Tonight our house seems very quiet. No little feet are scampering around bringing me hugs and little toys. No women are sitting by the fire crocheting their blankets. My daughter is back in her own room sleeping comfortably in her bed. My heart feels very full and yet a little like there is an empty space in it.
After we got home from the airport, my family and I sat around the table eating bowls of ice cream and talking about what we will miss about our Ugandan friends. No one will yell, "Welcome Home," every time we walk in the door. I will miss seeing the excitement on Jean and Kellen's faces when they experience something new like seeing the falling snow. Graham will miss playing with his little buddy, Isabella. We will all miss their presence in our home.
Yes, there will be no little girls fighting over toys, no more extra dishes to wash (although they always washed the dishes for me), no extra people to tote to and from the store, but we will miss them so much.
Thinking of how we may never see them again makes my heart so heavy and sad, but then I recall what a privilege it was to be a part of their experience here in Canada. A little girl is going back home with a heart restored to full health. A mama can now send her daughter to school knowing her heart is strong enough to withstand the long walk to and from school. A daddy can sleep a little easier every night with the sense that his little girl is not fighting another infection or struggling to get oxygen to all parts of her body.
Tonight, I said goodbye to Isabella with the assurance that the hole in her heart has been repaired. Yet, at the same time, a hole is forming in my own heart because of the void left in her absence. I will allow that empty space to remind me of three precious ladies that I love so much returning to Uganda. I will pray for them and think of them often. I hope Isabella will grow up sharing with her brothers and sister of how God worked a miracle in her heart. She'll get out the photo book we gave her and she'll recall her adventure in Canada. She will know that God most certainly has good plans for her life as she remembers when He filled the hole in her heart.
With the emptiness that I feel comes a longing for more and a gratefulness of what God allowed my family to be a part of. I know the peace and joy that comes from being the hands and feet of Christ. I've experienced being a part of something so much bigger than myself, and I do not want to be content to settle back into a life centered around me.
Tonight I will rest. Tomorrow I will enjoy a quiet day with my family. Next week, we will decorate our home for Christmas and go about the routine of school, work, and chores. I will allow God to renew my spirit because I am tired, but I will long for another day when our home will be filled yet again with more mouths to be filled, more voices to be heard, and more hearts to be loved.
Sweet dreams, Isabella, as you soar above the clouds tonight. Sweet hugs in the coming days as you greet your family. May your spirit remain sweet as you recall the goodness of your Father and His love for you. I'm so thankful I could be a part of your life. I welcome the hole in my heart because of you.
Monday, November 11, 2013
The last few weeks at our house have been intense. Isabella had her surgery and spent 6 days in the hospital. I will never forget the look on Kellen's face the night she returned to my home after her daughter's surgery. Pure relief and joy. Her daughter had been given another chance at life. With tears in her eyes, she told me thank you. I felt so humbled. I had done nothing but offer a place for her to stay, and I was amazed once again that God had caused our lives to intersect at this very moment.
"Better is one day in His courts than a thousand elsewhere."
To say being a host family has been all fun and no struggle is to be withholding the truth. There have been moments when I have asked myself, "What was I thinking to sign up for this?" Yet, God has given me many glimpses into why this is worth it.
One of those glimpses happened today at Isabella's follow-up appointment. Kellen, Jean, Isabella, and I were waiting in one of the examining rooms after hearing some good news that Isabella's progress was where it should be. Kellen looked at me and said, "I have nothing to give you but I want to thank you." Again, I felt completely humbled and unworthy of her gratitude. I told her what she has given me was in my heart. I told her I would never forget her or Isabella and I started to cry. She hugged me, and I wondered if she really understood all that she has given me.
She has given me the gift of being used, the gift of being clay in the Potter's hand, the gift of being an ordinary, broken piece of pottery. Yet, when the clay pot is broken, the treasure that is inside can spill out and bless others. She has given me the gift of perspective, the reminder of God's greatness and my plainness. She has given me the chance to be the hands and feet of Christ, and for that gift, I am the one that is grateful.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Isabella, you have stretched me, you have brought me before the throne of God over and over again, you have kept me on my knees pleading with God to bring you to Canada and to heal your heart. You have taught me life is not all about me. You have encouraged me to share about the goodness of God to others in a way I've never done before. You've given me the courage to tell people about the amazing God we serve. You have shown me the faith of a small child and how pleasing that is to the Father's heart. You have shown me gratitude and how to be thankful in all things. You have reminded me of how much I have and how much I could give. You have caused me to be uncomfortable, to be flexible, to share my home, my time, my space. You have shown me my weakness and complete dependance on my Father. You have touched my heart with your sweet hugs and the way your little hands pat my back when I we embrace. You have taught my children how to give, how to share, how to pray, and you have caused them to see their parents broken before God and calling on His strength. It is because of your little life that I am changed. My home, my children, my marriage, and my relationship with my God will never be the same. God is using your little life in mighty ways all around the world. Through the holes in your heart, He is bringing healing to mine. I pray your holes will be healed today, Isabella. I pray your life will forever be changed and you will grow into a woman who can't wait to tell others of the amazing work God has done in your life. I am completely and utterly grateful and humble that God brought you into my life and allowed me to be a part of yours. Our hearts are being knitted together.
Sunday, October 06, 2013
They came over to our house after church for lunch. Over roast beef and rice, we shared about our lives, and I heard about how Kellen walks one mile every day to retrieve water and then carry it on her head the mile home. She has no running water, no flush toilets, no electric stove. I will think about this now every time I turn on the water at my sink or cook something on my stove. How different our lives are, and yet we both our love our children with a fierce love. We both would go to great lengths to protect our babies, and we both work hard, in our own ways, to put a good meal on the table for our families.
