Jenny is on a weekend retreat with 80 other women from our church this weekend. I can't wait for her return to learn how God has moved in her life. With her gone there has been much Mr. Mom has had to do, but it has all gone well, so far. Not to take anything away from her, because she is definitely needed around here, but I think many are aware of the dynamic of how children act with only their Moms (which us husbands get to hear on the phone, or occassionally witness on video, as a result from a hidden camcorder), how children act when Mom and Dad are together with them, and how they act with just Dad. So, my morning started out early and very eventfully; I watched a movie at 6 AM. With so many movies titled “Letter to” something, and the impact of key movies in my life, it seemed fitting to title this blog “Letter to Jen.” This is a happy letter, so no worries.
I’m sure that you remember the night we watched 'Snow Dogs,' at the base theater. As I was struggling to come to grips with all that God had placed on your heart and accepting that it was entirely the right thing to do, I sat there in this theater watching a Disney movie that most people would not view through a lens as an adoption story; however, God used that secular movie to pierce my heart and to not only accept that we were meant to adopt but that it was right to adopt black children. Sitting there, in tears, because Cuba Gooding’s character was adopted and I all of a sudden got it. God adopted us and we’re called to adopt, as well.
We had black and bi-racial children in our home as foster children, and I would have adopted any of them. But you were asking me to consciously, purposefully and prayerfully consider adopting children from Liberia, West Africa, and my mind got in the way. I let myself get wrapped around the axle and intellectualized the complications of raising black children in a white family and the impact it would have on their lives. Although I was not raised prejudiced against any ethnicity, I questioned whether we can ensure that they’ll be raised understanding their culture, who will they marry, will they be made fun of, will my biological children be made fun of, and on, and on, and on. This movie made me see clearly and God let me know it was the right thing to do.
When we went to Africa for Victoria, in 2006, I was all in it intellectually. In my mind, I knew it was the right thing to do. I listened to you about all of the statistics; even though at times you thought the words might not seep through they did penetrate. But, I did not have a heart attachment to the mission. I was hanging onto your shirt tail for the ride. Being there, experiencing the poverty, the hunger, gave me a connection to Liberia and Africa that I never imagined I would have. When we learned right there that Victoria had a brother, we both knew that we had to do something. It seemed right to take the leap to simply support him, make him eligible for adoption, and try to get him into the Orphanage, so that someone would adopt him. We did all that.
That wasn’t enough for me, he was little 'Tori’s' brother and he was too young to grow up in that war ravaged country, when we had the capacity to bring him home. God knew exactly what he was doing, he was peeling the layers of my stinky onion mind away one at a time, and because of the innate stubbornness I hold it has taken many years. I’m not even going into the layers that were peeled away to be open to a large family, accepting foster children in our home, adopting a foster child, fostering black children, etcetera, and etcetera. Simply put, if you had suggested siblings when we were going for Tori (and I knew that you were open to it) I am quite confident that I would have closed my mind to the whole thing. And the orphanage, they knew that Tori had a brother, but due to the health risk for the younger children there, they needed to get the young babies out fast, to save their own little lives. So they didn’t tell us about any siblings before we left, while we were there, not even when we were going to meet the birth mother. Had they done so, I am quite confident that I would have felt like I was being pushed into it and again likely closed my mind to the whole thing.
Then the trek for Tori’s brother Ben began, in late 2006. You were only comfortable providing support, and while I agreed for a short while, God assured me that he was meant to be part of our family. I began to urge you for what you once did so for me, we needed to adopt. You had made a monster, so to speak, and I became more decisive about these questions than you for a season. Even when you raised the notion of adopting one of eight babies that came into the orphanage at Christmas, while we were in the early stages of processing our adoption for Ben, you were shocked when I was open to it from the very mention of it, from you. I remembered the statistic that you shared with me before of a 25% infant mortality rate in Liberia, and I knew that we had room for one more. As it turned out we saved our daughter from a near certain death from Malaria and we both knew what we were doing was right.
