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Monday, July 30, 2012

Esther in Iowa!


I know, I have been a bad blogger!  I have just been enjoying hanging out with the whole family again so much that I totally lost the will to blog.  I have face booked though, so at least some of you know that Esther is doing great!  She is soaking up the attention of her new family and we have been able to do all her medical stuff outpatient which is a huge blessing!


I love waking up to this scene of goodness in the mornings!  Family slumber parties rock!  We have a huge king bed and then the "overflow" bed pushed next to it so our nighttime parenting is pretty easy.


Esther discovered a new favorite food:  blueberries.  Her diapers have reflected this newly beloved food, but her siblings can't stop feeding them to her, even though she is capable of feeding them to herself, they love to help!


We haven't been able to acclimate to the Iowa time zone yet, so early morning trail walks help us get out of the house and avoid waking everyone else up.  It is strange not to be covered in red dirt when we get home.  Reading about foot washing in the Bible seems so much more relevant now.  I love how Jesus never washes His hands of people but stoops down and washes people's feet.  (personally I am more into painting people's toes, but same idea right?!)


Solana loves her Ugandan dress, and Esther loves her All-American diapers.


And she is getting braver at walking all the time!  


Maybe her dancing siblings inspire her to want to get on her feet!


And Ari has enjoyed having a playpen pal.  He calls Esther his "baby" and enjoys his new "big brother" status.  


Esther has enjoyed all the snuggling while we watch the Olympics.


But I should back track and recount the miracles of getting out of the airport!  First we had a teary good-bye with Daniel and our beloved driver.  Then we were interrogated at the airport and I didn't want to surrender our original documents so Sebastian was sent to make copies while they tried to question Esther, get her to stand, and look at a camera for a photo....and she is non-verbal, can't necessarily stand on command, and is not going to make eye contact with a scary camera for a scary man.  So good times.  I took my lap top out and tried to appear that I was doing something top secret and official and we were finally released from the nonsense.  

We had to check our stroller with the luggage which was strange because usually you can bring it right up to the plane.  Then when I saw how far away the plane was from the airport I thought I was going to cry.  Esther was so heavy to carry for that distance and Sebastian was loaded down with carry on luggage.  When it got to the point that I didn't think I could take one more step a big guy from Atlanta who was quite ill with malaria came up and said, "Do y'all need some help?"  He was a special education teacher and he carried Esther the rest of the way.  He was Jesus with skin on to me at that moment.


As soon as we hit the Chicago airport Sebastian tried to corrupt Esther's taste buds and introduce her to the dark side of American culture:  Mc Donald's french fries.  Considering all the help he was to me on the plane, trying our best to keep Esther seizure free and comfortable for the huge journey, I didn't do a good job of motherly protesting.  


And we were incredibly thankful that she basically slept the entire 30 plus hour trip with not a medical or emotional event of any kind.  What a gift!


Esther adores her Daddy and his lap is one of her favorite spots.  Whether at the feet of Jesus, on the lap of your Heavenly Father, or spun around with the joy of the Holy Spirit, I pray you are enjoying your relationship with the Trinity to the fullest today!  
Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dance of the Home Stretch


Esther woke up singing her one and only song!  While I know very limited Lugandan phrases ("En sali lako" has been handy when negotiating prices which means "reduce for me") these lyrics are ingrained in my brain from Esther:

Yesu Ali wano  (Jesus is here)
Ali wano bukedde (he is here in the morning)
Ali wano mu tuntu (he is here at noon)
Ali wano buwungera (he is here at dawn)



I believe the reason her spirit still sings has a lot to do with Daniel, who we keep having over for "one last" good-bye!  He is going to come to the airport with us.  He promised not to cry but I didn't.  


We got to meet another person who has been on Esther's long-term international prayer team.  I love this woman's heart for many reasons, and I am very impressed she can make me a necklace that has ALL my children's names on it.  That's impressive!


The last few God-moves that need to happen today is for the visa to actually get ready in time for us to pick it up on the way to the airport.  (normally takes much longer)  You know how so many movies have those last minute race to the airport kind of scenes?  Yep, my King of Kings doesn't seem to mind giving this drama queen some great scenes in His authorship of my faith.  I am also relying on Him to give wisdom regarding the flight and Esther's health.  

