Sunday, May 31, 2015

Part 5? Sheesh....

I feel almost a desperation to get to the end of this part of our story....I apologize for two posts in one day, but here goes...

The kids' new rooms were wonderful - but what about the rest of the stuff?  I see now how foolish all the "stuff" was - but honestly, we were just like every other family we knew - only we did probably have less stuff because we have always been more conservative financially.  I wanted the "Better Homes and Gardens" look - only kid-friendly.  I loved gardening and flowers and sewing, and decorating and  china and painting.  I loved having parties and enjoying big get togethers.  I had not been able to do that for a while - but the Lord revealed very clearly that it was my "goal".  I was climbing toward the same goal as the rest of the world, just on a slightly different ladder.  It was the "things of the world" on a tight budget.  Everything around us had assured us that God would bless us in this way.  The harder life got for us, the more people pulled away because they didn't have any answers for us anymore - except that maybe we hadn't followed God after all - and that was why all of this was happening.  That we had made a mistake.

After we sold off or given away over 50% of our stuff, we put the rest of the stuff in the garage at the new house and put the big house on the market.  The agent was sure it would quickly sell.  We waited for a phone call that first weekend - all the other houses in the area were selling in days if not hours of going up.  God would take care of this quickly, right?

It was a blessing the first morning to wake up warm.  A smaller house made such a huge difference in the cold weather.  We were in a bit of a bizarre situation - the house was really not "ours" yet.  Some of Handsome's brother's stuff was still in the house and we just had to work around it.  But I looked at the pile of stuff in the garage and knew it would never fit in the house.  So began the process of getting rid of another third of the stuff we had left.  Oh, how it hurt!  When was enough, enough?  I was so scared of giving away something, only to find out later that we needed and not have the money to replace it.  I had so much to learn about my Savior being the Provider.  It didn't seem like He was Providing now!  To make it harder, two families in our extended family were moving into their dream houses.  How different it was to move because you had to, not because you wanted to!

One of the hardest things for me at the new house was the tiny master bathroom.  I mean TINY.  The shower door was so tiny, I had to back into it with my huge pregnant belly.   The tiles were permanently stained.  I would climb into the shower and sob my heart out, because no one could hear me.  Ironically, when we moved 8 years later,  I missed the shower the most.  It had become my "prayer closet" that I learned to pour my heart out to my Savior and wait on Him.

One day, as I was driving the kids to church, I was silently crying out to the Lord to give me some kind of hope, some kind of direction.  When I got to the nursery, there was a new woman helping that was fascinated with our story and my boys.  She said that she too had adopted.  She said the struggles with her new daughter were so intense she wanted to give up.  WHAT?  Someone who understood?  I was so excited!  Was the Lord answering my prayer for direction?  There were several other families that had adopted from China, but they really didn't have any struggles with transitions - they just looked at me in confusion when I would ask.  I asked her how she dealt with it.  She said calmly, with great patience, and compassion.  Hmmmm....that hadn't worked for me so far.  I said, "Well, how long did it take?"  I waited in breathless anticipation....maybe we were just on the verge of a breakthrough...maybe there was hope!  I leaned forward, every hope I had hanging on her next words.  She smiled and said, "Oh, honey.  It took...well let me took at least two weeks."  WHAT?  "Two weeks?", I gasped out.  She said, "Yes, how long have your boys been home?"  "Six months", I choked out.  Her face fell and she said, "I really don't know how to help you.  I am sorry."  And she walked away.  She left, just like my hope....

The pit I was in was getting darker and deeper.  I was swallowed up in despair.  Our big house just sat untouched on the market.  The Professor still screamed and jumped every night.  The battles raged on with Romeo.  The "Three Amigos", as we called them, could get into trouble faster than any children I knew.  The days were ticking by until the new baby was due.  How was I ever going to do it?  I missed laughing and playing with my kids, but there was no laughter left in me.  Poor Handsome, hard, hard days at work and then even harder nights at home with chaos and a wife in complete despair.

When things were at the darkest, a friend of a friend called and said she felt she really felt the Lord leading her to share her story about her adopted daughter.  Little warning bells went off in my mind - I knew she only had boys, no little girls.  I felt a shiver building in my soul.  It is not my story to tell, so it suffices to say that their story ended in disruption and the re-adoption of the little girl into another family.  She finished by saying, "You don't have to go through with this if it is just too much.  Maybe the boys would do better somewhere else."

So began the blackest 30 minutes of my life.  I pictured give the twins away.  I pictured the relief I would feel.  The blessed relief.  Was this the answer?  I ignored the pounding of the Holy Spirit on my soul - I just wanted the relief.  Then, I suddenly pictured passing them on to someone else.  I pictured their little baby faces and the betrayal there.  Who would be patient enough with The Professor's oddities?  Who would force Romeo to learn when he didn't want to?  How could I give away MY boys?  I could sooner cut out a piece of my heart and survive than to hand MY boys to someone else.  The blackness that surrounded me fled in the light of that.  No, my feelings hadn't changed - there was not a miraculous pouring out of love in my soul for them.  I just knew they were mine.  This is what the Lord had asked me to do.  This was His plan.

I see this now as the beginning of the Lord rebuilding my heart.  He had stripped me bare of everything.  Everything.  Now, He could begin again.  Slowly, but surely, over days, months, and years He began gently teaching me truth.  Helping me to see the ugliness of my own soul and the beauty of Himself.  But at the time, I could not see it.  I just felt that I had to find a way to keep moving.  That this was my family - and that I needed His help.  No miraculous changes, just a desire to move on from the blackness.

Our big house sat on the market for four months.  Four long months while everything else sold in days.  We ended up selling it for $40,000 less than we were asking - plus paying a huge amount of rent on the house while we waited.  This was another kick in the stomach when money was so tight....there went the money we hoped to pay off more bills and to buy a car that we would all fit in.  When Snip was born, we would no longer be able to fit in one car....that seemed to be a final straw at the time.

I was scheduled for inducement the week before my extended family all left on a camping trip.  It seemed everyone else's lives were moving on as our just sat in despair.  I sent Handsome and the three oldest on the trip - we wanted to limit the effect of all the changes on our oldest three and camping was a very important part of our life.

I went in for the scheduled inducement with despair wrapped around me.  Our house was still not sold.  Everyone assured me that God would give us a happy, content baby.  That He knew my limits and would not push us beyond that.  That seemed pretty naive to me, considering I had passed my "limits" a long, long time before.  Hard to go into labor with nothing left to fight with.  All our other babies so far, except Smiley, had been pretty cranky.  It seemed too much to hope for a happy baby.  The labor was much longer than the last time, but Snip was finally born about 12 hours later.  She came out tiny, healthy, and screaming.  Handsome left pretty quickly after that, knowing that he needed to be home for the other kids.  I sat in the hospital bed with my screaming baby.  As I looked at her, I realized I would have chosen not to do this.  I would have chosen to never have this precious life.  Again, she was SCREAMING.  I realized this wasn't a happy, fuzzy, fluffy, emotion filled moment - this was deep conviction from the Holy Spirit in my heart.  God had chosen to create this little life.  He had plans for her - and I would have chosen in my selfishness to never have done this.  This was a changing point for Handsome and I.  We would choose now to let God decide on our family size - though we could not see how we could do any more.  It was a complete changing point.

I brought little Snip home and a week later it was just me, the Three Amigos, and screaming Snip.  It was so hard.  So very hard.  We finally sold the house.  I walked through it one more time before turning over the keys.  I put my head against one of the walls in the hallway and sobbed.  I sobbed my heart out - not just over the house - but over all the dreams we had had that were now shattered.  We were broken and unsure of where life was going to take us.  There was no joy there, because we weren't convinced we could trust Him.  What of His promises?  What of all the things we had been taught?  Why did our life look so different than everyone else around us?  How did we walk through the fire and come out victorious on the other side?  It was a closing of more than a physical door.  It was a closing off of "us" in our selfishness and self-seeking desires.   We could not see it then, but it was also a time of building.  God would take our life - empty and broken to pieces - and would build it again in beautiful simplicity - teaching us the Truth about Himself and His promises.  But it would take years before we could look back and see it.

