Wow! This has truly been the craziest summer that we have ever experienced. I am truly thankful to have just survived it. Neal has worked more this summer than I can remember him working in a while...probably since his Army days. Our Home Study and Dossier preparation have kept us constantly on the go in our "spare" time. And, we are back on our normal school, Life Group, and church schedules. We had truly hoped that the craziness of work and the adoption would have eased by now, but that isn't how it has worked out so far. But, we simply MUST be on the downhill slope. MUST. I am CONVINCED of it. We shall see...
Good news! Our hard work on the adoption has indeed paid off! We are almost DONE with the Home Study, and we are hoping to have it sent off to the state of Illinois for their approval sometime next week. That will initiate the first of our waiting periods. We have also been working on our Dossier simultaneously. For those of you, like we were pre-adoption, who have no idea how to say "Dossier" or even know what it is, I will explain. The Dossier is basically a large stack of extremely tedious paperwork and documents that you must gather and compile and then place WITH your Home Study to send to the country from which you are adopting. If that sentence makes it sound complicated, I did not do it justice. Please multiply it times 25 and pray hard for anyone who is currently in that phase. It is mind-bogglingly crazy, hard, and so frustrating and overwhelming at times that I have just sat and cried. Other times I have laughed. Other times I have sat in the middle of a stack of papers just trying to figure out what to do next. MANY times we have questioned our own sanity (those times usually correlate with the days we are convinced we are thoroughly messing up the three lives already entrusted to us!). It's enough to make you crazy. But, like I was told by a dear friend who went before me in the land of adoption, IT CAN BE DONE. With that said, our Dossier is ALSO almost complete! HALLELUJAH! Glory to GOD! I won't bore you with more tedious details of the adoption because once I start talking about it all, I can even get myself confused sometimes! With that all said, just know that we are basically nearing the end of the paperwork phase and are closing in on the beginning of the waiting phase. Again, HALLELUJAH!
This post started in my heart several weeks ago, and God has been slowly working it out in my life. You see, September 18, 2011, was a very special anniversary in the life of our family. It marked one year since our sweet Ella gave her heart to follow Jesus Christ. I hope that the anniversary of that day never passes without me recognizing the importance of it, so that I can once again pause to give thanks to my Savior for the sacrifice that He paid for her sins and mine to make life eternally possible with Him. He is SO good. We spent the day with our sweet friends, the Newmans, and we had a wonderful time in a special prayer service with our Harvest family. During our time of thanksgiving, I was moved to tears as my heart again felt the weight of gratitude that was within me for the salvation of our firstborn. What a God we serve that He can call and make Himself completely known to even children. He is SO good.
Ella was five years old when she gave her heart to Jesus. For those of you who don't know the story, our cat, Emmy, had died just 3 days before. Those 3 days that followed were very sad for us. Ella took Emmy's death very hard (as did her Mommy!). She began to have a lot of questions for us about death, dying, and Heaven. We had talked with her many times before about all of the above, but her persistence was so different this time. Neal and I found ourselves really struggling with the idea of a five year old truly grasping all that it means to be a follower of Jesus. It's a hard road. It's not paved with lollipops, roses and sunshine. To follow Jesus is to live a life of obedience.. Sometimes...often, at great cost. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Is their joy? No doubt about it. But sometimes that joy is found in the darkest places, in our hardest days. Matthew 16:24 says, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Based on that, we aren't among those who believe that you say a prayer, get your free ticket to Heaven, and live life in whatever manner you choose. It's a serious decision that requires that we lay down our lives (maybe literally), our wants, our desires, and our plans, and CHOOSE to go wherever and do whatever He leads us. THAT has become even more real i our own lives these past few years, and these are the things that we wanted to make sure that Ella understood. But, knowing that Jesus talks many times about children (Matt. 18:2-5; 19:14) and how much He adores them, we were very open to the idea that He could indeed be making Himself known to Ella. We spent much time praying about it, and we were trusting Him to show us. Finally, the night she prayed to receive Christ into her heart, we knew that she was ready because the conversation and her desire were clearly not going away. We prayed with her, we heard her ask for God's forgiveness for her sins and declare her desire to follow Him, we celebrated, we cried, we laughed, and we thanked our God for His goodness. However, I will say, that we honestly still had doubt about whether or not we had explained it adequately for a five year old. So, we decided that we would do as the Word of God says, and we would look for the fruit (Matt. 7:20).
And, boy, did it come!!! I cannot describe to you what a joy it has been to watch the fruit of the Holy Spirit blossom in the life of our five year old and now six year old little girl. I wish that I could put a year's worth of her prayers and our conversations in this blog for you to read, but I have tucked as many as I can away into my heart to ponder for years to come. The Holy Spirit has come shining through her little life in truly more ways than I can count. She has prayed diligently for missionaries by name, mission teams, healing for her baby brother, the adoption and health of her Ethiopian brother, salvation for her friends, salvation for the world, healing for those going through sickness, travel safety for friends and family, and on and on. She has asked deep questions about orphans as we have gone through the adoption process, and, in her very six year old way, has figured out how to make sure that ALL 147 million orphans have a home. Her plan: every family adopts 1 orphan. I think she is on to something, and I have sneaking suspicion it could work. :) And, it truly has been a year of these types of conversations. It's been an absolute JOY to watch God move in her little life. She has a heart that is hungry for God.
