Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Last week Sveta asked me why we hang Emma's stocking if she's not here. Her innocent question gave me an opportunity to explain how we can still love and remember someone even if they aren't with us, and that Emma's stocking is a reminder that she's always with us in our hearts. We have great hope in the Lord and we will see Emma again. 
What hope, what truth.
Isn't that the true message of this season?
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him."
The peace Emma has now is as incomprehensible to me as the peace I have with her being apart from me. How can I be at peace when she's no longer alive here with me?
God alone has done this in my heart.

But the wandering, the wondering, the crying out to God for clarity on other things in our lives - this is a blog post for the future. 
Perhaps, the most difficult post to come.

In the valley is where we have been for a very long time - searching, waiting.

Hope must lie in the valleys of life, I am learning this is where the most profound spiritual growth happens.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Sveta Update

I've been looking back at photos from before Sveta came home. 
She's grown so much in so many ways - physically, emotionally, developmentally. 
As we enter the 5th (wow!) Christmas season with our Sveta, I am so thankful that she is a part of our family.

 It is an honor to get to be her mommy. 
This photo is of Sveta and one of the precious volunteers who visited the orphanage weekly and played with the children in Sveta's groupa. Her name is Lilya. She adored Sveta. We still have contact with some of the volunteers we were blessed to meet that summer while adopting Sveta and they have been able to keep updated on her life, as well as pass on updates to her orphanage. 

Sweet, sweet baby girl. 

This is Sveta now, picture taken a few weeks ago. I have no idea why one arm/hand looks so large when propped up on the rail! She is one of the bravest children I know, she will try anything (even zip-lining!) and was so excited to try ice skating again. 

I haven't updated much about Sveta's progress or things we are doing. I suppose when you've been home four years everything is so routine you forget that readers may want to know how things are really going. 
I homeschool Sveta and she's now in the 2nd grade, she is making huge leaps in her reading and math skills. Her confidence in learning is growing. We have been using Right Start math and Abeka. She takes other classes at a local business dedicated to home schoolers. It's like a little school and she even participated in a science fair last month. There is a Christmas program where she will be singing and lots of opportunities for field trips. It's been a very good decision to home school and I love having my little one home every day and getting to watch her progress. She finished speech therapy last year and her language has greatly improved. She will soon be starting musical theater classes. She is so excited about this but also wants to take karate. Have I mentioned she loves watching wrestling?? She even has a little wrestling ring and wrestlers she likes to play with. Yes, her interests are diverse. Barbies, wrestling, singing, drama. 
I'm just glad she loves to explore different things and loves to learn. 
She's still a tiny little girl, finally growing into a size 8. But she has a huge heart and is filled with compassion for people and animals. 
We are blessed to have our little Sveta. 
Adoption changed our lives. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

This Thanksgiving was a truly a year filled with mixed emotions.
Many people, both family and friends, came together to celebrate - not that life is perfect or that we don't face difficult times, but we all came together to say thank you for the time we each have here on earth. That life is short, and can change in a heartbeat. 
This year all the cousins on my husband's side were joined together in one picture, which is really an accomplishment because for many years each of us has taken a different path on Thanksgiving.
It was joy to watch our daughter play with her cousin, and sweet to watch our son and oldest daughter hold the newest member of the family. 
It was a time of reflection, of renewal.
The holidays are a difficult time, for many people, for many reasons.
It is no different for our family.
I just want to say that if you are struggling, don't give up on the one thing we each have - hope.
For a long time I felt like giving up on hope. That perhaps, hope didn't really exist. 
I was looking for hope in earthly things.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Looking at each of these precious children (even the man child) I am reminded of the hope God gives to each of us. Hold tight to his promises that all the pain we experience here on earth will someday be wiped away. 

Yes, there is one child missing. How could I look at this picture and not see there is an empty space. 
I've learned that while we will always miss Emma, we can still experience great joy.

