In high school, I went to Romania on a mission trip. While there, we spent time at a home (sort of an orphanage) for girls. Most of them were older and had "aged out" of the government run orphanages. When girls age out of these orphanages, they are often kicked out on the streets without any money, education, and have a difficult time finding a job. Many of them (probably the majority) end up turning to prostitution or I'm sure even become part of the extremely heart breaking sex trafficking industry. The orphanage we spent time at was started as a response to this problem. It was mainly just for older girls and the workers made sure all the girls received an education and learned a trade such a cooking, sewing, gardening, and so on. They were also taught about the Lord and that He was their Father and how beautiful, loved, and cherished they were in His sight. There were only like 15 girls living in this home, and they became a family to each other. I remember after staying in the home with these girls thinking that someday I am going to somehow be involved in ministering to orphans like this home did. While in Romania, we also visited some government run orphanages. The pictures from these places are ingrained in my mind forever. I remember a room that was lined with cribs... at least 20, and there was one women caring for all of the babies. There also was a room that was just for the orphans that had special needs. There was one child in particular who was 4 or 5 years old with cerebral palsy that I remember very clearly. He was lying in a crib that was much too small for him, and had severe muscle contractures and he could no longer straighten his arms or legs. I wondered that day if they ever took him out of the crib, if anyone ever held him in their arms, if he ever felt loved? That was ten years ago and I still remember his face. There were just so many kids, and so few workers, and it was so cold and gray and life seemed so hopeless for all of them, and this was just one orphanage. There were also orphans all over the city who had gotten kicked out the orphanages, ran away, or aged out. We saw some of this kids holding dirty bags up to their noses and they were sniffing the contents of the bag. We found out that there was glue in the bags and sniffing it made the kids "high". Through an interpreter, we were able to ask one of the young boys why he sniffed the glue and he said it was so that he could feel warm at night and not feel hungry. Needless to say, God broke my heart during that short trip for orphans. Every verse about ministering to orphans suddenly made so much more sense. I wanted all of them to know the hope and love and peace they could find in Christ. I wanted them to know that God was their Father, and that they could have a hope that would warm their hearts and feed their souls for eternity.
Fast forward 7 years... Brian and I are dating and we start talking about getting hitched :). I told him then I felt like God was calling me to adopt internationally long before I ever met him. Brian agreed that if God continued to lead us in this direction, that we would someday pursue adopting a child. After we got married, we talked about adoption quite a bit and prayed about when to start the process. We decided last January to try to first have a child the natural way :), and that if in a year we had not gotten pregnant, we would take that as indication that we were suppose to adopt first. Well... about ten months into trying to get pregnant, our doctor discussed some options to try to help us get pregnant. At first, we were excited about our options and thought we would pursue that road... this was the first week of November. One week later, I was on plane on my way to Guatemala. The week between our doctor's appointment and my Guatemala trip was extremely busy and I had not had very much time to pray and process through what the doctor had said and the decision we had made. I started writing in my journal and praying... and then the tears started rolling... on the plane. I was sandwiched between two very small Guatemalan ladies. Their feet didn't even touch the ground while they were sitting... they were too cute... and they probably wanted to find a different seat at this point :). As I was praying, a very clear unrest entered my heart. I knew at that moment God was telling us to not move forward with the fertility stuff but that He wanted us to pursue adoption like we said we would even before we got married. It was SO CLEAR. One of the most clear moments in my life where I knew what God was guiding me to do. For a moment I did sort of mourn the thought of maybe not ever getting pregnant, but I also felt so cared for that God, Creator of the Universe, would care so much about our future family, that He would clearly show me what we were suppose to do. I got home from the trip and told Brian. I was ready to start the adoption process that day... Brian said we needed to slow down and spend some serious time praying about this (he's pretty wise... I'm pretty impatient). So we prayed... for about a month. We asked God if this was what He wanted to us to do first, we asked what country, what agency, what gender, what age and so on... (there are a lot of things to think through when you start this process!!). It was seriously nothing short of amazing how God placed people in our life during this time of prayer that helped make all of these decisions pretty easy. Right before Christmas, we knew that we definitely wanted to move forward with the adoption. We knew we wanted to adopt from Africa, but we were still praying about whether to adopt from Ethiopia or Uganda. We had been leaning towards adopting from Uganda and had been referred by Gwen (who runs an awesome organization called 147 million orphans.. so thankful to have met her!) to an agency called Lifeline. After talking with Lifeline extensively about their Uganda and Ethiopia program, we prayed some more and decided we should apply for their Ethiopia program. I even felt like the Lifeline reps were sort of indirectly directing us towards their Ethiopia program (It's so cool that God was making it clear even to the agency what we were suppose to do). We officially applied to Lifeline on December 30th, and set up our first home-study meeting for January 10th. We were accepted into the program about a week later and started the mountains of paper work that comes with international adoption. We did all three of our home study visits in 2 weeks and we were about done with our paperwork for the dossier (a collection of like 20 documents about ourselves that gets submitted to the Ethiopia)... we were just waiting for a few documents to come in the mail and for our home study to be finalized so we could apply to get our fingerprints done for immigration.
