I originally wrote this post yesterday morning, August 9, but didn’t immediately get it published. Then by the end of the evening my attitude changed. I’m still sharing what I thought then and adding in italicized print and parenthesis today’s thoughts.
Y’all, I am weary. (And now I am also finished.)
After celebrating my dad’s 80th birthday and visiting with family and friends in Texas, I came home Sunday with renewed vigor in my battle to advocate for Peanut’s health and welfare.
All my parents’ family was present except for Lawrence.
Oh, did I use the words “MY battle”?
Oops, I did it again.
Last month after our heart-breaking visit at Operation Smile with our (yes, I said OUR) gift-baby Peanut who was over two pounds lighter since leaving us and who had a full-blown case of miserably itchy scabies all over his dirty and stinky yet precious body, Lawrence and I went to the government authority to make a report about the sad state of health we and his healthcare providers found him to be experiencing.
Two days later Lawrence went to church. Although Lawrence didn’t understand anything our pastor spoke, God ministered to him through the passages in 2 Chronicles 20:15-30.
We studied and meditated over those verses for many days and knew God was speaking to us. Some of the very first words of the passage are, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
Well, I’m pretty much a coward. You’d think I would read that instruction and say to myself, “Whew, I’m glad to know I don’t have to go gettin’ all bloodied and wounded about this! I think I’ll just go about my business nurturing my men-boys and let (Let??? How big of me!) God direct Peanut’s life to its conclusion as it regards Lawrence and me, whether it’s to return him as is our fervent desire or, in His highest knowing of His plan for Peanut’s life, to not bring him back. I’ll just wait for the word from God that it’s time to stop praying EVERY SINGLE DAY over him and for his return because it’s not God’s purpose, and then I’ll choose to redirect my desire to come under the authority of His decision that we not be the people to raise him.” (And as that desire fades I’ll get to the place with Peanut that I’ve done with others who left my life – we all move on and he will move into the category of a memory that becomes more distant with the passage of time and a person who, when I think of him less and less, I’ll say a prayer like I do for other memory-people who come to my mind, and then move on about my day. I weep now as I think about that notion, but I have found that time does heal wounds.)
So, yeah, did ANY portion of that last paragraph make sense? Unfortunately, that’s how my brain functions 24/7.
In the days after July 6 I kept having our sweet translator make calls to DINAF (the government authority) while I made calls to Operation Smile to see what DINAF needed to do to obtain reports or even talk to the OS people, especially his pediatrician who was furious about his condition.
July 7 during the reporting visit to DINAF:
“We need reports from OS, but that takes time and in the meantime we will see if we can get Family to voluntarily bring him Monday so we can examine him and make a determination about whether he’s in a situation of immediate danger to his health and wellbeing.”
The week of July 10:
“Did Family show up with Pablo Monday as ordered on Friday?”
“No.” (We knew they wouldn’t – Mom, the alpha in the family who, by the way has no legal authority over Peanut, told us in a nasty phone call to our translator, among other accusations against Lawrence and me, that her lawyer told her she didn’t have to do what DINAF said and everybody needed to just leave her alone.)
“What is DINAF going to do about that?”
“We will give her another chance. We are waiting for the reports from Operation Smile.”
“Well, did you make written request to Operation Smile for written reports?”
“Remember, we told you last week we spoke to OS and they told us you are required to have a DINAF rep personally deliver a written request for narratives.”
“Oh, yeah. We will do that today.”
After the required days of waiting and knowing when Family was supposed to show up again:
“Did Family show up with Pablo?”
“What are you going to do about that?”
“We are going to send someone out to the house.” (Whatever that means.)
“Did you receive the reports from OS?”
Wait, wait, wait some more from Texas.
And then I come home August 6, fully refreshed to advocate for Peanut.
The gentle, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit says to me as He had in days gone by, “The battle is not yours, but God’s.”
“Okay, God. I hear ya.”
First thing Monday morning I made some phone calls to people concerning Peanut, and then we went to DINAF with no appointment to make sure they knew Peanut had an appointment at OS this week and to BEG them to send a DINAF representative to the appointment. We knew we weren’t going to be invited by the family after “snitching” to DINAF last month.
At this point let me make one thing very clear – DINAF is GROSSLY understaffed. All but one person we have encountered with that agency has been NOTHING but kind, understanding, and supportive of our love and advocacy for Peanut. They have been very patient with us, always given us an audience when we show up unannounced, and done their best to explain the protocol they are required to follow. AND THEY DON’T HAVE TO. Lawrence and I have absolutely no standing with DINAF or with Peanut and his biological family. That, folks, is God’s favor.