How much I would have done differently in my heart if I could go back.  How I regret those wasted years.  But I would not change what I know now that they Lord was doing.  I would never want to relive them - but I can rejoice over them now - but not with the happy joy we picture - but with the joy of the Lord.  That is our strength.

So much happened after this - so many changes.  No, God did not immediately replace all that had been taken from us.  These were still long, pain-filled years - but in the end, we didn't want those things back....we learned so much.  We have gone through dark times since then when Mimi was born and we thought we would lose her.  But the Lord is the anchor of our souls now - so the storms raging around us rock our lives, but we are not adrift as it seemed then.

So, Mama V, the story of 4 to 7 in nine months.  Not a simple story to tell.  Actually, it has been hard to walk those days again in my heart - but I am so thankful for all He did.  I am so thankful that He saved me for eternity.  I am so thankful that was not the end of our story.

Until He comes - all glory, honor, and praise to Him.

P.S.  You know the "smell" of the twins?  It lasted on The Professor for over six months.  On Romeo, for over a year.  I have no idea why other than poor nutrition.  As you can guess, it just got worse to me with the pregnancy - like immediately gagging over a bowl.  My sweet sister-in-law found Johnson and Johnson Baby Cologne to put on them.  I did.  EVERY day.  Now I cannot smell that smell without immediately getting nauseous.

And Romeo - he is an amazingly handsome, strong young man.  Still stubborn as the day is long - but he needed that to survive.  I am so amazed and in love with this young man.  He is my son.  I am so very proud of him.  God gave me one of the most precious gift in him.  I cannot wait to see the story God will write with this amazing kiddo.

And The Professor - some of you may have guessed it long before I ever even had an inkling.  He has autism.  God graciously did not reveal this to me until he was about 8 or 9 years old.  I had sworn by then that I could handle any special need except autism.  God not only gave me the precious Professor - but I also am convinced that The Boss is on the autism spectrum as well.  It is still a massive challenge for me - but God has given Handsome a deep and abiding compassion for these sons of ours.  He would not hesitate to adopt another child with autism - I am trying to hold an open hand before my Savior.  I love these boys desperately.  I would change their diagnosis for their sake - but I will rejoice in them, protect them, and challenge them to see them grow in the beauty that the Lord has for them! 

And Part 4....

I was so tired and in so much despair.  So many things were going on....trying to wrap my head around a pregnancy...trying to figure out what Romeo's health issues were...trying to find a way to soothe The Professor - who really didn't want to snuggle and be rocked...trying to keep up with laundry and messes...trying to make each dollar stretch as finances got tighter and tighter.  Our church rallied around us and many people filled our freezer with frozen meals and groceries.  One teen aged girl asked if she could come as a helper on some afternoons.

As is my pattern, I started to get sick around 5 1/2 weeks pregnant - not just nauseous, but vomiting all day long.  People told me that God would make this pregnancy easier.  But it simply got worse and worse - I could hold nothing down, I couldn't even function.  I couldn't get into my OB right away, but I finally called the office and sobbed out my story over the phone to the nurse.  Could I please get something to help with the nausea?   The nurse bluntly said, "Honey, you don't have to go through with this pregnancy."  I was once again completely stunned.  How could she suggest I kill my baby?  I stuttered out that is wasn't even an option.  She sighed and said the doctor had called in a prescription for me.  Well, it didn't work.  The side effect was that it caused sleepiness...I would just fall asleep!  I couldn't do that with 6 little children to care for.  I finally got into my OB.  She listened to my story with amazing sympathy.  She was a very good doctor, but very stand-offish.  This time she sat down and shared that she grew up in Ecuador - her parents were missionaries there.  Once again, I was shocked.  She made it very clear she was not a believer, but that she had great compassion on the people of South America.  She was very impressed that we had adopted and she wanted to help in whatever way she could.  She brought me in a handful of packets of a new drug.  It was one that they gave to patients on chemotherapy for nausea.  It just dissolved under my tongue.  It didn't completely take the ickiness away, but it did make an amazing difference.  I was so relieved....until we went to fill the prescription.  My insurance would only pay 1/2 of the cost and only for a brief stretch of time.  In short, the pills cost $30 a piece.  I had to pay $15.  I was supposed to take 3 a day.  There was no way we could afford that.  Money was so very, very tight.  I would take one in the morning - it would last for 4 hours - I would get as much done as possible in that 4 hours and then it would wear off and I would throw up for the rest of the day until everyone was in bed and I could take the other one that made me fall asleep.  At least for a few hours....until The Professor's screaming would wake me up again.  And the furnace would kick out again...

Yes, on top of everything else our furnace was broken.  Our house was built in two stages.  One half of the house (the original) was heated by an oil furnace.  The other half (with most of the bedrooms) was heated by electric.  Before we brought our twins home, the oil furnace was acting a bit funny, so we had it serviced.  Instead, they found a huge crack in the actual furnace that was very, very dangerous.  Goodbye $3000 to replace it.  Money that we really needed for other things - but my kiddos were cold, they came first.  Now the other furnace was acting up and we just couldn't bring ourselves to call a repairman - we just didn't have the money.  So every night, I would wake up really cold and have to run downstairs - which the way the house was built, was really a long way, flip the breaker on and off until I heard the furnace kick back on, then head back up.  This always triggered another bout of nausea, so I would throw up for a while and then try to get back to sleep before The Professor started his jumping and screaming again....

With Romeo, we were sent to doctor after doctor.  Our pediatrician was overwhelmed.  He didn't know what was wrong.  We would have tests done and then get a strange result or image...that would send us to another doctor (like the cardiologist) who would take another image/test and say everything was fine.  They just simply could not find out what was wrong with him.  A doctor finally told me that the "dent" in his chest was probably caused by the tight space in utero and that it would pull into the right place as his muscles got stronger - sure enough, by 6 years old, it was gone.  You would never know it now.

Finally, they decided to do one more sedated MRI.   When it was done, he was sleeping on the bed while the sedation wore off.  The anesthesiologist came in and said with concern, "Why is he breathing like that?"  I told him that he always snored that loudly.  He looked at me in complete shock and then pulled his oxygen numbers up - he was stating at 82.  That is not good.  It should always be in the 90s, even in a deep sleep.  I know that God sent this doctor in His grace because the doctor immediately got on the phone and set up for us to see the ENT.  A sleep study was done and they raced us into surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids.   He was a completely different boy the next day!  He was no longer drowsy and lethargic - he was alert and aware.  It was amazing -such an answer to prayer!  But surgery does not remove a stubborn personality!

I should back up a bit.  The surgery was done about 3 1/2 months after he came home.  During the first weeks at home - in my overwhelmed, nauseous, tired state - I kept working with Romeo to sit up by himself.  It was the oddest thing.  I would sit him up and he would throw himself backwards...I would sit him up and he would throw himself backwards.  What kind of special need did he have that would cause that?  I was terrified.  After he had been home for about 10 weeks, the young teenager came over to help me.  I was so relieved, but had so much to do in the short period of time she was there.  I walked out of the room to get started but then realized that I didn't explain to her that Romeo couldn't sit up by himself.  I walked around the corner just as she plopped him down on his bottom.  (He could not see me.)  I was about to call out a warning, when I realized he was sitting up just fine and smiling and cooing at her.  WHAT?  WHAT?   He was sitting up?  He was smiling and cooing?  I had never seen that with him.  I walked farther into the room and Romeo turned and saw me and....CLUNK!...he fell backwards on the floor and started crying.   No way.  No way.  I told the teenager quietly that I was going to leave the room and in a while, I wanted her to sit Romeo back into a sitting position and that I would sneak around the corner.  She had to think I was completely insane!  Sure enough - she played with him and then sat him down.  He was fine - for a long time - and then I purposely moved into his view and....CLUNK...down he went.  I was SO angry. - not the reaction I should have had - I am not excusing myself at all - but I was so worn out, so sick, so tired, so overwhelmed, so angry. 

