I just told a friend and fellow adopting Mama yesterday, I've avoided writing a blog post for a little while now because I just don't have much positive gumption left in my attitude. I'm trying...I really am trying to keep a more positive perspective, to be grateful and remember there are others who have been in this hard place much longer than we have been (which actually just brings guilt), and even reminding myself we truly are getting closer and closer to the day we'll bring Nora home. The problem is all of these are honestly not touching the ache in my heart--they are just a trick to try to make me believe this isn't (or shouldn't be) as hard as it is. All of it is not working. Day 551 just hurts.
Yes, I can hear some of you saying right now--isn't this what you signed up for? Didn't you know from the beginning it would take at least 2 years to get her home? What else did you expect? Well, yes, we signed up for this adoption knowing it would take this long. Yes, we knew it would be long and hard, but what you think you know at the beginning of something this long never equates what it actually feels like when you are in the thick of it. When it's day 551, the excitement of the beginning has worn off, the ending seems too far away, and you feel left alone in your constant dwelling on a daughter in a different country and how you long for your family thoughts to rest in one location.
This is where Satan begins to have fun. Despite the fact others are praying for you and thinking of you, by day 551, you begin to feel very lonely. In the beginning many people asked about your adoption. They openly approached you and asked you what country you are adopting from or if you are fostering to adopt or doing a domestic adoption, if you have been matched to a child yet, what all the steps will be, how much money you need to raise, and how long is it expected to take, etc. You are busy raising funds and spreading the good news that you are "expecting" again. It is joyous and contagious and those around you, for the most part, are very supportive with hugs and conversations. They all seem involved. As time goes on, however, the questions diminish and the thoughts others are still thinking for you/about you become thoughts in their heads instead of verbal affirmations to your face. Prayers become private instead of corporate. The key here is not that others actually DO stop thinking and praying for you, but they just aren't as known to you so Satan starts to inch in those cracks ever so slightly with his lies. He begins to weave his way into your thoughts by making you doubt people even care anymore. He makes you question who is really even a friend anymore by thoughts such as, "If they are your true friend, they would still be asking you all about the adoption and they would sit with you while you express your frustrations, sadness and desperate desire to get her home. But, HA!, just look around...no one is asking. You don't really have any true friends. You are alone." Unfortunately by this point in the battle, you are so worn out and tired yourself that these lies of Satan are too easily believed and everything begins to spiral out of control. This fuels your misery even more and depression over the fact your family life seems completely split in your head and heart is compounded by this new lie that on top of that, you also have no real friends. It's sickening. It's a lie. It's Satan's work that needs to be combated with Truth. I, friends, I, I, I needed a big ole' dose of TRUTH on day 551.
The source of Truth can not come from friends. It can not come from talks with fellow adopting families. It can not come from anything but God Himself. Unfortunately, in the moments of loneliness, weariness, and frustration, our human nature typically doesn't just pick up a Bible first thing to regain momentum. Instead, it tends to throw out short prayers of desperation followed by a faint hope that those prayers "worked". Currently those hopes and prayers are then followed by an obsessed Mama checking her email for an elusive message miraculously saying our paperwork (that has been held up now for over a month) will have entered the next stage of the process. But, that is not happening. Eventually, your negative attitude settles just enough to realize how absurd all of your thoughts are and you resolve to open your Bible again and pray for the words to speak to your soul in a way that breaks through all the lies, all the depression, all the frustration, and all of the silence. Today, on day 551 I finally did just that.
The past two days God has been whispering to my aching soul "Read the passage of Moses raising his hands in battle to gain victory." The passage was somewhat familiar to me--I remembered that Moses was up on a hill raising his staff in his arms while the Israelite army fought a battle in the valley below. I remembered that when his arms holding that staff were held high, the battle was being won, but when his arms dropped down, the army began to lose. I also knew two others were there with Moses and by the end, Moses was too tired to hold his own arms up so they helped hold Moses' arms up to ensure the army's victory. Despite knowing these details of the story, I felt as if God was saying there was a little nugget of Truth in that story I needed to hear and it probably wasn't in the facts I could remember own my own. So, I turned to the story to re-read it this morning...Exodus 17:8-15.
