Princess Esther and Saying Yes to Adoption

The Back Story:

Adoption has always been a hope for me and Jacelyn. We knew we wanted to adopt, regardless of whether we ever had biological children. We always said we wanted to adopt older siblings, since that’s probably the demographic that people seem to desire least.

We got married in 2001, and, apart from the first couple years of marriage, we’ve not used any form of contraception, but have still never conceived. We’ve never found a specific medical reason for not conceiving, so we’ve always chalked it up to it not being God’s timing.

Over the years, we were always keeping an eye out for chances to adopt, but they never seemed to materialize. We lived in China from 2004-2006, where it is very common for Americans to adopt children, but it didn’t seem like it was in God’s timing. We lived in the states from 2007-2011, and even began the foster care process, but it apparently wasn’t the right time then, either.

In 2011, Jacelyn got accepted to a medical school in the Caribbean on the tiny paradise island of Dominica, which, frankly, was a disappointment at the time. There were many other schools that she wanted to get accepted to, but Dominica was the door that opened. So, we packed up all of our belongings, I quit my job, and we moved to an island smaller than my hometown of Duluth, MN.

The Lead-Up:

About two months in, we both began to feel a small tug in our hearts toward adoption. At first, the idea was laughable. After everywhere we’d lived and all the time and resources we’d had in the past, it made no sense for us to even consider taking on multiple children when Jacelyn was studying 14 hours a day and we had zero income (attending medical school is basically the exact opposite of having an income).

However, the feeling grew much stronger and, against our “better” judgement, we decided to proceed. We quickly found that in Dominica, there are no adoption agencies, so we basically had to find a situation that warranted the social welfare department stepping in and go from there. So, we casually put the word out to all my local friends that were interested in adoption and then we waited.

Skip ahead two years.

In the interim, I hosted 4 mission trips to Dom, Jacelyn studied 14 hours a day and kept passing each milestone, we adopted two brothers, ages 1 and 7, and we returned to America. Those two years are a blur of adventure and miracle; however, it’s the subsequent months following our return that I want to draw attention to.

The Pitch:

Upon returning to the States, we were emotionally stretched thin due to the normal rigors of med school, suddenly having two kids, not knowing where in America Jacelyn’s rotations would be, and we had $45 in our bank account. Things were tight. It was in that state of affairs that I began a two-day drive with my boys from Florida to Minnesota to speak at a youth camp in the Diocese of Duluth.

In the middle of Indiana, on July 28, 2013, after being stateside for a mere two-and-a-half months, I received an email from a new acquaintance who’d been inquiring about adopting from Dominica. In a few short sentences, she let me know that she’d found out that the girl she was considering adopting was our boys’ sister, whom we’d been forcefully told would never be up for adoption. She wanted to know if that was okay, or if we wanted to adopt her. I didn’t respond immediately, but inside, I gave a fervent “we absolutely do not!”.

Adopting a third child at that point seemed beyond foolish to me, and as I drove, I mentally worked through all of the reasons why I could say “no” and still look myself in the mirror.

  • “We have even less money than with the first two adoptions!”
  • “I have no job!”
  • “We can’t say yes to every adoption opportunity that comes along!”
  • “We JUST moved back to the States. How can we move back to the island right away again?”
  • “Jacelyn has to do her hospital rotations in order to graduate!”
  • And the clincher: “Someone else is already planning to adopt her, so it’s not like she’ll be left alone in that terrible situation!!!”

I had a bunch of “outs”, if you will. I drove and drove and, as our new boys laughed and played in the back seat, I resolved that I would talk to Jacelyn about it that night. I was certain that after I laid out my case to her, she’d most definitely concur, we’d say no, and all would be well.

When we finally got a chance to talk on the phone about it, to the best of my memory, she said, “Wow. That’s crazy. I am far too taxed and spent to help make the decision with any degree of confidence. So, you pray and then make the decision. Love you. Gotta go.” To clarify, she wasn’t being flippant, she was studying endlessly for her licensing exam. (She wanted that to be clear.)

