Thursday, October 29, 2015

I'm still here....

I have been avoiding the blog a bit - but then I feel badly as I see how many people keep checking back to see if I have posted again.

Honestly, this blog was not my idea.  I am a very, very private person - my family was floored that I began a blog.  It was truly the Spirit pressing upon me that I was to share our journey.  That I was to be the voice for the voiceless even though I did not want to be heard or seen or critiqued.  But through it, I have "met" some wonderful friends - people with hearts like my own.  People doing things because He asked - not for their own gain, desires, or fame. 

Anyway, through Brooke's passing, I have wanted to hide away.  I didn't want to read another nasty troll comment or deal with someone else's opinion of what we should do or have not done - based on not a scrap of information - just their own self-righteous feelings.  Yes, I can see what site people have come to ours from - I know that we get a lot of "hits" from people purposely out to criticize large, Christian, adoptive families - yes, it is that specific.  I have gone to those pages just to see what is being said - and it is a bunch of foolishness.  Criticism without knowledge.  And even more foolish - criticism without offering any alternative besides "it isn't our job to save these kids" or more honestly, "let them die".  And most of the time no alternative is offered - just criticism.  I have said it before and I will repeat it again.  A few of these people may be very clever and witty in their criticism.  But clever does not equal wise.  These people rage against the children of God - I do not have to defend myself.  He says that retribution is His job, not mine.  I can leave it in His Hands.  I am sure some of you are even reading this paragraph now...I have nothing but true sorrow for you.  You deny Him and someday, when it is too late for you to still seek Him, He will deny you.  My prayer is always that you will seek Him.  That you will become children of almighty God.  He may not ask you to adopt or have a large family - He may call you to prison ministry, to the homeless, to another country, or to simply, but completely serve those you see everyday.  But this will all come from a completely new heart.  When you are saved, He tells us that He brings our hearts of stone to life.  We change from death to life.  One day - when you least expect it - He will either come or you will die.  You will stand before Him and will be condemned...not just for your nastiness against us, that truly is nothing - but for every lie, every evil thought, every thought that did not honor Him as God.  We all stand condemned - there is nothing we could possibly do to erase the tiniest bit of our sin.  James 2:10 says that whoever keeps the whole law, yet breaks it at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.  Cleverness and wit will not save us from a holy God.  Only the salvation offered through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Only His death on our behalf. 

The days have been full.  I still wish some moments that I could find a quiet moment to cry my heart out for my baby girl - but I am also thankful that I cannot.  I need to be with my children, I need to be with my husband, I need to be managing my home.  I need to remember that Brookie is not suffering, she is not lonely - she is with Christ!  One of my children is home forever - exactly where she should be.  I pray fervently that each of my precious children will be ready on the day that He calls them home.  This is my greatest prayer.

We are coming up on two years that Hope and Serenity have been home.  As always, I wish that Hope was farther along....but she is moving at her own pace.  There have been changes and growth - I just long for her to dance and sing and play with others.  Again, I need to still my heart to just rejoice that she is safe.  I will post more as we hit that mark in December.

Serenity is still struggling with wanting to be a toddler, not a six year old.  Some of my older kids help with the kids' classrooms on Thursday morning at our church while the moms are in a Bible study.  This morning, Serenity went as well.  It will give her some "classroom" time on a limited, protected basis.  We keep trying to find ways to help her be a "big" girl.  Potty training has been a complete failure so far - but I know it is a battle that we have win.  There is no reason she should not be able to learn with patience and a working timer.  We will just keep working at 30 minute increments.  ;-)

I am out of time this morning...but will try to update more very soon.

Please pray for little Chelzey - still needing a family.  She most likely has AMC.  She is the most beautiful, amazing girl...

Until He comes....

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What to say?

I cannot even come up with a title right now...."Moving on" isn't right because it sounds like we are leaving our Brookie behind.  Any reference to time is hard to work with right now.  Time is moving on - that is how God designed life - but in some ways it still seems stuck on the day that Brooke passed away. 

I miss my girl.  How I miss my girl.  As I have seen with others going through grief, the time leading up to the burial/memorial is a complete mix of emotions - disbelief, intense grief, but we have something to "do" - we need to get ready for the burial/memorial.  Friends surround us - we don't have to go some place where people don't know we are grieving.  But then -as is right and good - life must continue onward....

