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In most every adoption conversation I have, the inevitable question is asked,

image from kaboodle.com

“So…what made your family decide to adopt?” Quite often, the questioner is glancing confusedly at our three boys – whose features immediately betray their beginnings – rolling around with their brown siblings. Obviously we didn’t struggle with infertility. Obviously, we were a full household before adoption. Their quizzical expressions betray their true wonderings; “Why, on God’s green earth, with three healthy boys ‘of your own,’ would you ever want to adopt more?” (emphasis on the  word, ‘more’: maybe we’re growing

a collection of them?).

It’s a perfectly legitimate question. And one that I’ve often bobbled, dropped and accidentally splattered, these last several years. You would think it’s a question I love answering and can wax eloquent over: the “call,” the prayer, the process, the joyful uniting with children, who somehow fit our family perfectly from the start.

No. My telling is more clunky, full of Christianise I stumble to translate into plain ‘ole English. After all, what does it look like to be ‘led’? How does one hear the ‘call’ to adopt? Did Gabriel pay us a visit? Did we have one of those, “too weird to be a coincidence,” experiences? You know, the kind where your son’s soccer coach adopted, half the team is adopted and everyone in the cul-de-sac you move onto adopted.

Over the years I’ve begged God to give me a smoother story to relate; one that better reflects His love and deflects the attention from us. Perhaps, this is partly why I fumble the story so; the inevitable question leads to inevitable praise and verbal adoration, making me feel squeamish and queezy inside (unrelated, but important note: look for an upcoming post on what NOT to say to adoptive parents).

He never answered that prayer. And out of the silence, I’ve found my answer.

Our adoption happened in much the same way.

It began with a long car-ride conversation. You know the kind: driving half way across country, busy boys in the back while you’re trying to converse with your spouse over the din. We were driving home from a visit with college friend in Michigan – beautiful home, beautiful company and a single question from a friend that would change our lives forever.

“So, Shari. Do you think you’ll have any more kids? You know… try for the girl?

” he asked (this was the inevitable question always being asked before we adopted).

“NO! I mean, no. We’re done. At least I’m done giving birth. Pregnancy makes me fussy.”

“Oh. So, would you ever consider adopting?”

“Umm. Yes. I would adopt – a girl. As a kid, I used to imagine myself adopting one day. You know, have two boys and one girl by birth and then adopt some more. The perfect plans, right?”

We chuckled at the irony of our idealistic childhood imaginings. He agreed, he would adopt, too. The conversation moved elsewhere.

But not in the car ride home. In the car ride home, I stuck square to the question at hand – looking to negotiate the details.

“Would you ever consider adopting?” I asked my husband casually.

“Sure,” he replied, without hesitation but just as casually. His answer took me off guard.

“Domestic or international?”

“International.” Wow. Again, so casually affirmative. Is it a sign or just a conversation?

He had no idea how he had cemented the life-change that our friend unknowingly initiated. Nor did I.

Of course, the conversation was just the beginning. It’s also the spot in the story where my words become bumpy and unpoetic – or maybe they become too poetic. I stumble over language only a Christian whose read too many Christian living books would understand. We “felt called,” we “were led” to adopt; it was a combination of wanting to add to our family and “feeling deep in our souls” that maybe God wanted us to grow through adoption.

In reality, those statements are both accurate and inaccurate. As a believer, I’ve come to understand certain ideas, desires and leanings I have as coming from outside my own psyche – or inside my own Spirit-filled psyche, depending on the window through which you’re gazing. So, when I say we felt “called” to adopt, what I’m really communicating is, it was an idea which grabbed hold of my mind, met with little resistance from my spouse, which eventually resulted in flying to Ethiopia to bring home our fourth and fifth children.

But, here is the most accurate way of answering the question, “What made you decide to adopt?”

It too, became the prayer that was never answered.

You see, after we had the, “Would you adopt?” discussion, like any good Christian couple, we began praying. My senses perked for signs. I begged for clear direction.

No vision from Gabriel. No sudden influx of adoptive families to our neighborhood.

After over a year of praying, waiting, moving, settling and securing our financial feet barely enough to begin the adoption process, my prayer suddenly shifted from, “give me a sign,” to:

“Lord, if you don’t want us to adopt, please thwart the process. Cause something to happen. We will keep putting one foot in front of the other until you shut us down. You are powerful enough to stop this adoption if you don’t want it to happen.”

He never answered that prayer. Or, I guess, you could say he did… depending on the window through which you’re gazing.


Are you an adoptive family? What is your story? Do you have family or friends who’ve adopted? Share… or just comment on ours J!

(Next up: the other inevitable question: Why Ethiopia?)