Monday, January 25, 2016

ALL things for good...

A few months ago I asked God a very specific question, and He gave me a very detailed answer.

Now before I tell you what the question was, you should probably know a little bit about the timing of our adoption. In case you missed this blog, I shared that God started speaking to us specifically about starting adoption now on October 17, 2011. At the time adoption was a "someday" dream. Our plan was not to start a family until we'd been married for 3 - 5 years... and then to start our family with a biological child or two before adopting. So imagine our surprise when God started telling us to adopt first, and adopt now, only 2 and 1/2 years into our marriage!

The Lord asked me some very specific questions that night. Questions like "Is 'I'm not ready to be a mom yet' a good enough excuse to wait? Do you think any child is ready to be an orphan?" and the one that really got me... "What if there is a little girl or little boy out there - right now - waiting for a mommy and you aren't coming?!" His prompting did a lot to put the orphan crisis in perspective for us... and we began actively pursuing our adoption from Thailand less than 4 months later.

I really thought it would be a quick process. I just knew that if God had called us to start the process NOW instead of later - then there had to be a reason. I expected to find out that maybe that night, October 17, 2011 - was the night our daughter was born! Or maybe it was when she was placed in an orphanage? There had to be a reason God was speaking to our hearts so urgently!

And then... 4 years passed... and we still weren't (aren't!) even matched with a child.

It seems confusing, right?

And considering we're approved for a child 3 years old or younger - that means that our daughter wasn't born when God started pushing us toward adoption. As a matter of fact, she wasn't even conceived!

A few months ago I started thinking about this timeline, and how confusing it has been for us. As I mulled it all over in my mind I blurted out...

"Why God? Why did you start speaking to us then?! Kate wasn't even born yet... and she couldn't have even been conceived! Her birth parents might not have even met yet when you started prompting us to pursue her. So why? Why start our process then... especially if you knew how long and hard it was going to be?! Why not just speak to us about adoption 2 years later, and then make our process go smoothly? (Instead of the rocky road we've been traveling for 4 years!) I don't understand God! WHY?" 

What happened next was unbelievable.

Have you ever watched a movie scene where the character sees their whole life flash before their eyes? Well, that's similar to what happened to me. In an instant, God had flashed the answer - the lengthy, detailed answer with lots and lots of specific examples - before my eyes. (Ask and you shall receive, right?) What He revealed was incredible.

God showed me ONE relationship. Just one out of the many that I've made since we started this adoption. And He showed me just how far-reaching the effects of that relationship have been - like hundreds of ripples from one tiny stone dropped into a large pond. 

.       .       .

Her name is Heather. We went to college together, and while I'm sure our paths crossed and we may have even met at some point - we weren't friends. We weren't even Facebook friends! But our adoption changed that.

Heather (far left), two of my dearest neighbor friends (Natalie & Kate), and I 
at an early brunch the day before she left to meet her baby girl in the Bahamas!
(Ladies, we really need to take more pictures together!) 

She found my blog through a comment on another adoption blog - clicked through and read our difficult story. We were just in the beginning stages of our adoption... struggling to find an agency to work with. They were too - as they were adopting from a very uncommon country (The Bahamas - her husband's birth country). She offered to answer any questions I might have, and thought that maybe sharing our stories could help each other. I suggested meeting for lunch, and she accepted.

I think that first lunch lasted about 3 hours. I was completely smitten with her little boy Mason, and it was SO good to share about our difficult situations and try to figure out next steps. That first lunch quickly turned into a second, and a third, and before I knew it a real friendship had formed!

After Rusty and I found an agency and (officially) started our adoption, we began house hunting. As soon as I told Heather we were looking (during one of our lunches, of course) she insisted we consider her neighborhood, Crestwood. (A neighborhood that was not even on our radar!) I tried to dismiss her suggestion, but she would not be deterred! She calmed my fears about the location and school systems, and pushed again and again that we consider looking there.

