Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Million Miles: Chapters 17-19

Okay, so this is starting to sound like a refrain with me: I'm sorry I'm late. Yuck. I'm sick of saying it. And you're probably sick of hearing it. Let's just leave things like this... I'm busy, you're busy. Sometimes I just won't get my posts up on time and sometimes you won't have a chance to read and respond. Grace, grace, all around grace. Thanks for your patience.

So my tardiness has nothing to do with my desire to discuss these chapters with you. I've felt like the last pages of the book have been a bit repetitive, but I think we break new ground in our reading for today. I'm going to go in a bit of a different direction, though, and solicit your stories instead of dissecting Miller's words. In How to Make Yourself Write a Better Story he says:

Here's the truth about telling stories with your life. It's going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you're not going to want to do it. It's like that with writing books, and it's like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.

Ouch. So hard to hear and yet so true. I think he's totally right, and I think most of us can relate. I know I can... My life is littered with times that I haven't had the courage to step out and sacrifice a little. And, thankfully, there are a handful of instances when I actually manned up and did something totally beyond myself. I won't bore you with the long list of failures, but I'd love to share one small miracle in my own life.

When Aaron and I were trying to decide whether or not the Lord was calling us to adopt, I was a wreck of emotions. I had always felt called to adoption, and I desperately wanted a baby, but I also wanted my motives to be pure and God's will for our lives to be evident. I went in circles trying to tease God into writing it out in a contract for me. Yes, I want you to adopt. Yes, I will make the funds available. Yes, I will bless your family... But, of course, nothing is quite that clear cut. One afternoon as I was wading through information packets from five different adoption agencies, I spread the papers out on the floor and laid on top of them, face down. I know, I'm dramatic. But my heart was broken and I was confused, and it felt like God was being very distant and uncaring. So I prostrated myself and cried like a baby until everything seemed distilled down to one all-important issue. "God," I said, sitting up. "If you want us to adopt you need to show me that you will provide for us financially. You know full well that we don't have $20,000." And though I can't claim to have heard the voice of God, he spoke so clearly to my soul my heart stopped beating. His reply? "If you want to walk on water, you better get out of the boat."

And we did. It wasn't easy. In fact, it was a huge, terrifying, life-altering step of faith that was filled with complications, second-guessing, and strife. But we got out of the boat, and God did provide in a hundred unexpected, wonderful, and downright miraculous ways. Oh, how he has blessed us. Our son is pure joy. (And yes, that's him in the photo above. Beautiful child...)

Your turn: Would you share a time when you learned that joy costs pain? Or, is there a time that you didn't dare to take the plunge that you deeply regret? I think we can learn so much from each other... Our stories, like Millers, are our testimonies--our chances to encourage, sustain, and uplift. Thanks for reading.


  1. Nicole,

    I admit I was going to take the easy way out and say that the physical pain of childbirth eventually led to joy (and yes, three hours of pushing and a broken tailbone was definite pain), however I'm going to go with a less literal example.

    My husband lost his job ten months ago. It has been a long ten months as I work full-time and my husband searches for a job. It has been painful financially (I work for a local non-profit so I'm not rolling in dough), emotionally, and spiritually. Just buying groceries causes stress. We have a toddler and a teenager at home (a quickly growing teenage boy who can eat like nobody's business!), so we always worry about having enough food at home. I worry daily that the stress we're under is somehow going to affect my little one. I could go on and on, but just know that it's difficult.

    Although my husband is still searching for a job, and the stress level is at an all-time high, we still experience joy all the time. Sitting around the dinner table and talking. Listening to our little guy jabbering on about big trucks and firemen. Family visits to the library. Pure joy. Of course I look forward to getting back on track financially and not feeling like we are failing our boys or letting them down. Sooner or later my husband will get a job, but somehow we've managed to find the joy in the midst of our troubles. Maybe we're just better able to appreciate the small things in life because of our situation. Maybe this was our lesson to learn.

    Thanks for posting another thought provoking question. I didn't mean to ramble, but this has been on my mind so much lately.


  2. It would probably help me be more of a valuable member of the book discussion if I got up off the bed and went downstairs and got the book and looked at the chapters, but I just can't. It's after 10:30, and the book is buried somewhere beneath the piles of stuff I unpacked today, and I'm exhausted.

    I've been thinking about this the last couple of days though - joy costing pain, and getting excited about big ideas. I think, I fear(?) that I'm almost getting to be the opposite. I've lived a couple of big ideas in the last decade - most recently moving to Laos with Mike to do humanitarian work - and I'm getting to the point where I hear another big idea enter our lives and I DON'T get excited about it. I get exhausted. Because I know it's going to take work, and be hard, and because it's just so much easier to sit still and stay comfy.

    I usually choose to run with the big ideas. And I think it's good to count the cost of the big ideas, to a point, otherwise you risk getting totally poleaxed by unmet expectations and totally nasty surprises. But when does counting the cost turn into worry, or being begrudging? At what point does choosing to live a big idea just because it's a big idea become a BAD idea?

  3. Hi, Tracy. Thanks so much for responding. I'm sorry I've been slow to comment myself! It was a crazy weekend...

    First of all, amen to childbirth being a joy that cost an incredible amount of pain! Our newest baby was delivered sans drugs of any kind and I seriously thought I was going to die. It defies description. But, oh, it was worth every second! :)

    Though it's obvious that you and your family are going through a hard time, I think it's beautiful the way you are being used for a greater purpose. Your hope and contentment in the midst of a situation that would leave many people feeling lost and hopeless is a testament to the faith that keeps you strong. Kudos to you for continuing to look for lessons in even the most trying circumstances of life. Wow. And while you continue to learn, I'll continue to pray for a job for your husband.


  4. Lisa, I'm totally with you. In fact, Aaron and I were just talking about that (when does a big idea become a bad idea just because it's a big idea?) the other night... I'm reading yet another "be a wild and crazy Christian" book, and frankly, the tune is starting to seem a little old. Don't get me wrong, I believe wholeheartedly that the world needed CRAZY LOVE, BLUE LIKE JAZZ, VELVET ELVIS, RADICAL, and so on and so forth. They were (and still are to many people) exciting books about living a sold-out, countercultural, extraordinary life for God. And I'm all about being real and radical and against the grain. But like Heidi has mentioned in many comments, since when did it become vogue to equate excitement with meaning? Or, in this case, big ideas and even pain with God's will for our lives? It's masochistic in a way. Isn't it enough sometimes just to *be*? To live and exist and rest in the knowledge that we were created for such a time as this--even if this time happens to be a time between, a moment when all we do is breathe and know that our life is praise enough. Honestly, I'm getting tired thinking of all the big and radical things I'm not doing. I'm afraid my boring life will never be enough... But maybe that's the point of these sorts of books. To unsettle us a bit and make us think, but ultimately help us realize that measuring up is impossible. It's not about us, it's about who we serve.