How Did It All Start?

I’m not going to take you back to the high school sweethearts going to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on their first date.

I’m not going to take you back to borrowing my Dad’s car because my 1967 Volkswagen Beetle had absolutely no heat and the aforementioned sweetheart didn’t like that.

I’m not going to…….

Oh wait, never mind.

Instead, I’m just going to go back to let’s say 2002. We had three girls and they were all in the “double digits” age and were doing well.

And then we started hearing a whisper. No, it wasn’t the voices in my head.

It was a whisper that was calling us to consider “more.”

But it didn’t really make clear what “more” was.

Until one Sunday in October of 2002, we were sitting around on a Sunday afternoon and one of those “unspoken” conversations happened between my better half and I. And we realized that we could do “more.”

Or at least we had to find out what “more” was.

For real. Not hypothetical but let’s actually find out what God’s nudging was leading us to. What is the more that he wanted to show us?

We had no idea what we were getting into.

Some days we still don’t.

But we knew it was time to try to figure out what God was up to.

How do we tell the kids?

So, we decided that we’d write a letter.

And we’d give it to them at Christmas. Sort of like Gideon’s fleece – if they all ran to their rooms screaming in terror, well God, now what?

After all of the presents were opened, we told them all to sit down on the couch and I got three envelopes from the top of the Christmas tree. I gave them each one with specific instructions;
• Open it and read what is inside.
• Because you all read at different speeds, do not say anything until all three of you are done reading.

In the letter, we talked about how they were great girls (still are) and that we felt God was calling us to do “more” but we didn’t know what more was. It could be:
• Being foster parents
• Doing medical fostering
• Adopting domestically
• Adopting internationally
• We didn’t know but we felt God was calling us to find out.
And then we ended the letter with the “Starfish Poem.”

It made a difference for “that one.”

Reactions?
⁃ the oldest – I want a baby brother!
⁃ the middle – Please not a boy – my friends all say their brothers are so annoying!
⁃ the youngest – I’m not going to be the baby of the family any more!

Okay, God, it’s a go.

And boy was and is it a ride.

Tom

Time – Wait for It

I’ll be writing more about it in the future (see what I did there – a reference to time?) but I wanted to share a couple of things about time and 2018 and how that has impacted my life.

2018 has not gone the way that I expected it would. I started out the year finishing up a long term substitute teacher assignment that I expected would last longer. While I agree on the reasons why they transitioned to substitute teachers who were experts in that field, it was still disappointing. If you are so inclined, add Mary Dornbos to your prayer list. She’s the teacher I filled in for and she’s still struggling with cancer.

The end of January, I had a medical procedure (more on that later) that I expected miight take a week or two to recover from. That was my anticipated time schedule based on what the doctors anticipated time schedule was.

God’s timing is different. As I’m writing this a number of months out, the recovery time has changed significantly. There looks like there will be long term, if any, recovery from some of the side effects.

That’s not the time frame that I wanted.

But God’s timing is not always our timing. And God’s ways are not always our ways.

So, as Laura Story wrote in her book, “When God Doesn’t Fix It” there is a time where you need to switch the question. You need to switch from asking, “Why God?” Or shouting, “Why God?” To asking, “How God?” “How are you going to use this, use this mess, use this pain, use what happened to your glory?” “What’s your plan?”

What’s your timing, God?

Waiting for God’s timing is hard. We want to be in control.

But the sooner we realize that we aren’t, the sooner we can hand that part over to God.

God’s timing is good. Sometimes it’s so good we can’t understand it.

Sometimes it’s so hard we can’t seem to stand it.

Sometimes the clock is facing the other direction so we can’t see his time.

What time is it? “Don’t worry, my son, I’ll take care of that.”

But what time is it? I just want to know!

“Don’t worry about what time it is, let me worry about that. Just follow my Iead.”

Okay God, you’re on.

Me

Time – God’s Time

This really should be part 1 of the 3 part series on time – because God comes first.

He created time. You know, the whole “There was evening and there was morning – the first day.” Yeah that.

But in telling “my story” I’m telling it as part 3 because it is kind of a conclusion to the other two stories. It’s God’s Time.

I could tell you story after story about things that have happened, things that haven’t happened, things that happen at a totally different speed than we’d like. And there’s one underlying theme to it all.

God

God’s got his plan and his time. And he knows WAY better than we do.

We try to push and squeeze and work and beg and plead to get things done according to our time. And it quite often doesn’t work out that way.

Sometimes we can see why – later.

Sometimes we don’t understand why – at least not on this side of heaven.

Sometimes we just need to trust God and say, “God, I don’t get it but it’s your time.”

Time

It’s hard to give up control of it.

It’s hard to admit we don’t understand it.

It’s hard when we hear or see God saying, “No” or “Not yet.”

Remember Moses and the Israelites? They spent 40 years wandering in the desert? Why?

The way I see it, there are two reasons:
⁃ The Israelites didn’t believe it was the right time when God told them to go take Israel back from the surrounding countries.
⁃ The Israelites didn’t have hearts that were open to God’s time rather than to their own time.

