Monday, July 22, 2013

What Do You See?

There's been a lot going on around here, and I can't wait to tell you about all the ways the Lord has been moving, working, and providing. There's certainly been much activity behind the scenes, and it definitely warrants a much needed blog post of its very own. And soon, I promise, an update will come, but not now. Today I'm simply marveling at our Father's faithfulness and can barely string words and sentences together to share all that is on my heart. So, until I am able to tell more, here's a few thoughts and, hopefully, some encouragement and perspective for for the upcoming week!

We have definitely had some hard days and some setbacks and some unexpected circumstances around here, but time and time and time again, He has shown Himself faithful! And you have been faithful, too, as I know so many of you have been lifting up our family and interceding on our behalf. I am incredibly grateful and humbled and want you to know that I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that your prayers are making a difference!

S has had a much better week. She's falling asleep peacefully at night and sleeping the whole night through. The rages and temper tantrums are beginning to subside, and she is responding to discipline and is more easily redirected without a major meltdown. Emotionally, I am seeing the self-soothing/stimming behaviors less frequently along with the inappropriate laughing, and I have even seen her show empathy when one of the other kids gets hurt. More importantly, I am seeing a sparkle in her eyes and a calmness in her countenance that was missing much of these past few difficult weeks. And I know without a doubt that these changes could only come from Him and how grateful I am for His healing hands holding on tight to my precious little girl!

I've had a much better week too! Restful nights definitely make a big difference. But, even more than that, He makes the difference! He has taught me so much these past few months and, as trying as they have been, I am thankful. I have no doubt that the stormy days and the dark nights were as much under His sovereign and loving plan as are the happy days full of sunshine and calm that we've experienced recently. They are all gifts from Him, to lead me closer to Him.

I had a revelation about this very thing earlier this week. It wasn't anything new or incredibly deep, but it was exactly the reminder that I needed. It's not the first time that I've needed a good dose of perspective, and I'm certain it won't be the last. I'm thankful the Lord is so patient with me. I'm thankful He knows just what I need and when I need it. I'm thankful that I can trust Him to work all things - even the hard things - together for my good and His glory. And, lately, I'm learning that sometimes {maybe even, oftentimes} His glory shines brightest in the midst of the dark and in middle of the storm. 

One of my favorite things about summertime is that I can sneak out of the house after getting the girls to sleep and still have enough daylight left for a good run at the end of the day. And the way these days have been going, it's been just what I've needed!

One night last week, I was about halfway through my usual running route when I realized it was almost dark. I run in safe neighborhoods and wasn't concerned about it getting dark, but I decided to move a little faster than usual so that Will wouldn't worry. And the strangest thing happened. My feet began to feel heavy, and I could not keep my eyes from glancing at the darkening sky. And strangely enough, fear began to well up inside of me, and all I could think about was how menacing the night time looked, and I was scared. And it was more than just the actual dark, it was almost as if the weight of all that feels dark in my life right now, all the unknowns and all the uncertainties, were bearing down on me, and the darkness literally felt like it was closing in.

So I altered my route a little and turned down a side street. Still deep in my thoughts and wrestling with my fears, I looked up and noticed a huge thunderstorm brewing in front of me. I'm not sure how I had missed it before, but maybe because my eyes were only looking in one direction, toward the dark. Now, not so very far off in the distance, I could hear the rumblings of thunder and see the lightning flashing. And by that point, I wasn't so much scared as I was irritated and frustrated. What started off as a peaceful jog, a chance to clear my head and catch my breath, had now shifted in an entirely different and unexpected direction. Now I was discouraged, frustrated, feeling sorry for myself, fearful about the future, and a hundred and one other emotions that were weighing me down and making my feet feel like lead.

With one eye on the dark sky and the other eye on the threatening thunderstorm, I had a very distinct feeling that this particular evening run mirrored the way my life has felt these past few months. My mind was definitely moving faster than my feet as I struggled to imagine what life would look like once we brought Faith Ana home. In light of Sophi's recent struggles and also considering 
all the changes I knew would be coming over this next year, I just didn't know how it was all going to work out. My legs felt heavy. My heart felt heavy. How do you press on when you feel so very tired and weighed down? So much for clearing my head and catching my breath. All I could think about, all I could see, was dark and stormy.

