Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Story of How God Led Us to "D"

As we embark on a new year promised to be full of some pretty exciting changes in our house, I thought that it was about time that I share the story of how we made the decision to adopt again - and more specifically, to adopt 11-year old, "D". In short, this is the story of how God opened our eyes to possibilities we would not have imagined on our own.

"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act." Proverbs 24:12

Nolan and I have always wanted two children. Let me repeat that: just two. I know that number seems pretty small to some of you, but it was our number. We both grew up in households of four, with only one sibling each. Two was good. We were content. Our lives were (are) going pretty smoothly and between work, the girls and all their activities, we are always very busy with just two kids. Yet something just didn’t feel right. And it all began with another number.

143 million.

Yes, this is a number I know many of you know all too well. 143 million orphans in the world without a mother or a father. 143 million kids who don't have someone to tuck them in at night; to hug them when they have a boo boo; to be their own personal cheerleader. Like I’m sure many of you do, Nolan and I were (and are) always searching for things that we could do to make an impact. We knew how much our family had been blessed by adoption. Not just ours, but my brother's family, too. We were seeking ways we could help spread this message. What type of work could we do to further the awareness of those countless children in need? Should we start a foundation to help support adoptions? An orphan ministry at our church? What was it that we could do? After all, we were done adopting.

Or were we? Night after night, we walked by our empty guest bedroom. Day after day, we sat and ate at our kitchen table made to seat eight or more, yet there were only four. The staggering number of orphans in the world was constantly on our minds. And everywhere we turned... and most in particular, deep inside our hearts... we were reminded that He has called us to care for them.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

God began to put more things in front of us to make His plans clear. In February 2008, we received an email from F*RUA about a program to host U*kranian orphans in May. The host family would pay for the child’s airfare, all of their meals, entertainment and clothing needed for the two week trip. It took us all of two seconds to jump on board for this. We weren’t interested in adopting a child, just spending time together making wonderful memories and hopefully introducing her to someone here in the U.S. that could be her forever family. We also loved the idea of having Leila spend time around someone from Eastern Europe. We were thinking about hosting someone near Leila's age, but when the list of available children to host arrived, we spotted a 14-year old girl that caught our eye. We requested to host her. Then, we read her story. That’s where it went from hosting to adopting in a matter of hours. Her story touched us deeply. She was a very selfless girl with a big heart, as shown by some very serious and mature actions she had taken to help find her biological brother a home, even if it meant she would not. Nolan and I both agreed immediately that if she came and got along well with the girls, that we would adopt her. That WE would be her forever family. The statistics are horrible for children who age out of the orphanage and this was looking like it would be her future. So here we are: we went from receiving a simple email one minute to wanting to adopt a 14-year old girl two days later.

As fast as it came about, it came crashing down even more quickly. As Nolan and I were out shopping for a care package to send to her, her orphanage director was making a decision to not allow her to come to the U.S. She said that she could not afford to let her, or any child, from her orphanage come to the U.S. on a host program because they would end up getting adopted and the orphanage would lose their funding. Our facilitator tried, but there was no arguing with her. "No," was her final answer. We were crushed. Truly crushed. Nolan was ready to hop on a plane and go to U*kraine. (Obviously, we know it’s not as simple as that.) I wanted to do something as well, but at the same time I felt this was God’s way of saying, "Not yet. This isn’t the right time." And I certainly didn’t want an orphanage director working against us before we had even started the process.

So February 2008 was when He laid on our hearts that we WOULD adopt again and this time, it would be a much older child. Two months later, we signed up with another agency for a different host program. This time, it fell through at the agency level because they simply didn’t have the time to devote to it over the summer, but fortunately it was before we saw any photos or read any bios. That felt OK to us. We weren’t in any hurry and we really felt it would be better to wait until the girls got older anyway.

But God had other plans.

