Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Peace in the Journey

Over the past few weeks I have had this strange feeling of disconnect from Nora. It's hard to explain really, but I'd like to try being VERY honest in this post in order for people going through this to relate or for others not going through this to try to understand better what I'm feeling through this process. I hope it helps someone besides myself! : )

Three weeks ago we were able to meet Nora, spend 4 wonderful days loving on her and holding her, and then we came home where our focus turned back to our other 3 children, daily living, and went full-blow into Christmas preparing. Besides a few emails discussing our first large payment towards her adoption when we initially got home, we hadn't heard anything from Haiti until this morning. During that lull, we knew another adoption was amazingly and wonderfully coming to it's close and one of the boys we enjoyed time with in Haiti headed home to Iowa for Christmas! Yeah! Several others are VERY close to their own homecomings so we knew Rachel was very busy on top of having her own Christmas to celebrate, but when you don't hear a peep from Haiti, it does crazy things to your head...okay, it at least does crazy things to my head. Here are some of the honest thoughts that have been coming and going through my head over the last several weeks...
  • What if Rachel is now avoiding us because we asked too many questions while we were down there?
  • I hope Nora is doing well physically. We left her with a cold and I know that their healthcare isn't as good down there. What if her cold has turned into something worse and she is dying and no one is telling us?
  • What if her birth mom is having second thoughts after meeting us?
  • What if something is wrong in the paperwork and we aren't anywhere close to starting this process on the Haiti side when we were hoping to be in IBESR in the next few weeks?
  • This is stupid, Angie. I'm sure everything is FINE. Rachel's just busy and you need to give her the space she needs. Just focus on the life in front of you right now.
  • What little trust and faith you have, Ang, isn't God the one watching over Nora while you can't be with her--don't you trust Him enough to take care of her?
  • I feel guilty. I should be thinking of Nora all the time since she is my child...it feels like this adoption is a surreal experience sometimes that isn't really happening. Like we just went to Haiti to hold a little baby that we have no connection to and now we are back here and life is just going on without that little baby.
  • How am I going to connect to this little girl when she comes home when I have little to no contact with her when she is in Haiti other than an occasional photo or trip?
  • Why does it have to be like this? I wish I could be seeing her grow and develop and be able to tell her all about her first year of life like I can to my other children and I just can't and that sucks.
  • Will she feel left out of the family when all my other children have detailed accounts of their life the first year in their baby books and I don't even think I can even make one for Nora because I will have NO clue when anything happened. Heck, I don't even know how much she weighs.
  • I wish I had more money so I could go see her more often, but then that leaves my other three kiddos with no mom too and that's not good...there is no good way to be a mom to all 4 of my kids when they aren't all together in one location.
  • I'm not being a good mom to Nora like I have been to my other kids and that bugs me to no end.
  • The nannies and Rachel will be the "moms" Nora knows--will she even want me when I get to see her, let alone when we go to bring her home?
  • I wish I had someone who thought about Nora as much as I do or at the same time as me. I don't feel like anyone thinks about her at all or even how hard this is in my head. People around me have no idea what I'm thinking and feeling--they are concerned with their own families and life and don't have time to think about me.
  • What a selfish thought that was! Good grief, the Lord IS thinking of Nora and me and that should be enough for me. But, man, that doesn't feel like enough. What's wrong with me--why am I not satisfied?
  • I wish family and friends would already see Nora as part of our family but I feel like no one will really acknowledge her as a part of us until she is home and physically with us. Christmas is hard when the whole family is getting together and yet I feel like one of our family members isn't with us.

So, as you can see--CRAZY stuff goes through my head when I don't hear from Haiti. Everything from guilt, to fear, to doubt, to sadness, to complete irrationality. It's frustrating and hard to live with sometimes because those are the very things a woman in freedom is trying to stay far away from. However, I also know those are the places God can refine us because He can use those feelings and thoughts to teach us something deeper and even more life-changing when we involve Him. This is the part of adoption that really is the "journey" right now. It is life-changing way beyond the fact that we are adding another little being to our family!

The only way I can think to have others understand is to try to imagine having one of your children sent away to a foreign country where you can not see them or touch them or even communicate with them--oh, and no one else has ever really even met them so no one else around you knows them like you do. A part of your heart just simply wouldn't be okay until they were back home with you, would it? The hard part for us--or for anyone going through an adoption in Haiti--is that we are left with those feelings for a year to two years of "normal" daily life continuing on around us. It's simply a hard place to be.

Even last night I was having a few of those thoughts going through my head as I sent off yet another email to Rachel inquiring about some more financial matters. I almost felt a desperate hope to get an answer to some of those financial questions because when I can't tangibly handle the mothering side of my child in Haiti, my attention turns to the only thing I feel I can handle--raising funds to get her home. All of this brings us to this morning...a response from Rachel!

Her emails are brief. A few details about the misunderstandings of the financial stuff which will then have to be addressed again (never-ending frustration), a few personal wishes of Christmas blessings, and then this one line that literally changes all thoughts in my head and brings a peace to the madness...

"Nora is doing very well, she eats like crazy, get prepared."

Ahh....peace. The questions, doubts, fears, irrationality, and guilt simply seem to disappear and are replaced with tears of joy that I have heard from Haiti. The reassurance that Nora is not only doing well, but is doing very well is peace to a weary head. It's a reassurance of growth and health and happiness, which is the desire of any mother's heart for her children. I can not describe how wonderful that one little line is to hear and how much it will fuel my soul for the next period of silence and distance from Haiti. That peace is a peace that HAS to come from God because it truly does pass my own understanding.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cancer and the Circle of Life

Cancer. When you hear that word what comes to your mind? Death. Chemo. Fight. Sickness. Battle. Pink ribbons. What is it for you? What about...


Cancer is a common word in our household these days because of Micah being an oncology certified registered nurse at IU Health Goshen Center for Cancer Care. I daily hear stories involving patients he treats in the infusion room. He has helped make them laugh with his dry sense of humor, cried a bit with them over their diagnosis, or been doted on by the older ladies because of his good looks and wavy curls of hair (seriously, one told him he looked like a Greek god!) I know my husband LOVES his job...well, not really his "job", but rather his "calling". To Micah, going to work each day at the cancer center is not really a "job", it's a calling he is being faithful to work in. Early on in our marriage when he sensed his place was not in camping ministry and perhaps was to be in nursing, Micah made his way through a second round of schooling to make it happen because something inside him knew this was what he was meant to do. It was never much of a question where he would end up serving as a nurse--his heart has always been tied to cancer.

You see, when Micah was 6 years old his mom, Glenda, was taken by cancer. She was too young...much too young. She fought the battle bravely while MANY people prayed to God to heal her, but it took her to her final home in Heaven instead of keeping her with her hubby and 5 children. It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. It wasn't the happy ending people want to hear. It left many with unanswered questions and lost hope. It left pain and hurt and emptiness. It left many with what the word "cancer" typically makes people think of.

Glenda left behind children from their teenage years down to their toddler years and it was very hard on all of them to say the least. Micah has wonderful memories of his mom from a 6 year old's perspective...a lot of cooking and baking in the kitchen where she welcomed all of their help. I've learned through stories over the years that Glenda loved antiques, crafts, and baking. She was often found in her flower beds or gardens on the farm. She also had a bit of a temper and a sense of humor. When going through old paperwork and pictures to create a heritage album, I discovered a paper where Glenda had written out her testimony of how she came to know the Lord and why her love of God was so important in her life. It was a cherished document to find. I only wish I could have heard those words from her directly. As the only woman marrying into this family, I grieve that I never had the chance to know my mother-in-law for myself. I truly think I would have loved her greatly.

