Our Open Adoption Agency does not follow the traditional “Adoption Agency” model.
Unlike other Adoption Agencies, we only work with the Birth Mother and or Birth Parents. When creating an adoption plan, we do not work with or represent the interests of the Adoptive Family. This allows us to love and protect our clients as they navigate the adoption process.
abiding interestCreated by two passionate women who wanted to make the Birth Mother the center of the Adoption Process
meet our team
Carrie Murray Nellis - BIO
My Mother tells a story about me at the ripe age of 7. She found me pacing up and down the driveway with my suitcase full of necessities (i.e. dolls, toys, etc) in hand. A family friend happened to be out for a run and stopped me thinking I was planning to run away. He asked: “Carrie, what are you doing?” With the innocence of a 7 year old I simply answered “Mr. Stan don’t you know Jesus is coming? Are you ready?”
And with that I seem to have never stopped asking the same question to all who would listen. As I grew older I realized simply loving people was more effective than words – but when God opened the doors the question remained the same – Are you Ready?
I graduated from Wheaton College with degrees I would never use, but my time at Wheaton furthered my passion for others and a thirst to discover how my talents & passions fit into the body of christ.
My sweet husband, Gil, and I married fresh out of college. Only three months into our marriage when literally I woke him up in the middle of the night to say “God is calling me to go to Law School.” His response was as surprising as my impromptu announcement – He said “me too.” And with that we quit our jobs and went to Mercer University School of Law together. Throughout our time at Mercer I admit I was jealous of Gil. He was focused. He knew his calling was towards Tax law and Estate Planning. For three years I continually asked God “Are you sure I heard you right?” “Why am I here?” His steady voice continued to say “Just wait.”
After Graduation, I worked for a small general practice law firm in Savannah, Georgia. I was blessed with great partners who genuinely loved me, but I was lost – still not knowing why God had called me to practice law.
Within my first year of practice, I had my first Adoption case and a fire inside me started burning. Shortly afterwards The Murray Nellis Law Group was born. I quickly became involved in Juvenile Court cases and saw an opportunity to serve my clients by not only fighting for them inside the courtroom, but by loving them outside the courtroom walls as well. But as many do, I became disillusioned with the Juvenile System that so many times it fails our children and Birthparents. The Lord showed me that through Open Adoption children would have an opportunity for a stable safe upbringing and Birthparents would have the opportunity to reclaim their dignity and know what it means to be truly loved.
And so one thing lead to another – years have gone by and the Lord allowed my law practice to become exclusively centered around Adoption Law.
For years I have had the opportunity to work alongside Vicki, but in 2016, the Lord called us to start Abiding Love Adoption Agency. It is our passion to serve Birthparents and to serve them well by loving them FIRST! I consider it an honor that God chose me to love on such special women and men during one of the most difficult times of their lives.
Vicki Colls - BIO
Most little girls grow up dreaming about the man she will marry and the family she will have. I was one of those little girls. I grew up in a small farm community in Georgia where most people were married and/or had children young. Well, that was not my story….
After passing “the age of marriage,” I believed I was going to be single and would adopt my first child by the age of 30. Then I met my husband, Nestor, of 20 years. He was a widower with 2 children. Which when I dreamed of my husband as a little girl, that detail was not in it. But it was the beginning of an amazing journey for me when I learned to become 2nd and trust God in the details.
After getting married, I thought Nestor and I would add more children to our family, but that did not happen, at least not in the “dream” sense. We tried fertility treatment off and on for 11 years. I have never had the pleasure of saying “I’m pregnant” because God had a different plan: Open Adoption.
We adopted our first son in 2002 and again, not the way I had “dreamed” it. We were chosen to adopt a 25-week-old preemie with page after page of issues, who teaches us how to love purely. Seven years later—again, not my “dream” timeline—we adopted our second son, who teaches us we cannot follow the parenting rule book, just the Holy Spirit! Three years later, we adopted our daughter, again, not my “dream” scenario, yet Jesus knew she was the one to teach us joy during trials! Therefore, I have my perfect family—just as I dreamed—by letting go of the details and saying yes to being 2nd.
