Seven Months Home

I was just reflecting today on all that has changed in the past seven months…well, I can go back even further and say the past year. This time last year, we had learned on Spring Break that there was a mistake in some paperwork which ended in a month-long delay, followed by very bad news in early summer that Orlanka would have to stay in Haiti another 3 months for a TB test. Multiple trips, multiple phone calls to doctors, and multiple prayers finally got our girls, Eva Orlanka and Zoe Woodjina, HOME at last. Our Gotcha Day was August 31st and we landed in Kentucky on September 2nd. Leaving the creche with them that day was just as sweet as I ever had dreamt it would be. They were overjoyed…no more goodbyes.

In seven months, we have definitely had joy but we’ve also definitely had sorrow. One child more than the other really misses the people she loved in Haiti (as expected). There is insecurity at times and lots of need for gentleness and affection, which sometimes in my rush to teach and take care of four kids I’m sad to say I have to be reminded of. Stories and memories come to their minds often about their life before us, and I am recording those. I often ask them to draw pictures and try to remember details. We are blessed they have each other, so they’ll never lose those precious pieces of their identity.  Nighttimes can be hard sometimes; I still sit with them until they fall asleep (thank you, my friend Melatonin!) At first, one child complained that at the orphanage the nanny would sleep on the floor of the kids’ bedroom, so she liked it better there. (I kind of wish I had a picture of my face at that moment. It would be funny now.) We definitely work through strategies for fear at times, and those times are becoming less often. There have been a few instances where they had an idea in their minds of how something would be, only to find out it’s not–such as ice cream. They just recently got to where they can actually eat it. Before, it was too cold, and it wasn’t purple and sparkly like they had seen in pictures (darn Lisa Frank)! They can definitely have their picky moments, their complaining moments, and their unreasonable moments, like all kids.

But the joys…wow. These girls in themselves are an absolute joy. They love to go, they’re also happy to stay. They are quick to obey and want to get along well with their sisters. They have enjoyed every friend we’ve gotten together with and LOVE their grandparents (how could they not though?) They are thankful and they are loving. I didn’t share this with many people before they came home, but the personality and behavior of one of our girls (while living in the creche) was beyond challenging. I was truly worried about how her moods would affect our home. She is honestly the most stable and easy going person in this crazy household!! It is amazing and God gave me a wonderful surprise in her!! They love to learn, and oh how they love their Daddy. One day when I was in the other room, I heard Eva say to Jack (my husband, her dad), “I said to God, ‘God, will you give me a Daddy?’ And He DID!” We all cried…imagining her praying that prayer, the joy of it now answered. Yes, God does settle the lonely in families; yes, He does hear their cry!!

I remember when the girls first came they were so fascinated with/we kept running out of:

Toilet paper

Eggs (they would eat 4 or 5 at a sitting, and 2 or 3 a couple hours later!)

Band-aids

Ice

Barbecue (yes, the meat, the sauce, anything bbq related!!)

These things have calmed down now. They still always want to know what we’re having for each meal, and always want to know if they can have more (long before they’re done with what they have). We’ve finally figured out how to handle some of the more difficult “meal issues” and they only overeat pizza and spaghetti (understandable?!) They do so well with rewards, chores, homeschool, imaginative play, asking with respect, and even talking about their feelings and sharing their problems. Their ability to speak English has increased exponentially, and most sentences they say are about 50/50 Kreyol/English. I’ll end this blog today with two English sentences said to me recently. The first is so completely precious, it’s one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me:

Eva (6): “Mom, your face, my present.” (I know!!! Heart melted!!!)

And another, sweet in its own way:

Zoe (5): “Mom, I coming, but I not want to bring my fart to you.”

 

Thanks for journeying with us. There are lots of ups and downs, just like with any family, but we are certainly learning to love and lean on Jesus and therefore are very, very blessed. 🙂

 

 

 

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! 🙂

 

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)

 

The Story in the Middle of the Night

 

Lately, God has been bringing to my attention some things I need to know regarding my children who are adopted, two of which are older and not home with us yet. I’ve been praying He would help me know all I can in order to help them transition and heal. I wanted to share this particular topic with my friends and family, and thought this blog might be the best way. Thank you in advance for reading and those of you involved in the lives of any adopted children, I pray this touches you like it is touching me.

