Monday, May 28, 2012

A Year Ago...

Can't believe a year ago today I was writing about Sveta turning four, not knowing when we would ever meet her. (Little did I know we would get our invitation to travel just a few days later!!)

So EXCITED that tomorrow we get to celebrate her 5th birthday with her in our arms! 

May 28, 2011...

Guess Who's...

Turning FOUR sometime soon???
We can't wait to meet you Little One...
To make the biggest birthday cake ever.
Just for YOU!
Preparations for welcoming you into your family are already taking place...
Little matching outfits...
I had to buy them...the purple is for Little probably won't even fit..but I went a little wonky in Target one day. Paige was thrilled and keeps wanting to get more matching outfits. We have to wait though until we know better what Little One's size is.

Other news...literally...the news contacted us to do a "Focus on Faith" segment. We pray this will help bring awareness to adoption and most importantly bring glory to the Lord. He is so good, even when heartache, destruction and things that just don't make sense rain down.

Feeling peace today, knowing I don't have to have all the answers, don't have to know the master plan, don't have to be in the driver's seat.
He's got it.
And our Father is FOR us.

"May the Lord bless you and keep you: May the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."

Happy Birthday Little One.
Our thoughts, prayers and love are already surrounding your sweet little soul.
Fast forward a year...Paige and Sveta wearing the same skirts I wrote about.

Happy little girls. Sveta is doing amazing and we can't imagine our lives without her.

Adoption has changed our lives.

Tomorrow, we get to celebrate this little girl's blessed birthday. Praise God.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Emma's Homecoming

Seven years ago weak from pneumonia and her body exhausted from the affects of Cockayne Syndrome, our little girl danced into the arms of Jesus. Many of my family and friends from Texas made the journey to Alabama for Emma's funeral. Once my Uncle Jerry returned home to Texas, after Emma's funeral, he says the Lord awoke him in the middle of the night. He sat down with pen and paper, words poured out along with a flood of tears and insight into God's amazing love for Emma as he wrote something very special for our special little girl. I have always cherished his words...Emma Catherine (Little Bit) taught us love doesn't look at a person's abilities or "dis"abilities, differences or capabilities - but to look at people on the inside, through God's eyes.

Tribute to Emma
By Jerry McDonald

Emma was sent here from above by her Creator and Lord, like a little lamb, innocent, sinless without a spot or blemish just as the One who sent her. She was handpicked and predestined for a mission on this earth, and she came prepared to do that job.
She came to teach, to teach everyone who would listen about hope, faith and love.
The Bible says love is the greatest of these.
Emma wasn't a very strong little girl; she didn't have the abilities of a normal child. Walking was something Emma never did; she didn't have to, because Love carried her anywhere and everywhere she needed to go. You see, being so small and tiny it was easy for anyone to carry her. Her little arms and hands were weak also, but that really didn't matter much. It only took a little touch from her to melt the coldest heart.
Hearing was another little problem, but again it didn't matter. Hearing may be necessary for learning but not for teaching and teaching is what Emma did.
Speaking was also something Emma couldn't do but it really didn't matter at all. 
She got her message across just fine.
Many people learned a lot from this child.
Her message was about Hope, Faith and Love.
Emma's hope was not of this world. This earth and all things in it will pass away one day. 
Emma's Hope was in her Lord and Savior and eternal in the Heavens.
Her faith was in His promises, that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
There is no doubt about Emma's salvation.
Her love was the tool she use to teach with during her short stay with us.
Some three years or so, close to the same amount of time as her Lord's ministry.
Emma's eyesight wasn't that great...but she had a crystal clear view of her master's plan.
She knew what to do and when to do it. 
She also knew when it was time to leave.
When her word was over she would return to the one who sent her.
Her homecoming was different though...she returns in a perfect little body, running to the outstretched arms of her Heavenly Father. 
He gently picks her up, wraps her in a blanket of his Almighty amazing grace and says,
"My dear little Emma. Welcome HOME, my good and faithful little servant. Thank you for doing such a remarkable job. Thank you so much, my little one."

A remarkable job indeed, little Emma.

Emma's tiny hand in her daddy's

Peyton, Paige and Emma

 She loved school and being the center of attention!

Love you sweet girl. Thank you for everything you taught us....

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Our Life..Seven Years Ago and Today

