Alex and I don’t exactly have the gift of mercy. We’ve never thought much about adoption or the 143 million orphans in the world. We saw adoption as a back-up plan if our infertility thing was unbeatable. After we lost our final IVF babies last fall, we looked into adoption but saw it as a consolation prize to getting to actually carry our own baby. Alex and I spoke a few months ago, briefly, about how we just didn’t want to adopt. We hunkered down to raise an only child. We rejoiced when my brother and his family moved near us and thought, “Yeah, we’re done.” Every time we thought about doing in vitro again, it just didn’t feel right. I knew that I could handle it physically – I’d done it before – but it just didn’t feel right – hours on the road, hormone swings, robbing Elliott of the best Mommy I can be. I’d become increasingly allergic to one of the drugs needed for in vitro, and I had some new health issues. Door after door seemed to slam in our faces, and I kinda didn’t care.
I guess the proverbial seeds were being planted throughout the last year, but we didn’t notice. Back in the summer, we went on vacation with good friends of ours who have four kids. As I watched the kids play and fight and dig holes in the sand and help each other stay standing against the breaking waves, I found my old desire for a large family reawaken, and I felt desolate, knowing I couldn’t make it happen.
This year our church sent yet another team to Africa, and I literally told someone, “I just don’t have a heart for Africa. I wish the church had mission trips to other places.” I mean, I was glad that God called people to Africa. I was glad that He didn’t call me. A few weeks after we got back from the beach, the student ministries director showed his video footage of the trip to Africa. That afternoon, I lay on the bed in my parents’ guest room and thought, “Next year Alex and I need to go on the trip. I don’t want to live in this bubble and raise an only child whose biggest concern is whether to play his Xbox or his Wii.” But I immediately thought, “It’s not enough. We have an extra room. We want more kids. We need to adopt internationally.”
This summer, before the beach, we visited Alex’s family for a week. Holding my precious niece – this is one of those seeds that got planted that I didn’t see coming – I felt so close to her. I love her as family, and I realized halfway through the week – she and I don’t share DNA. We have documents making us related, but no blood. Blood isn’t what made me feel close to her, isn’t what makes me love her.
So that night after my epiphony about adoption, Alex, Elliott, and I golf-carted to Ted’s for dinner for some eco-friendly bison (I love the bubble, I do I do I do!!!!), I mentioned to Alex that I’d been thinking that we should start the adoption process. I’d only just gotten to this place, so I figured Alex was nowhere near it. He always surprises me. He said something like, “It just doesn’t feel like”—and I mentally finished his sentence, “it’s the right thing for us,” “we need another child because Elliott is enough,”—and instead I heard, “our family is complete. I’ve been thinking about adoption, too.” What? Really? My insides started to smile.
What I hadn’t realized was that God had brought a special client to Cistern Media. Because of a disgusting horror flick called Orphan, the Christian Alliance for Orphans hired Alex to build a site – www.orphansdeservebetter.org. He spent hours online with the cause for orphans. He talked at length with the Executive Director who had recently adopted a daughter. Another seed.
We spent the whole dinner talking about adoption and haven’t stopped talking about it yet. God continues to align Alex’s and my hearts; even when we start at odds, within an hour we’re in agreement. It’s been one of the most unifying experiences in our marriage.
We’ve had so much confirmation along the way that this is our path and this is the time. That Sunday night when I casually mentioned our adoption discussion to my parents, my mother started crying and later dropped to her knees. Unbeknownst to me, the night before, she had awakened and prayed for a solid three hours that we wouldn’t attempt in vitro again. The next day I woke up with absolutely no yearning for a biological child. This woman can PRAY!
A few days later, Alex and I separately ran into a woman who has been such an encouragement and prayer warrior during our battle with infertility. She told us that a few weeks before, the Lord had brought us to her mind— “adoption,” and the word “to go for it.”
Since beginning this journey, I have heard of several friends getting pregnant, and instead of the usual stab of pain, I have pure, unadulterated joy for them and joy for me, knowing that my child is out there waiting for me! God has completely healed me from the pain of the last year and my eight year struggle to build a family. I love my darling son so much and consider it the most incredible privilege to have gotten to carry him and grow him and nurse him. What a gift! And now I have the awesome privilege of bringing him a brother or sister, the privilege of finding the child that God has created for us to raise. We are only stewards of our children, whether we conceive them or retrieve them.
I stumbled upon Ethiopia out of curiosity, and I haven’t been able to look away. We’ve looked at many countries, many programs, and we keep returning to Africa. So, the couple who didn’t want an orphan and didn’t want to go to Africa is going to Africa for their child. I feel like my heart was a regular-sized heart. It was in good condition. Healthy. Pretty happy. In the last few weeks, God has ripped my heart apart and inserted Africa. My heart will never be the same. It’s scarred for life. I ache for Ethiopia. My regular heart had to break to fit Africa inside, but now my broken heart is bigger. I don’t see anything the same. Everything here is in context of THERE. I have to go. Part of my family is there. And the thing that’s making me cry as I write this is that Alex feels the same way. One person could just be emotional and wrapped up in the moment, but not two, and not us. God has shattered the both of us. He’s working a miracle in our family right now. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose prevails” (Prvbs 21:19). He’s shown us time and again through our quest for children that His plan is so very different than our own. What’s especially cool is that adoption has become OUR plan, our favorite plan, just exactly what we want. We aren’t settling for an orphan and we aren’t settling for Africa. We have a visceral need to find our child in Ethiopia. God is blowing our minds.
The more Africa adoptive parents we talk with, the more we notice that people don’t just adopt from Africa. They become activists. The continent and its need and its beauty become a part of your soul and you have to ACT! We are so very excited about inviting Ethiopia into our home.
So, that’s how we got here. I prayed for healing from infertility for years, and God healed me overnight. Instead of healing my womb, He healed my heart and gave me a sense of peace and purpose. I feel like the blind man from Scripture, “I once was blind but now I see.”
Waking Giants is an opportunity to share what God’s doing in our life, with our adoption process, and hopefully spread a little inspiration around. In the coming months, we’ll provide lots of opportunities to get involved with ending extreme poverty in Africa, and I can’t wait to tell you about a sweet village in Uganda that needs our help. More to come.