Never once…has He ever let her go…

We’ve had an amazing few days. Amazing. And I’m a little speechless at all He has done.

After a year of dealing with Lyme disease–having put our China adoption on hold a year ago–I thought we’d do what we could this summer–and if God wasn’t leading us to pick up our adoption again yet–we could host. It was a 5 week program–and we thought we’d host a teen who would be aging out. We had this little plan to love a child aging out and lay our new relationship before God to do whatever He wanted. We were even open to a speedy adoption if it was His plan. If not, we’d support this child in whatever way we could as if she was ours.

I went in expecting a quick connection. Begging our social worker to complete a home study in record time. But as the days passed, we didn’t feel this was best for her as she expressed her desire to go back to her country and we didn’t feel this was what the Lord was leading us to do. We advocated for her–but nothing happened. And I felt the Lord was asking me to step back and trust Him. (This is hard for me–because I can’t “back think”–because I love her terribly now…and I know she’d fit beautifully in our family. This is the hard part for me now…but I know His timing is just perfect. He has a plan.) Truly, it would have near to impossible even had we said yes in the first week–but still…that wasn’t what we felt we were to do.

We struggled greatly those first weeks. Every day she made up new stories–we felt we didn’t know who this child was. She’d bite her hands until they bled–and she’d give us stink eyes throughout the day if we didn’t meet every request or told her no. It was hard. I just didn’t see how in the world this momma could make time for what was obviously needed for long term care–and while some times I felt the temptation to call on a backup host family–I knew the Lord had a purpose for our time together…I knew she had been let down by many in her past…and I wasn’t about to add more to the list. I told her she had us whether she liked it or not. I told her she could give me the stink eye all she wanted and I was going to love her to pieces. I got frustrated over her turning on Spanish soap operas despite my asking not to watch them…I took deep breaths when she made fun of the children crying…and my heart would beat when glared at me–my knees would shake and I’d tell myself to stand firm, keep smiling back–and walk over and hug her or rub her back and tell her how much I love her…contrary to what my flesh wanted to do.

I’ll never forget our first visit to church. I was pecking away as fast as my fingers would go on google translate. Trying to translate every worship song for her…and then–the pastor started talked and out we went because I could see she was upset with me for taking her there and she hated it. She ran down the hall. I chased her. Into an empty Sunday school room she went–and she was hysterical. For the next hour I calmed her down–we called the translator–she made up more stories…and all I could think was how in the world are we going to make it to August? I had 4 littles waiting for me to pick them up–but this one needed all of me…and she’d need most of me for the summer. Lord, will you be enough for them while we do this?

And here I type. Almost 5 weeks later. Just 4 sleeps before she boards a plane and leaves for the Ukraine. What I’d now give for more. We have come so far…and I feel like she is mine.

Her life is changed. My life is changed. And I will never be the same.

The last week has been so sweet. We’ve overcome hurdles, and she clearly sees my heart and love for her. It has required hours on google translate every day and night–my babes in the playroom while I prayed He would be enough as I cared more for her…daily I would give it to Him–and He has been faithful.

I haven’t been able to blog the last few days so I must document some of my favorite memories to hold on to…

*Loved when I was leaving for the grocery on Thursday and T had the choice to stay at the house with Rich and visit with kids her age that she JUMPED in my van to come. She said, “Baby come with momma!” and we laughed. We had such fun at the store–but of course she pulled a T pointing at someone with blue hair. I had to tell her it’s not okay (once again) to point and laugh…working on her. Love her to pieces.

*We stopped by Laura McBrayer’s house to visit. She told us she danced–but refused to show us. I told her I’d go first and put on quite a show leaving her laughing her head off. She followed me–and it was pretty sweet to watch…to see this is a love of hers. Love this memory together. Here’s a pic of T with Laura’s daughter Rebecca…

*When I asked her if she wanted to stay at the lake and told her she’d have to share a room with me and the kids–her eyes got big…she locks her door at night–so she wasn’t sure about this. She had SO much fun at the lake and wanted to spend the night–and we had a little slumber party. And she put on a little dance show for the family at the lake too! Her shells are coming off and she is feeling free to be T!

