The Beauty and the Tragedy of My Daughter’s Cleft Lip

Our baby girl’s cleft lip and palate are most likely the reason she was left at the city gate at one day old.  Not necessarily because her biological parents didn’t want her due to her deformity, but quite simply because they had no choice.  This is one of the things that breaks my heart about our baby girl’s story.  It’s obvious that, despite the fact that we think our daughter is beautiful and perfect with her little cleft lip, she can’t stay that way.  It wouldn’t be healthy for her, it would hinder many things in her future and cause many problems.  It wouldn’t be right for us not to fix her lip and palate when we have the means.  But for her biological parents, it was never an option.  Surgery for a cleft lip and palate costs more than many people in her area of the world make in an entire year, resulting so often in the tragedy of abandonment.  However, by God’s grace and mercy, her story has always been filled with hope, despite the beginning tragedy of it.   It was never an accident that she was born the way she was.  It was never a surprise to God that her little mouth was deformed and that the mother that birthed her would leave her at the city gate in an attempt to save her life.  God was never forced to adjust His plans according the circumstances that unfolded those first few days in March.  She was always planned this way, chosen before the foundation of the earth was laid.  Her abandonment and the circumstances of her birth have always been planned and set, and her little life written on the palm of His hand.  Since before the beginning of time, she has been planned in our Father’s heart and every detail of her life fully known.  And all this time the Lord has been preparing our hearts for this little girl, born with these circumstances, at this time.  She has always been meant for our family, as our beloved daughter and a precious baby sister, grand-daughter, niece, and great-granddaughter. And that blows my mind.  I can’t wrap my brain around it.  It’s just beauty, plain and simple.  It sounds so familiar….a tragic beginning, a life warped with sin and hopelessness…yet blind to the hope and love that awaits us.  Blind to what we were created for, who we were created for, and how despite our deformities or imperfections, we were created perfectly in His image and we are so loved beyond what we can fathom. And what’s more, He would not leave us as we were, dead in our despair, but He would come for us.  He was waiting to rescue us.  That’s beauty, friends. Adoption is not the gospel, because the gospel is not about us, but it does, however, give us a tiny glimpse of our Father’s great love for us as we see orphaned children without hope becoming cherished and beloved sons and daughters in forever families.

I can’t wait to hold this baby girl.  I may never put her down.:)

 

 

Opening my Eyes

Our adoption story began nearly fourteen years ago before my husband and I were even married.  It was something that both of us had felt that in some way or another, the Lord had laid on both of our hearts and we hoped to pursue one day down the road.  When we began struggling to start a family some 4 years into our marriage, we decided after nearly two years of negative pregnancy tests, to begin the adoption journey.  To our complete surprise, I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant 6 weeks after beginning the process.  This journey had to be placed on hold. Over the years I read many blogs and listened to many stories and scoured through agency websites and read the latest updates on the Inter-country Adoption sites, but the Lord kept closing the door to this pursuit for us as much as I wanted to move forward.  It just wasn’t the time. The Lord gave me this verse to hold onto over the years: “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end–it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”–Habbakuk 2:3.  It was during this season of waiting that the Lord was not only giving me a heart for adoption, but for orphans in general, for the oppressed and the helpless and for seeing these people restored and set free, and for seeing these beautiful children set into forever families.  As much as I longed for an adoption story of our own and for the child He had promised us one day, I knew His timing was perfect and that our time was not yet. But what I didn’t realize was how he was preparing us; how He was opening our eyes to more than just the beautiful, outward, redemptive story of adoption, but was also breaking my heart for the reality and disparity of the other side of adoption–the side that gets left out, not purposefully or intentionally, of many of the stories–mainly because we just don’t know.  This is a side of heartbreak and gut-wrenching sacrifice and pain that we as Americans can barely wrap our brains around.  The Lord was taking us through a time of waiting to open our eyes and break our hearts for this other side of adoption.

