A Mother’s Testimony
I am so honored to be here today to share my story with you. I have two beautiful adopted children. Now every adoption story is a miracle story. This is just mine. But I wanted to share it today because our Breakaway theme this semester is about waiting on the Lord, and this story shows the Lords faithfulness during a significant time of waiting. It also shows the vital role women’s Bible study has played in my life. The Lord has changed my life through the fellowship of Christian sisters.
As I prayed about sharing, the Lord pressed the words, “remember and retell” on my heart.
Psalms 77: 11-12
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
When we face difficulties this is THE REMEDY. We must remember and lean on the proofs of the past to strengthen our faith for today.
I recently read a devotional that said “Sometimes we go through what we go through, to help others go through what we went through.” And how do we help? We remember and retell! We share our story and we encourage each other to keep going.
So today we are going to remember together some of the beautiful things the Lord has done for me. Listen up because somebody needs to hear this and it might be you.
I married at 33, much later in life that I ever wanted or expected - I now know the waiting for my husband was practice for the spiritual muscle I’d need to wait for my children. My husband, Dwight, is in the Coast Guard and six weeks after our lovely wedding in Washington, DC we were transferred to tropical Hawaii for a six-year honeymoon. Building our family didn’t come easily and we eventually endured nearly three trying years of infertility testing and treatments. Early into our infertility journey, I remember specifically after a long quiet time, reminiscing with God about my wonderful husband and the beautiful engagement He’d blessed us with. I was in the laundry room and I’ll never forget His Spirit saying to mine, “It was I who blessed you in marriage…do you think I’d provide anything less in motherhood? You will have children and I will glorify Myself through the process.” He spoke to me in the laundry room! I confirmed this experience with my husband to make sure I wasn’t nuts. I had only heard from God that clearly a very few times…
Well, the years passed and no babies came…the infertility treatments began, then escalated and I felt forgotten and discouraged. Some of you know what I’m talking about. God reminded me of his “Promise in the Laundry Room” about a year and a half later, through another quiet time when Luke 1:45 jumped off the page at me…as if the Lord himself were reciting it to me, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” It was one of those experiences when I knew deep down that the verse was for me, for that moment. I was being told to keep believing!
That’s a real thing, you know. It’s called a rhema word. When the Holy Spirit quickens a specific scripture to your heart – even one you’ve read many times before. It’s a message from God for that moment, that circumstance.
During this time I joined a ladies Bible study at our church called, “Believing God,” by Beth Moore. One of the tenets of the study was “God can do what He says He can do.” Beth prayed for all the participants, that God would perform a miracle of His choosing in every life during the study.” Our leader had us write our desired miracles down on a little card and put them in the back of our Bibles. My fervent prayer was peace with my childlessness. I was at the end of my rope trying to conceive. I just needed reviving – motivation to keep going in a life with what was clearly a new plan.
Well…our Great God in His mercy had another miracle in mind for me and by the end of that study I was the elated foster mother of our precious daughter Anna.
Here’s how it happened. While my heart was doing the hard work of entrusting God with my dream of a baby, a specific name kept coming up in conversation. She was the director of Hale Malama (which means “house of healing” in Hawaiian), a Catholic Charities foster program. The program had a dozen or so families (most of them strong believers) that were highly trained to care for medically complex foster babies. A few families in our church had been Hale Malama foster families so, when the Lord kept putting her name in my way I listened. I asked Dwight what he thought and he suggested I call and “check in.” My message said something like, “I think God wants me to call you…”
Meanwhile, God was speaking to her too. These foster placements were very important for the health and recovery of each baby in the program, so she would carefully pray about each placement and which of her 12 families would receive each child. About a week before my call, Anna had entered the Hale Malama program as a 2-month-old medically fragile baby who had just had open-heart surgery and ate through a feeding tube. Standing by her metal crib in the hospital, God told the director this baby was going to belong to the Mathers, even though we weren’t yet part of her foster program. She was busy thinking of ways to approach us with this very serious news, so, when I called a week later with no particular reason…she knew the reason! I met Anna the very next day and immediately fell in love with her, then named Ku’ulei Alohalani which in Hawaiian means “my beloved heavenly child,” so apt, we kept it for her middle names.
Doors kept opening; my husband’s leadership was so essential and treasured. He was so certain the Lord had finally answered our prayers for a baby, and I watched, as before my eyes Anna’s tears watered Dwight’s heart and an incredible father emerged. We leapt at the chance to foster and adopt her. She was a wonderful baby, despite her medical needs and we entered into one of those sweet seasons of grace the Lord occasionally bestows on His children. Life was wonderful and she was our delight.
Her family situation was such that there was no one equipped to care for her and we knew from early on that she’d be ours, even though her adoption wasn’t final until she was two. In fact, her bio-mother left her at the hospital with a written prayer that Jesus would watch over her and keep her in good hands. Someday she’ll know her prayer was answered.
You know, God had to let us wait, to get us ready and mature us, so we could embrace His plan and the perfect baby He had for us. Our life just isn’t complete without our Anna. I’m so, so glad we listened to the Lord when she needed a family. We had no idea how much we needed her too.
We thought our miracle was over…what a great testimony we had! But we should’ve known the Lord wasn’t finished with us.
When Anna was about 18 months old, I started another ladies Bible study, “Jesus the One and Only,” (once again by Beth Moore.) The Lord used that study to remind me of familiar verses and stories that had comforted us during our years of infertility, even “my” verse, Luke 1:45.
I strongly felt the Lord’s urging that it was time for us to begin praying about a second baby. God’s timing is perfect. Not even a week later Hale Malama’s director called, again unexpectedly, and asked when we’d be ready for a second baby! We knew the Lord was at work again and we excitedly prepared our hearts for a second foster child. Of course we hoped to keep baby #2 as well, but this time we realized we may be called to foster a child and help reunite a family, if that was the Lord’s plan. Mind you, the concept of giving a child back was terrifying, but I never thought God would actually call me to surrender a child. He knew I just wasn’t strong enough for that, right?
Dwight’s middle name is Thomas and when we were trying to conceive we’d talked about naming a son Thomas if we’d had one. So, in my fanciful mother’s heart I daydreamed how amazing it would be if we got a call one day that said, “There’s a baby named Thomas that needs a home.” A month later, Hale Malamas director called and said, “There’s a baby named Thomas that needs a home.” After I got over the shock that my daydream might have been the voice of the Holy Spirit, we rejoiced that the Lord had made His will so clear and we were clearly on His path.
I went to meet Thomas at the hospital on April 11, 2006 when he was 16 days old. He’d just been moved to the “regular nursery” from the NICU. He was severely drug exposed and extremely agitated and uncomfortable at all times which led to extreme fussiness
Thomas’s name - the Lord allowed that confirmation to comfort and reassure us for the difficult days ahead. Thomas turned out to be one of Hale Malama’s most difficult babies. The effects of his bio-mom’s drug use basically left him in state of constant and extreme anxiety. He would scream for hours on end and just about everything bothered him.
We had several family members advise us to return Thomas and allow him to be placed in another foster home. At a certain point daily life became so difficult that we earnestly prayed and sought counsel from our pastor to see if this was God’s plan. To complicate matters, during this demanding time, Dwight was the Executive Officer stationed aboard a Coast Guard Cutter and would go out to sea for three months at a time leaving me with Baby Thomas as well as little Anna who was only two. I firmly believe the Lord equips those he calls. My days were chaotic and exhausting and it showed on my face…but I was supernaturally supported. God met me moment by moment.
Thomas continued to heal and grow under our care and with the clinical training from Hale Malama. He was becoming a happy, albeit, high-needs little guy, When Thomas was almost a year old an aunt came forward and stated she’d like to raise him. Thomas’s parents had finally realized they would not be able to regain custody of him and had at last called a family member for help. All the medical and therapeutic professionals on Thomas’s case strongly advised against moving him from the only family he’d known for fear of attachment issues. It was Coast Guard transfer season for us and the court allowed us to move to Texas with Thomas, which was considered an unofficial nod that we’d be able to adopt him.
