Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thankful that everything will be okay!

Hebrews 12:28

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe”

The sun is shining through my window this morning as I wake.  The faithfulness of God is more evident to me this morning than I have noticed in past mornings.  I get up and breathe… “Lord, help me finish well…”

Today is the day before I leave to visit my son in Haiti.  Today is the day that ends the “Week before I leave”.  Tomorrow will be my ninth trip to visit my son.  The “week before we leave” has been faithfully painful in different ways since we began our journey between these two countries 2 years ago. Tomorrow will be my 9th trip to see my son who I long for daily, but also to leave him again. Tomorrow will be my 9th trip to bring my son a part of his future, but also to speak of the future that is not fully clear yet.  Tomorrow will be my 9th trip to leave my worries here alone, but also to leave my 3 other children behind. Tomorrow I will walk ahead into this journey that has been both glorious and devastating all at the same time.

The “week before I leave” has always given me a fight.  I am one that will make lists and plan…take notice of what is ahead and anticipate all of my needs! What I can not do is anticipate everything that will interrupt those plans to sabotage my entire goals of finishing the way I wanted to.  I have many things lined out in my mind that that tell me, “Once this happens, you will be okay to go…okay to leave.”

Leaving is never something my mind, heart or body can fully embrace without concerns.  Fears and anxiety come from the underlying knowledge that it’s impossible for everything to be ‘okay’ when it comes to leaving.  I have a list: for the grocery store, for the packing bag, for the time with kids before we leave, for the things to do before we leave, for the bills to pay and the mail to send off.  I think if these lists get done, then I will be okay.

But every day of that “week before we leave”, I am shaken.  Every list, every need within my family, every road to accomplishment meets an obstacle that shakes my trust that things will “be okay”.  I am like a soda can that is shaken causing bubbles to erupt and give pressure…leaving me to spew everything that has risen up in me due to the shaking of these obstacles.

Almost always I yield to arrogance and attempt to control my week.  The irony is that this attempt almost kills me every time.  I go into distress because I can’t get to the store because someone gets sick or our car breaks down.  I don’t account for the normal emotional drama and parenting that has to continue despite my stress or to do lists.  My attempt to control only yields fruit of anger, bitterness and blaming everyone.  

As I am shaken by this “week before leaving”, I am reminded that I am not all knowing.  I do not hold all things together.  I do not rule time and providences. I do not know what I need.  I cannot live on my own.  I am broken, meant to be shaken, so that I can see that I need my faithful and loving Father who is God of all of these things. 

My God is at work.  And I have been adopted into His kingdom that cannot be shaken to destruction.  He says that He will work all things for my good, to His glory even when I don’t know what that practically looks like.

I begin this last day of this “week before leaving”, that has been one of the hardest weeks out of the 9 times leaving, taking a new breath.   I see Him.  Despite all of the darkness that the week has seemed to give, the sun still comes up.  My God is faithful and is my help.  Nothing will be okay if I act as god and seek to help myself.   But I know that everything will be okay because my God is indeed my help and it is my prayer that I will finish in this truth today.

So as we walk in this month of thanksgiving, I am thankful for the shaking that happens to me in my adoption journey.  It testifies that I am not God, but that I need Him desperately.  It testifies that I am a part of a kingdom that cannot be shaken and for that I am thankful and in awe of my LORD who has once again shown himself faithful.  I will leave tomorrow and everything will be okay. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Near Despair at the Edge of my Waters

Yesterday, I was on the edge of despair.  We talked with our lawyer and found another thing told to us had in fact not been granted... said to be impossible.  I sat down after that phone call and doubt began to grip my mind and heart.  The raging waters of this journey of adoption were overtaking me.

Friends on this journey with us gave encouragement and others spoke truth into my despair.  But my battle was fierce.  It seemed that "having faith seemed like a denial of reality...." I looked at everything from the last 2 years from my senses and said, "I want to quit!!  A quitter I will be, I don't care!" I wished for the pain to go away, the waiting to cease and all lost to be returned.  Foolish.  I sat foolish on the bank of my waters, cursing all that has become, not seeing the true realities.

