Speakers are the bread and butter, the meat and potatoes of this event. We have had people from many walks, many perspectives, and many different parts of their journey participate in Choose Joy as speakers.

Beth Forbus is the founder and president of Sarah’s Laughter – Christian Support for Infertility & Child Loss. A life of full time infertility ministry is a dream Beth cannot believe she gets to live. She’s also written a few books, hosts an amazing infertility support group in Baton Rouge as well as a faith-based infertility podcast heard around the world. Her favorite day of the whole year is the day Sarah’s Laughter hosts Baby Steps Fun Run and she is able to present free IVFs and Family Building Grants to couples struggling with baby hunger. She is probably at this moment helping someone launch an infertility support group in their own community. She loves spending time with her three fur babies, as well as her human daughter and husband. She enjoys bubble baths and fervently believes that there will be Coca-Cola in Heaven.

McCall Aldridge

In 2008, the Lord used, of all things, a YouTube video to open McCall’s eyes to the needs of those without families in the United States and beyond. Since then, she’s traveled to Africa six times, fundraised close to $50,000 to bring her daughter home for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and traded in her job as a high school English teacher for one that allows her to help people fundraise full-time for things like adoptions, mission trips, and non-profits. She’s very passionate about the idea that money should never be a reason to say no to your calling

Although McCall hasn’t directly struggled with infertility, the desperate longing for a child and loss of a child are both pains she knows well, having lost her daughter, Emily, after almost two years due to a failed adoption.

She lives just outside of Memphis with her football coaching husband and three daughters (two biological and one who grew in her heart) and currently serves as the storyteller for Fund the Nations, one of the country’s largest fundraising companies. She loves road trips, 80’s movies, and birthdays, and believes that stories are meant to be shared—preferably with good friends over good food.

Megan Burns

Megan is an adoptee AND an adoptive mom which is an interesting perspective to be able to share from. She is passionate about giving back, speaking life, and having adventures with her family. One of her biggest passions is to empowering and encourage women to make a difference.

She was adopted domestically as an infant and raised as an only child. Growing up adoption was always just a part of who she was and a significant part of her story that she shared freely. She had the opportunity to meet her birth mother as a teenager and that played a big part in her life in terms of getting the privilege to see where she came from and why certain parts of her were the way they were. Even something as simple as getting to see that she looked like someone, something that most people take for granted, was massively impactful to her life.

As an adult, she and her husband went on to adopt one of her daughters internationally and she will tell you how it has been one of the hardest things as well as one of the holiest things she has ever done.

She currently lives with her husband and 5 kids outside of Minneapolis and she cant wait to connect more and share her story with you!

Lauren Casper

Lauren Casper is the author of It’s Okay About It, and founder of laurencasper.com. She is a top contributor to the TODAY Parenting Team and has had numerous articles syndicated by The Huffington Post, the TODAY show, Yahoo! News, and several other publications. In 2017 she co-founded takeheartwomen.com with her best friend, Rachel. Lauren is known to be a compassionate speaker with a vulnerable and transparent style of storytelling.

She and her husband suffered two heartbreaking miscarriages during their eleven-year struggle with infertility. Never losing hope, she became a mother through the gift of adoption and now has two beautiful children – Mareto, age 7, and Arsema, age 5. In 2016 the final chapter of her fertility story was written when it became medically necessary for Lauren to have a total hysterectomy. While the decision was painful and difficult, ultimately it was made with peace and trust in God’s plan for her life and family. Lauren is a firm believer that peace and pain can coexist in a beautifully broken way in this life, and remains thankful for God’s grace and love. This will be Lauren’s second year attending and speaking at Choose Joy.

