Friday, May 25, 2018

Mountaintops and Valleys

Early 2016, I read two books that changed my life.  They propelled my faith to new heights.  Never had the composition for my life purpose been so clear.  Those books helped me to succinctly write my life statement for how I would use my gifts and talents to honor God not only in my life, but for my family as well.   I stood on the mountaintop, next to Jesus, looking out into the horizon of my future.  Excitement and joy filled my spirit as Jesus pointed to the colorful skyline, whispering plans, encouraging me to walk into a new level of obedience.  His arm wrapped around me, I never felt more secure in my faith.  The vision He gave me was crystal clear and exhilaration filled my entire being at the thought of walking out this journey with Him.  

For months, I reveled in the aftermath of that experience, often thinking back to the panoramic view that gave me vision to see farther and clearer.  The vista allowed me to navigate my faith course of desires and decisions to move me closer to God and His goodness.  I made bold moves in faith.  I quit my teaching job.  That was the beginning of the snowball effect of our intentional living.  After that, I pulled Munni from public school and we began our journey of whole life learning.  It is hands down the best decision I have made for our family.  We have grown together in ways that would not have been possible had we continued living the way we were.  Munni has experienced tremendous emotional healing.  The girls have flourished in their faith and in their relationship with each other.  Being intentional in our relationships, in our family, in our faith, in our learning, has been an incredible experience for which I am extremely grateful.  At the same time I quit my teaching job, I felt the Lord nudging me to pursue another adoption.  It seemed insane, but I was on this new journey of obedience so who was I to say no?  Exactly one year later, Mohini was placed into my arms.

But two months before that happened, God did something else.  Something that would alter the course of my life and permanently scar my landscape. 

He brought Sparrow into my life.

This time, it truly seemed crazy.  I was done with adoption.  Done. Done. Done.  But He kept nudging so I kept praying and walking forward in obedience.  Signs and wonders and prayers and miracles happened throughout the 11 months that I pursued her, right up to the moment I lost her.  It didn't make sense.  In my shock and grief, I stumbled backwards and fell off my mountaintop, hitting rocks jutting out from the sides on the way down, and landed hard in the valley below.

It was dark and I was disoriented from my fall.  Bruised, traumatized, and heartbroken, I gingerly tried to get up on my own.  I attempted to make sense of it all.  How could this be happening?  It had to be a mistake.  I did everything He asked of me.  Doesn't obedience end with blessing?  The walls of the valley were steep and blocked my view of the beautiful horizon I once gazed upon with Jesus by my side.  The brush was an overgrown maze of thorns.  I wept.  I was lost and didn't know how to get out of the wilderness in which I now found myself.

At first, the pain was about her.  I grieved losing her.  She was my daughter.  We prayed for her and thought of her as much as our family as if she were physically present.  It rocked us all.  Not only did I have to manage my grief, but my girls grieved the loss of their sister as well.  

But then, it moved deeper.  Up to this point, I had been pushing it away, focusing on all I knew to be true about God.  He is good.  His purposes are good.  He is loving.  He works all things for the good of those who love Him.  

Jesus came to me in the valley.  He reached His strong arm towards me and said, "Child, come."
I reached for His hand and began to walk.  The ground beneath me uneven, I stumbled along, losing my balance, and He steadied me with a simple Word each time.  We walked slowly.  Very, very slow through the valley.   I wore my faith draped around my shoulders like a tattered blanket, thin with holes; it barely kept me warm through the winter.  The bramble was thick and tore my skin with each step.  Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I sat down on a rock and cried.  I was stuck.  I couldn't move forward with Him until I allowed myself the courage to ask the hard question.  

How can I get healing from the One who hurt me?

In my tantrum, I challenged him through my sobs.  You say you work all things for good, but this seems cruel.  Why would You have me pursue her for almost a year just to take her away at the last minute?  I don't know how to trust You in anything anymore.

I fell flat on my face, baring my innermost hurt, admitting what felt like betrayal from Him.  He let me cry.  All of my grief poured out of me like a broken dam.  I was afraid it wouldn't stop.

The release of emotion and confessing my hurt felt like the lancing of a festering boil.  The infection oozed out and the pressure released.  I sat up and wiped my tears.  Jesus cupped my face in His hands and looked at me, "My Child, I am leading you through it."  His eyes penetrated so deeply to a hope buried in my heart.  I felt a flicker.  He held out His hand to me once again.  "Trust Me."  This time, with both hands, I grabbed ahold of His hand and His strong forearm and pulled myself up from the place where I had been stuck.

