Saturday, September 1, 2007

Such A Time As This!

To know the precise moment when this story began is impossible to comprehend. I can tell you that God began planting seeds in my life when I was 11 years old. I did not realize this, however, until I was 39. At the age of 11, I made my “What I am going to be when I grow up” decision. With a fascination with Helen Keller, it was then that I decided that I was going to teach the deaf. I achieved that goal in December of 1990 when I graduated from California State University, Fresno with a degree in Communicative Disorders: Deaf Education. I did work at the California School for the Deaf in Riverside for a short time, but never fully utilized my degree.

Lesson learned: God begins preparing us long before we ever realize.

In October of 2005, we traveled to China to adopt Rylee. We soaked up the experience, yet counted down the days until we would return home. There were several times when we said, “We’re glad we came, but we are glad we don’t have to do this again” as it was a long, emotional, and difficult trip for us.

Lesson learned: Never say “never” when God is in control of your life!

In March of 2006, while putting away all of the baby things in our storage room, Mike stopped me dead in my tracks by saying the words that would forever change the course of our family – “I think we need to talk”. After several attempts to beat around the bush, he finally said, “I think we need to pray about adopting again. I’m not in agreement with this, I’m not interested in this and I am completely content where we are, but I believe that we are supposed to pray about this, as crazy as it sounds.” My response was not exactly positive. I told him that I would be happy to pray about it, but I knew what the answer was going to be – “No”. I could even list out all the reasons why the answer would be “No!” So we embarked on this “journey of prayer” more out of obligation and obedience than out of openness- They say that confession is good for the soul! Several weeks later, out of frustration from trying to figure out what God wanted us to do, I did something that I do not encourage – I randomly opened up the Bible and randomly pointed to a verse…Oh, yes I did! God knew where I was at and spoke to me clearer than I could ever have imagined… Here is the verse:

“Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less?”

2 Corinthians 2: 14-15

How could we argue with that? One-by-one God changed each of our hearts and by June 2006 we were working on another stack of paperwork. Our paperwork was sent in a week after Rylee’s first anniversary with us. Our dossier was logged in November 21, 2006.

Lesson learned: God will meet you where you are at. If, your heart is in the right place!

In April of 2007, Mike was asked to come and speak at chapel at Howard Payne University about our faith journey since leaving Howard Payne. We all headed out to see old friends and revisit our old home. Mike spoke to the students from the book of Esther. While there, a seed was planted in the hearts of another family and soon after they began the adoption journey to China.

Lesson learned: God often uses us most when we haven’t a clue what He is up to.

In late June of 2007, after waiting many months and watching the “Special Delivery” listings on our agencies website, a little boy caught my eye. I believe that this particular list had been up since May. I had poured over this same list several times before, but I had not seen this little boy until that moment - Isn’t God’s timing always amazingly perfect? This little 18-month-old boy, listed as Stephen on the “Special Delivery” list, had been on the list awhile and yet no one had inquired about him. He had been diagnosed with bilateral microtia/atresia. We were drawn to him, but not quite sure that this was a match for our family. A week later, Debra and her family came for a visit. Knowing that Debra’s friend had adopted a little boy with an ear condition six months prior, I showed her the picture of Stephen. She proceeded to tell me that this was the same condition that her friend’s son had and she shared how he was thriving in his new home. A condition that we had never heard of and the timing of her visit perked our interest and we began doing some preliminary research on the condition and contacted her friend.

Lesson learned: God places people in your lives that have walked ahead of you to pave the way.

A few days after Debra left, we watched the movie, “One Night With the King” which was based upon the story of Esther. What stood out to us was “if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" This directly related back to what Mike spoke about at Howard Payne back in April. In other words, If we don’t take the opportunities God gives us, He will find someone else. Thus, leaving us as the ones that have missed the blessing. Who’s to say that God has not placed us here for that one particular moment? God got our attention!

Lesson learned: I NEVER want God to have to ask someone else to do the work He has called me to do.

A few days later while I was looking at Stephen, Morgan walked into the room. I figured that since we were inquiring about this little boy that I should talk to him about Stephen. So, I showed him the picture and talked a little about his condition. Morgan asked a few questions about the condition and then proceeded to ask me what his birthday was. I told him August. I don’t believe that I will ever forget the look on his face when I told him August. Morgan’s eyes widened bigger than I have ever seen and huge tears immediately began streaming down his sweet little face. I had no idea what was wrong until he was able to tell me that he had a dream about having a baby who’s birthday was in August. I was shocked and had no idea what to think. By no means was this the confirmation that we needed to pursue this boy full force, but it definitely got our attention. Morgan's dream peaked Mike’s interest and so he began to research the age of Samuel when he received his calling.