Jason Clayton

Hello! I’m Jason Clayton (@mradoptshoppe), husband to the talented Kate (@theadoptshoppe). I’m an Adoptive Parent Coordinator for Faithful Adoption Consultants (FAC). Kate and I endured the tragedy of two infant losses that changed me . . . eventually for good. We have 2 baby boys in heaven, 2 biological children (15 yr. old girl, 12 yr. old boy), and 2 adopted children from Taiwan (7 yr. old girl, 5 yr. old boy). I’m an advocate for the fulfillment of the James 1:27 call by ministering to orphans around the globe. I’ve ministered directly to orphans in Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Taiwan, and indirectly to orphans in Pakistan, Ghana, and Cameroon. I believe adoption is the perfect portrayal of the love God lavishes upon us. Adoption is the Gospel in action! I’m passionate about educating about the orphan crisis and advocating for assisting others in allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them in orphan care in whatever capacity He deems appropriate for them. With my experiences, my heart aches for and is drawn to families who have endured infant loss and/or infertility. I can’t wait to see you at Choose Joy 2018 and I continue to pray that it will be earth moving for you and your family.

Nikki Clowers

Kelsey and Nikki are veteran Choose Joy’ers having attended and spoken in past years. They have been married for 17+ years, and have built a family by both biology and adoption.

After two homegrown babies Nikki experienced a medically complicated miscarriage in 2013 and was told more pregnancies may or may not be in their future. Together they began to explore adoption not knowing what was truly in store for them, their hearts, and their family.

Choose Joy is uniquely close to their hearts as it was only 5 days after Choose Joy 2013, at the lowest point in their journey, that Nikki learned about a woman seeking out a family to place her one year old daughter with. After 17 months of wondering if maybe this wasn’t meant to be, doubting the financial means even if it were, and yet still committing to ‘choose joy’ in all things they learned that this little girl’s mother’s name was in fact JOY. They chose Joy and in return Joy had chosen them.

Fast forward to today, Nikki and Kelsey have had two more (medically supported and complex yet successful) pregnancies bringing their crew to a chaotically blessed number of FIVE. They advocate strongly and out loud for open relationships in adoption, making it a point to celebrate the redemption but not before first acknowledging the brokenness that allowed it to be.

Ethical adoptions, specifically working towards eliminating entitlement and coercion tactics, is something they feel very strongly about. Active in their local church ministries, speaking at Choose Joy, and traveling the country to advocate for expectant moms are just a few ways they hope to make a difference. Adoption is not just something they did or a topic they love to speak about, it’s what made them who they are today.

Carly Durham

Our world got wonderfully turned upside down with the adoptions of the two cutest kids, who also happen to have Down syndrome. Carter (age 4) was adopted from the Ukraine and Niyah (ALSO age 4) was adopted from foster care.

I am crazy passionate about orphan/foster care, orphan prevention and encouraging women struggling with infertility. I also work part-time as a Family Nurse Practitioner and am adjunct faculty at a university. I love to share stories about how our family navigates the waters of infertility, adoption, miscarriage and my frequently encountered awkward moments of life.

After 7 years of infertility, we recently walked through a roller-coaster pregnancy and are now a family of 5, with our newest addition, Audie Joy, born at Christmas.

Time and time again, God has shown us how He redeems the mess, turns it upside down in an incredible way and offers better than we can ask or imagine.

I am so excited to gather with a tribe of people at Choose Joy 2018, who can share in our journey. We are all walking a unique path and it so encouraging to gather together to inspire and encourage one another. I would love to get to hear your story too.

Blog : www.jovialstateofmind.com
IG: @nurseicarly

Lauren + Eric Jensen

Eric and Lauren first came to Choose Joy three years ago after asking Emmy if it would be even make sense for them to attend. At that time, they weren’t infertile; they had suffered the stillbirth of their first child Isaac at 29.5 weeks gestation followed by two first-trimester miscarriages. They weren’t pursuing adoption; they hadn’t even thought about adoption as the next step yet. They were hurting, scared, and vulnerable.

During that season, they felt as though they literally had to choose to get up and face each day that was often full of deep disappointment and dark grief. By God’s grace and with the imperfect support of their community, family, and friends, they continued to keep going despite feeling like life was falling apart and that God had broken His promise to them to be parents.

