Today we have a very special guest to hear from. Andrea is one of my dearest “adoptive mama” friends. We got to know each other through our blogs and through email just before she got her referral for their son in Ethiopia (you’ll read his story below)… and we’ve been supporting, encouraging, and praying for each other ever since. We finally met in person last year at the Created for Care Retreat that Andrea herself dreamed up and put into action. She’s even more beautiful in person (inside and out) than you could imagine. We had a nice breakfast together and I felt so encouraged after my time with her. She’s one of those people who you know is a special friend regardless of time or distance. Andrea has an amazing story and she’s taken the time to share it with us today. I recommend grabbing tissue before reading. 😉
from Andrea Young…
Eccelesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” How true this verse is of creation–how we can’t imagine all that the Lord has done…but how true this verse is also of our very own lives! I have seen this play out in mine…and although there are so many things that have been hard–I know see their place…their beauty in His writing my story–especially how He is making our family.
This next June will mark the 10th anniversary for my husband and I being married. We sort of got off to a rocky start. He asked me to marry him on November 1st–and just 10 days later (can’t believe we are coming up on the 10th anniversary of this either)–Rich’s father passed away from Leukemia. We had only known for 4 short weeks–and we wanted to plan a fast engagement so his dad would be a part of it. Now we were changing it to a LONGER engagement to give family time to grieve. There were no Brides magazines being bought–instead there were counseling sessions…and lots of them.
In those counseling sessions–lots of things came out. Everything seemed and felt like so much more than what most pre-marital couple dig through. In those sessions, we realized my heart for China–a country across the world–and his heart to be here posed a problem. Everything just didn’t make sense. And on a rainy, cold February night–with the invitations already ordered…I gave the ring back and drove away with tears running down my cheeks. This was not what I expected…
God did a miracle in the next 48 hours–and this is actually the first time I’ve ever told this story…it must be for someone as now it just feels like the right time to tell. Nothing made sense in my heart. I desperately wanted to hop on a plane to China–but I knew in my spirit that I could not do it without Richard. I went back to his house (actually my mother-in-law’s house…because the sweet man had moved out of his rental with his friends to save money for our family savings to get us off to a safe start)–too embarrassed to ring the doorbell…and like a little girl (although I was 26) I threw rocks at his window–again on a rainy night…and I asked if I could have that ring back…that God would one day bring China back–I just knew it…but I couldn’t do tomorrow or the next or the next without him. Our counselor even coached me as if he was coaching Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride how to mentally leave China at the cross when they opened those doors on my wedding day and to walk toward Richard–trusting the Lord to lead him and even if it meant never bringing China back–that I would trust God to lead our family through my husband.
We were married in June of 2003–and decided we’d wait 3-4 years before starting a family…until 6 months later we discovered we were expecting! Surprise! I spent our 1st wedding anniversary big-as-a-house almost 8 months pregnant–no 1st anniversary get away for us as my doctor wouldn’t let me travel. The little guy came to us with serious colic–and I’m not sure if the postpartum came naturally or if it was an onset from the colic…but it was there none-the-less. I told Richard I was d-o-n-e—one was plenty for this momma…and when Parker was just 4 months old and in the height of his colic we discovered baby #2 was on the way. We had so many friends who were struggling with infertility who would give anything to be pregnant once–so I tried to force my JOY…but deep down I was sad, overwhelmed and honestly–very depressed. I felt like I couldn’t be honest because so many around us were struggling…so I smiled and shared our news and did my best to giggle at the “You know how this works right??” supposed to be funny comments. This was not what I expected…but it would end up good…right??
I needed to add some excitement to our new news–for our sake and no one else’s. SO we decided to be surprised and not find out what we were having, and in December of 2005 our princess was born! I decided we were D-O-N-E…finished. Two littles in two years felt overwhelmingly good–and we could upgrade our status at the club to a golf membership–he could take them to play on Saturdays and I could do my photography while they were gone. Sounds picture perfect? I know–I know…not really–but for some reason it sounded good to me then. Then…a year later–after Laney was born–my photography business took off…and God decided to rock our world…with Africa (are you surprised it wasn’t China??? I was! But He is the God of the unexpected!)
