Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Great Need

One of my most defining qualities has always been 
The Great Need to be Understood.
It's been paralyzing 
demanding 
and life-long.
I Need to be Understood.
A friend of my Mom's from my childhood used to joke:

"Esty doesn't mind punishment for the crime...
as long as she's had the chance to fully explain herself first."

This was really amusing when I was pigtailed and 3.
But just ask my husband how adorable it is now.
It's a problem.
And admittedly, I have known about this for a while.


It sort of goes hand-in-hand with another issue I wrestle with: 
Inexplicably High Expectations of Others.

My
 Stratosphere-High Expectations of Others
+
The Great Need to be Understood
 should =
everyone nodding in agreement that they "GET me."
Vaildation.
Justification.
Understanding.
Appreciation.
Maybe some hand-clapping wouldn't hurt.
Back-patting is always nice.
And roaring, inspired crowds: definitely a bonus.

In adulthood this has manifested into a buncha girlfriends
who I could call on to 
listen
advise
gossip with
lament to
complain to
ask advice of
kibbitz with
and most importantly 
who could meet The Great Need.
They "GOT me."
Whatever came,
I could feel safe.
Validated.
Elite.
Smug.
I formed My Sorority of Supporters For Myself.
I was "Got."


*much of this has now changed.*

And it's not My Sorority's fault.
I have gone from a Southern-y, hostess-y, public school-y, carpool-line-y,
Doctor's wife ...
to a homeschooling, fairly-messy, makeup-less, spit-up-covered, Africa-loving, adoption-advocating
weirdo.
{Kept the Husband, though. :)}

I changed all my own rules.
My location.
My family size.
And a fair amount of my convictions along the way.

This is a problem.

Especially if you have The Great Need like I do.

I want people to "GET me."
We all have The Great Need, in fact.
It resonates through Scripture. 
It blinks at me in red on my kids' faces.
I hear it tinkling through a friend's anecdotes.
I make out strands of it running braided through movie dialogue...
everyone want someone to "GET me".

As I walk the bridge towards obedience
some jump over the railing...
parachute away...

and I hear my own voice echoing back to my own ears
 The Sorority
 gone
uninterested
bored
unable to "GET me" any longer.
To be honest, all of a sudden I realize... loneliness.

I have The Great Need, remember. 
To be Understood.
And often now...I am just really
.......not.

It sinks in.
And sticks to my heart like cold oatmeal.
I have to scrub out the rejection, my confusion, my bits of resentment
with Truth.
Remember :


HEY - someone DOES "GET me."


I wanted to be 
God's Girl
at God's Time
for God's Aproval

right, self?

"And now without The Great Need met by The Sorority,
I am lonely? Seriously, self?!"

"Knock it off", 
(I am really preaching to myself now)
"and grow up in your faith why don't you?"

God  "GETS me."
Jesus made me.
He even made The Great Need and put it in me.
Intentionally.


"The LORD your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
   he will quiet you by his love." 
~Zephaniah 3:17

I would really have to think very, very hard about whether I have ever been 
"quieted by His love"
before.

But I long for this now.
It meets The Great Need.

And big news here:
it's the ONLY thing that meets The Great Need.

The Great Need to be Understood remains.
But it is Satisfied
when I allow it to be
in Him.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Saved Life: The Incredible Story of Mr. Miles

When I was waiting all through 2010 to begin our adoption there was 
1 friend
in particular who
always had time to mentor me.

Her name is Debbie.
She is a Mama, too. 
She has 4 kids. 3 were born in China.
And Debbie always said the 1 thing that Prospective Adoptive Parent's
all want to hear:
that  my day would come. 

Debbie would send me emails that ended with:
"Just think! You are one day closer to Rissa!"
This was long before we knew Rissa existed.

Debbie is exceedingly special to me.
Debbie made me believe in my own dream.

When Debbie and I would talk I would be listening for hope
 and she would hand it over generously.
Once during a marathon-length-talk, 
Debbie said:
"Esty, don't despise the timing being 'off'. 
There's a reason you are meant to go whenever you go."

Now, I knew why Debbie had said this.
When she brought home their #4 from China,
they were denied travel and had to wait another 6 weeks
& travel with an entirely different group of adoptive families to China.
It had been over Christmas that year and she had been sorely disappointed.
It was really hard for them to wait till January.
But during that trip to China in January they met another adoptive family...
and in time 
 Debbie was instrumental in a miracle for this family.


So. 
I knew Debbie was right - but really, I believed that she was right about HER situation.
Maybe not so much about mine.

When things fell outside of my perfect timeline I was frustrated and blinded by consuming desperation.

