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High school sweethearts at Williamstown, Doug and Julie Stanley thought their life was full.
The couple, who has been married for 12 years, has two biological sons, 9-year-old Brennan and 6-year-old Bryson.
They soon realized they had more love to give.
A few years ago, Julie unexpectedly became pregnant for a third time.
Just as she was getting used to the idea of having another child, Julie had a miscarriage.
Where some see tragedy, the Stanleys saw it as a sign from a higher power.
“We felt at that point that God had set the lonely in our hearts and let us know that we had room in our hearts for another child,” Julie said. “But, we sort of knew that it wasn’t supposed to be from my womb. We started praying about it and had always thought the idea of adopting was amazing. We had witnessed other families who had done it.”
The family researched adoption on the Internet and read countless books.
Looking for an infant daughter, they were drawn to a Chinese program.
In the spring of 2007, the Stanleys began the process to bring a “China doll” into their family.
“They told us it was going to be 12 to 15 months,” Julie said. “Well, then the wait was 18 months, and then 18 to 24 months.”
As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, the family decided that when they finally were able to bring their new addition home to Grant County, it would be great for her to have a little sister to play and grow up with.
“I always wanted a sister and Doug always kind of wanted a brother, too,” Julie said. “So, we thought it would be nice for her to have a sister.”
So, they decided to begin a second adoption process while waiting on another.
The couple looked at a program in Taiwan before being pointed toward Ethiopia where Julie was told there was a great need for adoptive parents.
“The families were unable to care for their children and these children were being orphaned out because their parents were dying of HIV and AIDS,” Julie said. “Of course, that broke our hearts.”
The process of adopting a daughter from Ethiopia was decidedly quicker than in China.
After filling out their paperwork in December 2008, they saw their first pictures of their new baby girl March 20, 2009.
She was less than 2 weeks old.
The Stanleys jumped the next crucial hurdle in May 2009 when they passed the Ethiopian court process.
Julie and Doug then traveled across the world in late June to bring their 4-month-old daughter home.
Known as the “gotcha day,” they saw her for the first time June 27.
“That’s when we held her in our arms for the first time,” Julie said, holding back tears. “We had been through such a process. God had brought so much amazing good out of something that was hurtful at the beginning. We were so down about the miscarriage, but we knew God had a bigger plan. Just seeing it coming into fruition after two long years was a miracle.”
“She immediately bonded with us,” Julie said. “She didn’t cry when we held her for the first time. She looked us in the eyes like she knew we were her family.”
The Stanleys returned to the United States on July 4.
They were welcomed home at the airport by a throng of friends and family holding signs, waiting to see Lola Joy, the name the family choose.
“Our prayer was that she would be full of joy and that she would bring joy to others,” Julie said. “We feel like her name completely suits her personality. She’s a laid back, happy, amazing child with the biggest, longest eyelashes and chocolate brown eyes. She has the sweetest disposition.”
Lola’s birth name was Kalkidan, meaning “God’s promise.”
Bryson and Brennan have grown accustomed to being the big brothers.
They have been a part of the process every step of the way, said Julie.
When Doug and Julie first discussed adopting, they told their boys about their plan.
Bryson, 6 years old at the time, simply said “let’s go get her,” not realizing the long and difficult road ahead.
The brothers even suggested several names for Lola Joy, said Julie, adding that many of their ideas were names of their classmates or cousins.
Now 8 months old, little Lola still wakes her new siblings up every morning with a smile.
“I thought after a couple weeks it would get old and they would go back to doing their normal stuff and she’ll just be a part of the family,” Julie said. “Those boys have prayed for their sister from the moment we told them (about adopting). It’s incredible for them to see how God keeps his promises. They are constantly interacting with her and loving on her. She is the same way with them. As soon as she sees her brothers, she squeals and gets excited. She pulls their hair, pulls their nose and slobbers all over them and they do not care. They just laugh. It’s amazing to see the bond we all have with each other. I think it’s brought us closer together as a family.”
The boys even say they are going to adopt one day.
In fact, Bryson said he is going to adopt a child from every country in the world, Julie said.
The Stanleys are not finished adopting themselves.
They have not forgot about “their China doll.”
Having switched over to the special needs adoption program, Julie said she expects to adopt a daughter from China within the next year to 18 months.
The newest addition will be a newborn to 36 months old girl and have a minor correctible need, such as a club foot or hand, Julie said.
When asked whether her home will finally be full when a fourth child joins the family, Julie laughed slightly.
While there are no future adoption plans, Julie remembers she thought her life was full before.
“We have a lot of love in our hearts,” she said. “God has blessed us and we want to do what we can to serve him. We feel like he’s called us to do this.”
“To any family who feels like it’s impossible, it is impossible,” Julie said about adoption. “We believe all things are possible with God. I encourage other families to jump out and do it because you can experience amazing blessings.”