We adopted one of our daughters seven years ago, when she had not even reached her 1st birthday. We were elated to get a baby, and I remember thinking, “Oh, we are so lucky to get a baby because she’s too little to even remember her past life or have any traumatic effects from it.” But little did I know, as well as this sweet girl adapted to life in a new family and home, of course blossoming with healthy food and daily nurture, she had impressions on her brain and for lack of a better word, heart, that would never lift. Now, at the age where she can cognitively grasp what the first year of her life really was and all that she lost in it, there is grief and that shows itself in many forms. God brought the education we needed to help her navigate through the feelings that she couldn’t put words to before…but it is a process, and one we will always be in to some extent. I was incredibly clueless about what was going on inside of her precious heart and mind.

Can I go a step further in vulnerability and transparency here to say that I actually have been angry at her for not being more grateful? How many times have I thought, “But you have this now, you have us now, don’t live in the past. God rescued you! That’s what you have to focus on!” For those of us who came from somewhat stable backgrounds, that thought might make perfect sense if there’s at least some sensitivity added to it. And also, the Bible tells us to rejoice in all circumstances and be thankful, right? Well…

God wanted me to really get this, so He woke me up in the dead of night with a story.

This is the first time I’ve really grasped what an adopted child goes through and how it changes them on the inside, regardless of what they are told or even know in their head to be true. As you read this story the first time, try not to make comparisons with adoption, just read it as if you were truly the main character. Imagine this with me, please:

You are a young adult, living with a significant other. You have a job and while things have never been easy, you think you are doing okay. You’ve never moved, you’ve never really seen past your community where you work and live, but you have familiarity and you like it. Voices, scenes, your daily routine, and ultimately that significant other make up your life. But one day, you lose your job and there are absolutely no other opportunities available. You loved that job. It gave you such a sense of identity. It was your thing and you felt good about it. Now it was gone and before long, you have to file bankruptcy. Bankruptcy! Has it really come to this? You always had this sense of “things will work out”, but it slowly ebbs away as you begin living on the street. Worst of all, your significant other that you had been with as long as you could remember, leaves, weeping. You think if they’re sad to leave, then why don’t they stay with me and weather this storm? If they want to be with me, why can’t we do this together? But they can’t and you end up in a group home with a hundred other adults that are also in the same boat.

You feel an incapacitating weight that daily drags you down as you try to figure out what happened. You have no pieces to try to put together, you have nothing.

Time passes in this exact situation, and you learn to make it through the days. Circumstances reinforce the thoughts and beliefs that have taken hold–that you don’t deserve better or that hope only leads to disappointment– although you do your best to not think or feel anything at all. Others in the group home leave, going away and never coming back to tell about it, always with a new adult who came looking for them all smiles, usually of a different color skin and total gibberish of a language! Your friends do seem glad when they leave with these people, so you begin to hope you’ll have that happen to you, too, even though you really don’t know what it’ll mean on a day-to-day basis, what it’ll truly be like.

And one day, it happens. All of a sudden, there is a person clearly interested in knowing you and taking you out of the holding pattern you’ve been in. You don’t know very much about what is changing, you just know it’s going to be a big change and you are going to have a significant other again. You can tell this by the way they’re looking at you and even hugging you, and that makes you feel good, but you remember feeling good before and where did that get you? You have forgotten what it felt like to have a job you loved and earn your own living, that sense of pride. You have forgotten what it felt like to never question if your significant other would leave, that sense of calm and confidence. You have forgotten what it felt like to not live in the past and future; you don’t even realize you forgot how to live in the present.

You are in a whirlwind of new everything for a couple of months. Everyone around you is celebrating, everyone is asking you if you like your new clothes, your new room in your new house…even your new significant other is looking at you in expectation, like aren’t you thrilled?  As an adult, you’ve had enough life experience to understand you are in a better situation. Yes, you grasp that. Having nothing was horrible. The group home stunk. You are glad you have a job again! You are relieved you have plenty of food! You are enjoying the warmth and kindness and attention of your new significant other!

