A God Sized Story

Wednesday – Day One
On Wednesday morning, I was incredibly sad and weary. I sent a fellow waiting mom a message asking for her to pray for me. Bryson had just left for a 3-day work trip to South Carolina. I realized once he left how sad I was that we did not receive a referral on Monday. At different points, we each have played the cheerleader in this process. When Monday fell silent, I was the cheerleader. Once B left, I realized how disappointed I was.

On Wednesday morning, I was running a minute late to a meeting. As I was slowly walking across campus, I started to tear up and pray out loud. I must have looked hilarious. Normally, I pray for my child’s birth mom, our child, her nannies, and then discernment for us. This time, my prayer was bolder and from a place that was really raw.

“Father, I know you called us to build our family through adoption. I know this is so close to your heart. I am willing to go down a hard path, BUT COULD YOU PLEASE SHOW ME THAT YOU ARE HERE? A couple of people are criticizing us for turning down a referral last month, and sometimes, it is hard for me to HEAR their criticism and not take it to heart. I want to pay attention to YOUR VOICE, not theirs. Thank you for that discernment. Thank you for saying, “This girl is not your daughter.” But, I am so weary and I need your strength. I need your strength to say no, and I need your strength when to say yes. But Lord, to read their stories, to know their names, to know that they are precious and loved by you, it makes me weary. So much suffering. And God, I am frustrated. Show me that you are here, show me that you care. MOVE the freaking MOUNTAINS. Lord, show us our daughter this week. PLEASE, I beg you.”

The boldness in my prayer shocked even me. I was like, “Sorry…um.”

As I sat down at the meeting, my colleague Mere said, “Hi Mandy.” I tried to hide my disappointment. And, then I focused on our work.

An hour into the meeting, I notice my agency’s number – I have missed a few calls from them. “Hey guys, sorry, I have to take this.” I walk out.

It’s a referral. As soon as my social worker says she has a referral, everything in my gut immediately says, “Mandy, this child is not your daughter.  She has a momma waiting for her.” Bryson told me before he left to listen to the discernment I get – he told me he trusts me and knows to always listen to it. I said, “No.” Bryson is flying, should land any minute, and I have to run to teach class. I teach class somehow. I tell Bryson that I said no, didn’t even look at the child’s file.  I just knew. Our no, is another family’s yes — our no gets this child to her beloved family.

I run and teach another class. I have more meetings. I don’t have time to eat. I get a horrible headache and go home.

My phone rings. My agency’s number flashes on my caller ID. Yes, eight hours later, I have a referral. First time my gut says, “This might be her.” Actually, I think we both really wanted it to be her. I call Bryson, and we read through her file together. But, now it is time to meet with my students to practice our lip-sync routine. I am a mess. All I have to do is start the music, and I am struggling because my thoughts are in China. A student comments that I am glazed over with a goofy smile.

I don’t sleep well. Two dogs keep waking me up. I am restless.

Thursday – Day Two
I wake up on Thursday morning at 7:30, and everything from the previous day comes flooding back to me. Oh yeah, the referrals.

Many of you know that we are pursuing an adoption for a child with medical or special needs. What we have not told a lot of people is that we are particularly passionate about helping orphans who have Congenital Heart Defects. We tithe money to help orphans in China get life-saving surgeries. With tithe money to help fund adoptions for precious kiddos with CHD. Because of our passion for loving precious kids with CHD, we just assumed we would adopt a child with CHD. I had talked to the experts at the best hospitals in the world (literally). We did our homework. We educated ourselves.

But on Thursday, I gave my desire to adopt a child with the need I imagined over to God.

“Father, if this little girl is not our daughter, please, I NEED YOU TO MAKE IT CLEAR TODAY. Bry and I are hopeful, and I need YOU to SHOW ME. Really SHOW ME. Lord, if we aren’t supposed to adopt a child with CHD, make it clear. If you want us to adopt a child with a more minor need, like missing a hand, SHOW ME TODAY PLEASE.”

