Saturday, August 30, 2008


the above picture is the first family picture that we've taken since seth's death. so very bittersweet. i look at that picture and want to see seth's cheesy little grin. i can just picture him right behind abby - probably doing rabbit ears to andrew!!

we visited school last wednesday for jenison christian's open house. we arrived earlier than everyone so that we could see the library and what they've done over the summer. for those of you who don't know.....we set up a memorial fund in honor of seth - it's a fund that purchases books for the library at school. you see, seth LOVED reading - at least since last spring when we got him glasses. last summer he INHALED books. he read the entire harry potter series, the lord of the rings series, the hobbit, another series about dragons - in other words....we didn't see alot of seth last summer, he was always in his room reading!! he broke a record at school for the most accelerated points earned in the first quarter. we always wondered how many points he would have ended up with. they started a "seth van wienen reading award" to be given to one student per year that exemplifies the love of reading that seth did. so cool. one of his friends (matt werkman) was the first to receive it last spring.

at the school's auction last march monies were donated to give the library a face lift - and what a lift it is!!! they constructed a tree (the one we are sitting in front of in the above picture) that is just amazing. it includes all the books that were purchased with the memorial fund. the details to this tree are awesome! honestly, i lost it when i saw that they had scratched in seth's initials into the tree - he would have SO done that himself!! the amount of work that was put into this was unbelievable (we'll always remember you for this james!)

there's also this absolutely amazing mural that was painted that has so many levels of artistic themes that one has to stand and just look at it several times in order to see all that is included in this piece of artwork. included in it are moons and stars among many, many other things - we just absolutely love it!

we have been so well cared for by our extended school family. it overwhelms us at times the many, many people who have continued thinking and praying for us these last 10 months. this wonderful space at school is yet just another example of the love we feel from jcs. we're speechless..... God is so good - and He provides....even things that we didn't know we needed ourselves - like a space where we (and anyone) can go and just honor our boy . thank you jenison christian...for being God's arms when we need to be wrapped in His love! we will forever be grateful.

Friday, August 29, 2008


so it's been 10 days since we've been home from guatemala....what has happened in the van wienen home? ben is up 3-4 times a night again, gracie notified me that she needs to shop for school since she has NOTHING (said with as much attitude as you can muster!) to wear for her 1st day of middle school, caleb needs a hair cut desperately and he forever is refusing, luke spent the weekend with a school friend and his family at their cottage last weekend and told us first thing when he was dropped off that he got bit by a fish in his "nards" (only a 10 year old boy!!!), andrew has gone missing on us at least a half dozen times - back to the basics with him, abby just adores lydia and doesn't allow her to walk at all becuz she wants to carry her new sister around 24/7, and much has already changed with her including her allowing to have a picture taken with a great big smile on her face!!!

greg is going strong back at work, and mom? well....i have only a few hours of sleep at night thanks to mr. ben-ben, i don't get a shower until at least 11am on a good day, i've taste-tested more baby food (to see if it's too hot) than i want to admit, my hair truly is coming out, the bags under my eyes are the size of the grand canyon.......and i'm loving every bit of it!!! i truly feel like i'm doing the job God has designed me to be doing - being the best wife and mom i know how to be. i pray that i will be able to do the job He has called me to do with as much grace and wisdom as He provides. my prayer is that we can raise these gifts God has blessed us with to grow in the knowledge of our Heavenly Father, that one day they too may experience the joy of children and have wonderful memories of their own childhood.

so.....we ready them for their next phase of life - some into their last years at middle school, some in their first. some in their last year of grade school and some right in the midst of it. some beginning to learn what family is and some just getting through a full night of sleep. i hope we're prepared.....good bye summer......let the new school year begin!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

she's safe.....she's happy.....she's HOME!!!

