8.31.2012

Shaken

Soon after we made the decision to adopt a baby with CL/CP, Ryan was flipping through the channels on TV (yes, we are antenna people!) and saw this video:

http://youtu.be/R2vpwoDYdkw

It is incredible! Watch it and love it. I see an adoption montage played to the tune of this song in our future.

Until then, we keep praying.

8.28.2012

Countries, Agencies, Children...Oh My!

I have researched countries and agencies for hours and have found 6 great possible agencies. This is largely due to joining a Yahoo Focus Group specifically related to adopting children with cleft lip/cleft palate - from this point known as CL/CP. The adoption community continues to open its arms to us and provide wonderful feedback about their experiences.

We feel very drawn to Eastern Asia, Central America, and South America. However, the latter two both seem to require very lengthy stays in country. For example, one month was probably the shortest stay. I would prefer not to live anywhere for various reasons, so my searches keep leading me back to Eastern Asia. We are very interested in Taiwan, Phillipines, Samoa, and China. Initially, China was not on my radar, as it seems that so many adoptions occur there; however, I am learning that there are so many children with CL/CP available for adoption in China. Many parents were able to pick up their children 10-15 months after beginning the process. This would be ideal! The idea of waiting 4 years for a child is much longer than we prefer at this point.

I have begun reaching out to different agencies to begin learning about their processes, waiting children, etc. I have even started looking at Waiting Children lists, which is heartbreaking and hopeful all at the same time. On one agency's website, it stated that 35% of the special needs adoptions occur with children born with CL/CP - the majority of all special needs adoptions! It's exciting to join this already awesome group of people who are saying yes to helping a little one who needs wonderful parents.

I also went to my first adoption meeting locally on the northside of Indy. It was helpful just to learn the expected Adoption 101 information, and I was very inspired to see around 20-30 families interested in adoption. I was fortunate to have two girlfriends attend with me! I have big dreams that many of our friends will also adopt children in the future. If you've read my blog for very long, you know that I get really passionate about different topics - coupons, natural labor, water birth, breastfeeding, recipes, etc. - and I like to talk others around me into having those same experiences. Maybe it's all been practice for encouraging others to adopt. How awesome would that be?? I love the idea of our future child having other children around him/her who were also adopted. It would be such a support group for the kids, as well as adults!

Will you please pray that Ryan and I have clarity about our next steps? Specifically, we would appreciate prayers related to which country we should choose and with which agency we should work. This dream was inspired by God's calling, and I know that if we listen, He will also help us make those decisions with peace and clarity. Whether you pray one time or everyday, I appreciate them all the same. Thank you friends!!

Who knew this sweet little lip would change our lives?

8.27.2012

The Journey Begins...

By definition, affirm means to support or uphold the validity of or to confirm. Since making the decision (August 4th) to be obedient to God's calling to adopt a child with a cleft lip/cleft palate, He has given us two awesome experiences that have completely affirmed our decision to adopt. The wild thing is that we've had such complete peace about the decision, knowing it is exactly what we are supposed to do. So the fact that God has given us experiences to help us feel affirmation is just Him showing off at this point. He is awesome and so faithful to us!

The first occurred less than one week after making the decision. It was Friday, August 10th when Noah, Liam, and I drove to our realtor's office to hand in a form to dissolve our contract for the 4 acres. I felt total peace about the decision and was excited to share our exciting news all weekend with family. As we were leaving our realtor's office, I asked Noah if he wanted to go to the park or playground. He chose the library and two minutes later, we had arrived.

After choosing some movies to check out, I walked up to the children's librarian and saw that it was the lady who bought our house. How funny is that?? I knew she worked there, but in all the times we've gone, I've never seen her there before. She asked how the house building was going, and I shared that we had just made the decision to adopt a child instead. We talked for a bit longer, and she showed us a section of small chapter books to start reading with Noah.

