Saturday, March 4, 2017

Puzzle 3.0

     Yes, that's right, Puzzle 3.0!

     A week ago yesterday I posted a tell-all piece about lessons we've learned during the first two weeks of our puzzle fundraiser.  If you missed it, the main take away is that we launched a puzzle fundraiser a few weeks ago.  We have a 1,000-piece puzzle.  For every five dollars donated to our adoption fund, through Pay Pal or by cash or check, we add one piece to the puzzle, with the donor's name on the back.  In the end, our daughter will have a super cool keepsake to hang in her room with a picture on the front, and the names of all the people who helped bring her home on the back.  We'll frame it with glass on both sides so we can enjoy either side.

     Someone asked me if we were going to suspend it in the middle of her room so that both sides would be visible at once.  I replied that I was fairly certain our middle son would find a way to turn that into a backboard and hang a rim off it and totally ruin the look!  There shall be no slam dunking on the puzzle!
Back to our story...

     So we learned a few things in the first two weeks, the biggest of which is that our adorable yellow lab, Penney, is not to be trusted anywhere near the puzzle.  Thanks to her, Puzzle 1.0 had to be replaced as seventeen assembled pieces went missing, never to be seen again. So we went back to Amazon and ordered Puzzle 2.0.  I wrote a blog post explaining what had happened, and promised myself we would get caught up on posting pictures of the sponsored pieces the next night.  The second puzzle was just like the first; we would just start again.

     Twenty-four hours later, that plan came to a halt!  No, I'm not kidding! There is a reason this blog is titled "Shelton Shenanigans."  Despite our best efforts, nothing ever seems to go quite as planned with the Sheltons.  Normal and predictable are just not our style.  While other people have nice smooth adoption stories without any hiccups (surely that actually happens for somebody) we have stories - and lots of them - as things go slightly off-course.  And this fundraising campaign is definitely falling into that category.  The puzzle is going to be more than sentimental and sweet - it's going to have 1,000 stories to go with it, and some of them are quite comical!

     So here's what happened the day after I admitted we were on Puzzle 2.0.
Last Saturday evening, all five of us were working on Puzzle 2.0.  I'm not a lot of help on puzzles for obvious reasons, but I can identify an edge piece or a corner, so I was in on the action with the Shelton men, and things were going well.  Edges were in a pile, and Steve had some joined together.  The boys were sorting colors and bactually cooperating without a fuss.  We were getting on-track.

     It was at this peaceful moment that Steve picked up the box and took a closer look at it than he had before.  (Remember, we ordered this from Amazon.  The picture was very small online.) The puzzle we ordered had a picture of Noah's ark on it.  (We actually have a Haitian metal art rendering of Noah's ark, and thought it would be cool to have a puzzle along the same theme.)  There was a lovely blue sky and clouds at the top as you would expect.  The ark was below that, with some whimsical animals on it.  Beneath that was water teaming with lots of interesting sea animals.  It was bright and colorful and I imagined myself going over the animals with her at bedtime just the way we had done with our boys when they were little and learning fun words like "lion" and "zebra."  

     When Puzzle 1.0 arrived, our pre-schooler noticed that there were people fishing off of the ark.  This probably isn't biblically accurate, but I could live with it. When Steve picked up the box for Puzzle 2.0 last week, he said to the fourth grader, "What is that right there?"  Fourth Grader responded, "It's a lobster."  Steve told him that actually, it was a crab, but to look beside it.  There, next to a friendly looking crab, were some weeds, out of which was sticking a skeleton human arm!  The fourth grader then took a closer look at the box and yelled, "Dad!  There's a human skull hidden in the weeds!" And then Steve noticed some chunks of apparently flooded-over city.  None of these things were visible on Amazon!  And I have no idea how no one noticed them when we sorted the pieces for the first puzzle, but there they were. It was at that point that I officially lost my mind.  I could not envision hanging this puzzle in my daughte'r's room!  I could just imagine her sitting bolt upright in bed because somehow she spotted the skull amidst of all the friendly fish, and from then on, being terrified of the puzzle and unable to sleep in her room.(Think I'm overreacting?  One of our children was traumatized by a cartoon puma on Diego and refused to sleep alone in his room for ages!  So imagine the reaction this could cause!)  And furthermore, whose name could we write on the scary pieces?



     I announced to my children that we were done with this puzzle and demanded that Steve take me immediately to Barns & Noble, where we could much more carefully choose Puzzle 3.0 - which better be the last rendition of this project!  Fortunately, we never posted a picture of Puzzle 1.0/2.0 on Facebook, so if I wasn't so stinking honest, no one would have ever even known about the switch. (Although the blue sky pieces had been tagged to people's pages, who might have noticed a complete lack of blue sky eventually.)  LOL!

     We went to Barns & Noble at 8:00 on a Saturday night, sorted through the limited selection of immediately available 1,000-piece puzzles, and found something completely different. "Butterfly Migration" is the new puzzle.  It's a world map with pictures of all kinds of colorful butterflies on it.  They are identified with the names of cities or countries where they can be found, and there's even one for Haiti.

     We sorted out the pieces last night and started framing it out.  I am happy to report there are no severed body parts anywhere to be found on this puzzle.  I am also happy to report these pieces are a bit bigger, which makes it easier to put names on them.  The sorted pieces are safely stored in bowls where Penney cannot get to them, and the ones that have been put together are carefully placed and covered with painter's tape.  Nosey labs will have to look elsewhere for a quick boost of fiber!
Much more importantly, thank you to those of you who have already donated!  As of now, 104 pieces have been claimed.  We'll have pictures up for you soon.
In the meantime, if you really, really like working on puzzles and want to come and help, we might be open to that!  Apparently, we need all the help we can get!
If the old addage is true that the third time's a charm, we should be good to go now!  Yay for butterflies!  And yay for people who believe in us despite the craziness of our story!  We are so glad to record your names in our daughter's story!  God bless you all!

"Give thanks to the Lord.  His love endures forever."  