The path was dark and narrow.  We trudged through single file, Jesus leading the way.  I clung to Him so close I could feel Him breathe.  The thorns and branches still tore at my skin but I began to notice something.  I started to see the purpose in the pain.  Through my sorrow, the superficial things in my life that were taking up space were being stripped away.  One by one, they were ripped off, replaced with a scab, with new tissue growing underneath.  In a way that only Jesus can do, He opened my eyes to His grace in heartbreak where before I had only seen it in triumph.

In Psalm 23:4, David says, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me."  For You are with me.  I have learned that truth through my dark valley trek.  It has been horribly painful, but Jesus has been with me every step of the way.  Every time a thorn has ripped my skin, He has squeezed my hand tighter.  When I felt I couldn't take another step forward, He looked into my eyes with compassion and a love so sweet, collected my tears with His thumbs as He wiped them away, and encouraged me as only He can. 

I'm still in the valley but I'm getting closer to the edge of the clearing.  I'm learning that the real blessing of obedience isn't something tangible ~ it's relationship with Jesus ~ a deeper intimacy with Him.  

The longer I walk with Jesus I realize that in order to get to the mountaintop, it takes a long time walking through the valley.  But walking through the valley is where all of my brokenness, my helplessness, and vulnerability are openly displayed.  I was completely raw and exposed; I placed an absolute trust in Jesus and through this, grew an intimacy so deep and pure and beautiful between Him and me.

I know eventually there will be another mountaintop experience in my future.  But this one will be different because I am different.  I don't imagine it will be filled with the same exhilaration and excitement as previous summits.  No, instead I imagine witnessing something beautiful beyond words with the greatest Love of my life, and the intimacy of sharing that with Him, that will be my mountaintop.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Not the Highlight Reel

My perspective on adoption has evolved since I started my journey.  In the beginning, I was super self-focused.  I was excited to become a mom!  I couldn't wait to adopt a healthy infant, because... it was all about Me and My wants.  What I could handle.  What I wanted.  My dreams.  My longings.  I didn't want messy.  I didn't want special needs.  I wanted picture perfect.  I wanted those beautiful moments.  The Hallmark card.  The perfect story.  My daughter would be named Sofia because that was My girl name.  The name I wanted for My daughter forever.  Me.  Me.  Me.

I spent hours upon hours watching Gotcha Day videos.  I imagined the day some orphanage worker would place a beautiful baby in my arms, the camera would zoom in on my face, tears streaming down my cheeks, everyone filled with joy!  The moment captured forever when we became family and everyone lived happily ever after.  Can you see it?

And then God said, "we'll see about that my child, because I have a different plan."  He let my heart marinate in loss.  While the juices of sorrow soaked in, a funny thing happened.  My heart became tender to the things for which God's heart is tender.  And when it had been saturated enough, He brought the sweetest six-year-old into my life.  I'm so incredibly thankful God didn't give me my way.  

As I've continued on this path, other scales have fallen from my eyes.  Their extraction has been in large part, due to my children.  I look back at videos of my first two adoptions and cringe at things I did.  I was naive.  Even though I had read and researched VOLUMES on trauma and attachment disorders and been through hours of training, I can clearly see my mistakes.  Behaviors I mistook for attachment were clearly survival skills.  Two steps forward, three steps backwards.  We trudge along.

Right around Roopa's family day celebration, snuggled up in bed one night, we were talking about our trip to India.  We talked about the day we met Roopa and our time in India.  It was extremely traumatic for her.  Nervously laughing, Roopa said, "I thought you kidnapped me."  Her remark caught me off guard.  I looked at her and with fear in her eyes but mustering all the courage she had, she timidly asked, 

"Did you kidnap me, Mom?"

My heart shattered into a million little pieces.  Sorrow filled my being as I thought about the weight of that ugly lie she had been carrying in her heart for three years.  How many times had she looked at me and wondered?  How many times had she shoved that deep down within her?  How many times had she denied herself the answer to that question?  How many times did she wrestle with loving me and reconciling her emotions over the fear of the answer to that question?

I told her immediately I understood how it seemed completely logical that I kidnapped her.  Here I was, a total and complete stranger.  I looked nothing like any other woman she had ever seen.  I had blue eyes.  Blonde hair.  Funny looking skin.  I smelled different.  I didn't speak her language.  And I took her from the woman who, for all intents and purposes, was her "mom."  Even though she was a woman who worked at the orphanage, she had taken care of Roopa since the very first day she arrived at the orphanage.   So, in Roopa's mind, I kidnapped her from her mom.  I'm quite certain that many children who are adopted, have very similar emotions.

