Sometimes you are clearly given a gift of grace and sometimes you find yourself in it. Both are of Him and from Him and are equally overwhelming and exciting.
This is a glimpse of both.
One of my favorite memories during our marriage, pre-kids, is when Denny and I went on a church mission trip to Honduras. During that time, we both fell in love with the people there and our eyes were opened to the extreme poverty so many people live in.
We talked of wanting to bring all those little kids back home with us. I believe this is when God planted the seed of adoption in my heart. Denny has always had a special place in his heart for orphans as his father, aunt and uncle were all raised in a home for children.
After our third child, Jonathan, was born, I was ready to do it all again. Or so I thought. Due to several trials soon after his birth, thoughts of having more children were put to the side.
Our healthy baby was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, which is a buildup of fluid on the brain. We heard things for the first time like “possible brain damage” and “likelihood of brain surgery”. There is nothing scarier that we have faced in our marriage than taking our five-month old baby for a neurosurgery appointment.
There is no cure for hydrocephalus and most people need brain surgery to install a shunt to drain the excess fluid. If the fluid is not drained, there can be permanent brain damage. Since Jonathan’s initial diagnosis, Denny kept saying he knew God was going to heal him. After two years of MRIs and neurosurgery appointments, the doctor was glad to see there had not been an increase in brain fluid and said Jonathan would never need a shunt. God healed Jonathan of hydrocephalus and to this day he is a perfectly healthy, active little boy!
Looking back over this terrifying, uncertain time in our life, I would not trade it for anything. There is nothing like the heartache a parent can have over their hurting child. There is also nothing like the power of an amazing God with His healing hands. God used this experience to open my eyes and heart to special needs.
None of this changed my desire to “do it all over again.” I knew we had more kids out there. A year or so later, Denny brought up the idea of adopting, but I still had a desire to birth more children. I prayed about this for a year and God completely changed my heart. Adoption was the way to our next child.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts…”
After much prayer, reading and research, we were lead to the China Special Needs adoption program.
My husband and I are both analyzers…. over-thinkers. We knew we would never make it through the adoption process if we were left to our own devices. We knew we had to surrender to God and let Him lead. When it was time to fill out the Medical Conditions Checklist we became overwhelmed but then quickly remembered… not us, but Him. Other than sinus infections, the flu, and stomach bugs, we have very little experience in the medical field and we knew we could easily over analyze this part of the process and come to a stand still.
We decided to do little research and review the list with a friend who is also a pediatrician and also read through the medical conditions right here on No Hands But Ours.
It is from this website where we first learned of Amniotic Band Syndrome. We had checked yes to limb differences on our checklist, but amniotic banding was not on there so we ended up adding that condition.
We received a little girl’s file for review in December 2015.
She has limb differences due to amniotic banding. We were expecting at least a nine month wait for a referral, but it came only two and a half months after we were DTC because we had added amniotic banding to our list.
My husband knew right away she was our daughter. I, on the other hand, had fallen victim to overthinking and fear. I’m gonna be real y’all… I was scared. Not of adopting, but by what I saw in the pictures.
She was absolutely breathtaking and full of so much joy. But I was scared of the appearance of her hands.
She only had thumbs. Amniotic bands had amputated her fingers and she was left with little nubs, many of which were webbed together… and two other little nubs were balls. Several of her toes were also webbed and she had another constriction band around her leg and we weren’t sure if she could even walk. I had never seen anything like this before. Yes, we were open to limb difference, and yes I had looked through many pictures of what that can look like.
But then there’s fear.
Thankfully, I was quickly reminded where fear comes from. Satan hates adoption. He wants to rob us of everything God has for us. Satan knows how to shake us up, and he has traps, and schemes, and he prowls around looking for someone to devour.
I went to the Word, shared my fears, and handed it all over to Him. The Lord gently reminded me who it was that brought our family to adoption, who had already moved mountains in our process, and who created this little girl.
These were His hands and feet. She was fearfully and wonderfully made. They were the hands and feet of our daughter. We accepted her file the week of Christmas, and she quickly became God’s gift of Gracie.
During those three months waiting for travel, I made contact with many other families whose children were affected by amniotic band syndrome (ABS). We were even able to speak on the phone with a renowned pediatric hand surgeon who reviewed her file.
I found several other moms whose children have similar hands due to ABS, and they told me their children were able to tie their shoes and thread a needle by five years old. I *might* have one or two kids in this house who couldn’t tie their shoes at that age with all 10 of their fingers.
Satan knows one of my weaknesses is worry so when I left for China, I was fully armed. Armed with the Word, armed with the names of other ABS mamas who had previously walked this path, armed with their encouraging notes and phone numbers to call in the middle of the night if needed… for when Satan tried one of his schemes.
I was in awe of how God showed off during Gracie’s adoption. When we first met her in China, Gracie was terrified, sick, and ground her teeth for two weeks because she was so scared. Gracie had spent the first 20 months of her life in an orphanage, with most of that time in her crib.
I didn’t even notice Gracie’s hands on Gotcha Day. I didn’t see the little balls she had instead of fingers. All I saw was God’s grace and love.
I am so thankful for our gift of Gracie.
The Lord gave me another gift that day. After we left the Civil Affairs office, we headed back to our hotel. When we piled out of the van, there were five or six men standing at the entrance to the hotel. They quickly noticed us and got really close to me and started pointing at Gracie’s hands and were speaking loudly in Mandarin. One of the men then noticed the band around her leg and pointed repeatedly at it with a disgusted look on his face.
This only lasted for maybe seven seconds, but it’s a very vivid picture in my mind. I wanted to instantly smack their hands and tell them to get away, to put it nicely. As I type this it brings tears to my eyes, but not for why you might think. I am so thankful for this moment. When I think of this, I see how God had given me an immediate Mama Bear instinct for our little one… who just hours before I had never met in person.
I was in awe of the fierce love I already had for our daughter – a supernatural love that only can come from our heavenly Father.
It’s amazing to me that these two pictures are just three months apart. These first few months with her now at home have brought a transformation like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
It has been such a blessing getting to experience “life” for the first time with this precious little jewel. Gracie had never felt the wind. Never touched an animal. Never felt the rain.
She had never felt the great love that comes from a having a forever family.
It’s amazing what love can do. It’s amazing the joy and peace that now pours out from our little girl and the great love our other three children have for Gracie.
I know the road of living with ABS will have bumps along the way… we have experienced that already. A visible physical difference is not a “special need” that can be hidden for privacy. And honestly, I don’t completely agree with her being labeled as “special need”. Gracie will be able to function just fine.
Her greatest need was love. And yes, she is special. The reason Gracie will have a “special need” is because of other people. The biggest struggle Gracie will probably have will be from other people. This upsets me, but this is also where God is growing me… growing me in grace.
In just a few months, Gracie will have major surgery in order to save her foot and part of her little nubs. This surgery will also change the appearance of her leg and hands; the doctor says, for the better. This mama adores Gracie’s hands and leg just the way she was made. Oh, how God has been working on me!
I want to forever remember the beauty of these differences before the appearance of what drew us together as a family changes. Gracie is fiercely loved by her forever family, and she has brought more joy to our family than we could have ever imagined. She has been home three months and her siblings still fight over who gets to sit by her at the dinner table.
I am thankful He heals the brokenhearted and puts the lonely in families.
We hope people can see her for who she is, not for what she doesn’t have. Really, that’s how we should look at everyone – through the eyes of Jesus. She just has different looking fingers and toes… that’s it. We want her to know she is fearfully and wonderfully made, just how she is.
She has His hands and feet.
– guest post by Julie: email || blog