Over time, God softened Eric and Lauren’s hearts towards adoption and they decided to grow their family through adoption. They are now parents to a spunky 13-month old named Samuel who is a joy, (a handful), and a delight.

Both Eric and Lauren have actively struggled with living life after loss. In their own unique and similar ways, they’ve worked to embrace both the sorrows and the joys around and within them. Healing is an ongoing process as they choose to firmly believe that God is good and loves them even when life isn’t easy or things don’t “work out”.

For Choose Joy 2018, Eric and Lauren are excited to share their story and some practical things that helped get them through their dark season of grief and questioning God’s character. This will include sharing honestly about what has continued to help them navigate marriage, family, and everyday life while integrating their losses and joys into their family and into their lives.

Jen Jerkins

Hey y’all! I’m so excited to be back at Choose Joy this year and to have it located in my home state. I’m especially glad to stay in my own time zone because, let’s face it, this 40 year old body just doesn’t adjust quite like it used to. I’m a southern gal saved by grace who loves Jesus, people, coffee, and stretchy clothes. I dream of traveling the world but for now I am an avid “glamper.”

I reside just a couple of hours away in Augusta, Georgia with my husband Asia (yes, just like the continent), our highly spirited six year old son, Ethan, and our adopted boxer- bull, Molly. My husband and I had an extensive battle with dual infertility and God led us to domestic infant adoption after numerous failed pregnancy tests over the course of about five years.

Most recently God placed the most uncomfortable calling in my life as a woman who struggled with infertility – to counsel women of mainly abusive and neglectful backgrounds when faced with unplanned pregnancies. They are in a position a full 180 from where I was. But in doing this, I’ve recently realized that I can have a life beyond the label of infertility and that God often uses our biggest pains to do something far
greater for His kingdom.

This year I am so excited to share the room with my dear friend Jenni Starling, whom I met in real life at Choose Joy in 2015. She is a fierce soul who loves others and loves Jesus just as I do. You get two southern accents and two Jen’s. It should be epic! I love leading and encouraging others and I strive for everyone to know that they are not alone no matter what battle they are facing. And I especially love connecting with others who are now walking down the same path that my husband and I have. Choose Joy is the place where so many of my Insta friends became real life friends, and where I found my tribe – my “me too’s.”

I can’t wait to see so many friends and familiar faces, as well as meet new ones!! Come find me because southerners love to hug!

Elisha Kearns

Elisha Kearns is the author behind the nationally known faith-based blog, Waiting for Baby Bird. She and her husband have been married for 11 amazing years and yearn to have a household full of children; however due to PCOS, they have been challenged in the fertility department. Despite the facts, together they continue to put their faith in the Lord for a miracle.

Elisha’s mission in life is to share her story and the lessons she has learned in order to inspire and breathe hope into the lives of other women facing similar circumstances. Whether it is through her writing, standing behind the podium at infertility conferences, or leading her own support group in her small town of Southern Illinois, she inspires other women to never give up on their dreams and to believe for the impossible. She is witty, down to earth and transparent, always making every woman feel as though she is speaking directly to their heart. Aside from sharing her passion and love for Jesus, she is also a stay-at- home mom to their 7-year-old daughter who was recently adopted through foster care.

For more of her story or to find hope and encouragement, visit her blog at waitingforbabybird.com, or connect with her and thousands of others @waitingforbabybird on Facebook or Instagram.

Courtney Lott

Courtney is both the Co-Executive Director of FAC and also the lead consultant. As the Co-Executive Director Courtney assumes many roles within FAC. As an adoption consultant she walks alongside adoptive families throughout their adoption journey, assisting with each step along the way. In addition to consulting, she maintains close working relationships with multiple licensed agencies and attorneys, while continuing to build new relationships for the future.

