Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Roller Coaster Ride of a Lifetime

Many will say adoption is like a roller coaster ride.  If you could stomach the above clip, it really does remind me of much of our journey.  The main difference is the fact this ride lasts around 3 minutes long while an adoption roller coaster is...well...a LOT longer.

This ride is very reflective of our journey.  The long upward crawl at the beginning of the ride is much of what you feel while gathering the many, many things needed to complete your dossier.  It's a straight one to two months of daily calls, sending papers, getting signatures, background checks, etc.  It's hard work and you feel like each and every check off the list is the click of the coaster going up that hill.  Then you are at the very tippy top of the first steep incline...your dossier is complete...and you send it off expecting that to be the first big rush of a drop on your ride, but when you finally get the view of what is ahead, you see it is not a fast drop, but instead a curve that allows you to slowly gain speed.  This unexpected first turn allows just enough time to swallow your anticipation and get ready for the first big drop.  The first fast movement--the first downhill drop is exhilarating.  You feel as if you are FINALLY going...really going on this ride and it seems as if nothing could slow you down.  Then comes the first upside down loop.  Yep, that really throws you for a loop...literally.  You could see it coming, but for some reason you think maybe, just maybe, the ride will magically swing you in a different direction, but no, you are strapped in and upside down before you even know it.  Twists and turns begin and as much as you can see what is in front of you, you still are surprised at the whiplash and stomach drop-outs you experience along the way.  It is horrifying and wonderfully thrilling all in the same breath.  And then just when you think you have the ride pretty figured out--predictable at least--that's when the dark tunnel engulfs you and you have NO idea where you are, what is ahead, or when you will come back into the light.  In those dark moments when all is unknown, however, you can still miraculously enjoy bits of the ride because you know you are strapped in and free from harm.  That even though you have no control yourself over where you are headed or what you are doing, someone still has the control and has a plan for the track you are on or the ride would have been shut down a long time ago and no one else would be allowed to ride it either.  Then all of a sudden, as quickly as you went into the dark you emerge to the blinding light of more twists and turns and loopy-loops.  At this point in the ride, you are still experiencing the rush involved in each of those drops and turns, but the newness has worn off and you find yourself contemplating when the ride will come to an end more than what will come next.  The ride has been worth the wait in line and the experience of it all, for sure, but you are ready to get off and begin a different ride at the park.  Before you know it, that roller coaster is halting...not at the very end, but just before the end.  That sudden jerk snaps you back to reality--the ride is almost over, but you're still trapped in this seat until the carts slowly move forward again until finally coming to a complete rest at the proper place...the safe place to exit.

For me, I feel as if we are just about to emerge from the darkness of the tunnel on our roller coaster ride.  We have had our fair share of twists, turns, and upside down moments before the darkness, but recently I have felt much more in the dark than knowing what exactly is in front of us.  To some degree this has been a scarey place that I did not like because I am typically by nature a control person.  We had no way of knowing anything when we were in the dark and it made me uncomfortable and uneasy.  However, for myself, it has also been a place where God has reminded me over and over that He is still in control, still has me securely strapped into the cart and will not let any harm come to me while I can not see myself.  It is a place where I have felt tired yet restful.  Excited yet frustrated.  Expectant yet questioning.  And now that we are right at the tail end of those moments in the dark tunnel where we can just see the glimmer of light again, I am thankful to have experienced that is making the light of the rest of the ride that much more brilliant and wonderful.

On November 25th we were told by our director the lawyer hoped to have our adoption decree by the end of that week, but then everything went silent.  We had no idea what was going on.  We were under the impression the decree did not come through and for whatever reason, we were stuck in Parquet like many of the other families have been.  We sent several emails over the past 23 days inquiring about the delay, but they were all met with either silence or an occasional encouragement to praise God even in the midst of this inconvenience.  It all led us to believe we were certainly "stuck" our ride in the dark tunnel for whatever reason just seemed to be stopped.  However, yesterday we found ourselves getting a glorious peek at the light up ahead.  We found out we have not been stuck in Parquet these entire 23 days, but instead have been moving through the next stage of the process where the legalizations of our adoption decree take place.  The lawyer is hopeful we will exit at the end of this week with the fully legal decree!  Hallelujah!  The news feels like our own little Christmas miracle!  Like a delay of almost a month was just erased from our process simply because we were in the dark tunnel.  Now we still have to get that decree signed at the end of this week as the lawyer is hopeful for and this, friends, is where we are focusing our prayers because there are always twists and turns of the unexpected on this ride.  When we get that message that the decree has been signed and Nora is officially a "Thieszen", we will bust out of that dark tunnel and continue the rest of the ride in the glimmering light of the SON again.  We will still have track left to ride...still have more uphill climbs and downhill rushes, loopy-loops, and turns before that sudden halt close to the end, but it will be the tail end of the ride for us and we will be so thankful to be there.

For those trying to keep track of our progress, the next part of the roller coaster ride will be MOI.  This stands for Ministry of Interior and it is the last department on the Haiti side of the process to put their own check over all of the paperwork and approve our little girl for her passport.  This can move lightening fast (a few families recently got through in a miraculous 9 days!!!!) or it could be months and months of correcting errors in the paperwork if they exist.  After passing through MOI, we will enter passports, which should be just a few days if all goes well.  Then our file will be complete on the Haiti side and ready to be passed onto the US side of things at the Embassy.  This is where things get interesting and could very possibly be those moments after the big halt of the roller coaster ride where we just slowly have to still inch forward to get to that safe exit area.  If you remember, Nora's birth mom forgot her ID card when going to the Embassy for her birth-parent interview and did not get rescheduled until February 12th.  The Embassy has informed me all of the other paperwork checks can be done before this interview, but I have no idea how long after that interview it would take for our paperwork to be finalized with a visa in hand.  We continue to trust God knows what all of this looks like and will pray for His Will to be carried out all the way to the very end of this ride.

A roller coaster ride, indeed!  Adoption is one very, very long roller coaster ride.  Like a real roller coaster ride, it draws in those seeking adventure, rush, and the thrills of getting strapped into a ride we don't have much control over.  It allows us to put our fears, our hesitations, and ourselves aside and trust that the One who built the ride meant for US to ride it!  That He will keep us safe throughout all the twists, turns, tunnels, and upside down moments and in the end, bring us through an amazing experience we will never forget.  To be honest, as much as I want to be the dare devil who rides all the crazy rides at real amusement parks, I don't typically get that chance because my stomach is too weak and I would end up being the one person you DON"T want to sit beside if you know what I mean.  Eeek.  I am so, so grateful God has allowed me to finally ride a roller coaster my stomach can handle...this one has been a crazy ride for sure and one I will never be sorry I took.  At this point however, I have to be honest and say, as much as I know there are more tracks to go over, I'm ready to get off this ride and enjoy the next part of the park...the kiddie rides, perhaps, with another little one in tow!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Know Who Goes Before Me

At this point in our adoption process, we are tired.  We know we still have quite the road ahead of us, but with being one year, five months, and six days into our journey, I think it's okay to say we are just tired.  Tired of not being with Nora, tired of communication issues, tired of delays, tired of the unknowns, and tired of the wait.  I woke up this morning having a dream about Nora for the first time.  In the dream I had decided to head to Haiti and spend some time with her.  She was looking adorable as usual in a pretty red dress and was posing for pictures with me as she said "cheese" with a big ole' cheesy grin on her face.  Waking up with this dream left me smiling and yet sad...I'm tired of feeling this dynamic mix of emotions--joyful and sad in the same breath.  Micah and I talked recently of how God must have been laughing at us as we said we'd follow His call to adopt--we knew we were done having our own biological children because we didn't want to go through another pregnancy ever again.  The labor part was actually a wonderful experience for me, but the pregnancy itself was just a bit too much for us to ever want to do it again.  Ha!  Little did we know this adoption pregnancy is close to doubling the 9 months of a physical pregnancy and it has been just as grueling, if not maybe even slightly more.  I guess I'm just ready for labor.  Bring on the pains of the home stretch, bring on the pressure and breathing and pushing...I'm ready for some intense movement to get our daughter into our world.

Even though we long for those moments and eventually that glorious moment when she is in our home, we still have more and more months of an adoption pregnancy to take care of.  As far as the process, we are still stuck in Parquet court with no knowledge of when we will get through it.  The typical time frame is 1-2 months and we have been there now just over 2 months.  No word of movement.  Over 2 weeks ago our director let us know she should be getting our adoption decree that week, but it has yet to be signed.  Nora is still not officially ours and I'm bummed about that today.  On top of that, our birth parent interview that was scheduled for Dec. 5th didn't end up happening.  Nora's birth-mom did come for the interview, but she forgot her ID card so the US Embassy would not interview her.  They rescheduled her for February 12th.  Ouch.  We were hoping the process would continue in such a way we could potentially be bringing Nora home not long after that date, but now we have no idea how much longer it would take after this interview to get our visa approval.  It was a hard blow in our process, but one we can't do much about.  I did contact them to see if the interview could be moved up, but they denied the request.  So, now we continue sitting, waiting, wondering when the labor will begin.

