Friday, July 29, 2011

Discovering My New Normal

     I am home... or at least officially back in the States. The jet lag has finally disappeared. The craving for rice has not. Neither has the ache in my heart.

     I am not sure how to fit anymore. As I write this, I am in a beautifully painted room with air conditioning and sipping a cherry limeade. Just a week ago, I was holding hands with a precious little girl in the midst of garbage.

     I said my goodbyes. I held Benjamin in my arms and spent a few minutes with my sweet Angelica. More than anything, I just wanted to slip away quietly. No hoopla. No fanfare. No tears. Just hugs and kisses. I don't let myself make promises to return because I can't do that to my little ones. I can't hurt them anymore than I have to. I hate goodbyes. I'm not good at them. I would prefer to leave unnoticed, out the back door.

     Yet, as bad as I am at saying goodbye, I'm even worse at saying hello. Once again, I would like to slip in unnoticed, through the back door.

     Because I know there will be questions.... How was the trip? Did you have fun?

     To be honest, I love those questions, and I love sharing what God has done and all the funny/crazy stories. But I am not ready to go beyond surface level yet. I don't know how to accurately articulate just what God did in my life. I think I am still in shock just a little it. How do I make you understand what it was like to be in the Red Light District? How do I express the pain I felt while holding Benjamin before I had to let him go? How do I show you pictures and help you focus on the beauty rather than the pain? Most importantly, how do I speak in a way that inspires you, rather than makes you say "Oh, that was a good story".

     I don't know. I have no answers, and I wish I did. I haven't really processed anything yet. I have been giving myself the week to sleep, spend time with my family, and listen to rap music before sitting down and doing some soul searching.

      Then there is always the inevitable.... So what are you doing now?

      To be honest, I think I know, but I am still praying and waiting on the Lord. The decisions I make may not be conventional or make sense, but please trust that I am following the heart of God. It may not be the option in the prettiest package, but as my dear friend Brittany says, "Sometimes God doesn't call us to what we think is the best option". Sometimes, He goes outside of the box.

     That being said, I will keep you all posted :)

     For now, I am trying to reconcile my past... the things I have seen, heard, and felt with my present. It's become a familiar feeling these days, the dull ache of having your heart separated from the rest of your body. My arms are once again empty. I once read a book in which the character delivered a stillborn child. Her arms began to hurt because her body had been preparing to hold the baby, so someone gave her the advice to carry around a sack of flour until the pain stopped coming back. I always thought it was a little weird, but now it makes sense to me. Not that I'm going to be carrying around sacks of flour, but I know the pain of holding someone so dear and then being forced to let him go. To put it plainly, it sucks.

     On the outside, I am still the same. I still remember how to use a flat iron and apply eyeliner. The bottoms of my feet are (thankfully) no longer black. And I still love sweet tea and Chauncey Belser's scrambled eggs.

     But on the inside, I am different... changed. Numb. My life has basically been wrecked by the God who brought me on this journey. I want these changes to last, and that I never return to the person I used to be.

     In case you were wondering, I will still be maintaining this blog, sharing thoughts and stories, and maybe even pictures if I can figure that out. Feel free to stop by anytime.

     For now, I am resting in the present, and resting in Jesus. his grace is enough for today. And I rest in the truth that He who formed my little ones will continue to hold them, even if I can't.   

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

He sleeps beside me....

It's 10:12 pm on a Wednesday night, and I am exhausted.

I wish that I had a catchier way of introducing this blog post, but after racking my brain, this is all I've got. I could start off with something like the following:

     I've been at the hospital for the past three days!
     Cocooning: The art of complete seclusion from society for a period of a few weeks; practiced by families who have just recently adopted a child in order to establish a bond with that child.

Or the ever popular....
     There's a baby sleeping beside my bed.

     As catchy as the above starters may be (please feel free to cast votes or add a few recommendations of your own), there really is no better way to describe my current state than sheer exhaustion.


     Well, because I have been in the hospital for the past three days, feeling a little like I am cocooning with the four month old baby boy who now sleeps beside my bed.

      Sunday morning, it was too wet to go to Malabon, the poor community where we do ministry and outreach. So Brittany and a few others went to church, and I stayed behind, promising to go to church with the boys that night. At about ten that morning, Ate Cher (Ah-tay Chair) pulled me aside and informed me that one of our babies was in distress and needed to go to the hospital. I would be the one to stay with him.

     Gentle Hands is a little bit like a miniature hospital. We treat tb patients, pull teeth, deliver babies, have oxygen machines, nebulizers, an ICU, small pharmacy, and will soon be the proud owners of an x-ray machine. We are prepared to handle almost anything. When Ate said the baby needed to go to the hospital, my heart immediately began to quicken because I knew this was serious. Hospitals are a last resort here.

     I ran upstairs to pack a few things, unsure of how many days I would be spending in the hospital (and all the while thanking God I had showered that morning). I tried to send an email to my mom, but my computer died... fairly typical. And no mom, I was not intentionally ignoring you. Please forgive me.

     I immediately went in to what I call my "crisis mode"... basically where I shut down emotionally in order to deal with the situation at hand. I worked quickly gathering my Bible, toothbrush, deodorant, etc.,  counting the minutes, and shoving away images of a dying Lucy that flooded my mind. Could I handle the death of another child?

     The hospital is only two minutes away. I could walk if necessary. We went into the ER, and immediately my sweet boy was hooked up to an iv, his little hand punctured over and over as they tried to find a vein. They drew blood, took x-rays, put him on oxygen, and then led us to our room.

     And there I waited.
                                  ... waited to see the doctor who prescribed medication for pneaumonia.

                                  ... waited as endless interns and nurses walked through the door
                                to take his temperature, ask questions, and simply stare at him.

