Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Bad Mood

I have been in a bad for mood for...well...the last year. If you think that is an exaggeration, just ask my husband. Joyce Meyer often mentions how much she appreciates the early years of her marriage when her husband kept them together through his patience and faithfulness. I know how she feels.

In April of 2009, Jerry and I made the decision to adopt three precious kids from Uganda.  In July of 2009, I went to Uganda to meet them, and to finalize the paperwork for their adoption. My lawyer told me to plan to return in September for a court date to bring them home. And so, I told my precious, awesome kids, that their Mom and Dad would be coming back in September for them. That was September of 2009.

Then, the world showed up.

The Fall disappeared somehow due to administrative problems. Next thing I knew, it was November and the Ugandan courts ground to a halt for the holidays.

January 1st, 2010, I jumped from the bed knowing I would soon be going to Uganda to get my children.

January 16th, an earthquake rocked Haiti and something told me that I was meant to go there to organize an orphan rescue effort. I cried and bargained with God. I did not want to go. I made a deal with Him..."If I go do this for the children of Haiti, will you bring my kids home?".

When I returned from Haiti in mid-February, the process for Ugandan adoptions had essentially been shut down.  Once again, God had a project for me. Could I help fix this situation? I could and did...with the help of some very influential friends. I spent the next six months getting 18 families home from Uganda. God said: "You can go when all these are home."

One mother still remains, stuck over there with her two Ugandan daughters. She has been there since April. That is when my first court date was supposed to be...April 16, 2010. But it never happened and here we are: STILL WAITING.

Waiting puts me in a bad mood. I hate to wait. I am impatient. I want everything NOW. I am busy and important and I don't have time to WAIT.

I think about all the people who wait. People in prison. Children in orphanages. People with cancer. All the people who wait with GRACE and DIGNITY and PURPOSE. I am ashamed to say I have not been one of those people. Waiting for my children has made me nothing but CRANKY. After a while, the crankiness turned to ANGER. Why God must I wait? Why must my children wait?

This year has been hard on my children.  Their circumstances have deteriorated.  Their grandmother, once their support and caretaker, is approaching death and has been unable to help them.  She also waits.  For the Lord to take her home.

And they wait.  For her to die.  For me to come.  For the orphanage where they live to get more water, or more pencils or some toys.

And the 600 kids with whom they live at this orphanage...they wait too.  For someone to come for them.  For parents.  For hope.

Dear Jesus.  My prayer today is for all of those who wait.  Forgive me for my selfishness.  Comfort and encourage those who wait...those for whom victory will not come in this lifetime.  For all the children everywhere who WAIT.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Broken Heart

Most of us get our heart broken at one time or another by love or sin or some combination of both.  And, with God's grace, most of us get over those seasons and God heals our heart.

My broken heart is a little different.  Some of you know what I am talking about.  I have the kind of broken heart meant to never get healed.

In 2008, my husband and I took my precious sister on a trip to Uganda.  She was turning 40 and this was her big adventure and ours.  We went to visit many friends we had made the year before through our work with the African Children's Choir and their U.S. home, Mirembe House (more about that later).

And, of course, while on this trip we went on the obligatory safari.  Just Uganda itself is a safari of the most amazing kind, but we took in the usual tourist package to a game park and saw many of God's awesome creatures. 

The last day of this trek, we were stopped by the side of the road to view some wild chimps living in the trees.  Anywhere one stops in Uganda in a motor vehicle, children will surely find you.  Remember, this is a country where 50% of the residents are children.  A country the size of Oregon that has 10% of all the orphans IN THE WORLD.

So, naturally, when we returned to our parked car from the forest trail, a small group of children were waiting to see us.

By this point in the trip, I had learned a few things about the children in this place.  Children who are in school, which means they have food and care, look like this.

Even though their uniforms might be tattered, someone is caring for those children.  Even if it is an orphanage.  They are enrolled in school.  They are getting at least one meal per day.

But children by the side of the road, without shoes, with dirty ill-fitting clothes, most likely are totally on their own.  These type of children may not have eaten in days.  They sleep in makeshift shelters and try to survive.

