Abigail ~ "The father's JOY"

Doug said we were "done".  He said it so many times I almost believed it myself!  Done adopting that is...  He had, in fact, said that before we adopted Rachel too, but he was so adamant this time that he almost banned me from ever looking at another orphan advocacy site again! I tried to reason with him... Banning me from even looking at the faces of the hopeless would mean that I could no longer be a voice for them either.  I have found God's sweet plans for my life through the gift of adoption.  If there were to be no more for my own home, I felt compelled to at least draw others to the children in desperate need of forever Mommy's and Daddy's.  Doug finally relented and agreed that I could continue to look and advocate for those that wait.  This I would do with great joy!

But what was I to do when my eyes landed on the face of this precious little girl who I was convinced was to be my own?  What she needed more than anything else was a Daddy.  And she and her foster Mama had been praying for just that!  Sure- Abby needed a Mommy too... but her Foster Mama loved her well and the hole in her heart needed a Daddy to fill it!  I happened to know of a most wonderful Daddy... and I prayed he would be the one this little girl longed for!

Of course, you know the rest of that story by now.  God would make it clear to Doug that Abigail was to be his daughter and his heart was so tender toward her that he could hardly speak her name without tears.  Suddenly the man that was convinced we were "done" was driven to pray and to work tirelessly to do whatever it took to get his daughter home!  

On the other side of the world, news would arrive to the little girl that had waited so long... Abigail had a Daddy!  As photos arrived of him on the computer, she would wrap her arms around it to hug her dream come true and the screen was smudged with kiss after kiss planted on her new daddy's face.  Finally the two would meet via Skype.  There are no words... just one picture to tell the story.


Sadly, Abigail's Daddy couldn't travel to China to bring her home, so our "Gotcha Day" included another introduction via computer screen.  

She would have to wait almost 2 more weeks before finally meeting Daddy in person and being in his arms for good!  This made their meeting on November 22 at the Jacksonville airport, that much more special!  I'm certain words can not capture the moment, but a video camara did!  Here then, is the beautiful moment when Abby's dreams finally came true...

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"Hi Abby... I'm your Daddy!"

We made it home just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving!  It would not be difficult to figure out what this Daddy is thankful for this year!  Pretty obvious, huh?

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It would be an understatement to say that Daddy is smitten with his newest little girl!  S.M.I.T.T.I.N.!
Is it any accident that a fatherless girl was given the name Abigail~ "The father's joy"?  No accident at all!  God knew who her earthly Daddy would be and his JOY does indeed overflow!  








Our days are FILLED with JOY!!!!

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            Abigail, you are and always will be... your father's JOY!






Flat Out Discontent...


Many friends had requested to be my traveling companion to China, since Doug was unable to make the journey with me.  Some bribery was even reported by certain friends in order to be considered as top choice for traveling mate.  Sadly, though, after considering the pros and cons of each applicant (such as maturity level, cultural sensitivities, fearlessness of flying, the ability to display a reasonable level of maturity, and such), it was decided that Stacy Richmond and her daughter, Isabella would be first choice…  This sadly, created much discontent among several of the applicants not chosen for this special privilege.  But unfortunately, only one adult could join me on the journey, and Stacy was the obvious choice after much deliberate consideration. 

Yet, one particular friend refused to take no for an answer and somehow, beyond comprehension she continually popped up in the most unexpected ways and in the most unexpected of places.  At first we found this quite humorous, but honestly, became somewhat alarmed and irritated at her relentlessly showing up in very inconvenient times…  We finally decided that we should begin documenting these strange appearances through photos.  What follows are the all the evidence we need to prove her presence in the great land of China….

To preserve her dignity, we will not disclose her identity, but simply refer to her here as “Flat Sonia”.  



 
















Flat Sonia is flat out funny!



Letting Go....


I hate goodbyes!  H.A.T.E. them!  This week has been a week of goodbyes- gut wrenching goodbyes- and I have cried more goodbye tears then I ever remember crying before!  We all knew it was coming… there was no avoiding it, and I think Melinda and I (especially Melinda!) held it together pretty well considering. I know that I am the big winner in this particular goodbye, but it strangely doesn’t feel like winning at all!  To witness a loving woman say goodbye to the little girl she rescued and nurtured for 5 and ½ years was, to be honest,… grueling.  Each time I hugged Melinda I felt as if her emotions escaped her pores and rubbed into mine somehow…    not once did I hug Melinda without tears.  God used Melinda to rescue Abby from sure death and then she spent years and years, sacrificing self ambition, in order to care for a child no one else wanted.  What love…  How humbled I am by such love.  But that love did not stop there!  That love let go… willingly let go for the greater good of the child she loved more than self.  Suddenly being forced to return Abby to the orphanage following a fire in another foster home far away served as the wake up call her Mama heart needed.  The alternatives to letting Abby go were unbearable.  They meant the possibility of Abby spending a lifetime in institutional care designed specifically for the most mentally disabled among us.  Melinda knew that Abby had so much to offer a blinded world, and she simply couldn’t bear the thought.  So she chose to say goodbye instead!  










