We were on our way last week to our first Wichita Ethiopia Families get-together when we stopped to grab some food. I checked my email from my phone as we waited in the drive-through line. (If you've been around me in the past 6 months, you know that I am obsessive about checking my email. This is because updates can come at any time, day or night, and I'm always so anxious for updates.) In my inbox I found an email that said "Updates". When I opened it I was shocked to find an email from our local coordinator, and also the director of the agency letting us know that we had now lost the referral for the younger boy. He was no longer adoptable. (The reasons he is no longer adoptable are another sad story. One we are praying will eventually have a happy ending. I'm not sure if it's appropriate to share those details here.) In my shock I blurted it out to Wes in the seat next to me, not even thinking about the 6 year old little girl behind me in the car, who heard the statement as well. And as Wes and I sat there open-mouthed in a state of shock, it was Jena's heart that immediately began to grieve. The tears came quickly.
And then we didn't know what to do. Do we continue on to this adoption get-together? Meet all these new people for the first time with red eyes and tear stains? Do we bring Jena along in this, or go home and try to re-group? In the end we decided that if there was anyone in the world that would understand our complicated feelings, it was this group of Ethiopia adoption families. There were to be quite a few other kids there, and nothing cheers the heart of an only-child faster than a big group of children. So we continued on, having learned this new information just 10 minutes before we arrived at a party to celebrate Ethiopian adoption. And it was a good decision. Women I barely knew, and some that I had just met, held me and hugged me when I broke down trying to relay the story. There was an understanding that existed there that we wouldn't have gotten anywhere else. And Jena did have a wonderful time. She made many new friends, and was quickly cheered by all the company.
We revisited the subject, briefly, again at bedtime prayers. The tears began to flow once again. She asked us not to take down any of the pictures of him that we have around our house. "I want to be able to remember him", she told us. I'm thankful for her sensitive heart that can so furiously grieve the loss of a brother half a world away, who doesn't look like her, or know she exists, and who, in fact, she's never even met. There will be a time for acceptance, and that time hasn't come yet for her. But grief is a process, and I know it will take her some time.
For Wes and I, I can tell you that the emotion of the ordeal is a lot like the emotion of a miscarriage. It's grieving that unrealized potential. It's being so close to having something, dreaming about it, planning for it, and then watching it all slip right through your fingers. Except that I don't have the closure of a change in my body. With one email, that's it, he's gone.
Our agency plans to eventually provide us with a new infant referral. I think we want that, but it is really hard to wrap our minds around right now. We've spent the past 6 months falling in love with this little boy. He feels irreplaceable. He IS irreplaceable.
Further complicating our feelings is the fact that we don't feel great about the way in which we lost the referral. We know that this child's future is uncertain, and he is a little boy that the three of us will wonder about for the rest of our lives. I've made attempts through a couple of different avenues to see if there is any way that we can help to improve his situation as he remains in Ethiopia, so far with little success. The increased scrutiny on International Adoptions makes any contact on our part with him or his family grey area at best.
So this is where the self-doubt could set in. This entire process has been an uphill battle for us. Nothing so far has fallen perfectly into place. If we aren't careful, we start to wonder if we've misunderstood the calling. Is this what you want from us, God? Why is it so hard? So painful?
In these times of questions, when answers seem scarce the thing that I'm learning will heal me, the thing that seems vital, is to give thanks. Because "Eucharisteo always, always, precedes the miracle." (Thanks Ann.) So in that spirit, here are some things we are thankful for:
First: Because of our ultimately failed attempt to adopt him, this child has spent a good part of his early life in one of the best facilities for orphans in Ethiopia, our agency's foster care. (Seriously, I keep hearing how quality it is, and how amazing the nannies are.) Away from parents, he wouldn't have gotten that kind of care anywhere else.
Next: I'm thankful that this child now has a group of people in America who will be praying for him and thinking about him for years to come. This is a child that Wes, Jena and I will wonder about, think about, and pray for the rest of our lives. In fact, the Kirk/Randels/Eddleman families will continue to think about and pray for this child.
Next: I'm thankful that God can redeem the sad and uncertain parts of this child's future. I'm believing for him that this will happen.
Next: I'm thankful that my daughter has the capacity for a giant kind of love that stretches across continents, and cultures, and colors of skin. I'm thankful that she was so capable of this big love, that she now grieves his loss, as we all do.
Next: I'm thankful for an amazing support system of family, old friends, and new friends. I'm thankful for a well-timed visit from one of my closest friends, the one who understands failed adoptions, and the longing for motherhood...because she's lived it too. I'm thankful for a new friend who is forging this messy uncharted territory of international adoption with me, and the ways that feeling like you aren't doing it alone seems to make such a difference.
Lastly: I'm thankful for the peace that's washing over us. That when friends ask us how we're coping, I can say: "We are processing, but (emphatically) we are ok."
And so giving thanks for these many blessings, we press on.