Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

I am Selfish

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From Jeremy: This is a guest post from Christine Niles. She is a writer and project manager with a heart for orphans, and a mother of two girls adopted from Ukraine at ages 12 and 14. Christine blogs about adoption, parenting, and making a difference in the world at www.riverofthoughts.com. Follow her on Twitter @croyseniles.

I am a selfish person.

I wasn’t born generous. Or kind. Or considerate, really. I wasn’t even raised to be any of those things.

Not a fault of my parents (in case they’re reading), but I grew up watching my family serve at church in kind of a weird, unhealthy way.

The church was in our backyard. We had keys. But serving was more about us than about God.

I had a heart of stone.

photo by Keith Williams (Creative Commons)

A Selfish Life

Serving was singing in the choir every week and going to retreats and Stryper concerts with the youth group. Maybe we did one service day in a less-advantaged neighborhood a few miles from our house once.

Our family sort of helped a single mother and her son while she got started on her recovery from an addiction to pain pills. But she was a “project” and if I’m being brutally honest, looking back, that’s probably how we treated her. (I am really ashamed of that now.)

Missionaries were people that visited the church once in a blue moon and we wrote a check and they went away.

Adoption was what people did when they couldn’t have “their own” kids. A dirty little secret that everyone knew but no one spoke aloud.

It’s no surprise that when I grew up, generosity and compassion were not really natural to me.

God Changes Us

Thankfully, my heart doesn’t belong to me.

God didn’t want me to stay selfish. Instead, He made me a promise.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

God had better plans for me than tripping around the world just seeing the sights, being a consumer of what the world has to offer.

He used one scared little girl to break my heart and then rebuild it into something far far more amazing than I ever imagined.

God Uses The Unexpected

In the spring of 2006, I saw an article in the newspaper. Seemed harmless enough at the time.

The writer outlined a program that was bringing a group of orphans from Ukraine to the US for a three-week “culture camp.” It included contact information for the coordinator because the program was looking for host homes for the kids to stay. Always up for a new adventure, my husband and I said “that looks like fun.”

If by “fun” we mean “turning our lives upside down like a double-corkscrew roller coaster” then, yeah. That kind of fun.

We had been married for 8 years, and kids were always something that we’d think about “in a couple of years.” We weren’t thinking about kids, and we certainly weren’t thinking about adoption.

A Heart Of Flesh

But in August of 2006, just a week after her twelfth birthday, a terrified girl was sent home with these two strangers carrying a stuffed elephant. That night was weird for all of us, but God knew we would become a family.

And God knew that when we traveled to Ukraine nine months later to adopt Masha, we would meet Lena and become a family of four.

Adoption is not for everyone. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the inflexible.

But for me…a selfish, career-focused, not-so-compassionate person…adoption has changed my life. And in changing my life, it changed the lives of two not-so-little girls from Eastern Europe.

Has God ever turned your world upside down?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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41 Replies

  1. Jeremy, thanks so much for allowing me to be a guest today!  I’m honored to be a little part of helping you build your incredible family!

  2. Love your honest posts. So good!

  3. I can’t imagine a time when you could have possibly been incompassionate, having met you earlier this year.  I must have met the “changed” Christine.   And in the short time we’ve been friends, I’ve seen you continue to grow both as a mom and a writer.

    We all experience change, and I thank you for documenting your journey through it. 

    And I especially thank you for mentioning Stryper.  I nearly choked on my coffee and ruined my laptop keyboard!  

  4. Beautiful! I love how God loves us so much he doesn’t leave us where we are and he does give us a new heart. Thanks Christine!

  5. I guess there should be a disclaimer at the top of the post!

  6. It is amazing. Unconditional love will never seek to amaze me.

  7. HA…that was just for you, man!

  8. I love it too…I like the person I am now so much better than that old one!  So thankful….

  9. Jeremy, really, I’m not intending to choke your community.  Really!  😉

  10. Thanks, Tammy.  Occasionally, it’s good to sit back and remember why and how the change happened.  God is good!

  11. What a great telling of a phenomenal story, Christine! Was the hope of the cultural camp to open hearts to adoption or was that just a byproduct?

    Katie

  12. Very much to open hearts…which it sure did!  

    By Ukrainian law, it’s illegal to “offer” children for adoption through programs like this, but hosting often creates a heart for adoption in the host families, and sometimes the hosted children are available to be adopted when the family is ready for a referral.

  13. Loved hearing your story…that God used a scared little girl to break your heart and then rebuild it…wow!  Thanks for being real Christine:)  There’s been many times when God has turned our world upside down and taken our hearts of stone to make them more  and more into hearts of flesh. A house fire, living homeless with our family of 6 and last year’s bike accident with our teenagers going to hospital and what felt like a failed church plant are a few things that have shook up our world. Our hearts have been turned inside out…still lots of learning and growing to do. But the best change has been more love on the inside for God and for others…:)
    Thanks for having Christine as a guest Jeremy…great post!

