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For Life: What Happened When We Killed Our Dreams

May 26, 2017 0 Comments

Finish high school.
Graduate from college.
Get a job.
Get married.
Have a couple kids.
Maybe even adopt one.
Send them all to college.
Celebrate their weddings.
Spoil the grandkids.
Retire.

That’s the plan.

Well… that was the plan.

When I was getting ready to finish high school, I realized I had no idea what it meant to plan for the future. At that point in life, I’d never stuck with anything longer than four years other than my relationship with Jesus. I wasn’t confident I could make it to adulthood much less make it down my list of life goals.

Over time, and through a long valley of heartaches, I emerged into the grown-up world of jobs, family, mortgage, cars, bills, etc. Together, my wife and I started working down this list.

About five years in, we’d realized we’d made it about halfway through it, checking off boxes pretty as you please. Life was under our command. We did what we wanted. Went where we wanted. Ate what we wanted. Life was just exactly what we wanted. Everything was happening just as we’d scripted. Which meant it was time to start the next chapter…



Adoption.

We had a certain storyline in mind. We thought we’d probably learn about a mom in our town who was at a crossroads. She would choose us as parents and off we’d go, checking off boxes down the list. But at some point in the process someone asked us, “What special needs are you willing to consider?” That question stalled us. We wanted to put our name on a list of prospective parents, but we needed to answer the question. “Special needs? I’m not sure we’re cut out for that,” we thought. “This feels too risky. What if the child has lifelong needs? Are we prepared for that?”

It felt overwhelming. I couldn’t answer. I knew the answer. I just didn’t want to say it out loud. Saying it out loud would make it official and I wasn’t ready to make it official. Our lives change when we make things official.

But life was good. Smooth. Manageable. Predictable. Everything fit together neatly. Special needs weren’t on our list. And yet here we were; ready to launch into the adoption process, hesitant to say yes to the potential of adopting a child with special needs.

Years went by as we slowly answered the question, revisiting the intake questionnaire and checking the “easier” boxes until one day we learned about a situation involving an unborn child with Down syndrome whose chance at life hung in the balance of a decision. Our hearts were ignited. We knew we needed to put ourselves out there for this child, whether the birth family chose us or not. Ultimately, they chose another couple. But this catalyst propelled us fully into the world of special needs adoptions with the realization that our perfect checklist, which was supposed to craft our perfect life, had just been irreparably altered.

Weeks later we fell in love with a little girl with Down syndrome from China, and began a process very different from the one we’d imagined. I remember the fear. I remember the hesitation. I remember trying to ignore God because I knew what he wanted from us; for our family. And it was terrifying.

Sure, we wanted to say yes. We wanted to obey God. We wanted to be able to trust fully. But these things are heavy, and big, and for life. And while it was exciting, it was a little heartbreaking, too. All the things up to that point we’d thought we wanted, now were fading.

Were we really willing to say goodbye to the rest of our list?

Would this child be able to go to college?
What if she can’t ever live independently?
Will she get married?
Will she be able to hold a job?

Our perfect list was being redefined in front of our eyes. And all the pre-packaged comfort statements were impotent. It started to not matter anymore, whether we finished checking off the list. There was a girl and she belonged in our family. Yes, the diagnosis was scary. The unknown medical issues were more than we could process at first. But she was our daughter and she needed our love.

And when you have a child who has needs, be they typical or special, you do what you must to meet them. Even if doing so means driving your dreams off a cliff into the deep blue sea.

We came to realize, if family is for life, caring for your family is as well. Her needs were our needs.



A couple years after being home from our first adoption, we opened ourselves up to adopting again. This time a mother in the Pacific Northwest needed a family for her newborn who she could not care for. Through a network of connections, we were matched with her and began a new journey unlike anything we’d prepared for. We knew very little about this baby when we said yes except that she had a diagnosis of Trisomy 21. We didn’t even know what she looked like.

When my wife arrived at the hospital to take over medical decisions, she learned this baby also had a PDA, ASD, VSD, GERD, aspiration, pulmonary distress, and feeding issues. It took about an hour to realize this was not going to be a short process. Our little girl was going to have to fight to thrive and hers was shaping up to be a long one.



We have no idea what her needs will be. Right now it’s feeding and respiratory. Next month? Six months? A year? Five years? There’s just no way to know. But the same could be said of you and me or any of our other children. Who knows, right? We take a step and then we take another and when we find ourselves at an intersection we make a decision to keep going straight or to turn.

Jesus never promised easy. I worry sometimes we’ve been sold a lie when we’re told, “Follow Jesus and everything will fall into place.” The story Jesus is writing isn’t concerned with our lives lining up with our dreams. We do well when we learn that “falling into place” is actually “falling into submission.”

