Doing the Unthinkable

“I don’t know all the details about this particular mom, but I do know that when she became pregnant, she believed she was not able to take care of her child. Yet she refused to have an abortion. Instead, she brought her child to term and gave birth to a precious little girl on her own.

Then she took that newborn baby girl, wrapped her in a light-blue cloth, placed her in brown paper box, and in the middle of the night laid her in front of an orphanage for children with special needs. The orphanage found this baby girl the next morning and conducted a search for her mother, only to come up empty.

Though I don’t know who that mom is, I thank God for her. Because of her courage…a little girl was able to live. And ever day when I come home from work, that little girl comes running up to me with a smile spread across her face, jumps into my arms, yells, “Daddy!” and gives me the biggest bear hug you can imagine.”

As I read those words from David Platt’s book Counter Culture I couldn’t help but find my mind and my heart turning to the story of a little girl who will one day call me “daddy”. It seems unthinkable to most to imagine just abandoning our children. It is hard for us to imagine how someone could just leave a child on a street or in a park and walk away.

Somewhere, though, there is a mom and dad who through great heartache and struggle are doing the only thing they know to do to offer their child a chance at life. Though they may have a great love for their child, they make a sacrifice for their child leaving them to be found in the hopes that their child will receive the care that the child needs which they know they cannot provide. Chances are it is not a lack of love that drives a parent to do the unthinkable but it is a love for this child that compels them to do the unthinkable in order to offer their child the gift of life.

Some may think that Jenny and I are making great sacrifices to save a child. The truth is somewhere right now there is a mom or dad who is making a greater sacrifice to save this child and Jenny and I are the lucky ones who will reap the blessing of this sacrifice as we get to raise this little girl as our own. I pray daily for this mom and dad – that God would give them comfort and peace and that they might know just how grateful we are for the sacrifice they have made for our daughter.

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Another Step Closer

This week we passed the 6 month mark from the date our Medical Conditions Checklist (MCC) was submitted to our adoption agency. Our MCC is basically our place in line although depending on the age of the child and the needs that you are open to your wait time can vary.  We had started talking and praying about the process long before that, but 6 months ago really kicked it off.  It is amazing how much can change and stay the same in 6 months.

We are much closer to bringing our daughter home.  As I (Jenny) write this, our last documents are in Washington DC being authenticated.  This is the last step before they go to China, our dossier is complete, and we are done with the paper chasing.  Though each day we get a step closer to bringing our daughter home, we have yet to see her face and have no idea how long it will be before we get “the call.” We take comfort, though, in knowing that God’s timing is perfect.

In the last 6 months I have filled my head with more knowledge than I ever thought possible on many needs from vision loss, limb differences, skin conditions, heart conditions as I try to prepare for what our daughters need could be and how to proceed once we get a file.  We have been truly blessed by wonderful medical professionals who have offered their services free of charge to help us review files, answer questions, and figure out what our insurance will/will not cover and what we can/cannot accommodate.

Then there is the adoption community…the mighty adoption community.  (Let me clear one thing up, though…these strong families do not provide a home for lucky kids. No, it is the families who are the lucky ones, getting to bring one of these precious children into their homes, their lives, and their families.) I can’t believe we are among the lucky one who have been called to do this.  I can’t believe we get to go on this journey, meet this people, watch God’s AMAZING plan unfold, and make one of His children our own.

The families in the adoption community are fighters. They know their stuff (medical, emotional, etc.). I have found that all I have to do is ask and within seconds someone is there to answer with sound advice.  We are grateful for those that have walked before us.

Though the journey is long there are so many blessings along the way. The hard part comes with how my eyes have been opened in the last 6 months.  I have always had a heart for adoption, been on mission trips, etc. I didn’t think I was blind to the struggles in the world, but there is a difference to being aware (even a little involved) and being in it on a daily basis.  I have seen children that have been advocated for die before they get home without a family and it breaks my heart knowing that they never knew the love of a mom and dad. There are so many around the world suffering- many with things that can be fixed.  No we can’t help them all, but we can all help one.

