Viaje de Amor en Ingles

(A Journey of Love)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Home Again

We had a long day traveling home yesterday, with delays and running through the airports to make connections, etc...but we made it home safe, and all of our luggage did, as well.  I returned to the office with a pile of things to get caught up on and to accomplish.  Yet, today also held the opportunity for us to connect with our older daughters.  Alicia spent the day with our oldest daughter shopping for college, and I had the privilege of taking our second daughter, Alexa, to take her drivers exam, and I watched her pass and get her driver's license.  The four of us will be preparing to go on a mission trip to Mexico in two weeks, and then Ariana is off to college, and we begin packing for the second trip to Honduras.  Hopefully, we will be traveling soon to bring Ashton and Alia home. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Time with Friends

Our first trip is quickly coming to a close.  Today, we spent the morning on the balcony of the home of a missionary couple that have been a great support and help in recent months along our adoption journey.  We enjoyed getting to know Mike and Barbe over a cup of coffee as we looked out over the city.  Mid morning, we set off for Santa Lucia to stay with friends of our from college, Kjell and Marcy Fenn, that are serving as missionaries and educators here in Honduras.  We enjoyed a great meal and great conversation.  More coffee was involved.  After an afternoon of catching up, we repacked our bags, weighed the checked luggage to make sure we are under the weight limit, and tomorrow morning we go to the airport to fly back to the U.S.  We are looking forward to being back here soon.   Please pray for a quick return...We are looking forward to returning home to be with our other daughters.  It has been difficult to be away.  While we were away, the girls swim team had their last meet and the Senior swimmers were honored.  We also missed the end of the season awards night.  It has been great to watch the girls honor the Lord in their swimming, and we are excited for Ariana as she finishes her "career" with the Harleysville Stingrays and prepare to swim as a Millersville Marauder.  Here is a picture from tonight's awards night.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Few More Rounds of Tears

The day began very early in the morning as we checked out of our hotel and picked up one of our lawyers for the journey to San Pedro Sula.  After a few hours on the road, we arrived at the DINAF office in San Pedro Sula and waited for the person that would be leading us to the children's home, and a permission document was to be signed.  Shortly thereafter, a van pulls up out front and a couple steps out.  Alicia recognized the woman as the woman who runs the children's home. We introduced ourselves, and Alia went right to Maria - the woman she has known as "Mami" for most of her life.  Ashton was quiet and a bit reserved in his behavior.  We think he was processing the fact that he was going back to the home and we would be leaving.  After they signed a document for us to go to the home to return the children, we got on the road.  Along the way, we stopped at a gas station/convenience store and met up with some missionary women that go out to the children's home regularly.  One of them was a great contact before we left for Honduras.  She has known the children for over three years.  At the home, we saw the love that this couple and the few other adults at the home for the children.  There are over 30 children at the home and it seemed that they all came to spend time with us.  We were served lunch, and they were able to load some pictures of the children from the past few years onto my phone before a bad storm knocked the power out.  Eventually, we had to say good bye.  Ashton gave us each a hug, and Alia hugged Alicia.  She has been very stingy with her hugs to me, so I didn't expect much.  She wrapped her arms around my neck and wouldn't  let go.  I said to each of them in broken Spanish, "You are my son/daughter!  I love you, very much!  We will be back for you!"  Alicia cried, I cried, Alicia cried some more...As Maria was hugging Alicia she prayed for us, as well as her husband prayed for us and the children, and we left.  We traveled about two hours back toward Tegucigalpa to meet with and stay with missionaries that are connected with our adoption agency.  We were able to talk through the remaining process and get some questions answered, though for the most part the answer is when it is time, we take the next step.  Tough counsel for a Type-A, organized person.  On the bright side, our lawyer told us that our case has already been given to a judge and is moving forward quickly.  She firmly believes that the children will be home with us before Christmas.  Please pray that this would be true.  Here are a few pictures from the Children's Home.
 Enjoying lunch upon arrival, and watching Alia's banter with her "Mami"
 It was clear that there is love and respect between Alia and this special woman in her life.
 An incredibly heavy storm rolled through and knocked out the power.  Most of the children found themselves in the main "office" to hang out with us.  This picture gives a bit of an idea how many children there are at the home.
 The boys loved crowding around to take "selfies"...though if it is a group, is it still a "selfie"?
 We had two bags of lollipops and were given permission to allow Ashton and Alia to hand them out.  They gave one to everyone.

