Monday, October 26, 2015

Freedom from Circumstance

I've been wrestling over something in particular lately with God.  Something foolish and not at all worth the time, energy, and thought I've devoted to it.  I've been struggling with life with littles and how hard the day in and day out-ness of it all can really sap me in a myriad of ways.  It was always a hard job and I struggled my fair share of days in the past, but truth be told, things got a bit topsy-turvy when we arrived home from China and I've struggled to "right the ship" since then.  The fact of the matter is, I have four children.  When my feet hit American soil in February of this year I had four children aged six, three, three, and one and a half.  That is a lot of little people to be responsible for and the demands to keep up has been a battle for me.  I started to allow it to steal my joy.

For a while I was focused on it as a so called storm in my life, yet still, a storm I was called to enter into.  In Matthew 14, Jesus calls Peter out of the boat into the stormy waters.  Peter was precisely in the heart of God's will for him and only when he began to doubt and look away from the Lord did he begin to sink.  Immediately post China we were in the thick of stormy waters.  Adding a child to your family always takes time and adjustment.  It was hard and challenging, but just because it was hard, doesn't mean I wasn't in God's will.  Then time went by and it seemed like the storm was raging on a bit longer than a storm generally does.  So I named it a season.  Seasons come and go.  They begin and end.  I put my eyes out on the end of the season and trusted it would come to a close.  I placed a lot of foolish hope in the ending of that season.  And time went by.  And it didn't really end or really change all that significantly.  So I named it a circumstance.

Whoa.  What?  A circumstance?  Like a fixture in my life?  Like I won't know when it might go away sort of circumstance?

I struggled to embrace that idea.  All I could focus on was the loud, thundering thud I heard when I said its name....circumstance.  In an instant, my joy was gone. 

Enter the Deceiver.  Lies were whispered, my mind was clogged with thoughts of the permanency of that word, joy was drained away.  I lost my sense of purpose.  Circumstance felt so permanent.  What was the point of trying to work through if there was no through--no end-- to achieve?  Self became the focus and everything that happened was an attack on me.  Why would God take away my joy with this thing...this thing I've named circumstance?

Enter the mercy of the Giver of Joy.  He began ministering to me, placing things into my hands to read, enabling me to actually hear full sermons, and guiding me through Scripture.  Does it matter what this time with lots of littles is called?  Does it have to have a name?  Do I need to name it "storm," "season,", or "circumstance?"  Does that really matter?  Last I checked all that really mattered was God's will and I have no doubt I am right there, in the heart of His will for me.  I see Him.  I feel Him.  I know He is working in and through me (despite my constant mistakes and failure to follow or trust).

Where does my joy come from?  From the day to day?  From the circumstance?  No.  He never intended for me to find my joy in my circumstance.  Sure, those things may bring me happiness from time to time (who can resist the hug of a little person, or the snug fit they hold so perfectly in your lap when you read a good book, or the funny questions they come up with, or watching one of those precious little people sleep).  Happiness, however, is fleeting, and not the source of my joy.  The real problem is that I am seeking to find my joy in the circumstances.  Does His word tell me to look around at my circumstances and find my joy in them?  No.  He does use circumstance to bless me, change me, mold me, and shape me to be more like Him, but He does not ask me to find my joy in them.

True, everlasting joy can be found in the Lord alone.  The storm, season, and circumstance swirling around me will fail me every single time.  He will not.  He is constant and never changing.  He is beginning and end.  Only in Him can I find my everlasting joy and pleasure.  There will be situations daily that cause me unhappiness.  There will be spilled milk, fights with siblings, temper tantrums, communication barriers, appointments, laziness, and lack of self control.  I will not "feel" like rejoicing, but I can rejoice because I am known, intimately and personally, by a wonderful Father.  I can look for joy in the temporal, but I will never find it.  My eyes, heart, and mind need to be fully focused on the Lord and the joy that comes in knowing I am secure.  I am a full member of His family.  I have eternal joy in Him.  How can I do this?  How can I shift my thoughts?

My heart's cry is to just let it go.  I don't need to know if it is storm, season, or circumstance.  Those are just words the Deceiver wants me to use to define life with little people right now.  The Deceiver tells me my circumstance dictates my joy.  God's word tells me otherwise.  True, everlasting joy is found only in Him.

