Thursday, November 8, 2012

Streams in the Desert

Blog post started on October 5, 2012
Blog post completed and posted on November 8,2012

Sometimes we need to sing a song, even if we feel like we are in a desert.  A friend sent me this video today after I emailed her my heart's cry this morning.

Yesterday was a wonderful day, and I rejoiced in my heart for so many things.  My sister, Wendy, and her husband, Adam, returned home with her son from Ethiopia yesterday.  This precious little boy that we have been praying home for 2 1/2 years is finally home.  My sister and her husband started their adoption few months after we began our adoption of Godwin.  She has watched so many children come home while she has continued to wait for God's perfect timing.  (My friend who sent me the video above is experiencing that now as well.  She started her process at the same time as my sister, but her child is still on the other side of the world.  My heart goes out to her as another child comes home while she still waits.  It is hard.)

After such a long, difficult wait, it was a blessing for Christopher to finally come home.  When Wendy and Adam arrived in Ethiopia to bring him home, Christopher was sick and was not cleared for travel because of his fever.  However, God answered prayers and he flew toward Knoxville on schedule.

Everyone gathered at the airport to welcome him home.  Oh, if there is one thing I love, it is an Adoption Homecoming!  What a celebration!  My youngest sister, Kelly, enabled our family to be part of the welcome home gang through FaceTime.  My precious nephews, Zach and Eli, walked throughout the crowds holding up an iPad to capture the moments for us.  It was wonderful to be a part of it as much as we could be.  We couldn't hug.  We couldn't cheer loudly.  (I know Wendy was probably happy about that!)  But we could see the joy, excitement, and true wonder of Christopher finally being home.  It was such a blessing to witness, even on a screen, the moment I longed to be a part of.

Godwin kept all of my emotions in check though.  He kept saying, well cheering really, "I have a new cousin!  I have a new cousin!"  Now that Godwin has two cousins from the African continent, he is overjoyed!  (Reid's sister, Margaret, has adopted from Ethiopia as well.)  Godwin's oldest brother is our surrogate son - Mathiang from Sudan.  Eyob, Christopher, Godwin and Mathiang all make our family one of great diversity.

Our power went out moments before Kelly called from the airport.  We watched everything in the darkness of our home.  It was pitch black.  I'm a little thankful for the shroud of blackness because it hid my tears to some degree.  I was so happy for my sister.  But I longed to be there.  Physically and emotionally, it hurt to be on this side of the world while most of my family was gathered together celebrating this event we have all unceasingly prayed would finally happen.  We witnessed hugs, kisses, smiles, cheering and in our hearts we were doing the same!  Our cousins, grandparents, friends and family were all celebrating at the airport, and we were celebrating, but emotionally feeling many things as we watched everything unfold on the screen.

We felt so distant.

After we disconnected the call, there were varying responses here at home from viewing everything on our screen.  "That was so cool," quipped one son.  "That was hard," another honestly shared.

Then I heard it.  Wailing.  The heart wrenching cries of a wailing child.

I headed to the back of the house and Braden was there on his bed sobbing.  Hard crying with body convulsions.

Buckling emotionally myself, I crawled in bed beside him.  He didn't stop.  It hurt me to hear his cries of deep pain.  Braden misses home so much.  The sight of his new cousin and seeing everyone together was more than he could bear.  There are so many times here that I simply feel helpless as a mother.  I prayed to God to give me words to share with Braden that would comfort his heart.  With him lying beside me, I told him about his own Homecoming when he came home from the hospital.  How his brothers fought over holding him.   How my mom and dad came to be with him when he was born.  How my friend Amy brought him an outfit to wear home from the hospital.  How Todd and Ansley came to see him at the hospital.  How his brothers made a "Welcome Home Braden" banner for him.  How our friends, the Porters, from down the street were his first visitors at home.  How Mathiang came over and held him for a long time on the sofa.  And on and on, I shared about Braden's homecoming realizing how far away and distant it felt as I talked about it.  So long ago.  So far away.  Nearly nine years ago, Braden was our baby.

Early the next morning, my mother called and shared that Adam's father had died.  Within 24 hours of bringing his son home from Ethiopia, his own father left this earth.  The Lord gives and takes away.  I called Adam and Wendy's house and prayed with Adam.  I cried, but I think Adam was still processing the reality of his father's death.  Later that evening, I finally talked with my sister.  Honestly, it was the hardest conversation I've had with anyone since arriving here.  We both cried.  I hurt more than ever before since our arrival on this continent.

Blog writing abruptly ended due to our power outage.  Emotionally, I don't think I could have continued anyway.  Our entire family was at a very difficult place of struggle and longing to be home.

Today I continue writing, November 8, 2012...

I don't write about homesickness on our blog very often.  But we feel it daily.  Missing life events like Christopher's Homecoming cause us to grieve deeply.  We are so far away.  Separated from so many we love.  It breaks our hearts.  We cry.  We feel lonely.  We pray for God's strength to sustain us.  And He does.

