This post is the second provided by guest blogger, Jason Underhill. You can read the first part of his family’s story here.
Adopting kids is an incredible adventure. However with it comes a ton of blessings and a ton of challenges. Many times the challenges out-way the blessings that God has given you. You become blind by what God is doing because it is so difficult at times throughout the process. I like to think of it in terms of riding a roller coaster. You have times when you’re climbing the steep slope and everything seems to be going really well. Then there are the times when you are turning upside down totally out of control to the point you feel sick to your stomach and you are ready to just throw up it’s so hard. Deep down inside though you know that you have a God that is with you every step of the way but in the midst of the challenge you don’t always see God. You get caught up in the circumstances and the challenges. You miss out on so many of the blessings. I want to share this so that you and others can be prepared for yourself to adopt or to know how you may be able to help those in your church who have adopted so you can be there to lend the support they need when they arrive home.
Once we knew we were called to adopt we started the process immediately. We found an agency filled out all the necessary paperwork sent it and now the time came to wait. We waited and waited. When was our turn going to come? God we are being faithful, other people are getting referrals and bringing their kids home in just a matter of months. Our time of waiting turned from weeks, to months to a year and one month before we received our referral.
We finally received our referral on November 2, 2010, we received a call at church that we had gotten a referral for 2 twin girls that were 4 months old at the time. We prayed and knew they would be ours and two days later confirmed it with a phone call that we would accept the referral and move the process in bringing our girls home. We had more paper work to be done, people to share the news with. Our kids were so excited. We set it up for each of our children to have a part in telling our parents and family about the girls. Our family was so surprised but excited at the same time. Our prayer was that we would bring them home in the next few months. We waited and waited but we did not get our first court date until December 30, 2010. Those few weeks seemed to take forever.
Our goal was for us to take our oldest two children to Ethiopia so they could meet the girls and share in the experience. It turned out that God blessed us and provided what we needed for them to go in February, 2011. It helped them to also see the plight of orphans in Ethiopia that we had seen on our first trip to Africa back in 2000. It is amazing how God softens the hearts of children and shows them love so easily. I’m reminded of what Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Our children have been exposed to something that I wish I had been exposed to at the young of an age. I am so blessed that God allowed me to take them on this journey so they could have this experience and know that heaven belongs to all children everywhere. My daughter (Katie Beth) talks about it in school and our boys (Everett and Nolan) are so proud of there two little sisters (Lyla and Sosie). When they talk to you about their sisters, if you had not met them or known they were from Ethiopia you would think they were our biological kids. When adults meet their sisters it is awesome to see how proud they are and how much they love them. Only through the eyes of children do we sometimes get a great glimpse of what God see’s in the world!
The time in Ethiopia was a blessing. We finally met Lyla and Sosie for the first time after several months of seeing pictures that were emailed to us. We were able to hold them in our arms and we thought we were just a matter of weeks from bringing them home. Unfortunately the urgency to bring them home knowing they were ours was gut wrenching. We knew it would be a matter of weeks but the weeks became months. We came to a point where it even appeared that we would have to start the entire adoption process completely over. We were devastated to say the least. We prayed, we cried, but God was there.
In July, five months after our first trip we received the call to officially inform us that Lyla and Sosie were our girls and that we would be making a trip in August to bring them home. Due to my schedule at church and with the kids going back to school I was not able to go on the 2nd trip, but Sarah took her Aunt Nancy with her to bring the girls home. The trip home was the most challenging and disgusting trip they ever had. The flight home was the worst. I was not there so I cannot truly paint you a picture of how bad the flight home was. The girls had an infection which many children have coming from Ethiopia. The infection caused the girls to have explosive vomiting and explosive diaper blow outs. My wonderful wife and her Aunt literally changed clothes about 5 times and had a garbage bag filled with the smelliest odor I have ever smelled. You could see it in their faces how exhausted it had been. No one who had come to welcome her at the airport including myself truly understood all they went through on that flight home. Sarah was like is it worth all of this?
The girls were home and for a couple of months they continued to have the blowouts as they were on medication to clear out their system. We didn’t sleep well, and we were exhausted. It was the most difficult 2-3 months I think we ever had. We were also taking time to bond with the girls so they would know that we were their mom and dad. We couldn’t let other people hold them and we kept them in our home to bond. They needed this to know that this was home and to know that we were there to love them no matter what. Sarah didn’t want to leave them for a second but she needed an outlet to have a break during the day with them. It was hard on her and I still don’t know how she made it sometimes through those days. Our small group was incredible. They were always there to help. They would call and check on us to see how things were going. They are our best friends and we know we can count on them for anything. Others would bring meals to help out which was great as well. I know that God was with her and I would have given anything to help her even more than I could.
We had taken all the classes and spoken to other people that had adopted kids so we could be prepared, but until you have adopted children and experience it yourself, there is no way to explain what happens those first 6-9 months. I say that to say we knew people were praying for us and helping us and in June of 2012 we had a moment. I can’t explain it or even describe it, but it was an AHA moment where Sarah and I were like, this is unbelievable. This is truly a miracle of God that we have these incredible girls. Even though the past 9 months had been gut wrenching all of a sudden everything seemed to just click. We were finally able to see the blessings God had given us in the midst of our challenges and circumstances.
We took a vacation in July after VBS and Kids Camp which was a much needed family vacation. On the trip we celebrated Sarah and I’s 15th wedding anniversary and we celebrated Lyla and Sosie’s birthday’s by turning 2! It was their very first birthday! We had small gifts for them and pink little shirts that said, “I am 2.” They were so cute just smiling and laughing enjoying the moment. Time stood still for me that day and I soaked in of how God was blessing us. We all realized that these two girls would never have possibly had a birthday had we not obeyed God. We could see the joy in their eyes and we could see them the way God sees them even for just a moment.
Over the last few months Sarah and I have grown closer to all 5 of our children, each other and most importantly our Heavenly Father. He showed us that through the difficult times He was there, but in the midst of the trials and circumstances we had lost our focus on Him. We got so caught up in the stuff that we missed out on our calling. We look back and we see now how God has blessed us. We see the girls singing, “Jesus Loves Me” and know that if we had not been obedient they may have never heard about Jesus. Now they sing it all the time and it reminds me of the greater purpose and calling on my life.
I have grown as Children’s Pastor as well because of our adoption. I am helping other families who are in our church with adoption and asking them how things are going. When they come home I know they will have challenges so offer any way we can help. If someone in your church is or has adopted I would encourage you to do some homework and find out how you can help meet the needs of the family. It will mean the world to them and it will show that you care. We now have an adoption ministry that helps folks with this in our church that has been a very helpful resource.
We still have our challenges but now we see it from a different perspective and know that God is BIG! He is the one who helped us through the entire process and we know He has a special plan for our girls. We have no idea what it will be, but I believe He will use them for His glory to reach others that wouldn’t have been reached had we continued to be disobedient. We have all changed for the better and I believe this is still the beginning of greater things that God has not only for us but for children around the world. God is using children today more than ever to share the love of Christ and I believe this next generation of children will be used by God in way’s we can only imagine.