My husband, our two year old and I were the definition of restless as we sat in our hotel room in Jackson, Mississippi.
This was a big day for our little family. Our lives, both collective and individual, were about to be changed forever.
As we sat in that small room, waiting to drive to our adoption agency’s office, we were only a week removed from my father’s funeral that took place in our home of Huntsville, Alabama. Our family had been pushed and pulled in every direction up until that point.
We looked at each other with expectancy for what the next few hours would hold. I can remember it perfecty: the couch, the TV, our suitcases sitting on the floor, one of which was filled with baby boy clothes and supplies.
I scrutinized what to wear. I had only packed a few options, and my “favorite” outfit was worn the night before when we got to unexpectedly hold our baby boy at his foster family’s home. The grief and trauma that had accompanied the weeks prior had set my perspectives slightly away from shopping for a special outfit to wear for our placement meeting. I wasn’t overly concerned that I hadn’t packed well. There was too much on my mind. But I wanted to look presentable and for my clothing to somehow represent the immense importance of the day.
The weather was still hot, even for Alabama standards, and we were still in the month of August, after all.
So my short-sleeved cheetah-print shirt and jeans it was.
Somehow, it was perfect. I felt that it represented how I hoped to approach the day: easygoing, carefree. In some ways it was the perfect paradox to the way I actually felt: nervous, anxious, determined. As excited as I was, I was more than ready for our family to at last be together and for our unification to be complete.
Our plan was to drive from the agency’s office to Starkville, Mississippi where a good friend had coordinated housing for us.
We had thought through every step of that day, and our small SUV was completely packed to the brim.
When we finally arrived at the office, all my mind could focus
on was where Jayden was. His foster mom, Carol, was on her way. We went to
another room to sign some papers, and when we walked out, there he was. In a
blue smock, in his foster mom Carol’s arms. As hard as it had to be for her to
hand him to me, just as his birth mother had done with her weeks before, I
stood there, with my arms open and waiting.
It was a posture we had learned to envision over the previous two years. With my dad’s sickness, my own health unknowns, and now our second baby. Open hands, expectant hearts, with a full understanding that things could look all together differently than we planned or hoped for.
He looked up at me, from my own arms, and tears filled my eyes. He was in our family at last. And yet, this tiny beautiful boy carried so much with him. Lives that were forever changed just because he existed. His birth parents, his foster mom, and their respective families. Because he was now in our arms, all of those lives were ultimately connected to ours. In a way, I was holding all of them wrapped into this child who we now called our son.
Once emotions had somewhat subsided, and we were able to tie up all of the final to-dos at the office, we were on the road to Starkville.
There, in our little SUV, our family felt so right.
For the first time in a long time, we looked at each other and felt total peace about where we were and what was going on around us.
I felt so at home in those moments, in that filled-to-the-brim car. We were together at last.
Jayden slept peacefully, after a few fussy minutes, and as you can imagine, I was climbing over suitcases to try and make sure both boys were settled.
We made the two hour drive to Starkville without much difficulty. The boys napped, and we talked.
As we drove up to the home that was arranged for us, in a quaint neighborhood off of the campus of Mississippi State University, we were more than ready to unload the car and get set up for what we knew could be two to three weeks of waiting for out of state paperwork to go through.
I had spoken with the owner of the home earlier that morning. An incredibly kind man, he told us all about his house and how he was happy to have us stay there as long as we needed. He also mentioned that he had been doing some work in his basement. Something had leaked oil, or gasoline, which had caused an odor, but he had various people come check it out to make sure it was safe. It had been better when he left it to go on a trip out of town. Apparently in the few days he was gone, the smell had gotten worse to the point that it almost knocked you down when you walked in the door.
Unbeknownst to him, that lovely home was completely uninhabitable for us and our brand new baby.
It took all of thirty seconds for Tucker and I to look at each other, and then turn around and walk back out the front door.
Back to the car we went. We drove around as we talked about a Plan B. There were very few AirBnB’s still available during the weeks we would be there, and we wouldn’t be able to check into one until the following day.