As hesitant as we were initially.... it turns out that Crestwood was exactly where we were supposed to be! We met some of our closest neighbor-friends (one who happens to be an adoptive mom named Kate!) in Heather's front yard. She sent us the photo and phone number for our sweet little "For Sale By Owner" house. She was the witness who signed our purchase agreement when we decided it was "the one". And this lovely little neighborhood that she insisted we consider has now been the biggest source of life, love, and encouragement for us. We love our neighbors like family. The 13 children on our street are some of the most precious little ones you'll meet! We are experiencing a sense of community we've never had any where else. We feel known. We feel inspired creatively! It's been good for us emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally.

Rusty's little side venture (RJackson Media), which helps us make a little bit of extra income, never would've been started if we hadn't moved to this neighborhood. Some of his first clients were our neighbors! And for some strange reason, the property value in this neighborhood has shot up drastically (compared to other areas of Birmingham). So we're in a better position financially too!

But that's not all. Heather wasn't just our "realtor" (haha) and "adoption encourager", she is also now a Board Member for our nonprofit The Sound of Hope. I never could have pulled off our big event last May without her! She's also singularly responsible for introducing us to Project for Awesome - a video competition that awarded us $15,000 in 2015 and helped provide education for the 209 children in our care!

Heather, Mason, Jeremy, & Karis the day they came home from the Bahamas!

And of course, best of all, Heather and her husband Jeremy are such sweet friends. She is so talented, creative, thoughtful, kind, encouraging, and REAL. I can't imagine my life without her, Rusty has loved getting to know Jeremy, and we both adore their two beautiful, snuggly babies Mason and Karis (who was adopted from the Bahamas in 2013!)

And as I stepped back and surveyed all those little ripples, wide-eyed from what God has done in my life through that ONE relationship, he said gently...

"See? It's not always what you expect, but I am always working. I knew this was the timeline you needed, for reasons you couldn't see. It wasn't just about Kate. It wasn't just about preparing her for you, or you for her. It's always been about so. much. more.
I work ALL things together for the good of those who love me dear. ALL THINGS. I've been working these past 4 years for your good and Rusty's good. I put you in a neighborhood where you would be blessed with the best community. I made sure you would grow mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I've surrounded you with special relationships. I've made sure you were cared for financially. I've spurred your creativity on, and put you somewhere you would be encouraged to try new things. These are all ways that I am preparing the way for Kate too... preparing a loving home and community for her when the time is right.
But I'm also working in other ways too! I work ALL things together for the good of those who love me. It's not just you dear.... my plan is bigger than that. I've also been working on behalf of the 209 children you have in your care around the world! Because I care for orphans, and I'm always working behind the scenes to make sure those children are provided for too.
I'm at work in ALL THINGS."

I told Heather about all this, and she too was amazed. She told me, "Ericka - if you hadn't been pursuing your adoption right then, we probably never would've met! If you'd waited 2 years, I would've already been home with Karis! I stopped reading adoption blogs once she was placed with us and focused on her. We might never have become friends!"

.       .       .

It is humbling for me to realize how much bigger God's plan is than mine. It is overwhelming to think that this is just one example taken from one relationship He has added to my life through this adoption. I have become friends with some of the most precious women because of our adoption. If this is the affect just one relationship has had on the past 4 years... if this is how becoming friends with just one new person has changed the course of my life - I can't imagine what I would see if I could view the past 4 years through God's eyes! I'm so grateful that He was gracious enough to give me this little glimpse into what He's been up to!

I am comforted by the truth that He is never idle. He wastes nothing. He is always at work... redeeming, renewing, and enriching our lives. 

So whatever your struggle is right now dear one, remember that there is so much truth in Romans 8:28. He is working ALL things together for your good! You may not be able to see it right now, but you can trust that you are in His hand, and He is ultimately in control, unfolding what is best for you in ways that only He can. And maybe, just maybe, if you ask Him... He will give you a little glimpse into His goodness.

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