Monday, May 28, 2012

Connecting the Dots and Coloring Outside the Lines

This life we live is interesting; this God we serve, amazing.  So often our days are filled with what we deem as random moments.  Even with a keen awareness that God is at work, rarely are we given the 'big picture' from the beginning.  Instead, it's dispensed bit by bit from the hands of a God who exists outside of space and time... a God who is not constrained by human parameters... a God whose names are El Shaddai  (God Almighty), Jehovah-Jireh   (the Lord will Provide), and El Roi  (the God who sees).  Last Wednesday, we stepped from the train and into a time of some of the richest blessings imaginable.  We had front row seats as this mighty, all-seeing God provided.

A very dear friend emailed me the following as we were in the midst of our two days of the court hearing.
"Some day, when we're in the presence of Jesus, it's gonna be fascinating to see how God orchestrated everything ... maneuvering circumstances, softening hearts, placing new desires, supplying finances, giving new passions ... all to bring a very special boy to a very special family on the other side the world. Talk about an awesome God!"

The following is my account of these seemingly random bits being woven together by a great God.

The Thursday before court, a group of our friends gathered to pray for us.  It was an amazingly sweet time.  (Dave has since named them "Our Posse".)  Being covered with the prayers of "Our Posse" and many others, we began this journey with an overwhelming sense of peace.  We knew nothing would touch us that had not first passed through God's hands.  As the hearing began on Thursday morning, I looked at the judge and couldn't help but think "You (judge) have absolutely NO idea how many people are praying for you right now".

Until the day we arrived in the region, we were under the impression that the judge hearing our petition was a female.  I had spoken with another adoptive mom who had gone before that judge.  She was the one we were mentally prepared for.  This change, however, did not upset us.  We knew God was in control but did not realize how much of the following two days would hinge on him being on the bench for our hearing.

We were told by our facilitator that Judge Nikolai was tough and thorough, but that we would like him because "he is the best".  He is known for his attention to detail.  We previously were prepared to begin with a brief introduction of ourselves, our life, and our reason for wishing to adopt Little Dude, followed by questioning.  This judge, however, preferred as much information as possible to be packed into our narrative.  The ball was in our court and we had the burden of proving why we are suitable parents for this child.

Let me back up and lay some groundwork for those of you unfamiliar with our Little Dude's birth country.  While it is an amazing country that we've grown to love, there is very little understanding of Special Needs and Down syndrome.  Parents just don't take such babies  home from the hospital let alone choose to adopt them.  Special Olympics, Birth-to-Three, Easter Seals, mainstreaming, IEPs, etc. don't exist in their culture, so all of our answers had to be framed in a way to give understanding of all of the services and opportunites that exist in America.
Additionally, this country has a history of being closed to anything except what we Americans might consider a state religion.  However, we were not told to speak in broad 'religious' terms, but to tell the truth. 

We were given carte blanche to speak openly about our faith in this courtroom.  I think both Dave and I tested the waters a little with some more generally accepted 'religious' terminology before jumping in.  The judge asked Dave if we attended church, the name of our church, and the denomination.  He seemed to have very little understanding of anything except the state religion and Catholicism, but was not hostile toward Dave's responses.

All told, Dave spent between 60 and 90 minutes speaking and fielding questions Thursday morning.  Then it was my turn.  The remainder of the morning was filled with tales of our homelife, marriage, and services available to help us care for a Ds child.

We obviously had a translator during the entire process.  I cannot begin to tell you what a blessing she was.  During our lunch break, Dave and I discussed that we were pretty sure she is a Christian.  That was later confirmed in speaking with her more directly.  I can't be sure, but I think she was as amazed as we were at the opportunites to speak of God, His faithfulness, and His provision during our hearing.

After lunch, I returned to the podium.  I began by saying that we realize it's hard to understand why we'd choose a child with Ds, but that we have been incredibly blessed both as individuals and as a family.  It is out of those blessings and our faith that we feel called to care for the less fortunate... the orphan and the widow.
I explained how we've been afforded many opportunities to do this during short-term mission trips and yet each time return home feeling like we were the ones receiving the blessings.  He questioned us on specifics of those trips... when?... where?... what did you do?... who payed for it?... did you receive financial compensation?... etc.

