“What has adopting a child with complex medical conditions taught our family about the gospel and Jesus?”
This question is loaded and brings tears to my eyes. I would answer it with, “It has taught us so much.” I would think about it in three parts: our story, the struggle, and the sacrifice. I know, you can tell I am a pastor’s wife when I use alliteration!
The Journey Begins
The story starts with Andrew and I having a desire to adopt since we got married in 2005. In early 2016, we began the process. When we joined the waiting list with our adoption agency in December of 2016, we had no idea how the Lord was going to write our adoption story. The journey was just about to begin even though we had been in the throes of paperwork, homestudy visits, trainings, etc. for almost a year.
Early February of 2017, we got a call from our agency that a birthmom had chosen our family for her little girl. At the end of the phone call, the director of the agency told us that there was a 97% chance this baby would have Down Syndrome. When thinking about adoption, that wasn’t how I imagined our story playing out. Then three weeks later, we got another call that the baby had been born, and we needed to be in Raleigh the next morning. We didn’t know what awaited us; a tiny little peanut in the NICU who was our Faith Ann! The little girl we had prayed for for over a year. That morning we met with her birthmom (which is a whole other blog post!) and were able to share our heart for adoption and how that flows out of the heartbeat of our Savior. Adoption is such a tangible symbol of how we have been adopted as children by our heavenly Father. This was just the beginning of the story that the Lord was writing for our family and all that he was going to do to show himself mighty.
The struggle began that Saturday when we said “Yes.” Faith Ann spent the first 7 ½ weeks in the NICU; most of that time was in Raleigh where she was born. I would travel each day to see her and just hold her. In those days that were long and tiring, we continued to see the Lord’s hand in so many ways. We had so many people praying for her little body and for our family. We really saw the body of Christ come around our family in tangible ways in this time. I had numerous conversations with doctors, nurses, and other NICU families sharing the gospel and God’s goodness in the midst of the unknowns. We had a sign in her cubicle that said, “The waves and wind still know his name.” I sang that song to her along with a lot of others each day while I sat there holding her and praying over her life, declaring the Lord’s goodness, faithfulness, and sovereignty each step of the way.
The Lord was so faithful in that time, and I wrote down all the ways so that I could be reminded that he hadn’t left us but was always with us. It was hard, but I could say that it was well with my soul. He gave us strength for each day. “I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliver, my God, my rock where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2). Even after we got her home, we were learning what it meant to care for a child with medical needs of which we had no background. She was on a feeding tube the first year of her life, on heart medication, therapies three times a week, doctor appointments, and not sleeping well at night. Faith Ann still doesn’t sleep through the night, which is hard, but I am constantly reminded of and clinging to 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” There are days when I feel weak, but I am so grateful that in my weakness I can boast and cling to his power. This journey has also taught us so much about dependence on the Lord, crying out to him, believing him to work on her behalf medically, and for wisdom for us in the struggle. The reality is not the cute pictures on Instagram, even though she is so stinking cute and brings us so much joy!
A Life of Sacrifice
Living a sacrificial life is something we have learned firsthand, learning to lay down our lives for another. Adopting a child with special needs is a step back in convenience, money, and leisure in many ways. However, it is through the sacrifice that we have experienced a real depth of joy. We as Christians know this in Jesus’ enduring the cross for the joy that was set before him. We see this in Scripture, Hebrews 12:2, “Who for the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” In her less than three years of life, it has taken more from us than we imagined but has given us a deeper joy than we could have ever imagined. As we say around Mercy Hill, “The gospel changes everything.” It changes the lens through which we see our circumstances and the gifts that the Lord has given to us.
I have seen how the Lord has used having a child with special needs to sanctify us and make us more like him and pray that he continues. We are thankful for the story, struggle, and the sacrifice. Faith Ann is such a gift and has brought so much joy into our home!
-Anna Hopper (MH Member)