Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring Dreaming

It's such a beautiful way to start spring.

Our Easter this year started with church, and ended with a bonfire at our oldest daughters house. It was the first year that we have had Easter dinner with her at her home, and it was nice to see all of Andy's family there too. Ash had gotten the flu on friday, and my kids were very worried we would have to cancel our dinner plans there. They were soooo excited to go to Ash and Andy's house for the day, and had spent several days drawing pictures for them.

Although the weather forecast was gloomy, the temp was perfect for the kids to play outside in her yard all afternoon. They ate some, but played alot! Andy had organized games that brought laughs from kids and adults alike, and the bonfire at the end was just icing on the cake! It was different from our traditional Easter sundays, but a wonderful day in all!

The kids are divided this year on the Easter bunny. Half of them know for sure HE is not real, the other half are convinced he most definately is! They were so excited to see the goodies he brought, and none of them denied liking the treats in their baskets. I always appreciate the bunny bringing more crafts and things to do in their baskets rather than more candy. Of course, the candy is the favorite, by far, of the children. I think most of it is gone today, except the jelly beans! No one seems to like those, except daddy!

I was poignantly aware of the grandkids missing from our family Easter. I don't think there was ever a time they actually spent the holiday in town with us, but this year, it was just so obvious they were missing. Watching the games with the kids at Ash's house, I just kept thinking how much fun it would be if the boys could be here with us. Having been out there last month, Jersey seems even farther away now, and we all are missing them so much. They are growing, but I wish is were here instead of there. They have wonderful opportunities in their town, but our town just doesn't seem as bright with them not here.

I am so glad that Britt and Scott are great at keeping us in the loop, but I sure with we could be closer. How fun it would be for all of us to be together for holidays. Jenni, instead of Oregon, living just down the road. The grandsons, able to bounce in and out of our house whenever they wanted a gramma fix, and me, (needing a grandson fix nearly every day!) wouldn't have to miss parties or special occasions at all!!

Of course, I am dreaming. It's spring, but awfully rainy for the last many days...so I let my mind wander. I am thankful for our loves and lives, but wishing we were not so far apart.

Happy Easter, Happy Spring. Whether near or far, you are all in my heart everyday and always.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Preemies and hats of love

We have finally finished our goal of crocheting hats for the preemies at the local hospital. I have bagged the blanket and hat sets together, and the tiny hats separately. As I was putting them in the bags, and looking at each one, I had a strong sense of what each stitch has meant to me through these last winter months.

I love a plan. I do well on projects, and enjoy gritting it out until they are completed. This one was not my plan, but the idea of my niece, Tona, who had just learned to crochet. She and I have both had the agony of preemie babies laying in hospital beds, in isolets, where your whole world revolves around the sights and sounds of babies and families in limbo. It meant the world to us when we spotted the kindness of strangers who wrapped our babies in homespun creations, so we wanted to pay back the favor. When I finally stopped crocheting hats for the babies, I had the most awesome sense of accomplishment. For now. I am taking a summer break, hoping to start again in the fall. It kept my hands busy waiting for my own babies to come home, and it was something I could do on the days where I felt there was simply nothing else I could do.

I know the medical advances that save younger and younger babies each year is mindblowing. The babies are healthier because of the advances of medical science. We were thrilled to team up with the March for Babies this year for the same reason. We were given hope when our babies came into this world too soon, and the March of Dimes is doing the same thing for many other families in our area.

Now that the March is past, and the hats/blankets are done, it's time to deliver them.

I pray as each one goes to the babies they select them for, the families will feel peace and comfort in knowing there are others who have sat in their seats, too. We know their fears, their hopes and their pain in the waiting and wondering. We hope and pray each hat touches a life as ours were touched by strangers long ago.

Total for this year: 12 hat and blanket sets, 110 single hats.
Thanks, Tona, for the encouragement (and a bit of competition!!). You had a great plan, and you should be proud of what we accomplished. Thanks to my friend Pat who donated about 10 or so of her hats too!

As I was putting the hats in the bags, I zipped each one to within a fraction of closing, then hugged the bag to my chest to release as much air as I could.

Bella, 4, watched me as I bagged a few, then put them in the box to carry them to the hospital. She came up to me and asked if she could do that.

I said, "Do what, Bella?"

She said, "I want to hug them all before they go to the babies so they will know I love them too."

Yes, we all love those babies, Bella. And they will be getting a bunch of hugs to encourage them until they can go home.

Peace and love to the preemies.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The History of Two Babies

After we adopted our 7th child (making 10 total children that carry our name!), we both strongly felt this would not be our last adoption.

We sought God's plan, asking HIM more than once the path we should take to the next child. We knew large families were not typical, but for us, it worked. The state system would no longer allow us to adopt within their system, because they have a number requirement that we had already reached. It forced us to pursue an international adoption.

So we began, in the later part of the fall, 2008. My heart has always hurt for the African people, due to the wars, poverty and illness that was rampant in that country. I prayed, specifically, for Liberia, feeling a deep connection to their people. I researched, felt the tug to begin, and we discussed it with our oldest children that holiday season. By January 2009 Mike and I had a plan to begin the process, and officially made our first moves.

Liberia had closed their adoption program.

Was this a closed door? Should we walk toward another path?
Our options were limited. We had 10 children (although just 7 at home) and we were nearing "old age" in many adoption circles. Who would allow us to bring another child into our family?

We started with a homestudy for international adoption, hitting a brick wall in the summer of '09. Many months of paperwork was for naught, and we were sadly forced to start over, losing the first half of that year. In the adoption world, rules do not always seem fair. And time stretches out in front of yearning hearts, compounding the ache for a child.

