I read (prepared with help from forums on Adoption Ceremonies from Adoptions.com and a Fingerprint Ceremony by Sherrie Eldridge), followed by a photo of our family with the Judge. As Arianna said, “Thank You Judge!”, and Thank YOU to all of those who have truly stood by us and supported us throughout this process. We love you very much.

Adoption Celebration Ceremony for Arianna and Greg; January 7, 2010

Just a little over 2 years ago, the world was blessed with the arrival of Arianna Marie. Although Greg was not her biological father, he was her dad from the very beginning at the hospital the night she was born. When she was just weeks old and I was struggling with her issues with formula, a visit from Greg always calmed her down. Greg soon fell in love with not only me, but the little girl that had blessed us with her presence. Although we really have been a family from the beginning, yesterday we were able to make that legal, and Arianna became a Willis. Tonight we are all together to celebrate Arianna and Greg, as well as all of you who have shown us love and support as we grew into the family we are today. I wanted to have a few quick readings just to make the “official” a bit more “celebratory” and once more rejoice in the adoption of Arianna.

For everything there is a time and a season…
In ancient times, whenever the nation of Israel experienced a miracle, they chose a special stone and called it a “stone of remembrance.” It was to be a tangible reminder of God’s faithfulness in that particular time and place. In like manner, Greg, Arianna, and I created create a tangible reminder of God’s faithfulness in making our family, not with a single stone of remembrance, but with many grains of sand during the sand ceremony in our wedding. Today, this keepsake reminds us of the times that led us to this place because there’s a time and a season for everything.

There is a Time to Honor God…
We know that all things work for the good of those who love God, and the fact that he brought Arianna and now Evan into our lives is evidence of that. Therefore, honor God, who will forever be the foundation of our family.

There’s A Time to Celebrate This Child…
We celebrate this incredible child, Arianna, a unique weaving together of nature and nurture into one marvelous human being, with incredible potential and purpose. We celebrate this incredible young lady, upon whom God himself has placed his fingerprints; gentle evidence of how he carefully crafted this beautiful child to be exactly what he wanted her to be. May she always remember the truths spoken by Rick Warren in
The Purpose-Driven Life:
Regardless of the circumstances of your birth or who your parents are, God had a plan in creating you. It doesn’t matter whether your parents were good, bad, or indifferent. God knew that those two individuals possessed exactly the right genetic makeup to create the custom “you” He had in mind. They had the DNA God wanted to make you.

There is a Time to Celebrate Greg…
We celebrate this loving man, who has chosen to share in the raising of Arianna and love and care for her as though she were his own.

There is a time to celebrate Becky and Evan…
We also celebrate Becky for having Arianna, and Evan for the role he will play as her baby brother.

There is a time to celebrate our families…
As the Willis Three, now four, we have learned to love because of those who loved us. We celebrate our parents—Bill, Margene, Craig, and Kathy; our siblings—Aliyyah, Nurin, and Jack; our grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins; and friends who have loved and supported us in this process. You have all shown love, trust, and faith in our family, making our family unit so much stronger. Tonight, we also celebrate you.

And Finally, A Time of New Beginnings…
Just as an oyster is wired by its Creator to wrap its innermost being around unexpected pain to produce a beautiful pearl, everyone involved in this adoption process have wrapped their innermost beings—time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears—around this beloved child. Tonight we celebrate the becoming of one family; whole, healed and pleasing to Him.

At this time, we would like Dad to seal our family together with a few more words and a blessing.

**If you are a single mom or dad or the would-be “step parent”, I urge you to make everything legal. It was worth every cent and minute of waiting. So few people do this today, and I am glad we took the steps to make this happen.**

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