When God Calls Out My Orphan Responses

“Mommy no love Djou.”

Those were the words that came out of my son’s mouth this morning as he watched me hug and kiss his older brother.

It caught me by surprise, and yet I’ve been watching for moments like these.

I looked over at him standing there, head hung low, with his massive frown. I went over to him and took his face in my hands and tried to find the right words to say, with my limited creole and his limited English. Oh how I begged God in that moment for him to understand that my love is never divided. My heart hurt for the years I didn’t have with him, the years that factored into this moment where he thought my affection elsewhere meant no affection for him.

These are the red-flag moments that have me scurrying to my adoption books, looking for answers and correct responses. But in the middle of my page flipping, God whispered to my heart. “Djou’s response is, yes, that of an orphan who didn’t have you for the first four years of life, but his response reminds me of you. How long will you believe my love is for everyone else, and not you? How long will you believe the lie that I don’t delight in you as much as those around you? My heart hurts like yours does in those moments that your son claims you don’t love him.”

I didn’t even realize I had been doing it…believing the lie that God isn’t as into me as he is others. I listen to my favorite podcasts, I read my favorite authors who write in the loveliest of ways and they breathe God’s love for them, I read through the blogs of women who are living out God’s mission in the far corners of the earth, or I listen to speakers who communicate so well all the things of God and have the ear of thousands. I have no desire to be these people, but somehow I started to believe that God is for THESE people more than He is for me. Those who are OUT THERE, being the hands and feet of Jesus.

In so many ways I see myself in my son. And as I yearn to tell him the truth of who he is and what he means to me, I find I need to learn it too.

I need to believe that God loves me and is for me, even when I fail in the every day. I need to believe that washing the dishes, changing sheets, mopping floors, making dinner, and educating my children are just as worthy as speaking to the masses. My delight rests in pouring into these little souls God has entrusted to me. Serving and loving them to the best of my ability and asking God to fill in the gaps.

Just as I yearn for my son to KNOW my love for him, God desires for me to KNOW His love for me. And if I still struggle with this after following the Lord for thirty years, I will simply grow in patience and understanding that my son might not grasp my love for him today, and that’s ok. My love won’t change. And neither will God’s.

Advertisements

Joyous Beginnings

A new season is upon us.

It’s been almost a month and a half since we all walked through the doors of the orphanage, unceremoniously picked up Djou, and began our journey together as a family of five.

Everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed. If that even makes sense. It’s so difficult to find the words to describe the last month and a half. It’s taken a while to realize that HE’S HERE! He’s home, we are DONE with the adoption (well, other than the social worker update visits and the readoption process, but whatever.)  He is OURS. Can this be real? Something we’ve prayed and longed for for so long, and here we are, living the days we’ve longed for and dreamed about.

I have had to remember what it’s like being the mom of a busy toddler. We’ve all had to adjust to having a new member of the family, and Djou has had to adjust “being” a member of the family. There have certainly been challenges and I realized that over the years I’ve become very comfortable in my “me” time since the other two kids are older now. It’s been challenging to find time to read my Bible (read anything for that matter), take a shower at normal times, take naps, make dinner, go shopping, flip through instagram, put on makeup, do my hair…and even now at this moment, I managed a shower but my hair will air dry all wonky and I’ll end the day without makeup. I am putting a lot of energy and thought into parenting, as parenting an internationally adopted child is somewhat of a different ball game. I have to be intentional and conscious of every decision I make to parent him. And that’s just kinda exhausting.

But here’s the thing: I love it. God’s given me a real joy and love for my son and I delight in him. I was terrified….terrified….that he would come home and be a holy terror and I would not love him, or I would greatly struggle to love him like a mother needs to love her child. That’s the real deal, and it’s not out of the ordinary for many adoptive mothers.  I prayed, begged, petitioned, and pestered God over and over for one thing: give me YOUR love. I don’t have the amount of love it will take…I need God’s love. I knew that the seeds of this love were sown the day I walked away from my son while in Haiti. We had to leave and I didn’t know when we were going to see him again. I felt God’s love fill me that day, and I knew it was going to be ok. But, I wavered and lost trust that God would really help me. I feared I would fail, I feared I wouldn’t be enough, I feared God would abandon me to be a mother to a child I didn’t know how to raise.

