It's been impossible for me to watch our kids this Christmas and not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the meaning of Emmanuel.
The most profound of mysteries. The story that every human is living, whether we recognize it or not.
Every time after I share our story somewhere, I get the questions...
How did you choose the children you adopted? Why Ukraine? Why special needs adoption?
I never feel like my answer does the journey justice, but how do you explain the leadings of the living God?
In my life it has looked like Isaiah 30:21, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."
If I'm being honest, at times I have felt like that voice led us right into a fire.
At times, I've wondered if we heard it wrong.
At times, I've wondered what the heck God's idea of "prosperous" (see Jeremiah 29:11) is because my definition definitely wasn't lining up with my current reality.
This is the time of year we send out pictures with our families clothes coordinating and everyone smiling at the camera and if we're not careful we can believe the lie that others are living a reality that is less messy than our own.
I'm here to tell you it's not true.
I believe someone needs to hear this Christmas that the beauty of Emmanuel doesn't lie in the painless path. It's not for those that are never afraid or worried, or tempted, it's for those who embrace that God knew how screwed up we are and He came anyway.
At times, I slip into these moments where the present is so incredibly beautiful that I connect it to trials in our past and it's like God tells me, Remember that? Remember how hard that was? Do you see now how I was with you and every tear you cried led you to this beautiful moment? Now do you believe me that my plan is wonderful and good, even though there will be many times of pain and sorrow?
For me one of those moments happened recently when I took my two daughters to Frozen 2.
The whole evening felt like a Heavenly gift delivered straight to my heart. Watching them both hand their tickets to the theater worker made me want to shout, look at this girl!! Would you believe that she did nothing except rock herself back and forth for the first two years of her existence? Would you believe no one saw her worth and value? Would you believe she would have died of heart failure alone in an orphanage 4 years ago except God saw fit to bless a crazy young couple with the gift that is her life?
This might not look like much to you Mr. movie ticket man, but I know I'm witnessing a miracle this very moment!!
Then there's Vienna, her story is so different. She shares my DNA and she's never been alone one day of her life and yet I remember seeing those two pink lines and the fear that overcame my entire being. Instead of a blessing it felt like a cruel joke. God knew what we had just followed him into. He knew that we had just adopted a little boy with deep wounds and a little girl on the verge of heart failure and yet he brought more life into our family and at the time I thought she would be too much.
I write those words with tears in my eyes because I now can't imagine life without her... with out either of them. I watched them together that night, the two sisters with such different stories and I thanked God that His ways are so much higher than mine. I thanked God for the trials we endured because they've brought us to this point and made us who we are.
Emmanuel connects my most blissful moments to my most painful because I've learned that no matter what my circumstances and no matter my feelings, God's presence is all I need.
Such a powerful word.
Jesus puts the WITH in between us and God. He is the reason we can be "hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:9)
I love the moments I get, this side of Heaven, when I can see glimpses of the reasons why my story has taken the turns it has. I love when my soul can bring reason and purpose into some of the painful memories, but I'm also fully aware that there are some things we will face in this life that can't be explained.
I truly believe that there are some things that we wont receive the answers to and we wont see the beauty in until we enter eternity. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) Sometimes things happen in this life that we wont be able to see good or reason in.
We're all living in the place of not being able to see and that's why 2 Corinthians 4:16 tells us, "Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So fix your eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
The other day when I was sitting in the movie theater with my daughters and I was so overwhelmed with the joy found in a hard journey. I couldn't help but think that if this is what glimpses of redemption look like and feel like this side of Heaven, what will it be like for those who experience unimaginable tragedy and loss in this life when they finally cross the finish line and God wipes away their tears and shines His purpose into the darkness they endured and brings healing to their deepest wounds? I believe it will be as the Bible says, "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived - the things God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Oh friends, I hope that offers you encouragement. I don't know what kind of season you are in this Christmas. I don't know if it's one of sorrow or bliss, but the good news is Emmanuel is true for you no matter which camp your circumstances or feelings fall into. Don't lose heart, even if your healing and your answers don't come, we have a hope that can lift our gaze above this life and a faith that can give us confidence that what's coming will be better then our wildest dreams.
Praying the hope and power of Emmanuel if so evident in your hearts and homes this Holiday season! Merry Christmas from our beautiful mess to yours!