Friday, June 27, 2014

Love at first sight...

I'll never forget that moment. It was around 3:20pm and I was standing in a hospital room with my phone closeby. A text message came through with your picture.  It was my very first glimpse of you.





When your older sister was born, I could immediately see your daddy in her, and I remember searching deep into that picture for a way to identify you with our family. I so longed to be your momma and call you mine! But you didn't have your daddy's eyes or your mommy's nose. I didn't get to kiss the sweet feet that had been kicking in my belly for nine months. I couldn't identify with you in who you looked like or what you felt like. Some might say we were total strangers. And yet, when I caught that first glimpse of you, I lost my breath and my heart skipped a beat. Strangers don't do that.  And that's because we weren't strangers. Because before time began, God had decided that we would belong to one another.  He knew that I would be your mother and that you would be my son, and He knew that it would take a much different path than most for us to find one another. At 3:16pm on June 26, 2012, you entered this world and were placed into your loving birthmother's arms,
and just minutes later, she lovingly placed you into mine. Instantly, I fell in love; instantly my heart connected with yours, because I knew you were the baby that I had been growing in my heart for so long.

And for the past two years, you've continued to make my heart grow more and more...
Your smile is infectious, baby boy.  When people see you, they can't help but smile.

Your big brown eyes are always telling some sort of story in how you cut them across when you're being mischievous to when you bat those gorgeous eyelashes that seem to go on for days.

Your hands are strong and with great insistence make it very obvious what you want and do not want.

Your feet have become more sure of themselves as you curiously explore the world around you.
Your mind amazes me, as you grasp things that children twice your age often have no interest in.
What an absolute privilege it is to be chosen to be your mommy!  What a blessing it is to guide you as you grow. What an honor it is to love you and be the one who gets to show you that you are loved not just by me and your daddy and your sisters, but also by the precious woman who chose life-this life-for you.

I love you more than any words I can find to tell you, but I will never stop searching for them! Happy 2nd birthday my sweet little mister man!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Just a Spoonful of Sugar...

I'll never forget hearing a speaker at a conference back in the spring of 2001.  He spoke of having to take his child to get their vacinnations, and how hard it was to know you were going to have to put them through pain for their ultimate good.  How do you explain that to a young child?  Well, you just can't.  So you sit there with them, love on them, and tell them it is going to be okay.  And as you watch their face fill with confusion and their voice cry out in pain, your heart just breaks that you can't take it all away in that instant.

These past several months, we've had to experience this sceanrio a lot with each of our children.  Thankfully, all of the things we've gone through have been treatable and fixable, but when it is all happening at once I would be lying if I told you it was easy. It's been an exhausting and overwhelming past few months for our family.  We have seen doctors, dentists, eye specialists, 4 lactaction consultants, a speech therapist, an ENT, a urologist, a podiatrist...etc.  Our calendar has easily been filled with anywhere from 3-5 appointments every single week.  Take a few weeks ago for example: I cracked a tooth the night before so had to head to the dentist on a Tuesday morning for a 3.5 hour appointment to get a temporary crown.

(Let me just interject here that, being the girly-girl that I am, I would typically love to be told I needed a crown.  However, when the words come from a dentist, it's not something anyone finds that "yay!  I'm a princess!" delight in...) 

After my anxiety-filled morning, I drove home and DH and Lucy immediately headed out to the pediatrician to have Lucy's wart frozen off for a SECOND time.  (And yes, we had been trying home remedies, but this wart was trying to grow to the size of the state of Texas!)  DH then dropped Lucy off at the house and immediately took himself to an emergency trip to the eye doctor.  (Some shards of metal had flown up into his eye the night before while working on a project in the kitchen, and his eye was looking seriously angry so much so that the pediatrician noticed it and told him he needed to be seen.)mAt that point I thought, well, hey, 3 out of 5 isn't so bad, right?!

Another typical day for us involved a routine checkup for Annie.  Her one month check was to consist of a weight check (hello over ELEVEN pounds!!) and a vaccine from the nurse.  We had noticed her belly button looking strange after her umbilical cord fell off though.  I had been putting off giving her a bath because I was worried it hadn't all fallen off yet and maybe that's why it looked strange.  So, the nurse said we should have the dr take a look at it.  A simple check up at the pediatrician's office ended up sending Annie and me to the children's hospital for an ultrasound and then a call later from the doctor stating there was an issue that would require surgery to repair (A patent urachus) 

Surgery...on my newborn...when we were already facing an upcoming surgery for our toddler... 

The next few weeks consisted of other tests, including Annie having to get a catheter twice.  Having to stand above her head and hold her hands down as she screamed was absolutely horrible.  All I could do was keep telling her over and over again that it would be ok, that I loved her, and that I was sorry it hurt.

In the midst of all of that, Gabriel had tubes put in.  It's such a quick procedure--it literally only takes about 5-10 minutes for them to do the surgery--but it is so hard on a little one.  After they took him to surgery, I went down the hall to get a cup of coffee and I could literally pick out his cry from behind those closed doors once the surgery was over.  My heart BROKE.  There is nothing that compares to the feeling of knowing your child is hurting and you can't be there with them.  Thankfully, he was only away from us for about 15 minutes, and we were able to love on him and reassure him.  He was NOT a happy camper though!  But wow, what a difference since he's had those tubes put in!  He's talking so much more and he doesn't have fluid on his ears anymore!  It was not a fun procedure to experience, but it ultimately has helped him so much.

