Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nesting

     Shortly before I had my first daughter nearly twenty-one years ago, the nesting instinct hit full force. As my cleaning, organizing, and downsizing took over, I was fully convinced nesting is a very real phenomenon pregnant women face. Fast-forward twenty-one years and four more kids and I am once again in that nesting place...this time preparing to bring our adopted son home from Haiti.

     Just thinking about his homecoming gives me butterflies. Not because the adoption has been a nearly five year process and there's finally light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, but because I know that I am very close to bringing home a child that has come from a very broken place--a place where abandonment, neglect, sickness, malnutrition, and even possible abuse are very real.

     All the adoption training in the world can never fully prepare one for the moments of rage, the triggers of which aren't always clear. And it is then that I must remind myself that those moments of outright rebellion, silent withdrawal, cry-screaming, and physical punches, biting, and pinches aren't truly a rejection of me; they stem from a place of brokenness that has yet to be healed.

     We experienced all of these things with our son while on our bonding trip in the summer of 2015. And let me just say, it wasn't a pretty sight. Even the orphanage director felt compelled to apologize. It was the first (and no, not the last) time that I wondered, What have I gotten myself into?

     I didn't go into adoption thinking it would be all sunshine and roses; sometimes the sun burns and roses have thorns. I get that. Even before my son is home, I recognize that adoption is a masterpiece sculpted of joy and sorrow, of good times and bad. And while most people outside the adoption world see only the good (i.e. the benefits of adoption), the bad cannot be ignored. Because it's real. Very real.

     That which we resist persists. Only when I embrace the hardness of adoption do I have a chance of becoming better because of it. And only then can I truly help my son live from who he was created to be and not from what was done to him.

 

     The anger, the meltdowns, the moments of rebellion...they aren't obstacles to be overcome, but opportunities to grow in the likeness of Christ. Some gifts are wrapped in pain. Even now, my capacity to love is being increased, my character is being refined, my endurance is being developed. I pray the same for my son as he navigates a whole new world and transitions into his new life.

     In a very real sense, adoption represents the gospel in a way not often recognized: On the part of those adopting, chosen suffering is necessary for it to happen. And really, isn't that what Christ did for us? He chose to suffer so that we could be adopted into His family. And beyond that, He continues to love unconditionally and pursue relentlessly, even as we have our own moments of meltdown, rebellion, anger, and avoidance.

     I could have taken the easy path and not adopted, but when I told Christ I was "all in" I meant every word. So when I share the hardness of adoption, I'm not looking for accolades for bringing a child of brokenness into our home; I'm reaching out for the same grace, mercy, understanding, prayers, and love that my son also needs in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

     So please don't tell us how lucky we are or tell him how blessed he is to have us...because our "gain" stems from his loss. He has lost his biological parents, he has lost nearly 6 years of the everyday things we take for granted, and even when he does come home, he will be dealing with the loss of the only "home" and "family" he has ever known. These moments require grieving and grace. They require help and healing and yes, sometimes healing hurts.

     The brokenness our family will be dealing with won't be easy, but I pray we don't miss the collateral beauty. There is untold beauty in brokenness, treasure in pain and sorrow; we just have to have eyes to see it, to unearth what is hidden and bring it into the light where it can shine like the stars, ever twinkling, ever lighting the way for others.

     I am embracing this sacred pause between the waiting and the homecoming. Beauty and clarity unfolds as I take time to slow down and embrace the journey. My hungry heart is being awakened to the feast that is before me and I long to partake of every morsel, no matter how bitter at the time; because with Jesus, every bitter thing is sweet.

     Nesting isn't all physical; my heart and mind are being prepared as well. And as I began writing this morning, a mind-grenade went off: The adoption process isn't the hardest part; it's what comes after.

    


    

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Not Fine

   When did it become wrong or even a sin to say you're not fine? Why is it fine to lie about being fine when you're not fine, but it's wrong to be honest and tell the truth? What the what?!

   I'm not fine having my heart torn into pieces as I pull my son kicking and screaming off of my body because I have to hand him back to a nanny in the orphanage...and then walk away from him for months upon months. I'm not fine with being "pregnant" for 4 1/2 years and counting when I was told it would be half that time and my heart is heavy for the longing of giving "birth." I'm not fine when I see apathy and greed trump children and families. And I'm certainly not fine when people expect me to be fine with all this.

   Jesus wasn't "fine" the moment He was sweating drops of blood as He came face to face with the reality of His situation. He wasn't "fine" when He was carrying His literal cross on the way to Calvary. I don't recall Scripture saying that Jesus flashed His best Ken smile as He passed by the crowd, dripping blood with every step, and reassuring everyone He was "Fine, just fine." So don't expect me to flash my Barbie smile as I'm carrying my own cross. And besides, Barbie smiles hurt, so why add to the pain?

   (And an FYI to all the Pharisaical people out there that are dying to scream, "Contentment, contentment, contentment!": I'm human, not perfect. So you can just ride your high horse off into the sunset. "Content Pharisee" is an oxymoron anyway. Get over yourselves.)

