We’re so proud of and thankful for each and every one of our families, we’re giving them the chance to show off a bit. We enjoy shining the spotlight on families by letting them introduce themselves and tell us a little about why and how they got involved with adoption.
This month we’re letting the Stewart Family tell their story.
Introduce your family:
We are Tony, Michelle, Spencer, Emilie and Iliya Stewart from Indiana.
What led you to adoption and international adoption?
God led us to adoption after many experiences and many years of breaking our hearts for the things that break his. When we finally arrived on the same page at the same time in regards to adopting to grow our family, we both knew there was a greater call. Yes, we spent a year and a half in the process to bring our son home from Bulgaria, but we know this is bigger than just our family. We have fallen in love with our son and intend to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves… the fatherless. Proverbs 24:12 “Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don’t know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act.”
What country did you choose to adopt from and why did you choose that country?
Just as God led us to adopt, it is He that led us to adopt from Bulgaria. Through speaking with MLJ program director Lydia Tarr, we really heard her heart for Eastern Europe and in the process we felt that God really touched our hearts for that region as well.
Why did you choose to work with MLJ through your international adoption process?
We chose MLJ through some personal contacts that we previously had and also developed. It was our relationship with Brooke Randolph of the MLJ team that prompted Tony to go on a mission trip with a few others from MLJ (Michele Jackson and Nicole Skellenger). MLJ has become family to us and we will forever treasure the experiences and friendships that we have created through this organization.
How long did the adoption take you?
The timing of our adoption was fairly typical, I would say. As I can imagine with most adoptions the wait always seems like it is too long just because of the anticipation and excitement that the family feels. The “oddity” we saw with our time-frame is that from the day that we knew we were pursuing Iliya specifically, until the day that we picked him up and took him into our personal care was exactly one year to the very day.
How has international adoption impacted your family?
The impact on our family has been a very positive one. Questions from extended family quickly turned into love and acceptance. And the impact on our biological children has been one of love and compassion. We’re a family, and as family dynamics change your family’s identity changes. It has been no different for us.
What was adjustment like for your family?
Our son has been home since October 2012 and the adjustment has gone very smoothly for our family. Of course we’ve had adjustments getting used to being a family of 5 but really it’s just normal life stuff. We are family and it seems so natural. Iliya has easily found his place in our family. He loves his big brother and sister and they all play and fight together just like siblings.
What do you wish you could tell other families that are adopting or considering international adoption?
All throughout the paperwork and “waiting” process, I kept reminding myself that I do not want to “waste the wait”. I knew it would be long and it would be difficult, but it is such an important part of the journey. So we took our MLJ education seriously and even read and studied beyond the agency requirements. We wanted to be as prepared and equipped as possible. We highly recommend any Karyn Purvis resources. Not wasting the wait could also include “dating” your children who are currently at home. Let’s face it, even if it is for good your family dynamics are about to change. So spend time with your kids now. Once your new addition arrives home you will be focusing on and spending time with the new child attaching and bonding.
Is there a special story about your adoption that you would like to share?
There are so many special stories in our adoption we could not do it justice to list them all. Two that come to mind are how God put people in our paths at the MLJ Crossroads of America 2011 conference that were the exact people needed to allow God to speak to Tony and help Tony to break down the walls of fear and apprehension and jump into a life of loving those that God so deeply cares for. Another very special story was the week that we picked Iliya up to bring him home. He had been in our care for only a day or two and we were at a playground near our apartment in Sofia, Bulgaria. He was with Tony and for a moment he lost sight of Michelle. He held tightly to Tony’s hand, looked around and shouted “Momma!!” That may seem minor, but it was so vital toward calming our fears about attachment and seeing us as his security. It was a wonderful moment to start the first week of all our new lives.
Photo used with permission.