Called to Adopt (OR What Happens When You Dream Big, Godly Dreams)

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Maybe you don’t know Katie Beth McCarthy. You should. She is probably the most delightful person on earth. Okay, besides Bob Goff maybe, but I’ve never met him in person and I have met Katie Beth and her brightness and sincerity could light a city. 

Katie Beth and her husband Patrick have three sons, all adopted—Miller from Korea, Andre from Guatemala, and Keenan, a Texan. Here they are in all their preciousness:

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I asked Katie Beth to write a post for me about seeing God in adoption, and, as usual, she exploded with love and joy and wisdom all over her computer keyboard. She had a hundred things to say, all of them beautiful and all of them so insightful for those of us who haven’t adopted but who want to see God from the view of someone who has. 

What we’re going to do for today’s Field Notes Friday is to share some of Katie Beth’s words and some of mine as I observe what she’s doing as an adoptive parent and adopted child of God. 

Let’s start with a story from KB: 

Sometime around the fall of 1984, my mom took my then seven year old self to pick up my older brother from his basketball practice. We had to wait ten minutes or so on the bleachers with the other families. I became fascinated with a little black boy toddling around the bottom of the bleachers. Most of my memories of him are vague…but I think he dropped something and I handed it back to him…and he graced me with one of those breathtaking, heartbreaking smiles that God gives children.

Oh, I fell in love.

I went back to sit with my mom and told her that I wanted that little boy or one exactly like him. It was at that moment when I first had the concept of adoption explained to me and it was that moment when a dream was born in my heart…a dream to have a little black boy one day.

So, when I, Jennifer Gerhardt, first read this story, I thought it was kinda, I don’t know, racist-y. I asked Katie Beth about it, because she is exactly the kind of person to whom you can say, “Maybe this is racist” and not worry about offending her at all.

She reminded me that she was a little girl in the South. A little girl who didn’t ever see white people with black children. And the idea that a white girl could have a black child was beautiful and exciting and fascinating to her little God-loving, people-loving heart. She realized that day that you didn’t have to look like your kids to love them. And that maybe she was meant to love children without her white DNA.

She said, “We all have dreams when we are little - sometimes we grow out of them or forget them—but the dream born in my heart that day never left me. I was growing closer to God and I was becoming more sure of my future…a future with an adopted child.”

She went on to talk about how that dream has come true. She said:

As I sit here on a back porch in Tennessee,watching my three boys swim, I am fascinated by where God has brought me. It was He, His Holy Spirit, that placed a burning desire in my seven year old heart that day. It was He who allowed and then used a condition called PCOS to prevent my getting pregnant and who allowed my husband to produce no sperm. It was He who chose this small town, Southern girl to go outside of everyone else’s comfort zone and bring home three not-so-different, but joyously unique children. So many roadblocks, perfectly placed, landed me smack dab in the middle of motherhood.

Every adoption story I’ve ever heard is different - slightly change one variable of any of our adoptions and we might never have met our children. God seriously had His work cut out for Him to bring the five of us together. 

I love that with Katie Beth, God began calling her so early and never stopped. I love that Kate Beth’s eyes were always open, even as she decided on a man to marry, even through the fertility struggles, even through the terribly difficult complications of adopting her children. She was always looking for God and listening to His voice.

She said something as she was trying to find the root of this beautifully tangled story, something I loved. She said,  ”God called me at a very early age. He set me on this path that taught me more than just that He adopts us, more than just that I am capable of great love, more than just that racial reconciliation is imperative.” All of those things are beautiful and powerful, and have shaped Katie Beth’s life. But she went on to say that in adopting her boys, “[God] showed me how strong He made me.”

Maybe it’s good to say at this point that Katie Beth sometimes struggles to see her own awesome-ness. She actually started her reflections by calling herself “sub-ordinary” (a word I would never, never, never use to describe her). What I love about the story of her sense of calling and mission is that she so clearly sees God empowering and equipping her. 

She said, "When we have deep desires that are Godly, He can see them through…no matter how un-extraordinary we find ourselves or how unlikely the dream."

I thought of 2 Corinthians 4 and Paul’s words: “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 

I’ve always loved that picture—us as cracked pots with glory streaming through our broken places, like jack o’ lanterns (but prettier and brighter and not scary). 

That’s the Katie Beth I know, carved and powerfully illuminated.

We’ll end with these words from Mama McCarthy about her beautiful family: 

I like to think that [God] is sitting there, looking down on me, chuckling at His accomplishment of bringing us together - not one biological similarity, but fused by love that outweighs blood. And I absolutely adore how entertained He must be when He takes the ordinary (or in my case, sub-ordinary) and paints a beautiful story that could only be created by Him!