Real World Problems: My Head is Stuck Up My Backside

I was going to write a light-hearted post about how the last two weeks of school have gone for James, about witty remarks and so on, but then I realized, as I typed on my MacBook Pro in the comfort of my furnished home, with clean drinking water at my right hand, a gainfully employed and loving husband at my left, a full stomach and a leisurely 3 day weekend awaiting in the morning, that that isn’t what we need to be talking about.

Don’t misunderstand me, orphan care is IMPORTANT, and that our child is learning to thrive and receive love and know what it means to have absolute loss redeemed into something wonderful is A MIRACLE. God’s hand is ALL OVER the hot mess that is now our family dynamic, and there is certainly a time and place for the day to day to be shared.

But right now, there is some unacceptable, disgusting, horrible STUFF going on in the world, and I am all too aware of how my very life style laughs in the face of that reality.

Children are being horribly abused in orphanages and homes around the world, but I daily give more thought to whether a cow led a satisfactory life before it became my burger (animals > people). Men and women are being slaughtered around the world for their beliefs, but OH MY GOSH did you see who just dumped clean drinking water on their head for that disease that—OOOH there’s a fail compilation (entertainment > human life). There are coups and incursions and kidnappings and hate crimes and famines and outbreaks but WHY can’t a person CRAP in the clean, convenient lavatory of THEIR choosing, gender be damned (.3% of the US population >the rest of the world)? WHY can’t I check Facebook messages on my PHONE anymore? WHY doesn’t everyone else think Battlestar Gallactica is the best show ever? WHY are our biggest first-world concerns often about drivel?

I spend my time and effort worrying about animals and things and passing garbage instead of PEOPLE and loving Christ. Sure, people and Jesus are way up there on my list, but they are nowhere near as close to the top as they ought to be. And sure, animals and other things are important to varying degrees, but shouldn’t human beings be higher on the “give-a-rats” chain? Why in the WORLD does this not bother me THIS much ALL of the time?

Next time I am spending my time and resources on nonsense that doesn’t eternally matter in such a way that it leaves less room for the important things, I pray that you will call me out. Brothers and sisters (if you are a believer, I’m talking to you), we need to call each other out. We need to daily wrangle our petty desires and make them subservient to our greater purpose. I don’t know exactly how to make this work, or how to stir others to join me in actively rising to the occasion, but I am sure that by listening to the older and wiser, spending more time in the Word and in active prayer, God will work this thing out in us. I am terrified of reaching the end of my days and knowing in my heart that I could have done more, I should have done more, and I didn’t.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matt. 25:23

Have I been good and faithful??

Working hard and getting it right won’t secure my place in heaven; that is simply not how it works. Jesus already paid the price and only by believing in Him can any one of us be reckoned as righteous. So this intense desire and fear is not driven by the misconception that I must or can earn my way, but rather by the depth of the gratitude that I feel for being pulled from the pit when I was still utterly sinful and wretched. How can I waste such a beautiful gift, the MOST beautiful gift, by holding it to my chest and focusing my eyes on minutia? This is what must be shared with the hurting, the misled, the angry, the hateful, the sorrowful, the broken and the weak; that our hope is built on something far greater, something far lovelier and something far more just than anything found on the earth. Are we sharing that?

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'” Luke 18:13

Psalm 43 – I shall again praise Him

I’m thankful that we were able to spend time with many loved ones during this past week. There were great moments of peace, connection and celebration, and many firsts – first Independence Day, first birthday together as a family, first piñata, first movie theater outing, first successful bike pedaling – took place. There were also many moments that demonstrated how well our family seems to have been matched, how faithful God was to prepare James’ heart for this change, and how much progress has been made in a short period of time.

“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation;
O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Time has been moving slowly since the missed reunion date. Not only that, but as we wait and pray and aim for normalcy, difficulty seems to be mounting. We are clinging to hope, and as we do so, potshots to our health and thoughts and household increase. God doesn’t forget or reject His children, but in the frustrated and sorrowful moments it is easy to project my own weakness onto Him.

O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your dwelling places.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God.

The funny thing about the potshots is that they aren’t innovative efforts from the enemy. They are the same old tactics that we and every other believer have experienced at some point between salvation and glorification. I can practically HEAR Screwtape’s voice. So, we remain confident and can say, albeit weakly at times, “I shall praise You, O God, my God.” (And for this, AS I typed this, one of the very things that I am referring to occurred.) “I shall praise You, O God, my God.”

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.”

