God so Loved…

Today my husband is guest blogging his sermon from yesterday’s baptismal service for Kyrie.  He preached on the assigned text for the 4th Sunday in Lent, John 3:14-21.  Enjoy!

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Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Dearly beloved, my friends, God loves you.  God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) I remember my dear mother laboring as my 3rd & 4th grade Sunday School teacher to help me memorize that verse, not to mention all the other rowdy kids she graciously and meticulously taught it to over the years as well.  She’s a saint if there ever was one!

It was in her classroom that I first heard John 3:16 called the Gospel in a nut shell, and it’s true and I’m glad she helped me understand that.  This verse captures the will of God, the Good News, that our God, Who is love, sent His only-begotten Son into the world for the life of the world.  He came, not to kill and condemn, but to restore and justify the ungodly.  Jesus dies the death of all sinners on the cross and rises again victorious over death that we might have a share of His divine life (2 Peter 1:3-4), eternal life, communion with God for all eternity.  As John says, Jesus was not sent for the purpose of condemnation but salvation! For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17)  Jesus is the love of God in human flesh and when you believe in Him you have everlasting life.

If John 3:16 is the Gospel in a nut shell, then Holy Baptism is the Gospel in a sea shell. [The sea shell, of course, referring to what I use to pour the water on the one being baptized.]  The blessed water of Holy Baptism has given Kyrie Rose the Gospel, the gift of faith, complete and total trust and belief in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.  The gift of everlasting life, won for her on the cross, is given to her today by this means of grace that Christ our Lord has established.

Baptism is a gift, a pure gift.  One does not work for a gift, otherwise it would not be a gift.  A gift is given freely, out of love.  Baptism gives the gift of faith, not only a personal trust but the entire Christian faith. Everything we believe, everything that is necessary for salvation, the whole faith belongs to this little girl. Baptism is a mystery that one enters and grows into on our journey into the Kingdom of God.  Baptism unites us with Jesus as His name is placed upon us.

The mystery of union with God in those waters is somewhat similar to marriage, and I mean that in this way:  The day you married your husband, the day you married your wife, you did not understand fully what that would mean.  Marriage is a gift from God.  A union that is meant to bring a man and woman together for life, a union that we grow into, that changes as we age, that flourishes in different ways at different times.  It’s a gift we don’t fully understand on the day that we say “I do”, nevertheless, we receive the full gift all the same.

Baptism a gift, a work of the Spirit, not a work of man.  Baptism gives us everything we need for life in the Kingdom of God.  We get a new name as we take on the name of “Christian”, membership in God’s family, and a seat at Christ’s table where he nourishes us with His heavenly gifts.  The gift of faith is given, complete, total, and whole with the promise that God will never leave us, nor forsake us, even if we run far away from Him, even if we sprint away from Him as fast as we can at times.  Even if our faith grows weak or cold, even if we say we reject the faith we were given, nevertheless the promise remains, for God never goes back on His promise or give up on even His prodigal children even if we are unfaithful.  God is love and does not forget His children even if we forget Him.

God does not lie and He will not change His Word, He will not change the promises He made to Kyrie this day and He will not change His promises to you.  He loves you.  In His union with you He has promised to never leave you, nor forsake you.  He will provide all that you need to support this body and life.  He will feed your soul through His Word and in His Body and Blood.  He promises to forgive you all your sins and raise you from the grave.  Should you flee to the darkness and delight in your sins, still, He does not change.  His love for you compels Him to search for you, to wait for you, to long for your return home to His house.  Baptism comes with the promise that God is always for you, even when He disciplines you and allows you to feel the sting of your sins, it’s never because He hates you, but always because He loves you as a dear Father loves His dear children and desires you to repent and return to His loving embrace and to hear His assuring Word of forgiveness.

Baptism gives you everything.  The fullness of faith. A mysterious union between us and God that we cannot fully explain at the time, but only later do we learn how to describe what we have.  Our life together in the Church, our worship, our service, our teaching, our studying, our living and learning, is about unpacking the gift of Baptism, not adding something to it, learning to understand what we already possess by faith, growing into the reality of who God says we already are by His grace.  None of the things we do as Christians in Church add anything new to what we were given, rather they sustain and keep the new life in Christ growing as we ourselves grow and change.

We ought to remember and celebrate our baptisms better than we do.  What better thing is there to make a big fuss over than the gift of faith, new life, forgiveness and salvation?  I really can’t think of any.  All the other gifts we get for birthdays one day break, or rust, or we lose interest in them.  But the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation we receive never go bad!

Remember your Baptism.  Be intentional about it. You won’t regret it. In the Small Catechism Luther suggests each Christian make the sign of the cross to remember Your baptism, for when you were brought to the font you had the sign of the cross placed on your forehead and on your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.  The sign of the cross is the perfect link between the Gospel in a nut shell and the Gospel in a sea shell.  This practice teaches us to never forget that the cross and Baptism always go together.  Both are the work of God for the salvation of world, for the salvation of you.  God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life.  That same love and promise are your gift in Holy Baptism.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

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38 Notes for 38 Weeks

1. I know it’s been a while but… You’d be surprised how hard it is to find time to blog on bed rest!  And yes, I’ve been off of bed rest for two weeks now, and it’s been even harder to find time to do anything on the computer.  Maybe it will be easier when the baby comes?  A girl can dream…

2. I never thought I’d see a #2 on that side of the scale (if ya know what I mean) but I am rocking the extra poundage, or so my husband says.  He’s not biased… right?

3. Baby bump picture?  Umm… dream on because of the previous note.  Maybe if I can get this swelling to go down you’ll get one before baby comes… ahem.

4. So… Boy or Girl? We don’t get routine ultrasounds so we still don’t know if Mambo is a boy or a girl. But I do tend to get a “feeling” one way or the other, and I’ve been right the last two times. I will probably jinx myself by making a prediction, but I’ll do it anyway. I think the little one is a girl! Of course, we’ll be excited either way, and we have baby clothes for both! :)

5. Jake had a dream… night before last that we are having a girl.  So double confirmation, right?!  He said she was beautiful and favored Stephen more than Evie in her features.  Which is also what I’ve sort of been thinking.  The suspense is killing me!

6. My husband is amazing. It’s a strange feeling to be constantly asked about and worried over. I feel fine. Lots of contractions that are annoying, and Baby is doing great… But Jake, this man is a rock star.  I seriously don’t know how he does everything.  I’m not on bed rest, but I’m still not at 100%.  I still sit around most of the day, because too much walking causes muscle fatigue and pain.  My body is just tired from being in and out of labor for a month… so he’s still doing so much.

