Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our Call to Adopt: Part 2

As I mentioned earlier, a few key moments stick out for me as I think back to the time when we were trying to decide whether adoption was a realistic path for us. One of those moments came I when I saw a picture of a little Ethiopian girl that was sent to me.

About five years old, she had lived most of her little life in an orphanage. No one was certain of her actual age or birthday. Taken from the waist high, the photograph did not show you her severely twisted club foot. The backdrop was of a “hotel” room in Addis, Ethiopia. Although, not luxurious by our standards, it was probably the nicest room she had been able to stay in. She was there being photographed by her new adoptive mother and father. They had just met her hours before.

The contentment on her face was so rich that it oozed out of the photograph. She wasn’t beaming from ear to ear…she was simply happily peaceful, as if to say “finally”. Her new pink hoodie, pulled up on her head and obviously worn proudly, seemed to envelop her with warmth the way her face said she was enveloped in love.

God had been preparing my heart the weeks prior to seeing this photograph. I had been through the last month of helping my sister with her son’s leukemia. I also had been searching my heart about whether or not I could truly consider adopting a child as my own.

Her photograph, put a face to the ideas that were swirling around in my heart. For me, there was no denying it. I saw her, I wept and I knew. I just knew that God was opening a map for me as if to say “here’s the path I have laid out for you”. It didn’t offer any other answers as to how, when, who…but, it brought a peace that I cannot explain.

This little girl will be coming to visit soon. When she does, we will get to meet her and love on her for the first time. She is the fifteenth grandchild to come into the Parker family. She is the daughter of Brian’s twin brother, Mike and his wife, Sasha. They live in the Chicago area, so we do not get to see them often, but the impact of the choice they made through adoption has profoundly affected Brian and I. It is amazing how normal and achievable adoption is after watching people that you know go through it.

Not that their path has been easy. Mike and Sasha have previously adopted domestically and also have natural children of their own. Taking on Ela and her club foot have added times of strain, but mostly a bounty of blessings for their family. It is amazing to see how the other kids have bonded with her and how, now, you could never imagine her not being there.

Not only did their choice give us courage to move forward in our journey for adoption, but it showed me a taste of a life I was longing for - a life completely dependent on God’s provision and guidance. Praise God for such an example to follow!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How it all began...

So, I guess, I must start at the beginning to catch everyone up on how this adoption came about. It all began about six months ago. Brian and I had been having the on and off again discussion about whether or not we were "done" having more children. Our youngest, Landry was about 18 months old then. It never really felt like we were finished with our family, but, life was good. Having three kids was very fulfilling and I was feeling great!

During this phase of my life, I had managed to figure out how to feel more like myself than I had since the birth of my first child - 8 years ago. I was picking up speed on my runs, setting goals, taking on volunteer positions, finding time for friends, fun and even a demanding hairstyle!

Yessiree, things were clicking along. Life was good, and that was nice, because the last few years, we had really been through the ringer with family illness and deaths, including the loss of Brian's dad. After all of these tough struggles we had undergone, Brian and I had come out stronger and closer than ever, and it felt like God was letting us taste a sweet place for a bit. Our years in trial had taught us to relish the good times and to realize that they are truly a blessing. We both were keenly aware of our own mortality and began to live as though we were not promised tomorrows.

So the discussions continued - are we done having kids? We had thrown the idea of adoption on the table throughout our married years, but I always had the same thought deep down in my heart, "yea, right, I'm not cut out for that!" For some reason, I had a vision of people that adopted. In my mind, they were similar to missionaries - willing to sacrifice it all and often doing that, living life inconveniently and completely on their faith. I never thought of us as fitting that category. We are just regular suburbanites, raising our shiny kids, driving to soccer and girl scouts and doing the regular American life. But during this season of discussion, the idea was becoming less and less "out there".

In December, life took another dramatic turn. One night, I received a phone call from my sister. She was at the ER with her two year old son. They had been sent to the hospital because of some blood work that was taken due to a rash that was found on the back of his legs. I knew she was there and I knew we were waiting on some results. Around 12:30 am, she called and all she really said was "it's leukemia...." Even as I type this, tears form in my eyes remembering hearing those words against the quiet and dark backdrop of my bedroom. There I was with my safe little family all sleeping peacefully while her only child was facing the beginning of a fight to survive. How could this be?

Praise God, that as the details of his diagnosis were revealed, we learned that he had the "better" type of leukemia to have. It has a 85-90% success rate. He is still in treatment today and will continue to be for 2.5 more years. He is doing well & hitting his numbers, but he is the the vision of a cancer kid, bald and all. It is definitely not easy, but it could be a lot worse. Jana and Andy have handled his situation with such strength, courage and faith - its truly inspiring.

When I think back to making our decision to adopt, a few very specific moments stick in my mind. One of them was from being at the children's hospital with my sister. I was taking some laundry to be cleaned and was passing room after room of sick children. I paused in the hallway, and prayed "God, if you will help me, I want to help a sick child...." I didn't even know what I was saying, the thought just came to me. After seeing my sister and brother-in-law handle little Watson's situation with such courage, I just felt a calling to stand up and do the same. I felt I had truly stepped into a life of complete faith ever since Watson's diagnosis and I was ready to live that faith as called.

I am grateful for Watson's life and the healing that is occurring in his little body everyday. I am very grateful that his suffering has inspired me and many others to step out on faith and live a life beyond comfort. I am grateful for the example shown by his parents, Jana and Andy, as they trust in God more than ever. They all three have played a major role in my ability to live on faith. I love them all.

There were other influences that I will share next...

Can't wait for the next two feet....

I have been meaning to set up this blog ever since we decided to adopt. For some reason, I have had a mental block about doing it...but when sitting on the beach with my kids this past week something interesting hit me. I was playing in the sand writing the kids names and I realized that Ansley, Luke and Landry spell ALL and Valor, our new son, makes ALLV...when you add a heart shape to the V, you get "ALL LOVE"..and then, I had the long awaited title of my blog. Praise God for the inspiration...without Him, we wouldn't be adopting in the first place!

I promise, there is more to come...