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It is almost unbelievable to me that I am actually writing the story of our family to share with you all. While I am filled with such happiness and excitement that our 7th child is on her way home, there were many days that I would have told you this would never happen!! It truly has been a miraculous 4 months that only God could have brought us to and through. But let me back up a little and give you just a glimpse of how the Lord has formed and designed our family. We are a big family so this might be just a tad long winded!!
As a very young child, about 3 or 4 yrs old, I began dreaming of being a wife and mother. Now I know that this is, or at least used to be a very common dream for young girls. As far back as I can remember I told my mother that I wanted to have 7 children. I remember vividly her smiling and saying “Really, that sure is a lot of children”. Now ironically I was the youngest of 5!! As the years would come and go, my passion for children grew stronger and stronger. Most Sundays at church I could be found in the nursery, volunteering to help with the babies in any way possible. Even if they had more help than they needed, I would beg to stay just so I could hold, feed, play with and take care of those precious little babies. I actually used to get in trouble at times because my parents couldn’t find me!! After many years of fighting the battle, they just gave up, or at least I think they did, trying to convince me that I did not have to be in the nursery every single Sunday!!
In June 1986, I met and fell in love with my husband( I was 17, he was 18). It was love at first sight for both of us!! It only took a few months for us to realize that this was a gift and for me especially, the dream I had all of my life. I had not dated much growing up as I tried to focused on and believed that God had a plan for my life and the most important calling for me was to be a wife first, then a mom! It also didn’t hurt, or maybe I should say it helped, that I had a wonderfully protective father as well as 2 older brothers to take care of me!! That wasn’t always something that was easy growing up with all of my friends dating constantly. While I struggled with wanting a boyfriend sometimes as I was waiting, I can see now how God had His hand of protection on me as He was designing my life, future and family.
My husband, Stokes, proposed to me in Nov. 1986, 5 months after we started dating. We were so incredibly in love and incredibly young!! It was a moment I had dreamed of my entire life and it couldn’t have been more beautiful or perfect. The only hitch in the situation was that he attended The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina and was not allowed to be married until after graduation!! He was a sophomore at that time. Another hitch was that my father, being very old fashioned yet very wise, told me that he wouldn’t allow us to marry until I completed college as well!! I was a 17 year old college freshman and at this time you still had to have a parent sign for the marriage license if you were under 21!! WOW, I really just made myself feel incredibly old!! I decided to finish my degree in elementary education as fast as possible and graduated in 3 years. In June of 1989, 3 weeks after college graduation, we were married in a beautiful ceremony that I spent a lifetime dreaming about.
We moved to Memphis, TN where my husband began studying to become an Optometrist. While we both wanted children, I can honestly tell you that planning them wasn’t something we did. While we were not trying to get pregnant right away, 6 months later we found out our first child was on his way!! Ecstatic does not touch where I was floating during my pregnancy. I was literally as close to heaven as I thought I would ever get without actually going!! Our son, Jonathan was born on my father’s birthday in September 1990. He brought so much joy to our lives. Time flew by as we were loving being a family and in April 1993 our daughter, Amanda was born. I don’t think we ever thought our lives could be blessed more than we did at that moment. There were a few scary moments during her delivery in which my blood pressure rose to stroke level and I lost consciousness. They believed I had suffered a small issue with pre eclampsia but monitored me closely and within a few weeks everything was back to normal. Life was amazing and we were so happy and blessed.
After completing Optometry school, my husband went on active duty with the Army. During this time, we found out we were pregnant once again!! While I was healthier and more active during this pregnancy, problems began to creep up very early on. I ended up spending 15 weeks on bed rest along with 5 hospital stays, multiple trips to major medical centers for 3D ultrasounds, which were not common back then. We were told that our son’s life was in danger and I was losing fluid on a daily basis. If I did not stay in bed 24 hours a day, we would lose him. My blood pressure began to rise to uncontrollable levels. Toward the end of the pregnancy the doctors and nurses began to prepare us that there could be severe developmental affects on our son if he did make it through. My water broke at 36 weeks and we immediately went into delivery. Benjamin was born on our daughter’s 4th birthday in April 1997. The doctors told us at that time it would be very dangerous for us to have anymore children. This was a devastating blow to me as my heart was breaking at the thought of not being able to have more children. I felt guilty many times for my emotions. We were so blessed to have 3 beautiful, healthy (YES, Benjamin was perfectly healthy) children and yet my heart was breaking silently. It wasn’t a hurt I felt I could share with anyone because I thought it would seem very petty and selfish with so many people we knew trying to have children and struggling to get pregnant. So I kept it to myself.
