Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Two Less

Last night as I was laying in bed I just kept thinking about the 147+million orphans going to sleep that night like many I saw in DRC. Alone, on the streets, in an orphanage, tucked next to another and another all sharing the same mattress or mat.  I think about Maran and Levi sleeping on 3 mattresses between 17 children. I think about the woman who offered me her son in Kinshasa and motioned as if "What about him too? Take him?".

Every night, every hour, Maran wakes up, calling out "mama? papa?" as if the dream is over and we have now disappeared and she is on her own again.  It is a bleak reminder of the trust that needs to be built, but also a good reminder that she knows she was created to be loved and cared for.
Life here is a beautiful chaos. Going from two to four kids is a challenge especially when you throw in driving two to 2 different schools at 2 different times, gymnastics, doctors appointments, attachment, adjusting to food, time zones, etc.  Since adding Maran and Levi to the family, I don't look at them as used-to-be orphans all the time or continually see them as where they came from.  They are our kids and have quirks and preferences just like Reese and Wheeler.  But there are sometimes just gentle reminders that they are survivors, as I see Maran shovel in her food or turn on survival mode if someone takes her toy.  They have lived through much.
We made it to church this week and as I stood there holding Maran as we sang "Your great name" I just wept as we sang "All the weak find their strength at the sound of your great name, hungry souls receive grace at the sound of your great name, the fatherless find their rest at the sound of your great name." And as she rested there on my shoulder I just cried over her.  I was thinking about the loss of her father, and now the gaining of a father who lavishes love and affection on her and points her to an even greater Father who loves her with a perfect love.  A love she may have never seen through the circumstances she was in.
One afternoon in DRC we were surrounded by some teenage boys on the street wanting us to buy the tissues or trinkets they had.  They became agitated and started making threatening gestures and faces at us as the half-rolled window protected us just enough.  At first I felt fear, then anger. But then, God whispered in my heart... That could have been Levi.  These kids are survivors.  They are a product of their environment. They are smart. They have learned what they need to do in order to see another day.
One of the toughest nights was in the hospital in Kinshasa with Levi. He had a fever non stop for 36 hours and you could tell his stomach was in a lot of pain.  As I laid over him in the hot operating room, I watched as needles stuck out of his arms and the nurse would collect the droplets as they appeared with an open test tube.  I had to leave the room as I began to pass out.  My mind was racing and I know my thoughts contributed to the nauseousness that overtook me. The night before, a friend staying at the same convent as us had taken her son to that same room, held him on that same bed, and watched another baby die in her mother's arms right next to her.  They wrapped the child in a sheet, taped it closed and sent the mother away.
Death is a way of life there.  It doesn't seem to be feared as much as it is here. People seem emotionless as they endure such hardships. It was all hard to process. But I just kept thinking, where would these two kids be if the Lord had not stirred us to action? Would Maran be that 14 year old mom, tucking her child in for another night on the streets? Would Levi be the teenage boy going from car to car hassling people for money for the water in a plastic bag he was trying to sell?
These pictures tell a beautiful story to me.  The first one you can almost see the hopelessness, emptiness, effects of hunger, desperation. And oh how the Lord turns our mourning into joy. With love and protection, comes trust and freedom and joy. The Lord has designed us for relationships, for family. His perfect plan was to have a mother and a father who love each other and care for their children and raise them in a home that points them to Him.  The effects of the breaking of this plan are so hard to see. How our sin and choice can damage the perfect creation God intended.
I guess sometimes I wonder what about everyone else? The story has been rewritten for these two, but what about the others? I can't let my mind go there often. But I am so grateful to have these two as a part of our family.  I am thankful God has pursued them and me with a fierce love. I am so grateful God defends the fatherless and gives them rest in his name. I am thankful there are at least two less.
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beautiful things...

You make beautiful things out of dust.....

