Monthly Archives: September 2011

Gotcha Day

Ty’s one year Gotcha day.

It has been a year filled with witnessing miracles and one of the hardest years of my life all at the same time. For the girls, we always celebrated their gotcha day with a yummy dinner and a small gift that we bought for them in China. But, we are treading on different ground this time around. Last week, when we told Ty that his special day was coming up, he started to get sad and had a lot of questions. Not the kind you would expect. He does not ever want to talk about his time in China. We bring it up often or try to ask him questions which he NEVER answers. We all love China and talk about one day going back with the entire family. He will quickly pipe up and remind everyone that he does NOT want to go to China. When the conversation does turn to China he usually starts to question me: “Mommy, what took you so long to get me in China?” “Why did it not take a long time for you to get Mina and Finn in China?” “Mommy, you should have gotten me first!” “Mommy, I want to be a baby when you get me in China.” I think he blames me for the fact that he waited so long.

And then, sometimes he just tells us that he WAS a baby when we came to China. I think he would love to just gloss over and pretend that is how it all went down. Denial. I totally understand that. I don’t know if I will ever be able to tell him the truth that I had seen his sweet face waiting on waiting lists for over 2 years before I even thought about the possibility of adding another child to our crew. I do know for sure that for the past year, this boy has loved like I have never seen. He has the biggest heart I have ever known, and I am blessed to be his Mama.

Needless to say, we didn’t celebrate too much. I don’t think he would have appreciated it. He wants so badly to just forget, to be just like his big brother and not have this past. So, we just went on like any other day. But, I went back to look at some pictures of my boy one year ago, and I broke into tears.


In this picture I see a pale skinny little kid. I remember how weak he was. How ridiculously uncoordinated he was. How he hoarded food. How he flinched when you tried to give him a high five. How he tested his limits to see if we could protect him. How he would carry 17 toys at the same time for fear he would lose one. How he was too nervous to leave my side for a second. How he would try to win our love by sweeping and cleaning like mad. How happy he was during the day and then we would go in to find him quietly sobbing at night. How he would wet the bed every night for fear of getting out of bed.

Now, if you put these pictures side to side, I wouldn’t pick my boy out of a line up. He is a totally different child. He looks and acts like he has aged 4 years in the past 12 months.

Last year in China, I will admit that I was scared. He couldn’t even tell his colors to the guides, he couldn’t hold a pencil and trace a straight line. His Mandarin, the few times he tried, was barely understandable to anyone in China or here. I was worried that he was very delayed. Now that he is a few weeks into Kindergarten, I spoke with his seasoned teacher, and she said he was doing fabulous, better than a lot of the kids who have been here their whole life. She said she would have him reading by the end of the year. I cried huge tears of joy! I am crazy proud of how far he has come. He is so brave and so determined and so loving. And, I am blessed!

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Amy Crawford

Amy and her husband Marc live in North Carolina and are the parents of 6 children, 3 biological and 3 blessings from the China Special Needs program in the last 3 years. Never in their wildest dreams did they imagine that their family would be bursting at the seams, but they have been enormously blessed by opening their hearts to adoption. Their lives are simple, chaotic, overwhelming, and overflowing–and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Visit us in the midst of our happenings here.

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She Called Me Foreigner

Ferenge.

I will never forget the first time she referred to me as “foreigner.” I laughed it off. Afterall, this is all I was to her at that point.

Once home, she and her sister made ferenge references here and there. They never called us that directly. But, hearing that word stung.

I recently realized something, however. In our girls’ eyes, us initially being foreigners is not the negative thing that it seems. In fact, I honestly think that it has special meaning for them.

I should have seen it when they started playing ferenge with their babies, happily pretending that they were coming to take them away in a makeena [car].

I started to get clued in when I put on a pair of tennis shoes, and our youngest excitedly exclaimed, “Mommy, this ferenge shoes!” They were, indeed, the ones that I wore daily on both of our trips to Ethiopia.

And, I finally fully figured it out when they started affectionately referring to their family photobooks (the ones that we brought to them at the orphanage on our first trip) as their ferenge books.

Because to our daughters, this is simply a part of their story. Two ferenges came for them. Loved them. Brought them home. We weren’t just any ferenges. We were their ferenges. And now, we are parents and daughters. It’s just one of the beautiful ways that God brings families together.

By request today, we read one of the girls’ ferenge books at naptime. And, with a smile, I asked our oldest [as I sometimes do], “Who is ferenge?”

“You ferenge,” she said. “Now you Mommy.”

I sure am, honey. It’s amazing, isn’t it?