Lots of people believe being 2nd is a bad thing. I learned being 2nd is a place to be cherished. I am the 2nd mama; I did not carry my children or bring them into the world. Their birth parents do not get to be a part of their child’s day-to-day living and can feel 2nd. But working together in Open Adoption, each parent giving something unique and what the other cannot give, makes us both #1 in our child’s life and eyes, all because two sets of parents agreed to place our child 1st.
We all, at some point, deal with a broken “dream,” whether it is infertility or an unplanned pregnancy. We then must choose how we will respond. Being 2nd does not come without heartache for birth parents and adoptive parents, but being 2nd together, through Open Adoption, works out to being 1st to a beautiful baby.
Abiding Love strives to help, to the best of our ability, birth parents realize they are GREAT parents, and walk them through one of the toughest, most heart-wrenching decisions of their lives. When creating Abiding Love, Carrie and I set in motion an environment where our team goes-all-out to protect YOUR rights, YOUR desires, and YOUR adoption plan. We will be there to help you for as long as you need us as we grow into ONE BIG FAMILY.
Serving as a Birth Parent Advocate for over 10 years, I am present to help you every step of the way, including bringing your favorite comfort food or sharing mine: a cold Reese’s cup and cold glass of milk. I look forward to hearing from you.
Lori Standard - BIO
I live in Roswell, Ga with my husband Kevin and my two children Parker and Kaitlyn, our dogs Beau and Bailey and rabbit Munson. I am also honored to be Step-Mother to Ethan, Emma and Elijah Standard of Homewood, AL. Kevin and I keep very busy with 2 boys in college, 2 daughters in high school and one son in middle school. We attend North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga and are very involved in our small group, mentoring young adults together at Amana Academy and I am honored to be completing my certification as a Cobb County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer.
Several years ago I felt called to do something extraordinary, something more with my life. In praying and talking with my husband, I realized that two of the most important things to me was to follow God and be an example to my children of how when God speaks you need to listen. I joined Abiding Love Adoption Agency April 1, 2017 in order to follow God’s will and be a small part of how God is changing lives. As the head of Public Relations my role is to work directly with Hospitals, Counseling Centers and in At Risk Communities to educate and raise awareness for Open Adoption, and to further Abiding Love’s commitment to both Birth Parents and Adoptive Families. I am honored to walk beside the founders Carrie Murray Nellis and Vicki Colls as well as the courageous Mothers and Fathers that love and give unconditionally. Amazing Grace, Unending Love!
Tori Perigo - BIO
There’s a line in a song that goes like this, “You make your plans, and you hear God laughing…” This basically sums up my life and relationship with the Lord. It’s been and intricate dance of me trying to take control and God saying, “ Wait, my daughter, and see what I have for you.”
God revealed to me pretty early on that traditional measures of success were not going to provide me with a sense of purpose. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to choose a profession based on how much money I would make, or how quickly I could climb the corporate ladder. So, I went to college, majored in Math, and decided to become a Math teacher. This turned out to be one of the many times that God said “No.” and sent me in a different direction. Social Work as a profession wasn’t even on my radar when I went to college, and God lead me down a path that ended in me not only getting one degree in Social Work, but two. Since graduating with degrees from the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama, I have worked with women and children in different settings in the social work field.
My husband Josh and I got married in 2013 after having known each other for 10 years. Most of which, I spent trying to convince myself that he was just my friend. Again, God told me “No.” and here we are, happily married nearly 5 years later.
I can always remember thinking about adoption. I didn’t grow up knowing many kids who were adopted, and didn’t have anyone in my close family that had been adopted, but there has always been something in me that has believed whole-heartedly that love doesn’t require a biological connection.
