Adoption: An EPIC Update

The 200-year-old wood floor is unyielding beneath my bent legs; I’m writing this one from my knees, neck and fingers arched low and right now I have the kind of body that makes big Spirit-noise. Listen . . . God has something in His sleeve and thread by thread He’s pulling that sleeve back and the small amounts of His skin being revealed chokes me up and falls me down. Soon we’re going to see the whole cosmic arm stretched before us and behind us and moving earth with giant sweeping motions to make a way for His will and our destinies. And this may be the longest post in my blog history, with a bazillion back-story links to boot . . . Maybe you need to journey with us today? Because my Mr. and I never imagined that our adoption story would continue like this, that the Kingdom would SO redefine and expand our conditioned ideas of certain things . . . Would you come close, my dudes and darlin’s? Grab some coffee if you want and travel with me for just a microscopic slice of your eternity while I retell some important pieces of the adoption narrative before moving on with what’s current.

Have you been with us long enough to remember how it all began? How life with three-kids-in-three-years had finally reached a rhythm that flowed with a bit more ease and a lot more grace. And somehow the ease and grace promoted an expansion to the walls of our daily-life capacity and why did my arms suddenly feel so empty? Do you remember how the empty-arm-feeling brought our family to the threshold of a thread that we chose to follow? Yes, we picked up the adoption thread, walked forward and prayed on.

In THIS post I swallowed the Son and confessed to the Father that my little Light-full heart yearned for more, and while we chose as a family to pursue adoption as an avenue of expressing “more“, we also committed to leaving the “more” open-ended in definition – remembering from previous life experiences that sometimes our ideas and expectations look like yellow bananas next to God’s green apples. (A.K.A.They’re NOT the same thing.)

And we prayed a specific and pivotal prayer in front of you all: “Our Father, what is real family for us?”  We spread this sentence around heaven because we believed that the way family has been defined by our western, white-man’s dictionary is not the truest or deepest definition of the word. On the alternate hand, we won’t make our statements like a blanket and say every family’s should be a mixed-up, kaleidiscopic collection. But, what in this world does it mean for us to be family? On the other side of Jesus the margins are stretched, definitions are upside down (and you may just need to stand on your head to see the world right-side-up) and family just might be is most assuredly global, but how that plays out in each of our stories is as multi-hued as the earth itself. So we rent our fisted fingers and invoked the Kingdom’s commentary, “Father, what is real family for US?”

Somehow, in the midst of some very constant and intense emotions, we still had the wisdom and wherewithal to say: From refinement of time and trial, we know better then to fold-up, over and around our own expectations, because it seems that quite often the catalyst which launches a movement in our lives is not always the same as where we end up, but we do believe that something life-altering and New Kingdom advancing is present inside each tiny fiber of this upward-moving thread.

Truly, I don’t think a week went by in the past two years where we weren’t praying or processing what it might mean for our family to adopt. But, also during that time God started playing a new melody on each of our souls and singing more of His song over our heads and would you know that what we started hearing was the hymn of revival and the notes were full with vision and spark. Our heart-kiln’s were stoked and the Fire-Starter was blowing against the coals, igniting us all the way. And I wrote one story that illustrated how the flames were affecting us and how the boys chose to respond to what God was doing. I communicated at the end of this story that our family had chosen to adopt a revolving family member into our hearts, that every time we met our most basic needs or even indulged in our “wants”, that we would also include one more person in our bounty each time. And by doing so, all five of us felt the Divine hand Cross-stitching our love to the people of our city.

And just when we were contemplating a move out to the Connecticut country, that semi-exposed Arm reached right into the middle of our choices and brandished some magic like we had never seen before and I told that alchemic-tale in Prodigal God . If you haven’t read it yet, please – you MUST. It may be the most integral component – or rather, it is the foundation for the rest of what I’m about to tell you.

Following that truth-tale of a recklessly-extravagant God, we had 10 cents less then a dime’s worth of doubt that the great Him gifted us with the house where we abide now and damn if we don’t love every crack and cranny, creaky floorboard and curvy angle (not to mention the steam shower!!!) of this colonial cape.

