Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Heavy Burdens, Choices, and What it Means to Live Life as a Day Hiker

 This morning we got some not so forward-movement news from Haiti and I posted this on facebook:

Well the latest news from Haiti sent early this morning was that our papers did not get dropped off to the Embassy last week as we were led to believe they were. (Shucks) Our director is now waiting until she has the corrected passport and sending them all at the same time. The work we thought the Embassy would be doing while the passport was being corrected will not begin until the passport is corrected and all is turned in together. This could set us back again for several weeks. Please pray for a fast passport correction so we can continue to move forward. We also found out this morning that there is still one more paper she is also waiting on and this is also why our other completed papers were not already sent to the Embassy yet—she is waiting for that paper to save time and gas with the trip to PAP. Please pray for this paper to become available as well as the corrected passport so we can move forward. Thank you!

One of my college friends who has been an active prayer support through this adoption then commented this in reaction to my post, “Oh Angie!! Steps forward one step back. Praying those papers get moving! It has to be frustrating that all the holdup to having your girl at home is because of paper!!!!”

I went to post a reply comment, but several minutes into typing I realized this was not a “comment” type of reply, but instead, an entire blog post reply. So, here is my reply to my friend AND, remarkably, the answer to my previous blog post's question that I mentioned wanting to tackle...the question of “Why is waiting so tiring?” I think you will see the answer unfold before you as you read on.

So without further ado, my thoughts in reply to this: “It has to be frustrating that all the holdup to having your girl at home is because of paper!!!!”:

Well, paper, yes, AND human mistakes when working on those papers! Yes, there is no doubt about it, it IS frustrating. It's frustrating to know that what one person with our form on their desk could most likely get it done in a matter of a day (or even a few hours of a day) but hasn't yet will potentially hold up our homecoming date by 3 weeks now. That if the person typing up our passport would have just double checked their typing for 30 more seconds to see the one wrong letter, I could be holding my girl in my arms for potentially 3 extra weeks beyond what I now get to. Yes, “frustrating” is the word I would pick. Basically it boils down to this...if humans weren't involved in the process then Nora would be celebrating her 2nd birthday with her family at the end of this month instead of celebrating it in the orphanage still. There isn't much about the adoption process that isn't frustrating if you look at it through the lens of logical thinking. And that is the ongoing battle....logical thinking verses the higher call of Christ. The higher call of extending grace, forgiveness, and peace in the midst of a broken world with broken processes all being carried out by broken people.

Today, friends, much the same as every day on this adoption journey (or through life for that matter) I have a choice to make. I can choose to dwell on the “what if's” and the “if only's” that come with every bit of news from Haiti. I can choose to be disappointed in the efforts of those I will never meet who have touched our paperwork and not moved it along fast enough for my liking. I can choose to dwell on the logical and be completely frustrated OR I can choose to set aside the rational thinking and the frustrations that come with it and look to God to overcome it with a peace that passes all understanding. I can look to a God who has power and authority to move things that would otherwise be at a standstill. To trust that God is bigger and more good than any human effort ever will be. To trust that God's grace covers not only me, but all those who are working on our papers.

When I got the email this morning, for example, at the same moment of feeling frustration and disappointment, I have to admit I also was thinking this, "Okay, God, here we are again! This isn't working out like we hoped and I need You to show up with Your power and authority that goes beyond what humans can even imagine. You are in control and when all else seems hopeless, You are STILL alive, active, and moving on our behalf. Like Toby Mac's song says, 'If you want to steal my show, I'll sit back and watch You go.' So, GO, God, GO!" With those two contradictory thoughts/feelings simultaneously happening in my mind this morning I am left with a choice to make...which one do I believe, which one do I base my attitude on, which one do I focus on for the remainder of the day? The disappointment or the hope. The heavy burden or the light?

