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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

HIV and it's stigma




The other night I received a message on Facebook that took me to my knees in thankfulness and in awe of my Master. The stigma that accompanies a person with HIV/AIDS can be astounding. There is MUCH controversy over to disclose if you are infected or not. Since bringing Josie Love home, I have received NUMEROUS emails about "how did you know to tell?", "We have no idea how our family will react", "I carry this burden with me all day long, this secret, that I have to keep" "My other children are carrying this burden of this family secret, how do I help them cope?" "don't you wish that Josie Love was old enough to ask HER if SHE wanted others to know?""INSTANTLY she will be labeled in a negative way" yada yada yada...you get the picture?

First of all, my disclaimer is that I am a little more opinionated about this subject, but my sweet, sweet husband has a way of bringing me back to the reality that just because I believe it doesn't make it right for EVERYONE. (ha) So, I am going to heir on the side of caution in this post as far as my opinion. However, I will tell you about our journey.

When we traveled to Uganda to bring Josie Love home, we were blogging mostly for our children that we had left behind, our parents, and our closest friends and family. As I have stated before, I was NOT a blogger, and never intended to be. However, I was very familiar with the phone lines internationally from trying to communicate with Katie, and I knew we needed an easier way to allow them to feel as though they were on this journey with us. Through this journey, our blog went from close friends and family to HUNDREDS. OH, the power of social media!! And, I AM NOW A BLOGGER...hahhaha.

I will NEVER forget that day in the doctors office. When we were told that she was positive, I felt as though the world quit spinning, all of the sounds around me went mute and all I could do was look at the child that lay limp in my arms and think "she is going to die." Mike held her in his arms on the trip home from Kampala (back to the babies home). I remember laying my head on his shoulder, touching her soft hair, feeling that if my heart hurt ANY worse that it would literally just break in half. That night as we lay in bed, Mike and I were both staring at the ceiling, tears streaming down our cheeks, I remember saying "is this the hardest thing that we have EVER been through? Is your heart hurting more than it EVER has before?" (I think deep down I needed to ask him these things in order for me to believe that it was REALLY happpening) and he replied "yes." I had NO IDEA even HOW to begin processing the turn that our lives had just taken. A few days later, we blogged what we had learned of her sickness. While everyone was so encouraging, we still had NO IDEA what the future looked like. And guess what? WE STILL DONT HAVE ANY IDEA!!!

This is what I DO KNOW....I opened my Facebook page tonight and this is what was awaited me:
I just saw the most recent updates after Josie’s surgery, and I felt so compelled to write you. Being obsessed with all things adoption (adopted from ET in 2008 and waiting on guardianship from India currently), I show my husband TONS of pictures of children in every facet of the adoption process. He is a nice guy, so he obliges me with polite “ooo’s and aahhh’s.” But then there’s your Josie Love. The photos of her in Uganda captured him. He fell in love with her and even named her Macy Gray (the singer) for our in-home purposes. :)

I don’t think you knew she was HIV positive at that time, so when you shared her diagnosis with blog world, the news captured his heart all over again—so much so that he used your family’s strength and willingness as a sermon illustration. Jake is on staff at a prominent, nearly all white, affluent church in our sleepy little town. These people have hearts of gold, but living life on the edge isn’t really at the forefront of most members’ minds. You could just feel the room tighten when he shared how you bravely chose to pursue her regardless of her sickness. Today when I saw the ADORABLE pictures of Josie’s eyes beginning to open, I just had to share that God has used your little miracle to open many eyes already—eyes that while functioning well enough were clouded to the idea that there are people ALL around us in need of love and attention. Her story and your family’s obedience are literally impacting the world.

WOW.....I sat with tears streaming down my cheeks as I read this message aloud to Mike. I HAVE to believe that God has his hand, his TENDER hand, rested right in the palm of Josie Love's. At the end of the day, we don't know how the stigma will effect her little heart. We have no idea what she is going to endure in her lifetime because of it. This is uncharted territory for us. It is uncharted territory for MOST. Even the "professionals" do not know the effects that all of these things will have on these children.

This is what I DO know. That Christ is already using this little girl to prick the hearts of many people. I KNOW of 10 children that are HIV+ that will be coming home to their forever families because of Josie's story. I know that many have been educated through our blog, that with meds, ou can bring a childs viral loads down from 800,000 to 256 in FIVE months!! I know that I serve a MIGHTY, MIGHTY Savior that is sitting on His throne while using my little girl to prick a strangers heart so much that he named her Macy Grey when talking about her around his home. I KNOW that I will do everything in my power to show her that while the HIV is part of her life, it does not make up WHO she is. She was wonderfully and perfectly made in Christ's image, and that has ABSOLUTELY no stigma to it.
I also know that a child can go from this.....
to this:

with love and medicine.


I also know that MaMa is tired.

35 comments:

Melissa said...

