The Death of the Picture Perfect Family
By Kasi Pruitt
Edited by Cooper Taylor & Jami Lee Gainey
My husband and I always knew we wanted to adopt; it was something we talked about from the minute we got married. We always planned on having biological children first and then starting the adoption process. We had it all figured out, or so we thought. At the time that our two biological daughters were six years and eight months old, the Lord really started speaking to my husband about adoption. He talked to me about it and I immediately agreed that we should begin the often-lengthy adoption process. We started researching agencies, found one, and began praying through the countries that this agency worked with. We initially decided to pray about it for several days but that first night we both already had a peace that Uganda was the place where our son would be. We did all the paperwork and training, and then the real wait started. We were on a waiting list longer than we anticipated and soon found out the wait could and most likely would be much longer than we ever imagined.
As we waited, we prayed for the son we knew would be there, but had not met. I often prayed that God would bring us a child that no one else wanted: a child that needed love and a family, and had little to no hope of either. Both Shane and I had a picture in our minds of what our son would be like. We pictured him playing with our girls, playing football, and being healthy. Needless to say, we had the “Blindside” picture of adoption in our minds. One morning, I woke up to an email from someone I only knew through Facebook asking if we were open to adopting a child with special needs. I wrote back asking what she meant by special needs, because “special needs” is such a broad term. A child could be labeled special needs because something as small as a finger is missing all the way up to needing constant and in-depth care. She responded telling me that this little boy had gangrene and that he needed surgery as soon as possible. I showed the email to my husband and he told me to find out more. Soon, I had an email from the director of the children’s home telling me more about this tiny precious baby. This baby, named “Praise” was severely malnourished and had a huge infection on his head. Oh, and then came the picture. That picture is burned in my brain. How tiny he was. How precious he was. I fell in love immediately. Could this be our son? We asked for as much medical information as possible. Then, came a picture that I will never forget. The first picture we got had his infection covered, but not this one. When I opened this picture, my stomach dropped. I called my husband but could hardly speak I was crying so hard. I sent him the email. He called me back and we simply cried. After getting as much information as we could, we decided this sweet, tiny boy was indeed our son, the one we had been praying for all along. But our son Praise would need several surgeries while still in Uganda and then several more when we got him to America.
We can handle this, we thought. We knew he was developmentally delayed but just attributed this to being in the hospital his whole life. We first heard about baby Praise in January and we were on a plane to pick up our boy in April. This was a miracle from the Lord, because the adoption process usually takes significantly longer. We were on the ground in Uganda for only 3 weeks getting everything done before heading home, which was in itself another miracle from the Lord. Time in country trying to finalize the adoption can range from 5 weeks on the low end up to 11 in some cases. We were so very grateful for the Lord moving mountains on our behalf so we could get our boy home for the quality medical treatment he needed.
I had already made an appointment for the day after we got home for us to see an international adoption doctor. While in Uganda, we noticed that some things weren’t quite right with our boy. He was so very stiff. He also had some spells of jumping and jerking. We explained all this to the doctor and he admitted us for observation for one night. What was supposed to be one night turned into four. During this stay, we learned there was much more going on with our son than we knew when we first began this adoption process.
The short version is that he was having seizures…a lot of seizures. He also had some trauma to his brain and it wasn’t quite the size it should be for a boy his age. The doctors couldn’t give us any clear picture of what his life would be like. Would he catch up? Would he walk? Would he talk? These are answers we desperately wanted, but answers they couldn’t give us. The day the doctors came into the hospital room, shut the door, turned off the TV, and said they needed to talk changed our life forever. I remember sitting in shock.
“Lord, what are you doing?” I remember thinking. This is not what I asked for. I can’t handle this. I imagined something much different. Over the next year of constant doctor appointments, an MRI, EEG, and three surgeries I fell into a routine…a very dangerous routine. It was a routine of convincing everyone I was okay. A routine of telling everyone, “God is so good. He is in control. He has this.” (By the way, this was all true, I just don’t know how much I believed it to be true). To be honest, I was struggling. I was sad, angry, and even bitter. This is not what I wanted. I wanted to come home with a perfectly healthy child. My husband and I filled out a checklist of things we were open to when adopting. This list ranged from learning disabilities, to HIV, to children who would never walk or talk, and I am sad to say we were not open to much. We had a picture in our head of our son and any special needs diagnosis was not part of this picture. We envisioned a picture perfect family, and this is not what the Lord gave us. What was He doing?