Next we realized that we were pregnant with Elijah, and I had to convince you that you were in that way. I can remember just being completely at peace with the notion that we were about to have another child. You were kind of shocked that I was so calm. We both just laughed at the realization that we were pregnant again, nine years after our last, with number nine. Having nine children is a far cry from the two that I thought I only wanted when we married. In Elijah I can see more than anyone else how much I’ve changed and want to grow closer to God, with you and our family. I type now with him asleep on my shoulder after partially waking up from a nap. He is such my little buddy. I don’t love him more or less than any of our other children, but I do love the experience more. So much has changed inside of me and I just love being with the little guy.
So, here we are, seemingly stalled again in sharing the same vision regarding what our family is called to do. Do we adopt more children? Do we become missionaries? Do we just maintain status quo because we have 'done enough?' God’s answer to your fleecing prayer to Him last August has convinced me that we are not to be content with the latter plan. There is no doubt in my mind that we are to do more. But I’ve let my mind get in the way, again. I am intellectualizing having more children at my age, achieving a comfort zone for our latter years, you getting your way in dragging me to Africa to live, which may avoid the former while sealing the fate for the latter. Once again I have caught myself trying to map out my own plans instead of letting God’s Will unfold in our family’s lives.
This brings me to the 'Last Flight Out,' a movie that I stumbled upon at my workplace break room. The DVD case had a camouflaged cover and the words 'Operation Bless Our Troops.' Seemed innocuous enough, I pray for our troops every night, the inside cover shows a picture depicting adventure, possibly even some gun fire, etcetera; a man’s movie. The producing enterprise is Billy Graham Ministries. I think it will be good. I grabbed it and set it on my desk over a week ago, and don’t even mention it to you, all innocently enough. I bring it home the day you leave for a weekend women’s retreat, not even planning on seeing it this weekend. I wanted to watch the next Burn Notice episode with our daughter, but she had her friend over, which wasn’t originally planned either, and they cast me aside to do fun teen things. So, I wake up Saturday morning, make my coffee, and sit in to watch this movie.
Just as 'Snow Dogs' gripped me to realize adopting children from Africa was the right thing to do, the 'Last Flight Out' made me realize that I am not really trusting in God for our future; I’m trying to make it out for ourselves myself. Maybe a thousand people could watch this movie and not get the message God has given me, just as I was the only person in a military base theater balling at 'Snow Dogs' (and I did not use to even well up easily back then), I clearly realized that I’m not trusting Him as a Christian should. I don’t know what He has in store for us, but I want it, whatever it is. I’m going to endeavor to not let my intellect get in the way. I want to watch this movie again with you, even risking that it may not impact you the way it has me, because I’m thankful that God again peeled another stinky onion layer away. I hope that we’re getting close to a good center.
I will probably never know who it was that placed this movie in the break room. They were likely just clearing out their desk, since the movie was made in 2004, and could have just as easily pitched it as placed it where they did. Again, in a most unsuspecting way, I am leveled by the unexpected impact of a specific movie at exactly the right time. This movie, the 'Last Flight Out,' has moved me to prayer. I prayed this morning that God would tear away everything in me that would just want to 'hold on.' I want to let go. I want to see Him work in our lives. I want to be a vessel to bless orphans. I want to personally make a difference in their lives, not just sending money in some clean and innocuous way that satisfies an urge to act but stifles it with the status quo. I want to make it public. I don’t know how long it will take, but He does. I don’t know what He will have us do, but He does. I don’t know what resources it will take but He does. I want to live in the center of His will. I need you to be with me, I can’t do it alone and I don’t want to.
For the record, "Scrooged," with Bill Murry, changed my life in 1989, and led me back to Jesus. I am quite sure that most people just laughed at it (and as a Chrisitan, I am not now recommending this movie, as I remember it when I was in the world and cannot attest to its cleanness). Although Jenny hasn't really liked my movie watching addiction through the years, and I've gotten much better, some have made a real difference in my life.
And men, it is very difficult for us whom God has designed as providers and protectors of our families to entertain the thought that just maybe our wives might have a better vision for our family than we do. I challenge you, to listen to them. I would not be where I am today if not for Jen. I know it, she doesn't believe me, but it is true.