“When I think back over the years since marrying Tom Rylands, it is almost surreal to me the path that God chose for our family. It was a path that was such a grand departure from any plans that we had for ourselves. When Tom, 28 years my senior, and I approached marriage, neither of us had plans to parent… That, in a nutshell, was our plan. It was a tidy plan. And as a self-proclaimed Type-A, “tie-a–bow-on-it” sort of gal, I liked tidy.
God’s plan, as is often the case, wasn’t tidy. God had planned for us to parent, and not just one child, but five! I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I, the oldest of five siblings myself, would ever be the mother of five!” – quote from Abundantly More
Oh, the things we think we know so well when we are young. I was that smart, ambitious young twenty-something woman who had a clear plan for her future. So, now, more than twenty years later, I can say with complete honesty that I am so incredibly grateful God chose to override those plans. I’m grateful that He chose Abundantly More for my life than I could have imagined. I’m thankful that He protected me from my plans and instead chose to bless me with opportunities and challenges that I’d have never chosen on my own.
You see, Tom and I had no plans to have children. He was nearing retirement age and I was so crazy in love that I didn’t think having children was all that necessary to our happiness. So, how did we go from no kids to five? God. It really is just that simple.
It started with the “baby bug” that hit just after my 30th birthday. Needless to say, this was a sharp left turn from the road we’d been on together. When we were finally blessed with a child, our youngest son, Tommy, I had reconciled myself to be blissfully content with him as additional children were out of the question.
Adoption was not something we had ever even discussed. But, in the spring of 2011, God took us from zero to sixty in a matter of seven days! We crossed paths with an adoptive family that also happened to advocate for waiting children and within a week we were pursuing our first adopted son, Colin, who was about to age out in China. We knew absolutely nothing about adoption, and even less about adoptive parenting. God has been so gracious to us in surrounding us with the people and professional resources we needed just as we needed them.
Four months after bringing Colin home, we traveled back to get Cameron, who was also “aging out.” At this point, we thought our family was complete. But, after about a year of life with three kids, God knocked on our hearts again and we discovered Cooper and Connor. Cooper was the first child we would adopt that wasn’t turning 14 soon. He was just 9 when we adopted him. Connor came to us as a thirteen year old. Within 22 months, we had adopted four new sons, traveled to China three separate times and fundraised over $100,000!
So as I think back to that young mother of one, I’d want her to understand some things about the life she was about to enter….
First, these are God’s precious children. He sees them, He loves them, and He has allowed her the privilege of stewarding their lives as their mother. This adoption journey was never about her, but about Him.
I’d want her to know that despite having raised one child to the ripe old age of six, that she knew nothing about what these new children would need from her as a mother. Parenting them would look quite different than anything she knew. I would tell her that it was ok to parent her sons differently, and to be attentive to their needs as individuals. I’d tell her not to be so nervous and to embrace the attachment process more intentionally, even with teens.
I’d remind her that God would use every painful experience, every rejection and every bump in the road to refine her and her children for His glory. I’d want her to know that real, healthy attachment would take years, not weeks.
Next I’d tell her that she would need to be prepared to give up her life for these boys. I’d tell her that the financial sacrifices would be just the tip of the iceberg because the real sacrifice would be her time and energy. (In hindsight, those were the things I was less willing to give them, but precisely what they needed the most.)
I’d also remind her that even the most challenging, seemingly unloveable children, can experience healing and restoration but that it takes a stubborn commitment of time to see that come to pass.
I would sit her down and remind her that saying yes to this call of adoption didn’t make her a hero, or a saint, or even a “really good person.” What it did make her was obedient. That’s all. I’d want her to understand that saying yes to God is not a grand gesture. It isn’t doing Him any favors. It is allowing Him to use us for His glory knowing that in the process we ourselves receive the blessing. It is simple. What is isn’t is easy.
We are such emotional creatures, especially we women. It is incredibly easy to allow our emotions to control our actions. As I entered this past year, not knowing that God was preparing to call my husband home, what I now know is that he was about to teach me a series of life lessons that would grow my faith in some really hard ways. I began to see the war, much more tangibly than before, between what I felt, and what I knew in my heart to be true.
Tom was the backbone of our family. He was the boys’ primary, at-home parent, their teacher, their cook, their chauffeur, their confidant. We all felt such a painful void when he died. And those feelings were real, and valid, and necessary. But we had to balance some of that pain with the truth of the gospel and the truth that Tom was whole and happy in heaven. God surrounded us in a protective bubble for a season after Tom’s death where we could cling to one another and support healing. He brought an army of believers from around the country to meet our needs so that we could hibernate and grieve.
So, looking back on this past year, what I’d want my younger self to know is that God would never abandon her. That He would always be there as husband, father, comforter, provider and best friend. I would tell her that her strength comes from a never-ending source. I would tell her that she can be vulnerable and weak because He is all the strength and wisdom she will ever need. I would tell her not to fear those life-rocking events that push her to her knees because, with His strength, she would be enough.
I would remind her, as Tom reminded our children before he died, that his death was part of God’s good and perfect plan for her life and that He had abundantly more planned for their futures.
Anyone who would like to pre-order Abundantly More before midnight tonight – July 7, 2016 – can get a signed copy by sending $16 via PayPal to Angie at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please find her on FB and like her page, she is hoping to reach 1000 likes by Friday and is just a few hundred likes away from that goal.
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