9.21.2014

An Unexpected Surprise

June 30, 2014 will go down in history as the day we received a huge unexpected surprise. Four and a half months prior, I experienced a crazy encounter upon seeing the picture of a beautiful child in China. When you are part of the adoption community, seeing the faces of beautiful children in need of a family happens all throughout the day every single day.

But this time, it was different.

This little one was familiar...so very familiar. I said to myself, "This child looks like my family." My heart felt such a pull toward this sweet one that I cannot explain.

I sent an email to my social worker to see if this child had paperwork in place to be adopted, and she asked if we could talk the next day. When we spoke by phone, she explained that although she would look into things, she said not to get my hopes up. The orphanage may not be getting together the adoption paperwork - this is true for millions of orphans in the world. My social worker added that even if paperwork was being prepared that the orphanage might partner with an agency in another part of world. If the orphanage partnered with an adoption agency in Italy, for example, this child's file would go to that agency. I understood that the chance was very small that anything would come of my inquiry, but I needed to know if this sweet one's file was being prepared.

Every month I wrote to check in and always received the same response. The question had been asked to the representative in China, but no response had been given.

March......

.....April.........

...........May............

....all went by without a word. During that time, God continued to grow an amazing love within our family. Tucker adjusted so well with each passing week. Our bonds with one another were all growing deeper, and our foundation grew stronger and stronger. We celebrated the boys' birthdays with family and friends. We went to Florida for our first family vacation since Tucker had been home and had the time of our lives. I remember sitting on the deck outside our room, overlooking the ocean, and thinking about the little one across the world who I wished was on vacation with us, too. I thought about all of the children in China...all of the orphans in the world...who had no family to take them on vacation. No sandcastles. No jumping in pools. No splashing in the ocean. No mom or dad to rub sunscreen into their skin. These are the thoughts that plague a person whose heart longs for the fatherless - every single one - to have a family to call their own.

We came home from Florida and sent an email to our social worker to see if she had heard an update about the little one. I really just needed closure because it had been several months without any word, and I knew the chances were very, very small that this inquiry would lead to anything.

On June 30th, I received the most unexpected surprise. This child's adoption file was being prepared by the orphanage...AND...our agency had a partnership with the orphanage, meaning that once complete, the file would come to Lifeline.

SHOCK and AWE quickly came on the scene.

WHAT?

Was this really happening? I had just quit my job the month prior. We always knew we would adopt again, but we did not have immediate plans to do so.

To say we were in shock is an understatement. Over the next week, we did a lot of praying, reading God's Word, talking to our social worker, talking with one another, and asking others to pray for us. On the one hand, starting an adoption process for the first time is a HUGE step. It is a leap of faith. You are like Peter, getting out of the boat, and walking to Jesus.

At the same time, ignorance is bliss. The first time around, we had never experienced an adoption process, so we are oblivious to the paperwork, the longing, the waiting, the adoption process, the aching, the loving, and the emotional roller coaster. We just took it one step at a time, and with each step, we learned a little bit more.

This time, we were facing an adoption decision KNOWING what would lie ahead. We knew how much we would long for our child. We had experienced the delays can inevitably happen. We thought about the money it would require - hello, didn't I just quit my job? We wondered how our family and friends would feel, knowing they had just walked that road with us. How would the boys feel? Were we ready to climb the adoption mountain again? The possible attachment challenges, the issues with food, the second language acquisition, the medical needs, the developmental delays due to life in an institution? Were we really ready to go through that all over again?

Then came the selfish desires.

Did I want to live on a super tight budget for the next 1-2 years? We had just done that! Did I want to leave our children again for 2 weeks or more? Did I want to start saving for another child to go to college? Did I want to be a mother to four children? Did I want to give up our finally-achieved "normal" and "easy" for another period of transition? Did I want to stay home from work another year? Did I want to invite another child, who might reject me, into our family ?

But you know what? It's not about me. It's not about Ryan. It's not about our selfish desires. It's not about going on our 10th anniversary vacation. It's not about wanting to drive my CR-V instead of a mini-van. It's not about living an "easy" life. It's not about hoarding my money and buying things that will ultimately not bring me real joy anyway.

You know what does matter?

What matters is that there are children living in the US and across the world without a family. We are a family. We can be the family of another child. We can give up our selfish desires to live out a life that God has called us to live. Even with difficult beginnings, God can and does grow the love in our hearts. The bond does form, and the foundation becomes strong. A new normal is achieved. God restores and redeems everything.

