Friday, September 9, 2011

Heeding the Call

For a few months now I've been asking for prayer as we sought God's will on something. I'm ready to blog about it. I'm going to give two versions. The first is the "nutshell" one, the second is the mini-series one. Depending on what you have for time, you may want to go with the first!

Version 1) We believe God is calling us to adopt another child. Things are moving fairly rapidly on this and more than likely, we will be new parents again this next year.

Version 2) When I was somewhere around the age of 12 I read a Readers Digest condensed book about a soldier who fell in love with a little girl in an orphanage while in Vietnam. After the war, he moved Heaven and earth and was able to return to Vietnam and adopt the little girl. Her new family named her "Kim," I remember. I was so moved by that story that I decided right then that when I grew up I would someday like to adopt, as well. I never forgot that and when Paul and I were dating I informed him that if we were to marry I would like for us to consider adoption at some point. He was agreeable.

Well, we did marry, of course, and the babies came quickly for awhile there. Adoption was the farthest thing from my mind during those busy years! But then infertility struck and after awhile, we began talking about the possibility of finishing our family by adopting. I even made a couple of phone calls - one to an adoption agency and another to an organization that provides temporary and permanent housing for children in need. But the time wasn't right and I didn't know where to go next, so we just dropped the idea. And then, eventually, Sam came along and I had the stroke and my days became more focused on survival as I fought to overcome the effects of the stroke, care for a newborn, and deal with Ben, whose behavior was beginning to take some alarming downward turns.

But I never forgot about adopting. At the same time, though, I assumed our family was complete with the arrival of Sam. After all, the doctors scared us into getting a vasectomy so I knew we wouldn't be birthing any more children - even though we had totally planned to have a fifth in order to give Sam a sibling close in age. As time passed a drumbeat began resounding in my heart about the possibility of adoption. Every time I would read a story about the subject, my heart would constrict. I felt jealous when I learned of others who had adopted. Hearing testimonies about adoptions would nearly drive me to tears.

But there are a lot of good reasons for us NOT to adopt. And I reminded myself of these reasons over and over. But the drumbeat wouldn't go away. So, finally, in the spring of 2010 I prayed. I remembered that Sam had come about as the result of a "fleece" prayer I had prayed in the winter of 2007. If God could so clearly show His hand then, couldn't He do it again? I told the Lord that I would completely zip my mouth in regards to the subject of adoption - not that I brought it up that regularly, anyway - but if God wanted us to pursue this, then He needed to have Paul come to me and bring up the subject. And so I became deliberately mum on this subject. Not one word about the possibility escaped my lips.

And then last December 9, Paul and I were on a date. We were eating and he suddenly reached into his billfold and handed me a little post-it note. On it was the name of an adoption agency. That day he had been in a customer's home and had noticed that she had children who didn't "match" her in looks and asked if she was adoptive parent. She confirmed this and she and Paul ended up talking for a very long time on the subject. Here was my sign! And I was excited. For about three days...

And then all the doubts came rushing in. I knew we couldn't afford an international or private adoption. Yes, God could provide the money, but would He? I wasn't too keen on the idea of begging our friends and family for the funds, either, especially when we already had a houseful of children. It seems like most months we're barely scraping by when it comes to finances, so what we were doing even thinking about adding another child that we would be financially responsible to care for? And then what about time? I live in a whirlwind most days, running from one activity or chore to the next. Having more children would make that even harder. My work load would increase considerably. What about Ben? Things were so rough in our house until he started school. He was so happy going to school which calmed our household down, which, in turn, made all of us happy again. Did I really want to take a chance on disrupting that? What about my writing? It's hard enough finding the time and quiet to write what I do. More children would make that harder. And so on - I came up with many, many objections to what it seemed God might be calling us to do.

While all these thoughts were swirling through my head I slowly began to find myself considering more and more the idea of providing foster care to a child in hopes that we might be able to adopt it at some point. I had always been very opposed to this idea, though, because I know a couple of families that had to give their adopted children back once they got into adolescence. These children were never able to overcome the abuse and neglect of their early years. I also couldn't stand the idea of loving a child and then having to give him back because some relative crawled out of the woodwork or a birth parent cleaned up their act. Did I really want to deal with the emotional baggage a foster child would probably have? The answers were no, no, no! What I would like to do is to come up with $25,000, fly to some foreign country, and bring home a cute, cuddly little girl, who would love me forever. But slowly, my resistance to the idea of fostering to adopt began to crumble more and more.

April rolled around. I had been nearly completely silent on the whole idea of adoption since the previous December. One day Paul asked me, "So what are you thinking about this? You haven't said anything!" I told him my thoughts. I told him that I was scared to death to love a child that might never be capable of loving me back. I could invest years, energy, money, and love into a child that might turn around and stomp all over my heart someday. But even as I said that, I immediately was given a vision of Christ dying on the cross. Isn't that what Christ did for us? He opened up His arms wide in love for the whole world and look how He was rejected. Am I called to do anything less? Paul then said something that made me think. He said, "You know, life is so short. If we can make a difference in someone's life, I think we ought to consider it."

Mother's Day came. I got my usual gifts from the boys and then Paul handed me a small package wrapped in pink, girly paper. I didn't know it at the time but apparently he had bought this gift with a certain amount of trepidation. He told me later he was fully prepared to take it back if I reacted badly! I opened it up and it was a small, pink photo album that said, "Baby Girl" across the front. That was a little puzzling, since we have neither! Inside was a letter that he had written. Peppered with Bible verses to back up his points, Paul wrote that he was committed to doing whatever it took in the next year for us to adopt a little girl. At that point, my defenses crumbled. I started crying and accepted the reality that we were, indeed, going to pursue this.