Then a friend posted a video of a spoken word and I melted, as quick as sand melts when waters crash over it.  It was called "strike the waters" and it spoke directly to my heart.

You see, this journey of adoption has had its seasons, but amidst them are moments when I am tempted to despair. Yesterday, I wrote this in my journal:

"I have fought for faith today.  My feet are at the edge of these waters I have been swimming in for 2 years...I got out of this water today and was ready to sit down on the beach away from it's depths and call it's win...and accept my loss.  I was content to go back to the sand where I once built my castles.  But I found that all my castles had been knocked down.   I turned in my heart towards those raging waters who have tossed me for two years now and all I had was anger.  I screamed out, "Let me be, you adoption journey!! Let me be!!"  I sat in doubt and admitted the cries of my heart.  This journey in these waters have been a place of slow death.  I look up from the shore and see the waters roaring up and down and curse it with my might.  I hate you! How dare you come and disturb my castles of pleasure and break through my walls, shattering all of my dreams.  You take down all my creations like they are nothing.

My parenting skills, my plan of education, my belief that all things will be properly put in its place if you just work hard and do right.  You take them down with a mighty blow.  How dare you crash down my savings and make me ask for help as though I could not take care of myself!  You knock down my schedules of time and seasons and expose my inabilities to manage this life!
You take my priorities of safety and security and snap it in my face.  You erode the face of my towers and proclaim my failures and lack of control!
You take my naivety of rebuilding and continue to wash away all of my pride telling me to "pray to my god"  Injustice you are!! And today in my despair I hate you!  I hate you because of what you do..You rage upon me and seek to call my bluff.  You call me out to your waters and seek to drown me in your depths.  Maybe you are true and too strong for me.  I walk away from your waters that give me daily, my salty tears!
I sit here on the shore running the sand grains between my fingers asking why..why so much destruction to myself..wasn't I fine before building my sand castles on this shore?"

And then God..He rescued me, as He has done every time.
Job 38:8-11
"who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
11 And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?"

By the end of the day I stood back up to the depths of this adoption journey and said in my heart "I know the God who made you and so I stand up to your face.  You nearly pushed me back to leave this place, foolishly thinking what has died in me was waste. But now I will rise, b/c the truth has overcome me in this place.  What you have done to me, was meant to be that I might not be burdened in this fight.  No more will you overwhelm me, I see just what you are, with my given sight.  Your waves shall crash and roar at me, but when it is time, you will break at the sound of our Makers voice.  You will move aside with great big tides and I will walk ahead.  Triumphantly with jubilee, I will run ahead to the other side. I will remember this day that you nearly got me down, but then proudly say thank you, for all that you have done.  Without you, I would have not been able to win the race I've won.  I will get to the other side and this stance I will take. Unwavering and firm with shouts of joy! Thanking you, for your blows has shaped me for what I was meant to be!! Your injustice will no longer lurk only freedom will reign.  There I will rest and make my new home without fear or doubt, only the story of my God to talk about."

"...because we're holding on to a reality that is more real than the reality we can perceive with our five senses!"  Mark Batterson

that was my day yesterday....

Monday, October 1, 2012

Our journey of adoption....keep watching and see

If you were to come over to my home today, I would have one thing on my mind.  If you pulled a chair up to my table, I would serve you a drink and have only one story on my heart to tell.  If you came scheduled or unexpectantly, I would still have the same journey to tell you about....our adoption journey.

One of my favorite things is to sit in a cafe with any person in this world and drink deeply of the stories of life.  I wish I could take every friend and every stranger and have them over to sit and talk about life.

Two years ago today, I walked into a large building to attend a conference that was meant to expose me to adoption.   I was on the journey of adoption but had no idea what was ahead.  I just started walking.
Three months later I would be getting my fingerprints, shots, telling my childhood story and traveling to Haiti to meet my son.  I kept walking, with many questions, many fears and extremely wide eyes watching to see what the next door would open up to me.

Two years later, I have more stories of beauty and brokenness, miracles and impossibilities, death and life.  And in one sitting, I could speak of all of that just for my own life.

