Sunday, May 31, 2009

Favorite Views in Port-au-Paix

Our time in Port-de-Paix was spent with the family that Stephanie will be living with. If there is one thing that really struck me while I was there was the PEACE and the LOVE in this place! God was most certainly present all around us. We stayed with the Lashbrook Family
What amazing things God is doing through this family and ministry! It was an honor to witness it for a couple of days. They have their family home (where Stephanie is living with them), a boys home, and an adoption home. They also have founded a church, school, and feeding program. The children were so well behaved and you could tell they not only felt very loved but also had big hearts and loved much too!

Here are some of my favorite sights while there;
I loved seeing these donkeys hanging out as I walked back and forth between the different homes.
I wish I would have been here on a Sunday to enjoy service in this church.

The boys home

This brave and sweet mission team group were all camped out in their tents on top of the roof of the church. It made me all the more thankful for the comfy bed I was offered in the Lashbrook's home. ;) Everyone on this team was very sweet but I especially enjoyed meeting my new friend Kim. You know it's a small world when.... I had briefly met Kim and when we got a chance to talk a little bit she informed me that she had been praying for me for months. We just met, How could this be? She has visited my blog! It was such a neat encouragement! She is adopting four children and was there visiting them. HI KIM!!

This is the view from the roof near the boys home. STUNNING! I just stood there saying WOW! Directly on the other side of their building walls was the ocean water. So cool!

If you ever get a chance to visit the Lashbrook Family Ministry in Haiti I strongly encourage it. You will be welcomed and loved like family. The kids will all steal your heart and you will leave a changed person~ encouraged, inspired, and excited!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Traveling To Port de Paix

After saying goodbye to Jacques (blah). We waited in a small airport in Port au Prince to catch a tiny airplane to take us to Port de Paix. We met up with Stephanie's new family and two interns that were going to be staying and working with them. Much to my delight one of the young interns was the daughter of my friend. I was so excited to meet her!

We had a crummy thing happen while waiting. I did not witness it because I was at the ticket counter but I guess a couple of men started harassing Stephanie and making threats to do things to her. When Dr. Bernard caught wind of this he went and confronted them (wish I could have seen that part!). When I returned from the ticket counter I saw that Dr. Bernard was talking with a security guard but thought nothing of it figuring it was someone he knew. I had no idea of the ruckus that was going on. Once I learned of it I was so glad to get Stephanie on the plane and away from these men.

Once on the flight the tension melted (and we melted a bit in the plane too, HOT). That's when the reality of the adventure hit. The flight was beautiful! The following photos were taken from the plane;

I realize that this photo isn't very visible in blog photo size but the very first thing I noticed when we landed was the donkeys hanging out on the side of the dirt runway. We exited the plane and were greeted by Pastor Andy (GREAT man, more later), and several of Keith and Cindy's older boys from the boys home. They grabbed our carry on's for us and greeted us with hugs. Then my favorite part of the entire trip began.
The ride to their home was a BLAST! My bag with my camera ended up in a different car and I was so bummed. Port de Paix was vastly different from Port au Prince. The streets were all dirt and very muddy due to recent rains. There were some suv's and trucks but the most common transportation was little motorcycles. It was very amusing to watch them determinedly navigating the muddy roads. Progress was slow and slippery. I even watched one motorcycle trying to tow another motorcycle behind him but the rope broke. I was also amused at the many donkeys that seemed to be everywhere. You also had a lot of the same things you see in Port au Prince as far as people walking around balancing large objects on their heads, and the sides of the streets covered with people trying to sell things. The feel of this place was just more adventurous, relaxed, and less dangerous then Port au Prince.
While we made it to their home just fine.... our luggage did not. I was under the assumption that when you take a little plane your luggage goes on it with you. Silly me! Turns out that's not the case. Usually when I fly to Haiti I pack a couple changes of clothes and toiletries in my carry on but didn't think I would need to with this flight. Boy did I regret it! In the heat and dust of Haiti I ended up having to wear the same clothes for 2 full days. Yuck. This isn't much of a big deal in America where we have AC, but in Haiti..... Not pretty.
After a short rest we headed out to meet all the children. It started out with the babies that are cared for in Keith and Cindy's personal home. There were four babies in one of the rooms who were cared for at all times. Precious babies! I'll share more about them soon. Then we moved on to their adoption/girls home. Ending out the tour at the boys home. So much more to share about those places and children, soon!