I called Handsome and my mom and told them, but neither one believed me.  My mom had started gently telling me that I was assuming the worst with Romeo and my attitude needed to change.  There was some truth in that - Romeo and I were not doing well together.  He did not like me.  Even though I would have sworn before they came that I didn't need that reciprocal love, the honest truth is that it is very, very difficult to love someone who does not like you - especially when I was so completely beaten down by everything else.   I wasn't seeking my strength from my Savior - I had not learned to do that yet.  I was simply trying to get by on my own strength - of which I had absolutely none left.

A week or so later, it was a difficult morning.  My "gold pill", as we called them, was not working well that morning.  I was sick and tired from a long night of furnace/The Professor and vomiting.  Everyone needed me that morning.  I had the 3 little boys lined up in the high chairs and the other 3 were needing help with drinks, etc.  Romeo had me convinced that he could not eat by himself.  I would put food in front of him like with Smiley and The Professor, and he would just stare at it and cry.  One time, I finally got him to pick up a Cheerio - I was so excited to see him move it to his mouth but just before he put it in, his eyes met mine and it just dropped.  What was wrong with him?  I really was thinking that there was serious damage to his brain and I just cried and cried in despair.  Anyway, I was trying to feed Romeo, but someone spilled something, someone else was screaming, so I put his food on his tray and went to help.  One thing led to another and it took me a long time to get back to him.  When I turned around - his food was gone.  He was eating it just fine - like he had been eating for months - no problems, no missing his mouth, no spills.  WHAT?  The anger quickly turned to a deep bitterness.

I was wrong to allow this to happen.  I should have been on my knees before my Savior, but I was so immature - I didn't know how.  We were being held up as having such deep faith - but we were so weak.  We had obeyed and trusted - but our trials were showing us that we had no real foundation to stand upon.  We weren't turning to Him - we were throwing up prayers continually, but then trying to figure it out and do it on our own.  I look back at my bitterness and anger with deep, deep humiliation.  But I am sharing it now because it may help someone else who is struggling with the same thing - with either a bio or adopted child - will know it is wrong and that there is forgiveness and healing in Christ.

From that point on, I refused to hand feed him.  He was hungry enough that he would cry for a few minutes but then finally feed himself.  I also started to sit him on his bottom and when he fell over, I would just sit him back up - we would go through the same routine for easily 10-15 minutes but then he would finally give in and sit up.  Instead of being thankful, the anger just continued to burn.  I didn't tell anyone about these battles because more and more people were babying him and just could not see that he was doing anything on purpose.  He was "poor, baby [Romeo]"  that everyone adored and gushed over.  I just gave up and started thinking that maybe I was a horrific mother - that maybe I was even going insane.  Maybe I was imagining everything with Romeo and he was just a poor little sick child and I was such a monster, I couldn't even see that.  I began to slip in to dangerous depression.  I would sit and hold my pregnant, nauseous belly and think that I just couldn't do it anymore.  That if anyone could see the depth of my anger at the twins and my lack of strength, they would be appalled.  Was life worth living if I was such a monster?  Maybe my kids would be better off without me.

The issues with The Professor were different, but just as bizarre.  I tried to put boots on him and he screamed and screamed and screamed.  I would stand him up with the shoes on (he began walking after 2 weeks home) and he would just fall over screaming.  He would scream when certain clothes would be put on him.  Just before Christmas, The Warrior was trying to help him and they both fell and The Professor had to have stitches above his eyebrow.  (The Warrior was crushed - he was so heartbroken and blamed himself, it was so sad!)  We were supposed to go in on Christmas Eve to have the stitches pulled out.  They were really bothering him.  I woke him up that morning and to my horror he had pulled them all out himself!  These were not dissolving stitches!  He had a little blood, but it looked like it would hold together.  Our last trip to the doctor was so horrific with him, I just decided not to go back in.  His favorite thing to do was to jump in the super saucer - the noise was so overwhelming.  Every night he would be screaming and jumping in his crib.  I didn't know how to help.  I think when I would try to tell others about all of it, they just thought I was exaggerating....and my depression and sense of helplessness grew.

After Romeo's surgery - and an amazing change physically - he was put into physical therapy.  He began to move around on his bottom by using his arms to propel himself forward, but he wasn't crawling or walking.  He was about 17 month old.  We were assigned to a very nice therapist, who had been doing this for about 8 years - not a rookie by any means.  Romeo cuddled up and snuggled with her at first but quickly changed his tune when he found out that she was going to make him do things!  He would simply refuse and eventually roll over on his back with his hands and feet sticking up in the air and just scream.  He would also do this at home occasionally, though never with anyone but me.  I called it the "dead bug" pose.  Once he did that at therapy, the therapist knew the day was done.  There was nothing she could make him do at that point.  I just sat there with a stunned, blank look on my face.  Each session was costing us $60, even with "financial aid" - money we just didn't have - especially if it was over with in about 15 minutes, with no work being accomplished. 

Finally, after several weeks of this, the therapist said she was going to have another person come in and help.  This woman had more like 20 years of experience.  She watched as he quickly went from happy to "dead bug".  She was quiet for a bit and then turned to me and asked, "What do you think is going on?"  Uh, no way.  There was no way I was going to answer it.  I had already had it beaten into me that I was wrong when it came to him.  I was not going to answer.  I just shrugged my shoulders as the tears threatened to pour down my face.  This woman was very smart.  She said, "It's okay.  Just tell me honestly what you think."  I quietly whispered, "I think he is just strong willed."  The other therapist sucked in her breath - "strong willed" is a not a PC word - it is not appropriate in a therapy setting.  The wise older woman nodded her head (to the other therapist's shock) and said, "That's what I think.  And how often do you win?"  This made the other therapist's eyes bulge!  I started sobbing and said, "Never.  I never win.  Everyone has convinced me that I am wrong about him, so I never fight him."  She put her hand on my shoulder and looked me straight in the eyes and said, "You have got to start winning.  Big or small, you have to win."  She went on to explain guidelines - obviously no abuse and anger.  Just gentle, but firm insistence.  She sent us home with the job of standing him up at the coffee table and making him stand there for 10 minutes, twice a day.  I told her that he was just going to sit down and she said to just gently but firmly stand him back up as many times as needed in a 10 minute period.  I cried all the way home in relief.  Maybe I wasn't crazy after all! 

Handsome and my mom were shocked, but I know God's grace was working in their hearts.  Handsome agreed to help me - my safety check so I wouldn't get too angry.  And a long, bitter battle began.  Romeo would scream the entire time - but as the therapist said, his legs could hold him up for that long.  Each week she would assign us a new thing to work on at home and would set the guidelines for the "battle" and we would start again.  Within 3 weeks, she put him in a teeny tiny metal walker (like an older person would use) but turned it around so as it slid forward, it would push against his bottom to make him move forward.  He HATED it.  Once again, she set the guidelines and we would follow it. This included taking it to church were he would have to walk to the nursery in it and then walk to the door to the parking lot.  Oh, he HATED it.   Within 10 days, he was walking on his own because he hated the walker so much.  I was so very, very thankful.  Our battles were far from over, but I was so happy he was mobile and strong!