In the midst of the lull, it is easy to stay focused on how tired, disappointed, and frustrated we are with the delays.  It is easy to roll our eyes and huff a "who the heck knows" when someone asks how much longer it will take to get her home.  What is the harder choice in those moments is to still remember God is in control of it all.  To Praise Him for the ways He is orchestrating this whole journey.  To place it on His shoulders and rest in the fact He is by our side in each step--whether we are rejoicing or weeping, being frustrated or delighted, still pregnant, in labor, or in the joys of bonding.

There is a new song scheduled to be released in January--"Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)" by Chris Tomlin.  It is a favorite of mine already.  It sums up this adoption experience for me.  If you haven't heard it yet, here it is...


This song reminds me of so many key things throughout the journey.  It reminds me of the MANY, MANY, MANY ways the Lord has shown Himself to me and others in this journey.  It reminds me of the incredible ways He has opened my eyes to the spiritual realms and all that must go on while we live blindly unaware of it all.  It reminds me of the fact that God is the Victor and will reign at the end of this day, this week, this month, this adoption.  It reminds me that it is not me, our orphanage director, the lawyer, the Haitian government, or the US government who will win this battle against the enemy--it is the Lord God Almighty.  It reminds me He has the whole world under His care (including Nora in Haiti) and nothing standing in front of His will will remain standing when He gets done with it.  It reminds me of the One who goes before me in everything--adoption process included, the One who stands beside me in my weary moment today, and the One who is behind me--marking His hand at so many places for me to glorify Him, thank Him, and trust Him with an unknown future.  It reminds me that even though today trouble lingers still, God is my strength, my shield, and the One I can trust...I do not have to fear anything because He is with me.  It reminds me that God promises me wonderful, good things and HE alone is trustworthy and faithful to seeing those through to completion.

I am humbled today that my God would love little ole' me enough to send armies, quite literally ARMIES of angels to my side to help me whenever I need it.  This picture takes me back to an earlier time in our process when God laid a vision in my head of the battlefield this adoption truly is and who all is on my side in the heavenly realms and who all is against me (see this post for a further description).  It is amazing and awesome to know that Truth today in the tiredness of the battle...I have an army of angels at my side ready and willing to carry on in battle while I am just too tired.  I can simply rest today and pick up my weapon again tomorrow.  I am also humbled the same God who draws up an army of angels for me considers me His friend--not His subject or project, but His friend.  Today, although I am still tired, I am blessed and honored.  I am right where He can minister to my needs, teach me even more about His love for me, and be glorified even greater for the work He is doing in my life.  I can look forward towards the remaining months of this "adoption pregnancy" knowing the Friend I have going before me--the God of angel armies who is always by my side--and it brings hope and encouragement to my tired soul today.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Behind Her Smile

This woman has changed my life.  I am deeply stirred by her story...her life...her choices and sacrifices.  God has used her to open my eyes and heart to injustice and grace.  I'd like to take a moment out of your day to share with you what all is behind this young woman...behind her smile.

It is my honor to introduce Adrienne to you.  Adrienne is the daughter of Benita and Anold.  She is a sister to four other girls and one boy.  She is a Haitian.  She loves all kinds of music.  She loves the color yellow.  She loves the Hibiscus flower.  She is currently 18 years old.  She is the birth-mother of two little girls, one being Nora.  She is my relation because she is another one of God's many of His "pride and joys".  She is absolutely beautiful...stunning actually.  Her smile could light up any room she was in.  When I look at this picture our orphanage director sent me a few days ago, I smile.  Adrienne's smile makes me smile.  But, oh, if you only knew the heartache behind that smile.  The blessed soul of one begging for redemption and more of the life God desires each of us to live...all hidden beneath a smile.

When Adrienne was 12 years old she was forced out of her mother's home and sent away from her brother and sisters to her aunt's house (her father was out of the picture by this point).  I do not know why Benita had to have Adrienne leave her side.  I do not know all the details of her story...I do not need to...I have heard countless others of young Haitian girls being given up because their mothers have felt they have had no choice but to do this.  12 years old, friends.  Twelve.  Do you need a visual?  This is me at 12...

At twelve I was relaxed in my own home with no fears, threats, or demands to leave.  I was making friendship bracelets.  Friendship bracelets.  Leaving my mom and going to live with my aunt would have been unthinkable.

If you think Adrienne's story is unthinkable already, there is much more darkness in the reality of her young world.  If it were my story I would tell it because I am an open book when it comes to my past and I would tell anyone anything if it meant someone else would benefit from the truth being said out loud and healing found for another person out there.  So many times in this world we live thinking we are the only one who has suffered in some sort of way and live a life of secrecy and shame.  Living in secrecy and shame is not the life of freedom and joy God intended.  God came to set the captives free not to see them covered over with people's opinions that some things are just too shocking to have others know.  Adrienne's story is one where there is so much wrong done to her--a story so similar to the many young girls in Haiti no one is speaking up for.  Adrienne's story is full of moments at the tender age of 12 that no one should ever have to endure.  And yet because she lives in a third-world country where her voice just becomes one of the many, and no one is fighting for her, she has been left in the silence.

Fast forward two years and you would find Adrienne still living with her aunt, but now pregnant.  She got dismissed from school and her aunt made her leave.  Can you even fathom?  Leaving her first home to come to this one and then being kicked out of this one too?  Such loss.  Her aunt sent her to an old man's house telling her to stay for a week and then come back.  Again, I do not know why...I do not need the full story.  Instead of staying with this old man for the one week her aunt told her to, for some reason, Adrienne stayed in his home for two years.  Adrienne decided to bring her first baby to the orphanage at six months old...a hope and prayer this young child would have a better life than what she felt she could provide for her herself.  A selfless choice of love.

Fast forward another year and you would find Adrienne pregnant again and still living with "the old man".  This old man's name is Joseph.  He is Nora's birth-father.  Adrienne gave birth to Nora at age 17.  Seventeen.  Do you need another visual?  Here I am at 17...

At age 17 I was a typical older teen--always on the phone, a bit boy-crazy, and consumed with the involvement of my high school years.  I can not even imagine taking that phone out of my hand and placing my second-born daughter in my arms instead.

Adrienne was shopping for vegetables in the market at noon on September 30, 2011 when she felt a pain in her stomach.  At 4 p.m. she birthed her second child.  Another beautiful little girl she named "Josephine".  Josephine means "Jehovah increases"--little did Adrienne know the name she chose for her daughter would be a significant part of our own story line--it has certainly been Jehovah who has increased our family with this sweet little girl.  Josephine (or Nora Josephine as we will call her) was kept at Adrienne's side for one month before being brought to the same orphanage as her half-sister.  At age 17, Adrienne had already given over two of her own precious girls to an a future childhood that would be much, much brighter than her own.  Can you start to see the amazing strength and love this young woman has?

Currently, you would find Adrienne 18 years old and back in her mother's household.  She left Joseph sometime in the past year and moved back in with her mom.  I do not know what made her make the decision to leave.  I do not know why her mother is accepting her back now.  All I know is there is a young woman who's story should not bring about a smile on her face and yet it is still there.  Beauty from ashes.  As our director has told us, Adrienne is very innocent and naive and has led a sad life so far.

So far.  And isn't that the key?  So far.  In Adrienne's 18 years of life she has had to survive and endure through more cruelty and loss than I can imagine.  But all of that is Adrienne's past.  It is her "so far".  But what of her future?  What is her "yet to come"?

When I asked our director to have Adrienne answer some questions so Nora would know more about her someday, one of the questions I asked was "What are your hopes and dreams?"  Her go back to school someday.  Seriously.  Let that sit with you a minute.  She could have said she wanted a house to call her own.  She could have said to have a baby she didn't feel the need to give up for adoption.  She could have said to find a husband who would love her.  She could have said she wanted enough food for three meals a day.  She could have said so many different things, but all she said was "to go back to school someday".  Friends, education truly is the key to any bit of quality to life in Haiti.  Education is what brings hope, freedom, and the chance for success...and Adrienne knows it.  The chance for a job that would bring in any kind of income would be priceless for her.  She isn't asking for a free handout--she is asking for the opportunity to learn to do something valuable with her life.  Education, however for the most part, is not free in Haiti and therefore is simply a hope and dream to Adrienne and so many other children who do not have enough money to afford it.

