There’s More To Your Pain Than You Think

 

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When my littles were even littler, we had an epic car conversation about space.

“Mommy, name some of the planets!”

“Let’s see…there’s Earth, Saturn, Uranus, Venus…”

I’ll stop here. Because Eli didn’t hear the ‘V’ in Venus…he heard a ‘P’.

“Daddy’s (insert misheard word) is a planet?!!!”

Ummm…

It took a while to explain nothing on our bodies constitutes a planet. However, it’s pretty obvious we have trouble coming to grips the world doesn’t revolve around us.

A couple weeks ago, I wandered into our adoption journey with a woman I just met. Wide-eyed, she interrupted me, ‘Five years!?  How have you had the strength to go through all this and keep going?!’

I paused; I didn’t know a smidge about her faith, religion, or worldview. The beauty of a testimony is it belongs to its storyteller.

“God. It’s only through God. It’s the only answer I have. But, it’s the honest answer.”

I’ve no clue what she was thinking, but wheels where definitely running full speed behind her furrowed brow.

Sometimes, we forget our struggle doesn’t make us the center of the universe. At times, I’m too busy expecting everyone to revolve around me because I’m hurting.

What if…

The overwhelming amount of paper work,

Financial sacrifice,

Nights sobbing on the bathroom floor,

Naming and un-naming of children I thought were ours,

The ache of laying down my will in order to pick up God’s,

What if…all of it was to testify to this one woman…God is good. God is strong.

Would that be enough for me? Do I have the heart of Jesus to go after the one? These are questions I’m challenged with.

God’s heart is missional. He’s created me in His image to be on mission with him. Oh, how he loves us. Oh, how he wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

Our lives aren’t just about us. They are ultimately about proclaiming His great name. Each trial, victory, tear of joy and wrenching heartache can be used to point someone we love to Jesus. New wine is only made through the crushing of grapes. What if the product of the pressing isn’t for us to enjoy alone?

Your friends are watching you.

Your children are listening to you.

You aren’t the only one in the midst of struggle.

Praise God in the pressing.

It may bring new life to someone standing next to you. There’s only room for ONE at the center of the universe.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)



Don’t Hoard “What Could’ve Been”

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I have papers filed, stuffed, and strategically tucked away…much like the grief attached to them.

I have official binders of completed Home Studies, one for Ghana, one for Domestic. Another folder filled with the remnants of our Ethiopia dossier. Love letters addressed, “To Our baby from Africa, From Big Sister Ciana,” randomly skydive out of shelves when I tug at a book. It’s routine for me to tenderly tuck them back in the crevice they escaped. It’s routine for me to cry as I do it.

God pressed my heart yesterday,

Why are you keeping all these papers?

Papers have no power.

I struggle releasing the hope that the International Adoption Program in Ghana will re-open. What if it did?! Even if I made gazillion copies of these documents…they’re all expired.

Yet, there’s no expiration date on hope.

When God calls the Israelites to enter the Promise land, He tells them…

“You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” (Deuteronomy 1:6)

It was time to move forward to the new place God had prepared; A land of hope. If you’re familiar with the story, they had major trouble trusting in God’s promise.  They’d rather be literal SLAVES in Egypt then to trust God’s call to move forward.

We all do this. We make ourselves slaves to the past. We’re terrified God doesn’t have a better way. So we remain on timed-out mountain-tops and needlessly wander the wilderness.

His word reminds us, “As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30)

Don’t hoard what could’ve been.  It devours valuable soul space.

Stop asking, Lord, what-if…

Start asking,  Lord, what- now?

If we don’t, we may miss the new thing God has for us.

“ See, I am doing a new thing!
   Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19) 

Snapshots of the past 5 years have indeed, looked like a spiritual trudge through wasteland. I want to perceive new things God’s springing up in my life. Physical things can clutter the halls of our spiritual house. I’m making room. But it’s not easy.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw all the papers away. I’m constantly handing my heart over for God to complete his work in me. However, I did consolidate them and move them into a garage space. Now they can’t ambush my peace. I’ll only revisit them if God calls me to.