WOW! what a whirlwind of a 4 days! if it gives you just a little taste - i've tried to start this post 8 different times this week! 2 times it was my stupidity that i "lost"/erased the entire post, but mostly it was the kids deleting my half written post so they could play online. oh the joys of getting back into things!
the trip home was flawless. lydia did amazing on the flights home - she fell asleep on both flights. it was just so very surreal having her on the plane with us and bringing her home! no one could ever explain that feeling of walking down the hallway with your new daughter just steps away from introducing her to her new family. it was the longest walk - especially with lydia's little legs!! seeing the kids waiting was very bittersweet for me. i was so very excited for them to meet lydia, and yet there is a part of our hearts that was breaking knowing that not all of our kids were there. my biggest prayer that entire day was for God to allow Seth a window - just so that he'd be able to celebrate with us. i hope he did - i believe he did. i would have loved to see his reaction - someday we will.

lydia did great meeting her new family and friends. we were overwhelmed with everyone that had come to welcome us home - i told a few of them that they prayed her home....i truly believe that. we can't thank everyone enough for being a part of making a wonderful memory for our family.
since that day the kids have completely fallen in love with lydia. they can make her laugh like nothing we've ever seen. i joke that they all can't go back to school in a week because i need them home to help with her and ben!! it's like having twins right now - one mobile and one not so much. we brought them to greg's office and weighed both of the kids and it's official - lydia weighs less then ben (lydia: 21# 1 oz......ben 21# 8 oz). she is tiny! tall.....but tiny. she's eating better now that we're home. we realized that she didn't even know how to chew. she has a mouth full of teeth and doesn't know how to chew. so we're back to the basics - baby food and bottles. i think she'll quickly advance once we work with her - in fact she already has made HUGE strides in her eating just in the last 4 days. she wears the same diapers as ben - although ben may have to go up to the next size (he gained 1 1/2 # while we were gone!!! he was WELL cared for!!!) sleeping still remains our hurdle with lydia. once she falls asleep she stays asleep - no matter in what position!!

so now we begin the process of teaching her what family is and what that means to her. the first morning she woke up she just laid there not moving anything except her eyes - just looking around as if to be thinking "is this really happening?" yes, sweet lydia - it's really're finally home!!

we cannot thank you all enough for praying us through these last 22 months. it's been an agonizing several months, but we knew that it was all in God's timing that she'd come home. she's doing well and we just now pray for a smooth transition here at home with her and the kids and in a few days when school starts again. and then ben and lydia get some good "mommy time"!

our happy new daughter - Lydia Ruth Paola Van Wienen....

Monday, August 18, 2008

We're coming home!!!

oh how i've longed to type those words!! even though our time here has been wonderful, greg and i both agree - we need home. we cannot wait to see the kids' faces when they see their new sister for the first time. we've been showing lydia pictures of the kids to get her a little ready and every time she sees abby and grace's pictures she kisses them (she really does remember them from our visit trip i believe) - boys i'm sure she'll share alot of kisses with you too!!! her pictures don't do her justice - she always dead pans when we get the camera out!!
the past few days have been nice and relaxing. yesterday we went to the zoo - really cool zoo they have here! some new animals that we've never seen before. lydia didn't care too much about them - she was very tired, but she was such a trooper! mom & i went shopping in the afternoon and the guys stayed back in the hotel with lydie. that was fun!!! unbelievably when we were shopping in this artesian market we bumped into a girl that had a shirt that said western michigan on it. i asked her if she went to western and she said no but that she lived in western michigan though. "GET OUT!" (i think i may have made her a little nervous :)) i said that we lived in w. michigan too. come to find out they live in martin - my sister and bro-in-law (kristin and jon) used to live in martin. she asked me who they were and i told them to which another guy in their group said "my dad's related to the lanings!!" "GET OUT!!!" his parents were with them and we spoke to them for a while. turns out the guy is a cousin to jon's mom. they and 29 young people were on a mission trip to guatemala in an orphanage. who knew that one could play dutch bingo in a vendors shop in guatemala? i think it had to be a God thing.

today we went walking around looking for a store that sold pudding - since that's the only thing that we know for sure lydie would eat on the plane. who knew that finding a pudding snack pack would be so difficult!! we were successful and were able to go do a little more shopping as well. it's amazing how these people take advantage of every single little nook and cranny!! it's so beautiful to see their stores with all the brilliantly colored textiles.

