All posts by RunAndBeStill

Hold on to me

The reason that I continue to share this story is not so that you know something wildly personal about our family. This piece of familial transparency is a difficult thing for me. I share so that you can see, with God, all things are still possible. He is healer, redeemer, and a good, good Father. 

As I write, I am halfway through a two-week stay in Guatemala. The longest by far of the many that have taken me away this year. The leaving doesn’t get any easier – on either end – but I am recognizing the gift of time and the power of love. And tonight, I want nothing more than to grab all of my people, spread thousands of miles apart, and love them – love them fierce. My heart is filled with gratitude. Overflowing in thankfulness for the redemption of heartbreak and the healing power of laughter. I continue to be in awe of the ways God is moving through this story, building a family, and transforming broken hearts almost before my very eyes.


I have always loved to read. When I was younger, I had the habit of reading the last page of the book first. That way, no matter where the story found itself as it unwound, I was steeled for what the ending would bring. Lately, so many of my sentences have begun with, “If you would have told me a year ago…”  But I am glad no one told me. Today, I am glad that I didn’t get to read this page first– as hard as the hard days have been, I am stronger. My faith is stronger, for the not knowing. More than that, I am finding there is so much joy to be had in this adventure, in the unknown, in the discovering. As I look way back, to life before any of this, I see a world that was too small, a faith that was too shallow, a theology that was too narrow, dreams that were too temporary, a Christianity that was too comfortable, and prayers that had been too selfish. Without having to endure the heartache that this journey has brought, the magnitude of the joy in today would be lost. Without tasting the bitter, how can we appreciate the sweet?

Just over a year ago this was the state of my heart… “My prayers feel ineffectual. My heart is breaking. And, for what? A child who I can never tell how badly I want him. A child who I will never be able to mother the way my heart longs to. This was not my idea. I didn’t dream this up, I didn’t choose this.  But there is no doubt that God placed this squarely in our path. It was a hard yes to say, it was scary, and while I didn’t expect it to be easy, I am having a really hard time seeing where we go from here and understanding why? Why did God pull us into this? And I know the fight isn’t over. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I know this and I know that this isn’t over.  This can’t be over. I know that God can do the impossible. I know His promises, but today I am having a really hard time feeling them. Today, this feels so final and I feel so defeated.”

About the same time I wrote these words I was able to experience Antigua with my very shy and reserved teenager on our first “solo adventure.” He was so tightly wound within, so guarded, and I spent the time coaxing a smile and aiming for some level of ok-ness with being together. I knew something he didn’t at that point, we were deeply entrenched in a fight to become his family. But my heart was breaking that day for all the hurt I had in wanting more and hoping what I could give him would be enough.

Since then, we have had other adventures, and more importantly been able to share our secret. In the days since, we have experienced a freedom to share life, and a kitchen, bonding over good meals and board games. In the past few days, I have seen a lightness in him, a softening that was unimaginable a year ago and more than a smile, there is a laugh that is absolutely contagious. This is not the same kid from 5 months ago, never mind a year.  I am seeing him be a kid for the first time. His life is a gift to me that I continue to unwrap, layer by layer, to nurture and encourage and teach and learn from. That is part of the mystery that makes the not knowing so beautiful, this discovering of who he is and helping him see who he can become, and allowing him to grab hold of the hope of dreaming.

Beth Guckenberger summed up my relationship with hope in the previous months quite well. “A tremendous shift happens when a gnawing fear becomes confirmed: hope temporarily dies. Then hope is reborn in the form of faith, faith that God will take over, even if I can’t yet see how.” There have been times, many times, in this journey, when I have wondered how to even begin to pray, how God could go about redeeming the situation. The mountain was too big. I spent a season being angry at God for allowing me to fall in love with this child who could never be mine, not in the way that my heart longed. And today, with the answers we continue to receive, the question now seems to be not if, but when, we will bring him home. Praise God!

“There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child: and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own. ”  ~Robert Brault 

This past week, a milestone quietly passed. An 18th birthday for a son that I never got to know. The impact that his short life made on my life though is immense. He has shaped me, my heart, and my faith into a version of what it looks like today.  My deepened faith, my fierce love for my children, the protective nature that I bear, the compassion that fills my heart, these are all gifts that were refined in grieving him.   I spent that day with another son that God has given me and filled me with an immeasurable love for, marveling at the story God is writing. I think about the prayers that I prayed over both of these boys. One of the stories turned out nothing like I wanted, the other is turning out better than I ever imagined. Even when hope dies, God never leaves or abandons us. Even in our anger, God offers mercy and compassion. He is able to redeem any story.

