Thursday, August 27, 2015

6 Things Adoption Taught Me About Life

One year ago today we met our son Wesley for the first time.

I’ll never forget when that large wooden door opened. My heart was about to beat out of my chest in a fusion of nervousness and excitement. Even on the two-block walk to the adoption agency’s home office, my wife and I were quiet. Occasionally one of us would break out in an exasperated, “I cannot believe we get to meet him.” 

By the time we made it to the beautiful glass building and up the elevator, Patience was doing her best not to cry, and my adrenalin was pumping so hard I could have lifted a car. That’s when we arrived at the wooden door. There was a moment of pause, as we both tried our best to keep composed.

We were there early. Honestly, we couldn’t sit in our room any longer. We had to get there as soon as we could without looking strange, like people camped outside of Best Buy on Black Friday. But it had taken us nearly two years to get to this day, and after that kind of waiting you could bet we would not be late. 

Breathing in deeply, I reached for the handle, looking at Patience with wide eyes. Before I could reach the knob, the door flew open. We both were caught off guard as we peered into the large conference room. Children were inside the room, scrambling around, and playing with toys.

“There he is!” Patience cried.

A little Korean boy with thick glasses stumbled past the door.

“It’s him,” I struggled to find my voice, “It’s Wesley… he’s… he’s already here!”

I looked over at Patience, who already had streams running down her cheeks, and gently put my arm around her as we stepped into the door. The moment was so surreal that it still feels more like a dream. There he was. Our son. Wesley. Running and playing. We heard his voice for the first time as he talked to himself while lining up the cars he had collected from the toy bin.

“He’s so beautiful,” Patience said through tears.

I was speechless.

Nothing can prepare you for that moment. 

The moment the little person you’ve only seen in pictures climbs up into your lap. 

The moment the son you’ve been praying for leans in to give you a kiss. 

The moment you hold him in your arms and hear him giggle for the first time. 

Moments like these do not come often, but when they do, they are etched into your heart forever.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe a year has passed. And what a year it has been for our family. We had no idea what we were stepping into when we first opened our hearts to adoption. In the two years we waited on our little Wesley we would have never dreamt where this amazing/scary/agonizing journey would lead us. Adoption is both beautiful and brutal. And we learned many life lessons through it all. 

As I have been reminiscent, I thought I would share six of the many things adoption has taught us about life. 

The Best Things in Life are Worth Waiting For

The adoption process is by far the biggest lesson in patience I have ever experienced. Just imagine being in line at the DMV… for 2 years. That’s kind of what it feels like. Except with adoption the stakes are so much higher. You have invested your heart and soul into a child that you are pursuing to be your own, and it often feels like the bottom is about to fall out beneath you. 

I can remember several nights holding my wife as she sobbed such painful tears. If there was any chance of a hiccup or a hurdle, it seemed like we hit it. Dates continued to be pushed back. Months turned into a year, and a year turned into almost two. At one point the entire process was brought to a screeching halt, and we didn’t know for sure what the outcome was going to be. We would often be waiting for the next email. The next baby step forward. It was, at times, agonizing, but we pushed forward. 

I remember the moment when I received the email from our adoption agency that we would be traveling to Korea for our court date and to meet our son. I had just sat down at a picnic table outside our offices at work when my phone beeped with an incoming email. I nearly fell off the bench and into the pea gravel. My head was swimming with excitement as I dialed up my wife, praying I would get to break the news. I spent the rest of the day calling family and friends and telling them all about it.

I’ve heard it said that the feeling of relief would mean nothing without the pain that proceeds its. I believe the same could be said for waiting. All of the setbacks and all of the worries could not compare to the elation that came from the moment we met our little boy. As hard as it was, the wait only intensified the joy of our answered prayer. 

I can tell you this much… every time I tuck Wesley into his bed at night, we say our prayers, and he gives me a big slobbery kiss… I would wait ten more years if that’s what it took to make him my son.

Real Life Begins Outside Your Own Means

I drug my feet for a long time about adopting. There were a lot of reasons for the hesitation, but it all boiled down to one major fear in my mind… money. The financial aspect seemed like an impassable mountain. 

I grew up in church, where there is the whole “Ask and you shall receive” mind set. If I was being truthful though, I would have to confess, I truly believed there was no prayer big enough to make our adoption a reality… that was until things started happening. 

We found a picture of a little blind Korean boy named Wesley online one evening on Holt’s Waiting Child list. That was the turning point. We inexplicably felt an immediate draw. We had never considered a child with special needs, but this beautiful little boy stole our hearts. The following day Patience called Holt. We had already been told by a couple of other adoption agencies that we did not make enough money to adopt a child. For the first time the money did not matter to me. All we cared about was the little boy named Wesley that was on a list of children that nobody else wanted. To our surprise Holt told us that our finances would not be a problem. We had jumped the first hurdle!

Door after door began to open. We moved forward in the process of making Wesley our son despite being told most searching parents do not get matched with the first child they find. Against all odds, we were matched. In the face of all our fears and doubts we slowly inched closer to Wesley.

It was an insanely awesome and scary place to be. We were in way over our heads, and even further beyond our own means; yet things continued to work out. I realized my fear was rooted in my severe lack of faith. Faith is easy in theory. It’s easy to read about and easy to recite. It’s terrifying to live out. But when your heart aligns with God’s heart and you take that crazy step out into the unknown, you will find a life much greater than anything you could have mustered up for yourself.

