Kickstarter Campaign for Counted Worthy

Kickstarter cover_2

 

Hello everyone. Our normal Advocate & Pray post will be up tomorrow. Today I want to share some news I’m very excited about. I’m currently working on publishing my first book. Counted Worthy is not about orphans or orphan care, but I hope books centered around that topic will follow in the near future. I’m calling this line of stories “Fiction with a Mission.” Counted Worthy is a story about the persecuted church.

Right now, Counted Worthy is in the final, polishing stages. To get is as refined as it can be, I’m running a campaign to raise the money for editing, cover design, and interior formatting. By supporting the campaign, you can reserve your copy of Counted Worthy.

Please check it out, consider pledging your support, and help spread the word. Thanks so much!

Visit the Campaign!

Read more on Leah’s Bookshelf.

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A Baby by Christmas (part 2)

Hannah MillsDid you miss A Baby Christmas by Christmas (part 1)? Click the link to read it before continuing. 😉 And now, back to Hannah.

~*~

We arrived at the restaurant, and although I don’t remember exactly who arrived first, the initial moments were slightly awkward. Then it was like meeting old friends, or relatives you haven’t seen in ages and yet pick right back up with.

We started talking and just didn’t want to stop. We traded stories—Kara, worried that I wouldn’t understand, or would be angry at her, shared her story in more depth than my parents had been able to, and was relieved I was okay with it—and memories, gosh, a lifetime of memories. We talked about everything. Personalities, hobbies, favorite memories. We had a lifetime to catch up on.

We discovered I’m a lot like Kara and Kristy, and that Kara and my Mom basically have identical parenting styles, that all of us love to read, and that Kara has an artsy streak. My parents say that explains where I got mine, since neither one of them are very artistic. We have a lot of differences, too, but our similarities matter more.

Eventually we were the only ones left in the restaurant aside from the staff. We closed the place down.

Since, we’ve kept in regular contact. They, along with Kara’s husband, their two children, and my biological grandparents came to my eighteenth birthday party. We babysat on Valentine’s day so Kara and her husband could have a date night (that was a hilarious surprise to plan with him!). I went to the art museum with them and they came to a church pitch-in with us. Birthday and Christmas phone calls. Running into them at the State Fair. Meeting up for dinner. All in all…it’s been great.

Now I’m almost twenty, and having a family and then an “extended” biological family is just my normal. It sounds weird when I talk about it, but actually living it isn’t weird at all. It’s wonderful, actually. I know I’m the anomaly in that, that some people never meet their birth family/mother, or if they do, it doesn’t turn out well. But that doesn’t mean it has to turn out poorly every time.

Adoption is an amazing thing. Sometimes an incredibly hard thing, sometimes scary, but amazing nonetheless.

If you are an adoptive parent, please be as open with your child as their maturity level allows. Remind them that their birthmother does care for them. If she didn’t care, she could have gotten an abortion. If she didn’t want them to have a chance at an amazing life, she could have sentenced them to death before they ever experienced life outside the womb.

All the birthmothers I have met are beautiful people. They aren’t perfect, but none of us are. They have made mistakes, but all of us have. It takes a special person, a special strength, to carry a child and voluntarily give it to someone else to raise.

From the day they brought me home, my parents have emphasized those things and I believe that is the main reason I’ve never had a crisis of identity regarding being adopted, or resented it, or wondered if I was loved or “worth it.” Adoption is beautiful—please, don’t let the adoptees you know lose sight of that.

A Baby by Christmas (part 1)

IMG_0301

Me and Hannah

My friend Hannah and I met through a mutual involvement in the One Year Adventure Novel. Actually, to be technical, our characters met. But that’s another story for another time and you probably wouldn’t understand anyway. Anyway, somewhere along the line I learned that Hannah was adopted and that’s when we started talking. These days I regularly forget the fact that made us start talking to begin with, but I was thrilled when she sent me this article. Welcome to an open domestic adoption. And now let me introduce Hannah.

~*~

On multiple occasions throughout the course of my life, I’ve been asked the question “What’s it like to be adopted?” My reply is always, “What is it like to not be adopted?”

Often, when people talk about adoption, it’s about international adoption. International adoption is beautiful and incredibly important, but some of us adoptees had much more humble beginnings. We are “domestic.” There is a huge need for international adoptees to find their forever families, but, at the same time, the need for domestic adoptive families is also massive.

