Say yes

Written by Rebekah Lyons
Published on January 05, 2021

Last fall, Rebekah Lyons released the bestseller, Rhythms of Renewal, where she outlined four simple rhythms – Rest, Restore, Connect, Create – that radically changed her life and brought sustained emotional health. This month she is releasing the Rhythms for Life Planner and Journal: 90 Days to Peace and Purpose to gently bring practical solutions to daily life, encouraging all of us to release the things that drain us to rediscover what brings fulfillment and joy – a perfect guidebook as we finish this year strong and look to start 2021 fresh.

Take a Risk

Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing—Helen Keller

 Each time I was pregnant, Gabe and I snuck away for a babymoon. We made it a priority so we could reconnect before the chaos set in. We’d drop off whatever kids we had at “Camp Meeme and Papa” and hide away somewhere tropical. Why I agreed to wear a swimsuit six months into each pregnancy, I’ll never know. But lounging poolside with endless chips and guacamole, talking with Gabe, and reading books and magazines was a good way to recharge for the coming season.

 During our third babymoon, when I was pregnant with Kennedy, I stood on the edge of the pool, ready to jump in, and said to Gabe, “Babe, this will be my third C-section. I can’t imagine having the physical or emotional capacity for more children after this.” My doctor had cautioned us about the amount of scar tissue building up when Pierce was born and had growing concerns that my uterus might rupture if I went into labor. Not only that but Cade had yet to poop in the potty at age five. I imagined a life of changing diapers forever, and it was overwhelming. I suppose that’s why I said, “If it’s a girl, I want to get my tubes tied.” Gabe responded, “Only if you’re open to adoption.” It was an out-of-the-blue comment, and of course I said I was open to it if that meant I could get off the child-bearing merry-go-round. What did “open” mean, anyway? Three months later after, tugging and loud cries in the operating room, Gabe cried out, “It’s a GIRL!” to which I responded, “Tie me up.”

 Two years later, I heard a message about how children were a blessing, which I already knew, but the truth of what I had done set in with a new sort of conviction. I marched back into my ob-gyn office asking if Mr. Ob-gyn doctor could undo the thing I had begged for two years prior. He, of course, explained in his rational, steady voice that un-tying my tubes would be a fourth incision in the same spot as the first three. If I ended up pregnant, that would be a fifth surgery in the exact same place. For liability reasons and for my safety, he wasn’t willing to do it.

 This is where I pause to say I regret tying my tubes at age thirty-one. This isn’t a prescriptive statement, just an honest one. Thinking of the many women I know who are trying everything to have children, it feels cavalier, like I played God with something permanent, determining when we should be done having kids simply because I was tired. Now hear me clearly: I’m not questioning the wisdom of family planning, but for me, something less permanent would have been wiser. If I’d just given myself a few more years, a little distance from the operating room, it would have offered a better vantage point. Still, the silver lining of all this was Gabe’s knee-jerk invitation to consider a future adoption.

 The adoption conversation surfaced for about thirty minutes every three years after my doctor’s appointment, and though many of our friends were adopting, we never quite felt the timing was right. We were three steps behind sanity, barely keeping our heads above water on the parenting front. Of course, much of this was our own fault. We were maxed out, always on the move, and doing our best to live and work in a two-bedroom apartment. So our conversations about adoption were few and fleeting, but we still had them.

 When we moved to Tennessee, our kids were ten, twelve, and fourteen. We considered adoption again, this time feeling a little more margin in our lives to entertain the possibility. Still, we weren’t ready. Bringing a baby into our family as our kids were about to move into middle and high school felt ambitious.

 Conventional wisdom said our lives were too busy with good things, and we needed to focus on our current kids and on what we were already committed to without piling on more. So we kept kicking the conversation down the road.

Meanwhile, Kennedy had dreams of her own. She’d imagined she’d have a baby sister, and she wasn’t shy about asking for one. She didn’t just ask, though. She prayed and prayed for a baby sister. In fact, she had since she was five.

 One night, our family went to see War Room, a movie with a character who prayed faithfully in her closet—the war room—for years, and saw her prayers answered. Later that night, I walked into Kennedy’s room to find her washi-taping a series of written prayers up and down the walls of her closet. One asked God to help our family adopt. Time and time again, we downplayed the odds that it would happen, hoping this would let Kennedy down without hurting her. Yet she never gave up. In fact, she was so persistent that Gabe sat her down and suggested her passion for adoption was God preparing her to adopt a child one day in her adult life, because it wasn’t likely we would. Weeks after that conversation, I saw that particular prayer torn in two, one-half of it hanging from the wall by a piece of tape. When I asked Kennedy about it, she looked down at the ground and said, “I figure it’s never going to happen.”

 Kennedy’s prayers must have worked over time, though, because one day I surrendered it all. If this is something you want to happen, I prayed, please bring her to me. Please put her right in front of my face, and I’ll name her Joy.