Happy Thanksgiving 2015 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Y'all!  I am ready to tell Emma's story, my story, His story. It's not filled with happiness and rainbows but is blessed with joy. How does that happen? 
It's ugly. Raw. Real.
Eventually, it's peace. 
I'm still in in the middle of finishing the memoir but it's almost done.
 I am so ready to just have this story told.
In 2008 the manuscript was nearly finished, but life happened and I allowed distractions to keep me from completing it.

In truth, it was difficult to put the story of Emma's life onto paper.
Each time I would begin to write everything would come pouring back and the emotion was simply too overwhelming at times.
It has taken years to reach a place where I can move forward with the book and I have begun working with an amazing Christian woman who is helping guide me through the whole process.
From 2008 when I first sent the manuscript to another editor to now, I've grown in my relationship with God and I know this growth needed to happen before the book could be completed.
I had to find where my identity truly rested.

Journey With Emma
A Memoir of Healing and Hope
"All this time I was finding myself and I didn't know I was lost"

The enigma child, the one born with fiery red hair, the child who left us when she was three.
The one who dances in heaven.
While here on earth she was always in my arms. One day I know I will see her again. My faith has grown as I have cried stinging tears. I've been shattered but found peace in the midst of pain.
This is my story, it is the journey I took with my daughter Emma, and the unraveling of myself...


Monday, June 1, 2015

Just Busy

May passed in a whirlwind.  Always one of the busiest months of the year!

Sveta turned 8! This year she had a ice skating party and wanted a princes castle cake. She's growing up so fast. I want to freeze her at this age. Stay little! 

Paige graduated elementary school & is ready for middle. Again, I'd like to just stop time for a bit. 

Last day of school (5th & 1st grades) 
These girls. They fight. They hug. They play together, support one another, and giggle. 
The very best of friends.
I never can get a picture of Pey, he literally runs away from the camera. He made it through the first year of high school and continues to play hockey. 

Summer is officially here.  And it's going to be a busy one.

We mailed very important adoption papers last week. 
After a year of working toward this, it was surreal to finally send the paperwork on its way.

Things are moving very well on the adoption front. 

To end, I'm not sure if I've ever shared that I am originally from Texas - I'd like to ask for everyone to just keep Texas in your thoughts and prayers. Many of the places on the news are ones near where I am from. My family is okay but there are evacuations going on very close to them. 

Stay safe everyone and hopefully I can find time over the summer to post adoption updates. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Emma's Homecoming

Written in 2007, shortly after we left Emma's last home here on earth...May 22 is quickly approaching. Nearly 10 years ago we said goodbye to our Emma.
 The Lord has continued to be our hope, our peace as we journey on. 
Memories flashed through my mind as I took the last walk through our home before we moved. Lingering at the foot of the stairs my memory held peals of laughter coming from the children’s bedrooms. Looking out the kitchen window was the vivid image of Peyton and Paige caught up in some make believe drama on their swing set. Pausing in the living room the most bittersweet memories flashed. My eyes focused on the spot where Paige took her first steps, then over to the place where Peyton grinned at the camera on his first day of kindergarten. Finally my eyes settled in the corner where my chair had once sat. It was there my mind held the image of my daughter Emma taking her last breath. Her three year old body giving way to the devastating effects of Cockayne syndrome, passing away peacefully in my arms.
After Emma died, it did not seem possible our family could ever call another house home without memories of Emma beating within the walls. But as we have settled into our new house our family is finding Emma is with us always and her memory is not found within a house but instead is in each of us. She is found in the shine which lights up Peyton’s face as he tells funny stories about her. In my husband’s smile when he looks at pictures of her. She is found in the pride in Paige’s eyes when she says “my big sister”. Emma is with us as we meet other children who have Cockayne syndrome and take them into our arms without hesitation. Her lingering laughter fills our new home in our memories. Peyton and Paige find comfort as they climb into the worn chair where I sat holding Emma as she was dying. We celebrate her life as we make memories in a new home.
We keep her memory alive and woven securely into our family’s fabric. Filled with God’s peace and comfort I am overcome with a revelation found in the duality of meaning in a person’s death date. For those left behind, the death date signifies and ending to life on earth. For Emma that sunny day in May was a glorious day. It was her homecoming, the day she returned to her savior – in a perfect body, free from pain. On that day the Lord took her into His loving arms and said “Welcome home Emma, my good and faithful servant.” Welcome home. 
What a homecoming!
Even in the darkest of days, in the pit of despair, walking in the wilderness.
He is with us.
A hope that prevails and is larger than anything we can fathom with our human mind.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Perseverance & What You Didn't Know