Day after day, as I learn my son and delight in his infectious smile and sweet laugh, I hear God whisper, “See? See, I told you. Now, enjoy your son, raise him up in My ways, and wait for the plans I have set before him.”

So, even though I’d love to go take a nap or read a novel for pleasure, I am simply living these days in awe and delight. My son…oh, how I love him. I love, love, love this boy. I keep thinking, “it feels like he was always meant to be mine.” I know that statement comes with loss. One mother lost and one mother gained. I know that in a perfect world, Djou was not meant for me but meant for the mother who carried him in her womb. But I also know that God saw the brokenness before time began and made a plan. One thing I know for certain: God has a plan for my son. I feel it, I sense it. He is unique; special. And, I get to be his mommy. I get to be the one to talk to him about Jesus, I get to see him grow and mature, I get to be the one to kiss his scrapes and see him lose his first tooth. I don’t take that privilege lightly.

So this is what it looks like: day after day, I continue to learn more of him. I continue to grow in my love for him and I pray he continues to grow in his love for us. What a kid God has created, what a kid.

Something Sacred

Sometimes moments are so big that you know you have to tuck it away in your heart and tell yourself, “I’ll process that later.”

I am still unpacking the moments I spent with my son’s birth mom. It feels sacred and I hesitate to even share it. But I don’t want her to go unnoticed; I don’t want her to be a mere shadow hiding in the story that has loss holding hands with gain, fingers intertwined.

The day came, and we walked to the orphanage in the morning around nine in the morning. She had just arrived and was waiting for us. I quickly calculated in my head what time she must’ve gotten up to get there so early since it was a five hour trip in a tap tap, and I knew it would have cost her a lot of money to make the journey.

As we entered the gates, my hands were shaking and my stomach was in knots. I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea how this was going to go.

Three women sat in front of the blue tarp that hung from the outdoor school. I figured she was one of them, but I didn’t know which one. I looked at each of their faces and knew, since I had been wondering where my son got his eyebrows from. Their eyes were the same, beautiful and kind.

She saw Djou and said, “Hello, Djoulensky!” I gave him to her and she sat him on her lap. She spoke with him in creole. I have no idea what was said, I just couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around what was happening.

I introduced myself and gave her a super awkward hug. Soon someone came to translate for us so we could talk to one another. I had my list of questions ready, not for my sake, but for my son’s sake. I wanted to gather as much information as I could so that as he grew, and his questions came, I could answer them with certainty.

The conversation was deeply personal and it ripped my heart in ways I didn’t know it could rip.

She loved her son, and she desperately wanted me to know that. But she didn’t have to tell me, I knew it by how she looked at him. I knew it by the pain in her eyes as he sat on her lap. I knew it by the tone of her voice as she chatted with him.

I sat there and took in her face, her voice, her mannerisms, her smile. My heart synced up with hers and I felt a bond forge with this woman I had just met. A bond that would exist until the day I died, because I held her loss in my arms.

I wanted to tell her over and over that I would love this boy who we both call “son”  with all my heart. I wanted her to know how I wish she wouldn’t have had to make that choice, that I was sorry and I wish her life could’ve been different. I had so many words I wanted to speak…but all I could do was swallow the giant painful knot in my throat, that threatened to lurch out of my mouth and betray me with tears that wouldn’t stop once they began.

We took a lot of pictures; I wanted to fix her in my memory. I wanted my son to know the sacrifice his mother made for him. As she her other son got into the back of the truck to go back home, I couldn’t help but wonder how she was feeling. She was driving away from her son that now belonged to another mommy, not sure if or when she would see him again.

