Waiting in the Dark

As the world settles in to watch the Winter Olympics in just a few days, I am struggling to find the full enthusiasm I normally boast at this time of year.  I love the Olympics.  The human interest stories.  The competition.  The athletes’ dedication. The love of country.  The camaraderie.  The teary-eyed parents in the stands.  I normally can’t get enough.  This year, however, is different.  You see, as China gets ready to host thousands of athletes and their coaches for the games, they are actively deciding not to host hundreds of adoptive families whose children are living in institutions nearby.  Some amazing team of people can create an Olympic bubble, and yet they can’t create a safe exit for hundreds of medically fragile children who have only known orphanages as their homes. It’s a contrast most people aren’t thinking of as they hunker down to watch bobsledding or speedskating this weekend.  And yet, the precious face of a boy named Cai, a child we hope to be ours one day, is all I will see in Beijing over the next nineteen days. 

This post isn’t really about the Olympics, though. It’s about waiting. It’s about choosing to trust God when every fiber of my being doesn’t want to. It’s about clinging onto God’s promises that his ways are higher than ours, when in this situation that feels like lip service. It’s about remembering that in the only other time of (im)patient waiting in my life, I met the man of my dreams who is now my husband.  It’s about praying and choosing hope, clinging onto verses like Psalm 27:14 (Wait for the Lord; Be Strong and Take Heart and Wait for the Lord) especially on days when I am tired of clingingThere are no answers. There is no information.  Our children pray every night and ask at dinner, “do you think we can go get Cai soon?” and I force a smile through conflicting thoughts and say, “Gosh, I hope so.”  

My husband and I knew we wanted to adopt a child since the time we got married. We didn’t have a plan or know the details, but we had a very strong desire to care for God’s orphans.  Shortly after our third was born, we began the process in earnest.  After years of research, talking to adoptive families, and understanding the various paths we could take, we decided to adopt locally from Charlotte. It’s too long of a story for now but shortly thereafter, we found ourselves in a program to adopt from India. It felt right. It felt ordained somehow, as the only orphanage I have ever been to was in India, a special night sharing a meal with dozens of young boys who had no one to call mom or dad. And then after a few years of waiting, we got a different call than expected. There was a little boy in China who “matched our criteria.”  

Our case worker asked, Do you want to look at his file? (I will pause and say that if you aren’t familiar with the international adoption process this may sound really strange right now but go with me here.  It is a strange process indeed.) Without much discussion, we opened a file of a three-year old whom we quickly fell in love with, a young boy who could be home with us within the year!  That was right before a global pandemic rocked our world. We had no idea when we switched our country, redid our home study, and filled out new paperwork, that China was about to stop all international adoptions. That was two years ago. 

I am not ready to post pictures of this sweet boy we hope to be ours one day.  It feels too personal. Yet, I decided to write about it because I am positive that someone reading this is also in a period of waiting. Waiting for their spouse. Waiting for the right job. Waiting to get pregnant. Waiting to get an encouraging diagnosis. Waiting to hear “the cancer’s gone” or waiting to hear “a mom chose y’all for their forever family”- these are actual things I am praying for friends right now. I also think back over the years to dozens of friends who waited, and prayed, and waited, and prayed, and didn’t get the answer they wanted. And that is simply heartbreaking. Those are not my stories to write, and yet I carry the deep pain and agony of people I love dearly in my heart everyday. Unanswered prayers. Waiting periods that never ended.  

I wish I could say I have grown closer to God in the last two years but I am not sure that is true.  I’m not sure it’s not true either but I am just not sure. I know that God met me in a place of high anxiety about this situation with a wonderful counselor who also happens to be an adoptive mom. (Didn’t know that when I met with her for the first time!) I know that God reminds me of his goodness in other ways through the small, joyous moments with our three kids, even in the midst of this heart wrenching pandemic. I also know that sometimes it feels infuriating that God won’t fix this. Literally we need one influential person in the Chinese government to say “go” and hundreds of children could be eating dinner with their forever families. I attended a call last week with the State Dept. and learned that there are 370 active adoptions from the U.S. and 17 other countries that have active programs with China.  Did you know that when kids are 13, regardless of medical status, they get “released” from the system in China? Can you imagine your middle schooler or high schooler, someone in this case with a special need, medical challenge, or disability, being put on the streets to fend for themselves? These are the things that I just can’t wrap my head around. We are here. We are ready to get on planes. We are vaccinated and boosted.  So are our kids. We will live there if we need to. 

We are met with silence.  Actually, that’s not true. We are met with, “this is in the best interest of the children and when we deem it safe, we will allow you to travel here.”  That is it. No timeline. No milestones to be met. Just the same parting line that we will let you know. So here we are…..waiting. Waiting, with no information, left in the dark. 

I have to rein in my thoughts often. What if they never open back up the program?  What if Cai is 10 when they say we can come?  What if…?  What if…?  What if….?  Sometimes I feel like God is so silent and it takes everything in me to still lean in. And then, like many things in life, if we pay attention, we get a small glimmer of hope. A ray of light in the darkness. 

A few weeks ago, we got pictures and a few videos from Cai’s orphanage. I clicked on the first few pics and smiled-  it was him posing with the toys we had sent for Christmas. The next click was different, though.  What was he holding? That doesn’t look like a toy. Tears formed in my eyes and I had to catch my breath. There, in the tiny palms of a stranger I love, was a picture of Lee, myself and our kiddos. He knows us. He knows us. He knows us.  It was just the small amount of light I needed to keep on waiting in the dark.

As you tune into the Opening ceremonies, or your favorite skiing event, I hope you will pause and say a small prayer for the kiddos in China who are waiting to meet their new families.  They, too, may be Olympic stars one day.  And for those of you who are in a season of waiting, I see you. Godspeed. 

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