Our First Two Weeks

Thanks to @Windobooth for taking our first Family Portrait.

I can’t believe I have been with the girls for two weeks already! Our Gotcha Day was August 31st. In my mind, my “worst case scenario” of the latest we would get the girls was September.

Haha, God. You’re so funny.

As September got closer, as we went through this summer of questions and difficulties with getting the girls home, my idea of a worst case scenario of course changed to November? December? 2017? Today I joyfully deleted about 100 screenshots of tuberculosis testing info I had gathered over the past few months…don’t need those anymore! Neither do I need to hear my email ding or stare wistfully at my phone. It’s truly as blissful as I had dreamed!

So I wanted to write a little about our two weeks, to remember it someday but also for others who may be adopting. I love it when people share details, so…if there’s anyone out there I could help prepare, I’m happy to share.

About Food

It’s interesting to me how they handle the food issue. These girls were starving before they came to the creche 2.5 years ago, and then once they got there they ate beans and rice two times a day, so they definitely want to make sure there’s food available to them in the quantity they desire. But at the same time, they’re picky and won’t mind to throw food away. That part surprises me! The first few days, meal times were the hardest times of day for me. And when I say “times”, I mean like 5 times – sitting at the table, plates, forks, napkins, the whole nine yards. They would ask for 4 eggs (they still do), bread and jam, rice and chicken, etc., all at once, but then sometimes when I would give them what they asked they would say they didn’t want it. Sometimes what they loved yesterday, I would put in front of them the next day and they would cry like I had given them Miss Hannigan’s cold mush! I knew I didn’t want any power struggles, so I had available alternatives if they didn’t like something, but at the same time I had a struggle in me because I wanted them to at least try things and I didn’t want to waste so much food and time! After just a week and a half at home, we’ve figured out a groove. If they ask for food, they can eat, but there have been a couple times now after a week or so when I’ll say, “You just ate, we’ll eat again soon!” and they know it’s true and they run away happy. We practice meal time when it’s not meal time! I offer a few choices to them, they tell me which they prefer, and I keep a bunch of their favorites as leftovers always ready in the fridge so it’s easy to make. If they have asked for something and then won’t eat it, I ask them to at least take 3 bites. Thankfully, they’ve been willing.  Also, because they literally say “ban’m anpil” (give me A LOT) when I spoon anything onto their plate I tell them they have to eat what’s on their plate before asking for more of anything. They get up out of their seats 50 million times per meal, but it’s getting better. They learned right away that we pray at meals, and lately have been reminding us to pray if we forget in all the crazy rush of dinnertime. Sometimes little Woodjina gets to pretending she’s a preacher, closes her eyes and shakes her head and babbles a whole bunch of thank Yous to Jesus. 🙂

Clothes

They say thank you for every every every every thing. They love having a closet full of dresses, and they wear them everyday, no matter what we are doing. The biggest surprise is how important socks and underwear are to them. They LOVE them. They take 2 baths a day (their choice of course…Yemi has NEVER been so clean in all her life!) They are really big on having clean socks. Both have cried over socks. Woodjina cried because her basket didn’t have any socks in it anymore (they were in the laundry, I guess she thought they were just all gone forever?) Orlanka cried because her white socks were “soiled”, she said. Running around in socks without shoes will do that and apparently our washing machine needs to be fired. Woodjina washed her own socks in the bath one day; she was really proud. She was like, “Look, Mom! WHITE.” Not really, but I’m sure that’s what she was thinking. 🙂 I took them to Target (we went to Target, WOW, I would have never thought I would do such a thing in the first 2 weeks but I did prepare them thoroughly about what we would and would not be looking at or buying) for new socks–dark colored socks, and plenty of them.  Today was the first day there was any problem with 3 girls sharing clothes, otherwise it’s been totally fine, and that situation worked out with more maturity than I actually expected. I was impressed. Oh also yesterday at Target, they got tennis shoes. Last night, they slept in them. So. Happy.

Stuff

Each girl has a tall bookcase with shelves, and we told them when they first came that that was their “special shelf.” I told them anything on their shelves is just for them, but everything else in the house was for sharing. This has worked out well! They’ve went around the house and put a few random items on their shelves, but when they tried to bring whole sets of toys to their special shelf we had to have a little talk. They handled it well, once I reminded them those items will be there daily for them to play with. They do imaginative play SO WELL! I honestly don’t know when they have had the chance in their lives to do this. They take towels and blankets and make tents, and play for one or two hours at a time with babies, doll clothes, doll food, etc. They love to braid their babies’ hair. I asked them to ask me before getting something out, and they faithfully do…they are so excited when I say yes to things they think I won’t say yes to. I say yes a lot, as much as possible! I am shocked by how well they clean up. Shocked. They pick up, clean up, organize, everything. They set the table. They have never been upset about being asked to clean up an area before going to another activity. Amazing!

