There’s More to the Story

Three months.

That’s how long we’ve been back in the U.S. and squatting at my parents’ house. We have loved being here with family, experiencing fall, and just resting- but I’m sure it’s not a surprise that the transition has been difficult as well. There is a lot to process, a myriad of emotions, and a lot of uncertainty. I’d like to think it is culture shock, but there’s nothing really shocking about where we’re at right now.

Recently Al and I have been in a weird place. While we love being here and are so thankful for my parents’ willingness to let us live here, we are wondering why we’re here and what is next. We feel like God told us to come back to the U.S.- specifically to Atlanta. He worked out everything for us to come back in amazing ways, but now that we’re here, we’re a little lost.

We don’t feel like we can move to Atlanta quite yet because I’m 20 weeks pregnant and I have to see my high-risk specialist weekly due to what happened when Mariah was born. We don’t feel like we can settle down here and have Al get a real job because we feel like we’re supposed to go to Atlanta. Several doors have closed for temporary jobs for Albin. Our house hasn’t sold in Costa Rica despite numerous people interested. The position we hoped for in Atlanta as houseparents is no longer an option since my due date is a day before the position was to begin.

It’s just confusing.

We’ve found ourselves huddling up with the Lord and asking Him what is going on. A little part of our hearts has wondered if maybe we didn’t hear Him correctly about the whole moving back thing. Why would He take us away from our community, our fostering ministry, our house, etc. and then bring us here to do seemingly nothing? It feels like we’re wasting precious time. We know the Lord has called us to open up our home and our family to those without families, but we can’t do that being unemployed and in a temporary living situation. It just doesn’t make sense right now.

Yesterday morning we had planned to try a new Hispanic church in hopes of finding some Spanish speaking community. We didn’t end up making it to church because Mariah woke up in the middle of night vomiting everywhere. Instead, we decided to listen to a sermon and God spoke straight to our hearts through it. The pastor spoke about how there is always more to the story than what is currently seen. It’s easy to get caught up on a “scene” of our story, rather than the whole story itself. We can’t possibly know how God is working in our little steps of faith to set the future in motion. He is constantly working in our lives to make our story much grander than we could have imagined.

That was a great reminder for us last night. This “scene” in our lives seems a little anti-climactic and. it’s. okay. This is only part of our story and God is setting things in motion because we stepped out in faith. I am ashamed to admit I’ve kind of been like the Israelites in the desert; whenever things got rough, they asked God why He brought them out of Egypt if they were just going to starve, die of thirst, etc. They had seen Him part the Red Sea and do tons of miracles, yet they were worried that He wouldn’t provide for them. It’s incredibly easy to judge them until  I realize that God worked everything out for us to move back and we’ve seen Him do miracles, yet the moment things look a little confusing, I start asking if it wouldn’t have been better if He’d just left us in CR. Lame.

So that’s where we’re at. I have hope that someday I will look back on this post and be able to testify that this period of transition in our lives was just a part of the story. I know God will fulfill His purpose for us and I’m resting in that.

Psalm 138:8

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Second Miscarriage

Life can feel unbelievably out of control sometimes. The trials of the last week arrived fast, unannounced, and unwelcomed–disrupting a somewhat peaceful season we were enjoying. It reminded me of swimming in a calm ocean when suddenly a dangerous undercurrent comes along and attempts to drag you away from the shore. When you try to stand up or swim to the safety of the beach, another wave comes and you barely have enough time to catch a breath before the next rolling wave threatens to pull you under. And then, just like that, it’s over and you’re left panting on the beach wondering what the heck just happened.

Ever since we received our newborn foster baby, I’ve suspected a milk allergy. Long story short and fast forward to four months later, I finally got a reference for him to have an appointment at the public children’s hospital. That day I went to pick up the reference and expected to quickly (well, as quickly as you can run an errand at a public healthcare institution in CR) make an appointment with the specialist for later in the week. After waiting in lines for about two hours (because you can’t call and make the appointment), a receptionist told me they had spoken with the doctor and felt the baby’s condition was serious and that he needed to be admitted. I was a little more than surprised and suddenly really nervous since they took him from me immediately for testing. The pediatrician had been telling me I was overreacting for four months and suddenly his condition was serious? Hours later, after explaining and re-explaining that he was a foster child and what that meant (fostering is very uncommon here), then filling out paperwork, he was assigned a bed and I called Albin and our social worker to tell them what was going on. I was so completely overwhelmed by the public hospital, the millions of questions in my second language, and the fact that I hadn’t had a chance to pee or eat all day. I was also a little concerned because my period was several days late and I was starting to feel a little “off.”

I had to go home that night, so I picked up a pregnancy test and we got a positive result. We were so excited but that literally topped off my emotional overload for the day and I passed out in five minutes. The next morning we were back at the hospital early and found out that the baby did have a milk protein allergy. Later in the day, he was discharged. Thanks to Socialism, our taxes covered his care and a prescription for 10 cans of extremely hypoallergenic formula that they will provide us with each month, which is a huge blessing because each small can costs roughly $50 each. We left tired and happy, and mildly concerned because I had experienced some light spotting that day.

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$50???

A few days later, the spotting had become more pronounced, so my doctor sent me for a blood test. As I am getting the blood drawn, Albin called and all I could hear him say above the sound of screaming babies was that our bathroom tub was leaking everywhere onto the laminate floors and concrete walls and that the plumber was taking a jackhammer  to the tub in order to be able to get to the leaking pipes. I rushed home to water and mud all over my floors, screaming kids, the insurance company calling, Albin running out to get something the plumber needed … all the while bleeding and fearing the worst.

