Our entire adoption process with Ava took about four years and seven months. Although it seemed sudden, it actually was a very long journey. It was 2012 when Phil and I felt a very strong desire to add to our family through adoption.
For every meal, car ride, vacation, or family activity, we all had something similar to say. . .”someone is missing.” I would do a head count because it just seemed like we had left someone behind or were missing someone.
“Someone is missing”
As both an adoptive and biological mother, I can tell you that all of my children were conceived within me. God placed my biological children in my belly and He placed my adopted children in my heart. All long before they made their appearance in our arms.
The desire to have another child and the love I felt for her long before I even knew she was a girl who had blond hair and blue eyes grew beyond measure. I fell madly and deeply in love with her.
That love for the unknown fuels a passionate drive in an adoptive parent. When you are pregnant- you have a time frame. You know your child will come to you as a newborn. You don’t know their hair color or eye color or facial features, but you know some of their genetic make up and therefore can imagine a little bit of what you will see upon their birth. You know that you have approximately 40 weeks to prepare and can plan on meals, clothing, furniture, diapers, etc. You know you won’t be pregnant for 2 or 3 or 4 or more years. You have a few certainties amongst many uncertain moments when pregnant.
When you are expecting a child through adoption– you do not have a time line. You do not know if you will bring home a child in two weeks, two months, or two years. You do not know the gender, eye, hair or even skin color. You do not even know the genetic make up that may lend certain characteristics to your child. You may not even know the age of your next child. Buying clothes, furniture and diapers are many times gathered together in a last minute basket of details that will take place after your child comes home. You can take on the task of preparing and freezing meals ahead of time- but then after six months you start to defrost and eat them so they don’t waste to freezer burn.
The “paper pregnancy” is hard. Worse than any hyperemesis I’ve ever experienced with my biological pregnancies.
The adoption process is emotional, exciting, heart breaking, exhilarating, and exhausting all at the same time. Yes, it is exactly like that rollercoaster ride you hear about. So why do we do it? Why?
“So why do we do it? ” Why did we want to adopt?
Because we have a child. . . in our hearts. . .that we must find. And we will search, and run, and fight, and sweat, and bleed, and cry, and scream, and work until we find them.
That is the only way I could describe it to my friends. I had a child out there somewhere. I didn’t know if they had even been conceived. But I knew they were placed in my heart and the love is NO different from that of the children that grew in my belly.
Phil and I made a habit of having family prayer each night no matter the circumstances. We would grab hands with our children and stand in a circle and pray. We would plead with God to hold on to our child’s birth mom and keep her safe. We would pray for our child. We would pray for our children standing with us and very graciously joining us on this incredible journey. We would pray and ask God to clear our debt and bring the money to bring our child home to us. We would pray that God would fill the empty chair at the table. We would pray for strength to endure the process.
Our adoption journey began to open our eyes to our own adoption by God. His sacrifice and love to bring us home to Him is overwhelming. And with each step, both joyous and painful, we were brought to that moment of saying YES all over again. How much did we love this child unknown? How much suffering would we endure to find her? How much would we lose to gain her presence into our lives? How much would we endure to answer God’s call to drop our lives for another?
We could say all of those same things about God’s adoption of His children. He said Yes when he put his child on the cross to suffer and take away our sins. He endured to bring us home. His love is that great. Sometimes almost seeming foolish, yes. We cannot fathom His love and mercy and grace. And our tiny little journey to bringing home Ava began to mirror our savior’s story of adopting us into His family. His great story gave us HOPE for our little story. And our HOPE in his story was our strength to continue each step by step.
But answering the call and following Christ comes at a cost. Sometimes a great cost. And for our family- we learned we would suffer greatly as payment for answering the call to adoption.
It started with the death of a neighbor. Followed by the death of one of our breeding dogs. The rolling sorrow of death and loss began to pick up momentum the closer we got to finding Ava. At each new “yes” in the form of a signature, sacrifice of a vacation or giving up cable or going out to eat. Each time we made a small step towards our goal- we endured suffering.
I recall breaking down when our close neighbor, who was like a grandpa to the kids, suddenly passed away. It just felt like our world was beginning to crumble in upon us.
“Were we nuts?” “Were we following Christ in obedience or were we simply infatuated with the idea of adoption?”
We began to wonder if we were simply pushing something God wasn’t asking of us. After losing cattle, dogs, puppies, a horse, money, our health. . .we were breaking down.
Just a few months into our journey, I learned I had diabetes. I remember breaking down and crying- knowing this would most likely end our ability to adopt. I had read about people being denied due to health issues. But in the end- it was a stumbling block- not a concrete wall. After getting my blood sugar under control- I knew we would continue the journey. Just a little more work. . .that’s all. Always a little more. . .
Next, Phil required knee surgery. The medical costs were daunting and we wondered if we would ever regain the funds to adopt. Our child we were so desperately searching for seemed to be slipping from our finger tips.
We decided we needed to work harder. I don’t ever want Ava to read about her story and think that we endured and suffered and harbored regret. On the contrary…we want her to read her story and read about the suffering and hard work and see just how much we love her and wanted her and chased after her to bring her home to us!
Instead of focusing on every challenge we faced- I want to bring to light how God brought us through discouragement, sorrow, loss and suffering to a point of rejoicing, being renewed to walk the hard path of adoption.
We took on more puppy litters for a year to bring in the funds to prepare for Ava to come home. Each morning seemed like a monstrous challenge. I would enter the puppy nursery that was wall to wall- floor to ceiling puppy poo and cry out to God. Let me tell you- we worked HARD to find Ava. We physically worked our fingers to the bone. We worked until it hurt and then we would push past the pain until we didn’t feel anything. We were exhausted as we put in extra hours to bring in the funds. And when I wanted to throw in the towel- God would send me a song. I would turn up the radio and every time. . .He would speak to me in song.
Music has always been a huge way for me to worship and cry out to God as well as be refreshened, nourished and encouraged.
God always knew the perfect song to play at just the right moment. My list that sometimes still plays can bring on a flood of tears and joy all at the same time. We had a theme song to our adoption for Ava. “Thrive” by Casting Crowns. My mind would be fuming in anger for the suffering we were enduring. My heart would be breaking for the child I was missing and when I felt my soul was about to give out. . .that song. . .”Thrive” would start to play and I would sing through the tears until I was shouting and praising God. Poopy gloves lifted high in the sky- my smile would return and God would give me every bit of endurance needed to finish the task at hand.
My play list:
- Thrive, by Casting Crowns
- Amos Story, by Aaron Ivy / Austin Stone Worship
- You Make Me Brave, by Bethel Music and Amanda Cook
- It is Well, by Bethel Music and Kristene DiMarco
- God of The Impossible, by Everfound
- While I’m Waiting, by John Waller
- Orphan, by John Waller
- Breathe, by Jonny Diaz
- Farther Along, Josh Garrels
- Soar, by Meredith Andrews
- Worn, by Tenth Avenue North
- Good Fight, by Unspoken
- How He Loves, by David Crowder Band
- God Is On The Move, by 7eventh Time Down
- Promises, by 7eventh Time Down
Adoption is not just a journey. It is a fight, a war. When you put your yes on the line and your heart is poured out on the alter before God, you are fighting against a very powerful force that would love to devour you before you can carry out God’s plan and purpose in your life. Adoption is God’s calling. And Satan would love to destroy you and this calling. So how does one even begin to fight in such a battle.
First, armor up. The Bible tells us to put on the FULL armor of God. Not just the helmet or the breastplate. No, ALL parts of the armor. Keep truth next to your heart. Memorize verses, have a theme song to inspire you to keep going. Write verses and quotes and place them throughout your house. Never stop praying. Never stop talking to God. Never stop praising God and thanking Him for the miracle around the corner. Speak biblical truths to yourself so it becomes louder than the discouragement in your head.
But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31
And just when you think all is lost. . .just when you want to lay your head down and never get back up. . .THAT is when God shows up and He shows up big. God does not always move when you ask. But when He does. . .He moves quickly!
Today we celebrated Ava’s second birthday. It’s been 2 years since I received that phone call on a Wednesday afternoon telling us of a baby girl born and needing a family. “Are you interested? Do you want her?”
Do we want her? We’ve never wanted anything more.