About two months after our youngest son Bexley was born, some friends from our church in Austin came up and brought their son and their twin foster kids. When these little ones were only 2 months old (the age of Bexley), they were taken from their parents because the little girl had 4 cracked ribs and the little boy had 8 cracked ribs, a broken leg and brain damage. I couldn’t believe it. Holding my own baby, I could only think, “How could anyone do that to a baby? Especially when you are supposed to be the protector and the provider for this little life.” I was SICK. Sick to my stomach and angry.
The next day, my cousin’s girlfriend came over with a beautiful little three year old girl named Stella. She was BEAUTIFUL…like the most beautiful 3 year old I’ve ever seen. Like 3 going on 16, beautiful. Her mom would leave her with whoever would keep her and by leaving her with strangers, she was molested. When my cousin’s girlfriend told me this, I was shocked. Again, I was SICK. Here we have had 3 ABUSED kids in our home in the last 2 days. This is hitting WAY too close to home.
From Anger to Action
I often sing this song in church and the lyrics go, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours!” God always does that to me, almost to where I’m so depressed and angry about something that I just hate people and hate the world and get all worked up about how terrible everything is. And, I’m not like that. I’m always happy. But, when God breaks my heart for something, I know He means business.
That night, Chris and I just prayed about these kids in our home. We prayed for kids around the world. We went to bed angry at God. If He could change these things, why didn’t He? I was so angry at God, the kind of nasty angry like when you’ve had an unresolved fight with your spouse angry.
And, this is where it gets good….
The next morning, I got up for work like always. I was still feeling so sick in my stomach. I got in the car to drive to work and this song came on the radio. It’s called Do Something by Matthew West. I had never HEARD the song. And, the lyrics go something like this….
I see people living in poverty,
And children sold into slavery.
I shook my fist at heaven
And I said, “God, Why don’t you do something?”
Well, I was right there. I was shaking my fist with Matthew West. I was upset. This song was my song. I had to know the answer.
And, you’ll never believe what happened next. The next line in the song is, “He said…I DID! I CREATED YOU!”
I SWEAR to you that I HEARD the voice of God say that to me. I can tell you where I was, the exact point in the road. When God talks, and you know it’s God….it’s HUGE. He spoke, through Matthew West to me that day in the car.
But, Hold up! What? What’s the answer? Me? I’m the answer? How am I the answer and what does that mean??
So, of course I said to God. “Okay, so anyway, I have a two month old baby.”
His response was, “You’re welcome!”
So I said….”But, I’m good, right? I started the Ice Ball those years ago and it’s spun into something great. I heard last year it raised over $600K for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I’m doing my part, see?”
His response was, “Amy, you’re like an old, fat high school football quarterback whose glory days are in the past. I’ve blessed you today. I’ve given you 3 healthy kids, the most amazing husband, a beautiful home, 4 successful businesses, everything you’ve ever wanted. I’ve given it to you. I need you to get off your hands, take your broken heart, and make these changes in the world.”
I got to work and I was literally crying, sobbing…nasty cry. I was bent over in gratitude, but also confused on what that meant for me. And, what would my husband, Chris, say? Chris isn’t the outward Jesus Freak that I am.
So, that night, after work, Chris and I were having a glass of wine on our patio, and I said…”Hey Babe, there’s something odd that happened to me today and I think that I should tell you about it.”
I recounted the whole story. Then, I played him the song. He sat, just listening. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking….he was just silent.
Then, I looked him square in the eye and I said…..”So? What do you think?”
He looked at me and said, “If God is speaking to you, then we better listen!”
WHAT? Was God moving in his heart? I was honestly quite shocked. I was like…WOW…that was not what I was expecting. To be honest, I was expecting Chris to say, “Woah! That was weird.” And then move on…..
So it catapulted us into a discussion about what it meant. We decided we needed to pray about it. And we did. We spent several nights praying about it. I had no idea what was next for us in this journey.