On August 12, Rebecca left a comment on my blog. It was the first time I recall that she ever left a comment, so I popped over to see who she was and lo and behold, she had just posted a list of children that her agency was having a difficult time placing on the same day. (Only He can craft a story this perfect.) I saw something that sparked my interest, but thought to myself that I would wait. Well, I could only wait until the next morning until curiosity got the best of me and I contacted the adoption agency. Our child was not on that particular list, but a few weeks later, at the end of September, we received an email from the agency stating that they had added more children to their Waiting Child list. Again, I sat on it. Again, only until the next morning when I took a look at the list and found our girl. I printed off her small little picture and her brief bio and showed it to Nolan, who didn’t hesitate to ask me to find out more. (My husband is so good!) I contacted the agency to request her file and called our local Children’s Hospital International Adoption clinic and scheduled an appointment for the next day.

I spent an hour with the International Adoption Specialist reviewing her file. In truth, I was scared and nervous, but at the same time cautiously optimistic. I called Nolan and filled him in on everything that I had learned. I went home and asked Leila what she thought about what we were considering, since she is of the age where she understands.

"That will change everything, Mommy," she said. "Yes, yes it will, honey," I replied. I told her to think about it for a bit and we’d talk again.

Now, having this laid on your heart and being able to take the leap of faith to make it happen are two very different things. Nolan and I both knew immediately when seeing Leila and Mia’s referral photos, but I admit that we needed more for this adoption. I had been calling everyone I knew who had adopted an older child and devouring every blog I could find about older child adoption and adopting out of birth order. More importantly, Nolan and I had individually been praying that God show us something that confirmed that this was His will for us. On Saturday evening, we prayed together.

On Sunday morning, we sat in our seat at the 9:30 a.m. service like we always do, when the choir began to sing a "bring the house down" version of a song we had never heard before. The chorus gave us our answer:

Chorus to "Through the Fire":
He never promised that the cross would not get heavy
And the hill would not be hard to climb
He never offered our victories without fighting
But He said help would always come in time
Just remember when your standing in the valley of decision
And the adversary says give in
Just hold on, our Lord will show up
And He will take you through the fire again

And in that very moment, we both knew.

There was one final missing piece of information that we had requested a few days earlier. "D" has been living in foster care for the past four years and our fear was that she might already feel she has a family and that she didn’t want to be adopted. She is obviously old enough to have formed a pretty strong opinion about this and to us, it was very important to know what she wanted. As Nolan and I were sitting in the backseat of our boss’ car on the way to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert, I checked my email on my iPhone and there arrived our answer. A message from our agency read, "Yes, "D" knows that her family is somewhere overseas." It wasn’t exactly the answer we were looking for, but it was close enough. Tears welled up in my eyes and I passed my phone over to Nolan to read. I was shaking sitting in the back of the car knowing that we WERE going to adopt her, an 11-year old girl sitting on the other side of the world.

So our decision was made, yet we just wanted to know how Leila felt about it. It was actually Leila that came to me and said, "Mommy, I thought about it and I’m ok with getting a big sister. I just don’t want 400 children in our house, okay?" Oh my, I was laughing hysterically! I shook her hand on it and said it was a deal. "Leila, I promise you we will not have 400 kids in our house."

Leila quickly asked a follow-up question, "But, Mommy, can we adopt the next one from Russia?"

"Ummm, Leila, I’m not sure there’s going to be a next one, honey," I replied.

But one thing I have learned is... Never Say Never. His plans for us are far bigger and better than we could ever imagine on our own.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

39 comments:

mommy24treasures said...

oh Michelle I loved this.
I am so happy for you.
His plans are so much better than ours.
Love
C

Party of Seven said...

I found your site from Rebecca. What a beautiful story I have tears in my eyes!! Can I ask if you had started a dossier before deciding to adopt "D"? Or are you just starting that process now. I have wheels that wont stop turning in my head and I was just curious. Happy 2009 your girls are gorgeous.

Ashley said...

Michelle,
What a wonderful, inspiring and beautiful post. I will pray daily that "D" comes home to her forever family soon!
Ashley

Denise said...

