It’s been 6 weeks since Russ was laid off.
In so many ways, we have experienced so much goodness over the past 6 weeks.
We have seen God provide. In big ways and small ways, He has financially taken care of us. He has used people, opportunities to make extra money, and even random checks in the mail to sustain us and lift the burden of finances.
It has been a joy to spend so much time with my best friend. Even in the midst of unpleasant circumstances, there is no one on this earth that I would rather spend time with than Russell King. We have laughed together, we have dated each other more, we have cleaned the house together and marveled at how much daily sweeping these kids necessitate. We have ate more meals together and prayed more together and had fun with our kids. It has been a gift to have 6 weeks of time with my husband with less stress of life.
I’ve watched my husband have a renewed passion and depth in his relationship with the Lord. I’ve watched him begin to build new relationships and deepen relationships that spur him on in his relationship with God. He is a great man, a faithful man. It has been beautiful for me to see at the core of who he is, when things don’t go his way, his response is to press into the Lord. I have been reminded in the past 6 weeks that marrying Russ was one of God’s greatest provisions in my life, many times in ways that are still being revealed to me.
Him being home has lifted some burden from me. I would not trade the past two years for anything, but as he has given me some margin with his everyday presence, I have realized that there has been a lot of wear on me. More than I had realized. Navigating the adoption process, fundraising, traveling to China, bringing Elliott home, walking through her adjustment, saying yes again, doing it all over. Over the past 6 weeks, as Russ has been home full-time and has shared more of the burden of everyday life, childcare, and getting kids where they need to go, I have been able to be quiet. To process. To have space to do something other than function in all the roles that I function in. As I have done so, I have felt some of the strain of the past few years melt off of me.
I have been learning how to make the choice to be vulnerable. Not vulnerable behind the screen of my computer, but really vulnerable. I have been learning that I don’t always have to be the one to fix other peoples’ problems. In the middle of this moment where lots of things have been unknown for us, I could let people love me. I can let people minister to me. I can let people see where I am hurt and scared. I could be prayed for. And it really will be okay.
And finally, I have been learning how to endure. I read a quote sometime in the past month or so. It simply said “Try staying open when you want to shut down. It changes everything.” My tendency is to retreat. When things feel overwhelming, when it is hard, when it hurts. M&M’s and the quiet corner of my room have been my haven many times over the past few years when I just couldn’t deal. And when I can’t physically retreat, my tendency is to live behind the closed doors of my own mind. As I read this quote and made a determination to try and walk this thing out by faith, I found that staying open is hard. It meant that I had to trust God to help me endure in ways that felt a little beyond me. It meant choosing to live in the middle ground sometimes, where I acknowledged that I had more questions than answers and was honest with God about not knowing how to navigate that. I have been learning that I can withstand and stay open, to God and the people around me, in ways I did not know.
But in the midst of all of these good things, beautiful things, that we have experienced in the 6 weeks since Russ was laid off, we have very much been living in the tension of waiting. It has been a hard place for a mom who at her core already feels like the little boy across the world is her own.
Immediately after he was laid off we began the process of talking to our agencies about updating our home study. The bottom line at this point is that our paperwork has already been processed through China, so any changes that are made only effect US Immigration, who processes Isaiah’s future citizenship and the visa he needs to enter the country when we bring him home from China.
The steps that happen at this stage in the adoption process build on one another:
You get I8oo approval from US Immigration (USCIS)
They forward that approval to the National Visa Center
The NVC issues you a GUZ number, which allows you access to fill out an online application for an immigrant visa.
The NVC then forwards your information to the consulate in Guangzhou, China. This is where we will ultimately have Isaiah’s appointment during the adoption trip.
You get an email from the NVC saying they have forwarded all your information. The agency needs this email in order to drop all the rest of your paperwork off at the consulate (this is called Article 5).
The consulate takes 2 weeks to process the paperwork.
You then wait to be granted travel approval.
In order for us to qualify to bring Isaiah in under an immigrant visa, we needed to show that we had income at 125% of the poverty level for a family of 6. Within a few weeks Russ had secured a very part-time online teaching gig that put us just over that number.
I had a grand plan when he was first laid off that we would be able to time all of this just right. The ball would keep rolling and while we were in the 2 week Article 5 wait, US Immigration would be processing our updated information. We would do all the steps we need to and still stay on track for end of February or beginning of March travel.
So it was unbelievably disheartening when our US Immigration officer informed us that he would have to contact the National Visa Center and tell them to pause our case until our home study update and supplement to our immigration paperwork was approved.
That was the middle of January. Since that point, we have watched the days tick by knowing that we are losing weeks with our son.
This past week at our staff meeting at church we were talking about how we approach stress in our lives. At our most honest with ourselves, when we look at our response to stress in our lives, what role do we allow the Holy Spirit to play in comforting and effecting us in our stress?
We went around the table and talked about how this looks for us and what scriptures we tend to gravitate towards for comfort. I shared 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 with the group. For many years, I have read this chapter regularly in times of pain or stress, particularly these last few verses.
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
So the point is, we take our gaze off the problems and we put our gaze on the things, the One, that is eternal.
As I have reflected on this Scripture over the past week, I realized that over the past 6 weeks I have been attempting to do this, but I have been going about it the wrong way.
I have believed that these troubles weren’t the end.
I have believed that God was writing a bigger story here.
I have believed that if I walk this out by faith I will see Him do something amazing.
But I have also believed the miracle will come in the form of everything coming together just right, everything making sense, us understanding the “why” behind everything. Why did Russ have to get laid off? Why does our travel have to be delayed?
I have believed that God could bring all of these fragments of our story together to give us this big climax where everything is wrapped up nice and neatly. And everything would just make a whole bunch of sense. After all, that was having faith, right? That was looking at the things I couldn’t see, yes?
Because isn’t that how God gets glory? Doesn’t He show off and do big things and make things work out just so. And in THAT His name is made famous?
As I realized all of this, I realized I was limiting God to not much more than a creator of fairy tales. Some sort of puppet master. A writer of romantic comedies. If all I need is for Him to work everything out just perfectly, there’s no need for a relationship. I could just sit back and watch the show. I felt like maybe God was telling me that the point of all of this wasn’t some big elaborate spectacle.
So what is this point then? If there is a bigger story being written here, shouldn’t the end result blow my mind?
A few days ago, the Lord led me to James 1.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
I realized that maybe the point of this is not for the fanfare. Maybe it’s not be for the perfectly timed everything. Maybe the point isn’t to see God pull everything out just in the nick of time and eventually understand how all the puzzle pieces fit together.
Maybe the point is me.
Maybe the point is that, through faith, I am changed by this. I can look back over some hard things in my life and point to a common thread – as I have walked through hard things and trusted God, He has changed me. It’s not a new concept for me to understand.
But for some reason, it felt like a lightning bolt to realize it in the middle of this hard moment.
As I was processing through all of this and asking God for clarity, I felt like He shined a flashlight on some areas of my life and heart that He has touched over the past 6 weeks. Perseverance. Staying open. Being vulnerable. Bending but not breaking. Renewal. Choosing faith.
We are expecting to hear about our approval any day. Russell has some solid job prospects at this point. There is a part of us that would love some resolution and answers to these questions we have been asking. The weight of waiting for our son is hard. That doesn’t really ever end for me.
But we are making a choice to live right in the middle of this place for as long as it lasts. In my devotional this morning it said “trust protects you from worrying and obsessing”. I am choosing to believe that God is going to pull this out, for sure, but that I am not just riding out the storm. I am being changed by it.