My TIMELINE MUST WORK.
Or so I behaved.


There was, after all, another family waiting on us.
They never, ever pressured us but I pressured us plenty.
After all: our daughter was surely sick!
This other family was waiting on us!
We had court looming!
Andrew's time off was approaching!
I had a PLAN!
When all was said and done The. Timeline. worked beautifully,
no thanks at all to my worrying.
(eye roll at myself)

*there's a lesson right there for me*

We got there across the oceans.
We got her in our own arms.
We were good.

While we were in Ug@nda we wondered at Rissa's good health, 
marveled that she could be ill at all...
but set it aside and assumed we would find out more at Home in the USA.

Meanwhile, another family was in-country while we were.
I had met her, Sara, at that conference in February.
She had been the kindest soul at our table.
I couldn't wait to see her.
When we met up in Ug@nda, 
Sara told me that another gal from that conference and her sister, too
were each adopting a baby boy from an orphanage nearby.
Sara had visited these 2 baby boys.
who were both hospitalized currently.
They were each under 1 year old.
She asked whether Andrew would go see them -
give his opinion?
He easily agreed.

The following day Andrew, me, Rissa and our Brilliant Driver
headed for the state-run hospital for Andrew to visit these 2 baby boys.

Mr. Doctor Husband marched in - - - 
long hair
backpack
stethoscope
ball cap
tennis shoes.

20 minutes later he emerged.
Changed to his core.
Head quietly hung.
Shaking his head almost imperceptibly.
"There were 12 babies in there.",
 he murmurs, processing medically as he talks out loud.
There is no medicine in this facility.
"At least 10 of them should have been on a ventilator."
And the youngest baby? Miles?
The sister-of-a-friend-of-a-friend's baby?
He weighed 9lbs.
He struggled to empty his lungs of carbon dioxide, 
toiled to breathe in air.
"That kid's not gonna make it through the night."

Andrew looks defeated.
This was it.
Medicine or Miles is done.
Tonight.

I have heard him talk about patients before but they are always patients. 
Not my friend's baby.

We sat and thought.
Racked our brains.
Asked our Brilliant Driver what on earth to do.
Called Sara.
Discussed some more.
Called the US director of the baby home.
Called the adoptive Mommy in Georgia.
Called an ambulance.
Andrew, Sara and Another Mama got him transferred to a hospital with medicine.
4 hours later Miles was receiving a breathing treatment while seated on Andrew's lap,
squawling and glaring healthily at Andrew,
who laughed in relief at the angry, tiny thing.

The next week his Mommy came to care for him with her own hands 
and love and bottles and snuggles.


That was then.



This is now.






Miles came home with his Mommy 
to his Daddy,
 2 big brothers
and a VERY relieved extended family.




So. 
The Saved Life.
I thought it would be Rissa.

But really...
it was Miles.

My friend Debbie was right all along.

The Lord was pacing us.
The metronome kept time.
The world spun correctly.
Miles sleeps in his crib tonight in Georgia
and Rissa in hers here under my own roof
and when I lay down in my own soft bed I will feel tears seep from under closed lids,
 run down my smiling cheeks
while I repeat to my God Who Hears All Things:

Who is like you, LORD God Almighty?
   You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
~Psalm 89:8




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
and
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.
For:
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:

She is HIV NEGATIVE.

Not "kind of negative but let's check again"
Not "mostly negative but it could change"
SHE's HIV NEGATIVE.


WOAH.

Game-changer!

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?
Nope.
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?
Nope.
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.

Period.

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.


and so.........now. 
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.
we, 
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?"

no.

"Pray and God will do what you want?"

no.

"Some people like me are the luckiest?"

no.

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.





Sunday, July 3, 2011

For My Boys and My Little Girl

Dear Little Boys and dear Tiny Girl~

 You are the Reason for this blog, after all. Not stats, not "Followers", not the general public but YOU. This blog and the previous one, too are bound annually and made into books chronicalling your childhood. I am no photographer, no scrapbooker, no chef and no author but what I am is your Mama and I intend to write it all down and secure these memories like everlasting lightnening bugs buzzing happily in a Mason jar for as long as these fingers and this mind of mine can function cohesively. After all, YOU are who matter to me most in all the world - YOU and your Dada. And one day your may want to unscrew the aluminum ringed lid, peer into this jar and read one little lightening bug at a time. You will want to know one day when you are parents yourselves what in the world Dada and I were thinking. Why we lived the way we did, why we chose what we did and how you responded at the time. Maybe not. But at least your wives will be interested, Boys. 



You are all so terrific I must write down how amazing you each are right now - how spectacularly God has been filling you out and coloring you in.
Because after all, this is for YOU.


