Our Journey

This blog is a small peek inside our family's first adventure into the world of adoption. We welcome your encouragement & financial support, but most importantly we appreciate your prayer covering as we climb the mountains & wander the valleys of this incredibly crazy, yet exciting journey God is leading our family on. We also ask for your prayer covering over our new children, wherever & whoever they are, that they will sense God's loving presence as He snuggles them for us, & for protection from satan's evil schemes toward each of us. Though we may be on opposite sides of the globe, or just a few miles apart, we trust God has already been preparing all of us for each other as our family grows again. May all the Glory in this journey go to our Heavenly Father, who adopted each of us as His own beloved sons & daughters.

About Us

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"Our" Boys Were Adopted

It's been a bit of a "rollercoaster" week around here the past few days. We recently found out that the boys we hoped to adopt, those brothers with the beautiful blue eyes, have found a family of their own. In fact, of the eight children we first saw on the photolisting, seven of them have found families, leaving just "our" daughter, with the cookie crumb on her lip still waiting for her family to come ransom her. For that reason alone, I am thrilled. Because they each have a home. They have family, parents who surely fell in love with them as much as we did. And our prayer was answered... they do not have to stay in their orphanage a single day more. On the flip side, it feels a small bit like another miscarriage. We have 5 biological babies in heaven, waiting for us to join them. So I know that familiar sadness in knowing I'll never hold in my arms the precious little ones we'd come to love, although we'd never laid eyes on them or touched their tender cheeks. But through it all, we know that God's plan is perfect. If His plan wasn't perfect, He wouldn't be trustworthy. But He is. He's proven Himself sufficiently. And though my heart broke the day we learned "our" boys had officially become another mommy's boys, He knew that the other family who is now tucking them into bed at night is a more perfect family for them than we would have been. And I can rest confidently in that, because God's love is good, and His plan is perfect. Like a good Father, God knows what children are best for our family, and which children WE need most in our family, even if we do not yet know who they are. He knows how to plan ahead, so we trust that even in this very moment, He is preparing our children for us, and us for them. And although I want every orphan to have a million mommies out there to fall in love with each of them, in reality, a small selfish part of me wants no one else to fall in love with "our" children, whoever and wherever they are, so we don't go through this again. But I also know that likely when the papers are finalized for our future adoptions, somewhere else, some other mommy's heart is going to break when she hears that "her" children have found a home with us. Lord, I pray for mercy and grace for her on that day. I pray for peace for her hurting heart, and an overwhelming confidence in your perfect plan for her and her family. May her heart not break as much as mine did last week. I choose to continue to trust in YOU fully.

~ Michelle

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fulfilling the Great Commission

Once you are truly aware of how God feels about something, regardless of the topic, you are called to obey. When you know to do good, and don't, God calls it sin. Sometimes with adoption in particular, obedience comes in the form of actually bringing a child (or more) into your home, and sometimes obedience means supporting those who are bringing a child into their home. I mean, none of us would expect someone in their 80's to suddenly say "that means I have to adopt". Practicality here. BUT, maybe that same 80 yr old could make a bigger eternal impact with their money than spending it on lottery tickets if they'd just put it towards a child's life instead. If everyone who doesn't chose to adopt consistently gave just $10 a mth towards another family's adoption, children could be ransomed from these orphanages a whole lot faster. Most of us can find an extra $10/mth. Most of us could find an extra $100/mth if we're really honest with ourselves and our budgets. If someone took one of our birth children and said they were going to be held captive half way around the world in conditions such as those in many orphanages today, and we wouldn't get them back until we'd filled out a stack of paperwork 5 ft high, and raised a $25K ransom for them, we'd waste no sleep or effort to get our child back in as little time as possible. Does an orphan mean any less to God than our birth children? Those orphans ARE someone's child. Someone labored to bring them into this life, even if later they put them in an orphanage where they thought the child would have a better life than what they could provide. That's love. It is rare that a mother would abandon a child without any emotion. They do it because they feel helpless to provide what the child needs. We, in the western world, live in prosperity compared to most of the rest of the world. We just tell ourselves we are poor and unable to do something. Even if there are restrictions that prevent us from adopting, such as those placed on us by social services, or physical limitations, etc. we can all do something. We are all called to help the widows and orphans. But that "helping" can look different to each family. For some, it's adoption. For some, it's financially supporting an adoptive family. For some, it's respite care/babysitting for the adoptive family. For some, who literally gave their last two mites, it's faith-filled prayer. But giving that doesn't really cost you anything, giving that makes no difference in your life, means little to God compared to sacrificial giving to obey what He's called us all to do.

