Category Archives: Guatemala or Bust

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.

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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.)

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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

Down But Not Out

defeatedYesterday, for the first time in recent memory, I didn’t have words. I always have words, and zipping thoughts, on most days too many probably. But yesterday they failed me. We received word from our adoption attorney that the government said No. Hard stop. Just. No. We can’t do anything more. They hold the power, maybe when he’s 18 we can do something, but that is a long way off and presents a whole other set of hurdles.  The attorney that I had prayed would be the answer bowed out. And I was left holding this hurt with no plan, no idea what to do next, nothing. My brain shut down. And as the questions came in over the afternoon of “Any news?” I didn’t know what to say and I knew even less how to respond to your kind words of encouragement. I sat and stared for long periods of time at my blinking cursor, not wanting to appear short or unappreciative but just without the words to respond.

On the same day that we received our bank approval to add an addition with another bedroom and bathroom for our growing family, on the same day that a box of adoption books and materials arrived in the mail we were told “No.” Stop. Give up and leave us alone.  We are not doing this. We will not even look at this or consider approving this. And so a kid sits, alone, waiting and praying for a family who are waiting and praying for him. What is wrong with this system…

And my heart right now feels perilously close to the same way it did 17 years ago when my prayers for my son weren’t answered and the only thing we have of him are our dreams for what would have been, and a baby laid to rest next to his great-grandfather.

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.


Before I could even get this posted a shift began to happen. An “accidental” phone call from my sister early this morning that turned into words that I needed to hear. A reminder that my heart began to embrace. This is how God works and these are your prayers in real time .

Be Still. It’s something I should be intimately familiar with by now (Run and Be Still.) Dear wrestling and wiggling and fidgeting child, be still. Get out of the way, rest, and watch God work.  And I look to my past experiences as a reminder of what I know to be true of God today. And I throw myself at His feet, shedding my pity party.

So it is with every attempt to do something significant for God. It is never simple. Whenever God stirs us to establish His Kingdom in a new place, the enemy is sure to taunt us. The devil always tries to convince us that we’ve tackled too much this time and we’ll soon be humiliated. 

“The longer the blessing is in coming the richer it will be when it arrives. That which is gained speedily by a single prayer is sometimes only a second-rate blessing; but that which is gained after many a desperate tug and many an awful struggle, is a full-weighted and precious blessing. That which costs us the most prayer will be worth the most.” Charles Spurgeon

My eyes began to be opened to something that is so much bigger than one child.  What if the very words that have failed me are meant for bigger things? What if they are meant to advocate for an entire group of children waiting and praying? What if they are meant to bring God’s voice to a group of people frozen by 10 years of corruption and inaction?

What if this really isn’t about me (duh!) and instead about using my heartache, my passion for the kids sitting and waiting to age out of homes,  to bring about change. What if I refuse to sit down and be quiet, refuse their no for my child or any of the rest of them? What if…

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

And so it goes, as it always has, that an old song comes to mind, my prayer…

Please don’t stop praying…

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Just a quick note to say please keep praying. We are still fighting for this young boy. I never, ever, ever want to look back on any of this and wonder could I have done more. Here is the latest…

You have to love a question that begins with “I don’t want to offend you but…” One of my very dearest and bestest friends in the world and I were having a conversation and I had just shared with her our newest-big-news which is – We officially have a Guatemalan attorney who is going to petition the court and make this whole process official.  No more dancing around it, we are just going for, it in the biggest way possible.  The attorney was described to me as a “big gun who can get things done” and she was more than happy to help us. I was literally a puddle on the floor after my conversation with her. There is so much more to the story, but it’s long, so just know this, God continues to weave this story together in ways that humble and amaze me. He is doing things that only He can do.

Anyway, back to the offending question. It was finished with this “Do you ever wonder what you’re doing?” Ummmm, yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. We have looked at each other and asked that very question many times but we continually come back to what God is doing. None of this makes sense yet it is 100% right. We are trusting Him to direct our steps even when we have no idea where it is leading. Any doubt that I have is negated by what God has already done in putting all of these moving parts together and what He has done, not just my heart, but all of ours.

I want to share two more things with you tonight. First this video, I can’t tell you how many times I have watched this. (He was thanking us for a surprise that we had sent down to him.) You have seen pictures, but this is the smile, this voice, this kid, oh my…As you pray for him, I want you to know him too.