After my husband and I were married, we thought we would have biological children first and then adopt. Again, God said “No.” and dropped the most beautiful sibling group of 5 into our lives. We are now the proudest parents of 5 children and so thankful to be connected to a whole new family. We maintain strong relationships with our children’s biological family, and we have been amazed to see how God brings families together in the most beautiful ways.
Throughout my life, God has continually taught me that He knows best. In the same way I can sometimes get frustrated with my children for thinking they know better when they can’t see the whole picture, I know God has spent much of my life feeling the same about me. I have learned that if we trust God with the big picture, He works it together more beautifully than we could have ever imagined.
In every area of social work that I have worked in, I have been very passionate about Birth Parent relationships. I am so happy to join Abiding Love as a Birth Parent Advocate. I feel privileged to get to walk beside Birth Parents as they make brave decisions in difficult times.
Sarah Clements - BIO
My husband, Brandon, and I are happy to call St. Simons Island home. God has blessed our family with three very beautiful and very loud children through the miracle of both birth and adoption.
I first joined the Abiding Love crew by serving on the Board of Directors. I warned my husband that it was going to be something much bigger than a board position and boy was I right. God had some amazing plans. After a year I formally gave up my role on the board and joined Abiding Love as a caseworker for Southeast Georgia. I have experience as a children’s counselor in the community and school settings and have volunteered as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for foster children.My special interests in the adoption field are transracial adoption and trauma informed parenting. I am highly skilled in making a mean grilled cheese.
You know the expression you won’t work a day if you love your job? It is true. I love walking along prospective adoptive parents as they anxiously prepare to grow their family through adoption.
Jill Thomley - BIO
I am thrilled to be a part of the Abiding Love Adoptions Team as a Home Study Caseworker for Middle and
North Georgia. My husband, Jason, and I live in Macon, GA with our five children. We serve in the inner city
through mentoring, coaching and a Hope Center. Our desire is for people to see God as He really is and to
embrace Him fully. I love watching God bring change to the hearts of individuals here in Macon, GA.
I am from Indiana and met my husband, a Georgia native, when I was in school in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I
received a Master Degree in Social Work from the University of Oklahoma and started my career in
prevention and family preservation. When we moved to Georgia, I became a child and adolescent therapist as
well as doing homestudies for international adoption. After a few years at home with my little boys, I went to
work for an adoption agency and served in all aspects of adoption; education, expectant parent casework,
fundraising, adoptive family work and all of the executive aspects.
Two of our children came to us through the gift of adoption. I have personally walked the path through a
homestudy and the waiting. I know the anxieties, the longing, the excitement and the disappointment along
the way. I also know that the most beautiful moments come from watching the Lord work in even the
smallest details to bring a loving birthmother, a beautiful baby and longing couple together to display His
glory. It is a great privilege to empathize and encourage families along the way!
Birth Mother Advocate
Kim Houser - BIO
I am a self proclaimed imperfect person, a daughter of the King who relies on His grace every day. I grew up in a small town in Texas where I met my husband, Eli. We later moved to Huntsville, Alabama and have made it our home for over 20 years. I graduated college with a degree in Psychology and I am also a certified trauma specialist. I am a passionate advocate for all people and I have a big heart for adoption, children with special needs and walking with people on difficult journeys.
God gave me three biological children – in four years! Life was crazy and busy but one of my babies was not healthy. She passed away in 2005. Her name is Emma and she left us when she was three. Her life has been the catalyst for a life dedicated to sharing hope with others. I believe God is good even in pain, He has taught me much through my daughter’s life. He is with us in our pain, because he knows our pain. His grace, mercy and hope are what I cling to.
God continually surprises me and in 2011 He led my husband and I to our youngest child through adoption. We didn’t think we would have any more children after our daughter passed away but God blessed us tremendously through adoption. We adopted our little girl from Nikolaev, Ukraine and I have seen a glimpse of God’s heart because of our adoption journey. But I know also know adoption is born of pain and have always loved and supported my daughter’s biological family, for their decisions and their courage. My youngest daughter is a spunky little thing who continually surprises us and has blessed our life. People always say, “she’s so lucky” but no…WE are! Our three children are now much older and life is still very busy!