Friday, February 24, 2017

                        Lessons Learned In the First Two Weeks of Puzzle Fundraising
     In case you haven't heard, the Shelton family is adopting a little girl from Haiti!  If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know this is a long, long story, but most importantly, you know that we're in line for a referral, and thus we are back in the fundraising game again. 
A couple of weeks ago, we launched our puzzle fundraiser.  We purchased a 1,000 piece puzzle to put together and hang in our daughter's room.  We'll be framing it in a double-sided frame that will display the puzzle picture on the front.  On the back will be the names of the people who helped to bring her home by sponsoring a piece of the puzzle.  Every five dollar donation equates to one piece of the puzzle.  So when it's said and done, we'll be $5,000. closer to the total amount needed to pay the adoption fees. paypal.me/sheltonadoption
    
     That is the end of the infomercial.  Here comes the fun part.  This is the list of things I have learned thus far from the puzzle fundraiser:
  • 1,000 is a really big number!  It seems so much bigger when that many pieces tumble out of a small box and bury the dining room table!
  • We have some friends with some really, really long names!  You know who you are!  Some of you are going to be required to purchase pieces in pairs just so we can get your names to fit! 
  • Surprise donations always make me cry!  It doesn't matter where I am when I get a donation notification - my kitchen, my desk at work, or standing in the middle of a crowded vestibule at halftime of a basketball game - instant tears!  I'm not even embarrassed by it anymore - some things deserve happy tears!
  • We really, really mean it when we say we want our friends' names on our daughter's wall!  We can't tell you how much we appreciate the support we've been given, and we love it when we get to add new names, so we can share them with our little girl some day.  We want her to know how much she was loved before anyone even knew her name!
And finally..........
DOGS CANNOT BE TRUSTED!!!
     If you don't know, we have two lovely Labrador retrievers in our house.  We have a black lab, Catherine, who works very hard for me every day, and a precious yellow lab named Penney, whose main skill is being pretty.  She will not be working for me or anyone else anytime soon, I assure you.
The first night he worked on the puzzle, Steve labeled, took pictures, and posted to Facebook, as twenty-one pieces came together in two puzzle chunks.  He took pictures as each piece was added so he can later create a still-frame type video showing it all coming together, front and back.  This took a while, and required some serious organization and focus.
     The next night, we went into the dining room to add a few more pieces to our work in progress.  The unmated pieces were scattered all over the table, and the smaller chunk was there, but the bigger chunk, the first seventeen he put together - completely missing!  We immediately began interrogating the boys trying to ascertane who took them, where they were hidden and why.  We tried several theories, and all three denied any knowledge of them although one boy remembered seeing precious Penney standing on her hind legs looking intently at the pieces.  The youngest jumped immediately to blaming her.
     It seemed unlikely that Penney would have actually eaten the assembled pieces.  I mean, she ate nineteen candy bars once that we bought from a fundraiser, wrapper and all, but those would have smelled good.  Puzzle pieces, surely not! So we ramped up the questioning, making certain the boys, the five year old in particular, understood the importance of the pieces.  One of us (me) might have even threatened to give Penney away in an attempt to coax a confession out of the pre-kindergartener, but the boys all promised they knew nothing. So, the only logical thing to do after that was to send them on poop patrol!  (No, I'm not kidding!)  Either we had kids who were really good liars, or a dog with a very unrefined pallet.  We were determined to find out which! In the end, puzzle pieces are apparently very digestible.  We searched high and low, closely monitored the yard, and never found them anywhere. Penney is still a member of our household, but we all believe her to be the culprit.
So, we are now introducing Puzzle 2.0!  we're starting over again with a second version of the same puzzle.  We're just really glad we didn't spend a fortune on a custom order puzzle, and that Amazon decided to knock $7.00 off the price of this one.  We'll try a new strategy this time, and find a higher place to store it!  Somehow, it's fitting that this would happen to the Sheltons on the first night of a project that requires serious organization.  Fortunately, we can laugh at it now.  And in case you're wondering, I am keeping all 983 remaining pieces from the first puzzle just in case - and yes we've counted and know they're all there!
     If you want to join in and add your name to our daughter's puzzle, you can donate through Pay Pal, or send us a check or cash at your convenience.  (Don't worry, we won't let Penney anywhere near that!) One other interesting observation....Our youngest has grown up most of his life hearing adoption talk and taking in all kinds of fundraising and home study activities as we've worked through the process.  It has been within the last few months, however, that he's really started to grasp what it means.  He now asks me all the time when we're going to bring home his baby sister, what her name is, and all kinds of other questions.  The puzzle fundraiser is something that he understands will help bring her home, and he wants very much to be a part of it and to speed things along.  The other day he told me, "I know what will help bring that baby sister home faster - we just need to get a giant puzzle with giant pieces!"
     If only it were that easy!  But I love the simplicity of his point of view.  I am so anxious all the time to know how/when this story ends.  I love surprises, but I love being in control and planning almost as much.  This whole walking by faith thing is really hard for my Type A personality!
1 Corinthians 13 is a scripture I memorized over twenty years ago, but a portion of it has taken on new meaning for me lately, especially in light of the puzzle and the little one's perspective:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror.  Then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part.  Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

     As I write this, I wonder whose name will be next, or if anyone will even read this post all the way to the end.  I wonder what our daughter's life is like, or if she has even been born.  I want to know her name, and when this waiting will finally be over.  But more than that, I am overcome when I realize there is one who knows all of these answers and who ultimately guides our story.  I see the next obstacle, and He sees the victory.  I see $5.00 puzzle pieces, and He sees the completed family. 
This journey is a lot easier when I put what I know in part in perspective and trust the one who fully knows.  Our journey is His puzzle in a way.  It will be amazing when we finally see how the pieces fit together!  "When perfection comes, the imperfect disappears."
"Give thanks to the Lord.  His love endures forever." 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Fast Breaks and Outtakes

It is safe to say that the Shelton family is now basketball crazed - especially the twelve and under crew!  If the big boys aren't practicing or playing an actual game, they're getting their virtual fix with NBA 2k, watching a game on TV, or keeping up with the stats on my phone.  We are now just over halfway through the basketball season and any given weekend you'll find Steve and I warming the bleachers somewhere, cheering for someone, and keeping the concession stand in business. 
 
Don't ask me how it happened, but I somehow have turned into a basketball mom - purely by accident, I assure you!  As much as I would like to deny this, I did show up to work on a Monday morning a couple weeks ago with a Gatorade and a kid's jersey in my purse - and no make-up.  Oh the humanity!

This is the first time we have had all three boys playing a sport at the same time - and in two different leagues at that.  Two are very competitive and great contributors to their teams.  They block shots, hit free throws, run plays, intercept passes, and engage in all kinds of offensive and defensive strategies.  They can set a pick, box out, and rebound with the best of them.  As for the little one....well.....after the first game he very happily announced to me, "I think we were the Tigers the whole time."(!!!)    
 
