Each adoption tells a story.
When our family was in the midst of the laborious form-filling, check-writing, waiting, waiting, waiting stage of our daughter Lucy’s adoption, we had plenty of time to envision how our story—how Lucy’s story—would go.
We had plenty of education, you see. We read and re-read The Connected Child, we attended seminars via webcast, and we (somewhat obsessively) researched attachment and the like. We diligently prepared our three biological children, ages six, eight, and ten, the best we knew for the transition to come. We knew that hard days were ahead, and we did everything we could to brace for impact.
Yet, can we ever be ready?
Nothing could have prepared us for the story God had written for our family, because the path He asked us to pursue had never before been walked. You see, we’re American missionaries living in Australia who simply wanted to adopt a Chinese little girl. As complicated as that sounds, we had the security of precedence: Hundreds of families living abroad had adopted internationally without complications. We were assured by many in authority that the same result would be true for our family.
So, after meeting sweet Lucy and becoming six instead of five (this sentence alone deserves its own book!), our family parted ways in the Guangzhou airport — my husband and three bio kids headed home to Australia, and my new sensory-deprived, extremely unattached fifteen-month-old daughter Lucy and I headed to America to obtain Lucy’s automatic U.S. citizenship and U.S. passport. Our family would be separated for two weeks, which would be difficult, but doable.
We had prepared, remember? We had this. Bring it on.
And then. A suspicious passport agent. Lucy’s passport denied. A political and legal battle. Lucy’s U.S. citizenship denied. Lucy and I separated across the globe from the other loves of my life — we could not get to them! — not for two weeks, but in the end, for two months.
We were not prepared.
Isn’t this where God usually meets us? In our desperation? It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. It’s true.
Our story did not go as planned. Below is an excerpt from my newly released book, Bringing Lucy Home. As you’ll read, God did not give me my desired result, and I did not like it. Yet in my grief, a baby girl who had been fighting my affections taught me what it means to cease striving, lean in, and rest.
After all, He is the most trustworthy Author of our story.
January 23, 2014
Home felt so close I could almost taste it.
In my imagination, I could see my kids’ huge grins as I rounded the corner at the airport and spotted them for the first time. I could feel my little girl’s curls tickling my nose as I buried my face in her hair. I could hear my sons arguing about how much Lucy had really grown since they saw her last. I could feel my husband’s warm, strong embrace. I could envision the tears in his eyes as he held his baby girl for the first time in over a month and gently kissed her nose.
So close. So very, very close.
It reminds me of the half marathon I ran a few years ago. This was my second half marathon, and I was so excited. My training had gone really well, my iPod was loaded with all my favorite tunes, and I was pumped to be running with my friend Jenny. It was going to be a fantastic race.
Except three miles in, I knew something was wrong. My legs felt heavy, my skin felt clammy, and my breathing was way off. At five miles, a distance that was easy for me, I was considering quitting. I felt that bad. What I found out later was a major blood sugar dip was causing my body to be all out of whack. I pushed myself mile after mile, feeling sicker with each step, and was relieved when I was running what I thought was the last mile. As horrible as it had been, it was about to be over. The end was in sight.
So I thought.
Then I saw the sign that said I had one more mile to go. This is the point that my body said, “No more,” and I started to black out and stagger.
This whole mess with Lucy’s passport and citizenship has felt the same way. I started out feeling well prepared. We had researched, filled out all the paperwork correctly, and knew things should go without a hitch. Then it became obvious that something was wrong, and I’ve been staggering, wounded, towards the finish line ever since.
This week I thought the end was in sight. I truly believed that I was just a few days from jumping on a plane that would take Lucy and me to the rest of our family, and this would all be behind us.
Today, I found out the race isn’t over yet. Instead of the sign saying, “One more mile,” it’s more like, “Keep running until we tell you to stop, and we’re not really sure when that will be. So good luck with that.”
I am so very tired. Tired of forms and requirements and deadlines and expectations and disappointments. Tired of hearing my little girl ask, “Good news?” only to have to say, “No baby, not today.”
The most-asked question in the Bible is, “How long?” I can understand why.
In the midst of all this confusion and anguish, I witnessed a miracle last night. Lucy was fussing at bedtime, which is unusual for her. I sat down with her in the rocking chair and thought, “Let’s just see.” She has never let me rock her with her facing me. She usually pushes me away, and I end up sitting her in my lap facing outwards. Last night, I thought I’d give it another try.
At first, it was just as I predicted. She pushed me away and kept her body perfectly straight. Even though her eyes were heavy, she refused to lay her head down. Then, it happened. Cautiously at first, she dipped her head towards my shoulder. Back up it went. Then again, with a little more trust this time, she laid down her head, just as my other three so naturally had done as babies.
I held my breath, not wanting to startle her in any way. Her body relaxed, melted onto mine, and she slept.
Today, I see so much of myself in Lucy. I do not like this path God has our family on. I push Him away and demand another way. I’m tempted to say, “You are not good.” But then His character beckons me—His faithfulness, His love, and His promises to never leave me or forsake me and to always work all things together for my good and His glory. He calls me to unclench my fists, to lean in towards Him, and to rest.
I’m like Lucy. I tentatively lean in, and then I push away again, but He gently reminds me again of this truth: It is not in good news or met deadlines and expectations that I’ll find relief; it’s in His embrace.
I pray for the grace to believe that truth and stay, resting in Him, for as long as it takes.
Jennifer Phillips graduated from Samford University. She then worked with Sav-A-Life, a national network of crisis pregnancy centers, eventually becoming its Executive Director.
She and her family currently live in Brisbane, Australia, where her husband Brian serves with Uni-Impact, a franchise of Campus Outreach. You can follow Jennifer on her blog, Little Lucy Mei.