Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Milestone

I'll start this post with some pictures since I have been such a bad blogger lately!


We went to PA for Thanksgiving:





Kraynaks Christmas display:













Anna in her favorite toy:

Staff Christmas Party:





Cousins:
Allie's puppy:


Piglet:




Today marks an important milestone in Anna's life, and ours. Today marks the day that Anna has been with us exactly as long as she was in the orphanage. She was 5 1/2 months old when we adopted her and now she has been with us for the same amount of time!



I was looking at one of the pictures from the orphanage and I was filled with sadness. She looked so small and sad and helpless. You can see the bite marks from the scabies that were making her so miserable. I don't know much about what her life was like there but I am so glad she came home when she did. I hope that she was loved and held and played with, but I don't know. If I dwell on that too long my heart breaks for her so I choose today to celebrate the fact that she has been with us for 5 1/2 months and will be with us for the rest of her life. She is so loved and cherished now.


She has been growing and changing so much in the weeks that I have been slacking in my blogging. She is saying dada, mama, Owgu (Allie), doggie, bye-bye, baba, and okay. She can pull up and walk along the furniture. She claps, waves, kisses, shakes her head no and signs "more".
She is so funny and happy. She never stops moving.


I am so grateful that God brought about this miracle. Money is tight and we won't be getting a whole lot under our tree but when I look at her face I see the best gift I could ever receive. The gift I was praying so desperately for last year.


I know I have said this before but it amazes me that I can feel such strong, opposite emotions. I am so very happy and grateful to have Anna home for Christmas, yet I am so sad that Emma is not here. Sometimes it takes my breath away when I hear a certain song or see her face. I want her here so badly. I don't understand God's ways but I know He has a plan for us. I can't imagine life without that hope. Why would I get out of bed in the morning if I didn't believe He had a purpose for my pain? He is knitting our lives together and some day I will see the completed work of art and I know it will be beautiful.

For now, I praise Him for Allie, who doesn't like me to write about her, but I have to say she is the most amazing person I know. For Emma, the little girl who taught me to love completely and tirelessly. And for Anna Grace, who brought back my smile and my belief that miracles can happen, even for me.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Thank You!

Thank you! Everything in me says, "Thank You!".
Angels listen as I say my thanks.
I kneel in worship facing your holy temple
and say it again: "Thank You!"
Thank you for your love,
thank you for your faithfulness,
Most holy is your name,
most holy is your word.
The moment I called out, you stepped in,
you made my life large with your strength.
When they hear what you have to say, God,
all earth's kings will say "Thank you."
They'll sing of what you've done:
"How great the glory of God!"
And here's why: God, high above, sees far below;
no matter the distance, he knows everything about us.
When I walk into the thick of trouble,
keep me alive in the angry turmoil.
With one hand, strike my foes.
With your other hand, save me.
Finish what you have started in me, God.
Your love is eternal- don't quit on me now.
Psalm 138 (The Message)

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am an introvert with a capital I. I don't speak my thoughts aloud very often. It should come as no surprise, then, that I love to journal. In my journals, I voice the words that are collecting in my head all day long. Sadly, I have thrown many of my journals away in the fear that someone would read them and judge me or get their feelings hurt and many other reasons.

One of my college professors introduced me to the practice of prayer journeling and it has changed my prayer life. As an introvert, it is hard to outwardly express myself to God. I think about what I am saying and filter everything way too much. With journaling, I find I just start writing and it all comes out and then I can read it, and often I find some clartiy to all my jumbled thoughts.

Another bonus is that I can look back and see how far I have come or how far I need to go. Recently, I was going through my latest journal and I found some things that caused me to stop and just say, "Thank You, God!".

On January 31, 2008 I wrote these words, "I don't understand you but I believe in you. I'll still follow you. I'll keep holding on. I'll still keep believing that you will keep your promises. And I will praise you even when it hurts. I will thank you for my silver lining- Allie. Please bring the rainbow."

And beside that entry is this note, "Feb. 1, 2008- letter from Shaohannah's Hope. We got a grant. Thank You!"

God sent a rainbow.

On June 20, 2008 I wrote these words, "Please be with Anna. Help her to have her needs met. Please help us to be able to bring her home soon. Jesus, I am asking that you give us some pictures and approval to travel soon."

And beside that entry is the note, "June 23, 2008- Approval! Thank you!"

God granted my request. He answered my prayer in an amazing way.


Sometimes it is so hard to see the hand of God working in my life. I search, I seek, I pray and... nothing. It is as if I am hitting a brick wall, my words just ink on the pages.



But, then, there are the times that He moves in my life in such a mighty, obvious way! I would have to be blind to not see it.



