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!