Monday, January 31, 2011

Learning to Wait

In Psalms alone, I am told to "wait for the LORD" 17 times.  Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations drives that point home, but also tells me to do it patiently. 
Micah says, "But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me."
In Zephaniah, God doesn't suggest or beat around the bush; He comes right out with, "Therefore wait for me,” declares the LORD!..."
The New Testament takes a less direct approach and gives us countless examples of people waiting on various things - miracles, answers to prayers, rain, crops to grow, healing, people to show up, etc...  And when you think you're done waiting, Revelation says, "...and they were told to wait a little longer."


I wonder why there are SO MANY verses reminding us to wait patiently?  (Maybe because He knew that this fallen world would produce more than it's share of control freaks.)  And can I tell you, international adoption is enough to send even the most mild mannered, patient person into a tailspin of worry and anxiousness.  You can control almost nothing.  Zero.  All you can do it wait...just a little bit longer...and a bit more...oh, and what the heck, let's throw in a couple more months of waiting just for the fun of it!  ARRGHHH!  (Say it in a pirate voice.  It's much more effective that way.)

Thankfully I'm patient.  Thankfully, Brian is even more patient.  Not so thankfully, I like to know what's going on.  So for the first 3 months of this adoption process, when all the paperwork was in our hands, I was blissfully ignorant.  Now...not so much.  I am hypersensitive to that fact that signatures are still missing on Isaiah's birth certificate...that St. Vincent goes to court only on Friday's, which means we have one shot, or we have to wait another week....that I'm not appreciating "island time" (which translates "We get to it, when we get to it" - say it in a cool Caribbean accent.  It takes the edge off my frustration when said that way)...that our Embassy is closed on a particular day in March which can set the whole adoption back another 2 weeks.  I am hypersensitive to the fact that everyone keeps telling me that God funds what he favors, yet we are still about $10,000 short...that we pulled out of a mission trip to Ethiopia in mid-February because we thought the children would already be home.   

I'm seriously trying not to focus on the negatives and the "what-if's".  One, because it's completely ungodly!  Two, because it's a huge trap of the enemy!  By consuming myself with the things completely out of my control, I lose sight of what God has called us to.  My attention and my focus is no longer on Christ, but on myself and the children.  I forget that He who called us to this adoption, will see the work completed.  I forget that God already has this completely planned out.  Not a single detail has He left out and nothing I do can or will change that fact.  I forget that the LORD has provided ways to fund this adoption and I just need to get my hiney in gear and follow through on fundraising!!  I forget that I am NOT the one in control (THANK GOODNESS!)!

Though I don't like it and most times I am dragged kicking and screaming to my knees, (figuratively speaking), I am slowly understanding why God wants us to wait - patiently.  It perfects our faith and it develops perseverance. It creates a deeper intimacy and reliance on God when we turn to him, not things or people of this world, when life isn't going according to "our" plan or on "our" timeline.
I think my LORD takes great delight in thwarting my self-redemptive plans. :)  Why?  Because it's in that brokenness, with pride gone and humility leading, that I cry out for help.  It's in that place of humility that God meets me.  His ears are opened to my cry and His arms are outstretched.
And the best part of His rescue??   He rescues me, not because he feels sorry for me, but because He delights in me!!  He reaches down from on high and takes hold of me so that His name will be glorified through the nations!  So that the work He started in me, before time even began, will be completed!

We are not only told to "wait" but we are told to "Wait in HOPE."  That is an action verb, not a passive noun.  We are to be hopeful as we wait!  We are also commanded to "Be strong and to take heart!" while we wait.  Again, action verb.
I think Christians can sometimes fall in a trap when we wait for God.  We can become one of two things: 
1 -We can overcompensate because we think God is taking too long and we kick start our plan into action.  (Completely faithless and usually where I find myself.)
2 - We become Eeyore.  "Oh, I guess I'll just sit here and wait.  Maybe someone will come along and help me.  Maybe God might see me and take pity on me.  Maybe, if he's not too busy, he'll grant me a wish or two."  (Say in an Eeyore voice for the full effect.)  The danger of Eeyore is that eventually, your pride will turn completely inward and turn into self-loathing.  This quote from Eeyore sums it up,

Eeyore, the old grey Donkey, stood by the side of the stream, and looked at himself in the water.
"Pathetic," he said. "That's what it is. Pathetic."
He turned and walked slowly down the stream for twenty yards, splashed across it, and walked slowly back on the other side. Then he looked at himself in the water again.
"As I thought," he said. "No better from this side. But nobody minds.
Nobody cares. Pathetic, that's what it is."

