Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Update....Finally!

I am going to try to type this as Serenity is running her little hand all over the screen. :)

I know what it is like to want to know how a new family is doing - I check the blog every day!  I meant to update this immediately - and more often during the trip - but as always, real life gets in the way.

The flight home was rough on Handsome as Hope was just DONE.  She didn't want anymore changes, no more noises, no more!!!!  The flight attendants were so helpful and just let him hide in the back of the plane, but that is not an easy way to spend 10 hours.  She had done fairly well on the first flight of 2+ hours, but not now.  It also took a loooooooong time to get through immigration once they finally arrived.  Needless to say they were worn out and ready to be home.

I just can't describe the feeling of seeing the girls in our home.  It was just unbelievable to see them HERE...not just pictures and dreams.  Hope was still overwhelmed and crying, but was willing to let me hold her on my lap where she could see out the window.  Serenity was more than happy to meet all her new best friends and explore EVERYTHING!  The Helper had already been chosen to be Serenity's "buddy" so we were very excited to see them bond instantly - God's grace and plan.  Ahhh, the sweetness of it!

The Helper has more than earned her nickname this last week!  She feeds Serenity - not an easy chore with a tummy that never feels full, but a mouth that cannot really chew anything but soft things.  Lots of eggs, tiny pieces of pancakes, cut up bananas, teeny pieces of sandwich, etc.  I am amazed at how much this little punkin can pack away!  I knew from my visit with her in June that she wanted to eat all the time.  I never saw her without her clothes on and her little face has a "chubby" look to it - so I assumed she was pretty pudgy.  Boy, was I wrong!  She has the skinniest little legs and arms.  She eats a great deal - but moves even more!  We will look into other issues just to make sure her body is processing and getting all the foods and nutrients that she needs.  But honestly, I think she is just sooo busy, there isn't any extra to add to her body weight.

This little dynamo moves from the moment she gets up until we finally lay her in her crib at night.  She can climb in and out by herself, so it limits being able to keep her in the morning she gets up and wakes up all her sisters one by one!  It is one of those things that you have to laugh or cry.  We tend to chose laughter!  We are trying to Serenity-proof the house - but that is not proving to be an easy task!

She and The Helper had great fun in the snow the other day.

Serenity is up for anything and everything.  Her favorite thing to do, when not playing with a sister or brother, is to carry around a little mirror and admire herself.  It is so funny to watch.  She makes every face imaginable.  What a ham!

Bedtime has been a challenge.  We keep her awake until 9 with the rest of the kids.  Some nights this is harder than others.  Every night, up until last night, she screams and cries when we lay her down, even though she is exhausted.  Last night though - HALLELUJAH! - she laid down and went to sleep without a tantrum.  After she is asleep, she does sleep through the night - but she snores so loudly!  The noise always changes too.  There have been several nights that Handsome and I have gotten up to see what the noise was, only to realize it was Serenity.

The biggest challenges with Serenity will be her temper and bonding.  She is a very determined little person and was very spoiled at her orphanage.  (I would choose spoiled over neglected any day!!!)  She wants what she wants, when she wants it.  This has been the pattern in the orphanage - just go from one worker to the next until you get what you want.  She has never been taught any differently until now - this is just life in an orphanage - but boy, is her little world being rocked.  We are not going "hard nosed" on everything right now, but the areas that we are holding the line have been very hard on us all.  It will take training for a long time to begin to see progress in this area.  The bonding will also be a big issue.  She loves EVERYONE, but doesn't realize she belongs to specific people now - not just whoever is "on duty" today.  She would go with anyone at the moment without looking back.

She is not a cuddler - she is much too busy for that.  She does not show affection, other than she demands more of one person than the others - poor Helper!  However, she IS a mimic.  This will help her make progress in every area of life faster than anything else.  The Helper is already working on the signs for eat, please, and all done.  Serenity is able to do this - but not really willingly!  I also had a happy moment when  The Boss came up and gave me a rare hug...and then Serenity came up and did the same thing!  Little triumphs!

My sweet Hope.  That is definitely a harder story to tell.  I knew that her orphanage was beyond horrific.  I knew she was extremely institutionalized.  But how it breaks my heart to see it reflected in her little life every day.  She is overwhelmed by everything....everything.  The closest comparison that I can come up with is that of an extremely cranky newborn.  Why are they crying this time?  What just set them off?  Why won't the "normal" things calm them down?  Of course, there are no "normal" things for my little girl.  She cries (very loudly) with seemingly nothing changing.  And cries, and cries, and cries.  She is not easily calmed by holding and rocking, but eventually this will do the trick.  She cries when we start to feed her...she cries when we stop...she cries when we pick her up...she cries when we put her down.....  None of this is a surprise, but it is wearing to do day-in and day-out.

In the hotel, Handsome and Testy Chef were only able to feed her Gerber food or Pedialyte squirted through a syringe.  I was immediately able to switch to feeding her with spoon - but she was not happy about it.  I tried blending good soups and different foods and feeding her that, with no success.  It is Gerber fruits or nothing at all.  Because she was not getting any protein or all the vitamins she needed this way, I did add 2 servings of Pediasure between 3 feedings of Gerber foods.  I also have added a bunch of Gerber cereal to the Gerber foods, which she is not happy about.  (I am also slowly adding vitamins and probiotics daily)  This is not my favorite way to feed her - I prefer homemade over processed any day...but we are just doing what is possible right now.  It does appear that she has some differences in her mouth, even beyond what I originally assumed - this may have something to do with it or it may not.  She has already gained 2 POUNDS in a week - despite my concerns.  Which begs the question - what did they feed her in the orphanage if she can gain that much in a week on so little food?  One of many questions that plague this Mama's heart daily.

