In March of last year, I saw a face that stopped me in my tracks. Her name was Rosie. She was ridiculously cute, had Down syndrome and some additional special needs that might have made most families a little hesitant to pursue her. In a lot of ways, just like my Clementine. And that one sweet face started me wondering what it might look like to adopt again. Another child like Clementine, a child who really needed a family to come quickly for her.
Eventually I wondered this aloud, to my husband. His prompt “no” lead me to share her here, hoping and praying her forever family would somehow find her. Well, they did. And precious Rosie was recently adopted and is now home and so very loved.
And in my heart there was a little bit of sad, but a whole lot of happy. And, not gonna lie, a smidge of relief.
But in June there was another little one with Down syndrome. Sweet Scout stole my heart with his tiny duck lips. And then in July, another child with a very broken heart, who needed an incredibly special family. The prognosis for repair was grim and she needed a family to love her, and love her well, for however many days she might have here on earth.
Oh, so many sweet ones just needing a family to simply choose them. To say “Yes”. Honestly, it’s impossible to wrap your brain around the overwhelming need without it either hardening your heart, or breaking it.
But us, Lord? Again? You can’t be serious.
When we began the journey to bring Clementine home, so many worldly doubts rang in my ears: Will her needs be too much for me to handle? Will I be able to care for her well and our other kids already home? Will she miss out on things because of my already-full hands? But the Lord was so clear. Mountain-movingly clear, in fact. And so we simply kept putting one foot in front of the other. The doubts surfaced again in China, when she was so very sick – too sick to even meet us on adoption day. Really? She’s that sick? That fragile? Okay, time out… what the heck are we doing?!
Looking back I see what an immeasurable gift the last 14 months have been – in a million different ways – down to the last, difficult drop. To watch Clementine blossom and to witness Him at work in the mightiest of ways. Where there were gaps and lack, He filled in. Where there were bumps and hills, He leveled the path or simply held us even closer. Honestly, watching her heal on the inside and the outside has been one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever experienced. She is simply awesome and, even more, so is the One who created her.
So having witnessed first-hand how the Lord can take our seemingly meager and insufficient offerings, and even our fear and trepidation, and multiply them in such a way that there is no longer a lack, but excess, well… it was difficult to come up with excuses for why we might say “no” to the Lord’s prompting to adopt once more.
We decided to simply pray, and we did. Lots and lots of praying. It wasn’t long before we felt like it was time to take the first steps to begin a homestudy update, the only real paperwork we’d need to start in order to reuse our dossier. (If you’re unfamiliar with China dossier reuse, a family can use a dossier again for a special focus child if an LOI is submitted within one year of the first child’s adoption date.)
We still had no child specifically in mind, but we felt like our feet needed to be moving in the direction we felt the Lord was leading. We submitted fingerprints. We filled out forms. We completed our physicals. Had x-rays, requested reference letters and wrote checks. It all seemed, quite honestly, a little purposeless at the time, knowing that if we were not matched by the time we reached the one-year anniversary of Clementine’s adoption, our dossier would expire. But we kept coming back to obedience. Obedience is our business, what God does with that obedience is God’s business. Thank you, Elisabeth Elliot, for the
In mid-July we spoke to our agency about reusing our dossier and submitted a special needs checklist. We were feeling specifically lead to pursue a child with Down syndrome or complex heart defects but we asked our social worker to contact us with any child she felt strongly about, knowing our parameters were always open to wherever the Lord might lead.
Early August took me and Clementine to Cincinnati for major surgery, and a roller-coaster of a month. By late August we were putting the brakes on our homestudy and asking our social worker for some time to catch our breath and focus completely on Clementine’s recovery. Her relapse, less than two weeks home, had caught us off-guard (and was absolutely terrifying, too) and with her future recovery and medical needs suddenly looming uncertain, it seemed the wisest decision.
One night during this time I was sleeping particularly fitfully – wrestling with so many deep doubts and fears that require too much energy to tangle with during the day. Never having imagined being the mom to such a large brood, it’s still surprisingly hard for me to wrap my head around the significance of mothering my children and doing it to the best of my ability. Then to think of adding one more? Specifically one with complex special needs?
Oh my. Maybe it would just be easier to leave our homestudy unfinished? Maybe half a homestudy was all the Lord expected?