Handsome felt it most after the memorial.  He thought he was doing really well, especially Sunday evening after the memorial.  We were surrounded by precious friends and family.  Some had come a long way to be with us.  One of my friends that I have not seen since high school came!  It was a mix of grief and joy to share Brookie's little life with so many.  My mom made the church look so beautiful.  We wanted it to be a celebration of her life, so we brought the special things that Brooke loved and reminded us of her that we had already put in a "treasure" box.  It made the most beautiful display as people entered, along with big beautiful pictures of her.  Each table had a sand pail holding balloons, rubber duckies (she love the bath), and candy sprinkled all around it.  It was so perfect.  But then Tuesday morning, he just simply missed her.  All the activity is done...and the "missing" is still there.

I think that part of my struggle is that I still think she is coming.  I have loved her from afar - from pictures and videos - for so long, I just feel like I am still waiting for her to come....that any day now the hole in my heart that is shaped just like Brooke, will be filled.  Four days just wasn't enough to make it real that she was finally home.  Getting her up in the morning was like getting to open another amazing gift - she was here!  She was mine!  Now my waiting continues, but in a different way.  I am now waiting for the day we are all together in heaven...

I have had to continue onward with doctors appointments and grocery shopping.  I almost wish that it was still tradition to wear "mourning" clothes.  Then I wouldn't struggle with how to answer the casual question by the cashier of "How are you?"  I really don't want to cry in the supermarket line, but I can't really bring myself to say "good".  I have settled for, "It has been a tough few weeks, but I am here."  No one really questions any farther.  It works.  Not at my blood draw though (I have to have my blood tested every few weeks to make sure the blood thinner I am on for life is at the right level).  She said, "I missed you two weeks ago, you never cancel!"  The tears started flowing before I could even really answer her....and then she started crying was a mess.  I am glad there were not any other people in the lobby at the time.  I feel like I should have some sort of reward each time I return from a "normal life" thing without crying (too much).  Pretty sad, huh?

But even with the grief, my life needs to continue on.  Brookie is just tucked in my heart for the journey, rather than holding my hand.

And life is still beautiful.  Jillian is such a firecracker - just like big sister Serenity.  When Lou and Handsome first got them in China, it really seemed that she couldn't do much with her hands.  But they both allowed her the opportunity (and insisted a bit) that she begin trying to do some things by herself.  She has made huge progress.  She has now figured out that she has a tiny part of her hands that she can "pinch" something small with - like a piece of bread and feed herself.  She almost has the hang of using a spoon.  We found a sippy cup that she can use by herself.  She is SOOOO much happier.    The more she can do, the less frustration and temper tantrums.

She is still greatly limited and that brings a great deal of frustration and crying - very hard on all of us.  I am counting the days until her first huge appointment with the craniofacial team and the hand surgeon.  I know she will need a vault expansion sooner rather than later (making the back of her head bigger) - but I am really hoping we can get her in to have her hands worked on very quickly.  I know it will depend on what they find with the CT scan.  Eleven more days...

In the meantime, the most precious part is the camaraderie between Jillian and Little Man.  They are 7 months apart, but in many ways on the same level as Little Man is a little more advanced for his age (due to so many big siblings to copy) and Jillian is a little delayed due to orphanage living.  They make quite the pair.  We are calling them the "Chipmunks" as they run and play and get into mischief just like two little chipmunks would.  Oh, how I love it!  It reminds me of the days when Smiley, Romeo, and The Professor were all under two years old.  (They are only 2 months apart.)  It was crazy, but it was so much exhausting fun.  I will post more pictures soon - but here are two from the other day:

I think it has been very good for Jillian to see Little Man doing "normal" family life - she hasn't seen it before. 

So what does Serenity think?  We wondered as she still looks intently at people's hands and feet - what would she think about someone that looked like her?  It has been a weird combination.  She was very happy with Jillian's (webbed) feet like hers.  BUT she is not happy with Jillian's hands.  She keeps trying to pull the fingers apart - much to Jillian's dismay!  She also is obsessed with Jillian's head shape and wants to continually run her hand over it.  Needless to say, Jillian is NOT happy with all the touching - because it is very determined touching and Serenity does NOT back off!

