We continue to celebrate this Christmas season, delighting in the greatest gift to all...the birth of Jesus Christ. As our lives fill up with busy schedules, parties, presents, food, and fun, we remember the reason we live with peace in our hearts and joy in our home--Jesus Christ--the Prince of Peace, the Son of God who became man dwelling among us in our sinful world so that we could become children of the Most High! I praise Him! It makes the ipods, the toys, the material presents under the tree pretty insignificant, doesn't it? The gift of a Savior, God with us...AMAZING LOVE!
Because of the weather we stayed home for Christmas. I think Breuklyn had the same jammies on for four days (showers in between, I promise!)! We've watched countless movies, put together giant puzzles, played the Wii and XBox until our fingers were considered "fit", rolled the dice for our board games, not needing to leave the house for anything! Well, Curtis and I did take off for a few hours on the 26th just for our sanity :) !!
We are so blessed this season with health! Gracie is feeling better than she ever has...she's running this place! Today, she is sporting her 4th of July attire with brown and pink plaid shorts--who's to say that doesn't work when its 20 degrees and snowing? Our house is warm! She's become SO SO SO independent...she knows what she wants to wear, what she wants to eat, where she wants to go, and who can go with her. My dear friend, Sara is her speech therapist and has aided Gracie greatly with her speech. She is now able to run a family of 7--as we've prayed for speech, to find us shushing her is quite ironic. A few minutes ago I called the Mayo Clinic to schedule her next surgery--it will likely be in March right after spring break--I'll keep you posted!
Our older kids are CRAZY about Christmas and will not let tradition die. We continue to run balls of yarn throughout our entire house for them to find their gifts--when we mention just placing them all under the tree, we are met with serious opposition! This year, Gracie was the first one up and she just ran right through the string, pulling things out of drawers and cupboards...chaos!
It's nearly noon and I still have some sleepers around here--what a rude awakening it will be in just five short days as the alarm rings at 7 am. It's eerily quiet around here--I better run!
I hope your Christmas was filled with joy, and your New Year is blessed abundantly!
Selah celebrated her birthday on December 5--as you can see, we have had a very busy December! Both of the girls have had a lot of practice opening gifts and downing sugary treats! This is only Selah's 2nd birthday she has celebrated--this time Selah anticipated what was coming and was super excited. For her birthday, she just wanted fuzzy stuff, so fuzzy stuff is what she received--fuzzy clothes, fuzzy blankets, fuzzy animals--she loves texture. It is obvious she has some sensory issues--touch, smell, noise--she is quite sensitive to all of it.
Selah's past year has been full of adventure--some exhilirating, some pretty interesting, yet all useful. We are still in the process of learning how to be a part of a family. As we have battled through several behavioral issues, several "institutional symptoms", we are in a period of relative peace around here. Yes, her actions are very much to blame at times, yet we are finding our reactions can make or break the situation.
As we celebrated Selah's 9th birthday, I rejoice in the fact that she has a family, she is loved! I also look forward to what this next year will bring--we are praying for healing of her broken heart and the peace within her that she has no doubt she is loved. Now that would be a great gift for her before her next birthday!
Blessed doesn't begin to describe what is going on in my heart today. Over and over again, I have replayed that winter morning driving that long, lonely road to St. Louis, not knowing what to expect. Would our child be alive when we get there? We knew Gracie was extremely critical, having been resuscitated several times the morning of her birth. We walked into CHAOS! This little 5 pound dumpling was covered in tubes, wires, stickers, HANDS...yet underneath it all we saw complete beauty--God's handiwork displayed in gorgeous slanted eyes and soft, feathery hair. 10 fingers, 10 toes, arms, legs, mouth, nose--from the outside all intact. Underneath that beautiful shell was what we would soon learn...a very unique inside. All of Gracie's organs were in the wrong place, her intestines were going in dangerous directions...and her heart. Her heart was only using two chambers and had inadequate arteries to her lungs..."quite involved." we heard. "Extremely high risk" "Go home today--don't put your family through this." "She will likely not leave this hospital". Little did they know, God had a very different plan for this child. If they could see her now!! If they could have watched her blow out her candles and sing happy birthday to herself along with her family, if they could only hear her giggle and watch people's smiles stretch across their faces when Gracie blows kisses.
