About a week and a half ago, I had surgery in order to fix some abdominal issues that have needed fixing since my first pregnancy nine years ago. I decided I had put off surgery long enough (nine years isn’t too long to put off surgery, is it?) because, let’s face it, who really wants to have surgery? My doctor, a man I respect both as a physician and a person, assured me about the pain involved by saying, “Don’t worry. You just won’t like me for a couple of days.” Well, I don’t know about you, but to me, a couple of days means, you know, a couple of days. Like two days, three days, four days max. Like a long weekend, not a few long weeks.
It’s been nine days now since my surgery, and I still can’t stand up straight, I have an incision that goes hip to hip, I have burning muscle spams at night, which means I have to take a muscle relaxer for another week, and I still haven’t attempted to drive my car (did I mention that I have three kids, and things like standing up, driving a car, and not being under the influence of a muscle relaxer during the morning routine of breakfast, making lunches, brushing hair, and TEACHING HOME SCHOOL are sort of essentials in everyday normal parental care?).
The truth is, it’s a pretty good thing I didn’t know recovery would take this long or be this intense because I don’t think I ever would have actually scheduled the surgery even though it was a surgery my body needed to have. Because, let’s face it: who, in their right mind, says, “Yes; sign me up for two good weeks of pain and being totally out of commission while I have a household to run. There’s a space on my calendar that fits in perfectly with that plan.”
All I can say is the Lord has been so gracious to me through the help He has provided. My family and friends have been game-changers, stepping-in, filling in gaps for us with meals, driving, and help with our kids. For that, I have been so grateful. Their help has given me the time and space I have needed to heal and to rest.
But this whole process has given me perspective about the process of healing: how many of us are like me underneath with some serious abdominal issues, in need of surgery, in need of fixing, but for years we run around and avoid the necessary fixing because we are afraid of the constraints that healing will put upon us?
Because fixing takes surgery. And surgery means pain. And pain means an incision. And an incision means a tearing open, a getting rid of the bad and a making of the new. And then it means stitching you back up, and sending you home with wounds that need time and space in our busy schedules and lives that need to heal.
Dr. Boutros was gracious to me: he knew I needed the surgery, and I don’t think he was flat out lying to me about how long recovery would take (right, Sean?), but I do think he was probably trying to shield me from some of the reality of the pain and intensity of the healing process.
The Lord is a little bit like that with us. When our pain from our injuries begin to outweigh the shame and messiness of delving into the stories of our past, we go to Him, sometimes willingly, but often times reluctantly, and say, “OK, Lord, what has to happen for You to fix this, and how long is this really going to take for me to heal?”
And here’s where the breakdown of the analogy between Dr. Boutros and the Lord begins (sorry, Sean). The Lord never responds with a formula or a direct timetable, like, “Come in once for surgery, twice for post-ops, and you should be good to go.” Nor does He say, “Don’t worry: you won’t like Me for a couple of days but then you’ll be as good as new.” Instead, what He asks us is a question, and the question is always this: “Do you want to get well?”
Because to take the time and pain necessary to heal is Oh. So. Hard. It is usually time intensive. Time in God’s Word. Time in consistent, persistent prayer on our knees. Time of consistently turning to Him instead of turning to the tangible, familiar things that we normally use to medicate the pain. Time of learning to rest and be satisfied instead of having to be entertained. Time in going to see the right counselor, searching and seeking out the right fellowship, getting in place the right accountability.
And the cost of healing is often so high. We must often pay dearly out of the wallets of our emotional, spiritual, and material resources. And we always must pay with humility as we learn to forgive and to ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt and wounded along the way.
That’s why there are so few people who really want to get well and take the time for the necessary surgery and recuperation. They prefer the paralytic mat better than the walking-around-straight-up position. They like blind eyes instead of eyes open wide that can actually see. They like the excuses of a victim instead of the demands made upon someone who is well.
I know I do. I like to hold onto my grudges like they were treasures, when all they do is rot my soul. I like to hold onto the inadequate, self-made coverings for shame, refusing to trade them in for the covering of Divine Love because it means I might actually have to learn how to let someone in and love me for who I really am and not who I desperately pretend to be. I like to hold on to the things that money, security, and status in this world can buy because they are things that are tangible, things that I can hold on to, they that help soothe the pain or the shame or the hurt when old wounds and past insecurities flare up and demand entrance in.