4 days after our last home study visit, we found out we were pregnant :). At first I was super confused by this (I was happy.... just a little confused by the timing... and just not sure what to think/feel), but God's timing is so perfect, and looking back everything happened when it did for a very specific reason. We KNEW we were supposed to adopt... but we were obviously also about to have a baby. We had already paid about $5,000 towards our adoption. I quickly contacted our social work who was working on our home study. She graciously told us she could wait to finalize our home study until after our baby was born, so we lost absolutely no money on our home study. I contacted Lifeline, and they said per their policy, we would have to put the adoption on hold until that baby was 6 months old and then we could move forward with the adoption and lose no money as long as we started it again within the next two years. So we didn't lose a penny, but we were totally locked into the adoption. We did have the option of getting a lot of our money back if we decided to call off the adoption, but we both knew this was not what God was calling us to. We knew we were suppose to adopt. It was never something we did just because we were having a difficult time getting pregnant. We knew this was something God wanted our family to do. Also.... looking back at the timing of everything and the country we picked... everything fit perfectly together like a puzzle. If we had started the adoption in November when I wanted to, we would have probably already submitted our dossier and had to have redone a lot of work and lost a lot of money. If we would have found out we were pregnant even one week later, our home study would have been done and we would have had to do a lot of that over again and pay extra money. If we would have picked Uganda (which I still want to possibly pursue some day), we would have had to live in Uganda for 4-6 weeks or even longer with a very young child. Yes, we will have to go to Ethiopia twice, but for shorter periods of time which will make a little bit more sense for where our family will be at that point.... and who knows, God may direct us back to Uganda, but at this point, we are praying for our little Ethiopian :). God holds every second of our lives in His hands. He has shown Brian and I that truth very clearly through this whole process. Nothing happens by accident. And.. this has also made me learn a lot about hope, not only for Brian and I, but the hope that there is for orphans, even for those who will not get adopted, and how God cares for orphans as well just as He has cared for us. He holds every single orphan in His hands. He is their hope, not me. He is their rescuer, not me. Brian and I are a vessel. We are willing, but God is able. Even for the children that will never experience what it's like to have a family to call their own, they have a Heavenly Father who is the Father to the Fatherless, who is their hope in the darkness, their refuge throughout all their suffering, their shelter through every storm, their loving Creator who has His arms wrapped tightly around them. We are adopting not because we think it's the cool thing to do right now, not because we want to grow our family a little bit quicker, not because we struggled to get pregnant, but we adopt because God adopted us into His family when we least deserved it (Ephesians 1:5), we adopt because God commands us to care for the Fatherless and this how we believe our family is called to do this (Deuteronomy 24:17-22, James 1:27), we adopt because there are over 140 MILLION orphans in this world who do have a family and many of them do not even have food, beds, clothes, shoes, or even shelter, and we adopt because we want that number to go down and we want at least one of the 140 million plus to know the love the Father has for them and that they are valued by Him, to have a family to call their own, to feel safe and loved and cherished in the arms of a mom and dad and ultimately our prayer would be someday that this child will have new life in Christ and for them to experience adoption for the second time. I cannot wait to welcome the child God has chosen to be in our family into our home. I cannot wait to hold him/her tightly in my arms. I cannot wait for the word "orphan" to no longer identify our child. I cannot wait!!! During this time that we do have to wait, please join us in praying for the baby growing inside me and for the sweet little Ethiopian child who might not even be born yet. Thank you for covering us in prayer, and we will keep you updated over the next couple of years on our journey to bring our child home.
Our new blog name is from a song that has resonated in my heart over the past year leading up to this adoption and pregnancy.
"strength for today and bright HOPE for tomorrow, Great is thy Faithfulness Lord unto me".
Lamentations 3:22-24 -
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
link for the picture