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  If I am able to give thanks to Him in all circumstances, I am able to draw my focus off myself and my fleshly desires for an orderly home and compliant, obedient children.  There are reasons to give thanks at all times.  Another tantrum?  Another opportunity to point that child toward Christ.  Another mess?  Another opportunity to train my children on how to maintain an orderly home and care for their belongings.  Another meal to fix?  Another chance to humbly serve the family I've been blessed with.  Another quarrel among siblings?  Another chance to share how Jesus works through disputes.  Finding joy and opportunities to give thanks should be an easy and natural response to all that He gives me in my day to day life.

His word also tells me to "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2).  I can focus on the messes, the behaviors, the tantrums, the arguments....or I can take that thought captive to the obedience of Christ and put my focus on Him.  What is He developing in me through this hardship?  My child?  My family?  The more my thoughts are on the Lord (and not myself), the more (and better able) I can love my family and find joy.  His joy. 

When negative emotions come over me during this time of raising many little people, I am more than likely thinking of myself, how the situation is inconveniencing me, or impacting me, creating hardship for me.  Finding reason to be grateful in all situations will shift my focus to Him.  My desire is to truly be grateful for each situation that comes my way--they each provide greater opportunity to grow in my own spiritual journey, but also to further train my little people to be soldiers for the Lord!  Finding gratitude in the opportunity to care for lots of little people and to stay home and school them helps me shift my eyes off me and onto Him and His provision.

No one has my unique set of circumstances.  I've been placed here by Christ to serve Christ.  Only I can do that in my specific situation.  Only I can draw more glory to Him in and through the midst of the daily circumstances.  God gives each of us special gifts to serve Him and it is our job to call upon the Holy Spirit to help us steward those gifts.

Storm, season, circumstance.....  It doesn't matter because my joy isn't found there.  My hope is in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. He gifts and equips, enabling us to tackle whatever He gives us.  God entrusted me with His work, but He never intended for me to accomplish it alone.  I can trudge through each day, dragging around the shackles called circumstance.  Or, I can allow myself the freedom to remove those shackles and find joy in the knowledge that He is here, with me, cleaning the spilled milk, disciplining the wayward child, folding the mountain of laundry.  Our teaching leader at BSF spoke these words of wisdom a couple weeks ago: "Diamonds are formed under pressure.  Pearls are formed by irritation.  Silver is made by refining fire."  He is here, ordaining all of it, every part of it with eternal purpose.  Good comes from hard.  Beauty comes from ugliness.  Yes, He is at work in the lives of those little people in my life, but more than that, He is at work in me.  He is changing me to be more like Him.  He is using this thing called circumstance to place me on the potter's wheel and change me.  I have eternal purpose as His child.  In that, I can find my joy.

"You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures."
~Psalm 16:11~

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Last night, Chris and I had the opportunity to be filmed for some promotional material to be used by a non-profit foundation designed to provide grants to adoptive families.  This organization provided our family with a grant last fall, when we were pursuing Hannah.  It was a new experience for both of us.  It is difficult for me to articulate all that I want to say in a situation like that and I know I didn't fully express all that my heart desired.  I much prefer to ruminate and ponder, type, and save, and walk away.  You can't do that when someone is filming you.  They asked us to share some intimate details about our adoption journey and the work God has done in and through that process.  Again, the pressure of the moment made it really difficult for me to fully express myself, but I do hope that somewhere in there (and through the magic of editing) they are able to pull out the heart of what I was trying to say. One of the final questions they asked was, "What was most intriguing or surprising to you in your adoption journey?"  I had the answer to this question almost immediately and began answering it right away.  Sadly, my first answer didn't even make it to film since they had yet to begin recording, but I did my best to try to stumble back through it and recreate my answer for the video (the first was far better than the second).  It got me thinking quite a bit last night.

