“Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
God leads His dear children along.”
This is part of the second verse of “God Leads Us Along”. It’s been one of my favorite hymns since college, and I sing it to Peter each night before bed. The last couple of weeks have been rough. Really rough. And I’ve experienced the truth of these words in a deeper way, a way that can only be realized from the valley.
Adoption is amazing and wonderful, but it is hard. There are so many thoughts and questions that are unique to adoption. When each of my girls was growing inside of me, things were clear. The child growing inside of me belonged to me. She was my baby. I would keep her and love her, regardless of gender or health or anything else. For better or worse, she was my child. And that was that. With adoption, things aren’t so clear. You choose your child. You decide what kind of child you would like. There’s a list and you fill it out. You check “boy” or “girl” or “either”. You check off a particular age. The hardest part is deciding which types of special needs you will accept. Again, there’s a list, and you just check things off. The idea of choosing- it’s difficult.
Well, we checked things off the list, filled things out, made some hard decisions, and submitted our paperwork, because that’s just how it works. After four and a half months of jumping through the proper hoops (doctor’s appointments, fingerprints, home study visits, notary signatures, financial documents, homeland security approval, etc.) our dossier is now complete. It was sent off to China on February 28. Here is a picture of Steve with our dossier right before putting it in the mail.
While we were in the final steps of completing our dossier, I came across the sweetest little fellow. His picture was on the Waiting Child List with our adoption agency (AWAA). Every month AWAA receives new files for children who can be adopted. They match these children with families based on what the families have marked and checked off on their lists. If there are children who can’t be matched with a family, they post their pictures and some information about them on the Waiting Child List. Steve and I had agreed that we wanted to let AWAA match us with a child, rather than attempting to find one on a list. That’s the way it happened with Peter and that’s the way we wanted to do it again. Every once in a while though, I would look at the list just out of curiosity. And that’s how I found little Mark. He is 13 months old and has an unrepaired cleft lip and palate. He seemed pretty perfect to me. Steve promptly scolded me for looking at the list and warned me not to get attached. Our dossier wasn’t yet complete and we couldn’t request his file until the dossier was on its way to China. Steve didn’t want me to get my hopes up. I assured him that I wouldn’t get attached. I only wanted the child that God had for our family. So if it wasn’t Mark, it would be no problem. That’s what I truly felt.
But… Steve is always right. :) My heart got just a bit involved and before long, I was attached. I didn’t know if he was the child God had for our family, but I hoped. I thought he must surely be, since I loved him so. After our dossier was sent off, Steve called AWAA and requested Mark’s file. They emailed it to us and we sent it to three different doctors for review. The file looked normal, but it’s part of the process to have it checked by at least one doctor. One by one, each of the doctors’ assessments came in, and each one was the same. They were all concerned that there could be a more serious special need not listed in the file, but evident in his pictures. In order to determine whether or not this need exists, there would have to be a panel of tests and such which are not available to an orphan in China. After talking with our family coordinator at AWAA, we were faced with the reality that there isn’t any way to obtain reliable answers. There is no way to find out whether or not little Mark has this more significant special need or not.
Steve and I prayed and prayed. We didn’t feel the peace that God was leading us to continue down this road with Mark. Steve struggled but felt sure that it was the right thing to return Mark’s file. He’s so steady. I agreed and didn’t feel God was leading us to continue on. But I didn’t feel peaceful like Steve. I felt horrible. I was devastated. And full of so many questions. Why did God fill me with such love for a little boy who we weren’t meant to adopt? If Mark were growing in my womb and we received the same news about him that we had just now received, there wouldn’t be any questions about whether or not his physical need was too big. We would love him and care for him and never question it. We wouldn’t question whether or not it was a good decision for our family to have a child with a large special need. But we question it now. Why??? Why don’t we just say that we’ll take any child, with any need, of any age- any child God gives us? That’s how it is when you are pregnant with a child. You get the child God gives to you, special need or not. Is our decision a lack of faith on our part? Is it selfishness? What if Mark is totally fine and there actually is no serious need? And my biggest question and fear- what if sweet little Mark never knows the love of a family? What if no one chooses him? The thought of that is too much for me.
I felt like there was a heavy weight on me and it was really hard to carry on. I cried every day for quite a while. I kept thinking of his sweet face. There were moments when I felt peaceful, but I felt so sad. So sad for Mark and for all the children who don’t have a family. However, through all the sadness and questions, God’s hand on me. He was there the whole time, quietly showing me that He has everything in His hands. I can let it all go and trust Him to take care of it. He loves Mark and sees him right now where he is. I don’t know whether or not he will be adopted- I probably won’t ever know. But God does, and I can leave it in His hands. When I rested in these truths and gave Mark to Him, I felt peaceful. But then I would take it back and start all over again with the questions. And I constantly felt sad. I’m an optimist- a glass is half full kind of person. So I kept waking up in the morning, hoping I would be finished with all this sadness (and especially with the tears). But to no avail. I was just struggling along.
Then last Thursday when I was praying, things changed. I was praying for Mark just like I have been since I first saw him, and I didn’t hurt so much. And when I prayed for Nathan (that’s the name we’ve chosen for whoever we adopt), I felt ready for him. Up to that point, I had been feeling very unsure about whether or not I was ready for a referral. After returning Mark’s file, we were put back in the line-up to be matched with a child. When AWAA gets new files and matches them with families, it’s called a referral. The referral call is when your family coordinator calls you and then emails you the file of the child they believe matches your family. I just wasn’t sure if I was ready for that. But that day I felt like I might be. To finally see the face of our little guy sounded pretty okay with me. In the next couple of days I realized the weight and the sadness were gone. God answered my prayers. I am so thankful.
I still love Mark and long for him to be adopted and loved. But I am at peace with God’s direction and guidance, leading us down a different path. Adoption and childbirth are two different things, but I was thinking of them as though they were the same. They’re not. In pregnancy, a child is born. There is no choice about the kind of child that will join a family. On the contrary, adoption is the choosing of a particular child. In choosing one child, you’re not choosing countless others. That concept has been so hard for me, especially when viewing it through the same lens as childbirth. God does give us a choice in adoption, but He also gives us the wisdom and grace to make that choice. There are millions of children who need a family, some with no needs, some with minor needs, and some with major needs. Families are needed for all of them. Steve and I both want God’s will for our family and God’s will for Mark. I was worried that maybe we weren’t really willing, deep down, to follow God into the unknown that would come with adopting Mark. I was worried that we were lacking in faith. But God knows Mark intimately and He knows our family. He also knows countless things that we don’t. And there is no denying that He did not give us the peace to continue. He was actually leading us in a different direction. We prayed for Him to change our hearts if they weren’t right and to teach us anything He wanted us to learn. But each time I prayed, I felt God telling me that He has a plan for Mark and a different plan for our family, having nothing to do with our faith or lack thereof. He was asking me to trust Him. Nothing more.
I don’t know why God filled me with such a love for the little guy. I may never know. But that’s okay. I give up. And I’m choosing to focus on what I do know. I know that God loves Mark. I know that He sees him right where right he is. I know He is sovereign and good. He is in control. And that’s enough. That’s all I need to know. So I will continue to pray for little Mark, and I would be thankful if you would too. While I’m doing that, I am preparing my heart for our Nathan. I can’t wait to see his face.
“Some thru the waters, some thru the flood,
Some thru the fire, but all thru the blood;
Some thru great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.”