Our Adoption Journey: Nightlight Family Testimony

 

This is the story of how we adopted our precious daughter. My wife and I had 10 years of unexplained infertility. We felt in our hearts that we needed to partner with a Christian adoption agency. Galatians 6:10 instructs us, ” … let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” In my opinion, that means choosing to do business with brothers and sisters in Christ when we’re able, as this helps them provide for their families.  I contacted Focus on the Family, which led us to Love Basket, Inc., now Nightlight Christian Adoptions.  We had been waiting 3½ years when we finally got the call from the agency that would change our lives forever, joyfully informing us that they’d found a good adoption match and that we soon would be heading for Kansas City, Missouri. There were many friends and family members praying for us; this covering of prayer meant the world to us. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

 

Some folks might say we experienced a lot of “coincidences.”  We don’t believe these were coincidences at all. We believe in Emmanuel – “God with us.” God is not an absent landlord, nor does He love us from a distance, uninterested in our lives. We give thanks and glory to God, for we experienced His goodness and grace during our 12-day journey.

 

During the week after we got the phone call, one of my favorite worship songs, which I hadn’t heard in a while, came across my newsfeed: “No Longer Slaves” by Jonathan and Melissa Helser:

 

“You split the sea so I could walk right through it. My fears are drowned in perfect love.
You rescued me, and I will stand and sing. I’m no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God.”

 

As we were traveling to our daughter’s birth place we passed a cornfield along I-70, near Casey, Illinois where there were signs every 100 feet: World’s … Largest … Wind Chime … Next Exit. Casey is a charming little town, with finely manicured Scottish green lawns, and random “Guinness World Record” giant items (“world’s largest” wind chime, mailbox, rocking chair, etc.) on store front properties. There was a cafe that was closed but I pictured us eating here on the way back home with our baby. (I use the generic term “baby” because, since the birth mother wanted the gender to be a surprise, we still didn’t know at that point if we were getting a son or a daughter.)

 

We drove further, spending the night in Effingham, Illinois, where there is a giant white cross, 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide. It is forged out of over 180 tons of steel anchored in an enormous volume of cement, so it can withstand hurricane-force blasts of wind (up to 145 mph). At the visitor center, an older woman, Edie, prayed for us. Edie is the name of my wife’s beloved three-year-old niece. An altar stands in the chapel with an inscription that reads simply, “Trust in God.”

 

After about five hours of driving under sunny blue skies, we arrived at our attorney’s office just two minutes before our scheduled meeting. He had a calming presence, with a voice like Morgan Freeman narrating The Shawshank Redemption. The next day, we met our social worker from the adoption agency, RoNishia, who exemplified Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” She was classy in both appearance and personality, with a warm smile and a voice that was gentle and soothing, yet confident. There in the hospital waiting room, the three of us joined in prayer. RoNishia sat with us for hours, answered our questions, and encouraged us during the anticipation of the birth. Finally, the word came … IT’S A GIRL! Our beautiful daughter was brought to us in a bassinet. Our tiny, dark-haired baby girl, wrapped up in a white cocoon, was handed to her mommy, and through tears of joy, my wife fed her for the first time. It was one of those moments where the demands of life are placed on hold and you are completely loving and living in the present moment. The next two days spent caring for our little one were timeless; we didn’t know what time or even what day it was, and we didn’t care. We could relate to the nurses, listening to their own stories about adoption and their children, thankful to finally be parents ourselves. When the time came to leave the hospital, I was wishing I had brought an armored Humvee. (I’m betting other first-time daddies can relate!)

 

I was anxious while waiting to begin the legal proceedings to adopt our baby. There was another couple there adopting a baby boy; they were naming him Carson. Carson is not a very common name, but it happens to be the name of my brother’s son. Incredible! I was just shaking my head at all the little “coincidences.” It was as if the Lord was saying, “Why are you still nervous? I’ve got this covered!” All legal proceedings went smoothly, but it was nevertheless humbling and nerve-wracking being asked questions by our 4-day-old daughter’s state-assigned attorney.

We visited the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Kansas City. Some 10,000 people witnessed the laying of the cornerstone in 1882. We were dismayed to discover that it was closed, but the cleaning lady heard me tugging at the locked door so she let us in for an unofficial tour. The beauty of the stained glass took our breath away and we had the whole sanctuary to ourselves.