My dedication to expectant and birth moms comes directly from the love and respect I have for my daughter’s birth mom. She was incredibly brave and I am forever grateful to her for giving life to her daughter and for giving her child a chance to be adopted in the middle of seemingly impossible circumstances.
I am very honored to walk with expectant and birth moms. I am here to listen to you, share chocolate, tears, laughs, help you, and most of all, encourage you. Once long ago, a friend told me she would carry my “bucket” – this was after my daughter passed away – her bucket wasn’t a real bucket but a pretend bucket – for my tears and thoughts. I accepted her offer and she was the shoulder I leaned on – she carried that bucket for many months.
I want to be the “bucket” for the ladies I’m blessed to walk with along the journey of pregnancy. I’m a transparent person with a love of weird 80’s music, nachos (with jalapeños), and a slight obsession to the Amish way of life, but most importantly – I will do everything I can to encourage and advocate for you along the way. I am so excited to be working with Abiding Love Adoptions! It has been a long time hope of mine to work with an adoption agency and I am beyond humbled to be working with Abiding Love. To Expectant and Birth moms, I truly can’t wait to meet you and get to know you.
Birth Mother Advocate
Thea Barry - BIO
I’m an Augusta native, born and raised. My heart will forever be in the Garden City that dotes on golf, pimento cheese sandwiches, and Magnolia Lane. My husband and I met while attending Augusta University. Once we graduated, we never left. We truly love our city! We have four children, three biologically and one through the gift of adoption.
Adoption has always been deeply rooted in who I am. From the moment I was able to speak it, I knew I would do two things in life: advocate for people and adopt. I cannot find the particular reason other than The Lord engraving it on to my heart, but adoption is something I have never been able to move away from. It is both a joy and honor to serve with the Abiding Love team as a birth mother advocate. I spent my time in college focused on a degree in social work always hoping and praying that I’d be able to somehow work in the adoption field. I spent over three years working with, serving, and loving both expectant moms and birth mothers. It was my dream job and I was continually amazed at the beauty, resilience, and strength of my clients. I only left to be able to stay home full time after the birth of our first child.
After our (surprise) twins were born, my husband and I both believed that our dream to adopt one day may have to be put on hold. We weren’t closing the door, but our hands were (quite literally) very full. I continued to stay home with our three girls but even so, adoption never left my mind. So much so, that one day in 2016 I blurted out to my husband that I felt like The Lord was still calling us to adopt. I expected to be met with hesitancy but instead found my husband admitting that he, too, had felt the Lord telling him that it was time. We began our adoption process in late 2016.
In early March 2018, after a previously failed adoption, we received the call that we had been matched to an expectant mom. Our son was born a few days later and placed in our arms at two days old. Having served so many birth mothers in the past, I thought I was prepared for the moment we would meet “our” birth family but no amount of having done it before can prepare you for the moment you meet the two individuals who will ultimately give you one of the greatest gifts of your life. I will never forget sharing a hospital bed with our son’s first mom, crying with her, loving on her, and promising to love her son forever. That moment ultimately changed my life and the way I view adoption forever. I realized it was never about the baby but that mama who would leave the hospital empty-handed.
I made a vow to myself after adopting our son that I would spend the rest of my time on earth loving the unseen women behind adoption. Sometimes that looks like laughing over lunch, having hard conversations while drinking coffee, or crying together in the hospital. No matter what it looks like, my heart is to love big and serve long. I am often asked why I love what I do. My answer is simple: my son’s birth mother. I serve because of her. When I serve a client, I ask myself, “How would I want my son’s birth mother to be treated?” That answer ultimately shapes my relationships with my expectant moms. I want them to know that the same amount of love, respect, and commitment that I give to my son’s birth mom will be given to them. They deserve it.