Rats, spiders and love that won’t quit

The rat visited at 5:37 p.m. every night. While I was in Haiti, we clocked him by the minute. We’d enjoy dinner on the outside veranda and at 5:37, Ratatouille (as we affectionately nicknamed him), would run along the roof of the veranda and dash off to parts unknown. We made up a whole life for him. Father. Husband of Mrs. Ratatouille. Factory worker or garbage sifter, possible chef or tiny rat accountant.

Ratatouille was just part of the fun in Haiti.

One of the biggest joys of my time came as I met Jesus there. I met him in the director of the orphanage who has a heart for the starving children, I met him in the staff who love and serve from a deep place of compassion.  And I met him in Heather, an adoptive mom whose sacrificial love touched a deep place in me.

You’d like Heather too – fun, spunky and kind, her story is perfect to share as we come up on Christmas day.

Heather is a petite gem from the Chicago suburbs. She moved to Haiti in order to bond with their son, Izaiah. She initially planned to be there for just a few months – until the adoption was finalized. She and her husband, Matt, knew the separation would be worth it for what it would give their son.

heatherandIzaiah

Heather and Izaiah

Three months turned into six months. Six months turned into twelve. Heather is at nineteen months and counting now. Living in Haiti amidst the chaos to love, nurture and ultimately rescue their little boy.

Heather hates spiders, but has faced down multiple tarantulas with a grimace and a sturdy shoe.

She loves order, but has dealt with chaotic traffic, distant gunshots, cold showers and spotty electricity.

She loves her family, friends and her husband, but has spent many holidays and Sunday meals away from the comfort of their care and the warmth of their love.

Even today, as we all celebrate with family and friends in preparation for Christmas, she and her husband are in Haiti, tending to the needs of a little boy who knows them only as “Mom” and “Dad.”

Heather reminds me of Jesus. He left a world of comfort and peace. He left a place of love and order to come here. To enter a dusty, stinky manger. Heather didn’t have to give up her world of electricity, warm water and family fun to be with Izaiah. Nor did Jesus have to give up his world of divine hope, fellowship and comfort.

But that’s what love does.

Love enters our world. Love lives our pain. Love holds on despite the sacrifice. Love never gives up.

In a broken world where tragedy strikes on a regular basis, I’m profoundly grateful for the powerful examples of love God has planted in my path. And when I think of this young mom giving up every comfort to love her baby boy –  in order to one day bring him home to the place she has prepared… it’s enough to melt my heart.

Because that’s how Jesus loves us – He gave up everything to enter this dark place – so we could find our way to the home He has lovingly prepared for each one of us.

Happy Birthday, Jesus. Thank you for people like Heather, bright lights in our lives. And thank you for your sacrifice – not only to die and rise again, but to come and live in our mess in the first place.

Love is a risk

I don’t want to love them too much.

I don’t want to hold on too tight.

I mean, it was amazing when I was in Haiti – when two little boys with big smiles fell into my lap, when one fell asleep on my shoulder and I didn’t dare move so I could enjoy the sleepy weight of him, when I coaxed out deep belly laughter that rang like music in my ears. In those moments, my heart expanded with love so deep and rich and big, that I could hardly contain it.

But then I got home and they’re far away.

And we got word that the mom of one of our boys didn’t sign the paperwork that needs to be signed, and we can’t take a single step forward until she does.

So a voice in my head says, Guard your heart! Hold on Loosely! Don’t love so much because this will hurt way too much if it doesn’t go through.

Love is a risk.

But here’s the truth: Love is always a risk.

It’s a risk to love my husband. We never know what tomorrow will bring. A dear friend recently lost her husband in a matter of months. Her heart is utterly broken, her family devastated.

It’s a risk to love our friends. Life is transient and unfair and harsh sometimes. Friends move or fall away.

It’s a risk to love, period.

So the more I try to figure out how to guard my heart and still fight for our boys… I realize it can’t be done. It just wont work to hold on loosely when our boys need us to pray, hold tight, love deep.

When Brian and I were in Haiti, I snapped this picture of Brian with Laurentz.

Brian and Laurentz
A father’s love

The hand of a protective father holding his baby boy, Brian’s strong hand is planted right over his heart.

I look at that picture and my heart melts.

I realize that’s how we will love our boys, in spite of the risk. I realize that’s how we can allow the expanding of our hearts as we hold them, pray for them, fight for them.

Ultimately, even if our hearts break, the one who fixes broken hearts is right there with us, his strong hand upon us. He is big and kind and good. And He risks more than any of us. He loves each and every one of us deeply and passionately. He longs for us to be his children. And yet so many of us never realize it, or we say no, turn aside or walk away. I can’t imagine how his heart breaks!

If we can trust our hearts into anyone’s hands, it’s his.

And so we pray:

Please, Lord, if you would be so kind—bring our boys home. Hold that mother close and help her to know how much we will love her son. Pave the way through government red tape and financial need. Expand our hearts and our world. Fill us with battle-fighting, prayer-warrior, mom and dad kind of love. And then open every door to bring these boys home, that this risk will have it’s precious reward: a family united.