Churches promote missionaries, and encourage financial support of them. The congregations look at them as people of great faith, who have it all together. And I know that they go through a lot of heart training and practical training before they fly off the the mission field somewhere. No one criticizes missionaries for obeying God's call in that way. Yet, the church turns its back (not always, but often) on families that adopt for reasons other than infertility, especially the larger the family one has before the adoption. The church in general acts like the only reason they are adopting is to make their family bigger, never understanding the heart of obedience behind it. I don't know of one single family who has ever adopted an orphan for the sole purpose of making their family bigger. Every one of them has made huge sacrifices to give a family to a child that someone else birthed. The global church has failed first in supporting the parents who felt it necessary to relinquish these children, and second, the church has failed in supporting the parents who redeem these children with a lot of sweat and tears.

And yet we as a church should know better. We should understand. We were all orphans before God sacrificed His only Son to redeem us out of satan's orphanage where we lingered without purpose or significance, waiting for death to overtake us. God gave the highest sacrifice there is to rescue us. Aren't we supposed to do as our Heavenly Father did? Or are we going to spend our life blaming God for all the orphans who died alone without the love of a parent? I refuse to stand there someday and have to give an account to God for spending my money and efforts on frivolous things when a fatherless child is waiting for the loving leadership of a father and mother to lead him or her to Jesus through the practical support they could have given. And I don't believe that we're not all "called" to reach out to orphans or widows. And I don't believe that God will just poof the money for an adoption if we aren't ready for it. But I do believe that the majority of adoptive families don't have their funds lines up & all their ducks in a row before they suddenly "feel called" to adopt. Adoption is more than just having the money. There's a lot of heart preparation that happens before a family is ready to adopt. I think that's where people mistake "not feeling called". It's not that they aren't called, it's that they're not yet "trained". God has more preparation to do with us before He is going to hand the funds to us to accomplish an adoption. Every family I know who has adopted an orphan spent many months, even years, in "heart school", then a season of the practical training (lots of research, reading, group discussions, being mentored by those who have gone before them, and practical preparation), before they stepped out on faith to adopt. When someone announces that they are pursuing adoption, most people never consider all the "training" that went into this pursuit long beforehand.

Just as you can obey the Great Commission in the most remote places on earth as you can in your own living room by raising up Kingdom warriors, you can also fulfill the Great Commission by bringing a fatherless orphan into your home and giving them a family, or visiting a widow and helping her with her practical needs. Along with keeping yourself unspotted from the world's ways, THAT is pure and undefiled religion to God. I refuse to stand before God someday and say I attempted to worship Him with impure and defiled religion because I turned my heart away from those who have been widowed or orphaned.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

How It All Began...

"You're doing WHAT? HOW many children? From WHERE? When did THIS happen? And WHY? Have you COMPLETELY lost your minds?"

These questions are becoming a bit more familiar to us now. And we've answered them numerous times already, but for those who haven't heard the answers yet, please allow us to answer them again.

Our international adoption journey "officially" began one month ago, today. But as most adoptive families can attest, God first began the seedling process long before now. For me, (Michelle's) that seedling was planted in my heart about three decades ago. Like a variety of species of the gorgeous Bougainvillea plant, this adoption seedling appeared to be without much hope after 3 long decades... until last month, at which time it seemingly blossomed nearly overnight.

As a young elementary age girl, I read – no, devoured with great interest – an issue of a Christian magazine featuring stories of martyrs and orphans from behind the 'Iron Curtain' of the U.S.S.R. Many times throughout my childhood, I found myself thinking about and praying for the families who were suffering through great poverty and other abuses in the U.S.S.R. Though I didn't even know yet who I would marry when I grew up, nevertheless, the seed was securely planted in my heart that someday, together, we would adopt a sibling group from a Soviet country. Since the time I repeatedly reviewed that magazine issue as a child, my all-time favorite American President encouraged the tearing down of that infamous communist wall, and the possibility of adopting from the former U.S.S.R. became a reality for couples worldwide.

