Headed to the Big Screen!

Okay, so it’s actually the small screen… 🙂

Yup, I started a YouTube channel – it allows me to share stories (continue speaking) while kids are running around. After all, soon we will have three more to run after, laugh with, cry over…

So I’m inviting you to join us. We will post weekly videos of our family life. This is the first – with our goofiness in full glory. Will you join us? You can subscribe by clicking the link below the video (on YouTube), and you will receive an e-mail every time a new one is published.

Check this one out and let me know your thoughts. I hope you join us for the ride!

Click here: Family Time!

If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste this into your URL: https://youtu.be/IJ2SukHz7hk

Love sharing this life with you!

 

Savannah, Justin Bieber and a Dark Night

I’m 45 years old and I downloaded a Justin Bieber song.

It’s true.

Sure it was a while ago, but the lyrics came to mind this week.

As long as you love me, we could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke.

Now that’s sweet.

This last weekend Brian and I went camping up in the mountains. I carried Savannah on my back in a cool little pack and Brian carried all the rest of our gear – tent, sleeping bags, diapers, food and a million other “just in case” essentials.

And yet I was the one to get all the compliments from the other hikers.

“Wow, way to go.”

“Good job, Mom.”

Brian carried twice the weight and received half the glory.

I married a good man.

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So we got to the campsite, six miles up a long and winding trail. By the time we arrived, I was drenched from head to toe in sweat and my shoulders were aching. I was thrilled to see the cabin where we could check in and Savannah was thrilled to see all the other hikers. She doesn’t know a lot of words yet, but it doesn’t seem to matter. She’ll hold a conversation with just about anyone as long as they nod at her animated noises.

We finally headed off to our site, set up our tent and nestled into our jammies. I wondered at Savannah. This was her first time out in the wild. Her first time camping. Her first time hiking.

Would she hold up?

I wasn’t sure what a dark night and the cold mountain air might bring. I could picture us trying to rock her as she wailed at the injustice of it all. Where is my crib? What have you done? Why is there a bear nibbling on my ear?

Waaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

We laid out our sleeping bags and snuggled her in between us. She pulled her blankie up to her nose and looked around.

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Her eyelids did the sleepy shuffle and Brian and I exchanged smiling glances above her head. This just might work!

The sky darkened and Brian and I whispered a sweet conversation until our own bodies settled in.

At home Savannah usually wakes at 4 a.m. I’ll sneak in, give her a pacifier and off she’ll go to dreamland again. On this trip she woke up several more times than usual. Maybe it was the dark, the noise of the fellow campers, the colder night air.

I thought she might get undone, but instead, she woke up and reached out her hand. She touched my chest, “Mama.” She reached over to Brian, “Papa.”

And went back to sleep.

Four or five times through the night, “Mama,” “Papa.” Back to sleep.

She didn’t care if it was cold. Dark. Different. As long as we were there, she was fine.

I had a tougher week this week. My heart was hurt. I was tempted to pout, wail, ball up my fists. But then I remembered Savannah and her nighttime touches, and instead I imagined myself curling into my God’s arms, tapping his chest, “Papa.”

He’s there. I’m safe. And as long as he loves me, I can face anything.

Enter Justin Bieber: As long as you love me, we could be homeless, we could be starving, we could be broke.

Of course the week didn’t bring anything near as dramatic as all that, but the song came to mind. And yes, that’s why I downloaded a Justin Bieber song at 45 years old. It makes me think of my God and it reminds me of what’s important, no matter what this life brings.

He loves me. And I desperately need that.

But don’t expect me to dance. Or flip my hair as I gyrate my hips.

I have my limits.

From Tragedy to the Best Stuff Ever

Four years ago, it was tragedy that prompted my Christmas letter. Within two months time, our world was upended. In May my husband gave a kidney to our oldest son Sean, and we fought through the healing/rejection/healing process. Then my dad went sailing one warm July day and never came home. He somehow fell overboard and drowned at sea. Twelve days later my 17-year-old nephew was killed in a car accident.

I wanted people to know. Somehow it made it more real to write it all down – to say to myself and others… this really happened and it nearly broke my heart.

This year has been the complete opposite and I find myself in the same position. I want people to know. Because as horrible as 2009 was, 2013 was one of the best years ever. I mean, ever. Two major miracles happened this year and every time I think of them, my heart fills up with goofy, sappy Christmas joy.

