We first saw him on December 24, 2012.
Our family, recently reunited after Deployment No. 5, was sprawled out on the family room floor, soaking in the heat from our Christmas Eve fire and cuddling under blankets with hot chocolate as we played G.I. Joes and card games and allowed Bing Crosby to lead us into the land of Christmas magic.
We were happy.
We were full.
We were COMPLETELY in love and at peace.
But in that moment, we didn’t quite feel “complete.”
In 2011, Supersoldier and I felt called to adoption. But because of Physician Assistant school followed by orders to Washington followed by a cross-country move and an immediate deployment, all within six months of deciding to adopt a child, we put our calling (and our homestudy) on hold until Supersoldier could be physically present.
When our soldier returned from deployment in 2012, we were opening ourselves to the idea of international adoption (we had formerly pursued domestic foster-to-adopt programs that had discouraged us from moving forward because of our frequently-moving military status). And on Christmas Eve, as we gazed at the two little boys who lit up our lives, we just couldn’t NOT think about those around the world who were spending their Christmas Eves in orphanages.
Without knowing the meaning of unconditional LOVE.
So, as Supersoldier low-crawled with Army-clad dolls (which he repeatedly reminds me are not DOLLS — they are ACTION FIGURES, Michelle, ACTION FIGURES!) across the floor, two boys with their own dolls plotting to attack, I casually grabbed my laptop and logged onto RainbowKids.com from my place on the couch beside them.
Rainbow Kids is a site that features information on domestic and international adoption and advocates for and highlights special needs adoption. Their site features a Waiting Child photolisting — a listing of children around the world with various minor to major special needs who have not yet been able to be placed by their countries or their adoption agencies. They feature children who, in some cases, have been waiting for months or even YEARS to find forever families to accept them, love on them and call them their own.
I had logged into the site a few times before, just emotionally exploring the idea of international special needs adoption. When I had, I had spotted the picture of a little boy who immediately stole my heart with his profile, his personality description and his deep brown-black eyes.
When I logged into the site again on Christmas Eve, his face immediately popped up on my screen. And I knew. I literally gasped as I saw this perfect, precious baby boy who had medical needs that we could provide for at our local Military Treatment Facility and who had been available on this listing for months without a forever family to call his own.
I showed him to Supersoldier, who read his profile and asked to get more information about him. I created an online account with his listing agency that day, received an email back from the Waiting Child coordinator that hour (oh how I love people as Type A as me!) and immediately fell in love and adopted this precious little boy in my head.
On Christmas Eve, I knew — this was the low-crawler who was supposed to be joining us for next year’s Christmas Eve G.I. Joe bash.
And as we conjured up every ounce of courage we had to step into unknown and frankly, outright scary, waters, we watched as an amazing Father to the Fatherless leaped impossible obstacles in a single bound in order to bring our Superman home.
· When we fell in love with Superman, his file was being reviewed by another family, which meant his full records were locked and unavailable for our viewing. We knew very little about him — only the simple facts about his medical conditions — and yet both of us felt strongly that he was to be our son. The family reviewing his file decided to move forward with his adoption, and so Supersoldier and I began reviewing the medical files of other children ... and at the end of every email commented, "And if that boy’s file becomes available, we would REALLY love the privilege of reviewing it." One month after another family began pursuing Superman, our agency called to let us know that, for a reason they could not disclose to us, the little man we had fallen in love with on Christmas Eve was now available. It took us less than five minutes to make the decision. God had already performed his first miracle — He made a little boy who was supposed to be unavailable OURS.
· When we submitted our Letter of Intent to adopt Superman, our very experienced agency warned us that, because we were submitting just days before the Chinese New Year, our pre-approval could take up to three weeks — maybe even a month — while offices in China were closed. To their and our surprise, we received our pre-approval in four business days.
· When we placed my wedding dress for auction on Ebay to raise funds for the adoption, an anonymous purchaser bought the dress. For FULL price. And then listed the shipping address as OUR HOME. The anonymous buyer: with_love_jeremiah.29.11.
· When we canceled our flea market booth at our post yard sale because of a death of a dear family member, we tried to throw together a last-minute garage sale. At our house in a tiny community. On a day in MARCH. It was sunny (in WASHINGTON!). It was well-attended. And at the end of the day, we raised $110 more than the goal we had set for ourselves for the post flea market! And then proceeded to raise $1,600 more over a series of four more garage sales at our home, bringing our garage sale total to nearly $3,000. Only Jesus can turn quarters into thousands.
· When we were due to make a payment to our adoption agency at the conclusion of our homestudy, we were tight on funds (we hadn't yet completed all our garage sales and the marathon was still a month away). That's when some of our dear life group friends threw us a surprise adoption shower … and raised for us EVERYTHING left we needed to make that payment.