God’s faithfully held me as I’ve mourned on this mountain for a season. But  I’ve been here long enough. It’s time to follow Him to new territory.

Honestly, there’s still sorrow in the descent.

Honestly,  I have no clear vision of where He’s leading.

I know it’s a land of hope.

I know in order for him to make a “new way”…He’s asked me to move all the papers off the path.



No Surprise


“You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.”
 
Isaiah 26:3 


I’m sorry to say, but due to the ever-changing conditions in Ghana, the chances of bringing home an orphan anytime soon, are not looking good…

     Our social worker has such a sweet spirit, but her words were just too bitter to swallow this time. We sat on our couch and completed our Home Study update. It was hard not to think: What’s the point? We aren’t getting matched with our child soon…if ever. Having been in the international adoption process for three years now, I know better than to beat my brain with questions I will never have the answers to. Most importantly, I know not to challenge God in his wisdom. A part of me sunk when our social worker explained that a new person in power was holding all child cases back from being dispensed to waiting families. But one thing I heard above my clattering thoughts: 

Daughter, this is no surprise to me.

This was no surprise to God.

This was no surprise to God.

This was no surprise to God.

The ‘me’ two years ago, would’ve written a seemingly justified letter:

Dear God,

   DON’T YOU KNOW…

Conditions in Africa for orphans are bleak? Politics and pride are coming before the needs of children?  There are over 1 million orphans in Ghana?   We have been on the wait list for over a year now? 

All we want to do is your kingdom work…(Just in case you forgot).  

Love,

      A concerned citizen of the kingdom of God 

But not this time. Sometimes God gives us a little glimpse of how he has grown us. This was one of those gracious moments. Just the soft whisper in my spirit, ‘Daughter, this is no surprise to me’, was like an anointing of peace. It has been months since this conversation, and the peace hasn’t left me. In fact, he has allowed it to echo through my heart as new challenges have risen up. It feels like a crown he has placed on my head. It is not going anywhere. I am so in awe of this sweet gift. Peace in knowing, God is not surprised by anything, is a valuable shield against the enemy. God loves me. All his plans are for my good. All of his plans are to bring more people into his salvation kingdom. Not some of them, not most of them…ALL of them.

Every. Single. Detail. Every delay, every hitch in paperwork, every ‘roadblock’, every signature, every blessing, every trial, every person I speak to…he will use in my life for his good purposes. He will use it all to bring glory to his name. He will use it to shout of his love for the lost. Period. This is true whether I believe it or not.  

I believe it. I welcome it. I stand on it.

It is important that we read God’s word. It is imperative that we live it in our everyday circumstances.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
 
Romans 8:28 

My God: Father

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God sent his son, so I could be his daughter. I have no problem accepting that I am God’s child. This knowledge has wrapped me up in safety and peace my whole life. I belong to God.

I was reading over The Lord’s Prayer this week. It begins with, Our Father. For the first time I realized, I never began my prayers by acknowledging God was my Father. Always, my prayers have begun with Dear Lord or Dear God. Never did I pray, Dear Father. I felt God challenging me to pray this way for the first time.

That shouldn’t be hard God, no biggie!

But it was.

I couldn’t do it. It didn’t seem right to me. It almost felt disrespectful. He is my Holy God; He is the maker of all things. I felt like I couldn’t begin my prayer with such an earthy name as Father. I have an amazing earthly Father. I didn’t need to extend the term upwards to heaven. I was all good in the Daddy department.

God really went after me over this issue. This week in bible study, it referenced Romans 8:15:

‘…the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry,

“Abba, Father.”

This is what was happening. God’s spirit was relentlessly after me to testify that I should be crying out, Abba, Father’.

Abba is a very personal Hebrew term for Father. It literally means Daddy or Papa. This is what Jesus cries out as he falls to the ground in prayer in the book of Mark:

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you.’