Missouri law requires adoptive parents to remain in Missouri while waiting for adoption paperwork to be approved, but they may go anywhere in the state. We decided to get a head start on our trip home by driving three hours east, to St. Louis. While there, we visited the Cathedral Basilica, completed in 1914; we thought we’d been transported to Italy. Installation of mosaics in the interior began in 1912 and was completed in 1988. The mosaics collectively contain 41.5 million glass tesserae (tile pieces) in more than 8,000 shades of color. Covering 83,000 square feet (almost two acres), it is the largest mosaic collection in the western hemisphere. Next stop was St. Francis Xavier. On June 8, 1884, the cornerstone for the new church was laid. When we first arrived, we had the whole sanctuary to ourselves – again. At the altar, we prayed for the adoption paperwork to be completed, protection on our drive home and, of course, for our precious baby girl.

 

Finally, all paperwork was approved and we were released to take our daughter home. It was a five-hour drive to our hotel in Richmond, Indiana, but we stopped first at the Effingham cross. To our great joy, even though she was not scheduled to work that day, Edie was there. When my wife offered to let Edie feed our baby, her smile lit up the room! No other tourists showed up the entire 45 minutes we were there. Edie had sent a card to our home address after our initial visit, telling us that she and her prayer partner were praying for our adoption. Now she knew that those prayers had been answered.

Last stop before our hotel was Casey, Illinois; I was determined to eat at the café that had been closed on our way west. This time it was open, and we ate together as a family. My wife’s favorite comic book character is Wonder Woman. How often do you see a poster depicting Wonder Woman for the women’s restroom? Unbelievable, but there it was! The real reason I had wanted to revisit Casey was because I had read about a Christian businessman who built Guinness World Record attractions to revitalize the town. He and other Christians bought most of the store fronts so the creations could be placed on private, not public, property. He placed a scripture on each one, knowing tourists would see them and be exposed to God’s Word. Eleven days earlier, I hadn’t noticed the star of David and the Christian fish symbol on the side of the giant wind chime. You can see these creations at www.bigthingssmalltown.com

 

It rained almost the entire last leg of the drive; a five-hour drive turned into seven hours. We passed two overturned tractor trailers that were heading west. Only four months prior, we had bought a used Lincoln MKZ hybrid; we were thankful for the comfortable and safe ride home with an impressive 44mpg.  As I was telling a neighbor about our trip, she said, “All you needed was a rainbow.” I grinned from ear to ear as I showed her this picture I took on our way home.

On Sunday, June 25th, 2017, we took our darling girl to Church for the first time. During communion, there was a worship song that I never heard before called “There is a Cloud” by Elevation Worship.

“Hear the word roaring as thunder with a new future to tell, for the dry season is over.
There is a cloud beginning to swell. Every seed, buried in sorrow, You will call forth in its time.
You are Lord, Lord of the harvest, calling our hope now to arise. We receive Your rain.”

 

The pastor titled his sermon “Joy,” and he showed a video of a song I’d never heard before, but which begs for a smile, “Old Church Choir” by Zach Williams.

 

When the valleys that I wander turn to mountains that I can climb
Oh, you are with me, never leave me
Oh, ’cause there ain’t nothing, there ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy
(except a dirty diaper :))
I got an Old Church Choir singing in my soul.

 

I saved the best for last. Listed here are the birth mother’s requirements for the adoptive parents, in her own handwriting:

 

 

 

We paid our house off last year, have precisely two pets, and have a close family. My wife and I are very active (we got to see a lot of places during the waiting stage of the adoption process). We didn’t have a gender preference listed, but deep inside my wife really wanted a baby girl. The one sentence that I read over and over was, “I want this child to be a longed-for gift or answered prayer.” Coincidence? Not a chance.

 

There is a difference between giving up and giving in to feelings of defeat and accepting the reality of one’s circumstances and moving on. I am so very proud of my wife. There were many tears and frustrations in our struggle with infertility, but instead of allowing herself to become jealous or resentful of people close to us who were able to have children, she poured out love and generosity on them instead. The apostle Paul wrote this in his letter to the Philippians: “… I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

 

We prayed, and in His perfect time, the Lord answered. Praise His holy name.

 

Adoption in the Story of Redemption

Even though the term adoption occurs only five times in Scripture (all in Paul’s epistles), its “marking” function within redemptive-history demonstrates its theological significance. Vertical adoption (i.e., God adopting us as His children) plays a key role from the beginning of the unfolding story of redemption (before god even created the world) all the way to the end (when all God’s adopted children enjoy the full privileges of their adoption in the new heaven and new earth).

In Ephesians 1:5, Paul states that God predestined us to adoption in eternity past. In Romans 9:4, we learn that our adoption was foreshadowed in God’s adoption of Israel as His firstborn son.