She can hold herself in a sitting position for a very long time and can get herself into that position from laying down with difficulty.  But she cannot lay herself down carefully - she just falls to the side.  Then cries when her head hurts. :(  This will be our first home-therapy goal.  The last two days though, she has just wanted to lay down, even when I put her in a sitting position.  This is not good.  She needs to be building muscles, not retreating.  So, today I pulled out Mimi's walker that she no longer uses.  Hope was not happy, but she was upright.
I am not expecting her to try to walk by any stretch of the imagination right now, but at least she is putting some weight on her feet and in an upright position.  Eventually, I think her natural curiosity and movement will get the walker to move a bit.  Right now though, she does not appreciate movement, so walking will not be a draw until she gets past this fear.

She does not sleep well.  She cannot make it until the 9 pm bedtime, but then is up several times at night and then before 6 am.   She cries as soon as she wakes up.  I try to have a cup of juice ready for her as this seems to calm her a bit.

Both girls will go to our local amazing Children's Hospital on Dec 30th.  This will be an appointment with 4 of the 9 doctors that will see them as they build a plan to do surgeries and treatments with them.  I am hoping we will get some initial answers to some of our immediate questions though.  I will also have them both evaluated by Mimi and Grace's therapists.  I do not think we will start therapy outside our home immediately with either one, but these therapists know us and will give us things to begin to work on at home.  For Hope especially, I think it is much more important to have her become relaxed and comfortable at home.  Mimi is very low muscle tone and Grace is very high muscle tone - so we have plenty of work with quite a range.  As I said, laying herself down carefully will be the first goal.

So what does a "day" look like right now?  Handsome and I are up before 6 with Hope, whom I hold and rock while Handsome holds Grace in an upright position while she coughs. :(  We have yucky coughs and colds right now and it is very difficult for her to clear her throat.  Eventually Mimi and Serenity join the mix as the older kiddos get up.  I wake everyone up by 7:15 and they begin their jobs while I start the feeding/changing routine.  Mimi fed by g-tube, Hope by mouth, Grace by g-tube while Testy Chef gets breakfast on for the rest of the precious crew.  The Helper gets food cut up for Serenity and she eats with the rest of the gang and Handsome.  With school these last days, they need to have their jobs done and at the school table by 9 a.m.  My mom, Nana, asked to work with the middle five this year - AMEN! - so she has The Prince (2nd grade), Snip (3rd grade), The Professor (in 1st-3rd grade depending on the subject), Romeo (4th grade), and Smiley (5th grade).  She makes it fun and challenging and then gets to go home and rest!  The oldest three - Testy Chef (10th grade), The Warrior (8th grade), and The Helper (7th grade) do an online accredited program.  While this is going on, I am taking care of the littlest and trying to do laundry, paperwork, and therapies.

Grace needs her arm/hand braces.   We are slowly working on this now that she got her new round of Botox this last week.  It is not comfortable for her, but so necessary.  She has two sets of braces - "daytime" ones that do some stretching and "nighttime" ones that really force her wrists, fingers, and thumb to the right positions.  Here is a picture of her with the "nighttime" ones.
Her little fingers curl tightly into her palm, her thumb holds closely to the fingers, and her wrists tilt outward/downward.  For those of you familiar with this, it is an opposite direction than usually happens.  As she curls her fingers, the ring and pointer curl completely in and the pinky and pointer stay straighter at the knuckle and then curl in toward the other two towards the top of the finger.  The thumb just presses closely to the pointer, it is not curled under the other fingers.  

At first I really struggled with doing the splints.  There was a nagging thought of "why do that to her" since she will probably never use her hands.  But the more I understood the long term problems, the more I knew it needed to be done.  Skin is a "connective" tissue - so it will start to adhere to itself if not moved and stretched.  To the point that it will rip apart if we tried to open her hands after letting it go for too long.  The casters were concerned already by the depth of the potential damage to her skin.  In addition, it will start to develop sores - and if we cannot open, clean, dry her palms, it becomes a very, very serious problem.  They have also found that if the muscles learn to be stretched out and relaxed, it lessens every day pain to the person.  

Right now we are doing an hour on, an hour off.  The term "nighttime" is only because most kiddos do better with the harder stretch at nighttime - but we are also doing them for short periods of time during the day.  The goal is eventually 8 hours of "nighttime" and 8 hours of daytime.  It makes my Mama's heart ache right now.

We also work with her on basic stretches and movements as well as "tummy time" to try to strengthen her neck/back/chest muscles.  None of this is easy for her - though she does seem to enjoy holding her head up for brief periods of time.  

My long term hopes and dreams for Grace?  Well, I believe completely that God could choose to heal her completely or partly if He chose to do so at anytime.  But I also know that it isn't what He chooses to do many times.  So my hopes and dreams are based on what we see right now.  I would love to she her be able to hold her head up without effort.  I would also love to see her hands relaxed instead of curled.   Those would be my hopes.  My dreams would be that she could hold herself in a sitting position independently and maybe begin to explore with her hands - but this doesn't seem likely.  I remind myself though that I never thought Mimi would be doing the things she does now!

