Thursday, October 5, 2017

On brokeness.

Three years ago.
1096 days.

Three years ago we walked into an orphanage and met two little boys.  We had loved these boys from afar for months but to them we were complete strangers. One child rejected me continually for almost our whole time in Ethiopia. The second?  He ran straight into my arms and seemed to relish in every moment we spent together. Was it love at first sight for him like it was for me when I first saw his face on our computer screen?  No, not even close. He simply mimicked what he'd seen other kids do, followed the instructions of the nannies, knew we'd have gifts for him... the list of reasons he ran to me could go on but love?  It didn't make the list.  Not even close.  At least not yet.

One year.

We danced.  Love grew, fears abated, changes happened, anxieties grew... often time we forget while in adoption that while there is a day where all the legalities happen that single date changes nothing. It takes time for love and trust to grow in brokenness and despair.

Two years.
The dance continued and at times felt like a fight. A fight to win the hearts of children that had already lost so much, a fight to knockout the disbelief of their worthiness and earn their trust. Each day we worked to show them that we were different, we wouldn't leave them and we would always be their safe place.

Three years.

How has it been three years?  I remember everything about those first days together.  The feel of their faces in the palm of my hands, the bony arms around my neck, the inflections in their voices as they giggled are all imprinted in my mind and on my heart.  My heart was overflowing with love and joy when we met Thomas and Samsel.

So full yet so broken. People don't often tell you that when you enter into adoption, particularly older child adoption, that you are entering into brokenness. Brokenness in the heart of you child, brokenness in a system, brokenness in the world. Adoption also quickly revealed all the brokenness in me.  Brokenness that so often feels unredeemable; simultaneously a mountain you can't scale and a valley you can't climb out.

But this brokeness, it is redeemable. Today, as I watched Samsel race pedal cars and Thomas jump in piles of hay, I was thankful. Thankful for sunglasses to hide the tears and thankful that redemption is coming. Smiles and laughter, playing with friends, snuggling against my leg... it hasn't been an easy road, but it's been a beautiful one.

In the car on the way home from our field trip Samsel belted out these lyrics

When You don't move the mountains
I'm needing You to move
When You don't part the waters 
I wish I could walk through
When You don't give the answers
As I cry out to You,
I will trust, I will trust, I will trusnt in You.

Listening to my sweet boy sing these songs was not only a reminder of the redemption that is coming but of why.  We can read all the books, say all the right prayers, follow certain parenting strategies and change diets, but redemption?  It comes from the Redeemer.

In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. Ephesians 1:7

Love isn't the answer but it changes things. Families aren't perfect but they make a huge difference in the life of a child without one. Redmeption isn't easy. You may feel battle worn and weary.  But when you catch a glimpse of it, when you taste the sweetness of redemption in your spirit, you know that the fight, the struggle, all that ugly will someday turn into something beautiful.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

It is well.

We always seem to do things full steam ahead in our household; we believe big life changes should happen in pairs at the minimum.  The week Gabriel was born we moved into a new house and I quit my job.  Most people tend to do these things one at a time, but for some reason we seem to do things with the mantra "Go big or go home."   And you know what, it works for us.  

So when we saw Lili's face and knew that an inevitable move was also in the future, we were all systems go.  We knew there would be time constraints, financial challenges and extra paperwork chases but deep within us, we knew she was our daughter and worth any extra hoops we had to jump through.  

And then we moved.  
Across the country.  
Back to Houston.  
But this time as a family of 5 instead of a family of 3.  
And everything was different. 

The boys and I stayed in a hotel the first night here as all of our belongings were arriving the next day.  We woke up ready to head to our new home and the first song that played on the radio was Audrey Assad singing "It is Well."  And honestly, at that point nothing felt well.  I was excited yet anxious, nervous and afraid to start this new adventure.  But these words rolled over me

When peace like a river, attendeth my way. 
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well.  It is well, with my soul. 

and have been on repeat in my heart as we navigated our new life here.  Securing pediatricians, setting up therapists, figuring out a new home school routine kept us busy those first few weeks here.  We returned back to Ohio for Christmas and came home on New Years day.  We've been welcomed back into the fold at our old church, joined the YMCA where the boys are doing soccer, baseball and swim lessons.  

Life is moving on here in Houston.  It's moving on back home in Ohio as well.  My lovely Megan's sweet baby Matthew was an itty one when we left and is now on the verge of walking.  It makes me teary just how quickly our little ones are growing up.  Cousins and friends are getting older, relationships change and things that once were, are no longer.  But my heart song, it has remained steadfast.  

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let his blessed assurance control, 
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, 
And hath shed His own blood for my soul. 
It is well, with my soul. 
It is well, with my soul. 
It is well, it is well, with my soul.  

Last week we received China's approval to adopt Lili; and for the first time in months I went through all of the information we have on her.  It's very slim but as the doctor dictated how he removed her right eye I found myself weeping.  What a traumatic thing for anyone to go through, let alone a toddler without a mama and daddy to hold her.  I can't even imagine how scary it was for her to wake up to a world of blackness.  I'm so grateful for the people that were there for her then and have been loving her since but nothing can replace the love of parents.  

Realistically we could be looking at Travel Approval in the next 6-8 weeks.  It seems so close yet so far away at the same time.  In an instant sometime in late June or early July we will become a family of 6.  The boys will have a sister and we will have a daughter.  Just like that our worlds will change.  I don't speak Mandarin, Lili doesn't speak English and neither of us know Braille.  We are going in with eyes wide open, we know it won't be easy but just as Samsel clings to my neck in the morning and Thomas impulsively gives us hugs now, we know it will all be worth it.  Love.  Sometimes it comes all at once but more often than not it comes slowly. We've learned that with enough patience, reassurance and steadfast presence, the deep seeded knowledge that you are loved and can love will come. 