The week after Gabriel's tubes were put in, we took Annie to a urologist, where I came prepared with a mile-high list of questions about the surgical procedure...only to have the dr walk in stating the issue had healed on its own! What a praise!! We still have to do some follow up on the issue to be on the safe side, but according to the urologist, Annie is a perfectly healthy baby girl:) I was so excited to go home and throw away her antibiotic (she had to be on antibiotics until the issue was repaired) and give her her very first bath that night, something I will never again take for granted.

I've had many moments these past several months of wanting to just break down (and I've done that a few times, too!) But through all of it, the Lord made it clear that He was in control.  I thought about all He has done in our lives and what a happy time this should be for our family.  But it's so easy to forget all of the good and focus on what's not so good, you know?  It's easy to lose sight of Him and His perfect plan, and it becomes harder to trust. But, I felt like God was asking me if I would still praise Him in the midst of the storm.  I knew the Enemy would like nothing more than for me to question God's goodness; he would love for me to lose sight of what a happy time this really is for our family.  And so I made a decision: I was not going to allow him to steal my joy.  Now, that doesn't mean I didn't have a few meltdowns along the way, but through it all, God reminded me He was still on His throne.  None of these things had taken Him by surprise, and He was going before us to prepare the path He was having us walk down.  It was as if He as standing there with me through it all, just as I did with my own children, saying that He loved me and that it was going to be OK.  

Just as my own children don't always understand how the momentary pain they're having to endure is for their ultimate good, I have to remember that I can't always see how God is using my circumstances for my ultimate good and His glory.  It might not "taste" too good at the moment, but the effects of our cirumstances are helping us to become something much better, so I choose to praise Him in advance for what He's doing, and I thank Him for giving me the strength to endure things until I can see His plan come to fruition. 
As I was typing up this post, Lucy needed to take some medicine and was making horrible faces.  I said "Hey! That's exactly what I need for my latest blogpost!" So, thank you Lucy, for being my pictoral example;-)

Deuteronomy 31:8 "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How I spent my summer vacation...

Summer is officially here, and we are loving it! I love having my little kindergarten graduate
home with us all day (and to help us, too-she's an amazing big sister!), but it does present some challenges. After being in school for the last several months, she is used to being busy, and some days at home can be rather mundane to a busy six year old (although I think things at home are anything but boring lately!) Thankfully, we have things this month to keep us entertained though--Lucy and Gabriel started swim lessons yesterday,
 and those go for two weeks. Then, we have VBS the following week, and by that time we will already be headed into July.

Side note: As you can see, Gabriel was less than thrilled about swim lessons. They assured me it is totally normal at his age though, and I imagine by the end of this week I will have a hard time keeping him away from the pool. (He's always loved bath time, but pools are a different story apparently.)

I do remember taking swim lessons a few summers when we lived in California, and my friends and I spent as much time as possible at the neighborhood pool.
But after we moved back to Texas, swimming wasn't a staple summer activity.  Some kids go to camp every summer, and others look forward to a yearly family vacation, but me?  A huge summer staple for me was attending the Texas Music Teachers Association's convention every summer.
In a way, it was kind of like a camp and a vacation rolled into one (and the hotel always had a swimming pool:) At that time, competition was pretty fierce to get a spot on the ten piano ensemble team that would perform at the convention. Starting in the sixth grade, I auditioned each year through my senior year and was able to secure a spot. We would then drive 45 minutes each day for two weeks for rehearsal with my fellow ivory ticklers, and then my mother and I would head to the convention for a long weekend. We played some really fun, melodious pieces such as Dizzy fingers, Turkey in the Straw and Rhapsody in Blue.  And then there were others...like Witold Lutoslawski's Variations on a Theme by Paganini. 

I remember hating just about every step in the process of learning that piece. It was made up of the strangest chords ("modern" music for sure!), tons of dissonance, and there was no melody to really pick out. But what is sometimes easy to forget when working on an ensemble piece is that the part you are playing is not meant to be heard alone-it is a part of a much larger work that needs all parts playing together to create the sound the composer intended for the piece. But, you can't put those parts together until each part is ready, so this means a lot of grueling practice sessions that aren't always very enjoyable. But once you've spent those tedious hours of practice and hear the work completed, it all begins to make sense.

Well, my summers no longer consist of trips to the TMTA Convention each June. Rather, we spend our days with sidewalk chalk and swing sets and family outings. One such recent family outing was a very special one for us--Last weekend, we attended a picnic with Christian Homes and Family Services.
 This is a yearly picnic they have for their adoptive families to come together. It was so neat to see our caseworker, Gabriel's birth mother's case worker, and dear friends we made through our adoption journey.  (The picnic so happened to fall on the anniversary of the day we actually met Gabriel's birth mother, too. As she has said, it was the day we extended our families to each other.  I will never forget that special meeting and how it changed the course of our lives in the most amazing and beautiful way.) They had a man there documenting the day, and he asked us to share a bit about our adoption process. I always seem to freeze up when asked to briefly explain our experience. It's just so hard for me to put it in a few short statements, because the Lord did so many amazing things throughout the process, and I never want to short change any of it. But, when asked to describe what we learned through our journey, this is what came immediately to mind;

Faithfulness.  God's faithfulness. 

