Sunday, July 26, 2015

Saying YES to #3

Did you guess by the title??

We are amazed and surprised and so blessed to announce that we are adopting a baby girl! Yes, another baby. Yes, another newborn. Yes, a girl. Yes, yes, yes.

In Part 2 of Seth's story, I mentioned being obedient to God and saying yes when we felt His peace. That's what we are doing here. It's an absolute step of faith and desire to be obedient in response to God's amazing grace and mercy in our lives.

Let me answer the big question:
**WHY NOW? Why would we adopt another newborn baby at this time, right after adopting Seth?

We are saying YES to this baby girl because that's what we feel led by God to do. We don't feel obligated, we feel peace. We don't feel like we are "rescuing her", we feel like she is part of God's plan to rescue us from ourselves, from our natural bent towards selfishness and self-centered living. God knew about this baby, just like He knew Joanna, Rita, Luke, and Seth - before they were born, when they were being fearfully and wonderfully made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth (Psalm 139).

Baby girl's birthmother requested us specifically. Her birthmother is Luke's birthmother. Yep, Baby Girl is Luke's birthsister. And that's an amazing reason for us to say yes - to give Luke a link to his birth family, to provide opportunities to minister to this birthmother, to give another baby a loving home with her very own brother.

Some facts about adoption #3:
   *Baby Girl was born on July 13 (Hampton's birthday, so cool!), don't know birth weight yet
   *Our social worker told us about Baby Girl on Friday, July 17
   *We prayed and talked to a couple of advisors/mentors in our lives, then we said YES on Saturday
   *Baby Girl is currently staying with the same foster family that had Luke for a few weeks before we adopted him (such a great connection with their family!!)
   *We are waiting on paperwork and hoping placement will happen this week!
   *If you haven't figured it out by all of the "Baby Girl" references, we do NOT have a name yet :)

You may be thinking: those McClendons are CRAZY. Nope, just normal people following Jesus.

You may be thinking: how are they going to handle three kids under three years old? With lots of prayer, and many humble calls to family and friends.

You may be thinking: Wow, they are going to have their hands full! Yep, hands full of AWESOME.

Seriously, guys. We are so BLESSED. We have always wanted a big family, and we have always wanted to adopt. God is doing such a work in our lives through these "crazy" circumstances. However, we pray that when the world sees our family, they don't see "crazy" - they see the gospel.

To truly understand what God has done for us is to understand 
the heart of adoption. As believers in Christ, as followers of Jesus, 
we are adopted into His family. 

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of ADOPTION as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." ~Romans 8:14-17

Friday, July 24, 2015

Picture Story

God really does amaze me all the time. Not just in the big stuff, but in the everyday-look-at-My-sovereignty-and-LOVE-and-GRACE stuff. He is so good.

Here are some pictures of Seth!

Our first meeting!

Getting to know Daddy!

"Cute as a Bug!" Even with an ng tube and monitors!

Posing in his sleep

First day without ng tube (first day WITH g-tube)

Discharge Day! Thanks T family for driving us from the hospital!

Big brother, meet little bother!

"I'm going to be an awesome, awesome, awesome big brother!"

"What?? I can't get in the swimming pool with my big brother??!!"

"I'm thinking about becoming a doctor, just like Daddy."

Maybe not.

Swinging outdoors!
"Oh Hi mom! Just having a little tummy time here."

Monday, July 20, 2015

Seth's Story - Part 2

People that have been around us during this adoption have said many things to us. Good things, mostly. A lot of questions, a few strange comments, and plenty of praise for Hampton and me. Fortunately, this always gives us a chance to give glory where glory belongs - to God. 

One particular comment that many people have said is that they "could never do what we're doing". 

They're wrong. 

YOU'RE wrong, if you're thinking that. Because what we're doing is simply being obedient to the call that God has on our lives - as parents, as husband & wife, as believers, as adopted children of God. You CAN do it, because God works through you.

Only by God working in me and through me and around me was I able to endure the next part of Seth's adoption story.

So there I was in CA alone, visiting Seth as much as I could, learning as much as I could about him, helping as much as I could with his care, asking the questions of the doctors and nurses, telling our story to anyone who would listen. But I wasn't really alone. Not only was my prayer and quiet time ever more "tangible" (more on that in another post), but God was sending real live people to be a blessing. 

First, while Hampton was still in CA with me, God sent an amazing godly couple that we had known in MS to minister to us and encourage us and truly CARE for us while we were there. It was such a blessing to be able to talk to someone face-to-face who knew us personally and who shared in our joy. And they continued to bless me and Seth after Hampton went home. Praise be to God for B & T. (The Navy didn't know they were sending you to CA just so you could be a blessing to us!!)

Then, time after time, God sent strangers to speak truth into my life. Nurses, other families at the Ronald McDonald House, blog posts, even songs on the radio. I love how God can orchestrate people around a situation just so. Amazing.

After a week or so of being in CA, a family came to stay at the Ronald McDonald House who had an accent that I pegged pretty quickly as Southern. They were from New Orleans! We bonded instantly, over discussions of sweet tea, college life in Mobile, and all of the sights to see in the Big Easy. They helped me with several practical things while I was there, but mostly they provided a sense of family in a situation that could have been very lonely. And they did this while still dealing with their own situation, their own reason for being there at the children's hospital, thousands of miles away from home. Amazing. Thanks T family! Love you guys!!

