Just Look...

Just Look...

Friday, February 24, 2017

Another Letter to You

I dreamed about you again last night, a long deep dream that felt like it lasted all night and was filled with first meetings and long talks and everyday moments. My dreams are becoming more frequent as the time draws closer and I always wake up reluctantly, trying my best to hold on to any little part of you I can as I re-enter a reality that only includes dreams and thoughts of you. This whole experience baffles me a bit, even the romantic that I am, because it seems naive at best and just plain odd at worst to be in love with people you've never met, people you have only seen in photos and tiny scraps of videos, grouped into a collective.

 I find myself doing weird things like staring at every Filipino I know or meet, imagining you as you grow older. This week I taught a piece of poetry I have taught for 14 years and all of a sudden, it was different. The subtitle is "The United States and the Philippine Islands" and a place that had just been a country on a map and lines that had been a random people across the world suddenly meant something to ME. I found myself delving into the history of this particular event and context and, tragic as it had always been, seeing it through a lens of YOUR history and YOUR ancestors made it all look different. I saw in a very real way that my message in Holocaust education, to make it personal, is exactly the answer to connecting with and learning from history. We are living in a strange place with one half of our heart across the world from the other half and that plays out in lots of ways. I follow CNN Philippines news on twitter with the same regularity I follow US news, my weather app stays open to Manila and Cleveland, and where I used to have to depend on my world clock app, I now have developed an internal world clock and I am regularly aware of what time it is there and what you might be doing. I have always held a deep admiration and love for my ESL students but now I see you in every one of their faces. Every holiday and family event this year has happened with a joyful certainty that you will be here the next time these events come up on the calendar. 

When I was pregnant, I spent a lot of time imagining who my babies would be, what they would look like, how they would act, which interests and hobbies they would love. I do the same today but it's an unusual experience because all of the gaps are filled in already, just unknown to me. When we were only a week or two into the process, I looked at Kraig and said, "I already love them as my sons and daughter." We then had a conversation about the fact that my job is such that I make pretty immediate connections with people and they are deep and long connections. I say all the time that I love my students and what I'm not sure is clear is that it's a REAL love, not just an enjoyment of our time together. I love them deep and I love them long after they leave my room, I love them forever. I thought what I was feeling was the sort of quick connection a teacher makes but I have since realized it's something so much more, it's a real maternal pull and something that, even though I have always been a proponent of adoption, I would never have expected could actually take place without any true contact.

 I LOVE you. I LONG for you. My constant thoughts of you are as real as any flutters and kicks from the womb. My urge to prepare a space for you in this house, my obsessive need to talk about you to the people around me, my anticipation of our first conversation that isn't me talking to a computer screen where you are a product of the apostrophe*, and my dreams.... the only place right now where you are 3 dimensional and flesh and bone and responsive.... this is so very real. And for now, it's what we have. But I know the day is coming so soon when I will only need to reach out and look up and there you will be, always within my sight and not only the parameters of my heart. 

*Apostrophe: a literary device in which the speaker addresses a person who is absent from the moment. Most well-known example is "O Captain, My Captain" by Walt Whitman, a poem movingly addressed to the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Way

 For some back story, I've had a tough few days. We are in a major time crunch with our adoption, one that I have truly never let myself actually believe could happen. We knew starting out that "it would take a miracle" but I know the God of miracles and I know my own tenacity and Kraig's determination, so I knew it would be fine. And it was. For months. We had a slight delay in finding a psychologist, a small delay in getting our homestudy done, but for the most part it was beautiful. Until around December. 

We had a longer than expected wait on our I800A form which, coupled with the holiday break, made our official match delayed a LOT. I had believed all along we would travel in January and instead we weren't even officially matched till January. The next hurdle was the legal documents, which we expected to get quickly and instead of quickly, we are still waiting for them. We have to have those in order to submit the I800, and the I800 must be approved by March 12, which is the 18th birthday of our oldest.

 I had not had the heart to sit down with a calendar but I finally did it on Friday. It's not pretty. If we get the legals tonight (which we are praying fervantly for) and we submit the I800 tomorrow, it has to sit in a lockbox for 5-10 days to be checked for drug residue. I don't know if these are days or business days, but if they are business days and it takes 10, that means we will be left with exactly 10 days for I800 approval. The current average seems to be around 3-6 weeks, based on what I am seeing in a Filipino adoptive parent group. We do know of some who have gotten it more quickly and we of course intend to pull out all stops to make it happen. 

Friday, I found myself mired up in discouragement. I think I cried most of the day. It truly was the first time in this process that I have allowed myself to honestly consider the fact that we may not make the time limit. 