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Elya Starek

Elya and her husband, Rob, have been married for 6 years and reside in Cleveland, Ohio. They have recently been blessed with two incredible daughters, ages 3 and 5, who they brought home from Ethiopia this past April. They also have two crazy but lovable dogs. Stop by Elya’s blog to read more about their daughters, their adventures as new parents, and their passion for orphans and the poor.

Forgetful

We enjoyed many parks over this past summer…especially those with water.

No matter how many times Max has seen this fountain. {You know, the one that is going strong one minute and then stops the next.}

He always forgets that the fountain of water will return.

I am the same way when it comes to my faith in God. No matter how many times I have seen God’s faithfulness, I forget and start to think things through on my own. It never works and just leads to worry-filled thoughts that are only focused on me.

We would love to grow our family by adding more children to the mix. I get so worked up about it – poor Wes. Do we adopt again? Maybe I’ll get pregnant. Go through the same agency? Try a new one? What if I would get pregnant and I miscarry? When should we start the adoption process? What if we have a horrible experience with the birthmom? What if she changes her mind? Seriously, I could go on and on wasting your time and mine with these thoughts. Obviously, these aren’t evil questions, and it’s good to think things through, but when I find myself holding on so tightly to them, that’s where it begins to get messy. As soon as these thoughts enter my mind, I need to release them to God. He will carry all of my burdens.

One of these days, Max will remember that the water will return every time.

And one of these days today, I will remember that I can immediately hand my worry-filled thoughts over to God because He is faithful in all He does.

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Abby Akers

Abby has been married to her college sweetheart, Wes, for 7 years. After 5 years of infertility, they began the journey of domestic adoption. Blessed with a (more than they had planned) open adoption experience, they were able to witness the birth of their first child, Max, last summer. Wes and Abby are trusting God as he leads them in their relationship with Max’s birth family.  You can follow their story at Akers of Love.

The Incredible Story of Mr. Miles

When I was waiting all through 2010 to begin our adoption there was one friend in particular who always had time to mentor me.

Her name is Debbie. She is a Mama, too. She has 4 kids. 3 were born in China. And, Debbie always said the one thing that prospective adoptive parents all want to hear: my day would come.

Debbie would send me emails long before we knew Rissa existed that ended with: “Just think! You are one day closer to Rissa!”

Debbie is exceedingly special to me. Debbie made me believe in my own dream.

When Debbie and I would talk, I would be listening for hope and she would hand it over generously.
Once during a marathon-length-talk, Debbie said: “Esty, don’t despise the timing being ‘off.’ There’s a reason you are meant to go whenever you go.”

Now, I knew why Debbie had said this. When she brought home their #4 from China, they were denied travel and had to wait another 6 weeks to travel with an entirely different group of adoptive families to China. It had been over Christmas that year, and she had been sorely disappointed. But, during that trip to China in January, they met another adoptive family…and in time, Debbie was instrumental in a miracle for this family.

I knew Debbie was right. But, really, I believed that she was right about her situation. Maybe not so much about mine.

When things fell outside of my perfect timeline, I was frustrated and blinded by consuming desperation.

MY TIMELINE MUST WORK. Or so I behaved.

When all was said and done The. Timeline. worked beautifully, no thanks at all to my worrying. (eye roll at myself)

We got there across the oceans. We got her in our own arms. We were good.

While we were in Uganda, we wondered at Rissa’s good health, marveled that she could be ill at all, but set it aside and assumed we would find out more at home in the USA.

Meanwhile, another family was in-country while we were. I had met Sara at the Created for Care conference in February. She had been the kindest soul at our table. I couldn’t wait to see her. When we met up in Uganda, Sara told me that another gal from that conference and her sister too were each adopting a baby boy from an orphanage nearby. Sara had visited these 2 baby boys who were both hospitalized currently. They were each under 1 year old. She asked whether Andrew would go see them, give his opinion. He easily agreed.

The following day, Andrew, me, Rissa, and our brilliant driver headed for the state-run hospital for Andrew to visit these 2 baby boys.

Mr. Doctor Husband marched in – – –
long hair
backpack
stethoscope
ball cap
tennis shoes.

20 minutes later, he emerged. Changed to his core. Head quietly hung. Shaking his head almost imperceptibly.

“There were 12 babies in there,” he murmured, processing medically as he talked out loud, “There is no medicine in this facility.
At least 10 of them should have been on a ventilator.”

And the youngest baby? Miles, the sister-of-a-friend-of-a-friend’s baby. He weighed albs. He struggled to empty his lungs of carbon dioxide, toiled to breathe in air.

“That kid’s not gonna make it through the night.”

