Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Children... God's Children

This post is going to hopefully give a little more insight and closure with Elijah and Sandra (Emily). To save some repetition and time here, I will not post too much on how these two children came under my care, but more about our journey together. If you would like to read about how the Lord moved me to take in these two children, there are three blog posts you can find about that. Look under Labels on the Blog page and click on My Children. There is a 3 part series I used to tell the story of how Elijah, Sandra and I became a family. Once you've read that, if you haven't already, this post will make more sense. Thank you in advance for taking the time to seek our whole story.

I will be bouncing around a lot in this post to try and thoroughly communicate, and I hope this helps more than it confuses you.

My biggest concern throughout the three-week period in the States when I stayed to myself and realized my time in Haiti was over was not Haiti. When I realized the Lord was calling me to return to the US for the next season of my life, I knew Haiti would be fine. God has called some excellent warriors to work and serve in that country for His name's sake and He will accomplish all He wants to accomplish through them. God will call on all of His children in Haiti in His perfect timing, and not one of His children will be lost (John 6:35-40).

My biggest concern was for my children and for myself- specifically Elijah and I.

If you followed me through my blog, you may have noticed there is kind of a blank space in this journey of my little family in Haiti. I had Elijah and Sandra in my care, and about 2 months in, Sandra's mom came and took her back- leaving me with one baby, Elijah. It was never something I did bring myself to blog about. It hurt too badly and I could never type any of it out for my readers. Elijah was two months old when Sandra left us and I remember feeling like half of me had just been ripped out of my arms. I held one baby in my arms and felt a complete mix of emotions... I felt the injustice. Why would God give me these two children just to take one away? Will He take both children away? Why would Sandra and Elijah's mom ONLY want Sandra? Can I trust God in this?

A few nights later, after I dealt with what had happened, I remember holding Elijah in my arms and looking into his eyes... It was me and him. I wanted him. I loved him more than my heart could stand and I was not going to let him be taken out of my arms. I told him I wasn't leaving him and that I loved him, and I. meant. every. word. Elijah quickly became a huge driving force for me to remain in Haiti.

I want to stop here and explain another motivation for me to remain in Haiti. When I moved to Haiti in August 2011, I had committed the next year of my life to this country. Right now, if you look at the web address box at the top of your screen, you will see that the domain for this entire blog is ayeartoservehaiti. In my mind, my "year to serve Haiti" was a 10-month commitment because the school year was 10 months. So, I would be living in Haiti for a year and in my mind: 1 year = 10 months. In March 2012, the Lord began leading me to extend my year in Haiti, which I wrote about in a blog post:

"...Only God knows how long He will have me here. So... while my blog address remains ayeartoservehaiti, the meaning behind it is even more significant now. It stands as a testimony to how God has given me the desire to return along with His assurance to serve in Haiti for more than just this one year. For me personally, it will also remind me to take this journey one year at a time."

1) The Lord did call me to stay longer than my one year- remember in my mind, though, my 1 year equaled 10 months. I would have been leaving Haiti in June. The neat thing about all of this is that I wound up serving in Haiti for exactly one whole calendar year. I moved down to Haiti at the end of August 2011 and at the end of August 2012, everything you read in my last blog post came full circle. I realized my time in Haiti had come to a close, and the Lord truly did have me in Haiti for one year.
2) I knew when I wrote the blog post quoted above that I was to take this journey one year at a time. One day at a time. Step by step. THIS is where I should have stayed. THIS is the Truth I should have marinated in daily. THIS is the calling God had put on my life, and because we do not plan for tomorrow, I should have continually walked in this mindset.
Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
James 4:13-15 "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.' "