Savannah Grace: She is our first miracle. Ten months old today, Savannah entered our world in the most unexpected, delightful way. After the heartbreak of a failed adoption (when a birth mom changed her mind), we began our pursuit of our Haitian children. Then in February of this year – one week before Savannah was due, we received a phone call – were we still interested in adopting a baby? Our hearts soared and two weeks later, Brian and I stood in the delivery room as Savannah entered the world. Moments later in a memory that will forever be etched in my heart, Brian cut the cord and Savannah Grace was ushered into our waiting arms.

A miracle. A delight. The best gift ever.

We have enjoyed every moment with Savannah since. The nighttime feedings, the drool, bath times, first smiles and today the wobbling stance as she grips the table and tries to stand.

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Savannah and her Christmas bear

Then another miracle. For nearly nine years, my husband and his daughters have been estranged. I had never met them, although we literally prayed for them every single day. Over the years Brian faithfully reached out. He so longed for relationship with them and refused to give up.

One day he received a text message. “It’s time to bury the hatchet,” said one of his girls.

Not too long after, Brian had a business trip to Ohio and invited the girls to dinner. They said yes. All of us here in Colorado prayed that whole day. Brian met them at a nice Italian place and as the hours passed, we anxiously awaited word. Did it go well? Were they able to enjoy one another, talk, laugh?

Four hours later, Brian called. He’d spent all four hours with the girls, lingering over a meal. Conversation and laughter flowed easily. “It was as if we’d never been apart,” he said.

My mom, Sam, me… tears. Joyful hugs. Awestruck delight.

Over Thanksgiving I had the chance to meet my step-daughters for the first time. They were beautiful, smart, gracious and kind. They met their sister Savannah and one day soon will get to meet Samantha.It all felt so right and good, so natural – better than any of us could have hoped for or dreamed of…

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First meal: Cassie, Sean, Jessica, Savannah, me and Brian

I don’t want to forget this, this overflowing joy of answered prayer. Life is hard. Painful. Broken. And I know so many of you come into this Christmas season carrying grief that nearly bends you double. I get it. We still carry the loss of Dad and Caleb in our hearts – even more so as we wish they could have met Savannah, Jessica and Cassie. But for some of you the pain is fresh and deep. After this last year I just want you to know, I want everyone to know – that there will be good days ahead. That God hears and answers prayer, that there is light (huge, bright and beautiful) still ahead.

Sometimes  I wonder – what will 2014 bring? Will we get to bring Wilna, Lovence and Laurentz home from Haiti? Will our hearts break with new tragedies? Or will there be some other unexpected bundle(s) of joy on our doorstep.

I truly don’t know.

But whatever comes, I am so very grateful for our God. He is the one who gives good gifts and yet still holds us when the heartbreak comes.

It may sound like just the type of thing I would say for Christmas, but it’s so stinkin’ true. In God’s arms I am safe no matter what comes and so are you. That is the very best gift we could ever receive.

Thank you, Jesus!

And Merry Christmas my friends…          

Real life stuff.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Brian so sick.

High fever, shaking, barely able to stand. I’d already taken him to Urgent Care and they’d sent him home with some strong antibiotics to battle a bad infection that came on overnight. Only a few hours later, his temp kept rising. We knew the antibiotics hadn’t had time to work, but we were concerned about the high fever. And infection of that nature with only one kidney – it wasn’t good.

When the thermometer topped 104, I called the doc and they urged us to go to the ER.

The ER docs weren’t nearly as worried as I was. They said it was good we came in, but they simply gave him a strong med to bring his fever down and sent us home – with the condition that we come back if he got worse.

We kept a close eye on him, and he seemed to slowly improve.

That’s when the financial reality hit.

Brian switched jobs recently and his health insurance had yet to kick in. Nine days. Only nine days until his insurance would begin.

We’ve never been without insurance and in the time I’ve known him, Brian has never had to go to the ER.

The one time he had to go for medical help, we were without insurance. And of course, I took him to Urgent Care first. Two doozy bills in one 24-hour period.

And we’re in the midst of all our adoption travel and agency expenses.

I nearly went into a full-blown pity party. Really? This so stinks! Talk about bad timing… grumble, grumble, grumble, gripe, gripe, gripe, extra long sigh and a good old-fashioned whine.

