Transitions

I’ve so enjoyed my first week off!  I’m calling it the honeymoon phase because we haven’t yet felt the financial hit.  So far, just fun.

What did I do all week?  Read, began Season 1 of Downton Abbey, long walks, yoga, some cooking and cleaning, and lots of painting.  I started on Tuesday by saying that I *might* want to re-paint the apartment.  DH has been begging to repaint for years, but I always say no because it’s so much work and costs money.  As soon as the words came out of my mouth, he was hauling paint cans, rollers and brushes up from the basement “just in case.” My fate was sealed.  So far, all I’ve accomplished is painting the hallway and half of the dining room.  Hoping to finish the dining room today.  I am actually really enjoying the physicality of it after 4 years of sitting behind a computer.  My shoulders are sore, and it’s nice to actually accomplish a project. Plus, it feels cleaner without actually cleaning!

We finished the 7 fast.  As I think I said before, we did not finish strong.  But, God was very faithful in answering our prayers in their weakness.  All of the families we did the fast with had some crazy life transitions happen at the end (some good, some bad, some both), and I don’t think that it’s a coincidence at all.  I really believe God has been preparing this group for something amazing, and we are already seeing some of that fruit.  I think I can speak for everyone when I say that our faith has been tested and challenged and come out stronger on the other side.

At the beginning, I wondered whether there would be any lasting impact of some of the reductions we made.  I can say that there certainly have been.  We are spending less, giving more (time, talent and treasure), using what we have, and most importantly, praying and seeking God more regularly.  Space has been created.  There’s no way I would have had the courage to quit my job without the fast.  It’s really been the culmination of the fast for me.  I had been praying all year that God would break the idols that ruled my heart – security, comfort, approval, money, and that He would show me where He wanted me to go with my life.  He has done a mighty work.  Don’t get me wrong – the idols are still there, but He has shaken them and shown me how weak they are compared to Him.

Right now, I feel like He’s shown me where He doesn’t want me to go.  I can’t say that I have clarity on the path ahead, but I’m not sure God ever really provides that.  He wants me to get out of the boat even though it looks like I might drown if I do.

Cliché Christianity

I don’t like it.  You know what I’m talking about.  Here are my [least] favorites.  If you say this to me, and I’m in a bad mood, prepare for a sermon (sorry, but I’m sassy these days.)

1.  It’s all going to work out and be ok.

2.  God will provide [the job, the money, the spouse, etc.].

3.  God helps those who help themselves.

4.  God never gives you more than you can handle.

Why do I hate these clichés, you ask?

A.  They aren’t in the Bible.

Not even sort of.  Show me where it says that “It’s all going to work out.”  Read Revelations.  Read about Jesus for goodness sake.  All but one of the apostles were martyred.  It doesn’t work out – not in the way that you mean when you say that.  If you say that and mean, the world will be destroyed.  God will exact justice on the unrighteous, and Jesus will come back and kick a**.  Then, I agree with you.  It will work out.

Otherwise, if you mean what I think you mean – that things will turn up, you are incorrect.  Tell that to the person dying of cancer, to the mother whose baby is starving to death, to the man dying of AIDS.

B.  They are not applicable outside of rich (white) America.

The only reason we can say with a straight face that “God will provide” (and mean that he will provide the spouse, the baby, the job, the money) is because that in rich, affluent America, there’s almost always a way to get those things yourselves.  I’m not saying that God’s not a part of that, but we really are just digging deep and finding a way to get what we want.  We aren’t sitting back and letting God “provide” because God doesn’t promise that he will provide – not those worldly things.  He will provide strength, mercy, love and grace, but you may not get what you want in the end.  There are many of God’s children around the world starving to death.

God does give us more than we can handle.  In fact, I think he only gives us more than we can handle.  God is not about us succeeding and handling things.  God is about his own glory.  Remember Job?  You can’t say to a woman locked in a cage in India being raped day after day until she dies at the age of 25 that God won’t give her more than she can handle.  Who can handle that? This saying just isn’t applicable to her life, so why should it be applicable to ours.

C.  They fall short.  Way short.

God does make bold promises.  He says that he will never leave or forsake us.  That he loves us so much that he murdered his only son to pay for our sins.  He promises that he will return.  He promises that justice will be done.  He says that his grace is sufficient.

When we use these clichés, we turn God into a Hallmark card.   When we indicate that Christianity is about working hard and living a comfortable life with a little God thrown in, we are lying and we are stealing God’s glory.  We are diluting the truths of his promises in favor of something that is easier to say and swallow.

I think we do this because God makes a lot of scary promises too, and we don’t want to face those.  He says that we will be persecuted.  He says that some will call him Lord, and he will say he never knew them.  He promises that the wicked will suffer eternal torment. Jesus says that He is the only Way, Truth and Life.  He says that to save your life, you have to lose it.  He promises that we will suffer as Jesus suffered.  He says that the way is narrow and few will find it.

