Friday, June 13, 2014

More to the Story

I started writing this post somewhere over the North Atlantic after our first attempt with melatonin failed and the second attempt finally kicked in. Faith Ana actually did really well for the majority of our 9 hour flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta. We had some rough stretches, but in comparison with our trip home with S, even without an extra set of hands, this was a piece of cake! By far, the most challenging part of the day was sitting in line for almost two hours at Customs, waiting for all of our documents to be reviewed. By the time we finished all of the official paperwork, we had to go hunt down our luggage since it was no longer where it was supposed to be. This is when I really wish I had a picture. We were quite a sight! Despite the two suitcases I was rolling behind me, the heavy backpack on one shoulder, the purse slung across my other shoulder, and the stroller I was pushing which was loaded down with snacks, toys, surprises for the boys from Amsterdam, and my new American citizen, we were both still in good spirits. That is until we were detained at the final security checkpoint and then sent to a secondary screening. We had to unload everything, including my girl, and be searched again, all because of one single Bulgarian banana. Through the entire ordeal, Faith Ana was a trooper, chatting away in her Bulgarian/English jibberish. In hindsight, it really was rather comical. She kept telling the security officer good-bye, alternating between the Bulgarian version and the English version. I must admit that I was not nearly so patient and pleasant as Faith Ana. There was a little more that I wanted to say than simply bye-bye, and it took every ounce of self-control in me to remain calm and refrain from saying something that I would later regret.

My mom met us at the airport, and there are no words to describe how wonderful it was to see a familiar face and finally have an extra set of helping hands. I remember telling my mom on the way home, that childbirth {even without an epidural} was easier than the experience of bringing a child home across the ocean! We were so busy catching up that we actually got off on the wrong exit and got a little turned around here in our own small town, but amazingly Faith Ana continued to be happy and content the entire time! 

When we pulled into our driveway a few hours later, Will and half a dozen smiling faces were in the front yard waiting for us. {S was already in bed for the night.} Faith Ana instantly recognized "Da-Da" and her new brothers and sisters, and the four big boys had her laughing in no time with their crazy antics! It was a simple and sweet home-coming, and I can't even begin to tell you how very good it felt to finally be home! It's hard to even put into words the relief that swept over me that night when I finally snuggled into my own bed, next to the guy I love, and knew that all eight of my little people were safe and sound and all under the same roof!

The next morning, S seemed so very happy to see me, and she was quite intrigued by her new sister. She quickly learned to say her name "Ana" and they seem to have already formed a special and unique bond. 

So far, the adjustment has been relatively smooth, and everyone is doing well. Meal time is definitely the most challenging time of the day since I'm having to feed Faith Ana one tiny bite at a time, but I'm thankful that, for the most part, she is eating! She is also falling asleep very easily, but occasionally waking up during the night. I know it will just take time for her body to adjust to a new schedule. Haddon still wakes up at least once during the night and usually again early in the morning. So, yes, I am very tired right now, and, like Faith Ana, I'm also trying to adjust to a new schedule and find our new normal. Just as I thought, my time for writing has shrunk drastically! It's taken me these last few days when I'm feeding my littlest guy his early morning bottle to put together these final thoughts about this big adventure...

Looking to the hole of the pit whence we were digged, we find abundant reason why we should spend and be spent for God.

~Charles Haddon Spurgeon

When I was at the Embassy last week in Sofia, I had an interesting conversation. Faith Ana and I were in line waiting for our interpreter, and this particular woman, a fellow American, was there in Bulgaria visiting family. She asked about Faith Ana, and I had the opportunity to tell her a little bit about our family. As I shared with her some of the story of why we chose to adopt, she said something that I haven't been able to stop thinking about.

She said, "I've never met anyone like you. I've heard about people adopting children like her from countries like this one, but never had the privilege to actually meet one of you." She's not the first person who has said something like this. Occasionally, Will and I get similar comments...

"Y'all are so patient. So compassionate. Y'all must really love children."

