Sometimes you don’t know you are walking through a door until you are already through it.
Sometimes you don’t know a story is beginning —- until you find yourself looking at the last page — and the beginning of a new chapter.
Because sometimes you don’t know — if the book will be snatched out of your hands — or if you’ll be whipped around and escorted out of the room because somebody higher up didn’t think the likes of you belong… because somebody didn’t think you’re enough.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve started losing my voice. It happens. You can find yourself living into a story — that you don’t know how to begin to tell?
But honestly —- every story that you’ve ever lived wraps itself around your DNA. Your stories will express themselves, your stories will manifest themselves —- even if you never whisper a word of your story aloud.
You can think you can wear masks to hide your story from the world —-but maybe the masks we wear are really just a way for us to hide pieces of us from ourselves?
Our stories are always stronger than our masks.
There is no mask in the world that eventually our story won’t bleed through.
Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing the last year? Hiding this story from myself — losing my voice to tell this story, any story — because we were living a story that I was scared we weren’t enough for.
The whole story started actually last February.
Something holy had happened — and that’s a story, for another time, in due time —- but that’s when the long walk began, he and I talking slow, trying to find our way through. If it hadn’t been the middle of our winter, I would have walked our backroads in bare feet. Sometimes even hard ground can be holy ground.
Come last March the snow started to melt. You could hear the sparrows up in the spruce trees and everything thawing into hope. He and I would lay there in the dark after the kids went to bed, staring at the ceiling, murmuring begging prayers for clarity. Why do I have chronic soul amnesia and forget: We want clarity — and God wants us to come closer.
Clarity did not come. He came closer.
By time last May rolled around, when the seeds were in the ground all across our dirt, when there was the hope of life coming, the Farmer had decided. You can only walk so long before you get to a fork in the road and you’ve got to take a stab of faith.
“Let’s do it.” He told me on a Sunday.
I’d looked across the room at him, trying to figure if he’d really figured this was the direction we needed to head.
“If God’s leading you, I trust it — I can take this step of faith.”
I nodded slow, holding up a door frame, not knowing if we’d get to enter or not.
I mean —- we’d seen other people fling through their door, announce their big story — we’d seen other people get clear calls, loud bullhorns from heaven, Holy Spirit fire breathing in their bones so they were ablaze with a new story flung about a new room.
But here it was, May, three months of begging to know the way and what we got — was definitely not fireballs from heaven —- just a simply a conviction to obey. To trust.
That same weekend in May, the apple blossoms setting out in the orchard, a tried and true man of the cloth and the Cross, he pulled us aside and pastored the Farmer and I with words about leaps of faith, “What did Jesus in the Garden say, His face set toward the Cross? “Not what I will — but what You will.” And what did He say after the shadow of the Cross: “Out of the anguish of His soul, He saw and was satisfied” (Isa 53.11).
Sometimes you don’t feel God’s smile until after you take a step of obedience into God’s will.
We sat with that on that Sunday afternoon, the bees droning through the russet trees.
Certain peace may not come until after you take a certain step of faith. And a step of faith often feels like a step through fear.
That night the Farmer opened the only Book he owns that’s worn and battered and he read the next pages of his chronological reading, there in the tried and true book of Matthew, read it in the same chapter, that one line, not once, but twice: “Not as I will, but as you will.”
The Farmer had looked up at me and nodded.
“There’s your fireball.
And I’m sure.” He’d nodded and winked.
Maybe fireballs of faith happen just when His Word sits in your open hand.
So we went to the first class in June.
We told no one about those string of mandatory classes.
Or what we were embarking on or about our wild why. Not my dad or his, not my brother or his, not the church family or all of the kids. Because, frankly, there was no telling if we’d be deemed fit enough to make the cut, and it gnaws away a bit at you —- living on the crumbling edge of wondering if you’re enough. Every time you take a step of faith — there is this fear that you won’t be enough. You won’t be enough to make the leap, you won’t be enough to finish the journey, you won’t be enough to land on two feet.
We ran a couple of pens dry filling out paperwork and forms and files about our past, laying our bustedness down on paper. We were asked to write down our weaknesses, lay out our very worst, spell out all the things about us that might break and fall apart.
Have you ever been treated for depression?
Have you ever been to counselling?
Have you ever seen a psychiatrist?
My pen hovered. How in the world can you feel your heart and your blood all rushing deafening loud in your ears like that?
