Samantha – the little of our bigs (my guinea pig baby)

Poor Samantha. She was my parenting guinea pig.

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For thirteen years she was an only child. When I married Brian, she became the youngest of four. Then we adopted four little ones and now she’s smack in the middle of eight.

Talk about an identity crisis. She likes to joke that she has issues from every season. Poor thing. It’s not easy controlling the world while being the center of attention and yet still working to make sure everyone gets along.

I’m sorry, babe.

Samantha saw me at my worst. I remember when I quit smoking – and then gave in to a craving. I stood outside our little duplex after she went to bed and I lit up. Moments later as I put the cigarette to my lips, I looked in the sliding glass window to see her pale face pressed up against it, tears in her eyes. I had told her I wouldn’t smoke again and her deep disappointment flushed my cheeks red.

Parenting fail.

Sam saw me at my best. I remember falling so in love with Jesus and worshipping as I worked out in my garage one night. I was singing, loud and off key, eyes closed. When I opened my eyes she was standing there, big smile on her face. She came over and leaned in to kiss my cheek. “You really love him, don’t you mom?”

“Oh baby, I do. I really do.”

Later that night she had a youth event. When she climbed back into the car, she told me how they had to write something on a piece of paper and throw it into the fire. A wish, a hope, a dream and then give it to God. I asked her what she wrote. She smiled at me. “I wrote that I want to love Jesus like my mom loves Jesus.”

Parenting win.

I was messy with Sam. Broken and foolish some days, smart and adventurous on others – and she took every bit of the ride with me. She had a front row seat to the drama of my recovery from selfishness/stupidity/sin (a drama still unfolding). The good decisions followed by lousy ones with some random perplexing ones in between.

I let good people into her life. I let stupid people into her life. I was her hero and her heartbreak. We chair danced on eternal road trips and ate ramen noodles with gusto and delight. We slept out on the trampoline, walked to the 7-11 for ice cream cones, laughed until our bellies hurt and curled up to watch one hour of Full House nearly every night.

She spent way too much time in daycare and grew up way too soon.

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But we did it together.

Sam is now 25 years old. She works full time as an escrow processor, has her own place and is proud owner of a beautiful german shepherd, Captain. She is smart, kind, strong and belly laugh funny. She is fiercely loyal and an unwavering advocate for the underdog. She loves deeply. She’ll come over these days and wrap her arms around me in the middle of our chaos. I’ll let go. “Not done, Mom.” And I’ll wrap my arms around her again and settle in to her warm embrace.

Samantha is my original God kiss. My love for her made me want to be a better human. And because of my trial and error with her, my other seven God kiss babies get a better me.

Thank you, Samantha. I love you.

Samantha

Wilna – the big of our littles

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She is brave, strong, fiercely passionate about almost everything. At 12 years old, she is part woman with grown up thoughts, ideas and feelings and part little girl who can get lost in dress up and loves a colorful band-aid on her boo-boos.

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I tell her often that God overdosed when he poured out her talents. He simply forgot to move on to the next person and gave her far more than her fair share. She smiles her dimpled grin and shakes her head when I tell her that, but it’s true. She’s athletic, beautiful, musical, artistic and her smile takes our breath away. She’s got a knack for fashion and does a better job of dressing me than I do.

She is our daughter and we are crazy about her.

She also has pain. Anger. Deep hurt from circumstances beyond her control. She misses her family and friends and the ache is deep. The stories she has shared deep into the night have left me sleepless with their intensity and heartbreak. How could one so little have suffered so much? She tells me with calm control, but the tears or anger come at other moments – when it’s safer to feel. Something that seems small will trigger the pain and I have to remind myself that behind the moment is so much more. I will hold her, wishing I could make it better, ease the pain, erase the memories.

And at the same time I know that it’s those things that have made her so strong and fierce and brave and beautiful.

So I pray over her and I hold her fast.

She is ours and we love her.

Twelve years old is a volatile age. Hormones raging, friendship challenges, emotions all over the map – and that’s without a history of heartbreak and loss.