In addition to Glenda's battle with cancer, we have also had another very personal touch of cancer in our family when our niece, Madison, had to fight her battle with cancer. Maddie was just 2 1/2 years old when she got diagnosed. She went through all the same horrible rounds of chemo and such that an adult does for 2 years. She was brave and strong (as were her parents) and is now 8 years old and (thank God) cancer free. This past summer Micah shaved his head to raise funds for St. Baldrick's Foundation, who help fund research to beat childhood cancer, in honor of Maddie. Here is a photo of Maddie watching the shave party via Skype.

It's really no wonder God decided to use Micah's heart to reach out to others fighting their battles with cancer. Micah has a connection to his cancer patients that many nurses simply can not have--he's a survivor too of sorts. He's survived the loss cancer has made in his family. But what does all of this have to do with LIFE?

Well, to answer that, let me introduce you to one of Micah's past patients...her name is Julie Harvey and she was one of Micah's favorites. Julie was the topic of many of our table conversations in the evening and Micah would often get on fb or such to show me this woman as she fought her battle with cancer. Thankfully Julie has won her battle! Julie has not allowed her cancer to hinder her in life, but instead she has used it to fuel the desire to have this disease brought to an end. She helped bring awareness and funds to cancer research through the Pink Cart program put out by Borden Wasteaway. Here is a picture of her at the reveal of the Pink Cart program (Julie is on the right)...
Yesterday, we got the most touching letter and donation from Julie towards our adoption of Nora. Instead of trying to re-word her heart, I asked her permission to simply type out parts of her letter directly on here so you can see how special this was for us....here is the part where cancer becomes LIFE!

Dear Micah and Angie-

When I was diagnosed my world was turned upside down, I was certain that God had forgotten me and my children in this mess, and I was going to leave them motherless. I was afraid, alone, petrified, and uncertain of where I fit into this whole plan...I know that I have often said that I was diagnosed while we lived here because God knew that I needed to be at Goshen Cancer Center. The last three years have been filled with heartache and joy and all in between, and all the same time.

God brought me others getting treatment like me, as well as those who cared for me and so many other wonderful people to help to ease the pain of the journey that I was on, but more so to show me HIS love-they held my hand-and so did Micah.

Last year I was HONORED to be a part of the Pink Cart program in Northern Indiana. When Borden Wasteaway asked me to be a part of launching the program in Warsaw, I was ALL OVER it--I loved the idea. Partially because I feel that whatever positive I can do in the face of cancer-IT does not win. The Pink Cart program was one of the MANY opportunities brought into my life-to "win" in the face of it all.

I believe that God placed you two and Nora on my heart in a BIG way during that time-I just didn't know why. I agreed to a commission structure for the program and just last week I was gathering my report to send for that payment...THAT is when I stumbled on your video of your trip to Haiti. (I know that we only stumble upon ourselves, the other GOD places in our path). It took me about 5 seconds to realize where the money I made needed to go--I called Mike, and he agrees WHOLE heartedly...It needs to go to you-to bring Nora home-so she can know that LOVE that you have to give. So she can know that Jesus put HER in my heart to be obedient to HIM to help bring her to you-I believe that-and I know that to be true. I always questioned when my friends told me that God spoke to them-thinking he never had my number on speed dial. I can assure you last Wednesday-GOD SPOKE TO ME!

I feel that this whole thing has come FULL circle-how God is using this old cancer diagnosis to bring new life into our world, and to show a child,-HIS child, that there is hope in her, and hope in her future-here...with you!!! To know the love and compassion that her family has shown me.

Please accept my humble gift to your family. You have witnessed God's love and promise in the face of adversity to me, and all around you, and I am grateful to you-all of you.

God Bless you and your amazing family-May you be able to bring her home just a little sooner-thanks to cancer-and the lesson is that GOOD can come from any bad situation.

LOVE YOU ALL--Merry Christmas,
Mike, Julie, Lucas, and Dayle

So amazing, isn't it! I love Julie's intuition where cancer has meant to defeat and bring death, it has instead come FULL circle and been overcome with LIFE. I know that Julie was thinking in her own personal circle...that her life-threatening cancer (that was beat) caused her to be asked to help promote the carts, which gave her extra income that she could then put towards our adoption costs, which brings Nora's life into ours and saves a life that needs it. Very cool, indeed, but nonetheless, as I read her letter and reflected on how much cancer has affected our lives, I see an even larger circle in this story. One that connects even Julie's story to our life story and because of that, our daughter Nora with a Grandma she will only meet when she gets to Heaven...

Glenda loses her battle with cancer when Micah is 6-Micah develops a passion for cancer patients throughout life-as an adult, Micah goes back to school for nursing-Micah gets a job with IU Health Goshen on the cancer floor-he is eventually transferred to the Cancer Center-Julie comes as a patient under Micah's care-he uses his calling in life to touch Julie's life-Julie's fueled with his compassion-Julie wins her battle with cancer-Julie is asked to help create awareness to battle cancer with the Pink Cart program-Julie makes a commission off of that program-Julie knows of our adoption and knows God could use this extra money to help bring Nora home-Julie sends us the money-and EVENTUALLY Nora will come home and have life that is touched by a thread of the Lord that reaches through Julie's faithfulness, to our faithfulness, and then clear back to her Grandma Glenda's life. That, folks, is a glimmer of how God can use cancer to bring LIFE! I love seeing the thread of God weaving in and out and connecting all parts of our lives together for the good. It's amazing!

So, Julie, thank you. Thank you for your donation and your letter. Thank you for your hard-fought battle with cancer and for never allowing it to defeat your spirit. Thank you for being faithful to the Lord's call in your heart. It has done wonders to show us, and others...and Nora...the amazing power of the BODY of Christ.

Thank you, Lord, for Your thread in our lives and for now connecting in a very woven way, Nora to her Grandma Glenda. It has made my heart excited to see where all You will also tie us together with more of your children along this journey.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A New Take on Christmas

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. I'm a gift-giver. I think I got that passed down from my parents, really. I love any excuse I can come up with to give someone a gift--even if it's just a little encouragement. However, when a holiday comes around where I can actually spend the money we saved up throughout the year to give someone else a gift, I really, really get excited! I love to think intently on what each person would want, I love looking over their lists to find the one gift they want that matches what I'd love to get them, I love feeling like giving someone this gift would remind them how much I care about them, I love watching peoples' reactions as they open them, I just love all of it.

This past Saturday night Micah and I spent our date night wrapping up all the gifts for our kids and extended family members. This is a tradition itself! Put on the Christmas music, bring out the wrapping paper and bows, get markers ready to sign the tags (or the wrapping paper as I did not think about getting tags this year), and have fun discussions throughout the evening as we wrap away. This Christmas is going to be especially fun because of the main present we are giving our kiddos. Fortunately they are young enough I can post this on here and they will never know! : ) Micah came up with the idea to design, cut out, and build a beautiful castle for them (and he did an incredible job on it!) and I helped paint it once he had it all put together. Here, take a look...

Isn't it awesome! I can't wait to see the kids' faces when they open it up. They love to play with their kings, queens, princesses, knights, dragons, and soldiers, but they have yet to own a "home" for all of them to play in so this will be a wonderful addition to their playtime. What I love about this gift (beyond that their Daddy made it for them), is that it symbolizes, for me at least, what Christmas is all about. A home that a king came to inhabit. A home that THE KING came to inhabit.

