If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for. ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Tuesday, January 3


2016 is gone, and when I sit and reflect on it, I shake my head in disbelief.

How can it simultaneously be the best and WORST year of my life?

In January we celebrated the long-awaited arrival of our daughter, Aliza.  Back in 2012, we began the process and became registered to adopt from Bulgaria.  We knew it could be a 3-4 year wait, but we were so hopeful it would be sooner.  Each year we had to keep renewing countless documents just to keep our information current. It was maddening.

And expensive.

$42,000 later we got an email.  THE email.  We were sitting around with long time besties (The Bauers) when the email came in. I knew something was wrong when my husbands face went from confusion, to surprise, to euphoria to devastation. It wasn't how we thought we'd feel, but there was a huge wrinkle in the plan.

When we reached the 4 year waiting mark, we started wondering if we were ever going to get a referral.  We wondered if renewing our home study (plus other documents) for hundreds of dollars EACH was the best use of money.

We already had a failed adoption from Ethiopia on the books... $11,000 in and they just pulled the rug out from under us.

So we registered to adopt from China.  We were matched with a little girl.We were about to pull the plug on Bulgaria...   then BOOM. Bulgaria finally got it's act together.  We'd been waiting for 4 long years and suddenly we have TWO referrals!

Scott and I immediately start to build our case that we want both of these girls.  Don't make us chose one.

"We can do this!"  But our agencies couldn't advise it.  We were furious and confused.  I was abrupt on the phone: "I will NOT chose one over the other.  My heart cannot handle rejecting a child, even if they never know."

They made the choice for us: if we don't adopt this little one from Bulgaria, she may be waiting for a really long time for another family to adopt her. Adoptions in China are happening fast and reliably... the other little girl will be matched soon. (Even with her serious heart condition.)  We heartbreakingly accepted our loss on one condition: they email us and tell us as soon as she found her family.  And they did.  Not 3 months later... another family chose her.  I still smile that she was prayed for and wanted by more than one family.

We rested easy after that and turned our focus on little Minka. (We hadn't chosen her English name yet)  We picked her up in January, and brought her back to America to process her citizenship paperwork.

For the next several months, we delighted/ marveled/ worried/ stressed over this child.  She is a brimming cup of sunshine, almost always happy and very easy to send into a giggle fit.

Our adoption agency prepared us very well to handle the behaviors that are typical of institutionalized children.  Food anxiety, bonding, bathroom habits, communication, developmental delays, etc.  But one thing I wasn't prepared for was my own emotions regarding her behaviors.  I was smitten with her from the first time I saw her picture.  The first time I laid eyes on her, wobbly bouncing toddler-stepping into our room and those chocolate eyes.... oh boy was I smitten.

But despite her unending cute-ness, one thing was very clear: she wasn't my biological child.  I mourned that I didn't have the same emotion for her as I did when my two biological daughters had been born.  She was never tethered to me by an umbilical cord, and never was nourished at my breast.  I lamented this. I wanted to go through that with her.

But as we cocooned, I found that bonding didn't need to look like nursing or swaddling. It came, slowly, and is the threads of bonding are being pulled tighter and tighter even now.  I could write a whole blog post on how I would have done things SO MUCH differently, but I'll just throw this out there:  I would have given up on 90% of the battles we went through with her.  As a disciplinarian who feels miffed at being disrespected, I furthered delayed my own feelings of attachment to her with each act that I mistook for "disobedience".

After a few months of living in the States, we returned to our home in China with all three of our daughters; it was delightful to see everyone's reaction to her.  I did have to educate a lot of people on how to make her feel safer (stop picking her up and walking off with her!) but our neighbors were gaga over her, and our story.  They marveled at the cost of adoption, and we didn't hesitate to talk about the generosity of the Church when His people are called to action.

But a dark cloud descended on our fairy tale. I had gotten the flu in January, and then in February I got strep throat, TWICE.  Then again in March.  My immune system was out of whack and I knew what was about to happen: an autoimmune flare up.  I have ulcerative colitis, a devastating chronic illness that mysteriously flares up and causes huge ulcers to engulf in the colon. They bleed and drain, and the colon becomes so inflamed that you look hugely pregnant.  In a matter of weeks, I became sofa-ridden.  15 trips to the bathroom a day, becoming severely anemic from loosing so much blood.  I couldn't do anything.  My husband became a single father, the chef, the chauffeur, the homeschool teacher, the butler.  My comforter.

He finally said "enough is enough" and packed us all up to fly back to America for medical treatment.  From July on, I was in and out of my GI's office multiple times a month to keep tweaking my medicines.  At one point I had 7 (or 67) pill bottles that covered our bathroom counter.

A couple of months into the medicine I felt much better and thought remission was right around the corner.  We were very excited when Aliza had been home for 6 months because that meant we could pursue... our 2nd adoption!!  We were registered to adopt from China, but to avoid another situation where we were juggling two referrals at once, we were told not to look at the list of waiting children until Aliza had been home 6 months to give adequate time for bonding.

