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.