The difference between pre-K, fourth grade, and seventh grade basketball is astounding!  One of our children does windmills with his arms as his method of intimidating the other team (on offense or defense);one prides himself on being a defensive menace; and the other just flat-out plays a hard, fundamentally sound game.  We've had some great victories, some really painful defeats, and some moments of shear hilarity.  For instance, only when your grandpa is your coach can you shadow box  the opposing player for most of a period, completely unaware of the game going on around you and at the other end of the court, and then be given the sportsmanship star at the end of the game.  (In Grandpa's  defense, he couldn't really give him best offense, defense, or the Christlikeness award for that either - although I challenged that "effort" might have been a better choice 

Even with this vast array of basketball experience, I must confess that my favorite part of beginner basketball is the mini cheerleaders.  They are so cute!  I'm the parent on the bench who claps and responds when they try to rev up the crowd, and I might be able to recite all of their cheers. When we bring home our daughter, I intend to enroll her in Upward cheerleading immediately - that is assuming Grandpa doesn't recruit her to be a baller first!
And speaking of that - you knew I had to bring this around to adoption eventually - we are coming out of our halftime locker room strategizing and entering the back half of our journey with a new game plan.  With the clock ticking to a referral, we are keenly aware of the numbers and the amount of dollars that still need to be raised.  While we played it safe in the first half, taking easy layups with smaller fundraisers, we'll be putting on a full-court press now as the stakes are high and we need to start bringing in the bulk of our funding with a bit more intensity.  We'll be doing that by first and foremost applying for grants.  But as grants are not guaranteed, and the grant application process also includes explaining what we're currently doing to raise funds, we're going to be launching a couple of fundraisers as well.

To that end, we are kicking off the back half of our fundraising with a big idea and a big goal!  We have purchased a 1,000-piece puzzle.  We are asking our friends and family to help cheer us on to victory by sponsoring a piece (or more) of the puzzle.  For every $5.00 donated, we will add one more piece to the puzzle - with the donor's name on the back.  Eventually, we will have put together a super cool keepsake to hang on our daughter's wall, with the puzzle picture on the front, and the names of the people who helped us bring her home on the back.  I can't wait to go over those names with her when she's big enough to want to hear her adoption story.  And we want as many people as possible to be a part of it!

If you would like to sponsor a piece of our puzzle, you can give electronically  through the Pay Pal link  paypal.me/sheltonadoption. If you'd prefer to donate by check or cash, message me or Steve and we'll give you our address.  Once your donation has been received, we'll send you a picture of the pieces you've sponsored.  As the puzzle begins to take shape, we'll post pictures to keep you up to date on our progress.  When it's all said and done, we will have raised $5,000.00 toward our adoption expenses, and we'll have a story to treasure along with it!  

Please join us and be part of Team Bring Baby Shelton Home!  Whether you fancy yourself a player, a cheerleader, or a bench warming supporter, we need your help! Thanks in advance for joining in!  Go team!
"Give thanks to the Lord.  His love endures forever." 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Haiti Baby - One Step Closer

     Four and a half years ago, I began this blog, announcing that the Sheltons were adopting, which was a surprise to most of our readers.  I wrote pretty regularly for a while there about our decision-making progress, life events, working through a home study, fundraisers, and the like.  And then....well, there just wasn't anything to say.  We had done all we could do and were waiting for the paperwork to move from one place to another.  Today, however, I am very pleased to tell you that the dossier has completed its journey and has at last been formally submitted to  the IBESR - meaning we have moved officially into the line of families waiting for a referral!  We are no longer waiting to wait in line, we are actually in the line!

     Enjoy that bit of good news.  Savor it and chew on it a while, because there won't be any other big news for a long time.  Currently, it takes eighteen to twenty four months to get a referral.  Haiti is making strides to potentially speed up the process on their end, but if things continue the way they're trending now, we still have quite some time to wait.  Until then, we do not know who our daughter is, how old she is, where she's residing, or anything about her.  We have requested a healthy, female child, no older than three years to preserve our family's natural birth order.  And now we wait...

     If you know me at all, you know by now that I don't actually love waiting.  Despite the number of people who tell me I must be extremely patient to endure this process, I openly confess that I do not have the patience of a saint - whatever that even is - that waiting fills me with frustration and anxiety.  In fact, I no longer even consider patience to apply to our journey - more like what the Bible calls patient endurance.  We're enduring, because we're stubborn and God hasn't released us from our call to adopt - and we're patient inasmuch as we aren't trying to find rhyme or reason in the chaos or doubt God's faithfulness.  Beyond that, we're human, and this waiting isn't something we would wish on anyone - nor is it what we expected when we signed on for this.  But it is our journey, and we're going to see it through.Moreover, if you know us at all, you know that we're not sitting still while we wait!  The boys are growing up, the seasons keep changing, and God keeps sending us work to do while we wait on His plan.

     Thus far, our journey has led us to Chicago, to Nashville, to Haiti, to Kansas City, and right back to our own back yards.  We began with an understanding that God had a specific child in mind for us to incorporate into our family somewhere across the ocean.  While we wait to meet her, there are a whole bunch more in our own County who need some love, and we have a unique opportunity to share it.

     Because of our adoption calling, we went to CAFO's Orphan Summit in 2014.  That was where we first encountered Global Orphan Project, and where we became acquainted with GO Exchange.  We quickly signed on to advocate for kids and moms in Haiti, by selling jewelry, scarves, apparel, tee-shirts and lots of other fun stuff.  We poured our hearts into the mission, even traveling to Haiti to meet some of the amazing kids and young adults we were supporting.  That is the closest we have been to our daughter, and we would not trade those days for anything.  God did so much work on our hearts, minds, and understanding through GO Exchange - but there are plenty of other long blog posts you can read on that topic! :)

     During one of the first conference calls I signed onto in my roll with GOEX, I heard about the American arm of the Global Orphan Project - something new and different, that would bring together the church and the state in an effort to take care of needs for families in crisis in our local counties.  The initiative was something known as Care Portal.  Through Care Portal, churches who are willing receive an email, drafted by a social worker in Children's Protective Services within their county.  The case worker has become aware of a need, often material, sometimes relational, that cannot be met via traditional funding sources, but directly impacts one or more children in a family within the County's care.  The need may be for a bed, or payment of a utility bill - which, if left unresolved, could create a safety issue or render a home unsuitable.  The need could be something that will impact a child's well being, such as specialized music therapy to help a teen recover from trauma, a bicycle stabilization kit for an autistic child, or a set of dentures for a high schooler whose teeth had been pulled due to years of decay and neglect.  Or, the need could help stabilize parents who are adopting, fostering, or reunifying with children.  It might be a table and chairs, a gas card to help a dad get to work until his first check, a moving truck when a lease abruptly ends, or even something as simple as a high chair. The case worker sends an email; area churches become aware of the need; local congregations respond by fulfilling the need; and families in crisis experience relief and hope.  

