Before writing my last post, I had quite a debate with myself over how to proceed. To be completely faithful to chronology, I would have actually transitioned from Daniel to my son-in-law Nick, then onto our decision to pursue adoption before I wrote about Mary.
I consulted with my advisors, PR managers, and talking heads, and they all seemed to have their own agendas. Some are sticklers for a timeline; some (whose names rhyme with "Krystal") are the presidents of Nick's fan club; some gave me the non-committal "It's your blog...do whatever you want!"
Since it's not every day that I get to do whatever I want, that seemed like fine counsel! However, I also have a long history as a people-pleaser, so I'm essentially using this post to address a little bit of all of the above.
Perhaps you will recall that we ended our last post with Mary. As I mentioned, a lot of important stuff happened in the short two years between Daniel and Mary, but in the final analysis, I decided that these three kids really needed to be lumped together:
Hannah, Daniel, and Mary
They are our reversal babies. (Sweet Jimmy B really thought I should have taken the picture of the backs of their heads. Get it? Reversal babies!) If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you might want to take a peek at the Pregnant Pause posts.
While I'm certain that there are no shortage of folks who are relieved, no one has ever come out and asked me why we haven't been back to the delivery room in over six years. I mean, really...we made that trip three times in 3 1/2 years, after all, so it would actually be a very good question! The OB nurses at the hospital where Mary was born, upon hearing the story of our family, fully expected to see us again within the next couple years, and we figured that sounded like a pretty safe bet. So, you may ask, what's up with the gap?
Well, I guess that's not altogether true. I know precisely why I haven't found myself playing "Is That A Line?" for quite a while: God is sovereign, and He knows what He's doing.
(This is going to come as a grave disappointment to anyone who has been laboring under the delusion that, after Mary, we decided to "wise up" and embrace "reason." Sooo sorry.)
Like I said before, if I were going to approach the story of our family using the purest timeline, I actually would have written about Nick after Daniel. I love a nice, logical sequence of events as much as the next old English teacher, so it was very tempting! And, of course, Krystal lobbied pretty strong on her husband's behalf. Further complicating my decision-making process is that I can't fall back on the ol' blood-is-thicker-than-water standard, because barely more than half my children are related to me by blood.
So I drew the line in a much weirder place.
Receiving preferential blog-positioning are the children with whom I have shared a home at any point in the last 25 1/2 years. I figure if you've had to participate in the madness of the 30-second clean-up when someone pulls into the driveway unannounced...if you've had to watch me dash though the house in a panicked freak-out because I've just realized that I'm not wearing a bra, and the aforementioned pop-in visitor is almost to the door...if you have had to run and sneakily fetch me said bra because I've become trapped with my bedroom on one side of the front door and myself on the other...you have earned your right to be written about first.
So, if my sons-in-law are reading this, I'm sorry to bump you...but considering the cost, it's probably a small price to pay!
I will share just one little teaser about Nick--sort of a prelude to the day I will discuss him at greater length:
Nick is the younger of two reasonably-spaced children. He knowingly married into a family that had eight kids and two foster-children at the time. And that's just one branch of Krystal's family! She need never question the depth of his love for her.
Nick with little, tiny Daniel and Hannah.
To this day, when Nick arrives at Stately Bennett Manor,
he is almost immediately covered with children!
So Nick arrived on the scene in earnest while Daniel was still a baby. It was also during Daniel's infancy that we decided to take a step that had been a long time coming: We decided to take James 1:27 to heart and follow God down the road to adoption.
Like many other major decisions we have made, adoption was a seed that was planted in our hearts in Minnesota. We knew families there who had adopted because of infertility and families who had brought an adopted child into a houseful of siblings. There were children adopted from Korea and China and Guatemala; children adopted cross-culturally from within the United States; children adopted out of the foster care system. Young parents; brave, obedient middle-aged parents. It was beautiful!
It wasn't until we moved back to Illinois, though, that the seed of adoption began to sprout into something large enough that we had to decide what we were going to do with it.