Not even a week later, Stella's mom called my cousin’s girlfriend and decided that she wanted to go smoke meth in some trailer village with some deadbeat and could my cousin’s girlfriend watch little Stella for a month or two. My cousin’s girlfriend called me and asked if we could. I called Chris, and then we called our attorney. What would this look like? Having some kid that isn’t ours and has been sexually abused before? Chris and I agreed that we had to look out for #1, which is our family.
All of our friends were saying….”DON’T DO IT.” We were worried, what if the mom said bad stuff about us? What if she would try and extort us? What if this went terribly wrong? But, then we were hearing from God….”What if this is My will? What if I’m putting this little girl in your protective care so that she can be safe?” What if not taking her is worse than taking her in the long run? We had to act fast. We prayed, God said do it. The very next day, we met Stella's mom at the bank to sign off on temporary guardianship (at the direction of our attorney). That was the first time we’d met her. She handed us her car seat and nothing else and said, “The good news is that she’ll just go with anyone.” Made me sick. I despised her. I couldn’t believe how careless and unmotherly she was. She had a tattoo of a burning bible and another of a stripper shoe on her arm. What is wrong with people?
A week later, my other cousin’s wife came over and said, “Now how did you end up with an extra kiddo?” I told her the whole story. Instead of judging, like I had, my cousin’s wife, Stacy said, “Amy, can I have her mom’s name and number? I want to love on her and let her know that God loves her and He wants a relationship with her.” Here I had been bad mouthing this terrible mother, and my cousin’s sweet wife was extending an olive branch and wanting to help remedy her situation. Made me feel like a schmuck. But, I didn’t know that God would use Stacy to help Stella's mom out of the abusive and volatile situation. Five weeks later, Stella's mom came back to get her and she moved into a women’s shelter that my cousin coordinated.
We learned through that experience that we could handle four kids. Not only did we handle it. We loved it. Now, this old body of mine is getting too old for pregnancy, and I had a deep realization that there are too many unwanted children on the earth anyway that instead of birthing anymore beautiful babies, we needed to help the ones that are lacking in the family department.
It wasn’t a few days later that Charley K (our 3 year old came home from school with a sticker on her shirt saying “Eat at Chick-Fil-A tonight. The proceeds go to support the school.” My husband said, “Why don’t we just go to Chick-Fil-A for dinner, we don’t have much in the fridge.” We ran into our friend there. That friend had another friend there and they are in the same Sunday school class with another friend- Sharon (lots of friends here…that’s how the Mega Church Baptists up here are) and they were in China picking up their new Chinese daughter. Well, in every picture of this little girl, was this little boy. The little boy’s smile caught my attention. Sharon’s little girl, they named Hannah, and it turns out that Hannah and this little boy had been abandoned around the same time and spent every day in the orphanage together. They were little BFFs. Sharon was so smitten with him that she was if anyone could adopt him, she would even pay part of the adoption fees. Chris and I went home and prayed to see if this was God putting this little boy in our lap. Stella had just left to go back with her mom and we had a void in our home where that 4th kiddo was.
Side note: Chris’s version of the story is a little different. He says that we were at Chick-Fil-A, check, but that he went to supervise the kids on the play land and upon his return, I said, “Hey Babe, we’re adopting a little boy from China.” To which, his response was, “I can’t leave you for 15 minutes and we’re ALREADY having another kid?”
Either way, we went home and prayed about it. God’s answer was clear. Like super clear. Like, every time I turned around, He was saying, “This little boy is yours!” And, Chris heard it too. God was moving in his heart too. I told my cousin we may look to adopt this baby through Gladney (the adoption agency) and he said, “I was adopted through Gladney.” Then, I went on a client lunch and she asked what was up with me these days, and I told her and she said, “I gave up a baby to Gladney when I was in High School.” Then, we went to church and talked to a friend who said….I’m having a baby boy and we’re naming him Levi (Levi was the name the agency gave our son. We’re naming him Dawson). And on and on, like God hitting me in the head with a frying pan.
Now, keep in mind we have 3 kids 3 years old and under, 4 business, 6 rent homes, 3 dogs, and a bunch of other stuff going on. The commitment of a $35K adoption as well as another mouth to feed is a lot to think about. But, we both heard the clear direction and decided to be obedient to the calling.
