Monday, March 27, 2017

We Knew She Was Different

The first time we laid eyes on her, we knew she was special. Katerina had a way of lighting up a room with her huge smile and her pure joy. And…when she met her daddy for the first time…oh the joy, such incredible joy. We didn’t know how Katerina would react to Joel, because many children living in orphanages haven’t had a lot of contact with males (most caregivers are women), but Katerina knew this man was HER daddy, and she loved him immensely, and the feeling was mutual.

Katerina has always been such a special little girl, in many respects. She’s the only girl out of the four we’ve adopted. That, in and of itself, makes her very special. She holds her own with the boys, but she loves to be the girl God has created her to be. She plays with dolls, likes to have her fingernails painted, and loves to wear pretty dresses.

Soon after our adoption of Katerina (and her brothers) was complete, we had them all evaluated at an international adoption clinic and by their local pediatrician. It was clear there was something else going on with Katerina. We learned early on there was a developmental delay (not uncommon coming from orphanage life). But, we were referred to the Fullerton Genetic Center to have her evaluated for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Children coming from the part of the world where these children came from are often exposed to alcohol in the womb, and FAS or any of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are very strong possibilities for these children.

Upon her genetic testing (which ruled out some other possibilities) and a battery of testing, Katerina was confirmed with FAS. Our hearts broke for our sweet daughter. It wasn’t her fault, but she’ll have to deal with the effects of a choice by another for the rest of her life (as will her new family).

This past December, Katerina was evaluated yet again, and we learned she also has Autism. That somewhat came as a surprise, because many symptoms of FAS are in direct contradiction to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However, she scored high enough in the other categories that her diagnosis was clear.

Joel and I knew we were in for a lifetime of parenting this little girl who would grow to be a young lady. What would her future look like? Would she be able to learn enough to live independently? Would she ever be able to work a job? So many questions…

This past Friday, I faced the next challenge alone for the first time. Katerina just went through re-evaluation for her IEP (Individualized Education Plan). She was given a large battery of in-depth tests. The results of the all the testing…our baby girl is mentally challenged. Her IQ is very low, and she is now considered “moderately intellectually delayed”. I think we knew it deep down, but I heard it for the first time, and my heart broke again. I had to grieve for my daughter all over again. But this time, I didn’t have her daddy to grieve and share this news with. I truly felt and thought to myself, “How much more Lord? How much more weight can my shoulders take?” I know I won’t feel this way forever, but for now…I feel the darkness is getting heavier and the pit is getting deeper. I’m still praying and waiting for breakthrough and a glimpse of the light breaking through the tunnel.

But, God has great plans for Miss K! I know He does. She is full of compassion and love and seems to know how to comfort people in pain in ways others don’t. I had a bit of a meltdown a week ago that unfortunately happened in front of the kids. The boys kept asking if I was okay and wanted to help with words. But my sweet girl…she walked up to me and started rubbing my back…she didn’t say a word. She just rubbed my back! God used her mightily in that moment to comfort her hurting mama.

He has great plans for my girl! No doubt in my mind. I just want to make sure I listen to His still, small voice to know what role I play in His plans for her. Without Joel to help me make decisions, I’m trusting God to fill the role of “husband to the widow” He’s promised and guide me through some of the hard decisions I might have to make decades from now or even in the next few weeks.

He won’t let me down. His plan is always perfect and always better.

I’ve been working with Katerina on learning some things about herself that I want to make sure she never forgets. She finally knows them, and will repeat them to me when I ask her to tell me her “I am’s”…and, she’ll say…

I am beautiful.

I am special.

I am smart.

I am loved.

Yes you are my precious! You are so, so loved!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Yes…It Was THAT Serious…

Rather than showing you pictures of a rather nasty looking foot…I thought you might prefer to see a picture of my new friend and temporary ride.

Now that the second foot surgery is behind me, and things are moving in a positive healing direction, I thought I’d share a little more.

