Couples eager to become loving parents, students loving a profession so much they want to build their life around it, and brides and grooms ready to profess their love for a lifetime. All scenarios exemplify the love that has surrounded Laney Soodsma, age 23, and a native of Waupun.
Adopted at just five weeks old, Laney says she is extremely grateful for the wonderful life, deep love and values her parents Jim and Shari Kemink gave her. Married last August to Brett Soodsma, Laney knows firsthand the meaning of true love with a spouse of her dreams. By this spring, her passion for education and the field of speech pathology will blossom into a career of helping people when she completes graduate school.
“I have been blessed,” Laney said, adding that growing up on her parents’ farm north of Waupun with three siblings made for a wonderful life. She was the second of two daughters adopted by the Keminks who experienced infertility problems during their first years of marriage. Sister Hannah is 26, married and lives in the Randolph area. Laney’s parents were stunned when a few years later, pregnancy did occur – twice. Mom Shari gave birth to two sons — Connor is 19 and Grant is almost 21. Both are college students in Iowa, “My parents were so surprised and blessed when they were able to have two more children.”
Adoption was a word Laney was familiar with as a very young child. “My parents told me very honestly from the time I could talk that I was adopted. It was never a big secret and just was something I knew all along. They constantly told me how blessed they were to have the privilege to adopt me. I felt very loved.”
Laney also realizes the sacrifice her birth mother went through in giving her up for adoption. “She became pregnant with me at a very young age. For that reason, she felt someone else could give me a better life.”
Although it was a closed adoption, when Laney turned 18 and it was legal to contact her birth mother, she did. “At my request, the adoption agency sent me a letter with her contact information, so I emailed her. We met at my parents’ house. It was very emotional and overwhelming for me, but I’m so appreciative of my birth mother’s sacrifices to give me a good life. It must’ve been a very difficult decision. I am grateful to her for giving me to an amazing family that has loved and guided me my entire life.”
Laney’s childhood years were filled with fun on the farm with their animals, playing with her sister and brothers, and going on summer cottage and boating getaways with family. Teen years found her involved in multiple high school sports. She excelled in track and was recognized for it at the state level. “I had a wonderful childhood,” Laney said, adding that she and her new husband Brett were childhood friends since pre-school years. “Our parents have been close friends for many years – in fact my dad went to school with Brett’s parents.”
Things didn’t turn romantic between Brett and Laney until her last two years of high school when Brett, who is a year older, was a senior. Both were attending Waupun Christian High School. Likewise, both went off to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan where they now reside as newlyweds. Brett is a recent grad with a job as a certified public accountant in Grand Rapids. Laney is set to graduate this May with a Masters’ Degree in Speech Pathology. Her career goals are to work in a medically-related speech pathology setting such as a children’s hospital or with adults experiencing speech and language issues due to strokes or traumatic brain injuries.”
“What I love about the speech pathology field is that I have the opportunity to work with people of multiple ages and in multiple settings to help them improve their lives.”
Laney and Brett’s wedding last August was a shining moment that began outdoors on a hillside behind Edgewood Community Church in Waupun. “We wanted an outdoor, natural setting with an earthy look to the wedding,” Laney said, noting her dad built a small pergola as the altar or backdrop for the ceremony. The bride and groom greeted guests casually afterwards with lemonade and refreshments underneath the church’s larger pergola – a spot the church uses for outdoor church services at times. Shari had planted large urns full of flowers ahead of time to decorate the wedding scene. A welcome sign along with the invitation sported an olive branch design, with invitations created by sister Hannah who is a graphics designer.
Their reception at Whispering Springs Golf and Country Club in Fond du Lac was the setting for their elegant dinner and dance for 200 guests and the seven couples who served as their attendants. “The natural, earthy detail to the wedding was evident there too, as guests took home baby succulent plants in glass votives,” Laney explained, adding that the table centerpieces consisted of vases filled with greenery and beautiful garden roses.
Laney’s mother Shari is passionate about Laney’s accomplishments and her new husband Brett. “Adopting her and her sister were the best decisions we ever made,” Shari said. “We love them both as dearly as our natural born sons.”
“As for Brett, he’s a great guy. He’s a keeper,” Shari smiled.
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