Archive for January, 2018

  • It’s Cute How I Think I’m in Control

    Date: 2018.01.15 | Category: Faith, Family Life

    I have always had an issue with control.  Bad things happened to me as a kid and I thought I could control it by keeping everything around me “just so”.  Rooms had to be cleaned in a specific order before I went to bed.  Lights could only be turned off in certain order.  It wasn’t really OCD, I could not do it, but I just needed to feel as if I had some semblance of control.

    I let go of most of that when Codey and Kyle were born.  There’s nothing better to make you put things in perspective and to let you know you have no control then having your children born 12 weeks early.  Kyle’s death and Codey’s subsequent 14 months in the hospital were a constant reminder that I was not in control.  I learned very quickly what was important and it was no longer the order in which I cleaned a room or whether or not everything was put back where it belonged.

    On this journey, I have learned how to trust God and turn it all over to Him time and time again.  But that hasn’t really stopped me from thinking that if I work hard enough I can control my little corner of the world.

    December 30 and 31st of 2017 found me making plans and lots and lots of lists.  I cleaned out the kitchen.  I got rid of anything that I hadn’t used in a year.  I put together two storage cubbies with wheels so I could put my rice cooker, pressure cooker and other gadgets on so they weren’t on my counters.  My counters were going to look like a magazine – a minimalist magazine.   My counters were no longer going to look as if 13 small children still lived in my home.  My cupboards were going to be organized.  There was going to be a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  I was once and for all going to get it together.

    I typed up my exercise plan.  I worked out my Keto diet which I had lost weight on and had mostly stopped over the holidays. I made my grocery list.  I looked up a few more recipes.  2018 and was going to be fabulous.  I was going to rock this.  I had already proven I could lose weight on this plan so instead of beating myself up over not losing all 60 in one year, I was going to dust myself off, congratulate myself on the first half gone, and move on to the last half.  That weight didn’t stand a chance.

    I made my list of the rooms to clean and what needed to be done in each room.   I picked a room to do during each and every day of the first week of January.  I was NOT going to wait for spring to spring clean.  I was going to do it now so when we started school again, everything was going to run like clockwork.  I was already so proud of myself.  Look at these lists.  I had thought of everything.

    I wrote my resolution list on the kitchen window.   I have found that I spend a lot of time at that window.  During the past two months I had used a wet erase marker and wrote the things I needed to see during the day for encouragement.   It already said 90 days without pop and listed my 27 pound weight loss.   Now it was going to say:   Less cussing, stick to a budget, lose 30 more pounds, and give more.

    I wanted to be a better person.  I want to live more frugally so that we can give more away.  Our work with Love Without Boundaries has shown me over and over again what it is like to live in a third world country and what so many people go through.  My heart breaks and I know for a fact that our family can do more and this was the year to do it.

    Dude I was rocking this.   It wasn’t even the first and I had the first room done.  My counters sparkled.  Everything had a place.  I had gone through all my cupboards.  I was the donation, recycling, garbage master.

    But then January 1st came.  I slept in so I was well rested.  Heck, I might even do two rooms today, that’s how good I was feeling.  I was ready to go.  The kids knew the plan.  We were going to do a room a day and be completely organized.  They were ready.  I was ready.

    And then we got the call.

    Would you accept this kidney for Jessica?

    And again I learned who cares if the house is spotless?  Who cares if I’m completely organized?  Who cares if I don’t have it all together?  Who cares about lists?  Who cares?

    J.J. has a chance at new health.  J.J. has a chance to not only grow but to maybe grow old.

    What a gift.

    It makes me wonder if God was watching me frantically typing out my lists over the weekend, so proud of myself.  Look what I am going to do.  Look what I am going to accomplish.  Saying to himself, “Oh sweet child, you have no idea.  Do you think He turns to the angel next to him and says,  “It’s so cute how she thinks she’s in control isn’t it?”

    So technically none of my list got done.  You could even say I failed cause I cussed when they called, I spent money not in our budget while we were in the hospital and I gained two pounds.  Technically I messed up 3 of the 4 resolutions all ready.  I had better find my checkbook quick.

    But oh how good God is.  I’m pretty sure it was me who said, “I think I’ve already learned this lesson.”, but maybe just maybe I still have a ways to go.   Good thing God is patient and extends lots and lots of grace.

    2018 is going to be an incredible year and it has absolutely nothing to do with what I will accomplish and everything to do with what He has already done!

