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The Fisher of Stories


From “The Walk,” a blog I wrote about two years ago.

“There are lots of walks that people make in their lifetime. Some are important, some are not. Some of those walks are tougher than others, and some seem like they take forever, because you know you can’t wait to have what’s at the end. Some are painful, some are joyous. Some are profitable, some will end with you losing everything.”

Today I want to talk to you about another walk I recently made.

I am convinced that there is a serenity that comes from floating in the ocean that cannot be achieved by doing anything else. Maybe it’s because I live in a landlocked state, or maybe it’s just something that I feel. Regardless, our story begins with me, floating in the ocean, and listening.

My family was with me as I peacefully reflected on thoughts of life, the Universe, and everything. Aven was splashing around with Jennie, and Keeli and The Missus were floating as well, but I could tell they were involved in a deep discussion. They passed within earshot, and through a lull in the breakers, I overheard my wife telling our daughter about Jesus.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
 -Proverbs 31:30

Keeli has been asking questions about the Lord’s Supper and baptism quite frequently, and we’ve been doing our best to answer those questions without using the phrase, “You have to be a Christian first.” You see, I don’t want our children to think that they need salvation simply so they can eat crackers on the last Sunday of the month or take a dip in the baptistery. I want them to know they need salvation for the right reasons.

I paddled closer for a listen, and then I realized that I needed to be praying for the whole situation. It wasn’t too much longer before The Missus said, “Well, let’s go get your daddy and we’ll go have a talk.” Then she looked at me and said, “Travis?”

“I’ve been listening,” was my reply. “Do we need to go up to the condo?”


And so began The Walk.

I walked through the water, praying feverishly. “Lord, give me wisdom. Lord, please give me wisdom. Lord, please don’t let me screw this up.”

My toes hit the beach, and then the powder-fine white sand. My wife and our daughter in tow, and still I prayed. “Lord, it’s been way too long since I’ve lead someone to salvation, or even used words to witness to someone face to face. Please give me the words she can understand.”

The sand turned to wood, signaling the closeness of our destination. Just a few more steps. Likewise, my prayers turned as well, to thanks. “Thank you God, for a wife who can effectively minister to our children. Thank you for Jennie and her family, who have been stoic Christian examples in the turmoil of their lives. Thank you for this gift that You’ve given us that I have the privilege of sharing with our daughter.”

And then we were there. We walked through the door, and I grabbed my Bible and told The Missus to give me a minute to myself so I could prepare for this. She nodded, and I walked out on the balcony, hit my knees, and repeated everything I’d prayed in the last five minutes.

On June 28th, 2003, a door opened, and my bride to be walked through, radiant, beautiful, and a gift from God.

On May 20th, 2011, a door opened, and our children jumped out and ran to meet us, radiant, beautiful, and gifts from God.

On May 25th, 2012, another door opened, and my wife and daughter walked through, radiant, beautiful, and absolutely gifts from God.

They sat beside me, and I started asking Keeli questions about her knowledge of salvation. I made it two sentences in, and I started crying. Keeli, the ever-empathetic child, started crying as well. It took a few minutes, but I finally explained to her that I wasn’t sad at all, I was happy, and very proud.

In the end, we joined hands and prayed together as a family, and our beautiful daughter accepted Christ as her Savior. I promised her we’d talk to our pastor about baptism, which is something we’re going to do this Sunday. I fully plan to be the one to baptize her, and I fully plan on being the biggest blubbering mess in the world whenever I do it.

And so The Road continues, and so do The Walks. For our daughter, this walk has consisted of being a baby born to a twelve year old kid, a six year walk through hell on earth, the life changing event of being given to new parents, and now securing a spot with Jesus in eternity.

I’ll never understand why they went through what they did, and I’ll never understand why we’ve gone through what we have. All I do understand is that the Lord has a Plan, and it’s a plan for good, and not evil. A plan to give us hope, and a future.