However, NO conversation or prayer has had such a profound effect on me as the one she and I had about two weeks ago. As we were riding to school one morning, this is the conversation that unfolded from the backseat of our minivan...
Ella: "Mommy, I have a plan."
Me: "What's your plan, Ella?"
Ella: "I think that one day, we should go to every house in our neighborhood and write down it's number. On the second day, I think we should go to every one of those houses and tell them about Jesus. On the third day, I think we should look back at our list, and we should make sure that we got them all."
Me: (I have forgotten my exact response, but I am pretty sure it was a shocked, mumbled version of...) "Wow, Ella! That IS a plan!"
On the rest of the way to school, I shared with her how she could share Jesus with her teacher, her friends at school, and other people she meets. But, she was still pretty adamant about her plan. When she got back in the van that afternoon, here's how the conversation resumed...
Ella: "Mommy, I have been thinking more about my plan."
Ella: "I'm kind of nervous about talking to people about Jesus. Maybe we should just start first with our street, and tell everyone on our street about Jesus."
Me: "That's a good idea."
And, that's where it stopped for about 2-3 days...And, isn't God funny? He wanted me to know He heard our conversation. As I was forcing my cardio-hating self to do torture on a treadmill and listening to my praise and worship music so as to distract myself from staring at the slow-moving clock, I very clearly heard the Holy Spirit whisper this to my soul...
Holy Spirit: "So, are you going to do the plan?"
Me: (gulping for air and grabbing the side of the treadmill) ....(no words)
Holy Spirit: "So, are you going to do the plan? OR, are you going to teach her about fear?"
Me: (again, nothing)
And, that is where it sat for a little while. Me, just thinking and processing and deciding that I was going to HAVE to be obedient. I canNOT be the one to teach my precious child that we are AFRAID to talk to people about Jesus. Oh, how I don't want that to be me! And, then, just as clearly as that treadmill conversation was to my heart, came another one...
Holy Spirit: "Unhindered." I felt like He whispered it over and over and over again. "Unhindered. Unhindered. Unhindered. Unhindered. Unhindered."
Holy Spirit: "THIS is what the unhindered Holy Spirit looks like."
And, then, I got it. Or, I am starting to get it. It's been a process. But, in that moment I got that my six year old little girl doesn't know that it's not typical to go to church, to hear about Jesus, to hear that we should share Him because He is great, because His Word is true, and because He is SO good, and JUST NOT DO IT. She doesn't even begin to understand why anyone would hear all the wonderful things about Jesus, know that there are those who do not know Him, and just CHOOSE not to share Him with them. And, I can either be the one to teach her that fear, that disobedience, that total lack of love for another, or I can CHOOSE to show her how to be obedient to the Great Commission, to lead by example, and to reach out to others with the love of Jesus Christ.
And, if I needed further clarification, a few days later, I went with my good friend, Ginny Smith, to the Beth Moore simulcast. God spoke so much to me through His word and through Beth's teaching. I am still processing through the event. But, I have to tell you that I almost quit breathing in the last few moments of the simulcast when one of her parting words to us was, "We were meant to live the UNHINDERED life." Are you kidding me, God? Who even SAYS that word in normal conversation??? Being an avid note-taker, I wrote it down. And, on the way home from the simulcast, I told Ginny the whole story. Apparently God knows how slow I am to get things through my thick head. I am tracking with you now, Lord.
And, so, I am saying it here. The Gruhns will be laying out a plan for evangelizing our neighborhood...starting with our street. Or, I should say, the Gruhns will be following the plan laid out by a six year old little girl to reach our neighborhood with the love of Jesus. And, as I told my friend, I have a feeling when we choose to be obedient, that He is going to blow our socks off! Not because of anything that Neal and I have done or will do, but because I think He has a plan in all of this to show Himself, to make Himself known, to get the glory, and to show a six year old little girl that He IS EVERYTHING that she believes Him to be. And, I have a feeling that her two slow parents are probably going to be humbled and amazed. I already am. Thank you, precious Jesus, for saving my sweet little girl. I hope to be a lot like her when I grow up. :)
One more note on adoption before I sign off...BIG news coming soon for how you can help us with our adoption process, just in case you were dying to do so! :) And, you can be a part of promoting an incredible cause! I'm going to be posting again in just a few, short days (you don't believe it, but it's true!!!). Be watching!
Thank you again for going with us on this crazy ride. It's like a wild road trip. The more friends you have with you, the better! Your love, support, and encouragement make us feel less crazy most days! :)
Love to you all!