   The fact is that we live in a fallen world that will sometimes--and excuse my King James--sucketh. I'm owning it. I'm NOT fine right now. So if you ask me how I'm doing, don't expect a Barbie smile and a "Fine, thank you." I'd rather be real. Authenticity is what the world needs, not "fine." Whatever happened to entering into another person's suffering and taking it on as your own? Whatever happened to joining that person in the ashes and sitting quietly by their side?

   I'm not always going to be a happy clappy Christian. And you know what? I'm fine with that.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sunshine and Roses

Sunshine and Roses
 
 
   Some days hope breathes slow and shallow; other days it is bursting with excitement and expectation. When out of the blue God miraculously provided the means for us to go to Haiti to celebrate our son's 5th birthday with him, tears of joy fell like rain on our dry and weary souls. Sometimes the answers to our prayers come in a form and time that we least expect; and we are humbled beyond measure as a result.
    We have learned that when you ask God to move in your situation you relinquish all rights to your own understanding. It's all or nothing. Either we trust God or we don't. There's no halfway meeting point; no "I'll go this far, but no farther." And so I agreed to go all the way. And even on those days when I feel like quitting, I resolve to trust instead.
     As we turtled our way through the Haitian streets, I found myself feeling quite at home. Waves of weariness washed over the broken bits and pieces of my life, a life battered and bruised by the constant storms that seem more there than not. The debris left behind in the wake hardly seems worth the time and effort to shift through, and yet there is great treasure to be found, even in brokenness. Where the depths of heartache threaten to become a personal tsunami, I know pearls of wisdom and beauty are being formed.
    The brokenness of the world has become my own. No longer am I so self-absorbed that I cannot see beyond my own pain and suffering. I once was blind, but now I see. I see the hurting hearts, the hearts longing to be loved and made whole. I see the depths of depravity in the hearts of others, as well as in my own heart. I see the hate, the intolerance, the lack of love. I see all too well some days. I never knew broken could be so ugly and so beautiful simultaneously; for it is in our brokenness that we become whole.
    The real beauty is that God is drawn to our brokenness, to our weaknesses, for grace is His passion. The butterfly is proof that you can go through a tremendous amount of darkness and emerge bright and beautiful. And when I saw my son again for the first time in over a year, he was indeed bright and beautiful.
    The changes in our son brought us to tears. He is now more outgoing and playful, full of hugs and kisses and laughter. The vacant look in his eyes has been replaced by an awareness of the life before him. He has been bathed in countless prayers; he has been kept by his one true Father.
    Things don't always look like we think they should. I thought my son would be home for his 5th birthday. Sometimes the conditions of our miracle are not obvious until we surrender our preconceived notions of how things should go. Life is not all sunshine and roses; sometimes the sun will burn you and roses have thorns. Beauty is revealed and healing comes when we recognize that there is value in both serenity and suffering and that peace can coexist with pain.
    Love is our deepest longing, and yet the fear of it being absent is sometimes too great to bear, and so we hide in our self-made shells in a feeble attempt to love from afar. And while love can penetrate many things, it cannot penetrate our own fearful hearts if we continue to hide.
    Love is a choice. Sometimes it hurts to love; love requires risk and vulnerability and death to self. But love never fails to bring life. And our son is beginning to know that he is loved and in turn is taking the risk to love back.
    Be the bread. Be the bread that feeds hungry souls and you will find your own soul miraculously nourished.
 
 
 


Monday, June 6, 2016

In the End

   What do you do when the silence becomes deafening, when every report of praise brings heartache to your own soul, when talk of a breakthrough causes you to break down in tears, when you can't breathe because your heart is so heavy? What do you do when you believe in the impossible...for everyone except for yourself?

 
 
   The joy of adopting and the pain of the process make a sweet and salty mix, a combo that's not always easy to swallow. While with God every bitter thing is sweet, the bitter can sometimes overshadow the sweetness when the mixture seems to be such an unequal concoction.

 
   Intentional or not, people can be cruel. Personally, I'd like to smack down the next person who tells me that my son will come home "all in God's timing." While true, for someone who's been waiting for nearly four years, this is the equivalent of quoting Romans 8:28 to someone who's just lost a loved one. It stings.
 
   Or even worse, "Your son's not home yet because God still has things He wants to work out in you first before you're ready for him to come home." Yes, I was actually told this. And even though God is still working on me (and will continue to do so even when my son is home), I know this statement is not true. And yet it is painful. And cruel. And so very un-Christlike. As Proverbs 27:3 says, "Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool's provocation is heavier than both."
 
   

 
   Our lives are not always a picture of stained glass perfection; sometimes the glass has jagged edges that can cut you. The heat of God's refining fire? It burns before it purifies. And so even though you are passionately pursuing the One who relentlessly pursues you, you may find yourself facing far more heat than you ever thought you could withstand.
 
