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Category Archives: Sheila

One Year in the Promise House – Part Three

I have told many people about the very first day I met L, when he was brought to Children of the Promise (COTP).  They guessed he was about six years old at the time.  While paperwork was being filled out, I took him to the volunteer house to play Legos and get acquainted.  One second we were playing side by side, building a tower or something, and the next second he had me in a headlock and I was truly afraid.  He was unpredictable, lashing out at those around him, hitting or pushing any kids that got near him.  He had, and still has, a hard time managing his oral secretions and I remember him frequently spitting into his fingers and then wiping them on whoever was closest to him at the time.  I can’t even begin to imagine what he must have been feeling, having been plucked up and dropped into our little world with nothing and no one he knew.

From that time until the time we became his house parents in the Promise House, L made significant progress.  He had an individual nanny to help with behavior control and he got to know the few women who worked with him and began listening to them.  He was no longer such a threat to the other kids, he was spitting into a towel instead of on other people, he could help with simple chores around the house, and he was attending school in the village.  The nannies had much better control of L’s behavior, but there was still something missing.  In school he wasn’t socializing and he didn’t seem to really be learning much either.  At home, between meals and little tasks, he sat in a chair waiting.  His more aggressive behaviors had been reined in, making him more manageable, but as a 9-year-old boy, it was clear there needed to be much more to his life than that.

I could probably fill a book with the things we’ve done with L in the last year, like going to the beach for his birthday and visiting a dentist for the first time, and the ways we’ve seen him begin to really live, to thrive.

Once school let out for summer break, we decided it would be better for me to homeschool L, rather than returning to the village school.  When we started, L was struggling to complete simple wooden peg puzzles, he did not know how to properly hold a pencil, and I could only keep him focused for a few minutes at a time before he would see a leaf or something that he needed to go sweep off the patio.  Other than reciting the Creole vowel sounds, he didn’t know his letters or numbers.  I won’t bore you with the tedious details between then and now, but he never ceases to amaze me.  Anything new is pretty hard for L, but within a short time, he starts to get the hang of it, especially now that he doesn’t get frustrated as easily and has learned some patience and perseverance to begin mastering new skills.  Now, L can write all the capital letters including his name and he can copy some words up to three letters.  He can count in groups up to 10, cut with a scissors, name circles, squares, and triangles, sort by shape and color, and complete interlocking puzzles up to 48 pieces.  L is becoming more creative with his magnetic building tiles, and likes to play with playdough and legos.

Wilson and I attend church in the village a couple times a month.  Most often L comes with us and has done exceptionally well.  He likes to sing and clap to some of the songs, put money in the offering basket, and eat Smarties.  Even when we’re there up to two hours, he usually doesn’t have trouble sitting through the whole service.  He couldn’t go a few minutes without spitting before, but L doesn’t need to bring his handkerchief to church at all anymore.  Eliminating the spit towel is one of the things Wilson wanted to be sure I shared.  L used to saturate several hand towels a day.  To be honest, it was really gross!  My insides cringes if those towels ever touched me.  Okay, maybe my outsides too, sometimes!  I remember pushing him on the swings one day and the spit towel fell on the ground.  His immediate instinct was to try to catch it even at the cost of falling face-first off the swing.  I did catch him, but he was so strongly tethered to those towels for some reason.  The fact that he only spits in the bathroom or in the grass, at considerably reduced frequency, is such real and tangible evidence of how far L has come.

