Our Family Grows Again!

Ten years ago, just before we got married, I told Allison I thought having 2 children was more than enough. It’s always interesting how God’s plans are far different than our own. In the past 10 years of our marriage, I have seen God’s plan in play. And, I confidently believe even more today that His ways are greater, and much more fulfilling than our own! (Isaiah 55:8-9)

As God would have it our family does not include 2 kids, but now we have 5! That’s right, we have 5 kids. I am settling into saying that myself. I am the oldest of 5 kids, so it’s not a foreign idea, but it’s a new concept to be the dad of 5. What’s even more incredible is that 3 of our 5 kids have come to us through the gift of adoption. Allison and I knew long before we were married that we truly did want to adopt. And in 2009 we set out on the journey of our first adoption.

In February 2010 we experienced the miracle of bringing Kaia home from Ethiopia. Then in February 2011 we made the decision to pursue a second international adoption, this time in Haiti. If you have followed our family for any length of time, you know that we are eagerly awaiting the final papers to pass so that we can bring Karis home from Haiti. PLEASE keep praying that happens very soon. But, the story expanded in a God-Sized way this Fall. Let me share.

In January 2009 we met a special young girl named Ashayla. Ashayla is from Kingsport. We came to know her through the church where I pastored and its benevolence program. Shay, as we call her, was in a very precarious situation. Her mother had left her in the care of a family member since she was 2 months old. During the following 5 years Shay experienced things that, in all honestly, shock me to this day. The shock is mainly due to the fact that we simply never expect that kids in America are not subjected to the poverty and abuse that we see in kids from the Third World. But, in fact, Shay had experienced those things. She rarely received a normal day’s ration of food, she did not own a toothbrush, she didn’t even know what toilet paper was…All things that are hard to imagine, especially when you know she’s been living 3-4 miles from you. It took a long time to process these things for our family. Additionally, Shay had been exposed to the drug and prostitution culture all through her 5 years. She has seen and experienced things that many of you reading this (including me) have and likely never will experience.

In January 2009 our closest friends Jeff & Kellie took Shay into their home and began to care for her. I could write a novel on the miracle it was for God to bring Shay into their home. But, the Kingsport courts allowed them to take temporary custody of her. Jeff and Kellie gave their lives and their energy to helping Shay heal and become healthy. Jeff and Kellie are two of the most amazing and wonderful people I know. They gave sacrificially and with passion to seeing Shay’s life redeemed. During the last 2 years, under their care, we have watched Shay transform from a hurting little girl into a smart, flourishing young lady. And best of all, Shay learned to love Jesus! Something that is a miracle above all else.

During the past two years Shay has been a huge part of our lives. She has spent a large amount of time with our family. Seeing that Jeff and Kellie are some of our closest friends, our families spent tons of time together, and spent lots of time loving on each other’s kids. Our kids have always loved Shay as if she was one of their siblings.

During the late Summer, it became clear that Shay was not going to be able to stay with Jeff and Kellie. For them this was a tragic and painful turn of events. And, the fear of her returning to a broken system, that did not protect her, was daunting for all of us. We all began to pray and ask God to protect her and provide a perfect family for her. We prayed that she would have a patient, loving and Godly family.

Crazy thing is that sometimes when we pray for something big, God calls on us to be part of the big thing. That’s exactly what He did for us. Allison and I both felt as though we needed to pursue bringing Shay into our family. And this is where the next miracles begins…..

There are a million reasons why Shay should be anywhere else but our home. Here are a few….We are not her biological family, and they were still around in Kingsport. We were moving to Texas within a few weeks. And, we have never been part of the local, domestic foster system to even be considered. But, we decided to take a step of faith. So, in September, we petitioned the courts in Tennessee to take Shay into our home. There was a small chance it could happen. But, one thing I know about God, He can take something very small and make it very big! (John 6:1-14) And God did just that. In early October we made our first appearance in court for Shay’s case. We were not rejected but asked to give 30 days to fulfill a few legal and necessary steps in the process. The next 30 days were tough and unsettling. What was tougher is that we had chosen not to tell very many to protect Shay and everyone involved.

This past Friday, Allison returned to Kingsport for the next hearing for Shay. There has been LOTS of uncertainty in the process, and we entered this hearing with doubts and fear. But, we kept taking one step of faith at a time. Within 10 minutes of entering the courtroom, Allison walked out with a God-sized result. Shay is officially part of our family. God is good. As of Saturday, Shay is home with us in Texas! Now we have Shay (7), Evan (5), Noah (4), Kaia (2) and soon Karis (9mos). Please be in prayer for us all during this transition. Pray for our family and for Jeff and Kellie as we navigate the changes. Pray for Shay most of all!

I look at Shay’s life and I see one miracle after another. The best part is the fact that God used ordinary people, in ordinary resources to do extraordinary things. For some reason God chose to use Jeff and Kellie, He chose to use us, He chose to use the judges, and he chose to use Shay. Without every one of these people and the circumstances around it all, God’s plan would not have been so spectacular. God uses us to be part of His miracles and that’s something we can never forget. God used all of these things to teach us all faith and complete reliance on Him.