What do you do when dreams come true and then your dreams change? And how do you handle it if your new dream looks completely different compared to your old one?
I grew up just outside of a small town right on the Arkansas line. I was raised on a farm right between my great-grandmother and my grandparents. And just up the hill lived my aunt and her family.
We had a party line. Does anyone else remember those? You share a phone line, so you may pick up the phone but instead of a dial tone, you hear your Granny Pat talking to your aunt about their day. That works out nicely when you need to ask them both the same question, but not when waiting your turn for the line to be free so you can call a friend.
My parents were young, although I didn’t know it at the time. My mom worked as a teacher which means if I acted up at school, I’d be sure to get in trouble again when I got home. My dad worked for the highway department, so I didn’t want it to snow on Christmas, because he’d be out clearing off the roads. Later he went back to college which wasn’t easy at the time, but worth it.
My grandparents owned a processing plant. Yes, that’s right, I know how to butcher a cow. I remember an old man asking my grandpa if he thought it was a little odd that his five-year-old granddaughter was so eager to help. My grandpa shook his head and said, “Nah. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up anyways, so it’s a good thing it doesn’t bother her.”
For as far back as I can remember, I wanted to grow up and be a doctor.
I wish I could tell you a fancy story about how medicine had impacted me and changed my life in such a way that I wanted to do that for others. It sure would have made admission letters a lot easier to write.
At that time, all I knew was that I liked science, I wanted a job where I could easily pay the bills, and in the small corner of the world where I grew up, that meant becoming a doctor. Even though I never went without a meal, I did grow up in a home where money was tight. I knew the value of a dollar and that we didn’t seem to have enough of them.
I know now that having enough money is all about your perspective of how much you need. My PaPa Bill used to tell me that I was growing up rich compared to him if I ever complained about not having enough. He would tell me, “When I was growing up, the poor called us poor. People would look at their son and say, you should be thankful. You could be growing up like poor little Billy down the street.” He was one of fifteen children in his family. Papa Bill thought I was rich. I didn’t agree.
In our family, we knew what it meant to work hard. It was demonstrated all around me by my determined parents and grandparents. They gave their all and then some to make sure I was able to do all that my heart desired. But it was also expected of me too.
At fifteen and a half, I started working at Mr. B’s Pizza. My mom would let me drive us both to work and then she’d drive home and come pick me up five hours later. Working throughout high school and college wasn’t an option. It also wasn’t something I dreaded. It was just a part of life. It was what you did. Work hard. Make a living.
I knew the value of money and that if I wanted a shot at going to college, I needed to find a way to pay for it. I wanted to get a scholarship and would go to whatever school offered the most. There were no college tours to multiple campuses for me, just lots of paperwork and essays filling out for every scholarship known to man. There was a part of me that didn’t want my parents to pay for a thing. After all, I had seen their sacrifice again and again.
Dad quit college when I came along early because someone needed to make money. I saw how hard it was to try to go back later and then the debt that came from being in school while also trying to support for your family. Mom worked early extended care hours and after school hours after teaching a full class of kids all day. My parents would pass by a nice shirt at the mall and wear the same old ones again and again, so my sister and I could have a new pair of jeans. Money was always tight, but we never did without. My parents did.
Somewhere along the way, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I decided I didn’t want to be a burden to someone else.
I wanted to earn my way. I wanted to support myself. And, I didn’t want to depend on anyone else along the way to fulfilling my dreams.
I was fortunate enough to land a full ride scholarship to Northeastern State University and be a part of the President’s Leadership Class. I tried my best to do it all to earn my keep. I was still striving to be more than just enough. I graduated with honors. I was selected as one of the top ten students. I managed to be inducted into the NSU Hall of Fame. Because that’s what success looked like to me. Do it all and be the best at it. Make your family proud. Get into med school. Make money.
When I started dating and fell in love with Cody, we decided Physician Assistant schooling matched more of our timeline and desire to start a family. It was hard because in the back of my mind, I was still thinking about money. But I knew I could make enough as a PA and so I allowed this small switch in my dreams.
And soon it all started to feel like enough.
I graduated from PA school and Cody completed his master’s in seminary. Along the way came two beautiful children, our first home, new jobs. And as we settled into life, I kept returning to a conversation from our first big date. A conversation about adoption where Cody and I each spoke of our individual desire to adopt. But hadn’t we already reached our dream? I was comfortable and confident for possibly the first time in my life.
And, the talk of adoption brought out many self-doubts and uncertainty that I really just didn’t want to deal with. To be honest, sometimes I felt incapable as a mother of just my two. Could I even be enough to a third? I wondered if I could love another child with equal love and fervor if that child didn’t share the same DNA. Not to mention the cost, could we even afford to say yes if we wanted to? Would I be able to handle the wait? Was I willing to consider open adoption and love not only a child, but extend grace and love to a birth family as well? What if one day the child didn’t want me to be their mother? What if no matter how much I tried or how much I cared…what if at the end of it all, I just wasn’t enough.
My journey took a strong turn from dragging my feet to running towards God and it started with a broken heater in our car. It was beginning to get colder and I had reminded Cody that we needed to get it fixed to keep our babies warm. We had both prayed that it would be an easy fix. After picking up the car with a working heater and relatively cheap bill, I offered up a prayer of thanksgiving. I thanked God that we were able to fix the car and that I could keep my babies warm. I heard a very clear voice from inside saying…
“Could you keep another baby warm?”
That was it. That little phrase made every other question and self-doubt move out of the way. Suddenly my fears of having enough, of being enough were answered.
I had a warm car and a willing heart. I could say yes.
And not because I was enough, but because God was.
About seven months later, Judah would join our family through adoption. It is hard to remember life before him. (You can read more about that here.)
And surely at that point I had reached the cruise control in life, right? Because what’s a better ending than the chubbiest, friendliest red-headed child that you’ve ever seen? I believed it was. But there was something I was still holding on to. And God loved me enough to ask for it.
Last December, I said goodbye to a six-figure salary and perfect job to stay at home full time depending on only my husband’s pastor salary. I said goodbye so I could stay home with my children to give them more attention during these crucial years in life. I said goodbye to being the breadwinner because at this stage in life, there were simply other places I needed to give my yes.
Who does that? Who says goodbye to their dream job, dream salary and dream security for the unknown? This is certainly not what enough looks like, right?
But God knew my heart. He knew that I had let money become my security. My idol. And softly, slowly and graciously, He asked me to give it up.
Looking back to the start of our adoption, I never dreamed it would lead to then end of my career. Like I said at the beginning of my story, all I know is how to work. It may be for that exact reason that God asked me to walk away from working outside the home. There are many moms, wives, daughters that can work outside the home and not allow it to draw their affection from God. It is beautiful. It matters. And maybe they have a different idol God has asked them to give up in order to have all of their heart. I don’t know what it might be for others, but God made it clear that this was it for me.
My husband says I’m still working. I’m working towards attachment to a child who doesn’t share my DNA and taking these precious years while he is at home to solidify that. I’m working to raise my children to love God and love others, especially the other that others don’t see. I’m working to advocate for children without a home. I’m working to come alongside foster families. I working to sell Noonday to support men and women across the globe, so they can support their families. I’m working to share the story of adoption and also the importance of family preservation.
And now, I’m working by writing a blog to share my story. I want to share all the beautifully hard moments along the way, as well as the good ones. And my hope is that another person can see my God is enough for them as well.