Hearts Toward Haiti

The day of the election, while our country moved on in its history, I stood at one end of my dining room table, Micah at the other, and we took another step in ours. We looked into each other’s eyes and while we used different words, we spoke in unison. For the first time in a long time, I was vulnerable and open. He was resolute and firm. In the quiet spaces, hearts had shifted. Clay was being quietly, firmly molded and pressed, given over to the thought that maybe, just maybe, there may be more. ~ This seems a dramatic scene, but I assure you, it is this vivid in my mind. And sometimes I feel like I live in a novel. ~

We had prayed for a large family. God granted what we asked— not in a way we could have dreamed or imagined but in a way that has and continues to direct our faces toward His love and grace. Micah and I have had the honor to love our five. They remind us every day that life is precious and in it, God writes beautiful stories that sing His love. They teach us more and more about His Fatherly affection, the forgiveness offered by the Son, and the nearness of the Spirit. We have had the opportunity to love more little ones beyond the five we see, even for such a short time. I am so thankful I got to know of them. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to love them with a motherly love. I am thankful to have the hope of meeting them again, when we all are whole. Until then, I find myself in the thick of it. There are dance parties, struggles, schoolwork, housework, conflicts, resolutions, tears, smiles, running, resting, failure, success, quiet, loud, and all that happens between. It seemed we had encountered a likely bookend to this season. Yet, there was always another thought. What if God would bring children once orphaned in different ways into this home? Our home?

Over the last few years, Micah and I have talked about adopting again.

((I am going to give you just a minute to gasp, or laugh, or whatever emotion that last sentence might evoke))

Until the last several months, we might mention it and laugh too, often with an eye roll. There always seems to be a little crazy in calling. I can’t say I know what exactly has changed but something most certainly has. As the country was watching election results either reeling or rejoicing, he and I spent the majority of the evening reorienting our thoughts around what was happening much closer home. We were and are all in.

Adoption. Yes. International. Yes. Where would we be both geographically and circumstantially approved? Most importantly, where might a child or children live as orphans who we might call by our name? In just a few days, reckoning information, thoughts, feelings, desires, it was clear to us. The answer was Haiti.

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As of right now, our home study has been approved. The piles of paperwork have aligned (with the help of an awesome social worker).

Since last November, God has given us hearts for Haiti; for its beauty, for its struggle. Micah had the privilege of visiting for a few days with an old Seminary friend of his. Many of the people there have great needs, as do we, but markedly and variably different. They also have great resilience. I try to follow the landscape of need, and am aware that there exists, sometimes in whole countries, a kind of desperation I do not know living here.

I am thankful that in the last few years, Haiti has come under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. It seeks to make children the priority and serve their best interests, limiting corruption and the exploitation of children. It addresses trafficking— which is utterly evil. It affirms children given for adoption are true orphans.

We are praying for a child or two siblings— opening our hearts for who might be on the other end of this. Part of our preparation has been learning as much as we can about the Haitian culture. We’d love to learn the language. It is our desire to honor their heritage and learn from them.

One thing I want to make clear, we are neither saving children or being saved by them. They will be a precious gift to us, as we hope we are to them. If there would be a child or children who would benefit leaving the home they have always known to come and live with us, we are available. We want to be their forever family. I know the people who live with me and they (as do I) have a lot of love to give, as we have been so loved first.

I am still struck by the gravity of what adoption means. It would be desirable for children to be raised by one or both birth parents and I am grateful to groups who help hold families together by helping provide the means for steady income. These orphan prevention programs are such a blessing to many families, particularly in countries where extreme poverty and the effects of major natural disasters are constants. Regardless of those efforts, and as I know well, there will still remain orphans because we live in the land of broken things. In recent past or even as I type, a mother and/or father are feeling the weight of caring for a child or children they cannot. The resources provided them aren’t enough. Or, death separates. Whatever the circumstances, hearts are breaking. Lives have been or are being torn apart. This is where the need for adoption begins. The weight is necessary. It cannot be glossed over. It cannot be denied. We look to honor it and corporately remember the One who brings family together and promises to redeem broken things, us included.

So— this is an invitation. We ask your prayers; for Micah and me, for our children, and for “Haiti babies” (as our triplets call them) who will, God willing, also be called by our name and come to be with us.

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Throwback to 2012: Jumping on the Furniture

Friedrich Nietzsche and C.S. Lewis are sitting at my kitchen peninsula having a most important conversation (I won’t disclose to which of the boys each description refers).

“What if parents make up God as a way to get kids to obey?” Nietzsche asks. This is not his first intuitive question about the existence of God. C.S. Lewis comes to the defense with creational logic and catechism recitation. “What do you think, Mom?” I am asked in reference to one of the most pivotal questions in the universe —as I step in squashed watermelon on the floor and clean spit-up off the exersaucer. Just moments before, my escalating voice could be heard over all five children requiring adherence to the simple house rule, No Jumping on the Furniture. I was definitely not engaged in meaningful, patient conversation with my boys. Micah of course is working this particular evening so I have been stretched in every way to get to this point in the day and I am mentally and physically exhausted. Here we are, big and small products of the fall. And here is where things matter most.

These are the conversations I so desire~ when my children have been considering the eternal, asking intelligent questions, and want my input! I pray for opportunities that ears are open and ready to listen. Then, it suddenly occurs to me that I have already answered the question, over and over throughout the day… and throughout their young lives. It does matter what I say, but then again it really doesn’t. I could sing “Blue Skies” but if I live in gray, they know. They are smart like that… especially Nietzsche. This realization puts me into a bit of a panic. For me, words are easy… actions speak louder.