But what you have learned and what you have become cannot be turned off. You’ve learned to emotionally, physically, and socially survive by not getting too excited about anything, by not getting attached or used to anything, anything at all! In that group home, every possession was destroyed, every friend left, every bed room changed, and nobody ever asked you how you felt about it, not to mention all that happened before the group home life. So, yeah, you’re enjoying things for the moment and to a certain extent, but then a shadow falls over your face and while everyone else is celebrating how great this is–because it is great–you just feel scared and sad, and angry that you can’t just enjoy it, that you can’t just toss the past in the past and believe that it is a new day. There’s a fear of jumping in with both feet only to lose it all again. There’s a fear of messing it all up, so that creates a fear of even trying to connect with your significant other or to do a good job in your new occupation. All the feelings of those terrible years are stored deep inside and they come out whenever a situation in your “new life” even barely resembles those experiences. You don’t realize that’s what’s happening, but you do notice that you don’t have the same reaction to things, good or bad, as others do. You eventually get to the place where you know the facts by heart: I’m loved, I’m taken care of, I have a good life ahead of me. But when you’re all alone, you’re really not sure.

Thank you for “going there” with me. I hope something in this story made it real to you, like it did to me. And what we can’t fully understand, we can believe anyway because it’s true, like it or not.

It is my deepest prayer that my girls would have total healing and complete victory. I pray that someday they could be so strong in their faith and belief in God’s love for them that they could say, as Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers yet someday became ruler of all Egypt: “What my enemy intended for evil, God used for good, both for me and to save many lives as well.” We all have wounds that eventually lead to beliefs about ourselves, God, and the world. But when those wounds happen in childhood, the healing takes incredible bravery, patience, perseverance, and help from others who are in for the long haul with that child. 

Please remember this when you are with my children.

As a speaker at the Empowered to Connect conference said last year: “My children bled before they came to me, and they shall not bleed under my care.”

I know it’s hard to know exactly what that care will need to look like, or what you can expect from them. So I say, don’t expect anything. Receive them as they are right now. Don’t judge them for what they feel. This may be a one-sided love for awhile. Give with no strings attached, really. Just love them and if they’re not acting loving toward you or others, take them aside and pour your love on them even more. And please remind me to do the same.

Thank you so much for reading.

No Longer Orphans…but Daughters

One of the most wonderful things God has shown me this year is the peace enveloped in the privilege of being His daughter.

 

If I had to say what I long for the very most as a mother it would be that my daughters would have victory over any barriers that would keep them from reveling in the love and protection their family and their Heavenly Father provides them. I know that was a mouthful of a sentence there, but the reality is that adopted children often have a very hard time truly relaxing in the simple gift of love. Their hard past makes it a little (or even a lot) complicated to enjoy all that they now have.

 

And doesn’t that sound a little like me and you, too?

 

This summer the Lord allowed me to swallow a seed and it’s been growing…the seed of confidence that what He says about my being related to Him really is true! Let me share an excerpt from my journal…I’ve been waiting for just the right time.

 

(I wrote the following on June 26, 2015, in Haiti, after listening to Melissa’s Story, a podcast from Jonathan and Melissa Helser)

 