On Sunday, Jay Shetler, our pastor and dear friend at Maple City Chapel, preached a sermon on Christmas that was not your typical Jesus as a cute little baby in the manger sermon. It was about the war around us daily and Jesus' role in that war. How, as a tiny baby, He became much like a secret sleeper agent infiltrating our world in order to win the largest and best victory He could ever win. He talked about the dragon mentioned in Revelation waiting to devourer that precious little baby the moment He was birthed and yet how the angels rallied in battle in order to protect the rightful King and fought the battle alongside Him until that dragon (Satan) was defeated. A dragon, a King, angels in battle, little princes and princesses needing to be saved...I can totally see my kids playing this very story within the walls of the castle their Daddy just made them.

It was a sermon that stirred up a voice inside me that said, "YES!!!! That's my faith! That's the God I serve. That's the story I am a part of! That's the Jesus who saved me! That is what we should be celebrating this Christmas season." Far too often I feel Christmas is downplayed by the quiet little scene of a stable with peaceful animals, a Mary who does NOT look like she just gave birth, and winged angels smiling from the sidelines (trumpets in hand) at a little full-head-of-hair baby boy looking up with a calm smile, while a halo hovers over his head. That scene just doesn't stir up in me a gut-level desire to learn more about this little baby and share it with the world. It just seems too quaint and, well, fake. Part of what annoys me about that scene is that I've been to Bethlehem and the stable was most likely a cave, but that is besides the point. If I had to paint a picture of the scene it would look different.

It would most likely have two worn out people all sweaty and dirty from a massive day's hike and then childbirth on top of it all. They would be curled up together in some dirty blankets trying to get some much needed sleep but fighting the urge to look once again at the baby they just added to their family because it still seemed a bit unreal to them. It would maybe have Mary looking at her first child in wonderment--the kind that says I've known you for 9 months now in my womb, but here you are! You are precious...and I'm so glad you are OUT of me--what a huge relief, that was exhausting! : ) Baby Jesus would be bald and still a bit cone-headed from his big entrance to the world. He may be sleeping with them or he may be making the cooing and grunting noises of a newborn, or maybe he would be nursing from Mary as Joseph tries to console her from the amount of pain she is now in from that first latch on. It would involve animals still, but they would be off to the side caring less that those people were there--they would be eating the straw in their pens or pooping in the hay because that's what animals do. It would show a tremendously bright, intense light around the place that no one could explain. All around people would be seeing this light and wondering what on earth it could be. They would feel a mixture of holy trembling and fear that sent them face-down on the ground as well as a peace in their hearts no one could explain because this was no ordinary light--this was a light that had to be from the heavens.

My imagined scene may still be "common" in those days, but isn't it a little more realistic? Either way, I guess, it still leaves room for ordinary people, Christian people, non-Christian people, Jews and Gentiles, to skip over it and chalk it up for nothing more than another baby being born (maybe besides the intense light). However, as a mom who has gone through natural childbirth three times now, I relate to my version of the picture better and I desire to connect to those people more because they seem like me. And, as I read it, that was Jesus' main goal of becoming human--to become like us.

I was thankful for Jay's sermon on Sunday because it struck a cord within me that reminded me that even though this birth was something I could relate to, this was NO ordinary baby being born. This was the baby who brought (or bought) me the freedom I have been experiencing first-hand in my life over 2000 years later. This was the baby who fought the good fight on the battle grounds to the very end and came up victorious...for me....and for you. This was the baby who, instead of being devoured by a huge dragon, stood up on the unshakable ground of God and fought to the death (and beyond) to bring us hope, peace, joy, and an everlasting home in Glory with Him. That's the Christmas gift He gave us that day. That's the Christmas gift I truly want to give to others. The gift of a story they are a part of...a true story they are a part of...a true story they can relate to...a true story they were meant to know beyond the quiet scene of a manger. The story of an epic battle where two sides were fighting for each one of us and the One who won that victory was first born as a baby in Bethlehem. I'm excited this Christmas because, after all, I am a gift-giver.

Oh, and as far as what I want as a gift most for Christmas this year, well, this pretty much sums it up for me. The chance to make sure this story is told, believed, and embraced by another little baby in this world...

And while we are at it, I'll throw in one of my favorite Christmas songs...it's not a traditional one, go figure! It's also not exactly the video I want with it because the pictures show the exact depiction of the birth of Christ as I mentioned leaves me feeling a little unmoved, but just close your eyes if you need to and listen to the words--those are what's important! : )

Friday, December 16, 2011

Top 10 Lessons Learned in Haiti

How does one sum up a trip to a third world country to meet their daughter? Really, is that even possible? I could talk for a whole day or more about what all we learned about Haiti, this adoption process, Nora, and even ourselves on this trip, but I have to tailor all those thoughts down into a blog post somehow, so I've decided to limit myself to 10 thoughts or lessons I feel I was taught while in Haiti. If you want longer versions (which this one is quite long itself), just ask me, but be prepared to be with me for a while!

Top 10 Lessons Learned in Haiti (in no particular order)

1. Nora is already living up to her namesake!
Nora means "a light" and "a woman of honor". As we spent time holding her, playing with her (as best as you can to a 2 1/2 month old), and loving on her, we saw that "light" of Nora come out in her contagious, gorgeous smile. We feel God has told us to name her Nora because He intends for her to be a light in the darkness. I have no idea how that will play out in her life, but I know she's on the right road simply with her smile. I am beyond excited to see what all God does with this child of His...and with my other children too! Micah and I are truly blessed to be chosen to actively watch God's story for their lives unfold.

2. I REALLY love living & driving in the US--it's orderly and clean.
If you have never taken the opportunity to visit a foreign country, let alone a "third world" country, you have no idea what I'm talking about. I've been to other countries before--Canada, Mexico and the Holy Lands. I've been where all you hear is honking of car horns as you drive through the city streets. I've been where the sides of the roads, sidewalks, and alleyways are literally lined with trash. That was not new to me because of these other trips, but what I experienced in Haiti was unlike any of those previous trips. The trash is EVERYWHERE. Seriously, as we approached MTM, I even saw a small crop field and the rows in between each planting was literally filled with trash as high as the crop. It was overwhelming. Micah and I questioned, at what point does it become so filled with trash that it's impossible to live in? We were told the trash ends up going somewhere in the end and unfortunately that ending place is the ocean. Can you even imagine...wow. I just wanted to bring pounds and pounds of trash bags and just start somewhere cleaning it all up and then finding a big freight boat to take it all away to a proper landfill. Ugh.

