Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stewart, Family of 6: The beginnings

I will never forget the smooth landing in Austin, TX September 10, 2013.  I had always dreamed of the day we came back from Haiti WITH our son.  We gathered our things and all 3 of us were ready to get off the last plane.  There had been excitement for hours in the day and finally we were able to go home...go home.

We rounded the corner to see our other 3 kids waiting and in one embrace, we were complete...all 6 of us.  Michael, Kimberly, Wesley-Grant, Sally, Kelly and Karis.  Coming down those steps to so many who had journeyed with us will forever be planted in my mind and heart.  I imagine it will be a moment I will tell of for years to come. 

We all buckled up and waved our good-byes as we drove HOME. "PAPA!!!!" "DRIVE MACHINE!!!" said Kelly.  Me and my oldest girl, Sally looked at each other with tears in our eyes.  No words were spoken, but the tears from both of our eyes told much.  We were exhaling from the end of our "journey of waiting".  Laughs, tears, wonder and joy.  Our van held all 6 of us in the first drive home.

The first morning, waking up and all 4 kids played.  It was like Christmas around here and I still could not believe that we had entered the other side of this journey.  The first meal, the first movie and popcorn on the couch, the first of joining our family traditions, the first of many firsts.

In these beginnings, we are living out many "firsts".  There are joys and delights.  There are fears and heartaches.  There is so much to tell.  I am a writer and so I find it overwhelming to write of the last 7 weeks b/c I want to tell everything to my paper.  I want to share with you so you will see and so you will learn from our mistakes.  I want to tell you of the sacred moments when we get to hold our son's face and assure him of truth and love and see life be born in him.  I want to (don't want to) tell you how the tension of this newness and unknown territory causes me to crumble into doubt at times and wonder, "WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!" Or how we started our son in school, only to pull him out until next year...And about the first bday party he got to go to that he loved! and the first fall that gashed his head...his first grocery store experience....I want to document the time I realized  I WOULD hurt Kelly, but that I would also tell him I was wrong and sorry....I would love to tell you how our son's laughter is magical to all of us and brings great joy into our lives...or that his tears are like that of  a newborn and could pierce the heart with a fierce blow...there is so much to tell and document.

In these beginnings, there is both sacred and sinful moments.  In the fierce battle of waiting for our son to come home, I thought I found faith, but now, I realize that God takes me to places my faith would never go, so that my faith will be made stronger.  

I have quickly discovered many expectations hidden in my mind and heart that need be destroyed.  But the tension that those expectations bring about, are what God is using to show me His face in light of mine.

I laugh out loud as I think about me, being the wife of my husband or the mom of these 4 kids.  I would have never chosen me, but God reached down and saved me for this, for these steps I take.  I look back and think, "There is no way me yesterday could be here today"  But that is truth, isn't it.  I am not who I was yesterday, I am being changed by the grace of God.  His adoption of me to be in His family, to be changed forever, that defines me now.

I am thankful beyond what written words can describe.  I am learning more than I ever wanted to.  Only 7 weeks have passed and I can only imagine what a lifetime of moments will give to write about.  But these first few months are our beginnings, places of great awareness.  We Stewart of 6 have many broken pieces, but God loves us and has chosen us to be a family.  And it is by Him and for Him that we are.  May our lives and our stories ahead continue to point to that very truth. And for all the sacred and sinful moments that we are not able to write down, may we live in them, cherish and learn from them and may the love of our LORD carry us, change us and make us, like only He can.

Tomorrow, here we come. 

Jude 1:24-25
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Our last days of waiting

I remember the night before I would be induced with our first son, our first child.  I had prepared as much as I could, but yet, I lay there wondering, if I could have done more.  I knew life was about to change in many ways, but I could not image the truth of it.  I was about to walk into something I had not experienced, but soon would become my reality.
We wait here in Haiti.  Everything has been done.  We just wait for them to give us our Visa on Monday.  Then we go home.  I find myself in a similar place as the night before my first son was born. Gosh, we have prayed and longed for this day, but I did not foresee these last few days of waiting as it has been.  How has it been?
Over the past 3 years, I have acclimated to the waiting, to the disappointments, to the bonding trips, the good-byes even.  It has become my normal life.  Though it has been hard every day to swallow, I would hope for the end, but lost sight to its reality.
As I wait over the next few days, my reality of what is to come is heard, but not yet experienced.  It is a tricky place to be and hard to contain as a human.
I am the person in a race waiting, both at the start line but also the finish line.  I have run a race that has taken more than I thought I had to give and I am exhausted at its end.  Everyone cheers, and I am trying not to collapse.
But then, I find out, that the race I just ran was only the training for what is to come.  These last few days have been a transition to rest and cope with this reality that is to come.  I am at the line waiting for the gun to go off and the next race to begin.  My mind knows it is coming, my body has been prepped for endurance, my feet are fit with the shoes to run as much as the race demands, but my heart pounds in this unknown that I wait for and I am afraid and excited all in one.
I guess everyone has a tension like this in their life at some point.  I am thankful for those who go before us in these races who can help us and encourage us forward.  I am thankful I am not alone, even if in this waiting moment if feels that way.
I am reminded of our Lord who has brought us here, who will move us forward.