I used to see my neighbors in hardships and think it was too hard for them, now I point them to my God, who comforts in a way that makes them stronger and full of hope.  I used to be afraid of risks and only walk in what I could see ahead.  Now, I live more by what I don't see tangibly than what I can do with my own hands.  We had $165.00 to start our adoption with and have seen God take both our own money and others and create $30K.   I used to pride myself in my schedules and abilities to clean and keep everything in its place, now I hope to fold laundry within a few days after it is clean or have the kids clean the bathroom mirror and call the bathroom "clean".  What I thought were perfections in me are dying, so that real perfection of God can be seen more clearly.

So today, if you came by my house, I would fix a cup of coffee or Hot tea and slice you up some pumpkin bread, as fall comes and I enter into another year of this journey to bring our son home.  I would want to hear about your day, b/c my day is often too complicated to explain in it's fullness.  If you asked me how I was doing, my eyes would probably fill with tears and I would smile as tears ran down my face.  I would tell you that I am learning that hardships are not so scary anymore.  If you asked me when my son would be home, I would say, "I don't know, but God knows and He is coming, just wait with me and you will see."

Then I would take a deep breath and tell you of the beautiful story God is writing in us as we have journeyed to bring our son home.  You might cry with me, but at the end, all you could see would be God.  You see, our story is nothing less than God himself writing life into us and all 5 of us are being changed!

You might say at the end that "you are so strong" or "I admire you"  but then I would show you the wounds of my heart prior to my journey and tell you again of the One who actually holds and leads us. And it would be my only hope that when you left my house, you would understand more of God and your own story too.

Continue with we wait and see what God will do.  I have no idea what is all ahead, but I know our God will do it! He will bring our son him!

We will go to visit our son again in November and will be taking our oldest son, Wesley-Grant.  With each trip, I panic thinking about having to leave our son one more time. But each time, I hope that it might be our last.  The process in Haiti is very complicated to explain of where we are at and why.  August 29th, we moved forward b/c of your prayers.  Lord willing, we will run this last part of the marathon strong.    We need you.  Please stay with us.  Wait with me on this pier and together we will all rejoice, not only for our son coming home, but that us and all of you have changed in this journey together!! It is worth it...stay with us and you will see.

Kelly Josiah Stewart  5 years  August, 2012

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thinking of Kelly today on his Birth-day

I am so sentimental.  And so birthdays are not so much about a party, but more about a reflection.  A marking of a moment.  Looking at present, past and future and then pausing to celebrate.  And so today, even though Kelly is not with us in our home, I can't help but think of his life all day today.  Everywhere I went and in everything I did today I just kept thinking about him.

But I also thought of someone else.  Kelly's Haitian mom.  With my other children, I always remember their births on their birthday but for kelly, I can only think about the woman who gave birth to him.  I wondered if she too was thinking of Kelly today and remembering the story she told me in person when I met her.

She told me that his birth was difficult and when he was born, villagers told her to throw him in the trash. You see, kelly has a disability.  His right arm (his little fin, as he calls it) is fused together so that it can not grow correctly.  He only has 4 fingers.  Many in Haiti believe this is a curse and a child should be thrown away when they have disabilities.

I am thankful Kelly's Haitian mother did not see things that way.  She is a God-fearing woman.  And by His grace she saw Kelly's disability, not as a curse but as a sign that he had a great purpose.


She told me that Kelly is her favorite child because of his arm.   When she had to choose life for her son, she did every time.  She kept him and she raised him.  She made a most difficult decision that I would never want to face when she chose life for him again by placing him for adoption.  There are many details in her story, but in the end, she chose life through love and sacrifice for Kelly when she brought him to an orphanage.

This is not always the story. But it is her story.

I will never forget talking with her face to face.  I will never forget the love in her eyes as she looked on Kelly.  I will never forget the love and pain in her eyes as Kelly did not even know her.  He had no idea how much this Haitian woman, as he saw her, loved him.

I will never forget crying, she and I, as she petitioned us to raise him to his great purpose God had for his life.  I will never forget her.  I will never forget her words and her love and strength.

I imagine I will always remember her on Kelly's birthday.

