Amber had asked me to tell the story of how we formed our family, and the way God has provided in our lives. Here is our story of God’s providence and love.
I was blessed to be born into a great family with faith filled parents. I am the oldest of three, with a younger sister and brother. I was instructed in the faith from an early age, and God was a part of our lives, guiding my parent’s decisions as we grew up. I attended Catholic school for twelve years, and participation in church and the surrounding activities was a given in our household. I always knew that I was loved by my parents and by God, and had a relationship with God from an early age. It’s not that I didn’t, at times, stray from God and my faith, but I always knew where my center was, and came back to the truths that I knew in my heart.
Infertility – Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage, yes wait For the Lord!”
Dan and I met in college at the University of Cincinnati and dated for a year before getting engaged. We married in September 1981, right before our senior year, and after we graduated we both got engineering jobs in Maryland, moving in 1982. Our jobs were going great, and we felt settled in Maryland, buying our home in 1984, an old farmhouse which we renovated over the years. Still, we made frequent visits to see family in Cincinnati, and still considered it home, too.
Although I loved my job, I always felt that my real calling in life was to be a wife and mother. We started trying to have a baby about three to four years into our marriage, but month after month there was no pregnancy. We went to two doctors, including the infertility clinic at Johns Hopkins and went through all of the tests-twice. This was physically and emotionally painful and very distressing. Every month I prayed for a baby, and I became very angry at God, even wanting to stop going to church. It was Dan who insisted that we still attend Mass, saying that since God has given us so much, we should at least give Him an hour a week. At the time I was involved with a prayer group at our church, and the faith filled women there helped me through some very dark times. Over time, I could see that my relationship with Jesus was deepening, in spite of my sadness. I knew that God was with me through this trial, and although I was not less sad, my anger dissipated.
When we went to Johns Hopkins, the doctors there told us that “they could get us pregnant”. This seemed very strange to me, since I thought that this was between me and Dan and God. I just wanted them to find out what was wrong and to fix it. They never did find out our medical issues in spite of all of the tests and procedures. In prayer we had a clear sign from God that we weren’t going down the assisted fertility treatment road (IVF, etc.). Instead, we decided to build our family through adoption.
After going through an adoption information class, we were considering adopting from Korea. We hadn’t been to any home study meetings yet, and at the time were still finishing up some infertility medication, which had some horrible side effects, putting me in a perpetual grumpy mood – my poor husband! At one point during this time, I remember praying and crying out to God to let me know what He wanted for us. As I was alone in my room, God did give me a sign. Now, I am not one to have mystical experiences or to be overly sentimental – I’m an engineer by training – but on that evening in May of 1987 God gave me a vision of a 2-year Korean girl, sitting in the rocking chair in my bedroom.
Adoptions – Psalm 30:11-12 – “You have turned my mourning into dancing, you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. “,
Dan and I completed the adoption paperwork during the summer of 1987 and we had our home study group meetings in the fall. We decided that we wanted to adopt siblings under age five. A colleague at work had adopted his two daughters from Korea at the same time and I thought it was so nice that the sisters had each other. My sister already had two daughters who were two and an infant. We were anxious to start our family, and getting a newborn was not a priority for us. We thought that siblings would be harder for the adoption agency to place and just wanted to open our hearts to children who needed a home. By the end of winter 1988, all of the families in our home study group had been assigned their children. We were still waiting, and it seemed interminable. Finally, on March 28th, 1988 we got the call. They had two little girls for us, sisters, Mee Na, age 3 and Mee Yun, age 13 months. Jill Mee Na and Holly Mee Yun came home on June 16th at ages 3 ½ years and 16 months. Life was wonderful! I quit my job as an engineer and became a stay at home mom, taking care of our daughters and finding new mom-friends in the community.
At this time, though, there was a dark cloud looming. God always gives us something to pray about! The country road in front of our c. 1866 farm house was going to be widened because of the housing developments being constructed on both side of our street. We found ourselves being sued by the county to widen the road and to take about 15 feet off of the front of our property. Without going into too much detail, we ended up going to court twice, putting a tremendous strain on our one-income finances. This ordeal began in 1987, before we adopted the girls, and finally ended in our favor in 1993, after much financial uncertainty.
