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Room for Another

Today’s her birthday.  The first June birthday for our family.  We like odd numbers in our family for some reason.  7s and 9s and 11s.  And she will make number 11.  Today, halfway around the world, this beautiful girl who we hope to call Norah, celebrates her 12th birthday – God-willing, her very last birthday without a family.

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I know you all are just absolutely shocked that we’ve chosen to bring home a second child -AGAIN.  We are a little shocked ourselves, but what’s the difference?  Ten or eleven?  Eleven is only one more than ten.  But she’s ONE MORE (and ONE LESS ORPHAN!!!) And this precious one has been waiting a long time!  And we already love her!

There are many waiting children in China who are doing just that – waiting.  Many are waiting for families without any hope of finding one because their paperwork hasn’t even been prepared.  SWI’s determine which children are the most likely to be adopted, many times investing in these children first.  They pay a fee to the CCCWA (Chinese Adoption Authorities) to prepare the paperwork for these children.  Often, children who are older or have more severe needs get overlooked.  Many SWI’s don’t list children until they are old enough to truly understand the concept of adoption and express an interest in having a forever family or until a family shows interest in the child first.  The problem is that at this point, many of these children don’t have much time.  Children in China lose their chance to be adopted when they turn 14-years-old.  Such a young, young age to face a bleak future out on their own.  Without a family, at 14-years-old, a child leaves everything they’ve ever known usually with no place to go, sometimes with no education, and with little hope of a job, healthcare, or higher education.  Disabled children often find themselves on the street at the mercy of gangs or in an adult institution where survival-of-the-fittest is the name of the game.

Adoption of a child at any age is wonderful, but the Lord has been breaking our hearts most recently for older children.  Children who KNOW they are waiting and who very much LONG for a family.

Our culture is a very much a culture of babies and puppies.  The younger and cuter the better.  There’s nothing wrong with young and cute.  Who doesn’t love small and squishy and cuddly?  But, older is wonderful, too.  There are still so many firsts to be experienced and needs to be met.  Older children are vulnerable and need of families, too.

The Lord has used many experiences over the course of our marriage to open our hearts to older children:  teaching middle school and high school, working with youth, adopting our beloved Abby.  This time, He used the heart of our oldest son to move us. Shortly after convincing us that he was now certain he wanted to bring Jillian home, he came to us saying He felt the Lord wanted us to bring home another older child who also couldn’t walk.

Dang Zhan 4.14.2016 (3)Norah can walk, but she walks with a walker.  She learned how to do so just a few years ago when a charity organization brought her one she could use.  She has post-op Spina Bifida and has no feeling below her knees.  Our CHOA doctors believe that they’ll be able to give her AFOs, which will allow her to walk unassisted.

There are many details which led us to Norah.  God never ceases to amaze us with how He orchestrates the details when we submit to His leading.  We’ve bathed this decision in prayer, and as always, God was faithful lay out the path before us.  I can’t wait to share some more of the intricacies of the story, but for now, I’d like to leave you with a few of Norah’s answers to our questions.  We believe that even more than she is a good fit for us is that our family is a great fit for her.  She loves younger children, art, music, and computers.  She’ll fit in perfectly!

Q. Would you like to be part of a big family?
A.  I feel good about being part of a large family, and I’d really like that.

Q.  If you could learn anything, what would you like to learn?
A.  If I could learn anything, I would like to learn about computers.  I would like to use computers to help children, and I’d like to learn to play the electronic organ (keyboard?)

We are super excited to announce that God, in His great mercy and grace, has chosen to move more mountains and bless us with another daughter!

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Addicted to Kids?

Sometimes, I feel like a celebrity or something.  I can’t ever take all the kids out in public anymore without someone making at least one “big family” comment.  But, not too long ago, a visitor asked me in the comfort of my own home, “What are you?  Addicted to kids or something?”    Although I answered quickly, I was also slightly taken aback, and this question’s been playing in my head ever since.

Yeah, for real.  What are we?  Addicted to kids or something?

There are many motives to adopt a child(ren).  For many people, adoption is a [fabulous] way to grow their family.

Adoption was only ever a way to “grow our family” the first time we adopted.  We intended to adopt once, and we intended to only adopt one child – a girl – then call our family complete.  Then, we only intended to adopt two little girls at once time and be done.  Then we lost Rose.  We intended to bring home one more child to honor her legacy and seek joy in the Lord in the wake of our grief.  We ended up bringing home four children in one year.   Now we are in process – again!

I have learned since then to throw our intentions out the window and to be still and let the Lord speak to our hearts about what He has in store for our family.  With the exception of the first time we adopted, it has never been our goal to “grow our family.”  That’s just been an obvious side effect of the Lord breaking our hearts for children in need.

Bigger-table-not-higher-wallsAfter our first daughter passed away, I could feel the gentle (okay-maybe not so gentle) challenging of the Holy Spirit in my heart to give God control of our family.  To let Him in, to let Him MOVE.  I’ve come see our family as a ministry and not just something that is purely “ours” for us to to wrap up in a box and hold it close to our hearts but away from the Lord.    And, over the course of the past few years, I’ve seen God change me, change my husband, change our children.   I’ve seen strong, beautiful bonds form that would’ve never happened otherwise.  I’ve seen the hearts of our children open up to include more brothers and sisters.  After only a few weeks with our family, our newest son was engineering a bigger table “to fit more kids.”

