Friday, February 6, 2015

the surgery before surgery

It's been a little over two weeks since Mary-Kate's dental surgery.  I find it ironic that by the time it was over, our family count was 26 lost teeth.   Just days before MK's surgery, our 19-year-old Abi had her four wisdom teeth removed.   A few days after her surgery, our 14-year-old poodle had his own surgery to remove a good number of his bedraggled canines, among others.

But, really, the day of Mary-Kate's surgery was way more traumatic than humorous, for us just as much as her.   A few days of healing have allowed us a lighter perspective and even a few jokes.  That Tuesday, though, we were anything but laughing.  Jon and I both felt an inexplicable angst watching Mary-Kate struggle through that day.  Maybe it's because we couldn't explain the why to her.  Maybe it's because we knew the bigger surgery was just a few short weeks away.  Maybe it's because she's just a baby, and it's hard to think about this happening to her on top of everything else she's been through.  Maybe it's just because she's OUR baby, and it's a miserable feeling to watch your baby go through a day like this.

Following our dental consult on January 12th and the news that Mary-Kate's heart surgery would have to be postponed, our baby girl was swiftly worked into the surgery schedule, and we found ourselves on  our way to Riley on the 20th at the unmerciful hour of 5:00 am.

We checked in, weighed in and waited.

We almost found ourselves rescheduled for this surgery when they found out she was being treated for an ear infection.  The anesthesiologist was hesitant to put a heart baby under if there was any chance at all she would have any respiratory issues.  At our insistence, he looked her over and determined that it wasn't worth postponing yet another surgery.

One of the hardest parts of any surgical procedure with a little one is keeping them from eating and drinking. I haven't shared much about this, but nights can be pretty rough with MK.  She hasn't "slept through the night" once since we've had her.  And we're over the 90-day mark.  We've had some exceptionally good sleepers in our family, and this baby has put our parental mettle to the test, for sure.  I'll share more later, but suffice it to say that every night she wakes up several times a night.  While we've had numerous night terrors, most of those times are comforted with an ounce or two from her bottle.  Whether it's a security or attachment issue or whether it's because she's a heart baby and never takes more than two or three ounces at a time anyway or whether it's a little bit of both, we give her what she needs. It's something we're just working through one night at a time.

See where I'm going with this?  By the time we got to the hospital, she'd abandoned words and was just looking at us and pointing to her mouth.  By the time we'd done all of our pre-op procedures, she was clearly convinced  we'd lost our minds. We were more than grateful when they finally brought her dose of Versed around 7:30 am and carried her back to surgery twenty minutes later.  We stumbled down the long hallway to the surgery waiting room where both the grandmas were waiting for us.  I could not compose a thought or even force a conversation.  Beyond my tired, I was just a mess, frustrated with myself because I was struggling to interact with the company for which I was so infinitely grateful.  I finally dozed off in my chair about an hour later, and shortly after the 90-minute mark, the nurse who makes the surgical update rounds informed us that Mary-Kate was in recovery and that the surgeon was ready to speak to us.  The outcome was more harsh than expected.  Our sweet baby girl lost a total of 10 of her 16 teeth, including all of her front teeth, top and bottom.  I couldn't help it.  The tears just overflowed.  It was hard.

x-rays taken during surgery
healthy teeth are solid white

Our very kind doctor explained to us that every one of those extracted teeth was soft all the way through the gum.  There was no way to save them.  We were very fortunate that her permanent teeth are now, at this point, protected from further decay.  But still.  My poor baby will have no front teeth until she's six or seven years old.  There is the possibility that they will be able to mount a pediatric partial once her two-year molars have come in.  If not, she will definitely struggle with speech. Wrap your mind around what all this baby has endured even before her two-year molars.

Shortly after, we were escorted to the open bay recovery.  While I've had experience with several oral surgeries with my older kids, I was wholly unprepared for what awaited us.  Mary-Kate was on her side with her face in a pool of blood.  The recovery nurse had waited for us to be present before waking our girl.  I am grateful for that because we were immediately able to comfort her.  If you've ever had a child come out of anesthesia, though, you know that comforting is a relative term.  We were able to hold her, but that also meant confining the bleeding.  And we were told that in order for the necessary clotting to occur, she couldn't have a bottle for the next 24 hours.  I'm really glad I hadn't thought that through because that would have just upped my anxiety level.  We made the attempt to offer her some Pedialyte straight from a cup, but that turned out to be a messy effort, to say the least.  She was expectedly miserable. And as she came out of the anesthesia, each crying fit resulted in her oxygen level tanking in the 40's and 50's, which meant a bit of supplemental oxygen.