During the time Romeo's surgery months before, Handsome and I realized that we were going to have to sell our house.  We just could not keep up with the mortgage, the home equity loan for the twins adoption, and all our bills with the way his business was going.  This had been the house of our dreams.  It was nearly 5,000 square feet.  How could we possibly move?  We calculated what size mortgage we felt we could manage, and it was pretty depressing.  It meant a much smaller rambler.  The housing market was at it's height.  Our maximum didn't leave many options and the houses were selling so fast, we didn't know how we could do it.  I didn't know how to put the house on the market with 6 small children and being so sick pregnant.  How could I possibly keep it clean enough?  But we knew we couldn't buy another house without selling ours first.  As we looked at possibilities, I told Handsome that we needed to find a rambler like his brother's - it had vaulted ceilings and a more "open" concept with four smaller bedrooms and a garage that we could convert for more space, and a nice backyard.   It was a little over 1600 sq feet - that seemed like a postage stamp compared to our 5,000 sq feet that was full of toys and stuff.   But his brother had just announced a few weeks before that they were never moving.  Well, at least we had an idea of what to look for.  This was one of the first times we really started praying in earnest - not that God would bless our plans but that He would show us His plan.  It seems like a small thing - but it is a huge step of surrender.

Not long after that, at a family get together, Handsome's brother announced that they were buying a bigger house.  Handsome and my eyes met across the room and we just gulped.  Was God opening a door?  We didn't say anything at the time but talked about it later.  We laughed a little bitterly that the brother was selling because they were feeling a little cramped with one child and now with a second baby on the way they needed more space.  Here we were hoping to squeeze 7 kids in when our new daughter was born.  Yes, we knew now that this was a baby girl - the baby girl that God had told me to get ready for - just not in the way I had planned.  I was still so bitter and overwhelmed that I left the fabric I bought in the bag - I could not bring myself to make the blanket.  In fact, Snip was over a year old before I made that blanket for her.  What brambles I had in my heart and soul for the Lord to work through.

We asked, gulping back our humiliation, if we could measure the rooms in his house to see if we could get 3 girls into one of them.  His brother and wife could not believe we were serious.  In God's beautiful grace, they agreed that we could buy the house and that we could rent it while our other house was on the market.  The market was so hot that houses were selling in days, so we hoped we would only have to make one rental payment with the mortgage payment.  When they moved out, another heartbreaking stage began in our life.  We sold off 50% of our stuff.  My beautiful furniture (all bought at garage sales or given to us), my china (which now seems so silly to me, but at the time was very precious), the kids toys, Handsome's special things.  It hurt.  I would go to the big house a 5 am and work until Handsome couldn't handle the kids anymore and/or had to go to work.  I was 7 months pregnant at the time.  All the lifting and getting up and down was killing my back. I think I cried the whole time.  My mom had tried to help but quickly became overwhelmed and said she just didn't know how to help anymore.  She and my dad had graciously done "extreme home makeovers" for each of the kids bedrooms at the new house.  Bunk beds and fun touches that made each room special.  All the kids were having a hard time moving, so this was quite a gift.

And another morning gone....hang in there. :)

Until He comes...

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Part 3 of Story Time.....

As I read back over the last post, I hope that you got the sense of how excited we much we wanted to live by much we wanted to be much we loved our new full of life and hope we were.

As we got ready to board the plane, I was almost sick with grief over leaving my four kiddos at home.  I had never left them before and even though it was only for four days, I could hardly bear it.  On top of that, in the few weeks before we were to leave, sales at Handsome's business had slowed way down.  It was not unusual for that time of year, but it left unease tugging at our minds.  I really didn't want to go to a different country - we are not adventurers at all.  But I was finally going to hold my precious boys.  I still felt a bit like I needed to pinch myself.

We arrived in Guatemala safely and ended up at a very, very nice hotel.  Much nicer than we had ever stayed at, but we were still a little surprised to find out it was the nicest hotel in Guatemala.  I paced the floor as we waited for the phone call that our boys were there.  The facilitator had just had a baby, so it was complicating things a bit.  I was in complete angst to hold my boys - very fearful that something would go wrong.  Finally, the phone call came.  They were going to be downstairs in 10 minutes.  Handsome and I raced downstairs.  The first glimpse of them left a bit of disconnect.   One of the two men carrying them was very, very nicely dressed - like over the top nicely dressed - like suit and sparkling cufflinks type thing.  The other one was fairly nicely dressed as well, but a little more subdued.  But my boys had very used, very mismatched clothing on - and both boys looked completely terrified.  It just made an odd picture in my mind.  They quickly handed them over as one of the boys started crying.  My immediate thought was, "They stink!!" - not exactly what I had pictured my first impression being!  They handed us some raggedy white-grey diapers.  I could not figure out what those were for - and they shook our hands and began to leave.  That was it?  Really?  The man in the suit swung back around and said in broken English that they liked their blankets, as he gestured to the raggedy white-grey diapers and then said, "We feed that one (referring to the Professor who was much bigger and healthy looking) first, and whatever is left, we give to that one (referring to Romeo, who was very tiny and sickly)."  My mind just went blank with shock.  And then they walked away.....that was it.

So Handsome and I each have one of our new, stinky, disheveled, crying babies, standing in the middle of a fancy foyer.  Shock just poured over me.  I don't know for sure what I expected, but this was not it.  I thought they would give the boys time to adjust, that they would give us detailed information on how they were used to be cared for.  I thought they would smell better.  I know that sounds very silly - but they STUNK!  Like eye-watering stink!   We took them upstairs to our room, with all the toys that we had gathered with so much excitement, only to have them cry and cry and cry.  Looking back now, I had never fully considered in my excitement that this would be scary and earth-shattering to them.  All I could see was how much we loved them and that their life would be so much better - but a little person doesn't see that!  All they knew had been taken away from them....we were all in shock.

We decided immediately to change their clothes.  It was getting close to bedtime and I really didn't want to attempt to bathe them as they were so distraught.  Plus, I was beginning to worry about our neighbors with all the crying going on.   I knew that they babies in Guatemala tended to wear alot of clothes, even in the heat - but I peeled 3 layers off of both of them.  As I changed Romeo, I went into complete shock.  His chest was completely caved in on one side.  The top part bulged out and the bottom caved in.  WHAT???  We knew that he was smaller.  We even paid to have a doctor examine them who was well known in the US because of our concerns with Romeo's size and nothing was said.  We were told they were very healthy.  (This was before we knew what a blessing children with special needs were.)  The shock just deepened for me.

As tempted as I was to just throw the clothes in the garbage can, they were my babies' clothes, so I wrapped them up in a plastic bag.  The stench got much, much worse.  This may be too much information, but when I changed their diapers, their boy parts were black.   I thought, "Is this what Hispanic boy-parts look like?"  I had no idea at the time.  We put them in pajamas and fed them.   Romeo was just limp.  He did not sit up, he did not try to roll over.  He just limply sat in my arms crying.  The Professor was finally playing with a ball with Handsome. 

We had only ordered one crib because we were told the boys were extremely attached to one another and needed to sleep together.  As we laid them down, we quickly saw that it was not going to work.  The Professor (the much bigger one) was kicking, hitting, and rolling over on tiny Romeo.  What?  Had no one told us the truth on anything?  I pulled Romeo into the bed with me and left The Professor in the crib.  A long, painful night began.  I ended up rocking Romeo repeatedly as he would doze off, then cry, doze off, then cry.  A few times Handsome had to walk the hallways with The Professor to get him to calm down.  I was in complete shock - I just began shutting down.

