Judges, Courts, and Red Lights

Well, we are finally home and a family of five…ish. Things will not be legally finalized for another three months as we wait the mandatory probationary period dictated by the state of New York, but physically and emotionally everyone is now under one roof. It was an emotionally taxing week spent in four different hotels as we tried to make our way back to New York.

Monday, Leslie and I flew to West Virginia to take custody of our new son. Leslie had arranged for a number of people to care for Jack and Ayla during our absence, she had plans for childcare all the way through Saturday afternoon just in case we hit some roadblocks. We arrived a little after 1100 and made contact with the other family. We arranged to meet them at the hotel where we would be staying the first night. We had originally hoped to take custody Monday morning and have everything finalized by Wednesday, allowing us to fly home that afternoon or evening. We had hoped to fly, but I had booked my rental car with the worst case scenario in mind, in the event we were unable to fly I had booked a way one trip in our rental car, picking up in WV and dropping off in NY. This made it so that we could either fly of drive and it would not represent a significant change in travel plans one way or the other.

Our first hotel ended up being a little bit older than I am accustomed to and when we all woke up Tuesday morning my back was screaming at me for the abuse I had forced it to endure that night in the form of a lousy mattress. We got up, ate breakfast, packed our bags, and I canceled our reservation, making a new one at a different hotel. We then took advantage of the 70F degree weather and went for a hike at a local park. It was a beautiful day for a hike, the sun was out, there was no wind, and we all had a really good time. We finished our hike, grabbed some lunch and then went and checked into our new hotel in time for a nap. While everyone was napping I used the time to catch up on some work and call our attorney to get an update on the status of our application. This was when I received the first bad piece of news. I was told that the two attorney’s offices (the one responsible for handling the dissolution and our attorney for the adoption) had identified another form that had to be filed prior to being able to file the interstate adoption paperwork. While they had filed this form they had not heard back from the court and thus had been unable to file the interstate paperwork and moreover this would likely not happen until Wednesday.

While frustrated, we had a much better night’s rest that my back was extremely grateful for come Wednesday morning. That morning as I prayed I considered whether or not we should just go ahead and drive back, even if not being technically legal. During my quiet time I was invited to consider if I truly believed that God was in control of all things, even legal processes and paperwork. After that I had to consider would God desire me to take action that was not legal simply to expedite our ability to go home. If we truly needed to get home as quickly as possible, could he not provide a legal avenue that allowed us to do so? After grabbing breakfast we went to a McDonald’s to let our son play on the playground while I put in another call to the attorney’s office. Upon receiving news that no progress had been made I tentatively asked the question, “What would be the legal ramifications of crossing state lines without having first obtained the requisite state filings?” “Oh no, you don’t want to do that,” my attorney replied, “You could potentially lose custody. Granted, the odds of you actually being caught are very slim, but I am willing to bet the risk is not worth it to you.”

I went back inside and told Leslie the news and we discussed what our options were. After a while we decided that it was looking like our best bet was going to be to drive. We could go ahead and drive to Morgantown, WV and still remain in the state but doing so would shorten our eventual drive home by two and a half hours. In addition, seeing that the interstate paperwork had still not been filed and would very likely not be until Thursday, we had to entertain the possibility that one of us would have to fly home and get Jack and Ayla and bring them back to wherever we happened to be, whether that be at the WV border or the NY-PA border. Having decided to at least make a couple of hours of progress we packed up our hotel room and drove to Morgantown where, learning the lessons from our first hotel, I went in and asked to see one of the rooms prior to me making a reservation.

Thursday went by in kind of a blur. Our interstate paperwork had been filed late Wednesday afternoon but by Thursday afternoon we still had not heard anything back. Late in the afternoon I got a call from our attorney saying that both NY and WV had reviewed our paperwork (NY was done so early and was only done because our attorney knew the right people) and there were a couple of items missing. Fortunately we had one of the items needed in the packet of paperwork we had received when we took custody; unfortunately the other items was something we needed from the other family, something that had to be signed and notarized. I placed the call and they were fortunately able to get something back by 1530.   Our attorney said that the lady in the NY office had already left for the day but she would at least try to get us clearance from WV so that we could make the next part of our drive. As Leslie and I sat in a Chickfila at 1645 watching our son play on the playground I finally got a call saying we had been cleared to leave the state of WV. Our attorney promised that she would place a call first thing in the morning on Friday and try to get us clearance to enter the state of NY. We promptly jumped in the car (having already packed our bags and checked out of our hotel room, just in case) and drove to the PA-NY border where we, once again, grabbed another hotel for the evening.

Friday morning we woke up to a little bit of snow from the previous evening and anxiously waited for the call for our attorney. Finally, at 1030 I got a call, NY was requesting all school and medical records… something nobody had readily available. I talked to the other family and they stated they had signed a release form as part of the dissolution documentation but did not have copies of those records, however, they provided contact information for the school and doctor’s office. When I called our attorney back with that information she said, “Oh no! That will take forever.” Disheartened I mumbled a “thanks” and started to hang up. “Let me make a call, they may accept your filing if we can show we have requested the necessary records,” said our attorney. About 30 minutes later our attorney gave me a call and said we were cleared to enter the state. We packed our bags a final time and made the journey home.

We finally got home about 1330 that afternoon. I unloaded the rental car and headed over to the airport to drop it off, pickup my truck and then swing by and pick up Jack and Ayla. I needed to pick up Jack and Ayla by 1455 otherwise the lady who was taking care of them would be gone (taking the kids with her) to go pick up her own children from school and would not return until 1530. As it was only 1400 I had plenty of time. I got all the way to the airport and was at the gas station filling the tank when I realized I had forgotten my truck key in one of the bags I unloaded from the car. I hurriedly drove home, got the key, and headed back to the airport. I knew it was going to be tight but I should still be able to make it… until I hit every single light red on the way over. I finally dropped off the rental car and started to run towards the long term parking lot. I had not taken ten steps when someone called out my name. Sure enough, a buddy I haven’t seen in over a year happened to be dropping off his rental car at the exact same time. He asked what was going on and I tried to hurry the conversation while still being polite.

I got into my truck and started on my way to get the kids knowing that I had completely blown my timetable. I got to her house at 1500 and sure enough I had missed them. As I sat there during that half hour it hit me… what if that entire set of events was orchestrated so that I could have the blessing of being reunited with a friend for a little while? Not just me forgetting my truck key and hitting every light red, what if the whole legal process this past week had been leading up to that one event? And here I had brushed off my friend with a cursory conversation knowing full well (but unwilling to admit it) that I was not going to be on time to pick up Jack and Ayla. God had given me a divine appointment and I had treated it like unwanted garbage that I could not wait to get rid of.

Needless to say, I repented of trying to force my own timing on things; but it got me thinking, how many other things have I missed out on simply because I was too impatient to wait for God’s timing on matters? Waiting does not come naturally to me, in fact, I probably struggle with it more than most, but I am going to try to start slowing down and taking things as God brings them to me trusting that He controls the things like judges, courts, and stop lights. If God can miraculously transport Philip over 30 miles in an instant (after speaking with the Ethiopian eunuch) I am certain He can allow me to go 5 miles in about twelve minutes.

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