But God had other plans. In the end, the State of Hawaii ruled that although he’d been with us for 16 months, his aunt was related by blood and had experience that couldn’t be overlooked. On June 28, 2007 the courts awarded custody to his aunt.
The minute we got the news I fell to my knees – and just meditated on what I knew of God. That He is good, that He loves us, that He had a plan. I remember His presence was so real in that dark moment and His love was so palpable… I was carried… It’s amazing what we can endure if we press in, really abide in, stay close to God’s love…
Thomas’s transition to his aunt was quick largely due to our request. God was gracious and though our week of transition started out strained and awkward as that aunt came and took “my baby,” for outings each day. You are imagining this aren’t you? Yes it was as bad as that. But by the end of it the Lord had softened the atmosphere as only He could. We maintain an ever-improving relationship with her today and share emails and photos. It’s such a blessing to see the happy boy he has become. Just this past July we were able to visit him on our move from Virginia to Texas. 9 years to the week he left. It was weird and hard and good – all in even measure. He still has areas where he struggles, but God has provided a family that adores him and is eager to meet his needs.
Life after Tommy left us was unspeakably difficult. Days after he departed, Dwight, now the Commanding Officer of his own ship in Galveston TX, left to go out to sea for two months. Two weeks after Thomas left we discovered Anna might need another open-heart surgery, leaving me with the paralyzing fear that I might lose both of my children! When Dwight returned home, our always-steady marriage seemed to have undergone an unwelcome transformation while he’d been away. We bickered often and harbored so much anger and resentment against each other. We were both shocked and dismayed. This was grief, but we didn’t know it at the time, having never had such a shattering experience before. I have chronic migraine headaches and the stress of our lives exacerbated them until I was having one almost every other day. Anna woke up every day asking for “her baby” and “where’s Tommy?” Our grief had descended around us like a fog we couldn’t see through. Many days I would wake up, alone, with Dwight out to sea and think to myself, “what’s the bare minimum I need to do today just to make it through?” God was faithful while I waited for grief to take its course…
Once again the Lord led me to ladies Bible study. We were in a new, Texas sized, well-organized church and they were starting a series of studies for women. There was a Beth Moore study, “Breaking Free,” but I was determined to avoid it! Every time I did an intense Bible study, the Lord changed my life and I just didn’t have the energy for it! There was a motherhood study that was reputed to have light homework…now that was for me. So I went to this large, well-organized church to find that no one who had signed up for the mother’s study had showed up that morning! Well…the Lord had wanted me in “Breaking Free” all along and I knew it when a lady politely asked me if I’d mind sitting in on the Beth Moore study just this week. I told her, “Well, I think I’m really supposed to be in that study anyway, so it’s all for the best.”
Unbeknownst to me, Beth Moore had also dealt with a failed adoption placement, and in her study,“Breaking Free,” she tackled head on the pain of her loss and shared her story. I was undone to know that God had placed me in that study because he knew I’d need to hear that story! I was exposed to hard and precious truths that were therapeutic to my weary soul.
I was in bondage to my fear. I was fearful of losing Anna too (due to a possible second heart surgery). I didn’t know how to fix our marriage and I felt exhausted and hopeless.
Here was an excerpt from the study that spoke directly to my fear. These are Beth Moore’s words:
“God has carefully and graciously allowed some of my fears to come true so that I would discover that I would not disintegrate. I’ve experienced a few things I was sure would destroy me. But guess what? They didn’t. Not because I’m so strong, but because God taught me to survive on His unfailing love. It wasn’t fun, but it was transforming! I’m slowly coming to accept that the only thing I absolutely cannot survive is the loss of God’s love. That is a loss I will never have to try.”
“Perhaps the most profound miracle of all is living through something we thought would kill us. And not just living, but living abundantly and effectively – raised from a living death to a new life.”