Friday, July 22, 2016

"The Dory Effect"

We had a more relaxed day today.  We were able to sleep in, then we met another family in the process of adoption for lunch and an afternoon at the pool in their hotel.  This couple met their children on missions trips and began the process of adopting two children (siblings).  Their process has taken a long time as well, but for different reasons then ours.  They have faced a number of frustrations along the way, and father described some of the process as "The Dory Effect" - named after the fish in the Pixar movie with short-term memory loss.  He said it seems that people will tell you one thing, then forget what was told, or the process changes in the middle of each step.  We are facing the Dory Effect tomorrow.  Originally, we were going to be able to take the children directly to their home in Naco, but now we have found out that we have to go to DINAF in San Pedro Sula to get permission to take them to their home.  We may only be able to take them to San Pedro Sula.  Either way, tomorrow will be a difficult day for all of us.  Since our day was spent in the pool, there weren't many pictures, but I have a few to share.  We were able to use the pool time to build some trust as the children had to trust me in the 5 foot water.  The time began with Ashton scared to put his face under the water and by the end of the day, he was jumping off the side of the pool into me and going completely under the water.  Alia faced her fear and trusted me to catch her and carry her in the deep water.

 Our day began in the shallow area
 Our two children with the two children be adopted by the other family.
 Video of Ashton jumping into my arms.  When we sent this video to our lifeguard daughters, the text back was, "No running on the pool deck"
After a lot of encouragement, Alia finally trusted me to carry her in the 5foot water.

The First Round of Tears

Thursday was both a good day and a difficult day.  We met with friends of ours in the morning at a children's museum in Tegucigalpa.  It is like a "Please Touch Museum".  The children had a chance to play and we did as well.  We also paid for an hour on their bicycle course, which was the first time Ashton and Alia were ever on a bike.  Ashton's goal is now to one day have a motorcycle.  After lunch, Carlos took us to a place he called home for three years up in the mountains.  There is a monument of a cross made from parts of a plane that crashed.  The children had the opportunity to play on an old tractor and on some swings made from old tires.  We returned to our hotel and tried to have a Skype call with Ariana and Alexa.  The connection was so bad that we were able to say hello and a few words before we lost the connection and could not get it back.  The four children of our family were able to talk for the first time, even if it was only to say hello.  Ashton and Alia were all smiles.  They were so excited to meet Ariana and Alexa.

The difficult part of the day was when we asked Carlos to begin to explain to the children what was going to happen on Saturday.  That we would be taking them back to their home and we would have to go to our home for a few months, but we will be back for them and we will take them home with us next time.  They told Carlos that they did not want to go back, they wanted to go with us.  This was tough to hear, and when I shared this with Alicia, we had our first round of tears. 

Each morning, when Alia wants to get up in the morning to go to the bathroom, Ashton wakes up with her and takes her to the bathroom, turns the light on and closes the door to give her privacy.  Each morning I have given him a big hug and told him I love him.  This morning, he climbed into bed with me, and using Google Translate we had our second discussion about packing our bags for tomorrow.  They do not want to take all of their things back to the home, because they are afraid that people will take them, so we told them we will some of their things and bring them back with us.  We think they understand, but these next two days are going to be incredibly difficult.  Please pray for the children to understand, and for all of us as we part for a few months.

Here are some pictures from yesterday:

 Alia practices the "Selfie"
 Walking in Mami's shoes
 Alia has the camera, again
 Playing at the Children's Museum

 Riding bikes at the children's museum

 The van ride after a full morning of play
 Pictures from the cross monument, and some play time on the trampoline at the restaurant where we ate dinner.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pictures from Wednesday

 Alia is checking out the fish in the fountain at our hotel.  Of course, she wanted the phone so she could take some pictures of the fish.  We have so many pictures on our phones that we will have to delete later, but she has taken some great pictures.  Usually we get about 20 pictures of the same thing.
 Along our adoption journey, we have connected a number of ministries in Honduras.  One of those ministries is Mi Esperanza (My Hope).  We had ordered some coffee from there to support the ministry.  As we went through our day, we wanted to get some coffee to take home, and our driver mentioned that his mother was a missionary with this ministry, so we took a trip there to see the work they are doing to teach women various jobs and skills, and we bought some of the items that they make there, and of course some coffee.

