When we started the adoption on May 9th, 2015 we hoped to adopt a healthy 0-3 year old girl. Our MCC (medical conditions checklist) had a few mild to minor-correctable needs. We felt that was all we were equipped to take on.
But then we met “Baby Joy” through Meredith Toering on Instagram.
Meredith is the director of Morning Star Foundation-a foster home in China which takes in babies with pretty severe heart defects. These babies received a lot of love, prayer, financial support from people all over the world. This support pays for their much needed medical care which include a life-saving heart surgeries.
If you would like to sponsor a child from Morning Star, please click here:
Meredith with some of the babies
This “Baby Joy” was a child who had a complex Congenital Heart Defect. Watching her blossom from a sad expressionless little baby to one who had a huge happy smile on her face, and those moon shaped eyes was just so amazing! And, well? We were in love! We sponsored her financially so she could receive her heart surgery. We sent a care package with goodies for the babies and everyone working at the foster home. We read and learned more about heart babies. The more we learned the less intimidating heart defects seemed. We re-evaluated our medical conditions checklist and checked all the little boxes next to all heart conditions. Now, we were saying yes to heart babies.
Throughout the year we saw many sweet babies with joyful smiles who had Down Syndrome. One stood out because she was so stinkin’ cute! Clementine on an Instagram page @nihaoyall was the first little girl with DS we were made aware of. She did some pretty cute things. She made us giggle. She made us smile and even cry happy tears. She had that joy and wonder about the world that was just so special, so different and it really imprinted itself on our hearts. I shared her videos with my friends and family. Because inside…God was already preparing my heart. And He was using Clementine.
But if I may be honest, cognitive disabilities have always made me uncomfortable. I didn’t know the appropriate way to act or respond. Aside from a distant cousin with whom I spent a summer or two with, I had never experienced life by anyone with any kind of intellectual disability. I had never been exposed to how that reality would look.
Yes, the cute faces and joyful personalities brought a smile to my face, and for some reason they drew me in. But, if I may be totally honest with you, I did not feel that I had what it takes to mother a child with this type of disability, it just made me incredibly uncomfortable. And I put Down Syndrome out of my mind.
My husband on the other hand, he always surprises me. He has such an amazing gift connecting with kids and amazing humans who often happen to have disabilities. I am always in awe, as I watch him interact with people. I have learned a lot from him. He always challenges me further and further into those areas in which I may feel uncomfortable. If you read my previous blogs you will see that adoption, was first my husband’s idea. I needed some time to process it all.
In September of 2015, I stumbled on a post on an adoption blog called “No Hands But Ours.”
This article was written by a pastor who lives in Virginia. Pastor Randall spoke about adopting a little girl with Down Syndrome. In this article, he answers the questions many have asked him and his wife as they walked through the adoption process:
“What will this do to your kids?” was their question.
Randall used an example of a conversation with his son. This conversation really touched my heart. Here is a small snippet:
Me: How has this affected you and the other kids?
Eli: It’s made all of us more responsible. We are more aware that kids have needs that are greater than hers, or maybe are even the same needs as hers but don’t have anyone to take care of them. It’s opened our eyes to bigger things. Our compassion has grown. I can connect to people with Down syndrome better than I would have otherwise. And I’m able to talk more with those in need.
Here is the article if you wanted to read it in full.
Something about the way he wrote this and the way his son answered the questions began the stirring in my heart.
So much that, I saved the article in my Evernote (an online journal) under the tab “Down Syndrome.”
Again, I quickly put this special need out of my mind because I felt ‘Down Syndrome’ was just too much.
Very soon our life became hectic because we had to switch agencies and move from Germany to Florida. But through all this transition and change, God never stopped working. He was simply doing some necessary weeding in my heart. Molding it. Little by little, He stayed steadfast in showing my husband and I that adoption isn’t about US. Adoption – it isn’t about staying within OUR comfort zones. Adoption isn’t about what WE can handle.
Actually, He will ALWAYS give us more than we ourselves can handle. And He will be the one who will provide the strength and wisdom for each day. He kept showing us just how much adoption is first and foremost His heart. If we were going to fully submit to His plans then we must first let go of what we FEEL our life ‘should’ look like.
