HAVE YOU EVER JUST KNOWN
Have you ever really just known? I mean truly known? Not the "I think", or "I feel like", but the "I know beyond a shadow of a doubt" kind of known?
That was us. We just knew!
There aren't many times in my life that I can say I truly knew that God was asking me to do something. I have had plenty of "I think God wants me to…" and "I feel like God might be calling me to…" This time it was different. This time I knew. We knew. The 3 Bigs knew. God left nothing for question. He made it perfectly, miraculously clear.
I have a story to tell. I don't think I will be able to do it justice; I'm not a writer and my storytelling skills aren't much better, but it is a story worth telling. It is the story of God, the gospel, unwilling hearts, and ultimately change that can come only through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. Oh, and also of a family that needed to be completed.
This isn't my story, Lee’s story, or the Big’s story. This is God's story. I hope it brings you closer to Him and gives you the courage to respond with a resounding "YES!" to whatever He is asking of you. After all, not only are we God's workmanship, created to do good works, which God has already prepared for us (Eph 2:10), but God gave us His Word, so that we may be thoroughly equipped to do every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). Pretty cool, huh?
THE STORY, pt. 1 The Prelude
I don't really know how many parts this story will have. I do know I can't tell it in one sitting. There are too many parts. Too many layers. I'm not sure I even have them all sorted out in my mind. But I do know the beginning, and it starts with Lee thinking he could say no.
I have come to the conclusion that Lee needs to stop saying, "I will never" in regards to anything God related. There are now 4 distinct times I can remember him saying, "I have no desire to..." or "I don't see myself ever…"
The first time he said that to me was very early in our marriage. The conversation went like this: me - "Do you ever think you'll want to be an elder?" Lee - "Definitely not. I'm just not elder material!" Guess what God did… He made an unwilling heart into an elder at our church.
The second time was a few years later. Me - "Do you think you could be a teacher at church?" Lee - "No way!!! I am not comfortable talking in front of people." God again stepped in and, you guessed it, turned that unwilling heart into a teacher. Lee has now taught Sunday school at church for the past 10 or so years. (And if you ask me, God turned him into the best Sunday school teacher I've ever had, of course I might be a touch biased.)
The third time came about 5 years into our marriage. Me - "Do you ever think you'd like to go on a mission trip?" (By now you can probably guess the response.) Lee - "I'm just not mission trip material. I will leave that for the people who feel called that direction." Fifteen surgical mission trips later we assume God had something else in mind for Lee.
And the final time came 5 years ago when my brother and his wife informed us they were in the process of adopting child number 4 after 3 homegrown kids. The conversation (standing in our closet for some weird reason) went something like this. Me - "Wow, that is so crazy that they are adopting." Lee - "Yeah, pretty wild." Me - "Do you think that is something we would ever want to do?" Lee - "Definitely not! I have no desire to go down that road." Me - "Yeah, me neither." Lee - "I'm thankful that there are people that feel called to that, but I am definitely not one of them." Me - "I totally agree. Whew!"
And that was the end of our adoption conversation. We felt so glad that people were feeling called to adopt and also felt a very great relief that we didn't feel God calling us to that. I imagine it was a little like the crowd that might have been hanging out with Jesus when the rich young ruler asked Him what he needed to do. When Jesus told the rich guy to go sell everything he had and come follow him, don't you know there were those people (like Lee and me) standing around saying, "Boy, I sure am glad Jesus didn't tell me I needed to go sell everything." "Yeah, that's gotta be a tough road.” “Sure am glad that's not me."
And that was it.
Or so we thought.
I think God doesn't like it when Lee says never.
THE STORY, pt. 2 The Catalyst
catalyst : an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action
Sometimes change can occur with only one catalyst. You know, that one sermon, one verse, one event, one whatever. Sometimes it takes more than one...
Jonah said no to God when God called him to go to Ninevah. Actually, I think it might have been more like "Heck no! Are you kidding me? I'm pretty sure I WON'T be going THERE!!!" So God sent a catalyst. It came in the form of a mighty storm, scared out of their wits sailors, and 3 days in a big stinky fish. You know the story. God changed Jonah's hard heart.
Sometimes, however, if you have a really stubborn and really hard heart it takes more catalysts and more time. Like two or three catalysts, and shall we say, oh, 5+ YEARS!!!
God started sending catalysts our way over 5 years ago. Sometimes I stop and wonder why it took so long for us to hear His call, but then I am reminded of Isaiah 25:1 "Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago." God planned and purposed this adoption from LONG ago. That means that His timing is perfect.
So, back to the catalysts...
Have you ever heard of Katie Davis? If not, please go read her blog. Start from the beginning (2007) and read the entire thing. You will not be unchanged.
I came across Katie Davis' blog about 5 years ago. Katie, a mere teenager fresh out of high school, moved from Nashville to Uganda and started doing mission work. And, in the process, adopted 13, yes, you read that right, 13 daughters! I couldn't believe what I was reading. I started from the beginning and read the entire blog in one week. I couldn't stop. I cried, I laughed, I worshipped. How could a teenager do this? I mean really? God had so gripped her heart that she couldn't do anything but this.
I shared the blog with Lee and he too was blown away by her faith. He cried (not a crier!) and we shared in the joy of how this young girl's faith was calling us to a deeper faith of our own. If she can be this bold for Christ and answer "Yes!" to His calling, surely we could too!
That blog led us to our next catalyst in October of 2011. And it was a catalyst in the very literal sense of the word. Catlyst Conference, Atlanta. I happened to see on Katie's blog that she was coming to the states and would be speaking at the Christian conference Catalyst in Atlanta. WHAT!?!? Katie Davis. Here. Speaking. I have no idea what this whole Catalyst Conference thing is, but sign me up!!! Wherever she is speaking, I am going. So, we went.
It was during this catalyst that God continued to strip away the hard layers of our hearts. We heard people share stories of adoption. Compassion International was there asking people to sponsor kids. I met someone standing in a book signing line that had adopted 2 internationally. We heard one of our favorite quotes from Katie when the interviewer asked about what she would say to people who were considering adoption. "Ask God if he wants you to adopt. I'm pretty sure He won't say no!" Profound!
The third catalyst came from watching my brother's family and their adoption of a sweet daughter after 3 homegrowns. We saw how God truly binds hearts together. It is an amazing thing to see and watch this beautiful brown skinned wonder amidst my very Caucasian family. No one sees her skin. No one thinks she doesn't quite fit. She is one of us. She is treasured. She is a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, and cousin. No different from the rest of us. She is amazing. God used her to show us what a beautiful thing an adoptive family can be.
The final catalyst occurred through Lee teaching the young adult Sunday school class at our church using the Not A Fan book by Kyle Idleman. The series led us through several peoples’ encounters with Jesus in the Bible. We studied the different responses to Him and weighed the question of are you just a fan of Jesus or do you really intend to follow Him? Wherever He calls. Whenever He calls. To whatever He calls you.
It was during this series that Lee and I both started feeling very restless. I knew God was asking me to do something different. Lee knew God was asking him to do something different. We both knew exactly what He was asking us to do. We just didn't realize that He was talking to the other one at the same time. So we were quiet on the subject. Totally silent. Not. A. Word.