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!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Household of Praise

Yesterday we got an email from our orphanage director letting us know the IBESR director signed off on our dossier, our lawyer was getting it to her today, and she would be taking it onward in the process--YAY!!!!  Over the next several weeks we will be in the beginning stages of Parquet Court...the next "stage" of this process.  Then we will make our second trip down to Haiti to see the Dean in courts and to file our I600 with the Embassy to continue the visa process.  We are hoping/praying for that trip to be in November.  It feels SOOO good to say we are D.O.N.E. with IBESR after being in there for 8 months (until the last few days when we get our final sign off paper to leave the country).  I spent moments off and on yesterday praising God for this movement and for answering my prayers that He would go before our director yesterday and give us answers.  Even if the answers would have been "we were still stuck there", it would have at least been an answer and I still would have been thankful...however, having that answer be wonderful news made that answer to prayer even sweeter!  I know I'm not the only one around this house spending time praising God either!

For our 6 year old, Lily, her time of waiting to get Nora in her arms will be a little less than the boys.  She is eagerly waiting for our trip *hopefully* in November because she will be joining me.  We have had many talks over the last few months about our time in Haiti--trying to best prepare her for the experience.  She has been practicing being polite to people she may not know when they ask her a question or give her a compliment because she tends to be very shy in those situations and we don't want that to come across as being rude.  She got to join me the other night for the African Children's Choir concert at our church and asked many questions about why she couldn't understand what they were saying all of the time.  I explained this is much of what it will be like in Haiti because they will be speaking a different language than us, just like the choir was, and we will not always be able to understand them.  Also, the other day as Lily ran in the front door from getting off the bus I said, "Hello, Lily!!!!"  She responded, "Bonjour, Mommy!"  It made me smile.  Yes, she is getting ready as best as she can.

Another thing I found recently while cleaning in her room makes me know Lily is ready for this upcoming trip.  It is her Prayer Journal.  This summer she participated in a summer art camp for a week where she brought home a blank booklet she made.  On the front was written "My Prayer Journal".  I never knew she had taken time since then to write on the pages of this booklet, but I was so beyond blessed to find it the other day and read through all of her prayers.  She is ready for this trip not because her bags are packed, her Creole has been practiced or because she is excited to see the mountains, but because God has a hold of her heart and she has a spirit ready for what all God wants to teach her on this trip.  She has experienced first hand in her young life what it means to be patient, to praise God, to reveal her deepest heart's desire to Him, and to rely on Him for everything.  She is ready and I am blessed to have her as a travel partner.  I am also blessed to know that as I am praising God around this house, I am not the only one...

Translation: Thank you God.  I love you so much.
Translation: God loves me in His heart!
Translation: God you are my Savior.  I love you God and I am yours.
Translation: I am thanking you for my heart and your's.
Translation: Thank you God for the wonderful things that you have given to me.
Translation: You are the King.  You are good.  You are the great and I love you God because you are that!
Translation: You are great! (love how she spelled it right but crossed it out like it was wrong-hee, hee)
Translation: You are awesome!
Translation: You are wonderful!
Lily, sweetheart, you bless me...and you BLESS GOD with your praises and adoration to Him.  I can't wait to get to Haiti with you and have you share that heart with your sister!

Friday, October 5, 2012

2 Inches

2 inches.

That's it.  2 inches.  That's all it took to change my perspective completely.

My husband has always found me attractive in heels.  Not that he doesn't find me attractive in flats, but heels, for whatever reason, turns his head a little quicker.  I'm good with that.  What I'm still not good with is the fact that heels are NOT comfortable.  Heels, honestly, are the death of me.  I would prefer to be in tennis shoes, slippers, or some sort of other flat shoe any day, any hour, any minute.  But because I love my man and, to be quite honest, because there is something inside me that really does feel more feminine when I slip my feet into a pair of heels, I occasionally can be found wearing them.  When I do wear them, as much as they cause me physical pain in my feet and back, I find that I totally dig my new perspective of everything around me.

If you don't know me personally, I would be what the world would call a "short" person.  Some say "vertically challenged" to try to be more politically correct, but I'm good with "short".  On a great day I'm 5 foot 2 inches.  There are moments in life where being that short is really frustrating--like in a crowd of people, when doing group hugs, trying to reach things in tall cupboards, or slow dancing.  There are also moments in life when being that short is awesome--like in an airplane seat, trying to squeeze through the opening of the child's twirly slide at the park to save your petrified child, or when sleeping in a tent while camping.  All together, I am totally fine with being the height I am...I have no deep pain associated with my "challenge".  However, it is simply amazing what putting on a pair of 2 inch heels can do to a person.