What We Do

They couldn’t care less about TV. I know it was on a lot at the creche, but they just don’t care about it. They’ve got toys to play with and art, music, playing outside, dolls, etc to do! I’ve discovered just this week that they sure do love art! They say “I can’t, I can’t do it, do it for me” but as soon as I give them some encouragement and a little direction, they have drawn and colored the cutest pictures! These kids have had NOTHING. Their practice hours with crayons or markers are next to none because they would lose, break, or share anything we brought them. They painted at church on Sunday and we did stamps today. Orlanka especially just really loves things like this. She is so ready for school! Total surprise to me, they asked to do school already, so we’ve done 3 days. For about 45 minutes, they color the letter of the day, make the letter with clay, practice writing or tracing, and we look at books and videos about words that start with the letter. I’m trying to teach 2 English words a day, too, like big and little, up and down. I try to say everything in Creole and then in English, but I do forget sometimes. They’ve been getting up around 7:30, and we sing a worship song (YouTube!) together and pray around 8:30, then have breakfast. They eat for.e.ver and then take baths, get dressed, fix hair (I am sweating buckets at this point – I can walk 2 miles and just have a nice glow, but fixing three little brown girls’ hair, my shirt is WET), brush teeth, and then we have “sensory and connection time”. Lately, that has been outside…so I can cool off 😉 Right now, sensory time consists of playing on playground, swinging, monkey bars, and also having a tactile outlet such as playing with beans, sand, or water with small toys. Today we took a sheet outside and shook it up and down with balls on top, which was great for their muscles, coordination, and relationship building as we had to work together. Connection time means working on things like eye contact, building relationship, snuggling, talking, practicing what to do when certain difficult things happen, and talking about feelings. We use feeling cards and we role play what to do when feeling certain ways. We talk about accomplishments and things to work on during this time, and I try to make it as one-on-one as possible. I follow TBRI/Empowered to Connect as closely as possible, which has helped us incredibly with Yemi (age 8, adopted at 8.5 months from Ethiopia) who started grieving and feeling a lot of complicated emotions and stress at the age of 6.5 years.

Then we eat again around 10:30. While they’re still eating, I start school with Yemi and the girls really surprised me how well they could play quietly. The first few days being home I made them take naps, and they hated it so much. That was really the only time Orlanka has had a “fit”, so I told them we could try playing quietly while I did school with Yemi and it worked. Now, when we’re done, I do school with them on the kitchen floor and they love that, too. Afterwards, you guessed it, we eat again around 1!

That’s mostly our schedule. Then around 5:30 we have things to do to get ready for supper and bedtime, and they are in bed around 8. I stay with them until they fall asleep. I sing and pray over them. I’ve noticed they each (all 3) want and need special snuggle time, so I hold them and rock back and forth on the bed singing and praying, after reading a book together. I’m usually in there a whole hour for this, but there’s no place I’d rather be! Of course Yemi has had this for the past 7 years, and still craves it–I lay in bed with her every night until she falls asleep–but the little girls, I don’t know when the last time was they had this.

I had been told “Orlanka wants a mother so badly. She remembers what it’s like to have a mother. She needs you.” And that is incredibly true. She immediately fell into the normal relationship of nurturing mother and little child. She loves being held, she loves being taken care of, she loves helping me, she pats my back when I hold her, she’s just happy with mommy. I am so grateful–so grateful she finally has the desire of her heart, and all I can think is this beautiful worship song my friend wrote that says “You sing Your song over my life, it’s ‘I love you'”…God sings over me, and I sing over her.

With Woodjina though, she is just now beginning to realize how nice it might be to be held by a mother. She is only 4 now so she wasn’t even 2 years old when brought to the creche. We had to practice hugs and being held at first. Every day has gotten better and better, but sometimes she does still resist, and that’s okay. She’s just never had anyone wanting to hold her, rock her, sit with her as long as she wants before. But I see her daily warming up, and she also is really joyful. She has a special bond already with Selah – she’s a little more familiar with girls around Selah’s age than she is adults. In our Connection Times, she at first talked about being scared, and she is already feeling a lot more comfortable and relaxed. You can tell…because she runs through the house naked, plays tricks on people, and laughs a LOT.

My biggest surprise has been how positive they’ve been. It’s not that they’re happy every minute, but they’re just normal kids – ups and downs, highs and lows, disappointments and excitement, misunderstanding and making up. When visiting the creche, those downs for them were so low, those disappointments were so earth shattering…They have been through so much. They have experienced such loss. I just really wondered if they would be skeptical, think negatively, wait for the other shoe to drop, be able to trust us, etc. I really wondered if they’d be tormented by their past. And maybe that is going on and I don’t see it, or maybe it will happen later–there will definitely be things to work through later, but honestly on the whole they seem content and at peace. There’s every now and then a rebellious spirit (it’s way better when they’ve slept enough), or something that looks like being spoiled (which is really just inflated dreams being dashed!!), and they cry a couple of times a day over hurt feelings, but since I was expecting constant drama like we had at the creche, this is going really well! (Happiness is all about expectations after all!)

My biggest joy is just being with them all the time. I’ve wondered for over a year what that would be like, and it’s awesome. They give just as much as they receive, and they are precious, fun, and a joy to get to know, just like Selah and Yemi have always been. However, in these first weeks I have struggled sometimes and I’m sure I’ll struggle again! There are times Orlanka and Yemi are having a problem and crying and needing me at the exact same time. There are times I expect more, even perfection, from the older siblings who “should know better” and have to apologize when I realize I’m putting too much pressure on them. There are times when people are talking to me all at the same time and my brain just can’t function over all the noise. I’ve gotten better at taking a deep breath but sometimes I have gotten really angry. (Sorry, Karyn Purvis, please don’t be watching me from above every moment!)

