Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Feeling Mikaela Kick, From Half-Way Around the World

Even though we've been working to bring Mikaela home for two-and-a-half weeks now, the reality of all of this has only started settling in over the last few days. When we stepped out in faith last fall and started working on our home study, we knew that God was leading us to adopt at some point in the (relatively) near future. For a while, we even thought we knew which child He was bringing into our family, but it was only after that possibility fell through that He brought Mikaela to our attention. Through all of our home study work, I found it difficult to stay focused on the things that we had to do in order to be approved to adopt because, at that point, we didn't know which child we were laboring to bring home. We had no face to look at and imagine sitting next to our two bio children. We had no name for the child that God had out there for us. We had no information about the child's medical history. We didn't know how old this child was. We didn't know where this child was. In fact, if it weren't for Kristie's diligence, I'm convinced that we would still be floundering in the early stages of our home study, meaning that Mikaela would be stuck in her orphanage longer than would be ideal. As it is, we're in the early stages of putting our dossier together, and it is still possible that our daughter could join our household by the end of April.

One would think that knowing whom we're adopting would have wrought an immediate change in me, that I would have jumped into this new batch of paperwork with both feet. Alas, that wasn't the case. At least not right away. For the first week or so, I was largely in shock as to how quickly things were moving. There were still a few pieces of our home study that needed to be wrapped up, but I actually had some trouble following through on them. For some reason, it just didn't quite seem real that God had shown us our new daughter, who is currently thousands of miles away. The sensation was not that far from how I felt during each of Kristie's pregnancies. For both Josiah and Gabriela, the reality of it all didn't sink in fully until they grew enough for me to feel them. And when they started kicking and moving around, it became that much sweeter. As of about a week ago, I reached the point where the fact that we are indeed adopting a little, five-and-a-half-month-old baby girl from Eastern Europe finally made its way into my (somewhat thick) head. Now, I'm constantly thinking about our daughter, stuck in a poor orphanage almost half-way around the world, still unaware that there could be a life for her that's different than what she knows now. Every time I change a diaper—whether Josiah's or Gabriela's—when it's not very wet but still needs to be changed because it's been on for several hours, I wonder how long Mikaela has to wait until her diapers are changed. I wonder whether her skin has ever been—or, perhaps more accurately, how frequently—burned by being left in a wet and/or dirty diaper for too long. It makes me sad to think of her little, smiling face enduring that kind of discomfort and pain. I know that many children around the world are treated similarly, and in some cases even worse, but the thoughts of Mikaela's plight are the ones that make my heart sink. That's all the motivation I need to push to get her home as soon as possible.

Right now, I get momentarily paralyzed whenever I take a step back and survey all of the paperwork that still needs to be done, the long trips (or possibly trip) that lie ahead of us, and all of the money that is still needed. (Thankfully, God has given us the first bit of the funds that we need for this, and we praise Him for that!) But then I'm able to focus in on the things that I am responsible for to get her home as quickly as possible. This is not easy, and there is much left to be done, but we are well on our way now, and we cannot wait to meet Mikaela, to hold her, to tell her that we love her, to introduce her to her brother and "twin" sister, to usher her into her new life with us. Hold on, baby girl; we're coming.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Today was one of those rare and wonderful Sundays when the sermon at church addressed the exact topic that had been most prominent in my mind all week.

Since we decided to pursue Mikaela's adoption, I have been striving to find the balance between trusting God to provide all that we need for this adoption and continuing to bring my petitions before Him again and again. I have been thinking about verses that encourage God's people to "be still and know that [he is] God." Greg and I are constantly struck by how little our 18-month-old son trusts us in certain areas. When we all sit down together for a meal, Josiah immediately begins to ask us for his food. When we lay his silverware down so that we can feed ourselves, he asks urgently for his food again. If he can't see us actively preparing to put the next bite in his mouth, he begins to worry that we might not feed him any more. It doesn't matter to him that every day of his life, we have given him as much food as he has needed as soon as he has needed it. He still worries each meal that we might let him leave the table while he is still hungry. I know that we Christians have a tendency to do exactly the same thing to God. No matter how many times He provides for our needs, we start to worry if we are aware of a need and can't yet see Him preparing to meet that need for us. I have tried to be very careful to avoid this sort of a mindset as we wait for him to provide for Mikaela's adoption.

On the other hand, I don't want to take God's provision for granted in this (or any) area. It would be just as serious of a mistake to know that God will provide what we need and then to dismiss it from our minds. In many different passages, God encourages his people to ask Him for the desires of their hearts. I have thought many times this week about the parable of the woman and the unjust judge. She begs the judge for her needs so many times that He finally gives her justice in spite of his own wickedness. We are told to be as persistent as that widow when we ask God for things. How do I bring my requests to God again and again and again with out slipping into the childish tendency to wonder whether He will really meet our needs this time?

Our church has been working through the book of Hebrews, and today the sermon was about praying with confidence and commitment. There was little new information in the sermon, but it helped to solidify many of the things I already knew and to clarify the interaction between our trust in God and our repeated requests of Him.

One of the helpful points in the sermon today was on the importance of praise. That is one element of my prayers that tends to be weak, and has been particularly so over the last week or so. Most of my prayers have focused on Mikaela. Spending more of each prayer focusing on God, and His character and mighty works of the past will help give my prayers some of the balance I have been trying to find. Rather than dwelling on the significance of the need, I will try to focus on the power and goodness of God. I will still acknowledge the need and ask him to meet it, but I think this shift of emphasis will help.

