Ever since I was a little girl, I knew that I would be a Mom to many. I also knew that my big ol’ happy family would include adopted children in addition to biological ones. Adoption is something that has always been on my heart. As a little girl, I was the one in my family who was convinced that we could, and should, bring home every featured “Wednesday’s Child”. (Wednesday’s Child was a weekly television news feature in my hometown that advocated special needs children for adoption.) There was also a period in my life when I tried to convince my dad to build a “Children’s Home” in our backyard. As the story goes, I was certain that between myself, my siblings, and a few other caring families I would round up to move into the home in our backyard, we could somehow find a way to be one big happy family for each and every child who needed a home. Unfortunately, that dream never came to fruition. I recall it had something to do with zoning and labor laws, fire codes, and other related impossibilities of an underage day-dreamer. The point is, God planted the seed in my heart for “those who wait” long before I had outgrown playing Mother to my Cabbage Patch dolls. It wasn’t something I ever really decided or had to think about, but rather something I just “knew” was meant to be.
My husband also grew up with a vision of what his family would look like one day. He had four people in his family, including Mom, Dad and a younger sister. They were a “picture perfect” American family. My husband was very comfortable with this picture. It was familiar to him, and he had been very happy growing up. To him, this was the ideal.
By the time we had married, we had already been dating for 7 years and had had plenty of “couple time” to get to know each other and plan out our lives together. Therefore, we began our family fairly shortly after we were married. Our first child, David, was born just before our second wedding anniversary. Our second child, Katelyn, was born two years later. A little under five years into our marriage, we had realized Jeff’s “picture perfect” family.
If wasn’t until about a year after Katie was born that we started talking seriously about adoption. While Jeff was completely comfortable with the idea of a family of four, including “one of each”, he knew about my passion for adoption. As a result, he was open to stepping out of his comfort zone to help me explore what I felt was my calling. What I knew in my heart was our calling. We prayed and sought God’s direction for where our next child would come from. For us, it was not a question of “if” we would adopt, but rather “when” and from “where” and “how”.
As we continued to pray for direction, God showed us that we would indeed continue to build our family, but not yet through adoption. We were blessed twice over with the birth of our son Matthew and then a few years later when we welcomed our daughter Alexandra into the world.
It was only a couple of months after the birth of Allie, that God revealed to us that our next child would indeed be adopted. A little girl was waiting for us in China – our daughter Grace.
Jeff was relieved once God revealed His plans for Grace to us. He was certain that it was Grace that was on my heart all these years, and that she must be why the seed for adoption had been planted so long ago. At the time, Jeff thought that once Grace was home that I would feel whole…that our family was complete. Truth be known, I spent many hours looking at and praying over SN waiting lists and other children while we were waiting for Grace’s referral. I prayed those little ones home to their forever families. I also prayed for God to reveal to us our next child.
During and through our journey to bring Grace home, God quietly opened Jeff’s heart to the idea of expanding our family through adoption again. Every time Grace snuggled in next to her daddy to read a book, every time she grabbed his pinky finger with her little hand, every time she looked past her chubby little cheeks right through him, and flashed him one of her big beautiful smiles – another seed was planted.
As God had prepared his heart for the possibility of “more” , Jeff was not too caught off guard when only eight months after Grace was home, God revealed to us another child. A second little girl was waiting for us in China – our daughter Hannah.
Jeff traveled to China with his Mom in September 2007 to bring home Hannah. And let me tell you, she was and still is Daddy’s Girl. They were buddies from the moment they met one another. Hannah slept next to Jeff in China with her cheek pressed against his. When she came home, she would wait for him to come home from work, and would not leave his side until bedtime. She even shared her coveted snack bowls of ketchup only with him (don’t ask). She called him her bestest buddy. Again, more seeds were planted.
In February of 08, Jeff was surprised, but not shocked, when I woke him out of a deep sleep one night to tell him I believed that I had just seen a picture of our son who was waiting for us in China. It later turned out that God had indeed shown us our son Johnathan. Nine months later, Jeff and his Mom were back in China to bring home another blessing. Another little one would have a forever family.
The conditions Johnathan endured during his first eighteen months in China were, by far, the worst of our three adopted kiddos. Before Jeff came to bring him home, Johnathan spent every day in a small dark room in his crib. Occasionally he would get a toy to play with. However, it was usually the same toy, as evidenced by every picture we were blessed to get of him prior to the adoption. At 19 months old, he did not know how to chew solid food. The food just rolled off his tongue when Jeff put it there. He was expressionless in all the photos we had received, as well as for the first 24 hours he was with Jeff. He would not move if you sat him down on the floor to try to play with him. It was heartbreaking.
After only a few days of undivided attention from Jeff and Grandma, Johnathan made remarkable progress in all regards. It wasn’t long until he had learned not only to chew, but to feed himself. The smiles would not stop coming and he would giggle up a storm. He learned how to crawl and walk after only a week with his Daddy and Grandma. By the end of the trip, Johnathan was climbing up the play structure and racing down the slide at the park in Guangzhou, stopping for a minute between trips to hug his daddy. More seeds were planted.
Three months after Johnathan came home, and one year to the day that we first saw Johnathan’s picture, God revealed to us that we had another son waiting for us to bring him home. This was to be our first adoption of an older child, and our first time adopting out of birth order. This time, my husband didn’t even flinch. Samuel would be coming home.
Jeff brought our son Samuel home from China in late October. Samuel amazes us daily with his resilience and bravery. He fits in with our family as if he has always been here. He started school shortly after coming home, at his request, and he is learning English at a furious rate. He adores his brothers and sisters and could NOT be more loving, kind and thoughtful toward them. He is hardly ever not wearing a smile. He is just so happy…so loving…and so loved. Seeds continue to be planted.
God has taught me so many things through the journeys to our children. One thing I have learned through the experiences is that just because someone has not always felt called to adopt does not mean that God is not calling. I believe we are all called to care for the orphans in whatever capacity he shows to us. For reasons only known to Him, sometimes he is slower to reveal our calling than at other times. Either that, or we are just slower to take notice. To me it has been such a beautiful thing to witness my husband’s heart be opened further and further to the plight of the orphans. To see God’s plan unfolding right before my eyes as God is revealing to him His calling…our calling.
Eight children later, we continue to pray for God to reveal to us what he has in store for us next. I smile big at the thought that this time, it may be my husband waking me in the middle of the night to show me a photo of our next little one.
James 1:27 “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for the orphans and widows in their troubles and refuse to let the world corrupt us.”