Hope From an Old Note
NOTE: I wrote this back in April 2019 but held it close waiting for the right time to share it with you. Now is the right time.
Last week, I came across an old note in the margin of my Bible. I was reading Psalm 9 and tucked next to verse 18 in my messy scrawl was this note:
7/5/12 - one week post referral
It was a message from 2012 me to future me to remember that one week after our world shifted forever, for good, I read this verse. A verse that spoke God's loving promise to my heart exactly one week after the day we saw our Littles faces for the first time. It is a day etched in my memory with details crystal clear.
We were on vacation at Lake Tahoe. It doesn't surprise me at all that we were in the place where I feel closest to God when he spoke new life into our family. We had split up that day: the girls went to a craft fair, the guys went on a hike. While meandering through booths of handmade jewelry and tie-dyed clothes, my phone rang. It was a call from our adoption agency. Nothing to surprise me in a mere phone call. We were constantly getting updates on our paperwork. Or rather, non-updates, as the status on our adoption changed little from month to month. At this point, nearly two years had passed since we began the adoption process. Paperwork in the Ethiopia adoption system were moving an a snail's pace. My heart was fragile, the ache of waiting taking its toll.
We had recently made a change in our paperwork and I expected our agency might call to say the change had gone through as expected. So, I stepped to the side to take the call, expecting it to take only a minute or so before I could rejoin the girls.
Vacation shoppers milled lazily around me as I stood in the parking lot of a local junior high. My best friend and niece were browsing at a booth of handmade jewelry. Despite my hoodie, I felt chilly in the shade, as usual, so I stepped into the sunshine to warm myself and listened half-heartedly as our caseworker spoke. There was a metal barrel near me, repurposed as a trash can. It was incongruous. I couldn’t stop staring at it, bothered that it didn't belong there in the middle of a parking spot. In my impatience to get back to vacationing, I wasn't really paying attention. Then I heard these words:
"I'm calling to tell you we have a referral for you."
I don't remember breathing. Or responding. A referral is a match to a child. This was so totally unexpected that my mind got stuck, like a skipping record. I turned towards my best friend and screamed, "Traaaaacieeee!" I heard pain in my voice yet I felt numb. My body started shaking, then crumpling to the ground. I needed my friend to bring me back to reality.
This wasn't how I imagined it would happen. I had imagined this moment a thousand times. I would smile and a light laugh would escape my lips. I'd turn to Chris and we'd knowing look each other in the eyes. It would be magic.
Instead, it was panic. Chris wasn't there. That simple reality sunk me. Why I didn't feel I could handle this news on my own, I will never know. All I knew was that I needed Chris like oxygen. He was off in the woods, so the oxygen left me and I sat on the ground. I cried in the middle of that parking lot, metal barrel on one side, my best friend on the other. She was hugging me and crying with me, catching enough of the conversation to understand what had just happened. I'm sure we made quite a spectacle at the craft fair that day.
Somehow, we reached Chris and the boys with patchy cell service. The case worker gave us until 4:00pm to return the call or our referral would be given to another family. The boys were out a good ways but hiked at top speed back to the car. They made it back in time. The next thing I knew, we were in our cabin, laptop open, view of the lake in the window and there on the screen was a picture of our children. Tiny little people with swollen bellies, bare heads and tentative smiles. Hello.
And that's how everything in my life changed in a moment. From there on, my heart grew wider. Grit grew stronger. And endurance grew deeper. Adopting children with trauma changed me. Changed us. For better or worse, trauma has shaped our family. God is in that. He will use anything to bring us closer to him, even adoption trauma.
The verse next to my note says,
"For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever."
Psalm 9:18 (ESV)
I love writing notes in my Bible because, as time passes, they become a written testimony of what God has done in my life. The day I wrote that note, God was speaking to my heart that He had not forgotten our children. Hope was appropriate despite the long wait, despite the malnutrition, despite the uncertainties we were about to face. Small strangers a continent away were hidden, but now they were found. Their hope for a family, for security, for a future was about to become reality.
A New Calling
Today, I needed that reminder again. One of my children has some serious special needs. We have learned to navigate the school systems to get him support. Now, new information has come to light and it is time for us to advocate again.
Our son, we have learned, has significant hearing loss.
He is almost 11 years old and we didn’t know. He didn't know. How do you know that what you are hearing is half of what you could be hearing, if only your ears worked correctly? You can't know that. It is unknowable.
He is a survivor. He has crazy coping skills. Skills that helped him eat when there was no food. Skills that helped him learn three languages in less than 5 years of life. Skills that helped him hear enough to stay on grade level. He is amazing!
And yet, it is HARD. So hard. But with this new knowledge we can get him much more support. That's my job. To advocate. To fight. To build all the scaffolding he needs to grow healthy, wise, and strong.
So, I made the calls. I started the fight.
It hasn’t actually been a fight to get my son the support he needs at school. But it has felt like a fight. It has felt like an uphill battle. A battle against a big system. Despite feeling small and inadequate, I know I am right where I am supposed to be because this is where God placed me. This is the job I have been given. And so, here, even here, there must be hope. Once I began to look for it, I found it. I found hope in that verse.
My son’s needs will not be forgotten by God.
God did not forget him in a village in Ethiopia. God will not forget him in my home in America.
God fed him. ... from mango trees and compassionate "aunties."
God protected him. ... in a safe orphanage with the necessary paperwork.
God will help him to hear ... with hearing aids and parents who will fight for the support he needs in the classroom.
Therefore, I go into these meetings with hope. The battle to support my son is not mine to wage alone, God is with me. Here are few reasons I know this to be true:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31 (ESV)
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
Psalm 118:6 (ESV)
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
Psalm 56:9-13 (ESV)
Old Notes, New Hope
Sometimes, hope comes from a note I left myself 7 years ago. When has God given you fresh hope from an old note?