So, after many, many prayers, much seeking, and countless conversations over the Fourth of July weekend, WE SAID YES!!! Can I just say how much I love my husband and admire his courage? He is the love of my life, and I am so thankful that he loves God so much and is willing to follow Him and invite children into our family. Love that guy!

On Monday, July 7th at 8:30 p.m., once again we submitted our application to the China Special Needs Program through Lifeline Children's Services.

Please know that there is NO guarantee that we will be able to adopt this particular child that my heart fell for that February night. Yes, the file is being prepared. Yes, the orphanage partners with our agency. Yes, we are rejoicing that these miracles have taken place. We truly stand in awe. God showed us His hand yet again! However, when this child's file arrives, our agency will strive to match this sweet one with the best family for him. And in the end, that family may or may not be us.

And you know what? We are ok with that because we trust that our sovereign God loves this child more than any of us. He knows the heart of our family, the personalities of each of us, the parenting style we have, the silly three boys who live here. And God knows this child, too. He knows what this child needs to thrive. He knows what family is best for this child.

And when you love someone - really love someone - you want their happiness more than you want yours. You want better for them than you want for yourself. You want their outcome to be the best it can be, even if it means you don't get to be part of the story. You make sacrifices for that person, and sometimes that sacrifice means loving someone and then saying goodbye.

Our prayer is that whatever family is chosen will lead this child to Christ and provide this little one with the best outcomes. And while we do hope that our family can give this sweet one that life, only God really knows. So we trust Him and His ability to lead the China team when they make their decision. Our peace comes not from our circumstances but our full trust in the Lord and His great love for us.

It is true - we would not be going back to China right now if this little one's file was not going to our agency. Yet, we are choosing to believe that if this is not our sweet one, that God is using this child to get us back to China because there is someone waiting to be loved, held, and cherished for the rest of his/her life. We may never be part of this child's story, but this precious one will always be part of ours. Only time will tell. Thank you for your prayers as we witness the glorious unfolding of God's plan for our lives.

And this is going to be, a glorious unfolding.
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed.
You've just got to believe the story is so far from over.
So hold on to every promise God has made to us.
And watch this glorious unfolding.
-Steven Curtis Chapman "A Glorious Unfolding"

9.18.2014

New Adoption = New Blog

Sometime over the summer, my blog template went to pot. I think the template designer deleted my background, and random text ended up all over my blog. I had considered changing the design for quite awhile, and that turn of events and a new adoption journey gave me the motivation to find a new template.

What do you think?? I really love it! I still have some pieces I'd like to adjust, but overall, I'm very happy with the new look. Eventually, I would like to add drop boxes to make finding information much easier. It appears to be quite a task for a novice like myself, so if you call yourself a web-design guru and feel like helping out a girl, I'd be very grateful! 

Before jumping into the details of our current adoption, let me take you on a tour of my new design. If your view of my blog doesn't match the pictures below, you might need to use blogger in "compatibility view." I have to do that with Internet Explorer. 







These are found at the end of each blog post. 



I hope you enjoy following our next adventure on this fresh new blog design! Stay tuned for fun posts to come.

9.14.2014

A Secret to Share

Have you ever tried to keep a secret? A secret so good that you stopped talking altogether for fear that you would spill the beans.

Well, I have been keeping a secret. A really good one. And I stopped blogging because I was afraid I would slip and tell this secret too soon.

Can you guess what I'm about to tell you? I'll give you some hints. What do these four pictures have in common?



 

You guessed correctly! We are going back to China, friends!!! There is A PLACE AT OUR TABLE, and we are going to fill it with one of God's beautiful children who is waiting for a family.

A child who was lost will now be found.

A child who was once relinquished will now be held forever.
 
A child who was abandoned will now be loved and cherished for the rest of time.

Our family of five will now be a family of six.

Our hearts are open, the kids are excited, and we are filled with JOY!!! God has set the lonely in our family (Psalm 68:6), and once again, we are following Him back to China.

 Stay tuned for all the exciting details we want to share with you!!!

8.10.2014

Pay It Forward - Family Revealed

In my previous post from last month, I shared that our family honored the commitment we made in June 2013. We paid forward the $5,000 that was donated through the puzzle fundraiser to bring Tucker home to another adoptive family. Over the past several months, we have prayed that God would open the hearts of our friends and that they would take the leap of faith to bring one of his children home.