One Sunday, I put on a newer pair of black sandal heels and headed out the door.  As I wobbled my way through the front doors of church, I shook the greeters hands and noticed I was actually almost eye-level with the female greeter.  Weird, yet refreshing.  When I made my way to the mailboxes I noticed I didn't have to reach quite so high to grab our mail.  Nice.  When we got to our places (no, they are not "assigned" even though we navigate to them each Sunday), I stood next to my man and realized I could see the tops of his shoulders.  Interesting.  Then we held arm wasn't bent to reach up to meet his.  So relaxing.  I could even see the stage up front without having to strategically aline myself to peer through the openings in the crowd.  Wonderful.  It didn't stop at church either.  After church I had to run into the store super fast to grab some last minute needs for lunch.  As I grabbed the shopping cart handle I noticed it felt so far away from me.  Odd.  Then I looked up and everything seemed smaller.  Odd, again.  And then I began to push the, it was so much easier...I had more force on that baby from a taller angle.  Amazing!  Who the heck knew that being a simple 2 inches taller would completely change the way I looked at and experienced everything around me.

2 inches.  It really can make that much of a difference.  Our church is doing a series right now on a book/primer called The Tangible Kingdom by Matt Smay and Hugh Halter.  It is an 8 week series challenging all of us to really see what Christ meant the "church" to look like, act like, serve like.  It is about being a missional community...a missional Christian.  It has been very eye-opening, challenging, and freeing in several ways already and we are only on week 2.  To truly make these concepts come to life, many of us have committed to meeting in small groups to discuss the questions posed and the activities they encourage us to do.  It is affirming the idea that what we hear and learn is so much better understood when action is put behind it.

A few weeks ago the sermon being preached from this book was discussing our view of other people around us.  Unfortunately, we tend to be prideful in ways we don't always recognize on our own and we need the Holy Spirit to speak through others to open our eyes to the ways we are sinning.  This would be one of those times for me.  I needed that sermon.  In summary, it was explained that Jesus hung out with sinners, the "least of these", aliens (foreigners), and/or tax collectors not because he felt sorry for them or wanted to help them out because he was so much better than them, but because he loved them and viewed them to be a creation of God that has impeccable honor.  That those labeled in society as "sinners" were the same as anyone else in God's eyes--lost people who He miraculously made to be holy, dearly loved, and incredibly important to the Kingdom.  That His sacrifice of life on the cross and resurrection out of hell was not just for me, but for them too.  I was convicted deeply...I was not coming from the same perspective.

It's hard to admit when you are wrong.  When you are prideful.  When you are viewing yourself better than another person.  For what it's worth, I'm openly admitting it here because I have already admitted to my Father in Heaven and He has forgiven me and I've found freedom from that sin.  I have already absolutely loved being in the mindset Christ has always wanted me to be in.  I view people differently now.  I see them through the eyes of Christ in a way I never had before.  When I'm shopping, I look at people who used to scare me with this huge desire to let them know they are so loved and so highly valued instead.  I see someone choosing to live a different lifestyle than I and instead of condemning them in my head, I find something positive about their choices and commend them for that.  Instead of seeing someone who is being rude to someone else and just wanting to hit them over the head, I want to speak Truth into their souls and watch God's power do a work in their attitude.  I love is refreshing and freeing.  I don't have to be so nervous or scared or put-off because of their differences from me...I can love them for the beautiful creation God made them to be and help them see that in themselves.

This new perspective has been refreshing just like my new perspective was when wearing my 2 inch heels that Sunday.  However, just like wearing 2 inch heels causes some pain and has sacrifices that come along with it (can I hear an "Amen", sisters?), so does taking on a new perspective with the people around you.  It gets you out of your comfort zone and forces you to approach people you would have not been caught dead with before.  It takes some guts to even smile at a person who might have sent shivers down your spine a day earlier.  It doesn't come naturally or easily necessarily--it takes work and some pain, but those also make us grow stronger.  Whenever Micah hears me complain about how much wearing heels hurts my feet and back he always says (half jokingly), "You know you just need to wear them everyday so your body becomes stronger and more used to using the muscles it takes to stand that way."  Although that typically gets an eye roll from me, there probably is some truth to that statement.  When you put yourself in a position that is not something you are used to daily, your body does have to strengthen new parts to help in the transition.  Same is true for a mental shift...a soul shift...a heart shift.  It takes time and uncomfortableness at first, but the efforts are worth the result.

