Why I Adopt {the first half of the story}

{If you haven’t yet, read the precursor to this post, which is actually the second half of this story.}

And this is how I found the heart at the center of justice …

College witnessed his first growth spurt. By what can only be attributed to the hand of God, Nate landed himself amid a group of boys (ready to be men) who had an early understanding that no part of knowing God was passive. They had a zest for life and for Him and for a life in Him that wasn’t just attractive, but was real.

They wrestled in the basement of this house-made-into-bullpen — pushed the furniture back and let the floor absorb their sweat as they sought grappling preeminence. Those same walls heard late night conversations about God and impact and a life lived alive. They played, hard, and loved Him and one another, hard.

I came into the picture when the caps and gowns were boxed up and what they’d talked about for years was finally being given wings with the freedom that comes from being in your twenties and charting your own course. And I couldn’t help but love them too, so many who now wore rings and had pledged allegiance to women who not only gave them permission but access to that flight-of-life, in Him.

In our early married years, the dreaming they’d done in college began to take shape. They would love, out-loud, those that many deemed to be unlovable. They would reach the unreached with a life — flesh, pressed against flesh — not just a message. They would lay down their pedigrees and positions for the lowly of the earth. They would live the Sermon on the Mount.

These men and their wives made plans to follow Him to the run-down parts of a Virginia city and plant a stake there that said: He loves in unexpected ways.

And their plans took shape. They bought houses for pennies and relinquished their Wall Street opportunities for back-alley living. They did it. They poured their lives into a cup of cold water for the poor.

Homeless MJ

Nate and I — we watched.

We left living room meetings where these plans were hashed out — only to pick up the argument we’d been having hours earlier on the way there. We barely knew how to be married, much less how to breathe. I was burnt-out, tired, on this treadmill of youth ministry I’d continued to turn up, despite my heart and body’s signs of depletion, and Nate was fielding all of my fallout.

We could hardly have the conversation, alongside our friends, of “what might this look like for us” because we hardly knew what He looked like after all these years of following Him. We were bone-dry and thirsty.

We had no cup of cold water to give and weren’t quite sure we knew how to to drink, ourselves.


I wrestled both with guilt and a measure of understanding of myself that kept me uncomfortable, yet certain that we weren’t to join this band of brothers for this next season. I had understood life to be impact for His kingdom, but I had nothing to give. They were called to live a radical expression I’d dreamed, but if I wore their shoes it would feel false.

This wasn’t my season. The expression wasn’t my particular calling. I couldn’t explain it more than that, I just knew I couldn’t force my way into another’s story and vision the way I had so readily in years past.

In the years that followed, God hid me. He hedged me in. I had no choice but to survive, and survival, for me, meant finding this God I’d said “yes” to on that snowy night in November at a Young Life camp, so many years before. I wet my journal with tears and unstuck the pages of my Bible. I talked to Him. A lot. I made scripture my prayer and paced the first floor of my house in darkened mornings and after the sun went down, asking to see the face of God. I sought my first love. I wanted back those early summer nights when Jesus felt near and His Word was the blanket over my life.

And I awkwardly formed responses at social gatherings and with old friends who poked underneath the hood to ask me about my life. They once knew me as the driven one who’d do anything for impacting the kingdom, yet somehow I wasn’t that girl anymore, nor did I really know who I was.

I just was beginning to know Him.

I sunk deep in my chair when others talked about the vision they had for reaching their community (or even just their neighbors) for Him. I didn’t know how to walk out my front door with confidence. I was being stripped of all I knew, whittled down to just this one thing: Him.

And I barely had language for this grand unraveling.

I thought that this, then, would be my life: forever stripped of any outward ability to make a dent in the world, but knowing — secretly — that I moved His heart. I was growing to understand that this season which I despised, was one He not only loved, but orchestrated. He liked me when no one was looking. He enjoyed my private devotion.

He was jealous. For me.

And just when I’d settled in to living, forever, in this closet we’d carved, He called for a change.

Out of this deep, dark crying-out to God — that had very little to do with any outward impact and all to do with impacting the heart of the God who made me and relished in my looking-up at Him — came the call.



In the throes of a barren womb, with many options, He made His voice for our one option clear.

I didn’t know then that one would lead to two, would lead to four (and likely more). Like any calling, we dip our toes in the water of “yes” and hope to God that this is the biggest “yes” we’ll have to utter — only to find ourselves fully submerged, years later.

Justice knocked on my door in the form of a Man and He whispered to me in my closet that this next season of love would include an expression outside of my little cave.

I knew it was right. And it was time.

Love had its way with me. I would be a bearer of justice, just a decade later than I thought and through a means I’d never conceived would be part of my story.

Had I done it early — had I moved out of obligation or pure zeal, and not from the place of that whisper-in-the-dark — I may have missed that great love story, incited when no one was looking.

And this, then, is why I adopt …

I adopt because I am crazy in love with this God-Man who loved me when I produced absolutely nothing for Him.

I adopt because my most unproductive-to-the-kingdom years may just have been some of His favorites.

I adopt because when I read Him in the book of John, I can’t help but ask to see His eyes, in every account, just like I felt them beautifully boring into me when I couldn’t get out of my bed in brokenness.

I adopt because He wooed me and I am wrecked. For a Man — and what’s on His heart — not a mission.

The only thing I, personally, can uniquely do on this earth — that no one else can — is worship Him through my life. This worship is a construct of God’s, that in some seasons may look like keeping our hands still but our heart alive, and in some seasons it’s crazy messy with the dirt of another’s life in your story.


God is awakening His bride to worship with their lives. Him.

It’s here and only here that we will be fully alive. All the rest is the outpouring. (Yes, all the rest becomes all the more full when our eyes and our mission is fixed on His face.)

This is a call to the mamas and the sick and the broken and the ones who, like I was once, are having their insides re-wired: you aren’t sidelined from mission — nor do you need to buck-up and make yourself do it to feel like you matter — you are invited. Now. To have private stories of encountering the living and active God that may, at times, make your public life look like it lacks impact.

Let the holy start in your closet with that conversation with Him.


If our pews were full of those who walked in on a Sunday morning after having a week-long brush with the Father who told them how He saw them, who spoke to the darkest parts of their hearts with hope and strength and wrapped His arms around their brittle frames, no walls could contain us. What might we do for this God?

For those of you who want your community to adopt or to live right up against the broken, pray that we — the church — see our own fatherlessness. When the fatherless like me, even long before my father died, get moved by the Father, they can’t help but bring others into that fold.

Lovers will always outwork workers.


I have four under my roof who are being restored and, as far as we can tell, they are our first fruits. Our hearts have room for more. We rub elbows with the poor of our community as our family feeds them and prays for them. This, now, is just what we do. And it all goes back to some dark-black nights and mornings stuck in bed where the Father came to me and to Nate and began to show us who He really was.

We will rarely find love in the arms of justice but we will surely find justice in the arms of Love.

I longed for justice and then I encountered the One who created it.

And it all started with those eyes of His. When no one was looking.

(And those friends of ours in Virginia? They are still doing it. Still living there, a decade later. Still loving the world’s discarded. And it is beauty, pure beauty. A decade of beauty.)


For Your Continued Pursuit: Isaiah 42:1-4 | Exodus 20:5 | Luke 10:42 | John 12:1-7 | 1 John 3:17-18 | Psalm 33:5 | Psalm 140:12 | Psalm 27:4 | Song of Songs 8:7 | 2 Corinthians 8:9 | Matthew 26:13

Photos compliments of Mandie Joy (who, by the way, has some pretty sweet happenings over in her space!).