And as I lay there, partially asleep, a thought came to mind that jostled me awake. It was a question someone had asked me when we shared that we were adopting Clementine. “But don’t you have enough kids?” At the time the question hurt, not because it wasn’t true. We absolutely, positively had enough kids. If we were going for enough, we’d have been done a long time ago (we honestly thought we were done 14 years and 8 kids ago). It hurt because the heart of the question seemed so far removed from the reason we’d grown our family in this way. Adoption has never about meeting our need for “enough”. It has always been about trusting and following Christ however, whenever and wherever.
And then I realized that I’d been subconsciously asking the Lord this very question, the one I’d loathed to have someone ask me. Don’t we have enough kids, Lord? Ugh. Fears and doubts yielding such ugliness in this heart of mine.
“Then what IS the question, Lord? What question should I be asking instead?”
And a verse came to mind. Loud. Strong.
“Do you love Me?”
“Feed My sheep.”
I got up that day and studied this scripture heavily, knowing in my heart what it meant, but wanting to do all I could to understand it as fully as possible. Eventually I came across a Spurgeon sermon on it specifically.
“Dost thou want to do something which shall evidence that thou art indeed mine? Then sit not down with the elders, dispute not in the temple; I did that myself; but go thou, and sit down with the young orphans, and teach them the way to the kingdom.’Feed my lambs.'”
Talk about a perspective-changer. A world-rocker. And a peace-giver. There was no more room for questions. Or doubts. We would trust Him fully and simply wait to see what He would, or would not, do.
One month and a few bronchoscopies after putting the brakes on the adoption process, we received the blessed news that Clementine was looking exceptionally good. So good that she wouldn’t need to follow up with her surgeon for six months. And her growing appetite, constant smile and increasing energy were all signs pointing to this, too. Our girl was not just back to her pre-surgery self, she was better than ever.
And then we got the call. On October 14th, as I unsuspectingly sat in the ophthalmologist’s office, my phone lit up with our agency’s number.
Chris and I had already discussed how much weight being matched by our agency would have on our decision. My heart started racing when I heard the voice of our social worker on the other end of the line… and then, when she said she had the file of a child she thought we might want to consider, I could hear my heart beating in my ears.
“Her needs are complex. Do you want me to send the file to you?”
Ummmm, yes. Please.
The rest is history. I read over her paperwork and looked at her pictures and I’m not sure I ever made a conscious decision. It was like being carried away on a wave that simply overwhelmed me in a scary yet beautiful way. I met Chris at home (he had been keeping Clementine) just an hour or so later and I told him about her special needs. What that might mean for our family in the future. And when he saw her picture he simply said, “She looks like our daughter.”
She does not have Down syndrome, which I think was a surprise to both of us… with so many children waiting who have Ds, and with our hearts so drawn to Ds, we just sort of assumed we knew what the Lord would do. Again, we shouldn’t have presumed to know His plan. Her special need is a significant heart defect, several in fact. Very similar to the heart defects that took our beloved Esther’s life. Thankfully, she has been in excellent care from very early on, and she has had several palliative surgeries to date. She will need several more, most likely one coming very shortly after she arrives home.
And that’s where we are now. She will be coming home and, quite possibly, very soon. The last of our dossier is now in China and we should receive our LID any day. If our paperwork moves like Clementine’s, and our paperwork is expedited, we’ll be in China in April. If not, probably more like June. But either way, we’re ready to do everything we can to get this girl home.
It is my hope that you will partner with us again… in the same, breathtakingly beautiful way you did when we were working to bring Clementine home. So many prayers lifted. So many prayers answered. What a story the Lord continues to write in our Clementine’s precious life, and so many of you to squeeze for playing a part.
Will you pray with us, specifically for Magnolia’s heart? That the Lord will keep her and protect her? We are so very excited to bring her home and watch the story the Lord has for her unfold.
There will be another way to partner with us as we bring our sweet girl home, but our biggest desire is that you link arms with us spiritually, on behalf of Miss Magnolia and her fragile heart. So very humbled by and thankful for you, sweet friend (because anyone who has read to the end of this post is either my friend or my mother), and the body of believers who faithfully pray orphans-no-more into their forever families. You are more of a blessing than you could ever know.
With much love,