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.
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 andthis wasn’t a surprise for Him although it certainly came as one for us.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I promise I will be back – forever and always. I will always come back.
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…
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 parentsand 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!
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.
Cease Striving…Be still…Know God (Ps 46:10) Sounds peaceful, right? Peace-filled is more accurate. "Still" has little to do with activity and everything to do with state of mind. Welcome to my crazy life!