It oozes out of every portion of our adoption journey; it drips from every memory of our story. And I can see that all so clearly now that the pieces have come together. But what about all of those years we tried to conceive and could not? What about all of the nights spent filling out paperwork and stressing over how to portray ourselves on paper? What about the days spent wondering if a birth mother would even want to pick us?  What about...?  We may not have been able to clearly see the evidence of God's faithfulness in the midst of the journey, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. He was orchestrating something far greater than anything I could have dreamed of. He was weaving all of the difficulties, the dissonance so to speak, together to create a beautiful masterpiece displaying His faithfulness and His goodness. Some songs are so catchy you can't help but immediately get them stuck in your head, and others takes awhile to grow on you, and then there's our song--an anthem of sorts that holds the ups and downs, the dissonant chords, and the beautiful harmonies that echo of God's faithfulness.  

Just like that ensemble piece I learned so many years ago, our lives were never meant to be lived on our own-they are meant to be lived through our Lord, the Composer and Conductor of our lives. He understands how those "minor themes" and "modern dissonances" can be placed together to create an amazing and beautiful work. The question is, are we willing to allow Him to do His work in us?  Will we withstand the grueling "practice sessions"? I pray my answer is yes, and that this summer I can find myself singing the tune of His faithfulness as I continue learning to trust His ultimate plan on His perfect path... 

"And we know that ALL things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28

Monday, May 12, 2014

Baby Mustard Seed's Birth Story...

I took my ipad and keyboard to the hospital for Baby Mustard Seed's birth, because I fully intended on typing up Baby Mustard Seed's birth story.  You would think that spending four days in a hospital would give you several opportunities to blog, but during the moments that I wasn't trying to deal with pain or attempting to get some sleep, I was soaking in every single moment of being a mommy to this amazing baby girl that God so graciously has allowed to join our family.  I find myself staring at each of our kids' precious faces, and I'm just in awe of these three miracles...3 miracles that at many times in the journey, I had lost all hope of ever receiving...3 miracles that I don't deserve, but in God's kindness He saw fit to place in my arms...3 miracles that each hold their own special story of how they came to be.  And today, I'd like to share with you the story of Baby Mustard Seed... 

I've shared before how we have called this little girl "Baby mustard seed" because when we first found out that I was pregnant with her, we learned that she was the size of a mustard seed.  It was such a fitting name for her, because in the Bible, we read about having faith the size of a mustard seed:

Mathew 17:20
"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move.  NOTHING will be impossible for you."

Little did I know that her name would continue to "grow" in meaning to me though...

I've mentioned before that gardening is not my forte at all.  However, my mother loves to take care of plants and flowers, so I know it takes a lot of time for things to grow.  Some seeds take much longer than others to grow, but all of them require some amount of time to reach their ultimate potential; gardening requires patience. 

Patience. 

Do you almost start cringing at the mere sound of that word on your lips?  We so long to see the end result, but the process to get to that finish line isn't always quite so lovely.  In fact, it can be downright ugly...like the moments before having Lucy and then again before having Gabriel that I would fall to my knees and cry so hard that I couldn't breathe from the realization that we once again were not pregnant.  I desired to be a momma more than anything I've ever desired.  I felt CALLED to be a momma...and yet there was nothing else in my power that I could do to make that happen.  But you know what?  Each of those tears I cried, my Heavenly Father was holding in His hands and pouring over me in unrecognized nourishment to me.  He was using them to prepare me.  Just as a gardener waters the unseen seeds in a row of dirt to prepare them to become what they were meant to be, God was preparing me for motherhood, and when it finally bloomed in my life, it was more beautiful than anything I ever hoped for or envisioned...  

What's even more interesting about plants is that many of them not only return to bloom each year, but many of them spread out more and more with time.  But me, not knowing much about plants and flowers, couldn't tell you which ones do that.  Well, Lucy was CONVINCED that our "garden" was not done growing!  She kept saying, "Mommy, you're going to have a baby in your belly and it's going to be my sissy that I'm praying for."  She specifically prayed for a brother AND a sister, and she just KNEW that God was going to give her a sister.  Me, on the other hand, had finally been able to lay that desire down.  My heart was so full at being blessed with two children when I didn't even know if we would be able to one, so I had laid down my desire and trusted God with forming our family, because after Gabriel came into our lives, I truly began to understand the beauty in allowing God to have control.  Yet The Lord was still watering away, and I just didn't know it...until we found out we were expecting.  

As I reflect back on all of this, I realize that God was once again teaching me beauty in patience.  Some things come about quickly, and other things take much longer, but EVERYthing that God grows comes out beautifully.  

The process of being pregnant had some not so beautiful moments.  I think I had the stomach bug 2-3 times during this pregnancy, on top of all day "morning" sickness for the entire 9+ months.  I say 9+ because, being my "patience baby," mustard seed obviously didn't arrive on time!  LOL;-)  Having had a c-section with Lucy, I didn't expect my doctor to let me go much past 39 weeks in this pregnancy trying for a VBAC, so the whole pregnancy I fully expected this baby to arrive well before her due date. We had guessed 4-4-14, but that came and went.  The next guess was 4-10-14, because that was DH's birthday and we thought it would be really special if she came then...but that date came and went as well.  So then we said 4-14-14.  You guessed it though--no mustard seed.  Seeing that she was due 4-23, and Easter was 4-20, we were VERY nervous that she would try to debut on Easter Sunday (which is probably a music minister's biggest Sunday of the year!)  But Easter, too, came and went, and still no sign of Baby Mustard Seed.  My desire for a VBAC was slipping further and further away.  I was having contractions but not progressing a single tiny bit. I was devastated about this at first, but after some wise words from my mentor, I was able to work through my emotions over the possibility of not having a vaginal delivery.  As I prayed about it, I really felt the Lord telling me that me not progressing was His way of protecting the baby and me from a potentially harmful delivery.  For whatever reason, I realized I was not meant to labor this baby, and He gave me a peace about that.  (This decision was not made easily--it was made with a lot of tears and anxiety--but I knew it was the right decision.)  So when we made it two days past my due date and my doctor told me, once again, I still had not progressed at all, we knew that it was time for Mustard Seed to enter this world--not in the way that I had initially intended or hoped for, but in a much better way, because it was HER own special way, and I knew her birth story would still be so very beautiful, because it was how it was meant to be.

