Friday, December 28, 2012

The Day After Christmas

For all of the December the 26th's I can remember, I in some way, have found myself crying. Some years a full out weeping with sobs a snotty nose and smeared mascara, and some years, just a small tear drop that slid down my cheek.

Sometimes, I cried because Christmas was over. Decorations were to come down.  Christmas break was almost over and school would be starting soon. No more Christmas cookies, no more Christmas music, no more holiday parties. Sometimes I cried because of my own sin- ways I "messed up" Christmas. Lies I told, people I hurt, places I shouldn't be, sin I knew I shouldn't be involved in. Sometimes I cried because of broken relationships, loneliness, and an unexplainable sadness that just seemed to take over my heart.

I always knew that Christmas was not about a day, and not about presents, or decorations, or any of the magical things Christmas was promoted to be. I had sat through dozens of Christmas day church services, went to midnight masses, Christmas Eve vigils, lit advent candles, and read Christmas devotions. I knew that Jesus came to save the world from our sins. I knew that He died for me. I knew all of the real reasons for Christmas. I knew about the virgin Mary, the realness and messiness of an infant Jesus coming into this world. I knew about the prophecies Jesus fulfilled. I knew Jesus came to this earth for me, and the rest of the world full of sinners. I knew all of those things. And yet, I cried.

Tonight is December the 26th and I sit on my couch pondering. The fire is smoldering on a bed of ashes that is 3 days old and needs to be cleaned. The lights are twinkling and casting an almost magical glow from our Christmas tree. I can see Tommy's socks in the middle of the living room floor, and I chuckle, because I know he pulled them off before he went to bed-he hates wearing socks to bed. The kitchen is halfway clean. The dishwasher is loaded to as full as it can be and the rest of the dishes sit waiting for their turn in the dishwasher tomorrow. Toys and tags and paper are still strewn about in bits and pieces from yesterdays festivities. Everyone is asleep. I can hear Isabell tossing and turning. I can hear Noah breathing too loud. The dogs are dreaming, because I can hear their nails clicking on the floor as they must be imagining they are running. I feel more tired than I have ever been, and yet I sit here awake. 

So many things to think about. So many things I want to remember, I want to share, I want to write down. Yet, I've not done that for two months. 

My heart is so full. Full of sadness- I wanted to write down, to do something in the month of November to celebrate and promote adoption, after all November is national adoption month and I have three children whom we adopted, and I did nothing.  Full of joy- I wanted to write about friendship. In my entire life I have struggled with friendships and slowly, very, very slowly, I have found and learned so much about what I was missing and where I was wrong. I wanted to remember the friends that have helped us. The dozens of ladies that made meals when we came home from China, that will never understand how much they blessed us. How pivotal their generosity to a person most of them barely knew, taught me so much about the character of Jesus. The friends that sat outside on our back porch and chatted on hot summer nights, listening to crickets chirping under a blanket of northwest Indiana stars. The talks we had about Jesus and silly YouTube videos will forever be a noteworthy memory of mine, the comfort and ease and importance of our conversations taught me more about fellowship than I have ever known. Full of pain- the brokenness of my children. The difficulty and struggles as a mamma I have with parenting... parenting little ones, parenting kids from hard places, parenting handicapped kids, parenting when nothing makes sense, and everything hurts. Full of change- a new niece, new schedules, new projects, new paperwork, new friends.  Full of confusion- going where God leads us, continuing to grow, being challenged in our marriage, in our home, in our family, in our finances, in almost every. single. decision. this year we have been challenged to think deeper, seek God's kingdom first, and that has made things harder, harder, because no longer can we be okay with living in our flesh, no longer can we make decisions solely based on what is "best for us", and that brings about changes, daily changes that require us to every single day die to ourselves and allow Him to increase and force us to decrease. 

We are in the middle. In the middle of joy and pain. So many days I cry to my mother about the children I can't parent, only to find myself hours later building a couch fort and snuggling with the kiddos with a flashlight a good book smiling because they are all so precious and life is so good.

Maybe I am fickle. Maybe I am complicated and random. Maybe a bit unstable. Maybe a bit too mouthy.

But tonight is December the 26th and in the 32 years of December the 26th's I can remember, this is the first time I am not crying. In fact I have found myself with a slight smile on my face. Growth and change is not easy. It's hard and messy. It's painful and full of scabs that get reopened and scars that don't want to go away. But to know Jesus.... but to know Jesus.

I can't say that I didn't know Him, but I can say, I didn't know Him, like I do today. All the times I ran from Him, He loved me, and still died for me. All the times I knowingly chose sin, chose to hurt my loved ones, chose to live for myself, chose to steal, to lie, to sin against His commandments, all those times, He loved me.  His mercy for me is unfathomable. All the times He should have abandoned me, He didn't. All the times I thought He did, He was only growing me, disciplining me, challenging me, using what Satan had planned for death, He used for His glory through me. Each day the innumerable times I know better, and yet I parent out of anger, I parent out of frustration, I parent out of selfishness, He is still there- giving me new mercies every morning, and extending me His grace. Every stupid argument with my family, my husband, my sisters, my parents, my in-laws. He is still there, loving me, loving me, His love never changing. No matter my sin, His love doesn't change. On the days I yelled at my kids more than ever, why did I somehow think He loved me any less than the days I didn't yell? Why did I ever think His arms were not open? 

His love has always been there, always been first, and it's His love that changes me. It's his love that grows me. Knowing my savior loves me like this, is what makes me love. It's what brings joy to my broken heart. His love is what grows me. His love is what makes me want to "sin no more." 

