Yesterday, the beautiful springtime weather found me sitting out in our garden listening to the chirping birds and drinking in the glorious new life – flowers, butterflies, and such. As I sat, pondering on the random things that popped into my head, I was led to reminisce about a time when my husband and I had our hearts set on adopting a baby. As a pro-life advocate I had made our openness to adoption known for years and now, this mother had chosen us to be the parents of her son. Although we had three older children of our own, cancer had cost me my fertility and halted the expansion of our family. As one of those women who craves children like lungs crave oxygen, I had struggled with the unplanned cap on our family size – so when this opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the chance. We had a home study done and passed all of the prerequisite criteria for a private adoption. And we waited in joyful anticipation.
Unfortunately, we received the call that we dreaded, telling us that the mother had changed her mind at eight months pregnant – she would keep her baby after all. Jackson (we would have named him Luke) came into the world without our attendance. He was full term and healthy. Sadly, 3 months later he was placed in the ‘system’ due to maternal neglect. Even as we, once again, took classes and became an approved home – this time for fostering and state adoption – we knew that this renewed effort was a long shot. But we persisted. The outcome was not what we had hoped and we found out later that he had been adopted by the instructor of our parenting class. Our hearts were heavy because we knew that this had been our final chance – there were no more babies in our future.
Fast forward to present time and what was once a bitter disappointment has become a bittersweet blessing. Don’t misunderstand – we wouldn’t have regretted adopting Luke and adding him to our family, but life dealt us some unexpected blows and the idyllic expanded family of which we dreamed would have added an element of hardship. You see, 7 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer – not your run-of-the-mill breast cancer either. The diagnosis for the BRAC-1 gene had been a death knell for several women on my maternal side – beginning (as far as we know) with my great-grandmother (who died in her 40’s), my grandmother (who died at 42), and my mother (who died at 58 after a 5 year battle). I, myself was diagnosed at 48 and then our 28 year old daughter was diagnosed at 20 weeks pregnant. I shudder to think of the turmoil this type of situation would have had on a young child – it was taxing enough on our 16, 24, and 27 year olds.
In addition, during the past 9 years we have been blessed with 7 grandchildren. They play a very vital role in our lives and we in theirs. Since we live close to all of them, they share a vast amount of time with us. As I frequently revel in their company – including occasional sleepovers for medical or business reasons – I realize that I’m not that energetic 31 year old mom of three anymore. I get tired. As much as I love those little kiddos of ours, there are times when I have a hard time imagining not being able to send them home. It’s been a bittersweet revelation to find that, what I wanted so fervently just a few years ago, would now be quite the marathon. At 55 years old, I have begun to rethink many things that I thought I wanted at one time or another. The boyfriends my mother rejected, the homes we wanted, the material things we couldn’t afford…the country song about thanking God for unanswered prayers comes to mind.
As the Bible tells us, for everything under the sun there is a season…. my husband and I have been blessed with many seasons in our 38 year marriage. We married young (17 and 18), were blessed with three exceptional children as well as 7 grandchildren, we’ve enjoyed a reasonably healthy life so far (7 years cancer free for me). Somehow God has always provided for us – even during periods of financial duress. We’ve tearfully said goodbye to homes we loved, job opportunities have passed us by, and more than a few family members have left this earth. But all in all, I couldn’t think of a better life. I wouldn’t trade with anyone I know or can imagine. Each one of the blessings, as well as the hardships, has shaped who we are – to ourselves and to each other. Cancer has shown me the unconditional love of a good man and other family members. Loss has shown me the beauty of relationships in the here and now. Disappointment has shown me that there’s a silver lining behind those stormy clouds – sometimes even better than what we thought we wanted. All in all, I have found that being one of God’s sparrows – totally under His care – is just where I want to be. What have I gathered from all of this? That when God knows what you don’t need – He knows what He’s talking about!