We knelt on the slab, the powder from demolition coating our knees. We were maybe three feet from where we first stood, that first Sunday we found ourselves newlyweds living in Memphis, Tennessee. We were six months removed from college, babies really. We stood there that Sunday knowing we needed to find a church, hoping to find a community, never imagining we would find another family. I don’t remember the sermon or the songs, but I remember the story. The story of a lost person found, a dead person made alive. I remember the roar of the crowd when that beautiful soul brought her head out of the water, soaking wet and wholly redeemed. I remember turning to Matt with eyes that said, “This is it. We’ve found it.” Just above where we knelt was the stage, the stage that represented my first real job. A job that taught me not just about service planning and lighting and transitions but about submission and teamwork and the messiness of ministry. That same stage where I tried to hold back tears as we dedicated our three daughters, where I looked out and felt the weight of a thousand prayers prayed for us.
As we knelt down, I wrote Isaiah 61 and prayed these words over our family, the ones in my home and the ones who gather in this building…
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Isaiah 61:1-4, NIV
Freedom for the captives–those held in bondage by shame or substance, fear or failure. To comfort all who mourn–from loss or hurt. A garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair–with a heart that knows nothing is beyond God’s redeeming hand. Renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations–a family where skin tone and salary and education aren’t excluding, where cycles of destruction are broken and new legacies created.
And we signed our names, L smiling up at me proud of her letters. C leaving her scribbles, and Matt tracing G’s foot. And we were about to go when L said, “Wait, what about EEOO?!” Of course, we had to include EEOO. As we sat in a pew that rested on this same slab of concrete more than three years ago, we felt God say, “Now. It’s time to begin the journey to bring your child home.” One more piece of our family’s story written across the dusty concrete.
That slab will be covered soon, our names hidden under the flooring. Come fall, we will be back in there, and I will look at that spot and think of God’s faithfulness. August 31st marks 36 months since we became DTE (dossier to Ethiopia). Our wait time for a referral call still stands at 36-48 months. Lord willing, we will get the call soon. After spending nine months filling out paper work and then almost three years waiting, it feels strange to be coming up so near it. I wonder if Sarah felt this way or Rachel or Hannah. After all that waiting and hoping and clinging, did the arrival surprise them in the end?
I’ve got a new pile of paper work to fill out. We need to update several things–our home study, our fingerprints, our I-171. We just finished an intense six-week class for parents with children who come from hard places. I’m working on a couple fundraisers to help cover some of the adoption costs we will need to pay soon. But every day I pray that same passage I wrote on the slab. Isaiah 61. “That they may be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor . . . For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations (Isaiah 61:3b, 11, NIV).”
We are trusting God that one day the six of us will stand where those names are written, knowing we are on holy ground. Not because of our names but because of the Name above every name. Not for our splendor but for His alone. Oaks planted for the Lord.