Now, this is a true story, I promise. All of a sudden, I rounded another corner, turning in a new direction, finally getting closer to home. 
And when I looked up, the skyline had changed, and I saw one of the most amazing sunsets that I've ever seen. How had I not seen it before? It must have been there all along. Maybe the huge, towering oak trees blocked my view or maybe I just wasn't looking for it.  But it was there, right in front of me, and it was stunning. The sky looked like it was on fire with every hue and shade of pink, yellow, and orange that you could imagine. It was glowing with glory. His glory. And the storm was still there, and the dark was still there, but they both just made the sky in front of me all the brighter and all the more beautiful. And there was a crescent moon rising through the billowing storm clouds and there were hundreds of fireflies flickering in the dark, and I stopped dead in my tracks and just stood perfectly still taking it all in. Because I knew this was from Him. A gift for me. A mercy. He loved me so much that He would arrange this incredible experience. Not just the breathtaking sunset, but also the storm and the darkness, all planned by Him, perfectly designed to remind me that He's sovereign and that He's good and, most importantly, that it's all about Him. His glory shining through our brokenness and our darkness. Every step of this path was laid out, divinely sequenced to bring me to this place, and I knew it. And even though I didn't hear His audible voice, deep in my heart, I heard Him asking me a simple question:

What do you see? 

And I knew in an instant what He was saying, what He was getting at. It was right there in front of me, a tangible picture, a beautifully visible reminder, of the choice I have to make every single day. More than every day. Every moment of every single day. Every pile of laundry I wash, every diaper I change, every time I have to correct and remind and discipline. In every stinky, messy, and miserable moment {and, trust me, there are many!}, what was I going to see?

Was I going to keep my eyes on the storm, the things that are hard and frustrating? Was I going to dwell on the darkness, focusing on the challenges, the unknowns, and the uncertainties? Will S ever get better? What about Faith Ana's medical concerns? What about the money we need? How will the other kids handle all of the changes that are coming? The questions abound, and usually the more I ask, the further into the storm and the deeper into the dark I am taken. Or I could choose to see something different. I could open my eyes and gaze in an altogether different direction and I could be entirely grace-struck with the beauty and glory that is always all around me, so that everything else just recedes into the background. And I could simply say, "Jesus, I trust You and I believe that You have led me here to this very place, these very circumstances. You are here in this storm, and You are here in this darkness, and, yes, there is always light and always something beautiful and always something praiseworthy and always, always something deserving of my gratitude, if I will just open my eyes to see. Please help me to see."

Take something as simple as laundry. I can view it as a chore, a burden, and something that I greatly disdain. Why can I never seem to get through these unending piles? Why do they go through so many clothes? Why are they so messy and why does everything smell like dead fish? Or I can choose to be thankful that we even have clothes to wear. I can remember the mission trip I took as a college student when I witnessed firsthand tiny children dressed only in rags scavenging a garbage dump in a Mexican slum looking for their evening meal. I can choose to remember that there are many who don't have clothes. Many who don't have washing machines. And I can be thankful for the privilege of getting to wash these mountains of popsicle stained shirts, puppy dog pajamas, and fishy-smelling clothes. It's all in how I see things.


It really is that simple. It's all about perspective. It's all about having eyes to see. And, really, really, truly, at the heart of the matter, it's all about Him. Do I really trust Him that He has led me here and that He will lead me through these storms and that He will light my way when it seems so dark? Do I deep-down-in-my-soul believe that even in the storm and even in the dark that His promise remains? That this is all for my good and all for His glory!

I'm learning in parenting, especially as I care for a little one who struggles with unique needs, how very important perspective is. It's so easy {at least for me} to focus on Sophi's challenges and to get so sidetracked and distracted with the things about her that try my patience that I miss seeing the incredible and amazing progress that she is making. And, please hear me. This little girl is making so much progress. She has come so far in a year's time, and when I go back and look at pictures of her from last summer when we first brought her home, I can hardly recognize her. She is a different child, and the transformation in her is every bit as glorious and breath-taking as that sunset I witnessed the other day. 

Choosing to see doesn't diminish the concerns we have for S. It doesn't make the issues magically go away. It doesn't change the fact that she is a broken, wounded little girl who spent 6 years in an institution without a momma and a daddy. It doesn't change the fact that she does indeed have many institutional behaviors and that she is very different from my other kids in significant ways. But it does change my perspective, and this changes everything. He changes everything. 

