The first Sunday of Advent and the lighting of the candle of Hope…but man, hope is currently a scary and dangerous thing. Hope has my heart on the line, risks having it broken in two, risks disappointment, and sometimes it’s just easier, safer certainly, to protect that hurting heart rather than let the candle of Hope burn it to the ground. I am sharing this today because I am certain I am not the only one struggling with a hopeful heart this season.
Five weeks ago on Sunday morning, 5 days into my 2.5 week Guatemalan adventure, a weak warm breeze moved across my face as the ceiling fans twisted and turned, struggling to keep the stuffy, sun warmed air moving. Blanketed by a language I don’t speak, my mind continued to wander back to my very first experience in this place. A phone call made from the bottom of a bunk bed, undecipherable words uttered though broken-hearted sobs. An internal promise made for forever without any idea what that was going to cost, emotionally and spiritually and even less of an idea of what that was going to look like. I am still learning the depths of my heart, the passions it can carry within it. The very essence of who I am continues to be written. I find myself mixed up in something I could have never imagined, and it would be untrue if I said I wasn’t afraid of where God is leading in these flashbacks and passions ignited.
Eighteen days. A long time to be gone but I was blessed with the opportunity to spend this time working and loving and building relationships in what has become my second home. We shared meals, celebrated birthdays, played countless games of UNO and soccer, fumbled through the language barrier, laughed, and cried. Eighteen days I was given the chance to show up at the door of a very special house on the hill, creating memories, giving life to the promises I have made. My momma heart just wants to wrap them all up and level their path, take away their uncertainty of the future.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalms 37: 4. The verse of the day delivered to my phone bright and early on a Tuesday morning. I am trying so hard to delight in God. I am rolling up my sleeves and making this my job, delight, worship, praise. I know this is what you do in the in-between, in the waiting. As for the desires of my heart, I was again reminded on this morning that none of this was my idea in the first place but now it feels like it is literally breaking my heart. I am broken because of the desires that I fully believe God placed there.
For the last month my right eye has had this fantastic little twitch and two weeks ago I found myself in a completely ridiculous argument that ended with a complete meltdown (think toddler tears and snotty nose) on my part, not at all comparable in magnitude or topic to the disagreement that brought it on. I just want to go back to feeling like me, except not really either because I LOVE THIS KID and I wouldn’t undo that for anything. But I can’t figure any of this out. How it works, when (IF?) he can come home. And anyone who could help, tells us the same thing, there are no adoptions happening between the US and Guatemala. EXCEPT I KNOW GOD IS MOVING AND THERE IS LIGHT IN THIS TUNNEL NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY!!! So this is where it gets messy.
Hope. This first Sunday of advent. I identify with the words of Ann VosKamp and Jason Hague,
How do you hope unlikely things because you love someone to death?
We all need to believe that things can change.
Sometimes believing in a miracle feels like living in a mirage. You can feel like a fool, walking around with your pitcher. Really, God? Really?
YES! I have asked God that, a lot lately. REALLY?! And every letter I have sent out seeking answers has been like seeking water in a mirage.
It seemed to me I had two choices: I could either live in perpetual sadness, or I could lower my level of hope.
Living in this land of the unknown, the waiting, the land of unanswered prayer, your heart throbs, maybe with anger, maybe with hurt, but almost certainly with disappointment.
Yes! Everyday, my heart carries with it the burden of helplessness. I feel crazy and that pendulum can swing from righteously crazy to flat out delusional. Crazy. My orderly, logical mind, struggles everyday with seeing the way, seeking an answer, continuously chasing it’s proverbial tail.
But, I know. Faith in things unseen. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
I know that when Noah built the ark he had never seen rain but he picked up his hammer in obedience. Can these stories be true for me? Today? Am I grasping at Biblical straws?
We are building an ark, actually it’s a bedroom, but if we are going to have faith in things hoped for and live in what we believe to be obedience, then we need to be ready for another child. So, in what some days feels like insanity, hammers are being picked up.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
In the land of unanswered prayer, we follow His lead.
The Lord taught me how to sigh in pain, how to weep in gladness, and how to trust during days of hope deferred.
It was not an easy road to walk. It still isn’t easy, and it isn’t safe.
Rather, it is a confounding country full of myths and mirages. Here, faith resembles denial, settledness looks like surrender, and hope is the scariest creature of all.
We (Mae, J and I) had the gift of sharing a “normal” day together during our last visit. An opportunity to spend the day together in Antigua (his first time,) breakfast at one of our favorite places and shopping in the marketplace. The opportunity (and struggle) for him to pick something out for himself. And lunch at his choice of places, McDonalds, where we ate ice cream first. Life is short…eat dessert first! The gift that these few hours were, not just for him, but for me as well, to watch these two together, knowing what my heart longs for, having a peek into what life could look like, the day was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking. This is a day you relive over and over and over.
In July I began a mantra. Every letter, every visit, I make sure to remind him, as much as myself, what we know to be true. This has become the rudder of our relationship as the months have passed and I believe that he is maybe, hopefully, finally trusting the truth in the words. How many promises has his heart held, only to be broken? These words, our promise to him, have to be lived out continuously though our actions because without that they are empty, they are worth nothing.
- We are a family. We don’t look like a normal family but God creates all sorts of families and we belong to each other, all five of us.
- I promise I will be back – forever and always. I will always come back.
- God has a plan and we can trust it. (This one I must remind myself of, as much as him. It is so hard to see the hurt and not be able to fix it in the way that my heart longs to. As much as I love him, God loves him even more. I know that in my helplessness and disappointment over every passing day I need to lean into God as the sovereign one, trusting He knows best. Comfort at the foot of our Savior. I know this, and it terrifies my heart, because what if…)
Everytime, in both English and Spanish…Somos una familia, volveré, lo prometo, y Dios tiene un plan y podemos confiar en él.
It’s the first Sunday of Advent. Hope candles are lit everywhere.
God is giving you Hope.
Hope — for you.
Christ who comes to give us the gift every one wants more than anything — a future and a hope.
And my prayer must be, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Postscript- I stumbled across an old post, apparently I have been here before, just not with the same passionate desire. I could say that the life situation that birthed this post also birthed the one I find myself in today. Be encouraged by these words written in 2015 if you are struggling with hoping in the impossible today. Today, I feel an even closer connection to Sarah. I understand better what the longing and waiting for a child can do to a mother’s heart. Laughing along with Sarah…
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