Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Suh-weeet Sixteen

Happy 16th Birthday to our beautiful, amazing Paige!

You always bless us with your upbeat attitude and love for people around you. Sometimes we wonder how you roll with changes so well and when we want to throw a tantrum over uncertainty we have to stop and look at our kid; setting the bar high by always taking it one day at a time and living in each moment so beautifully. Thanks for teaching us
We are proud of you and love you so very much.

In quick review, the crazy events of your year:

January 9-11 trip to Orlando
January 12 massive earthquake hours after you got back
January 15 a dramatic C-130 escort out of Haiti to New Jersey
January 28 return to Haiti to get your stuff and properly say goodbye
February 3 leave Haiti again - this time on a 12 seat airplane
Feb thru June - training/running, tutoring, drivers training, counseling, and more
June 6 - ran your first (and last?) Half Marathon to raise money for the people and place you love
July- church camp and much mischief making - trip to Tampa
August- Trip to Okoboji and Minnesota and your baptism
August 13 - start 10th grade in Tejas
Sept thru Nov- school, youth group, friends, family, driving... and getting ready for another transition. 
November 30 - Turn 16 
Every.single.day - all year - inspired us with your faith and strength  

Wishing you a very very happy birthday today honey, and praying for you and the year to come.


Monday, November 29, 2010

circus tour complete

Long before the sad circumstances and events of last week we had planned a three night trip with all the kids over Thanksgiving weekend. We've never pulled off a trip away together because we're all going so many different directions all the time. Britt and Chris got some time off of work in order to join us for a few nights. 

Noah & Isaac braving 60 degree temps
At one point we considered going to a coastal Texas city to enjoy the beach but later decided that Lydie and Phoebe would take away from any ability to relax at the beach and the November weather could be too cold to enjoy the beach anyway. We decided to use the Sea World passes one last time and headed to San Antonio instead.

Packing this crew to go away for a night or more is quite a bit less fabulous/enjoyable than you might think. I have a system in place but like most systems it lacks provision for the unknown and unexpected. (such as multiple pant-wetting, fevers, drastic weather changes, etc.)

When a cold front came in at about 5pm and Sea World went from 80+ and humid to 54 and windy in a nano-second all the people looked to me for warmth.  I told them that the truck was their best option.  As we ran (what seemed like) 7 miles barefoot uphill through the whipping wind back to the truck, more than a few children wondered aloud if they might actually perish from the extremely low temps.  They call themselves Minnesota natives. Not impressed.  

All our "kids" on the River Walk

the girls

the boys

Besides Sea World we spent time on the River Walk and hours and hours at a Children's Museum. We ate lots of delicious meals. We swam in hotel swimming pools. Troy attempted to go toe to toe with a man on the River Walk that would not let us walk past his restaurant with our stroller and tribe because he wanted to set up chairs, but we quickly reigned surly Troy in and cut through a bar instead. All of our children were scandalized by their short-cut through Coyote Ugly, enough so that their commentary provided much entertainment.

Saturday and Sunday we went to Sugar Land, TX and had a great day with the Bridge Fellowship Church. On the last leg of driving Noah complained "Hooowww much loooonger?" I said, "Only 30 minutes left to go buddy."  Isaac, always the encourager said, "Thirty minutes is way better than a half an hour Noah!"  We drove 10 hours total between the three cities with no car-vomits and only one person peeing their pants.  That is how we spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S.

All things considered we had a really fun three days away together.  In our minds it was going to be more epic than it was but as it turns out 3 and 4 year old children are not totally awesome at staying up late and partying into the night.  What we had imagined as competitive games playing and many laughs late into the evening turned out to be turning the lights out and sitting in silence in our hotel rooms while praying the tired little monsters would sleep.  :)


The day has finally come where I can no longer put off making lists of things that need to be purchased before we return home and going through the items we've accumulated and placing them into categories of donating, purging or packing.  The amount of useless crap we've acquired disturbs me greatly.

The goal today is to go through Isaac, Hope, and Noah's things and determine who needs what and get rid of things that won't be needed in Haiti. While they are gone I will dispose of their odd collections of random things they stash all over the place. For example, Isaac saves toothpicks in his 'treasure' drawer, along with broken 'silly bands' and used chopsticks. Noah has been saving the 'special treasure' of hundreds of unpopped corn kernels. The high-drama of having the plastic checker set from Wendy's tossed out is anticipated, but I will not waver. 

Making a couple shopping trips will be inevitable and totally dreaded but if Isaac is going to have shoes on his ginormous man-sized feet we are going to have to suck it up and head to the stores. This week will be mainly dedicated to those tasks.

So much more importantly though -  we will be celebrating Paige's passage from the mundane age of 15 to the thrilling and fabulous age of 16.  Paige's good friend Julia from MN is flying down to spend a few days with us. That was the best gift we could think to give Paige. We wanted to keep it a secret but that became impossible. The tears of happiness when she found out Julia was coming confirmed we'd picked exactly the right gift.  In addition, a very important test involving four wheels and parallel parking is set to happen. Britt left Haiti at 16 to go test in Minnesota. Because Britt failed the first time around, the natural laws of sibling rivalry mean that Paige really wants to pass on her first try.  The advantage that Paige has had spending these months prior to her test in a place she was allowed to practice often are being downplayed. As you can imagine, bragging rights are of the utmost importance.  But either way - Texas drivers beware.

More on our beloved Birthday girl tomorrow.  Now it is time to sort and toss.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

This Thanksgiving we're thankful for Jesus, family, great friends,and the unconditional love they've shown us.

We wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.  We think of those so much less fortunate than ourselves and ask God to help us be His love to a thirsty and hurting world.Our hearts are with our friends in Haiti and the serious situation they are facing this holiday season.