Then we go to Galatians, and again:

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ”Abba, Father”.

Why was I pressing down the spirit that wanted to call out Abba? Why was it so hard for me to call God my Daddy, my Papa?

God wants extreme intimacy with us. By calling him my Daddy, we must acknowledge God wants more of our trust.

God was casting his net a little further into my heart. He was showing me that there are parts of myself I haven’t trusted him with. I struggle a lot with this.

It is hard not to view intimacy through the eyes of my experiences here on earth. If I let someone in just a little too far, it can result in a lot of hurtful disappointment. But God isn’t someone…He is God.

God does not fail us. He finds us.

Wherever we wander, He is always our Father. If my child was lost, or struggling; I would pour every resource I had into finding them and restoring them. But my resources are limited.

God, with his unlimited resources, is pursuing me. He finds me over and over again. He is never failing.

He will never grow tired of pulling me in closer. He will never grow too old to bend down and look me in the eye. He will never be weak and unable to carry me on his shoulders. He will never be too busy to lift up my chin and ask me what is wrong.

He will never lack wisdom to point me in the way I should go. And every time, He will go with me. Every time, He will hold my hand.  He will never look away when I am attacked; He will go before me and fight. He will always win.

He will never be too poor to feed me. His love will never dry up and leave me aching for acceptance. He will never lose his voice; He will sing and shout and whisper words of love to me. He will never be sick and unable to run the race with me.

He will never be ashamed of me. I am his workmanship.

He will never leave me without shelter. He bled on two pieces of wood so he could build his dwelling in me. He will never go blind, unable to see that I have tripped and scraped up a part of my heart. He sees me.

My Daddy sees me. Every time.

My Daddy answers me. In His time.

My Daddy holds me. All the time.

My Father loves me. From Heaven, to the cross, and back again.

My Father is not just someone. He is God.

The Big Switch: Ethiopia to Ghana

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‘We are asking 5 families to join a pilot program that just opened up to adopt from Ghana. You are one of the families we would like to consider this…’

We had already been to Ethiopian restaurants, watched Ethiopian documentaries; we loved Ethiopia! We were going to wait 4 years to be matched with an Ethiopian orphan. So…

Where is Ghana again?!??

I Googled the map of Africa. There it was- somewhere between Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.

East Africa.  Ebola Africa.  Violent Africa?

I am going to die if I go there. I am going to get lost, or kidnapped, or murdered….AND DIE!

Please do not be offended by ignorance. I am trying to be honest.  Honestly–sometimes honesty isn’t pretty.

The fear was crippling.  The answer was no. That was that.

For full disclosure, I sent my husband the email.  He wasn’t ‘feeling’ Ghana either…at first.

Why are you so afraid, Jenna?

I knew God was asking me this. It was good question; God doesn’t ask stupid ones.  I had to dig deep and pray: Is this a check in the spirit from the Lord? Or is the enemy trying to get in the way of God’s plan?’

‘For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ 2 Timothy 1:7

 The truth was: I knew nothing about Ghana. ZERO. Heck, I had to Google map it! My fears were totally based on, well…nothing.  I didn’t know if it was violent. Turns out it has no case of Ebola.  It currently has legit democratic elections.

God does not give us fear. God gives us faith!

If God is asking us to enter into something that seems dangerous from an earthy perspective, he will give us a ‘sound mind’ about it: warning, discernment, caution. He will not cause us to panic and throw our hands about in fury.  He will not scare us in to submission. He calls us into submission because he has plans to prosper us.

But we have a choice; Satan knows this.

The enemy is SO very present at these pivotal moments in our faith. He brings on the fear factor.

We end up running from our fears, instead of running towards God’s will. 

We are attacked big time when God is calling us to do something awesome for His name’s sake. We can not be lazy in this spiritual battle.  We must commit to prayer; we must be in God’s word, we must cling to other believers.

All the while, lean in to God…then lean in some more. Lean in so close that you can hear his voice above the clashing of lies and the howling fears.