We called Gladney for his file. They send it to us and we found out that his special need was that he has hydrocephalus. I was like, “what in the heck is that?” So, we took the file to our pediatrician and she told us all the terrible things that could mean. I had expected her to say, “You know, he probably shouldn’t play football in high school.” Which I was cool with because how many Chinese football players have you seen anyway, but that isn’t what she said. She said that it could be seizures, developmental delays, ADD, shunt malfunctions, he’ll definitely need at least one surgery, etc. She didn’t say this, but what I heard was, “You’re going to have an adult child one day with this one and he’ll never move out of the house.” I cried. The doctor cried.
“What about my perfect family?” I thought. My kids are beautiful. We get stopped in the store and on the street about how perfect and beautiful our family is (YES! This is me being VERY shallow and real with you!) What about the fact that I love to travel? I won’t be able to travel with an adult child. It’ll be terrible and draining. I cannot adopt a kid with special needs. I just can’t do it. I cried more. The doctor cried more. She had to tell us the truth about what it could be. If Chris has said, “Game off,” I would be all about Game Off. BUT, my husband laid his hand on my knee and he said, “Amy, if God is asking us to do this, it’ll be okay.” Now let me remind you that Chris is no Jesus freak like me. He doesn’t like praying in front of others. He doesn’t like talking about Christ as it may offend folks. But, there he was, the strong family leader. There he was humbling himself to God’s will even in my defiance.
After that, I thought of every reason we couldn’t adopt him. I couldn’t handle it. I thought that it could ruin my perfect marriage (most couples with special needs kids divorce over the stress). What is hydrocephalus anyway? And then, there again, God stepped in. I went to a girls wine night that night in my neighborhood. All these wonderful, well to do women sit around and sip wine chatting about pretty much everything…relationships, adventures, you name it. Anyway, they asked me what was up and I told them about how I was so torn about this adoption and I didn’t think I could handle the hydrocephalus but I really felt like I was being called to do this. The hostess of the party said, “My husband has hydrocephalus, and my son’s best friend growing up as it too.” They are both perfectly normal.
Then the next day, Charley K came home from school talking about her best friend, Scarlett. Well, I looked in the directory and found Scarlett’s mom’s number and called her to see if she would like to get the girls together for a play date. She said, “I’d love to, but I work full time so it’d have to be on the weekend.” I asked her what she did. And OF COURSE she replied, “I’m a pediatric, neurological nurse practitioner.” OF COURSE she is. She is the person I would need to talk to. She talked about success story after success story of kids with hydrocephalus and told me that when he gets here, she could point me to the right folks.
I can’t tell you how many experiences like that I’ve had. It’s been AWESOME. It’s like, when you hear the call of God, and you obey, he really does “make straight the path!”
So, there you have it. We’re hoping to bring Dawson home in September. I actually had to stop writing this for a scheduled appointment call with the agency folks who just visited him last week. The report is that he hasn’t had any seizures, not on any meds, developing totally normally for his age. Praise the Lord. I’m over the moon. I’m giddy about it. I feel like a kid at a circus. I’m amazed by God’s goodness and I’m honored that He chose us to do His work.
It was finally time to go to China. Though Chris wanted to go as well, we thought it was best for me to go and he could stay back with the kids and his mother (I think he drew the short straw!) Anyway, my sister and I packed up and headed to China.
There are all these fun things to share about China and chicken feet and Uncle Mao (we couldn’t figure out if Mao Zedong was a person or a God or why everyone has statues of him in their car, but we decided to call him Uncle Mao…like Uncle Sam). But, I can’t wait to tell you about Dawson, so China will have to wait.
