There has been something about this adoption process that has felt like I'm pretending. Pretending there is really a child (or children) out there for us to parent. Pretending that the faceless paperwork we fill out is leading to a face.
Some of the 'un-realness' stems from the 'realness' of our previous adoption. We received Samuel's referral when he was just 10 days old. And on that day, stared at a picture of him taken when he was only two days old. Every month we received new pictures. Every month we were given a report from his doctors visit. Every month we learned his weight and length. We saw a video of him at a doctors appointment where he sneezed about six times in a row. We rewound it enough times that I heard that sneeze thousands of times. We saw pictures of him wearing clothes and playing with toys that we had sent to him. He was real- a very active, growing, changing baby. And although we did not know if it would be months or years before we would bring him home...he was our son and I was connected to him.
This time there are no pictures, no name, no markers to record. We will someday receive a phone call and learn we have a referral. But this time it will come at the end of the process. With Guatemala the referral comes early in the process and then you wait. Now we wait, the referral comes and we travel to bring them home soon afterwards.
Recently I had reason to remember the spring of 2003. A little girl Rose who was almost ours. There's a lot I remember about that time...but what I've been thinking about lately were some words her mom said to us. "Thank you for being parents to my daughter when I couldn't be. I will always tell her about you."
For three months, while she was in her mothers womb we prayed for her, dreamed about her and prepared a room for her. For three months, her mother didn't have the capacity to be her mom the way she desired. For those three months, together the three of us made a plan of how Rob and I would raise her. For those months, in ways I'll never fully comprehend, we were her parents. We offered hope.
I have been thinking about that. And thinking about our children in the Philippines. (In case you want to know, we have said we are open to 1 or 2 children, either boy or girl….and I'm dreaming of both- a boy and a younger girl:) I've been letting myself feel the reality that they are most likely born...probably about three and one right now. And even though I can't see their faces, it is my responsibility and my calling to offer hope. To be praying for them, dreaming for them, waiting expectantly.
Sitting in a waiting room is familiar. And one realm I want my life to be marked by is waiting well. Not passively. Not aggressively. But waiting with hope and perseverance.
When we are thrown into the trials of life, into times of loss, into places of waiting for something we yearn for….we react. The stories of our lives- both things done to us and choices we have made- impact how we react. Some of us will numb ourselves, pretend we aren't grieving, denying there is something we are longing for. We shut down, say chin up. We make statements like "God is in control", and while that is true, we say it more out of fear because we aren't sure if we let our hurts show that he will really show up to heal them. But the truth is that God doesn't need us to try to make him look good. He is good. And our human comprehension of that can result in boxing him in. When we are honest, when we wrestle with him, his full glory is revealed. He is the one who is a pro at making beauty from ashes. But others around us won't see that miracle if we never admit there are ashes.
The other route some of us will take is to make the trial our identity. We stay in the alleyway we have been thrown into. There we deny things too. We believe lies about who we are, about what we deserve. We betray the beauty inside us and trade it for a faded image of who we are made to be. All we see are the ashes- denying they could ever be made beautiful.
I know I have chosen both. And I'm familiar with when, instead, I have chosen life. The moments when I wait for God to lift me up. When I wait with hope. Not some 'pie in the sky" hope that's fluffy. Real hope. Hope that has substance and guts. Hope that will withstand the darkness of the world. Hope that every single time will break through the darkness. Hope, that when it shows up, sorrow and sighing will flee. Hope that takes pain and turns it into the deepest joy you could imagine. Hope that won't settle for cheap imitations of grief.
That's the mom I want to be. I want to wait with HOPE for my children in the Philippines. I want fight for them, pray for them to be nurtured and protected and to have strong attachment. I want to parent them in the ways I can from thousands of miles away. I want to prepare Samuel to be the best big brother he can be. I want to wait with strength and tenderness.
And here I sit, just a few days before Christmas. And I can't help but think of what it was like for Israel. For 400 years God had been silent. The God who always spoke with them and led them- nothing. Generation after generation wondering when, wondering if, they would hear again. Then the birth of Christ! We have glimpses in our own lives of what that was like… to wait for something that was so anticipated. Although I'm guessing none of us has waited 400 years, although it may feel like it. And this birth fulfilled all they had been waiting for. And this birth is what now offers us hope that can change our waiting, change our pain, change the world.
I suppose I have written this mostly for myself. As a charge, a reminder of who I want to be and how I want to wait. May I this advent season wait with anticipation and with hope. "May it be to me as you have said."