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.
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.
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":
And in that very moment, we both knew.
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.