Our family counts each one of you that has prayed, encouraged, given, followed along, and loved a blessing and gift from God.  

On-line 'relationships' often feel empty and fake. That is not really what we've experienced here and we thank you for walking this journey of faith, struggle, pain, and joy with us. 

Seriously - thank.you.

May you know His provision, experience His healing love, and rest in His mercy and grace this Thanksgiving. 


The FOURTH ANNUAL Livesay CHRISTMAS extravaganza entered production phase in late October. All of the filming took place weeks ago, we're editing and getting it ready now. What started as a last minute "horrible idea" in 2007 has turned into a family tradition. Members of this family have varying opinions on exactly how fun the tradition is, but most family traditions come with some rolling of the eyes and a smidge of consternation, right?

We hope to have the 2010 production finished and posted by mid-December.

To see the last three years go here/2007 (the year Silent Night took on new meaning and no one was able to remember lines) and here/2008 (the year we used a Mastiff as a donkey and Britt and Chris mailed footage from Waco) and 2009 (the year Troy declared Tara certifiable but still agreed to write a Christmas song) is posted above.

Last year included lifting a donkey in and out of a large truck. This year we had zero access to live stable animals. Our beards and costume stash sit in a dusty closet in Haiti. All that to say, now is the time to lower your expectations because we're going in a totally new direction this year.

We're taking off for a few days of family time. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mil Mesi ~ Many Thanks

Troy and I wish we could thank each of you that took time to write a note of encouragement in a much more personal way than this. Please accept our apology for this broad and impersonal thank-you. We want you to know now that your thoughts, encouragement, and sharing of experiences have touched us.

We are incredibly grateful for your prayers. 

We are so sorry for the pain Paul was suffering. It hurts to face the depth of Paul's affliction. Thankfully we had lunch with him two weeks ago today and had a chance to speak to one another very honestly and to tell him we (and many others) cared for and loved him and longed to see him well.  Laura and Bob and Karen had all shared those thoughts with him too.

Grief is so tricky and unpredictable. Prayers can only help, thank-you so much for that and for the notes of love and support for our entire family.

We came to MN for Heartline board meetings and then the path took this unexpected turn.  The meetings we were able to attend were encouraging - we're excited to get home. 

We extended our stay in MN by 24 hours and because of that we will also be able to attend the celebration of the life of Alyn Shannon on Tuesday morning. Alyn is a friend we made in Haiti.  If you have ever heard Troy tell the 'water truck story' Alyn is the wife of Jeff Gacek - the 'water truck angel' from the days after the earthquake.  Jeff is grieving this Thanksgiving too.

After the two funerals we'll head south to rejoin our tribe.  We're excited to hug them all and have our first-ever (all ten of us) going away trip planned for the long weekend.  {Beware hotels, things are about to get circus-ish.} We'll go to San Antonio first and end in Sugar Land, TX for church services at The Bridge Fellowship next Sunday. (Times and link to church on left.)

With grateful hearts,
T & T

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Paul Charles Livesay

Age 32, of Bloomington, MN
Passed away unexpectedly on November 18th, 2010. Preceded in death by Russell L. Campbell, Father-in-law; He will be deeply missed by his Wife, Laura; Son, Joshua; and Daughter, Stella. Mother, Karen E. and Father, Robert C. Livesay; Brother and Sister-in-law Troy R. and Tara Livesay; Mother-in-law, Rebecca Campbell; Brother-in-law, Matthew Campbell; Grandparents, Joann and Charles L. Wood Sr., and many uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and cousins.
Paul worked at Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington, MN as a Digital Imaging Specialist. Family and friends cared deeply about Paul and will miss him greatly.
Memorial Services will be at the Honsa Family Funeral Home, 2460 East County Road E, White Bear Lake, MN Monday at 7:30 P.M. with gathering of family and friends from 5:30-7:30 P.M. In lieu of flowers, Memorials preferred for Josh (age 6) and Stella (age 3).

Thursday night shortly after 9pm we learned that Troy's little brother took his own life.  Thankfully we had arrived in the Twin Cities on Wednesday night and could quickly join Troy's parents. Paul had long struggled with depression and had battled chemical dependency.  He was loved and will be missed by many. We ask that you please pray for Laura and their children Josh and Stella and for Troy's parents Bob and Karen. 

If you attend on Monday night please know that Laura respectfully asks that you not speak to the children about the cause of Paul's death, she would like to protect them from that right now, they know they lost their daddy and that is enough to process. As many of you know the grief process is more complicated when suicide is the cause of death.  We encourage anyone that wishes to help to give memorial gifts directly to Laura and the kids. 

Thank you,

Troy and Tara and tribe

Friday, November 19, 2010

Hay-uh less

We are unable to get to the real video of the hay-uh cut (need some time to edit and post) but until we can get that finished you can go here to Troy's twitter page to see the tweets with photos and short video attached.  He learned something new about himself through your giving.  He does not have a big head. He only has a giant face. :)

John was very gracious and took the fun away by not being the ornery jerk he usually is. ;)  He is mostly bothered by how good he looks. He prides himself on looking scraggly and unkempt.  If you'd like to annoy him just tell him how good this look is for him.


More later - thanks to every single donor that chipped in! We're doubting there has ever been a 56K haircut in history ... mark it in the books.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

the hour is drawing near

In a few short hours a small group of on-lookers will be gathering to witness an event of epic proportions.

The build up to this day rivals that of the anticipation of the coming of Y2K.  The tilt of the earth may shift slightly, satellites may need realignment, clocks may mysteriously re-set to midnight.

This is a warning:  be prepared for anything and everything. What lies beneath that hair has never been seen with the bare human eye before. 

The fact is, no one else garners quite so much interest as this long haired hippie from Boston turned peculiar and ineffable missionary to Haiti.

