Updated: May 11, 2022
The Mason Family
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I’ve long said, and continue to believe, YoungLife people are the best people.
You’re guaranteed a good laugh, but even more, you’re guaranteed to feel like you belong.
Isn’t that what we all want?
We want to be known and feel connected to others, to know we belong.
This week, I’m thrilled to introduce to you my friends, The Mason’s. While I grew up down the street from Joel and his family, I had the privilege of serving as a volunteer leader for YoungLife Amarillo alongside Joel in Julia after college. They now live in South Texas with their adorable daughter, Gray, where Julia serves as a teacher and Joel as the YoungLife Director for Corpus Christi.
After hearing the details of their story, the words of the twenty-sixth Psalm were brought to mind,
I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness. - Psalm 26:3
Through their story, we get to see what it looks like to live in dependence and utter reliance on God’s faithfulness, and thus, we see a glimpse of God’s unfailing love for all of us.
Meet The Mason Family
They knew from their first days together when they were dating adoption would be part of their family story. Even as they stepped forward together into their engagement, this continued to be confirmed as their close friends chose to adopt. This seems like a small detail but it was God planting a seed in their hearts. Their eyes were opened as they were able to share this special and vulnerable time with their friends, who they’ve long looked up to and have enjoyed watching flourish over the years.
Though they believed adoption would be part of their family’s story, they had not anticipated it would be the start. After struggling with fertility, they felt the Lord was telling them, “I want you to trust Me and build a family My way. That thing that’s been on your heart... go for it.” Though both were surrendered to this purpose God had for them, Julia remembers needing time to grieve the season of infertility and allow God’s grace to shift her mindset of how she had expected to enter motherhood.
From the moment they began looking for an adoption agency and throughout the process, they experienced one confirmation after another. Choosing one in Joel's hometown of Amarillo as suggested by a family friend, they had peace this was where they were supposed to be.
The first question was the biggest, “How will we raise the money?” Working in teaching and ministry, they knew they did not have the funds themselves and God would have to provide. The agency told them, “You’ll be shocked how it comes in!” How true it was! From the generosity of people they did not even consider to be close friends donating $20 to others giving above and beyond, they look back and see how Gray was so loved prior to anyone even knowing who she was. People chose to give, and in doing so, they were investing in her life and future. Their gifts said: This child’s life has purpose and meaning.
It’s humbling to see how the Lord used their daughter to do things in the hearts of others. A close friend who had been committed to tithing chose to help with their adoption costs. When his accountant questioned his giving, God opened the door for a conversation to be shared with someone who didn’t know Jesus, and even more, he was able to see firsthand what it means to live as Jesus lived - caring for and loving His people.
After announcing their decision to adopt November 2017, they started the process the following July and were approved October of that year. In sharing this decision with their families, any reservations that surfaced were solely due to the new and unfamiliar territory of adoption. Questions of what this would look like led to open and honest conversations. Julia reminds us,
Regardless of whether through a biological pregnancy or adoption, parents are not in control. It is always up to the Lord the great and difficult things the child may endure. - Julia Mason
These conversations centered mostly on education as they made a point to share what they were learning with their families to help set expectations.
By April of the next year, they had the opportunity to meet the birth mom who had personally chosen them. Though they had met with a couple birth moms previously, they both agreed it felt different this time. As Julia describes their first interaction,
She was amazing and tender and loved this baby. She trusted us to care for her child. - Julia Mason
Becoming a Family
While circumstances caused Gray’s birth mom to consider her options early in the pregnancy, her cousin helped lead her to the adoption agency. By the time she chose Joel and Julia to be her child’s parents, she was far along in the pregnancy and they never saw an ultrasound, nor did they know the gender of the baby.
Though they were preparing for this next step, parenthood came sooner than expected. They were told the baby would likely arrive in August, so news of the birth mom heading to the hospital one Thursday in June was quickly dismissed as “false labor pains.” When the next call came that she was delivering, the “panic packing” commenced. They threw a bag together and jumped in the car to make the drive from Corpus Christi back to Amarillo to meet their child. They’ll forever remember pulling over in San Antonio to soak in the first picture of their daughter.