A few weeks before Benjamin was born I had a dream that while we were in the hospital delivering our son, another baby was born but the mother ran away.She was a beautiful dark haired little angel,although I never could see her face! I asked the hospital if I could hold and love on the baby just so it could have some bonding time with someone. They allowed it and I fell in love. In my dream, we left the hospital with both babies. It was a strange dream that I chalked up to pregnancy hormones. HAHA
A few days later our daughter, who was 3 at the time. Began to tell me of her dream of a little sister? We kept telling her gently that she was having a little brother. She always responded the same…..”I prayed and Jesus is going to bring me a little sister!” This kept coming up every time we talked about the new baby. We figured once he was born, this would subside!! It did not. She was crazy about him and was a great, protective big sister but she still constantly talked about her little sister. I tried many times to explain to her that I could not have any more babies. She was always very sweet and said “Mommy I know but Jesus is still bringing me a baby sister!” Eventually her little sweet voice became somewhat concerned at my inability to understand and she would try desperately to get me to believe her. After several years her tone would sound as if she was saying ……”Dear sweet woman…..I know that you just can’t seem to grasp what I am telling you but trust me…..Jesus is bringing me a little sister” LOL!!
Well 6 years, lots of prayers, birthday/Christmas list (all stating that she wanted a little sister) later, we finally got the message! God also had been bringing many people into our lives that had adopted children. A light went on in our pitifully slow brains and we began to talk with a missionary that worked in Japan. While Japan does not have agency adoptions like most countries, this missionary had been working with the gov’t and placing needy children with families through private adoption for over 20 years. We filled out all of the paper work and waited. Our hearts were pulled strongly to Asia and we anxiously awaited a phone call. This call never came. We waited for several years but felt that we must have not completely understood where God was leading us. My heart was a little torn because I was sure that God had placed Asia in our hearts.
During that time we also put a profile in with a small adoption agency near our home in Tennessee. We did not specify anything other than wanting to adopt a baby. In Oct. 2003, Benjamin woke us up in the middle of the night and said “Momma, she is here!” I said “who is here”, he responded “our baby!” I said “I sure hope so” and took him back to bed thinking he was dreaming. 4 days later our phone rang and the case worker said “Tammy congratulations you have a beautiful daughter” I literally crumbled to the ground in a puddle of tears. I think I must have cried for 10 minutes before I could speak!! God had so overwhelmed me and at that moment I not only realized that we had a daughter but that my children’s faith had been so pure and uninhibited!! I was in awe of how God had used them to begin to bring me back to that child like faith I had as a small girl. In Nov. 2003, we were able to bring our precious little princess Emma home forever. She is our dark haired angel!!
I remember the moment her foster mom walked around the corner holding her and placing her in my arms like it was yesterday. I had no words, only tears. I bent down so that our children could see her face and at that moment I experienced my heavenly Father in a way I never had. It was as if He was physically standing behind me wrapping His arms around me and engulfing me in His love. In my heart, I felt Him say……my sweet daughter, this is exactly how I love you, never forget this. I buried my head into my beautiful baby girl and wept. It was a place of completeness and healing that I had been searching for my entire life even though I had known Jesus since I was a child. It was a moment of transformation, complete submission and trust of my heart to Him.
While each of my children have changed my life in remarkable ways and helped me to grow and stretch and learn, this was the most defining moment for me spiritually!! It was after this experience that God began to show me how He had formed my passion and love for children. It was a gift from Him. He also showed me that it was He who gave me the #7 and that I needed to trust and believe in His plans for my life just as my children trusted in the plan He had to bring their little sister home forever.
It did not take long for God to begin to open our hearts and lives to another child. In Feb. 2006 we had the honor of being present at the hospital when our son, Isaiah was born. Once again such a life changing event as we met and fell in love with his precious birth mother. There were so many things that God wanted to teach us as adoptive parents by allowing us to know and experience the difficulty of a birth mothers choice and love for her child. I can tell you that leaving the hospital a few days later with our son was one of the most bittersweet moments I think I will ever experience in my life. While we were beyond excited and thankful for this precious little baby boy, we had come to know and love his amazing mom. It felt so horrific leaving her there! I honestly would have packed her up and brought her with us if I could have!! But through this time, God challenged us to understand and concentrate also on the sacrifice and pain that went along with adoption. This opened our hearts and families even more to many lessons God had for us to see through His eyes and not our own eyes!!
