I live in a small town in Northern California. Nestled in the foothills and surrounded by breathtaking rivers and lakes, nothing much happens in our quiet little corner of the universe. We are probably best known for being home to Sundial Bridge, the largest working sundial in the world.
Imagine my surprise when I learned we have yet another claim to fame. Power couple Ryan and Sara Hall are our very own local celebrities. They are professional athletes, traveling and competing in races around the world. Sara is the US National XC Champion and Ryan holds the title of the fastest US Marathoner in history.
Shockingly, I did not meet Ryan and Sara on the running circuit or during our mutual pursuit of Olympic Gold. I met them through adoption.
Ryan and Sara adopted an older sibling set of four from Ethiopia.
We adopted an older sibling set of four from Ethiopia.
It seems there are not many families that fit these criteria. We are an exclusive bunch.
Our children have become fast friends: sharing a language, culture, and now a hometown.
I asked Ryan to share a portion of his story with my readers. I applaud what he has to say about living a life based in love and not in fear.
RYAN: In between training sessions we spent many afternoons in Addis Ababa visiting orphanages and other family-based care providers. It was on one of these trips that God truly broke my heart for older child adoption. After meeting and playing with the many, many older children in the orphanages I couldn’t help but feel that I would take any one of these kids home with me.
I couldn’t think of a reason to not adopt an older child that wasn’t driven by fear. I seek to make all my decisions in life with a love-based approach so rather than determining ‘I am afraid that I won’t be able to handle the challenges that adoption will hold’ I ask myself, ‘Do I have the love in my heart to love these kids?’ For me the answer to that question was yes. It was that simple.
During this time we began becoming aware (mostly via Facebook) of waiting kids in sibling groups and again my heart burned for these kids, being filled with love from the God who loves these children so deeply. I couldn’t find a good reason, besides fear of failure, to not step up and adopt a sibling group.
Being a professional runner taught me that if I was going to have a chance to win a race I had to take a chance and go out fast with the leaders. Once I committed to going out with the leaders, I couldn’t afford to let fear creep into my mind because it would weaken me. I knew that failure was a very real possibility (I failed a lot more than I was successful throughout my 20 year career spanning two Olympic Marathons, the American Record in the half marathon (59:43) and a 2:04:58 marathon best time), but I knew I could get through failure. What I could not accept was not trying to win.
I approached building my family the same way I approached races. I trained endlessly to exhaustion, learned from the best coaches and athletes in the world, and then went to the races believing anything was possible. I always liked to be prepared for anything I might encounter from the elements, the course, and my competitors, but at the same time expecting nothing. Meaning being open to however my body was feeling and being able to respond moment by moment accordingly.
So when it came to adoption I was a student, but then I was also not going to allow fear to creep in once I had committed. I knew I would fail many, many times as a father but knowing that I didn’t have to be perfect set me free to pursue being a good dad without fear.
During the adoption process I began to understand how aggressively God pursues us in the same way that I had to aggressively pursue my kids. I flew through endless stacks of paperwork, went to never-ending fingerprinting and doctor appointments, met with social workers, paid a large sum of money and patiently waited for that day we would all pull up in our driveway home at last.
God does the same for each of us. He pursues. He pays a great price. He longs to be with us. He patiently waits for the day that we make a home with him in our hearts.
Adoption is the greatest thing I’ve done. It’s sweeter than competing in Olympic Games and running American Records because it has increased the love in our house and in my heart.
Thank you, Ryan, for sharing your heart with us. You can read more from Ryan on his website at www.thestepsfoundation.org.
May we all run the race set before us with greatness.