Suddenly, I think, “Huh, adopting a child with a missing hand?…we have a friend who has a little girl with a missing hand and is about to adopt a son who is missing a hand. That would be such a good community.”

I hurry up and try to get out the door for an 8:15 meeting at my favorite coffee shop.

My phone rings. My agency’s number flashes on the Caller ID.

“Mandy, this is strange and this doesn’t usually happen, but we have another referral for you. It is for a little girl who is missing her hand. Would you like to see her file?” (Note: my agency matches families through orphanage partnerships and the shared list). This little one was from the shared list, so we would have to make a decision quickly.

As soon as she said, “a little girl who is missing hand…” I laughed out of pure joy. I KNEW she was our daughter. I knew it without looking at her file.

I went back in to the coffee shop for my meeting and sent Bryson a text message. I knew he was filming from 8am-11pm, and could not take a call. I texted, “You are not going to believe this. We got ANOTHER referral.”

Bryson responds, “WHA?!” (yes, missing the “t” in WHAT).

I responded, “I just sent you her file. She’s missing a hand. She’s from the shared list. I haven’t read her file because I’m in a meeting and I cannot talk right now.”

Somehow, I focused for the rest of my meeting. As soon as it is over, I rush over to my office.

It is her. No doubt about it.

Wishing Bryson was here and could talk, I rush upstairs to talk with Clayton, one of our closest friends. We are both so giddy. Better than any Christmas morning. I was worried that Bryson was feeling led to the opposite child.

Again, I text Bryson, “Have you read her file?”

Bryson responds, “Have you read her file?”

I respond, “YES! SHE IS AWESOME!!!!! SHE IS OUR DAUGHTER NO DOUBT!”

Bryson responds, “I KNOW! SHE IS THE LOVELIEST KID AT THE ORPHANAGE!”

And then he finally texts the text I have been praying for, “Can I call you?”

I responded, “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I finally hear his voice, and it is so giddy. A level of giddy I’ve never heard before. “Mandy, they describe her as feisty, overbearing, lovely, sweet, spoiled, and curious. She is our daughter, no doubt. It was like I was reading about you. And Mandy, everything we specifically prayed for her on the day she was found, it is all described exactly as we prayed.”

I said, “OH MY GOODNESS! I know! I know. I cried because I could feel her birthmother’s love for her.” (There are private details that we will not share–but these are details that we prayed for. This is Lydia’s story to share someday, not ours).

Bryson cried and said, “I know.”

I responded, “Well do you trust me to proceed with talking to the international adoption physician and proceeding with the paperwork?” He blurts out, “YES!”

It doesn’t matter what the physician says, we know she is ours.

The physician tells me what I already have looked up. Her weight is in the 75th percentile. Her height is in the 75th percentile. Her head circumfrence is in the 75th percentile. She is resilient. She is social. She doesn’t let the fact that she is missing a hand stop her. She clearly has amniotic banding and was born without most of her left hand. The doctor says this might limit her someday in doing things like playing the piano. However, I know that the girl I see in this video is going to do more with one hand than most of us do with two.

And so, Lydia Grace is lovely. She is perfect. She is just missing a hand. She’s never had a left hand. She is just amazing. I could not open a piece of candy on my own at 19 months. She can. She does not let this slow her down.

I get off the phone with the physician, and I say out loud, “THANK YOU, FATHER, THANK YOU for this PRIVILEGE to love this little girl.”

I know from watching videos of her that she will run circles around us. We cannot wait. I know from how they describe her that she will also boss us around. I’m glad she is feisty–I’m sure it has served her well already.

I was not planning on sharing our child’s medical need on my blog, but since it is obvious, I decided to. I also would be so grateful for some of you who have small kiddos who interact with us to talk to your children (as appropriate) about how God makes all of us in different shapes, sizes, colors and builds our families in different ways. Some kids look like your kids, and some kids look different. But all are created in the image of our Father.

