I saw it hanging on the rack and thought "that's the dress I want to bring her home in!" Little did I know, I would send her to someone else's home dressed in it four years later.
People ask me how I can travel the world, seeing and experiencing poverty and destruction. How I can serve hurting children and not want to bring them home with me. My answer? God calls all of us to act and that looks different for everyone. That's all I'm asked to do . . . be faithful in the path set before me.
Never had I felt called to adopt a child I met . . . until her.
And that came as a huge surprise. See, I already had two boys and thought my testosterone-heavy family was complete (happily outnumbered). The first pregnancy and delivery nearly killed me (story for another blog post). Pre-eclampsia, induced labor, sudden C-section, postpartum depression . . . sounds like a glorious welcome to motherhood? Far from it! Most women who experience this illness lose the effects after delivery, but not me. Nope. I like to stand out in the crowd. Be the minority. I am one of the lucky few in the tiny percentage that actually continues to fight high blood pressure and I've been on medicine every since. So technically, my kids DID cause my blood pressure to rise!
Thinking we couldn't have more children after #1, the idea of adoption definitely crossed my mind, but I wasn't sold on the idea, just heartbroken to know that I may not be able to physically handle another pregnancy. I knew adoption was a beautiful picture of redemption and love that extends beyond all boundaries. But, I didn't think about it again after having baby #2. I congratulated friends who adopted and celebrated the growing families, but never felt that tug.
That all changed in September 2012 when I visited a children's home in Jamaica. My purpose: photojournalism. My result: loads of pictures of an amazing organization . . . AND a tug. There was a little girl that kept gravitating to me throughout the trip. She was an adorable 18-month-old spitfire that quickly stole my heart.
It would take too long to explain the amazing four-year journey and all the VERY clear signs leading us to go through the adoption process in hopes of bringing her home one day.
I joined the board of directors and continued to visit and serve the organization . . . 15 times in four years to be exact. That place became like home and the kids and staff like family.
My last trip there was December 2016 and it would be the last time I saw this amazing little girl that I had created an undeniable bond with throughout her life. Our adoption plans had changed by this point, but there was still a glimmer of hope I was holding onto. The maybes. The ifs. But, the directors shared she was matched with a local foster family that would pick her up that Saturday.
In my gut, I knew this was the best plan for her. But boy did that news hurt.
That Saturday, she picked out a special outfit to wear and when she walked in to show me, I nearly lost it. Literally! She walked in wearing THE DRESS. The dress I purchased especially for her four years prior and saw it hanging in my closet day after day. I had brought it to the children's home awhile back because she would outgrow it, but had never seen her wear it. Until that day. I almost dropped to the floor in tears like a toddler that only wants their way. But I'm stubborn. And fought back those liquid prayers.
I was able to meet the foster dad, gave the little girl a kiss goodbye and walked away to cry. I couldn't watch her actually get in the car.
I won't lie. It hurt. It felt like grieving the loss of a child. BUT, I have a peace knowing this was the right plan all along and it was a gift to be a part of her life and her a part of mine that I will never forget. What an amazing gift God gave me that Saturday. To "happen" to be there on the exact date the agency gave the family permission to pick her up. To "happen" to see her wear the special dress.
Here's the thing . . . it was all worth it. Every form, fee, fingerprinting, trip, class and tear shed. Sometimes we go through things without knowing the reason. Other times we discover the why a week later or a year later or not at all. But I have the assurance that God's plan was better than mine . . . and perhaps one day, we'll meet again.
(She just learned to count and had a special place in her heart for this song - 2013).
The full name of the children's home is specially not named to maintain the privacy and safety of the children they serve.