I want more.  I don’t want clichés and feel good sayings.  I want the truth.  Because things are too hard right now, and I need a God who can stand up to these trials.

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This adoption is getting messy ya’ll.  We need serious prayer.  We are completely stuck at the immigration phase with no end in sight.  USCIS gave us a deadline of July 23 that we are unlikely to meet, which means we would have to reapply later once we get the needed documents and start over again.  Starting over means more delays.  We are contemplating a riskier strategy but are seeking God’s will in what He wants us to do.  We want these kids home, and we want them home yesterday.  But, most importantly, we want to love the Lord, seek first his kingdom and make decisions that bring him glory.

Thanks for following our story.

 

 

 

The Body

While in some ways, my heart has been broken over the past few weeks hearing about more and more delays (even more this week…), my heart has also been bursting from all the love and support from my readers, friends and family.  I am so thankful for you!

From your comments, to your FB messages, text messages, emails, phone calls, and in-person (imagine that!) chats, I can really feel the love of God at a time when I often feel that he is far away and has forgotten me.  What a blessing to be surrounded by such support.  These kids (who may be adults by the time they come home) will be so blessed by you all as well.

A friend from church stopped me on Sunday to say that she had been reading our story and praying for us.  It was so great to see her, to know that she knows our struggles and is moved to actually pray for us.

I don’t know why God created the world in the way that he did, to commission us to be his hands and feet.  I don’t know why he has chosen to give such responsibility to us humans.  We are so flawed, and this responsibility results in so much pain and evil in the world.  But, when it works, when we really do it, it’s so beautiful.

When I receive a text from a dear friend saying that she’s praying a specific prayer for me, it’s literally as if God sent it himself.  That’s how it feels.  Knowing that the same Spirit that lives in me, lives in her, and connects us to each other in a supernatural way.  I have a daily reminder in my calendar to pray for a certain friend going through a difficult time.  When I hear progress from her, I am so honored to think that God gave ME a role in his work.

More and more I am seeing how we are the body.  “So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Rom. 12:5

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These past weeks have been tough, but I have been drowning my sorrows in a delectable book – The Sunne of Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman.  It’s pure candy if you are lover of all things medieval and historical fiction.  It’s the story of Richard III – full of intrigue, betrayal, war, scandal, and of course, some juicy love affairs.  I actually learned about this author from another blog long ago, and this is the fourth book of hers I read.  I think it’s fair to say that they have changed my life.  🙂

 

Weakness

Adoption is not for the faint of heart, ya’ll.  In fact, it’s not even for the human heart.

Wednesday was the lowest point.  We reached the lowest point of despair, hopelessness, and if someone had told us we could be out, we would have taken the out – no question.  Our agency is going through some changes for the better, but it’s clearly causing delays.  It’s not the most organized place on earth, so I don’t have much confidence that they were adequately preparing for the changes to avoid delays.  Then we heard from the immigration officer who’s had our file for over two months that she still hadn’t even started reviewing it.  Heartbreak.  We had started to feel optimistic, like things were actually moving.  Not yet.  Not yet.

When people say adoption is hard, this is what they are talking about. It’s not the paperwork, it’s not the personal questions, it’s not the finances.  Those are normal hard things.  Everyone deals with those issues in life in various forms.  No, adoption is hard because there are few times in life that we willingly submit to having absolutely zero control over our future.  We are completely powerless in this situation.  The systems are too big, the issues are too complex.  We are completely at the mercy of other people – evil, corrupt people, no less.  There are no guarantees about timing, and everything can fall apart in an instant.

I’ve been fooling myself.  I thought I was getting somewhere.  I thought that my faith was strong, and that I could do the hard things.  I was ready to live for Christ.  To sacrifice.  To be radical. To be ALL IN.

I am a vapor.  I am dust.  My strength is an illusion. The hard stuff hasn’t even begun.  God looks and me and says, oh sweetie, you think waiting is hard?  Wait till you have three African children who you’ve never met, with broken hearts and a lifetime of pain wrapped up into a few short years.  This waiting, this lack of control, it’s nothing compared to the pain, heartache, suffering and hopelessness that is coming.

I am scared.  I can’t do it.  I find it a great injustice when the grocery store is out of dried cherries.  I don’t trust that God will get me through missing an episode of Glee. More seriously, I don’t trust that God will give me the finances to pay down my debt, that he will really protect my marriage. This is child’s play, normal stuff, and I am failing. How can I think God can give me the responsibility for the big stuff?

Ah, but there is hope. For his strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9).  His work is not dependent on me at all. This waiting is a test.  Will I let go and and give God the steering wheel or will I keep trying to drive?