Galatians 4:4-6 teaches that “when the fullness of time had come” God sent His Son to redeem us so that we might receive adoption as sons. Adoption was the penultimate objective at the climax of redemptive-history.

In Romans 8:15-16, Paul speaks of our present experience as God’s sons by adoption, while in Romans 8:23, he points forward to its consummation in the glorification of our bodies. Clearly, adoption possesses unique importance from the pre-temporal beginning of the unfolding story of redemption all the way to redemptive-history’s consummation. T4A is committed to helping Christians understand the redemptive-historical significance of God’s work in adoption.

The Importance of Adoption within the Story of Redemption (Part 6)

Part Six: The Trinity and Adam’s Sonship (read the other parts here)

We concluded Part Five by asking this question: In what sense was Adam a son of God? Have you ever considered why it is that God is three persons and not just one? (This question is relevant to our discussion of Adam’s sonship. So stay with me.) I am one person. You are one person. So it just makes sense to me that God would be one person, but Scripture reveals God to be three persons not one. Here is our agency’s doctrinal statement concerning the Trinity: “There is one true God, eternally existing in three equally divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Scripture teaches that God is one God eternally existing as three persons. So why is the one God three persons and not just one person?

Believe it or not, theologians have wrestled with this very question.[1] Richard of St. Victor, a Scottish theologian of the 12th century, wrote an important philosophical work on the Trinity titled De Trinitate (“On the Trinity”). When wrestling with why it is that God is three persons and not just one, an answer to this difficult question struck him while meditating on 1 John 4:8 (“God is love”) and 1 Corinthians 13, the great love chapter.

Here was Richard of St. Victor’s profound insight: Since 1 Corinthians 13 teaches that love is never turned in upon itself but is always turned out upon other persons and 1 John 4:8 teaches that God is love, God could not be love if He were only one person. A god who existed all eternity past as one person would be a god who was eternally turned in upon himself. This god could not be love since, according to Scripture, love is always turned outward upon other persons. Therefore, he concluded, a God who is love must be more than one person. Continue reading

The Importance of Adoption within the Story of Redemption (Part 5)

Part 5: The Question (read the other parts here)

As I have tried to demonstrate in parts 3 and 4 in this series, it really is not difficult to recognize the importance of adoption in Paul’s thought. It clearly plays a central role in the outworking of the history of redemption. Adoption precedes human history (in God’s pre-temporal decision to love us, Ephesians 1:4-5), shows up at climactic moments within redemptive-history (Romans 9:4; Galatians 4:4), and brings our salvation to its intended goal (Romans 8:23).

You may be wondering, though, why adoption is so important in the unfolding story of redemption. It is one thing to recognize its importance. It is another thing to understand why adoption is important. Therefore, I think it will be helpful to view the story-line of redemption (i.e., creation, fall, redemption, consummation) through the lens of the doctrine of adoption.

Here is the outline that will lead us through the story of redemption from the perspective of adoption over the next several posts:

  • Adam’s Sonship (Creation / Fall)
  • Abraham’s Promise (Redemption)
  • Israel’s Adoption (Redemption)
  • Jesus’ Mission (Redemption)
  • The Spirit’s Work (Consummation)

Adam’s Sonship (Creation / Fall)

Sometime after God’s pre-temporal decision to adopt us (Ephesians 1:5), He created the heavens and the earth and, on the sixth day of creation, made man in His own image (Genesis 1:1, 26-27). Creation week reached its climax when God formed the first man, Adam, from the dust of the ground. In his genealogy of Jesus, Luke begins with Jesus and works his way backward through time all the way to Adam: “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli…” (Luke 3:23). All throughout the remainder of the genealogy we see the phrase “the son of…” [1] Notice how the genealogy ends: “The son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38; emphasis mine). Surprisingly, Luke refers to Adam as the son of God! Continue reading

The Importance of Adoption within the Story of Redemption (Part 4)

Part 4: Quick Survey of Adoption’s Marking Function (read the other parts here)

As I noted in part 3, God’s work of adoption has a “marking” function in the grand story of redemption. It plays a leading role from before the beginning of the unfolding story of redemption (before God created the world) all the way to the end (when all of God’s adopted children enjoy the full privileges of their adoption on the new earth in glorified bodies). Here is a brief overview of adoption’s marking function in the grand story of redemption:

Act One: In Ephesians 1:4-5, Paul states that in love God the Father “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” This is really quite amazing: adoption’s marking function began before God created the universe. Even before the earth existed God marked us out (i.e., predestined us) for the great privilege of being His children through adoption. Adoption was not a divine afterthought. It was in God’s mind even before the dawning of human history. One amazing truth we learn from Paul’s words here, as John Piper has said, is that “adoption is greater than the universe.” Continue reading

The Importance of Adoption within the Story of Redemption (Part 3)

Part 3: Adoption’s Importance and Recovery (read the other parts here)

So how important is the doctrine of adoption and why should it be recovered? Its importance should not be evaluated by considering the number of times the term adoption is actually used in Scripture. One of the other reasons adoption has been neglected in church history, in addition to the one mentioned earlier, may be because Christians failed to recognize its importance since the term is only used five times in Scripture—all found in Paul’s epistles (Romans 8:15, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:5; and Ephesians 1:5). But we must be careful never to determine the importance of a doctrine solely based on the number of times Scripture uses it. For example, I think we would all agree that the Trinity is a doctrine of fundamental importance to the Christian faith. Yet the word Trinity is nowhere to be found in Scripture. Clearly, the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity is not determined by the frequency of its use as a term in Scripture. Its importance is established in other ways.

If adoption’s importance is not established by considering how many times it is used in Scripture, how is it established? Answer: Continue reading

The Importance of Adoption within the Story of Redemption (Part 2)

Part 2: The Neglect of Heavenly Adoption (read part 1 here)

If adoption is first heavenly (i.e., vertical) before it is earthly (i.e., horizontal), why do we Christians so often think of earthly adoption before we think of heavenly adoption? Why do we think horizontally before we think vertically? I think one reason for this is the neglect of the doctrine of adoption in the history of the church. In his massive, 2,600-page work The Creeds of Christendom, the church historian Philip Schaff only includes six creeds that contain a section on adoption because they are the only ones he could find while scouring almost 1,900 years of church history.

The early church was primarily concerned, and rightly so, with the doctrines of the Trinity and of Christ because those doctrines were being attacked within the church. The Reformation and post-Reformation church necessarily focused on defending the doctrine of justification. These battles were all essential for the church to fight in the defense of Christian truth, but unintentionally they resulted in the church’s failure to develop thoroughly Scripture’s teaching on heavenly adoption.

One of the consequences of this neglect is that heavenly adoption is not on the radar of the Christian community’s consciousness as it should be. To overstate it slightly, when heavenly adoption should be a part of the Christian’s functional vocabulary, it isn’t. As a result, not only do Christians tend to think first about earthly adoption when they hear the word adoption, but also their thinking and attitudes toward the earthly practice of adoption are largely not informed and shaped by Scripture’s teaching concerning our heavenly adoption.

Fortunately, God seems to be awakening the church to the importance of the doctrine of adoption—an importance that is established by the central, God-ordained role it plays within the Bible’s unfolding story of redemption. We will begin exploring adoption’s role within redemptive-history in part 3.

The Importance of Adoption within the Story of Redemption (Part 1)

What do you first think of when you hear the word adoption? Most people think of the earthly practice of adoption before they think of heavenly adoption, that is, they think of couples adopting children before they think of God adopting us as His children.

Throughout this new series of posts on the importance of adoption within the story of redemption I am going to use the word adoption in two different ways. First, I will refer to the practice of couples adopting children, both domestically and internationally, as earthly adoption. Second, I will refer to God’s adoption of us as heavenly adoption.

Earthly adoption is horizontal. It is one human being establishing a relationship with another human being. Heavenly adoption is vertical. It is God establishing a relationship with human beings. So what do you first think of when you hear the word adoption, earthly or heavenly adoption? Do your thoughts move vertically before they move horizontally? Most of us think earthly adoption before we think heavenly adoption. We tend to first think horizontally rather than vertically.

cruversYou may be wondering why I have asked this question. Let me explain by telling you a little about my family. God has given me the great and wonderful privilege of being an adoptive father of a multi-ethnic family. We are, what the adoption community calls, a conspicuous family. God gave us our first two children (a girl and boy) through biology and our next two children, two black boys, Isaiah and Noah, through adoption. I absolutely love being the father of a multi-ethnic family! It has its unique challenges, but it is a great joy to be in a family that mirrors, in miniature and imperfectly, the multi-ethnic family of God. Shortly after we adopted our second black child, a husband and wife were sharing in our excitement over the new addition to our family. I happened to be holding him as we were talking. After I finished telling his adoption story, the wife paused, looked at our two boys and then asked, “Are you and Melissa planning on telling them that they are adopted?” Continue reading