One of the miracles that happened during her last medical episode was that one of her will-be doctor's was on Facebook and we were able to go back and forth through the whole thing and I was able to get instructions on what to do throughout the entire ordeal.  (signs you may have multiple special needs children:  you have your kid's doctors cell phones, face books, and other ways of instant access....)  But I was given a new and limited number of little pills for Esther here in Uganda that have to be rationed to just keep her stable through the big flight.  Dosing is questionable, if her body will even respond in time is questionable, and our rescue meds from home can only be given up to a certain dose.  So while it seems like a big guessing game in the natural, God is the man with a  plan and I'm sure He'll let me in on it on a needs-to-know basis!  I would like to have one night at home with the entire family before going to the hospital.


Around Christmas time we had missionary friends from Mozambique that we had surprised at the airport with a flash mob dance.  I'm so excited to see the rest of my family again that I will probably bust out in some kind of wild display of emotion.  I used to wish I could be less intense, I was afraid of overwhelming people with the "real me"and wasted time wondering "Am I too much of this?" or "Not enough of that"?  Now I'm much more secure that God loves and delights in the diversity of His creation and there is no mold.  There is just the body of Christ, many members, One Head.

James 2 :1 in the Message is a great reminder:

My dear friends, don't let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith.

We've been told to "keep a low profile" at the airports because of all the harassment that has been going on with adoptive parents.  Now Esther is really not a low-profile kind of girl.  She is prone to loud noises when the occasion calls for it, and I have yet to be in public with her when we weren't stared down or interrogated about "what's wrong with her."  But I'm sure we will find a way to live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith even in the midst of airport craziness.  I hope it involves dancing.....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Playing


You can't keep a good woman down!  Esther spent the last couple days sleeping pretty much non-stop.  But now she is back to the land of the living and she was excited to MOVE!  At first she would take a step and fall down, wobbly from the previous medical drama for sure.  But she is a determined little girl and pulling up led to taking steps again.  She is getting her physical strength back but her spiritual tenacity is at full throttle as she started singing her "Jesus is HERE!" song again.



I celebrated my 17 year anniversary to Mr. Christ-like Bradcito with a surprise of flowers.  Sebastian and Brad conspired to bring this about.  We had a Skype date that was pretty romantic considering we are an ocean apart!  Anyone that knows Brad knows that he is just a giver....of his time, heart, love, money, and every resource God has given him.  He treats me like a queen every day, so it's no wonder I have this princess complex.


This maggot extraction counts as homeschooling in my book.  While it is disgusting on some level, it is also strangely satisfying to watch those nasty buggers exit the body.  While Sebastian wants to go into law, he is also pretty good with a pocket knife!


And while Sebastian was living every 16 year old boy's dream at the orphanage guest house and got to sleep with his mom for weeks on end, it was a special gift from God to have his own room here and have this awesome man of God be his father-figure for a season.  These two shared a love for Jesus, theological discussions, literature, Christian rap, and other manly type things.  (he was also our impromptu ambulance driver for Esther!) 


And Esther has really enjoyed having other ladies to hang with.  She mostly enjoys just snuggling and humming.....


But last week she did get to experience her first shot at cooperative play with a  certain little 3 year old.  This sweet family left today to go back to Texas after being here a couple months on a family missions trip.  They taught us a lot, including the handy little phrase "y'all" which I actually used for the first time in my life when I was in full-drama mode telling officials things like, "If she dies on my watch because Y'ALL didn't....." which seems much more authoritative than "you guys" which we prefer in the midwest.  

It really is going to take some Christmas miracles in July to get Esther out of here in a couple days, but Jesus never rebuked people for having too much faith.  What amazed Him was all the fear, doubt, and unbelief that was prevalent amongst His followers.  So I'm going to go full out child-like and ask my Father for some outrageous stuff.  I think He enjoys our cooperative play with Him!





Friday, July 20, 2012

Deliverance


Esther had a life-threatening medical event last night.  I came to the realization that there isn't an ambulance back up here.  I woke up my dear roommates and got her to a hospital.  They didn't have the capabilities to get her the IV medication she should have had, but they were able to stabilize her and get an NG tube placed to administer meds.  After she was completely out I had Sebastian get a boda to get my backpack of paperwork and I was on a mission: operation GET ESTHER HOME!  There is a time to be still and there is a time to fight....and this mama was in warrior mode.

I will share the AMAZING God-details someday, it is along the lines of God parting the Red Sea.  Things that in the natural are statistically impossible happening.  Just crazy, off-the charts God goodness events that I don't currently have the freedom to share...but I hope you can all catch the DVD of today in heaven if not on earth!


After a full day of medical treatment.....Esther followed in the footsteps of her sister Blessing and did a pull-out-your-own tubes job.  


And after a full day of running here, there, and everywhere and having divine interventions of all kinds......I got A PASSPORT!!!!!!!!!!!  Which means we have an embassy appointment Monday for visas......which means late next week/end (depending on flight availability) WE WILL BE HOME!

