Gowin Kid #6

What??? Did I miscount?? I thought they only had 5 kids……

Yes, well I’m pregnant……………… with a 15 year old boy! Can’t you see the glow?!  This is our first sonogram:

We have accepted the referral of a 15 yo boy from Ethiopia!  We mailed all our paperwork, and it is possible that we could even be in Ethiopia for a court date in July!  We can’t give his name until we pass court, but you can call him “Solomon” for now.  That is the Bible name I felt God give me for him 2 years ago and it will be his middle name.  Since he is older, we will let him decide if he wants an Irish name like our other kids, or if he wants to stick with his Ethiopian name.

This is a long 2.5 year story, but I will try my best to hit the highlights.  Though, as you might have noticed lately, I am not the shortest blogger. 🙂

In January of 2010, I put Liam, my then-seven year old boy, to bed one night (this was during our other adoption but we had not yet received a referral), and we prayed, as we usually did, for orphans and for our kids that would be coming.  Then he asked me this: “Mom, aren’t there older kids in the orphanage?  I mean, how do they feel when people come to get the little kids and the big kids aren’t picked even though they have been there longer?”  That question has haunted me since that night and there has not been a day gone by that I didn’t believe that God spoke to me that night “through the mouth of babes.” (I wrote an entry in my journal about this dated Jan 18, 2010.)

Ever since then I have believed that we were supposed to adopt an older boy, one who is alone (not a sibling group) and will age out of the system soon.  In Ethiopia, as with many other countries, at age 16 you are no longer adoptable and you go out to make your way in the streets.  I have watched the Waiting Child List from our agency ever since then and seen boys that fit that description come and go.  I even pursued a few of them a little, but the timing was never right.

Well, starting last fall I felt like the time was coming soon.  Then late one night on Jan 20, 2012, I felt I received a Word from God.  I was about to go to bed, pj’s on, computer closed, one last pit stop.  (Sorry, going to be honest here because I just want to show God’s sense of humor.  Yes, I was sitting in the bathroom when God spoke to me.)  I heard in my head this nonchalant question, “Hey, why don’t you check out Katie’s blog?”  It wasn’t me saying to myself, I wonder what Katie has written lately.  It was a question, directed to me–Hey comma, ___?”  I thought, “Wow. That was random.  I haven’t looked at Katie’s blog in months, but OK.”

So I went back downstairs and opened up my computer.  Katie Davis’s last entry was posted on Jan. 18.  (Did you catch it was the same date as my journal entry, exactly two years earlier?)  She talked about how God did not wait to send Jesus until we were ready and clean and had everything in order.  He enters into our mess.  HIS time is now.  (Click on the above link to see her entry—it will be worth your while.)  As I read, it was as if God was speaking straight to me.  The time is NOW, NOW, NOW.  Michael and I had just previously agreed to pray and fast during Lent (February to Easter) about adopting again, so how does this square, without me pushing?  So I asked Michael if I could just send off for paperwork from our home study agency and our international agency.  That doesn’t commit us to anything.  He agreed.

Then there was another time in February on one of our fasting days where I felt a strong urgency to get going on things and later that day got a call from our international agency who encouraged us to apply before we got ahead of ourselves.  I was setting up doctor appointments and other things that I knew we would need to have done, but again didn’t commit us to anything.  I asked Michael if we could go ahead and apply because if we were not accepted, then our prayers were in vain anyway.  We were out a little money, but again no obligation.

Then once in March, I asked a pushy question to Michael, one that came out of desperation and not trust in the God who was telling me we were going to be doing this.  I asked for Michael’s forgiveness and I vowed in my head that I would not bring up ANYTHING adoption related until the Tuesday after Easter.  Though I felt such an urgency about this, I also knew I needed to trust and respect my husband and give him the time we had agreed upon to pray about this and to process it with God himself.  Patience.  Trust.

