It’s been a month and a half. 6 weeks since our world was tipped on its side. My mind is still fighting with my heart that this is reality, that she won’t be removed from our home again. But it’s real, we have a daughter now, the court ruled in our favor and we are officially a family of 5. God has rescued and redeemed and I am in awe of what He has done. He showed us in no other terms that this was by His hand.
To tell her story~our story, I need to back up 7 years. Back to Bill’s second deployment, a 3 year old Will and a 6 month old Jackson. I was sleep deprived and missing my husband when God started pressing on my heart the idea of adoption. I pushed it to the side of my heart, told God nope, not now. But He just kept pressing. He does that you know, like the string to a guitar, He plucked it and no matter how hard I tried to ignore the song, the note of adoption vibrated in my heart and reverberated, always humming under the surface of daily life. I started letting the song play more and the desire grew and became my own.
Bill called halfway through that deployment and before he had a chance to say hello I blurted out to him “I think God wants us to look in to adoption”. I can only imagine the face he made, shock, exhaustion, a certain look of concern that his wife had short circuited. We were wading through toddlerhood on a military paycheck~in California no less. But he is a good, good man and I’m certain he and God meet on a different wave length. A weary but kind voice came through the phone and he said “I think we need to take a year to pray on this”. A year! A whole YEAR! Waaaa??? This is where the word “Selah” began its growing work in my soul. In Hebrew it means “to pause, wait and see God’s goodness”. I’m not a pause person, I want a plan, a timeline and then let’s get moving. A year of prayer felt like Bill was politely telling me no. But I could still feel that note in my heart so I agreed and we prayed.
Oh how we prayed, I prayed circles around my family and accidentally around God too that year. Bill, the amazing man he is prayed for wisdom, guidance, direction. My prayers outlined my plan for Him to follow. An overseas adoption, healthy, baby girl, with no strings attached. Clean, simple, perfect. Look how easy I made it! Ha! Y’all, I can be so bossy….but God had started working on me….Selah…
A year passed and Bill agreed with me that God was in fact calling us to adoption. Finally! My plan had been prayed out and I was ready to get moving! We started researching countries to adopt from and quickly had doors close on us due to Bill’s line of work. My frustration rose and India came into view~hope renewed.
India has 20 million orphans. Twenty-million…..I cant even fully grasp that number. It shatters my heart. We applied with America World Adoptions and were thrilled when our acceptance letter arrived. Queue a season of paperwork, training, and fundraising. We were on track and it seemed that God had stayed in my the safe circle I prayed around Him.
At this point the military had moved us to Virginia Beach a mile from my brother and his family~a rarity when it comes to military life. Our boys spent two plus years growing up with the cousins just a bike ride away. We settled in to a little church that loved us like family and we made lifelong friends who ended up helping us turn the page to the next chapter of our journey.
In the Fall of 2013 we had the opportunity to be part of a small church plant. That alone is another story to tell. It was a rag-tag team, a mix of visionaries, locals, and military. We poured our heart and time, tackling the children’s ministry. I remember laying in bed at night in the early months and telling Bill that it was too hard, I didn’t know why we had been placed in this group, that maybe a transient military family like ours wasn’t cut out to help start a church plant. He held my hand and told me to just trust and wait….
And then India closed its doors to international adoption.
I stood in the bathroom of our church that following Sunday trying to hold back tears before I had to face people who were relying on us to be 100% available to their kiddos. What in the world was God doing? Why would we feel called to India only for the doors to close? This didn’t fit in my plan, we were on a time frame, the military would be moving us soon and a home study don’t transfer from state to state. Come on Lord! As I dried my eyes and surveyed my blotchy face in the mirror a friend came in the bathroom and ended up having to patiently listen to my teary frustration. Then she spoke the words that to this day I look back at in awe. “Ko, I think you guys are supposed to look in to Foster Care.” I shook my head no, told her that’s not what we were called to. She smiled, hugged me and said she would pray. Shannon W plucked a new string and the vibrations could not be silenced.
