Rainy Season

rainy shoes

It’s Thursday morning and the rain is coming down in sheets. Our friend told us there are two seasons in the Congo—the rainy season and the dry season. This is definitely the rainy season.

We are sitting on our little porch, watching the rain and watching Ezra take pictures with the iPad. When he’s not taking (unflattering) pictures of me, he’s looking at old pictures—ones from our trip in 2014 and ones Knox and the girls took back at home. He’s watching the videos Knox made of exciting NBA and NFL Play Station games. It’s funny what entertains a five-year old.

Besides the aforementioned ball-kicking and papa-wrestling, Ezra has been busy. He has drawn a colorful squiggle on several sheets of copy paper. We’ve hid Easter eggs with the twelve plastic eggs I brought from home. We’ve found one of his favorite things to do is to imitate us. For example, I almost fell off the bed on the first day here. Ezra replayed the scene over and over, cackling like a crazy person at the end of each mini-play.

Brent and I both had a hard time sleeping last night. My brain was spinning with what needs to be done before we leave and what will happen once we’re home. I finally dozed off around 3:00 am, just about the time the rain started to fall on the metal roof above our little room. Maybe the gentle tapping of the raindrops gave me something else to think about.

We still wait for news about Ezra’s exit letter. We met with our lawyer last night. He all but promised it would be done today. I can’t think of any piece of paper I’ve ever wanted to see more than this letter. Ever since September of 2013 when the DRC government said they would stop issuing them, it’s been on my mind everyday. We appreciate all the prayers for this to finally come true!

Tuesday…

By Tuesday Ezra started to come out of his shell. He laughs a loud, wide open-mouthed laugh when he scores a goal (aka – kicks the soccer ball between the wall and the trashcan). Muttering lingala to himself, he sets out the little suction cup toys our friend Tucker gave us and the toy cars we brought from home like a parking lot of parked cars and blue, red, and yellow people looking for their cars. We were told he likes to watch soccer and professional wrestling on TV and we believe it since he mainly wants to play soccer and wrestle with Brent.

He has been a lot of fun but he is also beginning to test us. After being reprimanded for picking up the phone in our room several times, Ezra retreated to a corner to sulk. He moaned softly until tears rolled down his cheeks. Although we are touched by his sadness this isn’t our first rodeo. It will take more than a tantrum with forced tears to let him call long distance on the Congolese hotel phone.

We skipped his nap yesterday in lieu of a meeting with our friend who is working to secure Ezra’s exit letter. (Note: Please pray for things to continue to move in that direction. We have permission to apply for his exit letter but it’s not complete as of Wednesday morning. We need this document in order to leave with our son on Friday evening.) The skipped nap may have something to do with his crocodile tears. We had an early supper of Ramen noodles, bread, and applesauce, and then we gave him a shower and put him in his p.j.’s. We settled in the bed with popcorn and Bugs Bunny cartoons on the iPad. Ezra was asleep by 7:30.

This trip is different in many ways from the one we took in 2014. That week was filled with making memories and taking pictures to shore us up for the months we’d spend away from Ezra. This time, we’re happy to be with him but we’re ready to go home and less patient on those endless, hot afternoons. We’re so excited to introduce Ezra to his sisters and brother. We’re ready to merge him into a busy, happy life.

Hello again

After more than 24 hours in four different airports, we arrived in Kinshasa, DRC. It was Sunday night. Our good friend picked us up from the airport and dropped us at the hotel where we will spend the next several days.

There is a row of four rooms in our little hotel, each with its own porch. The rooms are connected with a gravel walkway divided by small flowerbeds with brick borders. Though it is small, the area is thick with trees and bushes. In the middle of the garden/jungle, there is a covered meeting area, kind of like a gazebo but larger with sets of mismatched tables and chairs and a ceiling made of thatched straw.

The morning after we flew into Kinshasa—Monday morning—our friend brought our son and his foster parents to our hotel. We knew they would be here sometime after breakfast so Brent and I sat on the tiled porch area, waiting for them to arrive.

Without warning, we saw him. Ezra came around a corner, his shoes crunching the gravel as he walked to where we sat. I jumped up out of my chair and ran to him, holding him and crying, mascara running down my cheeks. When our friend saw that he was safely with us, he retired to the gazebo with the foster parents so that we could be alone with Ezra to get reacquainted.

