Elmbrook Stories

Front Row Seat

As a missionary in Siberia, Russia for eight years, I was confident that I had a bird’s eye view to what God was doing in the world - at least my part of the world. And I was happy and excited to be a part of expanding the kingdom of heaven.

When my family was suddenly and unexpectedly returned to the United States, I was devastated and resigned myself to sitting on the sidelines, watching God use others. I spent several years adjusting to life in America, and not always with a joyful noise on my lips or in my mind.

Though my plans and geographic location had changed, I soon realized God’s plan and His purpose for my life had not changed. As I prayed and listened and watched, God revealed some of His plans to use my life to His glory. I began to see that if I was truly listening and loving the Lord, He would use me wherever I was. I only had to be available, and He’d give me a front row seat.

I lived overseas with a suitcase packed to grab and leave in an emergency. Now I live in Waukesha, Wisconsin with a spirit open to the invisible powerful Spirit of God - ready to go wherever He leads.

One of those times was about six years ago. After having three boys, my husband Steve and I pursued the idea of adoption. We began the process of adopting a little girl from Russia. We put on our proverbial hip waders and started to slog through the process - paperwork and forms, notary seals and red tape. I was praying and asking God for wisdom and direction. In the midst of our plans and process, we got the news that my brother-in-law had been diagnosed with cancer. 

Numb and confused, we stopped everything and tried to figure out what to do next. I remember praying for Chris, and his family. I remember doing a lot of talking in my prayers those days. Please do this, show us that, heal Chris, give wisdom to the doctors, and protect his wife and daughters from fear and worry. I also know that I got a very specific direction from the Lord as a result of those prayers…focus on the girls. So we stopped our adoption agenda and spent lots of time and energy and prayers on our nieces. For two years we focused on Chris and his family. We did everything we could to love and encourage and be with them.

In the meantime, a friend of mine found herself changing her entire life. After wrestling with a difficult and disappointing marriage she got a divorce. She was running her own business and dating while working hard to manage chronic long term illnesses and thrive despite her PTSD. We didn’t get to see each other often, but when we were together we shared our joys and hopes and dreams. I had the opportunity to share my faith with her and she responded with enthusiasm.

One Saturday afternoon, my friend called me. I hadn’t talked to her in several months and I thought we would have a great time catching up. She said, “Heather, I am engaged to a great guy, and I am pregnant. I am not in a place right now to raise a baby. I wanted to talk to you first, because I know you want to adopt a girl. I know the baby is a girl and she is due in June.”

I was speechless. “Could you please repeat that for me?" I asked as I put down the knife I was using in the kitchen and sat down. “I know that I want to put the baby up for adoption, but I wanted to call you first. I know you love Jesus and I want this baby to know God. I know how much you love your family and I thought of you first,” she patiently explained.

So many thoughts ran through my mind. I shared my joy that she decided to have the baby and wanted to make sure she was healthy and with a loving family. I asked some questions about her health and the baby’s father. Then I asked for a couple of days to talk to Steve and pray. Steve and I were overwhelmed. We prayed and dreamed and talked and prayed some more. We tried to figure out the logistics of a fourth child nine years younger than our last son and we prayed about what our role in God’s plan for this baby girl might be.

Humbled and at peace, our prayers helped to clarify that this was NOT for our family at this time. As I tearfully realized that this was not for us, I was burdened knowing that for some reason I was to be a part of God’s plan for this baby.

I went to my regular weekly bible study at Elmbrook and as we shared our updates at the beginning of our meeting, I quickly filled the ladies in on our family dilemma. As I talked I looked around the room and watched, one of the gals had the most curious look on her face. I asked her what she was thinking. She revealed that one of her clients in her business had struggled with infertility for years and had the tragedy of a stillbirth. Then through God’s intervention she was able to adopt through a private agency. That client, we will call her Kim, was very close to trying to conceive again, since her four-year-old daughter was asking for a baby for Christmas.

I asked,” Do they want a girl in June?”  This was April, right around Mother’s day. 

I got Kim’s name and number and called her. We talked on the phone and she was very excited to hear about the possible opportunity to adopt again. I was anxious calling my friend. I was afraid of how she would respond when I shared that we didn’t feel called to adopt her daughter. I wasn’t sure what her response would be. My friend answered the phone and listened. She immediately said, “I knew God would find the right family for my baby. I was sure you could help me get through to Him. I’d love to meet the woman who is interested in adopting my daughter."

I was delighted and relieved. I got a front row seat after all. I met Kim and drove with her over to my friend’s house. There we met with my friend and her fiancé, and I told them how God brought them together and prayed for them.

Kim, her husband and daughter were there in the hospital on the day that baby Meggie was born. They met her right away and she went home directly from the hospital with her new big sister. I am able to keep up with them through social media. 

Not in Siberia any more. Not on the sidelines either. God can and will use us wherever we are. We have to have open hearts, available minds and willing hands and feet. I lived overseas with a suitcase packed to grab and leave in an emergency. Now I live in Waukesha, Wisconsin with a spirit open to the invisible powerful Spirit of God - ready to go wherever He leads. I love sharing. I really love having a part in what God is about.

Before you shrug this story off as, “She is more spiritual than I am,” let me be perfectly clear. I am a sinner. I am probably the most broken person you have ever met. I am filthy and clinging hopefully to God’s promise of love, grace and forgiveness. I fall asleep sometimes when I pray, am not as disciplined as I’d like to be studying scripture.

I could go on and on - but really, I am you. You are me - imperfect - yet perfectly forgiven. Don’t be deceived into thinking you have to get it right to be used by God. I am living proof that He uses His most flawed and scared children for His purposes. Say “use me” instead of “fix me” and He will.

When you decide you want to have a front row seat too, know that God is doing incredible, world changing things in your neighborhood. Watch, listen and be ready to go and be inspired and a witness to His kingdom work, right where you are.

“But as for me, I will always have hope:
I will praise you more and more,
My mouth will tell of your righteousness,
Of your salvation all day long,
Though I know not its measure.
I will come and proclaim your might acts, O Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.” 

Psalm 72:14-16