*We drove back on Saturday morning…just me, T and ITY. The 3 of us went to Stone Mountain Park–and oh my…what a day. First–she is a nut. She has NO understanding of personal space. She sat on a bench with another family even though there was less than a foot of space left on it. She just liked their shady spot. Oh my–she cracks me up! LOVED hearing her squeal like a child during Yogi Bear’s 4D movie. She loved the train–but I got the stink eye when I told her she couldn’t hang out of the train (hey–the conductor said it first…not momma on this one).

Had to take a picture of her sitting on a bench with another family…she just makes me laugh! I told her to please come sit but she gave me her classic “No!” in a Russian accent. The family was precious and said she was fine to sit with them. Can you find T in this picture??

On the train…

At the barn…

*Can’t believe she is the first of my littles to talk this height scared momma into getting on a Sky-lift. She had NO idea the sacrifice I was making for her. Rich still can’t believe it. Then she wanted to dance on TOP of the mountain…so I got off the Sky-lift with her and let her dance. It was actually an amazing moment in the midst of God’s creation.

Had to take this pic to send to Rich. In our 9 years of marriage he hasn’t seen me do heights. This girl is THAT special.

Dancing on the mountain

*Will FOREVER laugh at the memory of the light show. YES–we got there at noon and we were still there well after dark…with a 2 year old in tow. We are loving this girl big;). She started feeling the music during the light show–and when Brittany Spears music came on the girl STOOD UP and broke it DOWN. Oh my glory. I was laughing SO HARD. Isaac was saying, “Momma, Tetyana is crazy!” and an old lady beside me told me she thought it was beautiful…and it was–seeing this precious girl–this girl who is aging out and going on her own…yet today she dances…knowing this she dances because she is trusting Him with her future.

Okay–and JUST to make you really see into our crazy–here are a few videos from the last few days…

At Stone Mountain getting ready to ride the duck…

On the mountain top…(she makes Isaac laugh!)

Catching her with some Brittany Spears action tonight…

If you know where we have been–you know how far He has brought us. When families adopt, they go through the SAME things we have in this transition–only they know after 5 weeks…the one they are working with for all these milestones will still be in their home at night. To me–that has always made so much sense as adoption was the only thing I thought about when it came to caring for orphans. But really–His calling to care for orphans is so much more than that. We are not always called to adopt. Adoption will not be the path for every orphan. But some of these kids will NO LONGER FEEL like orphans–as families are called to love them in big, real ways. And in a sense–they will be orphans no more as they find they belong…not only to families who love them…but also to the Father in heaven.

I had the most breathtaking experience in worship today. I sat beside Masha Hills who was adopted from Russia by my dear friend Susan Hillis and her husband when she was 14. Now Masha–is grown, married and a mother herself. She is tender, strong, loving and walking toward the Lord. She has a heart for orphans and to see healing in their lives. Here I stood–worshipping beside her. Here I also sat with Tetyana. Turning 16 tomorrow. Aging out. Never adopted. Returning bravely to her country in 4 days.

Worship began…and I thought about these 2 girls. Their pasts so similar. Their futures–different…yet both with such hope. And I had the privilege this morning of worshipping with both of them. I thought about Tetyana–running out of church, having tantrum just 5 weeks ago…and here she stood tall beside Masha–with a different future–and both of them singing Matt Redman’s “Never Once”. The lyrics were too much for me to sing…I had to move my mouth because if I were to allow a song out I knew I’d break into tears instead.

As soon as Princess T heard “Never Once” beginning to play she turned to me and said, “On my MP3!!!” and with excitement she sang.

