(Please note: Though these posts regarding Munchkin’s “permanency” were written as the events unfolded, I did not post them as they took place. I wanted to be sensitive in sharing any specific information about the case as well as work through my thoughts a bit before sharing them live with y’all. Even though they were delayed in going public, they are still shared very much from my heart.)
Once again, I couldn’t sleep last night. I tossed and turned as thought after thought passed through my mind. The hearing was only hours away. As sleep eluded me, I finally pulled out my phone at around 3:30am and texted a dear friend who lives very far away. With the time zone differences, I figured she was already awake (or would awaken shortly).
This is what I sent her:
Sooooo … after doing [munchkin’s] catheter 1.5 hours ago … I can’t seem to go back to sleep. I’m not scared or fearful for today, but I do have a million thoughts in my head.
Playing out scenarios, wondering how we will greet extended family (I’d hug, but are they huggers?), answering questions in my head of what is going to be asked when I testify, wondering how the visit with [extended family] will go after the hearing, preparing my heart for whatever the judge decides, etc.
I truly trust God in all of this, yet sleep is illusive at the moment.
Please pray I’m not a walking zombie today! Lol!!
She replied with several encouraging things, but what I clung to most was this simple line in her text, “try not overthink, trust the Holy Spirit.” What a beautiful reminder.
I promptly went to sleep after I sent my text. Whew! Maybe I just needed to express or share a bit in order to have my brain rest once again.
Fortunately, I awoke this morning ready for the day. Unfortunately, within a short 30 minutes or so later of waking, my nerves began to settle in, it was lovely. I lost my appetite, felt nauseous, and found I needed to use the restroom about 3-4x as much as usual. As we prepared to go, Papa talked with the kids and asked them to gather together and pray for us at 8:30 when the hearing was to begin. They agreed to do so. Oh how I love our children!!
After scrambling around a bit more to finish getting ready and giving final instructions to the kids on what schoolwork and chores to accomplish while we were gone … finally, it was time to leave. We were ready.
After dropping off our sweet 6yr old placement at her new school, Papa and I headed to the courthouse.
With a pile of quarters in my purse to pay for parking, we arrived in the lower parking garage. We were early.
During this time, Papa and I sat in the car and shared some more of what we were thinking and expecting for this morning. Before heading up into the building, we prayed together. It was such a sweet time as we brought our hearts before the Lord, giving Him our day, and praising Him, no matter what was to come.
We headed up the elevator to the 3rd floor where the courtrooms are located in the building. We stepped out of the elevator to find the extended family/couple already there. They were quite tired after their early flight to get to our location on time (they do not live where we live). As we approached them, I could sense they were quite reserved. Timid, perhaps? And, definitely tired. We hugged them to break the ice. I’m not sure if they really liked that we hugged them in light of the day ahead, but we wanted to communicate, once again, our willingness to maintain our relationship and to keep everything open (as much as possible).
My nerves were once again on the rise. I excused myself to go to the restroom. My bladder was especially active this morning.
When I returned, Papa asked the couple if they prayed. In short, they did not. He asked if it would be OK if we prayed. They must’ve said it was (I didn’t hear their answer) because Papa began praying for the morning. Only seconds later, the prayer was cut short as a court worker came over and spoke with us. We never finished praying together (out loud).
The Attorney General arrived and spoke with the couple about the morning. Papa and I walked a short ways over to a solid wooden bench to sit down. We wanted to give the couple some space as well as some privacy.
As we sat there, we made small conversations about various things regarding the upcoming hearing. At one point, I told Papa, “This is beyond the here and now. This decision could impact her eternity.” The weight of this thought brought a new wave of heaviness to the morning.
The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) arrived and briefly prepped us for the morning. Anyone testifying will do so without the other “witnesses” present. When I testify, the couple will not be there. When she testifies, we will not be there.
As the couple, Papa and I waited in the hallway, the main representatives (GAL, Caseworker and Attorney General) all presented their cases to the Judge first.
Throughout the waiting, things felt tense. We stayed in our own little area while the couple stayed in theirs. We couldn’t see each other. Often, the only sounds that could be heard were distant voices, footsteps echoing on the tiled floors throughout the vast hallways, and the occasional ‘ding’ of the elevator as people came and went for their own various court appointments (likely related to traffic tickets or arrests).
Essentially, Papa and I were all alone as we waited.
They called the first “witness.” Munckin’s “Auntie” went into the courtroom. I am not sure how long she was in there, maybe 15 minutes? This is just a guess. Tracking time was not a priority at this point. Eventually, she came out with a deep sigh and joined her husband on a neighboring wooden bench that was tucked away from our line of sight.
Not long after that, they called Papa and I into the courtroom.
I immediately took the witness stand while Papa sat in the front row of the wooden pews/benches. I loved that he sat as close as he possibly could to me without crossing the line into the lawyers’ areas.
I stood there next to the witness stand, raised my right hand (no Bible in sight for my left hand to rest on, so maybe they don’t do that anymore?), and solemnly swore to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I then sat down in the simple swiveling office chair with the beautiful wooden desk/table before me. The only object on the witness stand was a hot mic ready to record and amplify my words for everyone present to hear.
The questions began.
