Monday, March 17, 2014

The Pearl Pot at the Other End of the Rainbow

And now, for the rest of the story

 

So, God has brought us to a place of having a Hague-approved international home study to adopt a child from China who has special needs, yet the child He specifically directed us to, the child God used to bring us to this place, would not become our daughter.  A place where we felt like we were about to reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, only to discover the pot wasn’t filled with gold after all.  It was empty! 

 

So what do we do now?

 

Do we walk away completely and call it quits?

 

That would be easier to do if we hadn’t spent other people’s money on this quest.  In a matter of weeks, God gave us nearly $5,000 in donations when we were pursuing “Daphne”.  Nearly $4,000 of that was used on application fees, agency fees, home study fees, expedite fees, fingerprint fees (golly, there were six of us who had to get fingerprinted this time!), birth certificate fees, marriage certificate fees…you get the picture.  The money we spent wasn’t our personal money.  It was precious seed sown into our adoption fund by hundreds of people who have hearts for adoption and/or children with special needs.  Monies lovingly given to help rescue a precious treasure from aging out of the adoption system.

 

So, we had some decisions to make.  With knees bent, we diligently sought God for direction.  He had our yes with “Daphne”, but everything changed from what we thought He wanted us to do.

 

All we wanted to do was to obey God, but sometimes in the silence of waiting for His direction, it’s hard to know what obedience looks like.  At this point, obedience simply looked like Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  We didn’t have to move.  We simply needed to be still and seek Him.

 

Yet, in our flesh, we felt we needed answers immediately.  We wanted answers.  We wanted logistics.  We wanted His clear direction.  But He wanted us to be still more than anything.  We struggled in the stillness and the silence.  Would we need to give the donated monies back to the original donors?  But wait, how would that work?  We already spent nearly $4,000 on initial adoption fees.  Non-refundable fees.  Fees we paid toward the ransom required to adopt this precious girl who desperately needed her forever family to come quickly.  We begged God for answers, for direction, for guidance, for wisdom.  Yet He told us to simply be still.

 

We prayed.  We trusted.  We waited.  We sought Him diligently.  We cried.  We questioned.  We prayed more.  We waited more.  Still nothing.  We prayed over children’s photos and profiles who were available for international adoption.  Was there a different child God wanted us to adopt?  If so, He wasn’t leading us to her/him, even as we desperately searched for answers.  We sought wise counsel, we communicated with many adoption/orphan advocates, but still no answers, no clear direction from God.  No peace in walking away.  No peace in pursuing a different child.  Only peace in being still, peace in trusting His sovereignty, even when He seemed silent, even when the answers weren’t coming quickly enough.

 

As we waited, we stopped fundraising.  We stopped advocating.  We simply stopped and waited on Him, bossing our hearts to beat in sync with His, fully trusting, yet not fully understanding.

 

Be still is all He asked.  Sometimes being still is the hardest thing to obey.

 

And then, just like that, when we least expected God to speak, the silence broke.  He didn’t break the silence when we were on our faces before Him.  He didn’t break the silence while we were on bent knee.  He didn’t break the silence in a quiet time of Bible study and prayer. 

 

Nope, He chose to break the silence through a totally random Facebook message sent to me completely out of the blue.  A message I never expected to receive.  A message from someone I didn’t even know!  A message God would use to quickly put all of the puzzle pieces together.  When we are weak, He is strong.  When we can’t complete the puzzle on our own, He gets ALL of the glory when He comes in to put it all together, in His perfect timing, with His glorious design. 

 

It turns out this puzzle looked quite similar to the picture on the front of the box, the picture He’d given us a glimpse of, only it was different.  Different by His design.  We’d gotten hung up trying to complete the puzzle with the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but God took us by the hand and helped us to climb back up to the top of that rainbow.  Then He had us bask in the sun at the top of the rainbow, overlooking everything beautiful from the view.  He had us stay there longer than we were comfortable with, as we wanted to explore the rainbow and get to our final destination.  Yet He commanded us to be still and know Him in that place of silent beauty.  

