Okay, as promised, here is the rest of the story about Henry (nice and long, too! 🙂  )

At the very beginning of our adoption process we decided that we would like to adopt a girl — a sister for Joanna.  Our homestudy was originally approved for a girl under 24 months.  We did not even discuss adopting a boy…  We briefly discussed adopting a child with special needs, and decided that we would be open to a child with a medically correctable condition. 

 So, obviously Henry wasn’t even on our ‘radar’ screen when we first applied to Acres of Hope.  I’m sure I must have read over his name when I was looking at the website, but I had no idea that this little guy was going to bring about such an awakening in our hearts and end up someday as our son!

 After we sent in our application to AoH early in May, I read over the list of waiting kids again, because I knew it would be 2-4 months before we had our CIS approval and could be considered for a referral.  A couple of the kids were in our age range, so I called Donna for some more information.  I was asking primarily about the girls, but I also just mentioned Henry…  (I’m not sure why I did… but I did!!).   Donna chuckled and said that she and her husband had been captured by Henry and had really thought about adopting him themselves.  She said he was a real sweetie and from what they had been told by his birth mother, he had a shoulder injury from a birthing accident and would most likely regain use of his arm after surgery and therapy.  The girls I asked about had cerebral palsy, and at that point I didn’t know much about CP, but knew it was definitely not in the list of special needs we had discussed, so I asked Donna to send me the medical information and pictures of Henry. 

 She sent them right away.  I was captured by his sweet eyes, but really didn’t think it would go anywhere.  I had no idea what Peter’s response would be either.  When he got home from work that night we had ten minutes before we had to leave for our soccer game, so we ended up discussing it on the way up to Canada.  He was hesitant at first, but willing to spend some time thinking and praying about it.

 The next day I had to go down to Spokane to get my dress for my sister’s wedding.  I left Jo at my mom’s and had two hours alone in the car driving to think about things.  I didn’t really expect to spend the time thinking about Henry… but I could not get him off my mind.  It was the strangest experience… I felt so drawn to him and really prayed that God would make things clear if we were to be his family, and if not, that He would bring his family along soon.

  After having such a stong feeling about Henry that day, we decided to pursue more information on his condition.  We researched the medical aspects of what appeared to be  a brachial plexus injury and contacted specialists around the country.  Peter’s dad is a doctor and his cousin is a well-respected pediatrician in MN, so we also called them several times to help answer questions.  In the meantime, Donna called Liberia to set up a doctor’s appointment for Henry to get more thoroughly evaluated.   It was a couple weeks before he could get in, so we just spent the time praying.  At one point, Peter’s cousin called to express his opinion that it might actually be cerebral palsy since several of Henry’s symptoms were consistent with those of CP.  We were a little concerned since we really didn’t have any idea at that point what it meant to raise a child with CP.  We just decided to wait for the report from the doctor.

 When the results from the exam came back, it was obvious that Henry did not have a shoulder injury but a mild to moderate form of CP.  We were also given several more pictures that showed him smiling.  We were given the report that he was so playful and engaging and that it appeared to be primarily a physical condition… not so much cognitive, and that he had so much potential.  But, still, a permanent condition.

 We spent the next week researching like crazy because we really didn’t know anything about cerebral palsy.  We also were on our faces before God agonizing over what to do.  It was the hardest desicion I have ever been faced with.  I wrestled through so many questions.  How could we say “no” to a life? … to a real, live little boy whom we had begun to grow attached to?  And on the other hand, it seemed like such a huge, life-altering decision that was so far outside of our comfort zone. 

 After a week of praying, we felt like we couldn’t go forward with it.  I cried and cried, but knew that I needed to release it and move on.  We were really busy with my sister’s wedding and my parent’s move, so we didn’t have alot of time to talk about it.  Plus, it was sort of an un-spoken “done deal” between us.  During this time we recieved our I-171h,  so we were officially on the list waiting for a referral.  We did decide to change our request and be open to either gender.   Praying about Henry had opened our hearts to a boy and it also really opened us up to more special needs than we originally thought.  We started discussing and researching about HIV+ and Hep B and other medical conditions. 

 But through it all, I really couldn’t get Henry off my mind or out of my heart.  I would think about him at the strangest times and actually dreamed about him once.  About two weeks ago, I finally sat down with Peter and told him that I was having a hard time releasing Henry.  I was surprised when Peter shared that he, too, had been thinking alot about him.  I asked if we could just spend a little more time praying about it and he agreed.