“This is the day God delivered me from a spirit of fear and made me to really understand what was standing in the way of my joy and peace. I was living from an orphan’s heart, a heart full of disappointments and fear of more, a heart of distrust. I was a daughter of the King I just wasn’t letting my heart feel and my mind think from that status. I thought and felt and acted like an orphan just not quite believing God was good. It’s the great lie whispered in every tragedy: God is not good.
When a child doesn’t trust their parent, all kinds of mental and emotional problems happen, and when that parent is actually wonderful, what a sad story that the child would miss out on enjoying that stability they could have had.
 I decided I would not waste another minute of my life consciously doubting whether or not God was good.
If He loved me, and adopted me, it was time to let that carry its full weight and set me free. No more saying I believe it but it having no real effect on my feelings of dread.
This is the happiness of the believer–to let go of how your life has to be and ENJOY being His beloved, highly favored, cherished child, whatever He decides that should look like!
I’m ALL IN. I’m tired of being a worry wart. I’m tired of wondering if He’s good or if He makes mistakes. I need my Abba and I’m choosing to trust Him and know I’m not forgotten…know He is coming back for me, know He never stops thinking about me, know He weeps when I weep and rejoices when I rejoice, know He can see and orchestrate things in the future that I can’t comprehend, know He really is good and He really does love me, know I can be little me because He is Who He Is. If I know all of that, and I can honestly say that I do, then regardless of what He allows me to face, I really do not have anything to fear because He is the One Thing I must not–but could never–lose.
And every single sentence I just said about ME choosing to dwell with God AS A DAUGHTER NOT AN ORPHAN is happening before my very eyes in the seen realm…what will it take for these little girls to know they are no longer orphans? That there’s a room prepared for them like they’ve never imagined? That everyday half a dozen grandparents are whispering their names to the God they entrust their beloveds to? That their place at the table sits open and ready and no one else can fill it but them? That I dream of snuggling under covers and eating ice cream and helping them find their callings and really knowing them like only family does?
They don’t know these things…yet. It’s just words to them right now. And it really will take faith for them to believe it. And it really will take faith for me to believe He is speaking these same beautiful thoughts over me. I’m no longer an orphan; I’m in. Not even as a slave or a worker bee, but a precious child. There’s a room prepared, and a life to live until then carefully planned as well. In Heaven, the cloud of witnesses spur me on, the Holy Spirit intercedes with groans words cannot express on my behalf, and Jesus Himself, my dearest brother, goes to the Father for me and pray God’s will over my life. He says my name to the Father daily! I’ve a place at that table and His banner over me is love. He loves the story of my life, and revels in knowing me, behind the eyes.
My ability to speak it and write it is sadly inadequate, but just like with me and my Abba, my girls can either trust us and have a happy childhood…or not. They’re not gonna get everything they want or always be happy with us, but they can trust us and have a happy childhood…or not. There will be a huge transition of going from a disappointed, distrusting orphan to a content, relaxed DAUGHTER, but this is my prayer for us both. Healing matters, but you know what it really requires is faith. I’m choosing to accept that seed of daughtership, that seed of confidence to believe He is good, perfect in all of His ways, and worthy of my trust.
I pray that I will never be the same and that I will enjoy and relax and sink deeply into being my Daddy’s girl, and let Him fight my battles, write my story, and meet my needs. I pray I can LIVE that trust, seeing the fruits of joy, peace, security in who I am, and be that example by God’s grace to these girls, until they relax in our arms without a care in the world as all children should.”
I can honestly say in the months since I have truly been changed. Active petition and thanksgiving, with true surrender and excitement about what my Abba will do in His great love for me and others I am praying for, is the scene of my prayer life now. Worry is displaced by the choice to trust Him, and He makes me carefree when I come to Him and am renewed by His Word and truth. Trust has led to surrender, which has led to peace, which has led to joy, which has led to thanksgiving, which has led to having light even on the dark nights. And when I get lost again, it’s trust that I have to go back to. It’s square one.
That seed is the beginning and as Matthew 13 describes, the smallest of seeds can become strong arms, a plentiful home for the birds of the air to find refuge. May it be so in our lives, because the world is full of sparrows, looking to know their worth.

Adoption Update!

Hello friends! It has been awhile since I updated our website/blog about the adoption and I wanted to take a moment tonight to share what’s been going on. As many of you who get our newsletter know, we went to Haiti in December to visit our two lovely Haitian daughters. We got our referral on May 29, 2015 after waiting (officially with dossier entered to IBESR) for 15 months. We took our socialization trip the last two weeks of June. We exited IBESR and received our Authorizations of Adoption at the end of October; we were so overjoyed! Then we entered Parquet Court on November  24th, and got our Adoption Decrees on December 22nd, 2015; actually we were in the airport on the way home when we got the email!

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I made 4 of these matching t-shirts right before our trip, they say: I love my sisters!

I have enjoyed working through the Beginner Haitian Creole book by Gloria Guignard Board. She is a blessing!! I studied August to December, and still need to study a LOT more, but on our trip in December I was able to communicate pretty decently! Grace, grace, God’s grace! Selah, our 10 year old, picked up a little, too, and began formed her own sentences as the trip went on. One of the best moments of the trip was when Yemi, our 7 year old, broke the ice in those first minutes of communication by shouting with a huge smile on her face: “Bonjou, tout moun!” (Hello, everybody!) No one expected her to know any Creole, and it was just perfect!

We were SO blessed to bring suitcases full of goodie bags, quite a few Razor scooters, tiny little teddy bears for all the little kids, and tons of games and toys for all the rooms to share. People gave and gave for this to happen. Here are some pics!

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Another Mama Blan (that what our kids call us) and I will be going to Haiti in about a month to visit, and we are praying to get our kids sometime this Spring or Summer. There are still several steps to go!

