Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Passover

This evening begins Passover. No, we aren't Jewish. But scripture doesn't say Passover is only to be celebrated by the Jews....actually, it can be celebrated by anyone and everyone who loves God. We began to celebrate Passover five years ago during our journey with the Lord through Hopey's uncertain diagnosis. Digging deep into scripture for answers to "why" on so many counts, we found where God asks the Passover to be remembered throughout ALL generations. In response, Chappy and I decided it would please the Lord if we remembered. So, this evening, we sat around the table once again as a family and recounted the story of Moses and the Hebrew people. For just a moment, imagine with me what this evening was like.....all those years ago, in Egypt:

You have become a lowly Hebrew and a slave to the Egyptians. During Joseph's reign in Egypt, your people were valued and held in esteem. Your numbers multiply greatly (just like God had promised Abraham). However, over time, the Egyptians become concerned that you might use your great numbers to overthrow them, so they enslave you and your people. 400 very long years pass. Generations come and go. You have forgotten the promises of Abraham. You have all but lost your identity. All hope is gone.

Unbeknownst to you, while you and your fellow Hebrews are suffering torment and cruelty, God is working out his plan of redemption through a Hebrew boy who had been rescued and adopted by the Egyptian Pharaoh's daughter when he was just a small baby. This boy grew up with extreme wealth and the highest education. At forty years of age, though, he began to embrace his true identity as a Hebrew, murdered an Egyptian guard he witnessed severely mistreating a Hebrew slave, and then flees to the wilderness for forty years of hiding. Moses is then called back to Egypt by none other than God Himself.

You experience the horrible and magnificent plagues just as Moses prophesies: 1. Water turned to blood; 2. Frogs; 3. Lice; 4. Flies; 5. Livestock diseased; 6. Boils; 7. Thunder and hail; 8. Locusts; and 9. Darkness.

This evening, the promise of the next plague is more frightening than any that have been encountered. Every first born will die. Terror hangs in the air. The only hope of salvation is in obedience to Moses' instructions to kill a perfect lamb and spread its blood on the doorposts.

Hurriedly, you slay the lamb....you cook it and eat it....leaving nothing behind as instructed. You do not even put leaven in your grain to make bread.....there is no time. The blood is wiped across the doorpost, now you huddle with your family to wait. The smallest spark of hope begins to glisten. "Is this for real?" "Will we be saved?" "Will the death angel PASSOVER our home tonight?" "Will my family experience freedom tomorrow?"

Now imagine many years later, during the exact same time of the year, friends gather around a table to have a traditional Passover meal. After this meal, one of the friends betrays another. The result is blood on a post with our Savior dying in order to redeem us from slavery, bondage, and death.

The story never ceases to give me chills.

What most people miss in the story with Moses, is ALL in Egypt were made aware of the tenth plague that was to come. Every person in Egypt knew what Moses had instructed them to do in order to avoid the death angel. ALL were welcome to be saved. In fact, some of the Egyptians did obey and even left Egypt to begin a new life with the Hebrew people in the Promised Land.

Likewise, Jesus came to earth for ALL to be saved. He gave clear instructions of what we are supposed to do. His desire is for everyone to come to Him and for everyone to enter the new Promised Land.

What a simple story. What a HUGE price He paid. Jesus, Yahshua, is our perfect Passover lamb. Our once and for all sacrifice. The blood has been shed, we just need to spread it over our hearts so the death angel will PASSOVER us as well. Eternal Death or Eternal Life. It is such an easy choice, isn't it? Do you remember the old hymn:

"Are you washed? In the blood? In the soul cleansing blood of the lamb? Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?"

Our evening ended with talk of heaven. The kids' eyes lit up when I told them I believe death is merely a passage from life to life. The moment of death on earth is the moment of new life with our Savior. Our children smiled as we thought about what it will be like when our souls step out of our earthly skin to meet Grandad and Grandmom again, Goldie, Mamow, and many others. Then, to see precious Jesus. What will it be like to finally see with our eyes the One who sacrificed everything to give us the greatest gift we could ever hope to receive?

I end this evening so in love with the Lord. "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sweet Slumber.....



NIGHT TIME


IS A SWEET TIME





WITH LITTLE ONES




BUT FOR ME,





MORNINGS ARE THE BEST!!!




Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Zig" vs. "Zag"

Our family has received an outpouring of love and support since the last post. Thank you. To my surprise, many people were able to read between the lines a bit and somehow know there is more to the story than what I posted. The gift of discernment, in this case, was much appreciated.

From what I have been told, there are families lined up to adopt Darya. THAT is the most important thing. A little one who was once disregarded is now coveted by many. And with so many competing for her affection, she is certain to find a family that will treat her like the little princess she is. Our loss will definitely be someone else's gain!

In all the comments, Tara's probably struck the strongest chord with me. She said: "I find it so difficult to think I'm going to zig, only to have God say "zag". She hit the nail on the head. Chappy and I really believed God was in our adoption of Darya.....we couldn't see why He would allow Lydia to raise all that money in only eight days for any other reason. Now I feel like I was selfish or possibly prideful. Why did I fall into the trap of thinking it had to be all about me and our family??? It is humbling to be smacked in the face with reality and realize you have been but a tool in the whole process: our ministry, clearly, was the money part of Darya's adoption. How ashamed I am when I think of my silent attitude: "We raised the money, so she'll be adopted by us!" I wonder now if I really ever asked God with open ears at all.

Along with you, I anxiously await to find out who the wonderful new family will be. Thank you again for all your kindness. I must be a mountain of pride, because the Father continually sees fit to break me into pieces. Aren't we so fortuntate that His abounding grace is brand new every morning???

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Can you imagine what it is like to throw up seven times a day and lose 25 pounds in only 5 months? I can. I did it three times. For me, it is called "pregnancy". Pregnancy is a bit uncomfortable for some, the greatest time in the lives of others, but for me, it is pure misery.

Chappy and I already had three wonderful children: Caleb, Lydia, and Natalie. We had a perfectly happy home. However, inside, we longed for another child. We knew the consequences.....I would be sick for 9 months, but violently sick for 5 months. We decided it was worth it.

In January of 2005, we found out we were expecting. Thrilled doesn't adequately describe our emotions. Three weeks from the day our pregnancy test came back positive, true to form, I became bed-ridden for five months and lost my typical 25 pounds.....weighing in at 105 lbs. on the scales and wearing a size 1. Most pregnant moms, five months along are in maternity clothes by this time, but I looked like a super-skinny teeny-bopper. Go figure.

Time for the ultrasound.

Ultrasound shows a heart defect.

My first thoughts, admittedly, were: "I went through all of this sickness and the baby is going to have a heart defect?"

Selfish.

Regroup.

Time for the next ultrasound, one month later.

Ultrasound still shows a heart defect, but also shows a stomach defect and brain lesions.

Pushed to abort.

Refused.

Scooted off to get further testing which shows a diagnosis of Down Syndrome on top of all the other defects. Doctors are unsure the baby will live to be born.

My thoughts: "I sacrificed five months of my life in a bed-ridden state to lose this baby?"

Time for Hope to be born.

Both Hope and I almost die during child birth. Many complications.

Hope has surgery at five days of age to repair her stomach defect. I go into a state of such deep depression, it still frightens me today to think about it.

To help me cope with the depression, Chappy moves our family into an apartment next to the hospital.....Hope remains in the hospital for the first month of her life.

Three months of age: Hope has her first open-heart surgery. I am still fighting depression and panic attacks....wondering if I will ever see daylight with my heart again.

Life continues to move forward.....since then, Hope has had two more open-heart surgeries and even an eye surgery. We have added to our family....little red-headed Charlie with his extra-chromosome. And I, after twelve months, conquered the depression and learned to embrace each day with Hopey as a gift from the Father. Not understanding, but trusting.

Hope's last open heart surgery was in October 2009. The members of the cardiac team, both cardiologists and heart surgeons, were mixed on Hope's diagnosis. The aneurysm they hoped to remove from her heart could not be found during surgery, so it remains in her heart. Some on the team feel she is in great danger right now, that it could burst and cause sudden death. Others believe it will remain stable for a while. And still others believe it very well could burst, but we would have time to get her to the hopsital for a life-saving procedure. One cardiologist in particular, did not think I should take Hope from the hospital after her last surgery. She believed we should deal with the aneurysm then.