  My blog post from last May's a year later I am reflecting on where we were a year ago and what our family looked like now seven years ago.
May 19, 2011 - Six years ago life looked very different. Our daughter, Emma, was weak from nearly four years of battling Cockayne Syndrome and she hovered between two worlds...closer to Heaven than we could ever imagine on this day, six years ago. 
 Six weeks before Emma died she developed pneumonia.  It was treated with high doses of antibiotics, breathing treatments and medications to make her more comfortable.  Hospice came in several times a week to check on her.   We prayed the antibiotics she was receiving at home would beat the infection.  After nearly two weeks she did improve.  Although she was weak and her immune system had become virtually non-existent, she managed to smile again and laugh for us.  During the time she was sick with pneumonia I did much reflection on what life was like when you have a terminally ill child.  We were faced with the unavoidable fact she may not improve. 
She could have died from that first pneumonia, a foreshadowing of what was to come. We didn’t have a timeline or insight into what would happen.  The only thing we could rely on was guidance from God and our trust in His plan.
Our daily life, our "normal", was a myriad of contradiction.  Oxygen tanks were placed throughout our home with tubing running all over the floors and down the stairs, a baby bed was kept downstairs to keep Emma comfortable during the day and so we could constantly monitor her oxygen levels and condition. Lining the oxygen tanks and wiring were Little People toys, pacifiers, and GI Joe toys for Peyton and Paige.  Paige took her first steps as she gingerly stepped over oxygen tank tubing.   Emma was on 24-hour continuous feedings through her feeding tube and we had to keep track of her pulse/ox stats on an hourly schedule.  I kept up with multiple medications, feedings, and breathing treatments taped to kitchen cabinets on a nursing chart.  Along with caring for Emma there was the coordination of ordering medical supplies, prescriptions, authorizations for medical equipment, keeping in touch with the insurance case manager, hospice nurses, social workers, a child counselor for Peyton and trying to make sure Peyton and Paige’s emotional well being was cared for.  In addition to caring for Emma, Peyton, and little Paige, the local newspaper was following our family doing a story on life with a terminally ill child.  Every week the reporter kept in contact with me about what was going on in our lives.  He shadowed our family as he gathered information for the story.  Our hope when contacting the media was to initially draw attention to Cockayne syndrome.  But as the months wore on and Emma declined I began to realize the story was evolving into our journey, our faith, and the depths of our character.  A seemingly simple letter to the newspaper asking to enlighten the community on a rare syndrome became a window for the world to peer into our lives and how we managed to maintain a positive outlook. 
In the midst of daily life, Eli and I tried to make everything easier for Peyton and Paige by spending one on one time with each one every week.  We would laugh a lot, act silly with our kids and try to just enjoy each other.  Our life was unpredictable because we never knew what would happen to Emma on a daily basis.  Plans had to be changed constantly.  I was rarely able to attend field trips for Peyton’s school.  At times sadness would sink in when I felt others were judging me; the kind of friend I was able to be at the time, my children’s sometimes outbursts an obvious sign of their need for more attention.  Then I would think to myself “are these people walking in my shoes?”  The people who judged us didn’t have a clue what it was like to be the parent of a terminally ill child.   Most of all Eli and I felt sadness for the people who seemed to view our life as a tragedy.  Each day we were filled with joy, hope, and knew well the gift we had been given.
Emma taught each of us unconditional love – each time she would decline, would require a new medication, oxygen, and eventually hospice we would accept it, and embrace it just as we embraced Emma. It was never a sacrifice to care for her and I would have taken care of her the rest of my life, my “little bit” like a koala bear always in my arms.  As my faith has been nourished, grown and deepened over the years the Lord has shown me through His grace, Truth. And Truth knows something else; it was Emma who was carrying me, teaching me through her life about Unconditional love.
Our life..six years ago.
 Life was pushing Emma close to Paige every morning while she ate breakfast because...
Sisters wanted to hold hands.
Life was big eyed babies...
Who were always into something quite messy.
Life was Spider Man loving his sister no matter how many wires there were to manage. Life wasn't a diagnosis, a prognosis, a genetic was loving Emma and to Peyton she was simply
"My sister..Emma"
Life was three babies crowding around mommy.
It was a myriad of contradiction, difficult to balance two worlds.
But I would do it all over again. This is Peyton and Paige on May 19th, 2005.
 Two children outside playing in the sun while inside Emma held on, surrounded by friends, family, hospice...waiting for us to all say goodbye.
Three days later she passed away, in my arms, wrapped in her pink blanket. Her soul soaring into Heaven.
Seeing in full color, taking her first steps in Heaven. What a glorious homecoming!
But we were left in shock, almost unable to know how to put one foot in front of the other.
Life was not wanting to let go but knowing ultimately...saying "It's okay to Go" was what Emma needed from us the most.
Hope never left and we feel Emma with us always.
Life went on, but with two babies instead of three.
Emma's smile will forever stay with us and she kept her sweet smile to the end.
Our family looks different now. If you didn't know us six years ago you would never have an idea of what life looked like then. We have formed bonds which have grown stronger over time, faith in God that has sustained us, Hope in the future, laughter which explodes throughout the house, thankful for the short time God gave us Emma and for the lessons He showed us through her life.

Her greatest gift to us was that the Lord showed us a glimpse of Him, and his overflowing Grace through her life.

We look forward to the day when once again there will be three children in our home, making memories, another child to share the love of Christ with and teach that in every situation
and there is
Keep looking UPWARD Little One
And now today, May 19, 2012, God has once again grown our family through faith in Him. Once we were a family of two, with a crazy dog, and cat. Then we became a family of three with our Peyton bug. God gave us Emma within 18 months of having Peyton and we became a family of four. Paige came two years later..amazingly we became a family of FIVE in four years. Then, we stumbled along for a while as a family of four again. We mourned, rejoiced, healed, all the while holding onto God's promise we will be reunited with Emma. 
Now, today we are again a family of five. The road has been filled with twists, turns, tears, laughter, learning to let go, lay it down, humble ourselves, strive for a teachable spirit and above all...obedience to our Father in Heaven.
It hasn't always been easy or made sense but life seven years ago, one year ago, and reason to celebrate.