Yesterday started with a sweet little Godwink surprise that was encouraging and a pretty intentional decision to enjoy the day of volleyball with the girls and just not worry about it. As Kraig pointed out, there isn't a thing that we can do by worrying about it. (Wouldn't if be nice if my mind worked like Kraig's???) Last night, however, a possible new hiccup came along and one that I'm still not certain won't be a problem for us. I'm waiting to hear back from our case manager on that. 

This morning, I awoke to a sense of an uneasy peace. ("Uneasy peace"??? That's quite a paradox!) I knew that people at church would be checking in with us and, while the encouragement and concern are appreciated more than you can know, I so desperately wish that we had a positive update to share. We had a guest choir today and so I didn't expect our own choir to be singing but was very grateful when they actually led praise and worship. 

That's when it happened. This song, linked below. I'll be honest, I always worry about pasting lyrics what with copyright and all but I'm crediting my source and you NEED all the words to understand the message so I hope its fine. 

Made a Way by Travis Green
Made a way
Don't know how but you did it
Made a way
Standing here not knowing how we'll get through this test
But holding onto faith you know best
Nothing can catch you by surprise
You've got this figured out and you're watching us now
But when it looks as if we can't win
You wrap us in your arm and step in
And everything we need you supply
You got this in control
And now we know that

You made a way
When our backs were against the wall
And it looked as if it was over
You made a way
And we're standing here
Only because you made a way
You made a way

Now we're here
Looking back on where we come from
Because of you and nothing we've done
To deserve the love and mercy you've shown
But your grace was strong enough to pick us up

And you made a way
When our backs were against the wall
And it looked as if it was over
You made a way
And we're standing here
Only because you made a way [x2]

You move mountains
You cause walls to fall
With your power
You perform miracles
There is nothing that's impossible
And we're standing here
Only because you made a way

You made a way [x4]

Don't know how but you did it
Made a way
Don't know how but you did it
Made a way

Don't know how but you did it [x4]

Don't know why but I'm grateful [x4]

Don't know how but I'm grateful

And we're standing here
Only because you made
And we're standing here
Only because you made a way
And we're standing here
Only because you made

You move mountain [x4]

You cause walls to fall [x4]

You cause chains to break [x4]

Giants fall [x4]

'Cause you move mountain
You move mountain
And everything is easy for you
'Cause you move mountain
Yes you move mountain

Mountains are moving [x4]

Strong holds are breaking [x4]

'Cause you move mountain
You cause walls to fall

With your power [x4]

You perform miracles [x4]

I was crying hot, silent tears by "standing here not knowing how we'll get through this test". When it got to "when it looks as if we can't win, you wrap us in your arm and step in", I was just pinching one hand with my other as hard as I could and crying. I knew, as plainly as I know my own name, that we have an answer. He will make a way. Because you see, our backs ARE against the wall and to my human eyes, at least this weekend, it looked like it was over. 

But then He gave me even more than just that reassurance... 

The second verse about looking back at where we've come from-- God took me back to a Sunday in either September or October when we did that very song in praise and worship... I think we may have even had a guest worship leader or visiting group... and I stood there and bawled my eyes out. But I wasn't crying because it seemed impossible, I was crying that Sunday because I was glowing with the miracle, with the fulfillment of a Promise I had waited for for so, so long. I remember that Sunday, feeling so grateful I could barely contain myself, just thinking about the mountains God had moved for our family to even be pursuing adoption, much less the adoption of THREE. {If you don't know our back story, it is linked here.} Today, as plainly as I have ever heard anything, God whispered into my Spirit and said, "I've already done the hard work. A government paper or two is nothing for Me. Working on a human heart that has free will was the true miracle. The next steps are the easy ones." A peace settled into my bones, not an uneasy peace, but a SETTLED peace. 

But He wasn't finished with me yet.

The song continued on through the bridge and went back to the refrain of "and we're standing here, only because you made a way" and God showed me the next time we sing this song in church (or, depending on how much Josh likes it, the next next next next time)... I'm going to get to sing that song with entirely new meaning and faith. I'm going to get to stand in a row with my family of seven, beside my beautiful, gentle new daughter, my gorgeous son with the mischievous eyes, and my handsome warrior son whose testimony is going to move mountains and cause walls to fall on its own one day... and I'm going to remember the paths that brought all of us to that day. I'm going to know that God works best in tight spaces, that He moves biggest in impossible situations, that He made a way. That He carved a path STRAIGHT THROUGH THE OCEAN. Wow. Look at my God. 

{I did buy and download the song today because I am still very human and I know that if we don't get news of progress tonight, it won't take long for these moments of today to fade in my memory. But God knows that about me too, and that's why He reminds me over and over again of all the times He HAS made a way. And He will again.}

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Produce of Canaan

As many know, we are anxiously awaiting our signed legals for our kids in order to move to the next step in our adoption. We have continually requested prayer from those close to us in order to get the good news that legals have been signed and sent. I have been posting at night on our fb adoption page, asking for prayer for the upcoming day in Manila. 

