Katie and I met in Beijing, China. That’s sort of a strange place to meet someone, but we were both there to bring our child home. As we toured together in the capital city, both us held in our hearts the the real reason we were there. Together, we traveled via bullet train to Zhengzhou and then sat down to wait to be brought our child in the same room. Ok, let me hand it over to her, as she shares her adoption story…..
All good stories should have a beginning. A clear starting point that births the rest of the tale, an impetus; a commencement. All good stories should have that, this story doesn’t. The story of our son’s adoption is so interwoven into the fabric of who I am it would be impossible to tease the starting point away from my gradual maturation. Since beginning at the beginning is not an option, it might be best to begin with a dream…or 100.
In the fall of 2013 my husband, Tony, who is a human resources manager at our local Area Education Agency, read an innocuous little business book called “The Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly. The book basically outlines the role of a “Dream Manager” within a company; a person whose job it is to ferret out and help employees fulfill their “dreams”. The premise of the book is that by fostering the dreams of your employees you garner retention and satisfaction among your staff; not to mention you have well-rounded, eager people ready to live their best life.
Tony was incredibly intrigued by the idea of the book and began implementing the ideas among his staff. Seeing the excitement growing in his employees he came home one day and suggested we integrate some of the ideas of the book into our marriage and family life. He asked that I read the book, compile a list of 100 dreams based on the categories found within and in a few weeks we would go out together and share our lists at what we designated to be our First Annual Dream Summit.
I would be remiss if I did not take a side-bar here to mention the work God was doing in my own heart a this time. In addition to “The Dream Manager” Tony had spent a couple of years in some intense theological study and together we had read “The Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster. At the same time a few friends and I were digging into some heavy theological lifting with N.T. Wright. We had recently finish “Simply Jesus” along with studies of Romans, Hebrews, and several other Pauline Epistles. The picture of a rescuing Savior whose love for the world defeated the power of sin and evil to set free a wailing world was revolving around and around in my head. My own ideas about my personal salvation and the restoration of the world were heavy inside of my soul. It cannot be understated what a role these fundamental gospel truths played in compiling my list of dreams. At the same time, I was resistant to putting pen to paper on any dreams. I was a 30 year-old mother of 3 kids under the age of 3. I was busy and, to be honest, scared of what might be required of me.
When we finally arrived at our Dream Summit Tony and I laid out our dreams in front of each other and saw where they matched up and where they fell short. We weeded out frivolous wants that seemed silly in the light of our true dreams and whittled out several overarching goals for our upcoming days, our year, and our lifetime. It was decided that Tony would take guitar lessons, I would focus more on my writing, and one day we would adopt a child. We felt good about it, and celebrated our new found freedom to release the things in our life that were not part of our dreams and focus in on our calling.
Shortly after our summit, something hit. Standing at our kitchen sink the Holy Spirit let loose and it was clear. I turned to Tony, who was diligently practicing his guitar in our living room and said, “We have to adopt a child, and we can’t wait to do it until the ‘time is right’, we have to move forward.” The basic gist of what followed was a surrender on both our parts to say “Yes!” to the things God was asking of us. It was easy to say yes to writing and guitar lessons. It was far less easy to say yes to another child joining our family of five, however, it was undeniable and it was clear: our choice to adopt was made.
After a lot of research in a little time we decided that choosing a child from Bethany Services These400 program was the best choice for us. These400 is a list of waiting children around the world in with special circumstances; either sibling groups, advanced age (turning 3 puts a child on the “special needs” list), or varying degrees of special needs ranging from missing digits and skin discoloration to the need for intense physical and emotional care. Because of our recent Dream Summit we had experience in knowing ourselves and our family. We took into consideration our children’s ages and our resources. We decided to log into the These400 waiting child list, typed in our criteria and pressed “search”.
It is not a normal thing, looking through a catalog of children. It is heart-wrenching. There were 8 boys that matched our criteria, 7 from China 1 from Africa all with needs that seemed significant to us, most with a Cerebral Palsy diagnosis. The pictures and miniature profiles that matched their names were harsh. We clicked onto some of the tiny faces and read through the descriptions of several children.
Our last click in was a 2 year-old boy with Cerebral Palsy from China named Renfa. His picture was extremely grainy, his head looked large, and his eyes were severely crossed. I was skeptical, but we clicked into his profile and began reading about this sweet boy. Several other pictures revealed a charismatic smile and videos showed him feeding himself, vocalizing and crawling with effort across the floor. He was obviously bright and charming, however his Cerebral Palsy diagnosis was an unknown factor for us and we didn’t feel settled.
We spent the rest of the evening researching CP talking about vaguely about the children and discussing our resources and family dynamics. It was a pretty easy evening and at the end of it all we closed the computer fairly certain a decision may take more time. However, by the time I was settled in bed Tony stood our doorway and said, “I think we could make Renfa a part of our family.” I said, “I think so too.” And the next day we turned in our paperwork.
A year and a half later I sit across the table from my son, Cairo Renfa Chiaramonte. He is bright and charming with a charismatic smile, and he is changing me. The thing about saying yes to the dreams that God has for us is that it impacts us. It changes us. It brings us closer to the heart of God. This nearness is hard fought and it is rich and deep.
In these early days home, I feel as though I’m living in an alternate reality. It’s impossible not to see the Gospel at our kitchen table. It’s easy to understand the tragedy of injustice and the redemption of the Cross. It’s my privilege to explain our adoption as Sons and Daughters of God to my children – all of them.
This new reality is beautiful and nuanced and grand and bigger than anything my dreams could have held. I’m so glad God lead us to this place. The place where our dreams meet His reality. The place where His Will is done on Earth as it is in Heaven. The place where His Kingdom comes.
Just like the beginning, this story has no end. There is no pretty place to tie it off with a bow. There is no grand conclusion. There is this: the Kingdom, the Power, the Glory, Forever and Ever, Amen!
photo credits for family photo: laurawillsphotography.com
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