So, the lesson was heard, but it was up to me to put it into practice.  In one of the other sermons spoken for this series, it was also mentioned that much of Jesus' ministry happened "on the way" to a place or event.  It was another challenge to be aware of what was going on around you when you are on your way to scheduled events on your calendar.  Between this concept and the concept to view others with their true God-given value attached to their faces, I knew exactly what I needed to do.  Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I take my second-born to preschool.  On the way I pass a factory where a group of workers are taking their lunch break outside.  These folks scared me.  I would literally feel a squirmy feeling in my stomach when we would pass by (insert ashamed feeling).  I do not know them.  I do not know their names, where they live, what they enjoy doing, what they believe, how many children they are feeding with the money from their job, or even if they have a car.  I labeled them as less than me and somewhat "scarey" because they had grumpy, dirty faces, raggedy clothes, and were typically smoking (gasp...the horror of my thoughts--I know, I know.)  The Monday after the sermon, however, I drove by like normal and it simply "clicked".  These precious people were "on my way" to my scheduled event.  These precious people were incredibly important to God and His Kingdom.  These precious people were not scuzzy--they were dirty, tired, tattered and torn because they were WORKING HARD in that factory day in and day out.  How sinful, prideful, horrible of me to view them as anything less.  I asked God to forgive me right then and there and the freedom, love, and smile that came upon my face were certainly His grace and mercy washing over me.  I knew what I needed to do.

I kept driving by that factory for a week or so and each time I drove by I viewed my new found "friends" in a whole different way.  I would try to search out a face as I drove by and simply smile at that person.  I would pray for God to grant them a great day at work and to bless their efforts.  I would thank Him for opening my eyes and for taking away the nervous feelings in my stomach.  I thanked Him for replacing those feelings with a desire to somehow tell these precious people how much they are loved.  This week I tried to do that in a more tangible way.  I called the office of the factory and asked the secretary about how many people would be in there on a given lunch break time.  80-100.  80-100 men and women who I could bless in a simple way.  WooHoo!  I gathered my supplies and began baking cookies.  I finished the last batch up at 1 a.m.  Yes, on one hand, baking cookies is an easy way to show another you appreciate them, but on the other hand, at 1 a.m. when I was dead tired of baking and just wanted to be getting precious sleep before my toddler would come to my bed at 6:30 a.m., I realized that no matter what you do, telling another person they are loved DOES take work.

The next morning, I had the joy of delivering over 120 cookies to that factory.  I included a note that told them all how much I appreciated the hard work and dedication they were putting into their job and that I hoped these cookies would simply let them know they were appreciated.  I also told them I was praying God would bless the work of their hands in many ways.  I signed it with just my first name.  I will never probably know the impact of that blessing, but that was not the point.  The point was in the baking and delivering of those cookies, God blessed me already and I didn't need their approvals to feel good.  I felt good because I knew I had done just what God had told me to do.  My favorite part was hearing the one sort of flabbergasted question the secretary asked me as I placed plate after plate of cookies on the desk in front of her..." you just love to bake or something?"  My answer, "Nope, not really.  I just wanted to let everyone know they are appreciated."  I left that poor woman completely confused and totally blessed, I think, as she timidly thanked me as I headed out the door.  L.o.v.e.d. it!

So, 2 inches, friends.  2 inches completely changed my perspective when I slipped on those heels AND when I shifted my heart-focus back to what Jesus has always desired it to be.  Both were a bit painful but the view afterwards was breathtakingly new, freeing, and exciting to be a part of.  I hope to leave you here with the challenge to look around you and decipher what areas in your life, what thoughts, what prayers, what relationships, what sinfulness needs a 2 inch shift from you today.  When you discover where that 2 inch shift needs to happen, I challenge you further by asking you to DO something about it.  Put on those heels no matter how painful it may be at first.  Seek that forgiveness, bake those cookies, smile at that person so different from you, pray that prayer for the homeless person you just passed, or do whatever it is God is speaking into your heart of hearts.  If your experience turns out anything like mine, you'll be blessed you did it and you won't want to ever go back.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Change is in the Air

Change.  Some people like it.  Some people hate it.  I tend to lean towards the side of disliking it, but I have come a long way with accepting it and realizing there is no way to stop it.  I figure I might as well grieve what needs to be grieved (because whenever something is changing there is a death, a stop, an end to something before the beginning of whatever is next) and move on with hope and expectation for God to still "wow" me with what is to come.  To replace what was "normal" with what is the "new normal" quickly so that it can then become "normal" again much sooner.  Lately there seems to be changes in our adoption process that are beyond my control and I have had to deal with the grief and new hopes that those changes have brought.

One of the biggest changes I have had to grieve is the fact we have yet to set our feet on Haitian soil this year.  I thought I would have been to Haiti and back way before this post, but alas, here I still sit blogging about it instead.  We were informed on July 30th that our Presidential dispensation was signed.  Whew!  A HUGE praise!  We knew it would take 2-12 weeks for Nora's name to be printed in the Haitian legal journal (Le Moniteur), but that after it was printed we would be heading to Haiti.  We were told we could be on that trip as early as the end of August if all went smoothly.  Well, as with every stage of this adoption, you learn more and more about the process you didn't know's just that sometimes you learn it right as it's happening and that creates CHANGE when you least expected it.  Obviously the end of August has come and gone, the end of September has come and gone, and from what we are being told, the end of October will still come and go before we get to Haiti.

