Sufficient

Fall always seems to bring with it such promise. Promise of rest, promise of a fresh start, promise of a new season ripe with undiscovered treasures. I’m just about to restart my thankfulness journal. I did this several years ago. I’d write down at least one thing I was thankful for each and every day. I even posted whatever I wrote on my Facebook page. I’ll never forget the fall I started that habit. It was the fall my grandfather passed away unexpectedly and we also almost lost our daughter, who was four months old at the time. It took two hospital stays, several blood transfusions and multiple trips to the hospital each week over the course of two months for her to stabilize and fully recover. Somehow in all of that uncertainty and chaos, I wrote “Today I am thankful for…” day after day.

“Today I am thankful for many things. Most of all I am thankful to all of the people in the world who give blood. You saved my daughter’s life this weekend. Thank you.” (October 11, 2011).

The list goes on. I think I made it to around four hundred things I was thankful for from the time I started my list that June till when I stopped. This time around I’d really love to get to 1,000. I’d heard of this from a friend who’d gotten the idea from Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.” I eventually borrowed the book from the library and inhaled it, slowly. I took time to write out all the parts I loved so I would remember them long after I returned the book. It remains one of my favorites and I eventually purchased it for our home library.

I’ve found that thankfulness multiplies. Even in the hard. The past two weeks here have been rather challenging and my spirit is aching for a season of refreshing and hope. Most of the time in life when things get rocky, I’ve realized it’s my own perspective that needs to change not the circumstance. So, I’m sensing in my spirit the need for reflection on all God has done and is doing in my own life and in our home.

We knew going in adoption is not an easy road. There are moments of joy, absolutely. We’re realizing, a year in, adoption is very much like a marathon. You see trauma isn’t just something that is worked through and then it goes away. It comes back. It has many layers. Fight or flight rears it’s ugly head whenever a child is stressed or uncertain. Things taught and comprehended are suddenly forgotten in a moment. Regression happens. Change to routine or the norm may result a kaleidoscope of behaviors long thought ended, usually bringing with them new challenges, exposing even more layers that need worked through. A year in is still so very little compared to the years our boys spent without a permanent family.

As we help each of our seven kids settle into our new normal for the school year, I’m resting in the promise that God’s grace is sufficient. We’ve got a whole mess of things going on this year, many of which are new. Some are rather intimidating. Roads we’ve never walked before. Let alone with seven kids. Even in all of the new, in all the challenge, in all of the hard, there’s still reason to thank. Reason for joy. I’m determined to find it. To note it. To not just get through, but to keep His goodness always on my lips and on the forefront of my mind. To rest in His grace. Knowing, full well that it is enough.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Advertisements

The Hudson Story

Two years ago today we sent our letter of intent to China to pursue adopting Hudson and he was officially matched with our family. In honor of that anniversary, we’re re-sharing the post we wrote on our fundraising page announcing a second child would be joining our family alongside Joshua. We are so thankful Hudson is now home and is a part of our family.

IMG_6392.jpg

An Asking Story – September 2016

We’ve learned a lot of lessons during this adoption adventure. Some lessons we’d expected and other lessons not so much. A lot of the lessons cut our hearts wide open. Other lessons were gentle, whispers of God’s grace. Then, there were the lessons that left us awestruck at God’s handiwork in bringing all the pieces together. This story is about one such lesson. This is a story about a divine delay, puzzle pieces, and wisdom that comes when we dare to ask for it.

From very early on in this process, we felt led two adopt two children. When we switched to countries in June and started the process to go after J, we knew there was another child somewhere that we were going to adopt alongside J. We just were not sure who it was. Since we knew J’s age and special needs, our agency asked us to narrow down what we were hoping for in our second child. We had a two to four month window to figure out a brother or sister for J. We thought about it and, because of J’s special needs, thought the logical thing would be to adopt a second child younger than our youngest, Esther (2), and one that has minor special needs. We had a treatment plan in place for J after talking to several doctors, but, at that point, only had limited information about J’s needs. So, as much as our hearts wanted to have open hands to whatever God had for us, we still had to give our agency some guidance and direction. So, we did what we thought best (per usual) and let our agency know a younger, minor needs child was what we thought would work well.