Thankfully, Roopa witnessed me go through two adoption processes.  I talked to her about all of the paper stacks for Mohini and Dove.  We talked about driving to the state capital for the apostille process.  We talked about how I had to get blood drawn.  We talked about the social worker coming to our house.  We talked trips to the bank, to the post office, to staples to make a zillion copies.  We talked about the fire marshall coming to our house to do the fire inspection.  We talked about all of the hoops I had to jump through to get to the point we are at now in Dove's process.  I told her, I had to do all of that for her!  I did not kidnap her.  I adopted her and it took a very long time.  I'm glad she asked me that question and she let me tell her exactly how she became my daughter.

These are the conversations you don't see in the youtube adoption fairytales.  

In January, I received two short videos of Dove.  I showed them to my neighbor.  The first thing she said was, "She's an old soul."

She's right.  She is.  You can see it in her eyes.  There is a loss.  A deeper understanding.  The other day, I received two more videos of sweet Dove.  We were able to send her a little book of us.  She saw our faces and our names.  As she is looking through this little book, she gets overwhelmed and looks off to the side.  And there it is.  That look.  So much loss.  Her little best friend was with her.  He is being adopted by an European family.  I don't know if he will be gone before we get her or not.  He was also in the videos I received in January.  This is a special relationship for her.  Another major loss.  So much change.  Her entire life is being decided for her.  Everything is changing and she has no say whatsoever.  Can you imagine?  How stressful that would be?  Obviously, a family is ultimately better than living in an orphanage.  But, these precious children already come with such loss and endure so much brokenness.  When I watched those videos I thought, this is a truer reflection of what our kids suffer and a more realistic portrayal of adoption.  

When it's time for us to finally go get our Sweet Dove, we are anticipating some intense grieving.  I'm mentally preparing myself for our trip to be similar to how Roopa grieved.  Roo told me that she's going to sing lullabies to her.  She has a compassionate heart and an understanding I can never know.  I think about my little family and our mosaic and how God has knit us together so perfectly in our brokenness and imperfections.  We pray for Dove every night.  We pray for her tender heart.  We pray that she will let us love her through her transition.  We pray that peace will override fear.  We've been praying this verse for our family and continue to pray it for Dove as her life nears a new dawn.  

"For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."

Isaiah 43:19

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Today is Sparrow's birthday.
Moving through this grieving process has not been easy.  It's a strange phenomenon how God can knit a child into your heart, and then take that child away.
But the love remains.

This past year has been hard.  Really hard.  I wish I could say that I've handled this whole situation with the upmost grace and wisdom and all things holy.  I haven't.  I've had bouts of anger.  I've had wicked thoughts.  I've had heartbroken thoughts.  I've had thoughts of despair.  I've had thoughts of apathy.  It's been a struggle.

I'm an avid reader.  One particular book I read since losing Sparrow ministered to my soul.  A section I highlighted, ended up getting copied onto an index card and carried around with me on a daily basis.  Shoved into my jeans pocket.  Tucked into my jacket.  A gentle reminder of my journey here.

"Jesus is not primarily a teacher of information or morals.  His teachings go much deeper than that.  He is a teacher of a way or a path that leads to change and transformation and a new heart brought about by a surrendered life deeply centered in God."  

And I will go further to say that for me, the surrendered life is reached through suffering.  As painful as is it, I've learned to recognize the sweet in it, as there is no other conduit that draws me closer to Jesus in such an intimate way.

Every winter, my parents go down to Florida.  Last week, I drove the long drive down there so we could have a much needed respite.  I desperately needed a reset.  Admittedly, I did a horrible job of self-care last year and was not in a good place.  I needed serious down time.  On top of that, it seemed like day after day was never ending gray and rain and mud and cold and snow and just made me want to sit on my couch and do nothing.  
Waking up to sunshine and warmth was an immediate relief.  I know that sounds dumb, but that's how out of whack I was.  We spent all Sunday by the pool and on the beach.  I felt the sand in between my toes and let it fall through my fingers.  I loved looking at all of the shells and walking on the beach with the girls.  Slowly, I could feel some of the stress and anxiety dissipating.

Monday morning, my dad followed me to the Honda dealership.  My minivan had been making a horrible noise and I was so incapacitated, that I didn't deal with it and just drove to Florida.  I know.  Stellar move.  My dad heard the noise Sunday morning when we arrived and insisted we take it in first thing the next day.

