“…You do see, for You note mischief and vexation,
That You may take it into Your hands;
To You the helpless commits himself;
You have been the helper of the fatherless.”
Many of you heard my cry for Tommy. You responded.
You prayed for Tommy and for his future family!
You prayed to the Father of the fatherless. Countless people prayed!
I rejoice to tell you that He has answered those prayers in a marvelous way.
YES!!!! The boy with the million-dollar smile has a FAMILY!!!!
Praise the name of the LORD!!!!
He has not only answered our prayers to send a family to Tommy, He has done something we could not have foreseen back in June.
We are Tommy’s family.
We are Tommy’s family!!!!!!
We are already in awe of how God has been moving! He has been weaving a story together and all the while we had no idea.
Tommy stood out to me a year and a half ago when I first saw and wept over his photos, and again as I watched him closely, over and over again, on a Youtube video from last summer. I had two more priceless opportunities to see him.
And didn’t forget him.
This June, I began to make inquiries about his legal status, to find out whether he was available for adoption, or whether he needed someone to get the ball rolling to make that happen.
All that’s needed in order to look for a child on the registry is his birthdate.
Knowing that our income in 2011 disqualified us from proceeding with an adoption this year, and thinking that Tommy was around ten years old, I had it all worked out in my mind that maybe God would do a miracle with next year’s income so that we could start the process in early 2014.
And Tommy would still have time for a legal process, if necessary, to make him available for adoption.
Don’t you see how God could neatly work this all out, according to Susanna?
I didn’t know anyone else who loved him like I did, as if I were his mama already.
I hoped and prayed and waited.
Then I received this email, which in a few casual words dealt the death blow to my hopes that Tommy would ever be our son…
“He will be 16 [early next year], so if there’s a family they will have to move quickly.”
Turning sixteen? He’s aging out early next year. We don’t qualify to adopt.
As this shocking news sank into my mind, sobs built inside me until I couldn’t hold them back.
A sense of finality overwhelmed me, like the moment we gazed on the ultrasound screen to discover that our greatly beloved unborn baby had no heartbeat.
Tommy would never be ours.
I sobbed uncontrollably, sobbed so hard it felt like I was turning inside out.
“Oh God! Please send him a mother who will love him as much as I do!”
And that continued to be the cry of my heart.
He was already on the adoption registry of his country…
“I already checked in the list – he IS listed! Long ago – just no one
noticed him and ‘wanted’ him.”
I sent out a plea for a family to come forward for him.
He has already lost his whole childhood. If he isn’t adopted by the time he turns sixteen, he will know the bleak and dark life sentence of an adult mental institution and never know the warm and nurturing love of a family.
I was jealous on his behalf, not wanting anything less than pure and strong love for him. Not pity, not duty, not attempts to gain favor with God, not lesser motives of any kind.
If anyone asked why we couldn’t adopt, I explained that we were in a similar position to the one we were in before we adopted Katie, and that God would have to do more miracles for us to adopt again in the future.
Only a few people inquired about adopting Tommy over the following weeks, and none of them had a clear path to him, for one reason or another.
Nearly two months later, a family who had requested Tommy’s file wrote to ask me to continue to advocate to find a family for him. The information in his medical file and the sight of his official file photo had caused them to reconsider.
I looked at his file photo and gasped in shock. It was a chilling sight. This was either not Tommy, or this was Tommy before he was given his baba.
I called Stephanie Carpenter in tearful desperation. “Now nobody will want him! What can we do to help him find a family!?”
We brainstormed ideas, but they were all dead ends until Stephanie asked whether we’d contacted our congressman to see whether they could get Immigrations to make an exception for our family. Well, we’d learned with Katie that this approach is not welcomed by Immigrations officers, and is only recommended cautiously if an officer is stalling unnecessarily. They see it as a heavy-handed, top-down approach, and we wanted to preserve amicable relations with the USCIS officers.
So, no calling our congressman.
But I still had the USCIS toll-free number. Why couldn’t I call and ask them myself whether they ever make exceptions for families?
I had to follow up what I knew would be a dead end. This call was to rule out a remote possibility.
My hopes were deader than dead. I had grieved the loss of Tommy and accepted the hard providence of my loving Father. Our income last year was significantly lower than the stated income requirement for a family of our size. Not even within sight of that golden number. Tommy needed a family now.
But as Stephanie said, “You have nothing to lose by asking. The answer is already no. It can’t get worse than that.”
After a most remarkable discussion with the warm and personable USCIS officer who answered (during which I found out that she had visited our blog, she knew about Katie, I was “Katie’s mom,” and she was thrilled about all the children from Pleven coming into families), she said cheerily,
“Let me tell you the good news that we don’t have to make an exception for your family! You qualify!”
Whaaaaaaat? How can this be?
“Didn’t you know that we apply a family’s assets to their yearly income to come up with the final total?”
This includes equity in the home, value of the vehicles and other items of value the family may own, and money in savings and investments.
According to this policy, we qualify.
Remember, we had thought we would not be able to begin an adoption process before the beginning of 2014 at the earliest?
