Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It's almost Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year. The Christmas season is typically full of excitement, anticipation, joy, warmth, family, and love. It can also be a hard time of year for people, for many different reasons. Maybe you lost a loved one this year, maybe you lost your job, maybe you don't have family to celebrate with, maybe you've had a hard year and are just ready for 2016 to be over. There are a million posts floating around with how to deal with a hard Christmas this year, and what Christmas looks like if you are _______ fill in the blank, missing someone, infertile, alone, etc. And the ones I've read are good, really good, but I don't need to write a post like that, they are out there.
I thought I would explain why Christmas is hard. I have seen comments on blogs and posts and heard comments when I talk about Christmas being hard that are less than supportive. "Why can't you just get over your issues and focus on Christmas?" "I don't understand why Christmas is so hard for you, can't you just be happy?" "Focus on the meaning of Christmas, not your problems." And I think they are probably (hopefully) well-intentioned, but they are not helpful, and are a little crushing.
For us specifically, this year is our third in the adoption process without a baby. Christmas is a constant reminder of what we don't have - last year we thought, "how great, next year we will almost definitely have a baby to enjoy the Christmas season with." And here we are, still childless. And we are okay, but it's a hard reminder. Seeing the "my first Christmas" outfits, seeing others ecstatically celebrate their first Christmas as parents (and trust me, we are happy for them, but it's still a reminder of what we so desperately, with all our beings, want), is hard. We also lost a baby this year, we planned for Christmas, we looked at Christmas outfits, figured out how we would travel with a baby, and the best way to start our own traditions with our child. None of that will happen this year. And that's okay, we are okay, but it's hard, and it's not fair. It's never fair to lose your child. So, Christmas is a reminder of what we lost. So, it is hard, we will be okay, but we struggle. These are not things we can just forget, or put aside for the holidays (or any other time), they are our life right now. It doesn't mean we aren't happy, it means we are struggling. I've been telling people, 2016 wasn't an over all "bad" year, it was just hard; really, really, hard.
SO, I say all this to say, don't say mean, unhelpful comments, no matter how you mean them. Instead, here are some things you can do and say.

1. Be supportive. Understand if the person hurting needs a break, doesn't want to talk, wants to talk, needs to be busy, needs to be still. Everyone's grief (because if we're honest it's all grief, over something we don't have, something we lost, something we dream of) will need to be taken care of differently, so respect that and help them get what they need.

2. Ask supportive questions. Ask, how are you doing with___? Instead of making suggestions, or telling someone what you think they should do, ask them. "What do you need?' "What can I do to help?" Ask often, "do you need a break?" Tell them, "I understand" when they don't meet your expectations because they need a break. Let them bring up what they are going through, you don't need to bring it up. If they want to talk about it past your questions, they will.

3. Understand if they have a moment. Crying, being stubborn, being on edge, all possibilities during hard holiday seasons. Give your loved one a moment, let them get through it and then if you feel like you need to talk about it, wait until it's long over.

4. Love on them. Cook them a meal, bring them gifts, treat them to coffee. Any of these shows that you love the person who is going through a hard time at Christmas. We all just want to be acknowledged and loved and not forgotten.

Don't forget us in our struggles, do try to understand. Don't push, just accept.

Hopefully all of this helps you understand our struggle (and hopefully others' during this holidays season) and gives you some ways to handle/help your loved ones.

Merry Christmas, and no matter what your situation, remember there is always hope, and hope really was born at Christmas time, whether you feel it or not, and you don't have to! You don't even have to focus on the fact that it's a holiday, but don't forget the hope. Your hope lies in someone who is above all our circumstances, so even when it's hard, remember the hope that you have.

With love,

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Part of Something Bigger

God has really been showing me a lot lately. I keep reading things that have the same message or point and am really feeling God teach me something. Today, I was reading in Joshua and wanted to share some of my thoughts because, you guys, God is awesome and God is doing something amazing.