After our narratives, we moved to the portion of the hearing where the judge would ask to hear from the Prosecuter, our agency representative, the orphanage director, and the Social Worker.  [The Prosecuter is not a "prosecuter" as we think of in criminal trials.  He can best be compared to the Guardian Ad Litum in domestic adoptions.  He is there to act in the best interest of a minor (aka. Little Dude).]  Each one affirmed their recommendation that we would, indeed, be good parents for our Little Dude.  They fielded questions about how they reached that decision.

Lastly, we began the review of the court documents.  Remember that dossier I've mentioned?  Well, it's bound into a file 2-3 inches thick and we were going to review each item.
The judge began with our petition to the Supreme Court of       [the region]     , moved through all of our supporting documents (medical exams, finances, home study, etc.) and ended with our Little Dude's medical records.  That's where we hit a God-appointed speed bump.  There was a discrepancy in his birthcertificate, hospital record, and refusal letter.  ["refusal letter" is their terminology for what we think of Termination of Parental Rights.  It sounds offensive, but don't let it be... it's just their word choice for the very difficult decision birthparents must make.]

The question at hand?... Were Little Dude's parents married at the time of his birth.  To me, it didn't seem like a huge issue.  I was sure it was either a clerical error or that his birthmom was choosing to not name the father so that he wouldn't have to sign the refusal papers.  Besides, in the beginning of May the Social Worker had visited Little Dude's birth family to make them aware that he was being adopted as well as make sure that neither they nor any of their family intended to parent this child.  They had both signed the paper consenting to our adoption.  To me, it seemed as simple as granting our petition and issuing a birth certificate naming us as parents so we could return to our happy little life in America.  To the judge, however, it was a big issue.

And this is where we witnessed God's hand in all of His majesty.

The judge would not rule... we would resume the hearing Friday morning... and in the meantime, the Social Worker was to contact Little Dude's birthparents and ask them to appear to reconcile the error.  The judge had spoken.


In the land of closed (and quite secretive) adoptions we just might meet our Little Dude's birthparents!

Dave and I left the courtroom with an overwhelming sense of peace.  We weren't sure what God was up to, but we knew it would be an experience like no other.

Friday morning dawned clear and bright.  We arrived at the courthouse to see Little Dude's birthparents and the Social Worker waiting outside.  Once inside the building, introductions were made.  We were asked to share a little about our family.  We took some photographs together and exchanged email addresses.  They explained that in their culture there was no way they were able to care for our Little Dude.  There are not the resources and programs available that we have in America.  We were able to tell them that we love their son, that we cannot wait to bring him home, and that his brothers are ecstatic about his adoption.  We were able to tell them that we don't place blame for their decision.  We said that each birthday, Mother's Day, and Father's Day we will remember and honor their sacrifice.  They said that our Little Dude was loved and wanted.  They had every intention of taking him home and parenting him.  It was not until the day of discharge that the doctors approached them and told of his diagnosis.  Until this point, the birthparents had absolutely no idea that this little guy was blessed with an extra chromosome.  (The prenatal testing that should  have occurred was 'overlooked' due to the birthmom being in the midst of moving and switching physicians.  We cannot say for sure what the outcome would have been had this testing been done, but we see God's hand in this 'error'.)  The doctors told the parents how difficult it would be to parent a child with Ds and the difficult decision was made.  They would sign the refusal paper and leave the maternity hospital with empty arms, our Little Dude would be taken to an orphanage, and little known to us, our journey to Bringing Home Our Little Dude would begin.  Surprisingly, through all of this, I was able to maintain my composure.  If that doesn't speak to God's power, nothing does!

We entered the courtroom and the hearing resumed.
In about 45 minutes, it was determined that his birthparents were indeed married at the time of Little Dude's birth and that there was never any intention to deceive.  Birthmom, just days after the delivery of her little boy, was not only racked with the typical post-partum hormonal craziness but also the broken dreams of what might have been for this little guy she carried for 9 months.  She did as she was told.  She signed the paperwork, never knowing that there was a discrepancy.  This error would likely have gone unnoticed for the rest of Little Dude's life had an American family not fallen in love with him.