But, we barely settled in our new river casa, before my adoption-bent heart prompted a phone call to the social worker, telling him we were ready for our fresh digs to get the state-required “check-out”. Two afternoons later Carlos came over and we tarried and scoured property and home, he meticulously inched his way inside and out with a tiny-fingered comb. Then, the inspection was done and I may or may not have been biting my nails while sitting on pins and needles and when the verdict came? He only itemized three improvements that would need to be completed before our home could meet government approval and our adoption could take another pace ahead. Three EASY-ish things!!! No big whoop! We were prepared for at least as many speed-bumps as the ones Carlos communicated that day. However, having just crashed into BURN-OUT, I knew that we wouldn’t be able to fathom any house projects until we returned from [what we hoped would be] a very restorative family holiday in northern Michigan.

Before vacation and one week after that appointment with Carlos, I took our 9-year-young boy on a “his turn” date. And this is what you need to know about these occasions with Seth: whenever he gets alone with either parent, the dude canNOT stop kissing our hands, squeezing our bodies, and . . . monologuing. The. Kid. Will. TALK. And talk, and talk and talk. His excitement is so profound and he expresses it through non-stop touch and chatter – chatter about any and every and all the things on earth – this particular date being no exception. So, Seth and I were driving home from a Panera Bread/Froyo World consumption combo and he is doing some EPIC commentating in the backseat and I’m listening with most of both my ears when all of a sudden he stops spieling mid-sentence. Wondering why he broke speech, I made a quick glance in the rearview mirror to see him cock his head a little to the east right before saying, “Hey Mama . . . We have six people in our family. You. Papa. Me. Gabe. Jude. And the city of New Haven.” Then he picks up his monologue right where he left off, like nothing unusual or profound had just happened. *I*, however, felt chills fall from face to feet and an aorta knocking double-time against rib and flesh and just as immediately my mouth let-go the slightest prayer into the atmosphere, “Father, what does THAT mean?”.

For the next three weeks and through vacation my mind would turn at strange points to ponder that one sentence projected by our prophetic son and I would wonder what meaning it cradled. In addition, Austin and I processed and prayed and shared the story with family and close friends, inviting any and all wisdom to be spoken regarding. But mostly I just sat with it close to my chest, content for the skin of His arm to be revealed at the right time.

During our two weeks in the night-cool, quietly-clean country air and with the comfort of being circled with family and feasting on  nourishment from my mama’s kitchen, I felt completely restored from my soul tasting like ashes. HOWEVER. Our road-trip back to CT, altogether and almightily changed that wholeness when some kind of devil-stewed flu virus crawled in and corrupted my body – laying me flat for two weeks. This sickness totally stripped me of any feeling I had of being lit-up and I would drain tears for being unable to sense even the smallest vestige of my previous restoration. (Wah, wah and boo-hoo, someone get our their violin.) [Devil-virus notwithstanding] on day 12, my sapped-out self was standing under the spray of a steamy shower when a Who-sized prayer rose up from the fire buried way deep down under all my ailments: “God, I do NOT care if you want us to adopt a child or an entire city, we’ll adopt whatever You want us to. But, could You close one door and open another because I don’t know if we can do both right now.”

Just as I stepped beyond the shower to towel down, I heard my phone signal the voicemail ringtone and for reasons now known, my spirit surged with a sense of urgency to find out who called. Rushing through the post-shower proceedings, I quickly bare-footed over to see who was on the other side of my message and heard the voice of our social worker. With a swiftly tattooing heart-beat, I listened with all my ears to what he had to say: “Hello Erika, this is Carlos. I just wanted to touch base with you because there are some regulation changes if you want to adopt in the city of New Haven and they will effect your application. So please give me a call as soon as you get a chance and we can chat about it.” I set my phone down and knew. I knew in that moment, with a certainty that I will rarely claim, that as soon as I talked with Carlos, we would know one way or another what or whom we were adopting; which door would swing open and which one would shut closed.

