Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Woke up again to no water. And I gotta admit, it made me a little grouchy.

And then the Lord gently reminded me that people all around me were living every single day of their lives without running water in their homes, without hope of ever having a hot shower, but worse yet...

without Him.

 And then, because God is God- He blessed me in an even greater way…

With this…

And I stand in awe.

Moral of the story… always look for the good in life because sometimes,

 it’s right there,

 just waiting for you to take notice of it.

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place.

1 Chronicles 16:27

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."
~Albert Einstein

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Her eyes, His hands.

I remember the day so clearly as if it were only yesterday...

It was a few days after Christmas, the house was chilly despite the heater kicking off and on through out the morning. The kids and I were sitting on on the couch snuggled up in blankets, doing a devotional, when the phone ring. As I had done for the past 2 years my mind quickly sent up a silent prayer "Please Lord let it be our adoption agency with a referral."  After 2 long years, our prayers were answered. On the other end of the phone was our adoption caseworker announcing "we have a baby girl!"

Thirty minutes later, after the cheers settled down, we received an email of what we thought was the most beautiful baby girl in this entire world...

And 6 long months later the day finally came when our dream came true... the baby girl we had prayed for, dreamed of, and loved before she even existed, was placed in our arms in the comfort of a hotel room in Guatemala.

The miracle of adoption...

there is simply nothing more beautiful in my book.

And yet, as with any adoption story, there is another side that we often choose to ignore. The side that goes unnoticed on our adoption announcements, the side that the photo of the proud parents holding their child for the first time doesn't show. The side we'd just as soon forget ever existed...

The empty arms of another.

For the past 8 years, from time to time, I would allow my mind to go there... I would wonder if she was okay, what she was like... did she have her eyes, did they share the same laugh?

And I wondered, if she too, wondered the same...

About a month ago I came to the decision that I needed to know the answer to these questions if at all possible. While I didn't and still don't feel that Aleigha is old enough to handle meeting her birth family, I also didn't want her to one day say to me- "we were right there serving the people in Guatemala and you didn't even try to see if they were okay?" And so, with the help of two friends- the search began.

It didn't take long actually... we had the general area from her adoption paperwork and so Felis and I simply drove my Guatemalan friend (who speaks the native language Cakchiquel and Spanish) to that area and we started asking if anyone knew of her. We were careful not to let them know why we were asking out of respect of her privacy. We also didn't know if she would even want to hear from us and we certainly didn't want to cause her any harm.

After about the 12th stop we landed at the home/store of her brother-in-law..

There we were told that she no longer lived in the area, that she and her children and husband worked in the fields somewhere near the coast- but that sometimes they came back to visit. And so, with little hope, we left them a phone number, knowing we had at least tried.

Two days ago my Guatemalan friend called and told me that he had just received a phone call from her because her brother-in-law told her a Guatemalan man and two gringo's had come by looking for her. (so much for trying to be nonchalant). Apparently it is rare for Americans to visit their area in the mountains. :) Anyway, after a short conversation she was thrilled to hear it was us and agreed to meet with us. We warned her that Aleigha would not be with us, and while she was of course disappointed, she understood and we promised her we would bring pictures.

I have to admit I was pretty nervous. So many thoughts and emotions kept going through my head- I can only imagine how she felt. We sat in the car waiting and waiting, ready to give up when all of a sudden I looked up and saw a family standing near the side of the street and our eyes met. There was something about her- something so familiar. Then suddenly I felt myself needing to look away because the look of saddness I saw in her eyes pierced through me like a sword. Eyes that told a story of a loss deeper than any I could ever imagine. This woman, who had given me one of the most precious gifts I have ever been given, stood before me now, dirty, unkept, and yet beautiful all at the same time. A woman to whom I owed- more than I would ever be able to repay.

The first few minutes of our meeting felt somewhat awkward... neither of us knowing where to begin or how to break  through the barriers of culture, language, and lifestyles that stood between us. We exchanged a quick hug and were then hustled into a small, Guatemalan restaurant that held 2 picnic type tables.  Not knowing what to say or what to do- I thrust 5 pictures of Aleigha towards her that I had held in the grip of my hand. As she and her family poured over the pictures I began to search their faces... I saw traces of my daughter... her nose, his eyes, her silky straight hair, his hands. Something I knew Aleigha and I would never share, no matter how much she was now 'my daughter'. And in an instant, just like that, my love for this family became fierce. A part of them, was a part of me- and I felt a sense of protectiveness I didn't expect to feel.  

As the moments passed we both seemed to begin to relax. Questions that both of us had carried for years were asked- and answered. One thing that is important to me that you know is- quite often people somehow believe that a child placed for adoption is 'unwanted'. While I know that every story is different I also believe that often that is the farthest thing from the truth. Aleigha was placed for adoption for one reason and one reason only- poverty.

And her precious birth family still faces this same struggled 8 long years later.

Aleigha was born just a year after her brother. There was simply not enough food. And, not enough food equals not enough breast milk for a mother to feed two children. My heart breaks just thinking about it.