Second, this song. I recently heard it, not for the first time, but with new ears, it stopped me in my tracks. So many layers, my prayer, my wish for my boy who has given up hope for a family. Tell your heart to beat again…

 

This boy knows I love him. I have told him so many times, but he has no idea how fierce, and protective, and strong that love really is.  He doesn’t know what it is to be loved by this mom. One day, hopefully very soon, he will begin to see…Please, please, please don’t stop praying for us. God is on the move.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, you can get the scoop here and here.

This was not my plan

Nineteen months ago, I got on a plane with my 14 year old and we headed south to Guatemala…the great unknown, an adventure, following a dream and a calling.

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By Wednesday, day 5 of our trip, I was pretty sure we would write this off as a “learning experience.” An amazing time but I was ready to be back home, back to my comfort zone, back to my own language. I wasn’t sure we would be back. And then this happened…

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Sponsorship…and this…something so much bigger…

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I can only tell you that in the moment that he hugged me something happened. A hole that I didn’t even know was empty was filled. My heart was wrecked and overflowing at the same time by this young man who has never known a family outside of the orphanage. His, a heart-wrenching story that we didn’t know until after the fact. At a point when I was wondering what I was doing there, feeling like I was floundering, to get an answer to prayer, and be an answer to prayer…God is so good! I didn’t go to Guatemala thinking this would happen. I would have not believed that a 13 year old boy would so capture my heart in the span of seconds. I would not have thought that now I would worry for him, worry for his future in a country that is so poverty stricken. (excerpt from An aching heart)

And then we were home and time passed, and normal-ish resumed it’s dominion. We wrote letters, mailed gifts, and sent prayers heavenward. We nurtured and fostered a relationship despite the miles and language barriers. We were also smack in the middle of navigating having a senior and a freshman, our lives full of wonderful teenage fueled chaos. And then, because God has a sense of humor we moved for the 2nd time in 3 years. (The sight of moving boxes now causes PTSD and I am pretending our storage unit full of I don’t even know what doesn’t exist.)  Smack in the middle of state playoff football, and just weeks before Christmas I was offered an empty spot to go back…

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“I’ll go.” “No, I can’t go.” “Ok, I will go.” “No, it’s just not going to work.” This was the back and forth of my recent decision to go back to Guatemala. I had said no to this trip at least 5 times for very valid reasons and yet the opportunity and question “Will you go?” continued to come back around. And then I got an early Christmas gift from Guatemala with a note that read in part “May God bless you for all you have done in my life. I love you very much.” And suddenly none of those reasons mattered anymore. The only thing that mattered was this boy. (excerpt from On Again, Off Again, On Again)

Wheels downs in Guatemala just one year after my first visit…and my number one priority was sitting at the top of the hill. My reason for returning.  I couldn’t wait to see him.  When he came to the door, here was this grown boy, looking eye to eye with me. Still shy, but with a smile for me that made his eyes shine and my mama-heart melt. As the week went on, from across the church or the campus, his eyes would seek mine out and a smile and wave were quick to follow.

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What can I tell about this place except that it will break you. This sickening feeling of broken-hearted-joyfulness is one that I just want to hold on to, to not forget, to not let fade, even as the cover lays closed on the photo album and days turn to weeks. God is doing a mighty work within the walls of The orphanage and the walls of my heart. I cannot escape being overwhelmed by that. This is the collective experience of two trips and many a servants’ heart, not only mine. Tears. Lots and lots of tears. Not sweet, leaking eye tears but ugly, crying sobs. Broken hurts but broken heals. My heart has been mended back together, stronger and patched with the tapestry of this beautiful country, the smiles of a group of boys and love from this woven together family. It changes you, being broken, and not everyone will understand it. This shy boy, who’s simple words have shattered me has also shown me a love within myself that I don’t understand. A love I didn’t know I was capable of, a love that is bigger than me and hopes in the impossible. A love that I wasn’t looking for but now can’t imagine living without, whatever that ends up looking like. (excerpt from How Was It?)

And then a door opened, an opportunity to do what I love, a chance to advocate for all of the children living within the walls of the orphanage, a new job, a new adventure, and another trip south only 3 mo after my last visit. God had been busy in that short span of time. Working overtime on the hearts in our household, moving mountains, opening doors before we even had a chance to knock, doing the things that He does best, and the things that only He can do. And of course, my heart almost bust, when once again I laid eyes on this smile.

