This first portion is the most difficult for me to put into words. Even as I think about it, tender feelings of love for my Father in Heaven and His special care for "those who are the least of these" surfaces, and a lump rises in my throat. I know that God is near... nearer than we think- and that He cares about the details of our lives... more than we know.
Some of you have met Mila, our youngest. She has a few nicknames that affectionately describe her personality- Cave Woman and Beasty (from the movie Maleficent), being the two most fitting. As harsh as they sound, they have been given with love, and partly out of desperation to find humor in the exhaustion that we feel at the end of the day because of her. While I love my little cave woman to pieces- in full disclosure- she has been our smallest baby, but has had the biggest personality. Maybe it's the combination of a Latin name with Latin genes. Whatever it is... all of that squeezed into less than twenty pounds, spills over into ear-splitting volume and enough energy to fuel a troop of caffeinated monkeys.
So, that being said... why would we consider adoption now, when our quiver was so recently blessed with such a rogue little arrow? I've wondered that same thing, at least a hundred times.
About a year ago, my sister shared a post on Facebook about three orphaned sisters in Ukraine who needed a family. Something unexpected happened inside of me, as I felt like there was someone unseen literally pulling me with a rope to find out more about these girls. After a couple of emails, I quickly learned that the post was outdated, and the girls had been adopted domestically. I struggled to gather my swirling thoughts. I was so confused. Why had I felt such a strong pull, only to have it lead me into a brick wall? Why was I feeling so deeply drawn to those three small pictures, even knowing that they were no longer available for adoption? I'm still not sure, but something inside of me changed deeply that day.
Out of curiosity, I began researching everything I could about adoption: the process, bonding with an adopted child, and talking to anyone I could that would help me understand it. I soon realized the magnitude of what I was looking into, and it was overwhelming, to say the least. Perhaps I was getting in over my head in thinking that this was something we should be considering at this point in our lives. We had just moved into our new house and we were still recovering financially from the move- not to mention the fact that I had five children under the age of 10, with my youngest being only 7 months old.
I discussed it extensively with Dennis for several days, and we both decided that now was simply not a good time. Perhaps in a few years it would be, just not now. And just like that, we decided to close the door on the idea of adoption.
And yet, I couldn't let it go. For weeks, it kept me up at night, and when I did finally sleep, it was filled with dreams of children. I felt the same sense of desperation and urgency a mother does when she turns around in a crowd of people, only to realize that one of her children is missing. All throughout the day and into the evening, I would continue researching and combing through hundreds of pages of children's profiles.
Dennis, however, didn't feel that same sense of urgency and it created feelings of frustration for both of us. He wondered why I was being so obsessive over something we had both agreed on not to do, and I couldn't understand how he wasn't feeling the same sense of urgency that I did. I spent many hours on my knees pleading for clarity. It seemed like every night my prayer was the same, "Father, I will do whatever You want me to do, just help me to know what that is, and I will do it." We inquired seriously on several children, but for one reason or another, knew they weren't the ones we were being led to.
There were several nights when I went to bed feeling heart-sick after hours of searching through hundreds of profiles. There is something inherently wrong about "shopping" for a child. How would I would pick him or her out of a sea of faces? I didn't even know who I was looking for! I couldn't help but imagine my biological children staring back at me through a profile picture and a few vague paragraphs, hoping against all hope to be seen by someone who would call them their own. Would I even recognize them?
The weeks went on, and I came across the profile of a sweet little boy in Ukraine. His screen name was Ian, and he stole my heart. I was put in contact with people who had met him, and they told me he was a diamond in the rough, more precious than we could imagine. His personality seemed like he would fit perfectly into our family. He even looked like he could have been one of our children. And best of all, Dennis was beginning to warm up to the idea of this sweet little boy joining our family. I was elated. It seemed like this is was who all the sleepless nights had been leading us to. After several days of prayer and feelings of peace, we felt like it was time to go the temple to seek our confirmation.
As I sat in the temple praying, I felt an overwhelming sense of God's love for this little boy. He was one of God's most precious children. I knew it. I could feel it in a way that was almost palpable, and tears of love began to flow. I also received a strong witness that God is in control, and that for Him, nothing is impossible.
But just as clear as had been my understanding of his infinite worth, I began feeling the tides of change from what I expected God to say, to what He was actually saying. A distinct and unmistakeable feeling of "no" was beginning to come over me. How could this be? I had felt His peace in the days leading up to this, and even just minutes before- and now the answer was "no?" I pled for understanding, and perhaps a different answer.
The silent tears turned to muffled sobs as once again the answer was a firm "no." Some of the temple patrons watched me with mild concern, but I couldn't stop the tears. I was a weeping like I hadn't wept in years- not for myself, but for all those precious faces that had flashed before me on the screen as I searched for my child. I was grieving for all the heart-wrenching stories of abandonment and loneliness that I had read. The flood gates had opened and though I had never met any of these children, it felt like I was grieving the pain and loss of my own biological children.
But now, something else followed- a more gentle feeling of reassurance, though it did little to stop the tears. "There is another family who needs to blessed by Ian. He would be good for your family, but there's another family who would be better for him." It provided some comfort, but I had no idea how long it would be before that happened, and he had already waited so long. God's time table is often so very different from our own. How many more years would he wait while I was expected to continue living my posh little life? I left the temple feeling devastated. Where had I gone wrong?
The tears flowed freely in the days following whenever I thought of my experience in the temple or little Ian. And yet surprisingly, all I wanted to do was go back to the temple- to that same place where God had told me "no." Because even though it broke my heart, I had never before felt God so close, or His love so strong.
It reminded me of when I was a little girl and my mother would scold me for doing something naughty in church. I remember crawling under the pew and crying. But more than anything, I wanted to crawl back on her lap and have her remind me that she still loved me. I would slowly move towards her, finally resting my head in her lap, where she would stroke my hair and dry my tears with her soft hands. Those are some of my tenderest childhood memories.
I told the Lord that night after the temple that I would accept His answer, but that if in three months Ian hadn't found a family, that I would petition Him again. As the three month mark drew near, I had begun praying about Ian again, to ask if perhaps the Lord would now consider us as candidates for His precious son. As clear as my answer had been that day in the temple, I wanted so badly to think that perhaps it had just been a matter of poor timing on my part.
Just days before the three-month mark, I received the news from my friend. Ian had found a family! As I read on his adoptive momma's blog the details of how she found him, it was nothing short of miraculous. Clearly, it was part of a larger master design. Ian would be coming home to his new family soon- sooner than if we had committed to him. And the family he was coming into was perfect for him, a much better match than any mortal person could have designed for him. Again, the tears flowed freely, but this time they were tears of joy.
I realized that somehow this will all be made right. The day will come when the tears of the motherless and fatherless will be dried, and we will see His hand in all things.
I'm not sure why I felt prompted to share something so personal. Perhaps it's because of how many people have told me they have felt stirrings that seem to be leading them towards adoption. Because adoption has become so near and dear to my heart, I love hearing people's stories, and hope that this might help someone who might be feeling like God is preparing their path. Whatever our stories are, they are as unique to each of us as the fingerprints on the tips of our fingers. But this I have seen over, and over, and over again- adoption stories are full of miracles and constant reminders of God's love for each of His children.