You Can’t Do It Alone

We were a nervous wreck about our home study. If you do not know what a home study is, it’s kind of like an FBI investigation of your house, your kids, your dog, and no stone is left unturned. We have an older home in need of plenty of help, and, at the time, we were freaking out because we wanted it to be perfect. 

That’s when a group of family and friends showed up at our door one Saturday to work. We repaired a spot in the roof, several did yard work and landscaping, and then there was a crew painting and another crew cleaning. Our old house never looked better, and the home study went perfectly.

And that’s just the beginning of the help we received. We had friends throw a benefit concert for us. Our church let us have a Fall Festival to raise proceeds for the adoption. And then there were the hundreds of people that bought a puzzle piece for ten bucks. (The puzzle was from Korea and has the names of all the donors on the back, and hangs in Wesley’s room today!) Patience handmade loads of infinity scarves to sell for the holidays, and once again friends and family helped peddle them on the street corners. We sold over $5,000 worth of scarves! That could have never happen without the helping hands of so many. There were even some dear friends who remodeled (more built from the ground up!) our master bathroom that had not been in working condition for years. Every step of the way, there were loved ones ready to help in some fashion. 

In a lot of ways I am a loner by nature, but the older I get the more I realize that real life was meant to be shared. You can only get so far on your own, but sooner or later you are going to need somebody. Cultivate a community around you. Do life together. You were created for relationship no matter how much of an introvert you may be.

We will probably spend the rest of our lives trying to repay all the kindness that was showered upon us during those two years, and I’m looking forward to doing so. 

Expect the Unexpected

“You’re going to be surprised,” Kevin said, “It’s not going to happen the way you expect or with the people you expect.”

No truer words have ever been spoken.

We had asked Kevin and his wife Gina for advice, and they in turn invited over for dinner and conversation. This was in the beginning stages of the adoption and we had an arsenal of questions. Kevin and Gina were the only people we knew at the time who had adopted internationally.

After dinner, we moved into the living room as we began to explain some fundraising ideas. That’s when Kevin told us to expect the unexpected. 

Months later I was driving down the road when I received a phone call from Patience. She was crying so hard that my heart sunk into my chest. I was certain something terrible had happened. It was just the opposite.

“You know Susan?” she asked.

“Susan?” I thought out loud.

“Susan, who I work for.”

“Oh, yeah,” I confirmed, “I mean, I know of her.”

“She is paying off the adoption.”

I nearly drove into the median.


“Susan called and is sending us a $10,000 check,” Patience voice cracked through the tears, “That’s enough to pay off what we owe the adoption agency.

Never in a million years would I have called that. 

I pulled over the car and sobbed at the news. 

Life is like that. It never happens like you would have thought it would. There are ups and downs. There are losses and victories. And despite all of our plans, God often has plans of His own. There are so many more stories that unfolded during our adoption that neither of us would have ever seen coming. I’m still learning to embrace the unknown, because I’ve found most miracles occur when you least expect them.

It’s Going to be A Lot Harder Than You Thought It Would Be

Despite the mountaintop experience, I have to admit, much of the adoption was drudged out in the trenches. There were mounds of paperwork. There were multiple trips to Immigration in Atlanta. There were fees and costs at every turn. Not to mention the emotional rollercoaster of being stuck on the other side of the world from a child we so desperately wanted to bring home.

As I said before there were many tears and many restless nights. Patience was so afraid to give Wesley all of her heart during the process because there was the chance it would all fall through. We stepped cautiously every day. It seemed we were always waiting for the next approval. We clung to every weekly update we would receive and try to decipher want they meant like there was some secret code imbedded in the words.

There is one phrase I kept hearing through it all: “Adoption is not for the faint of heart.”

And it’s true.

It is a long, often agonizing, journey. 

I remember the story of author Donald Miller’s hike to Machu Picchu. There was an easy trail that would be less than a day’s hike to the ancient city, but the guide informed Don and his group that they would be taking the four day journey on the Incan Trail. The same trail the Incans would make visitors take to get to Machu Picchu. When someone in the group asked the question, “Why would the Incans make people take the long route?” The guide answered, “Because the emperor knew the more painful the journey to Machu Picchu, the more the traveler would appreciate the city, once he got there."

That is a beautiful picture of adoption, and life, for that matter

It’s going to be a hard journey, but…

It’s Better Than Anything You Could Have Planned

One year ago today we met our Wesley. I quickly tried to gain his trust by helping him find more cars for the collection he was hoarding on the floor next to his foster mother. Then there was this special moment were Wesley looked up at me through his magnified glasses and reached out for my hand. He led me to the toy bin where we rummaged for more toy cars. That lead to him sitting in my lap, which lead to slinging him around and tickling him like a crazy person. 

It was such an incredible and unforgettable experience. It was the mountaintop moment at the end of our two-yearlong trek through the seemingly treacherous peaks of adoption. But looking back, it was worth every step. 

I hope to never forget the lessons we learned on our adoption journey.

I hope time doesn’t dull the miracles we witnessed firsthand.

But most of all, I hope I can look back on my life, and say the same thing…

It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth every step.

No comments:

Post a Comment