Almost exactly a year ago, in the very first days of 2015, Russ and I had some of the hardest conversations we have ever had.
Adoption had been something we talked about sort of flippantly through our marriage. I have always felt this pull to adopt internationally. But let’s be real. It’s expensive. It’s hard. It’s scary. There is a lot of uncertainty and unknown.
We asked ourselves and each other all the difficult questions. Some of them more than once.
Could we ever afford this?
How would this effect Campbell and Bennett?
What if we adopted a child and it ruined our family?
What will people say?
Is this crazy?
Will our marriage be able to survive this?
Are we really willing to bring home a child we don’t know? Forever?
What if this child came with really scary, life-altering medical issues?
Really, could we afford this?
I have reflected a lot the past few days over those conversations. They were so…human. We were both very scared. We had this lovely little life. These beautiful children who, although not perfect, felt safe. Definitely not well off, but financially stable. It felt like we were weighing our life as we knew it against all the potential bad things that might happen.
As a counselor, I see people make decisions (or choose not to make decisions) because of fear all the time. Much of the time, I think we trick ourselves into thinking we know what we are missing out on when we choose to say “no” because we are afraid. I think the reality is – we have no idea how much good is out there for us when we say yes. I think sometimes we never know what we have lost when we let fear win.
Lately I have been looking at Elliott and wondering, “what if we hadn’t said yes?”.
I would never know how her face scrunches up when she is going to take a bite of something. I would never have lived the moment when she gave me a kiss for the first time. I would never hear her signature little grunt as she tries to tell me something. I would never see her awesome dance moves EVERY SINGLE TIME she hears music playing. I would never see her little face in the mornings, so excited to see me every time. I would never see her delight in her play kitchen, look out the back window at the big kids, and follow Russ around the kitchen doing the sign for “eat” as he makes her dinner.
I would never know the remarkable transformations love can make. The Elliott we met 6 weeks ago was flat. She was cute, but there was little expression, little exploring, little emotion, and little movement. Yesterday morning I watched her, so animated, run around the house as fast as her little legs would take her. She carried the dog’s toy, running away so he would chase her. She’s learned to climb. Today she fell off the coffee table and screamed for a long time; confident that her mom and dad would comfort her, wanting to be passed between us while she cried and blabbered about how awful it all was. A girl who less than two months ago didn’t respond much to pain, now confident that her hurting matters to someone.
This was the yes. When we questioned, almost exactly a year ago, if we could say yes to this, we had no way of knowing all that would come after we plunged forward.
It was scary. It was scary that we didn’t have enough money in the bank to complete the process. It was scary that we didn’t know how people would react. It was scary that we didn’t know what kind of medical needs we might be saying yes to. It was scary to leave our kids for two weeks. It was scary to open our hearts. It was scary to say yes to loving a child forever that was not biologically connected to us. It was scary to choose to change the dynamic of our family.
And knowing that the Lord was in it didn’t make it stop being scary. It was scary the whole time. We simply made it through by acknowledging over and over again that there was something bigger than our fears.
I wonder what in my life I have missed out on because I was too scared to say yes? Or too selfish. Or too preoccupied. Or too aware of my own shortcomings. Or too worried about what other people thought. Or too doubtful that God could pull it off.
And I wonder what the next yes will be for me?
What is the next thing that will terrify me? What thing will cause me to sit on my couch and ask myself and my husband the hardest questions I can think of and cry tears of emotions so complicated I can’t quite name them?
And what is out there for you? What might you need to say yes to? What beautiful and terrifying adventure have you considered and dreamed and envisioned, but said no to because it seems like too much risk? What might you be missing because fear is bigger for you than God is? A career change, a trip to counseling, real community, giving up something that has held you back, joining a church family, stepping out and loving people in an active way? Or maybe even your own journey of adoption?
Elliott will always be a testament to me of what God can do with our most scared yes. Not that it has been easy. Not even necessarily that none of my fears were validated. But that on the other side of our “yes”, there has been great things that far outweighed the fears and risks we imagined in our minds.