Lauren Casper is the founder of the popular blog laurencasper.com, where she shares her thoughts on life, parenting, and faith. 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 other publications. She also has the joy of serving on the Created for Care team, a nonprofit ministry dedicated to serving foster and adoptive families. Her first book, It’s Okay About It, releases May 2, 2017.
John Casper is the Associate Chaplain to the Corps of Cadets at the Virginia Military Institute. After graduating from VMI with a B.A. in English he received his M.A. in theology and M.Ed in Christian education from Regent University and has been serving in young adult ministry for over ten years. John is a dedicated and compassionate pastor and an engaging preacher.
John and Lauren were married in 2005 and were excited to start building their family right away. After struggling with infertility for years, including two heartbreaking miscarriages, the Caspers faced the news that they would never be able to have biological children. They became foster parents to twin two-year- old boys and their experience with foster care led them to research adoption. In January of 2011 they brought home their son, Mareto, from Ethiopia. In October of 2012 they returned to bring home their daughter, Arsema. Today Mareto is in Kindergarten and Arsema is enjoying her last year of Preschool. The Caspers’ little tribe makes their home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
HI! My name is Anne Walsh and my husband and I have been married for 11 years. From the very beginning, my husband shared that his main goal in life was to be a daddy. Funny how life throws you curve balls, and how those innocent dreams can feel extra harsh in the reality of our own bodies failing us. After trying for a baby, with no success, we found out that neither of us had what it took to make a baby happen on our own. We bypassed most of the fertility treatments and went straight to adoption.
We adopted our hilarious, kind hearted, little firecracker in 2013. She is our answer to so many desperate prayers. We have an open adoption with her birth family, who are a very important part of our life.
Adoption is the template which God is using to shape my life. My husband and I learned through some of the challenges we’ve encountered with our daughter that the hard parts of adoption didn’t stop the day my miracle baby was placed in our arms. Thankfully, neither does the beautiful parts. Through God’s grace alone, I have learned that, though stretched, I don’t break. As I have dug deep, and allowed healing in, God has then taken that and is using me as a vessel to build foundations of attachment, of safety, and of true joy in my daughter.
When I’m not cuddling or chasing around my kiddo, I spend my “downtime” running an Assisted Living and Memory Care Community. My husband enjoys his time being our primary stay at home parent. We love the unique way our family has formed, and I can’t wait to be at Choose Joy again this year to be surrounded by an entire community of my people.
Sarah never wanted to adopt…. In fact, when her husband Caleb told her that he had the desire to adopt someday, back when they were engaged, Sarah flat out told him “no!” But the Lord had other plans and a year into their marriage, He completely changed Sarah’s heart and gave her the desire to pursue adoption as a first choice to starting their family. Two years into the adoption process, Caleb and Sarah decided to consult with an infertility doctor since they hadn’t gotten pregnant and Sarah battles Endometriosis. Five years into their marriage, in May, 2016, they brought home their son Crew and he was worth every moment of the wait!
Psalm 107:2 says “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…” and Sarah is doing just that! She believes that their story is a story of God’s redemption and grace in their lives. The adoption journey was not simple. It included bumps and turns along the way as the Thatchers changed from International to Domestic adoption 2 years into their process, then suffered through the loss of a “failed” adoption when a matched birth-mom changed her mind, and a miscarriage after 5 years of trying to conceive. Sarah has learned that it is in those most difficult and scary moments in her life when she finds the most intimacy with the Lord.
Sarah is also passionate about helping women to live the healthy and whole, abundant lives that were created for them in Christ through fitness. She has been teaching various group fitness formats for about 15 years and is currently loving teaching Pilates. Caleb and Sarah just launched their little side business etsy shop, “In our little red house”, making hand painted wooden signs that they hope bring some joy and truth to the walls of peoples’ homes. Sarah is a very occasional blogger at www.inourlittleredhouse.com but you can always find her on IG @SarahThatcher.
Hailing from the hog-calling city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, I’m so excited to be joining y’all again at Choose Joy! My name is Kristin Temple and I’ve been married to my better and younger half, David, for ten years. A couple weeks into our marriage we decided to go off birth control and asked Jesus to be glorified in our family planning. We waited, waited, and waited…months turned into years, years have now turned into a decade. I spent years faking fine, putting on a happy face and going about my day. I numbed. I worked. I stayed busy. I did anything and everything to avoid my pain.
