Wednesday, June 30, 2010

House Building Photos

Today's photos of building a house for Marjorie.

Thanks Jen for uploading these!

Hug Your Kid

This morning I answered the cell phone to a crying, upset, close to hysterical girl on the other end.  She'd just gotten into her first-ever car accident and she was very scared.  In that flash of a second when I was waiting for my child to tell me she was not badly hurt my heart rate rocketed and fear gripped every muscle in my body.  She has a few minor cuts. She is sore. She's a little shaken up. But thank-you-God she is just fine. 

An earthquake in my not so distant memory taught me that life is so very fleeting, precious, fragile, and totally unpredictable ... I was reminded of this again today.

Go hug your kid.  (Or anyone else you love that needs to know it.)

Question for Readers

The older people are telling us that the new colors are harder for them to read.  We made the font size bigger.  Maybe too big?   (We had the font white and heard white was bad, changed it to brown but now are hearing brown is bad.)

File your complains here. We'll try to fix it.

3:50 pm ** A few changes made.  If you cannot read it I think you need to visit your nearest eye-care professional.

(inner box is now lighter than outer box color. text is black. font is sort of old-person biggish. massage therapist will come rub your back and feet while you read -- rose petals will be dropped from heaven creating a beautiful aroma, sweet comforting music will serenade you. Relaxing candle-lit room should appear within minutes of logging on - bubble bath is running in the bathroom nearest you. You'll burn calories while you read, yet you won't sweat or feel fatigued. A beverage cart should be coming by to offer you a full array of your favorite choices very soon.)

Tuesday. It is still Tuesday, right?

Today (Tuesday) felt like three days packed into one so I'm really not sure.

We left at six thirty this morning as planned...I wanted to get an early start since I knew we had a lot to do and also knew that Haiti has a way of disrupting the best laid plans. We got home just after eight o'clock. Here's what happened in between:

The list of people that wanted to go along on today's adventure kept growing, so I had to trade trucks with John M. in order to have room for all eleven of us. Once we made the vehicle swap and finished loading it up at the hospital, our traveling crew consisted of myself, Paige, her friend Natalie, Geronne, Tipap, Dr. Jen, Jessica (one of my very favorite Canadians), Emmanuel, his niece Yvonne, Patrick, and Samuel.

Here were the day's goals: visit potential sites in Leogane (the epicenter of the earthquake) for building some 'Paige houses' (as they are being called) and see Tipap's family there, stop in Grand Goave to see some of Jessica's friends, spend time with our friends the Yonkers who are living in Petit Goave and overseeing the ongoing Ebenezer ministry (Pastor training/discipleship/and now home building), visit future sites for more houses there in P.G., and take Emmanuel back to his home and family in Miragoane.

Sounds simple enough, right?

The Leogane sites all looked great and we will start coordinating the delivery and construction of the first six houses there soon. It was fun meeting the families that will be blessed by your generous contributions and care in their time of need. One of the families includes Miselene/Wiselene. (a former employee that recently had a baby...still unnamed of course...and yes, we are still unclear what her actual given name is since everyone calls her something different...)

The visit to the last site was skipped because during each stop I became more and more uncomfortable due to the onset of an intestinal disorder that we at Heartline refer to as "Haitian Happiness". (It is called that because everyone else is always so happy that it is not presently affecting them.)

The drive from Leogane to Grand Goave (and a working...ahem...toilet) has never seemed farther. I think they are relatively close to each other but I felt like I was trying to drive across a pothole-filled never ending expanse. Along the way I scoped out many sugar cane fields trying to find a semi-private spot and smooth-looking cane leaves just in case. I found no such thing. I also found it impossible to engage in the conversations going on around me and really started thinking that this day/plan was going to be a bust far too early.

After approximately forever we arrived in G.G. and Jessica's friends house and I'll spare you the rest of those details.

We carried on to Petit Goave and had a great time catching up with the Yonker family (and Tiffany Gates and Bossimus and Pastor Marc and other friends there) and seeing all the progress at Ebenezer. They had their own sewage problem there last night, but again, I'll spare the details and ask that you pray for them and the great work they are doing while living in some tough circumstances. Five of the ten houses that will be built for people in the Ebenezer community have been delivered, with the rest coming tomorrow. We worked out some plans for getting the houses built and saw some of the families receiving them and what is left of their former homes. I was blown away by the destruction in the city of Petit Goave - it is as bad as anything else I've seen. The charming historic city is gone. The streets are filled with tents and tarps and rubble. The ocean receded and rose and the shoreline collapsed in places taking homes with it. I still can't get my mind around it. The people we visited were still filled with hope and joy and love, which made it all the more difficult to bear. It will be a great encouragement to them and to us to see new homes constructed so they can continue to move on with their amazing and challenging lives.

During our time in P.G. some of the passengers that tagged along for the ride got restless and were in a hurry to complete our journey and head home....if only they knew what was coming they probably would have preferred to stay and relax at Ebenezer.

Next up - take the amazing Emmanuel back to visit his parents and other extended family (that have not seen him since the quake and assumed he had died for some time) living (supposedly) in Miragoane. I hope you have some time available, because this is where the story gets long and interesting.

Quick review of Emmanuel's story...
Emmanuel moved to Port au Prince as a young boy to attend school. As is often true in Haitian families, their hopes and dreams were pinned on the education and potential future of this young man. He has six siblings, all living in a remote rural village in the southern peninsula of Haiti. A cousin took him in and provided for him and sent him to school (until the equivalent of tenth grade). Then the earthquake came. The cousin was killed. The school collapsed. Emmanuel had been at home - and found himself trapped under that collapsed home together with a cousin that he watched die a day later. He stayed trapped there for a total of three days. Eventually he ended up at Heartline's hospital - his leg had to be amputated and many painful procedures including skin grafts followed. More of his story is here.
He has made amazing progress and we have seen our hope restored as he has grown in his hope and strength and confidence. Heartline will continue to help him reach his full potential and dreams that would make you cry if you heard them right now. And I'll cry too but this story isn't done so I'll move on and you'll have to wait.