7. So when did you go off of bed rest?  Two weeks ago exactly.  I was 36 weeks and we all thought the baby would be here ANY DAY.  No such luck.  I had intense contractions the first two days, and then they died down.  For about a week after that I would wake up with nothing, they would start as I did more throughout the day and be 2-5 minutes apart, and regular, by bedtime.  I would go to sleep and they’d stop… and we’d do it all over again.  It has become a frustrating version of Groundhog’s Day.

8. Where are you at now?  Same place.  No real change.  My contractions are less frequent some days and more on others.  The only constant is that they keep getting stronger, so I know we’re getting closer.  I just have no idea how close!

9. I had my midwife appointment the other day.  I learned several interesting things…

10. The best news is that Baby is doing great!  The heartbeat sounded good, position is good, I’m measuring right on target.  All awesome things.

11. The worst news is… my midwife is going out of town next week.  She never told me because she didn’t dream in a million years I would still be pregnant… And guess who her only pregnant lady left is for several weeks?  Yup.  That would be me.  It’s not the end of the world, but certainly not the greatest thing either.

12. We were thinking of trying to kick start labor last weekend.  However, when she came to check me we were shocked – absolutely shocked – to find that I was only 2cm dilated and not effaced one bit.  On bed rest I was 90% effaced… now?  Nothing.  I am actually nowhere near labor.  The baby is sitting on my pelvic bone, meaning that all those contractions?  They’re just trying to move the baby, and they are doing pretty much nada. So.  Frustrating.

13. I missed wishing my sweet oldest daughter a Happy Birthday on here!  It was so simple and lovely.  We did it my first day off of bed rest.  So since I missed it, I’ll spend a few notes gushing about her lovely self and all our birthday fun…

14. A Golden Birthday.  I was so excited to have her home for her Golden Birthday.  My midwife came over a couple days earlier and I was in tears because she didn’t want me going off of bed rest yet and we weren’t going to be able to do anything for it.

15. Side Note… a lot of people told me that week beforehand that she would “just be happy” cuddling with Mommy for her birthday or that she wouldn’t know it was her birthday that day and we could just do it another day, etc.  But, like many adoptive mamas I know, I had dreamed of giving her a beautiful birthday for the first time in her life.  No one had ever done that for her before.  The day was more than just a day, it was a milestone in her life and in ours.  The thought of missing it was heart wrenching in a way that is possibly very difficult to understand unless you’ve been there.

16. ANYWAY… My midwife told me I could go off of bed rest.  Hooray!  And my contractions stopped (go figure).  Two days later, I was up and getting a party ready!

17. Her first present was a new hairdo!  She got her first ever ponytails, which she hated putting in, but actually liked in the end.  I think she enjoys the consistent tugging of the hair.  It gives her sensory input.  She always loves it when I play with her hair :)  And she looked adorable!

18. I also got her this beautiful birthday dress…

Hope's Birthday

19. A dear friend of ours offered to make cupcakes for her.  She made the cake and gorgeous flowers and butterflies to put on top.  I made a special frosting that would be a consistency and a sweetness that Hope would like.  (She doesn’t appreciate really sweet things. And hasn’t approved of frosting before.)  So this was more of a sweet, whipped yogurt – but still delicious!

20. Presents!  Hope got some sweet presents.  Her godmother gave her a cute little bear with fun zippers and buttons and things to play with, and she got oodles of new clothes!  She wasn’t really interested in the clothes, but she did enjoy throwing all that tissue paper on the floor.

21. Happy Birthday to You!  We lit her candles and sang to her.  All the other littles were lined up beside her and she just seemed to be loving it.  Even the small party we had would have been way too much just a couple of months ago.  But now it was almost as if she knew that we were singing to her and she was soaking it all in.  It was such a beautiful moment!

22. Progress Updates.  Well I don’t have many of those.  I actually don’t have any of those.  Since I went on bed rest no therapy or stretching has been done for either Hope or Jacob.  And they had been doing so well!  I am frustrated that those things have taken a back seat and I’m dreading how much progress we’ll have lost by the time I can get them back to their routine.  But trying to not worry about it because I can not control it, and there simply isn’t a point in fretting.

23. Dealing with Regression.  Which brings me to my next note about regression.  All four kiddos have regressed since bed rest.  Their behaviors, their attachment, their felt security… everything is back sliding.  It’s so hard to watch.  It was hard to listen to Stephen cry for half an hour while his poor Daddy tried to put him to sleep, and all he wanted was me.  Evie and Jacob and Hope weren’t getting attention from me at night, and that had always been our most consistent and essential bonding time each day.

24. Is it better now?  Being off of bed rest has helped some, but we’re still far from reclaiming what we had.  There is a lot of leftover anxiety and insecurity manifesting, and we are still in survival mode, which makes it difficult to concentrate on refilling the little one’s cups with felt safety and all the attention and love they need.

25. As for bedtime… I pray that we’ll be able to go back to some sort of normalcy in routine after baby is here, but I remember how horribly difficult those first few weeks were after Stephen was born.  Whatever happens, we’ll muddle through it and eventually get to a place where things go back to a sense of normal and routine.  I. Can. Not. Wait.

26. Things are getting easier.  We really aren’t drowning in chaos anymore.  There are just several things that can’t get back to normal until after the baby arrives, and our little Jacob thrives so much on routine that he has been very out of sorts.  We are all weary at the end of this journey, and just can’t wait to have our newest little member join us on the outside so we can move forward with the rest of our year!

27. Speaking of which… Happy New Years!  I know I sort of missed the big event, but I still thought it might be nice to take a moment and look back on 2014 while looking forward to 2015.

13. 2014 was the hardest year of my life.  I know, I’m still pretty young, so this isn’t like headline news or anything… but for us it was such a stretching, trying, challenging time.  It has not just been adoption and special needs parenting, although those things are certainly near the top on my list of hardest things I’ve ever done.  But it seems that we just haven’t been able to catch a break, emotionally, spiritually, practically or otherwise.  It was rough.

14. 2015 will be better.  I’m sure of it.  We may not have seen much of any good fruit from our labor last year, but so many seeds were planted.  This year my prayer is that those good seeds will take root and bear fruit, that our family will see the joys and blessings of our sacrifice.  I pray that our children especially will benefit, all five of them, and that Jake and I will grow closer to the Lord and to one another as we wade through the deep waters of these fleeting days.

