Part 9: ONE OF H1S STEADFAST + IMMOVABLE STORIES
ONE OF H1S STEADFAST + IMMOVABLE STORIES
One of H1S is a 10-week series telling the Sage Harvest story of how two became ten ... and a jerky store.
Shortly after we opened our brick and mortar jerky store in July 2016, we had an idea.
The Sage Harvest mission was to reclaim hope for the fatherless, and at only one month open, the profits from our jerky products were now helping to do that.
But we felt like we could do more.
Especially when little faces we had seen with our very own eyes were on the line.
After returning home from China with Yezi, we had kept up with the organization that loved her so well over Facebook. The Little Flower Facebook page connected families who loved the ministry and families now loving those children in their own homes.
We were watching the page for updates on one little boy in particular — the blue little boy from the toddler room who had greeted us and sang his heart out on our afternoon visit in China.
This sweet, joyful thing had a cleft lip and palate and a single ventricle heart. He’d had a palliative repair performed in China, but what he needed was a family who could get him the surgery he really needed here.
With his tiny blue fingers, toes and lips, D.C. and I both knew that that little man didn’t have a lot of time left. His situation was dire, and he was truly relying on adoption in order to live.
Even with an unrepaired cleft lip that left a large opening in his face and one ventricle in his heart, this boy was beyond exuberant and just full of joy. He was a gem — an oxygen-deprived, barely-hanging-onto-life, blue little gem who urgently needed a family to run to him.
With six children and four-plus medical needs and now a jerky store God had entrusted to us to run for His glory, D.C. and I were deep in the weeds, and we didn’t feel like we could be the ones to run.
So we looked for ways we could partner with those who might.
We watched on the Facebook page as more than one family stepped up to reclaim hope for this little man whose heart was failing his body. But for one reason or another, the families who stepped forward were not able to bring this bubbly guy home.
Until one was.
This experienced adoptive family was bringing home not just this heart baby who would need immediate surgery in order to survive but also other children with major medical needs.
I messaged the new mama that day.
“Hey,” we told her, “we met your little guy while in China, and we would absolutely love to help!”
We had just launched the business and were coming off our fourth adoption ourselves, and we wanted to provide financially, but the only way we could do that so early in the business was to create something and sell it.
That’s when we had the idea to design meaningful merchandise we could use to help fund these adoptions.
As we prayed over this family who was racing to this heart baby who might not live without a family to call his own, we just kept thinking about 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
We pictured the solidity of mountains, and we knew exactly who to call.
D.C. and I grew up with a couple who are now professional skiers and snow boarders.
Chris is also an artist ... one who specializes in mountain landscapes.
So when we contacted him and asked if he could possibly sketch some mountains for this new Steadfast + Immovable design, he was all over it.
A few weeks later, we had the most beautiful Steadfast + Immovable tees and tanks right there on the racks of our store … shirts that would help fund the steadfast and immovable family who was running to a heart baby who didn’t have long to live.
Thanks to the incredible patronage of some amazing orphan warriors, Sage Harvest was able to send this family a check before they traveled to China that fall.
Knowing that this charming boy who had stolen our hearts in China was now in the capable hands of family who would help repair HIS, we began to lose touch.
D.C. was deployed, the jerky store was moving into the busy holiday season and the lists of surgeries and procedures and medical appointments in our home continued increasing.
We saw on the Facebook group that this precious boy had received the life-saving heart surgery he needed at one of the nation’s very best children’s hospitals, and we prayed for this boy who spent six weeks in recovery in a pediatric ICU unit in the Northeast.
But we didn’t hear anything again until this sweet boy and his mama we had never actually met before in person surprised us and showed up at the jerky store the next summer, almost a year after he had returned home.
They had stopped by to thank us for supporting this boy’s adoption, and I just couldn’t stop staring at those lips that were now, for the first time, not blue.
Through our conversation that day, we discovered that this sweet boy’s mama was going through a personal crisis.
We knew that as One of H1S, it was our privilege to help.
We assessed her needs and loaded up a trailer and, the weekend before D.C. left for his next deployment, we made a turn-and-burn trip to this family’s new city to drop furniture God had so beautifully provided.
And then I returned to my world of single parenting six children and a jerky store and, except for a couple follow-up texts and prayers, didn’t hear another word.
I fell into the rhythm of a slower season, and life for the first time in a long time, seemed relatively easy.