What we found out is...
1) Even after Nora's name was printed in Le Moniteur (in the online version on September 7th) the hard-copy version in Haiti did not print until at least September 17th.  Gotta love Haiti.

 2) That a trip does not happen immediately after the printing of that journal.  Our paperwork still would need the director of IBESR to sign off on it before it could move forward.

3) After it is signed off by IBESR, there are a series of steps in Parquet (the next big "stage") that have to be completed before our appointment with the Dean can take place, which is one of the two appointments this trip is meant for.  I was originally under the impression those steps came after the trip, not before.

All of these things could very well take us to the end of November.  We got an updated message from our director on Monday and discovered we are still stuck in IBESR because the director has yet to sign off on our dossier.  This typically happens 1-2 weeks after the name is printed in Le Moniteur, but we are obviously past 2 weeks now and still waiting.  We know we are not alone in this wait as others from other orphanages are also waiting for their paperwork to be signed off on too.  No one seems to be able to get an answer as to why this sign off is being held up.  Here is a photo recently posted on our Haiti Adoptions facebook group of the IBESR building.  This is a visual of where our paperwork is stuck and needs to be delivered out of.  If you are a praying person, we would covet your prayers for movement out of this building TODAY!!!  As much as I would LOVE to have held Nora by now, I look forward for next month when *hopefully* that dream will become a reality.

Another big change is that our orphanage director now has an assistant who will help her in the communication with adoptive families.  This has been a desperate need and an answer to prayer.  Our director is overwhelmingly busy with over 30 children's processes to handle all on her own.  Having a secretary/assistant she can trust and rely on has been a blessing, blessing, blessing!  So, meet Christelle.  She is the one God has called into this roll and we are blessed to have her already.  She was instrumental in setting up a birthday party for Nora and getting us pictures of the event.  She came to America for studies and has gone back to Haiti to share her gifts and talents so her English is impeccable and SO incredibly appreciated by me!!!  We are incredibly blessed to know she is there helping our director out.  Chris has been a reminder to me that change is not always bad!

Christelle holding Nora
Nora's 1st Birthday Party!  They said she was a little taken back by the party, but she LOVED eating the cake!
Our beautiful birthday girl!

 Lastly, as we got the photos of Nora at her first birthday party, we realized they were not taken at the Rivers of Hope orphanage with the children I have come to know by name, love as nieces and nephews, and walk alongside of their adopting families over the past year.  Hence, another CHANGE I've had to grieve this week.  Along with Rivers of Hope's original orphanage where Nora has been the past year, our director has also recently opened up a second orphanage location just 10 minutes away.  This second location is where Nora is now living.  The grief I have in this move of Nora really comes selfishly as I feel as if the families and children I have come to know and love are now more distant from me.  When I see photos of all of these other children, it will be sad to know Nora is not amongst them anymore.  When others go down on trips to see their babies, I can only hope a visit to the other orphanage will still happen so I can get a few photos of Nora, but it probably won't happen every time.  The children who will now surround her I will simply not get to know as well because many of their adopting families are going through an agency on the US end that will not allow us to know who they are.  I wish that was different so I could send photos and info to these precious parents dying for updates and photos of their little ones.

It is a sad change for me, but in the same breath it is a wonderful change for Nora.  The silver lining on this change is that the new location is SO much nicer than the regular orphanage Nora has been at.  The second silver lining is the children at this orphanage are much closer in age to Nora.  A mission team of women as well as Ashley and Audra have helped to paint the new location with vivid colors and gorgeous murals that help to make the day to day life of these children so much happier!  There are two stories to this orphanage where the boys have a bedroom and the girls have a bedroom.  There is even a playroom!  I LOVE the idea of Nora having different rooms to sleep, eat, and play in (at the old orphanage all of these activities happened in the same area).  As I said above, the other blessing is the children at this orphanage location are generally much younger than those at ROH's original location so that will make Nora's playtime much more interactive as well.  I can not help but think this will do wonders for her social skills because before she tended to just contently sit and watch the older children play instead of playing herself.  Here she can interact with other playmates and learn how to play together.  Priceless.  So, even though I have had to grieve some aspects of this change, I also am excited for all that is ahead of her in her new space.  Only one more move in her future...into our home in Indiana!

The new orphanage building before paint
The new orphanage building before paint
The new orphanage with color and murals!

So, as you can see, some of our adoption changes have been frustrating to wrap our brains around, some have been answers to prayer, some have been a mix of sad and happy.  They all are out of our control and changes we will have to accept with hearts focused on new hope and expectations.  Next month, friends, next month I'll have new photos of Nora...and I'll be in them with her!!!