"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!!!
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.