Dec 18 2016

One of my favorite children’s books is “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff. The book, illustrated by Felicia Bond, is a circular story of comical events that begin when a boy gives a mouse a cookie.

In 1989, my wife, Becky, and I shared Christmas cookies with a somewhat mousy state social worker named Richard Costa. Those cookies started some cascading events for our family that became life-changing for all.

After finishing his first cookie, Costa got straight to the point. The State had approved our adoption application and had matched us with a child.

Costa told us that he’d found a 3-year-old girl who would fit well with Sara, our 5-year-old birth daughter.

“Her name is Brittney,” he said, “but she comes with some conditions.”

First, the foster family who had kept this child for the past 15 months, wanted occasional updates and visits with Brittney.

Maybe we were just eager, but that seemed a reasonable request.

“No problem,” we said.

“Second, she has a baby brother named Michael.”

We all took a synchronous breath.

“If you take the girl,” he said, “you must be willing to adopt the boy.” The conversation sounded much like the cookie book – if you give a family one child, maybe they’ll take another.

I unconsciously shook my head, wondering how we would provide for a growing family on the salaries of a pastor and school teacher. I suggested we all take the holidays to think about this.

The truth is, I guess we were hoping for some kind of sign that this was the right thing to do. Was it too much to ask for a star and some wise men?

My wife didn’t need to think about it. She immediately started browsing the Christmas-sale papers for toys and more Laura Numeroff books.

Four weeks later, we visited Brittney and Michael in the foster-family home of Aurel and Duane Gion.

I think we were all interviewing each other when, feeling the nervous need to impress the foster parents, I asked, “Did Richard tell you that I’m a minister?”

“He didn’t have to,” Aurel replied. “We’ve been praying these kids would go to a minister’s home. We knew God would answer that prayer.”

That was it. This was our sign. And it was a helpful sign to us three years later when we received another call from a social worker.

Brittney and Michael had a new sister named, Nicole.

“Would you be willing to adopt her as well?” asked the social worker. “We’d like to keep them together.”

“Yes!” Instantly and stunningly, “yes!”

Just as our family sought a sign, the Magi of the Nativity also looked for a sign.

“And this will be the sign to you, the angel said to wise men. You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

Does God always give you a sign for such life-changing events? No, not always, but I am praying that this article becomes a sign for a select few of you.

Maybe this week’s column can be a sign for you to invite a social worker to your house. Give him or her a cookie and just see what happens.

– Contact Norris at or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759. Twitter @chaplain, or call 843-608-9715.