Advent: Finding purpose in expectant waiting

When my husband and I were matched with our son, we thought we might travel to China to adopt him in just a few short months. But it turned out to be a much longer process.

As the months dragged on and the wheels of bureaucracy moved slowly on both sides of the world, I grew more and more frustrated. We kept looking at photos of this beautiful little boy who was growing up without us. Why was it taking so long?

Patience is not one of my strengths, and we had already been waiting to become parents for quite some time. When would we ever get the green light to go? The nursery had been ready for ages. We had toys and books and clothes—but no child.

Friends encouraged us to go out to dinner and do all the things you can’t do once you become parents. But we had been doing all of that for quite some time. We just wanted our baby.

The pieces finally fell into place, and that final approval arrived. Eleven long months after we saw our son’s photo for the first time, as Advent was beginning, we boarded a plane to fly to China.

The flight from Baltimore to Beijing is long. We had fun exploring Beijing for a couple days, but we were also antsy to meet our little boy. Finally, finally, we flew to Changsha, climbed into a van, rode to a government office there, and prepared to meet our son.

The wait—we thought—was over.

But our son wasn’t there. We sat there for what felt like ages watching other families form around us. One after another, children were placed into their new parents’ arms. We watched all the tears, all the smiles, all the joy, all the grieving happening around us. We sat there with our hearts full and arms empty.

Our guide told us our little boy was stuck in traffic. He would be there soon. So, we continued to wait. The families who had welcomed their children started to leave, and soon the only people left in the room with us were the two other families from our agency who had met their daughters that day.

Then finally, finally, our 2-year-old was there. He walked in himself, with the ladies who had driven him there walking closely behind. He was both bigger and smaller than I had expected. He was so brave, walking toward us—strangers who didn’t speak his language and who would be his family forever.

He was the most beautiful child I had ever seen.

Time stopped. We crouched next to him and spoke to him, offering him a toy airplane we had brought along. My husband was the first to take him in his arms. And then I was holding my son, tears running down my face. I was sad and happy and nervous and excited and grateful. The past didn’t matter. All I could see was the present and our future together.

Time flies when you’re not waiting to adopt, and that first meeting was 10 years ago today.

As I look back on the time of waiting and preparation to meet our little boy, I don’t believe that those months did much to help prepare us for parenthood. But what I do know is that they helped prepare him to meet us.

Our son had a wonderful, loving foster mother who told him about us, showed him our pictures all the time, and explained that we would be his parents. She took him to pick out a new outfit just to meet us, and I know she helped prepare his very young heart for his new family.

As eager as we were to adopt our son sooner, I believe we met him at just the right moment—for him and for us. Sometimes there is a purpose to waiting and preparation.

I think of that every Advent, especially since our first trip to China happened during Advent a decade ago. It’s not always clear to me what I should be doing during Advent to prepare my heart to welcome Jesus at Christmas. But I don’t think there’s any one recipe for Advent success.

During this time leading up to Christmas, maybe all we need to do is place our hope in Jesus, continue to seek Him, and love Him with our whole heart. That might be enough to prepare ourselves for the joy that comes with Christmas.

For more on Advent in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, click here.

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review's Open Window blog. She and her husband adopted their two sons from China, and Rita often writes about topics concerning adoption, family and faith.

Rita also writes The Domestic Church, a featured column in the Catholic Review. Her writing has been honored by the Catholic Press Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Associated Church Press.