We’ve had an anniversary of sorts this week, as it was one year ago that I first laid eyes on this sweet fella’s picture in a Yahoo! advocacy group.
At the time, we were just weeks away from traveling to China to adopt Selah, and weren’t approved to bring home two children.
So why was I perusing files of orphaned boys born in 2006?
Mike and I learned early in Selah’s adoption process that 75% of children who wait in orphanages in China are older boys and boys with special needs. That smiling ray of sunshine above falls into both categories.
With 5 of our 8 children being male, we are familiar and comfortable with the process of raising boys. I’d even dare say we enjoy the rough and tumble that boys bring! So the conversations about returning to China to adopt an older boy were frequent and natural.
We felt led to search for a son born in 2006, as it was a hard year for us and we know the Lord didn’t bring us through it all for naught. After years of apparent learning disabilities, our son (then 8) was diagnosed with an Unknown Genetic Syndrome, Global Developmental Delay, and Mild Mental Retardation. There were four months of appointments with specialists: Geneticists, Pediatric Neurologists, Pediatric Endocrinologists, Psychologists, and on and on. The blood draws, X-rays, MRIs and consultations finally slowed by September. As the diagnoses came in along with all the uncertainties for the future, I fell into devastation. Every dream that I held for this boy’s future wasn’t going to come true. It took me a long time to get over that and to submit to God’s sovereignty over my son’s life. After all, God created our son, just as he is, perfectly. Fast forward eight years to today: our son is 16 and healthy, probably the funniest kid we’ve ever met, and doing better than predicted. We no longer worry about all the unknowns; instead we are preparing for his future the best we can. We’re not the first family on Earth to raise a special needs child. I wish someone would’ve told me that in September 2006, haha!
One week after I emailed to request Levi’s file (his advocacy name was Tomas), Love Without Boundaries published this post on him. Having just viewed his file, I enjoyed reading the update. Something about him stuck in my heart and head. I bookmarked the post in my Web browser, and prayed his family would find him soon.
Our trip to China followed soon afterwards. Finally, Selah was home! Even on the hardest days of her transition into our family, I still could not stop thinking we were going back to China for a son. The more we prayed for clarification, the stronger we felt led to search for our son.
Levi sat on China’s vast shared list for most of the past year, but was picked up by Madison Adoption Associates in October. It was then that some wonderful ladies began advocating for him heavily. Every time I saw his picture or mention of him, my heart lightened a bit. I *liked* every Facebook post I ever saw about him. I continued to pray his family would find him quickly.
It was the evening of October 19 that I had a fleeting thought go through my head. “Tomas is waking up to his 8th birthday in China today.” I wondered if his birthday would be recognized. Suddenly, it dawned on me. Why couldn’t I be his mama? Don’t mamas think about their children on their birthdays?
I kept this to myself and didn’t tell Mike. Even when Love Without Boundaries posted this update on Tomas on my birthday a few days later, I still didn’t mention it, but continued to pray. Although my prayers shifted from “may Tomas’ family find him,” to asking the Lord if we were to be his family.
Finally on the evening of November 15 while Mike slept, I typed a Word doc with Tomas’ picture and a brief bio and sent it to Mike’s printer in his home office. In the letter, I explained that Tomas was post-op for Spina Bifida, was shy but had a sweet demeanor, and that he may have cognitive difficulties – which is something we weren’t open to in our original Medical Conditions Checklist, because we know the road can be hard. I also asked Mike to pray for Tomas, as he’d been on my heart for 10 months and I just couldn’t shake him, yet if we weren’t his family, then God would send them quickly.
The next morning was Sunday. I went downstairs to Mike’s office where he was working on his sermon. He gestured towards the letter I’d sent to his printer and we went over Tomas’ info together. Then he teared up and asked, “WHY hasn’t anyone adopted him yet?”
We discussed the possibility of mild mental retardation.
“They think he might be slow,” I said.
“That’s nothing we aren’t already doing and if it’s true, then he needs us all the more,” said Mike.
Then Mike wiped his eyes, laughed and said, “I guess I’ll be putting his picture up next to Selah’s,” referring to the photo he taped to his wall above his desk when we were matched with her. (And yes, Levi’s picture is now taped right next to Selah’s.)
I went upstairs a little dazed, and when I stood in the kitchen for a moment, I got goosebumps and a shiver down my spine! I knew: this boy – who’d caught my eye and grabbed hold of my heart through a scanty file – was going to be our son!
Later that day, one of Tomas’ advocates posted this in a Facebook group asking,
“Where is his family?”
The immediate response in my head? “We’re sitting here in North Dakota.”
While the Lord was bringing all this to light, we were waiting on test results for me. Mike and I agreed that we needed to wait for those results before we committed to bringing Levi home. And we decided to fast and pray for 7 days, beginning the week of December 1st to further petition the Lord for His guidance.
The first day of the fast? Tomas’ file was put ON HOLD for review by another family.
We thought God had told us “No.” Slammed the door shut.
I was happy for him! But I cried because I was so sad for us. I watched his videos and was so confused – I really thought we were going to be his family.
The second day of the fast? I got a clean bill of health. One day after Tomas’ file was put on hold.
At the end of our week-long fast (we took turns, by the way) I got a message in the evening that Tomas’ file had been returned! The family had decided they weren’t his family! I was elated and emailed the agency that very night. It hurt so bad to think he might not be our son, this was all the confirmation we needed!
Madison Adoption Associates didn’t have to, but they were gracious enough to cheerfully transfer Tomas’ file to our agency so we can reuse our paperwork already in China. This is proving to be less stressful for me and if all our dominoes fall into place, we could be in China before Levi’s 9th birthday on October 20!
We celebrated this “anniversary” week by wrapping up our home study visits with our social worker, filing an extension for our immigrations approval, and fingerprinting for child abuse clearance on the State level.
We also spent some time reflecting on the year 2006 and how God can bring beauty from ashes. While we were grappling with the news about our son’s condition, a mother on the other side of the world gave birth to a boy with Spina Bifida. She made the gut-wrenching decision to leave her newborn son where he would be found and receive the medical care he so desperately needed.
While I grieved the loss of all I’d dreamed for my son, she grieved the loss of her son.
Though she won’t know it, our worlds will collide the day I meet Levi.
2006. God redeemed it, long ago.