Announcer: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we are here to support and encourage you along the way. And now, your hosts, Lynnette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Lynnette Ezell: We have special guest today on the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. It’s a sweet friend of Tera and I’s that we’ve known for a long time. She got into this beginning steps of adoption when this ministry was growing.
Sharon, welcome today. We’re so glad you’re here.
Sharon: Thank you. I’m excited.
Lynnette Ezell: Thanks for letting us call you this morning, and I know you’ve got a busy day ahead. You just have an incredible story, and I just wanted to give you time to share that. I know it’ll be an encouragement to other families.
When you and I began walking through adoption we already had one little girl at home, our family. We had four kids, and you had two kids. But life was just beginning to get easy for you guys, to me, on my side, right? Your daughter had gone off to college, you had a senior in high school. He was such an easy kid, to me. Life was getting easy, and so why did you decide to begin the adoption process?
Sharon: Well, I would like to say I decided, but it was kind of bigger than that. God decided. And it started when we were invited on a mission trip to China, my family of four. And we were excited about this adventure we were going on. And the adventure included working in an orphanage, just to kind of help in the area of needs, of the struggling orphanage. It didn’t have running water. So that’s why we were going to China with the Ezell family and another team of people. We get there, and it was pretty amazing, the culture in China. We get into the orphanage, and I just didn’t know how to comprehend what that experience was all about.
Anyway, at the time I was in my late 30s. Trevor was 16, and Holly was a senior in high school getting ready to graduate and go to Wheaton. So the empty nest kind of was in the back of my mind. Anyway, we’re in China, and we’re working in this orphanage, and people would say, “Oh, Sharon. Maybe you should adopt.” And I just kept saying, “No, I’ve got my hands full at home.” As it is, I don’t really think so. And my husband, Richard, he has such a heart for children, that the whole time, almost every day, he’d say, “Sharon, look at these kids. Why don’t we get these kids and take them home?” “No, no. I don’t think so. We’re just here to help the needs of the struggling orphanage. That’s all.”
But as days went on, I had witnessed some things that broke my heart. I can’t share a lot of what I saw, because I would be afraid of the listener who would have to hear it. It was overwhelming for me. And my children were grieving also. Anyway, we get home and I just was depressed for months after that. We live here in the land of plenty, and we are blessed with much. And then one day, I just broke down. And I cried. And I talked to God. And I said, “Jesus, what I witnessed in China, if there is anything I can do to serve you just show me. I’m ready to serve you. I know your Word pretty well. I’ve gone to Bible studies for the past 15 years.” Sometimes God says put the Bible study down and get up and start working.
Tera Melber: Isn’t that the truth.
Lynnette Ezell: That’s right.
Tera Melber: So Sharon, before you pursued adoption, and you were saying that you were a stay-at-home mom, that your kids were getting older, what did your days look like before your kids came home?
Sharon: I’m a tennis player. I love my tennis. It’s my work-out. And I would play tennis about two to three days a week, and I still … I give it one day a week now. Two at the most. And I hope I can play tennis until the day I die. Love my tennis. And the other days I would fill it with meeting people, and having Bible study, and luncheon afterwards. So that’s pretty much-
Tera Melber: So this was getting ready to change everything. Bringing home not just one child, but you all ended up bringing home a sibling group of three.
Sharon: Right. Yeah.
Tera Melber: That’s a game changer, right there.
Sharon: When I said yes to God, I was saying yes to one child. And we actually pursued a child that we were going to adopt, and we were all set up to fly to the Philippines to pick this child up, and we had learned some things. God closed the door to that adoption. It broke my heart, and I didn’t understand. I thought, “Lord, I told you I wanted to serve you. We wanted to serve you in this area.” And this door closes, and I was very confused. Didn’t understand His plan at that point. But our records had already been in the government’s hands in the Philippines. We were already approved. We had probably invested some money in this process of this failed adoption. And I was hurt, and I was pretty overwhelmed. At that point I just closed the door on adoption, sadly, because I just was so confused. Didn’t want to be hurt with a failed adoption.
And then about a year later, our daughter came home from college, and she is on this waiting children’s list, and she sees three kids, thought how cute they were … Doesn’t everybody do that?
Tera Melber: It’s true.
Sharon: So she brings my husband in there, who he melts anyway. And they both ganged up on me. And they said, “Sharon, look how cute these kids are.” And I’m like, “Oh my goodness, they are adorable. No. There’s just no way.” They’re like, “Oh, Mom. Come on. We can do this.” I’m like, “No, God-”
Tera Melber: Because how old were the kids when you saw their picture? Because you didn’t bring home babies. You brought home older kids.
