Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Cardwell Family Story

Below is the story of the Cardwell family who have two beautiful, amazing, talented daughters. It's an awesome story that I'm sure you all will enjoy.  

My husband and I have been married 21 years....high school sweethearts, married right out of high school, ready to take on the world together.  We feel extremely blessed to be called to adoption as the way by which our family would grow, and we have traveled this journey twice in our marriage.  We have two beautiful, extraordinary and wonderful young ladies who we adopted from China - one as a healthy infant referral and one as a waiting child/older child referral.  They are our whole world.  Madeline, now 8,  was our first child, adopted at 8 months old.  She changed our world, made us parents, is the greatest blessing we have ever known.  She is extremely talented in everything she sets her hand to (makes me jealous, in a good way...I wish I had one ounce of the talent she has), is a successful competitive figure skater, she is exceptionally bright and the absolute love of our lives.  She was the sole center of our world until one fateful day.......

Our second adoption story for our oldest daughter is, to me, one of the most beautiful stories of redemption I've ever known and would not have been possible without AAC!

That one fateful day in 2010, while taking a lunch break, I was looking on a website for a friend who was considering a child to adopt, and she had asked me to look at his profile and give my opinion. After I did that, I was looking around at all of the precious kids available for adoption. Not searching for anything in particular, then... WHAM!!!...there she was! 

This gorgeous young lady with an infectious smile who instantly stole my heart. She was 13 years old. What?? A teenager?? WHAT AM I THINKING?? How would my hubby react? How would my little 3 year old react? But there was something about her. I went back multiple times during that day just to see her face. Finally before heading home, I printed off her profile and picture to take it home. I knew we were NOT in a place financially to even remotely be thinking of pursuing another adoption. But, I couldn't get away from the feeling of "there is my daughter" each time I looked at her face.

So I took a chance during dinner and I told my husband and daughter that I had something to talk to them about. I didn't say anything at first but just showed them her picture. Immediately my husband knew. He just said, "You want to adopt her, don't you?" My (then 3 year old) daughter just said, "Oh, she's beautiful!" So hubby suggested loading up and going to the coffee shop so we could get wifi (yes, we lived in the boondocks and didn't have wifi at our house yet) and could request more information. AAC sent us her preliminary information. That was it. We. Just. Knew.  We submitted our intent to adopt and requested her file the very next day. After gaining approval, we found out that multiple families had inquired about her with intent to pursue but we were first. When I think of how close we were to not getting approval for her first, it makes me want to cry.

So, 362 days later, we were in China meeting our daughter for the first time. 

This scared, shy, quiet, but beautiful and sweet child became our daughter, sharing the same "Gotcha Day" as our youngest daughter, only 4 years apart. Both on May 9th...Madeline in 2007 and Piper in 2011. Instant sisters from the same province, originally from cities 3 hours apart...beautiful girls who completed our family. We couldn't have asked for more.

Today, our 8 year old and 16 year old are the best of friends in spite of their age difference, the sweetest of sisters, and the most precious girls any parents could ever ask for. 

Three years after bringing her home, despite having to learn a new culture, new language, and new family at an older age, Piper is so outgoing, loving, willing to try new things, has a heart of gold, is passionate about pursing her dreams in art & graphic design, is finding all her hidden talents, and is one of the most genuine people I've ever had the honor of knowing. 

Adoption has changed our lives just as much as it's changed their lives. We are all grateful for each other. I thank God that I "by chance" ran across her picture that fateful day. I'm so thankful that my husband didn't "shoot me down" when I showed him her picture, knowing that natural circumstances prevented us from another adoption journey, and that adopting a teen would be considered by everyone we know to be "risky".  I am so thankful that God used our family to bring redemption to this child who never knew the love of a family until three years ago. I am so thankful to God, friends, family, and strangers, who helped us along the journey and made an impossible situation, possible. I am so thankful that we took that step of faith, not knowing how we would do it, but trusting wholly that she was meant to be our daughter. 

And now, we have not just one, but two girls who are the center of our worlds.

They brighten each and every day.  No, it hasn't been all moonlight & roses...there have been challenges...but we are a family...and family never gives up on each other.  We feel privileged to be their parents, to walk this journey called life with them, and to show them that no matter what their past is or how their lives began, we will always be a family...we will always be here for them...we will always be their biggest cheerleaders...and we will love them completely...until the day after forever.

If there is one thing I could say to encourage someone thinking that they can't afford adoption, or are hesitant about older child adoption, it would be to not let circumstances or fear rob you of something that could change your life in ways you never thought possible. God will show up in the most unexpected and miraculous ways!!  

~Teri Cardwell
Dallas, TX

Remember this....not everyone may be called to adopt...but everyone can do something for orphans and orphan care!!