Throughout the remainder of October, through November, December, and even January....I chose NOT to think about Hope's aneurysm. That doesn't mean I didn't think of her heart. Do you know I have never looked at my baby and not thought of her heart? Never. What I mean is that I chose NOT to think about another surgery. It was too overwhelming for me, so I think my mind just shut it out as a protective mechanism.

Toward the middle of January, I started to become more and more serious about getting all of my paperwork together to adopt Darya. Chappy and I went to get our medicals, we filed with USCIS, we completed a criminal background check, met for our homestudy update, and filled out all of the paperwork for our dossier.

Paperwork completed.....next step, travel plans.

This is where the road to Darya became tricky. The Ukraine requires a 5-6 week in-country stay. It can be broken into two 3 week trips or it can be completed in one long trip.

The cardiologists are split on whether it would be safe to travel that far, and for that long, with Hope. So, the decision is made, to be completely safe with her we would have to travel without her.

OK, I can do this. I repeat this many, many, many times.

Panic attacks start creeping in again: "What if Hope's aneurysm bursts when I am in the Ukraine?"..... "What if Hope dies when I am in the Ukraine?"

I imagine there are some who read my blog and really understand what my relationship with Hope is like. The bond that is there. To carry a child you know you might lose before birth, and then to almost lose your own life along with hers during birth...... to have to "give her up and hold her tight one last time" before watching her be taken off to open-heart surgery three different times........ to be told too many times that her life will be a shortened one.....oh my goodness, it causes a mom to dig in deep and hold that child more desperately than is probably normal or healthy.

Each and every time I have looked at that round face of hers, I have ached deep inside.....knowing at some point, I am going to have to let her go. I have begged the Father to heal her.....it just hasn't been His plan. I have learned, through this, that FAITH is truly an action and a decision to love God and accept His ways even when they make no sense at all. Jacob wrestled with God for a night, and I have wrestled Him for nearly five years. As a result, I have a limp too......a brokeness that wasn't there before.....a realization that our God's ways are so much higher than our own. We can fight Him, we can hate Him, we can turn our backs on Him, but He is still God....unchangeable God. My temper-tantrums don't move Him. My giving up and letting Him be God moves Him....not to heal Hope's heart, but to teach and heal my heart.


Chappy and I have talked with our children at length, and have decided we will not travel to the Ukraine and will not adopt Darya. We would LOVE to have Darya in our home, we would LOVE to make her our daughter, but we can not leave Hopey. The timing is just all wrong. I know, if I am already having panic attacks just thinking about leaving Hope, when I landed in the Ukraine, I would turn right around on the first available airplane and come back home. For us to give up six weeks of precious time with Hopey is too much.

The generosity of so many toward Darya has been incredible. We are sending every penny you gave to Reece's Rainbow to be used for Darya's adoption. Your gifts were meant to save Darya, we just weren't meant to be her family. I will be anxious to see who her forever family is and would count it the greatest privilege to meet them in person (I know Lydia would love to meet Darya).

As for our family.....we still have a completed homestudy, and all of our adoption paperwork. Our family is still not complete, and we will pursue another adoption. God has definitely called us to adoption again. It will be an in-country domestic adoption that requires very little travel (if any) and no panic-attacks. We will wait on the Lord's timing and our next child.

I know I will receive many negative reactions from this post. I expect it, because I know it is impossible to empathize with my situation unless you have lived it. I would caution you, though, because if you judge too harshly, God may put you into a situation where you find yourself in my shoes. And daily facing the mortality of your child is not a pleasant place to be; I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

A very wise friend said something to me recently about her own situation. She didn't realize God was speaking HIS WORDS to me through her. She has three adopted children, all from Russia, and here is what she said:

"For me, obeying God might mean for me to NOT adopt again. I would adopt a houseful of kids, adopting more children is an easy thing for me, because adoption is my heart. But for me to look at my family, the special needs of _____(one of her children), and realize my family is complete would be obedience to God on my part."

After she spoke those words, I knew. Not adopting Darya was obedience. God's plan was for Lydia to raise the money for Darya so another family, possibly one who couldn't afford an international adoption on their own, could adopt her. This was His plan all along; I just had to stop being so prideful and accept it. My pride kept telling me I had to follow through and travel to the Ukraine, because it would be too embarrassing to admit my struggles and weakness with Hope's situation. Once I put my pride down, however, and made the decision Chappy had already made when he first realized we were going to have to leave Hope behind for six weeks (which he couldn't handle either).....we experienced peace again. God's will.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March 21st....National Down Syndrome Day!