The original foot surgery on March 10 was supposed to be a simple Tarsal Tunnel Release. I had one about nine years ago and did quite well with it, and it’s typically a very simple surgery. I knew I’d have to baby my foot a little bit afterwards, but I had only planned to be out of work 5 days (including the weekend), and planned to end my leave following Joel’s death with the end of my surgery recovery. It had been on the calendar awhile anyway, and I couldn’t wait to have the ability to walk pain-free again. So, I went ahead with the already scheduled procedure.

Then…things went down a path nobody (especially me) expected. While some pain was expected, I had an extraordinary amount of pain following the procedure. Additionally, I had large pools of bleeding.

**By the way, if even the talk of blood makes your stomach queazy, you might want to stop reading here. 

After I was safely in the house following being dropped off by my ride for surgery #1, I turned around to hobble my way to the bathroom, and I noticed a trail of blood along the floor that looked like I had entered the room of a crime scene. It. Scared. Me. To. Death. I went to flag the ladies down (who were outside on the driveway at this point) and made an immediate call to my surgeon’s office. The doctor’s office talked me through what to do over the weekend and to continue watching it and what would necessitate a trip to the ER. Thankfully, I never had to go to the ER over the weekend, but I did have to make a trip to see my surgeon in Asheville again on Monday morning. He was not pleased at what he saw and already hinted at a possible second surgery being necessary to fix the current problem. We’d continue to watch it for another day or two.

Well, the next day (Tuesday) – now four days post-op – landed me a trip to the local ER, as my pain had gotten out-of-control. It was no longer controllable with the medications I had, and the bleeding continued. The ER staff re-dressed the wound as well as controlled the pain in a more direct, short-acting way. I went back home nearly five hours later.

Wednesday – more of the same.

Thursday – back to Asheville for the surgeon to do another wound check. The conversation went like this:

Dr H: I see two choices here. In very rare cases (like I can count on one hand the number I’ve personally encountered), we have to go back into surgery and search for the source of bleeding and put a stop to it. We can go ahead and do that tomorrow, or we can wait until possibly next Wednesday. I asked him his opinion, and he was hesitant to offer it just yet. Then, I spoke with as much clarity and assurance as I’d had up to that point…

Me: Dr. H….I don’t know about you, but I know God has given me a spiritual gift of discernment, and it’s one I feel I’ve been blessed with quite mightily. If I stick to my “gut” (that voice of discernment) telling me what to do, then I feel this needs to be taken care of TOMORROW.

In that moment, the surgeon (who I happened to know is a believer as well) looked at me and said, “You made the right decision!” Ahhh…sweet peace just ushered in the room…

The surgery took place on Friday. It was a complete success. The surgeon removed a baseball-sized clot from my ankle. It was causing the excessive bleeding, the horrendous pain, and who knows what else. And…had it gotten loose and traveled to other parts of my body…brain, lungs, heart…I could have very quickly joined Joel in Heaven. Yes…it was THAT serious!

I still don’t understand why I’ve been asked to walk through these various trials right now…hard and painful trials, but what I do know…I can still hear that still, small voice of God speaking to me. That, in and of itself, was huge for me, as I had been begging God to hear from Him…something…anything. I felt He had been quiet with me lately, and I desperately needed something to cling to knowing He was still with me. My faith knew it, but I was so weak and deep in grief…I needed more in that moment.

He IS still for me.

He IS still watching OVER our family.

He IS not finished with me yet.

He IS healing me!

It’s just looking a little different than I had pictured, but then again…so is my whole life, for that matter.

Thank you for your many prayers, well-wishes, tangible gifts of support, love, and concern. He is using YOU for big things. Thank you for being obedient. To keep up with current needs in our family, you can do so at a glance by clicking HERE. OR…if He leads you to do something else, follow His lead. It will never be wrong. He knows our needs better than we do.

May God bless you BIG!

