“I feel like I’m slowly drowning,” I told my friend two and a half years ago.
“Don’t say that,” he said. “God’s got you.”
I wanted to believe that so badly, but everything in my life screamed the opposite. Several years earlier my wife, Mary Ann, and I had felt led to begin the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia. We expected it would stretch our family (we already had two biological boys) in unexpected ways, but nothing could have prepared us for what God had planned.
After about a year into the process, He seemed to be hitting us with everything at once. It was taking a really long time. The adoption fees kept piling up, while we began to struggle financially. My salary was decreasing and couldn’t match our monthly bills, let alone the shockingly high cost of international adoption. Mary Ann had developed health problems and was physically unable to work. She suffered severe fatigue and frequent migraines that would often send her to bed for a day or two at a time. Our house and my car were falling apart, as we could not afford to repair them. I would have searched for a new job, but that might have even further delayed our adoption. So I stayed where I was, trusting God to ultimately work it all out, including our finances and Mary Ann’s health.
We waited some more and then were finally matched with a little boy. We were thrilled to be moving on and could hardly wait to travel to Ethiopia and meet him.
But something went wrong and the match fell through. We had to start over and wait for another match.
Meanwhile, our financial burdens grew and Mary Ann’s health continued to struggle. We still trusted that God had called us to adopt, but we began to wonder how much more our family could endure.
Several months later we were matched with a precious little girl. Everything seemed perfect. Mary Ann was thrilled to finally add some female reinforcements to our male-dominated family (even our dog is a boy). She ordered a black American Girl doll for our soon-to-be daughter. Our finances and her health were still questionable, but we believed this was the child God had planned for us all along. We were days from traveling to meet and adopt her.
Then that fell through as well.
After spending more than two years and much of our savings on this adoption God had led us to, we felt like we had gotten nowhere. The next day the doll Mary Ann ordered arrived.
We were devastated. I’ll never forget lying in bed with her that night as she said amidst tears, “I had forgotten how it felt to have a broken heart.” That was it; we couldn’t continue. Emotionally drained, we made the agonizing decision to finally give up and move on.
But move on to what? We had given every piece of our lives to this adoption, convinced it was of God. Had we been fools the entire time, draining our savings and upending our entire family for nothing?
With Mary Ann’s health and our financial situation still failing, I couldn’t see a way out of our situation. That’s when I told my friend I was drowning; I truly had no idea how to pick up and move on. But all earthly logic dictated we do just that, as did most people we spoke with.
A few days after we had decided to quit, our hearts and minds began to change. We looked back over the process and could see where God had sent us little affirmations to keep going. Just keep going. So despite all we had been through, we didn’t end up quitting.
Soon thereafter, we were matched with a boy. We guarded our hearts more this time, knowing anything could happen. We also knew this was it; we would not try again if this match fell through.
It didn’t fall through.
In May of 2012 we flew to Ethiopia and adopted our son, Amare. He was tiny, having been severely malnourished before arriving at his orphanage. I felt overwhelmed by the task God had called me to in becoming this fragile boy’s father—especially in light of Mary Ann’s continued health problems and my salary’s not matching our monthly bills. But we just trusted that somehow God would make a way, even though we couldn’t see it.
Following the Ethiopian procedure for international adoption, we flew home without Amare, giving the U.S. Embassy several months to stamp their approval on the adoption. We would return later to bring our son home to America.
Before we did, though, my company laid me off.
Now—this may sound weird, but that was the first moment I felt a glimmer of real hope. I was planning on leaving the job anyway, but because I had been with my company so long I was entitled to a large severance package. I just had to stay on through the end of 2012.
So I did exactly that. In the meantime, we brought Amare home to join our family in August that year. He fit in immediately. His older brothers embraced him and he embraced them, as if they’d always been family. In the orphanage, he had been so subdued, never speaking to anyone. Once he joined our family, though, he awoke, running around, having a blast, picking up English quickly and speaking nonstop. He is eating well and, slowly but surely, growing taller and bigger. It’s been truly amazing to watch.
Around the same time Amare came home, Mary Ann’s health actually started to improve, bit by bit. I finished my job and collected the full severance. And through a series of surprising but clearly providential events (that’s an entirely separate article), I took a new job I never would have expected, starting just two weeks later. It’s a much better job and completely meets our family’s financial needs. The most incredible part, though, is that the severance I drew combined with the federal tax credit retroactively paid for the entire adoption. Almost to the penny.
Looking back, it’s staggering to think that we were an inch away from giving up. Had we done so, I would have left my previous job and not gotten the severance package or the job I have now. So while the adoption was adding to our financial struggles and forcing me to stay in a job that didn’t meet our needs, if the process hadn’t taken so long, I would have left that job early and received nothing.
More than a year later, I love my new job, Mary Ann is feeling better than I’ve seen in years (though she still has a ways to go), and our family is stronger and closer than ever with Amare’s being part of us. We were and are blown away by the grace God poured on us through this adoption, even when we wavered. Our faith grew exponentially as He forced us to surrender all and depend fully on Him. In the darkness, He was all we had. In our emptiness, we found His fullness. And now we live with more peace in our hearts than we have ever known.
Two years ago, I thought I was drowning. But it turns out that what I thought was sinking my family was actually saving it. And, of course, my friend was 100% right.
God had me. Always.