Naomi and Ruth

Naomi and Ruth

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What 9 years has taught me

We celebrated Andrew's "would-have-been" 9th birthday quietly as a family of 5 tonight. Last weekend, special friends treated us to a night at Erie Speedway, which we enjoyed immensely, as we celebrated Andrew's birthday this year. I never am quite sure what emotion to have on days like this.  Honestly, I enjoy the special moments that his "birth"day held 9 years ago. The time we spent with him, while surreal, was precious. I can't identify the stage of grief I experienced that first day, but I remember not feeling so sad about his short life, but rather missing my sister's wedding. I remember sharing with one of my labor nurses that my sister was getting married (today) and she answered "I'm sorry". I was truly broken that I missed the big day that she'd dreamed of for so long, but I felt there was some special connection in our special days. Last night, I enjoyed talking with my sister, Michelle, for a couple hours. Actually, unintentionally, we talked right up until 20 minutes before our baby Andrew was born 9 years ago.  I am still sad I missed her wedding day 9 years  ago, but I was right, there is a special connection because of the way we share July 27. I am even more sad that Michelle now understands even more personally the emotions we experienced that day, and in the time to follow. Our Jesus is holding our precious babies in His arms! I love you, Michelle (and Happy 9th Anniversary)!!

I've always been one to want to plan my future...I think it's my natural female tendency. To want to anticipate when we'll get married (and to whom), to know where we'll raise our children, and to know exactly the number of children we will raise. After we lost Andrew, I realized I had NO control over what I wanted to have control over. That was a VERY hard thing for me to grasp. I mean, naturally, who would want to give up the life of their first child?! Not me!! The next years to follow, held two miscarriages, and many months of trying to conceive. There are so many lessons God taught me in that time, I could never tell them all here. But  I know God opened my heart to adoption in that time. Only one month after Andrew's death, we got guardianship over a little girl that was very dear to our hearts. We had hoped to adopt her even before Andrew was born. We dreamt of raising them together at the time.  Even after the crushing blow of his death, we still strongly desired to adopt Allie as our own. We were fortunate to have nearly one year with her in our home, before the courts changed their decision.

As we were still grieving our son's death, and a miscarriage, adjusting to a move 5 hours away, and then losing her from our home at the same time, I was in a very deep, dark depression.  At the time I was not comforted by the scripture in Romans 8 that says "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God who are called according to His purpose". Deep down, I believed it, but I confess, it was NOT comforting to me at the time. It's taken me years to realize what Paul meant when he wrote it. He didn't mean 'all things are good because you love God'. But he did mean "MY God will cause things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." It is different.

It doesn't take the pain of losing a child, or 4 children away. We will always have a void in our hearts where our children would have been/should  be. But looking on our experiences, now from this side, I can see how God has worked things for His good. Oh, I can still justify to God how He could have taught me these lessons while still preserving my children's lives. But there are still truths that I don't and won't see until I get to Heaven. God knows what we are capable of learning now, and just like I do with my children, there are things I just know as their mother, they aren't yet ready to learn. So for that I am thankful. For the lessons God is protecting me from knowing, yet...

I don't remember what first drew my heart and Jason's heart toward adoption. At first, I think it was our love for our Allie. But God still chose to say "no" to us at that time. Even though heartbroken from that experience, we still chose to begin the process to become foster parents. We walked that road for several years. We always had hoped to adopt, assuming that would be the avenue that would lead us to our child. But again, God said "no". Oh, we didn't understand it, and it was painful, but I am so glad we were obedient!  Through the years of trying to get pregnant, only to miscarry again and again, we seriously looked into adoption agencies. We had gotten close enough to choose an agency and begin our application, when God filled my womb with another baby! We felt God told us "no" at that time, too. Our Jacob is now 5 1/2, and we realize everyday how blessed we are!

God wasn't really telling us "no" all those times. He was saying "nope, not this child, not those children, but WAIT...wait on my timing!" Why is that such a painful lesson to learn??!! Again, it's the same thing a loving parent does for their children. I want to teach my children to trust me, so I don't always give them all the details at first, but oh, if they will only wait..the reward is waiting! Looking back now, I can chuckle at my own impatience.  We are so blessed to also have Isaac, 4, and Daniel, 2. Not to leave out our newest son who is scheduled to arrive at Christmas this year!!!