So, it is our hearts' desire to see Adrienne's hopes and dreams become a reality.  It is our hearts' desire to have her "so far" in life become a night and day difference from her "yet to come".  We are currently trying to gather more information on the costs of schooling and what all will have to happen for this hope and dream of hers to become a shining reality.  Our family will not be able to do anything for her until this adoption is final so that the government does not think she gave us her child in exchange for education.  That is the farthest thing from truth.  Our desire to see her hopes and dreams reached has nothing to do with has everything to do with the fact we also want to extend love in a tangible way to Adrienne.  We believe as Adrienne has her hopes and dreams of an education fulfilled, she could blossom with new hopes and dreams that could literally change the face and future of Haiti.  It's the same desire I have for all of the children of Haiti as they would receive educational help.

As heart-wrenching as it is to hear this account of Adrienne's life, it is even more heart-wrenching to think of her life continuing on in this pattern instead of being redeemed by the hand of God through His people.  A hard, sad life is not what is behind Adrienne's smile.  HOPE is behind that smile, friends, HOPE for a brighter future.  Hope that others will get involved and help.  It is my hope and prayer her smile will remind each of us to get involved in any way we can to help another individual in need.  It is also my hope and prayer her smile would remind each of us it is not so much about what our past has been but so much more about the future before us.  Our own hopes and dreams are still in front of us and still obtainable no matter what our current situation looks like.

Adrienne, my sister, my friend, you have been such a gift to me.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your trust and grace in my love for Nora.  I thank you for enduring through the tragedies of your life and still holding onto a thread of hope for something greater.  I thank you for sharing your story and heart with me.  I pray God would begin such a great work in your life that you will almost think you are in heaven already.  I pray for the beautiful smile on your face to truly be present each and every day of your life from here on out.  And lastly, I pray, your story...your life...your smile will touch more people than you ever thought possible and that God would use them to draw so many others closer to Him.  I know you desired Nora to remember you as her mom, but I believe God can use you for so much more than that and I am excited to see what all that will be.

** If you are interested in helping other children, like Adrienne, attend school in Haiti, I encourage you to go to Mountain Top Ministries website to find out more about sponsoring a  If God is calling you to get involved in helping others in a different way,  I encourage you to follow His leading in whatever direction that is. **

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Will We Have Nora Forever?

Another adopting mama told us on our "Adopting from Haiti" facebook group that she was talking with a store cashier about the impending arrival of their little girl from Haiti.  The cashier apparently then asked her if she was going to keep her once she had her home.


I can not even fathom this question being asked of me by a complete stranger.  Why on earth ANYONE would go through this process and NOT keep their child at the end is beyond me.  It's so sad to realize this actually does happen on occasion for various reasons.  It's also sad to realize some people actually ask questions like that without knowing any of the adoptive family's journey!  However, I had to chuckle at the comment as well because it made me flash back to a conversation I had with Toby just a few weeks ago...

I was driving Toby, our 4 year old, back from preschool the other day and he asked if Nora was going to be home by Christmas.  I told him that she wouldn't be, but that she'd definitely be home for next Christmas.  He then asked if that was before we would be taking her back to Haiti.  What!?!?!  Very surprised at his question, I assured him that once Nora gets to our house we will never have to take her back and she would be his sister forever just like Lily is his sister (which I thought was a well-understood concept by this point).  He looked confused and said, "No, Mom, you have always said we would take her back to Haiti!"  What!?!?!?!  Very concerned with his thoughts, my mind was racing to try to figure out why on earth he had been thinking she would have to go back.  In my silence, he again adamantly expressed that I had kept saying we would take her back.  Finally it dawned on me...I HAD been saying that all along!  I had been saying when Nora was old enough to remember the trip, we would take her back to Haiti with all of us along on the trip.  HA!!!!  Poor he's thought my version of a family vacation to take Nora back to Haiti to show her where she came from and have her meet everyone again was his version of taking her back for good.  Oh, so sad--and funny too!  I'm just glad we cleared up the story so he knows the truth.  So he knows when she gets here, she is here for good and that even after a trip to Haiti, she would still be coming back home with us!  Adoption through the eyes of a 4 year old--it's never boring!

In related news for this adoption to keep moving forward, will you please join us in prayer tomorrow, Wednesday, December 5th, as Nora's birth-mom, Adrienne, will go to the US Embassy for her interview?  We are praying, obviously, for the interview to go smoothly...for the Embassy worker to be kind to Adrienne and for Adrienne to answer all of the questions well so we can move onward in the US side of our process with no delays.  We also covet your prayers for the Haitian side of the adoption as well.  We still haven't heard news about obtaining our adoption decree.  We are hoping/praying for news this week that we received this also so we can move forward on the Haiti end of things.  Movement forward, friends, that is what we are asking our Lord to grant us--movement forward so we can bring Nora home...forever!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Not-So-Skinny on our Adoption Update

Just an update here...a "not-so-skinny" on our adoption process for those following along.  A "skinny" means I'm just going to give you the concise details/facts without a lot of unnecessary details.  For those who have been following this blog or know me well you will immediately recognize this as a challenge for me--I'm just a wordy girl--so, alas, this is the "not-so-skinny"!  Anyway, on with the details...

We got an email from our orphanage director last night saying our Adoption Decree is being prepared now and she hopes to have it next week to prepare it for MOI!  This is awesome news!  The Adoption Decree is the tail end of Parquet Court (where our paperwork is currently).  This decree, on paper, legally makes Nora Josephine officially Nora Josephine Thieszen!  Yep, it means on paper she will legally be ours, however, there are still many things that need to happen before we will get to bring our girl home.  It will still feel wonderful to know this major step has been accomplished.  The preparing of our paperwork for MOI is a series of 4 different legalizations/signatures from 4 different departments verifying other signatures on our paperwork.  This stage is supposed to take 1-2 months.  Each signature should only take a week to receive, but each department only signs the papers on specific days of the week so if our paperwork gets dropped off on a Wednesday and they only sign on Tuesdays then it will sit until the following Tuesday.  If that happens at each place the 4 weeks turns into 8 pretty easily.  Please pray for our paperwork to get to each department on the perfect day to move us through in 4 weeks!

After those legalizations are complete we move into MOI (Ministry of Interior).  This part of the process is a very tedious check over all of the paperwork in order to issue the child's passport.  If the paperwork has no errors, this part should be only a month long at most.  If the paperwork has mistakes, however, it can be a very long and daunting task to get them corrected.  For example, if there is a spelling mistake in the second sentence, they will just stop reading the paperwork at that point and send it back saying it needs to be corrected.  Once that spelling error is corrected, it would go back to them at MOI and they would continue reading.  If they find another mistake in the third sentence then back again it goes to the lawyer for more corrections.  Our paperwork would go on and on with the back and forth dance until it is all correct.  So, obviously, in this stage we are praying for all of our paperwork to be error-free so we can move through this stage quickly.

After MOI, our passports will be printed.  We hope our passport time frame will be similar to the others of our orphanage, which is just a few days, but others adopting from other orphanages seem to be getting stuck in passports for much longer so, again, another area where we will pray God can issue that passport in just a few days.  With a passport in hand, all of the paperwork can be presented to the US Embassy to complete our visa application.  From what we have heard, this ending visa stage could be around another month of time.  When the visa is complete we can head down to pick Nora up and bring her home!

So, if all goes well in each of the following stages, we could potentially have Nora home in February/March!  However, with everything in Haiti, there is always potential for delays, changes, mistakes, etc.  We continually try to be realistic in our own thoughts for time frames--we humanly estimate more of a late spring/early summer homecoming.  God, however, is completely ABLE to bring Nora home as soon as miraculously possible so we will allow Him to be the one to truly decide the homecoming time frame.  Both of Micah and my birthdays are in March and I can't think of a better birthday gift this year than to have my little girl in my arms in Goshen, Indiana!

So friends, we covet your prayers this week for our paperwork to be finished up in Parquet court and for our Adoption Decree to be printed so we can move forward into legalizations.  The following week we want to also ask for prayers specifically on Wednesday, December 5th.  This is the date of the birth parent interview at the US Embassy.  Nora's birth mom, Adrienne, has to go before the Embassy to give them her own "okay" for Nora to become our daughter.  This sounds easy enough, but from what we have heard, this interview feels more like an interrogation than a pleasant meeting.  Please pray first of all that Adrienne will show up for the interview and for her to remain calm and simply answer the questions they have for her well.  Pray for the Embassy worker to not be harsh on Adrienne for her desire to see Nora have a "better life" than what she feels she could have offered her personally.  Pray that the interview would ultimately be a success and our visa paperwork would continue on in the process uninterrupted.

