"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!