A Joyful Journey…

Well at least it ended that way!   Here is how it began…

My husband, Jim and I were married in 1990 and 2 years later were blessed with our first little boy. He is now 16 years old and towers over both of us, but that’s beside the point…that is how our parenting days began. I didn’t exactly love being pregnant, but I did love nursing and nurturing an infant and attending to every detail of their health, education, and development. We both loved it so much that within the next 9 years we had 4 more children and had what I considered a full nest!

Jim had other ideas. Even in our dating days, Jim had expressed a desire to adopt and occasionally brought it up as our family grew. He was burdened and saddened by the plight and despair of so many orphans and felt that our family should do SOMETHING to make a difference in their lives. He was aware of the reality that there were more than 143 million children that had no one to call “mom” or “dad”, went to bed hungry, never learned to read, or were never told how much Jesus loved them….this haunted him!

I, on the other hand, was a bit concerned…ok… terrified by all of the unknowns that come with adopting a child. What if they weren’t given proper prenatal care, what if they have a disease – known or unknown lurking in their genes, what if they grew up and didn’t love us or want to be in our family, what if I couldn’t love them like I loved our 5 biological children, what if, what if, what if…?

Finally, we were 37 years old, Jim looked at me and said one more time, “Will you at least pray about the idea of us adopting a child before you give me your final ‘no’?”

I did. God answered. He always does.

God didn’t write it in the sky or on the wall. I finally let my defenses down. I was finally willing to listen instead of talk. I asked Him to reveal to me what He wanted for our family. For two weeks I prayed this way and waited.

God didn’t whisper His response. His love for these orphans flooded my heart with such force that I thought it would burst. My heart ached for these children. Isaiah 1:17 penetrated my heart, “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.”

God had made the needs of the orphans real to me and I couldn’t ignore their need any longer. I knew we couldn’t rescue all of them, and God wasn’t asking us to. But He was asking us to stretch, to reach out and help just one, or two, or…

We began a flurry of phone calls and emails only to have the door unexpectedly shut as adoption agencies explained to us that many countries wouldn’t allow us to adopt a child from their country because of the size of our family. The fact that we already had 5 children sadly made us ineligible for China, Korea, and many other countries. 

We were discouraged and confused, yet pressed on trusting that He was leading us somewhere. Within a month, God put another mom in my path who questioned, “Have you ever considered that God might be calling you to a child in Guatemala?” Guatemala? No we hadn’t. I didn’t even know where Guatemala was, if they had orphans in need, or if they adopted to families that already had several children.

We went to our adoption agencies website and saw in bold red letters that there was an immediate need for adoptive families for orphans in Guatemala. The need was great and the need was now. God even put it in big bold letters for us…He knows we need that sometimes. Guatemala has no eligibility limit on the number of children living in a home. We were headed in the right direction!

We quickly processed our initial paperwork and in August, 2006 were sent a photo of the little girl that was to be our daughter. Her precious 9 month old face peered at us though our computer screen. We knew God had started us on a journey that was going to bring more blessing and joy to us then we could ever imagine. We named her Amelia Graham, in honor of my grandmother. We blew up her picture and plastered it all over our kitchen, and waited.

In October, we received devastating news. Amelia’s case had run into what our agency termed an “insurmountable obstacle”. Amelia’s adoption couldn’t be completed. We would have to “let her go” and go on to receive another referral, another child.

There was no way our hearts could let go of this little girl. God had put her in our path for a reason. She was the reason we started this journey. We already loved her. She was ours. We couldn’t let her go. There had to be a way. God gave us the courage to press on. 

We requested that our agency begin the long and often complicated process of seeking “abandonment status” for Amelia. This would allow her adoption proceedings to be continued. They reluctantly agreed and our journey began moving forward again, although we sensed the road was going to be bumpy.

In the midst of this adjustment, God surprised us! Although we believed God was protecting Amelia for our family, He prompted us to take another adoption referral now. He knew He had our ear and He had plans for another little girl to join our family. We thought we had misunderstood. I had thought my nest (and calendar) were full with 5 children, we were working on and waiting for Amelia, and now He was leading us to begin another adoption…didn’t that add up to SEVEN people calling us “mom” and “dad”?

Though we were both caught off guard, Jim and I called our agency in November, 2006 and asked that they continue working on Amelia and also begin an additional adoption of another little girl.

Within 2 weeks our case worker called to say an infant girl had just been brought in and needed immediate placement. They said they would send us her photo and her health history so we could make a decision. We told them that was not necessary. If this was who God had chosen to place in our family as the next Rachor, then her photo and history would be nice artifacts for her baby book, but not necessary for our decision to say “yes!”.

Our hearts quickly grew to love this tiny girl yet we had no idea what to name her. Just 3 months earlier we had named Amelia and didn’t realize we would need to come up with a name for a 5th daughter!

Yet, with the referral of this new little baby girl, came a calm sense of peace that God was in complete control of this process that to us seemed unpredictable, heart-breaking, and chaotic. With the referral of this baby girl came a new hope, a hope in His vision and His protection of our family and of our daughter, Amelia, who felt so very far away. This little girl brought with her a new God-given hope for her sister that was trapped in a legal system that was cloudy and confusing. So we now knew…we named her Hope. It just fit. We were smiling again after 2 months of tears. God was reminding us that He was and always had been leading this journey even when we felt lost.

Hope’s case was as smooth as Amelia’s was bumpy and within 4 months we were in Guatemala meeting both of these precious gifts at once. Hope was 4 months old and Amelia was 19 months old. We savored a precious week with them then came back to the states to wait some more. Adoption can help you get better at many things in your own life. Learning to wait patiently is one of them!

In August, 2007 we flew to Guatemala to bring our sweet Hope home. Our life hasn’t been the same since! She has brought more joy, more energy, and more love for life than we had ever imagined possible. Our 5 children at home each embraced and feel in love with Hope. Some did it quickly and whole heartedly, others did it slowly and carefully. Within months it seemed like she had always been here, had always been “one of us”.

As I type this in March, 2009 we are celebrating a court hearing that just moved Amelia’s case one step closer to completion. She is now more than 3 years old and we are thankful we have had the privilege to visit her every 5 months and get to know her as she too becomes familiar with us. In between visits we pray and pray and pray for her. We cherish her photos, the orphanage-sent updates, and count the days until our next visit. On every holiday, birthday, or vacation, one of our kids will say, “Maybe God will surprise us and bring Amelia home today!” It inspires me to witness their hope and faith in God’s control over Amelia’s life and her arrival home.

Hope is a thriving toddler who absolutely loves life and takes each new experience as an adventure. She has little fear and lots of trust. She enjoys mommy’s friends treating her to sprinkle donuts, playing ping pong with anybody she can pull to the table…the person with the most patience usually works best, floating in a pool, eating waffles while perched on her brothers lap, and calling Papa on any cell phone she palms.

Occasionally she’ll bring me a toy or an article of clothing and say, “Dis is Mia’s” (Amelia’s). Even she displays hope during the wait for the little girl who helped inspire her very own name.

As I put Hope down for her nap today, she grasped by cheeks with both of her hands, pulled my face toward hers, and said, “I wuv you, Mommy”. I love her too, and I love this journey God is leading us on.