And yet she manages it so beautifully, far better than I would have at her age. I’m proud of her, protective of her, prayerful for her future.

I want her to keep expressing emotion, keep crying, laughing, cuddling, processing. I want the emotion to come out as it is and I pray to keep it from going to dark, hard or bitter places. We pray that with her – that God would give her avenues to express herself and for the enemy to keep far away from those open wounds.

I can’t wait to see how God heals, restores, rebuilds. I can’t wait to see Wilna use her talents to shine Jesus into the hearts of others. I can’t wait to see her beautiful story unfold.

And I just pray God gives us just what we need to mama and papa her through it all.

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Like breathing or eating or peeing.

I have to write.

Dishes are piled up in the sink, a child is doing cartwheels off the couch, the puppy is chewing a lovely pair of shoes…

And here I sit, typing away on the computer with a smile on my face looking, as my husband says, just like Stevie Wonder. Only white.

I mean seriously. Life is delightfully full. My time is wrapped up in relationship. I have a wonderful, stud muffin man who melts me with his kisses, four adopted littles (12, 8, 5, 3) who do cartwheels off stuff, four bigs (31, 28, 26, 25) who are launching cool life adventures and a sweet mama who offers wisdom and support in the chaos. Add a cute little puppy who snuggles and wags and chews. And well, you get the picture.

So when am I going to write?

I know I don’t have time, but writing feeds me. I have to do it: like breathing, eating, peeing. It’s something I was born to do. And somehow writing to you about things happening to me – helps me see God better, feel him more, notice him more. And I so desperately want that. I don’t want to miss a single God kiss. I need him. Not only that, I need to share him with you. Share this with you. That’s what we are wired to do. Share life. Share Jesus. Share joy. Share laughter.

Oh, and I’m not the only one meant to do this. You have to do what you were made to do too. Because I feel him when you do. When you sing, dance, write, speak, paint, comfort, parent, teach. Do it, friends. You make him real to me, to us all. Please!

So there you have it. I’m all passionate and full. I’m ready to roll and this is my final blogging home.

I will import all the content from GodHasDimples and WhenHopeComesHome and will do the rest of my writing here. I promise.

Will you join me? Go do something you were meant to do and feel God’s pride and joy! Don’t worry too much if you don’t know exactly what it is. Try lots of things and see what gets you up in the morning with a smile on your face – making you look a whole lot like Stevie Wonder.

And then do it.

Can’t wait to see it!

Smiling big,

Elsa

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I watched you today.

 

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I watched you.

Sometimes with my heart in my throat, sometimes with tears in my eyes.

I wanted you to connect, to feel welcome, to make a friend. I wanted people to be nice to you and you to be nice to them. I watched. I watched you as you giggled nervously and then as your smile broadened the safer you felt. I watched as you high fived one of the girls, laughed out loud, inhaled a piece of pizza.

And I nearly started balling.

Right there at a bowling alley with hundreds of 5th and 6th graders.

I didn’t. And you can thank me later for the way I covered the tears in my eyes with a hearty sneeze and shrug.

Darn allergies.

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I delighted in you. In the moment. In the fact that you are our daughter and I get to be here, right now, with you.

I had the same feeling today when you performed in your first baton march. They called your name and pronounced our last name wrong, like they usually do. Our last name. OUR last name.

And you smiled brave and strong, lifted your knees high, gracefully navigating your 8 step routine.

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Tears came to my eyes again.

I wanted you to succeed, feel joy, be proud of yourself. I wanted it for you and with you.

And in these things, in all these things, you didn’t know. You were completely unaware of the intensity of my emotion.

Then my breath caught – if this is how I feel in all my incredibly frail brokenness – how much more does our God feel that way about me, about us? When we risk, when we connect, when we make a friend, be a friend. When we stretch ourselves, test ourselves, live big and brilliant.

I think we are completely unaware of how much he is in every moment – how deeply he feels, how much it matters to him, how he is for us and with us, all the time.