Lesson learned: God often speaks important messages through children because they’re more willing to listen.

On July 8, 2007, our pastor preached from Acts 1 and his message was titled “Taking the Next Step”. In his message he talked about the calling of Matthias as the 12th disciple. He talked about how this was the completion of the group and made how the group was made “whole” again. He also talked about the fact that in life there are lots of times when we make a big decision to do something, but oftentimes it is the next decision that is the defining moment for us. We knew that the decision to follow God back to China was a big decision but was this the defining moment? While leaving church that same morning, Morgan and Mike walked out together. Mike saw Morgan’s Sunday school papers - one of which was folded up and had what appeared to be a cell phone on it. Mike asked Morgan what it was. Morgan said it was his Sunday school lesson. Mike preceded to ask, “What did you study?” Morgan said, “We studied the calling of Samuel”. Stopping dead in his tracks, Mike looked down and said to Morgan “You think God can speak through little boys?” Morgan got a tear in his eye and said “Yeah.” The conversation ended with Mike saying “Me, too!”

Lesson learned: Listening with your heart is oftentimes more helpful than listening with your ears.

The answer became abundantly clear that we were being called to adopt this little boy and that we were within God’s will! So, we submitted the necessary paperwork to begin the process of adopting him. In the midst of submitting our paperwork, we requested additional information from China. We requested an ABR (auditory brain response test) and agreed to pay the additional fees to have this test conducted. China agreed and drove a significant distance to meet this request. After receiving the results, we submitted all of the medical records to our international adoption pediatrician for review. We believed with all our hearts that God was leading us to adopt this little boy. So, we began praying that if this not be His will that He would clearly close this door in a way that we could be certain. On Saturday, July 14th we received the call from our pediatrician. She indicated that she had significant concerns for the health of the child. He was born on the normal bell curve for Chinese boys, but had since then slipped off and was very tiny for his age. She indicated that this had to mean 1 of 2 things: He was either severely malnourished or there was something seriously wrong internally. If he was receiving the appropriate nutrition and calories, then something was wrong internally whereby his body was not absorbing them. Either way, she had significant concerns as we had two other young children to care for. That night, based upon what we believed was an answer to our prayers; we elected to terminate the process. We felt as though God had answered our prayers - Not in the way that we wanted, but the answer was clear. Tearfully, we posted a note on our blog (July 14, 2007 entry) to family and friends who had prayed with us through this process telling them it was over.

Lesson learned: God always reserves the right to have the last say. It’s not over til GOD says it’s over.

Several days later, Mike was cleaning off his desk at work. While doing so, he came across the health records that had been reviewed the previous week. Since the process was over he decided to shred them. After shredding approximately ½ of them, he looked down at one of the pages just prior to shredding the remaining pages. His eyes were drawn to the date on one of the documents - God was revealing to him that there was a mistake in the dates. After frantically rereading the remaining pages, it became clear that there was a misprint in the documents. Two of the 13 pages had a February 16, 2007 date on them. All of the remaining pages had a February 16, 2006 date. Frantically he attempted to call me. Once he was finally able to get me on the phone, he said “I know this sounds crazy and I hate to do this to you, but I need you to pull out the medical paperwork again. I believe with all my heart there’s a mistake in it”. After pulling out the information from our computer’s recycle bin, I had to agree with Mike that there were errors. Of course, it all happened a few minutes before 5:00 and my rush to contact our social worker was put to a halt as no one was answering the phones. So, we were forced to wait until the next morning to investigate our theory. The next day, our social worker looked over the documents and was just as puzzled. She assured us that she would have the staff that translated the documents look over everything again. Since there is a 12-hour delay and the offices in China are closed, we were forced to wait even longer.

Lesson learned: Miracles ONLY happen when we completely let go of ourselves and allow God to do whatever HE sees fit.

After several emails back and forth to China, they determined that there was an error in the translation of the dates. There was a mistake in the paperwork and God knew it the entire time. He carefully walked us through this in His time; in order to demonstrate to us the miracle he had in-store all along. Scripture tells us that God’s love reaches beyond what we can imagine. We have seen this. How the God of this universe can love a little boy in an orphanage in China this much is beyond all that we can imagine. But we know that He does. This is the picture of love that He gives us. How can we fail to do the same? So, literally days before his file was to be returned to China, we scurried to finalize the paperwork necessary to make a request to the Chinese government that he become a part of our family!

God doesn’t stop the process there. He goes above and beyond by reassuring us that Stephen is meant to be a part of our family. The weekend of July 22nd, our pastor shared a message entitled “Extending the Miracle”. In less than 8-weeks, God revealed to us this little boy and took us on this awesome, miraculous journey. Because of this experience we will never be the same!!

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