Finding Eden

It’s rare that I share a whole lot of real personal stuff on my business blog. A few times, though, we’ve posted about our adoption story and this is a continuation of that. Feel free to scroll right on past this post if you’re only here to see some pretty pictures. ;)


So, the big news is that we got our referral call–THE call we’ve been longing for and daydreaming about since two years ago when this adoption began–on Friday, February 7. Our agency rep, Pat, started the conversation with, “I have a little girl I want you two to consider, but I need to let you know that her special needs are a bit more extreme than what you guys had indicated you’d be willing to accept.” Probably from the moment I heard her share those words, my answer was “No.” And over the next seven days I’d come up with a hundred reasons why a child with special needs would be too inconvenient, impractical, and simply have too many issues for us to deal with.

We’ll call her K (her given name starts with a K and can’t release details about her just yet). And her “issue” is that she was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome which is basically the result of a baby’s limbs getting bound up in bands inside her momma’s womb which constrict blood flow and inhibit typical development of hands, fingers, feet, etc. In the e-mail Pat sent after her phone call, we had three photos of K before she underwent any treatment for her ABS and her legs and feet were severely deformed and her hands had indistinguishable little nubs for fingers and we couldn’t quite tell if she had any real fingers at all. As hard as it was to see this little orphan girl sitting in her crib with a future so unknown because of the way God brought her in to this world, I couldn’t help but notice her big, brown beautiful eyes just staring right into mine. But honestly, nothing scared me more than being sucked into those eyes.

Though I was pretty firmly sitting on “No” and Jess was very optimistically sitting on “Yes,” we began to share our dilemma with a very few close friends who we knew would pray us through this decision. One of those friends so wisely encouraged me to not look at this so much as a “decision” and more of an opportunity to walk in obedience. The decision was made. God knew if K would end up in our home as our little girl or not. Our prayer needed to be that God would make this decision clear to us and that we would have faith to walk in obedience.

Last Monday, the 10th, we sent K’s medical report to an adoption clinic at UAB where a team of physicians and specialists evaluate the medical documents of your potential child to help prospective adoptive parents better understand the condition of that child and what kind of prognosis his/her future holds. It takes 72 hours for the clinic to respond with an official evaluation. Those three days were full of uncertainty, fear, but so much grace. Our friends who were praying for us and a God who was hearing those prayers are 100% to credit for the fact that Jess and I–not once–argued about how we were feeling. We were just walking this out, patiently, and waiting for God to show us what was next.

Here’s what I hoped would come from our conference call with UAB: “Well, Mr. & Mrs. Followell, we ran some DNA tests and it appears that K is, in fact, your daughter. Congratulations.” Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, that’s not at all what happened. They did tell us that all signs seem to suggest that K should develop the ability to walk, that several surgeries will need to be performed whenever we bring her home, and that it’s most likely that we would need to plan on being in and out of physical and occupational therapy for a good part of her developmental years as she learns to compensate for her limb deformities. It was a heavy load and a heavy conversation.

We sent a text to our pastor’s wife and dear friend the night before this UAB call asking that she please join us in praying that God would shine clearly His calling for us regarding a little girl our agency had referred. Her text back to us came the next day and it was what I went to that afternoon after we got off of the phone with UAB. Keep in mind that Christy knew no specifics of this little girl’s physical deformities. Here’s what she sent us:

Wish I could describe the last several hours. The sweet Holy Spirit has had me in and out of sleep throughout the night in a constant spirit of prayer for you (jess. robby. meg. eden.) This familiar song is on replay in my mind this morning. I wept as I turned it on and listened and watched the lyrics. Considering EACH of your precious souls and where He wants to take you. Eden’s little soul. Out in this big world. He is changing her soul for eternity… graciously honoring your pursuit of her and your prayers an petitions for her. I’m rejoicing because of the tiny glimpse I see of HIs sovereignty in her life and unfathomable love He has for her.  She is His. He is hers. Her rescuer. He is your rescuer. He is my rescuer. Love Him so much I can hardly stand it. And as for this journey He has you on (to find one another) I believe He is taking you (all four) to a deeper place so you can experience more of who He is and what only He can do and I can’t imagine the rejoicing when you reach the actual place of tangible union that He has chosen. On that day you will be able to look around and behold the moment that He has been carving out for you and her. How redemptive and beautiful and purposeful is our God.

And here’s the song she sent a link to:

The title of the song? Oceans – Where Feet May Fail.  Where FEET may FAIL. And the first lyrics we read as we watched that video? “You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail.” Jesus answered us.

As Jess and I sat in our quiet living room that Thursday evening, we knew God had answered our prayer. He had made so clear and so certain our call to say yes to this little girl. And even more than a song or several other potentially coincidental circumstances–He sealed in our hearts with certainty that this was just RIGHT.

And to be absolutely honest and completely vulnerable – that doesn’t mean we are not still scared. A whole lot of selfish questions surfaced over this past week that are still unanswered–will she be able to run? Dance? Play an instrument if she wants to? Will she feel beautiful? What will other kids say about her? What will we say about her? The honesty of those questions embarrasses me a little. I wish I had enough confidence in what God was calling me to that I didn’t have to explore a thousand “what ifs” and “whys.” But I know God can handle those too.

This is what I know: K will be our daughter. And we’ll give this little girl the name, Eden. And Eden is going to bless our world more than I can even imagine. I know that God has designed my family for this little child (with a wife and mom who is the very embodiment of compassion and a 2-year-old daughter and sister who already demonstrates a powerful ability to encourage and uplift). She is going to teach me and grow me in so many ways. And determination will be redefined by her will to go, do, and be whatever she can dream up.