It's this unconditional, unfathomable, indescribable love, that He freely gives me, that on this December the 26th in all of the 32 years of December the 26th's keeps me smiling, and brings joy and peace to my heart.

  To keep this joy in my heart forever.  I write it down to remember. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Joy of The Lord is My Strength

Today I read the words:

"the Joy of the Lord is my strength." -Nehemiah 8:10


and I find myself making excuses for lacking Joy in my life.

Everywhere I look I see pain.  I watch four of my five children dance in a circle chanting nursery rhymes while one child sits in my lap watching, and each time Audrey watches the video on my phone all I can think is one child is missing from the circle.... one child who can't dance, or run, and never will.  I clean up cat puke all over bed sheets, and I endlessly vacuum hairball monsters from two big shedding dogs.  I wake up and look in the mirror each morning and see wrinkles and tired eyes, and my dad tells me I drink too much coffee, that it's not good for me.  The kitchen floor is spattered with apple juice and dirty footprints, sticky reminders of the work I've yet to complete.  One child struggles, struggles to just remember his name.  Dogs bark when kids are napping.  Streams of mud run through the yard where we've yet to get seeds planted.  I am tired.  Kenney is tired.  Our cars are old and make noises we know mean their end is near. Job opportunities don't happen.  I make phone call after phone call, just to make things work that should already work.  I hear the stories, the pain in the voices of my friends.  A mommy who doesn't know why their daughter doesn't want to live anymore.  A friend an ocean away who holds another baby in her arms that will never have a chance to have a mommy or daddy.  An email telling me the painful loss of child after child.  A dad who can't find work.  A little girl whose heart may one day soon stop beating.  I see it everywhere, in my house, in my children, in myself, in the world.  The pain, the disability, the loss, the tears, sobbing wailing hurts that don't go away. 


"the Joy of the Lord is my strength." -Nehemiah 8:10

And I want to search for joy.  How?  How do I get this Joy? 

I've read and re-read this verse for years, years, almost my entire life.

"for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. " Philippians 4:12-13

I sit with my oldest in the morning. We review the letters and their sounds, and we write the little "b" and little "d" and each and every day we say their sounds and we say "first the bat and then the ball, and first the doorknob then the door"  and we sound out every letter in every sentence, over and over again, and when we've sounded all the words out we put it together and say the sentence, and we do it over and over again, sound by sound, word by word, sentence by sentence. 

It is no miracle he is reading.  He reviews each and every day the sounds the letters make, the long sounds and short sounds, the consonants and vowels.  We put letter tiles together, we play games, we write the letter and repeat their sounds, we sing songs, over and over again, we say it, do it, repeat it.

Tonight I watch him sit with Grandma on the couch and read her a story.  She kisses his forehead and tells him how proud she is of him, and what a great job he is doing.  He gets up and plays with his new cars, as if it's no big deal, as if reading was so easy, so simple.  But, I have worked with him and watched him, and practiced with him, I know the whole story.

"for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. " Philippians 4:12-13

and again I read it, this time in the book One Thousand Gifts

and this time one word hit me.


It clicks, it's such a fault of mine, listening to the orchestra play Chorus 21 in Handel's Messiah.  The violins dancing, together, perfectly creating beautiful music.  I want to sit here forever and listen and have the waves of joy and peace and great meditative words crash over me, like "His burden is easy and His yoke is light"  How can I keep this Joy forever?  I didn't see the hours the orchestra put into practice, the time each member spent at home.  Hours of listening to every note, holding their bow to get just the right sound, each eighth note, sixteenth note, over and over again.  Fingers chapped.  Necks with kinks.  Dreams filled with note after note, sound after sound. The bow to the strings, cradling the instrument to her neck, holding the bow, moving the bow, work, learning, practice, it creates the beautiful music, over and over again.

I see it in the violinist.  I see it in my son.  Learning.  Beauty.  Joy.

I read more pages from her book.  I wonder if I believe this.  I think my actions would say that I do.

"That I believe Satan’s way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus’ way? Why else get angry?
So when I, I Laura choose (and it is a choice, always is... thanks dad!) I do it. I crush my joy with bitterness and I purposefully choose to take the way of the Prince of Darkness.

Cynicism isn’t strength and ranting doesn’t rejuvenate and frustration can never accomplish what Faith can.

Does my life testify to my belief in the power of complaint — or the power of Christ? "

I want to learn.  I desperately want to learn.  I want the JOY of the Lord as my strength. 

I will do something. 

I read more:

"The thing is: The cynics, they can only speak of the dark, of the obvious, and this is not hard. For all it’s supposed sophistication, it’s cynicism that’s simplistic. In a fallen world, how profound is it to see the cracks?"

This is me.  I see my daughter who can not walk, and my son who can't talk, the friends with hurts, and the mess and the dirt and the suffering, and each day I point it out.  I see it.  I drink it in.  I go to sleep with it in my heart.  I see the cracks each and every day.  In this fallen world I stare at the cracks.

I don't want to be that.  I want the JOY of the Lord.

It is coming together, I see more, I get more, I begin to understand.

The sages and prophets, the disciples and revolutionaries, they are the ones up on the ramparts, up on the wall pointing to the dawn of the new Kingdom coming, pointing to the light that breaks through all things broken, pointing to redemption always rising and to the Blazing God who never sleeps.

The brilliant don’t deny the dark but they are the ones who always seek the light in everything.

I want to be THAT kind of girl.  I want to see the light of redemption.  His grace in my life, His grace over the earth.

