Welcome to Twindom

It was an idyllic fall day. I was outside chatting with Ryan when all the sudden out of nowhere I felt ill. “Oh my gosh. I’ve got to throw up!” I announced before bolting into the house. The feeling passed a few seconds later.

“That’s weird.” Ryan said. “Yeah, maybe there’s a bug going around or something” I replied, thinking nothing of it. A few days later, on a whim, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Within seconds I knew. Oh my. We’d just gotten back from China two months earlier after adopting our two sons and surprised doesn’t quite adequately describe our feelings when we found out we’d be adding another little one to the mix. We were thrilled nonetheless and patted ourselves on the back…good thing we’d gone with the eight-seater van last time we were car shopping. We could still squeeze one more in. Phew. No need to buy another car.

I called and set up our first prenatal appointment. Since we’d had other babies before I was pretty certain I knew what to expect. We called ahead to make sure the appointment would be under an hour long. We did not feel comfortable leaving the boys with a sitter quite yet so Ryan met me at the doctor’s office and took the kids to lunch while I went to the appointment.

It’d taken me a bit of searching to find a doctor’s office out this way. All our other pregnancies were in New York and we had a midwifery practice there we loved. I was hoping to have a water birth with this newest one like I’d had in New York. There was only one hospital and one practice that offered water birth as a potential option, but it was an hour drive from our home. All our previous labors had gone as planned. In New York we didn’t mind a forty-five minute drive while in labor so fifteen more minutes wouldn’t be that much further if we could be at a hospital and with a doctor or midwife we loved.

As crunchy as I may be at times, I never felt one hundred percent comfortable with home birth for myself. I tend to worry and imagine every possible scenario while in labor and I know if I’d be laboring at home I’d be wondering if there was an issue and worrying about whether or not we’d make it to the hospital if necessary- not exactly the most helpful train of thoughts to be having in the middle of contractions. Then there’s also the issue of focus. During the last hour or so before baby arrives, I don’t really like people too much. I don’t want to be touched or talked to or even see other folks so to labor at home with all our oftentimes-nosey (bless their hearts) kiddos, would be challenging. I much prefer the quiet of a hospital room. You may be thinking a hospital is not all that quiet. Let me assure you. Compared to our house, a hospital is like a monastery.

With Ryan and the kids off to lunch, I strolled into the doctor’s office praying the visit would be super short so I wouldn’t puke on anyone. Although I’m sure that event would be a fantastic first introduction to my new doctor, I was really hoping to avoid it. I was so very sick this time around. All. The. Time. There was no food or drink that would alleviate the nausea. The only thing that would help was sleep. The minute I woke up until the time I went to sleep I was severely nauseous.

Soon I was checked in. The receptionist found out from our paperwork that we had adopted and had lots of questions about the process and our boys. The nurse also had lots of questions about our adoption. I told them how my husband and I would often joke during the adoption process that we could have had two kids in the time our adoption had taken start to finish. They laughed.

The doctor came in and estimated our due date to be May 19, 2018. She began to do an ultrasound to confirm the due date and make sure the baby was growing well. She quickly found the heartbeat. “Everything looks good!” she said. “The baby is measuring right on track.” She announced. She paused for a minute, “Wait, what’s that?! There’s something else in there!” She yelled, quite surprised, before turning off the ultrasound machine and demanding the nurse to call and request a more in depth ultrasound immediately. The nurse jumped to make the call.

“What do you mean there’s something else in there? Like twins?” I asked her in disbelief. “I’m not sure.” She replied. “Let’s get you down to the other ultrasound machine. It’s higher resolution.” With that she walked out of the room.

My mind was spinning over her “I don’t want to say” comment.” Cancer, some disease, another baby, were all thoughts running through my mind. She’d only found one heartbeat that I knew of. I anxiously texted Ryan that it’d be a bit longer. “They found something in the first ultrasound and are sending me down to get a more detailed one.” I knew it was getting to be late and the kids were probably about fed up with being in the car. My thirty to forty-five minute long appointment was quickly spiraling to well past an hour.

The nurse walked me down to the other ultrasound room (in a different part of the hospital) and left me there with the ultrasound tech. This was the first thing we saw when she touched my stomach with the ultrasound wand.

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October 10, 2017

“Oh my God. There are TWO!” I cried. I started laughing. Then crying. Then a bit of both mixed with “I just can’t believe it. This is crazy. There are TWO! There are REALLY two!”

