“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” Isaiah 55:1-5
I have put off writing this for so long now, not being able to even think of where to begin, let alone have the time to sit in quiet and actually try to process what the Lord has been doing in our lives over the past few months, years really. However, I really want to document this journey and all that the Lord has done, is doing, and will do in the future, and be able to share our story in hopes of encouraging others in the paths the Lord has for them. I like to start at the very beginning of things ;) Most people that know me know that I have a strong desire to adopt internationally, and both Jason and I have felt since the beginning of our marriage that the Lord has placed that calling over our lives. It was always just a matter of time. A few years into trying to conceive a biological child led us to the conclusion that God might be closing that door in order for us to pursue the adoption calling earlier than we had originally thought. Then, six weeks after starting the process to adopt a child from Vietnam in 2006, God closed that door, and opened another. 9 months later, our first son, Malakai was born. Soon after, came Elijah, and soon after that came Nathaniel. I had for some reason been convinced that Nate was a girl—my “motherly instinct” had just told me he was ;) I even wore pink to the sonogram that day in support! So when the sono tech told me that as a mom of 2 boys already, I shouldn’t be surprised, I could barely hold back the tears from the realization that I would not have a daughter. The sadness was short-lived, as I now realized I had another precious little boy living in my tummy and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. However, as we were walking to the car, all I could think about was adoption. The desire had still been there all along, it had just been lying dormant as we moved through the busy years of pregnancies and babies and toddlers. I felt in that moment the Lord bringing that desire to the very surface of my heart so clearly, once again. As we were walking to the car, without having said a word to my husband about what I was thinking, and actually realizing that the two of us had not talked about adoption in quite a long time, he looks at me and says, “This makes me really want to adopt.” Confirmation that the Lord was working on both of our hearts at the exact same time. I remember feeling at that moment as if the Lord had given us two children in this one pregnancy. I know it sounds crazy, but in that moment, I fell in love with two babies, both of which I had never seen, and only one of whom was a boy. My entire pregnancy I thought of and loved two babies. One of those babies I would see and hold in a few short months, the other…it could be years. Nate’s name means ‘gift from the Lord.’ It couldn’t be more fitting for him–his sweet, loving personality, his laid-back spirit. He’s a pretty cool little guy :) But I also love the meaning of his name b/c it symbolizes the gift of hope for another little life that the Lord has for our family somewhere on the other side of the world. When Nate was an infant, I spent much time in the little rocking chair in the corner of his room–rocking him, feeding him, singing to him, and just watching him sleep at all hours of the day and night. Often during these times, I would find myself, with tears streaming down my cheeks, praying for my baby girl who would most likely never have the physical comfort and reassuring love as a baby that I was pouring out over my biological son. And then I would think of all of the millions of orphans around the world who would never know the comfort of a mother rocking them to sleep, kissing their tiny cheeks, and cherishing every sound they made. It’s overwhelmingly sad to think about and very difficult to wrap your mind around. Knowing that my girl will be one of those orphans for the first part of her life absolutely breaks my heart. It is so clear to me that our God has such a passion and love for his orphaned children around the world that he so impresses this love in our hearts and uses us to go and get them, bring them home, and set them into families.
A year later.
Adoption had been a regularly-occurring topic in our house. There were still so many questions….what country, when, what agency, how much, is our youngest child still too young?…the list goes on. Waiting, praying, waiting, talking, waiting, hoping, waiting. Apparently, all of life is waiting, right? One thing that we talked about often (and still do) is doing more than just adoption. Our family may be able to bring home one, possibly two children, but there are millions of orphans in the world that are not even adoptable. What about them? What about the ones who will never have the hope of a forever family because they are stuck in corrupt systems, countries that are closed to adoption, they age out of the system, they are physically disabled and never put on the list, children who are trafficked to countries and sold as sex slaves and other types of slaves? What about these kids? The desire to just DO SOMETHING started to become so strong it was literally blinding at times. The desire to invest our lives in a country, a people group, a community, an organization that helps these orphans, pregnant women with seemingly no option but abortion, etc. While not sure exactly what God was calling us to, we felt God stirring in our hearts to give up certain comforts in this short life, and live with more urgency, trusting Him to work in the details and timing of adoption. Then one night, after the boys were all in bed, my husband and I sat up late with a precious friend who was visiting with her kids from out of town. We were talking of an orphanage in Kenya that her church supports and looking at images online of the beautiful faces of the children who live there and reading their stories. The website where the children were listed to sponsor had a few other orphanages that they support in other parts of the world. One in particular, House of Love in Lagi, Vietnam, stood out to me. No sooner did I click on the link to be transported to their site than I felt the Lord stirring an unexpected love in my heart for these children, this place, these people. It was a welling up, a filling up of the Spirit and a passion for this country that the Lord had placed on our hearts six years before. We skimmed through the faces of children, read their stories, and learned more about the organization and how it began. I said to my husband, ” I want to go there.”