And if by some painful twist of events, things don’t turn out as we expect, hold us close, wipe our tears and teach us to cling to you.

Teach us to risk as you risked for us,

Elsa and Brian

Family
Family

Real life stuff.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Brian so sick.

High fever, shaking, barely able to stand. I’d already taken him to Urgent Care and they’d sent him home with some strong antibiotics to battle a bad infection that came on overnight. Only a few hours later, his temp kept rising. We knew the antibiotics hadn’t had time to work, but we were concerned about the high fever. And infection of that nature with only one kidney – it wasn’t good.

When the thermometer topped 104, I called the doc and they urged us to go to the ER.

The ER docs weren’t nearly as worried as I was. They said it was good we came in, but they simply gave him a strong med to bring his fever down and sent us home – with the condition that we come back if he got worse.

We kept a close eye on him, and he seemed to slowly improve.

That’s when the financial reality hit.

Brian switched jobs recently and his health insurance had yet to kick in. Nine days. Only nine days until his insurance would begin.

We’ve never been without insurance and in the time I’ve known him, Brian has never had to go to the ER.

The one time he had to go for medical help, we were without insurance. And of course, I took him to Urgent Care first. Two doozy bills in one 24-hour period.

And we’re in the midst of all our adoption travel and agency expenses.

I nearly went into a full-blown pity party. Really? This so stinks! Talk about bad timing… grumble, grumble, grumble, gripe, gripe, gripe, extra long sigh and a good old-fashioned whine.

A few hours later, I received a call from the director of the orphanage where our boys are living in Haiti. Miriam was broken down on the side of the road and they were waiting for help to arrive. She thought she’d check in. I listened as she told of the children they had just rescued. Thirteen of the worst were in the truck with her, along with some of the parents. Kids dying of malnutrition, others burning up with fever because of infection. She was just praying that they’d get the tire fixed quickly since it had already been a 13-hour trip across treacherous mountain roads. These kids needed help.

A few days later, two of the boys, Wisnor and Naisson – an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old, died of the lingering effects of malnutrition.

Wisnor and Naisson. There’s this deep ache in my heart that they be known. It was all so real. I’d talked to Miriam when these boys were in the truck. I heard the stories as they unfolded. Both sets of parents LOVED their boys. Wisnor’s mom had to leave to go back to the village and care for her other children. She planned to come back and check on her boy soon. The night after she left, Wisnor passed away.

How to even get word to her?

I have two hospitals within a five minute drive.

I have plenty of food. Most days too much.

Yes, Brian was sick and it was scary. But even without insurance, he received medical attention and was quickly on the mend.

I know a lot of us are worried about the election. We wonder what will become of our nation if this one or that one gets elected.

For me, this was a stark, vivid, powerful reminder that as much as I worry for our nation, I am blessed to live here, blessed to have medical care and food and a place to lay my head.

So as election results come out tomorrow – as various groups go into panic mode and threaten to move to Canada, I’m going to do my best to remember Miriam, Wisnor and Naisson and remain grateful for all that we do have at our fingertips—no matter who is in the White House.

Will you join me?

Oh, and friends, if you would like to help Miriam and New Life, you can go to their website and donate there. With the recent hurricane, the need has certainly grown.  Your funds will definitely go to good use. Click here to find out more.

 

Sniff a Longing

I love to sniff a new book.

Some people like the smell of new car, I like the smell of new book. And every time I walk into a bookstore, the smell overwhelms me. I wander down the aisles sniffing away, drawing stares from nearby patrons. But I never care. Because with the smell, comes the longing – to write and write and write. I start dreaming of telling stories, the kind that stir up emotion – joy, sorrow, hope…

The longing runs deep and it surges every time I walk into a bookstore.

Well, I had a bookstore longing tonight.

Not to write (although that remains)… but to wipe noses, cheer on sports, read bedtime stories and throw water balloons.

The longing surged when I walked my puppy after dinner. We went down to the park and made a loop around the large field. Kids were everywhere – playing football, chasing the soccer ball, hanging off the swing set. Some toddled, some ran and others rolled down the grassy hill all willy nilly like.

Note the gentle sloping grassy knoll to the right – PERFECT for a good body roll…

Sure, I can do that stuff by myself. And to my husband’s chagrin I have. But I long to roll down the hill with little ones. I want to hang off the swing set and kick around a soccer ball with two boys who will say, “Again, Mom, again!”

I want to parent again. I want to love and chase and cheer and make up goofy stories just to make my kids laugh.

It was that old bookstore longing, only towards a new adventure—a new purpose and hope that stirred in my belly.

And it made me think of all of you. It made me wonder – what is your bookstore longing? Where do you go or what do you do that brings up that feeling? The feeling of longing and joy and hope and purpose? The yearning that stirs excitement in your heart for your future?

As I pursue my longing through the adoption of our Haitian boys, I’d love to hear about your dreams and the steps you’re taking to pursue them. Will you please share them with me? I really would love to hear… Just click and share them in the comment section.