With Mimi, right now we are working (as we have been for years) on her lazy eye.  Unfortunately, she wants to go to sleep as soon as we put it on.   She goes and gets her binky and tries to curl up in someone's lap.   Here is The Warrior with a cranky Mimi with her patchy on.
As far as the rest, she is "this close" to walking independently.  PRAISE THE LORD.  But with Mimi it is all about motivation and since she can "bunny hop" crawl, she sees no reason to walk.  She is a stubborn little one for sure!  We have backed off of feeding by mouth for a while as we have seen that if she is working on one area (like walking) then she becomes delayed in the other areas.  She spends her time happily hopping from one place to the next exploring.

With Hope, we are working on snuggling and teeny new experiences every day.  With Serenity, we are working on obedience and containment of all that energy! :)

It seems lunch time comes very quickly.  It is time for another round of feedings, then everyone except the four special girls goes down for "rest time" where they work on homework, read, or listen to books on tape.  When they all get up, we do chores, playtime, another round of feedings, and I just go to whoever needs me most.  Dinner time, another round of feedings then finishing chores.  Daddy doesn't get home until close to 8 p.m.  We are ready for time with him until bedtime.  The last round of feedings end at 10 p.m., when I can finally close my eyes.  If it is a good night, I am only up once or twice with someone...if not, I may just get a handful of scattered hours before we start again.

Boy, how does it sum up so easily, yet is so complicated and tiring in reality?!?!

As I said in the last post, our life is HARD.  It never goes smoothly and there is always the unexpected.  ALWAYS.  Whether it is business paperwork, medical paperwork/calls, medical appointments, temper tantrums, sickness, a broken washing machine, or cranky kids and/or Mama.  There is always something for which we need His GRACE poured over us.

Sometimes there is something really my stroke in October.  Sometimes it even comes in bunches.  I have been trying to get a post out ever since my stroke, and just have not been able to sum up the mass of emotions swirling through my heart and mind.

Before my stroke, Handsome and I suspected I was pregnant, but we had miscarried enough times, we assumed it would also be the case this time.  To be honest, I just assumed this would be the case because I didn't not even want to consider HOW we would do this.  I have gotten pregnant after EVERY adoption, so it shouldn't have surprised us...but it was always so very, very hard.  My pregnancies are hard and my newborns are CRANKY.  We had felt after so many miscarriage and so long between pregnancies (for us) that God had just closed the doors.  Instead of the despair I always worried I would feel, I felt a sense of peace that it was time to move onward to whatever else He had in store....I was surprised by the pregnancy, but felt it would end in miscarriage again.

The stroke was a difficult surprise.  It was a severe test of faith - and a test of my belief that God was always good - even in the hard things.   If it had happened to anyone else, I would be able to comfort them with Scripture that said exactly that.  But as I was laying in the hospital bed, my mind was a blank and my emotions were ruling instead of truth.  Based on the doctors reactions and my own weak strength, I was sure that I had lost the baby during the stroke.   I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt in my feeling of relief.  I couldn't wrap my heart around a stroke and the challenges it brought, adoptions to finish and the details with that, AND a pregnancy.  No one could have been more surprised then me when an ultrasound showed a little body and a strong heartbeat.  I honestly did not expect that.  I just stared at the little moving person on the screen with disbelief.  Right afterwards, I was ushered into the exam room to meet the high-risk OB I was sent to by the ER physicians.  I didn't know what to feel - but what happened next was completely unexpected.  

I really liked the OB as we began our initial chat.  She was very friendly and easy to chat with.  She asked a lot of questions and hid her surprise at the size of our family and pending adoptions relatively well.  Finally she asked if I was a person of "religious" orientation.  I said I was.  She said so was she.  I smiled, not sure where this was leading.  She said that she did not agree with abortion except in the most extreme cases....I hesitantly smiled - not sure where this was going....she finished by saying that she considered me one of these extreme cases.......What?....WHAT?...

Don and I had discussed many times over the years what we would do in this scenario.  But of course, as you discuss it, you are not scared and tired and overwhelmed.   But the answer instantly popped out - "That is not even an option."  She looked surprised and told me that I needed to understand we were talking about my life and that I needed to talk with my husband.  I agreed I needed to talk with him, but I told her it would not change the answer.  I already knew what he would say.  It wouldn't be said as confidently as all of our previous discussions - but I knew it would be the answer anyway.  She paused for a few moments and said that it would be very, very hard to find a doctor willing to work with us and that I needed to see a super-high-risk doctor.  She stated again that my life was at huge risk.  I said no again.  She sighed and then offered her hand for a handshake.  She said, " Well, congratulations then, I guess.  The baby looks perfect."  

As I tried to hold my tears in until I reached the car, I kept hearing her say, "The baby looks perfect."  How could someone suggest I kill a perfect baby for my own sake?  I know where she was coming from...I do.  But I also know my God is sovereign.  Even if He takes my life with 13 other children, He is sovereign.  I called Don and sobbed out the story to him.  He was in shock as well - but he said the same thing.  Abortion is not an option.  Even to save my life.  I went home in a daze, just to turn around and head back to the appointment with the cardiologist.

As I met with him, I told him what the OB had said.  He looked shocked.  He said, "Oh, no.  There are doctors that will work with you.  Here is one of them." as he handed me a card.  It was a doctor at the huge university about an hour from us.  I didn't want to have to drive into the city, but I had no other choice.

