If you are at all familiar with our story, you know that we have ten children. Yes...ten. Six I received in the delivery room; two I received at the altar; and two I received at the courthouse. Honestly, because this is the way the Lord has orchestrated my child-bearing, it's something I really don't think about all that much. I simply have ten children.
But I think that, in order to really give God the glory, I should take a pause more often and seriously think about this family He has created...and how He has chosen to go about putting it together.
When I wrote about my struggle with infertility, I probably should have mentioned my very earliest thoughts on adoption: I really saw it as second-best. I mean...I saw the value and beauty in it for people who had exhausted every possible avenue of having a baby conventionally...but what I wanted more than anything else during those dark, frantic months was to have a baby that would be a little bit Sweet Jimmy B and a little bit me. If I may be really, ridiculously transparent, I won't even say that I wish I had known then what I know now about how it feels to have adopted children...because I wouldn't have listened anyway. I was that single-minded in my nearly-idolatrous focus on having a baby.
And what makes it all particularly irritating is that I should have known better even then! After all, by the time I was out of my mind with the frustration of not being able to get pregnant in a timely fashion, I was already the proud owner of two daughters acquired, not in the delivery room, but at the altar...and I knew I was crazy about them!
I'll use any excuse to haul out this picture because I LOVE it!
Here are the three girls with whom we started our adventure...
only many years later! Aren't they beautiful?!
Sometimes I’m not the smartest person I know.
But with several years (and several children) came (slightly) greater wisdom, and as I mentioned in my post about our first foster-child Mercy, we learned before she was six months old that she was going to be a big sister!
When our social worker Ryan gave us the news and asked if we would be willing to accept the new baby as a placement in our home, we were surprised...but not terribly so. And really, with as many as nine kids in the house at any given moment--and with four of them being under the age of five--a new baby just didn't seem like a big crisis. In for a penny...in for a pound!
Every child in our home has a pet name,
and Sam has been Bub almost from the get-go
I think it is probably a common pattern that parents whose children are taken into foster care usually start strong...they work very hard at the beginning to do whatever it's going to take to get their children back. But over time, it is very difficult to maintain that level of diligent victory in the battle against a well-established stronghold...and that is the pattern we saw with Mercy's birth-parents. As time had passed, their supervised visits with her became less and less frequent...then they started missing appointments...then they just sort of fell off the radar entirely.
So, by the time we learned that they were expecting baby #2, it had been a few months since anyone had heard from them. But they had evidently come to the realization that their only hope of being able to keep their new baby was to return to Lutheran Social Services and ask to try again.
Now, I’m not really a violent person by nature, but during this time, I gave some fairly serious consideration to picking up street-fighting as a new hobby. It’s good to learn new things, right? And, frankly, I was made to deal with several people during a pretty short span of time who desperately needed to find themselves on the receiving-end of a little kick-boxing practice.
For starters, I have to confess that Mercy’s biological parents were very, very difficult for me to love when they returned after their lengthy absence. There I was--almost completely lulled into the confident belief that she would soon be ours to keep--and then they showed up again…acting as if nothing was wrong with their behavior! Like it's no big deal for parents to go bye-bye about the time their child learns to sit unassisted and then reappear once she has learned to walk! Sure!
And to make matters worse, they seemed to think everyone should be ready to embrace the notion that they were living back on the straight and narrow…ready to be wonderful parents to their two children!
I wanted to throw up. I’m sorry! But I really did!
Know who else was just begging to be a punching-bag right about then? The OB staff at the hospital where Baby Sam was born. You know…the OB staff that had been notified by the Department of Children and Family Services that, upon the birth of this baby, the nurses were to call the DCFS hotline immediately, give the baby a drug test, and NOT send him home with his parents.
Nothing like being 0 for 3!
To make matters crazier, Sam was born during Labor Day weekend…so it wasn’t until Tuesday morning, when Lutheran Social Services’ office opened, that anyone even knew what had happened.
So I received a call from our social worker Ryan, filling us in on what was going on. (He’s a brave man.) Talk about a flood of emotions! We were excited at the prospect of possibly having a new baby in the house by the end of the day…but horrified by a lot of other possibilities. Chief among them: What if the kids’ birth-parents had seen their chance and decided to cut their losses (Mercy) and run with the new baby?
That day was a complete blur in a lot of ways. We started the church prayer chain and called every big sister and grandma we owned. We prayed feverishly. I spent a lot of time on the phone with our licensing worker because baby would make seven kids in the house under the age of 18…which meant we had to apply for an expanded foster care license from the state of Illinois. (This couldn’t be done before there was actually a baby to place into foster care. Evidently the state of Illinois doesn't understand that a person's a person, no matter how small!) For hours and hours, no one had any idea how the day’s events would pan out.
Finally, late that afternoon, the phone rang…and Ryan asked me if we were ready for a baby. He had been found at the home of his parents; he had been checked over by a doctor; and he was on his way. I think we would probably have to look back to Greek or Hebrew to find the word for the sort of rejoicing that occurred in Stately Bennett Manor that afternoon.
It may seem funny to some people that I perpetually have a running mental list of baby names…but when you’ve played the name game as often as we have, it seems prudent to always have a few names in the holster. You just never know when you might need one! And I already had a boy name on-deck. Ready to go…no doubt about it!
But when Ryan arrived with this tiny new baby boy—a child who may have had as many prayers lifted up for him in one day as any other child of mine received during an entire, prayerful nine-month pregnancy—I took one look at him and knew that, if it turned out to be God’s will that we keep him, his name had to be Samuel instead. Because for this child I prayed!
Sam and Mercy, within days of his arrival
And let me make it clear right now that our church is a baby-loving bunch of folks! They will delight over a new baby like you wouldn’t believe! But I’ve never seen anything like the reception Sam received when we carried him into church the Sunday after he arrived…because they had been praying for him with as much passion as we had! An entire congregation knew they could claim a share of the joy of this new member of the family.
And don’t you just love it when God lets you see how miraculously He has worked on your behalf? I think there are some things we won’t find out about until we get to Heaven…but it’s so sweet when we get a glimpse in the here and now…
Remember that expanded license we had to apply for in order for Sam to be placed in our home? In passing, the licensing worker at Lutheran had mentioned that, if the paperwork couldn’t get pushed through state headquarters that day, the baby might have to be placed in temporary foster care with someone else until the license came through. At the time, it sounded like nothing to really worry about, and there were so many other things to be concerned about that day that we didn’t waste time stewing over the red tape…we just prayed for it to clear and moved on to other things.
At the end of the day, we learned that the social worker in charge of state licensure had never before had an expanded license go through in one business day. She had even had cases where grandparents had to see their grandchildren placed into temporary foster care for extended periods of time because of bureaucratic snags. An entire office of social workers was amazed!
And we got to point toward the power of prayer…and to a God Who loves orphans…and Who delights in exceeding our expectations.
For this child I prayed,
and the LORD has granted me my petition
which I asked of Him.
Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD;
as long as he lives
he shall be lent to the LORD.”
I Samuel 1:27-28
Don't worry...there was no high voltage involved in the making of this picture.
Daddy was just having a little post-bathtime fun with Sambo's hairdo!