I reached a point about a year after our son came home of being completely overwhelmed. I truly didn’t know how I was going to do this, and I didn’t want to do this. I never thought I would be the mother of a special needs child. I soon sat down and talked to a friend who also has a special needs child. She gave me advice that would change everything for me. She told me, “It’s ok to grieve. You have to. What you imagined you were getting is not what you got, and it’s ok to be sad. Be honest before the Lord. He knows how you feel anyway. You may be able to convince everyone else you are ok, but He knows you are not.” I had convinced myself that I had to be ok. I mean, I am a pastor’s wife after all. Isn’t that the most spiritual thing to do? To put on a happy face no matter what you are going through. To be honest, I was angry. I wanted something different. The picture I had in my head was gone. It was shattered beyond recognition. I broke down and poured myself out before the Lord. “God, we were doing a good thing, how could you do this to us? I am angry with you. This is not what I had imagined!”
…slowly started changing everything about me and my outlook on my sweet baby boy. Why was I struggling so badly? For me, it came down to a pride issue. I was focused on myself and how this would affect me. I was focused on how this would change my daily life. The Lord started revealing to me in a way like never before that this life is ultimately not at all about me. My life is about bringing God glory and about His Kingdom. I knew the truth. I knew all the right Bible verses to read. It’s easy to read those verses when God is doing what we want and expect him to do. But what about when He doesn’t? We like to say, “God is good,” when we are happy with what God is doing, but we quickly question Him when we aren’t. This is where I was. I couldn’t grasp how God could bring something so hard in my life and still be good at the same time.
The bottom line is that we live in a fallen world, a world that is cursed by sin. But my son is a gift…a gift that I never expected. God began to kill pride in me that I never realized was there. He began to teach me to be thankful for the smallest things, not only in my son’s life but also in my girls’ lives. He taught me to slow down and to cherish each day. I used to constantly look to the future. What would be next? What was around the corner? But with our son the future could be scary. In light of this, I have learned to focus on each day, to be thankful for each and every moment. God has used this adoption process to make me a better wife and mom to all three of my children.
He has also used Titus (our son’s new given name after adoption) to constantly remind me that this life is but a moment, and a fleeting one at that. I pray for healing for our boy all the time, but the amazing reality is that one day healing will happen for Titus. It may or may not be in my timing but one day, either on this earth or in eternity, it will happen, and it will happen completely. Oh, I am so thankful. God has broken me in a way that I never saw coming but I praise Him that he did so, even when I didn’t know or trust what He was doing.
I had to put to death the “picture perfect family” I had imagined for the Pruitt household, the family where everything went the way I wanted it to go. I had to bury that. I had to grieve and let go of this image of a perfectly healthy baby I had asked for and I had to realize that what God had for us was so much better. See, as much as we like to think that we are in control, the fact is that we are not. When we realize that God’s ways are so much better than our own, we find a peace that is indescribable.
Although I had to put to death what I wanted, God brought us a life we couldn’t have dreamed of. Is it easy? No. Do we have hard days? Absolutely. Do I have days of being overwhelmed? No question! But Titus is worth every bit of it. He is such a joy. He is the happiest little guy. He is a fighter and a champ. He has been through more in 18 months then most people may go through in a lifetime, but still has such a joy. And our girls absolutely adore their “Bubby.” They love him selflessly. They just see him as their brother; they don’t care he has needs that most others his age don’t. They have become more compassionate because of him. God has changed each one of us through the life of this precious little boy. It is amazing to see how God can use someone who has never spoken a single word to change those around him.
Our son also taught me more than I could have ever imagined about the depth of the love that our great God has for us. It amazes me how Jesus can look at me and see all of my pride, anxiety, selfishness, and sin, and yet still love me, still forgive me, and still choose to adopt me! In some small way, that’s how I see Titus. I no longer see the seizures, physical and mental delays, the fear of the unknown, or “special needs.” I see my son, my son that I would do anything for, my son whom I wouldn’t trade for a “healthy” or “normally developed child.” And I know that even as I see Titus through the eyes of the love of a mother, the love of God is so vastly beyond what we can comprehend. Having Titus in our family has caused me to be even more aware of and in awe of that incredible love that God has for every one of his children.
You see, God’s picture for our family was so much better than the picture we had come up with. As hard as it was to put to death what I wanted, now it brings me so much joy knowing that the Lord didn’t give me what I wanted. Sometimes, we don’t understand what God is doing, but we can trust that His ways are better than ours, that His Kingdom is better than this world, and that He uses the hard things in our life to mold us and change us. Although we don’t understand what God is doing, we can trust that He knows best.
So, goodbye “Picture Perfect Family.” Now, that I think about it, what does that even look like? To me, it is exactly what the Lord gave us. Our family is not perfect, but our son was the perfect fit for us.
What else do I need to put to death so the Lord can move in the way He wants? I pray He continues to show me.
Below is a picture of our perfectly imperfect family. Isn’t God good? Yes, He is!
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