For me, honestly, I need to do both and I think it is actually GOOD to briefly carry the heavy burden before giving it up, but let me explain why. For a moment of time, first, I need to be frustrated and disappointed and feel the weight of that burden on my own shoulders. I need to remain in my heartache long enough to acknowledge it properly and know what it feels like to be weighed down like that. I am not one who likes to be numb to the pain of life--to push it aside and try to pretend it isn't there. Nope, I'm the one that will live intensely right in it and get everything and anything the Lord has for me there before moving on. I want to KNOW the weight of what I am eventually handing over to Christ to carry for me. When I allow myself to carry it for a bit of time (and that time frame varies with each situation) I find myself even more grateful for a God who willingly and lovingly takes it from me and carries it for me. Wow, such sacrifice He gives for me. If I never allow myself to carry the weight of it all, would I ever comprehend even a fraction of that sacrifice? Would I be able to truly thank Him for what He has done for me if I don't even know what it was?

If you are like me, however, and choose to carry those burdens on your own for a short amount of time, there comes a critical moment where you also have to make the decision to give them up or you will quickly sink into living the life God never intended for you to live. A life of relying on our human, sinful, imperfect self or other human, sinful imperfect selves to bring lasting relief, comfort, and help. Such a lie. We have no ability to do such things. Only Christ. I was never created to carry heavy burdens. You were never created to carry heavy burdens. Christ was. This decision to lay your burden—your frustrations—your pain—at Christ's feet is harder than you think. In the heat of the pain, Satan encourages us to believe the lie that the burden of carrying it really is not as bad as admitting to Christ we need help to carry it. It's subtle, but it's there and if we choose to believe it, we forfeit God's gift of grace and move on through life carrying weights we were never meant to carry. After carrying it just long enough to know the weight of it, I have to give it up if I want the fullness of God in me. If I want the freedom of a lighter load.

So, what does that look like? What does leaving your burdens at the foot of the cross really mean? It sounds nice, but what does it mean practically for us humans? What does the lighter load look like on a daily basis? For me, I am not a person who can go through life empty handed—I am wired to carry something. If I'm not carrying a heavy load of burdens and God wants me to give it up and let Him carry it, I've still got to hold onto something so I don't pick it right back up again. Maybe it's because tend to be a person of compassion towards others—I can visualize Jesus carrying all my crap and I feel bad enough that I think I should take it back (see Satan's lie covertly slipping right back in there!). So, for me, leaving it all with Him requires picking something else up to replace it or I'll end up right where I started again. I personally replace the burden with Scriptural Truth. That is what I carry so I'm not empty handed...Scripture. Pure and simple...and quite frankly, much easier and lighter to carry. Today, for example, the Scripture I chose to carry instead of my frustration of this current set-back in our adoption is this: John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I can dump my burden on Christ and chose to carry the Truth that even though I will have trouble in this world, God Himself has overcome it. Much more refreshing, hopeful, and energizing to my soul. Truth for a weary traveler who still feels the need to carry something along the road, but is tired of carrying the heavy stuff. Yes, I had to look the Scripture up. I wish I had more memorized, but I just don't. I had to work to find it, but the release of the heavy weight and current carrying of this lighter load was worth the 10 minutes it took for me to find it. In even more practical terms, perhaps writing this short verse of Truth out and actually carrying it around with you for the day would be a great way of constantly reminding yourself of how you have chosen to not carry the burden.

Do you see it, friends? Do you see the answer to why this wait is so tiring? Because every day I am faced with choice after choice after choice of whether I carry the heavy burden or trade it in for much lighter Truth. My brain/my spirit has to constantly be in decision mode of what I'm going to carry that day. Some days I'm still carrying the heavy load and those days are much more tiring, while other days I chose to take the time to look up Truth to replace the burden. It still takes work to get to the easier load, but it is worth it in the end. To conclude, I'd like to leave you with this illustration. I'm a visual learner, so for those like me, hopefully this will help etch all I have written above into a neat little image you can think of in a split second when you need it.

