I have purposely put off writing this blog entry. I knew it would eventually have to be written. When I made the commitment to blog about our adoption journey, I made the commitment to be transparent - in the good, the bad, and the ugly. Well, that's easier said than done, I've discovered. But, since the last few months will likely mark the rest of the journey, it's a story that I need to share. I had hoped that by the time that I would write this, that I could tell you what it means in our life and in our adoption journey. I had hoped it would be all tied up with a big red bow. But, here we are. No pretty bow. We are still figuring it all out. But, the time has come to share this newest phase of our journey.
On September 28th, Neal and I received our monthly e-mail from our adoption agency giving us our newest number on the waitlist. We were #91. As is my monthly custom, I texted a few of my closest girlfriends with the update. One of my dearest friends (who is also in the adoption process herself) texted me back a typical, "That's awesome! So happy for you!" response, and then, she said something like this, "There's a set of infant, twin boys in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is nobody who meets their criteria, but I think you guys do. I just felt like I was supposed to tell you about them." My first thought was a very profound, "HUH?" Now, let me tell you, that this is one of my dearest friends. She is wise beyond her years, and her husband was our (much beloved!) pastor for several years when we lived in Alabama. And, when she speaks (or texts), I listen. ;) She is just THAT kind of friend. So, we started a conversation back and forth about these boys. How could WE be a match? We have a Home Study and Dossier for 1 child, not 2. And, they are for Ethiopia, not DRC. However, she really did think we could be a match for them. So, when Neal came home, I hit him with the news. His questions were all the same as mine. We talked about it. We didn't understand ANY of it, but we came to the conclusion that we were open to hear more...
What followed was a weekend full of communication. We talked to each other, we talked to my friend, we talked to the person who had the referral for the twins, we talked to others with info, and we talked all in between about what this could mean for our family. After all the talking was done and we had as much information as we could get, and after discovering that pursuing the referral for the twins would (hear "should) only mean two minor changes in our Home Study (from 1 child to 2; and from Ethiopia to DRC), we decided to pursue them. Now, for you who think that is weird or crazy or irrational or whatever, let me just explain something. Adoption is a journey. For us, it is about being obedient to follow God however He leads us. You CANNOT enter the adoption journey thinking that your path will look a certain way, land you in a certain country, or that you will arrive at a certain time. It is MUCH more organic than that. It has twists and turns, ups and downs, and sometimes those death-defying spins that make you feel like you are going to throw up and possibly want to slap somebody. True story. We KNEW that before, but we BELIEVE it now. The other thing that I must explain to you is that few years ago, I heard a sermon by David Platt (who is one of my favorite preachers/authors). In that sermon, he said that any time that we are presented an opportunity or a need (be it the mission field, a mission trip, adoption, someone in need, etc.,) that our first response should never be "no." Our first response, if possible, should be to go prayerfully to God and ASK Him what we are to do about what has been presented to us. Because, often our first response is based on feelings, insecurity, and a lack of faith. And, I was greatly impacted by that sermon. So, that's basically what we said from the beginning. We will talk about it and pray about it and see where God leads us. So, that's what we did. We got all the info, and we felt STRONGLY that God was leading us to take the next step.
The next two weeks, for me, were some of the hardest in my life. Neal and I pursued these twin boys as hard as we could. I had, very ironically, lost my voice during the middle of all of this, so the burden of most of the fighting fell on Neal. The very next day, we found out that the "simple changes" that needed to be made to our Home Study were not going to be simple. THAT should not have come as such a shock to us, because NOTHING about our original Home Study was simple. Our Home Study took 8 months to complete when the average is 2-4 months. And, this is where I cannot get to deep into details, but we came up against a force that I cannot even describe. This was a battle that was more than just between us and the bureaucracy of the adoption world. This was a spiritual battle. We fought hard for these boys, and we believed with everything in us that we were to be their parents, and they were to be our sons. But, at the end of the day, bureaucracy won, and we lost the referral. And, our hearts were BROKEN.