At the same time, as these awakenings inside of my heart were taking place, Morning Star Foster home in China received yet another tiny, absolutely skinny, broken hearted baby girl. Little did I know, this little girl would also be used to help pave this new path into my heart.
Lilah Lu not only had a broken heart and desperately needed surgery. She also had Down Syndrome. We began to sponsor her so she could receive the life saving medical care she needed. This little girl stole the hearts of thousands of Morning Star’s online followers, as she fought fiercely for her life. The strength of her battle touched so many lives. Thousands prayed for this sweet baby girl. Sadly, her frail little body was just too weary, too weak for surgery. Jesus used her greatly and took her home.
She died without ever knowing the love of a family, a mommy, a daddy, brother or sister. I remember holding my phone, seeing the news of her death. It rocked my heart to its core. I thought of the pain Meredith and the nannies who walked this road with her and loved her so fiercely had to endure. Yet again, a molding of our hearts took place.
Her battle ended here on earth leaving so many raw hearts, including ours.
Never to be the same again…
God showed us a glimmer of the brokenness of this world and used it shape our hearts yet again.
Lilah Lu’s short life changed our whole family forever. When I look back now, I can see the fingerprints, as clearly as the potter working the clay. Adjusting it in a specific way through the series of many life altering paths. Our eyes were being opened. The scales slowly removed. The layers peeled off our hearts to reveal something which was hidden to us.
Lilah Lu – the girl God used to mold our hearts
I couldn’t run away from it any longer. It was like a magnetic force urging, pulling, pushing towards the same idea. I was drawn to explore the world of Down Syndrome adoption.
I began to seek out every article written by parents who were beyond blessed by kiddos with DS. Through my reading and searching I also learned some pretty disturbing truths. The two that stood out, among many, were facts that babies with DS in China were unadoptable for years and years because they were “unworthy.”
Did you hear that label?
God’s creation labeled by humans – UNWORTHY.
It wasn’t until about 2013 that a law changed because of one determined mama who began the Bamboo Project – an adoption program created especially for children with DS.
Another article spoke of a baby born with Down Syndrome to a young Chinese mother. A mother who was urged by the nurses in the hospital to leave without her child with these words, “this baby you have is bad, she is broken, she is a no good baby. You go home, we take care of this.”
I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.
My tears could not be stopped. How can this be? A human is still human, no matter their disability! I was angry. Sad. Enraged. Confused.
The molding of my heart continued.
On, May 13th 2016, I stumbled upon the same article by the same pastor I linked above in an online forum. Yet this time it didn’t just feel like a story of another family’s life, but much closer.
As if a calling to wade in deeper.
My curiosity peaked, and I was determined to learn their whole story. So, I searched for more of this family’s blogs. I found it! I read on their whole adoption process. Their desires, their fears, their perfectly ordained steps leading to their daughter, it almost felt as if I was reading some of what we were experiencing. I read and read, filling my heart with their words. As God whispered…
YES! ‘This is what I have had for you all along.’
We are now friends in the Facebook world and I had the awesome privilege to speak to Randall’s wife, Kelley, over the phone.
Hearing her speak on how much richer their lives were because of this amazing road they have walked was incredibly refreshing. It intrigued me, actually. How can a child with such a lifelong disability bring that much joy into a human life? That conversation was really all that I needed to hear. I felt this is what we were called to. And that was that.
This truly caused me to look at last three years and how insanely crazy they had been. I looked at all the difficulties and joys which touched our family! But it was within those difficulties that I truly changed. I transformed from someone who enjoyed the life of ‘comfortable Christianity’ to someone who wanted to say YES to God no matter what He asked of me. Someone who is ready to chase the wildest of adventures with Him! Only God can do that!
Only God can shape a heart in this way.
So, on May 15th we took the huge leap of faith. With every ounce of confidence, pushing fears aside, we added Down Syndrome to our Medical Condition Checklist. I remember telling Kevin, “If God doesn’t have this for us, He won’t send a child our way with DS.”
Our hearts had amazing peace. The peace which cannot be described…not unless you have lived it do you know what I am speaking of…it’s the very center of a beautiful plan. This astounding knowledge deep in your heart that you have done what you have been called to all along.