We were eventually moved to a private recovery room.  I can't say enough about the nurses at Riley.  The right nurse really makes a difference in your experience.  And the ones we've encountered so far have all made every effort to meet our every need.  They made sure our baby girl was as pain-free as possible before we were sent home.  That extra effort in medicating her really made the difference in her state of agitation.  Once the bleeding was relatively under control - not an easy milestone with a heart baby on aspirin therapy - we were able to take her home.  She slept fairly solid all afternoon and evening while the anethesia worked itself out of her system.  The rest of the night wasn't so smooth.  Let's suffice it to say we went through a lot of clothes and towels, and we had a very unhappy baby without a bottle.  We were able to pacify her some with popsicles and pudding, but we also struggled with limiting her sucking on her beloved tan je.  It was a long, long night.  The wheels started to come off for me about 3:30 am.  I'd begun to lose all rationale and was ready to book a flight to Jamaica - ALONE - when Jon rescued us, scooped up his baby girl and sent me to bed - ALONE.  It was a blessed few hours of sleep.

Even the next day was rough, with continued bleeding and an out of sorts baby.  Can you imagine the thoughts running through her head?  Every day since then, though, she's been a little more her funny little self.  Nights continue to be her struggle and where her heart and mind continue to work through all that she's endured so far in life.  As frustrating as it can be, any irritation I feel melts away when her cries turn to the sound of a newborn, when her mouth takes the shape of tiny baby that only knows the instinctive desire of a mother's touch and comfort.  It's as if all those months of not receiving that have awakened a deep, deep need in this tiny little girl.  How can any need of my own come close to hers? 

If this alone were our battle, it would be one thing.  But our knowing what looms ahead gives me an entire new level of angst.  I cannot put to words how grateful I am for the peace I find in knowing our God goes before us, knowing that this is His plan.  Because in a few short days, we will place her in the arms of a nurse who will carry her to the skilled hands of a renowned surgeon.  We know to the depths of our souls, however, that we nurses, doctors and parents are all just vessels of HIS healing.  Ultimately, our Mary-Kate will be in the hands of the Great Healer.

*We spent the afternoon at Riley today for Mary-Kate's pre-op appointments, bloodwork and testing. She is cleared for surgery, and we are scheduled to arrive at 5:30 on Monday morning.  She should be taken back between 7:00 and 7:30 am, and the surgeon expects to be in surgery until at least mid-afternoon.  I will be updating general information on my personal Facebook page, but I will share more details on Mission: Mary-Kate's page.  We are so very thankful for all of you who will be lifting our baby girl up in prayer as we put our trust in Him.

Monday, January 19, 2015

in over my head

So much. 

So much to share.

So much I want to remember.

So very much to be grateful for.

So much that deserves to be part of this story.

Today was the day we were supposed to take Mary-Kate to Riley for open heart surgery. The day her congenital heart defect would be repaired.  The day that would truly be the beginning of her physical healing. Plans changed.  And, instead, today became the day I would begin to share in detail what has transpired since our arrival home from China with our baby girl.

I've written so many blog posts in my head that I could have written a book by now.  As much as I drag my feet in sharing the intimate details of this story, I know they are exactly why it needs to be told.  And, really, our God writes with purpose in every life. 

As for me and my story, this story, I'm in a little over my head.  And to do this moment in the story justice, I need to fast forward a little.  To the right now. I feel like I'm treading water, for sure.  And somebody throw me a floatie, would ya?  I mean, I'm really not a fan of deep water.  And by "not a fan", I mean it terrifies me.  I think I've shared before that I don't even like to get my hair wet.   Park me on the beach under a palm tree, okay?  I know I'm talking real water here, not figurative, but the irony is not lost on me.

You would have thought that even the notion of adopting another child at "my age" would have been the proverbial deep end, right?   That was the wading pool, folks. Somewhere along the way, as we resisted cultural norms, ignored financial obstacles and signed on for a "special needs" adoption, the venue changed.  We weren't just in shallow waters, we were leaving the shore.  

Late in 2013, Hillsong released an amazing song.  Oceans became wildly popular.  It's one of those songs you love to turn up loud in the car.  While I know it has a broader faith reference, I've often thought about how it so vividly describes this adoption experience. 

"Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders."

"Wherever you may call me."

"Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander."

"My faith would be made stronger."