Older children, younger children. Infants. Some through the state, others through private agencies, there are many of us. We’re “given up” for many reasons—finances, we were unexpected, drug or alcohol addicted parents, the list goes on.

I am from an entire family of adoptee children. We’re all domestically adopted, and this is my part of the story.*

 —

My parents were married twenty-five years ago. They wanted children, but struggled with infertility issues and couldn’t get pregnant. So they turned to adoption. Two fell through, breaking their hearts. It hurt my mother so badly. She couldn’t imagine going through another Christmas, another Mother’s Day, another birthday, without having a baby of her own. They’d been married almost five years when finally, one Sunday, my parents went to the altar and prayed. What was the prayer? A baby by Christmas (come to find out later, the week they prayed was the week the first handful of cells that formed me, came into existence).

Not too long after, my mom’s cousin said she knew of a young pregnant woman who already had a toddler, and couldn’t support two children, so she was looking for an adoptive family for this new baby. Things started falling into place. A homestudy, paperwork, letter to the birthmother, et cetera.

The young woman, Kara, picked my parents as the adoptive family. They met in December, a month before I was born, in a hotel lobby. Kara was so tiny she didn’t even look pregnant. My parents were excited, even though I wouldn’t arrive until January. The three of them cried together in that hotel.

God surprised everyone and I was born in December, a week before Christmas. Mom got her Christmas baby after all, and there were more tears in the hospital when I was taken home. During my hospital stay, Kara tried to leave me in the nursery, so she wouldn’t get overly attatched…that failed. She ended up holding me the entire time before my parents arrived, and my birth grandmother crocheted me a blanket while sitting with Kara.

The years passed. I grew up knowing I was adopted, and not thinking it strange. It was just the way things were. It’s never bothered me even though I have often been curious—Mom and Dad have always been open about it, adding more details as I became mature enough to understand them, and letting me know that if I wanted to meet her, someday I hopefully could.

Three years ago, the cousin that knew my birthmom said a mutual acquaintance of hers and Kara’s had messaged her on Facebook, saying something about how he’d recently seen Kara and wondered how Hannah was doing.

That threw us all for a bit of a loop: he remembered me? That meant Kara must talk about me. Either that or he had a good memory.

Was this a Segway for me to meet Kara? Did I want to meet her? We decided it might be. And I decided I really did want to meet her. So we asked my cousin to write the mutual acquaintance and find out if my birthmother might be interested in meeting.

She was, and so was my birth sister, Kristy, who is two years my senior. We got into contact and set up a dinner-date at Don Pablo’s (nothing like Mexican food for nervous stomachs, right?).

Mom was a ball of spazzing, nervous energy. I stayed calm until right before it was time to leave for the restaurant. Then I freaked out, but knew I wanted to meet them badly enough that I wouldn’t allow myself to talk me out of going.

The drive was nerve-wracking.

And you’ll just have to come back tomorrow for the rest of it. 🙂

*Names changed to protect privacy

Loving Katia (part 2)

Katia with dadMiss yesterday’s post? Read part of McKennaugh’s story here –> Loving Katia (part 1).

~*~

My prayers were answered when, after months of advocating, Katia’s story finally fell into the right hands. The Russell family read a poem that I had written about her in an Above Rubies e-zine and contacted me for more information. I sent them a long email about a child thousands of miles away with medical complications that I couldn’t even pronounce. They prayed. God answered. And the Russells started the year long process of adopting Katia. There were home studies and paperwork, dossiers and passports and fundraisng. When at last they got to Ukraine, they found Katia in an even worse condition. She was seven now. She was still fifteen pounds. After each visit they had with her, the Russells wondered if there would be another. Katia lay in her crib, seizing. But she lived. She was the weakest person that I have ever met but, somehow, she was by far the strongest, too.

Katia - homeKatia made it to the US. She was immediately admitted to a hospital here. Seizure medication, surgery, food. Food. Katia doubled her weight and grew four inches in 4 short months. Her blind eyes began to see. Casts shaped her legs, slowly, so they could bend. Her hair grew out and she has a mother to do it up in bows. She has three siblings always darting in to kiss her. She has a daddy to hold her. Now she is no longer a unwanted orphan child. She is someone’s daughter. The change is very visible. She is beautiful.