  14. Wow, Lorna!  Sounds like you’ve had more than your share of trials!  Praise God for finding ways to draw you close through all of that!

  15. I heard this story about a guy having a nervous breakdown and then discovering he was a writer once. Oh wait, that guy is me :)

  16. Hmmm…accountant – writer.  Just a little upside down!  I’m thankful that God used it to bring you and your gifts together to work for His glory!

  17. Thanks. Yeah, I agree completely. It’s like a fresh frozen jumbo shrimp. It just doesn’t quite go together does it?! 

  18. Giavana Jones

    What an awesome story; it is truly amazing what God will do with a willing heart!

  19. It *is* amazing, Giavana.  It’s not always easy or a smooth road, but nothing worth doing ever is….

  20. Amazing wonderful story Christine! God is an amazing God!

  21. Thanks so much Ngina.  He truly is amazing, and weaves together the most unexpected stories!

  22. The need for resuscitation makes for a good story as well.

  23. “More love on the inside.” Sounds like a good change.

  24. We have to learn to say “yes.”

  25. What an incredible story of life change, for you & your girls!  :)

  26. Yes, Denise…it’s all too easy to forget or to romanticize the changes for the girls.  While overall it’s been great, it’s also far too easy to forget how difficult it’s been for them, too.  They are very very brave young women!

  27. Good for the story, but not so great for the friendship!!

  28. I’m beginning to think I’ve learned that a little TOO well!  But as long as God keeps throwing opportunities at me, I guess I’ll keep taking them on for Him!

  29. Breathtaking! I love seeing God’s glory peak out from the lives of his children. “A new heart” what a wonderful gift for you and your girls! Thank you for sharing.

  30. Thanks, Beck!  It’s been amazing…

  31. Lovely story Christine. Thanks for sharing. 

  32. Christine, this is beautifully written and expressed. I love your honesty.

    I can so relate to this story and your statement about adoption, “It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the inflexible.” Adoption is not easy! I remember sitting for hours in the court house in Brazil and I told my son Alex, “We should warn others what this is like.” He said, “No, Mom, let’s not discourage them.” LOL We had adopted him and when he was older we went back to adopt his four siblings.

    At the same time as you know, adoption can be very rewarding ~ not only in giving them an opportunity to be a part of a family but for tremendous personal growth. I’ve been pushed way out of my comfort zone through the  7 teens I’ve adopted from poverty backgrounds. This forced me to seek God’s wisdom and grow in ways I never would have otherwise.

    As for the heart of stone, yes, my heart has been definitely soften. I’ve shed many tears with my kids as they shared their stories of abuse and neglect.  Also, my heart has been opened to the many needs of other kids in similar situations. I bring awareness to those through writing and speaking.

    My teens also have given plenty of opportunities for all the junk inside of me to surface. :-) This is actually good because it’s been a part of my healing process.

    When I started on the adoption journey, the Lord gave me these verses and I’ve found them to be so true.
     
    Isaiah 58:7,8 “Is it not to share your food with the hungry
        and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —
    when you see the naked, to clothe him,
        and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
    Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
        and your healing will quickly appear;”In reaching out to bring healing, I’ve found so much myself.I love your story and love what you are doing with your writing to bring attention to the value of adopting.

    Keep up the good work!

  33. Your son is so cute…It is SO difficult to balance setting appropriate expectations with having a real passion for adoption and orphan care and wanting everyone else to see it too.  And yes, they definitely have given me lots of opportunities to unpack my own baggage!

  34. Thanks…God tells far better stories than I could ever make up.  So thankful that He is in charge!

  35. Yes, it is difficult to balance appropriate expectations. However, the joy far exceeds any inconvenience, pain or difficulty. The other day, I watched my 4 kids from Brazil as the swam and laughed in the pool.  This is my reward, seeing them enjoying good things.
    I think that is the way God must feel, He wants us to give us good things, the best of what He has to offer and  He delights in our enjoyment of them. It makes it worth His sacrifice.
    Adoption is like giving birth, you forget the pain it took to get them here for the joy. Even the difficult moments and the ones which don’t turn out as anticipated are redeemed by the opportunity for growth.
    Paul said about Jesus, for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross. The joy makes it worth it.

  36. All these adoption stories are killing me…in the best way possible. Christine is an amazing woman, and I hope to someday do the same.

  37. I’m only as amazing as God is amazing through me.  Keep letting yourself be wrecked by these stories…adoption is an amazing thing and there are so many ways you can engage with it, whether through adopting or supporting others who are.  Your encouragement is worth SO much!! :)

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