greg and dad went back to the embassy this afternoon to pick up lydia's visa/passport. it was an easy process and one that we're glad is done. our lawyer also dropped off some more information on lydia. we were able to get pictures of her birthmom/grandma/grandpa or brother, baby pictures, a copy of her original birth certificate, and the immunization booklet that aracely couldn't find which had held up our process in the early stages for several weeks! we also found out that we actually got out of PGN on June 9 - we were notified on the 26th!! oh well, over and done with and she's in our arms.

we met up with 4 other bethany families who are here adopting as well. we all went to a guatemalan restaraunt last night. that was alot of fun. there was one family (heather & jon van es) who are from sioux city, IA. i've been communicating with her for the last year on bethany's guatemalan forum. it was WONDERFUL to meet other christians who are going through the same process as we are. we are hoping to get together in the future. they have a beautiful 9 year old boy, Ty and they are adopting a little angel - Jett - from here (he's going to be 2 in october). they have 2 girls at home as well.

So we start on the last part of this trip tomorrow morning bright and early. i think that lydia is finally sleeping and we're going to be heading off to bed too. our bags are packed, the alarm is set, it's time to bring her home.......


Saturday, August 16, 2008


so today was our trip to antigua. it just wasn't a trip there but it was a day to spend with some new friends. william, carin, david, and juan brought us to antigua. these are just amazing people! they spent their day with us driving us to an extremely touristy place just because they wanted to. i'm sure they could have been doing so many other things today, but they chose to spend it with us. these are people with such hospitality like i've never experienced before. joel had introduced us just yesterday and yet they seem like dear friends. carin is the principal at the christian school (her father was the one with the vision to start the school). william is her husband and they have an adorable little 3 year old boy (fernando). william is the youth pastor and works closely with carin's father. neither speak english. david is the english teacher (and band!) and speaks incredible english. juan was the driver and is someone with such a story. he used to be in a gang but because of the prayers of carin's sister and friend - juan walked into their church one way and came out a changed man. we told him that we were glad that he was a part of our "gang" now!

antigua was just as beautiful as i remember it from last october. we visited some of the same sites we did before but were so glad we could come back and experience it with mom & dad this time. the flowers there are beyond beautiful - there are no colors to discribe them well enough.

not only were the flowers so different from each other so were the people we saw. i saw a mother nursing her infant child while holding out a container asking for donations, a father giving his son a ride on a horse, people dressed in authentic guatemalan dress trying to sell their wares calling out to us "for you.....ten dolla", tourists taking pictures of the ruins, older men with amputated legs begging for food, and a blended "family" - some from guatemala and some from michigan enjoying the day together.

we were able to do some shopping in this open air market. my highlight of the day!! yes kids, we are not coming home empty handed for you!!! it was such a sensory overload! david was fantastic at getting the best prices!

lydia did amazing! she did great on the long ride there and back - and even fell asleep on the way back. she's showing us her independence a little bit by sometimes not wanting us to hold her hand when she is walking. we found out she loves pudding, likes rice krispies, and drinks alot of juice. she still doesn't eat alot and we've started her on some 3rd stage baby food. the orphanage director said that she's used to having her food pureed - so much to catch her up on but i don't think it'll be long!!

when it was time to say good-bye, we couldn't believe how hard it was. even though we've only met these people 2 days ago! we were in a circle in front of the hotel and william said a prayer for us. i had no idea what he said but i think it was the most beautiful prayer i've heard. we may all not speak the same language, dress in the same manner, or live in the same community but we all serve the same God. it was an experience that we'll always remember. we've fallen in love with guatemala.....we will be back (sarah - you won't be getting rid of these van wienens just yet!!)

thank you once again for your prayers......they are truly felt!!!


This is the Great Adventure!!