Over the last five years, the Lord has allowed me the privilege of traveling for a short time to two Asian foreign countries to work with orphaned children, the handicapped, and the desperately poor.  On both occasions these beautiful people captured my heart. Both trips, to say the very least, have been life-changing, eye-opening, and heart-transforming. It was on these two trips that my eyes were opened to more physical and mental disabilities, diseases, and health conditions than I could ever imagine in one place.  A few of the orphanages we visited were filled with handicapped children.  In one of the more severe institutions many of these children were rarely taken out of their cribs, mostly only for a bath every other week.  The cribs were metal and they lined the rooms in rows. The slats of the beds were old wood with no mattresses. Buckets of water were dumped on them when they were dirty. Diapers are expensive so they would wrap a around the child, then a layer of plastic and another layer of cloth and tie it with a rope.  They get changed every now and then.  The babies didn’t cry because there wasn’t a reason to.  They just laid in their cribs and looked at you.  They were blind, disfigured, deformed, broken, mentally gone, helpless, and hopeless.  Most would never leave the orphanage—or they would graduate on to the mental institution right next door, but never leave the confines of the grounds, never go past the gates that encompass the place–nor would they ever grow a desire to.  There were two tiny babies, barely a few pounds at maybe 3 or 4 months, both with cleft lips and palates, struggling to survive, despite lack of much needed help.  Babies born with a cleft lip and palate cannot make suction with their mouths, therefore making it nearly impossible to drink from a normal bottle.  The time it takes to sit with a baby and let the bottle drip into their mouths was just not available in an orphanage with so many children and so few caretakers, and they didn’t have the privilege of special cleft bottles nor the knowledge of how to manipulate the bottles for these tiny ones in order to make it easier for them.  The bottles were propped up on pillows and left next to the babies, who obviously couldn’t hold onto them, as they slipped out of reach.  Such a minor, correctable “special need” here in America that easily becomes life-threatening in foreign countries.  What breaks my heart most is that the vast majority of these children in orphanages will not be deemed adoptable, and oftentimes it’s due to the misconception that since they were abandoned before, due to their special need or handicap, why would someone else want them?  The root causes of such beliefs run so deep and not one of us can stand in a place of judgement, as our life experiences are very different.  But quite simply put, it’s just a broken system, in a broken country, filled with broken people, with broken education and broken worlds, who simply need Jesus–just like us.

What makes me smile is when I sit back and take in all of these experiences and remember all of the children the Lord placed in my life over these years. The ones I fell in love with, the ones that broke my heart, the ones that were hurting and had been born with deformities.  And I can see now how the Lord was opening my eyes and opening my heart to a path that six years ago, I would have most likely been terrified to go down.  I see all along, He was preparing us for a tiny baby girl who He had created to be formed and made with a special characteristic that would mark the beginning of her life with tragedy and deep loss, but at the same time, great hope and immeasurable worth.

The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with JOY! Psalm 126:3

I have waited and waited to write this post. I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to finally be at this place in our adoption journey. I couldn’t imagine after years of praying for the Lord’s timing and His provision and assurance how I would even be able to muster up the words to convey all that the Lord has done…all that we’ve seen with our eyes and felt in our hearts. I can’t even begin to talk about the ways the Lord has answered our prayers and strengthened our faith.  We heard it said so many times of adoption that “If you just step out in faith, the Lord will provide in miraculous ways.”  To be honest, I didn’t completely believe that, even though I really wanted to.  I have held onto so many fears and doubts through this process and somehow the Lord has continued to keep our feet at a steady pace, pushing us forward into unknown territory.  I’ve uttered so many questions into the air with no answers besides the knowledge that the Lord is good and He is faithful to keep his promises.  I’ve struggled with somehow wanting to gain a sense of control in this world of “unknowns” and that desire for control was met continually with a very tall mountain of patience and waiting to climb.  I wondered so many things…”is this the right time?” “would we love this child like our biological children?” “would we think she’s beautiful?” “would she have significant special needs?” “what if God gives us too much?” “what if we feel nothing when we see her?”…so many questions and only the answer that our God is good and worthy to be trusted.  Before the foundation of the earth was laid, our God had planned this one special little girl for us, and He has so ordained the circumstances of her life, however tragic they would turn out to be, that through these circumstances she would find healing and hope and unconditional love within our very own family as our cherished daughter for all of her life.  That realization is incomprehensible and too amazing for me.  And now, here we are, 10 months into our adoption journey and we have seen the fulfillment of a word spoken to us many, many years ago…and this word FINALLY has a precious, beautiful face! And let me just say, God is GOOD and faithful and we are in awe and completely head-over-heels in love with a baby girl born and living on the other side of the world!  He has answered our prayers beyond what we asked or imagined and then some.  For, “the Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with JOY.”–Psalm 126:3. Here we are, in the season of Advent, a season of anticipation and anxiously waiting.  As we wait for the day we get to see our daughter face to face and hold her in our arms for the first time, I can’t help but imagine what great expectations and excitement were stirring in the days leading up to our Savior’s birth. I’m so very thankful for the tangible reminder this year.   And with that, I would love more than anything to introduce you all to our beautiful and beloved daughter, Norah Lian Jean Krieger.  We received the referral phone call on November 12, and received our LOA (Letter of Approval) from China on December 16.  She is currently 9 months old and recently underwent surgery for her cleft lip. She will be receiving surgery for her palate at home.  We are hoping and praying to travel early/mid-March.:)

 

 
 

 

 

Of course we gotta have the out-takes….