Seeing L socialize more and form healthy attachments has been wonderful.  He and Wilson have a special relationship and wherever Wilson goes, L wants to be there too.  They cook together, watch soccer games, go on moto rides, check on things at the shop, lounge on the couch, whatever it is, they love to be together.  Wilson always says when L leaves, he wants another kid just like him J L has come alive in other relationships as well.  Wilson’s nephew, SonSon, comes over from time to time so they can eat and play together.  We recently hired the first male nanny, Frandy, who taught L to ride a bike and will play ball with him for hours at a time.  L is always looking out for the other kids in our house, too.  This used to manifest itself more roughly and aggressively, but he has gotten quite gentle, especially with little J.  M hates naptime, but if L and M are in the bedroom together, they can make each other laugh for hours.  I have grown quite attached to L myself.  Because of school, more of my time is spent with him than with any of the other kids, and we recently started exercising together, running with the Couch-to-5k program.  The nannies sometimes tease me about the affection I give him, like how I carry him to bed each night after our family Bible reading.  But I don’t know how much or how little affection he got during the first 6 years of his life.  I imagine there is some catching up to do, and I am grateful I get to be part of the process of doing that, that I get to love him and be a witness to a piece of God’s beautiful story written in his life.

One day, when L leaves to join his forever family, I know Wilson and I will shed many tears.  The Promise House will simply not be the same without L and, having experienced similar pain saying goodbye to some very special kids before (read about them here and here), I can only imagine the pain we will feel.  However, I also know that pain will pale in comparison to the great joy of L being united with his Forever Family, the perfect family God chose especially for him, chosen before I met L, before he or I were even born.  We continue to pray that God would use us to prepare L as much as possible for his family.

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Posted by on February 21, 2017 in Life in Haiti, Sheila, The Kiddos, Wilson

 

Freedom of Speech

So, I started writing the next installment of the One Year in the Promise House series, this time about J and K, and this just came out instead.

J and K came to live at Children of the Promise (COTP) years before I did, when they were still babies, and have been some of the few constants in an ever changing landscape over the last five years.  Before coming to be the nurse at COTP, I had very little experience with kids with special needs, but I quickly grew to love these two boys and their friends.  I learned a lot from them, about God, about myself, about humility, about unconditional love.  And in no small part because of them, I found my voice.  Perhaps related to being a middle child, I definitely had a go-with-the-flow attitude, and would rather be at peace with those I loved and others around me than share my opinion.  To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I had an opinion about many things.  I was already starting to delve into this part of myself before coming to Haiti, but there’s something about being with someone who actually doesn’t have a voice that puts your own vocal discovery on fast forward.  How could I keep quiet when these children I cared so deeply about needed to be heard?  How could I let them stagnate without getting the therapy they needed?  How could I let the rain drip on them through holes in the roof while they tried to sleep night after night?

The verse God has pressed into my heart since the beginning of this journey is Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”  We are free.  Free to have an opinion.  Free to have a voice.  At least in some parts of the world, we have freedom of speech.  But how do we use our freedom?  To shout our opinions from the rooftops, our own needs and desires from the mountaintops?  To shame and slander those who disagree with us or whose needs and desires compete with ours?  Or do we use our freedom to give a voice to the voiceless?  To advocate fiercely for the oppressed, the forgotten, the downtrodden?  To serve one another in love?  To serve one another humbly in love?  An important distinction, that is.  I’m quite certain the passage does not say “do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, speak up for others so you look like a good person.”  My boys, J, K have taught me much about truly selfless love.  Not to say I’m always that great at it, but that it is worth striving for, that I will never stop trying to serve them humbly in love.

God has given me a voice, I know this now.  And I know that He has called me to use that voice to speak up for children in Haiti with special needs, to make sure that those considered weaker and less honorable are treated with special honor (1 Corinthians 12:23), to serve J and K and their friends humbly in love.  And now that I know this, I will not waste my freedom, I will not choose another path.

I choose to believe that many of you are already using your freedom to serve others humbly in love.  Please tell us how you’ve been called to use your freedom, who you are giving a voice to, who you are serving humbly in love.  Not to pat yourself on the back, but to set a spark or fan the flame in someone else, to encourage one another, and to give praise to the One who called us to be free.

I also believe that some of you have yet to discover your voice, or have yet to discern how best to use it.  Pray (or meditate or think); who does your heart break for?  Who is oppressed, forgotten, or downtrodden and you simply can’t stand to see things continue as they are?  What are you going to do about it?  How will you use your freedom?

