January 20, 2010

Sometimes it strikes me just how much of our lives we spend waiting: waiting for that phonecall from that boy, waiting for funds for that trip, waiting for a spot in that class, waiting for grades, waiting for a job, waiting for a paycheck from that job, waiting for flights - waiting for feelings to come or go, waiting in traffic, waiting to see our mothers - waiting for broken relationships to be restored, or the truth to come out. Waiting in line. Waiting for things to come around...waiting our turn. 

Sometimes we wait for things that don't make sense.

Sometimes we wait for things that we shouldn't be waiting for.

Sometimes we wait around too long.

Sometimes we don't wait long enough.

And then, sometimes? Sometimes we get called to wait - and it's a privilege. We get asked to hold on, buckle up - and wait for something amazing that might happen - and to let ourselves feel the pain and the agony and to just keep moving forward with a "maybe."

Sometimes we get called to wait for an answer that will eventually be a "no."

I did that a couple years ago. It's really, really hard.

My freshman year of college I waited to find out if a little orphanage in Haiti would accept me as a live in volunteer for the summer. Then, I waited for funds to come in. After that, I waited for the day to come when I would leave. I boarded a plane after waiting at JFK. After flying into Florida, I waited for a team to meet me. After meeting up with that team of people, I waited with my nose stuck to the window to see Haiti.

Once I got to Haiti, I waited to see what my purpose was in being there. You'd think it would be easy - get on a plane, go help orphans. But doing puzzles and brushing teeth doesn't always feel like calling, and it took me a few weeks to realize that I was already living out what I had been waiting for. My third week, I met Spend, the little boy everyone knows I fell in love with and started writing letters to my parents about.

After that, I waited for him to fall asleep before I left the room. I waited for him to wake up so I could come get him. I waited for him to start smiling, I waited to hear his voice.

And then? I waited to hear his screams the day that I left. That day, I didn't have to wait for the tears to come. I stood on the stairs to my plane with people behind me pushing and I sobbed.

That night, back in New York, I sat on the closed toilet seat in my bathroom waiting and praying that my parents would make a decision I didn't think was possible. I went into their room at 3 am hysterical telling them that I wanted him, and I wasn't okay with him having a different family.

I woke up the next morning waiting for their decision, and I cried when my mom said she wasn't okay with him having a different family either. After that, I started waiting till I could see him again. I waited for papers to come through. I waited for my mother to hear his laugh.

I waited in an airport again, this time with my mom. I waited for a team again, got on a plane again with my nose stuck to the window - and waited while we drove to the same orphanage. That week, I waited for Spend to bond with my mom. A week later and I was waiting to hear his screams again when we left. Mom and I started quietly waiting together for answers that week when someone asked us if Mom and Dad would consider also adopting Beta.

A third trip, and I waited for Spend to warm up to my brother. In the midst of overwhelming pain and confusion, I waited for Spend's mom to come and make a decision on whether she would continue to let us adopt him. I waited for a translator to tell me what she was saying.

I waited for her to leave so I could have him to myself.

I waited for his coughing to stop at night when we found out he had asthma. Once he went to sleep, I sat on a balcony with Beta most nights and waited for her to laugh while I pointed out flowers and practiced creole. I waited and didn't tell her that she might have a family when she cried a lot about being lonely without a "Mama Beta." I thought, while I held her, about how I used to pray for a sister when I was a little girl. I'd scrunch my eyes closed, and I'd fold my hands. I used to kneel cause I thought that would make the prayer stronger. Maybe he'd hear me. By age 12, I had decided that God made me the kind of girl who just needs brothers. As a 19-year-old girl sitting in the middle of Port-au-Prince with a little girl pointing out stars, I thought that maybe He had heard my eight year old self.

After we got home, I waited for Spend's mom to make a decision. I waited for news. She decided to take him. I waited for him to come back.