We wanted to do something with my photography business, and just weeks after praying–the Lord brought a couple into our lives that had just started a ministry in Zambia. We jumped on board–and 5 months later we were on a plane to meet the precious littles of Wiphan Care Ministry (www.wiphan.org). At the time we were just 2 couples running this ministry–but after our return we quickly grew–and for us having just 2 kids was perfect to allow us to help run the ministry and care for our littles too.
During that year Richard had begun praying for this mom’s heart to soften to growing again–and it didn’t take long–but I eventually got there. I figured we’d get pregnant quickly because of our other two…but I was in for a ride as it took us almost a year to get pregnant. It was one of the hardest seasons of my life. I had to work through a lot of emotions and even guilt of how I had felt before–had I been crazy to not realize what a blessing it was that I got pregnant so easily the first times? Had I not realized how precious those months were OR what MIRACLES the two little ones already given to me really were? I realized that some of the daily mommy things I had been doing had really been being done with a spirit of duty rather than blessing and joy. Although I didn’t expect to have problems getting pregnant again–this struggle actually ended up being one of my most precious mommy gifts ever given. I would go in Parker and Laney’s rooms now at night and pick them up while they were sleeping and rock them. Richard would often find me curled up in bed beside one of them sleeping as I had dozed off watching them sleep and praying prayers of thanksgiving over them. I. REALLY. HAD. NO. IDEA…until this struggle how precious and miraculous new life really was…and now I was beginning to have my eyes opened to how ALL life is precious and dear…and I wanted every child to have THIS…and to have a mommy that would cherish them, sing over them and appreciate them. How I wished that I could go back and do those things with this new revelation–but how thankful I was to see it now!
We kept trying–but we also started praying about adoption. In the Spring of 2008 Richard took off for another trip to Africa to see Wiphan’s first school being built in progress–and I desperately wanted to go…BUT when the plans were being made in the Fall I hoped to be pregnant by then. So there I was in March of 2008—waving goodbye to Rich at the airport with my 2 preschoolers beside me–wanting to hop on that plane and not being able to go was also just a big reminder of still not being pregnant. I went home—put the kids in bed—and just for fun because this is what you do when you’ve been trying for a year…I took a pregnancy test…
Baby #3…is on the way!
Now–when you’ve been trying…you don’t expect to find out when your husband is out of loop and you don’t have a way to talk to him for 2 or 3 days until he’s settled in country. I wanted him to be the first to know–so in this time I was reminded to just celebrate with the Lord instead. CAN YOU IMAGINE??? I finally got him on the phone a couple of days later–and he was on a cell in the middle of the village at Wiphan. Our family and friends didn’t know–but he was so excited that he couldn’t contain himself and he shouted it to the people there. We always laugh that 450 orphans and widows in Zambia knew about our Frank before any of our family did! I felt like the Lord allowing me to find out while Richard was in Africa instead of with me was just a sweet reminder how we were walking in His will–and how it really was appropriate at that time in our lives for them to celebrate with us and to be the first to know this news in our lives. And in November our sweet little Frank was born.
Africa was being carried greatly in my heart during all of my pregnancy with him–and during our time of trying adoption had stirred in our hearts too. God had really done SO MUCH in my mommy heart to this point—because when Frank was 4 months old I began begging my husband to consider adoption! (Such a God thing–because when our first was his age I was saying we were done!) It took him a whole 2 months to warm up to the idea;)–and when Frank was around 6 months we signed on with an adoption agency to bring home a little one from Ethiopia. I think all of my family and friends were a bit surprised it wasn’t China–but having become a part of a ministry in Africa–I guess that made sense too.