Thursday in the Philippines passed with no progress. I did, however, get an email from our agency that multiple people have contacted those with the power and they have said it will be done tomorrow (which is tonight for us). My case worker urged in her email that we continue fervent prayers that it comes tonight, which would mean we could send the I800 off tomorrow. THEN our prayers will turn toward USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Services) for an immediate approval of that. But that's another request for another day. 😊 

I haven't yet fully sorted out what this means, but this morning in my Bible reading, I decided to read the book of Joshua. This verse jumped out at me: 
Joshua 5:12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.

This entire process has been full of manna. God has provided time and again, in ways you can't even begin to comprehend without hearing the entire story. We are SO CLOSE, so close, to the fruit of our Promise, the "produce of Canaan". I did some research after that on Canaan and what the conquest of Canaan meant. John Piper has a whole post where he talks about it and one point that he made is that "there will be no conquest without obedience. God will not fight for a people who are fighting against him. In order to succeed, Joshua and the people must be courageous in God and obey his commandments." He follows it up with explaining that, at the success of the conquest, the Israelites couldn't boast about it and point to their own righteousness because it was a promise from God made generations before to Abraham and they just had to be obedient to Him. We did one thing correctly in this entire process: We said yes. After that, every single step of the way, it was God pointing out the right paths, making decisions, putting the words in our mouth like He promised Moses with Pharoh (or in our case, putting words in our email responses to ICAB). God led us to the right adoption agency, He granted us favor and speed with the various organizations we had to work with to get the paperwork done, He provided the finances. 

He didn't do all of this to get us here and take away the manna without the produce of Canaan. I KNOW this will all happen in time. Our son will be approved before his birthday and we will bring three children home. And I believe we will bring them home in MARCH, too. 

Thank you for being here with us, holding up our arms when we needed it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Royal Bloodline

On Friday, I watched a movie I have watched many, many times before. But this time, a particular scene struck me in a way it never has before. The movie is "A Knight's Tale" and the back story is that William is a peasant who, through an interesting turn of events, winds up jousting in tournaments as a knight even though he is not of Royal birth. (He essentially is pretending to be someone else.) Well the villain finds out about it and has William thrown in jail. This particular scene takes place when the Prince hears of what happened and comes to pardon William. As I watched on Friday, I could not help but see it as a metaphor for salvation. God knows who we are and how sinful and dirty we are. He knows we aren't deserving of His grace and pardon. But His love for us surpasses our past, our actions, our name, even our identity. When the prince in this clip says, "He is part of an ANCIENT royal bloodline," I kid you not, I just about took to shouting. This was just further confirmation of our place in Him. We are royalty. We are sons and daughters of the King. {Link to clip is below.}

God has been showing me some really powerful things through music and His word. I got the new Ellie Holcomb album last week and it has wrecked me in all the best ways. The two songs that have just steeped in my spirit are "You are Loved" and "Wonderfully Made". They have a similar message and it is one that I think I desperately need to hear right now (right now and at every point in my life). I have always been a doer. Big time. I have found my identity in actions and success and a hectic pace. Since summer, that has had to change for me. In July I had health issues that led to me decided it was going to be necessary to slow things down drastically. Then in August, we started the adoption process, which has certainly come with its own hectic pace BUT it has all been internal, so to speak. I have spent this school year, in a mixture of choice and necessity, turned inward to my own home and family. I have not had time to work hard on other things, I have not had energy to be spread between the huge changes in our own household and family AND outside interests and causes. There have been some moments of me wondering if I'm still enough.... if I'm still valuable to people around me when I can't do as much for them... if I still matter when I am not seeing successes and validation. I don't feel as strongly connected to the people in my life outside of my immediate circle as I normally do.  And I know that my next 6 years are going to look very much like the current one I am living. I cannot parent five teenagers, work a full-time job, keep up a side business, pursue my ministry passions, and also maintain the pace and nature of the life I had previously lived. So I need to be reminded by God that I AM enough for Him. He sees the me inside, not the deeds outside. In Him, I am "wonderfully made". A few lines of that song are below. I couldn't find the lyrics to "You are Loved" online but the chorus says, "You are loved, not because of what you've done, even when your heart has run the other way, nothing's going to change His love. You are wanted, not because you are perfect, I know that you don't think you're worth that kind of grace but look into His face and know.... You are loved." "He knew, before you even took a breath, that there would be days when you would forget how beautiful He made you." WOW. 

"Wonderfully Made" by Ellie Holcomb
What if I saw me the way that you see me
What if I believed it was true
What if I traded this shame and self-hatred
For a chance at believing you
That you knit me together in my mother's womb
And you say that I've never been hidden from you
And you say that I'm wonderfully, wonderfully made

What an incredible God we serve.