She hugged me close and whispered in my ear, “I don’t know how you guys are doing what you’re doing.” It’s a statement I have heard variations of quite often, but one that always sort of surprises me. In some ways I can relate. I have wondered the same thing about my friends and loved ones who have packed up their families and chosen to live in countries oceans away from everything they know. I’ve hugged them, prayed for them, cried with them, and quietly in my heart wondered how they have the faith to answer such a tremendous call on their lives. Maybe it is natural to wonder this about callings which have not yet been asked of us personally. I wonder how I could pack my family up, leave our extended families, and live in another country, but my hope is that if The Lord asked it of us we would just do it, no matter the how.
So when people say this sort of thing to me, maybe they just can’t wrap their minds around it being their calling, which it probably isn’t.
Still, I can’t help but feel a little strange or uncertain with how to respond. We don’t feel like we have done anything extraordinary or that what we are doing is somehow impossible; obviously it isn’t impossible or we wouldn’t be doing it. But the consistent feedback has me questioning just how we do do it. The reality is, I look at the past four months and I’m slightly amazed at how strengthened we have been. So, I think I might just have an idea how we do it, and I’ll let you in on our secret. ;)
So first, let’s re-cap what exactly it is that people are wondering about:
As a family, we have gone through a number of significant transitions in the past five months. The two biggest transitions have been adding a child with special needs to our family (with about two weeks notice) and moving into the Men’s Quad Resident Director apartment at Tabor College. Don’t get all impressed now and assume we have superhuman magical qualities; when we started out on each of these journeys, those first steps were filled with a massive amount of fear and uncertainty—as most first steps usually are.
People have done a lot of ‘gasping’ at these steps in our journey and they have a lot of questions. My guess is that people can’t quite make sense of it from their perspective, but to us it feels like the most natural thing in the world. I can’t summarize our adoption journey or our decision to transition into college Resident Life in a neat, easy sentence. I can, however, summarize our lives in general: We are trying our best to obey Jesus’ call on a daily basis and years of daily acts of obedience result in lives lived for Jesus.
Some people commend us for the sacrifices we have made, but that sounds so silly to me. I certainly don’t feel like I’ve made some huge sacrifice to take in our son and make him our own and I would hate for him to think we feel that way. He has never, not once, felt like a burden; He feels like a blessing, like a natural part of us. And as for the apartment in the guys’ quad, sure it has its sub-par moments, but over-all we are excited to follow Jesus into this calling. We feel like very fortunate people, not martyrs! We actually feel pretty amazed that God would choose us for this work.
Paul’s words in Phil. 3:7-9 have never had more meaning to me than they do now.
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Maybe you look at our life and see tons of sacrifice—and, of course, there has been some because there is always sacrifice when following Jesus—but when I look at our lives all I see is GAIN, GAIN, GAIN. We have gained a son that is just as much ours as if we had birthed him. Through the challenges of medical care and wading through unknowns, we have gained a deeper understanding of God’s love and compassion. We have also gained empathy and compassion for others. Through foregoing our ‘rights’ to our own space and time, we have gained a greater dependency on our Father and better eyesight for His work set before us. We have gained tremendous daily opportunity to interact with souls desperately in need of God’s touch.
Allowing God to radically alter the course of our lives, family, and careers will demonstrate to our children how rich the fruit is from following Jesus wherever and whenever He leads. We are certain God will use all of these journeys to transform us more into Christ’s likeness and if I try to reflect on what we ‘lost’ in the process, well, to be totally honest, it’s hard to see it.
I’m not just saying this. On most days it doesn’t feel like sacrifice or loss, it feels like abundant life; and that’s exactly what Jesus said He came to give us.
So how do we do it?
The answer is simple: Grace.
God’s grace has been, is, and will always be sufficient for us. In His grace, He has transformed our hearts. In His grace, he has given us clear vision. In His grace, He has blessed our lives with the richness of knowing Him more deeply and giving us the courage to take first steps of obedience no matter how much uncertainty or fear we feel. In His grace, He has equipped us to live the lives He has called us to live. In His grace, He has given us abundant life & the perspective to see it as what it is.
His grace is how I laugh about the fact that it sounds like a party outside of our apartment every night.
His grace is when I feel confident as I’m figuring out how to manage my various roles.
His grace is when we figure out how to manage our money when the medical bills pile up.
His grace is when we’re able to accept that the privacy we had living off campus is currently a thing of the past.
His grace is when I don’t freak out when our 6-year-old repeats a bad word she heard one of our ‘neighbors’ say.
His grace is sufficient when we can all see the comedy in how much we run into one another in our apartment.
His grace is sufficient when we have peace taking on a $40,000 adoption at the same time my husband is taking a huge pay-cut—both being results of following Jesus.
His grace is when we feel assurance even though following Him looks like foolishness to the world.
His grace is when I feel strength even though I am tired and weak and afraid.
His grace is when we find ourselves sitting next to a hospital crib holding our 12-pound baby boy whimpering in pain and confusion as he recovers from surgery and somehow we aren’t piles of sobbing messes of hopelessness on the floor, but rather, by His miraculous grace, we stand upright, certain of The Spirit’s nearness and goodness and comfort.
That is grace. 100%. Every time. Not our own strength or will, but grace.
Grace. Grace. Grace.
Any time you look at us and see something that makes you say, ‘Wow, how do they do it?’, you’re not seeing our greatness, you're seeing God’s grace.
So, yeah, that’s how we do it. We lean into grace.
We stand in the confidence that His grace will be unceasingly enough for following Him everywhere He leads; and we are confident this is true not just for us, but for you, too.