Friday, January 25, 2008

Learning to go with the flow....

I read a metaphor in a book... my mind kind of took off with it and I can't seem to get it out of my head. It was talking about happiness and pain in life. Sooo to help you understand this post I made you a very high tech illustration. YES! I drew it. Quit laughing. ;0) It is held by my lovely assistant Kaitlyn.
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Think of life as a river. On one bank you have happiness and laughter and on the other is grief and pain. Life is both isn't it? We are floating along in the middle as the current takes us.
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Now if you are like me you have spent a good deal of your life a bit terrified of that shore called grief- trying to run from pain. Sometimes the current starts to take us toward it and we spend all of our energy trying to swim away. We become almost frantic. Working and flailing... desperate to avoid the pain. We want to stay on the other side. We want to live with only happiness. We struggle and cling to the banks of happiness with a deep fear that it could be swept away. So we can't accept our happiness as it comes. We feel we must cling to it. We can't accept the grief and feel it. We feel we must struggle to get away.
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What would happen if we just decided to go with the flow? What is in the middle? What would happen if we quit running from the pain and embraced it? What would happen if we just rejoiced when happiness came to us and quit striving for it? What is in the middle??
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I have been turning this around and around in my mind.... seriously mulling over it for a couple of months. I think I know what that is. I think in the middle is joy.
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Joy is contentment and happiness despite our circumstances. It means that we are at peace no matter which shore we have drifted toward that day.
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Think of Mother Theresa and Ghandi... regardless of your background or belief you can recognize that there is something very special about these people. What was it that made them so different than you or me? I think this may be the key. They embraced what life brought to them. They embraced pain... they embraced happiness... they had contentment... they had joy.
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I don't pretend to grasp this world or the pain. Deep inside I am terrified of pain. I used to say that I was allergic to pain. :0) BUT I know I want to be like Christ. Christ was not afraid to step into people's pain and feel it. He did not grasp for happiness. He was content and full of joy. Paul spoke a lot about this and it's been a tough concept for me to get....
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Philippians 4:10-14
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I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don't mean that your help didn't mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.
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James 1:2
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My brothers and sisters, be very happy when you are tested in different ways. You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance. Endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete, and you won't need anything.
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If we study the bible we see that grief is not something to be avoided. APPARENTLY we should REJOICE in it. It is something to be embraced because it makes us grow.
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I am pretty good about rejoicing in hindsight. Like ohhhhh now I am glad about the growth I experienced through Zoe's adoption. Ummmm yeah... I wasn't so joyful during the growth. In fact, I spent the whole year kicking and screaming like a two year old! BUT I am trying to learn this lesson. It is a hard lesson for me because I am still scared of grief and loss. I know that fear is not an emotion I want to live by... wisdom or caution- yes.... fear-no.
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So this adoption has almost been a test case for me. Can I just go with the flow? Can I embrace the happiness and grief as it comes? What would happen if I just went with the flow? Believe it or not there have been snags along the way during this adoption.... I just haven't handled them the same way. I was thinking about that. NOW I am not saying that my process in Guatemala wasn't harder. IT WAS by far. What I am saying is that I handled things in a way that made it even harder than it needed to be. The snags this time haven't knocked me over in the same way.
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For instance.... My I171-H expired 3 months before we started this adoption. 3 MONTHS! Not only that- I had asked Russ if we should extend it before. You can do that once. He voted no which made sense at the time because we were going to do a domestic adoption. This was before we knew. So it cost us a LOT more money to get that done and we lost about a month of time. Then we found out there was a new rule that we couldn't apply for the I171-H till our homestudy was done. Due to circumstances beyond anyone's control getting the homestudy done took 2-3 weeks longer than I had hoped and cost about $1,000 more than we hoped. It really wasn't anyone's fault- it had to do with meeting China regulations. My dossier was delayed a week by a freak snow storm. The lady at the Chinese consulate was so mean to me she made me cry in front of everyone and they would not do my papers as quickly as I had hoped. The morning I got everything authenticated I had a notarization mess up that ended up being hours of work and a bit of trying not to panic and cry. I found out the orphanage where my daughter lives has no heat and it's bitterly cold in the winter in her region. I found out many of the children have scabies and no medication.
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What is my point? My last adoption I would have been so upset by these things. You would have heard about them on the blog many times. I would have wondered why these things were happening. This time they really didn't make the radar enough for me to post about them. Were they frustrating or concerning- yes. It was just at a different level. I have started to come to grips with my lack of control. I am trying to embrace the tests along the way and rejoice in what God sends me. I am not saying that I "get it" yet. I am just saying that I think joy and contentment are smack in the middle of Happiness and Grief. I am really trying to embrace that and just GO WITH IT. I am trying not to grasp for happiness and frantically avoid pain. It is tiring and saps my joy. Instead I am trying my best to just accept all that God allows. So far this is working... I feel content and joyful.
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What still grips my heart is the knowledge that this test is only a teeny tiny fraction of what so many people face. I pray that I do not come up against the ragged rocks of grief that some I know have faced. I am growing but still want to hide from the really big pain. The pain of loss... This is my new inner struggle. Not ignoring the big time pain. Feeling it- loving people where they are. What about a little boy who is 4 years old dying a painful death from cancer while his mommy holds him and tells him it will all be OK? What about the little one who died in an orphanage without ever knowing a family? What about a mother who watched her baby get slaughtered by soldiers in Darfur all because she is a different color? What about a little girl who is 7 and must now take care of her 3 younger siblings because mommy and daddy died from AIDS?
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How do we face that kind of grief? How do we take it in and still have joy? I don't know yet... but I think it lies somewhere here. My grief is based on fear. I am afraid of what I would feel if that happened to me. I am terrified of being hurt or left behind. I am sad and afraid for those who are left behind. Fear keeps us from DOING something. Fear of grief perpetuates pain. Fear of grief prevents joy.
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I'll end with this today...
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Philippians 4:4-9
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Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
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Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
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Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
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I don't even know if this post made any sense to you. I just had to share. Hugs, Angel
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PS If you would like to see other posts related to this topic here are a couple of my favorites.
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Compassion vs Fear
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The Hardest Lesson We Learn