A very short 10 months later while I was helping another family with adoption questions, I came across the sweetest little face!! It was a 4 yr old little angel boy in Guatemala. I was smitten immediately. At this time, I was seeing several dozen children’s faces every week because God had opened the door for us to help and give back to the adoption community. I called my husband to come look, he immediately said “NO, I KNOW THAT TONE IN YOUR VOICE!!” hahaha. Our oldest son, Jonathan came running to my room. I turned the computer screen around and without a hesitation he said “Dad come here, this is my brother!!” My husband eventually came but had already convinced himself of the answer!! This was probably the most difficult time we had as a couple because we were at very opposite ends of the spectrum!! I knew, the kids knew, and honestly Stokes knew!! He just didn’t want to know. As a husband, protector, provider……all the things God created him to be…..he couldn’t grasp how this could possibly work out financially and even simply things like rooms in our house. It didn’t take long and God brought him to a place where he did surrender to the Lord’s plan that this was our child. We began the adoption but I can assure you we had no idea or preparation as to where God was going to ask us to go for this precious child.
Shortening this story is imperative but I do not want to leave the importance of God’s miracles and protection. We began this road to Robbie in Oct 2006. The process should have taken 7-9 months. It took 2 years 1 month, 4 trips to Guatemala, 5 attorneys, 2 foster families, and more spiritual warfare and prayers than I can even began to share. The first trip to Guatemala was the most life changing. Stokes was fearful that Robbie wouldn’t like or need him. LOL……if you could only see this little boy with his daddy!! He was a daddy’s boy from the 1st second they met. God was so protective of his little heart and had already began to place him with people that were introducing him to Jesus!! As we often say today, it was just a God Thing!!
Throughout this entire horrific situation God took care of our little man in ways we could have never dreamed of!! During the last year of our process, Guatemala shut down all adoptions and we were caught in the midst of a huge mess although we were almost completely finished. Things became dangerous in many ways because of the people associated with our agency but specifically for our son. His life was threatened by someone that was demanding thousands of dollars. Although he was legally our son, they held all of his papers hostage and said they would not let us have the papers and would not guarantee him being there when we came back if this money wasn’t exchanged!! We immediately flew to Guatemala and took custody of our son in order to protect him. We began filing papers in court and with the Embassy to get him out of the country asap. I had to stay there with him for over a month without anyone knowing we were there in order to get him home safely!! There are not words effective enough to share the emotions that I felt when the wheels of that plane lifted of the ground in Guatemala. All I know is that for every second that time, we were covered by the prayers his people who were faithfully interceding for our child. When we touched ground in Chattanooga TN at midnight that November, the airport was full of people shouting, clapping, crying, and praising God for the miraculous life that was walking down the airport to meet them!! I believe this was truly just a taste of what happens in heaven every time someone’s is saved as they come to know the Lord.
Through all of this we had to stay focused on one thing, our Heavenly Father. Although we experienced the victory in the end with our son’s adoption, we suffered a loss that I can still not accurately put into words. We also had a precious baby girl that we were adopting in Guatemala. Gabriela was 8 months old when we took her referral. Her case seemed to be moving with lightening speed and we were hopeful that we could, by some miracle, complete both cases and bring them home at the same time. Within 6 weeks of accepting her referral all of the paperwork was completed, sent to Guatemala, entered into the embassy and we were ready to head to court!! But we never got to court…….what we were not told for 3 months was that at the 6 wk mark someone broke into her foster families home, beat up her foster mother and took her away. These people were associated with her birth mom and this was something that had been going on multiple times with this family in order to scam money. I still am not able emotionally to share all of the details, they are just to difficult for me to relive. Over the next year we found our precious little angel twice only to lose her twice. We were told personally by her birth mom that she never wanted her, she only got pregnant and gave birth in order to sell her. It was more than I could handle. She was eventually arrested and the children placed in an orphanage. We fought for 8 months only to find out that the court decided to let the mother go and give her back all 3 children. Adoptions had been completely stopped at this time and there was nothing left to do. This is not the entire story but it is all I can muster up the emotions to share. I was broken in a way that I still cant put into words. I questioned everything I knew to be good, right and honestly from God? But I had to push all of that aside because we had a little boy to protect and get home.
After Robbie came home, I lived in denial for over a year. It wasn’t until around Jan 2010 that I began to feel like myself again and be able to truly rest in the love, joy, and grace that God had shown us. Just as I was beginning to truly feel somewhat normal, my husband and I began to find completeness in where we were as a family. I was asked to speak at a mother daughter banquet for Mother’s Day. The opportunity to share about our family is something that God has been opening in our lives over the past few years. It is always such a blessing to us to go share the miracles that God has so graciously given us. I gave my testimony and told the stories of how God brought each of the children home and changed our lives completely. Afterwards I received many questions about the fact that I felt we had 7 children. Most ended up with “will you adopt again?” My immediate answer was always “No we are finished!” I have a precious lady in my life. She is one of my spiritual momma’s, she is known as Grandma Sandy in our home. She and her husband are also adoptive parents and God knitted our hearts together many years ago before we began any of our adoption journeys!! They are our adoptive grandparents!
