Take a breath. Hold it.
Tucked snugly into the machine for a cardiac MRA, these are my instructions over and over and my thoughts scatter across recent days into weeks.
“But what’s going to happen to them?”
This is the question my brother implored me to answer and has continued to haunt me.
I had just answered the requisite “How was your trip?” question with my experience of heading deep into Guatemala City with the Families United* team visiting a young aunt for a possible family reunification and checking up on some of the families and children already enrolled in this program.
My brother’s daughter, the same age as the youngest of these sweet boys…these boys who over multiple Casa Bernabè visits I had come to know. Their smiles so infectious and contagious, tucked into the pages of a photo album sitting on my coffee table. The new reality of their situation, reunified with family 3 months ago, weighted his question and made the answer that much more important.
“If not for the work of our Families United team, the city would swallow them. And even then, it still might.”
That was the best answer I could give him. In a country where more that three-quarters of the population are living below the poverty line, Satan’s attack on family is not easily defended. He stands in defiance against the very thing God is committed to restore. This is a life that most of us cannot even begin to fathom but, I saw first hand as we traveled deep into this city. A city, where, as my daughter has said, God has turned up the saturation all the way. A city filled with slums that are beautiful in a perverse way.
“Hmmmm…we haven’t ever had problems finding this pulse have we?”
And in those terrifying seconds everything that I had forgotten about “being sick” came rushing back in breath stealing, heart-pounding, clarity. The pulse in my ankle couldn’t be detected, a new symptom, that had it’s roots in active disease. After a few long minutes it was found, just not where it typically should be. In the meantime my thoughts sounded something like this. No no no no no no no no! This can’t be happening. This can’t be real. No no no no no no no no no no no no! Please God, no!
But, that’s partially why I find myself holding my breath, literally and metaphorically today.
After traveling for more than an hour and half through the city, we pulled to the side of the road. Our first visit of the day was to an aunt that a judge had deemed as a possible guardian for two children living at Casa Bernabe children’s home. The team was uncertain of the home’s location and because of the known danger and violence in this area, our best option was to wait for the aunt to join us and guide us deeper into the depths of the city.
My heart twisted for this young woman as we filed out of the vehicles and followed her into her home, a second story room, tucked at the top of a steep set of stairs, carved out with tarp walls and ceiling. The room, down to the vase of fake flowers next to the bed, had been meticulously cleaned, with nothing out of place. I can only imagine this young woman’s nerves as 7 of us traipsed up the steps behind her for her interview. As I huddled in the corner, sunshine from the “window” warming my back and the small space, my heart broke and my eyes welled with tears as she cried in helplessness and despair over her obvious inability to take in anymore children. With a two-year old of her own and a new baby due in just weeks, the task that a judge set before her, was just too big.
Laying there, strapped down, holding my breath and letting it out, eyes mercifully covered, I begin tallying all of the life stuff from the last weeks…being here, stuck in this machine, a child with a concussion, two freak, not serious, only annoying, car accidents in the span of a month, the recent waterfall feature pouring from our bathroom ceiling caused by the ice dam in the gutter and then the rain and 90 degree swing in temperatures, the sink hole where our air conditioner used to be because the previous owners “forgot” to disclose how they “fixed” the water problem in the basement, an extra bedroom addition stuck in what feels like a permanent holding pattern…fire-y darts meant to steal joy.
BUT, bodies can heal, cars can be fixed, as can leaks, holes can be filled in, and someday, the construction will not only begin but will also be finished and please, God, filled with a child.
Attacks before blessings…my mom always reminds me not to be discouraged in these days. There will be blessings to follow….some day. And why would I think that we should escape unscathed in this battle we have engaged in. Plus, we have a question we ask in our house in an effort to keep things in perspective, tragedy or inconvenience?
And this sweet boy and my desire to bring him home is always roiling just below the surface. I just want to make life easier on his heart. I want him to know how much he is wanted. I want an everyday relationship.
We have some new developments… Please pray that, as the Guatemalan government is making some changes in leadership, they would place a sympathetic decision maker in power over adoptions. God is moving visibly again and I can’t help but feel my heart leap in hope and possibility over the changes in recent weeks…This could be so big. Please, please, continue to pray for our growing family.
And these song lyrics that keep repeating over and over, because the sun was shining and the volume was turned up on my drive to The Clinic and they seem oddly appropriate…an MRI sermon, in my mind, over and over, sung by Kenny Chesney…
I hate waiting, ain’t no patience in these hands
I’m not complaining, sometimes it’s hard to change a man
I think I’m stronger than I was, I let God do what he does
I breathe in, I breathe out (Right?! These are my exact instructions in this moment)
Got friends to call who let me talk about
What ain’t working, what’s still hurtin’
All the things I feel like cussing out
Now and then I let it go
Around the waves I can’t control
If it’s working I don’t know
When I get done the thing may not flow
But I’m learning how to build a better boat
Family is something that God holds near and dear to his heart. That means that the enemy stands in defiance against the very thing God has committed to restore. In the days since my brother asked me his dogging question I have realized that the answer I have today is not good enough. This is a war. We can’t think for a minute that these families, or our team, or my heart, will escape unscathed without some bruises or battle scars.
So, bruises and scars be damned, I will fight for my son and these families and our team serving them “on the front lines” in the only way I can from 1200 miles away. I will tell their stories and beg you to join me in praying for them. God is the author of their story, it does not have to end in the same way it began.
Will you join your voice with mine to see a nation changed? For God’s glory…
*Families United is a pioneer ministry committed to reconciling and restoring broken families. Through years of experience, Casa Bernabe has found that many times children are taken from their homes because the families lack the emotional, social, and economic support needed to keep the family in tact. CB has put together a team of dedicated professionals, committed to working directly alongside each of the families of the CB children. Working with the Guatemalan government, through extensive visits, evaluations, and interviews, a plan is prepared that would once again unify the disintegrated home. The team provides follow-up and supervision once they are all re-united. This program is currently severely underfunded and if God would move your heart to partner with us in this endeavor please ask me how you can partner with us in sponsoring these families.