We do love children, but patient and compassionate? {The security officer at the Atlanta airport who confiscated my banana probably has a more accurate perception of my strengths and weaknesses, and anyone who knows me well knows that patience is definitely not my strong point.}

Over the past few years, the Lord has given us many opportunities to tell our story. Will is much better at it than me. He seizes opportunities to talk about adoption and always weaves his faith into the conversation in such a bold way. I'm learning from him, but often I struggle to know how to respond.

Because, yes, it is a story worth telling, but there's always more to the story...

I've never met people like you...

I can't help but giggle now when I think about this. People like us...

People with a painful past. People who experienced broken marriages. People who went through counseling and even had one well-meaning pastor say that God could never bless their marriage...

Yeah, did you know we were those kind of people? 

I'm smiling now as I write these words. Yes, smiling. Sounds crazy, right. Not because it's something I like to remember and, definitely, not something I like to share, but because it's a story of brokenness that the Lord has turned into an incredible story of such blessing! A story of scandalous grace! 

The story continues...

Three baby boys later, all in our first three years of marriage. Our hands were so very full. I'd like to tell you my heart was just as full, but it wouldn't be the true story. 

So, you've never met someone like me?

Someone who lived a lie. Someone who quietly struggled with post-partum depression. Someone who learned to cope with the craziness of being a momma to three tiny boys by running. And running. And running. And running straight into a deep, dark hole that left her in a very unhealthy place. Someone who pretended like everything was fine, when the reality was a totally different story.

And, yes, I'm still smiling. And, no, I don't particularly like sharing these chapters either, but how can I fully tell you about His faithfulness without fully telling you all He has done. I'm able to smile because I have a faithful Father who takes the messy parts of our stories, and, once again I tell you, He turns it into something beautiful. 

I am that person.

We are those people.

That scandalous and messy story is ours.  

It wasn't until I lived this particular part of my story that I truly began to understand His faithfulness. And it is because of what He has done for me, for us, that we are able to celebrate every single day His mercy and grace! Undeserved, unmerited, and unbelievably amazing, He has lavishly poured out His blessings on this family of ours! 

Bringing S and Faith Ana into our family was simply an outpouring of that scandalous grace. 

The Lord has used the lives of these two precious girls to strengthen our marriage and our family more than I ever could have imagined. And, yes, our family has grown in number through adoption, but even more, our faith has grown. People always say how blessed S and Faith Ana are to be adopted into our family, but really, we are the ones who have been blessed. 

By telling our story and sharing about His faithfulness along the way, my desire has always been to encourage othes to open up their own homes to little ones, like my girls. I hope that through my transparency, you also see that it doesn't take a special kind of person to adopt a special kind of child like Sophi and Faith Ana. It simply takes a willing heart and a little bit of faith

You may never adopt. You might never even consider it. And that's ok. You have already played a role in S and Faith Ana's adoptions by supporting our family through your prayers, your encouragement, and your financial resources. We are so very, very grateful for your part in this story. I've shared this before, but I want to tell you again how humbled I am that you would follow along this journey with us. And, yes, I am very passionate about adoption, but there is something that matters even more. More than anything else, I want you to know the One who has transformed our lives.  

God deals with impossibilities. It is never too late for Him to do so, as long as that which is impossible is brought to Him in complete faith by the person whose life and circumstances would be impacted if God is to be glorified. If we have experienced rebellion, unbelief, sin, and ruin in our life, it is never too late for God to deal triumphantly with these tragic things, if they are brought to Him in complete surrender and trust.

It has often been said, and truthfully so, that Christianity is the only religion that can deal with a person's past. God "will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten" (Joel 2:25), and He is trustworthy to do it unreservedly. He does so not because of what we are but because of who He is. 

God forgives and heals and restores, for He is "the God of all grace" (1 Peter 5:10). May we praise Him and trust Him.

We have a God who delights in impossibilities and who asks, "Is anything too hard for me?"

