November in all its golden spender feels like a season of waiting to me. The sun spilled days of summer are gone. School-free fun has to wait for another three quarters of a year now. At this latitude, the sweet-smelling glory of spring can hardly be remembered when darkness begins to overshadow the world at 4 p.m. The shop windows boast Christmas trees wrapped in red buffalo plaid (it is in vogue the world over) and the anticipation of that special time of celebration is evidenced by the shopping bags full of gifts in the corner of my bedroom. (“If you peek, I will find out and it goes back, so don’t you dare!” is the rule in our house!)
The rhythm of the seasons and holidays are the easiest kind of waiting. We know the exact date of Christmas and even if spring is “late”, it surely will come. The painful waiting is when you do not know when or if what you are longing for will come. A friend of mine and I were talking about waiting over coffee. She is waiting for what I am not waiting for and I feared that I could not be a good friend to her in that conversation.
I am anticipating things, but there isn’t a heart wrenching wait going on at this time in my life. I am waiting to see how my oldest son will do on the mock exams at the end of this month. Studying or “revising,” as they call it in England, consumes each evening because we know that the wait for the all-important ones at the end of the school year will be more bearable if he does well on the “mocks”. Needless to say, my heart is not breaking over this wait like my friend’s is over hers.
My mind went to a November where the waiting in my life almost drowned me. The August before, we had gotten to meet my youngest daughter for her first birthday in her land of origin, Ethiopia. Handing her back to her caregiver as we left to catch a flight was one of the hardest things I have ever done. In our hearts, she was ours, but that was not so by law and so we had to wait.
I remember one day in October a friend had invited me to coffee and I didn’t know if I had the strength to go. “If my birth daughter was stuck in a third world country without her parents, would I be expected to participate in life?” I went, because that is what I tend to do; I push through and am usually glad that I do. I was glad on this day because the hospitality of my friend soothed my soul like a balm. She had made baked oatmeal and the coffee was strong. I held her smiley baby and felt the strength to carry on.
Later that month, we received an e-mail with some new pictures of our sweet girl. She had started walking. At that realization, my heart lodged in my throat and threatened to spill out all over the family room floor. My husband and I both were there when our other children took off and neither of us where there to remember that moment for her. It wasn’t that she was with a sitter or with a grandparent; she was on another continent and nothing felt more wrong.
One morning I read James 1:2-3: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” And I prayed to God and told Him that in all of His goodness that he had created me with a perseverant personality and that this adoption had indeed built more perseverance into me. I was thankful, but quite honestly, I think that I had enough now, it was time for the waiting to be over and for our girl to come home. A few hours later that same day, I received an e-mail telling me that through an oversight of our adoption agency, some of our documents had expired and that essentially everything was on hold until they could be updated. Updating meant more money, a trip or two to Harrisburg and lots of time. I fell on the floor of our living room and wept the kind of cry where no tears or sound comes because the pain is so profound. I said out loud, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” I felt God’s Spirit engage with mine. He conveyed to me, “You said that you were perseverant. I have more to build into you. Trust Me and keep going.” I got up, fixed a cup of tea and set about assembling the needed updated documents.
On the 12thof November, we received the call that we had been waiting for. “You are invited to court in Ethiopia.” I was volunteering in my daughter’s classroom when the call came. My husband was working in a nearby coffee shop as his office that day and as soon as I could, I went and told him that the wait was over. An acquaintance happened to be there and the awkwardness was palatable as we shared this moment in their presence, but we didn’t care! The glory of the finished wait made tears in front of someone we sort of knew of no consequence!
Then, there was a request for one more document. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12) This wasn’t a document that we needed to produce. It had to come from a government department in Ethiopia. When you have brushed up against the workings of a third world country, this kind of request can feel as bleak the coldest of autumn rainy days.
Our adoption agency was of no help. A fellow adoptive mama who I had met in Ethiopia during that August visit called me and said, “Girl, get on a plane.” Based on her experience, she explained that if we physically showed up, that document would appear. It was a tough call. We have three other school-aged children to be concerned over and the end of November was near; Christmas was loaming and we wanted to be all together for that celebration. I had already purchased 4 pairs of matching Christmas pajamas as an act of faith.
My dad had offered to go over with either of us if needed and so I asked him during the busiest days of his ski shop business to come with me to Ethiopia. We purchased me a one-way ticket and him a return ticket for a week later.
“If anyone can make a difference in this case, it is you,” my aunt told her brother via a Facebook post, breathing hope into us and our mission.
It was true. My dad is an excellent businessman and master negotiator. We arrived on a Wednesday and secured a meeting with our agency head on Friday. The following Monday morning, I received a phone call telling me in broken English that I would have court on Thursday because the document had been procured. The tears spilled out. The wait was now truly over.
My husband arrived late Thursday night to find a little purple crib in our room with our daughter sleeping in it. While he flew to us, I had gone to court and we had been granted custody. It was finished. She shared our last name.
“God allowed you to wait – that didn’t mean that you heard wrong,” my friend said after I recounted this waiting story to her in relation to what she is wading through.
We knew all along God wanted us to adopt her. The length of the wait was confusing only because we knew that He could have stepped in and made it shorter. But in the rearview mirror, it is apparent how the perseverance that we picked up during our adoption journey was going to be called upon to move to England, walk a family of six through that adjustment and church plant in a new culture.
God is writing our story and while the details do not always fall into place when and how we would hope, He truly does know what He is doing. He is the best of Authors.