The Pain of Advent

The Pain of Advent

*This post was originally published December 2, 2013. While much has changed in two years, my wait is still there. Actually, last week we found out the wait time for Ethiopia was extended once more. This is me writing not from the victorious finish line, but from the messy middle. While I wish it wasn’t the case, I know many I love find themselves in the messy middle of a wait too. This is a call for all of us to remember He hasn’t forgotten us. Advent is a reminder of His faithfulness to those who feel forgotten. 

IMG_8072It wasn’t yet December, but because of holiday travel, we had decided to begin Advent a few days early. I counted out twenty-four waxy candles and placed them in a box, each one awaiting its addition to our advent wreath. We hung on the wall a discarded fir branch, and I cut out little squares depicting images of each story that would create our Jesse tree. I wanted to feel anticipation. I wanted to wait in expectation. But my heart hung heavy like marbles in an old sock.

The irony wasn’t lost on me. Here I was committed to intentionally experiencing Advent this year and here I was snared in the wait. I opened the first page of The Greatest Gift, tears brimming because I already knew what God was trying to teach me, a lesson that prickles my anxious heart. Lydia saw my tears and walked over to me, “What’s wrong, Momma?” I told her I was missing EEOO, wishing this journey didn’t have to be so hard and ready to have EEOO in our arms. My sensitive girl hugged me tight and said, “She’ll be here soon, Momma. We just have to wait a little longer.”

Our home is outside the city limits and because of that there are no street lights in our neighborhood. Especially this time of year when it gets dark so early, I can drive all over town and never see a single star. Among the streetlights and store signs, the car lights and lit-up billboards, the stars become muddled, lost in the contrived illumination we’ve created. But upon entering our neighborhood, a million stars whisper their hellos. They were there all along, but I couldn’t see them until my world got really dark.

As we remember Advent this year, as we turn our focus to the expectant wait, I am having to face my own darkness. This past week has been incredibly discouraging on our adoption journey. Another big form to renew which means another home study update which means more forms, more interviews, more of the same stuff we’ve already done. More delays. October only had one referral and November had none. None. That word slices my heart. With every month that passes our wait increases, not just in anxiousness but in literal days. When we began this journey our wait time was twelve to eighteen months. Now, sixteen months in and we see that wait time slipping further and further away. Meanwhile, dozens of children wait longer and longer in orphanages. And my heart breaks. It cracks and splits and cries and doesn’t understand why. Some days I’m strong. Other days I’m just tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of waiting.

These are the days when I have to remember what Mary did. She treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Mary knew what it was to wait, and she knew what it was to see God’s faithfulness. These are the days I have to pull out my journals and remember. I remember our wait for Lydia, our wait for Charlotte.  Along the margin of a page in one journal these words from Romans are scribbled, tear-stained and desperately penned, “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Here’s what Paul knew vividly… In the pitch-black of night, the stars are most resplendent. In the darkest hour of our waiting, hope pierces through like a star in the east.

In a world that says comfort is everything, it doesn’t make sense that suffering gives birth to hope. It seems more like suffering smothers hope like a wet towel over a flickering candle. Often, I feel like hope would swell if I could just hear some good news about our adoption or if I could see the wait times decrease. But the hard lesson I’m learning is God does His life-changing work through my perseverance in the wait. Yesterday, my pastor taught from Isaiah 8, and I’m claiming verse 17 as my anthem during this Advent season, “I will wait for the Lord.” My hope comes not from getting that which I desire. My hope comes from being used by my Redeemer to pen His love story, to be the black and white words that illuminate faith and hope for those around me.

At the start of our new series, Everything Changed, my worship pastor introduced the song that inspired the name of the series. My heart quickly tethered to these words…

When our dreams grow dim and our hearts grow cold
He is never far away from our broken soul

At the start of this Advent season, my soul feels broken, my heart fractured and vulnerable. Today and in the days to come, I will wait for the Lord, hunkered down in the darkness, at peace with the wait, but looking above to a blanket of stars, each one shimmering hope.

The Mistake Sarah Made {And the One I Make}

The Mistake Sarah Made {And the One I Make}

Aside from the no air conditioning (and pretending I was my husband’s sister), I think Sarah and I could have been BFFs–a couple of control freaks who love to laugh and have a hard time waiting. There are several things I’m waiting on right now, a list of things I’m praying for daily, and a child we continue to press on for. I’m guessing you are waiting on something too–a husband, a child, a job, an answer, a good night’s sleep. When I read Sarah’s story, I always think to myself . . .

She had the promise but not the timing.

God had given Sarah and Abraham the promise, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have” (Genesis 15:5).  There are a lot of stars in that inky sky that blankets our every night–1,385,859,623,298, 1,385,859,623,299, 1,385,859,623,300… they would still be counting today. The promise had been given, but the timing wasn’t there yet. And that’s when Sarah made a mistake. A mistake that still echoes today. She took the promise and tried to make it happen in her timing.

And that’s where I am right now. On my knees begging God to hold me still until His timing. I’m really good at running ahead and fixing things like I think they should be remedied, finding a solution that makes me happy. And He keeps whispering to me, “Wait, child. Wait. I’ve got this.” One of the verses I pray every day is Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” God doesn’t take us 90% of the way and expect us to finish the last 10% on our own. He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and the end. I think maybe I’ll write those words in my prayer journal today. He is my beginning and my end, my Alpha and my Omega.