~L.B. Cowman

I read these words the night after I had that conversation at the Embassy, and I knew that the Lord was prompting me to share more of our story here. Just as the stories of S and Faith Ana's adoption testify to His faithfulness, so does the transformation and healing that He has done in our lives. Our story is a testament that these words are true and that nothing is impossible to Him. And the miracle of it all, the thing that literally brings me to my knees, is how He has woven all of these stories into one. He does, indeed, write the very best stories!

Nothing is too hard for Him. Our pasts, our stories, no matter how complicated and messy, cannot separate us from our Heavenly Father's love. I want my children to see this faithfulness and grasp this grace when they look at their family. I want my two little girls who have experienced such broken and painful pasts to know that there is One Who Can Redeem something even as tragic as what they have had to endure. And I want you, friend, to know this same truth.

God forgives and heals and restores, for He is "the God of all grace" 
(1 Peter 5:10). 

Finally, there's one more chapter to this story that I want to share with you. When I went to Bulgaria this fall to meet Faith Ana for the first time, do you remember me telling you about the side trip I took to Greece? Life got so busy when I got home that I never had the chance to tell you more about the incredible opportunity I had of visiting the place where this whole story began...

Over 50 years ago, halfway around the world, in a place not that far from where S and Faith Ana's story began, another little girl was born. This little girl spent the first six years of her life in a beautiful and remote village off the mountainous coast of Greece. 

She had a Momma, Daddy, and two sisters that loved her very much. Through a series of complicated and heart-breaking events, this little girl was given up to be adopted by relatives from the United States. 

The hope of a better life and the promise for financial provision were part of the impossible decision that these parents had to make that forever changed the course of this little girl's life. Just like Sophi and Faith Ana, she endured so much pain and trauma because of this decision. 

Yet her story is one that also testifies so very, very strongly of the Lord's faithfulness. Hers is a story that shows that even the most tragic and heart-breaking of circumstances can be transformed into something beautiful. A story that shows that the Lord is able to do the impossible and bring blessing out of something that the Enemy intended for harm. A story that reminds me every single time I think about it, that the Lord's purposes and plans, even when hard to understand and don't seem to make sense, are always for our good and for His glory. 

Because there's more to the story...

I saw firsthand where the little girl in this story grew up. I walked the streets that she walked as a child. I saw the house with the big fireplace that kept her warm during the cold winters, the house that had no running water or electricity. I saw the tiny room that she and her two sisters shared, and I even met those two sisters. I saw the graves of that little girl's Momma and Daddy, the graves of the grandparents that I never knew. 

The story continues, and can you see how beautiful it is?

You see, that little girl grew up to be the woman who brought me into this world. She is the one who taught me what truly matters in life, and the one who led me to the One Who Has Transformed my life. 

Because of her story, as painful and tragic as it was for her to be taken from her family, I have a story of my own. 

Because I have a story, as messy and scandalous as parts of it have been, there are eight more stories that are now being written. 

And because we have a Faithful Father who is also the Most Perfect Story Teller, I can only begin to imagine how beautiful each of their stories will be. The lives that will be impacted, the hearts that will be touched, the Kingdom Purposes that will be accomplished in the chapters yet to be written - how can I not smile? The seed of adoption was planted in my heart as a result of her story, and my prayer is that many, many more seeds will be planted in the hearts of these little ones.

Isn't it amazing how He works? How He is able to weave together tragedies and victories, sadness and joy, beauty and ashes, all into an amazing masterpiece!

Nothing is ever wasted. Do you hear that, friend? Nothing! Not heartache, not trauma, not abandonment, not even our own mistakes and failures, nothing, can keep God's purposes from being fulfilled in our lives. 

And the story continues! Empty pages to be filled! I can't wait to see what comes next. 

To Him be the glory for the great things He has done!



  1. Powerful. I look forward to reading your blogs! They bless me every time! Thank you for letting us be a part of this journey. God is using you to show others His faithfulness and grace! AND He is showing me how not to be scared to step out in faith, for HE is faithful!!

  2. Thank you so much. Grace is such a life sustaining thing. Your blog is a blessing to me!!! Many, many thanks, prayers and blessings to you!!!