there is a 2 inch plastic parakeet on my nightstand.  it is a parakeet with a story … 2 stories, actually. one is an everyday story of being knocked off the nightstand by cats and lovingly returned to her perch at bedtime. the other is a story of rainbows and phone calls and hope and an epic journey, and also a factory in china, but i’m not writing about that part.

for our purposes, her story starts on may 23 at the end of a toy aisle in the gresham fred meyer at burnside and powell.

i had spoken on the phone earlier that day with gayle from christian family adoptions. gayle told me that she received our initial application to adopt, and she was concerned about us adopting so soon after losing our child. i told gayle that we were still so sad about losing sky, and wished he could be with us. i told her that we have been married for almost 8 years, and we have wanted children for so long. i told her that we have too much love in our family for just the two of us, and want to give it to a child. i told her i know that sounds cheesy, but we really mean it.

gayle said that she would call me back.

i was at the gresham fred meyer at burnside and powell when the phone rang. my eyes widened and my stomach dropped, and i ducked down the closest empty aisle – a toy aisle that apparently housed the unpopular toys: cheap animals and and various dull-colored morsels of plastic.

as gayle preambled, i nervously removed burros from the giraffe row and righted sidelying meerkats. i faced the tortoises forward and separated the deer from the gazelles and she said YES, you can adopt and you can have a family and we want to help you have a child, as i put the tigers in a line.

it wasn’t supposed to be a parakeet.

i thought the tortoises were nice. they were heavy and fit right in my hand and symbolized patience and determination, and when i gave it to my child and said, look, i bought this for you at the beginning of your adoption story – let me tell you your story, i would move it slowly along the ground, like tortoises move. but the tortoises were seven dollars, and adoption is expensive.

so i bought the parakeet. ($2.49, if you’re curious.) it’s not even a flying parakeet. it just sits there, looking parakeet-ish. i’ll tell you what we call it, if you promise not to laugh. it’s the hopeakeet. (as in, can you get the hopeakeet out of the cat’s mouth?)

the hopeakeet has sat on the desk while we slog through piles of pre-homestudy paperwork and domestic infant adoption training. the hopeakeet will travel in a pocket or purse with us to this weekend’s seminar on pre-adoption education and transracial adoption issues. it will sit on the nightstand when our adoption worker comes to do our homestudy next month. it has been gripped in both of our hands as we cry together, wondering if we will ever have a family and children who live with us, this side of heaven.

and someday, we will give the hopeakeet to our rainbow baby and we will say, “look. we chose you. we waited for you. we hoped for you. here is your story.”

toy parakeet in hand

i will continue to write about our grief journey as it parallels our adoption journey. we are on both roads right now, a road of hope, and a road of loss (which, in a way, is also a road of hope). we ask for your thoughts and prayers as we enter this new phase of our family journey.


14 thoughts on “advent”

  1. I love traveling along beside you….and reminiscing about our same journey down this road…ending in our two beautiful children….it WILL happen, and we will rejoice with you when it does!

  2. wow! how very exciting!! i love the hopeakeet. i gayle. i love the gresham fred meyer. i love you and joel. i love your home and the abundance of love it has and how it continues to grow wider and deeper. you know you have our prayers and this will now be a part of them….for all the things that little bird represents…

  3. Yeah for hopeakeets and yeah for adoption! So excited to hear about the little one God has already picked for your sweet family! And so overjoyed for the life FILLED with love that this new little one will get to receive!

  4. Oh Joel and Lani! I’m SO grateful God has you on these two roads now. I will gladly continue to pray for you both, for the process and for YOUR precious child that God has hand selected just for you.

    ~smiling with happy tears amidst the sad ones still,
    Debbie Booth

  5. Thanks for sharing your story with us! I am humbled to be participating in your journey with you in this way! I am praying for you and Joel! I pray for you often, may you feel God’s Spirit embrace you daily!

  6. do you have a referral yet?! i am checking back every few hours in hopes of an update. my patience is wearing thin 🙂

    1. do you mean for an agency or a match with a birth parent? we’re already working with a local agency, but we haven’t finished the home study yet so we can’t receive a match. we hope to finish the home study in july! 🙂

      1. i meant a match. i know it’s entirely too early, i’m just so excited!!! prayers are now filled with both of your journeys and love for your rainbow baby.

      2. thank you for being excited – it helps me feel even more excited! updates will be forthcoming as soon as we have them … 🙂

  7. Oh Lani, My name is Kami and I’m a friend of the Varella’s. Kristal passed me your blog because we just went through a similar experience. We lost our 6th baby at 23 weeks. He was born on May 1st. It was one of the most painful but rich times of my life. Thank you for writing your story out. It has allowed me to grieve a little more. I love your gift of words and found myself agreeing about what you were feeling, thinking because it reminded me of what I was feeling & thinking. I will ask and pray that God blesses you with a houseful of children whether from you or someone else.

    1. i’m so sorry for your loss, kami. i wish i could say something to make it better; i am hurting with you right now. what is your little boy’s name?

  8. His name is John Edwards taken after Ben’s Grandpa who was influential in Ben’s life and His walk with God. Yeah, I’ve definitely been learning about grief and how you really just have to go through it. No one can take it away for you. But some of the most rich times with the Lord has come out of this grief. I read some of your blog out loud to Ben (my husband) and as I was reading your story I found myself getting choked up quite a bit. It’s so good to share our story and our sons story. Thank you for your example in this.

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