Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Days. Weeks. Months. Years. Life.
Every moment we’re alive makes up the pages of our lives. Some chapters are exciting, like the ones filled with holidays, graduations, weddings, and babies, but then there are the not so fun chapters. The chapters we’d rather not write. The chapters we’d rather others never read. That’s where I’ve been lately – smack in the middle of the difficult pages. The ones that are hard to write.
It’s crazy how quickly life can change. A year ago today, Jarrid and I were barely newlyweds, entering into our second month of marriage. We were living in Memphis, TN at the time, and we both had recently stepped down from the jobs we were previously working at. We moved in to a small, and I mean SMALL, one bedroom-ish apartment that came complete with it’s own army of ants and other unidentifiable bugs. We often fell asleep to the sounds of gun shots, arguing neighbors and the clanging of wiggling door-knobs (break-ins happened almost weekly at our apartment complex.) The fairytale of our happily ever after was quickly shaken by the reality of bills, hardships and unexpected transitions.
God had a bigger plan for us in that little bitty apartment, though. A plan that we could have never expected. A plan we never saw coming. A plan we may never understand. It was there in that beat down apartment complex that we met Angel (I’ve changed her name for privacy issues) – a feisty, strong-willed, beautiful african american girl. She was 7 years old at the time, with a birthday quickly approaching. Our friendship started off as normal neighbors, saying hello as we passed her by. We couldn’t help but notice a problem, though. Something that bothered us beyond words. This girl, so young and beautiful, was always alone. Always. She was such a mystery to us – who were her parents? Did she have any at all? Why was she always roaming the streets alone? My curiosity quickly transformed into questions. Angel wasn’t shy. She shared details of her life that I still cannot fully grasp today. Details that no one, especially a little girl should ever have to describe, and she lived them. Every. Last. Detail.
Angel lived with her mother, Emma (again, name changed for privacy), and her mother’s “boyfriend” – a man that Emma had met along her travels. He offered a free place to sleep. Feeling that she had no other options, she took his offer for free shelter. Unfortunately, he took more from her than she could have ever have even imagined. Angel described that her mother wasn’t allowed to leave the house. The boyfriend wouldn’t let her out of his sight. For a whole year Emma stayed inside. Then the day came. A day I’ll never forget. A day that changed my heart and life forever.
“Come quick, Jerry and Jillian!” (These are the names Angel called Jarrid and I) “My mom is actually outside!! You have to come meet her!”
We were thrilled. FINALLY! We can meet this little girl’s mother and get answers to the many questions that filled our minds for so long. I’ll spare most of the details, but long story short, Emma’s boyfriend kicked her out of the house. Why? Because she was pregnant. She shared her many fears with me, and then went on to ask if I would take her to her doctor’s appointment the next day. I replied, “Of course. Where is it at?” She told me it was at an abortion clinic downtown. My heart sank, and I responded to her request – not with a “yes”, as I don’t support abortion. I will always fight for life, especially for those with no voice, but I didn’t just respond with “no” either. I knew that I couldn’t just tell her to not have an abortion if I wasn’t willing to join her on the journey towards life. Love goes beyond just telling others what’s right or wrong – it shows them the path to walk down, and then joins them on the journey. Keeping the baby seemed absolutely impossible to her until she realized she wasn’t alone.
Love isn’t always glamorous. Sometimes it means attending countless doctors appointments at the city’s free clinic, bringing food/drinks for every craving, sitting on a dirty bathroom floor holding hair back as a pregnant mama passed waves of nausea, and ultimately offering to adopt a precious little baby. Glamorous? Not in the slightest. But man, was it a beautiful season. Friendships grew just as quickly as her pregnant belly, and our hearts were full. So very full.
Fast forward a few months. Emma was 7 months pregnant when she approached me with a question I will never forget, “Juli, will you and Jarrid adopt my baby? I can’t keep him. You two are the only ones I’d ever trust to raise him. You’re my family. I know you two are the ones who are supposed to be his parents.” I talked it over with Jarrid, and we prayed. Hard. The answer was obvious, we would go forward with the adoption process and welcome this little boy, who already took up so much of our hearts, into our home and our lives forever.
Time quickly passed as money was raised, paperwork was filled out, inspections were completed and nightly meetings were attended. We learned how to deal with lawyers, social workers and emotions we never knew we could feel. We were excited, anxious, and thrilled that this baby, the one we prayed would have life, was about to join our family. Fast forward to two days before the baby’s due date and cue the second craziest phone call I’ve ever received.
“Hi, Juli? It’s me, Emma. I talked with the baby’s father and he doesn’t want me to put the baby up for adoption. I know he’s supposed to be with you two, but I’m just so scared of what his father may do. I can’t go through with this. He will haunt me.” And just. Like. That. It was over. The months of preparation, the countless trips to stores and doctor’s offices, the prayers, the tears, the laughter, the whole entire process. It was over.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a difficult season for us. It will go down in the book of our lives and marriage as one of the hardest, most beautiful times we’ve ever been privileged to live. I still wonder “why?” sometimes. Why did God allow this woman to ask us to help her? Why did He allow our hearts to beat to the possibility of being parents to this particular child? Why did we have to have the promise of starting a family dangled before us, just to be snatched back up right before it was go time? The truth is, we may never understand this side of Heaven why He allowed things to unfold the way He did. One thing I know for sure though is this, God’s ways are higher and much greater than ours. He sees the things that we can’t see. He knows the deepest desires of our hearts. He gives us not what we think we want, but instead the things that we don’t even know we need.
The most common question Jarrid and I get regarding our 1st adoption attempt is this, “How does it feel to get so close to success, only to fail right before the baby was born?” Our answer usually goes something like this, “Well, I guess it just depends on what your view of success is. To us, this baby having a shot at life is success. Following God wholeheartedly is success. He doesn’t always work like we do, but this we know for sure, when our plans fail, His do not. He always does what’s best for us- even when it doesn’t look the way we imagined. Success doesn’t lie in getting everything you want in life, but in following Christ fully, and laying down everything you are on behalf of the life of another. That’s true success, and for us, that has proven to be enough.”