In Joshua, God tells him (him being Joshua) to take the land that they were promised that is on the other side of the Jordan River. Joshua knew there were people and the city of Jericho on the other side, but he wasn't sure what this actually looked like. So, he sends 2 spies over to figure out what is happening. The spies find Rahab, a prostitute, and she lets them bunk at her place. The King of Jericho hears about the spies and sends people to Rahab's house. When his men get there she lies and says she doesn't know who the men are and that they have already left, when in actuality, she hid them on the roof under some flax. After the men leave the city gates to keep searching she bargains with the spies, she says, since I helped you, you help me. She tells them that the city is afraid of them, because they know that God has given the Israelites this land. So, she says, since I helped you, promise me that my family will not be destroyed when you take this city. The men agree, adding some conditions of how to ensure her and her family's safety. She gave them an escape plan and they followed through. (Joshua 1 & 2)

Okay, pause. So, here's the big deal with Rahab - she helped people she didn't know, who she was probably afraid were going to conquer her and her family. The spies found her and she gave them security. God ordained their meeting, God could have just kept the spies safe, He didn't have to give them shelter with Rahab, but that is how God chose to keep the spies safe, this is an important detail in God's big plan. This was the catalyst to the rest of Biblical history and the life of Jesus.

Resume. Later on in Joshua (chapter 6) God tells the Israelite army to march around the city of Jericho once a day for 6 days, and 7 times on the 7th day. (we will come back to this later). Then the city fell, and everyone died, yet Rahab and her family were kept safe because of her promise she made with the spies.

Okay, so here's why this is important - Rahab is in the lineage of Jesus. Rahab was Boaz's mother. Boaz married Ruth (who has her own book of the Bible). Later on this line would include; David, Solomon and eventually Joseph (Jesus' earthly father). SO, if Rahab hadn't helped the spies, she and her family wouldn't have been saved. And there would be no Boaz, so no David, no Solomon, no Joseph and potentially no Mary (since he is Jesus' earthly father because he was betrothed to Mary). What we know as the Bible would be drastically different and the salvation story may be different. AND - Joseph's lineage is important because Jesus is in the directly line of some of the greatest people of faith in the Bible, including David, Solomon, and Abraham (and even a prostitute, our girl Rahab).

What does this mean? This means that God used Rahab to be the stimulus for something that would happen over 30 generations later. God knew that she needed to be part of the line of Jesus, so He orchestrated all the little details of her life and her story to be saved from Jericho, and He ordained all of this before she was even born. WHOA. Is your mind blown? Mine totally is.

SO -what does this mean for me? It means that God is orchestrating something great for me that He ordained for me before I was even born. That means that my adoption wait is not an accident or "just because" it is a specific detail that God has planned in order to be the starting point for something else. Our baby will come at the exact right time, in order for other pieces of God's plan to fall into place. And, whatever you are waiting for in life, the same applies to you, God has a plan and all the details are perfect, including when you will get what you are waiting for, because it puts the rest of His plan and your story into place.

Okay - back to Jericho. So, God tells the Israelites to do something crazy - march around the wall of Jericho 13 times, and on the last day blow your horns, and Jericho will be destroyed. I don't know about you, but if I were taking down a city, I would think catapults, bows and arrows, and maybe a Trojan horse. But, marching around and blowing horns? What is that going to do? And I'm sure the Israelites thought so too, especially when after 12 times the whole city looked exactly the same as before they started. BUT after the last time, SUDDENLY the walls came crumbling down.
Along, with God orchestrating every detail of your life, He can act suddenly. He can give you what you are waiting for, what you need, close a door, change your direction. Just because things have been the same for a long time ( 22 months waiting for us in case you lost track), it doesn't mean God isn't working, and that He can't suddenly change everything.

This is the hope that I am holding onto. If you don't have this hope, I don't know how you do it, seriously. I hope that this can be an encouragement to you today, no matter what you are going through. Know that God has ordained, orchestrated, and knows every detail of your life, and has a great plan for you. Even when bad things happen, God turns them around for good in one way or another, even if you won't see the effect for generations. I believe God will use Toby's death for good in my life and others', even if I don't ever see it.

Know that you are loved, cared for, and that your life has a plan and is part of a bigger one.

With love,