So amazing! God is so using sweet Josie Love in the lives of many! What an encouraging email! God's plans are so much better!

anna said...

Oh my goodness I just cannot believe the LEAPS this child has made! The tears are streaming as i look from a child who almost didn't make it to a child that makes my heart just smile. She is absolutely a miracle and I am beyond blessed to know the little stinker. She is who she is and I believe she will always be that way. God's love through her is so big and mighty that she will never fail to put a smile on the face of anyone she meets. She has humbled me and blessed me and I am thankful. BUT I am also thankful for the mama and daddy that have claimed her to be apart of their family. She is such a treasure! Love you all!

Mom to 9 Blessings! said...

Wish you could see my smile Suzanne as I finished your post today!

PRAISE HIM!

Praise His powerful and wonderful NAME!

Praise Him for being our healer and sustainer!

Praise Him that Josie Love is wonderfully, fearfully made in HIS image!

Hugs and love,
Jill

julie said...

The most beautiful post you have ever written. We are adopting an African American child domestically, and last night we turned in our final "what we are willing to consider list". Because of Josie Love, your family's love for her and because you have educated us on HIV, we gladly checked "Yes" next to he Aids/HIV box. If we do end up with a child with HIV, sure, we'll be afraid. But we will "do it afraid!"

jstromli said...

You know what is so funny...there are so many times that I completely forget that Josie is HIV positive...and I didn't realize that until I logged on today, saw your post and went OH GOSH, I had totally forgotten!

When you first shared her diagnosis on the blog it was all I could think about (not in a bad way, but in that way where my heart was breaking for Josie and you two) but now I just enjoy hearing about JOSIE:) As you said, her HIV is part of her, but it is not HER!

Also, I am so grateful for the education I have received about HIV today from following your story. I have always had a great passion for those with HIV/AIDS, ever since I followed the story of Ryan White as a youngster, but I was not really up to date wiht the progress in treating the disease. It is just miraculous the strides that have been made in treating this devastating disease...PRAISE GOD!

Hope you got some sleep!

*Given Much Mom* said...

LOVE this post!! Beautiful! (Also makes me wonder,again, about switching back to showing 'faces' on my blog in order to more powerfully touch hearts.) Your girl is reaching others! What a blessing!

The McBrides said...

thank you for this post.... love to you all...

Jewels of My Heart said...

Thank You Jesus for beautiful Josie Love and your ministry through her..... keep shining bright for Jesus Josie girl!

Erin said...

I have to admit, it's because of your story and what God had already begun to lay upon my heart, that I've decided to adopt HIV+ children. I now know it's actually possible...because someone's doing it. Someone whose heart seems to be similar to my own is loving and bringing home a child who'd be rejected and shunned otherwise. I praise God for you and your beautiful family. Your story has become an intricate part of my own.

Beautiful Mess said...

Thankful for your story...and thankful it is effecting people positively!

M. Castle said...

Amen! God is indeed lifting the closed eyes of so many through Josie Love. Thank you for sharing her testimony and making believers of us all. Bless you Mayernick's.

Diane said...

I marvel, A G A I N, at how God lines every itty bitty teeny weeny itsy bitsy part of our day in Him, for His purpose, for His Glory!!!

Thank you so much, Suzanne, for sharing Him with us today!!!

Hugs to you and give one to Gwen from me, too:)

We Are Family said...

This post is awesome. Thanks for becoming a "blogger" so we can share in your joy.

Tony and Heather Snyder said...

I think that Josie's story will carry farther then you will ever know. You have opened my husband heart and eyes and burst my heart wide open. Thank you for all you do. God Bless!

Small Stones said...

I was clicking around online and came across this blog. Imagine my suprise when I scrolled down on this blog and saw this sweet, familiar face! I figure you have seen this picture, but just wanted to send you this link just to be sure (I have a sister adopted from China, and it is always so priceless when another family who has adopted from the same orphanage happens to have a picture with my sister in the frame and they send us a copy. LOVE to see pictures of her before she came to our family. Wanted to make sure you have this one of your little Josey Love!)

So glad you are all doing well, and little Josey Love is doing well. This blog post gave me goosebumps, and I am so thankful you have shared her story with all of us. THANK YOU!

Here is the link to the picture I found. You will have to scroll down about halfway to see the picture.

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_wuw6CqU-gi0/SMlHcDIxBaI/AAAAAAAAAF4/cI6yvWMBOFs/s320/Uganda%2B019.jpg&imgrefurl=http://drumsofafrica.blogspot.com/2008_09_01_archive.html&usg=__GXtvl0qCNjfJ3iXWuDfdGAPB5UY=&h=240&w=320&sz=16&hl=en&start=39&itbs=1&tbnid=wH3-MsExyBM2bM:&tbnh=89&tbnw=118&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dstarving%2Bbaby%2Bin%2BUganda%26start%3D20%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26gbv%3D2%26ndsp%3D20%26tbs%3Disch:1

Jenn in GA said...

what a great way to start my day at 4:30a this morning! love your heart, woman, and am so excited to be a witness to what God is doing in your heart, in your family's life, and in josie's body, mind, and heart! big YAY from GA!