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Haitian Reflections, Life in Haiti, Prayer, Sheila

 

One Year in the Promise House – Part One

One Year in the Promise House – Part One

One year ago today, Wilson and I arrived back in Haiti to be house parents of the Promise House at Children of the Promise.  We knew we would be caring for 8 kids with special needs, some of whom we knew quite well, some we had only met briefly, but all of whom we had been praying fervently for and preparing our hearts and minds for throughout the previous year.  We were alive with hope, full of dreams and plans, but also anxious about the difficulties we would face, both expected and unforeseen.  We knew one thing for certain; God had placed a call on our hearts that we simply could not ignore.

I wrote to my mom and sister our first night in the Promise House, which I like to read from time to time.  If we don’t look back to where we started, it’s impossible to see how far we’ve come.

“We knew the physical space was less than ideal, but I was more concerned about the location than anything.  We will take pictures tomorrow, because it’s a bit hard to explain the state of things.  The kitchen sink is falling out of its hole in the counter, the dish rags are disgusting, and there are cockroaches everywhere.  In the sink, on the counter, in every crevice of the only 2 dining room chairs that sit at the table.  There is so little food in the house that we didn’t have anything to cook for dinner, so we got leftovers from the volunteers upstairs.  The couch, the old one from the girl’s apartment, is so dirty and is torn to shreds.  The arm rests are just draped open to the wood and cardboard and foam and whatever else a couch is made of.  I haven’t gone in the kids’ bathrooms yet because Wilson warned me of the stench after he checked inside.  According to the nannies, all the kids and nannies beds have bed bugs and nobody sleeps well at night because of it, the kids wake up with bumps all over them.”

This was before we discovered the two mice nests, one in the couch and one in the oven.  Improving the physical space we live in started almost immediately, but it has definitely been more of a marathon than a sprint.  We did kill all 15 mice in our first 2 weeks, and have only a few stray ones since then, which is to be expected when COTP is surrounded by sugar cane fields.  The cockroaches took a few more months to beat, but we are so grateful to be rid of them as well.  The bed bugs are still an issue, though not for lack of trying.  Attacking that issue is one of our goals for the 2017.

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sit here to snuggle with our kids??

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It took us weeks to get the courage to cook in this kitchen

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It’s difficult to bathe a 9-year-old with CP here!

Ridding the house of pests was just the beginning.  Wilson has worked tirelessly on so many other things in the house.  Doorways are now wheelchair accessible.  The two kids’ bathrooms were completely gutted, one to make a laundry and storage room, the other became a completely accessible bathroom with a roll-in shower and padded changing station.  Each child has a hook for their own loofah instead of sharing communally, with the same for towels.  We switched to cloth wipes and are using only cloth diapers as well.  A special sprayer sink was added to rinse off the diapers before putting them in the washing machine.  Clotheslines were installed on the roof so everything dries in just a few hours.  For rainy days, we have a dryer converted to propane, so we can stay on top of the laundry.

16684453_10100330904341955_2122398730_nAfter some deep cleaning in the bedrooms, mattresses were replaced and open-faced closets were added for the kids’ clothes, shoes, and linens.  The worn and stained clothes were replaced with new and new-to-us items that had been sent down on the bus.  All the kids who needed special braces were fitted for them and now have AFO’s for their feet, and hand/wrist/arm braces as needed.

The kitchen got a new sink with some retiling where needed.   The chest freezer that was acting as a fridge, is actually a freezer again as someone had donated a new refrigerator.  Once we got the stove/oven thoroughly cleaned, the oven didn’t actually work, so we inherited one from another house.  Pantry shelves were built and food storage bins were added.  For those who can sit up, appropriate seating has been added to the kitchen table.  A half-wall now separates the kitchen from the living room for the safety of our kids and their growing curiosities.