 

When He was ready, He allowed us to move from that spot at the top of the rainbow.  Only He didn’t send us back to the original end of the rainbow He’d sent us to before.  He asked us to go down the opposite end of the arc, to the other end of the rainbow.  Still glorious.  Still beautiful.  Still perfect.  Still with promises.  Still the same rainbow, just the other end.  Which happens to greet us with a different pot of gold.

 

The pot of gold is so very similar to the first.  Yet it’s brilliantly different in His perfect uniqueness.  Yes, this puzzle He asked us to put together had a front of the box picture and a back of the box picture.  He wanted us to see the back of the box, the hidden side of the picture.

 

Suddenly everything became clear as day.  Each puzzle piece had words on it.  Significant words that made it so much easier to complete the puzzle. 

 

Here are a few of the puzzle pieces He showed us:

  • “Lillie Pearl”:  On March 6, 2013, God gave us this name.  Only we didn’t have a child to go with the name.  He gave us the name totally out of the blue, while driving.  We weren’t praying or seeking Him or even considering another adoption.  But He gave us the name, He was very specific about the name and its significance, and He required us to be still to discover the precious treasure this name would belong to.
  • Life and Justice Conference:  On March 7, 2013, Matt and I attended the Life and Justice conference in Colorado.  At the conference, we met a precious family from Texas who attended that conference because we had advertised it on our blog.
  • During the conference, God revealed more about the name “Lillie Pearl”.  Pearls are flawed, yet treasured.  Many pearls are cultivated from Asia.  God began to speak to us that our Lillie Pearl would be Asian, and she would have Down syndrome. In the eyes of the world, she would be flawed by that extra chromosome, but to us, she would be a precious treasure. (God revealed these two facts to us about our Lillie Pearl through a variety of circumstances that occurred during the Life and Justice conference.)
  • God asked us to be still.  To wait for Him to bring Lillie Pearl to us.  We resisted looking on adoption websites for our Lillie Pearl.  We prayed for this unknown treasure, trusting God and His perfect timing to bring her to us.
  • On Christmas Day, December 25, 2013, God spoke through these circumstances.  He guided us to believe that “Daphne” was our Lillie Pearl.  He spurred us on to diligently pursue the adoption of sweet “Daphne”.
  • December 26, 2013-January 8, 2014:  We worked with several agencies and social workers to determine who could help us most efficiently to adopt “Daphne” before her 14th birthday, which was March 5, 2014.  Due to the Christmas and New Year holidays, it was challenging, to say the least, but God opened doors and blazed a trail to make this possible.  We would have two adoption agencies:  one agency for Texas (required by Hague laws) and the other agency was the one representing “Daphne” (who didn’t have a branch in Texas).  “Daphne’s” agency explained to us that the first family to submit a Hague-approved international home study would be matched with “Daphne” because that was in her best interest since the main goal was to not let “Daphne” age out.  We prayed and God wouldn’t let us give up and walk away.  He asked us to proceed, despite the potential risks.  I kept in close communication with social workers at “Daphne’s” adoption agency, and they promised to update us if at any point in the process another Hague-approved family submitted their application and home study to adopt “Daphne”.
  • On January 9, 2014, we had our first visit with our Texas social worker to begin the process of obtaining our Hague-approved international home study, which was the first step in the process of adopting “Daphne”.  We were blessed with an amazing social worker who worked diligently to help make this adoption possible, despite the crazy short time span.
  • On January 13, 2014, I contacted “Daphne’s” adoption agency to inquire on her status.  “Daphne” was still available.  We were on target to submit our Hague-approved international home study by the end of that week. 
  • On January 14, 2014, we submitted our international adoption application and fees to “Daphne’s” agency.  Our application would need to be approved before we could submit our home study.
  • On January 16, 2014, we were told by the out-of-state adoption agency that “Daphne” was being matched with another family whose Hague-approved international home study had been submitted with specific intent to adopt “Daphne”.  We were also told our application to adopt from China through their agency had been approved.  Our hearts broke.  The agency encouraged us to pray over the children and select a different child to adopt.  God told us to be still.