But the Lord spoke to my heart that the joy is in the engaging, not in the managing. A mom has to manage things…it’s how we have food in the house that actually is meant to be eaten together on the same plate, it’s how there are clean clothes on the days they are needed, it’s how our people don’t hurt each other with words or fingernails, it’s how so many important things happen–because we plan and schedule and make it happen, we keep an on time train the best we can.  Managing is valuable and necessary, at least it is in this house. But engaging still wins. Engaging to me means both feet in, really listening, really looking, really being there, really loving. One of the joys of this adoption process being over is I don’t have anything else I have to think too much about right now! I can be ALL here. Now, I believe in having time alone. I believe in taking breaks. I believe in naps and chocolate and friends, hallelujah, praise You Jesus. I believe mommies can only give so much before they have to recharge and refuel in their own way, and no one is going to make that happen for the mommy except the mommy. (Can I get a witness?) But throughout the day, I have the choice to either manage my kids or engage with them. When I’m managing, I am thinking to myself, “How can I possibly do this every day for 10 more years? Like, seriously, I will die!” When I’m engaging, I’m thinking, “I love these people. Their needs are really coming out in their words and behaviors; I’m so thankful God is showing me their heart. I want to know them more today than I did yesterday.”

Isn’t God just SO GOOD?

This is quite possibly the longest blog I have ever written, maybe the longest blog anyone has ever written. Sorry. I’m wordy, and it’s past my bedtime, and I had a whole two weeks to write about! If there’s anything else anyone would want to possibly know that could be helpful in an adoption transition, do let me know and I’ll write again after awhile with another update! 🙂

 

The End of Chapter One

The summer of 2016 did not go at all how I had planned, but apparently God had a different type of story in mind! I guess the best stories have a big climactic nail-biter at the end, so we can definitely say it hasn’t been dull! (I would have happily taken dull though!)

We thought we would finish our adoption process and go to Haiti at the end of May, but instead we found out that Orlanka “needed” to have a TB test that would take 8 weeks to get back from the lab. Every bit of information we got in that time was like pulling teeth…eventually mid-summer, our adoption agency representative was visiting Haiti and while she was there, she took Orlanka to the hospital to meet with a doctor with whom we were very blessed to get in contact. This doctor, Dr. Rouzier, turned out to be such an angel through the summer, as she personally emailed and called me to keep me in the loop. The week after Orlanka had some additional testing (because we wanted to find out if there was a true concern regarding her health), I went to Haiti to get the results, visit the girls, and get to the bottom of the some of the confusion we had met along the way. While I was there, Orlanka had a fever and we had blood work done. At that time, she had a lung infection and started antibiotics, and we also saw her CT scan and X-ray which shows her left lung with permanent damage from multiple infections in the past. But thankfully, no sign of TB, even though the nurse at the creche was still giving her medications for the disease. I could not wait to get her out of there! Those weeks from the end of May until the end of July were so excruciating!

Finally August 19th, 2016 came, and we waited anxiously for word from the panel physician, lab, and Embassy. We found out her TB test was negative and praised the Lord for that, but another issue had come up. On Saturday Aug. 20th, the physician said we needed to wait another 4 weeks for a 12 week lab. Dr. Rouzier stated clearly there was no such test. There was just confusion and frustration all around! We all prayed, talked with our Senator’s office (again), and contacted the Embassy for ourselves. Finally, by the next Monday, Aug. 29th, the physician had been convinced of his error (I suppose? I actually don’t know how it happened) and sent a completed medical report to the Embassy. The next day, Tues the 30th, we got the visa scan we had been waiting SO LONG for!

That day was crazy. We needed to buy 4 tickets going and 6 coming back! I was telling the family, “I could just go get them right now if I was going by myself” because I knew how quickly and easily I could get one ticket…And they all agreed to just have me go. So, the next morning we got up at 3 a.m. and I went to Haiti to GET OUR GIRLS!

August 31st was our Gotcha Day, and it was an awesome day! I dropped off my stuff in the room when I arrived and went straight to the creche to get them. We went from room to room, giving out toys and taking pictures and saying goodbye. I have come to love the children at that creche, especially the older group, ages 8-13 or so. I talked with those that I know have parents waiting for them, encouraging them, because I could tell it was really hard for them to see me but not their own parents. Orlanka especially wanted to say goodbye and get pictures. Woodjina wasn’t very interested in that, but just was overwhelmed by the excitement. It was an amazing moment when they climbed into the white van. Two nannies stood on the steps, waving, with the biggest smiles on their faces. They were so incredibly happy for these girls to be going home.

We went back to the guest house and I learned quickly how much they love to eat! They had a very hard time sitting in their chairs to eat; they stood in their chairs, walked around, got under the table, it was crazy! They wanted everything, and more of everything, all on their plate at the same time. They were just so excited to have choices and so much of everything. They sat to eat for about an hour at a time! I also learned quickly how much they love to take baths! They giggled and laughed and stood in the bathtub washing themselves and each other. It turned out they liked to take short baths both morning and night; they really care about being clean and I think it’s wonderful for their sensory needs!