15. Did I mention that Jake is awesome?  Because he is.  I just thought I’d mention it again.  Seriously.  There’s no one else I’d rather be raising five rambunctious, out-of-control, adorable little monsters with.

16. Speaking of monsters… I’ll do a little note for each one of the kiddos.  And I say monsters as a term of the utmost endearment.  We have great children, they’re just… ya know… in need of some direction for their copious amounts of energy 😉

17. Hope.  Starting with the oldest, Hope is the same sweet little girl she’s always been.  Very, very slowly she is opening up more to eye contact and interaction and becoming less averse to learning new things.  She can go to church and do a few short trips in public without screaming from the overstimulation and anxiety.  She is needing less isolation and more loving, and it’s a fun (albiet slow) transformation to watch.

18. Jacob.  His language skills are getting better.  He actually tries to speak full sentences with me now that have more than one point.  His personality is coming out more than ever, and I can’t wait till he reaches that threshold.  He was such a jokester whenever he would talk to translators in Russian.  I’m excited for that personality to come out again.

19. Evangeline. Her reading skills are starting to stick, and she’s still interested.  I think once she gets the basics of phonics that she’ll just teach herself the rest.  She is so smart and so motivated as far as books are concerned.  We got her a xylophone for Christmas, though, and reading music is going to take a little more work I think – lol!  In other news she is continuing to grow into her big sister role, she’s always been such a nurturing little girl.  It’s absolutely true that God gives us exactly the children our family needs at exactly His perfect time.

20. Stephen.  If I had one word to describe this two year old tornado it would be “RAWR!!” It is his favorite word and also embodies everything he loves… dinosaurs and monsters.  Oh and baseball.  He’s all boy and he’s really good at it.  Channeling his constant energy is a daily challenge in energy and patience.  But he has a lot of gifts and a lot of love to give.  He brings an amazing amount of joy and laughter, and Heaven knows we need those!

21. Mambo.  And this little one is just ornery!  Moving constantly… all over the place.  Baby was head down and pretty comfy until the contractions started.  Now?  Just constant kicking and pushing and spinning all over the place.  You’d better spin back to your proper position before I go into labor kiddo!  No breech babies allowed.  Good grief.

22. Confession… so about my last note… I actually wrote that three and a half weeks ago.  Lol!  Yes… I started drafting this at 35 weeks and am just now finishing up.  That is what my life has been like lately.

23. So what is Mambo really doing?  Little one has slowed down a lot, very little movement compared to what I was having on bed rest.  Heart beat and measurements look great, I just think there’s much less room in there than at the beginning of the month!  My midwife says this is a good sized baby, not huge, but certainly healthy, which makes me happier than could be after all that drama!

24. Which brings us to our next point…. about the drama.

25. I.

26. Do.

27. Not.

28. Want.

29. To.

30. Be.

31. Pregnant.

32. Anymore.

33. Seriously.  I mean… does more than that really need to be said?  At this point we are nowhere near labor and my due date is approaching quickly.  It’s exciting and frustrating all at once!

34. Hopefully on Friday… my midwife will be back in town and we will start attempting to get the baby engaged properly.  I’m hoping that once that happens labor will be able to begin promptly.  I can get contractions going, no problem, it’s just that at this point they are all trying to position the baby (ornery again) and not doing anything constructive.  Once we get the baby in its proper place we should be able to get the ball rolling.

35. Happy birthday Uncle Brandon?  My brother’s birthday is January 31st so we are shooting for that!  Wish us luck! 😛

36. The kids are all sleeping.  Jake and Grandma are at Bible study… the house is quiet and peaceful.  Score one for me.

37.  I’m going to take advantage of the peace and quiet because… *drum roll* I have nothing left to write about for today!

38. And that is how you make it to the end of a 38 point post when you don’t actually have that many points to make 😉

 

P.S. – This is the first comment I got after publishing my post: “It might have been a bit easier to get to #38 if you hadn’t jumped back to 13 from 27…”
Yes.  Yes indeed.  Thank you pregnancy brain.  Maybe that makes up for the month of posting that I missed?   Sigh…

Just Hold On!

I know you all have been waiting for something, anything for a while now.  And I promise I’m getting there.  There have been some BIG changes in our household over the last week or so and once I have my life reorganized I think I’ll actually have time for this little blog again.  I’m really excited to share all the wonderful ways God is providing for our family.  So just hold tight!  I have a post coming soon!!  In the mean time, have a very blessed start to your Advent season as we prepare for the celebration of our Lord’s birth!

The Replacement Mom

“You’re not the Mom he never had… you’re just the Replacement Mom, the Mom he’ll have to make do with because he doesn’t have anyone else.”

I remember when it was just me and Evangeline during the day.  I remember how sometimes just watching her play would start my mind thinking.  I would hear things like “She’s so beautiful, how did I ever deserve such a precious gift?  What an amazing miracle God has given me, a beautiful treasure… I wonder who she will be when she grows up…” You know all those lovely, motherly thoughts that you think about the little loves of your life.

With four now… it’s harder to get such a moment, a moment where my mind can just stop and rest on one precious little life and what it means.  However, I did manage to catch one such moment yesterday with my dear Jacob, but what my mind began telling me were not the sweet, motherly whispers I so desperately wanted to hear.  Instead, my inner monologue went more like this:

“You get to be who he’s always waited for, the Mom he never had and always wanted…   Well, not really.  The Mom he wanted was the one he was given in the first place, the mother who grew him and carried him for nine months, the mother he was intimately connected with, who he loved and needed, the mother who was his whole world.  But she left, and where did she go anyway?  How could she just up and take away the one person who ever meant anything to him?  You’re not the Mom he never had; you’re just the Replacement Mom, the Mom he’ll have to make do with because he doesn’t have anyone else.  You’ll always be the substitute; you’ll never be as good for him as she could have been.”

Writing it down is almost worse than when I heard myself ranting it in my head the first time.  The reality just downright hurts.  Now, I know I’ll have some readers, especially those in the adoption community, who will be quick to point out all the fallacies of my little rabbit trail.  I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard “Adoption isn’t second best, it’s just as good as any other situation a child can be given.” Or… “Choosing not to parent isn’t a bad thing, sometimes it’s just the best way to care for your child.” Or… “God made this child for our family; he was always meant to be ours, God just had him grow in someone else’s tummy.”