    I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  Psalm 104:33

     

     

  • FAITH – The Journey to J.J.’s New Kidney Part 1

    Date: 2018.01.09 | Category: Jessica, kidney transplant

    Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

    I feel like I should share this story of walking in faith and God’s grand provisions to give Him glory, BUT these stories are hard.  How do you praise God for this answered prayer for J.J. when you know it meant unanswered prayers for someone else?   Somewhere parents weep for their child who they said goodbye to and because of their selfless act our J.J. gets a second chance and we get to celebrate.

    My friend, Amy, said it well when she said, ““Organ donation is like adoption, isn’t it? That for a joy to happen…..a deep and profound sadness has to first happen as well.”

    We’ve buried a child.  I know the pain that brings.  Kyle was wanted.  He was planned.  He was celebrated.  He was also born too early. We prayed for healing, our family prayed, churches prayed and yet Kyle died.  Why? Why would a child that a family wants so badly die, but other children live and are left to die?  Why would ANY child die?  How can you make sense of any of the unfairness in this the world? I don’t have the answers and have accepted the fact that I won’t have the answers this side of heaven. All I know for certain is that I trust in a perfect God whose thoughts and ways are way beyond anything I can comprehend.  A perfect God who doesn’t make mistakes.  A God who can make good come out of the bad.   I believe God didn’t mean for that child to die.  Just like God didn’t intend for our children to need a Plan B for their parents.  Profound sadness leading to our great joy.  It’s too much to bear sometimes.

    During our last nephrology appointment, we were asked to talk to the transplant team about listing JJ on the active transplant list.  JJ had been listed as inactive, accruing time, for almost a year, and they felt like it was a good time to list her and be very selective in the kidney that we accepted.  The doctors were pretty insistent about listing her now. They went through all the information about dialysis and what could happen if she got one nasty illness. They agreed with us that she was the stablest she’s ever been BUT they still wanted to put her on the active list and be really, really selective.  They assured us that we didn’t have to accept any kidney we didn’t want to accept and if we weren’t ready to proceed, we could turn it down.  They felt like it could take quite some time to find the perfect kidney so listing her sooner rather than later would be better.

    We’ve had to make these hard decisions before with our cardiac kids. Do you proceed with the heart surgery hoping to extend the length and quality of their life for many, many more years and risk that they may die in the process?  Is the risk worth it?  Do you proceed hoping for healing and extra years with them or do you just enjoy the time you have left?  These questions are hard.  No one can tell you the right time to move forward.  No one can tell you what the right thing to do is.  There are no clear cut answers.   All you can do is gather all the information you can, pray, and proceed.

    This was where we were with J.J.  We were hoping to not wait too long so that she would have to start dialysis.  We didn’t want her to be even more ill when we proceeded with the transplant, but we also selfishly wanted to enjoy the time we had with her because major surgeries are always risky and their are no guarantees.  We knew she had had some psychological difficulties after her surgery in August and wanted to let her heal emotionally as well as physically before the transplant.  In the end, we decided to list her on the active list and be really, really selective.   We were told it could be months maybe even a year before the perfect kidney presented itself.

    On January 1st, after a short wait on the transplant list, our nephrologist called and said I know this is crazy but the transplant surgeon just called me. We have a donor kidney.  I know we said we would be selective and turn down any kidney that’s not perfect, BUT this kidney is a perfect match.  It’s a young donor so it’s the perfect size for her little body.  (Believe me when I say no one wants to hear those words…young donor.)   The kidney doesn’t have to travel far.  There are no antibodies to worry about.  This is the perfect kidney.  Would you please consider accepting this kidney?

    We were blown away?  The very first kidney that we were offered is the perfect kidney?  So soon?  Was this the right time?  Should we proceed?  What if we said “No” and never got another chance?

    We were called around noon, we talked and prayed, accepted the kidney at 1:30 and arrived at the children’s hospital at 4.  Talk about a whirlwind of emotions, but in the end when something this miraculous happens how do you say no?

    We were packing at home when we realized the fact that on the first of January Dan’s insurance changed through his employer. In all our excitement, we had totally forgotten this fact.  We had been approved for the transplant through our old insurance but not this new insurance.  The transplant staff was pretty sure that the new insurance would honor the old insurance’s approval but since it was a holiday, no one could confirm this fact.   Should we proceed not knowing if we are covered?  In the end we decided to trust that God, who had provided so well for J.J,, would continue to do so.  And He has…

    “We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.”  – Charles R Swindoll

  • A Most Extraordinary Life

    Date: 2018.01.08 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Family Life

    I read this verse this morning in my devotional and it made me think about Dan and my life together.

    Ephesians 3:20 says, “Glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes” (TLB).

