We didn’t see it coming.
Brian and I had always been open to adoption – even dreamed of it for a season – but we didn’t have the resources to pursue it. We prayed and mentioned to God that if He should bring a young woman into our world who needed parents for her baby… oh, we would be honored.
But then the years ticked by and we figured our parenting days were behind us. After all, the other four were nearly grown and the finish line was now in sight. Our lazy days in the sun were just around the corner. We had visions of passing the moments as we pleased, napping when we wanted, learning Bridge and sipping tea over a nail-biting Bingo game at the local senior center. Ok, maybe our dreams were more along the lines of mountain climbing, camping and 100 mile bike rides, but you get the idea: play and adventure lie ahead and we were getting ready to embrace it!
Then everything changed. I met a lovely young pregnant woman at a retreat. She found out we were open to adoption, we found out she was looking for a family. We met together and talked. An old dream resurfaced and gripped our hearts. It was amazing how quickly our imaginations painted a new future, one with a dark haired little boy who would wake us bright and early to tickle his toes and plant zerberts on his tummy.
During those early days we came up with the name Nathaniel. I just woke one morning and thought, If we have a boy, we should name him Nathaniel. I looked up the name. “Given by God,” or “Gift of God” It resonated with Brian. Yes, definitely Nathaniel.
But things began to change. As I met with this beautiful young woman, I knew she had everything she needed to parent her baby. Yes, it would be tough. The father had passed away, and she had a lot on her plate… but she had a strong supports system. She was strong and vibrant and smart. And while adoption is a beautiful sacrifice by a loving parent, sometimes it’s not the best route. Encouraging her in her ability to be a mom felt right, even though it also felt like stuffing the sweetest dream ever right back into a deep place.
I asked God why He allowed that dream to be all stirred up and put back away, but we’ve come to know him as good. We held onto that goodness even with the tears in our eyes.
I’d been working on a teen fiction book, so I decided to name my main character Nathaniel, Nate for short. I thought if couldn’t hold and raise a baby boy, I would make him the main character of my novel.
Just a few months later, I went to another retreat. Now I’ve been doing this speaking thing for 12 years and never have I come across this situation… much less twice just months apart.
But here it came. Another pregnant woman – in fact, she looked remarkably similar to the first. That’s what first drew me to her.
Then I overheard a conversation between the pastor’s wife and someone else. “Yes, she’s pregnant. She thought she had a family picked out, but then she felt like God told her to be still.”
My ears perked and I wandered over. “Is she having a boy or a girl?”
“A boy, and she even has a name picked out.” She paused. “Nathaniel.”
So began some strong confirmations. I sat down with the mom and told her our story. She said she’d been praying for someone to approach her. We shared a set of goosebumps. She felt God in it. We felt God in it. I went home and everyone we talked with had the same feeling.
Now Brian and I are always a little wary to say “God told us…” Only because people can get pretty wacky with stuff like that. But as we prayed and thought about it, God seemed to confirm this path. We felt certain we were going to parent again and that we were going to have a son – we prayed our son would be this boy, this Nathanael (we changed his name to the biblical spelling). It all seemed so perfect.
We began the process of getting approved for adoption in Colorado. But within a week, the woman was no longer at the home where I had visited and we had a tough time getting in touch with her. In fact, the more time passed without word, the less likely it seemed that Nathanael would be ours.
We couldn’t get over how serendipitous, how specific our meeting had been. We had to move forward. Brian and I hired an agency, completed the home study and created a countdown calendar for the day of his birth. We did everything we could do to prepare our hearts and our home, knowing the rest was in God’s hands. And we felt like we were doing so on faith.
As the days passed without word, I remember how just hours after I met the birth mom, two different women said to me… “Elsa, God is not a tease.” I remember wondering why they would even say that. Of course God isn’t a tease.
But then we received the call in early May. Our suspicions were confirmed. Our birth mom had chosen several other families since us, and would likely choose several more.
