I was grumbling a bit this morning about the stomach bug that has taken up residence in our home for the past five days. One Little after another, every twenty-four hours, the icky bug has wreaked havoc on tummies and our poor, tired, washing machine. Right now it’s a tie game: Stomach Bug – 3, Team Schell – 3.
The beauty of the stomach bug, if you can imagine such a thing, is that it caused me to S-T-O-P stop. When life isn’t overrun with the busyness of next and crossing off lists, the mind is allowed to catch up and spend time in places that are good for the soul. In between laundry and making chicken noodle soup this morning, I checked facebook and saw A Glimmer of Hope posted a link to their freshly updated website with glorious images provided by humanitarian photographer Esther Havens.
And just like that, I went to Ethiopia. With a detour through Russia.
Seven or eight years ago, God called our family to adoption. Before Littlest was born, Husband & I were in a grueling two-year adoption process in a remote corner of Russia called Galich. Partnered with a local, mission-related agency, Husband and I rode the waves of emotion as the Russian government threatened to halt, then ceased all international adoptions pending a very bureaucratic re-accreditation process for a select handful of adoption agencies. Fearing they would not be re-accredited, our agency helped us transfer our dossier to an amazing Texas-based adoption agency who welcomed us with hope and over-the-top service which was sweet as honey to our battle worn spirits. Only it didn’t work.
Our previous agency had already selected and given us a referral. A seven year old, blue-eyed, sandy brown haired boy with a smile as wide as the miles between us. For those of you not familiar with the adoption process, receiving a referral is the equivalent of seeing your baby’s heartbeat and finding out his or her gender in that miraculous sonogram. It’s the realization that this precious life is going to be part of your world. It redefines your notion of family, and your heart doubles, triples even, in size the moment you see the photograph of the child that was chosen for you. We even have a 2 minute video of our precious son, dressed up in a red sweater, waving and telling us his name. But, our new agency had never worked with the courts in our son’s particular region and with the current crisis in Russian adoptions, they sadly concluded they would not be able to help us proceed with the adoption of our son. With all our paperwork finished and our dossier already in Russia, we could however be reassigned a new referral. I’ll never forget that tearful conversation. It was a late in the day, late in the week phone call full of tears. I told our sweet contact at the agency that I appreciated the encouragement to pursue a new referral, but that we definitely needed time to pray, grieve, and process the news. That Sunday we found out I was pregnant with Littlest.
God clearly closed a door. And in His grace and mercy immediately opened another one. But, that doesn’t explain or erase the the pain, loss and even a weird sense of guilt that is now part of my story.
Life sort of went on. It’s hard to type those words, as if perhaps we just gave up. Trust me there were days when I had my index finger positioned to hit ‘click’ on a one-way ticket to Russia figuring if I just showed up they would naturally just hand over our little boy. We did fight. And it was exhilarating and exhausting all at once. I remember we often scratched our heads in bewilderment wondering how we ended up in such a mess. It was truly an emotional and financial shipwreck. (For more enlightenment on shipwrecks read Paul’s story in Acts 27.) 🙂
So we were, and remain, in a seemingly impossible situation, yet still smack dab in the middle of God’s will. In our brokenness, God has stretched me far further than the remote corners of Russia. He has reshaped and refined my heart in ways I could have never imagined. I still want more children. My heart burns with desire to adopt and truly aches for the fatherless children in our world. Sometimes I feel holy scripture leaping off the pages of my Bible like a neon sign blinking the least of these! It’s not an exaggeration to say that every time I pick up a book, read a blog, or meet someone new, I’m led to an adoption story. I’m not surprised – do you know the importance of caring for widows, orphans and strangers is mentioned in scripture more than sixty times?
God knows my desires. He planted them! I always thought our story would end with a house full of boys piled high on Pottery Barn bunk beds. With two more boys in our midst we’d be an international Brady Bunch. My narrow view of how to care for the least of these has been greatly expanded over the last couple of years. There are no bunk beds in our house, but we have two children in Russia we sponsor through Children’s Hope Chest. “D” and “A” are the same age as our two oldest Littles and they live in the same region of Russia our little boy still calls home.
And God has opened doors for us in other parts of the world. The photo at the top of this post is of precious children in Robit, Ethiopia who currently attend school in this makeshift structure that also doubles as a shelter for animals. Last year, Husband was so disheartened by the lack of clean water and basic models of infrastructure he funded an elementary school building and a micro-finance loan to help the villagers of Robit build businesses and learn financial independence. These gifts were not mine to give and it sends me to my knees in praise and thanksgiving that our Father would yoke us in our desire to care for the least of these. Well, partially yoke — Husband and I are not unified in the desire for more Littles. So for now my desire to adopt and fill the house with Littles from the far corners of the world is laid bare at the foot of the cross, trusting that He who began a good work in me will carry it on…
April Karli says
I love your vulnerability, Kristen. Thank you for allowing us a glimpse into your heart. I’m sorry for the pain you’ve experienced through the adoption process. But your response to God allowing him to use that pain to mold and shape you shows true maturity.
Hope that tummy bug is eradicated from your house soon!!
Jennifer Sutton says
Wow. Kristen, this is amazing, every single word and feeling and moment. Thank you for sharing it. I’m inspired and humbled by you and your whole family. Much love–
Kristi Stephens says
Oh, friend – how thankful I am for your heart and your willingness to share. And SO true that He who begins the good work in our hearts carries it to completion – and sometimes His view of completion is different than ours. Thank you for listening to the prompting of God and for loving the least of these.
Shelli @ Hopefully Devoted says
Your story finally spills out. And it’s as beautiful to hear the second time as it was the first. I love your heart for the least of these – the heart that brought us together. And I love you, sweet friend.
Maggie Tate says
Yes, it is so good to hear the story!! Thank you for sharing it. You are an amazing woman, dear friend!
I don’t know if you do this or not, but when I started putting on disposable gloves to do the loads of laundry and cleaning after one came down with “the bug,” the repeat rate was greatly reduced. Prayers for an end to the pestilence!!
I love that the seed God planted in your heart for a little one in Russia bloomed into blessings for so many! His plans are not always our plans and that is so hard, but your testimony shows that dreams can be replaced by new dreams. Thank you for your heart and for your support during our adoption journey!
Jack Taylor says
Kristin: Thank you so very much for sharing this story. I too suffer from wanting to help more and more, after two mission trips to Africa I was ready to move there and begin work. Greta nixed that idea but I still have contacts there and pray daily for the work there. There are so many children without parents there and what they desperately need is education. They are limited in the amount of education they can get but that is changing. Thanks to people like you and Tony and us and others the educational level is rising. We must remember and be thankful for how we are blessed and be willing to share. We are all his children
Megan Willome says
Kristin, I did not know this part of your story. It seems appropriate that I stumbled across it today, so soon before your LIttlest’s surgery.