I was ambushed. By my family and by God.
I don’t like change. I like routine, predictability, schedules. So when I walked in the door after a day of work and Jen and our four daughters asked me about hosting a teenage girl from Ukraine for the summer normally I would have balked at the idea. And I think they expected me to. But God had been doing a work in my heart and I was ready to say yes, to get on board. Little did I know then that six months later we would be in the process of adopting that teen girl.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It’s funny how things can change. How a heart can change, a perspective. God had the power to bring me around to His plan and I didn’t even realize He was doing it. Going into the hosting of “Em” I had thought about the possibility of adopting but not seriously. We are a family of six. We barely make ends meet as it is. Was it “responsible” of us to bring another teenager into the family?
But during the course of the hosting, God showed me that His plans for me are rarely what I would consider “responsible.” He pushed me to the edge and let me teeter there. We enjoyed our time with Em, loved it actually. It was one of those experiences that you know going into it is going to impact you in a powerful way but it isn’t until you’re in the throes of it that you realize just what a difference it will make. It changed all of our lives.
Our daughters accepted her as sister, my wife took her in as a daughter. Honestly, it took me longer to form any kind of attachment but eventually it came and I found myself looking at her as one of my girls. For the five weeks that she was with us, she was part of our family.
The summer wasn’t without its challenges. Foremost was the language barrier. Em spoke little to no English so communication was either through translator apps or hand gestures and motions. And because of the extreme differences in culture and background we found ourselves needing be very careful about body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. At times it was exhausting and our daughters felt the pressure to “be on their game” more than anyone else.
Eventually, the summer came to an end and we had to say goodbye to Em. We sent her back to Ukraine with tears and promises to keep in touch. Almost immediately my wife and I began to discuss the possibility of adopting her. She had made such an impact on us that the more we talked and prayed the more we felt God was calling us make her a permanent part of our family.
So we went for it. We applied to the adoption agency and got accepted. We started the process of the home study which involved gathering information, background checks, passports, references, and a slew of other paperwork, documentation, and video courses. It was a grueling process but we were up for the challenge. We were all in. We were going to do this.
Then we had a curve ball thrown at us that literally buckled our knees. We found out Jen was pregnant with our fifth child. This news was devastating for two very distinct reasons. One, we were not trying for another baby (we were in the middle of an adoption for crying out loud!) and we thought our days of infants and sleepless nights and diaper bags were over. And two, we both immediately knew the ramifications a pregnancy would have on our plans to adopt. Most adoption agencies will not work with a couple who is going for an international adoption and pregnant. It just doesn’t work.
We vacillated about what we should do. We could continue the adoption without an agency but would need a social worker to back us and walk us through the process. About the same time we found out some other things about the adoption that were concerning.
Again we wavered. We prayed. We argued. We talked to a few key folks in our life, sought counsel. We just wanted to do what God wanted us to do. We prayed more. And over time our answer began to materialize. Everyone, including our social worker, said the same thing: As hard as it is, you need to walk away from the adoption.
We didn’t want to hear it at first, but deep down we both knew it was really the only option we had left. All other doors were closing quickly.
So, heartbroken and confused, we called it off. Truly, it was the most difficult decision of my life, the hardest three months I’ve ever lived. We poured our lives into this girl and now we had to walk away from the dream of bringing her home for good.
We wrestled with how to reconcile this turn of events. I think in many ways we’re still wrestling with it. But we can only trust that God has a plan for us and a plan for Em. We can only trust that He knows what’s best even if it doesn’t make sense to us. And we all have the memory of last summer where for five weeks we intertwined hearts with a precious teen from Ukraine and hopefully made an impression on her that she’ll carry the rest of her life.
By Mike Delosso, author of Kill Devil
Mike Dellosso is the author of several novels of suspense, an adjunct professor of creative writing and popular conference teacher, a husband, and a father. Born in Baltimore, Mike now resides in southern Pennsylvania with his wife and four daughters. His latest novels are Centralia and Kill Devil.
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