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16652826_10100330909391835_689013740_nThe living room got some new paint and a new couch.  A video projector was installed for family movie nights.  All the kids now have appropriate wheelchairs and we also have mats, bean bags, and exercise balls for play and therapy.  Old and broken toys have been replaced by new, engaging toys, and a library of books now sits in our own bedroom so they are protected from busy little hands between story times.  Fans were fixed and dead or missing light bulbs were replaced.

The backyard has been fenced in, adding a door from the laundry room to the yard.  A cement pad was laid for chairs and a new BBQ that Wilson made from an old propane tank.  A hammock rests between palm trees and a new swing set of special needs swings has been donated.  The initial work has been started on replacing the septic system, another project for 2017.

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But a house is not a home without the family who lives in it.  Stay tuned for Part 2 and I’ll tell you all about our kids and the progress they’ve made in the last year!

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2017 in Life in Haiti, Sheila, Wilson

 

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas from the Promise House!

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our kids got so many gifts from their generous sponsors

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Haitian Christmas with grilled goat, fried plantains, rice & beans

Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.
 
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Posted by on December 28, 2016 in Holidays, Life in Haiti, Sheila, The Kiddos, Wilson

 

H is 3 and K is 9!

I’ve gotten a little behind on posting birthdays, so I’ll catch you up on the last two.  H is the youngest in our house and recently turned 3.  K is one of our older boys and just turned 9.  We took each of them to Villa Cana, the local hotel with a pool that seems to have become our most popular birthday destination.

Sweet H does not show much outward response to stimulation or interaction.  If left alone with nothing to see or do, H will usually just recline quietly in her chair until she gets hungry or uncomfortable.  But as we’ve said before, we did not move back to Haiti into the Promise House just to sustain life.  We came so these kids could thrive, so they could experience the love of a family and we could help them work toward their full potential.  To that end, we just pour as much love into H as we can and try to provide her with new sensations and experiences.  H hasn’t shown us a full smile yet, but she got pretty close when Wilson was playing with her in the water.  The water is usually a calming environment for our kids and H was no exception.  The only time she fussed was for the moments we were setting up lunch before I could actually feed her.  But hey, who doesn’t get a little cranky when they’re hungry, right?

K can be a tricky kid to understand with various medical issues that can cause pain and discomfort and such a limited ability to communicate.  When we moved into the Promise House, K was fussy most of the time, crying and clenching and arching his whole body.  The nannies told us that was just kind of normal for him.  After a lot of trial and error, guessing right and guessing wrong, small victories and not-so-small frustrations, K’s baseline has become much calmer and he seems considerably more comfortable most of the time.  When we got here 10 months ago, taking K outside COTP, especially through mealtime, was too daunting a task to even attempt.  We are so grateful that we were able to celebrate his birthday and actually have a really pleasant day with K.  The water was a bit chilly, but even when he started getting cold, K was still not as stiff and fussy as he once had been just sitting in his chair at home.  This was also the first time we’ve given K a g-tube feeding away from home.  I think the staff at Villa Cana are seeing and experiencing a lot of new things with each of the kids we bring, and hopefully it is putting a positive light on special needs in Haiti.  We praise God for K and for the opportunity to know him, love him, and learn from him.

Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site.  Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise.
 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in birthdays, Life in Haiti, Sheila, The Kiddos, Wilson

 

Nou sonje ou, Nikensly

Nou sonje ou, Nikensly

What an honor to have known and even cared for Nikensly Pierre.   I met Nik when I moved to Haiti in 2011 as COTP’s nurse.  Most recently, Wilson and I were his house parents in the Promise House.  It seems impossible to reduce everything that was so special about Nikensly to a blog post, but I also want everyone to see just how amazing our little boy was.

