I am heading back to work on Monday, and I cannot believe that today is that last real day of my summer break. More than that, I cannot believe that the paper chase of 2012 is over. We filed with immigration today and will (hopefully) be mailing our dossier tomorrow. Wow. It is a crazy feeling to even be typing those words. When we started this whole process, terms like "dossier" and "USCIS filing" seemed so incredibly far away, yet here we are. We have made it through the interviews, the home inspection, the paper gathering, the reference letters, the birth and marriage certificates, the autobiographies, the classes, the online trainings, the readings, the hundreds of copies of everything. We made it!
But we did not make it alone. Adam and I both know, beyond all doubt or second-guessing, that the Lord has been with us, right next to us, for every little step we have taken since April 10 when we first applied to Lifeline's Ethiopia program. It is unreal to think that it is four months to the day since we began our adoption journey, this beautiful that path that will ultimately lead us to our precious child. In some ways it seems like we have been on this ride forever, and in others it really feels like we have just started. But when we look back at all of the progress we have made over the past four months, one thing we know for sure is that God's hand has been (and will continue to be) all over this.
As we enter into this time of waiting--only waiting--it is my prayer that God will reveal Himself to us in ways we have not yet experienced. I imagine that these months of waiting will be both exciting and difficult. We have reached the point where there is quite literally nothing else we can do, which relieves me and fills me with anxiety at the same time. I am relieved because I know I have done every little thing that has been asked of my by our agency, our government and the Ethiopian government. We have jumped through every hoop, and our legs are tired! But I am also feeling anxious, because, up until this point, we have had some control over our timeline. We could determine the speed of the home study and the assembling of our dossier, but now, it is all in someone else's hands. And I don't know that someone, which is probably pretty lucky for that person because we all know I would be calling and emailing like a crazy person everyday to see how things are going. :) Anyway, I think that this is the part of adopting that will grow our faith exponentially. And to that I say: Bring it.
I am ready to know my God more personally. To love Him more fully. To trust Him more deeply. I don't always do a great job at these things, and I believe that the Lord is going to use this time of waiting to mold me. And I know that the molding process is not always pleasant. In fact, there are days when it is just plain old painful. But God is always right there, and He always has a purpose. And right here, I am reminded of a story that my mom used to tell me when I was younger.
A husband and wife were on vacation together in a small town and were passing the day looking inside various antique stores. The wife loved antiques and was hoping to find something beautiful to commemorate their trip together. They stopped at an old store and began to browse around. The husband found the most beautiful hand-painted teacup he had ever seen and immediately knew his wife would love it. He called her over. She did love the teacup with its dainty handle and beautifully painted flowers, and right as she was about to pick it up, the teacup turned to them and spoke, "You know, I haven't always been this beautiful." Needless to say, the couple was startled. "What do you mean?" asked the wife. "Well, I started out as just a lump of clay. Pretty ugly, actually. And I just sat for a long time on a table at the Master's house. He seemed to have a plan for me, so I waited to see what He was going to do. One day, He grabbed me and started kneading me, reshaping me over and over again. It hurt so much that I cried. I wanted Him to stop because the pain was unbearable, but He just kept going. As He was kneading me, He kept saying that I was going to be something beautiful, something spectacular. Finally, He finished molding me and set me down on a table. I realized that I was a teacup. I know teacup are useful, but I certainly wasn't beautiful. I was just ugly clay in the shape of a teacup. Like I said, useful, but nothing spectacular like He promised. Regardless, I was happy that I wasn't in pain anymore. He left me on the table for the night, and I woke up the next morning to Him stoking the furnace. I watched Him, wondering what was going on. Then, when the fire was good and hot, the Master walked over to me and picked me up. "This is going to be the worst part," He said, "But don't worry; I have plans for you, and you will be beautiful." Then He set me down on a tray and slid me in to the furnace. I was scared, and I felt like I was being burned alive. The fire kept getting hotter and hotter. I couldn't stand it. And the whole time I was in there, I could see the Master watching me, tending to the fire. He never left, but He didn't take me out. I begged Him to make it stop, but He didn't. I didn't understand why He was letting this happen to me, how He could just sit there and watch me burn up in this furnace. Time kept passing and the fire never died down, but I started to notice something. I was getting harder, more durable. Before the furnace, you could just pinch me, and I would change shape. Not any more. Finally, He took me out, and I began to cool down. I couldn't believe I was still alive. The Master let me cool over night, but He was back the next morning. He picked me up right away and told me that He was almost finished. I couldn't even begin to imagine what would be coming next after the molding and the furnace. I was scared. Of course, I wanted to be beautiful, but I didn't want to hurt anymore. The Master walked me over to the other side of the room. He picked up a paintbrush and began to paint me. He painted my beautiful flowers, taking time to make sure each brushstroke was just right. And after a long time, He set me down in front of a mirror. And what I saw when I looked in that mirror is what you see today, a strong and beautiful teacup. The Master had taken me, just an ugly lump of clay, and He had made me beautiful. It was so hard and so very painful, and there were a lot of moments when I wanted Him to stop. But if He had stopped, I never would have become what I am today, and this is what I was created to be." The man and his wife were amazed by the little teacup's story, so they decided to purchase the cup and bring her home. Now she sits on their mantle as a reminder of God's love and purpose in their lives, even during the hardest times.
I have always loved that story. We are the teacup! You are the teacup! Our gracious God, the Master, takes us and He molds us and strengthens us until we are stronger and more beautiful than we ever could have been on our own. Yes, the molding process and the strengthening process can hurt, but we are never alone. God is right there with us. I am going to keep this beautiful story in mind as we enter the waiting process. I know that there will be (already have been) days when I feel like it is all just too much, but we have to remember that nothing, absolutely nothing, in our lives is outside of God's perfect plan for us. So even in the midst of the hard days, I can rest in my good and perfect God. I can trust Him and know that I am right in the Master's hand. And I know that at the end of this adoption process, Adam and I will be stronger and more beautiful than we were when we went in, and none of that will be our doing.
"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion, therefore, I will wait for Him." Lamentations 3:22-24