No purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.

April 7th, 2012

This time, I have a confession to make.  Next time, a challenge.


One night not long ago, I lay staring upward into the pitch darkness, bitterly hot tears streaming from my eyes.


For this part of the story to make sense, you need to know that over 90,000 people have read about the children of Pleven on this blog.

Ordinarily, the numbers don’t make a hill of beans difference to the story God is writing.  It takes effort to learn what the numbers are, and why do I need to know?  I don’t.

Recently, however, those numbers did come into the story, so I went and looked them up on Google Analytics to report them accurately.

Over the nearly eight months since I first saw Katie last August, almost 90,000 separate individuals have visited this blog.  Over 60,000 of those individuals visited during the nearly five months since we picked Katie up from her orphanage bed in mid-November.  That doesn’t count those who subscribe to this blog, receive the posts as emails, and don’t actually visit this website.

Many hundreds of people have emailed me to tell how their hearts have been moved with compassion for the children in Pleven.  Many have said that they would do anything to bring one of the children home themselves.

From August forward, every time a new child from Pleven was listed on Reece’s Rainbow, no matter how severe the child’s special needs, a family came forward to commit to them within a matter of a few days.  Some of the children were snapped up before they were made public.

It was obvious to us that God was doing a miraculous work in His people’s hearts.  Adoptions of children with significant special needs aren’t easily explainable in human terms.  These adoptions aren’t “all about us” adoptions.  They aren’t “add to or complete our perfect family” adoptions.

These children are being pursued by families whose love is stronger than their fear or self-interest.

As I watched God at work, my hope soared high.  Is anything too hard for the Lord?  Of course not!  Surely God could have families lined up for the rest of the children!  Look at what He has already done just in this one orphanage!  We’re not talking about millions of orphans here, just a relative handful compared with the thousands of potential adoptive families who are now aware of the children’s great need!

The more families I heard from, the more excited I grew!  I could hardly wait for God to demonstrate the value He places on the lives of these children by sending loving families to rescue them.  I could see it as if it had already happened.  There would be families for the children with special needs in Pleven.

The wheels of governments grind slowly.  As we waited for more children from Pleven to become available for adoption, I could hardly wait to show them off.  What a privilege to carry these precious lives one or two at a time, to thousands of sympathetic people.  People who had already expressed how greatly they care about the children with special needs in Pleven and in so many other institutions all across Eastern Europe and the world.


Then suddenly, after months of waiting, two real flesh-and-blood human beings.

No more space for the imagination now, no space for one’s own romantic ideas of a Pleven child.


Remember what I feared the most after we got the news of Verity’s Down syndrome?  My most intense struggles after she was born?


I was afraid that others would look at my precious, vulnerable child and reject her as ugly and of little worth.  That hurt, very much.


Sarah’s diagnosis came in, and so did her photo.  I eagerly showed her off!  But the response…


She looks…disabled.

Her file says she is blind?

She wasn’t quite what we had in mind.


Carissa’s diagnosis came in and so did her photo.  The same response…


She’s not smiling.

Reece’s Rainbow staff see possible signs of fetal alcohol syndrome?

She wasn’t quite what we had in mind.


Two innocent girls who want to know, “Can anyone unconditionally love me?”

Just as I do.  Just as you do.  They want to know what all human beings, with all our flaws, want to know.

“Is there anyone who can unconditionally love me?”

Two innocent girls who don’t know that after many thousands of people looked at their photos, only three asked for their files.

And all three decided NO.

Shelley’s email read, “No families at all seriously interested in either of the girls :(


Her words cut me to the quick.


These children are to me as the children birthed from my body.

How many eyes have looked at these precious, vulnerable children and rejected them as unlovely and of little worth?


A sister adoptive mom wrote, “I want them to know over there that we want those children.  That they are worth a lot.  When we can’t find a home for a child, we are confirming their beliefs.  That makes me sick.”


That is why one night not long ago, I lay staring upward into the pitch darkness, bitterly hot tears streaming from my eyes.


“Oh God, what are you doing?  I don’t want to lose hope and become cynical.  I know You can do anything.  Why aren’t you sending families?  Why aren’t You demonstrating the value You place on their lives?  Why aren’t you showing what You can so easily do?”