Nik was quite possibly the coolest kid I knew.  He was cool in an I-know-who-I-am-and-don’t-need-to-apologize-for-it, I-do-what-I-want-to-do kind of way and he had this air of confidence and strength that you might miss if you were distracted by his laid-back, chill demeanor.  Nikensly loved everyone and everyone loved Nikensly.  His smile and laugh were so genuine and it was easy to get caught up in his good moods.  Almost the only time he wasn’t in a good mood was when he got really hungry, which he always seemed to realize quite suddenly, and then quite loudly made sure everyone else realized it too.  He was our built-in alarm clock for mealtimes and he never shirked that responsibility.  He could really keep a beat, too, with his favorite drum being his belly, followed by a friend’s hand, and then the floor.  He could pat-a-cake along for hours to whatever songs I could think of.  I let him determine the tempo with his claps, and he always had a sly, gotcha giggle when he’d make me hold out one note for a really long time.  When I first met Nik, he was a two-year-old roly-poly little guy with so little muscle tone and control that we had no idea what his capabilities might be.   This year, as a seven-year-old, Nikensly could sit independently, he could hold his own water bottle to drink, he could get all around the house by laying on his belly and pulling himself with his arms or laying on his back and pushing himself with his feet.  With the right motivation, he could surprise and impress all of us.  And when he was done, he was done, as evidenced by his water bottle being flung across the room or the slow as molasses descent from sitting to lying that required more abdominal strength than I could ever hope to have.  Sometimes he would disappear very quietly, exploring different things and different rooms, but it never took long for him to give away his location.  First, he loved to slam doors.  If there were no doors slamming to indicate where he was, he would eventually start his jolly babbling, which was often echoed by a chorus of grownups babbling along.

But there is no more babbling, no more sly giggling and no more endless games of pat-a-cake.  On November 18, 2016 Nikensly passed away in his sleep.  That day, like all the days before, was prepared in advance before Nikensly was even born.  We have mourned the sudden loss of our sweet boy and will continue to do so, but though we mourn, we do not despair.  Nikensly’s life is worthy of celebration but his new life with the one who knows him inside and out is perhaps even greater cause for celebration.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.  Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.  Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. (Psalm 84)

Blessed is Nikensly, who is ever praising the Lord Almighty.

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Posted by on December 13, 2016 in Haitian Reflections, Sheila, The Kiddos

 

Advent

Last week I had the honor of speaking in chapel at my alma mater, Valley Christian.  This is what I shared at the middle school.

 

I’m lying in a big field of grass.  I love looking at the blue sky and all the funny shapes in the puffy clouds.  I love the feeling of the soft grass underneath me and I feel a little breeze tickling my nose.  It’s still pretty early in the day and the coolness of the grass feels good when I know the sun will make me very hot in a little while.  I can hear some kids talking and laughing on the other side of the field.  Maybe they’re on their way to school.  Or maybe it’s Saturday.  I wish those kids would come a little closer so I could hear what they’re laughing about and maybe I would think it’s funny too.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been here, but the sun is warming up and I’m starting to feel a little pebble in the grass under my left shoulder.  Once you notice something like that, it’s hard to get your mind off it, you know?  Every minute I lie here, I think it just digs deeper into my skin, like that pebble knows how hot it will be in a little while and it’s looking for a nice shady spot to spend the day.  Find another spot, pebble!  I just need something else to take my mind off of it, and then it won’t bother me so much.  Think about the soft grass, think about the pretty clouds, don’t think about the pebble.  Don’t think about the pebble.  Well, there’s something different, a little tickle on my leg.  Tickles feel better than poky pebbles, so I’ll think about that.  The tiny little tickle is moving around my leg and hey, I think I feel a few more now.  All kind of tickly and moving this way and that on my leg and, oh, now there’s one on my tummy and a few on my arm, too.  Uh oh.  I’ve felt this before.  You know what I think this is?  Ants!  This could turn out one of three ways for me.  I’m really hoping for the first way, which is the ants get bored and find somewhere else to march around.  The second way is they call in the rest of the ants and pretty soon the tickles are just itchy and irritating because there are too many of them.  But the third way, I really, really hope it’s not the third way.  Because the third way is they are not regular ants.  The third way is fire ants.  They never bite right away, they kind of wait until they’re all ready in position and then they all bite together.  I don’t know how such an itty bitty little insect can give me such big, terrible pain.  I gotta get my mind off these ants.  Okay, think about the pebble.  Think about the pebble.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking.  Sit up!  Roll off that pebble and brush those ants away!  Don’t just lie there in the grass!  Right?  And you know what, I wish with all my heart that I could.  I tell my hand over and over to brush off those ants, to reach for that pebble, I will it with all my might, but it just doesn’t work.  Every so often, I can get my hand to move, but it never goes where I want it to.  It never does anything useful for me.  And I wish with all my heart that I could call out to those kids over there.  Even if I can’t get myself out of this, they could at least move me away from the ants and the pebble.  Oh man, if they would stay with me for a while!  But that’s probably asking too much.

