Jonah, at 6 1/2 years old, is for the most part non verbal. He has made great strides this past year in saying the beginning sound of words, but he does communicate mostly by sign language. What we would like people to know is that even though Jonah doesn't talk much, he understands everything that is said to him. This is actually very common in Down syndrome kiddos- their language comprehension may be much higher than their language production. So if you have a Jonah in your life, please feel comfortable to talk to him just like you would any other 6 year old boy. He loves to hear your stories. He loves to have you ask him about his life. In his own way, he will answer your questions or try to tell you a story too. Please don't underestimate him- he is listening to everything you are saying, and he understands everything you are saying to him. Like we said, Jonah has made great strides in the area of language production this past school year. We are very hopeful that one day he will be quite the talker. However, even though he is non verbal now, Jonah is still very much a part of the conversation. Now time for a flashback. In honor of Jonah's IEP meeting that is happening tomorrow, here is a photo of Jonah's 1st day of his Early Childhood class when he was just 3 years old. Now, we are getting him ready for 1st grade next year! This means after almost 4 years with his Early Childhood teacher, he now will transition to the 1st-3rd grade Special Education department. It has been a great 4 years with a great teacher, Mrs. S. We love you, and thank you so much for all you have done for Jonah and for us- we have learned so much from you over these past 4 years. We also say thank you to all of Jonah and Ben's therapists at school and their incredible 5K teachers and aides. We are truly blessed to be part of an amazing team of educators for both our little boys! Wasn't he just the cutest thing going off to school?
Yesterday, the above photo was sent to me by one of the boys' teachers at school. The boys had a class together and found each other to sit by. This is exactly what we are hoping for: that these boys will not only be brothers but forever friends!
When Ben arrived at the orphanage at 3 weeks old, he went to the newborn baby room. There, one of his caregivers would become his "special mama". This woman didn't just take care of Ben, she CARED ABOUT him. When Ben needed his open heart surgery when he was 2 years old, she arranged for a priest to go the hospital and give Ben a blessing in order to protect and keep him safe during surgery. Over the 6 years of Ben at the orphanage, she continually prayed for a family to come forward for Ben. Even as Ben moved to other groups and other caregivers, she kept a special eye on this little boy. Ben would often have the freedom to leave his group's room and go and visit his special mama in the baby room. There she would give him special food and snacks. The fact that Ben was able to experience this constant and continual love and care from his special mama was such a blessing for him. It allowed him to feel like he belonged to someone and planted the seed in his heart what the love of a family would feel like. Ben being able to attach to his special mama over the past 6 years definitely helped him attach to us. What we have learned through our foster care experiences is that a baby needs to attach to someone even during those first few weeks of life. As long as there is bonding with someone, the baby will have an easier time bonding to his new adoptive parents. So this is exactly what special mama helped Ben do. Special mama also gave Ben the gift of a Lithuania baptism shawl that she wanted him to take to America with him. We are so grateful for the Lord bringing this wonderful woman into Ben's life. Her love and care for our little boy has helped make him the wonderful child that he is today: bright, funny, loving, and sweet. Thank you special mama! Special mama is the woman to the side of Ben, talking to him and trying to get him to say hi to us.
In the beautiful tapestry of Ben's life story, there is an incredible fellow RR mom who advocated for Ben ("Ryan" on RR") back in 2014. I knew about her efforts because this mom and I talked about funds she had raised for our son and because we are both part of a wonderful FB support group. She even sent me her Angel Tree Warrior ornament for Ben because she thought it would be a precious addition to his Lifebook. However, yesterday I was reading her blog of her family's adoption and came across 2 posts I had never noticed before. These posts were about our Ben: 11-21-14 Let me digress for a minute to talk to you about two more sweet babes. One is Ryan, a four year old little boy living in an orphanage in the same country as ____. This guy seriously has the best smile ever, and would make an incredible son. Since I'm his Angel Tree Warrior, I asked our agency about him. They've had him listed for sometime and she let me know that no one has ever asked for more information about him. Not once, friends. Even asked about him. I think my heart split into a million pieces hearing that... 5-5-15 And last, but not least, my sweet Ryan. This is the boy with the megawatt smile we designed the tshirts for, the boy who I shared around Christmas. This little dude is still waiting, and he will be five this summer. Five is still such a baby! He recently got some new specs, and I'm not sure he can be any cuter! Ryan has a repaired heart defect, and mild asthma, and as of this spring he was already getting dressed and undressed alone, as well as eating independently. My facilitator said he is an awesome little dude, and I wanted so badly badly to give him some love! He gets along and nplays with the other children and is very friendly to adults. Ryan is at a perfect age to come home- ready to get started with preschool and kindergarten and have someone finally willing to discover all he is really capable of. Ryan is interested in anything, and he would fit well in any family. This boy has my heart, friends. Part of me was very sad to read that no one ever inquired about Ben at the agency. But another part of me was amazed to see how God had always ordained Ben to be part of OUR FAMILY! The one post is from 11-21-14. If you look at our adoption timeline, Fall 2014 is when God started to the plant the seed in our hearts to adopt Ben. Her other post is from 5-5-15- we started our paperwork with Open Door on 5-6-15! GOD WAS ALWAYS WORKING in this little boy's life: keeping him safe through the pregnancy and birth, caring for him during 6 years at the orphanage, helping him to be a happy little boy, working in our hearts to adopt again when we thought we were done, and helping our transition to our new life together with Ben in our family. Ben may have been an overlooked treasure by many but never by God! Perhaps the words of Psalm 139 say it the best:
I think I have discussed in prior posts why we adopted Ben. But I don't think I ever explained why it was Ben we adopted.