  • January 16-January 24, 2014:  A time that seriously felt like an eternity.  As I look back at the calendar, I now realize this was only ONE WEEK!  It seriously felt like ONE MONTH.  A week of silence as we sought God.  As we prayed over children, prayed over ideas, prayed for wisdom, prayed for direction, prayed for His will to be done.  A week of being still that felt like a month of silence.
  • January 24, 2014 at 12Noon:  Completely out of the blue, I received a Facebook message from someone I do not know, encouraging me to contact another mom in Texas named Betsy who had hosted an older girl from China who had Down syndrome.  I was given this mom’s phone number.  No email or Facebook or blog or anything. 
  • January 24, 2014:  GOD SHOWED US WHO OUR LILLIE PEARL IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  However, there was obstacles.  The circumstances and details of this day are intricately designed by the One who is writing this story.  I texted this mom named Betsy, briefly explaining our situation.  I received an immediate phone call back from Betsy where God knocked my socks off.  You’ll never guess.  I would have never guessed.  IT WAS THE MOM WHO INTRODUCED HERSELF TO US IN COLORADO AT THE LIFE AND JUSTICE CONFERENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The very mom who attended that conference because she saw it advertised on our blog and God kept tugging at her heart to attend!!!  Yes, God had worked out every detail long before we even realized it.  Yes, in the summer of 2013, Betsy and her family had hosted an older girl from China who has Down syndrome.  Betsy had been praying for a family to adopt this precious treasure whom she had grown to love deeply.  Betsy shared so much information with me, including the agency who would represent this precious treasure, who assisted with the hosting program that brought her from China to Texas Summer 2013.
  • January 25, 2014:  We inquired with the hosting/adoption agency (another out-of-state agency) about the adoption of this girl.  We learned that this girl had been removed from the list of children available for international adoption, but not because someone was adopting her.  She had most likely been removed from the list of available children because NO ONE had inquired about adopting her.  She had waited too long, so she was removed from the adoption list.  No one knew about this specific girl.  Her orphanage didn’t even realize she’d been removed from the list, so they didn’t know to advocate to get her back on the list.  At one point in time, she had been available for international adoption, yet because she waited for so long, she had been removed from the list, her referral discarded, and she would forever remain an orphan under these circumstances.
  • BUT GOD!  He shined the light on a buried TREASURE!  He had NOT forgotten her.  Not for a second.  This precious treasure’s orphanage staff asked us if we would really adopt her, and if we would, they would work diligently to update all of her paperwork and records.  They would go to the ends of the earth to save this precious girl from being tossed out, discarded as flawed instead of treasured as a pearl.
  • January 25-March 6, 2014:  God worked out many details.  He confirmed loudly that, YES, THIS girl IS MOST DEFINITELY our Lillie Pearl.  Oh yes, indeed, no doubt about it, He chose our Lillie Pearl and has displayed her beauty to us, and she is most undoubtedly treasured.  We have yet to hold her in our arms, but we know her by name, just as He knows us by name.  The agency representing our Lillie Pearl is a Christian agency we trust.  They asked us not to sign their contract until they could confirm that China would allow us to adopt our Lillie Pearl.  Due to our large family size, our family would need to receive special approval from China in order to adopt Lillie Pearl.
  • On March 7, 2014, we received the most fantabulous phone call, an answer to many prayers.  Our social worker with Lillie Pearl’s international adoption agency blessed us with two pieces of beautiful information.  1.  She informed us that our Lillie Pearl’s international adoption referral was completed and in the process of being translated, so she would be available for adoption shortly.  She was no longer discarded, she was CHOSEN and TREASURED!  2.  Our family received China’s blessing for us to adopt Lillie Pearl, regardless of the fact that we have ten children living in our home!!!  PRAISE HIM FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

And that, my friends, is the way God brought us to our Lillie Pearl—the pot of gold at the OTHER end of the rainbow!!!  Or maybe we should say the pot of PEARLS at the other end of the rainbow. Smile

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

When the Pot Isn’t Gold at the End of the Rainbow

With much gratitude, it is my pleasure to share this picture with you today:

Click HERE to meet “Daphne’s” forever family.