Anyway, let me start over, from the beginning.  I never knew my mother.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I spent 8 months inside her tummy.  I think I was supposed to stay longer, but I didn’t really have much choice in all that.  I could tell then how much she loved me.  I could feel her love warming me and nourishing me.  I could hear her voice, and though I couldn’t make out the words, I knew she was talking to me.  I was so happy.  We were so happy.

But after I was born, I never saw her.  I’m pretty sure of that, since I never heard someone with her same beautiful voice.  Nobody ever told me what happened to my mother who loved me.  Maybe they didn’t think I would understand.  And actually, I’m not sure I want to know.  After seeing the reactions of some other people who met me, maybe she stopped loving me after she saw me and wanted to have a new and better family instead.  But I also hear about many mothers who die when they have babies, and that would mean I killed her, right?  I don’t want it to be either of those things, so most of the time I try not to think about my mother at all.

I live with my dad.  I love him.  He’s the only dad I have.  And I think he tries to be a good dad,  but when I look in his eyes, he’s usually not looking back at me.  His eyes are tired and kind of empty.  Sometimes, his eyes are frustrated or even angry.  I’m pretty sure that’s my fault.  I think he probably agrees with me that it’s my fault mother’s not here anymore.  But sometimes, sometimes when he looks at me, I see love.  My insides are full of butterflies when I see love in his eyes.  I want to give him a huge hug.  If he would just lift me into his lap, I could lean into my dad and hear his heart beating and try to match my breathing to his and that might even be better than a hug.  I try to let him know that I see his love and that I love him too, to make the love stay in his eyes.  I want to do whatever I can to make him happy, to make him proud of me.  I want more than anything to make my dad proud.  It’s hard to think of how I could do that.

The thing is I’m different than the other kids.  I hear them say “handicapped” a lot and it never sounds like a good thing.  My right arm and leg can move around a little, but never where I tell them to.  My left arm and leg are stuck in a sort of bent position.  It feels sore and crampy most of the time.  Sometimes when they wash me up really good, they start to stretch out my arms and legs.  That feels sooo good!  It seems like everyone else can take care of themselves, but I need someone to feed me, to dress me, to clean me up after I make a mess in my shorts.  My voice never seems to make it out of my mouth, so I can’t tell anyone when I need something.  I just have to wait for them to notice.  Sometimes that takes a while so I tried out some different ways to get their attention.  I tried kind of wiggling my body and I figured out how to make a loud noise like yelling.   I guess other people don’t like when I do those things, because when I get too loud or wiggly, dad makes me drink something that really burns my throat when I swallow.   Then I feel kinda funny and tired for a while, but I’m not loud or wiggly.

