by James Brannan
Have you ever had one of those Sundays where things did not exactly go as planned? I am not talking about the normal weekly battle to get everyone to stop arguing, get dressed, eat breakfast, and out the door to get to church on time. I am talking about when you think life is going in one direction, but God has other plans? In April of 2017, God had one of those divine appointments lined up for our family.
I was sitting in church with two of my children getting prepared for worship when a woman named Cindy sat on our row. Now, as a brief side note, Cindy was affectionately known as the Foster Lady in our church because she and her husband, Joe, had fostered and/or adopted 99 children! Yes, 99! And true to form, she had a wiggly little 6 year-old boy with her whom she was currently fostering (#98). She introduced us to Skyler and asked us to be praying for anyone interested in A-D-O-P-T-I-O-N. She actually spelled it out. I thought she was trying to spell doughnut and didn’t want my kids to hear and create a stampede to the lobby. But then a light bulb went off, I felt a door open and I was reminded of a prayer made long before this day.
The prior year, in February, we had attended a Promise686 adoption celebration event at Perimeter Church. It was encouraging to hear the stories of forever families and God’s faithfulness. We left that day feeling like God wanted us to do something, but we honestly felt completely overwhelmed. At the time, we had five biological kids plus one adopted (that is another story for another blog) all under one roof, so we had a pretty full plate. But we agreed to pray and see how God would use us. I think you can see where this is headed.
It turned out that Skyler has a younger brother, Luke (#99), who was also in foster care. When I told my wife, Carolyn, about the encounter, we both felt the Spirit moving and began to pray. It was crazy because pursuing adoption at this point of our lives would mean that we had eight children. It would mean our finances and our time would be stretched thinner. Everyone in the family would have to make sacrifices. And not to mention, it would mean seven additional years with a school-age child under our roof!
So contrary to conventional wisdom, we committed to obediently follow the call and began wading through the mountain of paperwork to pursue adoption. This is normally a very slow, tedious process with more questions than answers. But God is faithful to accomplish that which glorifies his name. In May of 2018, Luke and Skyler were placed in our home as our foster children. In May of 2019, one year later, they were officially adopted into our forever family! As I sit in my office and write this today, Carolyn is with the boys visiting Cindy and Joe, their foster grandparents in Minnesota for their summer vacation. Sounds like a fairytale ending, right? Well truth be told, it has not always been easy, but God is faithful and has taught us much through the process.
Adoption was God’s idea, and thank goodness it was! Ephesians 1:5 says “he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” What a mind blowing concept – He adopts us into his family because He wants to! No other reason, just his pleasure and will. But it gets better. It isn’t a cold, impersonal relationship. We read in Romans 8:15 that “the Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” We get to call him Abba, which I have most often heard translated as “Daddy”. He is a loving, personal God who adopts us into his family. Wow!
Another thing we have learned is that adoption is a calling and He honors those who answer the call. God does not expect us to have all the answers, only that we walk in obedience to his calling. Psalm 68:5-6 reads “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” Here is a clear sense that God is a protective dad, defending the orphans and widows. But we also see that it is God who puts the lonely in families. He does it. This verse is actually the inspiration for the adoption and foster care ministry Promise686. Psalm 6:86 = Promise686. Clever, right? Check them out here.
God calls all of us to take up the cause of orphans and widows. We read in Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless…” What does “taking up their cause” look like? For Carolyn and me, this looked like adoption. For Cindy and Joe, it looked like fostering their “Flock of 99.” For our biological children, it looked like learning to love, sacrifice, and share. For our friends and family, it has looked like blessing us with prayers, meals, and much needed respite. There are many ways that we as the body of Christ can take up this cause.
Adoption has been the boldest, craziest, and most difficult thing we have ever done. If you have ever seen the 2018 film, Instant Family, you have a glimpse of what our lives have been like as an adoptive family. The headaches, the heartaches, and the blessings are all there in a funny, heartwarming movie. I can honestly say that my family has been blessed in so many ways because of our willingness to be obedient and just say yes to providing a forever home. Not to be perfect, not to be sinless – just to say, “yes,” and allow God to work in our lives.