 Someone reminded me this morning that God is ALWAYS on time.
Not our time, His. This is true in all facets of our life.

My last post was What I Didn't Know

I felt like I should share more of our story.

So -What you didn't know about me/us:

We didn't think we could have children.
It took seven years for God to give us Peyton.
Lots of testing, tears and crying out to God.
A lot of loss. Mistakes. Regrets. Second chances.

When this little guy was born we thought he was going to be our only child. And that was okay. He wrapped our hearts around his little Batman & Robin, Superman loving self. 

But God had a different plan. See the little squishy baby in the background? 
God gave us Emma girl just 18 months after Peyton. 

Then precious Paige 2 years later.

Life was three babies in just under four years. 

Life was really busy.

One of those babies didn't grow the way other children did. Emma had a rare genetic syndrome that affected her in growth, sped up the aging process, impacted her eyesight, stunted her physically and she never spoke a word but Cockayne never affected her personality, always full of spunk. 
She loved cheetos, and coffee flavored ice cream.

We called her Little Bit. 

Our life as a family of five went on for a while until Emma passed away.

It was dark for a long time afterward, as we grieved and healed.

We never thought we would or could have more children, though I had always wanted more.

Genetically we each carry a recessive gene that causes Cockayne syndrome. And we never ever wanted to watch another one of our children struggle as Emma girl had. We never wanted to have Peyton and Paige watch another sibling die. I know that sounds harsh but the heartache on them was tremendous, especially Peyton. He carries it in his heart to this day,and forever will. 

There was never a time Peyton could really remember not being with his sister Emma, until she was gone from his young life. After she was gone he would ask over and over "Is she really not coming back???" Adding more biological children was not an option for us.

So, it completely took us by surprise when God laid adoption on our hearts.

We were just living life, involved in our community, kids lives and our non profit. 

So to have this little one enter our world, well it was a miracle, a blessing we never expected.

I would lie in bed at night and say "Really God? You are giving us another child?" 

It was a surreal, exciting time.

We didn't get on any adoption bandwagon, adopt because everyone else was, or feel like we were saving the world or rescuing anyone. 

Heck, we were just bringing our little girl home, the one who came in God's perfect timing.

What you didn't know is we never imagined God would put us on this journey again.

We will keep God's command to persevere. 

I could never guess what brings you to this blog to read words I so often chose for my own chronicling of our lives. My place to vent and pour emotion into posts.

But I pray today that whatever you are walking in, you will be comforted. 

 Know each step in front of the other you take in your personal journey,  is perseverance. 

Walking in the darkest times, even if hope is fading...you are in His hands. 

Thank you Heidi for sending me this today, and I hope it helps others by sharing:

Because you have kept My command to persevere..." (Rev 3:10)
Perseverance means more than endurance--more than simply holding on until the end. A saint's life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while the saint says, "I can't take any more."   Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God's hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15)
Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. And even though you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him. Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the supreme effort of your life--throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.

God ventured His all in Jesus Christ to save us, and now He wants us to venture our all with total abandoned confidence in Him. There are areas in our lives where that faith has not worked in us as yet--places still untouched by the life of God. There were none of those places in Jesus Christ's life, and there are to be none in ours. Jesus prayed, "This is eternal life, that they may know You..."(John 17:3) The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we will take this view, life will become one great romance--a glorious opportunity of seeing wonderful things all the time, God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power. Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What I Didn't Know

She was a tiny little girl, just barely 4 years old. The first day we met her she had on too big clothing, shoes that were hanging together by threads (sandals that barely stayed on her feet), and a pony tail on top her her head, like a water spout.

