Did you know it’s not about me?

Last week both kids came down with some type of virus. It was short-lived, thankfully, but still resulted in late-night wake-ups and overall grumpiness. Combined with Bug’s new potty skills, which motivate him to wake me up (by screaming) to change his pull-up if he realizes it’s even a tiny bit wet, I went for a week straight without getting more than 3-4 uninterrupted hours of sleep. It reminded me of having a newborn, and if you and I have ever talked about those tiny, precious and perfect proofs of God’s glory, you know they’re not my favorite.

I love to sleep. I mean, I really love to sleep. I am a wreck if I’m tired. I used to stand in the back of the classroom in college (I’m was trying to be respectful) so I could force myself to stay awake, but then I’d end up sliding down the chalkboard, getting chalk all over my uniform (navy polyester pants, people). I once fell asleep WHILE my computer science professor was leaning over my shoulder, trying to show me how to program my system. I’m the worst, I know it.

So our week of madness was rough. And as I was changing the boy’s puked-on sheets at 4 a.m. during what was my fifth visited to his room that evening, I panicked. I literally can’t do this, I thought. At least not alone. And then it hit me – I have ANOTHER ONE coming. And nothing changing in our home life. Sheer terror froze me for a second. And then I did what mamas do, and carried on. Clean sheets were snapped on, dirty pajamas exchanged for fresh ones, and a little love rocked until he drifted off to dreamland.

I groggily stumbled back to my haven of sheets and blankets, a warm pillow beckoning like a siren in the night, and promptly…PRAYED my frazzled heart out. Lord, help me do this. And by this, I mean, LIFE.

(Did you know I have to feed these children THREE times a DAY, every day, like FOREVER???!!!)

If there is one solid lesson I re-learn every time Daddy K is out of town for an extended period, it’s this: I need Jesus. I know, right? Duh. I’m a slow learner. But the Lord has been gracious to me to show me some pretty cool things lately, as well as being gentle with my thick-skull and defensive attitude, so I figured I’d share them with you.

Because since sweet Daddy K isn’t here to listen to my scattered ramblings, and our FaceTime connections mostly consist of the kids fighting over who gets to “hold” him, I have no one to listen to my random thoughts. (Babe, read this, and then let’s chat!) And if I leave it all stuck in my brain, bouncing around and crowding out what little space I have left after keeping small children alive for almost four years, I might actually go crazy. So, blogland, my apologies. And you’re welcome.

(If you are here for the adoption-only, nitty gritty posts, stay tuned! I hope to get some of my thoughts down on that sometime soonish. And to be matched with the cutest little boy in all of Eastern Europe.)

Last year, I think the main theme God was trying to teach me was, “It’s not about you. Seriously.” Starting out this year, I felt like His message was more, “You are not in control, I am in control. Repeat that back to me.” But apparently I needed a refresher on it not being about me (surprise!), so this fall He’s back at it.

In our small group we were recently working through the first part of Exodus 17 (1-7), and talking about how and where we see Jesus in those Scriptures. Anyway, if you read my post about Moses, you won’t be surprised that the Israelites were complaining. This is actually before the moment where Moses loses the promised land, but similar in that the group is in the desert thirsty with nothing to drink.

But at group, someone brought up the point that the Israelites didn’t end up in that exact spot on accident. God was leading them by day and night. He LED them to a place where they would be thirsty. He WANTED them to be put in a position to sin. And I just kept thinking about that, and wondering what it was He wanted them to learn.

I pulled out my journal from Redemption Group, and found these notes:

We tend to say, “I’m sinning because of my circumstances.” But in reality, the circumstances merely reveal the sin that’s already in our hearts. The pressure of our circumstances basically squeezes the sin out.

And He brought them there. To squeeze out their sin. Sin is essentially worship distortion. To worship something other than God. And I think He brought the Israelites to this spot so they would recognize that they were worshipping the blessings (the manna and the quail) instead of the ONE WHO GIVES the blessings.  They were actually satisfied with His provision, regardless of if they had his Presence.  And He wanted to expose that truth in their hearts, and to remind them that only He truly satisfies.

They thought it was about them. Being led, being fed, being set apart as His chosen people. And I love learning from the Israelites because any time I start feeling judgmental towards them or shocked by their disbelief, God always whispers (okay, sometimes shouts), “Hey lady, that’s YOU. YOU’RE the Israelites.” 🙂 So I try to absorb as much  as possible from their story, to maybe avoid needing a real-life lesson.