I had an appointment the next week for the cardiologist to run a scope down my throat to determine if there was a hole in my heart.  He did indeed find a tiny hole.  BUT this still didn't explain the stroke.  He said that up to 25% of the population also has this hole - there really had to be a clot to cause the stroke.  I still had no signs, indications, or predispositions to clotting - no matter what test they used.  There was still no explanation for what happened.  Once I clarified that it was not stress, weight, eating, etc that caused the stroke, I was ready to move on.  I do not think they will ever know why - only God does.  It was determined that I needed to take blood thinners, especially through the pregnancy.  However, the pregnancy complicated that.  So, I have to self-inject doses of blood thinners twice a day into the area on my tummy.  I will just say it is not fun or easy to do.

The next week was the appointment with the super-high-risk OB.  This time I went into the appointment as tense as could be.  I knew what others thought.  What would the new doctor say?  She said that the situation was indeed serious as the blood thickens and clots as you are pregnant, but she was also shocked by what the previous OB had suggested.  She said that they worked with very, very difficult cases, but this one wasn't even close to that.  She said the injections were exactly right and that they would just closely monitor me.  It also means another c-section, which I assumed anyway.

I am now 18 weeks along.  The doctor is next to positive that it is another little boy.  This will make 7 adopted/7 biological - 7 boys/7 girls.  So where am I at emotionally?  Honestly, I am still struggling.  Most days I am so busy, I forget I am pregnant.  I am not feeling Little Man move yet and I have medicine to control the nausea.  As this is the first pregnancy since I have figured out that I need to be gluten/dairy free, so I have gained a great deal less weight and feel much better - as long as I am not lead astray by a piece of hot pizza. :)   I WANT to be excited for Little Man.   I want to dream of little fingers and toes, that wonderful baby smell, and the peace of holding a little one in the middle of the night as everyone else sleeps.  But my emotions are still leading astray.  I can only think of the terrible tiredness those last 2 months.  The panic as I try to figure out how to nurse a little one as four other little ones - and several big ones need me NOW.  The frustration of supposedly not being able to lift over ten pounds for 6 weeks when my baby will be over 10 pounds at birth if he follows the pattern.  I have VERY cranky/fussy newborns into the first year.  I have had 6 of them - I have tried it all.  It is just part of their DNA.  Lord, You are in control, right?  You promise You are with me always?  You promise to give me strength and rest - or the ability to do without, right?

Here is our life...full of joys, sorrows, and complications.  Full of countless ways to trust Him more.  I rejoice at all He has blessed me with - from my oldest treasure all the way down to the newest still growing inside - from those "home grown" to those gathered from the far corners of the earth.  I rejoice in this season of celebrating my Savior's birth.  Knowing He came to rescue me from my sins.  I rejoice....I rejoice even that He knows I am being stretched and is still singing a love song over me.

The Helper felt that everyone should see the amazing sight of all our stockings hanging together:

Our simplified Christmas tree - this year we only put up the ornaments from this year and last and a few softies for the girls....

And finally, a new bonus at our new home...we can put all the presents OUT OF REACH from little hands and use them as decorations...

Rejoicing in my blessings...trusting Him for the future.

Until He comes - He is worthy of praise.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Husband's Perspective

Handsome sent me a dream he had yesterday.  I wrestled a bit about sharing it, because it really is from the depths of his heart.  But I also feel like so many men (daddies!) need to "hear" from a man that gets their perspective and struggles.

With each adoption, Handsome has really had to work and pray through the concerns that immediately come to mind for a husband who is carrying the mantle of provider and protector.

"Is this what God would have us do?"

"How can we afford more medical payments and expenses?"

"How can we afford another adoption?"

"Do we have time to care for more?"

"Can we really take on more?  More expense, more responsibility, more time?"

At times, these questions have frustrated me.  It is very easy for me to give the "right" response, "If God wants us to do it, He will provide what we need!'  But you know, Handsome has a different and in some ways, greater responsibility before God for all of these decisions.  He is also wired differently from me - so he has to process and pray through these things from a different angle.  In the end, this is a perfect complimenting of each other - he is praying/working through "should" we do it while I am praying/working through the "how" we do it.  God is definitely giving me a deeper understanding of the responsibility that Handsome carries - and honestly, I am thankful I do not have to shoulder the same weight.

I am also seeing with each adoption (or just life decision that we have to make) that if God is leading us, both our hearts will eventually be on the same page. It is HIS work - not mine!  Honestly, I don't know the future!  I don't know what struggles/trials we will need to go through - so I DON'T know how to prepare our hearts - but He does!  I am seeing how I cannot "push" what God needs to do first.  Seeing what Handsome had to go through the first days on this pick up trip, if God had not thoroughly prepared his heart and convinced him of His leading, I can't imagine what the results would have been!

In fact, as God leads us to increasingly higher leaps of faith, I am at a loss to know how we would do this without the deep faith He has been growing in us for 20 years (and more!).  I have been thinking back a great deal to myself as a young mom lately.  How overwhelmed I was with everything.  But that is a post for another time....

