Sunday, January 6, 2013

Living at the End of Myself

(My adoption theme song!)

 I remember one time when my family and I were travelling home from western PA and I was driving and it was dark and we were going through the Poconos. I was going around those steep curves on the side of a mountain where you see the lights of Scranton laid out in front you. Suddenly I lost my bearings (I don't see great at night) and thought I had driven off the road and into the air to plunge below and I started screaming. My husband is yelling, "You're okay, you're okay!!" Finally I realized I was still on the road and calmed down!! (By the way, we switched drivers at the next available point! AND I stuttered for the next 24 hours or so!)

This has been our adoption process. I share this because I often come off to people as having it all together. I often fail to speak while in the dark, hard places of life so by the time I am speaking sentences again the light at the end of the tunnel is in full view. 

We had this adoption thing figured out really. We knew ahead that the initial phase of adoption in Nicaragua moves fast. We knew social services would want us in country as soon as they knew about us and we weren't going to budge until we were ready. I had crunched the numbers. We were tossing around plans concerning what to do to our house to make it ready for 4 more people. It was a step of faith, but we were ready to take it.

Then the phone call came that our children's center had been  closed and that the children had been moved to another center. We were told to come right away, that our children needed us. We were told they could be moved again if we didn't come quick. My husband rushed to Nicaragua on the promise that he could get his finger prints done there and I could finish up the paperwork from Maine...which wasn't true. We laid aside the hope to get our house ready first, laid aside the dream to have a car that fits our whole family ready...

My husband's step of faith was now a run, head long off a cliff. He in Nicaragua trying to parent the children alone and work his job and figure out where and how to get food, etc, etc. I was home trying to finish our paperwork and prepare two of our kids for the trip. 

Six weeks later, two of my teens and I followed my husband to Nicaragua, running off our own cliff...knowing not everything was in place but knowing we needed to be together as a family. 

I can honestly say that every step has been gut wrenching. But I can say that God met us with provision for every step. But then the next step would come and again you felt like you stepped off the cliff again, all the while with God yelling, "You're okay, you're okay!!"

Years ago I had flown alone and promised I wouldn't do that again. Now I was flying internationally trying to look confident so my kids would think everything was fine though I was shaking in my shoes! 

On the way home from the airport it was hot, muggy, and smokey in Managua. The smoke was making my daughter sick so we stopped to get her a water. Our driver needed to stay with the luggage that was in the back of his truck. I headed in to buy the water assured they would take U.S. Dollars. In front of me in line was a man I was sure was high. When it was my turn he stayed beside me which I found a little frightening. The cashier said something to me and I had no clue what she was saying. Suddenly Mr. Scary started translating for me! I had given her the wrong amount of money and he grabbed the right money from me, explained the situation and helped me buy the water. He was my provision!

Then I was meeting my four beautiful, beautiful children. They were the ray of sunshine against my dark clouds. I had only seen them in pictures and on Skype. Now I was here and they were here and they were REAL. Hugging, laughing, chattering, curious, real children. After some time as a family, we were applying bug spray and preparing to go to sleep in this house that made me feel like I was still outside even though I was inside with it's lack of ceilings and in one room, lack of a wall. My only protection was bug spray and a mosquito net. Did you know I don't even CAMP?

I didn't wait for a honeymoon here to pass before feeling the weight of culture shock. It hit me the minute I got off the plane. I was knocked off balance by the differences between my old life and my new life where no one spoke my language, where the air seemed muggy with intervals of smoke, where I had no car and no escape, where the food was so different, where I couldn't find anything in my house, where I didn't know whose clothes were whose when I did the laundry, where I was hand washing clothes with a bad back, where my house was open to whatever lived outside. Every earthly thing I held onto for comfort felt ripped away at once. We were all running around like chickens to make the day happen, to get to the market, to figure out how much food was needed, to keep enough clothes clean and dry, to figure out our adoption. In the middle of that I was trying to bond with my children who did not speak my language and I did not speak theirs. My husband was comfortably able to speak with them and to know the rhythm of life here which actually made me almost more uncomfortable because I couldn't keep up. Social services gave me one day to get settled before they came firing questions at me about the kids, my feelings, and their feelings. I stole every private moment I could to cry for the first two weeks. Every breath I took was so I could breathe another prayer.

Even then, there was provision from God. My husband HAD been here long enough to learn an astounding amount of Spanish and to learn the market. Our driver/now friend was always available to us to help. The nearby church had an English service and the pastor and his wife are crazy about serving others and would be a great support of supplies and prayer. 

Slowly I got my feet back under me. I started to *learn* to be a mom to our 4 sweeties and to all of my children in the context of Nicaragua.

Then we came to the full realization that despite help from our state senator, the U.S. Embassy here was not going to be any real help to us and my husband was going to have to fly to FL to get his fingerprints. It would take 3 days. This was the beginning of one financial hit after another. New expenses arose every day, both from our house in America and our adoption and our life here. Our money quickly completely ran out. I woke up every morning between 3:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. with my mind racing with dollar amounts. I would get up to read my Bible, pray and listen to worship music. It was not a grand sounding prayer, but more like begging and pleading! I learned a new way to pray Scripture as I would read promises and ask God if they still applied to us!! I would spend those early hours pulling myself together for a new day and getting myself spiritual ready to put my worries again in God's hand so I could be *mom* for another day.

A glimmer of provision lit my path the day a friend called to tell us that God had moved them to pay to authenticate and send our final paperwork (the I600A which is the permission to bring the kids to the U.S. and the reason my husband needed his fingerprints). God had not forgotten us!! We didn't not have one penny of that money and I had no idea how I was going to pull that together!  Weeks later another phone call that provision had arrived that would get us through this process!! 

The next obstacle to our path was delay after delay in the courts. We were told before we came that the children were indeed considered "abandoned" and available for adoption. Upon arriving we found out that in truth this was merely that social services knew their situation and knew they WOULD BE declared abandoned but it had not happened in the courts. So what we thought was done before we arrived (my husband on July 3rd) did not happen until OCTOBER! 

Those morning prayers sounded like, "Lord, what if this all falls apart? These kids are calling us 'Mama' and 'Papa'!! What if it doesn't happen?" And then there was the soul searching of, "What if the adoption doesn't work? Would I be willing to sell my house in the U.S. and live here until the youngest is 18 and we can finally go home together?" These are what "4 a.m. thoughts and prayers" sound like!! 

And again, provision finally came, movement finally happened, these kids that I love to absolute pieces bear my name. They're going home, we're going home. 

I've lived at the end of myself each and every day. The comfort I needed could only come from God. He never left us alone once, He never failed us once! It was not comfortable, it has been the hardest thing we've ever done. But I am changed, we are areas that needed changing.

So, we're going home in 8 days. We need to figure out the house...and the car situation. But really, it is not a very strong blip on my radar. It'll happen just like everything else has. God's provision will be there. It'll come together in His timing. The struggles will bring more bonding, making us more of a family and bonding our hearts stronger to our God's heart, for our good and His glory. 

I live at the end of myself. I am off the cliff. Moments of panic with God yelling, "You're okay, you're okay!! I've got you!!" It's not comfortable, but it is where I sense God's presence. It is life with the "really real" and it is good, very good.

"My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:2


  1. Oh man Karen, you completely nailed it with the jumping off the cliff metaphor !!!! I love how God has changed you, changed your heart, and weaved your family together. I bet down the road there will be days where you'll long to be back in Nicaragua :). So, so happy for you!!!!!

  2. Hi Karen~ A friend of mine recently shared this post with a group of our friends. Thanks for sharing your vulnerable heart via your blog. Your story brought me to tears as I replayed our own adoption story. Although our story is different, I can't help but see the similarities in each of our stories. Regardless of whether someone is adopting or going through life's cliffs and rocky spots, we can all lean on Him for provision, love, and security. Your story is beautiful and you are certainly an encouragement to many people. Thanks for sharing your struggle, your deliverance, and your sincere heart.

  3. Karen ,
    What a great writer you are. thank you so much for sharing your honesty, your failures,your victories , your trust and your triumphant story.
    God is faithful and you are a true blessing to all of us.
    Love, Lori Robertson.


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