Kuhn Joe did some research at the Chiang Mai Juvenile Court and determined that the next step was for us and Deer's grandmother to appear in court before a panel of judges to be given permission to apply for the adoption (yes, we needed permission just to apply--not your typical adoption). However, prior to this panel, we would all three have to appear in person, along with Deer, to be interviewed by a court appointed social worker. This pre-interview was a chance for the court to gather information and determine if they would even allow us to appear before the judges. No, we could not talk to the social worker over the phone. No, it could not be done by mail. Yes, we both had to go. So, we needed to fly to Chiang Mai and Deer's grandma needed to take a bus from Nan to Chiang Mai so that we could meet, make our intentions known to her, ask her permission on moving forward, and then be interviewed by a social worker together (you know, just your run of the mill jaunt to Thailand).
Trying to conserve some cash, Mark and I got tickets (with Hannah, 13 months, on the lap) and knew that we would need to leave behind Zoe (then 4) and Abby Grace (then 2) for about a week. I was fairly anxious about leaving two of my children three airplane flights away from me. Even though Okinawa and Thailand aren't too far from one another, it does take an entire day to get to one from the other. We had begun viewing Deer as our own child and we had left her many times already. We knew we would have to step out in faith and leave our birth children at times in oder to make our adoptive child our own--it sounds neat and tidy now, but at the time, this momma had to do some serious soul searching and begging the Lord for His protection over them. Any mom who has flown or traveled without her kids knows it's a bit of a crises of faith, as you weigh the necessity of what you're doing with the risk that your children will suffer a bit without you, and could potentially suffer forever if something awful happens to you. But, we knew God had called us to this and so we had to lay it on the line.
Our precious friends, Buddy and Jen Rathmell and their three kids, agreed to take our kids. The Rathmells were and are like family to us. They live(d) life in a wildly different way than we did and I knew Zoe and Abby Grace would be wide-eyed and laughing hysterically all day each day until they plopped on the floor and fell asleep each night during our week apart. I really don't think they missed us. They still talk about Ms. Jen Rathmell popping popcorn on the backyard grill, making it rain popcorn, and them running around and gobbling it up. She leaves an impression, that Ms. Jen Rathmell.
When we landed in Chiang Mai we began getting stares from the locals at the airport. They were really fixated on the car seat that we brought with us. One person even stopped us in baggage claim to get a closer look at the contraption. Our friends who picked us up were kind enough not to laugh in our faces when they saw the car seat. Suffice it to say, it was hugely impractical to bring it along and it got little to no use. You'll see why in the pictures below.
We picked up Rebekah the next morning at her church, as it was a Sunday. I remember well being exceedingly excited to see her. She was in Sunday school and we had to wait to see her until after the sermon. I could not sit still in the pew. I was practically coming out of my skin with anticipation. When we finally saw her, we hugged and cheered, and took her to lunch.
After spending some time at Im Jai we took Deer back home with us for the night, which was a great joy to us. We had a big day to get ready for. The next day we would meet her grandma, she would be seeing her grandma for the first time in over five years, we would be asking her grandma if we could adopt her, and we would all be appearing before a social worker who would determine if we could or could not move on to the next step.
The next day would be the first of many make it or break it moments for us. If the grandma said no, we were done. If the social worker said no, we were done. Our very calling from God and desire to be Deer's mommy and daddy was dependent on each tiny step forward. We swung from anxiety in our circumstances to peace in God's sovereignty.
I can't wait to tell you about the next day tomorrow. It's one of my favorite and most unique adoption memories!