We were on the special need list–but our perimeters were tight because we also had a 1 year old at home (the agency we were using required families to maintain birth order). We signed on in September of 2009 and in April of 2010 we got a call for a sweet 10 month old baby boy. He had been at the orphanage for a couple of months–weighing just 5 pounds at 8 months when he came in. When we picked him up at 10 months he couldn’t hold his head up or sit–so we weren’t sure what life would be like…but we were game for whatever the Lord had in His plans.
We brought him home and spent lots of time in therapies—and he miraculously walked the following February at 18 months old!
In March–we felt the Lord calling us to adopt AGAIN…and through a lot of prayer–we felt the Lord calling us to CHINA! Oh my glory! I couldn’t have been MORE excited! We officially signed on in May of 2010 to adopt a little girl from China–and you can IMAGINE this mom was on CLOUD 9! We were going to go…RICHARD AND I…and together I’d show him this country–and even better–we’d be bringing home another child while we were there. We spent the summer completely our home study…and I felt like music was playing in the background at every fingerprint appointment and dossier task!
Then–something didn’t feel right. I was really tired…my joints were hurting–and picking up the kids now required so much effort. I chalked it up to having 4 kids for months–and then I started to lose my vision in my right eye. I knew something wasn’t right…but I’d passed all those adoption medical tests with flying colors! Little did I know those are super basic and if you really have a problem it’s not gonna come up in those tests. Doctor after doctor after doctor–I just knew I had to find out what it was IF it was something before we went any further. I had more blood work run–and it was obvious by my bloodwork there was a lot of inflammation and I had markers for Sjogren’s and other things. More tests–and finally…through a really amazing homeopathic doctor, we learned that stinkin’ tick that had bit me a year ago in my driveway while watching the kids bike had given me Lyme disease.
I called our adoption caseworker–and our China adoption was put on hold. My heart crushed into a million pieces. It was November of 2011–and I was gearing up for another Created for Care adoption mom retreat–a retreat I had started a year earlier. So now–I was putting our adoption on hold–yet I was going to have to suck it up…and prepare to ministry to hundreds of women who were adopting and in process. I told the Lord I did not want to go–that I just wanted to put my head under a pillow…after taking my gazillion supplements and pills for Lyme…and just cry. This was so not what I expected or had hoped for…
He makes beautiful things…
I heard Him whisper this to my heart…but how could this be beautiful? It just felt like it stunk to my heart. I called my dad crying…would I get better? What if this doesn’t end the way I want it to? What if I’m not well enough to care for my kids? Someone had just told me about a friend in my home town fighting this that didn’t survive it–what if that happened to me?? Here I was a little girl calling my daddy in tears wanting him to promise me that it’d be okay–that I’d get better and this would all end with me being well and full of life again. But he couldn’t promise that. Honestly, that’s just something we aren’t always promised here on earth. But He does promise that He’d make it all beautiful as I trusted in Him–some how…and that no one could imagine how beautiful it would be from beginning to end…THAT’S how amazing He does promise it will be.
Time went on–and Created for Care came. I felt sicker than I ever had–and I truly had to trust Him to give me strength when I felt like I needed to be in bed or on the toilet or hugging the toilet (Lyme does a number on you in ever which way!) I made it through the January retreat–and when March came I had figured out a good routine to survive the weekend by having a room with a bathroom really close to the retreat activities. I knew we weren’t in a place to adopt–I just wanted to be well…yet I felt the Lord calling us to do something–which honestly just did NOT make sense.
I ran across a hosting program for orphans and felt my heart tug for a child that was about to age out. I just knew the Lord wanted us to pray for her–because there was NO WAY we could even host while I was dealing with Lyme. I showed her picture to Richard–and he began to pray. He came home from work the next day and said he thought we should host her. She was aging out–and he wanted her to know how loved she was…and maybe in the process a miracle would happen. I prayed and felt the Lord asking me to TRUST HIM. I told him he was gonna have to heal me if she was coming to our house…but still not feeling well–we stepped out in faith and said yes. NOW–you can imagine the reaction of others when we told them we were hosting. Seriously–just imagine the comments and concern;)
We did the paperwork, training and this sweet almost 16 year old orphan would be flying in on June 28th. The Friday before she arrived, I had more testing done–and the Lyme bacteria was completely undetectable! Honestly though, I knew I was healed before I even went in. A month earlier as we were praying and believing for complete healing I had begun to feel well again. Richard and I spent a day in prayer on Saturday at a nearby monastery just sitting in His presence asking and believing for complete healing. While I know the Lord greatly used an amazing homeopathic doctor to help heal me–I know ultimately He was showing us His great power and filling me with strength for what He was calling me to. I know He would have healed me just the same had we not hosted–BUT He asked us to step out in faith and host this child knowing we TRULY could not in our own strength!