The evening after we sent J’s letter of intent, we heard from a friend that our agency had just gotten information on a new little one waiting. Actually, this little one had been waiting for a couple of years, but only recently had come to the attention of our agency. We eagerly looked at the pictures and videos. This sweet child’s giggles were contagious, and we couldn’t help but think about how well this little one would get along with Esther. They could be the best of friends. Our hearts ached so very much when we saw in the pictures and videos that this child also seemed to have some pretty major special needs. Among other things, he was two years old and not walking yet. We’d just been talking to our agency and, given all the uncertainty with J’s needs, we weren’t sure how wise it’d be to go after two major special needs kids. And, so, we thanked our friend and let her know we didn’t want to request the file from our agency.

IMG_5735.jpg

First picture we ever saw of Hudson

A week or so later, our social worker came over to meet with us to update our home study to our new country. She had the updates all done and off to our agency within two weeks, which is a super fast turnaround. After this step of the process though, we hit a delay.

Time was ticking by. Day. By. Day. By. Week. By. Week. We waited. We called. We emailed. All our efforts were going nowhere. We kept thinking, what are we missing?

As we were waiting, we began to get a lot more information on J. We received several updates including some of J doing things we were not sure would ever be possible. J’s progress was remarkable and it seemed like J’s special needs would not be as much of a limitation as we had initially thought. We had a better picture of what life would look like on a daily basis.  We also had several more in depth discussions with each other about what types of things we were open to and not open to for our second child. The puzzle pieces were beginning to come into focus.

We eventually decided we needed to ask for the file of the little one we had seen a few weeks prior. We had only seen the pictures and videos before and perhaps- perhaps it was not what it seemed. Perhaps there was more to this little one’s story. So, we called our agency and asked for the file.

It took a few days for us to get the file and when it finally arrived, early one morning, I promptly cried my eyes out. I cried for babies being abandoned and over this little one’s special needs. I cried over sin. Sin that created this whole stinking mess of a fallen world and for my own wretched self who just didn’t know how we could possibly manage another major special needs kiddo. I was heartbroken. The file was very brief and the most recent information in it was years old. There were a few things in the file that indicated this little one could have more complex issues than what were listed. I was overwhelmed by the unknowns and unanswered questions. As much as we could envision this little one fitting so well into our family, there was no getting around it. This would be another giant leap of faith into all sorts of unknowns. Ryan came in to say “goodbye” before leaving for work, and I cried all over his suit. He just said nonchalantly, “We’ll just have to see what the doctor says” and left for work. I was surprised he didn’t outright say “no”. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wasn’t sure I could even send the file to the doctor because I was so overwhelmed. I gathered up my courage and sent the file to the doctor. Then, we waited. We prayed. We cocooned ourselves from all else and just prayed and waited to see how God would lead us.

It took a few days for us to hear back from the doctors. The first specialist sent us back a list so long of potential issues that she had me call her to go over them all. The phone call was an hour long. She typed up a treatment plan for us should we decide to move forward. I laid in bed that night, reading over her list. She could not promise the child would ever walk. She said a wheelchair might be needed. We are not anti-wheelchair or anything, but there’s just something heart wrenching about finding out a child may never walk independently. Ever. I was devastated for this little person.

In my heart of hearts, I had fallen in love with this little one from the first time I saw the videos our friend sent us and heard this child’s name. It was God’s gentle whisper to my heart that this child was ours. I had tucked it away in my heart, trusting that if this truly were our second child, God would bring it to pass in His way and in His timing. I didn’t need to convince Ryan of it or myself for that matter. God would work it all out. He would make it clear to both of us. He had promised us months before that He would not let us miss our kids.

As helpful as it was to hear from the first specialist, our adoption doctor would have a much clearer picture of the file, as he looks at the whole picture (not just the one special need that the specialist was assessing) and is usually able to tell if there were more needs than what a file listed and how the special needs would manifest over the long term. Five days after we sent the file to our adoption doctor, we heard back. Ryan and I were bursting with excitement to finally have heard something. Our original thoughts about the file were confirmed and our adoption doctor believed the needs would be similar to manage as those of our other sweet child. We knew that the medical care here in America would make an incredible difference in this child’s life.

The next morning I went down and had my cup of coffee and read my Bible where once again, I felt the Lord leading us to go after this second child. I told God, “that’s all well and good, but you’re going to have to tell Ryan.” I walked into our kitchen when I was done reading and Ryan said to me, “Can you grab my Bible? I think God wants us to go after this kid.” I stared at him in disbelief. I went and got his Bible. We sat at our kitchen table and my husband shared verse after verse that the Lord had given him. Tears were streaming down Ryan’s face as he shared all God had shown him.