My doctor happened to be on call all last weekend, and he suggested us coming in for the c-section on Saturday, since they don't schedule c-sections on the weekends, so it *should* be much easier to get into the OR rather than waiting until Monday.  I went for my pre-op at the hospital on Friday, the 25th, at 2pm.  We finished up all of the paperwork (the registration lady had me down for coming in on Sunday and I kind of freaked out a bit.  It was just a typo tho.) and then they had me answer several questions, sign several papers, do bloodwork, and give me instructions for the following morning.  I was to call the hospital at 9:30 to make sure they had a room for me (I think a part of me knew in the back of my mind that a potential issue might arise with that phone call...) and then we would arrive at the hospital by 10AM, get checked into a room, and Baby Mustard Seed would arrive at noon...And they all lived happily ever after, right?  ;-)  It didn't really go that way tho...  but Im getting ahead of myself.

I knew I would be pretty hungry having to wait for surgery until noon the next day, so DH wanted me to pick out my "last supper."  He suggested places like Olive Garden and Red Lobster, but you know what I ended up picking?  CHIKFILA!  haha:)  Maybe it's because chikfila is kind of where everything began (DH's and my very first date way back in the fall of 2000;-) but for whatever reason, that's where we went.  We stopped by the church on the way home for DH to finish up a few things, and then we stopped at Walgreen's and I found some new pink nail polish.  My Nonnie called me that evening and we had a nice conversation, and then the night ended with my precious mother in law massaging my feet!  (She had also been staying with us since the previous week to help out with things before the baby arrived--it was so precious of her to do that for us!)  Of course, sleep didn't come easily for me.  I think I grabbed an oreo around 1AM since I couldn't eat or drink anything past 4 AM (why I ate one oreo I really have no idea...it's not like that was going to tide me over!) and I finally dozed off around 2...and was up by 5:30 and pretty much dozed a bit here and there for the rest of the evening.  I was exhausted, but my baby would be here soon, right?

So, I get up the morning of April 26th, everyone got ready, my mom arrived, and I called the hospital
right at 9:30.  I could hear in the tone of the lady on the other end of the line that something was not right.  After being placed on hold for a few moments, she said, "I'm sorry, but we don't have any rooms available right now.  We had several stat sections come through.  If you don't hear back from us in an hour, call back and we'll see if a room is available."  My heart sank.  Part of me dealing with having to have a repeat c-section was me feeling like I didn't have a lot of control over the type of birth I desired, and here I was, once again, powerless over this situation.  I went to the kitchen where my mom and DH were.  Dh had just come in from loading the car and asked something along the lines of if we were ready to go, and I broke the news to him,  He started asking questions that I didn't know the answers to and then I just kind of freaked out and blew up on everyone.  So not my brightest moment by a LONG shot.  In fact, it was quite possibly one of my worst moments.  I was a nervous wreck about going in for surgery, I was HUNGRY, and I was exhausted...still not excuses for being ugly though, so I apologized, which was gaciously and lovingly accepted, and I waited...and called the hospital back exactly one hour later.  The pause in the lady's response was long enough for my heart to sink before she told me, "We still don't have a room, BUT, it looks like we might have one by noon, so call back in an hour to make sure."  I tried to lay down and get some rest during that time, but again, I was far too antsy for that.  I had been dreading this surgery so much, but at this point I was ready to BEG for it!  I called back at 11:30.  No pause from the lady this time.  "Yes, we have a room!  Start heading this way at noon and we'll get you checked in!"  I was so excited!  But I also had this feeling maybe we should have just gone ahead and headed to the hospital right at that moment.  However, I chose to follow the instructions they gave me, and DH and I headed to the hospital around noon. 

We both headed to the registration desk a bit nervously but also with excitement, knowing we would soon be meeting our baby girl...we were met with a confused look from the registration lady.  "I wish you would have called before you came up here--we don't have any rooms."  I responded, "But we DID call just 30 minutes ago and they told us to come here at noon."  Apparently, another stat section had come through between 11:30 and 12, and another girl had come in right before me.  So, they had us go sit in the lobby to wait.  At this point, I'm STARVING and having contractions (nothing to warrant needing to be admitted though, unfortunately!) and am totally unsure as to if we are even going to be able to be admitted that day.  DH asked if I just wanted to wait and come back the next day, but I had no desire to possibly go through the same thing all over again the following day!  So we waited, along with a very "interesting" group of people who were waiting to be admitted as well.  I got an earful of expletives and actually just glared at them at one point (9+ months pregnant and starving=no filter.) They were a bit more careful with their verbiage after that!:)  They ended up getting called back with a room (DH and I looked at each other, realizing that if we had left sooner, we would have gotten that room!)