But how many times am I blind to Him? How many times do I have my face turned, like Lot's wife, looking back? Looking at my failures, my regrets, my sorrows. And I miss Him. He shows up but I don't notice.



Tonight I say, "Thank you! Thank you for your faithfulness! Thank you for your love! Please don't quit on me now!"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Four months ago...

Today marks four months since we met Anna Grace for the first time. It is crazy how fast the time has gone, yet it feels like a lifetime ago. She fills our home with smiles and joy. We are so blessed to have her in our family. Her personality has blossomed lately. She steals the hearts of all who meet her. I'm sorry if I'm bragging. We went to the dermatologist today and I wasn't sure if they were going to let us leave. Everyone wanted their turn to hold her. She loved the attention, of course.

She has learned some new tricks recently. She waves "bye-bye" and she does push ups on the floor. I think she is trying to stand up. She pulled up to standing twice but hasn't done it again. She babbles constantly and sounds like she is really saying something. She says "baba" for bottle and "mama" for me. I thought I heard her say "dada" the other morning. She is growing slowly and I am hoping we have the skin issues under control. Anyway, she is definitely changing.

I am so grateful and am trying to enjoy every moment. Since we returned from Vietnam, it seems like the other areas of our life have been so stressful. It has been one thing after another. I am trying so hard to not let it steal my joy but it is hard. I have never been good at that. I find myself longing for our time in Vietnam when it was just us. But life goes on and I have to do the same. I am thankful for my family. These are the people who make it all worth it.




Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Slippery Slope

I am not one to post my opinions about politics or social issues on my blog. To be honest, I believe what I believe and argument for the sake of argument is not my style. I'm all about getting along and focusing on the things we can agree on. However, as I watch all of the election coverage and listen to the pundits discussing all of the "issues", there is one issue that I never seem to hear anyone talking about anymore. I hear all about education, the economy, the war, energy, the list goes on and on and on...

But the one issue that I believe is most important, the issue that I always base my vote on, is hardly ever mentioned. The other issues have their place but what about the life of an unborn baby? Does that not even cross our minds anymore? Have we gone so far down the slippery slope of socialism that no one even discusses the importance of a human life? I find it sad and disturbing.

I did some research and found that over 90% of unborn babies who test positive for Down Syndrome are aborted. 90%! Nine out of ten babies with Down Syndrome are never born. We are systematically removing a whole group of people from our world and no one finds that upsetting? Have we ever heard of Hitler? If you know a person with Down Syndrome, you know that these are people who are intelligent, sensitive, loving individuals. They possess qualities of trust, innocense, and faith that we could only hope to possess.

I don't have any statistics but I do know that "technology" has drastically reduced the number of children with SLO, the genetic syndrome that my daughter, Emma, had. She was part of a study in Maryland that required us to travel there twice a year for testing. I noticed over the years that there were less and less babies part of the study. Most of the kids were Emma's age and over. I asked the doctor about that and he said that there just weren't many born anymore. You see, right after Emma was born they developed a way to test a baby before he/she is born to see if they have this syndrome. I was so sad to hear that. Anyone that knew my Emma, knows that her life was valuable. Her life counted. Her life had a quality that I wish mine had. So many Emmas who were not allowed to be born.

I remember in high school learning about the "slippery slope" we had started down when abortion became legal. It didn't mean much to me then. Now, I see it so clearly. We have gone from playing God with the life of an unborn baby to making decisions for the sick, the elderly, the special needs. We encountered this when Emma was born. She was in the NICU at Pittsburgh Chilren's Hospital for six weeks. It was five days after she was born that we got the diagnosis. The way it was presented to us was dark and ugly. We were told the only humane thing to do was to let nature take its course. They wanted us to let her starve, basically. Since she could not suck a bottle, just let her die. Don't feed her through an NG tube, which they do for preemies every single day. We chose to feed her. We chose to love her. We chose her life over our comfort. She gave us so much. She gave this world so much. I don't regret one single day with her.

We encountered it again the night she died. The doctor on duty asked us a series of questions that were so confusing in the crisis of that moment. We had discussed them together before so we knew our answers but it would have been so easy to be lead down a road we didn't want to travel. Down the slippery slope. Emma died anyway, but I live knowing that it was God's timing. Not mine. And certainly not some doctor who felt sorry for us with the sick child.

It is all around us. The devaluing of life. And we sit by and watch it happen. While we argue about the economy or education or equal rights, babies are being killed. Yet we go on with our discussions about oil or taxes. We are our own worst enemy. We are killing our own. And nobody cares.

What is next on this slippery slope? What if there were a way to test for autism or ADHD or "gayness"? What if I could choose to end my child's life because she might turn out to be a democrat? Who decides which lives have value?

