Through the Fire
January 31, 2019
Marcus pulled up the to the mailbox, reached in, and removed the small stack of envelopes from within its interior. There on the top I could see an official looking envelope with the words United States on it. He paused as he stared at it, and then I saw it too: the words Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My heart skipped a beat, and I tried to pull it from his hands. He instinctively withdrew it from my grasp and said, “I want to open it. It’s from the US Embassy in Ethiopia.”
I watched intently as he tore it open. I leaned in to read it. The top said Attention: Mackey, Baby. My stomach twisted.
The letter stated that the Embassy had officially removed our preliminary Immigrant Visa application for “Baby Mackey” because of the amount of time that had passed since it was filed. For some reason, I instantly wanted to cry.
That letter triggered feelings that I hadn’t felt in a long time - feelings that I didn’t even know were still in there, hiding inside my heart, after nearly 2 years.
Baby Mackey. Addis Ababa. Ethiopia. I felt sick to my stomach. My heart was breaking all over again as I remembered that part of our journey. And then I felt so guilty for being upset over this reminder of the door that had been slammed shut. I felt guilty for instantaneously grieving over this lost “Baby Mackey” when Baby Mackey, by God’s design, wasn’t in Ethiopia at all. He was in India, born the same week as the adoption suspension in Ethiopia, and was now giggling as he ran around our living room. Grace. All grace. I am so grateful for the twists and turns that led us to him, but it still felt like we walked through fire to get there...and fire leaves some scars behind.
As I began to get dinner ready, my mind rushed back to April of 2017 when we first learned that Ethiopia had suspended international adoptions. I remembered the waves of emotions: Panic. Fear. Confusion. Worry. Disbelief. Fervent prayer. Clinging to any shred of hope.
Maybe you’ve found yourself there before too.
April of 2017 to August of 2017 were some of the darkest months that I can ever remember walking through. It hit me harder than I expected. I felt like God had set us on a crazy path, confirmed that path repeatedly, moved obstacle after obstacle out of the way of that path, and then....when I could finally see the end of that path, absolutely destroyed the entire path WHILE I was standing on it. It was devastating. It was confusing. We were blindsided. 4.5 years of dreams and hopes and plans and work had been destroyed alongside us. But God’s ways are higher. I had heard that so many times before, but did I believe it? Did I really believe it, here, when I was face to face with it?
April of 2017 to August of 2017 were some of the loneliest months that I can ever remember walking through. So few people in my day to day life understand adoption. Even fewer understand a 4.5 year wait on an adoption process. Practically no one understands a suspended adoption after 4.5 years. It’s not “normal” to weep over a child you never even laid eyes on. It’s not “normal” to grieve over merely the idea of a child to be. It’s not “normal” to crumble at the ripping up of a fictitious family photo. I don’t blame anyone for not understanding it. Maybe, like me, you’ve felt the sting and solitude of loneliness as well.
We could just stand together in solidarity of the reminders of our trials and heartaches, but let me tell you more. That flashback also reminded me of what God did in my life during that time. God never left me. In fact, He drew me deeper to Himself. Just because it was dark and hard and painful didn’t mean that God wasn’t working all things together for good - even when it REALLY didn’t feel good. Thankfully, now that I’m on the other side of it, I can tangibly see what He was doing. That’s not always the case though, is it? Sometimes we may never understand the “why” or “why not” of God’s plans. Either way, I want to encourage you to keep walking. No matter how many times I hoped and prayed that God would move that mountain, that God would reopen that path, that He would remove that pain, there are just times when God wants us to walk us through a process because it’s what’s best for us. As I clung to Him, He was faithful to walk me through it and fix my eyes on what WAS good in that situation and how, through it, He was making me look more like Him. God used that tough time in my life to remind me that “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:3-5 NLT). He is a good Father.
I am grateful for times of darkness and loneliness and struggles. You see, I wouldn’t know God as a provider if I didn’t need provision. I wouldn’t call Him my peacemaker if I wasn’t in turmoil. I wouldn’t search for and cling to the true light if I wasn’t in darkness. He wouldn’t prove to be my greatest friend if I wasn’t lonely.
For nearly 4 months, I wrestled with what God was doing, but, by God’s Grace, I kept walking and seeking. I read the Psalms over and over as I empathized with the Psalmists - simultaneously praising God for his goodness while crying out for mercy and relief. The tangible relief I craved wouldn’t actually come for 13 more months when, on May 26, 2018, we walked through our front door as a family of 5, realizing that the fire we walked through to get there was meant to refine us and not to consume us. That was God’s good plan for us all along. I can trust in Him as we walk together through every twist and turn.