Private would not be a word I’d use to describe myself- my life is usually a pretty open book. But these past 6 months have been some of the most private months of my life. While close friends and family have known what’s up, I haven’t wanted to try to explain the emotions I’ve wrestled with daily to others. But I’m ready to talk. I’m ready to document this part of our journey. So *deep breath* here we go:
In July, shortly before heading back to Ethiopia, I posted an adoption update which if you don’t want to stop and read it, I can pretty much summarize here as “our three year adoption process is at a standstill, and I’m learning to hold it with an open hand and realize that God has more going on than I understand..” Still, after writing out how sovereign and good God was, I spent the next week struggling with depression over the whole situation. Two nights before we were to head across an ocean, I sobbed on the bed next to my husband, telling him I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t face the orphanages and the little sets of hurting eyes while feeling like my hands were tied behind my back. My husband was kind and wise and told me that we needed to add one thing to our Ethiopia trip to-do list: we needed to seek God while were there and ask questions from people in the adoption world while we were at ground zero.
As we were in our descent into Addis Ababa, the Lord gave me a verse from Genesis that said, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” That first week in country, as we embarked on an incredible journey with our team, Steven and I were also on a private hunt for answers. We talked to people who knew small Ethiopian adoption agencies, others who knew the climate of the adoptions there, and multiple families who had already adopted.
But after this first week, as we crawled into bed one night, we discussed not only how many dead ends we had uncovered but also how forced our investigation had seemed so far. Right there it hit me, and I remember commenting that we needed God to give the direction, not us. So we stopped and prayed and freshly turned our hearts away from our own understanding and towards the Lord’s leading.
At breakfast the next morning a team member, who had no idea about our personal journey and had only the night before heard from my sister (also on the trip) about our adoption story, came up to me. They shared that they had spent the evening before praying for us during which the Lord had impressed a certain word for us: “Every penny is accounted for.” While I was encouraged by this, we currently had the bulk of our adoption paid for, and didn’t understand the full meaning. But we were about to.
Now it’s impossible to tell the rest of the story without a time hop.
So push PAUSE on that morning in Ethiopia.
We’ll head back to my kitchen in Virginia- 3 MONTHS EARLIER.
I sat and talked to my little sister about a tiny baby girl for whom I had spent the last 24 hours praying. She was from a place dear to mine and my husband’s hearts. We had been alerted via email of her abandoned, tiny existence and how her life was literally hanging on by a thread. We knew she was being transported to a medical facility, and we were asked to pray. I recounted these events to my sister explaining that specific this child was born in a region that would currently render her unadoptable. I told her that I would take the baby if I could. And that was the end of that. We heard that the baby girl survived and was now living in a different orphanage in a different region. We hoped to possibly meet her while we were there. End of story. Or so we thought.
Now jump back in my time machine to our original story.
Where were we?
Oh, yes, that morning in Ethiopia.
Steven and I were team leaders for our trip so we hopped into a van, full of plans for the day. On the agenda were sponsorship home visits and some play time with kids at a local orphanage. (This was the orphanage to which the baby girl had been transferred.) But when we showed up at the appointed spot for home visits, it seemed that everything that could have gone wrong did. Plans overturned, a backpack stolen, and more not-so-fun stuff. Steven and I spent the morning scrambling around trying to put out little fires. When things had started to settle down, one part of our group was headed to finally start home visits and the other was heading to the orphanage. My husband told me he had things under control, put me in the van headed to the orphanage, and sent me off to go spend time with some kids.
We arrived and I sat in the courtyard with children that lived there. Behind me, one of the nannies brought out the little girl I’ve already told you about. I turned around and laid eyes on this child for the first time.
Now, in real life time, I’ve just sat here staring at my computer screen. How do I begin to describe the next moment of the story? Here’s my weak attempt at one of most surreal moments of my life…
I turned around, saw her, and knew. One thought pulsated through my heart and my mind so naturally that it scared me.
“I’m your mother.”
