Family is a safe haven to be loved for how you were uniquely created! Family is the truest of relationships – for everyone sees your good and bad sides, but each of us stays by each other’s side regardless. Family is that sharing of love how God designed it to be – not conditional; but from belonging.
We could never have designed our family on our own – we would never have had the courage on our own to adopt an older child with special needs, a child with a serious illness, children from overseas, or even babies at our age – if we had only our human reasoning to go on. Thankfully, God sees past our human limitations, and trusting that fact, we have been allowed to have such a diverse and beautiful family that we simply could never have imagined. We have been asked to bring other children into our home throughout the years, and we always say yes, with prayer, and let God sort out the details. We will always have a home that is open to every child He wants for us, any child who God puts in our hearts and on our path, who He wants us to include in our family or support in another way.
The day we finally saw our little Chinese son Xin Long in person, he took our breath away! He was so small, so scared, and so much cuter than he was in the pictures we had seen. We seriously could not quit looking at him and thinking, “Wow, they’re just going to let us take him home!” (not even remembering all the paperwork and begging we did to try to get him home sooner) It was magical for our whole family to be with him in person, and we truly think God had Xin Long take to us within the first hour of meeting him, as He knew the time we would end up having with him as our son would be short. He passed away shortly after we adopted him due to an unrepaired heart. We will always cry for that sweet boy but would never trade adopting him one bit, and we are thankful to have God’s Word that assures us we will see sweet Xin Long again!
The picture of a bright future here in our country with bio kids usually involves both career opportunities and personal happiness. We think it has such a deeper meaning when it comes to kids being adopted. It certainly can mean the above, but it also means a future that is not that far off . . . that holds what is missing in their lives: unconditional family love and support in not only the far-off future of college, but also for the little milestones that only a mom and dad can celebrate! Our little son Xin Long drew a picture, and it was the first one of his we hung up on the refrigerator. To see his sweet, little face light up with such joy and pride that it was up there was PRICELESS! He kept going back and forth past the fridge to check it out!! His life in years was numbered short, but he had a bright future as far as we could make for him while he was with us! We strive to do the same for our other five children (both bio and adopted). We’ve been entrusted with them, and we need to do the best for each one as we can.
We have learned each day matters, choices matter (both good and bad), and it’s important to put ourselves in others’ shoes as best we can. Our older bio kids have been to China three times, met birth parents there, and know the stories of how children come to be in need of homes. They also see the beauty in these amazing siblings they have gotten to fall in love with and the love we share in word and prayers for all of their siblings’ birth families (even the Chinese ones we have not met). That is truly a blessing to us to see them gain such insight from opening their hearts and home over and over again, especially after suffering such a horrible heartbreak from the loss of our son Xin Long. We, too, learned more in that same way – to not be afraid to go deeper with those in such tough situations, but the biggest growth we have had through our adoptions is having to step out on that ledge of taking God at His Word, especially trusting Him with a child we never wanted to part with. We remember actually staring at that fact face to face and having to make that decision and stick with it, or else we would have sunk. We have never regretted the decision to trust Him fully with the situation; nor has our family, and we are better off, especially in our faith, for that.
We are most proud of how our children faced the real-life challenge of choosing to love a child when we did not know how long he would live. When we initially had a family discussion about the possibility of adopting Xin Long, our oldest son said, “It’s better he dies with a family than without.” That is one moment that made us so proud to be parents, and it came from his heart! The way all the kids opened their hearts to such a sick little boy was truly the most remarkable thing, and the fact they have done it again several times through our other adoptions since then still blows us away! Our oldest two lost almost a year of school from grief with losing Xin Long. Some teachers were not kind or caring as they struggled to catch up, but our kids have been much stronger than we think many adults could ever be!
If Gladney did not exist, then our oldest son would have never had the opportunity to challenge, exhibit, or explore his thoughts and heart in the way he did then. Literally, if Gladney did not exist, our son may never have had an opportunity to go deeper, find out what he had within himself and his faith in God, choose higher than himself, and put that into action! Gladney gave him an amazing opportunity to show love from such a deep place we normally would not have known existed. Through Gladney, yes, families are made, children are adopted, and their waiting ends; and adoption brings wonderful things – beyond that, adoption is also a platform for the opportunity to see what is inside of ourselves and what we are able to rise to. Adoption permits people to go beyond what they thought they ever could, and without an agency to do that with, they may never know they have such depth within themselves.
We are thankful to another Gladney Adoptive Dad named Steve and to Gladney’s Superkids program for meeting a little boy named Jianye in China and advocating to find a family for him. That is how we found our last son. We saw our little Jianye, and our hearts could not let go of him! With much prayer, we decided God must mean for him to be with us, and he is seriously sweet. Of course, he has his moments like we all do, but he is the most patient and sweet little boy we have ever met. We really admire him for trusting us after all he has been through. His story shows how God has a special plan for all of us.
Steve & Sheila