So where do we draw the line?  What are the things we need and what are the things that we don’t? How could we use that time and money on something better?  This is what I struggle with on a daily basis. The things I struggle with are NOT BAD things…I like my kids to look cute (although Hadley insist on her hair being wild and crazy), I like nice things for my home, we like to go places and do fun things, we like to buy the girls things they want (within reason).  But, when does it become too much?  When do the NOT BAD things become overwhelming? Should we do less in order to do more? Throughout the adoption process these are the questions we are asking ourselves daily and these are the questions we hope and pray others begin to grapple with too.

FAQ

A couple of weeks ago we decided to go to a Chinese buffet here is town. Perhaps we should have talked to Hadley a little before going because the moment we walked in the door she shouted out “Look they’re from China! We should tell them we are adopting!” After that experience we talked to Hadley about how sometimes we may need to keep our thoughts to ourselves and just talk to mom and dad about it later. A few days later we were at the grocery store. Hadley saw a little girl who looked like she was from China. She pointed and said, “Mom and dad, look! I need to tell you about her later.”

Hadley is so excited about adopting a little sister from China. Every time she meets someone new, whether it is a waitress in a restaurant or a random person in the store, she introduces our whole family and tells them all about how we are adopting a sister from China. Anytime people hear our story about adoption we always seem to be asked the same two questions. It has been a while since we have posted any update on the adoption. In an effort to update you with where we are in the process we will attempt to answer these two frequently asked questions:

1.  Why are you adopting from China?

This is one of the questions that we get asked the most. Some ask because they are generally interested in our story. Others ask with an agenda behind the question. “Why China? There are so many children right here who need a good home.” That is absolutely true. There are children right here in our own back yard and children all around the world who need a good home, and we pray that God will soften more people’s hearts to the idea of adoption. We could share a lot of reasons about why we chose to adopt from China, but the simplest and most honest answer is this: Because that’s where our daughter is.

2.  When?

We wish we knew. One of the hardest parts about adoption is waiting. We know right now our daughter may be out there waiting to come home, and it breaks our hearts to know that she is out there and we can’t hold her in our arms yet. But, adoption (especially international adoptions) can be a long process.

In a pregnancy you know a general date when you will get to meet your child, and everyone around you can see the pregnancy progress. An adoption at times feels like a paperwork pregnancy. As a part of the process we have to complete a dossier. The dossier consists of a ton of paperwork. We have to compile letters of employment, financial records, physicals signed off by the doctors, multiple background checks, reference letters, letter of intent, birth certificates, etc. Each individual document must be notarized and then sealed by the County Clerk, Secretary of State, the State’s office in D.C., and the Chinese Embassy. At this point we have almost all of our paperwork completed and sealed. The last thing we are waiting on is our immigration paperwork, which we have submitted but can take up to 90 days to get back (which would be sometime in September). Once we get this back and sealed by all the proper agencies we will send all of our paperwork off to our adoption agency who will do a critical review of our dossier, translate it into Chinese, bind it, and send it off to China. At that point we will have a completed, logged in dossier.

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In the meantime we are waiting to be matched with a child. We can be matched with a child before our dossier is complete, we just can’t travel to China to complete the adoption until it is complete. We will be matched with a child based on our medical checklist, which we submitted back in March. Once matched it will still be a few months before travel because we have to apply for our travel visa among other things. During that time we can send care packages to our daughter including pictures, toys, etc. We will then travel to China for about 2 weeks to complete everything and finally bring our daughter home.

We don’t have a specific timeline for the whole process. We were told, though, that it would take about 18-24 months from the time we started the process, which means we will probably be traveling over to China to bring our daughter home around November 2016.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support, and for joining us on this long journey. It would be difficult to travel this road alone. While we anxiously wait for the day we receive a phone call that we have been matched with a child, and anxiously await the first time we get to hold her in our arms for now we must simply trust God and His timing, trusting that He is in control.

Search My Heart

Yesterday we had our home study. We thought it would be good to have some cookies to offer our social worker when she came. Considering we don’t cook much, though, we decided to go to Chic-fil-A and buy a tray of their cookies and a gallon of lemonade to have at the house. Of course there was no pretending like we had made the cookies because as soon as our social worker walked in the door Hadley ran up to her and announced excitedly “we went to Chic-fil-A and bought you some chocolate chip cookies and lemonade. Want some?!” Hadley proceeded to grab her by the hand and take her through the house.