In 2013, when the pain in my heart was more than I could manage, I ventured into both a doctor’s office and a counselor’s chair. What I thought would be a simple fix turned into a journey of unpacking great heartache. Our journey over the past three years has been bittersweet. I believed that the answer to my healing was a sweet bundle of joy, but instead God has used longings and a desire unfulfilled to restore and heal the broken pieces of my heart. The story God is writing is not the story I ever dreamed I would live, but I am slowly learning to trust that it is the very best story possible. I am looking forward to being back again at Choose Joy and to have the opportunity to share my story of learning to bloom in the wilderness seasons of life.
Chris + Jordan Tate
Chris and Jordan Tate live in South Carolina with their adopted son, Shepherd. They’ve been married for 6 years in May! Chris is a registered nurse in the ICU of their hospital and Jordan runs two Etsy shops and a photography business from home while caring for the cutest little boy on the planet. Chris and Jordan are also parents to two little girls who passed away shortly after birth in two separate full term pregnancies due to a fatal disease whose cause cannot be found. They currently are unsure of their ability to carry healthy biological children into the world.
They are in the process of publishing a book about infant loss, infertility, grief, hope, and adoption, in hopes that it will provide comfort to those walking the same hard road. The Tates rely heavily on Jesus, amazing family and friends, and tons of at-home-dance-parties to get them through the hard days. They first found out about Choose Joy when they entered a giveaway to win a trip to the conference in 2015 through Instagram just a few months after their second daughter passed away. They won. They came. And Choose Joy was a huge gamechanger for them in their grief. You can read more of their story at tatesatsea.com.
Hi! I’m Lacy Shaw, I’m 22 years old and from Orange County, California. This will be my second year as a speaker for choose joy and am so excited to meet all of you! I am a proud birth mom and 3 years post placement. I was first introduced to adoption when at 18, I found myself to be pregnant and was in the worst possible place in my life to raise a child. With the help of my family I made the decision to place my baby for adoption. Since then, my heart continues to grow for adoption as I have seen and experienced the impact it can have on so many lives. Before I had my son, I had nothing going for myself, but his life changed mine and gave me a purpose. I am now succeeding in my dream career with lots of ambition all while getting to watch my son’s life flourish, with two parents who give him all the love and attention I could ever hope for him.
My instagram handle is @lacylynnnn in case you’d like to get to know me a little more!
Ashley Mitchell and her story have been shared all over the country through nationally acclaimed writing series, award-winning service, television + radio interviews and hundreds of blogs + business sites. She is known for her vulnerability and realness through her speaking, writing, mentoring and advocacy work for the Adoption community.
She is the Western Region Leader for the Parent Advocacy Council in the state of Utah helping to bring tools, resources and voice back to the parents.
She is the owner of Big Tough Girl™, serving women world wide in their desire to live life as a Big Tough Girl™. She believes strongly in the power of sharing your story, educating yourself on the issues, and providing the resources so that women can feel empowered and successful in their journey.
Ashley is a mother of 2 and a birth mother of 1. She is learning daily how to navigate open adoption and how to create a life after placement.
She resides in Utah with her husband and small family.
IG HANDLE – @bigtoughgirl
Matt McCormick, a born-and- raised Southern and last male of his family’s lineage, grew up only knowing two types of adoption, the international adoption (popularized by pop culture and known to be expensive) and kinship-type adoptions. However, adoption was far from his mind when he married his wife, Bobbi, and moved to California.
When the time came that both Matt and Bobbi wanted to grow their family, they tried… and tried… and tried. During this lengthy period of time, Matt began to see the toll it was having on his wife, but he didn’t fully understand the intense pain that was going on in her heart. After several years of trying, they got tested with the conclusion that they could have children, but realized that God must have closed the womb for a reason.
Bobbi began praying about adoption, but Matt was struggling with it. There was underlying guilt that, in his mind, adoption meant giving up on passing down the family lineage and new underlying fear of whether he could even love a child as much as he would of loved a child birthed by Bobbi. This time it was Bobbi who didn’t fully understand the struggle going on in Matt’s heart.