Sandy was with me at this banquet. She would come behind me when those questions were asked and say “HER DAUGHTER IS IN ASIA” Several times I looked at her and said “SHHHH….we are done”. It became somewhat of a comical thing at this particular banquet. But I was sure, more than every before that we were not adopting again!! This is the place in this post that I will share with you one bit of wisdom (it maybe a simple one but it is important) NEVER SAY NEVER TO GOD!!!!!!!!!!
2 weeks later I received an email from a friend at an agency near our home. I am on their prayer/support list so nothing unusual about the email except that the face that popped up on the screen was “MY DAUGHTER IN ASIA”!! While I knew this immediately, I slammed the computer screen down and began to cry uncontrollably. The strange thing was I had no idea why I was crying? All I could do was literally weep and say “NO GOD PLEASE DON’T ASK ME TO DO THIS AGAIN” Several hours later after wrestling with God but still knowing exactly what He was showing me. I basically shook my fist at Him and said I can fix this….I will send this to Stokes and he will say NO immediately. Then it will all be over and done with!!
You guessed it……that did not happen. He called me minutes later and said “Oh my goodness Tammy, that is my daughter” I SCREAMED at him “NNNNNNNOOOOOOOO you can’t do this to me” Startled and confused he wasn’t sure what to say except, “well ok why don’t we talk about his when I get home?”
For several weeks I was angrier than I have ever been in my entire life. Angry at everyone, everything that I could think of. Eventually God allowed me to work through this anger and then he showed me that I had shoved all of my grief of losing Gabriela so deeply inside of my heart that it was affecting everything He had created me to be and to do. At the time we lost her I had to push it aside because we had to focus on getting our son home safely but I never allowed myself anytime to grieve or heal after coming home. God lovingly took me to places that I needed to go in order to grieve and to desire His healing for that loss. It is still an ongoing process but part of that healing has been allowing myself to open my heart to another precious little angel. God once again spoke to my heart and said “Don’t miss what I have for you, have faith in Me and let me complete the plans I have for your life”!
Isabella Faith “Bella” is our 4 year old angel waiting to come home from Taiwan. For almost 2 months I could not look at her picture. I couldn’t risk wrapping my heart around her and then losing her. I set boundaries with the agency, with my husband, with God…..not that any of them really mattered they just made me feel better I guess??? But God still loved me enough to allow me to work through each step of this and also loved me enough to show off a little. Every time line that the agency/country gave us, HE busted wide open. What was suppose to take 7-8 months, took 2 months. Now our daughters papers are in court awaiting the judges signature. This is not an easy place for me right now. This week has been particularly difficult because of the fear I still struggle with after our experience in court in Guatemala. Her court time could take 4-7 months this is much longer than we initially thought it would take. That is also a tough one for me to walk through. But I am just trying to take one step at a time, still walking through a healing process and yet having God asking me if I am going to completely trust Him, even if it means losing again!!
He so graciously has taken me through and answered all of the questions I have had about why one child and not the other? What about the one left behind? What are we suppose to do for her? He has allowed me to scream at Him, cry to Him, run into His arms for comfort and protection.
As it has been with each of our adoptions, He has allowed me to learn so much about His heart, His love, and most of all what His desires/purpose are for us? He keeps reminding me that my passion/love is a gift from Him and that I am still His child. All I need to do is to keep trusting, believing and having faith that His will and plans for my life are perfect but I have to be willing to walk the roads, no matter how difficult or joyful they may be.
In the process of all of this, I am the one who continues to be blessed by each amazing, precious child that God has promised to bring into our lives. People asked us all the time, how do you do this? How can you support them? How will you pay for college? Don’t you need a bigger house? Why would you want that many kids?
I can’t always answer others questions to their satisfaction but I try to make sure that they at least have a glimpse, a taste of how we strive to live our life and that is through complete and utter faith!! Truly being able to take a step, to say yes Lord before we even know what the question is He is asking! It certainly is not always easy, actually sometimes just the opposite, but it is a choice. Let me assure you, it is not usually the popular choice but it is the right one for our family. We wouldn’t take a thing for the life changing experiences that God has given us through adoption. It truly has made us closer to Him and to each other. It has allowed us just a glimpse of who He is, how majestic He is, and how He loves us so much that He would die for us. I pray each of you are blessed to experience and know Him as deeply as possible.
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