My Thankful Life: Charity

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The Shadow of the Child We Never Brought Home

There is an empty seat at our table, a shadow over Mother’s Day celebrations, a stocking we never hang at Christmas. The children sing a sound-off to let me know their seatbelts are buckled and one still sings his name for him.

We already have a large family, but we felt his shadow before we ever learned his name.  We believe it was God telling us to go find him halfway around the world. We waited and prayed and talked to everyone we knew who could answer our questions. We met with others who had lived with him before they came to America and knew he was the child we were missing.

But the politics of adoption and fraud in his homeland tore through our dreams.

The orphanage was closed; the social worker told us no adoption would ever be approved.  No contact would ever be allowed.

He was never to know how close he had come to being adopted after living 12 years in an orphanage.

We always wanted to bring home an older boy, knowing his land held little promise for education and work that could support a family.

We were stunned when the door was closed.

How could this be the ending God intended after sending us on this journey?  How could the path lead to emptiness in our hearts and a child relegated to a lifetime in boarding schools just because their government declared it so?  How could we stand by when we felt so keenly the weight of parental bonds on our hearts and knew we could do nothing to protect him or provide for him, only love him and pray.


That year was filled with joy and sorrow; every family memory was covered by the shadow of the child we were missing.  Every day we prayed for him to be safe, to feel loved, to know he wasn’t alone. Every day my children asked when he would be coming home. Every day we prayed for a miracle, for we believe in a God of Miracles.

Eventually I knew that we would have to pray a new prayer…that we could accept God’s will and live with only the shadow of this child in our lives.  I told God that if He was not bringing this child to our family,  I needed Him to remove the Mother Heart I felt for this child,  because I could not make it through my days, homeschooling, caring for our 7 children,  while I was so distracted with worrying about the One.

How can a mother pray to have love removed from her heart?  But I could no longer breathe knowing he needed us and there was nothing we could do to get to him or help him. I asked it in desperation, not actually expecting my life to change …but He gave me that miracle, since He couldn’t give me the child we’d asked for. In the time it took to say amen, He filled my heart with peace.

Quiet, sorrowful, yielding Peace.

The children continued to pray for him in family prayers each night. Guests to our home continued to ask who the handsome face was they saw in pictures hanging on our walls, but not in the smiling faces around them. And days turned to years. And hope was fleeting that something might change. God sent another sweet baby to our family and our hearts began to heal in the excitement and busyness of loving a new baby. And one year turned to five. And the Shadow did not fall so heavily on our lives and hearts.

Then this week, I got a phone call, and a voice from the past told me he had talked to this boy we loved from afar.

After so many years, I wrote down the phone number for the family he is living with while he attends school. The boy is 16 now, far beyond an age at which he could be adopted, but not so old he doesn’t still yearn for a family.

I hesitate to write to him, unsure of what to say to this young man who has been in our hearts for so long, but who knows nothing of us or how long we tried to bring him home.

Do we dare to dream again of getting to know him, maybe even being able to bring him to the States as we had always desired, or to sponsor him in college? Do I tell him everything, or do I simply start anew from today and say “Hi”?

But in my heart, I feel the shadow of a smile, remembering our God is so good to us, and He works in mysterious ways.

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

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