Sunday, August 9, 2015

milestones, mercies, & miracles

Keep walking with Me along the path I have chosen for you. Your desire to live close to Me is a delight to my heart. I could instantly grant you the spiritual riches you desire, but that is not My way for you. Together we will forge a pathway up the high mountain. The journey is arduous at times, and you are weak. Someday you will dance light-footed on the high peaks; but for now, your walk is often plodding and heavy. All I require of you is to take the next step, clinging to My hand for strength and direction. Though the path is difficult and the scenery dull at the moment, there are sparkling surprises just around the bend. Stay on the path I have selected for you. It is truly the path of Life.

Jesus Calling

Three years ago, this week, Will and I walked out the doors of an orphanage in Shumen, Bulgaria with our newest daughter in our arms. I don't think I've ever been so terrified in my life. This tiny, malnourished little girl, the one who attacked anything that resembled food or drink, the one who pulled out large chunks of her hair when she got mad, the one who stuffed her entire fist in her mouth and bit down as hard as she could when she was frustrated, this six and a half year old who was completely incapable of chewing, communicating, or doing anything for herself, this is the one who the Lord had hand-picked to be our child. The week we spent in Bulgaria with Sophi was one of the most challenging weeks of my life. There were moments when fear gripped my heart and I was convinced that we had just made the biggest mistake of our lives. The voice of the Enemy was loud. He uttered accusing and ugly lies that we had ruined our family, that this child was too wounded, too difficult, too much for us to handle. And while I knew the truth, that this child was an incredible gift and a blessing, it was very much a battle in my heart and in my mind to believe that He was able to work all things, even the brokenness that I witnessed in this tiny girl, into something beautiful and good.

The battle has intensified during the three years she has been home. The journey we began with Sophi as our little girl has felt very much like an uphill climb every single day. We have had many, many hard moments and very few things have come easy for her or for us as we have struggled to learn to love and care for this wounded, little soul. There were stretches that I honestly wasn't sure we were ever going to emerge out of. Nothing has revealed my weakness, my shortcomings, my sinfulness like being this child's momma. Sophi and I both have struggled in ways that I never could have imagined. There were many days during that first year that I wanted to quit, days that I wondered if our lives would ever feel normal again. Hard, hard days. I remember even before we brought Sophi home, after we had just committed to adopt her, telling people that we wanted this little child to hear the name of Jesus. Even if she was never able to learn and develop like a typical child, this is what mattered most and this was my prayer for our newest daughter. During that first year she was home, a year when I felt like my well-controlled, predictable world had been completely turned upside down, this child, without a doubt, heard the name of Jesus. Spoken, sung, cried out in desperation, I learned to cling to Him in ways that I had never before. 

Almost exactly two years ago, after much prayer and discussion, we decided it was time to put Sophi in school. She was to spend several hours there in the morning, and our hope was that she would receive the therapy that she desperately needed. After being home for a year, we were slowly beginning to realize and accept some hard realities about our little girl. We knew that we were facing severe cognitive limitations and behavioral challenges that were more than just a result of having spent the formative years of her life in an orphanage. Her doctors called it a "genetic predisposition," and warned us that she would most likely hit a plateau, developmentally, and not be able to progress any further. We wondered if we had already reached that point. Sophi had attachment issues that a year's worth of cocooning had done little to help. She was still almost entirely non-verbal and had shown an incapability to learn even simple sign language. Although she had made progress in some areas, we struggled to know how to help her learn and to reach her full potential, whatever that may be. We believed that school would be a good thing for her and for our entire family. However, we quickly saw massive regression in Sophi's behavior as she was unable to process this new change. It was incredibly disheartening and frustrating, and after a few short months, we pulled her out of school. Again, it was a battle to believe that this path that the Lord had chosen for our family was indeed a good one. There were many days that I wrestled with this truth and, quite honestly, wrestled with showing consistent love toward this precious child.

In the heat of the battle, that winter, after what felt like such a huge setback, Will and I clearly heard the Lord's call to adopt again. To say that I was terrified and overwhelmed would be an understatement. Adoption, for our family, had not been an easy path and to hear the Lord asking us to step out in faith and do it all over again felt like sheer craziness. And when the Lord led us to adopt a little girl with massive physical disabilities, I was quite convinced that our lives would never look the same again. I think I resigned myself to the idea that "in this life we will have trouble" and accepted that this journey would probably always be hard. As I was struggling to teach my girls the life-skills that they lacked and needed, the Lord was gently teaching me a truth that I even more desperately needed. That joy is possible no matter how hard or challenging our circumstances may be. The year that we added Faith Ana {and our littlest boy Haddon} to our family was a challenge on so many different levels. We would see breakthroughs, and it would appear like we were taking a few steps forward only to be followed by many more backwards. The Enemy was always on the attack. As Charles Haddon Spurgeon says, his method is to attack us at the point of our perseverance, and I found this so very true, especially as I was learning how to persevere in becoming a momma to these two. While I knew that giving up was not an option {we were in it for the long-haul with these two daughters of ours}, on numerous occasions, the temptation was so great to lose hope and to go through the motions of each day, detached and disheartened.

One year ago, this past summer, the reality of life with two special needs little girls had set in, and we were in the trenches. I was in the trenches, fighting a battle within and without. Sophi was struggling to adjust to her new sister, Faith Ana, and I was struggling to adjust to the demands and responsibilities that came with being a momma to eight little people. In many ways, it was very much a dark place, one of the darkest I had ever been through. I had doubted before, but this time, I really didn't know if we were going to make it through. 

The Lord was so incredibly faithful during that stretch. I struggle to put it into words, but when I look back and acknowledge how intense the battle was for my heart and the hearts of these precious little girls, it takes my breath away. He carried me when I didn't think I could take another day of stinky accidents and stinky behavior. He strengthened me and gave me the patience and direction that I so desperately needed. He equipped me and enabled me, providing rest and respite, hope and healing. He was so faithful.

And we made it through. Praise the Lord. Here we are just a few days ago. Just look at my two big girls...

The Lord God is my Strength,
my personal bravery,
and my invincible army;
He makes my feet like hinds' feet
and will make me to walk
[not to stand still in terror, but to walk]
and make [spiritual] progress
upon my high places
[of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!
Habakkuk 3:19 (The Amplified Bible) 

This week, we reached another milestone. A great big one! On the morning that Sophi and Faith Ana both started school, I read these words. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and thanksgiving, and I can hardly believe the transformation I see when I look at these two. To look back and remember where they have been and how far they have come {where I have been and how far I have come} is nothing less than witnessing a miracle. That morning on their first day of school, when I looked at their smiling faces and bright eyes, when I looked in the mirror at my own, all I could see was mercy. I was blown away with the multitude of milestones, mercies, and miracles that had transpired over the past three years to get us to this day.

As the three of us were sitting outside waiting for their bus with the morning sun shining brightly behind us, the reminder of His steadfast faithfulness swept over me. And I knew I needed to share it here, for my own sake (as we will most certainly go through more difficult days in the future and it's always helpful to be able to remember the victories along the way), and, hopefully, for your sake as well. Maybe you are in the middle of your own difficult season and wonder if you will make it through. I've been there, and I know. Our stories might be different, but the struggle, the depression of spirit, that hopeless feeling is the same. My prayer today is that this little glimpse into our story will encourage you and remind you that nothing is impossible for our Faithful Father. When circumstances are difficult and daunting, when the way is dark and you can't see how it's going to turn out, He wants nothing more than to take you by the hand and help you through your own high, hard places of trouble, suffering, and responsibility. And He is able. These smiles are proof.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126:3


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