One of the first decisions that we made almost as soon as we received the referral information for the twins was that we would not look at their pictures until we knew they were going to be ours. We also did not want to tell our biological kids (and they still don't know). Both were good decisions. However, God used the decision not to look at their pictures to teach me a very important lesson. For the entire time that we have been in this adoption process, I have wondered how I would ever love an adopted child they way that I love the three biological children that He gave us. I have heard people I trust, who know from experience, say that I will. And, I have believed them. But, at the same time, I have still just wondered and not understood how that would even be possible. However, in those two weeks, God showed me the answer. I will love whatever child or children He brings into our family through adoption exactly the same as I love the three He has already given us. I know, because over the course of those two weeks of fighting for the twins, Neal and I fell in love with them.
Up until this point in our marriage, we have not experienced any significant losses. Not to say that our life has been easy or without hardship. It has not. However, we have not lost a parent, a sibling, a child, or had a miscarriage. This was our first real heartbreak. And, for those of you who have experienced one of the other losses, I am not saying they are the same. And, I cannot even explain to you, in a way that makes any sense, the loss that we have felt over losing two little boys we have never met. But, I can tell you it is REAL. And, we aren't over it. I really, really wish we were. But, some days, I am just not sure we ever will be.
I heard it said one time that God "entrusts us" with sorrow. I don't know why He entrusted this to us. But, I have NO doubt that He will one day use it for His glory. I pray and hope that He will. It has altered us forever. I have no doubt that in twenty years, that I will still have tears in my eyes on some days when I think about those sweet little boys. We are still neither one great at talking about it. I can still get tears in my eyes just driving down the road, if I hear a certain song or something reminds me of them. But, one thing that God has proven in our lives is that He is Jehovah Rophe - The God who heals. And, He has already started the process of healing in our hearts. It is not going as fast as I would like it to go, but I am convinced that these boys were meant to be part of our adoption story. Please pray for us as we continue to move forward. It's very tough to keep going when you know that your first loss might not be your last. There may be more pain ahead for us. There could be another dream that falls through. Please pray for us that we would continue to be faithful no matter what lies ahead.
Not only has this experience impacted our hearts, it has impacted our adoption journey. Through these two little boys, we started a process of learning about a country called The Democratic Republic of the Congo. I went from not being able to find it on a map of Africa to having my heart broken for what is one of the saddest places on the planet and the 4th poorest country in the world. The DRC has seen an unbelievable loss of life in recent years, and the Second Congo War was the deadliest war in the history of the world, second only to WWII. The DRC is an extremely dangerous place for women, boys, and girls, and has earned the unlovely title of "The Rape Capitol of the World." And, currently, the eastern DRC has been overtaken by a rebel force called M23 that is again reaking havoc on a very poor and unstable government and its innocent people, and it once again is very dangerous place to be.
All these things should make us want to run away from this country. But, in a way I cannot explain, we are still very drawn to the DRC. However, we are currently STILL in the process to adopt from Ethiopia. Both countries have great need. Both countries have 5 million orphans EACH in need of homes. We are talking through some big decisions in our house right now. We cannot talk too much about the details just yet, but I at least wanted you to understand where we are. So, for the few friends of mine who have been brave enough to ask, "How's the adoption going?" I'm sorry for the barage of info that has been jumbled and fractured and confusing. That's just where we are right now. It honestly feels a little bit like a mess. But, we definitely still feel like God is in it and He has a plan. Pray for us as we figure out what that is.
Please pray for us as we make some decisions in the coming weeks. We are in the middle of our Home Study update with a NEW Home Study agency. That is a blessing. :) Again, I can't go into specifics, but God blessed us with a new start for this new Home Study, and we are tremendously thankful for the chance at a do-over.
More details to come soon as we figure out where this thing is headed. As I told a friend the other day, the only thing that I am certain of right now is that ONLY God knows how this will all play out. But, I am certain He knows. And, I am certain He is still in it.
Bless you for caring enough to follow our journey. So many of you have encouraged our steps on days when we needed it most. We are doing our best to follow His leading one day at a time.