I have attempted many times to sit down and tell my story thus far. It hasnt felt right yet. Either due to sheer exhaustion or the fact I have no idea to process all I have seen and been through emotionally and physically here. I want to be sensitive to my childrens stories as well as the country they came from. I hope they feel pride when they are told of the country they come from and I dont want to portray it negatively.  A friend said it right at dinner tonight. If you just tell about the desperation and not the beauty and hope, you do it injustice. I have met many amazing people and had many great moments, undeserved moments.  I have also had moments that have stretched me beyond comfort, beyond ability, or beyond anything I can dig into my self and find.  I have felt a hurt in my heart like none before and felt joy in small victories that I normally overlook and take for granted.  When my daughter Reese hugs me, or asks me for a snack, or tells me she wants to play, I shrug it off as normal, as usual, as deserved.  To have to earn that and work hard and pray incessantly for those moments is a different heart journey.
I am finding it hard to put into words the moment when we met the kids. That will most likely have to be another post for another day. I think people fantasize about this moment and I had tried to strip all expectation from it and rightfully so.  For us it is joyous, for these kids, it is traumatic.  They have been taken from all they know, and put into someones arms that has loved them for months, connected sweetly to their picture, yet they have no idea who we are, what we are doing with them, or if they will be better or worse off than before. Another friend said it best too, "They dont even know if they can trust you for their breakfast, let alone their lives".  Rightfully so they were both hesitant, slightly fearful. Levi warmed up to us in a matter of 20 minutes. He was laughing and cooing and jabbering on and on into the very late hours of the night as we just looked at him and at each other and were so in awe of what God had done. Maran on the other hand did not speak for hours. She kept her head down, her gaze lowered. She was cautious and it was obvious she was grieving. Yet it connected me to her in a way I had not anticipated. I felt compassion in a way unlike any other, and was filled with the hope of restoration and for God to make something beautiful, just as he did when he formed her in her mother's womb.
The first week was honestly a blur of emotions and a flurry of non-progressive legal activity. It would seem at times that everything that could go wrong paperwork wise would, yet then would soon turn around with a way only God could redeem or orchestrate.  There were high highs and low lows.  I would say that parenting wise it was the closest to suffering John and I have experienced.  Not suffering because we didnt love the kids or they were a burden or bother. But to watch a child grieve is suffering. To watch a child soothe themselves in ways they most likely did because there was no one there to put them to sleep gently or feed them when they were hungry is suffering.  To see the effects of pain, abandonment and neglect is suffering. But yet it is the path Christ walked.  It draws us to his side there at the garden and lets us in on the tiniest peek of what it was like to watch as our penalty and suffering was being poured on himself because we are his children. It is also extremely painful as I saw me in her.  I was that orphan. And still at times I have the same trust issues she has with The Lord.  He puts out a feast before me and I still doubt his provision in the next moment. He says he is there to comfort me, yet I try and self soothe in the emptiest of ways. He offers his hand and I turn away and do it myself. I was her. I still am her at times. To watch this interchange between parent and child was so gut wrenching and dredges up the deepest parts of you and forces you to stare it in the face. It is a continual flesh and spirit battle. It is a dependence I have never known.
I remember holding Maran and pacing the room as I tried to get her to sleep, and as she cried, a cry with no tears, just a repetitive low noise, I sang along with these words.
"I will not fear the war,  I will not fear the storm, my help is on the way. My help is on the way.  Oh my God, he will not delay, my refuge and strength always, I will not fear, his promise is true, his love will come through, always. I lift my eyes up, my help comes from The Lord" Kristian Stanfill- Always.
I remember crying it out from my soul and just weeping over this child in prayer. I prayed over so many aspects of her life, known and unknown, beautiful and hard, full of hope and full of sadness. I listened as John cried over our son singing the same words, calling on The Lord for healing, strength and restoration of their hearts. It is a moment that will be etched into my mind forever. It was one of the closest moments Ive felt to both Jesus and John simultaneously. Our hearts were synced over a common cry in a way like never before. Later that night we just laid hands on our children and prayed over them. It was a beautiful mess.
Again, I feel like my heart is scattered in a million places and to try and communicate it is most likely an even bigger mess! 
I have officially been in Congo for 10 days. With probably 10 to 14 to go. Who knows. I am leaning into Gods timing for this trip. I think originally I wanted to rush through my time here and just get back to the comforts of home. But I am trying to put my weight on him and rest in the fact that he knows how long I should be here, how long I need with the kids before I take them into a totally new environment. It will give us time to continue to develop trust before I stick them on an airplane and away from what they know. 

God is in the business of restoring. He is doing a glorious work here. He is making beautiful things out of this African dust.