 

And, there we were. We found ourselves at another startling, breathtaking chance to leap- despite all our fears and uncertainties. We had all the information we were going to get on this little person. We could walk. We had every justifiable reason to turn away, but there was a glimmer. A whisper of hope. God had led us to this place. He had quieted our hearts and gently spoke in his perfect timing. We could not turn away. We knew. This was our other child.

We called our agency the next day and let them know we’d chosen to go after this little person who’d captured our hearts with the sweetest of giggles. The following day our agency received an unexpected update and passed it on to us. We got two videos of our child. Walking. We had just spent a week trying to figure out from doctors if this child would ever be able to walk unassisted. We had gotten no answers. We had gotten no promises that it was even possible. And, then, a day after we were officially matched, we got two incredible videos of this little person strolling down a sidewalk like it was nothing.

Oh sweet child, we cannot wait to see what God does in your life. We cannot even begin to tell you what a gift it is to be your parents. We cannot wait to share with you that your name- the one your caretakers are calling you in the first video we ever saw of you- is a name we had picked out years and years ago as one of our favorite names, but could never use. We cannot wait to share with you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Piece by piece this puzzle is coming together. A few days after we called our agency to tell them we were going after our second child, we found out the one document we’d been waiting on for so many weeks was finally all set. Everything was back in motion once again. Right now, all of our documents are at immigration, the last step before everything gets sealed and sent on its way out of our country to theirs. Here we go. We’re going for two. We can’t wait to bring them home.

20170709-_DSC2005 2.jpg

Gotcha Day, July 11, 2017

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14

 

Foggy Days

The fog rolled in thick overnight. Our entire property is covered in its haze. Fall is not far. It will usher in a whole new season for our family. This week we’ve been busy preparing. Schoolbooks were delivered this week. Supplies purchased. Activities registered. Our new school year is just weeks away. Days if you ask our kids. They were ready to start as soon as the first box of freshly printed schoolbooks arrived.

I’m hesitant to get back to the grind. I wonder if everyone is ready after our somewhat chaotic spring and summer welcoming the twins to our family. Last fall’s grueling therapy schedule coupled with an overabundance of doctor’s appointments is fresh in my mind. I dislike out-of-the house busy. I cherish time to be with our kids, one-on-one. As our family has grown, this time is even more precious. I find myself greedy to sit with them and know their hearts. Our first littles have so quickly turned into our bigs and my heart knows time will fly away faster than ever. Before we know it, our mini-littles, the ones who spent six weeks in NICU, will be ready for school too.

We had several doctor’s appointments this week. I don’t usually book appointments for a solid week straight, but there was just no way around it this time. New specialists and therapists we’ve waited a year to see finally got us in so off we went. Summer and our brief respite from all things medical is ending.

As has become the norm at doctor’s appointments over the past year, we were met with unexpected news. Doctors think one of Joshua’s prior surgeries was not done correctly. This makes two surgeries that may have brought harm instead of healing. There’s no repair. More therapies are in order, but it’s anyone’s best guess what the future holds, particularly since puberty is just on the horizon.

One of the first things we were told by specialists is whatever mobility is achieved by puberty is, most likely, it. At puberty, things plateau for boys like Joshua, and it’s a challenge even to maintain whatever mobility is achieved. It’s not unusual for things to go backwards as their bodies struggle to maneuver and carry all the extra man-cub height and weight they gain during that season. We are racing time.

It was a sober ride home from the doctor. I suppose that is an understatement. I felt sick. Our boy has enough going on without adding, not just one, but TWO, botched surgeries. Grief and anger hovered as my Momma bear protective instincts took over, mentally roaring at those who harmed my child.

It took two days before I felt I could breathe normal again. Sure, I functioned, but perspective was nowhere to be found. I was grieving hard. A stolen future is hard to reconcile when it’s permanently altered by a knife in a stranger’s hand.

We are not entirely sure what the future holds. It’s taken me a few hard days to to admit that it is okay. We don’t need to know. Over the past few hazy days here, the Lord’s impressed on my heart to love faithfully- thoroughly. Loving a person exactly where they are can be challenging at times. I’ve found myself wanting to make plans and predictions and goals- to somehow make things better, more normal. But, that is not what is needed.