I wanted to give up several times. It was so hard to stay focused, especially when many around us couldn't understand our desire for another child. Were we being selfish? We searched our hearts and continued on our journey.

In January, 2010, the birth family of one of our adopted children notified us that another sibling was coming to a birthmom who was incapable of parenting, so we switched our plan to include the adoption of this half sibling. Nursery ready, papers waiting to be signed, lawyers hired for us and the birth mom, everything in place! We were excited, ready to welcome a new little girl, when the out of town judge allowed the birthmom to take the baby home. (She has since lost her parental rights and the baby girl will be placed through the state system after all.) We were devastated at our loss, fearful for the terrible life we felt this baby was destined for, and took time to lick our wounds. I was shaken in my faith, hurt beyond my understanding. Just what was God leading us toward?

As painful as it was to dissect a nursery and bury our adoption dreams, we still felt someone was missing from our lives. Who? How? When? Impossible to know. We stepped through the open door again, making vulnerable our aching hearts. We hid our tears, fought through the pain, and continued on with the international plan.

One of the hardest times of my life...but God comforted me through a beautiful friend who also knew deep loss, and helped me refocus our plan. Ethiopia would allow us to adopt, and as we committed to MORE paperwork, we studied and pictured the child/children who would be coming home to us. It soothed my heart, and I pursued the plan with determination renewed.

Fast forward (although it felt extremely slow and discouraging during this time)to November 2010. God had been working in our hearts to be a part of an orphans life. We had been lead to support a child in Uganda, Africa, and a teacher in that area, also. Although small to us, it felt good to be able to begin making a difference in a country so close to our hearts. We prepared health care packets for Haiti refugees, and found items that would benefit struggling orphanages. It felt good, but still left us thinking there was something more in Africa waiting for us.

We sought an ophan to support through the holidays, but God lead us to the boy who had been waiting for us all along.

Gborlee was born in November 2008. Exactly the time that we first sought God's plan for our lives in regards to adoption. We just didn't know it until he was 2 years old. Coincidence? I don't think so.

He has already become a part of our lives as we reach forward to bring him home. We asked about another child in January, Mohammed, that had just come into care, but he had a family already seeking him. I continued to pray, preparing for Gborlee to come home.

Last week, we got word that Mo was now available too, so we quickly knew it was an answer to our prayers!

We are to be blessed with two!

Maybe all of this history is boring to my readers. It has been a wild ride for us! I know until I have these boys in my arms, I will be fearful about it all actually coming to pass! We have suffered loss and are a bit shy to shout it out from the top of the mountain like we want to! And now, our Ethiopian angel will be coming to us as a grandchild! Scott and Britt are walking their adoption path towards a child waiting for them in Ethiopia, so God, in HIS infinite wisdom, is blessing us in a different way. God is good! HIS timing is perfect!

God, in HIS plan, is blessing us again, with angels from Africa. We couldn't be happier! This will go down as the longest "pregnancy" for our family, but the results are simply amazing.

I wonder just what God has in store for our family in the days ahead?
What are you asking HIM for today?

April 14th already?

I am sitting in the middle of April, wondering how to stop time flying by so fast!

We have been so blessed in the past two months.
I was thrilled to go to Oregon to see our second daughter, Jenni, in February. With her living so far away, I am never sure just when I will see her again. It's usually far between visits, but just 6 weeks later, we were able to be together again in Jersey.

We had scheduled for Nicole, Bella and I to fly to Jersey over spring break so we could help with Scott and Britt's adoption awareness event on the first of April. As final plans were being made, Mike decided he just couldn't miss out on this opportunity to see those adorable grandsons! We talked about taking my great nieces with us, because Macy and Keegy have this adorable friendship and it seemed like a great time to get them together. Well, that plan transformed to Macy's whole family going! 15 of us, 15 hours one way, for 10 days! AWESOME! It is always the longest trip in the world, but nephew Billy was a great chauffeur and delivered us safely to their doorstep!

Britt and Scott were fabulous hosts, housing all 21 of us in their home, by cooking, laughing, playing guitars and chasing kids! Jenni had flown in the night before us, so was able to have a day with the nephews before we got in. It was so great to have everyone together. A bit hectic at times, but more laughter and joy than anything else.

Being at the adoption event was awesome. They are on the path to adopt a special needs child from Ethiopia. Sound familiar? Our path has gone on for the last 2 1/2 years now, but that does not scare them off! God has placed an awesome desire in their hearts to open their home to a child who needs a family, and we are delighted to travel this enormous journey with them. Their good friends, Ted and Holly, are on the same path, and sharing this event with them all was truly a gift! We wish them all the blessings of God on their journeys, and that their financial needs will be met as they move forward. How exciting for us, as grandparents, that the Ethiopian child we dreamed of will be coming home in the form of another grandchild! God is so good!

Sending Jenni back to Oregon was hard. I always hate goodbyes. Leaving Scott and Britt and those beautiful grandsons was hard. I will return in June to help them pack for their next assignment with the Coast Guard, getting them ready for the next phase of their lives. Scotty was just sworn in for 3 more years, and as much as I wish they were closer, I am thankful that a powerful and loving God will never let go of their hands. They have more adventures awaiting them, and HE knows exactly where that will lead them.

Coming home is always a let down after all the excitement of a vacation, but it was wonderful to see our oldest daughter, Ashleigh, who kept the home fires burning in our absence. Looking at each of our children, we feel extremely blessed. God is at work in their lives, they are sharing their talents with others, and they share a great love of life. As parents, who could ask for more?

We are blessed. Thank you, dear Father, for the ways you enrich our lives.