(Author’s note: This is not a story about Alzheimer’s. But it is a story overflowing with God’s grace…)
November 29th is a date full of meaning for our family. A date marked with hope and grief and joy…
November 29th, 1996 was our third baby’s due date. But in May an ultrasound revealed that the baby had stopped growing a month prior. We lost the baby in a miscarriage later that same day and grieved deeply. I remember asking God why He would give us a baby only to take it away. It was so confusing.
We’d always felt like we were supposed to have more than two children. My husband said we should adopt, but I was fearful of it. After the miscarriage I prayed more diligently about the possibility.
In 1999 my husband was a youth pastor, and I was leading a small group of senior high girls through Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. The study kept encouraging us to hear God’s voice and join Him in His work.
The workbook provided space to write in what God was calling us to do. And I kept having a growing conviction that we should pursue adoption. I finally timidly penciled in the abbreviations “p.a.”. I felt some relief then because I knew we couldn’t afford it anyway, so what were the chances it could happen.
But I told a couple friends, and one of them had just been to the Philippines to visit her sister who was working in an orphanage there. “Oh,” Dawn said, “there is the cutest little girl there named Annabel.”
Cute little girl! That sounds good, I thought.
Then Dawn added, “And she has three older brothers.”
“Four kids! We can’t adopt four kids!” I said, thinking to myself how we could barely afford the two we already had.
Dawn sounded a little too cheerful as she asked, “Oh can’t you?” Then she told me the story about how their father was disabled, had lost his fingers and toes from leprosy, and couldn’t provide for the children. Their mother had gotten a cut that became infected and she ended up dying from sepsis when little Annabel was just a year old, back in 1996. About a month after their mother passed their father had willingly signed them over to the Children’s Shelter of Cebu.
Their story touched me. I asked Dawn if she had any pictures of the children. She said she’d bring a newsletter to our homeschool group the next day. I spent that Thursday looking at the picture of the sweet faces that God instantly put in my heart, and felt certain He was putting in our family, and crying.
My husband came home from work that day and I told him how I was feeling. “We can’t adopt four children!” he said.
“I know. But we can if God wants us to.”
He brought up all the reasonable objections over the weekend. I didn’t try to talk him in to anything. I was confident that if we were supposed to adopt these children God would tell Jeff, too. But my response to every objection was, “If God wants us to, we can do it.”
That Monday night, as Jeff was driving home from seminary classes, he continued his ongoing prayer with God. “Lord, do you really want us to adopt FOUR children? Can we really do this?” And in one of those profound moments, when you know in your soul you have heard the voice of God, Jeff heard, “Haven’t I always provided?” He came home that night, with a peaceful energy and said, “Yes! Let’s do this!”
The process began. And during those nine months God did provide funding for the adoption, and He continued to build our faith. I made up a list of needs that we would have if/when we added four children to our family and prayed over it.
The week we found out we were approved my mom called me. “Do you need a big freezer? The neighbors are moving and want to sell their freezer and I’ll buy it for you if you want it.”
“Yes please, that’s on my prayer list!”
One of the senior high moms called. “Do you like beef?”
“Sure! We like beef!”
“Do you have a big freezer?”
“We will soon! My mom is buying us one!
“Oh good! Because God told us to buy you 250 pounds of beef!” (I was in grateful shock on this one. I hadn’t ever thought to put 250 pounds of beef on my prayer list!)
A friend I’d worked with years earlier called. “Do you need a big table? My husband bought a big table at an estate sale and it’s too big for us. You can have it if you want it.”
“That would be great! A big table is on our prayer list!”
I could go on. God provided three sets of bunk beds, sheets, bags of clothes, winter jackets, benches to put at the table, a cheap van with eight seat belts, anonymous checks, etc.
And then the day came when we flew to Cebu and met our four new children for the first time! How precious it was to have Thanksgiving dinner out on the patio with all their housemates at the orphanage.
We left the island of Cebu with them on November 29th, 1999. It was our baby’s due date, but three years later. And now we were headed home with four new children!
Later, looking at paperwork I saw that their mother had died one week before our baby had stopped growing. And they went to the orphanage exactly one week before we lost our baby.
We stepped off the plane in our home state of Minnesota with all six of our children, on November 30th. Eight year old Allen shouted, “My breath! It is white!”
We drove home and found my Dad waiting in the driveway for us. The kids all jumped out and ran and hugged their new Grandpa for the first time, with no promptings to do so! He hugged them and blinked back tears.
They were so excited to find a little patch of snow left in the yard. And though we didn’t have boots or even shoes for them yet, they put on socks with their sandals and ran out to have a snowball fight with their new Grandpa and brother and sister.
November 29th is an important date in our family. Adding four children to our family was, and is, a journey of challenges and blessings. And I’m forever grateful that God called us to it.
And now when God does things that seem confusing and hard, I take comfort in knowing He has a plan. Maybe we will see why in this lifetime, or maybe the next. But we can know He works all things for good and we can trust Him always.
“Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” Psalm 145:4 (NLT)