Monday, November 8, 2010

God closing one door...

Dear friends,

It is with deep sadness that I write this post.

For those of you who have seen us since we came home from Ethiopia, you have an idea of what has been going on the past 5 weeks or so and have been praying for us.

For those whom we haven’t personally talked to, I really am not even sure where to begin.

As you may have noticed, this blog has been pretty quiet since our trip. A little bit of that is just plain busyness and not having the time to update, some of it is because not much has happened with the church sponsorship, but a lot of the reason I haven’t posted a bunch of details about our time in Ethiopia is because of what has been happening in our family since we came home.

I will attempt to sum it up for you.

As you probably remember, we traveled to Ethiopia as a part of a vision trip to locate a care point of orphans and at-risk children that our church could possibly partner and form a sponsorship with. The main focus of our trip was to visit both unsponsored and sponsored communities and ask the Lord which one He would have us begin a partnership with. That was the point of the trip. We had no other agenda. Especially not anything having to do with adoption. (do you see where this is going now?!) We had such a wonderful, life-changing time during our 8 days in the country- we met and loved on almost 1,500 children! There was one orphanage in particular that completely captured our hearts- it was amazing and such a sweet time of fun, laughter, and fellowship for both our team and the children there. The Holy Spirit was so present at this orphanage. Everyone on our team had met special children and it was by far the most memorable two days of our time in Ethiopia. Ask anyone from our team and they will all tell you the same thing- we are changed because of these children. It was incredible and we made so many beautiful memories, and it was SO heartbreaking to have to say goodbye. Many of the children asked if we would write to them or visit someday in the future.

But God was doing something different in our hearts and we could not ignore it. We played with and met most every child there and had an amazing time, but we could not shake the fact that God had led us to two specific children- a brother and sister. Actually we did not find them, they found us.

“M” captured Randy’s heart immediately with her gorgeous smile and the way she backed up into him, wrapped her hands into his and looked up at him like a little girl who had just found her daddy. I was tearing up as I took this picture- literally only a few minutes after we had been at the orphanage.

He gave her piggy back rides and silly band bracelets, and she taught us songs and games and showed us her room that she shared with the other girls. She was beautiful and captivating from the inside out.

Right away we found out that her brother was “N”- the sweet, goofy kid that had started hanging around us quite a bit from the beginning too. Although they only spoke limited English and we most definitely only spoke very limited Amharic, there was a connection between us that we hadn’t felt with any of the other children. We were falling in love and the more time we spent with them, the more we couldn’t bear the thought of leaving them behind. It didn’t take long for Randy and I to look at them and then look back at each other and KNOW without saying a word that we were both feeling the same way. The day we said goodbye to them was one of the most difficult days of our life. I know you are reading that and thinking that we are ridiculous and silly- we only knew them for 2 days! How could we get so attached? But for us, it felt like we were leaving our children, not knowing if we would ever see them again and it was so HARD that I literally got sick afterwards and actually stayed in bed the entire next day. We learned while we were still in-country that this particular orphanage was not licensed for international adoption, only local foster care, so that made it all the more of a sad goodbye. And so the possibility of pursuing them seemed like a closed door right away.

When we really thought about the logistics of it, it was an absolute CRAZY idea anyway. I mean we had talked about adopting again, but this? 2 children at the same time who were almost exactly the same age as two of our bio kids? And they were much older than we ever thought we would adopt right now. And another boy? We have 3 already! A pre-teen girl? A bit scary for me to think about! Where would they sleep? Do we have room in our car? What about the trauma that they might have had? What other thirty year old plans to have 5 almost teenage children at the same time?! And so the crazy (and worldly) thoughts went on and on.

But 12 year old “N” and 10 year old “M” had stolen our hearts and as much as we tried to tell ourselves that it was impossible and absolutely nuts, the Lord continually brought them back to our minds every moment and we have thought and prayed for them every day since we said goodbye several weeks ago. We began to actually entertain the radical thoughts and ideas that were swirling around in our head. And pretty soon, they really didn’t seem too radical when we considered that we were talking about a calling from God. And when you are called by God, the absolute safest thing to do is to LISTEN and OBEY.

Literally the day after we came home, we started calling around to see if there was any way that an agency might be able to help us find more information about them and the possibility of these children being adopted. A few days later we began a monthly sponsorship of “our little boy” as we found out he was unsponsored. We began to let ourselves dream and pray that somehow they would be able to become a part of our family, if that was God's will. We sat down and talked and prayed with the boys about them. We printed their pictures out, put them up all over the house, and asked close friends and family to join us in prayer for them as well. We were absolutely in love with them and prayed that the Lord would see us fit to be their mommy and daddy.

And so we immediately dove into paperwork. We were not able to use our former agency because of 3 reasons: the children were pre-identified, we would be adopting out of birth order, and we would have 2 sets of virtual twins- all reasons that caused us to have to find another agency. So after being referred by another family, we did find an agency that was willing to work with us and was ready to help us track down some information about the children and their history. So we got to work right away and after applying to this agency we were able to give them the contact information for the orphanage director so their Ethiopia staff could contact him. Although we knew in our minds that this was a long-shot, we both were absolutely convinced that we were supposed to move forward in faith by beginning the home study with a local agency even though there was no guarantee of anything.