Here is the dream Handsome had...he is not an "emotional" man...he is very much like most this isn't a "wear your heart on your sleeve" response.  In fact, it surprised me to read it:

In the dream I was still in Bulgaria in the back of a car riding with the 2 new girls we adopted, Serenity and Hope. It was very similar to the long car ride that all the kids and I had with Alan driving back from Hope's orphanage with me crammed in the back with the new girls and Becca, except the dream there were 2 ladies in the front that had something to do with our adoption instead of Alan. In a sure sign it was a weird dream, the ladies understood English. The Randy Stonehill song "The Lost Parade" was somehow playing on the radio. We heard the line "We praise the feast of fools and we shun the bread of life and the stars shine like the tears of God for the weary world tonight."

One of the ladies turned the song off, shook her head and expressed her doubts and frustrations about God and why these kids stuck in orphanages and institutions were not being saved if He was watching. I struggled to try to explain to her why this was. I knew that God was on the throne but I struggled to explain why people did not come and get these kids.

All of a sudden I was transported out of the car to the top of a hill that we had been driving by. I was surrounded by other hills but I was on the tallest one and very close to the sky. It was very quiet, all I could hear a gentle stream flowing near me. I thought about my family, made up of fatherless children from all over the world. My strong, handsome and fast growing twins from Guatemala that were handed over to us greasy, dirty, and sickly. My very smart Ethiopian 7 year old. My girl from Taiwan with special needs so severe that she will never walk or say a word to me but says so much with the smile she gives me every time I pick her up to hold her for a while. 2 girls from Bulgaria who I have only had been with for a few days but have already bonded to me and their older brother and sister. Serenity has deformed hands and toes but is so beautiful that every time we go for a short walk the Bulgarian people smile and talk to her. Hope has gone from a scared, screaming child to someone who is calm during the day and sleeps all through the night, in large part due to the tremendous love and care given to her by her oldest sister, who was also adopted. Not to mention the love from Daniel, one of our many birth children who have meshed together into a solid family with kids from all parts of the globe with all kinds of needs.

I stood on the top of this hill thinking about my children, these priceless treasures I had found on this earth that everyone else had missed. They were like gold nuggets covered with dirt, a hidden precious material ready to make someone rich if they would notice them, spend a little time cleaning them up, and take possession of them. I thought of all the people that have told us over the years what a neat story our family was, how special our kids were, yet so few would go and what we did, go and grab one of the many other children needing a family and get the blessings for themselves. They were not hard to find, the world was absolutely full of them, ready and willing to be taken! Why could people, with ample resources to supply for the need, run out to grab these children? What was their life filled with that they did not want the blessings that would come from it?

I looked at the sky and felt overwhelmed. I was aware of the millions of fatherless children all around the world and all the people that could not only fill the need, but receive blessing upon blessing for doing it. Blessings in this life and, for Christ's people, the life to come. I could not understand the disconnect and I cried out to the sky and pounded my fists on the rocks.

I have children from Bulgaria!
I have children from Taiwan!
I have children from Guatemala!
I have children from Ethiopia!

I knew the world had seen my children and what a blessing they were to me. I knew there millions more children filling this world, desperate and waiting for a family and I screamed and cried as loud as I could to anyone that could hear-


Then I woke up and that was it...

Handsome and I have both seen now how a trip overseas changes perspectives.  In our comfortable homes in America, it is so easy to think of all the reasons that we should not step out in faith.  Isn't that funny when you think about it?  Surrounded by so much, you would think we would be more willing to see God's provision - instead we tend to be surrounded by doubt and honestly, selfishness.  But when we are overseas and see how little these children have - in fact, nothing - we see how much we have to give.  

It seems very simplistic - but in so many ways it is the truth - but ask yourself, 

"Can you squeeze in one more chair at the table?" 
"Can you squeeze in one more bed?  Maybe bunk beds?"

Actually, the first questions should be:

"Have you learned that the Lord is your Provider?"
"Have you learned to listen for and to follow His voice?"
"Have you learned to give up whatever He asks you to for His glory?" 
"Are you willing to learn all of these things in a whole new way?" 
"Have you learned that everything we do is BY HIS GRACE and not from something we already 'have' in our life/personality?"

You can see that it is very simplistic on the surface - but very deep when you start to really see what you need?  The harder question is not "is there physical room" for another child - it is,

"Do you trust ME, my child?"

For some of us (usually the wives) the question may come down to:

"Am I (the Lord) strong enough to change your husband's heart if this is what I am calling your family to do?"

Hmmm...ouch...maybe it would also include, "Will you get out of My way, so that I can work in My perfect time and ways?"  Double ouch.

How about, "Are you willing to lay down your desire to be the one adopting right now to help another family I have called to adopt already?"  Ouch, that one really hurts!

Finally, "Are you willing to rejoice and obey me if I never call your family to adopt, but ask you to do other things in My Name?"  Ouch with tears.

The Lord does have a plan for each one of us that are called by His name.  An individual plan.  A plan He has prepared us for from the beginning.  It hurts when we want to be the one adopting and that is not His plan right now.  It hurt when we desire to be the hands and feet right now and He is not opening the doors.

But on the other side, I do think there are so very, very many families that won't even ask themselves if they are to be Christ's hands and feet by rescuing a child.  When it really comes down to the source of their concerns, it comes down to fear and selfishness - just as it does with all of us when God asks us to do something we don't want to do or have never even thought about doing.  

I know that seems very, very harsh - but I am speaking from personal knowledge and conviction.  When I say, "No, Lord, I don't think so." - it based on my feelings and my impressions of the way things are in that very moment.  I don't account for God giving more grace, more patience, more trust, more strength...more of whatever I need...I only see things from my own limited perspective based on a static picture or the past.  God is not bound by those things....He is in control of all things.