In our search, we spoke to one family who is very much considering adoption to grow their family but are not ready due to the finances involved. We talked to a couple other families, and they have decided to get involved in orphan care in a different way than through adoption. Another family is seriously considering adoption, but they felt that the timing was not right.

The Haun Family celebrating the 4th of July with their newest American
Then, God laid a particular family on our hearts. This family has been in our lives since March 20, 2013 - the day we got our Log In Date (LID) from China, as it was the same day they got theirs. I watched the Haun family long to bring their precious daughter, Lucy, home from China. I prayed for Lauren and her husband as they were told at the last minute to consider not bringing Lucy home due to her significant needs. I rejoiced whenI learned that she and her husband made the decision to go to China anyway and bring their daughter home no matter what her needs might be. And since that time, over the past year, I have watched sweet Lucy transform from a child without a family to child who is LOVED AND SPOKEN FOR!!

I mean, look at that precious smile!!!
 
In a recent blog post, Lauren wrote: Lucy's story in a nutshell is the just how Jesus sees us:
Lucy was sick, neglected, malnourished, abandoned.... Before we have Jesus into our life, we are the exact same way.
 
Lucy's heart needed to be fixed through open heart surgery... isn't that the same thing Jesus does with our hearts... he fixes it first?
 
Lucy needed tubes in her ears so she could hear... after Jesus fixes our hearts, he opens our ears so we can hear His voice!
 
Lucy needed eye surgery & glasses so she could physically see... our spiritual eyes have to be "fixed" and adjusted so that we can see Him and change any area of our life that needs to be changed.
 
Lucy couldn't walk because she had a bad hip that wouldn't allow her to and needed physical surgery to fix it... Jesus helps us on our journey and fixes our bad hips, so that we can "walk" straight paths with Him!! He wants on on the straight and narrow path... not on the wide road that this world is on!
 
In a nutshell, Lucy's story is just like our story with God! He took us in just as we were and loved us even when we were ugly and full of sin! Isn't that just the greatest story ever? He is our Father and it's the greatest love story ever! I am so thankful for Lucy and her life and to even get to be a part of her life feels like such a HUGE privilege!! 
 
Has it been easy?    NO 
Is it worth it?     100% YES 
God says we are worth it... the cross was worth it for our salvation...
Lucy is SO SO SO worth it and so much more!!
 
Just knowing Lauren and watching their family's journey to Lucy and with Lucy has grown my faith in immeasurable ways. I am a stronger adoptive momma, a deeper believer, and a witness to miracles through my friendship with Lauren.
 
When Lauren shared with us that she had fallen in love with a little girl from China and that she and her husband decided to once again take this leap of faith, my heart fluttered. Could they be the family? Ryan and I talked about it, prayed about it, and decided that we were ECSTATIC to pay it forward to them. I asked Lauren if we could FaceTime her and Chad that evening. We told them about our puzzle fundraiser from the year before and our commitment to pay forward $5,000 that was donated through Ryan's adoption reimbursement benefit at work. Then we shared that we wanted them to have the money to bring Charlie Mae home. It was awesome, you guys!
 
Once again, thank you to the 121 families that supported us through the puzzle fundraiser. It is in your honor and with great thanks that we donated $5,000 to Lauren's family through their Adopt Together website. Click to see the donation, as well as to prayerfully consider helping their family like you did ours. I wouldn't typically put the amount donated on a website like that, but we did in order to have full transparency to our donors. We love the Haun family, and we cannot wait to see Charlie Mae in their arms. God has chosen the most beautiful family for her. What a gift they will be to each other! To see Lauren and Chad's video slideshow announcing their adoption to loved ones, please click THIS LINK.
 
Their story as shown through the slideshow is like many couples. They met...fell in love...got married...had biological children...and loved the Lord. Then, they made a decision that would change their lives forever. They CHOSE to SEE the children who need families. They CHOSE the life of a little girl over worldly gain. They CHOSE to be brave and leap. And even knowing the paperwork, the heartache, the challenges, and the financial stress, they CHOSE to go back to China. All for sweet Charlie Mae.
 
Follow their journey: http://lovedandspokenfor.blogspot.com/
 

7.28.2014

Goodbye Summer!

Well, I blinked my eyes, and summer break has come to an end. In many ways, I feel like our family is beginning a whole new chapter. This time last year, we were eleven days away from LOA, longing to bring our son home from China, Noah was beginning kindergarten, Liam was off to my friend Dalia's, and I was heading back to work as a school psychologist.

My how life changes in a year.