Andrew looked defeated. This was it. Medicine or Miles was done. That night.

I have heard him talk about patients before, but they are always patients. Not my friend’s baby.

We sat and thought. Racked our brains. Asked our brilliant driver what on earth to do. Called Sara. Discussed some more. Called the U.S. director of the baby home. Called the adoptive Mommy in Georgia. Called an ambulance. Andrew, Sara, and another Mama got him transferred to a hospital with medicine.

4 hours later, Miles was receiving a breathing treatment while seated on Andrew’s lap, squawling and glaring healthily at Andrew who laughed in relief at the angry, tiny thing.

The next week, his Mommy came to care for him with her own hands and love and bottles and snuggles.

That was then.

This is now.

Miles came home with his Mommy to his Daddy, 2 big brothers, and a VERY relieved extended family.

So.
The Saved Life.
I thought it would be Rissa.

But really…
it was Miles.

My friend Debbie was right all along.

The Lord was pacing us.
The metronome kept time.
The world spun correctly.
Miles sleeps in his crib tonight in Georgia,
and Rissa in hers here under my own roof.
And, when I lay down in my own soft bed, I will feel tears seep from under closed lids, run down my smiling cheeks while I repeat to my God Who Hears All Things:

Who is like you, LORD God Almighty?
You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
~Psalm 89:8

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Esty Downes

We are a Floridian family of 6, bio boys aged 8, 5, and 4 blessed with a 9 month-old Ugandan-born beauty named Rissa (Amaris, Hebrew for “Promised by God”) who came home in May 2011. Andrew is an ER physician, and Esty is a SAHM and former pediatric nurse in a previous life, it seems. We spend our time homeschooling, playing soccer, swimming, and hanging on for dear life. And we are all Ugandan now.

When Attachment Takes Time

This is one of my favorite pictures of Evie and me. With each of our children, there are two or three pictures that Rachel has captured which so completely reflect my relationship with each of them and the love I feel for them.

Maybe the reason that seeing her wrapped in my arms means so much is because getting her here has been a journey, one that has taken time and tenacity. Evie has had to learn how to attach to her new parents like all adopted children. From stories we’ve heard from other adoptive parents, sometimes this transition is relatively seamless. Other times, children are fearfully clingy, some act out, still others push their parents away. Through no fault of her own, for Evie, this process of attachment was long and difficult.

Rachel was really the one who, through stubborn, determined love kept working with our precious daughter, patiently demonstrating to her that no matter how much Evie tried to keep her little heart at arm’s length, she would be a deeply loved child.

And slowly but surely, in fits and starts, Evie began reciprocating and trusting us with her own love. Looking back, it is interesting to realize that it happened in cycles. She would attach, then withdraw for awhile, then attach again; neither Evie nor us certain if she was attaching for good or if it was another trial run, where she was experimenting with trusting us just to see what it was like.

During one of those trial runs, we felt confident that she was nearly there. She had been home with us for almost a year; it felt like she had finally reached a secure place. So we opened ourselves to the possibility of growing our family once again, this time through pregnancy. Shortly after we saw those pink lines, we discovered that it had been another trial run on her part. This time, she pushed away harder, longer, and more intensely than she ever had before. Through morning sickness and all, Rachel spent her days loving the heck out of our little girl. Then slowly but surely–so slowly that I can’t even put my finger on when–she was there for good. She’d finally taken down the fierce protective shield she kept around her heart.

I don’t want to make it sound like it was easy–for Evie or for us. Too often, I’ve heard or read adoption stories where the parents are portrayed as patient heroes, making the rest of us mere mortals feel like incompetent failures. There were frustrating and heartbreaking days, with tears and sometimes a great deal of fear, where commitment over feeling is what ultimately carried the day.

Thank you Rachel for the unconditional, unbending, unyielding love you show to all of us… Jude, Indigo, Evangeline, our growing baby and me. And thank you, Evangeline, for finally opening your heart to us.

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Dan and Rachel live in San Antonio, TX and have grown their family through birth and adoption (Ethiopia) and are expecting their 4th child (biological) in October. Dan grew up in Liberia, West Africa where part of his heart still resides. Rachel is a doula and lactation consultant and is originally from Northern, WI. As transplants to South Central Texas, they appreciate the big skies and mild winters; the summers, however, are another story.

And The Journey Finally Began

Originally posted on her blog on August 1st

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On April 9th, I downloaded an application from the internet.

I found a quiet spot in FireCracker’s room with a cup of coffee began filling it out.


Part of the application needed Chris.

Later that night we ended up in the hospital. We stayed for the rest of April. I finished that application sitting next to her hospital bed with more coffee.