Love is patient*. Even when a child struggles over and over and over with the same thing. Love is kind*. Even when a child has no idea how to receive or reciprocate. Love always protects*. Even if a child does not realize he or she needs protected. Love always trusts*, even when the path is windy, dark and the only clear direction is to just take one step at a time. Love always hopes*, always perseveres* through unexpected news, through grief that rolls in thick as the fog around our land. Love never fails*. Of this we are sure.

*Excerpts from 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7 & 8)

A Year In: Grit and Glory

This has been a year of grit. Of going to battle for our boys. Of clutching onto grace and walking one step at a time on water all the while fervently praying we don’t sink. It’s been one of the most challenging years and also one of the most awe-inspiring. We’ve been carried by the prayers of many and helped by saints near and far in more ways than we could have ever imagined. God has never led us to something and not made a way.

July 10, 2017. The day we met our boys for the very first time. We were so excited and so very nervous. It was the kind of nervous excitement that makes you puke. We were about to meet two boys we’d signed up to parent for the long haul.

We were met that day with two very different boys. One was bouncing off the walls with excitement and belting “we will, we will rock you” at the top of his lungs.Meeting HudsonThe other was pasty pale. Nauseous from his journey to us and his body, so much smaller than we ever imagined, hinted of trauma. He walked to us that day through crystal clear doors, cane in hand, barely able to stand. He made it through and into our arms before my husband scooped him up and carried him over to the couches to rest. We wondered how long it would take for him to trust us. For him to know he was safe. For him to know he has a place and is so very loved. We wondered how long it would take to see the boy inside, not just the smile he flashed everyone. He had no idea how to even hug. Eight years in an institution will do that.DSC01042The next day we stamped our thumbs red and signed all the documents, we swore these boys would be our sons.So began the journey of getting to know our boys. This first year we’ve been navigating waters we’ve never been in before. From various therapies to learning how to get around town with gear to learning the ins and outs of each boys’ personalities and needs, it’s been a year of learning for all of us.

It’s been gritty as we’ve worked through various behaviors associated with trauma and institutionalization and gone to doctors visit after doctor’s visit hearing wonderful news at times, hearing devastating news other times. It’s been glorious as we’ve watched the boys learn to trust us, open up and settle into being a part of our family- To watch the boys’ walk, ride bikes and laugh deep belly laughs.

It’s been filled with soaring highs and the darkest lows. Sometimes all in one day. All in one hour. Some days hour after hour. This awkward dance has brought us to our knees time and again. But God is faithful. Over. And. Over. And. Over. Again. And so we dance. We spin and waltz and see beauty emerging from hard places.

These are our sons and they are loved. Mightily. They’ve begun the hard process of learning to trust. Of knowing what it is to be in a family. The changes we’ve seen in their lives are nothing short of miraculous. Family will do that. God will do that.

Both boys are a tremendous gift. They’ve brought us to the one who holds their future time and again and we’ve found him faithful. In all things. Faithful.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Joshua and Hudson 2018

Making Beautiful

This weekend we fell into a project, as is the norm in our house. There is a section in one of our gardens that is filled with ground cover. Completely covered. There are no flowers. No shrubs. No vegetables. Just flat ground cover. In my mind, if it’s on our property, it needs to be edible, useful or pretty. Like everything else in life, it’s a work in progress. I digress.

We’ve been meaning to clear out that bed ever since we bought the house, but we weren’t really sure what to put in it so we delayed. Flat ground cover was better than an empty bed so there it sat until one day we decided we need to venture into the world of roses. We’ve done peonies (my favorite), hydrangea, lilacs, various shrubs and all sorts of bulb flowers, but never roses. I thought they may look lovely under the giant oak that graces our front lawn and so we got a single white rose-bush on our anniversary to see how it would do under the tree.

This weekend, I stumbled across a jaw-dropping, turn the car around clearance on rose bushes and so I shot off a “please don’t kill me” text to Ryan and bought several rose bushes for the not-so-pretty garden bed. I insisted, of course, he come out in complete darkness to see my steal of a deal when I got home. He was impressed. I felt a bit guilty because my steal dramatically increased the amount of things he had to do this weekend. Roses that die because they never made it into the ground aren’t really that much of a steal after all. The pesky bed was laughing at me. I’m rather short on uninterrupted time these days, as is Ryan. However, it was time. The plain ground cover had to go.