    Whenever we are in the hospital, people say all the time that we are amazing.  It makes us both uncomfortable.  It’s not a pretending to be humble thing.   As Dan said the other day, it’s like being thanked for breathing.   Let me assure you that we are not amazing.  We are human.  We make mistakes.  We haven’t done anything amazing.  We just decided to be obedient when God called, stepped out in faith, and trusted God with everything.

    We didn’t set out to have twins early or to deal with all the complications that they had, or to bury a child. In fact, presented with those options, I’m pretty sure our 23 year old selves would have said “NO!”

    We didn’t set out to adopt a little girl with a major heart defect, but when face to face with a little girl who was alone and just needed a family to love her, what else could we do?

    When we did set out to adopt again, we were just going to do one more adoption. It made sense to add the second child when China made the option available. Hope really wanted to adopt a little boy with a heart defect and we would be able to do that. God lead again and we followed.

    When we went to adopt, our hearts were broken by what we saw in the orphanage and by how Ben and Maisey reacted to us.  They just wanted love and they soaked our love in.  I will never forget watching Ben cling to Dan from the moment he met Dan.  Ben loved Dan from the beginning.  Ben clinged to Dan.  When we visited the orphanage Ben had lived in for almost 4 years, Ben absolutely refused to go to any of his previous caregivers.  Instead Ben buried his head in Dan’s neck and held on for dear life.  My heart would never be the same again.  Our hearts were forever broken for the children who wait.  We said, “God use us.  We will follow!”   We knew we could do more so we said “Use us!”

    It’s easy to pray to God to use you when those are just words that you are uttering.  The hard part begins when He starts to show you what He wishes for you to do.  You doubt yourself.  Satan uses the world to whisper in your ear that you are not enough.  You will never be enough.   Dan and I are only human.  So because of those doubts and fears, we put limitations on our obedience.  We said we wouldn’t adopt an older child. We wouldn’t adopt a child who had severe mental delays.  We felt that this would put an undue burden on our older children.  If something happened to us, they would already be caring for Codey. How Could we ask them to do more?

    The very next year God lead us to 4 children, an almost 14 year old girl and a severely delayed little girl, plus two little heart kiddos.  I won’t go in to details here, because I’ve written about it a lot in past blogs, but that year was an amazing year of God showing up and making miracle after miracle happen.  We didn’t set out to adopt 4, but we heard Him loud and clear saying “put 4 on the homestudy” when we started.  We had no idea what it meant.  Then we set out to follow where He lead.

    We ended up adopting two more the following year.  We knew we were probably done.  14 children, 11 of them with significant needs seemed like a good place to stop.  Then my friend sent me JJ’s picture and said “Doesn’t she look like an Ellsbury?” and my heart was stolen by this sweet face so we agreed to advocate for her.

    When Elyse and Grace started talking about JJ being their sister, it was hard.  Obviously we would love to help every child but know we can’t so we drug our feet.  Elyse and Grace were insistent  that she was their sister.  They had every child in our house praying for JJ at every meal.  They would talk about her as if she already lived with us. And when Elyse, who was lying in her bed after getting ready to go to sleep said, “If she dies in China, I will never be able to forgive myself.”, Dan and I knew we had to seriously look at whether it was right for our family to adopt her.

    Truth-be-told Dan and I knew instantly that she was our daughter but we did everything in our power to justify that we had done enough.  But God didn’t let up on our hearts.  Our hearts grew heavier and heavier for JJ.  We see lots of children being advocated for.  We pray for many children who have touched our hearts.  Our hearts are touched for those children but it is more than that when you know that this is a child you should adopt.   It’s almost impossible to explain.  Your heart is heavy.  You look at their picture constantly.  You pray for them.  You wake up in the middle of the night to pray and look at their picture again.  I never heard God’s voice directly but I knew without a doubt that we were to proceed.

    Which leads me back to the verse above.

    “Glory be to God”, (not Dan or I or our family)

    “who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of”   We could have never in a million years dreamed up this beautiful life we get to live.  I would have never dared ask for so many miracles or to be given such blessings.  I believed I was too old.  I believed it couldn’t be done.  I limited myself by what the world told me could be done.

    BUT NOT GOD…

    — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes”   We’ve been through countless surgeries, seen miracles in our healed children, and been given so much more than we will ever give them.  I sometimes feel like we’ve used up too much of the good that God gives, as if God has a limit on the good that He bestows to His children.

    We are not amazing or stronger or braver than most, but we did choose to be obedient.  We have seen God show up time and time again.  We trust that He is perfect.  We trust that His plan is good.  We trust that He can make good come out of the bad.   So when God called us to move out of the comfortable, we chose to move forward in faith and get more than a little uncomfortable and because we did this, we get the privilege of living a most extraordinary life.

    “But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” – Francis Chan

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