When my heart is overwhelmed


“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” It’s a verse that I found myself praying again and again during the Lenten season. It’s a verse that identified me with the poor, the orphan, the lonely, the oppressed. I’d sit in the darkness and I’d pray for our Little Shope and for his or her birth family. I’d pray for strength for us, and for a light on the path ahead.

It’s funny when we get to see how we’ve been prepared for things, long before they come to pass. It’s almost miraculous when we notice the links in the chain that led us to a moment or a season or a path. And here we are, months after Lent had ended — a season during which we marked our fifth year of working toward adoption — and my heart is overwhelmed. Again, in the dark, my heart finds its way to these words.

It’s not that we’re discouraged exactly. And it’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong. It’s just that we are starting over. And I haven’t been able to come up with another word for how we feel beyond just overwhelmed.adoption paperwork stack

Last week, we learned that the agency we have been working with has had a flood of new adoptive parents. So many, in fact, that when we called them to give them the paperwork we had finally finished last weekend, we were told we were on the third-string waiting list of people who want to join the pool of candidates for adoption. Here is the crux of what that actually means: We’d be looking at the possibility of having to wait four more years for an adoption. At the current rate of placement, it could be about three to four years on the waiting list, and an estimated 14 months in the pool of adoptive families before we are matched/chosen.

The news felt like a collapsing of Jenga pieces. We had so delicately placed each block exactly where we thought it should go over the last five years. We had hoped for so long, worked so hard, and had finally reached the halfway point in our savings/fundraising efforts. We were encouraged by the hundreds of supporters we have had, including the incredible families who hosted garage sales for us, donated money and furniture and time and, especially, donuts. We were encouraged by strangers too, who came into our path when we needed them most. Our families hoped with us, prayed with us, learned about orphans with us, and kept vigil. Last Sunday, we signed our names on the application and were ready to move. After so many years of standing still, we felt the rush of an open door. Except that it turns out the door isn’t where we thought it’d be. On Tuesday morning, everything changed.

So, here’s what this means: Matt and I do not believe we are meant to sit on that third-tier waiting list. It’s a long story, but months before we received this news, we had begun praying about whether this really was the agency for us. (Remember what I wrote about seeing the links in the chain? Well, this feeling that we may need to look elsewhere is one of those links.) We are heartbroken to know that in several significant ways we are starting over. But we feel peace about moving forward in a new direction without the agency we had been working with. We are now in the process of figuring out our next step. Now, so many things are back on the table that we had previously ruled out for this adoption, including foreign adoption. We will begin interviewing other agencies soon. For the past few days, we have been in recovery mode, hunkering down in prayer and grief. There are a thousand alternatives, and we have begun researching about a dozen of them, including local, regional and foreign private and state agencies.

I have no idea where this new road leads. But we are so grateful for every single person who has joined us on our walk. We are thankful for the small of army of folks who comforted us, wept with us, prayed with us and hoped with us. For my Southern friend who showed us great love with shrimp and grits and hours of uninterrupted snuggling with her newborn. For the men who surrounded Matt with encouragement. For my Porch People, the Lady Inklings, who gave me food, Scripture and laughter on the patio. For my friend, who fed me ramen and good words, and washed it down with a goofy movie and sour candy. For my family, who took us to our favorite places and reminded us what this is all for. For my church family, who knew — even without us saying anything — to rally to prayer. I wish gratitude was visible, because you’d see it dripping from our skin.

And we have more opportunities for you to walk alongside us. And all of them involve prayer.

  • Pray for every one of the 147 million orphans on this planet.
  • Pray for the kids who aren’t orphans, except in spirit.
  • Pray for birth families whose lives will be forever changed when they place a child for adoption. Know that no person places a child for adoption easily. Pray for lives, systems, governments, cultures and hearts to change so that fewer children will be become orphans.
  • Pray, very specifically, for the kid(s) who will become our Little Shope(s). If anything from Jen Hatmaker‘s terrific book “7” stuck with me, it’s this: Sometimes, when we feel overwhelmed during our adoption process, when we feel such great grief for the child we have yet to meet, something HUGE is happening in his or her story. So pray now, for this very child and his or her family.
  • Pray for us as we work through all the options before us.
  • Pray for our finances, because many of the options are more costly.
  • Pray for our encouragement. I’ll be honest: The last week has really stunk.

Thank you for hoping for our Little Shope with us. I cannot wait for this little one to meet his or her family. One of the few things we have seen clearly this week: You are amazing.

Love to each of you,

The Shopes


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