What happens when you leave the life you’ve known to follow the call of God?
I spoke in the undergraduate chapel session at Lincoln Christian University yesterday. The topic was “putting the celebration of diversity into action” and I was asked, in part, because our family looks diverse.
As part of the message, I wrote and read a poem that concisely tells our story; a few folks asked if they could share it so here it is.
You can listen to the entire message with the embedded link below (or skip ahead to 17:15 just to hear the poem).
If you’ll sit and lend me your ear for a spell
I have a brief tale to tell.
Bear with me this short while,
it won’t take too long,
and let me sing for you this music-less song:
In the land of the free
and the home of the brave
in that prairie flat land
where the amber grain waves—
and the corn and the beans stand tall,
yes the corn and the beans,
mile upon mile of the corn and the beans—
(if you’ve been there, you know what I mean):
In the middle of that land
there was a young man
who lived in a shoebox
(not literally, of course, but practically speaking,
for the Lord God was about to work a paradox).
There the man lived with his beautiful wife
and three young children
a perfectly pleasant life.
He worked, they went to school and church
with nary a care their life to besmirch
(if you have kids you know that’s not really true
but our story needs contrast
to make it more interesting for you).
This husband and wife—
as they read their Bibles
and fasted and prayed,
they sensed the Lord call them
to a change in their ways.
They read in Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah no less
care, concern, and justice for the fatherless and oppressed.
Jesus was always looking out for the poor;
he said you’re blessed when you open your door
to a stranger and invite them in
(little did they know what that would begin).
And the letter of James says that religion is pure
when it looks after widows and orphans
and has faith that endures.
They were struck by these notions,
the husband and wife,
and longed to see how
they’d work out in real life.
They sought the Lord’s counsel
and the wisdom of friends
and prayed for light
on this path
from beginning to end.
The light was indeed present but scarce
and showed just one step ahead;
that’s how the narrow way works—
you follow by faith instead.
They said, “We have room for two,
perhaps a girl and a boy,
that would make our family seven
and would fit well in our shoebox
here in central Illinois.”
A home study and fundraising
and waiting and waiting,
for those who adopt
the waiting’s frustrating.
But for this family the papers
zoomed right through
and before you could say chronophobia
(that’s fear of the future)
they were on a plane to Ethiopia
to bring home their new two.
And for a season all was well.
The new kids were eating new food,
learning new language, playing soccer,
and going to school.
But something was amiss.
Young Liam, the second of the original three,
wondered about the big kids across that great sea.
The teenagers at the orphanage, what happens
to them when all the babies go home for adoption?
So back to Ethiopia
the husband and wife went
to bring home a 15-year-old boy,
a boy whose body was bent
by disease and broken bones,
whose lingering last hope was nearly spent.
And for another season all was well.
Well, mostly well.
There were new things to learn and many adjustments
and numerous doctor appointments
for their new oldest son,
the one whose body was bent.
Now with eight in their home
They thought, that’s enough.
There’s so much to do
when the adults are just two
and the children are six—
did I mention there was also a dog in the mix?
But the adoption agency called one day:
“Your oldest son’s three siblings
are in the orphanage now.
Could you possibly take them,
is there a way somehow?”
The husband and wife
talked it over again.
“Our shoebox is getting smaller and smaller,
would that our house were another story taller.
Where can we possibly fit three more?
Eleven of us? We’ll roll straight out the door!”
One more time, though, they flew over the ocean;
after all, that’s how you put faith into action.
A daughter and two sons returned on that flight
and now reside in our home, squeezed in real tight.
I look around now, a father to nine,
and wonder: how in the world
did all these kids become mine?
With a family this size,
as you might surmise,
our family car is a bus
it’s the only way to move all of us
at one time.
So, right: how we got here, you only can guess.
It was nothing we planned;
it’s just that when God called, we said, “yes.”
The journey hasn’t been as simple
as I’ve told you in rhyme
A lot’s been left out
for the sake of our time.
There’ve been obstacles overcome
but many mountains remain yet to climb.
We have good days and bad days
and lots in between,
when you enter the life of the orphan
you discover both sorrow and joy unforeseen.
But in our shoebox small each has a place
and a space made large by grace.
In truth, the road has been good—and hard,
at times fraught with disaster
but we rest in the peace
that we’ve followed our Master,
who loves us and promised to go with us
to the end of our days
so to Him and Him alone
be all glory and honor and praise.