A popular actress known for her roles in Great American Family and Hallmark Channel movies says in a new interview that adopting children has deepened her faith and helped her better understand God’s love, calling it “humbling and astounding in every way.”
Jen Lilley has a lead role in the new Great American Family movie A Paris Christmas Waltz and previously starred in Love on Repeat and B&B Merry, two other films on that network. Soap fans know her for her roles in Days of Our Lives and General Hospital, while movie buffs know her for her supporting role in the 2011 Oscar-winning movie The Artist.
A Paris Christmas Waltz is part of the annual Great American Christmas event on the Great American Family.
“[I like it] better than all the movies I've made, including The Artist, which won the Academy Award,” Lilley told Christian Headlines.
Lilley has developed a fanbase for her many rom-coms, but she’s also developed a following within another segment of society -- the adoption and foster care community -- for her outspoken stance on that issue. Lilley supports an Oklahoma-based ministry, the Tulsa Girls’ Home, which exists to “shelter, empower, restore and support teen girls who have been placed in foster care,” according to its website. She often speaks out on her social media accounts about adoption and foster care.
She and her husband, Jason, adopted two boys out of the foster system.
Adoption, she said, has helped her understand the biblical, spiritual concept of adoption. She referenced Romans 11:17, where the Apostle Paul says the Gentiles were “grafted” into the people of God.
“Today is the first day of Hanukkah,” she told Christian Headlines Thursday, “and why that's relevant to this question is that as a Christian who is coming to faith in Messiah, I often read the Bible thinking these are God's chosen people and I'm just the adopted kid, and I know God loves me but, like, he loves me less. And that is not true.”
Adopting her boys, she said, opened her eyes to the truth of God’s love.
“I don’t look at my boys any different than I look at my girls. I forget that I didn't carry them in my body,” she said, referencing her two boys, who are adopted, and her two daughters, who are biological. “So, it's really taught me about how when Jesus says we're grafted in, how greatly he means that. We are grafted in, and we are heirs ... with Jesus, with the Jewish people. So that's what it's taught me is that God loves us the same and that's really humbling and astounding in every way.”
Lilley developed a heart for adoption at a young age, growing up in a home where her parents regularly took in people “who just needed help transitioning in their life.”
“And so that planted an early seed of empathy for me,” she said.
A book about businessman and adoption advocate Charles Page (1860-1926), who founded an orphanage called the Sand Springs Home, deepened her passion for adoption. Page’s philanthropy helped rescue dozens of children.
Lilley read the book while making movies.
“I would … just sit in my hotel room -- often when I was shooting is the only time I would get to read it --, and I would just cry and just pray all day, like, ‘God, please make me like this man,’” she said.
Children in foster care, she said, need unconditional love.
“These are children who have found themselves in a horrible system that's completely broken because of somebody else's choice, because of a choice somebody else made,” she said. “And so I'm really passionate about that.”
Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/Paul Archuleta/Stringer
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.