“Are there two heartbeats?” I asked, holding my breath. Before she could find out we watched as both babies began to kick and move all about. She quickly confirmed that there were two, healthy heartbeats.

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “They are identical! It’s very rare for us to ever get to see identical twins! This is only the second set I’ve ever done.” She shared.

“It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen to see two babies floating around and kicking together. Praise God! I am in awe of His workmanship.” I wrote later that evening in my journal.

The rest of the ultrasound I alternated between laughing, crying and laying there in complete shock, watching the babies kick away. The tech finished taking all the measurements and announced, “They’re growing just fine. Everything looks great.” She turned off the machine, gave me a few pictures and sent me back to the doctor’s office.

As I soon as I got back to the doctor I asked if I could leave. I couldn’t wait to see the look on Ryan’s face when I told him. I was so shocked, amazed and just plain tickled at God’s sense of humor.

After congratulating me, the doctor went over a few more things. As she talked the nurse began taking blood so I could leave as quickly as possible. By this point the appointment was pushing three hours. The doctor told me I couldn’t have a water birth because any twin pregnancy is high risk. She also said identical twin pregnancy is particularly high risk. “I wouldn’t tell anyone just yet.” She said.

“Why?” I asked. The ultrasound tech had just said everything looked great.

“It’s relatively common for one twin, if not both, to not make it with this type of twin pregnancy.” She shared. “If they do, they will most likely be quite early because this type of twin shares a placenta. There are a lot of complications that could happen.” Despite her words of caution, I was still over the moon excited. Regardless of how things could potentially turn out, I was simply in awe of seeing two babies moving around inside my body. What a miracle.

I hurried out to the van where Ryan and the kids were waiting. He jumped out of the van. “Is everything okay?”

“Here! Look at this!” I said showing him the ultrasound picture. He gave it a quick glance.

“Oh, only one huh?” He replied. Every pregnancy he’s hoped we’d have twins.

“Ry! Look closely! There are TWO!!!!” I exclaimed.  He grabbed the ultrasound picture before bursting into laughter. We were completely surprised, shocked and overjoyed by the whole thing.

Given the news the babies may come quite early and having been told a water birth was not an option, we decided to switch to a doctor who practiced at a hospital with one of the top NICU’s in our area. It was quite an experience being pregnant with twins. The sheer number of doctor’s appointments alone was staggering. The way my body grew so quickly to accommodate two babies was astounding. IMG_1716 2It seemed like I couldn’t walk around very well in no time at all. It was like being stuck in the ninth month of pregnancy indefinitely. God was so faithful during that season to bring so many people alongside to help without us even asking. People brought meals. People helped watch our children for the many, many doctor’s visits. People brought groceries. People helped with laundry. They were all such instruments of God’s grace and goodness.

Five months after that first ultrasound, Pippa Josephine and Georgina Rose, were born via c-section at 32 weeks, bringing immeasurable joy to our family. Pippa (left) was 4 pounds, 4 ounces and Georgie (right) was 4 pounds, 11 ounces. They spent six weeks in NICU before coming home.

For that month and a half our family was at a standstill. I spent most of every day at the hospital with the girls. We are forever thankful to the NICU doctors and nurses. They saved our girls lives on more than one occasion and the images of them bending over our daughters’ ever so tiny bodies to help them breath again will always be etched in our minds.DSC04817There were three nurses who primarily cared for our girls. One was in the operating room when our girls were born. DSC04500She was with us the first week of their lives when the girls were struggling to stabilize. She was there when we held Pippa for the very first time.

She was the one who gently told us we could not hold Georgina quite yet during the first few days because Georgie was not yet stable. She was there when Georgie had grown strong enough to hold, arranging all the wires and cords and coordinating all the doctors and specialists to be in the room just in case Georgie did not do well. DSC04882DSC04872She was just as excited as we were when the girls went down to a smaller nasal cannula. IMG_3981She saw Pippa’s first smile with us and celebrated when the girls no longer needed feeding tubes and were able to wear clothes. DSC05032She was there helping us pack everything up the very last day we were in NICU. As I drove away from the hospital, she was right out front waving goodbye to us.