He is loved. He is feared. He is cared for and revered. He has been merciless to visitors, as many can attest.  If you have been party to this glorious pay-back, you certainly are blessed.

It all began HERE approximately 100 days ago when he foolishly snorted and flippantly said, "Raise 50K for the Hospital and I'll let you cut it off."  He then proceeded to taunt, mock, and disrespect for many weeks.  He does not know the heart or the soul of the people of the blogosphere.  Clearly he has underestimated you.  The people have spoken and the hay-uh must go.

As difficult as it was, John has accepted his fate as proven by his recent post. 

We have no idea what we might find in those matted tresses. Perhaps our missing keys, ipods and small children. We do know this much - a formidable task lies before us this day. May God grant us the strength to rise to the endeavor.

And so, it is with much pomp and circumstance that the hair will be removed on Thursday, November 18, Two-thousand and ten at approximately nineteen hundred hours.  

Lest you not be caught off guard, please take this warning with the seriousness in which it is delivered.

Fare thee well hair.

respectfully submitted,

tara & troy

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

beauty & strength

photos troylivesay 2010


Our kids have been attending a really great charter school here in Waco.  Overall we have been very impressed by the academics and the teachers are all great.  There are a few teachers that have taken special interest in the Livesay kids and have made a point of encouraging and guiding. We are thankful for them. The kids have learned a lot and all four have advanced quickly in the short time they've been there.

Troy leaves with a truck full of kids each day and on the ten minute drive to school they always pray together.  The prayers are heartwarming and adorable to listen to. Yesterday I got to bring them (in order to avoid being home with the electrician) and Noah ended his prayer, "God we love you but we know you love us so much mow gweatow - thank you."

The school pushes their 'six core values' almost as hard as Stephen Covey pushes his seven principles.  The six core values at Rapoport Academy have some overlap with Covey and are all great things.  We have been highly entertained at how well our kids parrot these values back and what a part of their vernacular they have become.

Fotunately, the school isn't pushing getting ahead at any cost, stepping on whomever you need to step on to achieve, no respect for the weak, take advantage of the oppressed, look down on anyone less fabulous than yourself, and cheat if necessary - or we would have a real problem on our hands because our kids are totally indoctrinated, sold out, bought-in believers in all the values they have been taught.

(It is kind of scary, actually. They excel in the area of teach-ability and seem to be quite pliable ... And are likely just a few passionate lectures shy of joining fellow Wacoan D. Koresh and the Branch Davidians or maybe bringing back the 70's and becoming members of the Hare Krishna cult.) ;)

Their morning and bedtime prayers almost always include three or four of the six core values.  Isaac often prays "God help me be respectful and help other respect me and give me responsibility while I work hard and do hard work."  Noah has his little Elmer Fudd speech issue and prays each day "fow integwity, cweativity, cuwiosity and wespect."

If they're going to be indoctrinated I guess it could be worse. The world certainly needs mow integwity. :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

mid-month updates

  • Thank you for making it possible for 71 kids to be treated for the most severe types of malnutrition and for giving generously to our 20 day fund-raising project. More than $7,000 was raised thanks to your munificent gestures and concern. 
  • Our half-marathon went well. It was a very fun day.  Hope asked me on the way out the door on Saturday if I was "going to win it?"  I assured her that not only would I not win, I would not even finish in the top third.  She seemed totally unimpressed with me. :) We had a fun race and ran the entire 13.1 steady ... slow and steady may not win the race but it finishes the race. We got to see the female winner of the full marathon cross the finish line. It was moving to see a winner finish.  We will tell Hope that at least we watched someone else "win it."
  • Thank you to each of you that have inquired about trips to Haiti.  Rather than be repetitive in this post we would like to direct you HERE for more information about teams/visitors. 
  • We're excited to share more about the Heartline home and residential program for teen moms that is being planned and developed right now. Please pray for this program and the girls that will soon be joining it and especially for the Heartline board of directors meeting this week.
  • Phoebe's court date is Wednesday. We're putting on our fanciest duds and hugging that judge (against his will if need be) and thanking him for bringing this season to a close.
  • John McHoul is arriving in the Twin Cities the same day Troy and I do. We are removing his locks on Thursday evening. Watch for the YouTube of that bizarre event. 
  • We are asking for continual prayer for the Cholera situation in Haiti. Please pray for those ill and those treating the ill and for a miracle to stop the spread of this disease.
  • I spent some time in the last weeks finally going back and reading the hundreds of comments and emails from around the world from after the earthquake. I sat reading and crying and grieving for those that wrote with missing and dead loved ones. To read those notes was difficult and cathartic all at once. So much of January 2010 feels like yesterday. So much of January 2010 feels like a dream nightmare that happened a really long long time ago.  Some of the memories are crystal clear; some things I read had already been forgotten.  I am very thankful that when I arrived in the USA half crazy with grief and still processing trauma that I did not know we would not all go home for eleven months. I am glad we only figured out how long we'd be here in increments that we could better accept. Leaving our home and work and friends at a time of so much need felt disloyal and terribly wrong to me. I totally believe this time has been good and necessary. The season of limbo has ended for now, and that feels really good.

(written March 2010) Home is Everywhere & Nowhere

I knew for certain from the day we got to the Texas home that I needed to come back to my Haiti home to reconcile a few things and try to get myself right in the head. (No easy or short task for the hard-headed.) Troy must have known it too or he would not have signed up for two weeks as a single dad of six. It was important for me to come back home. I am thankful Troy knows me so well.

Home is everywhere and home is nowhere.

Being "home" has been good. I have so loved the past ten days and have been quite thankful to be here. John McHoul always says what a privilege it is to live here ... In the past I sometimes wondered if I agreed with him on that ... But I think I finally get it in a real way. I feel it. I know it to be true. It is an incredible privilege.

