by PPL Board Member, Sara Bartholomew
Anyone that has been involved in the adoption process will tell you their adoption journey was unique. Everyone has a different story to share. In December of 2015 my husband and I experienced our second “gotcha day” and eventually adopted our daughter in August of 2016. But this wasn’t the start of our adoption story. It was a long and exhausting process that took several years and looking back now it was a journey about standing in the gap rather than adoption.
We were married in October 2008 and knew we wanted to start a family after our first few years of marriage. After trying for some time, we soon realized it wasn’t going to be easy. We met with doctors, tried a lot of different options, and none of these were successful over the course of six years. It was a very painful time. We watched our friends have kids, strangers have kids, and yet we never had an answer about why we couldn’t. This was my plan, our plan, and yet it wasn’t God’s plan.
“God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.” Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)
After many tears and prayers, we decided to look into adoption. The adoption process starts out with a lot of paperwork – background checks, several interviews, and more paperwork. Once we were approved, our profile was posted online and we waited, along with many other families.
In March 2015, we received a profile for a baby girl. She was born premature, was Hepatitis C positive, and was born addicted to heroin. This one was tough. Up to this point in time, we hadn’t said no to any situation. What were we going to do? We just didn’t know how to respond.
I was at the mall doing some retail therapy when I was reminded of a song called What if Jesus Comes Back Like That recorded by Collin Raye. The song is about how people would react if Jesus returns in the modern-day. One lyric is about a child born into drug abuse. “What if Jesus comes back like that, two months early and hooked on crack? Will we let him in or turn our back?” How could we say no to this little girl? There in the mall, I had my ah-ha moment (God’s nudge).
We received a call a few days later from the adoption agency, and we were picked! This was an amazing feeling. I cannot describe how excited we were! The following day, we drove to the hospital to meet the birth family. The baby girl was placed in the NICU and was also considered an NAS baby (Neonatal abstinence syndrome). She weighed a little over 4lbs. It was difficult to watch her as she would shake, cry a lot, and had very tense muscles – all due to the heroine withdrawals. It was also a very joyous time. Baby Grace was our little girl. The one we had hoped and prayed about for so many years.
Our adoption journey took us into a state that was not considered our place of residence, and as such, we had to wait for the state to clear us to leave. We eventually took Grace from the hospital to our hotel for a few more days. On April 1, 2015 we got approval to leave the state and we were headed home! As we were in the car, driving out of the parking lot, we received a call. The birth family had changed their minds about the adoption. You see, adoption laws vary by state, and in this particular state, the birth families have 30 days from placement to rescind. After two weeks as a new dad and mom, we said our good-bye to Grace in the parking lot of our hotel.
What should we do now? How do we get back to normal life? These were some of the questions that came to mind. I didn’t want to talk about it. Going back to work and deep diving in seemed liked the best option. I didn’t want to go to church – at all, and all of the events with Grace had unfolded right before Easter. I was mad at the situation, but most of all I was angry with God. Why and how after all of these years of struggling with infertility, entering the adoption process with open hearts, and saying yes to this situation, could God allow this happen?
We continued to go to church, but it was a struggle for me. I struggled to believe that anything that was preached was real. It was like a deep wound, inflicted by God, and I wasn’t ready to forgive. We heard it all, “It will all be okay;” “You will adoption again;” and “God has a plan”. We didn’t want to hear any of it.
Standing in the Gap
The situation with Grace was heartbreaking and devastating for my husband and me. We learned that there is a pain as great as death. Most of our friends and family in this situation didn’t know what to say to us, but there were people that Stood in the Gap. At the time, I didn’t realize that is what was happening, but looking back, these moments had a great impact on reaching my husband and I during a time we needed it; when we weren’t ready to hear anything else.
God’s people are called to serve as a bridge between God and the world. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV)
We received emails, phone calls, and cards from people during this time offering words of encouragement and support. There were also letters and cards from people we didn’t even know.
In one particular instance, my husband and I were on a trip and we had shared some of our story with a stranger. We were a bit sarcastic and still dealing with pain. The person listened and said, “I am going to pray for you.” A stranger, we couldn’t believe it!
In another instance it was a church. We had started attending a new church a few months after Grace. One Sunday, the pastor preached one of those sermons that really impacted me. I cannot remember all the details, but I remember the overall meaning. It was about how God, God our Father, can take all of our anger and pain, and that it was okay to be mad at Him. The pastor asked those of us who needed prayers to stand in the aisle and to let go of that anger and pain. I was hesitant, but with a foot in the aisle that day, felt the members of that church praying.
Looking back, there were people Standing in the Gap when we needed them the most. They were there during our infertility struggles, our adoption journey, and after our failed adoption of Grace. We also realized that, unknowingly, we Stood in the Gap for Grace. Below is an email we received during this time from a family friend who was praying for us as we grieved.
I am devastated to hear this. I know there was that risk but was so sure under these circumstances it wouldn't have happened. I'm thankful that they have their faith and know God has a plan. I'm sure that the baby needed to have that special love only a parent can give, unbridled and so full, for Grace to survive a crucial time in her healing and development, that God put Jake & Sara to fill that important need. He knew Jake & Sara would be able to overcome losing Grace but also that Grace will need constant and sincere prayers for her future and now she will have that in Jake & Sara, if no one else. Two people who will stand up for Grace forever whispering in God's ear on her behalf.
How will you Stand in Gap?
What can you do to Stand in the Gap for those involved in the adoption process? The adoption process impacts the lives of several groups of people; the birth family, the adoptive family, and the child. Each person experiences the adoption process in their own way, but all need love, prayers, and support.
We are both called and equipped by the Holy Spirit to bring others to Christ. John 17:15-17 (NIV)