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole, 
Is nailed to the corss, and I bear it no more, 
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! 
It is well, with my soul. 
It is well, with my soul. 
It is well, it is well, with my soul.  

Q: Are you ready to parent a blind child
A.  Not yet, but we'll learn.
Q: Don't you already have your hands full?
A.  Yes, we do.  Our hands, along with our hearts will just be a bit fuller now.
Q: Another special needs child?
A.  The biggest special need of any child is the need for a family.
Q Are you sure your ready?
A.  I don't think anyone can ever be fully prepared to become a parent whether it's through birth or adoption or for the first time, fourth time or tenth time.  The only thing that is certain is that neither Lili nor any other child is ever ready to be an orphan. 

These are all questions I've been asked recently and repeatedly.  We don't have all the answers, no parent has all the answers. What we do have is a few certainties.  
1.  As a couple, we believe that adoption is the best way for us to grow our family and we are definitely ready to grow again. 
2.  As a family, the boys are so excited to have a sister.  Thomas and Gabe constantly talk about all the ways they're going to help Lili.  Ask Samsel about Lili and he'll tell you she's in China. 
3.  Adoption isn't for everyone, but it is for us.  And we truly believe that this is a calling on our lives given to us by God.  

So when I lay in bed at night exhausted from a day with my sweet boys, or from a week of Matt being out of town and my mind fails to slow down with the 100s of questions that keep me up at night... I still feel enveloped in peace. Enveloped in His peace, in His grace and His love.  And as my eyes flutter shut, I can still say

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, 
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well, with my soul. 
It is well, with my soul. 
It is well, it is well, with my soul.  

 Don't forget we have t-shirts on sale to help bring our sweet Lili home.  It's a presale and the sale ends April 30!  Thank you for your support! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

He Cares for the Lilies

I love reading books that are part of a series; I like to watch the progression of the characters, the plot twists and returning to earlier books to review parts of the story.  As I look at character development it's easy to see that people's stories rarely begin when you think they do.  It's a little bit like life; you  meet someone when you're 15, 23 or 35, you instantly connect and then bit by bit you learn how they became the person that you met.

A decade ago I thought Matt and I would eventually adopt but a quarter of a century ago (gosh, am I truly that old!) I always wanted to adopt a baby girl from China and name her Lily.  Cue the eye roll because I do it to myself when I look back at the sweet but naive girl I used to be.  And that girl and her dream followed me through high school and college.

But then sometimes dreams change; I no longer dreamed of a little Chinese baby girl Lily, I dreamed of having a family.  That dream brought Matt and I to one of our sweetest and biggest joys, Gabriel.  After Gabriel, more joy came along. Thomas and Samsel.  While it took so much longer to bring them home than I had ever imagined.  I'm glad we had that time though; we learned so much about adoption and the children that need adoption as their chance for a family.  While we learned the ins and outs of international adoption we learned that most children that needed a family were not healthy babies but either older children or children with special needs.

As we settled in to being a family of 5 we knew we weren't quite finished growing our family yet.  We talked domestic adoption, browsed through agencies and waiting child sites.  India was a good option because you have to have less than 4 children to adopt there, we thought a special needs little boy from China would be a sweet addition, there was always domestic adoption.... there were many different ways our little family could grow.

Then we found out Matt was being transferred and sometime in the fall our family would be moving back to Houston.  Adopting again was pushed a little back down on our list until I received a short text and a picture from my dear friend Jenny.  In that picture was the face of the sweetest girl I'd ever seen holding an apple and the message "Or... you could go after Lily and we could travel to Bethel together"

Jaw dropped.  Jenny didn't know that I had a long forgotten dream of adopting a baby girl named Lily from China.  Goodness, I had pretty much forgotten that dream.  I now dreampt of lots of sweet little boys filling our home and maybe, eventually a little girl.

But the Lord, our Lord had never forgotten.  He takes those long, lost dreams and brings them to fruition.

This is the first photo I saw of our daughter.  I texted it to Matt with some details about our girl and that her name was Lily.  He knew she was the one; the one we didn't know we desperately needed.

There were so many logistics to figure out; we were moving, we had to have her file moved to an agency that would not only work with a family that was relocating after submitting paperwork but one that would also allow us to disrupt our birth order.  Once we found our agency the paper chase began - let me tell you, it's much easier the the third time around.  We recently began the paper chase again to update our home study now that we're settled here in Texas and awaiting our Letter of Acceptance from the government entity in China that is in charge of adoptions.

We are thinking she'll be home sometime mid-June but we've learned with international adoption is to be flexible with our timelines and expectations.

Our sweet girl's foster home gave her the name "Lily" because it was so much like her Chinese name.  We plan on having her name remain Lili (sounds like Lily) with the middle names James, after Matt's dad.  I'm certain he'd be tickled pink by this precious girl

As we get closer to bringing our daughter home I often think of Matthew 6:27-28:

"And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing?  Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these."

Adoption brings so many different unknowns into your life; but as The Lord cares for the lilies and has cared for our Lili as she has waited for a family, we know he will take care of all the details surrounding our sweet girl and bringing her home.  He brought a long forgotten dream to fruition in ways we couldn't even imagine, surely He has this taken care of as well.