     When I heard about Care Portal for the first time, I immediately called one of my favorite people on the planet and told her, "If this ever comes to Ohio, we have to do this!"  Fast forward about nine months, she and I were in a van on our way to Nashville for another Orphan Summit, and Care Portal was going to be there.  I marched straight up to the CEO, told him who I was, that I'd been dying to meet him, I'd been following their progress, and I knew the right people to launch in Ohio if he wanted to expand that direction.  I drug along a host of those right people over the next couple of days to meet him, and for some odd reason, he took me at my word, and we launched in my county in December of 2015. Since we began this adventure, we have gotten to know a lot of churches in our county.  We have forged relationships with case workers.  And amazingly, we have seen the church respond time and time again to care for parents,, kids, grandparents and a variety of kinship providers.  We know where to get the best price on a twin mattress and box spring, and we learned that when you deliver a stove, you better know whether the cord fits a three-pronged or four-pronged outlet before you make the trip.  We even found out that you can email U-Haul gift certificates!  You never know when that bit of information will come in handy!  :)

     Sometimes I wonder how on earth I became entangled with such an amazing ministry and with such amazing people.  I certainly couldn't have foreseen a calling to international adoption to lead to piloting Care Portal in the State of Ohio, but I sure am glad God entrusted it to me.  Every story, every need, every life impacted is an opportunity for me to praise the one from whom all blessings flow.  Every delivery, every hot meal, every connection reminds me that God cares about the cause of the fatherless and that He is actively moving in people's hearts to do something about it.  Every administrative meeting, every statistics report, every orientation session, God shows me that we are not alone on our journey and that the cry of our hearts is not unique to the Sheltons or even to our church.  The more we serve, the more we know that God is orchestrating our steps as together we have prayed for case workers and hurting families, seen God knit together miracles and shared Hallelujah moments as needs have been met in unexpected ways!

     If you want to learn more about Care Portal, check out this video:  https://vimeo.com/156320407
     
     Stay tuned for more Shelton shenanigans, as there are plenty more fun stories to share, and I'm sure there will be more twists and turns in our journey before it comes to an end.  For now, we are rejoicing that the dossier is in the right hands, and we're praying for more miracles to help us see this journey through.  There's a lot more money to raise, a lot more preparation to do, and yes, a lot more waiting.  But today we rejoice that we've gotten this far!  I'll say it once more for my own benefit, the dossier has been submitted to the IBESR!  At last!  We made it!  Praise the Lord!
Rejoice in the Lord always!  I will say it again, rejoice!

Give thanks to the Lord.  His love endures forever.   

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Fun


     Several people have asked me recently how things are going with our adoption, which says to me two things: 1) some sweet people actually read this crazy thing; and 2) I really should get around to updating it!

     Truth be told, not a lot of movement has happened in the Shelton adoption saga – at least not insofar as the official paperwork and referral process are concerned.  Due to a long and complicated legal reason (which I’ll be happy to tell you sometime if you actually want to know) there is a rather large log jam in the Haiti adoption world.  Wait times are seemingly ever increasing and families are waiting a long, long time to meet and ultimately bring home their children.  In all seriousness, I expect our daughter to come home in 2020, or later.  We are still waiting for our dossier to be officially submitted to the Haitian government, having now completed two home studies, and a ton of other paperwork.  The journey we expected could take three years has taken more than four, and could drag on for another four.  I “hope” we’re more than halfway through it now.

     So what’s a high-strung, not very patient, mom with heart pangs for a child she doesn’t know yet supposed to do with herself in all this waiting!  If you think I’m a master of tranquility, or that I’m sitting around moping, or even planning our next fundraiser, you’d be wrong.  God just didn’t make me the kind of person who could sit still!  And it just so happens that there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of opportunity to serve between now and….well…whenever this comes to an end.  I am deliberately not going to complain or cry in this post, and I am also not going to fret over money! I’m just going to give you a glimpse of what life is like around here during the long wait.

     Summer is upon us.  This means that my turn to grow gracefully older rolled around again.  When we woke up that morning, we discovered that our refrigerator was leaking all over the new hard wood floor.  This was an especially curious situation as the water line had been disconnected for over a month.  Ultimately, between that issue, and several others, we determined it was indeed time to replace the fridge.  So sad. 

     You see, our house is at that age where everything that was new at the same time is wearing out at the same time.  We replaced the water heater in April, our washer and dryer in May, put in the new, now wet floor in May, and now had a refrigerator problem to deal with.  This meant that we would now ignore the grill that was rusting out, and rethink replacing the vacuum whose cord is electrical taped together because some loser (me) kept running over it, to the point that sparks shot out of it once when it wasn’t even turned on.  And we won’t talk about the hole our puppy made in the carpet!  But the kicker, the part that caused tears to stream down my face amid peels of laughter, was when Steve went to cut my birthday cake and the knife broke in his hand!  It was the perfect ending to a ridiculous day!  And though all of this was annoying, it’s nothing compared to the stress of adopting! The cake still tasted good, even if it was hard to cut.

     This year has been about pushing boundaries, overcoming fears, and doing things that take me WAY out of my comfort zone.  For instance, we went to Haiti, remember that?  I might have mentioned it a couple of hundred times.  On top of that, I initiated launching a new ministry in my County, forcing me to meet a lot of amazing people, and face a lot of real needs and hurts.  I have learned to pray in faith believing that God will do great things, and I have been blessed to see them happen again and again!  Perhaps this newfound courage to do new things and take risks explains my boys’ new favorite hobby……”blind basketball with Mom!”