I wish I
knew exactly when I became aware of Reece's Rainbow. It was before we decided to adopt Jonah, but
because of the cost and overwhelming process involved in international
adoption, we opted for domestic adoption of a child with Down syndrome.
once we started the process of adopting Jonah, Reece's Rainbow went off my
radar for a bit. I have to believe the
Lord was exerting His tremendous wisdom and timing- our family was on the road that would lead us
to Jonah. International adoption of a
child with Down syndrome was not in God's plan for our family… YET…
2010-2013 Our first 3 years with Jonah were very busy
with trying to keep Jonah healthy! Once
he turned 3, he began to be much more healthy- praise the Lord! We are so grateful for all the healing the
Lord has blessed upon Jonah.
to say, I don't really remember spending
a lot of time on the Reece's Rainbow until sometime in the Fall of 2013 simply
because I don't think I had much extra time or energy to think about anyone else
except our 4 children.
around the Fall of 2013, I remember coming upon the picture of Drake on Reece's
Rainbow. He was so cute and
adorable. I even started to think about
what it would mean to adopt a little one like Drake. I
continued to check on Drake on a regular basis, praying for a family to be
found and donating money towards his fund.
I even contemplated if we might be that family. Then in November or December of 2013, Drake
moved to "My Family Found Me" page on Reece's Rainbow. We were so excited for Drake and his new
family. What an answer to prayer! Even though I was so relieved to know that
Drake was going to be adopted, a part of me wondered if our family had missed
an opportunity? God continuing to plant
the seed, I believe…
though I believe the Lord was busy planting the seed, Satan was busy whispering
doubts into ear: our plate is full enough with caring for Jonah, we would never
be able to afford international adoption, my cancer could come back, and people
would think we were crazy. Talk about a
continued to check the Reece's Rainbow website.
Now my attention was drawn to a little boy named Simon. I brought Simon to the attention of the
entire family so we often would pray for him at the dinner table. We donated money to his fund as I kept track
of his status on Reece's Rainbow, always pondering in the back of my head if
our family should try and adopt him.
important to note that whenever I mentioned this crazy idea to Andrew, I knew he
was not even considering a 2nd special needs adoption. He definitely felt called to pray and help
support these children, but another adoption was not on his radar. This is important to remember so you can
appreciate the extensiveness of the miracle that has happened in our family in
the past few months.
Fall 2014: Can't Un-know
What You Know
One day I
found Simon had been moved to the "My Family Found Me" page. Again, we were so excited and happy and
relieved for this little boy and his new family. But I remember also feeling a tug at my heart
of disappointment it wasn't our family.
continuing to work on my heart. I
started following the blog for Simon's new family. This gave me insight into what might lead a
family to adopt multiple children with Down syndrome and some of the blessings
and challenges that come with that calling in life. All things for my heart to ponder…
Simon was no longer available for adoption, I was led to another little boy on
Reece's Rainbow. I truly believe the
Holy Spirit was guiding and directing me towards each of these children. How else can you explain being drawn to
particular children when Reece's Rainbow is filled with so many precious children
available to be adopted? It would be very easy to think if I can't help
them all, then why even get interested in any.
was drawn to a little boy named Ryan.
The things that drew me to him were 1) his cuteness; 2) reading that he
was abandoned at birth because of his Down syndrome; 3) his DOB was very close
to Jonah's age.
introduced my family to little Ryan, and we began to pray for him and donate
some to his fund.
the Lord worked in our lives to bring about the adoption of Jonah was through
our experiences as a foster family for Bethany Christian Services. That is a whole other incredible story! Well,
once again, the Lord in his infinite wisdom was allowing events and
circumstances to occur in my life that would push us towards deciding to adopt
another child with Down syndrome.
in the early Fall of 2014, our social worker Julie organized a social for the
foster mothers. During that get
together, one of the foster moms mentioned the book Orphan Justice by
Johnny Carr. The things she said about
that book caught my interest so I asked to borrow the book from Bethany's library so I
could read it. What a eye-opening
experience! This book just spoke to my
heart in such a powerful and deep way that as Christians we are called to care
for orphans. Sometimes that might mean
financially, but quite often we as Christians use donating money as the easy
option. The author conveyed that he felt
many Christian families in the United
States could adopt if they were willing to
step out of their comfort zone in life and sacrifice the time and money it
would require to do so. Wow! The idea just brought me to my knees. Was I hiding behind sending money to the funds
of children on Reece's Rainbow when I could be offering them a home
I begin to
pray for wisdom and discernment for whether the Lord was really calling our
family to do this. However, the biggest
thing I began to pray for was that Andrew would be convicted to do this
also. In fact, I knew that he would have
to be the one to initiate this for our family. As the spiritual head of our family, a
decision this big and life-impacting needed to come at his initiative. So I knew I needed to keep my mouth shout in
regards to my thoughts on adopting and instead sit back and wait and see if the
Lord would move Andrew in that direction.
