Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part column from Gloria about their long journey through the foster care system and, ultimately, to adoption. Adoption among the Old Order Amish and New Order Amish is a long tradition, but it’s not widespread everywhere or among everyone. Personally, I’m more familiar with Amish families adopting children from overseas (a long, complicated process). As among the non-Amish, fostering and adopting takes the right people in the right combination of circumstances. Adoption non-Amish children who need a home is a way to spread the bounty and blessings in a deeply meaningful way – Kevin Williams, Editor
I know many of you have been waiting patiently on an update on our two darlings we've been fostering the last 14 months. Honestly, it's been quite the journey for us. As we poured our lives into Rayni and Jesse, we knew it will never be fair to them if we didn’t love them as our own. Yet especially for me, it's been a constant process of letting go and loving with no expectation of any return, only imagining how crushed we all would be, should the time come of parting with them.
I vividly remember how I felt that first day they had a visit with their birth parents. It was as if my entire being was just reeling. I had come to have an intense protective mother love for the newborn and 16-month old that I was responsible for 24/7. Knowing bits of the home situation didn't make things any easier. That night as I went on my daily walk I looked up at the moon and asked God really why he allowed me to develop this deep bond with tiny Jesse, only to possibly have him ripped from my life in a couple years. Just like that, a clear thought popped into my mind, almost catching me off guard, "So that he will someday be able to bond with me." Right there in the cool crispness of the November evening, I stopped in my tracks. Really? At that moment I knew I would do absolutely anything for these little ones entrusted into our care. In fact, it still almost feels too special to even write about it, but I know many of you readers have prayed a lot for our situation and I do want to share how God has been answering those prayers.
As time went on the children were scheduled for two-hour visits, twice a week with their birth parents. With time the visits were being canceled by the birth parents more frequently. Sometimes after I had gotten them all ready to be picked up by the transport lady, who also monitored the visits, they still got canceled last minute. I started getting a funny feeling about it all, "Daniel, where do you think this will all end up?"
"I just don't know," came his ever-steady response, "But let's not start banking on anything."
Deep within we longed to give these innocent children a permanent home, yet it didn't look like an easy or light undertaking. Besides this, there was also the dimension of what the birth parents were going through during this time. As we made a connection with them, we were blessed by their response. They thanked us many times for caring for their children during this period where they weren't able to. It is a very unique situation with the dad being 60-years-old and Mom, 26. Our hearts ache for them in all the difficulties they have faced over the years, thus making the present an extraordinary challenge.
Every couple months we'd go to court and see what direction things were going. I worried about the babies' future, I cried out to God to have His will, but I ultimately, I knew that God was in charge. It was all new for us, neither of us had ever been to a courtroom before. I took it all in with keen interest, I was fascinated with the formality and professional nature of it all, but then there was the part that put an ache in my heart, the many sad faces in the waiting area. Repeatedly I just silently cried out to God to help those dear people; after all, he cares for and created everyone!
The goal at court each time was reunification with the parents. Even though the birth dad had 22 children over the years, he really did care about Rayni and Jesse. Our hearts ached for them as we saw them missing their little ones. Over the months of occasional interaction, we became good friends. Sometimes we'd spend time together at the park or at our house. This gave us time to talk, which we found quite interesting, gut-wrenching, and a blessing, all in one. Rayni would call both sets of parents Mommy and Daddy. She loved all four of us but felt most comfortable with what was now her usual surroundings. Jesse, on the other hand, wasn't sure about these people he really didn't know.
Upon arriving at our house in September, we welcomed them and ushered them on out to the back porch where Daniel was getting ready to do some grilling for supper. The birth dad sat next to where Daniel was grilling while birth mom and I took a seat by the swing on the other end of the deck. We had barely taken our seats when the birth mom informed me, "We have something we need to talk with you about."
"Oh, that sounds interesting," I responded, my heart rate skyrocketing.
"We talked about it, and we think it would be best if you would just keep the children." There it was. It was what we had anxiously been waiting on, praying for, according to God's will. But could it be real? Were they really serious? I stole a quick glance at the other end of the deck. There was Daniel, giving "dad" a great big bear hug. The evidence clearly said that they too were discussing a topic off the beaten path. Painful resignation showed from "dad's" eyes.
While birth mom went on a walk, soon after that, to have a smoke, I stepped into the kitchen to finish supper. Stopping beside Jesse, I stooped to give him a kiss. "Will you be my forever-baby?" I asked, looking into his big blue eyes. I found Rayni, planted a kiss onto her sweet bi-racial face and whispered my love to her. I grabbed the opportunity to give Julia the latest update and watched her eyes widen with delight.
Excitement reigned, yet it also seemed unreal, and the question still hung heavy in our hearts: will they change their mind??
I'll be back next week for part two of the events in our household.
I'll share one of Rayni and Jesse's favorite snacks.
MONSTER ENERGY BALLS
1 cup peanut butter
½ cup honey
3 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoon wheat germ
2 cups quick oats
⅔ cup flax seeds (opt)
2 tablespoons chia seeds (opt)
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup M&M’s (sometimes I use raisins instead)
Mix together. Roll into ball.
Refrigerate or freeze.
Yield: 2 dozen