Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Remembering...

Two years ago, this very night, we were scared, scared to death as thirty minutes turned into an hour and that hour turned into two more. I remember looking across the room at Adam and knowing in my gut that the exam was taking way longer then it should. As we awaited Dr. Abraham's analysis of Ava Jane's two and a half hour echocardiogram, we became extremely nervous. If you've followed her story, you may remember this detail, we thought we were there for breathing problems, but soon realized that her issues were much worse then the need for an Albuterol updraft treatment. The words Dr. Abraham spoke still echo in my ears.  He was a different ethnicity and had somewhat broken English but he clearly stated, "she have problem, she need surgery."

We were stunned…we had no words, just a rough, chicken scratch of a picture on the examining bed paper that showed what a good heart looks like and what our sweet baby girls heart looked like with its 70% narrowed Aortic Arch. Again, we were stunned.  Sometime around 8 or 9:00 pm I called my parents to let them know we were in fact not leaving the hospital and that she needed surgery AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

Somewhere around midnight we got moved up to CVICU and tried to settle in for the long hall. I'll never forget having a conversation with my good friend who is a CVICU nurse at about 2:00 in the morning and feeling such peace as she talked me through what we could expect.

As I sat reading back through all my blog posts from that very trying time in our life, I had tears welling up in my eyes. Reliving the oh so scary moments of not knowing whether our sweet little girl would survive was so surreal. Her RSV made her critical, she needed surgery immediately but because her lungs were so compromised she couldn't go on a bypass machine. The team of doctors waited a full week then decided they couldn't put it off any longer.

This is a picture of her within minutes of us going back to see her after the surgery. It's still hard for me to look at this picture with all the IV pumps as they tried to get her blood pressure and heart rate stabilized and then there's the blood transfusion bag at her feet. She was under a warming light to bring her body temp back up from its cooled down state in surgery so she had to have her eyes covered up. She looked so small, so fragile, so volatile with alarms sounding and beeps going off constantly…those moments are seared in our memory and will never be forgotten.
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You can read more of the miraculous details of Ava Jane's amazing story here, here, here, here and here. As we sit, in November of 2014, we are so thankful and so grateful for how God has fully healed her.  We just went for her six month checkup and everything looked great. There are still some things that they are watching with her mitral valve but Dr. Bornemeier was pleased with how things looked, so we were greatly encouraged!

Two years ago I was so thankful for the sweet baby girl that God had so graciously put into our family and now, two years later, I'm still so grateful for this precious little girl who is thriving and vibrant, sweet but a little bit sassy too. She has started talking a lot and it has been so fun to see that last bit of her development coming along. We praise God for the wonderful things He has done and the way that "(she) was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on (her), and not on (her) only but also on (us), to spare (us) sorrow upon sorrow" (Philippians 2:27).

We are so grateful for this little girl and for the story of how God miraculously held her heart open until the doctors could be His hands and help to physically repair her heart. We have loved each day and every moment that we have had with her. She brings us great joy and real pleasure. We love this baby girl!
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Time With Friends

Today, with the boys home from school, I decided to do a play date with friends. Initially I threw out the idea of going to the Trampoline Park, but when a friend suggested coming to her house to play and have a picnic since it is SUCH beautiful fall weather, we chose the later. And when I told the boys that a John Deere tractor ride was in the cards too, they were all about it.  (And getting to take the exciting ride with one of THE coolest teachers at school was pretty awesome too!)
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Last week at our BLOOM luncheon, one of our pastors was talking about things that he would like to pray for us mothers. It was a really encouraging talk but I think the part I walked away from with the most encouragement was when he said this, "give them grace to fight and rest". Fight for time in the scriptures, fight for quality time with friends, fight for quality time with their husband and kids." Those were all things that really hit home to me. These are all areas where I want to fight and fight hard. It was both an encouragement and challenge for me, particularly with the area of friends.  I realize that the group of women God has placed in my path is not always the norm, nor is it anything that I want to take for granted. There have been times (during several of our job moves) where friendships have wained or not been there to fall back on, but here, now, in this time, God has so graciously given me good, strong, Christian friends who build me up, challenge me spiritually and help call me to a higher standard. I am so thankful for the women God has placed in my life and I'm really thankful that we all have kids about the same ages who will hopefully be iron sharpening iron for this next generation that we're raising!

I love these women, here's a picture from our last girls trip. We definitely need to do another one of these soon! Ladies, I love you and am so grateful for each of you!
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Becoming Aware

The past two weeks have been pretty busy. It's been good things, all really great opportunities to see where the Lord is at work and how we can join Him there in our small way.