Thankfully, our director also sent this in her email last night: "I just talked to Adrienne as I was reading your e-mail. She will come December 5 for the interview. She was telling me that her phone doesn't work properly, so she has to put her sim in another phone when she has to call somebody. Thank God it was the right time I called her."  Another testimony that God is in control here, friends, and He desires for Nora to get through this process even more than we do!  I'm praising Him today for making things as simple as phone calls to go through at the exact right time!

As always, thank you all for your prayers.  Keep them coming over the next few weeks for these important steps we need to get through.  I will update everyone as we know more--perhaps a more "skinny" version of an update...perhaps not-ha!  Blessings!

P.S.  We had also gotten an update a few days ago about Nora.  She was only a few days away from taking her first steps on her very own so this could have easily have happened over the weekend.  This is a thrilling event for her as well as us.  She was walking well with our hands while we were there so knowing her progression is happening as it should comforts us in the wait.  I can't wait to be able to see that walk again with my own eyes!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Lincoln"--More Than Just a Movie Review

Micah and I took our date night this past weekend to head to the movies.  This does not happen often.  The timing of our regular babysitting group has to line up just right with a showtime in order for us to make it to those comfy reclining seats, but this time it worked out perfectly so we bought our tickets and headed into a packed theater.  Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" was the movie of choice.  I saw the preview for the movie one time and for whatever reason (a.k.a. God) felt a strong urge to go see it.  I am a visual learner in general, so give me a bit of history on a movie screen and I knew I would come to understand that moment in the books much better than I had understood it before.  I sat hand in hand with my man in a dark room surrounded by many others as I not only watched history come to life, but oh so much more.

If you haven't even heard about the movie, here is the trailer for you to watch...

I can not say enough positive things about this movie.  My movie review would be short and simple: Two thumbs up from this household--go see it!  My extended review that goes beyond the movie itself would be the following:

There is a line spoken in the movie (and in the movie trailer above) that stirs the emotions of my soul.  President Abraham Lincoln, remarking about the importance of the ratification of the 13th Amendment (to abolish slavery) says, "This settles the fate for all coming time.  Not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come."  Oh, yes, President Lincoln, oh yes.  As I sat there watching the 13th Amendment being fought over and eventually signed in front of my eyes Saturday night, I wept tears of abundant thanksgiving for this immensely critical moment in the history of our country and world.  Freedom for the black-skinned creations of God.  Freedom, as Lincoln said, for the millions then and for the millions unborn.  Freedom for a daughter I had no idea God would bless me with.  Freedom for our family to include such a precious soul into our hearts and lives.  Freedom for Nora Josephine.  In that moment on December 6, 1865--almost 147 years ago--my life, my personal life, was changed by a room full of men I will never meet nor get to thank personally.  I just wept in the theater as I thanked my God for each of them.  I thanked God for President Lincoln's deep conviction and desire to see all men and women, regardless of the color of their skin, equal.  I thanked God for bringing Nora into our lives to make moments of our country's history mean something more powerful than it ever did previously.  I thanked Him for this thread of history touching our lives in such a rich and meaningful way.

No, Nora, is not an African American.  She is not a descendent of an American slave family who would have been released from their chains of bondage because of what President Lincoln did.  However, she is still a descendent of a slave family in Haiti.  The Africans were shipped to Haiti as slaves just the same as they were shipped to the shores of North America.  They were abused just the same.  They were killed just the same.  They had their own slave revolt and fought for their freedom (and won!).  There was much blood shed on the ground of Haiti for Nora's rights as a human being just as there was blood shed on the ground of the United States of America.  Because of both histories and better yet, because of both countries' heroes, we are grateful. This moment of the 13th Amendment in American history, as well as the account of the Haitian Slave Revolt, has changed our lives forever and made possible the adoption of a beautiful black-skinned child of the Most High God to our white-skinned family.

Tears of thankfulness and joy, deep appreciation for victorious freedom, and the blessing of having our lives touched by the was so much more than just a movie on a Saturday night for me.  It was so much more than just a two thumbs up.  It was the work of God in our history being seen as a work of God on the big screen that touched the work of God in my own left an impact to my core.  I can not help but encourage others to go see the movie and allow that one defining moment in our country's history to also impact your current day-to-day life in a more intimate way.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Italy, Cancun, and Sauder Village...10 Years and Counting!


What would you say if you could sum up marriage in one word?  Perhaps it would be "challenging".  Maybe "amazing".  Possibly "stretching".  Then there is always "love", "sacrifice", "compromise", "happiness", "grace", "hard", "hilarious", "brokenness", "commitment" and an infinite list of others.  I'm going to go so bold as to say the word I've been mulling over in my head for my own marriage.  It's..."perfect".  I know, I know, no marriage is "perfect" and nothing aside from Christ alone can be perfect this side of Heaven, but let me explain why I'm choosing this word.

No, I don't think everything about my marriage is perfect.  I am not perfect.  Micah is not perfect.  The events in our day-to-day life are not perfect.  Our actions and reactions towards each other are not perfect.  But what is perfect is the fact that a perfect God brought us two crazy, incomplete, holy, loved, broken, and valuable people together to go through life beside.  God's plan of pulling us together was and still is certainly perfect after 10+ years of being together and that is what makes my marriage perfect...everything else involved NEEDS His perfection infused daily to keep it all together.

November 30th is fast approaching and Micah and I will celebrate 10 years of being united under the vows of marriage.  10 years of learning, growing, shedding tears--of joy as well as sadness.  10 years of building each other up and, unfortunately, at times bringing each other down.  10 years of bringing out each others' strengths as well as weaknesses to work on.  10 years of sharing accomplished dreams and our worst nightmares.  10 years of imperfect people living with a perfect Lord guiding us along the journey = 10 years of marriage perfection.

When we first got married we naively said we would take our dream trip to Italy for our 10 year anniversary.  Ha!  10 years seemed like such a long time off...we would have plenty of time to save up the money and then whisk ourselves away to a romantic time together amongst the beauty and richness of Italy.  Then came the purchase of our dog, a change in career choices for Micah that meant more schooling, a move from Friedenswald to Goshen, a career change for me, a hospitalized kidney infection for me, the birth of our first child, the purchase of our first house, a totaled vehicle and purchase of our new-to-us van, the birth of our second child, emergency heart surgery on that second child, gall bladder surgery on me, the birth of our third child, preschool for our first child, a medical mission trip to Haiti, the sale of our first home and purchase of our second one, the need for a second vehicle (a.k.a. piece of crap), too much maintenance on that piece of crap second vehicle, and then the sale of that vehicle and purchase of a different and better new-to-us second vehicle.  Whew!  Italy wasn't looking too realistic come year 8 of marriage.

So, Italy got put on the back burner.  We narrowed down our focus to a more realistic choice...Cancun.  Yes!  Cancun it would be.  A week of luxury and alone time for me and my man along the shores of the beautiful ocean.  Ahhhh.....  Then came the decision to answer God's call to adopt, the expenses to see that adoption actually happen and preschool for our second child.  Hmm....Cancun???  Well, as much as we still wish it would be a reality, it just isn't.  Without knowing the length of the rest of Nora's adoption we can't risk spending that extra saved money on a week in luxury.  So, just as Italy got put on the back burner, Cancun also got put on the other back burner, but that doesn't mean Micah and I will not get to celebrate our anniversary in a special way.

Thanks to my parent's willingness to watch their adorably cute grandkids for an overnight, Micah and I will get to spend a night at the Heritage Inn on the grounds of Sauder's Village in Archbold, Ohio.  Yep, Sauder's Village...the place I went to as a kid for a field trip-ha!  No, it's not the romance of Italy or the warm climate of Cancun, but it will still be a time for just the two of us to spend together.  Maybe we'll spend our time reflecting back on our 10 years of a perfect marriage of two imperfect people.  Maybe we'll take a walk around the grounds of the village.  Maybe we'll...well, sleep.  No matter what we do, we will enjoy every single second of that quality time away together.  The reality of marriage is not that two lives get whisked away to enjoy each other every second of every day with no regard to the world around them.  It's more like two lives coming together and living those lives as one life instead--a life full of busy, hectic, wonderful, crazy moments.  It's a life that comes with many, many things that change the course of a planned future....a life that changes trips from Italy, to Cancun, to Sauder's Village.

