As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
The heartfelt question was posed to me in the waning moments of an evening filled with the easy camaraderie that forms between those walking a pathway of similar joys and sorrows.
As the other parents filed out of the room where we had spent a few hours discussing parenting strategies for our children and youth who have or are suspected of having Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), another mother and I stopped to chat.
“Why on earth did you choose to do this?” the other mother asked, her brow furrowing as she glanced from my power wheelchair to the communication machine I use in place of verbal speech. “You already have your own physical disabilities to deal with; why would you take on the challenge of adopting young people with suspected FASD?”
I knew this wasn’t a flippant question. Like me, this mother knows full well the challenges, pain, and deepest joys that can come from adopting and parenting children who not only live with ongoing disabilities but who experienced significant trauma from the time they were in utero.
Immediately my spirit responded to her question. I felt the answer fly from my heart and race through my fingers as I typed my reply into my communication device, which made it audible: “God.”
It wasn’t a flippant answer.
It was indeed God who inspired my husband and I to adopt our two now young adults out of foster care, one eight years ago when she was 10 and the other two years ago when he was 20.
It was God who whispered to our hearts that this was his plan to build our family and to proceed in faith even though it would not be easy. The same God who calls us to “look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27), the one who calls us to follow Jesus’ example of loving the Father and serving our fellow neighbors. The one who first adopted us as his children, making us his own family members when we had done nothing to deserve this love.
And it is God who gives my husband and me strength day after day after day through some challenging situations. Through our family’s journey, there have been nights I’ve cried myself to sleep or been too overwrought to sleep from the pain of parenting young people whose early years set them up not to know how to bond and attach but instead to know how to wound those closest to them.
And yet, in the face of the heartache and challenges and the darkest of nights, God has shown me that morning always dawns, and with it the choice to face a new day with love, joy, peace, and more nurturing of these young people he has brought into my life. Over the years, my husband and I have seen them ever so slowly begin to learn to trust, develop the ability to bond, and gain new skills and abilities. These have been incredible joys and privileges.
It was also God who showed me that my own challenges and disabilities do not give me an exemption to devoting my life to following Christ, expressed by allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me to love those Christ brings across my path. Perhaps a different response to the other mother’s question about why I, who have disabilities, would adopt young people who live themselves with challenges, would have been, “Why shouldn’t I?”
As God teaches us in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I’ve spent many years wrestling with the question of why God allowed me to experience a serious car accident when I was only 19 years old, one that changed my whole life and caused me to live with physical disabilities and to intimately know severe pain. I can now see this was a training ground to develop an awareness of and compassion toward others who live with pain and struggles and suffering. It was a classroom in learning to never, never give up, which has become an invaluable skill in parenting our young adults.
My journey has come full circle as it has taught me that the one, only, and true answer is “God.”
About the Author
Jenna C. Hoff is a freelance writer and editor in Edmonton, Alta. She is a member of Inglewood Christian Reformed Church.