Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Drowning

I have never had such swirling emotions as I did tonight.

I was so excited to be coming back to my Wednesday night youth service at church. It truly is the highlight of my week. But I had intense worry and fear hanging over me about Evan's court case (which is tonight at 1:00). And I was still missing the orphanage and Carmensita so much it hurt. Not to mention my parents both being gone on top of this.

Somehow all of this plus so much more culminated into one big breakdown during worship. I could feel it coming on. I started to feel tears forming in my eyes and tried so hard to stay calm. Don't cry. Don't cry. You have to be the strong one. You have to be the one that reassures everyone else. You can't cry. Crying is embarrassing. You are always so vulnerable and so weepy. Don't cry more than you already have.

All the protesting in the world couldn't have stopped what was coming. I was so scared. Terrified that Evan wouldn't come home. I was depressed and aching for the orphanage and Carmensita. And I was struggling internally with the question, "If God loves me so much, then why does this hurt so bad?"

I felt like I was drowning. I was overwhelmed. I was confused. I was tired. And I didn't want to have to hold it together for other people anymore. So I broke down and held onto God for dear life.

Praise God for my friends. Praise God for all the people who are praying for Evan tonight. Praise God, praise God, praise God. I don't understand Him most of the time, but I know, I know that He has my best interest, Evan's best interest, and Carmensita's best interest at heart. I was surrounded tonight by so many people who showered me with so much love and prayer that I am still shaking from the impact.

God has surrounded me with such beautiful, passionate brothers and sisters in Christ. And many times I forget it. To all my friends who helped me through my confusion and brokenness tonight (you know who you are), thank you. I can't say thank you enough times to fully do it justice. I am always blown away that I have friends would love and pray for me. Me, in all my brokenness, in all my imperfection. They love me and they care about me. And that means so incredibly much. I may have another breakdown just because I am so thankful for you. You may not have seen it, but God used you to calm my soul tonight. I was scared and I was anxious and I was discouraged, but God used you to help me through that. And to learn to trust Him. To learn that He is still good regardless of the outcome. Thank you.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
           - Romans 12:15

Monday, March 28, 2011

Peru Again

I went to Peru with an impossible task.

922 photos. 3 days.

Impossible.

We got those 922 photos done in 10 hours or less.

For nothing is impossible with God.
          Luke 1:37

It was incredible to be back in Peru! I got to see all of my Peruvian friends and the sweet, precious orphans I'd fallen in love with before! That country will always have a special place in my heart.

Needless to say, the highlight of the trip was the orphanage. Oh, how I love Sagrada Familia. Ask any child living there if they like it and they will reply with the most emphatic "" you've ever heard.

On our second day at the orphanage, we were going to be at the baby house all morning. You can imagine how anxious I was to see Carmensita again. We walked in there and I abandoned my duty as trip documenter for a moment so I could look for her. My heart dropped. She wasn't there.

Surely, surely, she hadn't left? Surely nothing had happened to her? Where was she? Where was my girl?

After asking one of the workers, I learned that she was at school. She wouldn't be back until 1:00. We were supposed to go to the baby house in the morning. I didn't know what "the morning" was considered in Peru, but I promised myself that today "the morning" wouldn't end until at least 2:00.

While filming and photographing the other Worthday team members was fun, and I really enjoyed it, my mind was forever on Carmensita. Would she remember me? Would she even like me?

At the first glimpse of older children coming in from school, I shoved my camera into the hands of another team member, telling them to film us and take pictures. I stood shaking by the door as one by one the children walked in. Until, very last, Carmensita stepped her little lopsided step into the baby house. My eyes filled instantly with tears, and I knelt to the ground. But she barely had time to glance my way. She had wet her pants at school and was whisked off to the bathrooms. Determined not to let her out of my sight, I followed her into the bathrooms where she was left standing to wait until someone could change her.

I knelt down beside her, and held my breath. This was it. "Carmensita?" I said. "Hola Carmensita!"

Her face lit up and she wrapped her warm, little arms around my neck. "Mi amiga! Mi amiga!" she said over and over again. That had been what we repeated over and over again last year. She remembered me.

I grabbed her up in my arms and didn't let her go for the rest of the two hours we were at the baby house.



When we left, I had a translator tell her that I loved her very much, and that I prayed of her every day, and that I would see her soon.

After that, I had a meeting with the doctor who had gotten Carmensita's eyes tested. He was able to give me a lot of information about her condition. She is medically diagnosed as "intellectually disabled". The problem with her eyes is strabismus. He said that her surgery would be covered by the state in Peru, but she had to have it before she turned 5 1/2 or it wouldn't be effective. This means she'll probably have surgery before or while I'm in Peru in July. From closer inspection by me and other members of the team, though, Carmensita really looks to me like she may have cerebral palsy. Of course, this is just a guess, but from what I've researched she has a lot of the tendencies.

