"Andra! Andra! Come here!" I called excitedly over my shoulder. I was standing on our front porch, peeking out the door at the dark and snowy night. It was Christmas Eve of 1989 and I was four years old. My older sister, Andrea, came and stood behind me. "What, Jenny?" she asked. "Look!" I eagerly told her, while pointing up at the sky. "I think I see the Star of Bethlehem!" My sister followed my gaze, then shook her head knowingly. "No Jenny, that's just a street light." "Oh," I said, glancing back once more to be sure before following her back inside.
This has always been one of my favorite scenes from my childhood. The moment is captured on our collection of VHS home videos, so I've watched it play out many times. I love it, in part, because it so clearly demonstrates my childhood naivety. But I also like it because it hints at a tendency I've had for the past twenty nine years of my life - the tendency to see what my mind wants to believe, rather than what's really in front of me. I've always been a bit of a dreamer. An idealist, some would say. As such, I often leap headfirst into whatever comes my way, believing that goodness will always surface in the end.
The problem with this theory is that sometimes life gets real. And sometimes real gets tough. And sometimes it's hard to remember the good in the middle of the tough.
About three weeks ago Ryan and I got a call from our case worker. It wasn't just any 'ole call. It was THE call. A referral call! The moment every prospective adoptive parent dreams of. With shaking knees, Ryan and I sat for an hour and listened to the life story of a boy in Ethiopia. He was older than we were expecting, but we quickly shrugged that off as we learned more about him. We saw his photos and fell in love with his wide smile. We called our families and told them the good news. Finally, around midnight, we fell into bed exhausted. "You should sleep soundly tonight!" our case worker had told us, "now that you've seen your son's face!"
The problem was, I didn't sleep soundly. I didn't even sleep. I tossed and turned all night, unable to fight off the anxious feeling that was slowly creeping over me. Hidden under my covers, I stared at the boy's photo on my iPhone screen. He was beautiful. He was perfect. But for some reason I just couldn't shake the feeling that he wasn't our son. Tears streamed down my cheeks in the dark. I felt like a hypocrite. I - who had fought like hell to get approved for older child adoption- was suddenly overwhelmed by the reality of it all. I knew ideals and beliefs wouldn't be enough to carry us through. After an emotional heart-to-heart with our case worker, we declined the referral and narrowed our parameters.
So, now what? Of course my crazy over-analytical mind keeps questioning our decision. But when I take a deep breath and quiet myself, I know things worked out the way they were supposed to. We will continue to wait. We still don't know who it is, exactly, that we're waiting for...but we know that we're getting closer to figuring that out. And along the way we're learning to lean into each other and to trust ourselves. Oh, and the boy with the wide smile? Don't worry - he has since been matched with his perfect forever family.
Goodness will always surface in the end.
Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family. Thank you for following us on this wild journey. We love you all and can't wait to see what unfolds in 2014.