Friday, November 7, 2014

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

wilderness

"I was in your bible study a year ago and we were praying for your daughter to come home. So, where is she? When did she come home?"
It is Orphan Sunday in America. Outside my home church's front doors, a gracious retiree has stopped me to inquire about my daughter, one of the international fatherless children, but this one with a name, one whom my community can picture: a future daughter, sister, cousin, granddaughter, playmate, church nursery attending, Goldfish cracker-eating, grinning former orphan they have been praying home for almost 2 years now. 
"She is not home yet.", I tell her, seeing shock register in her kind eyes, "it is just a long process."  Then I add too brightly, with a smile I keep reserved for this moment of falsely optimistic salesmanship: "But, keep praying!"
Her sad smile and sympathetic pat to my shoulder are meant to make me know she will pray and that she is touched by what I must be going through but I feel nauseated.
 I am sick of sympathy. I am sick of praying the same prayers. I am sick of holidays passing without my child here, of her siblings aging while she is overseas in an orphanage. I am sick of questions about why it takes so long, why "their government" won't just "let these poor children go home to good families as soon as possible". I am sick of defending a nation that holds my daughter's life in their hands as month after month go by with no movement
 I am sick of this. 
I am sick of treading water that is 200 feet deep, with no shore in sight. Sick of waiting. Sick of my children praying she will come home as we tuck them into one room at night, all 4 of them still sleeping side-by-side by choice, wondering how long after she finally, finally comes home this season of common childhood among our 5 babes will end and how much of it she will have so needlessly missed. Sick of singing "Oceans". Sick, sick, sick of longing. 
Hope is expensive, and we have been hoping for so long now that many days I feel bankrupt. 

Good, kind, people who inquire after my daughter are very dear to me - dear to us all who share this journey. People who ask give me the opportunity to hear her name, the one I still cannot post online or blog about, a chance to show them a photo of my child which I have stolen from a fundraising Instagram account, my darling girl visible through the lens of someone else's camera but available to me and a hundred other strangers at least this way….but after they shake their heads, tsk-tsk the situation, promise to pray, even love us in the waiting, sometimes so very well, anyone else can leave this journey behind as soon as I am out of sight, maybe out of mind. Parents do not get that chance.
Parents sit on the  flat, concrete roof of the guesthouse in Port-au-Prince, under the blazing sun, gazing at the green mountains in the distance littered with crumbling shanties and rage at the Lord. Parents grieve, and mourn, and wish and beg on their knees every, single day. Parents fight. Parents hear the arguments about other American children needing homes instead and wish those children's stories completed in grace, too, but parents know: my child is my child, their location has no bearing on that. Parents know that a child stuck overseas can feel like an anvil tied to your ankle, or a missing, phantom limb, or like a misplaced kid at a soccer game…nothing is right until this is relieved. Nothing. 
Parents know this is the wilderness, and as much as we would like to leave, this is where God meets us and sends manna, what we absolutely need to survive the drought of waiting. 

This particular wilderness of Haitian adoption under the New Process and the New Law is outstandingly barren because almost nobody on Earth has traversed this particular process. This is like climbing the magically misdirected Grand Staircase at Harry Potter's Hogwarts: it constantly shifts and drops you at an impossible-to-predict location no one can determine how to leave. This wilderness would be impossible without Jesus. Some days it feels like He is 30,000 feet high in the air, and we wonder WHY? WHY delay? WHY not act? WHERE is the justice? WHY not today? Never once have I heard an answer, never once have I audibly heard His voice in the whispers of my prayers or the shouts of my praises or the screams of my demands. He sends manna, though. Jesus isn't here on Earth, but His Body is, and they hand me manna and I can survive. 
 My once ambitious pioneering spirit has given way to the exhausted survivor's deadpan stare. There's no getting out of this journey for Parents, we are in it till the end because there is no withdrawing from our own child - our own flesh and blood in a Haitian body - and there are no actions to change the course, speed it up, cause it to happen. There is just wilderness and as we straggle along there is always manna. 