Adopting Hannah changed us.  It changed me in a way that I can't ever and will never be the same again.  All in good ways, but I will never be the person I was this time last year, eagerly awaiting the arrival of our LOA.  I think that is what I found the most surprising about our journey.  I entered into the adoption process expecting to change Hannah's life, but really, we are the blessed ones and we are the changed ones.  I was not fully prepared for the sanctifying work God was about to begin in my life through our adoption journey.  The depth of my understanding of the gospel has reached a level I've never experienced in my life.  I have come face to face with an understanding of the magnitude of the sacrifice, the cost to achieve it, and the pain that accompanies it.  I've experienced the pouring out of unmerited grace and love--a depth of understand of just how unworthy, how undesirable I am and yet how profoundly powerful His love is to look beyond that and accept me.  He has used Hannah's presence in our home to draw me into His presence in ways I never knew.  My reliance on Him and desperate need for Him is overwhelming.  I simply cannot do it.  I simply cannot weather the storm, season, or circumstance alone.  I am not equipped and I am desperately nothing without His grace, His mercy, His adoption of me into His eternal home.  Daily I am confronted with raising a child who is hurt, broken, and perhaps unaware of just how desperate her state was and still is.  Love heals a myriad of wounds, but eternal love can't conquer that, only Jesus can. 

The fact of the matter is that yes, outwardly, we changed Hannah.  She has a place in our family, she is a Burris and always will be.  We helped her with her special need and provided her with the surgical changes she needed to thrive, but ultimately, that isn't what it is all about, is it?  What I want to change most is to pierce her heart.  Yes, I want to flood her heart with love, compassion, grace...all the tenderness only a true Mama can provide, but ultimately, I want this little person to feel the penetrating power of the gospel at work in her own life.  I want her to know Jesus in the way He is daily revealing Himself to me.  I don't know that I would know Him this way had we not brought Hannah home and I will forever be thankful for His grace to call me to adoption and then so intimately and lovingly provide me with a deeper level of understanding of Him.  I was hungry for more of Him before Hannah came home.  Now, I am daily hungering and thirsting so desperately it can only be filled by Him.

I was changed through the adoption process.  Deeply changed.  I am daily changed by the adoption process.  I am daily changed by Him.  If you hear the call of adoption on your heart, please know that He has so much more in store for you than just simply the rescue of an orphan or the giving of a Father to the fatherless.  Those are great things and so desperately needed, but His plan for you, through adoption, is far greater than what you can see on the surface and so much greater than what you have to offer to your child to be.  What we have to offer Hannah is so meager compared to what only He can give, but somehow, I get to be part of that story.  He allows me the honor of accompanying her on her journey to seek to know Him and it fills my heart with overflowing gratitude to be invited into just a small part of that story.  We gave her an earthly home and family and we get to watch her as she learns about and realizes how much she needs to seek an eternal family and home.  Yes, you will change your child, but hear my heart and know this will be changed.  You will experience spiritual warfare.  You will be stretched and you will come face to face with the gospel in unexplainable ways.  You'll have a choice.  You can press on, trusting your call, and clinging more deeply to His promises than you ever have, can push it aside and resist the feeling of being a piece of clay in the Potter's hands, you can fight the filling He offers for His vessels.     Adoption changed me.  Adoption changes things.  Jesus changes everything.

**If you have any questions after reading this blog post about how to be a part of God's eternal family or how to enter into the adoption process, please do not hesitate to contact me!**

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mercies Anew {Eight Months Home}

