We were driving at night when he brought it up in the car. I remember watching the headlights on the interstate bob up and down, reflecting off the raindrops on our windshield as I wondered where in the world this conversation was coming from. After all, we had only been married for three months. "Isn't this a conversation we should have when we're actually starting to think about kids? Or even more, if - heaven forbid - we can't have kids? Why are we talking about this now? Adoption is weird. Why would anyone want to do that if they can have children of their own?" I thought these things to myself, realizing I was being close-minded, but not sure yet how to respond in a way that didn't sound ignorant and selfish. So instead I nodded along, telling him I wasn't sure, but I'd think about it.
The seed was planted.
The seed is being watered.
My husband and I are paired with cousins, a boy and a girl, in second and third grade respectively. As they bounce around from home to home and sometimes a car, their grandmother is the one dedicated to sending them to the program each night. We begin spending time outside of the program with them, taking them to the mall, a movie or a park. We eventually invite them to our home and they ask us if both the cars are ours. They ask us why we don't yell at each other. They ask why we sleep in the same bed. They run around our 90 year old, 1,200 square foot home like it's an episode of Extreme Home Makeover opening doors and gasping at each new room then running to the next. Both of them jump in our bed, pull the covers over their heads and giggle. I hear one of them whisper, "This is amazing!"
We fall in love with these children, I cry over these children. My heart breaks for these children. I have secret wishes for these children. Wishes I know I can't change for them, but I begin to wonder if I can change it for others.
And it is there that the seeds of adoption take root, God slowly growing it into and around my heart, although I don't realize it yet.
I get pregnant and the children call themselves auntie and uncle before I'm even showing. They ask me when I will divorce my husband, because women only need men to get pregnant. I have my baby and they carry him around on their hips, telling us all about how they babysit their siblings, cousins, friends. They tell us they "know how to care for a baby." And it's true.
We begin to drift away from each other. The children start attending less because they are back to living more consistently with one of their parents. My husband's work schedule becomes more busy and cuts into our evenings, and our own son takes more of our time and becomes too active to tag along. Eventually we stop volunteering, but promise to spend time with the children outside the program. That slows too as their phone numbers and contact is often unreliable, and we become pregnant with our second. Then we move 400 miles away, and they become a distant memory.
Over that time, my husband and I begin discussing adoption seriously. While our relationship with those children faded, the pull for adoption only grew in our hearts. We still think about those children a lot, even today. As we got to know our mentees, time and time again, we realized their struggles, pain and needs often came from just needing someone to show them love. They needed dedicated parents to care for them, not only in the basic needs like food, shelter and clothing, but in caring for their hearts. They were smart as a whips. Talented and kind, honest and funny. But they had no one to nurture these qualities, so they became insecure and acted out, fell behind and fell into trouble.
And on the surface, that's what initially opened my eyes to adoption. But God was doing an even deeper work in my heart, nurturing the seed that was starting to grow.
And that, my very own story of redemption right up there - that is adoption. Earthly adoption is a pale representation of course, a small shard of glass mirroring the great moral and cultural bounds God crossed. But to set our sights upon a child that has no family name, that has only known great hurt, abandonment, and pain and take them into our home to raise them like our very own, to take great strides and sacrifices with our time, bank accounts, family dynamics and to risk our very hearts - that is living out God's model of adoption in the most tangible, earthly way possible.
And it was in my slow recognition of my own redemption story that the seed blossomed.
I've always known that every believer has a charge to care for the orphan. Be it through prayer, money, volunteerism - fighting for first-family empowerment and in-country orphan care - or tangibly saying, yes, I will care for and love that child as my very own, our charge as Christians is to care for those less fortunate than us. Some of us are asked to take time out of our day to write a check or bend a knee, but some of us are asked to drive a car or board a plane to seek out and make a lifelong commitment to a child that has lost everything, saying, "I don't know where you are from, what your story is or what you look like, and I don't care. I will love you anyway. I will love you as my own. I will love you forever. Come. Be mine, and I will be yours."
And that is the category my husband and I believe we are called to be in. To take the a giant leap of faith and grow our family with not one, but two children that we will never know as fresh newborns, or bouncing babies. Two children that will not look like us, will not share our heritage, will not even speak our language. We are elated and excited to finally begin our journey, yet at the same time we are terrified and scared spitless at the reality of it all beginning.
We formally started this journey last November, and today are working on our home study and dossier. We plan to adopt a sibling-set under age four from Bulgaria (another story in and of itself of how and why we chose that country), and are hoping to bring our babies home within two to three years - a number that pains me and breaks my heart every time I think of my children having to spend that much time away from their forever family.
But we are coming for them and that's what matters. In our hearts, they are already ours. I fall asleep dreaming about them and wake up in the morning to pray for them. I can't wait to hold their faces in my hands and whisper their names before bedtime. We know it will be a long, sanctifying journey - that won't just end with the day we get them off the plane, but after five long years since the seed was planted, we are so ready to get started.
*Top photo by studioU, taken during our engagement photos at our first house, Oakland Avenue - where this all began.
**Follow our adoption journey on Facebook and Instagram.