We had to be at the Embassy very early in the morning, so there was still no time to bathe the boys.  We took our crying babies down to the lobby where one of the men from the night before met us to take us through the process.  He was very nice (not the man in the suit) and could speak fairly decent English, but was pretty quiet overall.  More shocked awaited me as we saw hundreds of people lined up outside the Embassy.  Many were old or crippled, but there was no place to sit - just in this line that didn't seem to move.  We asked our guide what was going on.  He simply shrugged and said it was all the people trying to get a visa to go to America.  He said they started lining up before dawn and many would still not even get in that day.  My shocked heart just broke in two.  How comfortable and easy our lives were - how bleak and full of pain each of these people seemed to be.  It was very hard to just walk past them because I was an American.  More shock upon shock to my already overwhelmed heart.

The Embassy was the tiniest of all I have been in since that time and was very crowded.  I was holding tiny Romeo and trying not to gag at the smell.  He just laid like a limp doll.  The Professor was fussy unless Handsome was walking him.  After a very long wait, we were called back into a room.  The officer in front of us had a pretty grim look on his face.  The boys had had their medical exam a week before, and we were told all was fine by the facilitators.  The man in front of us said, "You realize that the little one was diagnosed as "failure to thrive", right?"  I had never heard that term before (now I know it is a "catch all" phrase) but at the time, it seemed so ominous and terrifying.  I told him no, that we hadn't been told that.  He looked concerned and said it should have been passed on to us.  He asked if we were still willing to go forward - we said, "Of course" but I was so very, very scared.  So very, very overwhelmed.

We got through the Embassy and our visas were ready by the afternoon.  We weren't scheduled to fly out until 2 days later and we tried desperately to get a flight out the next day, but it didn't happen.  I just wanted to be home!!!  I was so overwhelmed with my screaming, stinky babies.  It was nothing like I had romanticized about for months.  (Looking back, it was one of our easier transitions, but at the time it was completely, utterly overwhelming.)  

As we got back to the hotel and we waiting for an elevator, all of the sudden a bunch of men armed with huge machine guns came pouring into the lobby.  WHAT?  No one else seemed panicked, but we didn't know what to do.  The men then lined up and an older man in very nice clothes walked in from a fancy car.  He walked straight to the elevators.  We stepped way back from the men with the guns.  The older man stepped on the elevator and then waved us on with him.  Ummm, okay.  So we climbed on the elevator with him and a few armed men.  He smiled and shook our hands.  He then asked in English, 'You adopt them?"  We said yes.  He said, "Very good."  We all got off on the same floor and he went into the suite next to ours.  What was going on?   Later, Handsome took one of the boys for a walk and asked who that man was at the front desk.  They looked shocked that he was even asking and then told him it was the President of Guatemala!  Good grief!  Now the President could hear my boys crying day and night.  I did wonder briefly if he would take them away from us!

I did finally bathe them as they screamed and was a bit shocked as the black even washed off their parts.  Honestly, that made me gag a bit, that they were so dirty.   The bath however did not help with smell.  I was not a sensitive person to smell, but this was bad.  We had been told that adopting from Guatemala was amazing because the babies were so well cared for in foster homes instead of orphanages.  Again looking back, compared to the orphanages in Bulgaria, that is true - but it still didn't make it an ideal setting.  They were cared for by poor families, who did not have any resources or training.  As we put pieces together, the boys were probably in their crib a great deal with a TV on.  They did feed The Professor more because their culture said not to "waste" resources on a child that was likely to die.  So little Romeo got less.

We made it through the last day and a half.  The boys crying most of the time.  I just stuffed everything in the suitcase - dirty clothes and all - only to have it hand searched at the airport.  It was humiliating to have the man holding up my dirty underwear - but we got through it.  The boys actually did fairly well on the flight home, with Don walking The Professor up and down the aisles.  We almost missed our flight from Houston, but finally arrived home.  I was so very thankful.  Being home would make everything better, right?

My mom was waiting at our house for my dad to bring us home.  She took one whiff of the boys and started the water running for another bath.  I said through tears that we had already bathed them, but she did it again anyway.  They still stunk.  I was so overjoyed to see my other kiddos.  I just wanted to pull Smiley into my big chair and go to sleep.  We tucked the boys into their new separate cribs and climbed into bed.  All seemed well.....for an hour.  Then the Professor started screaming and jumping in his crib.  It didn't matter how I tried to soothe him, he just wouldn't stop.  Little did I know that this was a pattern that would go on for over a year.  We finally pulled pillows over our heads and let him scream.  And scream he did until the early hours of the morning.

We woke up even more exhausted and overwhelmed than before.  Being home didn't make it better if we didn't get any sleep.  I will spare you the minute details - but a pattern quickly developed.  The boys would wake up crying (after The Professor screaming and jumping on and off all night), they would eat, then cry until lunch, eat and then go down for nap - which they did sleep for about two hours - then cry until dinner.  Eat, then cry until bedtime.....and then repeat the whole process again.  Day after day, week after week.  We were so overwhelmed. 

The Professor seemed to like the super saucer, but he would bounce so hard in it that he would be jarring himself repeatedly.  The sound beat into my head like a hammer - but if I took him out, he would cry all the harder.  Romeo could not sit up.  He could not feed himself.  He screamed every time one of the other kids would come near him.    We were at our wits end.  At one point in time, Handsome stormed out of the house and just walked away.  In my exhausted panic, I thought, "What if he never comes back?"  It was such a hard, hard time.  In addition, sales at Handsome's business were still very, very slow.   Where was God in all of this?

As if that was not enough, the adoption agency that had Tatiana and Denis's file emailed with very sad news.  When the couple that was going to adopt them moved forward, they found out that another family from New Zealand had begun their adoption the week before.  They sad the couple was completely crushed and decided not to adopt at all.  This was the final straw for me.   The agency returned our money we had given - which we now desperately needed for the mounting pile of bills.  Where was my Savior?  Where was the blessing we had been expecting?  I knew it would be hard - but honestly, I expected a kind of "holy glow" over everything - that I would be full of such joy serving my Savior and my kids that it would be okay......that was not the case.  It was soul-crushing hard and I could not find my way out of the despair.  I laughed bitterly over my previous thoughts of adopting Tatiana and Denis after the twins - and that "other" little girl I thought was ours?  There was no way I was EVER adopting again.  I was in complete darkness.

The weeks went on in the same routine.  About six weeks after they came home, I started feeling very yucky?  NO WAY!!!!  There was NO way.  How could God do that?  We had taken "precautions" - how could He?  I remember the look on the checker's face as I stood in line with 2 crying twins and 4 other young children and handed her the pregnancy test.  Yep, humiliation galore.  I took the test on the morning of our tenth anniversary.  It was positive.  I sat down on the bed and cried.  I hadn't told Handsome yet.  But I cried as I did.  I was also deeply ashamed, even then, that I would cry over a new life.  I told Handsome that if it was a girl, we needed to have her middle name "Joy" - so she would know that I did love her.  This thought was God's grace even then - that in my despair, He could still whisper to me that this was a gift - thought I did not feel like it then.  I was so, so overwhelmed.  How could my Savior do that to me?  How were we going to survive?  The tears poured down my face as I could hear the twins screaming in the other room.  How could I go on?

Little Man is crying....

Until He comes....

Friday, May 29, 2015

Story time continues....

Handsome and I would have told you in no uncertain terms that we did not believe in the "health, wealth, and prosperity" gospel.  But it is amazing how much untruth can slip into the Christian culture, even if you are convinced that it is not the truth.....

As I was saying, after much wrestling and prayer (I probably didn't emphasize that struggle enough) Handsome and I began our first international adoption.  We assumed that everyone would be as excited as we were - and in many cases, that was true.  My sister-in-law organized a HUGE garage sale and God miraculously provided $2000 through people's purchases and gifts at the garage sale.  People everywhere were a little stunned but excited for us.  Well, almost everywhere.... 