Please see Miss Lydia for who she is–a beloved and precious child. Please don’t see her for what she doesn’t have.

We are so grateful to God for this enormous blessing. Wow, does he ever create the best stories.

And, like I said earlier, we are just so grateful. Miss Lydia Grace will grow up knowing that there are other kiddos just like her. In our community, there will be four kiddos about her age who are also missing a hand that we are connected to through a group of families who have adopted from the same country. Months before we saw Miss Lydia’s file, God started to connect our families and build friendships. And, one of my dear friends is adopting from the exact same province. God is in the details. Orphans are close to his heart. We are so blessed to be a part of Lydia’s precious life.

Thanks for the prayers. This week, we will send Miss Lydia Grace a picture book introducing her to her mama, baba (dad in Mandarin), and Nemo and Dori. Wow, what an honor that is.

I love that when I told my dad about her missing hand, he said,”Cool, that won’t stop her. Just this morning I saw the news story about the college basketball player who is missing part of his arm.” I then told my dad about Miss Iowa who was also born without part of her arm.

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.” – I Samuel 1:27

To God be all of the praise and glory.

My Greatest “Accomplishment”

I might have blogged about this. I might not have. I have “adoption mom brain.”

At the beginning of the school year, a student asked me what aspect of my life I am most proud of.

I thought for one second, and there was truly only one answer—
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The aspect of my life that I am most proud of is my marriage to Bryson.

Not in the cliche ways of, “Oh, he gives me presents” (meh, not really) or “Oh, he can read my mind” (he can’t) or “Oh, we never bicker” (we do) or “Oh, he does my laundry” (yes, he does).

No, no, no, stop rolling your eyes. We have dealt with so much disappointment and heartache.

No, I mean the, “Life is hard and no matter what hard stuff we face, I get to partner with this guy.” I have a great partner to deal with the hard stuff.

I am grateful we have LEARNED to listen to each other.

I am grateful that we have LEARNED to recognize the unique gifts each person brings to our team.

I am grateful for the way we WORK TOGETHER.

I am grateful for the way we can find ways to LAUGH even in sorrow.

I am grateful that he lets me be me and that I let him be him.

I am grateful for the decisions we make together.

I am so grateful for the way that grief has unified us.

I love how he is willing to be silly.
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I am so grateful for the way we have both grown since this day. Wow, we were selfish.
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I am so grateful for the way he loves my niece…
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…and my nephews…
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…because he genuinely loves and is intentional about nurturing relationships…
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I see glimpses, real glimpses of the amazing father he will be.
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And there has never been an experience more than infertility and then adoption to make me realize what a great team we have become. It’s been on the hard days that I recognize this the most.

Thank you, Lord, for this gift. Thank you for stretching us and shaping us into who You want us to be.

Making the Most of the Wait

It is so easy to become obsessed with the adoption process. This summer, I recognized that I was spending too much time online during the night trying to keep up with all of the changes and slowdowns. So, I decided it was time to make some changes and make the most of this wait. Waiting, as I have learned through infertility and adoption, is a precious and good thing.

So, what have we done to make the most of the wait?

– We rarely read adoption blogs. If we have gotten to know a family, we follow their blog, otherwise, I stay off of them. It is easy to spend way too many hours on those blogs reading about people we don’t know. My life became more peaceful after stopping this.

– We are only in two online adoption groups on Facebook. See rationale above.

– We are focusing our time on making memories and continuing to build our relationship. We take as many dates as possible. Once we come home, we will cocoon for several months, and may not have time to get out and about as much. We are attempting to nurture our relationship more right now. Work has been insanely busy, so I need to do a much better job with this.

– We went to training in Houston to learn from the amazing Dr. Purvis about parenting kids from hard places. We know this is the most important responsibility we have ever had, and we are attempting to learn as much as possible. This means we read a lot of books.