Haiti does not need me - or my family. We're lucky to live and serve and learn here - and more than anything that has been where the blessings have been found - in the learning and in the experiences and that is why we long to be here. I don't think any of us inflate our importance, we just know that God has worked on us - and - in us - so much these last four years. We love this country and we love our friends here and we love waking up to a new adventure each morning.

I spent those three weeks in Texas fighting hard against being there. I made a lot of people a bit miserable by being miserable myself. It felt like three years to me - I bet I made it feel even longer to my family. :(

I think coming back to Haiti has helped me realize that living in this tension is part of what it feels like to always long for something more, something like Heaven.

I was reading a blog someone linked me to and I agreed with much of what was written.You can read what Eugene Chu said in a recent post, "maybe it is not supposed to feel right."

When I go back to Texas to join my family on Thursday I am going to try to turn over a new leaf.

While I cannot completely remove the tension I feel surrounding all of this stuff - the fact is, I cannot change this situation.. Until Phoebe has U.S. Citizenship we need to be in the U.S. - and our family needs to stay together whenever possible. I think Troy and I thought we could just pass the baton off and take turns - wave to each other in the sky or something - but we did not think that through. We need each other and we need to stay together as often as we can. After-all, raising our children is a very large part of what God has called us to do.
When we first got to the U.S. having fun felt very wrong ... I kept thinking how unfair it is that I get to have fun, that I get to have a cushy life, that I get to have so many choices. I'd be lying if I said I can just turn off those thoughts ... but I do need to find a way to just "be" and accept the way things are with more grace. (I'll start by just trying not to be mad all the time.)
For whatever reason we're being given this "break" from our Haiti life. I can choose to fight it every day (like I did for 3 weeks) or I can let that go and try to have some fun and enjoy the rare and unusual treats of time with family and friends, a park, a restaurant, and a date night. I should soak up my kids and their utter joy over all the new and special things they can do in America and not just let it pass me by while I am busy being sad/mad/unsettled/confused.

The unknowns are hard. Paige has said "Mom and Dad - I count on you to have a plan and when you don't have one, I feel scared." I understand that. I feel scared too. I am so proud of Paige and the way she is healing and growing ... I think we are all learning to trust God in the unknown.
Haiti will be here when it is time to return. If that is six more weeks or six more months (we have no idea how long the process for Phoebe will take) I am going to try to be present in the place God has me. Moping around is not helping my kids and it is not helping my husband and it is certainly not helping me. My friends that I leave behind will know I love them even if I am not constantly sad and sulking.
My Uncle wrote me this note earlier this week, I am saving it to read a few times each day in the coming weeks -

"Tara- Glad you are starting over. And incidentally, “fighting this” isn’t just going to make you miserable, you will be contagious because everybody loves you and they only want you happy and healthy. Yeah… have your grief, have your anger, have all the ugliness, disillusionment, cynicism, etc. Have it until you and everybody around you is sick of it, and then give it to Jesus. He will take it so you can go on and bloom wherever you are planted for this season. End of sermonette. -R."

I don't want to become toxic to the people that love me. Home is everywhere and home is nowhere... but most importantly - wherever I am, God loves me and wants me to trust Him as best I can and love Him with my whole heart.

I'll keep working at that.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

rapid miracles

Before  (December 2009)

After ~ only four weeks later

Left to right, this is Ronel (7 years old weighs 28.5 pounds in before photo), Marie-Lange (2.5 years old weighs 13.4 pounds in before photo) and Wideline.  *They are a sibling set.  Wideline was admitted at the end of 2009.  She was 6 years old and weighed 30 pounds when admitted.  She got down to 26.25 pounds after losing some of her water weight caused from the kwashiorkor.

These three kids have one other sibling that is still nursing.  The mother and father are very thin as well.  (photo below) As a family they had to save money for two weeks to bring Ronel and Marie-lange.  The RHFH clinic would have seen them for free but they wanted to pay the small fee to get their charts made.  2 charts for $1.60 US and it took them two weeks to save and get that together.  These three kids were simply starving.  There was nothing else wrong with them.  They just needed food.  That was it.

Any variety of food given consistently would have helped them gain weight but over and over we've seen that Medika Mamba adds weight quicker than anything else.  These kids looked and felt tremendously more healthy after just a few short weeks.  The proof is in the before and after photos above.

Certainly the hardships faced in Haiti by families like these are heartbreaking and numerous. Those hardships only increased and became more complicated on the day the earth shook, now ten months ago. When the situation gets this dire the best thing to do is respond quickly with something that is known to work miracles rapidly.

For approximately $100 a child can be on Medika Mamba for a treatment plan lasting somewhere between 60 to 90 days depending on the severity of their case.   (As an added benefit this product is produced in Northern Haiti and is creating jobs.)

Please chip-in to fund this program so that Lori, Licia and Zach can continue to be able to use this product to help the children and families they serve recover quickly.

How many more kids can we raise funds to treat in the remaining three days? 

Please share on Facebook, Twitter, link to and spread the word in any way you can! Thank you.
*Photos and facts pulled from Licia's archives with permission.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

taking pride to new levels

Having now spent the better part of 2010 in this great state, we can honestly and confidently say that these are some intensely proud people here. There are multiple reasons not to mess with Texas.

Our November and December are quickly becoming frighteningly busy.  The next 7 weeks will fly by.

Troy has had a couple of photography opportunities of late and is currently out doing his fourth shoot of the week. I found it  humorous that he made mention of being glad he did "not have to do pets" when Jimmy and Laura, friends of ours, showed up as his second shoot in a row with a dog in tow.  He is a pet photographer. Don't let him tell you otherwise.  :)

My little sister is coming to TX (the best state in the universe) on Friday to join us in San Antonio. I think she is undecided on whether she will run the full or half marathon. Some people just decide those things on the fly. But only because they are freaks. I'm excited to head south on Saturday morning with Britt, Chris, and my best friend Tina. We will all be at the start line Sunday morning.

Troy will manage personalities in Waco and celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary without me on Sunday. I imagine he'll celebrate by gazing lovingly upon our children, the massive amount of work the most precious little cherubs God ever created.

We seem to be having vehicle and electricity problems no matter what country we are in, and regardless of how much state pride we have.  In Texas something new breaks on the 'Suburden' each day. The muffler is long gone, the brakes are questionable. As door handles continually break, we'll soon be entering and exiting the truck Dukes of Hazzard style.  A line from the electric box to the dryer shorted out and Paige's room seems to have curious and unpredictable sparking issues. No dryer for a week was inconsequential ten years ago; today it is borderline earth-shattering. Small children could be consumed by the pile of laundry that has accumulated over the last 7 days.  Meanwhile, back in Haiti there is no EDH power running to our house (they cut it - we owe them big money) and our only vehicle has been beat up a bit and is not currently operational.  We're curious how our kids will do walking 9ish miles to school on January 4th. Walking will be much quicker than navigating that PAP traffic anyway, so there is that.
On the bright side, at least we're experiencing some consistency in our two worlds. 

We bought paint to touch up the damage the precious little cherubs have done to the walls of our borrowed Waco home. We've also begun to research the best carpet cleaning companies in central TX to have them set aside a week or so in December to try to work carpet miracles. We've made lists of the end tables and lamps that require repairs thanks to the boys.  We've also prayed that no one reading this blog attends the church that owns this home.  [If you do, please consider these descriptions of your house exaggerated strictly for the purposes of entertainment ... And more importantly - please don't stop by unannounced.]  ;)

If you've asked me about visiting us in January and I've not replied, this is the paragraph in which I plan to be brutally honest while attempting not to offend you.  Here goes:  We are certain that the first month+ back will be a major transition for all of us.  There will be tears, melt-downs, adjustments, and tantrums. Plus the kids could experience some challenges too.  We need to get our house and truck running again and get settled into school and a new more challenging daily routine of life ... For example, last November we woke up looking like this some mornings ... and we still have these neighbors to learn to love again.

We once loved them enough to write jingles about them,  so there is hope!

Because of those and other things, we are reserving January for adjustment and have decided not to commit to much more than that. Dokte Jen will be living with us and she is the only person that gets to see the inner-workings of a family this size adjusting from a life of ease and convenience back to roosters, mosquitoes, rodents and road-rage. She has lived with us before so she knows what she is in store for come January.

I need to find some quarters and the little girls and head out to dry some laundry now. Will you please watch for some amazing Medika Mamba recovery/success stories here tomorrow?  We humbly ask you to consider sponsoring us for the race on Sunday in order to help a severely malnourished child recover and find hope.


Monday, November 08, 2010

I run II

PAP marathon training
I've been running a lot more miles now that Texas has cooled down so much and the race is on the calendar.  I don't usually allow weather to dictate my miles because in Haiti no cool down ever really occurs and high temps are never an excuse to skip it.  Truthfully, I don't really miss Haiti's running conditions, I only miss my Haiti running partner.

The path here in Texas is smooth; no rubble to dodge. The sights are mainly beautiful. The friendly exchanges are numerous. The air is clean. Running in Texas is without all the drama and unexpected bizarre mishaps. It could even be described as peaceful.

I have come to count on my run as my processing time and a large portion of my prayer time. Going for a run restores me and acts as a physical, emotional, and spiritual reset button in my life.  The gifts of running don't stop there. Running has been especially important this summer and fall because I've had so much to process.  While most of this break in the USA has been restorative, some things have been painful. I typically cry while I run, pray while I run, and listen to worship music while I run.

One of the better benefits of running has been its ability to knock the pride right out of me. I know there is nothing bad about that.  The reasons my ego gets crushed on a run are numerous...
  • I have hideous form.  
  • When I am tired my arms do the totally wrong thing. 
  • I am slow - I am only getting slower each year. 
  • I have flat feet and chronic trouble with keeping my hips in alignment. My body is totally uncooperative with distance running.
  • I could work with the best trainer on earth and never run a 4 hour marathon.
I love running, in spite of not being a natural. Being at the bottom of the talent pool (which is a nice way of saying untalented) allows (which is a nice way of saying forces) me to rely more upon mental/spiritual strength than physical strength.  I find that in a tangible way I can tackle a challenge of a certain difficult portion of a run or a difficult distance by relying on God.

Crazy?         No.  True.

As an aside, I will say that I recently learned that Simon & Garfunkel's, Scarborough Fair, is not the best motivator when trying to run a quickly paced mile or two.  Also, excessive sweat on the dial of an ipod makes it impossible to turn the song forward. After Scarborough Fair comes Sounds of Silence; which incidentally is also a very bad running song. If my husband was not such an odd specimen with his 1966 folk musical selections on my ipod, I'd probably be a much faster runner.

(You can ask Troy why Simon & Garfunkel are some of music's most important artists of all time and why I don't know anything about anything.) 

Because running has been such an important part of my life for more than six years now, the phone call I received on our trek from MN back to TX in August nearly made me wet my pants.  (Could have been the excitement, could have been the four cups of coffee and the 20 hour car ride.)  On the other end of the phone was a woman at Runner's World magazine informing me I'd been nominated and chosen to be in their December 2010 issue. I realize that 98% of the world has no idea that this magazine exists, making this post such an anti-climactic thing for you.  Suffice it to say it was quite the opposite for me. I can't really explain it ... It would be like an average to below average quilter getting their quilt in an issue of the always popular, 'Quilting Quarterly' magazine - or something much more exciting than that.

In September they interviewed and came and did this crazy photo shoot with lights and fancy equipment and all our kids were in some shots.  The whole experience was highly entertaining and slightly nerve-wrecking. Something about standing on the running path with my gear on while watching amazing athletes fly by at the speed of light (staring at us with curiosity) and the irony that my lard-butt would make the magazine while their speedy-butts never will  ... I would find that slightly annoying if I were them.

Sorry fast runners.  Haiti is in the news this year. 

Haiti - I Run - written in 2009

7:00 am-
I am off and running.

The sun is beginning to climb high into the sky. The streets are crowded. Each person seems to go about their business with purpose. Everywhere I look I see throngs of people trying to make a few gourdes. They sell bananas and eggs and deep fried plantains. They negotiate price, they trade, they make their way.

A pregnant woman who looks to be expecting her child today balances a basket full of mangoes on her head as she hurries toward a friend motioning for her to come quickly. The air is thick with the diesel from the overburdened roads. A haze of smoke from burning trash hangs in front of me. Dust kicks into the air with each passing car. We all breathe it in, we all exhale it out. I run.

The foot finds very little even ground on which to land as garbage and rocks are scattered all around. On the corner goats hang upside down by their legs off of sputtering tap-taps as people push in trying to pay the driver for their ride. Just above our heads an enormous United Nations helicopter whirls, deafeningly loud, as soldiers gaze down upon the chaos of the city. The sound is overwhelming, it seems to be bouncing off of the cement houses and amplifying as it does.

Loaded automatic weapons are cocked and ready as white truck after white truck of Brazilian men in fatigues roll by. A small child walks alone with a five gallon bucket of water on her head, dust whirls around her feet as she walks, it appears she herself has not had a drink in days. Giant piles of reeking trash jut out into the roadway. Workers in yellow t-shirts scoop it up. Their work won't soon be complete. Two men argue and begin to push while frightened little ones peek from behind their mother's skirt.

Outside of the giant Embassy people shove and elbow jockeying for position to tell their stories to the guards, trying to get their chance to see an employee and ask for a visa to visit another land. Cars and trucks strategically speed up and slow down fighting to park in a place where they can see the most. A woman exits weeping, her request to go see her ill father has been denied.

Another half mile down the road, trucks jammed full with people and animals honk impatiently waiting for a chance to turn - an accident blocks the road. No police arrive; the angry and injured must fend for themselves today. A silver streak appears overhead as an American Airlines flight screams toward landing. People don't stop what they're doing to look up in the sky. They keep selling, pushing, moving, surviving.

In the distance, as far as the eye can see, more and more and more of the same. I run.

In my right ear, I have my mp3 player on as loud as it will go. Derek Webb sings and reminds me This Too Shall Be Made Right. The combination of the music in my right ear and what I am taking in with my left ear and the dozens of situations I see around me cannot be easily reconciled or accepted. Does God see this too? A wave of something that feels like grief hits me. I am bombarded by a multitude of thoughts. I run.

I find myself feeling such admiration for the endurance of the people around me, for their ability to do so much with so little. I wonder how they do it. I find it unfair, even ugly. I feel angry. I feel weak. While I admire the strength I see, I somehow simultaneously feel pity. They probably don't want my pity. I wonder why life cannot be easier for them. Tears stream down my face and I run and run and run. And I try to make sense of it all.

The song in my right ear changes. I pick up the pace as I am nearing my home and when I pray a strange peace washes over me - I am listening to these lyrics:
Mercy, weep over me Let Your tears wash me clean - Majesty, be merciful with me ... mercy mercy mercy.

And I pray for mercy as I run.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Minnesota Bound

  • We're getting ready to head to Minnesota early tomorrow for a quick three night trip. We're excited to see and squeeze our MN peeps. If you are at the World Wide Village Banquet Saturday or the church on Sunday please introduce yourself and let us squeeze you too.

  • Tonight a gift was given that completed the goal for the upcoming race that Britt and I are doing. Your gifts make it possible for 40 kids to be treated at RHFH with Medika Mamba.  There are 9 days until the race.  I am so excited to see 40 kids helped. In the next nine days left we could easily help another ten kids. $100 treats one child. Any amount helps - we're so thankful for your generous love in action. Thank you for responding and caring.

  • Haiti news is sad - Cholera death toll rising. 442 confirmed deaths, but with so many unable to easily get help when they are ill the actual total is likely higher. 2,000 new cases reported this week. Hurricane Tomas is hitting them tonight. Heavy rains and wind for 1.3 million people that live in tents and under tarps. Flooding usually happens in even the shortest rain events. This will be very difficult for everyone.  "Very difficult" is just a lame way to say horrifically bad. We are trying to turn our worries into prayers.  Lord-"Show us Your mercy. We beg You! We are not strangers to contempt and pain." Psalm 123:3

  • Megan has arrived to take over as mother, father, driver, cook, and butt wiper while we are in Minnesota. She seems ready. The kids are excited she is here and fighting over her. Paige was accused of "hogging Megan" in one complaint that was filed during dinner tonight. We found Paige guilty. She is appealing the decision, but not until she gets back from the movies with Megan.

  • There are some really solid organizations working in Haiti.  Investigating how donor money is used is helpful in deciding if they are worthy of your gifts. Some good work is hard to quantify because it might be less about numbers and flashy media and more about individual relationships and mentoring. Lately we've been less and less impressed with the really 'big dogs' in the NGO world and so much more touched by smaller grass-roots work. All that to say, please take a minute to check out this medium sized organization,  IJM and their work. They've recently begun to address the child trafficking issues in Haiti. On November 15 every American can help them - even if not able or interested in donating. Check out this link for information on making a phone call to help children and mark your calendar for November 15, 2010.

  • "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope."
    -Robert F. Kennedy

    Annie Update

    For those that have been along for the ride since before the earthquake, we wanted to let you know that Annie is doing great in Minnesota. (See photo evidence.)

    We feel so lucky to have her in our lives still. For those that don't know, Annie is Isaac's little sister that lived with us for two years (while the adoption was in process) in Haiti. She was adopted by Tara's little sister and one of Troy's best friends who happens to be married to Tara's little sister.

    Confused? Yes. Us too.

    It means that Isaac's sister by birth is his cousin by adoption. It means that a friend Troy grew up with is the adoptive Dad of a child related to our adopted son. Weird and Awesome.

    We all miss her but truthfully I think Isaac misses her the most. He has a deep love and connection to Annie. Tonight when we were talking about her he said, "I think I know why our first Mom let Annie go." I said, "Why buddy?" "I think she wanted me not to feel alone without my ancestors in my new family."

    First of all, I had no idea he knew the word ancestors. Show off!  Second, we know from talking with her at length what her reasons were ... that wasn't one she chose to list verbally  - but it is certainly a comforting thing for Isaac and we're glad it helps him feel loved and connected.

    Annie will celebrate her third birthday this month. We're so glad her new brothers and Mommy and Daddy won't miss any more birthdays ever again.  

    Happy Birthday month sweet Annie girl!

    Wednesday, November 03, 2010

    a picture is worth ...

    Boston Globe Photos

    the f word ...

    Keeps us from trusting.

    Keeps us from risking.

    Keeps us from healing.

    Keeps us trapped.

    It tells us lies :
    You are not good enough.  It will be too hard for you.  You will fail.  It will be too painful.  You're beyond help. You cannot do it. 

    Fear.  I hate it.  I hate what it does. I hate how tricky and twisted its effects are. I hate how much harm it causes.

    Fear of intimacy, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of openness, fear of commitment, fear of things that we don't understand, fear of judgment, fear of change - and the list goes on.

    Underneath most anger, you'll find fear. Underneath a lot of arrogance/pride, you'll find fear.  Underneath resentment - fears of what forgiving might mean, fear of being vulnerable.

    Fear is tricky because it looks like other things on the surface. It manifests itself in many ways and is usually well disguised.

    Troy and I learned from a really great counselor that most of the anger stuff he struggled with in Haiti was actually fear. He acted angry as a cover for what he really felt sometimes, which was a fear of not being able to protect his family.

    About a month ago we were getting in our truck to leave Sunday morning worship a man going by on the street looked me in the eye and as I was loading my kids in the truck he yelled at me, "That's a _____ (insert racial slur) church."  I was fairly stunned and just looked at him as he rode away.  I wondered, why say that? Why did he need to say that to me? I can only guess that his anger makes him feel in control - but underneath that anger is the real problem, he is afraid.

    Turn on any major news network and within a few minutes they'll report on something while telling you how fearful you ought to be. 

    People refuse to admit when they are afraid because admitting fear is giving up control. They would rather stay comfortably duped in their counterfeit world with a false sense of control.

    We heard a pastor/professor preach on fear this summer. He pointed out that all throughout history people have struggled with fear.  Adam and Eve, Moses, Joshua, David ...  the list is long. Pastor Casey preached that the key is not to stay in a place of fear but to daily allow God to help us identify and deal with our fears.

    The truth is, at some time or another, all of us have been negatively affected by fear.  Some people live their entire lives in bondage to it, allowing it to stunt their growth and make them bitter and angry.

    Fear acts as a filter that blocks truth.

    God has been dealing with me on this issue lately.  I have had a sense lately that we are experiencing some spiritual growth  (and so much more room for that remains), but this issue crops up for me again and again.

    The issue is fear; the type of fear that can end up tripping us up as we try to follow Jesus wherever it is He calls us. Sometimes I bring it on myself and other times I allow the words of others to plant it. An email asking me if I have seen this news story or that prediction, or a disapproving stranger telling me we're crazy can serve as my spring-board into worry. I can literally be 100% fine one day and then get nervous and questioning the next.

    Realistically I know that we will face opposition and illness. Those are not irrational thoughts.  The difficult part is finding the balance between being realistic about the challenges while not falling into fearful thinking. As I look at what lies before me as a mom, a sister, a daughter, a friend  ... and I think about moving back to Port au Prince soon with some of the most precious people in my life ...  I get a little bit afraid.

    It is not at all that I don't want to go back, truthfully I am so excited to get back. It is just that I psych myself out sometimes.  At times I get caught up in worrying about details and logistics and unknowns; things that worry and fear can not and will not change.  If I ever allow fear to gain any permanence in my heart and mind it would wreak havoc.

    Over and over again God has shown up in my life to do battle. Sometimes that means to comfort and to heal and other times that means to protect. I have four+ years of proof of that in Haiti. I don't want to forget what He's done. I want to remember that He has not changed. 

    God says: "Fear not." 

    That's what I am trying to do.  

    ~ tara

    Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)

    10 Fear not, for I am with you;
          Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
          I will strengthen you,
          Yes, I will help you,
          I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
    "Our God is not a God of safety. He does not promise to spare us difficulty. He promises to be present with us working out His holy purposes. He is not going to spare us. He is going to be with us."
    -John Casey

    Tuesday, November 02, 2010

    Happy Birthday Phoebe Joy


    We all remember the day we learned Phoebe would be joining our family. In some ways it seems like it was yesterday.  On that night we sat together praying that God would protect all of our hearts if anything happened that might prevent her from being legally adopted. There was much uncertainty surrounding the adoption process; the obstacles were plentiful. We missed the first ten weeks of her life, but she joined us in January 07' and has been with us ever since.


    Not only does she turn four today, but she will also officially become Phoebe Livesay (finally a real person on paper) in mid November when we appear before a judge in a Texas court.  It is the very last step in a long process to make Phoebe legally ours. We're very grateful for this answered prayer and so excited to see that judge and get our final stamp of approval!

    We are grateful that Phoebe is our daughter and we are eternally thankful for her first Momma who endured a long and difficult pregnancy in Cite Soleil in order to give this beautiful little girl life.

    HAPPY 4th BIRTHDAY Phoebe, you are loved!

    Monday, November 01, 2010

    National Adoption Month: Honoring First Families

    November is National Adoption Month.

    Creation Groans from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

    In July, friends wrote and shared these posts on the topic:

    To Adopt or not to Adopt (Christine Moers)
    A Vision Test - Transracial Adoption (Amie Sexton)
    Hindsight - More on Transracial Adoption (Amie Sexton)
    Adoption thoughts - (Kristen Howerton)
    Our post from July  (T & T)

    Adoption is not the only answer to the enormous orphan crisis; it is one piece of a the large puzzle.

    There are multiple ways to engage and respond: Read this for ideas.

    In recent months we've been reading a few blogs written by adult adoptees. Their feelings and experiences can often teach us how to be better parents, whether we agree or disagree with their opinions. 

    It is clear that as a society we've learned a lot about adoption and the loss involved over the last 30+ years.  People don't typically keep adoption a secret like they might have years ago. Open adoption is becoming more common. Hopefully we're recognizing more and more that being open and honest and allowing our children to feel things without fear of anything other than acceptance and understanding is important.  It seems like a lot more adoptive parents are going into adoption without the fairy-tale heroic ideas of what it means to adopt.

    Our Haitian kids will always (as long as their moms are alive and desire it) have a relationship with their first moms.  We recognize this is not possible for everyone. We were honestly very nervous about it at first, but only because we were insecure and did not know for certain how that would feel.  Risking relationship with them has been a beautiful thing for our kids, their first moms, and us. Even though there are some uncomfortable things about it, we want our kids to know that they are free to love these women with whom they are so deeply connected without threatening or damaging us.

    Troy and I recently shared our thoughts about honoring first families at a conference we attended. (Full disclosure: we are advocates of open adoption whenever it is possible.) It has troubled us to learn that some adoptive parents don't speak of their children's mothers with respect and love. We've heard people say, "But her mother abandoned her" or "His mother was an addict". While all of that could be true we humbly submit there are some other truths to consider.

    Consider N's story. N. lives among the poorest women in the world.  She daily struggles to figure out how to feed herself and her five children. She has been taken advantage of numerous times and is without support of family or friends. One day, desperate for food, N. sells herself for a dollar or two in order to provide food for her hungry children.  Six weeks later N. learns she is pregnant.  Twelve weeks after that N. tests positive for HIV.  Twenty-two weeks later she gives birth. Because she is desperately poor and the father of the baby not only gave her a son, he gave her AIDS; she places the baby for adoption.

    What should this little boy grow up hearing about his first mother?

    In a world that is totally broken and corrupt there is no way to understand the social, cultural, and economic structures that lead (and sometimes force) a woman to "abandon" her child.  It is naive to think that a woman with choices and support would walk up to a train station and leave her kid there with no other information. If Haiti has taught us anything, it is that things are rarely as they appear to be. Dozens of things we cannot see or understand from our cultural perspective are in play - and some of them are grievously unjust.  Even if you only know that your adopted child was left somewhere by their first mother, you can find a way to speak lovingly about her. Doing that will only serve to make your child feel more secure.

    Have you ever met a recovering addict?  They are almost always totally new people transformed and being redeemed.  Imagine if for 20 years any time the topic of your child's first mother came up you said, "Yes but she was high on drugs. She is addicted and has problems" -  what if your child's entire identity was built on thinking his or her mother was some sort of loser - would that be helpful? - and - can you be sure that the first mom has not been cleaned up and restored?  Is it fair to label a person for life with something they struggled with for a time?  Even if you are certain your adopted child was born to an addict, you can find a way to speak lovingly about her. Doing that will only serve to make your child feel more secure. She should be given the opportunity to change. Our words about her shouldn't taint the chance and hope of a future relationship between your child and their biological parent.

    Even when children are removed from abusive homes and placed into the system, they won't be helped by hearing from their foster or adoptive parents how horrible their mother or father was/is.  There are ways to be truthful and honest without constantly speaking only negatively about a child's first family.

    If you think about it, when any of us have a conflict with our parents or are upset we might say, "My dad ticks me off. What a jerk he was to me",  but if someone else walks up and says "Your dad is such a _____"  - we are instantly very protective.  We are bound to want to defend our own flesh and blood because we are a part of them.

    Many years ago one of my best friends placed her daughter for adoption. She did it out of sacrificial love. At the time she was struggling with substance abuse and unresolved trauma and she made the difficult decision to place her child.   I learned a lot from watching the effects the adoptive family's choices had on her and her grief over the years and it is mostly because of what I learned that we have sought relationships with Isaac, Hope, and Phoebe's mothers. As a parent I want everything I say and do to build my children up and to model the love of their Heavenly Father for them. Honoring their mother is one of the ways I can do that.

    I don't believe any mother in the universe gives up her child without pain.  I strongly believe that as an adoptive parent it is my job, my obligation-  to love, honor, and pray for the first mothers of my children. 

    I hope and pray that November 2010, National Adoption Month, will serve to bring more awareness to the orphan crisis. I hope awareness moves us to action. Adoption is one of the ways we can respond - and we believe it can be a redemptive and beautiful thing.  Along with that, though - we hope it brings awareness to the women in this world that are mothers who have lost their children, women that have been under supported and even exploited. They have suffered and they need our respect, support, love, and prayers.