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Tonight we put up our Christmas tree, the first Ravella/Gilbert tree. Actually we have two trees. One is artificial. It is perfect. It has p...

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Okay, calm down. The title of this post is NOT an announcement that Jim and I are adopting another child. We need to hang onto what little bit of sanity we have left, you know. We now, however, do have a new future daughter-in-law so that does make us officially "Eight is Enough". Which, incidentally, I remember watching that show when I was about 9 or so and didn't it seem like they were ALL nearly adults? Perhaps that's why "John and Kate Plus Eight" is such a hit. We all wondered what those parents did the first 18 years! Anyway, this post is about Jim officially adopting Boston, Greyson, Isabella, Aspen and Annalise. It is also about me and you and the rest of God's children. The Great I Am desires to adopt all of us and call us His very own.

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.

The band Tenth Avenue North has written a heartfelt song portraying God's pursuit of us titled "By Your Side". These are the lyrics:

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.
(Chorus 2x)
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.

Ephesians 2:4-5

"But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved."

Remember we were made from dust. It was His breath that first gave us life. It was His last breath that saved us from death.

Genesis 2:7

"...the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

Psalm 103:14-16

"For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourished like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more."

Ephesians 2:8-9

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

God's grace saves us through the vehicle of our faith in an unseen God. We are the workmanship, the craft of His hand and our purpose is to serve Him and do good because He gave us the gift of Christ Jesus. Will we be rewarded in heaven for our works? Yes.

Psalm 18: 24

"The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His sight."

I believe our country must be very careful with passing laws advocating the shedding of innocent blood. Someday, God will ask us to turn over our hands. No doubt He is looking for that cleanness.

Proverbs 6:16-19

"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."

I Corinthians 3:8

"The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor."

Revelation 22:12

"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me and I will give to everyone according to what he has done."

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.

James 2:17

"In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."

Abraham was considered righteous and his faith genuine by his actions and his faith working together. He laid his precious son, Isaac, on the altar. He would never have been able to do that without placing his trust in God first. I have often said that without my faith in God and the prayers and love of others with that same faith, I would not be sitting here today. Faith, that was often shaken in my tumoltuos despair after losing Troy, was the only thing I had left. It saw me through the months of hating my life and wishing for death. It saw Jim through God answering no to Andrea's healing. Those were things bigger than we were. Bigger than we are still.

Matthew 16:24-27

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, He must deny himself and take up cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good wil it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man (Christ) is going to come in His Father's glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done."

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.

John 14:5-6

"Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

The world will tell you you're crazy. Trust goes beyond logic. Intellect does not necessarily help us have faith.

Mark 10:14

"...He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them."

It's holding out our hands, receiving the gift, remembering to say thank you and showing Him we are a changed person after the exchange takes place. He's always pursuing us. I love the story of Zacchaeus. If you grew up in church, you probably remember singing "Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man". Zacchaeus was a tax collector and had obviously swindled some money from the innocent. Jesus came through the town of Jericho and Zacchaeus wanted to catch a glimpse of him. Being short and resourceful, he climbed into the nearest tree. Jesus saw him and asked him to come down and could He, the purest One, stay at Zacchaeus' house. The righteous were aghast that Jesus would sit with a sinner. He knew Zacchaeus' name and be sure, He knew his history. Zacchaeus knew he needed some saving. Zacchaeus immediately gave half of all he had to the poor and those he cheated he paid back four times the amount he stole from them. Zacchaeus was a descendant of Abraham but knew not by his ethnic or spiritual background or even his good deeds he would be saved. His salvation came when Jesus said, "Come down" and Zacchaeus accepted the gift of forgiveness. I love the last line of this story:

Luke 19:10

"For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost."

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.

Romans 8:31

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Ephesians 1:4-6

"For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves."


  1. Ginger, I hope one day to meet you in person and express my appreciation to you while looking into your eyes. Appreciation for your candid expressions of faith without denying the depth of grief and sorrow. Thank you for allowing Christ to express Himself through your life.