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A Story of Adoption with Special Guest Katie Lewis

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Episode Synopsis

Katie Lewis, founder and designer of Dear Mushka (dearmushka.com) joins Jani and Heidi to share about her love for the One who restores her soul. Katie helps us understand the unique difficulties and particular joys she and her husband have experienced in building a trans-racial family.

Audio Transcript

Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining in with us today to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund and

Heidi: Heidi Howerton. Hello! It’s so good to be with you.

Jani: And we have someone else joining us today in our podcast studio (sitting around my dining room table). I make it sound…

Heidi: …I was thinking, “What a podcast studio we have, Jani.”

Jani: I wish, I wish.

Our SPecial Guest: Meet Katie Lewis

But our dear friend, Katie Lewis, is here. Katie, welcome today.

Katie Lewis: Thank you so much for having me. I feel very official here in your studio.

Jani: Well, you’ve sat around this table many times in our small group years ago. Yes, I’m so glad that you’d be willing to say, “Yes,” and come and take time out of your very busy life, which our listeners will hear about in a few minutes.

But Katie, I’ve asked y>>ou to come, actually, Heidi suggested it as well, we both really wanted you to be here because we see Jesus Christ in you. We see a young mother, raising three boys, totally committed to her husband, who has built, created her own business (and is sustaining it) with tremendous grace. And we just want to interview you. We just want to ask you questions and let our listeners get to know you. So first of all, your name is Katie Lewis.

Katie Lewis: Yes.

Jani: And I wonder if we could start by telling our listeners how you came to faith in Jesus Christ?

Katie Lewis: That’s a great question, Jani. Well, again, thank you for having me, first of all, and I just need to let the listeners know that you two women are tenfold and the generous servant-hearted, grace-filled women that they are hearing. I just need them to know that in person, you all are so wonderful, and it’s an honor to be here.

Jani: Thank you, Katie.

Heidi: Aw, you’re so kind Katie.

Katie Lewis: So I grew up in a Christian home. And we went to church every time the doors were open and it was actually a Church of Christ. And so we took communion every Sunday. And I remember being young and thinking, “Oh, I really just want to take that communion.” That was like my motivation. You could only do it if you confessed faith in the Lord and had been baptized. And I think I believed in Jesus for as long as I can remember, but part of my desire, I think, to confess the faith was because I wanted to take that communion. I was embarrassed not to. And I just laugh looking back at it now because how like me to want to God for what he can give me, and how like God to take a tiny morsel of faith and just run with it. He took that meek confession of faith and he said, “You’re mine now!” And we’ve just been growing daily since then.

Jani: That’s wonderful. I love that. Even a child.

Katie Lewis: Yes, yeah. He just takes the little bit we can offer him and he says, “That’s enough. I’ve got you.” I’m so grateful.

A little bit about her Husband, Robert

Jani: Well, you’re married to Robert. We love Robert. Tell us about your husband. And you also have three sons. Maybe you can bring them into this segment of our episode.

Katie Lewis: Yes, absolutely. So Robert and I have been married 10 years now. It was 10 years in April, which just feels like such a gift. That feels like an accomplishment. All to the Lord, not me.

Jani: It is!

Heidi: I remember when Mike and I were married one year of marriage, and I thought, “Oh, we’ve really we’ve done it. We’re no longer newlyweds. We’ve been married one year.” And all the older couples looked at us and laughed and said, “Oh, you are still newlyweds.” But 10 years is wonderful.

Katie Lewis: Doesn’t it feel like something? Look at us.

Jani: It is. It really is an accomplishment. Praise God!

Katie Lewis: Yes. Absolutely. And Robert is everything I am not. He is so smart and steady. And he just is this rock for our family. You know, I run to him all the time. Robert, I don’t know how to do this. Can you figure it out? And he just laughs, sure we can do it. He’s just so even-keeled and I’m really grateful. The Lord knows exactly what we need. Robert might not be like had I designed my perfect man, I probably would have chosen different characteristics. Nothing against what he has, I just, in my own ways, I probably would have designed somebody like myself because I’m selfish like that. But God knew what I needed and Robert is a great, great man. I’m honored to do life with him. And now we have three boys. Our oldest is six. He just started kindergarten this year. And then we have a three and three quarters son. That’s how he would like me to tell you. And then a one year old.

Their Adoption Story

Jani: And you adopted your sons.

Heidi: Yeah, I was gonna say, tell us more about that story, Katie, because the Lord has grown your family and some really beautiful ways.

