Heavy

There’s a lot going on around here. I started my new job today (which I love so far!) and have been figuring out life on a new schedule (which I also love!). But I’ve also spent some time doing the little bit I can to help the Harkins family.

Some friends of ours, Kevin and Mindy, just had a baby boy about 2 weeks ago. He’s the sweetest little guy. Mindy had some complications with her pregnancy. She had quite a bit of hemorrhaging after the birth and ended up needing 2 blood transfusions.

She recovered from that and had been home with the baby until Friday morning when she came downstairs, handed Kevin the baby, and expressed that something was wrong. Her speech was garbled, and she had some paralysis. The ER did very little testing and she was sent home with a diagnosis that, we know now, was incorrect. 48 hours later, she was back in the ER getting a scan that showed she had had a large stroke.

She has declined over the past several days, and we are praying day and night. Last night as we sat in their living room, they had shaved Mindy’s head completely, and taken her into surgery to relieve the pressure from brain swelling. She was completely paralyzed on her right side before surgery.But as I understand it, as she woke up today, she tried to pull the breathing tubes out with both hands. We feel that this is a good sign, since she’s at least using both hands. They’re letting her sleep as much as possible today.

I would love for you to join us in prayer for the Harkins family. For Mindy – that she will be completely healed, that she will be able to rest, and that she feels God’s hand in this difficult time. For Kevin – that he will find rest and comfort, that he has strength when he needs it, and that he knows how much his family is loved. For the 3 young boys (ages 2 weeks, 2, and 6) – that they adapt well to the change of pace while friends and family are helping, that they feel comforted and loved to pieces.

If you feel led to help apart from prayer, you may send monetary donations and/or gift cards for groceries or VISA gift cards. We’d love for their medical expenses, legal fees, family travel, etc. to be completely covered. You can send assistance to the address listed below. And please do keep praying for this sweet family.

Donations for Mindy, c/o Lillian Boeskool, PO Box 953, Brentwood, TN 37024

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10 Awesome Things About My Awesome Brother

My big brother, Steve, turns 27 today. He’s closer to 30 than he is to 20, and that’s really strange. I guess I am too, technically, but whatever.

(This is Steve dressed up as Bob Ross. Obviously)

I don’t get to see Steve as often as I’d like, but this year I’ll see him on his birthday. I’m excited about that. Let me tell you why.

1. He’s really good at Halloween and other costume events. He’s been Bob Ross, a ninja, a pirate, Flavor Flave, etc.

2. He was my best friend growing up, so he and I share things that I can’t share with anyone else in the world. Like thinking that yelling “If it tastes as good as it smells” while running from one arm of the couch to the other arm of the couch is the least bit entertaining. Our 4 and 6 year old selves did that for an hour or more. Sometimes I’ll make a joke that no one understands and say, “Steve would have laughed at this joke. Where’s Steve when I need him?” Memories, jokes, stupid kid stuff… we won’t ever lose that bond.

3. He’s insanely smart. He knows a lot of stuff, and he’s really good at making other people interested in the things he knows. If he’s a teacher some day, he’s going to be an excellent teacher.

4. He can beat anyone ever at any game ever. I’m pretty sure that’s not an exaggeration. I can’t be positive, because he hasn’t tried to play every person at every game, but statistics lead me to believe no one could ever be as good at he is at trivia games, memorization games, word games, board games, cards, and luck.

5. Steve is protective of his little sisters. This is a big deal if you are, in fact, one of his little sisters. I can’t be grateful enough for the way he would stick up for me or protect me if I needed it.

6. People say he’s the nicest guy they’ve ever met, and they mean it. He’s gracious and kind and forgiving.

7. He’s got great taste. Movies, music, clothes, and sister-in-laws. Or are they wives if he picks them? What if I just say Trystas. He’s got good taste in Trystas.

8. He’s dedicated to whatever he wants to be dedicated at. Am I the only one who thinks, “that’s dedication, Holmes” when I say dedicated a lot? Probably.

9. He’s taking swimming lessons. So, when we were little we went to the YMCA for preschool. We did swimming lessons there and it scarred us both for life. It was like, “hey, you don’t know how to swim? You should jump in the deep in off the high-dive. That’ll teach ya!” And then they push you into the dark, death-water. I am still sort of afraid of swimming. Steve is taking swimming lessons like a boss. They’re going much better than YMCA lessons, from what I hear.