I just have to ask you. Does anyone need to hear this good news today? Do you need to know that you can be raised from the death you are feeling today? God has a new life planned – and it’s for you.
Dwight would come home from work in those days and see me weeping over my Bible study workbook and say, “are you sure this study is good for you?” “Yes,” I assured him, “so good…”
Dwight and I sought out a Godly counselor who helped us with our profound, yet quite different manifestations of grief. I’m happy to say our marriage is stronger than ever and we have a new appreciation for each other and the strengths God has blessed us with. We know our areas of weakness and we know the signs of being over-stressed. Any marriage is hard work and when life brings exhausting circumstances, it takes a toll. We ask the Lord to continue to bless our marriage and we still seek the counsel we need at times.
Anna had a cardiac catheterization on October 31, 2007 at Texas Children’s Hospital, and it was determined her heart was stable and would not need an additional open-heart surgery at that time. God’s grace was abounding.
Immediately after Tommy left, as a form of therapy, I investigated adoption agencies. I knew in my heart God had another child for us. We found a wonderful small Christian agency that put the spiritual and emotional wellness of the birth mother as paramount. In September 2007 we submitted the initial paperwork and began the process for becoming approved to adopt. Then grief took over and I just couldn’t finish that paperwork. I knew God had led us to this agency, so I just trusted He’d move us forward in His timing. Once again I was waiting…
It took 7 more months, but we were officially “approved and waiting” with the adoption agency on April 1st, 2008. We knew they were going to show our profile to a birthmother for the first time on April 9th. Halleluiah, this time God’s plan required no waiting. Amazingly, we were chosen by that birthmother!! Even the agency folks were shocked! Who gets picked the first time out of the gate? Us, that’s who. She was due at the end of May and we made plans to meet. But, again God had other plans, and four days later, on April 13, 2008 we got a call from the agency telling us that our baby was coming 7 weeks early and we’d better high-tail it to Austin to meet him!
Our son was born before we could pack a bag and jump in the car. He was a tiny preemie, just 3lbs 6oz, but healthy. We knew he was the child of the Luke 1:45 promise, our third miracle. “Blessed is she who has believed what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” There was only one name for this boy…Luke.
So Luke Michael Scott Mathers was born on April 13, 2008. As we drove from Houston to Austin we mused about his birthdate…then Dwight asked me to look up the date Tommy first came home…April 13, 2006 exactly two years before. The Lord keeps his promises.
When we were waiting for Luke I had just one request – that the baby who came next would be a good sibling to Anna. You know God loves his wee ones. He answered that prayer! They are best friends. They play for hours together every day.
Today Anna and Luke are our delight. They fit so perfectly into our family. There is no doubt God always planned for them to be our children. They have both received Jesus as their personal savior too! The Lord has plans for these two.
Now I have a confession. I needed to remember and retell this for me probably more than for y’all. I wish I could tell you that we all lived happily ever after. I have two wonderful children. But God has challenged them both. Anna has had 8 operations in 9 years – mostly small but yes, she did end up having a corrective open-heart surgery when she was 6. DC doctor’s appointments are a regular part of her life. Luke is strong willed and has his own struggles.
So I’m grateful for the opportunity to remember how far the Lord has brought these two. I’m honored to retell of God’s goodness. We must continue to remind ourselves that the God of the Universe is still working on our behalf and that there are blessings yet in our future…and in Anna and Luke’s future. In my future…in your future.
You know, I don’t know why God has chosen to let these awesome kids have difficulties but recently the Lord brought this scripture to mind. When the disciples asked why a man had been born blind. Did he sin or did his parents? Jesus answered:
“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” John 9:3
Now all kids are on loan to us from the Father – adopted or natural. These kids are God’s kids. They are both now sealed for the day of redemption. If He chooses to reveal His power through their lives I commit…as hard as that is for a mama…to wait for it. I commit to keep the faith. And I commit to keep the eyes of my heart open to the next miracle. It’s probably just around the corner…