64: Natalie Maxwell | A Story of Special Needs Adoption

Natalie Maxwell

Natalie Maxwell has been married to her highschool sweetheart, Ryan for 8 years.

In the first 5 years of their marriage they were blessed with all 5 of their children, 3 of whom joined their family through international adoption.

She is a writer who blogs at missionmindedlife.com and contributor for Focus on the Family’s Pro-Life webpage and magazine.


Natalie and I chat about her son’s diagnosis and how that experience altered the their lives leading them to adopted 3 children with special needs. Natalie shares how her view of life became filtered through the question: Is this going to matter for eternity?

2:32 Will you go back to when you were pregnant with your first child and share with our listeners what it was like to find out he had a congenital heart defect in utero?

“There was kind of an added level of stress on us as a young, newly married couple, but we did have our faith.  I remember that first night after me and my husband had cried together and prayed and begged God to heal our baby, just knowing that whatever happened, we were going to give God glory through it, that we wanted our child’s life to tell God’s story, no matter what that may be, but then walking that out was extremely difficult.”

“We went into that appointment having a plan of what our future was going to look like…Then everything was kind of ripped into the unknown. I didn’t know who was going to deliver my baby and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to hold him after he was born and I didn’t know if he would make it through the labor and delivery.  So many unknowns and I think that was the hardest part of the pregnancy.”

8:04 What transpired after Landon was born?

9:50 Eventually, you were led to adopt 3 children who all have special needs/disabilities. I know I am asking you to condense your life into a few minutes, but can you share a little about that experience?

“God opened our eyes to how relentlessly short life is, and that it is more precious than we ever realized. Both me and my husband knew we were never going to be the same after this. We had a new perspective on life. It didn’t matter where our children went to school or what clothes they wore, or what sports they played, we realized what really matters in life and that’s connection…. We realize that all we can take with us into eternity are the lives that we touch. And so that’s really the heart of what God led us to adopt. That’s the filter that we based every decision after having Landon through: Is this gonna matter for eternity?”

“I think God sometimes uses our naiveness for His plan. I think because of everything we had just gone through with Landon we weren’t tied to the worries of this life as much as we were willing to sacrifice for what we felt was going to matter the most.”

“I think when your worst nightmare happens, and you realize it was actually one of your greatest blessings, you start to question your fears. And that’s powerful. So although it wasn’t really in our plan, and we didn’t really see how it was going to work out, we [said] ‘Lord, if this is you, then we’re going to step out of the boat and trust that you will allow us to walk on water.’ “

“I think God wants to call us to so many things, but he also wants us to partner with him in those things.”

23:46 Acts 4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

“I feel like sometimes people look at our story and think, I can’t measure up. You’re in a different league or they see any parent of a child with disability and think, God knew they could handle that. And I think, no, He picked us because we can’t, and we know that. We’re willing to run to him for our strength. Having Landon and going through our journey with him really made us realize what it means to be desperate on the Lord. To feel so helpless, but at the same time know God is in control.”

“With Vienna, the baby of our family, finding out we were pregnant with her was very difficult, because we felt like God had asked so much of us and here he was asking more. We know that children are a blessing, but I think sometimes it’s okay to recognize that there are hardships, especially knowing how hard that first year is when bringing children home.”

“With motherhood and really with anything, we’re always stretched to our limit whether you have one child or whether you have 20. That’s how God wants it to be. That’s how he grows us. It’s how we cooperate with him in our journey. We all have unique journeys that we’re walking with the Lord.”

35:47 Did your son have reactive attachment disorder?

37:06 It seems like one of the hardest things about adoption is adjusting ideas and expectations . For example, the early expectation that love can heal every wound. The expectation that you can expect the same behavior and enforce the same consequences for your adopted child as you do for your biological child and the list goes on and on.  Did you find that to be true and do you have any advice for a family currently making those adjustments?

“In pretty much every struggle I have in parenting, I try to say, how does God parent us? What I found is God does not parent all of his children the same way. This goes back to what we said about us all walking our unique journeys and sometimes we can both do the same thing, but receive different consequences.”

44:19 Speak to social isolation.  I think for young moms, social isolation is prevalent, but I know there is another layer to it when that mom’s child has a disability.

“It has been very good for me to find a good Christian counselor to talk about just whatever you need to talk about. I think part of being a special needs parent is it’s kind of this lifelong grieving process. There’s just so many little losses and little disappointments and I believe that when we cast our cares on the Lord, and when we surrender those things to him, then we can find beauty in them. But sometimes those things, those hurts, those disappointments and those losses can build up and really create a lot of hurt.”

“I do think if you are only surrounding yourself with people in those groups [special needs parents] that we’re missing out on doing life with others. We’re missing out on them getting a glimpse into the fact that we are more alike than different….I do think that that’s so important to model for our kids. If we want them to have healthy friendships with people whose lives look different than theirs or whose abilities vary from theirs.”

52:28 We chat about self- care

“It’s not a selfish me focus, but it’s that my identity is in Christ. It’s not in my marriage. It’s not in being a mother, although those are wonderful gifts that God’s given me and they allow me a different lens in which I view God’s love. But knowing first and foremost, my identity is in Christ, and I’m a child of God, and I need to come to a better understanding of who he made me to be. I think that’s very hard to find if we’re not taking that time to seek Him in quiet and spend time doing some things fill our soul.”

“I don’t think it’s self care versus Jesus. I think when you’re doing self care right, you’re going to feel closer to Jesus.”

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