After lunch, I got out a few items of clothing that I thought they might like, some for Isabella and some for Kellen. Oh, I had no clue how much this would bless them. I was simply cleaning out my closet and Lidiyanna's dresser getting rid of some things we no longer wore, but to them, it was a huge gift. Their eyes light up and they immediately started trying on the clothes. Isabella had been wearing some thing of her brother's, and to see her little smile when they slipped a light green dress with pink roses on over her head made my heart melt. She looked adorable and she knew it. It was a moment I do not want to forget.
When they left to go back to Anita's house this afternoon, my heart was full. We have so much here in North America. I am thankful for the perspective Isabella and her mommy gave me today. I want to live with less and give more. I want to choose a life of purpose over a life of comfort. I want to be stretched so I can love more. God is using Isabella's heart condition to work on the condition of my own heart. May it be so.
Friday, October 04, 2013
After several months of waiting and praying, Isabella received her visa and made her way to Canada arriving today. The kids and I met her, her mom, Kellen, and the interpreter, Jean at the airport. We brought them back to our house and fed them bowls of chicken tortilla soup. I think it may have been too spicy for their taste but they ate all of it. Before I could even get up, Kellen and Jean were at the kitchen sink washing the dishes. Graham said, "Wow, Mom, you are going to like this!" I was really touched by their willingness to help. They both seem so grateful, appreciative, and hard working. Yes, I think we are going to get along just fine!
Later after we had some time to unwind and get familiar with each other, I asked Kellen when she got to know God. It was through her daughter's heart condition that she sensed her need for God. She surrendered to Him and His plan for her life, and she placed her daughter in His hands. I am praying her faith is strengthened as she watches the Lord work. She has left behind two sons and a baby girl to accompany Isabella to Canada. This journey has not been easy for her and as she will have to watch her daughter undergo open heart surgery, there are more difficult days to come. Yet in her eyes, I see a warmth and strength. As I told her today that I had been praying for Isabella, our eyes met and I felt the connection between two mothers. Yes, I think we are going to get along just fine!
Monday, September 30, 2013
Our family has gotten involved with a ministry called Children's Heart Project sponsored by Samaritan's Purse. Children with heart defects born in countries where health care cannot provide the surgery they need are brought to North America so that they may receive the life-saving surgery. Anu, pictured below, is a precious and outgoing 16 month girl from Mongolia. She, her mom, and the translator are staying with a friend from my small group. Her surgery will be tomorrow.
We have had the joy of having her family over for dinner and spending some time together. What a sweet little girl she is!! Ziya, her translator, is a gift from God as she shares the love of Christ with Anu and her mom.
Last night, Ziya attended a concert at our church so Anu and her mom came over for dinner without her. I wondered how it would go not being able to talk with each other. No words are needed though when the children play together and love is shared through a meal and a walk to the park. What a beautiful picture of how God's love knows no boundaries.
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-19
Anu enjoying some chocolate ice cream.
Anu playing with the Franklin crew
Another precious girl will be coming from Uganda to have heart surgery. Isabella is four and will be arriving with her mom and translator on Friday. Our family will pick her up from the airport and have the privilege of hosting her in our home for part of her time in Canada. Her is an excerpt from an article written about her by the medical transporter that will be traveling with her. She wrote it before we knew Isabella has obtained her visa. She is coming now!!
A girl in Uganda who desperately needs heart surgery is waiting to receive a visa so she can travel to the U.S. While the transporter is waiting, she reflects on God's timing.
by Cindy Uttley, RN, MSN, who is on staff with Children’s Heart Project at Samaritan’s Purse. She has made many trips to Uganda, but this is her first trip with Children’s Heart Project. She and her husband David, a photographer for Samaritan’s Purse, met more than 25 years ago while working in Haiti.
Children’s Heart Project—until the last several days, this was only a project to me, a much needed program. I thought of it as a worthy recipient of the approval of prospective donor hospitals, a valuable investment in the life of a deserving child who would otherwise die.
But now, Children’s Heart Project is a little girl. I am in Uganda, waiting for a visa for this little girl, Isabella. We have not yet met. But I know she is 4 years old and that although her heart defect is relatively simple to repair, such repair is not available here. I also know that the window of opportunity for its repair is about to close.
In Uganda, the Samaritan’s Purse staff of Children’s Heart Project is doing everything humanly possible to expedite Isabella’s visa. Yet a series of unexpected hurdles have thrown up obstacles to obtaining the visa. Now that I am here to transport her to the waiting North American hospital and cardiac surgeon who will perform her surgery, I have been surprised by some of the delays. I would not expect that the only way to talk to the visa agency is to go in person. There is no phone number or website for tracking. I would not expect the visa application of a little girl urgently awaiting open heart surgery to be randomly selected for audit by a United Nations agency and sent to Canada. And I would certainly not expect a hostage situation in Nairobi to delay its delivery by courier to our office in Kampala, Uganda. And what do I make of Isabella’s mom? Certainly her wait has been more laden with fear and pain than anyone else invested in this process.
Yet, none of this is a surprise to God. He wants to be glorified in the wait. We have done everything we can. He does not want us to fret or struggle. He wants us to trust Him. We pray. We wait. We pray some more. We trust. I trust that He loves this little girl more than we who work so diligently on her behalf. He loves her so much more than her momma and papa do.
And I trust Him not to be late.
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Happy 6th Birthday, Wesley!!!
This has been a big year for you, Wesley. You completed Kindergarten in Canada, learned to swim and ride your bike without training wheels, and you bring us so much joy. We are happy to have you in our family. We love you!
Wesley has two really good buddies here in Canada, Harrison and Nolan. We invited these friends along with their families over for dinner Saturday night to celebrate Wesley's birthday. These boys have been really special to Wesley, and I'm so thankful for their friendships to our sweet boy.