For the next few weeks, I lived in a state of confusion though. I had agreed to explore the possibility of adoption. But how? Where were we to even start? I explored the international websites and was dismayed by the cost of an international adoption. On some of the applications it appeared that my stroke history might make me ineligible. I could probably figure out how to get the ball rolling on a foster care adoption, but I still didn't know who to call. I remember thinking that I just wished God would drop a baby on our doorstep, so I would know what to do!

About this time, we got a brochure in the mail for the upcoming homeschool conference. I looked through the offered workshops and one caught my eye. It was entitled simply, "Adoption - a Calling." I knew nothing about it, other than the title. I thought I could relate to the title because it seemed like this was indeed a "calling" that we were experiencing. Paul arranged to get off work to attend the seminar with me and we went. It was taught by a couple from the Fort Dodge area. We had never seen them before in our lives. They started the workshop by giving a brief overview of the four different types of adoption - international, private, foster care, and relative adoptions. And then they told their story. This couple has adopted close to 19 children, I think, nearly all of them out of the foster care system. They have one biological child, a little boy born the same month as Sam. I was transfixed by their story. Afterwards, Paul and I stayed and asked this couple question after question.

As we left the room, finally, I told Paul, "I think our family is about to get a little bigger!" But then I added a few minutes later, "But I don't want twenty children!" Paul exclaimed, "Good! Because I don't, either!"

The next day I was wandering the curriculum hall, buying materials for the boys. Suddenly, I stumbled across a booth emblazoned with the name, "Iowa KidsNet." I had just learned the previous day that this was the organization that headed up the foster care and adoption services in the state of Iowa. I talked with the lady there. And I talked with her some more. And some more! And then I called her the next Monday and talked with her again! The first step, we learned, was to take an orientation class. Unfortunately, due to funding cuts, the classes were hard to get into. But she got us into a class that supposedly was full.

The night before we went to this class, we met with our pastor. We both really wanted to get his input into this. I honestly half expected him to tell us that we were nuts. We had enough on our plates and we would be insane to bring another child or two into our home and add to the chaos. But he didn't. He looked at us and told us that he thought we could do this. He said he wouldn't tell that to just anyone, but he had observed us for the past 6 1/2 years, saw the way we parent, and was confident that if God was indeed leading us this direction, we could do it. Wow!

About a week previously, Paul had gone up to camp as a counselor. While he was there he ran into my parents' pastor from Waterloo and asked to speak with him. A number of years ago this pastor and his wife adopted a sibling group of five out of Iowa foster care. So he was able to have a nice long chat with this pastor. And then he spoke with the maintenance head at camp, who I went to school with. He and his wife added a sixth child a few years ago through foster care. They told him both the same thing - there will be struggles, but the reward will be worth it.

We went to the orientation class and came away greatly encouraged. I suspect that the orientation class is an attempt to "weed out" the parents that might be tempted to do foster care for less than stellar reasons (the state does pay a stipend per child per month). We met a couple there who was in the process of renewing their license. They had completed the training 4 years earlier and ended up bringing home a baby girl from the hospital less than six months later, adopting her when she was a year old. But now they wanted to add to their family. I'm not holding out for a newborn, but wouldn't it be something if that's the way it worked out for us? We were fingerprinted at the meeting and turned in reams of paperwork so background checks could be run on us (they came back clear!).

We found out later this summer that the classes we need to take in order to become licensed were full and few and far between. We finally got into a set that would not be beginning until late January. It was a little disappointing, but I reasoned that God had His hand on this and if we needed to wait, then there was a reason. Besides, there's the not-so-small matter of having a bedroom ready for another child. Our plan is to move one or more of the boys down to the new basement, building a room down there, and thus freeing up one of the upstairs bedrooms. And that's going to take a little bit of time. Well, I then got a call two weeks ago letting me know that an opening had come up and we could begin our classes on Oct. 3! We will complete them on Dec. 5th. During that time, we will have our home study and once we're licensed in Dec, we can begin taking children.

My desire, though, is for adoption. I do not have any intention of having a stream of children come through our home. However, we may not necessarily get to adopt the first child that is placed with us. I'm making it very clear to the powers that be that we want to adopt and would prefer to have only children who will soon be available for adoption placed with us. But I'm not sure how much say-so we will have on that.

So this is our news. Am I excited? Yes. Am I apprehensive? Oh yes! I know that we are taking a tremendous risk by opening our hearts and home to a child who has been already been hurt by those that were supposed to protect them. All my previous objections - time, money, resources - are still factors. But this is the thing: they don't matter. When God calls you, everything else falls by the wayside. Will we sacrifice to heed this call? Of course. Will we lose things we might have kept otherwise? There's no doubt.

And, I have to keep in mind, too, that just because we have come this far on the journey and the end appears in sight, we may never actually get another child. There is a possibility that God has been simply calling us to obedience, like He did with Abraham when He asked him to sacrifice his son. Time will tell. Throughout these months, the one thought I have returned to time and time again is this: I don't want to get to Heaven someday and have God look at me sadly and say, "I had so much planned for you - if only you had obeyed."

So, whether I'm on the verge of becoming a mother of one more - or several more - remains to be seen. Whatever happens, though, I know that I have the confidence that we are stepping out in perfect (or in my case, inperfect) faith and obedience. Wherever we end up will be the center of God's will.

And that's a good place to be.


  1. Oh, Sarah, what a beautiful story! Praying for your family! May God grant you with a baby girl, like he did me!

  2. Thanks for sharing... I'm anxious to hear THE REST OF THE STORY!

  3. Amazing post, Sarah. God bless you all and those yet to come into your family!

  4. Thanks for sharing. I'm so excited for you & your family. Looking forward to the rest of the story, as you walk through this journey of life with the Lord.

  5. Thank you for sharing your beautiful journey with all of us!