This is how most conversations go…
“We have 5 kids, the youngest two we unexpectedly adopted.”
“When you say unexpectedly adopted, do you mean you only wanted to foster?”
“No, we mean nothing about adoption was on our radar. It was completely unexpected.”
“How? What? I don’t understand.”
Well, let me tell you how it happened…
“Jenn! Hold up.”
It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in late October and an extremely normal day. We had just finished a full day of classes at our homeschool co-op. I finally had all three of my kids tracked down and we were just walking out the door to head home when I heard my friend Rachel calling me.
“I’m glad I caught you before you left. I need to tell you something.”
I didn’t know it yet, but those words were to become the last sentence on a chapter of my life.
The next chapter started with this sentence.
“There is a little boy who needs a placement for adoption within the next seven days or he will be placed in foster care. He is a 16-month old, black male. Don’t you have friends waiting for a placement? Would this be a fit for them?”
Rarely do I remember the circumstances around a conversation. Some people have memories that allow them to retain the location, time of day, who was around, and even what they were doing when a conversation took place. I have not been gifted with a vault like memory. But this conversation was different.
As Rachel uttered those words, I was overwhelmed. It is hard to describe exactly what I felt, but a warm chill ran down my spine while at the same time I was completely embraced in an emotion that just held me there. My thoughts were consumed with my friends longing for a child and my heart leapt as I distinctly remember thinking, ‘This is the moment when this little boy found his family.’
It was a holy moment.
And I couldn’t wait to call my friend.
I drove home praying for green lights and was so excited to share this great news. I walked into the house and immediately connected with my friend. And was stunned when I heard her tell me that this little boy did not match the profile that was on file with their adoption agency and so they would need to say no.
No! That couldn’t be right. I knew we had found this baby a family. This was not right. She was supposed to say ‘Yes’.
By this time, it was the end of the work day and my husband called to let me know he was on his way home and to see how our day had been. He was not prepared for the answer.
I shared with him everything that had transpired. How Rachel had told me about this little boy. How I was positive God was going to use that conversation to find him a home. And how he wasn’t a match for our friends’ profile. And especially how angry I was that this little boy was in the same predicament at the end of the day as he had been when he woke up.
My husband patiently listened. And then spoke this very simple sentence.
“What about us?”
“What do you mean, ‘what about us?’” I asked him.
“What about us? Would we be allowed to adopt him?”
I was once again stunned as I let those words settle in. What about us?
That was a question I couldn’t completely answer. We were not on the path toward adoption. We had not applied with an adoption agency. We were not foster parent certified. We didn’t have a home study. We didn’t have any idea what adoption would entail.
But if those things weren’t obstacles, would we be willing? Would we be ready to add another child to our family?
The answer was ‘Yes’. We felt that God was telling us to step out in faith and adopt this little boy. That holy moment hadn’t been wrong. I just hadn’t realized that we were the family that had just been found for him.
So I called Rachel. I told her that I had good news and bad new. The bad news was that my friends were not going to be able to adopt the little boy. But the good news was that we wanted to adopt him, but we didn’t know if we were eligible to do so.
“Are you serious?! Give me a little bit and I will find out.”
And so we proceeded into a Tuesday evening as a family that from all outside appearances looked normal but which was internally as far from normal as could be. We sat in our basement family room watching TV as a family. The family room had a sectional sofa and my husband was on one end and I was on the other with our three kids sitting between us.
As the TV droned on and our kids were engaged in the program, I was watching my phone. Watching and waiting for news from Rachel. And then her message popped up.
“Yes, you would be eligible to adopt him.”
And attached to the text was a picture of a smiley, dimple faced little boy with curly hair. He was so precious.
I forwarded the picture to my husband at the other end of the couch. He replied, “That’s not fair sending me a picture! Now I will be heartbroken if this doesn’t work out.”
And so our Tuesday ended as it always did but nothing was the same. As our kids bushed their teeth and got ready for bed, we pictured brushing the teeth of a toddler. As we tucked them in and kissed them, we wondered if we would be kissing the forehead of another child soon. And so that evening, we kept this amazing possibility secretly stored in our hearts as we wondered how long we would remain a family of five.
Wednesday morning came quickly.
Jim went to work as usual, and I began the task of figuring out what we needed to do to move forward on this new idea of adopting.
We homeschool, so our kids, Emma, Micah, and Sammy, were all home that day. But until we knew more, we had decided not to say anything to them yet. I settled them in with their assignments for the day, walked upstairs to my bedroom, and locked the door behind me.
My first call was to Rachel. Besides being our connection to Wayne, she and her husband had adopted a little boy about 2-months prior so she was also my only resource to figure out where to even begin.
Our first conversation was brief. It was her friend Bianca who had told her about Wayne, and Bianca had learned about Wayne’s plight during Bible Study when Nancy, who was Wayne’s Safe Family mom, had shared that his adoption had fallen through. This real-life version of the game telephone was keeping things from moving very fast, and Rachel was trying to get in touch with Nancy. She promised to call me as soon as she knew anything.
So I waited.
It wasn’t too long before the phone rang.
I answered and Rachel started right in.
“Before we go any further with this, I found out some more details and I need to ask you a question. How do you feel about three children?”