WOW! what a day we had yesterday! we met up with Joel VanDyke a missionary down here whom keith and monica have worked with the several times they have been down here. what a guy joel is!! i know that we would have NEVER seen these places if it weren't for him! we started the day with joel taking us up to the christian school. there we saw a family with such an AMAZING vision. the local pastor wanted to start a church school 35 years ago. he and his family finally started one 9 years ago, in fact they had the paperwork to become an organized school before they even had a building or classrooms. they went out on faith and started registering children to start - just 2 weeks before school was to begin God provided a school building. all but one of the teachers were family members - they started with 83 students and i forget how many they have now but it is around 200 i believe. they scrunch in up to 37 students in a room not much bigger than grace's room at home - i will NEVER complain about class sizes again! We then visited a family who have 6 girls and one baby boy in their home. 5 of the children attend the christian school. the people here are so overwhelmingly hospitable!!
we sat at their table - with 9 chairs around it (reminded me of home!!) and spoke with them. the children were all around and were so very excited that they had gringos in their home. the girls stole our hearts! seeing them living in such conditions (dirt floor, tin house, incredibly meager surroundings) and yet having the smiles on their faces - you could tell that God lived there.

joel then brought us back to the pastor's house where his wife prepared us an authentic guatemalan dinner - let's just say it felt like a thanksgiving meal!!!

From there joel took us someplace where bethany would most definitely have suggested us NOT to go (sorry, sarah!!!) - he took us to the city dump. we had to park in the cemetary (strangest cemetary we've ever been in - they bury there loved ones above the ground). mom & i stayed in the van with lydia and dad & greg went out to the overlook of the dump. it reminded us so much of nicaragua. the vultures soaring over head were the size of small dogs, the smell was so strong we had to cover our faces, people - many, many people - were in the midst of the garbage scrounching around for recycle scraps, wild dogs all over looking for anything to eat. it was almost too much to see. to be in such a beautiful country as guatemala is and then see something so ugly was very hard to take in. the site that struck me was this tree with about 50 or so vultures just sitting and then this beautiful flowering tree right in front of it - such beauty and ugliness so close to each other.

we then were on a mission to find this homeless pregnant teen who monica had seen when she was here in july. she couldn't get this girl out of her mind. joel had said there were 2 pregnant girls that were homeless. we found audah sitting all curled up under a building awning trying to keep out of the rain. she sat there so small and so all alone - it was a sight i will never forget. joel stopped and we started talking with her. she was really quite beautiful under all the dirt and grime. we told her that she was being prayed for and that we had gifts for her and inez (the other pregnant teen) - joel was going to give the gifts of baby things to a coordinator who is starting a mission to reach out to these homeless teens. we then went to mcdonalds and bought her some food since she hadn't eaten all day. please pray for these girls - they have no life except for huffing and just surviving. they are God's children too - and it just hit me that our little girl may have ended up in a place like that.

speaking of lydia - she is opening up so much more today. so many more smiles and laughs and mischieviousness. she LOVES baths and hearing her laugh while splashing herself is something i will never get sick of! she is definitely not a morning person! she is slow to wake up and refuses to eat anything until afternoon. she is a joy! last night, though, was our first time seeing her truly scared - it was over 2 hours of trying to get her to sleep - she was at times unconsolable. it just reminded me that she is a little girl whose life is completely changed and she was just scared. it tore my heart apart. please pray for tonight that it will go better for her (and for us!).

we are heading to antigua for the day - looking forward to another great adventure! thank you for keeping us in your prayers. we can't wait to be home for you all to meet our new little girl! love to all.....
greg & jolynn
oh.....thought you'd enjoy seeing lydie again!! :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another Van Wienen is "born"!!