Question: “What if one spouse feels the call to adopt, but the other doesn’t?”

Katie Lewis: Yes, I am happy to talk about this. Robert and I never discussed adoption during our dating process and even the beginning of our marriage. We had not seen any other families do it that we worked closely with. And so when the Lord brought that idea to my mind it was the most clearly I think I’ve ever heard him speak—and it really caught me off guard—but I felt like I heard him say, “Katie, your first child will come through adoption.” And I thought, “What in the world? Okay, that sounds great.”

And I told Robert, and he said, “Why would we do that?” I mean, it was just such a different and new thought for him. We had not tried to have biological children. And so we took a year to pray about it.

And I want to make sure listeners hear that because I get asked a lot. What if I feel this call, but my husband doesn’t feel this call? What do I do or vice versa. And I think it’s okay to say that part of the Lord calling us to anything is that he longs for us to deepen our relationship with Him. And so through this year of Robert and I are wrestling with the next steps to grow our family, really what God was doing was drawing us into a deeper faith and deeper prayer with him, which was so beautiful. I think it set the stage for both of us as we entered into parenthood.

So eventually Robert said, “Yes, that sounds great.” You know, the Lord just, he needed to get there in Robert’s heart, and so he said, “Yes, let’s do it.” And we started the process. We decided to do domestic adoptions, so within the United States. And how we actually right before we finished all of our paperwork, we had a friend from church, who said, “Katie, I know you’re kind of interested in this, I’ve got this connection. Would you like me to pursue it for you?” And we said, “Yes, absolutely.” And our sweet Brooks came home just a few weeks later, quicker than we thought.

Jani: Wow.

Our First Son: “What’s in a name?”

Katie Lewis: But it was amazing. And I have to tell you this story. The verse we had been praying over our adoption for this little child who was going to enter our family was from Isaiah 43: “I have called you by name, you are mine,” that verse. And when we were talking to this friend at church, who was our connection to this little baby we’d been matched with, she said, “The one condition is that his birth mother would like you to use the name that we have chosen that she has chosen. It’s a family name and that just matters to her.” And we thought, well goodness, there is only one name that Robert and I can even agree on for a little boy, it’s this name Brooks. We’re kind of set on that. But okay, we’ll go with it. And she said, it’s Brooks.

Jani: Oh Katie!

Katie Lewis: And we just said, I mean, it was so clear that the Lord had called him by name, literally, and that he was going to place him in our family. And so from there, I think we just, we became, we just loved the idea of adoption and the beauty in and how it reminded us of the gospel and how we have been adopted into God’s family. And so we did it one time. And after that, we said, let’s do it again. And then let’s do it again. And that’s just been how we’ve grown our family thus far.

Jani: Yes. Thus far.

Katie Lewis: Thus far.

Jani: Okay.

Katie Lewis: Well, you never know, Jani.

Jani: Is this an announcement?

Katie Lewis: No, I have learned never to tell the Lord, “No.”

Jani: I love that. Beautiful stories of how God brought you and Robert to the same view. Unity of heart. Yeah, and the story about Brooks’ name.

Katie Lewis: Isn’t that cool?

Jani: What a comfort from the Lord. And for him, as well, as he grows and sees how God has worked in his life.

Katie Lewis: Absolutely.

Heidi: That’s just one of the things I love about you so much, Katie. You just overflow with the Holy Spirit. And I think it’s evident even listening to your stories, seeing when you were a little girl and accepted the Lord, how he just filled you so deeply, you know, in that little bit of faith and I just see he just, he overflowed your cup with His Holy Spirit. And then it’s beautiful to see the stories later on in your life, like God’s presence in you is so deep and what a joy it is to learn more about the Lord from getting to spend time with you.

Trust in Him, and He Will Act.

Katie Lewis: Thank you, Heidi. Well, I think when I remember being maybe a teenager and reading Psalm 37:5,

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.”

Psalm 37:5

And at the time, I thought, “I’m going to do that and he’s probably going to call me to Africa and there I’ll be, I’ll just lay down my life and do this.” You know, all the while being so nervous about, “Please don’t call me to Africa.”

But I see that when we hand these things over to the Lord and we say ultimately, I just want to glorify you. Here’s my life, do what you want with it. He’ll call us to things we never expected, like adoption for our family, but he’s using them for his purpose. And I just feel like I’m on this ride. You know, it’s a roller coaster. But when the Lord is in control, it’s really fun.