I came away from church this morning more excited and encouraged than I have been in quite a while. I look forward to seeing His mighty works in this situation. I am more aware than ever before of what a privilege it is to participate in His works through the gift of prayer.

Greg and I are praying for a few things specifically in this adoption. We pray that there will never be a point during which the adoption is slowed down because of a lack of funds. We ask that God will provide everything we need for this adoption so that we do not need to incur any debt. We ask that God will keep Mikaela safe and healthy while she waits for us, and we ask that he would have her home safely by the end of April. Please join us in praying for these things and watch with us as God works in this situation.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Waiting Begins

I knew before we began this adoption that the waiting is the hardest part. I have seen my parents complete 13 adoptions at this point, and I have talked to many other people in the midst of an adoption. I think the thing that surprised me is how early in the adoption process the wait becomes agonizing. Greg and I heard about Mikaela yesterday afternoon, and committed to her about 24 hours ago. Already the strain of the wait is wearing on me. In some ways, having Gabriela makes the wait harder, because she keeps Mikaela on my mind so constantly, and because the contrast between their situations is so stark. At several points today, Gabriela has started crying because of something small that was troubling her. Once, her hands were cold. Another time, she wanted to get in her crib with her little stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet. Several times, she just wanted someone to talk to her. Each time, I thought about Mikaela as I was comforting Gabriela. While I warmed Gabriela's hands, I wondered if Mikaela was cold. When Greg carried Gabriela to her bed for her nap, I thought about her bed with its little quilt and her favorite stuffed animals. I have seen cribs in orphanages many times before, and I know that often they have dirty sheets, plastic bags poking out, and sometimes two or more children sharing a bed. As I lay in the floor talking to Gabriela and reassuring her that we are still here and still care about her, I wondered if Mikaela has given up crying when she is lonely. We have been told that the orphanage caring for Mikaela right now is very poor and not able to care for its children very well. Even in good orphanages, there are never enough workers to hold all the children, and in a poor orphanage, there isn't a chance. I wonder if my little girl is cold at night and hungry during the day. I wonder how long it will take her to learn to trust us to meet her needs once she comes home. After months of not having her needs met, surely that is what she will expect, even once she comes home. Our contact tells us that Eastern European adoptions can move very fast, and that we might have Mikaela home as early as April. I know that is very, very fast for an adoption, and I hope and pray that things will go that well. But I also know that is a very long time for a little girl to be cold and hungry. I pray that God will move this adoption as quickly as possible. I pray that he will provide all the money we need as we need it. And most of all, I pray that he will take care of my baby girl. I am asking Him to help me wait and trust Him to give Mikaela everything she needs. The first day of our wait is now over. I have no idea how many days of waiting still lie ahead of us.

Meet Mikaela

We have been thinking about adoption for quite some time now. Before we were even married, in fact. Both of us have hearts for adoption—especially when special-needs children are involved—and we felt strongly that God's plan for our family would include adoption. We just didn't think that it would happen this soon into our marriage. He has blessed us with two children in our first two-and-a-half years together, but He doesn't appear to be finished adding to our household at this point. For the past eight months or so, we have been convinced that God was leading us to adopt in the very near future. So, we have been praying hard over that time, trying to keep our hearts open to His prompting. We have considered a number of children whom we have learned of, and just yesterday we saw a girl who melted our hearts unlike any other has. She is five months old, just eighteen days older than our biological daughter, Gabriela. She has Down syndrome and a heart murmur, and she is living in an Eastern European orphanage where the children are often underfed and lack the care that they need. After praying about her for several hours, we became convinced that she is indeed our daughter and that God is leading us to pursue her adoption. And so, we are beginning the work for her adoption in earnest. There is a good deal of paperwork yet to do, and a lot of funds need to be raised before we can bring home our daughter, whom we are calling Mikaela Colleen. Mikaela is the feminine form of the Hebrew name Michael, and Colleen is Greg's mom's middle name. Together, her name means "Who is like God, little girl?" That means that our first two daughters (perhaps our only two, but we're not closing any doors here) are named for the only two angels named in Scripture and each have on of their grandmothers' middle names. We did not plan for this to be the case; we only realized that interesting fact after choosing a name for this baby girl.

Our prayer right now is that everything that needs to be done to complete her adoption will happen quickly and smoothly. We want very much to get her out of her orphanage as soon as possible, but there are a number of hurdles in our way. Perhaps the largest of those (at least from our perspective) is the cost of the adoption. From what we know, it will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $26,000 to complete Mikaela's adoption. Thankfully, the very little bit that we have is enough to begin the process, and we are having to trust the Lord with the rest. He has led us here, and we are confident that He is going to provide all that is needed to bring our daughter home, though we don't know precisely how He is going to do it. We ask anyone who reads this please to pray with us and for Mikaela, that we will be able to complete her adoption and bring her home by her first birthday, which is in August. The best-case scenario has us traveling to bring her home in April, which would be amazing. That means, of course, that we would have to have raised all of our funds by that time. If you or anyone you know would like to help us in that way, please click here to find out how to donate. (There is a fund for Mikaela that has been set up through The Shepherd's Crook Ministries. Just be sure to designate your donation as being for Mikaela Godwin.) We will do our best to update this blog as we continue down this road to adoption. Oh, and we will post a picture of her as soon as we have verified that we are allowed to do so.