One of the most powerful things that can happen in life is to find yourself within God’s story. To find your pain in God’s story. To find your joy in God’s story. There is purpose when we center ourselves in the intricate and epic saga, woven by a good Father who sent Heaven to earth to redeem our brokenness.
What must Abraham have felt, after receiving a promise from God, only to wait 25 years for his son Isaac to be born? Or Ruth, who found herself in mourning, a foreigner in a country far from her homeland? What was it like to be David in the 15 or 20, often perilous years between being anointed and becoming king?
Long seasons of their lives seem to have been steeped in suffering—mired in the drudgery of waiting. But, in hindsight, we can see a redemptive thread. Historically, all three are part of the lineage of Jesus. Within their own lifetimes, the childless Abraham became a patriarch, the widow Ruth became the bride of Boaz, and David—the warrior on the run—saw Jerusalem become the spiritual seat of the Jewish faith.
Each came to a crossroads moment—when Abraham journeyed up a mountain with his promised son in tow, willing to make the unthinkable sacrifice. When Ruth stood on the outskirts of her hometown, throwing one last glance over her shoulder before stepping into the unknown. When David passed on the opportunity to hasten his calling, refusing to take the life of his enemy into his own hands.
Ponder their words …
“The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” And later … “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son.”–Abraham
“Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”—Ruth
“The LORD forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the LORD’s anointed one, for the LORD himself has chosen him.”—David
Such faith-filled words, spoken at the most crucial of junctures. To utter words like these at times like these—it doesn’t happen unless a man has caught a glimpse of an eternal story. Unless a woman is overcome with the sense that her life is somehow part of a greater narrative. Unless they trust the Author enough to turn the page, come what may.
The House on the Corner
Robert and I were looking for a place to live, and one house caught my eye from the beginning—a rambling, two-story Austin stone, trimmed in green. It was 70 years old, and I loved it. Within minutes of touring the home on the corner, my imaginative mind had painted and redecorated every space—even the extra rooms our small family did not need.
But it didn’t work out, and we continued our search. Although we moved on, my heart was set on that corner house. One morning as I passed it on my way to work, I heard the whisper of a still, small Voice, “I am going to fill that house with your kids.”
After what seemed like forever to me, and through a series of unexpected events, we did end up buying the house I’d so admired. Unfortunately, our first few weeks as new home owners were spent wrapping up the longest hospital stay Olivia has ever had. We got home to find walls freshly painted by our family and church and a check in the mail from a generous friend of mine. The included note encouraged me to feel equally free to use the money for something practical—or not—and I settled on a farmhouse table for the dining room. At the time, we were a family of three. I felt a little silly ordering a table that could seat 12 people, but I did it anyway. After Robert managed to get the mammoth piece of furniture through the front door, he swore he’d never move it again. We placed an old church pew on one side and filled the remaining space with an eclectic mix of dining chairs. Robert and I sat at each end and waved to one another, laughing at the ridiculous distance between us. Within the next couple of years, A.J. was born, and a high-chair found a place at the table.
The Road Less Traveled
We had talked about fostering and adoption many times, but the particulars of our situation always made that leap seem impractical, if not impossible. A.J. was nearly a year old when we decided to take the plunge anyway. After mountains of research, paperwork and training, we came to the final stages of foster parent certification. It was during this time that we realized A.J. had the same rare genetic disorder as Olivia. I had suspected this, but hearing it out loud made me wonder if we were crazy to think we could bring more children into our family. I’m sure the idea seemed absurd to many of our acquaintances. Still, Robert and I felt we were following God’s leading, and so we moved forward.
We had taken a spring break cruise and were getting off the ship when I checked my voicemail. One was from an organization contracted with CPS. They wanted to know if we would consider fostering a 16-year-old girl. The message was a few days old, and I didn’t know what to expect when I returned the call. I found out that the teenaged girl had run away. CPS was looking for her, and if we agreed, they would bring her to us if she could be found. I threw my nervous energy into readying one of the upstairs rooms. I made a welcome basket—anxiously deliberating over each item. A few days later, Hilaria walked into our home and our hearts, and nothing has been the same since.
The placement calls kept coming, and we said no many times. No to a 13-year-old boy, since we didn’t think it prudent to have two unrelated teenagers in the house. No to a very young baby, since we couldn’t work out how two parents could handle three kids that needed to be carried. Then one day, Robert and I sat on the porch swing, talking about two sisters, ages 2 and 6. We prayed and we planned, and we brought Hilaria into the conversation. Then we searched, in a bit of a frenzy, for a car that would hold everyone. The suburban was ready on the same day Jazzy and Roxie came home. They were only supposed to stay a few weeks, but God had other plans. A family of seven soon surrounded the not-so-lonely dining table. My mind returned to God’s promise to “fill that house with your kids,” and I smiled.
There was never a guarantee that any of the three girls would remain in our home forever. The state’s goal in cases like these is to return children to their biological parents if possible. We came to love all three girls quickly. In my prayer time, I prayed for their mothers—that they would come to know Jesus and also see their children come safely home. If this could not happen, I prayed that God would make a way for the girls to stay with us, giving us grace to be the parents they needed. At one point during this season, I had a conversation with a mentor who had noticed a growing inclination in the Church toward fostering and adoption. The question she asked caused me to stop short: “Do you think it’s just a passing trend? Or do you think this is a movement originated by God?” The answer I gave wasn’t my own, and it hasn’t left me since: “I think adoption is the heart of God.”