My whole life, I have been surrounded by adoption (and “special needs”). Friends, cousins, classmates, neighbors. I've seen the adoption horror stories play out in some of those homes, as well as experienced what a blessing adoption has been for many other families. My conclusion to it all from the sidelines is that the end result of each families' adoption has more to do with the parents' attitudes and expectations than what the adopted child contributed upon their arrival. Maybe I'm wrong on that, since I haven't adopted for myself, but that's my amateur observation. Regardless, that adoption seedling has remained in my heart for the last 30 years, even through the incredibly joyful births of our 6 biological children, and through the sadness and grief of multiple miscarriages. Occasionally throughout our 19 yrs of marriage, I've read articles and books, watched adoption documentaries, followed an adoption blog or two (or twenty), and searched the internet multiple times for information on the ever changing laws and various photo-listings of orphans from Eastern European countries, hoping to keep the thirsty sapling surviving on life-support during those discouraging seasons of wondering if it would ever happen for us. I understood the reality that the more biological children we had (of which we have no regrets), and the increasing number of birthday candles we blew out each year, the fewer countries we would qualify to adopt from... but my heart still clung to the former Soviet region. So the dream of adoption would rise to the surface of my hopeful heart, and it would fade again into the background of my battered thoughts, when the busyness and chaos of life, or the discouragement and disapproval of others, would threaten to choke the dream out. Most people just don't understand how their careless, impulsive words of “common sense” can nearly destroy a God-inspired dream in another's heart. Or make someone question the path they've already walked, in relation to the path ahead that God has planned for them. Adoption wasn't something I constantly pondered, but it certainly was a resilient sapling that, thankfully, God never allowed to be completely trampled to death or uprooted. And all the while, He continued to gently water that seed.

When the topic of adoption did arise in the conversations between Rick and I over the years, it was always in a "someday" manner. We assumed we'd raise our biological children a bit longer, and when we were "too old" and could no longer conceive, THEN we'd consider adoption more seriously. We may make our plans, but ultimately, God orders our steps. It was exactly a month ago our steps got reordered!

June 17, 2011, the beginning of Father's Day weekend, was the day that the first big step off of OUR planned path was ordered by God, and taken, although we did not realize it yet. I went to a friend's Facebook page that morning to ask her a trivial question about Down Syndrome (which has become of more interest to me in recent years), and I noticed an announcement on her wall (and blog) that their dossiers – the files containing all the required legal documents needed for an international adoption – were finally on their way to the country from which they are adopting two children with special needs. Her post indicated they still needed to raise the final few thousand dollars for their adoption expenses before they travel to pick up their new sons. That day also happened to be payday for us, and God stirred our hearts to give our designated “Widows & Orphans” portion of the paycheck to their fund – the next step off our well-beaten path, as we'd normally given that portion elsewhere. I logged onto the agency's website to contribute to their family's account, and there it was, right in the margin... a link to the photo-listing of children "available to large families". Hey, wait... that means us, right? Although WE don't think our family is all that large really, I knew this link was intended for families like ours. After all, we do have a couple more noses to count than the average 1.3 children, or whatever the number is down to these days. Now I must say, I've browsed this particular adoption website a number of times over the last year or so, since I'd read blogs of other families who've found their children there as well. But I'd never noticed THAT “large family” link before, and out of simple curiosity, (aka, another ordered step) I clicked on that link. If I'd known what was to come next, I'd likely have procrastinated in ever looking at the children's faces & descriptions. The previous weeks had been an emotional roller-coaster (among multiple stressful situations surrounding us, my Grandmother's funeral was also on that day), and adding more children to our family was, quite frankly, about the last thing on my mind at the time. I'd grown to a place of being fairly content with the number of children we'd been blessed with thus far, and was completely satisfied to leave the possibility of additional children in God's fully capable hands. He is, after all, the only One with the power to open and close the womb, despite our best efforts to hinder or assist Him in the project!

So I clicked on that link, not even sure what I was really looking for, since in all those years of browsing orphan photo-listings, never before had a featured child's eyes grabbed my attention like they did that day. I was staring at a photo of my nephew! I did a double take. No... I was staring at my nephew's identical twin. I finally read the details next to the picture. She, yes, SHE, is only 3 months younger than her identical twin, uhh, I mean my nephew. Well, they could have been identical twins, had they been the same gender! I could not take my eyes off of this precious feminine face, with a smile captured in the middle of chewing a bite of cookie. She has so much life in her eyes, unlike many of the photos of orphans I'd seen over the years (likely due to sedatives routinely given in many orphanages). Her medical summary was not any big deal to me, minor really, despite the label of “special needs”. I opened her profile in another tab on my computer and went back to the children shown on the “large family” list.

