Last night, as my head hit the pillow I remember thinking: "I wonder if I'll be able to..." and that. was. it. Sleep claimed me fast and completely, despite being in a pitch black room when I prefer a little light, and despite a lack of AC even though I am a Floridian, and without complete walls since everything is loft-style on the ground floor here for air flow, even though it's not conducive to private talks. Even with all these factors, my cheeks wet with overwhelmed tears were quietly dried by the fans as I had a mercifully recuperating sleep.
Three times today we exited the well-guarded, 7-foot, kelly green-painted gate, and trekked by foot down a steep, crumbly, chalk white road, rounded a corner to the left and hiked back up almost an exact mirror of that hill to get from the guesthouse to the baby house, where we are met with another well-guarded, 7-foot, kelly green-painted gate. Inside, we found the babies of Three Angels contentedly being cared for by 4 or 5 nanny's at a time: having their hair braided, eating FIVE meals a day, bathing at least twice, being changed, massaged with lotion and doing puzzles, reading books and playing in the sandbox, all on a clockwork schedule with cheerful music wafting in from the kitchen. The tile floors and bookcases of well-loved books and baby dolls are clean, the grounds swept, the nanny's in matching purple and white polka dotted aprons. By the time we arrived this morning, only the final children were yet to be changed from their pajamas, and they were all quite compliant in the routine. Clearly, they are loved. Clearly, they are cared for adequately. Clearly, they are content. Clearly, they are full, hydrated, clean, and healthy. The children hung off the nanny's 3 and 4 at a time, each lady struggling to move encumbered with so many tiny, needy bodies dangling from their hips and knees. We watched. That was about all we could do. Watch.
These kids: they had seen us last night, but they were far from us by morning. Controlling all they could and protecting themselves today meant their little hearts were closed to us then and for a good deal of the day following...especially my beautiful, unbearably fragile daughter. At times, her nannies would bring her to me, gently chastising her, probably for not rushing to greet me with enthusiasm and love, and though I had determined beforehand to resist rushing her and to just observe, I found the insistence too great, the language barrier too high, the situation too impossible and I gave in, afraid of what the nanny's would think if I resisted without being able to explain WHY, and that it would go badly for me with them, or that they may say something negative when we are observed by a visiting government official from IBESR who will come to observe "bonding" during this trip...Instead, I realized in no time I was curled around this tiny, panicked creature on my lap with the bottom lip curled into an almost-cry, and no amount of kisses, eye-to-eye contact, affection, or song and dance routine from this One Woman Show would change that today. It was not my finest moment. It was a desperate series of actions by a woman hungry for her baby...but she is not a baby and I am not desperate. She is a toddler, not a baby and I have all the time of our whole lives...I will determine again to endeavor to live that out, that's what she needs if I am going to leave her again and again, all day long and for a month at a time. Tomorrow, we try again. (note: I am not beating myself up or being a martyr, please don't feel like you need to make me give myself a break. I'm just preaching the gospel to myself, feel free to chime in on THAT. )
Watching the children play today in a small, pebble and gray-sand filled concrete sandbox, I marvelled at how small their world is. There are 3 communal bunkrooms with cribs. One playroom. Three tiny plastic tables with pink and blue chairs. One sandbox. 13 babies. A handful of nanny's. A nurse. And ancillary staff. That's it. All of their life is filled in with such small boxes. They have no concept of families or church buildings or car line at school or preschool or Chick-fil-A playgrounds and nuggets or movie theaters and popcorn or grandparents and aunts and uncles or swimming pools or the beach or sports or a couch and a family all piled on top of one another with a white floppy-eared dog at their feet or a Christmas tree or even their own shoes.
They have such a good life.
But it is a shadowbox replica of their waiting lives.
These children - all orphans - would be content to stay in these 5 rooms and this one sandbox, behind a locked, painted, metal gate all their days, seeing mountains only in the cloudy distance over the concrete wall and barbed wire coil. They have no idea how big the world is, how grand their futures are, how fullness awaits - fullness that will spill over onto every area of their lives.
I was struck, realizing this, at how this describes each of us, too. God has a plan for a big future for each of us and so often we are behind a painted metal gate, the concrete walls keeping us oblivious to the world outside our 5 little, clean, sparse rooms.
We choose, so often, to remain inside.
Oh, friends! - let's go explore. We are not orphans and our Father has our lives waiting.
Please keep the letters coming - they are better food for us both than anything we could eat. We love you all and covet your prayers. Especially for my tender child...we need great mercy, friends.
love, love, love,