And I spent last week with my hands dirty.
I scrubbed and sanded, and dusted out cobwebs hidden, and removed staples, and layers of fabric, and painted. There was a lot of painting.
I was refinishing our dining room set. Ben helped in the evenings when he came home and though he never voiced it aloud I know he wondered what possessed me to tackle this project now and with such fervor. Or maybe he knew.
I sanded six chairs. And Libby joined and held sandpaper on the wrong side and worked beside me, making me smile. And I thought about how big she was getting.
And I remembered her last year, pigtails high, running around a courtyard on campus, while music blared, Ben grilled hamburgers, and Tucker talked to the students gathering. And I watched from the side, heart overflowing. It was August 23rd, the day of “the call”. The day they said “we might have a child for you.” Ben and I had barely had time to talk to each other about what we were going to do, but as I stood there watching Libby twirling around in the early evening sun and students smiling at her dance, I thought "this time next year there will be another child with us".
And I thought about the day we saw her sweet face while sitting at the very table I was currently piling everything on. The day every doubt anyone had ever spoken to me about not being able to love a child that was not born of my flesh fell hard to the floor. Our daughter.
I thought about the continuously moving timeline and how the seasons passed as we watched her grow up through pictures and read about her milestones on our computer, and I watched my friends’ children who were her age with bittersweetness, and we mourned for a daughter who remained in Africa without a family.
I remembered finally planning for our trip to meet her. Making arrangements for our kids, talking with a travel agent, phone calls with our coordinator, tucking Tucker in at night and answering lots of questions about who was going to take care of him and what we were going to do when we got there, and laying in bed dreaming about the first time we would lay eyes on her.
When Ben called, and I asked if it was bad news, and he said “yes,” and I sat on the couch listening and crying and twisting a piece of paper over and over in my hands. Our little girl had faulty paperwork, no one knew the truth about her past, and there would be an investigation to find it. And 5 days before we were suppose to leave, we canceled our plane tickets.
I brushed hair out of my face and I brushed on the first coat of paint and I knew I was going to love the change.
We got news toward the beginning of May. The investigation had uncovered that Aida truly was an orphan in need of a family. Her paperwork would need to be redone to re-declare her orphan status so that we could legally adopt her.
When we canceled our plane tickets in March, I began fervently praying that we would still bring her home before the end of the summer. But at the end of April, we realized it wasn’t to be. I began praying that we would just make the first trip before August. But at the end of May, we sat together at a desk on a conference call. I put my head down about two minutes into the phone call and cried through the rest of the 30-minute conversation. More time. Lots more time. Another season, probably two (maybe three?) would pass. I glanced at Ben, who sat sadly shaking his head, frustration and disappointment creasing his brow. And I looked across the room as if I actually expected to watch the hope seeping quietly out the door.
After the call, something inside of me changed. I didn’t want to write about adoption anymore. No one wants to only read bad news. I definitely didn't want to only write bad news. And there was a desperate desire to protect her, protect her story and I didn't know how to share without fully sharing. I was weary. And silence on a blog seemed better than the noise of confusion in my head. Our summer moved on without the child we had planned to be with us: the weeks, the months, the events passing without her.
It’s rainy season in Aida’s country so adoptions aren’t being processed. The lady who needs to file a piece of paperwork to move Aida’s case forward in her region is on maternity leave, and apparently no one else can do it. During our wait, requirements have changed, and we have more paperwork to complete.
I thought about the last year: sisters gathering around our table to help cut out endless amounts of appliques for T-shirts, strangers contributing to an auction, friends and family celebrating with us over exciting news and mourning with us over the hard news, cards in the mail, checks unexpected, texts with prayers. And somehow I heard Him even amongst the clamor in our living area and in my head: “Many people have shared and walked this journey with you for over two years, let them finish the last miles with you; however long they take.”
There she still is, a little girl in need of a Mommy and Daddy to tuck her in at night, a brother and sister to make her laugh, a family to call her own. There she still is, a little girl with a journey home to finish.
And here and there HE always is, still faithful and in control from one August to the next.
He's still holding our baby.