The next day, Sept 1, we had to go to the Embassy and meet with some other people. They were very well behaved even as we sweated hard and ate melted chocolate protein bars all day. I was so thankful of how well we could communicate with each other! I can understand almost everything they say, and if I don’t understand, I can ask them to explain and they will. They loved their little backpacks I had brought them, which were full of toys, and they absolutely loved the underwear, outfits, and hair bows I had brought. They were just really overjoyed about everything.

Then Sept 2, we got up at 4:30 a.m., had some breakfast, and got to the airport! God intervened to help us in some scary moments there…Haiti has a way of making my heart race sometimes! No matter how late everyone and everything is in Haiti, the planes are not. In fact, sometimes they leave early. It’s crazy. So when I saw the longest line ever—literally going out the door—for security, I wanted to cry! And then a man with a sheriff badge on looked at me and said, “Adoption?” I said, “Yes.” And he escorted me to the very front of the line!!! We didn’t even get to sit down at the gate, we just moved from one thing to the next and the plane was ready to go before we knew it. The girls were beyond excited! They watched a movie, took naps, and played with ice and water in their cups. We went from Port-au-Prince to Atlanta, Georgia, and things went very smoothly at Immigration. When their Haitian passports were stamped, they became U.S. Citizens!!

In the Atlanta airport, Orlanka cried because she wanted to get right on the next plane, no waiting. Well, I did, too, but we had several hours to go! We went in a restaurant, and they ate chicken and fries…they loved it! We sat next to a really nice man who talked with us a little. He got an appetizer and a meal, and Orlanka yelled really loudly, “Manman, l’ap manje de fwa! DE FWA, Manman!” (Mama, he is eating two times, two times!!) I didn’t tell him what they said, but I had a good laugh. Later, he found us again in the airport and had bought the girls a Mickey and Minnie doll. They were also amazed (and a little scared) by the automatic flushing toilets and sinks! They yelled at the water faucets thinking they were voice activated. They jumped like 4 feet back the first time the toilet automatically flushed. They did NOT like the escalators, elevators, or moving sidewalks at first, but by the time we were in Louisville, they were more okay with it!

So, finally, on Friday evening, Sept 2, 2016, we had the moment we had been waiting for for so long…All six of us were finally together and HOME! Lots of sweet friends and family were there at the airport waiting for us, and I had had about 16 hours of sleep in 4 nights, so I was just sort of floating on fumes. Woodjina was frozen in my arms. She just didn’t know what to think at all, I felt so bad for her! Orlanka was a social butterfly, meeting everyone. Eventually, they both were running around playing with cousins and church friends! We also had a special visitor at the airport, their dear friend Katiana, who used to be with them at the creche in Haiti and now lives in Kentucky, too!!

No one could have written the ups and downs of this story except God, and we rest in the fact that whether we understand or not, His timing was perfect! Our journey belongs to the Lord, and I’m excited about Chapter Two. He did provide daily strength in His Presence while we waited, and that is my hope and joy because I will continue to need Him every hour in Chapter Two!

The Lord is good, and all of His promises will endure. Forever.

Updates and Praise Reports

Hi everyone!

I wanted to share a quick update with my precious friends/family/prayer warriors:

First of all, Orlanka was able to get in with a wonderful new doctor and she had all the necessary TB testing (and more) at Gheskio, a good hospital in Port-au-Prince. The two ministries that helped this appointment happen were Ti Kay Haiti  and Empower Haiti Together. New friends from these ministries truly were a vessel for the Lord to answer so many prayers!

Secondly, the first two TB tests came back NEGATIVE (praise the Lord!!) and I was there in Haiti to get that report personally a couple of weeks ago. Orlanka did have a fever at that time, and some kind of lung infection was detected while I was there, and she started an antibiotic immediately.  I had a really good visit with Orlanka and Woodjina. There were certainly some hard parts, but our goodbye was calm and peaceful, which shows trust is being built and that’s possibly the best I can hope for in these absurd circumstances.

Today, I actually got to FaceTime with Orlanka, who was at the hospital for an appointment with her new doctor. This doctor could not be more of an answer to prayer. She called me while Orlanka was in her office so that we could FaceTime!! She said she was finished with her antibiotic and looking much better. She also told me she personally checked on Orlanka’s sputum sample, that it was still negative at this time, and that the lab technician said the test will be finished August 19. (Basically, the lab has to wait a full 56 days to make sure her sample doesn’t grow bacteria/”become positive.”) That’s a couple days later than I had thought, but still in the same week I was expecting. I don’t know the exact steps or who does what afterwards, but when the time comes, our associates in Haiti will be getting the report to the Embassy and Lord willing within a week or two, we’ll get her visa and bring both girls home. Lord willing, that means they could be home early September if not before. (There I go saying dates again…I know better…but I can’t help it!!)

