Thursday, August 28, 2008

Our Adoption Story

I can’t really pin point a time that God planted the seed of adoption in my heart. I’m thinking several small seeds where planted, such as when the children from a Nicaraguan orphanage came to visit and perform at our church and then there were the various couples in our church who had adopted internationally and to be able to hear their “stories”. All I knew was that I had an interest in adopting at some point in my life. When my husband, Matt, and I met and started talking about marriage we spent hours talking about what we wanted for our future and we discovered that we both had a heart for adoption.

However, when I considered how adoption would fit in to our future, I wanted to have my biological children first and then adopt. Well, on July 28, 2003 Matt came home from work and was telling me that Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman were on Family Life Today talking about their adoption story. Matt proceeded to tell me that they would be on again the next day and that I really needed to listen to the program. I was very reluctant because I wasn’t interested in adoption at that point in time. I mean we still hadn’t had our biological children yet. I didn’t even want to go down that road because I think I was afraid that God was going to call me to adopt now and that wasn’t my plan. I could tell Matt was a little disappointed in my response.

I really had no plans on listening to the program but the next day at that exact time my mind was brought back to our conversation and I decided to tune in to Family Life Today. I listened to Steven Curtis and Mary Beth talk about their adoption story and they pointed out something that I had never heard before and that was how adoption is a beautiful picture of what God has done for us, as His children. As it says in I Timothy 2:6, “Christ Jesus, gave Himself as a ransom for all.” The reason He paid a ransom for us, is because in Ephesians we are called the adopted sons and daughters of God. Just as we believe we are bought with a ransom and adopted into the family of God it became a “how can we not adopt" decision. I’ll never forget sitting at my desk at work crying thinking “How can we not adopt”?

Part of the reason the Chapman’s were on FLT was to help promote an upcoming adoption seminar that was being put on by FLT throughout the country. We went online and found out the If You Were Mine workshop was coming to Brentwood, Tennessee on October 11, 2003, so we decided we needed to go and learn more about adoption. In the meantime Matt went by Bethany Christian Services, our adoption agency, to pick up some information about international adoption. Wow, there was so much information from so many different places, so we tried to focus on where we needed to adopt from. I don’t know why but I had a heart for China. I could see this little girl with dark hair, dark almond shaped eyes, but a not so clear face sitting at our dinner table. However, as we began to look at the requirements for China we wouldn’t be able to adopt from China because we didn’t meet their income requirements. We were so disappointed. Our thoughts then shifted to Guatemala but my heart still was for China but how could that be.

As we headed for the workshop we decided that our prayer would be that God would somehow work to show us where He wanted us to adopt from. Throughout the day we were given opportunities to go off as a couple and work on a little project and pray together. Each time our prayer was the same, “God where is it that You want us to adopt from?” We knew in the afternoon there was going to be a breakout session where you could attend a meeting about domestic adoptions, foster care, Asia, Latin America, or other parts of the word but where were we suppose to go. We felt torn, should one of go to Asia and the other to Latin America or should we just go to Latin America since we didn’t meet the requirements for Asia. Well, after lunch Steven Curtin and Mary Beth Chapman came out with their two little girls from China and shared in more details their story. Once they were finished Matt and I looked at each other at the exact same time and said “We are going to China”. How awesome is our God! We both came to the understanding that we were looking at our circumstances and allowing them to dictate our choice instead of listening to God’s calling. It was God who had given us the heart for China and where God leads He will provide!

I was still struggling in one area though. Remember, I wanted to have my biological children first but then settled for the idea of having just one biological child first, then adopt but again God continued to do a work in my heart the day of the seminar. On the way back to Chattanooga I decided I needed to die to my desires and if God wanted us to adopt first then I was okay with that. What incredible peace comes when we say “yes” to His will and die to our own desires.

Once we were back home we decided we would continue to learn all we could about adoption in general and about China specifically, after all we had not been married for quite a year yet and Bethany required that couples be married for two years. So we were going to spend the next year praying, learning and saving for the adoption. As a matter of fact, we decided to look at the cost of the adoption as a ransom. Matthew 20:28 says “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Just as God paid a ransom to adopt us into His family we too would pay any amount of ransom to bring our daughter home, into our family.

