The A to Z of Family // 家庭的A到Z
“God does family in a lot of ways and this is the way we’ve been blessed with and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Brett:We are Brett and Shannon Hilliard and we are originally from the United States. We’ve been in Hong Kong almost twelve years.
Shannon: Yeah, crazy!
B: We came here to pastor Island ECC. We have been married for almost 24 years. We’ve got four kids ages 18, 16, 13 and 11, so life is busy but good.
S: When I got married, my friends accused me of getting married just to have children. Because I was a pediatric nurse and I love children, I wanted to have about seven. Soon after we got married, we started trying to have children. Six years into it, it became apparent that we weren’t going to be able to have any biological children.Yet because we had lived in China and taught there and knew about the plight of Chinese girls over there, it had always been in our plan to adopt.We just didn’t know that we would never have any biological ones.
B: In hindsight, I am glad we don’t have biological children. There’s no regret for me at all. I love my four kids so much and I would never want for there to ever be any of them to think I love one more than the other and this levels it all out so that they see themselves as God’s perfect gifts – not a plan B or a worse case or a fallback plan but just God’s wanting the very best for us was to bring the six of us together and create this family. So it has been great!
God’s Perfect Timing
S: I do want to back up though because I think we’re painting infertility as if it’s not a painful thing that doesn’t cause conflict in your marriage or even conflict with the Lord. There were times when we were really begging for children, thinking, “Why?”I mean, it seems like it’s not a selfish thing to want to be able to have children. So there were certain days that were definitely long and we grieved so much. We read a book several years ago by Philip Yancy called ‘Disappointment with God’ because there certainly was a deep sadness – at least for myself at the time – that I couldn’t have children. It’s definitely a painful road for anyone else going through it. My real desire was to be a mother,so however God wanted to provide for that, I wanted it to happen immediately.When we first started trying, we were in Guangzhou, China and there were no fertility doctors.We rode our bikes to talk to someone about adoption and we were only 27 at the timeand they laughed at us because you need to be at least 35 before you could adopt in China.So all these doors were shutting in my face. We asked God questions like, “Why can’t we adopt? Why can’t we have biological children?” Those were hard years.
B: There’s a proverb that says, “hope deferred makes the heart sick” and that was something that was really meaningful to us at the time because we wanted to be parents THEN and God was telling us,“not now, maybe not EVER but definitely not at the moment.”And I think there’s a sickness, a sadness that comes with that. Asking God, “okayGod, where are You going? I trust You but I don’t know.” But then in hindsight, you could look to see more clearly and we saw God nurturing our hearts, disciplining us along the way and teaching us to cling to God. When certain circumstances don’t feel good, God still is good. And deepening our faith through the whole thing, which is a great redemptive side of that. That’s what He does in any disappointment, whether it’s waiting for marriage, waiting for kids, the breakup of a marriage or any of those disappointments, God wants to deepen our faith. So that was one of the silver linings. That doesn’t mean there’s no pain, there’s still plenty of that but God kind of puts a balm on it to make it all a little better.
S:So when Brett pastors young couples, he often says to them that there’s a part in your heart that your husband can never fill. God leaves room in your heart for girlfriends and yourself. [As I was coping with the waiting for children,] I found a girlfriend who was heartbroken over a broken engagement. And she became my walking prayer buddy. We prayed together for about two years and the redemptive beautiful thing that happened in our lives was the day she got married was the day Abby, our eldest, was born.That was the day I found out I would be a mom. So all in one day, I was able to see her get married and run through the airport in my velvet long dress to go meet my baby. That’s the handprint of God.
B: The enemy loves to divide marriages – to cause husbands and wives to be pitted against eachother, blaming or resenting, emotional energy to be spent on this. You have to really guard your marriage. To make sure that you don’t get so fixated on fixing the problem that you forget to nurture the gift that comes with just having the marriage. I remember thinking, “okay, if our lives were just us, that’s okay! That’s still a beautiful thing.”
B:Each of our kids is a walking trophy of God’s faithfulness and God has shown Himself through us in the different circumstances for the adoption of our kids.
I was in grad school at the time when we were looking into adopting our first child and I remember going to the adoption seminar and learning that the average cost at that time was $20,000 and a two-year wait if you wanted a healthy infant. I was in seminary and I think I had $20. And I just remembered thinking,“There was no way. How are we going to ever afford to adopt?” And God provided through a private adoption. A mother wanted to put her child in a Christian home. 18 months later, we got another phone call that asked, “Would you be interested in adopting again?”They wanted to have a couple whowere not first-time parents. We prayed and said yes.
S: The crazy thing about the phone call is…now that we’re very happy with our four children, we joke that there’s a specific date that we should not answer the phone. Because if the phone rings on that day and we pick up, we would have to adopt the baby.
