I grew up on my parents’ 100-acre property and I refused to stay inside, I loved being in nature. I would just go out there by myself and I would have all this time and I would be talking to God and we would have this conversation and, I didn’t know that was strange or unusual, I would just pray to Him and sometimes He would say something to me and speak to me. I was about 10 or 12 years old, in the middle of the day God gives me a very vivid picture of a little kid and I’m holding her, swinging her around in my parents’ yard and she’s just laughing like crazy. In the picture that I had in my mind she had dark skin and dark eyes and God said “This is going to be your daughter and her name is going to be Chloe.“ Walt and I grew up together, I think he moved to town the year I was born so we’ve known each other my whole life. When I was 10 we moved right across the pasture from him so we grew up together. Her family and my family were friends so I got to go over to her house frequently. Of course she’s a little munchkin so I’m not really paying attention. First I was using shampoo and conditioner but not anymore, now I use this, I don’t know the name, but it’s good for your hair. My whole life I was like, “I think Walt Manis is amazing“ and I always thought “when I grow up I want to find someone just like him“, who was in my age group. I went to university about 30 minutes from where he was living and when I went he just kind of came in and helped get me settled and helped introduce me to a church and so we just started spending more and more time together and we were sitting in this car just talking and we had this conversation about what our dreams and our hopes were for the future. I said that I felt like God had just made me to be a mom. That’s what I wanted more than anything; I wanted to be a mother and I said that I had actually a name picked out already that I wanted to name my daughter and he said “I do too“ – which I thought was weird because I didn’t think guys did that. And I was like, “What’s the name?” She said, “Chloe.” And he’s like “you’ve got to be kidding me!“ “You won’t believe this, God gave me when I was 12 that name Chloe“. So he’s telling me this story and I’m thinking this is crazy, like first of all, I don’t have a lot of experience with God speaking to me like that. She was in the same place that I was – we couldn’t believe it, you know. In the picture Chloe had olive skin so he always thought he would marry a woman with olive skin. She can’t have a brown-eyed child; I didn’t know what to do with it. I think we both knew pretty early on that we were going to get married. It just, I don’t know, the best way I can describe it is that Walt felt like home to me, from the very beginning I felt like, this is where I belong with this guy. When we first got married we decided we wanted to wait a little while to have children, we ended up traveling, doing some work with some different missions agencies, and then at a certain point we realized now this is the right time we want to start pursuing having children, and we were so excited, we thought it was going to happen immediately, and so we, like, yeah, let’s start our family, let’s have children and then, months turned into years and pretty soon we were 4 years into trying and still nothing. I had always clung to this promise that God had given me about the daughter so I didn’t know when it was going to happen but it was starting to get hard to wait. It was really hard, I think I struggled with questioning God’s goodness in that time because I just felt like it was so mean, you know, such a mean thing to do. Yeah, sorry. There was probably a 4 1/2 year period that I would say was really really hard on us individually, on us in our marriage and also like the way we were relating with God, especially for me I felt like, is God good even when He’s not doing things that I would define as good? All of her friends were having kids and she had to just wait and put on this cheesy smile, this fake smile, and say “we’re happy for you“. And every time we would hear about someone getting pregnant we would just be devastated because we were thinking this isn’t going to happen for us, we’re just fools, we’re fools who want kids and it’s never going to happen. And then I would say, somewhere, I feel that God shifted something in me so significant. There was a point where I started to realize, actually no, I can live a really full and happy life and experience so much with God and know Him so deeply and be satisfied in the deepest way a human can be satisfied even without having a child. It sounds like a simple concept but for me that was a big change, a big shift in my perspective. We kept praying through that time “God, if You’re saying that You don’t want us to be parents just take this desire away from us“ but more than ever we wanted to be parents; the desire was almost getting stronger. He kept compelling us in His love to love this idea of being parents and love this idea of having this little girl. So that’s what we did, we just kept praying. There were tons of people praying for us and with us, people that we didn’t even know, people would come to us and say “this bible study group I’m a part of is praying for you guys“, is praying for this situation. That was a really special thing to get to feel the body of Christ on a larger scale like standing with you through something. Annie is, like, “well, maybe we are supposed to adopt“ and I was adamantly against it. How are you feeling about adoption? I don’t want to speak about adoption. I had this thought of, like, I don’t want – I called it – a band-aid baby. We are struggling, we are hurting and, I don’t, I didn’t want just a fix, I didn’t want just some kid, I wanted the kid that we were supposed to have, and God, He progressed me from being adamantly against adoption to be “you know, I just want the kid that God wants, maybe it’s not supposed to come through biological means, maybe it’s supposed to be through adoption“. So, what do you think? I think that I’m very excited to adopt but waiting will be hard. We had gone through all the paperwork. Annie had done so much work and I had supported her in that but I still wasn’t convinced that adoption was right. I remember one night we were at Walt’s sister’s house and I was checking my email and there was an email that came in and it said “it’s a girl“. I clicked on it and I realized it was from the adoption agency and they said “we just wanted to let you know that a birth mother has chosen you guys and you’re going to be parents.