I have been pondering this blog post for a while and hope I can accurately relay my thoughts on God, adoption and our family the last ten years. After four biological children, I was rather desperate to reach beyond our family and provide a home for a child that needed one. (I actually pushed to become a foster parent when Alei was born, but it took JD a few more years...and a few more kids.) Once we moved to the area that we live now and JD decided to retire, I really wanted to adopt from China. Our compromise was to become foster parents, mainly because it didn't seem like such a huge initial commitment to JD. I went through foster parent training in spring of 2002 and we did not get our first placement for a full year. James came to us in 2003 when he was 2.5 and Alyssa was almost four. James fit right in, things were relatively smooth and we both were excited about what the future held for us.
Shortly before Christmas, six months later, we got a phone call from our same social worker that they had a 10 week baby that needed a home. We were so excited when we picked up sweet baby, "M" from a local gas station. She was a drug addicted, tiny, frail baby that had the worst smoke smell you have ever smelled, because it was encased in the horrible cradle cap on her head. We adored her! I even had a friend that donated breast milk for her to help her little immune system. I really thought we had the perfect family that Christmas and neither JD or I could picture a larger family.
Right around Christmas, we got a call that baby "M's" sister was now in need of a home. She was placed with relatives but the military was moving them overseas and DSS would not let her go. They brought her to meet us and we both thought the best plan was to keep the girls together. Little "A's" age fell right between Moriah and Alyssa and we moved her in shortly after Christmas.
We treated these girls like our own from day one. After uncovering more and more about the hellish existence they, especially "A," had lived in, we desperately believed that they were ours forever. We had them almost one full year when a relative from a far away state decided that she would be the family hero and not let the girls be put up for adoption. Since she had never even met them and we had them for almost a year, we relentlessly tried to fight a system that did not allow us a fair chance. The family promised "A" over and over that they would bring the girls back to see us every year and yet never even allowed us a phone conversation. It was one of the absolute worst experiences of my life to buckle sleeping Baby "M" in her car seat and know that by the time she awoke, she would be hours away from the only family she had ever known.
We moved on, fostering, but never held the belief that the children were "ours" the same way that we had before losing our girls. Oh, I treated them like mine...I even flew my cousin in from CA to stay with my new twins because I wouldn't put them in respite care, but it was never the same in my mind.
Next we got two darling twin boys and their spunky three year old sister. Since they still live in the local area, I'm not showing her or their faces. We had them for about ten months when they went to their Grandmother. We continued to see them and I even babysat them four years later. I would say their case is a huge success since their parents are raising them now and I see how God used us to help bring that about.
After losing them, we turned our attention to an international adoption. JD had long since learned that genetics don't determine true love. Since we legally had five children, China wasn't going to let us adopt. I ended up finding Liberia on a website (I had never heard of it!) and we began our home study. After our home study, but before our referral, we had one more round in the foster care system, only because the kids were cleared for adoption and they needed a family immediately. We took in little "D" and baby "B" and were very excited at the idea of them joining our family. It all fell apart one month later, however, when their biological family found out that we were white and went back into court to have them placed in a black family. The social worker told us not to worry, that there weren't any other willing families, and yet the very next day, I was packing their stuff and handing them back because of the color of my skin.
After that, we went full steam ahead with our Liberian adoption. It wasn't too long until we got this referral picture of Tori. She was supposedly 11 months old, but really was about 18. She "completed" our family, in our plan, and we were excited to bring Tori home in August of 2007.
Our next adoption option was before we even left Liberia. When we met Tori's mom, we also met her older brother that was cleared for adoption, but not in the orphanage due to lack of space. It was only a few months after coming home that we felt called to begin a new adoption and return for Ben.
Several months into Ben's adoption, a plea went out for paper ready families for eight baby girls that needed families. At this point, we had figured out that we had a heart for the children of Africa AND it was way cheaper to adopt two on the same trip, rather than separate trips, so we added on a baby. Our baby's name was Evelyn and she was darling - half Chinese and half Liberia. We were heartbroken the day that we got the call that she had been removed from the orphanage by her grandmother in hopes that she would be able to help provide for her in her old age.
I told them that I didn't want another baby, that we would just come for Ben. They told me that there was no money back on the adoption fees and if we did not take another baby we would lose the money. So, Julia was our replacement baby whose referral came on Valentine's Day.
We interrupt our adoption story to say that the Lord sent us a precious blessing on Julia's 2nd birthday with the birth of Elijah David. He has been a perfect addition to our family as well.
Elijah was not very old when I clearly felt the call to Ethiopia. I really questioned it as we were three children past our "complete" family! This is why the blog is named Our Plans Multiplied because God has clearly called us to do more than we felt able. It took time, but last November we began our Ethiopian adoption. It was on Valentines Day again that we were sent sweet Isabella's referral packet. I just received this new picture of her today. (My girls were so impressed with her outfit) but she'd be cute as a button wearing card-board!
Since we had really felt called to adopt siblings, and Bella was obviously only one child, we asked if there was a second child in our range of special needs that needed a family. We were presented with Selah's referral packet one month later. We decided that our siblings just didn't happen to be biological siblings and we have worked since to bring our girls home.
The twist in my story, and our BIG news, is when we traveled to Ethiopia we found out that Bella has a sister who only entered the orphanage days before we traveled, when her mother passed away. She was listed incorrectly on the paperwork as the mother's sister, but in fact, she is the only sibling of Bella. We went and met her and came home and prayed about what to do. She literally has no family...no grandparents, aunts or uncles. Once again, the Lord has clearly shown us that she is to be our 12th child...our 6th from Africa. She is way, way older than the age I am comfortable adopting - she will be at least 12 by the time she comes home some time next year. We have updated our home study from three children under six to three children under fourteen.
I, of course, am not allowed to show her face until she passes court. This is all I can show of our new daughter, Beruktawit, who we are planning to call "Brooke."
I shake my head that our Liberian adoption ended up being three children when I pictured one and it has happened again with our Ethiopian adoption. Brooke's adoption will be two separate trips, most likely some time next year.
We are proof that if you are open to God's plans, He may take you beyond anything you ever pictured for yourself.