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For Your Marriage

Dennis and Mary Jo Weiss have been married for more than 30 years. They write about a shared love of nature, prayer, and their children and grandchildren from their home in Hamburg, New York.

Adoption Story, Part 2: God In the Details

A note from the editor: this is part 2 of Dennis and Mary Jo’s adoption story. You can read part 1 here.

When we decided to adopt a boy from Russia, it was the realization of a dream, and the resolve of a good deal of conflict between us over when our family was “complete”.

It had bothered me that Dennis and I seemed to be so at odds with one another over aspects of building our family, such as when to begin having children or how many we were open to. And though I adored our four daughters in every way, I could not deny that I longed to raise a son as well, and wondered why Dennis did not share in that dream.

Dreams are a very powerful force in our lives, and when a dream becomes reality it can be both joyful and a little disconcerting at the same time. As I watched Dennis come down the hall at the airport with Peter, a flood of emotion overwhelmed me. Here was my first glance at the boy who would be our son, and the struggles of the adoption process seemed to fade into the background with the joy of his arrival.

The girls were jumping around, so excited to greet and hug their new brother, who really wanted no part of any of it. His first days at home were pretty crazy, as we began to learn and understand more of the effects on him of three-and-a-half years of neglect.

We wondered what he must be thinking and our hearts went out to how difficult this must be for him!

A visit to the doctor shortly after he arrived left more unanswered questions. I remember that Peter was sitting on the cold tile floor, for he would not sit in my lap, wearing only a diaper. Severely malnourished, his back was covered in a mass of scabs from both scabies and some self-abuse. He held a small baby toy, which he stared at and twirled repeatedly.

I wondered many things. Who was this little one, and would we be able to meet his needs? How much of his difficulties were due to early years of neglect, and how much was permanent? Would our love be able to help him to overcome a very rough start in life? Was God’s hand over this situation and would He guide us to know what would be best for Peter? What would be the effect of this new child on our other children?

In one of the most powerful prayers I have ever uttered, I asked God to help me despite my fears for this child, asking Him to carry that which I could not.

The response seemed immediate. In the cold of the room, I felt an inner warmth and peace that reassured me that God was in this situation, and that Peter was first and foremost a child of His, and that Dennis and I must let His grace unfold.

After that, so many wonderful moments began to occur. One night we had a profound breakthrough with Peter. Several months after he was with us, he was sitting on the floor of his bedroom while we helped the other children get ready for bed. We kept a gate across his doorway to keep him safe from the stairs, as he was not yet very coordinated with his walking. He had just recently been able to look at a book without tearing the pages out. He did not speak yet, and he seldom cried.

Suddenly, I heard a loud sound coming from his room. As I neared his room, I saw Peter sitting on the floor with a book open in his lap. He was sobbing, loud heart-wrenching sobs that shook his whole body. I stepped over the gate, lowered myself down to the rug and scooped Peter into my lap. He began pointing at the page and continued to sob. I looked at the page to see what had triggered such a heart-rending response.

It was a book about Moses, and the page that was open showed a baby in a basket made from reeds, and a sister waving good-bye. I knew immediately what had triggered this response, and I simply held him and rocked him for a long time.

After that, he began to make great strides in speaking and interacting. It seemed that something had been faced and released in him, and it amazed me as I watched God’s faithfulness to His promise in the doctor’s office. He was guiding us in every way about how to raise this puzzle of a child, who cried at the moon and hid part of his meal in the roof of his mouth for later. Of course, to their credit, his sisters were his best therapy with their care and concern for every aspect of Peter’s development, even though we sometimes had to rescue him from his sister Jessie sitting on him!

If I even had a question about whether God was guiding us, I would reflect on the way our family was drawing together and how many blessings this boy was bringing to us all and what good qualities I saw being drawn out of our daughters as they helped their brother. And to see Dennis’s deep love for his son brought a joy that was healing and unifying to the two of us.

I recall one morning having to check the mountain of paperwork that we still had on Peter, looking for a piece of information for a form I was filling out. And I found yet again evidence of a God who shows us His presence in the smallest details. Deep in my mother’s heart, I longed for each of my children to be born of love…and as I searched through the paperwork on our orphan son, I noticed that the name of his deceased mother was the Russian word for…”love”.

It is deeply reassuring to serve a God who loves us so much He not only knows the number of hairs on our head, but the deepest desires of our hearts as well.