Every time I hear any version of these it makes me cringe.  Every adopted child has trauma, whether they were adopted as newborns or come from hard places.  Babies are meant to stay with the Mommies who gave birth to them.  And when that doesn’t happen fear, loss, grief, confusion and loneliness enter the child’s life… no matter how young they are or how well taken care of by others.  Babies aren’t meant to be taken care of by strangers; they are made to bond with and be cared for by the mother they grew to know for nine months before being born.  When that doesn’t happen it is never good for the baby, and any other situation is always going to be second best.

(Disclaimer: Sometimes adoption is the most loving thing a mother can do for her child!  But these tragic situations come up only because we live in a fallen world where we cannot always give our child the best of everything.  We cannot always shield our children from loss, and when this happens, we should absolutely support birth mothers who give their children for adoption as a way of seeking the best for them in a tragic situation.)

As a mother caring for two children who were not born to me and who spent a great chunk of their childhoods without me… I am acutely aware of this truth.  It would be so much easier to simply think “This is how it was meant to be.  God wanted them to be a part of our family all along.”  But this is self centered thinking.  It says that the traumatic loss of my children’s birth mothers was all for my benefit.  That the pain and grief my children and their birth families have was all orchestrated just so our family could grow in a unique way.

I’m sorry, but I can’t buy that.  I know that God has been preparing me to be the Mom for these two for well over a decade, perhaps before I was even born… I know that He knew what would come to pass, and I believe that He paved a way for my children to have a mother and a home.  I believe God had good plans for my children, but I am not foolish enough to forget that the best plan He had was to keep them with their birth mothers in the first place.  He gave these two lives to them, entrusted these children to their care, not to mine.

Jacob was never meant to be mine.  He was meant for the woman God originally gave him to.  He was hers, and in a sense he still is hers.  I am just the Replacement Mom, God’s second string, the merciful backup plan He had in place, knowing that this precious life would be rejected and tossed aside.  It’s not hard to be second string, not anymore.  After all, I’m in the game now aren’t I?  And I’m not going to be benched again anytime soon.  The hard part, though, is knowing that I literally cannot be everything to Jacob that I am to Evangeline or Stephen.

I cannot go back and give him the security of knowing me intimately right from the womb.  I cannot turn back the clock and hold him as he suffered through that debilitating respiratory attack just hours after his birth.  I cannot take away the crib he laid in at the baby house for four years.  I cannot take back all the lies that were thrown at him about how he could never learn and would never walk.  There are seven years of suffering that I cannot just simply erase from his life.

His birth mother could have prevented all that, but I’m not her.  I’m the Replacement Mom.  All I can do is pick up where her legacy left off and try to write something new into his story.  That is the pain of adoption, the pain of not being able to protect your child, the pain of knowing that no matter how far you turn back the clock you never could have done anything to stop it anyway.

Courtesy of Jill Heupel Photography

Courtesy of Jill Heupel Photography

But, even knowing all this, what I was saying to myself before (though perhaps accurate) was not fully complete, it missed the most important part of the story… the ending.  What I must remember when I begin my next monologue about being the Replacement Mom is this: The novels that begin the most tragically are the ones that hold the greatest potential for the most beautiful endings.  Yes, I am coming in late to finish a story that was started long ago… but I have been given the duty and privilege of writing love into this book, of writing joy and hope and family into the life of a child who never knew any of those things before.

Neither Jacob nor I could control how his story started.  But I am here now, and I have the honor of helping him write the rest of his story to the very end… which is, after all, the most important part.

We are Still Here

Dusting off the blog tonight after a few weeks of hair-pulling madness around here.  I think about writing every day and just never seem to sneak it in.  The kiddos have decided that laying quietly for two hours is no longer their favorite thing, so finding writing time is a little difficult.  I would just make them all lay down anyway but… sleeping at night goes SO much better if they are up and running during the day.  I thought I needed that time for my sanity, unfortunately, the Lord may be telling me I’m ready for a level up.  (Less rest more play.)

Lots and lots has been happening here.  Jake was privileged to give a presentation to our local LWML chapters on adoption, which he absolutely loved.  I have been doing nothing but trying to keep down the fort, which seems to be flying away more and more these days as I am able to put less and less effort into it.  My third trimester is quickly approaching, and I’m definitely feeling the tension between my body telling me to slow down and my four littles telling me to speed up.

I had a midwife appointment yesterday and all is looking very well.  She is such a dear lady and so encouraging, and gave me some good tips on how to know my limits and manage my days as a pregnant lady who does more lifting and chasing than recommended. 😉  So no need to worry.  I am being very well taken care of, and my husband is quick to pick up all the slack that I’m dropping when he’s able to be home.  I love that man.

All of the children are doing so well right now.  They play together as if they were never apart, and Jacob and Hope fit seamlessly into the chaotic, loving, rambunctiousness of our home.  It certainly wasn’t like this at first, but the way they treat each other now, I couldn’t tell you which of them had been together from birth and which just came into our family three months ago.

Jacob got his brand new walker last week and he loves it… well he loves the idea of it.  It’s hard work though!  He doesn’t have a lot of stamina on his feet yet, and it’s cumbersome to move that big bulky thing around, even in our spacious home.  So it will take some getting used to.  His orthodics should also be on their way soon, and that is going to be another big milestone for him, as he takes on the enormous task of training his feet and legs to work properly.

Hope has not been doing much therapy, but her next PT appointment is on Thursday and I am so excited to share all her progress with her therapist!  We have been seeing improvement in attaching.  She actually is letting us hold her to calm her down now when she’s overstimulated.  That’s huge!  I think she’s beginning to prefer my arms to the felt safety of her stroller, and that just makes me beyond giddy.

Last week she reached two enormous milestones all in one day.  First, she sat up unassisted for the first time!  Our therapist told us she may be able to do it within a year… but three months?!  Wow!  What was holding her back was not weak muscles.  She does have a ways to go there, but her biggest hurdle was an underdeveloped and damaged nervous system.  When she came home she had next to no protective reflexes.

Now if she lurches forward while sitting she puts her hands in front of her body to catch herself.  And it’s beginning to be a consistent reaction!  Woohoo!  The other day she did that with both hands while we were practicing a sitting position on the floor.  I was supporting from behind, but she lost her balance, caught herself and sat unassisted for about two seconds!  Of course, she hated it and threw herself back into me as quickly as she could collect her thoughts.  But I praised her like crazy, and I’m sure she definitely just thought I was crazy.  😛

That same day Jake came back from a drive with the kids and told me how she was actually playing with a toy in the car!  She has always held toys and stimmed with them, but after a while home we realized that’s all she was doing… stimming.  She was never actually playing, just using them as a way of zoning out or escaping her surroundings.  But this time she wasn’t tapping, hitting or stimming with it at all.  She was holding the toy out in front of her and purposely pressing individual buttons to hear them make different sounds!