Below is a summary of what was asked, but it is not even close to being an exhaustive list. (The GAL later told me she tried to go as quick as possible while trying to get everything on record):
- What was our family history? Involvement in foster care?
- What is Munchkin’s history? When did she begin living with us?
- What are her medical needs? How are we and how will we continue to meet them?
- What are her schooling options both now and down the road?
- What emotional needs does she have?
- What are the family interactions and connections like at home?
- How does she relate to and with our other children?
- Are our children involved with their own various activities in the community? Would Munchkin also have that same opportunity if we were chosen to be her adoptive family?
- What is our adoption like with Taz’s birth family? Is it open?
- Are we supportive of keeping and maintaining family connections? If so, how will we facilitate those?
- What type of socialization does she have with others outside of the home?
- Lastly, WHY do we want to adopt Munchkin?
I answered each question openly and honestly and to the very best of my ability. I felt confident as I shared our experiences with and our heart for Munchkin. As I answered each question, I looked primarily at the GAL as she was the one asking the questions, but I tried to also look around the room at the Judge and other court workers who were present. There was a lot to think about when up on that witness stand!
I remember answering that last big question with tears in my eyes. “Why do you want to adopt [Munchkin]?” It all boiled down to … we absolutely love her. Everything we do with, for and about her is because of our love for her. I shared our hopes and dreams for her: to be strong, to be confident, to be who God destined her to be, to be brave, to develop and continue to shine.
As I looked out into the courtroom, I saw the GAL and the Caseworker also had tears in their eyes as they listened to me share. When deep love is expressed for a precious little child (especially one in great need), it’s hard not to be moved. Our compassion is stirred. Children often bring out the most raw and unfiltered emotions, even in a court of law.
Once the GAL was finished, the Judge asked if the Attorney General wanted to ask me any questions; he did not.
I was excused from the witness stand.
As I was walking to sit with Papa, the Judge asked someone to go get the extended family and bring them into the courtroom.
He had already made a decision.
As Papa and I sat side-by-side, his arm around me for love and support, we intensely gripped each other’s hands in anticipation.
From the very first lines out of the Judge’s mouth, we knew his decision.
I wanted to call you [extended family] back into the courtroom so you could hear why I am ruling the way I am today …
He went on to share how Munchkin is thriving in our care, how her perspective is that we are her family, the kids are her brothers and sisters, how we are her parents, how her needs are only increasing as she gets older, how it would be detrimental to move her at this stage in her life, and so much more. He affirmed who they were and their love for her and acknowledged this is not what they wanted. He expressed his decision was based on what is in the best interest of Munchkin. His decision was not based on what was best for them or for us, but, what was best for her.
He finally stated his decision clearly for all to here …
Ultimately, I believe it is in her best interest to stay exactly where she is and for her to be permanently placed with [Papa and Momma].
Our hearts leapt with joy and pounded in our chests as the news hit us. Papa and I gripped our hands together tighter and tighter with each passing word the Judge spoke.
We had held Munchkin’s life with open hands, and here we were, gripping them together, as tight as we could, never ever wanting to let her go again.
For whatever reason(s), God chose us. We are humbled.
We openly held her up and gave her back to the Lord, and He promptly placed her right back into our arms to love from this day forward.
We are her forever family.
I am so grateful, beyond all words.
As I had said previously, no matter what happened today or what decision was made, we would praise Him. It is with such joy that we get to praise Him with this outcome!
Unfortunately, with this same outcome, there is another side to the story that is full of heartache. The extended family was truly heartbroken as they heard the Judge speak his decision. Papa and I wanted to go love on and support them. But, it was not the right time to do so. They needed time and space to grieve and process their emotions. We gave them that time.
Eventually, we briefly connected to discuss having them see and play with Munchkin today. We went our separate ways for about an hour and a half and then met up at a local park. It was so easy to see how good it was for their hearts to have time with Munchkin. They were smiling and engaging with her (and with us!). It was such a sweet time for them to connect with her in person (not just via FaceTime) for a couple of hours before they caught their flight back home.
We hope and pray we can maintain connection with them, even in the midst of their grief. We are more than ready to grieve with them and love them through this. Time will tell where they are at in this, but, we know we are open and willing.
I will say, this has been a roller coaster kind-of-a-day. We truly rejoice with the amazing news for Munchkin and for our family, yet part of our hearts also ache for the extended family: it is bittersweet.
Yet, even in these moments of rejoicing coupled with moments of sorrow, we are so grateful the Lord chose us. It is truly humbling to have the honor and privilege to raise Munchkin. She will officially be our daughter!
Ooooooh, I am welling up with tears in my eyes as I type this. I will soon get to hear her call me “Momma” … and I don’t have to correct her! I get to say, “YES, Sweet pea, I AM your Momma!”
Our hearts grew 6 sizes today.
Thank you all for praying with us and for us in this journey. We are not done traveling this road toward Munchkin’s adoption. There will be many bumps along the way and tricky relationships with the extended family to navigate, but we are in this for the long haul.
By the end of this year, hopefully, we will officially welcome little Munchkin into our family, forever and ever. Amen. So be it.
Friends, just to let you know, today is just like every other day …
God gets ALL of the Glory!! Please join us as we praise Him!!