Emmanuel has always told us that he and his family are from Miragoane. That is where we planned on taking him today. We did not know that 'Miragoane' was a very loose term applied to a very large area including a lot of mountainous terrain. (I should have known - but I've been gone too long and forgot to clarify with a lot of questions to make sure my assumptions were correct about where we were headed.)

We arrived in the city of M. in good time, and Emmanuel told us 'nou preske rive' - we're almost there. In Haiti this term can mean anything from five minutes to five hours. Consider yourself warned. As we took the turn towards the harbor and crept through the bustling traffic I wondered which little house his family would be in here in this crowded 'metropolitan' area. I should have asked more questions. We kept going, kept creeping, and kept hearing 'nou preske rive'. Then we were out of town...and kept getting more and more out of town. We all started teasing him and asking how much longer and kept hearing the same response. Then he said 'only about an hour more' and I hoped he was kidding. He was all smiles so I assumed he was. I should have asked more questions.

At one point he said we'd arrive 'apre nou monte yon bel ti mon'. Literally - after we mount a beautiful small mountain. That's not actually what that means, though - the 'ti' part means small - and we drove up and down part of a mountain that was anything but. It was bel (beautiful) as far as the view, but I have a lot of other words to describe parts of the road that won't be shared here.

I should have asked more questions.

One question I did ask was this -
'Emmanuel, will there be any gas stations once we get out of town here?'
To which he replied -
'Yes, either a tank to fill from or at least plastic gallons to buy.'

This set my mind at ease even though the fuel gauge was already hovering over the big 'E' as 'Big E.' (as we call him) was totally making stuff up about the availability of fuel around his home which is most certainly NOT in the city of Miragoane but IS certainly high up in the mountains near a village called Paillant down a road that most vehicles could not travel...regardless of how much fuel is in the tank.

I don't know what Paillant means, but when I saw the name on a rickety rusty sign dangling from a tree on the rocky path I thought in my head that it might mean something like 'Idiot who did not ask enough questions'.

We watched rain clouds roll in and knew that if they let loose for five seconds the road we just tumbled down (partially with the truck off to conserve fuel) would be impossible to drive back up. The area is known for and covered in deep red clay that I'm pretty sure turns into the slipperiest substance on the planet when wet. The second we arrived I negotiated with someone from Big E's family to go and search for two plastic gallons of diesel, and even remembered to say that I wanted the ones that had not been watered down or cut with other substances. (That is the danger of buying by the plastic vegetable oil gallon containers on the side of the road.) I wasn't sure if we'd see him again during daylight, or even this week. I started scoping out a spot to sleep on the red ground under the old trees next to a tiny cornfield.

The arrival and reunion with Emmanuel's family and community was absolutely heartwarming and beautiful, and we quickly forgot about all of the stress leading up to that moment. We took pictures, laughed, heard and told stories, shared roasted cobs of corn and sliced abricot. Emmanuel's parents and siblings were there and I know that it was an honor and blessing for me to be there as well.

The two filthy gallons of diesel actually showed up after a while, and we put them in the tank using a plastic soda bottle converted into a funnel while watching the clouds darken and saying our goodbyes.

Emmanuel will stay for a few days with his family and then return to Heartline for ongoing care and love and fun and all that goes with the community there.

The rest of us headed back up the mountain slipping and shifting and getting out of the truck to check the road and tires and lighten the load so we could pass one spot, still laughing at the crazy day we'd enjoyed. We were jostled and jarred and rained on during the way home but it sure seemed to go by much more quickly than the trip out.
Just when we thought the excitement was over, we were following a large overloaded dump truck through a river crossing when it started tipping over on the opposite bank in front of us...while I shifted into reverse from the middle of the river I watched one back tire lift into the air while spinning and spitting mud...the whole thing nearly toppled onto the broken down truck on the bank next to it. Once that was backed up and out of the way...upon our second attempt to cross the river there was a showdown for the right-of-way that ended in a stalemate and a lot of arguing between both vehicles and bystanders. All the while I just calmly waved my hand at the other driver to back up since I knew that I had flashed my lights at him first and therefore claimed the right-of-way and that is the way it works here. Eventually he conceded and I counted it as another victory near the end of a very long and very successful (even if very crazy) day.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Detective Work Is Easy

After I got Noah from pre-school we ran to the UPS Store. The store was four steps from the truck so I figured I'd just run in and leave the children in the car. Two minutes later I was back to the truck and we were on our way home. 

When we tried to leave later in the afternoon I realized there was not much juice in the truck battery. I was troubled but we quickly resolved the problem and I didn't think about it again ...

Until tonight, when I took a photo of the girls in the bathtub and discovered these photos on the phone ... compliments of Noah.

Oh. I see.

Mystery of droopy battery solved. Case closed.

Occasionally she looks a little less maniacal and ornery.
Don't let it fool you. 

Tejas Tribe

Troy and Paige extended their trip by two days.

The kids and I had been focusing our eyes on July 1st - a target date we've now adjusted by a couple days. Truly, everyone here in Texas handled it really well.  Even me.  Since no one congratulated me on my grown-up response, I'm taking care of that here.  Congrats Tara! You're a super-duper big person now.

I can see and feel the joy and peace in Paige and Troy's words and photos and I am excited they get to stay a tiny bit longer and soak up some more and accomplish as much as they can. 

