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Trusting God in the Middle

February 1, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

It’s been almost two years since we brought home our youngest child, and I feel my heart longing to grow again. The thought of six children would make some readers wide-eyed — yet I know in my heart we are called to grow again. I’m learning to be still in this “in between” place and trust God in the middle.

Have you found yourself here too?

Maybe with adoption — or something entirely different.

You know you are exactly where you are supposed to be, but you have felt the tugging on your heart as if the Lord is preparing you to grow again.  Yet the current circumstances in your life — whatever they may be are clearly saying — just wait… be still… trust… focus on today and what God is doing today…but keep listening and waiting because there IS something (maybe someone) still waiting just like you are.

I’ve learned I’m really good at the moving forward — if there was an award for completing paperwork in record time — it’d be on my wall. But the waiting — being in the middle — not so much. But when I look back on the miracles the Lord has done in my waiting, it reminds me how perfect His plans really are —  and how good it is to learn to trust Him just as much… in the middle.

Take a minute to look back on your own life and where you are…

Where were you the VERY first time God called you to something significant in your life that actually resulted in years and years of waiting?

There is no doubt that you see now the end result was so worth the years of waiting!

But more than that — take some time to reflect on EVERY THING THAT HAPPENED IN THE MIDDLE — the growth, new relationships and even miracles that you might have missed had you moved before He said move. Right now — your middle is for a purpose. There are miracles in the middle — and remembering thee miracles in the middle remind me why I want to rest and trust Him in the wait…

I first felt the call to adopt from China long before I ever married. I was living in China after graduating from college, and I held her hand. We were at a blind orphanage and as we sang Jesus loves me — my voice began to crack as I sang. In that moment, I knew all my heart ever wanted was to be a mom through adoption. I might not be a great world leader, hold an office or have letters behind my name, but if I could just love one child — from this sweet place — my heart would forever rejoice and be thankful. And so… my middle began.


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I thought I would come home and pull a Hudson Taylor (You know—like he did — packing everything he owned in his casket to board a ship for China to never return home. Okay, so I’d fly China Air or Delta — but I was focused. And I didn’t need a husband to be a heart mom to these children my heart longed for.) Seriously — in my twenties — I had this vision to just return home, spend a year connecting with my family and then I’d go — forever… to love kids like these in China. Maybe I’d run an orphanage — who knows — but I was determined. And then… nine months later I met the man who I’d try to convince he didn’t want to marry me because I was returning to China — and like…never coming back.

God did something big in my heart in the months that passed after meeting Richard, and although I felt called to China — I felt more called to be this man’s wife. The first miracle in the middle! I went to counseling, and was coached to visualize as the chapel doors opened — to leave China at the cross and to trust the Lord to bring China back in His perfect timing.


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My heart longed. But it was also content.

Five years later, we had 3 children and we were completing paper work to adopt. Only the paperwork— to everyone’s surprise — was for Africa… not China. In our first years together, God had called us to start a school in Zambia with a couple friends. When we called to ask our adoption agency about waitlists and our desire to grow through special needs, they encouraged us to consider Ethiopia. At the time, the wait was very short and we were quickly matched and home with our little guy just 9 months after starting the process.

In the back of mind, I held on to that moment at the blind orphanage. Seven years had passed, and when my mind drifted — it drifted there. My husband and I prayed, and we finally — finally — started paperwork with the intent to bring home a child with special needs from China.

I was elated. Excited. Finally — I would travel back to the country of my heart taking my husband with me. Seven years later!

Only — the REAL “middle” was about to begin. It would actually be almost 3 years before we would travel. We completed another home study, but little did I know that when I went for my medical blood work some of my levels were off and everything would be put on hold.

Looking back now, God had so many miracles in the middle. But some times the miracles in our “middles” — when you are in the midst of them — can some times be really hard to see.

THE MIRACLES IN MY MIDDLE…

God called me to homeschool because one of my children got diagnosed with a sensory disorder and dyslexia. But now I think He actually called me to homeschool to connect on a different level with the hearts of my children. Some have needed this more because of different family dynamics and changes. Y’all. I am NOT a natural homeschooler. For real. Trust me. God knew! A miracle in the middle I would have never run to myself.

I got really sick before I got well. I learned to rely on others and ask for help. I had a lot of pride in thinking I was a supermom. I wasn’t. I learned what the body of Christ really looked like. Instead of always serving, I was served and humbled. I learned to love deeply and see God’s hands and feet from a different perspective. God knew! A miracle in the middle I would have never run to myself!