It's been so much fun!! On Friday afternoon, we received a phone call from Hope Kids asking us if we'd be interested in going to the Vikings game--I didn't need to ask Curtis or the kids, just gave a big YES, so early Sunday morning, we headed to Minneapolis to watch Brett Favre have his best game ever--every touchdown, but one, was smack dab in front of our faces--an incredible game--oh...so much fun! The first play of the game, Breuklyn and I high-fived one another and Selah asked if the Comets won :) (the comets are our high school team). I'm not so sure she was as into it as we were!!
The kids were out on Wednesday for Thanksgiving, so we decided to go to the Timberwolves game and spend the day shopping. Well, thanks to Hope Kids once again, they offered us box seats to a Minnesota Wild hockey match...seriously fun! Our first hockey match and it was seriously the most fun professional sports event I have ever attended. We spent the day Wednesday at the Mall of America--on Sunday at the football game, they handed out little coupons to each of us for a free ride--one out of 30 received a wristband--well, wouldn't you know it--we all received wristbands! Connor thought it would be a good idea to buy a lottery ticket yesterday :)
On Thursday night, we had visitors!! Gracie has been approved for a wish through the wonderfully generous organization Make-A-Wish. They came in full costume to visit with Gracie about what her wish is.
We will let you know when it's granted! The photos are so stinkin' cute--I had to share.
Oh...and at the end of the night, Selah, just as smart as can be, stated--"I think there are persons in there!" What do you think?
Gracie and I spent the day with her birthmom. Just thinking about our day brings tears to my eyes--what an incredible woman who loves this little girl enough to give her the best life possible. Gracie's birthmom and I have spent many, many hours together. When Gracie was born, she spent her first 3+ months in St. Louis, which meant so did I! During those months, Gracie's birthmom and I spent every day together, long days cherishing this little being who was helplessly fighting for her life. We continue to keep in touch.
The past couple of years we have met in Iowa City, which is almost a halfway meeting point. Gracie had been so timid around people she didn't know....until the past 6 months or so. Today, she loved on the one who carried her for 9 months, giving her life when medicine told her life was unlikely. Today, Gracie gave this beautiful woman kisses and hugs, memories and laughter. Today, in Gracie, this beautiful woman witnessed the handiwork of God, healing and whole, pink lips and words...many words.
As an adoptive mom, I have one blessing that many don't--I was a birthmom myself who loved a child so much that I made the most difficult choice to place him in a family who could provide what I couldn't. My heart hurts for this woman, yet rejoices in the fact that she knows Gracie is just fine. She knows how loved this little girl is, she's watched the hand of God healing and holding onto Gracie's heart.
I feel so blessed to know this woman. I feel so blessed to call her friend.
Gracie's heart looks great! Future doctor, Derek, and I headed to Rochester this morning for Gracie's echocardiogram and a meeting with her cardiologist and cardiothoracic surgeon. All is well...actually all is amazing! This was the first echo that had no issues--yep, that's right--no issues. Well, Gracie still has a heart that is like no other, she still uses just two chambers, has a variety of strange arteries, some missing, some extra...yet, it's beautiful AND it's working well! She will have her fontan procedure in March--we get the winter off--woohooo!!
