Living the present moment wholeheartedly: An interview with Emily Stimpson Chapman

Meet Emily Stimpson Chapman, a devoted wife, joyful mother of three and gifted author. Emily has been writing for over two decades on topics ranging from surviving the single years, overcoming an eating disorder, the theology of food, and her latest book titled, “Letters to Myself from the End of the World” (Emmaus Road Publishing, $19.95). On top of all this, Emily and her husband, Chis, have adopted three beautiful children in just three years! Read on to learn more about this amazing woman, hear her family’s adoption story, and to be encouraged in your own state of life.

Emily Chapman Stimpson
Emily Chapman Stimpson courtesy photos

Radiant: You and your husband, Chris, knew one another long before you were married, and this year you celebrated your fifth wedding anniversary. Congratulations! Can you share what you and your husband’s discernment process was like when it came to adopting?

Emily: I have friends who have adopted, friends who are adoptees, and one of my good friends is a birth mother. Adoption is something I have always found to be really beautiful, and it has always been on my heart. I think that when something tugs on your heart and moves you in a special way, it’s a little voice from God.

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When Chris and I got married, we were older, but there was no reason why I shouldn’t have been able to get pregnant. Even before getting married I was seeing a NaPro physician and had exploratory surgery to make sure any endometriosis was dealt with. While we were pursuing pregnancy, we knew that even if we did get pregnant, we would probably adopt after that. We wanted more than one child, but we weren’t sure I would be able to get pregnant more than once. As it turned out, I couldn’t get pregnant at all.

During the start of our struggle with infertility, we wanted to pursue adoption, but we were running into all sorts of roadblocks. It took a while to figure out the right path for us, and as soon as we did, the doors opened, and they only kept opening. We knew that adoption would be a beautiful way for us to build our family, and we were very open to it because it really seemed like it was what God wanted for us.

Radiant: You have adopted three children in three years. This is not common for adoptive families. How were you able to adopt so quickly?

Emily Stimpson Chapman

Emily: Yes, it’s been a whirlwind. Three and a half years ago we were finishing up a major renovation on a big old house we had moved into in Pittsburgh. We figured we needed to finish the renovation before we would be able to adopt. Eventually we started looking into different agencies and attorneys trying to figure out which route we wanted to take, thinking that soon the renovation would be over and we could officially begin the adoption process. But while we were still in the process of figuring that out, on the Feast of the Epiphany we got a phone call from one of the attorneys we had talked to. She told us that she had a mom who was expecting who wanted to place her baby, and she thought my husband and I would be a good fit. I created a profile for her in two days, and later that week we found out we were chosen to become the parents of Toby, the baby the woman was expecting. It was a pretty crazy journey!

After Toby was born, Chris and I felt strongly that we needed to continue walking down the adoption path. We signed up with the adoption consultants Cradled in Grace, who we highly recommend. Five months after that, the phone rang and it was our adoption consultant. She said there was a baby just born in Texas and he was ours if we wanted him. We were on the road to pick up Beckett in two hours. Six days after bringing him home we got a call from the adoption attorney who had worked with us for Toby’s adoption. She let us know that Toby’s birth parents were expecting again and they wanted us to be the parents. Of course we agreed, and now we have Ellie.

Radiant: How have you seen the Lord working in your life through the experience of adoption?

Emily: I don’t know if it is adoption or just parenthood, but being a mother has really shown me the love of God for us. Whether we’re screwing up or doing well, he doesn’t love us based on what we’re doing. He loves us because he’s a father, he created us, he thought of us. The love I have for my children has definitely opened up a greater understanding into the heart of God and the love he has for all of his children.

Adoption is a very complex thing. Every adoption is different. But I do not believe that God has plan B’s nor that he is scrambling around trying to figure out how to fix things if you make the wrong choice. Chris and I believe that God always saw these children being born and he always saw them coming to us. God knew that by entrusting these children to us we would be praying for their birth parents and their entire birth families. Hopefully their own children will be praying for them someday. This circle of prayer helps to bring about the salvation of everyone.

Radiant: During the fundraising campaign you did to adopt Ellie, you chose to donate any extra money to the Sisters of Life. How did you choose them in particular?

Emily: Yes, I had already written a cookbook to help cover the cost of our adoptions, and when Ellie came along, we decided to send it to anyone who donated to our adoption fund. We not only raised the full amount that we were seeking, but we also raised another $6,000 that we donated to the Sisters of Life, who work with mothers in crisis pregnancies and their children. We wanted to do something to help mothers who didn’t want to place their children for adoption, and not just be raising money for ourselves to adopt a child.

Radiant: In addition to the whirlwind of the last three years, you are a published writer of a wide variety of books. What inspires your writing?

Emily: One of the things I love about being a writer is that I get to write about everything. Being a writer, I get to write about what interests me. What I write about is what I’m thinking about at the time. When I was 35, single and struggling, I couldn’t find a book to help women navigate those difficult years, so I wrote one. For 10 years, I’ve been waiting for someone to write a book about the theology the body that wasn’t just about sex, so I finally decided I would write “These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body.” Then I really wanted to explore the understanding of food that helped me overcome an eating disorder and really explore the connections between the Eucharist and food, which led me to write “The Catholic Table.” “Letters to Myself” is in some ways the book that Instagram wrote. It is a very personal book, but rich with theology and Scripture. I just saw so many people struggling with things that I’ve struggled with and asking questions that I’ve asked and not finding answers from a strong Christian perspective. I’ve been able to work my way through some of these problems, and I’m excited to share that. I want the book to show that all that is going on in the world doesn’t have to become an occasion to lose our faith, but rather an occasion to go to Christ.

Radiant: How do you find the time to write?

Emily: I get up really, really early and I write until the babies wake up. I also have an awesome friend who comes a few mornings a week to watch the kids so I can get a little more work done. It’s not easy, and sometimes it means that the laundry doesn’t get put away immediately or that I have to give up gardening. But I am focusing on my vocation. My vocation is a wife and mother, and then my vocation is to be a Catholic writer. Those are the important things, which get the bulk of my energy. Everything else comes after that.

Radiant: What words of encouragement do you have for women who are struggling in their current state of life, whether that be singleness, infertility, or maybe it’s the chaos of family life?

Emily: You know, I think it’s very easy to get caught up in waiting for some imaginary future where we think about where we will live, when we’ll get married, have kids or land our dream job. But God is in the now. He has things he wants us to learn right now, things he wants us to do right now, and people he wants us to love right now. Even though it can be very hard to stay in the present, you need to really look around and ask who the people are in your life that you could be Christ to. As C.S. Lewis put it, “the present is the point at which time touches eternity.” Until we die, we are never closer to God than we are in the present moment.

To follow along with Emily Stimpson Chapman, you can find her at her website, The Catholic Table, or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

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