I will learn.  I commit myself to learn.

I will write it down.  I will look for it.  Look for grace.  I will memorize the sounds. Repeat them over and over again.  Sing the songs over and over again.  I will put my pen to the paper of my little book, my learning to find JOY.  I have spent too much time DOING nothing, and wondering why I haven't learned. I need calloused fingers and kinks in my neck.  I need flash cards and a mentor.  I need to see His grace daily and remember, repeat, memorize, apply.  I want to come to the place, where I like Paul can say "I have learned"

the hum of my furnace fan
Bella's soft puppy dog ears
reading in the sunshine
the comfort of a freezer pizza in the oven
coloring with my kids
the chattering of my first child up
MY farmer's toes cracking down the hall
a dinosaur like blue heron gliding over the pond
my babies buried in leaf piles

His grace poured out on me... daily... each and every moment.... I will learn.

I am writing it down to learn.

Numbers on the page to remind me, teach me.

Scriptures in my memory to remind me, teach me.

I begin my joy journey, with a notebook and flashcards, a good book and THE Good Book.  Friends to help me- spur me on. 

I pray for calloused fingers and a kink in my neck, as I know it will produce the most beautiful symphony in my heart.

"the Joy of the Lord is my strength." -Nehemiah 8:10

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Heaven

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Why write about something that hurts?  Why write about pain, suffering, and heartache?  Because, when I remember those things, I remember HIS work in my life. 

I need to remember the strength and power of Christ.  I too easily forget.  It is not in my accomplishments, it is not in my dreams or goals, not in my "good" behavior, or in my completed tasks - at the end of the day, where Christ's power is, is in my weakness, in my suffering, in the things that hurt.

To share my weaknesses... why?

Because Christ did not die to create isolated worshipping individuals. He died to create Christ-exalting friendships. That is, he died and rose again to create the church. (taken from a sermon found here) We are not alone.  We are to love one another, build one another up, encourage one another, admonish one another in the truth.  Sharing my story, sharing HIS story in me, is all about bringing HIM glory.

April of 2008 Kenney and I decided to adopt from Russia.  Lest anyone think that what I wrote below fueled the decision to adopt, read this again.

About seven weeks later I was pregnant.

In September of 2008, I had a mis-carriage.

From the beginning of the pregnancy I knew something wasn't "normal".  There really was nothing different. I felt fine, looked fine, everything was ordinary.  About 8 weeks into the pregnancy I had some spotting.  I did the "google thing"  and spent an entire night I think, looking up what it could be. Everything seemed to point to this could just be again "normal".  Well, Kenney was so worried, which got me worried and we decided to have things checked out.  Again, everything  seemed fine.  The baby had a heartbeat, which was again "normal".

We went home still feeling uncomfortable.  We both knew something was wrong.  God was preparing our hearts for what he already knew.  I remember reading that almost all miscarriages happen in the first trimester.  We just kept counting the days down, hoping to get past the 12 week mark, and be in the clear.  Twelve weeks came and went, and the feeling still loomed.  We prayed all the time, prayed for the life that was inside me, prayed for a healthy baby, prayed for God to comfort us. We prayed for answers.

Somewhere around the 15-16 week mark it happened.  That morning my sister in law dropped off my niece Corrine as usual.  The day began as usual.  Me and the two kiddos were playing on the deck outside, and I remember looking out to the creek, and thinking the last summer flowers still looked so pretty.  Lunch time happened, nap time happened, and then somewhere after that I had these terrible gut wrenching pains.  No, they were NOT cramps.  Nothing like cramps, nothing to be mistaken for a pulled muscle or girl things. I knew exactly what it was.  It was labor.  It felt just like labor with Tommy.  I called Kenney and asked him to come home early.

He got home and took care of Tommy, somewhere during that time my sister in law picked up Corrine.  I hid in the bathroom and cried.  I can't even explain the feelings that washed over me.  I was in so much pain that I had no actual thoughts,  I just felt heartache.  I just cried.  Labor was nearly impossible.  With Tommy through the pain and contractions there was always joy.  I knew I'd be holding my newborn baby soon.  This time there would be no baby to hold.  Labor is difficult, but the end result makes it worth it.  I felt exhausted, spent, almost numb.  There was no end result I could look forward to.  Kenney would come in and try to comfort me, but Tommy wasn't even two yet, so most of Kenney's time was spent with him.  I remember crying out to God,  I so badly wanted the pain to go away.  I felt like I had come to terms with loosing a baby, but to still have to go through all this pain, it just seemed cruel and unfair.  I wanted everything to be over.  I wanted to go to sleep and wake up and forget everything that had just happened.

Hours passed, and finally Tommy was in bed.  Kenney came in to be with me.  He wanted me to go to the hospital.  There was no way I was leaving the safety of my bathroom. I needed the comfort of quiet.  I needed to be alone with only Kenney.  I wanted my comfy T-shirt and bed to collapse into after this was done.  I wanted the lights dim.  I didn't want a hospital gown or bright fluorescent lights in my face.  I didn't want anyone telling me it would all be okay, or it was for the better, or some other form of non-comforting words.  For once in my life I had no words, and didn't want to hear any.  I just cried.  I never have cried for so long.  Kenney cried with me.  I remember him watching me.  I remember there was nothing he could do.  Every hour or so Kenney would ask if I wanted to go to the hospital and I'd scream violently, no.  At one point I remember telling him he'd have to pick me up and carry me kicking and screaming.  I am not a force to be reckoned with when I am angry I guess, seeing as he didn't take me!