Whatever it is we’re waiting on today, let’s keep surrendering. Let’s keep coming to His feet with our requests, but let’s keep giving Him our content and satisfied heart that says, “You, Jesus, You are Enough. I have your promise, and I will rest in Who You are.”

When Wait is Harder Than No

When Wait is Harder Than No

iphone-wallpaperSometimes hearing God say “wait” is even harder than hearing Him say “no.” At least no is closure, and I can start heading another direction. But wait means staying put. Wait is ambiguous and obscure like trying to put on makeup when the bathroom mirror is all steamy. Wait is staying where you are when you want to start chasing something new. It’s being still when you want to get up and go. It’s trusting God when you want to make it happen yourself.

I don’t know about you, but one of my daily struggles is the tug I feel to insert activity into every waking moment. While I wait at the doctor’s office or the grocery line, I check IG or Twitter which only exacerbates the problem because now I can clearly see in cropped square photos and 140 characters that everyone else is moving. They’re moving while I’m waiting. They are going and doing and creating and changing, and I’m just waiting.

And right there in the middle of that muddy place where my feet feel stuck like someone oozed superglue all over my soles, I hear God whisper, “You are waiting because I’m moving inside you. I’m showing you true gratitude comes not from getting what you want but from depending on me as your Provider. I’m teaching you contentment is found not in new, shiny stuff but in a trusting relationship with the One who made you and gave you a purpose. You say I’m your everything. I’m going to prove to you that I Am Everything.”

Be still and know that I am God. Stop your moving. Stop your doing. Stop your striving. Just be still and know that I am God. Not you.

*The beautiful image comes from Kelli and Ashley, two crazy talented women. I love what Kelli wrote in her blog about this latest work. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I have this image as the lock screen on my iPhone so I can see it regularly. Thank you, Kelli & Ashley for sharing your work and heart with the world! 

On Eggs & Waiting

On Eggs & Waiting

I used to hate scrambled eggs–the smell, the rubbery taste and the way they always seemed lukewarm at best. This is probably too much information to share, so forgive me, but during my pregnancy with Lydia I had my routine glucose tolerance test. The doctor had prepared me to eat a light breakfast with few carbs. She recommended eggs. I hated eggs, but I wanted to pass the test so I took her advice. I ate the eggs, drove to the doctor’s office, drank my orange sugary drink and sat down in the waiting room. Not five minutes later, I wanted a trash can. I managed to keep it all down until I got home. I walked through the back door. Matt asked me how it went, and I covered my mouth and ran to the toilet. Then, I really, really hated scrambled eggs.

Last year when Bread and Wine came out, I got an advance copy and read the whole thing in one night. The author Shauna Niequist shared in one of her stories that the secret to amazing scrambled eggs is low and slow. Low heat, cold pan and slow cooking. Since my prior method was to crank that little dial to “7” or “8” and scramble the eggs in about three seconds flat, I was wondering if my hating eggs had something to do with my method. So, I tried hers out. And now I love scrambled eggs. I make them almost every morning, and Charlotte starts clapping her hands as soon as she sees me crack them into the pan. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I had a proud-mom moment when she got all excited about the scrambled eggs at Corner Bakery last week but after one taste put them back on her plate and said, “No.”

Low and slow. That’s a lot of waiting on little eggs to curdle. It seems like everyone around me is waiting too. Waiting on a diagnosis. Waiting on a test. Waiting on a pregnancy. Waiting on a husband. Waiting on a job. Waiting to feel normal again. Waiting to hear, “I love you.” Waiting to feel accepted. My dear friend Kimmie has only a few more weeks to wait to hold her baby boy. We’ve been waiting for him for a very, very, very long time–far beyond the eight months he’s been inside her tummy.

On the first day of Lent, I began the #LentChallenge in Matthew and found a little something in chapter 2 I had not noticed before. In verse 13 an angel tells Joseph to take Jesus and Mary and go to Egypt for Herod is trying to find and kill Jesus. Verses 14 starts, “So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.” I know it seems a strange detail to get stuck on, but I was reminded again that God never wastes the wait.  He didn’t waste Abraham and Sarah’s wait for a son. He didn’t waste Hannah’s. He didn’t waste Esther’s wait before she approached the king. He didn’t waste Mary and Martha’s wait for Jesus to revive their brother Lazarus. He didn’t waste the Israelites’ wait for deliverance. It seems certain they were tired of waiting. Sarah started making her own plan. Hannah’s desperate pleas started to sound intoxicated. Esther started fasting and walking through worst-case-scenarios. Martha met Jesus on the road to give Him an earful about how this was His fault. And the Israelites whined and complained the whole time. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who really struggles with waiting.

But in every situation God wasn’t missing. He wasn’t absent, and He wasn’t ignoring. Because God never wastes the wait, He was working the whole time. Working in their hearts, working in their cultures and governments and cities, working to piece together every detail according to His perfect plan. It isn’t known exactly how long Joseph, Mary and Jesus had to stay in Egypt, but whether it was days or years God didn’t waste the wait. The Bible doesn’t expound everything Joseph and Mary learned during that season, be it brief or extended, but it seems to indicate one thing–Joseph learned that obeying God, even when it means waiting, leads to blessing.

If you feel stuck in the wait today–maybe like the eggs, a little scrambled and confused–hold on, sweet friend, because God never wastes the wait. He is working. Behold.