The impact of that decision culminated in one solitary week of saying goodbye, as Abby met her new forever family and prepared to leave her place of birth and the only home she’d ever known… Melinda’s.   I stood in the hallway and eaves-dropped until I couldn’t bear it anymore.  She gather Abby close to whisper her parting words…  “You’re going bye-bye now, Abby.  You’re going to get on a big airplane with your new Mommy today and we won’t see you again for a little while.  But Mama will pray for you, and Michaela will pray for you, and we will call you soon, OK?….  Can Mama have one last hug?  (hugs)  I love you sweet girl!”….



I remember standing in the hallway the night my grandfather said goodbye to my grandmother as she was ready to take her final breath and pass to eternity.  I eavesdropped that night too, because there are just some moments in life that are too beautiful to walk past without drinking them in deeply.  That night had been one of those times.  Today was another one. 

I’ll never forget the words my grandfather spoke to my grandmother that night…. So tender, so loving,… giving her permission to go.  And she did.  That’s what Melinda did this morning for the little girl she loved so much.  So tender, so loving… giving her permission to go.  Only an act of selfless love willingly lets go. 

There’s a chance that a day is drawing near that I may, too, have to let go of someone I desperately love…  I pray that I can do it with the God glorifying heart I witnessed in Melinda this morning.

Melinda and I left Abby in the room and I walked her downstairs where she was to catch a taxi.  There was nothing more to do.  The transaction was complete.  I had been legally declared Abby’s forever mother and it was time for me to take her home far, far away.  We embraced one last time and clung to one another for a long time…  tears….  If not in such a public place, I would have resorted to ugly, snotty, sobbing.  “I love you”- “Thank you” was all I could muster.  She whispered back into my ear… “Take care of my little girl!”  And she was gone….  Displaying to me in the most beautiful way I’d ever witnessed what “Letting Go” really means!  I will never be the same again.  And you are not to worry, Melinda… you can bet I’ll take care of your little girl!  You are her Forever Mama… and her Forever Mommy will never let her forget you!





"A VERY IMPORTANT THING TO DO..."

Abby loves Pooh Bear... and I was prepared!  The only problem is that I hadn't seen an episode of Winnie the Pooh in at least 20 years!  So, as part of our preparation to meet Abby, Kate and I enjoyed the newest movie, "A Very Important Thing to Do" on the flight over...  What a treat!  And how appropriate!  We had boarded a plane for China and I couldn't agree more!  We had "a very important thing to do"!  And that "thing" happens to be pretty high on God's priority list, so I'm content that however difficult this journey might be.... I am doing a very important thing that I'm convinced pleases Him and THAT makes me happiest of all!



We arrived late on Saturday night and to say we were exhausted would have been the understatement of the century!  We were to have our own personal "Meetcha Day" with Abby and her foster mother Melinda the very next morning at 10AM, and I felt a little overwhelmed before we even started.  But overwhelmed or not... Abby arrived at our hotel room door just a few minutes behind schedule and it's been a bit of a blur ever since!  So without further adue.... Here's the photos you have waited for!
Abby is on her way up the elevator!

So wonderful to finally "meetcha" Abby!



                                                          AHHHHH, finally....

  So grateful to the woman that God used to rescue Abby and love her so well all these years...


So many new things to discover!



Do you think she likes her gifts?

Facetime with Daddy, Ellie, Rachel, and Summer Dog (of course!) was "a very important thing to do" too!




Then it was time to head back to Melinda's place (Abby's home) and celebrate her eighth birthday with the people that have loved her so much...  It was a special time to celebrate her old life and welcome in her new life!  What a privilege for me to finally meet so many of the special people God has used in her beautiful redemption story.  It was most humbling to close our time together in prayer.  It began what would be a week of many tears...





Melinda's sacrifice for the little girl that now calls me Mommy will never be forgotten!  When you see Abby and all her cuteness, will you remember to pray for this precious woman of God?



Needless to say, there was nothing typical about Abby's Gotcha Day the following morning.  But I'll leave you with one photo, just 'cause!

Abby has been a champ during this transition... I can't even imagine what's goin' on in that little mind of hers, but she seems to be taking it all in stride.  Today, while spending time with her foster mother for several hours, she did give her the cold shoulder, and I can honestly say that, other than her obvious attempts at being in charge, you'd think she'd known me since she was a bitty thing!