We then offered our closing statements.  We were able to reitterate that we know our decision to adopt a child with Special Needs is not understood and that we realize Ds is "not cureable".   We said we are totally committed to him, love him unconditionally, and-- with God's help-- will do everything we can to help him achieve his maximum potential.  We reassured the birthparents that we do not place blame but are forever grateful for their sacrifice.  I can't be sure, but at one point I think I saw a glisten in this otherwise stoic judge's eye.

As per the country's adoption law, the judge retreated to his chamber to make his decision.  He returned 10 minutes later to issue the adoption decree.  Dave and I were named Little Dude's parents and may return in 35 days to bring him home.

In the hallway was when the tears finally came.  His birthmom and I clung to each other while silent tears streamed down her beautiful cheeks and I looked like a hot mess.  His birthfather said that they don't have the words to adequately relay their gratitude.  God was redeeming the time... He was giving beauty for ashes... a Hope and a Future for two families brought together by one very special little boy.

As we step back from these seemingly random occurrences that have taken place over the past weeks, months, and years, we see God's orchestration.  HE connected the dots.  HE colored outside the lines.  And what we are left with is a masterpiece more beautiful than we could have ever hoped or imagined.


  1. WOW---I had no idea! I love to hear these stories----of God's faithfulness, His provision, how He works out all these random details and brings them all together, how HIS plan is so much bigger than what our small vision can see. WOW! So many lives touched by Him, in really powerful ways!! I've tried to put words together here, but really I feel speechless.....thanks for taking us all along on his exciting much more to come! :) Blessings to you all~

  2. That is amazing...God is amazing...there really are no words to describe this situation....I am so happy for your and can not wait to meet your little dude.

  3. Wow what an incredible journey. We know God is great and ever so powerful but I am always in awe of His work. Thank you for sharing your miracle /blessing with all of us.

  4. Carla, what precious gems you have been given. This is the adventure of a lifetime - not just going to foreign lands and experiencing another culture... but to go so deep. To see the hearts of men. To walk on Holy Ground. To not only see God move in your life, but in the lives of others. And the M.I.L.L.I.O.N. ways that God is going to use this!!! I can't wait to get to heaven and SEE! I think of every family that comes after you, adopting in this courtroom, with this judge... the stories this family will tell their other children - and how that is going to shape generations.... Each and every person involved has seen the Holy Spirit move this day! I have chills running up and down my spine!

    And to think, when the dusts settles... you will have the most precious jewel in your arms, to love, until we see Jesus face to face.

    Tim and I have been praying for you guys muchisimo! I can't wait to talk in person with you!

    What a gift. ♥♥♥

  5. Masterpiece, indeed! Crying my eyes out!

  6. I just want to praise our Jesus!

  7. "I stand in Awe" is the song running through my head. How could this be anything but God?! WOW. I am awestruck at how BIG he is and yet so personal over these little details. WOW

  8. That is SOOO awesome, Carla, that you got to meet his parents!! Only God! Congratulations on being named his parents too!!!

    We met and are in contact with Elijah's birth parents. If you ever want to chat about it, just let me know. :-) Hope to meet your Lil Dude someday!

  9. Lovely, Carla - so proud to be related to you. You and Connie are amazing people.

  10. Carla and Dave, we are so blown away by how God works... I guess I never thought of the birth parents and what this adoption would mean to them. What healing must be occurring for them! Birth mom and dad are now added to my prayers next to you, Dave, and all the boys. Love you all!

  11. oh my! how awesome you were able to meet his birth parents, will you all stay in contact? What a blessing for you both. Congratulations, now to get these tears off of my face:)

  12. Dave and Carla,
    How awesome is our God!! What an amazing time you experienced through God and HIS plan for this child. The details of birth parents and love parents meeting too awesome God's plans are truly amazing. So happy for you all. Our prayers will continue for you ALL and our praises will continue for HIS honor. Andrea did not understand my tears. Much LOVE!!!

  13. This is such an amazing story! I'm so glad that you got to meet them.

  14. Oh my goodness - what an amazing gift, to have been able to meet his birth parents! Wow!!