I was feeling pretty antsy, and around this point my mother sent me this gorgeous poem she had just written. The words truly touched my anxious heart: 

Despite the uncomfortable waiting area and the uncertainty of the situation, I knew there was a reason and it just wasn't quite time for baby mustard to come.  And honestly, with as anxious as I had been about the whole thing, it was best that we had all of that time to wait, because then I was truly ready to go into surgery.  A nurse came down and explained what was going on (it wasn't actually a shortage of rooms but a shortage of NURSES.)  She said they were finishing up a c-section and should be able to get me to a room in about 30 minutes.  At this point, we knew we were going to be able to have her still that day and not get sent home.  But then 30 minutes came and went, and an hour came and went...And then another pregnant lady came in, obviously having contractions, and I started to freak out a little bit.  This lady was going to get my room probably!  But the lady at registration called us over and quickly got us into the system so we could go ahead and get into the room.  I was SO thankful and relieved and EXCITED as we took the elevator up to the 2nd floor and headed into room 3 at about 3:30.  Yes, you read that right--we waited in the lobby for almost 3 and a half HOURS!  They immediately got started prepping me for surgery.  It all went so quickly!  I started feeling a bit flustered, and then all of the uncomfortable stuff started happening so quickly...like the IV.  She couldn't get it in the first time (holy cow that was painful!) and the next vein she tried kept rolling, but she was finally able to get it in.  Then my doctor came in and told me we would be headed back as soon as they finished everything up (you're usually in your room for about 2 hours or so, but we weren't in ours for even an hour probably.)  He also informed me that he would let me EAT immediately after surgery!  Oh happy day!!  My best friend since junior high had driven up and been killing time all afternoon waiting for me to get in a room and she sat with us and visited for awhile (so sweet of her to do and a special time.)  We called our moms and had them go ahead and head our way with the kids. By the time they got there, it was probably only 10 minutes before they came to take DH and me back to the OR. 
I hugged and kissed my babies and told them I loved them, and as we walked out the room, my sweet baby boy started yelling "WAIT!  WAIT!!"  Oh my WORD it just broke my heart!  But the waiting was over and it was time for Baby Mustard Seed to make her debut.

It was kind of weird to walk myself down the hall into the operating room.  It was a nurse, DH, and me. As we rounded the corner, we stopped by a bench outside the OR where DH was given some scrubs and told to wait while they prepped me for surgery.
 This is probably the part I hate the most--not having him with me every step of the way.  My husband knows how to comfrt me more than anyone else--he's my rock in so many ways--so it's just scary to walk into the OR without him.  As I took those last few steps from the hallway into the OR, that all too familiar feeling of dread kind of washed over me for a second.  I was immediately transported to 6 and a half years ago when I was wheeled into the OR in Springfield, IL for Lucy's c-section.  The difference this time though, is that once it washed over me, it was completely overturned with an overwhelming sense of peace.  The OR even had a peaceful feel to it...and of course the ever so lovely "surgical smell" and freezing temperature!  There was one nurse and the anesthesiologist in there getting things prepped and they said, "Don't worry--you'll be numb soon and the temperature won't matter!"  Ummm, not exactly completely comforting to me!  LOL:)  I glanced at the clock which read 4:30 34 seconds.  It had been a long day, but it had all led up to this. They had me get up on the table and Baby Mustard Seed was doing her typical dance moves. As the anesthesiologist got everything ready for my spinal, he noticed my tattoo and asked about it.  I said, "It's an icthus.  It's the symbol for Christianity."  He said, "I knew it was that symbol but what did you say it was called?"  He started asking me questions about it, like why the symbol for Christianity was a fish.  It was neat to be able to talk about how Jesus came to make "fishers of men" and what that meant, and it also helped distract me from getting the spinal.  I was reminded how we can turn any conversation towards Christ, and I was thankful for the opportunity to talk about Jesus, even in an operating room:)  (See, Mom--my tattoo isn't so bad after all!;-)  The spinal was painful, just as I remembered it being before (but this time I didn't break out into hysterical tears with a panic attack.)  What I had forgotten about, though, was how much it effected--basically my whole body was numb except for from my chest up.  It's such a strange feeling.  They had me lay down quickly, and before I went totally numb, baby girl was still doing her crazy white girl dance moves!  I then immediately started feeling very fuzzy and woozy...but they were right--I wasn't cold anymore at least!  Dr. Gordon came in and everyone continued talking very light-heartedly.  I remember asking when DH could come in (I was so afraid they were going to start before he got in there!) and they assured me it would be just a few minutes. Then Dr. Gordon asked if I had picked out my pandora station.  (He had told me at my appointment the day before that the only thing I needed to worry about was what kind of tunes I wanted playing in the OR;-)  I should interject here that I am THE most indecisive person, and even something as simple as this was hard for me to decide on.  DH and I had discussed it on the way to the hospital earlier that day, and he suggested Chris Tomlin.  The anesthesiologist typed in tomlin into a pandora search, and "How Great is Our God" started playing.  It was so calming to listen to those words and also to hear my doctor singing along to them.  The next song was Casting Crown's "Who Am I," which is when they let DH come in.  I seriously wanted to cry when I saw him enter the room.  He was pretty much covered from head to toe in his scrubs with the exception of his gorgeous eyes peeking through the mask.  His eyes immediately spoke love right to me, and I could tell he was smiling, even though I couldn't see anything but his eyes.  He sat down to my right and looked right at me and said, "You're my hero."  Ohhhh how I love that man!  We started talking a little bit, and Dr. Gordon and the nurse got started.  The song playing as our baby took her first breaths was "My Saviour, My God."  They got her head out pretty quickly and I think I remember them mentioning she had dark hair.  They let DH snap a quick picture and he showed it to me--it was so neat to be able to get my first glimpse of her before she was even fully out of my belly!  My first thoughts were how I thought she looked a lot like Gabriel actually!  (Funny thing is that when I told that to DH later, he said he had thought the exact same thing!)  They couldn't get the rest of her out quite yet though.  Dr. Gordon made a comment about how he had underestimated the size my incision needed to be.  We we would soon find out why.  As they pulled her out, you should have heard the nurse and Dr. Gordon!  They were saying "Wow!  She's so big!  Where were you hiding her?!"  I had expected her to be around 8 and a half pounds, maybe close to 9.  I remember crying when they said she was out, and I was just SO anxious to see her!  They were cleaning her off over to my right and I told DH to go over there to her.  I couldn't see her because of everyone standing around her, but I DID see the scale which read 9 lb 14 oz. 

