Thursday, January 27, 2011

Our Adoption Story - Part Two

And so our summer began with a lot of hope. Not many answers but a lot of hope.

Ryan and I sat down with some friends who had adopted and shared where we were at. We had some ideas for where we felt God was taking us but they involved a definite time of waiting. I was learning I thought I could be peaceful with that.

We went pretty quiet about it all and were trying to purposely sit and pursue God.

And then I started having some more health problems. A visit to my doctor resulted in a referral. A referral found me at the cardiologist. And suddenly I had a mild but diagnosed heart condition (sounds worse than it is by the way). It was quickly treated and improved but it was there.

Anyone who is a part of the adoption world knows that adoption dreams can die fast with health problems. They can delay them. They can stop them for good.

It was yet another emotional journey. But it became even more emotional as we considered the big picture. We had just seen God move us, together, in a new direction. And before it could even begin, it seemed to be ending. And in so many ways.

God was telling us, "seek Me." And amidst our wrestling, questions and unknowns, that was our daily goal. Some days I did it more gracefully than others. Some days, it was more than I could handle. But God kept pursuing me and I was finally listening.

Throughout that summer, we saw a couple other health scares. At times it seemed like each scare happened as we tried to pursue even some direction with adoption. Every single scare not only sobered us, but seemed to mock the desire we felt God had given us to adopt. Every single time we'd fall before God and say, "Is this dream over?" and we'd hear, "Trust me. Pursue me."

God was merciful and the scares were just that: scares.

By the end of the summer, I was feeling pretty beaten down. I felt an intimacy with God I hadn't known for a long time . . .and at the same time? I was starting to doubt my ability to hear His voice and understand. The ups and downs of the summer had shaken that and all I could do was keep falling on my knees over and over and over. I can remember finally breaking down one day at Bible Study, sharing our standstill, and asking my friends to pray that we could have wisdom and discern God's voice.

In a conversation that day, as I listened to my friends talk, God convicted me again that I was still trying to control the journey. While He had taught me much, I was still making it too much about me. I was still pushing too hard for the next thing and making His "wait" about something. I wasn't pursuing the joy of serving Him. And He was asking me, once and for all, "am I enough?"

That day I went home and purposed I wasn't going to talk about it other than with God and Ryan. . .and that I was going to do everything I could do to let even Ryan lead any discussion. I purposed that Ryan was going to make this choice for our family and that I was going to sit with God and trust Him to move me alongside him. I purposed that I was going to pursue God. He had to be the one to move any and all mountains in our way. Period.

After a summer of health issues, I was finally willing to let go in a new way.

And so our fall began. There were days I bit my tongue. There were days I was frustrated and inpatient. There were days God and I talked in circles. Yet I grabbed hold of Him and held on for all I could.

I tried to avoid reading about adoption but it still drew me in. I'd always felt a huge love towards Africa; but anyone who knows anything about the country knows it's hard not to fall in love with Africa the more you know and the more you see. So over and over I took my heart to God.

Mid fall, one night while in bed, Ryan said he'd been thinking and was wondering about foster care again. I was floored and I struggled. For in this down time, my heart was sold on adopting.

Yet this was what I had prayed for - right? For Ryan to take the initiative and lead us.

Praying, I responded where my heart had been. It was a hard night. We both felt defeated. Yet I can remember looking at him and saying, "I refuse to let satan win tonight. We aren't letting him divide us with this." And together we prayed for God's wisdom and leading and I began to plead with God to change my heart for my husband.

Looking back, I believe with my whole heart God used that night to change me. For it's the first night I began pursuing the dream of someone else and not just mine. We laid it all before God and purposed to wait on anything until God moved us together.

In October, Ryan and I were able to travel to Magdalena, MX to visit some close friends at an orphanage. I remember wondering if God would move that weekend in Ryan and I to give us direction. But I purposed to be present that weekend and not miss out on the blessing there while looking for writing on the wall.

The weekend was so good. It was great to get away and be with Ryan. It was great to be with friends. It was awesome seeing the kids and seeing God at work in their lives. And can I say this? It was great to go home.

I can remember thinking on the way home, "That was so neat to see God at work in such a powerful way. But this is what it feels like to know God has not called me to this." I could support it and pray for it and love it . . .and not need to be a part of it.

A devotional I read puts it so well, "God never wants you to be disobedient to Him as you serve others' needs. No matter how great a need may be, if there is no Godly answer, we have to wait in godly obedience instead of taking an ungodly detour . . .when you understand that true love does not mean we have to meet all the needs others have, we are free to act biblically towards them."