India’s doors remained closed for 6 months. And our church plant closed their doors as well. We continued to ask God to show us what He was doing, where He was leading us. Selah….
When the doors opened again they announced that only adoptions for special needs children would be allowed for international families. This didn’t fit my prayer plan. I cried out to God again, asked him to show me what he was doing. Silence….Selah.
Looking back to this season I can smile through tears of joy. God was stretching me, molding my heart, teaching me through a firm and steady hand this His way is greater, that nothing by my own hand will ever be made greater than what He can do.
We took a month to pray about a special needs adoption. It was a big change for our family and we knew that it would be something that could potentially affect Will and Jack’s lives long term. At the end of yet another prayer filled pause we decided to continue on. We told our agency what we felt we could handle as a family and waited for a child to be matched with us.
In the Fall of 2014 I spent a weekend visiting my dear friend Cara in North Carolina. Bill played Mr. Mom and I got some very much needed girl time. We crafted our hearts out, ate yummy food and laughed till our sides hurt. But we talked about hard stuff too. Adoption, children, things that were going on in our communities. It was a 4 hour drive back home and a 4 hour chunk of quiet time that God used to soften my heart.
Foster Care was not my plan. Heart strings would attach, the pain and heartache of transitioning kids home, the unknowns of what they have been exposed it. It’s messy.
But something shifted in my heart on that drive home. We were waiting for a daughter from India but had all this love to share with a child while we waited. Every “why not” I tossed up to God He tossed right back with a “I am”.
Twenty minutes from home and Bill got yet another dramatic phone call from me. Our boys were at church for the evening thanks to Awana and Bill suggested we meet at Target to grab a cup of coffee and catch up before we picked the boys up.
We were wandering the aisles of Target, sipping our lattes and discussing India, foster care, what we were really being called to when around the corner comes Shannon from our old church plant. We hadn’t seen each other in almost 6 months and her first words to us were “I still feel like you guys should be doing foster care!”. Who even says that?!?! We quickly caught up with her and then walked back to our car in silence. God was doing something, it was a tad too obvious, but were we really ready to admit it?
Sometimes I think we as people can box ourselves and God into the same box with the word “calling.” I was making it a static thing: “He called us to adoption.” But God is never static and often times He has to start with the familiar to get our stubborn heads and hearts to the place He actually wants us to be.
That was the case for us. Adoption felt new but safe. Adoption felt like a leap of faith but into a warm pool of friends who had already done it. Foster care was too far out for our hearts but God used time (Selah), people, and what would seem random encounters to nudge us to a place of action. Like strumming a string on a guitar he was now tuning it to the right pitch and we were finally listening.
Our time was running short in Virginia Beach so we decieded that while we sat on the India wait list we would reseach how to become foster parents. I was trying to keep one foot in that warm pool.
Bill’s job sent us to North Carolina, in fact the same area that I drove through the previous year when God started pressing Foster Care on our hearts. I love how He is in all the tiny details.
Before we ever moved my dear friend Nancy who lived in North Carolina called me and said she had a dream that she was rocking our foster babies and I was her neighbor. I smiled at that sweet dream, but thought it was just a dream. We settled into a sweet little home on the water, nested into a military housing area that quickly became the village that would hold us up during the next 3 years. Nancy lived a few houses down from us~just like in her dream….
It was August 2014 and we were still unpacking and setting up our house when we found out that we missed the biannual cut off for foster care training in our county. Ugh….. I was beyond frustrated. Why were we always being put on hold. It made zero sense to me. More waiting…Selah….