I read a book a while ago (Jesus Wants to Save Christians) about the journey of the Israelites.  The basic gist (and obviously I’m REALLY summarizing here) was that as God blessed the Israelites, they began to feel entitled to those blessings. That somehow they had earned it. They deserved it. And they start worshipping themselves. And so God shows them what they actually deserve (nothing), and they go back to worshipping God for awhile. And that cycle repeats a few times over.

And we see in Exodus, God gently reminding them that they are entitled to nothing. They have earned nothing.  He shows them the sin in their hearts that says, “Where is my stuff?” instead of “Where is my God?” He reveals Himself and reminds them He is always there, always with them. Even if they don’t see the physical proof, even if they aren’t being overwhelmed with what they’d consider blessings.

And I do that all the time. All. the. time. Where is my husband? Where is my help? Where is my sleep? I picture myself stamping my foot like a petulant child, arms crossed. But wait – God LED me here. On purpose. To reveal sin in my heart. My ever-present belief that’s it about me. Even just a little. (See, this is why my heart breaks for Moses).

And an elder in our church recently talked about the three temptations Jesus faced in His forty days in the desert (much like the wayward Israelites 40 years in the wilderness.) Anyway, I’ll skip two of the three, but the second one is where the devil has Him stand on the highest point of the temple, and says,

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Matt 4: 6-7

And I was tossing and turning in bed that night thinking about this temptation. He didn’t spend a lot of time on it in his discussion, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head. What was the REAL temptation for Jesus there? To TEST God? Maybe. But maybe even more than that, it was the temptation (like the one Moses gave in to, the one I give in to on an almost hourly basis) to make it JUST A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HIM. Just a little. Just for a minute. About him and not God. If he jumps, angels will save him. That’s a hard thing to turn down.

That tendency is so overwhelming and all-consuming for me. And I was thinking, really, that WAS part of the very first temptation with Eve in the garden, right? They were living the good life and things were awesome but everything was about God. And the liar came in and said, “Hey Eve, why don’t you take a little reward? Make it about YOU for just a minute. One little reward for being so awesome. One bite.”

And the consequences were eternal.

So then I started thinking about Solomon and how for a time he was so obedient and honored God and God gave him everything. Jerusalem was shining in all her glory and Solomon had more riches than anyone. But it wasn’t enough. Because it wasn’t about him. It was all about God.

Man, that little seed of pride destroys kingdoms!   And Jesus had every right to make it about Him, but He never did. Not once. Not even for a second. Not even when he could have. It was always about His Father.

And again my mind circled back to a Redemption Group teaching where our primary teacher said one of the main things he wanted us to walk away with was the realization that behind every sin is a finger-wagging accusation against God.

Meaning, we tend to want to categorize our sin as a passive response to something, like, “I’m just struggling to believe God will provide _______.” In a way, we like to let ourselves off the hook (see, I’m sinning because of my circumstances). But in reality, we are shaking our finger at God, accusingly, saying things like, “You’re not good enough or powerful enough to give me what I need.”

And I was trying to think about what the accusation was in this case (the make-it-about-me case that I struggle with so regularly). And I realized, heart-sinking, it’s saying to God, “You’re not worthy.”

Wow. You’re not worthy of ALL the worship, because I should get a little. You’re not worthy. It kind of broke me, because I KNOW I give in to this temptation all the time, however unintentional or subconscious it might be.

I am so thankful for grace, and Jesus, and new mercies.  I am so thankful He IS worthy, so I don’t have to be.  Amazing grace, how truly sweet the sound.

So, yes, another little toddler boy will soon be filling our house with noise, and mess, and laughter, and chaos. And I will feel overwhelmed and underarmed.  And yes, chances are that I will be changing THREE sets of sheets alone at 4 a.m., desperately fighting to hold on to my sanity. Begging Jesus for just a little more sleep. He might say no. But that’s okay, because it’s not about me. To Him be the glory.

(See, I’m learning. Okay, slowly, but still, I’m getting there. Maybe You could hold off on these particular lessons for a bit? 😉 )

Where We’re At: September 10, 2014

I kept stalling on a blog update, thinking that sometime soon a “Where We’re At” post would be in order. Hoping we’d actually be somewhere, anywhere, so I’d have something significant to report.

But today, “Where We’re At” is waiting. Waiting, constantly waiting. Basically, not a single step further than my last “Where Were At,” which was THREE MONTHS ago. And the truth is, that’s hard.

