Thursday, May 29, 2008

What I Know (Day 12)

It seems like so many little ones have gone on to Heaven before us lately. I'm sure it is no more than usual but I guess these ones have touched my life. It is so hard to understand why this has to happen. I don't have any answers. My friend, Sumi, is grieving the loss of her little Jenna. I have been following the blog of Angie, whose husband sings in Selah, and they were only able to spend two hours with their Audrey. Just yesterday I read that another member of Selah, Nicol Sponberg, found her two month old Luke in his crib, gone from SIDS. And little Maria Chapman.

So much loss. How does God expect us to bear it? Why does He ask so much from us? We give Him nothing less than our very lives but He still demands more. Why is my all not enough? There are no words to describe the pain of burying your child. The person that you poured yourself into day after day, not because you had to but because it was your joy. And they're gone in one breath. And you are left with nothing but pain and so many questions.

I read a quote that the pastor of Steven Curtis Chapman shared with the family following Maria's death. He said,"You should hold on to what you know in the midst of a crisis, because the temptation is to hold on to what you don't know."

I wish someone would have said that to me. It is so true. I did ask so many questions and I was so angry at times because I could not find the answers. There is nothing wrong with asking questions but when there are no answers it only leads to more questions and more doubt. I am so glad that at some point I just gave up with the questions and found my strength in what I know.

I don't know why Emma had to go but I know where she is.
I don't know why she had to suffer but I know she is whole now.
I don't know how I will get through tomorrow but I know that I will.
I know that God's compassion never fails.
I know that He will hold me up.
I know that His mercies are new every morning.
I know that He is faithful.
I know that He has a future and a hope for me.
I know that He has forgiven me.
I know that He is my good shepherd.
I know that He loves me with an unfailing love.
I know He will not give me more than I can handle with His grace.
I know that His thoughts are too vast for me to comprehend.
I know that He asks me to trust Him and He will make a way.
I know that He will not allow my foot to slip.
I know that He knows every hair on my head.
I know that He is singing over me.
I know that He will renew my strength.
I know that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
I know that He holds me in His hand and He will not let me go.
I know that there is nothing that can seperate me from His love.
I know that He paid the price so that I wouldn't have to.
I know that He has overcome the world.
I know that He has conquered death.
I know that He has prepared a place for me and I will live there with the ones I love for all eternity.

What I know far outweighs the things I don't. What I know is what is holding me up today. If I could talk to all of these mothers who have had to bury their babies I would say, "I know it doesn't seem as if you can face one more day but I also know that He is there, crying with you, holding you in His arms, whispering a song into your heart. Someday you will hear it. I know you will. Just hold on to what you know."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Day 11

I don't have much to say today so I thought I would share this video a friend shared with me! It was made by some pastors' wives who got tired of their husbands using them in sermon illustrations. Enjoy!!

Oh, you have to put the music on my playlist on pause before you watch it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Day 10

I am so glad we have been busy lately. It makes the days go a little faster. This wait is really getting to me. I feel so helpless knowing that ours and Anna's future is in the hands of some person in the USCIS office. I know that isn't true. Our future is in God's hands. It still is hard knowing we are one stamp of approval away from getting her. I have such a hard time seeing little babies right now, knowing that we are missing this stage of her life. If we had the money and vacation time we would just go there and wait. According to Vietnam, she is ours and we could go through the Giving and Receiving ceremony any time. The problem with that is we don't know how long the wait will be. We do have a certain date in mind that we may just pick up and go get her and wait there.

I wanted to share some pictures from Mother's Day. I know I'm a little late but I had to wait for Allie to put them on the computer for me. I need to learn to do that some day I guess.

