Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Letter to my Son on Adoption Day.

Dear Son,

I’ve called you by that cherished name, “son,” many times, but today is different.

Today, there is no feeling that you’re ‘sort of my but really’ ours as there has been since February.
Today, you are not my foster son.
 I don’t love you ‘like you are my own.’ You ARE now and forevermore my own.
Today and for the rest of your days, you are completely, wholly, and forever my son. 


You came to us on that blissful Tuesday afternoon in February and I can’t seem to hold back my tears as I reflect on that day.
That was the day I literally felt my heart walk outside my chest.

They dropped you off at our house  before we had a chance to fall in love with you.

But my how the falling in love has happened! You have burst through our world with high-energy, love, compassion, grace, and strength. You are the most amazing child in the entire world and I don’t deserve to be your mommy.

You’re funny, smart, and your laugh is infectious.
You are obsessed with cars, could watch Paw Patrol all day, would take a 5 hour bath daily if we let you, and have the most sensitive heart I have ever known.
While there have been some extremely challenging days over the course of the past six months, each day has been filled with beauty and grace and I cannot imagine our family without you in it.

From the very first phone call we received regarding you, I have worried about you. You see, I know about all of the big and hurtful things in this world that can cause you pain. And I have worried.
I’ve also been scared that I wouldn’t be enough for you.
Yet, God is continually showing me that You are HIS first.


My child, you are so brave.
Much braver than me, your mommy.
You have been through more hard things in your four years of life than most people encounter in a lifetime.
There are days that I worry about your future. My heart often aches when I think about you growing up. Because right now you are little and telling you I love you eases your pain. But one day I know you will grow up and one day you will truly comprehend the weight of what has happened to you and I’m afraid for you. 

I’m afraid you’ll feel rejected.
I’m afraid you’ll feel worthless.
I’m afraid you’ll question your belonging not only our family, but this world.

Yet, I know you are a fighter.
You are an overcomer.
Your daddy and I could not be more proud to call you ours.

Son, we fought to have you.
And we will ALWAYS fight for you.

You are so wanted, so loved, and cherished more than you will ever know.

It terrifies me to raise you in this world that we live in. And while my love for you sees no color and no difference, the world certainly does.

My prayer for you is that you always know your true identity. I desperately pray that you always feel as though your feet have a place to land.
I pray that you always know where you belong not only in our family, but more importantly, in the Kingdom of God.
The greatest desire of my heart is for you to place your identity in Christ Jesus.

Alex, walk in your sonship and in your inheritance of Christ, the one who has saved you.

My son, live as you truly are.
Live loved.
Live anointed.
Live cherished.
Live set apart.
And live fee.

As you walk in your true identity as a son of Christ Jesus, may others see this love and join in God’s forever family too.

Alex, I pray you continue to be brave.
When others question your sonship, when they question where you belong, I fervently pray that you hold fast to the Truth.

When Satan causes you to doubt that you are loved and wanted, I pray that you’ll lean in close to the heart of your Father—our sweet Heavenly Daddy. Listen only to what he says about you. His voice is the only one that matters. 

My son you are more that I could have ever dreamed and you are loved more than you will ever know!

I’ve thought about your adoption day many times and I’ve always thought there should be some sort of vow ceremony, similar to a wedding ceremony.

After all, adoption is a conscious choice to take another person into your life—a person with character traits and qualities that do not match our own. Adoption is a choice to take in a person with flaws, insecurities, and all—similar to a marriage.
So, sweet Alex, here are my vows to you:

I promise to love and protect you—even if its form yourself.
I promise to provide you with everything you need, yet I also promise that you will not receive everything you want.
I promise to care for you.
I promise to provide you with food, shelter, and clothing.
I promise to provide you with the best medical care we can afford.
I promise that you will be held to high expectations for behavior and character.
I promise that the journey will not be easy or smooth.
Yet, I promise that the road will have plenty of love and laughter.
I promise to share with you the things I love, such as running, reading, playing games, education, and enjoying nature.
I promise to share with you the things I can’t live without—your father, out extended family, our church family, and the love of Christ Jesus.
I promise to always be on your team—to sit in the corner cheering.
Today, I make a vow to you that I will try every day to be the best parent that I can be for you.
I promise that I will be there when you feel rejected.
I promise to lift you up in your pain.
I promise to sit with you and rub your back during your sleepless nights.
I promise to jump up and down in excitement during your joyfully won victories.
Even in hardship and hurt, and hard-fought battles lost, I will still be your mommy.
I promise to be present both physically and emotionally to you and to give you as many hugs as you need, plus quite a few extra.
I promise to always be there to listen to you.
I promise to never go to bed angry with you and I promise to always work it out.
I promise to love you with every fiber of my being.
I know there will be ups and downs in our relationship.
But I want you do know that I am here for better or for worse.
In good times and in bad.
In sickness and in health.
I will be there.
I will never leave you.

I will love you fiercely all of the days of my life, Alexander James Willis.

With all my love,


Mommy. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thank goodness He is enough.