I, for one, am not thrilled with the candidates this election year. But, in the end, there is only one choice for me. I choose life. I choose the candidates who value life. I choose people who will not play God with the lives of our children or our sick or our elderly. I choose to do my best to stop our descent down this slippery slope. I hope and pray we haven't gone so far we can't go back.


This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
Deuteronomy 30:19

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Goodbye, Abigail

Today I received an email from a friend in PA with the news that another of our SLO friends has gone on to Heaven. Abigail was sixteen years old. We had met her and her family a couple of times while we lived in PA. When Emma received the SLO diagnosis it was Abigail's mom and my other friend, Brenda, who walked me through those first difficult years. They knew the ropes of finding the right doctors, getting the best treatment, and just survivng.

Finding out that Abigail is gone has hit me hard. As I think of what is ahead for her family, I am feeling all of those feelings over again. I remember so well the emptiness and sadness. Life as we knew it stopped. I know people don't mean to but I think they minimize the death of a special needs child because they see it as a blessing. They see the end of a hardship and assume the parents must feel relieved. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings but I know it is true. I could see it in some people's eyes, hear it in their voices.

If I am being totally honest I will admit that there were times in Emma's life when I thought that I might feel a little relieved. When it happened, though, there was no relief. Only loss. Sure, I felt relief for her. For myself, though, I only felt empty. All that I knew was gone. I had been a part of this "club" of special needs moms and I knew how to do that but then I was out of the club and trying to find where I belong. I'm still searching.

Even in their death, our children keep on giving to us. One of Emma's special gifts to me when she was here was the gift of perspective. I could be having a rough day and Emma would come home from school and I would take off all of her braces and just hold her and she would be so happy and grateful and I knew that no accomplishment in this world could compare to that smile she gave me. Nothing else mattered. No one could take that away from me. I miss that so much. But, today. when I read about Abigail and I relived my loss of Emma, for just a little while I got to experience that perspective again. The decisions I am facing, the responsibilities I am overwhelmed with, the people who annoy me... for just a while they disappeared as I looked at them with that eternal perspective. Knowing that the best is yet to come made me smile. Thank you, Emma and Hailey, and now, Abigail. You gave us so many gifts. You are forever missed and never forgotten.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Please pray

I am sending out a request for prayer for my friend, L. I met her here on the computer and she has been such a sweet encourager in my life over the past year or more. We have travelled the adoption journey together and now hers has come to an abrupt end. After suffering the loss of her first son referred to her because of red tape, she learned recently that her second son passed away from pneumonia. They were in the last stage of waiting to go get him.

I am feeling at such a loss. I don't know what to say or do. All I know to do is to pray for her and her family and I am asking you to do the same. Please pray that they will find peace and comfort.

I am looking at our journey to Anna with new eyes today. I am more grateful than ever.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Musical Notes

I absolutely love music and one of the first things I am going to ask God someday is why He chose not to give me talent in that area. When I am down, music can take me someplace else where I forget the things that are bothering me, at least they are put in perspective. The reason I am sharing this is because I wanted to share three of my favorite songs right now. They are the first three in the list on the side and they each have a special meaning.


The first is probably playing right now, if you have the speakers on. It is one I just found by Michael W. Smith called "Anna". I'm sure you can figure out why I like it. It really describes where I am right now in my relationship with my Anna. I am amazed that God has given us this precious gift. She is capturing our hearts in so many ways. To see her personality taking shape is truly a miracle and we are so blessed to be her family. I was looking at the picture on my fridge today of when she was still in the orphanage: and then looking at the baby in my arms and telling myself, "It really happened. You really went half way around the world and brought this little girl home. She is here!". It feels so surreal. It feels so amazing. There are alot of opinions in the adoption world, just as there are everywhere, and I have found that the belief that God has a hand in the adoption process is not popular in some circles. I cannot look at Anna Grace and see the baby that was next on the list when we were next on the list. I look at her and see a beautiful thread in this tapestry that God is weaving together out of all of our lives. I see His hand in our lives. I am so in love with her and the God who created her.


The next song, "She's a Butterfly" by Martina McBride, is one that makes me think of my Emma. She is free and beautiful and singing her heart out. I have a lot of songs that mean so much to me because they bring me comfort. They remind me that God is in control and all of that. This song, though, just celebrates Emma. Who she is now. I can't wait for the day I get to see her running and dancing on those legs of hers and to hear her laugh and sing and say, "I love you, Mommy.". But, for now, I can listen to this song and picture her as my butterfly.


The final song, "Beautiful Flower" by India Arie, is one that makes me think of Allie. Anyone who knows Allie, knows that she has always been wise beyond her years. She has been through more than any adult should have to go through, yet she is strong and courageous. She sees hope and she loves with a passion. She has a tender heart and a strong spirit. She doesn't judge people by how they look or dress, but she sees their character. She makes me so proud and amazed. I am so excited to see what God does with her life. I know He is going to use her in a big way. She has so much life experience already. I will always be cheering her on and praying for her to stay true to who God made her.


