"And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them." (Mark 10:16)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Coming Home 7/30/14

Finally.  I have wondered what I would say or do when we got the word that it's time to bring our children home.  Four years.  What do you say after four years of waiting?  When I look back at our first posts, they are joyful and exciting.  As the months and years drug on, the posts got pretty raw and cynical. I don't regret that honestly.  It was always my intention to be real about this process and our feelings.  But looking back my biggest hope was that more than our helplessness and utter pain, you witnessed our courage and fight.  We pray you saw our constant faith to keep going and believing. We hope you heard our cries to Jesus and saw our continued trust in Him even though we were sad, angry, and hurting. 

Four years ago, I looked those boys in the eyes and knew I was their mama.  Everyone told me it couldn't happen. Everyone told me the risks, steps, hurdles - that is was impossible.  I didn't listen.  I've always been a bit stubborn, and in this case, it worked out.   One of my favorite memories was riding in a car full of Creole-speaking strangers (and a chicken) to get to a meeting in the hills of Haiti to start the process of adopting of our sons.  I was crazy!  When I look back at that day and all that we've been through to get to where we are, I have so much to share with our boys and the world.  And I will. It's on my heart to write a book. Someday.  For now, I'm going to focus on being a new mama.  And what I can't put into words right now, I'll let a video speak for me. Click here. (Unfortunately it won't work on mobile devices due to copyrighted music - but enjoy it on your computer!)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

In the Home Stretch...and then...

Last Wednesday, June 25 was just a regular day.  Todd and I had been basking in the excitement of knowing our boys would be home in just another 6-8 weeks.  We were finally ending the “wait.”  Everything seemed uphill from here.  And then I got the email with the subject line, “Wendy is very sick.”

I was at my favorite coffee shop with a dear friend.  Todd was in London for work.  He had not slept for 24 hours because of traveling, and it was now bedtime in England, but I awoke him to ask with confusion and panic, “What do we do?!”

We both started making calls, and through an American friend in Haiti we were able to connect with a hospital run by American doctors who were able to see him right away.  We waited for answers while also feeling so helpless – all of us in 3 different countries wondering what to do next.  His diagnosis was a ruptured appendix.  They removed his appendix, repaired his intestines that had become damaged, and for several days following surgery drained toxic fluids from his abdomen and kept him on antibiotics while monitoring for any infection.  Our visas are currently being expedited because of this medical situation, but we still have no way to know for sure how soon that will be.  We struggled with decisions. Should one of us go be with him right now?  And then do we just stay until we get our visas?  Or do we go be with him, come back home when he’s out of the hospital, and go back when we have visas? Or do we just pray and wait?   Without knowing when those visas will come, we face the uncertainty of days/weeks of being there in Haiti waiting. Logistically and financially we decided to wait until we have word of visas.  And it was especially helpful to know Wendy was recovering so beautifully and doing well.  But we still struggle with this decision.  Was it the RIGHT one?  Is there a RIGHT one?  Oh, the shame I have felt as a mother. 

Only weeks away from being HOME.  Weeks away from celebration.  Weeks away from smiles, laughter, joy, and the hope of relieving some long pent-up anxiety and grief of being apart.  But we found ourselves again scared, angry, and helpless.  I still can’t understand this – why our family has gone through such hard times.  We could really use a break.  And I am also determined to keep going, fighting, and believing.

I absolutely despise the phrases, “everything happens for a reason,” or “God doesn’t give us what we can’t handle.”  They feel so dismissive and avoidant of human pain.  We have had a lot of things on this journey we couldn’t handle.  And what does it mean to “handle” it anyway?  If it means being in fetal position praying and crying with a glass of wine nearby, then maybe I did handle it?  Or if it means asking your friends for help because you can’t mentally or physically do anything else, then I’ve handled it.  If it means sitting on this computer sharing brutal honesty with myself and others, then I’m handling it.  If it means pouring out my heartache to God and letting him comfort me while STILL feeling my feelings, then I’m handling it.  But if it means pushing through, pretending to be okay, or putting on a happy face and not complaining because “God’s got this,” then I’m failing miserably. A dear friend who had a very scary brain tumor shared about all these “be strong” one-liners she received when facing her surgery: “They take away the validity of your feelings and make you feel like you're spiritually failing if you're not 100% calm, peaceful and totally trusting the plan.”  Amen, Sarah.  Well said.

God gave me my feelings. They are allowed.  I realize my behaviors in response to those feelings aren’t always ideal. But the reality is that I spent a lot of years “pushing through” and “staying strong.” Those things really just kept me unaware of the reality of being human. And in humanity, we feel.  We feel hard things.  And when we are honest about what we feel, we can experience life fully together. I don’t think tragedy is for a reason.  I think tragedy just happens because life just happens.  Feelings just happen because we were created with them.  And we phone God and loved ones to get through it – not around it. 