I should not be reading this post, because I would adopt again in a heartbeat if my hubby was on board. We already have 5, but 143 million just breaks my heart...maybe He is calling me to do something else.
Thanks for sharing your story and I can't wait to see it unfold in 2009. Like the previous commenter, I am wondering if you are paperchasing or if you already had to have a dossier in place?

Felicia said...

Oh Michelle, I am crying your post is so awesome. God is so good. I loved Leila's comment about the fourth one?! According to Leila you can go up to 399 :)

Angie said...

I'm so happy for your family. I've been feeling lead to adopt again but we just haven't figured it all out, I'm hoping when it's the right time and right situation we will know. I love reading your blog, Rob and Shelly introduced it to us when you first started it and I've enjoyed keeping up on your family! Congratulations!
Angie M from Indiana

Dawn said...

Reading this gives me goosebumps!! Yes, never say never. Just this morning, my husband said that he doesn't think we are done with the 3 that we always planned for. If we aren't blessed with anoter bio miracle, then we will adopt again. WOW. I want to get #3 home first! The thing is that the thought of #4 makes me nervous, but happy.

http://wehavebeenblessed.blogspot.com

Missy said...

A true red thread story if I've ever heard one. "D" was born to be your daughter and your girl's sister! God shows himself when we're not even looking for it. Beautiful post!

Mandey said...

i was not aware that the number of orphans was that high! 143 million... how heart breaking! I plan to adopt one day. It's been something that's been on my heart for several years. I love your story, and I'll be praying this process goes smoothly for you!

ellie said...

I've just discovered your blog - I loved your story of God leading you to D! Thanks for sharing.

We have a little boy from Ukraine and a little girl from China, I had so smile when I saw your Christmas ornaments - we have the same ones!!

LaLa said...

Thank you so much for sharing...what a beautiful story. I may want to copy this to send to my SS class..I think there are some in there that have adoption on their hearts and just need "a push" I think you story may inspire them...let me know how you feel about that...

I am sooo happy for you and your family. She is such a beautiful girl and you are so blessed!

Marla said...

What a great story!
Gods timing is perfect and so is this story.

Ashley said...

Michelle, Thanks for the tips! i will make a new blog header my 2009 goal!! Ashley

Steffie B. said...

Omw Michelle.....I am bawling....this is such a beautiful, heartfelt post....I can't wait to see this journey unfold for you.....God is good! ;)

Hugs,
Steffie

Jboo said...

Michelle -- that is such a beautiful story -- you are inspiring! Best wishes to you and your very sweet family!

Janet

ashia said...

hi michelle! i have so enjoyed reading your blog, and i'm so happy for you guys, that God has lead you to daughter #3! what a blessing! i look forward to future posts about her! just wanted to also comment that i absolutely LOVE the necklace that you had made as a reminder of the girls. it is SO beautiful!

Joe and Jane said...

Thanks for sharing your beautiful and inspiring story! I truly hope this process moves fast for your and "D's" sakes.

Jill said...

There is so much I want to say right now, but AMEN pretty much covers it!
Congrats you guys!

Chris and Deb said...

What a beautiful story Michelle! I am so excited for your family!! Any ideas when you may be traveling? :)

Nicole A. said...

This is a wonderful story, and one that your daughter will appreciate as she grows older, too, I'm sure! God is so very good, and He really has a heart for orphans, of that I am totally convinced! I'm excited to follow along with her adoption. I know very little about adopting out of birth order, but I do know it is common, and how very sweet that your current oldest in on board! Thanks for sharing!

All the best,
Nicole A. in OH

Gail said...

Hi Michelle! Nice to meet you. Thanks for coming over to my blog and introducing yourself. Yes, I'll be in Michigan in May at Deb's workshop and really looking forward to it. I believe Steffie and Lea(another blogger, I don't know if you know her) will be there too. William has been home with us 5 months. Initially there were challenges but he's now doing very, very well. We love this boy so much!