This past summer, T spent 5 wonderful (but very hard) weeks in our home. It was her first encounter with a family in a very, very long time–and learning house rules (like you can’t watch whatever you want, leave the house and walk where ever you want, go to bed whenever you want) was really hard for all of us. Tantrums look quite different on a 15 year old–and with your 7, 6 and two 3 year olds watching–well, it was an interesting summer. She actually shared with us she WANTED to go back to the Ukraine and not be adopted. So we decided to just love her big during the summer while she was with us. THEN…something changed. We all began to connect–and the love of a family wasn’t so scary or uncomfortable anymore. Her 16th birthday was approaching like doomsday–knowing it meant aging out–and even if she changed her mind now it was really too late to advocate for her much less complete a home study ourselves. We just had to ride it out and make the most of the time we had.
Then–on her birthday- for the first time she expressed interest and in a prayer in front of about 50 people in our home translated into English–she said to the Lord how she wished she could have something like this…and my heart—dropped. On the DAY of aging out–to hear a sweet one say this…almost too much for a mother’s heart to bear. I painted on a good hostess smile for the rest of the night, but as soon as everyone was gone and the children were tucked in–I wept. How could this end beautiful?? Is this what I was healed for? This is awful. LORD PLEASE. Please–do something. But louder than those feelings and thoughts was this: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
And waiting on my computer was a thread of emails–from a family who volunteers with Wiphan with us. They were in Ukraine–adopting a child…and it fell through. Would our T want to be adopted? And if so–could I email all her info asap–because they have to submit it asap. Was this really happening? Was it possible? I thought it was too late! Wait–is this even possible???
The next few days were emotional and crazy–full of unknowns, lots of Skype sessions in Ukraine and lots of time on our knees. These friends were in Ukraine–and agreed to adopt this princess in our home–and she went from our home 3 days later as the summer program had ended and MET HER NEW PARENTS for the first time at the airport in Ukraine. NEVER–would she have to be without family again! Yes–it looked too late to the world…it looked too late to all of us–but God was teaching me that we truly have to trust Him–even when it APPEARS that He is too late–because our God is perfect–and He is always on time.
Not only would this family stay with her in country for the month ahead while they finished the adoption process–but she would also be the only child in their home and receive lots of extra attention as their two children were already grown. The mom being a child psychologist would know resources to help this angel and be so well equipped to bring healing. They had always hoped for a girl–and now…here she was…bringing such joy to this family–and truly–although it wasn’t easy–it couldn’t have been more beautiful! I would have NEVER imagined in a million years that is how it would have ended! Truly how beautiful He makes our stories–and always on time!!!
We had ALSO found out glorious news that we were expecting while T was with us! This had been one of the things the Lord really used to show us we were not the family for her as I knew meeting the needs of a 16 year old and newborn who both would require a lot of attention would be very hard on the other 4 little in our home. It just didn’t feel right. We were so excited to see T with a family–and we were approaching 10 weeks of our pregnancy and couldn’t wait to share! In fact, their court date and our 10 week appointment were the SAME DAY! I got news EARLY that morning from Ukraine that they had passed court! Then off to the doctor we went to hear our baby’s heartbeat. Richard and I were so thrilled…and then…our news came. We had seen the heartbeat earlier as I had a little scare–but this time…no heartbeat.
