Monday, March 12, 2012

Discerning Adoption: Part 2: The Spiritual

Happy Monday!! It is my son Luke's birthday!! He turns 18 years old today....

one of my easiest births (he was born 5 minutes after we arrived at the ER and less than 2 hours after my first contraction), he is now a 6 foot 3 inch tall lacrosse player, artist (who will be studying Industrial Design in college next year), and all around awesome son and big brother....

a laid-back guy who can always make us smile....

I had a wonderful weekend at the Behold! Conference in Peoria, Illinois on Saturday - if you are a Catholic woman in the Midwest I highly recommend you attend this one day event in 2013!

Of course the best part was driving there and back with my great friend P and sharing in 5 hours of spiritually uplifting girl-talk while drinking coffee and sweet tea!! Good times!!!

So having lots of spiritual reflection time I think I am ready to tackle this very personal topic today - how we discerned to add to our family last year through international special needs adoption.

If you have not already read Part 1, please go here and do so now to read my first post in this series and all the disclaimers.

I will add another disclaimer here.

The 2 months leading up to our commitment to adopt Henry were a very spiritually intense time for me. I cannot share and explain without reference to God and my Catholic faith, the vehicle for my relationship with Him. Henry would not be laying here at my feet mouthing action figures without the great goodness of God making clear to us what He wanted our family to do.

Those who know me personally would probably agree that I am a "TYPE A" kind of gal. I have a ton of energy and I try to get a lot done and do it well (sometimes I don't succeed but that does not stop us Type A's from trying)....

Usually I spend the first week of each January deciding what I want to focus on over the next calendar year.

One year it was running - and I did a 1/2 Marathon.

One year it was having my household run more smoothly - and I streamlined my laundry and cooking system to what works so well for us today (I really should add in cleaning one year though......)

But on January 1 of 2011, I did something totally out-of-character for me....

I decided to let God decide what He wanted me to focus on this year.

And as I prayed I thought it might be "helping orphans."

A bit more background. My dear friend P I mentioned above, had adopted a sibling group of 3 from Ethiopia and was helping to raise money and awareness for a wonderful program in Tanzania called Children of Hope and Faith. Tanzania does not allow international adoptions so the Bishop there has taken an orphanage under his guidance. An order of nuns cares for younger children and runs a school for the older children, and as they get older they sponsor children to attend another boarding school. My extended family gave money to this program instead of getting Christmas presents for the other adults in 2010 and I was feeling called to do more. But I was not sure what it was.

So on January 1, I googled "helping orphans."

About the 5th search result down was Reece's Rainbow....

and I was hooked.



Seeing that special needs children in Eastern Europe are warehoused and then thrown away forever.

Seeing their FACES!!!

I thought I had my mission.

So many amazing families were raising money to pay the "ransom" to get these children home....there was NO TIME to save the thousands of dollars needed....these children had to get here to the US now!!

So I resolved to give money to RR families in 2011. I was SURE that was what God wanted me to do in 2011.

But then, as I shared in my last post, I started looking at the "Waiting Children" listings....

and I saw Henry.

It was like a lightning bolt.

He was the same age and at the same orphanage with a little boy called "Winston" who was missing part of his leg....

Winston had a committed family with a few weeks.

But Henry did not.

So I resolved to pray specifically for Henry to have a family.

I prayed for him every day....often at Eucharistic Adoration (where Catholics go spend time in the presence of Jesus who we believe is present body, blood, soul and divinity in the consecrated bread)....

and then one 3 am....I woke up....

and knew that God was telling me that WE WERE HIS FAMILY.

I did not hear voices.

I knew this in the deepest part of my heart.

I truly had no thoughts AT ALL of adoption before this. I was just going to pray and send money.

But God had other plans.

I was scared to death. Paul and I had been talking about how we were going to afford to send Brent (my oldest) to college in the fall and then Luke the year right after him....

But we had also been talking about how to truly live our Christian faith in the very secular suburbs we were living and raising our children in.

So I prayed some more....asking God, "ARE YOU SURE??? I ALREADY HAVE 6 CHILDREN!!!"

and also, "Please help me tell Paul. I am so scared."

So on January 30 I presented all the information about Henry and RR to him. I told him that he is the head of our household and that I would not badger him about it but that I really felt this was what God was calling us to do in our marriage and family.

Then I did one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.

I SHUT MY MOUTH for a month.

You see my husband loves me dearly and I know he would do anything to make me happy...

but this needed to be about more than that.

It needed to be a call and a commitment to BOTH of the same deep and abiding way.

The entire month of February I prayed and went to Adoration whenever I could (10 minutes after dinner one night, 5 minutes on the way home from preschool drop-off one afternoon, and hour on the weekend when all was settled at home)....

and checked Henry's RR listing every single morning, hoping that he was still there....

yet also hoping for a family for him.

It was truly wrenching.

The other wrenching thing in February was that our family was experiencing some intense Spiritual Warfare to sow fear and discontent and try to get us to "give up" on God's plan for us. In case you have not heard that term before, while all Christians believe that Christ's victory in His death and resurrection on the cross has won the war over sin and evil....that there are still battles being fought where the evil one tries to lure souls away from God and His plans for us both here on earth and our ultimate destination of heaven....

I kept a journal at that time and I can list the things which all happened between me telling Paul about Henry (January 30) and when Paul decided we could begin the process to bring Henry home (February 28)...

1) heater on hot tub breaks completely unexpectedly (just put a new one in less than 3 years ago).... we have to fix because leaving cold water to freeze up in a hot tub during the Chicago winter is not a good thing ($1000 price tag)....

2) pipe breaks in our laundry room causing flood in laundry room and sending WATERFALLS cascading through the basement celing, necessitating emergency plumber visit, can you say "KA-CHING"?????

