My mother has been bothering me for years to write a blog. Every year I have the same answer… “What would I have to say that people would want to read?” I tell her when I have an answer for that question, I will write a blog. I seriously don’t know how people have time to write them. I don’t even have time to take a shower. Literally. It’s a problem. I don’t know how all these women out there write blogs. Not only are they writing blogs, they are writing blogs about all the crafts and food they make. How are they finding time for that? And most of them have more than one child. I only have one, and I need a shower, badly.
Now, I have something to write about. It’s been a long time coming and I stay up at nights thinking about it. I have been waiting for the perfect time, and I realized, there is no perfect time. I have to stop wasting time and do it …now. Four years ago, I went to Africa. Four years ago I made promises to people there that I would not forget them, that I would tell their stories. Four years ago. What have I done in four years?
My mom thought of the title “Before and Africa” and I actually love it. There are a lot of things my mom and I agree on, but usually when she has an idea “for” me, I politely turn her down. But this title struck a chord in me. I thought about all the blogs out there about style and fashion and craftiness and I thought about how my blog would probably be the antithesis of that. Maybe I do always buy the same long sleeved shirts at the GAP every three years when the old ones get holes in them. Maybe I do still have the same tennis shoes I bought for 30 bucks 6 years ago. Maybe I do only get my hair cut once a year. Maybe I am in desperate need of a style makeover, but I think this blog is more of a before and after of my soul. My soul before and now my soul (after) Africa…
So thanks mom, for the title and for recognizing there has been a change in me and that even though I have a hard time finding the words, it’s time to start trying.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

being thankful when we're not thankful

What do you say to God when you can’t give thanks anymore?
What if you are not thankful for the place He has brought you?  I have been asking these questions.  I have realized that having grief because I lost someone doesn’t mean I am not thankful for what I do have.  It just means I can’t say it right now.

I’ve never been through grief like this.  I've learned there is no easy way to get around the grief.  It hits hard somedays and you can’t just sweep it under the rug, because when you do, it comes back with a vengeance and you lose it. You lose it.  (Usually in a public place without warning.)  There were days I would need to talk about it and days I would silently pray you wouldn’t ask.   I am not familiar with not being “ok”.  I am not comfortable making others uncomfortable.  When someone asks “how are you?”  I want to say “I’m well, you?”  I don’t want to say, “bad.  I don’t want to get out of bed some days, I don’t want to be a mom to just two kids today when I thought I was a mom to three.  I don’t want to grocery shop or do laundry or do anything that feels normal because my life feels so abnormal and wrong.”  Because if I said all that, I would worry you wouldn’t know what to say to that.  And I don’t want you to say “If God brought you to it He'll bring you through it…”  I don’t want you to say “everything happens for a reason.” I don’t want you to say “It’s too bad you couldn’t just get another one (kid!) while you were over there”  These are things people (well meaning people) have said to me.  And these things don’t help.  And don’t make any of it better. 

But if I have learned anything on this path that I did not choose, it’s that it is ok to not be ok…even if that makes everyone around me uncomfortable.  Truly, there have been some remarkable friendships that have bloomed out of my pain this year.  I sat with girlfriends that let me talk for hours about my pain, and they understood on the days I couldn’t talk about it.  They have taught me what it means to really BE there for someone who is going through grief.  I was unable to be a good friend this year, I was too engulfed in my own mess.  But I gained some tools on how to be there for someone when I am able. 

“We cannot carefully address the wounds of others if we are carelessly addressing our own”  -Esther Fleece 

One of these new beautiful friends of mine was talking one day about how Jacob walked with a limp after encountering (wrestling with) God.  A lightbulb went off in my head, this is my limp.  I have wrestled with God.  I have asked him the hard questions, I have lamented and cried out to Him in my pain.  And now, it’s over…but I will walk with this forever.  The pain is seared in my memory, in my body, forever. 

I realized this the other night when I went to a fundraiser for an orphanage in Uganda.  This is an amazing ministry that works to unify bio families and support the parents so they can care for their children.  They also have an adoption ministry when reunification is not possible for the bio family.  I have met a few of the families this year that have adopted from this orphanage.  Normally, sitting in any fundraiser for orphanges in Africa my heart is stirred, the tears flow and I feel all the feels because that is my passion and heart.  But this night I felt something different, I felt emptiness, and anger.  I sat and watched the stories of these beautiful families and all I could see was his face (Moses).  All I could think about was the future that was taken from our family.  For some reason, Tony and I keep coming back to the fact that we both still want to adopt from Africa….then we look at each other and realize how crazy we sound.  This is still the dream for our family, but neither of us are ready for everything that means yet.  