Now back to the story.
While we waited in the common area to speak with the DINAF doctor and the case manager, the strangest, most unexpected thing happened (a what-if scenario I played out in my mind every time we went to DINAF without the family’s knowledge.)
Peanut’s grandfather and his lawyer walked in. WITHOUT AN APPOINTMENT!
People might say, oh, how random, it’s kismet, whatever, whatever. But talk about a shocked Sharon! Lawrence said he wished he had a picture of my face. Apparently my jaw was lying on the floor and I had to scoop it back up and put it back into my mouth to be able to speak.
When we came into relationship with Peanut’s family, God gave me clear direction to never forget to only display love, kindness, understanding, and the other fruits of the spirit to them, no matter how we were treated in return. So I greeted Grandfather with a hug. I was genuinely glad to see him. We’ve always wanted to be as helpful to the family as we can, so I made sure to renew the offer through our basically non-bilingual friend we took with us that they were welcome to spend the night with us and we would be happy to drive them to the 7 am appointment. He declined the spending the night, as we knew he would, because there are other grandchildren in their home who have to be cared for and they can only leave the house for one day. Then he gave his number to our friend who would call him to find out if we needed to pick them up at the bus station. I inquired about Peanut, and he told me Peanut was sick with the gripe (basically a cold and common to people who live in the villages.)
When the lawyer found out the person they were there to see was unavailable, he left their paperwork and hurriedly ushered Peanut’s grandfather out of there and away from us.
I typed up questions for DINAF and Google translated them, so when we had our audience with the doctor and caseworker/lawyer, our friend got the answers that she could have Osman translate to us later, and we went on our way. We received some answers that were disappointing, but the main one was that even though DINAF said they would send a psychologist to Peanut’s appointment at OS since the doctor would be out of town, I just knew in my spirit there would be no representative there (there wasn’t) and we would not be invited by the family to be there (we weren’t).
After we left, I began the pesky mental conversations…
“God, what was that all about, that thing with Peanut’s grandfather showing up? You’ve told me over and over the battle is yours, not mine. I know, I know – bottom line is I don’t have any control in this situation but, God, I JUST DON’T WANT PEANUT TO FALL THROUGH THE DINAF CRACKS. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH! I know Family is not going to bring him in monthly as ordered in the papers, and DINAF is too busy to keep up with him. Father, he needs SOMEONE in the flesh to keep the wheel squeaking, doesn’t he, until DINAF no longer has any authority over him? Didn’t DINAF ask us to be the eyes and ears for Peanut because there’s not enough staff? Did I screw up something you had planned? Did my helpfulness (or willful disobedience to you, Lord) in going to DINAF, seeing the grandfather, and having them stress to him that they HAD to be there for that early appointment or they would be considered a no-show change their course and alter your plans? Because if they were a no-show, that would be the strike-three-and-you’re-out situation we were told about after we saw Grandfather. If we hadn’t been there, he wouldn’t have had those things stressed to him. Or were we supposed to be there at the same time? That seems a more reasonable thought in light of the concept of timing – coming from two places with all sorts of traffic situations, coming for two purposes, coming without appointments, and hitting the five-minute time frame just right – or wrong, etc., etc.”
By the end of the day, Lawrence and I were both thoroughly exhausted.
Tuesday I made the decision that I was finished – I quit – no more advocating. “I’m too tired to fight and, Lord, didn’t you say the battle is yours anyway? Lord, forgive me for fighting when maybe I shouldn’t have been, for advocating for this baby I love so much but you love more. I’ll just stay home, quit checking on the results of appointments, and continue praying until you tell me to stop petitioning you for his return. Lord, how can I dare complain about Peanut after hearing my friend’s niece miscarried the last gift from her husband who died a few weeks ago, now a double death and grieving for her, and hearing about my friend’s nine-month-old grandson who died the other day when he strangled in an improperly fastened car seat? At least Peanut’s alive, you love him more than I ever could, and you do have a plan for his life.”
So I went about my business for the day, the thought being that I would lie down to try to get rid of a ferocious headache so I could spend the afternoon preparing homemade lasagna and cookies as requested by Kevin for his 18th birthday. If I can’t love and nurture Peanut, I’m grateful to be able to love and nurture Kevin on his birthday.
