Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Miracle

Today was a beautiful day filled with all the joys of a Mother's Day...kid-prepared meals that trash the kitchen, gifts from the "Dollar Store", homemade cards, and even a ceramic treasure from school.

As I relished every moment, I wondered what would be the highlight of my amazing first Mother's day with all five of my beautiful children.

It came early.

As we always do on Sundays, we went to church. Our service begins with several worship songs, and I love this form of prayer. One of the songs had a chorus that said "I love you, I love you." This was written to be directed at God, but since it was so fitting, I opened my eyes and made eye contact with each of my kids, one by one down the row, and sang the words "I love you" to them.

Back to my eyes closed praying, the next verse of the songs goes "I need you, I need you." I was deep in prayer, but I felt a small tap on my shoulder. Quiet Ruthie, always sitting the furthest from me, was trying to get my attention. She looked deep into my eyes (eye contact is not common for her) and sang the words "I need you, I need you" while pointing at me and smiling.

Pop - there goes my heart bursting.

This may not sound like a big deal to you, but you should know that of all my children, Ruth is the most distant. Since her adoption, she has been the slowest to bond to us. She avoids affection and hugs. She won't tell us what she needs. When she first arrived, things were very bad. She had been so hurt so many times that she told my husband "I don't respect any women" and she would barely speak to me. She did not want my love, my discipline, my guidance. She had lived years without a mother she could depend on, so she wasn't going to risk trusting now.

But slowly, very slowly, she has come to open her heart like a blossoming flower. She will tell me things now, and ask for my help, and even hug me every once in a while (but not for too long).

So when she looked at me with those huge chocolate eyes this morning and happily sang "I need you", I knew we had arrived. I was her Mom, and she was my daughter, and she was OK with that. My joy was complete.

p.s. Yes, she gave me pot scrubbers for Mother's Day...we still have a few things to work on.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Heart of Jesus

This post perhaps should be called
"Mackenzie and Jesus vs. the Enemy, Round 3"

Since Mackenzie gave her life to the Lord when she was 13 years old, she has had three medical emergencies requiring hospitalization.  Each has been unexpected and inexplicably severe. 

A few weeks ago, Mackenzie again found herself in a dire medical crisis involving great suffering.  Through a bizarre set of circumstances, she hurt her leg badly and then got stuck in the middle of a blizzard that crippled all operations in Tulsa, where she attends college.  It took about 24 hours to figure out how to safely get her to a hospital, expecting her badly swollen leg to be the only issue.  When she arrived at the ER, the physicians said she had developed a life-threatening condition called Rhabdomyolysis.  This occurs when a muscle begins to die, and it produces a protein that cannot be processed by the kidneys.  Mackenzie was in the early stages of renal failure and her urine was charcoal black.  Doctors also said they might have to do emergency surgery to "save her leg."

Over the next two days, her situation was critical and I spent 48 hours in airports trying to get to her.  People all over the world lifted her up in prayer.  When I finally arrived, I found her like this:

Her legs were unable to move and being compressed by the machine at the bottom left of the photo.  (devices from this machine are attached to each of her calves).  This was to maintain her circulation since her right leg was so swollen unable to move.  In addition, she had an indwelling catheter.  She was receiving massive amounts of IV fluids to reverse her kidney dysfunction from the muscle break-down.  She could not leave the bed and was kept comfortable with morphine.  Her vital functions and urine were being monitored hourly and she was submitting to blood tests several times per day, leaving her with both arms badly bruised.
Now keep in mind, this is the girl who has worshipped God thru dance for many years.  The one who plans to live in all the hard places of the planet as a missionary.

The day after I made it to Tulsa, the orthopedist came into Mackenzie's room late one night to tell her the prognosis.  He flatly stated that she would have "permanent loss" to the strength and mobility in her right leg.  He said that part of the muscle had died, and that the dead tissue would be replaced with scar tissue.  He said there was no way to tell right now what her recovery would be.  And then he left. 

It was still snowing in Tulsa and the hospital was operating under emergency conditions.  Sub-zero temperatures had resulted in a broken water main, no running water, no clean laundry.  The hospital room was dark, dirty and depressing.  Mackenzie was on the pediatric unit and sick babies cried around us.  We sat there in the dark in the middle of the night.  I held her hand and we wept while she struggled with the pain and fear.  We got to a very, very dark place of desperation.  And then, we went to Jesus.