In the meantime, I became pregnant. God granted me my desire to have a biological child first after all. He didn’t want to withhold any good from me; He just wanted me to say “yes” to Him. Many people then asked us about our plans for adopting, assuming we wouldn’t adopt since we could have children on our own. For us adoption was never a second option, if we couldn’t get pregnant, but it was about obeying a call God had placed on our lives. So we would just wait until after Eli was born and kind of get adjusted and then see where we stand.

God continued to prove Himself by working out the details that would allow us to meet the China requirements and in His timing we were able to officially begin our paperwork for the adoption in July 2005. We met many snags along the way that it became so frustrating but finally our dossier (mountains of paperwork) was complete. We received word in early May 2006 that our adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services, had mailed our dossier off to China, and better yet we have received our official log-in-date of May 11, 2006. The log-in-date is the date China received our dossier and everything is measured from this date. At the time we began the process the wait time from log-in-date to referral, which is when China says this is the child we have for you, was 8 to 9 months and here we are over two years later.

So, the wait has become so hard for us especially since we don’t have any real idea of when we will be getting our referral. Our best understanding would be that we could expect to receive our referral around October, 2009 and we would travel about 8 weeks later but there are no guarantees.

We have such a longing in our hearts that it’s often painful but we can rest assured that God’s timing is perfect. We know that God has chosen Emma to be our daughter before the foundation of the world was laid and that He will bring her home in His way and in His own perfect timing.

Like I said this process hasn’t always been easy for us and at times it’s been down right hard and there have been times when the thought creped into my mind that said “Let’s just forget about this adoption, why don’t we just go ahead and have another biological child. It would be easier and it would be cheaper.” However, I’ve always come back around and realize that we can’t turn back; we have to be obedient to what God has called us to do. It’s not about what’s easy it’s about obedience. So we press on.

This journey has not only been about bringing Emma home but it’s also been about God’s desire to see our love and dependence upon Him grow. What a loving Father we have! I Peter 1: 6-8 says:

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do no see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And So We Wait

Back in December, 2006 I had gone to the airport to welcome home our neighbors who were returning from China with their daughter. Now this was my second time to witness such a homecoming as this. The first time I had this experience, several local families had travel to China to bring their daughters home, all at the same time. This was quite unusual for so many families to travel all together from the same town, anyway, it was a rather large homecoming as you could have imagined. I didn't know these families but I wanted to be there to show my support. It was unbelievable to witness such an incredible moment.

Well, this cold December evening was very different and I don't think I was prepared for the emotional tole it would take on me. This time I had been waiting for our daughter for what I thought was a pretty long time and there was a connection of knowing this family. I began to sob as I witness them come down that hall. It was a bundle of various feelings. First of all, I was so happy for this couple because I could only imagine how completely whole they must be feeling. They were finally bringing home this little girl to their family in which they had waited and longed for. On the other hand, it reminded me just how my heart was breaking and just how much I longed to hold my precious one and bring her home to her forever family.

A few days later I received the most beautiful letter from a friend who had been at the airport that cold night. I think my pain must have been very evident to her that evening and in that letter she enclosed a copy of a poem entitled Wait. I hope it may encourage others as it has encouraged me many times.


Desperately, helplessly, longingly, I cried. Quietly, patiently, lovingly, He replied. I pleaded, and I wept for a clue to my fate, and the Master so gently said, “Child, you must wait.” “Wait? You say wait?” my indignant reply. “Lord, I need answers, I need to know why”. Is you hand shortened? Or have you not heard? By faith I have asked, and I’m claiming your Word.

My future, and all to which I can relate hangs in balance, and you tell me “wait”? I’m needing a “yes”, a go-ahead sign, or even a “no”, to which I can resign.

And Lord, you have promised that if we believe, we need but to ask, and we shall receive. And Lord I’ve been asking and this is my cry: I’m weary of asking: I need a reply!

Then quietly, softly, I learned of my fate as my Master replied once again, “You must wait.” So I slumped in my chair; defeated and taut and grumbled to God; so I’m waiting, for what?

He seemed then to kneel and His eyes met with mine and He tenderly said, “I could give you a sign. I could shake the heavens, darken the sun, raise the dead, cause the mountains to run.”

“All you see I could give, and pleased you would be. You would have what you want, but you wouldn’t know Me. You’d not know the depth of My love for each saint; you’d not know the power that I give to the faint.”

