A Surprising Visitor

I’m not much of a movie crier. I think I can count on one hand all the movies that have made me cry, including Charlotte’s Web. (The part where she dies alone always wrecks me.) However, I sob through every adoption story I can get my hands on. (I highly recommend http://www.thearchibaldproject.com/ if you want to binge watch some.) The part where the family meets their new son or daughter for the first time makes me gush tears of joy with and for them. I can barely see the mom and dad hugging their usually sobbing child through my own puddle. I personally think it is one of the most beautiful miracles on earth, to go from alone to known, lonely to forever loved.
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After years of watching these amazing stories, I naively assumed that the emotions surrounding adoption were isolated to joy, excitement, and steadfastness. Once a family chose the road to adoption, they felt nothing but elation at the thought of welcoming their child home. My heart leapt with delight as I hoped that one day this would be us.
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Fast forward to July 2017. We knew ever since we lived in China that someday we would adopt from China, however had to wait until we met all the qualifications. I had researched adoption agencies and had already requested information from CCAI. It was a stable time in our lives and we were ready to begin this journey. Full throttle ahead! And then...China changed its qualifications that exact week and we were stuck waiting another six months until our daughter turned two and a half. A lesson in patience that I was not so thrilled about!
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During the four months of waiting, I had high hopes of researching, planning, and preparing. I had lists of things to do to make paperwork later on go more quickly. However, as each day went by, I could never get the ball rolling. I’d always come up with some excuse as to why I couldn’t sit down in front of the computer and dive into this mysterious world of adoption. During the waiting months, we would start talking about the adoption and our conversations would spiral downward into frantic worry...
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How are we going to pay for this? What if we adopt a child with more significant needs than we can pay for?
What if we lose our house, jobs, everything? What if we can’t give our daughter the attention she needs too? What if life never gets back to “normal”?
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And so we sat, trying to pray, but not moving a millimeter forward in this journey. During this time, I was in a Bible study and one day came across this quote that hit me right between the eyes:
“[Faith] is the process of adapting your behavior, your decisions, and ultimately, your whole lifestyle so that it accords with what God has asked you to do--without needing to see the evidence that it will all work out in the end.” (Priscilla Shirer)
Ouch! All of the sudden, I realized why we weren’t moving. We had the American dream of the white picket fence and were worried that somehow a little boy a million miles away would “ruin” this tranquil goal. We were willing to start this journey if we had a guarantee that we would all live “happily ever after” in the end. And, I realized that we had a surprising visitor who had taken up residence in our hearts for the past few months: the one-eyed terrifying monster, Mr. Fear. I couldn’t believe it: what I had been waiting for years to do was now staring me in the face and I wanted to run as far as I could away.
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He first knocked on the door of our hearts, starting with small “what if’s.” We didn’t really notice him, so he welcomed himself in. Before long, he had his feet up on the couch, dirty socks on the ground, and wasn’t budging a bit. And as we kept fueling the fire with added fears, we became more and more paralyzed, without even realizing it. We, who previously lived in China, watched friends adopted, know way more about the process than most people, and had been waiting on this for years, were terrified.
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So how did we get from frozen terror to being just a few short months away from meeting our son? Baby steps. Teeny tiny baby steps. In the words of Elizabeth Elliot, “Do the next thing.” It started with making a sign of Lamentations 3:22-23 and putting it up so it is the first thing I see every morning. Because of His great faithfulness, we can conquer this overwhelming beast, Mr. Fear. Then, we tried to set a small goal every day: email an adoptive friend for advice, research a hospital in the area, educate ourselves on one special need on the medical checklist, check into what our insurance covers, etc. We crawled along, inch by inch, but we were moving.
The more I read about other adoptive families’ experiences, the more I realized we weren’t alone in our fear. (I highly recommend “No Hands But Ours” as a starting place: https://www.nohandsbutours.com/). I took strange comfort in reading the words of one adoptive father, as he surveyed his family and peaceful life, “What if this [adoption] ruins everything?” And he had already adopted five precious children from China!
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Bringing a new family member into your home, whether from the hospital or across the globe, can and should strike each parent with soberness. It is a blessing, however a serious undertaking to be entrusted with an eternal soul. It’s hands down the most scary/challenging/foreign journey we have ever embarked on. So, yes, there is much joy in the adoption road. And yes, a healthy sense of concern about the future is natural too. However, it can quickly mutate into a paralyzing venom that leaves you unable to do the very thing God has called you to do.
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So, have we slain this deathly dragon forever? Are we sharing this because we have conquered Goliath and now want to share our secrets with others? Nope. Not at all. Even though we've already walked this road before. Even though we have an adorable son whom we can't imagine life without now. Even though we look at his adorable face today and laughingly say, "What in the world were we afraid of?" In a way, our fears seem bigger now, since we have a more realistic view of adoption this time. What if our child doesn't sleep for months? What if he or she has unknown major medical problems? What if attachment isn't instant like it was with Titus?
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We still tremble. We still worry. We still need prayers to conquer this beast.
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So, we’re still right in the thick of this battle. We know it’s not going to be one-and-done type of war with this mortal enemy. But we have learned a few tips along the way: dwell on God’s character, remind ourselves of His past faithfulness, and take a baby step today. That’s one tiny stab at a giant who will eventually fall with God’s help.
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In God’s great provision, the thing that scared us most about Titus's adoption was the biggest answer to prayer for us: money. We looked at the mountain of bills we would need to pay and the money in our bank account, and the math was not looking good at all. However, through the most generous family, friends, strangers, and grant ministries, we stood on the other side of this frightening mountain, realizing that it was nothing to be feared at all. The God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills lavishly cares about a precious little boy in China. $30,000 did not stop Him from accomplishing His plan in Titus’s life. And it won't stop Him again.
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Why are we sharing all of this? To say, “Look at us!” Many people say, “You’re so brave.” No, we definitely aren’t. We’re just a scared as the next person. But we know this is what God has called us to do and anything less than this would be disobedience. The people who are brave in our book are those who have never been to China, who maybe don’t even know a lot about international adoption, but plow ahead despite so many more unknowns. God has been so gracious to give us all the tools we need for this journey and we are so thankful to be as prepared as we can possibly be. But it’s still scary for us and mostly likely Mr. Fear will surprise us again at the most inopportune moments.
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So, if you know that God is calling you to do something, whether it be to adopt from China or something completely different, but equally scary, just know you are not alone. Our only goal in sharing our journey is to encourage you to take whatever baby step God is calling you to do, even if it is just sending us a message and letting us know how we can pray for you. With God’s power and the encouragement of community, we would love to help you send Mr. Fear packing!
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Many have asked us, “Why don’t more people adopt?” We can’t speak for the masses, however we can say what almost halted us from beginning this journey the first time and now the second time. Ironically, it wasn’t governments, paperwork, or even money. It was the one-eyed monster Mr. Fear that we let reign in our hearts for way too long. And if you unmask this paralyzing dragon, you’ll see the true puppeteer behind him: Satan.
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He’s the one who wants the lonely to stay lonely. The forgotten to stay forgotten. And the unloved to stay unloved.

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