And tonight, as the thunder rolls outside my window and the rain is pounding on the metal roof, my broken heart is beating in joy, in gratitude, that this child is becoming mine, that I have the honor and privilege of filling the role of mom. Tonight, we were talking about swimming, something we do a lot of in our family, and he shared that he was afraid of the water, even though I have seen him swim. We played and splashed in the waves together at the beach last March. We raced in the pool. But he said that the water scares him. Suddenly our silly conversation turned serious and I told him I would teach him to become a strong swimmer so that he wouldn’t have to be afraid anymore. He said ok but that I needed to “hold onto him.” All of a sudden, I wasn’t sure we were talking about swimming anymore as he stared a hole in the table top.  As I said his name, and he looked up at me, I promised him that I would never let go of him.

Before and after. Pain and joy. Hopelessness and healing. Redemption. God is in it all.

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CNA, Country Concerts, and Christmas

Seventy-two hours ago I was supposed to be landing in Guatemala. Instead my flight was delayed and I arrived almost 10 hours late. Not a great start to an already super short trip. Today, I am in the air again, racing back north in time for the final in a country concert series the kids and I have been singing our way through this summer.

A month ago, when the judge declared our court date the day before tonight’s concert I said Jesus was going to have to fix it. I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull this one off. Being that I will land in Cleveland in time to get to the concert, we have decided that Jesus is a country music fan, or values family time, or just loves to answers our prayers, no matter how ridiculous, because he loves us.

The last few hours have been short on sleep and long on answered prayers.

On the first leg of this flight, in my blurry eyed, not-enough-caffeine-yet brain, I was reflecting to the very first flight back from Guatemala. I had only just met this 13 year old kid, and yet I sat with uncontrollable tears leaking out of my eyes on the way home because of the way my heart hurt for him. I thought I was losing my mind. If you had told me then, 2.5 years ago, what today would look like, I would never have believed it. Now I know for sure, I absolutely did lose my mind. I still don’t know how God managed to absolutely wreck my heart, in the span of a breath, for this kid, but in that broken-hearted moment, God created a new family. I guess that was miracle number 1 in the line of them that pave this journey.

Last night, this now 16 year old kid and I made a celebratory dinner of spaghetti – he cooked, I helped. We laughed and played cards and talked about how we both get tired of the rain and school and how math might be the death of all of my kids and how he’s just ready to come home and how he sees himself as my son, and yes, it’s ok for other people, and us, to call him that. My heart, oh it’s never ever going to be the same.

On the very same day as our extra bedroom addition was finished, we went to court for the 3rd time. It’s a good thing that bedroom is finished…and if I didn’t believe God was so far ahead of us on this it would be one more in a long line of coincidences. But God. This story is laced with his grace and mercy and healing, and his sovereign, supernatural, miracle giving power and not one piece of this has been a coincidence. There is no separating this story from Him, it is His from the very beginning. We were a part of it before we ever even realized it was a story.

Yesterday, as I sat, alone, in the lobby of children’s court, fear was gripping my heart. Flanked by police officers, who just happened to pick the empty seats next to me, I wondered what in the heck I was doing. Seriously…what is the love of this child getting me in to? He is stretching me, and my faith, in ways I didn’t know were possible and driving me to embrace two things that God values, and I struggle mightily with, helplessness and vulnerability.

So, why the Italian-dinner-in-Guatemala celebration last night? We were thanking God for the ways in which He continues to answer our prayers. CNA showed up to court with the letter that they delivered to the Embassy last month. It was our first opportunity to see what they had written. As I understand it they expressed, very clearly, their willingness to proceed with the adoption. Secondly, they have fulfilled another of the judge’s earlier rulings and created a list of children, let me say that last part again, CHILDREN!, who are available for international adoption. And our son is on that list! I still haven’t fully processed all of this. This is going to happen. Our son is coming home. There are still lots of steps between where we are and my dinner table but God’s got this.

And, beyond our very personal prayers being answered, the door will be opened for more children to find family. Thank you Jesus!!

Finally, the judge has asked for documentation on both the international and domestic sides to ensure we are all proceeding in accordance with all of the Hague laws as this will be a ground-breaking, precedent setting case. We have 3 months to gather this but if everyone is ready before that he has agreed to move up the next hearing. It seems like the need to make this request is a real possibility.

So, my bold prayer, is that we are celebrating Christmas under one roof this year.