The five littlest Livesays have been spending time each day with me at the YMCA.  I can single parent a looong time as long as I can get some exercise. The kids keep asking, "Why do we go EVERY day?"  I don't tell them it has everything to do with their very livelihood. I just let them think it is because I am the nicest mom ever.

Yesterday I over-did it. I thought I could get a run in, and do two classes.  I tried that ridiculous Zumba class. (ditch the workout join the party?)  I found out I am neither Latino or coordinated and Zumba was created for people with double-jointed hips.  I cannot, as it turns out, do that much and still stand upright the next day. Plus, I overslept and in my weariness I totally forgot today is pre-school day for Noah.  He got there an hour and ten minutes late.  (Retracts self-congratulatory statement - not such a super-duper mature grown up after-all.)

After the Y, the kids had a little civics lesson last night. I took them to meet Laura Bush at a book-signing. In theory it was a good idea and an opportunity for a little learning. Once I saw the line my commitment to education drastically waned and I tried to talk them into bailing out and going home to learn about her on the internet.  Lydia and Phoebe were fighting over every book we passed in line and acting their ages. Lydia cries when you tell her no, so she spent a good portion of that hour crying. The Secret Service security guys made mention of how full my hands were.  Good of them to notice.  I am not that into being a spectacle - but Isaac and Noah and Hope would not hear of leaving without meeting the former First Lady (or fourth-lady? according to Isaac).  So we patiently (that patiently part is a lie) waited our turn to chat with her.

Some recent conversations ... 

"Hi nice to meet you Mrs. Bush!"  "Mrs. Bush, I have a question.  What was it like living at the White House?"  (Mrs. Bush told him it was really interesting and that he should visit there someday.)

"Mama, if I become President I will see the White House then." (I chose not to inform him of his ineligibility for that office.)

Isaac - "Wow. I really loved meeting her. I think she looks like Mrs. Ackerman."  (A teacher at QCS in PAP - he is actually not too off on that observation.)

Noah -
"It is weally sad when people have to wipe their butts with leaves. I bet that huwts."

"Mom - one mowe question. If there was no sin in the wold, would there still be fwogs? Cuz I weally like fwogs."

Isaac -
"Mom, I am SOOOO popular at the YMCA.  There is no one that knows me that does not like me." (Oh self-esteem that knows no defeat.)

"Can a lion run faster than a cheetah?"  (no- a cheetah is faster Noah) "Is a wolf or a cheetah faster?"  (Cheetah) "Okay, so then you're saying maybe a cheetah could even catch me."  (That seems possible.)

Hope - (after returning home from outing)
"Thank you Mom.  Thanks for taking us to that.  Really Mom - thanks because I am noticing you do all the work around here, I think I am gonna start doing more tomorrow."

That's it from Tejas. Somebody please help me remember to go get Noah at 2pm.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Photos: old friends, and one new one

              Paige Geronne Jenny


Ti Reserve & Family

Mirmose & I


Geronne & Papa Alexandre - her Dad
Bernard (Pitit Roberson)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thoughts from Paige

I Love, Love, Love being back it Haiti. Back home. Coming home has brought on a lot of emotions though. I know this is my home, but it doesn't feel like it at the same time.

I know that I'm only here for a week, I know that my whole family isn't here, and I know that I'll have to go back to Texas. These are some of the things that make home not feel like home. I feel so happy & complete when I'm in Haiti, though. I didn't realize it until I got here. I was happy in Texas too, but not this kind of happy. I feel like I fit in better in Haiti, which says a lot...considering I stick out like a sore thumb around here.

I loved going to where we used to live, and visiting old friends. I liked the fact that the further out you got from Port au Prince, the less you can see 'earthquakeness'.

I loved talking to Heartline's hospital patients in the back of the truck on the way to Marjorie's land yesterday. I loved taking pictures along the way, but hated the things I was taking pictures of broken PAP. 

I loved going to Dominoes.

I love being in Haiti.. Nuff Said.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Couple Pics from Yesterday

Amanda's new do

Update From Hispaniola

  •  The time we've been able to spend with friends (like John Beth Jonna Jessica Lisa Corrigan Dan Peter Tipap Geronne Els Stefan Alexi Manoucheka Natacha Amanda Emmanuel Renald Patrick Marjorie Rosemond Antoinette and many others) so far has been healing, encouraging, and wonderful.
  •  Today we met with and planned with the good folks at Maxima regarding the homes Paige and so many of you raised money for. We got pics, specs, prints, and set off with a large tape measure.

  • We spent a little time catching up with the Heartline hospital patients and workers - not nearly enough time but we'll get back over there.
  • Took a look at where Marjorie's home used to be - it is always a joy to return with the patients to their family, friends, and neighbors - they are so warm and happy to see them (the community among the people here is a blessing to observe) and truly know how miraculous it is that they are alive. Marjorie's home is gone, reduced to rubble, but mostly cleared and ready for a new home to be constructed. The land belongs to the family so after a little more prep work on the site the wooden house can be built. We hope to arrange this one before we leave.
  •  John treated the traveling crew to Dominoes Pizza - during the break there I scoured Petionville for parts/supplies to fix our internet problems myself but to no avail. 
  •  I bought two pineapples from a street vendor for about four dollars - maybe a decent deal but my negotiating skills are definitely rusty. Photo above of 'machann elektwonik'.
  •  We returned to the home of Rosemond's grandparents that will care for him since being orphaned by the earthquake. There is just barely enough space left among the rubble on a tiny lot carved into a hillside to put up a new home for them. Measurements were taken, rocks placed at the important places, and plans were made for leveling the area in preparation for the new house.
  • Port au Prince traffic continues to be a mysterious maze of frustration and incomprehensible madness.
  •  Having Paige here and experiencing this with her is a blessing that I am thankful for. 
  • I already miss the rest of the family back in Texas, and still have a deep desire for us all to be back together on this little island in this tiny country that has perplexed and challenged and grown us over so many years.
  • The prayer service on the campus of Quisqueya Christian School with Port au Prince Fellowship peeps (try saying that ten times quickly) was sweet and strengthening. I am thankful for Dan and Liz Carl for their leadership, hard work, and hearts for Haiti.
  • I will go borrow some internet to post this and maybe add a few pictures...some other pictures from today have been loaded on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else we could send them whenever we passed by some information superhighway today.
  • Paige and I are still up trying to load pics and process the day and it is waaaaay too late so I won't even tell you what is on the schedule tomorrow/today depending on your time zone. You'll have to watch for Tweets/texts/Facebooks/telegrams to find out.