We played with the toy cars we brought, counting “1, 2, 3…” before rolling the cars toward each other making them crash and fly in opposite directions. After about half an hour of counting and crashing, we walked to the gazebo. Ezra was told that our friend would take us to the grocery store and the foster parents would watch him for us.

After the grocery store excursion, we returned with milk and bananas and bread for later and fried chicken and French fries and Fanta for lunch. We all ate together, and then it was time for our friend and the foster parents to leave. Ezra shook their hands and said, “Bye-o” and they were gone.

He hasn’t seemed to look for them so far. In spite of everything—we are practically strangers who speak different languages—he’s been loving and playful with us. We all took a nap together on Monday and he slept great that night on the mattress on the floor by our bed. After he woke up about 6:30 a.m. to use the bathroom, he climbed into bed between us, eventually flinging his arm across Brent’s back.

His long arms and legs and his six missing teeth tell the story of the time we’ve missed with him. I tell myself not to think about the missed time, but instead I’m trying to be grateful for the time we have.

As he rested between us early this morning, I asked God to speak to Ezra. The limitations of language prevent me from adequately explaining our absence in his life and his history prevents him from understanding what a forever family really means. This is why I need God to speak to Ezra’s heart and tell him that we’re in this for the long haul. We’ve desperately wanted to have him home with us for years. Some day I hope he understands.

Misunderstood

Recently, I decided to shake things up a bit and change Siri’s voice (you know that know-it-all on our cell phones) to something other than an American woman. The choice I finally landed on was an Australian male. His voice was warm and comforting and, if I told him his answer wasn’t helpful, he would say, “I’m so sorry, Abby.” Nice.

 

Eventually, I did find a snag in the design. One day, I asked Siri (or Crocodile Dundee or Hugh Jackman or whatever name you might give him) to call my daughter. “Call Ella,” I said plainly into my phone.

The phone answered back with an Aussie accent, “Hello.” (Actually it sounded more like ’Ello.)

“Huh?” I thought. “That’s strange. No. Siri, call Ella.”

Again: “Hello.”

“CALL ELLA!”

“Hello, Abby.”

 

With a sigh I removed “Hugh” from my voice preferences and went back to Siri—boring but efficient.

 

It’s frustrating to be misunderstood. We think we’re being completely clear and yet we discover our motives or our actions are challenged.

 

Joseph was misunderstood. He was the favorite son of twelve boys. His brothers were jealous of him and misunderstood his dreams.

 

After those brothers sold him off as a slave, he was made a top-level servant in a rich man’s home. The rich man’s wife took notice of handsome, young Joseph. When her advances went unreturned, she lied and had him thrown in prison. Again, he was misunderstood in spite of his good intentions.

 

Even with his years of setbacks, Joseph continued to do what was right. His work ethic was commendable. His interpersonal skills made him an easy friend. His middle name should have been “perseverance.” But the thing that was most notable about him was his general good attitude.

 

When he finally reached the penthouse version of Egyptian politics and lifestyle, and he had his brothers groveling before him—hungry and desperate—Joseph chose mercy.

 

Joseph could’ve gloated and kicked his begging brothers while they were down but instead he said this:

 

“I am your brother Joseph. I am the one you sold as a slave to Egypt. Now don’t be worried. Don’t be angry with yourselves for what you did. It was God’s plan for me to come here. I am here to save people’s lives. This terrible famine has continued for two years now, and there will be five more years without planting or harvest. So God sent me here ahead of you so that I can save your people in this country. It was not your fault that I was sent here. It was God’s plan.”

 

Joseph saw God’s Providence in the twists and turns of his very frustrating past. He had been maligned, mistreated, misjudged, and sometimes forgotten, but he continued to rely on God’s power and the fact that his Lord understood him even when no one else did.

HOPE

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s conference. Months ago, when I was first asked to participate in the event, I was told that the subject for my talk was “Searching for Hope When Things Seem Hopeless.”

 

My personal experience with this particular topic comes from the years we’ve been waiting to bring home our fully adopted son from Africa. In my talk at the conference, I went into detail about the nearly four years this boy has been a part of our lives. It’s been years of paperwork and frustration, and a lot of questioning.