Once we got home, I got back in project mode…and moved on to the next application….with more coffee. Honestly, I didn’t realize there was coffee in all these pictures until I started writing this post. I only drink one cup a day and half of it is milk, but I look like an addict in these pics! I will say this picture is such a reflection of me right now. There is paint on my hand from a project, my son’s Phonics book near me, a cup of coffee, tank top & ponytail.

My dirty mailbox on the day those applications got mailed.

Not so long after, I found myself driving 13 hours to Colorado. Chris turned my phone into a “hot spot” and I was able to start and complete 12 hours of online training. It was actually more like 18 hours because I failed one class 3 times. Don’t ask.

More answers to more questions, while I enjoyed the Colorado air. Evidently, I traded my coffee mug in for a pink sippy cup.

In 2005, we first began the process of looking into adoption. We began the process 2 other times after that, but each time something made us stop. We have always known our family would be built through adoption. It was always just a matter of time. 7 years ago we began an “adoption fund”. It was a little bit of money we would set aside for our adoption. However, every time we’d have something we could put in it…we’d feel God asking us to give it to someone else in support of their adoption. I am passionate about caring for the fatherless and being an advocate for children who do not have a voice. Though my personal longing has been for adoption, in recent years I’ve felt God place me in the role of advocating and supporting others in their adoption journeys. As much as I have loved supporting others, that longing to be on the journey myself remained. After years of waiting, in April we felt the “go ahead” and we finally got to begin the journey to bring our little one home.

The initial paperwork wasn’t a big deal. What was a big deal was the $20,000+ we would need to come up with to make the adoption possible. That was a daunting number. Just a few short weeks after our journey began, some of our very dear friends The Ws began the same journey…with the same agency…from the same place. While we were both working on paperwork, I sensed God leading me to tell them He would fund part of their adoption through my blog. I called my friend and told her. At the time I guessed it would be around $1,000….afterall it isn’t like I have 50 sponsors paying tons each month, and we needed our adoption funded too.

A few weeks later, I found myself going from coffee shop to coffee shop writing the curriculum for the online version of SnapShops.

As I prepared the course, I prayed that it would fund our adoption. Then, I read Eph. 3:20 about God doing more than we could imagine. I began to think “what would be the craziest thing I could ask God to do in this situation?” So, I began dreaming and asking Him to provide $40,000 by December ($20,000 for our adoption, $20,000 for the W’s adoption) through SnapShops online. I’ve never made $40,000 in a year…or even remotely close to that. I can’t explain it, but I clearly knew He was going to do it. I told my friend to be prepared because by December they’d have $20,000 towards their adoption. She, naturally, thought I was crazy and took it with a grain of salt.

I went on working on the class and doing what little we could at this stage in our adoption process…things like taking the older boys for passport pictures.

On Saturday, July 23rd I sent my friend a text, “God is providing for your adoption on Monday.”

On Monday, July 25th, I woke up with nothing in our adoption fund and opened registration for the online course. Then I clicked over to my friend Angie’s blog. She is in China meeting her daughter. Last year I had the opportunity to be an advocate for her adoption (it is a fun post to read). What a gift it was to wake up that morning and see her daughter in her arms for the first time. My heart soared in happiness for Angie and hope that soon I’d be on that side of the story. I started my normal morning routine with the kids and started hearing my iPad “ding”. It started “ding”ing ALOT, which meant I was getting a bunch of emails. A quick check showed me they were coming from PayPal…you all were registering for the SnapShop course. I told a friend it was like in It’s A Wonderful Life where everytime a bell rings and angel gets its wings. Well, everytime the iPad dings…my child gets closer to home!

Throughout the day Monday, my oldest and I watched the numbers on PayPal grow. He knew the goal and when it reached $20,000 he was thrilled that we could “go get his sister and now start saving for the Ws”. It was a priceless moment to teach him that we would be obedient with what we felt God had led us to do and we would give to the Ws first knowing He would provide for our needs too. Big concept for a 7 year old…or any age for that matter. Monday morning I had about $180.00 in my PayPal account. On Wednesday night I closed registration with about $40,500 in my PayPal account! Amazing and miraculous – yes! Shocking and surprising – not with God. And the whole time I watched Him provide in a miraculous way, He let me watch Angie in China..and gave me a glimpse that it is finally time for Him to bring my child home and He would remove all the obstacles I thought were in the way of that.

As soon as I closed registration, I wiped pizza off my kid’s faces and took a pic to text to my friends.

