Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Year Ago Today

Ella and Selah Gotcha Day 2011 009

On this very day a year ago, November 23, 2010, I was driving several of our kids to the dentist when my cell phone rang.  It was a number I didn’t recognize, and when I answered it, I didn’t recognize the name or the voice either. 

The woman on the phone introduced herself as Phyllis from A Loving Choice Adoption Agency.  She explained how she learned about our family through a client/adoptive family of hers who reads our blog, and she went on to explain about a desperate and immediate private adoption situation in our state.  She was wondering if we might be interested in adopting two biological half-sisters that very same day.  In fact, we needed to make a decision in just a matter or hours!

The whole thing seemed so absurd to me.  This isn’t how adoptions happen, right?!?!  Well, at least for us, none of our adoptions had ever happened like this.  God had always given us time to seek Him and His will, to pray for as much time as we felt we needed, time for our entire family to consider how our lives would change if we committed to another adoption.  Time to adjust to the thought of adopting more children.  Time to raise funds.  Time.

We’d also never adopted a sibling group.  And this sibling group included a special needs baby.  We’d adopted special needs before, but not THIS special need.  And we’d never adopted a baby before either.  Babies are SO.MUCH.WORK.  Not to mention the risk to our hearts of adopting a baby whose condition could take her life.  Our hearts were still grieving after the recent loss of our precious and beloved princess, Chrissie.

Oh, the decision seemed so heavy.  I actually called a few good friends to try to talk them into adopting the girls.  I just felt the timing wasn’t right for our family, and my husband agreed that we should try the “easy” route first and see if God might just want us to help locate an adoptive family for these girls. 

I recall having a conversation with my husband, just a week or so prior to this phone call, about how I felt like I was drowning.  I was so overwhelmed with life.  Grieving, yet trying to keep up with 7 kids, my hubby, and our home/ranch.  Kiefer was two-years-old at the time, and he was a handful.   More than two handfuls.  Considering how overwhelmed life felt just a week prior to this phone call, there was just NO WAY we could possibly consider adding MORE children to the already chaotic and overwhelming circumstances of that season.

Well, none of my friends were interested in adopting the girls.  It didn’t help that it was just two days before Thanksgiving.  It didn’t help that a decision had to be made in just a matter of hours.  It seemed everyone I knew was more focused on hosting Thanksgiving than hosting two girls, which is a normal response in a situation like this.

But, for our family, God doesn’t seem to go for normal.  Smile  So, before we ever realized the extent of God’s plan for us and these two girls, we committed to helping however we could, however He asked us to. 

We brought Ella and Selah home the very same night as the original phone call from Phyllis, November 23, 2010, still thinking we’d advocate for them while they were safe in our care.  Click HERE for the announcement that the two girls were in our family. (Notice the announcement didn’t even make it to the blog until December! That’s how busy we were!)

The addition of Ella and Selah to our family was quite a surprise to all of us.  We thought we were just going to help however we could.  Click HERE to read the story of how God worked to get these two lovies into our family permanently.  Click HERE to read their adoption announcement. 

Well, here we are an entire year later, celebrating the one-year Gotcha Day of Ella and Selah.  Today, I am no longer overwhelmed by the circumstances of our lives.  I am now overwhelmed by the fact that we almost missed one of the biggest blessings God had in store for our family:  the gift of Ella and Selah.  I am so very grateful that God worked everything out to get these girls into our family, regardless of how overwhelmed we felt during this same season last year, regardless of how much I wanted to try to protect our hearts, regardless of life’s overwhelming circumstances.  Regardless. 

Oh, how I praise Jesus for His unconditional love, mercy, and grace.  We are so undeserving.  Oh, how I praise Him for making our hearts feel almost whole again through the gift of these two treasures.  Oh, how I praise Him for trusting us with these two bundles of love.  Oh, how I praise Him for the work He’s done in ALL of our lives through the gift of Ella and Selah.

This morning, as we began the celebration of Ella and Selah’s first Gotcha Day, each family member shared something about Ella and Selah and/or how our lives have been changed over the past year.  Here’s what everyone had to say (posted in order of youngest to oldest):

Selah (age 13 months):
Selah is obviously just a baby who can’t talk yet, but she is her very own living testimony, the kind that doesn’t require words.  Selah knows how loved she is; she is regularly smothered in love and kisses and attention from all of her family members.  Selah has suffered through a tough and challenging infancy, yet she has triumphed through the mercy of God.  She wasn’t supposed to be born alive, she wasn’t supposed to be more than a “vegetable” (after she survived outside the womb), and yet today she is walking, talking, and THRIVING.  She is her very own testimony, no words are necessary.  I’m trying to capture video of Selah telling us what a dog says, what a cat says, and what a duck says.  Plus, I’d love to capture the gesture she makes when we say, “Praise God.”  As soon as I’m able to capture these things on video, I’ll post them for all to witness, Selah’s testimony, for His glory.

Kiefer (age 3):
I like riding the 4 wheeler with Ella and playing with Ella.  I like riding horsies with Ella.  She rides Pokey and I ride Dude.  And I like to give Selah kisses on the cheek.