The magnitude of the time I had just spent with her broke through the levies, and the sobs began. Haitians don’t like to show emotion and I knew it would make those around me uncomfortable, so Lane told me to go find a place to gather myself!

I went into the kids’ bathroom in the orphanage and braced myself on the side of the sink and allowed myself to feel the pain, giving into breath-heaving sobs.

I knew I’d never be the same again. Not after that. How could I be?

My gain is her loss.

My delight is her sorrow.

My joy is her pain.

So my job as his second mommy becomes that much bigger. I have a responsibility to her, I have a promise to keep. I will cherish those precious, tender moments with her and I will tuck that bond we share deep into my heart. She will not be forgotten, she will not remain in the shadows. She will be praised, she will be remembered, she will be loved. She will always be his first mommy.

 

Why I’m Begging You to Stop Telling Me to “Trust in God’s Timing”

“How long has it been now?”

“Four years…” I say, bracing for the reaction I know is to come.

“Oh wow. Keep trusting in God’s timing!”

There it is…

I smile and nod, “MmHmm!”

Countless: that is how many times I’ve had this conversation.

It’s not that it isn’t true. Is God’s timing always perfect? Yes. Is He ever late? No. Do we learn much in seasons of waiting? Yes.

Yet while this is true, and all of us who are believers can rest in God’s ultimate sovereignty over all things, there still exists a struggle that I don’t think many Christians are even aware of, at least not those who have entered in to the trenches of warfare.

There is a reality that exists here that we don’t often like to acknowledge. We are a practical people, unenchanted, demystified, and intelligent. We chock all unexplained seasons of wait to “God’s timing” and don’t consider a spiritual reality, one that is at war every day for our souls.

When we were in Haiti with our son, I experienced an unseen feeling of darkness. This darkness seemed to cover the land, thought the landscape took my breath away with its beauty. It felt heavy…yet, in the midst of this, I felt protected. As if there were angels hovering over us wherever we went. I could sense the darkness, but it could not touch me. I CLUNG to the Lord for DEAR LIFE. Every moment of every day I was in prayer, an open line to the heavens, constantly asking for God’s protection. When we left our son at the orphanage each night, we prayed that angels would guard over him and God would grant him safety and protection over the things we could not see.

IMG_2215.JPG

Psalm 91:11 – For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

Before this, if I would have heard this story from someone, I might have rolled my eyes and giggled at the believer who thought there were demons lurking behind every bush. Yet I feel my eyes have been opened to the spiritual realm that exists.

I think all will be revealed to us in time, but we as believers might be shocked at the spiritual battle that was fought for our children to come home where adoption is concerned. Satan knows He will ultimately lose, but that doesn’t stop him from creating delay, administering fear, doubt, discouragement, bitterness, and worst of all….despair. He enjoys the ease of his victory especially with Americans, who are too demystified and comfortable to believe in real spiritual warfare.

Neither Satan nor his legions of demons want to see God’s will accomplished. They do not want to see people walking out their lives in submission and obedience to Christ. They do not want to see the orphan claimed by God, or the widow taken care of, or the oppressed freed from chains. They are working to delay what is good and right, and desire for hatred and evil to flourish. So we enter into this battle and pray our guts out. We pray that the angles of the Almighty continue to push back the darkness, that we would not despair, and that we would not fall asleep, but be vigilant, on guard, and at the ready.

Ephesians 6:12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist, and enjoy our comforts: our comfortable church pew, our comfortable home, our play, our food, our busy and distracting lives. We can use Christianese to explain why an adoption from Haiti takes so long, and think that’s all there is to it. “Trust in His timing,” BAM! Nailed it.