This is the Magnolia tree that my family bought for us on the one year anniversary of Emma's death. It bloomed just in time for Mother's Day this year:

These are the rose bushes that Dean and Allie bought for me to add to the rose garden I am trying to make:

These are the Hydrangias I bought to put in front of the church in Emma's memory on Mother's Day. I have a spot by the house where I want to plant them. They are beautiful:

The verse I am putting at the bottom of this post is one I found recently that really spoke to me. It talks about finding treasures in the darkness, riches stored in secret places. I had never thought about this verse much at all, but it is so true that God sometimes uses the darkest times of our lives to show us the treasures He has placed before us so that we can know that He is real, that He is God. I can think of so many times I have been in such a dark place in my heart and in my spirit, and He broke through the bars of iron I had put up and showed Himself to me through a treasure like a magnolia tree that blooms on Mother's Day or a butterfly that brushes my cheek or a friend who calls just to say she cares. To be honest, I wish I didn't have to go through the darkness, but I'm so thankful for the treasures that I am finding along the way.

Thought for the Day: Day Ten
"I will go before you and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel,
who summons you by name."
Isaiah 45:2-3

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Home again

We are back from our trip to Orlando. It was short, but good. We went to the state homeschool convention and since the hotels were a little pricey for us, we stayed at a campground. It felt a little strange to be camping in the middle of Orlando but it was fun.

I attended the convention two years ago but it was the first time for Dean and Allie. I think it was good for them to see all of the other homeschoolers out there. There were at least 3,000 people there and the conferences were really good. It was a good time to refocus on why we are doing this. There are so many days I want to send Allie to government school because I am tired or feel like I'm not doing a good job. I was reminded the final goal is not how much she knows but what kind of person she is becoming. When I watch her with other people I am convinced we have made the right choices. In fact, I regret the three and a half years she spent in traditional school. I let the pressure of other people and life influence me and made decisions that I did not truly believe in. Even when Emma died, I felt so inadequate to continue on the homeschool path because I was such a mess emotionally. I am so glad we stuck it out. I think the worst thing we could have done for Allie at that time would have been to take her out of her home and put her in a government school. We all grew during that time and I'm so glad we did it together. When we got home yesterday her test results were in the mail and she did great! It was just another reinforcement to continue through high school. We are fortunate that Allie loves being homeschooled and we don't have to fight her on this issue. On bad days when I am frustrated with her for being slow or sloppy I bring out the school threat, which is probably wrong but it works!

It was a great time of learning and networking, but I had some emotional moments. There were so many families there who had adopted children and every time I saw one I felt such a tug in my heart and an excitement that soon that would be us and fear that maybe it won't. Such mixed emotions.

Right before we left, I saw a little girl in a wheelchair very similar to Emma's with a toy bar like we had for Emma. She was playing with the toys and moving her head just like Emma did and my heart just broke all over again. I felt the tears coming and my breath stuck in my throat. I felt so jealous of that family who still have their precious gift with them.

And we also heard about Steven Curtis Chapman's daughter while we were there. My heart aches for them. It created an awkward moment when a woman I had just met asked "Can you even imagine what they are going through?". What do I say to those questions? I could only be honest and say, "No, I don't have to imagine. I've lived it and there is NOTHING worse.". I am so glad they know Christ. He is the only comfort that can get them through the rest of their lives here on earth. The song playing in the background is by Steven Curtis Chapman. I put it up today in memory of his daughter, Maria Sue Chapman, who is with my Emma, dancing with the angels. Steven's songs have brought so much comfort and hope to me over the years and my prayer is that he and his family will find the same comfort today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Day Six

Well, I made it for six days but I am going to have to give up on the idea of posting every day of the countdown. We are leaving tomorrow morning to go camping in Orlando and I am doubtful I will have internet connection. We are going to the state homeschool convention which will be good and so we decided to camp while we are there. We love to camp. I do hope to check my email at the hotel where the convention is going on. I doubt there will be any big news but I don't want to miss it if it comes. Anyway, thank you to all of you who do check this daily. I will be back on Saturday and maybe there will be something to actually write about!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Day Five

I had a great weekend with my sister-in-law and two nieces and Allie. We, along with a group from my church, went to Women of Faith. It was such a good time of learning, worshipping, and laughing. I was able to take my mind off all of the adoption stuff and just have a good time. It felt nice and normal.