As you can see, Seth's story is made up of so many more people than just Seth and his parents. It's important to me to recognize these people because we don't live life alone. We are not in a bubble. We cannot pretend that what is happening to someone else doesn't affect us. We must SEE people. And that's what these people did. They SAW me. And Seth. And Hampton back in FL (for the love of RBBC, thank you thank you thank you). And Luke staying with grandparents. We were all SEEN and that matters so so much. Thanks to everyone for letting God use you as a blessing in Seth's story.

Some practical matters at this point: the hospital days went by SUUUUPER SLOW. I lost track of time and what day it was, and being in a different time zone did not help. At the hospital, I was in the Seth-zone. Outside of it, I was trying to help Hampton navigate the house-closing business. (We are NOT writing about that mess. We closed. We have a wonderful new house. End of that story.) 

Seth was feeding better and better each day, and we thought he might improve enough to be released without any feeding help. However, as the days turned into weeks and his progress plateaued, the decision was made to give Seth a feeding tube. He had surgery and was eating again the next day by mouth. This step in Seth's care was a pivotal one, because it meant that he would be able to be discharged as soon as I was comfortable caring for and using the g-tube.

After 6 weeks in the NICU, Seth was finally discharged on June 15. I had been there for 3 weeks and 3 days at that point. We received our final paper for the interstate adoption process and we were cleared to fly home! 

Tuesday, June 16 we flew home and began our new life as a family of four. We are all adjusting to this new life, with feeding tubes and bags and pumps and syringes, with stairs in our two-story house, with big brother learning how to be Big, with our new extended family in China, and with new adventures just around the corner. 

Seth is doing well, still struggling to eat by mouth as much as we want him to, but so healthy in every other aspect. We are so blessed and are excited to see how God is going to use Seth for His kingdom and for His glory.

New baby, new house, new family, new normal. Amazing!

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
~2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Seth's Adoption Story - Part 1

Sometimes I can't believe my life. It's amazing to see God working through our family in such miraculous and distinct ways. Praise the Lord!

Seth's adoption story begins with a simple message on our online adoption portal asking if we wanted our profile to be shown to the birthparents of a Chinese newborn baby boy with Down Syndrome born in California. At that point, we knew a few things: (1) we had previously decided to say YES to all showings unless we felt unrest about an adoption inquiry, (2) interstate placement requires at least one parent to stay in state until the paperwork is complete, (3) we felt prepared to parent a baby with special needs. With these in mind, we messaged back and said yes, show our profile. It was scanned and sent to CA. This was a Friday afternoon.

Sunday, I received confirmation from our adoption social worker that our profile was in CA and being reviewed by the birthparents. 

Monday, May 18, I received a phone call from our social worker with the news that we had been chosen by the birthparents. We were matched!! I talked with her for a few minutes, she passed along contact information for the social worker in CA and laid out the logistics for me - we would have to travel across the country later that week. Of course, my brain went into overdrive at that moment...Hampton's schedule, flight prices, someone to watch Luke, closing on our house (oh, did I forget to mention we were buying a new house?), what to pack, what to buy here or there, who to tell first.

I called Hampton and gave him the great news; then we started planning - and packing - and TELLING.

The TELLING is my favorite part. I love sharing the amazing news that God has created a new little human being and has orchestrated HIS plan for our lives in such a way that we get to be parents again!! SO.AMAZING.

We booked a flight for CA and made all the appropriate arrangements for Luke and Hampton's schedule. It all worked out, of course, and we flew to CA on Friday, May 22.

Friday afternoon we met the birthparents at the Bethany office. Those details are so precious and so private that I cannot possibly post them here for the world to see. Just know that these birthparents love their son dearly and wanted the best life for him possible, which meant choosing adoption. Meeting them and sharing our lives with them has already been such a blessing to me. I am forever thankful for their gift of life for their son and there are no words that could adequately express our emotions or theirs. (I'm also very thankful for the translator who did such an amazing job helping us communicate!)

After our meeting, we all signed a bunch of paperwork. There is a very practical side to adoption, amidst the emotions and the feelings and the JOY - there is a ton of paperwork. I'm so very thankful that we have worked with an organization that takes adoption seriously and works with all parties involved to insure the best outcome possible for the child. I would sign a million pages. 

We decided to wait until Saturday to go to the hospital to visit our new baby boy. We navigated the check-in process, security, and finding the right room...and there he was. Our precious little baby boy, wrapped up like a burrito in a hospital blanket, hooked up to several monitors, but doing so well and sleeping so soundly. The nurses welcomed us and let us hold him. The birthparents came later and we awkwardly passed baby boy around. 

We sat down with the doctors and talked about baby's diagnoses and health issues. He had surgery and was recovering well, but not feeding completely on his own. That was our major hurdle to getting him out of the NICU and home with us. 

SO, the days passed. The birthparents flew back to China. Hampton flew back to FL. And I moved into the Ronald McDonald House - settling in for the long haul, not really knowing what I was in for.

MORE TO COME! Stay tuned for the rest of Seth's adoption story. I promise it will only be two parts. :)


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