Immeasurably More

Ephesians 3:20-21 says...
     Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever.  Amen!

In my last post, I mentioned that we had 2 open doors to choose from, and that I would have some good news to share soon.  But I have so much more than that to share!  The Lord has done immeasurably more than we could have even thought to ask for!  More than we could have hoped for or expected.  I will say it again--He is always good.  And what He is doing right now is for His glory because it's certainly not because of anything we've done, and it's in spite of things we've tried to do.

This part of our story has been unfolding very slowly over the past 2 months.  I know that 2 months isn't a long time, but there were moments of uncertainty during those months that felt like they were lasting forever!  But all the while, God was going before us, paving the way for something new, something specific, something we weren't ready for 3-4 months ago.  Something beautiful and almost impossible.  Something He actually showed me over a year ago, but I didn't understand at the time...

In order for this story to make sense at all, I'm going to have to time travel a bit, so bear with me!  So, first, I have to revisit October 2012.  During the first week of October, we discovered that we were country-less.  The Colombia program at our agency changed, and we could no longer adopt younger children.  We did some research into other agency's Colombia programs and found that this is becoming an issue with Colombia itself and is not specific to the agency we were working with.  The young, healthier children are finding homes within Colombia, and there aren't as many young orphans in need of homes.  It was hard to be upset about Colombia not having enough young orphans in need...That's a good "problem" to have!

The agency we were working with had 4 Latin American country programs, so we figured that we would be able to find one that fit our family.  Since our trip to Guatemala, Michael has felt strongly about adopting from Central America.  The agency has 2 South American programs and 2 Central American programs. God has been speaking to me about Latin America in general!  I'd go to any one of those countries if that's where our kiddos are!  So, with this in mind, we started having several conversations with various people within the agency in an effort to nail down a country , and the bottom line we were given was this:  We needed to change the characteristics of the children we were willing to adopt.  The majority of the children who are in need of homes in Latin American countries are in the WIC program.  WIC stands for Waiting International Children.  In order for a child to be on the WIC list, they must have moderate-significant medical/developmental needs, be 8+ years old, or be part of a sibling group of 3 or more children who need to be placed together.  The characteristics of any of the kids on the WIC list are very different from the characteristics of the kids we had set out to adopt.  So, we prayed...a lot.  And God answered.

God started giving us a heart for waiting sibling groups almost right away.  We had been praying about adopting 2 siblings all along.  We began praying about the idea of being willing to open our hearts and our home to 3.  And God began to give us a heart for kids who are older.  Children with pasts.  Children who remember what life was like before the orphanage.  Children who have been hurt by the people who were supposed to take care of them and love them.  

So, I started looking at our agency's WIC list.  There are so many children all over the world who are considered "less adoptable" than relatively healthy, young children.  It's heartbreaking and overwhelming to scroll through some of these lists.  There are just so many kids waiting...  Because the agency that we were working with had 4 different Latin American country programs, they had a pretty long list of WIC to consider.  As I scrolled through the list, I read about little toddlers with HIV, older kids who are healthy (some of them born while I was still in high school!), and a few sibling groups of 3.  And as I read each little profile, my heart hurt for the kids in the blurred-out photos, but I just couldn't picture us bringing any of them home.  I wasn't even sure yet if this was what the Lord was calling us to do.  I just knew He was asking us to be open to it.

And then I saw them.  A sibling group of 3.  Two boys and a girl with black hair and blurred-out faces.  Their ages were listed as 9, 7 and almost 3.  Their first initials were the only identifying information available.  There was a short paragraph telling a few details about each child, and as I read through the profile, I had this nagging sense that this moment was somehow significant--that something was about to start happening.  And as I read and re-read their profile, I started to picture the faces of these children--in particular, the face of the girl.  In my head, she looked a whole lot like someone I'd seen before--someone I'd spoken to in a real crazy dream last summer.  Someone who even had the same first initial as the girl in my dream.  But it was more than that, even.  The girl in my dream had 2 brothers, one older, one younger.  When I wrote about the dream, I attempted to guess the ages of the kids that I saw, and they were very similar.  They were the ages that these kids will be next year.   (And I'm so glad I wrote a blog post about this dream because I had to go back to it to remember some of the details...  Read about it here.)

When I first had that dream, I knew it wasn't an ordinary dream, but I don't think that I ever, for one second, considered the possibility that the kids I saw were real and alive and waiting somewhere.  At the time, we were planning to adopt a baby or 2 very young kids. The idea of 3 kids who were older had never crossed my mind as even a remote option.  And I'm pretty sure it made Michael's list of "Things I Never Want to Have to Consider."

But consider it, we did.  With all of the crazy, specific details that lined up with this group of 3 (most of which I can't share because of confidentiality), I started asking Michael, "What if?"  What if they were real?  What if they are the same kids?  What if we pursue this?  Or what if we ignore it?  And it all boiled down to this:  We believe that God's ways are higher than ours, and that He leads in ways that don't always make sense to the world...or to us, for that matter.  And we believe that God speaks to people today in many different ways.  He spoke to us about adoption.  And so it was entirely possible that He spoke to me in a dream about these kids.