It was such a sweet thing to hang back and see the children at the adoption home greet Keith upon his homecoming. They call him Dad and you can see how much they love him!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Luke the Good reader (titled by Luke)

Today our little Lukey read his last story to complete all 5 levels of the Hooked On Phonics Program. He's a super reader now. We are so proud of you Luke!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oh Johnny

The boys yell out "Mom, look at the trick Johnny can do!"
We all have our laugh. I respond as a mother is expected to with the "Be careful, and Ohhh, that's gross and dirty." And then we all walk away. Seconds later we hear "Uh, Hello. Anyone?" It seems that we all walked away and left him stuck in the dog kennel! Johnny is such a goofball. (insert rolling eyes here)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Days 2 & 3 in PAP

Thankfully days two and three in Port-au-Prince were considerably less eventful. I continued to be sick so we stayed at the guest house watching movies and playing games on Saturday. I went outside for a while and played some basketball with Jacques. The kid's got some game! Whomped me silly. When we moved on to volleyball he was beating me so badly that I called for reinforcement and Stephanie helped me gang up on~ he still whomped us! Way to go Jaco! Saturday night we got the privilege of seeing two French families come to pick up their adopted children. I was so thrilled for them!

Saturday afternoon is when I also learned that it was the weekend that Dr. Bernard and Claudette were mourning the 3rd anniversary of their daughter's unexpected death. It was so sad. :( We were glad to know to be praying for them through-out the time we were there. I can't even imagine such sadness.

Sunday I was tempted to stay at the guesthouse because I was still ill but instead rallied up my little bit of energy and went to church with the Bernards. I was so glad I did! What an experience church in Haiti always is. If anyone ever doubts there is really a God they need to only go to church in Haiti and FEEL Him all around you! Afterwards Dr. Bernard and Claudette took us to the home of a friend. It was an elderly woman that had a stroke 13 years ago and could not get out of bed to go to church so they brought it to her. It was one of the most beautiful things to witness. We sang with her, prayed over her, talked with her. Sweet sweet woman! Afterwards they showed me the views from her home and they are the background to the following pictures.

Obviously Jacques is taking his sibling role seriously. ;)

Dr. Bernard and Claudette~ they have become family to us. Every time I spend time with them my love and respect for them always grows. They are truly wonderful people!

Getting buggy

I wish I could say the good feelings continued on through-out the day but they did not. Stephanie and I had a big falling out that afternoon when some hurtful things were said. You would think I would have learned by now not to take things personally that are said by someone that is hurting, but it seems I have not really learned it yet. I was hugely offended. I'm sure it didn't help things that the very nature of the trip was sensitive and being tired and ill do not help things either. Poor Jacques could tell that things were not in a happy place between Stephanie and me and he became even more distant from me. I ended up on the phone with Jim that night crying my eyes out. I was venting and saying "WHY am I even here??!!" "Obviously it does not matter and is not appreciated. I am sick and tired and just want to come home. Why should I continue on when the person I am doing it for doesn't even care?" Yes, a crummy little pity party. I had reached the end of my rope and was talking about catching a flight out the next morning and returning home early. I don't like admitting that I can be that wimpy... but I can be. God really convicted me of it. Sick or not, appreciated or not... I was going to keep my commitment and continue on with Stephanie to her new home. It was about the last thing in the world I wanted to do. Now that I can look back at it... God blessed that decision big time!

