Tuesday, April 30, 2013

(i am) in need

I'm surrounded by people with gargantuan physical needs ... Overwhelming and mind-numbing physical needs. Those immediate needs trump the still important but less pressing emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs.

Lately, I too am living in a perpetual state of need.

I feel the weight of corruption and depravity and injustice. It is cumbersome. I wake up in the morning lacking some of the hope I typically experience as the day begins. I am in need of peace.

Throughout the day I walk around muttering things to God. I guess they are prayers technically.  They come out in short little pleas for mercy for those being hurt, for justice for those being exploited, for exposure of those doing harm, and for reparation for pain and sorrow caused. These little barky and desperate prayers, uttered throughout the day, serve to remind me - I am in need.

In need of grace
In need of love
In need of mercy raining down from high above
In need of strength
*In need of peace*
In need of things that only You can give to me
In need of Christ, the perfect Lamb
My refuge strong, The great I Am
This is my song
My humble plea
I am your child
I am in need
(Ross King)

What about you? Are you in need?

Friday, April 26, 2013

you don't have to, you doon't haaave to - Be afraid.

Lydia writing songs about fear ...

I am way, way down with the lyricist on the "You don't have to - be afraid - cuz I'm with you" part.  However, I question- "It doesn't matter when you're afraid."

It kind of matters, doesn't it?

I cannot possibly understand the intricate soul or mind of this tortured artist but I think "It doesn't matter" actually means, "It is not a problem for me because I am God and I will handle it if you allow it".

So. Yes.
That is the plan. We will let Him handle it.

Friday morning, headed out to "Field day" at Heartline Academy.
Athletic looking clothing? Check. Dog that poses for photos? Check.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

quoting kids

"You sure do love to tickle me, Mom ... You are the kind of mom that is more like a Dad."

After I asked, "Why are you wearing a sweatshirt?" She replied, "Do you see that blueness falling? That is because it is raining." (duh)

"Do I have to shower?  -  Awww, I do? I have a statement to make. I.don't.like.showering."

"I really wish I had an Irish accent like a Leprechaun. They sound so COOL."

"One day I'll be gone and you'll have no one to mock."

After being asked "What do you worry about buddy?"  "Uh. Seriously? I worry about everything!"

Observing me putting anti-fungal cream on Phoebe,  "She gets that rash at school.  We should stop going to school." -Lydia

 ~          ~          ~

Our kids have just two weeks of school left in the 2012-2013 school year.  After school ends they will have a couple weeks off before LOTS of friends and relatives fly to Haiti for Paige's graduation ceremony, one month from today. We're kind of very giddy about that. This is the first time we have had so many people coming to be with us at once.  Then right after graduation, Jimmy and Becky and Abbi will head to TX and Chelsea arrives from TX to start the summer-school fun.  So much excitement.  

Last night Becky and Jimmy wrote to begin planning a "Senior Trip" for Paige.  I fell asleep smiling at the choices she has for her senior trip and so grateful for the ways God has blessed Paige with special opportunities and relationships and gifts that she will carry with her for a lifetime. The youngest five are ever aware that their time with Paige in the same house is running short. They are taking turns sleeping in her room with her and getting their one-on-one time. Soon, I'm probably going to start taking a turn in that slumber-party rotation too. It is either that, or just sit nearby and stare at her every waking hour. It is just a question of which option is less creepy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

love is what you do ~ linking you

Hill Tribers is an organization I've long admired. They are doing beautiful, life-giving and life-honoring relationship based work with refugees in Texas.  I plan to visit them and hug some necks this fall when I am a faux Texan for a few months. 

J.R. asked if I'd write a piece for her site.  I agreed.  I am thankful to have been given a chance to share a small part of our on-going story. Troy and I and our kids are very blessed to be in an open-international-adoption situation and are happy to share a little bit about how that all came to be. 

As followers of Jesus, if we are to pronounce just judgment, we’re going to have to be willing to examine some uncomfortable things and be less fearful of things we don’t understand. As followers of Jesus if we are to be guardians of the poor and afflicted, we’re going to have to ask harder questions and do more research.  As followers of Jesus we should all want to complete adoptions where at the end we can say that the rights of the poor were maintained. Justice doesn’t come easily, but we should be willing to work for it.
Find the full guest post HERE, at 'Love is What You Do'.