As we were driving this morning, I shared my most favorite God moment ever with Derek. If you've been following Gracie's story for awhile, you know we almost lost her. She had a surgery in March of 07 where it was deemed unsuccessful--we made the most difficult decision to turn off ecmo and allow her heart to stop. Her body, according to medicine, could not survive. Well, anyways, on this day, March 14, Gracie had a "last resort" surgery. Her brave surgeon attempted once more to close this tricky valve. As the nurse called me to the "meeting room" where the bad news would be delivered, I panicked. I had a very dear friend with me, but I didn't have Curtis. He had taken umpteen days off of work due to the adoption, the months in St. Louis--and along with the adoption we had acquired much debt--he needed to work. Back to the story--I panicked. I called Curtis and told him he had to get to Rochester NOW. He was seeing a patient and just left--sorry if you are this patient, by the way! Rochester is over 70 miles away and the doctor was coming to meet me. Logistically, this makes no sense. None at all. By the time the doctor arrived, who wasn't running late, Curtis ran into the room. It was as if God stopped time for him to get there. Even if he was driving 100 miles an hour, he couldn't have beat the doctor walking from surgery to the "meeting room"--impossible. Today I shared this with our son. At the time, I was so overcome with grief and emotion...heart-sickening sadness, that I didn't even realize the miracle that brought my husband's strong arms to me when I needed them most. I do now. I have for a long time...He is faithful.
Today, we heard three different doctors tell us how great this same little miracle baby is doing and we have no shock. We know God's hand is on her, we know He knows how this journey is going to unfold. We know He is good, He cares for us, He adores Gracie.
Have a great night--we are celebrating today's news! Gayle
Yesterday was awesome--one of those days that Derek will remember as a highlight of his high school time. Actually this whole year, so far, has been a great one! He placed 36th among the states finest runners--quite an accomplishment, that's for sure. As parents, we couldn't have been prouder...not only for Derek's hard work, but just proud of his character. He's a great kid--it's a pleasure to parent him!
The day was doubly sweet because we traveled to Fort Dodge with no toddler in tow! Our friend, Sara, stayed at our home with Gracie and Selah, so we could spend the day with our big kids. Oh, how we loved the break, and oh...how we love Sara! During the course of the day, Selah's temp began to rise...another case of the swine flu--oh, my!
OK--triple fun day! My mom trekked to Fort Dodge to watch Derek cross the finish line--it was a short visit, but sweet nonetheless!
Both Selah and Gracie are doing well--Gracie is completely back to normal and Selah feels just fine. We are going to give her another day at home, but she seems to be bouncing back pretty quickly. Now, to keep the the rest of us healthy....
The cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic just called me with the new that Gracie does indeed have the H1N1 virus. This virus attacks the respiratory system of these kiddos with heart disease. Please pray for Gracie's breaths to be easy, her temperature to be normal, and for her to drink. We can keep her at home as long as she is drinking plenty and breathing OK.
Gracie is SUPER CRABBY!! I call it the WHINEY SWINEY FLU!!
Gracie has had a rough couple of days. This morning we headed north to test her for h1n1 and influenza. With her anatomy, she is in a very high-risk group for contracting these viruses and really having a tough time fighting them. Our cardiologist doesn't mess around, that's for sure.
Her symptoms fall in line with h1n1, but we won't know for sure until tomorrow--it really doesn't matter what we call it, she is sick. Since Gracie has just one lung that's functioning as it should be, pneumonia is always a scare. She has a rough sounding cough, had a high fever, body aches, headaches, is lacking in balance and coordination, and of course is blue.
When things such as this take place, we are spun back into reality of how sick her little body really is. She just doesn't have the reserve, she doesn't have a strong heart, she doesn't have lungs that can tolerate junk. Her immune system is jeopardized and things hit her head on.
And...did I mention she is crabby? Like...really crabby. She wants me to hold her, but yet I am holding her wrong. She wants me to lie on the couch with her, but pushes me off because I'm in her way. Crabby.
Praying tomorrow is better! I'll update when we have the results of her tests back tomorrow!
Yippeeee!! The boys cross country team made it to state! We have had such fun watching this team of boys this year. At the beginning of the season, I don't think many would have thought this was going to happen for this team. They have worked so hard...all of them.
Thank you so much for praying for Selah, for the advice, for the been-there-this worked-this didn't information. Truly, God uses the internet for good in many, many ways. Since we live in small town, Iowa, we have few resources, few people to turn to who have adopted an older child out of an orphanage. Around this country, however, there is an abundance of you out there--thank you for sharing your stories, your lives with me.