10. I’m fairly certain he was born Japanese.

I love you Steve! Happy birthday to the best brother ever!

Why I Cried Seven Times One Day

There’s a line in a Friends episode in which Chandler says about Monica, “I really want a kid. And when that day finally comes, I’ll learn how to be a good dad. But my wife, she’s already there. She’s a mother without a baby.” And I always felt like that description was exactly me. I’m a mom. I was born a mom, and I’ve just been waiting for my kids to show up. Being a mom without a kid is hard. But when I went to the orphanage in Haiti last year, it clicked – being a kid without a parent is a lot harder than being a parent without a kid. I feel like that was the moment my heart for orphans opened wide up and did that “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” thing where it busted out if its case.

One of the days we were in Haiti, we went to a small orphanage and met some amazing kids. Kids who really need mamas.

When this little boy was 2 weeks old, he and his 3 older siblings were dropped off at an orphanage in TiTanyen. Their parents died of cholera in November. When I heard that, I cried for the first time that day. Lots of tears. I faced away from the group because I didn’t want the rest of the group to see me getting emotional so early on in the day, and I didn’t want the older kids at the orphanage to see me.

This is Joslyn, that little guy’s older sister. She was shy, beautiful, so very silly, and cuddly as can be. You know how I love cuddly kids. She hung around me most of the day; she’d crawl up onto my lap, facing me, and just smile at me.

This is their big brother. He was also very shy. As you can see by the only picture he let me take of him.

I’m not sure which of the other kids in the orphanage was their older sibling unfortunately. I didn’t get introduced. There was a moment when I was sitting with Joslyn and her older brother, I could see the baby boy across the room getting some love from our team, and I started crying again thinking about their future. These three kids have so much to offer the world. They’re beautiful and smart; they’re sweetest of shy kiddos and they deserve so much more than they’ve been handed.

They live in a 5th world country, in a small concrete building with no air moving through it. They lost both of their parents in November and they’re completely helpless.  Their only hope to life outside of their current reality is adoption. Very few people sign up for adoption saying, “you know what, I think I can handle a sibling group of 4. From 8 months up to 7 or 8 years old.” The chances of someone wanting that is slim. And I hate that. I hate it more than I can express to you. And I want to be able to do something about that. I want to scoop them up into my arms, carry them far away from TiTanyen, set up a room for them in my house, and love them like they need love.

Haiti’s adoption laws are very strict. I have ten years before I can adopt from Haiti, unless the laws change between now and then. Even at that point, when I am 35 years old, there are so many other hoops to jump through. There’s money to raise and there are checklists to complete. I feel very discouraged when I see my reality of wanting to give these children a different life and wanting so much to be a mom. How can Haiti be so blind to its needs?

But when I find myself feeling stuck and discouraged, I try to focus upward. I’m thankful for a God who is bigger than me, bigger than those 4 kids. He’s bigger than orphanages and TiTanyen. He’s stronger than the laws of Haiti and the cost of adoption. He can change lives and hearts faster and better than I can. And that’s a very encouraging thing.

Wackadoo

My life is very unscheduled right now. I don’t wake up at 6am, get ready, sit at a desk for 8-9 hours, and then come home to have dinner and go to bed around 11pm. This is very strange for me. I’m anxious to see what my new work schedule does to my routine. Basically what I’m saying is my blogging schedule gets all wackadoo when my daily routine is shifted. I’m going to need to figure that out.

So, this is my attempt at blogging! On a day with a weird schedule! I’m actually really excited about scheduling blog posts and working on bloggy things over the next few months. The good news about being out and about during the day is that I can use my camera in the daylight! Hooray! I still need to learn what the camera settings mean, though.

On a completely unrelated note, this is what I’ve been up to this week.

Sister snuggles.

Taking this little lady off to college. (Yes, I teared up. Now shush.)

Settting up dorm rooms.

And missing this guy.

Back in Missouri

One of my sisters came into Nashville last week and made my hair pink. This is what happens when you leave your conservative office job the day your cosmetologist sister comes to town. I sort of fell in love with my pink hair.

The temporary dye is already fading quite a bit… sad.

After a fun sing-a-long road trip on Saturday with Christina, I am back home in Missouri. I’ll be here for a week and a half or so before heading back to Dave and Tennessee. My youngest sister goes to college tomorrow. Let’s not talk about how weird it is for me to see her going to college when I remember her coming home from the hospital, ok?