We started praying for clear direction.  I tried very hard not to become attached to these children in the meantime.  Whenever I prayed for them and about them, I literally held my hands open in front of me as a reminder to myself not to hold onto them too tightly.  But every time I prayed about what to do, I felt the Lord leading in this direction.  I think I was terrified that I'd fall in love with them while God was doing something completely different, and I think Michael was worried that God might be asking us to actually do this.  

 So, we decided to start asking questions.  Since the whole waiting children thing was rather new to us, we inquired about the process.  The agency we were working with has a strict policy against adopting out of birth order and a policy against what they call "artificial twinning," which in this case, means adopting a child who is within 12 months in age of one of the children already in the family.  Because we have a 4 and 7 year old, we really weren't expecting them to agree to even allowing us to consider this type of adoption.  But, they did...

We talked to our social worker and the director of our home study agency.  They were both a little surprised that we were considering older children, but they agreed to approve it and amend our home study.  Then, the agency decided to have a meeting to determine whether or not they would make an exception to their policies and allow us to pursue the adoption of these 3 kids.  So many unexpected doors had opened already...

I waited eagerly for this meeting to happen.  The agency wouldn't give us any details on the kids beyond what was in the vague online profile until this meeting took place.  We really just wanted to know their names--especially the girl's!  As we waited for news, I just kept praying and praying that God would make it really clear if these kids were not ours.  My heart was so heavy and full of expectation.  I would stop several times a day and ask God for peace, and I would ask Him to move--to cause someone from the agency to give us answers so that we would know what our next step is.  But the day we were supposed to hear back about the outcome of this important meeting, I got an email saying that the meeting didn't happen because the lady working on our case was sick.  

So, more waiting.  I think the week that followed felt like it lasted a lifetime.  I had already had so many battles in my head and heart about these kids.  I just wanted an answer so that I could either let myself love them or let them go.  I was literally checking my email every 15 minutes.  One afternoon, I felt particularly beat up by all the waiting and wondering, and I stopped to beg God for a phone call or an email.  And in that moment, I felt like the Lord told me to stop.  And I felt like He said to me, "  You're asking all the wrong questions.  Why are you begging me to move and cause people to give you answers that I already have.  I've already decided this."  So, after processing that for a minute, I asked God to reveal His plans for us and for these kids to me.  And in that moment, I felt like His response was this:  "Yes, this is exactly what I'm doing."

I felt joy and relief and excitement!  God had spoken!  He really was doing this, and I wasn't crazy for thinking so!  A few days later, the phone call from the agency finally came!  And they said no.

They said no.  They gave very little explanation.  They gave us no details on the kids.  They just said that it would be "hard" for our daughter because she is almost the same age as the girl in the sibling group.  They said they won't allow us to artificially-twin, and that adopting out-of-birth-order is "difficult."  They implied that it was wrong and awful, and that what we were asking to do would permanently ruin the lives of our biological children.  They implied that we did not have our children's best interests at heart.  They never once mentioned the well-being of the 3 waiting children as being a factor.  They told us that we should adopt from China or Russia.  When we told them (for the 3rd time) that we had a heart for Latin America, they told us we had to be willing to adopt a child with HIV or down syndrome.  They said if we wouldn't take a special needs child, then we couldn't adopt from Latin America at all.  We said, "But there are kids with minor needs--needs we feel capable of attending to--who are waiting just because they're older."  They said, "Yeah, but you can't adopt any of them."

I was literally heart-broken.  I cried for days.  Not just because of the 3 children that God had laid on my heart, but for all the kids who are older and waiting.  At one point, Michael worriedly asked me, "Are you ok?"  And all I could squeak out in between tears was, "I'm just so incredibly sad."  There are something like 163 million orphans on this planet.  Most of them are older.  And yet agencies have policies that prevent them from being adopted to families who want them and will love them and help them heal.  I just can't wrap my head around it.  And to top it off, their policies aren't even based on imperical research or evidence.  They're based on people's opinions and selected "bad experiences."  (Eventually, I will mount my soapbox and blog about the extensive research that my mom and I have done on the subjects of artificial twinning and birth order, and I'll explain why I'm now against such policies.)  My biological kids have me to advocate for their well-being.  So, who is advocating for the orphans, if not the agency?  There's something so very wrong about all of it, and I have to think that because God's heart is for the orphan, that this whole thing breaks His heart, too.  

