Family Is More Than Blood

During an enchanting July 4th week that we spent with our six children in Washington, D.C. visiting my Godfather, My husband, Jimmy, and I confided in him that we had fallen in love, very unexpectedly, with a Chinese toddler and were taking early steps toward trying to adopt her into our family. After days of discussion, my Godfather told me I needed to blog about the journey…if for no other reason than to capture it for her. I told him that I was uncomfortable writing about my personal life and that, even if I was not uncomfortable, I was afraid to put the journey into words. I needed to protect my heart in case China said no. He looked at me and bluntly stated, “Your heart is already involved.” And it was.

From that June 16th morning when I first saw her face, my heart was completely involved though I was not remotely ready for it to be. I was just settling in to the delightfully lazy schedule of summer. I had dropped our little ones off at Vacation Bible School and had settled in at my computer with a cup of coffee for some very rare and fleeting unstructured time. I had been looking at adoption web sites and at individual orphaned children since February with a very precious friend. She had been discerning adoption and was really feeling called to it. I loved witnessing her joy and looking at countless faces of children with her hoping to “recognize” her baby. I loved rejoicing together when we learned, periodically, that children we had specifically prayed for had been found by their forever families. I saw the beauty in each child and in the call to bring them home but I never suspected that any of them were, or ever would be, mine.

Until June 16th.

It was then that I opened the profile of a tiny girl and recognized her as my own on an intense, raw, maternal level. Instantly.

I cannot explain it any other way. And I would not have understood it before June 16th. Seeing her face changed what I knew about love, and about my ability to love, completely and forever. After that June 16th morning, I would never be the same.

And the awareness of this eternal change rattled me to my bones.

So much so that on a walk with my friend that June 16th evening, I told her I could not look at orphaned children anymore…that my heart could not handle it. I told her that I needed a break.

But God did not intend to give me one. He was just getting started.

I tossed throughout that June 16th night and into the morning of the 17th. Jimmy was out of town and this tiny girl across the sea was haunting me. I pleaded with God not to call me to this. I insisted I was not ready, on any level, and assured Him that Jimmy and I would pray about it for the next year or two. If we felt called to it then, we would follow the call wherever it lead.

But the haunting wasn’t about a call to adoption in general. It wasn’t about a call to China. It was about this specific baby girl whom I recognized as my own. By morning I was worn down from the tossing and, as my feet hit the floor, I told God I would email the social worker who was advocating for the child later that afternoon and check on her. I rationalized that a family was certainly pursuing adopting her by now and I comforted my conscience with the knowledge that I was following the all-night prompting in case it had a heavenly origin.

My head is still spinning from that following June 17th day. Before picking the little ones up from VBS, I met my father for our weekly lunch date. Out of nowhere he brought up China. I may never get over how powerfully that rattled me! By the end of our lunch, I had shared with him the stirring in my soul. He strongly encouraged me to follow my heart to China and unconditionally supported pursuing the prompting. Being tugged by both my Heavenly Father and my earthly one was too much to keep resisting. I picked the children up from VBS and sat down to send the email checking on the little one who was haunting me so.

I sent what I knew must sound like an email from a crazy person. I explained that I knew nothing about adoption and that I was the mother of six biological children. I told the social worker that I had never felt called to adoption but that a little girl whom she was advocating for had kept me up all night. After I rattled on about my adoption ignorance and asked some questions that clearly revealed it, I hit “send” fully anticipating a while before receiving any sort of response and at peace in the awareness that I had taken action on my all-night prompting.

She responded in minutes.

An encouraging, graceful advocate for this child told me about her. About her second birthday approaching in September and the open heart surgery she had received right after she arrived at the orphanage. My head was swimming as we spoke of medical file reviews and possible future health concerns. But all the while, something in her sweet voice encouraged me enough to believe I might be able to do this. She informed me that other families were reviewing this sweet girl’s file and asked me if I wanted to put it on “hold” for a week. WHAT??? My husband had no idea I had fallen in love with a baby across the sea during his absence and he was still out of town! But “Yes”..put the file on hold. I just knew without question that I was supposed to put her file on hold!

I got off the phone and texted Jimmy telling him to call as soon as possible because I thought we had a daughter in China! I wish I could have witnessed his reaction when he received that message! I forwarded her file to him but he was in a location where internet access was very restricted and he could not open it. For the next two days he assured me he was praying about it even though he could not see her. I knew he was.

And I knew God was not going to call me to this without calling Jimmy too. So I waited in cautious confidence that God would speak His Will to me through Jimmy’s reaction.

When he got to the airport to head home, Jimmy finally had internet access and opened her file. His first message to me said only, ” She’s beautiful!” The next one read, “No matter her medical condition, I feel we need to do whatever it takes to bring her home.”

I wept as I recognized that this child’s heavenly Father was speaking His Will to me through the earthly one He had chosen for her. And my heart fell in love all over again and more deeply than ever with my husband of nearly two decades. Jimmy, too, had recognized our baby girl across the sea. I was in awe of our connection in the recognition of her as our own even though we were separated by so much distance at the time we each saw her.The first of so many affirming, sacred glimpses God has given to us of His plans for her.

And the precious, sacred glimpses of His Will for us and for our sweet China baby have not ceased to take our breath away as they continue to unfold…