Saturday, November 26, 2016

Liberia: An unlikely place?

My family moved to Liberia, West Africa on Sept. 4. When I started this blog in 2009, moving to a foreign country would not have entered my mind. How in the world did we end up here? That is a long, long story. But, here we are. And it is abundantly clear that love, love for God and others does lead to unlikely places.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

While we were waiting

Facebook has a new feature now that shows you things that happened on each day from years ago. This is what popped up for me today. Something I'm sure I would never have remembered writing, something that was completely over shadowed by one of those life changing moments just five days later. I didn't know that Habakkuk would go to his grandfather's funeral. I didn't know that he would be one of the victims of the cholera outbreak in his village with no clean water. Just five days after I wrote this little note to the sons I had never met, I didn't know our little boy would died. 
While we are waiting

I believe our boy is over malaria. However, while he was getting treatment in Monrovia, their grandpa died. Both boys were staying with the pastor that is overseeing their care. The relatives decided that the grandma can't continue to care for the boys alone, so they are now with a foster family. I don't know many details at all. I imagine the benefit is that the pastor is closer and will be able to see them more. But, really, my heart is sad because our boys have lost the only family they know. They don't know there is a mommy and a daddy across the ocean who love them and pray for them. They don't know they have sisters and a brother who talk about them often and wonder what it will be like to have new brothers.

My dear, precious boys,

You are loved. You are wanted. You have a home.
You are not abandoned. We will come for you.
Sleep with peace, play with joy, and smile with hope.

And, as I pray over all my children,
May God shine His face on you and be gracious to you.
May He turn His face towards you and give you peace.
May you love God with all your heart and soul and strength.
May you love Him forever and follow Him all you days.
And may He send His angels to watch over you to guard your heart, your mind and your body.
In Jesus' name.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

It's Christmas time again and you're not home...

Lyrics from Third Day's song "Merry Christmas"

But half a world away I hang
The stockings by the fire
And dream about the day
When I can finally call you mine
It's Christmas time again but you're not home
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone
So tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in His arms
And tell you from my heart, I wish you a Merry Christmas
Every year for the past 5 years I've gone through this gut wrenching struggle of preparing for another Christmas season with the realization that it's another Christmas without Michael. And every year I can't stop myself from thinking...maybe next year. 
I sometimes wish we didn't hang up his stocking, again. But, it's a tradition now. He has his own box for the ornaments I faithfully add to his collection every year. 
This year it's really hard. Mark and I have several dear friends that will have their adopted children home by Christmas this year. And with all my heart I want to celebrate with them. I really do. I wish I could, without thinking about myself, and my little boy, who isn't so little anymore, and the hopes and dreams I've had for him. And how precious the memories of being with him are.

Friday, September 5, 2014

I love adoption too, but...

I just watched the most beautiful video about a wonderful family that has adopted kids from all over the world with various special needs. It was inspiring. It was touching. It was bittersweet. I love adoption too, but my story looks so different from what I thought it would.

I thought five years ago when we bought a bigger house and an eight passenger van that we would walk through the challenging process of adoption and begin an adventure of being an adoptive family. I thought when I bought letter stickers and put them over the bunk beds we set up for the little boys I was sure would come soon that I would tuck them in those beds someday. I have changed the sized of the clothes in the dresser more times than I can count as I pack the things to bring to my son in Liberia over and over again.

There are days I give up hope that he will ever come to live with us. There are times I stop praying. My heart just says, "God, You know."

And I live between the memories of seeing him and the dreams of seeing him again. I cherish the moments of holding him while he slept, of cuddling with him, seeing his eyes light up to see me. Even the regular things like preparing a plate of food for him or helping him get dressed. I am grateful that I have a "history" with him, the "remember when" moments. One of the most wonderful and most painful times ever was when Mark and I gave Michael a birthday party. I actually brought a chocolate cake in my carry on. Crazy, I know. I brought balloons and candles. We sang happy birthday and he blew out candles. All the children shared the cake. When it was over, Mark held me as we walked and I sobbed over all the birthdays we had missed.

Adoption. A word with so much emotion. So many stories. I never would have chosen this one for me. I can't imagine what my life would have looked like without it.

"Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers any more. Only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal." C.S. Lewis

At first I didn't think I could go to Liberia because I didn't know if I could bear meeting a little boy I loved so much and leave him. What I didn't realize was the greater challenge was having a little boy love me and break his heart when I left him. I didn't see that one coming. Was the love we shared worth the pain it caused us? I was a grown up, I chose the pain, but he was a child. Was it fair to him? I had to believe that the joy was worth the pain, for both of us. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Michael

The date of Michael's birthday on our paperwork is Nov. 6. There is no way of knowing how close that date is to the day he was born, but I guess we don't really know what day Jesus was born and we celebrate His birthday Dec. 25th.

This year, Mark and I were in Liberia together in Nov. and we wanted to celebrate Michael's birthday with him. I actually packed a small chocolate cake in my carry on for the occasion along with balloons and candles.

