After our first adoption, I may have shared minor bumps with you (although believe me, they felt like MAJOR bumps at the time!!) but that was all I could share – the joys and the blessings of adoption. It was textbook – the timeline went basically like we were told, our paperwork went through without any major hitches, and we brought our baby girl home and felt JOY! Our second adoption story is a completely different story – time frames lengthened drastically – like 3.5 LONG years of waiting, our paperwork expired three times and had to be redone, they found errors that had to be corrected even after it had been in-country, paperwork got lost on the U.S. end – I am not kidding – one major hurdle after another. At one point I remember asking my husband, “Do you think God is trying to stop us?” But we plunged forward through each minor roadblock and continued to find God’s favor in the process. He kept us moving forward and never took His hand off of our process. We decided midway to accept a MINOR special needs child – I emphasize minor, we were not about major issues that others could see but internal things were okay with us – things that could be fixed after she came home – things we would not have to lay awake nights worrying about. I say that humbly but honestly, we wanted a precious bundle of joy with no deformities or abnormalities. We wanted a little one to show off and be proud of. That sounds so trite but that is exactly where we were. AND I MIGHT ADD – that is ok too, those same orphans need homes – there is still preciousness in taking those little ones and giving them a home. What I didn’t know is that for us, God was working deeper. And as our time kept lengthening, we also felt God tugging us to be willing to accept things in these children that we might not have been willing to accept at the start and so we altered our special needs profile to show that we were willing and able to accept other needs – greater needs – needs that actually would show on the outside. What we didn’t know is that God was taking three and a half years to whittle away the pride and vanity in our hearts and give us a child that would shake us to our core. He gave us a little girl that, I am convinced, had far more to teach us, then we will ever be able to teach her. Our Jada came to us at age 3 and a half (notice God’s perfect timing!!) with a declared special need of Aniridia – she was born with no irises. We knew her vision would be minimal, at best, with really no chance of getting better in her life, and the future possibility of blindness. We knew that and we were scared, but we were willing to love on her and be her parents. What we were not ready for were the “undeclared special needs” – she was 3 and a half and not talking, hardly uttering a sound, barely walking, not running or jumping, and having little awareness of what was around her – and those were the needs we were not even aware of until we saw her in China! This was a little girl that was frightening to look at – you could not make eye contact, you could not tell if she could hear you, let alone understand you – we really felt she was like a zombie. She was still wearing diapers and drinking a bottle and we had no idea what God was thinking! Let’s just be honest – we had some words with God.
He shook us to our very core – we had to cling to what we knew was true – NOT what we were feeling. We know God is Sovereign – we clung to that. We know God makes no mistakes – we claimed that as our own. We know that each person is made in His image – our Jada was no mistake. But I am not saying that was easy – I told God I was willing to take a child with special needs but what I wasn’t ready for were the stares and questions that started even while we were in China. People would ask what was wrong with her, was she ok, why did we want her? All questions we had no answers for – – – except the last – – yes, after hours of crying and pleading with God to heal her and seeing that He loved her just as she was – YES, we wanted her! We wanted her because God formed her and she was no mistake. We wanted her because we knew we could show her love, God’s love, that was poured out on us and we didn’t deserve it either – we are FAR from perfect. And so we brought her home and claimed her as our own. I will not lie – they were not all easy days. We questioned where God was taking us and why He had chosen us. It was not easy to be stared at as your child has a meltdown and you look like a parent that has no control. It hurt when people would try to give us helpful advice on how to get her to talk, potty train, run and jump and nothing seemed to be working. It hurts to have no answers and no ways to help your child. But I have learned SO much in this ongoing process.
It was in this time in my life that I was encouraged to read books by Henri Nouwen. The first one I chose was Can You Drink the Cup? A simply amazing book that taught me over and over of God’s sovereignty and love. I have a whole notebook full of quotes that I could share with you – but I will let you read it and build your own notebook! I will share just a couple:
“The ‘cup of sorrows’ and the ‘cup of joys’ cannot be separated. Our cup is often so full of pain that joy seems completely unreachable. When we are crushed like grapes, we cannot think of the wine we will become. The sorrow overwhelms us, makes us throw ourselves on the ground, face down, and sweat drops of blood. Then we need to be reminded that our cup of sorrows is also our cup of joy and that one day we will be able to taste the joy as fully as we now taste the sorrow.”
“Joys are hidden in sorrows! We need to remind each other that the cup of sorrow is also the cup of joy, that precisely what causes us sadness can become the fertile ground for gladness. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy, will we be able to drink it.”
Jada was our cup of sorrow for a time. We were sad for her, and yes, we were sad for us. It changed our world – we pitied ourselves – but it changed our world for the better. I say that now with a smile on my face. She has taught me so much in our short year and a half with her, and God is faithful – His mercies are truly new every morning. Do I smile everyday? No, in fact, just recently we watched our Jada graduate from preschool and it took everything in me to keep a smile on my face as I was SURE every parent in the room was wondering if I was still glad we had adopted her as she stood on the risers and made strange faces, licked her arms, and stared at the ceiling in the most inappropriate spots in the program! But I heard that still small voice remind me, “Your cup of sorrow is also your cup of joy!” I smiled inside thinking that there was a day when I would have made excuses and hung my head and felt sorry for myself. Now, I take her into my arms and say, “She is mine! God chose her for us!” There are truly “joys hidden in sorrows”. She is our joy!
(Our story is not over, our Jada is making tremendous progress! And so are we!! If you’d like to read more, please feel free to visit our family blog And Jada Makes 7.)