I experienced complete healing and wellness, but needing a clear bill of health for a certain time before we could adopt — we decided to open our home for a summer orphan hosting program. A teenager was placed in our home, and our worlds were rocked. Our eyes were opened to the realities of what aging out means for many kids. And now — we loved… like seriously loved… one of these aging out kids. We also saw God perform a miracle in bringing a family to adopt this teenager. Months later she was in a family who lived just across town from us. Years later she is STILL part of our lives! God knew!! A miracle in the middle I would have never run to myself!

We found out we were expecting again! A surprise! We were elated. But at 12 weeks — we had a miscarriage. This was something I hadn’t experienced before. BUT — in this loss I experienced deep grief and His love and meeting me in my loss in a holy way that I didn’t know existed. I have been able to use this to identify and minister to other women. Hard. But so good. God knew. A miracle in the middle I would have never run to myself!

Four weeks after that loss, the doctor told me we could try again — but my sweet husband who was worried about my heart asked me to just start by praying for waiting children like I had done for the sweet teenage we had hosted. (Something us adoption moms often do — dangerously pray over waiting children pictures online.) That night, on a special needs site we saw our son’s picture. We were both so completely moved — AND he was from China! We knew very little about the special needs he had, but our hearts were pulled and we knew — he was our son! We sent his paperwork to doctors and before even hearing back we called the agency with his file and said yes!


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It wasn’t until that Delta flight took off months later as we were leaving to bring him home that tears really came down my cheeks as I realized how faithful and how good waiting on God really is. I looked over to the man I said yes to — and realized we were about to celebrate our 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY. I thought about me in that white dress — coaching myself before I walked down the aisle, “Leave China at the cross and trust God to bring it back in His perfect timing. China at the cross Andrea. Now walk forward.” (Picture Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride!) Could a 10 year anniversary be any more perfect? This one — I couldn’t have planned!

I could hear my children in the seats behind us on that plane fussing over whose turn it was with the Kindle. I smiled at the man beside me with me with his eyes closed — so proud of his new noise reduction headphones not being able to hear the engine… or the children. I looked out at the clouds beneath me and knew… that in just a few hours (okay that flight is more than a few hours!) we would step foot — for the first time together — in this place that I had once left at the cross. But this time — it would be to bring home our son! God knew!


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To say that trip was the trip of a lifetime for me is an understatement. God’s faithfulness typing this now — just makes me weep with joy! He is faithful…and how thankful I am for the miracles that fill our middle.

So here I sit.

And maybe this is where you sit too.

Knowing He isn’t done.

Feeling Him pull your heart.

Not wanting to wait 10 years, but so willing if that’s His will.

Because the miracles in the middle are beautiful.

And even those — I don’t want to miss.

Remember His faithfulness no matter where you are.

He has purpose for the middle of every story and wait! 

I’m so thankful for everything that happened in the middle…that led up to this moment. Because in every ending—there’s a million miracles that happened before you got there. Thank you Lord for all the middle miracles that this video represents…


 

 


Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. — Philippians 4:6

the practice of saying no

January 31, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

I clung to the steering wheel as if it was a floatation device and I was drowning. It seemed fitting. I felt like I was drowning. There I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store. Mothers with babies on their hips casually walking past my parked car to go pick up milk and eggs. Women shooting off one last text before finishing their errands. And, I sat there, crying wondering if we had made a very big mistake.

A few days earlier, we had been sent her file. She was beautiful. After over two years of walking down the adoption process path, we thought this could be it. We thought that this was the moment we had been waiting for. We had sat down together before an alphabetical list of words months before that day. We looked at a handful of words we couldn’t pronounce and debated over which of those words were scary and which were not-so-scary for us. None of them were without implications; we knew that. But, it almost seemed like the scariest part wasn’t the words and their implications but the actual box checking.

Months later, we saw her. Our social worker had locked her file for us and sent it via email with an intentionally warm but short, neutral message every family gets to the effect of: Look her file over. Show your doctor. Let us know if you have questions. You have a limited time to respond. And so, it began. I did what I knew to do. We poured over her file, studied her pictures, charted her measurements, read about where she was living, consulted experts, and prayed. Is this girl with silky dark hair pulled back from her face and large dark eyes our daughter?

We said yes. The time was running out on our deadline, and there was no reason to say no. The labels attached to her were diagnoses we had checked “yes” to on that list. And, as we did all that we had planned to do when that referral came, there were no big surprises. We showed her picture to our children and told our families all about her.

But, something wasn’t quite right.

Can we get another update? Can they send us video? Can we ask her foster family a few questions? Let’s get one more doctor to weigh in.