It was a Thursday morning at 9:57 AM.
I remember sitting there.
Frozen.
Staring at my class of 20 pre-kindergarten students.
My head began spinning.
My heart started beating at the speed of light.
I felt like I was about to throw up.
Tears were on their way down.

“What’s wrong, Mrs. Willis? Are you okay?”


My husband had just texted me that he was on the phone with a foster care placement coordinator from our adoption agency, only one short week after we had gotten the call that we were officially licensed.

There was a four year old boy.
His name was Alex.


“Yes, boys and girls, I am okay. I might have found my son.”

All Colton really got out of the first phone call was that Alex had some extreme behavioral issues, loved cars, and was cognitively advanced for his age.

A few minutes later (which just happened to be my lunch break, hallelujah!), the emailed us a 39 page packet, which we both skimmed as quickly as we could while on the phone with each other for a few short minutes.

By some miracle, without any hesitation, we both said yes.


Yes, let’s dive in. Let’s love this child with reckless abandon.

The next several hours were torture as we experienced the roller coaster that comes with choosing to foster to adopt.
11:35 AM: ‘Yes, he’s yours.’
12:40 PM: ‘Actually you’re not licensed to handle a child of severe behavior. Never mind. He’s not yours.’
1:32 PM: ‘We want you to be his parents though, so let us see what we can do.’
4:20 PM: ‘We won’t be able to talk to the person that can give us approval to let you guys have him until tomorrow. You’ll have to wait until the morning.’
5:35 PM: ‘We took care of it. He’s yours. He’s coming Tuesday at 1 PM.’
With that final phone call, I sat there. Shaking. Terrified. Uncertain. Scared. Sobbing. Excited. Overjoyed.

As I continued sitting there, on the floor of our room, overwhelmed with feelings, I opened up an email with his picture and I almost lost it.

This would be my son.
Our son.
Yet, I knew nothing about him other than he was in some desperate need for affection, love, and grace.
Would I be enough?
Would we be enough?

Over the course of the next few days, we frantically cleaned the house, bought groceries filled with things that hopefully Alex would like, installed booster seats, bought sheets, decorated a little boy’s room, bought clothes for Alex, and experienced every emotion under the sun.

What were we getting ourselves into?
What would he be like?
Would we fall flat on our face throughout this journey?
Were we prepared?

That Tuesday at about one o clock, the foster care placement coordinator texted us that they were about fifteen minutes away. I began pacing as I stared out the front window.

Our life was about to change forever.

The moment that van door opened in our driveway was a holy moment.
A sacred moment.
A moment that doesn’t come again.

He was here. My son was home.

I stared out the window as I tried to capture small glimpses of the miracle God was entrusting us with. My heart flipped inside my chest as I saw his smile for the first time.
Nothing compares to watching him run from the van to the front door, begging the foster care coordinator to ring the doorbell.

We opened the door.
He walked in.
He told us his name was Alex and that he was four years old.
He was carrying a small toolbox filled with hot wheels and Paw Patrol cars.
Colton and I got down on our knees, eye-level with our son as he showed us each care in his box, telling us which ones were his favorites. It took everything I had within me not to start sobbing. 

It was both the best and the worst feeling in the world.  
He stood there—unable to fully grasp what had conspired over the past five days.
He didn’t ask for this.
He didn’t choose to come here.
Tragedy, abuse, brokenness, and addiction brought him to our doorstep.
The very people that he was supposed to be able to trust had wounded him.
And here he was.
At the doorstep of yet another home.
As awful of a feeling it was, it was a beautiful moment.
Because we know God is in the process of restoring and redeeming that which is broken, wounded, sick, and, abandoned, and hurt.
He might have arrived on our front porch with horror stories to tell, but love, hope, and healing welcomed him in.
That right there is the gospel. That’s the good news of Jesus Christ.

Alex’s curious eyes and body wandered through our house as he saw his forever home for the first time. He jumped up and down with excitement as Colton showed him an old remote control car we had found. Who knew an old broken toy could bring so much joy to one little heart?

I’ll never forget his beautiful eyes filled with wonder during our first interaction. We watched him play with bubbles outside, run around the house, and play cars as we signed a huge stack of papers from our adoption agency and the state. Within about 45 minutes, the caseworkers left.
It was just us and our son now.
Just us.
And him.
A family of two, now suddenly a family of three.

Would we really be enough for him?

I think with every step of faith, there’s always fear.
Some kind of doubt.
Some kind of insecurity.
I won’t be enough to make the leap of faith in the first place.
I won’t be enough to finish the journey.
I won’t be enough to land, standing on two feet when it’s all said and done..

Yet, there are things in our lives, risks we have to take—because we can’t stand not taking them. Even when we don’t feel like we are enough, we have to risk enough. Otherwise, we might die without ever fully having lived.

If I’ve learned anything over the past two months of having Alex in our home, it’s that our own feelings of inadequacy—the feelings that we aren’t enough—that allow us to see how ‘enough’ God is.
He power is made perfect in weakness.
It’s in our ability to never truly be enough that we see our perfect and desperate need for Christ.