It makes it feel like this whole thing isn’t real, which makes you start thinking about all the reasons why maybe it shouldn’t be. How much easier it might be if we just forgot about all of this. There’s a children’s book about adoption (When God Found Us You) I read to Sissy a lot. It’s about a little fox who was adopted by his Mama Fox, and she’s telling him the story of the day he came home. I change some of the words to more accurately describe our situation (i.e. one part says, on the day you came home you made me the happiest Mama in the world, and I always read, on the day you came home you made us the happiest family in the world). Anyway, the last few weeks, there is this one part that always chokes me up a little:

“Did you ever want to give up?” Little Fox asked. “Sometimes,” Mama said, rubbing Little Fox’s cheek with hers. “But I trusted that God knew you, and knew me, and knew when we’d fit perfectly together.”

I always stop for a second trying to catch the tears, the crack in my voice, but Sissy busts me every time. She will sweetly hug me and say, “Mama, don’t be sad about Boo. I love you.” And the truth is, I do trust that His timing is perfect. I can honestly say I have peace about everything. I am appreciating all of the extra time it gives me with my two babes at home, and how much they will grow and mature while we wait. I know that, and I trust that the wait is good.

But that doesn’t stop the little inefficiencies from frustrating my flesh. For example, specifically for us, our 1-800A (Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country) sat in a “queue” for almost six weeks before someone even pulled our file. As I was calling to check on it, they couldn’t give me any idea what sort of timeframe I was looking at. All they could tell me was the date it arrived to them (which I knew, because I gave UPS my left kidney to overnight and track it). But no average numbers of cases worked per day/week/month was available, no date ranges of cases worked the previous week was available. Literally, no hint as to when ours might actually be reviewed, but I could call back every day.  Awesome. Finally, there was good news. Sort of. They said my file had been pulled (yay!) but it looked like it wasn’t approved (once pulled, it’s usually a pretty quick process to approve and send the required paperwork back).

So instead of the LAST document I needed to officially apply for my boy, I got a piece of paper requesting more evidence. I think I’ve explained before that part of what USCIS requires is a child abuse clearance from every state you’ve lived in since the age of 18. Daddy K and I had about 6 states each, and we passed those on for appropriate documentation. Well, I forgot about Ohio. Because I turned 18 in February, and didn’t leave for college until May. That was four months of unaccounted “adult” time.

And Ohio, it turns out, is not at the top of their game in this arena. The same day I received the “request for evidence,” I immediately submitted a form to Ohio asking to have my name run through their Child Abuse Registry. Every state does it a little differently, but I made sure I followed all the requirements exactly. Then I waited, assuming my results would come back in a week. When over two weeks had passed and I heard nothing, I started to stress. I called a help desk number for several days, but no one ever answered. I finally found (online) a random email of someone who worked in the department (or a related department, but that was all I had). I sent her the nicest email I could muster, just asking to at least confirm that my request had arrived. She was very sweet actually, and immediately located my paperwork. It had, in fact, arrived two weeks prior, and so she processed it that day and immediately sent me the results. While I truly appreciate this particular person’s help, and I understand I don’t really know how this office is supposed to function, I can’t believe my stuff was literally just sitting there. And I can’t help but wonder how much longer it would have continued to sit. May I (politely) remind everyone that there is a CHILD waiting on the other side of this paperwork? I’m not buying a new car, or a boat, or a pretty sweater. We’re working for the right to introduce a child to family, and love, and hope. But I digress.☺

So, eventually I get all required documents back in the mail to USCIS and I beat their 45-day deadline by a couple of days (you can thank my right kidney, and some kind neighbors, for that UPS overnight). If you miss the deadline, they consider your case abandoned.  Then I got to restart on the every day calling gig.  I finally got word we were approved on Sept 5, but I don’t have the physical proof yet.  Which means our dossier still hasn’t been submitted.

In the end, we are delayed at least 45 days for this paperwork issue. Which hurts my heart, and my brain, and my Type-A personality. And ok, it’s possible it also hurts my never-ending need/desire/fight for control. To be totally honest, I feel a little fried friends. I’m sure it doesn’t help that Daddy K is on an extended work trip. Or that my TV broke in a freak storm power surge, leaving my kids to Lord-of-the-Flies-it over the iPad. Or that Bug is potty training and super clingy and whiny 24/7. But I really don’t want to take these things for granted, because when we bring Boo home, life will inevitably speed up for a while, and these quiet moments will take a backseat.

I know, oh I know, that joy comes in the morning. I know, even though I can’t always see it, He is moving. Aslan is always on the move. My boy is coming home eventually. And we will be all the more ready for him because of the waiting. And him for us. Because let’s be honest, we are a lot to get ready for. ☺