                                  ... waited for someone to bring me food and clothes.

                                   ... waited for God to answer my prayers so we could go home.
     I wish I could say it was an easy time, and really, I can't complain. I had a television and a room to myself. But it was scary. And lonely. And he was scared, and at one point we were almost crying at the same time. Sick children are not easy... especially when they could take a wrong turn at any moment.

     Because what if I make a mistake and something happens and he gets worse? Even now, as he sleeps beside my bed, my mind still runs with anxious thoughts.

     I am more aware than ever of my lack of strength... my lack of control.  I am at the end of me, and more and more I realize just how little I have to give. Really, I have nothing to offer this child... I can't heal him, save him, even properly love him, because I am nothing.

     I need God. Not just want Him, or like saying the words because I sound more spiritual. No, my dry and blistered soul desperately needs the grace of a sovereign God to walk woth me through every moment. On my own, I simply cannot do this. It's too hard.

     It's now Wednesday, and we are finally home. I ask for prayers for my sweet boy who is getting better, but still very sick. I won't go into details,but he has some kind of respiratory infection (maybe or maybe not pneaumonia) and a few other issues that must be dealt with in order for him to be fully healed.

     I told Ate by the end of our hospital visit, Benjamin and I would either hate each other or I would have to adopt him (his name is Benjamin by the way). I really tried to fight it, but I'm leaning more towards the adoption side :) He even smiled at me today... something I have been praying to see, and it's just adorable.

     Please pray for my sweet Benjamin... my fighter with one very tired little body. Pray for wisdom and healing. Pray for strength.

      And even though I am tired and it's hard, I close my eyes and thank God for the blessing of loving this sweet boy. For the past few days, I have had the privilege of being his mom. And now I get one more night.

     Lack of sleep. Rambling thoughts that don't make sense. An extreme craving for French fries.

     All worth it for the little boy beside my bed. Praying Happy Thoughts over him. Praying for healing. Praying for life.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sweet Shalom

     I sit and I watch you, study you. I try and memorize every feature... your soft, sweet cheeks, your perfectly formed lips, dark eyes, tiny nose, and a forehead that wrinkles with each facial expression.

      You yawn. You cry. Today you laughed.... a soft little giggle that brought a smile to my face. You look into my eyes as I look into yours, and you wonder who I am. No, we have not been attached these last nine months, but I have been given the grace of knowing you in your first few days.

     I snuggle you. Hold you close, even after you have fallen asleep, because you need to be held. Or maybe I need you more.

     I knew you were coming, and looking back, I can see so clearly how God has been preparing me for you. I still didn't expect you. But you snuggled into my arms and into my heart.

     The future is so uncertain. Soon, too soon, I will have to let you go. Another good bye... more painful than the last. And I give you to God, prepare my heart to miss more milestones, more moments, more laughs, smiles, hugs, and kisses.

      I can't focus on the future though. If I do, then I will miss out on the blessing of now. I will miss out on the joy of holding you in my arms, treasuring you now.

     Because, in this moment, it doesn't matter that I will be leaving soon. It doesn't matter that you may one day belong to someone else. Today, in this moment, in my arms and in my heart, you my mine. My sweet baby girl.

     How could it be that He is using one so small to heal me? To fix the broken pieces and pour a soothing balm on wounds both new and old.

     I have to trust the One who brought you this far to continue holding you the rest of the way, and I pray our paths will cross again. I pray permanently, and then I release it to Him.

     But for now, you are mine... my peace to an aching heart. My Shalom.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pop Tarts and Cinnamon Rolls

     One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Elijah. After being threatened by the evil queen Jezebel, Elijah runs away, and he settles into a cave on Mount Horeb. While in this cave, God told Him to walk outside because His presence was about to pass by.

     Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire came a gentle whisper... (1 Kings 19:11-12)

    I want to hear from God. In fact, while I have been in India, there have been several things that I have been praying for guidance and clarity. I want desperately to make the right decisions. Often, I come to the point where I am so frustrated that I simply cry out, "God, I'll do anything. Just tell me!"

     And so often, I expect God's voice to come in the form of a grand gesture... like a loud booming voice or writing on a wall. But I love this story of Elijah because it reminds me that God speaks in gentle whispers, through a quiet voice that I must tune my ear to hear.

     Two weeks ago, I was really craving cinnamon rolls. I rarely eat them in the U.S. but for some reason, I couldn't wait to go to Manila so I could have a cinnamon roll (being in a foreign country makes you do weird things). Long story short, the next morning, Beth came to our morning devotions with a box of warm cinnamon rolls from a local bakery.

     Another weird craving I have been having is for pop tarts. I hate eating breakfast, but I love pop tarts, and they were nowhere to be found in Kolkata. Yet, lo and behold, there they were at a grocery store in Dehli.

      You see, sometimes God uses really grand gestures to speak to us, but often, He uses the small things like cinnamon rolls and pop tarts. Sure, I may not have the answers to my questions, but He uses the simple beauty of every day moments to remind me that He loves me, He sees me, and I matter to Him.

     The Author of romance loves doing these things to surprise and delight us (and he knows that the way to my heart is through food). Yet, so many times, I dismiss these things as mere coincidences and forget that He orchestrates the moments of simple beauty and joy.

     How is God romancing you today? How is He speaking to you? You may not be getting the answers you desire just yet, but I promise you that they will come. In the meantime, He is still wooing you and drawing you to Himself, reminding you that He is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is joy.

     Because sometimes He speaks through gentle whispers... softly beckoning us to come and rest... to come and fall in love. And sometimes he uses cinnamon rolls and pop tarts.

**Flying into Malaysia today I saw the most beautiful sunrise with fierce oranges and reds against a nearly black sky... just another way He romances me :)