Long story short. God walked along side both through their individual fears and hurts and gave them an incredible community of adoptive parents who opened their eyes to county adoption. In 2013, they adopted Rylee-Joy from San Bernardino Co. in California. Recently, the McCormick’s have moved to Phoenix, Arizona, but are in the process of adopting another child through Maricopa Co.
Matt’s greatest hope for people attending Choose Joy is that spouses would be able to gain understanding that both men and women can have unique hurts and fears about infertility / fostering / adoption that seem very foreign to the other, but then gain knowledge and practical application on how to be a helper and supporter when dealing with the unfamiliar.
Stephanie Marcucci Allen
A full-time mother to nine children, I have been called “Fertile Myrtle,” and I just smile affirmatively when people shockingly gasp, “Are those ALL of your children?”
I carry the perspective of a woman who believes in trying and then trying again. After six years of attempting to conceive, two IUIs and three IVFs, beautiful twin boys arrived from heaven. Two years and two IVFs later, a single son joined us. Overjoyed with a wealth of blessings, still, my husband and I believed our family was incomplete.
Our sixth and final IVF also brought us our final pregnancy, but my husband died from sudden cardiac arrest without medical explanation while our baby was four months in utero. At age 35, I was widowed and pregnant. So soon after I had hurdled my greatest challenge in life that was infertility, God shifted it to an even greater one: the loss of my best friend and love of my life.
Three years ago, I married another best friend—also a widower, with five children still at home. All nine of our children laugh often, but they also grieve often, having each lost a biological parent. Our experience takes the ’70’s sitcom “The Brady Bunch” to an iPad-playing, iPhone-wielding, God-loving, God-fearing 21st century level.
In 2016, I volunteered with a friend at Choose Joy, and we found reprieve in a group of faithful people whose hope that parenthood will be a part of their lives fuels them. Never forgetting the unconventional way that each of my children has arrived in my care, I know God alone has prepared me to take on such a parenthood, and he is preparing you too!
I am thrilled to have “survived to thrive” amidst the decades-long and still daily struggles that have made it possible to speak with you at Choose Joy 2017.
Walt + Annie 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 is 6 and Naomi is 3. 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 encouraged others.
Mindy + Nick Kinnier
Nick and Mindy have been married for 10 years and are parents to their 3 year old son and almost one year old daughter. They talked about their passion for adoption on their first date and knew from the start it would be part of their future together. Years later, when they were married and ready to start their family, they tried getting pregnant first. After two years of struggling through the pain and confusion of unexplained infertility, they adopted their son, Silas, in August of 2013, changing their lives forever.
After Silas was born, their infertility went from unexplained to explained, and they were told they could easily get pregnant through IVF. Despite this information, they knew adoption was how they wanted to continue to grow their family and began the process again. Their daughter Junia was born in April of 2016, just two weeks after they were matched with her.
Being parents to these two is better than anything Nick and Mindy could have dreamt up for themselves, and they are so thankful for the miraculous ways God redeems and restores and works all things for good. Through their journey, they have become passionate about raising awareness about adoption, walking alongside people in pain, and advocating for racial reconciliation. They love being a part of Choose Joy because it is a place where they can live out these passions and hear from others walking the brave road of infertility and/or adoption.
Nick is a pastor and elder at ROCKHARBOR church in Southern California and Mindy is a part-time teacher and co-owner of Rooted Ink. She blogs at www.melinda-ann.com and is on Instagram at @melindaann. Nick just rolls his eyes and boycotts all things social media.
Elisha Kearns is the author behind the nationally known faith-based blog, Waiting for Baby Bird. She and her husband have been married for 10 amazing years and yearn for their own children; however due to PCOS and poor egg quality, they are challenged in the fertility department. Despite the facts, together they continue to put their faith in the Lord for a miracle they believe He has promised them. Her mission at Choose Joy is to share her story in order 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, she is witty, down to earth and transparent, always making every woman feel as though she is speaking directly to their heart. It is through her passionate words that she inspires women to never give up on their dreams and to believe for the impossible.
Aside from being a source of encouragement to those in the infertility community, she is also a stay-at-home foster mommy in a small town located in Southern Illinois. She loves organizing (she would label her label maker if no one would laugh), taking long showers, eating bologna sandwiches with BBQ chips smashed in the middle, and listening to her husband talk about engineering for hours upon hours (a little bit of sarcasm on that last one).