So on that day, my husband went onto the website and looked at waiting children... long story short, thats where we found our son.  There was a huge emotional saga of trying to decide if we were financially capable of handling all of his medical conditions.  After speaking directly to the American doctor who evaluated him and was knowledgeable about his rare brain condition, we felt quite sure that this was our son.  We signed the letter of intent, and skyped with our agency soon after.

It hit us like a bomb when they told us we would be picking him up in three months.

I stood up in my chair and paced (they're watching all this via webcam haha) and was sputtering... "Thats October.  I thought this would be next year. I need to go buy boy clothes! Scott we have to go to the store now! And we don't have any boy toys!"  Scott was doing the clenched teeth fake smile whisper: "Ok. Uh, please sit down."

They asked "Are you sure you're okay? Were you not prepared for this to happen this year?"  And I had to explain that I was simply ecstaticaly flustered.

While we were waiting for our travel date, my UC condition worsened. Maybe it was stress, but the inflammation was so bad I was afraid I'd have to wear adult diapers on the plane.  I was afraid to eat, and plagued by nausea and hunger.  But on the plane ride, God clearly lifted my symptoms and for the two weeks we were in China, I was hardly symptomatic.  It was such a gift. Thank you Jesus.

And I could turn my focus away from my bowels and onto my son who was waiting.

I totally swooned when I first saw him. Stomach jumped up into my throat.  What a little bundle of tiny man cuteness.

My little Judson.

After having a lot of time to evaluate my choice of actions with Aliza, I did things differently.  I was more relaxed, and chose to be his observer, not his fixer.  I coddled him, doted on him, tried to charm kisses from him.  Although I wish I had done more of this with Aliza,  it wasn't difficult to get hugs and kisses from her; she was a snuggle bug from day ONE.  Kisses and giggles galore. Little man, on the other hand, made us work for it.  He was not impressed with us!

No eye contact, no responding to touch or noise.  I became concerned that he may be on the autism spectrum, have severe hearing loss and be partially blind.  His cognitive expressions were severely delayed.

But after a few days, we started to get some giggles out of him, and I won't forget the first fleeting time he made eye contact with me.  The first time he mimicked me (waved at me in the car, home for about 3 weeks), the first time he finally played pretend (picked up a toy phone and made a sound like "aaaa-oooooo").

There was a huge sigh of relief with each new action that told me that his lack of interaction was clearly just from the trauma of adoption.

A two year old can't possibly understand that leaving the place that he thinks is good and comfortable and secure is a good thing.  For adults, adoption is full of hope and fuzzies, but for small children, it feels like kidnapping. They lose, we gain.

Now Judson has been home for 2 months, Aliza's been home for almost a year!  Aliza is not at all the same child.  And Jud has made so much improvement, it's hard to believe it's only been 2 months.

After a month of prednisone, my inflammation is down and I'm living almost normally.  I have energy to play, teach, clean and invest in people outside the home.

What a year.  The dramatic ups and downs alone were as traumatizing as a roller coaster that only slings you up and down; no gradual descent or incline. Just paddle ball whacking up and down.

But let me sing to the Lord a new song.  He has done great things.  I've tasted and seen that the Lord. Is. Good.   I had a crisis of faith after we brought Judson home and I began feeling sick again.  WHY oh WHY are you allowing me to be sick when there are two recent-orphans I'm trying to convince are loved and desired and wished for and longed for?!  They need a healthy mommy!

But God, through others, through his word, through his Holy Spirit, through books placed in my hands by family and friends, have shown me the beautiful enigma of suffering.  He is bringing the scum of my soul bubbling to the surface to be scraped away.  Each scrape is a painful removal of imperfections in my molten, silver soul.

His sanctification is creating a most beautiful thing to behold.  I am most Christ-like now, than I was at the beginning of 2016.  I am ever so thankful.

Saturday, December 31

The Gap

Please mind the... 3....year....gap.... in blog posts.

The last post I wrote was on waiting for Joelle's siblings, well over 3 years ago.  We were pursing adoption, IVF.... whew.

And a lot has changed in the last 3 years.  We gave up on fertility treatments, and Ethiopia did not renew it's adoption contracts with our agency (therefore completely halting out adoption).

In those 3 years we've added 3 more kids... and a cat.  I have SO MUCH to write about bringing them home (the cat.. not so much).  Their stories will be coming soon.

For now, I'm trying to hop back into the blogging world because a friend (Hi Shellie) had asked to hear more about my story.  I think I stopped writing because I was becoming disenchanted with my blogging stories, worried that it wasn't a big enough deal to put out there.

But the Word says to Sing a New Song! Let it be known what He has done for us.  And not only are every day mundane things a gift and a treasure, He has done things beyond the ordinary, things to great for me to comprehend. Straight up miracles.

