Meet Sandra. She is my 2 year-old daughter who has been with me for exactly one month. I met her in October when her mother Sophonie (Elijah's mom) came to live with us at the orphanage until she delivered her baby. Sandra was a very quiet and unhappy -but gorgeous- child when she came to us. We could tell from her demeanor that she had been through so much in her short life. After talking with Sophonie for a short time and hearing of the past year of her life, I could only imagine what this little one had been through. She did not smile. It was almost as if she didn't know how to. When I looked into her eyes, she seemed so aged. So old for her two short years of being on this earth. So tired. So lost. Her face was drawn into such a dry-look, that it made her look like a sad old woman.
Sophonie did not come with plans of leaving Sandra, her second daughter, behind. If you've read my previous post My Children- Part I, you may remember Sophonie bringing us her first daughter, Valencia. When she came back with Sandra and I met and observed her for the first few days, I told Jasmine and Greg that I had hoped Sophonie would leave her here with us, too. Greg agreed and said he had been thinking the same thing.
Sophonie was a struggling parent. She struggled with tolerating her daughter and in many ways loving her. Unfortunately in Haiti, having received no proper parenting themselves, many Haitian women have little to no love or proper care to give their children. This was the case for her. At the age of 21, she had a 5 year old, a 2 year old and another child on the way. She had no attachments to any of her children and seemed to be caught in a family saga with her mother, sister and ex-boyfriend. Having been through so much herself, we could see that it was difficult for her to love on her children, particularly Sandra. I remember one specific time that Sandra was standing on the picnic table outside of the girls' bunk house. Sandra jumped off as a means to catch her mom as she was walking away, but instead missed Sophonie and fell flat on her face. Sophonie heard Sandra crying, turned around to assess what had happened and then rolled her eyes as she continued walking away. I quickly walked over and gently picked Sandra up. She immediately grabbed onto me and buried her head into my neck. I held her, rubbed her back and began humming as I swayed back and forth- giving her as much love as I could in what little time I knew I had with her in this moment.
It was not hard for me to love Sandra. I was so naturally drawn to her and I wanted her to be cared for in a way she had never known. I wanted Sophonie to leave all of her children with us, and so did Greg and Jasmine. Jasmine was not going to ask her to leave Sandra at the orphanage after Elijah's birth, but Greg said to her, "Why don't you just leave that one here too?"
After many weeks of spending time with this family and receiving Elijah into my little wooden hut, it came time for Sophonie to leave. Her last words were that she was going to her mom's house to see if she would take Sandra. If her mom did not want her, she was bringing her back to us. Several weeks went by after this and we heard no word from Sophonie. A day did not go by when I did not think of Sandra. I missed her short little self walking around on the rocks getting lost among all of the bigger girls. I missed holding her and attempting to make her smile. I also missed seeing her in her little Tigger hat her mom would sometimes put on her to cover up her unbraided hair. I prayed for her, wherever she was, and I hoped she would return to OLTCH.
In early December, there was a specific day that Sandra was heavily on my mind. I told the girls' Madam, Ysmanine, that I was really missing Sandra that morning. She said she missed her too. About an hour later, one of the boys fell and scraped his knee- which is pretty typical. I brought him to the kitchen to clean and bandage his wound. A few minutes later, I heard small little footsteps behind me. I turned around and there was the tiny little Tigger hat Sandra staring up at me. I ran to her, picked her up, and hugged her with so much love. So much joy. So much excitement!! It was in that moment that I knew this love for her was special. It was significant, much like the love I had for Elijah. It wasn't a love I had mustered on my own. It was a God-given love. I was so happy to have her back safe in my arms. I walked her out to the front of the orphanage to see Sophonie. Sophonie looked so tired and drained, but her belly was much smaller ;) She told me her mom did not want Sandra either and so here she was. She told me to take her away, and I gladly did. I had no idea what was in store for us then, but once again I felt the Lord's prompting with this child. This life. This little soul who had been through so much.
That same afternoon, I told Jasmine what I felt the Lord was doing in my heart for Sandra too (she already knew about Elijah). A few minutes later, we were scrounging for clothes and shoes for her. That day, I became Mommy to another precious child. I was scared beyond belief. It didn't make sense. None of it made sense. What did make sense, though, was to love these two children the best way I knew how, and to let God take care of the rest. I knew I was to walk by faith and allow God to have me become the best Mommy I could be for these two children. How was it going to play out? How is this going to work? What will this look like? I had no idea, and still don't, but I was and am willing to let the Lord do whatever it is He is up to. After all, He is the one true God who holds everything in the palm of His hands.
I knew I was going home for Christmas, so Sandra did not move in with me immediately. This was a good idea because it gave me time to pray. It gave me time to seek the Lord's wisdom and understanding of what was to come with these two children. I did not mention the kids or the situation when at home, besides to very very very few close friends and some family members, as I spent time giving my fears and "what-ifs" to God. I came back to Haiti knowing without a doubt that Sandra was also mine. So she moved in with me and has been such a wonderful gift.
Sandra is now a smiley, giggly girl. She is learning and growing daily. She is learning to pray and sing and talk. Her laughter is contagious and her sparkling eyes melt your heart. I have learned so much from her in the short time she has been with me. Just the other afternoon I put her in her bed because she disobeyed. After a few minutes of crying, she suddenly began chanting, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" I couldn't help but start laughing at the thought of her singing and praising God in the midst of her "distress." It was such a special picture for me and the Lord used it to not only give me laughter, but to show me child-like faith, once again. She is full of joy, my daughter, and I love her so much.