We’re having some sweet sister time before we all disperse again.

I feel sorry for people who don’t have sisters like this.

Adventurous

Something you probably know about me: I’m a total wuss. As far as I know, I’ve always been this way. I’m not one to go cliff jumping, I’ll most likely never decide to take up mountain climbing, I get light-headed when I see heights… even in movies. I don’t even like ladders. Our third full day in Haiti, I had to get over all of that really quickly. We woke up, had breakfast, and piled into the back of a big pick-up truck with a steel frame around the outside.

Alright, so that’s challenge #1. This scares the hoohaa out of me. Driving 60 mph in the back of a truck with nothing holding me in… yikes. Also, for all practical purposes, there are no traffic laws in Haiti. So people are whipping past us as we make our way up the mountain on the gravel road. It ended up being amazing. We sang songs and played games and took 50,000 pictures of the breathtaking views. I did have to scoot away from the back side as I was afraid of slipping out and face planting in the gravel.

We stopped halfway up the mountain in a small village to play games and meet some gorgeous kids. (More on that another day.) But, when we made it all the way up the mountain, we got to the main event. We saw an amazing waterfall called Saut-d’Eau (photo from Wikipedia) that is sometimes used for Vodou “healings.” We saw a few sick elderly people cleansing themselves in the waterfall, hoping to be healed.

Challenge #2: I’m sort of afraid of water. Specifically water I can’t control. Baths are fine. Swimming pools are great, as long as no one is touching me or trying to dunk me, rain is nice. (I blame the YMCA in Jacksonville, Illinois for this drowning fear.) Do you know what kind of water they have at waterfalls? Rushing, noisy, completely out of control water that sweeps you up into the unknown. Do you know what that water is rushing past? Rocks. Lots of rocks.

Challenge #3: Climbing up rocks that are very sharp and stabby and really slippery. So you know what I did? I slipped my shoes off and “climbed” to the top of the waterfall (challenge #4: heights) on those slippery and sharp algae-covered rocks. The whole time I was climbing, I was telling myself I’d be fine and telling other people how much Dave would have liked it. But seriously. He would have loved it. When I got back down to the bottom, I was sort of amazed at myself. I wanted to yell, “yeah! that just happened, suckas!” But I didn’t because I was still pretending to be a grown-up at that point of the trip.

The rest of our evening was a sweet time to be together with our team. We danced in the rain and sang songs together and rested. And I kept wanting to yell, “you guys! can you believe i just did all of that?”

Haiti keeps teaching me strength I didn’t know I had. Last year I was surprised by powering through the pain of my ankles and dealing with the realization that God had called me to adoption. This year I learned that I’m a lot tougher than I knew I was. I can climb ladders and waterfalls. I can do my part of being in charge of a group of teenagers. And even more surprising to me, I could do it without Dave holding my hand the whole way. I was nervous about going on this trip without him, and I’m proud to say (though I missed him) I did it.

My Haitian Snuggle Buddy

Our first full day in Haiti started off with a painting project. The compound we stayed in has a burn clinic that was just added on to, so we painted the new addition of the clinic. Teenagers love paint messes.

After lunch, we went to the village of Titanyen (which may be my new favorite place on earth) and did a little Vacation Bible School type program with 70 village kids. I spent the first few minutes snapping pictures of our team – watching them interact with the kids, having no problem finding fun through the language barrier, and experiencing their first interactions with Haitian children.

My eyes welled up several times in the first hour or so. Turns out, when you love something very very much, you love seeing other people love it too. I was really impacted by watching 10 smiling teenagers pour into 70 smiling Haitian kids. Like… really impacted.

The program we did with the children was supposed to be for kids 5-12ish. One of the little girls who came was in charge of her 18 month old sister, so she tagged along. Poor baby sister just slept all day both days we had her.

Though it technically wasn’t allowed, it was lucky for those of us that really like to snuggle babies. Even if they cough in your mouth sometimes and are covered in week old chicken pox. I didn’t catch anything (that I know of) so no need to worry.

I’m not sure if the fact that a 5 year old was taking care of an 18 month old has something to do with it… or the fact that I do the majority of my bonding through cuddling, but I will never forget this little lady. Her sleeping face is burned into my brain.