3) dryer stops the middle of Friday mega-loads of laundry (after the flood we used every bath towel in our house)....internal switch had shorted out....another repair bill...

4) my 11 yo daughter got an orthodontic device placed on Tuesday afternoon that on Wednesday morning (when we were snowed in by 20+ inches) caused her mouth to become STUCK OPEN SO WIDE that she began to choke and vomit uncontrollably and could not breathe...after a minute or so of incredible panic, the appliance broke and she was OK....

5) on Saturday, right before probably the busiest work week I had in over 5 years, our microwave CAUGHT ON FIRE!!!! Something caused a hole in the internal wall and SPARKS and FLAMES preceded the total shut-down of the incredibly expensive microwave/convection oven combo we just put in during our kitchen remodel in June!

6) on the only night we went out as a couple that whole month, our second son texts that the baby just "threw up gyros and fries all over"....

Sure, stuff like this can happen in any household at any time.

But I had read enough blogs from RR families to know that THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME when a family is discerning adoption or has just started the process. It would be remiss of me not to share this insight and information. Because when we KNOW what the devil is doing, that lessens his impact and power.

So I kept praying and Paul kept trying to keep up with the unexpected repairs and bills....

and one Sunday...

February 28....

Paul came home from an afternoon watching sports and celebrating his brother's birthday with his mother and other brother....

and said we should do it.

We should commit to Henry.

And we never looked back.

Not when Ukraine shut down to international adoptions in June and we thought there would be months of delay.

Not when someone asked Paul if there were anything that would make us walk away from adopting Henry and he responded, "No. Nothing. We are all in."

Not when those prophetic words were truly tested when we met Henry and he was clearly so small and malnourished and with MANY more physical problems than were expected.

Not when Henry could not digest ANYTHING here in the US except a special formula that cost us the amount of a new car payment every single month.

Not when Henry was diagnosed with Larsen's Syndrome rather than arthrogyposis back here in the US.

Not when we ended up in the PICU at Children's Hospital before Halloween with croup.

Not when they told us right before Christmas that he essentially could not hear right now.

Not when we spent 5 days back at Children's in February due to croup, pneumonia AND RSV.

Not when his cleft repair and ear tube surgery has been delayed over and over.

It is not with human strength...

"I can do all things with Him who strengthens me."

My 12 yo old daughter was playing with Henry on the floor the other day and looked up at me and said,

"What did we ever do before Henry was here?"

I don't know honey.

But I thank God every day for bringing him here to us.


  1. Wow, you are chronicling my very own discerment right now:) I began 2012 with the intent to help orphans. Our tithing would increase and stretch to include these little ones and I would give sacrificially to as many as I could. It kind of started last Christmas when we got involved with bringing Charlotte home (who has a Gotcha Day next week!). Then the New Year came adn I thought, "what will I do with this new year?"

    But as you said, just donating wasn't enough. I am already on board but Che (the hubs) is so very hesitant with lots of concerns. He says we barely can afford to care for the 2 we've got which is true. The hubs has a modest income WELL below 6 figures and I do not work outside the home except for a part time job right now at night which is just pocket money, etc. My health is not great. Our marriage has major issues. Our Faith isn't strong enough. Our finances are strained. We have no retirement, no savings, no college funds, so I do see why he thinks I am crazy for wanting to adopt:) But part of me feels like my life is leading towards this journey of adoption. Maybe not next year of the year after, but one day. I don't feel like I can do enough. I dont' feel like people know or understand enough. I'm SCARED to have this desire to adopt. SCARED beyond anything else I've ever known. But I hope God will give our family some clear answers along our path of discernment. Can't wait to hear more and I hope Henry's surgery is able to happen soon:)

  2. *I* am scaring my husband and I've barely spoken to him about it. We CAN'T adopt right now, but these children are weighing on my heart. I love RR, and I am so glad I can, at least, help spread the word. I hope their mommies and daddies see them and bring them home. This is a wonderful series, thank you so much. Please pray for me and my family, I will be praying for all who are discerning, as now I know quite a few people doing so!!! God is GOOD.

  3. I'm in that "keep your mouth shut and wait" phase while I let it rest with my husband. I jus keep praying, "God, open our hearts and let us know your will with clarity." We haven't told anyone (in real life) that we're discerning this, but I sort of want to. I don't know; I'll feel better once Ryan and I come back together and talk more.

    Thanks for this series!

  4. So beautiful. I was riveted. This needs a wide reading. God bless you!!

  5. I am speechless. The strength of your family and of your faith is amazing! You had me in tears!

  6. Awesome post Carla! I actually took a picture of a particular little one with me to Adoration this afternoon, asking for guidance in the discernment process we're going through right now. Thanks for sharing your experiences! - Laura Lewis

  7. I remember when you were doing the "shut up, no nagging thing" wife thing. It seemed so hard, but SO worth it! Nothing better than giving our husband's the space to hear God in the silence of their heart.

  8. i'm a fellow picu mom. (my preemie has asthma and got a virus that just dismantled his lungs.) it was scarier than my son being in the nicu because kids actually die in the picu. one of the residents there is now his pediatrician and i've run into everyone else in the last year. they can't believe that the grumpy toddler is the kid that was so incredibly sick and had to be intubated for a week.

  9. I am so thankful for this post! I have my heart and mind set on Malcolm. My husband has been very moved by his story. He is still not sure that he can be "all in" for adoption of a special needs child. I know that his heart is capable of making this leap of faith. ... .but I am not sure his head will allow it. Please pray! Time is running out!


  11. Wow! This is a beautiful post. My husband and I often talk about adopting. It is good to know that spiritual tests are normal during a discernment. What a witness your family is to faith in God.