 *Luke, you are 8.5 years old. You are special. I know most people say this about their eldest and everyone who says it believes it but son, you are special. You are mature. You are a Believer. You bear fruit. You are sensitive. You relish being the Big Brother. You are serious. You are loyal. You are a thinker. You are trustworthy. You are burdened for the lost souls in this world. You are secure. You are hilarious. You don't like change. At all. You are curious about how things work. You love history, politics, and lofty concepts. You enjoy dialogue. You have a hearty laugh. Your swim has phenom-level form. You are incredibly goofy and spastic. You tell really poor jokes about body functions. You climb like a monkey. You skateboard like a teenager. You are lanky and all arms and legs and your half-grin is just like your father's and your wink will make girls swoon in not too many years ahead. Your favorite thing is family time. You love Jesus. You consider things intently. You are incredibly well-behaved so You have need of embracing grace in your walk with Him. You are a worker. You are hesitant but I see God is arming you with a lance and is making YOU into a Brave Knight, finding the battle and forging ahead unabashed and unafraid, a leader of men. God is making you a Fighter.



*Graham, you are 5.5 years old. You are a delight. You are sweet. You are hilarious. You are bright and surprisingly knowledgable about matters which amaze me. You are snuggly. You are kissy. You are the most baby-oriented big brother of them all. You are a sharer of the highest order. You are an excellent swimmer. You are rarely a crier. You are generous without limits. You are skin-and-bones skinny. You love milk but abhor many, many other foods. You are easily worn out while obeying so you have need of diligence. Your colorful imagination means it's challenging for you to stay on task. You are most comfortable surrounded by your brothers, metaphorically and literally. You have a killer dimple. You love to color and send mail to friends, always waiting to see if anyone's sent you anything. You break my heart because you are quiet and content to play. If anyone needs a twin, it's you. You are dependant. You are shy. You love to wrestle and kick and spar. You are sincere in your love for Jesus and your prayers are shockingly heartfelt and spoken in complete faith. You fall asleep most nights before our prayers are completed. You are a sound sleeper and a bright, smiling waker. You are a revelation to me everyday. You are young and timid but I see God is making YOU into a Benevolent Lion, protector of the weak and innocent with a bent towards justice. God is making you a Hero. 


*Ethan, you are 4 years old. You are really more like 12 though. You speak with the vocaulary of a pre-teen. At least. You are a clown. You are a gymnast. You are an entertainer. You are tired easily by day's end still and you suck your wrist and rub my arms when you need comfort. You need regular snuggling to fill your love tank. You are completely trusting of any plan your brothers concoct and function at their level in almost any environment despite your age but you also love calling the shots and defining the rules. You are bossy. You have a hard time accepting denial. You are argumentative but actually easy to mold with rebuke. You are responsive to reproof. You want answers. You are incredbily athletic and active. You can mobilize people to do your bidding with your wide grin and bright blue eyes. You flirt. You are silly and sure of yourself.  You love Jesus but you need to know your own sin and see your need for forgiveness. You are unpredictable. You negotiate. You make best friends at the drop of a hat. You are popular. Already. You have amazing potential still untapped but I see God making YOU into a Fierce Leader, a model among men who others are drawn to as magnets. God is making you a Captain. 


 *Rissa, you are 7 months old. You are the Celebrity Baby. You attract stares, compliments and praise every time we leave the house. You are technicolor. You are sunshine. You are the royal princess with loyal subjects who surround you with adoration from the moment your black eyes open in the morning until they close at night. You are busy. You are ambitious. You are happy and demanding and grabby and sweet. You smell like lavender and bananas and brown sugar. You are the epicenter of a new bond in your home. You are the star in the sky we flew to outer space to capture and you shine here in our midst now so brightly that you take our breath away. You are loved. That's a huge understatement. You are special and wanted and coveted and amazing. You are the cherry on our sundae, the icing on the cake, the Dove chocolate in the Halloween candy bowl, the star on the tree. You are the diamond. You are promised by God and handed to Him but you need Jesus to restore your broken heart and redeem your past. You have pain and trials to forge past but I see God making YOU into a Regal Queen, opposing the forces of sadness and shining a scepter of beautiful grace down on the scores who you will bless. God is making you an Empress.

You are my children and nothing on earth - not my own dreams, not my other destinies, not my personal agenda, not my own life is more valuable to me than YOU four tiny people. No matter what comes next - no matter where we go - no matter who you are when you read this One Day, this is what your Mommy sees when I see each of you: 
A Fighter, A Hero, A Captain, An Empress

You bless me by just existing.