Updated: Apr 14, 2020
By Cheryl Treiber-Kawaoka
God's Brave Women - Cheryl's Story
Even now, as Grace sharply turns the corner from childhood to teenager, I am filled with love for her and gratitude to God that she is our daughter. I can’t believe I hesitated. Almost 12 years ago, my husband, Gerry, and I, were struggling with the decision to adopt. We married late in life, realizing that it was probably too late for us to have children. God showed us the beauty of another path: My husband’s brother and his wife had adopted two children, a boy and a girl, from China. As we doted on our precious nephew and niece, they encouraged us to follow in their footsteps. We hesitated, especially me. Did I have what it takes to be a mom? Would it be the end of my creative and comfortable and relatively low-stress life?
Growing up, my own family was a mixture of love and anxiety. My parents took turns being sick, physically and emotionally. My sweet younger brother, in his teens, began his rocky journey that eventually revealed his struggle with a serious mental illness, a life-long disability. I survived this stressful atmosphere by immersing myself in books and creating art, and my sisters coped in their own ways. From my college days on, I left home, living as far as I could get from Chicago, my home-base, eventually teaching in far-off Pacific islands, first Saipan and then Hawaii. But God always had a hand in my family and brought many blessings and healing to each of us and as a family. Still, these early traumatic memories remained lodged in my heart, a road block of fear. Would I end up reliving and perpetuating my family’s traumas? Did I have the strength to endure the challenges of parenting?
"Would I end up reliving and perpetuating my family’s traumas? Did I have the strength to endure the challenges of parenting?"
I turned to God in prayer and asked Him to show me His will, hoping that would be a guarantee that everything would work out. However, I discovered that discerning God’s will is not an easy task. Sister Katherine, my spiritual director, changed the direction of my search. She suggested I start by discerning what my husband and I really wanted. After all, we had free will. Could I trust that God would be with us no matter what we chose to do? Sister had been guiding me in the practice of centering prayer, a form of Christian meditation. I learned to love sitting in silence, consenting to God’s presence and action, not emptying my mind, but deepening my relationship with the Lord, sitting with my Beloved. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46: 10. No answer to my adoption question surfaced but God was preparing my heart.
While attending an eight-day silent Centering Prayer retreat (yes, talkative me could be silent for days), I went for a walk in between prayer sessions in the surrounding beautiful Hawaiian rainforest. Scattered along the path were the Stations of the Cross, each little window framing a scene from Christ’s passion. I was drawn to one in particular: Jesus meets his mother Mary. In the heavy humid air, dense with the sweet smell of ginger, I stood rooted like the trees around me, unable to move, contemplating the image of Mary looking on as her son, Jesus, carried his heavy cross through a crowd of jeering on-lookers. “And sorrow like a sword will break your heart.” (Luke 2:35) There in the rainforest, I cried, and gave thanks not only for Jesus’ sacrifice, but for the sacrifice of His mother, Mary, as she let go of her precious son, entrust