There is one question that I have come to dread. It leaves me conflicted and tongue-tied. It makes my heart beat a mile a minute and my palms sweat. Occasionally, I feel nauseous. What in the world could this question be, you ask?
"How are things going?"
To me, this is the hardest question to answer. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't bother me - it's just hard. Because to be honest, it basically comes down to whether I'm going to tell a bold-faced lie, or the way-too-heavy-for-casual-conversation truth. Answering questions about adoption - the whys, hows and what-ifs - is easy. Admitting that I'm struggling is excruciatingly difficult.
Because we chose this.
In many ways, I feel pressure to always see the bright side of things. We chose her, we fought for her, we traveled half-way across the world to bring her into our family. So I feel like we, in turn, forfeit our right to mourn the loss of the life we could have had if we never took this step of faith. "Everything will work out" is my motto these days. But what if it doesn't? What if it is hard forever? What if God chooses not to heal Emi? Do I still trust Him...
A few weeks ago I found myself at probably one of the lowest points since the beginning of this journey. Emi was sick and her cardiologist wanted to admit her to Duke. In the midst of my husband's travel frenzy and 3 other sick kids, I begged him to give me another option. Anything. He agreed to let me go home if her heart echo looked 'normal' (as in Emi's normal). My heart sank. Maybe Duke was not such a bad option after all - I was not prepared for another echo. Not yet. I couldn't take anymore discouraging news. I started praying immediately for there to be healing. These 3 months of struggle HAD to have something to show for it all. Even the littlest improvement would be enough to give me the hope to keep going. Proof that God heard our relentless prayers. It seemed like such a small request, really. For God to just do something.
To make things worse, they put me in the same room where the same technician found what would turn our lives upside down just 3 months earlier. I started thinking that I might be the one admitted to Duke.
As I held her down this time, she struggled less. She wasn't in hysterics like the first time. I stared at the screen and back at the technician to try to read his reaction, but he wasn't giving me anything! My nursing degree didn't help me much either (not a reflection of UNC-Chapel Hill, as my husband would like to think ;)). When he finally broke the awkward silence, what he said was NOT what I expected to hear.
NO improvement?? How is that even possible? Disappointment sank so deep into my heart and I finally succumbed to the despair. All I asked for was a shred of good news. I had come to a crossroads that I never really have had to face before. Did I really believe everything I claimed to believe? If God never heals Emi, do I still trust His plan is better? I began this journey with a step of faith, but I'd already finished it in my head with an acceptable ending. The way God would hold up His end of the deal. We obey...God delivers. The only logical outcome to our reckless abandon in the name of Christ is for Him to glorify himself, right? And how does He glorify himself by doing (what seemed to be) nothing? I had to really examine the source of my faith. I had let the need to prove God's power to the nay-sayers and skeptics become my idol and lead me down a path of discouragement and resentment when things continued to get worse. Struggle had become equal to failure in my mind.
About a week later, as the dust was settling, our campus pastor sent out an email asking several of us to consider sharing scripture during service. I looked at the email, deleted it, and knew there were enough people in a much better place than I was right then that would have more uplifting things to share. But evidently God had other plans. Despite my complete disregard for the email, our pastor personally asked me - twice - to share what God had been showing me through His Word over the past few weeks. Just the thought of standing up in front of 700 + people is enough to make me nauseous. But he was asking me to READ and SHARE? The wounds were so fresh. I was not a success story of how God delivers the faithful. I was drowning and He was allowing it. How could my sharing this benefit anyone?
Well, believe it or not, I did it - trusting that God had a reason for the fact that NO MATTER how hard I tried, I couldn't seem to get out of this. The week leading up to that Sunday, I prayed, searched my heart, and begged God to reveal what He wanted me to say. I was so terrified of making a fool of myself (vain, I know). I knew I had to basically just read something word for word in order to make it through, so that's what I did. And here is what I shared (just in case there's someone else out there that needs to read it!):
One of the scripture passages that God has used to speak Truth into my life over the last week comes from 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, where Paul seeks deliverance from a 'thorn', or something that was causing him strife and pain at this point in his ministry -
'Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord THREE TIMES to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and pressures because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.'
Paul plead his case before God THREE DIFFERENT TIMES, but God chose to allow the painful experience to continue. Paul chooses to believe God will use it for good and for His glory. In this passage, I see that weakness provides the opportunity for GOd to show His power, even though Satan may mock me or tempt me to despair.
We've been home a little over 5 months with our daughter who has Down Syndrome and some other extensive medical needs. It has been most difficult and disappointing time of my life. So many times (MUCH more than 3!) I've cried out to God to take this burden away from us and to heal Emi's heart and lungs, fully expecting Him to glorify Himself through such a miracle. But for some reason, that I cannot understand in my humanness, He is allowing this time of struggle and He is choosing not to heal her right now.
At the end of a long day of caring for 4 young children and keeping on top of multiple medications, oxygen therapy, appointments, and just meeting the basic needs of the kids, I usually have nothing to show for it but a sink overflowing with dishes, goldfish crumbs in the carpet, and the aroma of a day's worth of 2, 2-year-olds' dirty diapers in the trashcan. And my reward? I get to do it all over again the next day. Many times I feel like I'm failing at everything - like I just can't do it all, and I pray for deliverance from this season. This passage has challenged me to pray for contentment and the ability to find pleasure in my weaknesses. And God has helped me realize that my helplessness - this struggle - does not equal failure. In fact, it's just the opposite. Like Paul said, I'm the strongest on those days when I feel I just can't do it anymore because Christ is glorified through His power being made perfect in my weakness.
And His grace is ALWAYS sufficient for whatever tomorrow holds.