I have noticed lately that I have been able to focus more than I did two years ago. I don't know if I can explain it. For the first two years after Emma died I struggled with the smallest decisions. If someone asked me a question like where I wanted to eat I would verge on panic almost. I would second guess every decision I made, so scared that I had made a mistake. If I was in a group of people I couldn't keep up with the conversation because my mind couldn't process everything going on, so I would just shut down. I was so confused most of the time. I recently watched the DVD of the funeral service and it was like I was there for the first time. I had no memory of over half of it. And I thought I had done so well at the time. I guess I was in shock.

Anyway, I realized this weekend how far I have come. I was standing there in that group of people and I was not anxious. I was engaged in what was happening and my mind was so clear. I was in charge of our group and got everyone there and back in one piece and I made several decisions. Wow! That is real progress for me. Those who have spent time with me in the past couple of years know what I am talking about.

I wish I could say that I am totally happy about this. I feel sad because anytime I notice progress I feel as if I am one step further away from my Emma and I want to take the words back. I don't want to be better if it means I am leaving her behind. I am saying the words though, and I am not taking them back because I know better now. I know that she is a part of me. There is no way I could leave her behind because she has gone on before me. She is not in my past, but in my future. She is calling me forward, cheering me on, smiling at my victories; because she knows where I am heading and she doesn't want to see ME left behind.

Don't worry, baby girl, I am following your lead. I am moving forward at my own pace and I am so thankful to have you waiting for me, loving me, blowing me kisses in the wind, and sending me sweet messages on butterfly wings. I love you with all my heart...

Thought for the Day: Day Five

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,

where moth and rust destroy,

and where thieves break in and steal.

But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven,

where moth and rust do not destroy,

and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is,

there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21 (my Emma verses)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Day Four

I have four minutes of day four left. I have no thoughts for the day because I didn't have time to think. I was busy in a good way. Some of my family is here for Women of Faith and we are having a fun time together. I am so glad to have so many "women of faith" in my family!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Day Three

Lately, I have been struggling with the whole age thing. I really don't think of myself as "old" when I am living my everyday life. I don't think about it a whole lot to be honest. I just do my thing. Until the other day...

I went to Barnes and Noble for some peace and quiet and was surprised by all of the noise when I got there. As I walked to the back of the store I quickly realized that solitude was not going to happen that day. There were kids everywhere, toddlers I guess, and it looked to me as if they all had been brought by their babysitters. At first I thought, "How sad that none of these kids have a mom who can take the time to bring them to storytime." Then I heard one of them call for their mommy and one of those young girls answered back! Wait a minute. I am old! I felt so out of place. Like I didn't belong and I was struck with fear that this would be how Anna Grace will feel. Will she feel like she has the old mommy? Will she be embarrassed to be seen with me? I hope not. My first thought is that I will have to work on looking and acting younger. But, no, I will have to work on accepting myself the way I am and teaching my daughters to do the same for themselves and others. Especially their old mom.

Thought for the Day: Day Three

Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil.
For You are with me.
Your rod and your staff;
they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 (Allie's favorite verse)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Day Two

I woke up this morning half afraid to check my email. I didn't want to find a message from USCIS that there is some mistake with our paperwork. I have seen that happen to other people. There was no email from them so no news is good news at this point.

We are keeping ourselves busy with updating some of our paperwork and applying for our Visas. I am also researching packing lists and travel tips. There is a lot to be done.

Thought for the Day: Day Two

The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 (Stacey's Favorite Verse)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Day One

I woke up this morning to find the email we have been waiting for, our receipt from USCIS that they have our I600 paperwork and they will be processing it. Yea!! It says, as we knew it would, that this can take up to 60 business days. We are praying it will not take even close to that. We are getting so close!! As soon as we get this approval, it will be time to go get her!!