I will be obedient to chronicle what the Lord has done.  As I so find joy in what the Lord has done in the lives of others, I hope you find joy in my stories too.

Tuesday, February 26

While we are waiting

We have been waiting to adopt from Ethiopia and Bulgaria for almost a year now and we were recently told that all adoptions for Ethiopia will be suspended while the Ethiopian government reviews the program.
We've started the process to also adopt from Madagascar, should the Ethiopian program fall through.  My secret hope is that Ethiopia gets up and running again and we get referrals from all three countries. 
We've had IUI and IVF fail multiple times but hope to try again if and when we have more money and vacation days.   Waiting on adoptions, waiting on pregnancy.  Waiting for our quiver full.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. 

I'm tired of waiting.  I dream of tomorrow. 

But I've noticed that while I'm waiting, I'm also not living.  I wanted to wait to home school Joelle until her brothers came- because a full classroom is giggly goodness.  I wait to get going with home organization projects, wait on scrapbooks and quilts. 

Sometimes I fear that I'm not giving my beloved and much-prayed-for daughter the full attention she needs because I keep thinking "she would be having so much fun if her brothers and sisters were here!"

But God has proven again and again that His timing is not mine.  His timing is perfect.  His timing is for my good.  His timing is a father's loving discipline for his child.  We are waiting because there is something else I should be doing with my time now.  NOW is the time to learn trust and patience.

I can't help but wonder... is there something I'm supposed to be doing now that I'm missing?  I hope I can enjoy the present for what it is in such a way that I'm not always wishing that the future would hurry up and get here already!

Here is to enjoying today and letting go of the future.

Tuesday, January 22

Dead Ends

Sometimes... I have no idea where I am going or where I'm being led.

I know that His light is a lamp unto my feet.  The road ahead need not be lit ...for why do I need to know where I'm going if the only thing that matters is Who I'm following?  And when the Most High God is the one I'm following, what more could I possibly want for?

But along some roads we often imagine what might come next and can't help but anticipate and want violently to see a wish come true.  What might be. What could be. Where I wish He was taking me.

The whole time is a small, tender voice warning that our ways are not His ways... and we cannot fathom His reasons.

We often get angry over how something that clearly seems "meant to be" often ends in a dead end.

A heart breaking dead end. 

We had so many doors open to pursue IVF; we flew to another country and have been here for almost two weeks, going through grueling amounts of hormone injections and various ultrasounds, blood work, paper work etc.  We've got one shot at this.  Everything was going well, the doctor performed a small procedure to remove the eggs and then fertilized them; the next step is watching then via microscope to see them split and divide and grow.

Then the nurse called yesterday to say that none of the embryos developed after fertilization; none survived.  I didn't understand. 

The call came while we were eating lunch at the mall. No amount of awkward or curious or sympathetic looks could stop the tears from coming fast and strong.  I continued to sob on the walk home, all the time frantically wondering the fastest way to ease this pain.  Massage? Pedicure? go shopping? Anything to get my mind off this.  Eh. Those all require me to be around people.  And spend money.  Which we have substantially less of now.  So I head to the fitness center of the hotel and jog slowly on the treadmill and listened to "10,000 reasons".

"Bless the Lord, oh my soul.  Oh my soul."

My head knows that He is good and kind, and that an act like this: another failed fertility procedure, is not absent of mercy, tenderness and grace. 

But hot, bitter tears fell down my face as I pounded the treadmill.  I did not feel willing to bless the Lord.

Anger, confusion and uncertainty gave more energy so I sped up the pace and ran another mile.  I let the song play over and over again. 

Yesterday we went to see the doctor to hear some explanation of why the embryos could not survive.  But the nurse came with a small smile and said "Two of the embryos have begun developing."  We listened to the doctor explain more. This was hope... a very small taste of hope.

We waited 24 hours. Waiting, hoping and praying that those two embryos, who are fearfully and wonderfully made, will develop and be ready to transfer into my womb.

The phone call came today and I knew from the look on my husbands face that it was bad news.  The embryos did not make any progress.  It's over. 

My question for the Lord: "Why all the false hope?  Why the open door if it only led to a dead end?"  What purpose did all of this serve, this unnecessary pain and extreme waste of money?  Why make me feel like a fool for hoping?

I listened to the song again.  Bless the Lord, oh my soul.  As it played I kept thinking of Micah 6:8
And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
So this was a dead end.  But the hope that I cling to is that I did not walk alone.

 Nor was it in vain.

Who knows what the Father is teaching me, how He is molding me?  What I consider a waste of sorrows God counts as a priceless encounter with Him.

Looking back in thirty years, will I mourn over this, or remember what it felt like as I walked with Him through it? 

Sing like never before
...Oh my soul...
Worship His Holy name!