This past weekend we were able to go to the NICU reunion hosted by the hospital. It was such a blessing to see all the girls’ nurses and they all loved seeing how the girls have grown and meeting the rest of our children.IMG_1214
Today our girls are happy, healthy six month olds who continue to keep us on our toes. They’re busy rolling over, giggling and stealing toys from each other, much to everyone’s amusement. They have quite a fan club with five adoring older brothers and sisters. We never imagined we’d be twin parents, but here we are. Oh, and that van…it had to go. We upgraded to a larger van this spring that can fit all our kids plus a double stroller plus a walker plus a wheelchair plus the kids port-a-potty and well, you get the idea…11-IMG-11

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A Good Life

One of our children spent the first eight years of his life in an orphanage. We adopted him a little over a year ago when he was nine years old. One thing we have realized over the past year is just how much children learn by just being children in a family. Its incredible how much they pick up on just by being a part of a family. We didn’t realize the depth of this until we adopted our two sons.

We will be humming along as a family and then realize, wait, we need to back up and teach one or both boys about a concept or idea that we never consciously taught our girls.

This week we came across one of these “gaps”. Honestly, we realized it’s been a “gap” for a while but we were thinking with increased language acquisition and exposure to opportunities it’d be learned. Perhaps it would be learned with more time, but, nonetheless, today presented itself with a perfect teachable moment.

Joshua’s been attending public school this year for half-days. He has a one-on-one aid that helps him while he is at school. His aid shared with us yesterday how much everyone at school likes Joshua. No surprise there. Joshua is very social, easy-going and, come on- his smile is just the best.

This morning I decided it was time to have a discussion about people with Joshua. If you’ve adopted a child you may already know where I’m going with this. Children who have been adopted may display something called indiscrimate affection. The short version summary of this is that they bond with everyone- they’ll hug anyone, talk to anyone, go with anyone and don’t really have any boundaries. The theory behind this is, basically, because of their traumatic backgrounds they are not able to trust that their adoptive parents are really going to stick around so they need to win over anyone they come into contact with in case they need to find someone new to take care of them. While it might seem sweet to have a little one bond so quickly and seem so very loving to you if you are a new acquaintance to them, please know adoptive children need to know their new parents can be trusted. It’s always best to point the adoptive child back to their parents, particularly for all caretaking needs. This is vital, particularly in the first few months so the child/ren learn who their primary caretakers are, that they can be trusted and that they are not going to abandon them. That is the super quick, simplified version and I’m digressing. Here we go. Back on track.

While we were waiting for Joshua’s bus this morning, I asked him if he had any friends at school. “Oh yes! I know everybody at school Mom!” he replied. “Oh, but knowing everyone does not mean they are your friends.” I told him and then I launched into a discussion about different types of people in life- strangers, acquaintances, friends and family. The discussion ended with an encouragement to go to school and be a friend to someone. I gave him some examples of questions to ask like “What do you like to do?” or “Do you have any pets?” The bus arrived and he waved goodbye after promising he’d try to get to know just one person he’d like to know better. I went inside and had the same discussion with all the rest of our kids over breakfast. I figured I might as well cover the basics with everyone just in case. Even if they’ve heard it before (okay, yes, they’ve all heard it before but English for some of our children is still a work in progress so comprehension is, well, an entirely different matter for all of our children), a reminder is always good. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

Joshua got off the bus this afternoon and, never one to make lots of small talk- I jumped right to his task. “Who did you get to know today Joshua?” He told me all about his new friend and how she had a dog and two parrots. He was clearly pleased with himself. The matter dropped and we dove into our usual afternoon routine.

At dinner tonight we rehashed (ahem, reviewed) the conversation we had this morning about types of people and how to make friends. Joshua jumped right into the conversation. “Yeah I asked Mr. R if he has a rough life,” he announced. Mr. R is Joshua’s aid. I mentally reviewed our conversation from this morning wondering where the whole “rough life” part came from. “Oh really?” I asked. “Yeah…he said no.” Joshua answered nonchalantly. “Then Mr. R asked me if I had a rough life!” Joshua said as if he was shocked Ryan even asked the question. Ryan and I looked at each other across the table. “I said ‘no’” Joshua answered. “No?” I replied. “No. I have a good life.” Joshua announced. “I’m happy.” He said casually. “I did not have a good life before. But, now I have a good life. I am happy.” And then life went on. Dinner finished. The table was cleared. Life carried on. I sat there for a good little while, as life zipped along around me, thankful for the sweet gift that fell into our lap entirely unexpectedly at dinner with Joshua’s revelation.