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Hadley anxiously waiting for Ms. Rebecca, our social worker, to come.

Nothing makes you go through your house from top to bottom, inside and out like knowing someone is coming over to inspect your house. After our social worker left we said we should have planned to have people over to the house that night because our house had never been so clean. Knowing someone is coming to inspect your home really gives you cause to examine your own house to make sure everything is in order. There is something terrifying yet beneficial to this experience.

We would all do well to have someone examine our lives in this manner. Perhaps this is why the psalmist invited God to “test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind” (Psalm 26:2). You see this open invitation appears many times in the Psalms. In Psalm 17 the psalmist writes “ though you examine me at night and test me”. You almost get the sense here that the Lord comes and examines him when he least expects it. At least we had the advantage of knowing the exact day and time that our social worker was coming so we could make sure our house was in order.

What’s the purpose of this examination? Despite what we may think it is not to catch us in our failures. It is not for our downfall but for our benefit. While our social worker needed to ensure that we could provide a safe loving environment to raise a child, despite what we may have thought going into the home study she was not walking through the house trying to catch us on every little thing looking for a reason to fail us. Instead she walked through with a caring eye encouraging us and pointing out areas where we might be able to make our home a safer place for a little one. In the same way God does not examine our hearts looking for every reason to “fail” us, but rather with a desire to see us grow in His image.

In Psalm 139, growing out of an understanding that God is the one who formed us and shaped us, that God knows us intimately, the psalmist welcomes God’s examination, inviting God to “Search me, God, and know my heart;
 test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Why? To “See if there is any offensive way in me,
 and lead me in the way everlasting.”

There is something terrifying yet beneficial to knowing that someone is coming over to inspect your home. There is something terrifying yet edifying to keeping an open invitation to the Lord to examine us and search us, pointing out to us anything in our lives that might be offensive to Him and leading us in His ways that we might grow in Christ-likeness. I would invite you today in a time of personal worship and prayer to consider the words of Hillsong United’s “Search My Heart”:

If you don’t have something nice to say…

Chances are growing up you probably heard your parents say, “If you don’t have something nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” And chances are if you have kids you have probably caught yourself saying that same thing (and cringed as he words came out of your mouth at the thought of sounding like your parents). As simple as this may seem there are times I wish more people lived by this saying.

It seems as though everyone has an opinion about everything and feel the need to share their opinion with you. When people hear of our adoption, people we don’t even know feel like they need to chime in and tell us horror stories of “someone they know” who adopted from overseas (of course, this happened with birth stories when Jenny was pregnant too). Just the other day someone overheard us talking to someone else about the adoption and proceeded to chime in with a story of a friend of a friend who adopted from China, telling us about how you have to pay the orphanage all kinds of money after you adopt to get your kid out of the country. Others when they find out we are adopting from China like to chime in with all the reasons we should be adopting from the US,

It is amazing the number of negative voices that can so quickly drown out the voice of God as we seek to obediently respond to what we have prayerfully determined He is calling us to do. I cannot help but think of Nehemiah who could have so easily been swayed by the negative opinions of those around him. As Nehemiah in obedience to God sought to lead the Israelites to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem he had to deal with the voices of opposition from Sanballat and Tobiah who ridiculed the Jews saying things like “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” or “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” (Nehemiah 4:2-3). As the opposition continued how did Nehemiah respond? He sought God. “But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9).

While we don’t think people are intentionally trying to oppose our adoption, it is easy for the negative voices to drown out the voice of God in our lives. So, we will seek God. Our prayer is that God will strengthen our hands as we continue to move along in the process of adoption, that regardless of any stories we may hear or setbacks we may experience along the way God will strengthen our hands as we continue the journey…becoming a family of five.

