This post is not intended to go into all the details about ‘the call’ or what lead up to that particular *wonderful* moment in time. This is to crystallize, in my mind, how my entire life, from it’s start to now, has lead up to this moment. The moment God asked Chris and I if we would step up for Him. If we would follow His path for our lives, no matter how scary, inconvenient, stressful or anxiety provoking. If we would TRUST Him over our own wants, desires and dreams. If we would do something that made no sense to our heads, but made perfect sense to our hearts.
Raised in the Episcopal church (no offense intended) I grew up knowing little about the Bible other than what I secretly considered to be ‘fairly tales’ about Noah and the Ark, Adam and Eve… all well intentioned kiddie stories. At church we stood up, said the Nicene Creed, sat down. Kneeled, bowed, stood up, and on. Got communion, checked off ‘been to church’ from my list of things to do to be ‘good’. Assumed being ‘good’ equaled going to heaven, right? I always believed in God and I can recall several times in my youth actually clinging to Him, knowing that I needed to believe in something. But only when it was convenient or necessary, otherwise, my life was, I assumed, my own to mold and to shape as I saw fit.
Fast forward to 2000. Chris and I were still trying to be ‘good’, faithfully getting up every Sunday to head to the good ‘ol Episcopal Church that was familiar, but not fulfilling or inspiring. We wanted to raise our kids with God in their lives. Really we did. Looking back, I can see we were like hamsters on a wheel, going nowhere. We were just going through the motions: hollow and meaningless. How could we raise our kids to know God when WE didn’t? We moved to Oklahoma that summer and Chris got involved in a Bible study. We both became friends with our neighbor who was a very outspoken Christian. “Jesus Freak” was one of his favorite T-shirts and the term fit him perfectly. At first, I though he was a freak, indeed. But soon it caused me to question my own relationship with the Lord, and did I truly think I was saved? Was I really going to heaven? WAS there a heaven at all? These were all questions I had pondered before but for some reason, I was able to push them to the back of my mind and press on with my life. The questions seemed to come on more strongly and with more anxiety and fear as our family grew. I am passionate about my children. And my husband. I didn’t want for death to mean the end. I wanted there to be a fairy tale ending, but I didn’t know how to get to that from where I was. And up to that point I suppose I had been content enough just not knowing for sure.
Then one night I had a dream. I still remember it vividly, it was so painful I doubt I will ever forget it. Dalton was just a baby, less than a year. Asher was 3 and Zach and Tori were 7 and 12. All my babies. In my dream I was dead. Gone. Chris was dead also. But that wasn’t my focus in my dream. My focus was my children. And how we had left them, to fend for themselves, orphaned in the truest sense of the word. Zach and Asher were riding around in the back of someone’s pick up truck. Who was driving? I remember fearing for them, would they fall out and get hurt? I felt a strong sense of dread knowing that they were fearless, aimless, reckless. Headed for trouble. I couldn’t call out to them, warn them, I was no longer there to be their voice of reason. Then I saw Tori. She had baby Dalton slung on her slim 12 year old hip. He was too heavy for her little arms, but she clung to him, stoically determined to take care of him. Her face was solemn. Lonely. The ground was just dirt and dust swirled around her bare feet. The only term I can think of to describe this place was a ghost town. She stood there looking off into nowhere, for she had no future. She had no family. She had nothing. I woke up. I sobbed. And sobbed. That particular night Chris had gone in to sleep with Asher (as he had terrible night terrors when he was a toddler) so I was alone in bed. I was consumed with sadness. I couldn’t stop crying. Eventually I got up to get Chris to have him just hold me. I needed him to tell me, tell my heart, that my babies were really okay. I was okay. He was okay. It’s a sadness I can still feel, it was so real. After that dream I was determined that I would do everything I could to leave my kids with what I knew they really needed. A Father that would never forsake or abandon them. And a legacy. A legacy that included a relationship with God. The only thing that could guarantee my children’s future both here on earth and eternally was knowing Him. And for them to know Him, I had to get to know Him. I prayed so hard that night. I prayed for God to show me what He wanted me to do. I would have done anything. Every fear I had ever pushed down or pushed aside was laid bare that night. My worst and most terrifying fears had come to life in front of my eyes. What He wanted me to do was go to a Bible Study. Nothing earth shattering or mind altering. Just a Bible study. That is one thing God has revealed to me about Himself. He won’t ask you to jump off a cliff. He will only ask you to do what He knows you are capable of at the time. It might not be the thing you want to do, but it will certainly be within your ability. Or within the boundaries of what you can trust Him to provide. The Bible study that was offered at our church was Motherwise. I went. I learned about God’s word and began to open my heart to the One who had created it. Who had created me. It’s been quite a journey of love and faith since then. I’ve been on some spiritual mountaintops and some valleys, to be sure. But He has revealed Himself to me to be a God of goodness, mercy, grace, provision, shelter, justice and compassion. He’s been there, for so many years, walking along beside me, just waiting for me to take the time to get to know Him. To make the effort to reach out to hold the hand of the only One who has always truly been there.