I eventually found a pocket of time this weekend and set out to get it done. The ground cover’s roots went into the ground and into each other. The whole thing was one giant web and I was mildly worried there’d be a snake hiding under all of it. As I was pulling out fistfuls of roots, woven to and fro around the entire bed, it reminded me of sin and what a mess it makes of my heart. I wanted to plant beautiful roses in this bed but the reality was it was filled with thick, gross gunk. Rotting leaves and sticks were hiding under the ground cover. White spiders were roaming around under there. I have no idea if this is accurate or not, but my imagination kept telling me they were white because they’d never seen the light of day. Albino spiders. Ew.

Sin. So often when I purpose to do something beautiful, it is overtaken by sin – or maybe it just exposes what’s been there all along. Kinda like how when we bought the rose bushes, all the sudden we saw how much we needed to get that ground cover out.

I often think of sin as the things on surface- the ones that are evident. Lying. Stealing. Gossiping. Similar to the leaves on top of the ground cover. But, really, I think it’s more like what’s underneath. The twisty-interconnected roots that run deep and I could pull and pull, but it just keeps going and going and going. I often don’t see or choose to ignore so many of these things. Indeed I need a Gardener to come alongside and expose them and somehow extract them out of my life without pulling out the good- the things He’s planted.

I was nearly done pulling everything out when I noticed that some of the ground cover had started to grow right in the bark of the mighty oak. The nerve. So like sin. It may start out so very small – a cute, tiny plant at a garden shop- and then before we know it burrows and multiplies in the mighty strongholds and foundations of our faith.

Ryan and I are the only ones really who care what is in our garden bed. We are tearing it apart and making it beautiful because we want to. After my mini-life lesson while pulling out weed (ahem, ground cover) after weed, I stood up covered in mud and mosquito bites, so thankful I’m not the master gardener of my heart. I may never look beneath those outer leaves if left to my own devices. My own heart is a disaster at times (okay, most of the time) and how tenderly he cares for it. How graciously he prunes and pulls, shapes and stakes those plants that need a little more help to stand strong and turn towards the sun. I may cringe a bit when those leaves are pulled back and He begins to work, but in the end, he is making beautiful.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11a)

Running to Joshua

Two years ago to the date we sent a letter to China declaring our intent to adopt Joshua. The journey to Joshua was not an easy one but God was faithful to guide and direct our paths to Joshua in his perfect timing. During our adoption journey, I blogged on our fundraising website. So, in honor of hitting the two year mark, I’m stealing and reposting here our original post where we share the news about deciding to adopt Joshua. We are so thankful he is home.

An Open Hands Story – July 1, 2016

How do we even begin to tell this story? How can we explain the ways the Lord changed our hearts these past few months? How do we explain how all the roadblocks and delays turned into a divine appointment to see just the right picture at the exact right moment in time? There are so many details and so many things that have happened these past few months. We are sure we’ve left something out, but alas, let us begin our story. This is a story about open hands, tear-streaked faces and a God who so faithfully guides our path.

A few months ago our adoption doctor told us that some families just see a picture of a waiting child and know that it is their child. His words stuck in our minds. We must not be one of those families, we thought. We had scrolled through many children during our waiting while waiting season. That’s why we are adopting from Uganda we rationalized. We don’t get to choose. Our agency calls us with a child/ren they’ve identified for our family and then we run with it.

In March, the Parliament of Uganda passed a bill that would make international adoption from Uganda much more difficult, if not impossible. The bill would become law if the President decided to sign it, but no one knew at that point what would happen. He may sign it. He may not. He may send it back for revisions. So we began the waiting (to hear about the law) while waiting (to be matched with a child/ren in Uganda) phase. Our adoption agency recommended we look at other country’s adoption programs and identify a back up. We opted for Poland since it was one of the only other programs our agency had for which we met all the requirements. At our agency’s urging, we signed up to get notifications for waiting children in Poland since we had not yet been matched with any children in Uganda. Somehow we also ended up getting notifications for waiting children in China as well. Strange, we thought, we don’t want to adopt from China. We don’t even qualify for the China program.