But there comes a point in our journeys with the Lord when a fully surrendered and yielded life means saying “Yes” to the surgery, “Yes” to the pain, and “Yes” to the healing because there comes a point when saying “No” is just plain old disobedience. And in our desperation, we can no longer refuse the invitation to get well. We can no longer continue to hold on to our rules and religion instead of real relationship with a living God. We can no longer stand the pain of walking around with bent backs, broken down body parts, and paralyzed wills.
We have to learn to trust the surgeon’s hand, the surgeon’s knife, and the surgeon’s time table. And we have to learn to trust that the demands made upon a person who is well are far better than the consequences of living life as a poor, paralyzed, blind, sick soul.
So where are you today in this process of healing? You may be on the couch like me recovering from surgery in the physical realm. Or you may be in a far more difficult position of being on the proverbial spiritual couch, learning to rest, learning to heal, learning to take the steps of a person who is well.
But all of us must stop asking ourselves the question: Where on my calendar is the time and space to heal? Instead, we must put our calendars down and listen instead to the Voice of the Great Physician within. He will not put us through more than we can handle. He will not ask more of us than we can bear. But He will not stop pursuing us in our wounded, broken down states until we are willing to look at Him and answer His question honestly: “Do you want to get well?”
And if you choose to trust Him in the healing, you too will be blown away by the meals He provides, by the body of Christ He sends to come and aid, surround, and protect you in the healing journey, and in the blessing of rest, joy, and peace your soul ultimately experiences, perhaps for the very first time.
So don’t wait a day longer to schedule your surgery. Let the healing begin.
A few weeks ago, I plopped down in a chair beside a circle of dear friends who were enjoying watching their kids swim on a beautiful spring day in Houston (and, yes, the words “beautiful day” and “Houston” actually do go together in a sentence, even if it is only ten days out of the year). For most of the morning, I had been up to my eye balls in adoption paperwork. We finally received our Immigration approval in the mail, only to realize it expired before the date we needed to bring Mia Grace back into the country. So, bottom line, that meant…more…paperwork. Home Study renewal, background checks, Supplement 3 forms, bank statements, 1040 forms, and the list goes on and on.
On top of that, I had just had lunch with a friend who shared with me some of the difficult realities of bringing home a child from a different culture, who eats different foods, speaks a different language, and has to undergo major surgery within weeks of her arrival to her newly adopted family.
To sum it up, I was, in a word, grouchy (and, let’s face it, self-centered). Grouchy from paperwork. Grouchy from the forbidding road ahead. Grouchy from how my life was about to disappear down the tubes for months and months while everyone else was enjoying their summer by a swimming pool.
As I sat down by my friends (in a splendiferous mood, I might add), I said, “Well, girls, this may be it for me for a long time. I’m about to enter a black hole, not sure when I will emerge again to see sunlight.”
Thankfully, my friends know me well enough to just roll their eyes a little when I get into one of my melancholy moods, and one piped up sweetly and said, “Can we please call this season ahead of you something else rather than a black hole?”
So that got me thinking. For, as usual, my friends were right. It got me thinking a whole lot about perspective for the weeks and months ahead of bringing Mia Grace into our lives. I can either choose to look at the coming unknown as a black hole, or, as…an incubator.
A black hole is something you disappear into, never to return again. It has connotations of darkness, bleakness, and an eternal void. But an incubator is different. An incubator you also disappear into for a while, but it’s more like a cocoon where you are wrapped, warmed, and given the protective, sheltering environment you need to grow.
Instead of calling the season ahead of me The Black Hole, I think I am going to call it The Incubator. Not just for Mia Grace, but for me too, and our entire family. God is going to have to shelter us away for a while to bond and attach to this new little chick He has given us. But in the incubator, rather than life being sucked out, life is going to be given a place to be fostered, nurtured and grown.
So if you see me on the street, at a softball game, or at the grocery store, and if my hair is atrocious and I haven’t bathed for days, and I look like I have been in a black hole, don’t be fooled. I am going into an incubator so that when we all emerge, we will be ready for life…and life to the full.
Will you please pray for our family in the days and weeks ahead:
• For perspective. That with each and every step, even if it is hard, is one step closer to breaking down walls and attaching to this little one God has given our family.
• For me, especially, to have the grace and perspective to slow down this summer and in the first few months we get Mia Grace. That I will not fear missing out on anything but trusting the Lord is building things into us as a family worth far more than any sacrifice we could give.