As I look at all of this laid out I can’t help but praise my God who is a good, good father. He has challenged me, and comforted me, and and shown up over and over and over through this entire process. He has answered prayers in ways big, most recently, our adoption application continuing to be moved forward when no one thought there was even a chance of that happening. (I didn’t even tell you about that whole part of this crazy journey or the fact that a new director of CNA was named last week and our team is hoping to meet with him next week!) And in little, not-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things-ways like my ability to end this day (that started at 3:30 am) at a concert with 4 kids that God has given me, my kids and their friends. Family, in the truest, least biological, sense of the word. And countless other big, small, and everywhere in between prayers that have been cried, whispered, and barely even recognized ways over the last months.

CNA, country concerts, and Christmas together as a family. He is writing this story and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I know that no matter what, even if all of this falls apart tomorrow, I will be ok. My family will be ok. I don’t know how we will be, but I know that we can trust in the plan that God has laid before us. Nothing is too big, or too small for God and that, more than anything today, is where I have to take a deep breath and just find rest.

Pharaoh Changed His Mind

Sixteen years ago, today, a woman gave birth to a baby boy in Guatemala. I don’t know anything about her other than her name. I don’t know what circumstances drove her to give up her child but, in her sacrifice, I have a son. A child that I could not love any more if I had given birth to him myself.

For this child we’ve prayed and the Lord has heard our prayers.

The rest of this story is small in comparison to that.

I want to frame this story with a lesson that God taught me early Tuesday morning as I was praying over a day that was to be a monumental. I was so angry about the events of the day before (see below) and I was feeling as helpless as I have in this entire process. God reminded me that this is his battle, not mine. This is not my fight. “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13-14 With this reminder, my foot, that had been incessantly tapping, stopped. The vibrating tension in my body drained. God’s got this. But that didn’t mean that the day was easy.

One month ago, a judge ordered the beginnings of a change in Guatemala, he pushed a door open, cracked it for the possibility of a new chapter in international adoption between the United States and Guatemala. Seventeen days ago, an adoption agency agreed to put aside everything they knew to be true in order to help us. Seventeen days ago, a home study agency agreed to do the impossible in pulling together our entire report in a short two weeks.  We have filled out 150+ pages of applications, had fire inspections, the dog to the vet, obtained doctors reports, completed educational courses, and burned the candle at both ends to prepare for today. A 16th birthday is a milestone marker birthday in the world of international adoption. Adoption visas are only granted to children whose paperwork has been filed prior to this monumental day.  Today we have reached that day.

Last Friday, the day I boarded a plane to Guatemala, every last paper was in order to file our adoption application with the exception of a letter from Guatemala’s central adoption authority, CNA, to the United States central adoption authority, the Department of State. As the hours ticked by and the letter didn’t arrive, we needed to start making a plan B. Monday morning, Phil and I, and our attorney, showed up at CNA with paperwork in hand and a request for our “letter.” Even without an appointment we were granted an audience with the sub-director, the highest power in CNA at the moment. His immediate answer was no. This is something I have become accustomed to and our lawyer wasn’t going to stand for it. Each of the three of us had an opportunity to have our voices heard, and I had the chance to pour out my heart to the two highest powers overseeing adoption in Guatemala. When we finally left it was with the commitment to send a letter to both our adoption agency and the Department of State. As the hours again slipped by the letter never came. A phone call to CNA revealed that they had lied to us.  They had no intention of sending the letter and didn’t even as they ushered us out of their office. I have never experienced deception on this level before. I didn’t even know what to do with it…How do you hold the highest power accountable? Especially when time was our biggest enemy.

This is a man who has the power to help these children, to clear the path for their best interests, and he remains defiant.  All the passion and anger that rose up within me. I was seething.

A phone call to the judge unearthed his anger and he assured us that he would remedy the situation during our court hearing on the following day. We had 24 hours to have a letter delivered and our application overnighted. This was becoming a process of counting minutes.

Phil left for the airport in his rental car at the same time that we left for our court hearing on Tuesday. As we were nearing the court, I got a phone call from him. He had been pulled over in a random checkpoint and informed that Avis had not paid a fine on his car. He was being detained until someone from Avis could come and take care of the situation. As he called me, he said, I am sitting on the side of the road surrounded by Guatemalan police. I am not sure what to do. As time was running out to make his flight the officers informed him that if he wanted to pay the fine they would release him. I can only assume that the $40 that it cost him to secure his freedom will never make it to any official beyond those who were surrounding his car.

As I was sitting in the lobby of Children’s Court, I realized how in over our heads we are in this. We are doing this whole other thing down here that is beyond anything I would have ever even realized as a possibility. I was sitting in children’s court in Guatemala City, watching a parade of broken and hurting children, hot, loud, the tension palpable. I was feeling in way too deep, alone, while I waited on so many things, Phil to be released, a judge to speak justice into our situation, with zero language skills, the basis of my functionality. All I could do was pray, and even that was failing me, all I could come up with in the moment was a mantra of “Please, God. Please, God.” The last two days have been an extreme in living outside the realm of my reality.