They needed to learn that God’s time was and is better than our time.

And that when we say, “God, it’s your time – use it and use me as you see best.”

Then we can really and truly be part of God’s plan.

And that’s a beautiful and a hard thing at the same time.

What time is it? It’s God’s time.

TJV

Time – of Coups and Careers

February 29, 2004 – a date that altered Haitian History.   And ours.

It is the day that a coup was staged in Haiti and the government was overthrown.

It was a big rock thrown in the pond and the ripples went out and out and out from it.  Little did we know the ramifications of that coup at that point.

I’ve got a good bit of storytelling planned about the coup and shortly after that – so I’m not going to get into great detail, but let me lay out a few important facts:
• My two youngest children, whose adoptions were still in process, we’re living in a country that just had its government overthrown by a coup.
• For 6 to 7 weeks, we knew they were safe, but we didn’t know whether their paperwork was still safe and whether the adoption would proceed or if we’d have to start over.
• Originally we were told to expect that our adoptions would be finished in either March or April – possibly into the first part of May. Our plan, at that point, was that our three older girls would stay with Grandparents and we’d go down and get them. After all, the older girls were in school.
• Since the adoptions were delayed, travel dates got pushed back and we weren’t traveling until June. The girls were done with school.

So we took them with us. And they helped with the older kids at the orphanage while we spent time with our two youngest.

Can you imagine helping 53 kids brush their teeth every morning?

Now jump forward with me a few years. We’re in the van (a 7 passenger since, well, you do the math) and we’re coming home on a Friday night after having gone out to eat. Up pops a voice from the back seat……

“I know what I want to do……”

“What?” (Thinking – go to a friend’s house, watch a movie, make ice cream sundaes……)

“I want to go to school and become a nurse and go back to Haiti and help the kids.”

Gulp. Swallow hard and try not to get too choked up.

“That sounds like an awesome plan and I know you can do it.”

In April, that daughter graduated from Grand Valley State University with her Doctorate in Nursing Practice degree. In August, she will be going back to Haiti for her umpteenth time (I’ve lost count) to work with kids who need medical care.

In August, she will also be leaving her position as an RN in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where she has been for I believe 4 or 5 years and starting to work as a DNP in a large pediatric office on the other side of town.

Now you tell me……

Did the delay in paperwork –
Because of the coup –
Which made it possible for our girls to come to Haiti that first time-
Have an impact on Dr. V’s career plans?

I like to think that when she walked across the stage to become the latest Dr. Vanderwell, God (and the other Dr. Vanderwell) were looking down and smiling and God said to Grandpa, “See, my plan all came together. Now just wait and see what I’ve got planned next…….”

TJV

Time – What Time Is It?

I can’t speak for other countries, but Americans are obessed with time.

What time is it?

How long does it take to get there?

How long is it going to take?

Buy this latest calendar/planner – it’s guaranteed to change your life and make you a multi-millionaire!

(Sarcasm alert)

Let me tell you two stories that changed my view of time. (Second one will come in Part 2).

In 2003, we were in the process of adopting and getting all of the paperwork pulled together. As part of that, we had to get certain documents “notarized” and then “authenticated” by the Haitian embassy. Given as how we weren’t too excited to send important documents by mail, we decided to schedule an appt and take the day off, drive to Chicago, get them authenticated and be back home by supper time.

The night before, I was reviewing the paperwork one last time and realized we had to get one document stamped with the seal of the State of Michigan before the Haitian embassy could authenticate it all. Suddenly our trip got longer – we had to go an hour east before we could go down to Chicago. But we figured out that if we were there, in Lansing Michigan, by the time the office opened, we could still make our appointment on time. If all went well.

If. Two small letters, one big word.

We left home early enough to make it to Lansing on time. In and out, like clock work. Headed straight to Chicago – well, as straight as we could. Traffic was good, all was on time. It was going to be close but all was looking good.

And suddenly, it all changed.

Red lights up ahead.

Almost there – we could see the building. And we’d make it on time!

If the red lights up ahead didn’t block the entire road. It was 4 lanes – give us one or two lanes open, please?

If only. If only the accident had happened a little way down the road. But it didn’t.

And we waited and waited.

And missed our appt. by 20 minutes. “I’m sorry, Mr. ________ left for lunch.” “Okay, can we come back after lunch? We’re sorry we missed our appt. It was because of a car accident.”

So we went and got lunch and came back about 1:30. “Have a seat, they should be back soon.”

And we waited.

And we waited.

And we waited.

Finally, four hours after they left for lunch, they returned. Very friendly, very welcoming, very quick to get things done and we were on our way.

It was our first introduction to Haitian time.

Time where relationships are more important than schedules.

A time that doesn’t worry about technicalities – like how long lunch is.

Over the years, we’ve heard other stories from friends about Haitian time. It was our first exposure to a different way of looking at time.

It also was our first exposure to really truly realizing that when we were entering into international adoption, we were entering into a different culture as well.

In many ways.

What time is it? Yeah, whatever……

Tom