We start a new journey of waiting this week. It will still be a number of months before we can begin planning travel to Calcutta, India, where she is today. We’ll be having a couple more fundraisers as we now add a few surgeries to the cost of bringing this little girl into our family. But more than anything, we can’t wait to tell you how amazingly and perfectly Eden fits into our family as we all watch it unfold together. Thanks for loving us on this journey.

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  • Candace McKayFebruary 18, 2014 - 4:58 pm

    So proud of you and for you! Amazing story and it’s only the beginning! Our family will be praying for your family in the weeks, months and years to come! Thank you for sharing your journey of faith with us!!!!

    Candace, Ryan and Reese;)

  • Millie HollomanFebruary 18, 2014 - 5:57 pm

    Ok. I read it all and I’m crying. When are we going to India?????

  • Sarah Pigford WilliamsFebruary 18, 2014 - 5:58 pm

    Wow. Just wow. As a mom of a child with a seemingly trivial birth defect (cleft of the soft palate), which was simply fixed with a minor surgery, I have nothing but admiration for you two as you embark on this journey with Eden. She will be more perfect than you can imagine – in every way. So excited to continue to follow and pray for y’all as Eden’s name now has a sweet face.

  • Jennifer Roan BlackwellFebruary 18, 2014 - 6:07 pm

    All I can say is Wow! You and Jess have shown so much faith throughout this amazing story. I know God has His plan and we don’t know what it is but continuing in faith is what He asks us to do. You and your family will continue to be in my prayers. Thanks for sharing and please keep us posted.

  • Amanda HollomanFebruary 18, 2014 - 6:20 pm

    This is amazing and I am so excited for your family! The journey you have and will continue to walk through is incredible and I know God has some amazing things in store. I will be praying for Eden and you as her family. I’m excited for her to experience the love you have to give and for her know God’s love.

  • Amanda Nixon BrewerFebruary 18, 2014 - 6:39 pm

    So excited that y’all are so much closer to becoming a family of four! You already have such an amazing story for your journey to bring Eden home. I can’t imagine a better family to blessed with Eden!! Praying for y’all – keep us updated on the fundraisers!

  • Holly Mallalieu MagersFebruary 18, 2014 - 6:51 pm

    So wonderful, Robby and Jess!

  • Erin ChrismanFebruary 18, 2014 - 7:12 pm

    This is a beautiful story Robby and Jess. I’m so happy you were able to see a clear answer. I love you both so much and cannot wait to watch this new adventure begin for your family.

  • Pam KirbyFebruary 18, 2014 - 7:27 pm

    I want you to know that reading this post makes ME feel closer to God. “She is his and He is hers” I have been knowing for about 2 years that you were praying for a baby to adopt. I have faith that soon Eden will complete your little family. Thank you for continuing to sharing your journey.

  • Lindsey AppiahFebruary 18, 2014 - 8:59 pm

    Your story makes me think of this amazing story that was shared at church last week: I have no doubt that the God of all grace, who makes no mistakes, will give you the portion that you need for the road He has called you to walk.

  • Jenni Moyer SmithFebruary 18, 2014 - 9:18 pm

    Love y’all so. I fell in love with a little boy name Kidane who we called K for several months! Little did I know his name meant ‘my promise, my covenant, my vow’. I have a feeling this little K is going to change your world for the better (not always easy, but so so good!) just like our K has done for us. The Lord will equip you, grow you, and sustain you. And, you don’t have to walk this road alone. So many friends willing to walk this out with you. Lee and I are here anytime!!

  • Katie RosenbaumFebruary 18, 2014 - 10:19 pm

    Wow, this is astoundingly beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing and being willing to be vulnerable as you journey with our Father. Lifting you all up now, especially little Eden, whom God will use to open his arms of redemption and rescue and adoption to so many others in need of his love. He’s got huge plans ahead. :)

  • Kate Mabry BotelerFebruary 18, 2014 - 11:30 pm

    Robby! How perfectly Ordained that the name you chose would be Eden…a place meant to be perfect and whole. Praise to the One who redeems and restores! I’m praying for you guys.

  • Claire Nettles GilliamFebruary 19, 2014 - 2:19 am

    Robby and Jess! I am so extremely excited for you and Meg. I had tears in my eyes as I read this long awaited, unexpected, and honest post. What an awesome time of blessing and learning dependence on God! I cannot wait to see how your beautiful family grows (in so many different ways) as Miss Eden joins you.

  • Melessa Hemphill ReddittFebruary 19, 2014 - 4:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I have no doubt that our God, who is working everything perfectly to bring Eden home to you, is also allowing your story to touch and inspire His children. Will be praying for abundant love and assurance for you, Jess, and Meg as you faithfully follow where God is calling!

  • Jeremy S. FortenberryFebruary 20, 2014 - 8:36 pm

    Robby and Jess, you two inspire me and Sarah in so many ways! One, your deep love and passion for Christ and how it grows daily! Two, your constant trust in Him! Three, the way you two are handling this amazing and difficult at times journey. And four, the way you both give Him all the praise no matter what trials you face. Praise the Lord for you and Jess both! And praise the Lord for his goodness, kindness, gentleness, patience and LOVE! What an amazing testimony this is for everyone that reads it! I can’t wait to see that beautiful girl the Lord has hand-picked for you both. She will be the most amazing blessing and you two will bless her more than she will ever know. We are praying for you all and know you are loved by so many!