Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bend in the Road...

This afternoon, I was scrolling down my Facebook page, just seeing what was going on with my FB peeps.  In the middle of "status updates" from friends, I often have updates from several ministries, businesses, etc., that I "like."  One of those "likes" on my page is our adoption agency.  I normally LOVE reading the things that they post.  But, today, my heart started to sink as I read through their post.  Here's the first part of what it said...

"We need your help to speak out for the millions of orphans in Ethiopia.  The Ethiopian Ministry of Women's, Children's and Youth Affairs plans to reduce intercountry adoption by 90%."

And, with that, we have come to our first bend in the road.  Now, let me say, this is not official.  It is scheduled to go into effect in two days, on March 9th.  And, if you are where I was, you might be asking "Why?"  Well, as best I can understand it, there have been some ethical concerns for a while concerning Ethiopian adoptions.  We have heard of some concerning things ourselves in this area, not with our present agency, but with other agencies.  It sounds like it's a knee-jerk reaction to the investigations that have shown that there are, in fact, reasons for concern with several agencies and orphanages currently facilitating Ethiopian adoptions.   I do believe the actions they are taking are an honest effort to prevent against child trafficking.  What is concerning to most people in the adoption world is the talk about shutting down many orphanages that are currently operating in Ethiopia and slowing, almost halting, adoptions in order to do this, and the fear that these actions will put the lives of children in danger.  To give you an idea of just how drastic an action this is, they are planning to change the amount of adoptions in Ethiopia that will go through their court systems from a current average of 50 per day to 5 per day.  For families already on waiting lists (and we are still months from that point), their estimated wait time just increased by at least a year.

So, I'm going to be honest and say that my first reaction was pretty much to just freak out a little.  After all, I still BELIEVE that we are called to adopt, and I still BELIEVE we are called to adopt from Ethiopia.  Although, I will also tell you that from the very beginning, I have prayed that God would STOP the process if we were wrong about adoption, if we were wrong about Ethiopia, and if we were wrong about our agency.  And, He stopped the process with the first agency we were researching in under a week after I first prayed that prayer.  So, I am open to the idea that He could be doing it again.  However, I am not willing to accept that until I know it to be true.  And, I don't know that yet.

So, when I shared all this info with Neal, he did what he does, and he reacted with calm and control (part of why I need him in my life), and said, "Let's not freak out.  We don't even know that this is happening for sure yet."  Ah, yes!  This is why it is called a "bend in the road."  Because with a curve, or a bend, you cannot SEE what is around it.  It does not mean that it's bad, even if you feel that it is.  You just have to go around the bend to SEE what is there.  And, yet, here I have gone again freaking out about future events that have not happened yet!  Don't you just think Satan loves it when we get ourselves worked up about stuff that might not ever happen?  When we let ourself go down the path of "what if's?"  I think he totally digs it!  And, I often make him very happy in that area, I am sure.

So, after those wise words, I opened my Bible to read the passage that we were supposed to be reading yesterday (but I am currently a day behind the hubs if you must know the truth!)...Romans 8  Now, I want to share with you some of the Biblical goodness that I discovered in there tonight...

Romans 8:18 - I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." 

Romans 8:26-27 - In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been calld according to his purpose. 

Romans 8:31-32 - What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:37-39 - No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And, I don't know about you, but today, I am thinking it's GOOD to be a slacker!  Isn't God AWESOME?  In one chapter, He just gave me verse after verse reminding me to trust, reminding me to pray, and reminding me that HE has it ALL under CONTROL.  And, so that is where I am...trusting and going to do a lot of praying.  And, I am definitely going to be allowing the Spirit to intercede for me, because I am pretty sure I don't even know how to pray about this one.

Before I go, I want to share with you the last part of the Facebook post I read from our adoption agency today...

"You can help by signing the petition to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi at:  http://www.gopetition.com/petition/43714.html.  Forward this to your friends, family members, churches and everybody you know!"

This is a link to a petition for the government of Ethiopia to not make this very hasty decision without thinking through the consequences.  I am going to be praying about signing it.  I have not decided yet because I want it to be a God-decision, not an emotional, me-decision.  Would you be willing to do that with me?  To pray about signing and to do so, if you are so led by God?  I don't need to know if you do or if you don't, I just would love it if we could pray through this decision together.  It will need to be a quick answer from God, because we are under two days away, but I am trusting Him for guidance. 

Please also be praying about the situation in Ethiopia, whether you sign the petition or not.  We will not be nearly as affected as will be SO many other families who have been waiting for months and maybe years already.  And, most importantly, please pray for the precious children whose lives are going to be greatly affected by this decision.  So thankful tonight that He doesn't NEED me to do His will.  I am trusting the "father to the fatherless." (Psalm 68:5)

And, if you get time, go read Romans 8.  You have read a lot of it already.  :)  Now, you can just go fill in the gaps.  I am pretty sure that it will be an encouragement to you no matter what place you find yourself in today.

Thanks for sharing your hearts with me and for going with us on this journey. 

Much love to you all!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When the going gets tough...