Now that I have committed my life to Him, as have Chris and some of our children, we have made a promise that we will live the life He has for us. Not the life we would have for ourselves. Since making that promise several years ago, our lives have diverged dramatically from what we had envisioned for our future. One does not undergo a vasectomy just to end up adopting 4 more children! Had we known what the future held, we might have not been so eager to lay our plans at His feet – heck, I had a horse farm in my dreams, a place where I could take care of retired, injured or abused horses, grow my own hay and just, well, be. Not a big dream, just a simple dream. And there were definitely no more kids involved! But that is not God’s dream for me. At least not now. Slowly and steadily He has asked us to step out of our comfort zone. He has spoken to our hearts and waited for us to respond. We have not always obeyed immediately, or perfectly, but we have eventually, sometimes happily and sometimes begrudgingly, submitted to His will. And if you read this blog at all, you’ve witnessed a hint of the joy we have experienced from God’s goodness! He has blessed us so richly, beyond anything we could have even hoped for ourselves. And as soon as we accepted God’s proposal to bring one more of His children home, indeed to “make room for one more at the inn” as Melissa put it so beautifully, we began to feel hints of the joy and happiness this child would bring to our family. How he might have things to teach us instead of us just teaching him. How he might enrich our lives in a way that no one else ever could. By the time we actually received ‘the call’, we were all but popping from the excitement at finally being able to put a face with the idea of this blessed child.
I suspect our future will continue to twist and turn with exciting adventures for years to come. And that is, I can truly say from my heart, what I want. I want what God has for me. I might not get all excited and fall over myself with giddiness about it. I mean, Chris and I are just human. When we felt God call us to bring home this child, our fourth from China since Chris first felt God calling us to China in 2004, neither of us were jumping for joy. The reality for us is much like it is for everyone. We get worn out. We lose our heads when the kids do crazy stuff. We get tired of taking sick kids to the doctor, folding laundry, changing sheets, taking the garbage out. We worry about finances. We worry about giving enough to our other kids. We worry about how we appear to the world. But when the day is done, we care most about what is pleasing to God. After all, this life is NOT about me. Or Chris. It’s not about doing what I want and having all the things I think will bring me happiness. It’s about living a life that is pleasing to Him. A life that glorifies Him. A life that does work for His kingdom, in a small or large way. When I die, I want Him to scoop me up in His arms and say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Chris & Deb says
OK….there are tears now!
All I can say is well done my good and faithful friend! You are truly a family of God and so blessed! Thanks for sharing all of this with your blog family!
Adam and Cynthia Farley says
Amazing…..simply amazing. That’s all I can say. I truly feel blessed just knowing you…..I am thankful to call you my friend.
The Ferrill's says
A son! A son! Hallelujah!
Stefanie, I hear your heart. What a beautiful testimony, not because you used such perfect sentences and put things so eloquently (which you did, BTW) but because it is so truthful, so heart-felt.
I’m just nodding my head throughout your whole post, saying “amen, sister friend” and “me, too!” But at the end, when you said “It’s about living a life that is pleasing to Him. A life that glorifies Him. A life that does work for His kingdom in a small or large way, ” that really spoke to me. Whether it be a small or large way, just do the work He calls us to do! As long as we are obedient to that call for our individual lives, we can rest in that beautiful calling. To God be the glory, great things He has done!
A son! A son! Hallelujah!
I am humbled. What a wonderful testimony. If only we could all live that way and follow Gods will for us.
Scott, Melissa & Kate says
Oh Stef! I can’t wait to share this with our church. A friend and I just started FOAM: Foster, Orphan and Adoption Ministry and this just says it all.
And you the know the real joy? Yes, I’m sure that God will indeed scoop you up and tell you job well done, but you get blessings then AND now.
Every progress that Isabelle makes, every tenderness Ascher shows, every step Jude takes, every tender moment Chris shares with you — those are your “now” scoops from God. And with the amazing woman you are, I bet you get those moments a lot.
Thank you for reminding me to keep perspective — something I am horrible at remembering.