Last week, Adam and I had the privilege to host a table at the Immerse Banquet.   Almost all of my old Bible study group was there so we had to take a moment for the photo op!
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We invited people to sit with us, most of whom had never heard of Immerse nor really given a thought to what happens to these "kids" after they turn 18. I know that before a few years ago I'd never stopped to think about what happens after years of waiting for a family and none presents itself.

Immerse is a ministry that seeks to come along side and help kids who "age out" of the states foster system. We've partnered with Immerse for the past four to five years, when Adam's sister, Molly and her husband Joseph were some of the first "house parents". It has really been amazing to see how God has grown this ministry from a family room informational meeting to a full blown banquet, the third annual one in fact! The stories shared were gut wrenching and hard to hear at times, and there was one line that Pastor Jackie Flake said that I'll never forget. He said, "it's easy, when faced with these hard stories and the overwhelming magnitude of the crises around us to not just shake our heads in discouragement, thinking, this problems is too big, too great. What can I do?" But it's ministries like this, that bring a face and a name, a video with these kids hard stories, that helps us to see that whether or not we choose to engage with these kids or not, the reality is, they are still living these horrors, going through these hardships, with no help, no home to call their own and certainly, no hope.

So we were challenged to consider what we would do if we had been in these kids situations. In the following video they share questions like "who's going to help me learn life skills like cooking, who's going to help me apply for college or fill out a job application, who's going to walk me down the aisle?" Click here to see a video that helps to share these kids stories and their point of view.

The statistics are overwhelming:
-75% of homeless teens use drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate to deal with the traumatic experiences and abuse they face.
-46% of homeless youth say they left home because of physical abuse, 17% left because of sexual abuse.
-5,000 young people die every year because of assault, illness or suicide while on the streets.

Each year in the United States, 30,000 youth will "age out" of foster care after not finding a permanent family. Too old for foster care, but unprepared for adulthood, these youth are confronted with harsh realities. By age 24:
-40% will have experienced homelessness.
-58% will be parents, 1/2 the young men and 2/3 of the young women
-Only 48% will be employed
-39% of women and 81% of men will have been arrested

To turn our heads away is to ignore God's people, to turn our heads away is to be hard hearted and judgmental. I'm so thankful for Eric and Kara Gilmore, who have followed God's call on their lives and who have vigorously fought to empower and help these kids and who brought to our attention a huge need that Adam and I didn't even know existed five years ago. If you have been moved by the video or any of the statistics and would like to help support the ministry, you can click here.
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This past week, we also got to participate in Global Village, a time at our church where many of the missionaries that the church supports were available to share stories, experiences and worship the Lord in their native languages. (That is always really powerful to sing one song in many languages…our God is truly a great big God!)
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We started off in the model building that was similar to what the bunk rooms look like at the labor camps in the United Arab Emirates, where many migrant workers from all around the world come to live and work. These small rooms often house 12-15 people and are crowded and unsanitary. The woman you see was sharing stories with the kids like she would share with the workers about who God is, how powerful He is and how we can have a personal relationship with Him.
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A few weeks ago our church helped to pack 5,000 Compassion Kits that will be sent to Nepal, where there are labor camps like this, in hopes that the small act of kindness, would be seen as a gift from the Lord and would cause the people to have their hearts and eyes opened, for the first time, to who God is and their need for His saving grace.
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There were "booths" (for lack of terminology) set up throughout the plaza for our kids to experience what people in other countries deal with on a daily basis. There was the "tippee tap", which was a large laundry detergent bottle with a tiny whole in the lid, that was filled with water, tied with a rope to a stick that when "tipped" acted as a place to shower, wash hands, clean pots, etc. The hole in the lid only allowed a small amount of water to trickle out so as not to waste the precious commodity. Then and there I once again realized, I am so spoiled! I LOVE LOVE LOVE my piping hot, long, high water pressure showers, and this "tippee tap" was a far cry from that! My boys also got to experience what it is like to carry many gallons of water a short distance…I'm so thankful we don't have to do this! I cannot imagine having to carry all my water for cooking, bathing, washing dishes and clothes, what a real convenience and blessing it is to have running water thats even heated!
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We ended the night by hearing from the Sengoga Family. Joel and Annie are some friends of ours who we've gotten to know through our D-Group. They came over from Rwanda for a year to do the Fellowship Associates church planting residency program. It has really be fun to get to know this family and to hear their stories and share life together.
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I enjoyed exposing our kids to Global Village to help them see that what we have here in America is NOT normal, it's not what everyone gets to experience. We talk to them all the time about "to whom much is given, much is required". Adam and I hope to give our boys a view of the world outside of Little Rock, AR and look forward to taking them places in the future that are very different from what we know here but until then we hope that through the letters they regularly get and send to our Compassion International kids in Tanzania (Amlan and Robert, who share our big boys ages) and through experiences like Global Village, that they will begin to get a sense of how big our world is and how much God loves all the people who live in it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