 

During that time, we have learned a lot about hope and why we need it and how we can sustain it and how to survive the waiting. After a lot of prayerful introspection, I realized I had learned (but not really mastered) ten things:

 

  1. Find your ideal “wait” – The time you’re waiting may seem interminable but it’s still valuable. Fill it with good things.
  2. Feel your feelings – God made us to experience emotions. Don’t stuff those feelings in an unused hall closet. If you feel grief, then feel it. Anger? Feel it. But don’t stay there. Then use those feelings to connect with others.
  3. Look for timeline revelations – Spend time taking stock in how God has participated in your story by looking back at journals and Facebook posts.
  4. Allow God to write the story – God is not a fiction writer. He deals with truth. It may seem helpful to guess why you are waiting but don’t let your guessing consume you. It’s not about the “why” and God doesn’t owe us an explanation.
  5. Don’t let the thing you’re waiting for become an idol – It’s easy to become fixated, or even obsessed. Anything that distracts us from God can become an idol.
  6. Watch out for envy – If you’ve ever been the last one in your friend group to join the next phase—getting a real career, marriage, kids—then you understand envy. (Or if you’re a human being that doesn’t always get what you want, you also get it.) Here’s my 3-part advice: when you’re feeling a strong pull toward jealousy, stay off social media, look for ways to serve the people you envy, and–when all else fails– fake it ‘til you make it.
  7. Lean on friends – You are not alone. Let people in.
  8. Pray expectantly – This one is hard for me. Author Rick Warren says HOPE stands for “Holding on, Praying expectantly”. Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, yet that’s the insane part of hope. Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” Keep doing the crazy, hopeful thing.
  9. Where do you place your hope? Hebrews 6:18-19 says, “These two things cannot change: God cannot lie when he says something, and he cannot lie when he makes an oath. So these two things are a great help to us who have come to God for safety. They encourage us to hold on to the hope that is ours. This hope is like an anchor for us. It is strong and sure and keeps us safe. It goes behind the curtain.” We have access to the One who is all-powerful. He has been in the “Holy of Holies” and he leads the way for us. He can handle the burden of our frustrations and unfulfilled expectations. But consider yourself warned: He may change your desires to something else when you give up the reins to Him.
  10. Seek out joy – Choose joy and dismiss bitterness.

 

These past four years waiting for our son to come home have been so difficult and continuing to remain hopeful may make me a fool, but I will choose hope. Without hope we are broken. Without hope we are lost. Without it, what’s the point?

Stay Back!

Caution: Stay back over 100 feet. Not responsible for road objects.

 

We’ve all been behind gravel trucks with these signs affixed to the back. They rumble along the road, occasionally spitting bits and pieces at your windshield. You begin to think, “Ok, these guys aren’t kidding. I’d better give them some breathing room,” and you put some distance between them and you.

 

I’ve always thought it was interesting that they could claim no responsibility just by gluing a sign to the back of their trucks. Like maybe I could call my family for supper but begin with a disclaimer: “Caution: Not responsible for undercooked meats or burnt vegetables. In the case of complaining about this meal, expect long delays in future dessert distribution.” Or I could hot glue a sign on the back of my minivan: “Not responsible for speeding if I’m running late.” Somehow I don’t think that would hold up in traffic court.

 

Still, they may be on to something with these signs. There are days when a little warning would be helpful.

 

When a co-worker is in a snit about every line item mentioned in a meeting, it would be nice to read his sign: “My marriage is falling apart. Pay no attention to my outbursts.” When the mom of a kid in your child’s class won’t answer repeated emails and texts about what she’s bringing to the class Valentine party, you would benefit from her sign reading, “My dad is really sick and I am barely holding on. Sending in sprinkles on Friday might just push me over the edge.” Then, you would be able to respond from a better place.

 

When my kids come home from school, frustrated by a classmate who just can’t seem to get it together—he yelled at the teacher, flipped a desk, made the entire class lose recess time—I put this “wouldn’t it be nice to have a sign” theory into practice. I say, “What he did was wrong, but we have no idea what’s happening at home. Your best choice is to give him lots of grace and let the teacher figure it out.”

 

In the absence of WARNING signs, we can also impart grace. We don’t have to be doormats, offering no resistance in the face of poor treatment, but we can meet them from a place of love and understanding—even if we don’t actually understand.

 

Instead of replying to bad behavior with accusations, we could start off with something like: “What’s going on? I’m worried about you.” Your concern might be met with more venom or it might be just the door they’ve been waiting for.