(life is still pretty messy)
(growing out

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Hole

We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty. - Mother Teresa

I have been reading The Hole in our Gospel, by Richard Stearns. Picked it up having no idea it was another one of THOSE books. The kind of book I read and feel like I have been kicked in the stomach. A book that causes me to ask myself - what are WE doing in OUR family to impact the kingdom of God?
The kind of book which leaves me knowing we are not doing ENOUGH. 
The last time it was Radical. It took me weeks to get through it. Nearly every page I had to stop and absorb what I had read. God was already working in my heart to prepare me for what we would embark on with Sveta's adoption. While reading Radical I realized the prosperity gospel is a big. fat. lie. And to buy into it is not what I want for our family or want my children to believe. It's not our money - it all comes from God.
We are not entitled but entrusted with it. God expects us to use it in the interest of His kingdom.

Reading a chapter in The Hole in our Gospel about wealth in America I was ashamed - "You're rich, we're rich, and the church in America is rich." I read that and thought "right." But then this -  "If your income is 25,000 a year you are wealthier than 90 % of the world's population. Of the 6.7 billion people on earth, almost half of them live on less than two dollars a day. If you don't feel rich, its because you are comparing yourself to people who have more than you do - those living above the 99th percentile of global wealth."

And then...just about 2% of American churches money goes to overseas missions of any kind. What? Two percent? American Christian churches?? 

"To better understand the spiritual priorities of our churches - and ourselves - we have to do what any detective would do: "follow the money."

I know some amazing churches with incredible missions - local, US based and global. People being hands and feet of Jesus DIRECTLY to those in need. How on earth can those statistics be correct? Surely the church is doing more? Sadly, I have seen it with my own eyes - churches living within their own walls.

And I remembered Ukraine. We met an amazing group of Christian men and women who visit the orphanage every week to spend one on one time with the children. Do you know what they said when we asked "what do you think of Americans?"

They said with great respect and Christ's love "we believe Americans don't have any idea what the world is really like, what reality is for the rest of the world"

And during the month we spent there I learned they are correct.

For my family I know we have to do more. We are absolutely commanded to do more. God showed us clearly His heart for the orphan.  Our daughter is an absolute joy and we are honored she is our little girl. She is wanted, loved, cared for. It would have been easy to come home and forget about what we saw in Ukraine. To go in with life. To forget that the average person there lives on $200 a MONTH. But God continues to pursue my heart, to reveal His character to me.

I don't know where God is leading our family but its a good place to be - hands lifted up saying "Show us, Send us, Use us" without conditions. I don't want to deceive myself into believing we have done "enough" or are supposed to be "called" instead of doing MORE and being COMMANDED to GO and DO. What the future holds, I don't know. 
But I trust fully the one who knows all.

Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ's compassion for the world is to look out;
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now. - Saint Teresa of Avila

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Even. More. Broken.

I prayed for God to break my heart for what breaks His. That's no secret. It all began the fall of 2010 when I read the story of a little one who had the questionable diagnosis of Cockayne Syndrome. God used one little girl to lead Eli and I to a family who would later lead us to Sveta.

What I didn't know the fall of 2010 was how God would continue to completely shatter my heart and open my eyes.

I am thankful for being broken.

Why on earth would anyone want that? Because it is very possible to see raw images, read horrifying stories of children all over the world - orphans and children who are not orphans but living in horrid poverty, no access to food, clean water, children living in deplorable conditions. Its very human to feel incredible compassion and sadness...but to go to bed at night with a million things on a "things to do the next day" list pouring through your mind but settle into a deep sleep, forgetting the horrible images you have seen.

That was always me until that fall of 2010. Compassion yes, action no. I didn't feel "called" never realizing we are all called - finally God opened my eyes and showed me we are COMMANDED to rise up and be the army here on earth and DO SOMETHING.

Since we returned home with Sveta last summer I have asked the Lord to continue to break my heart.

And just when I feel there isn't a way my heart can possibly be shattered any more God opened my eyes to Pleven Orphanage in Bulgaria.

 Oh. My. Soul. Children literally wasting away. I am shattered because I once had the honor of being mama to a little bird of a tiny girl, she lived to the age of three and never weighed over 13 lbs. But she was always, always HELD in my arms. Every time I see a child with any kind of condition which deems them incapable of learning by their society, and destined for a "laying room" I break inside knowing its JUST NOT TRUE. That there is SO MUCH more they can do with LOVE, and proper therapies.

I don't even have the words, its so close to my heart.

God is raising up an army.

And there IS a way to help the children in Pleven.

Click HERE to help raise money for nurses and Baba's (grandmother) in Pleven orphanage and find out more.

Be prepared to be broken.