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I inhaled her sweet newborn scent and stroked the soft skin of her cheek.. Her eyes were heavy with sleep, her belly full. She made soft breathing noises that let me know she was content. My heart stuttered and stopped, filled with love for this tiny monkey-space alien, as her father called her. As her breathing deepened into sleep, I thought about our next steps. My body, after a second difficult delivery, was done having kids. It was time. So I started praying for her or him–the child that would come not through my body, but would be grafted into our family via adoption.

When we first started the adoption process I had no idea where we were headed. Our biological children were 20 months and a few days old. I liked the glamor of international adoption, but I also had a heart for kids in foster care. So my husband and I—with me prompting and pulling—started taking foster care classes. It was our foray into orphan care while we figured out what adoption meant for our family.

A few months later my sister moved in with us for a short time, in between wrapping up an internship in Canada and moving overseas. She started asking me questions like, “If I find a baby in six months that’s an orphan, will you take it?” I don’t know how anyone could say no to that. And this desire was birthed in my heart to be intimately connected with the country my sister was living in.

Uganda. I had no idea if it was even possible to adopt from there so I started researching. I stumbled across two agencies who had Uganda adoption programs. Two weeks later we met a family who had just brought their son home. I invited myself over and just pounded them with questions. I asked about any kids they knew about or orphanages they would recommend. It would be nearly three years later when we stepped off the plane with our daughter—three years of heartache and waiting and disappointment.

God whispered two verses to my heart that I clung to during this time. The first is from Proverbs, “The heart of man plans his ways but the Lord establishes his steps” (16:9). I knew that as Doug and I walked this journey, as long as we were sensitive to the working of the Holy Spirit, that our steps were secure. There were many times I felt like a chicken with my head cut off, just running around in circles, taking erratic steps that didn’t pan out. It was frustrating as hell. All I wanted was to love an orphan and why, why, WHY was it not happening?

But again and again these words comforted my heart, reminding me that God was directing my husband and me to the completion of our family. This was his plan, not ours. All I had to do was plan to the extent of wise counsel and pick up my feet, one after the other.

Even after we found her, were matched, had all our paperwork ready to go it was still nine months before we got a court date and three months before we could fly over to be with her.  It was a year of her being sick as a dog, knowing that we had everything she needed right here. And then it still took two months in country to get everything finalized.  The second verse, which was all I could muster up on some days, was from Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Again, that sense of walking forward, picking up my feet in obedience, and trusting God to bring me through. It became my mantra. Things were so cloudy sometimes that I couldn’t see straight through to the end. And even after we were supposed to be on the downhill slope, things were murky and unclear.

But the God who knit Matthew and Kyler in my womb, who brought them forth out of me, was continuing to knit us together as a family. It required trust on my end–trust in my husband to lead us through this and trust in my God who was bringing this about. His voice filled my heart and mind, continually declaring, “Pick up your feet, Sarah. Pick up your feet. Follow me, even when you don’t see where you’re stepping. Trust me to smooth out the rough places.”

All I did for three or four years was read, dream, and plan. I asked questions anytime I had the opportunity. I listened to people’s stories. I met with families, or groups who were in the process, or had finally brought their kids home. Anytime I felt a stirring in my heart, I explored that option. I researched, read, and then talked to Doug about what I had I found. Eventually our steps took us to Uganda and our ten year old daughter. Definitely not part of our plan, but there was no doubting what God set before us..

I feel like every adoption story is filled with waiting, anticipation, and flexibility. There are surprises–good and bad–all throughout the journey. That’s why I needed those verses.This whole process was so different from what I imagined when I prayed that first hesitant prayer, holding Kyler when she was only a few days old. I needed to know that I was never alone, and just as I held that tiny baby and nurtured her, God was holding me and leading me. I was not alone. He was directing our steps from that very first moment.