Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Next....

The day we picked Daniel up from the orphanage was a day I will never forget.  All the months of heartache faded in the background, paled dramatically by the vivid color of the miracle we were getting to experience.  Every day that we had received more information that would lead to another heart-wrenching delay….  Every day that had passed when we received no news…Every day it had felt like we were losing our minds in the agony of the waiting season…all those days slipped quickly and quietly into the recesses of my mind.  We were bringing home our son.  We were bringing home the little boy designed for our family.   Daniel took from the orphanage that day a diaper.   Other than the file we had already received documenting all his known medical information, two pictures, and extremely limited family background, he had nothing else in the world to call his own.  Two pictures and a vague story are the only things we  have for the first two and a half years of his life.  And God chose us to change the direction of his path.  Almost three years prior God had looked at a sleeping infant, born to a woman who either wasn't willing or able to be a mommy, and whispered, "I know the plans I have for you, precious child.  Plans to prosper you…plans to give you a hope and a future." And he whispered to our hearts, "Russia" in a long-awaited response to our desperate cry for a child.  From that point on, Daniel would never have to be one of the precious unknowns.  He will never have to be counted among the world's forgotten ones.  Jesus never forgets the children.  Each one is known by Him.  There are still too many in the world and politics and bureaucracy   make it so challenging.   In spite of those challenges, I will never cease praising God for a body that has been incapable of fulfilling my deepest desire.

Around 11 am on July 23, 2012, I climbed into the back of an old sedan and turned as they passed Daniel to my open arms.  He was dressed from head to toe in brand new clothes-quite possibly the first new clothes he had worn in his entire life.  As I turned to smile at the caregiver, my focus was brought to the seven other little children behind her who had been in Daniel's group, all standing near the little fence of their little playground.  Chubby little hands waved, "Paca Paca!" ("Bye Bye!")  Little eyes looked as though they-even at their young age-understood that they would never see their friend again.  They had experienced this moment already.  And I knew as they got older and understood more, some of them would begin to wonder, "Why not me?  Why can't I have a family?"  Tears well up in my eyes even now as I understand those questions down to the core of my being.  God's unwillingness to answer my prayers my way every month prior had opened the door for something so much bigger than I ever could have imagined.   And I was ready to begin again.

That night was the first time in almost three years that Brock slept through the night.
For the next eight months we would be on completely different pages when it came to expanding our family.  Before we left Russia, I had already begun dreaming about returning to Arkhangelsk for a sibling.  Brock had already started doing very preliminary research for fertility clinics.  We decided to make no decision other than to pray until December.  We prayed for wisdom, for peace and for unity.  When the time was right, we believed we would have the same heart. 

January  came and we were still peaceably on different sides.  Russia had closed its doors to Americans wanting to adopt and neither of us felt any particular pull towards another country or even a domestic adoption.  Bulgaria was the only country we found that sparked some interest and we sent off for information from three different agencies that worked with Bulgarian adoptions.  We didn't hear back from any of them other than to be added to their email list.  We talked to a doctor from a fertility clinic in St. Louis who was extremely optimistic about our chances of success based on our medical information and results from the fertility tests we had already had.  I was beginning to get more and more excited about that possibility, but in the days and weeks that followed, "Ishmael" kept repeating in my brain.  In Genesis, God had promised the barren Sarai and Abram a son and after years of seeing no physical manifestation of an answer to that prayer, Sarai sent her Abram to her maidservant so that they could have a son, Ishmael through her.  God had had a different plan though and eventually, after He changed Abram and Sarai's name to Abraham and Sarah, they, in their old age-as in an age where only God could have made a pregnancy possible-gave birth to Isaac.  There was a huge price to pay for Abraham and Sarah taking matters into their own hands instead of waiting on the LORD.  While I know that God works through science, I myself had no peace about our family paying for a pregnancy when God had already opened our eyes and hearts for a glimpse of the things which children without families experience all around the world.  In no way do we believe that fertility assistance is wrong, but I didn't have peace about it for our family. 