To all the incredible friends,


Wonderful family members,


and gifted therapists, doctors and teachers.......


Who have walked life with us....




Over the last (almost) five years......



who have chosen to see Hope and Charlie's abilities.....




Instead of their disabilities........





To all who have treated them as children.....




And accepted them without hesitation or fear.....




To all who have offered heartfelt prayers for Hopey's heart.....



And who were genuinely excited with us about Charlie's adoption......



OUR







FAMILY






WANTS




TO





SAY




THANK YOU!!!



Hope and Charlie are the biggest "surprise blessings" ever!


Happy "Down Syndrome Day" to our sweet ones!



May the Father continue to hold you in the palm of His Mighty hand.....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lydia's Newest Country Twang: "Pink Dress"

video

Most of you know by now, Lydia and I like to write music together. In guitar class, she just learned a "boogie-woogie" rhythm and loves it. Chappy and Caleb were at the semi-finals of the SEC Basketball tournament all day last Saturday (thanks for the tickets, Theresa!).....so, Lydia asked if we could write a song with the "boogie-woogie" rhythm during their absence from home. We had so much fun laughing as we came up with the lyrics....thought we'd share it! The song is too cute!!! (You can see the words on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ACUeaEpAeM )

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sense and Sensibility

Finally finished the book....LOVED IT!!! "Sense and Sensibility" was first written as "Elinor and Marianne"by Jane Austen in 1796, when she was only 21 years of age; it was her first novel. If you have read the book, this fact will most likely be a surprising one, given its maturity level and style.

When reading Austen's books, what stands out to me most is the frequent similarities between life today when compared to the time Austen's books were written: 1796-1816. The people of her time struggled with the exact same issues we deal with today. Isn't it funny how time really does not change all that much? In fact, when we open the Bible, we find the same phenomena----Cain lost his battle with Envy, Noah was victor in his battle with Pride, Moses learned to overcome a disability, David fell into temptation with Bathsheba, Daniel exemplified great strength of character in the den of lions, John the Baptist was thought a crazy man for standing up for what he believed to be true, the rich young ruler was crushed by his pursuit of wealth----and the stories go on and on and on.

Time, truly, is as predictable as an old friend. This begs the question: why do we not learn from it? I reckon we are stubborn. All too often, we believe we have somehow risen above the "weaker" minds of the Bible times or of Jane Austen's time. Unfortunately, all the technological advances we have made to date do not serve any purpose in helping us overcome the true issue that is at stake: our sin nature. It has stalked us, preyed upon us, and sought to out-maneuver us from the beginning of time. THAT is the reason time does not really change things, because that old enemy, the devil, is still playing the same old games. He does not have any new tricks up his sleeve, and we keep falling for the old ones.

Thankfully, our Father does not change either. He grieves when we stumble, allows us to suffer the consequences of our sin, and is ready to mend our brokeness when we return to Him in repentance, with changed hearts.

Jane Austen, in her books, is very successful in portraying how choices, both good and bad, impact not only the character in question, but all those surrounding him/her. If considering life in general, the books provide many nuggets of wisdom.....for instance:

My favorite passage in "Sense and Sensibility" is regarding the character Willoughby, Marianne's true love. Promised a fortune certain to come following the death of an aunt, Willoughby chases the auspices of affluency and lives most recklessly as if owning his future inheritance already. Folly finally catches up with Willoughby, who is as likeable a fellow as any character Austen could have written, and he is left to play with the horrible hand of cards he has sadly dealt to himself. The thought-provoking passage regarding Willoughby is this:

"Elinor made no answer. Her thoughts were silently fixed on the irreparable injury which too early an independence and its consequent habits of idleness, dissipation, and luxury, had made in the mind, the character, the happiness, of a man who, to every advantage of person and talents, united a disposition naturally open and honest, and a feeling, affectionate temper. The world had made him extravagant and vain; extravagance and vanity had made him cold-hearted and selfish. Vanity, while seeking its own guilty triumph at the expense of another, had involved him in a real attachment, which extravagance, or at least its offspring necessity, had required to be sacrificed. Each faulty propensity, in leading him to evil, had led him likewise to punishment."