Her eyes were filled with something - weariness? 

I will never know exactly. As we sat in the directors office and listened to the list of "problems" on file I remember thinking "it will be okay...it will be okay." 

If she had been born to us biologically it wouldn't have mattered what the diagnosis was. Didn't matter what terms medical professionals would saddle upon her. She is SO much more than the  labels or limits the director tried to convince us was Sveta.

Sitting in that room I knew we would fight for her, for her to have the best possible life, future, and we would always be there for her.

What I didn't know is how deeply I would grow to love this little person. 
How her grin and laugh would cause my heart to swell with emotion.
How naturally her little hand taking mine as we walk together would feel.
How the sound of her crying over anything would make my heart break.
How intently I would fight for her.
How every accomplishment would invoke an insane level of pride in her.

What I  also didn't know is how difficult it would be coming home and adjusting with a little person who had never known love, trust, attachment or appropriate boundaries. Anyone who says adoption is easy or paints a glossy picture of perfection might not be painting the whole truth.
Adoption is born of pain and loss. No adoption comes without some level of heartache. 

But adoption is also a gift, a blessing and Sveta is a true joy to our family. She is almost 8 now. She is beginning to ask questions about her "old house" and we temper our answers age appropriately. 
We always want her to know of the beautiful place where she was born, of Ukraine's history, of her unique story. 

And to embrace her story along with all of its beautiful intricacies.  

No one person has a perfect story or perfect life. 

We teach our children to embrace diversity and focus on the gift of grace that God has given us. Because while life is always going to be bring a level of heartache, when we focus on eternal truth and the gift of life together as a family, we have all we need in this life. 

Her life is precious. Uniquely Sveta. Just as God created her, in His perfect image.

Sveta, almost four years home, 7 years old

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Through the Shadows

The newspaper (what's that???) followed our family for six months in 2004/2005. Emma's eyes are so dark in these pictures but they were actually blue. I'm not sure why they are so dark. She was going blind by this stage of the syndrome, such a dreadful thing to witness in such a tiny little person. 

Its that time of year again. 

Winter winds down and God shows his glory through new life - spring flowers, baby birds...all this the backdrop to one of the most difficult times in our lives. In 2005 we careened through April and made our way into May, vaguely aware of what was coming as our 3 year old Emma lingered between heaven and earth. 

We were a young family who had three children under the age of 5. 

Life with one child who was terminally ill was sharply juxtaposed against life with two rambunctious, messy little ones, the "P's". 

While I think of Emma girl every single day, this time of year all the memories flood back in a surge, and at crazy times. Sitting in the car line. Cooking dinner. Walking through target and seeing the clothes section she never grew out of. 

Size 6 months. I carried her 99% of the time,  would have carried her in my arms for the rest of my life. Tiny little girl, so full of life, and laughter.

Though she is no longer in my arms, I carry the love and lessons she brought to our lives with me.

 I am a better person and better servant of the Lord because of her. 

She left her imprint on our souls and it is well...well with my soul. I wouldn't change a single thing. Even the ending - because truly that ending is simply another beginning. 

And it is within that beginning where my hope lies. 

It is well. Hope never dies. Every morning is a new beginning. 

"You can only come to the morning through the shadows." JRR Tolkien

Monday, April 20, 2015

Still Rings True

Several years ago in the midst of Sveta's adoption I came across this blog post written by another person deeply passionate about the fatherless.  Last week I found it and felt it should be shared again. Not all families are supposed to adopt. And while many, many churches have amazing missions & outreaches not all speak on behalf of the fatherless. The church we went to when adopting Sveta was wonderful. It felt like family, we were life group leaders, committed members who were deeply passionate about giving and helping the church any way we could. There were many people in the church who rallied around our family to bring Sveta home. 