• That Mia Grace would see our family and those around her as an incubator rather than a black hole – she would see as a sheltering, nurturing, loving place of life and hope and love.
• And lastly, please pray that the Lord would grow and develop good things in each of us over the days and weeks ahead as we welcome Mia Grace into our lives and homes.
Thank you for your prayers.
The Baker Family
My Dearest Mia Grace,
I know there may come a day when you grieve wide and deep over the missing details of your story. I know there may come a day that you have a deep longing within you to know the details of your birth. To know what your birth momma looked like, or if you have your daddy’s eyes, or your grandmother’s personality. I know there is a day coming when you may long to look back at the history of the first 18 months of your life and see answers written in the blanks, faces and photos and genealogy charts filling the pages. And it breaks my heart to think about that day.
Not because I blame you for wanting those details about your life and where you came from, but because there is nothing I can do to give those details to you. And if there’s anything a momma wants to do, it is to give her child a cohesive, fluid narrative of her story and her place within it.
So, today, I want to tell you a story – the story of your name. Because while I don’t know the day on which your momma conceived, or what her reaction was when she found out she was pregnant, or about the details of her pregnancy, or how long her labor was when you came into this world, what I can tell you is this: I know the One who formed your inward parts and knit you together in your mother’s womb. I know the One who made you in secret and skillfully wrought your frame in the depths of the earth. His eyes saw your unformed substance, and He wrote down in His book all of the days that were ordained for you to live, and move, and have your being before one of them came to be.
And I can tell you something else: I know the One who gave you your name, perhaps before you had even been conceived.
It was the month of April 2013, the month your birth mother would have conceived, and your father, sisters, and I were in the car driving to Florida. A few weeks before leaving on our trip, we had begun the long paperwork process of bringing you home, and as I shut my eyes in anticipation of the long journey ahead (both in the car and through the paperwork), my thoughts turned to you and who you would be, and I began to try to pray for you. I say “try” because I found praying to be difficult. It was hard to pray for a child whose face I had never seen, whose eyes I had never looked in, whose personality I did not know. And I said to the Lord, “Lord, this is hard! I do not even know her name!” And as clear as day I heard Him say back to me, “But I do. Her name is ‘Mine,’ and it comes from Isaiah 43:1-2: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.’”
I opened my eyes in astonishment, shared with Jason what I had heard, and from that moment on, you were known in our family as Mia Grace, “Mia” meaning “Mine.”
So, dearest daughter, the details of your story were taking root long before you had ever taken your first breath. And I pray by the time you are old enough to read this letter, you will know as an integral part of your story that you are truly mine.
But you need to know something else: before you were mine, you were His. For the Lord is the One who wrote your story before one of your days came to be and still is writing your story, even as you read. You are His poema, His creative, beautiful work in the making, and not one detail or page is missing from your story in His book.
So any time you begin to feel the ache within and the deep dark flood of grief trying to overwhelm you, I want you to remember something: you have a story. And you have a name.
You had a name long before you were born, given to you by the One whose Name is above every other Name.
And my prayer for you, my daughter, is that you would never let another name you. Not your birth parents, not your past, not your birth culture or your present culture, not even your father or I who love you so very much. For the One who named you and knows you inside and out has your identity, your story, your past, your present, and your future completely and firmly rooted in the pages of His story, His family, His church, His people, and in the palm of His Hand. And may your name always reflect the hope and the trust you have in your Father who loves you, calls you by name, redeems you, and says over you, “You, My Mia, you have always been, and always will be, Mine.”
I love you,
Sometimes I feel like an elephant, and that’s not because I’ve gained two tons over the past two years (although sometimes it feels like it). But it’s because, like an elephant, I’ve been pregnant for the past two years. I haven’t lost my lunch over a trash can, or felt my pregnancy thighs rubbing together from sweat, or been able to rest a cup and saucer on the shelf that assembles around my backside between my love handles, or had the ability to serve food off of the table top that protrudes from my stomach. But for the past two years, I have been in the business of producing a baby who has been growing inside of my heart, if not my belly.
Her name is Mia Grace (I will give you the details of her name in another blog), and she turned one on January 31st of this year. I wasn’t there at her birth, nor was I there to blow out the candle on her first birthday cake. I have not been there to rock her to sleep, to hold her little hands, or to look deeply into her eyes. But she has been incubated, rocked, held, and prayed over these last long twenty-four long months in the confines of my heart.