Knowing the challenges ahead with language, personalities, grief, culture shock, changes, food, and only God knows what else, we are praying and preparing…but also feeling really ready. It’s kind of like training for a race. At some point, you’re just like, “ENOUGH! I’m as ready as I’m going to get! We’ll deal with whatever when it comes.” This whole journey I’ve imagined as an ocean, and I keep stepping farther and farther away from the shore. Sometimes I have felt like I was drowning and sometimes like I was walking on water, feeling okay with the waves, feeling resilient. It requires so much faith to have no idea what kind of needs or personality or age or the history of a child God will chose to be your son or daughter, or how high and rough the mountain ahead to get to them will be. It’s just a blind jump of obedience. And we keep going further into the unknown as we choose to love those people He gives us. It is always and completely His miraculous life at work in us to do this.

The miracle of getting them home is INDEED a miracle. The miracle of loving them with the love of Christ all of our days is a much greater one. Keep praying for us, and know we are SO grateful for the love, prayers, and support we have received! I feel like, together, we have lived out so many portions of Scripture through these hard times…and may we continue doing so!

We’ll keep everyone updated; hoping to have some great news to share soon! 🙂

Some Answers to Prayer!

Thank you, prayer warriors! I believe in the power of our prayers and our warfare against the enemy! I have some answers to a few of those prayers today.

  1. I got in touch with Orlanka’s new and wonderful doctor! She called and talked with me for 30 minutes this afternoon after finally getting her contact info and emailing her. The most important thing she had to say was that the sputum sample she gave back in June (when all this fun began) is in the lab and is still negative at this time. They have to give it eight weeks to see if it becomes positive; it’s been four. This is a HUGE relief, as we thought it was possibly lost.
  2. If her culture does come back positive in August, at least I know she will have a doctor who knows what’s going on and who cares about her AND who will communicate with me! That has been just as stressful as the possible sickness itself.
  3.  Orlanka is finishing up the TB testing at the hospital tomorrow morning. They should have the reports of the CT scan and the gastric aspiration (poor baby!) by the time I go see the doctor myself on Monday. I’m going this Saturday through Wednesday. It’s a short trip, but it’ll be three days in country where I can connect with the girls and also meet with the doctor. I’m happy that I can comfort Orlanka very soon after all she has been through this past week.

Thank you for all your prayers, and please continue to ask with us for excellent communication between the creche, the doctor, and us; complete recovery for Orlanka and that test results from this week will provide insight and direction; and a visa in August if that is the Lord’s will.

Faith Off the Shelf

In all honesty, it feels like a very long time since my faith has been “on the shelf.” I need the Lord all the time and am lost without Him, even on a normal day. Either I’m a wimp, or He has called me to some big tasks, I don’t know which, but it doesn’t matter. He puts me in situations, and has since I gave my life to Him, where I must have faith, where I must believe His word is true even when all I feel is fear and all I see are obstacles. In job situations, relationship issues, learning how to parent kids from hard places, the decision to go back to homeschooling…I kinda thought I was at my full faith potential already!

And then God allowed our adoption to go on a really unexpected path, as if it hadn’t taken enough scary and hard turns in the past 2.5 years! Just when I thought I could not take anymore (and by the way I totally let God know this status update), He did allow things to get worse. At this moment, I have no idea what He is doing or why He hasn’t delivered us yet. I can’t see one step in front of me. There’s nothing else I personally can do, at least not right now, besides pray. I don’t know how or when we’ll get past this, but I know the Lord has a plan. There have been moments I wasn’t sure though.

I needed two major components to come together at the same time in the same intensity.

This confusing, painful trial (component one) had to go head to head with the promises in the Word of God (component two)!

And when they do, even in the worst moments, even in the darkest news, there’s a light.

Faith is activated when we speak and believe God’s Word in a situation that begs to differ, in a situation that looks like quite the opposite of His heart, His character, and what we understand to be His will.

There are dozens of promises God has used to activate my faith here and now in this nightmare with my girls–Isaiah 43, John 14-17, Romans 8, & so many more. But there are two passages in particular that have challenged me to hold on to them:

  1. Luke 18:1-8 The parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow: The widow day after day tells the judge her case; eventually even though he really doesn’t care, she wears him out and he gives her justice. Then Jesus says: “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly! However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
  2. John 20:29 The story of Thomas’ moment of doubt: Jesus has risen from the dead, everyone is super excited, and Thomas says ‘no way, not until I touch where the nails were will I believe He’s alive!’ And all of a sudden, there Jesus is, standing before him, in the flesh. He says, ‘go ahead, friend!’ Then Thomas believes, after touching his side. And dear Jesus says: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I can tell God all day long what I believe His job is. He is so kind to let me. But He also wants to tell me my job.

He invites me to persevere in prayer, He wants to find his children asking, showing they haven’t grown bitter and too disappointed to come.

And He invites me to believe He is good, wise, loving, and in control long before I see it with my eyes.

“I am not ashamed, because I know Whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.” 1 Tim. 1:12

 

Prayers for the Week Ahead

Thank you so much to those who are remembering us and our little girls in Haiti in prayer. I learned today that Orlanka will have the full TB testing and a CT scan this coming week. This is an answer to prayer, because we weren’t really sure what to do next. The doctor she saw on Wednesday pretty much made the decision for us, which is very appropriate in this situation since she is the specialist! In fact, she called our agency representative and told her what was going to happen. Our rep really likes this doctor, and is thrilled we were sent to that particular lab and hospital. A nanny will go with Orlanka to the overnight testing at the hospital.