Friday, June 25, 2010

Fair & "Erf-quake" Thoughts

Today Isaac was telling me that a kid at the YMCA always asks him why his sister is white.  I said, "What do you tell the kid?"  Isaac said, "I tell him our skin doesn't matter, she is still my sister. I tell him that every time Mama."   I asked how it made him feel being asked that.  He said, "I don't know. Just that kid doesn't get us."

I suggested telling the kid that our family was built with adoption and we're okay with being different and looking different.  Isaac said, "I like that Mom! I am trying that out tomorrow."  Then he practiced saying it out loud. :)  Noah chimed in and said, "No one ever asks me why my sister is white. No fair!"

Earlier this week the boys were arguing over who got to hold the Hermit Crab longer. Noah went on and on and on in the way only Noah can and finally Hope interjected ... as she is known to do when things get a little bit stupid.  She said in her most annoyed voice, "Noah, life is not fair.  We've talked about this!"

We don't know what our kids will recall about the very odd year that was 2010, but we are recording some of their memories for posterity's sake.  Here are a few clips of Erfquake thoughts. You'll notice who the talker is in the bunch. You'll also notice he is very gassy. :)

Recent Tweets

Friday ...
Planning water truck deliveries and school options for two communities in Cite Soleil … deye mon gen mon
RT @mchoulj: If you stop learning, you will forget what you already know. Proverbs 19:27 // learning from John today
Please pray for the leaders of the Haitian Govt and the UN – that they would make decisions that benefit the real people of #Haiti
Thursday ...
Thankful for the dry bed and roof over my head tnght. Tomrrrw we will visit the factory where the homes are being built and check bldng sites.
RT @worldorphans More than 400,000 Haitian children were slaves before the earthquake, now countless others are orphans at risk for a similar fate.
Low lying clouds and windy in PAP. Men working with shovels on every block trying to move mountains.
Great praying and planning meeting at the Heartline office this morning. Thankful for these guys.
Wednesday ...
Blog posted from borrowed internet-check. Rats chirping outside somewhere-check. Roosters crowing-check. Mosquitoes biting-check.  Good night all.
Plumbing and internet problems seem ridiculous and miniscule in light of the challenges most of the people in #Haiti are still facing.
Spent the evening unpacking and catching up with friends and trying to fix internet and plumbing problems. It is good to be back.
Banann peze, Poul Fri, Pikliz, Diri Kole. It is good to be home in #Haiti.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Return

Coming back to Haiti brings on a flood of emotions for me. It always has. Ever since our first visit eight years ago - stepping off of an airplane after a ninety-minute flight from Florida into a place filled with such beauty, tragedy, joy, pain, love, and horror -  so tightly compacted and in your face - it is still hard to rectify, understand, and believe in its existence sometimes.

Today, though, the strongest emotion is joy. I was filled with it traveling through the airports and planes with Paige at my side. She is a light and constant source of encouragement in our lives as parents. She is fun, smart, caring, and all together wonderful. She will be mad at me for going on and on though, so I will move on to telling embarrassing stories about her.

Her excitement about returning to the country and people we love was contagious - during the short periods where she could keep her eyes open. After a fun and busy and full week caring for her siblings with her best friend at her side, a hard goodbye to said friend along with her other best friend (Mom), and the four o'clock wake up call - it was hard not to laugh at her emotional outbursts and anticipation and fatigue during the long travel day. In between short naps and fidgeting on the first flight, we talked and schemed about who we will see this week and what we hope to accomplish. She worried about whether or not her Creole skills would still be there (they are, by the way - amazing) and couldn't wait to sleep in her own bed and be in her own room again.

When we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, a Haitian passenger was paged on the overhead speakers and she beamed with delight and then nearly broke into tears. We kept pointing out fellow travelers and airport employees that we assumed to be Haitian to each other, and each time I encouraged her to go and work on her Creole skills - but she was certain that she'd break down crying at the first word and leave the person wondering what was wrong with that strange white girl. I found it highly entertaining. This went on for hours, through the layover, lunch, boarding, waiting on the plane for an eternity, and flying in to Port au Prince.

We had the usual challenges and obstacles getting through the airport, immigration, baggage claim, customs process, and redcap battle in the new American Airlines version of the Toussaint Louverture International Airport. I have noticed a shift in my attitude - a large difference in my responses to the aforementioned issues. I am more often than not amused and appreciative of the lively interchanges, language nuances, and cultural differences that are on display through it all.

Call it what you will (and I am sure there are anthropological studies and experts with all the explanations for this experience) - but I think I know what it is. I think I am experiencing peace that surpasses understanding, and the joy that comes through service and love for our fellow man, the blessing of sensing that I am where our Creator wants me to be, and hope that there is a great deal more to life than what we normally experience in our day to day lives.