Monday, April 22, 2013

doubly inspiring

You may recall a post late last year about a beautiful woman named Jimema.  During an ultrasound Melissa (a midwife) told her she was carrying twins.  She sighed, smiled, shook her head and said "Oh Lord, I have twins at home too!"  Jimema has only partial use of one of her hands and has already found a hundred ways to forge ahead and overcome challenges. From the very beginning she seemed prepared to take on this challenge too. Her peace and joy have been contagious. While my tendency would be to be very overwhelmed and nervous about twins, (a second set no less) Jimema seemed confident and unstressed.

At 36 weeks Jimema's twins needed to be born due to her rising blood pressure, but they missed the "turn head down" memorandum we sent them.  Instead, a local partner hospital took them for a C-Section.

Now more than a week old, they have spent a week at Heartline's postpartum room getting acquainted and establishing solid milk supply and nursing techniques.  Jimema will head home either today or tomorrow with her new baby girls.  Please pray for this wonderful family as they adjust to the two newest family members.

This sideways video is from this weekend, thanks to midwife Rebecca for catching this tender moment.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

More on doing no harm

Linking you to an-  Important post on adoption ethics. 
(I read this post more than a year ago and have thought of it multiple times. It is so well done.)

And speaking of regret ...
I know that relinquishing a child for adoption is a lifelong decision with lifelong ramifications for both parent and child. I am also aware that these decisions are being taken, daily, by disenfranchised women who have never had the opportunity to learn to read at all, let alone the opportunity to read birthmother blogs or longitudinal studies on transracial identity formation. From my position of privilege, I certainly hear some adoption stories where I think 'oh no, I wish that mother had decided to parent'. But here's the thing: It's not my decision.  I'm not on that side of the wall. What makes an ethical adoption, in my opinion, is that mothers make their own decisions about placing their own children with no coercion and no manipulation from people who are getting something out of that decision. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

tough advocate

Yesterday I was walking through the kitchen of the Maternity Center when I saw the little old toothless lady on the right in the photo above.  If I were in this photo, you'd know she is approximately four feet nine inches tall on a good day. I instantly knew that I had seen and spoken with her before. "I know your face",  I said in Kreyol. She laughed and said "wi" and started speaking a million words a minute. I did not catch a lot of it, but I knew she was telling me that she'd brought a pregnant person and she wanted them in the program.

On Fridays newly pregnant women are able to come get their name on the waiting list. We don't always have the space in the month they are due to take them into the program.  It is difficult to disappoint them. It isn't that we think we can help everyone or ever even make a significant dent in the overwhelming need for Maternal Health. It stinks to say no to someone with real needs and very few options.

When Granny sat down with the woman she'd brought, I learned that she was the sister of Jesula (above on left). Jesula delivered last year.  Gran is the mom of Jesula and the woman she brought on Friday was Jesula's sister.

We asked a few questions and checked her blood pressure to try to determine if we are able to offer care.  High blood pressure is tricky to manage and we always try to refer on to higher level of care (the problem with that lies in very little access or availablity of higher level care).  I told the two women that the blood pressure was pretty concerning and that I could not decide anything without talking to Beth and other more experienced midwives.  I told them I'd call on Tuesday with an answer.

Upon hearing that Gran kicked into high-level-advocacy and started talking with a bit of force. She told me that when we call on Tuesday we will be calling to tell her daughter that we will take her.  When I said, "No, not promising that", she said,  "You will take her. You must take her. Today or Tuesday it doesn't matter but Thursday she will start."  She continued talking very fast just to keep me from objecting. :) She didn't back down ever. In Haiti they call that "tet di" (hard head or stubborn.)

I loved so much to see a mom pushing so hard for her 30-something daughter.  This is the kind of advocate everyone needs.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Isaacumen (vol. 4)

Isaac finishes dancing with Paige, Noah, and Hope. I show him the video of their dancing. He watches it and says, "Wow! Huh?That's weird. It felt like I was doing so much more than that."

Troy says to Isaac, (about Easter candy) "Peeps make me sick at the thought of them."  Isaac replies, "I have the same problem with tire-swings."

"My newest favorite words to use are serpentine and fetter." -Announcement made this morning.

Vol 1
Vol 2
Vol 3

Isaac's side-kick...
The torture of being asked forced to do dishes:
And then of course, the victory:
Saturday afternoon a straw broke the camel's back and we were launched by force into lecture-mode. A few times a year Troy and I snap over one annoyance or another and conduct a well coordinated and expertly executed attack on the utter laziness of our little people.