All the neighbors go to school, but nobody ever took me there.  It’s not far away, so I can hear them reciting their lessons.  Sometimes I wonder what kind of things I could learn in school.  I’ll probably never find out, though.  There are some other kids who don’t go to school.  They are helping their moms and dads by working in the garden or selling things in the market.  If I can’t go to school, I wish I could help my dad.  Maybe that would make him happy.  He goes to work sometimes.  I know it’s hard to find work to do every day.  He tried to take me with him one day when I was littler.  I think he was making cement blocks that day.  I’m not sure what I did wrong but if dad wanted to work there again, he couldn’t bring me along anymore.  Of course, he still has to work.  How else will we eat and pay for our room in this house?  So when he hears about some work he can do, I stay home.  As he’s leaving in the morning, I can see many things in his eyes.  I see relief, and sadness, and guilt.  Sometimes I can tell he’s trying not to look at me when he leaves.  Probably because he doesn’t like feeling sad and guilty.  I guess I’m pretty good at noticing other people’s feelings.  I just wish someone else could know mine.  I wish someone knew how much I love hearing the church music that drifts down to my house on Sunday mornings, how I wish I could clap and dance when I hear the music or even go to church and hear the music up close.  I wish someone knew how much it hurts when I’m lying in one place all day, how my bones feel like they’ll push right through my skin and my skin starts feeling numb and bruisey.  I wish someone knew how smart I am, how I understand what everyone is saying, the good things and the mean things and the in between things.  I wish someone knew how much I miss my mother, how sorry I am because it’s my fault she’s not here.  I wish someone knew how much I love my dad, and how I want more than anything to feel him loving me back.

That reminds me, where is my dad?  It must’ve been a few hours since he brought me here to this field.  I’m used to being in our room alone, but I don’t get outside very often, especially not by myself.  My dad should be back by now, shouldn’t he?  Maybe if I get loud and wiggly, someone will notice me here.  Maybe they’ll know where my dad went.  Right?  And then he’ll come back, right?  He’ll come to find me? We’ll go back home together?  Dad?

 

Advent season has just begun, which marks a time of waiting expectantly for the birth of Jesus.  The miracle of Christmas is that Jesus came to save us, right?  “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death” Hebrews 2:14.  But there’s another aspect of Christmas that’s really, really special.  When you listened to the boy’s story, you settled into his skin in the grassy field and got a glimpse of what his life, his mind, his heart are really like.  His joys and pleasures, his pain and loneliness, his hope and longing, his guilt and fear.   You could almost feel that pebble in your shoulder and the ants on your leg.  You started to feel the panic he felt not knowing if his dad would come back for him.  You began to understand or empathize with him and that understanding fills you with compassion for him.  But God isn’t just imagining what our lives are like.  He doesn’t just think about the joys, sorrows, and temptations that we experience.  No, “The word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14).  He willingly took on human form.  He put on bones and skin and started right from the beginning, listening to Mary’s loving voice from her womb.  If we pick up where we left off in Hebrews 2, we read this: “16-18 It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.”  Another translation says “he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God.”  Jesus’ role as high priest makes him the mediator between us and God, but we don’t have a mediator that doesn’t really understand what we’re going through.  We have a mediator who is compassionate and merciful because he chose to put on human flesh and understands exactly what we’re going through.

So what is the pebble in your shoulder?  What is bothering you or hurting you?  What are your hopes and dreams?  What do you feel guilty about and what do you fear?  What is it you think nobody else really understands?  Isn’t it wonderful that God the Father sees all these parts of you, but God the Son, our high priest and mediator, actually feels them?

 

I don’t want to leave you all hanging in suspense, because the story I told you is actually a true story.  That little boy never saw his dad again.  The field where he was lying is across the street from Children of the Promise, where I work with my husband in Haiti.  The guy who checks people in at the gate saw him later that day and we admitted him into our care.  Many times our social workers have looked for his dad.  They’ve found his neighbors and heard bits and pieces about their life through them.  And now he lives with us in the Promise House.  A special house at Children of the Promise for kids who need extra help and care, who don’t have biological families to care for them anymore, and have a harder time finding families to adopt them than some of the more “typical” kids.  Even when our efforts to communicate with our kids and understand their needs fall short, they have a merciful and faithful high priest who fully understands them.  You and I, we have a merciful and faithful high priest who understands us when we feel like nobody else does.