Heidi: It reminds me of what you always say, Jani, when things happen in life. You say “God, you’ll get the glory and we’ll get the joy.”

Jani: Don’t you love how he works it that way. I love him. I love serving him. What a privilege. Wow.

Katie’s Experience as an Interracial Family

Well, Katie, all three of your sons are African American and you are not.

Katie Lewis: That is true.

Jani: And neither is Robert. So could you talk to us for a few minutes about what it’s like to be an interracial family? Are there any particular delights or any particular hardships that you’ve experienced that might help our listeners or encourage us in how we can enjoy interracial families?

Katie Lewis: Yeah, I love that you asked this, Jani. I think anytime you or your family looks different than maybe other people, it can be a little bit lonely. And so I just feel really seen that you would acknowledge that maybe being a transracial family would be different. And you’re curious, it just makes me feel loved. So thank you.

Jani: Well, you’re welcome.

Katie Lewis: Thank you. There are hardships. There are unexpected hardships. I think maybe one of the biggest ones is that wherever we go, it’s very clear that we’re an adopted family. And when I’m in a good headspace, that’s great because there are constant opportunities to share the gospel. You know, we’re not hiding that we’re an adoptive family. So people want to know, “Why?” and “How?” and we’re able to educate.

But there are also times when I think I just want to blend in, you know, I just want to be on family vacation on the beach and not talk about this. Or my dad recently got married and some people made some comments at his wedding. They were just curious but I thought this is not the time. And so we have just learned to kind of everyday walk out of our house and acknowledge that these are opportunities to use for the Lord. Just to be ready to speak and to offer education and truth.

TIP: Language Matters

I will say one of the things that I have learned is how easy it is to use the wrong language when speaking about something you don’t know.

Jani: Which is because you’ve received the wrong language?

Katie Lewis: Yes, I’m sure I’ve done it on so many accounts for other situations that I know nothing about. And I’m grateful for people who have educated me. So an example.

Heidi: I was gonna say, “Can you educate us, Katie?” Help us. Like, we just want to love you so deeply. And I sometimes I feel like I can be so ignorant. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to do it. So educate me and our listeners.

Jani: And me.

Example: the word “real”

Katie Lewis: Yes, absolutely. I would say mostly to remember that children, though they are little, they are listening, and they are smart. They understand what you’re saying. So very frequently, our boys have heard the question, “Are they real brothers? And I think what people mean is are they biological brothers? And they’re just curious. And I understand I think. We want to know about people’s lives. But what my boys hear is, “Wait, I might not be a real brother?” Or somebody might say, do you know, their real mother? And I think well, I’m their real mother. And what they mean is, you know, their biological mother or their birth mother. So I think just watching our language can be really helpful.

And also, I would say, if you have a question that you want to ask an adoptive parent, maybe ask to get coffee with them, instead of just using the parking lot that you’re in or, you know, wherever you’ve been placed. Say, “Hey, can we get coffee? I’d love to know more information. I’m thinking about adoption, or I want to know how to love you better.” To find a safe place where maybe the children aren’t around? Yeah, that’s one way.

Heidi: Oh, my goodness.

That’s so helpful and so good, Katie.

Jani: That word “real”. You know, it speaks to our deepest level of significance, meaning, longing; we want to be real, authentic. We want that so much. And so I can see how that would be so hard for those boys, for you, for Robert. Thank you.

Are there other ways you can help us? That’s just so helpful!

Katie Lewis: Oh, my goodness, Jani. I could probably think of a lot of ways, but mostly just coming alongside somebody and saying, “How can I pray for you? What are you walking through right now that I might not be aware of?” I think is the best way we can help any of our sisters as we walk towards eternity together.

I will say though, that what this question has challenged me in is my own faith. I’m thinking about like Galatians 4, you know, we have been called through adoption. We are God’s children. And we have this eternal inheritance. And I’ve had to challenge, well, “Am I God’s real daughter? What does that mean?” And the answer is yes. And that means I have a real inheritance and that Jesus is my real brother. And so I would say, like many things, the joys far outweigh the hardships. You know, it has grown my faith, there are opportunities for us to talk to our boys and to say, “Let me share with you the goodness of the gospel and how we are all adopted into his family and we get this real inheritance.” And so it’s paved the way for really beautiful conversations.

Jani: Mm hmm.

Heidi: I have a question.

Katie Lewis: Yes.

TIP: Celebrate Adoption & Educate in your Home

Heidi: Is there any way that we can love your boys really well? Like as we interact with them and play with them and get to know them or what is the right response if they share, “Oh, I was adopted.”