Life is much better around here...we feel as if the difficulties we have been working through have actually been a good thing, now that the grass is greener, the behaviors absent (for now anyways). Selah is learning that no matter how "bad" she is, she is staying right here. She has no basis for unconditional love--perhaps she is testing us, testing our ability to stick with her. We are also changed! It's amazing to me how God can allow our greatest fears to invade our home and yet show us we can, with His help, get through yet another storm. Sometimes He breaks us. We have been through three months of brokenness and yet we are OK...we'll come out on the other side changed...it's good. My close friends know that no matter what is going on in my life, I'm able to wear a mask and have the answer of "it's all good.". We joke about this all of the time. In my deepest pit, my reply was always "it's all good". Well, you know what--sometimes it's just not. It has not been all good for the past three months--my once clean, organized, simple home has had a tornado spinning haphazardly through it. We are now cleaning up the debris, but have this feeling of quiet now.
Selah still has a long road ahead of her--we do know this. 71/2 years of heartache are not just wiped out in a year. 71/2 years of abuse and neglect are not completely gone because of a family. With a moldable heart, however, Jesus can get right in there and fill her up. She has a moldable heart. She is good, she tries so hard, she is sweet, she is loving, she is kind, she just needs Jesus. We are pretty certain that is why God brought her over the ocean, through mounds of paperwork and red tape to Charles City, Iowa...to our family. Our job is to show her Jesus.
In many ways, these past months, we have failed. We've tried what we've known and it hasn't worked for this child. There have been times, we have been so angry...our voices raised and our fingers pointed out of sheer frustration. That was clearly NOT what Selah needed. Most times, we could walk away, breathe a bit, pray, and come back with clear minds and soft voices. What Selah has responded best to is love, touch, and forgiveness--now, doesn't that just make perfect sense. At one time, I asked her--"do you think I love you or Breuklyn more?" She said, "Breuklyn". "How about Connor?", I asked. "You love Connor more." "Derek? Gracie?" Each time, she said the other child. She feels unworthy of love. We ask her all of the time now, "who do I love the most?" "You love me the most!", she will shout. I tell her, "I love you all the most. I love six children the MOST!" She needs the confidence that she can know love. She can know that she is loved not because of what she does and doesn't do, but she is loved because she is. As difficult as that love comes for me at times, it is there. It is there because I ask God for that love--I simply don't have it in me myself, but through Christ, and only through Him, I love.
Oh...to ramble on and on...that's me! Have a blessed day! Gayle
We've had a fun, fun week around here! Last week, it was announced that Derek was nominated to the homecoming court and on Friday, he was crowned KING--yippee! What a fun year he is having--many wonderful friends...one in particular is pretty special, a fabulous XC season, college hunting, and now a crown--fun, fun!
I think I can hear bouts of laughter roaring...anything athletic definitely comes from Dad!!
My boys can run...boy, can they run! Derek has just blown away any times he had last year...he's doing so well and we are so proud of him. It just amazes me how hard work has paid off for him. All summer long, he was pounding the pavement with those running shoes, mile after mile.
And Connor, each meet his personal record changes--he one ups himself each and every race. He, too, is having an excellent year.
Our mountain...that is! As I shared a couple of weeks ago, we are going through some really tough stuff with Selah, really tough. Again, I don't want to embarrass her or have anyone think she's a horrible child. She is not. Curtis compares her to a robot--she will go where you ask her, do what you ask her to do, completely submissive and sweet UNTIL she's by herself. She can turn herself on and off , seemingly feeling nothing...just blank. It's in those times alone, whether it's 30 seconds or an hour, that she shows really disturbing behavior. Now that we know, we cannot allow her to be alone, which is tough. It's tough on us as parents, it's tough on Selah, and it's tough on the other kids, who are completely innocent, not asking for the chaos that has wreaked havoc on our home. As we have tried everything we know to try, we are throwing our hands up (finally) and just asking God to move this mountain--we cannot. Can our faith be the size of a mustard seed, real faith? That's what we are now working on--ourselves. We have prayed all along that God would just give us the wisdom to parent this child, now we are taking it a step further and asking Him that He would penetrate her heart so deeply that she will feel, that she will take ownership of her behaviors, of her feelings, of her past, her emotions, her decisions and that He will change her.