Side note you may not be aware of: In order to legally remain in Haiti as a non-resident for over 90 days, you must apply for a resident permit (permis de sejour) in Haiti. Otherwise, you must leave the country every 90 days and can return shortly after. Because of this, myself and many other missionaries in Haiti would return home (Stateside) every 3 months for about a week or so, and then travel back to Haiti and renew our 90 day visitor stay. This time away from Haiti, as sad as it was to leave sometimes, was VERY good for my sanity. I honestly loved that I was able to have breaks periodically. It kept me steady and encouraged. Because I was an independent missionary on the foreign mission field, this meant there was no real form of coaching, training or counseling. THAT is why this time away was so good for me. It gave me time to somewhat "debrief" and while my brain was hard at work trying to mentally separate two EXTREMELY different cultures, being around familiarity, family and close friends every 3 months gave me the push forward that I needed to go back and continue serving.When I left the country every 90 days, Elijah remained in the care of people at the orphanage where we lived. They took very good care of him- even the volunteers who came and visited the orphanage would help care for him. I never once doubted that he was in good hands, though my arms never stopped aching to hold him. I could never thank those who cared for and loved on Elijah in my absence enough!

Back to Sandra and Elijah: As the months progressed after Sandra was taken away, March rolled around and I knew I was going to be staying in Haiti longer than the original year I had planned for. I went to tribunal (Haitian courthouse) with Elijah's mom who signed legal custody of Elijah over to me. I now had LEGAL Haitian documents stating that this child was under MY care. This meant I could go anywhere in Haiti with this child and these papers would prove I was his guardian. If his mom (Sophonie) ever came back to take him from me, I knew I could take her and these legal documents back to tribunal before the same judge and fight for Elijah. Who knows if I would have won, but I knew it gave me a better chance of fighting for him rather than just letting her rip him out of my arms, too. From this point on, my love for Elijah and my heart for his entire being is the main engine that drove me forward. I poured everything I had into this child and gave him the very best mommy that I could.

Shortly after gaining custody, I began to seriously look into adoption and what that looked like in the country of Haiti. From what I had gathered, the Haitian adoption laws would not let me adopt Elijah until I was 35, or married to someone who was 35. I would also have to register Elijah into a creche before going through the adoption process. So I began preparing to stay in Haiti for the next 12 years of my life. The school year at the orphanage would be over at the beginning of June, yet I knew God led me to plan to stay in Haiti longer AND I knew I needed to stay to care for Elijah. I didn't want to put in him an orphanage until I could adopt him, and I did not want anyone else taking care of him. I was his mommy, therefore I would be in Haiti raising him. So, to sum everything up from this point, my calling to be in Haiti WAS from the Lord, AND I had a baby to care for. In my mind, I was at complete peace about being in Haiti. The mistake I made here, however, was planning my entire life around the Haitian adoption process when I knew the Lord had purposefully led me to take this journey in Haiti one year, one month, one week, one day at a time. I began looking at adoption time and not God's time.

It was also during this time period in March that the Lord began putting a new ministry on my heart that later evolved into Immanuel Missions. During all of this craziness, I was planning a trip home to the States when school ended at the beginning of June. My 90 day period would be over, my friends Ashlee and Claudy were getting married, I needed to have a garage sale to help raise funds for me to stay in Haiti, and I needed to sell my car and put that money away to pay for my adoption of Elijah later. I would be in the US for 3 weeks in order to accomplish everything on my "To Do" list, and when I returned to Haiti, I would be moving out of the orphanage and into a guesthouse with Elijah. Come June, I did go home for 3 weeks, accomplished all that needed to be done, and returned to Haiti at the beginning of July. At this point, if you've read my previous post- Constant in the Trial and the Change... - you know the gist of how my time at the guesthouse went upon my return to Haiti. Sandra was unexpectedly returned to me and I took her back into my care after praying about doing so. I quickly began planning to adopt 2 children in Haiti, and with that came an even more dedicated long-term commitment to this country.

Fast forward to the three-week period where I returned to the US at the beginning of September 2012, very sick. I was beyond drained and purposefully set aside alone time to face all that has happened over the past year. Because of this, I have been able to sort out what I am about to tell you now.

