Advent is the season before Christmas that is meant to help Christians prepare for the coming of Christ into the world. It is a time of waiting with great expectation. This year Advent has taken on a greater significance to me, as we await the arrival of our third (and first adopted) child. We embarked on the adoption journey about five months ago when we were matched with a little girl from China. The adoption journey is long and expensive and full of emotional ups and downs.
Traditionally, Advent was observed as a serious time of year with the first two weeks being almost like mourning. There are three purple or blue candles used during Advent, and they symbolize a time of penitence, fasting, and preparation. By the third week, a rose candle is lit, as Christians could be more cheerful with the expectation of Christmas. On Christmas Day, a final white candle may be added. I’ve only experienced the first half of the adoption process, where the waiting feels dark and heavy because I long for this child who is not here and there is much preparation (largely in the form of burdensome paperwork) yet to be done.
When I was pregnant with my two biological girls, I did not see that time as “waiting.” A baby’s body was forming inside my womb during those nine months. As the weeks passed, I could feel my baby growing and moving inside me. In the meantime, I could somewhat “control” the environment for my baby and her development. I played classical music, ate organic food, tried to rest more. I was motivated to care for my body and thus for the baby inside my womb.
Adopting is different in so many ways. Our little girl in China is three years old already. She is a little person with a whole three-year history that I have already missed as her mother. She has her own personality, foods she likes and dislikes, experiences that have shaped who she is. I also do not know how she is doing. Is she happy and healthy? Is she well cared for? I get pictures every now and then and a short monthly update. But I have so many questions that will remain unanswered until we get her. And she will continue to have more experiences (that we are not a part of) until the moment we bring her home. And so, these days, weeks, and months pass slowly for me.
The thing I can do is pray (and do more paperwork and wait) and pray some more. And God is doing something in the midst of all the praying, waiting, and paperwork. He is revealing His love to me in a deeper way.
When I became a mother to my two biological girls, I experienced a kind of love I had not felt before. It was an almost-instantaneous yet deep love for our babies as soon as they were born. It’s unexplainable that one can so fully love another human being, who, in the beginning at least, is unable to love you back. I think God was teaching me back then about how He first loved us. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Now, God is teaching me that He loved us even before we knew him. I felt a similarly strong love for this little girl as soon as I was matched to be her forever mama. I know that is not everyone’s experience and that bonding will still take time after she comes home. But in my heart I immediately felt she was my daughter just as much as if I had been the one who carried and birthed her. How can I love this little girl so much whom I have yet to meet?
While we love her, pray for her, and are working so hard to bring her home, she has no idea that we even exist. We have an empty seat for her at our kitchen table. We talk about her all the time. We have printed out pictures of her to hang up on our wall. In our hearts, she is ours.
“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)
As hard as it is, this waiting process and this longing I have to bring our daughter home has also been a gift as I reflect on the truth that God chose us before the creation of the world to be His children. From the beginning, He had a plan to send His Son into the world to redeem us bring us into relationship with Himself. In His heart, He longs to be our “Abba Father,” our “Daddy.”
As a believer, during Advent I can wait in hope and anticipation of a wonderful event that I know will happen — the feast of Christmas, a celebration that God loved us so much that He sent His Son into the world to save us. I also look forward to the return of Christ at the end of time. This year, I am also celebrating the coming – the advent – of Christ into my life in a new way as I experience His love through the anticipation of our daughter’s adoption.
Joyce Dalrymple and her husband Tim have two sweet and spirited daughters with one more on the way! Joyce loves leading women’s bible studies, supporting foster and adoptive families, and advocating for immigrant/refugee issues. Her favorite thing to do in her free time is to get together with friends over a cup of coffee.