Once again–this was just not what my heart expected. And it never expected to feel the way it did now. I felt like a piece of my heart had been ripped out. I went home to call family–who got the children and our D&C was scheduled for the following morning. Labor Day weekend was ahead and it’d be busy with doctor’s trying to get patients in before the weekend. I miscarried through out the night–through labor and tears…and in the morning we went to the surgery center to see if I still needed a D&C. I told them I didn’t. There was NO way anything was left. But the ultrasound showed our little one was still there–so under I went and when I woke up–it was over. I held my breath as we walked out–and I cried all the way home. I know you are gonna make this beautiful Lord. I know you are…
I got some really great advice from a friend who had been there. “Grieve well,” she said. So I did. I wailed that day in a way I never had–I was thankful when Rich left to get my prescription–and I’m thankful no one else was here to hear it. It was true grieving–noises I didn’t know my body was capable of making. I felt in my heart we were having a little girl–and that weekend I named her–and laid the dream of her to rest. And I cried…an awful lot.
The weeks to follow were clinging to Jesus and trusting Him to make this beautiful. At my 4 week checkup I was told I was healthy enough to try again. And if I was healthy enough to try again–then I was healthy enough to have a baby another way too. Richard and I prayed long and hard–and we decided it was time to take our China adoption off hold.
We felt in a really strange way that God had given us our baby girl. Not how we had hoped…not how we would have wanted…yet–she was ours…and just as I had learned after not being able to get pregnant with Frank–ALL LIFE IS PRECIOUS…from day one. For that child I would have died–and she will always be a part of my heart. God used the miracle of her to lead us back to China–and to have us re-open our hands and say BOY or GIRL…I couldn’t have chosen when I was pregnant…and to just put it ALL back into hands.
We peaked on a waiting child site–and began to pray over some of the children there. I fell completely in love with a little guy with Downs Syndrome in Columbia–but Richard felt our child was in China–and I needed to follow my man. To THINK back to our engagement days–the pastor telling me to trust God to lead me back to China through Richard one day if it was His will! So–I followed my man…and we both fell in love with a picture of a little 17 month old boy on the waiting child list. We prayed about this little one and decided to call the agency–and in just a week because of his time on the wait list his file would have been sent back. Such sweet timing. A week later, we were officially matched with this little guy–and we are currently in process of bringing him home. The wait for China can be a bit longer after referral–so we are guessing we will travel around June–10 years after those double doors opened in that small town church and I left China at the cross to only return there with my sweet family and adding another. I know the rest of our journey will not be uneventful–but I’m really learning to trust Him big in the twists and turns of not only adoption–but just in LIFE.
How true it is–“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” I am trusting Him with the rest of the story…and so thankful He is my God. I praise Him that He gave me my first 2 miracles when He did–and that I had to wait for my 3rd…learning what miracles they all really are and truly appreciating life and the gift of being a mommy–no matter how it comes to us–it is a GIFT…a privilege…a honor! I praise Him for saving my 4th son and healing him–that he not only walks but runs–and he is a stubborn 3 year old now who I just wish would potty train. I praise Him for allowing me to get sick with Lyme disease–for stopping our China adoption..and challenging us to follow Him with hosting. Through this a child found a family and a family their child. HE IS GOOD! I praise Him for our 5th child. She is precious–and she is always mine. I learned what many of you reading have gone through–I had no idea the loss or hurt. I am sorry. But please remember–He is good…He loves you…and if you are in the middle of hurting right now–He isn’t finished with this story of yours. It’s going to be beautiful as you trust Him. I promise. Just old tight to Him and trust Him through it. And grieve well. I praise Him for reopening the doors for us to adopt from China–and that He has brought us another son. Had none of the hard things happened–this story would be completely different—it would be good…but this is so much more beautiful. I can trust Him–and so can you. Our lives are always going to be ones where we are waiting in some way on something–and I just pray that our waiting can be done more in Him than in any other thing. He is faithful. He is good. He can be trusted. May your life be beautifully written by Him…walking and trusting Him with you!
Find Andrea at her blog Babe of My Heart