Good stuff.  I mean, this is what we hope to live out in this life, right?

Back to this week.  I'm sure you're waiting for me to get to the point. I'm getting there.

If you've followed along on MK's facebook page, you already know she has congenital heart disease and that she's in need of surgery to repair her heart.  We were told a few days after arriving home with her that it was time for her repair. That her shunt was working overtime to provide pulmonary flow.  In fact, there was considerable concern that her heart had been compensating with "collateral vessels" and that the pulmonary artery might not be adequate for a repair.  Some scary scenarios were discussed, but we   wouldn't know anything for sure until her heart cath.

Before we could get in for the cath, we found ourselves with a very sick baby with a very low oxygen saturation level.  On top of a pesky recurring ear infection, a mild case of viral pneumonia affected her sat level so significantly that she needed to be hospitalized and on monitored oxygen.  At one point, we were even introduced to the CICU team.  Thankfully, our girl is a tough little fighter.  She went from barely "sat-ing" in the 80s on three liters of pure oxygen to room air in the four days we were there.  We learned a lot about her baseline oxygen level, mostly that she functions amazingly well on what most of us would consider ridiculously low.

Her heart cath took place on December 18, and it was blessedly routine. In fact, we didn't even make it to the step-down unit but were sent straight home late in the day! We left, however, with the doctor's words ringing in our ears...that her shunt had seen its better days and that due to the virtually nonexistent flow through her pulmonary artery, should the shunt fail, she would die.  And that we should move her surgery up to the soonest possible date.  

We rescheduled with the cardiothoracic surgery team for January 19 and made an appointment with the dental clinic at Riley for the required clearance for open-heart surgery. Unfortunately, our dental appointment last Monday did not go as anticipated.  What we discovered was that our baby girl has a mouth full of decay, enough so that her heart surgery was pushed back once again to February.  Enough so that she will need to undergo general anesthesia for some pretty major dental work this week. Enough so that almost half of her baby teeth, including all four of her bottom front teeth, will need to be extracted and the other half will be crowned.  

One curious happy baby before the masks and blue gloves appeared.

Here's where, surprisingly, the water starts to get deep.  As I'm writing, I'm wondering why I didn't start to feel the ground disappearing under my feet.  This appointment was the one appointment I'd ventured to on my own, and I know now it was by His design.  I wrapped my baby girl up tightly in a blanket and stumbled back through the bitter cold to the van.  So many things were running through my head.


"I am a terrible mother.  Why wasn't I on this dental thing? How is this a surprise to me that she has so much decay in her mouth?  What if something happens to her before she gets her heart surgery? What kind of pain has this baby been in all this time? Her baby teeth.  Her sweet little baby teeth that we didn't get to celebrate.  No more toothy little smiles.  No bottom teeth till she's SIX."

As soon as I had her buckled up and climbed into my seat, I lost it.  I backed out with the tears rolling and sat in the long line to get out of the parking garage, annoyed with myself for being so emotional, distracting myself by scrolling through my Facebook feed.  

I rarely click on video links, especially while on the go, but it caught my eye.  As I paid my parking and pulled out onto the road, I tuned in to the lyrics of this song.  There are just times when you know God's waiting for you.  Waiting with exactly the words you need to hear.

It wasn't until I got to the last words of the song that I knew why I was listening and I knew why I was where I was with my emotions.  That part about being "beautifully in over my head".  I actually laughed out loud through my tears. There couldn't be a better way to describe how I'm feeling right now. 

The whole song, though.  

Being full but not satisfied.  
Being thirsty but not quenched.
Tearing down boxes I've put God in.
Losing control but feeling FREE.
Right where He wants me to be.

And this.

Whether I sink or whether I swim, I'm beautifully in over my head.

I just.  I thought I was as prepared as I could be for this heart surgery that was to occur today.  I knew that I knew that I knew that I was supposed to love THIS baby through THIS surgery.  That she is MY daughter.  That HE would cover it all.  And this dental appointment is what did me in??  What the what??

So what does all of this mean? It's taken me a few days to think it through.  Maybe I'm sinking a little, but I'll eventually swim. It's hard.  Hard to be in this place right now.  I really AM in over my head.  But please know that it isn't as much literally and physically being in over my head as emotionally and spiritually.  I haven't been more sure of where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing in YEARS.  Some days I'm treading in deep water - and some days my head definitely slips beneath the surface - but I'm just doing it one day at a time and doing it with my whole heart. 