Truth, friends. Truth is like nourishment to the soul. Sure, I had some of the facts of the story there, but some were wrong and some were missing and those were the very things God wanted to remind me of on day 551. Moses was lifting his hands up on a hill inevitably with a staff in them, but it was not "his" staff. It was God's staff. There is a major difference there. So long as he had God's staff lifted up high in his hands, the battle was going in the Israelite's favor, but when his hands were lowered and therefore the staff of God was lowered, the battle was swung the other way. You see, it wasn't about something Moses owned that made the difference--it was something of God's that made the difference. Yes, Moses was involved in the work of the Lord in those moments on a hill by raising his hands, but it was not his efforts that made the battle victorious...it was God's staff (I think, symbolizing His presence) that made Moses' role critical. If Moses would have simply raised his hands with no staff, who knows if the battle would have been won or not. Something of God had to be present for the victory. There are moments in this adoption process where it is very easy to think my own efforts are what is the driving force behind movement. It is easy to think it is because I'm holding my hands up that Nora is gaining the victory of a family who will love her and care for her daily, but that is not Truth. Truth is the fact that God is the One making things progress towards victory. I am just the one He has chosen to hold the staff up high. He doesn't need me to do anything but lift Him up during this journey...the rest is His to make victorious.
Secondly, Moses, who was only human, grew tired of holding God's staff above his head...who wouldn't. Have you ever tried to hold your hands up in the air for a long period of time? I can barely make it through several worship songs at church let alone an entire battle. However, when he was tired and weary, Moses had been proactive with a backup plan in his time of need. I doubt Moses invited Aaron and Hur up on the hillside with him to simply watch the battle unfold. I wonder, at least, if he deliberately brought these men along to be his helpmates when he needed them most. Maybe he knew his own weaknesses well enough he knew he would not be able to hold up his hands for the entire battle all on his own. When his arms grew weary, Aaron and Hur got a stone moved over for Moses to sit on and proceeded to hold his hands steady until sunset. Here is the second lesson God wanted to teach me today. I thought the lie Satan was saying to me in my moments of feeling so lonely was that I had no friends who really cared about me right now. Although that may have been the lie I was hearing, there was an even deeper lie discovered when I read this story of Truth today. The deeper lie was that it is a friend's responsibility to know I'm feeling frustrated, sad, or lonely. Lie. Truth: it is my responsibility to invite a few others to come with me on the journey up a hill. Just as Moses asked Aaron and Hur to come, I am the one responsible to ask my friends to help hold me up in my moments of weakness and tire. Satan has a wonderful way of making us believe we are not the ones at fault in our loneliness or whatever struggle we are facing--that the blame is on those who are not giving us what we need. He also has a wonderful way of making us believe each battle is ours to go through alone--that we can do it all by ourselves and don't need others to be involved anyway. He twists the story in such a sly way it is only revealed when compared and contrasted to Truth. Today, I walk forward knowing the Truth is: it is my responsibility on day 551 to not do this thing alone, but to find people to hold my hands up and see this battle become a victory.
Lastly, the ending of the story was a key factor to what I believe God wanted me to hear. At the end, when the battle was won and the events were recorded for memory sake, Moses built an altar and named it "The LORD is my Banner". A Banner. Just as Moses had held God's staff above his head in his hands, the Lord is a Banner over each of our stories, our journeys, making all of the battles victorious if we will only continue to hold Him up high for all the world to see. I am sure in the thick of the battle, especially in those moments when it seemed to not be going their way, there were soldiers on that battlefield wondering if God was really there. If God was really moving on their behalf or working all things together for their good. But, the Truth is HE WAS. He was there--overhead, like a banner, covering the whole day's events until the victory was captured. Even though this adoption journey is much longer than a one day battle, I have to remember that the Lord's banner of love is still over me. My hands, as weak as they are, are still raised and my energies are still invested in what He has called me to do. His Presence is there, still being upheld by my trust and faith and determination to see this battle through to victory. To do whatever it takes to uphold the will God has for this adoption. He is still honoring those efforts, as little as they are some days, and using them for His victory. On day 551 I needed a reminder that the Lord is my Banner too!
So many, many times in my life, God puts a cherry on top of His revelations to me through songs. Today, it comes in the form of two current favorites of mine..."Banner of Love" by Luminate and "Kings and Queens" by Audio Adrenaline. "Banner of Love" is the reminder of how important it is for us to be waving high that banner of love for others to see. "Kings and Queens" gives me a beautiful picture of that purple banner being waved overhead...a banner of love to the children who need it most. Plus it is a beautiful video of some special children in Haiti who no doubt had a BLAST on the shoreline getting to have fun like they probably never have had before.