I can remember October 2009, we were at Catalyst in Atlanta. Mac Powell from Third Day shared about adoption and their journey to adopt their little baby boy. Then all of these beautiful children from Kenya joined him on the stage and together they sang 'Mighty to Save'. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever experienced!!! I can remember the feelings that I had in my heart, a longing that was deep in the core of my being to have more children. We stopped by all of the adoption agency tables and picked up information. Ryan was humoring me, more than encouraging me... Nonetheless, I poured over all of the information, and then threw it away.
It was not the time for us to adopt. Our marriage was holding on by a thin thread, though God was definitely calling our names, drawing us nearer to Him, we had continued to resist the transforming work that He so longed to do in our hearts, in our marriage, in our family and in our lives. A few weeks later, Ryan sat up in bed and emphatically stated, "If this is all that life is, I'd rather be dead." We were on the brink of coming to the end of ourselves. I completely agreed with his statement. I wanted to experience the freedom of a wrecklessly abandoned life! I so badly wanted to understand peace and to live it in my life regardless of the circumstances. I wanted to be made new, but I was SO afraid, and I didn't know how to let go of all of the baggage that I had carried for so long. We did not know how to forgive, or how to trust. But God was not going to relent in His pursuit...
One morning in November, Ryan went to play basketball with the guys, and came home saying that he had hurt his knee, but thought that it was just sprained. Later he would find out that he had torn out his ACL. Running was the way that he burnt off energy and relieved stress. Now, God had removed that outlet... He couldn't run and had to learn to be still. He found himself awake with the Lord every morning... God would not let him sleep! At the same time, he was struggling with issues in his inner ear that made flying (his lifetime career goal) impossible!!! After a few very long months, surgery and recovery, we found ourselves in Pensacola, Florida. Ryan was going through a program to see if they could 'kick-start' the organ in his ear that had been identified as the source of his issues. There were so many questions lingering about the future of his career if this did not work, but it seemed obvious that it would not. We found ourselves crushed by the stress and uncertainty of the future. No longer were we on the same team, we were fighting for air, trying to stay afloat, trying to breath... We were sinking and sinking fast. We were ready to call it quits!!! We were ready to cash in the remaining chips hoping to make something out of what seemed to be NOTHING. THEN...
We saw this flyer. On the front cover was that same choir that had sung with Mac Powell at Catalyst. It was the Daraja Children's Choir from Africa. We thought how wonderful it would be to go and see them, so we got up early one Sunday morning and drove an hour to this little church to see them sing. We found ourselves worshipping TOGETHER with this choir. We were the only two crazy people standing, lifting our hands, with tears running down our cheeks, worshipping with these beautiful children. There was a video about where the kids had come from. At one point, the child taking us on a "tour" of his home went to open the can where they kept the maize and it was empty... and he kindof chuckled... well we have no food. Then kept on going. This little man was on stage singing his heart out to the Lord about how good he was. Both Ryan and I were so moved. We stayed for a little bit to mingle with the children and this beautiful little lady named Emma came up to Ryan and said, "I saw you worshipping with me, and it made my heart so happy!" It was as if a hammer of grace had fallen and broke through his hardened heart! We left that afternoon, went back to our hotel and went down to the pool. We were reading and then almost simultaneously, Ryan and I looked at each other and knew that we HAD to go back. Earlier that morning, we had learned that there were plans to build an academy in Nairobi for the children who were in the choir (many of them orphaned or at-risk children). We knew that we were supposed to go back and to give to the project. Ryan and I both knew the number that we were supposed to give and we were on mission TOGETHER! It was a crazy amount because it was money we had set aside to be debt free... Debt free or give... we chose to give! We met this amazing woman named Christi. She was the Director of the choir. She shared more and asked some questions about our life. She poured love into our hearts, enough to keep us going a little bit longer.
We have learned that the times when you step out and start to walk toward the cross are the times that Satan attacks. AND that is exactly what happened. Ryan and I hit rock bottom. I called a dear friend, Cindy, crying my eyes out. I did not want our marriage to end. I knew that somewhere in my heart and in all of the confusion that I loved Ryan. I wanted to be loved by him. I wanted for my children what I did not have as a child... parents who lived in harmony with one another. I wanted freedom from the chains of my past brokenness and hurt... I wanted to STOP running! Cindy, and her husband David left 45 minutes after that call to come and stay with us for a week! They did their very first Marriage 911 weekend with us! Though they are not our saviors, Jesus allowed them to be the lifeguards that pulled us out of the raging seas so that He could be our Great Physician! We learned so much that week about ourselves and each other. Our needs, our fears, our longings and desires. What we learned is that we both REALLY wanted the same thing. We continued to work with this precious couple for months afterward, and still confide in them often. (I could write a whole post about this weekend... probably should... probably will... but I'll keep on with this story, cause it leads to the amazing events of today).
Remember, Christi, well in the following spring, she sent me a message inviting me to go on a trip to Kenya with her and some others to begin vision casting for the academy. Through many twists of events... the trip dates changing... I found myself in Kenya in October of 2011. TWO YEARS after Catalyst. I was able to meet Emma again, and her sweet friend Hannah. I was able to share with them that God had used them mightily in our lives, and that a family stayed together in part because of the words that she had spoken. I hugged that little lady and she hugged me back! I fell in love with Kenya, with Africa and there I learned so much about God's sovereignty! He showed me in a very personal way that He speaks! I left feeling as though I had gained more than I had given. Ryan was certain that I was to go on this trip, and though I fought him tooth and nail about it, and almost backed out, he felt confidently that he was to make sure that I went.
When I came home, he knew that something mighty had happened in my heart. As we talked about all that had happened on that trip, we knew that God was calling us to a change that would be beyond ourselves. Six months later... we started the adoption process of two little girls from Africa! There have been so many times through this process that God has reminded me of something that he taught me while I was there. I was not certain why I had to go... but there are things that he taught me while I was in Kenya, that I could never have learned here. Without those lessons, Ava and Zoey may not have ever come to be my daughters.
Almost exactly three years after our experience at Catalyst, we see this amazing web of intersections that God has brought us through. We see how things connect and have come together to become our story... the plan that He had all along for our lives. Through those darkest moments He was there, working in and through the pain. He has never ceased to pursue us, to draw us unto Himself. He has used people to impact our lives in ways that we could have never imagined... and has written a script far more beautiful than any I could have ever imagined.
And yesterday, we became parents of Ava Joy and Zoey Grace Owen.
This is not near the end of the journey, not even the beginning, but another stop along this journey we call life. This journey can only be defined by the Divine!