Decision-making Basis

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we are affected by our momentary feelings and how important it is to not act solely on feelings.  We need an objective source of motivation to make important decisions and then we can always go back to that if we are “feeling” indifferent about decisions we have made.  Our emotions have truly resembled a roller coaster ride over the last month.  Our feelings ebbed and flowed a lot and I was amazed at how much they could fluctuate within a day or two.  If our actions and decisions had been based on emotions, we would have acted wildly and made some decisions that we would not be happy about today.  But because we followed God’s leading in our decision to adopt, we are secure that we are doing the right thing because we are confident in God’s guidance.

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A Good Reminder

This last week has had a few low points and this verse came across my path a couple times.  It reminded me of what I need to do when the wind is making me unsteady or obscuring my view and the waves are lapping at my feet.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Olivia, Brian, Ilya, Stephanie, & Katie August 2010

Our story…

Wow, what a whirlwind the last 3 months have been.  We have traveled over 3000 miles through 7 states in the minivan with 4 kids, gotten fingerprinted at the county jail, filled out stacks of paperwork, attended more picnics than in the last 3 years, and picked up a well-mannered, handsome boy at the airport several weeks ago who speaks only Russian.  Indeed, it has been a summer to remember.

I want to start off by giving you an important definition to a meaningful word.

ADOPT:  To take by choice into a relationship

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this word over the last year as we have contemplated what it might mean to our family.  It isn’t about something that just happens to you and it isn’t about a feeling that might come and go.  It’s a deliberate choice, an action, a commitment to another individual.  It shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The Lead Up…

I want to share with you the journey that God has enticed us to embark on.  The first hints of where we are now headed appeared years ago as God placed a burden for Russian orphaned babies on my heart.  If I really consider my earliest interest in Eastern Europe, I would have to say that watching Doctor Zhivago for the first time in high school really sparked the first kindling.  But the first thoughts of adoption came early in our marriage as we talked about having children.  I shared the burden of my heart with my husband and we stumbled upon an opportunity to learn more about international adoption.  Unfortunately, we were shocked by the estimated costs and because my faith was so infantile at the time, we decided that there was no way we could think any more about considering adoption.

Our History

I became pregnant easily before our first anniversary and our first baby was due in October 1998.  To our surprise, we lost the baby to miscarriage in the 17th week.  We were truly devastated.  But that’s another story.  I became pregnant again a few months later and 8 months later in 1999 (another story, another time) our first living child was born, our son Brian.  Twenty-two months after that in 2001, our first daughter, Stephanie, was born.  We lost another baby due to an early miscarriage before our second daughter, Katharina, was born in 2003.  Our last biological child was born in February of 2006,  another daughter, Olivia.  I had four c-sections to bring these children into the world.  I was approaching 40, our house was pretty full, our van was nearly full, and our lives were certainly rather full.  It seemed like a good time to stop bringing new babies in the door.  We were very content, felt very blessed, and thankful to have arrived where we were on our parenting journey.  Life was good.

The Big Question

We really hadn’t had any further thoughts about adoption through my childbearing years.  So as we began to follow the story of friends who were planning to host four siblings from Ukraine with the ultimate plan to adopt them, we really didn’t feel any pangs of following in their footsteps.  But as we became more aware of all the children in Ukraine waiting for families and the bleak outlook for kids who are never adopted, we began to reconsider this prospect.  God had plans for us and he began to work in our hearts a year ago in August 2009.  We began praying and asking God if this is what he would have us do.  We had very mixed feelings at first.  We loved our lives and it was very difficult to think about giving up the life we currently have.  We were in a good groove, life was beginning to get a little easier with our children getting older and our youngest approaching 4 at the time.  As we prayed and came up with lots of good reasons why adoption might not be a good idea, God began to focus our quest on one question:  “Are you willing?”  We struggled over that single question for months.  We were fearful of some of the changes it might bring.  We were concerned about our children and what this would mean for them.  We wondered how on earth we would pay for the costs involved.