I'm not a mountain climber, but one time, many years ago, as a child I climbed a mountain. Well, most of us wouldn't consider it a mountain, but it has "mount" in it's name, so I'm going with it. Mount Baldy in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I was 9 years old and went to a church camp with friends of our family. What I remember is this...all I could see was the path in front of me--I couldn't see the top of the mountain, in no way could I see the other side. We climbed and climbed and climbed...and at 9 years old, I was exhausted, really ready to turn back, but we kept on moving up. When we made it to the top, we could see such beauty...God's marvelous creation below us with the hot sun basking on us.
Right now we are climbing up the mountain...all I'm seeing is what's right in front of my face. We are completely exhausted, ready to turn back, yet knowing if we keep trudging through, we will make it to the top and it will be glorious. As we are enjoying Derek home for one more year--our time seems to be flying by...this added stress to our family is just breaking my heart. We are just telling that mountain to MOVE IT! I don't want to climb anymore, I want off of the path, and I want the mountain gone. I know we are not able to "fix" Selah, nor is that our job, as a friend so kindly pointed out--we are just loving her the best we know how. We do, however, need to keep the rest of our family safe and healthy, so the behavior needs to change. We are unable to fix a heart...yet the same God that has been working on Gracie's literally broken heart is completely able to fix Selah's broken heart...we are placing our faith in the One who created this being and placed her in our arms and in our home. We trust HIM!
Matthew 17:20 He (Jesus) replied , "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
I believe His Word as truth and am claiming His power over Selah's life!
Continually in His grip,
OK...I googled Mount Baldy and it's actually Old Baldy, which really isn't that impressive, but hey, for a 9 year-old, it was Everest!
Gracie and headed north this morning to meet with her cardiologist. We both had a tough time getting out of bed, but around 9:30 I finally opened her door and grabbed the snuggly bundle. She's been sleeping LOTS! Especially after her weekend--it was one BIG PARTY--football game on Friday night, Big Daddy Weave downtown Charles City Saturday night, and our church's Friend Fest on Sunday--she was pooped! Actually she's been sleeping in most mornings until 9:30-10:00 after going to bed at 7 or so. Sleeping beauty! This does concern us a bit, because she has never been one to require much sleep. I was excited to meet with her doctor and hear the words "She's doing great." I did hear those words today! Gracie, right now, is doing great. Her numbers are fantastic, her weight is up, she's grown an inch--all good stuff. She's pretty blue, but it's expected, the fatigue is normal for her. Her heart has to work so hard...her body just knows when to rest--it's good.
We spoke of Gracie's future today. She will likely have surgery in December or January and it will be a big one, actually it's quite controversial amongst her doctors as to whether this is the best plan of action for her. She could do fine for awhile with no surgery, but it could wear her ventricle out, giving her a short life. The Fontan is an incredible operation for many, many heart babies, but it's not a great option for Gracie, yet likely the best option we have right now. She has many strikes against her. Her cardiologist told me they have a "10 commandments" for the Fontan and her heart and history are not meeting most of the law, so to speak. It could be a rocky road...we know that when life is crazy, is uncertain God is still the ROCK--He's still the same, Gracie's days are still numbered, and He will take her home when He is ready. We hold onto these truths with a tight grip, knowing we are in His mighty grip! I visited with my friend Chris on the way home and told her I have perfect peace--I do, knowing He is real, He is good, and His love for Gracie is uncomparable.
Back to sweet Gracie...she had a blood draw this morning and was so amazing. Usually it takes several pokes and lots of messing around, bringing much anxiety and tears. Today, she walked into the blood draw confidently, hands on her hips and pacifier in her mouth. She hopped on my lap, grabbed the turnacut and wrapped it around her arm, watching intently as the sweet lady stuck a needle in her arm. She made a little peep, then pointed to the toy box, claiming her prize of bubbles. They spilled before we made it out the door...bummer! We had a fabulous time at lunch, then shopped a bit downtown. Soon, you will see her sporting her new Crocs, with--you'll never believe it--Bob and Larry buttons!
