It all started when…
We began our adoption journey in the spring of 2003, we couldn’t have imagined that 10 years later we would have a house full with 8 children, 5 of them adopted. At the time, we had two biological boys ages 4 and 18 months, when our hearts were touched for a little boy in Ukraine.
After losing his referral and going through a fraudulent agency, we found ourselves adopting independently in Ukraine in January 2004. As we turned the pages in the binder that had been handed to us filled with orphans, we carefully studied them, wondering how we would ever pick just one. Towards the end of our visit, the official pulls out a file from his desk drawer and shows us a darling, chubby cheeked, curly haired girl who lived 15 hours away by train. At 15 months, this would make her the youngest which we had hoped. God was obviously listening to us….or so we thought.
God is in control at all times.
With a spring in our step we arrived at the orphanage ready to engage a smiling baby, however we never found the little girl in the photo. Instead we saw sickly child kept hidden away in the infirmary. We quickly realized that we would need to make a choice, and that decision would alter her life and our families forever. By God’s grace, we knew we would raise her; so we made our commitment and named her Grace.
God knows what you need and what is best.
As the adoption process grew longer than we had anticipated in Ukraine we found ourselves learning a lot about the conditions Grace and other orphans with special needs were being raised in. With very little stimulation, she didn’t know what it meant to play. With little human contact and no relationships, she withdrew into an autistic like state for survival. Small children rocking and banging their heads and stiffening up when being held, our hearts began swelling and aching for all of these orphans! Soon, we learned that Grace was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Unable to suck and swallow her formula properly, she had thrown up every bottle she ingested causing her to absorb few nutrients. Her tiny body was the size of a 3 month old.
It's not about us.
As we waited each day we spent our visits with the other children in the infirmary laying in dimly lit rooms. We were so thankful to be allowed to hold them and sing to them. We saw life being clung to in those weak, fragile bodies and prayed for an ever-present hope to keep them going. We knew then that while we had thought we had endured a trial through our adoption process, this is why we were here; to open our eyes and see. Through this new lens and at the moment, it made it seem easier to make the decision to bring Grace home. It was then we made a commitment to God to be used by Him in anyway to help orphans - His most precious children.
God’s perfect plan will come to fruition.
Once home began a long journey to healing for Grace and for our family. We needed a support system, but we didn’t know anyone around us who had adopted a child in Grace’s condition who could provide respite. We began researching and traveling far to learn how to care for her. We couldn’t leave her in the nursery at church, and when we tried explaining to our church friends about what we needed them to do, they were overwhelmed by what we were sharing with them. The intensive time I was spending with her was draining me emotionally, mentally, physically and we found ourselves isolating as we tried to adjust to this new way of life.
There was one particularly difficult day when Grace had been screaming. Feeding her caused discomfort, and it seemed she equated me with pain. She wanted to sit and stim and I needed to keep her from shutting down. It was hard work. Attachment felt impossible. I found myself on the living room floor in a heap crying out to God for help when I heard a little voice inside say, “Do you mean that?” I knew what that meant. I was praying but not believing. I was forgetting the incredible opportunity to do this walk in HIS strength.
God makes us able.
As we refreshed ourselves in the word of God, we committed to no longer allow words of hopelessness to prevail in our home. We fought together as husband and wife, father and mother, and son and daughter of a King. We created healthy boundaries only allowing life giving people into our inner circle while we tended to each of our family members needs. While we needed the freedom to be real, we needed those who could see the struggle and say, "We believe with you!"
God uses our trials to make us grow in faith.
Our greatest lesson has been to remember that our heavenly Father loves us and he alone is our healer. It doesn’t matter what we see in front of us, our faith in him makes us stronger and he can move mountains when we agree with him for our victories. His goodness took us far beyond we could have ever imagined. Not only we did we adopt Grace, but we added Rainan in 2009, Maxim in 2010, Jubilee in 2011, and Cephas and Lucia in 2013. Our challenges haven't diminished, His grace has only increased! Our joy is only richer and our love deeper because it is rooted in our purpose for which we were created. We are safe nestled in under His wing.