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.