During that one month, God bombarded me with Words from Him, and I had to keep them all to myself!  I have had a handful or two of times in the past when I have felt God speak to me in some way, and they have always come to pass, but I have NEVER had him speak to me like this, multiple times with one specific message! During this month, we were accepted into our agency, “our boy” showed up on the WCL, and God revealed to me over and over that it was this boy that was supposed to be in our family.  Through a movie, through Scripture and prayer time, through songs, through my adoptive moms retreat.  (There is enough for a whole other post that I can share once we pass court and are allowed to tell more details about our boy.)  He tied up lose ends and answered questions from years previous that had always left me wondering and not quite understanding His will.  Everything became clear to me.

So at the end of that month, I sat down with Michael and showed him all that God had shown me.  I told him that I have never been more sure of something, more sure of what God was specifically leading us to do, than I was right now.  Even of marrying him!  Yes, I believe God had a huge hand in bringing us together, and I believe it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  But I did not necessarily get a “Word from God” to do so.  Not only am I blessed to have heard from God once about this decision, but many times through many avenues that were unmistakeably from Him.  How many times in life do we get to say that we know we are exactly in the middle of God’s will??  I am humbled.

Michael had tears as I spoke with him, as the Spirit confirmed the decision in his heart.  He asked a couple of logistical questions, and then decidedly replied, “Ok. Let’s do this.”  He is a brave man.  He is trusting “Words from God” that didn’t come to him, except through me.  He is trusting that God will continue to be faithful, as He has shown us before, though we have no promises about the future.  He is giving his bread winning pride over to God and trusting that though this looks crazy (and is crazy) on paper, that we serve and remember the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea.

It has taken a while to get our Home Study finalized because Illinois has more more i’s to dot and t’s to cross than most states.  While we were waiting for these items, other families from our agency were coming home from meeting their kids and several of them were talking “Solomon” up.  They said he was so sweet and so good with little kids and would be such a blessing, and not to let his physical issues with his legs or his age deter someone from pursuing him.  We were already actively pursuing him, but it was such a blessing to hear this about his personality!

This is not about us.  It is not about a burning desire I have to have 6 kids.  Or an overly emotional mentality that cries at every lost puppy and thinks that I need to save the world.  It is about a God who calls himself the Father to the Fatherless.  HE is the one who is watching over the orphan and hears their cries and answers them by putting each specific child on someone’s heart.  In our case, he put two siblings on our hearts, a boy and a girl with specific ages, and now an older boy that fits a specific profile (will explain that later), that we were supposed to go look for.  God is taking care of them, not us.  Remember how I said that God “called” me while I was in the bathroom that night, Jan 20, 2012?  Well, we found out later when we got his file that it was that exact same day that he was admitted to the transition home.  God was telling me, “He is ready now.  It’s time to start.”

Now we each can choose to obey or not obey.  And it is my fear that too often God has parents in mind that he wants to stand in the gap for the defenseless, and they have busied themselves so much that they don’t even hear God ask.  So the problem of the orphan is not that God is not working on their behalf, but often that we, his people, are not fully listening and obeying.  My adoptive mom friend Monica reminded me of this Scripture on her blog recently: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)  Today it is our job to carry the burden of parenting for someone else who can no longer do so, and to help a young man get the medical attention he needs and love of a family so that he can have a chance at life and love and work and family.  To have more to hope for than life on the streets without the physical ability to work and find food.

So this is where we are at this point.  Our paperwork went unusually quick and we have a finalized home study, proper paperwork sent off to Homeland Security, and our dossier (all the international paperwork) sent off and will be headed over to Ethiopia as of 6-1-12.  If all goes well, we could be there for court in July!  We will get to meet and spend time with our boy that week, and then return for our Embassy appointment to take him home hopefully a few months after that.