We finally begun our training to become licensed foster care parents in early 2015. Ten other couples were in our class and it seemed like we were on our way and my hope started to shift to the possibility of being able to adopt through the system. But God was moving yet again and Bill and I started to see the underbelly of our county, of a very broken system. We started seeing families that were crumbling from the lack of support, the need for people who were willing to say “I see you, I see the good underneath that murky surface”. We learned the term “co-parenting” and how vital it is to a successful reunification. The ability to come alongside parents and help them, encourage them, show them what parenting can look like. Our perspective on what God was calling us to do completely shifted at this point. We had fallen in love with Foster Care and the redemption of families that can come with it.
That desire to adopt was still there though but now it was coupled with an accompanying desire to help broken families mend.
We were licensed at the end of July 2015 shortly after Bill deployed again. One week later our first child was placed in our home, a 3 month old girl. A war wagged inside my heart. This baby girl was perfection, I would hold her in my arms at night and beg God to let her stay, but then immediately follow with a petition for her family fight for her, to do the right things, make the right choices. She was not ours and I knew that~but my heart fought against it. 9 months later she went home. It was good, it was right, it was God redeeming. We grieved and rejoiced and waited….Selah…
During the next 18 months we would have 8 children enter our home, all of them to eventually leave. Watching Bill and the boys love these children as family, as their own was incredible. We had hit our stride, eagerly wrapping our arms around each new set of parents whose children we held. We had been given the gift to come along side broken families and walk a very hard road with them. It felt so good to know we were doing exactly what God was asking of us. But then we had friends complete adoptions within Foster Care and jealousy would creep in. It seemed everyone around us could adopt. It hurt and I would time and time again find myself on my knees asking God what he was trying to teach me.
Sofia and her brother came to live with us in May of 2016. The first moment she stepped out of the car and we laid eyes on her, something shifted in my soul. I knew she was supposed to be in our home. Nothing about her fit what I dreamed of, she was angry, feisty, stubborn and fiery. Nevertheless something had shifted and we knew we would move heaven and earth for these kids. I’ve decided to leave out the details of why and most of what transpired over the next 7 months. It was hell and our hearts broke for this brother and sister. Nothing in all of our training could have prepared us for what took place in November. A week before Thanksgiving Sofia and her brother tragically lost their mother, leaving Sofia with no living parent.
Walking a child through the death of a parent is by far the hardest thing we have done in this journey as a family. There are no set rules or how-to’s. Bill and I would spend our evenings praying over these kids, asking God to pour wisdom over us. I need Him to saturate me with it, Sofia was old enough to know what happened but just young enough to not fully grasp the permanency. At night she would pray for Jesus to heal her mommy.
That winter our three years at this duty station we beginning to come to an end, waiting on orders for a summer move. Both kids were still living with us and we had no idea what was going to happen. Our world was upside down and we kept telling God “we will wait on you”. But that is easier said than done, especially when two little people are settling more and more each day into your home and the baby is now saying “mama.” I didn’t want to get bossy with God but I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say my prayers turned into a my plan instead of His plan. I wanted to make Him move, make Him end all of the uncertainty for these kids.
In March DSS made the decision to send both kids home to live with Sofia’s brother’s father. So, not Sofia’s bio-dad. He’s a good man. But I knew it wouldn’t work and I was more than open with my thoughts, I would tell anyone who would listen. This was a good choice for baby brother but not Sofia. Please please please leave this child in our home, she had begun to call us mom and dad, Will and Jack were her brothers, the anger and stubbornness was subsiding. She was learning how to be a kid again. But the court ruled to keep them together. Bags were packed, toys carefully loaded into our van, tight hugs and kisses placed in little hands. We said goodbye to a little girl screaming for us as we drove away….Selah…
For two and a half months we prayed for them. I would call DSS and ask how they were doing and it was always the same answer: just okay. Sofia is doing just okay. I would walk through Target and see Spring dresses starting to show up and wonderful if I could send a few to her anonymously….that shift in our souls was still present and things felt off.
With having so many children come through our home in a short period of time we had learned how to love and let go, the pain is unavoidable but my God healed my heart every time. This time the wound was still fresh…I couldn’t understand what He was doing.