Our first trip to Haiti,  I looked out over this land from a mountain on top of the city of Port Au Prince.    I remember thinking, this will become a part of my story, my life and I was starting the race of adopting our son.  In the house we stayed at there was a sign in French and it said, "God did this for us".  And now I can say, Indeed He has and God will do this for us ahead.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not yet seen.  (Heb. 11:1)  So I will hold fast to the confession of my hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful. (Heb.  10:23)  Thank you for all who continue to pray us through these last few days of waiting and into the next race in our story.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The email came today!

Today has been a long awaited gift.  At 6am this morning we got an email stating that our official Visa appointment had been scheduled for next week.  They really approved all of the work.  They really would let us take our son home.  I can't believe it.  In the last 2 years and 11 months, the paperwork of our lives has been exposed and exchanged over many hands.  And today it was all said to be enough, approved and the last hand had brought it to the end.
How does one feel in that situation? What do you think when you come to a place like that?
Gosh, I can only speak for myself. 
When I started this journey, I had NO IDEA of it's terrain that would send my life into drastic change.  I had NO IDEA what it meant to step into brokenness that was not your own.  I had NO IDEA the cost it would ask of our money, time, friends, family, emotions and strength.  I had NO IDEA the lessons it would serve my mind and soul.  I had NO IDEA what it would produce in my heart.  I had NO IDEA.
This summer our paperwork for adoption has flown through more hands than I could keep up with.  We knew the end of this journey was coming, but never could I really grasp it.  Montana, Florida, London and back to Montana. (Good grief!) Who could keep up with the Stewarts.  But I heard an echo in my heart...."No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.." 2 Corinthians 2:9  Yet, I have been so jaded by the waves that have crashed upon me and knocked me down over and over in this journey.  Can this really be true? So, I have walked slowly, wounded at the end of this land of waiting.  I have found my summer to be a constant position of holding my breath and just saying, "God do this and carry me the rest of the way."
I remember a friend telling me, "One day this waiting will be over and you will not have it anymore."  That has carried me through this journey, desiring so much to wait well and trust in my Lord who had brought us to this journey.  The waiting is so hard and more often than not you don't believe it's beatings will ever end, but there comes a moment after entering into brokenness that you become thankful for it's wounds upon your soul.  It produces new life and you lose the old.  It becomes beautiful, though you would never wish it's beauty upon yourself. It becomes a gift.
This morning I woke up to an email that told me, "this journey will last only a few more days"  How do I respond to that? Tears finally fell down my face.  I feel like I have lost my tears over the last few months, but they came streaming down as my family and I embraced and then as we thanked our God for all He had done.  Tears ran down my face as I exhaled, then came more as I begged God to bring the rest home. It is bittersweet to know you are done, but that there are still so many journeying behind me that long for their end.  I took my 3 kids to school and thought about how much they had changed over these past years.  This journey has changed all of us.
How do you respond to such a journey that has announced that it will soon end? 
 Right before I got married, I sat down to think about what I wanted to happen when I walked down the aisle.  I can't help my sentiment.  I told my friends, I just wanted to "take it all in" so that I never forgot.  And that is what happened.  I remember everything about walking down that aisle.
As I walk into these last few days, I want to take it all in.  There are literally 100's of people who have joined this journey with us and I know that God has brought us all to see the final day when our son is home.  I pray that I will walk these last days so that you might see that this is actually not about us, but about our God who rescues and redeems our broken lives.  Watch with me and you will see what He will do.  Because this journey is a apart of a larger story....this terrain may end soon, but another one is coming and I am ready.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Monday morning, here I go again.  Attempting to walk right back into life after saying good-bye to my son in Haiti for the 12th time.  But I find myself at a familiar cliff looking out into an ocean of unknowns. 

