Twelve years ago, on February 13, 2004 our family was forever changed by a simple phone call.
It was a message on an answering machine, really, ’cause I wasn’t home when the call came.
That’s right – we didn’t have cell phones! Can you believe it? Just twelve years ago! And in a suburb of Los Angeles where I might get lost or become involved in a car accident any moment. Yes, both happened. More than once.
Regardless, it was February 13, the Friday of Valentine’s Day weekend. I was unemployed and unsure what to do with myself. So, I went to one of my favorite spots to walk and pray.
You see, H. and I had been married for almost 3 years. We desperately wanted to have children but none were coming. We’d done minor fertility explorations and received no answers. Just a referral to more specialized, more expensive testing. That wasn’t the route we wanted to take. If we were going to put money into
obtaining . . . acquiring . . . producing . . .what would be the right word for causing children to appear in our lives? Whatever it is, we preferred to pursue adoption.
. . .
Adoption had always been an option for us. Why do those two words have to rhyme? Catchy, sure, but . . . somehow the combination makes me cringe. Anyway, adoption was more than just a possibility to consider. It had always been part of our plan.
As a child, I was given several cousins through adoption. They came in various colors from a variety of places around the world. I loved them. Never saw them as any different than myself and came to believe that one day I too would add colorful, non-biological children to my family.
H. and I talked about it while we were dating . . . for all of two or five months depending on how you measure it – but that’s another story for another day! Adoption was something we’d definitely do. After we’d practiced parenting on a few kids we birthed first, of course.
So, about two years into marriage, we started pursuing international adoption. We looked at the list of countries with adoption programs and decided on China. Except that we didn’t meet their current age or marriage length requirements.
After much discussion and prayer, we decided to pursue foster care certification. This was something I’d wanted to be part of since reading books by Mary McCracken and Torey Hayden. H. wasn’t as sure about it but agreed that attending classes so we could learn more would be a logical place to start.
Which brings us back to my lonesome walk.
Some point during the fall of 2003, we completed the certification courses. We filled out countless piles of paper. Answered endless questions about our upbringing, personalities, beliefs and daily habits. We were finger-printed, background checked and drug tested. We purchased a trash can with a lid – and still use that very same trash can to this day! We put together emergency kits and first aid kits (according to very specific lists) for both home and car. We bought locks for medicines, locks for cleaning supplies and a lock for the knife drawer.
Everything was in place . . . except that knife drawer lock. H. was working so much overtime that he just couldn’t get to it.
But I wasn’t working.
I wanted to be prepared for a placement, available at home to care for a bereft child as soon as one arrived. So I gave my notice, trained a replacement and left my job at the end of December 2003.
Six weeks and a number of craft projects later, I began to wonder if I’d made the wrong choice.
I needed space and open air, so I went to Descanso Gardens to walk the paths and pray. To ask God for help. For the ability to trust His timing. For contentment. Wisdom. Direction. Peace. Little did I know how soon I’d be walking those same paths . . . pushing a stroller.
I returned to our quiet, hollow apartment to see the message light blinking on the answering machine. Wouldn’t it be fun to say we still used the same answering machine? We don’t! It probably met a sorrowful end in a Goodwill trash can.
. . .
As I listened to the first message, my heart sank.
“Hello. This is ________ from the foster agency. We have a set of three week old twins we’re trying to place. Please call as soon as you can to let me know if you’re interested.”
They called! There were babies who needed a home!
And I wasn’t home.
Placement calls are usually made because a home is needed instantly. If you’re not available to receive the child within the hour, the agency will call the next name on their list.
I was crushed. Twins . . . for two years we had prayed that God would give us twins. And now they would go to someone else.
Trust God. Trust God. His way is perfect, better than my way. He must have something better. Other children better suited for us. But why taunt me with this missed opportunity?
And then there was another message.
“Hi, honey. Are you there? I just got a call from ________ . You need to call her back right away.”
And another message.
“Dear, I couldn’t get ahold of you, so I went ahead and told her, ‘yes.’ I hope that’s OK. You’re supposed to call this number so you can make arrangements to meet the social worker at the hospital.”
. . .
Relief. Elation. Disbelief. Overwhelm.
You might think I laughed or cried or both. Even now I want to laugh. And the memories make the tears come.
But at that point I didn’t do either. I entered a somewhat dazed form of auto-pilot.
I made the appropriate phone calls and drove to the hospital – the one only 10 minutes from our home – the same hospital where most of our friends delivered their babies.
And I met these guys. They were 2 1/2 weeks old.
All in the course of a Friday afternoon.
We spent a whirlwind weekend.
Calling family . . . everyone wanted to make plans to visit. But foster care is temporary; who knew how long they would actually stay?
Visiting the twins . . . watching, studying, staring at them. Holding them.
Shopping for baby gear . . . wandering around Babies R Us, overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar gadgets and gear. What does a parent really need to care for a couple of tiny people?
Visiting the twins . . . feeding them.
Talking to friends . . . being blessed with an abundance of blankets and clothes and toys and carseats. Two of them! One of those carseats has been used by every other baby we cared for. It’s still in our garage.
Finally, on Tuesday morning, they were cleared for release.
After verifying that we were first-aid certified and capable of giving a bottle, the NICU staff allowed us to prove that we could properly secure an infant into a carseat.
With that, and a large bag of formula cans, they sent us off. All four of us.
I still remember feeling like every alarm in the hospital would go off as we walked down that hall and out the sliding glass doors to the parking lot. Oh, we’d signed plenty of papers to make our actions legal, yet it still felt like we were taking something that didn’t belong to us. Which they didn’t! Still plenty of things regarding their care we had no control over, no say in.
Until 16 months later when a judge declared them ours and gave them our name. We’d pretended to be a family for a while. Now were officially a family forever.
While I’ve told this story verbally over and over, I’ve actually had a hard time putting it into written word. Partly because I’ve been afraid I’ll tell it wrong or leave something out or say too much. Partly because this isn’t just my story. It’s the twin’s. Do I have a right to tell their story?
Yet it is my story too. So it isn’t complete because I haven’t told their part of it. Or the part of anyone else involved. But that doesn’t make it any less true or any less valuable.
And ultimately, it isn’t even my story. It’s God’s story. The story of how God arranged more details than we’ll ever know to answer our prayers, give us the desire of our hearts and bring the four of us together into one family. Because it was His plan for us to be together.
That’s not the end of the story! Those babies are nearly 13, and our family numbers 7 right now. Perhaps one day I’ll get the rest of our adoption stories written down. For it is always good to recall God’s faithfulness, goodness, wisdom and provision. No matter how long we wait. Regardless of what unexpected events occur, God is ALWAYS working out His plan for His glory.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
. . .
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
. . .
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”