By three o’clock the next morning, they were holding her in their arms. They remember this as an “out of body” experience - what they had been for so long hoping for they now had in their arms. This, paired with the utmost respect for her birth mom and the emotions she was feeling, made this a trying time.
By Texas law, the birth mom legally has forty-eight hours to sign and surrender her rights to the agency. Then, after six months these rights are transferred to the adoptive parents. These initial hours were met with the mix of emotions - joy and grief, hope and uncertainty. Their families also had to be patient, waiting to come until the birth mom had signed for the adoption.
There were so many no’s in the path to parenthood, it was hard to believe we’d really get a ‘yes.’ It was hard to trust. We were hopeful and nervous, feeling so deeply all the emotions of the birth mom. - Julia Mason
In the first twenty-four hours, they spent intentional time with the birth mom, listening to the hopes and dreams she had for her daughter as well as sharing their own. These moments shared together as a new family were met with lots of prayer and caution, being mindful to not pressure the birth mom into a decision.
We had to trust our case workers and trust God would show the birth mom who was going to raise Gray. - Julia Mason
For Joel and Julia, adoption has changed everything - both individually and in their marriage - for the better. Tears rise from a heart made so full, as Joel shares,
Adoption is so much bigger than just us getting a child. The love Gray’s birth mom demonstrated - it’s the closest Julia and I have come to see God’s love for us. Through her actions, she was saying, ‘Out of this great love, I want you to have a father.’ - Joel Mason
It is love that can only come from above.
It was heartbreaking to leave the hospital, even with their daughter in their arms. They were broken and in tears for Gray’s birth mom. In all they said and did, they had to remember the happiest day for them was the saddest day for her.
God even allowed them so share their journey with a nurse on staff at the hospital, who later reached out with a picture of her new family, one God built through adoption.
While sometimes adoption comes when someone is unfit to be a mom, that wasn’t the case here. Rather, hard circumstances led to this. Now, Gray has two brothers, who she gets to see once or twice a year. Knowing this is important for Gray, they have made this a priority for their family.
It was also important to her birth mom for Gray to know about her culture from South Sudan, so they’ve committed to this as well. Based on the way their family looks, it is obvious Gray has been adopted. They see this as a blessing for them and for others to no longer be afraid to ask uncomfortable questions. Even as they open their home to teens in their YoungLife ministry, they notice the stature of many of the kids change as they enter and see their daughter. It reinforces to all, regardless of race or background - you belong.
As Gray grows, they hope Gray’s adoption story is a blessing to her and others as she shares.
As her awareness grows, we hope she’s proud of her story. We want Gray to be a bridge builder - more than race - for the Gospel. We hope she is so proud and sees this in herself. The wounds she most definitely will have, we hope are healed by the glory of God and she rests knowing she is who He made her to be and He placed her in our family. We hope she is full of beauty and strength. - Julia Mason
They believe their purpose is to share their story, to talk about it. As others have questions, they want to be a safe place to land.
I’m so thankful for God allowing His light to radiate through The Mason Family and shine in my life and now your’s, too.
The power of sharing your story - friend, don’t keep your story on the shelf. Start with someone close to you. Share three moments of impact you’ve been through and how God has worked through the brokenness and hope to bring you where you are today.
You’ll be amazed how just three moments of impact can resonate with another, and soon they feel that thing we spoke of earlier - known, connected.
They feel they belong.
The power of a story.
What has been written in yours? How do you see His love and faithfulness fill the space between each line that has been written?
Let’s find strength now for the unexpected days ahead. Let's live by faith, believing there is joy on the other side of this just up ahead. Heaven is hanging over the rails cheering us on. Let’s listen for that rally cry when the sorrow and frustration are all we can see. Let’s find peace in His sovereign hand and rest knowing He has been preparing us for this path all along. Let's lean into Him and know He is with us every step of the way.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
Oh, and if you're as eager to see the colors of Summer as I am, check out this fun idea to add some van Gogh inspiration to your flower pots this year!
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