Continuing to Wrestle

As I continued to ponder and pray about this, God brought something very significant to my attention.  He brought to mind how my hand was open to what he was putting in it while he was filling our hearts and lives with the children we had dreamed and hoped for.  Once I had the desires of my heart fulfilled, my hand closed and I hadn’t even realized it.  Now I had a visual of my closed hand to consider every day.  Was I willing to open my hand and give God the control of what might go in or come out of my hand in the future?  This was really tough for both me and my husband.  Surely if we said yes, the dynamics of our household would change.  Some of those changes might be good.  Some of those might be hard to live with.  What it came down to was whether or not we trust God enough to allow him to carry out his will and plans for our lives.  He had been so faithful through all those years of marriage, pregnancy, provision for our family, parenting.  How could we doubt that he would take care of us through this if we said yes?  The more we looked behind us and saw all the things that God had carried us through, the more willing we became to trust him with the future he had for us.

Opening My Hands

The day I decided to open my hand is still very crisp in my memory as it was scary at first, but that quickly gave way to a peace that came with knowing I had done what God wanted me to do.  Our perception of God can be funny that way.  We can be so sure that he is going to ask us to do something we don’t like or something that is hard, or whatever, and yet when we step into what he has for us we find peace, reassurance, and the confidence to keep moving forward.  My perspective was almost instantly transformed following that decision.  It is difficult to know when to include my husband’s experience and when to leave it out.  I am telling our story from my perspective, so I do not want to speak for him too much.  But he had a similar experience with his hand opening in the same timeframe as me, which was also confirming that we were to move forward with this in some capacity.

Stepping Out of the Boat

Several months passed after the opening of our hands.  Initially we thought God was leading us towards adoption, but when we opened our hands, we were truly open to whatever He had in mind for us and realized we may be headed in a direction we never imagined.  So we continued to pray that God would lead us to whatever it was that he had planned for us.  In the springtime, the adoption agency sent out an email including profiles of kids from Ukraine who were available for summer hosting.  As we weren’t sure whether or not this is what God had in store for us, we did not act on this right away.  We did decide to look through profiles and think and pray some more about it.  I scanned through them looking for boys without siblings who were close in age to Brian, but younger than him as we thought this would be the best fit for our family.  I narrowed the search to two boys and then shared this with Bruce to see what he thought.  He chose Ilya almost immediately, which confirmed to me that he was the right boy for us as he was my first choice as well.  We prayed about it again and then talked about emailing the adoption agency.  I was really hoping for a big billboard from God (as you can probably relate to) confirming our decision to move forward with summer hosting.  But my sense from God was that he was saying “No, I won’t give you a billboard Jill, but I will give you confirmation after you step forward in faith.”  The morning following our decision, I emailed ECAS to tell them that we would like to host a child and asked if Ilya was still available.  In the meantime, Bruce had left for work in the early morning hours and was praying (with his eyes open!) in the car on the way to work.  He sensed God speaking to him about our decision and the confirmations starting rolling in, just as God had promised.  Bruce heard the song The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns on KTIS and it spoke directly to him in our situation.  Back at home, I had not yet spoken with Bruce for the first time that day.  But some time after sending the email to ECAS, I was drinking my coffee and thinking through the ramifications of the decision we had made.  Suddenly, a vision of Peter stepping out of the boat onto the water popped into my head and I thought “Yeah, that’s really what we’re doing here.”  I walked over and grabbed my Bible to look up this passage to read exactly what it says.  I hadn’t read these verses in quite some time.  Matthew 14:28-29 says this “‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’  ‘Come,’ he [Jesus] said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”  After reading through this, I was certain that God had just given me confirmation of our decision.  It was INCREDIBLE when I received Bruce’s email later describing his account of what had happened on the way into work.  When we finally spoke on the phone for the first time that day, it was a very excited conversation about being willing to go where God was taking us!  I encourage you to read through the lyrics of The Voice of Truth as this will make more sense to you if you are not familiar with that song.  It has since become our theme song for the journey we are on.