That is what "Losing Heart" looks like.  DON'T LOSE HEART in waiting for the LORD!

So to recap - whatever is going on, whether it's adoption, pregnancy, moving, marriage, job opportunities, healing, whatever..., don't be anxious or worried about it!  Take it humbly and persistently before God in prayer, and then
"Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD."  (Psalm 27:14)
And through it all, NEVER forget that the LORD is near. 
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds..."

"Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.  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 through wordless groans."
Romans 8:23-26

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Books, Books and More Books!!

Lately, the sound of a knock at the door puts a smile on my face and a skip in my step.  Not just any knock, but the sweet knock of our mailman (mail lady actually).  I am finding myself actively anticipating her arrival.  She has been the reason I've made my appearance presentable (i.e. have changed out of jammies or the hubby's t-shirts) for the day. :) You see, I had a reality moment a week ago when I felt completely unprepared for the arrival of Isaiah and Ruth.  I panicked and realized that I had no children's books that celebrated who they were, their culture or their heritage.  I also panicked at the thought that my entire preparation was based solely on the first 6 chapters of "The Connected Child."  So in my completely, not relying on God-fallen-controlling self, I got online and researched every book, article or blog I could find.  The end result was $150 in books, both for Brian and I and the kids.
now all the books I ordered are starting to come in and it's So Fun!!  Here are the books that came yesterday...

Up above is a book called "Dancing in the Wings."  I LOVE IT!!!!  The book is about a little girl whose dream is to be a ballet dancer, but she doesn't look like the other girls and she is taller and thinner, with bigger feet than all the other girls.  Though her brother teases her, her mother and uncle encourage and support her and she goes on to be a beautiful ballerina. 
From the moment I met Ruth, I thought Ballet Dancer.  Her physique, her composure, her feet - everything! 
And, she wants to dance!  I'm so grateful I found this book.    

My favorite though, isn't a children's book or an adoption book, it's a large, hard back book that is all about St. Vincent.  It is so rich with history and information about the kid's birthplace.  We love reading it and looking at all the pictures.  I hope Isaiah and Ruth like it too!  I also ordered quite a few books on Caribbean culture and children's books whose characters are from the islands.  There is even one that takes the story of Cinderella, but uses an orphaned Caribbean princess as the main character.  It's so sweet!

Though I'm so excited and thankful that these books are coming in, I did recognize my behavior as a little faithless.  But how incredible that my God loves unconditionally, forgives without holding grudges, and walks me through these moments of "freak out" with such compassion and grace?! 
I do know it's important to be prepared, but ultimately, my strength, my counsel and my guidance comes from the LORD and His Word, not books.  And how wonderful that His counsel never changes?!  If it was changed or updated every few years, I would be a lost cause. :)

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Christmas - The one True gift

I'm learning a little bit about myself as I try and keep this blog.  And I'm annoyed at what I'm learning.  I'm not good at this chronological stuff.  And because I like to have all my ducks in a row, I am missing out on some incredible opportunities to share the daily and weekly miracles that are happening.  SO...I'm taking the pressure off me.  I'm just going to write.  I will eventually catch up...maybe...I hope.

It's 3 weeks after Christmas and all the decorations are finally packed away neatly in labeled containers in the attic.  Well my part is anyway.  There are 2 strands I can't reach in the trees and the big bulbs are still around the house.  Brian asked me this weekend if he could just paint the green wire white (our house is limestone) and leave them up year round?  I could care less, but considering the number of home association letters we received last year, it's same to assume that "they" might care.  I'm guessing those will come down this weekend...or next. :) 

I am sitting here thinking about Christmas.  And I am brought to tears by the simplicity of it this year. 
For those of you that didn't know, last Christmas - 2009, my dad was 2 months into radiation and chemo for stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in his throat.  He was very, very sick.  My mother was tired and seemed to be hanging on by a thread.  My middle sister, had recently flown back home to Alaska after spending the last 6 weeks here helping my parents.  My littlest sister had to run out early on Christmas day to make two Christmas's.  I'm not going to lie, it was hard, on many levels.
This year though, was different.  Again, on many levels.  This was not a rushing around, buying-anything-I-could-find-just-because-I-have-to-bring-a-gift type of Christmas for us.  For one, every dime we have is going towards bringing home Isaiah and Ruth so we didn't have the money just to spend.  But more importantly, this year was about family and spending time together, doing what we love. 

