what happened before the phone rang

"I must not, like the quietists, reduce all religion to a denial of any specific action, despising all other means, since what makes perfection is God's order, and the means he ordains is best for the soul. No, we must set no bounds or limits or shape to the will of God.

We must accept any way he chooses to communicate with us and respect any way it pleases him to unite himself to others. Thus, all simple souls have but one general way, though specific and different in each one, which makes up the diversity of the mystical experience. All simple souls must admire and respect one another, saying: 'Let us proceed each one along our path to the same great goal, united in purpose and by means of God's order which, in its great variety, is in us all.' It is in this light that the lives of the saints and the spiritual books must be read, without ever being misled and going astray."

................................................................................... Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751)

This is what I was reading last night before the phone rang. I'm not sure I agree with everything Caussade wrote in this piece, but this particular quote struck me like a bolt.

Basically, Caussade is saying that we can't put a leash on God. The Father doesn't operate with a tight formula that we can predict or control. Instead, He uniquely ordains the lessons of every single life, tweaking His actions to fit the sovereign goodness of His mysterious but perfect will.

That was incredibly significant to me when I read it. At that moment, we had two hours left before we needed to make a decision about our flights to China. After months of agonizing about how that trip should happen, we were simply out of time. It was really starting to look like another opportunity to embrace the mysterious goodness of a God I can't control. I sighed as I read, digging through my spiritual stash, looking for another dose of trust. This was going to be tough.

Those of you who have been keeping up with this blog know how long I have felt like the kids needed to go. JD has had a heart for adoption since he was very small – maybe seven years old. When he first heard about the plight of orphans overseas, he started saving his money in a jar, asking if it would be enough to pay for bringing a brother home. Last summer, he was the one praying every night for Moses -- before we even knew boys in China were available for adoption. He is a kid who doesn’t ever seem to ‘want’ a lot. He is happy wearing quirky shirts from second hand shops, and he rarely asks for new gadgets. But he has wanted to be there with Moses more than any want I’ve ever seen in him.

Clara has been giddy for months, thinking about reading to her little brother and making him cookies. Also, she has been reading missionary biographies since she was little, so her desire to travel is strong.

Aside from all this, over the past few weeks we have been invited to connect with several orphan help programs during our adoption trip. The kids have been trying to hunt down medical supplies, and I really wanted them to have the chance to deliver those. I feel like if they could just see what is happening there, they will never be the same.

But despite all of this, it seemed like taking the family just wasn't going to work. When our CA arrived yesterday, Bobby came home to sort through numbers with me. Once again (for the 42nd time?) I felt myself handing these desires back to the Lord. It seemed like He must just have other plans, and that we would need to rest in those.

As the inevitable disappointment rose, I tried to grab onto something I had found in the Psalms yesterday morning. God didn't speak to me in a voice that I could hear, but I did keep running into one main concept as I read. "TRUST ME." It just felt like it was something I was supposed to embrace specifically for the day.

Trust comes hard for a driven, self-reliant person like me. I'm more comfortable with my own hands on the wheel, working hard, and finding a solution. But the situation was looking pretty hopeless as far as my own resources go. I thought it must be one of those times when I was going to have to learn to trust "despite." Those times are hard, but God works in them. I tried to steel myself.

When the adoption travel agent called, she warned us that flights were moving fast because a lot of students were returning home the week we were leaving. She found us a great deal on tickets, but we only had two hours to lock into those prices.

We pushed our dinner plates aside, got out a notebook, and wrestled with more numbers. No matter how we pushed them around, it wouldn't work. So, we walked out into the garden and looked for ripe zucchini, just praying and trying to clear our minds. We tried to sift through motives and temptations that might be influencing us either way, but in the end, we still weren't sure what to do. So, we came back to the kitchen table and prayed some more. We just needed clear direction so we could obey.

The phone rang, and it was a dear man we know from Singapore. He told us that God had put Moses on his (and his wife's) heart, and that he was sending more than enough funding for the kids AND me to go on the 'gotcha' trip.

Several days ago, I had established a private, bare minimum amount that I was secretly praying for God to provide. That prayer number wasn't large enough to cover our trip in full, but it was all I could find the courage to pray for. Still, it seemed too much to expect. However, what this couple was offering was double that amount. DOUBLE.

I want to be very careful as I write this post. Caussade's words remind us about the dangers of trying to turn God into some sort of vending machine. Many Bible teachers promise Result X if you perform Spiritual Action Y. Like pagans sacrificing to a carved deity, we look for sacrifices strong enough to steer our fate. We try to keep God two-dimensional and limited by easy answers, so that we can control Him. And we idolize teachers who promise the ease we crave.

But sometimes His plans differ from ours, and we don't understand why. In those times we are stripped of any sense of control, and we may find ourselves searching for meaning in circumstances that seems suffocating and pointless. We can start to wonder if maybe God doesn't love us as much as someone else, or if He isn't really there after all. It can be lonely and frightening when the mystery of God is more evident than His miracles. Like C.S. Lewis says, He is good, but He isn't always safe.

But as Caussade writes: "[t]he means He ordains is best for the soul. No, we must set no bounds or limits or shape to the will of God." We must trust Him in the dark. And we must trust Him in the light.

For some reason last night, it was in His perfect plan to give us a taste of His lavish, tangible abundance. I don't know why. I am humbled beyond words, and I am absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude.

Thank you for praying with us over the past few months. You have groaned and petitioned with us, and we are so grateful.

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About This Blog

Welcome to our family’s adoption journey. As you read, you will see us stumble and take wrong paths. You will see our hopes surge and fall. You will see the gaps in our humanity, and how our God realigns us to His purposes over and again. We think the messiness of this process is important. Sometimes walking with God isn’t a neat, linear package that can be summarized in bullet points. More often, life ebbs and flows around our plans, while God works His sovereign wonders from it all. We are learning so much through this journey. And we are super excited about our new son. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you along for the ride.

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