I want to share a story with you. It’s a story about the gift of faith. Not my faith, or my wife’s faith, but the gift of faith in the life of a complete stranger to us named Jose. His gift of faith did exactly what it was supposed to do: it encouraged and built up the faith of others around him.
Before I explain, it might be best to understand some background by reading a post I wrote back in 2014. After you read that, you will see where this journey started and how our great God brought us to where we are today.
Okay so back to it.
It was another Friday call. This time it was in the morning and Michelle and I were both home. Our social worker said there was a little baby girl, just two weeks old and born six weeks premature, waiting for us to pick her up from the NICU. The circumstances of her placement into foster care were almost identical to our “little bird” a year earlier. We both hesitated for a moment, recalling our previous heartbreak and feeling a thousand different emotions at once, but then we enthusiastically asked, “Where do we pick her up?”
After giving us the details, our social worker told us that the baby didn’t have a name and that we should choose a name on the way to the hospital. What?! We hadn’t even thought of girl names. We both discussed it as we scrambled to get everything we needed into the car and then on our way to the gas station. While sitting there waiting for a pump to open up, we both agreed that we loved the name Mariah. So, that was it. Just like that we had a name for our baby. Such a surreal experience.
We finally got to the hospital, and after figuring out where the NICU was, we met Mariah’s social worker and then walked in to see her. I still tear up when thinking about how small and beautiful she was. At 4 ½ pounds, she was a tiny, perfect little baby. Michelle was extra careful when changing her preemie onesie and diaper. As we were about to leave, the nurses gathered around us and all said how much they would miss her and that she was such a good baby. They gave us a bunch of little “extras” to make sure her first few days with us were set. (NICU nurses are a special group of people!)
Getting her situated in the car, I remember the straps of the car seat covering her entire body. It took me three hours to get home because of LA traffic and my decision to stay in the slow lane the entire way. We brought her into the house and both sat in amazement of how our lives just changed, again.
December 4th, 2015. What a day that was.
Fast-forward a month or so. Our incredible neighbors across the street called and asked if they could stop by with a gift for Mariah. When they arrived, they gave us a gift bag of very nice clothes for her. Then they set a Wal-Mart bag in front of us. They said, “This is another gift, but it comes with a story.” Michelle and I said, “Okay, what’s the story.” It went something like this:
“Well, we know you guys have been trying to adopt for a few years. So, we shared that with our family so they would be able to pray for you. Our brother-in-law Jose has been praying consistently for you guys to adopt for a while now.”
Wow! We had never met this guy, and he was praying for us. We didn’t know what to think yet, but we thought it was very kind of him.
They continued, “We just visited Jose at his home. He was recently in a bad car accident, which was not his fault, but tragically someone died. He was pretty banged up and just got out of the hospital. We went to see how he was doing and cheer him up with your news. When we told him that you guys had been placed with another baby, he was amazed. He asked his son to go out to his (smashed) truck and get the Wal-Mart bag from behind the seat. Then he said, ‘I have a gift for them.’”
How did he have a gift for us? They had just told him that we got Mariah. He had no way of knowing that.
He said to my neighbors, “Do you remember the last time I came to your house? Well, before I walked in, I looked across the street, stretched out my hands and prayed for Jeff and Michelle. I asked God again to give them a child. But this time I felt God gave me an answer. It was like He said, ‘I already have.’ So, a couple days later I bought this gift and I’ve kept it since then. I didn’t give it to them because I thought they would think I was crazy.”
Whoa! Maybe he was right?
Inside the Wal-Mart bag was a Lion King blanket. Jose said he wasn’t sure if it would be a boy or a girl so he chose something neutral. Also in the bag was the receipt with the date: November 23, 2015. This was BEFORE we got Mariah on December 4th. That really confirmed for us that God was at work in all of this.
But the story doesn’t end there.
About a month or two later, I saw Jose across the street at my neighbors’ house and invited him over to meet Mariah and tell us his experience firsthand. He came over and shared the same story and offered some encouraging words.
He said, “Jeff, Michelle, there may be people in this process that tell you that the baby is going to go back to her parents, or somewhere else. Don’t believe them. God has given you this child.”
Even though we knew from experience that a lot could happen between that point and adoption, we felt that God was using Jose to speak to us.
Then I took the blanket and the receipt from the Wal-Mart bag. (We kept it in the bag until Mariah was adopted). I looked at the receipt and I curiously asked Jose, “Did you buy this gift on the same day that God answered your prayer?” He said, “No, I bought it a couple days after that.” I pressed a little further. “So, it was two days before you purchased this then?” “Yes. I remember it was a Saturday because we had church the next day. Then I went to purchase the blanket on Monday.”
Again, I had to clarify, “The receipt says you bought the blanket on November 23rd, so you are saying on the 21st is when your prayer was answered?” He said, “Yes, that was the day.”
I said to him, “November 21st is Mariah’s birthday.”
We all sat there stunned. Jose could not believe it. Michelle and I were floored that God was so specific in His answer. We still often feel the emotion of that day.
God is so good!
When Jose left, Michelle and I were greatly encouraged in our faith. We decided to keep this story to ourselves until Mariah was adopted. It was something that kept us going when we faced the inevitable challenges of foster-adoption.
On July 13, 2017, a judge very formally announced: “Henceforth, this child shall be known as Mariah Leigh Carver.” We wept tears of great joy while Mariah sat in my lap and played with crayons. Later, we gathered around our table for a meal with friends and family and gratefully shared this amazing story of God’s faithfulness, and the simple but powerful gift of faith He had given Jose.