The Parker Family
As many of you know, one of my first loves was teaching.
Now, years later, I can’t hear the song “Cruise” without thinking of my sweet Isaiah.
I say, “my.” He’s not really mine, but I’d claim him.
Actually, he claimed me, too, once. As a kindergartener, he asked if I would marry him!
After hearing how he buckles Jesus in the middle seat between him and his sister, Shamara, I knew he was just my type! Just 20 years too young…
But yes, I’ll hear this song come on the radio and think of how little Isaiah would sing this song while he worked, “Baby, you a song. You make me wanna woll my windows down and cwuuuuise!”
With Isaiah in the room, there is a tangible sweetness and peace, even in a room full of five and six year olds. I once overheard him telling another student,
“You should know... Jesus and Miss Cofer are always watching…” - Isaiah, age 5.
Classroom poster idea? I think so!
Over that year and the summer that followed, I came to know Isaiah and his sister, Shamara, and their younger siblings, Zoey and Jonah.
Meet The Parker’s
Although not formed in the traditional way, God’s hand brought this family together.
After eight long years of infertility and surgeries, David and Shannon decided to pursue adoption. Straight adoption would be the easier route. They learned foster care, with the possibility of losing another child, was just too hard.
Foster care turned from hopeful anticipation to “a slap in the face.” Becoming attached, getting to know a child as your own one day just to lose them the next was more than they could take.
They soon realized, straight adoption would be easier, sure.
But easier is not always better.
Although it would be so painful to open their hearts and home to another foster child and potentially lose them, the pain paled in comparison to the opportunity of giving a child a loving and safe home, even if only for a few days, weeks or months.
“That’s why we’re here on earth. It’s not about us.”
It was a decision rooted in love, and as scripture tells us,
Perfect love casts out fear. - 1 John 4:18
As soon as they came to peace with foster care, an opportunity came to adopt three little boys. Straight adoption, no threat of losing one.
Surprised with the quick turn of events, they thought, “Three and done, alright!”
However, the coming days revealed this was not God's plan for them or for the kids. The week they were supposed to gain three new sons, a court order placed the children in the care of extended family.
Another slap in the face and a punch in the heart.
Sometimes the plan God has for us is on a path of heartache.
But, God wasn’t done.
Heartache doesn't mean it's over, and it doesn't mean give up.
Soon thereafter, they received a call to foster two children - a two year old little girl and a fifteen month old little boy.
“At 2:30 that afternoon, I was a mom!”
Crash Course in Motherhood
The case worker brought the children to their home and mentioned how the young boy, Isaiah, had “a little cough.” She nonchalantly added, “You might want to watch that.”
As the case worker left, Shannon admits she and David looked at each other in bewilderment and shock. Sure, they had been preparing and wanting this, but now they have two babies in their living room. “What are we supposed to do?”
When considering adoption, there’s an unspoken fear. It’s unspoken because no one wants to admit it. It just doesn't sound good. But I believe if you can speak to something, you can overcome it. You may be considering adoption yourself and wondering this same thing -
Will the child ever feel like your own?
Take it from The Parker’s, the answer is ABSOLUTELY, YES!
“The moment we took these babies in our arms, we just wanted to protect and care for them. That Momma Bear instinct comes right in!”
Good thing, too. Turns out, Isaiah had more than “a little cough.” They spent their first night as a family in the ER as they treated his chronic bronchitis.
It was just the first of many, many challenges. Since day care didn’t kick in for two weeks and paternity leave was not an option, grandparents were called in as reinforcements. Working as a new mom was tough, especially when catching the same sickness as the kids.
Welcome to motherhood...here’s a hefty dose of bronchitis with a side of pink eye for ya!
Again, God’s plan for us is not always an easy, smooth path. Sometimes it's rocky, but even this has a purpose. He uses the rocky places along the way to refine us, even sanctify us.