Behind the Design

“My friends, adoption is redemption.  It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him.” –Derek Loux

In a perfect world, there would be no orphans.  All children would have families who love them unconditionally and are able to financially provide for their every need.  Parents wouldn’t find themselves in a situation where the only hope their child has for survival is to be given to another. That perfect world is coming for those of us who are in Christ, but the reality for now is that this world we live in is fallen–corrupt with sin, poverty, suffering, greed, pride, rampant with disease and sickness, and the list could go on.  It affects everyone and everything.  Too often some of the heaviest of those effects fall on the most vulnerable and helpless of souls–millions of precious children. It is a sad reality and one that most of us can not even begin to wrap our minds around.

READ THE STATISTICS:

In 2012, UNICEF estimated the number of orphans worldwide to be around 153,000,000.  Without any kind of assistance, these children will continue the cycle of poverty, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, prostitution, and slavery that haunts developing countries.  This number only includes orphans that are living in homes.  It does not account for the 8+million children living in institutions. Nor does it include the vast numbers of children living on the streets, exploited for labor, victims of trafficking, or participating in armed groups.

Every day 5,760 more children become orphans

Orphaned children spend an average of 10 years in an orphanage or foster home

Every year 14,050,000 children age out of the system and will never have a family

Every 15 seconds another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa

Every 2.2 seconds, another orphan ages out of the system with no family to call their own.

10-15% of these children commit suicide before age 18

As many as 60% of these girls are lured into prostitution, and 70% of boys become hardened criminals

Many of these children accept job offers that end in their being sold as slaves. Millions and millions of girls today are sex slaves simply because they were unfortunate enough to grow up as orphans.

Specific to CHINA:

Girls are twice as likely to die in their first year of life as boys

Parents who remarry have been known to abandon their child so they can have a new child with their new spouse

In 1995, the Chinese government reported that there were over 40,000 orphanages.  In almost 10 years that number has only grown…

And I’m not even going to touch on China’s gendercide issue, one-child policy, forced abortions, gender imbalance, infanticide, and poverty statistics, all of which play an important role in why we feel like the Lord called us to adopt from China.  But I’ll save that for another post.

Here’s another statistic:

Number of people it takes to make a life-long difference in the life of an orphan– 1

While it seems like the numbers and statistics are overwhelming and that it’s impossible to even put a dent in the walls of this mass crisis, there is SO MUCH we can do to help.  While I don’t believe adoption is an option for everyone, I do believe more people are called to it than they think.  There are so many other ways to help besides pursuing adoption though:

SPREAD the word–make people aware of this massive crisis that affects our world.

EDUCATE yourself–you would be amazed at the amount of people who’s hearts are set on fire for helping orphans simply because they took the time to educate themselves about the reality of what these children face.

HELP others adopt–you may have a heart for adoption but due to particular circumstances can not adopt a child into your home.  We all know that adoption is ridiculously expensive; help families ease the financial burden of bringing home their child.

GIVE– you don’t have to give to us–give where you feel the Lord is leading you to give! There are so many great organizations out there that support orphan care–isn’t it worth the sacrifice of what we would spend on dinner at a restaurant or a new outfit to know that the money you gave went to feeding a child or children for a month or providing life-saving surgery for one of them?

PRAY– God moves mountains when we pray.  As God’s children whom He sets His unconditional love upon, not one of our prayers falls to the ground empty.  He hears them all, stores them up, and answers in His perfect way.  It is not too hard for God to answer prayers for people on the other side of the world. Keep praying…even if you never get the chance to see the effects of your prayers in this lifetime…one day you will.

