What Were You Thinking, God?

Like all normal parents, my husband and I eagerly anticipated the births of each of our four children. We marveled at their perfectly formed bodies as they were placed in our arms for the first time. And as they grew, we delighted in each new accomplishment.

After our fourth child was born, we felt a desire to pursue adoption. We came close to adopting on two occasions, but as often is the case with adoption, both fell through. Shortly after the second failed adoption, my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. It was at this point that we recognized God’s sovereign hand in not allowing these adoptions to take place.

My husband made it though his cancer battle and as his reports came back clear year after year, so did our dream to adopt. One night we sat on our living room floor as a family, held hands and pleaded with God to let us adopt. A few months later as my husband was traveling home from his 5 year cancer checkup (a milestone for cancer patients), he took a call from a friend who worked for a ministry that placed special needs children with Christian families. Our friend had just returned from visiting orphanages in Guatemala and told us of an opportunity to adopt from an orphanage there. We were elated! We chose a beautiful little girl named Katerine whose cerebral palsy left her unable to walk and with limited use of her hands.

We spent the next 18 months completing our “paperwork pregnancy” and looking forward to the day we would bring Katerine home. Our children shared the anticipation and excitement and we were thankful God was answering our prayers. We saw our dream fulfilled on a snowy day in January 2009 when we brought Katerine home. We were greeted by our children and son-in-law at the airport. Katerine was now part of a family–our family!

As the weeks passed, however, we began to realize Katerine’s needs were much greater than we expected. We had been told by the orphanage that although Katerine suffered physically from her cerebral palsy, she was completely normal mentally. We were now realizing that this was not the case; Katerine was mentally handicapped as well. This painful and growing realization overwhelmed us as we came to terms with the fact that our lives would be forever changed. I daily found myself asking, “What were You thinking, God, allowing us to adopt a child with so many needs at my age?”

Nonetheless, we could not get away from the fact that God had ordained this. His perfect plan was for Katerine to be part of OUR family. As we look back over these past three years, we could never have anticipated how He would use this little girl to expose within us selfish attitudes and behaviors. It is clear to us now that God wanted to conform us to His image through this little girl He so dearly loved.  This wasn’t a punishment or some trick God was playing; it was His perfect plan to sanctify us.

As we continue to work through our feelings we recognize more and more our need to surrender to God’s will. We still have days when keeping a good attitude can be a chore, but we are able to see Katerine as a delightful little girl God has lovingly placed in our lives. And Katerine and I actually have something in common: we’re both handicapped. Just as Katerine has many deficiencies, I, too, fall utterly short of His desire for me and I am a work in progress. Thankfully, God understands my deficiencies and is patient with me.

How about you? Have you ever felt like God tricked you or pulled a “bait and switch” on you? Just remember, His will is “good, pleasing and perfect” and nothing happens to you that does not first pass through His loving hands.  Isaiah got it right when he wrote, “Yet, O LORD, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand”, (Isaiah 64:8).

From one lump of clay to another,


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    • Barb Spencer says

      Thanks for your kind words, Rachel. I’m humbled to be able to share how God has worked in our lives…it’s not without pain, but it is for our good.

  1. saravdt says

    wow what a great reminder so needed to hear that and always remember in the what is even with our kids that they where placed in our family by God and that is no mistake thank you so beautifully written

    • Barb Spencer says

      Thank you, Sara! It is such a comfort, too, knowing that whatever God allows in our lives, He will help us through. ~Blessings

  2. Amy says

    God has taught me and changed me much through my step daughter, who is also mentally delayed. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, but He wasn’t surprised!

    • Barb Spencer says

      I can totally relate to what you’re saying, Amy. It’s through these challenges that we learn how handicapped we are how much in need of His grace. Paul had it right when he wrote,”…in our weakness, He is made strong.”

  3. Lahinman says

    Dear Barb, you have no idea how much I needed to hear this — but certainly the Lord did!! We have 4 biological children and 4 children adopted through the Foster Care system. 3 of those 4 have mental handicaps due to FAS and the other has emotional handicaps due to abuse. And, though our family knows that we have been given precious gifts in these children, many times I have found myself asking “what were you thinking, God???” THANK you for sharing your story.

    • Barb Spencer says

      Dear friend, I can imagine the feelings you experience. Sometimes, you must feel on overload (I know I do), but God is there and as we seek His help, we find Him to be sufficient for our needs. God bless you as you have a great ministry there.