So folks.....she's all ours!! as of 10:30am lydia became an official van wienen!! we went to the embassy and it went very smoothly (the absolute last item of this process was the ONLY smooth part of this process!) the pictures don't due her justice....she is a happy, smiley, cuddly, affectionate little girl - and she's ours!!!! She slept wonderfully last night. i was able to rock her to sleep and sing to her, she cried just a little - not a scared one but a "i-don't-wanna-go-to-sleep" cry (it's universal to children all around the world!!) she slept all night and we had to wake her up this morning for the embassy appointment. we woke her up with a "buenos dias, lydia - good morning" to which she returned a HUGE smile and lifted her arms up to us. Oh did our hearts just soar!! She is very tiny! she's tall (slightly taller than her cousing emily) but so very thin. we figure she will be in the same size diapers as ben is! actually ben has a bigger belly and thighs by far - we're anxious to weigh her, she can't be much more than ben is. we need to get her home and fatten her up. this picture was taken just before our embassy appointment with her official "pink slip"

and this is the only one we could get of her without her eyes closed. we decided to take grace's digital camera with us instead of ours and we're just trying to get used to it.

so the rest of the day is a trip to the local "walmart" for something for her to eat - she doesn't eat very much at all. then the missionary, Joel VanDyke, who keith and monica have worked with is stopping by for a visit. the plan is to go up to the school tomorrow, antigua on saturday, zoo/market on sunday. thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers....looking forward to coming home!!!

greg and jolynn

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


nothing and i mean NOTHING ever goes as planned in guatemala!! we got up bright and early this morning - some earlier than others! - and we waited and waited and waited some more (what IS God trying to teach us i wonder!!!) by 11:30am we had had it and called sylvia our bethany contact down here. she called back and said that lydia was suppose to be brought to the med clinic for her final medical evaluation at 9am - aracely didn't show until 11:30!! we were notified around 12:30pm that lydia was at the clinic and that afterwards they would be bringing her to the hotel. We got a phone call around 2:30 saying they'd be here by 3:00 - they got here around 3:30!!! i swear if we don't have an ulcer after today....... sylvia was not able to be here when they dropped her off - it wasn't until 8:30pm (10:30pm our time!) that she finally came and went over the paperwork with us. come to find out it was aracely who was the culprit most of the time that made this process so much longer than it ever should have been....but that's all over now - lydia is here, she's happy, she's healthy (although on the very, very skinny side!!! in fact she probably will be wearing the same size diapers that ben wears!!! yes, i said diapers - we were so hoping that this potty training stuff would have been behind us!!!). she was smiling and touching our faces all over with her long skinny fingers. she had a bath - and LOVED it - splashed all over and grandma and mama both ended up with a "bath" too! to hear her laugh ..... that wonderful belly laugh - it made our hearts soar!!! she fell asleep in my arms singing to her. she was crying some, but not a scared cry - more of a "i-don't-wanna-go-to-bed-cry". but she finally caved in and she is sleeping soundly. early morning tomorrow at the embassy and then onto the walmart like store they have down here for some things. good it feels to have her here! we all will sleep well tonight...............together from now on!!!! thank you once again for checking up on us and for praying us through this long and happy day.
PS: will post pictures tomorrow - we want to make sure the kids see her in their emails first before sharing her with everyone else.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

HOLA from Guatemala!

Well, we're here - the day is finally coming upon us. how are we ever going to sleep tonight? probably as poorly as we've slept these last 4 nights since we got our pink slip! traveling was uneventful and we're all settled all we need is our little girl. the toys are spread out, her new clothes are ready, the snacks are just waiting to be all we need is our little girl. prayers have been answered, safety was given to us for traveling, everything is all we need is our little girl. hours from when our world will be changed and hours from now her world will be all she needs is her mama and papa. tomorrow sweet lydia - rest well tonight - for tomorrow you'll be ours.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Beginning of the End