Honestly, I miss my family.  Reid misses his.  We miss our friends.  We miss our relationships.  Our boys miss everyone too.  It is hard.

We skyped with my family recently for Braden's birthday.  They lit candles on a cake then held it below the screen as he blew it out from Ghana.  Then they lifted the cake with unlit candles up to the screen,  It was so sweet!  Braden has giggled about that for days.

On this Skype call, I saw my grandmother for the first time since we moved here in June.  My Mamaw is 94 years old and her health continues to decline.  Her memory is fading and she is losing the ability to identify some family members.  However, through God's grace, my heart is strongly connected to my Mamaw's, and she still remembers me.

When she saw me on the screen, she could not hear my voice, but I could hear hers.  She said to me in her weak, frail voice, "Robin, I wish you were here, Honey.  I wish you were here."  Mamaw was crying as she said these words...which of course made tears come to my eyes as well.  Then my Mamaw leaned down and started kissing the screen to give me kisses.

Here I am in Africa and my 94 year old grandmother is kissing a computer screen so I can know she loves me.  Sometimes it is hard to cope with the reality of the distance.  Will I see her in person again?  Will I?

The next day I received an email from my mom telling me that my Mamaw kept touching the screen because she thought I was there.  The black screen was blank because we had already disconnected.  Things like this make my heart hurt.

For this Skype call, our entire family was gathered to celebrate birthdays.  My Aunt Kathy had even made Ground Nut Soup in honor of Africa.  (Ground Nut soup is a soup we eat weekly for dinner.  Way to go Kathy!  Thank you for celebrating Christopher and our family together!)  Christopher was there giving smiles to everyone.  The cousins were laughing and playing.  Everyone was together celebrating.  We joined them on Skype through the miracle of technology.  As much as I want and need to communicate with my family, sometimes it is heart wrenching to do so.  Yet, I don't want to miss the celebrations either.  Another paradox of living our life overseas in a third world country.  There is a constant tension of emotions from opposite ends of the spectrum.  

I am so happy to see everyone.  I am so sad to see everyone.

God does bring the water to the desert.  He promises to do so.  Life goes on.  "Tears may flow in the night, but JOY comes in the morning."

One month after this blog post was started, this is some of what the Lord has done -

Christopher is doing so well.  He is acclimating to life with his family.  He's being held and loved on constantly.  Over time, he's becoming more comfortable with his surroundings confident in the love poured upon him.

Adam has celebrated the life of his father surrounded by his family.  He traveled to Colorado recently for the service celebrating his father's life.  Even in Adam's grief, he continued to praise the Lord.

Braden has overcome missing home and has celebrated a birthday here with new friends.  He's beginning to verbalize his homesickness in healthier ways, and we are thankful that he is making new friends to help fill the void in his heart.

We've said a difficult goodbye to Katie Batchelor who blessed our family with her presence for the past two months.  There is a definite void in our home without her, but we trust God has new things in store for her now that she is back home.

We've been blessed by two weeks with our precious friends, the Brownings, who traveled into country for their adoption.  Our boys received the blessing of having a friend with them for a few weeks, and Reid and I rejoiced to have them with us.  What a gift to see God grafting their new son, Richard, into their family.  We hiked, we swam, we enjoyed family time together as the Brownings bonded with their new son.

God had brought new needs and NEW OPPORTUNITIES to share the HOPE Christ offers.  God continues to expand ministry here in Ghana.

A single mother and her son have moved in with us.  We are praying God will provide a fresh start for her as she returns to her talent of sewing.  Our home is filled with the chattering of a baby beginning to talk, and we are trying to love this young mama who has experienced much pain in her life.  

Our boys have enjoyed having a younger brother to play with. 

We've faced some challenges with travel.  Numerous police encounters with threats of arrest, court appearances and even the confiscation of Reid's license which was returned later have plagued us recently.  However, God has protected us in every stop.  No bribes have been paid and we have always been released even if we must wait a while for that to happen.  Additionally, our boys have become experts at pushing vehicles to get them going again.  We praise God for his continued protection!

Outreaches continue in the outlying villages and people are choosing to surrender their lives to Christ.

God is moving.  Joy is coming in the morning.

Finally, our friends who sent us the video at the beginning of this blog post, now are rejoicing their new son is home.  One month ago, they were waiting in the desert.  Today, they are celebrating the addition of their newly adopted son into their family.  Our friends, Gads and Melissa, waited for over 2 1/2 years to bring their son home!  Now he is there!  Oh, there is so much to rejoice about!  God is doing so much in and around us!  How can we not choose to praise Him?

We still wrestle with the longings for home.  We still hurt as we miss more of what is happening in the lives of our friends and family.  However, we know God is continually at work for His purposes.  We are choosing to SEE HIM AT WORK in all circumstances.  He is faithful and sovereign.  We rejoice over everything He is doing.

We must trust Him.  He is at work.

"Behold I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.
The beasts of the field will glorify me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to my chosen people.
The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare my praise."
Isaiah 43:19-21

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