It was blatantly obvious that we were at an impasse with the agency, and so we started talking to our social worker and exploring our options.  At first, I searched for those kids.  I found every agency in the US that works with Costa Rica, and I applied for their waiting children passwords so that I could scour their lists for these kids that God had laid on my heart.  I found a real, non-blurry photo of them, which broke my heart all over again.  But the only agency that had a photolisting for them was the agency that refused to let us consider adopting them.  And so, I let them go.  I told God that I trusted Him, and that if all of this was just so I would find out more about twinning and birth order so that we would be prepared for another group of kids, then I was ok with that.  And surprisingly, I really was ok with it.  

 We found a couple of agencies with promising Latin American programs that work with waiting siblings and do not have policies against twinning and birth order.  We narrowed it down to 2 countries: Peru or Costa Rica.  The one agency we were talking to has a ridiculously long list of waiting kids in Peru, and they have some sibling groups of 3 with younger kids in them.  And we also found a Christian agency with 5 Latin American country programs--2 of those being Peru and Costa Rica.  And for a week or so, I was really leaning towards Peru.  I had given those 3 precious Ticos (nickname for Costaricans) back to the Lord, and I was ready to move forward wherever.  But this was a big decision because we truly believe that God has specific children waiting for us, so this isn't something we felt we could decide with a coin toss.  So we prayed some more.  Talked it over a couple of times.  And one day, I told Michael that I felt 50/50 about it, and that if he was feeling led in one direction, then that's the direction I think we're supposed to go in.  He said, "Costa Rica," without hesitation.  So, Costa Rica it is.  This meant that we would be going with the Christian agency that we had found.

I had already been in contact with one of the ladies who is in charge of some of the Latin American programs at the agency, and she's amazing!  She genuinely wanted to hear our story and all about how God had been leading us to adopt waiting children.  When we chose Costa Rica, she put us in contact with another lady at the agency who runs both the CR and Peru programs.  And she has already been more incredible and helpful than we could have hoped for!  She has a heart for waiting children, like us, and she understands our calling, which for us, is critical.  And I still haven't even come to the best part yet!!!

So, she and I emailed back and forth for probably about a week about the CR program details. And I explained that we are looking to adopt a sibling group of 3.  I gave her the age range we were thinking, 2-10.  She explained that Costa Rica is really supportive of families adopting siblings because there are so many of them who need homes.  Then she offered to send me the agency's most current list of waiting siblings.  I was eager to find out what our options might look like, and hoping that we would find a group that was a perfect fit.  So, as I opened the pdf file last Thursday night, I immediately dove right in and started reading the profiles.  The first group of kiddos was a little older than we were hoping for, but I was trying to be open.  God could easily course-correct us again!  And then I got to the second group.  I started reading their profile, and after 2 sentences, my hands started shaking so violently that I could barely hold my iPhone still enough to read the tiny text.  It was them!  My heart almost exploded.  For real.  The first initials were the same, the ages were the same, and the descriptions were identical except this profile had more details!  And I felt like the Lord said, "I told you what I was doing..."  Michael was trying to go to sleep (because it was past midnight), but I made him stay up long enough to listen to me breathlessly and shakily read the descriptions to him.

We found them when we stopped searching!  And at that point, we hadn't even committed to sign on with that agency!  God had gone before us and paved the way and basically put up giant road signs saying, "Turn here!"  I let them go.  I was ready to go to Peru.  But all along, God was doing what He had said He was doing.  I emailed our contact at the agency and told her the story of the 3 kids and how God had laid them on our hearts, but how our old agency had said no.  I actually think her excitement almost matched mine, and that's saying something!  She sent me a photo to confirm their identities, and sure enough--it's them!  Now, we can't stake our "claim" on them until CR approves our dossier, which we have to put together and send--which could take a couple of months.  So, there is a chance that someone else could try to adopt them between now and then, but I am trusting the Lord in this.  He has already gone before us to get us to this point, and I truly believe that this is what He is doing.  I am trusting that He who began a good work in us (and in those little Ticos) will be faithful to complete it.

So, please, please, please pray for us!  We officially applied to the new agency today.  Our paperwork is being processed.  Our home study is 99% done.  We're so close to being ready for the dossier step!  Pray that things move quickly and smoothly and without errors or major roadblocks.  And pray for our funds!  If this all goes the way we think it might, we will be traveling to Costa Rica much sooner than expected, which means we have about $30,000 to raise/come up with!!  Yikes!  Pray for our kiddos here at home, as we work to prepare their hearts to accept 3 new siblings who have had a completely different life experience.  And pray for the Ticos, that God will begin to heal their hearts even now in preparation for a new start and a new family.  Jesus is the Redeemer--He can make anything new.  Pray that He'll do just that!  And pray for Michael and I, too, as we navigate this process while trying to prepare our own hearts for what's to come.  Pray, too, that if for some reason, these kids get adopted before we can get our papers to Costa Rica, that God will sustain us and gently redirect our path.  But I believe that God has already staked a claim on these kids on our behalf!  He is always good!

Here we were, thinking our exciting news for this blog post would be that we found an agency and picked a country!  God has done so much more than we could have imagined!  We wait in expectation for what He will do next!