 Tegucigalpa has a Jesus statue like the one in Brazil that stands high on the mountains surrounding the city looking at the city with his arms open wide.  We went up to the statue and there was a lot of room for the children to run and play.  Both of them enjoyed the swings.
 We had a great view of the city of Tegucigalpa
 Here we are at the base of the statue
 Ashton is a great big brother.  It is clear that Alia looks up to him and leans on him in many ways.  She wanted to run, but I saw the stairs ahead so I had her hand and she walked with him.  It is great to see the relationship that they share, and a blessing to be able to adopt both if them into our family so they can stay together.
After a full day of activity and play, Alia took a nap in the van on the way home.  Ashton had fallen asleep earlier in the day, as well, but I didn't get a picture of him.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"Oh My Goodness"

We had a very full day today, and for the most part things are going very well.  Part of the training in preparation for adoption teaches you about the grieving process that children go through during adoption, no matter how good or bad the situation was that they are leaving.  There are times that Alia has shown some of the grieving process of sadness and anger.  We have had a few meltdowns, but we lovingly and patiently work through them.  The language barrier makes it difficult to talk with her through these times, but we are learning how to simply love her through these meltdowns.  She is very intelligent and is learning quickly.  She is following in here Mami's footsteps.  At one time today, she said, "Oh my goodness", then she started repeating everything Alicia said and did.  One of her games is to mimic Alicia, the other is for me to toss her into the air - "mas alto" (very high).

We went to court this morning and submitted our paperwork.  After five and a half years of submitting paperwork and redoing paperwork, and paying for more and more documentation.  It was good to see a packet of documentation more than three inches thick pulled together by our lawyer.  We signed a document with our intent, and authorizing our lawyer to act on our behalf, then we marked our signature with our fingerprints.  The review process with our lawyer was longer than actually submitting the paperwork.  It took only a few minutes and verifying our identity and intent, then we walked out of the court.  This was our last official act on this trip, so the rest of our week is simply time to be with Ashton and Alia.

We left the court and went to lunch with our driver and translator, Carlos, who the children have begun calling Tio Carlos (Uncle Carlos), and our lawyers and the son of one of our lawyers. After lunch, we went to see the statue of Jesus Christ.  This was a good trip for the children to have time to play in the park near the statue and run.  They were exhausted as you can see from the picture below with Alia asleep in the backseat of the van.  We have also learned that Alia loves to take showers, brush her teeth, and wash her hands, which leaves the bathroom quite a mess.  It is great to have young children again.

Our connection is slow tonight and I am having difficulty uploading pictures.  I will try later to share some pictures from today.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

New Names

We have had a very full day, and have returned to our room to rest for the remainder of the evening.  We spent the morning at the DINAF offices for a psychological evaluation and an interview with a social worker.  Alicia and I each met separately to answer their questions.  The children were entertained by some of the other staff members.  We completed our interviews around noon.  The social worker was very excited for us, and she commented that she saw a difference in the children from yesterday, when we first met them and they were both very quiet and overwhelmed to today, when they were both very interactive and active.  She thanked us for following the Lord's leading to adopt these children.  She encouraged us to pray that the process will move forward quickly so that the children will be home with us before Christmas.  She said that she believes it is a real possibility for that to happen.

Today, we had to declare if we were going to change the children's names.  We decided that we were going to give them new names that fit with their life story, and since all of our names begin with the letter 'A', we had to give them 'A' names.  We also decided to keep their middle names. 
We decided to change Sinia's name to Alia, so her name is now Alia Jasmin Crossgrove.  Alia means Noble, and from Heaven.  We believe these children are from the Lord.
We decided to change Brayan's name to Ashton, so his name is now Ashton Joel Crossgrove.  Ashton means Strong and Protector.  For so long, he has been the protector for his sister and we wanted a name that honored his story.

The afternoon was filled with getting copies made of pictures of our family for court tomorrow, and filling out forms in Spanish.  Thank you to Carlos, our driver and translator and Google translate.
Here are a few pictures for you:

 Alexa made each of us a bracelet, so that the whole family has the same bracelets as a promise that although we have to leave for a few months, we will be back for them, and our whole family will be together.
 Alia is learning the art of the "selfie".  She loves to take pictures.  A lot of them have her fingers covering half the picture, but she is figuring it out.
 We were also given permission for us to post pictures of the children's faces.  We have been holding off until we had permission.  This is a picture of all of us at DINAF with the social worker who did our interview today and our lawyers.
This was at lunch at the food court in the mall.  We have found that Ashton enjoys eating almost anything.  Alia is a bit of a picky eater, so we tried Popeyes chicken nuggets.  They were a hit.  You can see by her stance that she is quite a character.

Well, that is enough for now.  Thanks for all of your messages, and words of encouragement.