Courtney has been married for almost 15 years. The Lord has blessed her with 8 beautiful children through the miracle of both birth and adoption. Her passion for adoption originated from her strong pro-life convictions as well as their desire to honor the biblical mandate to care for the least of these. Having adopted both special needs and transracially, Courtney’s passion is clear and gives her a unique perspective to offer her clients.

Annie + Walt Manis

Walt and Annie grew up across the pasture from one another in small-town Arkansas. In college, they fell in love and have now been married for 15 years. They have two daughters through adoption, Chloe and Naomi. Since 2002, Walt and Annie have served in Media Missions with various ministry organizations including YWAM, Caleb Project, and most recently with GEM based in Germany. Two years ago, the family moved back to America to begin working with a group called Moving Works, based out of Austin, Texas.

Walt and Annie never pictured adoption as part of their story, but God had bigger and better plans than what they could have imagined. The Lord wrote an incredible story through their process of adopting Chloe, and a short film documenting Chloe’s adoption story was recently created by Moving Works. It is their deep desire that God uses the stories He is writing in their lives to bring glory to Himself and to encourage others.

 

Ashley Mitchell

Ashley Mitchell, owner of Lifetime Healing, set out to seek increased care, understanding, and resources for birth mothers.

For almost a decade, Ashley has been one of the most consistent and sought after birth mother voices in the nation. Well known for her vulnerability and transparency in adoption, her story has touched the hearts of countless members of the adoption community.

Ashley and her husband, John, who is no stranger to adoption will be sharing their powerful journey as well as answering questions about navigating open adoption, adoption options and the realities that come with this complex relationship

Ashley O'Brien

Ashley was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder when she was a teen that makes it impossible for her to have biological children. As a result, she and her husband always knew that adoption would be the way they would build their family.

Little did they know just how much of their lives and story would be shaped by their amazing family! In a few short years, Ashley has become a mom to four amazing kiddos, ranging in age from two to nineteen, and a grandma to one beautiful little girl. Her family was built via private domestic adoption and adoption through foster care. The journey to her family has included some surprising highs and some incredible lows, including saying goodbye to several babies that she loved as her own.

Ashley is a stay at home mom to three of her four kids and she spends the bulk of her time navigating the unique challenges that come with three kids under eight, two “Irish Twin” toddlers, and a grandkid who visits regularly. Her family is multi-racial, includes a mix of special needs, and is generally loud, joyous, and ALWAYS BUSY. Ashley speaks about dealing with the long-term loss of confirmed infertility, about navigating foster care and adoption, about parenting older children in foster care, and about maintaining a sense of humor when your life is nuts. She can’t wait to share her story and some laughs.

Rachel Patten

Rachel struggled for years with endometriosis and unexplained infertility, after trying all avenues to conceive unsuccessfully it became clear it would be through adoption that she and her husband Skyler would grow their family. They now have two beautiful children (a five year old son and a three year old daughter) that they know were always meant to be a part of their family.

Rachel is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she has worked in adoption to help bring other families the same joy she experienced for the last fifteen years and has helped place hundreds of children in waiting families. She is passionate about building families and hopes that sharing the pain and heartache they experienced to get to where they are now will help others.

Recently she has ventured out to write children’s adoption books, she hopes that her books will help other adoptive families explain the love and sacrifice of their children’s adoption stories from both adoptive and birth family perspectives as well as address transracial adoption.

Joanna + David Penny

Hey guys! We are David and Joanna Penny – high school sweethearts, lip sync legends, drinkers of decaf, saved by Jesus, (as long as we both shall live!!) One of us is a high school teacher/varsity boys soccer coach and the other is a self-taught photographer with a huge crush on Hugh Jackman. Wait. Nevermind the Hugh Jackman thing applies to both of us so that’s tricky. Guess you’ll just have to come and meet us to find out who’s who! {Please come meet us!! We’re really nice and only awkward 85% of the time so there’s a 15% chance you won’t be disappointed.}