We go back on Thursday to meet with the oral surgeon to schedule her tooth removal, then we don't go back until November 9.
Right now, things are good...super good! I choose to live right now...how about you? Gayle
Little Miss Gracie, with a wiggling fist signing to us that she needs to go potty, followed by the sign for chocolate--something is working here! It seems pretty normal, doesn't it? A 2 1/2 year-old who is nearing three at a break-necking pace, ready to potty on the throne rather than in a diaper--normal? It is, unless a little girl has had multiple kidney failures, completely shutting down several times. I would venture to say it's amazing...amazing Gracie! I must clarify a bit...Gracie is nowhere near going out in public without a diaper or pull-up, but she has remained dry at home for a week...A WEEK, including naps. We do find little surprises in her panties :), but not wet ones!
I cannot believe we are back in the swing of things around here--waaahhhh!!! I miss sleeping in, I miss making waffles at 10:00 am and having to plug the waffle iron back in at noon for those who were really sleeping in! I miss all of the neighbor kids and the noise...it's pretty quiet with just Gracie and me. And did I tell you...she needs a lot of attention?!? BREUKLYN!!! My summer sitter spoiled this little tyke, that's for sure. She wants to play, wants chocolate, wants to play, pottie (because there's chocolate at the end), play, unload the cupboards, play, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!! She's a girl after my heart--she even likes the dark, dark chocolate like her mama!! I do tell her no once in awhile :) And yes, I said pottie...Gracie's doing a fabulous job on her little pink throne!! We had a completely dry day yesterday and today...today, even her nap was dry--wooohoooo!!! She looks so stinkin' cute in those Hello Kitty panties that fall down to her knees when she runs.
Back to school--I think I'm in denial! Derek is a senior...a senior...I can hardly say the word. I cannot get over this one, nor can I picture our home without him. He's fantastic!! He's absolutely loving cross country and I think will be a fun kid to watch this year. His classes are good, his social calendar is full---ahhh, the life of a (can I say it?) senior!
And Connor--a freshman--yeah, two in high school this year! Where does the time go? Connor, too, is loving cross country, especially now that it doesn't hurt so much. He's improving a TON! It's amazing how well he's doing with his knees feeling so much better. I can hardly wait for next week to watch these boys RUN! And Connor is driving...loving it so much that his alarm is going off at 5:45 to make it to driver's ed in the morning.
Breuklyn entered the Middle School this year--I am old. I keep thinking that if adoption had not entered our family, our kids are really pretty grown up this year. Grown up kids means grown-up parents! She's doing great--no sports right now. She's waiting for 7th grade so she can run...I'm not so sure where our kids inherited their love of running---pretty sure it's Curtis. She has two horse shows left this summer. Breuklyn's horse, Kota, has had a lame leg all summer--she's had to ride Curtis's horse instead. It's been fun, but she cannot wait to climb back up on Kota--only 2 more weeks.
Selah loves her teacher in 2nd grade, but is really struggling in many ways. We've had a pretty rough last month of summer with Selah. For her privacy, I don't want to embarrass her or share anything that would in any way humiliate her, but things have been tough. Not only on her, but on our whole family. We had thought things were going so well with Selah's adjustment, and are really discovering that she has hidden lots from us. Much truth is coming out, which is good, yet tough. I always felt as if I had prepared well for adopting an older child...I am well-read, have been in contact with many families, almost assuming we'd hit some tough patches. Yet when rubber meets the road, I'm completely at a loss, as is Curtis. We'd appreciate any prayers, any advice. Selah has had a very, very dark past with lots of heartache and rejection. I look back at the post from just a couple of months ago and see that we were looking at her with rose-colored glasses, not seeing the real Selah at all, but a girl who she has been creating, trying to be. We are now seeing more clearly...this is good. We need this truth in order to move forward---I know many who read this blog pray for our family. That is why I share this with you. Scripture tells us to pray for one another, to let others know when we need prayer. We know God has great plans for each of us, for Selah, and He will not leave us--He's our helper and our healer. I wish I could share more, but cannot.