In the same way, it's hard to describe the Haitian road system without you fully participating yourself. The best way I can even think to describe it would be to have you imagine going through the worst, continuous pot-holed, narrow alleyway you can imagine, straight up the side of a mountain with many curves for about 45 mins. All the while put lots of people and animals on the sides of your vehicle with their elbows almost touching your side mirrors as you drive through it all as fast as you possibly can. Oh yeah, and don't even think about putting any traffic lights or stop signs in your path, they aren't needed; nor is the yellow line in the middle of the road because you can just pass whenever someone is slowing you down--even on curves, just honk first and it makes it okay. Oh, and car seats--nope, not needed here! Yep, that's Haiti, and we are glad to be home. We felt a gentle confirmation that Micah and I are not being called into foreign missions any time soon. : )

3. What kind of efforts do we put into getting to church?
If you are like our family, your efforts to get to church on a Sunday morning involve getting everyone out of bed, cleaned up, dressed nicely, breakfast ate, and all loaded into your vehicle to drive the comfy drive to church...maybe a 5 minute drive like us, maybe a 45 minute drive like others, but nonetheless...a comfy drive. It's effort for sure, but when you see a photo like this, it changes your perspective. Do you see this girl in the picture? Take a good look. Do you see the sweat soaked shirt she is wearing? Yep, she does not have it easy like us...her efforts to get to church in the morning go far beyond our own. Mountain Top Ministries' church pulls its congregation members from the surrounding mountainside villages. Some of these people walk for miles up a mountainside or down a mountainside simply to get to church. They typically wear their BEST clothes and even heels to church so try to imagine hiking your way to church in heels, ladies! I have a feeling many of us simply wouldn't do it. If it meant we had to put forth that much effort, we would probably just roll back over in bed and vow to do our own devotions some other point in the day. God, however, is looking for dedicated children to come to worship Him today. He is looking for people who will sweat their way to church. Will you be one of those people or will you allow your spot to be taken by a more dedicated young woman in Haiti or perhaps the over 70 year old woman I saw walking in that morning with her hiking stick? Will you show up no matter what it takes or leave your seat empty. It's really up to you.

4. This adoption process is clearly not taking place in America.
We had the privilege on one of our days to embark on a drive up to a neighboring mountain village to sign a paper needed for a step in our adoption process. That sounds nice, doesn't it? Well, let's just say our eyes were opened to what it is taking to get Nora home to us. Micah and I piled into a vehicle with Rachel's driver, Nora, and Nora's birth parents for a 45 min. drive to sign these papers. To be honest, we had no idea what we were signing, but when Rachel says to go and sign something, you just do it because you know it will get you one step closer in the process. Before we left, Rachel informed us, "The paper will be blank, but that's okay, just sign exactly where he tells you to." Blank. Really? I'm just supposed to sign a blank piece of paper and that is going to help get Nora to our home? Yep. That's exactly what happened. We arrived not at a governmental building or some sort of office, but instead at a small, run down mountain home where a man met us outside with sunglasses on. He knocked on a door, said something in Creole, and then let us all inside where we sat on a wooden bench. He spoke with Rachel's driver as they exchanged some paperwork. He then sat down at an old typewriter to poke the buttons of a few letters. This form was signed by both of Nora's birth parents...that one had words. Then the driver got a yellow, lined pad of paper from the man behind the old wooden desk, brought it over to us, counted down a specific number of lines on the paper, and handed it to us and said, "sign". With that, Micah signed his name and I signed mine beside it and we left. I try to come up with words to describe this little adventure, but the only one that really comes to me is...weird. It was simply weird. And it was clearly not America.

So when you see us trying to raise funds for this adoption by selling our calendars or asking for financial support to be mailed to us through Lifesong or what-have-you, please know we are truly grateful because those funds as well as us signing blank pages are helping our little Nora come home. If it wasn't for all of us being willing to sacrifice, there is no way she would ever get here. At this time of year there is a lot of talk about end-of-the-year-giving. If you are wondering who you can help by giving this year, will you please consider our adoption? We have been blessed by the outpouring of financial support, but we still have at least $7000 more to raise to cover our estimated costs (although I'm beginning to think we estimated on the low end really). Those donations will help pave the way for Nora to have a better life in our home and it will allow you to be a more active part in helping the orphans as God has asked each of us to do. If you want to donate, please look to the right-hand column on this blog and notice the section that is labeled, "How Can You Support Us?" for more details. Thank you!

5. It truly is God's will for us to bring home a toddler.
We LOVED meeting Nora and loving on her little self for 4 days in Haiti. It was HARD to say goodbye to her when it came time to leave. You can bet I cried for while after kissing her cheek goodbye. When you see what they are living in (albeit a generally speaking clean, loving, Christian run orphanage) you want nothing more than to throw a lot of money at them, pack her up in your carry on, and just say to heck with the system! However, as much as we enjoyed our time with Nora, we were also reminded that at the very beginning of this process we knew we were "done" with the baby stage in our family and were meant to bring home a toddler. We loved on her like crazy while we were there, but longed for the time when she would be older and able to interact with us and our children more. Visiting with the other older children at ROH was really fun and helped us get excited for what is to come for our time with Nora. This 1-2 year wait will be long, hard, and require patience, but in the end we will be getting what God has placed on our hearts from the beginning--a toddler who needs to be loved!

6. Even a driver is part of this adoption process.
As I mentioned above, even Rachel's driver has played a role in this adoption process. It continually amazes me at who all is involved in God's plan for our lives. People we don't know, people we will never know, and then even the people who are closest to us. It's a beautiful work of art. I was blessed to be reminded that each of us has a role to play in bringing Nora home, with none being less significant than any other. Whether you are praying for us, helping us be a notary, driving us to and from the airport, giving us $1000, taking care of Nora in Haiti while we are apart, going to be Nora's aunt and uncle when she gets home, are preparing your own children now for a new friend they will have in a year or so, sending in the only $3 you have in your pocket, giving us hugs at church and letting us know you are thinking of us, being the driver that gets the next form stamped and signed and back to Rachel, or just the one whose heart is changed by reading this blog--no matter who you are, YOU are a part of this process and for that we are grateful. It is beautiful to see God's will at work among you all.

7. My sanctuary is nature.
Speaking of beautiful...I will never forget this view of the mountainside opposite of our guesthouse at MTM or the sounds of the neighborhood village children echoing across the stone riverbed below. I am very aware that my senses are opened up when I am surrounded by God's beautiful, natural creation and I find myself easily worshiping Him because of it. While in Haiti, my body made its way to the balcony over and over again to take in the scene in front of me. It was the essence of peace to my soul while I was there. My sanctuary. I was so thankful to God for creating such a breathtaking view.

8. Friendships can be made anywhere over a warm drink and dessert.
We were blessed by our hostess at MTM, Beth Charles, who is originally from Terra Haute, IN, but has lived as a missionary in Haiti with her husband, Willem for 20 years now. She was gracious to us as we questioned her about Haiti customs and culture--trying to soak up all the information we could get. One evening she invited us, as well as the other guest helping out at MTM (Tom), to their own home's patio overlooking the mountainside for tea and a special cake they had picked up in town that day. It was delicious and the company was even better. We had a wonderful time for several hours just relaxing together in friendship. Our conversations ran the gamut from everything about raising children to be respectful, honest, and open communicators with us a parents (which Willem and Beth definitely have in their two sons, Stephen and David), to the adoption process, to computers, to education, to race issues, to adoption fundraising ideas, to the earthquake and everything in between really. It was a night I thoroughly enjoyed. That evening helped me realize it doesn't matter where you live or where you are visiting, God knows the right people to have in place there to draw you into deeper relationship with Him and others.