My husband was deployed, but for the first time, all six children were in school.
My mornings consisted of lattes and walks with friends, and my afternoons were spent tagging adoption t-shirts in a store my amazing man had built from the ground up.
Except for the morning sickness (because, of course, before D.C. left, we found out we were pregnant with No. 7), life was pretty cushy and comfortable.
Almost too comfortable.
As I carried Baby No. 7 and prepared for what life would look like soon, God began pricking my heart.
“You know I created you for so much more than being comfortable,” He would whisper in my ear.
But I wasn’t sure what that meant.
China had recently changed their adoption eligibility requirements, and families with six children were no longer permitted to adopt.
We were buried in medical needs and mobility issues that made travel difficult, and bringing home a child from anywhere else seemed all but impossible, even though adoption from this country we loved was still so very heavy on my heart.
“If God wants us to adopt again, He’s going to have to bring China to our doorstep,” I told my friend on one of our weekly walks one day.
And that’s exactly what He did.
In November 2017, a few months after we had delivered furniture to the family of the boy who was now home and healthy in the United States, I received a text from this boy’s mama asking me if I knew anyone who could possibly provide respite care.
I asked her if we could talk.
When I called, this woman who had been through so much was in great pain. They were struggling, and they needed help. They had exhausted all their local respite resources, and they needed someone to assist with their children while they took a few weeks to regroup and put out some fires.
“We are here for you,” I told her over the phone.
D.C. and I had always believed that we as Christians are supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus, not the system.
We ARE the system.
But we also knew that moving emotionally fragile children who already struggled with permanency and attachment could be more damaging than helpful, and we really wanted to make sure this was really the best decision for this child.
“We can provide respite,” I replied, “but when you have a child emotionally hanging by a thread, another transition can do a lot of damage. Please promise us you will think about this first and make sure it is the very best option.”
We received a text the next day letting us know that she felt this was the best option for the child, and she needed us now.
So the week before Thanksgiving, after consulting with attorneys and other professionals to make sure we weren't operating outside of the law, we flew this mama and this boy we had met two years before in China to our local airport, where our family of 8.5 received this doll and hugged his courageous and hurting mama before she returned through security and left on a return flight a few hours later.
Though he embraced the smiles and hugs of six little people who nearly smothered him with their overwhelming, touchy-feely love, this little man was just so confused.
We tucked him into a little bed in the corner of the boys’ room, and I curled up next to him on the ground, holding his hand and trying to make him feel comfortable. But night terrors overtook his dreams and this tender little 5-year-old soul just couldn’t sleep.
Night after night, he would wake sweating and shrieking, and all I could do was hold him tight, tell him he was safe and wipe the tears from eyes that didn’t understand what was happening in this place.
Because he had just come off not only a heart surgery but also a surgery to help repair his palate the month before coming to our home, this tiny guy was skin-and-bones emaciated. He had gear on his teeth, and eating was a challenge.
So his mama and I began fighting from afar to get him the care he needed.
As we arranged the paperwork for him to receive the lip repair he needed at a hospital near us while under our care, we began seeing a transformation of another kind take place.
Within weeks, the little boy who couldn’t even climb three stairs when he entered our home became the lead stomper up stairwells at all hours of the day.
The boy who, from so many weeks in a hospital, didn’t remember how to be active or play learned what it meant to interact with other kids and jump into the fray.
He taught himself how to ride a bike, he picked up on countless new English words and he nuzzled his way into the brood as one who just loved to belong.
Month after month, we would communicate with this precious angel’s mama, asking what we could do, how we could help, what we could provide while she developed her care plan. We told her we could provide respite for the time being, but we needed a hard date and a hard plan. Because respite with no end date was not something our hearts could handle.
After six months in our home, this little man was forming attachments with kiddos he began seeing more like brothers and sisters than household playmates and friends. We were in love with this little guy and the contagious joy he just spread everywhere he went. And we knew that it wasn’t emotionally wise for him or our other children to remain in this place of respite long-term if this wasn’t a long-term solution.
We also knew that this was quite possibly the hardest decision his adoptive mama had ever been faced with. Just like the beautiful birth mama that preceded her and gave this boy life, she, too, would have to decide if letting go was the very best way for her to love this boy.