Please pray with us that our paperwork continues to go quickly (especially because of his age and because the Ethiopian court closes for two months during the rainy season in August and September), that “Solomon” will feel peace and joy and trust in the God who is taking care of him, and that we raise the funds necessary to travel twice very soon.  (Usually the big chunk you pay at dossier time is months or even years from the time of the referral chunk.  Ours were a day apart.  And now we will have two trips to Ethiopia very soon.)

We received word yesterday that Solomon was told he has a family and they said he was overjoyed!  He had pretty much given up hope at this point.  They said the staff and other kids at the transition home celebrated with him!  He had recently received two care packages anonymously from us, but now he will get a photo book to know more of who we are.  And we told the remaining kids here last night (we had already told the older two a month ago because they could keep a secret).  We are all excited that we will be a family of 8!  We had one more spot at our table, one more seat in our Suburban, and one more place in our home, and now they will be filled!  Please praise God and celebrate with us His everlasting grace and goodness!



Here are posts about the “Word from God” about Kieran’s story that I wasn’t able to share in more detail at the time: Kid 6.1 and Kid 6.2

Gowin Kid #5: Grace Erin

Erin at 12

Grace Erin is number 5, and she is 12 years old.  You might notice that her Bible name and Irish name are in a different order than the others.  Yes, that is because all the baby books (that you read for the first kid) said to make sure you check the initials before giving your child a name.  I pictured our little girl playing softball someday with E.G.G. on the back of her jersey.  We didn’t want to mess up the rest of her life, so we switched the order.  This way she can, in a most dramatic fashion, write “G. Erin Gowin” on her autographs and checks someday.

Like Liam’s name, “Erin” just means “from Ireland.”  Not necessarily rich in meaning, but we like it.  However, “Grace” is loaded with significance for us.

I knew when I was 20 that I might not be able to have kids biologically because of some reproductive issues.  Then after Michael and I had been married about 3 years, we decided to go see a fertility specialist.  The first 3 months of medication and hormones were not effective and I started to really worry.  My biggest lifelong dream was to grow up and be a mommy.  But I had a heart to heart with God one day and gave up my dream, choosing to trust him with my life, knowing He knew what was best for me and I was OK with that.  I got pregnant that next month.  Hence, the “Grace.”  This is similar to a lot of people’s stories and why many girls have Grace as part of their name.

But then our little Grace decided to really live up to her name.  I had a routine sonogram scheduled for 29 weeks, a week early because Michael was going to be gone that whole next week.  Our world started to crumble that day as our doctor said Erin was 3 weeks behind in development and I had very little amniotic fluid.  She put me on strict bedrest (“What?? I feel fine!”) and told me what signs to look for: sudden vomiting and upper right quadrant pain (where your liver is).  That was a Tuesday.  All those things started to happen Thursday night.  We went to the hospital, was admitted, and they started me on magnesium sulfate to keep my blood pressure down so I wouldn’t seize.  By the next day they had doctors coming to visit me saying I would have the baby within 24 hours and explaining to us what to expect with preemies in the NICU.  Wow.  It was all happening so fast.

Well, God had other plans.  One night, in the middle of the night I was awake—inevitably, since the blood pressure cuff squeezed my arm every 15 minutes.  I suddenly had this vision of angels over me in my hospital room and God saying to me, “You are going to be OK.  There are many people praying for you.”  After 6 days in the hospital, they released me.  The doctor who released me told me that I probably just had a virus because people with what they had initially thought I had dont get released and go home.  I could go to church on the next Sunday (Easter) but I needed to lay low otherwise.  Goodbye.

I still vividly remember how that Sunday in church began.  Everyone was standing except me (laying low) and the powerful organ began, “Christ the Lord has risen today! Hallelujah!”  All those emotions come straight back to me every time I hear that hymn now.

Then, a week and half after the first admittance, we went back to the hospital with the same symptoms.  Got there at midnight on a Friday, stayed till 6am Saturday, symptoms died down, sent me home.  Then on Sunday morning it woke me at 4am.  I couldn’t get comfortable.  I was up, I was down, something really hurt.  So we head out again to the hospital in Springfield.  (Did I mention it is 45 min away?)

I show up at 5am and they give me the first-time-pregnant-can’t-handle-pain-you’ve-been-here-before smile and admit me for some testing.  Since it is Sunday morning, the lab is running very slowly (and I don’t think they were in too much of a hurry), and it is after 8:30 when they finally get the results.  In the meantime, I want to crawl out of my skin, and I can’t figure out how to lay or sit to make it stop, but I really didn’t complain much.  Because of the test results, they start me on magnesium sulfate just before 9am.

That’s when all hell breaks loose.  (Sorry, but there is no other good way to describe it.)  The baby monitor shows that Erin’s heart rate immediately slows to 60 bpm.  Everyone starts yelling.  To me: “Turn to your right, turn to your left, try this!” (They were trying to help me find a position where her heart rate would go up.  The best they got was 90 bpm with me on my hands and knees on the bed.)  To the other nurses: “Page Dr. Guildner! Prep the c-section room!”  Lots of other yelling that I don’t remember.  Chaos.  (I do remember an older man standing calmly on the side with a cup of coffee in his hands.  Who was he?  Was that an angel with gray hair, dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt tucked in over his plump belly?)

(A funny thing I just have to add here is that I do remember having the cognizance to ask Michael if I was covered up, knowing I was in a hospital gown, on my hands and knees, and about to be wheeled down the hall to the c-section room.  He assured me I was fine.  Haha sure.)

So Grace Erin Gowin was born by emergency c-section at 9:18am that morning.  Yes, that fast.  She was 2# 14oz and did decently on her apgar scores from what I heard.  However, I was in the operating room for another 2 hours.  After they got Erin out, the doctor noticed a lot of extra blood.  As it turned out, my liver had ruptured sometime in the previous 24 hours, and I was bleeding internally.  (Yeh—show you not to give me those newbie pregnant looks!)  As God was watching over the situation, Dr. Guildner had remembered seeing an internal surgeon in the parking lot that morning and knew they could page him and get him there quickly.  He reopened me perpendicular to the c-section and patched up my liver.  (Dr. Hammer said this at my post-op appointment after examining my incision: “Wow. I did a pretty good job.” He was afraid it would be all crooked because he had cut it in such a hurry. 🙂 )

I evidently had something they call HELLP Syndrome (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes, Low Platelets).  It is a form of pre-eclampsia but much more severe (obviously).  It can shut down kidneys, heart, and liver, as well as have major repercussions for the baby.  Many women and babies have died from this, often because it is not diagnosed in time.  Remember how I said we had a sonogram early and saw the signs?  If I had not, I would have called the doctor and she probably would have told me that pregnant women vomit, that I probably have indigestion (which is also in that upper quadrant area), and to call me in the morning.  Things go south really quickly with this syndrome, which is why moms and babies often die when they are put off by the doctors, especially since it occurs most often in first time moms.

Besides all that was mentioned above, here are some other notable points along the way where God stepped in to save little “Grace” and I.  1) I had the sonogram early, found out the problem, and knew what to expect. My doctor did not dismiss my symptoms because of that.  2) Since they expected the baby to be born on the first admittance, they gave me a round of steroid shots to help her lungs develop, but those shots take 48 hours to take effect.  If we had not had a flare up two weeks previous to her birth, she would not have had those shots because we did not have 48 hours the second time around.  3) That last flare up happened early that Sunday morning before Michael had left for church.  If only a few hours later, I would not have had a way to call him while he was playing on the worship team.  4) The right doctors were there at the right time on a Sunday morning.