Anyway, Josh in the service department wasn't feelin' our non-appointment, early morning drop-in.  He wasn't fond of my sound descriptions either.  I was a hot mess.  I basically rolled out of bed, threw on a hoodie over my tank, flip flops, and a messy bun, standing there with my dad.  Josh had an attitude and was clearly annoyed.  I wanted to cry.  I told him when I purchased the van, I also ended up getting some kind of expensive warranty that ended up covering a new engine 6 months after I bought the van.  I said some other stupid stuff that I don't remember because I talk too much when I'm nervous.  I get nervous when people are annoyed with me and Josh was just staring at me.  He got up to go get the VIN number and the mileage off the van; I told my dad I thought we should just leave it there.  I took my hoodie off because I was getting sweaty from being nervous and Josh was making his way back to the desk.  I tried make a joke and asked him if he thought I was going to have to Fred Flintstone it back to Ohio.  He looked at my sleeve, winked at me, and said, "I got you."
I blushed.  I felt like a high school girl.  Who knew my ink would turn my day around?  I turned to my dad and he told Josh to give us a call when they figured it out.  In the end, it needed two front axles replaced and some other stuff.  Josh took care of it and made me feel like a million bucks when I picked it up.  It's the little things like someone telling me, "I got you," or my dad basically holding my hand at the car shop because I was so worn down that I couldn't do that simple task myself.  I needed his support.

I let myself just be.  We didn't have an agenda.  We rested.  We played.  We swam.  We talked.  We were quiet.  I read.  It was a healing time for me.  
Roopa got baptized and we celebrated Munni's Forever family day.  I'm so very thankful that we spent that time with my parents.  My girls love them so much and each day with them is a gift.  
One day on the beach, my mom and I were talking about Sparrow and the whole situation.  She shared a story she heard.  She said a man had been pondering the Trinity of God and tried to understand it as he walked along the beach.  He came upon a little boy who was busy digging a hole in the sand.  The little boy had a bucket and was running to the ocean, filling the bucket with water, running back to the hole, and dumping the bucket into the hole.  
The man asked the little boy, "What are you doing?"
The little boy replied, "I'm putting the ocean in this hole."
The man gasped, "You'll never be able to do that!"
The little boy replied, "And you'll never be able to understand the Trinity."

It is such a great picture for me, because I will never understand God's ways.  I'm learning each day, some days better than others, to open my hands, let go, and trust.  For whatever reason, only he knows the purpose and specifically why I needed to go through it.  He knew the transformation that would take place within me.   It has taken me to a deeper place than I've ever been.

On the long 15 hour drive home, I had a lot of time to think and pray and listen to music.  I was struck by one of Alanis Morissette's songs and thought, how did I want to be?  Which refrain did I want my life to reflect?

Cause I've got one hand in my pocket 
and the other one is giving a high five
and the other one is flicking a cigarette
and the other one is giving a peace sign
and the other one is playing a piano
and the other one is hailing a taxi cab

I decided that I want my other one to play the piano.  In the pain of the journey, I want to make something beautiful ~ even if it's just plucking out a simple one-handed melody.

All week long we collected shells. Whole shells and broken shells.  I thought about those shells throughout the week.  I pondered how Jesus uses our broken state to make something beautiful.  I look at my family and how each of us have our own broken shards, different colors, different shapes, and he has masterfully created the most breathtaking family mosaic from all of our individual pieces that none of us ever would have imagined.  I love my girls with everything that I am; but I wouldn't be their mom if not for my broken pieces.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Our Little Dove

2017 ended in the worst way imaginable when we lost Sparrow.
We had been praying for her for almost a year.  So many prayers.  And then, in an instant, she was gone.  Our dream of her joining our family shattered into a thousand little pieces; I stood in the middle of the shards trying to make sense of it all.  Only, none of it made sense.  I've come to the point of acceptance that I will never understand why it happened the way it did.  I also know that she will always be my little Sparrow.  In my heart, she will forever be my daughter.
I don't think I realized that amount of underlying stress and anxiety I had experienced while praying and waiting for her.  It was like a constant pressure on an open wound.

A week after the match devastation, the waiting child advocate sent me a file of a child.  In her email, she said the only reason she sent me the file was because of a conversation that she and I had a month prior, when I was still in the home study phase.  When you adopt, part of the process requires you to go through a checklist of special needs for which you are comfortable accepting.  It's an extremely bizarre experience and nothing about it feels good.  She and I were talking about that checklist and I casually told her how Kristen during adoption #1 vs Kristen during adoption #4 are two totally different people.  I've learned a thing or two along the way, and special needs that would have scared the bejeezus out me then, don't even cause me to bat an eye now.  Almost all of the medical challenges I've dealt with my girls were all things that were never disclosed in their files. 

You take in the information, process it, adjust, and move forward.  Because at the heart of it, is a child.  A child who needs a family to call their own.  A child who had no control over the special need assigned to them for the rest of their lives.  
She told me this child had been waiting for a very long time, almost two years.  She told me that this special need is one that adoptive parents are not pursuing.  She told me that there are many children with this need who continue to wait and wait and wait.
She told me that she thought about our conversation and wondered if I was interested.
I emailed her back and told her I wasn't interested.  I told her I didn't know if I would ever get to a point of considering another child.  I told her my heart was broken.