An hour and a half after our little band of warriors walked into court, they walked out with a judge’s order in hand that CNA produce a letter. We were now down to 4.5 hours before our paperwork had to be put in an overnight package to be delivered to a lockbox for USCIS. CNA had sent a rookie lawyer who was completely out of step with the judge’s previous orders from a month ago. In addition, CNA had failed to do any of the things that the judge had ordered them to. As of the writing of this, CNA has 48 hours to produce a list of children that would be available for international adoptions and to make that available to the Department of State. If they fail to do this, they will be breaking the law and the judge will hold them in contempt of court. For more than just us, this is so, so, so big.

As we arrived at CNA, both of the men that Phil and I had met with the day before passed through the area we were waiting and did double takes as they saw me. I wanted to tell them, you see? My God is bigger!

As the hours passed, we waited, and waited some more.  I introduced JC to the dot game and we passed the time connecting dots. CNA kept inviting us to leave and we kept declining their offer. Intent instead, to stage our peaceful sit-in, 4 of us, until we had in our hand the letter that was promised to us the day before. (We even ordered McDonalds to be delivered to us while we waited.) After 3 hours, as CNA employees were leaving for the day, a letter was finally prepared, and it was hand delivered to the US Embassy. We didn’t get to see it; we couldn’t have a copy of it. But we did receive a call from the office of the First Lady of Guatemala and were informed that CNA followed every detail of the judge’s order and assured us of their continued assistance in the process.

This morning we have received word that our application was received by USCIS and our adoption agency has requested a phone call with a supervisor of USCIS to try and talk though all of the minutia of this mess of a process.

Yesterday morning, I dug into Exodus 14. The chapter begins with Pharaoh changing his mind about letting the Israelites go. This felt so familiar. The edge of the Red Sea, no place to turn, nothing more that could be done except just sitting in faith and waiting on God to redeem the situation. The Red Sea parted, the Israelites were saved, and Pharaoh drowned. The victory belongs to God! But I really want to know, was Moses sad when Pharaoh drowned? I honestly want to see the Red Sea crash.

We weren’t looking for a fight, but we are on the front lines. The scariest thing, is to be standing there, bombs falling, and not be able to do a thing. God has made it clear though that this battle for me is though prayer, not in anything that I might be able to “do.” And in this His power and glory will be on display for all to see. I am longing to see the God of the Old Testament bring justice.

Beth Guckenberger wrote, “Noah’s story teaches us to listen even when what we hear doesn’t make sense. Abraham’s story says God is always ‘on time.’ “ JC’s story tells us that nothing is beyond redemption, and our God is still a God of miracles.

My mind, my body, and my heart are tired but I am rejoicing in all of the ways God is redeeming this child’s story and restoring justice. Tonight I get to light the candles on his cake and celebrate his birthday with him and no matter what else happens, we are already a family.

 

 

The wind and the waves…

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So here’s the thing…we received amazing, God-praising news two days ago and almost immediately my excitement was eaten up by anxiety. I feel like I am living breaths away from a panic attack. I always tell my kids, it’s ok not to be ok. It’s just that I don’t feel like I think I should feel. This isn’t how I thought I would feel after receiving news of the impossible. I am terrified. 

I am finding that hope is a lot easier for me to swallow when whatever you are hoping for still seems impossible. It doesn’t hurt…it isn’t scary. It’s like making a wish.

Yesterday I couldn’t tear my eyes and then thoughts away from some of the comments on my last post (Let’s talk about the elephant in the room) as it was shared within another group. They reminded me of every single reason this hasn’t worked in the past, every reason it won’t work now, every reason not to believe in it, every single thing that needs to be done before it becomes even remotely possible. Last night I removed myself from the thread and un-followed some people for my own sanity. But this morning the effects still linger. My need to pick this up is like an itch I can’t scratch.

I got a little bit of tough love from my husband last night as I was bemoaning all of the things I had learned yesterday (I spent the day calling adoption agencies and trolling the internet – BAD IDEA)

He was like, “Wait. Remind me again what you have done to get us to this place.”

“ummm, nothing. I know but…”

“No. You just wrote a blog about how this is God’s work. That nothing you have done up to this point has made any difference. Did you really think that all of a sudden this was up to you?”

“Well, no but I didn’t know if this was like a tag your it kind of thing.” (I was going for some levity because he had totally nailed me.)

“There is going to be no mistake about who makes this happen. It’s not going to be you.”