Today, I imagined that Kelly was playing at the orphanage and had no clue that a woman in Haiti and a woman in Austin, TX were thinking of his life and trusting God for him and the purpose he was meant to fulfill.

Happy 5th Birthday, to our son.  One day I will tell him many stories.  For now, I am trusting and thankful to mark moments called birth-days.

The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room

I can vividly remember the last week of my mother's life.  She was diagnosed with cancer and one week later, she was gone.  As quickly as it was, I will never forget that last week of her life.  And one thing specifically I remember was the waiting room and the waiting by her side...watching...wrestling...and finding God.

The normal question after we get back from each family trip is, "When will Kelly be home?"  I love and hate that question.  I love that question b/c people are not afraid to ask us...they don't stop asking us even though it has been a year and a half now.  I love that people continue to stick along side of us and don't forget that one of our son's is in Haiti and not with us.  I love that.   But I hate not having a real answer to give.  How do you really explain all this wait besides blame it on Haiti or government or paperwork or this and that? So I fumble through my words in hopes to explain the realities but inside there is a wrestling that is often unexplainable.

This waiting room, as I think of it, is a place between joy and pain.  The joy of the moments we get to visit Kelly and see him grow, the pain that we are not with him daily to help him thrive.  The joy that we see him and hold him, the pain that it is only for a few weeks a year.  The joy of running to grab him when we arrive in Haiti, the pain of saying "we will return, son" as we get in our cab and head away from him.  The joy of meeting his Haitian mother and hearing of kelly's life as an infant, the pain as she and I both cry tears of all the brokenness of this story.  The joy of our children talking of their brother and loving him far off, the pain as i place kelly's clothes in his drawer without him to wear them.  The joy of saying hello as we see him over Skype, the pain as he stares at us and we wonder what he must be thinking.  The joy of tucking him in bed at night when we are with him, the pain of him crying in our arms as he struggles to trust our love will never go away.

In our waiting room we ask many questions.  Many questions of the process to our agency, the orphanage director, the lawyer, other adoptive parents.  But most of our questions come screaming from our heart.  I can remember the last 24 hours of my mother's life.  I was pregnant with my daughter sally and had to leave my mom's side to go lay down in the waiting room.  I lay in my husband's arms silent.  And then the tears came flooding. And my heart screamed out, "WHY??!!!!"  "Tell me why she must suffer!!!"  My heart knew my God and believed Him, but there is something about suffering and pain that will cause you to ask and want to know more of God.  "Who are you really?!"  "I know you are doing something, but I can't see??  What about my mother??!!"  "Are you there??"  "Do you care?" "Do you exist!?"

In a waiting room when suffering or pain is involved, you panic to know "Is there more than what I see?"  I begged my husband to explain to me, what the bible means when it talks about the gain in suffering.   He was wise and let me wrestle in silence after my question and then he answered with grace and truth.  If anyone knows about suffering, it is my Lord, Jesus.  "Jesus understands better than we do that many times the most effective way for the glory of God to be advanced is through the suffering of His people." - As author Kelley who wrote, "Wednesdays were pretty normal", reminded me and my husband in that waiting room with my mom.  On May 18, 2008 I got up out of the waiting room and went to my mother and helped her fight with faith until her last breath.  I reminded her who her God was. I told her not to be afraid.  I assured her that He was who He says He is and will do what He says He will do.  And 10 hours later, she met that truth face to face and all of her tears were wiped away.  All of her sickness was gone.  And I had tasted faith and a greater understanding of my Lord.

So, I find myself again, in  a waiting room as we wait for kelly to come home.   It is a place between countries, a place between joy and pain, a place between questions and faith.  I have to go to the end of all my fears and questions, because it is there that I find who God really is.  He has been faithful to give us grace and faith in Him and what He will do.

Our waiting room is a place were we are becoming.  We are being changed.   Though I can't see all things, we are all changing.

Though we are in a waiting room, we still must live.  We must go on with school, neighbors, friends and family in this journey of life.  But this waiting room makes us see all these things we are living in differently.  And I am thankful for that.  One day Kelly will come home and we will enter a new journey.  But in the meantime, we are finding who God is.  We are experiencing love and generosity from so many people who help us fight in this waiting.  In the meantime, we are finding new life.

