room on the canvas: our journey to adoption

I was seven years old when I told my mother that I wanted to adopt a child from each continent. Full disclosure: I'm not really sure why I told her this. It was as if a deeply-rooted desire was poking its head out the window of my life, just waving to let me know it was home. 

But in the past few weeks and months, I've come to grips with the fact that this declaration to adopt was more than just my inner-child's loose-tongued, utopian fantasy. 

It's a calling. 

And like any calling, its fabric is stitched with curiosity and crazy; with fascination and frustration:

Like Moses, I feel some days like God absolutely picked the wrong person. 
Like Abraham, I feel a pit in the center of my stomach as I take the next step toward the altar: a terrified yet oddly centered faith that's faith nonetheless. 
Like Jochebed, extending her fingers toward the basket she's just released into the river, fending of the war inside her: the war between grave irresponsibility as a mother and "this is the only way to save you." 

At ten, when I got a puppy for my birthday -  I picked the puppy who was trembling in the corner of the room - not the ones that were jumping to eagerly greet me at the door on their hind legs. 

In high school, when I was a camp counselor for kids whose parents were incarcerated, I held little Jade's hand at the Detroit zoo. She asked me then if I would be her mom and everything in me wanted to say "Yes!"

In college, I ate in silence across the table from a homeless man at McDonald's in downtown LA because he wanted to eat lunch together and I felt like I was in the presence of Christ Himself. 

At 28, I held my son in the parents' room at church. He was 8 weeks old and I heard the Holy Spirit whisper that the call to adopt hadn't left me. 

Pause: Adoption for me isn't about being glorified for taking in a child in need. It's not that. Every child is our child. And mind you, I firmly believe that I was adopted - first and foremost - into the family of God. He adopted me and so reconciled me to Himself as His daughter. 

To me, adoption is about making room on the canvas of my life to do the very thing that my Father in Heaven did through Christ. It is - as my author friend Kelley Nikondeha would say - a sacrament. It's a sacrament by which I can make room to give and receive more grace. To give and receive more love. To give and receive more hope in a world that, as of right now, seems hopelessly broken. For my family and for our world - adoption is a reminder that we belong to each other - regardless of bloodline - because we are made one through Him first. 

And so I can choose to identify with those on the fringes and be someone's mother without giving them my womb and commune with those that society identifies as the least of these because through Christ - this was done for me. I was chosen. I was parented. I was given the holiest of holy communions. 

But when you're married - you can't just decide that a 20+ year dream is what will drive your family. 

When I told Delwin about my desire to adopt, he wasn't ready. He thought two kids was enough. And, although he wasn't against the idea of adoption, he didn't feel like it was a calling for him. 

And so I prayed. And I stayed (mostly) silent. The silence was hard - because I was so sure. But I didn't want to drag him along. And so I trusted my desire - and our family's fate - into God's hands. 

Then, through a string of events starting this past January that included a dinner with an amazing family who had three bio and three adopted children; a podcast on fostering to adoption; a stumble across a website where D and I ended up reading profiles of kids in foster care; and his own quiet time - we ended up deciding to dive right in. 

One night in February, I was playing Words With Friends in bed, and Delwin turns to me and says:
"I'm ready."

Blank stare. 

"Ready for what? Do you want me to turn the light off?" 

"No," he said. "I'm ready to take the next steps for us to adopt." 

Cue tears. (And, honestly, confusion.) 

The way our relationship works is this: When we make a decision, we MAKE a DECISION. No dragging feet. No questions. Just - do it. 

And so - since I'd already been doing some undercover ninja research - I knew that we'd be adopting through an amazing organization called the Cradle. We set up an info meeting. We learned a lot - including that the fact that we were a married black couple coming to the table to adopt was rare. The black community doesn't just adopt. You don't see black people walking around with white, Latino, or Asian kids. Delwin hadn't seen this done in his family in an official capacity, and I had limited exposure. This was new - to everyone. 

We then met with our counselor. Her name is Katie and she's amazing. She set us up with paperwork and our class schedule. This is where we are now. We're taking classes to become more educated on everything from the legal ramifications to attachment. 

We're hoping to adopt a baby boy or girl (we don't get to choose - and we don't want to!) from either Illinois or Indiana. We've decided that we will adopt a child from any racial or ethnic background. The child will be at most a year old when we bring them home. We hope to maintain as open of a relationship with the birth mother and father as possible, because we want our child to know as much about his or her history as possible. Identity, as you know, means so much. 

Please pray for our baby's birth mom in particular. For whatever reason, she's been on both Delwin's and my hearts.

Lastly, we're moving. 

We have a contract on our old home and are expecting to move into a new home that will accommodate our soon-to-be family of five. Our kids will go to a more diverse school and we'll hopefully be surrounded by people we'll be excited to be in a community with for a long time.

As of today, we're a little stressed out. We're very tired. And our stuff is located between two homesteads: ours and my parent's condo. 

But this is what making room on a canvas looks like. It's messy. It can get complicated. But it also has the potential to be quite beautiful if we'll just take steps back from time to time and see what God is up to. 

We know we can't do this alone. It's very humbling to acknowledge. But as this journey unfolds and as we learn more about ourselves and parenting and what adoption looks like from the inside out - we want you to be with us. 

We trust God to see this calling through.

We believe in our community. 

So we covet your prayers, your giving your encouragement. 

We really do think adoption can change us - and change our broken, divided world. For those of us who profess belief in Christ as Lord and Savior, you are our brothers and sisters, and we've been adopted by the most amazing Father. 

Cheers to the journey ahead.



Ashlee Eiland