Adoption, Faith, and Surrender, by Rachel Garlinghouse

A photo by Michael Fertig.“Let your faith be bigger than your fear.”

It’s been pinned thousands of times. We all understand that we are supposed to know and feel and believe that God is bigger than any challenge, foe, or bump in the road. But what is supposed to be, and what is, isn’t always one-in-the-same.

How do you practically “let” faith be bigger than fear? Speak it? Pin it? Chant it? Stick a post-it to your bathroom mirror? Make it your phone home screen? Get a cool graphic tee that let’s everyone know that you just, “LOVE you some Jesus?”

My husband and I have adopted four times. We are a Christian family. You would think this would prove to us that God is, well, GOD. He has shown up for us in four very big (and blessed) ways. So why is it that each adoption journey is such an incredible struggle? An epic battle between trust and tribulation? Assurance and anxiety? Courage and confusion?

Adoption has taught me one big lesson, and not only in the midst of a journey to our next child, but in the midst of parenting as well. That lesson is this: God is not a “hit me up and walk away blessed” Father. God is a “you’re going to need me your entire life” kind of Father. A Father who knows that even though you may be weak, He is ever strong. You know … the good kind? The one that doesn’t kick you out of the nest the first time you have the slightest pinch of confidence that you can fly all on your own?

Let me break it down for you.

Adoption #1:  We chose to adopt because after a year-and-a-half of illness, I had an answer. I was on my deathbed (literally) in an ER when a doctor burst in and said, “We know why you’ve been so ill.” I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Basically, my body had not only failed me, but straight-up turned on itself. My beta cells, responsible for keeping my blood sugar in check, were done. Yet, I was saved in the nick-of-time … and, for a reason. On day three of my hospital stay, when a diabetes nurse educator came in to talk to me about injecting insulin and counting carbohydrates, the subject of having kids came up. As she began to talk about the risks of having a biological baby, the idea of adoption popped into my heart, and I knew, without a doubt, that’s what we would do.

I embarrassingly assumed that adopting would be as easy as deciding to adopt (thank you, Lifetime and Hallmark movies, where everything is resolved, usually during a picturesque snowfall, in a matter of two hours). Not so much. A year after I decided upon adoption, my husband came around to the idea. And then we had to choose an avenue, an agency, and complete a home study. Then of course, the worst part: waiting.

Our first adoption, from the day adoption popped into my heart until our baby came home, took almost three years. It was torture. I spent many nights asking God, why? Why do I have this disease? Why don’t I have a baby in my arms if You impressed adoption upon my soul? Why are we waiting so long? What is wrong with us? Am I worthy of being someone’s mother?

Adoption #2: Our daughter was two-years old. We knew we wanted her to have a sibling. We filled out the paperwork knowing this time, we might wait even longer than we did the first time. We braced ourselves for more doubt, confusion, and uncertainty. But we felt God say “go,” and we did.

On our first day of waiting, yes the first day, we got the call. Another girl. Come now. She’s here.

God has an incredible sense of humor. I think He enjoys surprising His children. And surprise He did!

Adoption #3: Like clockwork, two years later, we filled out the paperwork again. We were soon matched with a mom who was certain she was having a girl. Three girls! And then it came time for the sonogram. Definitely not a baby girl! His due date was sketchy, so we had an entire month blocked off on our calendar as the “maybe baby” days.

Our little man arrived when he wanted to, or perhaps when God ordained him to come, on my thirty-first birthday!

Adoption #4: Our son was over age three, and I just felt a constant urge to adopt again. My husband?  Not so much. “I’m good,” he would say. And sometimes ask me, “Don’t you feel that our hands are full enough?” “No!” I would reply, half-serious, half joking, as I wrangled another child into bed for the evening or cleaned up another food spill. He eventually decided: we can try to adopt again, but not forever. If we don’t get the call within a year, we’re done.

I said, “Okay, let’s do this. But no long matches. No complicated situations. No long-distance relationships. I want a short match, a baby born in our state (blasted ICPC is horrible). I want an easy-as-pie adoption.”

The funny thing about guidelines and rules and boundaries? God doesn’t work on people-terms. Praise Him!

Five month match. First hospital experience. Longest “maybe yes, maybe no” season of my life. As I worried and worried during our long match, God finally told me one day, quite clearly: “Stop waiting for something bad to happen.”

In September, on the very last day of summer, I sat on a stool in an operating room, my heart pounding, and watched my little girl come into the world.

I know that many times, we’d much prefer the Easy Button. We don’t want to expose our hearts to potential loss, disappointment, or pain. We don’t want to experience the shattering of our hearts when God’s answer is “no” or “not now.” Yet, we desperately want our faith to be bigger than our fears, than our plans, than our expectations.

I’m here to urge you that the key is not to “let” but to be “letting.” Surrendering to God is a continual action, not a button we push once in awhile. There is never a time when surrender, redemption, grace, confession, and willingness are inappropriate.

God wants you to be letting, friend. Not just now. Not just tomorrow. But all the days: throughout the waiting and the parenting. Faith isn’t a one-way train ride. Faith is a ferris wheel: a never ending ride through life.


RG book-3Rachel Garlinghouse is a mom to four children, all of whom were adopted.  She’s authored five books, hundreds of articles, and appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and NPR.  Rachel enjoys top knots, coffee with a dollop of ice cream, and kitchen dance parties.  Learn more and connect with Rachel on social media via her blog White Sugar, Brown Sugar.


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2 thoughts on “Adoption, Faith, and Surrender, by Rachel Garlinghouse

  1. Thank you so much for this post. My husband and I are just now looking to adoption for our fourth child. We are just in the getting info stage and I’ve been feeling like it’s already a hopeless journey. This helped me so much today. Thank you!

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