“I was never the girl who dreamed of being a mom. Of course, I had a cabbage patch doll like all the other little girls in the 80’s but she was an only child and her hair was never just right. I preferred being a teacher and pretended to hold a classroom at my childhood best friend’s house every day after school, where I “taught” her and her little brother using old curriculum her mom had. I’m an introvert, which means alone time is refreshing for me and I get excited over canceled plans. So, having a lot of kids just sounded like too much noise and nuisance.
And then I met Jesus. A naïve twenty-one-year-old whose passion had been misplaced beneath the rubble of selfishness for years, I soaked in every ounce of Scripture from a Bible my grandpa had given me for my 16thbirthday. The closer I remained to God, the more He exposed who He created me to be. ‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,’ Ephesians 2:10. I had never thought about the word orphan, until I was introduced to the fictional character Anne Shirley. Injustice angered me; I couldn’t sit and do nothing. I knew there were real Annes out there and decided that I would adopt someday. Because I was going to make a difference in this world. I had no idea that it would be my children who would impact my life more than I’d ever influence theirs.
That summer, I enrolled in a local university to become a teacher and met my husband, Joseph. I felt at home the moment he spoke to me and there’s no other way to describe it. We became inseparable and the best of friends. He told me about his cousin who was adopted from Panama, and how he wanted to adopt someday. We got married the next year. We were both fighting to overcome the self-centered desires within our hearts and, not that we fully overcome them this side of heaven, God knew we needed some time before we grew our family. ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting,’ Psalm 139:23-24.
Each year, my classroom of kindergartners was filled with beautiful boys and girls, mostly from unstable homes, who sometimes called me mama on accident. Kindergartners who were molested by family members and went home to mom’s boyfriend putting cigarettes out on their arms, if anyone was home at all. ‘Can I take them ALL home with me? Now? Please, God?’ I asked Him so many times. While in my classroom one day, I googled ‘adoption’ from my computer. I went home, in tears, asking Joseph if we could adopt first and maybe only adopt. The more I realized that God custom-designed me to fit His plan for my life, it was obvious we would pursue waiting children. Joseph’s words still bring tears to my eyes, ‘I’m 100% happy with just adopting.’ He was excited about the idea of bringing home an older, waiting child. The fire was lit, and I was on a mission to our child, wherever in the world they were. ‘Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God!’ Psalm 139:16-17.
We met with a local agency and discovered we were too young to adopt from China, too poor for Russia, and just right for India. God used them to stamp India on our hearts in June 2009. They told us we would likely have our toddler-age girl home in 12-18 months. I researched and absorbed everything I could about ‘Mother India’ and the children in her orphanages. I cried when I saw people in public who were Indian. I cried when I tried on shorts at Old Navy and the tag said, ‘Made in India.’ I was obsessed with the thought of our beautiful Mia. Four months later, the week of our 7th anniversary, the agency let us know we couldn’t continue. They were still fundraising for their accreditation and India was halting its process for a time. ‘Where there’s a woman there’s a way’ I thought, but every door I tried to knock down in my own strength was already sealed shut by God. I caused our family heartache in pursuit of doing things by myself. It felt like the world was falling out from under me when Joseph called to tell me he lost his job. The same week, my school was forced to let 10 teachers go and I was one of the last hired. Joseph fulfilled a childhood dream and joined the Air Force and we moved 500 miles out of my comfort zone. It wasn’t until I got away from the busyness of friends and family that I could hear God bringing me back to Him- as much as I pouted about becoming a military family it’s the best thing that has happened for our marriage. I thanked Him for his gentle guidance and knew He was working everything out for our good.
We got settled and met with a domestic adoption agency. I thought maybe we were meant to adopt from this new state where the military sent us. The day we got the phone call that we were approved, I received an email about a 2-year-old little boy with a hole in his heart, in South Korea. After all we had been through, I was terrified to make the decision (I couldn’t even pick out shampoo and conditioner at this point). ‘Domestic? International? What do we do?’ I asked. Joseph answered me, ‘That little boy.’ Eight months later, our son Maddox was home! ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy,’ Psalm 126:3. God blessed us with the best cardiologist and after open-heart surgery, Maddox is a healthy, active 8-year-old today!