My baby girl is learning to play!! Eeeeeeek!  I just don’t know if I can emphasize what amazing, miraculous progress this is for her.  It sounds so small, but for this nine year old treasure – it is huge.  I have been asked if she’s done any more purposeful talking.  Unfortunately, nothing yet, although she did repeat “baby” after Evangeline the other week.  I still have hope for her learning some speech or communication.  But right now she’s got quite a long way to go before we get there.  Both kids need speech therapy, and that is the next thing on my list to find for them.

I promise I’ll try to be better about blogging.  It’s hard, there are SO many things I’d love to write about and just so little time for all of them.  God willing, more time will become available, but I only write when He grants me the time and if a break is what He thinks I need then that’s what we’re all going to have to live with for a while.  But please know I think of this little blog and all my dear readers very often, and want very much to continue!  If there is something you are especially hoping for me to write about soon, please let me know and I’ll make a note of it.

Blessings!

Honesty

So many people have told me that what they love most about my blog is my honesty.  That’s why you haven’t been hearing from me lately… I haven’t wanted to be honest, not here, not anywhere.  And now I feel like I’m in a Dr. Suess rhyme all of a sudden… sigh.  I still have lots of drafts backlogged in my files.  My 19 weeks post is awkwardly sitting there now that I’m at my 21 week mark.  I haven’t wanted to take a belly picture because that would mean I’d need to smile for it, and I don’t feel like I can give you an honest smile today.  Or any of the days I might have had time to put up a quick post.

Every time I see someone outside of my own home (which isn’t very often as you might imagine) I get the same reaction “You look so exhausted!”  Here I am trying so hard to put on a joyful, Christ-filled, my-cup-overfloweth countenance and every single person can see right through it.  So much for being a model pastor’s wife, right?  But that’s the truth.  Exhaustion is my truth right now.  Every tiny little activity is exhausting.  Serving my children is exhausting.  Enjoying my children is exhausting.

Every once in a while my Dad asks me “Do you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew yet?”  That’s been his concern this whole adoption, and sometimes it still comes up.  For months I have been saying no, but the question is starting to haunt me like a bad jingle I can’t get out of my head.  And I don’t even have any cutesy music to go with it.  I’m struggling right now.  That’s the only honest thing I have to say, and I hate to say it.  I hate to say it because the last thing I want is a slew of comments or messages or phone calls from people asking me if I’m ok or asking how they can help.  Just my pride talking?  Probably.

Prayer is good, but I know we’re covered in that already, without even having to ask.  So why even post?  Why not just say, we’re going through a tough transition time and I need to take a blogging break?  Why not run away?  I certainly feel like running, but running isn’t going to help me or anyone.  What might help though, is being honest, putting my weaknesses out there for the world and letting ya’ll know I am far from perfect.

It might help other adoptive families have realistic expectations for when they get home.  Did you know that the norm is actually to experience some level of post-adoption depression?  It’s very much like post-partum blues and depression, but even more common for both adoptive moms and dads, and even more complicated because of the deep sadness that naturally accompanies the reality of adopting a hurting child.  Adoption is all about loss.  We don’t like to talk about it much, just like we don’t want to talk about how redemption is all about the cross.  But the one is a living icon of the other, and the picture is poignant.

When we baptize our babies we dress them up in these beautiful white gowns and take family pictures and have a big reception and celebrate it.  Some families remember their baptisms every year (I know we do!) and we linger on the promises and the miracles that have been given to us in our gift of baptism.  But what we don’t see with our eyes as the pastor pours clear, sparkling water over that sweet child’s head is…  the blood, the death.  Because as much as baptism is about new life it is first about death, the death of the person being baptized, the gruesome death of Jesus on the cross.  There is a saying that as Christians we do not need to fear death because we have already died.  We died the death of Christ during our baptism, which means death has no hold over us – just as it had no hold over the God of the Universe.  And there, in the loss and only through that loss comes the beauty and the promise of true, abundant life.

Adoption is also about loss.  Life for these children only comes by means of very deep loss.  Everything that was their life has to die, everything that was meant to have been theirs, that should have been theirs was taken from them.  Only through that reality, can they begin a new life.  But the child isn’t the only one who loses something, the family also experiences loss.  In the end, it will be a blessing to us all.  But right now?  Wow is it hard.  We had a lovely little family.  Two perfectly healthy, bright, beautiful children – a boy and a girl.  Sweet, sheltered, secure little ones… not a real care in the world.  And then we took a hammer to all of that.  We shattered our perfect little family and we changed it forever.

Courtesy of Jill Heupel Photography

Courtesy of Jill Heupel Photography

Now we’re a family of broken pieces and broken hearts.  A family where half of our children still don’t understand what it means to have a Mommy and a Daddy.  I overheard my four year old daughter telling a lady the other day that the nannies dropped Hope in her crib when she was in the orphanage.  We try to not talk about things like that in front of her, but she hears and remembers everything.  There is so much her little mind is trying to process: abuse, abandonment, neglect, pain… crushing pain.  Things I never intentionally would have introduced to my four and two year olds, but now they are living those realities second hand by watching us as we try to help their brother and sister heal.

They were away from their home for two months; that was hard for them.  Neither of them have been as secure since that trip.  We spend hours a week in therapy, hospitals, referrals and appointments.  Time I could have been reading stories or making fun crafts or teaching them how to bake.  And us?  We’re exhausted emotionally, physically and spiritually from all of it.  Suddenly we are a family with trauma, a family in need of an incredible amount of healing.  Overnight we went from having it all together to picking up the pieces.  Did we choose this?  Sort of, but not really.  Were we expecting it to be hard, even this hard?  Of course.  But just because trauma doesn’t always come without announcing itself doesn’t mean it isn’t just as traumatic when it finally walks through your front door and decides to live with you for a while.

Adoption is hard.  It is inherently loss, not just for the adoptive children, but for everyone in the child’s life.  Beautiful, lovely, miraculous things come from adoption.  But we do a disservice to adoptive families and their children when we overlook where that beauty came from. It came from ashes, ashes that are blown into a home, leaving the family to clean up the great mess that follows.  It’s not pity that I, or any adoptive parent, needs.  It’s prayer.  Understanding.  Support.  We need to know that if we don’t make that phone call or we don’t send that thank you note or if we never reach out for help it’s not because we don’t care about you.  It’s because our families have just been broken, and it’s taking all of our energy and strength to pick up all the pieces.