Celebration

My wonderful friends in Chicago are throwing me a party to celebrate the coming of the children. I have agonized over whether I wanted to have such a party for months (and at times, I’m still agonizing). I’m still trying to work through all my reasons, but I think it boils down to a few.

One is definitely my own sin – pride and need to control. I really don’t like people doing things for me. For better or for worse, I’ve been an independent person since early on in my life. I’ve always been given and taken control of situations. It’s partly due to my personality and partly to the way my parents parented me. They basically let me make decisions and chart my own course from a very early age. I still struggle with seeking counsel from people on decisions. DH will call everyone and then tell me to call my
parents, and I’m always confused as to why. I’ll call them with the news of the decision we made and don’t understand why you would call before that!

I think thy mentality carries over into the party. I resist people doing things for me and having opinions about how I should do things. Every time someone has said, you should have a shower, I shudder because I feel like people are telling me what to do. (You can see some potential for marital issues here…we are working on it!)

Another big issue is infertility. Infertility has made me resistant to anything that equates adoption with pregnancy/babies. It’s not the same thing. It’s really not. I’m ok with that but sometimes other people aren’t. Some people will do anything to convince you that adoption is just like when you are expecting – full of joy, dreams and anticipation. Unlike when you are expecting a healthy baby to be born, adoption is wrought with pain, loss, grief, sorrow, and more pain.

(I know many people who have had terribly painful and high-risk pregnancies, miscarriages, stillbirths, unwanted pregnancies, and children with various forms of special needs – definitely not trying to say that every pregnancy is full of joy. Those pregnancies are in their own separate category as well, and we should be more sensitive to that.)

Of course there are elements of joy in adoption. There are so many. But all come at the cost of a loss. In this fallen world, adoption is necessary because of sin, suffering and evil in the world.

Because I feel like adoption is so different, I am resistant to trying to pretend like it’s not. I feel like one of the biggest lessons God taught me (and continues to teach me) is that I was idolizing my dreams of the future. I had it all planned out. It was going to be great. I made the plans, barely presented them to God and asked for his stamp of approval. Oh silly women. I was like the guy who told Jesus, I will follow you as soon as I bury my father. We know what Jesus thought of that.

The Lord has absolutely reworked my plan. It barely resembles the original. In fact, I don’t even have a plan anymore. I honestly have no idea what my life is going to look like this time next year. Absolutely anything is on the table. I am not in charge. God can do what he likes. I’m just along for the ride begging to love and serve him however he sees fit

The final reason I’ve been resistant is because there is such a huge emphasis on the need to accumulate stuff. As you know from past entries, that’s the opposite mojoe from the way we have been trying to handle 2012.

I know there’s good in this – people wanting to show love and bless us. We so appreciate the sentiment. We would just love people to show that love In a different way. It’s not because we are dumb and don’t get how much stuff a kid needs. It’s not because we are judgmental and think stuff is evil. It’s because we have found through the fast that we are addicted to stuff. We love stuff more than we love God, and that is not ok. If you knew how many times I looked at kids bedding from Land of Nod, you would be appalled. Who spends that much time fantasizing about buying stuff? An idolator.

I have finally come around because I have amazing friends who totally get me and where we are coming from. They are so excited to celebrate with us and respect our weird issues. Even better, they care most about giving glory to God and using the time to praise him and worship him.

I’m ready to celebrate!

Peace

Praying for peace today. I am feeling quite restless and anxious. Still not feeling like I can really do anything and yet I really want to.

This morning I read Psalm 29, and in verse 11, it says that the Lord will give his people strength and peace. I have been repeating this verse all day.

I am very excited that friends are planning a celebration party in June. I look forward to sharing some joy with them. I’ve been lacking in the joy category. This morning when I was freaking out and whining to God, the Spirit told me to rejoice always. I said, really? Always? But what about…

Media fast is not going well. I fell off the wagon yesterday and watched an episode of Modern Family. I desperately wanted to just zone out for a little while. I know, no excuse. Them today, I checked the news headlines. I have no self-control. On the good side, I have had much more deep prayer time and good bible reading the last two nights.

Again and again I come back to this question – how can I be content in the present? How can I rest in the Lord? I am feeling like I will never quite get answers on this side of heaven, but I guess that is ok.

Blessings

Katie is through court! Hooray! We haven’t seen the documents yet, but our agency says they have the first set with the rest to hopefully follow next week. Praise God.

We so need these updates. I feel like I am at the point of total and complete desperation before each one. It’s like God takes me as far as He can without me completely losing it (DH probably thinks that I’m way beyond losing it), and then He gives the grace. It sometimes feels like a cruel process, but I am choosing joy (thanks Kay Warren) and trusting that God is preparing me for something even bigger. I have a feeling that I will continue to be pressed beyond my limits for the rest of my life.

Come on I600 approvals!