  4. Tina O says

    Barb, thank you for sharing your blessed story with all of the readers on this blog. All too often people pity those with a mental or physical disability and the parents who have to take on the extra challenges. I’ve seen and experienced enough of it to know… as my son who is 4 has severe cerebral palsy and is the the perfect gift that God could give. His grace is always sufficient. Quick story: ! I had lunch at a restaurant today with my son and the waitress commented, out of the blue, that I was so patient with him. My reply: my son has taught me patience… I was lacking before he arrived. God bless you and your family!

    • Barb Spencer says

      Tina, thank you for your kind words. I’m thankful for this situation for so many reasons, but the one I’m most thankful for is that through having Katerine for a daughter, I’ve come to see how much work God has to do in me. I want to be more like the Savior and she has exposed so much in my life that needs to change to become more like Him. Thank you for sharing your story and for modeling Christ to others. ~Barb

    • Barb Spencer says

      Jennifer, I hope this was encouraging. The Body of Christ is a beautiful thing and we definitely need each other. ~Blessings

  5. says

    What a beautiful story. I used to work for a woman with CP. This was my first experience working so closely with a handicapped person. Although this woman was intelligent, I have been forever humbled and blessed by my experience with her. Sometimes it’s hard to see the full opportunities that God provides for us especially when there are tests along the way. But the beauty of it all eventually becomes apparent. May your family continue to be blessed.

    • Barb Spencer says

      Thank you, Laura! While we gave Katerine a family to belong to, she’s given us so much, too. She’s so much more forgiving than we are and she has given us a glimpse of the way God sees us…He loves us even though we fall so short. May you be blessed as well.

  6. says

    Barb, you are beautiful inside and out. And Katerine is also beautiful. God did indeed pick the right parents at the right time for Katerine. It is so hard to accept God’s will in our lives when the times are tough. I know I just want to throw myself on my bed, cry and just give up. But when I hear of people like you and your husband, it gives me courage to move forward and trust what God has put on my plate. Thank you for opening your heart to us and may God bless you and your family.

    • Barb Spencer says

      Thank you, Lisa. I am blessed and humbled by your words. There is to be a perception we all have that everyone else has it together, but we all have trials in our lives and when we can open up and be vulnerable, we can find healing and we don’t feel so alone. We are all needy and that’s where grace comes in, isn’t it? Blessings to you and your family. ~Barb

  7. says

    I could relate to so many of the emotions in this post Barb.
    When we adopted our Selah and then later learned about her genetic terminal disease, it was so so SO confusing. But I also totally completely believe what you shared here & in the comments…that Katerine is a blessing from Him and that she has given much to your family.
    Selah was a huge gift to our family. I know she was from Him…specifically for us.
    It’s so hard to trust when you can’t see “around the corner”…when you can’t see things from His perspective…but tonight at church we were studying Gen. 22…Abraham and Isaac…and it just hit home–
    That we have to trust who God is. His love for us. His unbroken promises.
    So much reassurance in that (even when it’s really really hard).
    And it all (Katerine’s story included) keeps me longing for Heaven.
    I always appreciate your posts. thank you.

    • Barb Spencer says

      I know you can relate, Kara. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. Though there is so much we can’t see as you said, “around the corner”, so many times we can look back and see God’s hand in all of it. Our feelings are not at all good indicators of what things truly are…so we trust God that He remains constant and that all He allows into our life is meant to hone us into the believers He desires for us to be. He wants us to experience the good life and it is only through bending to His will that we can do that. Won’t it be an awesome day when you can hold precious Selah in your arms and when we can be with Christ who will hold us in His arms. Thanks, Kara. You’re always an encouragement as well. Love,Barb

  8. Stacy says

    Barb, thank you soooooo much for this post! What a blessing! We adopted a little boy who was 2 years old at the time with special needs and his behaviors were a huge trial for me and my family. There came a point when I had to get down on my knees and ask the Lord to change my heart. Yes, all of us are “work in progress” and I know that the Lord knew exactly what he was doing when our son was placed with our family. The Lord was able to transform both my son and me. We love him so much and his sweet little personality shines!

    • Barb Spencer says

      You know, Stacy, there is a connection we adoptive parents share. These little ones carry so much baggage even when they are so young. And yet, when we look at ourselves from God’s perspective, we, too, have so much baggage because we were born into sin. So we share that with them. I’m very much “in the process” of becoming more like the Savior. We see the delight, too, that our Katerine has and it is a challenge to me to see the world with delight as well. God bless you as you parent your special little guy, Stacy. ~Blessings, Barb

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