A day later…
Did you hear that??
Only ONE day after we added DS to our MCC, on May 16th at 11pm, I received a private message request from a China director, of a different adoption agency on Facebook, here is what it said
Wow! Wow! Wow!
Do you see a plan opening up right before your eyes? A confirmation? We did.
Of course, I called her the next day. When we spoke on the phone, she told me that 80% of their agency kid’s files have Down’s, 0% of their families want to adopt them.
We knew we couldn’t switch agencies again because the added cost would be too great. But we filled out the application to see their waiting kids anyways. We had looked at babies for a year now and figured ‘this wouldn’t hurt.’
This is where our world would be changed forever!
My hubby was at work and logged into the waiting children’s website first. He saw the faces of the babies waiting for someone to say ‘yes’ to them!
My hubby and I were chatting on Google messenger as I was trying to log in, when he sent me a photo from the website…
The most beautiful China girl I have ever laid eyes on!!
I don’t know what happened next, but everything faded out of existence, my heart paused for a split second, a deep sob came out of my chest and tears fought their way to the surface.
Here looking back at me from the computer screen was the face of a stunningly beautiful little girl – as if reaching to the deepest parts of my heart.
Her eyes, piercing. Calling. As if saying “mama.”
My husband, my best friend, the man with whom I feel so connected with, our minds so often thinking the same thoughts, was feeling the same emotions towards the same child.
A feeling he later described as a “lightning bolt.”
We just knew! This was our girl.
In that very moment nothing else mattered. Not the fears of her life long need. Not the fears of being totally uneducated, having no experience with Down Syndrome nor the fact that we had no time to learn. It was time. She was our daughter. This was the girl whose face we had waited to see for a year. I searched for her among the hundreds of faces over the last year. And here she was, staring back at us. A child so beautiful, so perfect in every way! I covered my face and cried right there! My heart just knew…
“Lizzy” the western name given to her for her advocacy name, protecting her true identity.
Because Lizzy was with another agency, we knew we would need a miracle in order for us to get our hands on her file. We knew agencies do not typically share files with other agencies. However, this child has been waiting SO long, her file was just three days from going back to the shared list.
A shared list is a huge sea of kids with more severe disabilities, kids unable to be matched to families and their medical condition checklists.
Kids often forgotten.
Kids left to tumble through the system.
Kids just wanting to know the love of a family.
So they go to this list and any agency can grab them. And because of this fact, her agency was desperate to match her with a family. Her family. No matter what agency they were with. And a miracle occurred.
The agencies began to talk. They began to work together, to transfer the file. We were beyond ecstatic!
That same night while chatting with another Facebook adoptive mom of a little girl with DS, I shared the photo of the baby, who already had our hearts. As she exclaimed “I know Lizzy!”
“What? Wow! Excuse me? How?”
My heart again blew up over this! She told me that a friend of hers named Vicky had just traveled to Lizzy’s orphanage and actually spent time with her. More so, she fell in love with her!
Seemed like everyone was over the moon in love with Lizzy. Many have described her as; smart, hilarious, outgoing, active little ham of a girl.
Within minutes I was connected with Vicky, and there was a flood of photos, videos and information on this hilarious, smart, amazing child! This sealed her even more on my heart. I was absolutely in love.
The next few days would be an intense ride on the emotional roller coaster! Tears. Fears. Joys. Laughter. Hopes. And fears again. I will boldly say that it was a roller coaster unlike any that my husband Kevin and I, have been on before.
Okay, maybe that time in late February of 2000, when we learned that we would be teen parents. That sure compares on the stress charts. But THIS time, with God’s wisdom and peace deeply rooted on our hearts, there was a sense of hope and calm behind all our crazy emotions. There was someone to lean on. Our Creator. The one who set all of this in motion before time even began.
We found out that Lizzy’s agency was willing to do everything in their power to transfer the file to our agency. From here we all began to work hard and fast. And we had many of you praying! And you prayed hard. Thank you so much!