Like Theirs Sisters

Although they were born in different countries and in different decades and have different stories, it became apparent to me how much these two are like their older sisters.  Brayan is the older brother, and he loves his younger sister, but he is independent and for the most part compliant.  He wants to help and he wants to take care of his sister.  Ariana was a lot like this when she was younger.  For Sinia, the similarities struck while trying to put her to bed last night.  She is an active little girl, with a big smile and wants to laugh and make people laugh.  Going to sleep was not in the plan.  She would fidget, and tickle her brother to get him laughing, which meant he couldn't fall asleep.  When Alexa was young there were nights we would almost have to hold her down until she fell asleep.  I found myself sitting on the side of the bed, holding her arms back from her brother, rubbing her back and humming a song lightly in the dark hotel room.  About 30 minutes later, she was asleep.  We all slept well, which is good as we have a full day ahead.  It is great to see God's hands at work in forming our family.  I have been truly blessed with a Godly wife, and then two wonderful daughters by birth, and now this journey of the blessing of a son and daughter by adoption.  Thank you for your prayers and support.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Day of Introductions

Today was a long day.  It began shortly after 4 in the morning when Ernie Knechel picked us up and drove us to the airport.  Our flight left Philadelphia on time and the flight to Miami was without incident.  After a delay on the tarmac waiting for our gate to open, we made our connecting flight to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  Alicia did well on the flights, usually she gets airsick and was concerned.  We landed on time, but had to wait in a long line for immigration.  Our Honduran lawyers were very concerned for us by the time we finally met them in the airport almost an hour and a half after landing.  After a meal at the mall food court (we got Honduran food and our lawyers got hamburgers at Wendy's), we went to DINAF and met our children.  Our daughter, Sinia was clearly nervous and scared.  She wouldn't respond to us...her big brother, Brayan was in the bathroom.  When Brayan came into the room he smiled and immediately came to me and put his arm around me.  I did not expect that response.  He is a protector and leader for his sister.  After some time at DINAF, we signed papers to have custody of the children for the week.  We left DINAF and went to the mall to get some water, juice and a sweater for each of the children.  They were so excited with all that they saw.  You would have thought they went to Disney World.  They both took our hands and smiles were plastered across their faces.
We returned to the hotel and spent some time with friends that came to the hotel.  Followed by dinner and then trying to get the kids to bed.  We have done OK, but the language barrier does make it a bit difficult.  I am struggling through with my bit of Spanish, and Brayan has been very patient and helpful with his sister.  Tomorrow morning, we go to DINAF for the entire morning for our interview and psychological evaluation.  We are so in love with two cuties already, but we can already tell that Sinia has a lot of energy and a strong will.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Packed and Ready to Go?

We have been working to pull together and updating all of our documentation.  Feels like we have done our whole dossier a second time.  We have packed and repacked and made contact with friends in Honduras.  We purchased airline tickets, and the itinerary is roughly set.  We took put together plans for our girls to be cared for while we are away.  A friend took the dog for the week, and we checked the luggage again.  We think we are ready to go.  Tomorrow, I will preach at church, we have a meeting with our mission team that will be going to Mexico two weeks after we return from Honduras, some time with our daughters and then an early night to sleep.  My guess is Sunday night will be mostly a restless night as we have to be out the door early in the morning and on our way to meet our two future children.  I keep asking myself if this is real, and I am really ready?  Many of the same questions that cascaded through my mind when Alicia was pregnant with our first child.  Now 18 years later I know that I wasn't ready, but we have taken it day by day, trusting in the Lord and seeking His will in our family.  I know that I am not ready for what is ahead, yet the Lord has led us to this place and we are looking forward to the adventure together.  Thank you for your continued prayers and support.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Mix of Emotions

A week from now, we will be on our way to Honduras to begin the final leg of this journey.  Lord willing, we will have the opportunity to spend a few days with the children.  It is somewhat surreal to think that in a few short days we will meet two children for the first time that will become our son and our daughter.  Through this journey, the Lord has been at work in my heart to soften some edges and strengthen my faith, and work on my patience and help me to see afresh the community of love and support that he has placed around our family.  On one hand, I am filled with excitement and anticipation for meeting our children.  On the other hand, there is an under-riding stream of questions and low grade anxiety.  This mix of emotions, and the daily updates on our trip and the pile of documents that need to be updated, and translated, and notarized and apostilled... has my mind running in so many directions, yet there is a peace that I can say only comes from the Lord.  In Philippians 4:6-7 we read, " not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  It is a wonderful promise to know that even in the mix of emotions that flood our minds, we have a God who is sovereign, and we can always turn to Him in prayer.  He may not do what we think He should do, but He will give peace to trust Him no matter what.