The plan was to have the birthday party as soon as Mark arrived and before our other friends left, but it didn't work out that day, or the next day, and the days kept going. Finally, it was the last day before we left. It was today or not at all, it was then that I realized how much I didn't really want to have this birthday party. Mark lead the way, brought the kids in, lit the candles, sang the song. I took pictures and tried not to cry.

After the little party, Mark and I walked and I wept. The party just reminded me of all the birthday I had missed. And all the years we had missed together. And the pain of loving someone and leaving them so many times.

The next day we packed up our things to go to the airport. I gave candy to everyone at the guest house so they wouldn't cry as we drove away. We took Michael with us to the airport. I had one more gift for him. A electronic phonics game. The kind of gift you get when your mom is a teacher, I guess. I took it out shortly before we got to the airport so I could teach him how to us it. My hope was that it would comfort and distract him on the drive back after we left.

We arrived at the airport, brought our bags to the terminal door and said, "Until I see you next time". I caught the look of pain on Michael's face before Oretha led him back to the truck. I broke his heart again. It's one thing to endure my own pain at leaving again. But, it is almost unbearable to know the pain I am causing him. I try to remember what C. S. Lewis said about the joy now is part of the pain later. It's because of the love and joy we share that parting is so agonizing.

I think I'm glad that we shared Michael's 9th birthday with him. I hope that it is a warm and happy memory for him. I really have no idea what the future holds. I choose to keep my hands open before God and trust Him. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

4th Anniversary of Loss of Habakkuk

 Since Habakkuk's death, almost 100 new wells and repaired wells have benefited about 40 community, providing water to 1000's of people. The ave. estimate is 1000 people benefit from each well. Only heaven knows how many children's lives have been saved from cholera, diarrhea and other water borne illnesses.

In Moses Quinah Town, not one child has died since the well went in there nearly two years ago.

Last year, over 400 people responded to the Gospel message.

Teamwork Africa has expanded to medical outreach, agriculture projects, micro loans, child sponsorship, building a school, scholarship for education, pastoral support and training. Our newest outreach is SMART women, which will protect young women in Liberia from sexual exploitation.

None of this would have happened without Habakkuk's life being intertwined with ours.  Jesus says in John 12:24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels--a plentiful harvest of new lives. NLT

Habukkuk's death has produced "a plentiful harvest of new lives".

This is not the road we would have chosen. This isn't the plan we had for our life. But, God is always good. He had something better planned for us and the people He so loved. The journey continues to be painful. Our hearts are broken frequently. Yet, there is deep joy in this journey.

I believe that it is God's plan to redeem every broken heart. To bring beauty for ashes. To bring hope out of despair. He is faithful and He will do it. We can trust Him. He is always, always good.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Not The Road I would Choose

Today I was subbing in 4th grade. The students were just finishing a read aloud called Mary On Horseback by Rosemary Wells. "In 1923, there were no doctors or hospitals in the isolated mountains of Appalachia. Then Mary Breckinridge came. Trained as a nurse, she made the Appalachians her life's work-fording icy streams and climbing untracked mountains to bring medical help to those in need."

Mary Breckinridge married as a young woman and her husband died. She remarried and had two babies that both died and then her second husband died. She was in despair. But, out of that despair she decided to become a nurse and go to those who needed help. She wanted to save children since she knew the pain of losing her own.

As I'm reading the end of this story, I am barely holding my voice steady. Then when the book is finished, little Libby in the front row says, "You are like her aren't you, Mrs. Halvorsen? " Yeah, I said. I reminded those who maybe had forgotten about the little boy I lost to cholera and how I wanted to save the other children in the villages. I didn't do a very good job with my emotions this time. I ended class 5 minutes early.

This isn't the road I would choose for me, but it still feels right somehow.

So this is what it feels like to walk the wilderness
This is what it feels like to come undone
This is what it feels like to lose my confidence
Unsure of anything or anyone

So this is what it feels like to walk the desert sand
This is what it feels like to hear my name
To be scared to death ’cause I’m all alone
But feel love and peace just the same
This may not be the road I would choose for me
But it still feels right somehow
And I have never felt You as close to me as I do right now
So this is what it feels like to be led
So this is what it feels like to just fall apart
To be totally unglued
To find out that if I accept my brokenness
I get more of me, I get all of You
And this may not be the road I would choose for me
But it still feels right somehow
I have never felt You as close to me as I do right now
So this is what it feels like to be led
So this is what it feels like to just walk away
From everything I thought kept me safe
To depend just on You for every meal
And find that it’s better this way
Oh, it’s better this way
This may not be the road I would choose for me
But it still feels right somehow
And I have never felt You as close to me as I do right now
Like I do right now
This may not be the road I would choose for me
But it still feels right somehow
And I have never felt You as close to me as I do right now
So this is what it feels like to be led
This is what it feels like to be led
So this is what it feels like”
What it feels like – by FFH