“You’d not learn to see through clouds of despair; you’d not learn to trust, just by knowing I’m there. You’d not know the joy of resting in Me, when darkness and silence was all you could see.

“You would never experience that fullness of love as the peace of My Spirit descends like a dove. You would know that I give, and I save, for a start, but you’d not know the depth of the beat of My heart.”

“The glow of My comfort late in the night; the faith that I give when you walk without sight; the depth that’s beyond getting just what you ask from an infinite God who makes what you have last.”

“And you never would know, should your pain quickly fee, what it means that ‘My grace is sufficient for thee’. “Yes, your dreams for that loved one o’ernight could come true, but the loss, if you lost what I’m doing in you.”

“So be silent, my child, and in time you will see that the greatest of gifts is to get to know Me. And though oft’ may My answers seem terribly late, My most precious answer of all…is still…wait.”

~Russel Kelfer

Monday, August 25, 2008

We Will Remember

I recently wrote how this blog is serving to remind us of the pivotal moments along this journey that we have seen or heard from God. Just as Joshua built a stone memorial, we too took time this weekend to gather stones. We carefully selected these stones, washed them off and then wrote the date and the "God moment" on the bottom of each stone.

This is what you would see if you enter our home.
As the song goes:

We Will Remember

We will remember, we will remember,

We will remember the works of Your hands.

We will stop and give you praise.

For great is Your faithfulness.

~Tommy Walker

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Our Adoption Covenant

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intentions of His will. ~ Ephesians 1:5

We believe in the Most High God. Based solely on His unfailing and unmerited love for us, He chose to adopt us as His children through the paying of a ransom. Jesus, God's very own son, became this ransom, and through Him we have been rescued and brought into the family of God.

We believe that God preordained adoption between parents and child to be a reflection of the spiritual adoption that we as believers have through Jesus Christ. So, as adoptive children of God we believe that adoption is God's perfect will for our family.

Believing this call for our lives, I Matt and I Shawna do joyfully surrender our lives in obedience to the call God has given to us. We also confirm that on this 11th day of October we conceived in our hearts a daughter.

And So The Journaling Begins...

When our adoption journey began back in the fall of 2003 Matt and I didn't even know what an online journal was, never really heard of it. "Blogging" what's that? My how time changes and how over that time we have been educated on journals. We began reading Journey to Me in November 2006 when former neighbors of ours where in China bringing their beautiful daughter home. This was an incredible way to witness what God had brought about after months of prayers by many people. In a small way it allowed us to participate with them. This was our introduction to journals that would educate and bless us beyond our comprehension. We then began reading any and all journals of couples who, like us, were in the process of adopting from China.

So as I sit here and officially began this journaling journey I'm reminded why we have chosen to write down such personal thoughts and feelings. Our number one reason is so that we can forever capture as much of this journey to our daughter as we possibly can for our precious Emma. We want her to know how much we deeply love her and how we have laughed and cried along the way. We know she will have holes in her life story that she will never have the answers to but we want to show her there was another part of her story being written on the other side of the world. We want to someday point her to THE ONE who is writing her story.

Another reason we decided to begin journaling is simply for ourselves. I've talked about the fact that the road to Emma has been a journey and boy has it been a journey. A journey that began back in 2003 with a hope to adopt a baby girl from China. We have encountered many road blocks along the way and I have to be honest, at times I felt like some of the obstacles were way too big and thought we must turn back around. Thanks you Lord for carrying us through those obstacles. This journey has taught us so much about who God is and just how big He is. We have also learned more about His character. There have been mountain top praises and there have been many tears shed down in the valley but God has always been faithful and has sustained us. So just like we have studied in Joshua we want to identify and lay down these stones as a remembrance of what God has done for us.

Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, "When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, 'What are these stones?' then you shall inform your children, saying, 'Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.' "For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever." ~ Joshua 4:20-24

Our final reason to journal is simply to be a blessing to others. We cannot describe how we have been blessed by reading the journals of Godly couples around the country. God has used their journals to encourage us when we were down and to remind us what a big God our God is. We have also been challenged to go deeper in our prayer life as we pray for Emma. We have been ministered to so much and our prayer is that God would use our journal to minister to others and that He receive all the glory and honor due!!! Thank you God for choosing us to go on this journey.