The next morning, I flipped to the very beginning of the book of Psalms.  What was I looking for?  I don’t remember, because here is what He showed me on the previous page…

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

“I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.

You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”



I paged backward.

“Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?
He who rebukes God, let him answer it.”

Another note from another adoptive mom, “Also remember that while Pleven is alive and looming in your mind, it is directly in God’s line of sight all day and night every day and night.”

My husband’s reminder, “God can handle His own reputation.”

God’s reputation.

And I remembered Gideon and his 32,000 soldiers.  God sent back all who were afraid, and 22,000 went home.  Only 10,000 were left.  God said that was still too many, and pared that army down to 300 men.  When the battle was won against the enemy army of 135,000, it was clear that GOD, and GOD alone, not the strength of numbers, had won the victory.

Oh God, forgive me.  “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.  Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” 


And now Carissa has a family.

Sarah has a family who is working hard to be able to commit to her.

The fourteen-year-old girl who weighed fourteen pounds when she was admitted to the Tokuda Hospital…has a family.

A little four-year-old boy who some other adoptive moms saw when they were at the Pleven orphanage…has a family.

A little two-year-old girl with severe delays has a family who is very serious about pursuing her adoption.


Family by family, God is calling out His army, and winning the victory in the life of each child.


“Though great distress my soul befell,

The Lord my God did all things well

To God all praise and glory!










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15 Responses to “No purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.”

  1. Becki Little says:

    Thank you so much for this! I am in tears. ..again. Oh, the positives need to be heard! I get so overwhelmed by the sheer number of beautiful babies waiting and waiting. I get so sick of having to be patient for my Dear Husband to come around so we can start the adoption process. Thank you for showing me that God is definitely working to bring these children home! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. Michelle says:

    Huge praise! Families have chosen these sweet children! 

  3. Terri White says:

    Ah, I just wanted you to know that although we aren’t able to start the process until God moves a couple hurdles (my dh is waiting on a job that is stalled b/c of a hiring freeze), I was SO drawn to little Carissa and have prayed often for her and was so excited to see she has a family!!  

  4. Katie says:

    Those girls are nothing but beautiful, I just want to scoop them both up and snuggle them… and all their friends back at Pleven.  I tell you honestly, as a person whose comfort zone is certainly not traveling halfway around the world to bring home her child, as a person who will likely be, at least at first, a single mother, and as a person with no fancy house or huge income, that as soon as I am able, as soon as God knocks those hurdles down, I’m going to be irritating Shelley daily about Pleven children.  When I turned 23 on Friday it meant one thing to me above all else… two more years.  That’s all I have to wait!  Two more years!  That time is so short when you live the comfortable life many of us live.  But oh, it’s just ever so long for those babies who spend every single day lying there with no Mama coming to get them.  

    When I first read Katie’s story, it took me nine days from when I said “No, God, that’s too hard for me.  That’s too far outside my comfort zone.  I’ll adopt someday, but this is too hard.  I can’t do that,” to when I said “God, please let the time pass quickly so that I too may bring a child out of that place and into a loving home”.  Every day, God tapped on my shoulder and reminded me, there’s no getting around this, I have called you to something.  And every day I realized a little more that I didn’t want to turn away from that calling one bit.  By that last day I was combing through the requirements for international adoptive families figuring out what I had to do to meet them all by the time I hit 25.  

    Then I made two promises.  One was to my future child.  I will come to get you.  I will be ready as soon as that day comes.  The second was to every other child who is waiting for a family, especially the children of Pleven – I will make you known to others.  I will share your stories.  I will let God work through me on people’s hearts the way He worked through Susanna and Katie on mine.  

    That was five months ago.  People who know me well know that sometimes I am very gung-ho about something at first and then lose that passion.  Particularly if the something involves any sort of cleaning or cooking effort…  haha.  They assumed that would happen again.  Oh, this is just Katie off on another one of her rants about injustice and children and won’t you do something to help.  But no, if anything, that fire inside me that burned to help GREW as I watched more families strive to bring their children home, wait on them every single day, wanting to hold them in their arms… as I watched Katie grow through your photos and stories, as I stalked the listings at Reece’s Rainbow for children to advocate for, for children who had found families to cheer on.  

    Pleven changed me.