During this time, I was anxious to adopt again. I was so happy as a stay-at-home mom, and longed to add to our family. My husband thought otherwise. There was much stress in our marriage. We put in paperwork to adopt again in 1990, but then withdrew it. This was so very painful, and I felt so distant from Dan, but I felt very close to God at this time. I knew that God knew the desires of my heart and although I didn’t know if we would ever add to our family, I felt that God was with me. I clearly heard with an inner voice that Jesus was telling me to offer my pain in this situation to God for Dan. I rebelled at this – how could I offer my pain for someone who was causing my pain?! Jesus quickly told me “That is what I did for you when I offered myself on the cross for the sins that you committed”. Well, how could I counter this?
Dan’s heart softened, especially after he went on a weekend silent retreat. The lawsuit was over and the financial stress had lessened. We put in our adoption paperwork again in the spring of 1994, wanting to adopt two children again, since our daughters by this time were seven and nine. There was a problem, though. After the 1988 Olympics, Korea had closed their adoption program, and when they reopened it again, they were only placing children from infants to age two with American families. We decided to wait for twins, but it was a longshot.
As we were waiting for an assignment of children, our good friends had generously offered to let us stay with them at no charge at the beach house that they rented on the Outer Banks. We had a wonderful week in North Carolina with our friends, their five children, our two girls, and the two black lab puppies that we and our friends had gotten from the same litter. It was a relaxing and prayerful time as we waited for our paperwork to process. I prayed that God would answer our prayers for two more children. The beach house where we stayed, which our friends “coincidently” picked – The Twin Dolphin.
Christmas came and went and we were still waiting. Again, the families in our home study group had all been assigned children and they were even all home with their new families. We were not sure what was going to happen and in January 1995 we were asked by the adoption agency if we would consider another program besides Korea. We decided to wait a little longer. Then in February a double rainbow appeared in the sky after a winter rainstorm. I snapped a picture, and still have it, although it is undated.
Then, on March 28th, 1995 we got the call. We were celebrating that day because it was the anniversary of the day that we found out about Jill and Holly in 1988. It was exactly seven years later to the day when our social worker told us that they had one-month old twin boys for us! I immediately saw the hand of God in our lives. Our social worker was not aware of the anniversary date, and she was not the same social worker when we adopted Jill and Holly. God wanted us to wait for these two baby boys so that they could be a part of our family, and he arranged the dates. The twins were born on February 20th. Was that the day of the double rainbow?
Our sons, Andrew Jee Won and Nathaniel Jee Hoon, named after two of the apostles, came home on June 20th, 1995. Life was busy and full, caring for the twins, homeschooling our girls and taking them back and forth to gymnastics. Jill and Holly, now ages ten and eight, were a great help with their baby brothers. With Jill, Holly, Andy, and Nathan we thought our family was complete. But God had other plans!
The Additions- Mark 9:36-37 – “And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
The kids grew and Jill was off to Ohio State on a gymnastics scholarship in 2002. She married David in 2004, and had our first grandson, Ryan. The twins were nine, and Holly was seventeen, finishing up high school. Holly went to Michigan State on a gymnastic scholarship that fall, and I was homeschooling the boys. When we all gathered at Christmastime in 2004, with eight of us including Ryan in a car seat, and with all of the gifts, and a big Christmas tree in the room, there was just no room! It was early in 2005 that Dan and I decided to build an addition on the house with a great-room and a garage underneath.
At the time I was meeting with a group which encourages people to deepen their relationship with God through prayer and scripture. I had a spiritual director that I met with monthly. She asked me what God wanted us to do with this new addition to our home. I said I didn’t know, but deep down I felt that something big was going to happen.
At an open house we had for friends at Christmas 2005 several said that we needed an Amish clothesline out of our new laundry room window to a nearby tree. We already had a long clothesline, so I didn’t think too much about it. Also, at Christmas that year, Holly had a friend, Katie, who went to Franciscan U. in Steubenville, and was visiting after just finishing a semester in Austria. She had gone to Assisi and brought me back a very nice statue of St. Francis, which I put on the mantle in the new great room. These two facts might not seem like it, but they do relate to my story.