My family (minus my dad, my sister and her husband) at the trail of lights on Christmas night. 
And Yes, shockingly, we needed coats in South Texas.  For that night at least. :)
We played our favorite games, ate our favorite foods, and truly enjoyed one another.  It was the first time since high school that I stayed under my parents roof with 2 of my 3 siblings.  I beat my dad at Parcheesi, something I've wanted to so for almost 18 years!  I ate one too many, actually who I am kidding?!, I ate about 20 too many, of my sister's cookies.  (Suzie, please do NOT bring those powdered sugar thingies.  They are seriously evil!)  We were able to skype with Isaiah and Ruth on Christmas day from my parents house.  The foster parents had given them Santa hats and they were so proud of them!   
My family kept "popping" in for a quick hello and introduction.  I'm sure they were overwhelmed with all the strange faces, but my family is just so excited to meet them!  And I seriously can't figure out who is the most excited -their aunts, their grandparents or their great grandparents! :)  They sang us a Christmas song and thinking we could teach them a little history about the city they are coming to live in, we decided to sing them Feliz Navidad.   Of course, I don't speak a lick of Spanish, so my children and husband are tutoring me on the pronuncation and articulation of each word, prior to our skyping.  Well wouldn't you know it, Isaiah and Ruth knew the song - in English & Spanish and sang along!!  How awesome!  (And yes, I realized they already one upped me.)

But as I think about all of Christmas, I think my favorite memory will be looking over at my father as he made his Christmas dinner plate.  Gone was the port in his chest where his chemo was administered.  Gone was the single cup of tea that took 8 hours too drink.  Gone was the agitated, listless demeanor.  His plate had a little bit of everything with an extra helping of gravy, which he says, helps the food to go down. :)  Not only do I have my father back and the kids have a Pappy again, but God is truly restoring all the Glory he was always meant to possess.  I can't wait to see where God takes him. :) 

As amazing as this Christmas was, I am beside myself excited for next year!  My parents had 2 grandchildren to love and adore this year.  Christmas 2011, my parents will have 6!!  That's triple the amount!  How crazy fun is that going to be?  Thanks to my sisters, there will be a precious one year old, an adorable 8 month old, a six year old, a 7 year old and 2 ten year old boys.  My parents having 4 kids is finally paying off in grandchildren. :) 
I'm sure we will be even more broke next year than we were this year, but you know,the latest gadgets and the designer clothes don't matter.  It's just stuff that I can't take to Heaven.  And it takes our time and attention away from the things that do matter - Family & Jesus.  Love, forgiveness, grace, kindness and compassion matter.  Serving others in a spirit of true humility is where our focus should be.  A selfless sacrifice - that is what Christmas truly is about. 

Though there is no visual evidence left inside that Christmas was here, there is a feeling deep within that never fully lets me release Christmas.  Not anymore.  Not now that I truly know my Savior -the Savior that was born into this broken world.  Because HE was the greatest gift ever given.  And it is a gift from God to Us!  Not to be unwrapped only on December 25th, and then put away and stored until Easter and maybe occasionally brought out in a crisis moment.  Jesus is a gift that can be unwrapped every minute of every day!
I know Christmas is past, but there are 11 months till next Christmas.  So I'm thinking of it this way, if I start practicing now, I know I'll have it down by Christmas 2011.  It really is simple, but it take lots of practice.  It requires us to look away from our self; to crucify our flesh (our desires and our wants) and pick up Jesus's cross and follow Him, whatever that might look like and wherever that might take us. 
As John Piper says,  we have to "look away from man, and look to God. Look to Christ. Look to the cross, the capstone of a life of obedience and love. Look at the resurrection. Look at the rule of Christ over the kings of the earth. And there may you see his infinite worth, and receive him as the treasure of your life!"

As I go through the coming months, this old familiar Christmas song takes on new meaning;

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of his love

"And wonders of his love."  His love truly is a mystery.  One I don't question, yet I long to understand.  In an age where offense and grudges run rampant; where motives are ruled by selfish agendas, and unconditional love always seems to have conditions, it is hard for me to understand a pure, undefiled love that is given freely and in abundance.  Where NOTHING we do can make him love us anymore.  It is by Grace that HE loves us. 
If we could learn to love others just a fraction of the way God loves us, this world would have no orphans, the injustices that need fighting would diminish, the hungry would be fed and the naked would be clothed.  Hope would be restored to the hopeless.  It would be Christmas everyday!  I know it's not realistic now.  But there will be a day when this will be a reality.  So I will wait in anticipation for the coming of my King, for I know he is coming...soon....very soon.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the LORD forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on LOVE, which binds them together in perfect unity."
Colossians 3:12-14