For more of her story, visit her blog at waitingforbabybird.com, or connect with her and thousands of others for daily hope and encouragement @waitingforbabybird on Facebook or Instagram.
She cannot wait to meet you!
Christine Ingebretson is a bio, adoptive and foster mama and has been married to Doug for 20 years. She has the privilege of serving as Associate Minister at Fremont Community Church in Northern California and loves nothing better than to see God transform lives through the power of His Spirit! Nothing has shaped Christine more than her unexpected and heart-wrenching journey through the grief of secondary infertility. This journey shook her faith and changed her whole view on the world,leading her and Doug to the “brutiful” adventure of adoption and the ministry and gift of foster care.
Learn more about Christine:
- Facebook: Christine Williams Ingebretson
- Instagram: @christineingebretson
Jenny is a southern gal saved by grace who loves Jesus, people, coffee, and leggings. She believes that humor is the greatest love language and welcomes anyone who can make her laugh. She dreams of traveling the world but for now is an avid “glamper.” She is a book hoarder and an Instagram-a- holic. She loves the Lord, studying His word, and leading and encouraging others. She strives for everyone to know that they are not alone no matter what battle they are facing.
Jenny has been through the trenches of infertility, her dad’s near death by heart attack, and most recently my mom’s battle (and survival) with breast cancer. She has learned that life is never what we expect and isn’t fair, but God always makes beauty out of our ashes.
Jenny resides in Augusta, Georgia with her husband Asia (yes, just like the continent), their highly spirited five year old son, Ethan, and their adopted boxer-bull, Molly. She and her husband had an extensive battle with dual infertility which led them to the miracle of domestic infant adoption. Her southern accent is strong, but her love of Jesus and others is stronger. She shares about her story, struggles with infertility and other life battles, and the many candid moments of mom life over at Our Not So Engineered Life.
She attended Choose Joy in 2015 and planned to serve as a prayer team leader in 2016 but was unable to attend due to her mom’s breast cancer battle. This year she is so excited to lead a session and her hope is to encourage those who are struggling through infertility and how to navigate many emotions that come with that so that they know they are not alone.
Caroline Harries has a heart for those who are waiting on breakthrough from the Lord, specifically those who are waiting to become mothers. She and her husband have followed the Lord’s calling he impressed on their hearts 5 years ago when originally diagnosed with infertility to forego any medical treatment. Her unwavering faith is evident in her life as she continues to believe for her own miracle of children. She delights in encouraging women through her internationally followed blog, In Due Time, and her online and local ministry to those desiring to become mothers, Moms in the Making. This past fall Caroline published her first book, In Due Time, a 60 day devotional for those looking for hope and encouragement in the waiting. Caroline holds a degree in finance and marketing from Baylor University in Texas, where she and her husband live. She works as a financial analyst and has been at the same company for 10 years, but loves to take every opportunity possible to travel all around the world. She stays very active and loves to compete in half-marathons and triathlons. She is excited about Choose Joy because she loves connecting with women from all across the globe and encouraging those who are currently waiting. She hopes to go deeper with the Lord during her time there.
Ashely + Kate Gregg
Hi! We are Kate and Ashley Gregg. We’re sisters-in-law because we married brothers, but are more like sisters because those brothers are best friends. In many ways it was walking the road of infertility together that grew our relationship the most. We have had our own unique twists and turns in our journeys, but our experiences have been similar based on the cause of our infertility. Our husbands have a genetic disease that results in male factor infertility.
I (Ashley) am a wife and homeschooling/stay-at-home mama. Both of my babies were conceived via IVF. One came very simply (Hannah, 7) and the other (Jeremy, 8 months) took years and years of heartache and loss. I definitely hadn’t given up on having a second baby, but I certainly had come to peace with allowing God to design my family. This last year has been miraculous, overwhelming and a pretty major adjustment for our family…but we wouldn’t trade a minute of it! (Ok, well maybe a couple of the sleepless minutes!) God has continually shown me that he is good no matter what! Aside from raising my family, there’s not much more I enjoy than being in nature…especially near the water. I love to spend time creating, eating, and most of all enjoying my extended family.
