Savannah, Justin Bieber and a Dark Night

I’m 45 years old and I downloaded a Justin Bieber song.

It’s true.

Sure it was a while ago, but the lyrics came to mind this week.

As long as you love me, we could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke.

Now that’s sweet.

This last weekend Brian and I went camping up in the mountains. I carried Savannah on my back in a cool little pack and Brian carried all the rest of our gear – tent, sleeping bags, diapers, food and a million other “just in case” essentials.

And yet I was the one to get all the compliments from the other hikers.

“Wow, way to go.”

“Good job, Mom.”

Brian carried twice the weight and received half the glory.

I married a good man.

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So we got to the campsite, six miles up a long and winding trail. By the time we arrived, I was drenched from head to toe in sweat and my shoulders were aching. I was thrilled to see the cabin where we could check in and Savannah was thrilled to see all the other hikers. She doesn’t know a lot of words yet, but it doesn’t seem to matter. She’ll hold a conversation with just about anyone as long as they nod at her animated noises.

We finally headed off to our site, set up our tent and nestled into our jammies. I wondered at Savannah. This was her first time out in the wild. Her first time camping. Her first time hiking.

Would she hold up?

I wasn’t sure what a dark night and the cold mountain air might bring. I could picture us trying to rock her as she wailed at the injustice of it all. Where is my crib? What have you done? Why is there a bear nibbling on my ear?

Waaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

We laid out our sleeping bags and snuggled her in between us. She pulled her blankie up to her nose and looked around.

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Her eyelids did the sleepy shuffle and Brian and I exchanged smiling glances above her head. This just might work!

The sky darkened and Brian and I whispered a sweet conversation until our own bodies settled in.

At home Savannah usually wakes at 4 a.m. I’ll sneak in, give her a pacifier and off she’ll go to dreamland again. On this trip she woke up several more times than usual. Maybe it was the dark, the noise of the fellow campers, the colder night air.

I thought she might get undone, but instead, she woke up and reached out her hand. She touched my chest, “Mama.” She reached over to Brian, “Papa.”

And went back to sleep.

Four or five times through the night, “Mama,” “Papa.” Back to sleep.

She didn’t care if it was cold. Dark. Different. As long as we were there, she was fine.

I had a tougher week this week. My heart was hurt. I was tempted to pout, wail, ball up my fists. But then I remembered Savannah and her nighttime touches, and instead I imagined myself curling into my God’s arms, tapping his chest, “Papa.”

He’s there. I’m safe. And as long as he loves me, I can face anything.

Enter Justin Bieber: As long as you love me, we could be homeless, we could be starving, we could be broke.

Of course the week didn’t bring anything near as dramatic as all that, but the song came to mind. And yes, that’s why I downloaded a Justin Bieber song at 45 years old. It makes me think of my God and it reminds me of what’s important, no matter what this life brings.

He loves me. And I desperately need that.

But don’t expect me to dance. Or flip my hair as I gyrate my hips.

I have my limits.

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I choose you!

It happened every time I walked across the play yard to the baby room. And it started as soon as I was in view.

“Laurentz!” They yelled.

“Lllllaaaauuuurrreeennnntttzzz!”

photo1I walked up to the tiny fence where four beautiful dark toddlers looked up at me as their chorus of voices rang out.

“Ou Mama Laurentz?” They asked.

“Oui.” I said.

“Ou Mama Laurentz?” They asked, again and again.

“Oui, mwen Mama Laurentz.” I said as I touched their faces or rubbed their hair.

I looked over them to see Laurentz on his nanny’s lap. His bright eyes were waiting for mine and when our gaze met, his face lit up. He pointed in my direction. “Hurry!” he seemed to say as she finished getting him ready.

IMG_4296IMG_4300I looked down again at the babies waiting there. One or two had their arms outstretched. It was tough not to scoop up every single one. To be Mama Nathaniel and Mama Caleb and Mama Toto.

It wasn’t that they understood that I am actually Laurentz’s adoptive Mom, it’s just that they know I came for him. I chose him. Just like visiting missionaries who get attached to a certain child get dubbed Mama Lito or Papa Guivenson, I was Mama Laurentz.