Just a few weeks ago,
Coloring without any tears!

Listen to these words by one of my favorite writers, Ann Voskamp. I read her wonderful book, One Thousand Gifts, last summer, right after Evie joined our family and right before we went to pick up Sophi. The Lord used her words to prepare my heart for all of the transitions we experienced then as I learned how very important it was to count His mercies, and just last night after I was finishing up this blog, I ran across it again. And, again, the Lord used these words to encourage me as they echoed exactly what the Lord has been teaching me now.

A summer of pain. Always the running. A summer of grace. Always the revelation. Pain is everywhere, and wherever the pain there can be everywhere grace, and yes, Jesus, I am struggling and I get turned around but I think I know, at least, in part, what I want. If I had never run, if I had never fallen, and here, I am not sure I would have known with blazing clarity. I may not know all that it means, but this is what I want... I whisper with the blind beggar, "Lord, I want to see" (Luke 18:41)...

Do I have eyes to see His face in all things...?

"Looking comes first," wrote C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce. First, the eyes. Always first, the inner eyes...

The only way to see God manifested in the world around is with the eyes of Jesus within. God within is the One seeing God without. God is both the object of my seeing and the subject who does the act of all real seeing, the Word lens the inner eye wears. To sit in the theater of God and see His glory crack the dark, to open the eyes of my heart to see the fountain of His grace - thousands of gifts - I have to split heart open to more and more of Jesus. Who can split open the eyelids but Jesus?

...and I know what I want: to see deeply, to thank deeply, to feel joy deeply. How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has seeping up through all things, then can't I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy - and seeing shows the way in...

And while I always seek to be honest and transparent here on this blog, I also want to make sure to give Him the glory for the great things He has done and is doing and will continue to do in this precious little life! I count it an unbelievable honor and a privilege to have a front row seat to one unfolding miracle after another as I watch S transform into a happy and vibrant little girl. And I count it a blessing that all of you continue to follow along and have the opportunity to witness these miracles as well.

Two months ago, S couldn't dress herself or put her own shoes and socks on. As we worked together, me showing her how to do these basic tasks, she hated it. She would rage, scream, and kick when I would put her socks in front of her and tell her to put them on. But, now, not only can she put them on, she can also go to her room all by herself and bring me back two matching socks. She can pick out her shoes from the basket and put them on the right feet, and she even attempts to make the "sh" sound followed by the "oo" sound to say the word "shoe". I didn't catch this on video, but after she gets them on, she proudly says "out" and goes to the door and says "o" and then the "p" sound, her way of asking me to open the door. I cannot even begin to tell you what progress this is. The fact that she understands what I am saying, is capable of following directions, and is attempting to use her sounds to communicate is remarkable!

The next video also shows how she is trying so hard to communicate. Take a listen to "our conversation" following lunch from a few days ago. This little girl wants to talk so badly, and every day she is making such huge strides! She has come a long way, and it's so easy for me to forget the tiny little girl we carried out of that orphanage almost a year ago. The little girl that whimpered anytime she saw food. The child that attacked food if she saw it sitting out. The child that stuffed her mouth so full that I was certain she was going to choke. The child that could not chew at all can now not only eat fruit snacks, but she knows how to ask for them! 

Here's one final thought about perspective that I absolutely love! I've followed this particular blog, The Blessing of Verity, for quite a while, and when I read her most recent post, I knew I should include it here. I especially love these words she said...

Early in our journey...I saw this coming, and then deliberately chose to deliberately choose what God would deliberately choose for me.

Yes, that's exactly it! I am making a deliberate choice today {and tomorrow and the day after and everyday yet to come} to deliberately choose all that He is deliberately choosing for me! And can I tell you something? What He is choosing is very good and so very, very glorious, and I would not trade this life for anything! 

Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord is my strength and song,
and He has become my salvation.
Therefore you will joyously draw water
from the springs of salvation.
And in that day you will say,
"Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name.
Make known His deeds among the peoples;
Make them remember that His name is exalted."
Praise the Lord in song,
for He has done excellent things;
Let this be known throughout the earth.
Cry aloud and shout for joy...
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 12:2-6


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