That was a tough day.
But we still had hope. We tried to have faith. We knew we could still be chosen at a moment’s notice and so we did all we could to get everything ready.
We marked off the final days… 3…2…1… We received a crib and all the supplies from a dear friend. Then on the final day we received the call. The mom had already birthed her baby boy two days earlier and given him to a family in Florida.
I feel the tears even now.
But God, that was our Nathanael. You seemed so clear.
But maybe that’s why you told me through your people, “God is not a tease.”
You reminded me before the loss ever came to pass because this isn’t the end of the story. You have a plan, and this was part of it. This disappointment. This pain. This grief.
I didn’t get it. We didn’t get it.
But God was still working, already laying the groundwork for the next step in the story.
Again we held onto God’s goodness with tears in our eyes and an empty crib upstairs.
Just days later, a dear friend read a devotion to me about a couple who went through a similar story… and a year later God gave them twins. It made me smile. Twins. That would be crazy.
I received an e-mail from a friend. Her daughter had been to Haiti for a missions trip. She’d fallen in love with one of the little boys. My friend asked her daughter what his name was….
And Nathaniel had a twin. Natalia.
Two gifts from God?
We contacted the orphanage in Haiti and asked about Nathaniel and Natalia. Our hopes were quickly dashed when they said they were already in process for adoption.
“But there is this special little boy,” the director said…
She told us about a young boy named Lovence. Lovence she said, is a “gift from God.” She had found him in a mountain village near starvation, days away from death. She described how they’d brought him back and were nursing him back to health. She told me of his infectious laugh and joyful, tender spirit. For whatever reason, the more we talked, the more she seemed certain that Lovence was meant for our family.
I didn’t know.
We didn’t know.
Were we forcing something now? Was this what God had been planning or us all along? It all felt a little muddled and confusing. Besides, a designated adoption (when the birthmom chooses you), we could afford. An international adoption? That got very pricey very quick. How could we possibly afford it all?
Then a friend called. “Are you sitting down?”
She told me of another friend of hers who had lost a child the same week we’d heard that our birthmom had chosen other families – which just happened to be the same week that Lovence was rescued, near death, from a mountain village. This woman had been praying and felt strongly like she wanted to bring life from her loss, and that God had set us on her heart. She wanted to anonymously donate money toward our adoption.
Our jaws dropped. Our spirits soared. Our God smiled and seemed to whisper, “See, I told you I am not a tease.”
We were overjoyed. We inquired back to the orphanage and found out more about Lovence. And Laurentz. Laurentz was an 18 month old who was brought to the orphanage because his young birth mom was unable to care for him. She wanted him to be adopted.
We felt like God expanded our hearts from one to two.
We were invited to come to the orphanage and meet them face to face. And so the rest of our story begins…. With the very first post about seeing Lovence and Laurentz, touching their faces, holding them close and pursuing this new phase of life with toddling boys, outstretched arms, zerberts and slobbery kisses.
And you know the beautiful truth in all of this? We never would have looked to international adoption right off the bat. We never would have thought of Haiti. Each and every step had to unfold before we would turn our eyes to a little orphanage several thousand miles away in an earthquake stricken country… and to two little boys who were waiting for us, even before we knew we were waiting for them.
It will likely take two years to bring our boys home. That’s one of the reasons we started this blog – that maybe, just maybe, with a concerted effort from family and friends, we’ll be able to pray them home sooner.
I know this has been long – let us know if you stopped in and made it to the end. We are grateful for you… And if you’d like to sign up to receive the updates and pray with us, click here and plug your e-mail address into the e-mail subscription box.
So I add this final note a few years later. We thought Laurentz and Lovence were the end of the story, and they were only the beginning. In a miracle to beat all miracles, God brought us Savannah Grace a year later, and added Wilna to our Haitian adoption a few months after that. Proof positive that once you sign on for the ride, you never know how it will ultimately unfold!!