Oh — and I love your new son’s name! It’s just PERFECT.
What an amazing testimony of God’s love and faithfulness! Thank you for sharing HIS story!! I know we all see your strength and give you praise but I KNOW that you give HIM all the glory. Thank you for that! For living the life HE wants and for letting it shine.
To God be the glory! Congratulations, and thanks for the beautiful post!
Thank you for sharing what the Lord has done in your life. Your testimony has blessed my heart!
Mike, Hayley & Piper says
you are an inspiration in Faith, in Love, in Life.
Thank you for sharing…now I need to go an re-examine my life.
Awesome God!! Thank you so much for sharing your testimony with us Stef. I am thrilled beyond words for you all, you are an inspiring family, a light in darkness, a blessing to us all with your faith! Congratulations on your newest baby boy! How beautiful he is, and how great is our God! hugs, mimi
Oh a son!!! Praise God. He is precious. Your testimony is amazing. Thanks be to God for leading us all through our paths.
Stefanie, that was truly, truly, beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Christy
Stefanie – that is a beautiful post. I am so grateful that you chose to share this testimony.
I love to read your blog, as I feel I you and Chris show that you don’t just talk the walk but you walk the walk.
I am honored that you have kept your blog open for those you don’t know you in real life.
I still have a special fondnesss for the club feet children from my nanny days. That little boy that I watched was just so precious and I will never forget the day he took his first steps.
Stephanie & Chris – WOW. And thanks for the testimony. Its a light for me this month as we are faced with struggles. I am not ready to give up on number 2, but I think it will take a miracle – thanks for reminding me that anything is possible. Stacy
Your family is such an inspiration to me. I have followed your blog for some time now, and have even emailed you a time or two! 🙂 Anyway, beautifully written, well said, and Amen to all of it!
Waiting to go get our little heart baby,
AnnaB. in Boise, ID says
All the silliness I wrote before aside:
I am so blessed to read what you wrote. I am so blessed to hear of your commitment to the life He wants for you and for Chris and for your children. What a testimony of faith and love!
I can’t stop smiling! And crying! Congratulations on your new son, and thanks for your testimony and the glory you give to God.
Jenn Gager says
I just happened upon your blog for the first time today. LOVE your testimony, LOVE your heart. Beautiful children and a beautiful family! Hoping some of you rubs off onto me. :o) I’m sure the Lord is just a’smiling and a’smiling…I love it when I see Him smiling down on someone! Continued Happy Blessings to you!
wow! That was a beautiful and powerful post. Thank you so much for sharing your feelings so openly. It truly made me think about myself and my faith.
Congrats on your son. He is beautiful!!! I having six children can understand the days of tiredness and sometimes wondering what the outside world thinks of us. Probably why our blog is called the nut house! Thank you for reminding me that it’s not important what anyone else thinks.
Thank you for posting your testimony of your spiritual transformation. You are an encouragement an inspiration. And a wonderful example of a mom. As the apostle Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” I think it can be said of godly women such as yourself, “Follow Stefanie, as she follows Christ.” Thank you too for allowing transparency and exposure of your family so we can celebrate with you.
Thanks for your beautiful, transparent post. I, too, cling to the hope that God has for us and stumble every day as we try to submit to His will for our lives. Stepping out of the “boat” and fully TRUSTINg Him isn’t easy..HE NEVER SAID IT WOULD BE!! He actually said that we’d be persecuted!! I love His word & His promises, and like you said….sometimes, every now & then, God blesses US in our obedience. Your Shepherd is just another example…God Bless You & congratulations!
Aaron and Erica says
“It’s about living a life that is pleasing to Him”…AMEN! What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your heart! AND A SON!!! Congratulations!!! I have looked at the face of little ‘Roman’ on Lifeline’s list for several weeks now and wondered who his family might be…and now we know! I will be praying for you…that your paperchase and wait will be very quick. I can’t wait to see the before and after pictures of your precious little one’s feet.
Wow, what a wonderful post. My husband and I are where you and your husband were. Wanting our child to know Christ, yet going through the motions, unfulfilled ourselves. I want Maggie to know God and love Him and going to church but how can she do that, when we don’t want to go to church? I know God is calling us to make that change. We just have to do it.
I love your blog. I followed all three of your journeys to your other China babies and eagerly anticipate your journey to Shepherd. He’s beautiful.
I kept hearing in my own mind (as I cried through the memories you had of that dream and how it changed your life)- thy will be done. Not my will, but your will. Christ himself said that- and I truly believe that peace, happiness, harmony-love- are never known fully until our will and God’s are in accord with one another.
