One moment that I will never forget no matter how long I live is the moment I walked out of the orphanage in Borivichy, Russia carrying my precious little seven-month-old daughter in my arms. She slept soundly while I drew her blanket-wrapped body close to shield her from the cold December winds. It was midnight on Christmas Eve and God had given me my heart's longing. A child to parent for Him.

The snowflakes were gently falling around me and while others in the group of newly adopting parents were unaware, I knew it was a God moment. My heart sang. But along with the song was also an awareness of the huge responsibility that was now mine. I knew I needed God's help to parent this child.

At Christmas time, as I remember that special night, my thoughts frequently turn to the time of Jesus' birth. Was Joseph gripped by that same kind of overflowing awe and thanksgiving? Did he draw Mary close to his side as they gazed at their newborn son? What was there in Joseph that God chose him to be his earthly father? What can I learn from him?

These questions and more have prompted me to read and research. As an adoptive parent my curiosity and interest in the character of Joseph is great. He knew what it was to parent a child he did not father. But did he ever wonder? Did he ever feel inadequate? Did he ever doubt his own abilities? Did he ever gaze into the night sky wondering how he would do it?

We may never know the answers to these questions, but we can grasp some insight into his character by noting the pattern of his actions.

Joseph is first mentioned in Matthew 1:18-25 where he is referred to as a righteous man. But this righteous man faced a heartbreaking dilemma at the news of his beloved's unexplainable pregnancy. Because Mary and Joseph were betrothed, Mary's apparent unfaithfulness carried a social stigma. According to Jewish civil law, Joseph had the right to divorce her and the authorities could have stoned Mary. He faced an extremely difficult choice.

But according to scripture, God appeared to him in a dream, telling him to carry through with his plans to marry Mary and revealing to him that her child would be the Messiah. Taking Mary and Jesus as his own was probably humiliating for him in the eyes of the community, but he chose to obey God. His actions reveal not only his strong principles but also his sensitivity and self discipline. This first act of obedience also indicates Joseph's responsiveness to God. He was a man of integrity who was willing to do God's will -- no matter what.

Although others may have disapproved with his decision, Joseph did what he knew was right. How many times as an adoptive parent have I needed to make decisions for my children - decisions not always met with approval? Difficult school decisions, discipline, setting healthy boundaries, etc. face parents every day. Joseph's example is an encouragement to parents to obey God rather than to seek approval of others.

Joseph's tough choices were not over with that first dream. Joseph received yet another dream from God after Jesus' birth. In Matthew 2:13-15. God tells Joseph how to protect Jesus from Herod's wrath. Joseph, although not the natural father, was the legal father and responsible for Jesus' safety and well-being.

Once more Joseph was receptive to God's guidance, and he obeyed. He took Mary and the child to Egypt, where God enabled him to provide for his family. Is it too much to believe that God will enable us as well to provide for our children? As a single parent, I too have experienced moments of financial concern, but God has always provided for us. What He has done in the past I am sure He will do in the future. These precious children are His and He will continue to give us guidance in providing for them.