I love my children (Elijah and Sandra) more than I could ever explain to anyone. In the beginning when I first took them in, I knew the Lord gave them to me to foster. I knew I would never adopt either of them, and I was at complete peace about it. When I first talked to people about my kids, I told them I would never adopt these kids, but that I would care for them while I was in Haiti. When Sandra was taken away, however, I attached myself to Elijah in such a big way. He became SUCH a huge part of my life and I moved forward in gaining custody of him and planning to adopt him, not remembering the original call to foster him. When Sandra came back into my life this past July, I didn't give any thought to whether I would adopt her or not. I just tacked her onto my adoption plan for Elijah and began making plans to adopt 2 kids. THIS is what made leaving Haiti so hard. When I came home sick this past September, for the first week I could not see that God was calling me home. I thought I needed time to recuperatebefore returning to Haiti to serve there for many, many years to come. Only when my circumstances and emotions were quieted through the Word and counseling could I see exactly what I had done. I took the calling the Lord put on my life, and I ran with it. God's calling for me to serve Haiti for a year, I extended to at least 12 years because I moved into an area of adoption that was not meant for me.

I sat down on my bed and went back and read the blog posts I had posted on my children back when I first took them in. What was it that God had said back then? What did I FIRST communicate to the world about Sandra and Elijah?

Here is what I read in my post about my son, Elijah-

"I knew he would be with me and I knew that I would love him the best way I knew how... This wasn't going to be a child I could just give to the baby room and I knew that.
I have no idea what our future holds, but I know that today the Lord loves him through me. And tomorrow, if the sun does or does not rise again, Elijah will still have my love. I am his mommy. He is my son."

This is what I read in my post about our entire little family. We were a family...

"...joined together because of God and only God. A family that would stay together because of God and only God. A family that has no clue what tomorrow or the next day will bring, but will trust, praise and serve the Lord come what may.
By the power of the Spirit within me I have obeyed God in taking in these two children and I will obey him again if and when He entrusts me with more. Though none of my children have a good chance of ever making it to the United States, the States is not the goal here. The goal is to love. The goal is to teach them to love- the same way Christ did. The goal is to be the light in this dark country. The goal is Jesus."

As hard as it was to admit I was wrong- KNOWING people would judge me for leaving my kids and several people would have much to say about it- the Lord made it very clear what I had done, I could not ignore it. I had to own up to it and allow Him to redirect our paths. He took me back to His original call, and it wasn't to adopt these kids. I KNEW that wasn't a part of the plan. The Lord prepared me for that when I first brought them under my care. The closest thing I could relate what I was doing to was fostering. I was fostering them. One day at a time.

Realizing I was going to have to give Elijah and Sandra up because my time in Haiti was over was the biggest sacrifice, one I never wanted to make. I spent many gut-wrenching nights crying before the Lord with the deep pain I was feeling. Knowing I would never hear Elijah say Momma, knowing I would not hear his first words, knowing I would never see him run for the first time, I would never know his favorite color or his favorite food, never help him learn his ABCs/telling time/counting/etc, or raise him any further in his life is the most pain I have ever felt. Worse than any break-up, any broken friendship, any "daddy" issues I've battled over the years... this was the worst. Giving up Elijah was the hardest thing I have ever done. He is hands-down the best baby I have ever met and known. Before he was even born, I loved him. Raising him from birth to 10 months was the biggest blessing and honor I could have ever asked for. Letting all of that go because God now has something better for me and better for Elijah was difficult to see and accept. God was moving me to be obedient in this, though, and as each day progressed, He was allowing me to lay down my Isaac. Yes, giving up Sandra was going to be a mess as well, but I had been with Elijah since the first day of his life and he had been with me this whole time. I distinctively remember praying for the Lord to speak to me about all of this and He very clearly told me that these kids were not my kids, but His children. He has plans for their lives and they would be taken care of. When I FINALLY began submitting to God's will and not my own, THAT is when I began sensing His strength.

I think I have finally completed sharing the toughest parts of this transition back from Haiti to the US. I did not share every detail with you, but you did get just about the entire story. To everyone who has prayed me through this difficult time, I cannot thank you enough. The Lord has been faithful and I cannot wait to share how He closed out my chapter in Haiti in my next blog post. I traveled back down to Haiti for a weekend a little more than a week ago. The way God orchestrated each step I took, still leaves me in awe. What seemed like a complete mess I had gotten myself into ended with much beauty. I was able to say goodbye to each and every person I desired, the kids were placed where they are supposed to be for now, and I really saw God bring closure to everything. There are many pictures to share from that weekend, and I hope you stick around to see them.