I was afraid of a lot of things. But mostly I was afraid to trust God. On the long, quiet ride back to the apartment I thought about this post I'd recently read on my friend Julia's blog. Her husband, in describing his personal journey, wrote:
"I picture it this way (I may be borrowing this illustration, I don't remember): imagine that all of God's people are swimmers in a broad, swift stream. The stream is God's will, and it flows toward the accomplishment of God's purposes. People like me tend to stay close to the banks, where the water doesn't move to fast. We hang on to the edge to keep the raging will of God from pulling us faster than we have the courage to go. Sometimes we even try to swim upstream, against God's will. People like my wife, on the other hand, are always pushing away from the banks, out into the center of the stream. They want to be where the action is, to see God moving in the world and move with Him. We are all going downstream to the same place, because God's will cannot be denied. But if we want to experience more of God, we have to move out into the center of the stream."
In the days after my visit with Isabella, I struggled so much with where I was supposed to go from there. Like Julia's husband, I wanted to stay close to the banks of the stream - where it felt safer, easier, more predictable.
I'd been interested in adoption for many years. We talked about it even before our first biological child was born. I had specific ideas about what kind of child we would adopt though. I'm about to be very frank here, and I may not make any friends, but if it resonates with others out there who are considering adoption then it's worth sharing.
I never wanted to adopt a child with special needs. I certainly did not want to adopt an older child. I admired other families who did, but I didn't feel that we were equipped to do something like that. I had a long list of reasons why that just wasn't a fit for our family. Whenever I researched adoption back then, it was mostly with the goal of figuring out which countries offered the greatest prospect of adopting very young, healthy children. I didn't have a heart for orphans yet - my eyes had not been opened. I was focused only on fulfilling our desire for a child.
After our daughter was born in 2006, adoption thoughts were put on the back burner for awhile. But becoming a mother planted the seed of change in my heart. To look into my young child's eyes was to see the face of innocence, complete dependence, pure love. It made me want to wrap my arms around her and hold on for dear life.
Three years later, we were again hoping to add a child to our family but weren't sure if we could conceive another one, so our thoughts turned back to adoption. This time I was more open to the idea of a child with minor special needs, or one who was a little older. Just as we were seriously considering our options, we found out that we were expecting another baby. For a time after our son was born I felt that maybe our family was complete...but I never had total peace about it.
Then last year I logged onto Facebook and saw an exciting announcement from my friend Lora. I clicked on her blog and read about her family's commitment to adopt an older child with special needs. She included a link to Reece's Rainbow - curious, I clicked on it too. I saw a photo of the child they hoped to bring home. I scrolled through pages and pages of listings, all children with special needs. While I felt very sad - even angry and appalled - about the injustices that these children endured, I didn't consider adopting any of them. There were various ways to support families who did choose to adopt, and we could do that - we could support others. We could stay on the periphery.
Months went by, and I still didn't consider adopting a special needs child. That began to change the day I saw Little A's photo among the listings. He was so cute, his description was encouraging. He was about to turn five - he was older and had more severe needs than we'd ever envisioned taking on. Still, he grabbed my heart and pried it open, just a crack. The ideas about adopting that I'd clung to for so long were being challenged. Little A's family found him not too long after that, but by then I was hooked. I began following the adoption journeys of other families, connecting with some very special women who had already adopted, and learning much more about the world of international special needs adoption. All this time, when I'd looked at photos, I'd seen the special need. Now I was beginning to see the child. When I looked at these sweet kids I saw in them exactly what I saw in my own children - the innocence, the dependence, the need for love. They were still waiting for what my children have always had: families to wrap their arms around THEM and hold on for dear life. My heart and eyes were finally opened. I had the courage now to push away from the banks of the stream, just a little...the question was, what would I do with this new-found courage?