Oh my goodness! I am so giddy with excitement to share with all of you what has been transpiring in our family over the past two weeks. And, if I really think back, this journey began years and years ago. I just didn't know it at the time.
Hmm...how should I begin?
Should I build up the story bit by bit in the way I experienced it, or should I just blurt it out?? I've always been a bit of a blurt-er.
Yeah, let me just go ahead and shout it from the roof top...
WE HAVE DECIDED TO SCRAP THE WHOLE DREAM HOUSE AND ADOPT A BABY WITH A CLEFT LIP AND/OR CLEFT PALATE!!!
AHHH!!! I feel so much better sharing that with all of you!! I have been bursting at the seams to tell all of you and am so excited to write this story so that we can share it with our kids for years to come.
Now let's back things up a bit. First of all, I shared in my last post about Nepa, the four year old boy who we are sponsoring from Indonesia, that from an early age I felt drawn to the idea of adopting children from another country. Fast forward to high school, when I met a lady in Florida who had just adopted a beautiful little girl named Emma from Cambodia. She was the first person I had ever met to do such a thing, and so I started researching Cambodia and adoptions there. I remember feeling sad when they closed adoptions between the US and Cambodia because I thought that was something I might do someday. Next on this journey was meeting Ryan. After getting married, we talked a lot about adoption and how we both felt drawn to the possibility someday. It was always one of those things that we would maybe do someday. Sweet Noah was born in 2008, and three years later Liam graced us with his beautiful presence. I think back to Liam's birth story and remember how surprised we were that he was born with a cleft lip. We always wondered what the purpose was, and in my letter to Liam the night before his surgery in November 2011. As I prepared to share this news with all of you, I re-read that letter to Liam and found that I wrote this:
"I've wondered so many times why God decided to give you this special smile.
Years before I had you and your brother, I always was drawn to the pictures of
children from other countries who have cleft lips/palates. I think it was God's
way of preparing my heart for your arrival. I know someday we will understand
why, and I am excited to see where this journey leads us together as a family,
as well as individually. Your daddy and I have already bought three other
children smiles in your honor, and it is our hope that we can do this for at
least 100 children. We are so lucky to live in a country with access to such
great doctors and hospitals and that we can afford this surgery for you, so we
felt led to give others the same opportunity you will have - the chance to feel
proud of their smile. Will we reach our goal of 100 smiles together as a family?
Will we go on mission trips to help other families across the world? Will you or
Noah help children in your same situation someday? God has a reason for this,
and I am so excited to find out His purpose. Your birth was a catalyst for
something, possibly many things, and I cannot wait to find out what happens
HOW CRAZY IS THAT?!
So let's fast forward to about 6 months ago when I read Mary Beth Chapman's book, Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope. In this book, Mary Beth writes at length about her experiences adopting three little girls from China in addition to stories of her friends adopting children from the same country. I started imagining what it would be like for my friends' and for us to all adopt children and how awesome it would be to have one another's support, as well as see these beautiful little children all grow up together, as well. One story in Mary Beth's book especially touched my heart strings. There was a little baby boy born with a cleft lip/palate living in an orphanage in China, and she felt strongly that her friend was supposed to bring this little boy home. I was crying during that part of the book, thinking to myself, "I could be a mom to a little baby like that." And as soon as the thought came to my mind, I quickly pushed it out. The thought scared me, and I just didn't think I could go through that again.
I began talking to friends about adoption, and many of them are really interested in pursuing adoption. For me, though, I was still thinking it was a someday issue for our family. We sold our home at the beginning of May and had an accepted purchase agreement on 4 acres of land to build our dream home. All of June we were focused on designing that house from the inside out. All of our efforts and dreams were focused on that house. We were getting so excited that by the beginning of August, we would be closer to breaking ground. Adoption was still on my mind nearly everyday, but I kept focusing on the house and thinking we would maybe do it someday.
Then, we had plans with friends for the 4th of July that got cancelled due to sickness, and last minute, our friends Tim and Beckie invited us over to celebrate the 4th of July with them. We accepted and were so excited to spend time with them. Our friends Jackie and Danny were there, and we also got to meet our the new youth pastor at our church and his wife, Aimee. What we didn't know until that night was that not long ago, they had adopted a beautiful little boy from Ethiopia. I was dying to ask them their story, and finally while playing a game, the opportunity presented itself. I loved hearing the details of their experience and again thought, "I'll tuck that away from the future in case we ever go in that direction."
On July 18th, Dalia and I decided to get away for an overnight in Cincinnati to shop, eat, and just enjoy girl talk without kids around (aka: paradise!). The first night I shared with her about Aimee and her husband and showed pictures of their son on Facebook. I told her about how adoption had been on my mind a lot. The next morning, after a quick run, she was taking a shower and I sat down to check my email. I had an email from Operation Smile, and although I had deleted the last couple without reading them, I decided to read this one. The story was about a little boy born with a bilateral cleft lip in the Amazon who miraculously was dropped off at an orphanage. I say miraculously because most babies born with cleft issues in the Amazon are killed instantly, for example, someone drowning them in a river. As if that wasn't difficult enough to read, the writer went on to say,
"That first week, 14 couples came to the orphanage to adopt children. Each couple passed by little Yan, barely even giving him a second glance; he was thin, weak and dying, and in need of critical medical care."
I was crushed...my heart broken into a million little pieces.