His story is for his glory, for his reputation. His work in our lives isn’t a wham-bam-one-and-done kind of project. He only begins things he plans on seeing through to the end.

And for you and me, for your kids and mine; for every dream that dies to give life to something new, he doesn’t waste a thing. He doesn’t quit when life gets hard. And neither do you.

So what if your whole world changes? You have permission to mourn the death of your dreams. It’s okay. Then celebrate the adventurous path on which you find yourself. You are being led by the Maker of Heaven.

He knows the way. He’ll see you through.
RandallNHBOSig

 

Waiting to be Chosen: Mr. Scientist

May 25, 2017 0 Comments

Cal (who also goes by Mr. Scientist) is a science-loving 10-year-old little math whiz. My family had the pleasure of being his hosts from December 2015 – January 2016, and in that short amount of time, he demonstrated so much growth.

When Cal came to the U.S., he was able to write some words in English but he didn’t know much spoken English. When he left 30 days later, he rarely required the translation software and was communicating with us, his host family, almost solely in English.



But it wasn’t just his language skills that had advanced. Initially, Cal, who is quite small for his age, couldn’t ride a bike very well or go across the monkey bars at the playground. He worked doggedly until he had both mastered.

This is a little boy who is both tenacious and determined.

Cal is smart and polite and while he loved the outings and trips to the park, it was clear that what he really craved was a family. He was happiest just doing normal family “stuff.” He loved helping out around the house, delighting when he got to take part in cooking (especially baking cookies). He even wanted to be assigned chores like the other family members.

Even before he could fully understand what was being said, he loved sitting with everyone, listening to books being read aloud, instead of looking at the Chinese books his host family had for him.

Cal got along very well with my three younger children. He took part in all of the games and shenanigans, and even shared his candy stash! He’s very careful and clean and my kids got a kick out of watching his very thorough teeth brushing.

This is a little boy who will add so much joy to a family.

He was so delighted by the simple things, marveling at the robot in the kitchen (aka the dishwasher) and automated car doors. While he required individualized attention, he soaked up praise and encouragement and flourished in a noisy and active family setting.



Cal is very small for his age (wearing US size 4/5 clothing at age 9) and has a sensitive special need.

Update (received Jan 2017): “He lives with a foster family, now he is in Grade 4 and he does very well in his school. He has great language expression. He can sing and dance, he is active, he is not very tall.”

For more information, please contact meredith@gwca.org or call (512) 323-9595 ext. 3032.

Meet the Contributors: Jennifer

May 24, 2017 0 Comments

Continuing today with our series in which we share a short Q and A with one of our contributors to give y’all, our faithful readers, a little more behind-the-scenes insight into the amazing group of writers assembled here. And it will also give each of our contributors a chance to share their heart in a way a traditional post might not allow.



Q: Can you tell us a little about your family?

I have been married to my high school sweetheart for sixteen years and we have five amazing children. I am a teacher turned homeschooling mom, and my husband is a web developer. We were blessed with our three biological children fairly early on in our marriage and felt as though our family was complete.

God had different plans and in the spring of 2011 we began to feel a strong pull toward adoption and foster care, and after the required 36 hours of training we became licensed foster parents. Our original hope was to foster and at some point adopt through the foster system, but as time went on the desire to adopt became stronger and God soon opened our hearts to international adoption which eventually led us to the China special needs program.

In September 2012 we began the process to adopt from China, and in January 2014 we adopted our precious boy. From that point on my heart belonged to China and all of the waiting children, and after being home only six months we began thinking about a second adoption. Although it took a bit longer than we expected due to an agency change, we eventually brought our sweet daughter home in December 2015.


Q: What led you to adopt from China?

I can’t pinpoint any one thing that ultimately led us to China. When we decided that we wanted to fully pursue adoption we researched both domestic and international adoption, and after deciding on international adoption we began researching different countries. All sorts of factors played into our decision, but China was always at the top of our list and in the end we knew that it was the best fit for us.


Q: Which provinces are your children from?

Jiangsu and Jiangxi.


Q: What special needs are represented in your family?

Anorectal malformation and thalassemia.


Q: Favorite aspect of adoption? Hardest?

My favorite part of adoption is watching our children blossom and thrive, and goodness do I love them something fierce! Seeing our older kids with their two youngest siblings has brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined and the bond they have formed melts my heart.

The hardest part has been adjusting my parenting perspective and realizing that parenting adopted children is very different than parenting biological children. It has been a learning process for sure and I am still a work in progress.



Q: In one or two sentences, what are two tips applying to any part of the adoption process?

My first tip is to find your tribe, and by that I mean adoptive mama friends who are walking the same road that you are (online and in real life). Make an effort to connect with fellow adoptive moms who are parenting children with the same special needs, who have experienced the same struggles, and who have been through similar circumstances.