I am very thankful for this opportunity to be here and learn from Haiti and her people again - even if only for another short visit. I pray we can continue to be obedient to a higher calling, and that our whole family will be here together again soon playing whatever small role we can play. I do not think that Haiti needs us, and sometimes it feels as if it does not want us - but up to this point in my life I realize that I needed Haiti - the lessons we have learned here and the opening of our eyes (to more things than I can list here) has been a blessing and privilege. It is good to be back among so many people we love and learn from.

Alexi, one of the sweetest men I have ever met, joyfully helped us load our cart full of luggage into John McHoul's truck and then gave me a huge hug to welcome us back. He asked about each person in our family with such sincere care and I was almost too choked up to respond. Fortunately Paige did not notice and have a chance to return the mockery. His family is well, his two children are back in school, and there is still hope thriving among the amazing people here that live faithfully in the face of such unbelievable difficulties.

The icing on the cake of our return was twofold - watching John devour a day old Whopper in my driveway, and Paige's emotional reunion with our beloved Gerronne. She has been chatting away in perfect Creole with her all evening.

It is good to be back.


lock it

Today was the third time dropping Troy off to go to Haiti and the first time to cry half the way home.  I could not pin point if it was jealousy, frustration or only sadness.  Whatever it was, I wish we all would have boarded that plane this morning.  I was proud of myself for saving the tears until after Troy and Paige were out of sight.  (Slowly pats self on back.)

As a team, Troy and I are so much better.  We parent better together, we cope with stress better together, we deal with good and bad so much better together. I feel lucky to parent and "do life" with someone so solid and loyal. We have a way of complimenting each other and it has always seemed that when one totally sucks has a short fuse, the other is super-naturally patient beyond explanation on their game. 

As if to drive that point home,  Lydia went about giving me a run for my money the minute I got back from dropping Troy and Paige to DFW. 

We were getting changed and ready to go to the YMCA.  I took off Lydie's soiled diaper.  I started putting on the new one.  She began to kick and scream "Clifford, Clifford, Clifford".  She did not want the regular old Target store brand diapers. She wanted the diapers we had last week with 'Clifford The Big Red Dog' on them.  Apparently she likes to empty her bowels on a familiar friend.  Or something.  I explained to her that we were all out of that kind of diaper.  She proceeded to melt totally down crazy-person-doesn't-care-who-sees style.  It was horrifying enough that all the kids stood back to watch.

(Side note: Those Clifford diapers -  #fail! They leaked and they were bulky and I don't really know why I let a two year old pick out the diapers based on the character on the box. A weak moment at HEB last Wednesday - I was probably feeling guilty for leaving her to go to MN. Cursed marketing be doomed, I will not be suckered again. Guilt or no guilt. You won't trick me twice!)

Isaac watched the display of rage and said, "Wow. That is real mad."  Hope slowly shook her head disapprovingly. (Which incidentally is what Hope does best.)   My heart rate increased.  Phoebe said, "I am being good" as not to miss out on an opportunity to point out how much more totally awesome of a child she is than that little sister of hers.

I finally had enough and I said, "You cannot act like that.  You need to say you're sorry."  She said, "No Mama. I am NOT sorry."  I picked her up and brought her to lay on her little crib mattress that is always in the corner of Paige's room for a time-out.  She kicked and carried on and did her terrible-two-try-to-make-my-mom-give-up-and-move-to-beach-side-shack-in-Mexico-all-by-herself act.  I attempted to talk her down.  No chance.  So I yelled above her voice, "You can come out when you're ready to say you are sorry."  I left the room.  I shut the door tightly behind me. 

Ten minutes later the worst of the tantrum seemed to be over and I went to go see what she was up to.

Door. Locked.

No. Key.

Two year old with makeup and teenager hair products and nail polish in locked room.

I did every trick I know (and I know some tricks) and tried to trip the lock with a plastic card, tried kicking the lock open with sheer brute strength,  (ouch) and even attempted about 236 random spare keys that are in various drawers of this house we are being loaned.  Thirty minutes later I started calling lock-smith companies.

The man showed up.  I led him to the door. He fussed with it for about 10 minutes.  He left to go back to his van.  He came back in.  Isaac stood three feet from him and asked loudly, "Mom, is he country?  He sounds country to me.  And Mom, I think he smokes."  Lovely.  Thanks Isaac.  I said, "You sound Minnesota and have an overdeveloped sense of smell."  And maybe you did not notice - but that guy is standing right there and we've not confirmed if he has hearing problems yet.

Five more minutes and the door opened.  Our "spirited" child had forgotten she wanted a Clifford diaper.  She said, "Hi Mama. I be good now."  I offered up my best golf clap to congratulate her before surveying the damage of her time in lock up.

It was probably easier to forget all her huge troubles by enjoying her time painting with purple nail polish and brown eyeshadow.  The generous Baptists that loaned us this house have no idea what they've done.  No.Idea.  I almost feel like calling them to tell them the time to kick us out was yesterday.

(All cement house with all tile floors, oh how I miss you.)

The country-boy-lock-smith with lungs full of nicotine took his $ money  $ and hit the road.  Isaac yelled, "Thanks for getting my sister out Mister!" as he walked down the sidewalk.  I questioned the decision to call him in at all.  A hose with water and pieces of bread could have easily passed under that locked door.

We ate our lunch and headed to the YMCA where a planned 60 minute run suddenly became a 100+ minute super fast run - fueled by the most-proven fuel of all time - utter frustration.  (So fast that my son-in-law walked up to me on the treadmill and said, "Wow you're running fast.")  It's all good though.  Troy is only gone for 8 more days.  What else can possibly go wrong in just 8 days?