It must stink to be the devil and have all your evil plans turned against you.  Isn't it great to be on the winning team and see Our Mighty Warrior victorious in battle?!  He is our Healer, Defender, Way-Maker, Redeemer, and He is singing over each one of His children right in this very moment, never frustrated that any situation you face is too difficult for Him.  All we have is right now, so choose to live in His presence, where the fullness of joy is!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Community


Here is little Miss Sunshine, oblivious to the fact that we got some disappointing news regarding the timing of key paperwork needed to exit Uganda and return home.  I have been told to be careful what I post on my blog regarding the process here.....so while I usually err on the side of asking for forgiveness rather than permission....I will exercise restraint and suffice it to say, we won't be home this week!


Sebastian busted out the guitar for some worship music to restore his soul.  He has been amazing, but he is really starting to miss the rest of his family and friends.  I prayed a year ago for him to be able to take a missions trip.  I was thinking South America, maybe for a week or two.  Instead, God did above what I could think to ask and brought Sebastian to my favorite continent and he has seen and experienced more in the last 5 weeks than any high school missions trip.  I know seeds have been planted and divine appointments made that will lay the foundation for further building in Sebastian's life.


I've been so thankful for community.  It has been wonderful to have other people to share life with here and for Esther to be around.  Most of her "peers" at the orphanage were under age 3.  So to have older children here has helped her to learn what meal times are all about for example.  And the other adults have helped her learn really adult things too....like how to perfect the art of playing patty-cake.  She's teaching us all a lot too, just from her hums and her hugs.
  

Community is also nice when you get jiggers and maggots and nastiness in your skin that require a knife to remove.  Or to have someone else around to kill roaches the size of small lizards.  I remember waking up in Liberia to a spider crawling on my head that was about half the size of my head.  God doesn't waste a thing!


Since my relationship with Brad and the other children is maintained via Skype these days,  I find myself praying more for the military families I know.  This is the longest we've been separated in the history of us....I can't imagine what a deployment must be like.


We've been blessed back in Iowa with an amazing community.  My Titus 2 woman, who pretty much taught me everything I know about being a wife and mom, is watching my two youngest.  There is a special grace on my younger ones to be flexible and happy in these situations.  I don't know that the older ones would have tolerated it when they were this young, but God knows what He's doing with birth order, timing, and His provision for each season of life.


When I talk to the children they tell me about their fun adventures and good food everyone is bringing them.  The body of Christ city-wide where we live is incredible.  It isn't just one circle of people.....the churches pray for each other, the homeschoolers are everything from amish-like to pierced and tattooed and we all get together to pray for one another in each other's homes.  There are ministries that exist outside of denominations like the prayer center that minister to whosoever will may come.  (and by the way I had a boda boda driver witness to me!  After sharing the gospel with me he then started talking about how at his church they have these 2 hour time slots where they take turns coming to worship and pray for 24 hours a day.  I told him we did the same thing in Iowa!)



My dancing queens create their own community of joy wherever they go!


My builder and creator tends to attract a community of little boys who think he's incredible.


Miss Esther is still trying to figure out who and what is her "safe environment."  We had the set up for the perfect storm the other day.  I got the news about yet another delay and had to scramble to inform the right people to hold off the plane reservations, cancel plans back home, etc. so by the time we left for an attempt at a pool outing it was pushing nap time.  Now Esther is rocking the sink water exploration, but one look at just the kiddie pool and meltdown began.  Then there was yet another creeper guy that came to ask me a million questions about her "condition" and would not leave.  There are all kinds of superstitions about children with special needs here and unless I physically leave a situation the interrogation does not stop.  There was good reason to leave anyway, as the full on thrashing and screaming fit was beginning.  This trauma mama is used to this drama though, and it was easily resolved by going home and napping in the safe place of her new bed that she loves!


When kids have been through stuff, they fight, flight, or freeze you know?!  Reminds me of how we try to run from God, fight Him, or ignore Him.  His patience is incredible though and He is really committed to us.  I love that we can't overwhelm Him, but His love overwhelms our defenses and pretenses.  


I got to witness the best example of community I have seen in Africa.  It's what I want in Iowa for that matter!  A beautiful property with 10 homes that each have a mama and 10 children. (okay, in my utopia they would have dads too.)  They grow their own produce, have fish ponds, chickens, etc. and a school.  Here the children are listening intently to a Bible story.


And the sick ones are getting prayed for.


And there were even trampolines!


And a tree house with a monkey.