While we were in our season of waiting while waiting (March to end of May), our hearts slowly began to change. Before then, we’d been set on Uganda. When Ryan and I first met in 2003, we both had a burden for orphans in Uganda because of the poverty and unrest there. We’d heard devastating stories of children and it broke our hearts. In 2014, when we felt led to start our adoption journey, we decided to pursue adopting from Uganda. However, after we started to see all the children who were sitting on lists around the world just waiting to be adopted, our hearts began to break for them as well. Some of the children had been waiting for years. Most of the children had pretty major special needs. We thought back to when our social worker was sitting at our dining room table in New York and asked us what special needs we were open to. We took a look around at our three little ladies under age six and replied back, “Um. Minor ones.” In our minds, we would be adopting two toddlers from Uganda suffering from malnourishment. We wanted to adopt from Uganda. We wanted mostly healthy children. We want. We want…we had it all worked it all out in our minds…

The conversations we had with our social worker about special needs replayed in our minds as we saw the waiting children. When we’d started this process, we didn’t want it to be about us. In the “about us” section on our application to adopt we’d written: “It’s a joy to open our hearts and home and serve the Lord wherever He guides.” This entire journey we’d wanted to have open hands with whatever God had for us, but we were in limbo, waiting. We started to wonder if maybe God had a different plan than the one we had imagined in our minds, but we hadn’t felt led to leave Uganda. There was no clear closed door yet and no clear direction to leave.

We had a lot of discussions during this time in limbo, and, kept coming back to the basics of the reasons why we wanted to adopt. We wanted to provide a loving home and family to a child who had none. Why did we feel led to adopt a child internationally? We wanted to bring a child to America who may not have access to things, such as medical care, in their own country. Because of our experience nearly losing our middle daughter when she was a baby, hospitals are not as terrifying for us. We know God carries us through the hard moments and so we knew if God led us to a child with special needs, he would be right there with us. Our hearts were shifting…Maybe Uganda was just our jumping off point and all the roadblocks and setbacks during this process was to lead us to a child at just the right time. We kept telling ourselves, “open hands”. Open hands. Open hands. We still had no clear direction. We were just waiting to see what God was going to do.

April 14, the most beautiful smile we had ever seen came across the China waiting child page. We don’t qualify for China we thought to ourselves and this child is major special needs. We can’t do major special needs right now. We wrote it off. All day that day, people who had met this child when they had traveled to China to adopt their own children kept commenting on the listing. A waiting child listing may get one or two comments about how cute a child is and requests for more information, but that’s usually about it. Lots of comments on a post are pretty rare. Seven days later, more comments on the child’s listing. Our interest was piqued. Who was this child? Nine days after the original listing, even more comments showed up, “I couldn’t help thinking about J. For anyone who is open to adopting an older child, this little J is a gem. I hope a family finds J soon.” And “I completely agree. I pray daily that this child’s family sees J”. We had never seen a listing get so many comments. Crazy, we thought. Surely, J’s forever family would see the listing soon. And, we went back to waiting.

May came. The President hadn’t signed the bill. We still had no clear direction one way or another. So, we stayed put, waiting. May 18, we saw J’s picture again. This time it was featured on a write up about a particular special need. The write up was on our agency’s page and then on another larger adoption site too. “What is up with this child?” we thought to ourselves. Why do we keep seeing J everywhere? Why can’t we get J out of our minds? Curious about J’s need, we clicked on the article. We were surprised. The article shared a lot of information about J’s need and it didn’t overwhelm us at all. In fact, we could see it working out pretty well. The next day our hearts were in pieces as we read, “Oh, how I hope the right mama sees this precious child!” in the comments section and “J’s smile lights up the room”. Yes, that smile, we thought. It does light up the room.

IMG_3535 2

First picture we ever saw of Joshua.

Two weeks later, we piled all of our kiddos in the car and headed back East to visit family. First stop was a water park. The kiddos loved it. It was noisy and bright and had all sorts of excitement for our little ones and, in all the chaos, we got word that the Ugandan President signed the bill. It would become law. Our hearts sank. It was done. We mourned the entire fifteen hours back to Illinois in between the many potty and Starbucks stops. We saw J’s face again on the way home. We re-read all about J’s special need, and dared to talk about maybe, just maybe J could join our family. There was only one glaring large obstacle. We didn’t know if we qualified for China. When we started the process, we didn’t think so, but maybe, just maybe we did now. The next day we called our agency. We filled out more paperwork and sent it in to find out if it was even possible for us to switch. We found out later that day, we qualified. We were ecstatic. Did we want to see J’s file? Did we want to talk to someone who has met J? Yes. Yes. We were nervous. Excited, but also terrified to know more, lest it turn into yet another closed door.