The manna is the Body of Christ Himself, in the form of His other children. Some of the sweetest manna comes in the form of other Parents of the children who live with my daughter at her orphanage. These women, my sisters, the mothers of my daughter's Haitian "cousins", who share with one another every victory, every homecoming, every prayer request, every agony are my lifeboat in these waters. We have found one another, almost every last one of us, and share life intentionally now, daily, speaking in shorthand, holding nothing back. We know the joys, the exhaustion, the tears well and there is no need for us to explain to one another. We understand all the lingo, the timelines, the steps, the judges and mayors and social workers all involved in the arduous job of completing our families. In this tiny demographic of adoptive parents, shrunk to the size of only Haitian adoptive parents, even further the parents of the 15 children of the same orphanage on a single street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti - we have found one another her in the United States, and we hang on for dear life. We know our children are being raised as siblings would be, so we invest in one another's lives, one another's children at home and at the orphanage, hoping our children will be linked permanently as seek to forge our bond for always. We steal away time to cry together, time to vent, time to celebrate, building traditions and reaching for ways to hold up one another's arms in the midst of the greatest wait of our lives. We are incredibly blessed to have each other and you'd better believe we know it. When someone comments on a photo on Facebook or Instagram, that orphan at my child's orphanage isn't "Nicodette" or "Steevenson" or "Gregory" but my friend's son, my friend's daughter. We have each other and we are the manna Jesus has given to us in this wilderness as we circle, waiting for deliverance. 



All the prayers, all the hopes: we need them all, we beseech you to keep it up, to hold up our arms because we are so, so tired, so weary of waiting and circling in a holding pattern, so ready to land. Jesus is near. He is nearer still when His Body draws close and huddles and cries out together and the 3-strand cord braids further. He is Deliverer and He is Creator. He is creating still. 



Sunday, October 5, 2014

air

Dear ones ~
 and just like that, we have finished our time with our daughter here in Haiti on this trip. Tonight before her bedtime we said our goodnights, our goodbyes, and our God bless you's because tomorrow at 6:30AM we climb into the truck for one last trip up the hill to the main Petionville road which will lead us to our morning flight home. By lunchtime we will be 30,000 feet above the Caribbean, robin blue as far as you can see out the oval window. 
The last 2 days have been heaven, almost completely. For those of you who read the emails from our last trip to Haiti in January, you will appreciate the photos and the report that our time with her has been positively magical - affectionate, reciprocated, endearing, satisfying, refueling.  After spending 12 solid days in January working hard to woo her for 10 hours daily, to burst back into her world a full 8 months later, having had zero direct contact between us, to now return and enjoy this beautiful acceptance...can only be attributed to God's good grace. I sincerely accept it as a miracle. 

It has been heaven.
I could exhale. For the first time in many months, I stopped holding my breath. 
Andrew could really breathe her in and I swear, I witnessed them fall in love with one another before my eyes on this trip. 
It. Has. Been. Heaven.

And yes, tonight was brutal. 

If you have lived this, I don't need to paint you a picture. 
There aren't really words for it, anyway.

And now, we fly home. 
Tomorrow at this time it will be dark again, and I will be 890 miles away from her. 

Friends, we need your prayers. Please pray that the judge will sign the blessed paper and we will move forward....there is maybe a year still to go. 


with love from Haiti from us both

Saturday, October 4, 2014

water

Dear ones ~
 to call the way I got clean tonight a "shower" would be too generous, I think. There was that moment, watching the drops dribble from the sad showerhead when I found myself debating, thinking: "okay, I need to commit one way or another" and then: "wait, what if the lights go out while I am in here?" and then: "I am so desperate, this has got to be better than nothing". There was water of course and man, was it frigid - the kind of cold that makes you gasp like a baby who got swung too high in the air and jumped in reflex - but to call it much more than that - water - would really just be an insult to showers everywhere. This whole island is surrounded on all sides by water for as far as you can possibly, humanly see but you can't drink it, can't bathe in it, and everything in my world smells like mosquito spray, hand sanitizer and baby pee. So bizarre. This whole country is a mystery of contradictions to me. Nevertheless, we will fall asleep under the fans with the whole day washed away before we wake to roosters, fresh coffee and canned milk, car horns and Creole songs in the street again tomorrow morning. This short trip has been an oasis in the desert for me and Andrew, kooky and foreign though this all is. There is nothing normal in our world right now, nothing remotely American about the life we lead while we are here, but it is like ice water after a day at the beach - we've been so parched and we are drinking it in.