This gap between respite and permanency was the most tender place to be for everyone involved, and we knew we needed to be incredibly gentle. But, also in this gap, sat a little boy who needed medical attention and who was desperately looking for reassurance — begging the question, “What does the future look like for me?” So we also needed a plan.
As we waited for his mama to make a decision about this sweet boy’s future, she provided us the paperwork to get him the next cleft surgery he needed while under our care.
We traveled to our local children’s hospital, where we met the most amazing craniofacial team who loved and supported us so incredibly well through all of the unknowns and uncertainty. They assessed this little one’s former procedures, they assessed his progress and they worked with D.C.’s deployment schedule to set a date on the calendar that they could perform this final repair — the one that would close the gaping hole in this beautiful boy’s face.
But without more medical paperwork from our little man’s legal parents, we were at a standstill. The team couldn’t perform surgery without medical release forms that we didn’t have and were thus far unable to obtain.
We’d delivered Baby No. 7 in January, D.C. was deploying in May and we had one good date we knew D.C. could be available to hold this boy’s hand during surgery while I nursed the baby and ran the team at home.
We still had no medical paperwork and no care plan from the mama we knew was facing so much and was struggling to make hard decisions. But we were running out of time.
The medical team at the children’s hospital fought for us anyway and told us they would hold our surgery date until the very night before.
Finally, after six months of hard deliberation and just one week before his surgery date, the mama of the boy we had fallen so deeply in love with let us know that she was terminating her parental rights and we were finally able to access the care he was in such great need of.
We wouldn’t be attending this surgery as his custodians; we’d be attending this surgery as his PARENTS.
The parents of the boy we met in a healing home in China in the summer of 2015.
The parents of the boy we had created our first ever t-shirt for in the fall of 2016.
The parents of the boy who came into our home and captured all our hearts in the fall of 2017.
The parents of the boy who would soon legally became our son.
Our little “Ocho.”
Perfect number eight.
In May 2018, after Ocho’s family had relinquished parental rights but before he became legally ours, I scooped up a once-fragile little boy afraid of stairs and play — a boy who had experienced the brokenness of calling three different women “Mama” in one lifetime — and I kissed him on the forehead. And then I watched as the man he now knew as only “Daddy” held his hand and buckled him into a car seat to drive to a hospital where the cleft lip he had known since birth would finally be closed and repaired for good.
And despite all the brokenness that this tender boy had experienced, I couldn’t help but see the beauty in this redeeming moment.
The mama who brought our sweet boy home from China did what we couldn’t do.
She traveled to China, brought this ticking time bomb home and spent months by his side as he recovered from a heart surgery that was, at the time, touch and go.
He was an older boy with a misshapen face — the kind of boy whose cuteness and charm might not shine in a profile photo or a file. And she chose him. She loved him. She brought him to a place where he could literally and figuratively finally breathe.
To a place where our family, who was now no longer eligible to adopt from China because of our size, was able to embrace him.
And God somehow used us to do what she couldn’t do — to provide long-term for a little boy whose working heart today is thanks to her, and to be the family she, because of unique circumstances, was not able to be.
And through this mama, God taught us the power of coming together as one of H1S, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, each bringing to the table our own abilities but all fighting for hope and redemptive second chances for one of H1S most vulnerable little boys.
A little boy who was tenderly held and sustained by a God who whispered in a thousand different ways, “I have not forgotten you. I am with you always” as he journeyed down a path of literal and figurative heartbreak that would lead him to our door.
It may have been a winding road, but God’s hand, as steadfast and immovable as the design on the t-shirt that was once sold in our boy’s name, never left our boy’s side.
Those hands held him.
Those hands carried him.
Those hands pursued him.
Those hands protected him.
Those hands claimed him as one of H1S — known, loved, chosen and purposed.
Though people and systems and circumstances may have failed him, our steadfast and immovable God never did. He was there all along, because our little “Ocho” was always one of H1S.
Did you miss the beginning of the Sage Harvest story? Not to worry, it's not too late to catch up! Follow the links below for the first eight parts of the 10-part series.
Part 1: One of H1S Relentless Love Stories
Part 2: One of H1S Rescue Stories
Part 3: One of H1S Provision Stories
Part 4: One of H1S Verb-Love Stories
Part 5: One of H1S Resurrection Stories
Part 6: One of H1S Dependence Stories
Part 7: One of H1S Abundance Stories
Part 8: One of H1S Harvest Stories