As I browsed through that section, I saw a girl my age nearby. She looked SO familiar, but I just couldn't place her. Finally, when she very close to where I was standing, I said, "I'm so sorry, but do we know each other? You look so familiar." She felt the same way, so naturally we asked each other where the other one went to church, preschool, work, etc. Then it hit me! This was one of two other women who shop the big Target sale each year when I go to buy prizes for the kids at school. We laughed about the coincidence, as we truly only saw each other that one morning, one time each year. No sooner after we made the connection did I see her reach down and pick up this BEAUTIFUL little girl with beautifully dark skin. I stuttered and stammered for a second and finally got out the words, "I'm so sorry, but did you adopt her?" Jana (whose name I later learned) shared that yes, they adopted the sweet girl from Ethiopia. I smiled to myself and just could not believe that God had orchestrated this incredible moment. I mean, I had just turned in paperwork to dissolve the agreement and formally make the decision to say 'no' to our dream and say 'yes' to God's dream. The next minute, I'm meeting someone I have seen one time each of the last four years, and she has adopted a child internationally.

We talked for while, and I told her how much I had chills from God totally affirming this decision by meeting her there that day. We both had moments of getting emotional, and I could so easily see how much joy this baby girl had brought to her life. Jana said, "It is the best decision we have ever made," and I could tell that she meant it. She gave me her email address, and after corresponding just a few times, she is already proven to be a wonderful friend, encourager, and resource in our journey. THANK YOU, JANA!

The second affirming experience occurred at a playground behind a neighborhood where we were thinking about living. We had taken the kids there to see if it felt like home and to talk about our options for living arrangements. Only minutes after we arrived, a guy our age walked up along with a young, Hispanic boy. I smiled to myself and thought, "Here you go again, God. Just showing up and showing off!" I struck up a conversation with the guy, asking if he lived in the area and if he liked it. I shared with him the quick version of our story, hoping that he would also share his story with me. Sure enough, Eric shared that 4 years ago he and his wife had adopted their son from Guatemala. He told me their story and was blown away. I shared with him that I just knew that God was again affirming our decision to be obedient to his plan. Eric then said, "You know, I wasn't going to stop at the park today. I just picked up my son but needed to get to my other son's daycare to pick him up. My older son said, "Dad, can we go to the park really quickly...just for a minute?" Eric almost said no but decided to make a quick stop anyway. I was speechless, knowing that God orchestrated another moment through a child (the first time was Noah choosing the library...this time the older son asking to go to the park). I had chills once again. Eric gave me his and his wife's email address, offering to support us in any way...whether it be answering questions, listening to us vent, etc. They were happy to help! And you know what - that's how the entire adoption community appears to be so far, welcoming us with open arms. We are so fortunate!

So, despite feeling so much peace and knowing that we are following God's - not our own - plan, He has given us affirmation anyway. We can't wait to find out what he orchestrates next. Is our child already born? Is the mother pregnant now? Will the baby be conceived soon? Only time will tell.

Noah's 1st Day of Preschool


Four years and 3 months after the day he was born, Noah Ryan began his first day of preschool. I can't believe he is old enough to be away all day long, learning new things and making new friends. Ever since I toured the preschool last Fall, I just knew it was going to be a wonderful place for him to make the transition from toddler-hood to kindergarten. After getting ready and snapping a new "First Day of School" pictures, off we drove to preschool.


While we were in the car, we all prayed together. We prayed that God would help Noah feel excited and happy at school that day, that he would make a new friend, and that He would help Noah stay safe while away from us. Noah prayed afterward, saying his usual prayer: "Dear Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you for my mom and dad and helping me in the dark. Please be with Liam. Amen."

We drove up and I felt my own first day of school jitters - that perfet mixture of anxiety and excitement. After we walked into his class and signed him in, Noah sat down to have breakfast. He chose Kix cereal (my favorite as a kid), pouring the milk and cereal himself. I love how much they focus on helping kids become more independent. I kissed him goodbye and walked to the door, watching him stare at his peers like a deer in headlights. It was the first time in a very long time where I felt him take a very large step into his future. I know he's only 4, but he feels so much older
to me already. So excited for all the adventures that lie ahead this year! We even got his first field trip permission slip - a ride on the school bus around the property. How cute is that? :)


Love my guys.

8.12.2012

A New Dream

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 next."

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.
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