I held my girls just now. There I sat with one on each side of me in the rocking chair. I sang to them while Jillian squished up against me and Anna snuggled into my chest to fall asleep. And I thought of them. I thought of the two women who carried them for nine months, held them first, and surrendered so much by giving these babies up so that each of them might have a chance at a better life. I thought of all that my girls' birth mothers have lost because these precious treasures are mine. I shed a tear at just how unjust it is that they weren't able to keep these beautiful, amazing girls. I thought of how there must be a huge gaping hole that they never can escape because of the absence of these little ones in their lives. Then I thanked God that He invited me to join Him in caring for them. I thanked Him for the blessing that each is to me and I prayed that these women who carried my babies and were their first mothers would somehow come to know Him and rest in His plan for these precious treasure's lives. I was dreaming that one day in glory we would all be together worshiping and praising God for the way that He has knit all our lives together. This adoption journey is full of brokenness and beauty intertwined in a gloriously heart breaking way. I am forever grateful to have walked in it and so thankful to be able to experience the restoration that only the Lord can provide after such brokenness.
To My Emily,
I had the pleasure of spending time with you at your physical appointment yesterday. It is hard for me to believe how grown up you are. As I watched you calmly receiving three shots in your arm and listened to you read off and answer your own medical history, I couldn't help but remember the anxious little girl you once were anytime we went near the doctor. I am watching you become a woman as God continues to mold and shape you for His purposes and it is such a beautiful thing. You are funny, smart, caring, quiet, and analytical. You don't like to talk feelings or dwell on things in the gray. You just want to be told what to do and how to do it so that you can obey. Your desire to obey will be such an asset to you as you follow God's leading in your life and sometimes I wish for just a moment that I could have just a small piece of that desire that God has placed in you. I have such fun with you and I love that you still value my opinion so much. I continue to challenge you to give yourself away and watching you do that with your baby sisters has been beautiful. Yesterday alone I watched as you interacted with each of them lovingly countless times throughout the day. I watched you run to Anna each time that she called Emily all afternoon. I saw you lovingly sitting stroking Jill's hair and reading to her as Anna napped and I can't help but thank God for the gift that you are to me. I love being able to raise you up and cherish all the memories that we have made together. You were the first to make me a momma so you have been on the receiving end of many first time parenting mistakes, but you are better for it and so am I. Today, I was reminded how little time I have left with you under my roof and I prayed for you earnestly with urgency during my usual prayer time because of it. I can't wait to see where God leads you and count it pure joy that I get to be your mommma. I love you with all of my heart.
Anna holding Anna Mei's hand in China just after Gotcha Day.
One of our dearest teens is headed off to work in the Chicago public schools for the next five weeks as part of a scholarship program that she is participating in . This is her first time away from home for so long as she just graduated, but she will be headed off to Greenville College in the fall. We are so excited to see how God will use this young lady because she has an amazing faith though we will miss her dearly. She traveled to China with me to get my sweet Anna Mei so she is very special to my girls and to me. She babysits Jillian on a regular basis, has fallen in love with adoption and caring for the orphan, led the Bible Study at the high school this year, was awarded an amazing teaching scholarship, is going to be a special ed teacher..I could go on and on about her. She is even a big part of the reason that Daddy chose Anna Mei's name because her name is also Anna. We love her to bits...
So we wanted to send a piece of us with her as she goes out to change the world for Him!
This was Anna Mei's first time painting and she was happy to be doing it.
Jillian went first as I knew it would stress her out greatly to participate because of her tactile sensitivities. Anna watched while Jillian dutifully obeyed momma and uncomfortably left her two hand prints on our project. Then it was her turn to leave her own and she did so many times. She really enjoyed it.
It turned out great and I hope Anna feels the prayers these little folded hands will be sending up for her over the next five weeks. We will truly miss her so very much!
While Jillian wasn't so happy about the painting part of this project, the clean up made her one happy girl. She was thrilled that the water in her water table and the bubbles from the soap were tinted a deep red color because of the paint. She was very excited to be splashing her sister and loved watching the colored water fall over her.
We played in the colored water the rest of the morning together. I even brought out some ice cubes which were fun to add to the red water. She really enjoyed herself.
Mei Mei was pretty happy too though the mess on her hands does bother her a bit after a while. She is beginning to relax some where that is concerned, but will still often say "towel" many times during our play when she gets a bit wet or messy as she feels the need to wipe off.