Every time I talk to Katia’s mother, Heather, or see a photo of this little girl, I think, “I came so close to giving up.” I had spent many endless days–months–trying to advocate for her and find her a family. For the longest time, it had come to nothing. I wondered within if I should give up. But I didn’t. I thank God I didn’t, for my words finally reached a family. I think that nothing in the world feels as good as knowing that you changed someone’s life. That you, with perseverance, helped a child leave a place where they were destined to live a life in a crib. I’m trying to say this in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m trying to collect credit for myself, because I’m not. I just want to say that anyone can make a difference…even a 14-year-old girl with Ukrainian soil on her feet who decides, “God wouldn’t want this child to die without hope. I can’t wait around for someone else to speak for her when I’m supposed to.” I wasn’t anyone special. I just knew that Katia deserved to have a childhood like I had had. It took a lot of time, effort, love and, most if all, a lot of God’s help. The point of this post is that teens can make a difference and that includes you. You can change someone’s life. All you have to do is try. Go for it.

~McKennaugh, age 17
Katia - after

Want to help a Ukrainian orphan? Yuri, a seven-year-old boy, is being adopted from Katia’s orphanage. I met him while I was there and he was the sweetest child. I was able to find him a family only recently and they are trying to raise funds so that they can bring him home. Visit the following link and consider donating to his adoption fund:  Hope for Yuri.

Have you ever seen before and after photos like this? (I haven’t!) How does this story touch your heart?

Loving Katia (part 1)

Katia with McKennaughI found part of McKennaugh’s story on The Rebelution blog. She’s a perfect example of what a huge impact teenagers can have in orphan care. I cried reading the story she sent about Katia. (Yes, there’s a theme here. I cry over everything related to this subject.) What really amazed me were the pictures of Katia. I’d never seen before and after picture like this. They are stunning, visual proof of the redemptive power of adoption. And now, please welcome McKennaugh.

~*~

I lean forward on the red-brown couch trying to get a glimpse of the next room. The workers were busy for a moment and the children, like always, were so quiet. As empty as it seemed, I knew that Davit, Vanya, Miroslav, and Katia were in there. Miroslav with his angel smile, Davit with the sad, longing eyes, Vanya with the giggle that made you just have to laugh along and Katia…Katia. Oh, how she needed someone. A mama, a papa…anyone. I stood slowly and walked to the door. Katia’s crib was in the corner. I crept over to it. A tiny little girl with huge blue eyes stared blankly up at me. I touched her stiff hands. “Pryvet, Katia,” I whispered. She flinched ever so slightly, but remained staring straight ahead. She was blind. I reached down, moving my hand along her legs. I cringed at the feel of them. They were bent at strange angles. And they didn’t bend. Not at all. She was fifteen pounds. She was six years old. Orphanage life is not kind.

Katia2Tears stung my eyes as I slipped my large hand over her baby fingers. Her medical needs were terribly severe. She had not received the care she needed here. It was a miracle that she had survived this long already. Time was not in her favor. I stood, fourteen years old and face to face with the unfairness of the world. If Katia had been born in the US she would have been a completely different child. She wouldn’t have been malnourished and still in a crib. Someone needed to help this little girl; help all the children here who were underfed and had no stimulation. They lived in cribs at the ages most kids should be going to school and spent each day hoping for love that never comes. But who would help? Almost no one outside of Ukraine knew of Katia’s existence. Then I realized that no one would advocate for Katia to get out of this place, no one would reveal her plight to the world. No one, unless I listened to God and did it myself. She was six. I was hardly over twice her age and, yet, she had to depended on me to do something. Our Lord can use the most unlikely people to make change.

Every time that I could, I would go to her and whisper some words before I was sent away. Sometimes I wondered if she really heard me and knew that I was there. One day she was crying and crying. It was the only sound in the place. I listened to the lonely echo of her wails, my heart hurting. I walked into her room and hurried to her crib before anyone could tell me not to. “Don’t cry, Katia,” I said gently. She instantly stopped. I was told to go out of the room. How I wished I could stay by her side! As I stepped away from her crib, she knew I was leaving. She started to whimper again. I had to try with all my might to stop my own tears, but now I knew that she heard me. She knew that I was there. “Someday, Katia,” I thought, “perhaps there will be someone who will hold you every time you cry and not have to leave.”

I spent seven weeks in that orphanage and each day made me wonder why my childhood had been full of love and siblings and laughter when these children had nothing and no one. When I came home to America, I knew that Katia needed an adoptive family immediately. I started by contacting magazines and e-zines, calling organizations and begging God not to let this child of His die before she heard the words, “You are loved.”

Katia with her mom

Come back tomorrow for the rest of the story.