I felt God pushing His way into my heart and say, "This is what I am asking you to do." I felt waves of chills rushing through my body while simultaneously thinking, "I could have been this child's mother. I could do it again," as well as, "I can't go through that again. I am too scared!" The tears kept falling when Dalia walked out from the bathroom and asked me what was wrong. I briefly shared with her what I read and told her how adoption had been on my mind so much the past few months. She said something like, "Amy, if adoption is on your mind so much, you really need to consider that God is trying to tell you something." Of course that only made me cry harder. I excused myself to the shower where I found myself continuing to feel broken, crushed, and God pushing His way into my thoughts and heart. His pursuit was not over. I kept feeling Him telling me, "This is what I want you to do. You can be a mother to a baby. I know it was hard before, but you can do it. This is the purpose of Liam's smile."
I always knew adoption was a possibility for our future, and I had always believed that there was a purpose behind Liam being born with a cleft lip. I had no idea the two ideas were related, and at that moment, it became completely clear that this was God's desire for our lives.
After a day of shopping at IKEA with Dalia, we drove back to Indy. Through many tears, I shared with Ryan what happened in that hotel room in Cincinnati. He received the news with complete serenity and said something like, "If that is where God is leading our family, then I think we really need to pray about it and listen to Him." Ryan shared that he was scared, too, but that he was open to the idea.
We stayed focused on the house with a new thought that someday we would adopt a baby with cleft lip/cleft palate issues. A week later, on July 27th, my mom watched the boys during my first day back to work. When I got home, I shared with her what happened in Cincinnati and told her that adopting a baby with those medical needs was a really strong possibility for our future. She was supportive, as expected, and then I shared the floor plans for our "dream house." At this point, we were still waiting to hear back from one person (out of four) about his bid for building our house.
The very next day, we were at church for the Saturday night service. During the last song, a thought entered my mind: "Being obedient to God's plan often means giving up your own dreams." This thought played over and over again in my mind, and I was left wishing I had said that very thing to my mom the day before. I had tears in my eyes and chills running through my body. When the song ended, I sat down and opened the bulletin to prepare to take notes during Steve's sermon.
The title of the sermon was "OBEDIENCE." I think my heart stopped...and immediately the tears started falling. At that moment, we knew that God's pursuit had not ended. He was making himself perfectly clear. Steve shared the INCREDIBLE story of a girl named, Katie, who started an organization called AMAZIMA. She went on a mission trip to Uganda at 18 years old, and soon after moved back to Uganda by herself, started an organization that feeds, clothes, and educates 400 children, and adopted more than 13 girls on her own. Did I mention she is only 24 years old??? Steve read excerpts of her book, Kisses from Katie (which Ryan and I plan to start reading next week). In her book, Katie wrote, "Jesus wrecked my life, shattered it into pieces, and put it back together more beautifully." During that sermon, Ryan and I made the decision. We were moving forward with an adoption of a child with a cleft lip and/or palate. We were ready for God to take over our lives, knowing that His plan will be more beautiful than anything we can imagine.
We tried negotiating with God to do both: build the "dream house" and adopt the baby. Surely that was still the plan, right? After a meeting about our 4 acres, which to our knowledge on the right track for building soon, Ryan came home to tell me that it would be another 2 months for platting and that one neighbor planned to have livestock on his land. I was angry, stormed out of the house, and had the best run of my life that night! In my heart I think I knew that this was God telling us that it was not his desire for us build the house, but I was in denial. Ryan and I decided we would find other land. We did just that...and found a few options that would be just fine.
Before we knew it, we were back at church the following Saturday night. Ryan had been really down the day before, as well as Saturday, and I felt really strong. It was all going to be ok! During the service, Ryan made two lists. One gave reasons to build the house of our "dreams." The second gave reasons to build or buy a home at a lower price level. After the sermon, Ryan said, "Amy, everything on the "dream house" list is about us. Everything on the second list is about this baby. I just don't feel think we should move forward with the house." I diverted my attention and dove into researching international adoptions and all that goes into them. I felt excited and completely at peace that we were going to have a new member in our family!
Then, the next morning I woke up really sad. Reality hit and denial left...we were not building the house. I had spent the entire summer dreaming, designing, and planning, and it wasn't going to happen. It seems silly now - and a little laughable - that I was so sad, that I even cried over a house, but truthfully, I did. By that afternoon, we were pricing out a house with a builder closer to our new price point just to see if it was an option. I met the most beautiful person, a true sister in Christ, who worked for the builder we were visiting. I slowly poured out the story, still a bit raw with emotion, and she was absolutely the perfect person to help me pick up some pieces that day. She not only encouraged me in our circumstances but also shared that her husband was adopted when he was younger. I am still so thankful that God put her in my path that day!
I met with Aimee the next night to learn more about international adoption, which was so helpful. She was encouraging, excited for us, and really helped me make the transition from our old "dream" to our NEW DREAM. I continue to learn so much each day and am amazed by all of the people who are willing to come forward to help us along this journey. I have already experienced so much affirmation that this is exactly what God wants us to do with our lives.
We spent the weekend telling our parents and siblings, which was A LOT OF FUN!! They are all so excited for us and supportive of the direction we are taking. This is sure to be a journey for our family and is bound to have its own ups and downs, but ultimately, I cannot wait to meet the child God has chosen for us.
Mary Beth Chapman wrote, "Will you trust me with the details that you've been worried about and walk in faith where I'm leading you and your family?" My answer is yes! She also wrote, "When we all stand before Christ in the end, the main thing we'll have to show for this life will be the spiritual children we've been a part of bringing into His kingdom." I can't think of a more beautiful way for us to leave a mark on the world.
In my last blog post on July 13th, I wrote, "Maybe adoption is in our future. Maybe it isn't."
Well, as it turns out, today on August 12th, I can tell you IT IS. And we're working as fast as we can to make our new dream a reality.