Your post made me cry. That number of 143 million orphans haunts me. I also never say never, so who knows what the future will bring for our family too. Your daughters are just beautiful and congratulations on bringing home an older sister for them. I look forward to following your journey!

Take care, Gail

Willis said...

That's awesome that your husband is on the same page with you. We adopted a one year old three years ago, and I'm so ready to do it again. My husband is not on board yet. It is so hard to sit back and wait.
So happy to see how God is working in your lives. And I love that song, too. I've heard to Crabb family sing it before.

Colleen said...

What a beautiful story I have tears in my eyes. {{{hug}}}}

Somewhere In The Sun said...

Michelle, your story is so beautiful and very moving. I related to so many of the things you wrote. It's an awesome thing to watch someone step out of their comfort zone to do God's will! I'm so excited that D is from Olivia's province!! I'm praying for all of you.

~Lynn

Cammie said...

Wow! Just...wow!

God is good.

My heart ruly broke when I read the part of the story where the director 'can't' let children be adopted because she will lose funding...to think...keeping forever families from being made because she needs the money. I mean, I get that she needs the funding, but that just breaks my heart!

Sammy said...

Oh, I think you had better be careful! I just read your entry. That is how I feel and look what happened to me. :- )

Sandra

Steffie B. said...

stop by Michelle....my prayers have been answered. ;)

Meredith Teagarden said...

Michelle, ASIA was my agency! I am so happy for your news. I was adopted at 12. God bless you!!

Alyson and Ford said...

Congrats! So happy for your family!

Alyzabeth's Mommy

Julia said...

Oh Michelle, I'm sitting here in tears this morning. My heart breaks for the 14 year old girl for so many reasons, but then rejoices at the news that you've found your daughter just by opening your heart and listening to the messages around you. I can't wait to see your story unfold. Congratulations to you and your family!

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

What an amazing story...he does work in mysterious ways, doesn't he!! Never say never!! I am so happy for you....you are more than blessed!

Lisa

Heather said...

I have come back and read and re-read this post. I love it. I love the hearts of you, your husband and your precious daughters. I love the daughter you do not know yet, but know she was born in your heart. I love to pray for your family and for the changes that are coming. I love you friend and could not be happier for this beautiful story. I love that God made it perfectly clear - He is so great!

Love,
Heather

Janelle said...

Ok, I have a huge lump in my throat now. Awesome awesome testimony.

day by day said...

Michelle.....I missed this post and am just now reading. Thanks so much for sharing this amazing story! I love it!!! I had been looking forward to learning more about the path that lead you to your newest daughter....a beautiful post, Michelle!!

Amie@HeartSmiles said...

What a beautiful story. Love finding God in the details. love it!!!

And it was just as good as the first time around on the phone!!Fyi- You had managed to get out all the details! :)

Thanks for sharing this Michelle! I am certain it will encourage others who might have felt the same way.. That they were done. Or to show them that when one door closes, look to find the one that God is leading you to and opening for you. Whodathunk...right?

Lots of Love!
Hope to see you guys soon!

:)
Amie

Dawn said...

Michelle... every time i see your photos I can see and feel the love you have for your children. That love is the love of God screaming through you and Nolan. I know I have never met you but I feel I have come to know you through your blogs and photos. God truly make the impossible possible. Those children are truly blessed to have God fearing and OBEDIENT parents as you too! I will be in constant prayer for this finalization of bringing your daughter home..

Kristi said...

Michelle,

This is such a beautiful story. "D" will feel so incredibly blessed to read it someday and know how completely her family wanted her.

Amanda June said...

Your family is by far the most inspirational family I have ever met. I am so happy your family is expanding. Congrats!

Tammy said...

Wow! What a story! I just ran across your blog in a round about way through No Hands but Ours. Thanks for listing your blog on there. We have been considering adopting an older child for 2 years now. Is it possible for you to fill us in on how she is doing in school, etc. now? Also, where did you get the specially made necklace with two different countries? We are in the same boat (two different countries).