 

     Yep, that’s right.  My big boys are obsessed with basketball.  They play all the time, and often tussle because of it.  So one night, mostly to break up what was about to be a fight, I took the ball and announced I was going to play. The shock value of this caught my now fourth grader off-guard, but then sparked something in him.  He began coaching me, standing under the basket, tapping the pole, and giving me tips and pointers until I made my first shot.  (Incidentally, my form is terrible, but he’s working on it.)  I told him that when he someday wins an award as most outstanding rebounder on his team, he can thank his blind mother for all of the extra practice!

     Soon, making one shot wasn’t good enough for him.  He wanted five, or ten, or twenty in one day, and we got there.  Now mind you, this is all taking place in the street in front of my house, in plain view of my neighbors.  Sometimes I get so tickled at how ridiculous we must look with the boys standing under the basket yelling, “whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop,” and tapping the pole that I burst into laughter and can barely even shoot the ball at all!

     Soon, even this became a matter of competition as the boys both wanted to coach me, at the exclusion of the other.  (Somehow the four year old hasn’t figured out any of this is odd yet, by the way.)  So, I announced that we were going to play a game of HORSE – BLIND HORSE to be exact.  The sighted boys would close their eyes, take their shots, and find out if they were as bad as their mother without sight.  Turns out, they’re not.  They still beat me every time, but we laugh a whole lot at ourselves as we’re out there and you should see the celebrations when I actually make one!

     My favorite moment so far was a week or so ago.  We were taking our turns shooting and a lady was walking her dog through our neighborhood.  Just as she came by, I took my shot, from the left side, and managed to get the ball stuck between the rim and the backboard.  As one boy started rocking the pole to dislodge it, and the other went for a broom, the first muttered, “blind basketball problems.”  The dog walker, who we do not know, was walking right beneath the hoop by now, and laughed out loud as she passed.  Talk about awkward!  I couldn’t have laughed harder at this conundrum.  This either means that I’m an awesome mom who doesn’t take myself very seriously, or that the adoption stress has finally gotten to me and I’ve officially lost it.  Either one, maybe both, could be true, but God knew what he was doing when he created us with sarcastic genes, and we’re okay with it!

     To anyone who is still following our journey, thank you.  We appreciate your encouragement, your words of support, and your prayers more than we can say.  We really do look forward to the day we can post pictures of our daughter, and tell you her name.  For now, we’re not fundraising at all.  We’re moving forward a day at a time, and some are better than others, but we are never bored!

     Our family motto hangs over our kitchen table in the form of a metal art sign we found at Papillion Enterprise in Haiti. 

                      “Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and take heart.” (taken from Psalm 27:14)

     We’re waiting, strengthened by God’s grace, and doing our best to take heart.  And I think we might even be growing a little too.  (That’s a good thing as just as I finished typing this my Seeing Eye dog just ran through our screen door, and you guess it, Steve is doubled over in laughter.  Yay summer!) J

                                        “Give thanks to the Lord.  His love endures forever.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Haiti Vision Trip

Mersi Jesus

     We did it!  We went to Haiti; we took cold showers; we didn't drink the water; we ate new foods; we played with kids; we toured villages; we experienced traffic like you'll never find in the US!  We shopped at Papillon Enterprises; we learned about sublimation at Life SA; we saw the sewing centers and walked through Pathways Academy. We worshiped with the local church, played with a lot of kids, made some life-long friends, and we made it home safe and sound!  Now we are grappling with all kinds of questions, observations, ideas, and perspectives on reality that we will never fully comprehend.  I'm warning you now that this may be a very long post, or series of posts, as my mind is racing and my fingertips can't begin to keep up.  So grab your favorite hot beverage and find an easy chair, and I'll do my best to describe our first encounter with Haiti to you.
    
     From the moment our plane landed in Port au Prince, we knew we were far, far from home.  Simply getting from the plane, to our luggage, to the bus was an adventure, but we had an experienced guide so we made it through with all of our donations and new friends intact.  
     
     Once on the bus, we were introduced to our interpreter, driver, and body guard, along with two Global Orphan Project staffers who resides at the hotel we stayed in, specifically for the purpose of coordinating and guiding vision trips like ours.  We were not there to build anything, or paint, or finish a structure.  We were there to soak up culture, to play with kids, to learn from local clergy, and to pray asking how God could use us better in light of all we were taking in.
The trip to the hotel was an immediate jumping in at the deep end kind of experience as there was no denying that we were surrounded by confusion, chaos, garbage, poverty, and unbelievable traffic.  There were no lines separating the road into neat lanes of traffic - but there were thousands of vehicles going in all directions all at once, with motorcyclists coming up around and alongside them from anywhere and everywhere.  I quickly learned that honking the horn is its own kind of language in Haiti, and although the roads were packed, it somehow works and people do get from Point A to Point B, albeit not quickly.  Lesson two: forget about having a schedule.  There are a lot of things you cannot predict, so you may as well not stress about it, and just enjoy the ride.

     Our first stop was at Papillon Enterprises, which is a place near and dear to my heart thanks to my work with GO Exchange.  This is the facility founded by Shelly Clay where moms and dads are hired to make beautiful things - jewelry, ceramics, metal arts, hand bags, etc. - in an effort to provide sustainable living wage jobs that will help families stay together.  An unfortunate reality in Haiti and around the world is that 80% of children placed in orphanages have living parents who are simply too poor to care for them.  Shelly went to Haiti herself to adopt children, and realized she needed to do more.  In 2008, she opened her business, began employing locals, teaching, and training, and providing childcare as they worked.  They focus on taking trash and turning it into amazing things - many of which I sell through GOEX, and they're making a real difference in the lives of people.  The gentleman who guided our tour of this facility described getting to work there as equivalent to winning the lottery.  It was an incredible place and a great way to start our interaction with Haiti!
     
