I am thoroughly blessed to count incredible women as my most special of friends. They are a crucial part of my village, contributors to my sanity, bearers of light, foundations of perspective and unconditional love and part of my innermost heart. One of them is named Lize. Her name means ‘God is my oath’. And that He is indeed. Because of that, she is fearless and bold, her faith unwavering in challenging circumstances.
Lize’s eldest daughter was born at 28 weeks almost nine years ago due to her severe diabetes. After this difficult ordeal and months in NICU, her mother was diagnosed with motor neuron disease. She passed away within a year after being diagnosed with Lize taking care of her until the end. I met Lize a year after her mother died, just after my daughter was born. We started a prayer group at her home and I remember the time spent together weekly as the light in my life in the first year of my daughter’s life. I felt at the time that hope was scarce, as my daughter had silent reflux and we slept very little. Lize always spoke candidly of how she missed her mother and her desire to have another child. But her illness made another pregnancy life threatening and after several failed IVF-treatments, an alternative route was the only way.
She and her husband decided on gestational surrogacy and put the motions in place. A few of us had the privilege of going through the whole process with her. I remember her conflicting emotions, between the intense hurt of not being able to carry her child herself and the excitement of their new baby that was carried by a woman more than six hundred kilometres away. She handled all of this with her unique sense of humour and perspective on life, moulded by much hurt and challenges during the course of her life. Her faith and joy in the whole process were the most inspiring, also the way she carried her husband and eldest on her hands during all of it. She physically prepared herself for months for the arrival of her new baby in order to breastfeed herself. No hormonal treatment or any sacrifice for that matter was too big. A little more than three years ago, her little girl was born, looking just like her eldest sister. What I’ve learned from them in the meantime is that being able to carry your own child is but the smallest part of motherhood. Choosing to take care of your child every second of every day and loving and accepting them unconditionally are by far the biggest part.
It is Lize and her husband’s desire to have more children. While they were weighing their options for the last year, the opportunity to foster a little boy came their way about four months ago. Their already incredibly big hearts just sort of naturally expanded to take on the opportunity. As with everything Lize and her husband do, they took it in their stride. The boy came from harrowing circumstances, to put it lightly, and at nine years old he has already experienced enough in life to decide quite a few things and to be brainwashed in many regards. This was going to be no easy task, but one they were willing to take on in order to create a safe and loving environment for this boy. We held a ‘home coming’ party for her, like a baby shower, but only with big-boy stuff. She was incredibly excited.
Yet, her and her family’s whole life turned upside down. Suddenly, she had to adjust her whole approach to parenting to accommodate a boy who has not experienced any normality thus far. Just raising her voice a little bit scared him so much that he went into hiding. This was the least of her challenges. But she took each one on with the courage that only one owns who has her roots firmly established. Within a few weeks, he started doing well at school, proving that a child who experiences love and safety is able to learn well. Lize and her husband were in the process of applying to foster him for the next two years, but experienced immense frustration with the red tape and social worker challenges in our country.
Then, during the past holiday, a few incidences took place that proved to Lize that the little boy was much more abused and traumatized as they initially thought. The fact that he was also still able to see his mother under supervision traumatized him immensely. His behaviour became a danger to her and her daughters. After about three months, they had to make the heart breaking decision to take him back to his mother, as this was about the only option they were given by the frightening incompetent welfare department in South Africa where the interests of children are often the least important. In the past week, Lize became physically sick with the prospect of having to let go of a boy she has come to love and has tried to protect with all her might. However, their fight is not over and they are still going to do everything in their power to prove that his mother is not capable to take care of him. Many challenges still lie ahead, one of which is immense loss when he goes away in a few days.
Dearest Lize, I count you among the bravest of brave persons I know in my life. Not only of what you are going through right now, but because of what you have decided to do with the challenges you have experienced in your life. Because of how you have taken hopelessness and turned it into the brightest and warmest of lights that just flow from you in everything you do. Because of how you are the most intentional person I know. Not once do I hear a word of despair from your mouth. All of this because God is your oath of oaths. All of this because you have experienced what it means to truly let go and let God, in every aspect of your life but especially your journey with each of your, what has now become, three children. So many times the odds are threateningly piled against you, but you overcome with courage and dignity. And this time will be no different, because, as you rightly said, you have your faith. And with your faith, you are slowly but surely moving mountains. I do believe with all my heart that you are changing this little boy’s life with the seed you have planted in the past months. It will not be in vain. You know what it means to fully accept God’s grace over your and your family’s life. I feel small in your presence. Your spirit is incredibly big, like a fire that will never be extinguished but will also never be the cause of any hurt.
I salute you, my precious friend.
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” L.R. Knost