On January 8, 2021, a judge legally declared what God had already ordained, that we are a family. He pronounced the girls’ new names: Hilaria Guadalupe Gomez-Hernandez Chapman. Jazzyanna Faith Chapman. Roxanne Joy Chapman. I let out the breath I’d been holding for almost two years. I can’t put into words how it felt to finally know for certain that Hilaria’s hope-filled smile, Jazzy’s dancing eyes, and Roxie’s infectious giggle weren’t going anywhere. Our pastor dedicated each of our children to God, and Robert and I played and sang a song we had written. Each of the girls received a Bible meant to mark the spiritual significance of the day and a piece of jewelry inscribed with “forever.” We took family photos that now sit above the mantle.
I will always cherish the day we officially became a family, and yet, there was nothing perfect, smooth or easy about the journey it took to get there. The road to adoption was bumpy and heart-wrenching and so, so hard. It is still hard, because Hilaria had to watch her mama die. And there is a part of Jazzy that continues to push back—maybe to see if we really do love her the way we claim to. While Roxie’s mind is too young to remember specifics, her emotions often tell a different story. Adoption hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. The God who never forsakes hasn’t left us for a moment. There is a dimension of color in our lives that was missing before. He makes the joyous times more vivid and is painting a portrait that brings something beautiful out of the struggle.
God’s Adoption Story
I don’t quite know how to give voice to all that God has been doing in my heart regarding adoption. My best attempt is below, and I’ve chosen to use dialogue. Please don’t assume that I’ve heard the audible voice of God (I haven’t.) or that in every case, these are His exact words. (Often, He leaves an impression on the inside of me without using words.) I also want to make it clear that becoming a foster parent isn’t the only way to reflect God’s heart for adoption. (I will list some practical ideas in a future post.) What follows is an expression of God’s adoption story, as revealed to me.
Me: God, I’m so thankful for my first two babies. You know how precious Olivia and A.J. are to me. They made me a mother, and they occupy a space in my heart that no one else could possibly fill.
God: Yes, I know. This is something like the love I have for my people Israel. Even before I called Abraham, I chose his children out from among all nations to be my own special treasure.
Me: All these years, I have ached for a child of mine to call me “mama.” That day is here, and it brings a strange mix of joy and longing. When I hear Hilaria or Jazzy or Roxie call me mom, my heart overflows with gratitude. At the same time, I would give almost anything to hear those words from Olivia and from A.J.
God: I also thrill at the sound of my kids calling my name. I love to hear you call me Father, and I have gone to great lengths to be able to call you my own, dear child. So many of my people Israel still hold me at a distance. They show great respect and honor for my name but don’t speak it aloud, not seeing that because of Jesus, they are free to come to me as Abba Father, their Daddy God.
Me: Sometimes this path is so hard. Excruciating even. My children—all five of them—require so much of me. Many days I feel like what they need is more than I have to give. So often, I fail miserably.
God: When you offer your children more than you have, I make up the difference and more. It is in this kind of sacrifice that you follow the Way of the cross. My Son is your example. It was for the joy set before him that Jesus endured the cross. Whatever pain and hardship you experience, it is nothing compared to what he bore on Calvary. My grace is enough for you.
Me: Why was it necessary? Why did He have to go to the cross?
God: Because of you, child. The cross was the Way to rescue you. Without it, you would be lost and left to your own defenses, which would inevitably fail you. Let me ask you a question. If Olivia and AJ had been able to call you by name all this time, would you have opened the door to the rest?
Me: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. If things were different, I don’t know what choices we might have made.
God: I will answer for you. It was for them. For Hilaria, Jazzy and Roxie. For them, I allowed the circumstances of your life to bring you to a place where you could and would adopt them as your own. Because I love them, and because I love you and Robert, and Olivia and A.J. too. I am not the author of your pain. I am the One who saw the end from the beginning. I fashioned broken pieces together to form the mosaic of your family. What I have made is good. It is already beautiful, and I am not even finished yet. Just as I saw your family from the beginning, I saw my family too–Jew and Gentile, one in me. It is for that family that I sent my Son to the cross.
Me: Is it worth it? Will it be worth it?
God: You are worth it, yes. And though you cannot see it yet, the day is coming when my family will be all I have created it to be—firstborn and adopted children, all in me together. I am Redeemer, and I have been restoring the fragmented things all along. Redemption is the genre of my story. If you look closely, you will see this on every page. It is in my choosing of Abraham, in the giving of the law, in the sacrifice of my Son, in the gift of my Spirit, and in the birth of my Church. I have never stopped doing redemptive things, and I want to continue writing that story in your life. The day is coming when your family too, will find perfect wholeness in me. Turn the page, child.
I encourage you to find your pain, your joy and your purpose in the fabric of God’s redemptive story. If you know Jesus as Rescuer and Captain, you have been adopted into the family of God. If this is not true of you yet, now is the time. Wherever you are on your faith journey, dare to call your Father by name. Ask Him the hard questions. Recognize His redeeming hand at work in your life. Seek out your role in God’s great story, and don’t be afraid to follow His leading. Find the courage to turn the page, and hand over the pen.