After the program I went up to the director of the orphanage to ask her a few questions on what she thought the status of adoption in Uganda is and if she worries about them shutting it down.  I also asked her about agencies she works with, obviously I have lots of questions about agencies.  I told her a bit of our story and this wonderful woman looked me square in the eyes and said, “Have you forgiven those people?”  (meaning our agency) I thought about it for a second and realized I hadn’t even thought about forgiving them…I had been so focussed on me and God and dealing with the grief of our family that I didn’t realize I was hanging on to my anger towards them.  She preached for the next few minutes about forgiving those that have wronged us and how there is so much freedom that comes when we do.  

Maybe that is why we haven’t been able to take another step yet…we are stuck in this step…or at least I am.  She prayed over me and said “Tell you what, you forgive those people, get your freedom, and when you are ready I will get you a couple of kids”  Tears for days.  I don’t know if God will ever make a way for us to welcome a child (or children) from Africa into our home…what I do know is that we can’t do that until we are free from the anger and the hurt.  We may walk with a limp, but we will be walking with a limp in freedom and truth.  I'm honestly not there yet.  I don’t know when or how I will be. 

“If you keep moving with a wound that needs attention, you will only make it worse” Esther fleece

My biggest lessons this year:
It’s ok not to be ok
When you wrestle with God you come out stronger than before but you may have that limp forever
Forgiveness is freedom

My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9

“He has redefined redemption and beauty for me, not as a happy ending, but as His presence with me regardless of the ending.” Katie Davis Majors

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The River

So I have been ping ponging between my feelings lately. 

I have felt like a little old lady that sent all her money to some Nigerian prince internet scam.  I mean how stupid could we have been to trust the system we trusted in?  How were we so naïve to have chosen an agency based on a bible verse and a few reviews they put on their website?  Why did we think human trafficking would not happen this way in America? 

Then I have felt like we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and this was a lesson God wanted us to learn.  Maybe to be more informed and maybe to make a CHANGE.  

Two things have been bothering me above all else. 

Kids were taken from mothers/families that wanted and LOVED them.


This could negatively affect the chances for orphans in the future to be placed in loving homes.

I want change in our systems that will save families like ours/Moses’ from being put through this kind of heartbreak.

But I don’t want that change to decrease the number of international adoptions even more drastically. They already have been significantly declining in the last ten years.

SO what now? 

How can we support agencies and orphanages that are ethical and who’s mission is to give an orphan a home?  At the same time making sure we are NOT supporting kids getting taken from their families for a dollar amount? 

The Lord will redeem our story…I believe this.  He’s not done with the Schmid family.  We are not forgotten and neither is Moses.  God’s will was for him to stay with his biological family…my question to God, what was our role in it all?  I am still trying to figure out and piece that together.  God’s will God’s will.  What was/is that for the Schmids Lord? 

I have been having dreams of rivers.  I have been kind of obsessed with what this means.  I have always felt like God speaks to me in my dreams.  So many times I have woken in the middle of the night after a dream where Moses was in my arms and then someone pulled him out and runs away and I can’t catch them.  These have been replaced with dreams of rivers.  Whenever I think of Moses from the bible I think of him found in the river in that basket.  Of all of the big ways God showed himself in Moses' life,  I feel like a baby being found floating down the river in a basket was the most incredible.  A simple and impossible act of faith by Moses' mother.  In my dream, I am swimming in a river and all of a sudden the current is so strong and it sweeps me away and I can’t swim back no matter how hard I try.  I swim and swim and can’t get upstream where I want to be. 

Maybe I should just let go and let God take me wherever that river is flowing.

Maybe I  have to let go of the control I have so deprerately fought for over my children. 

Maybe I dream of the river because of the floods of tears that have carried me here.

Maybe it’s the drowning and trying to get up for air. The way I feel when I let myself think of  him and the sadness overwhelms me.

Maybe it’s the way time moves like a river and there is nothing we can do to change the course.  The anger I feel when I think about how time could’ve stopped when I held him in my arms and he called me momma but it didn’t and I never saw him again.

Whatever it is I am obsessed with finding the meaning behind the river.

We named him Moses (drawn up out of the water/river) but his given name was Dieu le Veut (God's will) How fitting? I wanted him to be drawn out of the river to us but that was not God's will.  The whole time I believed his name meant God’s will was for him to be in our family.  When all along God’s will was not ours.  