Happy 18th birthday, Kevin!
Lawrence went about his business, but he got a phone call – from Peanut’s mother. He didn’t answer but called me instead. We didn’t have a translator available until the afternoon, so I sent her a Google-translated message that Osman would call her after school.
Osman called, Mother declined our offer to help them, we asked when we could visit Peanut again, she said maybe on September 14th (Let’s just grab a date out of the air, shall we?), we asked if we could visit Peanut in the waiting room at Operation Smile, she said no, that their lawyer told them to stay away from us.
At that point we told her we would not call her again, to which she said thank you, but to please remember that we always love Peanut and are available should they need us and to please call. And then, y’all, I just couldn’t help it – I had Osman tell her that although we knew she had said very mean things about us, it was okay (meaning we forgive her) because we love Peanut and always will. She then hung up.
Lawrence and I knew on July 6, while we were with the family, that day would be the last day we would be welcomed to help them or welcome to see Peanut. They had a baby they had not taken care of properly; we knew it, they knew we knew it, and they knew Operation Smile knew it. It was time for them to go into hiding and try to recover his health before presenting him to anyone in authority over them.
So although the phone call from Mother was not a surprise, it was still a rejection and it sucked big-time.
And Lawrence and I weren’t the only ones in our house to be rejected Tuesday – might as well get several rejections in the household done in one fell swoop, cry about it, and move on down the road.
After the phone call I went back to the kitchen and, through tears, snot, and sniffles, continued working on Kevin’s meal. The tears hit my shirt throughout the afternoon but never fear, snot didn’t make its way into the food.
Before bed Lawrence and I prayed over Peanut as we have every single night since June 2 and we generally talked about things concerning him, God’s plan, the events of the day, etc.
I resolved to not make another phone call, ever, to anyone, ever again about Peanut.
“God, you said the battle is yours. I now willfully obey you.”
So I woke up this morning (Wednesday) – That’s a good sign, right? – and checked that albatross called mobile phone.
We have a good friend, Jeremiah Gibson, who writes near-daily words of encouragement based on Bible verses. They pop up into my phone in the early mornings. Today’s theme is based on Psalm 84:5-7 and entitled Strength to Strength.
“Daily Encouragement –
My child, I am giving you strength for today as you come close to Me!!! No matter the circumstances you may face today, draw near to Me, and I will cause you to move from strength to strength.
In the middle of darkness, suffering, weeping, and weakness; come close to Me and receive strength to live, fight, and advance the Kingdom. When you are in a time of blessing and increase is all around you, do not forget where this comes from. Press in to Me so you do not turn aside in times of blessing but continue to grow and be strengthened in Me.
You are My mighty warrior, and I am with you no matter what you may go through. Turn to Me and watch as you take up a new position of strength in Me!!! I love you My child!
Psalm 84:5-7 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength…”
I already knew before I saw Jeremiah’s post that God was having me write another one of my little novels today. The thoughts had been percolating for a while. I read the words Jeremiah wrote, sat down to write, and then I went back to the passages about the battle being God’s, not mine.
God is so gracious. You know all those questions I had in my head after the DINAF encounters? Are some of the answers perhaps in the II Chronicles passages?
Yes, God told Jehoshaphat the battle was not his, but God’s. Then during the same time frame…
… He gave Jehoshaphat and the army some instructions.
Verses 16-17: “Tomorrow march down against them. You will not have to fight this battle. TAKE UP YOUR POSITIONS; STAND FIRM AND SEE THE DELIVERANCE THE LORD WILL GIVE YOU. DO NOT BE AFRAID; DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. GO OUT TO FACE THEM TOMORROW, AND THE LORD WILL BE WITH YOU.”
In verses 18-19 Jehoshaphat responded by bowing with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with very loud voice.
I believe Lawrence and I have been in that “today,” the today of knowing the battle is not ours, of bowing before the Lord, and standing up and praising the Lord with a very loud voice through our belief that Peanut will return, even when others don’t believe, and that other family and friends have been standing up in praise and belief with us.”
I received a phone call this morning regarding Peanut as I sat down to write and just before re-reading 2 Chronicles, just hours after making a vow to myself to just lie down and quit and “let” God handle it. Did God give instruction for Jehoshaphat to just lie down? No, He didn’t.
I now have my instructions – to take up my position, stand firm, and go out and face the things about Peanut that the Lord brings before us. I also have assurances – if we obey, we will see the deliverance the Lord will give us and the Lord will be with us AS WE CONTINUE TO ADVOCATE! (As of this morning, Thursday, my position has changed and maybe I am wrong by wilting and not standing firm. I don’t know. I can go out and face the things about Peanut that the Lord will bring before us. I also still believe in His assurances that if I obey, I will see the deliverance the Lord will give us and He will be with us. But will Peanut? Maybe the Lord’s deliverance and presence will be deliverance from our belief and hope that he will return and the healing presence of the almighty Father. Again, I don’t know. But this morning I know this – the all-capped declaration at the end of the paragraph now would read: As we continue to advocate through prayer but not through seeking out answers to questions about information we know, information we know but should not know, or information we don’t know but would like to know. My heart just can’t take it anymore.)
I believe we have/are now entering the “tomorrow.” The people at DINAF told us that today, Wednesday, would be a critical day.
Verse 20-23: “…HAVE FAITH in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; HAVE FAITH in his prophets and you will be successful. After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever. As they began to sing and praise, the LORD SET AMBUSHES against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.”
After the battle, it took Jehoshaphat and his men three days to carry off their spoils. They returned JOYFULLY to Jerusalem because the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. Then verse 30 says the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.
(Honestly, other than the first item of instruction to have faith in the Lord my God, I wonder if maybe the last verses don’t apply to us in this situation as I had hoped, meaning that the spoil sitting on top of the heap for us to scoop up is Pablo Peanut. Yes, I can still sing the song ‘Give Thanks to the Lord For His Love Endures Forever” because it does, but I wonder if the spoils Lawrence and I desire may not be the same spoils the Lord will deliver when this “battle” is over. By that I mean the spoils He will most assuredly deliver are deepened faith that God is God even when we are disappointed and do not receive what we think we most desire; stronger testimony that God is good, no matter what; testimony that we will not blame God or be angry with God; and many other marks of a more mature life with Christ. That will give me rest on every side. None of this is really about Lawrence, me, or Peanut anyway.)
(Another thing that bothers me about battles and enemies is I don’t consider Peanut’s birth family as my enemy and we are not in a battle with them over him – we can’t be, we have no standing. However, this is still a battle because it’s spiritual. Lawrence and I are trying to be obedient to God and his purpose for bringing Peanut into our lives in the first place, Peanut’s mother makes decisions and display fruits that do not align with someone who lives according to God’s purpose for their lives, and the grandparents appear to be afraid of the mother. And from what I’ve seen, I can understand that.)
Y’all, I began this letter with such weariness. (And I am finishing it with such weariness.) I’m not as strong in my faith as Lawrence is and I admit I waver in hope, faith, and belief that God will allow us to raise Peanut and adopt him as our son. But after writing, which is what I do when God calls me to it, my mind screams out how can Peanut NOT come back to us after adding up all the things that have happened since January 28, 2016, and are happening today?
But we won’t know until we know, will we?
Again I refer to Peter Pan and his fairy proclamation when I say, “I do believe in miracles, I do, I do.” (I do believe in miracles, just not this one anymore. I suppose, though, I do have a little hope because I hope I’m wrong.)
Be blessed today – I know I am! (That statement still stands – I am blessed, every day, no matter the circumstances.)
(And today, Thursday, my thought is, with the knowledge I have today that I didn’t have yesterday but can’t share, if DINAF couldn’t recover Peanut after the last appointment, it’ll never happen now. And so, my dear family and friends, I must cope with this earthly severed relationship in the only way that has ever allowed me in the past to move on, and that is turn my back on it, try to bury it, and move forward with more mental space and energy for the boys we came to serve in the first place. Lawrence is NOT in the same mind-frame as me. Let me again stress again the STRENGTH of his faith. God has not told him to let it go, and he refuses to give up hope until God very clearly states otherwise. I will continue to sit beside him each day when he purposefully prays for his forever son to return home and I will purposefully pray for God’s protection over my forever son, but sometime over the last few days I quit singing Jesus Loves Me to him and MY hope is now dismally low to nil. Throughout the finishing of the narrative, I sit in snot-slinging grief, uh-gen, over loss, the loss of hope in this situation. Don’t think I’m mad at God; I’m not. I’m just done.)
(In conclusion – I promise I’m about finished writing – I just don’t know how people get by who don’t draw their strength from God and his promises. It’s a choice, and now I need to meditate on the word Jeremiah Gibson shared in his post.)
Psalm 84:5-7 “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, They make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength…”