In this last week, a lot of other families have let their heart children go as well. And the next question comes: what now?
One natural outcome of hosting is the possibility of adoption. Some of the children who were hosted are available (or will soon be available) for adoption. New Horizons for Children is not an adoption agency, but they can point families to the agencies available to help. Many families are already diving into piles of paperwork and fundraising and getting that dear one back in their arms. There’s a lot to do, and a lot of things that could happen to prevent finalization, but right now, there is hope and excitement and action.
And I am left standing holding the pieces of a relationship that cannot ever go down that road.
Instead of informational conference calls, my evenings consist of stalking Facebook and Skype for a glimpse of her. Instead of talking about financials and legal requirements, I am left hoping that she can return this summer.
I feel left behind.
And I know that I am not the only one.
Many families hosted children who are not available for adoption. Some of them just wanted to host…and then they fell in love with this one who is too old to be given a forever home legally. How is that even an idea, that we reach an age where we don’t need a forever home any more? It’s just not true. And now these families are left with a child, forever in their hearts, permanently a part of their souls, and they cannot pursue them through adoption.
I know that pain, because that’s how I feel about Sunshine.
Some families hosted children who are available for adoption, but they know that the children are not theirs forever. This is hard to explain, because people immediately assume that either the family is broken, or the child is, or that the love that they felt was somehow “lesser.” It’s just not true. And now these families are left with a child, their special heart baby, who belongs with someone else, and they struggle with what that means and what they contributed.
I know that pain, too, because that’s what happened with Soccerboy.
And I sit here, watching my friends pursue adoption, and I thrill with them. And I pray for them. I know it is a hard road. I have watched some of my friends succeed and bring their children home. I have watched others have the adoption get caught on a legal technicality or a country closing its doors and languish for years. I have watched others go through the heartache of pursuing a child, only to have that child say “no” to adoption, sometimes at the last minute, and sometimes even during the probationary period after the first “yes.” Adoption is not a certainty. It is a risk we take, throwing ourselves, our finances, our whole lives, after a child. It is a beautiful story of pursuit, of unconditional love.
But it is not the only story.
Sometimes the story is in the family who hosts and rehosts a girl, not yet free for adoption, time after time, watching the clock tick down on the adoption possibility with every passing year. Their pursuit is not found in legal avenues (yet), but in reaffirming their desire for her to be with them, over and over.
Sometimes the story is in the family who hosts a boy almost in college, thinking it is a one-time hosting, and instead finding the son of their hearts, and laying down their time and money to try to get him back in their arms on a student visa. Their pursuit is not found in adoption paperwork, but in TOEFL practice tests.
Sometimes the story is in the family who hosts a boy, free for adoption, but realize that his forever family is still out there, maybe all the way across the country, and that by letting him go, they might not see him again. Their pursuit is not found in calls to agencies, but to friends as they advocate for their sweet boy.
All of these stories are bittersweet. Because all of it…adoption, student visas, advocating, rehosting…all of it is a result of children having been broken. There would be no need for pursuit if there had never been pain. These are families loving children scarred by abandonment, and harm, and fear, and the bad choices of others. These families are not heroically sweeping in and fixing lives. These children were not allowed to suffer just so that they could “complete” some family photo. No, these stories are not, and should not, only be about the result.
These stories are about seeing hurt and loving anyway. They are about binding up the wounds of the broken-hearted in any way we can. They are about letting go of our own ideas of what family is and what we need.
I had a friend ask me if this is what I felt called to, this hosting and never adopting. Had I let go of my thoughts of adoption, and found what I was supposed to do?
I didn’t know what to say. My heart hurts knowing that my story with these children so far means I will always be saying goodbye. My soul longs for them to know that if they could be with me for forever, they would be. I am not choosing this. But I am not writing my own story.
Adoption isn’t always something that is chosen or not chosen. It’s simply one way that we show these little ones the unconditional love that we have ourselves have felt from the One who has pursued us in our own brokenness. But it’s not the only path; it’s not the only way. Sometimes, it’s not even the best way.
But sometimes, that’s hard to see. Sometimes, it hurts to not have a clear path. Sometimes, it tears at your soul to feel like it was all for nothing.
And then sometimes, we get to see a glimpse of a larger plan. Sometimes, we get to see what results from the process of loving outside of adoption.
Two days ago, my Skype rang. It was Soccerboy’s parents. Hello America! It was late there.
Soccerboy, my first host son, was with me the summer of 2013. He is my little monkey, my pertikis. Even then, I knew that he wasn’t mine to keep, except in my heart. I would always be his American Mama. We thought that perhaps another family here would pursue him, and they had signed up to host him for Christmas…but then he went back to his biological parents. This was scary, and confusing. What had this summer mattered? He was reunited with his parents, so what was I? Had I done more harm than good? Showed him a glimpse of a life and then pulled it away? Would it have been better if he had never come?
But I love him, so I kept in touch. We Skype every two weeks or so. I sent them Christmas presents. A camera for my boy. A stuffed monkey for his baby brother. Flashlights for his dad. A necklace and a note for his mom. A Bible.
And then this call. Soccerboy and his brother were sleeping, but his mom and dad wanted to talk. This is always interesting, since they know very little English. But they wanted to thank me for the gifts. His mom held up the necklace. It was two hearts linked together, one for each of us.
And then she said, “Latvia mama. America mama. One family. Paldies. Paldies. You heart, me heart. Both boy. One family. Very far. But one. Much love. Paldies. Paldies. Paldies.”
And I looked in her eyes, and I knew she meant it. When she couldn’t love her boy, I did. And he became mine. And I became theirs. One family. Much love.
I never could have seen this coming the day I put him on the plane back in August. His mother wasn’t in my mind in that moment. Only my hurt, and my sadness. My knowing that he would only be mine in my heart, never forever in my home.
But the beauty from ashes, oh, it is beyond what I could have imagined. A family took me in. A family gave me a place of honor in their hearts. I was adopted. Not traditionally. Never traditionally for me. But my world, changed. My family, bigger.
And here I am again with my Sunshine. This time, it is different. This time, it is not the knowing that she won’t be forever mine. I knew that going in. This time, it is the knowing that she should be, and she has to be, somehow. That pain is still sharp.
So I will pursue her. Because I know something true: there are different kinds of forever. There are different kinds of forever families. There are different kinds of pursuits.
And the pursuit matters, in whatever form it takes. It matters.