I am going to try and post something daily and keep track of the days on here. I'm not making any promises, just going to try it. Thanks for all of you who read this and pray for us. This whole process has had such a huge impact on our faith and I hope it has touched others as well.

Thought for the Day: Day One

"For I know the plans I have for you,"
declares the Lord,
"plans to prosper you,
and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11 (our family verse)

Monday, May 12, 2008

He carried me...

First of all, I want to say thank you to all of you who prayed for me this weekend and sent me such sweet comments and emails. I meant to update my blog earlier today but our home computer is on the fritz and keeps shutting down on me. I am on Dean's laptop now that he is in bed.

I made it through the service fine. I was a mess all night because of my nerves and my emotions. I spent some time in prayer this morning and was feeling a little better but, I have to say that I really started feeling better when I stood up and looked at the congregation and I saw the faces of so many people that I love. I could feel them holding me up with their love for me. I received so many positive remarks about the messaage itself but, to be honest, I'm not sure about it myself. I'm trying to trust what others said but I know they're biased.

In the end, it isn't about me anyway. I obeyed God and I believe He will use my offering to achieve His purposes and I may never know it. I have to say that I am so grateful to be in our church. They have truly become a family to me and I feel a sense of belonging. I feel invested in people's lives. Sometimes the weight of the burden I feel for them overwhelms me. They are such special people and I want God's best for them. I hope I can be a part of His plan for UBC.

By the way, we got a call from the friends Dean and Allie were visiting last night and they found Allie's ring in their driveway!! Allie was right. God did know where it was. She is very happy to know it is found. It is very special to her.

Well, I wanted to write some sentimental post about Mother's Day but I am tired. My brain is done for today. I started to make a slideshow of my favorite girls but the computer shut me down and my pictures are not on Dean's computer. Maybe tomorrow.

My friend, Jennifer, wrote a wonderful post that made me cry. I encourage you to read it and gain some perspective on what you have. Thanks for reminding me, Jen, and I definitely did not try the "underwear" approach. Good advice!!

I found this video made by one of the members of Selah about their daughter, Audrey Caroline. It is beautiful. The song will be released next week, I believe.
She lived for 2 1/2 hours. Her mom, Angela, has a blog that has touched my heart.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Blogging... My New Ambien

It is almost 2:00 am and here I sit blogging. In 9 hours I am supposed to present the Mother's Day message and I am in full panic mode. I have it prepared. That's not the problem. The problem is that when I look at it my mind goes blank and the words blur together and I feel my blood rushing in my ears. I honestly don't think I can do this. Thank you for all of the wonderful messages of encouragement. They mean more than you know.

I am feeling so much more emotional than I thought I would. I keep telling myself that Mother's Day is just a Hallmark holiday. It is just like any other day. It shouldn't hurt any more or less but it does. My heart aches for my Emma to be here with us on Mother's Day. I feel the sting of her loss all over again. To not be able to do her hair and put a pretty pink bow in it is just so wrong. To not push her wheelchair over to church in the morning makes the walk so much longer. To not see her sweet smile and hear her laugh makes me want to scream in pain. THIS IS SO WRONG! SO UNFAIR!! I am angry at the unfairness of it all.

To add to it all, we can't find Allie's sister ring. We had it made for her the week Emma died with both their birthstones set in a heart. She wears it every day. She took it off to go swimming and it fell out of Dean's pocket. He is upset that he lost it and she is sad to have it gone. She said, "God knows where it is." She's right but I hope He shows us!

Anyway, I'm not sure what will happen in the morning. I don't know if I will be able to do this. I am trying to put it in God's hands and trust Him. Easier said than done. I don't want to disappoint anyone. Story of my life.

Hopefully, I will post something happier later today!! Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

My loaves and fish...

Early in Dean's ministry, we started the tradition of me presenting the message on Mother's Day. Dean thought it would be neat to have it be from a woman's perspective. This was a challenge for me because I am a behind the scenes person, not an up front person. I did it, though, and gained a little more confidence each time.