Three years later, on December 3, 2018, my dear friend Meredith in Beijing, China, texted me a photo of an adorable five-year-old grinning ear to ear, a child with Down syndrome. Meredith wrote, “This girl’s file is going to the US tomorrow.” The message was totally unexpected. I thought, Why is she doing this to me? (Meredith has a particular knack for persuasion.)

 I responded, “She’s adorable. What’s her name?
“Chara,” she replied.
I gasped. “You mean the Greek word for joy?”
When I got Meredith’s text, I wanted to run. We were days from celebrating twenty years of marriage, and visions of growing independence danced in my head. I remember telling Gabe, full of fear, “This feels like the day I got Cade’s diagnosis. The day everything changed for our future, and we started a life different than what we imagined.”

 Gabe listened. Let me say my piece. I continued.

 “But it’s not that scary because we’ll never be empty nesters anyway,” I said. I pictured the bond that would form between Cade and Joy, buddies for a good long while after the other two went to college and started independent lives.

 Then it hit me. “Perhaps God gave us Cade because he knew seventeen years later he’d give us Joy, and we’d say ‘yes.’” Gabe held me while I cried tears of surrender. This was indeed an invitation into something more. Instead of being empty nesters in five years, we’d be heading back to kindergarten.

Partnering in God’s Creation

Taking a risk may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it’s the only way we can partner with God in creating good and beautiful things. Some risks are smaller, like hopping a plane across country—while others are larger, like adopting a baby from across the world. Giving up control of the routine, our norms, and our comforts and moving into the unknown is paralyzing. Especially as we age. 

Research shows that as we get older, our dopamine levels decrease, making us more adverse to risky behavior. This can be a good thing, helping us avoid dangerous activities that could lead to injury. But it might also mean remaining on the sidelines when adventure awaits. Taking risks assumes a reward or failure. That’s just part of the dynamic. But when we stop allowing ourselves to dream, or decide we want to be comfortable and conservative, we just may be missing out on a way to partner with God, and as we partner with him in creating a life of faith, we’ll learn to “not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” We’ll learn to live in the peace and joy of God’s purpose for us.

The call and assignment of God is never possible without God.

As I write this, it’s the first week of December—exactly one year after Meredith sent that life-changing text—a text that came two weeks after God gave me the word “abundance” for the coming season, and now we’re at the end of the adoption process. We’re in Guangxi, China, and tomorrow is “Gotcha Day,” the day our daughter, Joy Lyons, will join our family forever. The adoption agency will bring her in with no pomp, circumstance, or fanfare, and in minutes they’ll place her in my arms. We’ll have twenty-four hours to decide if we want to keep her (yes, this is a thing) then come back to sign papers, dip our thumbs in red ink, and seal the moment.

 Joy’s new middle name on the documents will be Levi, my daddy’s middle name. When he died in April, I was afraid to proceed with adopting Joy, consumed by the fear of risking it all, overtaken by grief. I considered the option of running, but we were well underway. One morning I woke early and heard a whisper: Fight death with life.

 It’s so like the enemy, after a long stretch of faith, to threaten obedience with fear. But this risk ends in beauty, the culmination of partnering with God to create a new reality for our family. This year of surrendered prayers and tears called our family to a singular focus, to prepare our hearts and home for God’s glorious interruption.

And though I should be nervous, anxious, maybe even a bit panicky, I’m not. Why? Because Advent is the culmination of a sacred waiting for new life to come. It requires constant trust and yielding to a plan beyond our own. Tomorrow we enter God’s story for Joy, and we couldn’t be more grateful.

Is there a risk you’ve been avoiding, something you know God might be calling you to do? If you’re not following through, not taking the risk, it might be leading to anxiety, stress, or depression. Determine the risk you might need to take, and take the leap. In it, you might find unexpected joy.

Her latest book, Rhythms for Life Planner and Journal: 90 Days to Peace and Purpose, is the perfect guide to daily rescue and a way forward into the peace your soul longs for. Rebekah draws from her own battle with depression and anxiety and shares a pathway to establish four life-giving rhythms that quiet inner chaos and make room for a flourishing life: Rest, restore, connect, and create. 

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Rebekah Lyons

Rebekah Lyons is the author of A Surrendered Yes, Rhythms of Renewal and Freefall to Fly.nShe is a mother of four, wife of one, and dog walker of two living in Nashville. An old soul with a contemporary, honest voice, Rebekah reveals her own battles to overcome anxiety, depression, and consumer impulses. Finding joy in raising a special needs child—she invites everyone to embrace the unique calling God has for each of us. Rebekah wears her heart on her sleeve, a benefit to friends and readers alike.
Alongside her husband, Gabe, Rebekah serves as cofounder of Q Ideas, an organization that equips Christians on how to winsomely engage culture. Her favorite hours are spent with her nose in a book and a discriminating cup of coffee in hand.

Read more about Rebekah

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