|Karaoke and acting out scenes from Dirty Dancing (Bucket List Item #63)|
Like I've mentioned before, Ryan and I started running again the day after Christmas after feeling like we were in just physically, spiritually, and emotionally in a rut. I was really excited to actually run outside rather than on the treadmill in my basement. We got to the lodge just before 7:00 a.m., took a quick picture with the rest of the runners, and walked over to the start line. I think it was about 45 degrees outside, which is about 40 degrees warmer than it has been in Indiana this winter. Ready, set, go, and off we went down the huge hill outside the lodge. We continued to run alongside the road, under an overpass, by a golf course, through a wooded area, and then eventually across the bridge that connects the island to the mainland. After running a bit further beyond the bridge, we turned around and ran back to the lodge. I'm not going to lie, it was hard! My lungs were not used to the cold temperatures, and the hills reminded me of Bourbon Chase (2009 and 2012) all over again! Regardless, I finished with a decent time and was glad I did it. My friend, Lauren, and I are going to run it together next year, which will make it even more fun!
We went back to the lake house, grabbed some breakfast, and got ready for a full day of sessions, worship time, and delicious meals. Our second session with Beth Guckenberger started the day off perfectly. Beth shared so many incredible stories and words of encouragement that morning. I couldn't take notes fast enough. One piece that I absolutely loved is when Beth talked about how we ask God to lead us to "green pastures" (e.g., good jobs, happy marriages, healthy children, good financial standing, etc.), but when we are living in that reality, we tend to live independently from God. The reality of life is that God is directing us to places where we have the opportunity to receive from Him repeatedly...a place where we are in a posture of dependence and in a relationship with Him.
For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I know what it is like to live with a posture of dependence and in relationship with God. Going through the adoption process for us was a time when we knew we had no control. When we first made the decision to adopt, it was out of true submission and obedience, because as many of you know, we had other plans for our lives. We grieved the loss of our "worldly" dreams when we began our journey. God was so full of grace in our selfishness, and He quickly showed us REAL and TRUE joy and excitement for the new dream He laid out before us. We lived with a posture of dependence on God as we navigated our way through seeing Tucker's picture for the first time because he did not have the special need we thought God had called us to pursue. We kept out eyes on Him as we waited for preapproval, our log-in-date, and most certainly during our 132 day wait for our Letter of Acceptance (LOA). That was a very dark season of our adoption journey, watching my closest adoptive momma friends get their LOAs, go to China, and bring their little ones home while we still waited. A posture of dependence indeed.
I was very honest about how I felt (the joys and the heartache) during our adoption process, and so when I tell you that I cannot wait to adopt again, you might think I'm crazy, but I will tell you this. I would rather spend 132 days in close relationship and in total dependence on the Father than the rest of my life living independent from Him.
The first two months of being home as a family of five was quite the transition. With time, God grew my heart, and the love I have for Tucker is as strong and deep as it is for Noah and Liam. Since January, I have been praying for God to show me what He wants us to do next. Should we help start an orphan care ministry at our church? Are we supposed to adopt again? Should we start a nonprofit organization? We want to continue living in obedience and in a posture of dependence. God allowed one door to close, but we haven't felt real direction toward any major next steps with the exception of this t-shirt fundraiser, which ends today.
At the same time, I've been struggling with unforgiveness. Like I wrote in that previous blog post, someone we love hurt us in a deep and painful way. It is a situation we have shared with very few people because of the complexity and factors involved. It fully consumed my thoughts and my heart in November, December, and half of January when I finally committed to pray about it rather than replay the events every time it came to mind. I hadn't struggled with unforgiveness like this in over 14 years. Before I left for this retreat, I told Ryan that I really hoped that my time away would help me reach true forgiveness for this person.
During our second session, Beth Guckenberger talked about Exodus Chapter 8. Moses told Pharaoh to let his people go and warned him that if he didn't, a plague of frogs would infiltrate the entire land. Pharaoh didn't let Moses' people go, so the frogs were found everywhere throughout Egypt: their homes, their food bowls, their beds, their water sources, on people, everywhere. After some time had passed, Pharaoh said to Moses, "“Plead with the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people. I will let your people go....(verse 8)” Moses replied, “Tell me when you want me to pray for you, your officials, and your people. Then you and your houses will be rid of the frogs. They will remain only in the Nile River (verse 9).”
What would you do if frogs or any other kind of pest had completely permeated your home and your life? Wouldn't you say, "Get them out of here NOW!" if given the opportunity?
Do you know what Pharaoh said??
Pharaoh said, "Do it tomorrow" (verse 10).
Beth challenged us to think about our own frogs, what we are allowing to infiltrate our hearts, our minds, and our lives. These frogs are spoiling everything and are preventing us from living out the life God intends for us. We put off eating healthier, reaching out to estranged family members, exercising regularly, achieving better work/life balance, spending time with our kids, etc. until tomorrow....just like Pharaoh.
I knew immediately that my frog was the unforgiveness that I was carrying in my heart. The bitterness was deep inside, and I had been putting it off and putting it off, believing that the wound was too deep to feel forgiveness.
Beth told other stories that left a huge impact on my heart that morning, and after having lunch with friends, Stephanie, Lauren, Kelley, and I walked together to our Date With God session. I knew before leaving for the retreat that this 60 minutes of intentional time with God was going to be a pivotal part of my weekend. Little did I know that this is the place where I would finally feel peace for the first time in 4 months.