Friday, July 8, 2011

These Little Lives and HIV

This is the blog post that has been tumbling on "fluff cycle" in my brain for 9 weeks.
Don't think that fact means that it will make sense.
It won't.
Nothing about what I am about to write makes sense.

I am just ready to get it out of my head and onto paper.

When I shared back in February that Andrew and I had a contact who knew about a little girl
who turned out to be Rissa
I wrote then that we were told that she was:
"Less than 2 years old
available for international adoption"

I left out one key part.

We were also told she was probably HIV positive.
Her birth mother and grandmother had died recently from AIDS.
We knew this from Day 1.
Africa did not dupe us.
We wanted her desperately and we were ready.

It never even occurred to us to check the speedometer.
We knew Project Hopeful.
I knew Amy Levy.
I am married to a physician.
I am a trained pediatric nurse by (former) trade.
"Bring it on!" we emoted.

We knew the CDC says there has NEVER been a case of family or friends transmitted case of HIV
EVER in world history in casual, normal circumstances.

She would not ever scrape a knee and bleed and infect anyone.

She would have a normal life expectancy, around 85 years.

She would carry a child one day.

And we were protected by 2 laws stating we need never disclose her status to anyone
 but a healthcare provider.

But we knew also that we would disclose her status when the time came.
This made sense!
This was our family destiny!
We would wave this flag!
We would live a life of educating the masses!
This was our family calling!

In Africa this child would most likely perish.
Here in America she would not.

SO! Here was the brilliant answer to our prayers of so long:
"Lord, bring us the child who needs us like we need her."

It all made complete sense.

Then we went to Africa.

Our daughter was perfect in our eyes.

We brought her back home.

And now she has been tested thoroughly.
As of 9 weeks ago.

So now we know:


Not "kind of negative but let's check again"
Not "mostly negative but it could change"



I cannot even express how we felt we were walking on air upon being told this news.
I wept with unspeakable relief.
Heaving, painful sobs wracked my body till my sister mad me pull it together for my daughter's sake who was freaking out watching me lose it.

You may well appreciate why this has taken me some weeks to wade through.
The far-reaching implications involved in living with a chronic illness, however manageable
have now been removed.
The lifetime connection to this virus essentially deleted.
The journey we anticipated embarking on as a fearless family? 
A screeching halt.

Phenomenal news? INDEED!
Life-changing, amazing and spectacular? ABSOLUTELY!

...*But what of my friends who deal with this virus and it's threats for their own children still?
How do I tactfully share this without feeling like I have boarded a lifeboat 
without them?

...*What of the strangers and well-meaning acquaintances who casually remark:

"Wow, she looks really healthy - is she healthy?"

(And YES they most certainly do ask me this frequently.)

How do I say: 
"Well, we thought she had HIV but we're so surprised, she doesn't!"
That may seem easy. 
Try it.
It's not.

...*What of our initial intentions to adopt "special needs" to put a lovely face on a category so overlooked and avoided?

...*What about all the bright faces who, upon hearing her negative status immediately praise
 Andrew and I for somehow winning God's favor?
"You were faithful and God gave you such a great gift."
"You made yourself available to God and He chose to give you a healthy child in return."
"You prayed and God really heard your prayers."

What I want to say in return is this, however acerbic is seems:

"First off: we weren't praying she would be negative.
We were cool with her being HIV positive.
In fact, we couldn't even let ourselves think about her maybe being negative.
So God answering our prayers?
Maybe a couple of prayers were desperately shot up 
with microscopic faith they could actually achieve anything
but that this type of prayer would cause the Maker of Heaven and Earth to shift a person's viral load? 
No way, dude.
I'm not that persuasive.
Secondly: our faithfulness is all attributed to Jesus anyway. 
I am faithless, trite, and scatterbrained with a short attention span.
Without Jesus' faithfulness NOTHING would ever get done with me around.
So was it my faithfulness in adopting an orphan that led the Almighty Creator Savior 
to be appreciative and grant me 3 wishes somehow?
I am really not that impressive.
And guess what?
Rissa being HIV negative isn't even the most miraculous thing about her.
And guess what else?
God would STILL BE GOOD if she was positive!"

This whole thing?

This was ALL GOD.

He willed it.

He called it.

He made her our daughter.

This is how He got her here in my arms.

She's supposed to be mine.


His faithfulness

His goodness.

His mercy.

His grace.

He somehow got a family on the road to adopting a
 Chinese special needs orphan under age 3 >>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>.> to adopt a healthy 4 month-old from Ug@nda.

How does this fit into our family destiny?
We have not a special needs adoption under our belts.
We are not HIV+ parents.
We are a family of 6.
We love Jesus.
like all families
 need a flag to wave.
We have to stand for stuff.
We have to know what the heck we are about.

So. What shall it be then?

"God does good things for you when you adopt?"


"Pray and God will do what you want?"


"Some people like me are the luckiest?"


It is this:

He is faithful.
He is good.
He is merciful.
He is gracious.

He is surprising.

and harder still:

He ordains.
He chooses.
He is Almighty, Creator, Redeemer, Sovereign
and He doesn't need our permission 
and He doesn't need our agreement
and He doesn't need our approval.
He is the King.


  1. Amazing! :-) I'm so happy to read this post!

  2. love it! and i can so relate. we were open to special needs/older kids, but we're currently matched with 2 healthy kids, a 2 year old and a 10 month old. we're still quite surprised by the way things have turned out, but we're also so grateful for God's grace in all of it!

  3. I appreciate this post for many reasons. Wow, I don't think I have heard of a story like this yet in the adoption world. Usually they tell you the child is close to perfect and then they have a disability. Which is not out of God's will or he is punishing you, but it just usually happens that way. I was expecting our son to have many more problems, not because they told me he did, but just that is the nature of adopting. And two, I love that you take no credit and give it all to the Lord. He ordained her to be in your family, HIV positive or not. Funny how God works. He obviously has a different plan for her life. I will be interested to see it unfold. I appreciate your honesty.

  4. I have no words but, "How GREAT is our GOD!"