"When the going gets tough,..."  Can you finish the rest of that phrase?  It's "the tough get going."  Right?  It's that whole, very American mindset, that when we face adversity, we RISE to meet it and tackle it with a vengeance.  Only, that's sometimes not true in my life.  I can usually handle a bad day pretty well...a bad week, even.  But, if it goes much longer than that (especially in the middle of a LONG, cold, dreary winter!), I just start to feel discouraged.  Beaten down.  And, I start to have long conversations with God about things I already know. 

There's been a LOT of that going on for me lately.  It started, actually, before my last (and first!) blog post.  It started the day we decided to head down the path of adoption.  The very day we knew that God was calling us to adopt, we were rushing to get out of our house to meet our Life Group at church, and it began.  I hurt my foot.  Grrr.  Not a great moment.  Not a pretty moment AT ALL.  I was running up the stairs  to grab that one last thing (whatever it was!) before we headed out the door for Life Group, and I fell going UP the stairs.  And, I knew in that moment that I had hurt it.  But, as we moms often do, I hobbled a little bit (probably a GOOD bit if you ask my LG girls), wrote it off as a sprain, and just kept going.  Frustrated?  Yes.  Beaten down?  No. 

Fast forward two weeks.  At this point, we are heavily into the adoption paperwork and are finally finishing up the pre-application that our agency suggests you do (Yes, PRE-application...it's a LOT of work, people!).  We are finishing up the process of sharing with friends and family about our plans to adopt.  Some of those conversations are going well, and others not as well.  It's not always easy or comfortable, but we press on.  And...there is STILL pain in my foot...and, by now, there's quite a bit of hobbling.  It's SO not pretty.  So, by this point, I am just looking for answers about when it will go away.  So, two weeks too late, I go to the doctor and find out that it is, in fact, BROKEN.  Major ugh.  Yuck.  At this point, we are 5 weeks from a Disney trip we have been planning with some dear friends for months.  And, I am frustrated.  But, I am determined it will all be fine.  So, we move on.  Neal becomes Superman right before my eyes and begins to tackle the vast majority of what I normally do as well as what HE has to do all day.  So, we tackle the next 3 weeks with me in a cast with the "we can do this attitude" and all the positivity that we can muster.  Meanwhile, we finish the pre-application and move on to the actual application for adoption!  Yay!  

Fast-forward again, 3 weeks this time, to this past Monday.  Now, we are headed for Madison, WI, for a follow-up appointment for Gabriel at AFCH.  For all those who don't know, Gabriel was born with a dilated right kidney that does not function properly.  We found out about it almost a year ago when I was about 5 months pregnant.  We have seen God move in SO many ways over the course of this past year.  It has been a blessing to be a part of all that He has accomplished already in Gabriel's life.  In November, Gabriel had surgery in attempt to remove a blockage in his ureter and hopefully correct the problem.  The surgery is successful 95% of the time.  Both we and the doctor were VERY optimistic about the outcome.  His doctor really believed (thus, so did we) that this would be a one-time surgery, and that Gabriel would have no limitations with his kidneys.  On Monday, we were to go back one final time for a test to find out about the functionality of that kidney and really see what had happened as a result of the surgery.  We were totally unprepared for the news that we got on Monday.  As it turns out, Gabriel's case falls into the 5% category of those for whom the surgery did not work.  That was a BLOW for us.  We spent the majority of the last year hearing negative talk from doctors and expecting the worst.  This last few months had been quite the opposite, and so we were really not ready to hear the negativity begin again.  So, now, instead of being at the end of the road, we are only about halfway down it, or so it appears.  Now, instead of being hopeful about saving his kidney, we may in fact go much further down a road in effort to save his kidney only to have to remove it in the end.  We have at least two more procedures ahead of us, two more rounds of anesthesia ahead, and possibly more.  We were frustrated.  And, we were bummed.  REALLY bummed. 

So, now to yesterday.  Yesterday was supposed to be the day that I got my cast off my silly, broken foot.  (Can you already see where this is going?)  When I left yesterday, Neal said "I hope today is better news."  I was hoping so, too.  We were just at that point, you know?  The point where you just need SOMETHING to go right.  And...as you can imagine...that is not how it went.  My foot is still broken.  I did get my hard cast off...but I got an aircast on.  AND, it's going to be on for the next 3 weeks...which means IT is going with ME to Disney World.  UGH!  And, this is where it just all got to me.  I was frustrated.  I was bummed.  I was DONE. 

Now, let me say, I know to those of you who have SO much more going against you right now, that this sounds petty and silly.  It does to me even as I write it.  I have more than one friend right now who could absolutely care less about kidneys, and a broken foot, and Disney World for crying out loud, because they are in a battle to save the life of their child.  And, those are the thoughts that I had.  I thought about THOSE friends, in THOSE predicaments.  And, I KNEW I was being petty.  But, I just couldn't shake it.  I just felt DEFEATED.