I am thankful we were able to enjoy making this special project and that my newest little peanut likes painting. We have many more teens leaving over the next few weeks. Truthfully, this is the most difficult part of youth ministry..saying goodbye to teens you have grown to love so much, but we trust each is in God's will and He will challenge and protect them as they go out on their own.
We headed to the park yesterday morning to enjoy the splash pad. We took off early so it would be less crowded and we could enjoy the water before it got too hot. We rounded the corner at the bottom of the hill near the river trail and I noticed the spouts weren't shooting up. Then I saw it. There was a maintenance truck parked near the mechanics that made our treasured spouts spew and a man making repairs to them. I was worried about how disappointed my girls would be so I tried to prepare Jillian as we approached the man to inquire about when the pump would be repaired so the water could be turned on. A couple of hours. A couple of hours..UGH! We had walked the mile or so to the park so I didn't just want to return home. I looked at my babies and signed "the water is broken" and "play at the park". Jillian was sad, but signed play so we headed across the street to the playground.
Then it happened. We came face to face with the least. We live in a smallish community of 20,000 or so and I have never once seen this here so it affected me. There was a man, who was clearly homeless, with his shoes and socks off lying in the grass asleep. The people were passing by him and the park mower was coming pretty close to him too, but he didn't move. He just rested there in the middle of the grass, out in the open of the park, asleep. Seeing this is not an everyday occurrence for me. My heart broke for a million reasons and I couldn't just walk by this man and do nothing for him. I was thinking about what I could do to help him. I desperately wanted to not just pass him by and look the other way ignoring that he likely had needs. So, I pulled my girls over in the wagon and knelt down to them saying a prayer for this man. My babies are very young and surely have no idea what homelessness is or how this man had needs..they simply were playing at the park. I couldn't help though, but think about how this man's needs were much like the needs my babies had before coming home to our family...hunger, loneliness, helplessness.
Still wanting to do something more, I called my husband. I never have my phone at the park. We usually head out the door so fast that I don't grab it, but today I had it. I can't ignore that God had His hand in this. I decided to call the city and tell them of this man's needs. It was ten minutes and a man in uniform showed up. I watched from the swings as I pushed my treasures praying the whole time that I had done the right thing. The uniformed man approached the homeless man with compassion and caring. I saw him wake him gently. Give him a hand to help him up. Talk with him. Pat him on the back and lead him back to the squad car to give him a ride. There was another man, who was dressed in civilian clothes, who met the man at the car. I was wondering if this plain clothed civilian was a community representative or Chaplin that could help connect this man with the help he needed. I pray that it was.
Then, I looked over toward the splash pad to see the spouts shooting high up in the air as they are designed to do (apparently the pump had been going bad for a while because WOW where they shooting with this new one installed) even though the maintenance man had been working only thirty minutes on it. The girls and I packed up in the wagon and headed that way ready to go about our day. As we transitioned to the water, the homeless man, civilian helper, and uniformed officer were loading up into the car. I don't know what happened next as the men drove off together in the squad car, but I know it affected me.
That thirty minute encounter changed my day, rocked my world, and led me to prayer and the study of God's word because there is need everywhere. Real need. Real brokenness. It hurts my heart to see it. I want it to hurt my heart. I want to respond in a way worthy of the one who gave His life for me. I want to teach my babies to respond. I want my babies heart to be filled with compassion and longing to be Jesus to the least of these. I have to do that by living that out in my own life and while I fail epically many times..God is working in me and I pray that He continues to give me His heart so that I may pass it on to my children as I live out my walk beside them.
I could never come up with any words to type that could really express how very grateful to God I am for giving me this Godly man to lead my family. The fact that my girls get to call this man "Daddy" is more than I could have ever imagined to have prayed for. We had a simple day, but enjoyed lots of time together.
Daddy was busy with the girls today. Anna wanted to be read books in the kitchen so Daddy obliged. Then he spent some time shooting bball with Em at the local park. Jillian just wanted Daddy to turn on the water hose and so they were in the backyard together a bit today. He did get time for a nap too, but with three girls Daddy always stays busy and today was not different. He loves spending time with each and every one of them and I love watching it.
Anna helped me make pizza for Daddy.
She executed every single step flawlessly.
She loves cooking for anyone and spends most of her time in the kitchen while I prepare meals.
