Our son, Matthew, is eight years old. He came home last year in May 2016.
Throughout the adoption process and shortly after arriving home, God reminded us that Matthew is a gift. My husband and I would hear “He is a gift” over and over again.
God had to remind us. He had to because fear would creep in and consume us. Whenever we took our eyes off Jesus, the evil one would swoop in and tell us we could not do this, we will ruin our family, and we could not adopt a medically-fragile child.
What were we thinking?! We’re not cut out for this.
But the Lord had chosen Matthew for our family. He didn’t choose from what we thought was a very good and bold list of medical conditions. No. The Lord decided we needed to enter into a deeper obedience and surrender. Even though we had said “no” to any heart conditions whatsoever, God thought otherwise.
The Lord also chose Matthew’s name. I wrestled with God even over our son’s name! I love the name Matthew, but I kept arguing the “th” sound would be so hard for him to say. Sometimes my flesh leaves me so narrow minded. Matthew means “gift of Yahweh”. Once that was revealed, we knew. We knew that was a message from the Lord. He used that to repeatedly remind my husband and I that Matthew was indeed a gift from our Heavenly Father who loves us, and Matthew, more than we could possibly imagine.
Matthew has complex CHD with a lengthy list of defects: hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), transposition of the great arteries, pulmonary stenosis, single atrium, single ventricle, etc. And when I first received Matthew’s file, my immediate response was we can’t do this, period.
We. Just. Can’t. Do. This.
We cannot possibly consider a child with his conditions and prognosis. In fact, our agency suggested they send us other files because they knew we were not open to heart conditions – and his were serious. But, we had been praying, “If our heart does not align with yours, change our hearts.” And the Lord did.
I have noticed that when our family steps into those acts of obedience that are absolutely terrifying, we see glimpses of Heaven on earth that are so rare. It just takes my breath away.
Our trip to China to adopt Matthew was incredible. Honestly, it felt more like a vacation for us. We brought our three bio boys. Yes, it was hard and different. But we just enjoyed the adventure while leaning on the Lord through the hard.
And there was hard. I don’t know where you are in the adoption journey, but I want to be transparent. In spite of everything God had done and shown us that Matthew was our son, I had a full panic attack on the bus ride to Gotcha…
It started as we were preparing to leave our hotel room. No one knew. We were riding the bus with several other families who had also brought their own gaggle of children. We had a packed bus. Most everyone was talking, laughing, having a great time. I was losing it. I was spiraling into darkness: “I can’t do this. I’m going to ruin my family. I can’t care for a medically-fragile child. How can I stop this…..”
I had to intentionally remember all the doors that God had opened to get us here. I had to remember His promises. I had to remember all the advice I heard from seasoned adoption moms that China was survival. I turned to my husband, who was completely oblivious to my spiritual battle, and asked how he was feeling. “I’m totally at peace.” With that answer, I knew the Lord had spoken.
My fear didn’t leave, though. I just needed to trust God and walk this out… baby step by baby step.
I have heard people say that we must get to a place of peace. That isn’t always true. There are times we are called to follow God simply on our faith in spite of our fear.
And here was the reality check of conviction: I’m falling apart with fear. What about Matthew?! He’s a 7 year old boy who has already experienced more loss and trauma than I ever have and is about to be ripped away from everything he knows.
I needed to put on my big girl pants and keep my eyes on Jesus. I was having my “Peter” moment. I got out of the boat and went to China, and then looked at the waves instead of Jesus and began sinking.
We weren’t really sure what our life would look like after adopting Matthew. None of our other children have health conditions. We have a new normal. But honestly, we don’t really grow by staying in our normal comfort zone. And yes the Lord does give you more than you can handle. If you could handle everything He had for you, you wouldn’t need God!
At our first cardiology appointment, the doctor asked me, “How much do you know?” I told him that I knew enough to be worried as a mom but ignorant enough to walk this out with God. “I don’t want to know everything.” The doctor, a believer himself, felt this was the best mindset to have. With Matthew, we are incredibly blessed that he already had his Fontan surgery in China. This new circulation is allowing him to live life to his fullest given his heart conditions.
People can’t even tell that our son is so medically-fragile. He is just like every other eight year boy: hates schoolwork, loves Legos, Superheros, sports, testing boundaries, etc.
He learned to swim and ride a bike and scooter. He loves to play soccer and football in the neighborhood. He even participated in our local Jingle Bell Run 2 miler. He was afraid he wouldn’t be able to do it at all. But he ran and walked. He even beat me! He hiked the Smoky Mountains with us. He has limits, but he has been able to do far more than we could have possibly imagined.
He does have “heart episodes” but they are rare now. He does get cold easier, but that has improved. We have learned how to care for Matthew in a way that allows him to enjoy life fully. The sacrifices don’t feel like sacrifices. They aren’t much in comparison to all the love and joy he adds to our family.
Matthew loves birthdays and is the biggest fan of Christmas. And he knows Jesus! While in China, we continued to have nightly devotional time as a family. We also skipped some tourist adventures and chose to go to church instead. At the time, Matthew was a bit annoyed and didn’t understand, but the fruit was immediate when we returned to the US. Whenever Matthew was having a problem, physically or emotionally, he started praying to Jesus. He continues to seek the Lord daily. He prays for others all the time. He even prays for President Trump every time we have family devotions. Our family forgets. But not Matthew!
Adopting Matthew revealed areas in our family that needed some ahem “character development” to put it nicely. We didn’t know we had these blind spots. The trials in the beginning had me on my knees a lot, just utterly broken.
I am incredibly grateful the Lord didn’t leave us blind. During these times, the Lord would continue to remind me and my husband that Matthew was a gift. Our family has bonded and our hearts have grown immensely.
Do you know that in the KJV of the Bible, the word “heart” is mentioned 830 times? This miraculous organ is so important to God, not so much the physical structure but it’s spiritual condition.
Matthew’s heart may be anatomically challenged, but it is full and overflowing.
It is filled with what matters most in life. He is a gift. He is a gift…
If you are considering adoption or are in the process, I pray that you fully surrender your heart and open your hands to whatever child the Lord has for you regardless of their medical condition. He has the most amazing gift for you!