The month of November is Adoption Awareness month in the US, and we wanted to join in with some posts celebrating adoption. It is such a privilege to share what Erin, mama to a New Day graduate, has written on the subject:
Over the years I’ve had people ask me, “When did you learn that you were adopted?” And this question always makes me smile. I love responding with a simple answer: “As soon as I understood I was a girl — I understood I was adopted.”
When I was a little girl, my mom, Rosalie Antoinette Murphy (and I refer to her as my mom — not my adoptive mom), always told me, “Isn’t it amazing that God brought you all the way from the other side of the state of North Dakota — to me?” She always ended her statement with, “Other kids were just born!” and this always left me feeling very loved.
During my teen years I experienced the typical questioning and attitude issues, but I always viewed being adopted as a gift. Truly, it was a gift that I desired to give to another little girl some day.
As I began dating the man who would become my husband, Greg, I asked him if he would at least be open to adoption some day. He responded with a resounding “Yes!” — although I think that at the time he would have agreed to anything just to win my heart.
Greg and I married after college and over the years we had one, two and then three biological children — two girls and a boy. But due to medical complications with my pregnancies, I was unable to have any more biological children.
When our son was about 3 years old, Greg and I were teaching at a family camp and we sent the couples out to ask God what He was calling them to do as a couple. As obedient teachers, we participated in the activity as well. Walking along a beautiful Wisconsin lake, Greg and I were praying and talking, and at the same time we knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was time to pursue adoption. On that day, we named a little girl Antoinette Rose and we agreed that one day we’d call her Annie. I had always loved my mom’s middle name and after losing her to lung cancer that year, I wanted to honor her memory in a way that would have been meaningful to her. I also wanted to give a child a family just like my parents had done for me some 30 years earlier.
Over the next seven years, Greg and I asked God to bring us our Annie; assuming that when she arrived we would rename her. After praying that God would “drop a baby on our porch,” and knowing full well that we no longer even had a porch, we began to question whether or not our dream would come true.
Our children got older (and so did we), we moved several times, we continued developing our careers and we increased our travelling schedule to speak at marriage enrichment events. As a matter of fact, one marriage event took us to Kunming, China. We fell in love with the people of China and returned home with sweet memories — never even connecting adoption to the trip.
Several months later, a friend who had visited a foster home called New Day, stopped by our office to tell us about his trip to China. Kelly had heard that we loved China and he knew we did marriage ministry, so he wanted to introduce us to the directors — an American couple named the Brennemans. Apparently they also had a heart for marriage. Kelly is a dynamic person who loves life, and he shared with us about having held one specific little girl. He was clearly smitten by her, and he was helping with coordinating hand surgery for her. We actually stood together in my husband’s office that day and prayed for this little girl — never asking her name.
Several days later an email came from China introducing us to the Brennemans. In the email, our friend Kelly simply asked, “How is the little girl doing that I held?” And Karen responded with four words that changed our lives: “Annie is doing fine.”
As I read the email, I almost fell over. I couldn’t believe the little girl’s name was Annie. Through my tears, I called Greg to share the news. He literally walked through the door a short time later and said, “Erin, this is our daughter — let’s go get her!”
But we had no idea where to begin.
Over the next few days, I called adoption agencies and was consistently met with the same grim response, “You can’t do that. You cannot hand select a child from China and pursue adoption.” But I knew God had a plan and He had a way. So I called Holt International. With absolutely no guarantees, Holt International agreed to at least try to help us.
During the next several months, we found ourselves busy with our home study, saving money and mounds of paperwork (Greg and I have written many books and I can promise that adoption paperwork is more time consuming than book publication). We also began to learn about amniotic band disorder — Annie’s special need. She was born with a malformed hand, cleft lip and palate, and a clubfoot. We were completely overwhelmed by the thought of how much care she might need. Many nights I would lay awake in bed and have long conversations with God. Those prayers went something like this:
“Lord, are you kidding me? How in the world can we take care of a special needs child? I’m a labor and delivery nurse — I know nothing about any of this. We are old — we already have three kids. We don’t have the money — we don’t even have an extra bedroom. But my parents took a chance when they adopted me. So, Lord — if this happens — I choose to trust You and I’m all in!”
Month after month our family waited to hear the news that Annie’s paperwork had been posted on the special needs waiting list. And month after month nothing happened. In many ways, Greg and I settled on wondering if we were just supposed to pray for this specific little Annie.
But our hearts were already involved — we had fallen in love with her — and we found ourselves following the New Day blog like crazed maniacs. Through that blog we learned that Annie’s primary nanny’s name was Rose. Antoinette (Annie) Rose was born in our hearts years earlier. And now on the other side of the world there was a little girl named Annie who was living with a nanny who went by the name of Rose.
I’ll never forget sitting in a Bible study when my cell phone rang. It was Holt! I ran to the hallway to take the call and then heard the words my heart had been longing for, “Erin, last night we got Annie’s file — she’s yours!” And the next part of our journey began.
Six months later we traveled with our entire family to Beijing China where we met this little girl named Annie. Although we had only known about her for a couple of years, we had been praying for her for more than eight years. We adopted our Annie on July 4, 2010.
When I was asked to write on the topic of “Why Adoption?” I wanted to share with you from my perspective as an adoptee and as a mother who has adopted. Obviously, I’m a big advocate of adoption!
Scripture says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world“ (James 1:27, NIV). We are all called to care for orphans. Although we realize that not everyone is called to adopt, it's essential that as a couple you spend time asking the Lord what you are called to do to help.
If you are considering adoption, I encourage you to keep moving forward and seeking the Lord. You may not have a specific name like we did, but the Lord sees your heart and your willingness to love one of His children as your own.
Be open to the fact that your answer from the Lord may look very different than what you originally expected. Greg and I never thought we would be carrying a diaper bag, watching Barney and preparing for preschool in our 40’s! Nor did we have any idea that we would become experts in hand surgery, palate expansion and speech therapy. But God did!
Every day I am amazed at how God meets us in caring for Annie — whether its through meeting someone, reading a post on Facebook or having one of the top hand surgeons in the country semi-retire in our city. I can promise you that when I am sitting with Annie in a doctor’s office, a hospital area or a school classroom — advocating for her — I know that I am doing exactly what God has called me to do.
God has shown me His goodness in that He brought us the perfect child for our family. Annie is joyful, she's passionate about life, she has more compassion than we could have imagined, and we often hear how much people think she looks like us.
Having had biological children and having adopted another, I can say in all honesty that I feel no differently about any of my children. They are all my babies. I love to lie down by Annie at bedtime and tell her the amazing story of how she came to be a Smalley. I also love to remind her that God brought her all the way from the other side of the world to me.