    Though my faith sometimes flounders, the struggle will not destroy my faith, but will instead strengthen it. The very thing that the enemy intended to destroy me with will be the very thing that plants a powerful seed within me that will grow...and blossom...and produce unimaginable fruit that will in turn destroy the works of the enemy.
 
   So, what do I do in the face of all this? I choose to believe. I choose to believe God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. I do believe...but like the nameless man in the New Testament, I too must add, "Help my unbelief."
 
  

   There's nothing like an adoption to cause you to abandon your pretensions and posturing, to let go of your carefully constructed image and trade it all in for a richer, deeper, below-the-surface life...a life hidden in Christ where real growth and intimacy occurs. And in those depths you will be cut off from your very self and grafted into Christ. It is there you will find that, truly, nothing can separate you from the love of God.
 
   I didn't sign up for all the heartbreak and pain I've endured, but I wouldn't trade the person I've become through it all for anything. On the other side of the storm the sun shines again, the rainbow appears, and new growth is evident to all who have eyes to see.
 
   In the end, I will live without fear, I will love with abandon, and I will ultimately become something infinitely more beautiful than the woman I was before I started the adoption process. And even though my journey is not yet complete, the scars I've accumulated serve to remind me that I showed up for the game; and one day I will joyfully proclaim that I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.
 


  


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

One Greater

   My heart is torn between two countries. It beats for my family in America and for my son in Haiti. But for all the love I have for my family, for a son yet to join us, there is One greater still.

   A love so deep, so wide, so uncalculable. A love so giving, so unconditional, so consuming. Like a fire raging out of control, is the love of the Father for me. And in the depths of my wondering, my questioning, He pursues me still.

   His is a love that never fails--how can this be? I fail daily, yet I am made in His image. No mistake is too big, no sin so great that the Father would turn away from me...ever. And yet, He turned away from His Son once...on my behalf. 

   Abba, this is a love I must have, a love that I want to wash over me and pull me under. I want to be swept away by the sheer force of Your passionate love for me.

   In the midst of sorrow, silence rings hollow in my ears. Ears straining, ever listening, ever waiting, for news that just won't come. And in this moment of sadness, of threatening despair, my heart dances for You alone.

 


  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Revealing Beauty

   Beauty is more than aesthetic pleasure; it goes deep to the heart of who we are. We were designed to reveal beauty--beauty from within and from without.

   Beauty is all around us. In the soft cry of a newborn baby. In the blossoming trees of early spring. In the tears of the brokenhearted. In the joy of a child not yet awakened to the troubles of the world. Beauty is everywhere; we need only to look with fresh eyes. Look around you right now: There's a beauty bomb just looking for a place to detonate.

  

   According to Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." All of Creation is an expression and extension of God's love. It is a living mosaic, an explosion of imagination, beauty, and wonder.

   Sometimes Creation simply defies logic: God didn't have to put 228 distinct muscles in a caterpillar's head, but He did; He didn't have to give every created star a name, but He did; and He didn't have to create you and me, but He did. Sometimes we just need to let go of logic and breathe in the beauty all around us...and breathe out our praise to the One that created it all.


   Revealing beauty is so important because it reveals God, the One who is beauty. We are only able to reveal beauty, however, when we are living with our senses fully engaged. What do you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel that needs to be revealed?

   As our lives move endlessly from season to season, from trial to trial, beauty never ceases to fade. Even when the winter season of our lives lingers longer than we'd like, beauty is buried just beneath the surface; it's only a matter of time before the new growth is revealed.


   Can a cemetery be classified as a thing of beauty? I believe that it can when viewed with the proper perspective. A child in a casket; a child in the arms of Christ. Painful? Absolutely. Beautiful? Most definitely.

   Our most powerful work comes when we reveal beauty in the midst of disappointment, rejection, pain, or tragedy. It is possible; with Christ, all things are possible.

   When the world drives you to your knees, find the beauty. It's there; I promise. Discover it for yourself and then reveal it to the world.





  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Happy Birthday

   What is a birthday with no presents, with no candles to blow out, with no "Happy Birthday" song to acknowledge you were ever born? Four years and not a birthday celebration to be had. I never thought I'd see the day; I was sure he'd be home by now--home unwrapping birthday gifts from his forever family for the very first time, home blowing out four colorful candles on a cake even more colorful, home listening to the birthday song sung in his honor. Instead, the day passes for my son like any other day. He doesn't know it's a special day. But I do.

   And so I will celebrate my son's birth without him. I will thank God for His hand of protection over my son as he lay abandoned not long after being born. I will be grateful for the man who took him to the orphanage, where my son has lived ever since. I will pray blessings over those who provide for his care, peace for his parents--if they are even still alive. And I will rejoice that God chose our family to be his family.

   While the day is full of sadness, it is also mixed with joy. For with God, every bitter thing is sweet. There will come a day when there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more orphans; today is not that day. Today I celebrate my son's birthday...without him.

   Happy Birthday, baby boy. Next year, we'll rock it.