Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to School

Back to School.... that is the message series that Clint began at church this weekend…. It was a great reminder that we never grow out of our need to have a mindset of learning and growth.

Thank you Holy Spirit that you never stop teaching me… day after day… through much struggle at times from the demands of daily life. God has had us all in the refining fire… a place of sacrifice and serving to another level than we had before due to the demands of having toddlers running free in the house. It has forced us all up on our toes away from our normal rhythms and comfort zones.

 With all the stretching we’ve encountered; our family finally came to a big crossroads this summer. We all needed to stop looking back to the way it “used to be”…. To the “easier” days our comfort-driven-selves daydreamed about… the good ole days when we could play games as a family… have conversations without constant interruptions… put your glass down without it being knocked over…. You know….”those easier days”. Well, this summer, through a family meeting time of prayer and challenge, each of us finally had to intentionally internalize the fact that we are no longer a family of 6, we are a family of 8… with all the different dynamics that brings!

 Although challenging at times, 6 can never be 8, and 8 can never again be 6. We are being transformed! We had to re-define what that really looks like and who we would become now as a team. Asking ourselves the questions: What is the culture of the Sprague Tribe home?… and more importantly…what did we want it to be? And then finally, What each of us must bring to the table in order to help create that culture. Thus the re-working of a family mission statement began.

 Sometimes it is hard to believe it’s been 18 months since we brought Justus and Hannah Mercy home from Ethiopia… we have come so far, but at times I feel we have so far to go. So many times, dealing with the broken places in our two adopted “Littles” over these past months have served to reveal the broken places still in me. How thankful I am for the steadfast love of the Lord… whose mercies are new every morning.

Today I am posting an excerpt from the Blog named “Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet” written by Sara Hagerty. It’s one of those blogs that always seems to speak right to me in a cut to the heart fashion…. to so clearly articulate in words my daily experience/struggle so often. I’ve never met Sara, but I thank the Lord for her voice that has ministered to me time and time and time again in our adoption journey.

In the blog Sara posted this past week, she’s talking about dealing with her biological daughters struggle to love her adopted siblings…ample opportunities of trial and fail… only to begin again. I relate so well, as this has been the path all of us in our home have walked for months now. There are great days and there are challenging days as in any family with lots of people… there are always lots of opportunities to grow in your love walk and patience. Anyway, I hope posting this excerpt of her last post encourages you the way that it encouraged me… and if you haven’t read Sara’s blog…. It really is so so real…. And so so good. Here goes….

  “…Earlier that week, I asked Him to grow my love. My prayer was much like hers. My family stretched me, each in their own way. They rubbed and pulled and pressed parts of me I’d like to pretend weren’t there. For once, I wanted my actions to stretch further than my words. I wanted to be pushed, in love, not to recoil inside when they got under my skin. 

I wanted a new depth of love, if even just a junior version of long suffering love. I wanted the love that leaves stretch marks, the kind that thrives behind closed doors — without an eye, but His, to witness or an accolade to affirm. 

 So I asked Him. Grow my love, my long-suffering love. 

 And like most times, an ask like this, charged with a private commitment, does more to me than simply become a personal treatise. It calls my attention to the chasm between that for which I was made and the place where I now live. 

 Hours later, as if it had been simmering underneath all those words and that great big ask, I fell. Well, I had a series of falls. The words of my prayer became like grand and empty platitudes against the backdrop of my gross inability to love. 

My heart was grumpy, my frustration mounting and, to top it off, I saw the objects of this love for who they weren’t, not for who He was making them to be. 

And when confronted, I was just like her. I saw the gap between myself and those words I had prayed. First, I justified. I have so much to manage! kicked-off the argument in my mind — which gave permission to all the thoughts that followed. Four kids in two years! – that same old line that lassos my heart, of course I’d respond this way. Too much on my plate! I muttered to myself. Each defense, another plank in the wall around my heart. And the gap between those words I prayed and the life I was living, widened. 

 Then, I awakened to my sin. It was too obvious to avoid (He was kind). 

And I flopped, for a few minutes, to the other end of the spectrum. The place where she’d also find herself. I keep messing up. Over and over and over again my heart movements and my mind’s dance revealed those words, that prayer, to be so far from where my feet were really walking these days. Neither response, though, was the one He called forth. 

The sin in her, just like the sin in me, serves a purpose beyond stirring up self-justification or sending me into shame. 

 Sin — the awareness of sin, hers and mine — is an invitation to press my wound against His. It’s a chance to behold the God-Man who, in perfection, chose to nail that part of Himself which wore our flesh against a block of wood, fashioned for death, so that this tree might, three days later, be the representation of my life. 

My life, hours after that prayer, when my words were like vapor against my actions that spoke another reality. You see, that day and the days that followed marked movement. Perhaps, the growth spurt for which I’d been asking. I’d prayed big and He revealed the gap and that gap beckoned me to press my oozing wound against the only thing that could heal it. 

Those who are forgiven much, love much. 

 The very love I had asked for in that prayer came in through the back door. Not through my efforts to make my feet fill out a vision too big for me, but through my repentance … when all my efforts failed miserably. Some of my sweetest communion has come at the foot of that block of wood. 

Could it be that sin, my worst sin (in my mind) — the kind that comes just after I’ve committed to do the opposite — is my launch pad for growth, when it’s turned into repentance? 

 A repentant heart is an opportunity for this day’s death to be a resurrection. 

I don’t need to pray smaller prayers; I need to see myself as I truly am: small at the foot of a very big cross. What is this kingdom He’s contrived? Who is this God who takes my rancid flesh, at its point of greatest failure, and turns it into a growth spurt? 

 Repentance doesn’t take me back to zero; it advances my heart. 

 For her to grow, not just beyond these moments where she fails, but through them, she will need to know the Man she meets when she repents. 

A lifestyle of repentance – “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” – is perhaps our greatest impartation to our girls, because behind repentance is communion with the one who truly will turn our flesh to glory. All to come, if our weak knees bow. But I can’t take her there if I don’t go myself….” 

 Today, before my 19 year old daughter left for the airport, she affirmed me. She basically told me that the best thing Daddy and I gave to her was the example of the realness of our relationship with God, our humility in apologizing when we were wrong, and our passion to follow Jesus. So even though I’ve spent countless hours reading stuff to help me parent my adopted kids and am still feeling so inadequate to do this, today I’m reminding myself that the Holy Spirit is the best teacher…. That I can’t fail if I don’t quit… I just need to LISTEN and FOLLOW his lead one day at a time. I love Back to School!!

 “We can know before the battle begins that we will win, if we keep our eyes on Christ.”