 Today's joy arrived around in unruly waves. Quickly, our daughter warmed up to us and once warm became absolutely entwined with us. Upon deciding she would give us a chance this morning, she swiftly settled on my lap, snuggled herself in, tilted her head back to see into my eyes, melted like milk chocolate in a hot pan, and just gave in. She spent today coloring, swinging, snacking, stickering, climbing and playing while we merrily tagged along. When she had us by the hand or was in our arms, she was radiant as sunshine; when we left amid waves goodbye, blown kisses and "I love you's" for mealtimes (as is the rule), she receded like low tide, briskly but imperceptibly finding her rhythm in the mass of little ones again like she'd never been out of the pack. This is all very good for the time being of course...we will be leaving and the point of us even being here is merely to be with her and let our hearts get spilled out...but the waves of belonging, of how right it is to be together, of love, of healing and of hope switch to waves of resignation all too soon. She is the sweetest, sweetest, sweetest thing. Every ounce of us yearns to bring her home.
That swell of anticipation, the crash of embracing and the splash of adoration...followed by a departure from each other feels like standing on the shore at low tide, wondering where the water went. The tide will be high again, but you must wait. 

  
 Have you heard that song, "Oceans" by Hillsong United? If so, you know the one. If you have been in my world much you know these last few months that song has been my heart's anthem, mostly sung through tears and often through rage. "Your grace abounds in deepest waters, Your sovereign hand will be my guide..." Never truer, never more deeply known than here and now. 
All of your prayers make this bearable, all of them precious and valuable to us - all your messages and emails and texts such life-breathing sweetness to us.
We love you all - thank you for being in this with us 

Friday, October 3, 2014

heat

Dear ones, 
 after a full 10 hours of travel, we have arrived once again, safe and sound at the little block guesthouse behind the kelly green gate on this crumbling, steep road in this tiny corner of Delmas. Flying low enough to see the towns and mountains below, there is such wonder at all this life brimming on this island way, way out here, isolated from all other life...all these people only a 2-hour plan ride from Florida but such a world away. 

 Walking outside the airport baggage claim in Port-au-Prince, so many thoughts descend like a clattering: there is nothing so immediately disorienting as being immersed in a language you cannot understand, even a LITTLE bit. There is only one familiar face, but many people all rushing to hand me things, take things, all at the ready and I keep repeating "no, mesí" ("no, thanks") while trying to look sure of myself though I am not. It's breathtakingly hot weather in Port-au-Prince. There is a breeze from somewhere descending in soft waves from way up over the top of this island, but it is still "Sarasota-in-mid-July-hot" here in October. Andrew and I are sweating, silently hoping we each packed enough deodorant for this trip by the time we crawl into the truck which collects us from the parking lot and we remained that way throughout dinner, all evening and likely will remain hot and sweaty until we board an airplane on Monday. The heat is pervasive, everywhere. I had really forgotten. 