Well, I have not done it since Emma died. In fact, I haven't attended church on Mother's Day since then. It is a rough day. I have spent the time Allie and Dean are at church just letting myself miss Emma and "cry it out" so I could enjoy the afternoon with Allie.

A couple of months ago I started getting that nudge I know is God speaking, telling me that it was time to do it again. I came across a verse that just spoke to me and grew into a sermon in my head and I believed He was giving it to me. I told Dean that I believed I was supposed to give the Mother's Day message this year. We started planning the music and the service around the theme I had in my heart.

Last weekend, I started doubting myself big time. I was thinking about everything. What if I freeze? What if I get too emotional? What if it is not good enough? What will I wear? What if people hate it and leave? Every possible scenario entered my mind and I started to panic. I finally told Dean I wasn't going to do it. I knew it was short notice for him but he's a pastor. He should be used to it by now. I felt such a physical and mental relief. I finally relaxed. In a way. I don't know if you have ever just outright told God "no" but it stinks. I felt like I was disappointing Him.

On Tuesday, I was doing my devotions and God hit me over the head. I was reading about the feeding of the 5,000. That is the story where the disciples want to dismiss the crowd to go eat and Jesus tells them to feed them themselves. All they are able to find is two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus says "bring it to me", and he feeds all 5,ooo people with that little bit. The author of the devotional was comparing it to how God uses whatever we give him, big or small, to accomplish great things. When I read that I knew He was speaking to me. He wanted me to give Him what I have and leave the rest to Him. I wrestled with Him that day and of course He won. I wrote in my prayer journal that what I have is His. I don't feel like it is much. I feel like it is so inadequate to be used by Him. But I give it to Him and I trust Him to use it for His glory.

That is not the end of the story. I noticed that the disciples still had twelve baskets left after all had eaten. One for each of them. God rewarded their efforts by feeding them as well. After my prayer time I went to check my email, which I do obsessively, and there was the email I have been waiting for! Our I600 had been submitted!! I felt like God was saying, "You gave me your all and now I am feeding you." I just sat there and cried. I felt God's approval. I am such a people pleaser and to have God's approval and reward that day was just what I needed.

So now I am back to my anxious misery of knowing I have to get up in front of everyone on Sunday morning. I believe I am obeying God but that doesn't make it any easier for me. Please pray for me this weekend. Please pray that God will use me to speak the words that at least one person needs to hear. I am feeling pretty emotional about Emma so please pray God will comfort me on that day. Please pray that I don't pass out!

Oh, and please pray that I will lose 30 pounds by Sunday...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Another step closer...

Today we received an email from our adoption coordinator that our I600 paperwork has been sent to the USCIS office in HCMC. That means the Vietnamese side of the investigation has been completed and it has been turned over to the US to do their own investigations. So now we wait for a notification that they have received our paperwork and then we wait "up to 60 business days" for an approval to travel. We are very excited to move on to this final step! I have seen on other people's blogs some approvals that have come fairly quickly so we are praying it will be the same for us. Please keep us and Anna in your prayers!! She needs to come home!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Issues? What issues?

Lately I have been doing some reading about raising an adopted child and some of the issues she and we will have to face as she grows up. With all of the negative and scary things happening with adoptions, I decided it is time to stop focusing on the "what ifs" and start dealing with the reality of what will happen when she comes home.

One of the issues that I know will be a big one is the feeling of loss she will face. As she grows up, she will undoubtedly feel the pain of losing her birth family. She will wonder why she was abandoned and feel the sting of rejection at a very early age. I hope we will be equipped to handle this as we have all dealt with loss in our own lives. We know what it is like to lose a member of our birth family so I hope we will be sensitive to her feelings and not push them aside. I have learned that the best way to deal with loss is to face it head on. You cannot pretend it isn't there. You have to give it a voice. You have to find a safe place to express it. Sadly, that does not usually happen in our own families. Because it makes people uncomfortable, we learn to stuff it and pretend everything is alright. I hope we never do that to any of our children.