I think the expression on the boys' faces tells the story.  So here we were, rich Americans in our safari car with our expensive cameras, paying hundreds of dollars to spot a wild chimp.  And here they were.

It was too hard to just drive away, so we tried to entertain them for even a moment.  These kids didn't speak English, but if you've never seen a photo of yourself, it's pretty amazing the first time.

I was desperate to give them something, but it was the end of the day and we had no food left in our truck.  We were heading back into town to have a nice, big post-safari dinner at our fine hotel.  So I dug around in my legendarily enormous travel sachel hoping to find something, anything.  All I had was one sorry mint.  You know this mint...it's the one at the bottom of your purse, with some foil on it, that has been down there for ages gathering lint.

With one mint and four children, I did all I knew to do.  I gave it to the smallest one, the little girl.  AND THAT IS WHEN IT HAPPENED.  The moment that changed my life forever.  She bowed.

In the Ugandan culture, children are taught to show adults the utmost respect.  One of the ways they show that honor and respect is to kneel, with the head bowed, when receiving a gift -- as a gesture of appreciation.  This tiny girl, not more than four of five, had the manners of a royal princess.  She was dirty, hungry and tattered, and her parents were likely gone.  There had been little in life that they could give her, but they had given her the gift of manners.  And so, when presented with a piece of candy from a stranger, she bowed.

I felt my heart shatter.  All the iniquities, all the unfairness, all the disparity of her life and mine were crystalized in that moment.  She got on her knees in the dusty road in exchange for a stale mint, as if I had given her a great prize. 

We got in the car and drove away.  We went to our hotel and had that feast.  But my heart, my whole being, was changed forever by that moment. 

Kay Warren, wife of Pastor Rick Warren, is often quoted as saying her experiences in Rwanda left her "seriously disturbed" for the orphan.  So, although I have not yet met Kay, I know she and I are in a unique club of people.  Those that God has given broken hearts for the orphan.  I know many of you reading this have your own moment, the one you can't take back, the one that permanently broke your heart.  I pray God's peace and conviction over you.  He broke our hearts for His purposes, just as Christ was broken for us.  Let us walk together with our permanently broken hearts and receive His plans. 

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Greatest Gift

Olivia is sick today.  It's been a long time since she has been sick, and it reminds me of all we have been through together.  In the middle of last night, when I was hooking her up to her breathing apparatus ("nebulizer"), I said "Olivia, do you realize how long it's been since we've had to do this?  Do you remember how many times we used to do this?"  To which she said "A jillion".

If you've never had someone put a newborn baby in your arms and said "here, have my child", there is no way you can understand what that feels like.  Every other gift I have ever received in my life all put together can't come close to that moment.  Even if that baby is very tiny, here too soon, and going to be really sick for the next two years of your life.  And often sick for the next ten years of your life.  But rarely sick now thanks to the healing power of our mighty God and an army of doctors and specialists.

The first time I saw Olivia, I was scrubbed, gowned, sanitized and walking into a dimly lit room containing six tiny creatures in little plastic boxes clinging to life.  She was due on October 31st but came September 12th without lungs that were ready for air, among other problems.  I had driven all night because the woman who birthed her had said at midnight "Come now...she is your baby, not mine."  A tiny, red alien with tubes and tape and beeping machines. I thought she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. 

Kiel Tweitmeyer, father of 13 kids (with only three from his seed) recently said "I thought adoption was a gift you give someone else, but I have learned it's a gift you give yourself." 

Back then when Olivia came home, people often said things to me like "You are such a good person to be doing this".  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I am not much of a "good person" on my best days, and I was even less of one back then.  "SOMEBODY GAVE ME A WHOLE, GORGEOUS HUMAN BEING!!!" is what I wanted to respond. "What have you been given lately?"

I feel sorry for people who don't get to experience the gift of adoption.  It trumps every other joy in life...