The next thing we know, we are in a Kroger parking lot while Tucker runs inside to get some groceries and snacks for the boys. I begin to mildly panic. How are we going to spend the next several hours? What if a hotel doesn’t have a room?
A few wimpers from the back seat let me know that we needed to get out of the car as soon as possible.
Thankfully, a Hampton Inn was nearby, so we took refuge in the lobby for about an hour. I fed Jayden his bottle at the little breakfast table by the front desk, and somehow, I began to realize that even though this was a situation that was outside of what we would have planned, we were finally together, and that was what mattered.
Meanwhile, we came to find out that our sister in law was calling her friend whose grandparents lived in a town nearby.
Next thing we knew, we were driving down some back roads to Mayhew, Mississippi to find Billy and Bess.
Billy and Bess lived on some land that contained some student housing that they managed, an old storage barn, their charming brick home and a historic guest house that they lovingly referred to as the “honey house.”
This honey house was well known amongst locals, as it used to be the hub of a large honey making business. It was actually set up with equipment to be used for honey processing back in its day an entire century before. Eventually, Billy and Bess converted it into both a local relic and guest home. It housed memorabilia from several time periods, down to a working glass phone booth.
We pulled down the drive and up to the honey house. The front porch, complete with rocking chairs and a porch swing, opened up to a living room, kitchen, and then a couple of guest rooms and bathrooms. Every single time I looked around in this guest home, I found something new and interesting to explore. An old news article about their town, an award the honey business had earned, a painting or an old photograph, and oh, there were bees. Bee pillows, bee paintings, bee figurines, bee salt shakers.
I felt so at home, as this beautiful, historic place was so obviously set up to both provide hospitality and act as a place of rememberance. For someone who rarely likes to throw anything of sentimental value away, I appreciated the walls filled with momentos to special moments in their lives, and indicators of what they love or enjoy. Just walking around that house, I felt as though I was right where I needed to be. Down home, quiet, surrounded by trees and open fields, with countless places to look around and absorb Bess and Billy’s history.
Turns out, having a newborn and a two-year old around doesn’t afford much for that sort of thing. Regardless, we were happy to have a place to sit, feed our babies, and rest our heads for the night.
Before we knew it, Bess and Billy had walked out to greet us, and they were exactly the kind of people you might imagine. Pure as gold, kind hearted. We weren’t five minutes into our conversation before they offered for us to stay multiple nights, a week if we needed.
Bess just happened to have a roast cooking in the crock pot, with all the sides and her special dessert. She said she had just planned to do it that day, and didn’t have enough people to eat it all. God’s provision, as she told us. We were grateful. We hadn’t even thought about what we would eat for dinner, but little did we know we would be given a true feast.
When one of the most important days of our lives held unexpected twists and turns, we were given Bess and Billy with their honey house, pot roast, and famous sponge cake.
Still numb with the emotions of all that had occurred over the previous month, I wasn’t too covered up with cobwebs to see the way that God’s hand was in this. We were given physical hugs from sweet grandparents in Mayhew, Mississippi when our family was a state over and my dad was gapingly absent from this earth.
Dinner was exquisite, and we enjoyed conversation with them at their table while Jayden slept on the couch behind us.
The night went as well as it could have, as Caleb slept soundly in the room next to us and Jayden was snug in his bassinet beside our bed. At 5 am the next morning, I sat on the couch feeding Jayden as tears flooded my eyes. The miracle I held in my arms overwhelmed me. The kindness of strangers overwhelmed me. And the finality of all that had occurred in those few weeks overwhelmed me.
What struck me more than anything in that moment was how taken care of we were on our first night with our baby boy. It was increasingly clear to me how much God loved this child, and how much he was proving that he not only had Jayden securely in his hands, but all of us and our circumstances as well. In the midst of our great loss and in the midst of many unknowns, he layed out provision after provision in a small town in Mississippi.
Saying yes to something like adopting a baby boy may be scary, and there is great risk involved. But what I want people to know is that by saying yes, you are opening your life up to an adventure alongside of the God of the universe, who loves His children more than we can fathom. Through every twist and turn, He invites us to open our eyes to His ways, which are unique and brimming with beauty, better than anything we can plan or come up with on our own.