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning...."
~Lamentations 3:22-23~
Today we mark 8 months at home with our precious little girl.  Eight months of blessing, eight months of stretching and growing, eight months of refining in ways I never knew possible.  Eight months of being further sanctified by my Lord.
In all honesty, we hit a bit of a slump this eighth month home.  Things were hard.  I grew weary and the weakness of my flesh controlled my actions and reactions more often than I wish to admit, but in all of that, I learned so much about the mercy and goodness of our Lord.  Each day was a new start, a new opportunity, a beginning to each day that stretched before me with chances to glorify Him more and satisfy my self less.  Did I succeed?  No, not in the way I wanted to, but I grew to understand His fresh mercies in a new sort of way, in that moment by moment newness He graciously offers us.
It has been challenging, this eighth month, and in talking to other post adoptive mamas, I realize I am not the only one to hit this eighth month slump.  I found myself often overlooking the trauma, forgetting the momentous changes, disregarding the power of triggers and memories, and being just plain annoyed (and tense and emotional and all those wonderful things that go with being this way). I let my flesh take control. Hannah has been doing so well and when she doesn't do as well as I've grown accustomed to I find my fuse shorter, my patience thin, and my ability to see beyond the situation limited.  The Deceiver has had a strong grip on my thoughts and has whispered so many lies to me this month.
Truth be told, the pace of life in our household this fall has been high speed and I'm a full grown adult struggling to keep up and maintain my joy and grace to others.  How then, is it possible for me to expect my newly home child to maintain her self control in these situations?  Of course she's going to fall apart.  Of course she's going to need reassurance.  Of course she's going to act out.  I easily overlooked her need to be fully prepared for new situations and had expectations that exceeded what I'd prepared her for (ummm...five minutes ahead of time or just as we jump out of the car is not enough preparation for my steeped in routine little girl!).  I learned a lot this month about how my personal reactions to her sinful behavior can either add to the ever growing mountain of sinfulness for both of us, or how it can quickly put an end to things and restore our relationship.  Being spread thin makes it extra hard to respond in the way my heart so deeply desires and it becomes ever more important that I have so much more of Him and so much less of me.
All things considered, Hannah has taken our full speed ahead fall schedule in stride and responded in the best ways she is equipped to respond.  She's gone to ballet lessons galore and a myriad of baseball games.  She's worked her hardest in her brand new speech therapy sessions.  She participates in our homeschool co-op in the big kid class!  She does her absolute best to participate and be involved in our homeschool (probably above her age level in most cases).  I've asked (and frequently demanded) a lot from her.  Sometimes she rose to the occasion and sometimes she faltered and fell, but together we have learned much.  Her greatest struggle this month?  Communication.  This is kind of funny to me because we had so....many....opportunities since arriving home from China for communication to be one of our greatest struggles.  I mean, we brought her home with an unrepaired cleft lip and palate.  She spoke Mandarin and Cantonese.  We spoke English.  Neither one of us understood each other and yet, communication wasn't really a big issue.  This month?  Communication has been hard.  Hannah's understanding of English is becoming more and more refined.  There is so much she wants to say now and yet she just doesn't have the words for it.  Her default mechanism to communicate when she is frustrated is to have a tantrum and lose her self control.  If she can't find the words, her frustration mounts and the tantrum escalates.  I have spent a lot of time sitting face to face with her, teaching her the skill of taking deep breaths, and trying to help her dig up these elusive words.  It has been tedious, messy, and well....hard and challenging.  In it all  though, I am so reminded of the power of the Lord to strengthen me.  When I want to snap, respond with anger, lose my own self control, or just simply give up and push her aside, He is always there, filling me, slowing me down, and washing me in His grace to pour out to her.

I've spent a good bit of time on my knees this month over this little one--so complex, so many things to overcome, yet so full of boundless energy and curiosity, so willing to tackle new things, so unreserved in making her needs known, so truly passionately affectionate and hungry for physical love.  I've had moments where I've allowed the Deceiver to tell me lies and I've had moments that I've pondered if there was an ounce of truth in what he told me.  And then I see her face.  The twinkle in her eye.  The awesome dynamic she adds to our family and our home and I hear His truths coming through loud and clear.  Worth it.  Worth every ounce of challenge and pain.  Worth every walk through the Refiner's fire.  I am growing in ways I never could have if she wasn't here.  She brings an unspeakable joy to our family.
So this month, while it had its share of new challenges to overcome, it was also filled with such rest in the knowledge that God has this because clearly, I can't do it alone.  I will fail her, but He won't.  His love for us is lavish and unabandoned and my love for her can be the same, despite any shortcomings or sinful ways.  Each time I have to correct her, I present the gospel to her.  It has been such a blessing this month to hear her little voice begin to fill in the blanks: "Wrong things are sins.  Sin keeps us far away from God.  We have a sin problem.  The Bible says all of us have a sin problem, but we can rejoice because Jesus came to rescue us!  Jesus takes our sin.  Jesus died on the cross so we can be close to God.  Hallelujah, the gospel is true!"
Month 9 is barreling toward us.  Life is moving at a rapid rate.  May I rest peacefully in His gracious new mercies each day and may I abundantly pour those same new mercies out on those He has entrusted to my care.
"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is
made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my
weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me."
~2 Corinthians 12:9~