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The black hole that was our bath tub…

The next day I received my blood results and my pregnancy hormone was low. My doctor said that either I was earlier in my pregnancy than I thought and experiencing implantation bleeding, or I was going to miscarry. She said there was absolutely nothing I could do.

That night, the mild labor pains started. My first miscarriage was before I had Mariah, so I didn’t know the pain I had was like labor contractions, but this time, there was no doubt. They started in my back, wrapped around my abdomen and pulsed down my legs. I sobbed in the shower as the pains gripped me and warned me about what was to come. The next morning, we lost the baby. Watching life pour out of you is absolutely crushing. Each contraction brought a rush of loss … physically, in the loss of blood and tissue, and emotionally, in the heartbreaking reality of death. While it was again an early miscarriage and my body was just doing what it was supposed to do with something needing to be expelled, I felt like my body was traitorous and I was devastated by its betrayal.

The next few days were foggy and I’m thankful that my mother-in-law could come and stay with us while I rested. A few days later, we had three appointments that were obviously providential in the way they were timed.

The first was a previously scheduled check-up for Mariah with the doctor who had attended her while she was in the NICU at birth. The doctor was gushing about how healthy Mariah was and how amazing her recovery had been. She reminded us how miraculous it was that Mariah has no residual side effects of that experience (thank you Father). I reflected on the night when I was told there was nothing we could do for Mariah and that we could possibly lose her. The situation was out of my hands.

The second appointment was for another blood draw to make sure my pregnancy hormone was gone and that my body had gotten rid of all the tissue. I reflected on how my doctor told me there was nothing I could do to save my unborn baby. The situation was out of my hands.

The third appointment was with the baby’s caseworker and we discussed the hospital stay, allergy, and also the status of our foster son’s case. I reflected on how God protected Him from a dangerous living situation, possible complications from a severe allergy, and how I had no control over his family, what will be decided with his case in the future, or over his health. The situation was out of my hands.

I felt those three appointments being on the same day was providential because all three situations clearly proved that I am not in control. As I thought through these things, I was overcome with a peace that can only come from God as He whispered to me: “These situations are in my hands.” Whether it’s my 16 month old daughter, my four month old foster son, or my tiny embryo just beginning to form, He holds them all in His hands.

Through my tears last week, God led me to a verse that I can’t remember reading before but I’m sure I have. It reads:

“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say “You are my God,” my times are in your hands … ” (Psalm 31:14-15)

I love this. This is peace that surpasses all understanding. My times are in God’s hands and I can completely trust  in Him. I also love the Spanish translation of this verse which says, “Mi vida entera está en Tus manos” which means, “my whole life is in your hands.

We are hurting and exhausted, but we are finding complete peace in the fact that God is trustworthy. We don’t need to despair, we have complete assurance that He is our God and that any wave that threatens to pull us under cannot stand against a God that holds our times in His hands.

 

 

What I Envisioned for My Life vs. Reality

This week I got a serious personal reality check when I was supposed to be giving some advice to a friend. As I typed a message out to her, I became increasingly aware of how close the topic hit home in my heart. She had written something about how it is difficult to submit our dreams, hopes, and desires to God’s authority.  As I told her what I thought she needed to do (i.e. surrender her dreams to God), I felt increasingly aware of my hypocrisy. 

I have so many goals, dreams, and desires. A lot of them are great, God-honoring, kingdom-bringing, world-changing desires. My problem is when God isn’t making those desires happen on my timetable, I feel discouraged, impatient, or frustrated. I know what I have envisioned for my life; but why does my reality not look like that? I put a lot of pressure on myself to do big things, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But while I’m fretting over what I’m not doing, I’m missing the joy I can have about the things I am doing. Sometimes I feel that if I’m not the president of World Vision, setting up tents in my backyard for refugees, AND adopting every child without a family in the world, I’m not doing anything. I start to minimize the ministry that I have to my daughter, our foster baby, my husband, and our neighbors. I feel like praying for my friends serving in ministries and supporting them financially isn’t enough and that I should be there fighting in the trenches with them.

And then God asked me … do you trust Me enough to surrender to My plans for your life?

My answer: yes, but Your plans involve me bringing total world peace, right?

So, my daughter is pretty strong-willed. She thinks her little 15-month-old self knows what is best. I love that kid more than life itself, which is why I don’t let her do everything she thinks is best (like sticking millipedes in her mouth. Yes, that happened). Sometimes I just randomly shout out, “I’m in charge here!” She then gives me that one going on sixteen adolescent look that says, “I got this, lady.”

Sometimes, I think that I probably sound like my 15-month-old when I’m talking to God. He’s telling me that He’s in charge and knows what best and I’m hollering back, “I GOT THIS!”

As I’ve prayed about this particular flavor of sin in my life, I’ve realized I need to surrender to His plans. For some people, those plans include being the president of World Vision, but am I going to be content if God’s plans for me are less-noticeable, not in-the-spotlight ministries? Will I submit to changing poopy diapers and be okay with not writing a book and saving every bicultural marriage today? Yes, because I’m realizing that those visions of grandeur need to be surrendered; that’s where true life is found. When I lay down my self-envisioned life, only then will I truly find the abundant life Jesus promises. Maybe my reality doesn’t look exactly how I thought it would look, but if I’m submitting to His plans, it will be exactly what God wanted for His kingdom. And really, at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Maybe someday soon I will adopt all the orphans, direct a global ministry, and house all of the refugees. But for now, I’m going to be faithful in what God has for me today.

“I found my life when I laid it down.” –Hillsong, “Touch the Sky”