Or, we can take off our blinders, dress for battle, and enter into the war that is at hand. We can climb down into the trenches and sit on our knees in prayer, pleading on behalf of the orphan. Pray so hard that your knees shake,  your nose drips with snot, and your face is drenched with tears. Do not be fooled, there is nothing more powerful than the prayer and tears of the saints, crying out to God in one voice, asking Him to unleash His power to push back the darkness. And there is nothing more damaging than the believer who doesn’t believe the war is at hand, and therefore does nothing but speaks “Chrisianese” without ever experiencing raw and bloody knees.

Oh lovely, sweet, well-meaning Christian brothers and sisters, please stop telling me to trust in God’s timing. While trusting in God is so true and so paramount, I beg you to prayerfully consider if this is helpful. Get in the muddy trenches with me. Bleed with me. Cry out in prayer with me for my son to come home. Hold my hand with your bloody knuckles and tear-stained face, lift my weary arm around your shoulders and THEN say to me, “God is with us, and we MUST keep trusting.”

IMG_2396.JPG

 

Bright as the Noonday

Last year when we came home from our bonding trip with our son in Haiti, I fell into a strange, funky, unfamiliar place. One I could have never anticipated, because the magnitude of what we had just experienced is not one that we could’ve prepared for.

I fully gave my heart to my son. I (we!) bathed him, changed his diapers, fed him, played with him, laughed with him, held him for four hours straight one day as he burned with a fever, kissed him a million times on his soft forehead and smooth cheeks.

I soaked in every little thing about him. His wee fingers got me every time. They were so small, so fragile, so perfect and beautiful.

The day came when I knew I would have to hand him back, walk away, and face the year of uncertainty of when I’d be able to bring him home.

Acute, gut-sickening pain enveloped as I walked away, after about a hundred false goodbyes, because I couldn’t physically force myself to walk the opposite direction of my son.

IMG_1591.JPG

That goodbye broke something in me. It changed me. And I felt the full force of it as we returned home and normal life simply…resumed. Everything had changed, and yet nothing had changed. I couldn’t get out of the fog. I couldn’t find how to live with one foot in each of my worlds.

God taught me much here, as God often does. Reliance, aid, breath, stillness, and eventually, He helped me find a balance of living this life in front of me while simultaneously longing for the day that I held in my arms again and goodbyes would be no more.

Today we find ourselves in the very last stages of the adoption and today I feel disappointed by God. I know the real truth to that…but I feel it nonetheless.

Last year, we left a few weeks shy of our son’s third birthday. We sent money so they could buy a cake and balloons and have a party at the orphanage. I wept as pictures came in of him eating cake by the fistful. I wasn’t there and it felt all wrong.

I was NOT going to miss another birthday.

So I began to pray. I have prayed all year long that I would NOT miss another birthday. I’ve missed every single birthday since he’s been born, I couldn’t bear to miss another. I prayed hard that we would not miss one. more. birthday.

This felt so very possible 4 months ago as we neared the end of some big steps. And I rejoiced as I knew God would answer this prayer.

Somehow…who knows how. Our paperwork sat in some kind of floating world of nothingness in between two major steps. Weeks were lost. Weeks I will never get back. And, because of those weeks, I find that we are a week away from my son’s fourth birthday. I find myself arranging the money to get to the orphanage so that he can have a cake and balloons. And I will find myself, once again, looking at pictures of him stuffing a fistful of cake into his mouth. And I won’t be there to wipe away the frosting on his mouth or take him to the bathroom to “lave main!” (wash hands!)

And I’m just plain ole’ disappointed. It was possible, so very possible. I prayed and prayed and prayed for this…and God didn’t make it happen. I don’t understand and I feel like asking God what’s up.

I complained/cried/wallowed to my fellow adoptive mama’s about all of it. They get it. We’ve journeyed this same road together for the last 3 years, and they nod their heads understandingly because they’ve been there too.

They both echoed the same sentiment, “…but he will come home. And when he does, you’ll have a hard time remembering what life looked like before him. And this part will just be the memory of pain….faded and unpleasant, but just a memory.”