Just as labor progresses with a full term pregnancy, so did mine.  My water broke, I started bleeding.  I remember reading that many women don't even recognize they are having a miscarriage because the baby can look like a large blood clot.  Kenney kept asking if that was "it"?  If it was over yet? And then the pain stopped, stuff poured from my body, and the pain was over.  I knew the baby had been delivered.

I was shaking so hard.  I stood up and there was a baby amidst the pool of blood.  A little, perfectly formed baby. We imagined the baby to be a girl.  She was so tiny, and fit in the palm of my hand, but fully formed.  There were ten fingers and toes.  Finger and toes with fingernails and toenails.  Her skin was nearly translucent and we could see her heart, her bones, her organs, her spinal column.  It was NOT a clot, a mass of stuff, it was a BABY. At that moment my heart broke.  I mourned.  I felt more grief than I had ever experienced.  I felt the loss of our baby, but even more I felt the loss of every child never born.  I saw a real baby.  Things connected for me and became very real.  I was nearly sickened at the thought of how many babies were never born because their mother actually chose to end their life. 

I don't remember how long we just sat in silence.  We just sat quietly, starring.  We had no idea what to do next.  I picked up the baby who fit inside the palm of my hand and carried her outside.  Throwing her away seemed so inappropriate to us. It was chilly outside and I still was shaking so hard. It was dark and quiet. We decided to bury her with the wild flowers near the creek.  I sat outside for along time, shivering in the dark.  I prayed over and over again for wisdom.  We lost our sweet baby, and time still went on.  While I sat crying and feeling like the world had stopped, in reality moment after moment still continued to exist.

Yet, in that moment of pain and sorrow, of feeling so small and lost, I felt most loved.  I thought about all the plans God had for us.  I thought about a little boy a half a world away that wasn't dead, that still needed a mommy and daddy.  I thought about people, people who lost their babies and weren't able to sit on their porch and cry and know their Father in heaven loves them deeply,  The people who don't know Christ, and therefore don't know of His unending love. We went to sleep that night.  And life continued on.

Today, I sit at this computer while five babies sleep under our roof.  I sleep under a different roof, than I did in 2008.  I have nieces and nephews.  I have new friends and new ministries.  I have new challenges and new struggles.  My life has continued on, according to His purpose for my good. (Romans 8:28)  To know, that when I seemingly had so much pain, so little hope, He was there, giving me grace and His power.  His power to wake up again.  His power to rejoice in the suffering. 

Today, it is only four years later, but I think of the impact that one experience, one day in a lifetime of days, has had on me. Today, on my walk with the kiddos, we saw the dried wilted wildflowers of a summer past, and I thought about our little baby in heaven, and I smiled.  I have no idea exactly how this experience will continue to shape me.  I have no idea what His plans are for me, but my Heavenly Father deeply loves me, and He will continue to use each and every moment of my life for my good, to bring Himself glory! AMEN! I am thankful of His power in my weaknesses.

Friday, September 14, 2012


I don't say it hardly enough.  I suck at it.  I mean really, really suck at it. 

Spend a day with me, and I'll chitter chatter on and on about artificial sweeteners (YUCK!), gardening, chickens, zillions of books I am trying to read, school, education, the kids, doctor appointments, church, friends... almost everything.

Except my husband.

Oh yes, "daddy" is always talked about and mentioned, and we pray for daddy, and love daddy, and I mention "Kenney" his work, and his schedule, and his sometimes maybe annoying habits (phone in the bathroom... seriously????)

But I love him.


Like, really, really love him.

And I am blessed.

Like, really, really blessed to have him.

And once I realized he IS the man God gave me, and he isn't my brothers, or my friends, or uncles, or even my dad.  He is Kenney, a man that God deeply loves, loves so much, that Jesus, His own son, died for MY husband... and I married him!  That is exciting.  It is easy to compare him to others, and see what he isn't, it is easy to find fault.  Too easy.  I fail.  I find too much fault, and do too much comparing, too much of the time!

Then, something like this last weekend happens, and I have to remember.  I need to put it forever in my memory.  I need to be reminded.  I need to keep the thoughts, the feelings, the words near to my heart daily.

So I stole his best man speech (see point #3 - it really is mine anyway) that he gave at his brother's wedding this last weekend.

I didn't edit, or change anything... I want to remember, just the way it was, well, maybe minus the five kids at my table begging for dinner to start. 

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen- My name is Ken Kolanowski, brother of the groom and I have the privilege and honor of serving as the Best Man.

To your parents; thank you for this enchanted evening in addition to raising two fine individuals. To each an every one of you, thank you for your attendance in celebrating this marriage as close family and friends of Joanna and Andy.

Let me first say that the bridesmaids look absolutely lovely today, and only rightly outshone by our bride, Joanna. And, I'm sure you'll agree with me gentlemen, today is a sad day for single men, as another beautiful women leaves the available list. And ladies, I'm sure you'll agree that today is passing by without much of a ripple, just kidding Andy.....

Growing up in Dolton, Andy and I shared our childhood together in the same room for more than 16 years. I look back at those 16 years of my life and while I didn't share the special bond he and Gina share as twins, we were brothers. I look back and I see things we have done together. Boy Scouts, Church Camps, High School Drama, amongst many memories. I thought long and hard about what embarrassing story or detail to share with everyone here tonight; and I decided that I didn't want to do that.

Your little brother wants to charge you in your marriage instead.
In life as the big brother, you have been first to do many things, however I have spent nearly the last 7 years married to my blushing bride and want to share with you what has been so precious to me so that you and Joanna do not miss out on what marriage really is.