There was a song I used to listen to all the time when I found myself in the car praying for God to let us be together.  I always thought I would use that song in the video of his homecoming when he came home.  When I hear it now I think about how I did get to hold him and it changed me.  And I cry. And beat my fists and cry out to God. WHY? 

Tried to keep you close to me,
But life got in between
Tried to square not being there
But it's there that I should've been

Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes
Hold back the river,
So I can stop for a minute and see where you hide
Hold back the river, hold back

Once upon a different life
We rode our bikes into the sky
But now we're caught against the tide
Those distant days all flashing by

Lonely water, lonely water,
Won't you let us wander?
Let us hold each other?
Lonely water, lonely water,
Won't you let us wander?
Let us hold each other?

Hold back the river-James Bay

Maybe I will sort through all these feelings/dreams and figure them out soon.  Right now, feeling angry and sad and hopeful....always hopeful.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

New Normal

           Today wasn’t great and it was.  Max started first grade today and I feel like I am so mad at time right now.  Emotions are heightened in our household lately.  We’ve all shed tears this week.  Not sure if it’s the transition from one season to another, if it’s the feeling we are “moving on” without Moses, if it’s trying to decide what next steps to take with our family, I don’t know…maybe it’s all of it.  For some reason we are all a mess.  Tony and I had a long conversation today about what we do now when it comes to our family and we are both gun shy when it comes to all the options.  We are scared of taking the wrong steps again.  In retrospect we may have rushed into a few decisions…one of them being the agency we picked.  We were in a hurry to pick a new agency when ours closed their Ethiopia program and we wanted to find another that had an Africa program.  I saw a Bible verse on the website and saw some reviews and off we went.  I was naïve in thinking that any organization with a Christian vision, wouldn’t lie to us, wouldn’t knowlingly take kids away from their bio families with deciept and unkept promises.  We didn’t know what we didn’t know.  We don’t have regrets but we feel we have learned so much and now it’s like we know too much.  It’s like we are paralyzed to make a decision because of the things that “could” go wrong.  The things that DID go wrong.  

             And Max may be picking up on our emotions, and I am pretty sure he is going through some grief of his own.  Telling him he no longer had a brother that would live with us was not our favorite day.  I told Tony that it was so hard because it was the first thing we had to tell him that would shake up his little safe world.  It was his first big disappointment in life.  We have been telling him since he knew what a brother was, that he had one and that one day he would come live with us.  I can’t count the times we said to Max, “When Moses gets here you can show him that..” or “When Moses gets here you will have someone to do that with…”  He told people he had a brother and a sister…he was so proud to be Moses’ big brother and he was ready to help teach him English and show him how to ride a bike.  His reaction when we told him that wasn’t going to happen was not what we expected.  We thought he may cry or be sad…but he was angry.   Angry at us specifically.  A visceral anger that surprised us. He was mad that we got to meet Moses and he never did.  He sobbed on his bed and told us to leave him alone. Tony kept trying to rub his back and he kept throwing his hand off and telling us to leave him be.  So we went into our room and told him we would be there when he was ready to talk.   I sobbed on the edge of the bed…he finally came in.  We told him we were so sad too, that we didn’t want this either.  He said “does this mean I don’t have a brother anymore”  and “Will I never get to meet him?” Both questions broke me as a mom.  It sucks to not be able to take away your child’s pain.  To have to deliver a message that you know will shake their foundation.  And now I don’t know if it’s grief or being a 6 year old or the end of summer mentality but his anger has been real and shocking.  He has always had such a sweet heart but now we are seeing anger manifest itself in our son and honestly I have been so busy dealing with my own sadness and anger that I have NO idea what to do with his.   But after the outburst happens there HE is again, my sweet hearted boy…we cried together tonight after one said outburst.  He laid on my chest and we both cried…hard. And he promised to do better and I promised to do better.  We prayed that God would help us do better.  I see his heart in those moments and I know we will get through this…and he’s maturing but he’s still a little boy and I just want to do right by him.  I just want him to feel heard and loved and like he can be who he is supposed to be.  When a mom is dealing with grief….how exactly can she be the best mom to her kids as they are dealing with their own?  I have no idea.  Any suggestions, cuz I am drowning a little bit here.  

              We had a great morning dropping Max off to his first day of school…we prayed over him and watched him light up as he saw his “buddies”.  Grateful for the kids in his class that will help with the lonliness of a brother lost.  Grateful for the teacher that will help him learn God’s word as a foundation when his is crumbling.  We are starting our new “Normal” this year as we all accept we are a family of 4 and not 5.  I will hold these kids close and know that we are getting through this together, as a family as four people who love each other deeply and are surrounded with countless others that lavish love/support upon us too.  Happy first day.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The final update.

