He Gives and Takes Away (Part 3 of Our Adoption Story)

July 18, 2013

How did a family with three *fairly* normal birth kids morph into a family with twelve *crazy* kids with a nineteen year age range?  It’s an amazing, God-filled story with so many crazy twists and turns.  Like I promised, I’m here to share my part of the story and give you a little insight into the brain of one of those birth kids.  I’ll be including some tips for adoptive families for things to do and not to do to attempt to make your adoption a good experience for the whole family.  I’m no expert but I feel that I’ve learned a lot from talking with other birth kids, leading workshops on the topic, and experiencing it myself.  If you have question about what I suggest, don’t hesitate to email me at susannah.kellogg (at) gmail.com If you missed part one – adopting my two sisters or part two – adopting my brother, John – you should check them out! ——– Before sharing the next part of the story with you, I wanted to fill you all in with some information my dad let me know regarding our second lost adoption.  The little girl from Russia was named Maria. She was missing both legs – not just one as I had remembered.  The reason we were denied permission to adopt her was not due to our family size.  It was because she had been promised to our family but then “assigned” to a different family as well.  Since the other family was farther along in their paperwork, they got first choice to adopt her. Once my family found out we weren’t able to adopt Maria, the decision had to be made what to do with the paperwork that had already been started.  Should they just scrap it or should they look into pursuing another adoption?  Like when we were denied permission to adopt Pearl, my parents’ decision was to see if God opened the door for another adoption. At this point, we heard about a brother and sister in Ethiopia in need of a family.  We began the process of adopting Andrew and his baby sister.  Of course my family was very excited that Andrew was joining our family. We knew that an eight year old who was able to care for his baby sister was a very special kid. We were also ecstatic to finally have another baby! Since I was the last baby my parents had given birth to and the youngest adoption prior had been a four year old, there had been no baby in the home for fifteen years. My mom and I prepared baby Leah’s nursery, got baby clothes, and made so many plans for what we would do with her. GARDNERA (513) In February of that year, about two months before we would be able to go pick our kiddos up all those plans stopped. We got a call from the adoption agency saying that baby Leah had passed away due to a congenital obstruction of her esophagus. I still don’t know exactly what that medically means but we later learned it could have easily been fixed here in America. My family was devastated when we got the news that our precious baby had died.  Not very many people in our church, schools, or community really understood why we were so devastated. Some people said that it was not as though we had even met her yet. But in our hearts she was a member of our family and we grieved because a loved one had died.  (I later discovered that the grief we were going through mirrored the grief and emotions that accompanied a late term miscarriage) My dad got a flight the next weekend to Ethiopia and visited Andrew. He went to comfort Andrew and let him know that we still loved him and were doing all we could to bring him quickly home to us. While my dad was over there, Andrew expressed a desire to still have a little sister. He said he did not want to replace his sister, but that he loved caring for younger children. The only young girl available for adoption in the orphanage was a little, developmentally delayed baby named Dinah and my parents decided that they would change the paperwork from baby Leah to Dinah. Andrew & Dinah Gardner These actions comforted most of the members of my family and reduced their grief, but they had the opposite affect on me. I grew very bitter. I was angry at God for taking our baby from us, angry at my parents for agreeing to (as I saw it) replace baby Leah by adopting Dinah, but mostly angry at myself for being so self centered and bitter. I fell into a pit of anger, bitterness, and grief and I hid it from everyone – friends, family, and people at church.  I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I was struggling so much.  I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I was battling the deepest depression I had ever experienced.  I thought something was incredibly wrong with me.  I did not want anyone to know about my feelings, especially my anger toward God.  I felt like my anger toward God made me a horrible Christian.  I wanted people to believe I was the same good Christian girl I had always been, so in love with God I would trust Him for everything. I would go to church with my family and pretend to be worshiping when inside I was screaming at God. Since He had laid it on my family’s heart to adopt these children, I did not see how he could take baby Leah from us and still be a good, just God. dinahandrew This went on for a few months and those months were the some of the worst months of my life. I now hated it when my mom prepared for the arrival of Dinah because it reminded me of baby Leah’s death.  I wanted nothing to do with anything to do with the adoptions.  I did not care about church or spending time with God since I was so incredibly angry at Him. PICT0021 Then, one day at youth group, my attitude changed. It was a day that I was really struggling and I finally, trying to drone out my own negative thoughts, just sat back and listened to the words of the song being played by the worship band. They were playing “Blessed Be Your Name” and the lyrics hit me hard. I realized I could not bless God only when He did what I wanted him to do, I had to bless Him even when I did not understand His plan. Then the words, “You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name” were sung. I realized that although God had taken baby Leah from us, He was giving us Dinah. I needed to thank Him for that even though I was grieving the death of my sister.

