A picture THAT full and diverse takes a story to unpack.
It all began by the pond during Freshman Orientation with one question: “Why did you choose Hardin Simmons University?” I had been weaving this question into most of my conversations. The first fifty responses were disappointing. There was one right answer and I had yet to hear it until I met Chad Strange. His response was unique.
“You know, I had a scholarship to (somewhere else), but as I prayed about it, I really felt the Lord leading me here.”
THAT, ladies, was the $500 answer. I made a mental note of THAT guy.
A few weeks later, Chad Strange found himself in desperate need of a date for some Cowboy Band event. Problem was, he didn’t know any girls. He was a bonafide Bookworm. All he ever did was study and hang out with the band. His roommate found me and asked if I would mind showing Chad some mercy. I remembered his answer to my question that night by the pond, found some compassion, and agreed to go with him on the Mercy Date. That’s when muscle shirts were king and big bangs ruled. He and I have been best friends ever since. That man makes me laugh.
The journey God has led us on together, we never anticipated. Together we hold degrees, navigate careers, and parent a hoard of children we never were clued in enough to desire or dream possible. I was going to teach history. He was going to be a pastor. No, a philosopher. No, maybe a professor, Wait. A Forest Ranger. My favorite possibility was his farmer idea –this from a man whose hands are softer than mine. (I laughed out loud.) And all this was AFTER we were married. Somehow we found our way through the fog and allowed God to shape us enough to bring clarity and dreams we never could imagine ourselves.
Eight months pregnant with Taylor, God thought was the perfect timing for me to begin a Ph.D. A couple of years later He threw in a second baby, Addison, just to mix it up a little. I completed that academic stent in time to finish a truckload of paperwork for adopting a baby girl from China.
Chloe was actually a dream come true (minus the first two years of screaming). I learned of China’s One-Child policy when I was nineteen and informed the Bookworm I wanted to do something about it when I got married. Fifteen years later, we did. But while holding an inconsolable baby on a tour bus in China, we could not take our eyes off another child joining her forever family. Her name was Ally and she was six years old. Somehow we knew we would be back.
That six-year-old changed our lives forever. In 2008 we returned to China for Jolee, who was nine at the time. Then in 2012, we went completely nuts, adopting a sibling set of four from Ethiopia: Sophia (9), Zoe (7), Zack, and Tate (5). Let me help you with the math. That’s six children in six years, five of whom did not speak English. Not only was there a language barrier, but there were also lessons to be learned in all things hygiene, utensil usage, how to put on underwear UNDER the clothing, and the all-important rules about where NOT to go to the bathroom IN YOUR ROOM. Since our unforgettable encounter with that six-year-old world changer, life has never been dull or boring.
And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
The points between the solitude before the Ph.D. and the chaos that this kind of life brings were the birthings of training exercises. It served up daily opportunities to take His courage to do things this timid wallflower didn’t think she could, stretching further than a small-minded girl like myself is comfortable thinking or moving. To make things interesting, came the calling to bring others along. It took about a decade to recognize and respond to it. To realize God uses chaos and the things we could never imagine in our lives to show Himself to yet another generation in all the colors known to man is not always as obvious as it should be.
What I understand my calling to be, in its essence can be summed up in these words from Charles H. Spurgeon:
Do as you have opportunity, tell it out; empty it upon the earth.
If you have proved Him, confess to a generation about you that He is a faithful God.”