My second tip is to just breathe. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the paperwork and seemingly endless steps (complete with acronyms) that you miss other stuff along the way, and I fully acknowledge that I was guilty of this more times than I’d like to admit.


Q: How has adoption grown/stretched/changed you?

I honestly could not list all of the ways adoption has grown and changed me. Visiting an orphanage gives you a whole new perspective on life and it is one of those things that once you know about it you can never turn away. I know I will always advocate for the precious children who need families and I know my heart will forever be intertwined with adoption, orphans, and China.


Q: Can you share a few of your favorite personal blog posts? Some shared by others on NHBO?

Most of what I do at NHBO is behind the scenes, but occasionally I do manage to turn out a post and my favorite is probably the post I wrote on International Adoption Clinics because I think it is a great resource for adoptive families (and because I’m a research junkie).

As for my favorite NHBO posts it is so hard to choose because NHBO has so many talented contributors, but some of the posts I often go back to read and share are Yes. and I Could Never Do That by Rebecca, Adoption Changes Everything and This Is What I Know by Whitney, and Samaritan by Katie.


Q: What is your favorite book? Quote? Verse?

In what feels like a past life I was an avid reader and would read multiple books per week, but in this season of life I am lucky if I read four or five books a year. Some of my favorite books from my days of avid reading are The Scarlet Pimpernel, Kisses From Katie, and Mere Christianity.

Favorite quote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  – Jim Elliott

One of my all-time favorite verses is “From the end of the earth will I cry to you, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” – Psalm 61:2


Q: What is something most people don’t know about you?

My very first job in high school was working at Chuck E Cheese (and yes, I had to dress up as the mouse a few times).


Q: Can you share a favorite “mom hack” that makes life easier for you?

I almost never sort laundry. I do laundry by room and I only sort it if there are special wash items (delicates, bright colors, or items being washed for the first time). In practice, it looks like this: our boys share a bedroom so on their laundry day my older son takes their dirty clothes basket to the laundry room where I put all of the clothes in the washer (if I can’t fit it all in one load and I have to split it into two loads I might sort it into lights and darks if I have time). Once it is washed and dried I put it back into the basket and my son takes it back up to their bedroom where they help fold and put away. I then do the same thing for the girls’ bedroom and our bedroom.



Q: If you could share one parting thought with someone considering special needs adoption, what would it be?

Keep an open mind and remember that behind every file is a child who is so much more than their special need, and whose greatest need is a family. Though it may not feel like it, you are so much stronger than you know.

jenniferbNHBOsig


Thankful We Didn’t Know

May 23, 2017 1 Comments

Almost four years ago, my husband finally said yes. Again. We had talked, I had prayed. I’d promised not to nag, prayed some more, and waited for that yes. When he agreed to begin our second adoption, he had limits. He had the idea to draw some lines in the sand of what special needs …Read More

Waiting Child: Billy

May 22, 2017 0 Comments

Five year old Billy needs a family to give him unconditional love and affection. Billy lives in a foster family and was born with microtia of his ears, which impacts his hearing and speech. Billy is the definition of adorable! He’s a handsome, happy, cuddly, active, helpful, and athletic 5-year-old boy. Billy lives in a …Read More

Returned to the Orphanage: the Children of Guangdong

May 21, 2017 0 Comments

On March 21st, I came across a post from Lifeline’s China program director that said: “Please join us in praying for the precious children who are being cared for in our Foster Center in Zhanjiang, China. Because of some new laws being implemented this year in China, we were notified very unexpectedly last night that …Read More

Sofia Waits for a Family

May 20, 2017 0 Comments

Sofia is an extroverted 3-year-old who always has a smile on her face. She gets along with her friends and she likes to climb and play outdoors. Since Sofia likes climbing so much, she tries her best to walk by holding onto objects and can climb up a table and climb down. Sofia is expressive …Read More

Find My Family: Jude

May 19, 2017 0 Comments

Oh goodness, just look at this sweet smile. Read on… he’s even sweeter on the inside. Sweet-natured Jude celebrated his 11th birthday in October and is living in a foster family at an excellent facility in Beijing. Diagnosed with mild CP, Jude has worked tirelessly to overcome the challenges he faces. Recently he has taken …Read More

For Life: When Exhaustion Meets Glory

May 19, 2017 2 Comments

Are you one of the Mamas who thought that the orphanage delays would relent? You thought a year later you would stand on mountain tops and shout of the greatness and miracles of our God? And a year came and went and then another. And suddenly you wake up feeling like you are living your …Read More

Waiting for You: Wes

May 18, 2017 0 Comments

Precious little Wes just celebrated his third birthday! Wes is described by his caregivers as sweet, gentle, and good natured. He was born with a spinal lumbar meningocele. He was found as a newborn and received surgery around one year. His legs are weak and have poor sensory input but he can stand with assistance. …Read More

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