 So to all of you who logged into the course that day…thank you! Thank you for helping me bring my child home. Thank you for being a part of this story. We still have a bit to go on our own adoption, but my dream is to see a portion of every online SnapShop go towards adoptions, orphan care, child advocacy. As I get to teach others how to capture the beauty in their day to day lives, I’m excited that their investment can help create beauty in the day to day lives of children. This is all so exciting!

So, my little family of 6 will be a family of 7 sometime next year. I am sure many of you have so many questions about our process and where we are at. I’ll share all that eventually. We have a good wait ahead of us. All I know now is 4 of my kids are under my roof and one is on the other side of the globe. After years of waiting…now we only have months of waiting.

Thanks for letting me share my story…really, it is His story.

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Ashley Campbell

Ashley’s days consist of a lots of Legos and lots of seemingly mundane moments. As mom to four kids (boys 3, 5, 7 and a 2 year old daughter) she finds the most beauty in those mundane moments and relishes the adventure of parenthood with her husband Chris. Aside from an addiction to painting everything that doesn’t move, she is passionate about all areas of orphan care and social justice issues especially as they relate to children. Ashley chronicles her adventures as a mom, crafter, photographer and advocate her her blog, Under the Sycamore.

{Adoption is} insane

Yep. You heard me.

In-sane.

Thought you were gonna come here for some encouraging words, didya?

Well, keep reading.

You would have to be insane to want to add more stress and chaos to your perfectly great life…right?

After all, adoption is expensive.

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Adoption is overwhelming.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

The unknowns can be scary.

“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid.” Psalm 112:7-8

It requires sacrifice.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

It’s is exhausting.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

It can be frustrating.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

Adoption is time-consuming…before, during, and after the process.

“With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

Adoption exacerbates my weaknesses.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Adoption is insane…

…and I’m as happy as a clam to be in the loony bin.

(don’t worry…I’ve got plenty-o-great stuff to say about adoption, but I’ll save it for another post)

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Colleen Jobe

Colleen and Lucas are parents of four children – two girls by birth and two boys who were adopted independently from Uganda. The boys are unrelated (by birth) and are virtual twins. Lucas is in the Air Force and Colleen is a stay-at-home mom who also has the privilege of being a partner at Wild Olive, a Christian t-shirt company for women. Colleen’s adoption ramblings can be read on her blog.

I’m Not a Saint

I get this “You are a very special person” response a lot in reference to my adoptions, homeschool, missions, whatever. It’s very sweet, and I always take it as a compliment from that person as I know they meant it to be.

Then, I get the other side that treat me like I’m a complete lunatic. That’s probably closer to accurate.

Here’s the thing though — I’m not a saint or a whacko. I’m just a slightly crazy mom who loves Jesus and my neighbor. I feel like the truth is we all sometimes want to make someone into a saint or whacko ’cause then we don’t have to ever face the fear of doing the things they have chosen to do.

I get that. But, it makes me sad.

I can see it. I mean, first of all, I don’t think every person should adopt . . . or homeschool . . . or whatever. I guess what makes me sad is how many people are terrified to even ask the question, “God, am I supposed to do that? Is this something you have for me? What is it you have for me that I am scared to see?” When we won’t EVEN ask the question, we’ve already lost something so dear. When we run from what we may be called to do claiming someone else is “special” or “WAY over the edge,” we damage our very souls. We just have no idea what we are giving up for ourselves when we offer others this absurd sainthood or assign them “holy insanity.” We are PROTECTING ourselves from joy unspeakable and from a life changed into more than they could have imagined.

Yes, this life requires brokenness. Yes, the process is sometimes very uncomfortable, even painful. Yes. But, it’s also more amazing than I can express. My broken, amazing joy has come through the vehicle of adoption and homeschool and missions.

I cannot guarantee that is the vehicle God has for you. What I can guarantee you is that God DOES have a vehicle to brokenness and joy for you. I don’t live this life because I’m a saint or clinically insane. I live this life because I asked God the questions I was terrified to ask and then answered “Yes.” I didn’t answer “yes” calmly as you might imagine. Many, if not most times, I answered “OKAY, FINE!!!!” with my heart pounding like a drum in my ears. Many times, my insides were kicking and screaming that this was crazy, that I would regret it, that maybe I really was clinically insane. Still all the time, my heart knew the truth. This was my path to brokenness and joy. I could get on or miss it.

I’m not a saint or ready for the white coat and padded room. I’m just a person who loves Jesus and my neighbor. I say yes to things I’m scared to do. You can do that too.

