No Small Thing.

We were sitting at dinner when a thought marched itself across my forehead and stopped above my eyebrows: I want to go to Disney World.

This desire gets in line behind a table that seats twelve, quartz countertops, our teensy master bathroom to miraculously enlarge by a factor of 10… and a headboard. (We’re too old not to have a headboard, don’t you think?) Long ago, we decided to live within our means, so although every need is met, the list of wants can get long. So long, in fact, the sincerity of this puerile idea took me aback. 

My daughter was four when she first fell in love with Minnie Mouse. After learning Minnie lived at Disney, (how do kids learn these things?) getting there became of utmost concern. Being ever so clever, I told my sweet child we’d wait till she and her brother were older. We’ll go when you’re ten.   

Ten seemed, and stayed, really far away for a really long time. By the time ten rolled around, I figured we’d live in a place where mortgages didn’t eat paychecks and our life, in general, would be comfortable.

The date came up at dinner, and my daughter exclaimed, “Hey! It’s my half birthday today!”

“Yep. Sure is!” I said.

Oh my goodness. It’s her half birthday. 

She, the child who patiently waited for six years while every one of her friends has gone, who fell out of love with Minnie but found other reasons to go, who doesn’t even ask because Mom said we’ll go when I’m ten, will be ten in six months.

I’ve made no plans and have no intention to. This is why the crystal clear thought, an admission really, catches me off guard.

We are a family of five now, and “Doing Disney” is no small thing.


Adoption has been a part of my story since I was young, as I have four adopted first cousins. In time, a tiny seed rooted and grew into a tender spot for adoption to be a part of my own little family’s story. Although, we’ve supported adopting friends, my heart would not settle until I admitted what I already knew: I want to adopt. 

There is power in accepting the desires of your heart --- especially when they are planted there by something beyond you.

It made no sense for us to adopt. We have three children and four small bedrooms. Everyone is healthy and happy. We just started to feel settled. We don’t have that kind of money laying around. Yet my heart would trip over itself, too often and too hard for it to be coincidence, whenever adoption came up. God’s fingerprints were all over this.

I knew my husband would be decisive with his answer, so I prayed for months before talking with him. Assuming his answer, I asked for grace to accept his No.

“What would you say if I told you I think we should consider adopting?”

Chris, my stoic husband, simply said, “I’d say Yes.”

On a walk with a friend a few weeks later, I spoke the words out loud, as if trying on a new lipstick. “We are thinking about adoption.” (How does the word ‘adoption’ look on me? Does it seem natural coming out of my mouth? What’s your reaction to this word?)

“Really? Wow. That’s great.” (You should wear it. It looks good on you.)

In the months (which became years) passed, I’d hear the question, Are you willing? when I’d lay myself open in quiet moments.  

Willing to what, exactly?

Am I willing to disrupt the established dynamic of our family? Am I willing to spend every penny we don’t even have, to bring a child we don’t even know, but are already starting to love, into our home? Am I willing to give up my space, my comforts, my wants? Am I willing to give up my not-even-planned-for vacations and my imaginary master bathroom?

Fear has a way of halting forward motion, yet time has a way of solidifying plans.

Yes, I’m afraid. And yes, I want to hold on to so much. But yes, I’m willing. We’re willing.

So here we are, two years later, wading through a deep sea of papers, money orders, doctors appointments, and color-coded file folders.

We are also six months away from my oldest child turning ten.


At the dinner table, one son had running commentary for his older sister: What are you gonna ask for? You’ll almost be a teenager! You’ll have TWO numbers in your age! Will you get a big present?

My daughter gave me a knowing look and although she didn’t say it out loud, I heard her. It’s the year we’ll go to Disney!

But we can’t. And we won't. We will be spending the money to bring another child into our family. There will be no Disney.

Are you willing?

Am I willing to live a life not focused on temporal pleasures? Am I willing to participate in a plan that is beyond me? Am I willing to let go of my fears of the unknown? Am I willing to lay down what I assumed life would look like when my daughter turned ten?

I can’t help but think of a motherless child, starved of love and affection, waiting … for us. What I am “giving up” pales in comparison to what this child doesn’t even have. Being willing suddenly feels like a privilege.

Yet, I worry my children won’t understand.

“Guys, the adoption process costs a lot of money and we need to use what we have wisely. We won't be going to Disney this year.” 

“Will we ever go?” my son asked.

“I don’t know, honey.” Because really, I don’t and I wasn’t ready to say probably not.  

They push their uneaten broccoli across their plates, letting this sink in.

“It’s okay, mom,” my son said, with a genuineness capable of melting his mother’s heart.

Then my daughter, wise beyond her years, added, “But we will be getting a sister … and she’ll be getting a family.”


Maybe they do get it. Maybe they understand being willing has less to do with giving up than opening up.

Maybe we’ll never get to the most magical place on earth. But if we ever do, it’ll be as a family of six.

And that will be no small thing.

Written by Sonya Spillmann

Image by Melissa Nelson