And, right on cue, this morning God gave me this passage: Job 11:16-18, “You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure because there is hope; you will look around and take rest in security.”

Brighter. Hope. Rest. Secure.

I told God I was sad and disappointed. I knew He could answer this prayer and yet He didn’t and I won’t ever pretend to understand why. But today He turned my chin upward and whispered, “Brighter. Hope. Rest. Secure.” It doesn’t answer all my questions (if any), but it resets my focus. And, I continue in these last days of angst and waiting and limbo in hope, knowing my son’s hand will soon be in mine. Our future together will be as bright as the noonday. My soul will find rest and a new rhythm when we are finally all together. And, these days of tears because of his absence, will be as waters that have passed away. Because God doesn’t satisfy us by giving us the answers to the “why’s,” He satisfies us by turning our chins upward and filling our longing souls with hope.

IMG_2563.JPG

The “Life Verse”

We Christians love to have a “life verse.”

Growing up a PK, I developed a survival technique I like to call, “make fun of everything.”

As I’ve gotten older, I realize I shouldn’t make fun of everything. Things I used to think were corny or ridiculous has begun to make more sense. The idea of a life verse being one of them.

It’s not that there is only one verse that should be important to us. The Bible in its entirety, as the metanarrative, should penetrate every bit of our existence. So to pull out one verse and pray it over our lives can almost seem…silly. Incomplete. It has the potential to fall significantly short. Let’s not even get started on taking the verse out of context. While this is true, I have found a lot of significance in praying a verse over the lives of our children.

Shortly after Lilly was diagnosed with CF, a disease which mainly affects her respiratory system and has no cure, I was reading through the book of Job and I came across this verse, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4) .

The breath of the Almighty gives me life. One word in the CF community is “breathe.” The very essence of life, to breathe.

This became a verse that we could pray over her life, giving thanks to God for creating her and giving her the air in her lungs hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year. From this day until her last day, it is God that gives her breath.

MUGU8851.jpg

CQDI2619.jpg

So I succumbed to the life verse.

I believe that while the entirety of the Bible has ultimate authority over our lives, God also uses these little peek-holes in scripture. They serve to encourage us; grow us according to our gifts and/or struggles. We can’t see everything, but we have this little view into what God may have for us. After all, he made us with a unique gift set. Rich soil that is ready to receive, grow, and flourish for God’s glory.

For Wills we prayerfully chose Psalm 119:37, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” As every parent knows, each child is so different. As we raise him to be a man of God in a world full of enticing visual, worthless things, we pray that his eyes will be turned away from those worthless things and he finds deep, satisfying joy by walking according to the way of the Lord.

IMG_2436.JPG

Then we talked adoption. We prayed, considered, and said yes. We are so close to our son coming home, and are over four years from the date we contracted with our agency. I had no idea the trials we would face during these last four years. But the Lord has sustained and I have this gut-level feeling that God has big plans ahead. Sometimes it has seemed like bringing him home would never happen. But we continued to pray for God to move and His plan to not be thwarted.

Lane and I have had an ongoing discussion of the future and both of us feel like we have been chosen to raise our son to give him back to the Lord. Maybe to give him back to his native country, maybe it’s another country, maybe it’s away from us where it’s risky and scary…who knows. But we DO know that God has a plan for his life, and it doesn’t include me keeping an over-protective white-knuckled grip on him, however much I may want to. Gosh, isn’t that our default as mothers? “He’s mine, Lord. Not yours.”

It’s a verse I’ve recited, and a verse that is pretty well known. It’s even quite “coffee mug worthy.” But I don’t care. I was walking through Hobby Lobby and I saw it. The beautiful words from 1 Samuel 1:27-28, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him. So now I give him to the Lord, for his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”

I bought the sign and it’s proudly hanging in his room, waiting for him. If I’m super honest, this prayer makes me nervous. Crazy things happen when you pray these types of prayers. I’d rather stay where it’s safe and cozy, I’d rather not keep jumping off these cliffs of faith. I’d rather think I can keep the son I’ve prayed for for so long.