India never left me. God wouldn’t let it. There were rumors things would possibly shut down a second time, so I was afraid to even try. We were both ready to adopt again, so we joined our agency’s China program. For two weeks I felt such anxiety and confusion. It made me physically sick. When I mentioned it to Joseph, he told me he didn’t have peace about China either. We moved our file to the India program and believed God would make a way through despite our concerns. Soon after, there were tiny, blurry pictures of five children in India sent to my inbox. One of them really shook me, but when I read, ‘Ashli is blind,’ I couldn’t ask for her file.
During a critical point in the process, the enemy, who already hated the fact that we were doing this, really tried to steal my joy. We were waiting on a No Objection Certificate from India, which meant they had no concerns with our family moving forward. It was a Friday and the online support group I was a part of was in an uproar over someone being denied their adoption. There were rumors of a judge finding out about a family’s Christian faith and opposing court orders. I changed my name on social media, deleted my blog, left an online Bible study I was a part of, and googled our names to make sure nothing would come up, just in case. I lived in panic mode the entire weekend. On Monday, I got an unexpected call from our agency as I was at the hospital keeping a friend’s son so that her other son could have a heart procedure done. Our case worker congratulated me and told us we had received NOC! Most importantly, it was signed and dated the week before! Why did I torture myself all weekend when God had already provided?
A few weeks before this clearance, I got a strange email from an acquaintance-now-friend. She was petrified to send it and asked me to please not think of her as a weirdo. She had never had this happen before, but a dream she had the previous night was from God and she knew He wanted her to tell me. She went on to say she was sewing something for me, which started out to be a circle and ended up being a globe. Instead of inches, she measured by months. The pattern started in January, then had the date of April 2, and finally ended on August 1 or 2. She said she couldn’t remember which it was when she woke up, but it felt like both. She was singing, ‘She’s got the whole world in her hands,’ and heard voices saying, ‘That’s faster than a pregnancy. Only God could do this!’
My very first thought was to get on my knees before God and praise Him for speaking to us in such a wonderful way. My second thought was, ‘There is no way.’ Our agency said it would take at least a year. I started to put things together and realized we originally signed up for the China program in January. Ashmika’s official referral from India came on April 2. When August 1 rolled around I was a nervous wreck. My friend told me to spend time with Maddox and not dwell on receiving news; something was happening in India even if we didn’t hear about it in America. That afternoon, when it was August 1 in the US and August 2 in India, we got an email that we were registered for court- the very last part of the process to make Ashmika our Mia!
Not long before travel, we found out our agency had made a $5,000 mistake. Our travel money was depleted, and we were devastated. We fundraised for both adoptions, so asking for more help seemed wrong. We stood in our living room, frustrated over money. Didn’t God prove Himself over and over to us? Why wouldn’t we trust He’d give us the resources? When you’re standing in the valley, sometimes it’s hard to remember. We asked for prayer for $6,000. God had been writing our story from the beginning, surely He could do it. We talked about using a credit card, but that went against what God had been speaking to us years before. The next week, my phone rang. It was someone from a grant organization. I had applied for all the grants, but we never heard back from this particular one, Show Hope. She asked me if I knew of the Tim Tebow Foundation and how they partner to bring children home to their forever families. She told me our family was chosen out of others, for a very special grant. They were giving us $8,000! We had our travel money and then some! God had it covered it all along!
Friends, if God calls you to it, He will equip you with everything you need. If He is nudging your heart towards adoption but you’re scared of the fees or the unknowns, trust Him completely. Joseph and I have grown so much closer to each other and to Him because of our remarkable children. There are no words to describe what they mean to us. Mia is a healthy, happy 8-year-old, who loves long-distance running. She recently got sponsors to raise money for a little girl in India who was born with no arms. She wanted to donate to the adoptive family. She ran 20 miles in a month and raised $1,200! Nothing is impossible for God! Ps. I still cherish every single minute of my alone time.”
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