Currently, our dossiers are in Legalization after Parquet, then they will go to Ministry of Interior, then Passports, then USCIS, then the last serious step: Visa & Medical appointment with the Dept of State, ending with an exit letter a week or less later. Each step has a “predicted” time frame, but really everyone has had different experiences. We are truly in the Lord’s hands and thankful for His timing and sovereignty!

Here is a picture of our four daughters, finally all together for the first time:

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I’m just so excited, and trying to stay calm as I ride this long wave all the way home. God promised from Day One: My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest. And He has done that. It has been long, but it has not been anxious. And for one good reason only–the gift– the free, sweet, kind, loving gift–of communication with my Father in Heaven! When I lay all this at His feet (and often I know He’s like “You really don’t have to say those details again, sweetie, I’ve got this!”) every day, He displaces my worry and fear with peace and joy. He’s a good Father!

That’s one of the most wonderful things He has taught me this year…the peace enveloped in the privilege of being His daughter.

If I had to say what I long for the very most as a mother it would be that my daughters would have victory over any barriers that would keep them from reveling in the love and protection their family and their Heavenly Father provides them. I know that was a mouthful of a sentence there, but the reality is that adopted children often have a very hard time truly relaxing in the simple gift of love. Their hard past makes it a little (or even a lot) complicated to enjoy all that they now have.

And doesn’t that sound a little like me and you, too?

This summer the Lord allowed me to swallow a seed and it’s been growing…the seed of confidence that what He says about my being related to Him really is true! Let me share an excerpt from my journal…I’ve been waiting for just the right time.

(I wrote the following on June 26, 2015, in Haiti, after listening to Melissa’s Story, a podcast from Jonathan and Melissa Helser)

“This is the day God delivered me from a spirit of fear and made me to really understand what was standing in the way of my joy and peace. I was living from an orphan’s heart, a heart full of disappointments and fear of more, a heart of distrust. I was a daughter of the King I just wasn’t letting my heart feel and my mind think from that status. I thought and felt and acted like an orphan just not quite believing God was good. It’s the great lie whispered in every tragedy: God is not good.
When a child doesn’t trust their parent, all kinds of mental and emotional problems happen, and when that parent is actually wonderful, what a sad story that the child would miss out on enjoying that stability they could have had.
I decided I would not waste another minute of my life consciously doubting whether or not God was good.
If He loved me, and adopted me, it was time to let that carry its full weight and set me free. No more saying I believe it but it having no real effect on my feelings of dread.
This is the happiness of the believer–to let go of how your life has to be and ENJOY being His beloved, highly favored, cherished child, whatever He decides that should look like!
I’m ALL IN. I’m tired of being a worry wart. I’m tired of wondering if He’s good or if He makes mistakes. I need my Abba and I’m choosing to trust Him and know I’m not forgotten…know He is coming back for me, know He never stops thinking about me, know He weeps when I weep and rejoices when I rejoice, know He can see and orchestrate things in the future that I can’t comprehend, know He really is good and He really does love me, know I can be little me because He is Who He Is. If I know all of that, and I can honestly say that I do, then regardless of what He allows me to face, I really do not have anything to fear because He is the One Thing I must not–but could never–lose.
And every single sentence I just said about ME choosing to dwell with God AS A DAUGHTER NOT AN ORPHAN is happening before my very eyes in the seen realm…what will it take for these little girls to know they are no longer orphans? That there’s a room prepared for them like they’ve never imagined? That everyday half a dozen grandparents are whispering their names to the God they entrust their beloveds to? That their place at the table sits open and ready and no one else can fill it but them? That I dream of snuggling under covers and eating ice cream and helping them find their callings and really knowing them like only family does?
They don’t know these things…yet. It’s just words to them right now. And it really will take faith for them to believe it. And it really will take faith for me to believe He is speaking these same beautiful thoughts over me. I’m no longer an orphan; I’m in. Not even as a slave or a worker bee, but a precious child. There’s a room prepared, and a life to live until then carefully planned as well. In Heaven, the cloud of witnesses spur me on, the Holy Spirit intercedes with groans words cannot express on my behalf, and Jesus Himself, my dearest brother, goes to the Father for me and pray God’s will over my life. He says my name to the Father daily! I’ve a place at that table and His banner over me is love. He loves the story of my life, and revels in knowing me, behind the eyes.
My ability to speak it and write it is sadly inadequate, but just like with me and my Abba, my girls can either trust us and have a happy childhood…or not. They’re not gonna get everything they want or always be happy with us, but they can trust us and have a happy childhood…or not. There will be a huge transition of going from a disappointed, distrusting orphan to a content, relaxed DAUGHTER, but this is my prayer for us both. Healing matters, but you know what it really requires is faith. I’m choosing to accept that seed of daughtership, that seed of confidence to believe He is good, perfect in all of His ways, and worthy of my trust.
I pray that I will never be the same and that I will enjoy and relax and sink deeply into being my Daddy’s girl, and let Him fight my battles, write my story, and meet my needs. I pray I can LIVE that trust, seeing the fruits of joy, peace, security in who I am, and be that example by God’s grace to these girls, until they relax in our arms without a care in the world as all children should.”
I can honestly say in the months since I have truly been changed. Active petition and thanksgiving, with true surrender and excitement about what my Abba will do in His great love for me and others I am praying for, is the scene of my prayer life now. Worry is displaced by the choice to trust Him, and He makes me carefree when I come to Him and am renewed by His Word and truth. Trust has led to surrender, which has led to peace, which has led to joy, which has led to thanksgiving, which has led to having light even on the dark nights. And when I get lost again, it’s trust that I have to go back to. It’s square one.
That seed is the beginning and as Matthew 13 describes, the smallest of seeds can become strong arms, a plentiful home for the birds of the air to find refuge. May it be so in our lives, because the world is full of sparrows, looking to know their worth.

