“Every long lost dream led me to where you are. Others that broke my heart, they were like northern stars pointing me on my way into your loving arms. This much I know is true, that God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.”
From the first time I heard it, I fell in love with this Rascall Flatts ballad, but over the last few years of our life, it has taken on a new meaning. In 2004 we became pregnant, but only a few months into the pregnancy this beautiful little baby had passed away in utero. On June 6, 2004 we gave birth to a tiny, perfect little boy, Jacob Michael. The following year on September 28, our beautiful Emily Anne was born at just 20 weeks gestation—also too small to live. We were devastated. Though we had already been blessed with three beautiful, healthy children, the loss of these babies seemed too much to bear, and I wondered if our broken hearts would ever be whole again.
Shortly after Emily’s death, we began talking about adoption. After a lot of research and prayer, we both knew that our child was in China. In fact, Jeremy felt like his answer was that there were TWO girls for us there! Hmmm… could we be getting twins? We excitedly began the process of researching agencies, and felt that CCAI was perfect for us. We requested the application form and began the process of adopting a healthy infant (or two). I longed to hold a baby and felt that with our three little ones, adopting a child with special needs wouldn’t be the best course for our family. Still, I couldn’t help myself from looking at the waiting child list on CCAI’s website. One day, just days after filling out our application, a new photo was posted of a two-year-old little girl. I clicked on it and read her special need to be “pathological changes to the retina.” Her file explained that she was completely blind. BLIND. The word seemed so huge and ominous and something that I definitely wasn’t equipped to deal with. Still, there was something about this girl…
I called Jeremy and casually mentioned that there was a cute little blind girl on the website. That night he looked at her picture and also felt that same something, but we didn’t discuss it and I really didn’t think it to be an option. However, over the next few days, experiences were given to us that let us both KNOW, beyond a doubt, that this was our little girl. It was overwhelming and scary, but the peace we felt was undeniable, and within days we called CCAI with a “YES! This is our daughter!”
Parker named her Elizabeth Mei Green—our little “Elli Mei.” Just weeks after finding her photo on the website, another little girl caught our eye. Her name was Wang Chun Ling, and she was 7 years old. Again, there was just something special about her. I followed her file closely and was dismayed when one day it said that her file was going to be returned to China. How could that be? She was so darling and perfect and beautiful. Though she had an extremely serious heart condition, we had thought that surely someone was going to snatch her right up. We prayed about it and just knew we had to ask if we could bring both girls home from China. We asked our agency, but the answer was no. We were so sad, knowing she might never find a family of her own, and kept her in our hearts.
In the meantime, we busied ourselves with the piles of paperwork for Elli and were just overcome with excitement to bring her home. We began a website for her at www.elizabethmei.com and began recording our feelings and experiences. One of my favorite journal entries on that site was from our five-year-old son, Parker. He had asked if he could write it all by himself, so I left the room. I came back and was touched by the words he had written: “DEAR ELIZABETH I LOVEYOU I HOP THAT YOU WIL CUM SON YOU WILL BE A GRAT SISDR I WL PLA WITH YOU YOU WILL BLES MI HORT I WILL TECH YOU A BAOT JESIS FROM PARKER” Somehow, he knew that she would indeed bless his heart, as she has blessed all of ours.
February 26 was a day that I will never forget. After months of waiting and praying for this sweet little girl, I finally got to live the moment I had dreamed about. We walked into a room at the Civil Affairs Office and there she was, in her foster mother’s arms—our newest angel and most perfect little girl—Elizabeth Mei Green. The night before we had been given an update on her. It had said that she didn’t talk, only walked in circles, and was very somber. However, as they placed her in my arms, this little girl who we had prayed for so earnestly seemed to know that she was home. She threw back her head and began to laugh. This continued for the entire time we were there. We were crying, her foster mother was crying—it was one of the most joyous moments of our lives.
Our time in China was amazingly wonderful, but even better was coming home to our children and being a complete family. As she slept during the day while trying to adjust to the time, our other three children would just lie there and stare at her in awe—hardly believing she was finally home. I knew that she had found her way into their hearts forever when Parker, who had been so nervous about her blindness at first, walked in one day with what I think is one of the most beautiful expressions of love I’ve ever heard. “Mom, if you could catch blindness, I would still want Elli.”
After being home with Elli for nearly eight months, we left for China again. Yes, that “special something” we had felt for that other little girl was very real. Her file was reassigned to another agency, and although many, many families looked at her file and loved her so dearly, her heart condition made it too hard to place her. CCAA made an exception for us, and in January, right in the middle of Elli’s adoption, we were pre-approved to adopt her. Our Graci Kate came home in December of 2007, and our lives have never been the same! Her first year home was a roller coaster for us all, and we are thrilled that we took the ride—we couldn’t love Graci more than we do!
Adopting Elli and Graci taught us many, many things. Among these things is the fact that a child with “special needs” can bring very special blessings. We also learned that we can do hard things, and that through the love and kindness shown by family, friends, neighbors, and mostly our Father in Heaven, we can even LOVE doing hard things.
One of my favorite stories is from Boyd K. Packer. He talked about a time in his life where he was asked to do something that he felt he just couldn’t do. He went to Harold B. Lee to receive counsel, and was told this: "The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning." Elder Packer replied, “I would like to see at least a step or two ahead.” Then from Harold B. Lee came the lesson of a lifetime: "You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you."
Every time the Lord leads us to adoption, I feel like I am taking a few steps into the darkness. But I have learned that those ever so important steps of faith are exactly what we have needed to do. He has indeed provided light at just the right times, to uplift us, strengthen us, and show us what to do. We are so grateful that we have dared to choose “the road less traveled” even when it is difficult, sometimes terrifying to do so. It has indeed “made all the difference.” This road we have chosen has led us to adoption again and again. (: Xander came into our lives in 2009, with Sophi and Lexi following in 2010. Thinking of taking “the easy road” and not having them in our lives is just incomprehensible. We love them with all of our hearts!
So here we are again. Another fork in the road. Two more precious children of God are tugging at our hearts and calling us into the darkness. You would think after five times, that we wouldn’t be scared, but we are! And yet there is an underlying peace, knowing that we are choosing the perfect road for us, and the one we have been called to take. We are so thankful for prayer, and to have that decision confirmed in our hearts. Two more children are getting a family this year! We are so grateful, so grateful, to be on this beautiful road.
Several years ago, we moved from our home in Tennessee to Utah so we could be closer to our extended families. We decided to have our babies’ bodies moved here to be closer to us. They were put together into a new casket so they could be transported. When we went to the cemetery for the burial, it was just Jeremy, Elli and me. Their casket had been placed by the plot so we could have some time alone with them. It is important to note that Elli’s communication was (and is) severely delayed. Though she would parrot words that we said, she had never, ever said any words spontaneously. I sat on the ground with Elli in my lap and placed her hands on the casket. She immediately became giddy with excitement and just laughed. I told her that Jacob and Emily were in there. She said their names, and then said, “happy, happy, happy, happy!” Over and over she would touch the casket and giggle and say “happy!” We believe that she was letting us know something very important. Not only are our Jacob and Emily happy, but that she is happy because of them. Our broken road was indeed blessed. We have two northern stars, and they led us straight into the loving arms of our amazing Chinese children.