Thursday, October 3, 2013

...And God said... 3:

The set up: this afternoon my daughter and I were driving home from school when we had to pass through downtown. She asked, "Why are we going through town?"
I answered her, "Because sometimes you have to go through it to get out of it."

And God said: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me." Ps 23:4

"When you pass throught the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; and when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." Is 43:2

There are destinations. And then there are journeys. Since we haven't worked out teleporting yet, we are bound to take a more scenic route when traveling. And while this is true in the physical sense, we seem to think spiritual circumstances should be more quickly resolved.  After all, don't we have the Holy Spirit? And isn't Christ seated at the right hand of the Father as our intercessor? 

You heard about the young pastor who preached his first sermon at a new church? The congregation loved it. The next Sunday he preached the same sermon. They didn't fuss about it too much. After all he was young and probably didn't have that many written. After the third Sunday of the same sermon, some concerned deacons came to his office and said, "Pastor, you need some new material. You've preached the same sermon three Sundays in a row." To which the young pastor replied, "Well, when you start obeying the first sermon, I'll move on to something new."  
Sometimes the only way out of that sermon is to just obey it. Go through it. 

Things I've had to go through that I would have preferred to avoid, but am thankful for in retrospect:
-infertility, because it brought me to MY children. 
-financial strain, because it is teaching me to reprioritize and to also have more compassion for the needy, particularly the hungry. 
-my current job. I've done it faithfully, to the best if my abilities for seven years, even though it is not my "calling", thereby teaching me sacrifice. It also is perfect for this season of life with small children. 

Then there are wildernesses that I never want to see again. I didn't like them, struggled to see how the promises of God were being fulfilled in the midst of them, and just barely got out of them unscathed. But...we came through them. 

I'm gonna brag. I have a rock-solid marriage. I am so head over heels in love with my husband. He is the best father, partner, friend, love I could have ever asked for. And I am sure our roots are as deep as they are because of all the hurt we've experienced in ministry. It is difficult. But it is not the destination.  There is a reason the spiritual life is called a race, why we refer to it as "walking with God". We don't classify ourselves as "being there". We more likely say we're "getting there". 

And sometimes, you just have to go through it to get out of it. I don't know what your circumstances are. But a wise friend just recently said to me, "Sometimes, how you handle a situation is more important than the issue itself." 
Keep walking. This isn't your destination.  

It is only the journey. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

...and God said...2

Dressing Asher after his bath last night was like wrestling jello. Not wrestling in jello, mind you, but actually trying to hold said substance in your arms and keep it from sliding this way and that. There are about 10 snaps on his pajamas. It should take about 20 seconds to get them all snapped if he is laying still. But since that kid has learned how to crawl, he's not laying still for anything. This is especially precarious when he has made a huge deposit. Last night, he was just enjoying the freedom of scooting around the living room floor au natural. I put lotion on him. (Bad idea, given the jello analogy. Now he's fast and slippery.)

Suffice it to say we weren't done dressing in 20 seconds. More like 220...maybe more. I didn't time it. I just know at a certain point I had him pinned down and said, "Kid, we'd already be done if you'd quit fighting and just do what I wanted you to."

And God said: 
"It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year..." Deut. 1:2-3a. 

God planned to deliver the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. But when they got there, the land was already inhabited. They didn't want the hard task of having to fight to take over the land. So they bucked the will and wisdom of God. Result? "Forty years later" they still had to fight to claim the land, but now those people have had time to multiply and spread out. Meanwhile, the Israelites have been living in the desert, surviving on wheat flakes. Don't you imagine if they had just fought from the beginning, realizing that "the battle belongs to The Lord" that things would've gone faster and smoother? There would still be a fight. But there was always going to be one. Every time, the best thing a child of God can do is surrender. Even when it doesn't make sense. Even when it means difficulty. Even when that "peace" is missing because you're scared witless. (I imagine Jonah felt pretty peaceful when he was sleeping in the bottom of the boat before the storm came.  A feeling of peace is not an indicator of the will of God.) Just obey.

"Cease striving and know that I am God."Psalm 46:10. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

...and then God said...

I have discovered at times that things I am doing for or with my children remind me of different scriptures. And as I am talking to them, or praying for them, or for myself as I deal with whatever challenge they've just presented me, I hear the voice of God saying, " too."

The set-up: the baby was teething last night. I think he's been teething for the last seven months, because of the way he routinely interrupts my sleep. Last night was particularly bad. Three times he woke me up. He was fussy, gassy, hungry, and all around just not able to get it right...until I picked him up, cradled him in my arms, and rocked him to sleep. Granted, I had to do this a few times, because he was so ill. But even as I got situated so I could catch a few zzzs in the recliner, I prayed thanking God for the opportunity to hold my sometimes difficult children. In my prayer, I said, "Lord, I know they're difficult, but I'd rather go through life fixing their problems, just for the opportunity to love them, than to never have them at all."