Last night in Port-au-Prince ended with long talks with Dr. Bernard and Stephanie. It was so hard to watch him getting the news all at once that we had months to adjust to. Stephanie shared information that he planned to take immediate action about that could affect the lives of many others. In the long run I know it will be in a positive way. Afterwards Dr. Bernard had a bit of a counseling session with just Jacques and me. It was then that Jacques got the full story of what has really been going on in our home. I think the distance between us had to do with him thinking that Stephanie had just become too difficult for us so we were sending her away. Can you imagine the affect that would have on a son coming home to us? Once he knew the facts, and heard the truth about why things were happening the way they were... everything changed. All distance between us melted away. He was so kind and loving again afterwards and I was so glad to see that his heart seemed to be at ease again. Of course this also made our goodbyes the next morning so much harder. By the end of the night Stephanie and I had been restored as well. I was so proud of her for being so brave and talking about things that were so painful and difficult to discuss. She has strength that I admire.

Hang in there with me~ the story takes some sweet turns from here on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day One In Port-Au-Prince

If I could sum up Day one in one word it would most likely be~ AWFUL. :( We got into the airport with no problem so that was positive but the rest of the day was beyond tough. We first went to the office to meet with Dr. Bernard and Claudette (orphanage director and wife). We then went into a long and difficult discussion about the details of what has been happening in our home. I could tell it broke their hearts to hear it, but they were so kind and supportive to me and Stephanie. They served us some lunch and then at Stephanie's request sent us to HFC to see the kids. Usually I am thrilled to go there but I was terribly sick and tense about how to handle (and help Stephanie handle) questions about what she was doing back in Haiti. I had made the decision to keep the visit short. The HFC girls and staff screamed and yelled with joy when they saw Stephanie. It was as if she had reached rock star status and everyone just mobbed her the whole time we were there. It would have been sweet except they were so excited to see her but Stephanie chose to pretend she had forgotten all her creole and could only speak English (which is not true). It was very twirpy and I was pretty frustrated that her friends were so happy to see her but she wouldn't communicate with them. At least I didn't have to worry too much about fielding tough questions! We just stayed long enough for Jacques to get out of school and swung by the boys house to get him. Of course the highlight of the day was to see Jacques again! Stephanie with her HFC sisters

We quickly returned back to the office and walked in to see Stephanie, Jude, and Lovenie's Mom waiting in the lobby along with their two little brothers. Stephanie had been super excited to see her Mom again but her Mom pretty much snubbed her. By this time I was so tired and sick that I was shaking and feeling really weak. No fun. We had a bit of a reunion in the office and then Dr. Bernard pulled us all in his office. When it was time to have "the talk" with the Mom the kids were sent back to the lobby. So there I sat just inches from their Mom as Dr. Bernard translated and the story of why we were back in Haiti unfolded. It was so awful. I could tell her Mom was a mix of furious and heartbroken. There were times that she would yell out to Dr. Bernard and it was intense. Whew. Knowing what Stephanie and Jude had shared with me about their Mom I was braced the entire time to defend myself should there be a physical attack. As the details unfolded about what we had learned of Stephanie's past and what was happening in our home things really got ugly. Once it was over we were all called out of the office to celebrate a staff person's birthday. Suddenly we went from this really terrible moment to smiling, singing, and prayer with everyone. It was so tense and awkward. I was so drained that I wanted to just curl up somewhere on the floor.

While we were in the office having this talk Stephanie and Jacques waited in the lobby watching and playing with the little brothers;

While birthday cake was being served I noticed that Stephanie's Mom and Stephanie had disappeared. She had pulled her off alone back into an office. Alarms were going off in my head like crazy. I was so torn between giving a mother and daughter their space and yet not wanting them alone too. I was taking care of the little brothers also so didn't want to walk away from them. I went to Dr. Bernard and shared my concern and asked him to check in on them. He did and came back moments later to tell me they were just talking and that Stephanie's Mom was weeping. I felt a little reassured that maybe everything was okay and this was what they needed but continued to have the feeling that I needed to protect Stephanie. Sadly, I forced myself to ignore it and focused on loving on the little brothers. Something I would later be struggling with guilt about.

