This was the picture that first tugged at my heart in November 2011. Every day, I would visit CCAI's website and look at the pictures of waiting children and every day, I would click on this picture above. And then I would read her file. It had scary stuff in it - words that made me close the information each time. I would remind myself to be reasonable and that there was no way I could handle a child with needs like that. Then, the next day, I would do it again. There was just something about her that kept drawing me back.
This kept on for November, December, and into January 2012. Each time, the same doubts would surface and each time I felt more and more torn as I watched her picture sitting on the website. Then, in mid-January, I noticed that her file was under the section "Soon to be Returned". It was always sad to see pictures there because that meant that they might get assigned to another agency, or they might go on the shared list where some kids languish for years. I prayed this little girl would find a family soon.
Finally, on January 20th, I asked B.J. to look at CCAI's waiting children. I wanted to know if she stuck out to him too, but I didn't tell him that. I wanted to know if he was feeling the same pull. Sure enough, he took a look and said "Well this girl has been staring me down for months now...". So I emailed CCAI to ask a few of the questions that had arisen from all of my research on her conditions. When her picture kept coming up, I had started reading about her conditions to see what we would be accepting. Of course, by the time we emailed CCAI, it was late on Friday night so we got to sit on things for the weekend.
On Monday morning, 1/23/12, we were sent her file which I immediately forwarded to B.J. and started reading myself. I read through developmental checklists, googled terms from a CT scan report and tried to get a sense of this little girl through two emails worth of attachments. I wanted to know more and fortunately, found a blog entry linked in her file (http://asfeelingsfade.blogspot.com/2011/06/my-precious-lilies-from-marias-big.html). I cried as I read the entry. My heart broke for this little girl who had not known the love of a mother or father. My heart broke that her file was still waiting - that no one had stepped up to love on this little girl and show her the love of God. B.J. emailed me that he cried when he read that too and that there was nothing in the file that would make him say no. I felt the same way. We knew God was leading us to this little girl. That night, we prayed together for this little girl that had somehow worked her way into our hearts. Since we only had a day or so to let our agency know whether we wanted to move forward or not, we emailed them on the 24th to let them know we wanted to move forward. They promised to hold her file for us while we got some information done (submitted a Letter of Intent to China, filled out agency paperwork, etc.) We spent the next few days reading her file over and over and asking questions to get more information. Our agency, wisely, wanted us to have her file reviewed by a doctor, which we did the following weekend. The CHOP doctor told us worst case scenarios and concerns she had about the file which was really helpful. We knew she was our daughter without a doubt and emailed CCAI with our Letter of Intent to officially ask China to let her be our daughter on January 31st. Then we started to wait. We waited until February 6th when we were notified that China had said yes. Liliana could be our daughter.!!!!!!!
(Of course we found out on February 3rd that we were pregnant...surprise!).
Since that day, we have been working hard almost every day with adoption stuff. There is a lot of 'hurry up and wait' in adoption, but CCAI was wonderful at making sure we always knew what we could be working on next so we wouldn't have any delays.
God has taught me so much in the past year through this process. I have gotten to learn to trust Him and His plan in a whole new way - when so much is out of our control. I have gotten to understand the way He loves us and has adopted us into His family. I have a new appreciation for the love He shows us and the extent He goes to to pursue us - even before we know or love Him. The pictures below (except for her referral picture) are ones I found while searching the internet for pictures from her orphanage in hopes of catching a glimpse of her. Yup, I did that :) (See what kind of pursuit is caused by the love of a parent?)
Liliana is on the left - a picture from Louyang
God has also shown Himself faithful financially. When we started the process, we had just about $1,000 to put towards an adoption that would cost between $25,000-$30,000. We had no idea where the money was going to come from, but we knew that if God was calling us to adopt then it was His problem to provide. And provide He did. We received gifts from family and friends who always seemed to know right when to give the money - when we needed encouragement, when we were doubting whether we had heard correctly, and when money was needed for the next phase. God was so gracious with us and provided the rest of the necessary funds through our Both Hands project. I was blown away. I am continuing to be blown away.
Now, I can't believe that B.J. and my Mom will be on a plane in less than 48 hours and in less than a week, she will be ours!!! It is surreal. I know there is much that I don't know and once she is home the work will really begin, but I can't wait to start. She is a part of our family and this is where she belongs.
Baby Girl, only a few more days and you will meet your Daddy and Grammy. And then, some more days after that, you will meet your mommy, sisters, and brother. We can't wait for you to come home! I know that it will be hard and scary and you will have to learn to trust us, but know that we are your forever family and we love you more than words can say.
I am praying that God will comfort you through this transition and that you will know and understand His love - even if you can't understand what we are saying. Unfortunately, I know I am going to mess up. I am far from perfect. There will be times when I am cranky and frustrated and I will probably say things I don't mean to, but know that no matter what, my love for you will not change. I pray that one day, you will come to love the God that brought you to us and set you in our family. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He loves you and has been watching over you every day of your life. May He use me to show you His love and you come home and join our family.