    And I’ve never even been there.  

    But I went from being someone who spoke about how much excess there is in our culture, but then didn’t walk the walk, went to stores and bought mindless gadgets thinking I somehow needed or deserved them… to someone who screamed about the injustice of the excess of our world in stark comparison to the complete NOTHING that some people – some children – have, and who strives to cut back so that others may have more.  And the injustice is not just in material lacking – it is in the lack of love and care that we take for granted as well.  My family and friends are probably quite sick of me going on about orphans, with the exception of a few whom I think have truly heard me.  Quite frankly, I don’t care if most of them are sick of hearing about it.  If I get through to one person, it’s worth it. 

    My point, long-winded though I may be (at least I come by it honestly) is that some of us who heard your story, read your words, have not wavered from that commitment to help these children… in fact, some of us are waiting quite impatiently.  And I know you know that.  I just wanted to stand up and remind you that I’m one more of those people who isn’t going to abandon those kids.  I hated that Sarah and Carissa weren’t snapped up the same day they were put on RR.  I thought, surely there must be families trying to commit to them who are jumping through the necessary hoops, and that’s why the kids just aren’t on MFFM yet.  But more time went by and I started to wonder too.  Your post heartens me, reading that not only have they found families but other Pleven children have too.  Among my deepest wishes is that by the time I hit 25, they will all have families, not because I don’t so badly want to bring one of these kids home myself, but because they deserve families sooner than that – and I know, unfortunately, that there will still be orphans in destitute condition.  In fact, I’m now proudly planning to sport a Dodge Sprinter or a similar vehicle out of necessity for how many children I’m going to have to put in it!  

    My apologies for the rambling stream of consciousness (my weakness in college writing was the ability to be concise) but please know that people are out here waiting to jump as soon as that mountain is moved.  I wish those who were able and ready now were as willing as some of us who aren’t to make that leap.  Until that place is empty, I’m going to keep screaming.  And you never know what tomorrow will bring.  Maybe one more family.

    Don’t get me wrong – the fact that those kids sit there even one more day than they have to is a horrible injustice and like a dagger to my heart.  Nothing makes that okay.  But like you said, the Bible tells us to put our hope and trust in the Lord that He can do all things… and He will not leave them as orphans.

    Thank you for screaming for these kids.  I think someday you will get to Heaven and God will show you all the people He touched through you, and all the people they touched, and all the people they touched, and all the lives that were redeemed, and it will be more far-reaching than you could have ever imagined.  

    Love and prayers as always.

  5. Kim says:

    Susanne, I am filled with joy to hear of the children being claimed by their families!  How wonderful!  I just had to comment because the Lord was speaking to me yesterday through the story of Gideon and others… and you posting is just a reaffirming of His voice.  You know, I have desired so deeply to adopt since our son Charlie (who has DS) was about a year old and my eyes were opened through the Reeses Rainbow ministry what the plight of disabled children is in other countries.  I have been praying… begging… for God to help our family have the proper qualifications to adopt.  We are SO willing, we are earnestly desiring to open our lives to a precious child… but God has not provided.  In my weakest moments I doubt He ever will… I sit at the computer trying to find my husband a new job, one with the health benefits which is the last piece in the adoption puzzle for our family.  I have cried and worried and stomped my feet.  But God has been affirming to me his mysterious timing.  There must be a certain child, or a certain time that is right.  And health insurance is no big thing for him!  And then the story of Gideon.  To me a story of a man who committed his heart and actions to God, who obeyed and went forward, having no idea of how God was going to make victory sure.  We are trusting, and moving forward, knowing that God will provide, and when he does…  Oh gosh!  We are so ready!  Looking on the pictures of the girls…  It is so hard to look and think “I am not meant to be her mama.”  My husband has a strong desired to adopt a child with vision impairment, and when a child with that disability pops up… gosh, it is doubly hard!  Anyway, I just wanted to share that I am so encouraged by your ongoing blogging efforts (I know it is hard to do as a busy, busy mom!), and at our house we continue to pray hard for Pleven, to give what we can, and to remain hopeful that soon… very soon… we will be able to look upon the picture of a child and say, “You are wanted.  You are valuable.  You are ours.”