Sometimes we need you to reach out to us because we can’t reach out ourselves, but other times we just need space.  Sometimes we need respite, other times we just need a meal we didn’t have to cook ourselves.  Sometimes we need to sit and talk with someone who understands, and other times we just need people to stop asking how it’s going.  But most of all we need huge heaping doses of grace and mercy and love.  We need to know that the people in our lives are going to see our crazy, depressed, angry emotional roller coasters and they’re going to love us anyway.

(Just as a side note, if you are a family member or friend of an adoptive parent and you’re wondering why we aren’t asking for help, it’s probably because, especially when our children came from hard places, the kind of help we need is so specific that it would be difficult or impossible to just ask for a simple hand on something.  And if we tried to ask we would either come off as ungrateful or unreasonable or both.  Unfortunately, there are just situations where there is no real help that can be given without a logistical brainstorm involved.  Our children’s needs and our new family dynamics make simple things, like bringing in outside help, much more complicated.)

So here’s to honesty.  Here’s to dispelling the myth that adoptive families are superheroes that don’t need anyone’s help.  Here’s to coming out and saying that just because we signed up for this doesn’t mean we will always have our act together, and just because we “chose” these children doesn’t mean we can’t have a bad day, or week or month… or even year. We are just like you, and just like any family, when trauma kicks off its old, muddy shoes and decides to stay a while… we’re going to struggle.  And we are.

May the Lord, in His mercy, turn our sorrow to joy and our tears to laughter.  May He bring the dawn quickly and banish the darkness from our midst.  May He orchestrate the beauty from the ashes, and give us inclination to focus on neither, but rather to seek His face in this and in every season.  Amen.

This Thing Called Life

Sometimes it gets in the way of other things like… blogs.  Ahem.

This last weekend has not gone how I planned it… at all.  I have about three blog drafts in various stages of doneness, waiting to be published.  But I haven’t found the time to actually finish any of them!  My 19 Notes post is next and I’m really hoping to get to that tomorrow.

We’re trying to get our thank you cards sent out now for our adoption while also trying to reformulate our discipline/bonding strategies with the little ones.  Some things just can’t wait, am I right? On top of that we have a bit of a health issue that has cropped up in the last couple of days that needs to be taken care of right away, mostly through dietary solutions.  Meaning… unfortunately, the Whole 30 is going to have to wait.

Yes, technically, we could do both the Whole 30 and work on resolving this other issue simultaneously, but that would be hours more work that I simply do not have.  Anyone have some extra hours in their day they aren’t using?  Send them my way please.  Thanks.  :)

So yes, I don’t have the ability right now to follow two sets of dietary rules.  I know my limits.  So for now the Whole 30 is on hold.  For anyone who started with us, I am so sorry!  Please keep going!  I’m always here for encouragement and support, even if we’re not quite doing the exact same thing right now.  We will still be mostly Whole 30 compliant, but I just don’t feel comfortable calling it a “Whole 30” if it’s only a Sort-of Whole 30.  Know what I mean?  Sigh… life.  Sometimes it gets in the way.

Worth it though!  With any good fortune, ya’ll will hear from me again soon.

Blessings,

15 Notes for 15 Weeks

photo (12)I am 15 weeks along in my pregnancy now (well, 15 and 3 days but who’s counting?) so to celebrate I am starting up a new series called Notes for Weeks!  For every week along that I am, for the rest of the pregnancy, I will blog the same number of little tidbits about our life.  I’m excited because it will give me a reason to do a baby bump picture every week and also give me the opportunity to blog about a lot of random little things I’ve been wanting to say, but that don’t really warrant their very own post.  Ok, ready?!  Here goes!

1. Thank YOU!  Yes this first note is for you, all of you lovely people (thousands and thousands) who have read my previous post “Adoption is Not Love” and who have shared it with other families.  My only goal in writing that was to maybe help a handful of people realize that they were not alone on this crazy ride, and their feelings are totally normal and expected.  I hoped that others who knew adoptive families would get a glimpse into what their friends and neighbors might be going through.  But ya’ll, it took off!  Never have any of my posts had so many views, and such an overwhelmingly positive response.  Thank you for sharing; it has reached so many more than I ever imagined it would, and I am honored that God used this little blog to touch other families who needed that bit of encouragement.  People have asked, and yes, please do share!

2. A Quick Request.  I assume we are all aware by now of the crisis facing Christian and Yazidi minorities in Iraq and Syria during this time.  The Islamic State (ISIS) has taken over a vast amount of geographical area and has massacred thousands upon thousands of men, women and children.  Some from the affected areas managed to escape to a nearby mountain, where they are dying of hunger and thirst in the scorching heat.  Parents are being forced to choose between watching their children die this slow, painful death, be captured by ISIS or throw them off of the mountain  themselves to avoid such evil ends.  Friends, we can do something.  We can do more.  Sending money is good, but this might even be better.  Please sign this petition to grant these refugees asylum in the United States, which has been refused at this point.  We need at least 150 signatures for the petition to be searchable and have a shot at reaching the White House.  It only takes ten seconds, really.  I beg you to add your voice to ours.  Click here to sign the petition.

3. Our Littlest Girl is Catching Up!  Hope is now a whopping 30lbs!  She has gained five pounds since we took her out of her orphanage, and her thighs and upper arms are definitely showing a little chub.  We are over-the-moon for this milestone and next we are going to work on getting her on the height/weight chart!  Just four more pounds to go and she will be at least on the chart and on her way to a healthy weight.

4. Baby Stuff!  I had my very first prenatal appointment with the midwife yesterday.  It went fabulously; she is a lovely lady and has 36 years of experience.  Not to mention she lives less than ten minutes from us, so hopefully we won’t have another unassisted birth like last time!  My official due date is February 7th.  Seven is my favorite number and also the day of the month I was born on, so I was pretty happy with that.   Evangeline came with me and we had a great little Mommy-Daughter date.

5. Nicknames for Mom.  I can never remember being called anything other than “Mommy”  (baby babbling not included).  But recently I seem to have developed all sorts of other nicknames from my littles.  The first new one was “Mama”, the Russian word for Mommy that Jacob calls me and the others picked up.  Then next, he started shortening it to “Mom”… and so did everyone else.  Jacob and Evie’s voices are practically indistinguishable shouting that from another room so I never know who it is!  Mom is probably the only one I don’t like so much.  It sounds too grown up for my little ones to say… and they usually say it when they’re, ya know, shouting from another room.

