Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Story of God's Provision

I have wanted to share the story about our trip home for quite a while now. It is such an amazing story of ups and downs, but I have debated about whether or not to "start from the beginning" before telling this one. But, the more I think about it, the more I feel that I need to share the amazing thing that God did.

Just imagine being with a grumpy, tired, frustrated and angry 6 year old. Then, put that grumpy, tired, frustrated and angry child on a airplane...for 15 hours! And, this 15 hour flight came on the very end of a very long day in which this grumpy child ate until he threw up, practiced riding a scooter on black-top for 4 hours in the heat of the day, refused to clean up, and had a nagging blister beginning to form on his foot. That sets the scene for our trip home.

Joe and I were really struggling in Africa. We longed to just get home, we felt that if we could only get George around our other children, he would see what a family looks like, how children interact with us and how much we long to hug, cuddle and hold hands with our kids. Miraculously, (another story to tell) we were able to get our flight changed to come home a whole day early with NO CHARGE! We were ready to pay big bucks just to get home...but wait, that's another story.

Back to the airport. The Ethiopian airport is different than the US airports. Once you went through security and checked in at the gate, you were trapped with no restrooms - unless you wanted to go through security again. Why would we balk at going through security again? Well, George would flip out! He would see the arch-way screeners that we all have to walk through and he would scream (tribal war scream) become limp, fall the ground, kick, punch - anything to not go through that arch. This happened at the US embassy and also at the front door of the Addis Ababa airport, so we knew the routine well. And we just didn't want to go through it again.

But...of course, we ask George to go to the bathroom before going to the gate. Refusal. About 10 minutes after going through the dreaded arch, we sit down (with a very angry George who doesn't understand why we are not getting on that darn plane!), when he yells out "Ka-ka!" For those who don't know Amheric, you guessed it, that means he has to go #2. We have a choice - wait an hour to board the plane and have him go there (not a good choice), or Joe would have to leave his boarding pass and passport at the ticket counter, leave the gate area, take George to the restroom and then...oh no...go through the arch again. I looked at Joe with the look of, "Are you kidding me? This is a no brainer - you are taking him!"

About 45 minutes later - yes, that is really how long it took to go through the whole process - they finally are sitting with me again. Joe and I are at our wit's end, we are spent, and all we want is to get home. We have had such a horrible week we actually think if we lose George in the airport, we won't feel bad.

Then, this man walks by.. our eyes meet and he gives me a little smile. For some reason, I am drawn to this man. I don't think Joe saw him and soon after the plane starts boarding those with children. Off we go.

For the next 15 hours, we deal with a screaming, kicking, whining child who recoils each time we try to touch him. He insists on wearing the headphones even though they are too big and refuses to let us help him adjust them. He switches the channels on his video screen every 3 seconds. Flip, flip, flip...over and over and over again. He can't understand anything, but he just flips again and again.

I spend a LOT of this flight crying. What have I done to my family? Other adoptive moms walk around the plan with their fresh smelling babies who are cuddled up on their chests. The dads take turns walking around the plane and showing off their smiling babies to all admirers. Meanwhile, we sit with a dirty, smelly, unruly child while people stare at us with looks of disdain. I cry with other moms who assure me, life is not peachy with them either. We all agree, Satan is hard on the offensive here and we are all vulnerable.

I notice the gentleman from before is sitting two rows behind us. I am sure he watched quite a show!

We finally land in Dulles and get shuttled straight to customs and immigration. In the line, things seem to be settling down and I turn around and the man is in line right behind us. We start talking and he introduces himself to Joe and I and then says, "My name is Mark. I am an international adoption counselor with YWAM". (YWAM stands for Youth With A Mission). Are you kidding me? He immediately starts talking to us about what he has seen and gives us some much needed free counseling on the spot. He urges us to get home and establish clear rules and boundaries. Be consistent, firm and loving. Teach him that through discipline, he will learn trust and bonding. He tells us to hang in for one week. One week home will make a huge difference, he kept reassuring us.