WHAT???!!

I remember saying something like, "Is that right?! Is she really that big??"  Everyone in the OR was completely shocked--no one was expecting her to be almost 10 pounds!  My doctor said, "Consider this God's gift to you that you didn't try to labor this baby!"  The anesthesiologist then commented how it was no wonder I wasn't progressing any because she was just too big to be able to get down into the birth canal.  And even though I already had made peace that this was how she was supposed to enter the world, I felt like finding out a reason was God's gift to me.  I didn't necessarily NEED to know why I wasn't able to have her vaginally, but I realized more and more that God was protecting me and my baby.  Indeed, this was exactly how SHE was supposed to enter this world.  

Around this time, the song "Our God is Greater" started playing.  They finally got her wrapped up and we had our first few moments together.  I didn't get to hold her, but I touched her face and kissed her smooshy cheeks (which is the one thing I had been saying for several weeks that I couldn't wait to do!)  She was so pink and chubby and just BEAUTIFUL!  The anesthesiologist snapped a few photos of us and then it was time for her to go back to the nursery, so I sent DH off with our big sweet bundle while they finished sewing me up--but only after counting THREE TIMES to make sure they hadn't left anything iside of me;-)  This time, I didn't have to get re-opened and give birth to a sponge! (My c-section with Lucy was pretty traumatic.)

Right before they turned off Pandora, I got to hear the beginning of one more song.  I almost started crying as I listened to the words.  It was "Blessings" by Laura Story.  For those of you who have not ever heard it, it basically talks about how we pray for good things--for blessings--for ourselves, our family, and our friends, but what we often forget is that sometimes blessings come through trials and difficulties and storms.  I couldn't help but think of all that the Lord has brought us through as we have struggled to expand our family...How the road often seemed so long, but through it all, God was preparing us for His path for us, and He was teaching us how to praise Him through the stoms.  Each song that had played in the OR that day touched my heart so deeply--from the first song proclaiming how great our God is, to the next that talks about how God hears every single pain and hurt we feel and pour out to Him, to the next that says we can't always understand His ways but we can trust His character...our baby girl took her first breaths and spent her first moments of life hearing Truth proclaimed through song, many of those songs being ones she had heard her mommy and Daddy sing together while she was in my tummy.  It was such a beautiful moment, and even though there were several people in the room, it at times felt like it was just God and me in there.  He was reminding me of the journey that He had carried me through...

So what does one name a child who has been on that kind of journey?  Our baby had grown from the size of a mustard into a mound of faith (someone wrote that on my FB wall and I loved it!) which all started with the faithful prayers of a little girl.  And so, because this child was bathed in "prayer" from before we even knew she existed, and because she is truly an example of God pouring out His "favor and grace" to us, we gave our daughter the name Annie.  (which means "prayer, God's favor, and grace.)  And since each of our kids have some form of one of our names as their middle name, we also gave her the name Beth (which means "house of God.")  I'm sure you'll still hear us reference her as our Baby Mustard Seed though;-) 

It was several hours before I really got to hold my sweet Annie for the first time,
 
 but once again, I just had to be patient.  My recovery has had some very difficult moments, but for the most part it is going well thanks to all of the help from our church family and our moms.  We're having some pretty big difficulties with nursing, but once again, Annie is teaching me patience, so we are soldiering through it. I can already see how God has used this little girl to teach me the importance of finding joy through the journey of patience.  He's showing me how there is beauty in every step of the journey, and how the pain and heartache we endure along this way holds beauty and purpose within it.  What a gift, a miracle, a blessing, and an answer to prayer this precious babe is.  I am so in awe of how our Lord works and how He blesses His children.  I look into Annie's eyes and am so humbled that God has chosen me to be her mother and has loaned her to me.  She has found a perfect spot in our hearts and in our family--her big sister could not be prouder and is constantly saying, "She's such a gift! I can't believe I have a sister!" and her big brother is constantly peeking in on her and speaking so lovingly and gently to "baby sissy."  

Sweet Annie Beth--you are already so very loved!  We are so excited to watch you grow, and to see how our Heavenly Father continues to grow us in the process...


Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Colors are Blush and Bashful...

