But before we could meet Jenna, many things had to happen. A lot of this blog has chronicled for family, friends, myself, and most of all, for Jenna, the journey God had us on throughout our adoption process.
One question that people still ask me quite often is, "How did you find Jenna?"
Well, the truth is, God found her for us. I believe that with all of my heart!
But from a "practical" perspective, I thought I'd share some of the nuts-and-bolts of how children from China are placed with their forever families, as well as how God led us through a difficult time in our journey to Jenna.
Lifeline Children's Services, our wonderful adoption agency, is one of several agencies that places children from China with families. Some families wait years, and I mean YEARS (as in 8-10 years) for a baby from China that has no special needs. However, due to this long wait, most families that adopt from China choose to adopt a child with medical special needs.
On part of their website, Lifeline has information about a lot of children in China that are ready to be adopted. Anyone interested in these children has access to this information. Lifeline has partnerships with several orphanages throughout China, and many of the children shown on their website are in one of these partnership orphanages.
Many families look at this website and others to find their sons and daughters. Other families choose to wait to be "matched" with a child from what is called the shared list, a list of children that are ready to be adopted that all adoption agencies have access to. Lifeline receives this shared list on a monthly basis, and it was from this list that we found our Jenna.
I was told by our adoption agency that on the night of March 25, 2013, files of new children would released on the shared list. I was on pins and needles that entire day, wondering if our Jenna would be on that list. And sure enough, my dear friend from Lifeline, Andrea Sisler, called me just after 10 PM that evening to tell me she'd sent me an e-mail with a referral of a little girl. And the rest is history. We saw our Jenna for the first time on a computer screen that night. Jason and I accepted the referral 48 hours after A LOT of prayer and discussion with one another and medical professionals. Our daughter in China was found!
But long before March 25th, there was another little girl that I thought might be our Jenna.
It was October 27, 2012 that I first saw her face on the Lifeline website. I was captivated by her eyes and little grin and immediately showed her picture to Jason. He didn't really understand how I could feel so "connected" to a picture on a computer screen, but I did. Then I realized her special need was spina bifida, which was a bit more severe than Jason and I had agreed on, though I think the nurse in me and the mom in we was more open to more severe special needs.
Over the next 2+ months, I could not get this little girl out of my mind. We got more information about her medical condition and the whole time, Jason was not feeling the same as me. He and I had many long, difficult discussions and nothing changed...I thought this little girl could be our Jenna and he did not. Finally, on January 4, 2013, we had to give Lifeline our answer and as hard as it was for me to say the word "no," I told Andrea that we would not be moving forward with adopting this precious little girl.
I felt like I'd had an emotional miscarriage.
So many emotions were swirling in my heart and mind...intense grief, anger, and guilt.
But through this heartache, there was good news...A LOT of good news.
I learned several things through that 2+ month experience. I learned that this is a common part of the adoption journey...to fall in love with a child that isn't meant for your family. I learned that it is okay to say "no" to a child because that opens the door for another family to welcome them into their home and hearts. I learned that I need to submit and trust my husband's decision as the leader of our family. And I learned to trust God's timing for when I would finally know who Jenna is.
More good news. The week after we said "no" to this little girl, I was told that she was going to be adopted by an amazing family* that already had a child with spina bifida. My heart swelled with joy knowing that this orphan would in be a forever family that would love her and meet her needs.
And more good news. One evening while Shelby, Jenna and I were in Guangzhou, China, I saw this little girl with her family walking along the same street near our hotel. Because of Lifeline's amazing group on Facebook, I knew that we might be in China at the same time...and sure enough, that was the case. It brought me so much joy to see this little girl in the arms of her momma while I had my precious daughter in my arms. GOD IS SO FAITHFUL, which leads me to the best news.
Ultimately, the best news is that through my emotional miscarriage, God led us to our daughter that I know was meant to be in our family.
So whether it's through a "shared list" or searching websites looking at pictures of orphans in need of forever families, God places children where they need to me. Do all adoptions work out? Unfortunately, no. But God is sovereign and I firmly believe His perfect plan will ultimately prevail.
And I'm blessed to get to see a small glimpse of His amazing plan unfold in the life of Jenna.
*I asked permission from this family to share my story. They will always hold a special place in my heart!