i had gotten to callaway gardens on thursday and spent my first day there prepping for our event. i spent the day hanging our set design. i spent the day arranging flowers and candles and rocks. i spent the day rehearsing a skit and an intro and a whole lot of lines. i spent the day figuring out the order of events, the entrances and exits and the right level of levity. i spent my first day gathering announcements and information and a boat load of details. i spent the day worrying about whether i would strike the right tone...make the right transitions...remember all the right stuff. i wondered whether the women would like me...laugh with me...tolerate me. i had not once thought about sharing anything to do with adoption.
thursday turned into friday and our first session with the women came and went. all went well. saturday morning came and went. all went well. as i was gathering my notes saturday afternoon and beginning to prepare for that evening's session, i flipped ahead to sunday. the topic was surrender. i sat down on a seat in the somewhat empty ballroom and stared at the stage. there were five words in bold lettering up on the stage. i knew them well - i had personally hung them there. these were the five words which our retreat focused on: undivided. contentment. gratitude. worship. surrender. sunday would be our last session together. i had scripted little items throughout the whole weekend, but because of the craziness back home, i just had never gotten to sunday's session. i was going to have to come up with something to lead into our main speaker's talk on surrender. what did i know about surrender? it hit me immediately. i was supposed to share something about our journey to bella. i just knew it. i mean i really knew it. i had been as faithful to our minute-by-minute-schedule as was possible. throughout the whole weekend i stayed on target. i respected the work of our producer. when she told me i had 15 minutes, i worked hard to stay true to those 15 minutes. when she told me i had 8 minutes, i obeyed her without question. i have worked in production long enough to know how precious those minutes are and how quickly a program can get off track. there is usually no margin for rabbit trails or sidebars. and there is absolutely never room to steal time or an audience's energy from a key note speaker. i was sharing the stage with world renowned author and speaker, linda dillow. i was sharing the stage with dove award nominee and recording artist, our worship leader, laura story. this was their gig, not mine. but even in knowing all of this, i was certain i was supposed to say something. i wasn't sure when i would ever have the undivided attention of 600 women. and you see, i didn't have much choice, i had made a promise less than 7 months ago.
it was last summer on our return flight from china. i remember staring out the window and thinking myself the luckiest girl in the whole wide world. i remember the tears trailing down my cheeks as my husband slept alongside me and my bella slept sprawled across my lap. i remember well my conversation with God. "Lord, how did this happen? (long story) Lord, what did i do to deserve this? (absolutely nothing) Lord, how am i worthy? (you're not) Lord, what can i do to give you the glory? (tell others). that was it. that was my conversation. i am not saying that i heard an audible voice. i am just saying that those were my questions and the answers were immediately in my head. i didn't do anything to deserve a gift like our bella and i wasn't even close to worthy...but you see, this is where God steps in. He told me from the beginning this wasn't about me, or our family, or even about bella. this was abou HIM. this was about His Glory. and knowing this leaves me little choice but to tell others. to tell others God will show up. to tell others God is in control. to tell others it doesn't matter that they are not smart enough, or rich enough, or capable enough or calm enough. God is enough. He is more than enough.
all along we have said we looked more like we needed a nanny than we did a fifth child. so true. i remember one particularly chaotic morning in my kitchen when i came face to face with this realization. that morning it was crystal clear we had our hands Very Full Already. standing in the middle of that morning's breakfast cacophany, i simply couldn't imagine adding a toddler. but God met me even in that chaos and assured me, it might be ugly at times, but it would be okay. this was His Will. i can't explain that. i can't explain how out of control i felt as we waited one entire year for our daughter on the other side of the world. but i can tell you it was a time in which God worked on my heart. i mean He did a complete and total surgical makeover. i have always struggled with wanting to control things - wanting to fix things - wanting to make things just right. call it the teacher in me. the director. the producer. the mother. call it whatever you like, but i have struggled terribly. every single day i could agree to surrender my will and promise to give up my plan, but every single day i fought like crazy to keep it clutched in my insecure grip. i had four children in my home and even though i could appear laid back and easy going, i worked tenaciously behind the scenes to hold on to the strings.
