An Adoption Story: Part Three - Praying Through Valleys
I never did get to be her legal dad. But I still got to be her daddy. As hard as that is to say, it is true. I find solace in the fact that I know she looked at me as her daddy. And I took that responsibility to heart. I prayed and prayed and prayed for my daughter. I prayed relentlessly through deep and dark valleys.
I lived out 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Never stop praying.
As I've looked back on my adoption journey I've realized that there are wishes I hold on to all of the time. One of them is that I wish I had started the adoption process sooner. I’m not sure what it would have actually accomplished for my relationship with my daughter but I still have this unfulfilled wish that I carry forward.
I’ve always had a heart for adoption. One time my wife and I sat down to watch Cider House Rules together. Thirty seconds into the movie and I’m in tears, and not just that slow-leak cry, but the ugly version with the staccato-sharp inhale and vibrant exhale that shakes the body. While the idea of orphaned children pains me so much, I must say that I have so much grace for mothers who make the decision to bring a life into the world rather than choosing abortion. If you are an expectant mother and are reading this, would you please know that choosing life is a powerful gift to those who are unable to have children?
For those who have sought adoption as a path to expanding or starting a family you should probably know, there will always be a “valley” season. One where it feels like there’s no hope, or an insurmountable climb, or just an uphill battle in general. For some this can be a legal battle, for others, it could be unexpected health concerns, or a government organization requiring additional documents or funds, or a heart-wrenching decision by the birth mother that impacts your process.
You will encounter valleys, but that doesn’t mean that you are alone, or that you’ll be there forever. And as a friend of mine likes to say, you need those valley moments so that when you are on the mountaintop you’ll have a beautiful view to look back at.
For me, the valley season was one where my faith stretched beyond what I thought was possible.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid. Your rod and staff protect and comfort me.
In the Valley: Complications With My Daughter’s Health
In May of 2017, my daughter’s health took a significant turn for the worse. Her regimen of medicines and chest therapies were becoming less effective, and she needed to be hospitalized as a result. At this point, we were directly in the middle of the adoption process and it felt like a major mountain was placed in front of us.
And then to make that valley even deeper and the mountain even bigger, we were notified that she would need to be transferred out of state for her continuing care.
My wife left with her by ambulance to a plane that would transfer her to the out of state hospital where she would receive the level of care she needed to help stabilize her ongoing heart failure.
Within days her kidney’s began to fail.
I grabbed the first flight out and emergently joined them. We immediately began praying and sending out to our prayer network for prayers. I never thought I would be asking for prayer for one of my kids to pee!
We began to receive prayers from people across the globe and in every corner of the US. People we didn’t know were reaching out to us for prayer support. All joining us to petition God for the healing of her kidneys.
And then she peed! What an answer to prayer!
A few days later we sat down with a hospital caseworker to review the insurmountable medical debt, and to discuss the ongoing care plan for our daughter. As we sat through counselors and staff and verified info like health insurance coverages, income sources, relatives, and more, we realized that there would be a series of notifications to her absent biological father, who had not made contact now in well over 6 months.
On top of medical concerns, we now were also balancing legal options for adoption with our attorney, and exploring options to accelerate the timeline, or to evaluate the impact of an absent parent reengaging. We had to look at the impact of being out of state. How would this impact residency? Or where the adoption paperwork needed to be filed? What about legal representation? Was there a different notification process now? Different legal circumstances?
Sometimes, when you are in a valley season it feels like that mountain keeps growing.
Apart from God, anxiety, stress, and turmoil can build to unbearable levels during this time. Down in the valley, it can feel as if all of the pressure above you is bearing down on you.
That list from above. . .that's just what I remember now. I'm sure it was 10 times as long at the time.
In these moments, we have a choice. . .go alone or ask for help.
Psalm 27: 1-2 reads:
The Lord is my light and my salvation - so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?
And later in verses 4 and 5 it goes on to say:
The one thing I ask of the LORD - the thing I seek the most - is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For He will conceal me there when troubles come; He will hide me in his sanctuary. He will will place me out of reach on a high rock.
It can be dark in the valley, and we need a light to hold onto; to guide us in the direction of hope. It can feel isolating down in the valley - like you are exposed to the elements - and we need a fortress to go to for shelter from the storms. But most powerfully for me is this idea of being placed (hidden) inside of a special sanctuary. In times of trouble, God has a special place set apart just for me for protection and rest and concealment from troubles.
And just as encouraging is that he can take me from the valley and in an instant put me out of reach of my troubles on a high rock. For me, this high rock and concealment meant time at home with my daughter and my family.
During this season my shift of focus changed from being in a “process,” (one where I had to figure out the steps and the pressure fell solely on me) to being placed within His protection.
And finally, we can often forget that our destination on this journey is to live in the house of the LORD for all of our days.
In the Valley: Loss
For two months I sat nestled in the temple and placed high on a rock. I spent time at home with my daughter, my wife, and our kids, together. Our prayer of healing here on earth turned to healing in Heaven. And in this process, I heard the LORD clearly speak to me about my daughter’s relationship with Him. His love for her, His plan for relationship. And I heard her talk about being unafraid. Jesus had specifically told her that death is nothing to fear!
My perspective on being a parent completely shifted during this time.
I didn’t need a legal document to memorialize this time with my daughter. I didn’t need her last name to change to mine. These were my requirements, not God’s.
He asked me to understand the partnership I have with Him as a father. The submission to His will and the knowledge that His plan is good. He helped me to understand a different perspective on healing, and impacted my relationship with my other children. So much was revealed to me during this valley season, and so much of it made a permanent and positive impact on my life going forward.
In spite of the tragic, painful loss, I can clearly see God’s goodness in this valley season.
My daughter was ushered into Heaven on July 9th, 2017. She has been adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven, placed inside a special sanctuary and out of the way of danger. She is high on a rock and outside of trouble to rest inside of His presence, living within the LORD's salvation for all of her days.
And while my adoption story with her could seem like a failure, it is nowhere close to that. I was given the job by God to be her daddy. To be a spiritual father. I was given the opportunity to reinforce her relationship with Jesus. And in the process, she secured an adoption infinitely more powerful than a piece of paper from a judge. In fact, the Most High judge welcomed her as His daughter, and celebrated and trumpeted her arrival into the Kingdom of Heaven, forever!