The first time I saw her was in Uganda. She pulled into the fields of Amazima's feeding program and bounced out of the van. Double braids, bright pink headband, large flashy earrings, with a neon pink skirt, matching shoes and toenails to boot. I honestly didn't know what to think. She blew in and began chatting up a storm. That was about all I needed to know at the time....she was probably not going to be someone I'd have a lot in common with.
Little did I know that through my friend, Colleen, she would become our housemate during our last week in Uganda. Jenny was there adopting her 15th child. That's right, 15. She was adopting a special needs 6-year old girl named Esther and needed a place to stay while they transitioned out of the orphanage before their flight home. We said 'yes' because we had the room, but were hesitant about what it would be like to be the transition home for a child who had never been out of the orphanage. I prepared my girls.....there could be lots of crying, screaming, wailing, tantrums....I had no idea, but we were going to bear through it.
How could a person know that saying yes to a small request could change your life? Not only was Esther a jewel to behold, but that week with Jenny changed my life. Our life. My family witnessed so many events that week that to this day, I can NEVER say I haven't seen a miracle. We stayed up late, late into the wee hours of the morning talking life, theology (really my husband and Jenny talked theology....I listened), parenting, marriage. I quizzed her on her awesome 15 year old son, who was there and showed her the utmost love and respect all the time. I asked questions about her marriage. On what it was like raising all those kids. On cooking for all those kids. But it wasn't just the intrigue of a life so unlike mine.....it was her answers. Every single answer shocked me. I had never heard such FREEDOM in parenting. Such FREEDOM in loving a husband. Such FAITH in God and His plans. Some of it shocked me in ways that made me practically spit out whatever I was drinking at the time, but that was who she was.....shockingly honest and refreshing.
She introduced me to major players in my life whom I still listen to on podcasts regularly - Bill Johnson, Danny Silk, Graham Cooke. She infused me with life-giving words and spoke right to places inside of me that I had yet to even acknowledge needed attention. She challenged my husband and I with the type of marriage-building-honesty that is hard to find. She made me aware that it's okay as an adoptive momma if those "bonds" don't happen immediately and "fake it until you make it" is totally appropriate love language until God brings unity to the relationship. I learned that coping with many, many kids may mean hiding in your bathroom with a ciggy....even when you don't smoke....just to gain a bit of release...and it's an honest reaction that's real and lame and hilarious all at the same time. I learned that modeling a "hot marriage" (Jenny translation: a marriage full of passion and love and fun) is the best way to show your kids, especially your 15-year old son, what happens when you wait for the one God has for you. I learned that everyday is a day to speak goodness and life and identity in Christ into people, even more so on the the days they are at their worst.
I learned that God will use any and all resources to cover the path of the one who is obedient to the call to care for His special children. The miracles we witnessed while watching Jenny navigate the challenging government hurdles to get visas, passports, and paperwork for Esther to leave the country (in one week, mind you!) in a time that usually took months were simply amazing.
Even as we returned home after our "one week with Jenny", she never quit infusing us with wisdom and counsel. She was always an email or phone call away to give advice, encouragement, or just some spiritual cheerleading.
I pray for her husband and children who now have the honor of carrying on her legacy.
I will never forget my mentor and friend.
She was beautiful.
"I am a testimony to God being able to do FAR greater than we could think to ask for. I spent a lot of time depressed and discouraged as a young mother so it is hilarious and redemptive that God would use me now to shout out: motherhood is a really, really JOYFUL thing. Not a picnic, but leading to a banquet. You CAN be a joyful mother of children. Traumatized children, sick children, goof-ball children, less-than-perfect-but-each-del
- Jenny Groothius