"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." James 1:27

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Decision to Adopt

Growing up in a house with six younger siblings forces you to learn a lot of responsibility. At just 12-years-old, I was rocking a colicky baby back to sleep, wiping runny noses and jumping into a convertible-shaped toddler bed with my brother to comfort him after the house rumbled at 6:30am (this is the same younger brother that I would trick into falling to sleep by pretending that my eyelids were just a bit too heavy to keep open.) So, I learned some handy “mom-tricks” before even hitting puberty. Needless to say, I felt that being a mom was in my blood and I yearned for the day that I would be a mother to my own kids.

Fast-forward to Halloween 13 years later, when I meet the-one-I’d-been-waiting-for, Bill. When I walked into that Saddleback Church singles Bible study for the first time, and saw him across the room dressed in his military blues, I couldn’t be sure if I was dreaming or if he was a cardboard cut-out. (Backstory: there had been a similar cardboard cut-out of my cousin in his military attire made for my grandfather’s 80th birthday party, since I think he was off at military training somewhere, so it was not totally cuckoo to think that the Bill that I was seeing was a cardboard cut-out.) When he came over and introduced himself as the leader of the study, my heart jumped. He shared his testimony that night, and I got a peek at the character and passion that this man had, in spite of hardships. I was smitten. We were married seven months later on May 20, 2006.

The first thing we learned when we got married is that marriage is not easy! Making the decision to start a family was one of the first obstacles that we would encounter. I had always dreamed of getting pregnant on the honeymoon, but he wanted to be well-established in his career before even trying! Following the “Love and Respect” Bible Study that we did with our new newlyweds small group at Saddleback, I realized that I needed to wait and respect his leadership (which is, of course, still a battle, since I have my own sinful nature that wants to always take charge- somewhat like Eve did with Adam in the Garden!). In any case, he convinced me to wait to start our family, so we held off having kids until four years later, when Bill Jr. (aka William) entered the world!

After William came an almost immediate surprise…I was pregnant again! I could tell that the pregnancy was different because I was nauseated all the time and my boss told me that she could tell from my breakouts that I was having a girl (apparently bad skin in pregnancy is a clear sign of extra estrogen- my boss has been 6-for-6 in her baby predictions- so I trusted her!). Emma Grace joined our family just one year and three weeks after William had entered the world.

Having kids back-to-back was a challenge for those first few years. It was like twins but one was always just a little bit behind the other developmentally. We would get through a stage and then start it over again. In fact, we only recently got both kids out of diapers! I wanted to have more children, but having pseudo-twins was especially challenging, so my tubes were tied to prevent more surprises (my mom was frequently labeled Fertile Myrtle so there was a strong possibility that I could be just as fruitful- based on some good genes). I had no sorrow about the procedure- I knew that there are millions of orphans and foster kids who are looking for forever families, and that Bill and I could provide that someday. So, I began to seriously look into adoption, checking out sites like http://www.adoptuskids.org/, http://reecesrainbow.org/ and http://www.holtinternational.org/waitingchild/photolisting/. In the process, I would occasionally bring up kids or stories from these sites to Bill, but his heart was not yet open to the idea.

In the past year, though, God started working on Bill’s heart with respect to the adoption idea. He began reading sites like http://ellerslie.com/bravehearted-thots and http://ellerslie.com/. Then, one day, he sent me a link to the following video, and said that he knew that God wanted us to adopt some day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWHJ6-YhSYQ.

Fast-forward to November 9th, 2014, when I come across a blog post called “The Short List.” This powerful post mentioned a sweet boy named Whitaker (you can read it here: http://crunchylutheranmommy.com/2014/11/08/the-short-list/). The boy caught my attention because he looks so much like our son, William, but the post was devastating! It explained that, if not adopted soon, Whitaker would be transferred to a mental institution. The Crunchy Lutheran Mommy wrote that “Between neglect, abuse and starvation, well over 90% of these precious ones die within a year of transfer.” I had never heard of such a thing! I shared the story with Bill and his heart immediately began to soften. He asked me, “Does this little guy have a picture?” I ran for my laptop and opened up to the post- never thinking that we would actually consider adopting Whitaker.

Bill began to seriously think through the possibility of adopting and, that evening, we looked into it more. In fact, we watched a documentary on the mental institutions in Bulgaria to get an idea of what Whitaker could experience if he was transferred (Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ah_W9tS-8c and Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFEb2m5_MXQ). Both parts made me sick to my stomach, but I had to turn off the second one because I could not bear to watch any more suffering. Bill just bawled through both episodes and knew that we had to do something.

The next day, I contacted Reece’s Rainbow to ask about Whitaker and find out how we start the process. I immediately learned that the blog post had been so successful that a family had stepped up to adopt Whitaker that weekend! What bitter-sweet news! We had finally both come to the place where adoption could be a possibility, but the boy that our hearts were set on was gone. My heart sank as I thought that adopting was back off the table.

Incredibly, just a bit later, Bill asked to look at other kids listed on the Reece’s Rainbow site. He and I went through each page and prayed about the different faces we saw. We knew with two small children already, and a new business underway, that it would be exceedingly difficult to bring in a child that had a severe disability. So, we discussed back and forth each of the kids, seeing which ones are hearts were drawn towards. We finally landed on two from China- Payton and a four-year-old girl (we can’t release her name until receiving full approval for two kids). Both children have cerebral palsy and both were abandoned at the gates of their hospital or orphanage. Heart-wrenching!

We completed the paperwork in record time and, just three days after seeing the post on Whitaker, we were adopting two children! What a whirl-wind! Our file was locked for Payton on November 23rd and we expect pre-approval for our daughter in two weeks (her file is in locked status now, though). I'll share more information about her once that is through, but here is another photo of our sweet boy:

I have friends who have adopted, so I have a glimpse into the journey that we are beginning. I know that it will not be a fairytale. I realize that we will encounter suffering, hardship, and frustration, but we will also experience love, joy, and support like we have never before. Even still, I can’t wait to be a forever family to these sweet kiddos!

John 14:18: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Also, we are now set-up with the Family Sponsorship Program through Reece’s Rainbow (for tax-deductible donations). You can donate here: http://reecesrainbow.org/85271/sponsorrobinson-6. Thank you!

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