Anyway, we head to the Social Welfare Building which happens to be where Dawson was abandoned, and now would be the place that he was adopted. We walked into this little room with no air condition and there were three Chinese boys being adopted by American families that day. There was a quiet, sweet one who didn’t say much and looked a little frightened, there was a poor kiddo who was screaming bloody murder at the top of his lungs the entire time and then there was Dawson. He was happily playing in the corner, emptying all the toys out of a box and then jumping inside it and putting the lid on and popping out. I was overwhelmed, luckily I had worn waterproof mascara. I walked over to him and said hello. He ignored me and continued to play. Admittedly, it was an odd feeling. I’d been following this little boy for 11 months. I’d been loving every video and every picture and every update, and here he was before me. I had imagined him differently. I had thought that he would be mild and quite, but there he was, a bundle of energy. I was examining him, as you would with a newborn baby….looking at every inch of him. I thought, “His head is a funny shape. His legs are really banged up. He’s so skinny.” All the thoughts that you would have as a first impression. It was overwhelming. Wait! This kid is mine! That was also overwhelming.
I asked my questions, like, “What does he eat? What time does he go to bed? Is he potty trained? Will he let me know when he needs to go? Is he on and medications? Was he left with a note?” And, the list went on.
That first day, I decided to take him to the hotel pool. He jumped right in like he owned the place. I was shocked. Every Chinese guy that swam by, he would yell out, “Baba, Baba! (Daddy, Daddy!)” That was quite embarrassing because they would reply in Chinese and I had no idea what they were saying. I’m thinking it was something like…”I’m not your daddy.”
I can tell you that I fell in love that night. I was still scared and uncertain, the way you are in the hospital with your new baby (except praise the Lord, this one slept through the night!) It all seemed so surreal. But, as I looked down at him lying in a crib next to my bed, I just breathed in the peace that passes understanding.
The next day, we had to go back and make the adoption “official.” They asked me if I still wanted to keep him after having him for 24 hours. I replied, “I love him.” They responded, “Is that a yes or a no?”
“YES!” I said, he’s mine.
We headed out and the deal was done. Back in Texas, my friends were praying very specifically that Dawson would know early on that he was loved by me and my family. They were praying that he would be comfortable and happy, that God would give him peace about these big changes. So, that second day, I asked the guide to tell Dawson in Chinese that “I loved him and that I was going to be his new mommy forever. And, that we were going to take very good care of him.” The guide told him and Dawson responded something in Chinese. The guide looked puzzled and said, “Well, that is odd.” I said, “What did he say?” The guide replied, “He said very confidently, I KNOW!” God doesn’t always answer all your prayers the way you hope, but this was a huge answered prayer. The rest of the time in China was amazing. I missed my kids, but I was so grateful for the bonding time with my new son.
A Reunion that Caught the Eye of the World
We flew back to Texas and had Sharon, who had adopted Dawson’s little friend, Hannah meet us at the airport with Hannah. After 24 hours of grueling travel, where Dawson only slept 45 min, we made it back to Dallas. We landed, went through customs and then out the door where Chris and my kids and Sharon and her kids were waiting.
Dawson saw Hannah and he ran to her grabbed her and hugged her. They jumped up and down, over and over. They would laugh so hard that they would fall to the ground and then stand back up and hug again until they fell over again. I’ve never seen joy like that.
These two best friend reunited after 11 months. It really was the most precious time. And, when we left, the two of them looked heartbroken again.
Well, Sharon had recorded the reunion in a 17 second video and put it on Facebook, our friends started to share the video. Our friend’s friends started to share it too and the video went viral within a day. The next day, CBS and Fox local news reporters came over to do an interview with us. And the day after that, CNN, Good Morning America and several other reached out. The day after that it was on The Daily Mail, and my friends across the world sent me the story in all different languages. (I’ve seen it in 8 so far!) Reuters Asia even reached out to run the story in their Asian markets. We were in People, InTouch, and on the front page of Yahoo News, CNN, etc. Heck, even Ashton Kutcher shared it on his Facebook page.
And, you’re probably wondering how Dawson is doing now? Well, last night, Chris said, “It feels like he’s been here all along!” He is our son. Our kids adore him. He fits right in. And, just the other day, he looked up at me and said, “I love you (in English)!” Which is totally crazy because I always say I love you to him in Chinese. I believe Dawson’s “I love you” is God whispering to me, “Well, done good and faithful servant!”