We traveled to China last October and met Tucker for the first time. After spending the next two weeks together in his birth country, we made the long flight home and reunited with Noah, Liam, and the rest of our friends and family. The following months were spent focusing on becoming a family of five and growing deep roots, secure attachment, and a forever bond with Tucker. Each month our love grew stronger and deeper, and by the six month period, we realized that we had finally reached our new normal. What a relief!

In the midst of those days gaining love for one another, we experienced loss, as well. In a sense, we lost our old family make-up. It was the same feeling I had after Noah was born looking back to when it was just Ryan and me, and then it happened again when Liam was born and looked back to when it had been just the three of us - Ryan, Noah, and me. I was happy to be moving forward with our new family dynamic, just bittersweet that the previous chapter was over.

Then, after being home from China for a few months, we left the church that had been our home for seven years. This was heartbreaking for Ryan and me, as we had invested in so many relationships and really grew as Christians in this very special place. This community of people had loved on us and wrapped around us both during and after the adoption process. This was my first church, making it even more special to me. It's where my small faith grew to a deeper, more mature faith. The foundation of our family was built in that church. It's where Ryan and I grew closer in our marriage, and our love for God grew stronger. I watched my husband dedicate countless Monday nights and weekend services over the years to the church band playing guitar. I could go on and on about what I loved and miss about our last church. I wish the circumstances could've been different, but we have trusted that God is using the situation for good and that He desires to use us and grow us somewhere new (Romans 8:28).

The last, unexpected loss was my decision to not return to work for the 2014-2015 school year. I really love my work as a school psychologist. I love working with children with various special needs. I love collaborating with my colleagues and making recommendations for placement, eligibility, and services. Not many people find a job that they are passionate about while working with such incredible people. I was one of the lucky ones to experience both, so leaving my work was a loss. For so many reasons, I know in my heart it was the best decision for our family, but there is a real part of me that is sad I can't see my coworkers and the kids tomorrow morning.

With losses behind us, we have moved forward with so much to celebrate. While Noah's love for Tuck was immediate and unconditional, Liam's acceptance and love took more time. Now, I don't think he can remember life without this special friendship with his brother!


We celebrated all three boys' birthdays with friends and family in May. A Ninja Turtle themed party was held with our family that afternoon.



After enjoying lunch, cupcakes, and presents with our families, we put the little boys down for naps and started setting up for the second part of the celebration. My brother, his wife, my mom's husband, and I ran balloons with glow sticks inside from our house to the back tree line. Ryan set up our tent and the movie screen that a friend so graciously let us borrow. Noah had a baseball game that afternoon, so we raced to the game and then raced back home to finish setting up. Our friends and their kids were coming over for an outdoor movie and campout, and Duck Tales: Treasure of the Lost Lamp was the featured film. SO FUN!



 




The movie went great, and everyone seemed to have a great time! Several families camped out but were woken by a pretty decent storm early the next morning. It rained the next day, too, so Ryan and the boys enjoyed a huge water gun fight in the back yard.


The memories didn't stop there. We really had the best summer!
Noah graduated from kindergarten
Ryan celebrated his 34th birthday
Noah played a lot of baseball!
We traveled to our adoption agency to hug our sweet social worker, Karla!

We met up with the sweet family with whom we spent two weeks in China!

We slept in hotels on the way to Florida

Tucker walked on the beach for the first time.

It made me cry.

I felt so much joy and gratitude to the Lord for calling us to bring Tuck home.

We wore matching t-shirts and spent an amazing week in Florida with Ryan's family.

Tucker radiated happiness swimming all week.

Noah built sandcastles and played with his cousin.

Liam and I held hands while we walked on the beach.

We watched 4th of July Fireworks downtown.

We visited with great friends from out of state.

Noah and Liam took swim lessons.

We had swim play dates with friends.

We celebrated all things China with a treasured adoptive family from Atlanta.

The boys met their match with my friend Jess' sweet triplets.

We had a fun play date at a new park!
Which leads us to this final picture. This picture that I think I will treasure all the days of my life. The moment when the stars aligned and all three boys looked at the camera at the exact same time. The moment when our summer came to an end and all three boys were getting ready to go to school. Noah is starting his first grade year, and the littles are beginning their first school experience - half day preschool two days a week. Are they not the most handsome little boys you've ever seen?


I am so thankful for the memories we made this summer. I am so grateful for the family we've become together. I thank God for taking us across the world to bring my third son home. Despite the losses, we have gained SO much more, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for our family during this next chapter of our lives.
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