We had 48 hours to decide on this child – with a corrected heart condition and Down Syndrome. Did you hear that? CHD and Down’s. The two medical needs which I spoke of in the beginning of this blog!
God! It’s all God!
I will tell you the emotions were high. We needed to get an international doctor to review her medical file for us and quick! Time was running out as we were going into a weekend.
Monday, China time, (so Sunday night for us) her file would be back to the shared list again.
Everything depended on timing. The agencies had to be able to speak with their China coordinators and all had to work together. For us. For her.
By now it was middle of the night in China, with everyone tucked in their beds, our very critical conversations just had to wait. All we could do was wait and pray and wait….
That’s hard. When there is nothing else to do on your end but simply, trust God.
It was an intense weekend of emotions running high. I boarded a plane to visit my birth mom who lives in New York to be with her and my sister who was visiting from Poland. This has been an emotional month for my siblings and I. We were reunited with one another and our mother, for the first time in over 30 years. This was a welcome visit as it would be a beautiful time with my newly reconnected family. This trip would also serve as a distraction from the intense emotions boiling inside of me.
Through a miraculous chain of events and the hard work of the two absolutely amazing adoption agencies, the prayers of many friends and total strangers for this child to-be….we were connected as her forever family!
Our agency received our daughter’s file on Monday, May 22, 2016.
I stood in my mom’s sky rise apartment, overlooking the waking city of New York, as I received the email,
The email blared from its subject line. And the news. The news that our China Joy is ours! The wait has finally come to an end. I stood there swallowing each word and cried. I read the words again. Just to be certain. Wiping my phone from my tears – I’m not even kidding people! There was a lot of crying! Those of you that know me…well, you’re not surprised at all.
Yes! It was true, she is ours!
This awe inspiring moment. Standing, embracing my sister and mom – the two women who held such a special place in my heart.
And this child which God has graciously hand picked and placed in our family is ours, forever.
Forever a Joy.
Forever loved without condition.
Forever a daughter, a sister, grand daughter, a niece a cousin.
No longer an orphan.
A child with a full life ahead of her.
A child with a promise and a good future.
And here. With my mom and my sister the beautiful news came. In God’s perfect timing. Never too late. Never too early. As I stood there in the room with the two women I love so much, something in the cosmos shifted. Something in my heart removed. Something beautiful bloomed.
This is healing.
This is God.
His promise of returning the years the locusts have devoured stood the test of unbelievable circumstances.
Our little one…she would be named Mila.
The name we chose a year ago while living in Germany. The name for our chosen daughter. And already she was bringing peace into all hearts who were touched by her.
This may be the end of this long blog entry. But this is only the beginning of our story. I cannot wait to see what God will do in our lives through this step of obedience in Him. But I can feel it will be a beautiful one. A story of beauty and growth. A story of joy and redemption.
But if you ever cross paths with us, maybe meet us at church or the grocery store, if you happen to read this blog or meet us through Instagram.
Then this…is your story also. God chose you to be a part of it in your own very special way. As God chose those precious humans I mentioned above to shape our story.
And so, I would like to take the time to say thank you for taking a part. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you, to you who have called to ask if there were any needs. And thank you if you have partnered with us in the area of finances to bring this child home! Thank you, if you have poured out wisdom and resources or sent encouraging words. We could not have done it without you. I can tell you that I am only beginning to see just how beautiful adoption is. Just how much it is God’s heart. He shows us with each step the truest beauty and pain of the Gospel. We cannot forget that! Beauty. And pain. Because adoption comes about from brokenness. It comes about from great loss and sorrow. This is where we ask that you would please continue to cover us in prayer.
As we move ahead with the rest of the paperwork and fly to China to bring our little Mila home. Please pray for Mila’s health in body, mind and spirit. Please pray for her heart. Pray for God to ease her grieving of yet another loss of the life she has come to know in China. Pray please for traveling mercies for us. Since she was with another agency and was in a different province, we will not be traveling with a large group from our agency. Our process will be a bit different and a bit more complicated. But our family has been trained and seasoned through the hurdles of life for complications! And again, I see His fingerprints and a purpose in how He set up our pasts. God knew we would need to know how to be flexible. ? So I say BRING IT ON! Let’s get our girl home!