     Before we could pull into our hotel, we stopped at the first orphanage of the trip, which would also be the last one we'd visit a few days later.  This particular orphanage, or crèches as they're called in Haiti, was next-door to our hotel, so there was no hiding the fact that a bus full of new friends had just pulled in.  Before we unloaded our luggage, we had our first play date with Creole-speaking kids, our first glimpse into their living quarters, and our first awkward attempts at bridging a language barrier to befriend kids who were eagerly awaiting good things from the people on the bus.
That first visit was short, about an hour or so.  Steve was immediately claimed by some of the older boys, and his camera became our greatest asset.  I posed for pictures with some kids, they clowned around for the camera, and laughed at their own images on his digital screen.  Meanwhile, some of the kids noticed my cane and began trying to figure out why I had it and what it was used for.  We later, much later, found out that although our translator, Bekenson, was doing his best to run interference for me, many of the kids didn't believe that I was blind because my blue eyes appeared to work together and were not cloudy.  The ones who did figure it out came up me saying, "No see?" and touching my face right by my eyes.  They then decided to give me a tour of the creche by taking hold of my hands or arms, and steering my cane into various objects at the edge of the play yard.  (There was one kid who realized he could trip his companions with a well-aimed cane, which he found very funny.  Unfortunately for him, I'm already a mom of three ornery boys, so I knew exactly how to put a stop to that.) :)

     I will not lie.  My first encounter with Haitian orphans left me wondering what on earth I was doing in Haiti and what I could possibly have to offer them.  I prayed that God would help me get past my own fears and do something meaningful.  Blindness and Creole seemed to be nearly insurmountable obstacles.  But I knew I had to face them because when we go to Haiti for our bonding trip, I will have to face them again as we interact with our daughter, so I would just have to figure out how to make it work.  We instituted a buddy system with the team members and resolved that the next day would be better.


     That night after dinner, our team met to talk about the day, and our leader asked us, "what is rich, and what is poor?"  She didn't want an answer just then, she just wanted us to think about it as we went through the week.  We talked about how small the living space was for the children we'd met, and the filth, and the livestock wandering through it all, and marveled at the fact that somehow the people still seemed amazingly hopeful in spite of it all.  The tap taps (open trucks used for public transportation) were everywhere and brightly decorated with all kinds of things - flowers, cartoon characters, Hollywood movie stars - but more than any of these, we saw the words "Merci Jesus" on them.  Those words were everywhere, reflecting a spirit of hope we would grow to know well among the Haitian people - thankfulness to God for that day's provision and hope for the future and Jesus' return.  We Americans could not begin to fathom it, especially that first night.

No Turning Back 

     Day two starts with spaghetti for breakfast, along with bread, peanut butter, boiled eggs, and mango.  I wondered to myself just how taxing this day was going to be since they were fueling us up with so many carbs and proteins.  This day would turn out to be my favorite on the trip.
     Our first stop was at Life SA, a sewing center operated by Global Orphan Project.  This is where the GO Exchange apparel is made.  We entered a warehouse full of sewing machines and material.  Employees on one side of the building were hard at work using high-tech industrial machines.  The other side of the room had empty machines, as the shop manager  explained to us that their fabric was held up by customs and they were waiting for it to be released so they could come back to work.  The delay had left those workers without work for three weeks, so they were home with their families.  However, Life SA was paying them their daily wage anyway while they waited, so as not to disrupt the provision to their families.  
     It is important here to understand that the daily wage in Haiti is anywhere from $2.00 to $6.00, and for every Haitian who has a job, that wage will be divided among eight others whom they support.  Life SA pays a much higher wage - $10.00 to $15.00 - and hopes by doing so to allow families to stabilize and break the pattern of abandoning children due to poverty that we discussed earlier.
     Of course, this only works if we sell a lot of their products at home in the USA where we can afford them.  Through group apparel shirts for charity groups, 5k’s, sports teams, and church groups, as well as sales of the apparel offered by GO Exchange, we keep this vision alive and the business growing.  Last fall, sales were so successful that every employee was given a bonus in an amount high enough to pay for one year of schooling for one of their children.  This is unheard of in Haiti, and when it was announced, workers dropped to their knees in thanksgiving to God and cried tears of joy.  The weight of my responsibility as an ambassador for these workers rested heavily on my shoulders as we toured their facility and learned about all they do.
     Ironically, Life SA employs a method called sublimation to make some of their shirts.  They essentially print the shirts, color and all, via high-tech printers, and by doing so, can reduce their own costs by only needing white fabric, and can produce large orders with amazing precision and efficiency.  It it a very high-end technology which is not employed in the States or most other places in the world due to the labor-intensive process involved, but it is perfect for Haiti as that is exactly what we are looking for!  So if you're looking to produce a lot of shirts, for any reason, please let us help you with that!
     Jeff, the shop manager there, talked about the pride he has in his workers, and their products, but also shared openly about the pressures he feels from other sewing centers who operate differently than Life SA.  The almighty dollar dictates a lot of that industry.  Factories want to produce affordable products, so they can win bidding wars.  In an industry where a price difference of half a penny per unit can lose a contract, Life SA is leading the way with living wages, and efficiency, and is trying to encourage others to do the same.  Jeff said other factories tell him to lower his wages, and he tells them to raise theirs.  Pray this business continues to grow.  Haiti has a 75% unemployment rate, and the more we sell, the more they can grow and hire.
     On the other side of the warehouse, artisans are making all sorts of other incredible products with traditional Haitian methods.  Nothing is wasted.  They use teeshirt scrap material to make beautiful hand bags - available through GO Exchange -- and use all kinds of other media for amazing works of art.  A peacock made from a flat tire was displayed on the wall, along with vases made from burlap, paper machete products, and ceramics.  They manage to take rust from metal art leftovers and use it to dye fabric in patterns.  Trees overhang the walls of the outdoor part of the facility, and blossoms from the trees are boiled in water to make more vibrant colors for their designs.  Haiti really has mastered making beauty out of broken and discarded things.
     After Life SA, we went to another orphanage, this one on the other side of Port au Prince, and more rural.  These kids receive far less visitors and were eagerly awaiting our arrival.  We had been told that they were a very musical bunch, and that we could try to get them to sing with us, but that they were very shy.
Within moments of our arrival, I was chosen by some kids and pulled off in the direction of their pavilion.  I grabbed Bekenson, our translator, asked him to be my new close, personal friend, and we were off!
Most of our group ended up in the pavilion, and just a few minutes into our trip, the kids sang to us a welcome song, in Creole and in English, and sang "No Turning Back," in their language as well.  My soul leapt when I heard them singing that as the day before we had had an adventurous flight and I had sung to myself the same words, in English.  As I sat there with a child holding my left hand, a child holding my right hand, a child braiding my hair, kids in front and behind me, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.
     After a while, we moved into their school building where some of our team was doing VBS songs with the kids and hosting a dance party.  I sat at a table with my newfound Haitian friends and played hand games and talked to them via Bekenson as much as I could.  He translated for me and I told them the David and Goliath story, the way I tell it to my boys, and it was very lively and a lot of fun.
I'm not sure how it started, but someone sang a song in Creole that I knew in English.  I sang, and the kids said, in English, "Again!"  I sang it again.  Bekenson then got the kids to sing it for me.  We started going back and forth singing together and for each other, and it was very fun.
     The girls liked hymns, and I tried to remember what songs I sang as a kid that were fun.  I sang "When we all get to Heaven," and the kids asked for it again and again.  One of the girls, unbeknownst to me, left the circle and went to get one of the mamas who care for the kids there.  I heard her coming back because she was imitating me and doing her best to sing a soprano "vic-to-ry!"  The mama she was bringing came over to where I was, moved the child from my right, leaned right up against me, and sang it to me in Creole.  She got the kids to sing with her with great gusto, and had me sing along.  Steve captured this moment on video and I felt like I was experiencing worship the way it will be in Heaven.  I didn't need to know their words.  I knew their hearts and their God, and it was incredible!