Today included a meeting of Chinese Christian women - all fostering profoundly disabled orphans in their homes.  This is difficult at best, in a culture that believes that not only are orphans a curse, but if also attached is a scary diagnosis, they are convinced evil is not far behind.  I felt this to a degree when we were adopting Ellie with a hand difference- but nothing like the stares I get with Abby by my side.  It's downright disgusting sometimes, and makes me want to hide her under my wing...  What a treasure such people miss when they refuse to see below the surface!  After a somewhat difficult breakfast experience this morning with more than a stare or two, I was feeling weary and close to tears...  I decided to cut breakfast short and head back to the room.  That meant that Abby had to climb several steps and then back down several others, before finally plopping down into the stroller I had waiting.  While the entire restaurant came to what felt like a screaching holt to watch this whole affair, I kept my eyes firmly planted on Abby and encouraging her along the way to the exit.  Once she finally reached the stroller, I lifted my gaze to an older woman completely engrossed in what I was doing.  I expected a glare, but instead she smiled sweetly and gave me a thumbs up.  That was just what I needed at that moment and it sent me away in a flood of grateful tears.  People struggle to know what to say as we adoptive moms weave our way through difficult, unchartered waters...  when a simple "you can do this", or "you're doing a great job today" would mean more than they can possibly imagine!

But today's visit with fellow believers a world away from my own brought this new call on my life into perspective.  I sat feeling as if surrounded by heroes.  I was humbled by their selfless choices on behalf of the least of the least...  I was even more humbled that God had entrusted one of those very children to me too and I was now counted as one of those very women, though I would be living it out in a world so very far away.  If they could do it in a land with so few resources, surrounded by communities that despised their choices, surely I could do it among friends who already deeply love Abby and all of her special qualities, including that extra special chromosome!  I felt a renewed sense of hope and a sudden sense of God's pleasure over the season that began in my life just a few days ago!

Excuse me now, though, as I pack up my things for the next step of our journey HOME, because, well... I have "a very important thing to do" you know!





ONE life...


 How far will God go to redeem just ONE?  I’ll show you!

On Nov 7, 2005 a precious little girl was born to a family that could not or would not choose to parent her.  Only God knows the reasons why that family chose to leave her in the clinic of the hospital that day when she was just 8 months old….  Was it because she was a girl?  Or had they discovered that she had been born with Down Syndrome and almost every medical problem associated with it.  Her heart was broken…. Her intestines partly blocked… Her vision weak.  Not a dream come true by any stretch of the imagination.  Discarded to be found by officials that ultimately decided that her life was not worth saving…  She was cast aside and over the course of the next 20 months would be left to slowly die.  She needed heart repair…. Not something you do for a child no one wants.  Unadoptable.  That’s what they called her.  Unwanted.  She would die and no one would notice….

But the God who created her just as she was, noticed…  He whispered into the heart of one of His children and sent her to be His hands and feet to the fatherless; to the least of the least; the unwanted and the unadoptable.  Melinda arrived at the orphanage and was presented 2 children from among the “normal” population of orphans to consider for fostering… They were surrounded by toys and bright colors, and their sparkling smiles warmed Melinda’s heart…. She could do this!!!  There was one other child left for Melinda to consider, but she was on another floor, specifically reserved for children with mental disabilities.  Melinda was led there and was instantly struck by the cold and lifeless feel in the air.  What a stark contrast to the bright colors surrounding the children downstairs.  Her eyes laid upon a child, so sick, so malnourished, so in need of love and hope… Add to that a diagnosis of Down Syndrome and a laundry list of other medical issues and Melinda knew she was witnessing one of the most heartbreaking stories in her lifetime.  The orphanage claimed the child was 28 months old.  You would have never guessed it by looking at the shell of a body laying there so lifelessly, malnourished and dying. 



Melinda asked that she might foster all 3 of the children she’d met that day…  No- only one.  She would have a week to complete the required paperwork and to choose.    How is one to choose, she wondered, when they all desperately needed to be wanted?  She cried out to God to point out the ONE He had in mind…    There was no mistaking His choice. 

“I’ll take that ONE!” Melinda said, as she pointed toward the little one so sick and so near death…  The orphanage staff looked at her with disbelief.  Did she not know that this child was destined to die “unwanted”?  Undaunted, Melinda insisted that THIS was the child she had been sent to find. 

I know this is hard to see- but this is the reality of so many of the fatherless around the world tonight!

Within a few hours, she would return to her apartment with the dying child she discovered beneath the layers of oversized clothing…  It was a girl!  She would name her Abigail!  A bath would be her first order of business…  And the smile that first warm bath brought confirmed that she had selected the ONE child God had in mind for her….  “Unwanted” no more.  She was wanted deeply, not only by the God who had so perfectly fashioned her, but by the earth’s angel He had sent to rescue her too.



Melinda didn’t have much to offer her, but she had love and she would give her that!  And through that love, little Abigail discovered what it meant to be wanted!  And she was taught before she could even fully understand, about the God who would send hope to the darkest and the most hopeless of places to find her.  All to redeem just ONE! 







