For the past 6 months Jim and I have been working with a lawyer trying to orchestrate and finalize this process. I have many friends who have adopted and I remember the long wait and many hurdles they encountered. But this one was supposed to be fairly quick and simple. It definitley has not been. Social worker visit, lawyer meetings, lots of paperwork, fingerprinting at the sherriff's office, local and state background checks, reference interviews, financial expenses, numerous phone calls and some more waiting. It is still not quite finalized. After discussion we decided to add the surname "Ravella" to the girls names but leave the boys "Gilbert". It will be Boston and Greyson who carry on Troy's honorable name. Six of Jim's seven children are not biologically "his". Anthony was adopted by Jim and Andrea when he was two years old. This is all yet another unique circumstance in Jim's life that he probably never anticipated. Yet, I believe, his heart was specially designed for this very thing. I believe as well that in time my children will see the significance of having another man CHOOSE them to call his own.
Jim comes from a large family. He is the youngest of eight (sticking with the "Eight is Enough" theme yet again!). I was never honored to meet his parents as they have both passed away. But I have been blessed to have now met all of his siblings. They are each wonderful, diverse and have been so kind and welcoming to me, though I know they all miss Andrea very much. It has been fun to be a fly on the wall listening to their lively debates and discussions. Their parents must have been strong people because they are all full of conviction and opinion in varied arenas. I think Jim might be one of the lesser vocal of them all, maybe because he's the baby of the family, but he has just as strong of beliefs and convictions, none the less. Their latest round of discussion, via email, has been on religion. As I have read each of their views I could not help but make a connection with the adoption process we are going through.
The story of Jim adopting the majority of his children is a sweet one. But the story of God adopting us is poignaintly beautiful in a way like none other. First, simply the fact that He would desire our company or seek relationship with us. He is God, after all. Complete and not lacking anything. Second, we can be quite unlovable; rebelliously rejecting His offer and outstretched hand time and time again.
Why are you striving these days?
Why are you trying to earn grace?
Why are you crying?
Let me lift up your face.
Just don't turn away.
Why are you looking for love?
Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough?
To where will you go child?
Tell me where will you run?
To where will you run?
And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall.
In the dead of night
Whenever you call.
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you.
My hands are holding you.
Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night.
When I drank the world's sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life.
I want to give you life.
Cause I, I love you.
I want you to know
That I, I love you.
I'll never let you go.
I have heard and read many discussions on the "how-to's" to have a relationship with God. I think we make it so much more complicated that it actually is. It is not us reaching to God asking Him to take us in or doing enough good works that we would catch His eye and be deemed worthy enough to be called His own. We could never reach that high. He reaches down to us. We could never be good enough. Or follow the rules enough. Even if we gave everything we had to the poor and devoted our lives to world peace, we couldn't possibly earn enough good merit badges to gain access into heaven's pearly gates.
"There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers."
Do our works get us into heaven? No. However, right thinking and right living should go hand in hand. The Bible says even the demons believe there is one God. We must put action behind our beliefs. Otherwise we are no different than them.
We take up our crosses. Our crosses may be carrying the weight of sickness, tragedy, sorrow and loss yet hanging onto Him on the journey. Yours may be a cross of abuse, abandonment or unfairness, an unwanted pregnancy, a longing for a baby or the loss of financial security. We must understand we cannot save ourselves. Or seek to gain a world of knowledge and success in the hopes of "arriving" on earth or in heaven. Like the Bible says, what good is all that because we will still be forfeiting our soul? There is much that is incomprehensable and mysterious about God's ways and how He works. But this, salvation, is fairly simple. Thomas was one of Jesus' disciples and he struggled with doubt and believing in the unseen promises the Lord was always speaking of.
The world will tell you you're crazy. Trust goes beyond logic. Intellect does not necessarily help us have faith.
Focus on the Family's website has some wonderful information about adopting a child. One statement stuck out in my head. Basically it said that the beautiful truth of adoption, both in the earthly adoption of a child or the heavenly adoption of all us, is that it is rich with healing, salvation and redemption.
I have seen God actively at work blending, mixing and kneading the people that live in this new Ravella home into an entirely lovely masterpiece. Not that it has been smooth or always easy.
He also does that same type of kneading in all of our hearts, souls and minds when we let Him. We are all mixed into His family. He desires to keep His family together. In this life and in eternity.
Regular conversations in our home include speaking of the day we will be reunited with Troy and with Andrea. And most of all with Jesus. Face to face. A real chance to see His nail-scarred hands. A meeting with the One who breathed life into our nostrils. A chance to say thank you in person for His hand that reached down and saved us. He signed all those adoption papers a long time ago. We don't have to jump through hoops to take His name.
About four days after Troy died I received some gifts in the mail. Gifts addressed to me from my husband. That's right. From Troy. He mailed them from Iraq the week before his crash. One contained a beautiful Persian carpet he had gotten a good deal on. He loved to "talk rugs" with the locals. I think I have mentioned this before. My memories of that moment are more vivid than most that took place that horrible week. I remember opening it, unrolling it on the floor of our sadly empty bedroom, laying on it and crying until there were no tears left. I could almost feel his hands running over the plush pile. One was full of little Christmas gifts for the kids. He gave Bella and the twins small jewelry boxes and the boys some stickers and trinkets. But the last was the most precious. A tape he made of himself showing us around the base in Balad; the runways, the planes, the busy activity of a base fully operational during war. He prayed with us. He read stories to the kids. One he read while sitting on a building's flat rooftop with a gun strapped to his back because that was how that things had to be if you stepped outside of your office or room. If you have never read, "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus", you should. And then picture sweet Troy reading it to his kids in the middle of a warzone on top of that roof.
I held onto this tape for over a year, paralyzed with the crippling fear of what kind of grief would engulf me when I saw him walking and talking for the first time. I chose to watch it last year on his birthday. I won't lie, it was crushing. It was magnificent but it was crushing. I decided I would watch it every year on his birthday as a tribute to him. In the first scenes he is behind the camera, walking, talking, laughing and "showing" us around. Then the camera goes perfectly still. He has set it on a stand. He steps in front of it with the sun setting low low in the sky behind him. His image is very dark in contrast to the brightness of the glowing orange and pink sinking sun on the horizon. It's only for a moment. Then he checks what he has filmed and discovers he is too dark so he swings the camera around to the opposite sky where we can get a better look at him. I was so overwhelmed last year when I watched it for the first time that I scarcely remembered the beauty of that first shot. Him against that fabulously colored sunset. I noticed the heavens first. I couldn't help it. And then there he was standing in the shadows in front of it. I don't believe everything out there is a sign from God. But that picture almost shouts, "Ginger, he's with Me and this is just a glimpse of what it looks like."
The children have not watched this video. I am still deciding when the right time will come for them. Last week I found myself viewing it again on his birthday, then the twins suddenly came into the room. They stopped and watched Troy talking on the screen of my laptop. For a moment they were quiet. I asked them, "do you know who that is?" They each replied, "I don't know." I said, "that's your daddy in heaven." We have briefly talked about this with them but they are too young to grasp the concept of it yet. But Aspen replied, "we have a daddy in heaven and a daddy on 'earf" (earth-she can't say her th's). I said, "yes, you do. You have two daddies." And Annalise chimed in, "and a daddy at work!" I laughed. I needed a little laughter at that moment.
Yes, everyone was right. We do have a Daddy in heaven and on earth. And that Daddy, our Heavenly Father, is always at work! He is working for us.