Saturday, February 7, 2015

mercifully hard

Dear Haddon,

The Lord sent your Daddy and I the most amazing gift when He sent us you, 
Caleb Haddon BlackmonThe baby who might not have been had it been left up to worldly wisdom or even a decision guided by our own common sense. I mean, honestly, who in their right mind gets pregnant twice during the middle of two separate international adoptions?

But, you, my sweet boy, you might have surprised your momma, but you certainly didn't surprise your Heavenly Father. 
In fact, I know for certain that the He was smiling big when He formed you. And I'm smiling now too as I think about your first year (and nine months) of life. 

For now Thou dost number my steps…
Job 14:16

We are world travelers, you and me. We've been to Bulgaria. We've been to Greece. We even spent a little bit of time in Germany. That was quite an adventure we went on, meeting your new sister, visiting family from far away, seeing new places so full of history and deep with meaning. 

One day, when you are a little bit older, I will show you the pictures and tell you the stories. I will tell you about climbing up those orphanage stairs every morning and every afternoon. How we saw your new sister smile for the first time. How we met all of your Greek uncles, aunts, and cousins and how very much they loved us both. I will tell you about that curvy mountain road leading up to your MiMi's tiny village. How I held my breath and was so terrified that we were going to drive off the cliff into those brilliant blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. How we saw the house where your MiMi lived as a little girl. How we walked up the dirt pathway lined with olive trees all the way to the tiny cemetery where your great-grandparents are buried. How we survived off tomatoes and cucumbers during those two weeks in Europe. How I wasn't sure we were going to make it home after a turbulent transatlantic flight home. And I will share with you how hard that trip was being 32 weeks pregnant with you kicking away inside of me and me being away from your Daddy and your brothers and sisters for so long. How tired, exhausted, and overwhelmed I was when we finally got home. And I will tell you how hard those last few months of pregnancy were for me, and how anxious I was to meet you and finally hold you in my arms.

One day, I will tell you how I wrestled with the Lord, questioning and doubting the story that He was writing for our family. Haddon, I was scared and overwhelmed. I never dreamed that I would be the momma to eight little people. Between a new baby and a little girl who couldn't walk and another one who couldn't talk, not to mention all five of the others, I was afraid that it would all be too much. I will tell you truthfully that this particular season - my pregnancy with you and your first year of life - was one of the hardest stretches I've ever lived through. You weren't responsible for any of the stretch marks on your momma's tummy (I can thank your big brothers for those), but I can tell you that my heart was stretched more during that season than any other time in my life. 

One day, when I share with you the reality and the truth of your first year of life, my hope is that you hear a Truth that you can hold on to when you find yourself in your own hard places and in the midst of your own stretching seasons. Haddon, for every hard thing that touches your life, and, trust me, there will be many hard things, there is One who is always with you. He always stays by your side, strengthening you and holding your hands. Others will let you down. Your daddy and I will let you down, but He won't. He will not fail you, and, Haddon, that's a promise you can count on.

I hope when you hear my stories, you will see that even though your momma was very scared and often overwhelmed, you will see how He made your momma brave and strong. Haddon, I know the Lord has called you to be brave too, and your daddy and I can't wait to see what adventures He has for you and how the story for your life is going to unfold.

Does He not see my ways,
and number all my steps?

Job 31:4

When I look at you, Caleb Haddon, the Lord reminds me about the man you were named after in the Bible. I love the story of Caleb, and I will keep telling you and retelling you his story. When you face difficult things in front of you, things that seem too challenging and too daunting, when something seems too big and you feel too small, I want you to remember that you are not alone. Just as He was with Caleb scouting out the Promised Land.  Just as He was with your momma during those two weeks we spent across the ocean together. Just as He was with me when I had to go back to Bulgaria a second time all by myself. Just as He has been with me, and with all of us, every moment in between and every moment since. I want you to know, that in the same way, He will always be with you. Listen to what Caleb told the Israelites when the path in front of them seemed too hard. It's the same words the Lord tells me all the time, and they are the words that I commit to not stop telling you: 

…and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.
Numbers 14:9 

Haddon, I pray for you and for each of your brothers and sisters that you will not fear the hard things in life. 