But many did not. And that was okay. I can't even describe the words that came out of the orphans and widows ministry leader as he compared adoption to buying a car, as a "large purchase", or the absolute backlash from others. The enemy does NOT like adoption to happen. And will go to great lengths to create division and doubt in the hearts of families who say YES. Many churches may be failing to spread the message of God's heart for the fatherless but we don't have to. I suppose that is why I will keep yelling about the fatherless and supporting families adopting. Once I looked into Sveta's eyes my world changed. While the number, I've heard 147 million as one estimate, might change the children- disabled, older, discarded - they each have a story, a name. Sveta was number 6 in her groupa. 

But she is so much more than a number. They ALL are so much more. 

Repost from Lou Brown, The Gloves Come Off: 

I am sitting here on Sunday afternoon after watching church on the telly since we can't go in person. Some of the biggest churches in the world are on the telly. Not just on Sundays either. I watch TBN and the God Channel often. Most nights it is on whilst I work. 

So, why is this titled 'The Gloves Come Off'?

Here is why... the messages I'm hearing from these BIG churches are about seeking God's face, how to enrich your life, how to be prosperous, how to live the Christian life, how to really PRESS into worship... but NOTHING about the orphans, the fatherless, the ones without a voice. NOTHING. 

I know just posted about feeling conviction for saying things about ministers and the money they spend on clothing and the price of their worship centres. I did and I do feel conviction for that. It is unproductive to just criticise.

So what has happened since then, less than a week ago? I will tell you.

Since that post I have learned that THREE (possibly 4) of the precious children waiting for families on Reece's Rainbow, the children I work for, have been transferred to institutions. Whatever you have to say about the orphanages' care of these children, compared to the institutions those will seem like they mollycoddle the kids. Their lives, which were already insignificant, have turned to a nightmare.

Whilst I do NOT trivialise the plight of ALL orphans, the ones I work for are the least of the least of these... disabled orphans in the third world. There is simply not a lower 'class' than that. There is simply no one more least than these.


I don't think you do.

You ask why there are so many orphans in the world but God is asking US why there are so many!

WHAT do you think James 1.27 means?

WHAT do you think Matthew 25.40 means?

WHAT do you think Jesus talked about when he was here?

WHO did he spend his time with whilst he was here?

The churches are FULL people, church attendance is at a high... mega churches are many and minted! People all around the world are 'pressing in' in worship. But the orphanages are also full! This shouldn't be...

What are those churches' focusing on? 'Seeker sensitive' churches. Seeking out people in their community to 'get them into church' so they can hear the Gospel!

Don't get me wrong, I am a Christian and I will NEVER give up God. HE is faithful and just and righteous and worthy of all our praise.

The church... is failing. The church is only teaching part of the gospel... the part that talks about what WE get from it... not what is expected of us. They don't live the Gospel.

How long can the 'church' live on milk?

How long must child after child be discarded and sent to institutions where 85% die within the first year and honestly, they are the fortunate ones. The ones that 'live' are merely existing. Shells of a human being, their bodies don't grow and when they do they grow twisted from being left in beds and cots too small for a person of their age.

This is UGLY is it HARD TO LOOK AT but let me tell you something...

The most beautiful gift God EVER gave me was in the form of a little girl that the world would label defective and throw away. Had she been born in Eastern Europe she would have been thrown into an orphanage and if she survived that she'd have been put on a bus for her 4th birthday, a day which would hold no significance to her since they do not celebrate birthdays in these places, and carted off to an institution where her food would be scarce and shoved down her throat by a 'carers' fist whilst she gasped for air. She'd be left in a room with other children and older people all who have been institutionalised for varying amounts of time, months to years. They likely will be many who have what is known as 'institutional retardation' because they are never taught, never encouraged, only left to their own defences and that isn't much.

 This gift God gave me has been the one thing I could NEVER give up if asked. I could NEVER go back to the person I was before her. I could never go back to not knowing God's heart and touch and feeling His heartbeat. I could never go back.