Oh, but here's the best part about being in over my head.  Who's really the One throwing me the floatie? Only through Him am I staying afloat.  That truly free place of trusting Him to be the One in control.  And not just of what happens to Mary-Kate, but what happens in my heart.  

This loving orphans, whether we are able to be a family to them or not, it comes with an intangible price. We're wrecked on the inside, and we're never the same.  But the freedom from comes with the full abandonment of what this world tells us is right and acceptable and DO-ABLE.  True freedom is found in the tide the carries us out into the deep unknown, to the things that we can only do through the Father's strength and power.  

So here's to a little more swimming and a little less sinking.

Either way, I'll be okay out here, even if I am in over my head.

Here's the video. Five minutes you won't regret.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

hurry up and wait

It really was one of those “you might as well laugh as cry” moments.  Because the car service really did show up 35 minutes early.  And we really did forget the stroller and a dozen other items.  Including the video camera, by the way.  Despite our maniacal departure, we arrived at the airport right on schedule. The excitement kicked in, and I was ready to shove all the stress out the window and jump into the moment. 


We checked in and checked our luggage.  Two suitcases were expectedly just a smidge overweight, so we quickly rearranged things into our back-up carry-on.  And then our seven bags were on their way.  Make a note.  That statement will become prophetic.

We stopped at the restrooms and I even treated myself to a book from the bookstore, and he headed to our gate.  Cue the sound of screeching tires.  Delayed.  Indefinitely.  Apparently, someone forgot to replace the oxygen canister on our plane.  Which grounded the plane.  Which meant our tight connection in Atlanta was out the window.  Which meant our fairly tight connection in Seattle was out the window.  Which meant we lost our economy comfort seats for the international flight.  Which meant all those hours of pouring over flight schedules and seat reservations were a complete and total waste of time.  Which meant Mindy and I each had a couple of tear-filled sleep-deprived moments. 

Afraid that we’d miss our international connection all together and REALLY mess up our plans in Hong Kong and Beijing, we begrudgingly re-booked our flights through Detroit and Tokyo.  Just after doing so, our original flight went back up on the board, but by then there was no way for us to make the Atlanta connection.  Our fate was sealed.  Which meant we sat in the Indianapolis airport for nearly SEVEN HOURS.  Except for Caroline, none of us had even made it to bed.  Our pick-up had been scheduled for 4:30 am, and we’d all had a truckload of things to do to prepare for being gone from work and school.  While a nap at home in our beds would have been a lot more cozy, we had no choice but to make the best of it. Mick and Caroline were out cold in a matter of minutes.  I first consoled myself with a breakfast of Nutter Butters and Coke.  

Alex showed off his secret compartment of snacks in his carry-on, which I found in amusing contrast to the pink elephant that had made its way into his bag.  It's been a theme in this journey, and it was continuing to play out that way.

"How do you eat an elephant?"
"One bite at a time."

Finally, we were on our way to Detroit.  I think we all laughed out loud when it was announced that our flight was so short they wouldn’t be serving drinks.  Of course not.  And our last-minute re-booking put us in the back row of the plane.  You know, the noisy seats that don’t recline?  Yeah, those.  I was really in need  of a little caffeine at this point, and I admit that by the time we landed I was more than a little cranky. 

Caroline instantly charmed the pilot, who offered his hat for a photo and gave her a set of wings!

We made a quick expensive McDonald’s run between flights and then settled in for the long haul.  We’d only managed two of six economy comfort seats on this flight, so the kids insisted that Jon and I take them since Jon was spending the majority of his birthday on a plane.  After much convincing, we complied.  Poor kids were crammed in the sardine section, trapped by that breed of people who pick the aisle seats on planes and then never get up.  I hated that the kids were all the way on the other side of the plane, too.  Jon and I checked on them during bathroom breaks and leg stretches. Mick and Caroline made a visit to our seats at one point, and Mick asked to trade.  Is it wrong that I said no?

Even though the shades were drawn for most of the flight, it was light outside until just outside of Tokyo.  It’s so hard to wrap your mind around time jumping ahead a complete twelve hours.  We were served dinner shortly after take-off, then a mid-flight turkey sandwich, followed by breakfast about an hour or so before landing.  At 5:25 pm.  In pitch darkness.  HUH?? 

Narita International, Tokyo, Japan

For real.  I don’t even know what day it is, let alone what time it is.

