Remember that column I wrote a couple of months ago about all of the people I know who are going through a difficult time? Well, the part I sort of "forgot" to mention is that I was one of those people. I just didn't feel ready to go public with what was going on yet, and I wasn't sure how to tie it all up in a neat little bow with some kind of profound message at the end. I may not have that yet. But I figured it was time to share anyway.
The whole story actually starts well over a year ago, when I started feeling a call in prayer. It was a call to adopt a child, or at least explore the possibility. I thought this was rather odd, since I'm single, and I believe strongly in the importance of fathers. I had thought, years ago, about adopting from China, since I knew that children in Chinese orphanages weren't so much likely to wind up in lovely, stable, Catholic two-parent families as they were to spend their entire childhoods in Chinese orphanages. But China closed their program to singles years ago, as have most international adoption programs. I thought about all of the lovely young Catholic couples lined up to adopt here in the U.S., and couldn't imagine "stepping in line" in front of any of them.
Nevertheless, I kept the idea in prayer. Almost immediately, I ran into a friend who told me about her participation in the county foster-to-adopt program. These programs involve adopting children (infants or older kids) whose parents' rights have been (or might be) terminated. It's a lot riskier than regular infant adoption. It involves foster care that may or may not end in an adoption.There are not couples lined up around the block for these programs. Most counties don't have nearly enough people to care for all of the kids in the system.
I brought this to my spiritual director, who initially shared my concerns. But in prayer he too got a strong sense that I was, for whatever reason, being called to move ahead with the next steps. He did tell me that, if I were ever in a position to take a child, I should pray for a sign to indicate that it was God's will. I remember wondering what that sign would be, and immediately thinking that a significant birthday -- my own, my parents', a family member -- would be a good one.
So I took the courses, I had a home study, and I became certified.
This is where it gets interesting. I have to be a little vague here, to protect the identities of others involved in the story. But it came to my attention that a three year old girl I had never met was being bounced around because her mother couldn't care for her. The mother had expressed her willingness to relinquish her in a private adoption to someone in my family. And here I was with an approved home study, all set to go. I live in the midst of a close-knit Catholic community of friends and families she could grow up with. And I have a flexible career that happens mostly from home, so she wouldn't have to be placed in day care. I was painfully aware of the lack of a father, but there were no practical scenarios anywhere that were going to offer that for her. At least I knew that I had several strong men in my life who were ready to step up and act as role models.
I asked about her birthday. It was April 12th. My mother's birthday.
And so I offered to take her. Her mother agreed and signed guardianship over to me, I hired an attorney, we started the adoption process, and she came to live with me.
I was immediately struck by what a sweet, smart, funny kid she was. And she adjusted astonishingly well. Started calling me "Mommy" immediately. She bonded with her new cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles. We had play dates and bedtime routines and a special dance when she used her new potty chair. Aside from a few hours with her grandparents or an aunt, she was with me all the time.
And I loved it. It was hard, but I really loved it.
As the time to sign the final adoption papers grew nearer, her natural mother stopped returning my calls. And then she called me and said, "I can't do it." She had changed her mind. She had cobbled together some child care arrangements, and she was taking back custody. There was nothing I could do.And so, a month to the day after this sweet little girl came to live with me, she left again.
It's been hard to know she's gone back to her "old" life. It's also been hard to go back to the life I had before she came. Don't get me wrong -- I have a great life. I'm very fortunate. But I really liked being a mom. I miss it.
And, of course, I was left with a lot of questions. Why did the signs from God seem so clear if this was the way He knew is would end? Why did He call me to this? What exactly was He calling me to?
And the answer, of course, is "I don't know." Apparently we aren't generally allowed to understand the ways of God. He sees a big picture we can't see. And He calls us accordingly. Our part isn't necessarily to see the fruits of those actions. Our job is simply to obey and trust.It's obviously a lot harder to trust when things make so little sense on our end. His ways really aren't our ways. No matter how many ways I try to twist my brain, I can't figure out what His plan in all of this could possibly have been. But what I do know is that I prayed, and I followed to the best of my ability what I believed I was being called to do. I have to believe that He will somehow honor that.
And I believe he'll do the same for you.