Psalm 43

Our own journey as a family is fueling this post, yes, but so are the stories we are hearing from other families: people being terrible to people, bodies decaying in the aftermath of sin, apathy breeding suffering, relief remaining distant. It is normal for people who are clinging to God to find a target painted on their back, so I’ll just remind my soul – and perhaps your soul, too – like the psalmist:

Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.

the one about my mom

I wrote yesterday about being ‘desperate’ for heaven. I think that might not make as much sense as I’d like if I don’t give a bit of an explanation about how my mom’s death has affected my life in the last 4 months. Most of you who will read this have been affected to some degree by her passing, as well, so know that I don’t seek to speak for anyone but myself, and please understand that I recognize we all process and grieve at different speeds. Sometimes, it is good to get into another person’s thoughts during that time (or so I’ve found), so here is your invitation to enter mine.

A statement that I heard a month before her death is a totally plain one, but one that became very poignant to me for obvious reasons. We all already know this, but if you haven’t really stopped to give it the depth of consideration that it deserves, you do yourself a disservice. The wise man said this: “Only one thing is going to prevent you from watching every person you know die from murder, accident, or disease and that will be your own death by murder, accident or disease.”

.

That strange thing that we all manage to do, where we forget that this breath really could be our last, and that as we breathe it, thousands of other people are breathing their last because of murder, accident or disease; Where we imagine that as we go about our business today, doing this or that, making plans for tomorrow and a year from now, we are somehow in control of the length of our days; That strange thing that we all do. Stop it for a moment.

Am I saying that we should mope around and fixate on our impending demise and the demise of everyone we’ve ever met? Not necessarily, but I am reminded of Paul, who wrote “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” You see, if all you have are human hopes, or if this momentary life is all you have to live for, then by all means, eat, drink, pillage and plunder, because whatever small pleasure you can derive from that is the last pleasure you will ever experience. Today or tomorrow you will be as dead as everyone who has ever come before you or will ever come after you.

BUT.

If you have a heavenly hope, if you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one who broke the chains of death and sin for all who believe in Him, then you needn’t be weighed down by the incredibly heavy stuff I’m laying on you or the incredibly heavy stuff that was undoubtedly weighing you down long before you read this post. It isn’t too late to escape the meaninglessness of this life by gaining the meaning found in our great God and to escape the utter torment that will be an eternity spent knowing that you chose to reject the Living God. You can scoff. You can also be mistaken.

There are many things that have changed for me since my mom passed away and a lot of them aren’t unique. I miss her, of course. I cry at unexpected times. I also became aware of how little I deserve the salvation I’ve received in Jesus. This is no small realization. It’s a big part of the reason I decided to be baptized so long after the fact. If you’ve heard my testimony, you know I was wrenched out of sin through no merit of my own, and if you’ve known me long, you probably know that I am a person who has needed a lot of forgiving in her life. The things of this world become awfully dim when weighed against the astounding nature of God and eternity. I will give you an example of one such thing. Three days after my mom died, I realized that I could not go on holding her life over my uncle.

I knew that he shot her. I knew that he had had some part in it – conscious or unconscious – but to what degree? Can we possibly know? I knew that I had been terrified of him from the moment I learned what happened. In my mind, he morphed into something inhuman, “the entity” that robbed my mother of her body and ultimately her life, but honestly, I came to recognize the fantasy in that. I came to see that I had painted a picture of the situation that was born of my own fear and hurt and frustration. It was the result of seeing my parents persevere and suffer daily during those 2 and a half years, seeing my brother suffer quietly, seeing my grandmother’s mental acuity decline under the burden, seeing dreams for the future disappear for all of us.

But on that day, I read Isaiah 43:25. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” It had been written on our shower door for the better part of the year, but on that day it spoke to me. I wept, not because forgiving was hard, but because I had been so hard. I had forgotten the breadth of my own sin and though I had been forgiven much, had been unable to forgive. I was the unmerciful servant and it was an ugly thing to realize. The way I looked at my uncle shifted that day. Could I imagine the weight of killing someone I love by accident? Could I bear the weight of that? Did hating him restore her body or restore her life? The terrible image of a monster that I had allowed myself to paint melted away into the image of a regular, broken, human being, loved by Christ and worthy of my forgiveness. The judgement that comes after the grave is sufficient for me.

Jason drove me to his house that evening and I forgave him plainly and fully, and that is my story. Please do not hear my story as condemnation of your own. These things don’t happen the same for everyone, nor should anyone expect them to. It took nearly three years to arrive at that place, and I still marvel at the grace that had to be poured out on me before it could happen. I am thankful for the weight that was lifted, thankful for the grace I received, and thankful for the opportunity to extend that grace to another.