...and God said...
"Your steadfast love O Lord extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgements are like the great deep; man and beast you save O Lord. How precious is your unfailing love O God. The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings." Psalm 36:5-7. 


Friday, August 23, 2013

Revisiting my bucket list:

This is my midlife bucket list - 20 things I wanted to do by the time I'm 40.  I've had two birthdays since then.  Let's see how I'm doing, shall we?

1. Become debt free except for my house. - Trying to sell the house to make that happen.
2. Adopt again.  The less debt, the more children. God had other plans, and we had a surprise baby!!
3. Run in a 5 K. pregnant two weeks later.  Still haven't gotten back to running yet.
4. Run in a 10 K. Not Yet.
5. Run a half - mara....HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  Sorry - I couldn't keep a straight face. Doesn't seem like that big of a stretch now.  If I can do 10K, I think I could work up to a half.  And I'm really kicking around the idea of a Triathlon.  I am a stronger swimmer and biker than I am runner.  I don't need to win it, just complete it.
6. Go to Hawaii. 
7. Record another CD. 
8. Learn to play the violin.
9. Drive a convertible....not necessarily own, but maybe rent one for a whole week in the late spring, and drive it until my hairline recedes! Haven't done it yet, but I am trading vehicles with a friend when the weather gets a little cooler, and I'll have one for at least a day.
10. Get curtains and blinds for our house. Done.  Now we want to move out of it.
11. Get my flowerbed to grow, uh, I don't know....FLOWERS?! Roses!!!!  Apparently, I'm awesome at growing roses.
12. Take another oil painting class.
13. Take a cake decorating class.
14. Take a photography class.
15. Buy Photoshop.
16. Learn how to operate Photoshop.
17. Still working on #16.
18. Go back to blonde hair.
19. Go to Italy.
20. Manage a blog that makes money and become independently wealthy.

SO - Five out of twenty.  I've got three years, and 15 more to go.  So I need to do five more this year.  I think it will be cake decorating, an online photography class, and learning photoshop.  And add to a new camera.  If we can sell the house, that's going to happen.  

When Children Know the Gospel...

When your children have heard and can recite back to you some key truths about the gospel, a few things happen.

  • You well up with tears of joy and pride and humility all at the same time that you've been given the great responsibility of helping them acquire such knowledge
  • You take a deep breath as you realize your responsibility to live these truths out in front of your children so they will begin to grasp the great grace of God.
  • You pray for all the times you have failed at this responsibility, because they're only four years old and they've seen enough of your inconsistency to derail anyone's faith train.
  • You realize God's grace for them is grace for your failures as well, and you bow in humility to such a great and loving God.
  • You know in their tenderness and innocence, they quite possibly understand it all better than you do....and you are a seminary graduate.
  • They preach the gospel to you, and you understand and rejoice in the gift of your salvation all over again.  
  • Your heart sings a new song.

Friday, August 9, 2013

And then there were three...

There's a reason it's called a "Three Ring Circus".  Two are not as interesting or difficult - as far as circuses go.  As far as children are concerned, two are enough to make life both of the above.  But (!) you'll hit your sweet spot of sweet yet independent children a little sooner.  Once you throw in number three, you are back to square one, and you have to go to zone defense, as opposed to man-to-man coverage.

Because Anna is so well developed cognitively, people sometimes forget how physically disabled she is.  When she's sitting at a table and everyone has finished their snack or assignment and gotten down to go play, adults in the room are like - "Oh, crap!  Anna's still sitting there.  Are you done Anna?" - Usually not, because this child does everything in her own sweet time.  She is teaching us ALL patience.  And I'm okay with that.  She has highlighted everything that has made me a wretched and selfish individual in the 35 years leading up to her coming into our family.  And I am better now for it.

So we have Addie (the hare), Anna (the tortoise), and Asher...whose personality remains to be seen.  He is laid back, smiles all - ALL - the time, entertains himself with toys, sleeps when we want him to almost all the time.  But I can already tell his wheels are turning.  He wants everything he sees on a table.  He doesn't want to sit or lay down.  He wants to stand. (HE'S SIX MONTHS OLD!) I see him having his daddy's adventurous personality.  "Let's try THIS!"  I can only hope I am woman enough to keep up with him.

For adoptive or hopeful adoptive parents who have read my blog in the past - on the off chance that you become one of the 65% of infertile adoptive parents who conceive post-adoption, like us, here's a glimpse into the psychology and theology of parenting both kind of children.

With your adopted child, there was so much work involved in the paperwork process that it felt like a pregnancy.  Great expectations, shopping for what? A girl? A boy? Twins? Preparing a bedroom, setting up toys in little vignettes like you worked for FAO Schwartz....It consumed you.  Once you were home, regardless of the age, there were sleepless night.  You fretted over things like vaccines, booboos, discipline, routines, feeding.  All the things a birth mother worries about.  But when things weren't going as smoothly as you had dreamed they would, you secretly wondered: "Would this have been easier if these were my biological children?  Would there be some genetic code that made them obey me more, or help them give and receive affection better?"