We did have a group of people very important to us disagree very strongly with us.  A lot of hurtful things were said and we were crushed.  It sent us into panic mode for a bit until we started to really look into what they were saying - most was not the truth and it did not line up with Scripture - but oh, how it hurt.  About this time, I heard Jeremy Camp's song "Walk by Faith" for the first time.  My immediate thought was, "This man has walked through the fire to be able to sing that way."  If you do not know his story, you should look it up.  He has quickly become my all time favorite artist.  Much, much truth spoken there.

This "trial" seemed so heavy at the time - and it was to our fledgling "faith wings".  We loved these people.  It hurt to be out of sync with them.  God - once again - in His grace, used this for His purposes.  The weight of my heartache drove me to begin reading my Bible, really reading my Bible - not just "skimming" the surface.  As is always the case, the truth of His Word began to change and complete me.  However, I was not finding the promises I thought were there.  Yes, He absolutely promised that He is Sovereign - that nothing is out of His Hand - but He didn't ever promise that everything would be "okay".  In fact, looking at the apostles, they suffered and struggled - were beaten, mocked, scorned - and yet, they remained joyful.  This set of tiny alarm bells for me.  But everywhere around us, the people we loved and trusted were telling us that God would bless us for what we were doing - that He would not allow bad things to happen.  I truly developed a hunger for His Word, but there just seemed to be such a disconnect between what I was reading and what we were being told....we had never seen anyone "walk the fire" where was the truth?

As this was going on, I saw the picture of a sibling set in Russia.  There names were Tatiana and Denis.  They had the saddest picture - two faces that should have beaming and beautiful - were racked with the ravages of life in an orphanage.  Honestly, I don' t remember anymore what drew me to them in the first place, but I could not get them off of my mind.  Were we supposed to adopt them too?  It became an all out obsession.  Poor Handsome - he probably got so very tired of me talking about them and wrestling with this.   I was so immature in my faith - but so passionate about these kids.  I was sure that God would just provide for it.  I couldn't figure out how we could get the twins and then hop on a plane and spend 2 weeks in Russia to get them - especially since Handsome was still saying that he would not fly, but it didn't matter.  I wanted to save those kids. 

Finally, in frustration one day, I prayed out of the blue, "Lord, if we are supposed to adopt them, send some money in the mail today."  I don't even know where that thought came from!  We had never received money in the mail before.  As soon as the prayer crossed my lips, I ran out to the mailbox - and there was a check for $300!  I was so stunned and excited!  I quickly called Handsome - he didn't know what to say.  It was an obvious answer to prayer - but what?  Really?  The obsession continued in full force that day.  I started buying clothes at garage sales for the twins and for Tatiana and Denis.  At another point, I prayed if we were supposed to get them, there would be bunkbeds for sale at the next garage sale - and there was!  They were more than I could spend, but it seemed to be another answer to prayer.  As I continued to sell things on ebay, I began to save the money toward their adoption.  Handsome just didn't know what to say....

Our Guatemalan adoption went through very, very quickly  7 months from the time I saw their picture, it was time to get on an airplane to get them.  It was just 2 weeks past their first birthday.  We would have "virtual triplets" with Smiley only being 2 1/2 months older than the twins.  We had 3 highchairs, 3 carseats, and a closet full of special things that I had made for my boys.  I was so excited!

About this time, my little world was rocked again.  After being convinced that Tatiana and Denis were my children, I found out that another couple was beginning their adoption.  What?  Hadn't God answered my prayers?  Hadn't He said they were mine?  How could that happen?  I was simply crushed.  My faith crumbled.  What did it mean?  Handsome suggested that maybe I was simply supposed to pray for them - not adopt them.  But that was not what I had prayed about when I wanted a "sign".  I broken-heartedly decided to donate the money that I had saved to the family that was adopting them.  When I did so, I was given a message by the couple that they had been praying that if they were supposed to go forward with the adoption, that exact amount would be donated to their account.  Okay, that soothed my broken heart a little bit - but not much.  As I was crying over this, a new thought entered my mind - a little girl would be joining our family.  What?  Where did that come from?  I had no idea - but I was convinced enough that I went out and bought fabric for her blankie.   Handsome was probably ready to bang his head against the wall.  Then right before we left, we saw a little picture of a tiny girl in Guatemala that had bruises all over her body.  Was this her?  Was this our daughter?  We were both so moved by her picture....Handsome was even willing to consider going back for her.

What a tumultuous few weeks!  As I was flying all over the place emotionally, Handsome felt that he did need to be the one to go with me to Guatemala.  I was so excited!  We would go together to get our newest sons...and maybe have a better idea of what God was saying about the little girl?

Emotional chaos - that is the best description at the time.  Our fledgling faith wings were shaking under the weight - but we were so excited!  We were full of faith - but unfortunately, it was not faith in the truth of His Word - it was faith in what we believed  was in His Word.

Ugh.  Even though I know now what God was doing at the time, it hurts to relive this time.  So full of hope - but so full of false truth.  So excited - but we had no idea what was coming....

Time to get the kiddos up....the story will continue soon.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Story time...

Here is the beginning of the story here.  To continue on...

In that magazine was an article about Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife adopting their first little girl from China.  We had briefly talked about international adoption years before, but there were two issues.  One was HUGE - we had NO idea where that kind of money would come from.  Second, though not as big was that I wanted a baby and I wanted one quickly.   So we had never followed the idea any further.

As I read about the Chapman's journey, I knew so clearly that God was showing me a choice - windows or orphans.  If we were willing to take out a loan for windows, why wouldn't we be willing to do so to save a child?  It was a moment of absolute clarity.  Poor Handsome, he had no idea what was coming!  He thought I was a bit crazy when I first brought it up - or maybe a lot crazy.  We had a 7 month old baby.  We already had four kids!  (That makes me snicker a bit now at our cluelessness!)  We did not know anyone - NO ONE - who had large families.  We knew some people had adopting from China because they could not have biological kids.  I really did not want to be pregnant again.  We had made a big deal with the pregnancy with Smiley that this was the last pregnancy.  Here was a way to add to our family without a pregnancy - and to help a child in need.

I will be very honest.  At that point, the adoption was all about us I wanted more children.  I felt a deep desire to do this for me.  God used that selfishness in His grace but would eventually change the story.

Handsome was willing to talk about it in a future tense, but he was not convinced it should be any time soon.  I was convinced otherwise and began my search of countries and programs.   This was just at the beginning of photolistings for international adoptions.  It was still at the time when you had to  have agencies mail you packets that explained their programs and agency - how times have changed!  One thing that did come out very clearly was that Handsome was unwilling to fly anywhere.  He HATED flying.  Hmmm....well that narrowed it down quite a bit.  It needed to be a country that I could go by myself.  I couldn't quite wrap my heart around being gone from my kids - I was never gone from my kids!  But I ploughed ahead anyway.  My search narrowed down to Guatemala.  

The beauty of the kids was overwhelming and I researched everything I could.  God began growing my selfish heart by His grace.  Handsome had always had sponsored kids through Compassion International and World Vision.  In my ugly selfishness, I could not see why we had to give so much money to others when we had needs at home.  Pretty ugly, huh?  Really ugly.  Handsome had even challenged me to pray about my wrong attitude.  I had half-heartedly done so - but once again, God in His overwhelming grace, took my half-hearted prayer and began a new work in me.  As I researched the kids overseas, my eyes and heart were opened to the gaping needs everywhere.  How could I sit in my huge house and penny-pinch over $30 a month (per child) to help those in need?  We really began to get involved with Compassion International and even held several "Compassion Sundays" at our church - trying to get more kids sponsored.  I won't tell you how many files that I couldn't let be returned - so our Compassion kids "family" increased greatly.  