With that, I had my exit. I was given the green light. We could proceed as I’d planned and I was relieved. What I didn’t know was that my relieved face was much like the peaceful look of someone in a fail video an instant before they’re nailed in the face by a watermelon or a bike or a chair lift.

In my case, it was a garden.

The Contact:

That night, I was supposed to give a talk for about 150 jr. high-ers about what the Holy Spirit wanted to do in their lives. In the hour beforehand, I knelt down with all the youth during Adoration and planned to pray for some last-minute inspiration. The whole time, though, while I was trying to pray and make sure I’d say the things they needed to hear, I felt like my mind and heart were in a fog, unable to focus in on anything. It seemed to me like God was clearing His throat and saying, “Are you really asking me what to say to these kids when you’re considering turning this child away?”

So, on the floor in that chapel, I reluctantly slid my concerns about that night to the side and folded my hands. I laid out my list of “outs” as clearly and succinctly as possible (so God would see my point). I even tried to slip in a couple extras, like “Should I actually deny this other lady the opportunity to experience the great joy of adoption by taking this girl from her?!?!”

Then, without realizing the familiar words I was saying until I was halfway through them, I said, “Lord, if there is ANY way that I can pass this to someone else, please let me do that…”

That darn Gethsemane gets me every time.

Internally, I looked up and it was like Jesus was kneeling there with me, smiling and saying, “Now that’s a bit of what it feels like. Do you remember the rest of the sentence?”

To which I replied, “…but nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.”

Then something happened that had never happened to me beforehand and has never happened again since. As soon as I gave my nod, my yes, the fog cleared and the only way I can explain it is that I saw how the next few months would play out. I saw us packing up within a couple of weeks moving back to the island. I saw our empty bank account. I saw people close to us tell us not to do it.

I also saw the phone calls, texts, emails, and letters we’d get from around the world. I saw that people whom we’d never met would hear about the adoption and send money. I knew that people from Nova Scotia would choose to skip Christmas presents that year and send us their money. I knew that people in France would get a hold of us and say they wanted to be a part of the family by helping us out financially. I saw that it would all happen within 3 weeks of when we asked people to pray for us.

When the service was over, I walked outside, called my wife, and said, “We’re having a girl!”

She  cried (literally), “YES! I was so worried you’d say no!”

We sent out our email asking for prayers and donations on December 3, 2013,  and sure enough, by Christmas Eve, we had every dime of the thousands and thousands of dollars needed to keep the siblings together. I couldn’t wait to open the multiple emails I’d receive each day of those 3 weeks and blubber like a baby at the miracles.

In a blur of little details and huge leaps, we’d gone from “just us” to being parents of three. Sitting here, looking back over the emails and paypals, the photos and forms, I cannot fathom not having this beauty in my life. Of course, there are days when I’d welcome any one of you to come take her (them) for a few hours, but that goes without saying and I’m sure they feel the same way about me.

Please consider adoption.

You may not think you have the strength to do it, but I assure you, if a weak, wimpy whiner like myself can go from reading spy novels in the Caribbean every day to baby bottles and bicycles, then you can do a much better job. You may not think you have the time, but…well…yes you do. You may not think you have the money, but when we re-touched down in America after our third year on the island, Esther triumphantly in-hand, we had $.07 to our name, yet we’ve never missed a meal, never missed a payment, never missed out on the joy family life has to offer.

Your time, treasure, talent, and heart will grow to meet the requirements of the child God has in store for you. If you say yes.

You may not be able to create a life, but you can almost always save one. If you say yes.

Whether you’re doubtful, scared, reluctant, hopeless, or all of the above, there are millions of children in this world, domestically and abroad, who are even more so.

Please consider adoption. Say yes to life. Call me with questions. Read the whole story HERE. Feast your eyes:

Esther 1

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