 After dinner, we headed over to the orphanage with our guides, the young married missionary couple who we've never met before, living these 6 months at the orphanage. They are heading over to the orphanage for the night, (after our very American meal of spaghetti with meat sauce and salad, with a Haitian side of breadfruit loaf) and they offer to give us a lift. It's literally about a 3 minute commute by truck. The orphanage is the same except for the mural of a massive oak tree on the wall, adorned with photos of adoptive families and their children who have already headed home since we visited in January. The wooden gate, still latched the same way, swings open and there they all are: all 13 babies, gaping and shyly staring in fascination and a little fear at the tall, white couple who enters. I see our baby out of the corner of my eye on the right, in a nanny's lap. She sees me. It's hot. My cheeks are completely flushed. All my energy is spent greeting babies, exclaiming over their size as I gently make my way through the awestruck crowd of children, all under 4 years. Still, she hasn't moved. If anything, she sinks deeper into her nanny. It is so hot, I can feel sweat rolling, can see her own throat shimmering with it, and her tiny eyes are cutting a sideways glance at me so fearfully I barely greet her at first, trying to sandwich my greeting to her between other children's. The room feels like a million degrees but the tile floor is cold and white and it's sureness is such a comfort. Most of the first hour was spent letting the babies crawl all over us, jumping up and down, throwing themselves into our laps and on our backs, everyone very content to have new people to play with, everyone but our precious daughter - her insistence to stay walled off to us almost complete for the first hour. 
A beautiful thing began to happen, though, as playtime ramped up into Ring Around the Rosie and Pat-a-Cake...though it was boiling hot under one lone ceiling fan, though we were entertaining like we were in sequins and character shoes on Broadway, though Andrew looked like he had stepped out of a sauna and I like my hair had a life of it's own…she started to play with us. She was holding our hands, she was smiling, she was blowing kisses, she YOU GUYS she REMEMBERED how to do the sign for "I love you" without being prompted by us...all that stifling, smothering heat...it refined for us an half hour of pure joy. 

She knows us.


This time here, it is precious but it is not ideal. Ideal would be bringing her home. Now. Immediately. Elbowing past everyone and locking the doors once we have her inside our home, that would be ideal. But this heat? It's what she knows...it's her familiar and though it feels like a furnace to me - spending time with her on her terms, under observant eyes, in a foreign country where we can barely communicate let alone find comfort...it is forging something magnificent.

"You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon us...We went through fire and through water, Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance." - Psalm 66:10-12

Goodnight from Haiti from us both 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

return

Dear ones ~
 tomorrow, we will find ourselves heading out of this house very early in the morning, driving to Ft Lauderdale, flying to Port-au-Prince, driving to Delmas, and walking the steep, chalky, crumbly hill between our guesthouse and the orphanage all by dinnertime, all to see one little girl. 

 We have not seen her in 8 months. She doesn't know that we are her parents, that we grieved leaving her in February, that we have missed her and cried and prayed and begged the Lord to act, that we have oodles of friends and family members desperate to see her adoption completed, that she has 4 siblings at her house, all ready to fold her in...all she knows is that we were around for a while and then...we left. All she knows is that sometimes we leave and sometimes we show up again. 
Tomorrow, we return to this daughter of ours with her unknowable thoughts, her twinkling eyes, her dimpled apple cheeks, her slim hands and mass of black curls. Tomorrow, we learn how it feels to see your child 8 months older, every day grown out from under your eye. 
Tomorrow, we find out whether we are forgiven. 

No more clean tap water, no more chilly, silken bed linens, no more easily mosquito-free living...tomorrow we return to Haiti and instantly remember how effortless American life is...tomorrow we find out how it feels to stop holding your breath. 

All your prayers, every single one of them for our baby, we treasure them ~

off we go, friends!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

boomerang

{"everything is so clean"}
 {"there's air conditioning"}
 {"look how cushiony the seats look"}
 {"everyone is so white"}
...these are my thoughts as I step onto the American Airlines plane. Everyone is smiling professionally. Their hair is clean. Their demeanors calm. The pilot grins a cockeyed smile to ensure us who are boarding that he's totally got this flight in the bag. Every light bulb is functioning. It feels like a spaceship from the future to me. And people are relaxed as they step past me, orderly and shushed. I am leaning my head back on the stiff blue pillowed chair, completely upright and squeeze my eyes closed so that I can't see every single one of them stare at me anymore as they file past my 14th aisle seat, watching my endless, silent tears streaming like a never-ending river down my cheeks. I can't decide if it draws more attention to wipe them away or just let them stream down my cheeks, my chin, my throat, into my hair and my shirt and onto my lap. Either way, I cannot make the tears stop, even though I am literally tired of crying by now. It has been 4 hours since I kissed her for the final time and they are still running down my cheeks and this is just feeling so ridiculous now I am downright angry with myself. I am angry at all the Haitians boarding with leisure and business on their agendas. I am angry at all the Americans staying here. I am angry that no one else feels a boulder of agony on top of their heads, sitting here feeling crushed by the weight. Just about the moment that a peace settles on my face and my heart feels still and my face relaxes into an expressionless passivity, the captain says we are next in line for takeoff. The plane is racing down the runway. Andrew films out the window beside me, watching for Haiti to become a child-sized toy beneath us, and I feel fresh anguish squeeze around my heart. 
{"Jesus, help me. Jesus, help me. Jesus, help me...."} on repeat. These are my only thoughts for minutes while I sob. 
She is too far away in just seconds. I can't get to her. She needs me. She is too far away. I will have to wait for people to figure out what happens next, wait for a break in life's demands, wait for it to make sense, wait for money, wait, wait, wait until I land here again and am within maybe a day's walk at most from her if it came to that. If there's another earthquake I can't run at top speed to her and scoop her up, laws be damned. She is on an island. I can see the water lapping at the edges of her island and I see it from way, way up here now - she is smaller than a particle, small and gone from me somewhere I cannot find or get to on my own, in the middle of a wide blue ocean I know nothing about. Almost evaporated. Before we even land in Ft Lauderdale it feels like it was all just a dream.
***********************

