As you probably know by now, the month of November is Orphan Awareness Month. I have dedicated this month to blogging mainly about orphans and adoption. Why? Because the need is desperate! Because we are living in a day when there has never been a more urgent need for the church to rise up and fulfill our mandate (command!) to care for the orphan. The hour is now! God is calling us to lose control of our lives, so that He may gain full control. Reckless abandon is what we call it–for the sake of the millions who wait…and wait…and wait for someone to come and rescue them!
It has been such a joy to be able to share some amazing adoption stories with you this month. There are lots more to come.
Today it is such an honor to introduce you all to my dear friend, Lorraine Patterson, and her beautiful family. What a journey the Father has had them on! Their testimony is one of pain and sorrow–but also such a beautiful picture of how God truly takes our ashes and turns them into something glorious–something far beyond what we ever imagined…all for His glory. I know you will just love getting to know the Pattersons.
I’m honored to share a story with you today of how God grew our family from this:
Matt (Dad, pictured front and center), Lorraine (Mom, pictured with the baby on her lap), Naomi (18), Parker (15), Meribeth (14), Mattie (14), Sawyer (11), Asher (8), Ella (6), Kiefer (3), Selah (7 months), Chrissie (in heaven, age Forever 4), plus our treasured extended family and partners in ministry: Stephanie, Samantha, and Emily Hall (the 3 gorgeous blondes in the photo)
(Our 2 Ukrainian sons are not pictured above, but hopefully SOON we’ll have a new family photo to share!)
I remember when it all started. When God began to open our eyes. We were sitting at my parent’s house enjoying our Thanksgiving gathering (Nov. 2007) when I received an email (on my phone) from a friend. This email stood out like no other. The email talked about an older orphan in Colombia who needed a forever family. As I stared at the photo of the girl in the email, my heart raced, like the 9-year-old girl in the photo was a part of me.
But how could this be? I had never really thought about adoption. Why should I? Our family was perfectly complete with 3 bio kids, two sons and a daughter. And if I were going to adopt, wouldn’t I want to choose a healthy baby, not a 9-year-old girl who would be 11 by the time she came home?!?
Then God showed us this verse:
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” Psalm 68:5-6
And we just knew God was calling us to our first adopted daughter.
And He wasn’t calling us to a newborn or even a toddler.
He was clearly calling us to adopt this exact child, whom He hand-picked for our family. A girl who would be 11 years-old by the time she would join our family. A girl who didn’t know a word of English. A girl who had lived a very hard life. Yes, this meant we’d be adopting out of birth order, and our first adoption would be challenging due to the age and history, but we knew without a doubt that God wanted us to adopt this specific child.
You can read more about our adoption journey to Meribeth (formerly Princesa Luz Mery) by clicking HERE.
So now our family was really perfectly complete.
Two boys, two girls.
Who could ask for more?
And then God gave me a terrifying nightmare about horribly mistreated orphans, and this is how He began to really open my eyes (and consequently our entire family’s eyes) to the plight of the orphan.
“Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows we know and holds us responsible to act.” Proverbs 24:12
After my dream/nightmare, God gave me an urgency about an orphan who needed us immediately. I didn’t know who, why, when, or where, but I knew it was urgent.
Within a few days of my dream, God sent me an email to show me exactly the child who desperately needed us. The email read, “URGENT need in Serbia.” Without even seeing the photo of the child or reading the diagnoses, I KNEW immediately this was the child God was calling us to. And then I saw her photo, and God vividly spoke to me regarding this precious angel, confirming that she was a Patterson, and her name was not “Barbara” as she was known as in Serbia, she was “Chrissie”. Somehow we suddenly felt like we needed her even more than she needed us!
God spoke directly to Matt when we prayed about adopting Chrissie, the very same night we found out about her in June 2009. It was a huge risk, knowing she may not live long due to her severe heart defects.
But it was a risk we knew we had to take.
These are the Words God showed Matt that night as we sought His counsel:
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is within the power of your hand to do so.” Proverbs 3:27
And we ALL knew we had to obey.
Click HERE to read the beginning of our journey to Chrissie.
Click HERE to continue that journey.
Surely our family was now complete! We didn’t feel worthy (or even capable!) of receiving any more precious blessings from God, but in December 2009, God laid it upon our hearts that He was going to deliver us a special gift from Haiti. God’s special delivery arrived April 4, 2010, in His perfect timing, and oh my word, he was the cutest little delivery ever. Kiefer’s story is told in 3 parts on our blog (click each part to read): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Just two weeks after Kiefer came home, Chrissie (our Serbian daughter, who had been home 6 months) had her much-needed complex open-heart surgery. After a 31-day battle in the hospital, on May 19, 2010, God called Chrissie home, to live with Him for all eternity. We were in shock at the outcome He chose, but, at the same time, we were so grateful He chose us and entrusted us to be Chrissie’s forever family. She was pure joy, a precious blessing straight from our Father, and He fulfilled His promise to Chrissie through our obedience while He grew us in ways we never thought possible.
