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Okay… without further ado and in keeping with my general philosophy that pictures really are worth a thousand words, I’m going to share some photos from our trip with a little narrative and then fill in the pieces later with a longer post.  I didn’t actually take all that many pictures while in Liberia (*shocking, I know!*) so I only have a limited quantity of pics to choose from — but these few photos capture the moments that stand out to me. It was such a surreal experience — partly because it was so last-minute and partly because it went by so quickly — but mainly because we were united with our son and experienced every kind of emotion one would expect from such a trip:  overwhelming joy, apprehension, discovery, excitement, anxiety, wonder, weariness, and the list goes on and on!

There were so many facets to our trip — one of which was being in Liberia and seeing the things Ahmad has been sharing with us for months.  We were deeply impacted and really fell in love with the people and the country.  We would like to go back someday when we have the time to spend in country helping where we can and we are excited about getting further involved with ministries that are focused on Liberia.  (I have some pics of Monrovia that I’ll share later, too — but if you want to see some great shots now, go to Jamie’s blog!)

I don’t have any photos of our first meeting with Henry, but I took this picture after we brought him home that evening from his foster family’s house.  He fell asleep on our bed right away and Peter and I kept looking at him and then at each other in disbelief and wonder. He seemed sooo tiny and vulnerable. It was very similar to the first night we spent with Joanna… Here was this little person who was about to become an irreplaceable part of our lives and whom we loved SO deeply and yet didn’t really know at all! He was part stranger, part family — but definitely OURS! I can’t even explain the depth of love in my heart for this little boy. Adoption is truly a miracle.

Henry slept for several hours that first night until he woke up and realized where he was (or where he wasn’t) and started crying.  We could tell it was a grieving cry because he missed his foster family — so I just held and rocked him and sang and prayed for him.  He would stop crying as I was singing, and he held on SO tightly to my arms.  He would not let me put him down, so I slept with him on my chest.  It was the beginning of our bonding process and I think it was very healthy for him to be able to grieve for his foster family and have us there to comfort him and cry with him (and boy, was I ever crying!  It was so hard to hear him grieving like that… even though it was a good sign.)  There is so much about this process that has been very difficult — even though the end result is overwhelmingly positive.  Transitions are hard… even in the midst of blessing and new life.

By morning he was so much better and it was as if he needed to cry it out for one night and then decided that it was okay — we were okay — and he was going to open his heart to us.  Since then it has been a steady process of becoming more and more attached and I am amazed at how much he trusts us and appears to feel secure with us. 

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These next pictures give you an idea of how tiny Henry is!  They were taken the morning before we went to the embassy for his visa interview.  

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It certainly didn’t take him long to warm up to the camera… in fact, he is a regular ham when I whip it out!  Here he is hanging out on the couch after our trip to the embassy.  We told him to enjoy being in his birthday suit because it was going to be cold where we were headed!

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He had fun with his new buddy, Micah.  Shortly before I snapped this picture, Henry planted a big ol’ kiss on Micah’s mouth! 

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I love this next picture because I took it the morning that he and I got to spend alone together and it was such a special time.  Peter had gone out with Ahmad’s wife to meet the rest of his family and I stayed behind with Henry to start packing.  Henry had been a little reserved with me until that point (it was only our second day with him) but he really started opening up that morning.  He was sitting on the bed playing with some toys and I would catch him looking at me… so I would stop and smile at him and play a little.  He began talking and laughing and handing me things to “pack”; and then after about an hour of this, he leaned forward to give me a kiss when I bent down to hug him.  It was such a special moment — I’ll always remember that little offering of affection. I am so grateful for that quality time alone with him… I got to see a little of his personality and his heart and it just made me fall more in love with him. 

I was a little worried about being prepared to care for him because of the cerebral palsy.  I was prepared to process my feelings of inadequacy, but in the end, there wasn’t anything to be worried about.  There was that moment when I realized “my son has cp” — but it was more of a practical realization of the things he can’t do — not an emotional grieving like I was prepared for…  It was a little hard for me the first night because I saw what he was not able to do.  But that was it… and the more time I spent with him, the more I realized how little I had to be worried about.  Henry is the greatest gift from the Lord and I am just in awe that He chose to give us such a treasure.  All my fears about caring for him adequately melted away as I laughed and played with him that morning in our room.  I realized that I’m going to be okay doing the best job I can… because in the end — even more than all the medical care and therapy — the greatest gift I can give him is my love… loving him for exactly who he is and delighting in the person God has created him to be.  It’s a privilege to get to be his Ma!…  He sure has a beautiful smile, doesn’t he?

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This next picture is with Ahmad’s wife, Mamieyan.  We really enjoyed getting to spend a little time with her since we have heard so much about her from Ahmad while he has been living with us.  We brought her a suitcase full of things from him and she was very grateful for it.  In return, she brought us some fresh pineapple — YUM!

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Here is proof that blogging buddies make good “real life friends” as well.  I lOVED getting to know both Jamie and Katy (the McKinneys left for the airport before I got a chance to get a picture with Katy.)  We were on the flight to Brussels with Jamie and Corey and it was really nice having them with us through the exiting procedures at the airport in Monrovia (“insanely crazy” is a good way to describe that part of the journey!  Oh, and HOT!) 

I really love this gal!!

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Here’s Henry on the plane at the beginning of our trip home.  (He loved playing with the empty can of soda because it was a small one and JUST his size!)

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And here he is on the last plane just before we landed in Spokane after almost forty hours of traveling.  Thankfully he was a little trooper on the way home.  In fact, I don’t think I have ever heard of such a good traveler at sixteen months old!  He fussed for maybe fifteen minutes out of those forty hours.  The rest of the time he was either sleeping or charming the flight attendants and fellow passengers! 

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And finally, at the airport with Jo and my parents.  The picture isn’t great — but you can see Jojo giving her new little brother a big kiss!  It was so good to see her.  We really missed her and we swear she grew a foot while we were away!

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