I want to start by saying that I'm about to unapologetically brag on Jenny Clark. I'm going to tell you how amazing she is, and she'll probably roll her eyes when she reads this, but I don't care at all. She deserves some love and I'm giving it to her no matter how big that eye roll is.
Last August, God told us to hitch up our wagon to the Clark family. It was our big, unexpected, but so worth it YES. There were a lot of unknowns. We were signing on to be connected with a family we barely knew for life by raising siblings in the same town but in different homes. It was the best thing we've ever said yes to, and it meant that I gained, not only a friend, but someone I admire tremendously and get to call family now too.
Sometimes, in life, we have friends who feel like family. Then other times, we really luck out and get friends who literally become family and you get to say things like, "my daughter's brother's mom," and then watch as people scratch their head with confusion. Our YES may have not been the most tangle-free, but it was easy for us because we gained a whole new world of amazingness in our daughter, Brighten and her biological family and her bio brother's adoptive family. Thank you, God, for sorting out those details.
Not all yeses turn out that way, though. Sometimes yeses are hard, and scary, and excruciatingly painful. Over the last several months, I've watched on the sidelines as Jenny has lived out her hardest YES. Ultimately, her hardest yes transformed into the hardest fight and the hardest goodbye. Last Monday, we had the honor of celebrating the life of Elynn, one of Jenny's foster babies, at his memorial service. I didn't know Elynn all that well, but I kept up with his journey through Jenny and her fierce mama bear fight that she gave on his behalf.
I think it's important to talk about the hard things people do. It's important, not because we should put these people who say yes to hard things on a pedestal, but because that's when we see our God most magnified. Jenny is known for the crazy things she says. One of my favorite things is to read one of her Facebook posts about all of the craziness that her daily life brings her, and then when I scroll down to the end there are two words: BUT GOD.
Jenny lives a life of hard yeses and BUT GODs. More than most people I know, she gets her hands dirty for the Kingdom. It's inspiring in the most convicting way, which is why I find myself writing about it and desperate to share about it. We all need to be convicted to say hard yeses and recognize the BUT GODs in our lives. To do Kingdom work, we have to be willing to get our hands dirty, soak our faces with tears, and fight beyond the very end. We see all throughout scripture that life as a Christ follower will be anything but easy, but it'll all be worth it. This is the theme of Elynn's life, and Jenny did a magnificent job communicating that to everyone who was there on Monday to celebrate him.
I think it's important to point out that Jenny and her family didn't have to say yes to Elynn. She knew it wouldn't be an easy road. But she, along with her kids and her parents, said yes to Elynn. They loved him big with everything they had.
We can learn so much from the Jenny's and the Elynn's of this world. Today, I want to share what I've learned:
- Love hard, no matter what. Jenny does this in a way that only Jenny can. She opens her home and her heart and she cares for kiddos who have no one else to care for them. Elynn saw this in his bonus mom and emulated it by liberally blowing kisses to everyone who he saw.
- Trust God's plan for your life. When we met Jenny last year, we heard her story of how she adopted Jojo, Zee, and fostered so many. I'm sure that 10 years ago she had no idea that her life would look like it does today. But God knew. And He asked her to trust Him. And she did. Elynn had a short little life, but he had joy. Honestly, the times that I met him, I had no clue that he was as sick as he truly was. Even though he was too young to consciously understand what it's like to trust God's plan for his life, I truly believe that he did in his own little way. He held no animosity for the cards he'd been dealt. Only pure joy, lots of kisses, and a few words over and over.
- Sometimes you have to say "no" so that someone else can give their best yes. Let me unpack that. This one is hard, but it's a good lesson to learn, and Jenny does this so well...she's probably the most honest and self-aware person I've ever known. When Brighten's birth mom found out she was pregnant with Brighten and told Jenny, Jenny had the discernment to know that her role was to help her son's birth mom find a family to adopt this baby girl. Thankful doesn't begin to describe what I feel for this decision that she made. But I also see how it allowed her to continue to say yes to the things that God called her - her best and hardest yeses, but the ones that were oh so worth it. And that decision also allowed us to give our yes to God and to Brighten, our very best yes. Saying no or finding an alternate route for things that God is not calling you to can be difficult sometimes, because we don't like to disappoint people, and that's just human nature. But sometimes we have to be like Jenny, confident, self-aware, honest, and willing to give a no, so that we can say yes to the things God is undoubtedly calling us to.
What is it that God is calling you to give your YES to?
I know it can be scary and difficult to hand over that "blank check," but just remember that we get to say, "BUT GOD," when we do. I'm reminded of Isaiah when he said, "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here I am! Send me.'"
Elynn's life will always remind me to answer God with a yes - Here I am! Send me. I know that his life is bringing God glory in so many ways, and I pray that it continues to transform lives. The bible says that we will recognize good works by the fruit it produces, and I can't help but think of Elynn celebrating in Heaven, along with angels' choirs and trumpet blasting, blowing kisses and feasting on good fruits because of hardest yes in history - God sending His perfect, sinless, only Son to die the death of sinners so that we wouldn't have to. The good news, He rose again, defeating death itself so that sweet ones like Elynn and believers in Christ could spend eternity not separated from our Heavenly Father.