So picking up where I left off, Dave and I got married in 1985 and I took a job as a secretary in the development office of a Christian K-12 school while Dave finished his degree and then landed a corporate job several months later. After two years we moved into our first home, an old duplex - very spacious but in need of a lot of upgrades. We replaced the heating system, plumbing, and roof, along with doing major improvements on the kitchen, bathroom, walls, and woodwork.
In the late 80's I felt called to pursue a new degree that would enable me to teach ESL - both Dave and myself were being drawn to work with international students. I was able to start teaching while still completing my degree. Wouldn't you know, the week I was to take my final comprehensive exam I found out I was pregnant with Ethan. What timing! I continued teaching through my pregnancy, then took a break after he was born and later went back part-time. I think I ended up teaching about three years total. It was a wonderful experience. I loved working with many nationalities at all different proficiency levels, and one of the best parts was that we were able to house students from the program on our 3rd floor attic room with its own bath.
To backtrack a little, earlier in our marriage, when we were praying about our future, God put China on our hearts. I made a point of tutoring in Chinatown to fulfill a requirement for my coursework. We were open to God leading us to China for short or long-term missions. After I started working with international students and became a mom, I thought international adoption might be another way to live out the desires God had implanted in me.
Fast forward through Bryan and Katrina's birth, when I became a full-time mom. At this time Dave and I were planning for his career change into academia and he was diagnosed with Crohn's, which made it apparent we weren't being called overseas. For those of you who don't know, he had one surgery during those years and was in remission for six years following. (He's had a second surgery since we've been in Illinois).
When we first moved, we made the decision to send Ethan to public kindergarten. Three years later, when Ethan was entering 3rd and Bryan 1st, we decided to home-school. Even though I was convinced this was God's leading, I really wrestled with the decision because of all it would mean, the extra responsibility and changes it would bring. But an even more amazing thing happened while I was still going through that process. One Sunday at church, God woke me up and renewed the latent desire I'd had for international adoption. Here I was debating whether to take the plunge into home-schooling and God said "You think THAT'S a sacrifice, what about taking an even MORE dramatic step that will require an even bigger life change?" Wow, I was blown away.
Backtrack a little to what God was doing in the more public specter in bringing us to Illinois. We really felt called to campus ministry of some kind. The doors God opened for us were assisting in a home-based ministry to internationals, Dave being the faculty adviser to IVCF and speaking occasionally to their large groups, and Dave co-leading the Faculty Christian Fellowship. Dave was also able to lead a Bible Study with internationals, mostly who were Chinese! This was not because he went out looking for them, but rather because he was approached by a Chinese Econ student our family hosted thru a secular campus program, and that student's interest led to more students' involvement (most of whom were also Econ students).
Fast-forwarding again, we adopted Samantha and the latent dream became a reality. Our whole family went to China to bring her home, what an awesome experience. Our kids keep talking about wanting to go back for a visit.
I'm going to stop here because the rest of my story is "old news." This past year has definitely been the most life-changing of all, with Ethan's leukemia and my chronic pain condition. Life is hard, but God is good. My weakness is the means by which He can display His strength and power.
As Samantha and I were talking about the big scary ocean the other day, I told her the waves remind me of God's power. I sang "My God is so big, so strong and so mighty" with her as we left the beach and were walking to our hotel. I reminded her of the Bible story where Jesus calmed the waves. It was satisfying to hear her sing and to dialogue with her about spiritual things. All the pain is worth the gain if in the end we're focused on the Lord and His greatness.