Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Adoption Part 1 - The Father Heart of God

The 45 minute drive down the I-40 seemed so surreal.  It had started with a prayer, only a few months earlier.  We never had any idea how quickly God would answer it.

"Father," we'd prayed, "if you want us to adopt, You're going to have to drop it in our laps."  And then He did, more quickly than we could have ever imagined.  And now as we drove across the flat empty land of Oklahoma in the dead of night, I reached over and grabbed a hold of Neal's hand as he drove.

There were almost no words exchanged.  The day that began just after 4 am in Orange County had been a long one, and now it was after midnight in Oklahoma and still nowhere near its end.  We weren't ready for this day to be here, none of the legalities we had to deal with had been finalized.  The baby was a week early and we had hoped those final days would bring everything in order, but the baby hadn't signed on to our schedule or plan.

When the phone had rung that morning before daybreak, I prayed a quiet prayer into the dark room before answering the phone, "Please God, not yet, we aren't ready!"  But her water had broken, there was no putting things off, and after a day full of flight arrangements, packing and planning childcare for our oldest we were almost to our destination.

The baby was nearly ten hours old, when we got the call about his arrival just after noon we were given a list of the complications that came with him.  We told her it didn't matter-- it wouldn't have mattered if I had birthed him myself, so why would it matter now?  But there were little seeds of apprehension anyway, we just had to get there and find out everything for ourselves.

We finally found the hospital in the tiny little town and parked. As we rode the elevator up to the maternity ward, I asked the Lord to prepare my heart.  I asked the Lord to give me the right words, and give me the wisdom and strength I needed, not knowing fully how deep that need would be.

The bassinet was near the door, I saw two little eyes peeking out it me from inside the swaddled blanket.  He was quiet.  Birth mom and her mother were sitting quietly watching TV when we came into the room.  They smiled when we came in, and I saw much bigger seeds of apprehension in their eyes than I felt in my own heart.

A nurse came in and welcomed us as well and told us there would be a room for Neal and I and the baby to move to and allow us to sleep there that night.  It was quite a relief since the one thing we had not arranged was a hotel room.

"Can I pick him up?" I asked.  With their approval I took him in my arms and began to seek out what was beneath the swaddle.

The term is "a face only a mother can love," and it's sad to say it was true.  He wasn't pretty like our firstborn, he was bruised, and splotchy and a pitiful little sight.  Ugly little postules covered almost every inch of his skin, and though I could not see the other defects, I knew they were there.  "He's adorable," I lied.

"Are you still going to take him?" his birth mother asked finally cutting to the chase.

"Of course," I assured her as I swaddled him back up. "He's our son."

"I put his name on the birth certificate just the way you'd said. I hope I spelled it right.  I was going to list Neal's name as the father, but they told me not to, so I just left that part blank," she told us.

Exhausted from the long day, we didn't wait long before we pushed the bassinet down the hall to our private room.  Neal settled in one hospital bed and I in another and I set the quiet little swaddled sleeper in his bassinet between us.  It didn't take long for sleep to come.

I don't think it had been more than an hour when I was awakened to what sounded like a weakly bleating lamb.  It wasn't loud enough to even stir Neal. Trying to focus in the dark room I quickly came to my senses enough to realize the sound came from the little swaddle in the bassinet.

I stepped over and lifted the little crier into my arms.  This little bundle, broken and bruised, this little boy who had no father to speak, he had now been placed in our hands now for his love and his care. As I stood there holding him, a little private moment just between the two of us, I felt something happen in my heart. That was the moment when I fell in love. That was the moment that the Father heart of God took root inside of me.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I Surrender

Have you ever found yourself singing that classic hymn? Quietly to yourself or perhaps standing with your arms lifted high in the middle of a worship service? Perhaps somewhere in between. Did you, like me, find a battle raging inside? My battle was not of the will to do, but the desire to understand.

Such a beautiful sentiment I supposed, "I surrender all, all to Jesus," but for the life of me I could never fully understand the practicals of it. As much as I wanted to hand over everything to the Lord (which He already holds anyway, by the way) I always seemed to take it back, by struggle or grasp. I would feel such a weight of disappointment in myself because for the life of me, I could not manage to do as I sang.

So I took to the Scriptures, surely the answer was there, all of them are. And I stumbled upon a very interesting note, nowhere in the bible could I find an example of surrender to the Lord. In fact quite the opposite, the only place I found the word surrender used at all was as a military term and in reference to an enemy. Not once was it used as a good thing, and certainly never as a command to do so to the Lord, who by the way is never an enemy to those of us who follow Christ.

Submission is what God has called us to. I have a beautiful picture in my mind when I think of the word submit. I see the one I am called to submit to holding an umbrella in a storm. I place my arm in his stepping under his umbrella and I let him lead. Whether it's the Lord or my husband, or any authority, it's a very loving and caring act, bringing someone under the umbrella - of protection, grace, blessing, whatever the case may be. I don't find myself put off by the term at all. I see it as beautiful and intimate. And when I am called to submit to someone I know cares for me, I do so willingly. And I am thankful for both a God and a husband I am confident in for their care.

Despite all that, I now find myself at a place of surrender, and yes it's to an enemy- whether an enemy within, or THE enemy without, I am not fully certain. But I give up. My fear now is that it also takes me out of submission because the One holding the umbrella is unlikely to stop with me here, but I just have no will or desire to move forward another step.

I'm dying to the romanticized vision I have of what it is to be part of a "church." I think of the ways the Bible describes the church - a body, a family, a flock, as ONE, and I just don't believe it exists anymore. At least not here in America. Here it has become a business, where there were shepherds there are CEOs, where there were fathers, team captains, and where a heart would pump life into the "extremities" I just don't see the connection in existence anymore. Body parts are irreplaceable, but congregants are not.

Unity isn't defined the way it was in the Bible, it used to be "THE BODY," one whole, all the little churches made up one big church, THE Church. These days if you don't sign off on the vision without question, or if you struggle for understanding, you are kindly invited to find a "new church" down the street. That doesn't seem like biblical unity to me at all. There should be reconciliation right? A body heals? A family works it through? A flock is tended to? Matthew 18 is a theory. It takes two to work that process and if only one is willing, or only one sees it as necessary, it's just a lot of words on a page. And the process is indicative of a system that doesn't really exist in the American church.

I think Jesus was so much more relational. He wanted to know people, or rather, I think He wanted them to know they were known, that they mattered, that they were loved. But the tiered system of the church today eliminates that-- it's all about titles and position, people bucking for places on comittees, or responsibilities in leadership, the positions and titles being handed out as rewards at best, bones at worst. It's a system, not the living body it was designed to be, we people have messed it up.

It says in Proverbs, "A clean stable is nice, but the oxen bring the increase." That's the church right there. A perfect church would be an empty church, but nothing would get done, and so you have to put up with people's crap if you're going to stick around and see anything get done.

I'm tired of the crap - the crap of others, but even moreso I suppose my own crap. I'm tired of bucking the system with romantic visions of communication, resolution, a world where my gender doesn't disqualify me from my gifts, where the whole "neither Jew nor Greek... male nor female... all one in Christ" actually exists, But instead it is one of those areas of disunity that will divide people, churches and denominations.

So I give up - I surrender - I'm going to keep my crap to myself and give up on the romantic ideas I've had about what church is supposed to look like, and let go of the idea of finding a place where I belong. Obviously, I am the problem. And since I cannot get away from me, I will have to learn to confine myself in a way that makes being me easier to live with. Finding myself thankful for the plethora of resources on the internet all of a sudden, especially since there's a bathroom nearby.