We follow, not with fears

January 17th, 2011

This morning I awoke with a lump in my throat and an burning urgency in my soul.

I had planned to work up to this post gently, explaining how God has been at work for years preparing our family for its next assignment.

But we think it is time to tell you why we see God moving so aggressively in this adoption.  Why Joe and I have determined with God-given steel in our souls never at any point to be the ones holding up the process.

We tell you so you can pray.

Thinking back to the night this pregnancy began, the night of the Serbian mental institution video

…we didn’t know who they would be, of course, any more than we knew any of our other children on the night they were conceived, including that there might be two…

…on that night, this is what I saw in my mind’s eye.

Here we stand at the very beginning of a new path.  At the other end stands at least one child whom we will adopt.  As we look along this road, to its very end, we see no obstacles.  Because in reality there are no obstacles to God.

If you know me, you know that I am very practical.  Organized, energetic, down-to-earth.  Most decidedly not a mystic!  So please don’t read that last paragraph to say that I am now seeing visions and getting words from the Lord!

It’s more like this…

In years past, we thought of adoption as a faraway sort of affair that other people knew about.  If we had been required to put words to it, we probably would have described adoption as an expensive and rather boring alternative to the real thing.  [We couldn’t have been more wrong!]

But so far we have learned that there is something more going on in a special-needs adoption than it may look like on the surface of things.  This kind of adoption redeems the lives of children who are condemned to death because they are despised as worse than useless by the Enemy and those who think his thoughts after him. He feeds on their loneliness, suffering and death.  To those on his side, these children are feared as unlovely, undesirable impediments to personal happiness.

In America, they are aborted in high numbers if they are detected before birth.  In less “civilized” nations, they are abandoned at birth and left to the tender mercies of whatever system is there to keep them alive.  Or not.

During my very first conversation with Stephanie Carpenter, she listened carefully to all I had to say about why we wanted to adopt.  Then she told me that from her experience, what she heard me saying meant that we should get ready to see God act in very big ways.  We should expect to see Him move mountains and open doors.

That conversation took place not long before God began moving mountains and opening doors to this adoption.  Huge financial provision that has now been processed and is waiting to register on our credit score.  Bathrooms…refrigerator…new kitchen cabinets…all happening in very short order.

But this story is not about pretty home improvement projects or perfect family pictures.   We are becoming aware of the reality that this is war.  He has called us to enter the battle.

I am going to tell you enough about them to enable you to pray with understanding.  For those of you who know you are our trusted friends, email us if you haven’t already done so, and if we agree that you are our trusted friends, we will send you a link to their publicly posted pictures.  We are allowed to do this privately.

The little boy is between eight and nine years old and is the size of our four-year-old twins.  As far as we know, he is healthy and high functioning.  (I despise that term, but haven’t thought of a better one yet.)  When we saw his picture, and read his profile, we asked ourselves how in the world he had been overlooked for so many years.  What a precious gem!

The little girl?

Have you watched the Serbian mental institution video?  If you want to understand this little girl, please watch that video and look for Katerina.  And listen to the doctor explain how severely deprived children simply stop growing.

The beautiful little girl we want to bring home is a couple of months older than the little boy.  She is about the size of Verity.  She is severely malnourished and delayed.  There is no way to explain the fact that she is still alive, other than the mercy of God.  If she had feeding issues like Verity and many other children with Down syndrome, no special care would be taken to ensure she received all she needed.  No syringe feedings, no naso-gastric tubes, no human milk fortifier, no oral-motor therapy, no tender nurturing affection.  No vision for what she could be with any of these gifts.  Just keep her in a crib and prop a bottle.  If she gets it, she gets it, and if she doesn’t, she doesn’t.  This doesn’t necessarily mean active malevolence.  There is only so much food and caregiver time to go around to scores of extremely needy children, and many have grown accustomed to putting on a hard shell of indifference in order to cope.  They often have no vision that life for these children could be so different.

Even if this frail sweetie never walks or talks, she is of untold worth in the sight of God and we would consider it the privilege of a lifetime to be allowed to give her the love and care she needs.