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Angel Weir

I’m Angel–a homeschooling, gluten free, Jesus loving, Disney going, Twilight reading, nose ring wearing, picture taking, world traveling, orphan holding warrior girl of a mom to 4 beautiful children. Each of our children is such a blessing. I can’t imagine life without the joy they bring. I have an amazing husband who I adore with all of my heart. Living an average life doesn’t cut it for us. Who knows what wild adventures lie ahead. I guess I have what most people might consider kind of a crazy life. I wouldn’t want it any other way. My life is amazing. The ups and downs have taught me so much along the way. I am excited to see where God leads us. It’s gonna be GREAT! Join us for the journey.

{Advocating} He’s Ready

I want to tell you about a little boy called Lei Xiao Feng (lay shou[t – without the t] fung). He is the most amazing boy that I have ever met, so joyful and energetic. I had the joy of spending 5 short but incredible days with him. Each day, I felt myself loving him more and more and, at the same time, realizing that I would have to say goodbye.

My translator and I met him on the Monday morning when we were introduced to a timid 8-year-old boy. He didn’t say much at first, but it must have been a scary experience – being taken out of his orphanage and meeting a Westerner! We can be pretty scary. But, he soon warmed up when we had lunch – his favorite, as he said – dumplings and noodles (they say food is the way to a man’s heart, right?). We played some games, like football and basketball, and watched him come alive. This boy’s got a real talent for sports. Throughout the week, he even took to some new sports like volleyball and badminton.

He loved to be picked up, especially to be put on our shoulders (where he must have spend half of the week!!) and on our backs. He quickly picked up on the fact that I couldn’t speak Chinese, so we played a lot of charades. When he wanted to go on my back or shoulders, he would point and pat at his back and say something like “ba” in an attempt to say back. And, of course, I had to oblige.

We asked him if he would like an English name since a lot of the older kids do. He eagerly said yes, and we started thinking of one that would suit him. I went through heaps of names but none of them seemed to work. We even thought of putting my name (Rob) with my translator’s name (Jeremy) to make a new name — Jerob. Someone gave the suggestion of Jacob, and I knew instantly that it was the one! He was a Jacob! By the end of the week, he responded so happily to Jacob — perhaps it made him feel more a part of us to have a new name with us.

When I think about Jacob, two special memories come to mind.

We were on the basketball court. He noticed the net, and other kids attempting to score. He made a few feeble attempts, but it was obvious to all of us that jump as he may, he was just too short to get it in. But, he kept trying…with no success. I scooped him up and put him on his favorite spot–my shoulders. After a few tries, he got it. He made his first basket. We were all laughing and smiling, enjoying his thrill of success. I know I will remember that moment for a long time — but I’m pretty certain that Lei Xiao will remember it longer.

During the camp, we took all the kids to a water fountain show. Picture a wide open space with water shooting up from the ground, synchronized to music. It looked amazing to us. And, the orphans who were with us were maybe even more amazed, having never seen anything like it. The image still playing in my head of Jacob spinning around in the water and simply dancing with his beaming smile is one I think about all the time.

Likely, because two of his fingers on his right hand are different, he became an orphan. But, what some may call a “handicap” has not handicapped him at all. He does everything an 8-year-old boy can do–except hold the hands of a mom and dad.

His name–Lei Xiao Feng–means something along the lines of “thunder of a small mountain peak.” We were told that it’s a very strong name, given in hope that he would be outstanding and find himself on top of the world. Yet, he waits. Alone.

I have no doubt that he would strive in a family, having people to love him, care for him. He is such a joyful, lovable, amazing kid. He really is a joy to be around. I miss him. I pray his family will find him soon. He’s ready to meet them.

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Please visit here to see a video Rob put together about Lei Xiao

And, please email Kelly@wearegraftedin.com if you are interested in learning more about him. Additional pictures and medical information are available.

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Rob Molloy is from Dublin in Ireland. He recently graduated from Secondary School and will be starting University shortly. This past summer, he spent 2 life-changing weeks in China with Bring Me Hope serving through summer camps for orphans. He fell in love with China and Chinese orphans and feels God has put these precious children on his heart for a lifetime.

I’m Not Done Yet

This adoption has been a long journey for us with lots of unexpected turns. To be sure, other families have endured much longer, much worse. Different countries have programs that run upwards of 10 years. Other parents have lost savings accounts, friends, years, referrals, children. We’ve read stories that absolutely drained the blood from our faces.

So ours is certainly not the worst story; but, it is ours. And, it’s the only one we have to tell.

As I look back over the last year and a half, I see a rhythm between God, our leader, and us, His clueless followers. The tune changed as the story unfolded, but the rhythm stayed the same.

It started after God made it *crystal clear* that we were to adopt two children. We applied for two kids. We got approved for two kids. We planned for two kids. We prepared our bio children for two kids. We told everyone we were adopting two kids.