Is that changed future any less exciting, romantic, blessed, or free?  Not really.  Maybe the vacations and breaks are not as long and not as far away, but the tradeoff is priceless.  I would NEVER trade in Micah becoming a nurse using his God-given talents to help cancer patients who desperately need his sense of humor and care for a trip to Cancun or even a trip to Italy.  I would never trade in any of my 4 precious children.  I would never trade in the memories made in our two homes.  I would never trade in the health of my family.  I would never trade in the journey of adoption.  I would never trade in 10 years of a perfect marriage guided by a perfect God for what we assume would be the "perfect" anniversary get-a-way.  The life we have lived over the past 10 years as a married team is far too amazing...far too beyond my dreams.  I'll gladly take my overnight to Sauder's Village instead.

I am blessed.  I was blessed before I met Micah.  I am blessed to have met and married Micah.  I am blessed to have the life I live.  I am blessed to be celebrating our 10 year anniversary with an overnight at a local inn.  I am even more blessed because a God who loves me, cares for me, and lives with me each and every moment of my life has made it all perfect for me.

10 years and counting, Babe.  I love you so very much.  I respect you more and more and more each day we are together.  You have enriched my life by simply being you.  Thank you, Micah!  We have so many more years together--eventually we'll get to Cancun and to Italy, I just know it.  Here's to 10 years and to making the movies jealous...

(Sorry about the quality of some of those earlier photos in the video...they are photos taken of photos in my early scrapbooks.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Trip Worth Taking

Let me apologize first of all for not getting this post out sooner...our time in Haiti went by super fast with little to no time to be on the computer and since I've been home, life has continued on without a blink by celebrating Quinn's 3rd birthday (Blues Clues cupcake cake and lots of fun presents) and having Toby's annual heart appointment (no changes from last year so cleared for another year-Praise God!)  I am finally able to sit down today and share about our trip through words, photos, and videos...whew!

I think it may be best to tell about my trip through the answers to the prayer requests I asked before we left and then to fill in little extras here and there.  God certainly went before us, was there with us, and will continue on this journey with us here and with Nora there.  I was continually amazed at the ways I saw God move on our behalf.

Request #1 was: Tropical Storm Sandy, which then turned into Hurricane Sandy.  I asked for you to pray for the weather to be calm enough for our flights to continue on as scheduled.
  • Answer: Everything went through completely fine.  Haiti had seen 4 days of straight wind, rain, and cooler temps until we arrived on Saturday.  All was warm and sunny while we were there and we never saw a drop of rain.  The effects of the storm were still evident as we did not have electricity, internet, or phone for the first two days there and the dry riverbed we had to cross to get to church was not so dry anymore, but instead had ruts of rushing water going through it.  We were thankful to have come down when we did and not a day sooner!
Request #2 was: To have my sis-in-law's flights to be running on schedule since she was with American Airlines.
  • Answer: She had no delays and arrived safely in Haiti one hour before we did just as planned.
Request #3 was: Travel sickness to not happen.
  • Answer: Well our first flight from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale was the roughest turbulence I have ever been in.  I had taken only 1/2 of my pill and regretted that decision.  I felt horrible, but managed to get through it all without actually getting sick so that was a praise.  For all other flights and even for the two days of driving the crazy Haiti roads I took full doses of medicine and felt GREAT through it all with little to no sleepiness--Yay!!!
Request#4 was: Layovers of flights
  • Answer: Our overnight layover went as smooth as it could.  We had 5 hours of sleep in a hotel room and I still think those 5 hours of rest were definitely needed before heading on over to meet Nora.  I was feeling pretty gross at that point so getting some sleep helped.  Lily did fabulous despite the fewer hours of sleep--she was rather excited to see her first palm tree instead!  Our 8 1/2 hour in airport layover on our return trip turned into 9 1/2 hours because of the need to use a different plane.  The time went surprising quick, however, and we enjoyed our moments together watching movies, working on photos, and playing some games.
Request #5 was: Haitian Airport
  • Answer: Couldn't have gone smoother!  Rachel and Judi were able to come back through security to help us with luggage and Lily was able to walk with her hand in Aunt Judi's the whole way to the car so I was relaxed and enjoyed those first moments in the sunshine of Haiti.  The crowds were also not nearly as bad as the last time we flew into PAP so I'm sure that helped!
Request #6 was: Our US Embassy appointment and our Parquet Court appointments to be swift in the wait, all the paperwork would be correct, and questions would be answered.
  • Answer: WOW.  The forecasted 4-6 hour waits at both appointments were never seen.  Our US Embassy appointment was under 2 hours and our Parquet Court appointment was 1!!!  Praise the Lord!  The buildings that were supposedly freezing cold were completely fine and the building that was supposedly incredibly hot felt like it had pleasant air conditioning-ha!  It was amazing to get in and out of those places in the times we did.  We literally were stuck in traffic for 2 hours each day getting to the appointments so having them go faster than the drive it took to get there was wonderful.  After being called up very quickly at the Embassy appointment, I was told there were a few sections on the paperwork that still needed to be filled out by our director and she hadn't done that yet.  I was fearful we would be waiting forever since we didn't have it all together when they originally called us up, but was thankful the wait until she called us again was only another 1/2 hour.  Whew. The next day when we went to Parquet, we were running pretty late (not getting there until 11 a.m.), but when we arrived we found out the Dean had not even been there yet that day so if we had been there first thing in the morning like the original plan we would have just been waiting for hours.  What an answer to prayer!  The Dean ended up being so busy when he arrived, the assistant simply took my passport back to him and he signed off on our paperwork without even seeing me face to face...I'll take it!
Request #7 was: Sleeping arrangements.
  • Answer: It all worked out beautifully.  Lily and I shared a double bed the first two nights while Judi had a bunk bed (upper bunk unfortunately, but it was a good mattress at least).  Our beds unfortunately didn't have mosquito nets, however, and Lily got eaten up the second night.  The following two nights, however, we were able to switch into another smaller bedroom where we each had a bottom bunk under mosquito nets so that was even better.  The team of 17 who were helping at the MTM clinic and also staying at the guest house with us were all very nice and fun to be around.  I am forever grateful for the entertainment they provided for Lily especially.  When they left half way through our trip she was a bit lost on what to do since their domino games were not as frequent-hee, hee!  It was nice to have a little of both "worlds" on the trip--lots of people to socialize with at the beginning of the trip and a night to ourselves at the end.
Request #8 was: Time with Nora and for the bonding between Nora and Lily to go well.
  • Answer: It was REALLY good to be there for 5 full days.  I won't lie--the first 2 days were pretty overwhelming for me.  Between my organized personality not having anything organized, trying to care for Lily and make sure my sister-in-law was doing fine (which she always was), being tired and not feeling the best from traveling, trying to even find a cleared off space on my bed to sit down on, and then having my little girl given to me with no instructions and not enough supplies for the day (a bag with 2 diapers, an extra change of clothes, and a sippy cup)...well, let's just say I was overwhelmed.  I had no idea how much she ate, what she was even able to eat, or how much she slept during the day.  I also thankfully had packed a bottle, formula, and many more diapers since those were not included in the daily bag.  Oye.  It definitely took a few days to figure out how to even best care for her--I felt much like I did bringing home my first baby from the hospital, but it was just a 1 year old baby instead of a newborn!  Those first days are overwhelming for any new mom.
  • Nora was also overwhelmed in those first two days.  She would smile at us every once in a while, but her two fingers were in her mouth quite a bit.  She always used her fingers in her mouth on the last trip to fall asleep--a comfort suck--but now that she is older, she also uses this as a comfort when she is uncomfortable, scared, or uneasy.  We saw them more in her mouth in the first two days than the last 3 for sure.  As we spent time with her she warmed up to us and began to understand we were safe people to be around, fun to play with, and loved her very much.  With each day she became more animated, more smiley, and MUCH more loud with her words!  She was always happy and content, but definitely vocal--it was so nice to hear her say her favorite words of the week "Daddy!", "Huh???", and "Mama".  The last day together we even went to a few public places and I found her clinging to my shirt when strangers came near her...that is a GREAT sign of bonding.  She knew I was safe and who she could cling to and for those moments, I was so grateful to have had 5 days with her to get her to that point.
  • As far as Lily bonding with Nora...yes, they are definitely sisters!  They had fun coloring, shaking maracas, loving on Lily's kitty stuffed animal, eating snacks, and building towers with the blocks we brought down for her.  When it came time to say good-bye, Lily was all smiles and hugs to Nora in her car seat, but once she was gone, oh did the tears come.  We were able to share in those moments of sadness together through our tears.  As I assured her it was completely fine to be crying because it was definitely a very sad thing to be leaving Nora behind, I heard her say through tears, "Mom, I wish you would have never brought me to Haiti."  I asked her why she said that and she answered, "So I would have never had to say goodbye to Nora."  Oh my heart.  It was a moment of such heartache on one hand and such blessing on the other because it was clear as day to me that Lily indeed bonded as a sister.  We talked for a few moments about all the good things we experienced on our trip and that if Lily had not come at all she never would have met Nora yet and that would have made Lily just as sad.  We talked about how the best thing about this trip was that it was the last one we would ever have to make where we had to leave Nora behind in Haiti.  After several more minutes of being alone upstairs where Judi and I could hear Lily crying, she came back downstairs ready for a few last games of dominoes before bedtime.  Leaving Nora behind was a hard moment for all of us, but one I feel was still a wonderful moment in Lily's life.  It was a moment where she realized just how much she loved Nora and wanted to be with her forever.  It was a moment I treasured as a mom as well.
Request #9 was: For our cameras to all be working well so we could get as many photos and videos as possible.
  • Answer: Well, we had over 700 photos and 37 short videos to begin with-Ha!  That was before I could sort through the photos and delete off a lot of blurry ones and such.  We ended with 448 photos and still 37 short videos!  So, yes, this prayer request was answered for sure.  There is a slideshow at the end of this post to enjoy the highlights from the trip (don't worry, it doesn't have all 448 photos-ha!).  Following that are a few of my favorite video clips of our sweet Nora.  I hope you enjoy watching our little girl in action.
A few other tidbits:
  • I got to shake hands with one of Haiti's past presidents, Baby Doc, while Rachel drove us towards one of the best little pastry shops in PAP.  It was so random and crazy and cool!  I wish I would have had my camera more ready, but the fact his face was so close to mine (right outside the window of my side of the car) it wouldn't have turned out very well anyway.  I'll take the handshake instead...I can't even say I've ever shook the hand of a past president in the US!
  • I had the BEST drink--a cherry drink at a restaurant Rachel took us to.  I don't like cherries at all, but this was wonderful and tasted nothing like US cherries...I could have had that drink every day.
  • Our trip to MTM's church was super exciting and totally crazy as we bumped our way down washed out pathways and across the river with raging waters in a truck and a 4-wheel Ranger.  We got stuck for a little while trying to get up the steep roadway on the other side of the mountain.  We have some pictures of the truck going over the middle of the riverbed, but they definitely do not do justice to what the ride was actually like.  Lily's quote once we were back to the guest house after church was, "Mom, I don't EVER want to do that again!!!!"
  • Lily enjoyed seeing goats, chickens, and cows randomly on the roadways.
  • Lily also was amazed at the way everyone carried such amazingly heavy things on their heads.  She attempted to carry her stuffed animal the same way in the airport on our return trip home.
  • I was so incredibly blessed to have Judi on this trip with me.  She was an amazing helper with the girls and just a joy to be around.
  • Skype is one of the best inventions.  Micah and the boys (and my mom) were able to get a few chances to interact with Nora this way...what a blessing!  When we closed the computer after the last time, Nora looked at me with her big eyes and said "Daddy?!?" and waved her little hand.  So sweet!
  • We were unfortunately not able to get a hold of Nora's birth mom while we were down there so I am hoping she will be able to see us off on our next trip.  I have great respect for her and desire to know so much more about her before we bring Nora home.
  • One of my favorite memories on the trip will be hearing Lily whisper to me in the airport waiting to board the plane for PAP.  She seemed quite surprised despite my efforts to enlighten her earlier that almost the entire crowd of people getting ready to board the plane had black skin.  I told her again that yes, we would be more of the minority once we were in Haiti because Haitians are (generally speaking) black skinned people.  I think this concept, although known from the beginning, did not become truly known until she had a visual for it.  It is my hope and dream to see each of my children break out of their normal little box of life and experience the many cultures and beautiful people God has blessed the face of the world with.  What made this moment even more special was seeing a note Lily wrote on her dry erase notebook during our church service at MTM just 2 days later.  There is a photo of it in the slideshow, but it said "I love blak pople" (translation: "I love black people").  I love that God can help change a shy, whispering girl into one who proudly writes her heart on a note for all to see in a matter of 2 days.  Praise God for that!
  • Please continue to pray for our process to continue on swiftly.  The average time frame until we would bring Nora home is another 6-9 months.  It could be longer or it could be shorter as well, so, as I have from the very beginning, I am praying for it to be as fast as miraculously possible.
In conclusion, this trip to Haiti very much reflected our adoption journey as a was hard and sweet at the same time.  It was definitely a trip worth taking...this adoption journey is also definitely a trip worth taking.  Thank you again for praying, friends.  We were never meant to go through this journey without you!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Specific Prayer Request for our Trip