-Love each other more than yourself. Give 100% - as giving 50% and expecting the other person to give 50% is just two people giving it their half, not their all.  

-Your spouse comes first. Before family, before children, before all others - always.

-Always be prepared to put aside personal feelings of discomfort or injustice to keep communication lines open. There is not one square inch of you that does not belong to the other so share and discuss and grow. Never be afraid of, and always appreciate the truth in both giving and receiving.

-You may not always remember verbatim what you say, but they remember for years how you made them feel. Every time you make each other feel better about themselves, in their eyes you seem better.

-Let each other be emotional and pick your battles.

-Do not speak in absolutes, yet specific examples; not to defame, yet to build.

Those are all nice post-it sayings butt there is one key to a successful marriage.....
Ensure Christ is the center of your marriage....let me repeat that; ensure CHRIST is the center of your marriage. In the scriptures the word Love is the 6th most used word.  God states several things about marriage and love that I wanted to point out.....
 Proverbs 18: 22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
 Proverbs 31:10  A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

1Corinthians 13:6-8 NIVLove does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. Love never fails.
Genuine love is focused on another human being. It ... brings a deep desire to make that person happy…to meet their needs and satisfy their desires and protect their interests. Real love is best described as being unselfish in all aspects, even if a personal sacrifice is required in the relationship.
So with that we toast to Andy and Joanna, may your love be as deep as the ocean, an example to others, and a lifetime of blessings to one another.

L'Chaim - to life!

"If you want to change the world, pick up your pen."

It was Martin Luther who said it, and I pulled the phrase from a book I am reading.  And it rings true in a million tones for me.  Writing things down....there is something special, unique, almost magical in putting words on a piece of paper, especially our own words, thoughts and feelings.  Even my dad said it "if it ain't written it ain't real."

To put the words I feel on paper, almost breathes them to life.  Forever I can re-read them.  I can re-feel them.  The memory is not lost.  Each day that passes, I look at my house, my children, my life and I don't want to forget.  I don't want the moments to be wasted.  I don't want to grow up and not remember, not be able to share with others that I struggled too.  I want to remember the pain in labor.  I want to remember the sleepless nights, the fights with my husband, the days that hurt, the sunshine, the garden, my friends that come and go for different seasons, Audrey's silly words, and Caleb's sweet hugs. I want to be able to forever share those moments, all of them. They are all grace moments.  Divine blessings, because I believe God is all good, all the time,  These moments, all of them, are all grace.  Because my life is His, my story is really His too.

In one year, my words, far and few between as they may be, they are there for me to look at and remember.  And in one year, my world is changed. And His story written for me, is slowly put on paper.  I am thankful I picked up my pen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Boy, One Picture and One God (part 2 of 2)

That's the picture that we all looked at.  This family fell in love with the cutest fuzzy haired boy. 

But, the events that have led up to where we are today, are nothing short of a miracle.  And we are overjoyed and forever changed to be a part of it.

We requested Caleb's file, however it was unavailable at the time, as another family was looking into adopting him, so we started looking at other children.  We found Isabell, locked in her file and started to proceed with the adoption.

Caleb's file was available again.  The family didn't proceed.

We decided to adopt two.

Only weeks before we were getting ready to leave for China, I just so happened to decide to look up the weather for Zhengzhou (where he is from) and got somehow re-routed to a yahoo group, found where he lived (in an awesome group home, not the local orphanage) found the director of the home, and within hours was on the phone with her.

If you don't know this story, feel free to catch up here.

She then gives me the information of a woman from the states, who just so happens to be doing an internship there, gives me her facebook info, we become friends, and start talking.

We hoped to somehow find time while in China to possibly meet up, and planned for a Tuesday.

Things happened, she couldn't get off of work due to a child dying. (if after reading that statement you don't want to cry, read it again)  She suggested maybe we meet on Wednesday, however we already had plans with our agency for that Wednesday.

While in China, originally our agency has planned on us seeing the local orphanage of the city where Caleb was from, however, something fell through the loops and we were unable to go.

Our guide/translator who is pretty much with us at all times, suggested we see a museum or something, so we planned on doing that with her.  But for whatever reason, last minute, decided it would be better to visit with the lady who took care of our son for the last 6 months.

Next thing we know, we are here.

And spending time with these kids:

We asked about each child.  Asked about their health and special needs.  Asked if anyone had inquired about them.  We asked lots and lots of questions. 

One little girl stood out, she looked tired and was quiet.  She spent much of her time in the corner away from almost everyone else, except when the kids got together to sing songs.  She loved to sing songs.  No one had inquired about her.  She had an untreated heart condition, that if NOT treated we were told she would die.  We were told, it should have already been treated, but she is an orphan, and the cost and the care in China is insurmountable.  So there she sat.  Dying.  No mommy to tuck her in and sing her songs.  Dying.  No daddy to tell her she is loved and adored. Dying.

Kenney and I spent the rest of the entire day talking about her and her friend (next to her in the above picture) We already had Caleb, and we would be picking up Isabell soon, and two is the limit for adopting at one time within a year or two period. We wondered if somehow we could go back and get her.  We knew in our hearts it wasn't an option.  But, she was dying.  I held her.  I was there.  She wasn't just a name or a face.  She was real.  I thought about how precious she is to our Heavenly Father.  I thought about my own children.  How much I loved them and held them and cared for them. I wondered if she would grow up and know the name of Jesus.  I wondered if she would even grow up.  My heart just hurt so miserably.  I was past crying and tears.  There was just a burden and an ache that wouldn't go away. 