We paid homage to Japan - too bad we didn’t get a passport stamp – and went through security again to board our flight to Hong Kong.  Their security team was delightfully pleasant.  Because of the delay, Delta gave us six primo seats for this five-hour flight, and we were all happy campers.  I will say the in-flight entertainment is about as good as it gets.  Found a new sit com I liked – which is hard to do these days – and I’m sure I raised a few Japanese eyebrows with my belly laughs.  After twelve hours in the cheap seats, the kids were in heaven. And I was happy because we were all together. 

The Coke has turned out to be surprisingly good!

That five-hour flight really turned our mood around.  Good thing, because we’d already hit the 24-hour mark in our travels.  And, also, because when we giddily made our way to the baggage carousel, we found a luggage bin with our names on it telling us we needed to contact a Delta representative.  Turns out that four of our suitcases didn’t make the transfer in Detroit.

Mindy and I secretly high-fived that our suitcases were not among the missing.  We were assured they would be arriving the next day, just in time to make our flight to Beijing that evening.  Make a note of that, as well.

One of our disappointments in being re-booked was that our arrival time in Hong Kong was three hours later than we’d planned.  It was around midnight by the time we made it to the SkyCity Marriott.  We looked a little rough around the edges to be checking in to such a swanky hotel. That’s the great thing about traveling in Asia.  Most we’d consider staying in are far superior to their American equivalents.  The night manager was good to us.  Gave the boys room 1023 on October 23rd in celebration of Jon’s birthday.  Our adjacent room had an equally magnificent oceanview room.  We were sad to uave to check out the next morning.

We walked into our hotel room at 11: 58 pm, Hong Kong Time, approximately 31.5 hours after leaving our house, and collapsed gratefully, sleeping prone for the first time in over 48 hours.

exit, stage left

Like a script I've been writing in my head for months, years, really, the stage was set in my mind.  The script has gotten a couple of tears and holes and stains on it as it's become familiar and well used.  And in the course of the last 48 hours, it's looked a lot more like recycling material.  Our departure scene? I have to say, my script did not include the car service ringing our doorbell 35 minutes before our scheduled time and with me just stepping out of the shower.  It did not include half a dozen crucial last minute items left behind.  It did not include cancelled flights, late arrivals and missing luggage.  It did not include the crib in pieces with missing parts, the mattress not ordered, and the dust ruffle and quilt still in storage.  It did not include the high chair still in the box or the car seat uninstalled.  

And don’t even get me started on the house.  While not at its complete worst, it definitely is not the shiny picture of a neat house so many post in their pre-trip blog posts.  And there shall be no photo evidence as such.

DUDE. I tried.

We ALL tried.  We really, really tried.  And when it came to “GO” time, the wheels of this venture came flying off and rolling down the street. Look, talk amongst yourselves, if you must.   I’ve said it all before myself, anyway. I can self-deprecate with the best of them.   I am a BIG PICTURE person.  I actually CAN manage the small details and have an eye for them, but if I’m running too many directions at once, I’m a lost cause.  And my left eye has a twitch that won’t stop these days. 
Whilst hurtling across the world in a metal tube, I’ve had the time to put thought into what in the world God is teaching me through all of this.  He must have His reasons for all of this insanity, right?  I mean, overall, we’ve held it together fairly well, but we’ve had a few crash and burn moments that have left me wondering why God has us on this mission – because, clearly, we are not crash qualified.  We aren’t doing this right.  We don’t have it all together yet.  WAIT.  This isn’t how it’s supposed to be! It was supposed to be just right!  Blog worthy!  Scrapbook worthy!  Perfectly planned and executed!

[insert whining and stomping and tears and gnashing of teeth]

Let me share with you how God uses flight delays and long plane rides for His glory.  In this particular instance, in the time it took to travel from one side of the world to the other, He spoke this love letter to my soul.

Dear Cindy,

I love you.  I love your heart.  I love your obedience.  I love your chutzpah when things aren't going quite the way you planned them.  I even love every mistake you’ve ever made and every failure you think is yours. But, dear daughter, here’s the thing.


It’s not about you.

It’s all about Me. 

Stop worrying about the details because I don’t care if you and your family are a well-oiled machine or not. I don’t care if your house is clean.  I don’t care if you put meals in the freezer before you left.  I don’t care if you have matching shirts for Gotcha Day.  I don’t care if you got to sit in your carefully reserved seats on the plane.  I don't care if you had to charge some of the money for your trip.  You can even tell Dave Ramsey I said so.

I don’t care if you left your stroller at home or you didn’t have a book to read on the plane or if you left your Bible at home.  My Word is with you no matter where you go.  And all I really care is that you went.  You threw caution to the wind and followed your heart.  Where I led, you followed.

