Monday, October 8, 2012


From Susan Hillis:
I cried on my birthday, just two days ago, as I realized that we are still experiencing that deep joy that comes with adopting. I have decided that completing an adoption takes a lifetime. As the Hillis family, we are, each one, in the lifelong process of adopting each other, learning and relearning the awe of unconditional love and open arms. Here is the story of what made me cry.

Hope at Home 2012

It is so exciting when my birthday is on a Saturday, because I get the day off to enjoy my day in a way that makes me the most happy.  Now for some people, since having your birthday on a Saturday only happens once every 7 years, it would seem like a sacrifice to spend that particular Saturday at a conference in order to pass along love to big group of people you don't know.  But for me, it was delightful.  Simply delightful.  To have that day of my life mapped onto the heartbeat of God for His people was such a huge privelege.  I was carrying around the secret blessing of the Holy Spirit in my heart, one He had whispered many years earlier when I was in Russia.  On that particular birthday I was preaching in a Russian church on Sunday, and they gave me a Russian leather bible with this verse writtten in beautiful cyrrilic Russian in the frontispiece..."Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your labor in the Lord is never in vain." That means when the Lord is allowing me to so directly serve Him, whether in the setting of my church, my home, or my work, that service ALWAYS has eternal purpose...because it is NEVER in vain!  This same truth describes you, dear friend, in all your service, even and especially when the Lord is the only one who sees it.

Why I Cried

So when my dear friend Beth asked me, "So Susan, how can we help celebrate your birthday on Saturday at Hope at Home conference?" I answered, "Just don't make me eat dinner with all those people - I am excited about having the whole day with them, but I want the evening with just my family."  She giggled in that Beth-Templeton-kind-of-way, and assured me I would be off duty for the evening.  

What I didn't know is that my hero-of-a-husband, Brian, had decided to leave the conference early and go home to cook a nice birthday dinner for the entire family, whom he had invited home for dinner....8 of our 10 kids were able to come home!  So I drove up to our house around 6:00 PM to be met with a drive way full of cars....Alex had driven from Charlotte; Trevor, from UGA; Masha and Ksusha, along with 2 of my beautiful granddaughters, from Alpharetta; Anya and Jerry, from Villa Rica, and Katya and Vasya; and shortly after I arrived, Lana and Dane from Peachtree City. 

The end of dinner led to the beginning of our tradition....every birthday we all go around the table and say something we like about the person whose birthday is being honored.  So as we start around the table, Ksusha, our sweet and gifted 18 year old who has a beautiful little 3 month old daughter, says, 
"Mommy, I like about you that you are strong in is so important because when we are struggling and we are not strong in God, you can help lift us up to see we can be strong in Him, too."  
I could feel a lump in my throat as I gave her a tight squeeze.  Then Lana, who struggled so much growing up and who has just come off of two years on the street, says, 
"Mommy, I love you because when some of the kids make bad choices, you do not change in your love for us. Your love stays the same no matter what. You just keep loving us and keep praying for us. Mommy, I appreciate that about you." 

And her eyes begin to fill with tears as she looks deeply into mine.  We both understand what she is not saying aloud but what she is saying in her heart.  That the 'us' is really 'me.'  She is saying, "that is about me and about how you kept telling me when I was the on the street that I had to call you every day because you are my mommy who loves me, and when I would call you would tell me you are my mommy who loves me."  
My eyes just can't help copying hers....and soon she is sitting there trembling as the trickle of tears becomes a stream.  Then soon I am trembling and crying with her and have to just go hug her and tell her, 
"I adore you, Lana Grace, you are a gift and a treasure to me and I will always love you."  
I think a lot of us around the table were crying.  But they were tears of deep joy.  Tears of seeing that a prodigal coming back to living like a daughter looks like.  We were all so happy to be together.  And each of our kids continued, saying the most encouraging words about how much they like me and love me.  It was one of my best birthdays ever.

As I lay in bed treasuring up the memories of the day, I kept seeing the same scene over and over from earlier in the day. Trevor and I were on the front porch as Lana pulled up in the cul-de-sac.  His whole face brightens and he screams out, 
"Lana G!!!  You are the REASON I came home from college, Lana G!  YOU are the ONE I came to see!"
And Trevor rushes towards her down our long drive way, as she is rushing up towards him,  and they give each other the biggest, tightest squeeze.  I could only see Rembrandt's famous 'Return of hte Prodigal' in that moment.  It was just a modern day Luke 15.  And it was MY prodigal. But in my picture, there was no older brother standing and judging...there were just a bunch of brothers and sisters, and a father and mother, embracing.  All of us had learned to love like that father.  
With open arms.  
Having a party. 
Because all prodigals will, with time, understand and be drawn back to the Father's loving arms.  
And we get to become those arms.  
For each other.  
As our family learns to live the lifelong process of adopting.  
Wait for it, pray for it, believe it, hold on tight to those arms of Your Father and His love will infuse yours.

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  1. i'm crying too my friend....
    you are blessed
    you bless so many!!
    love you
    happy happy saturday birthday

  2. Dearest Paige, don't you just love this story? What part made you cry? I just stand in awe of how deeply we have been taught to love....I could never the awe of living out grace as a family. Just amazing. Oh Lord, I stand in awe of You!

  3. Dearest Paige, don't you just love this story? What part made you cry? I just stand in awe of how deeply we have been taught to love....I could never the awe of living out grace as a family. Just amazing. Oh Lord, I stand in awe of You!

  4. Susan, it was so great to connect over the phone today! And I'm so glad that I now know this is your blog. I will be visiting regularly ;-)

  5. ...and this was a beautiful story! Inspiring to hear about families like yours'. Love the picture of your beautiful family, too!

    1. Dear erin, just loved connecting w you today! Thank you for the kind words, and we would love for you to do a post on the place of God in attachment!

  6. I, too, am just crying and crying! Because this is the beautiful family that I get to know and love! You are a picture of the GOSPEL!!!

  7. Dearest jenni...much of what we sw that day was deposited thru our Lords ministry in you!

  8. Susan what a beautiful testament to God's unconditional love through adoption for us. Just as you do not change in your love for your children, Jesus' love never fades for us. Beautiful!

    I hope I'll be seeing you again at C4C in January??

    Blessings to you and your family!

    1. Yes, dear friend - we WILL see each other at C4C!!!
      I too just keep recalling the day - what a present!

  9. Thank you Susan for sharing this! Your testimony and reliance on God continues to encourage me beyond words...

  10. Laila- are you home girl???? so hope so!!! I just love that we got to meet! definitely feel a wonderful connection!!! love eternal!
    - Susan