If you know me well, you probably know that one of my very favorite movies is "Steel Magnolias," and if you know me REALLY well, you have probably watched it with me a few times, or at least heard me quote from it.  One of my favorite lines from the movie is between Sally Field's and Julia Roberts' characters as they're getting the hair and nails done at the local salon in preparation for the upcoming wedding:

Julia: My colors are blush and bashful
Sally: Your colors are pink and pink!
Julie: MY color as blush and bashful!  I have chosen two shades of pink, and one is MUCH deeper than the other!"

(NOTE: These lines must be read in a VERY thick southern drawl to come across in the proper way;-)

Well, tonight I went to Walgreen's in search of the perfect shade of pink nail polish, and just could not decide between two beautiful choices...one being "much deeper than the other":)  So, I decided to just get both and make my own concoction of the two.

***As a sidenote, painting my nails is a bit of a stress reliever, so I tend to paint them before big events are about to occur.

Well, Lucy wanted to get in on the girly fun tonight, so she asked Mommy to paint her nails, too.  The problem is that Lucy loves the end result, but she's not super crazy about the process it takes to get to those results.  And as silliy as this analogy may seem to many, it is so true of what we do so many times in our lives.  We desire that end result, but we often trudge through the wait and the difficulty and the uncertainty of the fruition of those desires.  But praise God that He is so very patient with us to guide us to His ultimate and perfect plan.

Two years ago, our family was in the midst of the adoption process.  Lucy had been praying for a baby brother and sister to join our family, so a very sweet friend had a precious gift made for me: a bird's nest necklace containing three pealrs, each pearl representing our daughter, and our hopeful son and daughter.  I have worn that necklace proudly many times, always being reminded of the hope we have in our Heavenly Father's perfect plan for our families. While it shouldn't catch us off guard when He bring those long awaited desires to fruition, I am so thankful with His patience regarding our often doubt as He continually is working, even when we can't see it or just refuse to really hope and look for it.  Well, just about nine months ago, He showed us He had brought Lucy's desire to fruition.  After years spent praying faithfully for a baby brother and sister, we were able to announce to her that God was answering her very specific prayer in a very specific way: Mommy was pregnant with a baby girl!  Our bird's nest necklace would no long seem off, but rather is was housing a pearl that would signify each of our precious God-given blessings.

It took the course of many years to complete that precious gifted necklace.  We never knew if we would be able to have one child, and then we were called to follow the beauty of adoption to find our son, and now the Lord has blessed our family with another child.  Our nest feels very full and so very blessed (not that we aren't willing to make room for any other "pearls" so if the Lord chooses) but if I'm being honest, it was a lot of waiting and a lot of heartache, and a lot of difficult not-so-fun days getting from point A to point B.  And just as Lucy hates to sit still while her nails have to dry and often regrets starting the process of painting her nails, and then many times refuses to wait long enough and smudges them everywhere, in the end she is always so happy with the result: pretty girly fingernails:)  I know nail polish may make for a silly analogy to some, but I was just reminded of the sweetness that comes when we wait. I'm so thankful for our patient God and His perfect plan!

Which brings me to the main purpose of this post.  I have spent this entire pregnancy hoping, praying, and planning for a VBAC.  I was a great candidate for one based on my last c-sectino, and everything has looked great up until the past few weeks.  My body is just not progressing like it needs to to be able to labor this baby, and as we have prayed through everything, we feel the Lord has told us that this is His way of protecting us from a dangerous delivery.  Yes, the percentages of something catastrophic happening is very small, but they are there for a reason, so my prayer has been that should me or my baby be at risk for having a vaginal delivery, the Lord would put a stop to it and make it overwhelming clear, and bless us with His protection.

And He did that today.

So today, April 26, 2014, we will head to the hospital to have our precious Baby Mustard See via C-section.  Is this the birth I've desperately wanted for my baby girl?  No, it is not.  But, more importantly, I have to ask this question: Is this the birth that GOD has planned for my baby girl?  Yes. it is.  He has gone before us and chosen this path for us, so I am choosing to trust in Him and to allow Him to let me THRIVE through this beautiful birth story He is giving to our precious baby mustard seed.  Her entire life began as the faithful prayers from a (then) 5 year old girl, and I so desire that her life to continue to be lived based on faith in our Heavenly Father.  And so, today, we step out on faith that this is HIS perfect path for our mustard seed, and we are so thankful for His clarity to us and for Him going before us in this.

We certainly covet your prayers as we enter into sugery--for a safe and healthy delivery with no complications; for a healthy baby; for an easy transition for Lucy and Gabriel; and for a quick recovery.  She will be arriving on April 26th in the afternoon!

She's just a few days past her due date, but she is the result of SO many nightly prayers and such a big desire to expand our family.  God is always good, but sometimes we have to wait so He can work within us to truly prepare us for the greatness that lies ahead of us through Him and for His glory.  I feel humbled and honored to be chosen to be baby mustard seed's mother, and just as I wait for my "blush and bashful" nails to dry, I am anxious awaiting the outcome of the beautiful birth story He has planned for this baby.  Please cover us in your prayers as you wait alongside of us this evening and tomorrow!

A sweet friend reminded me of this verse, and I am clinging to its promises this weekend:

"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD'S purpose that pervails." Proverbs 19:21

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A New "Sister"!

We have been anxiously awaiting this day, April 23rd, 2014, for nine months now, knowing this is Baby Mustard Seed's due date.  But after the events that transpired in our home this evening, we realized that we've actually been awaiting this particular day for many years now.  Let me explain...