And Gracie...we go to Mayo next week for a cardiac appointment on Tuesday. Then on Thursday, we will head north once again to see the oral surgeon. Gracie has had an excellent summer, not so much as a cold or runny nose, unless you count the spaghetti and stickers she shoved up her nose, causing much sneezing and snot! She's just so much fun! A few weeks ago, Breuklyn made the comment that our family would be so boring without Gracie--what would we do? Who would we laugh at? She is just funny.
We packed up the "burbon" as Selah calls it and headed west last week. As a girl, the Black Hills was the vacation spot when raised in South Dakota. We would venture out to the Hills quite often and see the sights...Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park, and the tourist traps...Wall Drug on the way, the World's only Corn Palace, Reptile Gardens...the list goes on and on. We decided to hit it all...take it all in. The Griswalds take on the Black Hills...well, sort of. Why do things seem smaller when we grow up? Where does the magic go?
I survived on taffy--I kid you not! Curtis grabbed me a few king-sized laffy taffys for the car ride--I also snuck in a couple. Then on day 1 we stopped at the taffy shop in Keystone and picked out all of our favorite flavors--11/2 pounds of taffy and it all ended up in my belly. I seriously couldn't get enough of it! I thought it would make sense to just eat it until I got sick of it--never happened. In fact, I could down a pound right now if it was in front of me. When I got home I hopped on the scale, thinking 11/2 pounds of taffy could only put 11/2 pounds on me--wrong! Maybe I should try some fruit. I started thinking perhaps I had a problem when I found myself hiding the bag between my feet in the front seat so noone else would think of asking for any.
Anyways, life is good. Vacation was fun--filled with memories, lots of special moments. Isn't that what we all remember looking back at our childhoods? Lots of the insignificant funny stuff that just happens when 7 people cram in a vehicle and a hotel room. Good times.
I was packing my bags, checking the paperwork just one more time, and getting ready to board a plane that would take me halfway around the world so I could bring home our daughter. What a year it has been!! A sweet orphan would be coming home...coming home to an at-times chaotic house, to a daddy, a mommy, and brothers and sisters, even a dog. I look at the photos now and see the fear in her fake smile, see the apprehension in her brave eyes. I realized the fear we had and tried to comprehend the fear she must've carried, but of course couldn't feel the depths of what this little girl could. Our sweet Selah...brave beyond measure, a risk taker with a quiet personality, a little girl who feels deeply, yet continues to fear her future. 71/2 years is a long time to be institutionalized, a long time to be unloved, a long time to develop survival habits that were once necessary, but today not. We are amazed at how one year of a family, of friends, of Jesus can nearly wipe out 71/2 years of heartache. Because of our imperfections, things are not perfect...yet the Lord has filled the gaps...the prayers and support of His people have given this child such a future.
I just want to share my heart a bit...it is full. As I read Ephesians 1, where God gives us this perfect gift of adopting us as His children, I see a parallel with sweet Selah. Know this...I'm not claiming any sort of goodness here at all. We are seriously lost without Jesus, our family would be a mess, and we would've never had the courage or the desire to adopt without Him. In bringing Selah home, it had nothing to do with us...nothing at all, we simply tried our best to obey what God had in store for us. We are completely messed up people with a desire to please Him...that's all.