And then we got our referral. For one girl.

Our referral call. This is not how parents’ faces are supposed to look on this happy day.

Yes, this girl was beautiful. Yes, she was the perfect age for our family. Yes, we died over her shy smile (that was a clear fake out). Yes, her story broke our hearts and reminded us why we decided to adopt older children in the first place.

But where was our second child?? We were positive about this one. We couldn’t have missed God’s leadership on the two-kid agenda; it was one of those ridiculously clear moments where you either respond obediently or prepare to be immediately struck with cholera.

So this rhythm emerged:

“God, we’re confused.”

And he answered, “I’m not done yet.”

As we begged for clarity and tried to decide if we should reject this referral out of sheer blind obedience, God nudged us toward the same darling boy we’d been eyeing on the Waiting Children’s List, the one with the 1000-watt smile, on a waiting list for his crime of being 7 years-old.

God reminded us, “Yes I said two, but I never said they’d be related. Go fight for that boy.” Fight? Oh, I’ll fight alright. And, we got our boy.

This was Ben’s picture. Please note the Run DMC shirt. Destiny brought us together.

So three cheers! God really had a plan; an unconventional plan that required a half-crazed Mama who would enter the ring and use words and persuasion to win a referral. We had not one but two kids after all! And they happened to be the two cutest kids in the whole country, which we considered our prize for actually completing the 700,000 page dossier.

Fast forward to March 10th, that blessed court date. Now understand that I had already informed God that I didn’t want to be “one of those families.” The sad, sorry folks who didn’t pass and had all the troubles and waded through messy bureaucratic drivel and watched as everyone else passed them like they were going in reverse. The ones that clogged up the Facebook feed with bad news and had to answer the same questions twenty times a day about any movement? and who seemed like they had lost the will to live.

I mean, I thought I had made that clear.

So when Remy passed that very day like she was just taking a leisurely stroll through Central Park on holiday – exactly how I told God to work it out – we were devastated when Ben didn’t pass. Devastated. And the rhythm repeated:

“God, we’re confused.”

“I’m not done yet.”

We’d seen other families who didn’t pass court get their clearance within a week or two, so we naturally assumed our happy phone call was coming any day now. Remy was submitted for Embassy. Any day now. One month. Any day now. The court asked for additional documents on Ben. Any day now. Remy was cleared for travel in April. Any day now. We turned in some other official decrees. Any day now. Two months. Any day now. Three months. Please, God. Please. Any day now. “It doesn’t look good for this case.” Any day now. Crying, begging, pleading, cursing. Any day now. Four months. No. No.

“God, we’re confused.”

“I’m not done yet.”

Let me be fair: When I recount our line as “God, we’re confused,” that sounds tame, almost like a little old grandma who got lost at the corner of 5th and Lamar until a kindly police officer asked if he could help her and she chuckled and shook her head and said, “Well I guess I got a little confused!” and they shared a knowing laugh about who can figure out all these confounded streets down here? and he pointed her west and she made it to her destination just in time for the quilting guild.

When we said “we’re confused”, it involved crying and wailing and days when I couldn’t get out of bed. It included a string of months where, I swear to you, time stood still. I sobbed over other people’s happy adoption news as I typed nice words on their Facebook pages. It included a phone call from my mother-in-law after my daughter told her, “I’m worried about my mom.” My hair started falling out in clumps and my fingernails peeled off in layers. I lashed out at Brandon and my kids and Jesus on bad days; on worse days, I wondered aloud if God had any control at all over this chaotic, broken world. I doubted his invervention and questioned his sovereignty.

So yeah, that’s what I mean by “confused.”

And then we got this: “We’re getting a rejection letter for Beniam’s adoption, and we think you should consider coming to get Remy.” No. No. How could this possibly be our situation? How? We were the compassionate mother who refused to split the baby in half even if it meant separation from us. How could we go back to Ethiopia and fly away with just one of them? How could we break our son’s heart like that? How could God possibly be in this? Is he just mean? Has he forgotten us? Has he forgotten Ben? This is not the story we signed on for. This chapter stinks. I’m starting to hate this book.

“God, we’re confused.”

“I’m not done yet.”

In the dead of night as I sobbed into my pillow, begging God to comfort our son as we prepared to travel for Remy, he delivered “Love Ben” fully developed into my mind. And if you’re the believing type who buys the “God works all things for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” stuff, then you might not be surprised to hear that we witnessed hundreds of moments of glory through Love Ben.

Hundreds.

Like the 80-year-old outspoken racist who set his alarm for 1:00am to pray for Beniam at the start of the Ethiopian work day.