Please pray for Orlanka as she goes through another few days of testing. I’m sure it’s scary and unpleasant.

We are so thankful to finally have a proactive, caring, and even English speaking doctor. The ministry that helped us get this appointment in the first place is Ti Kay Haiti (www.tikayhaiti.org). They have been corresponding with me and answering questions; they’re a ministry in Port-au-Prince that helps both TB and HIV patients.

Please pray the results we get back will be clear and communicated well to us. Please pray we will soon be in direct contact with this doctor ourselves, whether in person or by email or phone. 

She has been on medicine a long time for TB.

Please pray that these tests will reveal that she is now recovering instead of still in active TB.

No matter the result of the tests, she won’t be cleared for a visa until the 56 day test comes back (supposed to be August 17th). If the tests are positive, either now or at the end of August, we have a fight ahead of us to get her home. But right now the focus is on the medical end; next it will be the government end.

Please pray that the sputum sample she gave in June will be safe and sound in the lab, and that in about four weeks from now it will come back negative! If so, they’ll be coming home at the end of August. If these two things happen, friends, you can say you saw an absolute miracle. 

We want to visit the girls, but Jack has started a new job in addition to the production company he co-owns. So I will probably go alone for a short visit soon. That’s hard on our family, especially Yemi.

Will you lift us up and ask for wisdom about dates of travel and appointments with the doctor and the consulate?

Thank you.

Praying For Miracles

“The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting; do not forsake the work of Your hands.” Ps. 138:8

Today, right now as I write this, my agency representative and my daughter in Haiti should be going to a doctor and lab. There are so many questions to be answered, and so many moving pieces to put together, such as figuring out her past treatment for TB, current meds she is taking that she’s probably not supposed to be taking, getting old x-rays in hand to compare, having tests run to prove that she doesn’t have TB right now, and getting the ear of the Embassy doctor as we ask for him to re-consider with all this new information.

God has sent help and advocates to make this doctor appointment happen, please pray that they are successful in their goals today and this week! These steps would be hard enough in the U.S.; in Haiti, it really will take a miracle. Fortunately, if this is the way God wants to do it, it’s as good as done! If it’s not, He has another plan. That’s the beauty of being a child of God! Hallelujah!

Take home: The best case scenarios are still possible. Please continue to bring this before the Lord, asking for favor, way-making, peace, and ultimately HEALING and a VISA! 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God!” Phil. 4:6

Small Update and Prayer Requests!

There have been hours of discussions and pages of details, but I’ll just share the most important things…

One, we need connections and prayer regarding getting Orlanka to a TB specialist this week in Haiti. Our agency representative, who has been very proactive in this situation, will be there this week and wants to take her somewhere to have our own x-rays and tests run. Of course, doing a sputum culture (the 8 week test) is not on the agenda, but there are other shorter tests that could give us some clue as to whether or not she is sick. Also, just to see a doctor who can combine all we know and give an informed opinion would be amazing, as we medical un-professionals (bless all the visitors to her creche who give me eye witness reports) are just speculating all over the place! We do have a few people with contacts in Haiti who are generously trying to help us, and we have the name and address of a clinic/lab.  We are so thankful for this, but through the weeks as we dig into possibilities, we learn things that are so discouraging, such as certain hospitals in the capital being on strike?! You can’t make this stuff up!

If you know anyone doing medical work in Haiti, please contact me…yesterday! 🙂

Please pray our rep will be successful in her long list of tasks this week! 

Two, our advocate at the Embassy was able to get an answer from the panel physician who ordered the test. In short, he is not allowing her to come home now because her chest x-ray was so bad. However, the good news is (as crazy as this sounds), now that we have translated versions of her past three years of radiologist reports, we know that her chest x-ray has always been bad. She has extensive damage to one of her lungs, scarring from the past case of TB and I don’t even know what else. If the panel physician (a doctor the Embassy hires to do medical visa appointments) had seen those x-rays from the past, he may have had a very different opinion, as he could have compared them and likely would have seen no change. We have learned that from an x-ray you can’t tell the difference between disease and damage. This is hopeful news! Our rep is going to try to see this physician and share the information we now have.

Please pray the panel physician will be available and willing to re-consider, with this new information, or that our rep would be able to get an opinion from a second panel physician.

Either way, our hope is that by this time next week, because of our rep being in Haiti, we will have many questions answered about Orlanka’s past and current treatment, how she is feeling now, and Lord willing the results of a current sputum smear which could give us a good idea of what is going on. We also hope to learn what steps would come next, should we end up on the 3rd and 4th case scenarios. Tomorrow, I’ll be calling an Infectious Disease Dr. in Louisville, thanks to a connection someone made for us, and our pediatrician here is also busy answering questions and helping us start on the Form 601 Waiver of Inaccessibility if she tests positive and is denied a visa. We won’t know until the end of August, I am told. 🙁

 

Please pray with us for a good report and knowledge that would help us get through the next 6-8 weeks of waiting. 