I had never done this before. I blamed it on nerves. I blamed it on my own fear of the unknown. Surely this was the biggest leap of faith I’d ever taken. But, this wasn’t what I had imagined. I found myself looking at the pictures of a beautiful girl and looking for something hidden. I read her files over and over looking for red flags. The confirmation I had prayed for wasn’t coming; the only thing coming was increased anxiety and panic.

I wanted to say yes. I felt I had to say yes. Why wouldn’t we say yes? But, why did I find myself in the dark place of looking for a reason to say no?

I fell apart in the car that day, afraid that I wasn’t only wrong about this little girl on the other side of the world who simply needed a family but that I was wrong about much, much more. If I couldn’t say yes to her, if I couldn’t move forward in being her mother, maybe I was wrong about saying yes to adoption entirely, wrong about my own motherhood, wrong about my own heart, about everything. I could barely catch my breath. How did I get to this place?

He met me there. In the tears. In the chaos. In my conversations with my husband and with our social worker and with our children. He spoke to me and took my hand.

I was right where I was supposed to be, broken and poured out, wrestling to understand Him, His will, and my role in it. It was not my job to “save her,” so very much not my job. His plan for her did not ultimately depend on me. A checked box on a 2-dimensional list did not mean that we were required to move forward to make any multidimensional child our child. Those checked boxes simply helped prepare us as adoptive parents and helped our social worker in her difficult job. That’s all. People cannot be reduced to checkboxes. I could not fear any the opinions of others that may have come. No explanation was required.

It’s okay to say no.

She had arrived into my inbox and my heart like a little butterfly, gently fluttering by and landing for a moment only to flutter again to another heart where she’d safely stay for good. While she was here, God taught me more about who He is and who I am than I could have imagined. I fell apart right into His arms where He let me know that she wasn’t mine.

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It was those same arms that took my hand and guided me to keep going and ultimately handed me the little one was very much my daughter only 6 months later. There was still anxiety, doubt, and fear at times. But, everything was different. Somehow in the midst of all of that, there was a peace and assurance, the confirmation that I needed that told me I couldn’t say no. My heart and spirit wouldn’t let me. I had to press on; she was our daughter.

Post-adoption depression: you are not alone

January 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Earlier this month, Erin shared her experience with post-adoption depression. Today, as January and our spotlight on PADS come to a close, Erin is back with a follow-up post she so generously offered to share.

I remember the first day when I woke up not in a complete fog from PADS. It was like I could see again. My world was clear. The medication and therapy were working. I started to think about how I ended up in such a place. Why was it so hard to come to terms with the difficulties I was facing and why did it take me so long to find others who were in the same situation? I then started to wonder how many other people are on this journey but are struggling alone. Behind closed doors. We, as a community, need to be real. We need to be honest.

Coming to peace with my own journey has been such a huge part of my road to healing. Sharing my story, reaching out to others, offering support and encouragement. That has glorified my struggle. It has given me a passion, a drive that perhaps was lacking before. But, what I do know, is that had I never embraced this journey, I would have never found healing.

Raw is beautiful, right? The grit is what we need. To normalize the hard. We do nothing to help others struggling post adoption when we allow ourselves to hide behind our own troubles. But even more so, we do not help ourselves. With honesty comes freedom, the freedom of knowing that even though your story isn’t perfect, it is beautiful. It’s those imperfections and shortcomings that make us real.

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We live in a world where perfection is considered the norm, where we ignore the hard realities and only focus on the outcome of glory and redemption and joy. I think this is so true in the adoption world. We have gotten to a point where honesty is too hard. We are afraid we will be judged harshly or fall short. But, honesty is beautiful. Both the ups and downs of adoption come together to form a masterpiece. The picture where trauma combines with love, where grief combines with family. Because, although the glory deserves its own recognition, so does the struggle. We need to speak of the hardships, to see the real. To open our eyes to the beauty that comes from the pain. To see that a journey can be both good and hard.

I feel as though so many struggle during post adoption but are afraid to speak out. Fear of failure or being judged. Fear of being inadequate. Fear of the unknown. But I’m here to tell you, first hand, that the struggles do not mean failure or inadequacy. And, it is up to us as a community to embrace those whose stories aren’t perfect.

I think of those who are struggling to make beauty from the ashes. Picking up pieces from their lives on a daily basis and praying that those pieces will, years from now, form some beautiful story of healing and hope. Of joy and love. But, today is not the day. Today is the day that they wake up hoping to survive the trials and tribulations. Hoping that they can muster enough strength to handle the screams and ugliness with the kindness and love that their child so deserves.