And it's run by the Swiss, whom I have a new love for now!  And what a special kiss from Jesus that my clothes matched the houses.  (and my toenails.  I've had to start rationing the toenail polish remover now that we've been here so long. )


Esther got some practice on how to function in American communities.  She is learning to eat potato chips. While having her feed herself is a fantastic mess, it's so worth it.

Living in a community is like that.  You can't have a group of humans interacting for very long before some type of fantastic mess erupts.  It's no use trying to avoid conflict, it's very useful to learn how to embrace the learning that comes from it.  

Sometimes a group of people can be so toxic that God may ask you to leave.  But often times He asks us to shift a climate by being the change we want to see right where we are.  We can give others permission to do life differently by modeling a better way.  We can look past the "tantrum" like behavior in others and ourselves and see what God is up to by orchestrating these circumstances.  He doesn't waste a thing.  We can thank Him for the people and situations that makes us happy......and the ones that make us holy!
Monday, July 16, 2012

Coming to Life


This is the girl who was described as "emotionally dead."  She laughed this morning when she woke up....LAUGHED!  I feel like I'm watching a resurrection!


After she explored my face and hair for a good hour and we nuzzled and snuggled, she found my hair brush.  So excited for her to join the hair parties at our house.  I think that counts as arts and crafts for our homeschool program.  What we can do with hair weave is pretty "legit." (as my teenage boys would say)


When Brad and I were considering what special needs we thought we could "handle" I remember saying I didn't think I could do mobility issues for a number of reasons.  I think God laughed a little.  But since becoming drug-free (yes, Esther is off ALL medication right now.  Since the medications she was on require regular blood draws to determine if the level is therapeutic or toxic, I observed her and decided:  toxic.  The orphanage sent me with no medication when we left and I took it as a sign.  Normally it's not recommended to go cold turkey on these meds.  We had been cutting back, although the dosing wasn't consistent anyway.  And I do have my back up rescue meds in case we get into a status seizure situation.....all that to say, I'm cool with it.)  Oh yes, since becoming drug-free Esther has been walking so much better!  When we first met her she could barely take a step without falling over.  Now, with a little hand holding at times, she's a toddling rock star.


And God led me to this fabulous invention that can handle big kids.  I'm totally wanting to get these for Ekisa, the special needs orphanage I visited.  



And Esther is learning that people can be safe.  When we first met her she had a defensive posture she would strike and lift her hands in front of her face as if to protect herself from harm.  Now she actually approaches people to receive affection.  Miraculous!


She has started singing a song that I believe Daniel nurtured in her spirit all these years.  It's in Lugandan and the lyrics are "Jesus is here, Jesus is here, in the morning, noon, and evening, Jesus is here." And she has started drumming with her hands on any hard surface she can find.  Again, from a girl who was pretty checked out for a long, long time.  The music is back in her life!


She wakes up excited to start the day and see what new adventure awaits.  It took a little faith to say "yes" to her, but the blessing I have received is beyond anything I could have hoped to ask for.  I have never regretted saying "yes" to God, even if it required a little stretching at first.  


This is my anniversary week in what feels like an anniversary life with Brad.  It was my first big test of faith to say "yes" to marrying a man at 19 that I had known just a couple months.  I had never really seen anything in my own life that looked like a happy marriage.  I was a baby Christian, just coming out of a toxic relationship, and all I knew was that God had shown me I was to marry this pure-hearted, kind, Jesus-loving, family-honoring, man of integrity.  And I thought I was making this huge sacrifice! It's like God was telling me to put down the poison so He could give me the most delicious and nourishing meal of my life.  Brad has lived out the "love believes the best" principal and sees the good and God in all situations and people.  I wake up every day ecstatic I get to be married to him.  I didn't even know what I wanted or needed, but God did.  


And believe it or not, He wants a smile on our face!  He is not out to make us miserable, He is our Father!  He gets joy from our joy, and we can make His heart smile the way He makes ours sing.  Life is too short to play religious games, be insecure and guarded, and trying to please everybody.  Where the Spirit of the Lord is there FREEDOM!  Until you get your own freedom you can't help others find theirs in Christ either.  If you are still stuck in accusation against yourself and everyone else....it's probably time to break free.  Read the Bible again and see that there is no mold.  God broke in to all kinds of people's lives and asked them to walk by FAITH not by sight and live the adventure of knowing Him and who they were in Him.  Jesus paid it all, there is no more wrath, He suffered enough......and we can move past the sin-issue and into the freedom of being sons and daughters of our joyful King in a whole new Kingdom where there are no orphans!