She responded.  She told me she was matched with a child for 18 months and then it all fell apart and she lost the child.  Eighteen months.  But then, she found her daughter.  She told me that people tried to tell her that she lost her first child so she would find her daughter.  She told me that she hated hearing things like that and knew I didn't want to hear it either.  She told me that she still thinks about the first child, but it is no longer with sadness.  I told her that I couldn't imagine.

The weeks passed, Christmas came and went, and with it, so did my hope of Sparrow ever coming back to us.  I stood at the edge of the new year and surrendered all of my dreams, hopes, desires, and plans for my family.  As I threw them over the cliffs, I told him not my will but his.  Blank canvas.  Have your way.  Do what you want with me.

He reminded me of Noah and the Ark.  This last year felt as if I built my own ark by stepping out in faith and pursuing Sparrow.  Then the rains came.  And it rained and it rained and it rained.  Tossed around by the storm of grief, I lost my orientation and became nauseous from processing her loss.  It felt as if the swells of raging emotions would never subside.

Then one morning after Christmas, I woke up and something was different.  The wave that used to knock me over the moment I opened my eyes, had become a gentle, rocking sway.  I opened the window of my ark and found the storm had ceased.  Still surrounded by water, I knew that underneath the sea, my landscape was forever changed.  

With each new day, the water began to subside.  Glimpses of sunshine through the love of my daughters felt warm on my face.  The lull from my sea of emotions became familiar and somewhat comforting; but ultimately, I wanted to step on dry land. 

I started to wonder how my new landscape would look.  I started and ended each day by staring at the horizon, hope slowly returning.  I waited for the day the little dove would return with an olive leaf in her mouth, signifying peace and new beginnings.

The waiting child advocate emailed me again.  She sent me the list of all the children for whom they advocated.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to open the attachment.  Something in my heart nudged me to do it.
I scrolled through the many faces.  Every one a jewel, just waiting for their family to find them to bring out their radiance that stays hidden behind empty eyes.
Pages and pages and pages.  
On the second to last page, I stopped.
There she was.
The little girl the advocate had emailed me weeks ago.
Still waiting.
I stared at her little face.  This sweet child who has no control over the future that's in front of her.  
I hit reply.
I asked to see her complete file but deep in my heart, I already knew what I was going to do.  
I knew that I was going to change her status from Waiting Child to Daughter.

My daughter.
Their Sister.

I am officially matched!

Her orphanage sent us a little video and we all gathered around to catch a glimpse of her sweet personality.
The girls are thrilled for their new sister and my heart is filling with love for her.

But I am changed.  
My landscape is nothing like what it was before.

 God brought me to a deeper place of acceptance and to a fuller understanding of what it truly means to adopt.   Knitting her into the fabric of our family is an honor and obedience of faith.
This precious child coming into our lives is 100% because of total surrender to God and letting him paint on the canvas of my life.

Our little dove fluttered into our lives at the end of a typhoon season and she has brought a sense of peace that I can't describe.  But one thing I can say is that through all of this, God never left me.  We've opened the door from our ark and let down the ramp.  As we step into our new beginnings onto dry land, we know that God is creating beauty from ashes.  We are walking into the new day rising and I know deep within me, 
all is well.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Surrendered Faith

My "word" for 2017 was metamorphosis.
I'd say this year hit that nail on the head.
I am not the same person I was on December 31, 2016.  However, my vision of what I thought the word metamorphosis would mean in my life versus God's version are polar opposite.
This past year, my faith has been stretched, bruised, snapped, and fractured.  The beautiful result of all the trials and heartache I've endured is a depth in my relationship with Christ that I've never before experienced.   I've grown in ways I didn't know were possible and quite honestly, ways that my human self never would have chosen.  

Losing Sparrow the very hour I was finally able to be matched with her has been brutal.  I covered her in prayer for almost a year.
And then, she was gone.  

It threw me into a tailspin of questioning; a vicious cycle of never-ending whys.  Why did God allow that?  Why did he bring her into my life?  Why did he knit her so deeply into my heart?  Why did he give me such a powerful dream about her?  Why did he provide signs and assurance along the way?  Why did he open the pathway to her just to slam the door at the last minute?  Why did he allow me to experience such excruciating heartbreak?  All of those and more led to further questioning:  

Do I even know God's voice?

I've been a believer and follower of Christ for many, many years and this question shook me to the core.  I thought I knew his voice.  I study his word.  I pray all of the time.  I seek wise counsel.  How could I have been so far off?  It's like I took a hard left when really I was supposed to go right.
I was content to be finished with adoption.  My girls have been the biggest blessings ever and I'm beyond thankful I get to be their mom.  They are thriving and we were ready for the next chapter.

And then he brought me Sparrow.

