This post is not intended to go into all the details about ‘the call’ or what lead up to that particular *wonderful* moment in time. This is to crystallize, in my mind, how my entire life, from it’s start to now, has lead up to this moment. The moment God asked Chris and I if we would step up for Him. If we would follow His path for our lives, no matter how scary, inconvenient, stressful or anxiety provoking. If we would TRUST Him over our own wants, desires and dreams. If we would do something that made no sense to our heads, but made perfect sense to our hearts.
Raised in the Episcopal church (no offense intended) I grew up knowing little about the Bible other than what I secretly considered to be ‘fairly tales’ about Noah and the Ark, Adam and Eve… all well intentioned kiddie stories. At church we stood up, said the Nicene Creed, sat down. Kneeled, bowed, stood up, and on. Got communion, checked off ‘been to church’ from my list of things to do to be ‘good’. Assumed being ‘good’ equaled going to heaven, right? I always believed in God and I can recall several times in my youth actually clinging to Him, knowing that I needed to believe in something. But only when it was convenient or necessary, otherwise, my life was, I assumed, my own to mold and to shape as I saw fit.
Fast forward to 2000. Chris and I were still trying to be ‘good’, faithfully getting up every Sunday to head to the good ‘ol Episcopal Church that was familiar, but not fulfilling or inspiring. We wanted to raise our kids with God in their lives. Really we did. Looking back, I can see we were like hamsters on a wheel, going nowhere. We were just going through the motions: hollow and meaningless. How could we raise our kids to know God when WE didn’t? We moved to Oklahoma that summer and Chris got involved in a Bible study. We both became friends with our neighbor who was a very outspoken Christian. “Jesus Freak” was one of his favorite T-shirts and the term fit him perfectly. At first, I though he was a freak, indeed. But soon it caused me to question my own relationship with the Lord, and did I truly think I was saved? Was I really going to heaven? WAS there a heaven at all? These were all questions I had pondered before but for some reason, I was able to push them to the back of my mind and press on with my life. The questions seemed to come on more strongly and with more anxiety and fear as our family grew. I am passionate about my children. And my husband. I didn’t want for death to mean the end. I wanted there to be a fairy tale ending, but I didn’t know how to get to that from where I was. And up to that point I suppose I had been content enough just not knowing for sure.
Then one night I had a dream. I still remember it vividly, it was so painful I doubt I will ever forget it. Dalton was just a baby, less than a year. Asher was 3 and Zach and Tori were 7 and 12. All my babies. In my dream I was dead. Gone. Chris was dead also. But that wasn’t my focus in my dream. My focus was my children. And how we had left them, to fend for themselves, orphaned in the truest sense of the word. Zach and Asher were riding around in the back of someone’s pick up truck. Who was driving? I remember fearing for them, would they fall out and get hurt? I felt a strong sense of dread knowing that they were fearless, aimless, reckless. Headed for trouble. I couldn’t call out to them, warn them, I was no longer there to be their voice of reason. Then I saw Tori. She had baby Dalton slung on her slim 12 year old hip. He was too heavy for her little arms, but she clung to him, stoically determined to take care of him. Her face was solemn. Lonely. The ground was just dirt and dust swirled around her bare feet. The only term I can think of to describe this place was a ghost town. She stood there looking off into nowhere, for she had no future. She had no family. She had nothing. I woke up. I sobbed. And sobbed. That particular night Chris had gone in to sleep with Asher (as he had terrible night terrors when he was a toddler) so I was alone in bed. I was consumed with sadness. I couldn’t stop crying. Eventually I got up to get Chris to have him just hold me. I needed him to tell me, tell my heart, that my babies were really okay. I was okay. He was okay. It’s a sadness I can still feel, it was so real. After that dream I was determined that I would do everything I could to leave my kids with what I knew they really needed. A Father that would never forsake or abandon them. And a legacy. A legacy that included a relationship with God. The only thing that could guarantee my children’s future both here on earth and eternally was knowing Him. And for them to know Him, I had to get to know Him. I prayed so hard that night. I prayed for God to show me what He wanted me to do. I would have done anything. Every fear I had ever pushed down or pushed aside was laid bare that night. My worst and most terrifying fears had come to life in front of my eyes. What He wanted me to do was go to a Bible Study. Nothing earth shattering or mind altering. Just a Bible study. That is one thing God has revealed to me about Himself. He won’t ask you to jump off a cliff. He will only ask you to do what He knows you are capable of at the time. It might not be the thing you want to do, but it will certainly be within your ability. Or within the boundaries of what you can trust Him to provide. The Bible study that was offered at our church was Motherwise. I went. I learned about God’s word and began to open my heart to the One who had created it. Who had created me. It’s been quite a journey of love and faith since then. I’ve been on some spiritual mountaintops and some valleys, to be sure. But He has revealed Himself to me to be a God of goodness, mercy, grace, provision, shelter, justice and compassion. He’s been there, for so many years, walking along beside me, just waiting for me to take the time to get to know Him. To make the effort to reach out to hold the hand of the only One who has always truly been there.
Now that I have committed my life to Him, as have Chris and some of our children, we have made a promise that we will live the life He has for us. Not the life we would have for ourselves. Since making that promise several years ago, our lives have diverged dramatically from what we had envisioned for our future. One does not undergo a vasectomy just to end up adopting 4 more children! Had we known what the future held, we might have not been so eager to lay our plans at His feet – heck, I had a horse farm in my dreams, a place where I could take care of retired, injured or abused horses, grow my own hay and just, well, be. Not a big dream, just a simple dream. And there were definitely no more kids involved! But that is not God’s dream for me. At least not now. Slowly and steadily He has asked us to step out of our comfort zone. He has spoken to our hearts and waited for us to respond. We have not always obeyed immediately, or perfectly, but we have eventually, sometimes happily and sometimes begrudgingly, submitted to His will. And if you read this blog at all, you’ve witnessed a hint of the joy we have experienced from God’s goodness! He has blessed us so richly, beyond anything we could have even hoped for ourselves. And as soon as we accepted God’s proposal to bring one more of His children home, indeed to “make room for one more at the inn” as Melissa put it so beautifully, we began to feel hints of the joy and happiness this child would bring to our family. How he might have things to teach us instead of us just teaching him. How he might enrich our lives in a way that no one else ever could. By the time we actually received ‘the call’, we were all but popping from the excitement at finally being able to put a face with the idea of this blessed child.
I suspect our future will continue to twist and turn with exciting adventures for years to come. And that is, I can truly say from my heart, what I want. I want what God has for me. I might not get all excited and fall over myself with giddiness about it. I mean, Chris and I are just human. When we felt God call us to bring home this child, our fourth from China since Chris first felt God calling us to China in 2004, neither of us were jumping for joy. The reality for us is much like it is for everyone. We get worn out. We lose our heads when the kids do crazy stuff. We get tired of taking sick kids to the doctor, folding laundry, changing sheets, taking the garbage out. We worry about finances. We worry about giving enough to our other kids. We worry about how we appear to the world. But when the day is done, we care most about what is pleasing to God. After all, this life is NOT about me. Or Chris. It’s not about doing what I want and having all the things I think will bring me happiness. It’s about living a life that is pleasing to Him. A life that glorifies Him. A life that does work for His kingdom, in a small or large way. When I die, I want Him to scoop me up in His arms and say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”