I didn't know what to do.

We laid down for bed that night and we couldn't sleep. We just prayed over and over again the same prayer. "God, what can we do?"  "Is there even anything we can do?"

It seemed there was no answer, no solution, no way to help.

So, in an act of desperation.  Because I wanted someone to tell me I wasn't alone.  Because I wanted someone to tell me that there was someone who understood the pain my heart felt.  I posted her picture on facebook, to share with my friends that this little girl without a mommy and daddy, will die, and that makes my heart hurt.

And from the other side of the world someone saw her picture.  Our friends the Carr's read the words and felt God calling them.  In the words of Eva "that's what the message said {if she doesn't get a mommy and daddy she's going to die} plain and simple...and impossible to ignore."

Their story is not our story, but our little boy will forever be a part of their story, of the story HE is writing for all of us.  Their story includes God moving mountains, of them bringing home not only the little girl our heart was burdened for, but her best friend.  Their story IS grace. Read their story here and be amazed at our God!

Many, many thoughts fill my mind and heart about this little girl.

The love our Father has for her.  How He has held her and cared for her in every single detail. In us choosing Caleb, in randomly finding the yahoo group, in finding the director of her home, in finding the caretaker, in arranging for us to meet and see the home, in all the prayers, in getting her paperwork ready at exactly the moment the Carr's were ready for her, and then all the details in the Carr's story.... moving to Iowa, finding a heart specialist, meeting Chinese speaking friends, oh my heart just bursts at all the details.  Every single detail, perfect. A delicate balance, as if any one of the details failed or didn't work, the entire story would be lost.  But our God, He is in the details.  He worked every little thing out for this precious child to have a mommy and daddy.

But, one thought to me stands out.  One thing, I have thought about almost every day for the last six months.

What if that picture never got posted?

While I 100% believe in a sovereign God.  That He knows everything.  Every thought before I think it.  Every person before they are formed.  He knows tomorrow and the next and the next.  There is nothing God doesn't know.  Nothing that surprises Him.  He is all powerful, omnipotent, and perfect.

But, we have free will, and always have a choice. (note, that would be a dad-ism, you have a choice, you always have a choice.)

There is a lesson here for me.  A lesson to be reminded that God can use anyone and anything, no matter how small.  So many times I move through life doing nothing.  I pass the man holding a sign on US-30.  I ignore the people who are looking to me for a friend.  I pass sign up sheets at church for help in the nursery. I spend more money on myself instead of using it to advance God's kingdom. I read articles about kids in foster care. I read articles about how hard it is to be a single mom.  I read about those who will go to bed with no food for dinner.  I think about it, it makes me sad, and then I do nothing.  Mostly, I do nothing though, because anything seems impossible.  I can't be a foster mom, I already have children that I am working through problems with, therefore, I do nothing.  The man holding the sign - I have no cash to give him, therefore I do nothing. On and on it goes.... doing nothing, all because something seems too big and too impossible. 

All along though, it's my heart that Jesus wants.  So whether I am the family adopting a sweet child who needs a mommy and daddy, or I am the family putting a picture of her on facebook.  It's my heart HE is looking at.

Something doesn't have to be big.  It can just be a picture on facebook.  It's God who does any and every good thing.  He just wants my heart, a heart open to something.

Monday, August 27, 2012

One Boy... (part 1 of 2)

There has been so much to learn and change these last 6 months.  Much of our parenting has had to change, again.  Learning how to best parent a little girl who isn't yet quite thrilled with the idea of a "new mommy" has been challenging.  Learning how to go places with 2 kids that need to be held, and one who can't walk has taken some time to iron out the kinks.  Learning to adapt to a little girl who is handicapped has taken some time.  Figuring out sleeping arrangements, eating arrangements, language barriers, therapy, doctor appointments, research, etc- has taken some time.

Most interesting though is the fact that we brought home TWO kiddos in March of this year...

What about Caleb???

He just fits in. 

Six months home and I may still be in the honeymoon period, or I might have just ruined it all by typing those words, but... he just fits in!
He hugs and kisses and loves to be held, but he loves to run around and wrestle and play cars and build forts with the couch cushions.

He loves to eat.  He makes meal time a joy. He eats WHATEVER we put on his plate (with the exception of some fruit.)  He sleeps through the night, he takes awesome naps, he loves baths and swimming, whatever we do, he'll do it too!  When we go places, so long as it's not past his bedtime, and mommy and/or daddy are in sight, he is just happy!  And, if he is having a normal two year old "fit" he doesn't bang his head, or throw his body anymore, no screaming, or hitting, he just puts the cutest scowl on his face, narrows his eyes (so we think he is sleeping) sticks out his lower lip and lets us know he is angry. 

Both Isabell and Caleb sit with us in church.  Mommy is assigned to Caleb, and while he is two, he is the only two year old I've ever had that actually makes it through an entire (that is almost an hour and a half people) service.  When we sing, he loves to squeeze my cheeks and watch my mouth move and randomly plant kisses on me. He spins my diamond on my wedding rings from the front of my finger to the back and then around again.  He plays like he is putting on my makeup, draws smiley faces all over, and eats enough snacks for the entire congregation.



He is just a happy kid.  He shows affection.  He is appropriately afraid of strangers.

Best of all though is how much the other kids love him.  It melts my heart.  Tommy repeatedly says "mommy, I just love his skin, its so perfect", "mommy, isn't he just the cutest kid ever?" He loves to hug him and love on him and wrestle.

Audrey takes Caleb's hand anytime we are going down stairs, at the park, or in a parking lot- to make sure he stays with the group. 