Some of you will wonder about her medical needs.  I will be able to write more about these in the future.  For now, we can tell you what Dr. Strauss at the Clinic for Special Children has told us after reviewing the files of both children, “If you decide to adopt these children, we are willing and able to help you care for them,” and, “Whatever your final decision, we will continue to support you in any way we can.”

We have learned many more heartbreaking facts since we first watched that Serbia video.  One of the facts that we want you to know is that wintertime is a dangerous time for children with special needs in Eastern European orphanages.  Many of them will not survive this winter.

Now you know enough to understand why my heart cries out to God all day long for these two.  If I wrote today to tell you that Verity had been kidnapped and was lonely and waiting for us on the other side of the world, do you think there might be a little urgency in our tone?  Would that urgency mean we didn’t trust God?  Not at all.  It would mean that God had given us an urgent task to do.  He does that sometimes.  He is doing it now.

We are praying hard, working hard, trusting hard.  And that trust is in the Lord, who with His mighty hand has formed these two just as He wanted them to be, and preserved their lives thus far.  Oh please, pray with us for these children.  Pray that He will see fit to bring them safely into our family’s arms.


“Lead on, O King eternal, the day of march has come;

Henceforth in fields of conquest Thy tents shall be our home:

Through days of preparation Thy grace has made us strong,

And now, O King eternal, we lift our battlesong.

Lead on, O King eternal, till sin’s fierce war shall cease,

And Holiness shall whisper the sweet amen of peace;

For not with swords loud clashing, nor roll of stirring drums,

But deeds of love and mercy, the heav’nly kingdom comes.

Lead on, O King eternal: We follow, not with fears;

For gladness breaks like morning where’er Thy face appears;

Thy Cross is lifted o’er us; we journey in its light:

The crown awaits the conquest; lead on, O God of might.”


Tomorrow we lift our battlesong and tear out our upstairs bathroom…

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17 Responses to “We follow, not with fears”

  1. Melissa says:

    I can’t wait until you can post the pictures of your beautiful children.  My heart hurts for all of those children in orphanages, but the small, badly neglected ones break my heart.  While the neglect may not be intentional, but rather lack of time and resources, it’s still there.  I would spend hours feeding Claire before her OHS, as you did with Verity, and know that there are kids in orphanages that need, and aren’t getting, this attention.

  2. Ginger says:

    So excited about your adoption. May God be glorified!
    I gotta say I disagree w/ your black & white reasons why people adopt. There are lots of people adopting not because they’re infertile, but not because they are led of God and selfless either. Not everyone who is infertile has gobs of money and can afford to adopt either. That seems like a harsh generalization, especially for those who have struggled thru infertility and then have to struggle again to afford adoption.
    I was entertained by your description of adoption as a boring alternative to the “real thing”. Having done both (and both are very real indeed), I thought that was laughable. And you’re about to learn (if you aren’t already), that there’s nothing boring about the ride! lol

  3. Stephanie says:

    my goodness i was hanging on to every word.  Thank you for sharing what you can. Praying, with the image you gave us in my mind.

  4. Aunt Erma says:

    Please share as much information with me about the children whom you love in Europe. 
       I’m rejoicing with you for the refrigerator which the Lord prompted some obedient family to give.   Both families were blessed.   Praise God!

  5. Susanna says:

    Thank you for that correction, Ginger! I know my experience has been very limited, and that I still have a lot to learn! I will go back and tone that down. :)
    And yep, I was obviously ignorantly wrong about adoption being boring! NOTHING has been boring about this so far!

  6. Coleen says:

    I have to say that I agree with Ginger….toning it down sounds like a good idea!  I don’t think that all people who adopt healthy children are doing it for selfish reasons…..those healthly children need homes as well.  

