One year ago today I surely thought someone had made a mistake. Either Zack and I had incorrectly heard the voice of God calling us to adopt our third child, a daughter from China, or (and I know this will sound blasphemous, but it is how I felt a year ago today) God had led us to the wrong child. This is what I was thinking one year ago today in a hot, crowded building in Nanning, China.
In this hot and crowded building, a screaming, kicking, biting, spitting, (and everything else you could imagine) adorable three year old little girl was experiencing a tremendous amount of grief, fear, and anger as she watched her only caregivers walk out a door to never return. She was left with two strange looking white people, and she was not happy. I won’t recount the experience that we all encountered the next few days (you can read it in the blog if you are interested ;), but let’s just say it was filled with lots of crying (by everyone), being confined to our hotel room, and lots of prayers, prayers, prayers. Those first few days with Emmie I was convinced that our lives would never again be the same. And one year later, I have found that I am right. Because of the blessing of a precious girl named Emmie Grace Caldwell, our lives have been filled with more joy, love, laughter and excitement than we could have ever imagined, and our lives will never be the same.
I do want to share with you all the strides that Emmie has made, but what I wish I could communicate to you more than anything is how loving and sovereign God is, and how He has designed adoption to be the process that unites children and families. I am convinced of this now more than ever.
Emmie finished 8 months of preschool this past May. She started with a very, very hesitant spirit, but finished absolutely loving preschool. She has learned a tremendous amount and is speaking English now, though still with a cute Chinese accent. Most people still can’t understand what she says, but her family can, so that works out well J She will be starting speech therapy when she returns to preschool in the fall.
Her personality and the affection she shows to her friends and family are beyond what we could have ever imagined those first weeks in China and first few months home. She is caring, thoughtful, compassionate and concerned. On the opposite end of the spectrum, she also has plenty of attitude to go around and says some of the most hilarious things and has some of the most expressive faces. Things are never boring around our home!
She loves her church, and especially her friends and teachers she has come to know. She is always ready with a smile and hug to greet everyone. Though her first few months at church I could hardly leave her side, she now runs around the entire church like she has been there her entire life. It is beautiful to see!
Her best friends are undoubtedly her brothers, Caleb and Noah. They are her playmates, helpers, and of course the source of her greatest frustration at times. I can assure you they have a very normal brother/sister relationship! It has been challenging at times to navigate the interactions between the three of them, and she and Caleb have an especially challenging relationship at times. But overall their love for one another always wins out….it just may drive everyone crazy in the process!
I am honestly at a bit of a loss for words for what else to say, for fear of sounding cliché…but here I go. Being Emmie’s parents has kind of been like being the gardener of a very fragile flower that was uprooted from its original garden, and placed in a whole new land. It has taken lots of care, cultivation, pruning, and attention. It has taken lots and lots of help from the “Master Gardener”. It has taken patience as we have passed through different seasons, and with the changing of each season we have experienced new growth, and new challenges. We have seen this fragile flower blossom into a strong, vibrant, confident, and beautiful flower, now at home in its new garden and with its new caretakers. Emmie’s Chinese name means “beautiful/lovely flower”. And that is truly what she is.
I am so inexpressibly thankful that we didn’t give up, and that Emmie didn’t give up on us. The thought of what our lives would be like without this little girl is too terrible for me to imagine. And yet one year ago, sitting in our hotel room, I was quite certain, somewhere along the line, a mistake had been made. Turns out, I was the mistaken one! Thank God for the prayers and support of our family and friends, and for God’s guidance, grace, comfort and peace during those first few days.
God was, is, and will always be in control and sovereign even if we don’t feel it, or at times don’t even want to believe it. God always finds a way to work for the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and are called according to His purpose. As we have found, that doesn’t always mean the “working’ is easy, fun, or what we might have imagined or planned for, but it is always for the good.
Which leads me to my final point- Adoption is good! It is soooo good! Adoption is hard and challenging and painful at times. But adoption is good, because it is what God has chosen to use to unite children with families. Families that can give children the love they were created to have! If you need convinced of this, look up James 1:27 for the definition of what “true religion” is. Read the parable of the “Sheep and Goats” in Matthew 25 and see who Jesus identifies with.
As I type this post, at this very moment, I could show you the pictures of thousands of children around the world, and here in the USA who are waiting, just like Emmie, Caleb, and Noah all were, just like I was at one time, to be adopted. They are waiting for someone to give them the love that only a family can. I am beyond thankful for the care and attention all my children were given in the orphanages and transition homes they lived in before coming to their forever homes, but nothing can replace the God created role and relationship of a family.
I know what you are thinking. It is scary. It is risky. There are no guarantees. And that would be a 100% true statement, at least from our experience. Every adoption we have been scared at times. Every adoption we have had to take some type of risk. And every adoption we signed papers releasing agencies and governments from lots of guarantees. It is a step of faith. And there is no way around that!
But here is another 100% true statement: If we, the Church, the body of believers who claim to love God and love others, do not begin to do something to bring orphans into families, an entire generation of children are going to grow up without ever having known the love and meaning of a family. Just think for a moment about all that being in a family entails and the meaning it brings to our lives (the good and bad). Now imagine millions of children never knowing anything of family life. This is the current reality of our country and world if nothing changes in terms of orphan care/adoption.
So now I ask you- would you be willing to intentionally pray for a time about how God would have you and your family to respond to the orphans in our world?
Zack made a statement once that has stuck with me and it basically went like this: It sometimes seems like couples and families that want to have children and children that desperately need a mom and dad and a family are like ships in the night, just passing one another by.
Why is this, when there is this beautiful thing called “adoption”, that can unite families and children? May God lead us to trust Him and believe in His word as we prayerfully examine this question.
To all our family (especially our parents, Glenn & Linda Toney and Mark & Punky Caldwell) and to our amazing friends and family and our awesome church family at First Baptist Church, London, we could not have blossomed and grown as a family without your love, prayers, and friendship over this past year. Thank you for all you have done for our family, and especially for Emmie.