Ali said...

what would i do without this little niece in my life?!? i burst every time i hold and see that baby girl. so so so so proud of you sweet sister.

Abbie Whitehurst said...

INCREDIBLE...I stand amazed at her strength :)

LOOVVVEE,
Abs

RaVae Erickson said...

Oh Suzanne! It is so GOOD to know you are getting feedback about sharing your family's story via your wonderful blog. Please know Jlovie's story has captured many a heart and will continue to do so I am sure. I can honestly share that my heart is much more open to adopting (any little one, HIV positive or not!) now than it was before I found your blog.

Many MANY blessings dear sister in Christ!
RaVae

Are These Kids All Yours? said...

PRAYING that sooo many more will hear & know the TRUTH! That children are children- they need HOMES and LOVE! We have been praying for your family for a while now, and I am AMAZED at what God has done. I know it shouldn't amaze me- He is GOD! But when I look at Josie's face, and all of you......it sinks deep into my heart!

Meredith said...

I too was touched by Josie Love's story. I was in Uganda when you were bringing her home and I checked almost daily to see if there was an update. Now I am back in the states and it is partly due to Josie Love's story that I choose to go to grad school for Maternal and Child Health. (also partly due to a little boy named Joshua who is still in Uganda b/c when his adoptive family found out he was HIV+ they choose a different child) That little grin helped to change my world and give me a passion that I never had before. Praying for ya'll.

Andrea said...

I just posted about this very thing yesterday on my blog. Praying that our children will held in His hand. And that as their earthly parents we are able to help them learn what incredible gifts they are to us and to God. Praising His name that we have been given that gift.
Thank you for sharing this!
Andrea

Tracy said...

Oh that has to be my sweet friend Merica sharing her heart!! There are no boundaries to what God wants to do in Josie's life and countless others and there is NO DENYING that it began with your and Mike's obedience!! So honored to call you friend and sister!! What a beautiful life!!!

Amy said...

Nothing much to add because you said is all SO PERFECTLY. Just wanted to say- YOU GUYS ROCK.

Jim and April said...

oh friend, this is a beautiful post! Oh the things God is doing through little beautiful Josie!

sallee said...

Praise Him...she's beautiful...

Jan J. said...

Oh how wonderful to see Josie Love's eyes wide open! There is indeed something very special about her. I am so glad people are adopting HIV+ children and bringing them here where they can lead normal healthy lives with this virus. They are no less deserving of anyone else to have a family of their own.

Oatsvall Team said...

getterdone sister !!!

love said...

suzanne....josie love is such a blessing! look at that little girl! thank you for speaking out, for sharing some of your journey & for blogging!

we travelled down from chicago for the Point of Grace concert [b/c God used Gwen heart to confirm our calling to adopt from Uganda & i fell in love with her family!] anyway, i remember sitting in our vehicle at church that morning and your family pulled up beside us. i WEPT. your beautiful family was what my family looked like in my heart.

our little boy has been home for 6 months now. what a blessing he is. i pray God will bless us with many more and that we can bring Him glory.

we are reading Radical and doing that as our small group study right now. i am going to process and pray over what we discussed tonight. i'm loving it. ok, i'll quit writing now. i just subscribed to you because i've missed too much. i know you don't know me, but i'm thankful for you. =)

natali said...

loveloveLOVE this post :)) and how great Josie Love is doing!!

Amy...who wanted 4. said...

Beautiful....simple as that.

Gran said...

Even though as Gran", I know your story backwards and forwards, I am still amazed and "deeply touched" by all that God is doing through yours and Mike's obedience to Him. This blog brought fresh tears to my eyes! I am thankful you and Mike could get away for a few days, and it is always good to have special time with our grandchildren. Love you much!

The Alfonso Family said...

Suz, so many words, so many feelings when I read your blog. You are an amazing and inspirational family. Thank you for being a part of my life and giving me perspective within this complicated world. Love You All!!! ~ Shannon Prince Alfonso

Robyn's Nest said...

I just found your blog and I can't stop crying! Your Josie Love has captured my heart...absolutely beautiful! May God continue to bless you and your amazing family!!!

Lara said...

My husband and I are applying to adopt from ET right now and the first thing some of our family asked is, "What if your child has HIV?" I was so proud of my husband for responding, "Then our child has HIV." The stigma is horrible, and people are so incredibly ignorant about HIV and AIDS.

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suzanne
I am a lover of Jesus. I have the most fabulous husband that anyone woman could ask for. The Lord has blessed us with 7 beautiful children. I started this blog so that friends and family could follow our trip to Uganda to visit Katie Davis. I have decided to keep blogging to help bring orphan awareness to the world around me.
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