There are days when we wonder if we’re doing anything right. Adopting two boys and then having twins soon after has been one humbling experience. Then, we find ourselves (usually unexpectedly and without doing anything of merit) in moments of such simple, raw beauty. Where we know we are exactly where we need to be. Doing exactly what God has given us to do.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

John 15:12-13

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

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)

The Campout

It’s been a week. Monday we had a lengthy appointment at a specialist’s office for one of the kids. Tuesday night a different kid started to look potentially sick. By Wednesday the child was for sure sick, diagnosed and treated by a dr and we self-quarantined ourselves for the remainder of the week. As long as we wake up tomorrow and no one else is sick, I think we should be in the all clear. Hopefully.

Since we had to cancel our weekend plans, Ryan decided to do a backyard campout with the kids on Saturday. It was the first time any of our kids have been camping.

Even though it was in the backyard, everyone basically stayed outside most of the time. Ryan even had everyone stock up on water and such so it would be as much like “real” camping as possible. Half of them did end up inside with the twins and I for the overnight part while the other half roughed it in the tent with their Dad all night.

After not having a single night of good sleep this week, (good being defined as at least one three hour uninterrupted stretch), I decided it’d be beneficial for the twins and I to be on project make up sleep the night of the campout. The plan was to go to bed super early in hopes of capturing the elusive three hour stretch (or more). It ended being a failure but we made a valiant attempt anyways.

Since my brain doesn’t function so well on such little sleep, I’m going to share the rest of the campout excitement with you in pictures. Except for my favorite line this weekend courtesy of four year old Esther. At one point some ash was floating from the campfire into the wind and Esther looked around puzzled before announcing “Mommy, it’s snowing!”

The twins weren’t too interested in the festivities. They slept through the outdoor fun and woke up as soon as we got inside. Go figure.

Early morning hot chocolate

Nothing but Fun

This week has been a much-needed time of refreshing and, in general, crazy amounts of fun.

Joshua finished up his last week of ELL camp. He enjoyed it a lot and since we’ve had two weeks already, he’s gotten into a nice rhythm of getting up and ready to go in the mornings.

Myla and Elle have been busy with VBS at church all week. They’ve had a blast and every day came home bursting with excitement over what happened that day.IMG_6574

Last night all nine of us went to the VBS tailgate party. The twins are typically fussy in the evenings so we weren’t sure how it’d go. Can you believe we ended up staying the entire time? I brought along a few bottles and basically rotated feeding one in the stroller and bouncing the other on my lap during most of the party to keep them happy, but we did it! Yay! Joshua and Esther tried cotton candy and snow cones for the first time. IMG_6744We weren’t sure if Hudson has ever had either one, but he was thrilled nonetheless.

We got home around dusk and chased fireflies for a bit. Joshua told us it was the first time he’d ever seen one in person. So, everyone was catching fireflies and racing over to show him the magic and wonder of a firefly.

Hudson and Esther have had lots of fun in the mornings after we drop the girls off at VBS. I also used this week as an opportunity to work with Hudson and Esther on walking with Mommy and the double stroller while we are out and about (in my mind I’ve been calling this their walking boot camp). We’ve got our method down and they’ve done a really good job. We like to practice things like this with our kids in low-stress places so they know what to do when we go out and about as a family.IMG_6582.JPGWhen Myla was little and had gotten too big to ride in the grocery cart, Ryan would take her to the grocery store to buy just one item to help her learn how to walk and stay with us in stores. This was born out of my terror, as a newer mom, that Myla would somehow escape my hand, while I was pushing a cart with baby Ellie in it, run through a parking lot or store and get injured or abducted or some other heart stopping scenario. This practicing ahead of time tactic has continued for each of our kids for various things. It seems to work better for our family when we teach them things ahead of time so they know expectations beforehand. It takes a bit more time initially but in our minds it’s worth it, especially as our family has grown. Check it out…by the end of the week, the big girls thought it was cool to hold the stroller too (e.g. that’s how much I was talking it up to Hudson and Esther all week)…IMG_6733.JPGSince the kiddos were having such an exciting week with camp and VBS, I figured we’d just make the whole week one big hoorah so we also had a few play dates right after everyone was home from their morning adventures. It was such fun! Bedtime was a breeze this week and it was lovely catching up with friends.

Perhaps the most spectacular news this week is the twins have had not just one, but TWO nights where they’ve BOTH slept for six hours straight at the SAME time. This means this Momma slept for six hours straight too! I am pretty sure this deserves a celebration or party of its own…

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.

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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.

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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: