Monday, May 2, 2016

So here's the plan.....

I started to write this blog with something akin to “I’m a planner and I always stick to the plan.”  But then I remembered Marie. Not part of the plan. And Peter. Also not part of the plan. And I’m supposed to be avoiding hypothermia in Russia, not sweating to death in Africa. So I had to revise my statement. I love having a plan. And that’s it. I just really like it. 

When Peter and I went back to Sierra Leone in September, we had a plan.  We had been praying about adopting a little girl who was orphaned during the Ebola outbreak for almost a year.  Our plan was to finalize Marie’s adoption, adopt this little girl and then in a year or so, have another biological child.  Easy Peasy.

We finalized Marie’s adoption (on the Sierra Leonean side) shortly after returning to Sierra Leone.  However, the DAY that we were planning to go get this little girl from the orphanage we found out that some visa rules had changed and we wouldn’t be able to take her to the US for 2 ½- 3 years.  Which meant we couldn’t take her with us if we were going to have a baby back in the States in a year or so.  That put a BIG crimp in our plans!  After weighing the options, praying about it and talking about it a LOT (sorry Peter, you knew I was a talker when you married me), we decided to make a new plan   Our new plan was to have a baby ASAP, come back to the States and, while we were here for the baby finalize Marie’s immigration so she would be a US citizen.  After having the baby and returning to Sierra Leone we would get this little girl from the orphanage and just know that we wouldn’t be leaving the country for the next 2-3 years.  It was a bit of a stretch because our budget didn’t have us coming home this soon but we found a way it could work. 

I soon found out that I was pregnant.  But around this time I also noticed a growth on Ben’s skin.  At first I didn’t think much of it….we get a lot of skin stuff here…..but then I noticed that it was growing. And it was growing pretty fast.  I had some doctors here take a look at it and even found a pediatrician in Sierra Leone who was trained in Germany….. but had no idea what it was.  Fortunately, a couple doctor friends had some suspicions and after sending pictures to the States and watching it continue to get bigger for about a month, I was told that I needed to come back and have it surgically removed and biopsied.  And it had to be done soon.

Now this was DEFINITELY not part of the plan!  We had already bumped up our trip home for this new little baby but to take ANOTEHR unscheduled trip!?!?  And it was the absolute worst timing.  Peter was supposed to go to Liberia for a month, my mom was supposed to come visit me for a couple weeks during this time.  Do I take Marie with me? Does Peter come?  How long will I be gone? No idea.  So….make a new plan.  The new plan was that Peter would stay so he could go to Liberia and I would take Marie with me.

We got home and were SO blessed to get right in to see a doctor and got a quick referral up to OHSU where he had the growth removed.  After a couple of weeks waiting for the pathology results, it was not cancerous!  Thank you, Lord!  He had a follow up visit and the doctor cleared him to go back to Salone!  I had scheduled a well-child check for him to get caught up on his immunizations and an OB appointment for me since I was here anyway, so as soon as those appointments were finished we could head back!  I contacted the travel agent and reserved tickets to travel back on May 14.  I would confirm them once Ben and I had both seen the doctor.  After a month of a lot of uncertainty, I loved having a plan again.

On Friday morning, I had my OB appointment.  After a couple weeks of suspecting I was miscarrying, my labs and ultrasound confirmed it.  Baby was gone.  I’m sad.  I loved this little one deeply, even if it was only for a little while.  While I’m grieving the loss of this little baby, I’m also grieving the loss of the one in Sierra Leone. The one that we want so badly to bring into our family but seems so much farther away now.  Another change in our plans.

 A couple hours after my OB appointment, I had well child exam for Ben. The doctor is concerned about his eyes and wants him to see an opthamologist at a time still to be determined.  This means there will be no confirmation of our tickets home right now. 

The month of dealing with Ben’s unknown skin growth was incredibly challenging. I didn’t know what it was, what we were going to do….or even WHEN we would know.  There was so much uncertainty that at times I would feel physically ill with the anxiety of it all.  But I can also say that it was one of the sweetest times of spiritual growth in my life.  Wrestling with questions of “Is God still good if…….” Was painful.  I spent hours in my pantry, (which I’ve designated as my little prayer closet), over and over again giving my son over to Jesus.  Meditating on the Truth of Scripture and pouring my heart out to Him.  Over and over again.  I was convicted that I COULD choose to be anxious about this.  It makes perfect logical sense.  But I didn’t have to.  And actually, Jesus didn’t WANT me to.  Phillippians 4 became my mantra.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  And that’s what happened. I had peace. I would sit in that closet and just pray and pray about every single minute detail that was making me anxious.  As I did that, it was amazing how my problem, even the unknown health of my son, became smaller, as Jesus became bigger.  It didn’t make sense. Phillippians was right. The peace passed all understanding because NOTHING in my circumstances changed for weeks.  But Jesus calmed my anxious heart.   Sometimes I would have to go there several times a day because as I took my eyes off who Jesus is and started looking at the mess around me I’d feel the anxiety welling up, but when I was able to hand it back over to Jesus, I had peace. 

And then I came home.

At first I was just SO thankful, as I met with doctors who gave me a plan.  My son was sick and when there were no answers in Sierra Leone I was able to get on a plane and come to a country that has a plethora of doctors and even specialists who will be able to take care of my son.  I left the millions of Sierra Leoneans who don’t have that same opportunity behind.  How is that fair? 

I made plans with the doctors and within a few weeks I had the “not malignant” diagnosis that I was hoping for.  We were back on schedule!  As I was able to pass my problems off to doctors with answers and relaxed back into the comfort zone of familiar language, customs, and relationships, it was almost as if I said, “Ok Jesus. Thanks for all your help! I’ve got it from here.”  Back to my plans.  I became SO easily distracted by all the things around me and I lost the DESPERATION for Jesus that I’d had in Sierra Leone when I had nothing else.  I was back in control! 

But I found that as I stopped pressing into Jesus, I became…..frustrated.  Annoyed.  I missed my husband. Discussions about ministry were going on in Sierra Leone and they NEEDED me to be there!  I wanted to be there NOW.  (I’m embarrassed to write this because it’s not very “missionary-ee” but…’s true).  A couple of weeks ago, when I started having signs of a miscarriage, instead of handing it all back over to Jesus as I’d done in Sierra Leone and resting in HIS plan for our lives, I became overwhelmed with how this changed all my plans.  Baby, adoption, Marie’s immigration.  Everything.

On Friday when the miscarriage was confirmed and then a few hours later I got the news that depending on what happens with Ben’s eyes we could be here for several more months…….I gave up. 

As control was once again taken from me, my eyes were pulled from looking around me to looking to Him.  Lord!!!  Will I never learn?!??!  Can the lessons I so painstakingly learned just a few weeks ago really be swept away by a few weeks of comfort and security!??!! 

This morning I wept in church as we sang about God being a good, good Father.  About His ways being perfect…….perfect for me.  As the conviction of my sin rolled over me, it was quickly followed by thankfulness that “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”  So, so patient with me. 

So as of this moment…….when am I going back to Sierra Leone? Don’t know.  Are we going to adopt? Haven’t a clue. Are we going to have another biological kiddo? No idea.  When am I going to see hubby again?  Not sure.  I have no plan.  But as someone who could probably be described as a control freak, I can look to my Father and be so thankful that He doesn’t want to leave me that way. That He’s bringing circumstances into my life to slowly chip away at the things that keep my relationship with him from going deeper.