I don’t know why our son had to suffer just weeks before coming home.  A long time ago I might have wasted energy trying to figure this out.  Now instead of ignoring my pain by “trying to figure this out,” I’m noticing my pain.  And what I notice is that I’m feeling a lot of guilt and shame.   I have questions like:  “Is he going to be okay without his mom and dad there?  Does he feel loved and safe?  Am I a bad mom because I’m not going RIGHT now to be with him? What will others think of me for not going to be with my kid during surgery?  Was there a better way to handle this?”

In his book The Voice of the Heart, Chip Dodd says about shame…

“Shame tells me I am limited. I am mistake-ridden. I have some answers, but I don’t have all the answers.  I need you to help me; I can’t do this alone.  We need each other.”

Todd and I are exhausted, hurting, and just want our kids to come home.  One of us could have gone to Haiti right now.  That would have been a good decision too.  But we felt a huge pull to one another through this recent crisis.  So we decided to pack up the car and get away together - to just sit with all that we are facing and about to face. We talked about our boys – school, doctors, soccer shoes, etc.  We cried about his grandparents not getting to meet them.  We recalled these last 4 years of waiting and how it has taken its toll.  We talked about our parenting fears.  We got dressed up and went out like teenagers.  We lay under the stars.  I don’t know if this was the right thing.  But it was our right thing.    As Dodd’s line above suggest, we can’t do this alone. We need each other. 
We are hopeful to bring them home sooner than expected. Because it is already a huge transition for the entire family, and especially now with the circumstances of Wendy’s health, we are asking for help and establishing healthy boundaries.  Not only do we need help from each other as parents, but we will need help from others.  So we’ve called in the troops. 

We want to be able to focus our time and attention on the boys, so we will be unable to field all the calls, emails, texts, and facebook messages of those who want to help, meet them, etc when it is time to bring them home.  We have friends who will be in charge of communicating and setting up specific things for us (like meals, etc).  This is not in any way intended to be rude – in fact, we hope it ensures you actually get a response since we will be so focused on our boys!  So we hope you will understand that in the days ahead, most of our communication about the boys’ homecoming will be through these dear friends who have graciously accepted our request for help.

This is what our hardship is teaching us – be honest about our pain, lean on each other, be in community, ask for help, let people love you, let go of what we can’t control, and pull the weeds in our life garden.

Thank you for loving our family.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I Like to Dance Every Day

Our first day on this most recent visit with the boys we got to witness a new song they had just learned...

I like to dance every day.
I like to dance every day.
I like to dance every day.
Because I know He loves me.

(Click on picture below for video - hoping it works!)

Friends, this is the kind of stuff that keeps us all sane in this forever long wait.  We just keep dancing.  We just keep singing.  And we just keep believing.  Because we know that we are deeply loved by a comforting Father.

We still don't have a definite homecoming date, but the next step we are waiting to complete is the printing of their passports.  After that we wait for visas, and THEN we can bring them home.  But there's still no way to know how long each of these things will take, as there are signatures, stamps of approval, etc, etc. that have to happen.  What should really only take a few weeks could still be another few months or more.  But we dance every day.  And wait. And hope.

A few highlights from our trip (besides this fantastic song)...

Wendy has learned more and more English!  My first day there, he said, "nice to meet you, mom," which I figure he thinks is a greeting for everyone and not just for someone he just met.  Nonetheless, it warmed my heart.   He is my son who wants to "pataje" (share) everything he has!  I give him candy, and he says, "mom, pataje ak tout moun?" (share with everyone?)  He also likes to fart on people - anyone - even someone he has newly met (sorry, Jon Peters).  I am not sure where he learned this - do you know, Todd Ramey?  I love my son's ability to dance to the beat of his own drum - and any drum for that matter.  He can't stop dancing, which will make for an AMAZING addition to our Ramey family dance parties.

Woody wants to please us so badly.  Everytime I watch him in class or sing a song with his friends, he flashes me this smile that might as well translate to "Do you see how well I'm doing, Mom?"  I just love it - probably because that little achiever spirit speaks to my own desire to please.  I get him - a lot.  One day when I was walking alone down to meet the boys at the basketball court I noticed a beautiful rose that had just bloomed, so I took a picture.  Later, without knowing about my picture, Woody had picked that same rose (with a little help from Daddy) and brought it to me for my hair.  He is a quiet and charming boy.  I love his sweet spirit!  And he needs everything in its place  - again, like his mama.