I have found that the more we walk with Him, the harder the things are that He brings to our path.  On one hand, it is a teeny bit easier because we can look back on a long path of His faithfulness in all situations.  A pattern of firm faithfulness.  But in many ways, it is so much harder as I know myself.  I know how limited and selfish I am - I can do NOTHING without His grace.  That is not an exaggeration.  I used to sing with abandon the songs that said I would give up ANYTHING for Him.  I would be willing to go through ANY trial for Him. Oh, I meant it from my limited perspective at the time!  But oh, most of the time now, I can only whisper those words - or not say them at all.  Instead, I ask the Lord to not give me a choice - because I know I will choose the wrong thing.  I ask Him to hem me in behind and before as He has promised, because without His Hand of grace leading me, I will make the wrong choice.  Even as I see His faithfulness, I am so weak on my own.

This deserves a whole separate post, but I feel like I really need to say it now.  The life we live is HARD.  It is not an easy one.  But, it is full of joy (which does not equal happiness!) - ONLY because we know that the joy of the LORD is our strength.  Joy in His salvation - that this is not the end - that heaven with Him awaits at the end of this life - even if I am crawling at the end broken from exhaustion and pain.  Joy in knowing He has orchestrated every detail - nothing is left to chance.  Joy that His mercy trumps our sin and weakness.  Joy in knowing, by His grace, we are following where He leads.  Some nights, I go to bed with tears....many nights during some seasons.  But my tears of exhaustion save the tears of abandonment, neglect, abuse, and pain from 7 of my children.  Those tears also mean that my 6 biological children are learning things that they could not learn in any other way - about serving God with their whole lives - not just the moments they feel the can spare.  Not just in ways that feel comfortable.  Yes, it would have been easier to say ,"No" so many years ago and each time since that God has called - but that is not our point in being here.  It is to serve the Savior that died for us - it is no longer us that live - which includes our selfishness and needs - but Christ who lives in us.  And in His grace, He does meet our needs and changes our desires to match His.

Until He comes....

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Quick update!

Thank you for all the prayers!  After several extremely difficult days, Handsome and the crew are having a wonderful time overseas.  Ready to be home, but enjoying the relaxed days while they can.  I will update more soon but here is one of my favorite pictures so far.  The Testy Chef with Serenity and Hope.  The Testy Chef was adopted from US foster care almost 13 years ago - so very special to see her helping bring others home!

Only 6 more days until they are home.  Most people are counting down for Dec 25th...this year we are counting down until Dec 13th!  Then what a celebration we will have together of our Redeemer's birth!

Oh, and sweet Millie has a family!  What an amazing gift - praise the LORD!  Praying for this sweet family!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Please pray!

I know I am so far behind on updates!  I will try to catch up.  Right now Handsome and Hope really need your prayers.  She is not sleeping, eating, or drinking.  Handsome is beyond exhausted and getting so worried for her.  Please pray for God's mighty Hand to be seen through the next days.  My heart hurts so badly for both of them.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day One!

Day 1: Handsome, The Warrior, and Testy Chef board the plane in a few hours to head to rescue our girls. Really hard to believe it is finally here! Please pray for comfort and rest for them. They have an 8 hour layover in Frankfurt - but have VIP passes for a airport lounge thanks to a generous friend.  They will arrive in the girls' country around 11 am our time Sunday morning. 

Please also pray that God will prepare the hearts of Serenity & Hope for us, just as He did with Grace. Grace knew she belonged to us in ways it is hard to comprehend still - she smiled and laughed repeatedly - something the orphanage had never seen her do. 

These are huge changes for these girls. Although we know that they are being rescued - they don't know there is anything different than the life they have had for 4 & 5 years. They don't know that they are coming to a home that they are dearly loved - they don't even know what a "home" is! They only know that they are being taken from everything familiar to them.  I am praying that in His miraculous way, God will whisper to them that we are safe and theirs!

Pray, my friends, pray!

P.S.  Grace's g-tube placement went fabulous.  She was extremely stressed to be in the hospital, but thankfully due to our experience with g-tubes and the compassion of the medical staff, we went home the next day.  She is still in pain from the surgery, but is so beautiful without her tube!

Grace snuggled with The Helper!

Also, here is the newest family picture, for those who are curious!

 In the back: The Helper, The Warrior (in orange), Testy Chef, and The Professor (green sweatshirt), Smiley in green/blue stripes, The Prince in camo, Snip in the pink striped coat, Handsome with Grace on his lap, Me with Mimi on my lap, Romeo in the blue/black sweatshirt up front, and finally The Boss with lime green stripes. 

How I have been blessed!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It is really happening!!!!

So much to do - so much "story" to tell - but Grace's g-tube placement (second attempt) is tomorrow.  No time right now BUT have to say....

Handsome, Testy Chef, and The Warrior are leaving Saturday, Nov 30th - yes, in 9 days! - to redeem Serenity and Hope.  We just found out yesterday.

Could use so many prayers - for Grace, the trip, and my new girls.

Trusting Him!
 The Testy Chef

 The Warrior and Mimi

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Forever Ours!

They are ours forever!  Praise the Lord, they are ours!

Needing to wait and see when Handsome gets to go rescue them...