Don't answer that question.

Paradoxical Commandments

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. 

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. 

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. 

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. 

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. 

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. 

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. 

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway. 

-credited to Mother Teresa

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Miracles & Prayers

Hundreds of babies have been safely ushered into the world and lives have certainly been saved through the efforts of multiple volunteer Docs and Nurses.   The hospital was opened to respond to the earthquake. As of this moment it is still operating.

I rarely write about this hospital because I have not yet been able to visit and see it and I've not had the privilege of knowing first-hand all of the cool things going on down there.

Pat shares ...

"We went to the Leogane Field Hospital and as soon as we arrived, Dr. Chris Buresh charged past us saying, “Hi  - excuse me – coming through.”  The generator had gone down and he was rushing to restart it to keep an oxygen machine operating in the post natal room.

As we entered, we found Dr. Chris attending to 3-month-old Eddisson.  A nurse was administering oxygen and Chris was inserting a chest tube.  I heard Chris say, “I’m not ready to call it yet.”  I thought, we can’t see a baby die right away.  That just can’t happen.

Chris told us that Eddisson had a “wicked case of pneumonia” and there was barely and breath sounds.  He told us Baby E would most likely die that night.  We were all very sad.

We saw Chris later and asked how the baby was.  He said he was still alive but didn’t think he would live.

Before we left Leogane, the group asked to pray for the baby and his parents.  We surrounded him and touched his soft, downy head and prayed for God’s healing.  As we were praying, the baby opened his eyes.  Chris said, “Wow!”  Eddisson’s oxygen level was at 100%. 

Chris was amazed and said, “He might make it.”
Later Chris said there was no doubt it was a miracle."

Please keep praying for the people of Haiti and all the challenges they face.
Good thoughts from Carrie here.


on the fly

Paige and Troy head "home" (home is everywhere home is nowhere) to PAP tomorrow. Troy was telling me that sometimes he wakes up, and without opening his eyes, tries to remember where he is. It has been a month of non-stop travel.

As of tomorrow, in the period of 30 days he will have slept in:
Waco, TX
Costa Mesa, CA
Austin, TX
Guthrie, OK
St Paul, MN
Champlin, MN
Port au Prince, Haiti

It seemed like an okay idea to allow only 35 hours between returning from Mpls/StPaul and going to PAP back when we planned the trip for Troy and Paige. Today it seems fairly stupid. We are off to fill bags with things Beth McHoul might need (hams, turkeys, condoms - pretty much your ordinary run-of-the-mill stuff) ;) and then we'll pack and be ready to roll back to the DFW airport early tomorrow morning. OR we won't be ready to roll. Either way - off they will go.

Speaking of the DFW airport - Proud much? Wow. We're fairly certain there is no airport so proud of itself as DFW. On the way in the billboard brags that DFW is larger than Manhattan. When you get on the shuttle you watch a promotional video about how totally amazing and superior the airport is. Advertising your airport to someone who is already in it seemed kind of funny to us, but what do we know about marketing? I guess if every flight we needed of late was not departing out of DFW - maybe knowing how awesome and ginormous it is would make us want to find a way to fly out of there even if it did not match our itinerary well? "Just find a way to route us through that awesome huge airport DFW" we'd say. Texas is not afraid to be proud. And neither are its airports. :)

While we were in MN Paige and her best friend since the second grade were in charge here in Waco. Britt was on back-up patrol and did a little relief work. Last night the girls expressed how utterly exhausting they find parenting to be. It made us laugh to hear that they planned to sleep a lot of today - they are beat from the early morning wake-up calls from Lydia and all the demands they had to juggle as parents of five. Paige was giddy every time we talked to her. She so loved having her good friend from MN here with her. One phone call she proudly announced that she had caught vomit in her hands, thus avoiding carpet clean-up. Obviously she has been trained by the very best. ;) While we were gone Lydia learned two phrases - "Stop it bothering me" and "I had it first" - two super useful phrases for Phoebe to ignore when they are being screamed at her.

Our trip to MN was so good and so exhausting. There is something to be said for staying long enough to actually sit down -- but we only had four nights and five days so we stayed on the move trying to see as many friends and family as we could.

Troy had a BLAST pretending to be a rock-star and getting to play one set with 'NDY'. He went in feeling like the youngster in the group, but now he is a legit member - just like the rest of the band he is simply, 'Not Dead Yet' - they were so good and it was SO fun to listen to them. There are more fun photos that we'll try to post eventually, we have not had time to look at all the pics Marcia took. Thank you to the Ericksons, the Boyds, the Ross Family, and the Churchills for inviting Troy to join in on your fun. We love you guys.  (YouTube Video of U2 song from very end of night here.)

We spoke four times at a large E.Free church. Three of them went really super well. The other one -- worst.ever.of.all.time. We were running on about four to five hours of sleep and there was a vortex of situations that caused me to be nervous and weepy and Troy to be distracted and it was just so very bad. I am not even sure what I said, and the audience probably wondered too because my voice was so shaky and weepy. We were wishing for a do-over on that Saturday night service. Sunday went much better and we felt more like ourselves and got to speak a little longer. We condensed 35 minutes into 5 to 8 minutes and went for it. Public speaking is so stinking nerve-wracking ... I am amazed by people that do it without any tummy trouble. Thank you to Constance Free Church for the invitation to share. Thank you to the family that we met after the 9am service - from Hudson, WI. You guys don't know how encouraging your words were to us - and the timing of them - thank you.

Isaac is waiting on me with pen and paper to help make our plan for the day - I better go.

We thank you for checking in and we ask for prayers as we split up again tomorrow.


Thursday, June 17, 2010


Family One - Just moved into one of the roughest areas of their city with known drug activity and higher crime rates - Building relationships in their neighborhood in Texas.


Family Two- He quit his long time job as missions pastor at a mega-church to work full time in an impoverished neighborhood in North Carolina acting as a surrogate Dad to many fatherless children. Each week on several occasions he and his wife open their home to allow kids a place for fellowship, biblical teaching, and a place to rest and be loved.


Family Three- He was a senior pastor of a medium sized Baptist church for many years. He quit his paying secure job with benefits to work with the broken, hurting, homeless and lost in a central Texas RV-park.


Family Four- Uncertain of exactly where they should go, they are preparing to investigate a full-time ministry role in Peru and have sold many of their earthly belongings in preparation for the move. Safe?

The safest place to be is in God's will.

We once believed that this meant no harm would come to us or our family if we were at least attempting to follow Jesus to the best of our ability. These days that is seeming pretty shallow, wrong, and fairly self-centered. Why should it be easy and where did we get that cock-eyed idea anyway?

Things happen. There are challenges. Darkness attacks.

We're slowly learning that He heals, that He turns things intended for evil into things He can and does use for good, but mostly in the battle against darkness and injustice there are no easy pathways of 100% guaranteed protection ... because this is war and war is not without cost. In truth we've come to a place of recognition that our safety is not something we should cling to so tightly.

Does this mean we are never fearful?
We experience seasons of doubt and fear. We fear losing our children in Haiti. I find myself spinning tales in my mind of the horrible way I might lose one of them. I wonder how awful it will be to know that my choice to live in a place without great medical care could ultimately result in a death. At times it makes me want to tuck-tail and run back to a place I perceive as safe. But in my rational mind I know that I could lose them anywhere and at anytime - and that sometimes in order to follow Christ - increased risk and uncertainty will be necessary - and possibly even required.

I want to learn to be less fearful. I desire to be wise but not necessarily "safe". I want to believe that my friends who are walking away from their safety-nets will be provided for in miraculous ways. I want to trust fully in my Father's ability to get me through whatever the future holds; the mountains, the valleys, the good, the bad, through war or darkness.

From Radical - David Platt writes -

Jesus told them, "Go to great danger, and let it be said of you what people would say of sheep wandering into the middle of wolves. They're crazy! They're clueless! They have no idea what kind of danger they are getting into!" This is what it means to be my disciple.
We don't think like this. We say things such as, "The safest place to be is in the center of God's will." We think, if it's dangerous, God must not be in it. If it's risky, if it's unsafe, if it's costly, it must not be God's will. But what if these factors are actually the criteria by which we determine something IS God's will? What if we began to look at the design of God as the most dangerous option before us? What if the center of God's will is in reality the most unsafe place for us to be?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Baby Book Entry

I am not that Mom that scrapbooks, fills in baby-books, keeps artwork tucked away for years, or writes beautiful letters to my children. In my mind I am that mom, but in reality I am a total slacker. It is not that I don't find these children and their changing lives and personalities 100% entertaining and exciting ... that is not it at all. I simply lack the attention span for long-term documentation projects. I could never be a statistician.

I really wish I had better records. I remember poring over my own baby book and being thankful my Mom had kept a record. I can keep lamenting this failure, or I can write about/for these kids.

Here goes nothing -

In 1990 a beautiful brown eyed girl was born to a 17 year old mom. The mom had every intention of documenting the milestones of her precious baby girl. Intentions do not get the job done, though. If you open Brittany's baby book you find her footprints from the hospital and her birth weight (my biggest baby by 1/2 ounce) and a few names of people that visited her in the hospital. I think I noted the day she was dedicated/baptized too. That's it. As is true for most of you, 1990 is not so sharp in my memory anymore and other than recalling the strange combination of deep joy and anticipation, mixed with the total consuming fear of messing her up I cannot tell you much about that first year of her life. I recall more about her as a six and eight-year old than I do as a toddler and pre-schooler. The gaps in my memory represent a time in my life I don't look back on fondly. There was a lot I could have done better. Today at 20 she is proof that God is gracious to cover for the mistakes of a young mother. If there is one thing I am thankful for it is the opportunity we had to bond during intense times as we prepared to adopt and lived in Haiti together. The summer we waited for Isaac and Hope Britt prayed fervently for them each night. I can picture those sweet times well. The things she was able to do in Haiti are mind-numbingly awesome and that time was precious to us. We're so proud of this child's drive and desire to use her gifts to help others. We're grateful she found in Chris a partner that values relationships and loves her so well. She'll graduate from Baylor in December (at 20) and begin working toward her next goal. We're a giant cheering section ready to walk with her through the wins and losses. (Britt in one word: driven)

In 1994 a beautiful blue eyed girl was born to a 22 year old mom. The mom never even bought a baby book for this precious baby girl. #Fail. I remember the first few weeks of her life very clearly, after that it is a giant fast-moving train that sped by while I was in the ladies room or blinking or something. I remember her raspy little toddler voice that did not disappear until she was almost four. I remember her Kindergarten graduation and her first sporting event. I remember the day she learned to water-ski and ride a bike. Thankfully the last several years are documented and we've taken a bazillion photos all along. She has shown us what it means to be strong and love through pain and overcome obstacles. We have seen in her a sacrificial love for others that challenges us, her parents, to do a better job of giving and serving and loving. She is funny, loving, giving and kind. We love the things this girl is teaching us. (Paige in one word: sacrificial)