I go over and over and over all of the details but I never get an answer to my why.  This last month since I lost her, has felt like my faith played a giant game of Jenga.  I pulled perseverance from the bottom and precariously perched it on top.  Hope was drawn out from the middle and I tried to slide it in next to perseverance.  Trust was pulled and gently placed on hope.  Finally, I carefully extracted faith from the foundation of this structure and gingerly placed it at the very top.  
And it all came crashing down.
In my tirade of emotions, I took my arm, angrily swiped it over the panel, and sent the pieces hurling into the air.
I sat staring at the blank game board of my life.
Where do I go from here?  How do I move forward?  This adoption journey has consumed the last eight years of my life.  I've been stuck in what feels like quicksand; a perpetual land of waiting, where the only movement I felt was the ground sinking beneath me.


I bought Roopa a Batman big wheel for Christmas.  She didn't even know they existed.  It came complete ~ decked out with stickers, rims, and alllllll the buttons you ever wanted to push.  Each one with flashing lights and a corresponding command:  "Moving left!"  "Let's get to work!" and of course, the Batman theme.  This gift elevated me to new heights in Roopa's mind.  Her eyes filled with wonder and excitement.
"Mommy, how did you even know I wanted this?  Oh, wait.  I know.  You used your mommy powers!"
I laughed and then grew quiet.
As Roopa's mom, I see her in ways others don't.  I know her heart.  I know her reactions.  I know her deepest desires and her greatest fears.  I know how she responds to correction.  I know how she processes new information.  I know how she learns and plays and thinks deeply about life. I know her gifts and talents.  I know where she needs growth.   I know all of these things and more because I am her mom and she is my daughter.  I spend almost every moment of every day with her.  I knew that she would love that gift.  I knew that because I know her. So even though Roopa had no knowledge of its existence, I knew.  And it brought me great joy to give it to her.

In my questioning and my doubt, God used Roopa to reveal more of himself to me.  I will never understand his ways.  I will never get an answer to my whys.  I will never be able to see things the way he sees them.  I will never understand his theology.  He will always be a mystery to me.  
The only thing I do know, is his character.  I know he is always good.  I know he loves me more than anyone ever could.  I know he will never leave me.  I know he is always with me ~ in the deepest depths of grief and the highest mountaintops of joy.  I know that his plans for me are good.  I know he wants to transform me; he leads me through the refiner's fire to make me more like Christ.  He is the potter.  I am the clay.  He molds, bends, and shapes me.  Sometimes, I become hardened, which makes his work more difficult.  He adds water through my tears spilled during trials and tribulations to once again bring me to a place of pliability.  
He is the God of the universe and the Creator of everything and everyone.
Who am I to even slightly begin to understand his ways, his thoughts, his plans?

So I enter 2018 with the words, "Surrendered Faith."  
I have no idea what his plans are for me or my family.  I don't know if he will bring Sparrow back to me.  I am hoping against hope he will.  I don't know what the next chapter will entail.
What I do know is that he loves me and wherever he calls me, it will be good.  It might not be good in the initial way I see it, but he has a way of washing away the dirt and dust that clouds the mirror through which I view myself.   He draws me closer to him so that I can see through his filter the beauty he has crafted within me.

I walk into this new year with a blank canvas, open arms, and no vision of my own.
I humbly await to see the brushes he puts into my hands and the colors he chooses for my palette.  
I know that by letting him guide my hand, whatever he paints into my life this year will be a masterpiece.  I've painted enough to know that a truly beautiful work of art is not just made of highlights.  Shadows are critical to the depth of emotion that is elicited from viewing such a showpiece. 
 I am at a point of total surrender; knowing that he will lead me to the mountaintops this year holds for me, but more importantly, he will carry me through the deepest, darkest valleys. 
I learned this truth, however painful it was.  

My God will always be with me.

"Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever."
Psalm 23:6

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Deeper Still

I anticipated that Christmas was going to be hard.  And it was.  The waiting and hoping for God to fulfill his promise for Sparrow has been painful.  Excruciating.  I wish I could say that I've handled it like a champ, but I haven't.  I feel like I'm riding the longest, twisted roller coaster I've ever ridden.  I have days when I'm on top of the hill, full of excitement and hope for what God is doing, and then the next day I'm in the middle of a corkscrew rotation, upside down and completely disoriented. 

On Christmas Eve, I went to bed more discouraged than I've ever been.  My 98 year-old grandma had to have life-saving surgery two days prior to Christmas Eve.  Thankfully, she did great and is improving daily.  But traditions are important to me and it just felt weird that we weren't all celebrating Christmas Eve with the family at her house.  This is Mohini's first Christmas and every year since Munni came home, we've had our picture taken in front of her tree.  I was looking forward to getting our picture with Mohini in front of that tree!  It sounds dumb I know, but it just was more sadness that things were "off" and changing.  Instead, we celebrated in the ICU.