Noah has assumed the "big brother"role, most of the time, and makes sure he is safe and cared for, that he doesn't put toys in his mouth or fall off the couch.

This little boy is such a blessing to our family.

But, this little boy is part of an even bigger picture, a picture of God's power, God's sovereignty and most importantly God's grace.  One child has changed not just this family, not just the people who know us, but an entire other family - which shows me time and time again, God can use whomever He wants whenever He wants....

Part 1 of 2

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I wake up.

I am tired, and no amount of coffee helps.

I've been up, adjusting braces, comforting, trying to help an uncomfortable child.  I've been up, getting juice for another one, praying, staring at the ceiling, staring at the mess around me.

I need to schedule an appointment with the dentist.  But I have appointments with an ENT, a hand specialist, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, the Orthopaedic Specialist, Speech Therapy.... who will watch the kids?  How will Kenney get home in time for all of that?  How can I possibly fit in the dentist?  But, Motrin isn't helping anymore.

And the worry starts to set in. 

I am hungry, but the kitchen hangs in a delicate balance of mess, one more thing out of place, one more thing not cleaned, just might cause pure disaster.  So, I opt for coffee- again.

With worry already in my heart, the thoughts start to spin.

I need to seed the areas in the yard that we had work done
The garden needs picking
I have paperwork to do
Bills to pay
The dust is so thick Tommy really did write his name on it
Bathrooms, disgusting
I need curriculum for Tommy
things to occupy the others while I work with Tommy
Projects not yet complete in my room
the basement
a shower
kids need baths
the dog needs a bath
what about a date with my husband
what about time to relax
time for friends

Someone stop me.... and I find my devotional and Bible and sit down to read.

The first words of the devotional

"Trust ME in the midst of a messy day."

The tears start to fall.

" Your Peace in MY presence need not be shaken by what is going on around you. Though you live in this temporal world, your innermost being is rooted and grounded in eternity."

"O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. - Psalm 139:1-4"

The words of a song fill my heart, and I find myself sobbing.

The words:

Like the sky before the dawn

While the night is holding on
Sun and moon together in the gray
So my soul is shared by two

The worst of me and the best of you

Savior and sinner mingled in my veins

And I pray you’ll end this twilight

I’m torn inside my soul tonight

The dawning day and the dying night
 Oh rid my soul of twilight

Good I love, but evil’s done
Good intentions come undone

Good to know I know the one who saves me from myself

Oh Lord paint my heart a solid hue

The shade of you

Oh lord break this dreadful in between inside of me

Oh let it be morning

I know the sun is coming up, oh the sun is coming up, yes the sun is coming up

The kids are stirring, the dogs need to go out, the day needs to get started, and I have become the righteousness of God.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21"

Jesus is mine. My list, my tiredness, my coffee addiction, sometimes- it just doesn't matter.  My sin is gone, and I will stand righteous before my Savior.

The sun IS coming up. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Full Serving of Summer and a Side of a Happy Heart

It's August, the last month of summer - (cause no one considers September part of summer.) I've looked over my last couple of posts and got to thinking, that if in 20 years I looked back over this time in my life I would think to myself that things were a bit crazy and hard and rough and just plain yucky.  Which is of course all very true some days, and sometimes, but- not all days and all times!  So, this is for myself and family and future grown up kids and future grand kids and future anyone, to remind me this summer has been good to us!

So warning, if you aren't me, and are reading this you WILL be bored. 

Don't say I didn't warn you. So, grab yourself a cup of coffee!

We swam.  Which reminds me of how far we've come.  My Noah H.A.T.E.D water when he came home to us.  No pools, bathtubs, sinks, puddles, you name it, he nearly had a grand mal seizure when even brought close to water, and now... the kid is a fish! Huge blessing Nana and Papa live around the corner, and have a pool... that is the best kind of pool!

We planted the most beautiful garden ever!  We had help with weed pulling (thanks to our friends the Taylor's) and it has been awesome!  Potatoes, TONS of tomatoes, cucumbers, every possible pepper, green beans, purple beans, wax beans, all kinds of carrots, every possible herb, eggplant, asparagus, rhubarb, onions, zucchini, snow peas, kale, and new for this year - cut flowers!  The garden has never looked so wonderful!  I went into this year knowing I'd not have time to keep up with the weeds, but having friends help take care of it, well, what an answer to prayers!

We had family friends come in from Florida and were able to sneak away to the beach!  Thank God for parents who live around the corner and can watch the kids so we get to sneak out for just a bit!

What a good week we had!  We didn't clean a thing, or do laundry, or even do the dishes (amen for paper plates!)  We stayed up way past our bed times like we were 20 again (hey wait, they are!!) after the kids went to bed we chatted about all kinds of fun things, kids, adoption, Jesus, kids, the garden, Indiana, jobs, Christianity, adoption, parenting, marriage, cigars, craft beers, creation, cooking, vacations, you name it!  What a blessing and breath of fresh air it was to have people who share so many of the same loves we do.

We made it to the zoo with everyone!

Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for the zoo membership.  It would for sure NOT be affordable to take the family.

Last minute we had an awesome friend of ours have an opening for pictures and on the busiest week in the history of our lives (so far) we ran out, mismatched and crazy looking to have our first official family pictures

Thanks Jenn, for the bestest, most wonderful, most true to life pictures we could ever have had taken by anyone!

Then there was our super fun trip to US Cellular Field (aka Comisky Park) in which we had the complete private tour, and the kids played in the bullpens and dugouts and pretended to be announcers and all that fun stuff!