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Nineteen months ago adoption could not have been further from our radar. Today, it is a constant request laid before the Lord. We would love nothing more than to make this “official,” to bring this sweet boy home, to be a forever family in one place, to share his dreams, his fears, to struggle together, share the monotony, the hard days, and celebrate on the good ones. Right now this is still an impossibility as adoption remains closed and my heart is grieved beyond measure.

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I see this sweet little face, just after he arrived at the orphanage, and wonder why he has had to wait all these years only to face red-tape and the declaration of “impossible”and I am frustrated and at the same time amazed at what God has been weaving together for the past 15 years, all that He has done to get us to this point in time, standing at the threshold of the unknown, unimagined, unplanned,  that we might play a small part in this God-sized story.

We stand confident that we don’t live under the banner of impossible with God, and that is where we are placing our hope, our faith, and we know that this is not impossible but the clock is ticking ever more loudly these days. I am sharing this today because we need prayer. The only way this will happen is through God’s hand and in His timing and we seem to have hit the wall.  Would you join us in prayer?

Orphan care is just as much about pulling a child out of a broken story as it is about you being pulled into one. You will love more passionately, hurt more deeply, grieve more bitterly and celebrate more joyously throughout the process of caring for vulnerable children than you ever thought imaginable. This is the hard reality of where orphan care begins, where it takes you, what it requires of you and how it will break you. We must be willing to walk down this path, for their sake. As we do, our embracing of their brokenness paints a vivid picture of how Jesus embraced ours. ~ Jason Johnson

No matter what, we are family and in two short days, for the first time we will all be together in one place. I am not sure my heart will survive.

To be continued…

Living in Spanglish with my heart lost someplace in between

Last Thursday evening I found myself doing a form of the chicken dance, with a four year old I had just met, on the jet bridge of of my ATL to CLE flight.  I think I am losing my mind although she looked at me and said “I like you.” So hey, at least I am making new friends and keeping stranger’s kids entertained. To this point in the day, it had been 10 hours of extreme closeness with strangers and long lines and hurry and heartache as I replayed the previous 3 days in my mind and the miles slipped away.

I was returning from a short trip to Guatemala and Casa Bernabe as I have accepted a new job.  I am the new Development Director for Friends of Children Everywhere, the stateside non-profit that provides approximately 80% of the funding for Casa Bernabe.  And while I am so, so excited about this, the weight of what this actually means is settling like a mantle on my shoulders.

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The amazing combined boards of FOCE and Funproni.  A group of individuals dedicated to caring for the needs of the children at Casa Bernabe. We were celebrating being together at an Italian restaurant owned by a German family in Guatemala City. Hmmmm….

During my first visit to Casa Bernabe, about a year and a half ago,  I was struck by the image of this place of care and respite literally being like a city on a hill.  Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. “ This place is a beacon of hope in a city that is filled with so much hopelessness.  A place for these traumatized children to feel safe and loved.

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According to a recent article  in Christianity Today, in 2015, Guatemala had the second-highest rate of child murders in the world. Of the crimes against children that get reported—including murder, rape, kidnapping—most go unpunished (88%). An estimated 2 in 5 children are malnourished. Among indigenous children, that rises to 4 in 5. This is the load that these children at Casa Bernabe are carrying with them.

My heart nearly broke during a visit earlier this year when I watched four young brothers being received into Casa Bernabe.  The care with which not only the staff, but the other children, showered them with, to immediately being healing the broken places that they came from touched the deepest part of my soul.

My heart is so raw and to be quite honest it is exhausting.  It hurts to feel so much…

I came face to face with this ache again this trip and my heart has continued to be heavy with the hurt since I have been home. These boys are the same age and one has a hope and a future and the other…well…I will not stop until he does as well.

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This is why I am doing what I am doing.  These are the faces of my passion, of my heart and there is much work to be done.

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I would welcome the opportunity for opening the door to conversations so that I can share more of this passion with you. You may find that it captivates your heart in the same way it has captured mine.  If you would like to get on my calendar for the coming year to have me come and share, with your church or organization, all of the exciting things that we have accomplished thus far at Casa Bernabe and the needs that we have going forward I would be excited to do that as well! God is writing quite a story.

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