We received a list of special needs children from China about every 3 months. After adopting Gracie, we hadn't even looked at the lists for several months except to pray for the children. With Gracie's great needs, we had decided to leave our paperwork in China until God told us to take it out. Since Gracie had spent so much time in the hospital and her prognosis was very, very poor, we were quite certain our plate was full and God would certainly not expect us to add to our already busy family. We had emotions riding all over the place. Several times, we had to tell Gracie "good-bye", giving her kisses as we would send her off to yet another surgery. In the back of our minds and in the simplicity of the prayers we could muster, China remained. If you know us, or followed our journey to Gracie, you may remember March 16, 2007, the day we turned off ECMO, Gracie's lifeline, to rock her to heaven. She was given two hours to live and we were told her heart would just stop beating. Well, obviously March 16, 2007 was not the day God had written in His book to take her home! As we spent the next month or so in the hospital, being a part of something so glorious...an obvious great miracle in our generation...we continued to seek out the Lord's desire for "our" China plans. He didn't take it away...someone who remains anonymous generously paid for Gracie's entire adoption! It was the black and white answer we had been looking for! With Gracie's medical needs came months of paying for 2 places to live, much travel...we, in no way, were in a position to foot the bill for 2 adoptions in just one year. He, in His time, in His way revealed His plan, ever so gently, ever so remarkably.
We started to pray over the lists. With each list we requested several children--most of them were between 2 and 4 with minimal needs. We felt rejected each and every time, thinking we had this all figured out. We were trying so hard to be obedient to what God was calling us to do...why is He saying "no" all the time?? Yet, He began to give us such a strong desire for our child. A list came out on Valentine's Day of 08. With this particular list, He slowed us down a bit. Ok...a lot. We prayed fervently over each child, boy or girl, severe need to moderate need, ages 1 to 7. In my mind, I could not wrap my mind around adopting an older child...I had read too much, "educated" myself too much. Not through Scripture necessarily, but books and websites, and other's opinions. Curtis had not. His only adoption advice came through Scripture...that's it. Pure, simple...someone needs a home, give it to him or her, clothe, feed, love, welcome one of these children, ability to do all things through Him, trust Him.
Needless to say, our list was long of the children we were to request. I kept leaving the 7 year-old off, Curtis had her on his heart and I'd put her back on. We knew, if we request the older child, we would likely be matched to her. Many times the older children remain...so often because of the fear of the unknown, because of the fear of what 7 years can do to a person. We needed to put in our request at noon (I can't remember the day). I had an email ready to go...the names of the children typed out, but didn't hit the send button until 11:59, so much fear, so much doubt. Within 24 hours we were matched to He Fubai...the 7 year-old little girl with the sad eyes living in the HeShan City Social Welfare Institute in Guangdong Province. We knew it. Curtis was estatic, I was still unsure. This hesitation lasted until I boarded the plane to bring her home.
Curtis, the dad in the family had a desire for this child. Curtis chose her to give her an inheritance, a worldly one. He desired to give her a family...to be her dad. God works this way...oh, how He desires for us to call Him "Father". He has chosen each one of us to be His child, He has given us an eternal inheritance through His Son. He takes us, orphans, and gives us a family...He calls us His children!! We just need to choose. We can't have it both ways...either we accept His adoption of us into His family or we do not. It's quite simple. Selah could have fought us tooth and nail, yet she has submitted to her daddy, she has come willingly and now excitedly. She calls Curtis "dad" and Curtis calls her daughter. She's one of his princesses, a part of our family so intricately detailed out by the grace of God. Sometimes, like Selah, we are afraid, afraid of how this new life of adoption is going to go. Is it for real? Do I really get a family forever? Am I truly loved? Will I ever have to go back to my old life? Am I really wanted?? A lifetime of pain and heartache, a lifetime of being told she is unworthy, unlovable. Oh, how we love Selah. Oh, how God loves us!! Times a billion!!
Ephesians 1:3-14 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.
This is what we walked into the other day. Gracie and Selah were playing and praying! Through adoption, these two beautiful girls are learning about the kind and loving God who created them. They are learning to thank Him, to trust Him, to talk to Him...sweet!
Deut. 6:6-7 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Many days we go to bed thinking we have not done all we can, we have not accomplished what we should. Yet, these girls have an opportunity to know Jesus--if that's all we can give them, it's enough. Consider the orphan...the child who may never learn to pray, may never learn that there is One to pray to!