After adopting our daughter, we felt lighter. Natalie Love brought so much joy in the simplest daily rituals: watching her make her silly face in the mirror when she brushed her teeth, the brushing of her hair into what she called her pretty tail, the wiping of her hands (which she referred to as her little bitties) after each meal, and the sweet evenings spent reading to her and rocking her. At night while she slept I would sew tiny colored bows on her white anklets, and make matching hair bows that she wore each day. I still have in my possession the two long skinny pine cones that she gave to me as we walked around Georgetown Apartments in Chamblee, and if our house ever caught on fire, I would probably insist on taking those pine cones with me on my way out. (Ma’am you need to get out now! But my pine cones!) Life was good and we gradually began to feel more normal. Of course that begs the question of what normal is; for us it was not feeling sad all the time. Our new normal was light-hearted, and we hoped that this magic spell would never end.
As Natalie Love grew older, we began to think about adopting another baby, although Joe and I both had secretly wished for twins. I think we were afraid to hope for such a miracle, but God knew our hearts. How silly to think we can ever hide any hope or wish or secret for the God Who Sees. And He already had a plan in place.
At bedtime we would pray with Natalie about this hope, and as we did my mind would flash back to sadder days and I would smile to myself. Here I am, praying for a baby with my beautiful and sweet-smelling daughter, all snuggled up in her bed with her ‘lo bidey (yellow blanket) and moon bidey (moon blanket,of course). Dear Jesus, please give us a baby boy she would say, and we would think Yes, Lord, a baby boy, and dare we ask for two? This time there was hope but not intermingled with fear and sadness, just simple, clean, uncomplicated, innocent trust. It felt good.
Shortly after Natalie turned three, we received a phone call about a set of twins who were going to be put up for adoption. That sentence is so pregnant (forgive me, but no other word seems to fit) with emotion: the hope and joy on one end, and the huge issue of being put up for adoption on the other. I intend to write a later post just about the phenomenon of being put up for adoption; it deserves a thoughtful, considerate post of its own. However this post is about the joyful end. It is a story that once again, I could not make up, and apparently, we could not mess up, even though things seemed a bit dicey at times.
As you can imagine, adoptive couples are very desirous of twins because their child would then have a biological sibling. We knew we would be up against some stiff competition, but this time had a sense that this was going to work out well. At that time we worked as campus ministers at Georgia Tech, and our group would hold city-wide prayer meetings from time to time. This meant that other staff from other departments would all gather at First Baptist Church in Atlanta and pray together for a whole day. Joe went to this meeting full of excitement and without wanting to jinx anything, planned to share our potential adoption with the group. Most of us were friends and colleagues for many years and had all prayed for each other, and had been through both good and bad times together. There was another couple in attendance who were Infertility Club Members like we were, and unbeknownst to us, had also been contacted about this set of twins. So as Joe sat in the circle listening to the requests of others, Mark finally had the floor and shared with the group about a set of twins that were available for adoption, and how he and Debbie hoped to become their parents. Joe of course decided to keep mum.
Now this was awkward. As each member of the group shared their joy and encouragement with Mark, the prayer session began and Joe listened quietly to the prayers of all for Mark and Debbie to be able to adopt these twins. Joe said it was a surreal feeling to be full of empathy for this couple who still had no children, but to feel like a double agent as the prayers went forth. It is a funny thing to disagree with those you are praying with; on the one hand it seems a bit underhanded, but on the other, if prayer is truly conversing with God, it seems acceptable to share your opinion with the kind, omniscient Counselor. While it may seem more like a battle of wits or prayers or passion to us mere mortals, as far as I can tell, God had already had things well in hand.
Speaking about prayer, I must share a funny story from when I was growing up. Although we attended religion classes in school, and had a Bible at home, we really didn’t memorize Bible verses. So it was kind of a novelty when the youngest of my six siblings attended a local Vacation Bible School and came home reciting their verses. One day our family was gathered at my Grandma and Grandpa Celento’s home and the conversation somehow turned to these Bible verses. My cousin Blaise, wanted to impress us with his Bible skills, though to my knowledge he had not attended one of these Protestant vacation Bible schools. He told us excitedly that he knew a Bible verse,
I know one! I know one! Let me try!
Finally Grandma said, Shhh, quiet everyone, let’s hear Blaise’s verse.
To which Blaise blurted out in a loud excited voice with a confidence that belied his malapropism:
Pray without creasing!
I still remember the spontaneous outburst of uproarious laughter at this innocent mistake, and especially my own father who had the most infectious laugh. When Daddy laughed, you wanted to, and had to laugh with him. In fact I can still see his face with tears running down and hear that almost silent laugh accompanied by violent chest heaving and hardly being able to breathe. I suppose this is one the things I miss most about him.
Years later, I would think of this evening at Grandma’s and how the exhortation to pray without creasing was not so far off the mark. Whether in our child’s bedroom at night, or in a city-wide prayer meeting, I find it best to pray without creasing–just tell God what you are really thinking and don’t fold in all the things you think you should be thinking or saying. There’s no fooling Him, so just pray without guile, without manipulation—without creasing if you will.
Back to the prayer meeting with prayers and counter-prayers being sent upward, Joe, being the gracious fellow he is, kept our good news to himself, and simply came home and told me all that had happened at the meeting. It was odd to hope that we would be the winners when we knew how sad it was to lose the opportunity to adopt a baby when things looked like they were going your way. What an emotional roller coaster ride this entire adoption thing is. Nothing about it is simple really.
Soon we received a second phone call and were told to prepare a resume for the birth mother. And prepare we (I) did. That is another exciting story, which will be the starting place next time.