The need of children everywhere is overwhelming. I really struggled with that. It had been hard for me to say "no" to something and not feeling like I was abandoning someone. Yet God had taught me much in the past year.

I firmly believe God can use all of us some way when it comes to orphan care (I don't mean just by actually adopting or fostering yourself). Yet adoption or foster care can be romanticised and beautiful. It is both of those. But it can also be painful, hard and gritty. It wasn't anything I wanted to enter into on my own.

I was finally learning to trust God for my part in it and trust HIM with the rest. But I wanted God to show us our place in it and not be the one asserting myself in it. I finally felt like I was beginning to understand the peace that comes with that.

I came home feeling a freedom to trust God, even if it meant rewriting my plans again. And I began to pray more fervently that God would move the hearts of Ryan and I together again as He had before . . .even if that meant I was the one to change. I still felt adoption was where God had taken my heart but I was willing to trust Him to be bigger than either of us and our emotions.

In the beginning on November I got a call from Ryan's mom.

We had received an invite to an event put on by Lifesong to help inform individuals who supported the ministry. It was a way to help them understand the different aspects of the ministry and how God was at work. I had seen the invite and initially kind of dreaded the thought (to go and come home disappointed that we weren't moving forward in some way).

I didn't want to put Ryan in a position he felt cornered into something (as we both knew my heart was still in adoption). I knew we didn't have available sitters and that's the last I remember thinking of it. I had put it on a stack of papers and forgotten all about it.

I'd also forgotten you needed to RSVP. : ) So Barb was calling to see if we were going.

I opened my mouth to say no and couldn't. Literally. I didn't know why but I could not make myself say no. So I said I'd talk to Ryan and get back to them.

Ryan and I talked that night. For some reason I felt like we were supposed to be there. I didn't know why. I had zero expectations in going. But I absolutely felt if we didn't try to make it work, we were disobeying God. So we started searching for sitters.

After trying to figure things out, the only option that seemed in front of us was to pay an overnight sitter. Nothing about this seemed practical. Nothing about it made sense, but again, the weight to make it work remained and we made arrangements.

And I began praying I wouldn't create any expectations for the weekend. : )

On a whim, the week leading up to the weekend we decided to fill out an assessment form with Loving Shepherd ministries. It helps line you up with your best adoption match in countries (and is free : ) ). It looks at your family demographics, finances, your health and age alongside your adoption interests (age, gender, etc). You're then provided with all the information of possible country programs to consider. I printed it off and didn't really look at it further.

On the way up to Chicago, Ryan and I thought it'd be kind of fun to look at the information we had. We hadn't made any decisions about our family and were both just feeling open and wanting God's best.

I read out loud and we talked about it. It quickly became pretty clear that if we adopted now, Ethiopia was one of the few countries we could consider (due to our family dynamics, aspects of my health and our ages). We didn't really talk about it more but it just felt like good information to know.

So with that all behind us, we walked into the event with very little expectations and having no idea what God had in store.

To be continued (and finished : ) ) tomorrow.


Jami said...

beautiful amber. I just love how the Lord continues to pursue us - to remind us that it's all about Him and that His best is BEST! i love you! thanks for sharing your heart!

Ashley Baner said...

And what a weekend that was!! I can't wait to hear what you got out of it. I was drained by the end of it!!!! At the very end, when they sand "I surrender all...", I started to sob. What do I need to surrender? It is so scary to lay everything down for Jesus. So far it is not fostering or what is it? That possibility takes my breath away at times...and at other times, when I am surrendered and fully trusting, it excites me incredibly. Maybe it won't be anything that the world views earth shattering but as you well know, when you are fully surrendered to God, even the wait can be earth shattering!! God has amazing ways of working. I am so thankful to see how he is moving you right now! Can't wait to meet him/her!!

Amber said...

Thanks girls - your encouragment means alot.

Ashley, I know God already uses you to bless so many - and it's exciting to think what God can do with your willingness to be available, however that may look when He shows you.

love you guys!

mom Bahr said...

I am so grateful to know that when I pray for you every day, that God takes care of ALL the details of your life. It touches my heart to read of your challenges, dreams, hopes and heart to let God lead you & Ryan in His perfect plan for your lives. Be encouraged and hopeful!! love forever, and praying always, mom
Romans 8:28 "and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who the called according to His purpose."