Dawn Pippen remembers clearly the morning her husband, Brian, admitted he had written on the wall of their nursery with a permanent marker.
“We had her room ready,” Pippen said. “The furniture was ready, painted and waiting for her.”
The “her” was the couple’s daughter, whom they hadn’t yet met.
For 11 years the Pippens had been walking through infertility. They tried treatments for several years, then began considering the idea of adoption after someone told them about the book “Adopted for Life” by Russell Moore.
It challenged them to get into the Word and wrestle with the truth that adoption wasn’t God’s plan B, it was plan A, recalled Pippen, administrative assistant for Pine Belt Baptist Association in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
“God adopted us — that’s the gospel message,” she noted. “Our heavenly Father adopted us, and what greater way to share His love and gospel than by opening our hearts to His plan?”
‘Praying in desperation’
So they switched gears and began all the paperwork, meetings and phone calls that go along with becoming adoptive parents. At first they were working toward an international adoption, but nothing seemed to be moving.
“Our hearts were just longing every day,” Pippen remembered. “Friends we knew were married and having babies, and we had just gotten to this point of desperation.”
So that’s why one morning in November 2015 Brian “grabbed a Sharpie and wrote on the wall a prayer of a brokenhearted man to His God,” Pippen recalled. “It said, ‘We claim that You’re going to bring our daughter home, and we’re praying in desperation.’”
Pippen said when she woke up that morning he told her what he had done and not to be upset — he could paint over it.
But she told him not to. In fact, she added a prayer of her own. And a few days later, as her parents housesat, they saw the prayers on the wall and wrote their own too.
Pippen believed she was going to see her daughter before Christmas, even if that just meant receiving a photo from an adoption agency. As the days ticked by, she continued to pray for that.
A call out of the blue
On Dec. 17, her husband got a call out of the blue from a high school friend who had been following their adoption journey on Facebook.
“She told him about a baby girl she had heard of who had been born to a 13-year-old girl who was in search of a home for her,” Pippen recalled.
The baby was born in September and stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit until November. The young mother wanted to put her up for adoption, but decided to take her home when she was ready to leave the hospital.
After a month, the young teenager decided she couldn’t do it, Pippen said.
And starting with that phone call, the Pippens were amazed as they watched how God put the pieces into place.
First, He gave them favor with the family, she noted. When they all met together, Brian was able to share the gospel with the baby’s family — to tell them what it means to be adopted into the family of God.
As he shared, tears rolled down the face of the baby’s biological grandmother who said, “I know you’re going to be her daddy.”
On Dec. 21 they brought their new daughter — Olivia — home.
“I got to see my baby’s face before Christmas,” Pippen said.
Not too long after the Pippens brought Olivia home, God orchestrated some divine connections for them to reconnect with the NICU nurses who had cared for their baby girl.
First, Pippen accidentally called the NICU number thinking she was calling Medicaid. The number was written in Olivia’s paperwork.
“I told the nurse who answered what her birth name was, and she pulled the phone away from her ear and said, ‘You’re not going to believe who I’ve got on the phone!’”
The nurse told Pippen she rocked Olivia to sleep before her shift was over, and that she had seriously considered adopting her if no one else did. When the birth mother surprised all the nurses by taking the baby home, they were worried.
“She had prayed for God to keep His hand on her,” Pippen said.
Another nurse had a similar story.
“She had been so brokenhearted over [Olivia] because they knew the mother’s situation,” Pippen said. “She said the whole time Olivia was in the NICU, nobody came to see her, and she and the other nurses would pick her up and do rounds with her in their arms.”
That nurse kept in touch, and when Olivia was 2, they got to see each other again.
“Livy gets out of the car and goes running to her and wrapped her arms around her leg,” Pippen recalled. “That wasn’t something she ever did to anyone. It was like she knew there was something between them, and to me that’s a God thing.”
Olivia is now 7 and already has a lot of questions about where she came from, Pippen said.
Even though those are sometimes tricky to navigate, she said it just gives the couple a chance to tell Olivia how loved she is and how God wove her story together so beautifully.
“It’s been a journey, and it’s still a journey, but He has worked in it in such amazing ways,” Pippen said.