Last post here until we are in Haiti!  I've been busy packing away for the trip, preparing the homefront, and doing whatever else needed done before we setting up a mini-trick-or-treat to some friends' houses for Lily since she'll be gone next week.  She asked if she could bring her costume to Haiti and go trick-or-treating there, but I told her I didn't think they did that there and she agreed she would probably scare the people there anyway if she came door to door dressed as a pirate (hee, hee)!

I finished up the packing this morning to, unfortunately, find our luggage to be 13 lbs overweight.  Blah.  With almost all of those 80 lbs being supplies/donations, it is hard for me to figure out what to keep behind.  Whatever that ends up being, I will be sure to take it on our next trip, but it's still hard to choose.

For those of you praying for us, I thought I would give you a list of requests I can think of I would love to have covered in prayer.  By all means, this is not an exclusive list, so as you feel prompted to pray for anything, please do so.  I know we have a God who is going before us, who will be there with us, and will remain there behind us.  Thank you all for standing up with us through prayer and support.

  • First and foremost, there is a tropical storm (Sandy) heading through the Caribbean as I type this.  The brunt of the storm should pass through Haiti today, tonight, and tomorrow and then go northeast on out to sea.  However, the winds may still be hanging around Florida on Friday evening and Saturday morning.  We fly into FL on Friday evening and on over to Haiti on Saturday morning.  Please pray for the weather to be calm enough our flights continue on as scheduled.
  • My sister-in-law, Judi, is flying from South Dakota on American Airlines (we are on Spirit).  Please pray American is running all of their flights on schedule due to their recent employee "strike" issues.
  • Travel sickness.  I typically get pretty sick when traveling so I medicate up to get through it without getting sick.  This typically works just fine because then I sleep a good deal of the trip as a side effect of the medication.  However, this time around, I need to be coherent due to Lily still needing me to function as her mom.  I plan on taking half doses of the meds and relying on prayer to get me through it.
  • Layovers.  Please be praying for our layovers in FL to go well.  Our overnight layover will be at a hotel for 5 1/2ish hours.  Those hours need to be spent sleeping.  Pray for our shuttle to and from the hotel to go off without a hitch and for the little sleep we get to be profitable for our attitudes the next day.  Our return layover in FL is over 8 hours long.  Pray for patience for both Lily and myself and for the time to pass quickly as I attempt to entertain.
  • Haiti airport.  I'm probably most nervous about the time frame of landing in Haiti until we are met by our director outside the airport.  The atmosphere in the airport can be pretty chaotic to say the least.  Lots of people, lots of pushing, lots of begging to help you with your luggage for a price.  I had envisioned me keeping Lily close to my side, holding her hand through it all--first to keep her safely with me and second to keep her from getting overwhelmed.  This wouldn't be too hard with having our backpacks and one suitcase to walk out with.  Well, the amount of supplies/donations has led me to two suitcases now so I'm just a little concerned as to how I'm going to be pushing both suitcases and keeping Lily's hand.  God is going before me and I know He will work this out just fine, but pray for me to let go of my nervousness over this little tiny step of the trip and just enjoy those first moments with my daughter on foreign soil.
  • Meetings.  Our US Embassy appointment is at 7:30 a.m. on Monday.  This meeting has been as simple as a 1/2 hour wait for some, while others have been there 5-6 hours just waiting to be seen.  Please pray we get through quickly so we can enjoy more of our day outside of the walls of the Embassy.  Our court appointment with the Dean is either on Tuesday or Wednesday.  The same holds true for this appointment--it could be a very quick wait or it could be a long day.  Supposedly this waiting room is very dirty, very hot, and horrible bathroom conditions.  Please pray, again, that our wait will be fast so we can avoid needing to eat, drink, and not use the bathroom while there.  Please also pray for favor in both of our appointments.  I am a little nervous going to these appointments without Micah, so pray I will be able to answer all the questions they will ask me, have all the correct paperwork ready, and get through them with no problems.
  • Sleeping arrangements.  This one seems silly to even type, but will you just pray that Lily will be able to get good amounts of sleep so she remains as cheerful as she can during the days.  There will be another team at the guesthouse where we will be staying so we will be sharing a bunk room with other women from that team.  I'm just praying her earlier bedtime will be honored by the rest of the members of the team there as I'm sure with the tile floors and such, it will be hard to control the loudness of the group.  We have at least one very early morning and I know how much Lily (and I, too, for that matter) need sleep to function best.  I'm also praying the only beds left by the time we arrive will not all be top bunks...for my sake-ha!
  • Time with Nora.  Oh, pray for this sweet, sweet time we have to spend with her, friends!  No doubt she will not have a clue who we are.  She has never met Lily and she was only 2 months old when Micah and I were with her last.  Pray for her heart to be ready to accept our love for her.  Pray for Lily and her to bond as sisters instantly.  Pray for the communication to go beyond language barriers.  Pray for both Lily and I to leave with heavy hearts because we will be leaving part of us behind with Nora.  Pray for us to be able to witness her smiles, her laughter, her crawling, her playing, and most importantly her singing.  Yep, singing.  Our director once emailed us Nora likes to sing from sun up to sun down so Lily has this on her heart as the #1 thing she is excited for in this trip...the girl just wants to hear her sister sing...bless that, Lord.  I have to say, my heart could use a good ole' dose of Nora singing too.
  • Photo opportunities.  Lastly, please be praying for our cameras and video capabilities to work great...including Skype.  We really want to be able to connect to Micah and the boys back home at least once while we are there.  Photos and videos will be what hold us over until our next trip and are a lifeline on days where you think you just can't do it anymore.  Please pray we get some wonderful shots of the three of us together for our memory books.  Also, I am very excited to be able to take photos of all the other children at the orphanage for their Mamas too.  We are from areas as far high as Canada and as far south as Florida, from the east coast to the west, but we are a common sisterhood at this point and we all love on each others' babies as if they were our own.  I truly feel as these kids are my nieces and nephews.  Please pray we get great shots of all of them so I can give that gift to the women who I have grown to love over the past year and a half.