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post Angel. It made perfect sense! What an awesome job you did putting all of that into words! Thank you---Heather

Wendi said...

love you girl...love to see how God is growing you through something he's had planned your entire life - so awesome!

Laura said...

This post resonates with all that I have been learning from God too! I haven't had much suffering in my life and sometimes I wonder if that does me a dis-service. Not that I should ask for suffering, but those that suffer and embrace God in the suffering seem to have a sense of God that I long to have (hmm - I don't want the suffering, but I want God in that way). I am realizing that they are intrinsicly tied together! Still figuring out what to do with it all! I loved the river illustration - great way to explain it!

Crystal said...

YOU ARE AWESOME!!! Angel this was GOd speaking to me in sooo many ways!!! I have felt over and over he has been speaking to me about JOY in this entire adoption. Heck my middle name is JOY! for real it is! It is just so funny I come to your blog and you speak about JOY I KNOW GOD is speaking to me about it for sure! xoxoxo

Mandy said...

Thank you for such a wonderful post! You said it perfectly.....

samhenry said...

this was timely, Angel. i know i fear that life won't be worth anything and pursue ambition to that end. this is a good reminder to just be present -- here and now -- and take in all that Gods doing to shape us today.
- Sam

powelladoption said...

Angel,
Thank you so much for sharing how God is growing you. I have been mulling over these truths and questions as well. It is always a challenge to stay in that place of joy that God desires us to be in. Keep seeking his face!
Laura

powelladoption said...

Angel,
Thank you so much for sharing how God is growing you. I have been mulling over these truths and questions as well. It is always a challenge to stay in that place of joy that God desires us to be in. Keep seeking his face!
Laura

Anonymous said...

I ask God each day to show himself to me in people I meet. He brought me to your blog and he sooooo shows up in you. I feel blessed to read your journey and thoughts. You are so inspiring and that is true testament to someone who allows God to work thru them. I'm a believer but because of you and some thoughts that you have shared, I love Him more and am committed to better understand His purpose for me. Thank you Angel :O)

Reba said...

I enjoyed your post too. I do think our second adoption journey was different than our first, a lot of it was my faith and trust in God from all of the many lessons I learned in our first adoption...Not that I handled everything perfectly but a lot better I think than the first time. I look forward to seeing what adventures you find as you go with the flow. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insight, Angel. I do believe that there are many ways God uses our pain and trials for our good. He is always faithful to use them for our good and for His glory if we allow Him to. I have found that resting in God's sovereignty--surrendering and letting God work, even if it's painful--makes such a difference when I'm going through a time of pain or trial. And it's always so important to see God's sovereignty in light of His perfect love for us--love that is always working for our spiritual good. You know, God's grace will ALWAYS be there when you need it. So to look at a potentially painful situation, it is easy to become overwhelmed, but that is because we are not in it yet and we're looking at it without God's grace. But when God takes us into the valley, He is so faithful to provide ALL we need. He is so much bigger than the pain we feel, and He wants us to trust Him through it. I know you know, but I'll just remind you that God WILL prove faithful in your life and through Kaiya's adoption, even if everything doesn't go the way you've planned. It will be exciting to see the way God works!
Hugs to you! Kim Plattner

Pep said...

I hadn't visited your blog in a while - I am so sorry. Wow - you have a lot going on. What an inspiration you are - Thank you for sharing such wonderful thoughts. Hugs - Pep

Diane Larson said...

My daughter and I just returned from a missions trip to Thailand so I am not really rested enough to respond to your blog. But... I wanted to thank you . Due to your inspiration, we went zip-lining (is that a word?) while we were in Thailand and it was amazing. I am fairly afraid of heights, but I figured if other American "home engineers" could do it, so could I. Thanks.
Diane
larsonquest.blogspot.com