  7. Susanna says:

    Coleen, yes, absolutely they do. And what you just said describes a motivation based on the needs of the children rather than the parents. It was those *motives* I was clumsily trying to isolate. :)

  8. alice says:

    Susanna, I hear your heart for these children and am so excited for all God is doing in your family. I can only share why WE decided to adopt the first time, as we did not fall into either of your catagories. Our hearts we broken due to infertility. We felt God call us clearly to China to adopt. We knew our daughter needed us as much as we needed her. We did not request a child with special needs, but knew that all children who have lived in orphanages have special needs (these were the words of our agency director). We knew she would not look like us (although, oddly, she did look enough like me that many people thought she was my biological child). We were not looking for a perfect child–we prayed for OUR child. But we also did not adopt simply out of compassion. We wanted to be parents and believed that God was saying “yes” to that desire. We felt we had a choice of invitro or adoption. We did clearly hear God say that we were supposed to adopt from China. I hope I am not coming across as harsh or judgemental–I think what God is doing here with you is BEAUTIFUL and such a reflection of His love! But I wanted to add to your catagories, as most other adoptive families we have met are more like us–I have only met a few who were trying for that “perfect” child. Blessings, Alice

  9. Ilisa says:

    Thank you for the update Susanna!  You have a huge heart and God knows what to do with it!

  10. Susanna says:

    Oh my, Alice, I cannot imagine you ever being harsh or judgmental! I appreciate that you felt free to speak up and to tell me your story, to help me understand. :)

    (I am thinking it would be the better part of wisdom to take that paragraph out of the blog post.)

  11. Kristin says:

    Praying for you and your sweet little ones.  I’d love to see anything you want to send me, but God knows what they look like and who I’m praying for even if I don’t have a picture.  :)

  12. Susanna says:

    Consider it done, my friend! (I LOVE to show them off!)

  13. Tami Ann says:

    We also have a doctor friend in the area.  She’s from Maine.  She is a very godly young lady.  She already tells me about the scores of people that she helps and seeks out volunteer specialists to help as well.  She gets so excited working for Hope With In ministries because for her it’s like a third world experience sometime (which she’s been in as a missionary) and craves.  She is a family doctor working in two or three different places.  She just graduated medical studies this year.  She is a small petite thing but strong as ever.  She has come twice to help me out with the kids while Mark’s been in Poland.  She is a real servant.  I KNOW that she would do anything to help out in bringing health to the children you bring to your home.

  14. Susanna says:

    I am VERY interested in having her info, Tam. Could you email me with it? Thank you so much! I think what you just wrote will be used of God! :D

  15. Galit says:

    I have been following your blog for over a year.  I have read back through all the archives, to understand the whole process of what you went through. I absolutely adore your beautiful children, and am in awe of Katie’s miraculous transformation in your care. 
    However, I just can’t wrap my head around what made you take this on in the first place.  I mean, I get, you had Verity, and then when you found out about orphanages and institutions you wanted to rescue one of those kids, too.    But you have small children, and most adoption agencies would seriously urge against adopting out of birth order, and taking on an older, high needs child for your first adoption seems like a disproportionate step.  And apparently you originally expected to adopt 2 unrelated children at the same time!  What made you choose this route instead of adopting a preschool-aged child, who would have not yet suffered the kinds of damage that we have since learned about? 

  16. Susanna says:

    Galit, this is an awesome question! The best quick answer is that there is no way to truly understand our family’s story if you don’t understand who God is.

    Our journey happened because God is not only alive and real, working out His will in the world right now, but because we are now His children because of what Jesus did for us. He is our personal, relational God, our adoptive Father, and He closely guided every decision as we told Him we only wanted what He wanted, no matter what that was. He wanted us to go for Katie, and He made it BEYOND clear to us at every turn, starting with how our hearts immediately went out to her and as a family we saw that we had what we knew she needed most. As we look back, it’s so obvious to us that we were being compelled by the love of Jesus, who compellingly loved us first. And God opened the way before us in such amazing ways. It would have been humanly impossible for us to adopt her had He not worked miracles, many of which we’ve never explained here on the blog. Remember that God is in charge of what human institutions like adoption agencies decide. There was then, and is now, NO DOUBT in our minds that we were walking the path He was laying out for us. We did not *expect* to adopt two children, we were *open* to adopting two children, and we trusted totally in God to choose between the two children if He intended only one for us, and He did not fail us, but made His choice for us perfectly clear, with perfect timing. We were not acting out of fear, but out of trust in our living Lord. If we had acted out of fear, we would not have adopted Katie, or Tommy, or even considered such “crazy” ideas. And we had no way of knowing all the other plans God had for what is now hundreds of other waiting children and for the P***** orphanage through what HE did with Katie’s adoption. Really mind boggling to pea-brained humans like we are, who have an unimaginably mighty God. :)