In March of this year, after 10 years of feeling led to adoption, God made it clear to us that this is His appointed time for our family. We are so thankful that we were obedient to His timing, even though it didn't always make sense to us, and even though the waiting was HARD! We are so thankful for the girls God has chosen clearly for our family. We long for the day that we can bring Ruth and Naomi home, and tuck them in bed with kisses at night. But AGAIN, we are told to wait...Oh, it's not easy. (Even as I write this, I'm reminded of the truths, I believe, but I struggle with!)

We are moving forward with paperwork, but it feels monumental at times. We are ready now to bring them home, but there's work to be done, and I trust there are more lessons for me to learn as we wait.  Oh, I am anxious to report from the other side once again!!!

Please pray for our family, as this journey never promised to be easy.....and it's not!
Thank you, Lord for the confidence that You'll carry us through!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday Baby Girls

We have tried as a family to make today special as we honored our daughters' first birthday together...without them. As we made cupcakes together we discussed frosting them pink (a new color in our house of 3 sons!). We practiced teaching the boys some of the words Ruth and Naomi are learning. We practiced counting in French, and saying the alphabet. It seemed very simple for the boys, and it was great that they've already learned some words in Spanish- it made it so much easier to explain that our sisters are learning a diferent language, too. (Thank you to Mrs. Whitling and Seniora Crawford!)

We made a special new menu for dinner and set places for all 3 of our new babies coming.  I predict the boys will be experts in addition as much as they repeat 3+3=6 and 5+2=7, and 3 boys +2 girls+1 more=6.  We really had a good day as a family, remembering Ruth and Naomi's birthday.  Each one of us prayed specifically for them after we sang 'Happy Birthday'. I am very impressed at what the older 2 boys seem to understand, and it excites me to see them excited.

But as I was trying to carefully explain that they might have another birthday before they get to come home, Jacob questioned me, "I thought you said they would only have one birthday before we brought them home".
This broke my heart. I had forgotten that before we left for Haiti, we were explaining the length of the process and what to expect when we returned. I was fearing they would expect us to return with a baby, so we prepared them that our baby would have a birthday before he or she got to come home with us. Tonight I stopped in my tracks as he innocently asked that, not understanding why it would take so long.

Honestly, there's a lot I don't undestand as to why it takes so long. It has been something I've tried my best to accept and respect without questioning, but today it feels like it's going to take forever. It's been a hard week for me. Knowing that their birthday has been approaching, and feeling like we aren't moving forward right now at all has had me fighting depression. I trust that God's timing is perfect and He has already had this whole time schedule planned even before we met our girls, but I admit, I never realized the difficulties that we would experience dealing with two different cultures.

I have been praying that we will be able to bring them home BEFORE their birthday next year, and after his comment, I will continue to pray specifically for that! Please, would you join me in praying for this week? That we would make the contacts necessary and that we would make progress on this journey.

We have felt so loved by each one of you, and we appreciate the support you have each given. We know we will  continue to need ears and shoulders of friends like you along the way. Thank you for being a friend, like Jesus calls us to be!

.......And Happy 1st Birthday Ruth and Naomi!!! We love you so much! We miss your beautiful smiles, your silly giggles, and your glowing eyes! We can't wait for you to meet your older brothers! They are so excited to meet you!! They have so much to teach you, and they want to protect you, like big brothers should. We are anxious to learn about fairies and princesses, to learn more Creole, and to eat Haitian food more often. We can't wait to teach you how to throw a baseball, how to jump a ramp with your bike, and how to climb trees (even in a skirt). You are loved! We want you know to that, and we are so anxious to hold you tight again!

Your mommy!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ruth and Naomi

Ruth and Naomi are names that were given to them by the "moms" that care for them everyday now til we bring them home. We had given a lot of thought to names before we met our girls. We wanted to incorporate their given names, without knowing what they would be, but still wanted to make them our own. It took quite a while to learn what they were because of the launguage barrier. I could ask "what's her name?" But I couldn't understand their answer. They say Ruth "Yoot" (at least that's how it sounds to my ears).  Immediately when we learned the girls' names we fell in love with the names they already had. So all our thoughts about names didn't matter, because they choose such perfect names, we couldn't have chosen better ourselves. In that moment, I still wished I knew what they meant, since we've always enjoyed knowing the meaning of our childrens' names.  I knew I'd wish I had my baby name book along so I could look up meanings of names. But of course, I didn't have it along. As I talked to my sister, Michelle, in the airport she reminded me that Ruth means friend/companion. And now I've learned that Naomi means my joy/my delight. God couldn't have planned them more perfectly!