That evening we talked to a Momma who had met J a year before and had been praying for him ever since. For a solid year, she’d asked everyone she knew if they wanted to adopt J. She had convinced our agency to put J on their waiting child list and in April they did. She had been praying the right family would see it. This Momma had just gotten back from a second trip to China to adopt their second kiddo and had gotten to see J again while she was there. She excitedly told us all about J. The smile. The personality. The story. J wants a family. J wants to come to America. J wants to walk. No other family has even asked for J’s files. The people at the orphanage are telling J, if J wants to be adopted, J must walk. So, J practiced. And practiced. And practiced. J just started using a cane. J is nervous and wobbly, but determined to walk. We wanted to know more about this happy child she described and anxiously awaited J’s files.

The day after we talked on the phone with this momma who had been praying and praying for J, we found out Uganda may not be a closed door after all. There was a chance we could still continue there if we wanted. We were stumped. That evening, on Wed., June 1, we got J’s files. We sat at our computer and cried huge tears. J was beautiful. All the waiting, all the setbacks, all the delays brought us to this place- staring at the picture and videos of this breathtaking child with a smile that melted our hearts and courage- oh, my. Courage, resilience and such perseverance radiated from J. We knew. We were going after J. 

We didn’t know how it was all going to work out. We still didn’t have clear direction to leave Uganda. If Uganda was still a possibility should we leave? All our paperwork for Uganda was done. Since there was a chance we could travel quickly to Uganda, should we adopt from Uganda first and then go after J? We had no answers. We had discussion after discussion with each other and with our agency as we prayed for direction. We sent J’s file to our adoption doctor, thinking maybe there was another special need that maybe they didn’t include in J’s file. Maybe the doctor would advise against adopting J. He seemed like a grouch when we’d talked to him in March. He probably only recommends adopting healthy kids, we thought to ourselves. Instead, on Father’s Day morning, we read, “…I love J’s smile. J seems like a survivor, who strives to overcome, and that is also good…J looks like a child you can help grow into a great adult.” We were shocked. Amazed. Overjoyed.

A week and a half later, we got the clear direction we’d been so desperately praying for. Crystal clear direction. Leave Uganda. Go after J. We called our agency the next day. On June 24, 2016 we made the switch to China. China. Wow. We are going to CHINA!!!! Our minds were blown and peace, such precious peace, flooded our hearts and minds. There just aren’t words to describe how crazy excited we are to be adopting J. We are beyond thrilled, completely blown away, and we cannot wait for you to meet this little person.

Since we made the call to switch, God has been opening such doors for J. A day after making the switch, were able to talk to a specialist who came up with a treatment plan for J. We wrote our letter of intent to adopt J and sent it off to China. IMG_4338We were able to update all our documents for our home study in a week (that’s a huge pile of paperwork and five doctors visits in case you are wondering)! We have to have another visit with our social worker and then our agency will be able to update the home study for China. We are still around nine months away from being able to travel, but we are hoping and praying doors continue to open for us to go to China sooner. J has been waiting for several years and will wait a few more months until we are actually able to bring J home.

We started out in Uganda, because we thought that’s where the greatest need was, but two delays, one roadblock and much soul-searching later, we realized that our heart is not to adopt from Uganda. It’s not to adopt from Poland. It’s not to adopt from China. It’s to adopt wherever God makes a way and to adopt who ever it is God leads us to. And, on June 1, 2016 God led us right there. All the road blocks, all the setbacks and delays all orchestrated by divine hands to lead us to see the face of a beautiful child in a land we didn’t even think we could adopt from. A face that is older than we would have ever searched for if we had started out in or switched to China. This story unfolded just the right way and in just the right timing for us to see J. We are so thankful we did not switch countries any sooner or any later. It all happened at just the right time. Open hands. Open hearts. Here we go.

 So, with tear-streaked faces, but overjoyed hearts, we must write:

Dear Uganda. Thank you for being our jumping off point. Thank you for helping us see just how desperate the plight is for so many children around the world. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to grow in patience and trust. Thank you for teaching us to leap.

