Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In His Hands

"These scary spiders are going to go away now."

He had been 'scaring' me with these silly plastic toy spiders for most of the day. He being my just turned 5-year old son. I often wonder if he would be so focused on my attention if his sister was still alive. It hits me like that: not just how my life was suddenly thrust into the spotlight of unknowns, but how his was, too.

We all know days pass, decisions are made or not made, choices turn us this direction or that. Our lives are a constant stream of unknowns. What if I hadn't dated that person? What if I would have stood up for myself? What if I would have applied for that job? What if I would have moved like I dreamed I was going to?

But these types of unknowns are the shadows of our lives. The ones that stay in the background, stepping forward only when called.

Whereas, the what if my child was still alive? unknowns stand bold and tall, center stage, with the spotlight shined on them morning, noon and night. There is no intermission. Actors may come and go, action continues around it, but that bright unknown never, not even for just a second, leaves the stage.

As time goes by, you learn to turn your eyes, focus on the action next to it... but it's still standing there. You still see it in your peripheral.

Would she have the same friends? 
What skills in gymnastics would she have obtained? 
Would she think her little brother was annoying or would she still be mothering him? 
What kind of student would she be?
What would she look like without her braces?
Would she still write handwritten letters to Ashley?

I snapped back to the here-and-now present moment and watched my son slink away on hands and knees, slowly pushing the plastic spiders in front of him.

"No!" I yelled out, feigning over-dramatized fear and terror. "They can't go away!"

He stopped, looking up at me with the strangest look of confusion on his face. "Why?"

"Well, because if they go away we can't see them and we won't know where they are!"

He cocked his head to the side, considering my words. "Yes, you will. Because they will still be in my hand."

He smiled up at me, his precious little boy face filled with absolute assurance. And off he crawled, spiders in hand.

It's amazing how many times God speaks to me through the voice of an innocent child. Because in that instant, watching this little boy disappear around the corner and down the hall I realized something. Something huge: even if I don't have the details.... even if I never see what the path looks like, or what is seen along the way - what is said or heard or felt - even if I can't see for myself and I can't touch for myself - I know where Avery is.... she's still in God's hands.

How can I not be comforted knowing that she's safe in His hands?

He uncovers mysteries hidden in darkness; 
he brings light to the deepest gloom.
Job 12:22 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Letter to my Psychology Teacher

Dear Mr. Love,

I often thought about how nice that would be to walk into a therapist's office and sit down with someone named "Love." It's a word that evokes gentleness, caring and kindness; all the things you were to me in school. Except I was a very angsty teen and you wouldn't have known I thought all that.

You had the pleasure of enjoying me in your Psych 101 class. (Someone really should have given you a pay raise.) I questioned, well, everything. I peeled back layer upon layer and looked at things from every possible angle and forced you to put up with I-totally-understand-why sighs and eye rolls from pretty much every single kid in that classroom. Yet, you were always calm and patient and "up for the challenge" when dealing with me.

But if I was challenging in class I was downright difficult in homeroom. You must have drawn the short straw because you were stuck as my homeroom teacher for all four years of my angsty high school career. Or, maybe I wasn't difficult at all, if you consider the fact I physically attended homeroom maybe twice during my entire senior year. I just didn't see the need for it. It was held really early in the morning and I wasn't a morning person and none of those announcements actually pertained to me anyway and also I had a pretty big chip on my shoulder.

 Did I mention I was angsty?

I actually looked up the word angst. It means, "a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general." I guess I didn't realize I was that concerned about the human condition. (Turns out I am; I just needed to figure out what to do about those feelings.)

One morning I actually showed up on time for homeroom and everyone looked at me like I was some new kid they had never seen before. My peers were annoyed by my pretentiousness - casually walking in as if I could come and go as I pleased; you treated me with a party. You genuinely were excited to see me. You even gave me a Hershey's Kiss. You announced how proud you were that I was there and you weren't being sarcastic or mean. You weren't trying to embarrass me... I felt like the prodigal son returning and could feel the jealousy (and possibly disgust) of my peers burn through the skin of my cheeks.

I didn't come to homeroom after that.

But I still went to class.

You assigned a paper, telling us it needed to be between 3 and 5 pages, typed. That was back in the day when computers were just working their way into schools. I had learned to type on a typewriter, worked my way up to a Word Processor and now I was on a computer. It was pretty cool. Twenty years after the fact I realize how incredible it was that I got to experience such a "sudden burst" of technology. We were the guinea pigs; the lab rats. We tested that stuff out. And that's kind of a big deal.

But back to the paper.

You told us it had to be 3-5 pages and the topic was exploring the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I promptly forgot about the assignment. One day, twenty minutes before class I realized two things: I had a paper due and I had a free period.

I ran to the computer lab and typed furiously for twenty minutes. I made it to a page and a half. (That was with double spaces.)

Yet, you gave me an A.

Really? An A?

I often wondered if you were just presenting some form of extrinsic motivation (like you did the Hershey's Kiss) in an attempt to persuade me to apply myself, but you made several hand written notes in the margin. You liked my paper, even if I didn't follow the rules. You read it. Dissected it. Complimented and challenged it. You knew I understood the concept. And you knew I wrote well. At the time, that was the compliment I was really searching for; that I was a good writer. (If I were to be honest, it still is.)

I knew then that intrinsic motivation comes from within. That it's not something taught or contrived or convinced or begged out of a person. It just is.  And I knew that there are all sorts of extrinsic motivators: money, prestige, those coveted compliments. The promise of a bigger, better house; the desire to be known and recognized - all these other things outside of ourselves that compete with what we know is our truth within.

I kept that paper with it's bright red A and pathetic shortness.

In fact, I have it in one of those plastic protective covers, snapped safely in a binder that houses all the things I've written that I'm most proud of. It shares space with a poem I wrote in memory of my grandfather and a piece I slaved over paying homage to Ezra Pound. (Ezra would have hated me. I over use adjectives and I'm a big fan of the abstract.) But it's that class paper that kept haunting me year after year. I kept it... but couldn't quite figure out why.

Now I know.

See, I still had some learning to do. I intellectually understood the concepts... but I hadn't lived them.

When we studied the different motivators and had to write the paper and take the test, I learned something vitally important about life. About my life. Something I didn't really want to admit to knowing. That the truly happy people are the ones acting on their motivations from within.... and I wasn't acting on mine.

All that external stuff - the salaries and pay raises, the house in the hills, the shiny, expensive cars - they don't last. They don't matter much, really, because they're never enough. There's always a bigger salary and a shinier car and a more prestigious zip code. And just as soon as you thought you had arrived you realized you still had a long way to go. You can never grasp onto what keeps slipping through your fingers.

It's when your heart pulls with such a vengeance that you feel like you could fall out of your heels at a dinner party for what aches your soul, well, that there is the stuff that matters. That's the real life this is my purpose stuff that you can't order out of a catalog.That's the stuff that can't be bought over time or handed to you from your homeroom teacher. It can only come from within and if you ignore it - if you turn your back on where your soul aches to go... you're just left existing in this world with a sad soul.

Angst means, "a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general." Did you catch that? An unfocused anxiety... 

And remember, not all anxiety is bad. Anxiety can actually be quite good for you. Anxiety can be used to fight toward our goal, focusing in a way that brings out our best performance. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has been quoted as saying this about anxiety:

"The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind 
is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort 
to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile."

See, to get to my best moments, I needed to start tuning in to what intrinsically motivates me. And a clue to what intrinsically motivated me was where my anxieties kept taking me. Helping people heal. Loving those who just yearn to feel loved. Giving someone strength through the written word.

I'm doing that now, Mr. Love. I'm being motivated not by the outside forces of the world, but by what God instilled in me over 40 years ago. A lot of people tell me they're proud of me, but there are a few that don't quite get it. They think following my heart string and going to where my soul aches is actually quite a foolish move. Selfish, even. It seems following your heart doesn't always come with a hefty paycheck attached. In today's world, we get ambushed into thinking it's all about the highest salary, the biggest house, the most exotic vacation. Sometimes I wonder how the human condition can be overlooked so easily. Why it is that we're so easily led away from what motivates us from within only to get sidetracked by external forces that, in the grand scheme of life won't make you a good person.

Every funeral we go to we're reminded of this. You never hear someone stand up to give a eulogy and say, "Frank was a good man. He had three cars valued at $22,000 each. He had a tidy nest egg and a home that we're going to be placing on the market for $300,000. Frank worked his way up at his company, acquiring 5 weeks of vacation at the time of his death. His investment broker is going to miss him."

No. We hear about what made Frank unique, different and loved. That he attended every single one of his granddaughter's ballet recitals. No one paid him to do that. He wanted to go because he loved his granddaughter and he loved the feeling he got when his precious sweet thing got up on that stage and twirled around believing she looked like Anna Pavlova but actually looked more like a turkey caught in a blender. It didn't matter. To Frank, she was the most beautiful ballerina on that stage and he wouldn't have missed it for the world. He didn't care if she was the best or worst one on that stage; he just knew he loved how his heart felt when he watched her.

We hear about how Frank took food to the hungry and volunteered at church. He didn't earn vacation days for doing that; he fed his soul.

We hear about how Frank came to the rescue of a couple stranded along a busy highway and how they ended up being life long friends and raising their kids together. He didn't do that because someone dangled a carrot in front of him, he did it because he saw someone in need and he felt it in his bones to pull over and help.

We all know by now that the things that make our lives great, the things that make our souls shine, are all the things we stumble trying to put into words. It's the part of our coursing blood that can't be seen through a microscope. It's the way our throat catches and lumps closed even though no one else's seem to. It's the way our eyes threaten to overflow at something seemingly inconsequential to the rest of the world but for some reason it suddenly means everything to just us.

It's the stuff God placed inside us when He created us, whispering into our soul-heart, "this is what will make you unique in all the world." Not even identical twins with perfectly matched DNA will have the same soul-heart.

And if we turn our backs on it... if we tune out our soul-voice and ignore the pulls on our heart strings, we're just existing in this world. Living with a sad soul.

I think I could write that paper now the way it deserves to be written.

You did a good job teaching me, Mr. Love. Thank you for that.

And thank you for the Hershey's Kiss. You made me feel really special that day. I just didn't know how to receive it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Life Jackets

"The life jacket won't make you swim," I tried to explain. "You'll still need to do the work; it just keeps you from sinking."

She wanted to swim so badly. She felt it was time to move from the shallow kiddie pool over to the big kid pool. But she was afraid because she didn't know how to swim.

We borrowed a life jacket and strapped her in. The second the belt snapped in place she squealed, "now I can swim!"

Oh, buddy, I thought. If only it were that easy.

Avery and her life jacket

Maybe life is like swimming and faith is like the life jacket. 

Let's say you've got to swim across this huge span of water. You can't even see the other side and, while the waters appear calm and quite pleasant right now, you've heard stories of dark and stormy seas. Of waves that swell so big they threaten to swallow you whole. Of the torment the waters put on a body, making every muscle ache and lungs plead leaving you crying and completely broken, begging to just give up and give in to what attacks you.

But you've also heard stories of the gentleness and softness of the water. Like silk gently trailing across the flesh and the sun warms your face and the birds above you sing and you can lay your head back and soak in the goodness, smiling as it feeds your soul, overflowing with a love that you can't even put into words.

And you can't even see the other shore. So you know that when it is good you'll want it to last forever; but when your body is failing you'll want some relief.

And that's where the life jacket comes in. 

God's love wrapped tight around you, secured with his goodness and mercy and grace. His promises keeping you afloat. He provides the eternal life jacket for your soul. 

But you still have to do the work.

Because you can't just enter the waters wearing His life jacket and expect to suddenly get to the other side. 

You have to move your muscles. One arm, then the other. Kicking your legs, propelling you forward. Yes, you have the assurance of your life jacket - but that life jacket can't do the hard work for you.  

As we travel through the earth-waters of our life, knowing God's arms are wrapped tightly around us, God is telling us to kick! Move your arms!  He is the swim coach of our lives and the buoyancy that allows our head to keep popping up for air, allowing us to breathe in His greatness at that exact moment we felt we would fail.

And just as you must keep swimming through the torrential rains and work extra hard to swim through the waves that swell taller than we ever imagined, so God reminds us that when our earth-waters threaten to pull us down, suck us in, finish us off - it is then that we must try harder, faster, stronger! 

Because God is many things. He is love and light and goodness and compassion. He forgives and redeems and blesses and showers us with grace. But He won't do the work for us. He wants to see us do for ourselves. We need to do it for ourselves. 

A little bigger and a bit more confidence.

I watched as my daughter struggled. I watched as she became discouraged because she couldn't figure out how to move herself forward. I watched as her eyes narrowed in frustration as other kids swam quickly past her. I watched as she cried and complained when another jumped in next to her, causing a wave to splash into her face. I watched as she gagged and spit out water from her mouth.

Several times she looked at me, calling out for help. And I would answer, "You can do it, buddy. I know you can. I'm right here."

And, you know what? She did do it. 
She blew it out of the park.

Avery on the South Central Swim Team

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Spiral

"Buddy!" I ran over to Brody, just 4 years old, and scooped him up into my arms. "Why are you crying?"

I swear, He was just fine. I had just walked by, glanced at him happily pushing his train around the wooden track not more than five minutes ago. Suddenly he's sitting up, staring off into space, tears streaming down his little-boy cheeks.

"Buddy! What's wrong?" I rocked him back and forth, carefully pushing aside tears with my fingers. "Oh, honey, please tell me what happened!"

My eyes started an inventory, scanning his little body for hints of pinched fingers or maybe an errant bug bite. Something, anything, to make this sudden silent stream of tears make sense.

"I can't remember Avery very well anymore" he whispered, lower lip jutted out in the saddest pout I'd ever seen. "I know I should be happy because people can still tell me about her, but I just want to remember her for me." 



This was big.

And I got it. I really, really got what he was trying to say.

Time is passing. And with each passing day she gets a little further away.

Where before it was like I couldn't see a thing without seeing her face first, her beautiful smile - like I had to blink her memory away in order to pour the coffee in the cup because I couldn't see past her beautiful face that my mind always saw -- now, I can see the cup. And the coffee. That's not to say her sweet face isn't always there, it's just, well fading. Kind of like when you put a clipart image on your document and it's super bold and bright, but then you turn on the Watermark option. She's becoming a Watermark.

And I think it's like that. I think it has to be like that. Because if your grief doesn't Watermark you can't get anything else done. If your grief stays bold and bright you're always going to spill the coffee whenever you try to pour it, and pretty soon you're going to stop trying to pour it all together. So, your grief has to fade. It has to lessen. It has to become the Watermark so you can keep living.

But Watermarks aren't clean and crisp and clearly defined. They're hazy. They're light. Because their place is in the background. And while that's good for the "keeping living" part, it's kind of bad for the "remembering" part.

And Brody's sister is becoming a Watermark to him.

It's harder on him, I think, because what person really remembers what they did when they were three? Or two? And so he'll have the memories we tell him. He knows in his heart he misses his big sister, but he's struggling with remembering what exactly he shared with his big sister.

He has one terrific memory that makes me smile and laugh: "remember when me and Avery played hide and seek and I couldn't find her but then she was in the bathtub?!" He laughs so hard at this. Laughs just as hard as the afternoon it happened.

I remember it so clearly. Avery would hide, Brody would find her, and then he'd hide in the exact same spot he just found her in. We tried in vain to get him to hide in other places but he never would. Avery was such a good sport and would pretend she had no clue whatsoever where he might be located. She was so good that way.

Anyway, so one day Avery hid in the bathtub. Brody looked in all the usual places but couldn't find her. Just as he was getting frustrated and thinking about giving up, I said (loud enough for Avery to hear), "maybe if you're really quiet, you'll be able to hear her...."  I was expecting a sneeze or a cough. Maybe a loud sigh. Instead, she crowed like a rooster. Loudly. "COCK A DOODLE DOOOOOOOO!"

I about died laughing. But that was her. She was just ---- neat. Like, you just wanted to be with her because she was funny and witty and a good sport. And she crowed like a rooster during hide and seek.

A couple more crows and Brody found her. Both of them laughing so hard they could barely stand it. He couldn't get over the fact she hid in the bathtub. The bathtub! To this very day we all crow in public places in order to find each other. (Think clothing stores where little boys might wander.... yep, you'll hear a rooster.)

But even that memory I wonder if it's truly his or if it's just one of those that we've repeated so many times it's become his. Know what I mean? But then I think it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if he remembers first hand or if he remembers second hand, just that he feels like he knows a little bit about his sister that loved him so much.

As timing would have it, I had an appointment and needed to drop him off at my mom's. We showed up, me with a flushed face and red rimmed eyes, choking back tears as Brody, with his head down mumbled, "you ask." 

I took a deep breath and explained to my mom that Brody was feeling sad because he couldn't really remember Avery and that he wanted her to tell him what she could remember about his sister.

"Well," my mom said. "She liked to climb that tree."

"What tree?"

"That one, right there in the front. She'd climb up and sit on that tree limb."

"What else?"

I smiled and turned quietly to go.

We're the keeper of our own memories, sure. But we're also the keeper of his.

As I drove away I started thinking about Avery. About how she talked with a lisp and loved to play dress up. How she loved to eat lettuce and called it salad. "Can I have salad on my burger?" About how she spent the summer before she turned three (or maybe it was four) wearing her bright pink moon boots every day; even to church with her cute little sundresses. I thought about how her art teacher told me that the morning of the day she died someone had spilled paint and she stopped and helped clean it up and I thought, Brody needs to know this.

Because what if something happens to me? Where will the details of his sister go?

That night I went home and grabbed a spiral. On the very top of the first page I wrote ALL ABOUT YOUR SISTER. And I've been filling in memories as they pop up. And they do. Usually after something someone will mention or a song on the radio.

She loved Adele's song Set Fire to the Rain.

She ate sushi for the first time at a Demi Lavato concert at Ravinia a couple months before she died. She spit it out. 

She once got strep throat the day after eating Pop Rocks; she insisted the candy made her sick and would tell people she was allergic to it. 

She wanted - begged - us to move above a Sandwich Shop so she could work in the restaurant. I think the show Wizards of Waverly Place had a huge impact on this dream of hers. When The Latimer House (an old historic home that had operated as a restaurant with living space above it) was placed For Sale, she relentlessly pleaded that I purchase the property. She would spend her free time planning menu items. 

And so it goes. Some days lots of things are added. Some days go by where nothing is written down. But it's my way of saying to this broken little boy, "it's okay that you can't remember it all; I will help you."

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Love is Worth the Grief

In passing, someone said something to me about grieving for a child you lost has to be so hard. I get what they were stumbling to say (trust me, even though I'm going through it, I never have the right words and always end up sounding so, well, off). But the truth is, grieving for a child you lost is the easiest thing in the world.

I took no special training. No special classes. Shoot, even when I was about to give birth there were Lamaze classes. But there were no your child is going to die unexpectedly so we'd like you to learn how to breath through the grief pains tutorials.

No, grieving the death of someone you love comes very, very easy.

It's the grieving while attempting to appear normal that is very, very hard.

There is a spot in the back of my neck at the base of my skull  that has been in a constant, thick knot for over a year and a half. It's a tumor of grief. But I'll just pass it off as I must've slept wrong.

There are days I would rather sleep for 115 hours straight than face the day. I'll tell you I think I'm getting a sinus infection.

But I can't have a sinus infection every day so you'll probably see me at Walmart picking up the bread and the paper towels like a normal person when inside my heart is on the verge of crashing into an oblivion of sorrow.

Songs on the radio will tear me to shreds - and if I'm alone I'll cry. But if I'm with someone you'll notice I take a big gulp of air and then say something incredibly random and probably way too loud to drown out whatever lyrics are tugging at my heart strings.

No, grief comes very easy. It's the appearing normal while you're grieving that is difficult.

I wouldn't wish grief on my worst enemy and while I feel like I've felt enough sorrow it ought come with some lifetime supply of Kleenex.... I chose to walk straight back into the face of grief. And I'll choose it again and again and again.

Because grief isn't possible without a whole lot of love.

When I went to Haiti this second time, I knew in my heart it would be harder than the first. Some inkling in the pit of my stomach said this ain't gonna be easy. And yet you couldn't have stopped me from hopping on that plane. I needed to come back to see this boy:

March 2014
He has my heart. I love all the children at the orphanage. My days and nights are filled with the memory of their faces. Of their words, their laughter, their singing. Of their hugs and hard questions. My prayers are longer than they have ever been as I ask God's protection over each and every one of these precious lives. I pray that Noramy continues expressing himself through art and that Ricardo continues to use his gift of singing. I pray that Vita can take that fiery spirit God has instilled in her to be a leader among the other girls. I pray that Jerry can feel the depth of God's love during those times when he is feeling alone and sad.
I love each and every one of these children. Children whose past I do not know. Whose families I will never meet. Whose names I can barely pronounce. I love them all with an unconditional love that I cannot explain but just know that by the grace of God I can feel it.
But this boy. This boy has my whole heart.
July 2014

One evening I found myself sitting with Riquelme and 6 other boys ranging from the ages of 12 - 16. We were talking about many absolutely inconsequential and superficial things. They find it incredibly funny that I cannot pronounce names and words properly in Creole. So there was a lot of laughter.

Then someone asked if I had any children.

"Yes. I had three children ---" I started to explain.

"But one died, right?!"