On this day thrice annually, we go on and on and ooooonnn about how spoiled we are to have help and how it seems possible that nobody will ever marry any of them because they are lards ... And how in real life nobody picks up your dang legos for you. Troy usually throws in a few analogies that go over their heads and by the end everyone sits quietly with their heads cast down silently begging God to let it end already.

This lecture results in two to three weeks days hours of "enthusiastic" and exemplary behavior and work ethic. (See photos.)

Sunday, April 07, 2013


Before the hate mail - please, read this: they never left the driveway/gate, they never went more than 5 mph, they are safe in their room playing dolls right now. No humans or canines were hurt in the making of this quick, joy-filled, entertaining, moment (caputred on camera) on a late Sunday afternoon. 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

war photographer

Today I am guest-posting at D.L. Mayfield's site for her series called "War Photographers". 

(Click here to learn about the inspiration for the series.)
You can find the post HERE.

When a young, intelligent, post-modern, edgy writer asks her old, dullish, edgeless, ambivalent Internet friend to write a guest post - well - the aging unhipster shakes off the nervous, pulls out the prescription strength deodorant, and gives it a go.  Seriously though, the Internet can be a lot of things. Good. Bad. Inspiring. Disturbing. Too much of too much of too much. Today, it's an annoying mutual admiration society. Please forgive the irritation and  allow me to say: There are some younger brilliant deep-thinkers writing and challenging us with the things they share and the way they walk out their faith in their daily life. D.L. is one of those. She writes about life in the upside down kingdom. I encourage you to read this and this and scour her site for all sorts of unique expressions of faith, beauty, pain, loss, and triumph.

(my) Full post here: 

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looks on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this? ” The husband replies, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.” And so it is with life… What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look.–Author Unknown

When one of the poorest countries in the world happens to be positioned a mere 700 miles from the southern tip of one of the richest countries in the world,  short-term and long-term missions abound. I am citing no source but I’d venture to guess this is the most visited, blogged about, and photographed “mission” destination on the planet earth.

The convenient 90-minute plane ride from Miami means an estimated 200,000 people per year come to Haiti. Many seem to think that their group or purpose or trip is a one-of-a-kind and are incredulous when they hear how frequently large groups of matching T-shirts arrive here with similar plans. Additionally, there are thousands of longer-term workers sprinkled all across the island.

It is common for these expats to arrive thinking of people as projects.

As we are all prone to do, people show up here having already decided things about Haiti. They hear the tag lines and have watched or read the mass media news stories and they build their image of the country and her people and what they need before they ever set foot on Haitian soil. Wherever they hail from, they seem to arrive having heard about vodou, poverty, danger, an earthquake, and orphans.

For whatever reason there is a movement among evangelical churches and faith-based organizations that markets mission trips in such a way that it casts the missionary as a hero and those on the other side are in dire need of their help. This means that in addition to what the prospective visitor has heard and decided about Haiti, they are also being told that in one or two weeks they might be able to make a significant impact.

For an extended time, our family has been learning and growing and being uncomfortably twisted and molded by living in this land that so many visit. During these years we’ve learned about our own pride, our own soul poverty, and our preconceived ideas. (Related: We have become cynical and skeptical and things we don’t like too.) We now better recognize the ways in which we have painted this place with a broad brush and forget that individual souls created in the image of God should not be reduced to our small-minded descriptions or looked upon as a project.

As a body of believers called to bring the justice of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven to earth it does little good to arrive with anything decided. Each one of us is wonderfully complex and unique and we would do well to remember that is true of everyone, everywhere. Media reports and the State Department don’t have the ability to summarize hearts of people. Churches and mission organizations should not market with the “go save them” narrative.

In our time here, working with and observing different organizations, we’ve had an opportunity to witness many visitors. Perhaps the marketing of short-term trips feeds the problem. When cast as the hero, you are bound to come in with an air of superiority.  That to say, at times we cringe over things said and done.  The cringing comes partially from a place of our own guilt, in knowing we once said and did disrespectful things; in knowing we probably still do sometimes.  Other times we gasp at the disdain some ‘heroes” carry with them.