The routine is typical. Kids back in school, looking at calendar to see what the week holds, grocery list, wading through the "to do's" that fill up my list.  One would think that being gone a week would not effect much.  And I agree, but it isn't even the week missed that effects me so much, it is the weeks that lay ahead that are hard to walk forward in.

I find myself at that familiar place again.  Wishing I could go sit alone for a while and sort through my emotions.  It is the good-bye and the waiting and the tears and the laughter with Kelly that is hard but it is also living between 2 countries .   I step on a plane and I am instantly in a world of need or a world of abundance.   I leave a world going fast and into a world who knows nothing of time or urgency.  I walk into a world of order into a world of chaos.

I am changed...and continue to change as I travel between these two worlds...and yet, every time I get back to this world, I find it hard to re-enter.  It is familiar more than the world of Haiti.  But it seems that my world here can not handle the things in which the other world has taught me.  I find myself paralyzed.  Walking forward but numb and weary.

This morning I screamed, "ENOUGH!"  I can't handle anymore.  I am going to break down and I fear lose myself in this war that rages with the mind, the body and the soul....leaving me and many others on this journey wounded....weary.

How do we keep on?  It seems the closer we get to bringing Kelly home the more bitter, "waiting" is.  Perhaps this journey is simply to prepare us for the next journey of having him home. 

As soon as I screamed "Enough!"  I heard the Lord say, "Has my grace run out?  My strength run out? have I run out?"  "Enough, means there is no more help to move on....am I all knowing to say that God has run out?"

We are a people who filter our lives through the truth that God has set before us.  We wearied out a long time ago on our own thoughts, strengths and beliefs.  We have found the truth of God to set us free over and over and carry us through the greatest battles and into the greatest victories. But as we wait for Him to make all things right, as He will one day, we waver in unbelief in moments like this.

2 1/2 years between 2 countries seeking to bring our son home.  Is this God forgetting about us? oh, we have asked that question a million times.  But though we doubt, truth remains.  God has not forgotten. He is on the move...He is working in all things to bring about something beautiful.  And often we can only find a few of the thousand things He is doing.

Our friends who wait with us, You know this journey I speak about, don't you? You know the Monday morning after Skype days with our kids or after Bonding trips that end in "not yet, my child".  You know that shaping that is happening in our hearts and minds.  I am so thankful for you.

Rather than saying, "ENOUGH!" today I am reminded that God has not run out.  That is my battle- to believe HIM.  His nearness is our good.  What I really am screaming for is my need for "enough strength, enough grace, enough provisions, enough mercy, enough power, enough justice."  Is my God enough?  He says he is. And so that is what I will bank my life on today...even if I can't get my schedule together or motivation to get back into "life". 

When I have had enough, He is enough.

And I can trust that my son will come home, when God Himself, says, "ENOUGH".  Not a minute will continue as it is and my son will come home.  And we will be able to say, "God was enough for all of our needs"

Though I walk slowly back into this world today, I walk.  And trust that the Lord who directed me in this path will see me through it to the very end.

 Help me believe, Lord, Help me believe!  ENOUGH! Be ENOUGH for us, Father!!

Psalm 40:17 As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

HOPE deferred makes the HEART sick but a desire fulfilled is a TREE OF LIFE!! Proverbs 13:12

Typically, when I have talked about Haiti and adoption, it has been about our own son, Kelly, whom we are waiting to bring home from Haiti....but today I want to introduce you to the other "Kelly" I found in Haiti. 

 Kelleigh Black is her name.  She was the friend I never knew I needed when I set out on this adoption journey.  I don't even know where to start with describing her.  She is one whom, when you meet her, you can't help but find strength.  She is a nurse by trade but to her family and friends she is far greater...being  a nurse is simply a disguise in which she is able to touch the worlds around her.  Kelleigh Black loves LOVE.  Maybe that is why she came to Austin, TX from Maryland and got a tattoo that says "Love Wins"...or because her story from the beginning, tells of one that loved extremely, to the ends of all things.  She is a woman who has faced suffering even at a young age and yet found all the circumstances of life to be seen through the eyes of love.  She will make you (or me or Karla or JoAnn or Christi or maybe it was  Jill) laugh so hard that you pee your pants. She is crazy! She touches people's lives wherever she goes and brings freedom to hearts...but what lead her to me, or rather me to her, is that she followed alongside her magnificent husband with her 2 brilliant sons to find their other sons who lived in Haiti.  

