Updated: Sep 24, 2020
I grew up hearing the phrase “follow God and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When we found out we were going to have a baby back in 2008, I thought everything in my life was great. I followed God: I went to church every time the doors were open, gave money to good causes, and directed VBS. I was married, had a job that I liked, and lived a good Christian life. I wanted to be a mother and God was granting my desire, so I must be following God. However, five months into the pregnancy Emily was stillborn. Amidst the “Why, God?” and the “Is this your will, God?” questions, I thought, “Am I truly following God”? He didn’t give me the desire of my heart and I sat in church with empty arms on my first Mother’s Day as a mother.
I began to try harder to follow God. I listened to His call to work with children; I accepted a job with the public school system and started doing more with the youth at church. John and I started the process for international adoption about a year after Emily was born. A process that was supposed to take one year dragged into two and then three years. Still I was asking “Why, God?,” “Is this your will, God?” and “Are we truly following God, because He is not giving us our desire?” Especially when the calendar turned to May and I celebrated each Mother’s day with empty arms.
In March 2013 we received an official letter from Brazil stating that we had been approved to adopt three boys. We were ecstatic! We praised God! We would be in Brazil in time for Mother’s Day and my arms would be empty no longer. However, before we could get our visas and book plane tickets, we received word that the Brazilian government suspended all international adoptions from the state in which our boys lived. We were devastated once again. No one could tell us how long this suspension would last. Were we talking weeks, months, or years? And again I asked “Why, God?,” “Is this your will, God?” and “Are we truly following God?” I was the mother of four children, but on Mother’s Day 2013, my arms were still empty.
The unknowing was unbearable. The proverbial door was never firmly shut, but it wasn’t swinging open. I was home for the summer with no plans. My children were stuck in an orphanage in Brazil and we were stuck in America. We could not make any plans for anything more than a couple months ahead. My life was in limbo and I felt I had no purpose. I read my Bible and I prayed constantly that God would answer my questions and show us what to do. However, there were no answers to my continuous questions of “Why, God?,” “Is this your will, God?” and “Are we truly following God?”
I am an avid reader and I especially love to read Christian fiction novels. As I was passing what I thought was purposeless time that summer, God used a character in the book In This Mountain, by Jan Karon, to speak to me. This character was in a completely different era of his life, but he was asking God my questions. When I thought there would be no answers from God, He opened my eyes to 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The character in the book prayed the following prayer: Father, I don’t know why You’re causing, or allowing, this hard thing to happen, but I’m going to give thanks in it because You ask me to. I’m going to trust You to have a purpose for it that I can’t know and may never know. Bottom line, You’re God—and that’s good enough for me (312–313).
Going to church, working for God, and seeking His will are all wonderful and necessary things for a Christian to do. God does know the desires of our heart, but He is not a granter of desires, His will is for us to be thankful in our circumstances. I did not have a thankful heart in my circumstance. I had not thanked God for the blessing of Emily and her impact on my life, for without that experience, I am sure I would not have had the courage to step out of my comfort zone and into the public school system. I had not thanked God for the family and friends who had done so much to help us prepare for our boys. I had not thanked God for the three boys in Brazil waiting for us or their caregivers. I had especially not thanked God for the time of rest and peace that he was giving me before my family multiplied. I immediately began praying that prayer of thankfulness. Instead of asking, “Why?,” I trusted that God did have a purpose. Instead of asking, “Is this your will, God?” I believed that God would firmly close the door if we were to do something else. I began following God by doing what He asks of me. I gave thanks in my circumstances.
About three months after I initially prayed that prayer of thanksgiving, we received a phone call to get everything in order and fly to Brazil as soon as possible. We were ecstatic all over again. We were also very nervous. I praised God and most importantly I thanked Him for His plan and the days to come.
Living in Brazil for 49 days with children who did not speak our language and were not used to living in a family was not a walk in the park, although, we did spend many hours in the beautiful parks in Curitiba, Brazil. We witnessed fear, rage, meltdowns, confusion, and tantrums from our children. We also witnessed smiles, hugs, laughter, and love. One of the first times my middle son said in English, “I love you, Mãe.” I answered, “I love you, too.” He misunderstood and said, “I love you, three.” I was a mãe (mom). This precious boy who has caused us many sleepless nights is my son. Every day we were in Brazil, I thanked God for the circumstances we were in.
Blending five separate lives from two cultures with two languages continues to be challenging. We have many misunderstandings and meltdowns. I thank God for these precious children in the trying times. We also have much laughter and excitement. It is fun to watch them experience so many new things like bathtubs, beaches, and bubbles. I thank God for these precious children in the exciting times. My youngest son was getting ready to take a bath the other evening when he looked up at me with the sweetest smile and said, “Me happy, Mama!” With tears in my eyes I thanked God in my circumstance!
My arms will be full on Mother’s Day 2014 with three of my four children. I anticipate lots of joy, or as my boys would say, “ALEGRIA.” I also anticipate a little sadness for the one in Heaven that I cannot hold, but I will give thanks because God is God and that is good enough for me.