But, there are two names, in particular, that have stolen my heart: Momitchka and Momanee.  Momitchka is a name Jacob started calling me a few days ago.  I was so touched, because from my limited Russian I know that adding “itchka” to the end of a name is an endearing thing to call a person who is close to you; it’s intimate and reserved for family, someone in your very inner circle.  I knew we were truly beginning to bond when I heard him say that, almost brings tears to my eyes just thinking of it.  Momanee is something that Stephen came up with out of nowhere and has been saying for a few weeks.  He always does it in this loud, sing songy toddler way, with a huge smile on his face, and it totally melts my heart.

6. Her First Real Cry.  Our sweet Hope is such a strong kid, she is a survivor if I’ve ever met one.  Here’s the thing, she has a hard time crying, as in it doesn’t happen.  Before this week I had seen her cry once – one time.  We were in the hospital and her stomach was in knots after eating (before we figured out what to cut out of her diet).  She was in so much pain that she sobbed for fifteen minutes.  I called in the doctor because I knew that it was totally not normal for her.  Jake had seen her cry before too, but only from pain.  She couldn’t cry because she was stressed.  If she is stressed enough to need that release she literally has to hit herself (hard enough to probably break things) to initiate tears.  Until this week.

I was putting on her knee immobilizers for the first time since we had been home from the hospital.  She was terrified of them, probably because they are restraining and she remembered them every day at the hospital.  I was trying to comfort her and keep her legs straight enough, no easy task.  I was able to keep her from hitting herself though, and then the saddest and most amazing thing happen.  She burst into tears!  It’s always hard to see your babies crying, but I was so thankful that she actually had a real cry just from stress alone and didn’t need to hit herself to do it.  It was a short lived cry, but a much needed one.  Here is a picture after she settled in.  Her sister was very attentive to her the whole time she wore them and Hope was never short a toy to play with!

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7. So Tired.  That is pretty much where I’m at.  I’ve been trying to wake up around 5ish… sleeping in until six or seven instead.  And I am still totally exhausted.  Hoping some B Vitamins will help.  All four of my children have been sleeping through the night for the first time in years so why exactly am I having this problem?  Sigh… so frustrating.

8. Baby Food Time!  I know, I know… I am still working on that post, promise.  Planning on doing some veggies tonight and then I will be ready to finish the draft and post!  Can’t wait to share some recipes and tips for delicious, nutritious pureed food.  Every time I make any my two year old asks for tastes!  Craziness…

9. Double Baptism!  We said before that Jacob would be the only one needing a Baptism, but unfortunately we were never able to get Hope’s orphanage to bother to actually find any confirmation of her baptism.  So, being uncertain, we will simply baptize her here with Jacob.  The ceremony will be on Sunday morning the 31st and I am having so much fun planning it!

10. The Only Bad Thing About…  exclusively breastfeeding?  Your children never learn proper etiquette for feeding their baby dolls.  Propping bottles and all.  Oops, better teach them some bottle safety!

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11. Routines and Things.  Our routine is still going strong at about the same place we’ve been for two weeks.  Really hoping to add in more than just meals, nap and bedtime routine every day.  Although, trying to be grateful that we have that down.  Our next goal is Matins in the morning during the week.  It’s great church practice for the kiddos, as we get to do it in the sanctuary, and a lovely devotion for the start of each day.

12.  Hymnody and Love.  I am really beginning to believe that beautiful hymns are a love language.  Hope perks up every time we sing them.  Jesus Loves Me is her favorite, and she gets the hugest smile when I sing “Let’s His little Zhanna come in…”  She has the best smile ever.  Also, when she starts getting agitated, Evangeline will go to her and sing her the hymns she knows.  Her go-tos are: Lamb of God, Glory be to Jesus and Jesus Loves Me (of course).  The most beautiful thing in the world is a young child singing comfort into the life of another.

13.  Raw Milk Deliciousness.  So glad to be back home to our raw milk farmer friends!  It’s a half hour drive, totally worth every drop.  I cannot speak highly enough about raw milk and so glad to have it for the kids’ diets!  Not to mention this particular milk is the most delicious I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t have to feel bad about drinking a glass every day.  It’s the little things in life…

14.  Shout Out To… the best husband in the world.  Mine.  Why?  Just because.  He’s an amazing father, husband, pastor and friend.  I just don’t tell him enough how great he is so, I’ll say it now.  You are the best!  Can’t believe I get to love you for the next bazillion years. :)

15. Last but Not Least.  For all those who’ve helped bring our little ones home, please know that we are forever grateful.  Even though it might take that long for your thank  you to arrive in the mail… ahem.  We really are working on them with the little bits of time we have here and there.  Know that we have not forgotten you or the amazing love you have shown our family.  I could not imagine being more blessed by so many.

Boxes, Beds and Blessings

The last few days have been a whirlwind, but it also feels like they’re dragging by.  I have just been so exhausted the last week, but I added some b12 to my vitamin routine and think that’s helping a lot.  It’s so hard to keep a good attitude with four little ones when you just feel like passing out most of the day.  They all need so much extra love right now that I just haven’t had the energy to give.  It’s hard on them, and it’s frustrating for me.

Last night I felt like crying after two hours of one child deciding not to sleep, being so tired and knowing I had to to do the exact same thing tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.  It’s overwhelming at times, but hoping that slump of a couple days is past us and things will start looking better now!  Other than the tiredness, though, things are still chugging on fairly smoothly.  And by fairly, I mean much better than I expected!

Yesterday it rained all day long.  I panicked when I woke up to pouring rain.  Four stir crazy kids cooped up in a house all day??  What was I going to do with them!?  TV only works for so long, especially with these ones.  Hope listens to the music for about one minute and then is bored (I don’t think she can actually see the screen; we really need to get her in to get her eyes checked.)  Stephen is like me, not much of a TV guy, he just runs around and causes problems for everyone else!  And my other two enjoy it, but only to a point.

So instead, I decided to introduce them to their Activity Boxes today.  This is an idea I’ve been saving in the back of my mind for a long time now, adapted from several different families’ approaches to occupying lots of littles at once when there are other things to be done.  I bought a little floor rug (the fun ones with the roads for little toy cars!) for each of the kiddos, and a box for their activities with their name on it.  I don’t have any toys in the boxes… except for the toy car that came with the rug… ahem.  But other than that, it’s just activities.  They have markers (washable!), crayons, coloring books, drawing paper, beads and threads, legos, alphabet cards, stickers, etc.