9. Just because Nora's birth parents are giving her up, doesn't mean they don't love her.
This story is a hard one for many people to understand. It even was for us at first...it made us say things like, "eek, sick, oh so sad, and poor girl." However, our tune has changed a bit after meeting them. Nora's birth parents are two people who seem to love Nora and her sister, Giselle, very much. Their story is hard for us American folk to take in because it's not typical for our lifestyle. As we know it, Adrienne was 15 when she gave birth to Giselle. Her 30 year old boyfriend left her some time after she became pregnant and sadly was then killed in the earthquake. Her mother had already forced her to leave home by that point because of poverty issues so Adrienne had been living with her aunt when she became pregnant. After becoming pregnant, she was kicked out of school and therefore also kicked out of her aunt's home as well. This older man (he's at least 70) said the Christian thing to do was to take her into his home in order to provide her shelter and food in exchange for her help taking care of his small farm and, well, whatever else he wanted really...which resulted in Nora. He delivered Nora (as well as Giselle) in their home and has shown the girls love over these past two years when he comes to the orphanage with Adrienne. They are very poor and can not afford to keep the girls. Adrienne has also said before that she doesn't really want to be a mom right now (can you blame her--she's not even 18 yet!!!). As we were around them at the orphanage and on our little adventure to sign the papers, we were able to see them interact with each other candidly and found it to be a pleasant relationship. They were speaking Creole, of course, so we couldn't understand a lick of it, but they were smiling and laughing here and there so it came across to us that this was a good pairing of people who could meet each others' needs. Yes, it's very odd in American standards to have a 17 year old with a 70 year old, but again, this is not America folks and God can extend grace even here.

I was able to capture this photo of Adrienne loving on Nora while she was feeding her a bottle at
the orphanage. I'm so blessed to be able to show this picture to Nora one day later in life. I hope it will help her see the reason she was given away was not that she wasn't loved, but that she was indeed loved very much and it was because of that love she was given away to have a chance at life. I am grateful for the role these two parents have played in Nora's life and I was truly blessed to have had the chance to meet them face to face, exchange handshakes and kisses on the cheeks with them, and to tell them how incredibly grateful we are for their sacrifice of their Josephine/our Nora. The father's only question for us was asking if we would bring Nora back to Haiti to visit sometime and we assured him it was our every intent to do so. The only other thing he wanted to tell us was that he was so glad Nora was going to be raised in a Christian home because he had given his life to Christ in 1950 and really wanted to make sure she was brought up with Christ too. We will honor those wishes with everything we have.

10. Finding peace as well as action in the wait is critical.
Now we are home from our trip...without our little girl. What do we do with all of those emotions and experiences and new-found knowledge? We were warned we would most likely experience depression for a good 2-3 weeks when we returned and that we should stock up on Vitamin B to help with leveling out all those emotions. We were told over and over again by other adoptive parents, "It will get better with time". We dreaded coming home. However, we are happy to report we are really doing quite well. There is part of me almost feeling guilty writing that line for fear others will think we aren't still grieving or longing for Nora to be with us as much as others who come back a mess, but it's our truth so I have to say it. We are very much at peace with this whole process. The wait will be long and there will be points where it will be very hard, but right now, we are simply at peace with trusting God to work out His plan in His time. Maybe if Nora were not an infant still and we left her with arms reaching out and tears flowing from her cheeks we would be left in that state of depression. Maybe not. Who knows really. One thing is for sure, we certainly feel the prayers of God's people surrounding us during this time.

We entered this process KNOWING this would take a year to two years to complete. If we wanted a faster process we could have gone through a different country or stayed domestic. We know we were called to Haiti, we know we were called to a girl, and we now know we were called to Nora. We have a peace in leaving all the rest up to God to orchestrate and that is a wonderful feeling. We have Christmas approaching, three dearly loved children to take care of here on the home front, and we have lives to touch and help direct towards the kingdom of God. We will wait patiently and peacefully even though it DOES hurt to do so and in the meantime, we will actively participate in God's will for our lives today. After returning from Haiti, the words to one of my favorite songs ring truer than any other time during this process of adoption. In the end, the waiting will be done and our Nora will be in our arms, home, and family forever. She is worth the wait!

(If you want to listen to this song, it is played second on our slideshow of our trip pictures in the previous post)

While I'm Waiting by John Waller
I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hard to Put to Words

It is still hard for me to come up with the words I want to tell you about our trip to Haiti last week...not because I don't have any, but quite the opposite...I have way too many! Until I can sort through all those thoughts, please enjoy our pictures in this slideshow.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words anyway, right!

I guess for now I will say this...we were blessed BEYOND words to meet our precious daughter,
Nora Josephine.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Luggage of Love

We're preparing here on the homefront for our upcoming trip to Haiti. We'll be in Haiti for a total of 4 days. The clothing we are wearing will be simple, the snacks we are bringing for lunches will be simple, the "extras" for us we are bringing will be simple, BUT the luggage we are bringing has turned into anything but simple. You see, even though we are keeping our end of this luggage as simple as we can, we are also bringing many supplies for Nora and Rivers of Hope Orphanage. We are bringing luggage full of love--very practical love!

Diapers, wipes, and formula are expensive and harder to come by in Haiti so they are in high demand for our little girl. Most of the time the children at ROH are in cloth diapers, but you can imagine that with 12 children under the age of 5, those cloth diapers don't get changed as often as they would in a home environment. Having disposable ones (especially as a newborn when her life revolves around eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom) is essential. What also is almost as essential as having dry bottoms, is having an orphanage that is as dry as possible! The mountain air is damp inside the orphanage and they have been trying to get a dehumidifier to help the problem, but so far they have not been able to do this. Dehumidifiers are HEAVY and BIG when you are looking at what to take on a trip. However, we are excited and blessed our church has helped us pay for the extra luggage costs so we could bring one down for them! We'll also be bringing down several pairs of footie jammies they are in need of, a Bumbo chair for Nora to practice sitting up in (one of the babies down there just started sitting up on his own at 10 months old), and of course, some special clothes I picked out just for my little girl (what new Mama doesn't want to shop for her newborn!)

All in all, the airlines are totally killing us on the cost of our luggage. On this particular airline, every bag except a backpack is literally at least $30/way--even a carry on! The total to fly 3 bags down and 2 bags back is costing us just about the same cost of one of our airline tickets! Not kidding. It's so sad and very frustrating. When you are trying to keep all expenses as minimal as possible, news like that just about makes you cry. In the end, however, your instincts as a parent who will do anything for your child kick in and you suck it up and bring as much as you can to help her and the place she will be for the next year or so.

As for us--we are beyond excited for our time with Nora to be almost here! We've been told she is a very content baby, growing well, and is ready for her Mama to hold her. So comforting to hear. We do not have any scheduled appointments on this trip so it will literally be four days of simply holding Nora, loving on her like crazy, and getting a feel for who she will be spending her days with and where she will be spending her days. There are 5 nannies and the director (Rachel) who will be providing for her care. These women truly love these children and thankfully care for them as best as they can. It still won't be what she could be getting in a home environment, but knowing the horror stories of so many people adopting from other foreign countries, I know this isn't necessarily the norm so we are grateful.

Some have been asking where we are at in our 1-2 year process at this point. Well, the ugly truth is that although we are 4 months, 3 weeks, and 6 days into our own process of this adoption, our 1-2 year wait has yet to begin. Ugh! Can I say that again? UGH! The 1-2 year process does not start until we are officially matched to Nora in IBESR (the Haitian Social Services). In order for that to happen, Rachel has to have all the paperwork done on Nora and then send it in with our paperwork (which has been on her desk since September). She emailed me this week and let me know Nora's birthmom did go with Rachel on Monday to relinquish her rights before the judge. This is a step in the right direction! We are eager to hear more of just how long she thinks it will take to gather everything else she needs to finish Nora's paperwork. It's just a matter of time, though, and we'll be underway...it's a LONG, HARD journey, but I'm grateful we will have this beautiful, dearly loved addition to our family in the end.

(I just re-framed new photos of all of us in our living room! For some odd reason my photo came back a different tone than the rest, but that aside, I LOVE seeing our family all together!)