UGH! I know he is right but that doesn’t make the panic go away right now.  As I was trying to get my head cleared this morning I realized this is what Peter must have felt like when he saw the wind and the waves. To go from walking on the water to drowning in it. It’s just that the waves and the wind are so big right now and this is where I am at. I wish that I weren’t. Faith in things unseen is so hard when your heart is on the line. When you have laid the life of your child before God and then have to take a step back, pull your hands away, and recognize there is not a thing you can do in your power to save them from an uncertain future. I keep trying to swallow the anxiety, push it back down, stay one step head to keep the tears at bay.  And in all honesty, as I sit in this, and peel away the layers to the root of my anxiety, my prayers for my children haven’t always been answered, at least not the God-save-them-God-bring-them-home kind. One of them sits with Him today. Old wounds still sting.

But as I went to the foot of the cross and opened my Bible to commiserate with Peter, it was Jesus’ words that stung the most.

But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord” Peter shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  Matthew 14:30-31

So here is what this journey really looks like. Here is my heart laid open for all to see. Could you just pray for me today? I could use it.

 

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room

6:50 pm   Me: Is it ok to share this news publicly?

                  D: Yes – do it!

                  So here goes nothing…

10:30 am  Words are falling short…maybe it’s more like the inability to form a cohesive sentence. My thoughts and entire inner being feel like they are running on high speed. There may come a day when I can better give voice to all that has happened…is happening. But today marks another in a series of “before and after days.” In a few short hours, a young boy is going to stand before a judge and tell the judge that he wants to come home with us. That he wants to be part of our family.  He is going to tell that judge something I have been telling him for so long…he has a family. We are that family.

Just the facts ma’am…that all I feel like I can do right now. Copy and paste updates via text to everyone who is holding this up, and holding us together, through prayer. Right now, the emotion is being held at bay while I feel like I am holding my breath.

Just over 2 weeks ago everything changed. While my feet were on Guatemalan soil, we got some news that we have been praying about for months and months. It didn’t look like we thought it would, but a court date had been set for our sweet boy. We didn’t know why, it wasn’t expected and hadn’t happened for years. And the judge was someone who would be sympathetic to a request laid before him. An international adoption, a last ditch effort and an only option. A family – forever. This was our chance. Impossible isn’t for our God and this wasn’t a surprise for Him although it certainly came as one for us.

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Cheering on our defender during a pick-up soccer game during this impromptu trip to Guatemala .

With this news, my husband, a man who loves his family and God so well, put everything else aside and within hours got on a plane, so that together, side by side, we could look into the eyes of our child and finally share our secret with him, the one whom it affected the most.  This child’s sweet, honest words will forever be imprinted on my heart. When we had the privilege of inviting him to be part of our family, when we finally could give voice to the battle we have been waging for him for over a year and a half, when we could assure him that no matter what any judge, court, or government says, we are family, that it doesn’t matter how many “nos” we get, we are never going to give up the fight, when we completely blind-sided him and overwhelmed him with news that I am sure he was too terrified to ever hope for, when we finally gave breath to the conversation that has lived in my head over and over, his words were quiet, simple, as he processed all that we threw at him.  And my heart melted. So many prayers, so much hurtful hope, so many tears. You are so loved sweet boy.

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Celebrating the day after the secret was out!
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Oh my heart…

If this day never came, I didn’t want to be able to look back and know that I didn’t do everything in my power to bring him home.  I didn’t want to wonder if I could have done more to make it happen. But you know what? There is not a thing that I have done that has made any bit of this happen. Every. Single. Piece. Has been directly from the hand of God. There is absolutely no doubt of His plan, of His love for this child, of His greatness, of His movement. He is doing things in a way that can leave no doubt as to who is responsible for this. The credit, the glory, the praise belongs to Him and Him alone. Many days in this process I have cried out to him in frustration, in anger, in fear, on days when I felt that I was banging my head against a wall, begging him to move, begging him to speak, to act.  “It is well” had come with a stripping away of so many layers of self, a painful scraping away but before this news I had gotten there. We had reached a place of acceptance of “maybe never.” But God is so good…He didn’t leave us there.

As the minutes drag forward today, construction hammers on in the background, a bedroom addition, our own ark of sorts, started in faith, now, God willing on a crash course of frenzied activity to hopefully be completed in time to accommodate our growing family.

The calendar stares at us unblinking with a circled milestone birthday only 35 days away and there is so much to do, so much to be accomplished between now and then, so many “yeses” that must replace “nos” and my heart rate speeds up and my chest tightens as the mountain looms impossibly large. To be so close and yet so far, and to be reminded that God specializes in one minute to midnight.