It can feel like if you show anyone your brokenness — it’s your dreams that will get broken.
I’d wanted to scrawl in my answer: “Look — Getting help isn’t a sign something’s wrong with you — it’s a sign that you are doing things right.
It’s never weak to seek help — it’s evidence of being strong.
How are you supposed to be healthy without finding a workout for your soul? Why this judgement of the people wise enough to get the best help to be better selves?”
I’d wanted to crumple those forms up in my fist and torch them before they burned the edges of my fragile bravery.
By last July, when the water was getting warm up at the lake, we got the letter asking us to produce and submit written reports of all my counselling sessions. I felt like someone had asked me to strip naked so I could be assessed, get my gums and teeth checked out, have my cellulite exposed, poked and evaluated. I felt small. Deeply broken. It started to feel like —- the greatest act of courage is to simply keep facing one direction when everything in you wants to turn and run.
Stand your shaky, holy ground.
We went and got finger prints on a summer morning right after the flashing heat of a thunderstorm rolled in from the west and across our fields.
Lined up for mug shots.
Come the lingering humidity of August, we begged every Tom, Dick and Harry to write us reference letters to try to prove we weren’t psychopathic, narcissistic hatchet-swingers but presented within the semblance of normalcy —- well, even if barely.
In the middle of last August’s wheat harvest, the Farmer stopped the combine as the sun sunk further down, boys jumped down from tractors, washed up at the water hose at the side of the barn, and we took family photos for our file right there in the field. One tired kid struggled to grin. We begged through thin smiles. I collated and organized that portfolio and letters and photos like I was warring some desperate life and death battle.
When you’ve got a big enough hope in your heart — you’re willing to risk being told you’re not enough.
I licked and sealed what felt like a hundred believing envelopes.
There’s some risks you have got to take because it turns out you can’t live not taking them. You can’t live with dreams drying up inside you like some dying and parched riverbed.
You can’t expect to keep breathing if you aren’t breathing in hope.
All through the summer, every Wednesday night, we hauled our 5 inch binders to those mandatory classes and kept our faces set like flint against the wind and we willed ourselves to keep breathing.
They came to inspect our house. Twice. I scrubbed the air vents with a tooth brush and prayed that all the closets were good enough and nothing fell down on any unsuspecting inspector’s head, because I doubted that would be helpful or that I would actually live through a scenario like that.
We served them pork roast on a platter afterward, followed by pie — – after nothing fell out of a closet on them, after they checked off all those squares on their precise little clipboard lists.
I poured coffee for them before they left. My hand didn’t even shake bad enough to spill any on the barn beam table.
Even if you don’t feel like enough — you have to risk enough — or you will die without ever having lived enough.
Even when you’re afraid of not being enough — you’ve got to be more afraid of not having stepped out enough.
Death by living is far preferable to death by being too scared to really live at all.
Then on New Year’s Eve? The very last day of of the year of 2015?
Just after 10 pm, with the popcorn machine whirling and board games all over that barn beam table, the email came through: 10 am in China.
Our adoption dossier had just logged into China. January 1st in China.
Dossier number 20160101002— the second dossier logged into China in 2016.
The Farmer and I walked around dazed. The most slackjawed, happiest daze.
After walking a million paperwork miles — have we actually just walked through a door here? Found ourselves in a story that I couldn’t even bare to whisper out loud?
And then — less than 48 hours later, on January 2nd, the Farmer stood right next to me, holding my hand in ER.
Held my hand as the doctor told us our Malakai, a gaunt 20 pounds lighter, sick as a dog, and hooked up to an IV, had Type 1 diabetes. And I’d pulled in real close to him and Malakai smiled brave.
Sometimes, turns out? You clearly not being enough —- is what makes the enoughness of God most clearly seen.
There’s a new crib assembled in our room, right beside our bed.
There’s baby clothes hanging in our closet.
I have a plane ticket for China —- flying next week.
Even when you’re afraid of not being enough — God’s making everything into make more than enough grace. You only have to keep believing — and keep stepping out unbrave.
There’s a stack of new children’s books here on the shelf, waiting.
There’s fresh new stories with unexpected hope chapters about to be written everywhere.
A Holy Spirit wind can turn any page.
addendum: our unlikely adoption story will unfold quietly here over, in excited bits and pieces, as we travel to China next week and find our way through the next several months… and find words to a pretty little miraculous Story He’s writing…