Friday, February 20, 2015

Making Room for Five

This story was published in the Winter, 2014 issue of DIALOGUE magazine.

When we were first married, my husband, Murray, told me that he would like us to have two biological children and then adopt one with special needs. I had always wanted to have as many children as possible, so I was glad to agree.

Rebecca was born shortly after our third anniversary. That was almost 24 years ago. I have a clear first memory of her arrival a little after five o’clock on a Wednesday evening. As I held the newborn on my chest, a bunch of friends from church came to visit us in the hospital after Bible study.

“She looks just like you,” everybody kept saying to Murray.

“Don’t worry, Kathy,” a friend joked. “They change a lot in the first year.”

Murray worked as an occupational therapist, and I was in graduate school when Rebecca was born. I took a semester off, then went back to school to finish.

A few months before I graduated, Murray suggested that we have our second baby right away, before I started back to work. Sarah was born when Rebecca was sixteen months old.

As I was lying in bed with the newborn Sarah in my arms, the doctor who had delivered both girls sat beside me and said, “Well, Sarah, you look just like your sister—which means you look just like your father.”

Sarah was born in January, and Caleb joined our family in December of that same year. But let’s back up a little. Since college I had been involved with a children’s home mission in Taiwan connected to my church. Before I became pregnant with Sarah, we received a newsletter from the Taiwan mission, mentioning a little boy who happened to be blind. Murray suggested that maybe we could adopt him, and we wrote a letter to the couple who ran the home. As months flew by, we found out I was pregnant. I graduated, we moved closer to Murray’s job, and we forgot all about it.

When Sarah was less than six months old, a letter finally arrived from Taiwan. The couple there said that they had several wishes for the family who would adopt the little boy and, Of all the families who had asked about adopting him, we were the ones who satisfied all those wishes.

I can remember Murray crying as he read the letter to me.

The little boy had a Chinese name, but since he was only two, we had the opportunity to choose an English name for Him. For the next few months, we talked non-stop to Rebecca about her new brother, whom we called Caleb.

When Murray picked up Caleb and brought him home to me, I took him in my arms and said, “Caleb, I’m your mama.” When Rebecca woke from her nap, I asked her, “Rebecca, who is this?”

“Caleb,” she replied. At that moment, our new son was almost three, Rebecca was two, and Sarah was eleven months old.

We were done having children, right?

When the kids were four, five and six, our minister spoke one Sunday morning about how much help we could do if a bunch of families in our church each adopted a child who needed a home. Murray took no convincing; I took little.

We contacted the county agency that dealt with adoption, and just for fun, we also contacted the home in Taiwan.

The folks in Taiwan said they had no babies who needed adopting, but there was an older boy, about 12, who had been abandoned.

This adoption took a little longer since Ping-Hwei was older. The workers there wanted him to visit us first before they started adoption proceedings to make sure we, and he, really wanted this.

I remember the first day Ping-Hwei walked into our house to join our family. He went straight to the kitchen, pulled the handle off the faucet on the sink, and said something to us in Chinese. We all had a lot to learn.

I knew we were done now. Four kids was definitely enough.

About six months after Ping-Hwei came to be with us, we received a Christmas card from friends at the home in Taiwan. They mentioned that they had a new baby who was blind and needed a home.

Murray said nothing. I said nothing. A couple weeks later, I said, “You know, maybe we could adopt that baby.” Murray just smiled.

I tell Benjamin that God definitely wanted him to be in our family. By the time we called Taiwan, they’d already started adoption proceedings for the child they’d told us about in the Christmas card. But … there was another baby boy, just three weeks old, also blind.

If we had called them right after we got the card, we might have that other little boy in our family. Instead, that June, almost exactly one year after Ping-Hwei arrived, Benjamin, not quite six months old, joined us.

One of the delights about adoption, according to Murray, is that the husband gets to have morning sickness as well, but I told Murray not to expect any more children as Father’s Day presents.

Many people had questions about how I managed, but Murray completely trusted that, even though I am blind, I could care for the children. For nine years, I was a full-time stay-at-home mom and primary caregiver. I am so grateful for the gift my husband gave me. What an adventure it’s been!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

If God is Real

This weekend I attended a women’s conference with our church. We’d been planning this for almost three months, but as the event drew closer, I started to sour on it.

It’s cold. I don’t feel comfortable in large groups. I just wanted to stay at home.

But I had promised. I’d even said I’d lead small group discussions—another thing I felt uncomfortable about—so I went.

What a wonderful gift.

The conference was sponsored by a group in Austin, Texas, shown online throughout the United States and in other countries throughout the world. The theme was, “If God is real, what then?”

We focused on the story of Joshua from Numbers 13 and 14 and Joshua 1. Only two of the twelve spies believed that God could help Israel conquer the Promised Land. Unfortunately, Israel decided to follow what the other ten spies told them, that they would not be able to conquer the great nations there.

No, by their own power, they could not. In the end, God showed those who remained that through his power, they could accomplish what he promised.

Women shared what God had done in their lives despite the difficulties they faced—depression, cancer, abuse, loss of children, lack of self worth. The honesty these women shared began to touch my heart.

For most of my adult life, I’ve always kept busy—work, graduate school, raising a family. This was good for me, for it would have been easy to believe, being totally blind, that I was not capable. I did have this fear. But, as long as I had active work to do, I was able to convince myself that I was doing important things.

Two and a half years ago, I had an accident which caused a severe brain injury. Suddenly, I had multiple disabilities—hearing loss, memory problems, difficulty finding words and forming complete sentences, lack of energy, trouble with balance and orientation. I could no longer work. I could not travel independently. I couldn’t even do many household chores.

I felt—I often still feel—useless.

One of the things I learned early from the women this weekend was that I can’t do anything useful. I have to depend on God to do it.

Of course, this has always been true, but I never had to face it like I do now.

One of the main topics discussed this weekend was that God gives each of us a purpose—bringing more people to a saving relationship with Jesus. This even includes me, with all the disabilities I seem to love to dwell on.

I can’t fulfill this purpose on my own, but I know a God who loves to do what appears to be impossible.

“But what can I do?” I wondered. I’m still not sure. But one of the speakers touched me deeply with her story.

She did not grow up with a good relationship with her father. The idea of God being a loving daddy made no sense to her. She once asked a wise Christian how she could understand that, and this was the response she received. God is the one who is the father. It is his job to show her how he can be a loving daddy.

On my own, I can’t find what I am still able to do for God, for the people in my lives. But I have a God who is able, and so willing, to show me how I can be used by him.

I’m not able to do the same things I used to do, physically or mentally. Another speaker from the conference reminded us that when Joshua was getting ready to enter the Promised Land, God reminded him that Moses was dead. It had been through Moses that God had led the people of Israel before, but it was time to move forward. God was going to do things a new way now.

I realized I need to accept that I can still do important things for God, just in new ways, with God holding my hand and giving me the strength and ability. I am excited to find what God has planned for me.

For more information about the wonderful ministry behind this weekend, go to