I can see how, after more than doubling our family size in only a few years’ time, it can look like we are “addicted to adoption” or “addicted to kids,” but that’s not it.  It’s simply that as we come to understand the gospel more, we see that treasure is not here on this earth.  We see firsthand that Faith, Family, and Friends are often interwoven, not held in separate priority order 1, 2, and 3.  We see firsthand the beauty of redemption and the rewards of sacrifice.  We see the beauty of His power perfected in our weakness.  He’s renewing us day by day, and as He’s doing that, we better understand the magnitude of what He’s done for us.  He’s given us LIFE, and HOPE, and FAMILY, and a FUTURE.  It’s out of gratitude for the magnitude of what He’s done that we open our hearts and our homes to more sons and daughters of the One True King.  It just so happens that the way we live out our gratitude looks like “a hand full,” “a full house,” ” a full van,” and “are you CRAZY?”  It LOOKS like an addiction to kids.

But it’s not.  It’s an Addiction to Jesus.

We LOVE because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19; Matthew 6:19-21

 

 

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Our Newest Labor of Love

Jillian 1You see, there’s this girl.

Nope, she’s not one of the five other little beauties who are sleeping (hopefully) snug and warm in their beds.  But, she’s had my heart for over a year now.  I’ve longed to be her mother, and I once thought it would happen.  Then I was sure it wouldn’t.

Sometimes, the road God leads you on is winding and strange.  It doesn’t seem to make sense at the time.  If He’s asking you to do something, why doesn’t He make the path smooth?  What’s the point of all these bumps and obstacles?

In February of last year, we began our Journey to Jillian.  I was in love, and despite the many fears I had, I was excited and at peace about pursuing my newest daughter. Our family started on an adoption journey that we assumed would end just like all of our other adoption journeys – with a trip to China and a child in our home.    But God had other plans.

There were many pieces that didn’t fit during the beginning of our process last year. For some reason, even with two newly-adopted children in our home, we still had two children on our minds and in our hearts.  But, our agency at the time told us no, they would not allow us to pursue two children.  The Daddy, who usually is totally on top of all the adoption paperwork, wasn’t feeling it this time around, and was dragging his feet.  Our home study agency was taking FOR-E-VER and caused us to miss the chance to renew our USCIC fingerprints, kept losing paperwork, etc.  There’ve been many times when the road to a destination has been super difficult for our family, so we just kind of assumed it was par for the course.  We prayed harder for clarification, for the details to work out, and for God to give us a flashing “turn here” sign if He had something else in mind.

We got our sign.  Our oldest son, who has struggled pretty much his whole life with anxiety, began to struggle again last summer, but this time, he entered a very dark place.  He finally confided to us that he was worried about losing his place as the eldest in our family, and had conflicted feelings about bringing home Jillian.

We don’t always base major family decisions on one child’s feelings, but we both felt it was very important to really pray over this issue and take some time to determine the best course of action.  It was not even a few weeks later when we saw the post about L and T.  I was intrigued and inquired about them, but not for us to adopt personally.  I told Mike about them, and I could instantly see what he was thinking.  Honestly, I didn’t like it at first.  My heart was breaking.  My son was hurting; Jillian was already my daughter in my heart, and now here we are considering adopting two more kids domestically instead of internationally?

There are many details, but let me just tell that that GOD worked it all out.  We released PA for my girl Jillian to pursue L and T.  All the while, my heart was aching, but I had peace that we were doing the right thing.  I was following God as well as my husband, who was 100% convinced we were the family for these two precious little ones.  I followed and prayed and prayed and followed. (And I am still convinced God led us on this detour, as I very much love L and T, and they fit very well into our family.)

During the months we were in process for L and T, several families asked me about Jillian.  And I prayed constantly that she would have the perfect family…that God would answer my prayer and remove the longing that I still had for her.  It was so bad that I woke up every night thinking of her and continued to pour out my heart on her behalf in those moments.

In December, we finalized L and T’s adoption.  Jillian still did not have a family, and my heart still was not at peace.  Several of the kids did not understand that we had let go of Jillian to pursue L and T and were devastated when we told them Jillian was not also going to share our last name.

I prayed more.  I prayed for God to work out the details.  I prayed for the perfect family for my girl or for Him to make a way for her to be a part of ours.  And then, two weeks after finalizing our adoption for L and T, this happened:

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Ely, without any prompting from us, changed his mind about Jillian (and has since remained unmoved).  And unbeknownst to me, so did my husband.  He told me, during the week of Christmas, that we could go ahead and see where her file was at and if it was even possible to pursue her.  You see, files have to be in the exact right location for a specific child to be identified and locked by a particular agency.  AND, China has to approve.  Shall we say that many of our family “details” are nowhere even close to what China likes to see.

I prayed again…and again…and again. God, let China say NO if we are not meant to have her, if she is not meant to be ours.  China said YES.  And so we say YES.  Again.

We have many fears, very little resources, and lists miles long of why we could say no.  But she has less than 11 months until she ages out, and her hope for a family is gone.  The urgency of her situation and her need for a hope and a future far outweigh our fears.  God has given the strength to once again say YES; He has our hearts, and so does she.

AND HE is FAITHFUL. His timing is always perfect.  And He has already begun blessing us in this journey.

It is our great honor to once again announce that we are pursuing Jillian as our daughter!

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