Thanks Taylor family, for including us in your fun times!  Also, had to say thanks to Blue Cross (hence the picture) for a great job for my hubby.

I finally was able to complete the redo of our most messy hodge-podge room in the house. OURS!  Since we moved in, it has been the overflow room, and since its the room with the mostest love in it, I felt it should at least look like it!



Thanks mom for helping paint. Thanks Rachel for taking a trip down the street on the gator, through the woods, to an old abandoned barn, to sneeze like crazy and get eaten alive by mosquitos, all so I could get some free barnwood for my headboard project.  Thanks Brent and Kenney for loading the beast of a dresser (got off of Craig's List from an old hotel for 20 bucks) into our house, then because I decided I no longer liked it, into our barn, then because I am a woman and quite fickle, back into our house because I found a purpose for it, and helping me paint it, and then of course back into our bedroom.

Then there are the days we spent outside, when it was 100 degrees, and this mommy just didn't feel like lugging the five kiddos down the street (literally) to cool off in Nana and Papa's pool (because supervising the 5 of them in a real pool is just a bit too much effort on some days) so we filled a good ole-fashioned plastic pool with water and splashed in our underwear (because again, this mama found it to be too much effort to go down the street (literally) and get the swimsuits we had left at Nana and Papa's pool.)  Don't forget, this IS Indiana.

Then there was the fun party we had.  A bunch of families all together talking and sharing all about the good the bad and the ugly in the adoption world.  We had snowcones and a jump house and a pinata and I think over 30 kids together from all over the world!  Too bad we didn't take a group picture with everyone in it!

All the families that made that day possible.  The set up, the clean up, the food, the fun, the families that let us borrow coolers and tents and tables and chairs - it was a GOOD day to say the least.

Did I mention the garden? Oh I just love the garden.  Did you know, life began in a garden?  I think every single time I am in the garden about how that is exactly where God put Adam, in a garden

Genesis 2:15
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Of course a garden without weeds, and thorns, and bugs that destroy and disease and fungus... but hey... one day there will be a new earth, so until then, I am enjoying my garden.  I love it!

And this guy.... love him too!

So I like the picture, perfect hair, and the butterfly band-aids do make him look tougher. I had to marry him for some reason. Besides, the fact he is "trying" to look tough, makes it all the better.

and all the things that a garden produces, like salsa, LOTS of salsa, pizza sauce, barbecue sauce, jams, jellies, more sauces, relishes, pickles, beets I love that too.

my beautiful basement ready for WWIII, just in case, has been made possible by my Nanny, aunts, sisters,  parents and parents - in- laws  who have shared their tips, their jars, and their time to teach me and and help me do all my crazy canning projects.

Invitations.  If ever one day, when my children are grown and Kenney is retired and we are sitting staring at each other with nothing to do (HA HA HA HA HA, keep laughing it really is funny) We can make invitations.

Of course, we might be up till 2 am on a couple of occasions, and might have to hope my sisters (oh my poor sisters, who get drug on many an adventure that I decide they need to be on) are around to come help me, well, anyway, it just might be a sustainable business idea. Nonetheless, they turned out beautiful and it was quality time spent making them.

A quality Saturday at The Ark. 

My parents and 5 siblings all working together to celebrate my parents business of 33 years!  So much fun, and so many memories.

Two day vacations.  We left at our usual 4am time. When 5 of your children are under the age of 5, leaving while they are still sleeping, so as to allow them to continue sleeping has proven to currently be one of the wisest decisions we have ever made. Then of course we had breakfast at the Cracker Barrel (which in Kenney's eyes is one of the wisest decisions he's ever made) Hit the Creation Museum in Kentucky for the day, and then spent the night in a hotel.  We swam and watched movies and made dinner in our suite.  The kids had a blast and have been begging to go back ever since.

Then we left Sunday morning to pick peaches and blackberries and sample wine and ice cream at a great Orchard

Of course being the oh so responsible parents we are (can't you tell that by the underwear picture??) we left in hopes of making it home before bedtime, only to be stopped 30 minutes from home in a complete expressway shutdown.  The kids got to walk around on I-65 for TWO HOURS since there isn't much else to do on an expressway that isn't moving in the middle of cornfields.

But quite possibly the best part of the trip...

Which again, is such a testament to how far we've come.  Tommy until the age of two hated car rides, never slept, never content, always cried, then by about the time he decided he liked car rides, Audrey was born, and pretty much followed in the footsteps of her brother.  But now, five beautiful children, asleep in a car, quite, while we drive.  It is a parent's dream come true... if only for one hour, it was one blissfully, peaceful, glorious hour!

A summer filled with these kids:

While each day is full of smiles and tears, arguments and hugs, laughing and yelling, happiness and frustration... each day is full... full of good things!

I need to be reminded of how special and precious our children are to Kenney and I.

A gift from God.... I think about that often. I many times look at my wedding ring and think of how much I cherish it and how special it is to me, because Kenney gave it to me, because of what it represents. I imagine Christmas day, or my birthday and I imagine opening a gift from my Saviour Himself.  How special that present would be to me, how important, how valuable, how much I would keep it safe and treasure it, I'd protect it.

May I look back and remember these children are a gift from Christ himself. May they always be a priority in my life.  More important than my house, my car, a job, cooking and cleaning, friends, hobbies and mostly myself.  May I make sacrifices for them.. because HE sacrificed himself for me.  May I love them unconditionally because HE loved me first, even in my sin.   May I be reminded to treasure them...

Psalm 127: 3-5
Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.