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 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