B:Basically, both the phone calls for our first two children came on June 13. God doesn’t always work like that and we have to be careful about reading too much into signs but C.S. Lewis said, “For Christians, there are no circumstances outside of God’s control. There are no coincidences.” For us, it was enough to nudge us to think, “okay, God wanted us to adopt” and it was just a way for Him to build our faith and to say, “Okay, this is in God’s design.”
For our third child, Mary Grace, someone anonymously wrote us a Christmas card a couple years later and said,“We heard you were interested in adopting overseas and we would love to pay for it.” We already had two babies and we were like, “Wait, hold on a minute! This is now too fast!”
So we wrote back and said, “Can we wait a year?” and they said yes. A year later, we went through with the procedure for adopting Mary Grace and our anonymous donor paid for everything and to this day, we still don’t know who they are.
With Zane, we were already here in Hong Kong with three kids and having three kids in Hong Kong is like having eight kids in America.
S: And by then I had already gone back to work full-time.So we had been at a beach party and I was with Abby and Mary Grace when they started saying, “We should get another child! Our home is so fun and cool; we need to adopt another orphan!” And Mary Grace said, “I want another sibling from China! I don’t want to be the only Chinese in my family” and I said “Honey, why don’t you just pray about it,” not even thinking anything and it wasn’t until two days later when a phone call came [about the adoption for Zane]. And it didn’t even come through to us. It went to our home. Our girls got the phone call. So they were already jumping up and down, talking about how God answered their prayers.
B: So while we were out on a date, Mother’s Choice orphanage called us.
S: And they don’t do this, they don’t normally call people.
B: And we had no paperwork filed, no application pending. But Mother’s Choice called and asked, “Would you be interested in adoption? We have this boy that needs a home.” We were blown away by that and looked at the calendar: it was June 13 when we got the call.
God loves orphans and he settles the child with the right family. We would have been okay to move on with three kids but God nudged us to go beyond what we were comfortable with and we didn’t realize this but we also needed Zane. So that was what led us to adopting Zane. And now we’re done.
S: Yeah, don’t call us on June 13 anymore![laughs]
B: Part of the reason why our eldest is named Abby and our youngest is Zane is that we got A-Z. That’s kind of my way of saying “we’re done.”
A New Definition for Family
B: I grew up in a family of three boys. My brothers and I look similar, act similar and play the same sports and our family places a big emphasis on bloodlines and how Hilliards are this way and Hilliards are that way. So, when you bring in children outside of that, naturally, the family had questions.
S: And thinking we’re crazy, right?
B:It’s crazy because it’s a risk. But life is a risk, having a child is a risk. And there are those who choose to have a sanitary, safe life. If so, then good luck with that but God doesn’t promise a safe life, He promises a life with Him and it’s an adventure. So we wanted our lives to be counter-cultural and a statement and a beacon of light. We want our lives to say something and to be remarkable in a way for you to go “Whoa.” We walk around with a redhead and two Chinese – not your typical-looking family.
Our kids have always known they were adopted. They’ve always known that’s how God created their lives. We explain,“Mommy and daddy are not blood-related but we choose to marry and love each other and you and I are not blood-related but we’re family.”God does family in a lot of ways and this is the way we’ve been blessed with and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Biblically, adoption is sprinkled throughout scripture. Jesus was adopted by Joseph. Moses was adopted. These are great biblical examples. There’s also this great metaphor that we were adopted by God. So there’s no shame in saying that our children were adopted. I think it’s an incredible path to walk in, to do it with Shannon and to parent these wildly different children.
For a long marriage to thrive, there’s got to be more than chemistry and attraction because there’s going to be a whole lot of unexpected things and you want to be able to look and see character and depth and the heart that is focused on the same things you are focused on.
We would have never been able to see where our marriage would take us, from adopting our children to moving to Hong Kong but through it all, it has been such an adventure. The character that we saw in each other has been the foundation, the cement that has kept us grounded. We know what God feels about us and says about us and each other. Some days, we feel it and some days we don’t. But it’s a choice. That choice is something we make every day – to stay in the marriage andto say,“We’re in it for the long haul. And God will provide for us.”