We're finally coming upon the end to this long drawn out process. Kids are "delivered" to where they'll stay while we are gone. The house is quiet....eerily quiet. I don't like it....I want our kids back home already and yet there is a little girl thousands of miles away who is need of her new mama and papa. As we were coming home in an empty car I remembered the family meeting we had with the kids about 2 years ago when we told them that we thought that maybe God was asking us to adopt this little girl:
She was 10 months old at the time. I remember the first time I saw her - I actually
fell to the chair and lost my breath. I remember the very first thought I had of her "I'm going to hold that little one some day" It was as if God spoke directly to my mother's heart that she was our daughter. We told the kids we were going to pray about it and wanted them to as well. After that family meeting I think it was Andrew who said, "Mom, God told me that we're suppose to adopt her!" Oh the faith of a child. And then I think of Abby who from day one has prayed every single night "and please let the paperwork for Lydia to go really, really fast" (even after all these months she continued to pray that prayer. Oh the faith of a child.
Then I remember Caleb and Luke saying that the next one has to be a boy because we couldn't have more girls than boys, and yet both on different occasions admitted that God really wanted Lydia to come home. Oh the faith of a child. And we have a tattered picture of Lydia that we just received out of Seth's box of school things. On his birthday we opened his Memory Box that Karen Schuitema from school had put together of his school things and amidst the crayons, journals, and drawings there was one picture of Lydia that was so worn on the sides that I just know that he fingered that picture of his little sister dreaming of the day when he'd get to play with her "for real" He kept that picture taped to his desk for the last 2 years. Oh the faith of a child. And Gracie....sweet Grace....wanting her little sister home so badly at times that I'd find her crying when we had another set back in the process. "Is God ever going to send her home, mom?" she asked me one night - someday, Grace He will - oh the questions of faith of a child. They all have taught me alot about faith in this journey. God is faithful - and God is good - all the time, no matter what the circumstances. So we leave to pick up our little girl tomorrow morning....the beginning of the end of this process. One that has come with excitement and tears and testing of our faith. We're coming sweet Lydia - mama and papa are coming.......

Friday, August 8, 2008


yes you've read that right .... we got pink!!! that means we received our pink slip which has our embassy interview date. i had many different ways that played out in my mind about how we were going to find out - i can guarentee that i never thought it'd happen this way!! our sw had told us that we probably wouldn't hear anything until the earliest on friday, so i stopped stalking our email around 4pm. we had supper, i went over to sandy's house for a while, came home and talked with greg for a while, then we started getting ready for bed and i thought i'd check our email one last time. "adopt guatemala: visa appointment packet enclosed" is what i saw first. i said to greg "um, honey....get over here.....i think we have pink" opened the email and sure enough - we got pink!!!! i started screaming hysterically while greg kept reading the email. "WE GOT PINK!!! WE GOT PINK!!! WE GOT PINK!!!!" is all i kept screaming to which ben woke up screaming, i ran upstairs to wake the kids: grace was shaken awake by her hysterical mother, andrew half-heartedly woke up - picked his nose - fell back to sleep. abby woke up yelling "where's the fire? where's the fire". caleb was awake already and just laughing at his mom running around the house like a maniac. luke shook like he had a seizure and then fell back to sleep. ben is now screaming his lungs out. so at around 11pm tonight our house was turned upside down. Now the details: we think we'll fly out next tues, have her brought to us on wed., with the appointment on thurs am. we can't pick up her visa paperwork until the following monday though!!! ugh - long weekend at the hotel. the embassy is closed on fridays so that's why the paperwork won't be available (sounds like a cushy job huh?) the initial plan is to fly back sometime on the following tues. the 19th.
so friends.....our little girl will walk back into our lives in only 6 short days. 6 days left of this incredibly long journey. 6 days for her little heart to be ready to join our family. please pray for her. her world is going to be turned upside down in 6 short days and yet our world will be so much more brighter with her in it.
Like we sang 9 months ago in a hospital room saying good bye to seth "Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above the heavenly host. praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." God is so good......all the time.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Waiting and waiting and waiting some more....

Well, if getting outta pgn felt like my water broke.....this waiting for our embassy appointment feels like i've been in that hospital bed for weeks pushin' and pushin'!!! I just want to have the date of when we can go down and get her!! I've finally allowed myself to start thinking about the moment that we'll see Lydia again - before i couldn't let my mind go there. I wonder whether she'll remember us, will she be crying for Aracely (the orphanage director), will she come to us at all?, will she be shy/happy/sad/scared/excited? I just pray that the transition to us will go smoothly and that she'll not be scared. Please pray for our little girl's heart - that she'll be feel safe with us. hopefully the next post will be when we get to we wait - again.