As we tiptoe into the world of adoption, and as I find more and more pieces of my heart taken by hurting and broken kids, these words from Anne Heffron (an adoptee herself,) really gave me pause. They just seemed to fit this place I am in right now and I found them so valuable. As a “fixer” I am after the happy ending. I keep waiting to turn the corner, to the exhale of “and then everything was ok.” These last few weeks have made me realize, well, that just isn’t always reality. For anyone who knows a kid or an adult from a hard place, I think you will find this valuable as well. It’s through this lens that I have processed my last trip to Guatemala.
I think many people adopt babies for the same reason people adopt kittens: they want something soft to protect and love that will love them back. What if you think of an adoptee more like a porcupine? A porcupine doesn’t choose to have quills. It just has them, and this changes the way you can touch it. Hoping that one day the quills will disappear and soft fur will emerge is useless and harmful. What if adopting a child does not guarantee you will receive love back in the same measure you give it (or, I have to say, at all)? Would you still travel this road?
We like our stories to have happy endings, and we force most of our experiences through the funnel of “and then everything was okay,” and I’m here to tell you that I’m doing the best I can in this life with the body and mind I was given: one full of glass shards, and it’s a lot of work to try to keep up with those who weren’t in an “accident.” I know the ending is supposed to be happy, and so I’m trying. When you look at me with your lipid eyes, wondering why I don’t open up to you, I won’t tell you it’s because I can’t. I won’t tell you it’s because I am in so much pain I can’t even process your questions. I won’t tell you because I know you won’t understand. I won’t tell you because maybe I don’t understand myself. I won’t tell you because you are asking a porcupine why it doesn’t purr, and this blindness makes me fear that either you or I are crazy, and this fear makes real communication feel impossible.
Somewhere over the US, between Georgia and Ohio, as we were closing in on home in the waning hours on a Tuesday, I woke up with a start and had a moment of unfocused clarity. “What in the world are we doing? How did life end up like this?”
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This past year we have covered thousands and thousands of miles, one step at a time, some have been big steps and some little steps, some fast, some frustratingly, agonizingly slow. It brought mountains and impossibilities, and tears and fears, but also answered prayers, and hope lost and hope renewed, and on this night, the realization, unlike ever before, of the viciousness of the double-edged sword of love.
This isn’t necessarily our adoption story, although that was why I was on this plane, headed home, one week before Christmas, with a constant running list of to-dos in my mind. Our son, who has been the catalyst for impossible prayers, tears, and our faith-multiplying story of a God of redemption who keeps His promises and never forgets, is never far from my thoughts. And I fully believe, that one of these times, he is going to be sitting next to me, winging over the mountains, and heading home, with us, forever.
In the middle of this night though, my heart was aching for the other goodbyes that I had to say on this day, aching for the boys whom hope has escaped. The boys who will never know family like they deserve. The boys who are prickly and full of pain that I will never fully understand, no matter how hard I try.
I know I have said it before, but because it smacked me in the face again on this trip, I am reminded of how terrifying hope is. What happens when what you have hoped for doesn’t happen? What happens when what you have prayed for, desperately, isn’t answered? What happens when the secret longings of your heart fade, unmet? How long before it changes you? How long before you give up on it and walk away?
As is the dichotomy of the milestones in our adoption journey, our personal victories seem to be marked by other’s tragic circumstances. Our celebrations magnify their loss.
On this night, I rested easy in the knowledge that our son knows we love him, that we want him, that he is a blessing to us from God. He knows that although I have to leave, I will be back. He knows that he is part of a family. And until he understands it, at least he knows it. I have seen with my own eyes the difference it is making in his life. This child is not the same child who we invited into our family 6 months ago. God is doing a work in his heart and I am beyond grateful that he has chosen us to be his hands and feet in this endeavor.
But, this “before” story isn’t unique. He is but one child waiting on a family. For years he carried the weight of “why not me?” that so many of the children I know carry. The burden of unspoken despair that fills hope’s absence. On this night, these burdened were the ones my heart was hurting for. Suspended above the earth, shoulder to shoulder with a stranger, these were the feelings I was trying to sort through.
