“If you don’t want to leave the Shire don’t open your door to Wizards and Dwarves” Gandalf,
from “The Hobbit” by JRR Tolkein.
The people who we “open the door” of our lives to, matter.
When looking back at our journey to adoption, I realise, it started much further back that I originally thought. And some of those involved were not the most obvious people in my life.
I had the great privilege of growing up in a home with my parents who loved me, my brother and Jesus. During a large part of my early childhood my father was very unwell. He had kidney failure and cancer, his treatment involved home dialysis, hospital dialysis and chemo among other things. I spent a large part of my childhood being afraid he would get ill again, have to go to hospital again or on some occasions I went to school afraid my Dad would die before I came home that afternoon.
We attended a nearby church (probably 15 minutes drive away), it was not our most local church, but it was the nearest one that my parents felt taught the bible faithfully. As it turns out it was also the one who would love my family so well during those dark days, weeks, months and years.
So, the first group of people invited (by necessity) into our lives and our home were people who loved us.
And loved us.
And kept on loving us.
Not a few meals, not a few calls and babysitting offers, YEARS of loving help, care and concern. For my parents were hundreds of miles from their families, having moved to Greater London for my Dad’s work a couple of years before he fell ill.
My brother and I knew most of the women in the church by which meal they brought round when my Dad got re-admitted ( we had a favourite shepherd’s-pie maker- this is because her shepherd’s pie arrived with Welsh cakes). One particular older couple from the church spent countless hours playing board games with us, (we call them uncle and auntie,) while someone else drove with my Mum across London for evening visiting. I remember pretending being asleep when Mum got home after one such visit and creeping to the top of the stairs, and my “Uncle” Albert holding her while she cried on his shoulder in the hallway.
Sometimes people had us over us to stay at short notice. Once this was at the pastor’s house, his wife had had a miscarriage that day. When things were really bad there were special prayer meetings for Dad. One particularly bleak Christmas when Dad was in hospital, my brother and I went to a panto nearly every night for a week, with families who included us, last minute in their annual trip.
The second group of people, (and they would not describe themselves as such) are the prayer warriors. I have known several. I include two here, one is my grandmother who has followed the Lord Jesus since age 4, the other a much more reluctant soldier.
My grandmother’s motto is that “prayer changes things.” On the night before I left for university she rang me to tell me that every morning before she gets up, she prays for me my brother and my cousins by name. Every day. That means, for every day of my life, probably before I have even woken to start my day, my grandmother has already prayed for me.
In the years that followed sometimes I have watched her slowly and carefully get onto her knees beside her bed and pray silently to her Heavenly Father, in the same way as she had done for over 80 years. In those moments I was aware of witnessing something very precious and powerful. One might say sacred.
After moving to London when I was 3, we lived in a suburban house, our back garden separated by a fence from another back garden on both sides and to the rear. At the end of our garden on the adjoining street lived a lady, whose name I can’t remember, but I know she had a great apple tree and that we were allowed to pick the apples that fell over her fence into our garden. This lady, was not to our knowledge a church goer. She once told my mum that she often woke in the night and if she saw the light on in our bathroom she knew my Dad was unwell and that she would pray for him. This has always brought a tear to my eye, as if God was surrounding us with prayer even down to which house we lived in, in suburbia.
During my time at University I attended Cornerstone church in Nottingham and my friend and I were linked to a wonderful couple who had previously served God on the mission field, for over 40 years, in Japan.
They influenced me in many ways by their testimony, wisdom, kindness and hospitality. One of those ways was introducing us to the missionary prayer meeting. At that time the church supported approximately 20 adults in overseas mission. Many medical, several had families with young children.
The missionary prayer meeting I hear you ask, what does that teach you about adoption?
That missionaries struggle with things like I do. I remember one lady, a few years older than me, telling that she had asked God to send her anywhere but the dry, desert he had called her too.
I learnt that it is hard to take your precious children to dangerous places, that the parents of missionaries’ (of faith and of none) struggle with this decision. They miss their grandchildren; they worry about their children. When we are called to do something challenging, we need to treat our parents concerns with respect, however we do need to follow our Heavenly Father’s voice.
I remember sometimes being aware that when we met to pray there was at least a century of 1st hand missionary experience in the room with me, – that was just 3 missionaries.
They had crossed continents and followed Jesus faithfully for decades. I vividly remember one ladies’ excitement of having her first e mail account – “now” she said – “I can e mail the missionaries myself. I do not need to wait for someone else to tell me their news!” I realised that when she was on the field her letters home probably took 6-8 weeks to arrive. Not 6-8 seconds.
Another thing I learnt when we lifted complex things and situations before the Lord that we could not wrap our minds around, they would pray:
“Lord , we have prayed what we can about this; however you KNOW what is needed here.”
These dear people had learnt that prayer crosses continents, language and cultural barriers and God goes before us into situations we don’t comprehend. They did not simply know a lot about God. They knew him.
As I reflect on these 3 groups of people, I see that as I grew up, I came to understand something that made a deep and lasting impact on me.
These people, ordinary looking and in the world’s estimation not particularly esteemed; are in fact mighty warriors in the economy of God.
Faithful people, who persevered often unseen by man but seen and known by God; Hoping people, who prayed, loved and gave, when we were at the point of giving up; Loving people, who taught about God’s love for me by the way they loved me and our family at our time of need.
I believe this is because they did not simply know about God, they knew him personally.
And it showed in how they lived, loved and prayed.
This makes me think, who and what, do I want my children to be influenced by?
How are faith, hope and love impacting the way I live and on how I parent my precious children today?