“I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” John 14:18
As we walked the path of grief after Chrissie went to live with Jesus, we felt like we might never ever adopt again. Our hearts were shattered, we were all quite a mess, but God gently (well, He might have knocked us over the head!) reminded us of why He placed us on this earth: to care for orphans in their distress. Exactly one month to the day of Chrissie going to Heaven, God once again displayed His power and glory by delivering another special gift to our family, even when we felt so incapable. He knew His plan; He knew He would equip us; He knew how to turn our hearts toward Him in obedience. When we wanted to bury ourselves in the midst of our pain, He entrusted us with another treasure.
Even though we thought our family was surely complete this time, God completely
shocked surprised us when He suddenly blessed us with two new daughters (biological half-sisters) from Texas.
This placement was not only a complete surprise, it was also very high risk for our hearts. The baby, Selah, was born with only a sliver of a brain, with 3 pounds of fluid in her enormous skull, with a grim prognosis for her future (that she would either not survive infancy or would be a “vegetable”).
The girls were temporarily placed with our family, on an emergency placement via a private adoption agency, while we prayed about adopting them. It didn’t take long for our hearts to fall head over heels in love with both girls, and while we really preferred to protect our hearts, God reminded us that it was His job to protect us and provide for us. Ella and Selah became forever Pattersons on December 29, 2010. Click HERE to read about the miracle of Ella and Selah.
We originally thought that adopting Ella and Selah was more about them than it was about us, but we now realize that God planned to do some major healing of our hearts through the placement of these girls, healing we never thought possible. Turns out, God intended for these girls to bless our hearts much more than we could ever bless theirs. We are oh so very grateful we took this risk, as it’s been such a tremendous blessing to have these two treasures in our family.
Baby Selah is now a year old, and she is THRIVING. Her brain grew to fill her skull cavity, her skull has been reconstructed (medically necessary), and she is now developing as a typical child, much to the surprise of her many specialists. Selah is an absolute miracle who has defied all of the doctors’ diagnoses, a living testimony of God’s many miracles. God has used this precious baby to not only show doctors that they’re not the Author of life, nor the Giver of life, but to also show us that no matter how risky the situation looks and feels, we are to wholeheartedly trust Him, the One and Only Author of life, the incredible Healer of all, including broken hearts, broken brains, and broken bodies.
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
In July 2011, God surprised us once again by asking us to host (very last minute) two orphan boys from Ukraine. They had lost their original host family, and they were in desperate need of a new host family. We prayed and agreed that we could do anything for 5 weeks, plus we committed to give the boys a great Texas summer while exposing them to other potential adoptive families. Sounded like a good plan. 🙂
Click HERE to read about how God brought Vlad and Dima to our family via a summer host trip.
Well, it turns out that God never intended for Vlad and Dima to be with a different family, He intended the boys to be forever Pattersons! In early August 2011, we officially started the adoption process of Vlad and Dima, and we hope to have them home before Christmas! Click HERE to read their adoption announcement.
In closing, I stand in awe at all that God has done with our family and our hearts. We did not plan out this journey; we truly had NO idea what God planned to do. God grew our family from 3 kids to 10 (soon to be 12 kiddos) in less than 3 years. This goes against all adoption advice and training, but it doesn’t go against God’s. We’ve adopted out of birth order, we’ve adopted special needs kids, we’ve adopted internationally and domestically. We’ve endured the loss of a child on earth. Through it all, no matter the situation, God has provided. He is so faithful, and I’m so grateful to have Him sailing this ship. God will never leave us or forsake us, and He equips those He calls. We are living proof.
More than anything, I want to share that our family is nothing special. Just two (almost 3) years ago, we were living the “American Dream” with a nice house, two nice vehicles, a few nice hobbies, and the average 2.5 nice kiddos (well, OK, we had the full 3 kiddos, but they were still nice!). We didn’t do anything deliberate or extraordinary to change our lives, God just opened our eyes to living our lives focused on Him and His desires, with obedience, regardless of risk.
God has worked in our lives, in our hearts, in our homes, from the inside out, to show us what His focus is. He broke our hearts for the things that break His. He showed us how deeply He loves the orphan, He opened our eyes, and He has enabled us to walk a path we would have never been able to walk without Him. It is solely by God’s mighty hand, His amazing grace, His unconditional love, His faithfulness, His provision, and His goodness that we have been so richly blessed by adoption, just as He adopted us.
I encourage you to seek the heart of our Father, to pray about how He will use you to live out James 1:27, to remain open to His plan as opposed to your own, to trust Him with your heart in all circumstances, to rely upon our Father to provide, and to prayerfully consider these 3 things:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…” Proverbs 31:8
“Take up the cause of the fatherless…” Isaiah 1:17