I want you to take a moment and think about your wedding day. Surrounded by family and friends, you made promises to each other, before God. You pledged yourself to your spouse and pledged that you would give yourself to your spouse freely, totally, and fruitfully. I’d bet as you reminisce about that day, you had no idea what the years of marriage would hold; it may look so different than you thought. The white picket fence with the two children turned into a house with scribbles on the walls from your 5th child. Or maybe you dreamt of a house bursting with children, and today one beautiful child fills your life. Or maybe you still wait for the arrival of your first child. You have lived the teachings of the Church faithfully in your marriage, and you have taken the call to a sacramental marriage and life seriously. You are open to life and the ways in which God has chosen to bless you with that faithfulness in your marriage, and you accept it. The hard days, the messy days - each day, a gift.
As the years have gone by, life feels full. There are soccer practices, youth groups, diapers to change, and naps to be given. As you cuddle the children that you have been blessed with and pray that God gives you the patience and wisdom to raise them well, to raise them to love Jesus and His Church, there are children around the world without families. There are children that have no one to tuck them in at night. There are children in the foster care system that are shuffled from home to home, in a system with too few foster families willing to say yes. There is a woman, scared and alone, who just read a positive pregnancy test, considering abortion because she feels there is no better option. How do we, as a pro-life church, respond to these situations? How do we, as married couples open to life, respond to these situations?
It might feel like too much to say yes to adoption. The cost. The potential heartbreak. The strain on the family. The “what ifs.” What if we say yes to adoption and find out we are expecting? What if this child has more medical needs than we can handle?
I am here to say, I have been there. With three children, I was a stay at home, homeschooling mom, with financial numbers that couldn’t easily support an international adoption. Yet, we did it. Open to life, we felt the call to adoption.
In the middle of the busyness, do you ever think about the children in our country or around the world who have no mom to tuck them in at night? Do you ever wonder if you could be that mom and dad? It is so easy to say, “Our lives are so full, God certainly cannot be calling us to that, too.” But, what if He is? What if He wants you to open your heart a little bit more, to a child you never expected? A child that does not look at all like you, but can be as fully in your heart as the baby you are holding now? It is scary to take the leap, I know. I have done both, and the unknowns of pregnancy and birth feel way more comfortable than the unknowns that come with adoption. Because you just don’t know...and there are no guarantees. Life does get busier, and a bit crazier. But it is richer and more beautiful.
Easter 2016 - 40 days after Thomas came home, 20 days before Hope's birth
We were five months into our second adoption process, pursuing our son Thomas as quickly as we could. He would fill the last seat of our 7-seater van. And at a time, we least expected and certainly had not planned, we found out we were pregnant. It shouldn’t have been a surprise - we live the church’s teachings faithfully and always open ourselves up to life as God would will it. But, this unexpected blessing was not in our plan. And it made life a bit more complicated than just needing a new vehicle that would fit our whole family. My husband and my oldest son walked off a plane from China with Thomas in March, and two months later - to the day - Hope was placed in my arms for the first time, born via C-section. Those first months after Hope’s birth were a blur. The exhaustion was a combination of newborn nursing-all-the-time-exhaustion and cocooning/bonding with a toddler that was working through lots of trauma. I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained in those months. Yet, now that we are three years beyond those early days of exhaustion, I cannot imagine life without Thomas or Hope! They bring a richness to our family that we never would have experienced if we hadn’t been open to life in the unexpected.
I won’t lie - being open to life is hard. It is a complete giving over control to the Lord, and even more so when you begin the adoption process. It has been a hard journey, but one that has been worth every sleepless night, every moment spent at a doctor or therapist’s office, and every moment fighting for attachment and a development of trust with a child learning what family is.
So, dear married couple, I want to encourage you to pray. To search your hearts for what it means to be open to life. How does God want you to be open to life? How is He asking you to widen your definition of family and children? He implores us to love as He loves and be not afraid. Do not let the “what ifs” stop you from opening your heart to a child that needs a family.
In just a few days you will be gathering with friends and family to celebrate the coming of a little baby - our Savior. And as you gather around the table, give thanks for the gifts you have been given, for another year of blessings. And then look closely at the table...can you make room for one more? Is there room for a child who may be spending this Christmas without a mother and father? Maybe God is asking you to consider to set a place for one more child. A child you may not have expected, but a child whom God wants you to bring into your family.