BLOOM Brunch 2014

Yesterday wrapped up the semester for my Bible Study, BLOOM (Building a Legacy Out Of Motherhood).  The food was good as always and the speakers were challenging and inspiring.  We did a book called God Architect by our own Kathryn Maack, which I have thoroughly enjoyed doing.  It's been about mothers roles in their homes, how we can point our children to God and how to intentionally seek out spiritual conversations with others, especially our children.  I have loved the practical application that was shared as well as the verses from God's word that have exhorted and challenged me to strive after this.

I think my biggest take away may have been the last chapter which was all about the Holy Spirit being at work in us. In the leaders meeting we were given three full pages listing characteristics of who the Holy Spirit is and honestly, I was actually really surprised by how many things that the Bible says the Holy Spirit does or can do.  Why I try to sell him short, I have no idea, because why else would Jesus have said, "If I go, then the helper will come", if he didn't have all these attributes and qualities, he wouldn't really be "a helper", would he?

Sometimes, to be real honest, I feel powerless. Though I am a believer in Jesus Christ and I have been given the Holy Spirit who "guarantees my inheritance", who "will be my helper" and "will bring to remembrance all that God has said".   Sometimes I feel like I just need more of Jesus, which in reality is really a good thing to need more of, but I struggle because if I do indeed have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of me, why do I still feel powerless at times?  Powerless to be patient with my kids or in the grocery store line, powerless to always be loving to those I come in contact with, powerless to be kind (when I feel like screaming) or powerless to be joyful in all circumstances.  When I say powerless, I mean, why isn't it my natural instinct to be these things and to act this way?  The obvious answer is that I am sinful, and I live in a sin soaked world.   A good friend of mine reminded me the other morning, "well, just think what we'd be like if we DID NOT have the Holy Spirit living inside of us at all?" That's truly a thought provoking question, which could create all kinds of drama and crazy outcomes if I let that scenario play out to the end…(SCARY, don't want to think about such things!!)

Thank the Lord I do have the Holy Spirit living inside me to convict me of sin (John 16:8), to reveal Christ to me and in me (John 16:14-15), to empower me (Romans 15:19, Acts 1:8) to fill me (Ephesians 5:18) and to produce in me the fruit or evidence of His work and presence (Gal 5:22-23).  I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit can reveal the deep things of God to me (I Corinthians 2:10), dwells within me (Romans 8:9), grants me access to God the Father (Ephesians 2:18) and most importantly, as far as right now goes, I'm so thankful that the Holy Spirit can bring to my remembrance things that Gods word says (John 14:26) because sometimes this Mommy brain of mine is just not capable of recalling one.more.thing!

I am so thankful for this past semester, for the study and fellowship as well as the truth and knowledge that's been gained.   And I am super grateful to have had these women to share with.  Their transparency and vulnerability has made our group a real gem, and it's been a true pleasure to dialogue and pray for one another.  I hope we will "consider how to stir up one another to love and good works and encourage one another." (Hebrews 10:24-28)

And in those moments where I feel powerless, my prayer is that I will remember, "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Happy 8th Birthday Peyton

Eight years ago this morning, I became a Mom for the first time. I love each one of my kids equally but there is something special with your first born, the one who thrusts you into the world of motherhood. The one who had my sole attention with no others vying for my help.

This little boy is growing up so fast. I look at recent pictures and am stunned by how old he looks and how the adjective "handsome" seems to describe him better than "cute" (according to my husband).
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It really seems like I've blinked and eight years have passed by.  And when I think that we are almost half way through our time spent with him at home, I get a real big lump in my throat.  How can that be? But when I stop and consider all that he's doing and becoming (educationally, spiritually and physically), I realize how much he's learned in these eight years.

Adam and I are so incredibly proud of the young boy that he is.  He has so many wonderful character qualities that make us swell with pride as we see him rise to the occasion each day. Peyton is highly self motivated, he wakes up on his own each morning (thanks to his alarm) and gets dressed and makes his bed without being asked.  He has the gift of "helps" meaning, when he sees someone in need or something that needs to be done, he usually steps in to help whether thats unloading the dishwasher, emptying and carrying out the trash, raking leaves or getting snacks for his brothers or Ava Jane. If you ask Lawson and Emerson who their best friend is, they'll both say "Peyton" and Ava Jane adores him as you can see in this picture.
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He is truly a thoughtful young boy who purely desires to do the right thing. We see evidences of the Lord at work in him as he is developing the desire to pray at different times (like when we see emergency vehicles speeding past to an accident or a firetruck headed to an emergency situation). He enjoys reading his Bible and easily memorizes God's, which is such a joy to see and hear!

