Twenty years ago Kim and I celebrated our first Easter together. I was stoked – mind ablaze with visions of what future Christmases and Easters would hold. You see, in my family Christmas and Easter were a big deal. I have great memories of Christmas tinsel, garland and green plastic grass in baskets from a very young age. I also remember vividly the importance of being in church those days to celebrate. Mostly at the small church we called home – Shiloh Baptist.
By our third Easter I realized Kim and were forging our own trail as a couple and Easter of 1996 found us heart broken. Our first child, Mattie Grace was born just a month before and immediately met her Savior. I remember holding her tiny little body, not knowing what to do or how to feel. What we experienced was great love which enveloped us from our church family, Enon Chapel. The hopes of pitter patter in the hallways and giggles in the bedroom seemed dashed. The joy which should have surrounded Easter seemed almost absent even while I led worship and taught teens to trust God through every situation.
Just two years later, we found ourselves in the same situation again as we held our son Noah Dylan at his birth while he was already with his heavenly Father and Savior. Yet again, hopes dashed, dreams lost. This time we were enveloped in love by two church families – Enon and our new family – Southside Baptist. As we celebrated Easter of 1998, just weeks after releasing Noah to God, I had a better understanding, but still had no answer for the loss we felt. Yet again, this holiday which should have represented THE most joyful day of the year seemed still to be shrouded with sadness. We did our best, pushed through and honored God in the midst of our sorrow.
Over the past fourteen years, Kim and I have longed privately and at times openly, for what might have been. We have questioned God. We have questioned ourselves. We have answered countless questions from friends about why we have chosen not to have children, all along knowing that God may or may not choose to provide a solution to this dream we both held so closely. Easter after Easter we have celebrated both the sacrifice and the life found in our Savior Jesus Christ all the while wondering if God would bring young lives into our home.
What might it be like to celebrate Christmas and Easter with children? How might things be different?
Just after this past Easter, 2012, Kim surprised me with a question. “How would you feel about fostering to adopt?” My heart almost leapt out of my chest. I’ve pondered the thought of adoption for years, but God had not to that point blessed us with an ability to act on it. My calm response to Kim was, “You make all the contacts, tell me where to be when I need to and I will be happy to.” We spent last summer going through the required training, jumping through hoops and hurdles and in September we met Mel and Aaliyah.
I will never forget overhearing a conversation Kim had with this beautiful but broken little three year old on our kitchen floor. Aaliyah was noticing that we don’t look quite the same. Her words will always stay with me, “Aaliyah, look! We both have chocolate eyes! You do. I do. Mel Mel does and so does John!” She beamed as she looked in the mirror with Kim. It made my heart sing to see how God was already using my bride to bring healing to this tiny little girl.
Last Easter we committed to live out the Gospel in a unique way knowing all the while that we may well have to love them and let them go. Tonight I sit one week away from a court date at which the judge might make just such a decision. Interesting that on Easter evening I am pondering the thought of saying good bye to two answers to prayer for which Kim and I have waited most of our married life. Yet, we know that God is in control and no matter how painful or hard, we have committed the outcome to His will.
All of that being said, this Easter, 2013, has without a doubt been the best I can remember. We have spent the weekend enjoying giggles and imaginations running wild amidst starry eyes glazed over from far too much sugar, sleepy faces and sweet little snuggles, precious time with grandma, friends big and small and our amazing church family – River of Leland. I will never forget Aaliyah dancing around with a grin from ear to ear this morning as she looked hard for her reflection in every glass, car door and mirror to catch a glimpse of her Easter dress, shiny shoes and as she called it, “Big, curly hair!” complete with matching bow.
Perhaps the icing on the cake came Friday afternoon.
Aaliyah (now just beyond 3 and a half, yes we count the months) and her friend Skylar (now 5) came running into the kitchen while I was playing daddy duty. They had obviously been in a deep discussion and Skylar asked in her sweet little voice, “what does Easter mean?” I swallowed deep and prepared to answer with my best child friendly response as Aaliyah interrupted. “Jesus died on a cross for everything bad we would ever do!” I quickly agreed, choked back the tears about to leap out of my leaky man eyes and smiled. Go Kim and the River Kids’ ministry of River of Leland for speaking life into into these two little people!
God has the best timing. His plan is so much better than mine ever could be. I am so very grateful for the fact that my two children have spent every day of the past seventeen and fifteen years in God’s presence. How humbling it is to know that He has allowed us to share his love and mercy with two other little people who may never have experienced it without us.
Yup. This has been a great Easter. Thanks God! Oh yeah, almost forgot. The packed house and lives changed by your son this morning at River, AWESOME !
Best. Easter. Ever!