Monday, November 9, 2015

#AdoptionRocks, Part 10: Meet my niece, Cristina

This is it, friends. The final post of this series -- and I'll admit. I'm sad it's ending. I'm honestly trying to figure out how to stretch it out just a little longer because these stories have been so amazing. Such beautiful examples of God's relentless pursuit of each of us in the most unique and personal way. 

And another thing I'll admit. This one? Well, it's my favorite. Not that I don't love every single friend that has shared their heart and their journey...but this is the one. This is the one that gave me another beautiful niece, Cristina.

It has been such a joy and blessing to watch my brother and sister-in-law fight for my niece over these past few years. We have prayed many prayers for their journey; to share their story today brings tears to my eyes as I recall the difficult journey they have traveled. My sweet sister-in-law, Stephanie, has such a beautiful way with words...and with her children and really just with people in general. She is one of the greatest blessings of my marriage into the Walton family. I'm so thankful she made the time in her very busy schedule to write this final post in this series with all its twists and turns and messiness, but ultimately with the most beautiful "end" result.

In Her Own Words...

We’re Jay and Stephanie Walton and we have 3 kids, 2 biologicals (Willie and Ruby) and our “adopted” teenager (Cristina) who has been in our family for almost 4 years. We live in Nashville, Tennessee. After Willie and Ruby were born, I actually desired another child but Jay did not share that desire. Honestly, I didn’t know if I really just needed another maternity leave! But, the desire to have another child stayed and I could feel the Lord telling me, you will have another child. I had a peace and figured one of Willie or Ruby’s friends might need us one day. I let it go and nonchalantly figured it would be interesting to see how it worked out. 
Stephanie, Cristina and Jay in the DR, 2010

At the time Jay was a college basketball coach, and we were involved with a ministry called Nations of Coaches. We went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and met Cristina in the orphanage she grew up in. We began sponsoring her financially and after another trip to the D.R. a year later, the Lord put in on Jay’s heart to do more for her. We didn’t know what “more” looked like given she was an older child—a teenage girl! 

Jay claims he was hesitant for several days to tell me this unconventional directive to expand our family. When Jay told me he felt we were supposed to do “more” for Cristina, he was so nervous but the Lord had gone before him and my heart was open. As much as I typically need a written, detailed, spreadsheet-mapped plan (and budget), it wasn’t necessary. Doing “more” was a done deal and only the Lord could have come up with teenage girl to expand our family. We couldn’t have dreamed up what our family looks like.

All in all, it took about two years to get Cristina to the United States so she could be in our family and get an education and opportunities that could truly change her life’s course. The lyrics of Trust and Obey “Trust and obey. Trust and obey. To be happy in Jesus. Trust and obey” replayed in my heart over and over through the waiting, not knowing, not being able to  explain what we were doing succinctly. I no longer had the feeling that I could be doing more for the Lord or that I should be doing more. In the heartache of waiting and wondering, we felt pure joy. We were obeying and we couldn’t control it. We could only figure out next step only and wait. Pray. Next step. Watch. Pray. Next step. This rhythm is how we lived life for 2 years. Cristina couldn’t be adopted due to her older age but we knew we were supposed to do “more” so we pressed on. After waiting over a year for the orphanage to produce paperwork to prove Cristina even existed in the world (kind of needed that for a passport and visa), six total trips to the DR, embassy visits, ups, downs, thousands of dollars for three different kinds of attorneys to help develop the best long-term path for her-- Cristina is on a student visa to study in the USA. Although we are not legally her parents, we are her family by love.

Her story is so beautiful to me in that she learned very early in her life she truly had nothing except for what the Lord was providing. It’s the same for all of us, but I learned it best from Cristina because of the starkness of her need -- not unlike millions of other orphans and foster children in this world. There weren’t any trappings. Because of her young age and dependence, I could see how only the Lord could provide in her situation. She knows this ordinary family from Tennessee couldn’t have come to her by any other way than through the Lord.
The Waltons
Jay, Stephanie, Ruby (8), Willie (12) and Cristina
As you can probably tell, our journey for Cristina cannot be neatly defined or summarized. There are too any details, twists and turn, ups and downs for one blog post. Our journey for Cristina is best defined as a scary, question-filled, faith-led journey of obedience. The outcome has been sheer amazement as the Lord has ordered our steps, and her steps. Recently, Psalm 63:7 spoke to my heart. “Because you have been my help, therefore in the shadow of your wings will I rejoice.” We’re currently trying to figure out Cristina’s college plans. Even though every detail isn’t determined or worked out in our finite minds, we are already rejoicing because we know He has provided for her until now and will provide again. We can stand in the shadow of His wings and rejoice because of what He has done and will do. We’ve seen Him so vividly work on behalf of His child Cristina. 

While I can’t tell you what she’ll be when she grows up or where she’ll go to school or how far apart we’ll all live (which we could say for all of our kids, right? ), we can rejoice! We’ve seen the Lord work. He is faithful. God is with us. Emmauel.

“So what should we say about this? If God is with us, then who can be against us? God let even his own Son suffer for us. God gave his Son for us all. ….Christ Jesus died but that is not all. He was also raised from death. And now he is on God’s right side and is begging for us.” Romans 8:31-34

We have learned: The Lord builds a family on love. Legal bindings do not make families. Love makes families. Love surpasses boundaries that laws cannot.

We have learned. The Lord shows up. He asked us to step out on faith and He has shown Himself to us through crazy, seemingly coincidental signs. Those signs not only gave us confidence in the moment but confidence when we look backwards that God was with us when we started the journey. 

We’ve needed that confidence.

We have learned. The Lord provides resources and He uses His children in His work. From the smallest of gestures to the most generous gifts, follow the Lord when he tells you do something. Follow that prompting from His Spirit.  He is getting something done for his Kingdom and he uses us together.

We have learned. Our faith can only grow by stepping out for Jesus in something we can’t define or control.

I feel like Peter in Matthew 14:28-31 most every day as we still try to figure out next steps.

Peter said, “Lord, if that is really you then tell me to come to You on the water.”

Jesus said, “Come.”

And Peter left the boat and walked on the water to Jesus, but when Peter saw the wind and waves he became afraid and began to sink.

He shouted, “Lord, save me.”

Then Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. Jesus said, “Your faith is small, why did you doubt?

No words, y'all. No words. Now it's just tears of joy as I think about Jay and Stephanie's obedience and their willingness to say "yes" - without a plan or timeline or any idea of what it might look like for them or for Cristina. Just "Yes!" to the call to do more. 

I pray as you have read these posts, God has stirred your heart to do more. To consider adoption, fostering or just financially supporting those who are already in those processes. 

We can all play a part in the orphan crisis. No part is "small" or "unimportant." Every part makes a difference for one. And that's all He's asking of us...just for one. 


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