But embracing the difficulties doesn’t mean we let the hardness overcome the glory or the struggles overcome the joy. Because when we do that, we lose sight of what really matters.

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So often I fail. And I remind myself that I am not alone. I text my accountability friends and I speak truth to them. Because these mommas understand. They understand the darkness of PAD and the difficulties of raising children from hard places. They listen, relate, offer advice and keep me accountable for bettering myself. There is glory in that. There is freedom in being real with other people. If I pray for one thing, I pray that everyone has those friends, those friends who know you because you share your struggles. Not best friends, but reliable ones. They, too, are walking in the path of the unknown; the realm of trauma and the palpable realness of grief. They know all too well because they are there, too. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our own imperfections, we also find a redeeming healing. A drive to be better.

So often, the struggle of post adoption depression and your child’s trauma intertwine. They form this unique wall that is so hard to break. But in order for our story to be made whole, we must separate the two because our child needs us, the real us. Not the us that is masked by the hard reality of post adoption depression. The us whose mind is clear so that we can focus on them.

While my PADS is under control, everyday I must make a genuine effort to not let my scars interfere. So, I try to find laughter among the difficulties. To bring joy to the moment. To giggle more and cry less. To replace screams with love. To bring beauty out of the ashes. But, again, it’s not easy, is it? My attachment and trauma therapist told me that I need to consider those months when I was knee deep in PAD as lost time. I can’t make up for it and I need to accept that. I have to move forward and let go of the guilt. I urge those of you suffering to do the same.

So, now, I work on healing wounds. The deep wounds of trauma that come from being adopted and leaving your birth country, culture and language. The wounds that come from grief and fear. The focus has shifted. And while my problems are still real, my son’s are at the forefront of my mind.

While I know and fully understand that attachment and working through your child’s issues are so very important, you can’t do them justice if you aren’t fully present for the journey. And, for months, I wasn’t fully present. So, we start anew. Working day by day to find healing and hope.

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In the end, the days are hard, oh so hard! But, I have support. People to keep me up and alive and moving forward. People that tell me it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to slip back into my moments of imperfection, the moments where I need Jesus the most. But, pull yourself up. Lift your head up high and push onward. Because our children need us.

– Guest post by Erin, moderator on the PADS FB Support group

Will You Love Me Forever?

January 30, 2015 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

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Excitement, curiosity and fear of the unknown filled the eight year old boy’s mind as he entered the cold, stale room. His eyes landed on some smiling faces that looked vaguely familiar. Yes, these were the same faces that had smiled at him from the pages of the photo album he carried in his backpack, …Read More

My Oxygen Mask

January 29, 2015 by nohandsbutours 3 Comments

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Excited to share the first post from Mandy, our newest contributor on No Hands But Ours. Mandy shared her family’s story about a month ago and has joined NHBO as a monthly contributor for 2015. She and her husband Bryson have one daughter, Lydia Grace, and are now in the process to bring home another …Read More

waiting child highlight: AWAA

January 28, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Meet Jessa, a bubbly and cheerful little one looking for her forever family! She is fun and friendly and sure to bring so much joy to the family she joins! She is 3 years old, soon to be 4. An AWAA ACT mission team visited this orphanage in November 2014. The team noted that Jessa …Read More

it was a good year: a look back at 2014

January 27, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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2014 was quite a year for No Hands But Ours. The Mentoring Mom program launched in June to an amazing response from over 100 mamas. The No Hands But Ours site was masterfully overhauled by Northstar Marketing over the course of a year, and the beautiful, super-functional site went live in September. Each of the Special Needs …Read More

not disabled. differently abled.

January 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments

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When I was fourteen I taught Sunday School for a year. One of the kids in my class of four year olds had a short left arm. The first day of class I found myself thinking “that poor little guy was born with only one arm.” It took next to no time at all for …Read More

find my family: Lacy

January 26, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Lacy is a beautiful 9 year old girl, who has recently had surgery to correct her club feet. She is new the agency list at Hawaii International Child! Lacy was born with a meningocele, and club feet. She was found when she was an infant, and stayed with that family until 2013, at which time …Read More

find my family: Kyle

January 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

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Wonderful Kyle! Please read about this precious boy who participated in Lifeline’s Hosting program and very much wants a forever family. Precious Kyle is 10 years old and is designated to Lifeline’s special focus list. This sweet child is stated to have an eye condition called cryptophthalmus (missing eyelid) and caligo cornea (speck on the …Read More