After a short game of phone tag, Carlos caught me the following afternoon and quickly dispensing with formalities, we got right down to business. He tells me that specifically in the city of New Haven, the adoption rules have changed. He tells me that if a house was built before 1970 (which is ONLY every single house in the whole dad-gum historical city). . . And he gave me a list of new requirements longer then the devil’s own lies. And by “things” I mean, we had to do stuff to “un-historic” our historical house. And by “we” I mean that a specialized team would have to come in and accomplish those things for us because we are neither licensed or qualified or even ALLOWED to do them ourselves. And I’ll just give you ONE example so you hear what I mean: Every window in our home would either have to be replaced (cha-ching, cha-ching) or we would have to pay thousands of dollars to have every window removed, encapsulated in a special LEAD-coating paint and then replaced and repaired. (You can imagine the nightmare and horror). It doesn’t matter that this entire house has been restored and all the windows repainted, you would STILL be mandated to have it done by professionals. And it’s really not the canyon-load of home-improvement-headache or catastrophic cash cost that closed the door on our adoption.

The door closed because God unarguably, magically and boldly gifted us with this house so we would know where He geographically wanted our hands and hearts to be . . . and having given us this house, it came with the exspense that our landlords (who meticulously restored all the historical details of this home) would NOT and NEVER!!! allow us to do the things to THEIR colonial cape that Carlos said were now required in order for us to adopt in New Haven.

In shorter terms: God gave us a house that we couldn’t adopt a child into. On the other hand, God gave us a house that radically positioned us to adopt a whole city and tying our hair back is second on our list of “to-do s”, right after learning how to spend more minutes on our knees.

Among a few other sentences of how I really felt, I very kindly told Carlos that the “system sucks”. (Because it does.) (Do I hear an “AMEN”?)

He said “I know” and “I’m sorry”.

And with the ending of our conversation, the only response I had in me was a quiet and surrendered, “Okay”.

We had an answer to a two-year-long sojourn and subsequent question.

“Okay” and we’re diving into deep, Living waters here, swimming with our eyes open, trying to know all the sensations touching our skin . . . Drinking the Divine aqua down as much as we’re able. Dear Jesus, did He ever blow-up our prescribed understanding of adoption. Who knew that we could also adopt an entire city? That I could be a mama to so many? That I would rock New Haven to sleep at night, crooning prayers over her head while she lies in the crook of my arms? That our Gabe would supplicate these words on a Monday morning: “Teach me how to be a good brother to this city and to the people who live here . . . Yes, God! Roger is my brother! Help me to be a good brother to Roger and Joe and all the other homeless people in New Haven.”

G.A.H!!!!!

Never did we imagine this outcome two years ago when we learned that there was more Love inside us and wanted to adopt a child to share that Love with. But, you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to gratefully and gladly receive an entire city into the fold of our tribe and this isn’t even a roller coaster we’re riding anymore – no man-made vehicle could be this wild. Definitely not. This is transcendental tidal wave we’re surfing here and it keeps turning and rolling and wakes us in the night and has all our eyes watching the horizon and staring at the Son.

Also: pray with us? And tell me your thoughts?!

{PHOTO by John Wimberly :: SOURCE}

25 Comments Adoption: An EPIC Update

  1. Shannon

    This is the faithfulness of our heavenly Father. He cares about every detail and when the answer comes we are called to say Amen. We are excited to see what God has in store for you and the profound words spoken by Seth directed by God. Yes the system does suck, but as we know God is bigger then the system and he has blessings beyond what you can even imagine! We are on our knees for you and your amazing family. We love you. Your hearts will be filled to overflowing!

    Reply
  2. Diana Trautwein

    Holy moley, girlie. You do tell a tale. And God sure as heck knows how to write one. Yes, systems do suck at times. But you know what? You were being readied for that great big NEG of an answer by all the truly marvelous things you were given on this long and tangled journey of love and exploration. And those boys you are raising?? DADGUM if they ain’t the most interesting, insightful, Spirit-opened little critters I’ve about ever read about. Give ‘em each a HUGE extra hug from CA tonight, Mama. And thanks so much for taking us along on this amazing journey.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Thank you, mama-Diana!!! I will spread your love all around this house – “critters” and all! :)

      Love you,
      Erika

      Reply
  3. tara pohlkotte

    isn’t it the way that these young boys tell of the pulsing of what is yet to come. prophets and preachers. that you, mama have the grace and understanding to lean right hard up against and ask that through these words, your world expand. With children’s open hearts to understand, and mama hearts that seek to hear? we can bring the whole world under our wing. one.city.at.a.time. loving you all. {squeeze}

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Yes, INDEED!!! ” . . . the whole world under our wing, one city at a time.” I love that thought . . .