Oh my word. Sniff. Sniff.

Darn allergies.

 

Taken by ambulance – you won’t believe what happened next!

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It started with a ferocious leg cramp.

Like a  charley horse on steroids, it hit the muscle in my shin. Never felt anything like it. Whined like a baby as Brian tried to stretch and massage it.

I stood up and hobbled around the room. Finally sat on the steps leading upstairs and planted my feet on the tile floor. Tried to gently stretch the muscle back out.

We’d been hiking that day, but nothing too strenuous – three miles out and back. It had been hot though. Really hot. So maybe I just needed some water?

Brian gave me some electrolytes. Fancy stuff from the runners store. Tasted horrible, but I chugged some down.

Then I started feeling dizzy. Cold sweat. World fading in and out.

Cassie and Savannah had been out jumping on the trampoline. They just walked in when my world started going woozy. They tell me I turned shades of green, blue and finally ashen. Cassie grabbed frozen potstickers from the freezer and put them on my neck (we were out of peas – she made do). Mom got a cool wash cloth and put it on my forehead. Savannah went to a side table, pulled out a kleenex, sprayed it with water. She brought it over and pressed it into my neck. “This will make you feel better, Mama.”

Oh baby girl…

I started to come back around. Brian ran for the blood pressure monitor and they placed it on my arm. It tried to read my pressure two times before saying “error.”

The world started fading again. I was drenched in sweat. Brian was holding the phone in his hands. “You better call,” I said, before I dropped my water and crumpled down another step.

I could hear Brian talking into the phone as Cassie cradled my head – I was in and out. Although I do remember having the wherewithal to hope the EMTs might be handsome, young and single since I’d messed everything else up for Cassie’s second day in town.

The ambulance arrived. The guys asked me a ton of questions and hooked me up to an IV. I’d had some arm pain so they were concerned about my heart. They suggested I go in to the hospital to get some more tests. I was scared enough to comply.

They loaded me up on the gurney and into the ambulance.

Brian would follow close behind while Mom and Cassie kept an eye on Savannah.

The ambulance started moving and the EMT asked me more questions. I knew I was a little slow in answering, but I tried to stay focused.

Then he raised his arm to adjust something on my IV. His forearm was directly in front of my face and he had a very large tattoo.

The grim reaper.

Big. Shadowy. Dark cloak. Skull. Reaper thingy in his hand.

Death.

On his arm.

Facing me.

In an ambulance.

Suddenly I was no longer at a loss of words.

“Nice choice of tattoo.” I managed, quite clearly.

“Oh,” he said, as if it were no big deal that he has a GRIM REAPER on his arm in an ambulance with a potentially dying, delirious woman on his gurney. “I got that before I started in this job.”

Oh, you mean back when you were working as… a murderer? 

I kept my eyes open. Alert. Aware. Watched his hands. Don’t move a muscle mister. I watched Karate Kid 1, 2 AND 3. I got moves.

We arrived at the hospital and I was never so happy to be wheeled in to an ER.

They ran some tests. It seems it was all just a perfect storm of going hiking on a hot day with one kidney and little water. My calcium was low too, and that seemed to intensify it all. Follow up with the doc and maybe a few more tests, but all in all – not near as bad as it could have been.

It was not my heart. I didn’t die.

No thanks to the grim reaper.

So here’s the thing, I know tattoos are really popular these days. But if you have any type of cloaked figure, skull and crossbones, poison symbols – anything dark and deathly and you happen to work in the health care field – cover it up. Masking tape. Gauze. Paint. Long sleeved shirt. Anything.

Please cover it to avoid giving a perfectly healthy dehydrated human a heart attack.

So that’s the story. Oh, and while Cassie didn’t find the man of her dreams in the EMT crew, we did manage to have some fun for the rest of the week. And we also received some adoption news. to check that all out, you can watch the YouTube here.

Be safe my friends! And may none of you encounter a grim reaper this week!