Can I tell you why?

Over these past few weeks, as I've been walking through my own hard things, I've been drawn to a book that I love, written by the other man you were named after, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The book used to belong to your MiMi, and a long time ago, she shared it with me. And I'll be honest with you. For the longest time, I didn't understand what I was reading. But not that long ago, when I found myself in a hard place, I began to read these words with new eyes. Haddon, the Lord opened my eyes. He began showing me, your stubborn and strong-willed momma, how I had been trying so hard to do things on my own strength. He showed me how starved my spirit had become and how barren and empty my heart was. It wasn't until then that the Lord got a hold of me and filled me with a hunger to truly know Him more deeply. It was then, during that season when your three oldest brothers were just babies, that I began reading the words in this book and finally began understanding them for the first time.

Desperation does that to you. It can draw you to Him. If you are willing.

Five little people later and many more desperate and hard moments in between, and, today, the book that I love so much is falling apart. It's highlighted and marked in, and there are notes filling the margins on almost every single page. One day, it will be yours and I'm already praying that these words will grip your heart just as they do mine.

There is a blessed proportion. The Ruler of Providence bears a pair of scales - in this side He puts His people's trials, and in that He puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy.

Haddon, while there is a part of me that hates the thought of you or any of your brothers and sisters having to face hard things, what I hate even worse is the thought of you walking through life never having to be dependent on the Lord, always thinking that your sufficiency is enough, and believing that you have what it takes, all on your own strength. This often happens when the path is easy. Even though it goes against all earthly reason, I want you to know that it's the moments of desperation, your struggles and failures, the messy parts of your story - these hard things - that make you realize how much you need Jesus, and this is a good thing. A mercy. So, please, my precious littlest boy, don't ever fear the hard things.

When the black clouds gather most, the light is the more brightly revealed to us. When the night lowers and the tempests is coming on, the Heavenly Captain is always closest to His crew.

Haddon, this is why I am not afraid for you to walk down hard paths. Listen to me, son. Listen to these words of the man you were named after. Hard things are the heralds of weighty mercies. Believe me when I tell this. I know firsthand.

It is a blessed thing, that when we are the most cast down, then it is at that we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit. One reason is, because trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation.

Haddon, more than anything, I want you to learn to look to Jesus. In the hard places. In the easy places. In every place. This is what your daddy and I are teaching your brothers and sisters, and as you grow old enough to understand, we will teach you. But you need to know that sometimes people will look to other things for what they can only find in Jesus. Haddon, this happens even to people who know and deeply believe the truths that I am telling you today. As much as I want to shield your sweet and innocent heart, there is so much pain and brokenness in this world, and you need to know that there are temptations and distractions and an Enemy who wants to divert your eyes off of the Only One who can see you through your hard things. This Enemy will try to convince you that there are other things that can make you feel better. And when you are in the midst of something hard, sometimes you can just feel so desperate and alone that you listen to his lies and you are willing to try anything. Remember that I told you that desperation can be a good thing? It's true that it can be good, but it's also a dangerous thing. Trust me, I know all about this too.

Haddon, there is a part of my story that I don't like to talk about. But as I've been walking through these past few weeks, the hard place of losing our littlest baby to miscarriage, the Lord is making me brave to share these hard things. I think it's important for you and your brothers and sisters to know. It's not something that I'm proud of, but I'm willing to tell you because I want you to see that no matter what type of hard place you find yourself in, even if it's because of your own bad choices, I want you to see that it is not too hard for Him. Nothing that you can do, no hard thing you could ever face, is too hard for Him! Can you remember that for me?

God comes into our heart - he finds it full - He begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it. Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles, is this - then we have the closest dealings with God. When the barn is full, man can live without God: when the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But once take our gourds away, and we want our God; once cleanse the idols out of the house, then we are compelled to honor Jehovah.

