November is National Adoption Awareness Month. The first Sunday in November is a time some churches have designated “Orphan Sunday” and the third Saturday in November is when courts across the country will open just for the purpose of finalizing and celebrating the adoptions of children out of foster care. As blessed as I feel to now carry a child through pregnancy, I know that when this baby is born it will not make me a mother. That happened in September of 2007 when I flew half-way around the world to hold a child who was once called an orphan in my arms.
I will never forget sitting in a hot, dimly-lit office in Liberia. The orphanage director told us we wouldn’t be getting our son until the following day, but I guess she had a change of heart. While we were sitting in her office discussing Liberian politics, she quietly excused herself and came back in the room holding the tiniest baby boy. She said, “Do you recognize this little guy?” Did we recognize him? We’d been showing his picture to our friends and family for seven months while we waited for the documents to get filed so that we could come pick him up. I couldn’t believe I was seeing him face to face. He didn’t cry as she handed him to me, but seemed to be studying my face. I held him at arms length because I wanted to see every little inch of him. I remember saying, “We’ve prayed for you for so long and here you are.” The orphanage director leaned over to me and said, “He’s telling you ‘hold me, Ma!’”. I pulled him to my chest and wept. The journey to parenthood that had started with an infertility diagnosis and then continued through the highs and lows of adoption decisions, paperwork, and three little boys we were told would become our sons but whose mothers’ changed their minds, had now culminated in this moment when an orphan became a son and a barren woman became a mother. I remember asking the orphanage director, “Can we keep him?” I just couldn’t believe he was ours.
Joshua has changed my life in so many ways, especially in what the word “orphan” means to me. The child who holds my hand each day, who brings me so much joy was once an orphan before God brought him into my life. As we celebrate Adoption Awareness Month, I have so much thankfulness for this child who initiated me into the world of adoption and motherhood and who has made me understand how God expresses His love by adopting me.