When is Enough?

“What does your own “When-Is-Enough? Journey” look like? I have no idea. It may have nothing to do with orphans or adoption. But I feel certain of a few things . . .   And sometimes. . . oh, glorious rapture . . . you will wonder how you can be so full when you have allowed Him to empty you so completely. . . ”


((Warning: Long blog post ahead. Proceed with coffee and caution.))

When is enough? It’s been almost three months since we were asked that question in response to the news that we had decided to adopt Lilyan (who will be our seventeenth adoption and bring our total number of children to twenty-one). I’ve been trying to sort through my thoughts since that time in an attempt to find an answer. Recently, I was awakened early in the morning by a very bright winter moon peering through the window beside our bed. I was drawn to it and just had to get out of bed in spite of the cold temperature. I pulled up the blinds and sat staring at that moon, thinking again about this question. When IS enough? And some of the disjointed and swirling feelings and thoughts finally started to settle into a form that kind of. . .  almost. . .  resembled coherency.

5 A.M. Moon

Early morning moon – far away, but bright enough to light up our bedroom

It could be argued that the question was justified, coming from the person who asked. And I know that there are even some people out there who don’t really have the right to ask the question but are wondering the same thing. I actually get this; I can understand people who are looking in from the outside questioning this decision. But I have to admit that it stung a bit nonetheless. It initially left me feeling like a naughty, greedy child who has been caught and scolded for sneaking into the cookie jar to steal more cookies after already having been given a more-than-ample serving of treats. So my examination of the question, “When is enough?,” started with trying to analyze just why it had made me feel pain and even some shades of shame or guilt.

I think that at least part of the reason was wrapped up in my own feelings of doubt and fear. Scott and I had already walked a several-weeks-long journey to finally reach this place of decision. During that time, we had wrestled with our human limitations; the Herculean efforts required to take care of our children who are already home; my questions about the truth of God’s promises to always give us whatever is needed to accomplish any work He calls us to (did I really believe this?); my doubts about how we can know if we’re hearing God correctly when we think He’s calling us into action again. Scott and I had talked and prayed, and then talked and prayed some more about our family’s financial situation, our age, our health, how much further we could stretch ourselves in order to meet the needs of another very needy daughter, how much more strain our other children could handle. And then, quietly, softly, finally . . .  God had brought me through those weeks of questioning to a place of peace and readiness to follow Him into one more exciting adventure filled with the promise of miracles and pain and indescribable beauty. Maybe I’ll share more specifics about that coming-out-on-the-other-side in another post someday, but the point is that I was there. I was ready. I was still cautiously afraid, but Scott and I were both certain of our direction. However, my heart and my emotions were still a bit raw from the recent tussle with God and with my own fears. I was able to recognize that some of the hurt was irrationally connected to the timing of the question being scraped across my heart in it’s bare and exposed state.

Once I was able to sort through these things, I was able to trust this person’s love for us and examine the question without all of the emotional overtones.

When is enough? It seems to me that the answer to this question depends very much on what, exactly, is meant by it. I haven’t had an opportunity to ask about the thoughts behind these words, but there seemed to be an implied feeling that our decisions to adopt are somehow connected to trying to satisfy some need in our own lives.

In spite of the fact that our children — each and every one — bring incalculable joy and loveliness to our family, and although the homecoming of every new one leaves us wondering how we could’ve felt whole without that one’s presence in our family, we are not ever looking to “get more children” because of some personal feelings of incompleteness. In fact, we aren’t ever “looking for more children” at all. More than once, we felt certain that our family was complete and that there were no more adoptions in our future. And we were at peace with that. We now have adopted grandchildren as our children grow up and follow a similar path; our house, even with the new addition, is full; our two vans are overflowing; we have enough medical equipment in our family room to pass for a physical therapy clinic; and the pots required to prepare meals for our family need so much storage space that I can’t even keep them in my kitchen. Passing the baton seemed like a natural, good, right thing to do.  As the directors of an orphan ministry, we are faced with multiple new listings of needy children every week, and as we work to try and find homes for them all, we know that they can’t all come to our family.

So, from this perspective, “enough” would’ve been at least several children ago — before they became real, actual Rosenow children, that is. We could never bear not to have them around our table, goofing off in our family room, and sleeping peacefully in their beds now that they are here. But before then — when they were “hypothetical Rosenows” — it was “enough” a number of years ago.


Three-year-old Meghan, waiting in her orphanage where she was told regularly that no one would ever want her as their daughter

But what about from the child’s perspective as she waits in her orphanage, watching other children leave with their new families and wondering if anyone will ever want her? Some of our children remember their lives before coming home. Meghan has clear memories of being told that no one would ever want her because of the relatively mild deformities in her hands and feet. What would that child say to the question, “When is enough?” I would think that most would cry out, “Please. Maybe just one more?” The needs are endless; the number of orphans is not decreasing; so the answer to “when is enough” from that perspective would have to be, “never.” Although every adoptive family reaches a place where they absolutely do have to stop adopting, it will, sadly, still never be “enough”  from the orphan’s perspective as long as children still wait for families.

And then, most importantly, there is God’s perspective. He truly is the only One with the right answer to this question. Our belief and knowledge in God and His ways are the foundation of all that Scott and I do. He is the One we go to for guidance; the One we lean on for strength; the One whose wisdom we draw on as we make decisions about how to live our lives. His word is the lamp for our feet that illuminates the path we believe He has called us to walk in this life. And He makes it clear that what He asks of us is that we give Him all of ourselves — our time, our gifts, our resources, our energy — as we trust Him to use us and work through us to touch the lives of others and to accomplish His purposes. Scripture states emphatically that orphans are among those precious in His sight. And the call for all Believers to pour themselves out as living sacrifices to reach the needy of the world is loud and clear.

“And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
(Isaiah 58:10)

What does your own “When-Is-Enough?” Journey look like? I have no idea. It may have nothing to do with orphans or adoption. But I feel certain of a few things. Whatever it involves, it will require a dying to yourself; it will demand your full giving of your talents and time and resources and dreams to Him for His own use as He turns those things into something more beautiful than you could ever even imagine on your own; it will take you to the end of yourself over and over again and sometimes leave you crying out, “What was God thinking??” 

And sometimes. . . oh, glorious rapture . . . you will wonder how you can be so full when you have allowed Him to empty you so completely; feel so euphoric and love life so much while you are also exhausted and beaten down; be so tangibly cognizant of His lifting you up above everything earthly as you become increasingly aware that you can only achieve great things in this life when you stop depending upon your own strength and wisdom.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)

When is enough? I believe that we can trust Him to answer this question for us, but I also believe that His answer will very likely look different from the world’s answer. Often, we have no idea what we might be capable of accomplishing until we close our eyes and fall, knowing without a doubt that not only will He catch us, but that He will lift us up, soaring through the clouds, doing incredible, extraordinary, life-changing, world-revolutionizing things through us. And then…. when it’s enough, He will whisper to our hearts, “Well done,” as He lovingly leads us on to other work until the day He finally calls us Home.

But until that time, He has promised to fill us and fill us and fill us to do whatever He calls China Shirtsus to do. And if I ever question that, I only have to look at the lives of the miracles He’s already brought into our family and see what He’s accomplished through us, in spite of our many failures, simply because we said, “Here we are. Take us. Use us. Empty us of ourselves so that You can fill us with the power and strength and love that can come only from You.” When I look into the faces of these ex-orphans thriving in our home, then I know, without any doubt — even if only fleetingly — that inside each of these kids there is a person who will change the world, a person would never have been there if we had trusted to our own strength and had listened to our own wisdom in answering the question, “When is enough?”