I doubt I'll get any blogging done while in Haiti as we want to spend all of our time with our sweet Nora, but you can rest assured that after returning, we will undoubtedly have many stories and photos to share with everyone. Until then, will you please join us in these several prayer requests. We value your support!
  • For Lily, Tobias, and Quinn as they experience home life without us for a few days. We've never both been away from them for this long so we are praying for no meltdowns and that their time with those caring for them will be a blessing and fun treat for them!
  • For all of our luggage to get to Haiti safely and with us! : )
  • For our health while in Haiti. My body tends to act out when it gets thrown off its normal schedule so please pray for me to adjust to whatever our schedule will be there and not protest!
  • For Nora as she meets us for the first time. Yes, she is only 2 months old, but still, we want that first meeting to be covered in prayer.
  • For our camera to take perfect pictures. This one probably sounds silly, but we were blessed with the gift of a new camera from my parents and I haven't had much practice with it yet to know how to get the best photos from it. Will you pray for the photos to come out amazingly perfect despite my lack of knowledge with what I'm doing! Photos of this time with Nora will be what keep us going and going until our next trip down there, so they are critical!
  • For our days with Nora to seem completely fulfilling and blessed.
  • For our goodbyes to Nora to not be overwhelmingly painful. Honestly, we know or expect we will leave a mess...how do you say goodbye to your own child for an undetermined amount of time??? It's beyond me. I'm actually trying to not think of this part of the trip too much because I just get choked up. Just pray for comfort and peace straight from the Lord to supersede our own sense of loss as we leave her.
  • For Nora's paperwork to continue along swiftly and for all of this 1-2 year process to move ahead swiftly and as quickly as possible.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My hubby, my strength

This Wednesday, November 30th, my hubby, Micah, and I will celebrate our 9th anniversary. As I try to wrap my head around writing a blog post to honor and celebrate the man God brought to my life, I simply get lost in a sea of thoughts and different directions I could take this...I have so much I could say. As I wrap my heart around this post, however, I am simply draw to an overwhelming sense of precious pride and thankfulness that I would be so honored to be his wife.

Micah and I met while working on full-time staff at Camp Friedenswald in November 2001. Our relationship moved quickly from that of co-workers, to friends, to dating in one month's time. We were engaged 4 months later and married 7 months after that...just 1 year and 4 days after ever laying eyes on one another. Some say that's crazy fast, but we were living camp life together--eating meals together, working together, and living on the same camp grounds so our relationship had plenty of time to grow quite deeply in that setting. We connected on many levels...we were both Christians trying to place God first in our lives, we had both experienced intense grief in our past (Micah losing his mom to cancer at age 6 and I losing my college fiance to a work accident at age 19), we both believed in and enjoyed camping ministry, we both had sisters (Micah-4 of them, me-1 of them), and...well...we both thought the other one was hot stuff so we spent countless hours in conversation and infatuation with each other. It was when life, as complicated as it seemed at the time, was really quite simple for us to fall in love with each other.

Our first years of marriage were not the honeymoon phase and wedded bliss everyone seems to think marriages experience. We found out quickly how selfish of people we were and we butted heads...a lot. As much as we had in common, we had as much different from one another too. I am an organized, factual, goal setting, to-do list type of woman. Micah is a relaxed, more last minute, needs-meeting, easy-going type of man. I'm doing something every minute of the day while feeling guilty I can't get more done than what I am while Micah could be found sleeping on a couch not feeling guilty at all. We are both stubborn, but in different ways. I had to be "right" about everything and as much as he wanted to be right/was right on things too, he all to often gave in to me just to stop the argument. It was hard. Our newly found love for one another seemed always on edge.

At this same time Micah was finding out his calling was not to camping ministry, but instead to nursing. As I reflect back, I think this was maybe the first major way God began to build us into people who could make this marriage work. There is something to be said about finding your natural, God-given gifts and talents and working from them. The frustrated and slightly depressed man I was living with began to change. Micah is meant to be a nurse and our marriage has benefited from his obedience to following that call. Micah has since been working in the nursing field, specifically with cancer patients, at IU Health Goshen and it has breathed life into him. I choke up just thinking of the countless patients who have been blessed because of his care...not just for his nursing skills, but because of the genuine care and love he has for them. He does an amazing job at meeting their needs and I am blessed because I know when he leaves this home in the morning, he is leaving for a place of work where he will be consistently fulfilled and come home tired, but content and happy to have done the work he did that day.

As far as our family...I am not raising these children alone, that is for stinkin' sure. There are moments I simply have to take a step back and reflect on how incredibly blessed I am to have a man who not only wanted to be a husband and father, but wanted to be the most active husband and father he can be. He regularly contributes to our home life...he doesn't come home and take a nap or read a newspaper or check out for a while. He jumps right into the wrestling matches on the floor with the boys or allows Lily to show him all her school papers from the day. He begins cutting veges for supper or filling water cups and getting the kids' plates ready. He is greeted by running children with open arms for hugs and typically a frazzled wife breathing a huge sigh of relief to see him because she knows her man is home for the evening. He is not perfect, friends, but no one is. Micah is amazing to us here in this Thieszen family and we would be lost without him. Here are some more pics showcasing just how special he is to us here on the homefront...

There is so much more I could say about Micah, but I wanted to focus lastly on the way I have seen this amazing man of God grow in spiritual maturity and depth in these past 9 years. He is far from the man I married. I married a sinful man who was broken under years and years of wounds and hurts with no direction and no hope to beat anything. (He married the same type of woman by the way). But somewhere between a new career, 4 locations we've called home, scary times like when we almost lost Toby, joyful times of seeing all our kiddos enter the world, and all the realities of day-to-day married life, Micah has intently heard the still, small, quiet voice of God begging him to be freed from those sins and to find strength in who God has truly made Micah to be. He's not only just heard that voice, but he has searched it out, discovered it, thrown himself into it, and been changed because of it. Micah IS a man of strength. He is God's man of strength. He is my man of strength. He is the man I am so blessed to have my children look up to and call "Daddy". He is the man I am so blessed to be walking this road of adoption with. He is the man I am so blessed to have holding me up and supporting me as I have walked my own journey towards spiritual freedom in these last few years. He is the man I am blessed to have hand-in-hand and heart-in-heart with for the next MANY years to come. He is a man of strength.

No, we didn't really have that first year of honeymoon-wedded bliss, but I can tell you this--I am really glad that at 9 years into our marriage I feel like we are more in a honeymoon-wedded bliss than we were when we got married. It could so very easily have gone the other way and it didn't--we didn't. We chose us. We chose each other. We fought for us. We fought for each other. We EACH gave God the control of our ourselves and our marriage, forgave each other for all the wrongs we have done to one another, and are now solidly, joyfully, thankfully, and lovingly together today because of that. I love Micah more than anything else on this earth and he has my up-most respect. Thank You, God, for forever intermixing his life with mine....it's a gift I could never thank You enough for. Micah, I treasure you, I love you, and I am blessed because of you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Size 1

Nope, not talking about my jean size in that title...I probably never fit in a size 1--I'm a real life woman, not an airbrushed one. No, size 1 is not my jean size...I'm talking about the size of diaper the director asked us to bring down for our little sweet Nora.

Size 1.

For those of you not in the world of diapers yet or have been long gone from them, let me remind you that a size 1 diaper basically fits over your hand. Seriously.