Blessed Be Your Name by Tree63 on Grooveshark GARDNERA (347) As much as I tried to hide it, my parents knew I needed healing.  Since my dad had flown to Ethiopia when baby Leah had passed away, he couldn’t get the time off work to travel again when it was time to pick Andrew and Dinah up.  They blessed me by allowing me to travel with my mom and uncle to Ethiopia to pick the kids up. My time there touched my heart so much. I saw the orphanages first hand and realized how much help is needed.  I was able to forgive the nuns who ran the orphanage and the nannies who cared for my sister for not catching her sickness in time when I saw how full the nurseries were and how hard they worked to care for the babies.  I will never forget one baby boy in the nursery at the orphanage who literally looked like a holocaust victim.  He was all skin and bones, the little hair he had was falling out, and he didn’t have anything but a blanket to keep him warm.  I asked the nannies if I could rock him and they said I couldn’t because he was dying. This broke my heart because even a dying baby should have someone to love him, especially in his final days. The trip changed my heart so drastically!  Little Dinah, the baby I didn’t want, became my pride and joy.  She learned to roll over the very first night we had her and progressed in hyper-speed after that.  With all the love and encouragement she received from my family, she was developmentally completely caught up in about six months.  She is beautiful, funny, smart, and I can’t imagine my life without her. GARDNERA (411) After this trip, my mom began working with orphanages in Ethiopia.  She travelled there a few times a year, meeting children that were in need of a family.  I’ll bet you’ll never guess what happened…  (Why yes, she did meet a kiddo who was destined to be her son.)


  • Janelle Halfpenny

    July 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    That is such an amazing adoption story. I love how you family just kept saying yes to God and what he wanted to do!

  • Johanna

    July 18, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Such heartwarming stories – thanks for sharing.

  • Sam M

    July 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    I just love reading these stories. That smile on your brother andrew is contagious. And how wonderful of him to recognize that he loved having someone to take care of, and asking for that. Their Ethiopia picture is absolutely amazing. I don't think you can go to a third world country like that and not have your heart touched. It changes you forever.

  • Erica

    July 18, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I'm totally gripped by your story, thanks for sharing it 🙂

  • Angela

    July 18, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I love reading all about your family's journey! Thank you for sharing your real struggles throughout everything. It's very eye-opening to see how every member is affected.

  • Mrs. M ~ a.k.a. ~ April

    July 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    These stories are so amazing! Thank you for shring your very personal sturggles and how God helped you through them.

  • Katie

    July 18, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    precious testimony. God can heal our hearts from sorrow and bitterness!

  • Z

    July 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Wow what an awesome thing to do. I wish More people would do this and cahnge lives.
    #Claps Iam a fan of your family.xo

  • Katrin

    July 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing another part of your family's story. I am so fascinated! It must have been terrible to be at that orphanage, you must have felt so helpless! Your family is really awesome and I admire you for everything you do!

  • Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird

    July 18, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    What an interesting story! I love reading about how different families are formed and your story is definitely inspiring.

  • Transient Drifter

    July 18, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    I tried commenting once before, and it wouldn't ever post, but I want to try again now. I've been reading your blog for several months now, and really enjoy experiencing your personality and your heart. I worked in an orphanage in Hong Kong for al oat three years, and learning about your experiences on the other side is a beautiful thing. Keep sharing, it really is a blessing 🙂

  • Autumn

    July 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing these stories. So many different experiences. So much to learn from.

  • Summer Nicole

    July 18, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    It is so cool to see how God has brought all of your siblings together…you are really good at loving them Susannah! 🙂

  • Charity

    July 18, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Seriously. I think I could totally weep right now. God is so good, even when we don't understand or cry out in anger he has a plan. I am so sorry to hear about baby Leah but all the blessings that came after….I am shocked. Ethiopia is a place that is in great need and adoption has always been on my heart. Thank you for sharing your family's experience it means so much your family is such a blessing. God has used you all in a mighty mighty way.

  • Carol {Everyday Delights}

    July 19, 2013 at 4:15 am

    Wow thank you so much sharing this! You and your family are amazing!

  • Jamie Sefcik || Hello Little Scout

    July 19, 2013 at 5:49 am

    Your family is so so amazing!!!

  • Always Maylee

    July 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Seriously, I think you have the most amazing family with such big hearts.

    xo, Yi-chia
    Always Maylee

  • la petite lulu

    July 19, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Oh wow. The first thing I thought when reading this is that you could write a book! Your family has a really interesting story – thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Faith

    July 20, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    I'm inspired by your family! Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  • Becky Dougherty

    July 20, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Your story keeps getting more and more beautiful. So many Christians think that we have to be happy all the time or that we're horrible people if we get upset with God. But we're human. God understands that we don't understand his ways, and he's more than willing to forgive us when we get upset that things aren't going our way. It's amazing how a song can touch our hearts and being us back to God.

  • Carole

    July 21, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Susannah, what a simply fantastic family you have! Wow!

  • Jayda

    July 26, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Your families heart for children is so inspiring. Such a beautiful story!

  • Ashley R

    July 31, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Another fantastic addition to this story. Oh those photos… they go right through to your soul!

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