Sharon: They were 7, 9, and 10 when we brought them home. Mm-hmm. So they had a record. Philippines, what I experienced, is very good at record keeping. Everything that was in the record file was very accurate, which I really appreciate that. I looked into it. I ordered their file, still saying no, God does not want me to adopt three older kids. But then I prayed. Like, “Lord, I am open to your will if you show me your will.”
Well, I have to include this part of the story, because I think it’s a miracle. I get their file, and I noticed on the first page it says My Father’s House. And I’m thinking, “I have one friend who has adopted a child from the Philippines and that’s it. I’m going to give Tera Melber a phone call. So I did.
Tera Melber: I remember where I was standing. I was pumping gas in Louisville, Kentucky, and I received a phone call from you that said, “Where was Mary Tess in the Philippines?” And I said, “My Father’s House.” And the conversation ensued. I will never forget that, because the crazy thing about all that is, is that when we picked up Mary Tess I have pictures of your children with our daughter the day we were in the Philippines picking her up. I mean, how sweet is the Lord?
Sharon: And that was what?
Tera Melber: Years.
Sharon: Actually, was that four years? Was that four years prior?
Tera Melber: Yes.
Sharon: … or three?
Tera Melber: Four.
Sharon: Mm-hmm. Okay.
Tera Melber: Isn’t that amazing? The Lord is so sweet.
Sharon: Well, I am not-
Tera Melber: So we had met your kids.
Sharon: Yes! And I am not good at math, but if you were a statistic expert I would love to know these odds.
Tera Melber: No kidding.
Sharon: Finding someone, the only person you know from the Philippines … I met you at a basketball game that night.
Tera Melber: Yes.
Sharon: And I sat next to you and Mary Tess, and I showed you the file, and you said, “Sharon, we have pictures of those kids from when we picked up Mary Tess.” And Mary Tess said, “That’s Mark. And I spent Christmas vacation with Mark at a caregiver’s house.” And she said, “They’re good kids.”
Tera Melber: Yeah.
Sharon: And I’m like, “Oh my goodness.” That to me was testimony that I prayed about, and that was a miracle. It was almost like God said, “Sharon. See, I’m telling you these are for you.” So He answered that prayer and many more in the process. But still three. It’s like He took an iron skillet and had to whack me over the head, because I still could not accept that one testimony. I’m pretty weak in faith, and I just needed more. And God was patient with me, and He gave me more testimony about these children.
So, I prayed, “Lord, that’s a lot to take on.” I’ve read all the books. I know what it says. It says it’s not going to be easy. But I put my trust in the Lord, and I believed the file, the paperwork, on these children that they were loving towards each other. They had a deep bond with each other, and I felt like three children like that could come to America and love me. And I could love them. And they have fit into our family beautifully. Truly an answer to prayer. Praise God that He was patient enough with me to listen and answer my prayers that way.
Lynnette Ezell: What was the hardest part? I remember navigating that with you some. I had my hands full at the same time. I had just brought home our second adoption from Ethiopia at the time, and you had the kids, and then your husband has a very successful business. He’s a very busy man. So what was the hardest part when you first got home of how to do life? What hit you the hardest that you can remember?
Sharon: I was overwhelmed with the adjustment process. Maybe if I had gotten a baby I think it might have been easier. I understood babies.
Lynnette Ezell: Right.
Sharon: But I brought home three children. They didn’t speak English. They didn’t like American food. I didn’t know what kind of food they like.
Tera Melber: A lot of rice.
Sharon: Yeah. Chicken and rice. They ate really healthy. They wake up for breakfast, and they did not want Pop Tarts. I was overwhelmed with trying to figure things like that out. Figuring out what their needs were with limited language skills.
Tera Melber: What happened to your tennis game?
Sharon: I had to quit.
Tera Melber: I bet that was hard to accept.
Sharon: It was. I had to give up a lot. I had to sacrifice a lot. And I tell you, my days were so hard. I remember it was a wearying job. It’s 24/7.
Tera Melber: Yes.
Lynnette Ezell: Mm-hmm.
Sharon: And when you’re a mother to these … It’s not like you have that instant bond. Some people, they truly believe, “Oh, God just gave these kids to me, and I just love them like they’re my own.” I’m sorry to say that didn’t happen right away. They were children I felt like I was babysitting. That bonding process, it was really, really hard. And to top it off I was so weary and tired from babysitting 24/7. I’m sorry I had to say the word babysitting, but that’s kind of how it felt. And I didn’t get a break.