So now the reward is yours.  You’re here.  Delight in these moments.  Enjoy this time with your family.  Soak up every second of this journey.  Laugh off the things that didn’t go quite right.  And just wait.  Because you know it’s coming in just a few short days. That moment when that sweet baby girl becomes part of your crazy just-as-I-designed-it-to-be family.  That moment when there’s one less.

That moment you know without a doubt you’d do it all again. 

Every struggle.

Every second of the last seven years.


This is absolutely all that matters to Me. 

Say it with Me.  Who cares what everyone else thinks.  Be you.  I have my reasons for why you are the way you are.  Why all of you are who you are.

Trust me.  MY crazy goes WAY back. 

You can’t out-crazy ME.

Now go change a little piece of the world in the name of Jesus.  

Fill in the colors of that big picture you've had.  And don't worry about staying in the lines.
I love you.  Always.


*Peace overflows in my heart and mind as I rest my head tonight.  I'll be back at it tomorrow night with photos and more about our trip here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

tough mudder

I don’t run.  I don’t like to be dirty.  I really hate to sweat.  I deplore camping.  And I would be the first person on “Survivor”, begging to go home because I cannot live without brushing my teeth. 

Does it surprise you to know I was an Army officer?

Me, too, some days.

I was a 105-pound scared-of-my-own-shadow wimp when I enlisted.  I was an excellent student, but, even with scholarships and financial aid, I was running out of ways to pay for college. A couple of months into my enlistment, I applied for an ROTC scholarship, and the rest is history.  I won't belabor the struggle of becoming much tougher than I was when I started.  The physical strength it took was one thing. 

The mental strength? 

Let's suffice it to say I learned a lot about myself.   

And my faith.

My drill sergeants were straight from Fort Jackson and had never trained females.  My ruck sack literally weighed 38% of my body weight and nearly took me down the first time I put it on.  And let’s not talk about lobbing the grenade, okay?  It was like a scene from Private Benjamin, only not quite as funny. 

Insert photo I must dig for but share at a later date.

By the time it was over, though, I gained ten pounds of muscle and could do more than 40 men’s push-ups in two minutes.   I got that scholarship and paid for my last two years of college.  And I had a shiny bar on my shoulder, to boot.  Pardon the pun.

Would I do it again? Yes.

Would I want to do it again?  NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

But if I hadn't joined the Army and applied for that scholarship, I wouldn't have met my husband.  And I wouldn't have lived the life I’m living now.  So for that reason, yes, I would do it again.

Now that you know of my physical mettle, it shouldn't surprise you to find out that I have not even an ounce of desire to run a marathon or a 5k or even a half-mile. 

Tough Mudder?  Pass.

But let me tell you something.  This adoption road? 

It’s as muddy as it gets. 

A year ago, I was in Florida, celebrating my 25th anniversary by submitting an application to adopt. The sun was shining.  My heart was soaring.  I had waited over six years to re-apply.  I had persevered through some pretty discouraging days.  Surely, the hardest part of this journey was behind us, right? My plan was to take it easy and enjoy the rest of the race.

Let’s all take a moment for a few chuckles, belly laughs, or just a shake of the head and a little pity over my naïveté.  It’s completely appropriate.

No sooner than the ink was dry on the application check did the already bumpy road begin to deteriorate.  Oh, that evil one uses it all…our financial weaknesses, our relational weaknesses, our spiritual weaknesses.  If I have any witness to bear, it is that the everyday battles wage strong against His plans.

Remember my plan for a smooth little speed walk to the finish line? 

But this story isn't about all the things that went wrong.  It’s about how to keep slogging through the mud, even after a solid face plant.

Taking a leap when can’t see where we’re going to land.

Keeping our eyes on the prize when we’re hanging by our fingernails. 

Reaching for a helping hand when we feel like we can’t make it on our own.

Reminding each other that His ways are better than ours, that His timing is perfect.

You see where I’m going with all of this, right?

Exactly one year later, I fully expected we would be booking plane tickets to China in celebration of our anniversary. 

Actually, I had fully expected we’d be leaving for China on our anniversary this year. 

Honestly?  My plan was to be celebrating our little one HOME on our anniversary.

I mean, really.  We’d busted a move in the last few months.  We’d flashed baby pictures whenever possible.  We'd shown up for an early walk-in for our fingerprints. We’d submitted letters for a medical expedite.  We’d been on the phone and emailing any and every time possible, trying to shave off a few days here and there. 