I love having her help and it was special that she was able to help make Daddy's favorite, Calzones, for Father's Day!
Of Course, she needed a bit of a snack too.
She worked up an appetite making those pizzas.
Happy Father's Day to our Daddy.
Thank you for following hard after God and leading our family in the ways of Jesus!
Last week, we celebrated seventeen years of marriage. God has done much in our lives in the last seventeen years. We are not anywhere near where I dreamed of being in this stage of my life and while to most of the world it looks like we are in a worse place than what I had hoped because we don't have a fancy house, enjoy nice vacations, have a growing retirement, or anything that I used to value..This story that we are living out is so much more beautiful than I ever imagined it could be because Jesus is the center.
When we first married, I was nineteen and so getting as big a diamond on my ring as possible was very important to me. DH was only twenty-one though when he bought the ring so big doesn't even begin to describe it and so I thought then that someday I would trade up, as is traditional, by celebrating an anniversary getting something grander. Well as God has done in most areas of my life, I don't want a big ring anymore. While I still have a long way to go, God is beginning to make some progress in my heart where stuff is concerned and I am beginning to see the value in living a more simple and focused life with greater purpose. So this year when Sean came home and said that he thought it would be nice if we each got new silver bands with the Chinese characters faith and love engraved on them to wear on our ring fingers, I was all in. No diamonds (which seem to always scratch my babies anyway), no high price tag, nothing fancy at all..just a simple silver ring to symbolize our marriage with the characters of China to symbolize the journey God has led us on in caring for the fatherless with the meaning of faith and love which have both meant so much as our relationship has grown these last seventeen years.
I was seventeen when I said yes to marry this man and, while many things have changed between us, I am grateful that God has allowed our love to grow. I am most thankful that God continues to show me His heart through His word and that I am able to live out His purposes as I care for my family. What a treasure His word is to me. I pray that as DH and I grow older together we will continue to give God this life that He has given us so that He might continue to write our stories and we would live in big ways for Him!
Let me just say, this little lady is thrilled about it.
The first time we rounded the walking trail by the river and Jillian looked up to see those spouts shooting water to the sky..she erupted with joy! This is by far her favorite place in the whole wide world. And because it makes her so happy, it makes this momma pretty happy too.
Unfortunately, Mei Mei does not share the same feelings.
She runs into the water liking the idea.
Then after being splashed runs out for a towel to dry off the few drops that hit her. Actually, it is totally adorable that she is so proper. She runs to me pointing to the place on her body that has gotten wet saying "towel" and I can't resist giggling.
So most of our days here are spent like this..
Jillian loving the water while Anna Mei is being wiped off.
Eventually, Anna takes a seat next to momma and enjoys her snacks while laughing at the hilarity that is her big sister running like a mad woman through the water.
Jillian simply can't get enough of the splashing spouts.
She is full of joy and I love watching it.
I am looking forward to many more lazy summer days hanging at the splash pad with my treasures because this is what summer was made for.
Tonight, I watched as my sweet Jillian enjoyed an ordinary kid moment.
It was just a ride at a carnival.
A ride that was way over priced, smelled a bit, and was crowded
for my girl it was miraculous!
Mei Mei was itching to get on one!
The whole time Jillian was riding, she was fussing and asking for her turn.
We finally headed to this carousel where she could ride too.
Anna didn't like it one bit and signed finished as soon as it started turning!
She did manage to stay on until it stopped, but she didn't ask to go on anything else.
This is the first ride Jillian experienced.
She would ride it three more times because clearly it was her favorite.
She signed go, go while she waited for it to start each time.
She would smile so big while the rides were in motion, but the phone camera was way too slow to capture her joy. This momma remembers it though and I have to admit I was pretty teary watching her enjoy this ordinary kid moment. With all the lights and sounds, she was still able to communicate and enjoy herself. She often signed wait while we were in line. She isn't a fan of waiting always, but she certainly understands the concept. It was way over priced of course, but a moment to be a kid is priceless. I enjoyed so much watching her enjoying herself and conquering so much! Who knew when I said yes to adoption that God would work such miracles right before my eyes? I am grateful to Him for this treasure and all that He has done in her life. I love every minute of being with her and watching her take on the world. There is no telling how far she will go.
A haircut for most four year olds is no big deal. It is certainly nothing to blog about, but for this very special four year old..this momma is shouting for all blog world to hear..
My baby got her hair cut!