“ I just sat there looking at the email like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe this. Annie gets this email, she’s super excited and I’m just like, I’m gonna wait and see, because I don’t know, you know? We have some adoption news, finally, there’s something happening. Yeah, we’re really excited. She’ll be born in late February or early March. Coming close. We’re working on a name right now. We’re working on it. The name, Chloe, is completely off the table. We’ve abandoned it. We’d decided oh, that was just a fluke thing, a coincidence that we both liked that name. That was nothing. So we had even talked about a different name and the social worker working with us said “the birth mother would like to meet you before she has the baby”. We’re like, yes, we want to meet her, sounds great, so we took a trip up to Wichita. Today’s a big day – what are we doing? We’re going to meet Alison for the first time. Are you nervous? Yes, a little bit. We went to the house where she was living and we knocked on the door. She opens the door and it looks like a grown-up version of this little girl in my head that was from the past and I was like, oh my goodness, what in the world? So in a second, in my head the name was back on the table. We went up to this room and sat and talked for, I don’t know, 3 hours or so. The social worker says let’s talk about a name. Have you thought of a name? She said, yeah, well ever since I got pregnant even before I knew it was a girl I’ve been calling this baby Chloe. We were just floored. And both Walt and I, I don’t even remember what we did exactly. I just know that I was ugly crying. We were weeping and she was like, oh, you hate the name. And we were like, oh my goodness, no, we love the name, God has spoken, He’s told us this name. It just dawned on me, before I even knew you guys existed or anything, it was like, I want to name this little girl Chloe and I didn’t know if you guys would like it or stick with it or anything like that, I just kind of figured maybe you’d have something else. So that’s why when I threw it out there and said I’ve been calling her Chloe and you guys were “oh“! And I’m like, okay I’m sorry, it’s a bad name. All those doubts about having the band-aid baby were completely out of the window and it felt like I just had full body shivers, the Holy Spirit was just right there. This is so much a God-thing that’s going on right now. You’ve been planned for, for a long time. Before you were even conceived, we knew your name and I think we know what you’re going to look like, I don’t know, but we’ll see. I love you. We look forward to seeing you. When the birth mom said the name Chloe, in an instant, I had become a father. Even before she was born I was her dad. This surreal presence of God was just all around us and I felt Him saying to me, “See how much I love you? Do you see this? Do you see what I’ve done? I’ve been writing this story, you had no idea. I’ve been writing this story for years, since Walt was a kid I’ve been writing this story“ and I realized how foolish I was, I guess. How my perspective was just so skewed in my own pain, that what I saw as Him not loving me was in fact Him being the most loving He could’ve been. Day of! Yeah What are you about to do? Go to the hospital and I can’t find your toothbrush holder. Are you nervous? A little bit. Yeah, I was just crazy nervous that morning I remember going to the hospital, and then all of a sudden it was happening, all of a sudden the Dr came in and was like, “Ok, she’s ready – you’re going to have a baby now”. I don’t know, there was just all this movement and bustling around and then Chloe was there. I was looking at this baby, my baby, I was just looking at her, all of a sudden; she wasn’t there and then she was there. Hey girl, how are you doing, Annie? I’m good, I’m really good! So many years of anticipating her as a child, she’s here, you know? She’s been a part of our lives for so long and she’s finally here. I remember holding her and looking at her face and saying “I’m your mom, I’m your mom“. It sounded so weird to say those words. There was no mistake, I am the father of this child, just like God had always planned it to be and I’m completely owning it, like, on cloud 9 just amazed at what God has done. It was like He was whispering to me in that moment, like “I’ve been here this whole time and you didn’t know but I’ve been here this whole time, I’ve been walking this thing with you and I was just saying trust me, trust me, trust me, trust me I’ve got something good, got something good up ahead.“ It’s a constant struggle to just sit in His sovereignty. When everything is falling apart in your mind, just to wait And there were so many people that got to celebrate with us. I can’t even count the number of people who came and said that they had prayed for us or that they had waited for this baby with us or that our story had somehow spoken to them. I don’t know, it was just such a special time of seeing like this wasn’t just about me and Walt and this baby and our birth mother, it was about all these people that God wanted to touch and encourage and bless through this story. He just doesn’t leave anything to chance and it’s not random. It’s just amazing, it’s a miracle. It only speaks of God. People can say “it’s just a coincidence, you know?“ You can’t convince me that. I think God is incredible. I think it’s incredible the way that He flung the stars into space and that same God, the same God who keeps the world from falling apart, He loves me. He loves me. With or without us ever having a child, that’s what He’s taught me through this. He loves me and I can be so secure in that love. And to be able to trust that and to rest in that. It’s the greatest gift.