 

A Little Look

I don’t really know where to begin. I am choosing to restrain myself from writing about everything all at once…in fact, I have a new goal in blogging that some of you will be really happy about! 500 word cut-off! Whoo!

That was 40 right there. Wow.

So, Jack and I went to Haiti this summer & spent two weeks getting to know the girls that will someday be our daughters. It was wonderful & weird, precious & difficult, all at the same time. Once that trip was completed, other pieces of the process could begin, so we were thrilled to finally be at that point.

We came home to a whirlwind of summer plans with our girls here (ages 7 & 10), and then they began school just a couple of weeks ago. I quickly dove into beginning and updating lifebooks for my girls, studying Haitian Creole, taking care of my inner life, and teaching music lessons while they are gone during the day.

One thing that has made all the difference in the world to me is my daily prayer time. I’ve been using the resources The Power of a Praying Parent and The Power of a Praying Wife to pray specifically for the people under my care. I genuinely feel like I am living out Philippians 4 that tells us the peace of Christ will guard our hearts and minds as we present our needs to Him, with thanksgiving. I’m thankful that every need I bring to the Lord He knew about, and my prayers are more about me reminding myself of His awareness, power, and love than anything else! It’s a truly remarkable difference. I am not afraid anymore. I’m not afraid of not praying enough or not remembering to say exactly the thing I’m asking for in exactly the right way. Oh, how small in my eyes that makes my God and how big in my eyes it makes me! The truth is my Father has got “my people” in the palm of His hand, and that absolutely includes my girls in Haiti and my girls in public school. He has so much restoration and solace for their souls, and my prayers are simply in agreement with & gratitude for His already-great plans for them.

We are currently waiting for our Authorization of Adoption, which usually takes 4-6 months, which means we should get ours between the end of October and the end of December. We’re praying that God will spur people in Haiti to make this process happen in a more reasonable time period. After that Authorization comes, there is another 6-8 months of the process.

Proverbs 21:30 tells us (and this is no isolated verse here!): “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”

I don’t know what God wants to do in the seen realm about this adoption process, but I have no doubt in my mind (and am seeing with my own eyes) that He is the One in control & that He is providing for every need.

Take joy, little children, we have a good Father!!!!!

 

It Happened

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So, we are terribly behind in sharing the news because once IT happened, our life flew into a whirlwind! On May 29th, 2015, we got the phone call we had been waiting 18 months for. Our adoption agency had our referral letter for two little girls in Haiti! They are 3 and almost 5 years old. We are so excited to finally have pictures and names. I’m sorry to not share that part yet with the world, but we are letting more steps of the process occur before we “go public” about our newest family members.