Boy did she need it! She came to us shaved bald and so for the last two years it has been growing. I have trimmed it here and there mostly when she was trapped in the bathtub. She has never been too cooperative when the scissors come out and I am not a professional, but I knew there was no way she could handle a real hair cut in a salon. Recently, she has been doing so well and conquering so much that I called to see if our stylist could get Jillian in. She saw her today and cut her hair beautifully. My baby girl was a champ. I promised her that the chair would go round and round and so the first thing she did when she sat on it in Stacy's station was sign round and round momma. I spun her a bit, gave her her favorite v-tech to hold, and stood back. And wouldn't you know it..this sweet little treasure was FINE! She did tear up a bit near the end and begin to feel a little stress, but we were done. She got out of the chair, walked to the counter to pay, and left happy as a lark with the promise that we could play with the water hose in the back yard when we arrived home. Another milestone reached! Whew do those ends look 100 times better! She got nearly three inches trimmed off and got the length evened out. It has been months since I had even tried to trim it because it just got too long and intimidating. Now we are headed to the dentist in a couple of weeks and there is no way, short of God's divine intervention, that it won't be a disaster. So I am interceding on behalf of the dental staff, and my baby of course, praying that she will allow her mouth to be worked on. We will see. Until then, I am shouting for victory that we were able to get a real haircut! WOOHOO!!!
So, I packed up my girls and headed to the Peoria Zoo.
(Anna's first trip to the zoo.)
We arrived plenty early so we went to the large park area first. Last year, my sweet Jillian wouldn't go near this swing. In fact, she would only swing on my lap.
But this year..
She was thrilled to be spinning and swinging at the same time! I couldn't get her off this swing. It just makes me smile! She has made so much progress. Each time she conquers something new, I just marvel at all that she is and how very much she amazes me each day! I really felt that way all morning watching her enjoying the zoo.
Anna loved the playground too.
Em was a huge help today!
Anna Mei would have watched the animals for hours.
She was amused by them and repeated the names of each one after we said them.
Jillian loved looking at the water in each cage.
She really thought they should allow us in to play with them.
(I tried to rationalize with her that it was not a good idea to join the Chinese alligator in his creek, but she didn't give up signing water please. Truly, I give thanks to God for who this treasure is, how she thinks, and how God knit her all together so uniquely. It always makes me smile to see things from her perspective.)
Sissy had to carry Mei a lot.
My this girl is an excellent big sister.
This is something Jillian can get excited about. She understands eating and really enjoys it.
(Again this is miraculous considering how far we have come!)
Two out of three looking at the camera isn't too bad.
This momma will take it.
We enjoyed every thing about the zoo this morning.
What I enjoyed most though was having my babies together.
I laugh when I look at this because again this is one of Jillian's unique interests. She loves the grass.
She loves the way it moves in wind and how it shakes when she waves her hand over it. We had to have a moment with the grass. My unique and beautiful treasure is worth a pause to take in a greenery filled sensory experience.
Mei Mei was pooped and sacked out hard on the way home. You could hear her little snore all the way up in the front seat. I am beyond grateful for these days as I know how quickly they pass! Praising God today for my girls and how faithful He has been to our family.
I watched last night as my sweet treasure, Jillian, picked up the pork chops pieces off of her little sister's plate (with her fingers) and fed it to her. This is huge on so many levels. First, she touched this food with her fingers which for a kiddo with tactile defensiveness is a miracle in itself. She picked up the pieces of meat with her bare hands and used those same sweet fingers to put them in Mei's mouth. Though she would never at this point feed herself with her fingers, she is beginning to use them to feed others and that is huge progress! This little girl, my sweet Jillian, who so many thought would never connect with anyone was caring for her Mei Mei. The one who we were told would never learn much and would never be connected to life is accomplishing so much and loves so deeply. She is bonding with this sweet little sister whom God has given her and it is miraculous! She cares so much for her and I see signs of it everyday! There she was last night tenderly feeding this little one-her sister-piece by piece. This is such a great sign of the bonding that is taking place day by day as these two learn to live beside each other.
I am a Christ follower, wife of 20 years to my best friend, and a stay at home momma to five amazing daughters. I am currently waiting for one precious special needs treasure to come home from China. I am passionate about the orphan and special needs adoption. I love to teach God's word, am involved in youth ministry alongside my dh, and love,love, love cooking. Above all, I desire to serve God and surrender my life to His call.