As I continued down the list, I came upon another photo-listing that snagged my full attention. And again, I couldn't take my eyes off of their beautiful blue eyes, again so full of life. Yes, I said “their” eyes. A sibling set, brothers, and the older of the two looked. just. like. my. husband. at. that. age. Well, at least from what I could recall of photos I'd seen of my husband from around that age. He was studying something intently off to the side of the photographer. But his eyes captured mine. I quickly read through the brief medical summary given in their profile. Again, nothing we can't handle, with God's help. And I looked back at the pictures. The younger brother was smiling widely behind the pacifier in his mouth. My heart melted. Just a puddle of mush. Yes, this mommy's heart was officially twitter-pated! So I opened their joint profile into yet another tab on my screen. As I continued browsing the list to the end, I found a few other children who made me pause and consider, a total of eight children, but none that completely stole my heart as much as these three. So I reopened the tab with the little girl's picture, and stared at her for what felt like minutes. I recalled that familiar feeling immediately after giving birth to our other children where I wanted to study every tiny detail of my newborn's physical characteristics.

Memorizing every little feature of her face... that's what I was doing, without even realizing it, when one of our daughters walked into the room (not knowing that I was looking at a website full of orphans' photos) and she asked me where that picture of her cousin came from. When I told her it wasn't her cousin, but was an orphan instead – a girl who looked just like her cousin, but was halfway around the world – our daughter's immediate response was, “Can we adopt her?” Pretty much sight unseen. Knowing nothing about this child upon whom we gazed. Just “Can we adopt her?”. My sentiments exactly. Not that I'd said it out loud yet, lest anyone assume their mother needs a straight jacket immediately. This basic scenario played out multiple times as, one by one, each of our children (who were home at the time) were drawn to the computer to see who we were talking about.

When I showed them the photos of the brothers as well, it quickly became a fairly unanimous “Let's get all of them!” Later, I told Rick about these photo-listings, and our children's responses to them, and to my amazement, he didn't immediately say “You're off your rocker!,” like he too thought I needed a straight jacket & some cherry flavored sleeping aids! He even asked me to email the photo-listings to him. I thought for sure he'd compliment the children on their cuteness, and then tell me I was out of my mind. He didn't. He asked questions. Where are they from? I hadn't even found that out yet. We later learned they are all from the same country. That makes it easier for sure. And they were from a former Soviet country. Yes, we're on the right track here. I begin to wonder if this is really for real. God, are you finally doing something with that seedling you planted so very long ago?

To make a longer story shorter, I couldn't close those tabs for the rest of the day. Or the weekend. Or the following week. I hardly got any work done. I just stared at the screen. And that was without the use of that nasty cherry flavored stuff. Yes, I was smitten. Some of our children would tear up as they sat and looked at those pictures. They'd walk by the computer and say "That's my sister!" or "Those are my brothers!" They gave their chores more diligence in those following days... while their mom went into mush brain mode! I doodled their info on envelopes on my desk. I scoured the agency's website for any info I could get on what this is going to take, knowing full well that this was a ridiculously crazy idea, yet driven to gather all the information I needed to assure God this was within His capabilities! Silly me! With the faith of a mustard seed, He could move the highest mountains for us, and for them. Why couldn't He move any mountains that stood in our way? The more I searched, the smaller many of these previously imagined mountains began looking like mole hills. Sure, there are still some pretty high mountains we face, but not as many as I once feared. I prayed. And prayed. And asked God to begin confirming in multiple very clear ways, to Rick and me both, that this was His plan. And I pleaded with God, if these children weren't meant for us, then please take the desire and the longing I had for these three children away from me before my heart fell any further for them. My love, our whole family's love for them has only grown deeper since then. And I have an overwhelming sense of peace and trust in God as this last month has passed by. I dreamed about them all night long that first night, and nearly every night for the following week. And most nights since then. And when I wasn't dreaming about them, I could not sleep because I was thinking about them. I keep waking up thinking about these children. Every day is torture thinking about how they have to spend one more day there waiting for us. Can't we just go get them NOW Lord? Can you please tell them we're coming for them? We won't leave them orphans for one minute longer than we have to. The quote by David Platt that my friend posted on her Facebook wall one week after we discovered our new precious children is completely accurate: “Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they are not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” It's so true. I've gazed upon their photos. I've read their “orphanage name” (not their birth name anyway), and I long to touch their actual faces, hold them in my arms, and call them by the names we've already chosen for them. I long for the day I have to ask someone to pinch me to make sure it's all for real.

I'll end here by answering that last question from the beginning... “Have we completely lost our minds”? Yes! Most certainly! Because God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His ways are higher than our ways. This adoption was in HIS mind all along, so yes, we have lost our minds, but we're using HIS mind through it all! We too were adopted into our Heavenly Father's family. Adoption is God's idea & plan. After all, HE WAS THE FIRST ADOPTIVE DAD!!! AND I AM SO INCREDIBLY THANKFUL!!!

~ Michelle