Another favorite passage is about Edward, the one whom Elinor loves. Unlike the charming Willoughby, Edward has been sheltered from life and is not outgoing at all. As a result of loneliness and idle time, Edward promises his heart (at a young age) to a female with whom he really does not share anything in common, only to meet Elinor and wish he had met her first:

"It was a foolish, idle inclination on my side", said Edward, "the consequence of ignorance of the world and want of employment. Had my other given me some active profession when I was eighteen, I think, nay, I am sure, it would never have happened; for, though I left Longstaple with what I thought, at the time, a most unconquerable preference for Mr. Pratt's niece, yet had I then had any pursuit, any object to engage my time and keep me at a distance from her for a few months, I should very soon have outgrown the fancied attachment, especially by mixing more with the world, as in such a case I must have done. But instead of having anything to do, instead of having any profession chosen for me, or being allowed to choose any myself, I returned home to be completely idle; and for the first twelvemonth afterwards I had not even the nominal employment which belonging to the university would have given me, for I was not entered at Oxford until I was nineteen. I had therefore nothing in the world to do, but to fancy myself in love."

If you are like me, and are a mom to teenage boy, you can learn many lessons from the mistakes of both Willoughby and Edward. To chase a rabbit for a moment and risk being thought a nutcase for taking fiction so seriously, if the boys' moms had been more diligent in thinking about the different nature that has been "super"naturally born into males, their lives possibly would have turned out much happier.

Case in point: Caleb is fifteen years old, and I am having to let him "grow" this year. We stopped homeschooling in January, and he has been out of my house more than in it. I miss him like crazy.....it is simply awful for me (if I am honest). However, I have to admit it was the wisest decision ever made for Caleb. He is balancing a full school schedule, a full sports schedule, and regular workouts. When he asked us if he could enter the school system, our primary request was that he show great responsibility. To my utter amazement, he has. He gets up at 5:30 each morning to shower and have breakfast (yes, I am getting up to make him breakfast).....he catches the bus at 6:30am.....he chooses to complete his homework during studyhall time.....he either works out or has basketball practice after school each day.....he studies for every test.....and makes sure he is in bed by 9:30pm each evening. I don't even know who this kid is. For three solid months, he has been a responsible individual.

What I could not see until recently was I had never allowed Caleb the opportunity to be responsible. I took care of him (or coddled him as Chappy called it). Now that I have set the little bird free, he is flapping his wings and flying all over the place. I couldn't be more shocked. Last night, before going to bed, Caleb found me and asked if we could have a quick talk. This is what transpired:

"Mom, I want to tell you something but I am afraid you will think I am joking around and not take me seriously. Will you promise to take me seriously and just listen to me for a minute?"

"I want to thank you for giving me the chance to go to school and play sports. I love it and I am really working hard to do well. I hope you see I am taking school seriously and working to make the best grades I can make. I know you miss me a whole lot, and feel like you are just driving me around and dropping me off everywhere when you would rather spend time with me, and I want you to know I appreciate it. In my heart, I believe the Lord is going to return soon, and I want my life to count for something. I am going to do everything I can to make you and dad proud of me and God proud of me. I love you so much, mom."

Then he hugged me. Tight.

I know I am not a perfect mom, nor do I do everything right. But I am telling you, last night I felt sure Chappy and I have allowed Caleb to find the right path. The ridiculously busy schedule he is maintaining is accomplishing two major things:

1. It is forcing him to plan and manage his time (a skill needed for the rest of his life).
2. It is wiping out all idle time the enemy could use for evil.

Sure, he is being exposed to the world more now.....hearing words he has never heard before and learning that every family doesn't hold to the same values and morals we do. But it has actually been good, because we have talked about it all (at great length) over family meals. Caleb's exposure to these things seems to have given him a greater appreciation for his family and foundation. I would never have dreamed it so. What I am finding is that Chappy and I are able to parent him through some of the "stuff" he was going to learn about eventually anyway.

Parenting is the toughest job in the world, isn't it?

Well, I have rattled on enough. I hope a sliver of this will be of help to someone today!!!!