Katie Lewis: I think if they share, it’s to celebrate with them, you know. But what I have found is the best way other families can love our children is to educate in their home. To have books that maybe don’t feature all Caucasian families and to talk about about various cultures and how the Lord made all skin types and all sorts of people and how that’s something that we praise him for. That shows us various characteristics and attributes of God that maybe we would miss out on if we were just in our little bubble of our own culture. And just to use the home as opportunities to teach before questions are asked to children, you know. People have asked my three year old questions, and I think he doesn’t know the answer to that, you know. You talk about it with your children beforehand.

Same for me, though, I mean, everything I say here, I think I’m doing the exact same thing. And I’m saying it with all humility because none of us are perfect. We’re just learning as we go.

Heidi: Katie, I would absolutely love if you would email me some of those resources of things that you used in your home so that we can use those in our home and our listeners can have access to as well. Will you email me that and I’ll put that up on our website?

Katie Lewis: Yes, absolutely, Heidi. Children’s books are so helpful. They’re great resources. So I’ve got a whole bunch, I’ll send them to you.

Jani: Wonderful.

Children’s Books

Here are a few books that can spur on good conversation about God’s beautiful purpose in creating people and families with different skin tones. 

Are you thinking about adopting?

Katie Lewis: Before we move on beyond adoption, I know there are a lot of things we want to talk about, I just wanted to encourage any listener who is maybe feeling a tug to adopt. I know it can be a little bit overwhelming to know what to do next. And so I just want to challenge you to take the next step. Instead of looking at it like 100 little steps in front of you to just take the next one. To be faithful to what God is calling you to.

Maybe that’s finding a local group in your city that has an adoption meeting, or reading a book Adopted For Life by Russell Moore would be a great option. And maybe talking to a friend who has adopted. I am really big, I was telling Jani and Heidi, before we begin this, I just like to copy people. So I had one friend who had adopted and I said, “Tell me everything you did. Okay, that sounds good. I think we’ll move forward there too until the Lord calls us otherwise.” And so I just want to encourage you to instead of looking at it like a huge task in front of you to just take baby steps.

I’ll also say not as a plug for myself, but if I think we’re about to talk about our business on there, I have a saved Instagram highlight on my @DearMushka account, and it’s called Adoption. And so if you’re curious if you want to hear more about Robert and I’s story, you can go and find all of our details just as a little stepping stone as you move forward.

One More Question: “What about the waiting?”

Heidi: I have one more question for you, Katie, I have seen so many friends walk through adoption, and it seems like one of the hardest parts is the waiting, that the waiting can go on and on. Do you have a word for any of those moms out there who have a call and a heart for adoption? And they feel like they’ve been waiting forever? Wondering if this baby will ever come home? Their hearts are broken because they don’t see it happening. Do you have a word of encouragement for them?

Answer #1: Revisit the Main Goal of Adoption

Katie Lewis: Yes, two things come to mind, Heidi. One, I think it is helpful when we think about adoption to remember that the main goal is not to grow our family. The main goal is to serve the Lord and love whomever the Lord brings into our home. And so when we reframe it in that line of sight, I think it’s helpful because it becomes less about us and our desire to grow our family and more about loving the child God eventually gives us. So that would be my first bit of encouragement.

Answer #2: God’s Timeline is Not Our Timeline, but we can trust his purposes

And the second bit of encouragement comes from something I read in Scripture today. I was thinking about how Moses fled Egypt and it was 40 years before God appeared to him in the burning bush. You know, in our like kids Bible stories, all of these things happen so fast. You turn the page and there’s God appearing in the burning bush. But it was a 40 year wait. And I just, it was a reminder that God’s timeline is not our timeline. And so we can just trust him in the waiting to accomplish whatever his purpose is.

Jani: Hmm, that’s so good.

What is “Dear Mushka”?

We’re almost finished today. But I want to circle back to your business because we want our listeners to be able to go there. And then if you’re willing, Katie, after we talk about Dear Mushka for a minute, I’d love to ask you to pray for any listeners who are thinking about adoption. Would you be willing to do that? Before we bring it to that end, let’s talk about Dear Mushka a little bit. That is your business and we want to have you back for another podcast so we will mention this.

Heidi: I was going to say! Dear Mushka could could be a whole podcast episode in itself. Tell us what Dear Mushka is.

Katie Lewis: Yes, I know it’s a funny name. So “mushka” is what my mom called me growing up. It means “little one with the big eyes.” That was kind of her pet name for me.