And, you know what happened?  I do what I honestly, rarely do.  I just cried.  And, I got frustrated.  And, I got angry.  And, I started to have myself a pity party.  And, then, my husband stepped in...in the way he often does when I am having "a moment" and he reminded me that God is good.  That He knows all of this.  That life goes on.  That we can still have FUN at Disney World.  That we are blessed to be going and to have friends whom we dearly love who will go with us and laugh our heads off!  That we are BLESSED because this is the extent of our troubles in comparison to those of others.  And, then, he did my absolute favorite...he quoted scripture to me.  Scripture that came straight out of our Bible reading for today...

"...But we also glory in our sufferings, because we know suffering produces perseverance; perserverance, character; and character, hope."  - Romans 5:4

(And, I will give you the rest of the passage for good measure...)

"And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." - Romans 5:5

And, as much as I didn't like it at the moment, Neal was right.  There is NO convincing me that it is a coincidence that our "troubles" began with me breaking my foot on the very same day that we began the adoption process.  That is NOT a coincidence.  Satan is SO good at smelling out opportunities for God to be glorified, and he will seek to tear you down in any way he can to keep that from happening.  1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  He is after us.  He is after us because He is against our God.  And, it made me think of something that one of my sweet friends posted on Facebook the other day.  She was talking about her children and said, "My whole life I have believed in God.  Not one time did I ever stop to look at what I have been given, and realize that GOD believes in ME."  Wow.  That can be said of the good times, the good gifts, and the bad ones.  And, what I have come to realize as I have been processing it all in these last 24 hours is what I have already known for so long about my God.  The first thing is that nothing, and I mean NOTHING, catches Him by surprise.  He knew before I ran up the stairs that I would fall and break my foot.  He knew before Gabriel ever went into surgery that it would not work.  He knew before we ever planned a Disney trip that I would be in a lovely, knee-high aircast.  He KNEW it.  He knew I would be dumb enough to walk on a broken foot for two weeks, optimistic enough to think that our doctor was right about my son, and clumsy enough that I would fall going UP a flight of stairs.  And, you know what?  I believe He allowed it ALL to happen because HE had faith in ME to handle it.  He knows my faith can handle the little struggles along the way.  He knows that I don't start to get frustrated until they all start to stack up on top of each other.  And, He knew that, this time, it would get to me.  But, He also knew, it would serve to build perseverance, character, and hope in my life.  And, so, He allowed it.  Please hear me when I say this...He did not cause it.  He did not start it because He cannot DO evil...because He is GOOD  (And, that might be a post for another day.).  He can, however, STOP it at any point.  And, if you don't yet know or understand Him well, then you might question some or all of that.  And, let me know because we can converse on that any time you like!  :)  But, let me tell you how I know that verse in Romans 5 is true.  On Monday, before Gabriel had his test, I had to help physically hold him down so that they could put an IV in.  He is by far our calmest child, and he was the most upset I have ever seen any of our children.  He was so worked up that he had tears rolling down his cheeks, his face was red, and he literally began to hyperventilate.  Now, taken out of context, you would have questioned my motives for holding him down and letting someone poke him and stick him with needles.  But, in context, it makes perfect sense.  I could have stopped them from doing what they were doing.  It wasn't ME who was DOING it.  I could have taken my son and bolted from the room.  But, I did none of those things.  Why?  Because it was for his good.  I knew that.  The doctors and nurses knew that.  You even know that.  But, being 9 months old, he has no idea.  He was frurstrated...and just a TAD bit angry!  ;)  And, sometimes with God, it's like we are 9 months old spiritually.  We get mad and we get frustrated, and that, in itself, isn't wrong.  But, sometimes, in those moments, instead of spouting off, instead of staying in our defeat, we need to do what my husband did.  We need to quote scripture.  We need to pray.  We need to cry out to God to strengthen our faith. 

This past year, I fell in love with the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  That little red book hugely impacted my life.  I've told you this already.  (Although, I will probably say it again...just a warning!)  But, I am also finishing up a little orange book called Radical by Dr. David Platt, which has had an equal impact on my life.  And, as a result, Neal and I have been SO drawn to the ministry of David Platt that  we listen to his sermons often via podcast.  If I was to give you one take-away from listening to his sermons that has impacted our lives more than any other, it would be this:  As a follower of Jesus Christ, the purpose of my life is to glorify God and to advance His gospel.  That is it.  So, with everything that happens in our life...the good, the bad, and the ugly...that is what we are here for.  With every bad day, pay raise, medical diagnosis, tax refund, afternoon of homework, opportunity to discipline our children, dinner out with friends, playdate at the park, etc., the purpose of our lives is to glorify God and advance His gospel.  So, when those moments come...espeically the ones where we are struggling, we have to ask ourselves, "How can I use this to glorify God?" and "How can this serve to advance His gospel?"  And, what I have found, is that it is AMAZING what that will do to our perspective.  And, then, in light of Romans 5, we see His plan begin to unfold...why He is holding us down to be poked and prodded and allowing experiences to affect and shape us.  We see just a little of what He has in store for us...perseverance, character, and HOPE.  So, let me encourage you, by His Word, that when the when the going gets tough...WE find HOPE.

Love to you all!