Haddon, long before you were born, I went through a hard season. I'm laughing now as I think about it, because in retrospect, it doesn't seem nearly as hard as what I've walked through since. But your daddy and I were just learning how to parent three tiny boys, he was in the midst of job changes and challenges, we were building a house, we were navigating some difficult family issues, and on top of all of that, the market crashed, creating some intense financial concerns. The combination of all those circumstances just felt like too much for me to handle. I pretended like everything was fine, but the reality was opposite. I was continuing to deal with postpartum depression along with some unresolved heart issues from the past, and it left me feeling like my orderly, once-controllable world had been turned upside down. 

Instead of running to the One who was strong enough to see me through this hard place, I simply ran. Miles and miles. Every day. Your momma turned to running as a way to escape my hard things. When I was overwhelmed, when I was anxious, and when I felt like everything was spinning out of control, I would run. I would tell myself that it was helping me, but the truth was that it was actually hurting me. Addictions always do. In the moment, they might feel good. They might make the pain disappear. They might make you feel like you are back in control. But it's temporary. Even after running, I would still feel overwhelmed and empty inside. So, I ran more and tried harder, all hoping it would make me feel better. Of course, in the end, it made everything worse. Much worse. Instead of opening up my heart, I shut it down. Instead of feeding it with good things, primarily the truth that Jesus was with me to help me through my hard things, I did the opposite. I starved my body and starved my heart of the nourishment that I so desperately needed. Haddon, you need to know that addictions always make the hard things harder. 

"Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord."

There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains; no prayer half so hearty as that which comes from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are heralds of weighty mercies.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Little brown-eyed boy of mine, I want you to know how easy it is in this life to lose your way. Even when you know the Way, it can happen. Haddon, this happened to me. My particular struggle is one that hopefully you won't ever have to deal with, but the truth is that we all have our battles to face. It might be an addiction to drugs, alcohol, work, sex, shopping, food, or any number of things, really. And it is hard. Even now, I still have hard days, days when the struggle is very real and the Enemy is very loud. I pray that you, your brothers, and your sisters will never have to walk down this particular road. But, in case you do, there's something you need to know: 

There is mercy. 

These hard things are mercies... 

If you will just let Him meet you in the midst of them. 

Can I share with you what you will find? It's what your momma has found and is still finding, even today as I write these words? 

You will find that He has never once, not for one second, left your side. You will find that He is able when you are not. That in your struggles, He is sufficient. That in your weakness, He is strong. And that in your failures, in spite of your failures, He is faithful. 

Haddon, I believe with every fibre of my being that God can redeem every single hard thing. He can use them to make your heart more like His. He can use them for His glory, to help further His kingdom.

Behold, I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; when He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns to the right, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Job 23:8-10

Haddon, you will meet people along the way whose hard and difficult circumstances have turned them into hard people. They might be hard on others because of their angry, resentful, and unforgiving hearts. They might be hard on themselves, allowing guilt and shame to keep them from forgiving themselves and accepting the grace that the Lord so freely pours out. Sometimes, Haddon, hard things turn people's hearts hard toward God. I pray this never happens to you. 

Today, Haddon, I can't stop staring at you. Your big brown eyes. That toothy smile. Your chubby little fingers that pick up everything you can find. Your legs that are always moving. I think this might be my most favorite age of all. You love to laugh, and you are trying so hard to talk. You love your brothers and sisters, especially the brown-eyed little girl who seems to get into the most mischief. You and Evie are quite a pair! You love your daddy, and you love to snuggle with me. You give the best hugs. But I know that I will blink my eyes, and you will grow into a strong and tough man. Haddon, my prayer for you is that your heart will always stay soft and open to your Heavenly Father. He loves you, sweet boy, and the path He has planned for you, though sometimes it will seem hard, will be for your greatest good, His highest glory, and will accomplish mighty kingdom purposes. The Lord has called you to be brave, Caleb Haddon. No matter what the path ahead looks like, He is with you, and you don't ever have to fear the hard things. They are simply heralds of weighty mercies.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord; and He delights in his way. When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:2-3

Happy first birthday, Haddon! I have no idea all of the things, both the good things and the mercifully hard things, that the Lord has in store for your life, but I know that He has big plans for you, my littlest boy, and I know we have nothing to fear. I also know that He is already using you in mighty ways. He's using you to help make your momma brave and strong, and for this, I am eternally grateful. 


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