I was still pretty sick for a while after Grace Erin’s birth.  I had to have a blood transfusion and I was not allowed to get out of my bed for a few days because of having major surgery.  That was difficult because Erin was so tiny, she had to be in an isolette down the hall.  So I didn’t get to see her for two days except for the Polaroid pictures the nurses brought down to my room.  Finally, after the second day, the nurses felt so bad for me that they unplugged Erin, wheeled her isolette down to my room so I could stick my hand in the little hole on the side (you’ve seen those machines when you first walk into Wal-Mart?) and touch her for 30 seconds before they wheeled her off again.  I went home after a week, though I still had a long way to go to get back on my feet, but Erin stayed for a month till she got her body fat up enough to keep herself warm and till she was able to take a bottle.  She was still only #4 when she came home and we had another month or two where we had to work really hard at getting her to take a bottle and teach her to nurse.

Wow. That week was hard.  I was so sick and so emotional.  One nurse told me that I almost died that day.  Then my dad came up from OK earlier than he had planned, and I was convinced that was because they told him to, because I was dying.  And my body hurt extra when I cried, so that didn’t help things either.  But God got us through.  The doctors that day thought we weren’t going to make it, but God had other plans.  This story is one of the many reasons why I will forever trust in my God and live my life to serve Him.  He has given me (and Erin) another chance and nothing will ever be more important than seeking out his purposes for me.

So, if you are still here and sticking with me through this against-blogging-regulation-length blog post.  Here is a little about our Grace Erin, who began our lives as parents with a bang!

She is super sweet, though that is not always manifested in interactions with her siblings. 🙂  She is quiet, but not shy.  She loves people, but is an introvert by nature and is often found hiding somewhere lost in a book.  Unexpectedly, she loves to perform in plays.  She is rarely nervous about being in front of people, though she is more often sitting quietly, minding her own business.  She tends toward perfectionism, but she has often reminded me when I was trying to help her do a project, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, Mom.”  She is smart and a hard worker.  She was awarded Student of the Month in the first month of her junior high career, which she was surprised about since she figured hardly anyone knew her at that point.  But I had the opportunity to explain to her that she doesn’t have to announce her presence to make her gentle spirit known.  The Holy Spirit is shining brightly through her and others see that even if she is not loud.

Erin too has a heart for justice issues.  I remember her, when she was young, telling off some of the big boys during recess because they were being mean to someone.  She has often pushed to go around the neighborhood and collect food for the food pantry or to have lemonade stands to earn money for World Vision. As a younger child, her favorite American Girl doll was not the one who looked just like her, but Addy, the little brown girl who escaped from slavery during the Civil War.  What she loved most of all about Addy was that she was brave, and Erin has often pushed herself out of her comfort zone in an attempt to be brave as well.

She has plans to be a missionary in Africa some day like Katie Davis, and she says she might not even get married if she doesn’t find a man who wants to go to Africa with her.  Ask her—she is very serious about that.  The deep dark jungles of Africa would definitely be out of her comfort zone since she is pretty squeamish about many things, but I have no doubt she would push through if she felt it was what God wanted of her.

Grace Erin has already been an example to the world of God’s intimate hand in our lives.  We will all be blessed to see what more He wants to show us about Himself, through her.  Thank you, Lord, that you had other plans.  Thank you for your Grace.

Gowin Kid #4: Liam Josiah

Liam reading

After a month’s hiatus, I’m back to blogging about our kids in reverse age order.

Liam Josiah is up next.  He will be 10 in June.  His middle name is after Josiah in the Old Testament who became King of Israel at the young age of 8.  After a long line of “bad eggs,” as Liam likes to say, Josiah did great things to bring his people back to Yahweh.  He had a heart for God and His Word, and after finding the long lost Book of the Law (the first 5 books of the OT), he repaired the temple and reformed the community of God.  2 Kings 23:25 says this about Josiah: “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.”

