36.9990° N, 109.0452° W is the only place in the United States where one can stand in four states at the same time. This was not always the case in US history. The boundaries of western territories shifted over the years, morphing into different shapes. Lines were crossed, crossed out, and redrawn as people fought for the right to different areas.
It was only in the late 1800s that a sandstone marker was put into place to set the boundaries of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. Later, in 1912, the location was set in stone, quite literally, with a cement marker. We now know this spot as Four Corners Monument.
As I child, I heard about this place and wanted to go there. I wanted my mom’s old camera to produce a picture of me as I beamed at her, arms and legs each touching a different state. This never came to be though. The cost was too great to travel that far. The burden of driving the distance too heavy. It wouldn’t be worth it in the end. Too much sacrifice for a moment that would quickly fade into boredom and desire to return home.
Not unlike the fight for territory in the US long ago, God began a war within me over orphans. Orphans had always been on my heart in some way or another, but it was after the birth of our third child that the true battle began. Everywhere I turned, I saw references to adoption. Every time I listened to the radio, I heard plugs for foster care and adoption. I wasn’t safe from God’s not-so-gentle nudges no matter where I went.
The list of cons far outweighed the pros when my husband and I discussed the possibility of adoption.
It costs so much.
It’s too hard.
There’s so much paperwork.
What will it do to our kids?
What will our families think?
Our life is perfect now.
God didn’t give up on us. He worked on my heart until the list of cons didn’t matter anymore. The battle within me was in full force, and the boundaries of what was good versus bad, or easy versus hard began to shift and become a little fuzzy. The idea of “perfect” didn’t seem so alluring anymore. And then…
I crossed a line.
It was in the fall of 2012. I sat in our bedroom beside my husband with my stack of library books teetering on my nightstand. The Waiting Child. Kisses From Katie. Wait No More. Choosing to See. As I read passages aloud to him, I choked back tears. “We’re all getting it wrong,” I sobbed. “I’m calling tomorrow about adoption and foster care.” Adoption was something we had discussed for years, but neither of us had been brave enough to pull the trigger. It was never the proverbial right time. Obstacles were always popping up, but that day, I no longer cared. “Then we will adopt,” my husband replied.
For the next couple of years, we met even more obstacles. Home study appointments, trainings, a job change, an out of state move, an adoption agency change, and a complete and total restart on our adoption process. We were at ground zero again. But finally in the fall of 2014, all the groundwork was behind us, and we got the long awaited referral call. And then…
I crossed a line.
I fell in love with the picture of a Chinese baby boy. I didn’t plan to let my heart go so quickly, but I did. I spent the next 5 months desperately wanting to board a plane to get to him. The wait was brutal. I spent my days comparing my wait time to that of others in process. We prepared his nursery, and I spent my mornings browsing the baby and toddler section of stores. I spent afternoons learning the unfamiliar words of Mandarin lullabies. In March of 2015, we finally got the green light to go to China. And again…
I crossed a line.
This time, the line was the threshold of his orphanage. Everything I thought I knew about an orphanage became real. Thirty cribs in a room. I had seen many pictures of orphanage baby rooms, but it wasn’t until that moment that I felt the weight on my heart of thirty cribs in one room. My eyes were opened. That single room represented thirty birth families that had to walk away. Thirty infants that had learned to self soothe. Thirty bottles being made multiple times per day. And that was just one of the baby rooms. Seeing the rooms where the older children lived stung even more.
I crossed a line.
My heart hurt so much for the kids we left behind those orphanage doors that I couldn’t feel joy for our new son without feeling equal parts sadness. Their faces, especially the older kids, were burned in my brain. At the medical appointment in Guangzhou, I started saying things like, “When we adopt again…” How could we simply go back to our lives and forget? We couldn’t. We couldn’t pretend that we didn’t know.
I crossed a line.
Not long after we returned home from China, I emailed our adoption agency about reusing our dossier to adopt again (an option that was still allowed by the CCCWA until June 2017). I called our agency rep about referrals of special focus children they were advocating for. Within a couple of months we were in process to adopt another toddler from China. During our second trip to China, I revisited all the places that hurt my soul. Where lines were crossed and my heart was molded by the ones still waiting.
Not even a year after we were home, I was offered a job at an adoption agency. My job was to search the shared list for special focus children and advocate for them. Again, my heart crossed a line when I had access to all the faces, all the lives, all the brief handfuls of sentences that summed up their years on this earth. So many. So, so many children that are waiting. So many that need medical care. So many that need the love and support of a family. God fought the good fight, and in the end, he won over my heart for orphans everywhere.
I know now. I can’t pretend that I don’t know. This journey… it will change you. It’s true. The cost is great. The burden is heavy. But the journey will be worth it in the end. I have no desire to return to what “normal” used to be for our family. The perception of perfect can’t even begin to compare to the beauty that results from being broken together as a family.
And I still wonder every day. Will God call me to cross the line again?
One of my biggest fears is that He will. That He will shake up what is finally settling into as our new normal and our familiar now. It hasn’t been easy by any means.
And, ironically, one of my biggest fears is that He won’t ask me to cross that line again. That we won’t welcome another child into our family. That we won’t get the opportunity to love another son or daughter will all our hearts. That our children won’t get to experience the joy of sharing their home and their hearts with another sibling.
Despite never traveling to Four Corners, I did eventually achieve the feeling of what it’s like to exist in multiple places at once…
My heart beats now as a biological and adoptive mother.
My heart lives as an advocate for adoption, especially for children from China with special needs.
Part of my heart stayed in China, and it will forever remain there.
And part of my heart wanders, searching for the line that God wants me to cross next.