Three years ago this month, a government official in a country far from ours made a political decision that would change our lives and the life of a little girl forever. We grieved our own loss, but mostly we grieved her’s. She had beautiful dark skin, big piercing brown eyes, long lashes, curly hair, a long face, and a timid smile that seemed to convey the weight of the world she lived in. For 18 months, we had thought of her as part of our family: her pictures covering our house, a bed waiting for her, magnets with her name on hundreds of refrigerators, the few videos we had of her playing on repeat in our minds, her name on repeat in our prayers. She was the little girl we had pleaded for, planned for, and dreamed about… and she would be returning to an orphanage where her future hopes were unpromising. We continue to keep praying for her, praying that she will know the love of a Savior, praying God is writing a wonderful story for her, far better than anything we could ask for or imagine. We keep trusting, that somehow in all of this, God’s plan was for us to champion for her, to be her lifetime prayer warriors across the globe, for us to be changed forever by a little girl we will never meet. The little girl whose name meant gift, the little girl we called Aida.
Some months earlier, Ben and I had a discussion in the late evening, behind the closed door of our bedroom after kids were long asleep. We spoke those words out loud that neither of us rarely verbalized. What if adoption wasn’t supposed to happen for us? What if God was telling us this journey was over? We decided that when March arrived (6 years from the time we filled out our first application), we would seriously pray and evaluate whether God was shutting the door on adoption for us.
But it wasn’t March yet. It was November, and we weren’t supposed to face this decision now. We discussed and prayed but mostly waited, hoping for any word of those possible scenarios working out and for a set date of when our decision needed to be made. On a Monday in mid- December, we got an email saying we had to make our decision by Thursday. There was no update on the possible scenarios, they were all still just that: possibilities. Possibilities like we had heard about all summer with each one falling through. Each time filling us with hope, and then each time deflating us a little bit more, leaving us wondering how much more air could be let out of us.
I spent the next four days crying over a decision I felt no clear answer to. We spent every evening talking in circles and begging for wisdom. We heard only silence. On Wednesday, we stayed up until 1:30 praying and speaking to each other all the things we had already said 10,000 times. We made a decision and went to sleep. I woke up convinced it was the wrong one and drove to work in tears. I spent the next few hours as a confused mess. At noon, Ben took me to lunch, and he sat down and spoke to me things that had come clearly to him in the matter of a few hours. We had been wandering for the last few years (I knew it too). We were no longer excited about the process. Our kids were older now, which meant we could adopt a child who was over three and therefore less likely to be adopted. Libby’s heart health was more stable and that meant we might could afford to take on a child with some moderate medical needs. We could adopt a child who was school age, and I could still continue to work the job that I loved and felt called to do. There was an excitement and urgency in Ben’s voice that comes with clear vision.
We called and closed our domestic adoption file with the agency that had been with us for 5 years and 9 months and walked with us through some of the hardest seasons of our lives. Somehow, I knew Ben wasn’t wrong and yet, I still felt utterly unconvinced that our decision was right. I felt heartbroken over another closed door. I felt sick that I would never know if those “possible scenarios” would have worked out for us, and I would always have to wonder. I felt uncertain as to what we were supposed to do next. And truthfully, I was frustrated with God because I could still hear the whirr of the washing machine and the hum of the dryer, but I never felt like I heard Him.
If I had only remembered that sometimes God speaks to us clearly through others, and we don’t recognize His voice. And sometimes when God is silently ending one chapter, it’s because He is already quietly beginning the next one.
Ben was out of town that evening as I sat in the glow of the Christmas tree on the couch with my laptop and saw the little boy with the dark hair, all joy and energy spilling out of every inch of his being. I pulled my blanket tight around me as if the extra layer could protect my heart. The next few weeks was a series of events of simply doing the next thing in front of us. With each timid step, each phone call, each text message, each email, each search on the web, each hard question asked to an agency, we assumed the door would close. But it never did.
So, in an abundance of irony and grace, on Aida’s 5th birthday, we got in the car and went on a trip. This little boy was in Texas for a very brief time, staying with a hosting family, having medical check ups, and charming everyone he met. The amazing family that was hosting him opened up their homes and hearts to us, but also warned us, “he takes a while to warm up to people who have come into our home.”
On the drive there, we prepared the kids, “he may take a while to warm up to you… don’t overwhelm him… give him some space... he doesn’t speak English... meeting him doesn’t mean we are adopting him.” And as I sat in the passenger seat, I prayed fervently with a cautious heart. I prayed for discernment and clear direction from this meeting, prayed for our reluctant nine-year-old who had understandably become very indifferent to this adoption process, prayed for our six- year-old with the tender heart, prayed for this dear family we were coming to meet who already felt like old friends, prayed above all for this precious boy—that no matter the outcome that God would have great plans for Him.
When we stood outside in the cold on January 6th as Ben knocked on the door, I could hear my heart beating. The door opened, and there were hugs and hellos and in the background a little boy. He looked cautiously at us, the strangers on the other side, and then… he reached out and took our nine-year-old’s hand and held on as if he had no plans to let go. And in the skip of a heartbeat, I knew: sometimes when we can’t hear God clearly speaking, He gives us eyes to see Him clearly working.
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where a story actually begins. This story is that way. All I know is that one hard chapter just closed. And the next chapter... well it’s finally getting good again.
-It is with an abundance of caution and hope that we share this. We have struggled with how long to stay quiet and when to tell. If you know our story then you know that it is hard for us to consider him to be ours until we are back in America with him. When Tuck and Libby ask if we are adopting him, we tell them that we are doing our best to make it happen and are hoping and praying that it will be so. We share this news in hopes that you will join us in praying. We have clearly seen God's hand moving in a direction we never planned and we move forward hoping to be obedient to whatever next season He calls us to walk through (hard OR good or hard AND good).
-We hope, hope, hope to bring Zane home before the end of this year but the timeline is not certain.
-We can’t share his Chinese name with you now but it will be a part of his name when he comes home.
-We moved to a new agency, so yes, we have lots more paperwork, home studies, etc to do (we are trying not to whine about it TOO much).
-Zane has had multiple surgeries but is doing incredibly well. One blessing in already having a child with CHD (congenital heart defects) is that we already have an incredible pediatric cardiologist. He has already looked at the medical files that we have for Zane. Our doctor was very encouraged by the files that he reviewed and can’t wait to meet him.
-Tucker and Libby are beyond thrilled and pray for him every day, and they have been bursting to share this news so I am sure they would be happy to talk about it with you.
-We have tons of photos and videos on our phone so feel free to ask us to see him! (I’m sure the grandparents would also love to show you his picture).
-We adore the family who hosted him while he was in the States, and we are forever grateful for the big part that they played in his story. We are excited that they live about four hours from us and that they will get to continue to be in his life when he returns to the States. What a blessing that this little boy is already known and loved by two families who are rooting for him.
-We got a good bit of money back from our previous agency but of course, not all of it. We will still need to pay for our trips and hope to set aside some money for some medical needs he will have when he arrives home. If you want a fun, inexpensive way to contribute, we have some t-shirts in the works… we would love for you to buy and wear one as a way to help with funds and a reminder for you to pray when you wear it!