At customs, we part ways as we get called into different lines and Joe and I are starting to feel pretty good. George is doing OK, we are moving along and we are so happy be back in the clean and organized USA!!!

Then, and please excuse my language, all hell breaks loose. As we are sitting in immigration, waiting for our name to be called, George freaks out. And this was the biggest freak out ever. Screams that made everyone uncomfortable. Screams that went on and on. We were trapped in this area and could not leave, no one could hear the officers call out names, George starts kicking, punching, taking off his clothes. Joe picks him up and takes him to a back corner and tried holding him down. The screams get worse and worse. Women start surrounding me, not knowing what to say. Then, one beautiful woman asks if she can pray. They all lay hands on me and pray, pray, pray! We are all crying. Women standing afar are crying. Men are troubled and asking what they can do to help. Things could not have been worse - yet at the same time, Christian men and women were loving us.

They were showing the love of Christ in their compassionate looks. They were praying for us. They were doing anything they could to help.

We were rushed through immigration and customs, I think because the officers just wanted us out of there. We got to another counter where we finally figured out what was going on - Geroge's blister was so bad he couldn't stand it anymore. We finally calmed him down and were able to meet his need (a huge step in gaining trust!). We put two bandaids on it, put a clean pair of socks on and found his old tennis shoes. He finally settled down.

But...what was up ahead? Another security check! I almost collapsed to the ground right then and there. This meant not only another dreaded arch, but also taking off the shoes! How do we explain that what we just fixed, we now needed to un-do? He starts a fit over again, more screaming, more kicking. I beg the officer, can he just keep the shoes on? Of course, the answer is no.

Joe and I work as a team to get the shoes off, and then get the screaming, kicking child through the arch way and get all our stuff through the scanner. I don't think I can take another step at this point. I really was ready to give up completely.

Sitting there, just on the other side of the arch was the man, Mark. God had told him to wait for us and there he was. Smiling. Like an angel. And, right next to him was another adoptive couple who was a pastor. Immediately, these three godly people wrap us in their arms and pray over us and George. Right there, as travelers are bustling around, people are scrambling to get their shoes back on and catch flights, there is a picture of God's people serving each other. Joe and I just both sobbed.

And we were lifted. We could make it. Peace fell upon all three of us. We caught our next flight and a happy George had a window seat and stared outside all the way from Washington, DC to Chicago! God's grace is sufficient.

A few days later, we emailed Mark just to thank him and tell him how grateful we were for him. His letter in return astonished us! He said he could see Christ radiating through us. I could not believe it! You mean, when we were at our lowest, weakest, most broken place - this man could see Christ?

This lesson slapped my in the face. All those times that I think my having it all together with my perfect little family smiling and healthy was not portraying the Love of Christ. Instead, it was a time of complete surrender and brokenness that Christ had the chance to shine through me. There was nothing of me left - all there was was Christ.

Oh, so many lessons were learned on that day. The power of prayer. The beauty of God's people serving each other. The bond that brings Christians into loving relationships even when you don't know anything about each other. And, what it really means to be a broken vessel that allows Christ's love to shine through.

I want to continue to be that cracked clay pot. I want to continue to let others see Christ in me when I don't even realize it - because I learned that is the only way that He truly does radiate through me.

Thank you, Lord, for getting us through that day. And thank you for your provision. I love you so much!


Katy said...

Your blog has challenged and encouraged me so much! Not just this post but the others also. Thank you for radiating Christ so much!

Cory and Margaret said...

I am heart is just breaking for all that you went through yet at the same time rejoicing in the AWESOMENESS of our HEAVENLY FATHER!! What a WONDERFUL story that someday George will hear and truly appreciate! Thank you Lord for giving Tracie and her DH EXACTLY what they needed!!!!

Brooke said...

Wow, Traci!! Unbelievable story of completely surrendering to God for strength to get you through. I admire you for turning to Him, and not giving up in the midst of such heartache and difficulty. Just making it through that day again confirms that this is exactly what God wanted you guys to do.....bring George home! We are continuing to hold you guys in prayer! Will we see you guys saturday??