And the clock hands move, and I know he must be on his way by now, his nerves and my nerves are thrumming together, thousands of miles apart. I cling to the promise that God will finish what he has begun, that as much as I love this child, God loves him infinitely more. And I have to trust what is out of my control, I have to be content to sit, and wait, and breathe, and do nothing when everything inside of me screams at me to do otherwise. And a war wages on internally and my foot taps incessantly.

 


 

9:23 pm Because, as readers, you live outside of my space time continuum, you missed me pacing the floor this afternoon, missed the dear friend that came to sit with me (made me sit) until we heard some news. (And documented me answering my phone when the call finally came.)

the call

And now, without the agonizing suspense that I endured today I can tell you, aloud, publicly, for the first time, without the veiled conversation and innuendo, just as we were finally able to to share it with our sweet boy. We are currently working to adopt a child from Guatemala. Yes, I know adoption is closed. Yes, I know that this is “impossible.” But I also know that “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” He has already proven that over and over to us though this process.

Today, a Guatemalan judge ordered that steps be taken to explore the adoption process between Guatemala and the United States. People, this is God stuff!!  Please join us in celebrating and praising God for all that he has done to get us to this place in time. And then, continue to pray because it’s not done yet and as soon as the judge ordered it the representatives from the Consejo Nacional De Adopcionescna (CNA) said they couldn’t do it. The judge replied that there is no legal reason for them not to proceed with this, he gave them a list of things that they must do and set our next court date for one month from now. You best believe that this mama will be down there next time. (Actually, as only God can do, I already had planned to be there!)

We need people talking about this, we need the government pushing for this, we need political and judicial connections locally. We need to be able to bring our son home!

The plan is to spend the next month generating publicity around this in Guatemala , bringing the decision to light, and the question posed to me was, “How big can you go?!” Can you help us go big?  Please share this, spread the word, help bring pressure to bear on CNA as they try to stall this adoption process. A process they are now legally bound to comply with.

Here is a look back at where we have been on this journey.

This was not my plan

This was not my plan – Part 2

Please don’t stop praying

Down but not out

In Between

When Hope Wears Thin

Tonight we celebrate!

 

For Esperanza. Because of Love.

One year ago I started a new job…but it isn’t work. In the last year I have been to Guatemala, to what has become my second home at Casa Bernabe, 9 times. Over the course of the last 12 months I have become a collector, a collector of stories, of memories, of photos, a collector of tears and heartache, of side-splitting laughter and giggles. And I needed a place for all of it. A place to process it, a place to give voice to the good, the bad, and the ugly. A place to foster hope and grow justice, even within my own heart.

Let me introduce, For Esperanza. Because of love.

for esperanza

Part travel journal, part love story, where we look at the work that’s being done when we roll up our sleeves and push for justice on behalf of the most vulnerable.

For me this has never been about politics. It’s about doing what is good, and just, and right. Yet, I find myself being forced into a divided arena, driven towards the political and polarizing in this quest and we’ll tip-toe into that a bit as well.

I can assure you that when I first stepped foot on Guatemalan soil back in 2017, I had no idea where this train was headed! As a Run and Be Still follower, you know this! And yet, this is where I find myself today and it feels like it’s time for the next chapter. I am not abandoning my home here, however, these days you will find me much more frequently at our new online home.

Please join us as we transition. You can follow along on all of our adventures (like the time Mae and I were on a medical emergency flight back from Guatemala last March.)

To stay in the know, like us on Facebook at For Esperanza or follow us on Instagram @ crazy_gringas (Find out what that’s all about here.)

For all of the stories and photos, take a look at the new website For Esperanza and if you subscribe, all of our adventures, shenanigans, and captivating stories will be delivered right to you inbox. You won’t miss a thing! We’d love to have you as part of our For Esperanza community as well.

In the meantime, here is the latest post, Heartbeat. (Just click to read it in it’s entirety.)

heartbeat

 

When the answers you have aren’t good enough…

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.

Some of the first faces to welcome us to CB during our first trip in 2017.
The littlest taking Phil to play cars last summer and showing me his new room earlier this month (below)

“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.

When Hope Wears Thin

The first Sunday of Advent and the lighting of the candle of Hope…but man, hope is currently a scary and dangerous thing. Hope has my heart on the line, risks having it broken in two, risks disappointment, and sometimes it’s just easier, safer certainly, to protect that hurting heart rather than let the candle of  Hope burn it to the ground. I am sharing this today because I am certain I am not the only one struggling with a hopeful heart this season.

