Last night I tried to write about Christmas. I started the post and couldn't get past the first sentence. I wanted to share stories and pictures from all four of our very special Christmas celebrations to help document the memories we made together. I wanted to write about Christmas, but I can't. Not yet anyway. I am plagued today in such a hard way, and I know I need to write this down first. I need to share my heart and pour it out in order move forward.
In my last post, I shared how the precious boy we had been pursuing since February 12th was not going to be our son. I have never experienced a miscarriage after conceiving biological children, but I will say this, a miscarriage is the only thing to which I can liken this experience. When we conceive a child, the heart of a mother becomes attached, bonded to that child. We know we might miscarry. We know the pregnancy could result in a child being born too soon or a still birth. The child may be diagnosed with a condition that will end its life too soon. We know in our hearts that we may lose this child, but we hope and we love with abandon anyway because we are mothers after all. It is what God created us to do.
The same concept is true with adoption. You see a child, and with the knowledge that you may never meet this child - due to illness, injury, a halting of the adoption process, not being chosen as the child's family, etc. - you fall in love anyway. You hope. You dream. You imagine the future. Your risk it all, falling in love, because the child is worth it. One redeeming piece of this story, as it has been written so far, is knowing that the little boy's family is absolutely, positively incredible. With amazing courage and tenderness, his mom reached out to me, and her family is all that I could ever hope for this sweet boy. I adore them and pray that their new son will be in their arms very soon!
When waves of grief come over me, I have to remind myself that God is good all the time. I trust Him above all else, and His ways are not my ways. This life is not about me, my happiness, or my comfort, even though I selfishly wish it was. I told the Lord 2 1/2 years ago that I would follow Him. I made the decision to stop playing it safe by living for myself and gave my life over to Him in a new way. While waiting for the little boy's file, I told God that I am not willing to get what I want at the expense of missing His purpose for my life. Less of me. More of Him. The Lord's decision is clear, and Ryan and I really believe that the right family was chosen for the little boy. I am learning that I can experience great joy and heartache simultaneously. One does not negate the other. The emotions are not mutually exclusive. Our peace with this situation is the result of our deep trust and surrender to His Will, as well as knowing that the chosen family is going to shower their son with unconditional love all the days of his life.
In an effort to move forward, Ryan and I have been looking at pictures and videos of many children on our agency's website. For those of you outside the adoption community, this is an extremely difficult experience. For those adoptive mommas and poppas out there, I know you feel me. We honestly did not look at our agency's waiting children a lot during our first adoption. When we did look at the waiting children, our hearts broke into a million pieces. Oftentimes, we would look at their age and special need because looking at their pictures hurt too much.
If you remember from my post about how we matched with Tucker, our social worker called us right before we had our fingerprints taken to ask us if we would consider a sweet little boy from Chongqing. Soon after seeing his pictures, video, and file, we said, "YES!" and Tucker became our third son.
Almost two years later, I have looked at more pictures and videos of waiting children that I can count. These children consume much of my Facebook newsfeed thanks to the advocacy efforts of the adoption community. I see blog posts on No Hands But Ours and posts by our agency with children of all ages and with every medical need you can imagine. On Christmas morning, rather than immediately seeing presents under a tree, I awoke to the picture below in my newsfeed with an accompanying video. Are you brave enough to watch 30 seconds of it? Can you get through the entire video? On Christmas morning, I honestly made it through about three minutes with tears in my eyes and had to turn it off. It is painful to see REAL children behind bars, ALONE in their cribs, in a REAL orphanage. This is real life, heart-wrenching stuff.
Relational poverty, policies within countries, disease, lack of resources, etc. have created the status of an orphan. However, all of us allow children to continue living apart from families by not inviting them into our own. Yes, Tucker is home with us, and yes, we will bring another child home, but when do we stop? When does our responsibility end? The truth is, it never will. "...Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless..." (Isaiah 1:17). God does not say, "I will call only a few people to help the orphan." God asks all of us to help these children.
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead...I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:14-18).
"So many won’t do anything unless they hear a voice from heaven telling them precisely what to do. Why not default to action until you hear a voice from heaven telling you to wait? For example: Why not assume you should adopt kids unless you hear a voice telling you not to? Wouldn’t that seem more biblical since God has told us that true religion is to care for the widows and orphans (James 1:27)?” (Francis Chan, You and Me Forever)
The fact that there are children waiting for a family is a reality that we allow. The significance and depth of that statement is not lost on me, especially at a time when I am faced with dozens of children waiting to be chosen. Their orphanages have prepared their paperwork. The governing bodies have approved their files for international adoption. Agencies has been selected to advocate for them. Now they wait to be chosen.
For our current adoption, Ryan and I are approved to adopt a boy or girl between the ages of 0-6. Because we adopting through the China Special Needs program, we had to determine which medical/special needs that our family felt capable of addressing. Our list of special needs is quite broad, as we know what a gift children with medical/specials needs are to families.
As you can imagine, I am overwhelmed by where things stand in our adoption process. To have been matched with the little boy would have been so much easier (because we loved him, felt a supernatural connection to him, and would not have to "find" our child since he was already known to us) than what we are facing, but God has not given us our desired easier road. We are faced with the reality of looking at pictures and videos and discussing special needs. We are asking ourselves, "What would it be like to parent a child who has lived in an orphanage for 5-6 years? What is it like to adopt a child without arms and how would he feel going to public school with his brothers? How would our friends and family feel if we adopted a child with HIV, and is that even something we would share with others? What would our lives look like if we adopted a child with cleft lip/palate, club feet, or thalassemia in terms of surgery, treatment, therapy, etc.?
The other day, I wrote down ten different names of children who are currently with our agency and fall within our age range and special need list. I'm sure there were many others. I found myself thinking, "Why not this kid? Why not her? Why not him?" I feel like I could choose any single one of them. They are all deserving of a family, and they all need medical care. How will we ever choose? And then, what is hurting the most right now is the fact that we are only bringing one child home. It is one thing to say yes to one child, but in doing so, we will say no to dozens of others. Some of them will be chosen, but others never will. It is heart wrenching, and I find myself wondering why all of these kids are waiting. They are all beautiful and amazing and deserving of a family, and the truth is, there are not enough families willing to adopt them. So they wait. Their pictures are posted on a list for days, weeks, months, and years. Out of the estimated 20 million orphans in China, 2,000 of them have files prepared, and they are waiting for 1 out of 7 billion people to bring them home. Of course I wish more than 2,000 children had files ready, but there aren't enough families coming forward to justify the expense of preparing them. Am I coming through to you? Does your heart break like mine? I am longing for people who share my heart.
So, today I really wanted to write about Christmas. I wanted to write about funny stories, generous gifts, and delicious food, but my heart is heavy with the decision we need to make. So many children are waiting, and I wish more families would rise up to bring them home. I am overwhelmed by the decision we have to make. Every single one of these children deserves a family, and we can only bring one home. Please God, lead us to the one you have chosen for us. Please guide us and make it so apparent that we know that this is the child you want us to bring home, just like we felt when we saw Tucker. We trust you and are willing to follow where you lead. For all of you reading, we appreciate your prayers, as we make what feels like an impossible decision and consider all the beautiful children who need families.