The little brothers melted my heart. I just adored them. I learned that they both had been extremely ill. You could see it by looking at them, especially the littlest one. I wanted to just catch a ride to the airport and get on a flight with them but knew it was not possible. It was later that I learned they were starving and being very neglected. They had been brought into the orphanage and placed for adoption several times only to have their Mom return for them and remove them again. They are literally starving to death and have both been seriously ill. There have been many offers of help to their mother and she has refused it all. Learning this did not help the tension already between us.

Little Jason~ What a precious baby. I loved and loved on him while I could. It was so obvious how sick he is. So sad. I just wanted to wrap my arms around him and protect him.

Jacques was amazing with the boys. He's such a sweet and wonderful kid!

(believe it or not, this is the nicest picture I ended up getting of them together)
After Stephanie and her Mom came back out I could tell Stephanie had been crying and was very sad. She became very quiet and refused to talk. Her Mom came storming out and using Jacques to translate started demanding that I get Jude on the phone for her. I refused. I kept trying to get her to stop dragging Jacques in to the middle of it. There was no way I was putting Jude on the phone with her while she was this upset. Later, after learning more, I was so glad I stuck my ground on this one. She then started insisting we adopt Vilner and his brother (again bringing Jacques into it). It was so awkward and so sensitive. I told her that we would not be adopting them. It was so hard to say this as I looked into the faces of these little sick boys. I will be praying for a home for them but for reasons I won't go into... It is not likely to be our home. Things ended on that note. Little Vilner wanted me to hold him and play with him nearly the whole time. When I went to leave he followed me out of the office to the car. When I saw him there I had to pick him up and return him to the office and his Mom. It was very symbolic and I had to hold back sobs as I carried him back in. This was at one time a little boy that was going to become our son and now I had to deliver him back to his Mom.

Soon after we were rushed into the car that would take us to the guest house. Between being ill and the stress of the events that happened... I was totally wiped out. Stephanie cried on the way back but was not ready to talk until days later. It was then that I learned that I should have stuck to my instincts and protected her. The things said to her most certainly were not things that will help her in her healing! There were also threats involved on our family. Sadly, this will likely be the last meeting with their Mom. This makes me so sad as it is not at all what we had hoped for for our children.

It was pretty great to get to sit with Jacques on the way back. For the first time ever though things seemed uncomfortable between us. I couldn't really read what was going on but thought maybe I was misreading things because I was so sick and tired. Sitting on the other side of me was a very hurting Stephanie who I was trying to comfort. Not a day I'd want to live again, that's for sure!

Good News Makes For Good Health

Proverbs 15:30 A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health
Last night we celebrated our long awaited good news by dining out at one of our favorite places, then curling up together to watch a funny movie, and ended the day with prayers of thanksgiving! The celebration is sure to continue over this long holiday weekend.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Celebration Of GREAT News!!!!!

This morning I was laying in bed nursing a monster of a migraine (I think the travel and the stress caught up to me!) when I began to think about how great God is. The way He placed together every bit of the details of the changes to our family is nothing short of mind boggling and miraculous. As I marveled at this I logged on for a quick email check. Little did I know I was in for a very exciting shock~

When I was in Haiti I was able to spend a lot of time with someone I respect and admire very much, Dr. Bernard, the director of the orphanage that has assisted us with all of our adoptions. I was able to ask him in person for an update on Jacques' paper work. He had to look into it and get back to me. It was Monday morning when I was at the airport with him and Jacques, getting ready to say our goodbyes, when he leaned over to me and whispered to me that he just learned that Jacques file was still stuck in IBESR. My heart sank and disappointed tears formed in my eyes. Moments later I was saying the dreaded goodbyes to our sweet son. Jacques leaned over to me before I left and said "Mom, I want to go with you" and the tears spilled out. I told Jacques that I was going to say my goodbye's quickly and leave only because if I don't I will start bawling and not be able to stop (I know this from experience!). He ignored this and grabbed on to me for a big hug and wouldn't let me go. How wonderful and sad it was at the same time!