I have been delaying writing this post.  It just feels like it will be final when we tell everyone.  I don’t want it to be over.  But we feel like it’s time to close the door on this adoption.  We made our last effort to make it happen and sent Tony back to the DRC.  His trip was unfruitful and we realized that the family is not going to let him go.  All this time we thought they agreed to this adoption.  They have given him up several times…but now we are left with so many questions.  They had told us if they could meet us then they would be satisfied.  But they didn’t even show up. 

We are frustrated, heartbroken, devastated and confused.  I am mad at myself for always believing this would end another way.  I always held onto to the hope that he would end up in our family.  I always thought this journey would one day lead to that much anticipated airport welcome with all the people that have spent hours praying and sacrificed their time and finances to this adoption.  I get sick when I think about people giving to this adoption that has failed.  I am so angry Tony flew all the way there just to sit in a hotel room for eight days by himself and never even get to see Moses.  He gave away all the clothes/toys we had brought for him and packed up the suitcase that held so many hopes and dreams for us.  He said he felt so sad packing that suitcase.  He came home.  We talked and prayed about how to tell everyone…how to tell max.  

I honestly don’t know how to let go.  When you hang on to something so tight for so long…letting go feels like a betrayal…it feels like we are forgetting him. But now there are times I wish I didn’t even know him.  (not a lot of times, but there are times)  Like when I first felt the finality and I wanted to smash the pictures on the walls and burn that stupid bunk bed in Max’s room.  Or when I unpacked that suitcase and I felt the sting of never seeing him again.  But deep down I know that I don’t want to forget him, and although my prayers for him will change, they will never cease.  Every night since we knew Moses’ name we have prayed with Max “Keep him safe and bring him home” .  Although the words will be the same, the meaning will change “Dear God keep him safe and bring him HOME."  And HOME is where we will see him again someday.  I know the prayers for this little boy will not go unanswered.  I trust that although we may never bring him home to our family, we will see him in our heavenly home someday. 

I am so sorry for everyone that was excited to meet him.  I am so sorry you gave and never got to see the fruit of your giving.  I am so sorry things ended this way.  I am so grateful that you supported us, even though we failed to bring him home.  This journey is over but we are anxious to see what God has in store for this family. 
Please keep Moses and his family in your prayers. We wish we had a happier ending to share.  God bless you for prayers as we grieve.  Thank you for the meals, texts, calls, rides from the airport, giving us a place to stay or a shoulder to cry on.  You are the best people. 

It felt like the floor was suddenly gone from beneath my feet and the foundation we had built was dissolving.  How could it be he would not be in our lives? How could we tell our son that he no longer has a brother? It feels like death..but I know he is living and breathing and I breathe in deep and thank God for that. ..if that’s all I can feel thankful for in this moment.  I think “I am blessed…You blessed me with two beautiful children…how can I not be grateful for what You have given?  You give and You take away and I trust you in this, although right now I feel hollow and broken and empty and sad and angry and all these things wrapped into a huge blanket of deep sadness that I fear I will never shake.  It will always hurt when I think of him.  It will always feel like my child was taken from me.  It will always feel like we had a family that never got to be a family.  And people will move on and their lives will go on the same and I’m stuck on this island…alone…without him, the one I prayed for for so many years.  And what was the lesson in this?  Because everything is foggy and sad and I can’t hear You.  I can’t see Your face in this.  I know who You are.  You are good. You are sovereign. You are still You.  But who am I? I was his mother and now who am I?  I had three children and now who am I?  I’ve lost part of who I am.  I don’t want to be here without him.  My heart is bleeding and I cry everyday and I feel nothing and everything.  But You are good and You are God and I breathe deep and I cling to that.  If there is nothing else to cling to, I cling to that.  You asked me once “would You be enough if everything else was taken away?”  Now I face the answer and I know You are. In time I wonder if I will see the ways in which Your hand was in this.  Will I be grateful for this? Will it not burn in the back of my eyes and spill out in tears? Will I feel peace? Will I feel content?  Will I ever move on?  People say “at least you can grieve and move on now.” At least….at least.  There is no “at least” because it’s not a consolation to move on…it’s not a gift.  How can I see it as one?  The only true gift in this was the way I felt You near in the despair and the way he called me “mama” even if I will never hear it again.