On a side note: while we were still in Ethiopia we had a chance to talk with the nurse that comes to the orphanage twice a month. When we asked her about these specific children she gave us a few bits of information- one was she told us that the kids had already been there for 4 years and the other was that their father was deceased and the mother was very sick when she brought the children there 4 years ago- so we didn’t even know if she was even still living. When we started on this journey, that was most of the information that we had. We were leaving the job of finding out any more to the agency staff in Ethiopia.

We prayed and waited and completed paperwork and prayed and waited and completed some more paperwork. We turned in our completed home study paperwork, fingerprints, dr apts in a record-setting 6 DAYS! In our minds, these were our children and we didn’t want there to be any reason on our part that the process took longer than necessary- so anything we could do, we did and everything else was out of our control! We were fully trusting God for a MIRACLE, clinging to many different scriptures and promises of His faithfulness to His people and that with Him all things are possible. We even had planned that once we got the ok from the orphanage director to process their files with the adoption agency’s orphanage, Randy was going to go back sometime in November or December. The idea behind this was that we had been there on a mission trip with a team of people, but he wanted to go there as a daddy and ask them if they wanted to be adopted. He was going to travel all the way to the other side of the world just to find them and tell them how much we love them and would like them to be a part of our family. Because they are so much older and because they would have to move to another orphanage then later have the huge life-changing transitions of coming to the U.S. and being in a completely different culture, we were not going to just assume that they would be ok with that. So once it was determined that they were true orphans and had the paperwork saying that, that is when Randy was going to book his flight.

So we waited to hear something from Ethiopia and for the day that we were told YES, you can proceed with the adoption of these two beautiful children.

Unfortunately the day never came.

Instead, we found out some things that caused us to step back and look at these children with God’s heart. We came to a point in this journey where it would have been completely selfish of us to move forward. Yes, we LOVE these children with all of our hearts and yes we want them to join our family more than anything in the world. But if that comes at the expense of taking away the opportunity of someday having a relationship with their birthmother (whom we just found out is still living) or in any way being unethical about any part of this process, then we want nothing to do with it! Absolutely we stand up to defend and care for the ORPHANS, but we also must remember to care for the WIDOWS as well.(James 1:27) Who are we to decide what is best for this mother’s children? We want to come alongside her in her pain and sickness, NOT be the reason she feels pressured to make a life-changing decision for her kids. We just did not have peace about any of it when we thought of it like that. We LOVE them enough to want the absolute best for them. And we love them enough to sacrifice our "dreams" for them and to let them live the life God has for them. To give them back so to speak. (Not that they were ever ours)
In a way it is like a tiny glimpse into the Father's heart.

So a few days ago, we made the heartbreaking decision to end this process of pursuing these wonderful amazing children. Although it was one of the hardest things we have ever done, God has brought us such an amazing peace through it all. For the past 6 weeks, we have poured our hearts, lives and resources into the adoption of “N” and “M” and now that the door is shut- we can honestly say that we have no regrets. Yes, we are exhausted. Yes, we are very disappointed and are grieving this loss. Yes, we have lost at the minimum $1,200 and possibly a few thousand more. BUT, we knew that we were called to pursue them and that we had to try. We may never know this side of heaven all the reasons we went through that, but I do know one thing. These children will always be a part of our family and I think we needed to go through this whole thing to solidify that truth. We will continue to be the proud sponsors of “N” for as long as they’ll allow and we will be writing letters back and forth to them once or twice a month. And Randy and I are POSITIVE that there is no way we could ever be back in Ethiopia without going to visit their orphanage. Every child there made such an impact on us and we will visit them as often as we get to go to Africa- which we hope is once a year! :)

As I said before, we always knew that the Lord had more children that were meant to be a part of our family. Maybe this was His way of jumpstarting us to begin the adoption process again- just a little quicker and differently than we expected, I really don’t know. I know it does me no good to try to figure out why God does certain things in our lives. I do know that whatever circumstance no matter how difficult or painful, He will cause it to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Please pray for our family as we grieve one door closing, and yet hope for another to open. Although they may never know it, these two children will forever be a part of our family and we will never forget them. We will most likely continue on this journey of adopting from Ethiopia, but now we have to take a step back and ask the Lord what that might look like. It is going to be hard to move forward without constantly thinking about what might have been or worry about the future and yet that is when our faith truly means something. When we have no idea what to do next, yet we take one more step because we have heard the Lord speak. We have nothing to fear or worry about because we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken and have One that has gone before us and sits at the right hand of God interceding for us.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:1, 6.)


Timothy said...

My heart grieves with you as I read about your incredible walk of faith the past several weeks. I praise the Lord for the brokeness you share for these children and the love and grace the Lord has given you. We will continue to pray for your family, "M" and "N", and the children that the Lord will bring into your family.

I thank the Lord for the encouragement to "run the race" I received today from reading from your heart.