Today is Kelly Josiah's 5th birthday.  When we met him when he was 3 1/2 years old,  I never imagined we would be apart on his 5th birthday.  But it is what God had for us.  Not because He is not or He can't.  But because He made us and knows what is best.  Because He sees all things.  He has all power.  He is who He says He is.  He will do all things right and bring our son home, when it is good for us and for kelly.  For now, we will celebrate in the waiting room and live until God sees fit to end that time.  And then, the waiting will be over.  We will take a deep breath and breathe new life, not because it is over, but because we persevered and God's grace helped us endure the Waiting Room and bring us to a place were we came face to face with God.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Living between 2 Countries

It was 10:30pm and we landed in Austin, Texas. Another trip there and back. Exhausted.
I make my way around the gates and Stew goes ahead of me to get the car. I find myself imagining I always do as I arrive back in Austin.

Imagining when my hands will have more than bags and my heart will be full with more than tears. I imagine the day when our son will come home and we will round the corner and head to baggage claim ending the life between two countries. It is the same thought each trip.

I come down the escalator and notice a group of folks waiting at the bottom. Turns out some kids are coming home from the Ukraine. Wow! Their life between 2 countries is ending..the very moment I imagine often in my mind. The Lord is gracious to give Hope as we often see others coming home when ours is not.

I realize as I wait for my baggage and watch the joy of others, today is just not the day. Kelly Josiah is not coming home today. We must continue to wait.

We just returned from Port au Prince, Haiti. It is our 6th trip. Traveling every 3 months between our children here and child there has become a new normal. Waiting has been a learned thing.
I am actually thankful for the things that each trip teaches us. We have gotten to know so many beautiful families!! I am honored to learn from another country apart from my own. Each time I enter Haiti, I feel closer to it and understand that is is a part of our family now b/c it is the culture of our son. I view it differently than if I were visiting some country for the first time, only to learn and walk away back to my own. I will never walk away from Haiti. It is a part of us now.

We got to meet Kelly Josiah's birth mom this trip. I was scared. I was nervous. Would I be good enough for her? Would Kelly wish to be back with her? Would his mother want him back? What to expect? I had too many thoughts.

She arrived about 4 hours late....typical Haitian time. =) But I was given courage that did not come from my own strength. I walked up to her and pointed Kelly out. She smiled. I gave her a hug. Kelly does not remember her well and would not go to her. I felt pain for her. She smiled bravely and patted Kelly on the shoulder not forcing him to go to her.

We went upstairs for lunch. This was a very strong woman. She was very articulate and knew why she came. She told us that many in her village had told her that she would never hear from us again once Kelly was in America. She said she wanted us to see her face so that we would not forget her and ask that we send her pictures. We told her with great joy that we would absolutely keep in touch.

We asked her questions about kelly's birth and life before we knew him. She told us stories. She helped us to see that Kelly was her favorite son, b/c of his disability. She told us that she knows God has a great purpose for his life. We agreed with her and shared about the things we believed and had seen in him already.

Then, I had to ask her. "Is this what you want for him? or do you wish to parent him?" With no hesitation she said she chose this for his life. And she proceeded to petition us to raise him for the purpose he was intended. I asked again, "Are you sure...this is your choice and not someone else's?" She confirmed it was her decision. She loved him so much that she chose this for him.

I am learning that the world is not lived through the grid in which I often see things. She did not give him to adoption b/c she did not love him, but B/c she loved him, she gave him to adoption.

I am constantly learning between my 2 countries. They each effect each other and I travel between them with so many lessons and some opportunities to apply them.

I know one day it will not be like this. But I am trusting that our lives will never be the same because of this journey.

We are learning to take the gifts in our waiting and living. This trip gave us a precious gift of a woman....a mother....who loved her son. It gave a new motivation to pursue and love Kelly bravely.

Before she left I was able, with many tears-she and I, to look her in the face and tell her that we would love her son as our own. That she would not have to worry. That together...she and I would mother Kelly Josiah to the purpose God intended for his life.

Waiting until our next trip...trying to apply here what I am learning there...