I actually can’t remember when I first met Jen, and that says nothing about her memorableness, just my lack of remembering a lot of things. (I can’t even remember the first time I met my husband! Bad… I know.) Anyways, we met somewhere around 5 years ago. She had moved to San Luis Obispo after marrying her husband Brian. I didn’t know either of them very well for awhile, but one thing I did discover about them as a couple very quickly (which I admit, made me kind of jealous at first) was that they are kid-magnets. Kids of all ages are drawn to them. After getting to know Jen and Brian over the years I think I just may have figured out why… They are both just two kids themselves.
Jen helped me get my first teaching job out of college at a local private Christian School where she taught 3rd and 4th grade. This was probably the real beginning of our friendship. Help someone get a job and they repay you with friendship. I only kid.
The first year of our friendship was probably one of the most emotionally trying years that Jen has yet to face. She and her husband Brian began receiving bad news after bad news from doctors about their likelihood of ever being able to conceive. I remember the morning that she came to school with the heartbreaking news that the doctors had given them the official “it’s not going to happen.” Aside from a miracle of God, they would never conceive a child. Only someone who has been through being given news like this themselves would ever be able to understand the pain and grief that comes along with this. Absolutely no one around them could understand how God was allowing two people, who were like second parents to so many children, not be able to have children of their own.
I am really bad at bad news. I try to avoid it as much as possible. I like to look at the bright side and try to forget that bad news even exists. (I think the word that describes this kind of disorder is denial.) I had no clue how to be a good and supportive friend to Jen in this time. I probably said some really stupid things that she really didn’t want to hear in my attempt to be upbeat. (Sorry if I ever hurt your feelings Jen!)
Jen turned up to school one day, right after we met and before hearing the news of their infertility, wearing a necklace with a pearl and a silver circle with the name “Eliana Faith” beautifully inscribed. God had given her that name, so she had a local jewelry designer make her this necklace, and she wore it faithfully as a proclamation of His promise of the little girl that would one day be her daughter.
On August 23, 2011, Eliana Faith was born. And now you are probably asking one of the many same question Jen gets asked nearly every day. Let me answer them for you. Yes, Jen is her mom. Yes, she is from the United States. Yes, she has the coolest hair you have ever seen. (And no, you may not touch it.) And yes, she is adopted.
Jen has always seemed to be one step ahead of me. First with teaching and now with motherhood. And I am grateful for that. I am always going to her with my mommy questions and since she is five weeks wiser, she seems to always have great advice. She is one of the most fun moms you will ever meet. She makes up silly games like “cut the pickle” that Eliana absolutely loves. She has continued to care for several other children, even while her and Brian have begun a family of their own. She loves people fiercely. I picked up that phrase from her and every time I hear it I think of her. The truth is that it’s the only way to describe the kind of deep love this woman has for her husband, her daughter, her family, her friends, her Jesus.
Jen is brilliant at so many things that she would never flaunt, but I can! She is an amazing photographer and can capture babies and kids like nobody’s business. She is a talented artist and can teach children to beautifully draw just about any animal in the book. She has a keen eye for decor. She can French braid her own hair! Which is a skill that has now come in handy with her constant battle to tame her daughter’s hair. With so many things that Jen is brilliant at, there is one thing that makes her stand out as a brilliant mom.
(one of Jen’s Photos)
Jen and Brian have what is called on open adoption. This means that they regularly communicate with and occasionally visit with Eliana’s birth mother. If you aren’t familiar with the adoption process, this is where the adoptive family and the birth mom agree to stay in each others lives after the birth. I think it is one of the bravest choices that an adoptive family can make. I think it is one of the bravest choices that a birth mom can make as well. The fact that Jen and Brian are open with involving the birth mother in Eliana’s life never ceases to amaze me.
I had the opportunity to spend a day with Jen, Eliana, and her birth mom last spring. The grace and love that Jen has for this woman deeply impacted me. The deep love and respect that they have for each other is beautiful beyond words. It was an honor to get to spend the day with these two women, who in my book are both heroes. Eliana’s birth mom, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I think that you are a brilliant mom. You chose life for Eliana and you made one of the most difficult decisions that a mom may ever have to make. Thank you for the incredible gift that you brought into this world, and thank you for allowing us to get to be a part of this bright, spunky, and sweet little girls life.
So this ended up being about two brilliant moms. Jen and Eliana’s birth mom, I am honored to know both of you. I have so much to learn from you both about grace, honor, and loving fiercely. What I think about you doesn’t matter much in the end, but I hope that you both realize that you are brilliant moms.