Ephesians 1:16

Jimmy Fallon has a sketch on the Tonight Show where he writes thank you cards. He recently posted a photo on his Facebook page of a thank you card for Mother’s Day that reads, “Thank you Mother’s Day for being a great way to tell mom, ‘You gave birth to me. You raised me. Everything I am is because of you. Now let me buy you some tulips and a quick brunch and we will call it even.'”

Things like Mother’s Day can often become a reminder to acknowledge the people in our lives who are overlooked and under appreciated for what they do. With this week being teacher appreciation week and today Mother’s Day we have spent a lot of time this week thinking about the people in the lives of our daughters who have had a significant impact on them.

When both Hadley and Harper were born I (Adam) brought a gift for them to the hospital. With Harper it was a piggy bank that I had filled with verses from the Bible that God had laid on my heart for her in the nine months leading up to her birth. For Hadley is was a keepsake box filled with prayers that I have been and will continue to pray over her.  One of those prayers was for the other adults God would place in her life who will have an impact on her – people like her teachers, coaches, and the parents of her friends.

Our prayer right now for the child we will be adopting is very similar.  There are people we will never know and more than likely will never meet who will have a profound impact on the early moments of her life. We are praying for her biological parents and whatever the circumstances are behind them giving her up for adoption, for the people who find her, for the people who will care for her in those early days in the orphanage or foster homes in China, for the other children who will interact with her and play with her, for the doctors and health care professionals who will evaluate and care for her.

As we spend much of our evenings gathering documents, completing paperwork, and preparing for our upcoming home study our thoughts and prayers are for those who right now God may be using to care for our daughter until we can bring her home, and we invite you to join us in praying for them as well.

Jenny’s Story

In our first blog post The Journey Begins we talked about how this adoption began with a calling. What we have not yet told you is how long God has been working…

I (Jenny) remember playing house as a little girl and in my family I always had an Asian Daughter along with the other kids that looked like me.  Why?  Don’t know.  We did not know anyone that was adopted from an Asian country and I didn’t even know that was possible.   What I came to realize as I got older was that this was a desire God was placing on my heart.  You see, this child was always meant to be mine.  She has always been part of the picture.

As I grew and my relationship with God grew He began to give me a heart for orphans.  I did not even connect this to my childhood playtime until many years later.  I went to Costa Rica on a Mission Trip in 2004 and helped teach VBS at an orphanage.  When Adam and I began dating I started talking to him about adoption.  I told him my heart and he was completely on board. We knew that one day we would adopt a child and then tough part began….

As any follower of Christ knows when you are trying to do his will you will have stumbling blocks…

  • We had to be married for 2 years
  • Once we were married for 2 years they changed the age for adoptive parents to 30. At that point this meant another 6 year wait until we could even begin the process. (In 2000 Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman adopted their first daughter from China.  They were one of the first people I really knew about to do this in the public eye and have followed their story ever since.  Here I am meeting Mary Beth in 2010.  We talked about how I had to wait until I was 30 to adopt she told me it would go by fast!!IMG_0780
  • Once we hit 30 agencies were only accepting couples that would adopt special needs children from China….Could we handle this?  This was a HUGE one.  I get stressed out when the girls have strep!  We both work full-time and we can’t go to therapy and doctor appointments on a regular basis.
  • Hadley and Harper are exhausting can we really handle another…LOL!
  • Adoption is expensive
  • I CANNOT fly all the way to China – I hate flying

In Romans 8:28 it says,” and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” and in John 16:33 It says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I keep these verses in my mind and pray!  I have done a ton of research on special needs and with the help of many adoptive moms and our great pediatrician I feel much more confident that we can handle the needs of our daughter.  I can go to China because God has overcome the World!!!  My little girls are so excited about their new sister.

You know how people ask can you love your second child as much as your first?  Well as countless people (and I) can attest, the answer to that question is a resounding yes!  What some may be more afraid to ask is can you love your adopted child as much as your biological child?  Well, I have yet to see her face, but I can tell you my heart hurts for her with a Mom’s love.  It hurts for her when I wonder where she is and if she is healthy and warm.  My heart hurts for her with the same hurt I have for my girls when I have watched them when they are sick.  I love her already and cannot wait to bring her home as our family becomes a family of 5!