Stephen Wunderli

It takes faith to have children. Ours was best described as naive faith when we were first married. The kind you have when your imagination has not yet been tainted by tragedy or trial and you believe everything will be perfect.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Wunderli

Photo courtesy of Stephen Wunderli

And so we had children. No worries, we’ll raise them on Peter Rabbit and baseball, teach them about God and kindness and love them to the moon and back. Our first came, beautiful as expected. But at two years old we discovered she had cancer in her left eye. Our faith was tried and tempered. She lost her eye, but not her strong spirit. OK, so God really does love us, we realized. The next two had the usual childhood illnesses. Faith returned in full, yet a little more mature. The next little guy was born with Spina Bifida. Now our faith was put to the test. After 17 operations we realized that yes, God still does love us. He loves us enough to entrust us with a child who is not perfect. We had our family, and we had an increase in faith.

Check and check.

I was anxious to get my passing grade in life. I remember thinking I had completed the test, but it was just beginning. Faith, we would learn, is intertwined threads reaching from faraway people and places to bind us together in the tapestry of God’s creations and intentions. I didn’t know then how much my life was about to change…but I saw the signs. Literally.

I was out on my regular morning run and on the marquee of the local Unitarian Church it read: “Never put a period where God intends a comma.”

A few days later, when the house was quiet, my wife was looking at me from her reading chair. It’s that look I learned to recognize: we need to talk. I took a deep breath and waited. “I don’t think our family is complete,” she said. “I’ve been having these feelings…I think we should adopt.” The one thing we had learned to do was trust prayer as a way to get direction, even if I jogged past the answer every morning.

When you have biological children, you have faith in each other, faith in the doctors, faith in God. When you adopt a child, those threads of faith go out searching to connect with the faith of the right adoption agency, the right birth mother, more doctors, legal entities, social workers…your faith is that others will have faith so that the child God intends for your family makes it into your home.

How could all those moving pieces possibly work in our favor? Of course: by faith. Our packet, with all our family photos, was completed and circulated to expectant mothers who had found the courage to go full-term and give their child up for adoption. Some were teenage moms. Some were women who couldn’t seem to fight their way out of the overwhelming circumstances of drugs, unemployment, lack of family support. They sent us their packets as well, openly pouring their hearts out. I was humbled by their faith that God had a place for the child they were carrying; and despite their situations, miracles would happen. We spent weeks looking at mother profiles and praying. We asked our friends and family to pray for us. But nothing seemed to come together.

And that’s when my wife had a dream. “I saw our baby,” she announced in the middle of the night. A few days later a profile of one of the mothers came in with a sweet letter: “…when I saw your photos, I knew I was carrying this baby for you.” The mother went on to explain that the pregnancy was a mistake; that she knew from the beginning the child belonged to somebody else and she was only a vehicle. She believed God had planted these feelings in her heart and she trusted them.

A week later we were on a plane to Atlanta. The baby was on its way and would be staying with a cradle-care mother for ten days until the baby could travel. I flew on the coat tails of my wife’s faith. She had seen our baby in a dream and felt like this mother was going to deliver her. The baby was born while we were in flight. We spent a day with the agency getting all the paperwork settled, and went off to meet Lynn, the cradle-care mother. It was Lynn’s faith that touched us most—she believed every child she cared for was guided by God to the right family. In her early-sixties, her children raised, Lynn was sitting in the congregation of her Baptist church one Sunday. The Pastor announced that the local hospital needed cradle-care mothers to take care of newborns the first ten days of their life before they were adopted. “I knew it was my calling,” Lynn told us. “It just hit me that this was something God wanted me to be a part of.” Since then, she has taken in over 60 babies, and sends each a birthday card every year reminding them of the special feelings she witnessed when baby met parents for the first time. She softly ushered us into the nursery of her home. My wife gasped, then wept. “This is the child I saw in my dream.”

Insert comma here.

Four years later, another child came to us through adoption. A child born in trials and neglect whose grandmother had faith enough to take custody of the two-year-old and pray nightly for five months until she found us. Faith. It has no limits, is no respecter of persons, waits patiently for us to unfold it. Our family may be complete but our faith grows every day by portions shared with us by those who got us here.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Wunderli

Photo courtesy of Stephen Wunderli

Life is an exercise in faith, and sometimes we ride on the currents of faith that swirl around us, knowing that God is in charge of us, our families and all those whom we love.