And can I tell you something? I am ready to meet her. So ready. If someone tells me I have to fill out one more paper in order to go to China to pick up my baby, I may just start screaming. Forget about a politically correct paper trail. I may just hire an airplane to drop me with a parachute over Southeastern China and wish me luck. (I’m not kidding. Too much paperwork will do that to a person.)
And my husband and girls are ready – we are all ready to meet our Mia Grace. And while we were just introduced to her face and beautiful brown eyes just two months ago, we have held her in our hearts for over two years since we started this process in March of 2013.
As the time draws nearer to actually go and pick her up (we are thinking late May/early June once all of our paperwork is finalized and we get the green light), to tell you the truth, at times, I am terrified of the journey that lies ahead. I am terrified of the deep grief I know she will feel at being ripped out of one culture and planted in another. I am terrified of the pain and ordeal of surgery for her cleft lip and palate that awaits her within just a few weeks of her homecoming. And I am terrified that my nicely planted world is about to become uprooted, shaken, and turned upside down. I am afraid that “normal” will escape us, never to appear again.
But some terrors are worth confronting. And this is one of them. This is a terror I am willing to walk through to get to the other side. Or, in other words, this is a mountain I am willing to climb. I am willing to explore and help her heal from the sensory processing disorders that most kids raised in institutions have to overcome. I am willing to walk through learning how to help her securely attach when there has never been anyone in her short life to attach to. I am willing to endure long surgeries and the recoveries that accompany them in order to fix her cleft lip and palate, all because I believe, deep within, this is a hike worth taking, a mountain worth climbing, a peak worth summiting…for the view.
Because from the summit and vantage point of adoption, I believe will see things I have never seen before. I believe I will see life through the lens of an orphan who has been chosen, hand picked, prayed for, fought for, and loved wildly before she ever knew who her parents and siblings were. I believe I will see the gift of grace played out before me in magnificent ways. I believe I will understand the depths of my own spiritual abandonment and adoption in ways I have never understood before. And I believe I will taste and see the Father’s love for me and all of His adopted children in ways I have never tasted or seen before.
The magnificent drama of adoption, otherwise known as the Gospel, the story of how Jesus Christ who loved me, wanted me, prayed for me, fought for me, and went hard after me into rough, hostile, unknown territory to get me is about to become crystal clear. The cost of adoption is about to become stark reality. Forget the expense of two years of paperwork and government fees and six round trip plane tickets to China. The cost of my adoption was the very life of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father. He sealed the final documents with His blood, and my passport to His country was stamped “approved” only as He cried out, “It is finished.” Home is in His presence, and every time I look at my elder brother, I see the scars of the nail prints in His Hands, tangible reminders that I was wanted, I was hunted down, I was sought, I was loved.
All my life, I have known the story of adoption in my head. Now, through Mia Grace, I am about to know it in my heart.
So at the end of two years, I have a new appreciation for pregnant elephants. But I also have a new appreciation for the cost of adoption and the anticipation that comes when we wait.
As we wait these final few months for our adoption to be finalized and for us to be able to bring Mia Grace home, will you please pray with us? Every step of the adoption is fraught with battle with resistance from the ultimate orphan maker and orphan keeper. Would you please pray that:
• Satan’s plans of resistance would be thwarted and we would be able to bring Mia Grace home in God’s perfect timing and perfect way.
• All of the papers we need in order for our immigration approval to be extended to late May/early June would arrive on time and the process of getting what we need from both our Home Study Agency and our Adoption Agency would go smoothly.
• For communication between us and our agency to go smoothly, that deadlines or forms would not fall between the cracks.
• For my heart, and Jason’s heart, to be at peace while we wait these final few months. For the Lord to show Jason, myself, and our girls what needs to be done in preparation for Mia Grace’s homecoming, and what can be left undone.
• For the bonding that will occur between our hearts and Mia Grace’s the moment we get her. Please pray that she will attach completely and securely to me and to Jason in the days, months, and years ahead.
• For the Lord to put us in touch with the right doctors and medical team in the States to treat her cleft lip and palate and any other medical conditions that may arise.
• Please pray for Mia Grace’s protection until we get to her and for her physical, emotional, and spiritual preparation to leave her home in China and come to her home with us. Please pray she would instantly and intuitively know us as her “family,” and that her heart would be at rest in our presence and in the presence of the Lord.
Thank you for your love, support, and prayers. We cannot say “thank you” enough, and we cannot wait to introduce you to Mia Grace.