It wasn’t a decision or a contemplation. It was a knowledge. So deep that I knew it in my very bones.
I struggle here a bit because I don’t want to romanticize adoption. Adoption begins with loss. Without loss, there is no need for adoption. Adoption is not full of the warm and fuzzy. Many parents make a loving choice to bring home a child with whom they wait for months to feel bonded to. Adoption is not easy. I’ve watched the people who’ve walked before me. This is NOT fairy tale stuff.
But I cannot deny that I cannot deny what happened there in the courtyard of that orphanage.
And the next hour held wild, confirmation moment after wild, confirmation moment. All too fresh and personal for me to want to share here right now. My husband came back an hour later to a tear-stained wife clutching a precious 5 month old. He later told me that he knew the moment he looked into my eyes. He met and fell in love with her as well. We found out there was some hope for us to be able to adopt her. But we would have to switch adoption agencies and start from square one. Every dime, every paper- which if you’re a reader acquainted with the world of adoption, you’re probably cringing. That’s no small thing. Suddenly, “every penny is accounted for” has a whole new meaning. But over the next few days God began confirming in our hearts and in our conversations with others that this was what He was calling us to do.
We changed our plans at the end of the trip to spend more time with her. We took pictures and video and played with her and prayed over her. And then we said good-bye. Not sure if she would ever be ours but leaving her with one last promise whispered in her tiny ear before I got in the van: “I will do everything in my power to bring you home.”
One last kiss. And then my husband held me in the van as I sobbed. How could I walk away and get on a plane? Mothers aren’t supposed to do that.
On that airplane, I opened up my Bible to find that verse that assured me that nothing is “too hard for the Lord”- the one I’d been looking at during our descent 10 days earlier. There in the plane taking off, I realized something and drew in a deep breath- the context. I’d been so fixated on the tiny portion that I’d never looked at the surrounding verses. It was in reference to God promising a child to Abraham and Sarah. The verse that God had given me was about a child!
We arrived home and dove into the process of getting our old dossier back from Ethiopia, switching agencies, redoing our home study, redoing our dossier, and starting to gather the money so that we could work to do our part to get this little one home.
I can’t even begin to describe the emotional rollercoaster. Longing, fear, frustration, joy, hope, despair- going to bed each night with those big, onyx eyes and those mocha cheeks in my head. Waking again to feeling like our family is one person short. I’ve had some of my highest, trusting-God highs and some of my lowest, despairing lows. I wonder if she will grow up in our family or if she will grow up in an orphanage. And how do you begin to share this kind of stuff with someone? In the midst of mommy chats about school or sports, I’m feeling like another piece of me is across the world and wondering what she did that day.
To be frank, we still don’t know if the authorities will sign off on her adoption. We have glimmers of hope but nothing for certain. As my mother wisely reminded me, God is using this child- either to bring her home or to direct us to this little agency we are now with that will bring the right daughter home. But when it comes to this little one, I’ve tried to guard my heart from feeling so tied to her. I’ve fought it and wrestled with it. But you can’t undo such a thing.
The Lord finally last week brought some clarity to me on this situation. I’ve been petrified of being wrong- what if I’m not her mother even though I feel it so deeply? But He helped me go back and see that that wasn’t me who created the distinct feeling for her. It was Him. He’s helped me see that whether or not His good will is to bring her home as our daughter (and I pray my heart out that it is), the feelings I have for her are still important. How many orphans could use one woman out there who cries out to God every morning for them and who carries them on her heart even an ocean away? So adoptable or not, she’s important. She’s important to us, and she’s important to God.
And that’s why I wanted to tell you this story.
Final note: We are awaiting the last piece of our hard-earned dossier this next week. While our adoption agent is working hard to bring this specific child home to us, it’s just a waiting game right now. Currently we have an agreement to work specifically to bring this child into our home through this year, if at the end she is considered “unadoptable” we will be given a referral for another child in need. Our hearts cry out for this specific child to come home, and we would love your prayers. If you are interested in supporting our adoption (tax-deductible) you can do so HERE.