     Departure time came too soon, and we knew we had to head to the bus.  One of our team members later described watching my exit that day by saying it seemed that the entire orphanage was escorting me out.  I had a girl on my right, another on my left, some behind me, some in front, and the mama off to the side.  They carefully led me out of the building and I climbed on the bus.

     A boy Steve had spent the day with stood outside his window calling his name.  He wanted high fives and physical contact for as long as he could have it.  We both cried as Steve told him, "Jesus loves you," and we pulled away.
In our group time that night, I found out that my singing was a bigger hit than I thought it was, and I I was misty-eyed as I told my team that I was not afraid that day.  I was so so grateful to be able to share music with the kids as I had lost that ability for a while, and I could not explain how amazing it was to serve in that way and connect on more than one level with those precious souls.


The Lord Bless You and Keep You

     On our third day, we visited a village known as All in one Family.  This particular village is run by Pastor Kesnel, a Haitian national who lived in the States for thirty five years before God called him back to Haiti.  The church where he serves had been destroyed by the earthquake, and he has rebuilt it and a whole community along with it.
It is important to explain here that the villages/orphanages we visited with Global Orphan Project are led by pastors with hearts for orphans, their communities, and the lost.  They take in the need children in their communities and raise them up, educating them all the way through thirteenth grade, feeding, housing, clothing,  and training them in the Word.  Pastor Kesnel's vision seems to be limitless, as he is always adding something more to his village and planning for the future.
He proudly announced to us that they didn't owe any of his teachers.  All of their salaries are paid on time and in full.  He has a water purification system for the community to use, a bakery, an eating area for the children, a worship center, a medical clinic, a church that is growing so much that they have to take the roof off to build upward, and visions for much more.  He is opening a barber shop, and talked about his seminary, church plants in the mountains and in Cuba, and his plans for a university.  I could not figure out how he wasn't burnt out and exhausted as we toured his home, the reception hall he has built, and the new Sunday School rooms for the 250 children who attend each week.  It was AMAZING!
He spent a lot of time talking with us, and before we left, I asked if I could sing a blessing over him.  I sang, "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" to him, and we all cried.  And he made me promise to sing to his church on Sunday, but we'll talk about that later. 

     It was in this village that my friend snapped a picture of me holding a sleeping little girl that made its way to Facebook very quickly.  She is not my future daughter.  The child we are adopting is not from any of the villages we visited on this trip.  I still have no idea who she is.  But the one in the picture affirmed to me that I can bond with a child and still have the ability to sooth little ones to sleep with lullabies - in this case Christmas carols so as not to sing any "mama's gonna buy you" type promises that I couldn't keep.  I sang her to sleep in the middle of a busy play yard, and then carried her into the church for devotional/prayer time with the kids.  I held her until we started on a walking tour of the village, at which time I gave her to Steve, who put his experience as a daddy to good use by shouldering her sleeping frame through many buildings until she finally went with a mama to her own bed.

     She was actually the second little one I sang to sleep that day.  The first was in the nursery, which was the biggest shock any of us experienced that day.  It was small, crowded, and full of toddlers running around with bare bottoms (their method of potty training) and didn't smell like baby powder and sweetness.  The kids there were lively and vibrant, and mischievous, climbing all over the place, and occasionally snuggling in.  I rocked one fussy little one to sleep while her twin toddled around from bed to bed, and couldn't help but wonder what life would look like for these little ones who deserve laps to sit on and arms to rock them to sleep at night.

     We visited another village later that afternoon, where older girls gave me a tour with one of the Global Orphan Project kids translating for me.  He helped me share Bible stories with them, and we told each other our favorite Bible verses.  The girls told me they loved to dance, so I tried to get them to join in with the dance party happening outside, but they elected to sit on the steps with me instead, doing my hair and getting as much skin-to-skin contact as they could.
In our group session that night, we talked about the work of the mamas.  It was Saturday and everyone in the whole country seemed to be doing laundry by hand in five-gallon buckets.  Bekenson had told us that tomorrow was church, and they were getting ready.  We prepared ourselves for a unique worship experience, not in English, and looked forward to what our last full day in Haiti would bring.


Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

     Haitian worship is unlike anything you've ever seen in the States.  I've been in many amazing church and revival services, but nothing like this.  Sunday School and morning worship sort of blend together, so we arrived with worship already in progress, and listened to the congregation singing with all their hearts in Creole.
They marched us down to the front of the church putting us on the very front row.  Pastor Kesnel himself seated me.  We dressed nicely, but they dressed on their finest, sparkling white shirts, fancy dresses, and even lacy socks on the little ones.  Church was no joke!

     We sat and stood when the congregation did.  I recognized two songs, one Bekenson had taught me the day before, and a classic Gaither chorus, in Creole.  I sang along where i could.  The music lasted well over an hour.
Pastor Kesnel’s wife moved me out of the sun and onto the front pew with her right in the center.  When they came up to put their offerings in the basket, I had to flatten myself against the bench to stay out of their way.  I loved it!  It was up close and personal and it was loud!

     They sang with all their strength.  One song could last twenty minutes or more.  They didn't have power point or hymnals.  They sang by heart.  They sang and played from memory, fumbling around while they tried to figure out what key the music minister was in when he sang an impromptu new song, and coming together perfectly with everything you'd expect from a Caribbean band .  They even had and an accordion led men's youth choir which was really fun!
Our trip leader brought greetings from Global Orphan Project, and then Pastor Kesnel asked if I would keep my promise and sing.  He said to sing whatever the Holy Spirt told me to, and so I opened my mouth and sang my testimony song - like I hadn't sung it in five years.  I honestly didn't know I had that much range, volume or control.  It was as if the whole thyroid surgery and nerve damage had never happened.  I put down the microphone and sang with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, hand lifted up, and spirit soaring.