– God has BLESSED me so much with some amazing new girlfriends. I prayed so hard that there would be mommas adopting from China that were at the same stage of the process and in the part of the state where we live. God blessed me so much with two wonderful friends. Each month, we get together for dinner. We celebrate each other’s milestones and process through stuff together. Most of all, we pray hard for each other’s family. I’m so grateful how God connected us.

– Serving. Once home, we will stop all of our volunteer work and cut way back on our commitments. Our agency stressed the importance of creating a very simple life without much commitment when home. So right now, although I say no to a lot, I also engage in the current work the Lord has me doing. People often ask if it is hard to concentrate at work because of the adoption. No. I feel like what the Lord wants me to do today and tomorrow is important.

Ladybug Love

There is a story that many China adoptive families see ladybugs before they are matched with their child. Wouldn’t you know, a little ladybug greeted me this morning. Hello there, Miss Ladybug. 1377498_639607181491_2057858587_n

So, when will you be matched with a child?

I wish I knew.

With international adoption there is no due date.

We wait.

Typically, the country we are adopting from releases a shared list once a month on a Tuesday in that country, Monday night here with children who are eligible to be adopted. Agencies then look at this list and make referrals to families. This list has not been released yet this month. So we wait. If we are referred a child from this list, we have 48 hours to make a decision and develop a medical care plan.

Please pray for us. Since we started this journey nearly one year ago, we have always prayed for the Lord’s voice to be magnified, that he would give us discernment, that he would direct our steps. Will you pray for that with us?

We were so blessed by meeting with adoptive families one year ago who gave us advice and prayed for us as we started this journey. Many of them told us about their experience – they received a referral for a child, and KNEW with everything in them that this child was not the child they were to adopt. And one day when they got a different referral, they just knew with everything in them this was their child or children. I know some people cannot understand this, but I have learned repeatedly in my life that I need to listen to that voice.

This summer, we listened to that voice, and just this week, I was reminded to trust it and to walk by faith even when other people scratch their heads…even if people think we are crazy or criticize.

This summer, Bryson and I were prayerfully considering adopting a precious little girl on the waiting child list (children on this list have severe special needs). She has the exact same special need as our precious cousin. We asked our closest friends and family to pray for us and for this precious girl’s family to come forward (whether or not this was us). We were so excited about welcoming this little girl into our family and we even spoke with specialists to develop a treatment plan. However, Bryson and I both had this overwhelming feeling that 1) we were in her family’s way of adopting her, 2) and that we were called to financially support her adoption, and 3) pray that her family is quickly matched with her. It made no sense to us. How could we afford to financially support an adoption when we are saving like crazy for our own? Was this really discernment or was it our imagination? But this little girl was precious, we knew a lot about her special need, and she needed a family. But, we followed what we felt like was obedience.

So every day, I have prayed for this little girl by name. Every week, I contacted our agency to see if she had been matched with her family yet. And this week, little Miss was matched with her family. We were overjoyed.

You want to know how amazing my God is? This family saw her file and immediately knew she was their daughter all while we had her file on hold months ago. They were way down the list to review her file. It seemed impossible that they would get to adopt her, but they just knew she was their daughter. All of this happened when we felt like we were standing in her family’s way. We were.

And you know what else? This precious family was praying that the Lord would help provide for their adoption financially…all while we felt called to help support this little girl’s adoption financially. It did not make sense in July, but now it does.

This experience reminded us that yes, even if people doubt it, I won’t doubt the discernment we have received on this journey. And just like the Lord was knitting this precious one into a family, He is orchestrating the same for our child.

I know that many of my friends are not Christian, but I am one. Sometimes, it surprises me when even fellow Christians doubt that the Holy Spirit can speak to us. Why should I doubt it? I know orphans and widows are so close to my Father’s heart, and I believe this is why we have felt discernment more than in any other moments in our life. We will continue to pray for discernment and trust in the One who knows who our child is.

I am so grateful for the reminder that he is faithful…

So even though we don’t know when we will be matched with a child, we trust in the One who already knows.