Wednesday, October 23, 2013

At the altar... (Adoption Part 3)

It was late, really late and everyone was asleep in the house but me. My husband had gone to bed, my children, Jacob age 9, Victoria who was almost 2, and Ethan who was 2 were all tucked safely in their beds. Or were they? Were they all safe? Were they even all my children? Those, strangely enough were very real questions to be asked about my Ethan.

He had been in our home since he was just a week old, in my arms from the time he was 12 hours old, and in my heart even longer than that. But suddenly we were faced with the very real threat that this adorable toe-headed little 2 1/2 year old might be taken from us. And as I sat out in my front yard on that cold, windy fall night, I was terrified.

Ethan's adoption story is the story you never tell to a family who is considering adoption. It's the kind of story that might send them running to the hills... almost. And on that night everything in life came into clear perspective - there were only two things that mattered to me, my family, and my God.

I literally sank to my knees in the middle of our front patio, olive seeds digging into my knees, and I wept. Prayer had been a constant as we had weathered every imaginable complication and delay
in our adoption process, and a whole lot of delays you never would have dreamed of. I was begging God to rescue us, to rescue Ethan from this threat. Biology aside, some stranger decided he wanted to take Ethan from our home and his power to do so was real, and the state of California was not on our side.

"He's our son," I prayed. "God, you gave him to us. You gave us his name." You see, Ethan's name had been a promise - it meant "Permanent." And that was all I had to stand on some days. With only the sound of the leaves rustling in the night, God's still small voice spoke to my heart. "It's the Lord's to give, and the Lord's to take away." That truth was like a punch in my gut - one of those truths you hope as a Christian you never have to be faced with. "But you gave him to us," I whispered back in the darkness. It was so quiet.

I don't know how long I knelt out there in my yard beneath the olive tree before I heard God speak again. This time He posed a simple question, "Do you trust Me?"

Did I?

Would I?

What if we lost Ethan? What if after being his family for two and a half years and completely falling in love with him, after he completely became an intricate part of what "family" meant to us- what if God took him away? Would we still believe? Would we still trust? Would we still worship? I pondered those questions.

Then suddenly I pushed myself up to my feet and hurried quietly into the house. Searching I found what I was looking for - a pen, a piece of paper and a match.

I scribbled his name across the paper: "Ethan Mitchell DePriest."

I walked quietly back out the house, down the driveway and to the curb at the street. I folded the paper in my hand.

"I will still believe. I will still trust. I will still worship You..." and wiping the tears from my eyes, I promised, "I will still love You Lord."

And there at the "altar" I lit the match and burned the paper in my hand. I dropped it into the gutter and watched as the tiny flame consumed it and then slowly burned out.

God had given us Ethan, and on that night, alone in the dark, I gave Ethan back, in faith and in trust. He wasn't really mine anyways.

I'm happy to say that the end of that story is a happy one, and here ten years later, Ethan is still ours, wholly and completely - but I didn't know that that night. I had no idea what the future might hold, I just let my confidence rest in the One who held the future. It was a profound moment of faith.

I've been thinking a lot about how much I have wavered from that faith lately, holding tightly to things far less critical than my son - things like a job, financial security, where my kids go to school, where we live. I mean, they aren't small things, but in perspective, they shrink in importance.

This past weekend I've been thinking a lot about that night at the "altar," and I feel like God is calling me back to that "place," and even more so to that profound moment of faith. And He is asking me again, "Do you trust Me?"

He's asking me to change my prayers, from things like "Provide," or "Protect the business... our finances... the kids' education." And instead He's asking me to simply pray "I trust You," and "Lead us where You will."

I have NEVER known what the future held - that is my reality (yours too by the way) but I have been foolish to lose focus on the fact that I have ALWAYS known Who holds the future. I am not so foolish to assume that this altar experience will necessarily resolve itself so miraculously as the last, but I do know that if God's hand is in it (and it is), then I am good.

It's not to say things won't be challenging or that hard times won't hurt, but it is to say that come what may - I will trust Him.

I will believe...

I will worship...

And I commit again, I will love Him still.

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 73:25-26

I'm at the altar again... and there's no better place to be.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A short story

I remember when my mother's prayers changed.  We had been praying for a long time about the things that lurked outside our  doors.  Children or not, my mother never hid from us the realities that loomed. Business was bad, everything seemed to be in jeopardy all the time.  It was like at any moment my dad and she might be out of work, we might have to leave our school. There was no sure foundation.  And every day we prayed together as a family, "Please just keep the wolves away."

"Sustain us," she prayed.  She asked for provision, with doubt in her voice she wished aloud to God that prosperity might even return-- but in her voice was more question than confidence that God was even listening.  It was a prayer of fear.

I remember when her prayers shifted from fear to confidence.  What she was praying for was far less clear, but how she was praying was obvious. "God, do what You will," she said.  "Lead us where you would have us go." I wondered what that meant.  I could sense she wondered too, but it was obvious that she was suddenly less concerned with the what, or even the where or how - now all her focus seemed to be on the Who of her prayer.

Everything changed with my mother's prayers.  It was far from easy, but despite some really difficult days, it was better, not because our circumstances got any better, because they really didn't, but it was because suddenly God seemed to be in the midst of those circumstances no matter what they were.

The storms were hard - sometimes it was like standing in the edge of the sea and the waves kept crashing and knocking us down - hard, sometimes painfully so, but every time my mother would rise again.  She turned to us as well and told us "Stand up."  She was tired, we were tired, it hurt, we suffered loss, but it was like my mother would stand beside me with her her hand holding me up under the arm. As I leaned into her she would point out past the waves and say, "He's coming. Hold on - see the Light? God's working."

There were lots of days when I wished God would just have answered my mother's doubt filled prayers for provision and perhaps prosperity, surely it would have been easier. But now looking back all these years later, I know these prayers were better, because they didn't just change how things were, but they changed who we were. It changed Who God was to us, and for that I am forever grateful, because even now in my life when my mother has been gone for a very long time, I look out onto the horizon and tell my own children, and their children to look out past the storm, and with confidence I tell them, "He's coming. Hold on - see the Light? God's working."  And I know it's true, and my children will know it's true, and their children, and all the generations to come have the Hope of knowing it's not the what we place our confidence in in our prayers, but it's the Who.

This story is completely fiction... for now... in Jesus' name.