Tina said...

wow, I knew many months ago i had a deep feeling you would adopt from Ethiopia..I have seen your heart grow with this country just as my own has. I knew with your trip it would change you. As I read your post I had tears rolling down my face..I could feel your heart..with these two beautiful children. It is amazing to hear how you were lead to act, but then the door closes. It makes me realize we may never understand fully the things we go through..I guess that is why God is God and He and only He understands what he is trying to teach us during a process like that. I prayed for you during your trip and will continue to pray for your family. Thank you for sharing your heart. I think it helps us all understand much more. Blessings to you and your family!

Teresa said...

Thank you for sharing your story so publicly. I so appreciate when the people of God are willing to share their pain with others. It opens the door for many, many to be okay with the pain in their own lives and it builds bridges amongst believers. Your faith is inspiring and your willingness to jump in not knowing the outcome is a testimony to your trust in the One who knows you best and cares for you monst. I believe your connection with these children can be eternal even if they don't spend one night in your home. Your love and prayers for them reaches to heaven to the Father of all. God bless you and your family as you live in and push forward for God's will in your lives.

with love, Teresa

Jenn said...

walking in obedience and love sure tears the heart in many directions, but knowing you can rest in trust brings peace. God knows, He cares, His heart is passionate about those children too. He will shape their lives through the deep heart of love you have shown them...the kind that passes through any language barrier. O how I wish there was a way to extend care and love to the kids and their birthmother. To provide for those precious children before they become orphans. How beautiful would that be?! somehow "adopt" the family.
Thank you for sharing your difficult journey. Thinking of you.

Snapshots Of Faith said...

This is Natalie, Don's wife. Our hearts grieve with you. I am truly sorry. But our faith is strengthened by your compassion and understanding for their birth mother. As a mother, I cannot imagine having to let my children go due to poverty or my own sickness. I don't know her story, but my heart goes our to her. God may be using your family still in this...just in a much different way. You may have gone through this so that the birth mother could be ministered to as well!

You and your husband blessed Don so much on that trip. Thank you for being obedient to the Lord. We pray that God will allow you to move forward in His perfect will.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

God Bless-

candice said...

Thank you so much, sweet friends for ministering to our hearts today. Your words of encouragement mean more than you'll ever know. It is a priveledge and blessing to have so many who stand up with us and come alongside when others are hurting or waiting on the unknown. May the Lord bless you today!

Michele said...

Oh Candice. I cannot imagine the flood of emotions you are feeling now. Your strength in the Lord inspires me. I think of how many times God has lead me through a loss in order to bring me to the place He meant for me. It is so painful and confusing in the moment, but somehow it usually makes beautiful sence when His plan is fully revealed. I know He is doing an amazing work in and through your lives. I can't wait to see when His glory is revealed. Blessings and Prayers from me to you.

Laurel said...

Candace, I am soooo sorry for your loss. Please take plenty of time to grieve before even considering your next adoption move. This loss is equivalent to a mom who has a miscarriage in many ways. It's the loss of a dream for that particular child joining your family. We have personally gone through this same pain 3 times. We were pursuing adoption of twin 2 year olds for 1.5 years when the day before we traveled to get them things fell through. It IS all of God's plan to lead your journey in HIS way, not yours. YOu guys are being very obedient. Now just pray and God will handle all the other details in the future. He will also grant you peace and comfort now as you grieve. When you come to full peace and understanding, you'll be assured it's the work of the Holy Spirit working within you. What a joy that will be! :-)
God Bless. We'll pray for your family in this time of loss.

Whitney and Daniel Bunker said...

Candice and Randy,

It is beautiful to see the body of Christ surround you in this difficult time. We love you guys and want to encourage you with Galatians 6:8

"So let us not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessings if we don't give up."

Your harvest is coming!

The Bunkers

Cynthia said...

I have come to this page time after time and have been disappointed that you have not updated. I have read and reread what you have written in your earlier posts. I even quoted your comparison of earthly adoption to our heavenly one in a piece I wrote for our church.

Today, I looked one more time. What a blessing! What a journey! You have touched my heart in so many ways! I even think of you when I am shopping and remember your words that you will never see life the same way again.

You are amazing people with God's hand clearly on your shoulders. Please continue to post. I want to know where He leads you, and where He leads those of us whose lives are changed by what you write.

You will be in our prayers. Godspeed joy to you and your family.

emily hope said...

Candice, I'm so sorry for what you've been through, but trusting the Lord to that He has a purpose in all of it, for *all* of you. May you continue to look to Him for strength, wisdom, and comfort.

Mel said...

I'm crying for you but in awe of your faithfulness both in being willing to pursue and being willing to let go.
We'll be praying for you guys.


Christi said...

Praying for you sweet friend... grieving with you and praying that the God that knew them and knew you before the creation of the world would heal your hearts! Being beautifully broken hurts so much some times... know that we are praying for you!

Ally said...

My heart is hurting for you as I read your post. I will say a prayer for you and your family, for peace and for a path to your next open door.

Aaron Klein said...

Randy and Candice,

I was just blown away by this post. Thank you for your willingness to be RADICAL about caring for orphans. Your hearts for the fatherless are so transparently obvious - and that's been so every time we've California and in Ziway! :)


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