    What we’ve learned about adoption agencies is that many of them have a common sense approach to adoptions of children who are developmentally delayed. And this is as it should be. Each child and family must be individually considered, which is the job of the home study social worker. Katie is the youngest child in our family, developmentally, and may always be. She came home as a baby, developmentally at a 0-3 month old level, and quickly progressed to about an 8 month old level, developmentally. We haven’t had her assessed for almost a year now, but we have continued to see very slow progress. Her greatest progress is in her bonding to her family, her physical health and growth, and in her gross motor skills. I’d guess her to be somewhere between 8 and 10 months old developmentally now? Verity is not very significantly delayed as a two and a half year old, so, tiny as she is, she is at an older developmental age than Katie, and has continued to make measurable, steady progress over all areas since her heart surgery. Tommy seems to be somewhere around a 12 to 15 month level cognitively at this point, and we suspect he will also progress from that point, but due to the obvious brain damage both children suffered for so long due to severe neglect, they will always be like very young children mentally, staying the youngest in the family no matter how old they get. It should be obvious by now how very okay that is with us!

    This is an entirely different situation than adopting 9 1/2 and 16 year olds with no medical special needs, with more typical cognition.

    Each home study social worker has the duty of assessing a family’s readiness to take on a particular child or children. They scrutinize families very closely, indeed. They look very hard at the family’s knowledge and experience, their determination to continue learning, their level of acceptance of children with special needs, their ability to be flexible and adaptable as needed, the willingness to make the necessary lifestyle changes, their experience with meeting the needs of all the family members, the way they function under stress, their total support system, both personally and as far as other available services and the family’s ability to access them, and their other available resources, including health, energy, and material and financial ability to handle extra needs. In our case, we scored with flying colors in every category even before we brought Katie home, let alone after she has blossomed so tremendously here in her new family.

    Our home study social worker had the inestimable advantage of growing up in a large family with seven adopted siblings, five of whom had special needs, and she personally understood as most people don’t what a HUGE blessing a large family can be for a needy child. All the doctors, nurses, therapists and other special educators who have worked with us and our girls have said the same thing–both Katie and Verity are advantaged by being in our large and active family and having a very motivated mom. They get tons of complex interaction from multi-age levels and lots of sensory and other learning experiences, as well as being tutored one-on-one by me and some of the older children just by how we interact and work with them daily. Lots of hands to help and loving arms to carry and hold. The work is spread over a large number of people and can get done very quickly when everyone does their part.

    And something changed inside our family’s perspective when we watched the Serbia video that has only grown stronger as time has gone on and we have learned more and more. The children at the very bottom of the heap, the children who are most vulnerable, most needy, most damaged, and least likely to be chosen, are the ones where our hearts are. It’s obvious to us that this is where our family’s specific calling lies. We love them. NOT just me, although everyone hears my voice because I’m the one blogging and emailing and speaking about it, but all of us together.

    And where our God calls, He also equips. :)

  17. Galit says:

    thank you so much for the prompt and extensive response! so is it that after the serbian video it was clear to you that it was precisely these children that you were called to adopt? or were katie and the boy presented to you by the adoption agency or in some other way?
    on a different topic, how do you teach your children to get past the normal childhood self centeredness?  i am sure they all have their “moments” and need to internalize your precepts.  i “only” have 5 kids, and sometimes they are cooperative and helpful, and other times they are needy, or have attitude, etc. regardless of one’s religion, children are not born obedient.  that takes a lifetime of hard work!

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