We met in March 2011 on a bonding trip with our sons...the first for both of us.  Quickly, stupidity and a passion for justice bonded our souls...and for both of us...what started as a journey to find our sons...immediately humbled us...finding that these Haitian boys would touch our lives far more than we would theirs...a journey that would change our souls forever.
A bonding week that turned into a month that turned into more bonding trips that turned into more months and then a year that turned into 2.  The journey of adoption was proving to be more than we signed up for.  And soon we were discovering our own adoption, the one that led us here in the first place.  In fact, many families joined us and this journey became more about our community than our individual stories.  It was beautiful!
There are far too many stories to tell...too many miracles to recount of what our God has done...too many laughs to relive....But we hold them close to our hearts

Tonight, I am overwhelmed at this friendship that God would give to me.  And not only of Kelleigh, but of her family, extended family and close friends. 

Today and tomorrow all of us ,as well as many who have gathered over the last 2 1/2 years of her Haitian journey, will assemble our eyes to watch she and her husband come home with their sons from Haiti.  Tonight, they landed in Haiti and the waiting ended.  They have waited well and taught us much.
Tomorrow they will start another journey.  We all hold our breath and then we exhale as we watch HOPE fulfill the longing in hearts....and the Blacks enter into forever together.
I am reminded of my Lord...who promises that there is coming a day...when he will renew all things and not leave us as orphans but come for us and bring us into eternity forever and all things suffered will be bound and glory will rise to the King of all Kings, Jesus who is our Lord and our hope. 
So while we wait, we have a dim picture today in this family...All praise to Him today.  He is enough. He has made a way and will continue this ministry called, Adoption.  Glory to Him, He alone is our Hope and in fulfilling our hearts brings us into the tree of life!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thankful that everything will be okay!

Hebrews 12:28

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe”

The sun is shining through my window this morning as I wake.  The faithfulness of God is more evident to me this morning than I have noticed in past mornings.  I get up and breathe… “Lord, help me finish well…”

Today is the day before I leave to visit my son in Haiti.  Today is the day that ends the “Week before I leave”.  Tomorrow will be my ninth trip to visit my son.  The “week before we leave” has been faithfully painful in different ways since we began our journey between these two countries 2 years ago. Tomorrow will be my 9th trip to see my son who I long for daily, but also to leave him again. Tomorrow will be my 9th trip to bring my son a part of his future, but also to speak of the future that is not fully clear yet.  Tomorrow will be my 9th trip to leave my worries here alone, but also to leave my 3 other children behind. Tomorrow I will walk ahead into this journey that has been both glorious and devastating all at the same time.

The “week before I leave” has always given me a fight.  I am one that will make lists and plan…take notice of what is ahead and anticipate all of my needs! What I can not do is anticipate everything that will interrupt those plans to sabotage my entire goals of finishing the way I wanted to.  I have many things lined out in my mind that that tell me, “Once this happens, you will be okay to go…okay to leave.”

Leaving is never something my mind, heart or body can fully embrace without concerns.  Fears and anxiety come from the underlying knowledge that it’s impossible for everything to be ‘okay’ when it comes to leaving.  I have a list: for the grocery store, for the packing bag, for the time with kids before we leave, for the things to do before we leave, for the bills to pay and the mail to send off.  I think if these lists get done, then I will be okay.

But every day of that “week before we leave”, I am shaken.  Every list, every need within my family, every road to accomplishment meets an obstacle that shakes my trust that things will “be okay”.  I am like a soda can that is shaken causing bubbles to erupt and give pressure…leaving me to spew everything that has risen up in me due to the shaking of these obstacles.

Almost always I yield to arrogance and attempt to control my week.  The irony is that this attempt almost kills me every time.  I go into distress because I can’t get to the store because someone gets sick or our car breaks down.  I don’t account for the normal emotional drama and parenting that has to continue despite my stress or to do lists.  My attempt to control only yields fruit of anger, bitterness and blaming everyone.  

As I am shaken by this “week before leaving”, I am reminded that I am not all knowing.  I do not hold all things together.  I do not rule time and providences. I do not know what I need.  I cannot live on my own.  I am broken, meant to be shaken, so that I can see that I need my faithful and loving Father who is God of all of these things. 

My God is at work.  And I have been adopted into His kingdom that cannot be shaken to destruction.  He says that He will work all things for my good, to His glory even when I don’t know what that practically looks like.