A few hours later, I received a call from the director of the orphanage where our boys are living in Haiti. Miriam was broken down on the side of the road and they were waiting for help to arrive. She thought she’d check in. I listened as she told of the children they had just rescued. Thirteen of the worst were in the truck with her, along with some of the parents. Kids dying of malnutrition, others burning up with fever because of infection. She was just praying that they’d get the tire fixed quickly since it had already been a 13-hour trip across treacherous mountain roads. These kids needed help.

A few days later, two of the boys, Wisnor and Naisson – an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old, died of the lingering effects of malnutrition.

Wisnor and Naisson. There’s this deep ache in my heart that they be known. It was all so real. I’d talked to Miriam when these boys were in the truck. I heard the stories as they unfolded. Both sets of parents LOVED their boys. Wisnor’s mom had to leave to go back to the village and care for her other children. She planned to come back and check on her boy soon. The night after she left, Wisnor passed away.

How to even get word to her?

I have two hospitals within a five minute drive.

I have plenty of food. Most days too much.

Yes, Brian was sick and it was scary. But even without insurance, he received medical attention and was quickly on the mend.

I know a lot of us are worried about the election. We wonder what will become of our nation if this one or that one gets elected.

For me, this was a stark, vivid, powerful reminder that as much as I worry for our nation, I am blessed to live here, blessed to have medical care and food and a place to lay my head.

So as election results come out tomorrow – as various groups go into panic mode and threaten to move to Canada, I’m going to do my best to remember Miriam, Wisnor and Naisson and remain grateful for all that we do have at our fingertips—no matter who is in the White House.

Will you join me?

Oh, and friends, if you would like to help Miriam and New Life, you can go to their website and donate there. With the recent hurricane, the need has certainly grown.  Your funds will definitely go to good use. Click here to find out more.

 

Sniff a Longing

I love to sniff a new book.

Some people like the smell of new car, I like the smell of new book. And every time I walk into a bookstore, the smell overwhelms me. I wander down the aisles sniffing away, drawing stares from nearby patrons. But I never care. Because with the smell, comes the longing – to write and write and write. I start dreaming of telling stories, the kind that stir up emotion – joy, sorrow, hope…

The longing runs deep and it surges every time I walk into a bookstore.

Well, I had a bookstore longing tonight.

Not to write (although that remains)… but to wipe noses, cheer on sports, read bedtime stories and throw water balloons.

The longing surged when I walked my puppy after dinner. We went down to the park and made a loop around the large field. Kids were everywhere – playing football, chasing the soccer ball, hanging off the swing set. Some toddled, some ran and others rolled down the grassy hill all willy nilly like.

Note the gentle sloping grassy knoll to the right – PERFECT for a good body roll…

Sure, I can do that stuff by myself. And to my husband’s chagrin I have. But I long to roll down the hill with little ones. I want to hang off the swing set and kick around a soccer ball with two boys who will say, “Again, Mom, again!”

I want to parent again. I want to love and chase and cheer and make up goofy stories just to make my kids laugh.

It was that old bookstore longing, only towards a new adventure—a new purpose and hope that stirred in my belly.

And it made me think of all of you. It made me wonder – what is your bookstore longing? Where do you go or what do you do that brings up that feeling? The feeling of longing and joy and hope and purpose? The yearning that stirs excitement in your heart for your future?

As I pursue my longing through the adoption of our Haitian boys, I’d love to hear about your dreams and the steps you’re taking to pursue them. Will you please share them with me? I really would love to hear… Just click and share them in the comment section.

Quiet and courage

Danielle, me and Caleb – 1996ish

Just a few days before Caleb’s accident

I want to make it better.

I want to walk in the door with Caleb on my arm. I want to bring him back to his mom and dad right now.

This life can be so hard.

There is no coming back for Caleb.

He is not here. And I sense his absence in the quiet.  It’s not a normal quiet. Not an empty nest quiet. It’s a robbed nest quiet. It feels unnatural and wrong.

I love my brother and I love his wife. I love my nephew, Luke and beautiful Danielle.

And I love Caleb.

I miss him.

This house, here in Austin, is filled with quiet and courage. The quiet of Caleb’s absence and the courage of a family who valiantly lives forward without him.  They are so beautiful to me, even in sorrow. I love and admire and respect them. They hold tight to Jesus and walk this road the best they can.

But I still wish I could make it better.

Lord, I wish I could make it better.

That’s all I have to say about that.