Five weeks ago on Sunday morning, 5 days into my 2.5 week Guatemalan adventure, a weak warm breeze moved across my face as the ceiling fans twisted and turned, struggling to keep the stuffy, sun warmed air moving. Blanketed by a language I don’t speak, my mind continued to wander back to my very first experience in this place.  A phone call made from the bottom of a bunk bed, undecipherable words uttered though broken-hearted sobs. An internal promise made for forever without any idea what that was going to cost, emotionally and spiritually and even less of an idea of what that was going to look like. I am still learning the depths of my heart, the passions it can carry within it. The very essence of who I am continues to be written. I find myself mixed up in something I could have never imagined, and it would be untrue if I said I wasn’t afraid of where God is leading in these flashbacks and passions ignited.

Eighteen days. A long time to be gone but I was blessed with the opportunity to spend this time working and loving and building relationships in what has become my second home. We shared meals, celebrated birthdays, played countless games of UNO and soccer, fumbled through the language barrier, laughed, and cried. Eighteen days I was given the chance to show up at the door of a very special house on the hill, creating memories, giving life to the promises I have made. My momma heart just wants to wrap them all up and level their path, take away their uncertainty of the future.

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Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalms 37: 4. The verse of the day delivered to my phone bright and early on a Tuesday morning. I am trying so hard to delight in God. I am rolling up my sleeves and making this my job, delight, worship, praise. I know this is what you do in the in-between, in the waiting. As for the desires of my heart, I was again reminded on this morning that none of this was my idea in the first place but now it feels like it is literally breaking my heart. I am broken because of the desires that I fully believe God placed there.

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For the last month my right eye has had this fantastic little twitch and two weeks ago I found myself in a completely ridiculous argument that ended with a complete meltdown (think toddler tears and snotty nose) on my part, not at all comparable in magnitude or topic to the disagreement that brought it on. I just want to go back to feeling like me, except not really either because I LOVE THIS KID and I wouldn’t undo that for anything. But I can’t figure any of this out. How it works, when (IF?) he can come home. And anyone who could help, tells us the same thing, there are no adoptions happening between the US and Guatemala. EXCEPT I KNOW GOD IS MOVING AND THERE IS LIGHT IN THIS TUNNEL NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY!!! So this is where it gets messy.

Hope. This first Sunday of advent. I identify with the words of Ann VosKamp and Jason Hague,

How do you hope unlikely things because you love someone to death?  

We all need to believe that things can change.

Sometimes believing in a miracle feels like living in a mirage. You can feel like a fool, walking around with your pitcher. Really, God? Really?

YES! I have asked God that, a lot lately. REALLY?! And every letter I have sent out seeking answers has been like seeking water in a mirage.

It seemed to me I had two choices: I could either live in perpetual sadness, or I could lower my level of hope.

Living in this land of the unknown, the waiting, the land of unanswered prayer, your heart throbs, maybe with anger, maybe with hurt, but almost certainly with disappointment.  

Yes! Everyday, my heart carries with it the burden of helplessness. I feel crazy and that pendulum can swing from righteously crazy to flat out delusional. Crazy. My orderly, logical mind, struggles everyday with seeing the way, seeking an answer, continuously chasing it’s proverbial tail.

But, I know. Faith in things unseen. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

I know that when Noah built the ark he had never seen rain but he picked up his hammer in obedience.  Can these stories be true for me? Today? Am I grasping at Biblical straws?

We are building an ark, actually it’s a bedroom, but if we are going to have faith in things hoped for and live in what we believe to be obedience, then we need to be ready for another child. So, in what some days feels like insanity, hammers are being picked up.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

In the land of unanswered prayer, we follow His lead.

The Lord taught me how to sigh in pain, how to weep in gladness, and how to trust during days of hope deferred.

It was not an easy road to walk. It still isn’t easy, and it isn’t safe.

Rather, it is a confounding country full of myths and mirages. Here, faith resembles denial, settledness looks like surrender, and hope is the scariest creature of all.

We (Mae, J and I)  had the gift of sharing a “normal” day together during our last visit. An opportunity to spend the day together in Antigua (his first time,) breakfast at one of our favorite places and shopping in the marketplace. The opportunity (and struggle) for him to pick something out for himself. And lunch at his choice of places, McDonalds,  where we ate ice cream first. Life is short…eat dessert first! The gift that these few hours were, not just for him, but for me as well, to watch these two together, knowing what my heart longs for, having a peek into what life could look like, the day was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking. This is a day you relive over and over and over.

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In July I began a mantra.  Every letter, every visit, I make sure to remind him, as much as myself, what we know to be true. This has become the rudder of our relationship as the months have passed and I believe that he is maybe, hopefully,  finally trusting the truth in the words. How many promises has his heart held, only to be broken? These words, our promise to him, have to be lived out continuously though our actions because without that they are empty, they are worth nothing.