So it was to my great shock today when I received an email that we have waited more then 2 years to receive;

Yesterday afternoon Jacques file was signed out of IBESR!!!!! IBESR is the social services of Haiti and they are the ones that review the information that determines if a family can adopt the child or not. The first time we submitted our file to IBESR to adopt Jacques was over 2 years ago when we had to endure the heartbreak of learning that we were denied his adoption. Sad sad time. We were told that they would not approve us until the other children were home. Jacques file was submitted again over 11 months ago and this time we have ourselves an APPROVAL ! Sweet Victory!!! Because of our large family we had to receive a letter of pardon from the president of Haiti to approve us for this adoption so this must have happened already too. Good Good Stuff!!! So, today has become a much needed and long awaited day of celebration. Most of all our thanks goes to the God that makes this all possible in his perfect timing. We are so blessed and honored that He would entrust us with someone as amazing as our dear Jacques to be our son!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Some Last Moments Alone

Stephanie and I were blessed with some great alone time together as we traveled to Haiti. We had a lot of laughs and hugs~
Miami Airport waiting for our flight to Haiti
Just sitting pretty

A last girls night together in the Miami airport Hotel.

Home Again

8 days and 8 flights later... I am home! Parts of the trip were very sad and difficult and other parts were the adventure of a lifetime. I am excited to share about the trip but tonight I'm enjoying time with my family. Thanks for covering our travel in your prayers!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A New Beginning

So our family once again finds it's self moving in a whole new direction then the way we thought things were going to go. We are okay with this because we want God to be our navigator so that we know that the best for everyone will be done. Sometimes it's a painful journey but it's one worth having.

I've been sharing a bit that Stephanie may have a new family to live with and it now has been confirmed. We really couldn't have possibly imagined a family better equipped to take care of, love on, and help Stephanie. They have been missionaries in Haiti for many years and have a great understanding of what kinds of things are happening there, the language, and the culture. They have helped many children and adults in very big ways. Now, they have offered to help Stephanie. They have asked for nothing in return but to be able to serve God by helping her! The tough part is that they live in Haiti, so Stephanie will be returning there. While she was not thrilled about it at first she is accepting it now. She will only be there for 2.5 months and then will return to America for a few months with her new family. She will likely travel back and forth between the two countries quite a bit. What adventures she will have!

Early Thursday morning Stephanie and I will board a plane and start our trip to Haiti together. We will arrive on Friday morning and hope to be able to see her friends, Mom, and little brothers. She is VERY excited about that part of the trip. We will also be able to spend those days with our son, Jacques, that we are in the process of adopting! On Monday we will board a plane to the other side Haiti and stay a few days with her new family and new home. I'll help her get settled in and then fly out on Thursday, arriving home Friday.

What an emotional trip this will be. Stephanie and I have become very close since she moved out. To have her so far away will be very hard. We are so thankful she will be with such good people and getting help. I'm likely to return home having shed an ocean of tears. First will be the always gut-wrenching goodbye to Jacques, then again a few days later with Stephanie. One child I will leave behind because I have no choice, the other out of choice. I'm not sure which feels worse. Yuck, I can hardly stand to think of it. :(

Some very positive news is that this family has offered to take Stephanie in as guardians of her so that we do not have to disrupt the adoption! We will continue on as her legal parents. What we are all hopeful will happen is that Stephanie will get the help she needs and can safely return to our family one day.

We thank God for providing in every way during this time. Now I must trust that he will provide me with the strength I will need to take this trip and do what needs to be done.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Giving Her Back To You

Today could be a day that changes our family's future. Pretty big deal! It's also been a very emotional time and requiring some major decisions~ which means we've been praying lots. Here is the good news... God keeps confirming again and again that this is all part of His plan and we need to trust Him in it all.

My bible reading today hit so at home with what is happening;

1 Samuel 1-8 tells of a woman named Hannah that is heartbroken because she is unable to have a baby. While I can't so much relate to the pain of infertility I can relate to the tears shed for over 3 years while we waited to bring our adopted children home.

9-18 Hannah cries out to the Lord begging for her child. I cried out for years begging for our children.