IMG_4301I glanced again at Laurentz. He wriggled free from his nanny and came charging across the baby room with his too large shoes flapping on the concrete. He held up his arms to me and I scooped him up and hugged him close.

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Oh, how I love that boy!

“Ou Mama Laurentz?” The other babies kept asking, even as I walked away with my son.

Oui, I thought to myself, mwen Mama Laurentz. But oh, how I wished I could be Mama to all. I wished I could choose each one. I wished I could bring the kind of wide smile that brightens Laurentz’s face to each one of those beautiful babies.

I still wish I could say to each one: I choose you.

Those babies long for love. And when someone reaches out and says “I choose you,” it changes their entire countenance. When they know… No matter their saggy diaper, their runny nose, their too-big shoes… I choose you. Something significant shifts inside of them.

I remember that feeling myself. On my knees, in a chapel, not long after my divorce. Feeling horrible for the things I’d done and not done. Dressed spiritually in a saggy diaper, my hands dirty and my eyes to the ground. Figuring of all the people God would choose, it wouldn’t be me.

And up walked my God. I choose you. I still choose you.

Really?

And what I understand even more today is that it’s mutual. My response mattered to God. Just like when I walked to that baby room with such joy, looking for Laurentz – his joy at my arrival quadrupled my own. His smile, his delight, his wriggling to get into my arms – I loved it!

I don’t know how God does it, but He does. He chooses each one of us. He chooses you. And you. And you. In His world, no one is left behind. No one is left standing at the gate with their arms outstretched, tears on their faces.

And if my heart exploded with joy when Laurentz ran to me with a smile, how much more does our God delight when we run to him, when we receive his love and let the joy ooze out of every pore.

He chooses you. And you. And you.

And you.

Now run to him…. Let your shoes flap on the concrete as you raise up your arms and smile wide.

Because, my friend, he’s come for you.

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From Tragedy to the Best Stuff Ever

Four years ago, it was tragedy that prompted my Christmas letter. Within two months time, our world was upended. In May my husband gave a kidney to our oldest son Sean, and we fought through the healing/rejection/healing process. Then my dad went sailing one warm July day and never came home. He somehow fell overboard and drowned at sea. Twelve days later my 17-year-old nephew was killed in a car accident.

I wanted people to know. Somehow it made it more real to write it all down – to say to myself and others… this really happened and it nearly broke my heart.

This year has been the complete opposite and I find myself in the same position. I want people to know. Because as horrible as 2009 was, 2013 was one of the best years ever. I mean, ever. Two major miracles happened this year and every time I think of them, my heart fills up with goofy, sappy Christmas joy.

Savannah Grace: She is our first miracle. Ten months old today, Savannah entered our world in the most unexpected, delightful way. After the heartbreak of a failed adoption (when a birth mom changed her mind), we began our pursuit of our Haitian children. Then in February of this year – one week before Savannah was due, we received a phone call – were we still interested in adopting a baby? Our hearts soared and two weeks later, Brian and I stood in the delivery room as Savannah entered the world. Moments later in a memory that will forever be etched in my heart, Brian cut the cord and Savannah Grace was ushered into our waiting arms.

A miracle. A delight. The best gift ever.

We have enjoyed every moment with Savannah since. The nighttime feedings, the drool, bath times, first smiles and today the wobbling stance as she grips the table and tries to stand.

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Savannah and her Christmas bear

Then another miracle. For nearly nine years, my husband and his daughters have been estranged. I had never met them, although we literally prayed for them every single day. Over the years Brian faithfully reached out. He so longed for relationship with them and refused to give up.

One day he received a text message. “It’s time to bury the hatchet,” said one of his girls.

Not too long after, Brian had a business trip to Ohio and invited the girls to dinner. They said yes. All of us here in Colorado prayed that whole day. Brian met them at a nice Italian place and as the hours passed, we anxiously awaited word. Did it go well? Were they able to enjoy one another, talk, laugh?

Four hours later, Brian called. He’d spent all four hours with the girls, lingering over a meal. Conversation and laughter flowed easily. “It was as if we’d never been apart,” he said.

My mom, Sam, me… tears. Joyful hugs. Awestruck delight.

Over Thanksgiving I had the chance to meet my step-daughters for the first time. They were beautiful, smart, gracious and kind. They met their sister Savannah and one day soon will get to meet Samantha.It all felt so right and good, so natural – better than any of us could have hoped for or dreamed of…

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First meal: Cassie, Sean, Jessica, Savannah, me and Brian

I don’t want to forget this, this overflowing joy of answered prayer. Life is hard. Painful. Broken. And I know so many of you come into this Christmas season carrying grief that nearly bends you double. I get it. We still carry the loss of Dad and Caleb in our hearts – even more so as we wish they could have met Savannah, Jessica and Cassie. But for some of you the pain is fresh and deep. After this last year I just want you to know, I want everyone to know – that there will be good days ahead. That God hears and answers prayer, that there is light (huge, bright and beautiful) still ahead.

Sometimes  I wonder – what will 2014 bring? Will we get to bring Wilna, Lovence and Laurentz home from Haiti? Will our hearts break with new tragedies? Or will there be some other unexpected bundle(s) of joy on our doorstep.

I truly don’t know.

But whatever comes, I am so very grateful for our God. He is the one who gives good gifts and yet still holds us when the heartbreak comes.

It may sound like just the type of thing I would say for Christmas, but it’s so stinkin’ true. In God’s arms I am safe no matter what comes and so are you. That is the very best gift we could ever receive.

Thank you, Jesus!

And Merry Christmas my friends…          

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Welcome: Savannah Grace Colopy

We would like to introduce you to the newest member of the Colopy family:

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Savannah Grace Colopy turned two weeks old yesterday.

Oh friends, what a month this has been! We’ve been bursting to tell you about it, but we wanted to wait until some final papers were signed. But now… now we can tell you the story of Savannah Grace and how she came into our world.

Here’s part one:

It all started with a text.

“Call me. Important :)”

It was my mom. She lives in Florida and when I called she told me of an e-mail that someone had sent to her church’s office. A young pregnant woman was looking for parents for her baby – did they know of anyone who might be interested? The secretary at the church knew our story and sent the information to my mom.

My mom called on Thursday afternoon, February 7th. The baby was due Tuesday, February 12th – only five days later. In Orlando.

Hmmm. What are the odds? I was already scheduled to fly into Orlando for a speaking engagement. On her due date. On the 12th.

I talked to Brian. We stared at one another. Grinned a goofy grin. Could it be?

I called the number my mom had given me. I thought I was going to talk with a friend of the birth mom, but instead I ended up with the birth mom herself. We’ll call her Jordynn.

I wasn’t expecting to talk to her directly and was less than eloquent. I felt like I stumbled all over myself as I shared some of our journey, about our boys in Haiti, about our lives.  I asked about her world and she was articulate, kind and gracious. She wanted the best for her child and didn’t have the means to care for or provide for her.

She wanted to know more about us, so I referred her to our adoption blog to see our pictures and read our story, and then encouraged her to Google my name to find out more about us.

I figured it would take a very special young woman to look at our world, our adoption of two active boys from Haiti, our wrinkles, our wacky sense of humor – and find it appealing to place her daughter in our care. Then I Googled my name to see what came up first and what she might think. It was my book: Pure Love, Pure Life – the purity book for teens.

Great, I imagined her thinking. She’s one of those people.

Relax, Elsa. Just breathe.

We waited several more hours and then Jordynn called us back. “I would be honored and delighted if you and Brian would raise my daughter,” she said.

I nearly fell over. Brian’s jaw dropped.

Really, God? Would it happen like this??

Oh friends, the next weeks would bring tremendous highs and gut-wrenching lows. Over the next few days I’ll share the story on our adoption blog (www.WhenHopeComesHome.com – you can sign up to receive it via e-mail by clicking on the link if you like…) – but for now, will you celebrate with us? Savannah Grace Colopy is now in our world. Daughter to Brian and Elsa, Little sister to Sean, Jessica, Cassie, Sam, Lovence and Laurentz. We are a family of seven and we couldn’t be happier.

God is so good!

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Rats, spiders and love that won’t quit

The rat visited at 5:37 p.m. every night. While I was in Haiti, we clocked him by the minute. We’d enjoy dinner on the outside veranda and at 5:37, Ratatouille (as we affectionately nicknamed him), would run along the roof of the veranda and dash off to parts unknown. We made up a whole life for him. Father. Husband of Mrs. Ratatouille. Factory worker or garbage sifter, possible chef or tiny rat accountant.

Ratatouille was just part of the fun in Haiti.

One of the biggest joys of my time came as I met Jesus there. I met him in the director of the orphanage who has a heart for the starving children, I met him in the staff who love and serve from a deep place of compassion.  And I met him in Heather, an adoptive mom whose sacrificial love touched a deep place in me.

You’d like Heather too – fun, spunky and kind, her story is perfect to share as we come up on Christmas day.

Heather is a petite gem from the Chicago suburbs. She moved to Haiti in order to bond with their son, Izaiah. She initially planned to be there for just a few months – until the adoption was finalized. She and her husband, Matt, knew the separation would be worth it for what it would give their son.

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Heather and Izaiah

Three months turned into six months. Six months turned into twelve. Heather is at nineteen months and counting now. Living in Haiti amidst the chaos to love, nurture and ultimately rescue their little boy.

Heather hates spiders, but has faced down multiple tarantulas with a grimace and a sturdy shoe.

She loves order, but has dealt with chaotic traffic, distant gunshots, cold showers and spotty electricity.

She loves her family, friends and her husband, but has spent many holidays and Sunday meals away from the comfort of their care and the warmth of their love.

Even today, as we all celebrate with family and friends in preparation for Christmas, she and her husband are in Haiti, tending to the needs of a little boy who knows them only as “Mom” and “Dad.”

Heather reminds me of Jesus. He left a world of comfort and peace. He left a place of love and order to come here. To enter a dusty, stinky manger. Heather didn’t have to give up her world of electricity, warm water and family fun to be with Izaiah. Nor did Jesus have to give up his world of divine hope, fellowship and comfort.

But that’s what love does.

Love enters our world. Love lives our pain. Love holds on despite the sacrifice. Love never gives up.

In a broken world where tragedy strikes on a regular basis, I’m profoundly grateful for the powerful examples of love God has planted in my path. And when I think of this young mom giving up every comfort to love her baby boy -  in order to one day bring him home to the place she has prepared… it’s enough to melt my heart.

Because that’s how Jesus loves us – He gave up everything to enter this dark place – so we could find our way to the home He has lovingly prepared for each one of us.

Happy Birthday, Jesus. Thank you for people like Heather, bright lights in our lives. And thank you for your sacrifice – not only to die and rise again, but to come and live in our mess in the first place.

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Love is a risk

I posted this on our adoption blog, www.WhenHopeComesHome.com, but I think it applies here too.

I don’t want to love them too much.

I don’t want to hold on too tight.

I mean, it was amazing when I was in Haiti – when two little boys with big smiles fell into my lap, when one fell asleep on my shoulder and I didn’t dare move so I could enjoy the sleepy weight of him, when I coaxed out deep belly laughter that rang like music in my ears. In those moments, my heart expanded with love so deep and rich and big, that I could hardly contain it.

But then I got home and they’re far away.

And we got word that the mom of one of our boys didn’t sign the paperwork that needs to be signed, and we can’t take a single step forward until she does.

So a voice in my head says, Guard your heart! Hold on Loosely! Don’t love so much because this will hurt way too much if it doesn’t go through.

Love is a risk.

But here’s the truth: Love is always a risk.

It’s a risk to love my husband. We never know what tomorrow will bring. A dear friend recently lost her husband in a matter of months. Her heart is utterly broken, her family devastated.

It’s a risk to love our friends. Life is transient and unfair and harsh sometimes. Friends move or fall away.

It’s a risk to love, period.

So the more I try to figure out how to guard my heart and still fight for our boys… I realize it can’t be done. It just wont work to hold on loosely when our boys need us to pray, hold tight, love deep.

When Brian and I were in Haiti, I snapped this picture of Brian with Laurentz.

Brian and Laurentz
A father’s love

The hand of a protective father holding his baby boy, Brian’s strong hand is planted right over his heart.

I look at that picture and my heart melts.

I realize that’s how we will love our boys, in spite of the risk. I realize that’s how we can allow the expanding of our hearts as we hold them, pray for them, fight for them.

Ultimately, even if our hearts break, the one who fixes broken hearts is right there with us, his strong hand upon us. He is big and kind and good. And He risks more than any of us. He loves each and every one of us deeply and passionately. He longs for us to be his children. And yet so many of us never realize it, or we say no, turn aside or walk away. I can’t imagine how his heart breaks!

If we can trust our hearts into anyone’s hands, it’s his.

And so we pray:

Please, Lord, if you would be so kind—bring our boys home. Hold that mother close and help her to know how much we will love her son. Pave the way through government red tape and financial need. Expand our hearts and our world. Fill us with battle-fighting, prayer-warrior, mom and dad kind of love. And then open every door to bring these boys home, that this risk will have it’s precious reward: a family united.

And if by some painful twist of events, things don’t turn out as we expect, hold us close, wipe our tears and teach us to cling to you.

Teach us to risk as you risked for us,

Elsa and Brian

Family
Family
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Real life stuff.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Brian so sick.

High fever, shaking, barely able to stand. I’d already taken him to Urgent Care and they’d sent him home with some strong antibiotics to battle a bad infection that came on overnight. Only a few hours later, his temp kept rising. We knew the antibiotics hadn’t had time to work, but we were concerned about the high fever. And infection of that nature with only one kidney – it wasn’t good.

When the thermometer topped 104, I called the doc and they urged us to go to the ER.

The ER docs weren’t nearly as worried as I was. They said it was good we came in, but they simply gave him a strong med to bring his fever down and sent us home – with the condition that we come back if he got worse.

We kept a close eye on him, and he seemed to slowly improve.

That’s when the financial reality hit.

Brian switched jobs recently and his health insurance had yet to kick in. Nine days. Only nine days until his insurance would begin.

We’ve never been without insurance and in the time I’ve known him, Brian has never had to go to the ER.

The one time he had to go for medical help, we were without insurance. And of course, I took him to Urgent Care first. Two doozy bills in one 24-hour period.

And we’re in the midst of all our adoption travel and agency expenses.

I nearly went into a full-blown pity party. Really? This so stinks! Talk about bad timing… grumble, grumble, grumble, gripe, gripe, gripe, extra long sigh and a good old-fashioned whine.

A few hours later, I received a call from the director of the orphanage where our boys are living in Haiti. Miriam was broken down on the side of the road and they were waiting for help to arrive. She thought she’d check in. I listened as she told of the children they had just rescued. Thirteen of the worst were in the truck with her, along with some of the parents. Kids dying of malnutrition, others burning up with fever because of infection. She was just praying that they’d get the tire fixed quickly since it had already been a 13-hour trip across treacherous mountain roads. These kids needed help.

A few days later, two of the boys, Wisnor and Naisson – an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old, died of the lingering effects of malnutrition.

Wisnor and Naisson. There’s this deep ache in my heart that they be known. It was all so real. I’d talked to Miriam when these boys were in the truck. I heard the stories as they unfolded. Both sets of parents LOVED their boys. Wisnor’s mom had to leave to go back to the village and care for her other children. She planned to come back and check on her boy soon. The night after she left, Wisnor passed away.

How to even get word to her?

I have two hospitals within a five minute drive.

I have plenty of food. Most days too much.

Yes, Brian was sick and it was scary. But even without insurance, he received medical attention and was quickly on the mend.

I know a lot of us are worried about the election. We wonder what will become of our nation if this one or that one gets elected.

For me, this was a stark, vivid, powerful reminder that as much as I worry for our nation, I am blessed to live here, blessed to have medical care and food and a place to lay my head.

So as election results come out tomorrow – as various groups go into panic mode and threaten to move to Canada, I’m going to do my best to remember Miriam, Wisnor and Naisson and remain grateful for all that we do have at our fingertips—no matter who is in the White House.

Will you join me?

 

Oh, and friends, if you would like to help Miriam and New Life, you can go to their website and donate there. With the recent hurricane, the need has certainly grown.  Your funds will definitely go to good use. Click here to find out more.

 

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