The Five of Us, Spring 2014

The Five of Us, Spring 2014

Embracing the Process

Since my college days, when I really began following and knowing Jesus as a relatable reality rather than just a historical/religious "other", I have been enchanted with Psalm 84. It's beginning and end are very well-known, to the point of having becoming songs sung around the world, but it's the unfamiliar middle passage (vv. 5-7) that just gets to my heart.

Psa 84:1
For the director of music. According to gittith.[fn1] Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
Psa 84:2
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.

Psa 84:3
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Psa 84:4
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.

Psa 84:5
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
Psa 84:6
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
Psa 84:7
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

Psa 84:8
Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, O God of Jacob.
Psa 84:9
Look upon our shield,[fn3] O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.

Psa 84:10
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Psa 84:11
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

Psa 84:12
O Lord Almighty,
blessed is the man who trusts in you.

Throughout our previous attempt at adopting Pence and through Pea's adoption process, the theme that God seemed to want to hammer into my head was, "Embrace the process." To me, that needed no explanation, but since you don't really know me as well as you think you do, just let me expound a bit. I've always been results-oriented, you know, the kind of person who wants to be at the end when I'm only at the beginning. I want the wisdom, graciousness, peace, contentment, evenness, faith... of the 80 year old woman in my 20s (or I suppose I need to revise that now to "in my 30s"!). But I don't necessarily want to go through the process that created that wisdom, graciousness, peace, contentment, evenness, faith... A process like we went through as we tried to adopt Pence. A process like this entire past year. A process that squeezes the nastiness right out of you, leaving more room for Jesus.

But, I've come to learn (through the persistence of the Holy Spirit) that God values the process at least as much as the result. So, I love that the psalmist says "Blessed are those... who have set their hearts on pilgrimage." It's like he's saying, "Blessed are those who have the end in sight, but have their hearts set on the journey, the process."

And, I also like the subtle inference that that kind of gal, the sojourner, she's the kind who finds her strength in the Lord. As a relatively gifted person, it's extremely easy for me to rely on my own strength. I need the valleys of the journey to remind me whose strength is really keeping me throughout the journey.

Because, well, it's obvious from the next verse (6) that the journey's not always easy. That "Valley of Baca" is translated by other folks as the "Valley of Weeping." Sounds like a vacation haven, no? :) "Valley" in spiritual terms can be bad enough, but the valley of weeping? Obviously a delightful place to be in your spiritual life. But the sojourners, those people of God's strength who've learned to embrace the process, what do they do? They transform this dismal valley into a place of springs! A place where life can flourish! A verdant, green pasture-y place!

So, you have to ask yourself, how would one do that? How do you find springs in a valley. Well, you have to dig. Sometimes deep. Into dry land. And, you might miss it. Not every hole was a spring (I know that because when the rains came in autumn, they formed pools--I'm reading between the lines, but I think the pools formed in the holes that led to no springs). So, there is a way for us, in the hardest, deepest valleys to dig up water to bring and sustain life. Oh, how I want that for my life, but oh how much more I want to be that kind of person; the kind of woman who leaves life in her wake, who enters a deserty place and by her presence (the presence of God's strength and power within her) and by her effort leaves behind a verdant, green valley that brings life and hope and rest and restoration.

And all this digging--does it wear her out and leave her panting beside the spring? Nope. Not her. She goes from strength to strength through this journey (v. 7). Why, because she's good with the process and because it's God's strength, not her (wimpy) own.

While we're on the topic of transformations in the deserty, dry places, hear this from Hosea, 2:14-15 "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt."

So, God is wooing us into the wilderness, enchanting us with his love as we follow him wherever, even into the wilderness. And, when he gets us there, then what? Then he speaks kindly to us. But, kindly is kind of a wimpy translation, in my opinion. The word derives from the word for heart, the physical, blood-pumping organ, as well as "the totallity of man's inner or immaterial nature.... These are the deepest, innermost feelings." (Lexical Aids to the Old Testament, Zodhiates) Oooooh! I just love that. He's getting us out there where there's nothing to distract us and then he speaks straight to our hearts, our innermost, deepest beings! Oh how I long for him to speak to me there.

And, just like the sojourners of the psalm who were able to find the springs in their valley, so here, God gives vineyards from this wilderness. Vineyards don't just spring up out of nothing and prosper. It does take work. Following and loving Jesus aren't easy, not a walk in the park (well, not until after we've been there!).

