Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How it all started...

Many people have asked how we came to adopt in the first place.  This is the story of  the very beginning of our very first adoption-- our beautiful Elizabeth Mei.  It tells the first of many sweet "signs" and tender mercies that let us know that we were indeed to go forward with her adoption.  Elli has been our hardest child by a mile, and so I'm especially grateful for all of the special experiences that helped us to know it was right to adopt her.  We love our "Little Ladybug!"

And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight.       These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.”  Isaiah 42:16

The pinwheels started spinning as soon as we pulled up alongside the grave.  I jumped out of the van and started unbuckling the kids.  Taylor and Parker ran toward the headstone, pausing for just a moment to blow a kiss before taking off to play their usual game of hide and seek.  I hoisted 2 ½ year old Jessica onto my hip and walked slowly toward the place where my babies laid.

My heart was heavy today, but not with the grief of their death.  I had a decision to make, and it was perhaps the hardest decision I had ever faced.  It involved a little girl who lived across the ocean in a two-room home covered in cracked blue paint.  A home without any sign of toys.  A home with an old metal crib, which she was tied to with little ribbons for most of the day so that she would be “safe.”  A home where she had spent the last year after being found alongside a road at the age of six months and then bounced from orphanage to orphanage.  A home where she was taken care of and even loved, but not the way I knew we could love her.

I had found her photo on a list of “waiting children” from China.  After two stillbirths spaced just over a year apart, we had learned that I had some medical conditions that were not conducive to another pregnancy.  Losing our precious Jacob and Emily had left us devastated.  I loved them fiercely and wanted with all of my heart and soul to have them back.  But as we tried to make sense of their short little lives and the purpose in their deaths we began to feel a tug at our hearts.  As we studied and prayed and fasted, we decided that this tug was coming from China.  We were to adopt, and we were elated!

As we began the adoption process, we made the easy decision to go the “healthy infant” route.  After all, we had three young children, and Jessica had some medical issues that kept us extra busy.  There was no way we could handle any kind of special need, medical or otherwise.  Still, just two days before—and just two weeks into the adoption process—I had found myself perusing the waiting children site and finding “her.”  This sweet little girl who was doing her best to wriggle her way into my heart.  There was just one small issue.  This girl was blind.


The word seemed so huge and ominous and something I was completely incapable of dealing with.  Blind!  How in the world could we parent a blind child?  It seemed impossible.   It seemed downright crazy!  So what was it about her that didn’t let me just skim past her face?  I had called Jeremy when I saw her photo—mentioning as casually as I could that there was a sweet little blind girl on the website who I thought was pretty cute.  He barely even replied before moving on to another topic of conversation and I had thought “that was that.”  Until yesterday.  Yesterday, when he had called me, crying, telling me that he had just had an experience that led him to know that we were indeed supposed to adopt that little girl.  He was sure of it.

What?!!!  I had never felt so overwhelmed in all my life.  How could we do such a thing?   We were already barely keeping our heads above water with the three precious children we currently had.  Surely, there was someone out there more capable, more prepared, more worthy of such a task.  How could I be the kind of mother this sweet girl needed?  There was just no way it was meant to be, and yet Jeremy insisted that it was.   And so I had prayed.  I prayed like I had never prayed before.  I prayed for strength and wisdom and clear direction.  I felt peace every time I prayed, but that was not enough.  I wanted more!  I needed to know that this was the right decision for me, for my family, and for this sweet little orphan girl.

So here I was.  Sitting at the graveside of my two tiny angels.  It was a place I often came when I needed clarity.   I closed my eyes and I talked to them.

“Ok, Jake and Emmy, this is the deal.  I need help.  I know I’m not supposed to ask Heavenly Father for a sign—that I’m just supposed to have faith--so I’m asking you instead.  (:  See, there’s this little girl in China who is calling out to us and I don’t know what to do.  I am scared.  No, I am terrified.  You see, she’s blind—and to me that seems like about the scariest thing to deal with in the whole world.  I need help.  I feel peace each time I pray about her, but I want more.  I want to know in a way that I’ll never doubt—even in the darkest and hardest of times!  Please, help me!”