One of Abigail’s first words would be “Bible” and she delighted in saying it!  It seemed she somehow knew something most of us miss…  The God of the universe loved her!  And He would do whatever it took to show her!!!  Why is it that those of us without the challenges that Abigail faces every single day, can not seem to wrap our arms around a God so big?  It appears that maybe He fashioned children just like her, through which to show us!  One hug from a child who loves nothing more than to spread His love through hug, after hug, after hug, and you know you’ve encountered something special from the unseen!


The open-heart surgery that Abigail so desperately needed would be Melinda’s second order of business.  But money for such an expense is not something she had!  And yet, God had rescued her to provide for her, and that He did!  He would send the help she needed through His people and Abigail would come through surgery with a heart to last a lifetime!






Then, a year later, intestinal surgery…. Where they would go to the hospital only to wait…day, after day, after day, not allowing Abigail to eat for 10 full days before it would finally be done!  How do you explain to a precious child that nearly died of starvation, that she cannot eat, though her tummy rumbles with hunger and her mouth longs for anything to fill it?  But through that surgery, God would bring healing to her intestines and the ability to finally be nourished and grow.


Life was good… Abigail was loved and healthy… and growing in Her knowledge of the One who had made her and rescued her for that very reason!  Foster siblings would be added to her home.  Some almost as desperate as she had once been!  But Melinda knew that she was not the forever family God had in mind for Abigail.  What would be years and years of pleading for a forever family for the child she loved so much had begun.  The orphanage had threatened once already to force all foster children to return to the government’s care again, and Melinda could hardly bear the thought... 


She prayed with more ferver than she had ever prayed before.  She prayed together with Abigail for God to find a forever Mommy and Daddy far away willing to make her their own.  But the unthinkable happened.  A fire in a foster home far away had caused the death of several orphans and the government would put their heavy foot down.  All  children would be returned to their orphanages, without exception.

It was probably the hardest day of Melinda’s lifetime.  She dressed Abigail and packed a few of her things…  How could she prepare this 7 year old girl whom she had loved for over 5 years for what was ahead?  She would have to return her there, to the very place she had been found, and walk away.  The orphanage director was there to witness Melinda’s emotional good-bye.  And surprisingly, she found herself in tears too, as she saw with her own eyes, the deep love Melinda shared with this child no one wanted. 



Melinda would return a week later to visit Abigail and to see if she was struggling as deeply as she had been with the separation.  Would Abigail suddenly question all the things she had taught her about the God that loved her so much that He had redeemed her from this very place, only to return her there again?  She shuttered at the thought.  But, as it is so often with our Lord… He had a sweet surprise waiting for Melinda when she arrived for the visit.  The orphanage director had been deeply moved and decided that she would make an exception where there had not been one…  “Take her back home!”  she told Melinda.  And the day she thought would be a difficult visit with another painful goodbye, turned into a beautiful homecoming!   But, with that week of separation and one of the most difficult experiences of her life now behind Melinda, she felt an increasing burden for Abigail to finally find a forever home.  She knew the answers would only come through the Father that knew best, and she cried out to Him to move on behalf of her precious little girl.


Emails were sent, and blogs posted, in search of a family far away that would open their hearts to love this ONE child God had gone to such extremes to redeem!  An email would arrive only weeks later from a Mommy in Florida.  God had captured her heart for precious Abigail, and if He would only speak to her husband, she would willingly take her as her own!  Her file had been located on a list that contained almost 2000 other “unwanted” children.  That file was pulled from the list and “locked” for two weeks while the family was given a chance to consider her adoption.  Two weeks to cry out to God on her behalf, and cry out Melinda and that Mommy did!  God heard those cries and, though they did not know it, He was moving mightily in that husband/Daddy’s heart for the fatherless girl He loved so much!  With only days to spare before the file would be released, that Daddy would confess with tears that God’s plan was made abundantly clear to him…  Abby was his daughter!  It was time to bring her HOME!



It would take more than $30,000 to complete her adoption.  Money the family did not have.  But who would be foolish enough to question whether or not the God who loved this child so much, would provide everything needed to redeem her?  And He did!  Every single penny of it…. On behalf of just ONE “unadoptable”, unwanted, little girl!




The next chapter of that ONE life is about to begin.  On November 10th, in a hotel room in Shenyang, China, Melinda will deliver Abby into the arms of the Mommy they have both prayed for, and within only days Abby would no longer be an orphan, but the precious daughter of Doug and Lori McCary; sister to Russ, Steph, Sarah, Ryan, Kate, Rachel, and Ellie; and to Abby’s delight, friend and companion for the puppy she can hardly wait to meet!  






We’re thrilled to invite you along for the journey and to marvel along with us, at the unthinkable, immeasurable things our Lord will do to redeem just ONE!



“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or think… to Him be the glory!”