God wants us to be a day-hiker. Yep, a day hiker. Life and every situation within life is a hike. We are on the move—we are going somewhere—we are hiking. I say “we” because God sent His Son, Jesus, to hike right alongside us. Sometimes there are even others on the trail too, but eventually all the others will have to stop to tie their shoe or take in a breath-taking scene and we will find ourselves with only Christ by our side. To prepare for the hike, we have packed all we think we will need for the life-long journey. It is all jammed into our mammoth backpack and let me tell you—it is HEAVY! However, it truly is what we need to make it through every situation that may come at us along the trail so it is essential to have that backpack with us. We begin this hike thinking we are the one who is supposed to carry that darn heavy backpack each and every day of the hike, but actually that is not Truth. Remember, we were never created to carry heavy burdens. Christ was.

Christ is not hiking the trail beside us just to keep us company, He is hiking it beside us so that He can carry that backpack for us. He desires us to use Him and all His crazy amount of strength along the journey. Instead of carrying that backpack, Christ is offering us the chance to life life—hike the trail—as if we were a day-hiker. Do you know the major difference between a through-hiker (one who is on the trail for longer periods of time) and a day-hiker? A through-hiker has to carry the heavy backpack because their journey is multiple days and a day-hiker has to carry a water bottle and some small amounts of food—only the essential needed for their body to successfully get through ONE DAY of hiking. That's it. One day. They carry only what they need for that day. This is what God created us to do. To hike the life-long trail one day at a time. To hike with all that we will need for an entire life-long journey on the back of Jesus while we carry the water and bread we need to make it for that day only.

And what has He said in Scripture is the “water and bread” we need to make it through that day? Dt. 8:3 says that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Scripture, friends! Scriptural Truth is the water and bread that will keep our bodies readily able to walk the day-hike before us. If we need anything else, we have nothing to fear because it is still within our reach—just carried for us by Jesus, ready for our time in need. All we need to carry is the light load of Scripture—that little piece of paper with Scripture written on it or that compact Bible that can fit in your purse or pocket. Can you picture how amazing this way of life is? You are still hiking—still putting forth effort, still working, still climbing, still facing challenges and dangers along the trail, but you are doing it all with very little weight on your shoulders and much more energy to enjoy the view, help fellow travelers, and have amazing conversations with your Traveling Buddy. Seems like the way to live...the way to hike. As a day-hiker.

Don't take my word for it though. Take His:

  • Ps. 68:19, "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens."
  • Mt. 6:11, “Give us today our daily bread.”
  • Ps. 81:6, “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket.”
  • Mt. 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
  • Mt. 6:31-34, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
  • Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
  • Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
  • John 6:63, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”
  • Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

    And, as far as the "steps forward and then a step back" thing my friend mentioned in her comment...I found this photo once along this journey and it brought a smile to my face.  It's all in our perspective.  I've been known to say I think I'll be a Latin dancer when I get to Heaven because I love it so much but don't quite have what it takes in my human form...ha!


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Waiting and Gleaning

One of the questions that rings through my head towards the end of a current 2 year, 2 month process is "Have I waited well?"  There is much talk about "waiting" in the adoption world because, unfortunately, much of the process of adopting is just that...waiting.  In a nut shell, you work like a crazy person to complete every piece of paperwork you have to and then the rest is waiting for those papers to get passed through governmental office after governmental office until they give you the green light to bring your child home.  You hurry to wait then hurry to wait and then hurry to wait again, but the majority of the time, you are waiting.  Waiting for a referral, waiting for signatures, waiting for the mail, waiting for approval, waiting for a birth, waiting for a plane, waiting for news, waiting for weekends like this one to be over so offices will reopen and movement is a possibility again, waiting for anything and what seems like everything.  It's tiring, to be honest, which is weird because when you are "waiting" it's like you are in a holding pattern instead of actively doing something.  Why is waiting so tiring?  Hmm...maybe that should be my next question to contemplate, but for today I will continue to address the subject of waiting and gleaning.