IMG_2709.JPG

But I must pray that God continually pries my tired grip from my illusion of control when it comes to my children. Because I have realized that when the blood has drained from my fingers it’s time to let go. It’s the only way I can fight agains fear, it’s the only way I can breathe. These three children God has charged me with are on loan to me from Him. So I will pray verses over their lives and speak truth into their hearts.

God, give her breath.

God, turn his eyes.

God, make him yours.

 

The Cusp of Change

This morning I was remembering our trip to Haiti, a full year ago now. Meeting Djou, the feeling of immeasurable trepidation, nerves, and surreal reality settling in that this boy is mine. And I’m it for him, his new mom.

And a rush of complete and total inadequacy filled me.

I was suddenly very aware of how I would fail him, not be enough for him, not make all the right decisions. Despite my extensive reading and all the adoption classes, I realized how little I truly knew about raising a child of a different background, language, culture. Surely he has encountered trauma in his short three years on this earth. His mama said goodbye to him on the steps of a Haitian orphanage when he was a little one year old, hoping that someone else could put food in his belly. This mama of his…should have never had to face such an impossible decision, it is beyond our comprehension.

I don’t know a lot about her story. I know her name and her age. I know she has two other children. That is all I know.  Yet I think of her daily, always as I think of this boy that is now my son. He is my son, but it came at a deep, gut-wrenching cost. The brokenness of this world never fails to crush me. If anything, this adoption journey has shown me the real brokenness of the world.

So we are possibly only weeks, maybe days, away from getting a phone call that says, “Djou has a visa. Come and get him!” We are quite literally on the tender cusp of a lot of change in our quiet little lives.

This has me facing a giant wave of all kinds of emotion: joy, love, fear, sorrow, excitement, longing, anxiety, happiness.

Joy because it means we can finally begin life with him. I fell in love with this beautiful brown-skinned boy with a smile that knocks you sideways and a laugh that makes your heart sing.

Fear because of those familiar feelings of inadequacy to fill in the gaping hole of “mommy.” I don’t know enough, haven’t read enough, and I know there are days of failure and frustration ahead for all of us.

Sorrow because for my son, he is losing everything he knows: his country, language, culture, smells, food, caregivers, friends, etc. Sorrow for the mother who brought him into this world, who will be made aware that her son is living in another country with another family. I can only pacify this sorrow with the hope that my son is gaining a family to call his own. Our family that is dedicated to loving him with as much love as anyone could lavish. And I pray that his birth mama is filled with hope that her son will have the world at his fingertips.

IMG_2333.JPG

When moments arrive where I face the edge of another cliff, this time higher than the one before, and God asks me to jump….these moments bring me to the only place I can trust: the feet of Jesus. My heart bows before Him and I plea with Him to give me courage and to strengthen my heart. I ask Him to go before me, to be enough, and for grace to abound.

And Jesus whispers, “Breathe. You won’t be enough, but I am enough. Hope surrounds you because I am hope. You have strength and courage because I’ve given it to you. I’ve not only gone before you, I’m already there. Fear not, do not be afraid. All my promises are true. My steadfast love touches every crevice of this life. BREATHE.”

I’m as prepared at this moment as I will ever be. I will learn much on the job. I will always be inadequate. I will always grieve the loss that my son has suffered. I will most likely always wrestle with fear. But in all of this, I keep remembering that it is when I am weak, He is strong. I remain weak so I can draw on His strength.

And one of the biggest gifts of all, I have found so far, is that God chose ME to be part of this redemption story. We enter into this broken mess, and God says, “Now watch as I use you to mend what is broken.” To God be the glory.

God be with us.

IMG_2457.JPG