catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 17 :: 2008.09.26 — 2008.10.10


Kids in cars

The phrase “family planning” stirs up thoughts and emotions in part because of my family’s experience and in part because the Bible says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”  Wise words.  True words.  Let me tell you a little how this proverb played out in the life and family of Rob and Mary Lagerwey.

In our first few years of marriage each time Rob and I got into our two-door stick shift Toyota Tercel to go on an extended trip we would discuss two things: what kind of car we wanted to get and how many kids we wanted to have.  One Toyota Corolla station wagon (still a stick shift), an eight-passenger white van we called The Beluga, two nearly identical egg-shaped Toyota Previas, a green Honda Civic, a Toyota Sienna-and three wonderful children-later, we think we might know the answer (although we’d still like a Prius someday).  But what happened between our youthful optimistic discussions and our 2008 quiver-full is probably not what we would have planned or imagined.

Five years into our marriage, Mary presented Rob with a positive pregnancy test on Valentine’s Day 1990.  Although it was initially an inexpensive gift, one could argue that it was the most costly thing she’d ever give him.  Right on time on October 9-a day after Rob could be home with a laboring Mary because it was Columbus Day-Caleb Boerman Lagerwey entered our hearts and home.  It wasn’t easy getting him and all his gear in and out of the hatchback vehicle, but we managed.  Caleb grew, began buckling his own seatbelt for those long trips to the Midwest, and Rob and I started to talk again about expanding our family.

Before we were married, Rob and I went through several premarital counseling sessions with our pastor.  As part of those discussions, Pastor John had us fill out forms with questions on topics such as childhood patterns and spending habits.  One of those questions dealt with our vision for our newly formed family.  Both Rob and I-without even peeking at each other’s answers-wrote and said that we would like our family to look like God’s family:  we wanted both children who resembled us in physical features (although glances at our junior high school pictures did give us pause) and members that came from other places and might not look like us at all.  Good plan?  Perhaps.  Our plan?  Perhaps.  But God had put us in a church and a school and a neighborhood that was far more racially interesting than any place either of us had grown up in.  His plan was ahead of even our boldest step.

So we began filling out the forms from adoption agencies.  Wait.  Let’s be accurate here.  Rob began filling out the forms.  Mary provided the enthusiasm for the vision.   Rob also did the research into the next vehicle, negotiating a terrific price for a car whose greatest feature would be its four doors.  Form after form:  additional forms because Rob was born in Canada.  Blood tests and physicals.   And since our baby was going to come from Vietnam, officials there required photos…many photos.  How many different perspectives on our back yard could we compile?  When each and every required form was completed and about to be mailed off-the culmination of at least six months’ work-plans changed.  Our plan, that is.  The agency called in early June.  Would we be interested in switching countries since more children were waiting in Korea?  We sighed.  Yes, we’d be very interested in hastening the process, but what additional forms were required?  The answer:  none.  And by the way:  we could keep the photos for a scrapbook.

If we didn’t specify the gender of our child, we would get a boy.  That’s what we were told.  So imagine our surprise when a call came in mid July saying that our file had been matched with that of a child born on May 16 and as it said on the piece of paper on which I was taking notes, it was a “GIRL!”  Hannah MeeYung Lagerwey arrived right on time on September 14 even though her flight from Seoul was late.   We put her in an infant car seat facing backwards in the backseat between her big brother and her new mom and drove home from LaGuardia airport.

Years passed.  The station wagon got towed behind a U-Haul as the Lagerweys moved from New Jersey to Illinois.  Was our family complete?  Would our car hold another?  We thought we had the answer when Caleb was in kindergarten and Hannah in preschool.  But 15 weeks into that pregnancy an ultrasound revealed a fetus with no heartbeat.  Our hearts broke and our plans for the upcoming year changed.  Another short-lived pregnancy left us wondering if our plans and God’s were in sync.   When Esther Kuizema Lagerwey was born early on the Sunday morning of August 15, 1999, we rejoiced not because our plans had succeeded but because our sadness had a happy ending.           

At one point we had children from pre-k to 8th grade.   Caleb is currently a high school senior, Hannah a sophomore and Esther a third grader.  Sometimes people look at our family and comment on the age difference between child number 1 and child number 3.  I usually quip something about “God’s timing, not ours” and only say more if they want to hear the story.  I think it’s a good story; it’s one of my favorites.

So does my family look the way I would have planned it?  I don’t know.  But I do know that it wasn’t just our plan.  And I do know that when all five of us ride together on a long trip in our entirely too shiny powder blue mini-van with captain’s chairs in the middle, we have lots to talk about.

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