Wilnes struggles because he has no other kid his age in the orphanage anymore.  He gets lonely.  He is growing facial hair.  He voice is deeper.  He hangs out mostly with some of the workers, so he vacillates between being a kid and an adult.  But on this trip he really let himself be a kid - and let me be his mama.  Several times he put his arm around me and leaned into me tight and just let me hold him.  He is almost my height now - which I realize isn't saying much - but it was so sweet to me for my big boy to let me hold him - to let himself be safely loved and held.  He has struggled the past year, for many reasons, so it was a joy to see him smile and laugh so much on this trip (even though he still refuses to do it in pictures because it isn't "cool" - but we caught a few anyway).  He dearly loves the little ones in the orphanage, and it is so sweet to see how much they love him too.  He is super excited about America and ready to play soccer here!

While it is incredibly exciting they will be coming home soon, we are all also terrified! This is new territory for each of us.  We are joyful, yet we are all grieving the lives we are about to leave behind.  Change is still change. Loss is still loss.  We showed them pictures of our house (their new house), and even though they were smiling, I noticed their little tummies were moving in and out so fast - shallow little breaths that seemed to say, "this is scary."  And we totally get that! We can't know for sure the hardships that are to come. But we know we will be okay.  We'll make one stitch at a time on this quilt of life and turn it into something beautiful together.  And we'll dance every day, because He loves us. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Parenting on days like today

My mentor and friend Amy recently asked me, “What is it like to parent from afar?”  I laughed from sheer confusion, sadness, and probably insanity.  It is hard to describe.  In that moment my answer was that I just keep showing up whenever I can.  One of us goes to Haiti to see them every 3-4 months.  It is hard on us in a lot of ways logistically – time, money, etc - but of course emotionally as well.  It rips our heart out (and theirs) every time we say goodbye.  But my response to this is always, “The hellos are worth the goodbyes.”  I want my boys to feel and know, “See, guys, we are here again for you.  We are fighting to bring you home.  We are here with you.”

But then what do we do in that time in between when we’re not physically there? Especially on a day like today, the 4 year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, when my boys feel the effects of their trauma and grief even more than usual?  Amy’s question, one I think about a lot, is an ongoing learning experience.  There are lots of parenting books out there, but none that I’ve found so far about “How to parent your 3 sons in Haiti that you’ve been waiting to bring home for 4 years and have no clue how much longer you will wait.”  (Sidenote for self– maybe I’ll write that book).  I find myself grappling a lot with fear and shame that maybe I’m not parenting “good enough.”  I should be there today to hold my sons and tell them it will all be okay!  What can I do?  And where the hell is the book that tells me what to do?!

And then I found one.  Totally forgot I have this really cool book called the Bible - which you can now download as an app on your phone.  I woke up this morning thinking about what Wendy, one of my twins, said about the earthquake one time.  In his sweet little Creole he told me, “everything was shaking, but the nannies came to hold us.”  Just picture that with me.  As I thought about that and the ways God sends us comfort in our trouble, I was drawn to Psalm 91.  I read it many times this morning, and here is what I heard God saying to me through this passage:  “I will come to you when you’re in trouble.  I will send my angels.  I am your refuge – come, get under my wings.”  Those nannies were angels holding my boys and so many others.  Those angels hold you and me.  When I can’t physically hold and protect my sons today or any other day, I know who is.  “Godspeed” is the name of the song we play every time I’m with them in Haiti.  It has a line that says “God hears amen wherever we are” and another that says “oh my love will fly to you each night on angels’ wings.”  We’ve been singing those lines together for 4 years.  And in my human nature sometimes I still forget that God is doing the parenting – whether I can be there physically or not. My boys are held in His arms.  And so am I.  I rest in this promise.  And that’s how I parent from afar.  

**My background in the music business won't let me end this post without crediting Radney Foster for writing the lyrics to "Godspeed."  Thanks for writing a song that speaks my heart and makes me cry a really ugly cry.  Amen.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Still believing, even though it hurts

Todd is currently on top of the roof hanging Christmas lights and swearing. I’m sitting here writing while downloading really cheesy Christmas music.  I’ve got a warm cup of tea and a cute little snowman candle glowing.  We got all our Christmas decorations out and up.  We just need to trim the tree, and then we’re done!  And then everything will be better, right? 

We woke up on Thanksgiving Day, both of us cranky and unsure what to be thankful for.  Yes, we are the Bah-humbugs this year.  OF COURSE we have plenty to be thankful for – and we aren’t so cynical and bitter that we can’t find some gratitude.  It is just that we are now on the fourth holiday season without our sons here to share it with us.  We are angry, and mostly sad and heartbroken – not just for us, but for their young and tender hearts.  It is way past time for them to come home.