 All day I had planted my heels in the chalky dirt, digging my toes against the door, pulling back with both hands and all my strength, hands wrapped around the doorknob, heartache knocking on the other side. I determined not to let her see me crying. These white people crying while the babies were playing would only be confusing and troubling to this baby girl who now wanted to be on my lap, who wanted me to feed her by hand, who would go to no one but me, who smiled mischievously and lovingly, who laid upside down on my legs to have her neck tickled and nuzzled, who walked with arms up stretched to Andrew and I, back and forth, while dancing and giving kisses. 
There is no holding the door closed anymore. There is nothing to numb this. There is nothing to dial it down. It steamrolls and flattens me, leaving my bones crushed to powder, my stomach filled with lead, my head thick with cement. Putting one foot in front of the other takes thought.

This is sorrow. It is here.

I had leaned her back in my arms and said: "I gotta go bye-bye, baby", remembering I should never just disappear from a toddler, and I watched a cloud pass in front of her eyes, watched as she furrows her brow, watched as she retreated from me in her eyes, scampered down out of my lap willingly for the first time this day, marched across the room to her beloved nanny whom I am so grateful is here to rescue her from me, watched as she wound her arm around the nanny's neck, her baby doll still clutched tightly, watched as she looked at me with hurt and distance. I kissed and kissed her cheeks while she sunk into the nanny. She waved and smiled, safe again. She blew final kisses and made the "ok" sign with her hands because she can't master the "I love you" hand signs we spent all 2 weeks sending her from across a room.

2 weeks. Behind us, we leave 2 weeks.

Ahead, there is unknown. 
 We determined we will not despair - she is far from us but she is not lost to us. We will wait. Jesus is steadying our hearts. We are sorrowful but not destroyed. God is with her. God is with us. He is so, so near, still using our weakness for an opportunity to show up. Andrew is already at work, already a doctor again instead of a One Man Toddler Entertainment Machine. My kids are clamoring for souvenirs and kisses, Rissa already in our bed this morning between us by 2am, ready to reclaim her parents in a way only a 3 year-old can. I hear birds outside but no armed guard, I see sunshine but no school children. I hear cartoons on the TV but no Creole songs. It's weird. I feel disoriented still. It will take time to gently reclaim our lives but we will not ever feel right again until all 5 of our children area asleep in this house, under the same roof, breathing the same air, 10 arms wrapping around us instead of 8.

This is what it feels like to leave your heart behind you and walk away.

 This is what it felt like when Andrew and I were long-distance dating for 2+ years. This is how your brain starts to take all the messy, sloppy emoting and turn it into action, trying to get steps accomplished to achieve the goal. This is how it feels. It feels like sorrow. It is a boomerang, though and it will not return to us empty. We are sending it all like single-lined texts to God our Father and He will send back answers and whispers smothered in grace enough for that moment. He already is. He will not let this be for nothing. He never does. He brings beauty from destruction. We will see it happen, friends. He will - He must.