All the while I was badgering and nagging Handsome and all those around me to consider international adoption.  I cringe now as I see all that I did by human effort, rather than by prayer.  Not that I wasn't praying - but they were very immature prayers, focused on my plans and my desires.  I am so very, very thankful for God's grace and patience.  Handsome and I had many heated discussions about adoption.  I had so much to learn about waiting and trusting His Hand.  It would always end with Handsome saying, "Not right now!"  I would be angry and heartbroken - but still determined to plow ahead.  Oh, how much I needed to learn.

Finally, after months of this, I clicked on a link that had two names, not just one.  This was the picture I saw:

Twin boys!  TWIN BOYS!  I had always secretly wanted twin boys!  Oh. My. Goodness!  It took my breath away.  I couldn't move.  I could just stare at the picture.  How could I show Handsome?  We had just had another argument the night before and he was pretty angry.  He also had a big event he was working on and was pretty distracted.  For once, I slowed down and decided to wait and pray.  His event was over in three days.  God pressed on my heart that I needed to wait until it was done.  Three days.  At the time, it seemed like an eternity!  But I faithfully prayed with every breath - and waited the three days.  Because immaturity takes time to grow out of, I pounced on Don the moment that he walked through the door at the end of those three days.  I nervously showed him the picture and he just hung his head.  He said, "Of course they look just like [Smiley]."  Pretty funny considering they don't look at all alike!  Remember, Smiley was only 9 months old at the time.  We talked all weekend long, but I had very little detailed information.  Handsome said we needed to find out how much it would cost.  I gritted my teeth a bit, knowing he would be rattled at the number.  I was praying there would be some kind of "sibling" discount.

Monday came around and I called again.  There was a series of missed phone calls and messages - putting my heart on complete overload.  Finally, I got to talk with someone at the agency.  Uh,oh.  No sibling discount.  And the cost?  Wow.  It took my breath away.  $45,000 - $50,000.  Really?  I couldn't even wrap my head around that.  Handsome was listening as I talked with the agency worker.  I said at the end of the phone call, "I just don't think my husband will go for that."  I dejectedly hung up the phone.  I am pretty sure that Handsome had to sit on the couch for quite a while after I told him.  I also told him that the agency had had them listed for several months without a family coming forward and they were going to split them up very soon if a family wouldn't take them both.  I was just numb.  I figured that was the end of the road.  

But God was moving Handsome's heart even as I was giving up the fight.  In the end, he decided that we would take out a $40,000 loan and try to come up with the rest of the money somehow.   At the time we were so limited by what we could do - not waiting and seeing what God would do....

So we hopped on the crazy roller coaster of international adoption - with no thought or fear of what the future would hold.  God wouldn't let anything bad happen, right?

To be continued....

Friday, May 22, 2015

We are DTC!!!!.....and CP....

We are DTC - Dossier To China!  YAY!

So very, very thankful to finally to be at this point.  We lost about 5 weeks with some delays at USCIS and in getting our homestudy to be able to send in to USCIS.  Just thankful, thankful, thankful.

It was a really good day for some wonderful news because we also have CP!....That would be Chicken Pox.  :(  My kids have been vaccinated (a decision made after Mimi was born) - they have had both of the vaccine injections - but we still have mild cases.  Pretty frustrating. :(  Praying it stays mild.

Thank you to all of you journeying with us.  Someone also donated $300 to us - we are so very thankful to all who have given and donated.  We are so very, very thankful.

Until He comes.....

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Plans changing....

Well, Serenity’s surgery this Friday is cancelled.  She is still coughing and has a yucky nose.  The doctors really don't want to take a chance with lung issues during and after anesthesia.  I am okay with that.  This surgery was for her other hand, that already has 1 finger separated – so not in the critical category.   It needs to be done, but can be bumped without long term consequences.  We talked roughly about a September date.  We will see where we are a with potential travel to bring our newest treasures home and then make that decision.  We are still praying that we will be DTC (dossier to China) by the end of this week.

I also had a LONG talk with Hope’s coordinating doctor in the craniofacial department.  She is the one that makes sure all the doctors are on the same page and that other departments/specialist/doctors are pulled in as necessary.  The long-story-made-short is that we are going to put off her facial surgery for another year.  There are several concerns on our part - the biggest two are her nutritional health and her emotional health.  Although she is growing and has put on weight, it is not as much as would be expected.  Eating is still a real battle withe her.

So, we are going to see a speech specialist the end of June (speech therapy involves anything to do with the mouth - so eating falls into that category) to try to work on the eating – which I am pretty convinced actually has no physical root to it.  That does not make it any easier to try to figure out, but it means that no surgeries have to be done to help it, if that makes sense.  She spent 5 years only eating blended foods and she has no chewing motion whatsoever.  She is also very, very determined to control whatever she can in her environment (something she had to do to survive) so she is not interested in "working" on it.  I have started to add oatmeal to the blended foods we make for her (after we have blended it) just to add texture.  She has no difficulty swallowing - she is just very unhappy with it.  Baby steps.  The eating also seems to be her way of expressing her unhappiness with anything new.  If any thing - even something little, like changing her spoon - happens, she clamps her mouth shut and will not eat or drink willingly.   Even with something that has nothing to do with food.  I am looking forward to getting some good input on how to work with her - knowing her limitations (if any) and abilities will go a long way in helping with that.  The doctor also wants to have her pituitary gland checked to be sure there are no issues there.  None have been indicated by previous blood tests, but it is just one more thing to be sure that we know as much as possible.

We are also going to see a neurodevelopmental specialist to try to gauge a little better where she is at cognitively.  It is very hard to really know how much she understands.  Most of the time I am convinced she is very aware and understands way more than she lets on.  But if that is truly the case, that what do we do to unlock the cage she is in?  Again, the more we know about her limitations and abilities, the more we can help her.   I did tell the doctor that I was very afraid that she simply would not cooperate She responded that the specialists were used to that - and it would at least give a us a little more focused point to work with.  Hopefully, that is the case.  We still need to get that appointment on the schedule – but I am assuming some time this summer.  I feel like we need to get as much input as possible to try to frame a plan for her care.  She is getting much friendlier with everyone – even new people.  She is moving around a great deal and even pulling herself to stand.  That is all worth praising the Lord over – but wanting to see her continue to grow and thrive.  Honestly, constantly battling the anger and heartbreak over what was done to her.

I am breathing an emotional sigh of relief that we aren't going to have to go through the surgery yet....but want to be able to open the world up for my little girl.
Mama V, still need to finish our story of going from 4 to 7....going to get to that. :)

To Him be all glory and honor and praise.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Getting closer

I saw this today and it was a good reminder:

Only God's grace and plan could have gotten us here.  We felt overwhelmed with 4 kids...the jump in 9 months to 7 kids DID seem impossible - in our own strength, it was.  When our precious Mimi was born with all her special challenges, at the time it felt like our life had stopped.  All our "dreams", which now seem so silly, crumbled down around us.  We had no idea that God was opening the door to such an amazing journey through that beautiful, perfect (but not healthy) little girl.  Now we are journeying to our 15th and 16th.  Only God could do these things.  If you do not know Him, you will not be able to grasp how we do this, because it is only through Christ and Christ alone. 

We should be sending our dossier to China next week.  We are waiting for it to arrive to the agency from the east coast where it received authentications at the federal level and then at the Chinese embassy.  We just made our next payment, by God's grace. 

The timeline is a little unclear to me at the moment.  We were told 4-6 months from the time of LID (logged in dossier), but I am seeing some people's timeline moving a bit faster.  China implemented a new system on Jan 1st, so that may be speeding things up a bit.