Do this and you will hear him. The crippling panic and unanswerable questions fall away. Then it is just you, standing in the shadow of the cross: loved, forgiven, bravely poured out.  If we believe he did this for us, we must believe that that we can trust Him with all things: sickness, parenting, jobs…even unknown  parts of Africa.

Only God can replace our fear with faith. 

The kind of faith that confirms God loves us to death.  The faith that gives confidence to go where we may die, because we know deep down: to die is to gain.

My husband and I wrestled in prayer together until 1 a.m. over the decision to switch our adoption to Ghana. I felt peace sweep over my body, like a tingly heat.  I heard the country’s name over and over in my head: Ghana, Ghana, Ghana.

No fear. No questions. Only faith remained. It was warm and peaceful. So peaceful I could hear his voice.

Yes, Ghana.

Dear Lord,

Please take away my fear and give me faith.

Amen

Our love will turn to dust…

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by Jenna DeMattia Masters

Pride is such an ugly thing.  I don’t know how to talk about our decision to adopt without it sounding like we are doing something out of the kindness of our own hearts; That it is truly ‘our’ idea.  Adoption is God’s idea. Adoption is God’s plan.  We humans, no matter how ‘good’ we think we are, have zero to do with it. ZERO! I feel there is just no way to emphasize accurately the enormity of this truth. It has nothing to do with our goodness, and everything to do with God’s goodness.

You want to know how ‘good’ of a person I am?  I found myself praying through tears on the floor to God that I couldn’t do this, that ‘this will be too hard, I already have 3 kids that I can’t clean up after.  How will I do that much laundry?!’   I was throwing the towel in over this stuff.

God is so patient.

He let me go on and on with questions as to how this would affect  MY life. He was quiet. He let me finish.  Then he whispered firmly, ‘Child, everything you asked was how adopting this child would affect you.  Not one word from your mouth asked how it would affect the child if you didn’t adopt them.’ Smack down.  Seriously. There are times when God speaks so lovingly in his rebuke that it smacks me down on my face in repentance.  This was one of those moments. Yes, there would be more laundry, and more sibling disputes to referee. There would be some sacrifice on my part.  But isn’t sacrificing the cost of redeeming a life?  Jesus endured far more than a few extra socks to wash when he adopted me. This quote by Derek Loux just wrecks me:

“Adoption is redemption.  It is costly, exhausting, expensive and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed him.” Continue reading

Who, Not Why

What are we to do when we feel God is calling us to do something that may appear crazy to others?

For me personally, it is adopting from Ethiopia.

The last couple of months the conversations have gone down like this:

‘Are you done having kids?’

‘Well, we are naturally done having children’

‘What does that mean?

‘We are in the process of adoption right now’…

Silence.  Awkward silence, you know the kind.

The verbal sparring begins after this:  ‘Why don’t you just have another child naturally? Why aren’t you adopting domestically? Do you think this is fair to your current children? Do you really thing GOD is calling you to do this?’.

Why all the push back? There are 153,000,000 orphans in the world.  I assumed when I told people we were adopting, there would be some sort of celebration, some sort of, ‘Hallelujah! God’s people are moving!’…but I have received a lot of silence followed by strained questions; and it hurts.  I feel the need to defend our call to adopt, and it is breaking my heart. I regret to admit, I have allowed it to tear some of the joy out of the process.  Satan must be so pleased.

In the meantime, I feel I am in the ebb and flow of the tides. A tide pushes at me, I push back…

‘No, random mom I just met, we haven’t considered reversing my husband’s vasectomy, Yes, we feel it is GOD calling us to adopt.’ And ‘I have a lot of fears of how it will affect my current children, but God loves them more than me. He knows what he is asking of us.’

In the middle of my ‘pushing back’, this week I heard him say, ‘Why are you down in the water, pushing against these tides, when you could walk on top of the water child?’  

Yes Lord! WHY!? Continue reading