My world, as much as our son’s has changed in the last year and in all of the redemption that I have seen in his story, I also find myself with a front row seat to a world of destruction and brokenness. This world is very different from mine and not only unfamiliar, but uncomfortable. These things, combined with having to watch the ones I have come to love, endure the consequences of such a world can be terrifying and heartbreaking at times. Their failures, their screw-ups, their missteps, the times when they literally blow it all to hell, they leave me wishing I could do more.
On nights like this, this life cuts my faith to the quick. And as I said goodbye to one sweet, hurting soul today, I tried to encourage him that there is always hope, even as he protested in disagreement and disbelief. I slipped off my esperanza (hope) bracelet that I have worn for years, urging him to put it on and be reminded that God is able to redeem any situation. I have to believe it because if I don’t, where does it leave me? How do we continue to push forward without hope when it all seems so exhausting?
It is so hard to keep hope alive during the waiting. For these kids, they are stuck in an endless, heartbreaking, wait. Waiting to be reunited with their family. Identity. Longing to be chosen by a family. Belonging.
Pick me. Choose me. Love me
How did I get here? Holding my breath, waiting on the exhale of the happy ending, waiting on it all to be ok. And if it’s not, well, we still continue to travel this road. I will “mom-love” as many of these kids as God will allow, whatever that looks like, for however long I have.
For those who are following the adoption process, on December 9th, we received our Notice of Decision in the mail. Our adoption application was denied by USCIS. Not specifically because Guatemala is closed to international adoptions, but because our home study wasn’t signed and dated. Essentially, we were stuck in a catch 22 because no agency is certified to process a Guatemalan adoption, no agency is certified to do a Guatemalan Hague Review. I will say that in some ways, our denial was received with a bit of relief, at least now we knew and I didn’t have to spend my days waiting on an answer anymore. On this Monday night, we also knew this, God did not bring us this far to leave us here, denied. We didn’t know which direction he was leading, when it would happen, what it would be, but we knew hope. There weren’t a lot of words spoken this particular evening, what was there left to say. But we went to bed with a prayer on our lips, buried in our hearts, “Lord lead us. We are waiting here for you.”
Just when my hallelujah was tired You gave me a new song…
The next morning, He led us directly to an adoptive mother who’s compassion and connections, position, and knowledge, have opened doors we couldn’t have imagined having access to, people who believe in us, in what we are fighting for, coming alongside of us, with the knowledge and resources, to not only help us carry it but take the lead in driving it forward. In our darkest moment, God breathed fresh life and hope into our situation. Providing a new adoption agency, an attorney, and multiple advocacy groups rallying around us, and the cause. A group we have affectionately dubbed “our dream team.” Next week my question for them is, how do we bring our son home this year.
2019 was a wild ride. I have no idea what 2020 will bring. I have a feeling it’s going to require a good deal of courage and grace and I am going to need to consciously hold on to hope because I know just how slippery it can be. I know that Christmas has passed but these are words that I am going to hang onto, and remember, as the waiting gets long in 2020.
Jesus didn’t arrive without a wait. While you and I simply turn the page, moving effortlessly from the end of the Old Testament promises to the opening of Matthew’s Gospel, it wasn’t quite that easy. Four hundred years of silence spanned the gap between the final prophecies spoken in Malachi (the last Old Testament book) and the birth of Christ.
Imagine four hundred years without a word from God—no voice, no prophet, nothing. Imagine the agony of waiting, and the struggle to keep faith in the promises given long before. You can almost hear the questions being passed from one generation to the next. Was God gone? Was He ever really there? Was faith in Him just a waste?
From the beginning, the Christmas story has been one of fulfilled longing. It reaffirms our faith and gives us reason to celebrate the goodness and nearness of God. As we struggle with our own sense of silence and strain to see God at work in our messy lives, Christmas urges us on by reminding us that God will come through on His promises.
~Excerpt from Waiting Here for You by Louie Giglio
On your mark. Get set. Ready or not, here comes 2020…