Sunday, July 31, 2011

Understanding the Call

This wasn't about just adding a baby, though. It was about feeling that we had room in our hearts and a home for a child that needed us. And so we began investigating the process of adopting a child. Our youngest was 6 years old and we felt strongly that we couldn't add a child to the family that wouldn't be younger than he. We also asked ourselves some hard questions about ethnicity and special needs and forced ourselves to find honest answers about what sort of child we truly felt we could offer the support they would need. We scheduled a meeting with our pastor, without disclosing the topic. Mr D made a few phone calls to major domestic adoption agencies. The response to the first one was eye-opening.

It was the week after Christmas, and Mr D reached an employee at a faith-based adoption agency and explained that we felt that God was leading us to open our home to a child in need of one. Initially pleasant, the employee asked a few demographic questions about our family. As soon as she learned that we already had three children, her attitude changed abruptly. We should pray about this some more because we clearly had misunderstood. Adoption cost a lot of money and time and was a big business. As people without fertility issues who did not feel equipped to take on a "special needs" case, we were not good candidates for their agency.

Wait, what? We're experienced parents and that's a bad thing?

As time went on, we came to understand where the employee was coming from. She had a waiting list full of infertile couples desperate for a "healthy white baby." If all we wanted was to add a baby to the family, we would be much better served to just try to get pregnant.

We met with our pastor and she was enthusiastic. At the end of our meeting, she urged us to let God work for a while. She would make some contacts she had aware of our existence and we should simply wait it out a while and see where things went. We registered to attend a "Wait No More" event, a day-long program aimed at encouraging families to consider adopting older children (over age 8) in the foster care system; although we didn't believe we would adopt a child of that age any time soon, we decided to open as many doors as possible and see what came in them.

Wait No More changed the direction of our journey. We realized that day that one of the greatest needs in foster care was one we felt we could meet -- a willingness to foster (and possibly adopt) sibling groups.

Four months after that Christmas Eve, we signed up for training as foster parents and began the journey to open our home in a different way than we first imagined. I once said to Mr D that the reason he felt the call was that he would have talked me out of adopting; we now believe he felt called to adopt because he would have ignored the call to foster. The Lord has let us along this path with the baby steps we needed to take to get where we were always meant to be: welcoming young children in sibling groups of two or three into a safe place when they are at their most vulnerable.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

You want to do WHAT?

A little personality background.

When we married, we both wanted kids. We said we'd have 2, then maybe have a 3rd if the first 2 were the same gender. We agreed we did not want more than 3. I'd never been one of those high school girls who already had names picked out for her future children; I rarely babysat as a teenager; I didn't feel I was "good with kids." But, in spite of all that, my mental picture of my adult life had always included that stereotypical 2.4 children. Like many newlyweds, we assumed that pregnancy would happen when it was intended and that the number of children we had was truly up to us.

A few years into our marriage, Mr D began talking about being not sure he wanted any at all. A teacher in the process of burn-out, he was pessimistic about raising children. I was stunned. I didn't realize how important these theoretical kids were to me until it appeared I might never get to have them. I remember trying to convince him that "the state of the world" wasn't a reason not to bring a child into it; it was reason to step up and make a commitment to raising children who would help change that world for the better. I was never sure he was convinced, but then . . . I was pregnant.

11 years and 3 childbirths later, we arrived at the Christmas Eve night in question. In that time, we had never struggled with fertility. Although we did get our "one of each" with the first two, our family still felt incomplete and we both agreed to a third child. During that pregnancy, I declared I was done. However, we had not done anything permanent to prevent another pregnancy and as far as we know, could still conceive another child.

When I met Mr D he was a Christian in name. He professed faith, but did not attend any sort of service regularly and didn't really let his faith affect his actions. I was actively involved in a Christian campus ministry and he attended its events with me, but never initiated acts of service on his own. In the early days of our marriage, this trend continued, and our involvement at church mostly rested on my activities. As time went on, Mr D found the depths of his own faith and became more actively involved on his own. But even now that our Christian faith is lived out in the way we treat others every day and in the acts of service we do within our church and without, we still don't tend to talk in terms of "hearing God speak to us" or "being called." These are phrases that just don't fit well with the language we use about our faith. Although we pray for guidance, I think we expect that guidance to be a little more . . . subtle.

When Mr D tried to explain to me what had happened to him at that Christmas Eve service, we were treading new ground in our faith and our marriage. For the first time, he was asking me to stretch my faith to follow his. All I could feel was that I could not stand in the way of this thing that my husband felt so strongly called to do. Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed to look into the process of adopting a child and suggested we begin by scheduling a meeting with our pastor. I'll confess, a part of me hoped that meeting would lead to someone else telling my husband he was crazy to do this.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In the Beginning . . .

It all started during the Christmas Season of 2010.

Mr. D was in a funk. He told me he couldn't seem to enjoy any of what he was "supposed to" enjoy about getting ready for Christmas. He hated decorating the house. He stressed over the money being spent on gifts. He gritted his teeth to survive listening to the children sing in church. He faked a smile and wished friends and family "Merry Christmas!", but couldn't get into the spirit of the season. He tried to focus on the birth of Jesus, but found himself getting even more irritated with the commercial glitz surrounding us. He continually reminded himself of the blessings in his life, but still felt empty.

Christmas Eve arrived. As usual, he sat with our three children during a candlelight service that evening, while I joined the choir in the loft. We took our time driving home from church, looking at all the Christmas lights on houses. Finally arriving home, we set out cookies for Santa and tucked our little ones up "snug in their beds."  We waited til we were sure they were down for the count, then carefully filled stockings and set out gifts. Then I sat by Mr D on the couch while It's A Wonderful Life ran on TV. He seemed calmer than he had been all month. I laid my hand on his leg and asked, "How are you?" The answer would change our lives.

While sitting in the service that night, Mr D had turned his thoughts to God. He had prayed, asking for guidance and insight. He asked whether we, as a family, were truly doing all that God would have us do. And Mr D felt what he could only describe as a "call", something like a voice speaking just one word: adopt. He came out of the service believing that somewhere in the world there was a child that needed the loving home we have, somewhere there might be a woman facing a difficult decision whose path we could smooth, somewhere there was a need we could -- should! -- answer. As he explained this to me, on the couch on Christmas Eve, with a background of Jimmy Stewart, my mind reeled.

When I asked how he was, I was thinking of the way he'd been struggling to enjoy Christmas this year. I was not prepared for this.