I'm a natural born pessimist. Baby pictures of tiny me have a pained, worried expression, pinched up eyebrows on my tiny baby face. I was born a worrier, a downer, if you will.
So I find it curious that I'm such an optimist when it comes to adoption. After what we went through first time round, how could I possibly have convinced myself that this time would be easy breezy? But I did. I just figured that the hard stuff would be what comes along with adopting an older-than-infant child. The easy stuff would be the actual adoption process.
What was I thinking?
One of the first pieces of advice I give to families starting out in the adoption process is: lower your expectations and expect the worst. That way, you'll only be pleasantly surprised when things go smoother than you anticipated. First time round, I made a point of doing this. I expected court delays, I expected long waits for referral, I expected all kinds of snags, except for the one that happened to us. That one, I had no way of preparing myself for because it had never happened and, as far as a know, hasn't happened again since our case. We were blindsided (if you're new to our story, you can read what I'm referencing here and here).
And here we are again: blindsided. Who would have thought that this latest snag would have happened? Not us. Once again, we find ourselves completely caught off guard.
For the first 24 hours after the news came, I was in denial. I told myself, while chasing Abe, "It'll all work out. Too far away to think about now." I discussed the issue with other adoptive parents, but it still felt like an abstract concept until last night. I was trying to explain to a relative how this decision by the Ethiopian courts now means a lot of things for us, including the cancellation of a trip next month to the south to visit family. We now need to save every nickel and dime to pay for not just one trip to Ethiopia, but two.
In my attempt to explain everything to this family member, someone outside of the adoption world, the reality of it hit me. I started to panic. I felt a sob rising in my chest. My relative didn't get the gravity of it and just kept saying, "Oh, it'll work out. Don't worry." This upset me even more, even though I know he is probably right. It reminded me of the comments I'd get while we were going through the crapstorm that was Abe's adoption: people glibbly telling us not to worry because they were "sure" it would work out. I wanted to ask them how they knew this information because I surely didn't feel it. I felt like they were in a sense telling me, "You carry this burden. Please don't ask me to shoulder any of it for you. I'm just going to tell you that it's going to work out because I'm not willing to feel the pain you're feeling." The most helpful comments were along these lines "I am sorry you're going through this. How can I help? I'll pray. Do you want some whiskey?" Just don't tell me that it's going to work out (I already know it will. Sometimes though I feel the immediate panic of it and need an "I'm sorry this is hard" or a hug or a bowl of soup).
That was a bit of an aside. On to the topic at hand.
I was having a hard time explaining the gravity of the situation to this relative. He kept trying to convince us to come visit anyway, offering his house and extra car for us to drive around in while we're there to "keep your expenses down." I finally, to make it crystal clear, had to say, "Look. We're talking a few extra thousand dollars here to pay for all this. We have no idea where we're going to get this money."
So I had my freak-out last night. Babysitting a friend's two sweet kids helped me get my mind off of it for a while. There was a moment when her two kids, a brother and a sister, were hugging each other, the little one looking up into the face of her big brother and being given a kiss on the head; I teared up, reminded of why we're adopting again. As soon as I got Abe down to sleep later that night, the burden on my shoulders returned. I dreamed about it. I woke up thinking about it.
This morning, I realized how empty I feel faith-wise. Totally empty. So I sat down on the couch, with a cup of coffee and a tiny new testament. I opened it up to no place in particular and read that passage in Luke 11 about asking God for good things, persistently knocking on the door, because He wants to give us blessings, even more than an earthly parent ever could.
We decided to adopt based on this passage, which is a whole other story that I've yet to write about. Our shared encounter with this passage is one of the turning points in our marriage, our family, our lives, one of those moments that we knew without a doubt that this was God stepping in to our confusion and despair. I wasn't looking for it this morning. The tiny book just opened up to this page. How easily I forget God's faithfulness. So easily. I forget. God's faithfulness.
So this is what we're holding on to now. We're not going to stop knocking on the door. From this point on, I won't give in to despair (okay, I know myself too well to know that this is a platitude. I'm pretty sure I'm going to relapse here and there, as I am prone to do, but at least now I have a lifeline).
Debbie Downer is now knocking on the door and looking for the positive things this change can bring about. Things like having extra time to visit places in Ethiopia we missed the first time round or getting to meet some of the relatives of our sweet senior citizens that I teach each week or simply the chance to yet again allow God to be big. There's also the "big picture" issue of this new policy helping to decrease corruption, dishonest agencies, and adoption disruptions (adoptive parents changing their mind). If this policy brings more transparency and honesty in adoption, then I'm all for it.
From here on out, I'm flying the "Half Full" flag. Until I relapse. At which point I may need someone to bring me a bowl of soup. Or a bottle of wine. Folks, we're in for a ride. For those adoptive parents in it with us, my door is always open and our liquor cabinet is stocked. I'm not even joking.
"May all your expectations be frustrated. May all your plans be thwarted. May all your desires be withered into nothingness that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen." --Brennan Manning