The time has come for us to part ways and take another huge step of faith in a different direction. There is a little child in China who desperately wants to come to America. J is asking for a family. So sweet Uganda, it is finally time in our journey for us to run. J is not able to run to us, so we choose to run to J. Arms open to whatever the future may hold. To run confidently and boldly where we have been led.

Dearest Uganda our paths are going a different way. Your amendment bill is a wonderful thing for the children of Uganda in so many ways, but we have been led on a different path away from your red soil. Maybe one day we will finally be able to meet, but this is not the season for us. Take care of those precious little ones. Put agencies and laws and people in place to protect them. We cheer for you. We cry for you. As we part ways, we know you were our inspiration on this journey and though the finish line will not be on your soil, it will still make a difference. It will still forever alter the life of at least one little child, for it was this journey towards your soil that God used to ultimately lead us to J.

DSC01050 2.jpg

Gotcha day July 11, 2017

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

If you’re interested in the behind the scenes story from Joshua’s other momma – the one who prayed and prayed for a family for him – you can read about it here:

Not Alone

It was a crazy, fun day. We had Buddy Break in the morning, one of our family favorites. Buddy Break is a ministry at our church for families with kids with special needs. The kids love it because they get to spend three hours one on one with a buddy doing awesome things like making crafts or exploring a police car. Us parents love it because we get a bit of rest for three hours and it’s free. The first time we participated in Buddy Break, we walked out of the building after dropping our five kids off, sat in the car and cried happy tears. We’d just found out we were pregnant with twins and had only gotten home with our sons just a few short months before. It all seemed so very overwhelming.

We felt incredibly loved when we walked through the doors at Buddy Break the first time. The director knew our family as soon as we came through the door and knew each of our kids’ names without ever having met them before. Admittedly we are our own crowd when we go anywhere all together so it’s not too hard to figure out who we are, but knowing each of our kids names having never met them before?! How cool is that?!!! Also, since it’s a ministry specifically for families with special needs we knew no one would be freaked out by any of special-ness of our kiddos. In short, they get it. All the families there get it. They’re living it right alongside us and there is just something about seeing, in person, that you aren’t the only ones.

That very first Buddy Break, we went out for breakfast. It was the first time since China that we’d had a date and I was so nauseous from being pregnant that I could barely eat anything. Which I was rather upset about because the food looked uh-mazing. We found out our waitress had also had twins and she assured us that we’d survive. I was skeptical, particularly since the nauseousness I experienced while pregnant with the twins was significantly worse than anything I had ever experienced with our singletons. We left the restaurant and went home for a bit. The house was eerily quiet without any kids. Silent. My husband and I rushed around doing some deep cleaning before leaving to pick up

IMG_1234

Look at those smiles after their first time at Buddy Break!

our kids. When we picked them up, they were glowing. Radiating. The girls all had their hair done fancy. The boys’ faces were painted. They were bursting with excitement to tell us all about what they did and show us their crafts.

Fast forward to this past weekend. The twins in hand, we went to breakfast again after dropping off the other kiddos at Buddy Break. This time around we were celebrating our anniversary. Breakfast was delicious. The twins slept through the entire thing, which was nothing short of a miracle. We left refreshed and went to get our other kiddos. The rest of the afternoon we played outside in the sprinkler and then followed it up with a movie date with Dad for a few of the big kids and an at home movie date with mom for the other kiddos.

I decided to make popcorn right before starting the movie. I went into the kitchen and started to pull out the supplies. Popcorn. Popcorn maker. Butter. Salt. Large bowl.

Esther and Hudson marched into the room. “Mom we are going to help you so you don’t do it all alone,” Esther announced. They worked on lining up all the small bowls in a neat little row, all the while giggling in anticipation of the very first “pop”. As the popcorn began to pour out of the popcorn maker and into the big bowl, their giggles turned to outright belly laughs. The afternoon went on and the laughter continued during the silly movie we watched together.

One of my favorite things about having a large family is there is always someone. Always someone to play with. Always someone to talk to. Always someone to do life with. We are a tribe. Ryan, I and all these littles. I was so blessed by Esther’s comment. We tell our kids over and over “We are a team. We help each other. We stick together.” and it was so encouraging to see it clicking in her little mind. Of all the lessons to learn in life, this is a pretty good one.