While their foster son was overall happy but recovering from sickness, their foster daughter, Shamara, was sweet but also noticeably angry. Rightfully so. She had been left to raise her baby brother, and she was only two and a half! Watching someone else try to give him a bath or put him to bed made her angry. That was her job.
They were all adjusting to life as a family and learning to trust one another.
If adjusting to life with two new babies wasn’t challenging enough, add hosting case workers to the mix. Shannon remembers the pressure to keep an immaculate home while still living your life was...
“...insanity but the time of my life!"
Becoming a Family of 6
Two years as a family of four and both adoptions finalized, the desire for another baby surfaced.
Their church was home to many children in foster care. Seeing one little boy, she told her husband, “I love that baby!” He calmly and rationally explained it was just because he was cute.
Confident and unwavering, she said, “No, he’s not just cute. I LOVE that baby! Why don’t we ask CPS if we can have him?”
No-go. He would be joining his sister in foster care.
But, if God wants something to happen, He will make it happen.
"If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. ...the righteous shall live by faith." - Habakkuk 2:3-4
Two days later, they were notified the sister’s placement was not working out and asked if they would be willing to take both of them. Having always planned for three, they were not prepared to take in two more children.
Turns out, this little girl had also been at church and David had become attached. Two weeks later, they welcomed Zoey and Jonah to their family!
An unexpected attorney fee was involved a few months later. As someone who hunts for coupons and cuts pennies, David jokingly pointed out, “I’ve never seen you write a check that quick.”
It was true, and her response revealed her heart,
“He’s worth every bit.”
Going from an only child to a mom of four, “I was learning and growing so much through this. If I can do this, anyone can.”
Their racial differences are a non-issue for them, choosing to have grace for others when comments arise. Instead of becoming defensive or upset, they see comments from fellow classmates, such as “You don’t look like your mom,” as learning opportunities for other kids.
From learning disabilities and emotional damage from their early childhood exposure, there was lot of fear early on. Even still, they’ve witnessed these kids blossom and grow in spite of everything against them. From reported behavior problems every day to thriving in school and earning the A/B Honor roll.
Even having been exposed to the most awful, unspeakable circumstances, they are now growing into everything God made them each to be.
One of the biggest hurdles for Shannon through this time in her life was worry. Looking back on the years of infertility,
“I wish I would have relaxed and enjoyed our time together more. God had His plan all along and you can’t force those things. I wanted so badly to have a baby, but I would not give up what I have now to experience that. God had a plan for them and for me.”
One thing is certain. Life will not go as planned. But, we can plan to be surprised!
Wherever this story finds you -
Whether you’re facing the pain of infertility or you’re experiencing the slap in the face of foster care or the daily phone calls from the school for behavior or learning disabilities with your own children...
Maybe you have never walked this path towards adoption, maybe you’re considering it, maybe it’s a path someone you know is walking or it's a path you will walk one day...
Maybe circumstances led you to give your child up for adoption and your heart often feels the sadness of the loss of connection but also the hope for the life your child now has...
Maybe you identify with the path of heartache in a different way and you're wondering if God has heard your prayers on this rocky road of refinement...
Whatever it is, I pray you are encouraged and more deeply rooted in faith in hearing The Parker's story.
Let us always remember we serve a God who makes,
“All things work together for good of those who love him, who are called according to his purposes.” - Romans 8:28
May we share Shannon’s hope for her children and live a life that shows others...
“A relationship with God is the most valuable thing they can ever have - nothing else is guaranteed. It’s about family. Not money. Not things. Education is valuable but never the most important.”
Let’s find strength now for the unexpected days ahead. Let's live by faith, believing there is joy on the other side of this just up ahead. Heaven is hanging over the rails cheering us on. Let’s listen for that rally cry when the sorrow and frustration are all we can see. Let’s find peace in His sovereign hand and rest knowing He has been preparing us for this path all along. Let's lean into Him and know He is with us every step of the way.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!
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