Thanks again, friends, for praying over our trip.  I plan on finding moments to blog or post on facebook while we are there so long as the internet is up and running well for us.  If you are on facebook and haven't liked our adoption page yet, please do so to make sure you don't miss out on any updates.  You can follow the link at the top of the right-hand column to do that.

Blessings friends!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Dreaded Question

You know those moments in a long van trip when the kids in the back seats are screaming, "Howww muuuch loooonger???" with a long, drawn out whine that completely makes it's way under the thick skin of a mom....(insert complete Mommy shutter and wince at the sound your ears just heard, eye-roll, and screams plea to just BE PATIENT!)  Yep, I thought you might know what I was talking about.  Well, to be honest and hopefully not rude, I wanted to say for the record in my personal perspective, that being asked the same question about our adoption process makes me feel much the same way under my thick adopting-mom skin.

Given this adoption "trip" is a long one, the number one thing people ask me is "How much longer will it be until she comes home?" or the slightly different question with the same preface "Why does it have to take soooo long?"  Just like I dread that question being asked by the kids in the back seats of the van, I have to admit I dread it in this adoption too.  With this second trip being on the calendar now, it seems this question is once again being asked even more frequently.  I am constantly having to tell people "No, this is not our "take-home" trip.  We still have an estimated 6-9 months more to go." which ALWAYS leads to...THE dreaded question above.  So, I've decided to take some time today to help explain why these questions are so dreaded and to give some alternative ideas for those of you who find yourself asking them to me or anyone else adopting.
  • I can not make this trip any shorter.  I love my kids and I know they are not TRYING to be annoying when they ask me why the van trip is taking so long, but it really does become frustrating to hear that question when there is nothing I can do to make the trip any shorter.  Unless my van (with rust and all) can magically become a jet plane, there is no way I can make the trip any faster.  To hear the complaints along the ride makes me feel like I'm not driving well enough, that I am not meeting their needs, that I am making them suffer through something (even though I know the end result will be enjoyable), or that somehow I am responsible for their misery in the van.  It becomes very hard to detach my emotions from my responsibility.  As much as I would LOVE to have the trip shorter too, I am just the driver of the van, not the determiner of time it will take us to get there.  Now, similarly, I love my friends, family, and supporters in this adoption and I know you are certainly NOT trying to be annoying when you continually ask me about a time frame for our adoption, but just as it is hard to separate my responsibility from my feelings in a long van trip, it is hard here as well.  The truth is I have no control over the adoption "trip" I am on.  I am simply the person driving the van (saying yes I'll do this adoption) and I, unfortunately, do not have a magic potion that will make our journey become shorter.  When you continually ask me how much longer it will take to get Nora home, I find it hard to separate my responsibility from my feelings that I am the cause of all the misery on the journey because I said "yes".  I tend to feel as though I am not meeting your needs or simply disappointing you when I can not answer your question with what you really want to hear.  Which leads me to my next point...
  • I wonder if your question is really reflecting your "truth".  In the van scenario, the kids are asking their questions for more information (How much longer will it take to get there?), but their "truth" is an undercurrent desire to just be done with the trip and enjoying their final destination.  To them, it's really not so much about what has to happen to get to their ending point (their question), but that they simply want to be AT the ending point...and quickly (their truth)!  When the trip is taking longer than what they deem acceptable, they become squirmy, restless, discontent and ready to get answers from someone.  That "someone" will undoubtedly be the person driving the vehicle because surely they will know exactly how to get them what they really want...not the details of the journey, but the enjoyment of the ending.  Truth be told, even if I gave them a GPS-like detailed read out of each and every turn it will take to get the van from point A to point B, it would not make their trip any shorter.  Unfortunately, these facts don't seem to appease the real desire--to just be done with the trip.  Instead of asking "How much longer?" or "Why aren't we there yet?" my kids should really just be saying, "Mom, I wish we were there already" or "I'm tired of being in this van.  I can't wait to be out."  That would be their truth and I would be taken out of the equation since I would not have to answer a question they really don't care much about anyway.  And so it is with our adoption.  I'm doubtful, at least,  you really want to know the detailed answer to the question of "why does it take this long" when you ask it (your question), but instead you are really just trying to express your desire to see us at the end (your truth).  Because it is taking a long time, however, you are getting squirmy and restless with your unmet desires to have us done with the adoption and are trying to get answers from someone in the driver seat of the adoption (which happens to be me).  Also, like the van example, if I answered your question with a GPS-like answer with all the twists and turns and narrow pathways our adoption has to take to get to the end (so many it would make your head spin), it would not make the time of the trip go by any faster.  The fact is there IS a reason this adoption takes this long.  The process is grueling--not just for us, but for our orphanage director and lawyer doing all the work on the other end.  It is mind-boggling, but knowing all of that does not make the "trip" any shorter.  This all leads me to believe, in my opinion, when you ask me your question:"why does it take this long?" the answer (that won't make the trip any quicker) is not really what you are looking for.  Instead, you really wanted me to know your truth: you want the adoption to be done for us (or maybe for themselves) so we could be enjoying the end of it.  Yes???  So, if you are a person known for asking this question to an adoptive family, I would advise to ask yourself a simple question first...what are you really wanting when you ask "How much longer" or "Why does it have to take this long"?  Do you really want to know all the details of the trip or do you just want to tell me you wish we were at the ending point of the trip?  If your answer is the former, I would love to give you more details of the this adoption as long as you know that by finding them out, it will not make things go quicker--it will just make you understand it better (which I would truly LOVE for more people to have because it makes the miracle of adoption so much more clear).  If your answer is the latter, I would kindly ask you to rephrase your question to reflect your real intentions--your truth.  Perhaps instead of asking "How much longer?", you could ask, "How can I best be of help to you during the wait?" or "What new things have you been learning about Nora recently?" or "I sure wish I could make this time go faster for you, but I know I can't.  Is there anything you want covered in prayer?"  Those kind of questions speak your truth--your heart--your care for me and this adoption--and would do wonders for my heart.
  • We don't have an ending time.  In a van ride, I could at least tell the kids what time we were expected to arrive at the final destination. I could say, "It should be 4:45 p.m. when we park the van for good", but, again, it still would not make the actual time in the van go quicker.  The knowledge of a concrete ending time may make the trip "feel" quicker, but it won't make the tires turn any faster.  In our adoption, unfortunately, we will not know what that "4:45 p.m." will be until the very, very end of the trip.  When you ask me how much longer it will be, it reaffirms something I see as a frustration of this reaffirms that I can not answer your question...that I simply do not know when the end will be here.  That is a very hard reality in any adoption.  This does not make me feel encouraged or sympathized with, which I would bet was your original goal.  We do have some best case scenario time frames (6-9 months), but nothing that can give a stamped day, hour, or minute of when Nora will be on US soil or in our own home.  I encourage you to think about this scenario from my perspective for a moment: how would you feel if you were continually asked the same question you had no answer for (nor could you have an answer for)?  For example, what if every day or several times a day you were asked when your phone will ring.  It's something you know will happen at some point, but you would never be able to really answer that question because it is impossible to actually know.  After a while, you would probably just get tired, frustrated and a wee bit cranky when the next person asked, "Hey, when is that phone of yours going to ring?  I, too, tend to get tired, frustrated, and a wee bit cranky when faced with the same question of how long it will take to get Nora home because I just don't have the answer.  I regret that anyone has to be the person at the other end of my crankiness...that is not my desire at all.  So, instead of asking me a question I can not answer, I would encourage you to ask questions I CAN answer.  Questions I can answer will go a long way to making me feel like I have the ability to be involved in an ongoing, positive, and uplifting conversation about our adoption.  Questions I can answer could be focused on anything in the past or the present, but not in the future.  I, unfortunately, can not predict the future for this adoption trip no matter how much I would love to.
  • I need others to be patient too.  Lastly, do you remember the final part of my initial response to the kids in the van scenario?  It was a scream plea to just BE PATIENT!  When you are trapped in a van for a long period of time with kids questioning each minute when this ordeal will be over, it proves they are not having patience.  One of the traits, if you will, we adoptive parents have been labeled with by others who have yet to adopt is that we must be incredibly patient to go through this process.  To some degree this is true, however, there are also plenty of moments in the past year where "patient" could have been replaced with "manic" in my book.  The truth is we do have to be patient as we wait for Nora to come home, but we don't have to be the ONLY ones having patience.  The long time frames in a van would be oh so much more smooth if the kids were being just as patient as the driver, don't you think?!?  The long time frames in an adoption would be smoother, too, if we were ALL willing to shoot for the same level of patience as the adoptive parents are, for whatever reason, expected to have.  Folks, always being questioned of an end not yet in sight by people acting more impatient than myself is not going to do a whole lot to help my own patience might challenge it even more, but believe me, the last thing I need added to my plate right now is another reason to practice patience-ha!  Please do me a favor and practice being patient as you await WITH me for the answer to your question.  Come up with other things to do WITH me during the trip instead of focusing your questions on an end I do not know.  In van rides, for example, our family likes to play games like "I Spy", sing songs, or even watch movies to pass the time of the trip.  Those things do not speed the trip up necessarily, but they do make the trip more enjoyable.  Doing things with me along the trip to pass the time will be much more supportive than focusing on the unknowns or an end that is not in sight yet.
Does all of this make sense?  I know your hearts, friends, are meant to be supportive and sympathetic to me when you ask the "dreaded question" but I hope with this post, you will understand why I dread that question as well as how to better express your care to me during this time.  And, as I said above, if it is the details of the trip you actually want to know--feel free to ask me when we have enough time for me to tell you all about it.  It would take time, but I could talk your ear off and enjoy every moment of it...just ask my poor hubby.  Thank you, friends, for caring for me.  Thank you for caring about Nora.  Thank you for talking to me about our adoption.  I am sorry if you have ever had to suffer the consequences of my frustration with your question of how much longer it will take to get her here...may grace abound on each of our ends of that question, eh!?!  Blessings.