However I did, at the Lord's prompting, give the book Orphan Justice
to Andrew to read. It had a similar
impact on him- very convicting about what our calling is to orphans.
I also continued to pray for Andrew and for him to provide direction and
guidance for our family if adopting was something our family should do.
that really stuck with me during this time was something I read in one of the adoptive family
blogs on Reece's Rainbow. One mother
stated in her blog that you can't un-know what you know. That resonated with me because for whatever
reason the Lord had made me aware of the need for adoptive families for the
many children listed on Reece's Rainbow. Now that I was aware, there was no going
back. I had to do something. I just had to follow God's leading on what it
was He wanted me to do for these children.
Early 2015: Deciding…
the reading of Johnny Carr's book, Andrew really started to think about
adopting Ryan. This was amazing to me
because I really had tried to keep quiet about my desire to adopt him. In fact, during some of our conversations
during January and February 2015, I was the one with more reasons not to adopt
than Andrew! As a family, as a couple,
and individually, we continued to pray for a family for Ryan.
February 2015, we decided to contact Reece's Rainbow with some questions about
whether we would even be eligible to adopt because of my breast cancer (I was in
year 4 of the 5-year mark when one is considered cured).
contacted Reece's and were put in touch with Cathy from Open Door
Adoptions. She let us know that both of
those issues could be problems, but if they were presented in the right away,
it would probably be ok. This would mean
letters from my doctors stating I was in good health and had a good
As much as
I felt relief from her response, I also felt nervous because this meant the
ball was in our court to decide if we were really going to this rather than
being told we couldn't.
and I continued to pray for wisdom about what we were suppose to do.
prayers during the months of February and March just seemed to be continually
asking for guidance, wisdom and discernment about what to do about Ryan. At times we both were frustrated because it
seemed like God wasn't giving us any definite answers.
our sinful natures often blind us from what God is trying to tell us. There were many times, not just during
February and March, that God would reveal a scripture verse to us that was
about adopting, or we would read a magazine article about old people adopting a
special needs child J.
In fact, one day Andrew was returning a book to the library, and on his
way out, he spotted a Guidepost devotional book in the Never-Ending Book
sale. He stopped to look at the devotional
and the page he turned to was about adopting and putting aside our selfish
needs to help another. So I do think God
was trying to give us discernment into making a decision about Ryan, but it was
our selfishness that made the decision take so long to make.
the biggest way God worked in us was financially. At one point, early in the decision-making
process, Andrew said that he would only consider adopting if God would provide
$30,000 to us. I jumped on that
band-wagon also. I think both of us
envisioned a $30,000 check appearing in the mail, and then we would have our
"ah-ah" moment that we were suppose to adopt. So we waited many months for $30,000 to
magically appear. Then one day, Andrew
sat down and looked at our finances and added up amounts available to us in our
savings, investments, and through a home equity line. He added up between $24,000 and $30,000 that
we would have available. On the
information from Open Door Adoptions, they estimated a Lithuanian adoption
costs between $24,000 and $30,000. Wow,
was that God-thing or what? He had
provided us with the money in our funds, and we hadn't even realized it!
Easter 2015- April 2015:
continued to pray for God's wisdom, guidance, and discernment- yes, we still didn't
get it! Then on 3-31, Cathy from Open
Door emailed us with new photos of Ryan.
These photos were adorable plus they showed us how much he had changed
from the photo that was on his listing on Reece's Rainbow. Looking at the new photos was almost like
looking into Jonah's sweet face- they looked very much alike. Cathy also asked if we would like updated
records on Ryan which we said yes. Those
records revealed where his progress was at, what his likes and dislikes were,
and continued to mention that no one visited him and no one was interested in
him. This really broke our hearts
because to see these photos of such a precious little boy and think he did not
have any family interested in him…so sad and so wrong. The records also gave his most recent weight
and height- Ryan was the same height as
Jonah and weighed one pound more. I
don't know why but that statistic just really touched my heart that these boys
were meant to be brothers some day!
Easter weekend, Andrew and I had a heart to heart talk and decided we wanted to
adopt Ryan. In the past, as we would
discuss this decision, I did not feel at peace with saying yes- I was always very
scared to the point of panicking. Also
the decision felt like it was something I should do more than wanted
to do. However that Easter Sunday,
the Holy Spirit just really spoke to me in a powerful way by making saying yes
seem like the most natural decision- Ryan felt like he should be in our
family. I felt a calling to be his
mother. I had a peace that I had not
felt yet in all our agonizing over the decision. While I was anxious and nervous, I was not at
a panic level. It was a very beautiful and
amazing moment for Andrew and I as we came before the Lord and said,
"Let's do this!" and "Let's bring RyanHOME!"