Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thank goodness He is enough.

It was a Thursday morning at 9:57 AM.
I remember sitting there.
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.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Our Journey on the road of Adoption

Colton and I have decided to adopt a child and we pray and hope that you read our story and join hands with us on this journey.

Back in October, Colton and I attended a leadership conference in Georgia with the youth ministry staff at First Presbyterian Church, where Colton is a youth associate. The overarching theme of the conference was this idea of ‘uncommon fellowship.’ Essentially, this idea of uncommon fellowship suggests that as Christians, we are called to a jaw-dropping, head-turning, never would’ve imagined association with other people. 

While Colton and I both walked away with countless things to consider and ways to apply what we learned at the conference, one thing was visibly clear: God was calling us to adopt. He was calling us to step out in faith, trusting that His ways are Sovereign.

Colton and I got married almost two years ago now. To spare you the details, we cannot have our own biological children (at least at this point in life). There are potential opportunities that we will one day have, or we may never have the opportunity. We simply do not know. While I am not going to go into detail about it here, we would love to share our story with you if you ask us about it! 

As we have navigated through this over the past two years, we have had multiple conversations about adoption. Most conversations have been brief, slightly emotional, and pushed to the side. Yet, after the conference we attended in October, the issue was not pushed to the side at all. Instead, we both walked away with the same call before we ever discussed it with one another.

This time we knew
This time we didn’t have any excuses.
This time we were confident in the direction God was leading us. He was calling us to adopt. And He wasn’t just calling us to adopt a newborn infant, He was calling us to surrender ourselves to the possibility of a six year old, a four year old, a child that has been removed from there home--wherever the road may take us.

The thing about God is that He doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He often calls us to step out in faith and put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through. That’s what faith is.

When Jesus called his disciples they didn’t say: “Oh, hey Jesus! Yes, I’ll go with you. Just come back in 5 years when I’m ready.” No, they dropped everything, went, and followed Him.

It’s interesting to look back and see how the pieces of the puzzle start fitting together.
Maybe God called me to work for a non-profit in college for 4 years where my heart for the broken began and my passion for children became fierce because he knew the call he would one day stir in our hearts.
Maybe God called Colton into a leadership role with an organization in college called Treadaway Kids where we witnessed first hand the need for God’s love and healing.
Maybe God guided me to change my major to the field of social services because he knew the path he would one day call us to.
Maybe God placed Colton at a church in Abilene that would be passionate about adoption and thus place an intense call on Colton’s heart years ago.
Maybe I was led to work at the Children Shelter and to teach at a Title 1 school in downtown San Antonio because God knew the direction He would one day take us.

God led Colton and I together for many reasons, but one of them is this. We have a shared passion and dream to adopt a child who comes from hurt and brokenness and desperately and lovingly show them the beautiful grace and love of Christ Jesus.

We cannot have children of our own right now, but we trust that God’s plans are higher than ours. We trust that God has led us here for His purpose, not ours.

God is always for us. He is never against us. And so we choose to walk in faith and obedience to this call.

So, we are asking that you join hands with us and walk.
Walk with us down this road.
Join us on this journey.
Pray for us and for our future child.

When I find myself praying about this, I don’t even have the slightest idea of what to pray for.
There will be challenges.
There will be risks.
There will be criticism from others.
The child will more than likely have some sort of physical or mental delay.
Oh, we know the road will be difficult.

The picture of adoption is awfully inviting. It’s beautiful. It’s the gospel picture brought to life. Redeeming a child from brokenness, pain, harm, and suffering is extremely life giving. To play just a small role in bringing hope and life to a child is a calling of Jesus Christ himself. It truly is beautiful.

However, adoption is God’s second best plan. Without tragedy and pain, there would be no need for adoption. Without abuse, poor choices, and sin, we would not be in this position. If something were not broken, there would be no need to fix it. If it were not for the fact that something went terribly wrong, adoption would not be necessary at all.

So with the joy of choosing to say yes to this call, our hearts are also heavy. Because this is not what God intended. Whether it be death, abuse, abandonment, whether intentional or not, there is an absolutely horrifying and tragic reason why this child that we will one day call our own needs a different family than the one that shares his same blood. Out of any adoption comes a broken past, a place of darkness, and a place where Satan has chosen to reign.

You see, this isn’t what it should look like. It should be his biological mother that will tuck our future child into bed at night. It should be his biological father that teaches him how to play sports and the importance of teamwork. It should be his real parents that drive him to school, make his lunch, and love him unconditionally. He should be taught the value of discipline and consequences, not by us—but by them.

Yet we live in this awfully fallen world where parents leave their own to roam the streets because they were never taught anything otherwise. So, for the sake of offering healing to just one, we know the road will often feel like an uphill battle. For the sake of redeeming this one child, whom God loves more than any of us can ever describe, may we be willing to have our well-put-together life turned inside out and flipped upside down.

We have no idea what we are getting ourselves into. And I think if we did, we wouldn’t be choosing to get into it. I believe that God often allows us to run into His call without having all the pieces put together because he knows us too well. He knows that if we really knew the true cost of what He is asking us to do, we would run away in fear. We would slam the door shut and run the opposite direction before we even got to see how His refining power works. I firmly believe that God may be keeping us blinded to the trials we will face in order to grow our faith. This doesn’t mean we are na├»ve (although we definitely are to some degree), it simply means that we have heard all the horror stories and we are choosing to still say yes.

While there is beauty in the redeeming, we know adoption can be ugly. It takes a long time for broken things to mend. It takes quite a while for wounds to heal and pain to cease, if it ever ceases at all.

Yes, the gospel picture of adoption is beautiful. God adopted us as His own children. But the gospel story includes an intense amount of suffering.

Without death, there would be no resurrection.
Without suffering, there would be no restoration.
Without fear, there would be no redemption.
Without tragedy, there would be no reconciliation.
Without pain, there is no joy in victory.

Through this process may we look Satan in the face and tell him to get out. May we shine the light of Christ in his face and tell him to leave.

We understand that this is going to be very difficult.
We are going to fail countless times I am sure.
We will cry out to God asking him, “why?’
We will be overwhelmed.
We may even struggle to love this child. But on our own, we can’t love anyway. It’s impossible. But the incredibly good news of Jesus Christ is that he can teach us to love unconditionally without expecting anything back in return. It may take years for this child to love us back, if they even do at all. We know that. But with God fighting for us, we can overcome the darkness. With the power of the one who raised Himself from the grave living inside of us, our hearts can be resurrected.

Thank goodness that his mercies are new every morning and His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness.

So once again, we ask that you join in this journey with us.
That you be there to hold our hands and assure us that God’s got this.
That you come to our future child’s extra curricular events, showing them that there is power in the body of Christ.
We ask that you cry with us, sit with us, and remind us why we are doing this when the road seems unclear.
We ask that you rally around us in love and prayer for the sake of just one child.
And most importantly we ask that you pray. Pray. Pray Pray.
Pray for God to prepare our hearts in ways that we do not even realize we need to be prepared.
Pray that we have faith and endurance.
Pray that we have peace and hope.
And pray for our future child, whoever they may be. Pray that whether they are an infant or an eight year old when they come to us, that they can experience the redeeming love of Jesus Christ the minute they walk into our home.
Pray they feel safe, valued, trusted, wanted. Pray that our future child, above all else, will find their identity in Christ alone. Pray that they can shake the brokenness and darkness that has certainly overwhelmed their life and run into the beautiful, live giving, resurrecting grace of Christ Jesus.

This journey won’t be easy.

But we know our God trades beauty for ashes.