Many of you know that we have started a t-shirt fundraiser to raise money for our adoption.  All of this information I listed above is the basis for why we created the design the way we did.  We hope you like the shirt and would love for you to share in the mission.  On the back of the shirt is a Chinese symbol.  That symbol means ‘LIGHT’ which is also the meaning of our daughter’s name though I am not ready to give that away quite yet. ;)   The money that is made from these shirts goes directly to our big China Fee of $13,500 which is due upon referral.  We have 15 days to sell at least 50 shirts.  So far, we have put an estimated $10,000 into this process, a small price to pay for an invaluable life.  We have seen firsthand the Lord open his storehouses of blessing and provide for our every need in more than amazing ways and we believe with full confidence that He will continue to do that.  This story is His, not ours, this little girl is His before she is ours, and He loves her more than we can fathom.  Because of that, we know that He will move mountains to place her in our family.  We know that He has planned this from the beginning of time and that He created her as our daughter long before this process began and there is nothing that can stop him.  We would love for you to partner with us and purchase a shirt in support of our girl! But please do so only if you feel the Lord leading you!  Please feel no pressure at all! We know that God will provide every penny that is needed to get her home! More than anything at all, we covet your prayers for our sweet girl and for our family during this time. We CAN. NOT. WAIT. to see this little girl that the Lord has created specifically for us!!!

Here is the shirt design and the link to purchase is directly below it:

https://www.bonfirefunds.com/the-krieger-family-adoption-fundraiser

 

I am reminded of this scripture so often in adoption, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” –John 1:5    And that is the truth of it…so much darkness, but so much light…and so much hope.  

 

And so we wait…

Five and a half months after completing our online application with Holt, we are officially in the waiting stage.  All paperwork has been completed and copied and copied again and filed and mailed, and is sitting on a stack of equally precious and important files, somewhere in a little office in China, waiting for review.  Our hands are empty of tasks on our end for now, and our hearts are full of anticipation for what is to come.  We wait now for a referral, which is a child’s file for us to review, consisting of a photo or photos, and whatever medical information and history is available and known up until that point.  We have been told to expect between 6 and 9 months to referral, but also that it could be as little as 3.  I’m praying for the latter. I would love to know the face of my daughter before Christmas, but I am also content to wait on the Lord’s timing.  He has proven time and time again that there is no timing more perfect than His.

If I’m being honest, this stage is equally as scary as it is exciting.  I have moments where I’m more excited than scared and moments where I’m exactly the opposite.  Knowing that the Lord has clearly called us to walk this path and remembering ways He has reassured us, provided for us, and answered prayers in unfathomable ways, is what keeps us moving forward. There are so many unknowns, so many questions, and so many fears that all find their answers in the absolute goodness of God.   What will she look like? How old will she be? What will her medical needs be? Can we handle them? Will it be love at first sight? Will she attach well? Can I love her as much as my biological children? How hard will she grieve the losses she will face due to the family she will gain? All questions that beg sheer trust in the Lord to fulfill His promises that He is good and He longs to give good gifts that His name would be glorified and great among the nations.  I have a feeling He has much more in store than I can even fathom.

Sweet girl, our paths are getting so close. We are right around the corner.  We talk about you all the time and pray for you daily.  May you be a light in the darkness and may the Lord fill you full of joy, love, laughter, and favor.  We can’t wait to see your face!!

Our timeline so far:

2-17-14 Application sent to Holt via email

3-31-14/4-1-14 Home study visits

4-18-14 Home study approved/pending a couple revisions

5-8-14 I800A received by office in TX

5-29-14 Fingerprints at USCIS office 9:00am (security had to search my purse only to find a Thomas train)

5-21-14 Mailed docs to KS secretary of state for state certificiation

5-24-14 Received state-certified papers from KS secretary of State

5-27-14 Mailed docs to TX for state cert

6-9-14 Received docs from TX

6-13-14 Notice of I-800A app reviewed/approved/mailed

6-18-14 Received 797 in mail

6-19-14 Notarized & mailed 797 for state cert

6-25-14 Received 797 back in mail, mailed it w/ other docs to Chicago consulate for authentication

6-27-14 Courier emailed that docs went to consulate/2 are being sent back to go to TX

7-1-14 Received 2 docs back from Chicago

7-2-14 Mailed 2 docs to TX for authentication

7-3-14 Chicago courier put docs in the mail via FedEx Express

7-5-14 Receive docs from Chicago consulate

7-19-14 Home from K-Kauai Family Kamp; docs from Houston are waiting for us!

7-20-14 Make a million copies of completed dossier to compile three completed dossiers–one for us, one for Holt, one for China

7-21-14 Overnight/Express completed dossier to Holt

7-25-14 Our dossier is SENT TO CHINA! DTC!

7-30-14 We are officially LOCKED IN and WAITING! LID!