As sisters and close friends, Lisa Worthington and Jennifer Reece share many common links: They both met their husbands through church, they both married later in life, and they both have an unshakable faith in God.
Their story to becoming mothers is one they want to share with others to serve as a reminder of what they say is God's faithfulness and perfect timing and why good things do come to those who wait.
Ken & Lisa's Story:
From the day they were married, Ken and Lisa knew they wanted children.
"We wanted to have children from the time we were dating," said Lisa. "Because I'm older, we thought we'd probably wanted to but we needed to hurry up about it"
As any couple planning a family does, Ken and Lisa discussed name possibilities if they were to have a boy or girl.
"I felt like we were going to have a little girl," recalled Ken. "We felt like that was what we were meant to have."
Lisa remembered one conversation about baby names that would forever change their lives.
"We were driving and we were talking about names for future children and Ken said 'I heard about somebody who just took their names and smushed them together,'" recalled Lisa. "And I said 'that's the silliest idea that I've ever heard of, that's really cheesy, I would never do that'. Then I said, 'well, what would our name be?' And it was Kenli and so then I was like 'that's actually pretty, I like that' and so from that time on we really just kind of felt we felt like we had named our child. We would have a Kenli."
The couple struggled for years to conceive without any luck.
"Anybody who struggles with infertility knows that it is overwhelming, it is all encompassing, it's one of the hardest things that you can ever walk through," said Lisa.
As the years passed with no baby, Ken began thinking about adoption possibilities but his wife wasn't convinced.
"I couldn't lose my desire to carry a child and I couldn't see how anything could be the same as that," remembered Lisa. "But God really started working on my heart in ways and through a lot of circumstances. One morning we walked into church and there was a Bethany flyer on the pew and we were like 'what's Bethany?' We started looking at it and Ken called that week and they were having an informational meeting and so adoption had become a very real possibility in our lives."
Bethany Christian Services is a local nonprofit ministry that works with families all over the world.
"In December 2009 we went to that first informational meeting pretty sure that by the next Christmas we would have a baby, which is ridiculous because in all the information they never tell you that that is going to happen we just were over enthusiastic," admitted Lisa.
That next Christmas came and went with no baby. Then in March 2011, they received a phone call from Bethany that an expectant couple wanted to meet with them.
"We met them on Friday and we just kind of clicked with them and enjoyed meeting them," recalled Lisa. "The next Monday night we got a call about 8:00 p.m. at night and the baby was on its way and we ran up to the hospital and at about 1 or 2 o'clock the next morning a little boy was born. They came and got us and we walked into the room where he had been delivered and one of the nurses grabbed my hand as we walked in and said 'are you mom?' and that was like the most amazing, scary moment for me because it was like it was happening. We walked over and met this little guy and we both got to hold him and hug on him. The birth mom was there and she very willingly said 'here, do you want to hold him?' and we were like 'Yes. Yes we do".
Lisa and Ken moved into the hospital to be closer to the son they planned to adopt. But those dreams were soon dashed.
"The next couple of days the birth mom started to change her mind. Which, how can you blame her? Any birth mom is being asked to do something that would be so hard and that we couldn't do ourselves," said Lisa. "Some of our family had come up to see him and she and her mom came in and she changed her mind and so we left the hospital that night with an empty car seat. It was one of the hardest nights of our lives. It was sad."
Though disappointed at the time, they look back at that situation with no ill feelings.
"We do know that the baby is with parents who love him so much and that's where he's supposed to be. The right thing happened".
The Worthingtons would go through three more disrupted adoptions over the next couple of years.
"Some where we were so close we had met birth parents, some that we situations where we didn't meet the birth parent but we were definitely chosen or something else happen that made it not possible for the adoption to take place. It was a bumpy, bumpy, bumpy couple of years," admits Lisa. "You don't want people to think adoption is all about loss because it's not. It's just that we were in some situations that just didn't work out."
Throughout their struggle, the couple looked to a chapter in the New Testament to help see them through.
"Psalm 33: 20 through 22 and eventually the whole chapter became. It was like we were living out the chapter," said Lisa. "When we first began the process this verse just popped out. It was like God said 'you're gonna need this' and He was right".
David & Jennifer's Story:
For David and Jennifer Reece, family was a done deal. Jennifer was happy being a stepmom to David's two sons from a previous marriage.