For some reason as my mama-heart read that email this morning, it skipped a beat. I have seen these gorgeous photos of my little girl these last few weeks and have cherished them so much, but a picture doesn't truly help you grasp just how tiny she really is. We haven't heard how much she weighs or how long she is or anything a normal new parent knows when they have their own baby. We just know she is almost 2 months old, she's beautiful, she's in a size 1 diaper, and she's ours. Reality of hearing she needs diapers that small brought me to tears this morning. My precious little girl is so tiny still.

It's hard for me to put into words what it feels like to know God has purposed and planned for me to have a child that I did not birth myself. I could give you a play-by-play account of each of our children's births. I could tell you exactly what I was feeling when they came into the world...

With Lily I was feeling SUPER exhausted, hot, and relieved that labor was finally over (2 weeks late, 2 inductions with labor over the course of 2 days, and 3 hours of pushing--can you say stubborn!) I think back to those first moments as a mom and I laugh because I truly didn't have a complete mother's heart then. They put her up on my chest for that wonderful bonding moment and I left her there for just a short time before I told them she was SO heavy and hot and I wanted her off please. : ) I was still very focused on myself--and I was literally shaking with exhaustion. It wasn't a great labor experience but I still walked away feeling so blessed to have birthed her with no pain meds and to have a beautiful 8 lb. 5 oz. baby girl.

With Toby, I was happy. He came late too, but not as late as Lily and with no induction--which is a HUGE difference if you don't know that already. His total labor was 3 hours--the same amount of time of simply pushing for Lily. Crazy! It was a more chaotic scene for Toby...I remember my hands beginning to tingle and having to blow into my hands so I would calm down a bit. I remember them asking me to not push again yet because they had to suck his mouth out...What!?! He's half way out and you DON'T want me to push!?! I also will never forget the first time I laid eyes on him--he was NOT what we were expecting. We expected a dark-haired, dark-eyed, darker complected, 8-9 lb boy (because they always say each kid goes up in pounds from your first). Nope. Not even close. Our bleach-blonde-haired (what little of it he had), blue-eyed, as pale as they come, 7 lb. 15 oz. baby boy was beautiful. The first boy on both sides of our family since Micah. A special, special moment.

And then there is Quinn. He, like his brother, was also slightly late, but came naturally as well. His labor--one of peace. Three hours long and obviously labor so it was WORK, but it was nothing like the other two...his was actually enjoyable and calm and so incredibly wonderful. If I could skip the 9 months of pregnancy and just have births like Quinn's then I probably would have had more! : ) Although Quinn's labor was the "easiest" he was the biggest--9 lbs. 2 oz. His chubby little self was about popping the snaps of his take-home outfit and he barely was in size 1 diapers at all.

I guess it's out of those memories, I find myself in awe that I have another child, but don't know what her labor story is. I will never be able to tell her what I felt when she entered the world, breathed her first breath, or how big she was. My heart hurts a little today because I can't know those details in my head and heart for her. It's just different and sometimes different is hard to take at first.

But, fortunately, what I can tell her is the day she was being born, her Daddy and I were traveling to a volleyball game with friends of ours who have adopted (and are again adopting) and we talked extensively about it all. We shared our dreams for these children, tips on fundraising, what it will be like to have our children grow up in the same church together being a different skin color than their parents, and how much we wish the time could go by faster to get them home. Even though I wasn't birthing her that day, and I didn't have a clue it was the day she was being born, my heart and conversations were still with her in mind that day. I can tell her the moment we heard there was a chance she was coming to the orphanage, her Daddy and I sat on the couch with tears in our eyes just holding each other, excitedly re-reading the message over and over, praying prayers of "Pleeeeaaaasssseeee God, let this be our Nora", and basking in the glory of the meaning of her Haitian name (Josephine-"Jehovah increases"). I can tell her the moment I got the email from Rachel with pictures attached and an offer for us to be her parents I just lost it! With arms in the air, a massive smile on my face, and tears streaming everywhere, I said over and over, "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!! Thank you God, thank you God! Oh, she's soooo beautiful!" (Toby and Quinn can someday attest to that scene--they were just laughing at me). I can tell her that even though I did not carry her in my belly for 9 months or birthed her with labor pains, I HAVE carried her in my heart for a long time now and I have gone through labor pains in this adoption process. I can tell her that from even before I knew who she was, and even before she was actually born, I loved her as only a mama can.

At the beginning of this process Micah and I said we were sort of glad these newborn stages were not necessarily going to be with us. It's HARD work to care for a newborn...we've done it 3 times now and felt like we were ready to be done with that "stage". Sleepless nights, feedings all day long, diaper changes galore, spit-up smell a regular cologne on you, lullaby music a constant noise, fussiness no one can explain, etc. etc. etc. Those are not the best memories for us to be honest. There are moments when I still have those thoughts, but I must say that with every photo I receive of Nora, with every day that passes between me and the day I get to hold her for the first time, with every news I get like...she's in size 1 diapers, I re-think my original thought a little bit. If a miracle could happen and I could get her today, I'd do it in a heartbeat because now that those 3 other little miracles I birthed are long out of size 1 diapers, I find myself missing that "stage" more than I thought I would.

In a few more short weeks, you can be sure I will cherish our 4 days with Nora. Instead of 4 months of watching her grow and develop and live as an infant, I have 4 days. That's all I've got. 4 days to see my little girl in size 1 diapers. Instead of dwelling on how hard that is and will be, instead of dwelling on the frustrations of the lengthy process that keeps her in Haiti, instead of dwelling on how much I will miss out on in her early year of life, I will choose to cherish these upcoming 4 days with her. I will hold her little, size 1 diapered self in my arms and remember it for the rest of my life. I will remember so when she is a little older, I can sit her on my lap again and tell her everything I was thinking and feeling holding her in my arms for the very first time....and it will be worth every minute of this process.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


There are not many words that come to my mind when I see this face other than "God, You are so good. She is stunning. Those eyes are absolutely stunning."

Nora, baby, we will see you oh so soon and we can't wait to hold your little self in our arms for the first time! Lily & Toby both smile so big when they see your face. They can't wait to have you join this crew. I'm sure Quinn would agree if he could express that better. Your Daddy and I are pretty ecstatic about that moment too...no matter how long that takes (although closer to the one year mark would be nicer than 2). Love you, baby girl.

(Many, many thanks to Ashley & Ketsia, volunteers from Canada, who have been taking these photos of our Nora and faithfully sending them to us. We cherish them like you would not believe, ladies!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

2012 "Drawing" People to Downtown Goshen Calendar

It's here, folks! You can purchase it online here at the right-hand column ----->
or in the downtown businesses starting tomorrow afternoon!

They are only $20 and 100% of the proceeds go straight to bringing Nora home! Thanks in advance for all your support! Here are a few of the drawings for a sample of what is in there as well as the write up that was in the Elkhart Truth...

GOSHEN — A Goshen mother is using her flair for making works of art on an Etch-A-Sketch to raise funds to adopt a baby girl from Haiti.

Angie Thieszen has published a 2012 calendar combining some of her newest Etch-A-Sketch images, each of which highlights a familiar location in downtown Goshen. She will sell the calendar at several local businesses and online at their family blog: http://overthebrim-thieszen.blogspot.com. The calendar includes 12 Etch-A-Sketch drawings of downtown Goshen, including the Elkhart County Courthouse, the Old Bag Factory and various downtown restaurants and businesses. Each picture took about 2 to 3 hours to draw, Thieszen said.

“Over the years my hobby sketches have received lots of positive attention from friends and family members, so we thought this would be a unique way to bring the community together as we raise the funds we need to bring our daughter home,” Angie said.

