“My senior year of high school I was voted ‘best hair.’ It seems like such a silly award now, but it was quite fitting for who I was as a person then. My only focus was to be accepted by my peers and to be like everyone else. I had grown up poor and desired so badly to fit in with my middle-class friends.
Everyone else was going to college, so that’s what I was going to do. Everyone else had dreams of a lucrative job…. so that’s what my goal was too. A relationship with Jesus was NEVER on my radar, and my childhood friends would tell you I did not fit the bill for ‘cargo van-driving, mission-minded, mom of 6.’ But, alas, it was written in the stars, and so it would be.
A few months before I graduated from college, I learned my dream advertising internship, my ticket to the only future I had ever imagined, was awarded to someone else. I was DEVASTATED.
It’s funny how God closes one door so he can open six others.
Three months later, my husband Mike and I would be pregnant with our first child. I try to tell our oldest daughter how special she is as often as I can. During delivery, her cord prolapsed, causing both of us to lose oxygen and me to lose a dangerous amount of blood. The medical staff were so unsure of the outcome, they wouldn’t even let my husband into the operating room. Our daughter’s traumatic birth was the catalyst for changing how we lived. It was our first real brush with mortality, and it created this sense of urgency we had never experienced before.
We had been given one seemingly short life and we needed to figure out what we were going to do with it.
That urgency is how we came to know Jesus.
It sounds so simple and altruistic when put in one small sentence, but it was, and still is, a messy, imperfect journey. No one goes from being a young, naive, ‘life of the party’ and ‘workaholic’ to knowing the love of Jesus overnight. We’ve had times, even now, where we’ve been self-focused and gone down many worldly rabbit holes. We’re only human. We’ve done our best to rid our lives of unnecessary distractions (like debt), and we’ve been mindful to protect the things we loved (like travel) that bring us closer to all God might intend for our lives.
Our love of travel and a grand adventure is how we ended up in Guatemala.
There are so many wonderful things I have come to adore about this special country located in Central America over the last five years. It’s best known for being the land of eternal spring, beautiful volcanoes, and amazing culture. Unfortunately, it’s also a place of oppression and extreme poverty. To this day, I am still in awe of how all these things coexist in one small place.
Our first mission trip in 2015 made me empathize with what these amazing people experience on a daily basis. It opened my eyes to the extreme conditions roughly 10% of the world still live in today. I was practical enough to know we couldn’t change the whole world but crazy enough to want to change the world for one person.
Or 3 people.
It still makes me laugh that the first mission trip Mike talked me into led to me talking him into adoption. I must be very persuasive because, ten months after that first trip to Guatemala, we were approved for the adoption of a sibling group from a small country in Eastern Europe called Bulgaria.
Months turned into a year, and a year turned into two years. Before we knew it, we had gone back to Guatemala seven times while waiting for news of an adoption match. Even though Guatemala doesn’t allow adoptions, we fell in love with 180 kids at a little school called Escuela Integrada, which serves the poorest children and their families in the city of Antigua. I’m going to be brutally honest: I grew up poor, but my American poverty was luxurious in comparison to my Guatemalan friends’.
Loving people in Guatemala who come from hard places is both effortless and heavy. Effortless in that these people love life in a way their conditions should never warrant. It’s so infectious and incredibly humbling. And loving them is heavy in that I can never properly thank them for healing my own heart as we have lived life together. It’s not lost on me what an honor it is to be allowed to help and to be trusted by people who society seems to have forgotten. I try to remember that on the days when my own children from hard places seem to be feeling the effects of their traumatic pasts.
In October of 2018, just days after telling our family we were pregnant again, our adoption agency called to tell us we had FINALLY been matched with our kids. We were going to be parents to three children, two boys and a girl. There is an element of rainbows and butterflies that makes the process of adoption seem almost like a fairy tale. Even among the hiccups, you can have a hard time believing it’s all real. That’s how I felt staring at their sweet little faces for the first time, crying in disbelief.
That feeling didn’t last long as I digested the realities of our unique situation. We were going to have a newborn and three new children who didn’t speak our language. I joke about God teaching me many virtues through this process, but I am not sure I will ever forget the amount of control I had to relinquish with God’s timing for DOUBLING OUR FAMILY. I guess it’s a good thing we love a big adventure because preparing a home and welcoming four new kids was just that… a crazy, stressful, life-changing adventure!
In the year 2019, we gave birth to our third child in April, welcomed our three new children from Bulgaria in July, and we found ourselves right back in Guatemala in August. I remember the very first morning of that first trip to Guatemala as a family of eight. Our newly adopted kids had a very fragile trust of us as their new parents, and I stressed about how we would manage such a trip so soon after becoming a blended family.
But, to my amazement, they stood on that balcony in awe and wonder of the breath-taking volcano. The same volcano we had admired so many times while waiting for them. The peace in the air was almost palpable. It was truly a full-circle, fairy-tale moment for me, and I’ll remember it until my dying day.
This past year hasn’t always been easy or magical like that first morning in Guatemala. There are days that make me wonder what the heck we got ourselves into. But, we continue to let love be a buffer for the messy stuff. I’m also not ashamed to have a good glass of wine or call a babysitter when the day has handed it to us.
I’m cautiously aware of how unconventional our life looks to the average person. Our life is exactly as you might imagine it: crazy, loud, and, at times, a little overwhelming. There is nothing sexy about taking six kids on a plane or driving a church van, but these are necessary elements to experience the things that bring us the greatest joy. I know this nomadic big-family life is not what everyone desires for their life. That’s ok. It takes all types to make the world go round.
It’s been my experience, though, that everyone can find their purpose as a ‘doer’ or ‘fueler.’ Mike and I desire to be ‘doers’ because nothing excites us more than experiencing everything first-hand. But, we wouldn’t be where we are without the ‘fuelers.’ They’ve supported our family spiritually, emotionally, and they’ve given abundantly to the work in Guatemala. We are forever grateful for both the doers and the fuelers of our world.
I hope our children, particularly our adopted children, never know the desire to fit in. It’s an impossibly hard habit to break… I’m still working on it after 33 years. I hope our children only ever experience the thrill of a burning desire to make the world a better place and support a cause Jesus lays on their hearts. No matter how crazy that makes them look.
I don’t know what our future holds, but our adoption journey has made me sure of one thing: I never want to get to the finish line of this earthly life with regrets. I never want to apologize for having been too afraid to dive into what Jesus knew I was capable of all along. Sometimes I wonder if he’s got the right woman for the job, but I know deep down this crazy, unconventional life was always meant to be, and it was, most definitely, always meant for me.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Morgan Neubauer. You can follow her journey on her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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