We had a plan.

But that muddy road. 

And now we’re close to the finish line.  So very close. 

We found out late Tuesday night that our most recent plan to travel next week has been, once again, delayed.  Which means all the arrangements we’ve made to be gone from work and school must be re-arranged. 


Like a big ol’ pot hole full of muddy water we didn’t see coming.  We’ve broken a leg, lost a shoe and landed face first in a puddle. 

It was quoted in the New York Times that a Tough Mudder isn't about winning.  It’s about having a story to tell when it’s over.  

Ah, but it is. 

Oh, we’ll have a story to tell. 

But it’s Jesus for the win. 

Finishing is winning.

Because the orphan is near and dear to the heart of the Father, He will pick us up each and every time, wipe the mud from our eyes and set us back on the trail.  He’ll even carry us to the finish line. 

By His power alone, we will finish this race.  Mary-Kate will come home.  Her heart will be healed in more ways than one.  She will be loved by her family.  And she will know the love of her heavenly Father. 

And by the time it’s over I may even like being a little muddy.

"But these things I plan won't happen right away.

Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches
when the vision will be fulfilled.

If it seems slow, do not despair,
for these things will surely come to pass.

Just be patient! 

They will not be overdue by a single day."

Habakkuk 2:3

*photos are hyper-linked to their original sources
**stay tuned for price tag - part 2

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

price tag - part one

In just a couple of weeks, we should be China bound.  As exhilarating as that sounds after more than seven years of waiting, it also terrifies me.  So many changes headed our way.  Changes I want.  But I’m one of those people that doesn’t really groove change.  So change scares me.  As much as I can’t wait to wrap my arms around this tiny baby girl, I can’t quite wrap my mind around being up close and personal with her heart disease.  If I love her anything like I love Caroline – which I know I will – it scares the daylights out of me to think about all that comes with loving such a sick little baby girl. 

We also STILL have about a bazillion projects that need to be finished before we travel.  Closets.  Deep cleaning.  Painting.  Shopping.  Organizing.  Packing.  Along the lines of giving a mouse a cookie.  Stupid mouse.  Stupid cookie.  And I just want to be D.O.N.E.  Then there’s marching band. We’re hot and heavy into competition season now.  And I am one of those proverbial band moms.  Don’t bother telling me how busy I am, how crazy I am or how I shouldn’t take on so much.  It would be a waste of your time, breath and energy, all precious resources.  I can’t not.  I’ve always tried to be involved in some way in my kids’ lives, to “be there” for their moments.  And marching band is a lifestyle ‘round these parts.  Can I get an amen, village? Those memories are priceless. 

Amidst all of the stuff of life, we’re still working through the process of this adoption.  Dude.  This post-Hague process makes Caroline’s adoption look like a game of Candyland.  Let me teach you a nine-letter word. P-A-P-E-R-W-O-R-K. Like killing forests kinds of paperwork.  And training.  Two rounds.  And fundraising.  For the last five years.  And, as so many like to point out, we’re old, people.  We. are. tired.

Is it worth it?  Is it worth the stress and the heartache and the waiting and the sacrifices and the time and the energy and the money? 

Have you ever had a conversation with Caroline?

Then you already know the answer to that question.

It’s not about any of those things.  It’s not about me. It’s not about Jon.  It’s not even really about our sweet baby, Mary-Kate.  And it’s definitely not about the price tag.

It’s about living this life for the next one.

It’s about being a light in a dark world.

It’s about stepping out on nothing but faith.

And, mostly, it’s about love.

Sure, yes, it's about loving the ones who need families.  Of course, it is. It's the need that requires our action.  But in the end, it becomes about the love we receive in return.  Because when we open our hearts to loving others in ways that require our sacrifice, we are blessed with a love that can only be compared to the love of our Father. 

There’s just nothing like it. 

Nothing on this earth.

No price tag.

And the secret? You don’t even have to adopt to experience it.  You just have to be open to loving others more than you love yourself. You have to be willing to listen to the deepest echoes of your heart and soul.  Because that’s where He speaks to us.

So, yes, we’re older than what the world deems acceptable ages for having a baby.  We already have grown children.  Most people our age are celebrating their emptying nests.  Going on trips.  Buying new furniture.  Adding that deck.

We ARE tired.

We ARE a little stiff in the knees.  And neck.  And back.

We KNOW how old we’ll be when she graduates.

We KNOW adoption is expensive.

