From the time I was a child I knew conceptually that God loved me. I knew that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for sinners. I knew this and believed as much as any child could. But in the back of my mind, I sort of thought God was lucky to have me on His team. Perhaps He even smiled when He thought of me, because I wasn’t really “that bad”. Especially not like those other sinners He died for.
It wasn’t until college that the fruition of my childhood belief became a deep and life-changing faith. It wasn’t until I became the person that I had always judged that God showed me his far-reaching grace. I was transformed as I began to believe the truth that I was more sinful than I could dare to imagine and more loved than I could dare to dream.
Cornerstones of the Christian faith like grace, imputed righteousness, the power of the Spirit, community, evangelism, and other foundational truths I’d been taught as a kid became my oxygen. Jesus was no longer a part of my life…He became MY LIFE.
It was as if I had purchased a fully furnished house and finally had the electric company come and cut the lights on! Everything that was needed to live was in place and finally, it was a home that could be richly enjoyed.
Upon graduation, I zealously entered full-time Christian work and couldn’t wait to tell college students just like me about Jesus. I fell in love with watching the light grow from a flicker to a flame, as they began to understand the Gospel. I loved my job. Full time ministry! What’s not to love? Yet, God gently showed me that I was using my profession and ministry successes to prop up my ego and validate my identity. Full-time ministry was a good thing, but I had made it into a god thing, an idol in which my value and worth were found.
In the thick of my love affair with ministry you can bet your bottom dollar that I firmly believed I did not need a man to slow me down. And, on cue, per my pride, God used a trip to do Hurricane Katrina relief work to introduce me to a person He would use to show me His unfailing love
There we were, hundreds of Cru staff and college students covered in mud and bug bites, freezing our tails off sleeping on cots under circus tents and taking showers in the back of 18-wheelers. There he was, leading a team from Ole Miss and there was me, leading a team that “just so happened” to needed to bunk up with their students because there was no room for us at any other sites. Sparks flew, but the timing wasn’t quite right. Six months later we started dating, six months later we were engaged, six months later we were married and the rest is history! Literally HIS story!
I remember one night, Joel sat me down and said that he felt I had nothing left to give and that ministry was in a sense the "third wheel” in our relationship. I was heart-broken and ashamed but I knew that ministry-aholism and the anxiety that comes along with it were something that I needed to process and battle. God used Joel to teach me so much of His love and my identity in Christ being perfect and complete, not needing to work harder or do better and that I no longer needed to avoid sin to avoid my need for Jesus. It was powerful.
A few years into marriage we (and by we I actually mean “I”), finally moved from fear to faith and decided to try and start a family. After a year of “trying” we realized it simply wasn’t happening. This was soul-wrenching. I remember numerous trips home to see our family when I’d have fully envisioned and planned “the announcement” and played out how excited our parents would be to become grandparents. But every time, there was no announcement to be made. The endless cycle of hope and despair continued. Two years later, I remember our reproductive endocrinologist patting me on the knee and saying that humanly speaking, there was no reason we should not be able to conceive and that perhaps there was a Higher Power who had a better plan. This was the confirmation we needed to end fertility treatments and pursue adoption.
Our gut reaction was to begin an international adoption process. It seemed the sexy thing to do; yet after looking at our options, it didn’t seem to be the right fit. We pursued domestic infant adoption the way many of our friends had done, but again, we lacked the peace and confirmation that we needed to proceed. Of course, the ONE THING we said we’d NEVER do was foster and adopt a child through social services. I mean, we’d never been parents before and weren’t these kids typically older with more issues? We decided to do our due diligence and attend an interest meeting. It was there that the Holy Spirit made it irresistibly clear what He had in store to build our family.
We walked away with fresh tears on our faces and a forged plan to fight for a child. We spent 9 months meticulously scribbling out all our paperwork and then waiting. In the darkest of places, smack in the middle of a “what the heck is taking so long” pity party, we got the call. Okay, well, really I made the call because “WHAT THE HECK WAS TAKING SO LONG???” But the social worker on the other end of the line asked me, “Did you not get a phone call already? You were matched yesterday with a kid… Or maybe it was two kids? I’m not sure…just call this number.” And call the number I sure did. It took that social worker 4 hours to return my phone call. FOUR HOURS, PEOPLE!?! Do you know how well you can clean your oven when you have 4 hours of nervous energy pumping through your veins?
There were a flurry of phone calls and emotions followed by a pivotal conversation with a friend whose advice we trusted… WHO JUST SO HAPPENED TO HAVE OUR FUTURE SON IN HER RESPITE FOSTER CARE AT THAT VERY MOMENT!!! Within a day we were not only matched, but we were in LOVE with not one, but two precious children.
A boatload of details needed to be worked out. Details like car seats, elementary schools and job transitions. But amidst the details we were seeing miracles happen and dreams we never even knew to dream, were coming true. Joel’s birthday fell in the midst of the hubbub. I deliriously asked him if there were anything he’d like for his birthday. With his eyes filled with emotion, he sweetly said that all he wanted for his birthday were two pigtails and a cowlick. On July 25, a spunky 2 year old and a snuggly 5 year old, their foster family and I threw Joel a birthday party at the Chick Fila play place. A few days later they came to live with us. Joel got exactly what he wanted for his birthday.
Over the next 9 months there were biological parent visitations, court hearings and finally on April 24, 2012, the judge declared what we’d always known, that they were officially a part of our forever family!
Ours is a beautifully broken story of God being good even when He didn’t feel good and Him being completely caring and sovereign even when things seem insanely out of control…nothing different than what He is doing in the lives of all His children. And the rest is history. Truly HIS story!
Thanks so much to Kitty for sharing her story with us. She and her husband, Joel, have a fantastic website. Please visit
http://www.joelandkitty.com/ to learn more about them and read some more of her blogs.