What mighty praise, O God, belongs to You...
You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
O God our Savior...You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
I'm a little reluctant to say it now, but if I'm being honest, the truth is that I have been dreading the holidays. I'm not exactly sure why. We have SO much to be thankful for. This year we are all together. ALL TOGETHER! That is a mercy worth counting over and over again! Our family of 8, plus a host of our extended family and spiritual family, joined together for a day of celebration and thanksgiving!
I remember how I felt this time last year. It was so hard, knowing Sophi was missing. Our little girl was halfway around the world, and I longed to have her in our arms. I also remember the little secret I was carrying inside of me, the tiny life that the Lord was adding to our family right smack in the middle of Sophi's adoption. I was unsure of how it would all turn out, but I knew that it was the Lord who was filling up our home and our hearts with hope, joy, and expectation.
And here we are, one year later. Together. The Lord had added not just one, but TWO precious little girls to our family during 2012! Sophi is home. She's healthy. She's safe and she's loved. Sweet Evie is here too. The girls' big brothers are doing so well, adjusting and adapting to all of the changes in our family. It's been quite a year!
So many, many blessings this year, and this was supposed to be a day to celebrate, not dread. It was a day to spend with the family that has loved us and supported us and helped us and been on their knees for us! I love these people so much! They have seen me at my absolute lowest points over the past few months, and I'm pretty sure I would not have made it without THEM! They stood with me. Prayed for me. Loved me. Loved my children. Loved Sophi from the very beginning. It was a day to celebrate with THEM and give thanks for THEM and for ALL of God's mercies. Family being one of the biggest mercies of them all!
Yet, I still struggled to look forward to this day. It made my stomach knot up just thinking about it. For the past three months, we haven't ventured out much with Sophi. Other than to church a few times and a handful of trips to Target and the grocery store, we've pretty much stayed at home. We've had family in and out of our house a bunch, but until this week, we had not taken Sophi to any of their houses. And I'll be honest. I was so worried how she would do. Would she pitch a fit? Would she get upset and want to leave? Would it be too much interaction? Too much stimulation? Would she go up to everybody and want to be picked up? Would I have to constantly redirect her back to me and Will? We want her to learn that MaMa and Daddy are the ones who pick her up, hold her, and give her affection. Because she has had so many caretakers during her little life, she has no concept of this and readily goes up to anybody who shows her attention. I have REALLY struggled with this issue. It has been so hard to tell our family who loves Sophi so much that I don't want them picking her up and showing her tons of affection. What if they don't agree with our decisions? What if I hurt their feelings? Will they think I'm doing this all wrong? Am I doing this all wrong? And on and on, the questions and doubts and fears filled my heart. I was afraid that this day would be hard. Hard for her, but even more hard for me. Instead of hope and expectation, I was feeling dread and discouragement.
I knew these feelings were not from the Lord. The day before Thanksgiving I had a dear one remind me of this very thing. I knew that it was from the Enemy, the one who always tries to steal our joy and snatch our hope. Of course, he would want to place fear and dread in my heart. Of course, he would want my focus to be on how HARD life feels, instead of gratitude for God's innumerable mercies. That's just like Satan, wanting me counting my worries, instead of counting God's mercies!
We prayed together, Will and I did, just the other night. Really, he prayed for me. He knew I was wrestling with all of these doubts and this is what he prayed. I know it by heart. I've spoken these words more times than I can count this past year, and that night I joined him, whispering the words, asking the Lord again...
Lord, I pray that You would fill us with hope and joy and expectation that You have the power to put Your hand on us and grant us the will to do what You command. You have made it plain: We are responsible to do what You tell us to do. But we know that in ourselves we do not have the will to do it. And so we cry with Augustine, "Lord, command what You will, and give what You command." Leave us not to ourselves. Have mercy.
And He hears our prayers. He knows our hearts. In perfect faithfulness, He answers. HIS mercies are new every single day! Thanksgiving morning, Web could hardly contain his excitement. He went with me into Sophi's room to wake her up, and Web told her over and over again, "Sophi, it's your first Thanksgiving!!!" Of course, she had no clue what he was talking about, but I did. It was her first Thanksgiving. Evie's first Thanksgiving, too. Web was so excited to share the day with his little sisters! This, along with countless other things, was a reason to celebrate and a reminder to give thanks. The Lord used my little boy to remind ME what this day was all about.
I needed to relax and enjoy the day. It really didn't matter how Sophi did. (Looking back, she probably had her VERY best day yet!) It didn't even matter if the day was hard. Sophi was home, part of a family. A really big family! Not just the 8 of us, but ALL OF US! Her worst day here is still far better than any day she had in her orphanage. It might be hard, but that was ok. Just because something is hard, doesn't mean it's bad. I am learning not to dread "hard." Even when it is hard, Jesus is here! He's meeting us morning by morning, greeting us each day with new mercies and renewed strength! He's with us through it all! And that's enough! I don't need anything more!
There will come a day, in another season, when I can sit back and watch...
But that season is not now! There is joy to be found even in the midst of these hard moments, this crazy, full season! There's laughter and love and lots and lots of fun! And, thank the Lord, the Father of ALL mercies, that He has blessed us with family to share these moments with! We love you all so much! Happy Thanksgiving to you all. We are grateful for each of you!
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus...