Document your loves, leave pieces everywhere, so the world will know

A few days late, but here’s to a wonderful 2015 to come!

“Another year older, another year wiser, a few heartaches fuller, and thankful that He collects my tears, so they don’t drown my heart here on earth.” ~ Laura

Well, we have officially spent 393 days waiting for an official referral from Haiti’s IBESR. This computes to 1 year and 28 days, or, 9432 hours, or 565,920 minutes, or 33,955,200 seconds… 33,955,201…33,955,202…

I feel like an eternally broken record – every time I post I say “not yet, still waiting”… and each time we feel we are SO CLOSE!

I’ll be honest, I was going to write a Christmas letter the week before Christmas and thought “I’ll wait till Christmas just in case we get a Christmas miracle!” Then, Christmas Day I thought “I’ll wait till New Years’ Day just in case…” This morning I realized everyone is going to start asking sooner or later why they haven’t heard anything, so figured I’d better just get it over with.

“Nothing yet. Prayerfully soon.”

Ok. Here’s where we stand at the moment – the good news is things are still progressing, there were more referrals in the months of October – December issued from IBESR than I can count – mostly because I stopped keeping track! This is a wonderful thing, because for most of 2014 referrals coming out of Haiti had been at a virtual standstill. Sept – Dec saw a whirlwind of movement that got all the adopting families rallied and encouraged – bringing hope to a seemingly hopeless situation. Our biggest prayer now is that things continue to move in the same manner moving into the new year. Things have a tendency to get off to an extremely slow start after a long vacation for the IBESR and most of their offices have been on break for over 2 weeks. They are now open and functioning again, however rumor has it the Director and Assistant Director (the only two people in the organization with the power of BALLPOINT PENS to sign files and release referrals) are on extended vacation until middle of next week (January 14th/15th). Our agency is not expecting anyone’s referrals to be issued at anytime before that point.

Our file in particular made great strides and movement after being “stuck” in IBESR for 2 months waiting to be released to the Children’s Judge for a signature. (Children’s Judge as far as we can tell is an external courts system/person of power who signs for the parental relinquishment of the child – someone please feel free to correct me if this is wrong!) In early December, our file was FINALLY released to the orphanage representative to hand-carry to the Children’s Judge! (Praise the LORD!!) The average wait for this signature is 30 days. The agency expects our file to be with the Children’s Judge until mid-January and then it will be sent back to the IBESR for final Director Signature. As soon as we receive the final IBESR Director signature we will receive our official referral. They are “guess”-timating a time-frame of another 30 days to receive that signature, putting our (purely guesswork) ETA on referral to mid-February.

Once we receive and accept our referral, we will be given the option to schedule travel dates, which will most likely happen within 2-4 weeks of our referral – so very quickly. I will be scheduling our family’s recommended vaccinations shortly (much to the terror of our kids!) but we definitely want to be prepared!

Prayer requests related to adoption at this point are:

1. For movement to continue in the snowballing manner that 2014 ended with!

2. For our file to be released back to IBESR this week in order to be waiting on the Director’s desks when they return!

3. For Director to sign our file and release our referral

THANK YOU FOR WAITING FOR THIS UPDATE & FOR JOINING US IN PRAYER!!

Now, on to our “New Years” family “letter” 🙂 – the fun part, where you get to laugh with us, cry with us, and stare at pictures of how big our kids have grown in the last 12 months!

2014 feels like it flew by at times, and other times dragged on like we were being pulled by our big toes through desert brush in nothing but a loin cloth. We started the year out hopeful and excited for adoption movement, which quickly turned sour in our mouths as the carrot-on-a-string dangled ever further from our mouths as we simply tried to keep moving. We shed many tears of frustration, had it out a few times with God, and then came to a breakthrough point in the late Spring. We realized that it wasn’t fair to our children to continue living only moment to moment waiting for the telephone to ring! We had been putting so much of life on hold sitting on the brink of insanity just waiting for the next thing to happen!

We really felt a release for our family that even though this new child was what God was bringing to our lives – He had already given us a life to live in the meantime and that we were wasting so much time sitting and waiting (completely in denial of the life around us, rather like a little child dancing around frantically saying “no, I don’t have to pee, I don’t have to pee!”) that we were missing all of the memories that we could be busy making as a family DURING the wait.

Anyways – all that to say, it really changed our family’s experience with the wait, and the next 9 months of the year was a different experience!

Our girls started dancing again, auditioning for and making the Performance group team of dancers at their studio. They were able to perform several times over the holidays around the city, and even had a very memorable (and very WET) outdoor performance at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, OR. They love dance, being creative and using music and performance to express themselves!

Braeden took a new turn late summer and started playing Baseball again, which he ended up loving – he’s our all-sport kid for sure! Kris helped coach his fall ball team, and then he loved it so much that we enrolled him in a Baseball Training program that began in the fall and rolls on through the spring into the next season of Baseball. In addition to baseball, he’s also playing basketball with Kris coaching – needless to say our weeknights are one long taxi ride.

I know it seems like I skipped summer, but really – nothing happened. We spent almost the entire summer sitting around here – playing outside, swimming at the local outdoor pool/athletic club, we had a few major injuries that seemed to happen right around when we were supposed to make a trip – which threw a wrench in travel plans! Abby took a big fall 4th of July weekend and ended up in a lip-lock with the sidewalk, road-rash up the face, and bad leg/knee skin abrasions, which ended up getting infected and putting her on crutches (which she refused to use, so we didn’t go anywhere for a week! LOL – of course now that she’s not “required” to use them, the kids play with them for dress-up and house almost daily). In August, a rolled ankle for Kris got him laid up for a week, but then got an infection in the joint (???? medically unexplainable…) which gave him another 2-weeks bedrest, knocking us out of the running for our annual extended family camping trip at Ike Kinswa State Park! I ended up taking the kids out for a day-trip to see family and hike around, but our one summer weekend vacation was nixed! 🙂

(It’s okay, honey, I’m not bitter!!)

September finally rolled on through and we were back into the coveted school routine – our family THRIVES on routine and schedules! Fall sports and dance schedules kept (and keep) us busy during the week and on weekends we CRASH (after any games or performances…) October was a frenzy of pumpkins and halloween party decorating – see the photo for our “Pumpkin Rivalry” between my Washington State Husky kids and my Oregon State Beavers diehards! 🙂

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November flew by so fast we had barely gotten up the fall decor when we rushed out the door to Sun River for our bi-annual extended family trip with Kris’ family. Halfway through our drive, we had an offer accepted on an empty build able lot about a mile away from our current (leased) home! Our plan is to build a “forever” home for the next 10+ years. (WHEW!) We are finalizing the house plans at the moment, and will be breaking ground on our building project in late February or early March of this year!  Projected completion of our new home will be late June/early July – which means a summer move in! We are very excited, apprehensive, and at times stressed out as this is very new ground for us to cover – and we are designing ourselves! Here’s a photo of our homesite (complete with God-designed sunset!):

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It was our prayer over the past year that God would provide us permanent housing before Little Man comes home from Haiti, and this building project fits the bill! We are so grateful for His provision, for His design for our family, and for His adventurous story that He so lovingly creates for every single one of us!

10 adults, 10 kids under the age of 12 (“20 is Plenty”) in the same house for 5 days…great fun, wonderful family, priceless memories! When we got back, we rushed out to get a Christmas tree, as we were hosting an early Christmas gathering 4 days later! (where did fall go?????)

Fast forward and we hit Christmas-time like freshly waxed skis on a steep downhill run! (I’ve never skied a downhill run but it terrifies me – which is kind of how December felt!)

We got to see family consistently throughout December, which was wonderful, especially because the week before Christmas, my grandma’s hospice nurse let the family know that she had about a week left with us. Her health had been on the decline for years, and every time over the past couple years the docs would give us a “I think she’s close” message, Grandma would pull through and surprise us all – becoming the loving joke among us all that she would pull through every time and each time they said “It’s getting close” we would laugh and say “she’ll probably pull through and surprise us all!”

This Christmas was different, she was definitely past the point of “pulling through” and while we all gathered up at our annual family Christmas gathering we all knew that it was close. She had lived with my Aunt and Uncle and their family for several years, with constant support and care from them and their family on a daily basis. Years of their lives and countless moments of time spent caring for and loving her through all her ups and downs emotionally and health-wise.

I selfishly prayed her through Christmas, that she would make it to be able to see all of the family members that were making extra trips to stay with her and check in, to say they loved her and say goodbye in their own way. She pulled through Christmas just barely, and I really don’t think she would have wanted it any other way – family and friends surrounded her heart always – she was an inspiration to everyone!

Yesterday, January 6th, 2015 was my middle daughter’s 11th birthday, and it was also the day that Grandma went home to see Jesus. She has waited a very long time to be reunited with her husband, and I can’t imagine her being any happier than I know she is now.

Last night, I spent a few hours gathering with my family, sharing memories over a glass of wine, laughing, crying, just relishing the moment of closeness and intimacy that death can bring among a family like mine. For many death is a darkness, it is an unknown and a terrifying mystery. To Grandma it was a release, a journey to uncharted waters that left her breathless at times, knowing that she was so close to being united forever with her Savior. What impressed me most about my evening, was the incredible legacy she left behind – in the obvious lives of her family, but in a surprising tangible way.

At my Aunt’s home, Grandma had an office and bedroom/bath suite of sorts that was hers and hers alone. She was a talented writer, hundreds of articles, a book, blogs, etc. She was also a keeper and documenter of things, memories, photos, cards, hand-written letters, news clippings, anything that might mean something to her or may mean something to someone else some day – or simply something that reminded her of someone she loved.

Over the years, we all knew of and respected Grandma’s space, and very few of us ventured in for anything other than being invited or a quick hello. It almost felt like a violation of privacy, like rummaging through someone’s drawers!

Last night, as the family gathered, those doors were opened and we all got to fully experience the tangible legacy she left us. There were probably over 30 thick photo albums (with hundreds of snapshots with handwritten captions) shelves upon shelves of writing, news clippings, mementos, scores of snapshots of family and friends covered the walls. Over her 80+ years of life here on earth she had stolen moments to document every single person she loved. The world looking in couldn’t possibly have any questions as to who was important in her life at any given time. Pages upon pages she wrote describing each of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, their likes, dislikes, personalities, and what she visioned of their lives developing over time. She took photos and labeled them – for seemingly EVER – she left pieces of her life intertwined and intermingled with every memory she left behind.

In the digital world of today her room was like a time capsule of life – pages to hold, handwriting to decipher, notes and cards received and lovingly saved and catalogued so she wouldn’t ever forget how important the sender was.

It made me realize how important our lives are – to us but also to those we leave behind. When I leave this world – I want to know without a doubt that there won’t be any question that the people, friends and family in my life were loved beyond measure. I want to document my loves, leave pieces of my heart everywhere like sticky-note captions on snapshots, so everyone in my world will know they were loved.

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Enjoy the photos of our family, I’m fighting the urge to order tangible photo prints of the 80,000 digital images on my hard drive from the past 12 years…my documenting and leaving of pieces is going to be my project this year 🙂

Happy 2015 – we covet your prayers and are so grateful for your friendship!

Abby's Gingerbread-making at school

Abby’s Gingerbread-making at school

Braeden's Christmas cookie :)

Braeden’s Christmas cookie 🙂

Braeden's middle school project that turned into a full cast including two best friends, and four siblings! This photo shows Braeden, Logan, and Abby (as an Ewok) in full costume ready to start filming :)

Braeden’s middle school project that turned into a full cast including two best friends, and four siblings! This photo shows Braeden, Logan, and Abby (as an Ewok) in full costume ready to start filming 🙂

Lincoln City, OR has "float fairies" that hide gorgeous hand-blown glass floats at the shoreline for tourists to find & keep! Today, we went to look for floats, and we FOUND ONE...(okay so it's not hand blown)

Lincoln City, OR has “float fairies” that hide gorgeous hand-blown glass floats at the shoreline for tourists to find & keep! Today, we went to look for floats, and we FOUND ONE…(okay so it’s not hand blown)

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Lincoln City, Or

Lincoln City, Or

Kris, Braeden, Logan & Abby

Kris, Braeden, Logan & Abby

Kris got this fortune at Panda Express in his cookie... we are thinking this is a great way to start 2015! Haiti, HERE WE COME!

Kris got this fortune at Panda Express in his cookie… we are thinking this is a great way to start 2015! Haiti, HERE WE COME!

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