It is not at all unusual to hear visitors botch something up they are working on and say, “Oh well, it is good enough for Haiti.” I confess that it is those people who I want to follow home with a gallon of ugly colored oil paint and an old tattered brush and walk into their kitchen to show them what my “good enough” looks like at their house.

On occasion our second daughter agrees to translate for teams.  One such medical team was performing minor surgeries.  One of the surgeons brought his fourteen-year-old son on the trip.  The son observed the surgeries and occasionally held a tool or handed his father something.  At one point in the week the father asked his son if he would like to do a spinal-block.  The Doctor stood nearby as his son performed the block.

I am certain the doctor didn’t necessarily mean harm, but when a well-trained, perfectly able physician allows his fourteen year old to stick a needle in someone’s back it says,  “This is good enough for a Haitian”.  As my daughter told me this story I wondered if the physician would appreciate a rookie shoving a needle in his child’s back.

The truth of the matter is this, somewhere along the line we all became convinced that we are a big deal arriving to a place or a people that need us.  Therefore, anything we do is better than nothing, right? (That doesn’t sound like Jesus to me.) This superiority leads us to think, and even say, “Well, it is good enough for them.”  Casting ourselves as the fixers and heroes and “them” as the project is troubling on many levels.

If we want to let the river of His justice flow through us, we have to arrive aware of how prone to superiority we are, how prejudiced we are. We must examine our motivation and presuppositions in the light.  What window am I looking through when I look at others?  What window am I seeing myself through? I know my tendency is to think I am needed. It is a difficult but necessary exercise to continually spend time asking Jesus to mercifully guide us as we attempt to walk with people in wisdom and humility.

God is not made manifest in our ability to “fix” or “heal” or “solve” anything.  He has not cast us as the heroes. He is made manifest in our humility and in our own need to receive healing.  When I can see my own weakness and pride and my need for grace and healing I am left in a position of having nothing to offer …

And you know what?

When I have nothing to offer, Jesus shows up.

~        ~        ~         ~

From the same series, a beautiful excerpt by Becca at exilefertility.com - To read the entire post go here.

We worked in a government maternity hospital that served the poorest women in our South Indian state. There was an unimaginable collision of beauty and hellishness every single day – on one metal table a woman welcomes her baby boy, healthy and screaming, into her arms; next to her a baby girl is stillborn, her mother weeps, her own body with a serious infection. She had laboured in the village for three days before coming to the hospital. She hadn’t known to get help sooner. Extraordinary life burst forth in the seventy or so births that happened every day. And there was darkness, women suffering without partners or mothers supporting, most labours sped up (and painfully intensified) with oxytocin just to handle the volume of women coming to give birth. Fear and threats were commonplace – exhausted and overwhelmed young doctors working 24+ hour shifts and the lines of women just kept coming. We would show up every day to serve, to love, to rub backs and hold hands, monitor vitals and pray with everything we had in us for God’s kingdom to arrive like these babies, into our hands waiting. I wanted to judge the doctors for shouting at women, the hospital cleaners for taking bribes from families, the men for marrying women too young, judge the caste system for creating mothers in such poverty, judge the practice of dowry for causing new moms to fear birthing baby girls. I wanted to judge because I was angry, I was tired, and I didn’t understand. I didn’t know what else to do, and it felt like something at least, my best defense against the threatening hopelessness and apathy of my own heart.

We pray “your kingdom come, your will be done” because it’s not happening yet. When you’ve caught God’s vision for shalom on earth, you can’t help but see the need for change, for justice. We are a passionate people. We want to protect, to champion, Robin Hood-esque in the lines we draw, how we categorize people into good and bad, oppressed and oppressor, us and them with God always on our side. Simple explanations with issues clearly labeled make our communication easier, readers know where to give the money, at whom to be angry and what prayers to pray. This is the problem, here’s the solution, the victim, the villain, the hero. We write music and emails, we blog and tumble and tweet because if there’s any time in history when we have a sphere of influence, it is now. But we cannot only be storytellers watching from the sidelines or holding signs with clever slogans.

We have to be peacemakers.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

on haitian adoption & cultural perspective

I have intensely complicated thoughts about everything related to poverty, orphans, orphanages, and international adoption. Some of my thoughts are developed thoughts and others I am wrestling with as I wonder about the roles I have played in the system and as I watch injustice and unbalanced power all around me. The still forming opinions have much to do with seeing (daily) how easily the materially poor are manipulated, used, and exploited.