And there Alex stood.
In our home.
In his new home.
In the snap of a finger, our world had forever changed.
There was a brand new bed in his room where he would eventually find rest.
There were little boy shoes and clothes hanging in his closet.
There were new toys and books—waiting just for him

There were new stories of hope to be written in all of our lives.

Would we be enough?

Over the course of the past two months, I have found that I am simply not enough. I’m not sure where I got this idea that adoption required perfection or that there was something I would be able to do that would prevent the grief and struggle of a life that had been invaded by Satan. Somehow I told myself that because I knew Alex was coming to use from a broken, unfair, and deeply wounded world that I owed it to him to be perfect, to be enough.

But I am everything but enough.
I am more tired that I have ever been in my life.
I have been more forgetful in the past two months than I have ever been before.
I’ve reacted towards my son in selfishness and anger.
I am far from being the perfect mother.
Being a mother has allowed me to see my imperfections in a much greater capacity than I ever have.

But, every morning, at 4:05 AM, before I go running, I meet my Heavenly Father on my knees.
And what God is showing me is that Alex doesn’t need a perfect family.
He needs a loving one.
A caring one.
A family that allows him to be himself without judgement or criticism.
He needs a place where he can kick, scream, and cry as we all try to navigate this life together.
He needs a place where grace is abounding and second chances are constant.
He needs a family that will enter into his story of grief as we wait on God to heal as only He can.
He needs a bed to lay in, snuggles, and lots of bedtime stories.
He needs a family to listen, affirm, and acknowledge him as a person.
He needs to be held through this storm and the next and the next.
He needs a family to be present. To be there. To show up.
He needs discipline, boundaries, and consistency.
He needs a place to be a kid instead of a victim or a survivor of trauma.
He needs a family to love him for everything that he is—imperfections and all.

We are not enough.
We are not Alex’s savior.
We are not his rescuers.

Adoption is not all about recue. While there is definitely a ‘rescue’ mentality associated with adoption, to simply save the child is not the call. The call of adoption is to share in the suffering. It’s to intentionally place myself and my family and my community in a place to suffer right alongside of Alex.

His suffering is now my suffering.
His story is now my story.
He joys are my joys.
His defeats are my defeats.
His pain is my pain.

What I’m learning is that adoption is not about me being good enough, Alex adjusting perfectly, or rescuing anyone from anything.

It’s about a choice of love.
Every day.
I adopt him every day.
Every day I decide to love him.
Every day I decide to make him mine.
Every day I show him that he is mine by actions of love, grace, mercy, and trust.

The truth of it all is this: we are not the rescuers.
We can’t rescue anybody.
All we can do is hold on to the One who can and does rescue: Jesus Christ.

The only way our family is what it is today is because our son had to lose a family first. And while things have gone smoother than anyone could have ever imagined, we have still stepped into a gut-wrenching story of trauma, abuse, and abandonment.
The only way all got to this point is through a door of loss, hurt, and pain.

I’ve learned that motherhood is not a call to be more or do more. It’s a call to come closer. It’s a call to show up. To be present. To live.

Alex often asks us to hold him and carry him.
As a young baby and child, he missed out on necessary affection.
When he cried out, his needs were not met.
When he wanted to be held, he was abandoned.
And while there’s nothing we can do that will ever make up for that loss, we can brokenly and beautifully embrace him.
I love to hold him.
To sit there with him.
To breathe him in.
And as I touch him and hold him, I know he holds his own fears.
His own past.
His own hurts.
His own losses.
And these are now my past, my hurts, and my losses.
I wish more than anything that I could take away all those fears, all those hurts, and all of those scars. But I’m learning I never can.

He has scars that I can never erase—all I can do is pour all the love I have into them.

I love the story of how Jesus left the 99 sheep for the 1.
I just can’t get over it.
God searched for me.
He fought for me.
He found me.
He sealed me with his blood.
He adopted me.
And he brought me home.
The only way I got into God’s family was through an incredibly painful, holy adoption.

You see, I’m learning that adoption is part of all of our stories.

As Alex grows up, the depths of my heart pray that he knows he is wanted.
He is valued.
He is adored.
He is cherished.
He is loved.
So very loved.

I might not get it all right. I might not be enough for my son, but I don’t want to be enough. Only Jesus can fill that void.

I want to be here.
I want to be all in.
I want to take Alex for everything that he is; to love him without condition.

I pray that one day Alex will be sent out whole, healed, and redeemed by the work of our Savior—simply because we chose to love Alex—both beautifully and imperfectly, not seeking anything in return.

God is enough for us all.
He can overcome Alex’s grief and hurt.
He can overshadow mine and Colton’s inadequacies as parents.
He alone can sweep our entire extended family in a beautiful story of hope, healing, redemption, and grace.

God is in these moments.
The beautifully imperfect moments.
He is here.
And He is enough.


And thank goodness I don’t have to be.