Brett: 我們是Brett 和 Shannon Hilliard 。我們來自美國，但是我們已在香港住了12年了。
B: 我們來香港是為了在 Island ECC 當牧師。我們已經結婚差不多24年了。我們有四個孩子，他們分別是18, 16, 13 和 11歲，雖然我們的生活很繁忙，但我們過得很好。
S: 我想澄清我們不是要把不育美化成一件不痛苦而且對我們的婚姻與神的關係沒有衝突的一件事。有許多次我們懇切地求孩子，然後想，「為什麼？」我的意思是想有孩子應該不是一件自私的事情，所以那些日子對於我們來説是很漫長和哀傷的。幾年前我們讀了一本由Philip Yancy 寫的，叫“對神的失望”的書，因爲當時對我來説，不能有孩子令我真的在很深的傷痛中。對任何人來説這肯定也是一條很痛苦的路。我真正的渴望是成爲一個母親，所以無論神如何爲此準備，我想它立刻就成真。當我們剛開始嘗試時，我們在中國廣州，那裏沒有任何不育科的醫生。我們又踏腳踏車去問其他人關於領養孩子的事情，當時我們只有27歲，所以他們就笑我們，因爲在中國要35歲以上才可以領養孩子。故此我們面前所有的機會之門通通都關上。我們問神許多問題，譬如說，「為什麼我們不可以領養孩子？為什麼我們不可以擁有我們親生的孩子？」那些年很難過。
S: 所以當Brett 牧養年輕情侶時，他常常跟他們說：「你們心內會有一個地方你的丈夫永遠不能夠獲得滿足。神在你們的心內為了你的女性朋友和你自己留了一些位置。」[當我在嘗試著應對等待有孩子的時候，] 我認識了一個剛剛因爲被悔訂婚而心碎的女性朋友，而她也成爲了與我一起散步祈禱的夥伴。我們一起祈禱了兩年，然後美妙的救贖就發生在我們身上，她結婚那天就是我的第一個孩子 Abby 出生的日子。當天就是我被告知我會成爲母親的日子。所以在一天內，我不但能見證了她的婚禮，我還穿著我的絲絨禮服跑到機場去見我的孩子。這就是神作工的手印。
B: 敵人很喜歡把婚姻拆散 – 令到丈夫和妻子之間有傷痕、互相指責與怨恨，把感情的能量都訴諸這裡。你們真的要守護你們的婚姻。確保你們不會一直只顧處理問題，而忘記了去珍惜擁有婚姻這個祝福。我常常想：「如果我們的生命裡就只有我們夫妻倆也可以！這依然是一件美麗的事情。」
從 A 到 Z ……
B: 基本上，聯絡我們關於領養我們頭兩個孩子的電話都是發生在六月十三號。神的作工不是常常也這樣的，我們要小心不要把所有的巧合都當作神的揭示，但是C.S. Lewis曾說 ：「對於基督徒來講，沒有任何情況是在神的控制以外的。世上沒有巧合。」對於當時的我們來講，那巧合足夠促使我們去想：「嗯，神想我們去領養這小孩」，而這也是祂增強我們信仰的方法，並說「對的，這就是神的安排。」。
至於我們的第三個孩子 Mary Grace，是兩年後有位匿名者給我們發了一張聖誕卡說：「我們聽說你有興趣在海外領養，我們希望能夠為你付所需費用。」我們當時已有兩個嬰兒，我們想：「等一下，這一切都來得太快了！」
S: 當時，我已重投全職工作。有一天，我們在一個海灘派對，Abby 和 Mary Grace 開始嚷著說：「我們應該多領養一個小孩！我們的家庭太好玩和太酷了；我們需要多領養一個孤兒！」Mary Grace 更說：「我想要一個來自中國的弟妹！我不想當家裡唯一一個中國人。」我回答說：「寶貝，那你們就為此禱告吧。」當時我也沒多想，可是兩天後，關於領養 Zane 的電話就響了。那通電話不是我們接聽的。電話是打到家裡的，是我們的女兒接聽。所以她們開心得蹦來蹦去，說著神回應了她們的禱告。
B: 我們把最年長的孩子改名為 Abby 和我們最小的孩子改名為 Zane 是因為我們從A到Z都有了。我也想透過這樣去說：「我們的家庭已完整了」。
B: 我在一個有三個男生的家庭長大。我的兄弟和我長得很像，動靜也很像，我們甚至於連運動也玩同一種。我們的家庭很注重血統和姓氏，姓Hilliard 的就要怎樣和怎樣。可想而知，當你把沒血緣的孩子進入這個大家庭的時候，我們的家人很自然地會有疑問。
我們的孩子一直都知道他們是被領養的。他們一直都知道這是神為他們創造的生命。我們跟孩子說：「媽咪和爹地沒有血緣關係，但是我們選擇去結婚、去愛對方，而你和我沒有血緣關係，但我們是一家人。」神創造各種各樣的家庭，而我們的家庭就是這樣蒙福被創造的，這對我們來講沒有其他更好的了。在聖經裡，領養這事情散播在經文的不同角落。約瑟收養耶蘇，摩西也是被收養的。這些都是聖經裡偉大的例子。不要忘記還有我們都是被神領養的這個比喻。所以，我們對於公開我們的孩子都是被領養的這事一點都不覺得羞愧。我覺得這是個奇妙的旅程，跟 Shannon 的一個旅程，去當這些孩子的父母。
Featured image credit: flickr.com/28798135@N07