I begin this last day of this “week before leaving”, that has been one of the hardest weeks out of the 9 times leaving, taking a new breath.   I see Him.  Despite all of the darkness that the week has seemed to give, the sun still comes up.  My God is faithful and is my help.  Nothing will be okay if I act as god and seek to help myself.   But I know that everything will be okay because my God is indeed my help and it is my prayer that I will finish in this truth today.

So as we walk in this month of thanksgiving, I am thankful for the shaking that happens to me in my adoption journey.  It testifies that I am not God, but that I need Him desperately.  It testifies that I am a part of a kingdom that cannot be shaken and for that I am thankful and in awe of my LORD who has once again shown himself faithful.  I will leave tomorrow and everything will be okay. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Near Despair at the Edge of my Waters

Yesterday, I was on the edge of despair.  We talked with our lawyer and found another thing told to us had in fact not been granted... said to be impossible.  I sat down after that phone call and doubt began to grip my mind and heart.  The raging waters of this journey of adoption were overtaking me.

Friends on this journey with us gave encouragement and others spoke truth into my despair.  But my battle was fierce.  It seemed that "having faith seemed like a denial of reality...." I looked at everything from the last 2 years from my senses and said, "I want to quit!!  A quitter I will be, I don't care!" I wished for the pain to go away, the waiting to cease and all lost to be returned.  Foolish.  I sat foolish on the bank of my waters, cursing all that has become, not seeing the true realities.

Then a friend posted a video of a spoken word and I melted, as quick as sand melts when waters crash over it.  It was called "strike the waters" and it spoke directly to my heart.

You see, this journey of adoption has had its seasons, but amidst them are moments when I am tempted to despair. Yesterday, I wrote this in my journal:

"I have fought for faith today.  My feet are at the edge of these waters I have been swimming in for 2 years...I got out of this water today and was ready to retreat...to sit down on the beach away from it's depths and call it's win...and accept my loss.  I was content to go back to the sand where I once built my castles.  But I found that all my castles had been knocked down.   I turned in my heart towards those raging waters who have tossed me for two years now and all I had was anger.  I screamed out, "Let me be, you adoption journey!! Let me be!!"  I sat in doubt and admitted the cries of my heart.  This journey in these waters have been a place of slow death.  I look up from the shore and see the waters roaring up and down and curse it with my might.  I hate you! How dare you come and disturb my castles of pleasure and break through my walls, shattering all of my dreams.  You take down all my creations like they are nothing.

My parenting skills, my plan of education, my belief that all things will be properly put in its place if you just work hard and do right.  You take them down with a mighty blow.  How dare you crash down my savings and make me ask for help as though I could not take care of myself!  You knock down my schedules of time and seasons and expose my inabilities to manage this life!
You take my priorities of safety and security and snap it in my face.  You erode the face of my towers and proclaim my failures and lack of control!
You take my naivety of rebuilding and continue to wash away all of my pride telling me to "pray to my god"  Injustice you are!! And today in my despair I hate you!  I hate you because of what you do..You rage upon me and seek to call my bluff.  You call me out to your waters and seek to drown me in your depths.  Maybe you are true and too strong for me.  I walk away from your waters that give me daily, my salty tears!
I sit here on the shore running the sand grains between my fingers asking why..why so much destruction to myself..wasn't I fine before building my sand castles on this shore?"

And then God..He rescued me, as He has done every time.
Job 38:8-11
"who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
11 And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?"

By the end of the day I stood back up to the depths of this adoption journey and said in my heart "I know the God who made you and so I stand up to your face.  You nearly pushed me back to leave this place, foolishly thinking what has died in me was waste. But now I will rise, b/c the truth has overcome me in this place.  What you have done to me, was meant to be that I might not be burdened in this fight.  No more will you overwhelm me, I see just what you are, with my given sight.  Your waves shall crash and roar at me, but when it is time, you will break at the sound of our Makers voice.  You will move aside with great big tides and I will walk ahead.  Triumphantly with jubilee, I will run ahead to the other side. I will remember this day that you nearly got me down, but then proudly say thank you, for all that you have done.  Without you, I would have not been able to win the race I've won.  I will get to the other side and this stance I will take. Unwavering and firm with shouts of joy! Thanking you, for your blows has shaped me for what I was meant to be!! Your injustice will no longer lurk only freedom will reign.  There I will rest and make my new home without fear or doubt, only the story of my God to talk about."

"...because we're holding on to a reality that is more real than the reality we can perceive with our five senses!"  Mark Batterson

that was my day yesterday....