 

Do you recall this precious face?  The one full of joy cuddled up between her new mommy and daddy?  The one with a rainbow heart on her jacket?  (Click here to read about why this is significant to our family.) 

 

We praise the One from whom all blessings flow that this treasured teenager is now in the arms of her forever family, adopted just ONE DAY before her 14th birthday.  That’s just one day before she would have aged out of the system, unable to ever be a cherished member of a family.

 

And, yes, this is the very child God spoke so clearly to our family about adopting.  However, He had different plans.  Plans we didn’t see coming, but He knew all along in His sovereignty.

 

He promised not to leave “Daphne” as an orphan.  We felt (with 100% assurance!!!) He asked our family to adopt her.  We pursued her with abandon.  God opened doors that enabled a Texas agency to complete a brand new Hague-approved international home study in a matter of weeks.  God even flooded us with financial support that covered the cost of this home study and initial agency fees.  Over and over and over again, God sent various confirmations (out of the blue, totally random confirmations…almost daily, sometimes multiple times per day) that “Daphne” was our daughter.

 

Within days of submitting our application to adopt “Daphne”, we were informed by the agency representing “Daphne” that she had been matched with another family.  We were not told anything about the family (understandably), but even with bossing our hearts into rejoicing that “Daphne” had a family coming for her, our hearts still broke that it wouldn’t be our family.  Not a selfish broken, but a deep love broken.  You see, we didn’t even realize how deeply we’d fallen in love with “Daphne” until we were told she would not become our daughter.  That’s when our hearts broke.  That’s when we realized the depth of our love for her.

 

That’s also when the confusion set in. 

 

Did we hear God correctly? 

 

Why is it He had spoken so boldly on Christmas Day about our family pursuing the adoption of “Daphne”? 

 

Why is it that on Christmas morning, as we drove to San Antonio to serve the homeless, that He directed our conversation to be about “Daphne”.  Why did He guide us in a deep and lengthy discussion about adopting “Daphne”, where we decided to press into prayer throughout the day to ask God to further confirmation of His will?

 

Why is it that on this very same day, Christmas Day, as our family served in downtown San Antonio, that God sent a beautiful girl with Down syndrome to my husband’s side?  This girl was not homeless.  She had her mom and her dad by her side.  They were not invited to the park on that day, and yet, they appeared out of nowhere. 

 

Why did God allow this little girl to see the inflatable slide we hauled to San Antonio on that day as she was driving home with her family?  Why did her mom and dad agree to turn around and find a way to let their little girl go find that slide that was tugging at her heart?  Why were they able to find this slide in downtown SA, a place full of one-way streets and many opportunities to get lost?  Why did this little girl befriend my husband, who wasn’t even supervising the slide at the time?  Out of the hundreds of people at this park on this day, why did this one particular girl pull at my husband’s heartstrings more than anyone else there?  She most certainly wasn’t the neediest.

 

Why did God allow my husband to have a deep conversation with this precious little girl’s mom at the park that day?  A conversation that involved tears and stories of orphans.  Through a conversation that had God-details that only He could arrange, our Creator chose to set the situation up where His message wouldn’t be missed. 

 

Yes, on December 25 2013, God would use one unexpected precious little girl who happened to be blessed with an extra chromosome to deliver a message to my husband.

 

While standing at the park, my husband motioned for me to leave the area I was volunteering in to come to him.  Once there, he looked at me with a look I’ve learned to read time and time again.  A look that doesn’t even require words.  A look that involves tears, even if they’re silent.  Yes, God had spoken boldly to my husband on that day.  We were to pursue the adoption of another girl blessed with an extra chromosome who lived halfway across the world.  Her name was “Daphne”, and she would age out of the system on March 5, 2014, if a family didn’t adopt her before her 14th birthday.  God used a special little girl on a very special day to speak this message about a special girl in China.  His message was bold and clear and undeniable.