Like all our other kids, Liam’s other name is Irish.  It is short for William and it means “helmet.”  Yeh….we just liked it.  But he is a “helmet-head” at times.  🙂

Liam has always had somewhat of a spiritual side that I am not quite sure how to explain yet.  When he was two, we would regularly find him thumbing through our stacks of commentaries.  There were no pictures.  He knew where his books were.  It never made any sense, but he did it.  A lot.  And believe this or don’t, but at times when I felt like Satan was picking a spiritual fight with me, he would do it by waking Liam in the middle of the night, and making him incoherent and out of control (not like him any other time—he otherwise slept really well, as did I).  When I would finally realize what was going on, I would name it out loud and tell Satan he had no part in our home and he better leave my boy alone, and then it would stop.  Like I said, believe it or not, but that’s what happened.

Liam is very sensitive.  When he was about 4 he would cry during the sad parts of movies, especially if he saw that someone was being left out or unfairly treated.  (I’m sure being a middle child for most of his life plays into that as well.)  Even now, he loves to hug on me and be touching me, though you would never see it because he is in the 4th grade stage of needing to seem cool.  I’m OK with that because I know I will get plenty of hugs when I get home.  And I know I can count on having him snuggle up to me every morning at 6:30am.  He finds me in my quiet time and gets his Bible and reads next to me.  I would have never guessed at the beginning of the year when he and Erin signed up to read the Bible in a year with me, that HE would be the one still going strong and caught up!  And I love our conversations when I take him to bed at night.  Maybe he is just stalling, but he often brings up some deep theological question that he has been contemplating.

Now all of this sweetness is not to say he is a saint.  He is still a fourth grade boy.  He loves to pester (ie. terrorize) his siblings.  He occasionally gets in trouble at school, though this has diminished quite a bit since his acceptance of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through baptism last November.  He fusses about his clothes and his hair more than anyone else in the house—well, maybe with the exception of Maura.  If you’ve seen his hair lately, you’ll realize that I am trying to let him express his identity…. uh, within limits. 🙂  He definitely has opinions and will fight to not wear something that he deems will make him not look cool to others.  Like a coat.  (He doesn’t say it that way, but I know.)  On the other hand, he has also been known to bring his Bible to class to finish his daily reading during free reading time at school.  I guess he hasn’t figured out yet that that isn’t cool.

Liam making pictures

He LOVES to build things.  He goes down to the the basement and comes up with some contraption of wood and screws and wires and whatever else he can find down there.  He uses Michael’s tools more than Michael does.  He gets on my computer or Michael’s ipad and creates power point presentations.  He and his dad have discussions about fonts.  Yes, you read that right.  He makes graphics or builds things for his Sunday School class, after finding what he sees as a problem, and then attempting to fix it.  My brother David was here to visit a couple weeks ago, and he and Liam put our new play set together in the back yard.  Don’t tell anyone, but I  took Liam out of school for a day to build it with David.  He was in heaven.

Liam is not afraid to try things, and is even a little intrigued by the things that might get him in trouble.  He is the one I pray extra hard for his teen years because I am worried he will be the party guy.  But even then if he goes through a rebellious streak, I still believe deep down he will always love his mama and his God and he will come to his senses.

A long time ago, I remember a skit that some people from our church did at the LCU chapel.  It had Tom Funk in it who played Liam Gowin, the 20?? preacher of Lincoln Christian Church.  I am reminded of Gene Appel, who was the son of the infamous Lincoln pastor/part-founder of Lincoln Christian University.  There is a story told once of Gene as a college student, who somehow got on the top of the huge LCU chapel on the day before the big Ladies Day convention and hung a sign that said, “Weight Watchers Convention.”  Yet Gene has gone on to pastor and allow God to do some amazing things through him at well-known churches such as Central Christian Church in Las Vegas and Willowcreek in Chicago.

I wonder what Liam will do when he grows up.  Maybe he will use his craftsman skills, together with his spiritual bent, to reform and lead people back to God.  I’m sure, whatever it is, it will be in some way I never imagined, especially as we parent him through the teen years. 🙂  But I am confident that God has a purpose for this son of ours, and we are going to do our best to help him find it.