6 months later.
I had been on this website many times over the last several months. I could recognize the faces of the children and put names and stories to a few of them. I knew the vision and heart behind the organization that sponsored them, and I knew that they were taking two trips to Vietnam this year…one in July, and one in November. There were also two children–one in particular–that the Lord had really impressed upon my heart as I skimmed through the pages. We had talked about sponsorship, but honestly, were hesitant because of adoption and needing to save money. After a few months of God laying this on our hearts, we decided to sponsor the two girls and commit to praying for them. Let me insert a side-note: I am a very passionate, all-in or all-out type of person. I get riled up very easily when I believe something is wrong–or right and something needs to be done about it, or I see injustice in front of me, or if something is just plain wrong–I feel like I need to go after it. I struggle with grace, patience, waiting, loving the ungodly and people who hurt the innocent. My first instinct is not to give them grace, it’s to beat them to a pulp with my bare hands–as if I could. Honestly, I truly believe if someone tried to hurt my children that I could do some major damage with just my hands, elbows, teeth, head, and legs. To tell you the truth, I’ve actually planned this out a time or two and played out different scenarios in my head. Sometimes I almost want someone to try….. OK, my point exactly. I’m off on a tangent at just the thought. Point being: I’m passionate, in a good and bad way about the things that are important to me. I’m thankful that my friends and family still love me despite my ‘issues.’
So, being the ‘all-in’ type of person that I am, once we decided to sponsor these two precious girls, I felt the need to meet them in person. And on top of that, down deep I wondered at the possibility of adopting them and if it were possible that these two girls could be my daughters. At the time the youngest had just turned 3 in Feb. and the oldest was 4. She turned 5 in August. The oldest was between Kai and Eli in age and the younger was between Eli and Nate. When I learned that the younger one wore a brace on her right leg and that her right arm was slightly weaker than the left, I loved her even more. They were both shy. They are not biological sisters. Both had been abandoned at birth at the House of Love in Lagi because the biological mother could not support herself and a baby. The same story is heard over and over: an unwed woman, most of the time very young, gets pregnant–sometimes its rape, sometimes prostitution, sometimes just accidentally, but the family disowns her in all circumstances. Without any outside support, the women can not care for an infant and themselves at the same time. She is forced by her family, her boyfriend, or her circumstances to abort the child. (Side note: Vietnam has the highest abortion rate in the world. Most likely it’s due to the extreme poverty. ) The House of Love in Lagi takes in women who are pregnant and choose not to abort their children. They are able to live there for the duration of their pregnancy and when their baby is born, they leave the child in the care of the orphanage staff. This was the case for both of our sponsored girls, Thien An (older), and Truc Ly (younger). My husband and I shared this website and organization with some friends and it eventually led to us planning a trip for the four of us to go to Vietnam in November. However, I just couldn’t shake the July trip. November felt so far away–and it was over Thanksgiving and Nate’s 2nd birthday… July was wide open except that our husbands couldn’t go. I kept shaking off the desire, but it just kept coming back. I kept checking my motives and praying that the Lord would make it clear, that He would take away the desire and give me peace if I wasn’t supposed to go, but that if I was He would also make that clear, as well as provide us help with the boys. The night of May 28th, my husband and I sat up late talking it all out. I realized through that conversation that the only reason I would say no to going was out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of a foreign country, fear of flying by myself, and fear of leaving my boys for that long. I quickly realized this fear was not from God, and therefore was not an excuse. The next morning, just 5 1/2 short weeks before the team would leave for Vietnam, I got on the phone with the travel agent and told her to book my flight. A couple seconds after hanging up with her, on a whim, I called my friend, Laura, who had already told me she could not go in July due to various circumstances. I asked one more time, knowing what the answer would most likely be, but still hoping for the alternative. To my surprise, her plans had slightly changed and after a call to her husband and to her mother-in-law in literally 10 minutes, we were going to VN together! I could hardly contain my excitement and amazement that the Lord had literally taken away one of my biggest fears– traveling overseas alone– and instead replaced it with sheer joy that I would be traveling with one of my closest friends– and we had just 5 1/2 short weeks to prepare.