We chose to give them new middle names to make them personal to our family. We've named them Ruth Elizabeth and Naomi Hope. Now we long for the day their last names will be Dunkleberger!

Ruth and Naomi were born July 10, 2010. They will be one yr old this Sunday. I wish we could celebrate with them, but we will celebrate as a family here. While we pray hoping they will get to be with us by their second birthday! I ask that you pray that expectantly with us!

They were born in the mountians of Haiti 9-10 hours away from Port Au Prince. For a country the size of Vermont, that's a long, slow drive! They were born premature, but we will likely never know how early, or how much they weighed at birth. We do know that Ruth was born first, and they were born at home. I broke into tears when I learned this. Here in the US they would have been hospitalized with 24/7 medical attention. At this point, it appears that they are both right on track developmentally. Naomi has nearly mastered crawling, as she can combat crawl anywhere, and loves to rock on her hands and knees. Ruth still seems scooting contently on her bottom, but loves exercizing her legs. They are tiny little miracles, but they love to eat. They are being fed formula, and regular (Haitian) table food. When I weighed them (on an uncalibrated scale) Ruth weighed 13 lbs, and Naomi 12 lbs. I'm not sure if that is exact, but it's close. They remind me of our boys' sizes around 4-6 weeks, but they move around like a 9-10 month old. If you can't imagine, just picture tiny, beautiful, adorable twin girls- and you're right on track!

Their lives are a miracle. God certainly was watching over thier lives! I am confident God has plans for their future. We are humbled to have a role in their lives and upbringing. Please pray for our wisdom as we have the priviledge to raise them.  But also pray for patiencce and perseverance as we wait these dreaded months, and face mountains of paperwork ahead!

Haiti- Part 2

My God is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that is in us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
--Ephesians 3:20-21

Haiti was a stretch for me. I learned years ago, that God takes us out of our comfort zone to mold our hearts to be used where He wants us. I am humbled to experience God teaching me the way He did this past week.
Here are a few ways I was stretched beyond my comfort zone, but God showed up far more abundantly than I could ever ask or think every time!
1.  Going to a third world country while pregnant was a concern of mine--but God allowed me to be confident that I felt my baby moving, for the first times this past week!

2.  I had asked for prayer concerning my Crohn's, knowing I'd be eating foods that were out of my control---God prevented me from feeling ANY ill symptoms all week!

3.  I hate bug bites. We were warned there'd be mosquitos, lots of them, inside and out, day and night. They were right--But God gave us wisdom in Off and a little Deet day and night, on skin and sheets makes all the difference in the world!

4.  It was hot. Very hot, with no escaping the heat--God provided spf 45, and no sunburn to complain about.

5.  I was concerned about dehydrating, amidst travelling and the heat while pregnant--God provided Culligan, even in Haiti. Even warm water is hydrating, and I experienced very little swelling.

6.  We were told there'd only be cold water to shower--God made even cold water refreshing in the heat we were in.

7.  We touched sickness, from viral symptoms, to respiratory infections, to skin diseases, to GI problems--God allowed each of us to return healthy with His healing touch.

8.  It was my first experience with a language barrier as strong as we were in. It was very rare for someone to know even a little English--God allowed us to build relationships with a couple interrpretors, and my high school french came back to be more and more each day.

9.  We went with the expectation that we would adopt one child--God made it VERY clear He had chosen two for us to call our own!

Ok, I admit, I saved the last one for last :) It's impossible to explain the way God worked in my heart and Jason's heart this week. There were emotions we never experienced before and didn't expect. We were introduced to Ruth and Naomi, along with all the kids that live in their home on our first day in country. We had longed for twins when we started the process to adopt, but thought it was out of our league since we are pregnant. It was an emotional battle, but we ruled them out initially because we thought we couldn't handle two more. But every day we were drawn back to them, and felt God leading our hearts. I'm ashamed to say, we considerd separating them for a short time. We were given permission and dismissal to choose only one, but that felt like an impossible task. I couldn't imagine it, even though it was explained that it would make the other sister more adoptable. The logic made sense for a short time, but God didn't let it rest in our hearts.
I knew I needed wisdom that was beyond us, so I cried out to God to give us His wisdom and show us clearly the specific child He had for us! As I quietly read the book of Ruth, it was clear that Ruth refused to leave Naomi's side, even when she was given permission, even when it could have made sense for her young life.  In Ruth 1:16 she clearly said "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God my God."