Jani: Am I saying it wrong? Mushka, mushka with a “oo”?

Katie Lewis: With an “oo”. It’s Russian, Jani. I’m not Russian so we’re probably all saying it wrong.

Jani: Sounds good to me. Dear Mushka.

Katie Lewis: My mon pronounced it “mooshka” but she was not Russian either.

She passed away in 2010 right after Robert and I got married. And so I started a blog called Dear Mushka, which were letters to our future children should they want to hear about being a newlywed and all of these sorts of things. And when we adopted our first son, we changed that into a business kind of as a fundraiser (adoption can be expensive).

And so we just started this business making jewelry. Down the line the Lord prompted my heart to add scripture to every piece. So now every piece of jewelry, we have art prints and apparel and that sort of thing, they are all tied to a verse from Scripture. So my hope is that when you put the jewelry on, you actually are meditating on God’s Word. When somebody complements your jewelry—as women are so quick to do you know, “Oh, I love that!”—you’re able to say, “Thank you so much. It reminds me of…” and it’s just an opportunity to share God’s truth and encouragement in our every day.

Jani: How can our listeners find your website?

Katie Lewis: They can go to dearmushka.com. It’s DEAR, like you’re writing a letter, dear MUSHKA.

Heidi: Yes. And I just want to compliment you. I’m wearing my Dear Mushka earrings this morning. And I was somebody that was never into jewelry that much. But Katie over the years, I have fallen in love with it because the pieces that you’ve designed are so stylish and classy and simple and sweet, but the heart of it just reflects the Lord and that’s beautiful, too.

Katie Lewis: Well, thank you, Heidi.

Jani: And I love my pieces, too. You know, you have really worked on my necklace for my grandchildren and given me a silver medallion with an initial for each of my grandchildren.

Katie Lewis: I think Jani wins the award for most little stamped initials on a necklace for all of her grandbabies.

Jani: Well, it means so much when I put it on. And the carried bracelet. Tell us about the earrings you’re wearing today.

Katie Lewis: Oh, yes. So I have the shell earrings on. They’re like a tortoise hoop earring which are very on trend right now. But I thought, “There can be more to this than just a trendy piece of jewelry.” So they’re from Psalm 73:26.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:26

And I just think about, the idea was kind of like a turtle with his shell off, you know, feeling kind of naked. But the Lord puts his shell over us and He is our strength as we go throughout our day.

Jani: Isn’t that wonderful?

Heidi: And that’s such a beautiful thing about your business, Katie, is we’ve talked about how it has these verses that you can meditate on but God’s also just given you the opportunity to live out your faith before these women. And I love seeing the Lord move in your life, seeing you learn about quiet times and teach these women about quiet times and you’re just a wealth of information. So if you are a woman that’s looking to grow deeper in your faith, I highly recommend Dear Mushka for the jewelry, but I also highly recommend Dear Mushka just to see another woman following Christ passionately. And to learn how she does it. You do such a great job of sharing it.

Katie Lewis: Oh thank you, Heidi.

Jani: So give us your website. One more time.

Katie Lewis: It’s dearmushka.com. And you can find me on Instagram. That’s where I find myself most often, which is just @DearMushka.

Jani: Wonderful.

A Prayer for Us All

Well as we bring this to a close, may I ask you, Katie, to pray especially for those who might be considering adoption or wondering if they should consider it. Would you do that for us and then we’ll close that way.

Katie Lewis: I would love to, Jani. “Heavenly Father, what a gift it is to come and to sit before your throne and to lift up the women who are considering adoption. Father, adoption is from you. You created this idea as you saved us into your family through the blood of Christ, and we praise you that we have an opportunity to just replicate that in such a tiny, tiny way. Lord, I lift up the women who are considering this, I ask that you give them wisdom as to what their next steps may be. God, direct their path. Make it clear before them. Remove any confusion. I ask that you unite husband and wife as they pursue their next steps. Let them come to the same decisions. And ultimately let this be a time of growth in their relationship with you. Let them seek you in prayer and in counsel. And as they read Scripture. Lord, I pray that you remove all obstacles like financial decisions and agency decisions, whatever is in their path, Lord, remove it so that they can walk forward clearly. Lord, you are such a good God. Please be with them as they wait for the child you have for their family. Let this be an opportunity for them to grow in you to love you more deeply. And ultimately to see who you are to reflect on your attributes and to praise your great name, Father. Thank you. And in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.”

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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