To Him be all glory, honor, and praise!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Tonight (Monday morning in Serenity & Hope's country) is court!  PLEASE pray for our Savior's grace - that the judge will rule in our favor without requesting more information....that they will be OURS - orphans no more!!!

Until He comes...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013



That was my question a week ago sitting in the ER room. 

 "What just happened?" 

 "What does this mean for my family?"

"What does this mean for Serenity & Hope?"

"What does this mean for any thought of adopting again?"

"What...oh, what do You want me to learn from this?"

I laid on an ER bed, not able to see well and not being able to speak clearly.  The words came out all wrong, no matter how hard I tried to get them to come out right.  My voice was sluggish and slurred.  The words were wrong, the voice was wrong, I could not communicate.

As I blinked back tears, I wondered if I would ever speak and see clearly again.

What was God's plan in all of this chaos?

I had a stroke.  

I had absolutely no factors that would lead to a stroke. None.  Zero.  Nada.  There is just no other way to say it.  


Within 6 hours, I was speaking almost normally and my sight was back to normal.  BUT, there was no way the hospital was letting me go until they had some answers.  So, I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  For two days.  They did a CT scan, an MRI, an MRA, an echo cardiogram, and a "bubble" test.  They really wanted to do a TEE (where they send a scope down my throat to see the back side of my heart) but finally knew that it wasn't going to happen anytime soon.  They finally listened to my pleas and sent me home after 
2 + days away from my precious family.

I still don't have a lot of answers.  I have a small abnormality with my heart - BUT they don't know if it had anything to do with the stroke.  What do I do with that?

At first we thought it might cause issues with Serenity and Hope's adoptions.  Nope.  (Praise God!)  And it probably won't effect any future adoptions either.  Really?  Okay. Wow.

I have some more appointments on Friday.  We are praying we can get a few more straight-forward answers from the new doctors.  Is it all a fluke?  Do we have something to worry about?   Can I go to the country still to rescue my girls?

Because we got our court date!!!!!!  November 4th.  Please put the night of Nov 3rd on your prayer calendar - that is when our court date is in "real" time.  Please pray for His favor and for a decision in our favor.  

After that, we will travel in approx 4 weeks.  Ouch.  Very tough time of year for Handsome.   Owning his own retail business, Christmas season is a very important time of the year.    But he is so excited about getting his girls home - girls he has only ever seen pictures and videos of, and heard every detail of my visit with them.  God has made them his daughters in every sense of the meaning.  

Waiting to see what God has in His perfect plan.  We are gradually changing from "WHAT?!?" to "Now what do You have for us?"  It is a hard change from a human perspective....but so critical to peace.

Pray with us.  I will update more as we know more.

Until He comes...

Friday, October 4, 2013

Brief Update


So, now we are waiting to hear when our court date is.  Once we have the court date, we can calculate out 3-4 weeks and start planning our rescue trip!  Many other families are getting court dates the end of this month - so we are waiting to see where we land.

But, flipping over the calendar, that lands us right at.....Thanksgiving!  Yikes.  As much as I would hate to be gone for one of my very favorite days, there are other issues.  Such as the cost of plane tickets during a holiday time and the fact that Handsome owns a retail business, making Black Friday a very important day.  Even though he is not going on the trip, he still needs me here to help keep things running smoothly.  Oh, and that's right, Grace's surgery...

We went in for an appointment with the surgeon who will do the new g-tube surgery using a laprascope.  He has some concerns from looking at the pictures from Grace's upper GI study.  He is concerned that her intestines may be in the wrong places - which could lead to a "pinching" of the blood supply to the intestines lower in her stomach.  Sooooooo, he is going to do some exploratory  surgery with the g-tube placement and repair the problem if there is one.  The repair would involve moving all the small intestines to the right and large to the left and removing her appendix.  Sigh.  The kicker is that he wants to wait 6-8 weeks for her to be fully recovered from her nasty cough.  Which would put us at?????  Yep.  Thanksgiving!

So, she is scheduled for surgery the Friday before Thanksgiving.  Not the best time, but in my human mind, I am thinking to get her done and travel to Bulgaria the first week of December.  But, I have seen so often that I think I have the perfect plan - but God knows better.  

At this point, I am trying to just be still and wait on Him.  Not easy for me.

Please keep praying for my girls overseas.  Keep praying for Grace & Mimi to stay healthy and strong.  Pray for me as I try to figure out a gluten/dairy/soy free diet for me that will work.  I keep fudging, but I need to get this taken care of.  

To Him be all glory, honor, and praise.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Avoiding laundry post

I am staring at piles of laundry.  It has been that kind of week.  So I look at it and think, "Hmmm, I bet I need to update my blog."  Yeah, it has been that kind of week.

I took sweet Grace in Tuesday morning for her g-tube placement.  Just before I left, one of the dogs bit my dad.  :(  This was a dog we got off of Craig's List, (yes, we learned our lesson), that turned out to be very abused.  We were hoping we could "rehab" her.  But, that was the last chance used up.  So as I am racing around the house trying to get out the door, Handsome is having to take her to the Humane a daughter is screaming, "They are going to kill my dog!"  Yep, that kind of week.

Fortunately, they are going to work at rehabbing her, much to my daughter's relief.  We can't get her back, but she is alive.  But we are all missing her very much.  That kind of week...