· When Supersoldier and I packed our supersuits to take with us to Seattle for the marathon we had trained for to raise funds for our adoption, we were still more than $1,000 short of our $10,000 marathon fundraiser goal. Twelve hours later, when we woke up to run the race the next morning, we discovered that multiple donors had contributed overnight, bringing our adoption marathon fundraiser to more than $10,000! The bigger miracle: God not only provided the FUNDS we needed through the marathon, but He carried both of us — who had trained poorly for this event because of the amount of time we were spending on adoption paperwork and tasks — through the entire 26.2 miles! Now THAT'S a big God! :)
· When we received a letter from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services in July that our 1-800 application was missing seven words and that they were putting the entire application on hold, our entire process stopped. Our deadline to log our full dossier in China was August 7, and it was already the last week of July. We literally felt like we could be losing our son with this delay. Our amazing agency emailed the U.S.C.I.S. officer directly and, even though we could have been held up for WEEKS, got us the final approval seven days to the DATE of our letter later.
· When we concluded all our adoption fundraisers, we were OVERWHELMED by the generosity of others. We had raised more than $15,000 throughout the year, and we felt so incredibly grateful. But we still carried a balance on our adoption account, and we were still trying to come up with ways we could scrape together enough money by December to pay most everything (minus travel) off. That's when we received a letter in the mail ... notifying us that one adoption aid organization had granted us a scholarship ... THAT COVERED ALL OUR REMAINING ADOPTION EXPENSES. Every. Single. Dime. And that the money from the extra jobs we had taken on between September and December could all now go to saving up for our China travel expenses. One year and a whole lot of trusting God for providence later — adoption balance = 0.
· When we received our Log-In Date (L.I.D.) in August, I began writing our blog entry announcing our referral for Superman. I couldn't post the entry until we received our Letter Seeking Confirmation (L.S.C.), which was scheduled to arrive five to 12 weeks after our L.I.D. Our agency let us know that the L.S.C.s had been taking an average of two to three months to arrive, but in order to get the Christmas miracle we had been believing for, I calculated that ours would have to arrive the first day possible. So I wrote on my calendar (and on my blog post) "September 26: L.S.C. arrives for Superman." That would have been five weeks and one day from our L.I.D. date. Against all odds, and faster than any L.S.C. had come in a very long time, our agency called us on September 26 … the same DATE I had placed on my calendar five weeks earlier … and notified us that Superman was officially now ours. Our L.S.C. had arrived.
By October of the year we brought Superman home, I was overwhelmed by the miracles we had experienced. But we were still praying for more.
From the day Supersoldier and I both saw Superman’s precious face on Christmas Eve, we had believed that this amazing little boy would not have to spend one more Christmas in an orphanage. We believed that, in the hands of an almighty and awesome God, mountains (and airplanes!) could move to bring this little guy HOME so that the NEXT Christmas Eve, he could spend Jesus’ birthday not alone in a crib, but among the craziness, chaos and company of FAMILY.
One summer month, as we waited for God and Chinese governments to move, I attended a gathering for the spouses in my husband’s unit. The theme was Christmas in July. As I sat down at the ornament-making table with some other beautiful ladies, I found myself chatting, fiddling and getting to know the ladies who were new to me in this unit. Before I knew it, I looked down at the ornament I had been decorating for the past 15 minutes. I don’t even remember writing it.
In the middle was Superman’s name, and around the edge, I had subconsciously written: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you … plans for a hope and a FUTURE.’” Jeremiah 29:11
My hands may have written this … but I knew the One who prompted them.
When I returned home, I hung that ornament on my fridge as a reminder to BELIEVE for that Christmas homecoming. I started wearing a bracelet my husband had given me back in our dating days that said “Believe,” and I kept the ornament on my fridge and the bracelet on my wrist until the day our agency notified us that, although China had issued our Travel Approval, DHL had somehow lost the package that contained it. In Mexico City. And couldn’t exactly find it.
I stared at that ornament and fingered that bracelet the December day our agency told us that a lost Travel Approval could mean going back in time and reapplying for items we had already submitted. It could mean pushing our travel date back weeks or even months.
It could mean traveling to China without our entire family, as Supersoldier had an out-of-state training event he had to attend in January.
And I held that ornament in that hand that bore the bracelet moments after I received the call from our tenacious agency that, despite all odds, our Travel Approval arrived at our agency, the cram-booked American consulate accepted an appointment for us the week of Christmas because of Supersoldier’s active duty military status and TEAM CUTHRELL WAS TRAVELING TO CHINA IN TWO DAYS! ... and returning before Supersoldier had to report for duty prior to his out-of-state training in January.
And on that Christmas Eve, as we counted our THREE superhero blessings in that beautiful Guangzhou hotel room, Supersoldier and I watched as the boy we had prayed 12 long months to meet by Christmas held in his two perfect hands the bracelet that reminded us of God’s ability to leap over EVERY perceivable obstacle in a single bound for ALL His superheroes-in-waiting.
If only we would just believe.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations ..."
~ Ephesians 3:20