These thoughts are complex enough that without face to face discussion and tone of voice and real relationship I don't see the value in "going there" and causing anyone to feel defensive.  In fact, before I lived here for a long time, I never could have believed the things I now see happening.

All that to say, I am ruling out that particular discussion (and post) at this point, but there is one thing I'd like to take a stab at in regards to Haitian adoption law.

As you read the following, don't hear me defending it or telling you how to feel about it.  We all have equal freedom to rage about it and be indignant about what we perceive as a lack of fairness  - but from the Haitian cultural perspective I'd like to attempt to postulate a bit on the possible "whys" of the adoption laws.

The 1974 laws on the books state that adoptive parents must be 35 years of age, married ten years, and have no biological children.

When you stop to think about those laws, it becomes apparent that the majority of likely adoptive parents don't actually qualify to adopt.  That has been very frustrating for many adoptive families.

Sometimes Haiti has chosen to apply those law.  Other times Haiti has chosen not to apply those law. For those that adopted ten years ago, the Haitian government ignored 1974.  Right now they are applying the 1974 laws.

In Haiti getting a primary school education can take many years.  Reaching the point of a completed secondary school education takes much longer.  Once one finishes secondary school, going to university is something only the luckiest are able to do.  Getting settled into a career where you can make enough money to provide for your family takes additional time. It is not uncommon to run into a smart, hard-working 25 year old that is still trying to finish the equivalent of 12th grade.  All of that is to say that when lawmakers talked about whom is a good candidate to adopt they were seeking people that have an education and a stable income.  In their minds that would likely be a person in their mid thirties. While all of us know a dozen 26 year old people with great jobs and stable lives, that is not the norm in Haiti and the age was set with *these* cultural presuppositions.

The reason for ten years of marriage is likely similar too - they want to see that you have spent time getting established, and proving you are committed.  With a divorce rate 50% or higher, they want to see some longevity before you adopt one of their children.

[And now the argument, "But certainly my 30 years of life and my middle class income and three years of marriage is better than being without parental love and living in a very crowded institution!"  Yep.  I'd say so. We could disagree about what parameters are best for adoptive parents - but we can all pretty easily agree that crowded institutions are the worst; a terrible long-term solution for children. Unfortunately laws are made and enforced without concern for logic like that. That is not a Haiti problem, that is an everywhere problem.]

In Haiti it is not uncommon for families to send their kids off to work with another family in exchange for schooling or even just solid access to meals.  Kids are used for labor.  Like it or don't like it, kids do a lot of work and have responsibilities in this society.  The kids that most often get the short end of the stick are the kids that are working for another family (not their own).

We see it in our own neighborhood. Right down the block is George.  George has a couple biological kids that are well dressed and kicking a ball around in the afternoon and going to school during the day.  George also has other kids that he "cares for" (not debating that here - but trust me, it is debatable) - those kids don't wear nice clothes or shoes. They don't go to school.  They get to eat but they also do a lot of early morning sweeping and evening dish-washing.  The plausible reason for the law stating no biological children is because we have a culture that presupposes that you won't be able to treat your biological kids and your adopted kids the same. If you have no biological kids you are more likely to fully provide for and love your adopted child.

I realize it is upsetting to many.  For prospective adoptive parents it is troubling to hear rules that don't make sense and to be forced to comply with them. The President of the country has to give special permission in the case of adoptive parents with biological kids. I always try to remind myself that we are guests and that we cannot expect our rules and norms to apply here, nor should we.

These are educated guesses regarding the reasoning behind the laws, I highly doubt they cover the full scope and breadth of it. 

Monday, April 01, 2013

The Help

On April Fool's day, I wrote over at A Life Overseas ...  Read it here.

I don’t have any desire to be filthy rich. I don’t yearn for flashy cars or fancy vacations. I don’t want or need everyone to have the same income level. That is not it at all. It has occurred to me that even if I could pay Geronne a U.S. salary, I’d still find the whole arrangement a bit unsettling.

As I’ve come to love Geronne I’ve realized that she doesn’t necessarily want what I have either. She is not silently seething about anything I have while she switches the fourth laundry load of the day. She would like her daughter to be educated, her simple country home to be built. When she gets ill she would like to have the cash flow to go visit a competent doctor.  In her culture, gainful employment means a ton of pressure to share the money she makes with many others. Given the choice, she would probably prefer a lot less of that pressure.