I do want to say: God is so faithful. I was scared of this kind of ordeal happening, and spent many hours in the past year praying it wouldn’t. But God does give exactly what we need once we find ourselves in this place. The fervor to investigate, make bold phone calls, become experts (not really but you know what I mean)…He has allowed a few other issues in our lives to calm down a bit so we can focus on this. The Body of Christ is praying for us and growing in ways He wants. All of our hearts for Orlanka and Woodjina are doing The Grinch Who Stole Christmas heart bursting out of the box thing. Our agency representative has proved to be a strong and persevering advocate who is taking this situation personally. And even as I am writing this blog, I received an email back from a doctor/director of a medical ministry in Haiti, who is trying to get an appointment for Orlanka.

We can get stuck on why this stuff happens in the first place (yes, I was there for a few days for sure) or we can see Jesus’ words come to life: In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world! 

The Whole Story…Sort Of

Oh, friends. I haven’t written much since March because I can hardly stand to share information that will make others feel as sad and stressed as I have felt! But it is time to share with you all who have been so kind and generous to walk with us these almost three years. Thank you! You have blessed us, and we will all share in the victory someday!

So, as you know, last summer we received a referral for Orlanka and Woodjina Auguste, biological sisters, ages 4 and 3 at the time. We met them right away and knowing it would likely be 10-14 months before they could come home with us, thanks to another dozen or so legal steps, we decided to go visit them in Haiti every three months until homecoming, which we have done. We’ve developed a good relationship with them, and I have dedicated myself this year to learning at least a beginner’s level of Haitian Creole so that I could communicate better with them. We’ve also been blessed to spend our year learning a lot more about parenting children with a history of neglect and loss. And we’ve been praying. Lots of praying.

Things went well, in regard to the typical timeframe, until around March 2016. There were small delays, but then one important step in April set us off course for a good 6 weeks. We believed we were finally on track again at the end of May. Our visa appointment was set for June 6, and we heard that the medical appointment (a necessity for a U.S. visa) had happened, too. I packed the girls’ suitcase with their cute outfits, new pajamas, and toys, because anytime that week we expected to get the green flag to travel! But when the week of June 6 had come and gone, only Woodjina’s visa had been issued.

We knew when we received our referral last year that Orlanka had had TB in 2015, and we were told she had received the full treatment. Plus, we have seen her four times in the past year, and saw that she was doing well! We expected that at the medical appointment for her visa they would ask for a chest x-ray to prove she didn’t have TB now, since her skin test would definitely come back positive (as all former TB patient’s would). But we were shocked to find they had asked for a sputum culture test, which would take 8 weeks in which to receive the results. This test is the reason why her visa and homecoming is delayed. We have been told NOTHING. We have no idea why the doctor chose to do this test. Our creche director has not taken her to another doctor to get her checked out, despite two weeks of asking for this action. Jack will probably be traveling in the next two weeks to see what he can accomplish himself. We are praying for connections to a good doctor there. We have a few leads but no appointment yet.

I see this ending in four different possible ways-

Best Case Scenario: CDC protocol is that children under 10 can travel into the U.S. while awaiting these results as long as they are not showing signs of active infection. We have an advocate at USCIS Haiti as well as the Senator’s office trying to get her home using this information.

2nd Best Case Scenario: That her 8 week sputum culture test will come back negative and she’ll get her visa in late August!

3rd Scenario: If her culture is positive for TB, we have to apply to get Orlanka out of Haiti on a medical visa, proving she needs treatment here in the U.S., and establishing a case against the care she has received in Haiti. (Because the fact is, if she does have TB again, no one has been proactive in her medical care and her 2015 treatment failed.) If this fails…

4th Scenario: If her culture is positive, then she has to go through a couple more steps (taking most likely a couple of months), and we can apply for a Waiver of Inaccessibility, which if approved is a way she could come home, eventually, to finish her treatment.

*I do want to say to those of you that might be feeling nervous about this: First of all, the Center for Disease Control says that kids under 10 are extremely unlikely to spread this illness. (I have seen our daughters share the same spoon multiple times, for goodness sake, and our youngest just passed her TB skin test at her visa appointment with flying colors.) Secondly, we will be going quite directly to the doctor upon arrival to the U.S. whenever that happens, so a full work-up of tests can be done on both girls and then we’ll follow whatever treatment necessary if there is any. Just know this: if you see Orlanka out and about, you can trust that she is not contagious. Our government is very serious about infectious disease control!*

 

As I said in the beginning, difficulties and detours are hard to share with others. But the fact is as the Body of Christ–the hands and feet, the very extension of Jesus’ heart on earth–we are all called to see and feel, and even intimately experience, the dark and seemingly hopeless circumstances people around the world are facing. This journey I’m finally talking about isn’t just about Orlanka and Woodjina…we are just one family, they are just one set of vulnerable little sisters. We’re just one picture representing thousands of people out there fighting for the weak and sick, and speaking for the voiceless. My girls are going to get here someday, no doubt about that…leaving millions of orphans, refugees, enslaved, hungry behind who will still need someone’s eyes, ears, hands, and heart turned in their direction.

That’s why I’m sharing–to be a witness to what I see and know both of the need and the heart of God…and He will take it from there, as He is doing with us, and will continue to do in His church worldwide. (Translation: You want to help? Get to know the Lord and get to know the need. He will absolutely guide you as you surrender to Him!)

