In January of this year Nate and I had the privilege of going to Ghana, Africa, with four of our friends. There is so much that I could write about from that trip and maybe I will at some point, but for now I want to write about what happened when we got home and share what God is asking from our family next.
It's not a secret that God has given us a heart for children and from His Word we have chosen to live out what we believe is a clear command to care for the orphans. Our journey in this started four years ago when we said yes to foster care. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, we just knew that we wanted our lives to be lived in a way that modeled obedience to God. So since then we have said yes to whatever God shows us, easy or hard. Since beginning foster care, we have seen 11 different children in and out of our home and have had one young boy since last April. It is the hardest thing we have done thus far. It's the thing that makes me lean into God more than ALMOST any other thing. The one thing that trumps that has been adoption. Adoption is hard. March 13th will mark two years since our adoption of Avery has been final. So many amazing things have happened in those two years with this little girl. She is extremely sweet, helpful, kind and loving. Our lives would not be the same without her. These two years have also been very, very difficult in learning how to love a child that hasn't had the privilege of being born into a family that loves her and cares for her the way she deserves to be. As hard as it's been, there is sweet reward in obeying God. There is a closeness and an intimacy as we walk this journey that I would not trade for anything.
So fast forwarding to our trip. I was a little shocked at how many people asked or assumed we were going to Ghana to adopt. My answer was always a firm no. I even emailed our family specifically telling them we are not going to Ghana to adopt. That truly was not the intent of this trip. We have seen what God has been doing through the Sullivan family for the last 5 years in Ghana and have prayed for them and supported them and Nate and I both had always wanted to go and see for ourselves everything going on there and to also be a support to our friends. I thought that was the intent of this trip, and to some extent it was.
While we were at the mission center we met a sibling group of three boys. There was just something about them that caught our attention and not just ours, but every person who has had interactions with these boys would say the same. There's something special about them. Their story, their personalities, their smiles, their manners, everything. I personally did not think a whole lot about it other than they are great boys and I was praying that they would be adopted. I do remember thinking whoever adopted them would have to take a huge leap of faith and it would not be an emotional decision. After leaving the mission center, these boys were constantly on my mind and also on Nate's mind. Again, though, I did not think much about it because I had already concluded that we were not pursuing adoption right now, with one stipulation.... if God was the one asking us to do it and it was a matter of obedience, then we would obey. There was a time in my life I probably had a superficial idea of what adoption was and would have lead with my emotions rather than seeking God in it. I've grown enough to know that just because I see 3 sweet little faces that need a home, that doesn't mean that we are the ones to help them. I am in process of learning that not every 'assignment', so to speak, is ours.
For the sake of not making this post ridiculously long, I'm fast forwarding again. So now we're home from Ghana and these boys are still on our minds non stop, but neither of us actually talk about this out loud. I woke up one morning to a text from my friend Typh, who was also on the trip with us, and the text said, "What are the names of those 3 boys?" I knew immediately because I hadn't stopped thinking and praying for them. But what I wasn't expecting was this feeling I got inside of me. It was almost a panicky feeling. Why did she want to know? Was she telling their story to someone to try and get them to adopt them? She can't do that because I think these boys are ours. Wait..what?!? Did I really just think that? Where did that thought come from?
We texted back and forth a few times that day and this started a three day battle of my thoughts and lead both Nate and I to pray basically nonstop whether or not we were being asked to adopt these boys. Before Typh sent me that text, I had so much peace about where these boys would end up. After I talked to Typh and realized that WE potentially were the ones being asked to adopt them, I started to freak out. My mind was all over the place. I thought about the logistics of having SEVEN children...where do you even start with that. I was trying to pray through why I was so resistant to the idea of adopting again and was just praying for clarity and confirmations of this adoption either way. I really did not want to move ahead or do something God wasn't asking us to do, but I also knew that I didn't want to miss out on something He WAS asking us to do. Yes, my mind was spinning.
There would be a million and one reasons I could talk myself out of this. Our house is too small, we don't have money laying around for an adoption, we can't fit seven people in our vehicle, how do you feed them, clothe them, provide for them, what will people say or think?? Then my friend Janel sent me this quote out of a book we're reading through called "Battlefield of the Mind" and in it she says, "Reasoning is one of the busy activities in which the mind engages that prevents discernment and revelation knowledge. There is a big difference in head knowledge and revelation knowledge. You must lay aside carnal reasoning if you ever expect to have discernment. The Spirit is the more noble organ and should always be honored above the mind." So I stopped thinking practical thoughts and just said, okay God, if this is what you're asking us to do we will do it. If it's not, I don't want to do it.
That night I was in the kitchen doing dishes, praying about all this, and I looked up at our family picture in the living room. In the picture I saw these 3 boys standing in the picture! I had never experienced anything like this before. I stopped and blinked and could not believe I just saw that, and then it went away. I was in complete shock and don't actually know what I did next. The next day was honestly kind of a blur. Nate kept making comments that made me think that we were both thinking these boys were ours but neither of us actually wanted to speak those words out loud. There are a lot of small details I could go into, but basically God is faithful in answering prayer and He used a good friend to speak truth into me and spoke to some of the lies I was believing. Some of those details I probably won't share and some of them I cannot, for whatever reason, remember them. All I know is when she came to my house I was an emotional mess and when she left my house, I knew these boys were ours, and I had complete peace once again.
Looking back, another fun story in all this is one day Max was looking through all the pictures on my phone. I happened to have a picture of the boys on there and out of all the pictures on my phone, he stopped at that one. He read their names and with a huge smile on his face he looked at me and said, "Can we adopt them?!?" To which I replied, "You really want 3 brothers?" He said yes:) I didn't think much of it at the time but looking back, it was another confirmation of God's plan.
Usually when I'm being stripped of sin or in a hard situation, I didn't knowingly sign up for it. I'm in the middle of it only to find out I have sin or insecurity or lies I need to deal with. This will be different. We are signing up for a difficult journey knowing full well we'll be tested, transformed, stretched and challenged in every way possible. That's why I wanted the answer to be no. We already know the hardship of adoption. And three of our closest friends have done international adoption and through their journeys, we know how difficult the journey to bring them home can be. In my flesh, I don't want to be stretched or tested or have hard times. They stink. But God's ways are in complete contrast to my flesh. In James 1 it says, "Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing." Our desire is to be mature and complete.
Romans 8:5 says "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit....to set the mind on the Spirit is LIFE and PEACE." Living life to the fullest means living according to God's ways. So we will choose to set our minds on God and not our flesh. We will choose joy during the journey. We will choose to believe in the God who is in the business of doing supernatural things to pave the way. We have peace that these three boys are our boys:)
We also know at any time that God could change the course of this adoption, but right now we are saying yes to Him and yes to bringing these boys into our family. Let the journey begin!