Have I waited well?  The answer...no.  Well, yes.  Maybe.  Umm...does it really even matter?  What is "well" anyway?  Who determines what "well" is?  My "well" could be someone else's "terrible" and yet another person's "amazing".  It's a silly question in the end because it really can't be answered factually.  It's all based on opinions.  I've come to see, for myself at least, that there is a better question than if I've been waiting well through our adoption process.  My better question is "Have I gleaned all God had for me during the wait?"  That one can be personally answered...at least as well as our limited human mind can answer it.

So, have I gleaned all God had for me during the wait?  Yes.  With all of my knowledge, I can confidently answer that question with a big ole' "YES!"  Now don't get me wrong, there have been what I call my "human days" where I have simply gone numb to what all God was doing around me and focused only on the tears that dropped out of the pain and deep sadness I was feeling.  BUT, even on those days--those human days--I know deep down inside that God was using them.  Using the raw emotions of a tired Mama to draw me closer to Him.  Nothing is wasted with God.  Nothing is wasted.  Not one day was journeyed in vain in the past 2+ years of this adoption.

Jesus had hard days too when His feet graced the earth.  His best friend died.  His church building was being corrupted.  His closest family and friends denied knowing Him.  He wept too.  However, the Bible doesn't dismiss mentioning the hard times.  God uses the hard times just as much as the highlight reel.  There is something to be gleaned from the most difficult moments.  That has remained True for me in this journey.  God's Presence has been felt intimately on those human days through whispers of reassurance..."It's okay to cry, Angie.  It's okay to weep.  It's okay to zone out, check out, be frustrated, be tired, be "so done with this", be angry...because you are still doing all those things IN MY PRESENCE.  My Spirit, remember, takes all those inward and outward groans that you can't even fully make sense of yourself and turns them into something miraculously beautiful.  He turns them into what My Father hears as the sweet music of a child who is committed to following His Call to completion no matter how hard, how long, how grueling the journey becomes."  In those deeply difficult days, I still had a Father who loved me right where I was at and ushered me into the beautiful right in the middle of the pain.  I gleaned, and because I chose to glean, I experienced His love, grace, joy, and hope in the midst of the battle...in the midst of the wait.  And, just for the record, this same amazing love, grace, joy, and hope from the Lord was also experienced in the moments of HUGE celebration along the road too.  Both the painful and the joyful have something to glean from, and unfortunately, you can miss out on God's glory in both if you are not mindful/heartful towards the gift God is offering.  God's Presence is always there for you to soak in and glean from.

So, yes, I believe I have sucked the holy of each and every moment along this journey as best I could and it has brought me joy unspeakable and a peace that passes my own understanding!  As long and hard as the wait has been, I know without a shadow of doubt that this has been an amazing journey that I was MEANT to be on.  By gleaning all God has for me on each step, I have transformed from who I was into a bit more of the "Angie" God originally made me to be.  By walking each step with Him, I have been able to say I have enjoyed the journey, can end it thankful for what I have experienced (the good, the bad, and the ugly of it), and can encourage others to take the leap of faith and answer the call of adoption themselves.  I can also go into the hands-on part of parenting Nora knowing I have gleaned all that God wanted for me along the waiting journey and will be a much better parent to her because of it.  (Now, to just get this girl home to do that very thing!)  By the world's standards, I could have complained less, been more active, stayed more prayerful, perhaps not have used as many tissues, etc, etc, etc, but between God and me, I have heard deep down in my heart the blessed words "Well done my good and faithful servant.  In you I am well pleased."  I know I am far from perfect, but by sticking this out with the grace of Christ, it has been a remarkable, beautiful, messy, perfectly life-altering experience that I am forever grateful He called me--invited me--to wait through and glean from.