 I will never understand, as long as I live, why one of my greatest blessings had to come in the form of someone elses greatest loss. But what I do know is that God understands- first hand-about the loss of a child. His one and only. And I trust that He and only He can bring about complete healing to this family.

And I also know He has us here now, for this very reason... to teach others the way to receive that healing and to bring hope to those who have so little.

Along with the pictures of Aleigha I gave to her birth family, I gave them the one thing I know that is more valuable than anything else in this world- a Bible.

And my biggest prayer is that through it they find the answers to eternal hope and salvation... and if they and the Lord allow it, I am more than willing to walk by their side through it.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

I fully admit I have been an awful blogger lately. I had every intention of blogging more frequently once we moved here to Guatemala and yet somehow the days just seem to get away from me. Before we came, I was a stay at home mom with 9 kids- and while my days were definitely full- they were nothing like they are now. I have come to realize that being the mom of 9, plus caring for 36 more- leaves little time for blogging. Yet I long to share our lives, the things the Lord is teaching us and the people he brings into our paths. There are days when the Internet is weak, the water and electricity go off... and days that I fall into bed at night too emotionally exhausted to think. And sometimes even on the days when things do go as planned- life here just doesn't run on the same pace we Americans are used to. Everything takes so much longer. There is no such thing as a quick trip to the store and no such thing as hurrying.

These past two weeks have been full of blessings and celebrations. Blessings being I was able to spend some time visiting with a friend who works for a non profit here in Guatemala. She took me to visit a couple of families who they had recentally worked with. No matter how much I see, no matter how much I try to prepare myself- it is never enough.  Because behind door after door that looks much like this...

is a story.

A story of life,
a story of love,
and a story of hope... .

This sweet family lives just right outside of Antigua with their 2 daughters- one of whom they adopted. :)

 They welcomed us into their home with open arms excited to have visitors.

They were thrilled to show me the garden my friend had helped them build by providing them with plants.

They also helped them build a new chicken coop- all right inside the 4 walls of their home. Assurance that there will be food and assurance of His love.

 What I think I loved most though was how they were also given a new floor made of cement blocks so that they would no longer have to sleep on the dirt floor. And yet this family wasn't worried about their sleep- they requested that the cement floor went in their prayer room instead because the Lord came first in their home. It was one of those moments where I was forced to stop and take a good long look at myself... and I have to be honest-it wasn't pretty. Would I have made the same request?

Before I could get over the ugly truth I just discovered about myself this sweet family quickly scurried into their 'kitchen' to share what little they had. Even at our protest a big cup of Cola was served. My friend Desi informed me that the reason they have Cola is because it's cheap and it makes your tummy feel full when there is nothing else to put in it. Again my heart began to ache as I forced the hot, generic, cola down my throat.

At our next stop we visited the home of a beautiful single mom.

This precious lady worked all day long trying to provide for her and her two children... without much success. The meager $8 a week she made when one of her table runners were sold was just not enough to pay back the bank from the loan she had taken out trying to provide her family with a home...

The home was basic, no windows...

 and no indoor plumbing

But it was home and they were trying... and they clung to the little hope they had.

This week Todd and I celebrated our 20 year Anniversary. When I say celebrated I don't mean we did anything out of the ordinary. As a matter of fact, our day was pretty uneventful. No cards, no flowers, no gifts and no party. We celebrated in a much simpler way- thanking God for 20 years of holding us through the goods and the bads- and for the many, many blessings we have been given. Years ago I would dream of our 20 year anniversary imagining it nothing like it was. But living here and seeing what we see on a daily basis makes those dreams seem not quite so worth it any more. What we have here is so much more than we could ever hope for.God has already taken us to places we never thought we'd see and made our lives richer than we could ever imagine. In a world where 50% of all marriages end in divorce- just being here serving together is the greatest gift of all.
(old picture but you get the point;)

This week we also celebrate both Todd and I's birthdays.
Another year of life passed... and we marvel at how quickly the days go.
Each one a gift.
Each one an opportunity to make Him known.
And we are so grateful.

The 4th thing we celebrate this week is this little miracle...

2 years ago they placed her in my arms and our world was forever changed. Watching God take a child born in a grass hut in Ethiopia, 2 months premature to an HIV+ mother, who died giving birth to her- to becoming a healthy, hopping, bilingual 2 year old little girl who has no fear blows me away.. She makes us smile, shake our heads, laugh until our stomachs hurt and wonder what to do next... and we couldn't ask for more. Her story is nothing short of a miracle- from the way God hand chose her to be in our family, to the way He provided in full for her adoption. Through it all- we drew closer to the King, we felt His presence like never before- and we dared to be just a little bit more.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

This was kind of an exciting week for Havyn.

Here in Guatemala you just don't see very many Ethiopian little girls. ;) As a matter of fact, often when we are out people ask to touch her hair and have their picture taken with her- because she doesn't look like anyone they have ever seen.

But not this week...

This week, all of the children in the orphanage kept saying "there are TWO Havyn's now."

Two sweet adoptive families were here serving at Eagles Nest and one had a daughter from Ethiopia who was just a year older than Havyn. It was so cute to see how quickly even they noticed how much alike they looked. :) Needless to say they had fun together- what a sweet gift.

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