Yet in the US and UK, you know, the civilised countries who point and shake their fingers  of scorn at Eastern Europe and shake their heads with disgust and condescension,  90% of the people in these civilised places INCLUDING THE CHURCH/CHRISTIANS, when they find out they are being given this precious GIFT that I hold in my arms every day,terminate them. It is what it is... death.  Just as much as it is for the kids in these institutions that will likely die from neglect, just slower and dragged out, it is comparatively the same thing.

And the church just sits back and prays and seeks new members, buys a new stage for their worship performances (yes, I'm hitting with those words to, it isn't worship, it is a performance - in some churches even includes a light show) and we LET THEM DIE.

WE ARE RESPONSIBLE for the lives of ALL of these kids.


Why are these countries discarding their children? Because we aren't telling them not to. How can we say 'don't kill them it is wrong' when we have a 90% termination rate for the same kids?



And these kids are the ones who pay the consequence.

These are the kids who die at our hands...

I knew NOTHING of this growing up... because I was never told of it... the church didn't tell me... no one did.

Then God gave me a gift... my child. She is the most perfect example of Christ's love that I've ever witnessed in anyone. The most Godly people I've ever met pale in her shadow... and she's only 4 years old.

What man considers the least of these, God gives them the place of most importance at His table.

And this little child led me and gave me the strength to look. Not just to see and be appalled but to look and see that these children were just as precious as she. They are Jesus on earth. They are the weak, the ones with no voice of their own. They are neglected and abused and unloved... by man. When we are in Heaven one day, we will realise how wrong we were for they will be the ones seated nearest our Saviour.

This is why  I am up until the wee hours of the morning literally falling asleep doing my work to help the  people who willgo to rescue these children. Because God has allowed me to feel a glimpse of His heart... for these children and for the mums and dads who are being lied to and made to think their children need to be discarded.

It is why the church should also be propping those families up. Those who are willing and able to follow God's callto ALL of us to care for the orphans shouldn't need to do endless fundraising to get the money to go bring these children home, the church should be paying their way.

The church is failing.

So, how can the church sort this?

How can the church rectify what is nothing short than an embarrassment to Christ's church?


Read this:
  27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble,and to keep oneself unspotted from the world
and this:
  40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’  
 and this:
27  Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,  
      When it is in the power of your hand to do so.
       11   Deliver those who are drawn toward death,    
      And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.
       12  If you say, “Surely we did not know this,”  
      Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?
      He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?
      And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?
       (Proverbs 24:11-12New King James Version)

teach your congregation about it.
  • There are 147 million orphans worldwide.
  • If even 4-5% of those people worldwide who claim to be Christians stepped forward to adopt these children, there would no longer be any orphans.
  • There are families (MANY just in our yahoo group alone) who are willing and qualified to adopt these children, they just don't have the extra funds for the costs involved with overseas adoption.

The church should be helping these families to adopt. 
The church should be encouraging families to adopt.

AND for those who can't adopt...

God doesn't expect you to give everything away, go hungry and become ill yourself. He DOES expect you to give what you can... do what you can.

If you can help promote someone's adoption or the Angel Tree via twitter or facebook or your blog, then you should be doing that!
 Twitter Facebook 

If you can help by donating to their adoption fund or to the kids on the Angel Tree, then do it! Even if you have to make a sacrifice... I'm not saying you should go hungry, but I am guessing most people could forego their Starbucks coffee once a week and give that money to the orphans, who incidentally do go hungry.

If you are a minister or have a business or anywhere you can be a voice, then you should be. Healings and worship are wonderful, they draw people to the church, but once they are there, you should be telling them about the orphans and widows. You should be TEACHING them how to care for them.

If you have a way to tell the nations about the value of the life of these children 
meaning, they don't get filled in the first place!

Then DO IT!

If you have room in your home and qualify to adopt, THEN DO IT!

The church IS failing...

                        but we don't have to...