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

She looked over at me in the middle of the song. And it didn’t take singing to cry–one hand on her back and one hand wiping away tears…I couldn’t believe what the Lord has done. Some people may look in and think adoption is the only way–or WHY the healing if she is going back…but the Lord has a purpose and adoption and America really aren’t the end. For our Tetyana–this is part of the story. It’s not even her beginning. Because–He has always been with her. And we are just a small, sweet part of her story. My heart wants her to be mine. I’m grieving her going back. *I* want to protect her. *I* want to be able to tell her she has to eat her broccoli before she can eat rice crispy treats. She’s never had a momma to do this–why can’t I? But this sweet girl will step into adulthood when she returns. She has officially aged out…with the ONLY HOPE for a family bringing her home being one that IS ALREADY LOCKED IN TO USCIS WITH APPROVAL TO ADOPT FROM UKRAINE and APPROVED UP TO AGE 16 who just happened to be adopting a child this age from Ukraine that fell through..(If you know someone…send ‘em our way!) But at the same time–I know His plans for her may be to do great things in Ukraine.

Still I watch her, and I know although she’s 16–she’s really more like a 13 year old and she needs more guidance and direction–and trying to parent her a world away is going to be a challenge that will require much diligence. I’m praying for her to find favor with a Christian family in the Ukraine who will work with us in caring for her. I’m praying for doors to open–and for the lines of communication to be clear when needed. Once again we open our hands–trusting Him to do what He wants and trusting that He has a plan for this. He has started something big in all of our hearts–and on Thursday…mine will break into a million pieces as I learn to trust Him bigger.

She came to us broken. Hurt. Mad at the world. Yet she is leaving–passionate, precious, in love with Jesus and full of joy. And–all of these things were already in her…she needed a whole lot of love for layers to begin to peel away. Some may look in and say you have to adopt–that this is the only way to have layers go. But WE ARE NOT THE ONES WHO PEEL THE LAYERS. HE IS. Last week when she picked out the puzzle of a little girl in Jesus’s arms she told me it was “baby Tetyana and Jesus”. She reminded me that HE has always had her. HE has always cared for her. Had we not hosted her–HE would still care for her. But He loved US so much–He wanted us to know her, love her and get the privilege of seeing what HE is doing in her life. He loved her through us for a time–and for the next 4 days I will continue to love her socks off. I know I’ll forever wish I could tuck her in every night. I’ll wish I could rewind time and live this again. I’ll play online looking for tickets to the Ukraine.

She has been such a real life example to me of love, bravery, the power of God. Her life is paved with scars and struggles–yet she sings of His faithfulness. I got to witness this. And to think I was a bit nervous to host a 16 year old. Now I wish she was mine…but in many ways I think she is–and I don’t need papers or even to be able to tuck her in at night to prove it. God is able to protect her–and He is able to bring us back together. He is faithful.

Just a taste of His goodness…

After this we had a talk on google translation that started tears. I’m gonna miss our sweet talks. Here is a little excerpt from tonight’s…

you are much braver than me. i don’t want you to be afraid about going back. we are going to take care of you. you have a family now. you came here with no mom and dad–and you leave with a mom and dad, sister and brothers and grandparents. I will cry every day after you go. I will do whatever we need to in order to make sure you are never hungry and you always have a safe place to live. You have nothing to worry about. The Lord has favor on you. You must only trust Him and follow Him and He is going to provide for you. And you must be braver than me and not cry. Stop crying…because you are making me cry more. You should go dance to Brittany Spears now–we will cry later–but now we must enjoy the 4 days we have left together. Okay?”

He has done great things. Please pray she will always sing. Please pray He will watch over and protect her. Please pray He will surround her with many to love her with us…here and in the Ukraine. Please pray God will raise up other families to host, foster and even adopt teenagers just like her.

Here’s to the next 3.5 days together! She departs early afternoon on Thursday…

Trusting Him…with lots of tears,

Andrea

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