**I encourage those who have read this post to see my updated answer towards this question posted on February 13, 2013.  Here is a link to that post. Thank you!**

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

We are heading to Haiti!

In 11 days I will be joined by my ever-lovely daughter, Lily, and my just as lovely sister-in-law, Judi, on a path to Haiti...and Nora!  YAY!  Lily and I will fly out of Detroit and have an overnight in a hotel in Florida before heading on to Haiti in the morning.  Judi will fly out of  South Dakota and also (unfortunately) have an overnight in the airport before also flying into Haiti in the morning, arriving just an hour before us.  We were really hoping to connect to one another state-side and go in together, but it just wasn't working out.  We will meet in Port-Au-Prince and begin our time together there.  Up the mountain we will drive and then the moment I've been waiting 11 months for...getting Nora back into my arms.

Latest photo of Nora--October 12th

Did you know we serve an amazing God?  We do.  I am continually reminded throughout this adoption
that God is in control and is always working the details out behind the scenes.  He is also a God who nudges our spirits in a way I am so incredibly thankful for.  Let me just say it PAYS to listen and obey those nudges!!!!  I know the fact we are traveling to Haiti in October now instead of November is a miracle.  I know the back-story to how that came to be is even more miraculous and I just HAD to share it so God could get so much of the credit here.

We had been sent an email by our orphanage director several weeks back (before we got the IBESR director's signature) that gave us some details of things that needed to happen before we could travel to Haiti.  She had said once we got the IBESR director's signature, we could schedule our Embassy appointment, but that other things needed to happen in Parquet before our other appointment to see the Dean so we should just wait to hear from her before scheduling.  So, we waited.  We heard about the IBESR director's signature and waited some more.  Nothing.  There are moments when it is very difficult to hear nothing.  Even a "no, don't schedule anything yet" feels better than '"nothing".  Despite that, there are moments in this adoption where I've felt the need to fight this battle by inquiring and inquiring and inquiring about more information while there are other times where I have felt the need to fight this battle by staying quiet, at peace, and with the control in God's hands.  There was something about that time frame of a few weeks where I was okay with just not asking more questions even though we felt as if we were completely confused and knew nothing.

Then came this past Sunday morning.  I was simply sitting in church when I had this momentary thought/panic race through my brain: "What if our director is waiting for us to schedule the appointment while I'm waiting for her email to tell me it's okay to schedule the appointment?  What if all along, she meant for me to ask the Embassy for the appointment time since we got the last signature we needed, but I never understood her email to say that and have been waiting this whole time for nothing?  Ahhh!"  That thought really came out of the blue...I hadn't been thinking of our adoption in those moments or anything.  So, when I got home from church I decided to risk sounding "nagging" and emailed our director just to double check that we were indeed supposed to still be waiting on her to give us the green light.  At 10:30 Sunday night, I finally got a response back from her.  It read, "Angie, I think you did not receive my e-mail yesterday telling you to write USCIS for the appointment. You can now."

What!?!  Can you even believe it!?!  No, we never got an email from Rachel the day before and would have never even known she sent one.  If God had not put that thought in my head at church we would have never known we had the green light to ask for our appointment and could have wasted days and days for nothing.  Thank You, Jesus, for Your ever-present care in our lives.  Thank You for knowing the details we are unaware of and using Your power to make us aware of them.  Thank You for putting a spirit inside of us that is connected to You.  Who knows how long our process would have been delayed if I would not have sent that email, but because of the thought God put in my head, we were only delayed one day.  He is so faithful!

The story just gets better as I sent the email on Monday morning around 8 a.m. to the US Embassy in Haiti.  They send an automated email back to you right away saying it could take up to 7 days for a response.  I had heard from many the response typically comes back within 2-3 days and that some had even gotten a response by the end of the day.  I wasn't holding my breath for that.  I went on with my day and wouldn't you know it, by NOON I had a response from them!  I had put in my "hopeful" request for the dates of October 29, 30 or 31 knowing full well that some are getting scheduled a month out from the dates they request, but my appointment was granted for Monday, October 29th at 7:30 a.m.  WooHoo!!!  God is so good!  It is critical to get this trip in as soon as possible because our adoption process is basically held up until the appointments of this trip are done.  Having this happen so quickly is such a God-send!  It keeps us moving in the right direction at the quickest speed possible.

Just for the icing on the cake...God made it possible for us to fly to Haiti while the flight prices were AWESOME!  The very next week they jumped up so we will be flying without the huge extra burden of high ticket prices...hallelujah!

So, friends, in EVERY detail of our lives, there is a God who cares about us and desires to give us good things.  There is a God who is one step (or ten thousand steps for all we know) ahead of us and He is crafting the amazing story of our lives.  There is a God who uses everything--whether delays or quickness--to bring Him glory and to bring us back to Him.  There is a God who even speaks to us so we can be aware of what He already knows.  It is awesome to be a part of it all.  And with that, friends, I need to sign off of here and get packing!  I've got 11 days to figure out how to fit all the supplies I want to bring into one 40 pound suitcase...eek!

Please be praying for Lily, Judi, and myself as we prepare to head to Haiti.  This is Lily and Judi's first trip to Haiti and I have no doubt that God is wanting to speak to their hearts in ways we haven''t even thought of yet.  Pray also for Nora's heart to be prepared for our time together.  Of course I want my own bonding with Nora to go smoothly while we are there, but my heart's desire on this trip is for the incredible bond of sisterhood to begin in amazing ways for Lily and Nora.  I get choked up just thinking of the two of them together.  I will update again (hopefully) as we get even closer to our fly date and then will (again, hopefully) be able to blog a bit from Haiti to share how things are going.  Thank you, friends, for all your support and prayers!