While I was becoming more and more convinced, Brock was more and more adamant that he did not want to put our family through the turmoil of adoption again.  He had carried the burden of wanting to protect his bride from all the pain during Roman's story and now he was unsure he could shoulder the burden required to shelter not only the two of us again, but now also Daniel.  I was getting more and more stubborn and vocal and, looking back, more and more challenging.   I knew in my heart what we were supposed to do, but instead of coming to a place of surrender, I was trying to bulldog my way through this season. 
My willingness to release the reins of control came unexpectedly on April  24th.  We had not yet gotten Daniel's social security number and had finally pulled all the paperwork together to complete that process.  The three of us went to the Social Security office and our little family sat in the waiting room until it was our turn.  Another woman in the waiting room commented on how cute Daniel was and we got to talking about his story.  My heart ached even thinking about leaving our first son in Russia and it didn't look like we were ever going to come to a place of agreement with regard to expanding our family.  The lady made a casual comment about how God had opened the doors for the son we were supposed to bring home.   One of the agencies to which we had applied was Open Door Adoptions and a thought came crashing over me with a hurricane force that made me lose my breath for a moment.  "What if God closed the door to Open Door?  Will you be content  if the three of us is the forever family?"  I had been so certain and now I didn't know.  Our name was called and we walked into the back office of the social security building.  The lady who was helping us was so unbelievably rude and condescending that I felt like we were in the middle of the Murmansk Madness all over again.
"Why did it take you so long to bring him to get a number?  What is wrong with you?  You are being negligent parents."
 And the accusations continued.  I looked at Brock-my steady rock-and was shocked to see the look on his face that had been there during the worst days of our process.  His face was red, his leg was shaking and he looked like he could burn holes through the cubicle behind this woman.  He maintained polite words but I knew that was coming from a Strength that was not his own.  It was being in court, our every motive questioned, our every word weighed determining if the powers that be would find us worthy to grant us what so many take for granted.  It was being nothing but a number while we waited with our hearts in our hands all over again.  We left the office in silence and Brock didn't speak again until we were several miles down the road. 
"That's why I can't adopt again, Ashley.  I can't stand the thought of our character being questioned by someone who has no idea who we really are-nor really cares- and who has the power to determine if our hearts will be filled or broken.  I didn't sleep a full night through the entire adoption process.  I can't go through that again."
 I looked at my husband.  The man who takes so seriously his responsibility to protect and provide for his family.  The man who would lay his life down for Daniel and myself and I realized I could not ask, beg or coerce him into another adoption.  I couldn't ask him to do something that would risk his health or his peace of mind.  Maybe God had indeed closed the door.
Ironically, within a few days, I received a mass email from one of the adoption agencies with some very promising information about Bulgaria.  I forwarded it to Brock with a note that explained I didn't want to talk about this yet, but I wanted him to have this information.   My desire to adopt hadn't gone away, and so I had a new conflict.  But every time I prayed about it, I kept hearing the same two phrases. 
"LORD Jesus, we will do whatever it is that you want us to do, if you will just make your way known to us.  What do you want me to do?"
"Be still and know that I am God."
"Ok LORD, I believe this desire to make the difference for another child comes from You.  How can I talk to Brock about it in a respectful way?"
"Peace, be still and I will fight for you"
Every single time in the next couple of weeks I thought about bringing the subject of adoption up, I could almost feel a Divine Hand clamp over my mouth.  "Be still, Ashley" 
Earlier that month, Daniel and I had made the trek down to visit my family in Texas and Brock, taking advantage of the time uninterrupted, had decided to stain our deck.  We originally thought it would take a week at the most, but as he got to working on it, he soon realized it was in desperate need of structural attention and the week project turned into a three week adventure.   Every time he was out there, he was listening to Air1, a Christian radio station and became very familiar with several new songs.  On May 1st, we went to dinner and Brock was much more quiet than usual.  We loaded in the car to go home and he turned to me and told me he had bought a new song on iTunes.  I looked at him, thinking this was a very dramatic way to give me some rather mundane information.
"Oookkkkkaaayyyy….what song was that?"
"I want you to listen to it."
He plugged in the adapter and the lyrics with which I too had become familiar flooded the empty space in the car. 
Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent to grieve
On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

A lump welled up in my throat.  I was reliving the emotions and joy of the day Brock asked me to be his wife.  I knew what he was doing and what he was saying, but I had to contain the overwhelming flood of emotion until he could get the words out.

Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these

Break our hearts once again
Help us to remember when
We were only children hoping for a friend
Won’t you look around these are the lives that the world has forgotten
Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open


If not us who will be like Jesus
To the least of these…
(Audio Adrenaline's Kings and Queens)
"Ashley, I listened to this song dozens of times while I was out working on the deck never really paid attention to the words.  But, all day long today the lyrics kept running through my head.  God saw us through our last adoption and if He is wanting to use us again for another child and if you still want to adopt, I am ready to proceed.  I've contacted an agency that Buckner recommended for a Bulgarian adoption today and they will be sending us some information.  What do you think?"
What do I think?  What do I think?!  I think that God has answered prayers!  I think that we are going to grow our family!  I think that we serve an amazing Heavenly Father who has blessed me with an incredible godly man!  I think you are brave, Brock.  You are following a path that seems scary and unknown and are committed to it because God has called you to it.  I think that I am beyond blessed to follow a husband who follows the LORD.  I think God changed your heart where I could not. 

And so begins our second paper pregnancy.  As often as you think of us, we would covet your prayers for peace, protection and provision.  We know the same God who was so faithful to sustain us through our last adoption will be faithful through this one as well.  Only He knows what adventures lie in store!


  1. Hi Ashley...I became aware of your story through Cheryl Easterwood/Facebook. I used to teach with her before she retired. I have followed your blog the whole time and spent nights praying,praising, and grieving each time I read a new post. I just got back from a mission trip to Novosibirsk,Russia working with the orphan boys and girls at St. Nicks and many times your story came to mind. Just wanted to let you know that even though I don't know you personally I am praying for your next little blessing.
    In Him,

  2. wow. wow. wow. what an exceptional testimony! prayers to y'all!

  3. All I can say is WOW!!! Tears of joy run down my face for all of you and for the little one God has chosen for you to love. I will be praying!!!! Tons of love!! Lynn

  4. Very cool story and I appreciate you sharing! I too want to adopt and am praying that if it is what God wants for our family that He will guide Eric's thoughts as well. You can count on me to be committed to praying for your journey and strength for each step along the way. Colleen