I remember praying to the Lord, and the Lord was my strength every minute of every day. And I remember saying, “Help me make it to lunch time.”
Tera Melber: Right.
Sharon: And I would make it to lunch, and do all the jobs I had to do to get to lunch time. So I broke a day up into four sections, and that lasted about, maybe, three, six months? And then it got easier. We started to get adjusted. And then it went from day to day. And then after I make it from day to day, it went week to week. And the next thing you know, I’m like, “Wow. We’re doing this.” We made it.
Tera Melber: Sharon, one of my favorite stories that I have shared on multiple occasions is the story of your personal funeral. Would you mind sharing that?
Sharon: Okay. Yes. You all do love that story.
Tera Melber: I do!
Lynnette Ezell: I love it!
Sharon: The Lord brought a friend in my life, and I’d never met her personally. And she has, oh golly, about 10 kids through disruption. And when she learned that I had adopted these three kids she offered her services. She said, “I just want you to understand, life’s not going to be easy. Okay? It’s going to be hard, and I’m here to help you through this, okay?” And I took her on. I took her up on it. And so I would just email her questions, and she’d reply back. And then it got into phone conversations.
And I remember sharing with her how overwhelmed. It wasn’t the life that I expected this to be. It wasn’t fun. It was overwhelming for me. And she said to me, she said, “Sharon, you need to have yourself a funeral. Get some rocks and write on the rocks what you have to sacrifice, because once you die to all this stuff that you are struggling to give up, once you die to all that stuff then you’ll be able to move on and accept this new life Jesus has for you.” And she says, “Take those rocks, take them to the backyard, and throw each one of those rocks in the lake. And as you throw each one, you die to that.” And I thought, “Okay. I’ll give it a try.”
She’s a very artistic person. A few of the rocks were labeled freedom, friendships, expectations. So it was really sad to let go of those, but that’s when I started to grab on and accept this new life. You know something, this is biblical. Honestly, I didn’t realize it at the time, but in Romans 12 it says, “Therefore I urge you brothers in the view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. For this is your spiritual act of worship.” And I believe that that’s what God was doing with me. I was literally offering myself as a living sacrifice. So I died. And praise God, because it’s what helped me move on.
Lynnette Ezell: Well, I remember just seeing-
Sharon: Get down and dirty.
Lynnette Ezell: After that time, I didn’t know that it happened, but as your friend, just begin to see you really just bond with the children. And of course I’m going through the same thing at my house at the time. But just to see you begin to just love them, and just almost with the girls, y’all just have such a tight bond. I know you love Mark like crazy, but you and the girls were just kind of always together and just were so close. And I just really began to see that in your life. And still, we just met with you guys a couple of weeks ago, and I just admire that friendship that you have with the girls. And you’re their mom. You’re the authority in their life. You point them to Jesus. You’re their spiritual mentor. I get all that, but I just love the friendship that I see with you and the girls. And I know only the Lord can do that.
Sharon: Oh, yeah. They’re teenagers now. They’re 16, 17, and 18.
Tera Melber: Oh, Lord help.
Lynnette Ezell: So some days they like you, some days they don’t. Right?
Sharon: Oh, absolutely. Sometimes I hang the moon for them, and the other days they just can’t stand me and roll their eyes right at me.
Lynnette Ezell: Exactly. We’re right there with you.
Lynnette Ezell: So, Mark goes to college this fall, and so the kids have really just come such a long way, right?
Sharon: You know, they have. Looking back, okay … We adopted them eight and a half years ago. And this is November 13th was their Gotcha Day. So we’ve been here eight and a half years, and they are doing really well.
Tera Melber: Sharon, one of our girls recently said, just in some transition in her life, she said, “Mom, I really believe the old saying that God never gives us more than we can handle. I believe He does precisely that so that we realize we were never in control to begin with.” And that’s exactly how we have all walked this adoption journey. It was more than we could handle, more than we thought we could do, but it has been a privilege to have been in the same city with you for a little while. For our kids to have known your kids. We’re just so grateful that you shared your story with us today, and we pray for your kids as I know that you pray for ours as the Lord brings all of that mind.
Sharon: Thanks so much for thinking about me.
Lynnette Ezell: Thank you, Sharon.
Tera Melber: You’ve been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. We’re so glad you’ve taken time to listen today. Keep in mind we are a ministry of the North American Mission Board, and funded through the Annie Armstrong Offering, and you’re giving to the cooperative program. We look forward to talking more about adoption, fostering, and orphan care, and how you can be involved.