I was messaging with a friend who is in the paperwork portion of their adoption. I love being a resource for people who have questions or need encouragement because those people for me were lifelines during a time in our life where we sometimes needed one. Sometimes I just needed someone who had gone before me give me encouragement and advice and even just an “Oh I know how that is”. It’s easy in each phase of adoption to feel overwhelmed no matter if it’s in the early stages or after you’re home creating a new normal. Having a network of fellow truth tellers in adoption has been a huge blessing for me, and has provided a way to for me to pay it forward for others and empower them to take the step of faith to bring home a child who needs a family. Adoption is a beautifully messy miracle and navigating the beauty with the mess takes a little bit of skill and a whole lot of Jesus.
While my friend and I were messaging, she shared that she was nervous that she had forgotten something or missed something that would result in delays. I chuckled a little because I remember that being me. It was me so many times even until the point of travel, but one thing kept me grounded when I became anxious. If I was surprised by a delay – God was not. Despite the delays which inevitably came – if we were God’s plan for this child, if I believed this was a divine appointment to become a family with this child; then I had to also believe that we would not be too late or too early. We would meet our little one right on time.
We received our referral on 12.12.12 and it was as if we had won the jackpot. Earlier that summer, at the very end of July, I was packing up our house to prepare to move. We had sold our house within a week of it being on the market, and had accepted an offer for one only a few blocks away with one more bedroom for our new little one. At the time, she was a faceless, imaginary but loved, wanted yet missing part of our family. I had taken a coffee break to read that day’s post from Stefanie at Ni Hao Y’all, and as I read about their little Esther who had passed away, and a “So Loved” fundraising effort to provide a heart surgery for another little girl with the same congenital defect that Esther had; I saw the most precious little Chinese face I would ever lay eyes on. Her name at the time was Kate; and Kate took my breath away. Kate would be the one to receive a So Loved grant for heart surgery.
Immediately, I messaged our case worker at All God’s Children and asked if she could see if it would be possible to request her referral or find out more about Kate. Being that we were in the process of moving, our home study and immigration application were on hold until we had moved, and would be on hold until our social worker could complete our home study in our new home. Therefore, we were indefinitely delayed. We were at the mercy of others and their schedules. It would be 4 months before our dossier would finally be complete and on it’s way to China. I accepted that adopting Kate would be next to impossible, we were told. “It would be like winning the lottery, or a needle in a haystack.” We just weren’t ready yet, and she wasn’t even on the database yet.
Nevertheless, there was something about her face that captured my attention. Her face captured my heart and soul. I captured that face in a screenshot and saved it in my phone and I prayed for her. I prayed for her forever family to come soon for her, and for her healing. It was her face I saw when it was difficult to wait. It was her face that motivated me to keep on keeping on despite delays and hiccups and big life changes. My husband knew her face too because every once and a while I would check the New Day Foster Home website to see if her face was still there minus the asterisk indicating she had already been matched with a family. We knew when her birthday was, we knew the names of her special needs, we knew she had spunk and personality. We shared her picture with a few other people. Our children knew her face and a few close friends did too. Wouldn’t it be something if by miracle she was ours…
Delay after delay, surrender after surrender, week after week passed and on the 5th of December we got word that our dossier was finally on it’s way to China. I planned to inquire about Kate just as soon as we got confirmation that it was logged in, probably after Christmas and the New Year had passed. On December 12 I received a call from our caseworker, Tiffany, who asked if we were ready to consider a referral. The first image in my mind, as I answered “sure”, was Kate – and my heart sank a little as I prepared to let go of her.
As Tiffany began to describe this little girl she began with her birthdate. It was the same as Kate’s. Immediately I asked if it was her the little girl I had inquired about 5 months prior. Tiffany was sure it wasn’t, and went on to describe her special needs. Both were the same as Kate’s.
“It’s her.” I said. “I’m sure that it’s her.”
Tiffany asked if I would know her face… Of course I would. When I received the email with the referral documents, I was still on the phone with Tiffany; and as I opened it an saw the pictures, I saw the face of the little girl I loved. I dropped to the floor in tears and awe and shock. It was her. I called my husband and all I had to say was “It’s her”. We had discussed the week before that if by some miracle of God, Kate would be our referral we would accept without hesitation and so we did.
That was already three years ago and it’s my favorite story to tell. I remain amazed at how the delays I despised were necessary in order to have the little girl who was once Kate, become our Grace. Had we been one week sooner with our dossier or one week later – we would have a different daughter. The delays didn’t end there. We realized quickly that she had still not had her heart surgery and her condition was precarious and deteriorating. Delay after delay, sickness after sickness and she was never well enough to have open heart surgery while in China. Even the week we traveled to bring her home she was in the hospital with pneumonia and pulmonary complications. The delays we experienced allowed us to already be a family when she did have her surgery just a month after coming home.
I wouldn’t trade the experience of being her Mama during that time for the world. Children need their people when they experience traumatic events like heart surgery, especially as a 1 ½ year old. The once scary and disappointing delay of heart surgery allowed us to experience it side by side. It helped us to bond and attach well even though we were in the CICU. It allowed me to be her comforter at her worst and during her sickest moments. I got to be the one to climb in her bed with her and be her security, all because of delays and God’s perfect timing. We celebrate referral day not just because it’s the day Grace officially became ours in our hearts, but because it will forever be the day that God knocked our socks off by making what seemed impossible possible. It’s one of the things He does best.
So to you who wait and are burdened by delays and stressed out because someone didn’t notarize something correctly, or the state you live in wrecked your authenticated documents, or it’s yet another holiday in China and your dossier or your travel approval (heaven forbid) sits and waits for a stamp and a signature – I hear your collective “seriously”. I’ve shared in your sighing and I know that brand of frustration. When you’re waiting on your child and it is out of your control it is one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. It was the hardest thing ever to be patient for, and I was ever so impatient at times. When I look back now I see those delays differently, though, and I pray that this encourages you to do the same as you wait. I hope that if you’re reading this and delays have been stressing you out and bringing you down that it will give you some peace that God will not be tardy on His plans for you and for your child who is waiting on you to bring them home.
What can we do post-adoption to advocate for the fatherless? We can share our stories and our experiences in full living color and truth because it’s those stories that cheer on the families who come after us. It’s one of my most treasured experiences to share our story with another family interested in adoption to both encourage them and “get them” as they process through all of the emotions and the details.
Sometimes just saying “I’ve been there, I’ve been through that tunnel and out the other side and you’ll get there too” is such a comforting sentence, and it’s the truth. I’m in a different tunnel sometimes now, with our 4 year old and the challenges she faces – but we each have a story to tell that will impact someone else.
God wastes nothing that He gives us. Maybe our story will be what God uses to affirm another family that if God can write an amazing adoption story in our life He can for you too. We are ordinary people with an extraordinary God who sets the lonely in families and creates beauty from ashes. Sometimes even disappointing delays are divine providence.
He is right on time, every time.