There was nothing to do but cry out to Him.  We were so desperate that nothing else seemed possible.  I can't explain it but after a while of praying, it felt like we went right into His heart.  We felt His suffering for us.  We cried out not only for Mackenzie, but for the sick babies all around.  For all the sick babies everywhere.  We asked for them to be healed.  She said to me at one point that night:  "Mom, if I have to be the missionary that makes it around the world in a wheelchair, than that is what it's going to be.  Nothing is going to stop me."  Mackenzie fully surrendered to Christ that night.  She said "my future life is in Your hands."  It was her suffering that brought her fully to His suffering for her.

The next day during physician rounds, the team announced that Mackenzie had made inexplicable, startling progress in her tests overnight, and that she could try walking.  They were going to send in a couple of therapists to see what she could do.  Keep in mind, up to this point she had not moved IN or FROM the bed in days.

Not knowing what they were dealing with (Mackenzie plus Jesus is a powerful force), next thing we knew, she was zipping down the hallway with the speed of a 90-year-old-arthritic.  

Within a few days, she was discharged from the hospital.  Here are the college students who showed up at our hotel room when they learned she was out!  (Mackenzie is actually IN the bed, while they are just ON it.

The next day we were cleared to take her home, and off we went on an 18 hour car ride. 

We had to stop every two hours at some of the WORST gas stations.  At the most scary one, three drug dealers interrupted their negotiations and rushed to open the door as Mackenzie struggled across the parking lot with her walker.  When we got safely into the bathroom, she said "Wow, this walker is a great evangelism tool.  Did you see those guys feeling compassion for the poor crippled girl?  I could do some amazing ministry with this thing."  Yeah, that's my girl. (photo withheld to protect the identity of the hoodlums/future Christians.)

To everyone's astonishment except hers, Mackenzie returned to college yesterday, without a walker or cane.  After two weeks of rest and PT, she wanted to get back to school and "not fall behind in class."  And, she wanted the chance to share what God had done for her.

Last night, wearing the dress she bought previously and some flats purchased since the accident, she bravely attended the homecoming dance at school.  Here she is, smiting Satan yet again. 
 SCORECARD:  Jesus: 3.  Satan: 0.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I am mad at Uganda

The first time I went to Uganda in 2008, I fell in love with the country.  I loved everything about it:  the beautiful people, the lush countryside, the music, the dancing, the culture.  I loved the rich red earth and the smell of the cooking fires rising up the hillsides each night.  I loved the tidy fields of tea farms and the tranquil beauty of the Nile.  I loved the majestic animals and the friendly smiles on faces everywhere.

 I loved Uganda so much that I could not wait to return.  I dreamed of it, yearned for it, pined for it for the next nine months...and then I went back.  Once again, I was in love.  This time with the children, all the children, especially three amazing children who were to be my own. 

Leaving this second time was like cutting out your heart, leaving it on the operating table and walking out of the hospital to get on a plane.  My heart sat parked in Uganda for 18 months while I fought the insanity of governments, both mine and foreign, until I could return to claim my children.

For those 18 months, I thought of Uganda every day for 547 days.  Every morning I thought of Uganda and every night I wished for it as I fell asleep.  I asked, pleaded and eventually begged God through tears to bring me back to Uganda.  And finally, He did.

But, upon my third time to return to the "Pearl of Africa", something happened.  I got to know my children.  I started to hear their stories.  I comforted them after their bad dreams.  I got doctor's reports about their conditions.  I learned where their scars came from, both visible and invisible.  And sitting here now home from Uganda for two months, I am angry with Uganda.

I am angry at this place that robbed my children of their childhood.
I am angry that my children spent most of their lives hungry.
I am angry that they lived in fear.
I am angry that they have witnessed more death than I will probably ever see in my whole life.
I am angry that they know how to wrap and bury a corpse,
that their hands are calloused from hard labor,
that their prayers are full of petitions for the friends who have nothing,
that they want to sleep with lights on because too many bad things have happened at night.
I am angry at this place.

This place can never give them back what has been taken.  My princess will never forget the agony of lying in pain with no doctor to help her for months; my son will never forget crying alone in his bed at the orphanage when he just a toddler; my teen will never forget being so hopeless and hungry that she wanted to drink rat poison and end it the age of nine.

The children keep asking me if we will visit this place, this place I loved like my own.  And every time they ask me, I have to turn my face from them.  How can a place so beautiful be the source of so much pain?  I know I will return with my children one day and we will rejoice at this homecoming.  We will eat the food, we will smell the earth, we will dance with the people.  But first, I have to get over what this place has done to my precious ones.  I am mad at Uganda right now.