I (Kate) am a busy schoolteacher, mother, and wife. After eight and a half years of marriage, including six years of infertility, God blessed us with amazing twin boys. Now my husband and I are savoring every moment of this exhausting and wonderful journey into parenthood. Our lives require a lot of teamwork between working full time and embracing two five month olds. But, I could not be happier! When I have a spare moment, I love to spend time with a mug of hot coffee or full glass of red wine enjoying the outdoors and some tunes. My journey to this point has been long, but I’m amazed at how God uses all things for good.
@avgregg and @polkadottedk8
Beth Forbus is a grateful mom to her miracle daughter, Lexie. But there was a time that infertility made her question everything she knew about God, including her place in His story. Through an intense struggle with infertility, God made His love for her more real than ever before, and His Word more alive–all because of the impact of baby hunger. She is sincerely grateful that God allowed her to walk through unwanted un-pregnancy because of the hidden blessings it brought to her life.
Beth will stop at nothing to find the support needed for those walking through infertility–whether it’s convincing clinics to donate an IVF cycle, helping a timid woman find her voice to share her story, or saving a seat for a newcomer at a support group. Much of this support is found through Sarah’s Laughter, the ministry founded by Beth and her husband, Jason. Through support groups, infertility & adoption grants, resources, community events, conferences and more, Sarah’s Laughter has ministered in Louisiana, across the US, and many foreign countries.
Beth admits to being irrationally excited about being at Choose Joy and truly hopes to help others see how the infertility story is so much a part of God’s story.
When Beth is not busy being wife, mom, support group leader, and non-profit founder, you can find her buried beneath the fur of her three Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dogs, Charley, Molly, & Max.
www.sarahs-laughter.com or on instagram @sarahs_laughter
Our world got wonderfully turned upside down with the adoptions of the two cutest kids, who also happen to have Down syndrome. Carter (age 3) was adopted from the Ukraine and Niyah (ALSO age 3) 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.
I am so excited to gather with a tribe of people at Choose Joy 2017 who can share in our journey. We are walking a unique path and it is so encouraging to gather together to inspire each other and talk with people who basically just “get it”. We get to gather and discuss how God has redeemed the mess, turned it upside down in an incredible way, and time and time again shows how He offers better than we can ask or imagine.
Hi. We are the Deans. Brian and I (Jen)are high school sweet hearts, who married straight out of college (11 years ago). We had our whole life ahead of us, “the american dream.” First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes… Well, we met the third part of this ideal with some serious obstacles.
Brian and I are the perfect storm of infertility. Two people completely incapable, medically speaking, to have biological children, who met, married, and were thrust into the muddy waters of infertility. God had placed adoption on our hearts, and it was through the catalyst of infertility that we understood that adoption was God’s Plan A for our life. We now have a beautiful five year old daughter, named Eliana Faith, and are blessed by an open adoption with her birth mom. We started the adoption process again when Eliana turned one. During our wait, we experienced several extremely difficult failed matches. Three years after Eliana was born, Elisha Justice, our “then suddenly” baby, was placed in our arms. We also have the gift of open adoption with his birth family.
Our family has grown through the furnace of patient perseverance. It was in these fires that we learned the intimacy that comes from relying wholly on Jesus and his promises for our life. I look back on our journey and I see God’s glory. In our deepest, darkest places, God was orchestrating the most beautiful symphony out of our lives. Wherever we go, we now have the unique opportunity to tell of his goodness…to share of a God who makes beauty out of ashes.
“He makes everything beautiful in His time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
There’s a lot more of the story on Instagram @we4deans
Hello! I’m Jason Clayton (IG: @mradoptshoppe), husband to the talented Kate (IG: @theadoptshoppe). I’m a full time preacher. 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 (14 yr. old girl, 11 yr. old boy), and 2 adopted children from Taiwan (6 yr. old girl, 4 yr. old boy). I’m an advocate for the fulfillment of the James 1:27 call by ministering to orphans around the globe. I’m a co-founder and secretary of Go Do Love, a 501(c)3 not for profit organization. We’ve ministered directly to orphans in Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks & Caicos islands, Taiwan, and indirectly in Pakistan, Ghana, and Cameroon.
I believe adoption is the perfect portrayal of the love we’ve received from God. 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 2017 and I continue to pray that it will be earth moving for you and your family.