Yes, so now onto that popular question – WHEN WILL THEY COME HOME?  ANY NEWS?  WHAT’S THE STATUS?  We wish we knew.  We wish it was easy to explain the process.  We don’t even understand it sometimes.  The trouble is that every situation is different, and every stage of the process requires something that sometimes we have to wait even longer on.  Most recently, we’ve been waiting on an ID card for one of our boy’s biological parents.  We couldn’t progress to the next stage until the courts had the proper ID for that parent – and that ID took over a year to obtain.  There is no explanation for this.  In fact, I just renewed my driver's license here in Tennessee a few weeks ago.  It took me 1 hour – not 1 year.  But with every step of this process we learn more and more about the difficulties Haiti faces every day in just doing “normal” business.  That ID finally did come, but now there is a strike, and courts are not open.  So we wait some more. 

Yes, we were under every impression and belief this Christmas would be different – that our boys would be home with us.  But we are hanging lights and trimming the tree just as the year before – with continued sadness but no less hope than before.  And we truly don’t mean to be bah-humbug.  We just want to be honest and authentic about where we are. We are hurting.  But we press on.  We continue hoping. And we knew when we started this journey it would be hard and painful.  While so many people mean well, we don’t need anymore pep talks, bible verses, or fluffy spiritual jargon.  We believe in God, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  We know and trust their great power and love through this.  And we don’t ever begin to assume we know better than God and His timing.  We lean on Him every day.  And we also know it’s possible to love and lean on God and still hurt. 

So I drink my tea and listen to Kenny and Dolly sing “I Believe in Santa Claus" one more time.  I hang the ornaments we all made together last Christmas and put them on this sweet little Charlie Brown Christmas tree that proudly sits in our front window.  It somehow screams to the outside, “our boys are coming!  They are coming! They will be here!” We hang their stockings.  We cry.  And we hold each other tight because we have each other to get us through the wait.  And we have the comforting presence of God who also knows very well how it feels to hurt for His children.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Waiting in the Rain

Some seasons just have a lot of rain.

Literally and figuratively, this summer has rained on me a lot.  I do not like being vulnerable or allowing others to see my “mess,” but the longer and harder it rains, the more I feel prompted to seek shelter in my authenticity and brokenness.

Todd and I just rounded the 3.5 year mark of waiting on our children.  We are thankful for answers, signatures, and milestones that have been completed.  Yet, the sorrow and pain still come in waves.  It’s hard to hold hope and grief at the same time, yet very possible.  I do it every day. It’s exhausting.

I have also been sick - really sick since May.  I have gone to the doctor so many times with no clear answers of what is wrong except maybe “you’re too stressed. What can you do to eliminate stress in your life?”  My answer is, “Can you bring my babies home from Haiti?”  There is no pill I can take for that – not one.  Thankfully I have found a wonderful doctor who has found that along with a broken heart, there is another reason for my ailments, and it’s being treated.  But it’s a LONG hard process of changing my diet, taking supplements, and waiting for my body to rid itself of what it no longer needs.  And this may take another several weeks.  Really?!  More waiting?  What is all this waiting mess about?  Can I just get some relief NOW?  Okay, that was my really impatient part needing to vent.  I feel better now.  But seriously, with every step in this process of bringing our boys home, my body and soul remind me of the toll it takes on them too.  And I must listen.  We all must listen to the messages our bodies have for us.  To slow down.  To wait.  To nurture.  To pray.  To feel.  To trust the process of life. 

On one of my hardest sick days as I prayed and cried, I ran across one verse that led me to explore the verses around it for context.  I looked it up in The Message version.  It’s a long one, but totally worth the time to read.   And I end this post with it, because it really just sums it all up. I am pregnant.  It hurts.  But God is near. 

Romans 8:22-28 MSG
"All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

How many kids are here?

This was the question that sent me into tears. I am not angry about the question or the person who asked it.  I am angry my kids aren’t here.  All the kids in the family lined up to hunt Easter eggs.  It was adorable.  I thought contributing $6 to the prize egg would make me feel better. It didn’t.  I thought hiding the eggs would feel better.  It didn’t.  I thought helping a child find an egg would feel better.  It didn’t.  All I could think was “man, I wish my kids were here.“  Three years later that is all I can think about.  And I still believe they will hunt Easter eggs here – along with their super sweet cousins. 

But if anything brought a smile, it was this guy - determined to find eggs and ready to wrestle for them.  I find hope - every day I look for hope.  And I have hope our boys will hunt eggs with their  cousins, laugh at their big white family, and get hugs from all these people who love them so much!

"Rejoice in hope. Be patient in tribulation.  Be constant in prayer." (Romans 12:12)