Here is where you need to understand that my man has a solid, stable, strategic-thinking, slow-moving personality. This family-man stability is why I married him, by the way. I know that he prefers to have plenty of time to think things over and try to honor that when possible.
Joe asked me many questions about my opinion of our family’s readiness.
He wanted to ask our church leaders for their thoughts about the timing of this adoption. Was our family ready for another child with significant special needs? Our church sees us on the most challenging day of our family’s week, and they observe us up close, all day long and sometimes into the night.
They have been incredibly supportive over the past fifteen months, seeking to learn about our girls and their needs, taking the special needs adoption ministry into their hearts, and looking for ways to help us. We would never have expected any church fellowship to surround us as they have.
Joe explained what he was asking of them, “We could come to you and announce that we are adopting Tommy, but we want to hear any thoughts you have before I make the final decision.”
He reassured me that he had absolutely no hesitations about Tommy himself, or about anything in his file.
I reassured him of my firm belief that God would lead this family through him and not through me, and that I respected his decision to receive input from the church leaders.
Joe makes decisions differently than I do. His personality is different from mine. Not better. Not worse. Just different. And I happen to know that God works with any personality type.
At this strategic juncture, we went away for a week without internet or cell phone coverage. This week had been offered to us months ago.
[Thanks to the lovely F. family who shared their tasteful and spacious mountain cabin with us! Vacation photos in a future post!]
God used that week to answer more prayers than we had even known to pray.
At the end of the summer, I had been troubled by a heavy sense of dullness toward God. I was spiritually dry. I asked God to please break my heart over my own sin. He used our week at the cabin to answer that prayer and overwhelm me with the greatness of His mercy toward me.
He also used our family’s time together to show Joe and me some of our parental blind spots, to strengthen our marriage bond and prepare us for where He’s sending us next.
My husband Joe had been reading through the book of Hebrews for some time. That week, he came to this passage that spoke to him clearly.
“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.”
It goes on to say,
“For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
‘For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.’
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
God used this passage to challenge him not to see Katie’s high-drama adoption as a sort of badge of honor to pull out every so often to remind himself that he had radically trusted God back then. And not to give in to the temptation to settle back into a life that he could manage pretty well without having to risk too much.
The Sunday after returning home, we sat around a table with the church leaders, our friends, and heard them tell us four things.
1. We aren’t surprised!
2. The calling of God on your family’s life is obvious to us.
3. You have our unqualified blessing, support, and prayers.
4. We think you should start walking and let God close the door if it is going to close.
Later that night, after all our children had gone to bed, Joe looked at the clock and announced, ”In light of everything, I have no hesitation. It’s 12:02 am, Monday, August 20th, and my belief is that God is saying, “YES!”
Here at the beginning of a new adoption adventure, we are sober-minded in the midst of our joy in what God is doing.
I’m already experiencing some familiar emotions–schooling myself in patience when I am eager to move and it’s time to wait, discomfort with the whole subject of funding, and the constant lookout for spare moments to fill out a little more paperwork!
At the same time, there is much more of a settled peace than last time. We are very motivated to keep this process moving quickly, but we experienced the faithfulness of God to such a degree last time that we are not the same people we were before we adopted Katie. There is no fear or even nervousness, just a calm knowing that God has this adoption in hand.
He can continue to give us favor with those who will be examining our family, He can provide for the adoption costs to be provided quickly as we move fast to bring Tommy home, He can continue to fine-tune the timing of every detail, and He can remove any obstacles that may arise.
Today, our home study social worker offered to expedite our home study at no extra cost, and is only charging us for an update, although it will be a full home study. This was an answer to a very specific prayer I had prayed. Thank You, Lord, for this provision!
He has already sent a friend to offer (multiple times) to run to Harrisburg for us when we need documents apostilled! Thank you, K! Joe says he’ll accept your kind offer on my behalf!
And tonight, we received an unexpected donation of $100! Thank you, J and family!
Friends, we are so humbled by the outpouring of love we continue to receive from all of you. God truly has used you to strengthen us for the task He has given us. May He bless you as you have blessed us.
We love you all!
“…several months ago when we talked, I had this overwhelming sense that YOUR FAMILY was going to be TOMMY’S family because God is a God of miracles. You had written in an e-mail (after I inquired more about Tommy) that “many miracles would need to happen” for us to be able to adopt and when I read that I immediately thought ….”Oh, that is no biggie to GOD because HE continues to be a God of miracles.”
~email from a good friend after hearing our big news
“For great Thou art, and wonders great
By Thy strong hand are done:
Thou in Thy everlasting seat
Remainest God alone.”
[Note 1: Now we find ourselves in an interesting blogging situation! I will have to tread on fine lines and you will have to read between them, because our agency has asked us not to publicly state his location.
Tommy's location will now publicly be referred to as Eastern Europe!
[Note 2: Thank you to those of you who let us know that our Chip-in button wasn't working! I hadn't thought to test it myself! Joseph figured out the trouble this morning and has it up and running now. Thank you!]