Our journey to Ellie began in January 2011 as we journey to China to bring home a little boy. A little boy that changed our lives and our hearts. A journey that gave us a beautiful son but also broke our hearts for the orphans that wait. A year later we began our journey back to China. We had no idea what God had in store for us in the months to come.
The journey of our little Ellie's heart began before we received Ellie's referral and long before we heard the news that our little girl needed open heart surgery.
I followed a family to China as they brought their little girl, Ivy Joy home. This family stepped out in faith to bring home a very sick little girl who needed heart surgery to have a chance at life. There were no guarantees for this family and they knew their little Ivy was very sick. In March Ivy Joy underwent her first heart surgery. I followed this little girl daily and prayed for her and her family. In no time this little girl had found her way into my heart and so did the sick heart babies waiting in China. I cried often over this little girl and God took a hold of my heart in the process. I couldn't shake the stirring inside of me so one night I told Eric I might be crazy but I felt like God was telling us we needed to bring home a very sick heart baby from China. I think his first reaction was "you are crazy!" After his initial shock we continued to talk and he said we needed to pray about it because if this was God's plan for our family he didn't want to stand in the way. We prayed and committed it to God. About a month later as we were wrapping up our paper chasing and close to being Dossier to China we revisited our conversation and at this time we felt like God didn't affirm moving forward with a sick heart baby. I had a total peace and knew God had used this little girl to open my heart I just wasn't sure why.
Our paperwork seemed to move through the US and Chinese governments at mock speeds. Our approvals were far faster than the norms and Eric said to me "God is up to something!" On May 28 our Dossier was logged in to China and hours later our sweet girls file was released. We got a call from our agency and they had a file of a little girl for us to consider. My heart skipped a beat when I heard our social worker share that this little girl was just 7 months old and had VSD, a hole in heart. As we consulted with doctors it seemed as though her hole was fairly small and there would be a good chance that it would close on its own or she would need a noninvasive procedure. So while we were not bringing home a sick heart baby I felt like God had confirmed my stirring in some way but giving us a referral of little girl with VSD. He had given us the gift of a heart baby when it could have been a number of other special needs.
In August we were at a Gala Event for one of the large medical systems in town. They began to share their new campaign of raising money and developing a state of the art pediatric heart hospital. They showed a video of their mission and their heart for meeting the need of families with babies with sick hearts right here at home. I cried through the video and just wondered if this was part of me meeting Ivy and God's stirring in my heart. I wondered if there would be some type of opportunity to start some type of ministry to support families that were walking a road just like Ivy. People who were potentially away from family and friends during a difficult time in their life.
On October 30 we began our journey across the ocean to bring our little Ellie home. On November 4 the most precious little girls was placed in our arms. She was so tiny and her little body was so weak. She struggled to hold her head up, she couldn't roll over or sit up. She had no idea she had legs and she had no ideas how to use her hands. She would pull away and cry when we touched her because human contact was so foreign to her little body. Her tiny little body was skin and bones. At 15 months she was just 14 pounds and wore newborn diapers. You could count every rib in her body and she had no muscle tone. When we would bend her legs to take them out of her clothes she would cry because she had more than likely laid in her crib for the first year of her life and her joints were stiff. We could feel her little heart beating out of her chest but weren't sure if there was something wrong or because she was just so tiny and weak. We saw a little girl start to blossom in China but we couldn't wait to get her home and start uncovering what was going on in our little girls body. We knew without a shadow of a doubt God had moved our little girl's paperwork because she needed to be in our arms.
On November 20 we sat in a room with Ellie's Cardiologist and found out Ellie's hole was double the size we initially thought. As we listened we were a bit taken back with the news that our little Ellie would need open heart surgery. While a surprise to us I knew at that moment that God had used a little girl named Ivy Joy to prepare my heart and mind for the news that day. God had began to prepare my heart before I even saw little Ellie's face. I had a crazy sense of peace walking out of our cardiologists office. Once again we saw God's fingerprints all over our little girl and our journey to her. Once again we saw why this little girl needed to be in our arms. We began getting second opinions and found our way to an amazing doctor at Mayo clinic at Rochester, Minnesota.
On January 8 I kissed my little girl goodbye as her daddy carried her off the operating room. In our minds we knew that Ellie was walking into a very routine and minor surgery in the "heart" world. But there isn't anything too routine or minor in a dad and mom's heart when they know that their little girl's heart is going to be stopped, she will go on bypass, they will cut into her heart to patch it and then take her off bypass and wait to make sure everything is function properly. There isn't a more helpless feeling than kissing your baby goodbye and knowing everything is out of your control. God taught us on January 8 what it means to lay our daughter and her little body in the hands of the one that created her, the one who has a perfect plan for her life. The same God who parted the Red Sea, the same God who moved her paperwork was the same God who would be holding her and her little heart in the operating room. There is no place we would rather have placed our little girl.
Ellie had her VSD patched and her ASD had already grown closed. They also found an unusual out pouching they fixed when they were in there. Ellie had a rough 24 hours and gave us a big scare her first night but the main thing our little girl showed us is that she is a fighter. They struggled to keep her asleep when she was vented and the strength she displayed as she tried to pull her lines out was pretty amazing. We knew our little girl was a fighter but she showed us the strength she had deep within her that first 24 hours after surgery. She had an amazing recovery and was on her way home just 3 days after surgery.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand- when I awake I am still with you.
Our great and mighty God knit our sweet little Ellie together in her mother's womb. He knit every piece of her together, even her imperfect little heart. He created each of her little fingers with their own unique finger print and he knows where each of her little feet will carry her. God's design for her was perfection in his eyes. Little Ellie is fearfully and wonderfully made by her Creator.
He has penned her story with careful thought and has written it from the very beginning to the very end. We are humbled that we have been penned into this precious girl's story. We stand back in awe as we begin to watch his glory put on display through redemption in this little girl's life.