 

And yet that message was shattered on January 16, 2014.  That is the day we were told “Daphne” was matched with a different family.  WHAT?!?!  The shock felt like I’d been punched in the gut.  The social worker who delivered this message over the phone to me heard that very punch.  I didn’t even speak a word, but she knew.  She said, “I’m so sorry.  I can hear how disheartened you are by this news.  I can tell how much you loved her.”  Oh my, could my emotions be felt over the phone, without words being expressed?!?!  Oh yes, that is how much we loved her.  It might sound crazy, but it’s true.  As we prayed for Daphne, our hearts grew intimately connected in a way only God can do.

 

The confusion overtook us.  WHAT was God doing?  WHY had we spent so much money and dedicated so much time desperately pursuing this adoption?  Did we hear Him wrong?  Nothing made sense.  Nothing at all.  We prayed over other children who were waiting for a family, but with every child, God denied our request of, “Is this the child you intended us to adopt, God?”  Nope, not one of these is WHO.  Not one.

 

More confusion.  More unsettling.  Our hearts would mend, no doubt, as this was never about us.  It was about “Daphne” having a forever family.  And we truly rejoiced that a family was coming for her, but trying to figure out why God would have us spend close to $4,000 on the initial expenses of an international adoption that wouldn’t be taking place just didn’t make any sense.  That $4,000 could have gone to feed hundreds of children overseas.  Or we could have dug a well for children in Africa to have clean drinking water.  Or we could have provided a specialized speech communication device to special needs children in Serbia who live at the orphanage Chrissie once lived in (her former speech therapist asked us if we’d fundraise to provide this device she desperately needs in order to better serve the orphans she works with).  There are so many ways that $4,000 could have made a difference.  But our family having a $4,000 Hague-approved international home study to adopt a 13-year-old girl from China who has Down syndrome surely wouldn’t make a bit of difference to anyone at this point.

 

Or would it?

 

To be continued…

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Model and a Wrestler

Y’all, Conner has the MOST PRECIOUS faces EVER!

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He seriously entertains us All.  Day.  Long.  with his many faces.  Conner has most definitely figured out how to melt everyone’s heart by sharing his most amazing smile with us.  We’ve decided Conner would be an awesome model because he absolutely loves to charm us with his adorable, never-ending-yet-always-changing, perfect, model-status smiles.

 

And then there’s these two (see video below):

 

 

Cooper is not one to entertain us with his smiles, but he LOVES to wrestle with his brother, Kiefer.  He loves it so much that if Kiefer is within sight of Cooper, Cooper always makes a beeline to attack Kiefer.  He loves wrestling that much!  Perhaps there’s a wrestling career in Cooper’s future?!?!  The Von Erich brothers got nothing on ya, Cooper!

 

Both Cooper and Conner are an absolute delight.  They continue to bless us far greater than we could ever bless them.

 

Regardless of whether modeling or wrestling is in the future for these boys, we trust God has the ultimate plan for their lives.  We know it will be good, and we look forward to continuing to watch their beautiful lives be redeemed.  What an awesome God we serve!

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Greatest of These is Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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“Let brotherly love continue.” –Hebrews 13:1

 

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Cooper has my heart.  And my hand.  Precious Valentine!

 

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We saw the movie Frozen today for Valentine’s Day!

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“Some people are worth melting for.”  -Olaf, Frozen

 

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Boss Your Heart!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Video Snippets of the Littles

Here’s a short video of Cooper working hard with his home health physical therapist on our front porch.  He’s come so far in less than two years.  This boy had bilateral club foot and had never stood up, much less walked, the first six years of his life in Ukraine.  What a hero this little blessing is!  God never ceases to amaze me.  Praise Him for He hath done (and continues to do) great things!

 

 

And this video of Conner is THE BEST!  Conner knows and uses numerous ASL signs.  He is SO expressive when he signs words.  This is Conner’s newest ASL word—“deer”.  He ALWAYS makes this face when he signs “deer”.  Always.  Just precious.