So at this point, we are praying for our dossier to be in China (DTC) by the end of next week.  We are then praying for a swift logged in dossier date (LID).  Then we are praying for a swift LOA - letter of acceptance (also called LSC - letter seeking confirmation).  At that point, we will owe our largest payment - $12,000.  We are watching and praying for His provision.  He has never failed us, but the money comes in many different ways.  Sometimes He blesses the sales at Handsome's business abundantly, sometimes we receive gifts in the mail - all the while we pray and save all that we can.  We have always been very, very conservative financially - we just continue to pray over each thing that we need and trust Him for it.  We have tried so many "fundraisers" over the years and it has become a running joke that whatever we try will flop.  I just tried a t-shirt fundraiser because so many other families had such great success with them.  We made a whopping $0.96.  We have just come to see that God wants us to rely on Him.  If He directs us to a fundraiser, then we will do it.  If He tells us to be still and know that He is God, then that is what we do - always praying for greater faith and trust in Him.

One more precious gift He has given was that we received a bunch of pictures of Brooke.  As you may recall, she is part of an amazing ministry called Loaves and Fishes - you can find out more about them here .

Our God is full of compassion and is faithful in all He does - what a privilege to serve Him.

Until He comes...

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Clinging tighly...

Whenever one of my sweet long-distance friends ask me how life is going, my first response is always "Busy.  Crazy Busy.  But a good busy."  I am sure they may be tempted to think this is just my fall-back response.  But it is my honest response.  I don't know how to describe our life with 14 beautiful, unique, active children.   For those like Grace, who is not physically active, there is always the draw to hold her just a few more snuggle just a little longer.  Life is....busy.  A good busy.

I am starting to put the summer calendar together.  For many years now, I have described summer as a steep slide.  At the end of May, we are at the top and are so excited to begin playing and WHOOSH!  It is the end of August and time to start school again.  Why does it seem that the slide gets shorter every year as well?

Last year with a new (cranky) baby and Serenity and Hope still settling in, I just wanted a "quiet" summer.  I keep the calendar as empty as possible (relatively speaking - most of you would laugh at what I consider "quiet") and the slide seemed to go a little slower.  BUT, then when the end of August came, I was NOT ready for fall at all.  I felt like I had missed the summer completely.  It was hard to know the cold, rainy, dark days were coming and I had not had much of a summer.  I should say that the kids had a wonderful time - their days were full with family and youth camp and sunshine....mine was as quiet as I could make it.  Well, not this year!  Even if we skid into September exhausted, I want to fully rejoice in the days.  Time is seeming so desperately short anymore - my kids are growing up so fast.  So we are going to rejoice in family and friends and sunshine.

This month is full of finishing school and being outside as much as possible.  A little over two years ago, God answered our prayers for "space" in an amazing and gracious way.  He gave us 5 acres just outside of town.  We are very close to the freeway (making access to the hospitals easy) - but all the houses around us have to be on 5 acre plats or more - so we have space.  He made it possible in ways that we never could have seen and never would have believed if someone had told us ahead of time.  We are in a manufactured house - which I used to turn my nose up at - but it is beautifully laid out with high ceilings and lots of open space.  The land however was COVERED with blackberry brambles.  COVERED.  In fact we laughed that it felt like our yard was only slightly bigger than our last house (which was a quarter of an acre) because of the brambles.  The kids could go play in the woods with the trails they carved, but it was daunting to look out at the mess of branches and weeds.

As you may remember, we moved in 4 days before I left to bring Grace home from Taiwan.  I did get to work outside some that summer - but it was mostly working on painting the south side of the house that the inspector said needed new paint asap.  Last summer, as I said, was a "baby" summer with a newborn and newly adopted kiddos.  It was hard to watch the brambles grow higher and higher.  In January, during a mild weather week, I went into the brambles with a machete to see what I could do.  An hour later, the answer was "nothing much".

I had prayed and prayed that God would show me what He would have me do.  You see, I have always wanted a "farm" - animals, gardens, fruit trees, flowers.  My grandparents had a farm - and to this day it is still my favorite place on earth - even though they have gone on to be with Christ and I can no longer go there.  However, I knew that as we began to open our lives to whoever God would ask us to adopt, that their needs would mean that I would have to give up my dreams for a real "farm".  It was one of the things I had to deeply wrestle with.  It is easy to say, "Yes, I will trade my dream for a child's life."  It is much harder to do when wrestling with emotions and dreams that have been there forever.   So, as I stood in the bramble patch with an aching arm and not much to show for my work.  I let the dream go.  Okay, Lord, this isn't what You would have me do.  I need to let it go once again.  I walked into the house with tears and just snuggled my beautiful children.  They were my biggest dream come true - a house full of precious lives.  It felt like a book had been closed forever.

But you know, God is always doing more than we could ever ask or imagine....and this was no exception.  He was working even when I had closed that book.  The next week Handsome came home from church after talking with a new family.  I will call them the "Givers" - because they are always serving others.  They have lots of kids as well and our families have just bonded together.  They are the best of friends and such an encouragement to us.  Well, Mr. Giver came to Handsome and said that he had been thinking about it, and he wanted to find a way to get his big tractor over here to clear out the blackberries.  What?!?!  Their family was so busy with Mr. Givers' job and their own place - how could they do that?  I was speechless, but immediately recognized the gift that God was giving to me.  Me, who does not deserve it.

The Givers came - all our kids worked and laughed and played.  It was so beautiful to see.  One of the things that I loved about my grandparents' farm was that I learned the joy of working hard and rejoicing in a job well done.  Working with laughter and people we loved and eating good food and relaxing at the end of the day - sore muscles and all.  Mr. Giver is a jack-of-all-trades - so he has taken down trees and leveled ground and had wonderful workable ideas for all my "dreams".    They have come again and again.  The fellowship and friendships with the kids are an indescribable gift.  The older boys have competitions to see who can carry more wood or lift a bigger rock...whatever they can have a competition about they do.  But it is all so good.  They are learning the value of hard work and deep friendships.  They look forward to work days, knowing they will see the fruit of their labors and enjoying their friends.   God took my deep down dreams and painted them into beautiful reality.  I now have an "orchard" in the making and a few raised beds with raspberry starts given us by friends.  And so much potential for so much more...In addition, The Givers gave us a ride-on lawnmower to help keep the blackberry brambles down.  Another thing we had been praying for since we had moved in.  Blackberry brambles are almost impossible to get rid of once they have taken root - so it will be a battle for years to come to stay on top of them and not let them spread.

I have certainly rambled on this post.  I am just praying God knows why all of this came pouring out today.  Maybe because I am so exhausted right now (Mimi, Grace, Little Man, and Serenity have all been up on different nights - making sleep hard to find) - maybe I just needed to remember that my Savior is so very good.  He knows what my heart needs and He knows my dreams.  He has good things planned and He does carry us through the "hard".  It doesn't mean that life is easy - but it is good.  Even with the tears that often come, it is good.

Serenity has another hand surgery this month - the Lord willing.  Please pray with me that she is healthy enough for that surgery - no coughs or colds.   School ends just a week later with the annual testing our kids are required to do by state law.  After that, the summer begins with camping trips and swimming, friends and sunshine.

God also had another amazing gift for us, something to do with this beautiful girl we have prayed for so long....

But that story will have to wait for another time....I need to get my crowd up and moving.

Oh, and we FINALLY received our I-797 from USCIS - the approval from the US government to move forward for our adoption.  This has taken a long time this adoption and I was at the end of my rope waiting for it.  By Monday night our dossier will be on its way to Washington DC and the authentications that need to be taken care of there.  We are praying we are DTC (dossier to China) in just a few short weeks.  Then another period of waiting comes as we wait for it all to be processed in China - but at least "our" part will be done.  We are told it is a 4-6 month wait from the time our dossier is logged into the system there.  How I am praying for the 4 month end....I cannot wait to see that dream turned into an beautiful reality by my Savior....

I am clinging tightly to my Savior - through the tears and the laughter - through joy and frustration.  Through the amazing and through the hardships.  He is the lover of my soul.

Until He comes......