Ella (age 6):
When I woke up in this house {November 24, 2010), I said, “WOW, what did I do to deserve this place? I live in a castle!!!”  We had a big huge turkey for Thanksgiving, and it was SOOOOOOOOOOO good.  I had never seen a real turkey before.  I always tell my mom, “Mom, you cook the best food!”  I love the food.  I used to be hungry, but not any more.  I love the horses.  I love my family.  I love playing in the game room.  I love playing outside.  I love all of the toys.  I love my playhouse and my room.  I love helping Dad feed the horses and riding the tractor with him.  I love the arena and watching my dad and brothers rope.  I love helping with the cows.   I love when people come over to visit. And I really, really, really like all my family, including my sister Selah, and my mom, and my dad.

Asher (age 9):
Ella is nice to me and plays with me.  Selah is cute and funny.

Sawyer (age 11): 
I am glad I have two more little sisters that I feel like I can protect. If somebody messes with them, I can protect them. It reminds me of Chrissie. I liked protecting her.

Mattie (age 13):
How my {Mattie’s} life has changed since we got Selah:
Since I was little, I've always loved playing with dolls.  I even took them to the grocery store to look like a 'real mommy'.  When we got Selah, I actually got a real life baby doll!  I was so excited.  I loved learning how to change diapers, give baths, sing lullabies, make bottles, feed her, and all that fun stuff:-).  But in learning all of that, my eyes were opened to all that moms do.  Moms rock!  I'm excited to one day have my own baby, but for right now, I'm happy with a baby sister.  Selah has taught me a lot about responsibility.  She makes me crack up with her funny personality.  Overall, this past year has made all of my childhood dreams come true!

How my {Mattie’s} life has changed since we got Ella:
When we first got Ella, I was so clueless about ethnic hair, so I started researching right away!  I soaked in all the knowledge I could about doing Ella's hair.  I experimented and had her sit down almost every day to try something new.  A lot of our bonding time has been through doing her hair.  I've finally mastered one style and that's the only style I do now:-).  Anyway, I love hearing Ella’s colorful stories.  She has such an imagination and is a little drama queen.  She shares my love for dance and theater, and we have so much fun making up bedtime stories, and sharing the stage with each other.  She has taught me about protection.  I feel responsible for protecting her when we go places, and I love the trust she has in me.

Meribeth (age 14): 
On November 23, 2010, I was really ill and I didn’t want to leave my room because I didn't want to get anybody else sick.

I had no idea of what was going on and so I called Mattie from my room and asked her what was happening.  So Mattie told me about the situation with the girls, about my parents going to try to help these girls and their birth mom.

That night, I heard the truck pulling up the road, and ten minutes later my parents came in the house.  I heard lots of noises downstairs and I was so frustrated that I couldn't leave my room. My dad came in my room with a tiny little baby in his arms and a little girl of about five with really big brown eyes. I was so shocked, I thought my parents were just going to help these girls and help their mom.

A year has passed and I am so amazed at the things that these girls have taught me. They've taught me how to have patience and how to care about others rather than myself.  Sometimes I have a hard time to get up with Ella at 8:00 in the morning, when I really want to be asleep in my comfy bed, or when I have to take care of Selah when I have many things to do.

But you know what?  It's so worth it, and I know I'm not like many other teenagers that are to do whatever they want, but I do know that I'm getting ready to be a good mom someday. Smile  I prayed and prayed for our family to adopt a baby.  My mom always said how much work babies are.  Now I am getting to understand what she meant, but it is all worth it.  I told my mom how grateful I am that I am learning how to take care of a baby and how to be a good mom.  I love both of these girls so much, and I am so blessed to have these precious girls in my life!!

Happy gotcha day, Ella and Selah!!

Parker (age 15):
I have more respect for moms taking care of babies, cuz Selah can be pretty tough to take care of.  I’ve learned how to feed a baby a bottle, and it’s been fun to watch Selah grow and do new things.  Ella's hilariously funny, super cute, and STRONG.  It’s cool to be a big brother, to protect these girls and love them.

Naomi (age 19,  has severe developmental delays): 
I like Ella and Selah. I like playing with Selah. I like doing school with Ella. I like everything.

Matt (Dad, age 41): 
WOW, Nov. 2010-2011 has been such a year of healing and a visual picture of GOD’s  work here on earth.  Over the past year we have been so blessed to be used as a vessel for GOD’s work to rescue these two special girls from what I believe to be certain physical death of Selah and a spiritual death of Ella.    It is so wonderful to watch and “HEAR”  Ella and Selah in our home experience what Jeremiah 33:11 describes as “the voice of joy and the voice of gladness.” It encourages me to continue to live out James 1:27 each and every day when I come home to the joyful noises each one of these precious girls make.  Both Ella and Selah are quite vocal in their own special ways.  I often think that this is a loud reminder from GOD each day of his power and will in our lives, as well as His promise that he  does not leave us as orphans.  John 14:18

After the earthly death of Chrissie, I thought it might not be possible to love children with life threatening medical conditions so deeply, as much as we loved Chrissie.  I have been blown away at how much love I have for these girls, including baby Selah, who has a life threatening medical condition.  I truly feel Ella and Selah are special gifts from GOD who have brought much healing to our hearts and much joy to our home.  I look forward to raising these girls and watching them develop into truly amazing young women of God with an awesome testimony.


Ella and Selah Gotcha Day 2011 042

Just in case you’d like to read more about God adding a special needs infant to our family, here’s the story in 3 parts:
Selah’s Story, Part 1
Selah’s Story, Part 2
Selah’s Story, Part 3

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