After the long process of check-in, paperwork, etc.  I kissed sweet Grace and she headed off to surgery.  I took a deep breath and went to wait in the waiting room.  I was really dreading the hospital stay, but so happy to get her tube and stickers off her face.  I settled down with my book and coffee.  Soon, much too soon, the doctor came out to find me.  That always makes my heart drop into my stomach.  He said that they were not able to place the g-tube using the planned method.  We needed to reschedule for the next Monday.  What????  I absolutely appreciate their concern and am glad they waited - but I was sick at the thought of have to redo it all again in a few days!

When I went back to the recovery area, poor Grace was coughing and crying.  Break. my. heart.  I snuggled her close and she stopped crying but the coughing continued.  We all assumed that it was from the tube down her throat.  After the typical paper chase, we were on our way back home.  I am always exhausted after doctor's appointments and beyond exhausted from being at the hospital....but this was I-can-barely-keep my-eyes open-while-driving exhaustion.  When we got home, I snuggled her as much as I could for the rest of the night, ready for a good sleep! 

BUT, (you knew it was coming), just at bedtime, there was a horrible car accident just beyond our gate.  Tons of flashing lights, sirens, radios, yelling.  There are some in our household that just don't deal with these situations well.  One because of special needs and others because of personality.  So, we might as well have hit the "panic button."  After people finally quieted down in the house, the noise just continued outside...finally the power went out at 2 a.m., so a power pole could be replaced.  How do kids know the power goes out even while they are sound asleep?   Grace started coughing right about that was the end of sleep and the beginning of worry for Grace....

By 8 a.m., (still without power) I knew Grace needed to be seen, so off to the doctor we went.  Waiting, x-rays, more waiting.  Diagnosis?  An infection starting probably from the very few minutes under anesthesia.  We had to cancel the new surgery date and drive wearily home.  The power was back on, thank goodness!  But little Grace just needed held between doses of meds and nebulizer treatments.  And the laundry pile kept growing...

So tired, ready for bed.  In fact, I fell asleep in the chair with Grace before Handsome got home. After I pulled myself out of the chair and got everyone to bed and closed my eyes...just to be woken up a few minutes later by a child with nightmares who never truly slept that night - so neither did I.  Yep, that kind of week...

Thursday starts.  Grace doing much better.  I got the dishes and kitchen caught up and started on the laundry.  Homeschool - check.  Well almost.  The three oldest do school with DVDs.  1 charger missing, 1 charger gets broken...that leaves 1 charger for 3 players that are all dead..fighting, galore!  How old are we, my teen-aged treasures?  Deep breath, sip of coffee, ready for the next round of cleaning when all the boys coming tumbling through the door together with that strange combination of thrill and horror on their faces.  I always know I am in trouble when I see that look.  "Mom!  You should see how many layers of skin are dangling off The Professor's knee!!!"  Ummm, great.  I am a seasoned mom of boys and some rough and tumble girls.  I saw a lot in the years with Mimi.  I have done a lot of triage at home.  I can handle this.  Right? 

I was fine until I tried to decide which globs of dangly skin with fatty cells attached I should try to trim and which I should try to lift up enough to clean the gravel out.  At that point, the week caught up with me and I decided it was an urgent care trip.  Deep breath...hop in the car...reinforcements on the way for those at home.  Hurry up and.....wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Realize that my cell is dead, so no way to check at home.  Frustrated at 45 minutes, still in the waiting room - because you know it takes twice as long once they finally get you checked into a room, so not good if we aren't even behind the magic door.  At 75 minutes, I am clenching my jaw and mentally walking through the cleaning process at home - could I do it myself?  At 90 minutes, I decide I am giving them 10 more minutes.  At 9.5 minutes, they call us back.  Only to find out they thought we were someone else.  Oh, happy day.  At this point, I say we are just going home.  The nurse said, "Oh, no!  You are next!  You really need that cleaned out the right way!"  Deep breath. forced smile, back out to the waiting room....the waiting room.  Where you wait...and wait...and wait.  An hour later, picturing Handsome trying to do the bedtime routine by himself, I stand up and tell the receptionist that we are leaving.  To which she replied, "But you are next. I can ask them how long."  What is the saying? "Fool me once..."  As I walk out the door, I burst into tears.  Is this where health care is headed?  That I can't even get help in a reasonable amount of time with blood soaking through a bandage?  I figured it would take 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get through the assembly line...but 2 1/2 hours and we haven't cleared the waiting room?  I cried all the way home picturing cleaning the knee out myself.  Thankfully, God knew I was done and my mom was waiting to help.  She carefully cleaned and cleaned the knee a The Professor didn't hardly flinch.  Many, many prayers...praying it does not get infected and heals well.

I was so thankful for a good sleep!  I have been able to stay at home other than a trip for more first aid supplies.  Adding to the pile of laundry to be folded, but I am so weary. 

So, so weary.  I want my family together under one roof.  I want Serenity and Hope home.  I want families for the 4 that are burning holes through my heart and filling my prayers.  I want that last signature from the country.  I want to be on the other side of Grace's surgery.  I want God's people to faithfully preach the true Gospel.  i want His people to rise up and faithfully care for the fatherless as we have been called to do.  I want people to see these precious children as valuable as themselves and to do unto them what they would want done for themselves, if they were trapped in an earthly hell.  I want people to glorify our Savior because of how we live our lives.

Oh, and I also want my laundry to fold itself.

To Him be all glory, honor, and praise.