Another issue she will face is racial prejudice. Because I am a white American, I like to believe that it doesn't exist anymore. I tell myself that we are beyond that and she will be loved and accepted for who she is. I believe that because I don't face prejudice and I think it doesn't exist. Well, my rose-colored glasses have been shattered recently. I have seen it for myself. We have friends who use the word "oriental" to describe our Asian friends and everytime I hear it my stomach tightens. I also heard someone refer to a group of Asian people we know as being good with all of that "technical" stuff. A member of our own family was recently talking about all of those "China" babies people keep bringing over here and what we're going to do when it is time for them to get married. What? I don't even know how to respond to that! My illusions of Anna living without facing prejudice were quickly removed that day. She will face it in her own family. I'm so sorry. I am not a fighter by nature but I will have to learn to respond to these people in a kind but firm way when they put their fears of anyone different than them onto my daughter. I had another person look at her picture and say "Her eyes don't look too slanted". Hello people, she's Asian. She is going to look different than us. If that was not okay with us we would not be adopting from Vietnam.

I guess I compare it to the prejudice and rejection we faced with Emma. I remember when she was finally healthy enough to go out in public and we started to go to the mall and Walmart. To me she didn't look that different but I would see people staring at us and I would think, "What are they looking at?" And then there would be the sickening realization that they were staring at Emma. The older generation, especially, would give us looks that said, "How dare you bring her out and ruin our day?" She made people uncomfortable. As time went on, we learned to ignore these people. Children were the most accepting. They would simply ask, "What's wrong with her?", and I would explain the best I could and they would go about their business. You have to love the innocence of children who haven't learned prejudice and fear yet. I can usually take this from strangers pretty well but from our own families and friends I cannot. There are certain events that I will not attend because of the way Emma was treated. I remember a church we were visiting where we were asked to take her out of the service because it was distracting the other members. So I tried to take her to the nursery and they said she was too old to be in the nursery. I lost my composure that day. And don't even get me started on people who throw around the word "retard" and "retarded" as an insult or joke. I have lost alot of respect for alot of peole when I hear that. I taught Allie from a very young age that if she ever used those words like that she was personally insulting her sister. People can be so cruel.

My point with all of that is that I hope the life experiences we have had will help us to be more aware of what she faces and at least a little prepared to deal with it in effective ways. It has to start with us and I have been trying to notice my own prejudices and face them. I would be lying if I said I don't have any. All we can do is face each situation that arises with as much grace and understanding as we can and pray that our children can be an agent of change in their world.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

You are about to enter a no spin zone...

Into your life she came,
This gift from up above.
You will never be the same;
You were changed by her love.

You felt the joy she gave us all,
And though you held her tight,
One night she heard her Father call,
"It's time, Emma, take flight!"

After years of struggle and strife,
She finally left this earth.
The beginning of a new life,
A new body, a new birth.

When you need to feel her near
You can look up to the sky;
You'll hear her whisper in your ear,
"See, Mommy, I'm your butterfly."

I wrote this a while back and thought I would post it as I have little to say right now. Mother's Day is coming up and I am starting to feel myself sliding back down that hill I have tried so hard to climb. Does that even make sense? Anyway, I am feeling sad and depressed. I want my Emma back here with me. I spent the week with family and, although I enjoyed seeing them, I felt her absence so sharply. Sometimes I feel this sort of displaced feeling where I don't know who I am supposed to be around certain people. I realize then how much I was defined by Emma.

If I had a dime for all of the times people have said, "At least you still have Allie.", I would be very rich. Let me ask you, if one of your children suddenly disappeared from your life, would you not miss them just because you still have a couple of others? I didn't think so.

On second thought, if I only had a dime for all of the hurtful things people have said to me over the past two and a half years...