"When we discussed it, that wasn't in the plans to have any more children. I had two wonderful stepsons and they were a little bit older so we were fine with what we had," said Lisa. "We were actually called to be missionaries in Haiti and in the process of that we knew we were going to be back and forth from Haiti."
In 2012 the couple was surprised to learn they were expecting a baby. Sadly, Lisa suffered a miscarriage.
"God has been the center of our lives. In this process we've known that he has always had a plan." said David. "We've known there are going to be struggles and we've know there's going to be blessings and wonderful joyful moments but there were times when the miscarriage happen and Lisa and Ken didn't get that child and we were asking 'why?' or whats' going on? or we didn't understand."
The couple prayerfully continued their work at home and in Haiti and then in early 2013 Lisa received the unexpected news that would change everything; she was pregnant again.
"When she called to tell me the first time she was pregnant I was in Haiti and then a year later I was in Haiti again and she called to tell me she was pregnant," recalled David. "I was sitting down there wondering what God was doing with all of this."
Jennifer delivered their baby news to David on Valentine's Day and told few others she was pregnant at first except for one very important person, Lisa.
"That was probably one of the hardest things because a couple of months before that she thought, we thought, she was going to have a child and it didn't happen. Then when I found out I was pregnant, I prayed long and hard about when and how to tell her," said Jennifer. "When we had that conversation we were sitting in a restaurant and I said, 'I need to tell you something' and she looked at me in the eye and said 'you're pregnant?' and I said 'yes, I am' and so in her heart she already knew and it was a joyful moment we celebrated and it was wonderful. But still the crying inside of wanting her to have a child, too".
Lisa and Ken say Jennifer's second pregnancy was actually easier for them to accept.
"It wasn't t hard for us that time. I think we were at a place of peace I guess and we were okay and just excited and we watched this pregnancy happen as she was growing in her belly. It was exciting and there was still the wondering 'when is it going to happen for us?'"
With her sister due in October of 2013, Lisa was busy preparing to be an aunt. A phone call on August 16 soon turned her family's world upside down. The phone call was from Bethany Christian Services, they had been chosen by a birth mom.
"We went in really early and Terry the director was there too and we were like 'oh my gosh, this is something,'" recalled Lisa. "We walked into Mark's office (their case worker) and he sat us down and he said 'There's a baby. You've been chosen. You were the only possibility'. He said 'if you could choose any day for this child to be born when would you like for this child to be born?' We were like 'yesterday?'. And he was like 'how about August 1st?' and this was August the 16th and we were like 'is it a boy or is it a girl?' and they said 'it's a girl!'. At that moment we knew that she was Kenli."
An excited Lisa called Jennifer with the news about their daughter.
"I had the feeling this was good news," recalled Jennifer. "I said 'You're getting a baby!' and soon as I said that, Anna jumped in my stomach, the first time she had ever moved and I said 'she's happy, she knows her, she's coming'. I felt like it's Elizabeth in the Bible. Just like that. I was like 'she knows her'. As soon as she said that I was like 'this was God's plan all along' and we just had to be patient."
On October 22, 83 days after Ken and Lisa met Kenli, Jennifer gave birth to Anna.
Today both sisters enjoy spending time together as families and at home alone with their spouses and children. First cousins Kenli and Anna bring constant joy to the friends and family who see them.
"It's done a total turnaround," laughed Lisa. "We can't imagine what we did before. There's baby stuff in every room, our lives are napping and feeding and playing and just exploring everything with absolute wonderful. It's..it's awesome"
The two new moms say their daughters are as close as sisters and they are thrilled.
"I think it's brought us together in a whole new way," said Lisa
"We've always been really close but I think it's just made it stronger," said Jennifer "And sharing it so closely with the age, with both of them being only 83 days apart. Only God could plan that one."
Both Ken and Lisa say they wouldn't have changed one moment of their adoption process.
"All of those babies are where they need to be because Kenli was created I'm so sure from the moment she was created she was supposed to be ours. There's no doubt in my mind."
And as she prepares to celebrate her very first Mother's Day as a mom, Lisa says she's grateful to Kenli's birth mom.
"What a brave and courageous lady she is. To be in a hard and difficult circumstance and choose life for her child and then choose a family for her child and choose for her child to have a life that she didn't think she could give her. We are forever grateful to her. We have feelings for her that we don't have for anyone else."