It all began with paperwork.
Well, actually it began more mystically than that. Sitting in a church pew, in a moment of silence, I knew I'd have another child. But this one, unlike her three older siblings, would join our family by adoption.
I knew it, the way you know by looking at a flower that is in bloom.
But after that, and after my husband received a similar spiritual text message, there was paperwork. Mountains of it. If you're an adoptive parent, you probably feel weary - and maybe a little sick to your stomach - just reading words such as "dossier," "I-600 form," and "home study."
I threw myself into the paper chase and finished in record time. To paraphrase lines from the film "Raising Arizona," there was a lot of love and beauty in our family and every day that our daughter wasn't with us was a day she might later regret having missed.
Home study completed, we received a referral. Our soon-to-be daughter was a stunning six month-old baby who was in foster care in rural Guatemala. She has been a "waiting child." A "waiting child?" My girl would wait no more! It was late summer and I expected that she would be home by Thanksgiving - Christmas latest. Wouldn't God shoot our case through the Guatemalan courts? After all, God was the one who tapped us on the shoulder to say we should adopt in the first place.
But then, months began to pass. My sunny, expectant mood began to fade. I talked with other women online who were waiting for the Guatemalan courts to finalize adoptions. Some told stories that frightened me. They knew of babies who were ill from drinking unclean water; one even died. And then reports of sexual abuse began to surface.
Almost obsessively, I prayed: "God, please take care of her until I can take care of her myself."
But no reassuring wave of peace followed these prayers. Just the ticking of the mantle clock, the turning of the calendar pages. Some months, we received updated pictures. When they came, I saw how quickly she was growing up. Would she bond with me if she came home as an older child?
"Please, please, please God. Take care of her until I can."
And then, one day, a thought settled itself into my mind. I realized that even after my daughter came home, I couldn't protect her from every harm, just as I couldn't ensure that my other children would always be safe. Whether she was in my arms or far away in a Central American village I couldn't even picture, her life was in God's hands.
And God knew her already and loved her even more than I did.
I was able to wait out the last weeks of the process with more grace.
When we finally got the call and went to pick her up in Guatemala City almost six years ago, our daughter was a happy and healthy girl of 16 months. The 10 months of waiting had seemed like a decade. But she'd been in God's hands all along.
And I had, too.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.