It has been a tough time for Serenity.  She has her Lou back to love on her - she had missed her!  And Jillian is Snip's buddy - so Serenity doesn't have to share Lou - but she is still very jealous.  I think the biggest issue is that she wants to be like the Chipmunks - playing silly and rough, eating messy, doing "toddler" things...but in reality, she is a six year old.  It is the same way when we bring a newborn home - you realize that the next one is growing up...only Serenity would prefer not to.  It has been a good, gentle reminder to me that I need to start expecting more of Serenity, little by little.  We have let her stay in the "toddler" world, but it is not good for her.  I will of course still snuggle and love on her - I do that with all my kids until they decide they are too big to sit on my lap....but I need to help my little daughter start to move forward.  She has gotten so tall and her looks have changed.  She looks like a four/five year old - but she still wants us and company to pick her up and hold her like a baby.  It is getting understandably awkward for those outside of our immediate family.  When she plays with The Boss, who is 4 months younger, but in reality quite a ways ahead of her, she behaves on a higher level - not a six year old, but better than a toddler.  This has been good and The Boss does very well playing with her - but I am seeing she would prefer the "toddler" level, not the school-age level. 

So, I think our first step will be to potty-train her.  I honestly should have tried a year ago - but I am just simply completely dreading it.  I think that with her (as with everything with her) it will either be super easy and she will catch the hang of it immediately OR she will fight it tooth and nail.  Potty training is really, really, really not a happy thing to do.  I have not had an easy adjustment with any of my kids.  I would so appreciate prayers for patience and wisdom with her.

I am praying about some other ways to encourage her to move forward.  We have stopped putting her in a high chair even though that makes containing her as she eats much easier.  I also need to work more on letting her help with more and more things.  She LOVES having something to do but she HATES having to do it any way but hers.  I am praying for more direction and wisdom.  Please pray for her, that she knows she is loved completely and that she will learn to ENJOY moving ahead.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support.  God is good.  Always.  We hurt, but we continue on the path He has laid out for us....

Friday, October 2, 2015

Another day....a thousand more tears.

I just wanted to thank you all for your amazing love and support.  Our GoFundMe - which we were urged to do by so many - raised $1500 MORE than the costs associated with the funeral.  I am completely overwhelmed - amazed - humbled - broken again with gratitude.  GoFundMe ends up with about 7.5% of that - so the extra money will help to cover those fees.  Plus, I had chosen not to do flowers on the casket because of the cost - a decision that I regretted deeply, but knew I could not do it.  But now, my beautiful Brooke will have beautiful flowers and I will also buy a rose bush (or two) for my front yard to have for her.

I know it is hard for some to understand how money could be so tight, so I feel like I should explain a bit.  Adoptions are expensive - very expensive.  Brooke and Jillian's cost around $44,000.  It is not even a drop in the ocean compared to the value of a precious life - but it is a real cost.  We had many, many people give a great deal of money.  A rough estimate this morning (I will go add it up later), would be about $20,000 was given to us.  That is an AMAZING amount given by people that love us and love the orphan.  It is reason to stop and PRAISE the Lord!  But it still left about $24,000 that we needed to provide.  God brought that money in through Handsome's business (we are small business owners) and just living as simply as we could.  We DON'T have $24K in our budget - just like you don't.  We didn't know where it would come from - but we trusted Him and we had what we needed.  But it took ALL we had.  This happens with each adoption.  It is just part of the process.  In addition, Handsome was gone from his business for 2 weeks - as he is the "heart" of the business, income goes down.  Again, this is all part of the process, we expect it.  A final piece would be that we are entering what is typically a slower time for the that is a factor as well.  We don't regret a moment or a dollar spent.  But we know that the choices we made would make it tighter.  A family member had offered to loan us the money for the funeral - and for that we are so grateful - but you all know the burden of debt.....we hate that weight....we hate that burden.  We are not debt-free as the adoptions over the years have taken a toll - but we are not choosing to put a child's redemption on hold so that we can be debt-free.  We solely trust in our Savior to tell us when to go and when to stay.  This is a matter of faith and obedience.  We will not delay obedience for our own desire to be debt free.

Mornings are so far the hardest for me.  I wake up and immediately remember I am not whole.  As I think through my day, I want to be thinking of what  I will dress my Brooke in and think of her sweet smile as I pull her out of bed into my arms.....the grief seems bottomless.

Thank you for sharing our burden through your prayers, your words of encouragement and sympathy and your gifts.

You have all glorified Him.