On some days it feels the earthquake that changed our lives forever was years and years ago. On other days it feels like just yesterday. Regardless of how long it feels like…. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the day my families life (and everyone connected to Haiti) was shaken to its very core.
As part of the community based nursing course I teach my nursing students, there is a section in the course on disaster nursing. I know foreword and backward the different phases of grief and shock victims and in-direct victims go through during a natural disaster but when you and those you love personally experience this kind of trauma, its nothing like the textbook or any class could prepare you for.
Last January was the most difficult and the most beautiful season of my 32 years of life. Difficult because although I knew human suffering like this existed, I was forced to see it through the eyes of children and people I love. Beautiful because in the midst of all that suffering I saw God move in so many beautiful ways I can not even count them all.
Rather than bore you with our story… here is a link if you do not already how the earthquake changed life for our family and 12 orphan children.
I know that tomorrow I will spend most of the day glued to the TV watching the one year anniversary coverage and reliving the events of those days. But in the midst of all the suffering I will see and have seen, I WILL CHOOSE TO SEE beauty! Rebuilding Haiti has proven to be a marathon not a sprint. But some of our dear friends tirelessly working there day in and day out share some of the most beautiful stories of God working in their midst. Long after the media left to focus on other stories, they unfortunately missed some of the most heartfelt stories of true heroes and the epitome of perseverance.
While Jake was in Haiti after the earthquake, communication between us was nearly nonexistent. We relied on facebook and satellite phones but connection was sketchy at best. He knew that we were working on trying to visas for the children already in the adoption process but we all knew it was a long shot and would take an act of God to make it happen. So while Belinda in Haiti and those of us at home tirelessly worked on making phone calls and gathering the necessary paperwork, Jake was consumed to providing relief work and literally in the trenches with those suffering.
But I love hearing him tell the story of when he finally got the news that our boys were reunited with me and on US soil. He was in a make shift tent, talking, on a satellite phone, and literally surrounded by human suffering. And at that moment he had a choice to make…. He could allow his heart to be heavy and burdened by all that he was experiencing and seeing or he could CHOOSE TO SEE the beauty of the moment.
I believe with all my heart that in every dark moment we face, there is beauty in the midst if we choose to see it.
I just finished reading a book by Mary Beth Chapman called “Choose to See”. It is their families’ story…. from their adoption journeys to the suffering and grief that they have endured the last few years. Grief is a journey many of us take at one time or another. For the Chapman family their journey began with the accidental death of their 5 year old daughter, Maria Sue, whom they adopted from China. In Choosing to SEE, Mary Beth Chapman shares her struggles with the tragic loss of Maria Sue, her journey to heal, and the unexpected path God has placed her on. Even as difficult as life can be, Mary Beth and the Chapman’s choose to see with faith and hope. I love her openness about healing journey and the way they are proclaiming to see beauty rise from ashes! This is their story
Sometimes I feel like a Debbie Downer but the last few years have been the most difficult of our 15 years of marriage. It just seems like God has allowed one thing after another into our life (all of which have been opportunities to CHOOSE TO SEE beauty in the midst of suffering).Ecclesiates 3:1-8 talks about the different seasons in life. I used to believe those seasons were at separate distinct and different times in our lives. Now I realize that we can weep and laugh, mourn and dance, search and give up, tear and mend, kill and heal, tear down and heal ALL AT THE SAME TIME AND SEASON.
It started with the loss of our 21 day old niece Hope to a congenital heart defect (hypoplastic left heart syndrome). In the middle of walking through the grief with my brother and his amazingly strong wife, we saw so much beauty. Beauty in learning what it truly means to offer the sacrifice of praise. At baby Hope’s memorial, we sang the song “Blessed be your name” with lyrics like “you give and take away, my heart will CHOOSE to say Lord blessed be your name”. We also sang “How Great Thou Art”. The beauty was I am 100% convinced that when my family sang those lyrics we meant them even though we were saying good bye to a precious baby we barely got to know and love on.
Shortly after that our foster daughter (whom had live in our home nearly a year and we loved as our own) was unexpectedly moved to another placement. It broke our hearts in ways I can’t describe. The range of emotions associated with it ranged from shock, anger, to pure grief. But today as I look back on our time with her…. I don’t focus on the day she was removed from our home. I choose to see beauty in all the wonderful memories we have with her. I see her in the rear view, in her car seat, with eyed closed and her chubby little hands raised singing “oh how he loves us” by David Crowder (one of her favorite songs). Or I choose to see her running around with her footie pajama’s dancing around being silly like she did every night after her bath. I choose to see the way she would wait at the door for Daddy to come home or the “big kids” to get off the bus and then squeal with delight when they pulled up.
Then we faced the earthquake and the agony of watching the nation we love suffer. Not long after that we faced a crisis at our church that turned our lives upside down again. But now I choose to see beauty in God’s perfect plan and the way His ways are higher.
As the boys have transitioned into our culture and our home, we have unpacked some very deep and heavy stuff. I knew trauma and abuse like that existed but hearing about and searching for healing through the heart of their mom has been a difficult process. A mom’s natural instinct to protect her children and most days I feel ill equipped to know to bring healing to their broken childhoods. But I choose to see beauty in the painstakingly slow progress they are making in therapy. I choose to see and celebrate the glimpses of trust and attachment being established between them and us as their parents. I choose to believe that God has awesome things planned for these boys and He will use them not IN SPITE OF their past but BECAUSE of their past to do great things for the kingdom of God.
Romans 8:27-28 says “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
I am so thankful the “Spirit intercedes in our life according to the will of God” and in the midst of everything (even suffering) God is working in the midst and if we choose to see that, it’s a beautiful thing!
I’d like to share some photos from http://voicesofhaiti.com/photos that demonstrate beauty rising from the ashes. Prints are available to order from that site (I’m asking for my birthday wink wink) The above picture captions read...
“THE WORLD MAY SHAKE BUT HAITI REMAINS IN MY HEART” and “LOVE CONQUERS ALL”
I am a nurse and most importantly mom of 6 precious children( 2 are homegrown, 1 on loan,& 3 are hand picked). Drew (age 15) Ashlyn (age 13) We have adopted 3 Haitian miracles Jimso (age10), Jackson (age 13) a&Jedone (age 14) We also have a foster daughter who is a constant source of joy!We are passionate about orphan/ foster care. My husband is the lead pastor at Cherokee Hills Christian Church in Oklahoma City.