Peyton-
We love the fact that we get a front row seat as we watch you apply what God's word says to do in your every day occurrences.  We love you so very much and can't imagine life without you!   We are so grateful for you, son!  Happy 8th Birthday!   Love-Mom and Dad

"It has given me (us) great joy to find my (our) children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us" (II John 1:4).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Everything Is Awesome"

Last week the boys had their fall break from school so we decided to use the extra time to take a little trip and celebrate Peyton's birthday a few days early. We've had several people recommend Great Wolf Lodge and Leggo Land just outside of Dallas, so we asked Peyton if he would like to have a birthday party or take a trip? When he saw pictures of Great Wolf Lodge, it was an easy answer, and this Momma, who loves to plan parties was honestly just a little bit thrilled to get to take a party planning hiatus.

We left town mid morning on Thursday and arrived early afternoon after naps had been taken and anticipation was at its peak! The kids were so excited to finally be there and to get their water adventure started!
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I have to say that this trip was super fun for all of us! Great Wolf Lodge most certainly did not disappoint! Even though our room wasn't ready upon our arrival they found another two bedroom suite and gave us a free meal coupon for six, we were impressed! The atmosphere was obviously kid friendly and they'd seemed to think of any and every possible thing that would make a family's stay memorable and fun. The kids couldn't wait to get out there and start their adventure. The worst part was the 30 minute wait for our room.
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They had a terrific time though once we got started!
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There was plenty to interest the littles and the big boys so that was really nice.
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Peyton and Lawson enjoyed the big tube rides that started out inside then went outside the building and back into the water park. The red slide was their favorite!
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They loved the ropes course and the basketball area.
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The wave pool was a hit too and nice that it only went to five feet deep.
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I can't think of anything that would have made the water park any more fun, they thought of everything! These little peeps were thrilled to play in the water!
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Each night they have a story time that I'll just say was "okay", it wasn't terrific, but we did do it one evening.
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I think the key to traveling (or doing anything with kids really) is to have the right gear, accommodations, etc. The two bedroom suite (meaning in addition to the two bedrooms it had a small living area and mini kitchen) which was PER-FECT and worth every penny! We put all the boys in one bedroom, Ava Jane slept in the living room in her Pack-n-Play which meant Adam and I didn't have to turn out the lights and be super quiet when we put the kids down, so we actually got to enjoy a couple of movies and some down time together. It was really nice.  Ava Jane enjoyed wearing her wolf ears, isn't she a cute wolf pup?  She was practicing her howling!
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On Friday morning we took the boys to Lego Land. As we left the hotel Lawson saw the gy-normous wolves at the front of the hotel and asked me to take their picture, so I gladly obliged him.
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If you've seen The Lego Movie, you know the song, "Everything is awesome"….well, my boys were singing that song all weekend long, it was sort of the theme!  The lyrics say, "everything is awesome, everything is cool when you're part of the team, everything is awesome, when you're living in a dream."  I think the boys sort of felt like they were living in a dream!  They thought from start to finish that "everything WAS awesome"!

At Lego Land the boys were enthralled with the "tour" of how a lego is made…and when a lego piece popped out of the tube at the end of the conveyor belt as a gift for each child, the boys were astonished. As we moved into the discovery center, the boys really enjoyed making cars to race down the huge race tracks.
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There were a couple of rides, a 3D movie which was really fun, and an entire room modeled after the city of Dallas made completely out of Legos--that was pretty impressive.
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Emerson's favorite part of the trip was definitely Leggo Land, he loved it!
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Friday evening we took them to The Rain Forest Cafe for an early birthday dinner. The atmosphere is perfect for kids with the safari-like ambiance/distractions which made the dinner mostly enjoyable minus the moment where two of our kids, at the same time, tipped their chairs over and hit the ground simultaneously.  After that, we had an easy going dinner that the kids seemed to love, with animal sounds and tropical rain storms, animal shaped balloons and good food.  A memory was certainly made! It was truly a happy early birthday for Peyton!
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Our time at Great Wolf Lodge is certainly a repeatable experience! We truly had a fun and relaxing time (which can't always be said about a family trip with kids.) I love these people, I feel so blessed!
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Lakin' it with friends

We have gotten to know the Livers over the last two years and truly enjoy their friendship. Two years ago we were one of their boys Sunday ...