To understand this, let me tell you a bit about St. Francis. St. Francis was born in the 1200’s in Assisi, Italy. He lived a worldly life, but then felt God calling him to serve, and he renounced his wealth. God told him to rebuild His Church, and Francis thought God meant the church of San Damiano, which was on a hill near Assisi and had fallen into disrepair. Francis began building the church, but then God said, that He didn’t mean brick and wood, but He meant to build up the people of God, and bring them closer to Him.
It was then early March 2006, on a Thursday and I was walking to the mailbox, thinking that nothing good ever comes in the mail. It was one of those dreary days in March – not biting cold, but not warm, when the earth seems like it is just waiting to green up into spring, but winter is still holding on. I found in the mailbox, along with the junk mail and bills, a newsletter from Catholic Charities Adoption. Inside the newsletter was a section on waiting children and I saw two tiny pictures of two little boys that needed a home. They touched my heart.
The next day, Dan and I were outside and I commented that we needed the clothesline tightened after the usual sagging during the winter. He asked if I wanted to put up an Amish clothesline, like our friends suggested at our Christmas party. I replied “No, we don’t have enough kids, like the Amish do, to need an Amish clothesline. But we could get Joey and Hector.” Dan asked who Joey and Hector were, and I showed him the newsletter with the information about the two boys who were biological cousins, ages seven and eight from the Philippines. He didn’t say any more, and neither did I, but those boys were on my heart all that weekend.
Because of my busy schedule with homeschooling, I would often get up with Dan at 5 a.m. to pray and ready my school day. That Monday, as Dan was heading down the stairs to the garage to go to work, he said, “If you want to call about those two boys, you can.” I really didn’t think I heard him right, since I was half asleep. I said I would, and called that day and got some information, but didn’t want them to send me any paperwork. I really wasn’t sure about this and didn’t want to get too emotionally involved before being sure.
Dan and I talked and talked about whether this was right for our family. I thought about the scripture from Mark 9:36-37, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” and I knew what God was telling us to do. I thought about St. Francis, his building of the church of brick and wood, but God calling Him to build up the people of God. We knew this was the right thing to do, but we really had to step out in faith and trust. We would be 47 years old when they arrived, we had two grandchildren, with Jill having her second son in February, I would be homeschooling four boys, I would have to travel to the Philippines, we would have the cost for the adoption, Dan would be close to retirement age when they graduated high school, and most importantly, what would it be like to adopt two foundlings at ages eight and nine? So many unknowns! Still, I could just feel the grace being poured out on us.
We decided to go forward with the adoption on the weekend of March 18-19. March 19 is the feast day of St. Joseph, but since it fell on a Sunday that year, the feast was moved to Monday, March 20th. I called Catholic Charities on Monday, St. Joseph’s day, to tell them we would like to adopt our Joseph and Hector.
Joey and Hector visited in July 2006 in a summer program designed for waiting Pilipino children and we knew that we had made the right decision. All the paperwork was in and I prayed that they would be home for Christmas. Dan is not a traveler, and he had to stay home with Andy and Nathan who were eleven. A friend Catherine, from Birthright Pregnancy Center where we volunteered, told me from the beginning that she would come with me to the Philippines. I was concerned about her travel expenses, and she was confident that she would find someone to give her sky miles to fly free. A woman that I never met, from Catherine’s knitting group, gifted 120,000 sky miles, enough for one free round-trip ticket. In October, we made the arrangements to leave the day after Thanksgiving. Since hardly anyone flies the day after Thanksgiving, Catherine only needed half of the sky miles that were given to her, so I flew free too. God arranged free airplane tickets for both Catherine and me. Joseph James and Hector Thomas (two more apostle- the middle names we gave them) came home on December 2nd, 2006.
Our family continues to grow with three of our children now married and with eleven grandchildren. We have been truly blessed. God is good!