And this little family He’s given me is the best Plan I could have ever asked for.

We are His.

I’m going to tell you a story today about Jennie.
No, not this Jenny, even though that’s the first thing that always comes to my mind when I hear that name.
I try to be a “credit where credit is due” type of person. If someone does something for me and my family, I want to brag on them a little bit, kind of give their ego a little boost. In my mind, that’s the best form of repayment, when no real price could ever be named. I don’t always succeed, but I like to think I hit more than I miss.

A few months ago, I blogged about our adoption process. In that blog, I mentioned a family that was very interested in adopting Akeeli and Aven before they knew about us. The state, for whatever reason, decided ultimately to give them to us, but it’s not like there was a giant fuss or anything, we just had the training done already, and they really wanted to get the kids placed.

To put it mildly, this family is amazing. I said in the original blog that the kids had winners in every corner, and I hold true to that to this day.

However, there is one particular member of that family that I’m going to brag on today. It’s a young lady, twenty years old, who was still a teenager when Akeeli and Aven came into her life. A young lady who we met on the second visit to see the kids and who we watched dissolve into tears when she met us. When she met the people who were going to be taking them away.

This is her story.

I cried when I read it the first time, and I cried when I read it today. Tomorrow, if I read it, I’ll cry again.

At a time when our children didn’t have anyone to love them, Jennie and her family were there. At a time when they desperately needed stability, Jennie tried her best to give it to them.

And it cost her.

My wife still has nightmares where someone knocks on the door, tells us the children have to go back for some reason, and takes them out of our lives as quickly as they came in.

Jennie lived that.

Not in the way we would, not in the way that she had them day and night and was a parent, but in the sense that these two kids wormed their way into her heart (the way they do everyone) and then she watched them pack up and leave.

The kids talked about her constantly when we brought them home.

“Jennie did this.”
“Jennie took us there one time.”
“We went to church with Jennie.”

It wasn’t about the foster mom, it wasn’t about their birth parents, it was about Jennie.

So it was no surprise when one day, Aven was talking on the phone with her, and just decided he was going to invite her to the zoo trip my wife was planning for them.

Without asking us.

I’ll be the first to admit, that was awkward. You see, all we’d been told about the family was that they wanted the kids as well. To us, at that point, they were competition. I also thought that it was a bad idea simply because I saw her as a spy. Someone who would report anything to DHS to have the kids taken back in the trial period.

We were scared.

The zoo trip came and went. The kids were angels for her. The Missus fell in love with her, and the way the kids responded to her.

From that moment on, Jennie has become part of our extended family.

She is currently going to college, and our children have inspired her to go into Social Work. She has her head on straighter than any twenty year old I know, and I firmly believe that one day she’ll make a difference in the world. She’s already made a difference in ours.

She came down and stayed with us over the weekend. The kids climbed all over her, talked to her, jumped on the trampoline with her, played video games with her, made videos with her on her computer, and in general just ignored us for about twenty four hours.

I got the yard cleaned up and mowed. The Missus got to read.

When we first got the kids, we were told that most adopted children needed a contact back “home.” They needed to maintain a relationship with someone that would help ease their transition into a new life. The Missus and I were hugely skeptical about that. All we could think about was losing the kids because they said something that someone thought sounded funny. Trusting anyone from their lives before us was a huge obstacle.

In hindsight, we were dumb. Of course, it’s easy to label it as “over-protective,” but in reality, it was just being dumb.

You see, Jennie is the young woman that I am praying my daughter grows up to be. Jennie is the young woman that I am praying my son marries.

Not every adoption has a continuous horror story behind it. Sometimes there are tragic circumstances, sometimes there are unwise decisions, and sometimes there are terrifying and painful memories. Our children have harvested a lifetime of those.

But sometimes…after all of the pain…sometimes there’s a Jennie.

One of the eight thousand pictures of them I’m sure she has on her hard drive. Not in a creepy way though.