I waited for an answer that would be "no," and it was the hardest no I've ever heard - it resounded, back and forth, against the walls of my heart. It stayed there throughout my trip to Africa the next summer. As I sat waiting in the Ugandan airport to fly home, I cried knowing that I was still waiting for the hole inside me that Spend left to be filled.

And then I waited for news of Beta. I waited to find out why I had gone to Haiti. I thought I had answers, and I accepted them - maybe God had taken me so that Spend's mom would want him again. Maybe I went for all the sponsorships that people started after I got back and told them about the kids I had worked with. Maybe I went just so I could change.

Sophomore year, I waited, and I heard no news of Beta.

Junior year, I waited - and I heard no news of Beta.

Senior year - I mostly gave up on my parents adopting, and purposed to only date people who would be interested in adoption like I am. "This is going to have to be my thing," I thought. Mom was bummed. We all kept praying.

Actually, a lot of the time, I forgot to pray. I didn't think God was really going to make anything happen.

I ruined a few first dates. We're not talking like three - we're talking like six. It's just an awkward thing to say in between talking about movies and what kind of music you like - "So, I'd really like to adopt orphans from overseas someday."


But let's be honest, it's a great litmus test.

This week the waiting started again. News of the earthquake and I waited to hear that people I loved were alive. News of orphans being let go - and I held my breath. News that Bethany might come. My mom called and woke me up needing the dates I was there, and pictures of me and Beta. I waited to find out if she was coming. We all waited for someone to provide a plane.

I waited to hear she was really coming. I waited to hear my parents were with her. I waited to know if she remembered me. I waited to hear her say "Hi Shanley."

When I heard her say it - across that phone line - I knew that that's what I had been waiting for all along. And, once again, I didn't have to wait for the tears (I'm a crier - I know it, now you know it - we can all just know it together and move forward now).

I waited to find out when I would get to see her. I waited to find out if I could afford it - and how I would.

A family of little adopted girls donated their frequent flier miles that had been reserved for their next trip to disneyland to me this week so I could go see my sister, and it was then that it hit me that my faith is so SO small (whoever you are, wherever you are, you made my decade - and I wish I knew you).

I'm waiting, now, to find what time I should fly in on Monday to see my sister for the first time in two years.

I see, so clearly now, that our desires are given before they will be fulfilled - and that God does that on purpose. I think He leaves empty spaces in us so that He can fill them. The calls that don't come in, the jobs that don't start, the funds that are lacking, the children that we want for our families - all these things remind us of something bigger. If desires came and were filled - stat - who would look for something bigger?

Certainly not me.

And if desires were fulfilled as soon as they started, I don't think they would grow like they do. I don't think the desire to see my girl would be filling my whole heart. I don't think thankfulness would be filling all of my thoughts. I don't think I'd be jumping out of bed every morning thanking God for how amazing my life is. I don't think I'd be being blown away - over and over again - by the miracles that I am being given.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've been waiting for a long time - and now I'm living the dream. And that next time? I want to believe a lot stronger that miracles happen, and that when God says that His ways are higher than my ways?

He means business...

She's going to change my whole life.

You're going to be hearing A LOT about her.

I can't wait to start.

(photos mine and Elizabeth Huijskens, you can find more photos of her day via Deborah Silver).


Sarah Nicole said...

Wow. This is amazing. I'm so excited for you to meet your baby sister. My younger brother and sister are adopted from Thailand, even though I was much younger, I remember the waiting. It was exciting. They are amazing and I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world.

Michelle said...

Beautiful, Shanley! Absolutely....beautiful!!

Greg's Wife said...

I've never had my heart smashed to bits and thought it felt GOOD. Until I read this.

Claire said...

I don't know you but I am soo ridiculously excited for you and your family!! What a HUGE gift of love.

Austin said...

This is SO unbelievably beautiful. Really, from the sounds of it, it has given a sense of restoration to your did the same to mine. Thank you.

Phoenix said...

This is such a beautiful made my cold rainy day a lot sunnier.