In 2002 a handsome brown-eyed boy with a killer smile came home to Minnesota. I bought a light blue scrap book and complied tons of information about his birth-family and the story of how we met and adopted him. The book is the only complete project that exists for any of my children. Some of my children have accused me of playing favorites. I have no explanation for why I saw that project to completion. I also have no idea where that book is today. Our "keepsakes" have been moved enough times that I don't exactly know where any of them are "keeping". Today this eight-year old is easily the most positive and joyful and kind guy in all of Texas. He recently left to go with Grandma and Grandpa for a week and the difference his springy step and sunny outlook make in our day to day lives was realized- and missed. We've learned from Isaac about tossing off the negative opinions of others and living in who God says we are. One day he came home to tell us, "That boy said I was stupid. I told him, I am not stupid -- I am special!" We are thankful that he lives in that truth. (Isaac: joyful)

In 2002 a sickly and petite baby girl with GIANT brown eyes came home to Minnesota. I bought a light pink scrap book and never put things into it. I compiled information and put it in a folder. Somewhere that folder and empty pink book are gathering dust. I remember a lot about our first months with this baby girl and how two kidney surgeries made her a new person with the ability to grow and begin to give and receive love. I remember flying out of Haiti with her with tears of gratitude and relief pouring down my face. The almost eight years since - one solid blur of activity. God showed us in her story what restoration looks like. Yesterday I asked "Are you starving?" I caught myself and said, "Well, I know you're not starving but are you hungry?" The fact is, she was once starving and she knows what it is like to not have what you need. She now has complete trust in the love her family has for her. Even after so much loss and so much neglect in her short little life. That is overcoming. That is healing. That is restoration. (Hope: resilient)

In 2004 a dramatic blue-eyed boy made a dramatic entrance into our lives. Our main memories of his first weeks are of gratitude and realization of how close we'd come to losing him. (drama from the start) I vividly recall the day Isaac and Hope came running to greet the peculiar little wrinkly person for the first time. The entire family adored and babied him from day one. This is apparent today. I recently asked him, "What if someday we adopted a little brother?" He looked me in the eye and with great authority said, "Mom. I *AM* the little brother." There is no doubt that Noah has every intention of holding his claim to the role of "baby of the family" ... never mind the other two princesses that came after him. He talks non-stop. He lives in emotional extremes. When he is mad, he is VERY mad. When he is sad, he is VERY sad. When he is happy, well ... you get the idea. (Noah: intense)

In 2007 things went a little crazy. A beautiful little brown bundle of chubby cheeks came to claim the baby spot in January and six weeks later the news came that her title would be short-lived and even contested later that year. We'd waited on her and not known of her whereabouts for more than two months when Troy miraculously found her one afternoon in January. She was covered in scabies and fungus. Ten weeks at an overcrowded orphanage had done her no favors. We have so enjoyed this quirky child, so different from the others. Phoebe is rarely defiant and is quick to apologize. Phoebe is the last to speak up and the first to make her feelings known just with body language and facial expression. She might be quiet, and of few words, but she is always deep in thought. Her thoughtfulness shows when out of nowhere you hear the voice of Elmo say, " I mwad you Mom." M.W.A.D. spells l-o-v-e. And who knows? Maybe one day she'll be potty trained too. (Phoebe: thoughtful)

Lydia and Phoebe have more documentation of their baby-hood and toddler tales than the others who came before the era when blogs became baby books. It is well documented that Lydia was an average newborn that became a fun one-year old that became a really insanely frustrated and challenging two year old. When a father and mother of six other children suddenly have no idea what to do with a child -- well, it is apparent that the child is a force to be reckoned with. Lydia has a new gigantic vocabulary that seems to be helping her frustration level. She is much like Noah in that her emotions don't have a middle setting ... it is all or nothing. We're not going to see a ton of automatic compliance out of this one. May we be equal to the task. And may she not end up in jail. (Lydia: Strong willed)

This is not a baby book. But it is my attempt to write some things down.
Now, to try to do it again before 2013.

I love you my driven, sacrificing, joyful, resilient, intense, thoughtful, strong-willed babies. You teach me something new every day.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go

Robbie Seay's spin on a beautiful hymn:

We returned earlier today from a short trip to Oklahoma. It turned out that we somehow managed to spend an 18 hour period in Okie that corresponded with massive rainfall and flooding. We hung out at the hotel waiting for the worst to pass while Noah proved he can eat disgusting amounts of bacon and Phoebe showcased her ability to put away box after box of cereal. Hope focused most of her attention on map-routes that might take us around the flooding.

It was a quick trip north with three of our kids that blessed us immensely. Last week when I was feeling very down and discouraged I asked Troy if he thought we should cancel. He said, "Our yes has to mean yes." For many reasons, I am thankful Troy got us there.

On our car ride I read aloud from a book called "Radical - Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream" to Troy and the themes and things we've been wrestling with continued and even multiplied.
What we read challenged us to keep wrestling and to keep asking hard questions of ourselves about the way we use the gifts and the time He has given us. If you're sort of restless and discontent with the same-old regular things our culture values, we think you'll enjoy it.

David Platt wrote:
"In this book I want to show you that, with the best of intentions, we have actually turned away from Jesus. We have in many areas blindly and unknowingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the gospel he taught. Here we stand amid an American dream dominated by self-advancement, self-esteem, and self-sufficiency, by individualism, materialism, and universalism. Yet I want to show you our desperate need to revisit the words of Jesus, to listen to them, to believe them, and to obey them."

The combination of music and the book and the rolling roads of OK and TX made for a sweet time of soul-searching for us.

Thank you God for your love that will not let me go. Thank you God for your Joy that seeks me through pain, I cannot close my heart to you; What are you calling me to sacrifice?


Sunday, June 13, 2010


Troy & his posse on his 35th birthday.
We take a picture of Troy with the kids every year.
This was the first time/year that 8 kids were present.
Lydia did not cooperate for the mafia pose.