When I set out to write this, I didn’t intend to head down such an uncomfortable path, but I think, in order to understand what I mean about adoption leading to a posture of desperation for heaven, I needed to reiterate how broken we are and how broken this world is. If we begin to believe that this world is the height of “goodness,” or that heaven is about fluffy clouds and bored angels, we forget that heaven is really about no more pain, no more death, perfect restored bodies and minds united with their God and creator and the One who ransomed them from sin. Heaven is worth being desperate for, and we catch glimpses of it as we wait.

My mother’s passing has increased my awareness of our imminent deaths. It has turned head knowledge into heart knowledge and has made me yearn for the day when these things will be no more. When accident and disease and murder are wiped away like so many tears, I will see her again, whole and smiling.

I do so hope that you will be there with us.

Memorial_1

It’s February 28th Somewhere

Whereas it is a bit after 9 in California, it is half past noon on the 28th in Thailand right now, and as you know, the 28th (our tomorrow and their today) is the day that the TRC board intends to convene to handle adoption related business. If all goes(went??) according to plan, they will hear our petition read once more, this time accompanied by several letters written by family and friends.  This is the yes or no on the little boy we have been praying for for these past few months.

Though it may take days or weeks to hear what decision they make(made??), it is strange to think that the outcome will already have been decided, and that perhaps, this child will know even before we do. While it is strange to think that something so important can be decided and still be altogether unknown by you, it is almost impossible to fathom how God has known the outcome since the foundation of the world. The process of waiting and hoping and praying so far has led Jason and I through what feels like a crash course in James chapter 1. Thinking back on our prayer requests, I realize we have asked not only for the well being of this boy but also for patience in the waiting, endurance for the process, wisdom to know what to do when, trust in God’s goodness and providence, humility, strength against the temptation to choose an easier route,  the ability to be good spouses to eachother in the stress and waiting, continued growth in our faith and understanding of Christ, and that we would be doers and not just sayers. Pretty spot on for James 1, right?

No matter the outcome, the time of waiting has been a strengthening time, just as other trials in recent years have proved to be.  No matter the outcome, we are thankful and grateful for the prayers, words of encouragement and shared excitement of family and friends. No matter the outcome, this kiddo has been prayed for and loved so much already and I truly believe that God has something special in mind for this little guy.

I’m really excited for whatever comes next.

A Reflection on the Possibilty of “Difficult” Grace

We have learned that we should know by the end of the month if we have been approved as a match for the child we are pursuing.

This discovery came with a qualification; There is the possibility that due to my past experience with depression – a part of my person that was completely, miraculously healed when I accepted Christ – the board making the decision may have difficulty approving us.

Depression is not taken lightly in Thailand, which I fully understand, accept and respect. This difference from western culture is just one of the many ways that theirs is different from ours, and I am thankful for each reminder of the diversity of God’s created people. As I say that, I completely acknowledge that I wish with all my heart this was not the aspect of our homestudy that the decision may hinge on, because if this disqualifies us from adopting this child, it will likely indicate that it is a roadblock to any adoption from Thailand.

There is a weight of guilt and the realization that the guilt exists due to lack of trust in God’s sovereignty, and is an indication of my own desire for control, and in a way, my inability to always remember that even my broken past has been redeemed by Christ.

At any rate, I do not write this to burden you, the reader, but to ask for your prayer that God’s will be done, because He alone can wash away this past blemish, and that I would be a trusting, faithful, JOYFUL follower. I ask for the faith of David – who, after his awful transgression against Uriah and the subsequent death of his child, washed his face, ate, and accepted God’s grace, difficult as that must have been – in the event that we are denied because of my past. Whatever the outcome, I choose thanksgiving and pray that our prayers are proper.

Most importantly, we are praying to witness the miraculous hand of God at work.

-Danielle

Step 2

Now that our applications have been accepted by WACAP and Partners For Adoption, we are ready to begin the home study process. Within the next month or two we will meet with a social worker who will inspect our home, and more importantly us, and collect tons more documentation to be sent to WACAP, and ultimately to the US and Thai governments.

We are definitely stepping out in faith as the new year and new semester approach. I am comforted by the words in Isaiah 40 that remind me how small we are in God’s eyes, and yet, how loved.

10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who can fathom the Spirit[d] of the LORD,
or instruct the LORD as his counselor?
14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
or showed him the path of understanding?

-Isaiah 40:10-14

So, even as we walk in uncertainty, I know that God has it under control, and that makes everything feel much more manageable.

James

My time in the word the last two weeks has been spent in the book of James. The words of James have been so relevant and reassuring and helpful that I am set to reside in this book for the next few weeks. With MacArthur Commentary in hand, the time has been very rich.  It is exciting. My reading is often filled with stops and starts, but the Spirit has really been giving me the resolve that is needed to be consistent.

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