19-20 Hannah immediately becomes pregnant and has the child, Samuel, she has longed for for so long! Just as our children were at last sent home to us. I can comprehend the unbelievable joy she experienced to know that her dream had at last been fulfilled.

21-27 Hannah keeps Samuel with her until he is weaned. Can you imagine in that time the bond and love she would have felt for this long awaited child? Once weaned she keeps her promise to the Lord and "gives her child back to Him". She takes him to be raised in the tabernacle where he will grow to know and serve God and be used greatly by him.

God Please give me the strength to be willing to say, like Hannah, that I give your child back to you to do your will in her life. May it lead to a future for her of serving you.

1 Samuel 2; 1

Then Hannah prayed;

"My heart rejoices in the Lord. The Lord has made me strong."

My heart does rejoice in knowing He has a great plan for our daughter, even while it breaks at knowing what we must do. I can see how it would make me stronger, like Hannah, to wait so long and love so much just to say goodbye.

These next few days are likely to be pretty tough. We would appreciate your prayers for wisdom as we sort out the details.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Relax Man

Every time I use a hair relaxer on the kids I'm just in awe of how different it makes their hair. I wish I could find something that I could put in my hair and make it several inches longer in just minutes. Oh, yeah, I guess we've all got a shot at extensions!

LOVE these darling kids!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Miracles, Joy, and Tears

Life continues to move forward EXACTLY the way God planned for it to all along. It's a very cool thing to get to see and recognize God at work in a situation that otherwise would seem so hopeless. Yet, He continues to amaze us. We have been praying for a miracle and it is starting to look like we may be seeing an answer to that prayer. Because nothing is definite quite yet I'll withhold the details for now.

It is a seriously EMOTIONAL time. Whew! When going into our adoptions we never for a moment imagined it to turn out any other way then to be a lifetime of our children in our home with our family. Due to the circumstances we may be saying a very difficult goodbye very soon. There just are no words for how sad that makes me. While she will not be by any means out of our lives, she may be very far away from us. The floodgates of tears just keep coming.

While seeking God through this tough time He kept telling me again and again that this is just something that must happen for His plan to be fulfilled in Stephanie's life. It has been a truly great honor to be used by God in any way He chooses to use us. We will always be thankful that God would allow us any role in His plan for Stephanie's life. It may not be what WE thought it was going to be but God keeps reminding me:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are my ways your ways."

I wouldn't want it any other way. So today maybe I shed a lot of tears over things not being what we had dreamed they would be but I will also be thanking God for so many things. Thankful for His faithfulness, for guiding us and helping us, the kindness and love of others, and so much more.

We ask for your continued prayers especially for Stephanie. We know God has great big wonderful plans for her life!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Spring Fling Dance

Last night we took our kids to their first ever dance! What a blast we had with them!!! So fun that they are not yet "too cool" to dance with their Mom and Dad. The dance was for home schooling families. I think going to it reconfirmed my positive thinking about home schooling. It was pretty well attended and 90% of the people there were on the dance floor all night. The feel of the party was just plain fun. Kids of all ages were dancing together, laughing, and having a good time. I saw zero bad attitudes, unkindness, or self conciseness. Just a bunch of well adjusted and kind kids having a great time with each other and even with THEIR PARENTS! ;)

Pre-Party Photos:
Lovable Luke
This is the most he moved all night.

Sweet dear Johnny

Charming Kyle

Darling Jude

Adorable Lovebug

The Boy Pack

The Gang
Party Time:
Yep, This is pretty much what Luke did the whole time.

Johnny doesn't mess around~ he's here to DANCE

Kyle hams it up for the camera

Lovenie was the biggest littlest party girl there. She was dancing all over that hall. She would even find people forming circles and bust through to dance in the middle of them all~ much to the delight of everyone. She can really get down!

Go Lovenie, Go Lovenie

Jude started out a bit shy and reserved but every now and then would bust a major move. He sure can dance!

Despite his fun hamming it up moves Kyle was in quite the demand with the ladies/girls last night. He's such a little charmer.

Just Sweet
Post Party: