As I am typing this the sun is beating down and I can hear the local preschool kids practicing their Spanish Christmas carols as they stand in the shade of the palm trees. After the most amazing week at the orphanage we are down in southern Baja (La Ventana) for about a week to have some family time and pray and process all that God did while we were at the orphanage....He did SO much, far more than I could have ever dreamed of...and we cannot wait to head back north so that we can go back. It is good to be down here in the warmth, by the waves and as a family but boy....this place that so many call paradise just pales in comparision to where we just were. The word we keep talking about to describe our time up there is signifigance. It honsetly is the best thing we have EVER done as a family.
I have a list over a page long of stories to write from our time there and I will update when I can (I have to walk a half mile on a dirt road past cows roaming wild to get here to get internet so it may take awhile! What desrcibes it best is this:
As we were driving south yesterday Ravenna said, "Mama, I can't wait to go back to the orphanage!" (not what an adoptive parent normally wants to hear!) When I asked her why she got a big grin and said, "Because that is where my friends are!"
Our whole family is forever changed. Our hearts have been knit to this special place, to people there. We were talking that it feels like the children we got close to are somehow part of our family now. Last year when we left Mexico we felt like God had caused us to fall in love with the Mexican culture and now it is so much deeper, names, faces stories, life that has been shared....it brings smiles and tears just thinking about it.
I have started writing out little things that I do not want to forget so I will share them here. They are not in order, but all equal in the beauty of the moments that I do not want to forget. I have not written about Ravenna's airplane party yet but God did things with it that were FAR beyond anything I could have ever expected.
This orphanage is a place where, yes, there are gut-wrenchingly hard stories but they are held and honored and wrapped in the love a grace of God. It is a place of incredible, unspeakable hope.
The kids and I spent a good part of each day helping play with and take care of special needs infants. Doug (with Ravenna as his side kick helped harvest Macadamia nuts, move all of the beloings for a man who was in a terrible car accident, clean school buses, do some electrical re-wiring and more!) As a family we got to house sit a house full of beautiful girls....but more on all of this later!
Here are some pictures and stories:
Completely undone by a goodnight kiss….
Where do I even begin? It has been our first full day here at La Mision and I already feel like we all are forever changed. I am not sure how to put it all into cohesive words but there are so many things that I do not want to forget so I will do my best.
I got to tuck in an angel tonight…4 years old, eyes bright and dancing, this little one sang quietly to herself as she played with princess stickers and markers. She is the baby of Casa #1, a house full of 9 girls that we got to hang out with for the evening. We had a princess sticker party for them and watched a Barbie movie. Our kids ran around playing and giggling, Parker talking on-stop about robots and spaceships while the older girls giggled because they had no idea what he was saying. Georgia cuddled and played with the bigger girls, letting them baby her and kiss her chubby cheeks while Ravenna drew picture after picture for her new friend Maggie….then as bedtime came I helped the littlest girl into her jammies and she snuggled in to her bed. With out even a thought, I leaned over and tucked her in just like I do my kids…I kissed her on the head and held her tight for a second and out from the covers her face beamed as if she had been given the best present imaginable. It all came tumbling down for me right then and there. It took everything in me to not start sobbing as I tucked her in again and again, kissing her sweet head and again getting that beautiful smile. You see today…we have been able to hold, play with, talk with and be goofy with some of the most stunning children that I have ever met. This little one smiling so big in her covers & jammies just did me in. I’m not sure that she gets tucked in or a goodnight kiss very often and that breaks my heart. I would be the Mama to her in a heartbeat in laws and regulations would let me….actually I would be a Mama to all 9 if I could but for now, that is not possible so I will pour in over and over again because they just take my breath away.
Then there are Sarah’s kids, who are actually Betty’s kids but Betty is on vacation. These are the littlest ones who are the most vulnerable, child with birth defects that need more love and care. The kids and I get to babysit them for a couple hours everyday this week…..and it takes my breath away. My kids, my 3 little kids poured their hearts out playing with these babies. Ravenna sang and sang to them the one song that she know in Spanish, she piled them high with toys and made goofy faces, Parker gently taught them how to play with racecars and Georgia played along and even fed one little guy his bottle! They did not miss a beat, they just served and served and did whatever I asked them to do. At one point Ravenna was rushing around handing out toys to the little ones and she said, “Mama, serving God is hard work…but it sure is fun!”
The stuffed animals. So as we wrapped up the evening with the girls in Casa #1…Gloria (we got to go to Casa #1 because Gloria requested our family, I am still so humbled by this and not sure what is was that she saw), a sweet 14 year old quietly came out with a stuffed pink dolphin and gave it to Ravenna, then she went back to her bedroom and came out with a little blue stuffed bear and gave it to Georgia. She went in again, and came out with a bear for Parker. This sweet girl, the one that we came to serve. The one with almost nothing to call her own, gave of what she had to my sweet babies. As I look at them now, each cuddled with their treasure worth far more than they can understand…I just cannot even begin to explain how blessed we already are by this trip. There is nothing I would rather be doing, or having my kids do this Christmas than being right here, right now. We have seen the face of Jesus over and over again in the faces of these precious kids, I see compassion welling up and over flowing out of my children and am so beyond thankful to God that He led us here and back once again. This is where the Gospel and the Bible make sense, lives being poured out for others in the name of Christ…and it is breathtaking.
30 days old….
There the little one was, in the arms of a nanny. So little, so frail. 30 days old but tinier than any newborn I have seen. This precious little one, held and safe. I do not know the story of this precious child but I sat and prayed for it anyways. In that little innocent face I saw my girls whose story also holds them in someone else’s arms so innocent, not knowing all the story that has unfolded to get them to that place. Who held them? Who watched their sleeping faces? Did they pray, did they kiss their tender cheeks?
As we were again with with the precious SN little ones today we were greeted with giagantic smiles….wide brown eyes filled again with innocence and joy. I wish somehow as I held them that all of the love I felt could be poured out upon them. Again and again I kissed their cheeks trying to just fill them up not because the woman taking care of them does not love them but because I have fallen for them too. How in the world can they be so hidden? Why? How could they have been discarded…it makes no sense because they are nothing but astonishingly beautiful., trusting and hungry for love.
And then there are Esmeralda and Gloria….oh they are astonishing. Beautiful girls on the brink of womanhood, one moment a child tickling and running with my kids and next a mother holding a younger child on their hips. A moment keeps surfacing for me, almost haunting me. It came last night as we were saying goodbye to the girls in Casa #1. I had hugged and kissed all of the girls and I came to Esmeralda. I held her tight and whispered, “Gracias par la noche” in her ear. When I pulled back there were tears in her eyes. Right then and there I wanted nothing more than to stay, to be there, to know her and her heart to let her know that she is beyond beautiful and worthy, oh so worthy. Because also in that glance was a hunger thinly veiled by a maturity beyond her years. It made me want to be her mother. To be there, to walk her through these next challenging years.
I think I am realizing that I do not know how in the world I am going to be able to leave. How can I just drive away? So many stories just begun and so many things left unsaid. How can I just walk away from from the faces and names and stories that are now written on my heart.
There is a saying and someone wrote it but I cannot remember who it says something like this: Orphans are easy to forget until you have met them. Once they have a face and a name your life will be forever changed. We are changed irrevocably. I have no idea how this story ends but I would not have it any other way.
The face of God…
She is 21 years old, from Canada and living in Mexico serving with a beauty that I could only hope to aspire to. On her time ‘off’ Sarah spends the month of December living with and taking care of 4 special needs infants 24/7 by herself. Yes, that is on her off time. The rest of the year is spent with a girl that she calls her ‘baby’. This sweet girl is an 11 year old girl who has been living at the orphanage for years. She lives with Sarah and they live their life together all day everyday. She is a beautiful girl with raven black hair who also happens to be severly autistic. If the orphanage did not take care of her she would be dropped off at the dump by child services and live her life alone there. Sarah has said that this young girl can be so sweet but also has been known to throw furniture, coffee pots, knives…
I got to spend part of every day with Sarah helping out with the little ones. The woman just pours out love. Love, love, love to these little ones age 3 months to 1 year who demand every second of her time. One day Sarah’s baby stopped by with her December caretaker to say hi. What I saw is something that I never want to forget, because I know without a doubt that it is one of the closest things to seeing the face of God that I have ever witnessed. As soon as you could see her shadow at the front door Sarah was up crying, “My baby!” She wrapped her arms around her thin frame lifting her up so that they were face to face. In return this little girl’s legs and arms wound tight around her “Mama.” Sarah covered her face with kisses and looking right into her eyes said, “I love you” and with great effort she said, “I love you” right back.
It was such an ordinary and yet at the same time extraordinary event. The love shown is a reflection of years (3 so far) poured in to one sweet girl that the rest of the world has forgotten. One person who has said that they will step up and let their life be poured out for that of another, even if the results are so small that the rest of the world misses them. I have no doubt that the Lord has not missed a single one, not one kiss, not one tear, not one of the times that Sarah’s head has been laid down in exhaustion on her pillow.
And for some reason He chose to bless me by showing me one of what I am certain was one of His cherished moments.
At first she was so quiet that I did not take much notice of her…a thin 8 year old girl quietly placing princess stickers on her paper while the others chattered around her with their masterpieces. It was Monday night and we were giving the houseparents a break for a night out…meaning we had the honor of hanging out with a house full of 9 girls age 4-14. We played princess stickers, dressed baby dolls and watched a Barbie movie (Doug even sat through it all with a 6 year old snuggled in his lap!). All the time this little 8 year old was on the periphery, engaging yet keeping a safe distance her big dark eyes watching and taking everything in. She seemed so tentative, her movements more guarded, hair much shorter than the other girls and I wondered what her story might be. Then, as bedtime came, I climbed up to tuck her into her top bunk and for the first time that pixie haired girl let out a giant grin. I tucked her in and kissed her sweet head, fighting back tears for whatever had caused pain to a child whose smile could be momentarily so bright.
Then, a few days later we found out that Ravenna’s money could sponsor two children. One would be a sweet special needs baby that Ravenna loved (more on that later) and the other would be this tender 8 year old girl. They handed me an envelope and in it we were given a part of her story. I do not know how much I can share but as I read it I broke down and wept, the walls she kept up made sense now, the short hair, because someone had shaved her hair as it was crawling with lice before she had arrived only a few months earlier. Never before had she lived a life with any structure or discipline or cleanliness or safety…she and her sisters had been basically wild, begging for food, surrounded by garbage., and yet all I could think of was her beautiful ear-to-ear grin. Later that day in the hot Mexico sun I found her. In my very limited Spanish I explained to her that I would be her special Auntie and our family her special family. She looked up at me, eyes wide like she could not believe her ears and threw her arms around me, hugging me so tightly I could feel her arms shaking. I stood there for a long time just holding her, taking it all in because the thing is, and the thing I so desperately wanted her to know was that I was the one being blessed in this whole thing. I get the honor of knowing this little ray of sunshine and it does nothing but bless every part of my life. Far more than any gift I could receive this Christmas, the gift of knowing her is one of the best.
****Ok...so I am having a hard time uploading pictures. I will post this and keep trying***