And here’s where I’ll share with you that we don’t have this adoption fully paid for.  We have thousands of dollars yet to come up with.  

We’re still walking on faith.

Even with just a couple of weeks till travel.

We may very well go into debt paying for the rest of this adoption. And that’s not even taking into account what medical expenses are down the road.  We’re trusting that He has a plan to pay every penny of that debt. 

We’ve sold tutus and hair bows and children’s clothing and necklaces and t-shirts.  We’ve schlepped our wares to crafts shows in howling cold weather. We’ve had garage sale after garage sale.  We’ve applied for several grants and received a very generous one.  And we still have funds to raise. 

Why is it, after all these years, that we still haven’t fully funded this adoption?  Why is it that others have been able to fully fund their adoptions more quickly and with, seemingly, less effort?

We can’t do this.

Money was a major obstacle to this adoption. And money is just that.  It’s an obstacle we humans let stand in the way of things.  Sometimes, woefully, we let it stand in the way of doing the work of our God.  I’m guilty. I’ve been the one convicted to the depths of my soul to adopt another child, and yet I’ve had many, many moments when I wanted to quit.  To give up. To doubt that He is able.


ONLY God. 

And we cannot do it without Him.

This whole transparency thing, by the way, is not so easy, either.  It’s tough enough to be open about our feelings and emotions.  And then there’s money.  But there’s a purpose.  We are compelled to share our story, and we are grateful to give glory to the One who writes it. 

And we invite you to be part of it.  When you stop to hear or read about Mary-Kate, when you offer up a prayer on her behalf, when you buy something as silly as a tutu or a t-shirt, you become part of her story.  It stops being about the money, and it starts being about your heart.  Our hearts.  Her heart. It starts being about love and living it out for the One who gave us His best gift. 

Get ready.  He’s wrapping up this chapter of the story.  He’s going to move in a big way.  I know it. 

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 
to Him be the glory..."

Ephesians 3:20-21

*In the interest of being transparent, I do want to share what we’ve raised, what we’ve spent and what we have left.  But it doesn’t feel right to put a price tag, so to speak, on this post. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

love makes the world go 'round

And that love is about to catapult us, once again, to the other side of this world!

As I type, we are waiting on the FedEx man to deliver our LOA!!!!

Just one day after being match reviewed, it arrived in Birmingham!

If you're one of those out there bewildered by all the acronyms adoption people like me throw around, just know this.  The LOA (Letter of Acceptance) is THE ONE.  Quite simply, it's the paper that says China has reviewed our mound of paperwork and reviewed our little MK's file and has agreed that, yep, we're a good match.  She's all ours.  WOOHOO!!!

So now we get on a plane and go get her, right?

If only.

Because you know what the world needs more of?  


Now things flip to the US immigration side of things.  We're down to a half dozen hoops to jump through, I think.  But we are very, very close to bringing our baby girl HOME in just a matter of weeks!

Coincidentally, today is the day we were going to launch our t-shirt fundraiser, believe it or not.  We weren't expecting the LOA until next week, so I guess God wanted us to have something to celebrate!  We have two designs to choose from!   The first was designed by none other than Mindy!  And it's so fitting.

ladies slim fit jersey knit v-neck
order one size up for a more relaxed fit
deep heather gray

mens/unisex/kids lightweight slightly fitted tee
asphalt gray for mens; slate gray for kids

Love really does make the world go 'round. 

Love makes the world a little smaller.

And love definitely makes it a whole lot better.

But you know what changes the world?  

Ask my eight-year-old.  

She called a family meeting last weekend.

It's crazy around this home of ours these days.  Early morning wake-ups with school starting and ruining my summer.  Closets have puked everywhere. Laundry is behind because the washer and dryer periodically decide to freak me out by not working properly and make me lose my mind. Projects are in progress and not anywhere close to being finished.  And it's marching band season. Apparently, we'd all been a little too grumpy to each other to suit her liking.  So, in true Caroline form, she set us all straight.  And we all sat there and blinked our eyes at her with conviction.  

Miss Caroline opened up her "Jesus Calling" devotional, read it to us and made her statement.

And hence a shirt was born.

Because she's right.  

She sure changed ours.

mens/unisex lightweight slightly fitted v-neck - black only

ladies slim fit jersey knit v-neck
order one size up for more relaxed fit
choose from red or black

kids lightweight slightly fitted tee
choose from red or black

Visit our shop page on 2000 tutus! to order yours!  
And thanks for being part of our story and helping us bring Mary-Kate home!