I wasn't needed as a documenter for the rest of the day, so I spent my time getting to know some of the other kids. My camera was kidnapped (just kidding, given) to a group of teenage girls at the orphanage who may have used half of my memory card taking pictures! It was incredible getting to talk to them!

And then I met Esteban.



Esteban was nine years old. And he wanted his picture taken badly. He had the sweetest voice and face. When he would talk to me, he would take both of my hands in his and stare unabashedly into my eyes. He wanted that physical and emotional attention so badly. Although I couldn't understand a lot of his Spanish, there was one thing that got through to me. And he loved it.

"Canta Justin Bieber, por favor?"

Sing Just Bieber, please?

How can you say no to that?

We sang the chorus of "Baby" over and over and over again. He sang along in broken English.

video

Later that night, when I learned that we had finished, I was overjoyed! We had scheduled three days for the orphanage, which meant that the next day would be filled with simply playing with and loving on the kids!

You can imagine how crushed I was when our team leader told us that we would not be returning on the orphanage to that trip. I did my best to rush to my room before bursting into tears. It was embarrassing to cry when no one else was. I had told Carmensita and Esteban that I would see them later, thinking I would be back the next day! Oh, I was angry, and hurt, and confused and all I wanted was to see them again!

I cried for nearly two hours. Gut-wrenching sobbing. Thankfully most of the team had gone to the church. They weren't there to see my humiliation. On Friday we visited a school for the blind. It was cool, but all I could think while I was there was how much I wanted to be back at the orphanage.

That night we went to a Christian rehab house. While the others were excited to see how God worked, I was still thinking about how much better playing with Carmensita would be than visiting with drug and alcohol addicts who spoke a different language than me.

I was still unsure when we walked in. But then they started to worship. I have never seen such pure, unadulterated, passionate worship in my life!

video


It gives me chills every time I see the video. It was in that moment that I realized, yes, I had been called into orphan care, but that didn't mean that God couldn't work in my heart and the hearts of others through things other than orphans.

Peru was incredible. I love Peru, and I love the people. I love the orphanage, and I love, love, love Carmensita.

But mostly I love that I have a God who loves the least of the least, the poor over the rich, the sick over the healthy. I love that I have a God who is present even when I feel broken and betrayed. I love that my God takes care of Carmensita when I can't. And I love that my God has put a fire for orphan care in me, and it has grown so big that it has consumed me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hesitations

A few weeks ago, our Peru team did a team building exercise. All ten of us had to stand on a smallish tarp and, without touching the ground, turn the tarp over. While some team members' reactions to this impossible task were excitement, frustration, or anxiety, mine was different. Mine was inadequacy. Am I hindering the team? Would it be better for everyone if I didn't participate in this?

I've had many of the same thoughts in the past few days. It has been increasingly hard for me to focus on the Worthday initiative now that there are serious possibilities that Evan might not come home. I love the orphanage in Peru, but my sister is in danger. She takes precedent.

What if I'm hindering the team because I'm so distraught about the situation in Russia? Would they be better off without me until this clears up?

I know these thoughts are not of the Lord. God put me on this team for a reason. He had this team leave now for a reason. Maybe His purpose in me going is so I'm not so focused on the situation with Evan.

All I know is that my purpose for this trip has gotten much more difficult. I want so badly to be able to focus wholly on the task at hand, but Evan will always be in my mind. I just hope that doesn't affect our objective at all.

To follow our team while we're in Peru and learn about the Worthday initiative, follow our blog and like us on Facebook.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crushed

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.
                     - Psalm 34:18


When we got our court date for Evan, I was ecstatic. Surely this meant we would bring her home. The agencies and caseworkers were 90% sure that the judge would let special needs children come home.

A child with special needs has never been adopted out of Evan's region. We would be the second family. The Davis family was first. Their court date took place at about 2:00 a.m. last night our time. After five grueling hours of court, which everyone present thought had gone well, the judge rejected their adoption.

Everyone was shocked. The judge gave no other reason than that she would allow them to adopt a typical child, but she didn't see how being in their home would be better for them or for the little boy they were trying to adopt.

Their options are limited now.

This does not bode well for our adoption at all. I just keep repeating over and over, "I don't understand."

I thought, surely, surely after all this waiting, God would finally give us peace in this. No. I just don't understand. Why did we have to get the region that wouldn't issue court dates? Why did we have to get the region where special needs adoptions were rejected?

I don't understand. And I feel brokenhearted. I am crushed in spirit.

Please lift up the Davis family in prayer - they need it desperately. And, while I despise that judge with every fiber of my being, lift her up in prayer too. Maybe God will change her heart. But we need prayer now. More than ever before we need prayer.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Countdowns and Flashbacks

Tonight I realized how much God changed me in Peru.

I look back at my life before Peru, and it was so different. My identity was in my accomplishments - how good I did in school, the music I wrote, or how well I played oboe. I was the girl who liked classical music, or the genius girl.

