Journey to Fatherhood

In today’s blog post, you are going to read about fatherhood from the perspectives of Ruud Stolvoort and Jeff Edwards.  If their names sound familiar, they are the husbands of bloggers Ellie and Sarah Ellen, respectively.  

Jeff Edwards
I was not confident I was going to get married and have kids to start with. Once we did get married, Sarah Ellen and I both talked about having 4 kids. We just figured we’d have biological kids and do that simple, easy life.
All of our plans changed quickly.  We had a difficult time getting pregnant. It took literally 14 years. We initially tried for 4 years with medication and different things; got tested, genetic testing, and the best they could tell was we were able to have kids. We were a small portion of society who, for whatever reason, had no reason that they could put a finger on, we just weren’t getting pregnant. We felt God had a plan, but we didn’t know what it was. We’re going to rest in his wisdom and timing and that He knows what He’s doing and it’s going to be best for us.
Then we began to look at options: do we go to in vitro fertilization? Is that what we’re supposed to do? Do we go through adoption? We kind of felt a pull, a sway, at least I personally did, to the adoption route. I’ve always wanted to adopt. I didn’t know if it would be first, middle, last or if it would be sprinkled throughout. I kind of thought, maybe His plan was adoption first.  
We started pursuing the adoption route through Bethany Christian Services, getting everything licensed and going through all of their trainings. Lo and behold, Beck came [via private adoption], and then 7 months and 8 days later Anna was born. We got into fostering at that point to foster and hopefully adopt her. Seven kids after we adopted Anna, through fostering, came Ellory. We kept the foster window open for a little bit longer until one of our children felt like they were done having kids come in and out of the house. It just wasn’t working out well, so we decided as a family to stop with fostering.
We also at that point thought we were done with having kids too.  We were good with 3, we were happy where we were, going right along. Then, out of nowhere,  Sarah Ellen was pregnant and God said “here is your last one” and gave us Hammett–or at least the last at the moment—because it would have to be an act of God if we were to get pregnant again.

Ruud Stolvoort
The thing that I struggled with was being aware of what my kids needed at that particular moment in time. Like, when do you talk about serious stuff and when is a behavior not a big deal? What hill is worth dying on? Spanking was a norm for my parents and that was a thing I didn’t want to do. But, when they pushed my buttons I could go from “ok” to “kabam!” and that really scared me, I learned. Seeing all of my weaknesses come out through my children, that was something that rocked my world and feeling the weight of “I messed up my kids.”  But at the same time, there were things in parenting that were incredible lessons I never anticipated. Incredible moments that I never saw coming. When it came to organizing, planning and that part of parenting, that was Dawn’s strength [Dawn’s was Ruud’s first wife and she passed away from breast cancer.] My weaknesses were her strengths and vice versa. I can remember when she got cancer and the doctors said stress is really bad for cancer. We were sitting on the couch and she looked at me and said “so this is what it’s like to be you?” and I said “yep” and she said “I think I like it!”.

Question: How has the gospel been demonstrated throughout your fatherhood journey?

Jeff: Lots of grace, lots of mercy, lots of talk of that. Adoption itself emulates perfectly how God deals with us as far as us not being born of the family but being brought into the family. We explain to the kids that we don’t want them to feel weird because they came to us differently than Hammett. Sometimes when they are angry they may say “you aren’t my real parents”. I don’t have to be your birth father to be your dad. I want you to know that we chose you, which is what God does to us. He wants us in His house.

Ruud: We came from a church background that was very, ultra conservative. There had to be a time and date stamp on your salvation. Dawn and I were not like that, even though everything in the culture around us was. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses is telling the people that they were to talk about God in the morning, while eating meals, going to bed, etc.--well our culture told us to have family devotions consistently or else we were decrepit parents. I knew that wasn’t true and we weren’t failing as parents. I kept telling Dawn “do you think Abraham had devotions with his kids?  No, so what did he do? He talked about God in all kinds of different circumstances.” I didn’t care if my kids went into ministry. I wanted them to love God and have their own faith and I just wanted to talk about God so they knew he was a part of every aspect of our lives. What we tried doing with all of our kids was if they came to us and wanted to trust Jesus we would try and talk them through it. We didn’t want them to “get saved” because we said it or someone else said it. We wanted it to be because God is doing something in your heart and you recognize “I want to belong to Jesus.”
Grace has been poured out over us in parenting. The Lord has been present in so many aspects of our parenting.  God put people in our lives in very strategic moments in parenting. God always had someone there for us to help us with discipline, certain conversations, emotions, and how to treat each other.  The one thing I have continued to pray for is wisdom.