honest to goodness

I think I'm ready to tell you some of the honest truth about why the last months-ish have been so quiet and so difficult. I feel the momentary courage to tell you these things, because I believe in confessing what you're learning and sharing your story, even if you feel like an idiot for having struggled with a particular thing. Because I kind of do. And you can just bet that I have a preface, an aside, a commentary before I start: this is where we are. Where I am. With God, with my family, with my beloved. I'm not gonna worry with speaking to the 86 other possible scenarios that exist in different families because, well, we are not those families. We are our family. And this is what we are taking before God in these days. And if you think it's silly or unnecessary, that's okay. And if it resonates with you, that's okay too. And if you're not even sure what I end up talking about and wonder how you got to this blog, well...you know. Just click over to something else. honest to goodness: wrestling with demands on God || sarah writes || sarahsandel.com

This is my girlie. She's been the Happy Baby for about two years now and since she is clearly less baby (and, were I to show you the outtakes of this photo session, also less happy sometimes), I've kind of reverted to just calling her the Beastie. We are in the Terrific Twos. It's like they happened all at once and OH MY LANDS ALL THE ANGST. Just. All of it. She absolutely hated wearing those overalls and the lollipop was the only thing standing between a decent photo and an Epic Meltdown. So, there was that this morning.

A few months ago we were taking a family walk after dinner - the Florida summer clouds were rolling in and it was mega-breezy and Beastie girl was dashing down the street, stopping to gaze at rocks, twigs, her own feet, etcetera. Everything is so exciting! So much to explore! She must find all the things! And the mister was walking backwards, to keep looking at her, and he smiled up at me and said, "You know, I'd love more children. But if it's only just her, I am so content. We are blessed."

And instead of seeing that remark for what it was -- a kind, godly, satisfied-with-Jesus kind of statement, I launched into two months of pretty much hysteria. I'm not even joking and I feel more than a little ashamed. But my first response to him was not what it should have been and I was like, "Really? I'm not. I want like six kids and I want to adopt them from all over the country and have a big transracial family. Having just one kid kind of freaks me out." And he just smiled and grabbed my hand and changed the subject.  Because clearly, my irrationality was showing and he's smart enough to not talk to me when I am irrational. But this is what I was thinking: I'm 32, I'm infertile, we've lost four babies to miscarriage and had 2 false start adoptions and 1 failed adoption when the birthmom dropped us this spring and... I can't even participate in growing my own family. I know, in theory, that "no one" is really in charge of growing their own families...but in our case, I just feel so strapped by circumstances...there is not a darn thing I can do to grow my own family. I can't stay pregnant. I can't adopt. I began to straight up panic about my lack of control over something that, frankly, is not mine to control.

And then I did this: ran to the Rock of Ages and kicked and pushed and demanded He unveil all of life's answers and tell me if we're going to adopt more babies or if we are going to foster and when and for how long and canYoupleasejustpromisemesomethinghere. I just lost my mind over the fact that, well, I am not in control and do not have the answers. And when I took my thoughts and suggestions and  all my really fantastic wisdom (#shakingmyhead) to the man, he said, "Okay. This seems like a big deal. Why don't we fast and pray over this?" I mean. Fasting? Okay. SURELY what happens when you fast is that God gives you all the answers, so YES LET'S DO IT.

Except He didn't.

God didn't give me a single "answer" to my questions. You know what He said?

"Stop asking me about this."

Dang. There I stood, facing my own unmet expectations and realizing that I allowed my hopes and dreams to harden into demands that I levied on God the Father. I was pretty much an adult beastie for two months as I flailed and whined and stomped my feet until God's silence thundered over my anxious heart. "Cease. Stop asking me for this." It was crushing.

It was crushing to realize that, mere months after I wrote an entire series on contentment and finding satisfaction in God, I'd shifted to wanting to manage my own contentment my own way. It was crushing to realize I was pushing against a Loving Father who not only is in charge of all the things, is always working in ways I cannot see and cannot fathom. 1 John 4:8 says simply, "God is love." -- If God is love, than whatever He is doing in my life is congruent with that perfect love. And I was basically telling Him, "No, this is not loving. Fix it. Tell me." Tim Keller writes that "if we knew what God knows, we would ask for exactly what He is giving us". And I suppose it is true. But it's hard to see things that are true when fear and expectations are given the run of your thoughts. I let fear tell me what to think, instead of God's Word. I let my dreams become demands, instead of submitting my hopes to the Father. I "paid in", straight up God-is-a-vending-machine style, and hoped He would "pay out" the way I wanted.

It. was. ridiculous.

So now, I am recovering. (Ha.) I am recovering from the anxious thoughts wrought by fear that God does not have my best interests at heart. I am considering that very real fact that God may never open another adoption door and if He does not, He is enough. Our family is enough. My sweet, happy baby, the Beastie girl - she is enough. There are so many things about our family's values and rhythms that make "only child" seem like a real fit for us (more on this later) - but ultimately, that is not mine to decide.

Here is what is mine to decide: Will I really, truly approach God with a non-selective readiness to obey? I have been considering this phrase so much in the last week. A friend/mentor of ours introduced me to the idea with this term and it bowled me over. A "non-selective readiness" means I am going to be obedient to whatever God asks, relinquishing my demands and setting my hopes squarely in the Lord, not in what He can do for me. And so I am faced with this question in a new way, with regard to my family: am I really willing to obey God if I never "get anything" out of it?

Back before we got pregnant the third time, I remember being on a long quiet walk and God impressing this upon my heart: Are you willing to be childless if it is more valuable for my kingdom? At the moment, I pushed the question away -- but it returned persistently for days. And I ultimately said "yes". I didn't say yes thinking, "Oh, now maybe He'll give me children!" It was very sobering. He was not promising me anything. And He does not have to. But I was realizing then that in the deepest place, I wanted to do whatever was most valuable to the Kingdom of God and would bring Him the most glory. And, all fit-pitching and panicking aside, that is still true.

I am approaching the throne now...quietly, with greater reverence, repenting of my demands, and asking God to work what HE wills. I am confessing that He is enough and whatever He asks of me, He has a right to ask. I am working through Jessi Connolly's ABIDE: A Fieldguide For Remaining this summer (it's been good so far, in a bring-your-own-depth kind of way) and allowing the purposefully slow pace of the journal to press me into the Father's loving embrace. I am being intentional with my family. I am practicing submission to the Father.

I'm grateful for friends who speak firmly to me in the midst of anxiety and pray for me on days when infertility is a heavy burden. I'm grateful for a husband who knows how to lead me to the throne and does not condemn me, but rather is part of God's kindness that leads to repentance. And I'm grateful for what God is using to draw me to Himself and to make known His heart...not because He has answers for me, but because He is full of grace and truth and nothing He does is outside of His perfect love for me.