  1. We are a family. We don’t look like a normal family but God creates all sorts of families and we belong to each other, all five of us.
  2. I promise I will be back – forever and always. I will always come back.
  3. God has a plan and we can trust it. (This one I must remind myself of, as much as him. It is so hard to see the hurt and not be able to fix it in the way that my heart longs to.  As much as I love him, God loves him even more. I know that in my helplessness and disappointment over every passing day I need to lean into God as the sovereign one, trusting He knows best.  Comfort at the foot of our Savior. I know this, and it terrifies my heart, because what if…)

Everytime, in both English and Spanish…Somos una familia, volveré, lo prometo, y Dios tiene un plan y podemos confiar en él.

It’s the first Sunday of Advent. Hope candles are lit everywhere.

God is giving you Hope. 

Hope — for you. 

Christ who comes to give us the gift every one wants more than anything — a future and a hope.

And my prayer must be, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

Postscript- I stumbled across an old post, apparently I have been here before, just not with the same passionate desire. I could say that the life situation that birthed this post also birthed the one I find myself in today. Be encouraged by these words written in 2015 if you are struggling with hoping in the impossible today. Today, I feel an even closer connection to Sarah. I understand better what the longing and waiting for a child can do to a mother’s heart. Laughing along with Sarah…

Ever wondered what a trip to Casa Bernabè is like?

In less than a week I am headed back to Casa Bernabè in Guatemala. The following video is something my daughter put together from our family visit in July. The beauty of Antigua, the city of Guatemala, and of course the kiddos at Casa Bernabè…it may leave your head spinning a bit with its speed but she covered a lot of ground and our cumulative days.

(If the video doesn’t load for you it can be viewed here.)

As I prepare to head back we are looking at the projects we would like to accomplish while we are there. 

One of the things that was most amazing to me when we were there in January was the opportunity to bless the house parents and check some much needed items off of their wish list (you can read about it here.)

We would love to be able to do the same this time. As you can imagine living in a house with 10-15 children will cause things to wear out quickly. 

These house parents are all amazing individuals who are serving on the front lines everyday, standing in the gap for the children God has placed in their homes, praying for them, guiding them, loving them as their own. 

Would you consider partnering with us on our quest to bless those living at Casa Bernabè? Tax-deductible donations made before 10/24 will be doubled through Love Runners. Learn more or donate here.

Thank you for being part of the Run and Be Still community! Hope you enjoyed the “quick” look into our July trip!

In Between

Here I sit, again, suspended above the earth in this in between place. In between families. In between realities and cultures. This frozen place in time where I have to leave one to be with the other. This is an impossible place to live.

As I gaze out my window I realize the clouds look like my thoughts feel, some banks looming large and other, wispy, fly away pieces. If I try to grasp any one of them they simply slip right through my fingers. Disconnected…disjointed…I can’t quite put any of it together.

I heard the seven most beautiful words earlier this week. “Today was our last day of school.” This was the very first English sentence that He has ever spoken to me. (I am so proud of him. Learning English is so hard!) This began a quiet conversation that allowed me to ask him things – what he likes- what he wants – and he was able to answer me without the need for anyone translating. Together we planned an end of school ice cream party for his house. A celebration of a whole lot of things. Big picture…I cannot even begin to convey how precious these words were and the effect that they had on my heart.

But I am terrified that this is where I am going to be stuck, in between. Hope is getting thin as my heart fills fuller and fuller, with a love I didn’t even know was possible, until I feel like it will burst or break. I try to see beyond our circumstances, beyond the bureaucracy, but the reality is hard. The reality terrifies me and so faith and fear do battle within me.

I don’t want to have to choose any more. I don’t. I want my entire family around my breakfast table on Saturday mornings. I want us all tucked in under one roof. I want Christmases, and birthdays, and boring old Tuesday afternoons. I want to share the life experience of every picture we went through on my phone after our ice cream party.

I don’t want to have to look into a set of eyes and say I love you and I will be back soon. I don’t want any more goodbyes on either end of the flight.

This is what life looks like right now and it’s taking its toll. I don’t know how long I can keep doing this and yet I don’t see any other way and I need to be both places.

Please continue to pray for God to move quickly. Your prayers are carrying us through. The tiniest spark of activity continues while the clock is ticking ever more loudly. I dream of the day that he is sitting next to me watching the landscape pass by below us, heading home.

For God’s glory…

Get caught up on our story…

This was not my plan

This was not my plan – Part 2

Please don’t stop praying

Down but not out