He's also giving us the Valley (oh another valley!) of Achor as a door of hope. On this verse, Tiffany Ann Lewis says, "The valley of Achor is a physical location but it offers us a wonderful spiritual lesson. Achor means trouble and disturbance. Do we trust that all these tribulations are destined to produce joyful confidence and eternal hope? Will we follow him into the wilderness knowing that our only door of hope is a door of troubles and tribulations?" (emphasis mine) Oooh. God wants to give us hope (the result), but it takes a journey! And, really, truly I believe he loves that journey and wants us to embrace and possess that journey just as much as he loves the hope and wants us to have that too. It's no accident that the Valley of Achor is "in our way." In fact, the verse is phrased in such a way that the real gift is the Valley.

So, there's the sermon. Here's the application for me. We're embarking on another adoption journey; this time with a pilot program that just is going to have difficulties embedded in it. That's just the way things are. But, will I see this journey as the necessary evil to bring my child home or will I see it as the gift of God? With all my mind and all my heart I believe that the journey is God's loving gift. And, I totally expect that he will be speaking kindly to my innermost, deepest feelings as I set my heart on this journey. And, it's his strength with each step (doesn't "they go from strength to strength" sound like strength is the stepping stones upon which they journey? Like each time thier foot falls to earth it lands on strength?).

But, not only that. Things are so difficult with our Liberian adoption program right now (yes, I'm lapsing into my role with Acres of Hope now) and while there is no reason to lose hope, it has been a looooong journey for many of my families. As we walk through this Valley of Baca together, I want to, as much as I can, make it a place of springs for them. Will I make mistakes and dig up dry holes sometimes. You can count on it. But, will God in his grace fill even those with life? You can count on that too. I just want to be able to look back some day at this period of my life (my service with AoH) and see a green and verdant valley, bubbling with springs and dotted with ponds. And, I believe what I'll see when I look back depends almost entirely on the choice of perspective and where I put my faith and find my strength today.

And, someday, if I ever do make it to being that sage, peace-filled, loving old woman, I want to remember these valleys (the hard time with Pence's adoption and the long wait for Pea, this present valley of difficulty with Liberian adoptions, and the future difficulties to come with our Ghanaian adoption), I want to look back and remember these times with fondness! The fondness that my God spoke beautiful and kind words (like, "Embrace the process, Child"! and more) to my heart and the fondness that I found a few springs and made way for a few somnolent pools where others were able to draw life. I can see that day in my mind's eye when I get to take my grandchildren on my aching knee and tell them the beautiful story of how their mama or daddy came to be a part of this family, not just beautiful when they made it home, but beautiful in the midst of much difficulty and suffering from many sides. Because that's the God I want them to know.


Tanya said...

Wonderful post! I am not by nature a person who connects well with the Psalms. John Piper's recent series on the Psalms has changed my heart:) Thanks for this message!

Melodie said...

What an insightful and practical post, especially for someone in the adoption process. Thanks for sharing!

My Man and Me

My Man and Me
married 7/7/2001


ours through biology, born 7/25/2004, home 8/1/2004


ours through adoption from Liberia, West Africa, born 7/15/2005, home 10/25/2007


ours through domestic adoption, born 1/15/2011, home 2/10/2011, final 8/3/2011

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Round Two Timeline

  • 9/24/08 Home study update home visit for Ghana adoption
  • 10/15/08 Dossier sent to AOHG
  • 10/15/08 I600A application sent to USCIS
  • 10/30/08 First heard about possible domestic private adoption
  • 11/18/08 Last spoke with contact about possible domestic adoption; expected to hear back about meeting with birthmother
  • 12/3/08 Withdrew application from AOHG
  • 1/6/09 Found out another family had been chosen for possible domestic adoption
  • 1/21/09 USCIS fingerprinting appointment
  • 1/8/09 Received USCIS fingerprinting appointment notice
  • 4/11/09 Sent Pre-Application to Covenant Care Adoptions for Domestic Infant Adoption program
  • 6/8/09 Social worker visit to update home study from International to Domestic
  • 7/24/09 Received completed home study update
  • 8/25/09 Went "on the list" for birthfamilies to choose from
  • 4/28/10 Found out a birth mom had chosen us
  • 5/8/10 Met the birth mom
  • 5/11/10 Got the call that birth mom changed her mind
  • 5/19/10 Birth mom's scheduled c-section
  • 11/30/10 Visit from DSS sw about foster parenting
  • 11/30/10 Got the call that another birth mom had chosen us
  • 12/21/10 Met with the birth mom
  • 1/15/11 @1:42 PM BB was born!
  • 1/19/11 ICPC (interstate) paperwork sent to GA for approval
  • 1/31/11 ICPC Clearance Approved
  • 2/10/11 Placement Ceremony and Pup comes home!!!!
  • 8/3/11 It's Official! Pup's Adoption Decree was issued