when we began to fall in love with bella and began to realize just how long it would take and just how sick she was and just how little we knew and just how far she was....well, this was when i knew one of the reasons God had put us on this adoption path was for me. it was to teach me about letting go and letting God. it was about my surrender. He knew He had to use something large scale. i am certain He witnessed every battle with my mother and my father and my sisters and my husband. He knew i was a really serious case. totally desperate. i had spent most of my life thinking i was in charge or wanting to be in charge or at least acting like i was in charge. so, it was going to take something big. well...actually bella is pretty small....so it took this tiny, tiny girl from china to change and soften and surrender my stubborn, stubborn heart. don't you just love how God enjoys surprising us? He just loves to take the insignificant and make it significant. He loves to take the weak and make it strong. He loves to take the small thing and make it huge. He loves to take the ugly and make it beautiful.
there bella was last summer, in a hospital recovering from major open heart surgery. a surgery which saved her life. she was alone. i was told there were probably some nannies from the orphanage who took shifts staying with bella. that offered some comfort, but not much. when she returned to the orphanage we were given nothing. no reports. no updates. no pictures. the only thing we received in all those months was one picture of her in her crib. behind bars. head shaved and a puddle of liquid underneath the crib. she was wearing a coat and a vest at least 3 sizes too big. i had to crop that photo. i wanted her face, but i couldn't bear to see those bars, that puddle or even that oversized coat. i hated the thought and the image of bella in this crib alone. i couldn't stand to think about it at times. i hated that we were wading through a sea of useless and repetitve papers and forms. the mountain seemed huge. the road seemed endless. i can recall a set back that november which caused me to just lay down on the hardwood floor of my office one night and cry. let me rephrase that: weep. i wept with the frustration of it all. i couldn't understand why it had to take so long and why we were not able to get updates on our girl. i was angry. but when i was able to be completely honest with myself, i realized that a good deal of my frustration came from me wanting to march into that orphanage and demand my rights. i believe there is even a post somewhere in last year's writing which speaks to this. anyway, it was at that point of honesty, when i started to face the fact that God was working on me. i won't go into detail. there are countless postings already written which offer proof enough. little by little my heart was being softened and my white-knuckled fingers were unwrapping themselves from all that i clutched. little by little God was whispering into my ear, "I have it under control jody...My ways are not your ways...My thoughts are not your thoughts....I care even for the birds of the air...I have clothed even the lilies of the field...I can move mountains...I am the beginning and the end...I have ordained all the days of your life...to what can you compare Me?" over and over and over again these words were seared into my stubborn heart. i have this little leather journal from that year. i will always think of it as my surrender journal. there are countless passages copied into it. passages declaring God Is In Control and I Am Not.
i want you to know i was fast. i spewed out bella's story as quickly as i could. you know this was not easy. i could have talked for an hour. a day. a week. i happen to use too many words any time i open my mouth or sit down at my computer. i apologized upfront. i apologized after the fact. but i know it was the right thing. i didn't say half of what i had intended, but somehow there were women who heard. despite my rambling and stumbling, i know some heard. since last sunday i have had numerous conversations, messages and emails with women who want to know more. who want to talk further. women who feel a stirring. i didn't stir anything...that was the Spirit. He told me to share and i shared. that was the beginning and ending of me. how lucky i am to have evidence of His work. how blessed i am to see a glimpse of God's glory. i don't believe much in luck...but still can't help but feel the luckiest girl in the world, indeed. and what's more...i didn't get in too much trouble.
i'm giving you my heart, and all that is within
i lay it all down for the sake of you my King
i'm giving you my dreams, i'm laying down my rights
i'm giving up my pride for the promise of new life.
and i surrender all to you, all to you
and i surrender all to you, all to you
i'm singing You this song, i'm waiting at the cross
and all the world holds dear, i count it all as loss
and all the world holds dear, i count it all as loss
for the sake of knowing You for the glory of Your name
to know the lasting joy, even sharing in Your pain
~ lincoln brewster