I smiled. I suppose in any other setting the appropriate response at such a bold interruption would've been shock or repulsion. Maybe I should have been appalled at the audacity of such a remark. And yet, this is their world. People die. Siblings starve. Parents fall prey to AIDS. Friends don't have the money to purchase medications for treatable diseases. Children die.

"Yes!" I said, showing the young boy how proud I was that he had remembered my story from months before. Or perhaps my sponsor son had explained the situation during my absence. "Yes, one of my children died."

"When? When your child die?"

"About a year and a half ago. Not quite two years."

Another boy looked up at me, "how old your child when they die?"

"She was eleven."

"Oh." The boys looked around at each other, at the ground. That age hit a little too close to home, I suppose.

It was quiet long enough to make it feel awkward, but I've learned that the best way to learn from children is to just wait and they'll fill in the silence with what they want to say.

After a bit, one of the boys looked at me with a huge smile on his face: "You have three children but one die so you only have two! But then you get Riquelme and now you have three again!"

I laughed and threw my head back! "Yes! Yes! You are right! You are absolutely right!"

We talked then about sponsor parents and what that means. I am careful that I don't give the impression that I can adopt Riquelme. (The rules make it so it's not possible. Unless God moves mountains, it's simply not possible.) I learned that I am one of the good ones because I write letters. Some kids have multiple sponsor families but they never get letters.

Don't misunderstand me: financially supporting these children is an incredible, selfless calling that needs to be answered. And when answered, these children are blessed beyond measure. Just $35 a month allows these kids to have access to safe drinking water, food twice a day, an education, a safe place to sleep, running water to bathe in, and access to medical care. Financially supporting these children needs to happen.

But they long for connection. They long to feel chosen. Wanted. Loved.

Letters received are kept treasured. Amber (the American Missionary) told me that many children ask her to keep their letters safe with her. This way they will not be lost, stolen, ruined, ripped, etc. From time to time the children will come back and ask to simply hold their letter - even if they can't understand the words on the page. They will ask her to translate it again, and again - even though they learned it by heart two years ago.

I learned that packages are good. A small toy, deodorant, underwear, a book, crayons. But if they had a choice between a package with no letter and just a letter, every single one of the boys in front of me that evening told me they would want the letter.

Letters mean love. And I write letters. So that's how they know I love Riquelme.

I don't pretend to know anything about the life these kids are living. I don't have a college degree and I have no special training. I haven't gone to school to understand psychology of children or earned any letters after my name that declare I'm some sort of expert in the field of orphans.

I just know I know how to love. God calls us to love unconditionally. He calls us to show others who He is by loving others the way He loves us. And I am broken. I am racked with sin a mile long. I have shamed my parents and embarrassed my siblings. I am quick to anger and slow to forgive. I hurt by the hands of others but mostly I hurt others by my own hand. I forget to give thanks and I forget to count blessings. I am lazy and I am full of contempt. And yet, God still shows up day after day to love me. He has never missed an opportunity to whisper in my ear how much He loves me. He has never turned His back on me for someone better, cuter, smarter, nicer, more well behaved.

He simply loves me.

I can do that.

Of all the things God has asked me to do, I can love a bunch of hurting children.

But loving has it's risks. Especially when it comes time to say good bye. I loved Avery with all of my heart and it crippled me when I had to say good bye.

I know what I'm getting into by loving again. Especially loving children in another country.

And so to love these children means to open the door to grief. And for them to open up and risk loving back means they, too, will have to accept grief as part of the deal. Because we will always have to say good bye.

I will grieve my boy during the seconds, minutes, hours and days I cannot see him, talk to him, hug him, laugh with him. I will grieve each second I cannot look into his eyes and ask do you know how loved you are? I will grieve each day that passes that I cannot explain to him that the love I feel for him pales in comparison to the eternal love God showers him with and that God's love will never, ever go away.

It is so hard. Not the grieving. That part I've got down. No, it's the grieving while trying to appear normal that I struggle with.

So, I might be having coffee with you and will try to laugh along with your story but part of me will wonder if  he's happy today, or struggling with sadness or his own grief. I will worry that he is alone and I will pray that God sends the right person to hold him up. And then I will laugh at the appropriate time in your story because it seems I'm getting a bit better at this grieving gig.

And just like I count the days until I see my Heavenly daughter again, now I count the days until I see my Haitian boy again.

And I'll do it over and over and over again. Because the love is always worth the grief.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13) 

To sponsor a child at Global Vision Citadelle Ministries,
or to donate directly to GVCM,
please visit their website at www.gvcm.org