Like the multiple emails I got from adopted adults who were prompted to reconcile with birth parents, deal with decades-old wounds, and find peace.

Like the birth mother whose heart God healed after giving up her son 17 years ago.

Like the entire church who highlighted Ben’s story and set up a Love Ben Photo Booth after both services.

Like the college friend who told me she was praying again for the first time in 20 years.

Like the bundles of you who emailed to say you’ve decided to adopt.

Like the mamas and daddies who taught their children about orphans and God’s mercy and used Ben’s little face as a tangible tool.

Please believe me, these could go on and on. Rays of God’s light kept bursting through the dark. Just when I though my heart would expire, I’d get an email that said, “I told Ben’s story at the camp we’re running for foster kids, and they broke out in spontaneous prayer and singing for God to rescue him.”

Evidently God can wrestle glory out of the hard parts of the story.

Ben passed court the week before we traveled to get Remy, but our agency prepared us for egregious delays and possible litigation at the Embassy stage because of his rejection letter (I assure you, this had nothing to do with his orphan status). So, Brandon and I prepared for a fight.

Then we flew to Ethiopia. And held our son while he threw up and sobbed in our laps and clung to our necks, as we drove away with Remy, his only family on the same continent. And all the bravado disappeared into sorrow. I cried for 24 hours without stopping.

“We’re so confused, God.”

“I’m not done yet.”

Are you sure, God? Because I’m pretty convinced all our hearts are broken. Is there work left to be done? Is there something we can’t see? Would you please just assure us that you haven’t forgotten Ben and our family? Can we trust you to make this beautiful? Because it doesn’t feel beautiful. It feels aching and devastating and horribly unjust. We believe you but we can’t see.

But let it be said that God is still in the miracle business. As our agency prepared to submit Ben for Embassy, they were asked to try to secure his approval letter one last time, attempting to avoid the cluster ahead of us without it. Just as a courtesy, our agency went back to the government office, the same one who refused to write the letter for five months, in an effort I dubbed “the biggest waste of time on planet earth.” They’d made their position clear on Ben’s case, and had already died on this hill if you will.

They wrote it.

They wrote it on a Thursday, and Ben was submitted for Embassy the very next day. With all his paperwork intact. Every last piece of paper. They cleared him for travel 4 business days later on Thursday, and Brandon got on a plane 3 days later.

This is what God does.

When God said He wasn’t done yet, He just wasn’t done yet. He wasn’t speaking in code. It wasn’t a trick. The story was still in the middle, but I wanted to flip ahead to the end, past the conflict and struggle and straight to the happy ending. As Keeper of the Story, God knew the whole plot. He promised us way back that He planned on seeing these two children all they way from brokenness and abandonment to our home in Texas, an unlikely journey if ever there was one. And at the risk of whitewashing the difficult middle, we now have them here. He was faithful.

God doesn’t promise us a clean middle part of the story. He never said we wouldn’t encounter antagonists and drama and surprise twists and heartbreak. We weren’t assured a G-rated plot where good feelings are peddled and no one dies or leaves or fails or waits. God promised things like healing and restoration and redemption. Which implies there will be injuries and broken relationships and losses. When He speaks of beauty from ashes, He seems to know there will be actual ashes to resurrect beauty from.

If you are confused right now, if your story isn’t going the way you thought, or if you’re tangled up in the messy middle where hope is deferred, dear reader, it could just be that God isn’t done yet. Your story is not finished. Every hero and heroine must wade through the conflict to get to the end, and you can trust God because he is good. If you have nothing else to cling to, remember this: God is good. He loves goodness and justice. He heals and redeems. He is on the side of love and beauty. He is for you. He is never against you. You may be against you, other people may be against you, but God is not against you.

It is okay to be confused; I’m afraid that is our lot as finite creatures dealing with an infinite God. Some of God’s best heros were confused in their subplots. But I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on. Because God is good and he is for goodness.

And He just isn’t done yet.

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Jennifer Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker has partnered with her husband Brandon in full-time ministry for 15 years, and they pastor Austin New Church in Texas. After a nauseating stint as an entitled, bored Christian, Jen and her family joined the battle for those on the margins. They pioneered Restore Austin, connecting churches to local and global non-profits for the individual, collective, and social renewal of Austin. Jen is a popular speaker at retreats, conferences, and seminars all around the country. She is the author of nine books and Bible studies, including Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith and A Modern Girl’s Guide to Bible Study. Jen and Brandon now have 5 children: 3 biological and 2 just home from Ethiopia. Drop her a line or check out her ministry here.

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