I am sorry your first church left you feeling empty. It was like that for me too (and how interesting that you were pulled from it and I was pulled toward it-in Catholicism).
I’m awed by your faith and your strength and what you have passed on to your children. And now, what will be passed on to Shepard.
I love you – you are my sister in Christ. XO. :O)
Stefanie, that was truly beautiful & inspirational!! And so eloquently said! Thank you so much for sharing such a personal journey in faith & hope. I am so moved, you have no idea!
You & your family are truly blessed and will SURELY be “scooped up”…you are reaping rewards here & now as well, with every blessed moment you spend with your amazing & beautiful family!
I feel honored to know you…over the past 2 years you have inspired me to stop, think & examine my own journey as well & for that I THANK YOU!!!
HUGS to you, my friend!!
Merry CHRISTmas~~! What a gift. Your testimony was a tremendous blessing to me this morning and please know what an inspiration you are (and have been) to so many. I’m thrilled to hear of your newest addition. Why am I NOT surprised! 🙂 May God gently continue to guide, comfort all of you, and give you the peace that only He can give. Love in HIM, ~Susan
AHHHHHHHHH – Congratulations!! He is beautiful, most certainly perfect and a perfect fit to your fabulously amazing family! WOW! I stepped away from blogger for a little over a week and look what I missed!!!!!
Praise God for the good things He has done! Very, very happy for you.
I Have no words (never happens:)!
Love to you all –
What a blessing you are… When you meet God someday, I have no doubt He will say, “Well done!” I am studying Matthew right now about God’s will for us, vs. ours. Somedays I sit and wonder, “what’s next?” Ruby and our journey to China was such a blessing for me, Jeff, and our older daughter… Our faith muscle was stretched, and we have grown so much… You have challenged me to ponder today…. Again, I am grateful that God led me here this morning. You have blessed me beyond words!
I just read your story and I felt like I was reading my story! We are in the process of adopting our second child from China and we have two biological children. I have not been overjoyed but it was clear that God was calling. I have to be obedient. That’s what I want in my life-to follow God’s plan, not my plan. I enjoyed your story!
The Garcias says
You cannot imagine how this post has touched my heart today. I’m praising God. Isn’t He so faithful and good ti is?!! I found your blog by way of PW’s… God is in the middle of teaching me some pretty huge things right now. I cannot grasp it all at the moment, but I ache to be used by Him. To be poured out like a drink offering. Yet my fears of the unknown, my lack of trust, some days paralyze me. I need to get over myself, to be frank. I do know that my issues are not too big for Him, the Author of my story. Thanks and glory be to Jesus.
Your story is such an encouragement to me, thank-you. God has used you to break my heart for special needs children in other areas of the world. All the while reading pieces of your family’s story, my heart cried, “Amen! Praise God!” I feel certain that He has a plan for my husband and I that includes adoption.
Blessings on you and yours.
I am so blessed by reading your blog. What an imspiration. May the Lord continue to bless you, please keep writing, because I am going to keep reading. Hugs Connie
I just happened upon your blog and can totally relate to your testimony…my husband and I have 2 biological children, adopted 1, with prayers for whatever God has for us next. This is truly the Great Adventure! 😉
Stefanie – I just happened upon your blog a few days ago and just read this post. This post was exactly what I needed!! I am in a position in my life where I could follow many different paths. I felt like I had a picture in my head of what the end result should look like and I was killing myself trying to figure out which path would lead me there. I realize that I am going about it all wrong. There is a path and I think I just need to open my heart and mind and let HIM tell/show me. This is all new to me, to be honest I am not a regular at my church. How will I know that he hears me? How will I hear or know what path he wants me to go down. I have a 10 year old sister adopted from China 3 years ago and she has changed our life so many ways. When I turn 30 I would love to be in a financial position to adopt (which is right around the corner). I spent so much time in fear, fear that I would pick the wrong career choice, fear that if I went back to school I would not choice the right program, fear that I would never be in a good financial position that I never acted and am still such in a day to day job that i dont like. I know that if I would of just slowed down and prayed and listened HE would have shown me the way. Now I fear that I will not hear his message. Any advice? My heart and ears are open.
Thanks for you time. Your blog is an inspiration
Cathleen Schmainda says
Very thankful to have found your blog tonight… I’ve been reading for awhile – and am blessed to have your words in my path!
Thanks so much for sharing your story and for your honesty, Stephanie – it’s so refreshing! Reading your blog is so inspiring and encouraging in my own walk with God too. Take care 🙂