One of the things we have prayed over our children daily is for them to come to know Jesus at an early age.  Lucy has been asking questions for several months now about baptism, so we've been talking with her a lot about what it means to have a relationship with Jesus and how baptism is an outward expression of that inward decision.  Her teachers at school, church, and AWANAS have been mentioning to us that she's been asking questions as well, and our children's minister (who is so awesome, by the way!) at church gave us a workbook to start going through with Lucy.  (Oh how thankful we are for so very many people who pour their lives into our children's lives!  Any of you who work with children, please don't ever doubt the impact that you are making!)  After DH's grandfather passed away, she began asking even more questions and talking more frequently about how she wanted to go to Heaven one day and wanted to make the decision to be a Christian.  So, we've had a lot of conversations with Lucy about this lately...

Well, this week, my mom planted some flowers and plants in our front yard (I did not receive her amazing green thumb at all, but I'm so thankful she shared her giftedness in that way with us this week--the front looks so pretty now!)  Since moving into our home, Lucy has called the little patch of dirt next to our mailbox her "garden," so my mom specifically planted some flowers there for Lucy to take care of.  Last night, we went to Target and her and her daddy found a special hello kitty watering can so she can take care of her flowers.  As I watched her taking care of them today, I was reminded of the beauty that flowers bring and all that they represent--as we water them and care for them, they GROW...just like as we care for our children and invest in them, we have the privilege of watching them grow and thrive. 

When I picked Lucy up from school today, she had this look of horrible disappointment on her face, and the first words out of her mouth to me were, "You didn't have baby sissy today?? But today's her due date!"  I told her, "I'm sorry, baby...I'm sad, too, because I really wanted her to come today.  But, I promise she'll be here soon!"  (She later proclaimed, "No she won't--you said you are going to be pregnant forever!"  haha!  "Well, yes, I did say that, but Mommy was just being dramatic and sarcastic. I promise she really is going to be here soon!"  She's always listening!  LOL:)  Well, we may not have gotten to welcome a new baby sister into our family on this long-awaited day, but we DID get to welcome a new "sister" into "THE family" this evening, because tonight, April 23rd 2014, Lucy accepted Jesus as her Saviour!  No, it was not the birth we had been anticipating would occur, but it was such a glrious RE-birth, and we could not be more thrilled to mark this special date down on our calendar.  A sweet friend has shared with me many times throughout my pregnancy how God already has the exact moment marked down that our Baby Mustard Seed will take her first breath, and I was reminded today that He also has had the exact day marked down that our Lucy would choose to follow Him.  So today may not be the "birthday" we thought we would be celebrating, but what an even greater gift to have a RE-birthday to celebrate, as our Lucy has made the choice to have new life in Christ.  I cannot think of anything greater that could happen on this day!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Welcome Home...

There are so many people (many of you reading this post!) who walked closely beside us during our adoption process.  SO MANY PEOPLE played an integral part in helping us bring our son home, and we will never forget your outpouring of love and excitement and involvement.  You allowed God to use you to fulfill His plan for our family...it still overwhelms me when I think of how the Lord worked to ensure that Gabriel could be our son, and I never want to take it for granted.  One of those families not only walked alongside us though--they were able to walk alongside us on our road while they were walking a very similar yet very different road themselves.

We pretty much started the adoption process at the same time as our friends Kendon, Kursten and their two children, Ian and Kinzlee, only they were doing an international adoption.  Kursten is actually the person who told us about Christian Homes and Family Services (the agency we used.)  I'll never forget sitting at a table with her in the fellowship hall at our church on New Year's Eve, excitedly discussing what the Lord was calling our families to do.  Over the next several months, we would share many conversations--some filled with excitement at completing a new step in our journeys, and others filled with discouragement at another hurdle along the path.  

As I struggled through emotions during the adoption process, Kursten allowed me to cry and vent, and when we arrived home with Gabriel, Kursten helped welcome home our family of four, even as she was waiting to be able to welcome home her own child. This entire family blessed us in so many ways, and The Lord truly blessed both our families by allowing us to experience such an amazing journey alongside one another...both that ended with two very precious boys: Gabriel and Parker. 

Sweet Parker is just 6 months older than Gabriel, but it was just 6 weeks ago that he finally got to come home to his family.  It was a VERY long process for them.  The night before they flew home, I found this book and just sobbed in the store as I read it pages. 
"Did you ever think that your wish might not come true?...Oh yes...I wished for you through many phone calls...and through mountains of paperwork.  I wished for you while I waited and waited...and waited.  Sometimes, I didn't hear any news about you for weeks or months.  But I held onto my wish tightly, like the string on a balloon." 

Here we are at the airport waiting to greet Parker and his family onto American soil! 
 
 


We went from welcoming Gabriel home, to waiting for Parker to get to come home, to getting to have Gabriel and Parker together! 
Our move from our last church to here was particularly difficult, because we had envisioned our boys getting to grow up together.  It may not look the way we had all envisioned it, (things rarely do though, right?) but in spite of a little bit of distance, I still am hopeful our boys will get to have a special relationship.  We recently got to have a play date together, and it was so sweet to see them playing together, and to get to visit with my precious friend as we are now both on the other end of our journeys. 


Parker--you are SO loved and so very wanted!  How thankful we are to have been a part of the start of God's amazing plan for your life!