 That weekend, we called Rachel H., who has adopted two children with CP and is in the process of bringing home another little girl from Liberia through AoH.  We thought it would be a good idea to talk to someone who was actually parenting kids instead of just basing our assumptions on medical research alone.  We had the most encouraging conversation with her.  Peter and I were both on the phone with her for quite some time, just peppering her with questions!   She was so honest and so helpful (thanks, Rachel!) and when we got off the phone we looked at each other and I know we were both thinking, “we could do this!” … it was such a different perspective to talk to someone who had experience and could share more of what to expect.  But, we still knew that we really needed to hear from God before moving forward.

 Yes, I know this is getting rather long… but,hey! its my blog and I can write as long as I want, right?!?!  I’m really wanting to get this recorded as much for my benefit as for whomever might be reading this whole, long post…

 Anyway, it was very obvious to both of us that God was doing a deep work in our hearts.  He was blowing away alot of our pre-conceptions about what we thought our family should look like and what we thought we could handle.  We started to realize how much value our society places on ‘perfection’ and outward appearances and how much of that way of thinking was in us … even though we wouldn’t have admitted it or even realized it was there.  We started getting a better idea of what unconditional love really looks like, and how much God loves all His children.  It was actually very healing for both of us as we realized there were still areas of our lives where we felt like we had to appear “perfect” in order to be loved.  We evaluated alot of our core beliefs and kept coming back to this one truth:

 “Its not about us!!! —  Our lives are SO not about us!!!”

Its not about how successful we are, or how much fun we have… at the end of our lives we want to look back and be able to say that we were “willing” … that we were willing to follow God where He was leading us, even when it seemed crazy… even when we didn’t fully understand it… even when it took us so completely out of our “comfort zones” … because we know that God will be there right beside us, giving us the grace to walk down the roads He leads us.  So, all of a sudden this crazy, unexpected turn of events — thinking about adopting special needs kids — was suddenly so sweet to us and so exciting because we could see God in it and we could sense so clearly that this is where He was leading.  It is still scary to us in a lot of ways because it is certainly not what we expected! and we know we are human and we know there is still alot more “uncomfortableness” to work through… but it is really awesome to be confident that we are sensing the prompting of the Lord.

 But back to the story: we still weren’t sure if Henry was to be our son, but we were certainly leaning in that direction.  And then I had a huge revelation that really brought me alot of peace.

I realized that instead of evaluating whether or not we could “handle” parenting a child with CP, we needed to be asking God, “is Henry our son?” … because if Henry was meant to be our son, then it didn’t matter what handicaps he had, the same as if I had a biological son with similar handicaps.  This just gave me such a peace because it released me from feeling like I would be rejecting the handicap if we said “no” again.  If we truly did not feel like Henry was supposed to be part of our family, then we would wait for the child God had for us and we would not be saying “no” to the cerebral palsy.

 So we asked God to make it really clear to us.  We asked Him to shut the doors clearly if He didn’t want us to move forward with Henry and to give us a deep sense of peace if it was the direction He wanted us to go.  I shared in an earlier post about trusting the peace to guide us.  And it certainly did!  I have had nothing but the deepest, most inexplainable peace surrounding my heart as we’ve prayed about Henry.  I cannot even describe it.  Of course, my mind has not always been at peace and I’ve had to work through lots of worries and questions and fears of the unknown… but when I quiet it all down in my mind and tune in to the Holy Spirit, I have such a sense of peace that Henry is our son.  I just know it. 

 And Peter has the same sense of peace.  I am grateful beyond words to have such an incredible husband who is willing to quiet his spirit to listen to the still, small voice of the Lord, and then to follow the prompting even when we don’t know exactly what the outcome will look like.

 So now we are preparing to bring home our precious son, who has been diagnosed with a permanent condition.  We really don’t have any idea what to expect because we don’t have any frame of reference other than what we read about CP.  But we know beyond a doubt that he is our son, and we love him already, and we want to help him reach his potential.  We know that God has such a deep love for Henry and that he will touch many lives.  He has touched our lives in a deep way and we haven’t even met him yet!  We are so excited about seeing him blossom.   We are also excited about the other special needs children that God has destined for our family.  Our lives are headed in a different direction than  we originally thought when we began this adoption process.  Its been quite a surprise, but we feel so blessed that God tapped us on the shoulder and gave us this special task. 

Believe or not, this is actually the “condensed” version of the story!  There has been a whole lot more processing on varying levels and many more conversations with faithful friends (Thanks, Sarah!… Thanks, Rae!)  and some additional revelations here and there that I will leave for another day.  I think I’ll close with a quote I snagged from another adopting mommy’s blog:

“A true crosswalk is obeying where we have revelation in spite of the apparent contradiction in what we cannot explain.  To obey only when we see that there will be a favorable outcome is not obedience.  Obedience is supposed to be expensive.  To embrace what He has shown us and obey what He has commanded us, often in the midst of unanswerable questions, is an honor beyond measure.”     Bill Johnson