We have been through one of (if not THE) most exhausting months of our lives. Neal's work has been unusually crazy, and crazy work is something we know well. We have been "sprinting" through, what I hear is the toughest part of the paper work. Ah, yes, the lovely "Home Study." Do you even want to know how much I wanted to laugh when they told us that we would need a CPS (Child Protective Service) check for every country or state that we have lived in for more than 3 weeks since our 18th birthdays. If you know us well (particularly Neal), then you know that the idea of this was completely overwhelming. Just coming up with the list was overwhelming. We have now completed four out of five home visits, a workbook with so much writing I thought my hand would fall off, 10 hours of online training, our physicals, our cat's physical (no joke), and probably more that I have already forgotten. And, we just finished up one of the hardest parts, which was Gabriel's last surgery to attempt to repair his kidney. We, simply put, are EXHAUSTED.
But, a strange thing has happened over the course of the last month for me...particularly during these last few weeks. I have found myself OVERWHELMED...not by things...not by to-do lists, not by all that we are still waiting on answers for...but by the GOODNESS of God. Does that sound crazy? Probably so. But, I have to tell you, Neal and I heard a sermon by a guest preacher a few weeks ago at our church (while our dear pastor and family were away on vacation) that had a profound effect on me. He was talking about remembering the things that God has done in our lives and how, when we focus on the goodness of God, that we can't help but be reminded of all that God has done for us. It's a big-time perspective changer. At least, it has been for me.
So, let me tell you just some of what God has done for us over this last month.
1) He kept our son safe and healthy through a very intense surgery, and his recovery has been amazing already. He had surgery on Tuesday, came home on Thursday, and by Friday (with two cuts in his side and a drain coming out of his back), we are having to discipline him for getting into things he is not supposed to. We don't know the results yet, and we won't for a few months. Is the waiting hard? Yes. But, God is IN the process, and THAT is where He continues to teach us. So, I am sure that if He has us in the process for a few more months (at a minimum), then we still have much to learn.
2) He blessed Neal with a raise, and we celebrated his 5th year in his current position in an economy where so many around us are struggling and jobs are not plentiful. That last fact doesn't escape us.
3) I opened a card, just this week, from some wonderful friends, and inside was a gift for our adoption. They are entrusting us with what God has entrusted them. We are humbled and amazed at that kind of trust and generosity.
4) On NUMEROUS occasions -- this month, this summer, and the last year -- we have had friends step in to watch over our children while Gabriel has had doctor's appointments, procedures, ER visits (yes, more than one!), etc., and a few times with only a little notice. And, might I add, they don't just OFFER, but they have served us joyfully, willingly, with glad hearts, and one even THANKED US for the opportunity to serve God through serving us. What a gift! You all know who you are!
5) Just yesterday, Neal came home with a bag of homemade cookies from a friend's wife and a card. When I read the card, I was MOVED so deeply because she wrote in there that she wanted to do something special for us because of all that we had been through this week with Gabriel, and that she had bought a gluten-free cookie mix and preceded to describe every ingredient to me in detail that she added to it so that I would know it was safe for Ella to eat. And, that was the THIRD time this month that someone has gone WAY out of their way to make a special treat for Ella. You want to show me love in a totally unexpected, indescribable way? THAT does it for this Mama's heart, my friends!
6) Just last week some friends chose to bless us with what we considered to be a HUGE gift, just for our little Gabriel, just because they are fabulous and they love us and we love them. What they don't know is that the timing of that gift was impreccable because the day before we had written yet another big check for the adoption. God used their kindness and generosity to remind me that it is ALWAYS worth it to be obedient. Not because good things always happen when you are, but because HE is worth it. And, that He is SO good that He provides for ALL our needs (for the adoption and otherwise), He provides most of our wants, and He even throws in a few surprises along the way. As my friend Amanda Newman would say, "just because He is sweet like that." So true.
7) Several weeks back, a friend declared she wanted to help in some way because of a crazy string of events we had gone through with Gabriel, and she decided to have a pizza delivered to our doorstep. She took care of everything, and it came on yet another crazy adoption day where we arrived home just five minutes before it showed up. God's perfect timing prevails again.
8) God somehow has allowed our wild, crazy, cute, highly-energetic, strong-willed, and ultra-caring three year old to be potty trained in the middle of the wildest month we have had in ages. I am calling that a blessing where God demonstrated his Almighty POW-ER. It was nothing short of His grace and goodness and unspeakable love toward me that somehow that got accomplished in the time frame that I was crazy enough to try it. PLEASE don't think I am joking. I couldn't be more serious.
9) On Sunday, a dearly-loved and much-respected friend asked if she could pray for me, Neal, and Gabriel as he went in for surgery this week. Something about the prayer of a truly righteous wo(man) that does it for me. So blessed that people pray both FOR us and OVER us. And, the amount of prayers that we have been beneficiaries of over the last months and year of our lives we do not know, but I can assure you that we have felt them all.
10) And, finally, during these last few months, I have had the awesome privilege to be able to talk with two girlfriends, whom I love SO dearly, who (with their husbands, of course) are starting the international adoption process. That means that children from Rwanda and China will one day have a families to call their own. And, I was also blessed to re-connect with a friend a few weeks ago that I had not spoken with (except via FB) that is leaving THIS MONDAY to bring home a second daughter from China. As crazy as her life is, she took time out to encourage me, lift me up, and share with me some godly counsel about the process of adoption. BLESSED.
I feel the need to stop at 10. Please know that I could keep going, but you probably don't have the desire or time to read them all. God has blessed us SO much. We have been SO encouraged by SO many of you. We are appreciative of every card, text, message, e-mail, FB post, etc., that we have received from so many of you expressing care or concern or love or encouragement. Please know that we have felt SO loved by so many of you.
What I pray that you hear and read from this post is not bragging, or showing off, or telling about how many wonderful things have happened, but I pray and hope that what you hear is the absolute goodness of God. Please know that we are fully aware that we are completely undeserving of EVERYTHING good that has happened to us. We live in a culture that says, "I deserve..." We are guilty of it, too, at times. I deserve a break. I deserve to not have to do anything. I deserve this new ______________. I have earned this, so I deserve it. Hear me, and don't think I am morbid when I say it, but the only thing that we deserve in this life is DEATH. The only thing. Jesus paid the debt of what we deserve on the cross, so that those who believe in Him and choose to follow Him are free from that debt. However, it will forever be the only thing I ever deserve. Everything else that is given to me in this life...lavished on me...is the absolute GOODNESS of God.
I'm going to leave you with a song...check it out. It's Matt Redman's newest song, and it has been an incredible reminder to me of the goodness of God. It's called "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)." The message of the song is that no matter what happens to us in this moment, on this day, or throughout the course of this life, in any given moment, we have 10,000 reasons to sing praise to God. There will always be new praise and worship songs being written because there will always be something to praise Him for! So, in those moments when you are tired, weary, discouraged, frustrated, angry, hurt, in pain, and on and on, seek to give Him praise for all He has done. In hindsight, my little list of 10 things looks ridiculous, and I can already think of 90 others that should be added onto that list. But, I hope you get the point, and I bet you're glad I didn't list the full 100. :)
"The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us...But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children - with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts."
Matt Redman - "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)"