So, there you have it. My three favorite songs and my three favorite girls. They bring so much music to my world!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

9 months


Fun at the Zoo:












Anna Grace turned 9 months old today. She is changing and growing so fast! Here are some of the things she is doing at 9 months:

She has three teeth so far.
She loves to dance and seems to have pretty good rhythm.
She can play peek-a-boo.
She still loves her bath time.
She sleeps through the night most nights.
She is eating her food really well and likes pancakes and dumplins.

She loves to bounce when she is excited.

She belly laughs when you kiss her neck and belly.

She is crawling and loves to go on the wood floors.
She loves to take all of her toys out of the basket.
She plays all of her music toys at the same time and dances.
She loves to go outside and swing on the porch swing.

Here is some video of her crawling: (we couldn't get the audio to work)

video

Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Emma!

I couldn't let today go by without wishing my butterfly girl a happy birthday. It was twelve years ago that Emma came into this world and began her courageous fight to live. She fought for nine beautiful years and I am so grateful for each precious day I got to care for her. I miss her more than anyone could possibly understand but I know that she is in a place where life is not measured by minutes, hours, days, months, or years. She lives on in my heart and in eternity. On this day I remember her with smiles and tears. We will celebrate her life by enjoying this day together as a family, just as we would do if Emma were here with us. At some point in the day, I will wrap up in this special blanket made of Emma's clothes (it was made by my sister and her mother-in-law) and let myself feel whatever I feel.


If anyone wants to remember Emma on this special day, you can click on her picture on the right side of the blog and you will see a slideshow I made in her memory.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why not me?

I have been writing this post in my head for the past few days and here I am, finally alone with a computer, so I'll attempt to get it out of my head and onto this blog.

I don't know if any of you have ever been in a situation where you have found yourself asking the age old question, "Why me?", but I am going to be completely honest and admit that I have asked myself ,or God, this very question many times in my life.

Why am I the one in my family who carries this gene that caused Emma to be sick?
Why can't I have more children while people who don't want a child find themselves pregnant?
Why did my daughter have to die?
Why can't I stay in one place like other people?

These are just a few examples of my "Why me?" moments. There are many more, I know.

Lately, though, I have come to the realization that I should be saying "Why not me?". The world we live in is not fair. It is broken. Everyone has their situations that cause pain and conflict. It does seem that some people suffer more than their fair share. But, as I said, the world is not fair. Life is not just. If we could make the world a fair place, would we really want to?

If life was fair, would I have all of the good things I enjoy? Would I have a husband who loves me? Would I have three beautiful daughters? Would I have so many wonderful friends who support me? Would I have a safe, warm place to live? I don't know, but I'm afraid the answer might be no. You see, I don't deserve any of those good things. If life were fair, I would be losing out on alot.

I don't believe I deserve some of the bad things that have happened in my life. I certainly don't believe my daughter deserved to suffer so much. But if I got what I truly deserved, what would my life look like? I don't think I really want to know. I'm so glad the world isn't fair. I'm glad we don't get what we deserve. I'm glad there is grace, undeserved favor, given out by a loving God.

I have a friend whose three boys are all sick, two of them have lived past their life expectancy already. We were talking over lunch about how people ask her how she handles it and she said, "I don't have a choice. I just do it.". She knows that life isn't fair. She accepts that. She also knows that she has many undeserved blessings and she enjoys them.

I am learning that life isn't fair and when those things that I don't deserve, good or bad, come my way I have to say, "Why not me?", and just keep going. I know that in the end there will be justice. God will overcome this unfair world and I will win an eternal reward that I definitely don't deserve but is mine through God's grace. When that day comes I will be thinking, "Why me, God?" and I can picture Him holding out His arms to welcome me home and saying, "Why not you?"

Monday, September 22, 2008

100th Post!!

Well, it is Post 100 and I can't think of anything profound to say because it is late and I am tired so here are some pictures because I know that is what you want to see anyway!!


We had a good time camping although we are not really beach people. We prefer the mountains but it was fun to take Anna for the first time.
She wasn't too sure about the wind,
But she loved to put her feet in the water!!
As you can see, she was overwhelmed by the excitement of it all!

She kept getting herself stuck in between the bed and the canvas of the camper and thought it was so funny...
Helping Daddy cheat at Canasta!
This is a good hair day... you should see the bad!

This is Anna and our neighbor, Neely, just hanging out.
Swinging with one of their favorite people (who left us)...
She doesn't quite get the point of the exersaucer yet...


Two of my Girls!!


Allie and Fay!