Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Haven's Story

My name is Shelly Shepherd.  We have 7 children. 6 biological children and 1 adopted daughter from Vietnam.  Our children's ages range from 10-30.  We also have 7 grandchildren.  I consider our children the greatest of all of our blessings!

Our adoption journey....where do I begin?  It actually started one day in church when I heard a testimony from an adoptive mom.  My heart cried out saying I would LOVE to do that one day...but I couldn't. At that moment the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, "WHY NOT?" Those two little words change my life forever.  I found my husband had many reasons to explain to me 'WHY NOT'. None of which I felt were valid reasons to not give an orphan a home.  As you can imagine one of the biggest reasons was the fact we had 6 children, but I knew in my heart our family was not complete.  I went to bed with the ache of this child in my heart and I woke up with the longing of this child in our family.  I didn't know who this child was but I knew they were out there.  We embarked on a two year journey of discussion, argument and eventually counseling.  I asked God to take it from me but the burden would not lift. Two years later my husband went to a mens' retreat and came home and said, "OK, I'm not saying I'm as excited as you are but if you truly feel like this is the journey God has for us I will not get in the way."

A month later my friend (Pam Cope) had been contacted about a baby in Vietnam that had the possibility of being brought to the US on a medical visa.  I would love to say I was one of those amazing people that was called to a special needs adoption but I wouldn't be so noble.  This child was a double amputee.  I was not equipped and honestly didn't feel at all that this was my child.  My 9 year old at the time, Chloe', said to me, "why can't this be our baby???" My very spiritual answer was, "No Chloe', I can't do a handicapped child.  We are extremely busy.  We need a child with feet!"

Phuong Thuy Do was born in Vietnam to parents who were not married to each other.  She was the product of an affair.  In Vietnam women do not have the right to divorce their husbands.  They felt hopeless. They decided the only way they could be together was to commit a family suicide.  They strapped bombs on themselves and held their 14 month old baby. It killed both of them but somehow miraculously the baby survived but at the hospital they had to amputate both of her lower limbs in order to save her life.

There are so many, many miracles in this child's story but I will skip most of them for the sake of time.  In November of 2005 we decided to go on the adventure of a life time and go with the Copes to rescue this baby. On the second day of our trip we were waiting in a doctors office.  Everyone was talking and I was playing with Phuong.  She was wearing my sunglasses and I tipped her back making her laugh.  At that very moment....I knew....she was my child.  It was like she had been birthed inside of me right then and there.  Nothing else mattered.  It didn't matter that she didn't have feet.  Nothing mattered but this child that God had promised me was in my arms.

And so our journey began.  I knew nothing about an amputee child.  I knew nothing about prosthetics.  I knew nothing about medical and physical needs. But I knew how to be a mom.  We brought our child home and we began to learn.  I followed my gut.  We had legs that didn't fit.  We had legs that were as heavy as she was.  We had legs that we carried under our arm on one side and Haven on the other arm the first 3 years we had her. But overall there really haven't been too many truly hard days...but there have been some.
There was the first day I grieved for my baby that was handicapped after a Children's Mercy appointment.  There was the day she told me that all she wanted for her birthday were toes that wiggle.  There was the day she fell at her first elementary track meet and was DEVASTATED and embarrassed.  There have been hard days and I'm sure there will be hard days in the future but the fact is that as a mother of seven I know there a hard days in each child lives.  There are things we wish our children never had to experience in this world.  I haven't had one of my children who have been immune to heartbreak,  rejection, failure and disappointment.  The best I can do as a mother is help them be equipped to handle it by turning to God and being thankful for the many blessings they have.  That is not any different for a child with a handicap.  I want Haven to accept what she cannot change and be thankful for all that she has. 
We constantly play a game we call, "The advantages of having prosthetic legs!!" There are more than you might think!!!  She has learned to count her blessings.  I'll never forget our first endeavor games for physically challenged athletes.  She watched a young man with severe cerebral palsy with the use of only one arm race around the track.  It was painfully slow and labored.  She looked over at me with tears in her eyes and said, "I have a lot to be thankful for!"

We have now had Haven in our lives for 8 years.  I could spend hours telling you Haven stories.  There truly are countless blessings this child has brought into our lives.  God uses her greatly every day. It is a story of redemption.  He has redeemed her handicap and turned it into opportunity and blessing.  Haven travels, competes, speaks and make friends everywhere she goes. The fact that God chose us to be her family I take as a huge responsibility. We have learned so much.  We have literally met hundreds of amazing people with physical limitations, handicaps, disabilities, differently-abled, limb deficient, OH MY the one thing I haven't learned is what everyone wants to be called!!  For us we don't take it all too seriously.  Funny things happen to all of us. 

I am so passionate about adoption.  It has changed our life.  It is the very picture of the heart of God.  There is JOY IN THE JOURNEY. There is also heartache & disappointment.  Our experience has been amazing but I also have walked the journey with other women who have not had the blessed experience we have had.  Just like anything in life there are no guarantees. There are such different levels of special needs in children even children who aren't labeled as special needs.  For our lives now, its... NO FEET?   NO BIG DEAL!   But for others that might be something they couldn't handle.  I believe with all my heart its so important as women on this journey to hear the voice of God and be willing to do what we are each called to do.  It is so important to know that its ok to say I'm not equipped to do that.  Don't compare your journey to others journey. Don't compare the call you have as less than or greater than the call on someone else's life. God is asking you to be obedient to the call on YOUR life.  But it's also important to hear that whisper of the Holy Spirit...WHY NOT? If God calls you He will grace and equip you no matter how hard it is.  We are all capable of so much more!! 

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