Our journey to parenthood began in 2008 with our first pregnancy quickly ending in miscarriage. It was a trial we didn’t expect and the loss was felt heavily. Not long after, we discovered we were pregnant again, but at 20 weeks we were given devastating news that our unborn son was incompatible with life. The heartbreaking news paired with the sincere advice by doctors to terminate the pregnancy filled us with pain and devastating fear like we’d never felt. We cried out to God in our helplessness and for a time, the world stopped. Then the morning came. A follow up appointment brought about a drastic change in his diagnosis and what had previously been a horrible death-sentence was now covered by a blanket of hope. Our son, Jet, was born in 2009 with a neuro tube defect known as spina bifida. He is our miracle, our first love, and thriving in ways that never cease to amaze us and others. Almost 6 years later, after battling the harsh reality of secondary infertility, we welcomed our precious Jovi Kate into the world and into our family via domestic adoption. She is our joy and redeeming light. (She’s also sassy as a cat who only eats fancy feast out of a crystal goblet, but hey. We kinda dig it.)

The road has not been easy for us. We are still learning, far from perfect and and the realities we’ve faced can still sting. There are questions we may never have answers to and hurt that may never fully heal. But the life God has shaped for us and the people we have met along the way make it easy to praise Him even in our brokenness. Parenthood for us has been far from “plan A” and the future still holds many unknowns. But thus far, the joys and pains of miscarriage, special needs parenting, infertility and adoption have come together in a beautiful heartache that is nothing like we planned, and everything we can’t imagine our life without.

Krystal Saucedo

Krystal Saucedo is from Gilbert, AZ and is excited to be visiting Georgia for the first time! She is even more excited to be able to help others walk their infertility journey as a first time speaker at the Choose Joy Event. Krystal’s infertility journey spanned over 5 years including a tubal factor diagnosis, 5 miscarriages and 7 fertility surgeries (plus thousands of doctors appointments and millions of needles, tears and dollars).

In 2016 she gave birth to miracle twin boys through IVF that were her last 2 embryos.

Krystal struggled with and experienced breakthrough in the areas of bitterness, anxiety and self-loathing and is excited to share what God has revealed to her in those areas.

Krystal is passionate about changing the church culture around miscarriages and seeking fertility related treatments. She believes God has placed a call on her life to share her journey with other women and to support them through an extremely difficult season of life.

Valerie Snyder

Valerie Snyder grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota. After deciding to follow Jesus in Kindergarten, Valerie received her B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from Bethel University, and her Masters of Divinity from Bethel Seminary (with an emphasis in Pastoral Care).

One of Valerie’s passions in ministry is working with senior citizens, helping them navigate the losses and transitions they face, using scripture as a guide (particularly the Psalms). Not a stranger to loss/transition, Valerie has found the Poetic books of the Bible helpful in navigating through her own transitions in life (depression/anxiety/infertility/lose of hope and dreams, etc…

Valerie is married to Mike (whom she met at seminary), and is the mother of one 13 year old son, adopted from China. She is currently serving as a visiting chaplain for several local nursing homes and care facilities, and has taken up blogging to share her reflections, poems, and observations as she sees the Lord working in her life. Her hope is that others might be encouraged as they read and interact with her on their experiences.

She has recently finished as a contributor to a multi-author book about adoption stories. In her spare time, Valerie enjoys walking around many of Minnesota’s lakes, writing, painting, and baking (1st place chocolate chip cookies at the Mn. State Fair). If you are ever in the Twin Cities — she always shares, and would love to meet you!

Jenni Starling

Hi Y’all my name is Jenni Starling and I am lover of all things grace-filled, beach-filled, Jesus-filled and laughter-filled. I currently live in paradise also known as Gulf Shores, Alabama. My husband and I have suffered from unexplained infertility for nearly 11 years. Through those years we have done it all: IUI, IVF, miscarriages. The pain of infertility is something that is hard to explain unless you have been there and done that. I assure you, we have.