Last week, Angie and her husband Micah, a registered nurse at IU Health Goshen Center for Cancer Care, got word from the orphanage in Haiti that a match had been made with a baby girl, who they will name Nora Josephine. The couple are planning a trip to meet Nora in Haiti this December.

Due to the lengthy administrative processes required, it will be between a year and two years before the Thieszens bring baby Nora home for good. The couple has three other children, ages 5 through 2.

Nora Josephine will be a sister to Lily, Tobias and Quinn.

“The kids are really excited. We put Nora’s picture in a frame and we’re counting the days of waiting by putting links on a paper chain in her room. We’re all so grateful to the downtown Goshen businesses who are participating on this journey with us,” she said.

The calendar will be available for purchase today at the Old Bag Factory, Goshen Farmer’s Market, The Electric Brew, South Side Soda Shop, Tony’s Famous Grill, Ten Thousand Villages, Snider’s Jewelry, New Image, IL Forno, Seconds on Third and the Trolley Cafe. It is also available for purchase online from the Thieszens’ blog. The Etch-A-Sketch calendar is selling for $20 with 100 percent of the proceeds going towards the adoption.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Tickets are Purchased!

With super excited hearts we get to fly to Haiti early next month!!!! It is a trip we were not expecting, but is highly encouraged for us to take to prove later on in our meetings with the Dean that we have established a relationship with Nora beyond that trip in the middle of our process. This means I will probably be making that second trip alone so we can save the money on the extra trip, but maybe between now and then I'll find someone who would want to go with me then. However, for this trip, Micah and I are really excited about sharing it together--we will celebrate our 9th anniversary at the end of this month, so it will be a little bit of a late anniversary gift for us. We will have 4 days with our little Nora, so get ready for more gorgeous pictures of her...only we'll be in them too this time! : ) Here's one I took the other night--this is what sits on our TV stand. I can't wait for the kiddos in these two pictures to be in the same one!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A 1-2 Year Wait Still? Really? Why????

This is the question we find everyone asking us...Why will you still have a 1-2 year wait since you know who Nora is now and are willing to take her home? Well, I'll do my best to explain this process to you, but one thing we are learning along this road is that EVERY adoption journey is different and ours will not be exactly like others we know. We will share what we know from others' experiences of adopting from ROH in Haiti as well as generalities we know from this process so far. God could do a miracle and bring Nora home to us sooner than a year, but from our knowledge of the process, that is highly unlikely so let me explain why.

Yes, we got photos of Nora Josephine and we are ecstatic to see her huge eyes and chubby cheeks, but what happens now? Let's start there. We got the email on Thursday. On Friday the director of ROH, Rachel, took her to have her labs and medical exams done. She is waiting on the results of those tests to make sure Nora is healthy before starting the rest of the paperwork. I have no idea how long that takes...a few days, a few weeks, I don't know. Once we get an email from Rachel saying her medical exams came back great we will send down our first big chunk of money to Rachel and she will begin the paperwork on Nora. The paperwork on Nora herself can take up to 2 months to gather. All of these things happen through face-to-face meetings typically in Port-Au-Prince which is an hour drive out of the mountains. No phone calls, emails, or faxes will accomplish these things--it's all face-to-face, hand-to-hand meetings. Here is what all Rachel needs just for Nora:

  1. Passport pictures of the child

  2. Birth Certificate

  3. Attestation of signature on Birth Certificate or extract from the National Archives

  4. Legal relinquishment of custody from the biological family to the orphanage from the local judge

  5. Psychological evaluation

  6. Medical evaluation

  7. Laboratory tests

  8. Social history

  9. Process Verbal (A court process in which the biological family grants the creche the right to place their child with your family specifically for international adoption. Can only be completed after your dossier is in Haiti.

Once Nora's paperwork is completed, her paperwork and our paperwork (the dossier that took me 2 months of gathering on our end) will be sent to IBESR, which is the equivalent of the Haitian Social Services. IBESR could take anywhere from 2-6 months to get out of. Because we don't meet the qualifications for a Haitian adoption (which are married for over 10 years, one of us being at least 35 years old, and having no more than 2 biological children) we will need a special Presidential dispensation. This is basically an extra few months potentially of waiting to get the signature of the current President of Haiti saying he approves of us adopting.

Once we have Presidential Dispensation and are through IBESR, we enter Parquet Court and work with Immigration, which can take 1-6 months. I will be going down to Haiti for two of the steps in this process. Those two steps will be meetings with the Dean (Judge of all judges) to get approval and to meet with Immigration at the US Embassy in Haiti. There are many steps in this part of the process and we don't have to be down there for all of them thankfully, just those two meetings, but here is the list of all that is happening...
  1. Attorney addresses a Request for Judgment to the Chief Justice of Parquet Court

  2. Birth parents are interviewed in Parquet Court

  3. Parquet Court signs off on "approval judgement for adoption

  4. Facilitator takes approval to DGI for stamp of authorization

  5. Back to Parquet for enforcement of the approval judgement

  6. Authorization and redaction from the Civil Registrar Officer for legal Adoption Decree

  7. Verification in Parquet of the adoption documents by the Civil Registrar before signing the adoption decree

  8. First Legalization of the Adoption Decree, in Parquet Court

  9. Second Legalization of the Adoption Decree, at the Ministry of Justice

  10. Third Legalization of the Adoption Decree, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

  11. Obtain attestation of Adoption Decree from the National Archives

Once we are through the Parquet Court part, we enter the next stage--Ministry of the Interior, which is where we are requesting approval for a passport for the child. MOI can take anywhere from 3-6 months to get through. Here is what's needed for that approval:
  1. Four passport sized pictures

  2. Birth Certificate

  3. Attestation for the Birth Certificate

  4. Extract from the National Archives for the Birth Certificate

  5. Relinquishment

  6. Proces Verbal of adoption

  7. Adoption approval judgement

  8. Adoption Decree

  9. Attestation of the Adoption Decree

  10. Power of Attorney for creche director and/or attorney

  11. Stamp from DGI

  12. Notary letter for the passport

  13. Identification card of facilitator and/or attorney on the case

  14. Biological parents' identification cards

  15. Adoptive parents' MOI form, identification, and passport photos

After getting the MOI approval for a passport it is sent to Haitian Immigration for the passport and visa. This can take 1-3 weeks to have them sent back to the orphanage. As soon as Nora's passport and visa are there, we can go to pick her up and bring her home!

UGH! Are you as tired as we are after reading through all of that??? Let me repeat again that ALL of these steps are in person and take multiple trips to get through. It's truly no wonder it takes this long. If you add up all the high ends of those blue time lines, it equals just under 21 months of work with no hiccups....hence why we say it will still take 1-2 years of time until we can bring our Nora home.

In the meantime, we plan on making a special trip (maybe mid-January) to see those big eyes and chubby cheeks in person and then cherish all the photos we can of our little girl. Pictures like these now help our days go by a little faster...
(Nora in her birth-mom's arms being dropped off at ROH)

(Nora with her big sister, Giselle, who is being adopted to a wonderful family in Canada)

(Our sleeping beauty)

Please continue to pray for us and Nora as we keep moving though this long journey. We still need financial support as well, so look back to our other blog posts if you would like to help us with the financial end of things. We also have great news that our fundraising calendars are at the printer and should be in our hands by the end of the week! Maybe you will want one to keep track of our months and months of progress! They will be available online here at the top right of this blog and then at various downtown businesses here in Goshen. More details on the calendars in the next post! : )