Right now, a tiny boy thousands of miles away waits for me.  I really can't believe he still waits...it feels like more of a gift than I could ever be worth.  Jalia, the orphanage director, told me yesterday "Nathan still asks every day when you are coming...I tell him to pray".  How can a small boy from another world still wait for me after 417 days?  417 days of believing that some white lady he met only once will come back to be his Mommy.  How much can a child yearn for a parent when you are just one in a sea of 600 children at the top of a mountain with not enough arms to hug you at night?  How can he know that I will come back enough to still believe?  What does he say to God and how much must God love him for his faithfulness?  What could ever be bigger than that love?

The last time I saw this boy, there were tears making tracks in the dust on his face.  As my taxi pulled away, he sat at the top of the road that carried me gone down the mountain.  He did not run after the car or wave.  He just sat silently with tears dropping off his chin.   His last words to me in his new English were "Mum, I want to come with you."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today is the Day

For months now, actually years, my friends have been encouraging me to write down my stories of what God is doing through me. The last five years have been quite a journey on God's chariot, and today I finally felt the Holy Spirit direct me that it was TIME to speak.

It all began in my closet. Well, really, it started long, long before that...but, let's start in the closet.

Two and a half years ago, I was alone at home putting away laundry. A couple months earlier, I had quit my executive job...for the second time. For 20 years I had worked in senior positions, making good incomes, earning bonuses, meeting with important clients, making myself into "somebody". But, along the way on that journey, God broke my heart for the orphan. Permanently. And as a result, I will never be the same. I am not the same woman Jerry married, I am not the same mother that Mackenzie and Olivia once had, I am not the same friend many of you once knew. I have a permanently broken heart. And, with that new heart, I couldn't seem to do my job, any job, that did not involve rescuing the orphan. So, there I was, at home, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

This brings us back to the closet.

After a couple of months of me at home doing NO housework, my dear husband casually mentioned one day "Honey, now that you are a housewife, do you think you might do some housework? I could really use some clean clothes." God bless him, he is a saint. But, that is a whole other blog.

I set out in earnest the next morning to be a housewife. About four loads into six loads of laundry, I was standing in the closet putting up my husband's shirts, but I was thinking to myself: "How can I get Ray Barnett, founder of the African Children's Choir (whom I knew), together with Tom Davis, CEO of Children's HopeChest (whom I had just met), because somebody needs to figure out how to rescue ALL the orphans". And that is when it happened...God said, loudly and clearly, "IT'S YOU".

It embarrasses me even to write that down, but God says I should tell my story, so I am telling it just like I know it. "IT'S YOU", He said. I fell down on the bedroom floor. I could not breath. I don't know what it means to be "slain in the Spirit", but if it means that you are so overcome by the call of God that you can't move and you just lie there with tears pouring into your ears for a time that seems like forever, then I was slain. "No way God, don't put that on me. That can't be right. You are mistaken. I don't know what I am doing. I have no expertise, I am not trained. I have no experience. There are EXPERTS...I am NOT one. It can't be me...it's too big, it's too overwhelming, I don't want it...NOT ME!!!!." But there I was, stuck on the bedroom floor, and I knew it was meant for me.

For the next few days I had a fight with God in my mind. I didn't tell anyone, not even Jerry. Anyone would think I am insane. "God, I don't know how to do it" I pleaded with Him over and over. And every time, the same answer: "You already know everything you need to know". What the heck!!! I had no idea what He was talking about. Every time I asked, the same "You already know everything you need to know". This went on for days. Then, I was on the elliptical at the gym one morning, and I was thinking about a massive food shipment for orphans that was being sent by a prominent, expert organization working in Ethiopia, and I knew from a past, unrelated job of mine that it wasn't being sent the best possible way. I thought about my friend Sharron from that season, a logistics expert, and how she would know the correct way to solve that problem. And God said "See, I told you, you already know everything and everybody that you need to know". BAM. There it was. I got off the machine and stumbled into the locker room. I sat there just taking it all in...

All my life, every season, every relationship, every career move, held some gem, some lesson that had prepared me to rescue orphans. I could suddenly see, with crystal clarity, how the seemingly serendipitous path of my life and career had actually been God's carefully crafted curriculum to prepare me to one day rescue orphans around the world in lands I have never seen.

I already knew everything I needed to know. I just had to have the courage and the will to start. God would show me the rest when I needed it.

And that is when my journey really began.