We have a beautiful five year old son that was brought into our family through open adoption. Our journey to parenthood has been one of great pain but also great redemption. I have learned to co-exist with both and find the beauty in doing that.

I first found out about Choose Joy through social media in 2015 when I first attended the event. This is when my InstaFriends became my real life friends and my village was created. Choose Joy allowed me to be with people who not only got my pain but also taught me how to find my JOY again. Real joy not the fake joy I had created for myself. I reclaimed my truth at Choose Joy and I am thrilled and humbled to be able to give back to it this year.

My friendship with my co-speaker Jenny is one that I deeply cherish. It is rare that you find someone who not only gets you and your pain but also your burning desire to know and love Jesus. Jenny gets both of those things about me. I assure you that there is no one that I am more honored to stand beside than her. She is steadfast in her love for the Lord and also her commitment to living a life full of healing and joy.

Giving back to Choose Joy inspired my to go back to school in 2017 to obtain my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. My goal as a therapist is to help women and families through the isolation and pain I know all too well. I want to help them navigate the waters of infertility and live a life filled with love, grace and of course JOY.

I can’t wait to meet all of you! See you at Choose Joy! xoxo-Jenni

Jordan + Chris Tate

Chris and Jordan Tate reside in South Carolina with their adopted son, Shepherd. The Tates are infant loss parents who lost their first two children due to a genetic abnormality that results in infant death shortly after birth. Because of this, they are unable to pursue biological parenthood.

Jordan Tate is a writer for the adoption blog, Kindred + Co, as well as author of her book, “Just Keep Breathing: Unfiltered thoughts on life after loss, the struggle of grief, and learning to hope again”. The Tates found out about Choose Joy shortly after the passing of their second daughter and this will now be their third year attending. They are incredibly grateful for this event and the way it touches lives!

Kristin + David Temple

David and Kristin Temple hail from rolling hills of the Ozarks, Fayetteville, Arkansas. They are thrilled to be teaming up this year to share together at Choose Joy! They have been married for eleven years.

A couple weeks into their marriage they decided to go off birth control and asked Jesus to be glorified in their family planning. They waited, waited, and waited…months turned into years, years have now turned into over a decade. They spent a number of years merely surviving the uncharted waters of infertility but came to a point in their journey where they knew they needed to learn how to thrive, not just survive. Instead of leaning away from the pain, they decided to lean into the pain with one another, God, and others.

Through leaning into the pain and learning how to connect in the hard places they have experienced deeper connection in their marriage and with God. While the story God is writing is not the story they ever dreamed they are learning to walk through the deep waters with hope and one another. They are excited to share about marriage and infertility and about David’s favorite topic, sex. Join them for some laughs and practical tools for connecting through the pain of infertility.

Beth Anne Vivian

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I specialize in infertility and loss. My husband Ryan and I began our infertility journey in 2014 after an unwelcome, although not surprising, diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Month after month of cancelled cycles due to poor medication response, we decided to attempt a more aggressive treatment approach but this only led to a more aggressive heartbreak. We finally found success through in-vitro fertilization and have a one year old son.

When I’m not discussing infertility and loss at work you can find me talking about it while leading local support group meetings at Sarah’s Laughter. Who am I kidding? I talk about it all the time! At brunch, Bible Study, Walgreens, family reunions and even at the grocery store. Infertility doesn’t define me but it plays a huge role in the person I’ve become-the person God needed me to be.

I am thrilled to be a part of Choose Joy 2018! I’ll be co-leading a discussion group on Grieving Infertility with Krystal Saucedo during two breakaway sessions. I can’t wait to share the message God has placed on my heart.

Rachel VonStein

Rachel Von Stein was adopted at six weeks old. She belongs to a transracial family and is delighted to be sharing her personal experience at Choose Joy this year.

A southern belle since 2011, she makes her home in Alabama with her husband, Greg, and three small children.

Rachel works as a nurse part time and is the co-founder of www.takeheartwomen.com with fellow blogger and speaker Lauren Casper.