Enter pain. God made what is most inherently near to my heart and most true to my biological fabric ~conception, birth, and the raising of children~ the thing that always brings me to the brink of knowing something is terribly awry. My relationship with Micah does too, but it is not built and nurtured in the same way. Who are those in the animal kingdom we want to avoid for fear of serious retaliation? Mamas with babies nearby. On top of nature and nurture, the ways I am called to love my children make the stakes much higher. I love my little ones with a fierce love; a love that is unmatched by any other.  It was indeed painful to bring them into the world and it is painful to love them so deeply as I watch them learn lessons for themselves. I have 18 years to prepare my completely dependent babies and fewer for the boys starting to make independent logical connections to go out into the world alone. It is painful to discipline and constantly morph into the mom they need as they grow and develop. All the time, they are a mirror to the very worst in me. I know from which side of the family tree they inherit and perpetuate behaviors both helpful and harmful. I want to do right by them. I want to do all those things stated in Proverbs that show I am a wise mom. Their souls are at stake. I want them to rise and call me blessed. How do I do that with watermelon on my foot, feeling overwhelmed with my own lack of patience, while drowning in a sea of laundry?

Not too far from the curse it the cure.

Interestingly enough, the cursed Eve mothered by extension the One who would crush the serpent’s head. Clothed in animal skin, she lives out her life connected to the Cure~ the Victor and One who abolished the curse for all those who believe. There is life changing power in His name and work. There happens to be so much power that the fact I am simply carried through the day by my Loving Shepherd is enough to challenge my questioning children. They need more than a right answer. They need to see me needing Jesus. And in God’s wisdom, mothering provides an unending number of opportunities to do so.

It is obvious to my husband and especially my children that I am not able to do the right things always, often, ever… Sometimes I do and there He shines through me quite clearly. Whether drawn to the cross for forgiveness or continuing to realize who I already am in Christ, He living in me is the attribution and I pray it is obvious especially to those who watch me the most; my children. I can have compete confidence in His work in me and there is absolutely nothing more assuring. He who promises is faithful. All I can say on this particular evening is that God saved me. I sit and confess to my boys that I once was lost and hell bent. I own all they already know about my current state~ sometimes struggling, many times failing. But God saved me. He knows me. He loves me. He has clothed me, like Eve, in garments fashioned just for me that make me beautiful in his sight. Jesus Christ is my righteousness. I can trust Him with all my desires for my children as He weaves my prayers into the fabric of their lives (Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief). And that makes me want to jump on the furniture, too.

Grace Upon Grace

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 5:20-21

 

As children grow, the number of opportunities to parent in a gospel direction grows. (Duh, you say). It is a little more complicated than that. I guess what I mean is that as my children grow older, I move from giving straightforward, simple commands (like “Don’t touch.” or “Come here.”) to giving directives where a whole counsel of rules take effect. I think of sending my older children outside to play with the admonishments to be respectful of our neighbors’ property and show love to them in the process (just to name two). All past simple commands combine and problem solving takes place. The more the rules increase as well as imparted wisdom, the more the opportunity to mess something up, somewhere.

When major messing up occurs, that presents a big opportunity for me as a mom. I realized this the other day as I considered disobedience that carried with it other failures— like lying and blaming others. The list of wrongs had piled against the child. I could tell that on this day, this particular child was feeling the crushing weight of the list of wrongs against him. The situation had moved from bad to much worse very quickly. Defenses mounted. Fear and shame were visible in his eyes and heard in his words.

Then there was my response. I must admit, many times, when failures and complications land at my feet in a heap, my frustrations pile with it. Instead of speaking life, I get bogged down by the consequences of actions. Even worse, I think of how this situation has affected me and breaks into my day. I get flustered and add my struggles to theirs. To up the ante even more, all the laws that have been written on my soul for 35 years accuse me all the more.

The worse the situation, the more opportunity for grace to be just what it is— it is and should always be good news. It washes away all the eternal weight of our failures and even makes temporary consequences bearable. In contrast, its beauty is unmatched when held against our worst. God help us not pile sins to see grace— yet grace is seen most clearly because of our piles of sins.

So if the ultimate goal of parenting from a Romans worldview is to train children who never fail, then I fail. Failure is inevitable. As the law increases, the trespasses increase. But what happens when they fail? Or when I fail? That is a distinctive Christian question.

Our worst is precisely where the gospel operates. There is something bigger than training children to keep rules.  Sure, I want them to stay safe and love their neighbors. I want them to be good citizens and maintain a reputation of a trustworthy person. I want them to not bear hard consequences in the horizontal plain of this earthly domain for bad choices. But the function of the rules that speaks the loudest is the demonstration of how they (and I) need a rule keeper. What a better time when they are experiencing mounting failures to move into, “God has loved you so much that He sent Jesus to do everything all right for you… in your place. You can repent, believe and move on.” Even when the situation warrants a good grounding or time out, they will grow to know (by grace) they are safe to bear the consequences. My relationship and posture toward them has not changed nor has their relationship with God. I love them because they are mine. When I am able to speak good news into the situation the load lightens— every time. When I don’t, the gospel brings the good news to me.

Regardless of the failure or the success, our focus is out — not in — to the beauty of Jesus. Our sins are great, combined, and complicated, but the One who bore them is greater.

This is one way the gospel is relentless in taking hold of me these days.