     The song I sang was "Great is thy Faithfulness."  The significance of singing that song in a place once devastated by an earthquake was not lost on me.  I knew I couldn't explain my overcoming blindness testimony to that congregation, but they knew the song, and I raised my hand starting with "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow," in an effort to say the God they trust to provide is the God I serve, and our story is different and the same.  And they understood.  I was completely humbled and grateful to have that moment.

     I wasn't going to include this story in the blog because this story isn't about me.  But I spent a lot of time a couple years ago struggling with not singing, and I want you to know that God chose that moment to tell me it's back, and the old me is back, more mature and completely reliant on God for every note, even the ones intended to honor Him.  If I ever had an ego, I don't now, just unspeakable joy, and a lot of happy tears every time something remotely beautiful comes out.  I am one of the broken, discarded pieces that God has restored, and the music he gave me that day was a treasure I cannot put a number on.
     
     We spent more time after church, which lasted three hours, with Pastor Kesnel.  He told us about his heart for Cuba, and more of his plans in Haiti.  He told us that not everything he ever envisioned came to fruition, but explained that in Haiti, they believe if their plans don't work out, they weren't in God's will, and they move on.  They do not dwell on the past, they look forward to the future.  Hope is everywhere.

     After a water break, we toured the piece of Global Orphan Project's vision that completes the circle.  I've told you about kids and mamas, but there's a missing piece in the middle which consists of young men and women aging out of orphanage care who have to find a way of their own.  Pathways Academy was created to serve these kids.
At Pathways Academy, eighteen year olds begin a two-year program of vocational training in four different career fields appropriate to Haiti.  They have continued Bible training, but also learn about budgeting, cooking, cleaning, and life skills.  They begin hands-on work almost immediately.  Some of these kids only have a third grade education.  Some have made it much further.  All of them need a job.  That's what we're aiming for.

     Many of the graduates will go to Life SA.  Some will go to farms, or become mechanics.  Some will be cooks.  The second year of their training involves internships and workplace experience.  The goal is that they will find jobs, support their families, and not have to surrender their children to orphanages one day.  Change is coming with this generation.
It's a full circle; a big picture; a completely different picture than what most people have of orphan care.  We call it orphan prevention, and we hope to change future generations and add to the hope that is so prevalent in Haiti.
We spent time at the first orphanage again that night. The same boy who chose Steve on the first visit chose him again, remembering him, and teaching him some Creole words.  He wrote a note to Steve before he left saying, "Jesus loves you," and signed his name to it.  Steve carries it in his wallet now and we'll never forget that young man of God, learning to love, even in  extreme poverty.

     In our group session that night, our group pleader again asked us what is rich and what is poor?  We saw a lot of richness of spirit and spiritual wealth among the oppressed masses in Haiti.  There is more work to be done than I can recount, but I can tell you this, the church is alive and well in Haiti!  We will never be the same!



Be Strong and Take Heart

     As a side note, I now have a different definition of "orphan" in my heart.  I already knew that eighty percent of the world's orphans have living parents.  I knew the statistics about how many there are world-wide, and I knew the church was called to care for them.  Having been to Haiti, my perspective is different in a way I can't yet quantify.
I still believe in adoption and specifically international adoption.  I know we were called to it.  I know that special needs kids in particular have very little hope in a place like Haiti for high-functioning lives like I enjoy.  I know that God opens hearts across the globe and places children in them in a way only He could orchestrate.  I know He'll do that with us.
I also know that the kids we played with were healthier than I expected.  They have enough to eat and they are very, very smart.  They are learning as many as four languages, and taking philosophy, chemistry, biology, and all kinds of classes in high school.  They care for each other within the wall of their village and form their own kind of family.
The children we met were not adoptable.  Sometimes, although rarely, their parents get on their feet and come to reclaim their children and take them home.  They can at least worship with them at church if they like, and some do.
I have deeper understanding for those who oppose international adoption, specifically objecting to removing children from their native culture.  I want to value my daughter's heritage in a way that honors her.  I have no idea what her orphanage will be like.  They're not all run like the ones we visited.  Although we experienced some of Haiti's best, I know there are still many dark and dismal places and there is much, much more work to do.

     The challenge faced by Global Orphan Project is similar to that which Jeff expressed in Life SA.  There must be balance with the help we offer and hope we provide.  If it is elevated too high, parents may place their children in our care in hopes of a charmed life for the kids, which sets them up for an unrealistic expectation of their future.  In Haiti, they will not have hot water, air conditioning, or wifi in their homes.  But as it turns out, these things are much less important than love, the gospel, and basic necessities.

     I have been back less than a week and am definitely struggling with first world luxuries.  It's not the guilt you might expect, but the excess that gets me.  I am blessed to have been born here and I don't at this point feel God calling me to move anywhere else.  But He does expect me to be a steward of what He gives me, to provide for those in my care, and to give, give, give to those in need.  Only God knows how that is going to look for our family in the future.  For now, I am listening, praying for discernment, remembering the hope of Haiti, and thanking God every time I have a hot shower.
We purchased several pieces of Haitian metal art, chiseled out from 55-gallon steel shipping containers.  All of them turn our hearts right back to God.  We bought a depiction of Noah's ark, several nativity pieces and ornaments, and a couple of wall hangings that took my breath away.

     Steve and I went on this trip to experience our daughter's homeland, but knew we couldn't talk about adoption while we were there.  I knew I would be strengthened and broken at the same time, and I was.  At our very first stop, Papillon Enterprises, Steve saw a metal art sign that says, "Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and take heart.  Psalm 27:14."  He read it aloud and I gasped, and now it hangs on my kitchen wall, and may have taken the place of Joshua 1:9 as my favorite scripture verse.  We were there to serve other children, but God has not forgotten his call to our family, or our little girl.  We will wait, and we will take heart.  And when times are hard, we will remember the sign that now graces our kitchen table from the heart of Port au Prince, Haiti, reminding us that our journey will come together in God's timing.  In the meantime, we have much to do and many to serve.  Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.

"Give thanks to the Lord.  HIs love endures forever."