Some of you might know me from my personal blog, Ni Hao Y’all. But I am sure many more of you do not. So a quick run down is in order, lest there be some confusion as I share my story.
My husband and I met in 1997, each having endured a failed first marriage. I had two children, Victoria and Zach, from my previous marriage, and when Chris and I married in 1998, he became a husband and a father to two in one fell swoop. We spoke in the months that followed about how we might grow our family. Interestingly, not one of these conversations included the word “adoption”. And most certainly not the word “China”. Oh, how God must have been smiling on us as we wrangled with the questions, “Should we have any more kids? Or are we all set with two?” We vacillated between the two scenarios for months, one of us having the opposite opinion from the other every time we sat down to discuss it. God ended the decision making process when I found out I was pregnant… needless to say we were both overjoyed. Fast forward several years and we were again having this same discussion. Around we went and we decided, yes, we wanted just one more child. A pregnancy followed. Which was followed very shortly by a vasectomy.
Whew. Life of toting little ones around, getting up to cries in the night, hauling diaper bags and wrastling humongous car seats is almost in our rear view mirror… we’ve got an open road of freedom just around the bend.
Or so we thought.
Somewhere around the time that our youngest child was born, I was saved. I found the answers I sought to life’s most haunting questions in the form of my Savior. Jesus. As my relationship with Him grew, I prayed a simple prayer. It took me months to garner the strength to not only pray the prayer, but to truly mean the words contained in the prayer. I prayed that God would have His way in my life. That I would surrender my dreams, my hopes, my desires and lay those aside for His dreams, His desires and His hopes for my life. That He would use me as His instrument to fulfill His will in this world.
I had absolutely no idea how that prayer would affect my life, and how it continues to affect my life: the life He has for me.
In the summer of 2004, my youngest was 2, my oldest was 14, with a 9 and 4 year old in between. One ordinary day, my husband came to me with hands trembling. He was afraid to tell me what he had to tell me, he said. But he’d already waited three difficult weeks and he couldn’t wait any longer. He wanted me to sit down.
A million thoughts went through my head. But nothing could have prepared for me for his words: “God told me we have a daughter waiting for us in China.” I was stunned, shocked and completely without words. My first thoughts focused on my kids, their future, their needs. How could we add to our brood and protect them from this… this outsider? I didn’t see how it was possible, it was certainly not in their best interest to have to share their parents, their home, their lives with a complete and total stranger.
Less than 24 hours later, following some serious internet research, my heart had turned 180 degrees. The need was suddenly so real. The reality that we could make all the difference for one child was so hauntingly clear. My eyes had been shut tight and were now wide open. The cloud of selfishness surrounding my initial reaction was blown away by the almost tangible reminder of God’s goodness and love to me, in my time of sorrow and loneliness.
The journey that began that day still continues. We took a different path than we had anticipated and we continue to be amazed, blessed and surprised by the beauty of this not-so-typical journey. We have brought home four children from China, all labeled “special needs”. And one more little one with special needs waits for us in China, hopefully coming home before the end of the year. Our hearts have gone from wanting to make a difference for one to being passionately driven to make a difference for many. We sponsor children in foster care, we give to charities that work with special needs children, we pray nightly for orphans in China. But in our hearts, that’s just not enough. It’s not all we can do.
To be sure, we didn’t set out on a rescue mission to ‘save’ an orphan in China. We set out to bring home our children. Who just happened to be halfway around the world. God, in His infinite wisdom, buried a deep and abiding love in our heart for these children, our children, and it was and is that love that motivates us to keep on when the world would have us stop. And when life gets crazy. And when we get weary.
During each adoption, we have assumed that this would, indeed, be the final addition to our family. But then God gently reminds us, this is not about us. It’s about Him. And what is near and dear to His heart. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that God hears the cries of the fatherless, that He knows every tear that is shed by a child who longs for a family. And to Him, each one matters. Every single one. So, while the fact that we have adopted (almost) five children from China might be a drop in the bucket in terms of the number of orphans worldwide, in God’s economy, it’s five children who won’t ever go to bed frightened, or cry alone over heartbreak, or endure a life without the hope of Christ, again.
So when people ask me, “why?” in response to the fact that our family is adopting again, I wish I could take them by the hand, and spend just one day in China. In an orphanage, where the sound of a baby crying goes completely unnoticed. Where children have flattened, hairless patches on their heads from laying in the same position in their metal cribs day after day, week after week. Where children get sick and die routinely, without anyone shedding a tear, without anyone to hold them as they draw their final breath.
Then I would take them to our home, which is nothing spectacular, but is indeed filled with love, and ask them to look into the faces of our children. The one who came to us with a hole in her heart and sensory issues so severe should could barely tolerate touch on her hands. And the one whose feet were so twisted, his ankles were bruised from trying to stand. And the one who came to us so delayed, it took him months to even begin to come out of his thick, fear-filled shell.
And then, I doubt an answer to “why?” would be necessary.