Answering the Call

by Cynthia Yanof

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Six hundred and twenty-three days.

That’s one year, eight months, and thirteen days that have passed since the day we first received the Lord’s greatest blessing on our family. He came into our house as a foster baby, and on November 21, 2017, we will have the great blessing of adopting him into our family.

It seems impossible to find the words to fully describe our foster care and adoption journey. But we pray that the Lord uses our story, these simple and flawed words, to make ripples larger than we could ever imagine. Even more, we pray that everyone who hears it knows the overwhelming gratitude we have for the privilege of loving a little boy we call JB.

It’s funny how you can prepare for something and know it’s coming, but somehow you’re shocked when it actually happens.

For the last five years, we prayed for the Lord’s guidance in our role with orphan care. We had spent a lifetime being pro-birth, but with 31,000 children in foster care in Texas, we knew it was now time to be pro-life and get down to business doing our part to care for these children. So we diligently spent over a year completing the mounds of paperwork and attending classes to pass a the necessary home study to gain certification for foster care.

But even after all the months of preparation, when the phone rang in the middle of that March night, it was deafening. It was as if time stood still as we waited to answer that phone, somehow knowing that things would probably never be the same. Although we knew the Lord had his hand on our journey, there was a moment of desperate fear in the face of the unknown. And for me, there was also a sense of sadness in saying goodbye to the simplicity of our life before the phone rang and not knowing what our sweet family of four would experience in the days ahead.

I often think about what I would tell myself in those wee hours of the morning, knowing what I know now. If I could speak to my anxious self, listening to the phone ringing in the background 623 days ago, what would I want to say?

You will be bruised, but not broken.

There’s really no way to unsee the tragedy all around you in the foster care system. Nothing prepared me to witness children sitting in government offices with their possessions in trash bags or to see precious kiddos running to the arms of their drug-addicted parents in waiting rooms in parts of our city I had never thought about before.

This includes the heartbreaking brokenness of our sweet baby’s biological family. I was saddened by his teenage mom trying to do all she knew to give him the best life she could, yet she was ill-equipped to do it herself. I was hurting for his grandmother as she cried over him each time I brought him to visitation. And I was absolutely wrecked when faced with the reality that he might go back to a home where his safety and well-being were uncertain.

When that phone rang the night we received JB, we had no idea that a baby would be dropped off at our home a few hours later. We also had no idea that within days we would truly love him like our own.

After having that precious boy with us almost a year and being told on court days to pack his bags and have him ready to leave at a moment’s notice, there were times it was almost suffocating. Yes, I would want to tell myself that it will be hard and you will be bruised. But twenty months later, on the eve of adoption, we are far from broken.

We now understand the tragedy of this situation has nothing to do with the comfort or pain our family may have experienced on this bumpy road. The tragedy is that 31,000 foster care children reside in Texas with nowhere to call home, and they have suffered unspeakable difficulties through no fault of their own.

We were constantly reminded that it’s not about us; it’s about caring for them. I would remind myself to take my feelings out of the equation and simply follow the Lord’s calling. As our adoption lawyer said, “The Lord’s will is not the easy road, but it’s the safe and right one.”

You will be loved.

If I had known the provision the Lord had in store for us through the love and support of our friends and family, I wouldn’t have believed it. From the moment we sent out the first email letting our connect group know about our placement, to the final days preparing for our trip to the courthouse to make this baby officially a Yanof—we have been loved beyond words.

During the long months waiting for the Lord’s plan for JB’s future, it’s unfathomable the number of people who faithfully covered us in prayer. Hundreds of people we knew (and many we didn’t) gathered around us and cried out to the Lord on our behalf at times when we were weak and felt we could barely do it for ourselves.

One of my very favorite stories in the Bible has always been in Exodus when Moses’ arms got so tired from holding up the staff that Aaron and Hur stood on either side of him and held up his arms. If I could talk to myself before going on this journey, I would say that my family was about to experience just that.

People who didn’t sign up for this journey and didn’t get a vote in the decision jumped in 200 percent with us and loved JB and our family like their own. Our parents, the preschool teachers, families in our school, my precious neighborhood friends, and our kids’ teachers—all were committed to our journey, doing their part and praying for this baby.

I would want to tell myself that there is no isolation when doing God’s work. His people come through and stand on each side of you, holding up your arms when you aren’t sure you’re strong enough to continue.

You will be blessed.

If God had told me that night how good this was going to be and the ways it was going to be good, I’m not sure I would have believed it. The blessings have far outweighed the difficulties.

In the Lord’s economy, small steps of obedience pay enormous dividends. I used to think of being blessed as something financial or tangible. Now I know that blessing is resting in God’s authority over all things when the situation seems impossible.

Blessing is knowing that, for the first time ever, you did something life-changing for someone who could offer nothing in return.

Blessing is knowing that your children are different people because they have seen faith as a lifestyle, not just as Sunday doctrine.

Blessing is banding together with your husband to pray audaciously for the Lord to change the cycle of pain for one little boy.

Blessing is letting go of the good plans you had for your life in favor of the great plans of God.

A few weeks before Christmas last year, there was a huge hearing in our baby’s case that would determine if he would remain in our home or leave the next day. Several delays occurred in the judge’s ruling, and our family waited anxiously for the answer.

Knowing we were struggling, our dear friends called and asked if their pastor could come to our home and pray with us the night before the judge was to issue her ruling. We didn’t know this pastor but agreed to have him come by and pray with us late that Tuesday night.

We gathered next to our Christmas tree to pray. I stood there, weak and devastated by the possibility that we might lose this baby and what that might mean for his little life. Then pastor Pierre Jones told us that he felt strongly that he had received a word from God for us.

He said he didn’t know us and had never done something like this before, but that he knew the Lord had sent him to our house to share the word that this baby was ours—that there was no more need for tears or uncertainty, but that the Lord was going to do a mighty thing for this child.

He simply thanked God that night for what God had already done and rejoiced in bringing this child into our home. I have never had someone speak that boldly in the name of the Lord to us, and my husband and I were both taken aback. Yet we somehow knew right then and there that Pastor Jones was right, and that the Lord had sent a messenger. He gave us the word that it was his decision, not one of court systems and judges.

Blessing is knowing you’ve heard a direct word from God and that he has chosen to do a mighty thing in this broken world, all the while giving you a front row seat to share in it.

As I write this note on the eve of our baby’s adoption hearing, I’m overwhelmed with the journey the Lord chose for us. We didn’t set out to adopt when we entered the world of foster care, but within days of meeting this precious baby, we fell in love with him just as our own.

Over time, we couldn’t help but be honest with God and pray that he would grant us the desires of our heart by giving us the privilege to raise JB as our own. I’ll never understand how you can meet a complete stranger and then love him like he’s your own almost immediately. But I also will never understand the love of a God who sacrificed his son for sinful, flawed people like me so that we could be his adopted children for all eternity.

I urge you to consider where the Lord might be calling you to join him in work that you’ve, perhaps, been avoiding. I spent way too many years living in the margins of my faith and missing the Lord’s greater calling for my life.

I often tell our kids that the Lord will do what he’s going to do, and his plans will be accomplished with or without us. But oh the blessings we will miss if we are not willing to get out of the boat, taking the small steps of faith that he will honor and use to make an impact far beyond us. As Francis Chan has said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

There’s a phone ringing in the background for each of us.

When it is God calling, it won’t be the easy road. But it will be the safe and right one.

As our family looks back over the last 623 days, we stand in awe of how God has transformed us as a family. And we can’t look at JB without profound gratitude for the blessing and privilege of raising him.