  6. Mary Kathryn says:

    Dear friend — I’ve been reading your blog for several months. I know it must have been crushing to have so little response for these 2 girls. I want you to know this: when I saw Carissa’s picture, I loved her instantly. My heart broke in two. She looked like MY child, and I wanted her. I would have taken her immediately.
    But. We have no work right now. We had to foreclose on our home, and move in with my elderly parents. We are living on the last of our savings. What can we offer to a orphan? We have no medical insurance. We don’t go to the doctor — how could I even try to commit to care for the medical needs of a sick child? If it was heart-breaking for you to not have much response, it was also heart-breaking for some of us out here, who want SO much to have one of these children, but we cannot. We have no home to offer, no money to support, no healthcare.
    I just wanted you to know that the silence doesn’t necessarily mean that the children are not loved, not wanted. There are other kind of pain. I cannot tell you the relief and joy (and envy) I felt when you wrote that Carissa has a home, that she found her mama. It won’t be me, and my heart breaks a little more each time I see her picture; it breaks for the lack of her. But I’m glad God knows best, and He has chosen a home for her. Please keep trying. God has a perfect plan. It doesn’t always go as we wish it would.

  7. Have you heard this song by Sara Groves? 

    “I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it
    I heard what I heard and i can’t go back
    I know what I know and I can’t deny it
    something on the road, cut me to the soul
    your pain has changed me
    your dream inspires
    your face a memory
    your hope a fire
    your courage asks me what I’m afraid of 
    and what I know of love”

    I see Katie’s face when I hear this and it’s all so true for me. I thank God for what He is doing in us because of her, and I pray we can all be a part of the solution. God bless you, dear sister.

  8. Jennifer says:

    We chose our son in large part because we quickly learned about that place and we quickly learned that he must, must, must not spend another day longer than he has to there.  

    Blessed be to our Father in Heaven, who holds Pleven in His hands, and for the hearts that He softens to see – really see – the blessings that live in those halls.

  9. Susan says:

    Thank you again, so much, for your advocacy and for being the Hands of Christ in the world, and for using those hands not only to care for the children but to write – and write, and write about them, so that others came to know and be moved to help in whatever ways they could. Bless you, all of you posting here and reading here as well, for following Katie’s story and the stories of the other children at Pleven, soon to be from Pleven as more and more of their families find them.

    We’re seeing miracles where once there was evil…

    Susan in Ky
    Cousin to 2 from EE    


  10. Susanna says:

    Mary Kathryn, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your words. I wish I had written about my struggles sooner instead of wrestling through them alone. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to meet other burden-bearers. Thank you.

  11. Susanna says:

    Kim, I am blessed to read your words and hear your heart! More blessed than I can say! Our family is praying for families like yours, that God would show Himself strong to you as He did to us in our highly improbable adoption of Katie. Please don’t give up. Thank you so much for writing!

  12. Beck Gambill says:

    Susanna, I started reading your blog a few months ago. I watched the Anne Curry documentary on Serbian Institutions, though it took me a few days to get up the courage because I too knew I would have to respond once I saw it. For about 18 months adoption has been on my mind, specifically of a child with Down syndrome, but due to personal circumstances it wasn’t a possibility until recently. This past winter when I started reading your blog and watched the documentary God set my heart on fire. But I’m going in a different route than adoption. I’ve had contact with the Mental Disability Rights International of Serbia and my church denomination. My denomination’s missions office has expressed interest in helping me develop an exploratory trip to Serbia to see how we can best help relieve the suffering of disabled institutionalized children there. At first I had wanted to adopt but as I prayed God said, no think bigger. There are so many Serbian children suffering that aren’t available for adoption. I can’t bring them to me and I know I have to go to them. You have been an inspiration and it’s through Katie’s story that God has birthed a love for the broken in my heart. I believe God is mobilizing his body in every direction in ways we can’t always see. I know I will face discouragement, and I trust God will remind me of his sovereign love when I need it as faithfully as he has reminded you!

  13. Susanna says:

    Beck, WOW. I am blown away. Thank you so much for your open heart and for the encouragement your note is to me!

  14. Leah says:

    Praise God for his Mighty blessings!

  15. Rochelle says:

    Thanks for sharing what’s on your mind & in your heart! Praise our Lord that families have committed to these kids!! :-)

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