And you felt guilty for thinking that way, but it couldn't be helped.  Bonding and attachment are hard.  You have to work at it.

When you found out you were pregnant, you were so excited.  Then you were nervous that you would feel different.  And you immediately felt guilty for being so excited and already feeling different toward this child.  How can you let your adopted children know how special they are to you?  How can you let yourself know that you will not love them any less or this child any more?  Can you understand what your mother told you about her relationship with each of her children (when you asked her who was her favorite because you suspected it wasn't you...)?  "I don't love any one of you more than the other.  I just love each of you differently."

When that baby was laid in your arms for the first time, and you saw his daddy's chin, and your nose, and your daddy's eyes, you were overwhelmed with the melding of generations.  You were holding your past, present, and future in that one little bundle.  And you were instantly in love.  That did not happen the first time.

And you feel a little guilty again.

When you breastfeed for the first time, and he curls his little fist around your finger, you lose yourself in an infatuation that you remember feeling the first time you realized you had found your true love in the man you married.  When he cries and is instantly comforted by your voice, you understand it's because he has heard it for nine months already.  He knows you instantly.  He smiles in his sleep when he smells you.  His love for you is already so strong.  It took so long to feel that and receive that with your adopted children.

And you feel a little guilty again.

But then you realize you chose to love those adopted children.  Before they could love you back.  Before they understood the lengths you went to for them.  Before they ran to you after falling down.  Before you even knew what it meant to really be a mother.  It was unmerited.  It was unconditional.  It was sacrificial.  It was God-sized.

And when you listen to your adopted child speak, you hear your own voice.  You see a reflection of your smile in her eyes as you tickle her on the bed.  You watch her display a tenacious spirit as she tries for the fourth or fifth time to put her own clothes on in the morning.  And you know when she hugs you and says, "You're the best mommy ever!" she means it, because you put the work in.  You did the hard thing.  And your love for her really is as strong as it is for the little bundle sleeping in his playpen in the corner.  It may not have come as easily or as quickly, but it is a ferocious, relentless, pursuit reminiscent of the Love that pursued you to make you a child of God.  A child born not of natural descent, or of the will of the mother and father, but born of the Spirit.

And you feel grateful.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin' no babies

Truer words were never spoken.

Except maybe these.

As the day of deliverance draws near, I am growing more and more anxious.  I sleep in two-hour segments, waking up to go to the bathroom, to roll over and reposition, to rub some part of my stomach that just got the living daylights kicked out it, to throw back covers because I'm sweating like a 4th grade boy at recess.  So I wake up exhausted, dreading the day of work ahead of me, hoping I have a good day with my own children, not taking my exhaustion and anxiety out on them.

Praise God for the House Fairy, a.k.a. Nanna Peggy, that has moved in with us for the next few months.  Dishes are washed.  Clothes are washed, folded, and put away.  Toys are picked up.  All I do around the house is cook an occasional meal, and bathe the girls while I can still lean over the edge of the tub to do it.

Joe and I have been reading up and studying for the big final exam, although I think our doctor still suspects we'll go in early for a section.  Last night, I almost called at midnight to ask how I could know if what I was feeling was a contraction or gas.  After about an hour and a half, I decided it was just gas. But I'm a little antsy today, wondering if it was more than that.  A precursor, if you will.

The books don't help.  They say, "This is what's typical.  But you can't go by typical symptoms of labor, because every woman and every labor is different."  Then how do they know what's typical?

So, spiritually how am I spending these days?  I am doing a daily reading through the Epistles of Paul and Acts....encouraging stuff.  And the girls have taken to a new nighttime routine that includes a long time of prayer at the bedside.  They're nothing if not all-inclusive.  They pray for every name they can think of, then they ask "Who else?"  We're having a hard time cutting it off.  Just know this...if the girls know your name, you have probably gotten prayed for recently.

And I don't know if this is scripturally accurate, but you know how in the Psalms, David says, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have heard my prayer"?  I just feel that when children of that innocent age connect with God and ask for something in prayer, that he most certainly hears and it delights him to respond.  I feel like we can count on the words of 1John 5:14-15 that says if we know that he hears us, we know we have received what we have asked of him.  One of the things that makes me feel that way is my own desire to give them what they ask for in prayer.  I don't want to give them everything they ask for in a day, because they are immature enough to ask for selfish or nonessential or even dangerous things that they don't need.  But when I hear their prayers, for someone to feel better or whatever decision we're working through as a family, I want to give them exactly what they're asking for.

This encourages me to keep praying, to keep asking, seeking, and knocking.  Because if I, as a parent, feel this strong a desire to answer their prayers, how much more does God the father desire to do that for me, if I come with an innocent heart and childlike faith.