We got home from the hospital and started to do our nightly routine, when Munni frantically called to me that Honeybee couldn't get up from the floor.  She is our 16 year-old boxer that we took in when she was 13.  I ran to the living room and she was clearly in distress.  I'm pretty certain she had a seizure.   She lost control of her bowels, was breathing erratically, vacant stares, and her tongue and lips did not look right.  We laid her on the new dog bed, prayed for her, said our goodbyes, and cried.  The girls went to bed and I had to put Roopa's big wheel together.  

Merry Christmas to us.  

By time I finished the big wheel, Honeybee was still breathing, but things did not look good.  I went to bed and cried.  Thoughts raged through my mind about how this was the worst year ever and I couldn't wait for it to be over.  Waking up to a dead dog on Christmas morning was the icing on the cake.  Really, God?  Is this what stepping out in faith looks like?  I don't want to do this if it is.  

2017 was a difficult year in many aspects.  My beloved dog, Rollie, died in July.  Several of my close friends are dealing with profound grief.  Mohini coming home was a huge adjustment.   She is a great little girl and we love her, but her age has been a huge challenge for all of us.  How we lived our life before she came home is nothing like how we live now.  We've had to adjust everything.  And right when we were finally getting our footing back, her brain MRI and hearing tests came back that she is deaf in her left ear and has brain damage in two parts.  Shocked can't even describe my reaction.  Through all of this, was the underlying waiting for Sparrow.  
Hoping, praying, believing. 
 When I found out on my dad's birthday that she had been matched with another family, it felt like a nightmare  from which I could not wake.

As I reflected on all of this, I barely slept Christmas Eve.  My heart was heavy, broken, and in complete despair.  Finally, I got up and went into the living room to start the Christmas morning tradition of lighting the fire, putting on Christmas music, making much needed coffee, and preparing to feign excitement for the girls.  I had already decided that I would wrap Honeybee in a towel and put her in the garage until I could take her to get cremated.  This was not how I wanted to start Christmas morning.  I literally could not believe my eyes when I walked into the living room and she popped her head up, eyes alert, and then GOT UP and walked over to me in that traditional boxer wiggle!  I immediately thanked God for reviving her.  It was as if nothing had happened.  I felt a little excitement welling in my soul and thought maybe this Christmas won't be so horrible after all.  I got my camera ready and stood in place so that I could capture their expressions as they walked out and saw some of the "big hitter" gifts that were on display.   I called the girls and told them they could come out.  They walked around the corner, took one glance at the cornucopia of presents, and then all three of them ran right past their gifts, through the living room, and directly into my arms to give me a giant hug, and wished me a Merry Christmas.  Queue the tears.  In that moment, I realized that at least I have done one thing right.  My girls value our family, our relationships, above all else.  Their early morning display of affection and love was the best Christmas gift!
We spent all day at my mom and dad's house; it was the perfect distraction from my thoughts.

The day after Christmas I crashed.  It felt like God was never going to answer.  I was not in a good place.  Each time I hit these horrible lows, he always provides the encouragement I need through dear friends and strangers from across the world.
I received several emails and messages from people in countries far away.  Messages of hope, encouraging me in this fight for Sparrow, standing with me in prayer and belief that God will bring her back to me.

One dear friend set me straight and told me that Jesus waited two days and let Lazarus die.  Could Jesus have gone and healed him immediately when they told him that Lazarus was sick? Certainly.  Lazarus' sisters, Martha and Mary, sent word to Jesus that "the one he loved" was very ill.  But that was not his plan.  Even though Jesus intended something far greater than what they could imagine by bringing Lazarus back from the dead, he still met Martha and Mary in their grief and wept with them.  

Jesus has also met me in my grief.  He has not taken away the pain; instead, he has provided compassionate fellowship.  He's given me encouragement from friends and strangers who are praying with me.  Their words of wisdom, love, and support have carried me through the most difficult  moments.  Every day, I wake up and pray that Jesus will take my hand and walk me through the day, leading me through the dark parts and helping me to steady my eyes on him.  
This has been the most difficult faith journey I've ever experienced.  I pray and pray and pray and ask for discernment - should I abandon this hope that he will bring her back to me?  Should I pursue another child?  Should I stop all together?
Every single time, he answers me with the dream he gave me in May, and even though I've been riddled with pain, there is peace knowing I'm exactly where he wants me to be.  It's taken time to get to that realization and acceptance.