 

Conner is doing so well after his pyloroplasty.  He has gained two full pounds in two weeks!  His appetite is increased, and he is holding food down better than he ever has.  We are grateful for your prayers and cannot thank God enough for all He has done (and continues to do) in Conner’s life.  This boy is such a blessing.  Hallelujah!

 

 

And these two little treasures have a ball playing rough together.  Kiefer loves having a little sis who loves to play the way the boys do!  Listen to Selah giggle at the beginning of this video, as she backs away from Kiefer.  Joyful noise, especially considering this little miracle wasn’t supposed to be alive, nor walk, nor talk. Oh my word.  My heart is overflowing.

 

There’s no doubt the blessings are abundant in and around our home!  Thank You, Jesus!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy Sweet 16, Madelaine Grace!

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“A daughter is someone you laugh with, dream with, and love with all your heart.”  --author unknown

 

Thank you, Madelaine Grace, for being YOU!  I wouldn’t change a thing, beautiful one!  Thank you for making my heart smile—always.  Happy Sweet 16!!!  WE LOVE YOU!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Good News…and Bittersweet News

First, the good news…

 

Conner is recovering well from his pyloroplasty, which appears to be a successful cure to his gastroparesis.

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He surprised us all when he was able to come home from the hospital Saturday afternoon (Jan. 18)! 

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Conner is such a tough and brave boy.  When most of us would be curled up in tears due to the pain from surgery and continuous nausea and vomiting due to gastroparesis, Conner is such a trooper.  He almost always has a precious smile on his face.

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So far, the pyloroplasty has been quite successful.  For the FIRST TIME in his entire life, Conner isn’t vomiting numerous times per day!!!  He’s eating and holding down his food, with a minor episode of reflux occasionally.  Praise the Lord!!!  This has been a journey of almost two years, and we’re so grateful for Conner’s gastroenterologist and the wisdom he has in getting to the bottom of Conner’s GI issues.

 

Now for the bittersweet news…

 

The 13-year-old girl in China (“Daphne”) who has Down syndrome has a family!

 

It’s just NOT our family!

 

The agency who has the girl’s file contacted me to let me know that another family submitted their Hague-approved home study before us, so they have been matched with “Daphne”.  This is in Daphne’s best interest because of the extremely limited time available to complete her adoption.

 

While we rejoice that Daphne has a family, our hearts are heavy that we are not “Daphne’s” family.  It is hard when God knits our hearts together with a child we feel He has chosen for our family.  When we pray without ceasing for a precious little girl half-way across the world, we can’t help but fall deeper in love with her.  Adoption is strange like that.  God has a way of connecting hearts so intimately, even when those hearts have never met.

 

Our Boss Your Heart shirt fundraiser is the perfect reminder to us as we boss our hearts through the grief and confusion of not being able to adopt “Daphne”.  God had been so clear with us, with too many large and small confirmations to list, so we are left with confusion in our flesh yet absolute trust in our spirit of the One who has orchestrated this.  We absolutely trust His sovereignty in all circumstances.  He never fails.  Ever. 

 

So, what does this mean for us?

 

Prayer.  Lots of prayer.  Praying over other children who are available for adoption.  We’re seeking His will and trusting His plan, which is exceedingly, abundantly more than we can think to ask.  He loves “Daphne” more than we do, and His plan for her is perfect and beautiful, just as His plan for our family is. 

 

We will steward well the adoption funds He has raised in this journey.  He has poured out His abundant provision, and we are grateful.  Most adoptions take many months, if not years, to complete.  We have time to seek His face before we decide in our flesh what to do. 

 

Would you please join us in praying for God to lead us in this journey?  We would be most grateful.  We are reminded over and over again of “Rainbow Miracles”, when God led us to adopt Vlad and Dima in Ukraine, yet He had chosen Conner and Cooper for our family all along.  What a confusing whirlwind He led us to at that time, yet He never abandoned us or misled us.  He held our hands the entire journey, and He blessed our family immensely with the addition of these two precious sons of ours.

 

God is on His throne.  He will speak in His perfect timing.  We are so very grateful for your prayers and support.

 

Thank you so much!

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