After getting the referral, we were on a plane to Haiti in less than 3 weeks. We stayed in a nice guest house associated with the creche the little girls live in. Almost every day of our 15 day “socialization trip” we visited our children at the creche. The creche is a big house with many levels for different ages of kids and nannies in each room.

 


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Our girls quickly (like within minutes) wanted to be held and called us “Mama and Papa Blan”. They were told we would someday be their parents, and in case you don’t see the connection to the French word for “white” (blanc), the word “blan” is “white” in Haitian Creole. So basically we were White Mama and White Papa. (Yes, you can laugh, it’s pretty funny.)

The girls do not speak any English at all. This was certainly challenging, but we brought a lot of toys to play with together. We also sang and prayed a lot, especially when emotions were running high and deep. We got to meet many of the little girls’ friends, playmates, and nannies. It really struck me how unique the community in the creche was. Kids were happy for each other when their friend’s “Mama Blan and Papa Blan” came. They understood it would happen for them someday, too. There was a sense of hope and excitement, not despair. It was a really simple existence but not lonely and not miserable and certainly not fearful or unhealthy. The children also understood that when Mama and Papa Blan went away, they would be coming back, because they had seen other friends go through the same process. This comforts us greatly, because being with these precious girls for two weeks and then leaving was excruciating. I wanted to get back to my daughters in the U.S. very much, but it was very strange and sad to leave.

We are told we have 10-14 months before we get to bring them home. They are not yet “ours” and there are many legal steps to take, each taking weeks to months. We would love to have you praying with us to receive our IBESR Authorization and Adoption Decree swiftly. We are praying for miracles, but I want to say I have a joy and peace that honestly shocks me. Soon I will blog about the monumental way God has removed worry and fear from my heart and life! I can pray with thanksgiving and confidence that our Father has my family in His perfectly capable, loving hands.

I can’t wait to see what He does.

Sometime In This Lifetime

Hey, friends!

I don’t write often about our adoption for several reasons. One, it’s kind of like when the Bible says “Mary pondered all these things in her heart.” A mother’s heart is a deep well, and sometimes it’s just hard to talk about, hard to draw from. Two, there’s not much to tell in regard to an update as we simply wait for a referral. And three, we learned from our first adoption to not tell people much in the way of details because those details will change and rarely for the better, then you have to remember who you told and re-update them. Not fun.

Today, I’m writing just to inform people, especially those bless-ed people who are praying for us and the children we will someday adopt! We’re, for the first time in 18 months, in what I would call a discouraging place. On one hand, we have been told news that is wonderful, the kind of things expectant parents want to hear…all in all, children are coming home from Haiti on a regular basis, there’s not any “problems” in our particular case, and the country’s adoption process while slow is definitely growing in steadiness. On the other hand though, we’ve been told news that is saddening- my expectations on the timeline were misguided. I can’t go into detail but in all of the unknowns in adoption, there were a few pieces of info I was told had been very stable. Not anymore. I tried so hard to not have expectations. I tried so hard to keep a heart of surrender, knowing God’s timing is perfect.

It’s time to re-adjust my vision and the process I expected to go through to get to these kids. Like I have said in past blogs, I’m genuinely mostly sad for these children who will sit and wait so much longer, knowing they have parents waiting for them but not able to come for them. It’s tragic. I have to admit it makes me wonder if we should have gotten involved in this process, and then I think, “Really? So you really think it would have been better to just leave them there forever?” We’ve entered into their suffering, we chose to be a part. We chose to carry it with them. Sometimes it does feel like more than I should have taken on, but I do not hear the Lord saying to quit.

I guess I’m writing this blog today to say there are some really dark seasons in adopting.  God’s Word has been my ally all this time, and I’ll be turning to it even more so now!

He reminds me of Matthew 10 a lot. Verse 30 talks about His care for the sparrows and how we are worth much more than sparrows…

Verse 39 says if we try to live on the safe side in order to keep our life (keep our sanity! Our happiness! Our will and our way!) we’ll only lose it, but if we lose our life for His purposes, we find Life. Capital L life. Life in the unseen, a pipeline to joy and hope that lifts our eyes above this world.

And then Jesus shares in Verse 42 that anyone who would give even a cup of cold water to these little ones would “certainly not lose His reward.” We’re not doing this for rewards but I am grateful for the reminder that Jesus is for this. Undoubtedly.