For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed setting goals, creating organized plans, and executing those plans until my goal is achieved. I carry out most tasks as efficiently as possible and tend to think my ways are the best ways. If we have 3 errands to run, I find the most organized route to prevent any backtracking and execute that plan accordingly. While these attributes have resulted in many accomplishments – and many tasks being checked off my to do list – they have left little room for spontaneity or sudden changes. For example, if we plan to go to Target, out to lunch at Chick-Fil-A, and then the grocery store but suddenly remember that the boys need haircuts, I find myself flustered. That was not our original plan. We prepared ourselves for 3 stops with the kids; plus, we had already left Target, which is near the barber shop. I don’t like to deviate from my plan. I like things to go my way.
“Hello, my name is Amy, and I struggle with pride and control.”
Now everyone say, “Hi Amy!”
When I was pregnant with my first two sons, I researched, prepared, and created a plan for their births. We hired a doula and chose a hospital that was supportive of natural birth. On an early morning in May 2011, inside a hospital birthing tub, I gave birth to my second son, Liam. My labor was fast and intense, and our birth plan was executed perfectly. As I laid back holding Liam’s slippery, warm body against mine, endorphins exploding like crazy, I saw a puzzled look on Ryan’s face. He asked if Liam’s lip had torn during the delivery, and when I looked down, I saw that he had a small cleft lip. This was not something we had expected – definitely not part of our plan. However, once we saw that Liam ate like a champ, I had few worries with regard to his cosmetic difference.
Liam had his first (and only repair thus far) six months later. My momma heart broke to see him in pain, and his recovery over the next 3 weeks resulted in lots of snuggles and very little sleep. Ryan had a vasectomy the next month, as we felt peace that Liam was our last biological child. We knew adoption was a possibility for the future – maybe – someday.
I blogged about that time in our lives, sharing about Liam’s surgery. I wrote him a letter the night before his procedure and said:
“I’ve wondered so many times why God decided to give you this special smile. Years before I had you and your brother, I always was drawn to the pictures of children from other countries who have cleft lips/palates. I think it was God’s way of preparing my heart for your arrival. I know someday we will understand why, and I am excited to see where this journey leads us together as a family….”
Our experience with Liam moved our hearts, and we began donating to Operation Smile to help other children with the cleft lip and/or palate. In July 2012, I received an email from that organization that shared a story of an orphan from the Amazon who had been born with cleft lip and palate. Fourteen couples came to the orphanage to adopt children, but each one passed by the sweet baby boy who was sick, malnourished, dying, and in need of medical care. I thought to myself, “I could be this child’s mother. I could do it again.”
And that is when God spoke to me for the first and only time in my life, saying, “This is what I’m asking you to do.”
I sobbed at God’s request. Suddenly faced with the idea of seeing my child recovering from surgery again, seeing another baby in pain, I was honestly gripped with fear. My selfish desires, drowned out by God’s voice, were fighting to rise to the surface. Ryan and I had other plans. Over the previous 4 months, we had designed our dream home. Four acres had been purchased. Builders were placing their bids, and we were just a couple weeks from selecting our builder. Everything was falling into place perfectly and according to plan… until God spoke those words.
Through a series of events in which God so beautifully pursued us, we finally surrendered. Initially, we acted from a place of obedience, getting out of our contract for the land and telling the builders that we had changed our minds. We grieved what we perceived as loss, not knowing what gifts God had waiting for us in the future. With each increasing step toward God’s plan for our lives, our joy and excitement grew stronger. With eyes wide open we were introduced to the reality of the least of these.
After some research, we quickly learned about the numerous orphans in China with cleft lip and palate and applied to our chosen adoption agency. I found the most organized and efficient way to proceed through the home study process and executed that plan accordingly. We shared our story with our home study agency and our primary adoption agency, making it clear that we sought to adopt a child with cleft lip and palate. That was the plan. Our intentions were unmistakable. That’s what God had asked us to do, right? Imagine our surprise when we received our son’s referral.
No cleft lip. No cleft palate. But what about my plan? I am prideful and controlling, and this did not make sense with my assumption about God’s calling. After prayers for clarity, many conversations, and a few days’ time, God made it clear that this was our son. Suddenly, I felt my eyes being opened again, surrendering my plan for what had been God’s intention all along. I firmly believe that God used Liam’s sweet smile to open our hearts to the fatherless. God saw Tucker. He saw our family. And what amazes me most of all is that He interceded on all our behalf. Tuck needed us, and we needed him.
Nine months after bringing Tucker home, I learned that a child I had loved for many months was getting his file prepared for adoption. We prayed about whether we should return to China so soon. Selfishly, I could think of a million reasons not to go, but once our eyes are open, we can’t pretend we don’t know. God gave us great peace that we were to start the adoption process again, and it was our hope that we would bring that sweet little one home. Our eyes were solely on that child. They were not wide open due to a serious case of tunnel vision.
You can imagine the heartache that came when we were not chosen to parent this sweet little one. After grieving for a few weeks, I started frantically searching for meaning. Why had God brought us back to China? I so badly wanted to make sense of our situation but never bothered to ask God and listen for His answer. As I looked at pictures of waiting children, I limited my search to little ones ages 3, 5, and 6 (Liam and Tucker are both nearly 4 years old). Those were the ages that we felt best fit our family. Although cleft lip and palate was the only special need on our radar during our first adoption, we were open to many, many other needs for our current adoption. I thought that since the child we had been pursuing had a heart condition, maybe God was leading us to a baby with the same special need. I needed a plan. I needed to have control. However, my eyes were closed, and in my desire to make sense of it all, I forgot that His ways are not our ways. I lost sight of following Him and instead tried to make my own way, on my terms, in my time.
Oh, thank you LORD for your grace. Thank you that your mercies are new every morning. Thank you for your gentle way of showing me that you work all things together for the good of those who love you. The LORD helped me see that I needed to stop searching for our child. He had been asking me to be still for weeks, and yet I disobeyed anyway. I was finally ready to submit to Him. I emailed our social worker, asking her to let us know when God led her to a child for our family.
I got a phone call the very next day. A boy just 15 months old. Oh, be still my heart. A baby? My eyes had been shut, and we weren’t even considering a baby. And what you do you think his special need is? Well, just see for yourself.
My sweet Tyson, my precious boy. It was you. All along it was you. My baby with cleft lip and palate, whom I felt God pulling me toward that July morning, was staring back at me. With such a sense of peace and completeness, we fell in love with our new son. Like many of you, we long for the day to hold our precious child in our arms.
My hope is that as you navigate your adoption journeys, you will keep your eyes wide open. God’s plans, purposes, and intentions cannot be anticipated or fully comprehended, but I assure you, they are beautiful and good, resulting from His great love for all of us. Do not limit yourself to a specific gender, special need, or age unless God gives you clarity and peace for that decision you make.
If our eyes were not wide open, we could have overlooked Tucker for his lack of cleft lip and palate, and we would have walked away from Tyson due to his age. I am grateful that when we ask Him for clarity, discernment, and direction that the LORD will open our eyes to see all of the beauty and wonder He has in store for us. So many rewards await on the other side of obedience and trust.
“Ears that hear and eyes that see. The LORD has made them both” – Proverbs 20:12
“Whoever has ears, let them hear” – Matthew 11:14