the special needs adoption question posed to the panel at Desiring God's disability conference

As I listen to Q&A panels at conferences, I jot notes while considering how I would respond to each question. After all, as a (woefully ill-equipped, were it not for God's grace) national speaker on special needs ministry and adoption, I am often put on the spot with questions like those posed to panels, and it's nice to think about answers when I'm not the one with the microphone.

At Desiring God's disability conference I attended last month, one question made me pause. Greg Lucas, author of one of my all-time favorite books Wrestling with an Angel (seriously, you should click on that and buy it right now. RIGHT.NOW. I'll wait here until you're done.), was asked about special needs adoption and whether a family should ever decide against it. The question posed was, "Greg, what advice do you have for families looking to adopt? Should a family ever not adopt a child if they suspect that child might have special needs?" This video starts with his answer (which is less than 5 minutes while the rest of the video continues the other panel questions and answers):

I paused because it's such a hard question to answer in a blanket statement.

I also paused because I am close friends with two women who each decided not to adopt Zoe due to her special needs but who were both instrumental in bringing her into our family and who are both now adoptive mothers to little girls with other special needs. If they had said yes, Zoe wouldn't be ours, and their sweet girls would not be theirs.

I love Greg's answer (and I love his precious family), and it rings even truer for us now. I love how he clearly paints with his words, describing how adoption provides for us a shadow of the gospel. Even more, as Zoe's mom and Robbie's mom, I love this quote:
Had I known what my son's disabilities were going to entail and what a cost it was going to be to me, I probably would not have gone through with the adoption. That hurts really... it's really heavy to say that. I would have come up with the excuse, 'Let someone else who is more qualified handle this child.' But the beauty of all that is this, and I'll say this to parents who are considering....adopting a child with disabilities, especially severe disabilities, you will never be equipped to do that. God has to equip you to do that. And the beauty of it goes back to the gospel, He will use that child to equip you to do that. He will use that child to sanctify you and to conform you and to make you more into the image of His Son. That's the beauty of adopting a disabled child. And, like I said, I see that now, looking back on that, but God has also used my son to conform me to the image of Christ in such a way that I'm a better man because of my son. I would have never chosen that for myself, but God in His wisdom saw that it was good and designed it that way.
And I would add that it's the beauty of parenting any child with special needs.

If I'm honest, I think we might have been too scared to move forward with Zoe's adoption if we knew Robbie would have epilepsy. It's nice in special needs adoption to feel like you get to control the diagnosis. In most instances - though not ours, since Zoe caught us by surprise and we were not in process when were contacted about adopting her - you fill out a list of special needs you are and aren't open to. Down syndrome? Heart defects? Limb differences? Cerebral palsy? Fetal alcohol syndrome? Autism? Hearing Impairment?

The list goes on. As an adoptive parent, you check yes to the ones you'd be cool with and no to others, (though you never know for sure if the in-country information is complete and accurate, so I advise friends considering international adoption to be open to just about anything, just as they would be if a baby of theirs in the womb turned out to have an unexpected condition).

We didn't know much about cerebral palsy before Zoe. And we didn't know a whole lot about epilepsy until Robbie's seizure on Thanksgiving Eve. God has been sufficient in both, even as we felt like we had a little more control over CP.*

(*Not that we had control over whether or not Zoe had brain damage, but it's easy to feel like we had some control in whether or not we would say yes to God when He made it clear to us that we should move forward with her adoption. We were scared of saying "yes" since we didn't know what it would look like to parent a child with CP... but we were more scared of saying "no" since we knew that would be acting in opposition to the plan God had for us. And how glad we are that we said yes! We're still learning a lot about CP, but parenting Zoe? That's easy peasy most of the time, since she's so dear.)

I am so thankful that God's timing allowed for Robbie's seizures to hold off until Zoe was home, and I'm glad God is teaching us that we are able to handle much more than we thought... not because He doesn't give us more than we can handle but because He has given us Himself so that we can handle whatever else He brings about in our lives, for our good and His glory.