“Three children!” I exclaimed. “What are you talking about?”
“No, not three,” she chuckled, “two. It turns out there’s a baby sister and they don’t want to separate them.”
My first thought after this divinely appointed mis-hearing was, ‘well two is better than three!’. (I often wonder if I would have responded as positively if I had heard two correctly the first time?) Nevertheless, my head was spinning. And I didn’t know what to say. So I told her I would need to talk to Jim and call her back.
Jim had been anxious to hear from me. He was having a hard time focusing at work as he waited on news from me. But he wasn’t prepared for what I was about to tell him.
“I just spoke with Rachel, and we have more information. It turns out that there is a baby sister and they would like to keep them together. Before we move forward, they want to know how we feel about that.”
And without missing a beat, Jim responded, “Well, we’re not splitting them up. We’ll just keep going until God closes a door.”
I called Rachel back with the news. And for the second time she asked, “Are you serious?”
Once again, I was able to tell her that indeed, we were serious. And with that, the morning began to gain momentum.
The next call I needed to make was to Nancy. I was nervous and uncertain. Just exactly how does one start a phone conversation with a perfect stranger asking for the child in their care? Umm…hello, you don’t know me, but I think our family is supposed to adopt the child you have raised. In that moment as I dialed the phone I began to feel less like we were opening our family to these children and more like we were negotiating a deal.
Nancy answered and she quickly put me to ease. I had no way of knowing it then, but in that moment, my phone call was a miraculous answer to prayer. And so we talked and began to formulate a plan. Nancy would get in touch with the birth parents, and I would line up a lawyer, a home visit, and schedule background checks.
The rest of that day I remained holed up in my bedroom making phone calls. The longer I remained in my room, the more curious the kids were becoming, but they did what they were supposed to do and they didn’t interrupt me. By late afternoon I had made 28 phone calls only leaving 2 voice messages, both of which were immediately returned. It was a productive day. I lined up a lawyer. I spoke to both adoption agencies and social workers and quickly determined that since time was of the essence that this would be faster, easier, and less costly if we worked directly with a social worker. I scheduled our background checks. And I drained my phone battery – twice! The last call I made that afternoon was to the lawyer. I asked her what I needed to do next expressing that I felt like I still lacked a game plan and a timeline. She told me that I accomplished in one day what usually took two weeks to get done.
And with that, I left my room and ventured downstairs to make dinner. My sweet children were getting pretty nervous by now. I found them on their best behavior, ready and willing to help me with dinner prep. I found out later that they had been conferencing throughout the day trying to figure out what was going on and the best they were able to come up with was that somehow, they were in trouble!
Earlier in the day Jim and I had spoken about when to tell the kids, and we had decided that we should tell them that evening before dinner. While we still didn’t know much more about what the future would hold, we did know that we wanted to be on the same page as a family, particularly because of how quickly things were moving. We never wanted our kids to believe that this was something we had chosen to do to our family, but rather this was something God has chosen for our family to do and we were simply following in obedience.
Jim came home and we gathered the kids together.
“We have been approached about the possibility of adopting two children. We don’t know if it will happen. In fact, we’re assuming it won’t happen, but that is a possibility we’re pursuing.” And then he showed them the same picture I had sent him not even 24-hours earlier.
“We’re not really telling anyone about this, so we need to keep it a secret, but we do need to be praying. We did not pursue this, so that’s why we feel if this happens that it’s because of the Lord. We’re excited, and we’re obviously nervous.”
Excitement was building with the kids, especially Micah and Sammy who for several years had begged for another sibling and had argued incessantly about whether it would be a brother (for Micah) or a sister (for Sammy). They quickly realized that this “solved” their problem.
So we asked them what they thought. Emma piped up, “When you said you wanted to talk to us, I was going to jokingly ask if you were going to tell us that we were having another baby but I never thought that would seriously be it.”
“Does this excite you? Scare you? Make you nervous?” we asked.
“Excites me. Yeah, it’s pretty exciting,” Emma said, with a look of reservation. “I like the idea, I’m obviously nervous and there will be lots of changes and probably lots of requirements we’ll have to fulfill.”
“I’ll have to keep my room clean all the time!” Sammy realized. But she was overwhelmed with excitement.
“What about you, Micah? Do you like the idea?” Jim asked.
“I like the idea. It’s gonna change stuff, but I like it.” he replied.
And then Jim, a fan of stand-up comedy, had the opportunity to use a Jim Gaffigan line that he never thought he would have opportunity to use in real life.
“I’ve been dying to tell you that ‘We won’t love any of you less, but we will have to let one of you go.’” To which both girls immediately pointed to their brother!
But Jim wrapped it up with great wisdom. “Be praying. We risk a lot of emotional pain which is sometimes what we are called to as Christians. So we are pursuing this. It’s not going to be inexpensive and it’s possible that nothing goes through. But if it does, it’s possible that one or both of the children could be in our home before the end of the year.”
And with that, we sent our kids off to their respective youth groups and kids clubs holding secret news that could turn their worlds upside down.
And that is how it all began. There is much more to the story, but this part ended when the adoption was finalized the Tuesday after Mother’s Day just 6-½ months after that typical Tuesday that changed everything.