I opened my eyes.  The sun was shining brightly and the pinwheels above their headstone were spinning faster than before.  I looked around at the other pinwheels in the cemetery.  They were still.  I knew they were there to visit me, my two precious angels.  I felt their strength as I stood up to leave.  I loaded the kids up in the van and I turned the key in the ignition.  At that point, five-year-old Parker asked, “Mom—how far have we driven in this van?”  It was a strange question, and I asked him to clarify.  “How many miles have we driven in this van?”  I asked him why he was asking that—we had never talked about mileage--  and he replied, “I don’t know!  I just had this thought in my head that I needed to ask you.”

I looked down at the odometer and read to him, “127,301 miles.”  I looked over once again at Jacob and Emily’s grave as we pulled away.  The pinwheels were spinning again, this time like crazy, while all of the other pinwheels remained still.  And I had the distinct impression come to me that the number I had just read was important.  I tried to talk myself out of it the whole drive home, but the thought would not go away.  I turned the number over and over in my head.  “127, 301.  What could the significance be?  I must be crazy!” 

Then suddenly, a warmth started to spread in my heart as I recalled that 301 was the hymn number of one of my favorite songs, “I am A Child of God.”  I sung the words in my head,

I am a child of God,
And he has sent me here,
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me,
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.

The words to the chorus, “lead me, guide me, walk beside me” took on a new significance as I thought of this little blind girl.  My heart swelled with love for her. I felt warmth envelop my body, but I tried to push it away.

“This is silly,”  I thought.  “I’m making things up.  That number didn’t mean anything.  And 301 is only part of the number anyway—so I must be imagining things.”

Again, I felt a voice in my heart, “No, the numbers do mean something.  You need to figure it out.”  And so I told myself that I would go home and look up hymn 127 in our hymnbook.   If it seemed to have any ties whatsoever to adoption or blindness or this girl, I would believe this “prompting” or “sign” I was having.  If not, I would accept that I was certifiably crazy and hearing strange voices in my head!  I started to get excited.  What if the hymn held an answer for me?  What words of wisdom might it hold?  I could hardly wait to see, and the second I walked for the door I made a beeline for the hymnbook.  Hymn 127—“Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” 

What?  I had never even really liked that song and the lyrics had nothing to do with the answer I was seeking.   Ugh.  I shut the book in frustration and put it back on the piano.  This whole number thing was just silly after all.

And then the impression, “Read the second verse.” 

“I am going crazy!”  I thought to myself.  “My son asks me how far we’ve driven and I totally am trying to make something out of this random number and well, I’ve lost it!”

But I opened the book anway.  Verse two.  My heart started burning before I even began to read the words to the second verse.  I knew my answer was going to be there.  As I began to read, I felt as if this precious little girl from half way around the world was singing it to me:

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, oh! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.

And I knew.  This little girl, blind and defenseless and without a family was MY little girl.  My very kind and loving and compassionate Father in Heaven was entrusting her to me at that very moment.  I couldn’t leave her alone.  I wouldn’t leave her alone. 

Meeting Elli for the first time


Post Script:  As I was writing this, I looked up the lyrics to "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" just to make sure I had them right.  In our hymnbook, only two verses are listed and that is all I have known.  As it turns out, there are three more verses-- two of which are as follows:

  1. Wilt Thou not regard my call?
    Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
    Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—
    Lo! on Thee I cast my care.
    Reach me out Thy gracious hand!
    While I of Thy strength receive,
    Hoping against hope I stand,
    Dying, and behold, I live.
  2. Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
    More than all in Thee I find;
    Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
    Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
    Just and holy is Thy Name,
    Source of all true righteousness;
    Thou art evermore the same,
    Thou art full of truth and grace.

    In honor of Elli, today I want to feature another child who is blind and needs a family to call his own.  Meet the cutest little three year old boy in the world:

    At nine months of age this child was brought to the orphanage and was blessed with a wonderful nanny who is responsible for the amazing little boy that he is today. He does not exhibit any of the typical body rocking/hand flapping traits that are often seen in blind children who are institutionalized. 
    He recently started attending classes, and when I “quietly” walk into his classroom, he always speaks English and says, “Good morning.” 
    Because of his age, he is no longer under the care of his nanny. That means he is lacking the hugs and kisses and physical contact that made him the special boy who he is today. 
    Next month, this little guy will turn four-years old and will have yet another birthday that goes unnoticed and not celebrated.

    Please watch this short video and see what a blessing he could be to your family.