      Thank you, Lady.

      Love,
      Me

      Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Thank you, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing with us . . .

      Love to you and yours,
      Erika

      P.S. I saw Nathan’s book on HUGE display at the Yale Bookstore last night! Yay!!!

      Reply
  4. Allison

    I have never commented here before, but felt compelled tonight, because this was just so beautiful and challenging and pulse-quickening to read. My husband and I lived in New Haven for two years, and the city still pulls at something deep in my heart. This concept of adopting the city brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  5. Jamie

    I spent well over an hour sorting through all this, and it was SO WORTH IT. Now I have Erika-Spirit-words rumbling around in my soul, with all their beauty and depth and life-giving… Thank you for writing this all out so we can journey right there with you. Jesus meets me when I read what you write, and you’re my favorite ever.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Jamie . . . WOW! You are way to generous with your encouragement and I am so humbled over here. Thank you VERY much for being with our hearts and stories!

      Love and blessings to you, new friend.

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      My Rain . . . Thank you so much for hearing our story. I am very glad it touched you . . .

      I’m gonna go check out that song now!

      Love You,
      Erika

      Reply
  6. Connie

    I read your blog often but have yet to comment. I’ve been blessed more than once by your openness and candidness with your own walk with the Lord as well as your family’s collective walk. This time is no exception.

    I find your love for a city so rare and so amazing, and I can totally see why God is leading your family to adopt a city versus one child. Perhaps that will be the case someday, but for now it isn’t and I love reading through the process it took you to get there. Sometimes I think the best things happen in the “process”.

    I am so excited for your family and so excited to read about what happens next.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Connie! I am SO blessed that you gave me your words today! And thank you for taking the time to be with our stories . . .

      In gratitude,
      Erika

      Reply
  7. Darcy Wiley

    Loved this post and this story (and connected posts) and the words you chose so much that I quoted one of your phrases in my own post today as I talked about writing down answered prayer. It’s inspiring how your prayers came back in an unexpected answer, even bigger than you bargained for. Makes me want to get us out of the house more often just to see how God might connect us with the people around.

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Ahhh! Thank you, Darcy! I’m so grateful this story brought inspiration to your heart . . . Bless you for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  8. HopefulLeigh

    Wow. Wow. Wow.

    I don’t know that I have words, Erika-friend. But I do have a hopeful expectation about the ways God will use you and your family in New Haven. Your openness to what He has for you teaches me so much.

    Reply
  9. Handsfull

    Wow. I love how you really hear what your boys say, and give it weight and significance instead of just brushing it off. I try to do that with my tribe too, although I suspect that at least one of my ears is blocked most of the time… but I’m learning. And trying. And you are inspiring! I’m looking forward to hearing what happens next with you and New Haven :)

    Reply
    1. thelifeartist

      Oh, (new) friend . . . Thank you so much for sharing your time with our hearts, I am touched . . . Blessings to you and your tribe!

      Love,
      Erika

      Reply
  10. Bethany

    This story of yours… I don’t think “epic” even quite covers it. I’ve read it with goosebumps and heartache and a big swelling excitement for what’s next, but most and especially awe for this God of yours and mine. I love you much.

    Reply
  11. Kristin Potler

    I’m getting lost over at your place today. Your stories, your prayers, the cries of your heart sound so familiar. I know the wrestling, the clenched fists that we long to open for Him to place in them His plans, His desires…knowing in our hearts that His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts higher still. He showed me that our adoption story is about the countless teenage boys who have needed a temporary home…or the family from Rwanda who fled their home and country for safety. Our adoption story involves an open door to whomever God brings through it. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Reply

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