I wear a watch now, not the new kind that lets you check the weather and get texts but the “old-fashioned” kind with a second hand that ticks rather loudly and a band that cracked within days of purchase. That’s what $15 gets you in the watch department. I bought it the day before I left for Ethiopia and the day after the hardest twenty-four hours of my life.
The days leading up to our departure for Ethiopia–our trip to meet our youngest daughter and go before an Ethiopian judge to become legally what we have been in our hearts just shy of a year, her momma and daddy–were hard, heartbreaking kind of hard. Every whisper from Ethiopia looked worse and worse, and it looked like the beautiful girl who had stolen our hearts might never come home. My head went to dark places. How will I ever take down her crib? Can I keep the number 6 in the entry way? What about her stocking in the attic? How will we ever tell the big girls? My close friends told me not to go there, but that’s easier said than done.
Mother’s Day held swollen eyes and a broken heart. I wasn’t surprised when I came down with an awful migraine the next day. I laid in the dark in my bedroom. The migraine persisted through Tuesday, and all I could think about was how I should be packing but instead I was in the dark. Literally and metaphorically speaking. When I woke up Wednesday morning, my migraine was gone. During my Bible study time, I wrote out four verses from my reading. When the girls went to their rooms for rest time, I laid down on our couch with the four, square pieces of paper next to my heart. My shattered heart needed Life.
I tried to sleep but couldn’t. When the girls got up from rest time, I let them watch a show while I was in my room trying to pack. My fear was getting off that long flight to Addis to find out our court date had been canceled. My heart was racing, and my mind was reeling. And that’s when I had my first anxiety attack. The rest of the night is a blur. When I called my best friend Liz, she said, “I’m three minutes away from your house.” In God’s sovereignty she was already headed to me. She sat on the bed beside me until Matt could get home. I remember whispering with my eyes closed, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.” And I remember hearing her sing, “In every high and every low, in every season, holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.” Matt came rushing home, and I remember him placing his hand on my heart, the heaviness of his hand calming me. Later my dear Jess came over and told me to get a watch with a second hand. She taught me some breathing exercises for when I started to feel anxious and told me to watch the second hand move around the clock while I breathed in and out, in and out, in and out.
And that’s how on the day before we left the country, I found myself at Stein Mart looking for a cheap watch with a second hand. I found one and thought it ironic that the company name on the face of the watch was “Embassy” considering how much we’ve been in contact with the US Embassy in Addis over the last 6 weeks. We checked out, and I put it on immediately. I could already hear its reassuring tick, tick, tick.
The rest of the day was packing and going to the bank and checking a hundred times that we had our passports and yellow fever cards and lunch with my momma when she got into town. And laced among all those errands was the tick, tick, tick. Breathe in and out. In and out. In and out. Never had I been so aware that my every breath was from Him. Here we were getting ready to fly 8,000 miles around the world to meet our daughter, not knowing if we would ever be able to bring her home.
To be continued…