I finally had peace. It was clear there was no way we could separate them. But I knew God had to tell Jason the same thing. We were separated a few days because of the different projects we were working on, so talking privately wasn't easy. I prayed with 2 groups of people that God would unite our hearts and make the decision clear to both of us. When we finally had a chance to step away after dinner, there was nothing to really discuss, God had already settled it in both of our hearts, that even though the task is God sized, we are confident He will equip us for the responsibility He has called us to. To be mom and dad to 6 children! We are blessed beyond we could ask or think! Praise God for life and life abundant!!

Hait- part 1- Where to start?!

One week ago today we were adjusting to the tired feeling of travel, just like I feel now. However, there was a 'world' of differences. Literally. A different world. We saw broken hearts and I felt a broken heart. The poverty in Haiti is indescribable. We felt so insignificant in our mission of the week. Our plans were flexible going in, knowing we were going as a team to show Christ's love to the Haitian people, children specifically.

On Sunday, we arrived in Port Au Prince. After just being in 3 US airports, it took some adjusting to my eyes and mind just standing in the airport and going through customs. The drive to the house was....well, unless you experience it yourself, there's no way I can explain it. The roads and the Haitian driving is a culture all it's own. Then later that afternoon we drove (again) to the children's home. We held babies and loved on them, giving them a few fun toys, and lots of hugs. The kids just craved the touch and attention. It melted my heart. This is the first time we got to meet Ruth and Naomi, but had no idea at the time what God was calling us to (more about that later).

Then on Monday, we all went to another larger children's home. The children had only been there for 2 weeks, after being found in a garbage heap in a tent. The 56 kids in this home were starved for touch and attention. We brought lots and lots of toys, games, and trickets to hand out. The kids loved it! It might have been the only toys they had. We spent the day there just loving on the kids and playing with them. We noticed a lot of them were sick. SICK. It did stretch my comfort zone. Without running water to wash my hands or anyone else's for that matter, I admit, I was stretched. I was amazed at how comforted I felt at God's assurance that they needed loved by receiving hugs and playing with them, or rubbing their backs as they layed on a cool floor, more than I needed to worry about what germs I might be contacting. And I'll add that I'm not surprised that God prevented our entire group from catching any sickness this week! Our God is big!

Tuesday, our group split up as a few of us went to the smaller home where Ruth and Naomi live. The rest of the group returned to the larger one, to build bunk beds for the children, to work at building a form to pour a concrete cover over their well, and to give love and medical attention to the kids. Jason was in charge of the bunk bed plans, and he did a fabulous job. Getting the materials was the hardest part, since we were dealing with "Haitian time". That was another culture shock, but the job got accmplished by the end of our week.

Wednesday, we drove to Canaan, Haiti's largest tent city. Since the earthquake 17 months ago, there are over 500,000 people living in this tent city. And we saw several other smaller tent cities in our travels. I expected the people to be standoffish since all the media and white people have come to "help" them in the past, but they are still no closer to finding permanent homes. But, I was wrong, the kids just flocked to us, and followed everywhere we went.

I, personally had a different experience from the rest of our group. A medical team from Buffalo, NY came on Tues to join our group. The dentist needed help, and when I was asked if I knew of a dental assistant, I said "no"....then was hesitant to say, "I'm a hygienist". Anyway, God changed my unwilling heart to a willing one, and I was able to pracitce dental hygiene in a third world country, speaking no Creole at all! Thankfully Stanley was there to help interpret! It was heartbeaking to realize how grateful the Haitian people were for the care.

Later in the week, we had the opportunity to visit a beach resort. We drove about 17 miles in 2 hours to get there, which was the farthest we travelled all week. It felt wrong to be there after what we'd seen all week. It felt like we were in a different country. Strange to say my first (and probably only) view of the Carribbean was from Haiti. It was beautiful. We also were able to take the girls along with us for the experience, which was awesome! On the drive out, we also stopped at the mass grave from the earthquake. It was a sobering experience. Over 1 million people are burried there. It made me sick to my stomach to picture the images we were only told about.  I have a new respect for the Haitian people and the torment that is still fresh in their minds.

God definately led our steps, protected our bodies and filtered what our minds grasped this week. I was grateful for the 21 people with me to share in these experiences with me. There are many more Haitian people who need Christ's love. We (or Jason) plan to return this fall. There is opportunity to join a team goin this October. Are you willing to be Christ's hands and feet? be continued......