Then came Peru. Where I overcame my anxiety disorder. Where God stretched me mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually more than I'd ever been stretched before. Where my life was changed forever by three special needs children. Where I made some of the best friends I've ever had. Where I learned to dance in the streets no matter what people thought of me. Where I got sick as a dog and learned to trust that God would take care of me.

I remember when I came back, I woke up every morning thinking I should be getting on a bus. I was distraught, confused, hurt. What was I doing in America? I was useless here. I needed to go back. I missed waking up with my teammates. I missed doing the Lord's will in tangible ways every morning. I remember tearing up every time I head the Cupid Shuffle, because we'd danced to it to attract people to street evangelize to. I cried when I heard "You Never Let Go" because that had been our team song.

But I had one song that I listened to all the time, because it just felt like it expressed me perfectly. Tedashii's Transformers.

You can see the way I've changed,
New swag, new talk, new phrase.
I'm not who I used to be.
Transformed, man, you should get used to me.

That's how I felt - transformed. I was a completely different person, and I wanted people to see it. I wanted people to know that God had changed me. My identity wasn't found in grades or music anymore. My identity was in who God had made me. My identity was God's daughter, who was passionately alive for his children, who were orphans in this world.

I've changed so much, it's almost unbelievable to look back and see it.

And now I'm going back. I was almost too busy to be excited for a while. I was incredibly stressed about getting enough money for the China deadline, and I had some passport problems to sort out. But now that that's all over, I realize how incredibly excited I am to see my Peruvian "family" again!

It is surreal to me that I will be in Peru in 11 days. Please be praying for my team as we prepare to leave. That God will give us peace and unity. That we will not have any preconceived expectations, but that we will be overjoyed with whatever God has in store for us. That we will fulfill God's mission for us in the five days we'll be there, regardless of whether it matches our mission or not.

10 days...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Righteous Anger

Generally, I am not a very angry person. Nervous, yes. Scared, yes. But not angry. It's rare that I will be furious at someone.

Today was one of those rare times.

In American literature, we just finished a "classic" book. Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. For those who haven't had to read it yet (lucky), I'll give you a brief synopsis. The story is about two migrant workers who travel together. One of the workers is intellectually disabled, and has the mental capacity of a child. Long story short, the intellectually disabled worker accidentally kills the farm owner's daughter-in-law. The intellectually disabled worker's best friend, who has traveled with him for years, then shoots and kills him because he thinks it is better for him.

Today in class we were discussing the intellectually disabled worker's death. Was it justified? To my utter and complete shock, much of the class said yes. They said the man was just doing what he thought was better for his friend. That didn't make it right, but it did seem reasonable. They compared it to putting your dog to sleep. You were just putting them out of their misery. Or taking someone off life support.

I was so angry I had trouble not crying. How dare they?! How dare they compare a human being with thoughts and feelings just like any other human being to a dog! Unbelievable! I would kill the entire world before I killed Levi. If anything, it's the world's fault for not understanding, or even trying to understand. And, seriously? Put them out of their misery?! I know intellectually disabled people and they are in no way miserable. In fact, they're some of the happiest, most joyful people I've ever met in my entire life. We call these people ignorant, but we're the ignorant ones! We choose to live our lives in the dark about how much of a blessing people with special needs are! We don't even try!

I just can't believe people would compare a person with intellectual disabilities to a dog! A DOG!

I don't get angry very much, but when I do, I am fully and unreservedly furious. There isn't much that makes me that angry, but belittling people with special needs is one of those things. You make any kind of negative comment about people with intellectual disabilities, and you'd better be ready for the debate of your life. Honestly, people, from your point of view, why didn't God just stop making special needs people? That way they can escape all that misery.

God values the life of someone with special needs just as much as he values the life of you or me. It makes me angry with a righteous anger that our world refuses to see that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Full Heart

I can honestly say that this semester has been and still will be one of the most exciting semesters of my life, as of yet.

I leave for Peru in 20 days. In 20 days, I'll be reunited with my Peruvian friends, walking around an orphanage taking photos and videos, and playing with my dear, sweet Carmensita!

My parents leave for Russia in 24 days. In 24 days, we will be closer to bringing Evan home than we've ever been before.

Our court date in Russia is in 29 days. In 29 days, we will know if the judge will let us bring Evan home or not.

In 45 days, Evan will be home. At 5:35 p.m. on April 16, I will be meeting my sister for the first time!

In 93 days, I will be on my way to China, to visit the sweet kids at Maria's Big House of Hope.

While my life seems peachy keen right now, I have to remember to keep my focus on God. I can't get carried away in all the excitement. God planned this out perfectly - He wants me to be excited! But He also wants me to remember who put the good stuff in my life.

We can't stop leaning on God when things are good. He is just as present in times of peace and prosperity as He is in times of hardship.