We had orders in hand to Okinawa, Japan as spring turned to summer. A fresh new adventure on the horizon and it felt like a move from North Carolina was just the break our family needed. Packers had come and taken the first shipment of household goods, the kids had 3 weeks left of school, this season of our life was truly coming to an end.
At the end of May 2017 Bill called me to let me know our plane tickets had been issued for July and we were set to leave on the 6th. 3 hours later my phone rang and it was our home social worker.
“Ko, you may need to sit down”……..the shock and anger that washed over me in the next five minutes brought me to my knees. Sofia was coming back into the foster system, they hesitated to even call us, they didn’t need an answer right away, they knew how bad the timing was…..My head was spinning. After all we had walked through with Sofia we felt fiercely protective of her, my momma bear was in full force. I wanted to cry and scream and shake the shoulders of people in charge for allowing this to happen to her. This was our greatest fear for her and now to have it play out at the last second~mere weeks before we were supposed to fly half way across the world! My blood wanted to boil.
God was doing something and I think He had had enough of me trying to do it myself, bossing Him from the side, drawing circles around where I wanted Him to say.
It was as if the heavens opened and He said “STAND BACK AND WATCH”.
Bill got another epic phone call from me. “Of course she is ours, tell them to bring her home now”. Oh, how I love this man of mine. He didn’t even bat an eye at all the logistics that needed to be considered. His faith is a whole lot bigger than mine and he knew that if God was going to move now then we best say yes.
We knew that a lot had transpired since Sofia had left our home in March and we weren’t sure what it would be like for her to transition back to us. Would she be angry or blame us? We had no idea where her heart was at. Four little years of life, filled with so much uncertainty and pain….this was going to be yet another traumatic event for her.
This is when we reached out to all our prayer warriors. There was so much out of our control both with Sofia, the court, Bill’s already set orders….There was nothing we could do by our own hands. We HAD to trust God that He would move.
And move He did. Sofia stepped out of that DSS van on a Friday afternoon with more joy and excitement in her heart than I could have ever prayed for. She screamed Will and Jack’s names and wrapped her arms around them. When I picked her up, those little arms wrapped so tightly around my neck I knew that all was going to be well. She jumped into Bill’s arms, kissed his cheeks and called him daddy. The angels were singing and God was smiling~He was redeeming a little life. Later that night I hugged her again and told her I was so happy she was home, she looked right at me and said “I told you I’d be back!”! That’s our sassy girl!
So here we are a month and a half out from our daughter coming home. It has been miracle after miracle as things have fallen in to place. From court orders to passports, to healthcare and military requirements, He continues to part the water, to make a way where we don’t see one.
As of Friday our sweet daughter is listed as our dependent, has a passport in hand, tickets to fly with us, and will tell anyone she meets that she is flying to “Oki wow wa”.
And every time I think about this journey I just want to lay down and cry. It was a long wait, filled with so many uncertainties, so much pain~but God gave us her name a long time ago. Selah~to pause and wait on His goodness. And what beautiful sweet goodness it is. It was worth it all and taught us so much in the process. Foster Care is now our passion we see what God was refining in our hearts.
Our road ahead is still rocky, Sofia has been through so much and her healing will take time. But I know that MY GOD will not leave her, He has not finished with her story or ours and I am so incredibly honored and humbled that He didn’t give up on us when we couldn’t see the way.
My dear dear friends, if I could sit with you today I would squeeze your hands and promise you, no mater what you are walking through right now, no mater how unclear life it, how pain filled and broken it may seem…keep walking, keep giving, keep serving, keep your heart close to His. He wont ever ever ever forsake you. You are HIS. Let him lead you upon the waters where feet may fail~it will always be for His goodness.
If He can do all this for the life of one child~just imagine what He has in store for you.
I seriously love you all so much. Thank you to everyone who has walked this journey with us. Too many to list but all so close to my heart. You held us up. Sofia is in so many ways yours too.