There are just two rules for their Activity Mats:

1. You may only use one activity at a time
2. You may not get off your mat.

If a child is not following the rules, the current activity they are using gets put in Mommy’s Box for the rest of the day.  Although, I have been pretty lenient about that so far until they get the gist of it.  We only do Activity Mats for about 15 minutes or so before moving on to something else.  The last thing I want is for them to be bored!  Yesterday we did it for a little longer; we spent about an hour and a half cleaning the house with these neat little boxes.  I would pick a room and a kiddo to help me clean it, the other two played on their Activity Mats until we finished.  Then we’d have a water/potty break and move on to the next room, taking turns on who got to help clean and who got to do activities.  It was a smashing success for our first go-round, and I cleaned three rooms with all four little ones awake and in the room with me!

Here are Jacob and Stephen enjoying their Activity Mats while Evangeline and I picked up the dining room:

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Hope does great sitting in her little chair and watching the others play while I clean.  I am trying to get her worked up to using the baby carrier more, but it’s just difficult.  She only tolerates it for a short time, and she is so so tall that in order to turn and look at something I have to physically lift my chin over her head.  That doesn’t make for very efficient cleaning or… anything.  So for now sitting up with some toys is our best option during chore time.

In other news, bedtime is going really well.  Some nights it’s totally frustrating that it takes at least an hour to get all four of them settled in and asleep.  But I think I might just have to readjust my expectations.  We did just double the amount of children we’re putting down at night, after all!  And we are truly blessed that all four of our children from 9 years down to 2 years have a nearly identical sleep cycle and that they all still nap during the day!  Yes, all of them.

This blog post is brought to you by nap time, the quietest and most relaxing part of your day.

So yes, we are doing well.  We are figuring out this new normal thing, repenting daily of all the many ways we’re failing as parents (opportunities for that have also instantly doubled… talk about a humbling experience), and getting up to do it all again the next day.  Some moments are harder than others, but I’m finding the happy moments are increasing and the hard moments are already getting smaller little by little.  We keep pressing on, making it through each day by God’s grace and usually a helping of chocolate (for me, not the kids).  Even in the hard moments, it’s obvious that we have been greatly blessed beyond what we deserve.

Heavy Heart Today

I apologize in advance.  My heart just isn’t in this post, but I have several updates to make.  My writing is just going to be to the point, so bear with me.  After I let you know what’s going on with our family I will explain why I have such a heavy heart this morning.

First thing, I’ve had some questions, so I will just reiterate my answers here in case others have also been wondering.  Someone asked if I could share pictures.  I would love to, but I don’t have a camera here.  I asked my hubby to bring ours up today so I could document some of our hospital time in pictures.  To tide you over, here is what my other two littles have been doing at home while we are stuck here:

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Someone also was wondering why the hospital is not feeding her more if she’s hungry.  The reason why we are in the hospital is to prevent re-feeding syndrome. If you feed a child, who has been in starvation mode for an extended period of time, without going slowly and taking proper precautions, their bodies will reject the food. It can be serious and deadly. 

I doubt her body is in that malnourished of a state, but they are being careful so she can stay as healthy as possible as we slowly increase her calories.  It’s tough for her and for me, but it would be tougher if we fed her too much at once and her body started rejecting it.  Only a few more days and she should be up to a healthy calorie intake for the first time in her life.

I also had a question about her bowel movement situation.  Still nothing.  She went without one for eleven days after we picked her up and she’s going on day five now.  She isn’t in pain (nor was she before for this reason, I’ll explain in a second) or any discomfort and she isn’t constipated.  The doctors and I have come to the conclusion that there simply isn’t enough food going through her system yet to prompt regular stools.  Suppositories and Miralax will do her no good, nor does she need them.  We just have to wait till her body is ready.

There are also updates from yesterday I wanted to share.  First I will talk about her discomfort after eating, as we used to think that was due to constipation, but she’s not constipated.  Yesterday morning they gave her a big helping of yogurt and oatmeal for breakfast, she’s never had those two things together before, and she was writhing in pain.  She sobbed for about fifteen minutes, and I have never seen her cry.  Crying doesn’t come easy, so I knew she was suffering.

At lunchtime, after I wrote yesterday’s post, I had a light bulb go off.  She had meat and veggies for lunch and very little discomfort afterward.  I started thinking back to all her previous meals, which ones went well  and which ones didn’t?  The day before she had also had a meat and vegetable only meal and didn’t do too badly.  All her other meals have had either fruit or yogurt or oatmeal in them…. light bulb.  Her stomach is just not handling grains, dairy or fruit right now.

In country, fruit was just about all we could get her to eat, so that and yogurt made up the bulk of her diet.  No wonder the poor thing was in pain all the time!  I talked to the dietitian and requested her meals be changed to meat and vegetables only, with the exception of the pediasure, which she seems to be doing ok with.  We will continue that at home and try to slowly add back in the other food groups as she tolerates them.

Needless to say, dinner went fabulously.  Absolutely zero pain or discomfort.  In fact she was laughing while I burped her and thought the whole experience was hilarious.  She was in the best mood I have seen her in since we took her out of the orphanage.  So thankful we’re getting our happy girl back; I had forgotten how much fun she is when she’s not constantly afraid and hurting.

So that’s all for my family’s updates.  Now, for the reason I am not doing so well, even with Hope’s improvements.

Last night I learned that a dear friend of mine lost her son in a tragic accident yesterday.  I linked to her blog a little while back and so many of you were touched by their family’s story.  Here is her blog.  Susanna has been an amazing mentor to me in the last two years.  Recalling Tommy’s adoption journey, and her transparent writing about the hardship their family faced through all of it, gave me the strength and peace to consider Hope’s adoption.

As I look at my sweet girl now, I often have thought of Tommy after he came home, and I look forward to Hope one day blossoming and growing and learning just as Tommy did.  His story gave me such peace and comfort.  I was honored and privileged to watch his life truly begin with his new, loving family, even if just through pictures.  I am heartbroken for his Mommy.  I can not imagine the pain she is going through.  I feel like a piece of my own heart has left this Earth, such a precious boy, such a precious gift to so many.  It’s an overwhelming grief, not only for his family, but for so many people who love them.

Please pray for Susanna, her husband Joe and all of their children who are grieving their brother.  Susanna still has many little ones to care for and love on during this dark valley.  Please just add them to your long term prayer list, as they desperately need all they can get, and I know I have so many amazing prayer warrior readers here who can do just that.

Rest peacefully in the arms of Jesus sweet Tommy.  I cannot wait to meet you on that Glorious Day.

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