The girls and I have a dream of one day owning a farm.  We've been praying about it for almost 2 years.  We talk about it daily.  My mom gave us a vegetable growing kit for Christmas which led to a discussion of how we anticipate our farm will look and what purposes it will serve.  God used this conversation to minister to me.
Growing food takes much waiting.  In between the time of planting the seed until the harvest is much "dead" time.  Above ground, it appears as if nothing is happening.  We can't see the seed.  We can't see what's going on in the soil underneath our feet.  We can't see the effects the sun, heat, moisture, and pressure have on the seed that eventually causes the hull to break apart and allows the tiny roots to burst forth.  We can't see those roots slowly digging deeper into the rich, moist soil, securing a solid foundation for growth.  None of that is visible.  Instead, it appears as if nothing is happening.  I thought back to all of the prayers I have prayed for Sparrow.  How God gently led me step by step.  I planted the seed in obedience.  And now, I have to wait and trust that like the forces of nature, God is preparing that seed for the harvest.  He knows the time when that precious green shoot will force its way out of the ground to be seen by all.  
What a glorious day that will be!
But for now, I wait.  I trust.  I believe.
And in my dark moments, I remind myself that like the seed underground, I can't see the spiritual realm.  I can't see the work God is accomplishing and I can't see the foundation he is preparing.  And isn't that exactly what faith is?  Trusting in what can't be seen.  Having confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we can not see.

I can't thank everyone enough for all of your love and support with which you have covered me.  It is invaluable and priceless!  Please keep praying with me, you have been a wellspring to my soul!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Walking in Faith

It's been almost a year since I first saw our Sweet Sparrow's face.  Funny how I thought the "wait" would end once I was approved to officially move forward with her adoption.  I never would have imagined that it would be just the beginning of the most difficult part of the wait.  
When God gave me the dream in May, I knew she was my daughter.  Not a doubt in my heart.  When I found out that after two years of no movement on the waiting list, she was matched the very hour I was approved, confusion consumed me.  For the life of me, I could not make sense out of it.
I still don't know why God allowed that to happen except that his plans for her and the story he is writing is bigger and more beautiful than anything I could have dreamt. 

In these last few weeks, he has drawn me closer to him in ways I've never experienced.  My faith has reached new levels of depth, trust, and surrender.  
However, this growth has not come without costs.  There have been days of immense sorrow, utter despair, rage and fist-shaking at God, unending questioning, and a deluge of tears.
Excruciating doesn't come close to describe what these last few weeks have been.
I've had moments where I've wavered.  I almost didn't go to my USCIS fingerprint appointment.  I declared I would put the girls back in school, I would get a "safe" job, and we would live the rest of our lives with no risk, and therefore, would not set ourselves up for disappointment and heartache.  We would live what I call the "MMC" or Magnolia Market Christianity that seems to flood our church culture today.  The type of Christianity where our life looks perfectly put together.  All blessings, no heartache.  No risk.  Safe.  Boring.

I even asked to view the waiting list of children, knowing I could match today with a child who needs a family.  But as I scrolled through the list, I knew deep in my heart what God spoke to me through that dream in May.  None of those children were mine.  
Our Sparrow is the dream God gave me.

 God snapped me back to reality and reminded me that it is his promise he gave and his way for fulfilling it.  He brought me back to Sarah and Abraham.  God promised them a son.  Sarah grew impatient because in her human wisdom, she could not fathom a way for her to conceive in her old age.  So she did what I can relate to - she took things into her own hands and told Abraham to sleep with Hagar, her maid,  to produce a son.  He did and Ishmael was born.
But Ishmael was not the son through which God's promise to Abraham would be fulfilled.  Instead, Sarah's meddling and rushing God's promise only caused heartache and jealousy. 
I was becoming Sarah.

You see, I had lost my focus of his power, his ways, his purposes.  Who am I to question the path on which he is leading me?  My view is completely myopic while his is a wide angle lens.  He is working behind the scenes in ways I don't know.  He's doing things that I would never conceive.  He's fulfilling plans and answering prayers of which I have no knowledge.  
I've heard from people all of the world.  Words of encouragement.  Words of empathy.  Words of compassion.  Words of "me too."  He is using her story to bring others to deeper levels of faith - deeper understanding, deeper trust, deeper surrender, and ultimately, deeper hope.

As I continue in this wait, I am slowly learning to have joy.  Joy that he writing the most incredible story. Joy that he knows the exact moment he will bring her back to me.  Joy that he is growing and stretching my faith, taking me to new levels of trust in him.  Joy that he is omniscient.  Joy that he is omnipotent.  Joy that he will fulfill his promise.  Joy that he is worthy to be trusted, honored, and praised.
Joy that I know him and that our relationship is becoming more intimate with each passing day.

So while I will never understand his ways and his purposes, I am choosing to have faith ~ the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.