Well, a few days ago we posted on facebook about God's sense of humor.
In our marriage we have experienced this many times! You know what I mean, you say "oh yeah right, that would never happen" and next week it does. As believers we have always had total faith in God and His decisions for our lives, and never once have we regretted that faith and trust. There have been many times we have questioned His timing, or reasons but knew that in the end life is a Gift and our time here is really not our own anyway. Through the toughest and most blessed times in our marriage we have seen God do things that we didn't even think were possible!
Here we stand in complete awe again.
11 years ago when Ben was bitten by the brown recluse spider he had many health complications. Most were overcome with time, healing, and God's grace. But Mayo clinic told us we would never have kids again. We were pregnant with Christian at the time they told us this and were just praying Ben would survive. It was okay, I had always wanted to adopt and Ben and I had talked about it the night he proposed.
Through Ben's illness he felt that he had been ignoring God's calling for his life and living for the wrong reasons. Nine months after the spider bite he enrolled in college again and pursued his degree in elementary education. One week before Christian was born Ben climbed the stairs at the Crosslake Super Slides, and went off all medications Mayo had prescribed. Mayo told us he may never work again, regulate his blood pressure again, drive again, or resume normal life. Our God knew different! Ben says to this day that he was just too stubborn to go back to school without a big push (he felt he was doing fine in insurance)...I continue to tell him not to wait so long when God speaks to him!
While he was in school we decided to look into adoption since we had heard it takes a while to be matched with a birth mom. Two years later we adopted our sweet Isabelle, and Ben was almost done with school. When he graduated we headed to Texas to have a better chance at job stability and higher first year teacher pay.
When Isabelle was 2 1/2 we decided she needed a sister. At that time we knew we wanted to adopt again, but also wanted to make sure that there was no chance that we would "accidentally" have any homegrown surprises. We saw one of the top specialists in Austin and he again told us that we would not be having any more children. The next week we contacted Lutheran Social Services and excitedly pursued our second adoption. Eli came in April of 2007 and we were beyond ecstatic! We couldn't have asked for a smoother adoption and felt so blessed to have our 4 kids.
September of that same year we saw a program about adopted older kids from foster care and the great need there is for families for these kids. We prayed about it and decided we still needed one more girl, so again contacted LSS and had our homestudy transferred to the foster-to-adopt program. That program was heart wrenching. We poured through case studies looking at kids and praying to God to ask us to show us who was to be ours. There were several times that we asked about kids we thought might be right and then knew it wasn't. The need was SO great and our heart just broke each time we couldn't be the family for a child.
April of 2005 we had a nice big garage sale! We had moved to a home closer to the school that Ben taught at, and the boys attended. The house was much bigger and yet it still felt good to purge all that stuff we all seem to accumulate over time. We sold almost all of our infant stuff because we knew that we were adopting an older child and that Eli would be our last baby :-) God was chuckling the whole time. May 19th Luke arrived at 2 days old with a hospital band on and a little white t-shirt. We had 1 hour to gather up baby supplies. They needed a family with a stay-at-home mom to take him for 2 weeks because he was too young for daycare and they needed to contact extended family. Long story short...2 months later we were told he was ours!
Now at this point, many would say "wow, they must not be meant to have another girl". We had the same thought! We love our boys, and Isabelle is such a beautiful princess. On the other hand we had seen the need for older child adoption and we couldn't ignore and walk away from that any more than we could help breathing. We still left our information in the foster-to-adopt system and waited. In December we got a call that we had been chosen to adopt a sibling group of 2. Yes two. They were 10 and 8 and beyond amazing. We had room in the house, needed a bigger truck anyway, and Ben could be there everyday for them at school. Finally, another girl and a little guy with the biggest smile we had ever seen. They flew home to us and arrived on December 30th, our 13th wedding anniversary!
We had a long wait for finalization with that adoption. It was very hard on all of us, when we were just ready for no more court dates, home visits (although we all LOVED all of our case workers!), and the worry that something would change in the case. Once again, that was God's plan. If we had finalized when we thought we were going to our file would not still have been open and active at the end of summer 2009, and that is when we found out about our Riya girl. A five year old beauty that needed a forever home. We finalized Max and Elly's adoption, made room for one more, and she moved in the day Christmas break started and just in time for a trip home to MN to meet family and friends!
While on that trip home we realized that we were going to need family support and encouragement while raising this crew of 8! We also wanted to enjoy our summer breaks with the kids instead of spending all summer dripping in the TX heat. We checked out schools and small towns all around north Iowa. We accidentally drove through Garner and commented on what a nice little town it was. When we got home in January Ben started applying for jobs, and was hired in Garner, Iowa.
June of 2010 it had finally been 6 months (it has to be this long before you can finalize an adoption) and we could be all done with court! The same judge that had finalized our last 3 was there to do Riya's too. It had been a long, crazy, joyful, stressful journey and we were so happy to move forward as a family and make a new start in Iowa.
We arrived on 4th of July weekend in Iowa with my mom driving the moving truck, Ben in the poor limping suburban (the U-haul trailer had issues and had wrecked both of our newer rear tires), and me in the excursion with the other trailer. Our sweet home with a white picket fence, perennial flower gardens, and front porch was all we had prayed and dreamed for. The town was beyond welcoming and helpful, and the school everything we had hoped it would be!
The last year and a half has been a blur of busy and fun. Settling into a new town, making new friends and relationships, losing both my grandma and Ben's grandpa within 2 weeks of each other, and kids all involved in activities now has kept us crazy busy. All the kids love it here! They have made good friends, they have new freedoms in a small town, and we have all finally felt settled.
So, on to God's sense of humor? After 10 years of no "prevention" and no babies, after selling and donating all of our baby stuff, and me planning to go back to school (I had even visited my first college) and finally get that degree...God has decided to bless us with a new life. A homegrown one again!
You see, during all of our adoption stress I started having some health issues and decided to try eliminating food from my diet to see if that was my problem after doctors could give me no answers. After a month of no wheat, sugar, or milk we discovered that I was not the only one with food issues. Our whole family reacted to wheat when we tried to reintroduce it, but Ben and Braeden had severe allergic reactions and we found out that they have celiac disease. This explained many heath issues of the past and was actually a total relief for all of us. I also found out that I have a major thyroid problem (the worst numbers my doctor had ever seen). Two things known to cause infertility: hypothyroidism and celiac disease. We know that now. Two years off of wheat and 4 months on thyroid meds, and surprise! The doctors were wrong about the cause of that infertility, but God knew all along :-) He makes no accidents!
We all feel great, and are excited to be welcoming a new blessing around September 13th. We know it is early so we are asking for prayers for a healthy mama and baby. There are a few extra risks with my thyroid issues, but as always we are in God's hands and following His plan. Honestly, we would have waited until 14 weeks to tell everyone but while there are some easy things about being a size 4, hiding a huge chest expansion and baby bulge are not one of them. Since I am already hot all the time now I am not about to run around in layers!
There have been so many God sightings over the years that I wish I could share with all of you! So many times that it couldn't have possibly been just fate, or that "Johnston luck". I would need a whole book, and the permission to share our kids full stories...maybe some day.
May we all remember to live life to the fullest, in God's grace, and for Him!!!