Thank you for going there with us, for being uncomfortable, grieved, and restless with us…may God use this part of the journey too to reveal His heart and glory more and more. It is His story!

Teach us to number our days rightly, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Relent, o Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on Your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May Your deeds be shown to Your servants, Your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hands. (Ps. 90:12-17)

 

What the Spirit Desires: A Cure for Worry?

All semester I have longed to truly trust God and see the effect of that trust in my feelings. I wanted His peace that everything was going to be okay, but constantly the concerns of my life were on my mind like if I forgot them, He would, too.

Then several weeks ago, this happened. I had no intention of blogging about this, but I kept feeling like I should share. In a nutshell, the Lord said to me:

“Lyndsay, thank you for going to the nations, learning languages, loving and serving your family, and being so concerned about obeying Me with your life. But dear one, I have this one thing against you and you desperately need to hear it. You do not trust Me. You don’t relax under my care and power as a child of Mine would. While you’re physically obeying, you’re worrying. You’re wondering if what “you’re” doing will be enough and if you yourself will be enough for all the problems surrounding you. It’s a shame. I have peace and life for you if you’ll just allow Me to accomplish in your life all I said I would in My way and in My time. You do not need to be or do anything except trust and abide in Me.”

I had to just think on that for awhile and then repent, all the while knowing I could not fix myself. That’s the awesome thing about repentance. It’s not saying, “I agree with You, Lord, I am wrong, and I will do better.” Nope. It’s “I agree with You, Lord, I am wrong, and I am completely bankrupt in every. single. area. of. my. being.” And HE promises to take that heart and make it clean; He also promises to bring solutions by the power of His Spirit once we realize our inability to live His way.

He wants me to live at peace and enjoy life as I follow Him. But how, if this (sadly) doesn’t come as easily as it should?

 

Romans 8:5-17 has our answer. Reading the whole text would be great, but the gist is that our minds can either be controlled by the Spirit or by our natural, sinful nature. 

The things I usually am all in a tizzy about, needing desperately for them to work out soon, are not bad things. They are actually all things that I believe by His Word to be His will. So that led me to skim over this part of Romans 8, because I never realized that my sinful nature can take over even in the midst of daily obedience and doing things HE has led me to do.

My mind constantly on these things working out in my way and my time, adding a smidge of “I better get this right or it’ll all fall apart” made my so-called obedience a big fat adventure in missing the point. Repentance truly was the step to take, not a self help book on worry, and the next step after that was to let God show me how to have a mind ordered by His Spirit.

We can choose at any time to set our minds on what the Spirit desires instead. Let’s get specific if we’re going to do it, right? What does the Spirit desire? Here’s just a short list…

*That we would know the character qualities of God and trust His heart

*That we would know the Word of God as a comfort and a sword

*That we would know and claim personally the specific promises of God for each individual trial we face

*Full surrender in prayer, acknowledging we don’t even know what to ask, and rely on His intercession (Rom. 8:27)

*That we would know how to praise and worship God, being lifted above this realm for healing, relief, and transformation

 

And lastly, back to Romans 8, the Holy Spirit who is such a good friend and wants so much for us in the Lord, He longs for us to know that we did not receive a spirit that makes us a slave again to fear, but we received a spirit of sonship. “And by Him, we cry ‘Abba Father’. The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we also may share in His glory.” (verses 15-17)

What are we supposed to set our minds on? What the Spirit desires.

What does the Spirit desire? That we would receive our spirit of sonship!

 

Three out of four of my children were once orphans.

That’s not an easy title to break free from, even after the adoption papers are signed. I can love them, show them my intentions, and care for their needs all day long, and they blossom, and I begin to think Ah, they are beginning to see themselves as daughters! But the moment I say “no”, or even “not now”, I see it in their eyes. They’re orphans again. The trust isn’t there yet. It’s all sight; no faith. It’s every man for himself; this supposed caretaker, this supposed parent, is not what I hoped for because they will not bow down to me and bend at my command!

When we are disappointed with God’s decisions in our lives or when we don’t see His power working quickly enough, we can easily take on a spirit of an orphan–bitter, untrusting, fearful, self-protective, focused on losses, controlling, angry!

No matter what I do for my girls, I cannot make them receive their new status as daughter…but it is still their’s, like a gift all wrapped up, waiting to be opened and enjoyed.

The same is true for us.

It’ll take time for my daughters to trust me enough to relax and go with the flow. It may take years, but I know the first step would be for them to really know me and their dad, and what we’re all about, to be immersed in our heart for them.

For us as believers to truly be just that–believers–we are going to have to know God, get past the little verses taken out of context and truly eat His Word, and get in step with the beat of His heart. We’re going to have to immerse ourselves in His heart for us, which is revealed through His Word, prayer, worship, and community. There’s a “new normal” the Spirit longs for us to embrace!

Right now for me, to abide means (a) to live in a place of knowing my bankruptcy, my inability to be who God is calling me to be and (b) to constantly be filling my eyes, ears, mind, and heart with what the Spirit desires.

I’m the type that needs to know what my job is.

This—abiding—this is my job. And the more I do it, the easier it is to see how very, very well He is doing His.