This is one of the times in my life upon which I look back and almost laugh (or cry), because I let so much false information, faulty logic, and fear creep into a decision that should have been pretty scripturally simple. Instead, I kept finding myself distracted by nagging little questions: Were we even allowed to adopt when we already had so many kids? Could we ever afford it? What would happen when a social worker asked us how we discipline our children? (I think you know what I'm getting at here!) What if the birth parents wanted them back?! What would people say?! (You'd think I would have been past that one!)
To make a really, really long story a little shorter, I ended up doing a lot of research (surprise!), and I found a wonderful ministry called The Shepherd's Crook. They aren't an adoption agency; they share information from a number of different agencies about children who are difficult to place with adoptive families. Some of the children have serious medical concerns, and some are simply considered "special needs" because of their age or gender...or because they are part of a group of siblings. The fact that The Shepherd's Crook focuses on children who are the least adoptable touched my heart...and on their website, I found two precious little girls from Romania.
By this time, Romania had largely closed its doors to international adoptions...with the exception of special needs children. Madalena and Camelia qualified because they were siblings and because they were of gypsy descent.
And so it began. The search for a social worker; the home-study; the mountains of paperwork; bureaucratic red tape. Whatever horror stories you have heard about international adoption...haven't even come close!
This is the picture we had taken to send to Romania along with our home-study in 2004.
(Back row: Krystal and me. Middle row: Lyndsay, Grace, and Jim.
Front row: Jamie, Hannah, and Daniel.)
More than once during the home-study process, our social worker reminded us that, if we ever decided to become foster parents, the work was already done. We would just have to take a few classes.
Not interested! And we had a LOT of really sound reasons why foster care just wasn't for us. Really! Very good, well thought-out reasons! (Can you almost hear God laugh?)
Then a series of interesting things happened. For starters, we found out we were pregnant with Mary. Then--in a story that would (and might!) make a blog post all by itself--Jim was called to become a pastor, so we moved into the parsonage of Rozetta Baptist Church. But while all this was happening on the home-front, interesting things were happening in Romania as well...
Rumors began to circulate that the Romanian government was considering closing down all international adoptions--even of special needs children. No one seemed to know if that would include adoptions already in progress. But even as we were praying and wondering what would happen, we received a call from our adoption agent that Camelia's foster mother had decided to adopt her.
I don't know if I can clearly articulate just how unusual that was. Romania is such a poverty-stricken country that foster parents virtually never choose to adopt their foster children, because that would mean losing their monthly stipend from the government. Our adoption agent and our contacts at The Shepherd's Crook were shocked! It was something that just never happened.
But only a few days later, we received a call from The Shepherd's Crook, telling us about another little Romanian girl who needed a forever family...and since we had already been approved to adopt two girls, would we be willing to pursue her adoption? Of course, we agreed.
Not long after that, though, we received yet another call from our adoption agent...telling us that Madalena's foster mother (the girls were placed in different homes) had requested to adopt her as well. It was like being struck by lightning twice.
As it turned out, it was a moot point anyway, because shortly after that, Romania closed down all international adoptions...even those that were nearly completed.
I felt like I'd been through a wringer! And I couldn't help but feel a little confused. I had been so convinced that God wanted us to bring those little girls into our family! What had I missed?
This side of Heaven, I'm sure I'll never really know what all God was doing during that time, but I can report on the effects it had on me. Had we made an error in pursuing our Romanian adoption? I don't think so. Caring for orphans is very close to the heart of God...and our decision was a prayerful one. And each step of the adoption process--and each stage of disappointment as it all crumbled--only served to draw me nearer to the Lord.
It also served to broaden my focus. As if scales were falling from my eyes, I finally began to consider all the children in the foster care system. And for the rest of my pregnancy with Mary, it was as if I was also carrying a new, growing vision of what God wanted our next step to be.
But that will be part of Mercy's story...
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.