#Heisstillgood

Friday, March 17, 2017

Waiting for Rescue

The waters are very deep right now. At times, I feel I only have my face sticking out…just enough to breathe in the fresh air through my almost-buried nose. Reminds me of when I was a small child just learning to swim, and I could tread water just enough to keep my face from going under. It was then my dad (who usually worked with us the most in the pool) would step in and lift me up higher and tell me how proud of me he was for working so hard in the water. I eventually became a rather good swimmer, and I eventually trained to be the rescuer (i.e. lifeguard).

In my real-life “deep water” situation right now, I’m in desperate need of a rescue. I feel like life is swirling at super-speed around me just waiting to engulf me. I’ve stopped asking “why?” and simply started begging “help me!”.

It really doesn’t matter why God is allowing me to go through so many trials at one time. I’ve witnessed His faithfulness time and time again through my life to know that His plan is always better, even if it doesn’t make sense right now. I will admit, however, I have asked Him the “why” question a few times over the last four weeks. I know He can take it, because He wants the “real me”. And…the real me has simply wanted an answer a time or two, but I haven’t gotten it yet. And yet, I’ve moved on from the questioning phase…now, I’m simply begging…

God, please help me. I am hurting so deeply right now…physically, mentally, financially, emotionally…my heart aches like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Please show me you’re right beside me! While I know you’re here, I really would love a tangible glimpse of your presence. Will you do that for me? I don’t deserve anything from You. You’ve already given me the best gift ever…eternal life. But, I know you want me to have life abundantly…you say so in Your Word. So, Abba…will you please allow me to feel that abundant life right now. Will you saturate me with Your presence and with love overflowing? Will you please fill the lonely places? Will you please give me peace, especially today, as I head into another surgery? Will you please bring complete healing to me in ALL the areas of my body and life needing a touch from You? Abba – will You rescue me today, and begin the restoration work You have planned for my life on this earth? Will you allow those watching and waiting to see your mighty power in my life? Abba Father – I give You glory, in advance, for what I know You can do! Please let none of this pain be in vain! Please be glorified through it. And…until I’m Home with you…please continue to show me how to live my life according to Your plan for me. I want nothing more than to please and glorify You!

Yes…I’m having a second surgery today. One week ago today, I had a minor procedure on my foot that should have been a breeze (I’ve had it before). However, it broke all the records, and now I’m facing another sudden surgery that will take place today at 1:30 pm ET. For my praying friends, would you please consider praying for me at that time? Pray for the surgeon to find the source of the issue quickly, to be able to fix it fully, and to prepare me for a full and speedy recovery.

I’m leaning completely on Him right now, but I also know He tells us in His Word to ask, to seek, and to knock. I’m asking, I’m seeking, and I’m knocking.

Thank you to the multitudes of you who have stepped into my little world to love on me since Joel went home to Heaven. I can’t begin to express how thankful and grateful I am for the way you’ve loved on my family during these difficult weeks. This is so much bigger than I can handle, and God has simple asked me to rest in Him while He takes care of things. He’s been taking care of things THROUGH YOU, and I love that! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I love you deeply!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Emotionally Beat-Up

Happy Wednesday afternoon friends! I’ve struggled to post for a few days now, because…well…in all honesty, I’m just feeling emotionally beat-up. Those were the exact words I spoke to a friend who recently called to check on me and see how I was doing, and I struggled to come up with what to stay. Finally…it came to me…I just feel…emotionally beat-up! And then she got it. She knew exactly what I meant.

  • I’m in the process of grieving the death of a second husband in less than 6 years, who’s been gone just slightly over a month. That, in and of itself, is almost too much to bear at times.
  • I have four young, adopted children…two with clinically-defined special needs and one probably, yet to be diagnosed. Throw a little, well a lot, of ADHD into the mix, and you’ve got one keyed up, stretched thin, worn through and through mama.
  • Then, this blasted foot surgery. It’s supposed to help restore life in areas where I’ve needed restoration…the ability to walk well (pain-free) again, and the ability to retreat back to those outdoor activities that bring me such joy hiking, camping, river tubing, etc. It was supposed to be an easy surgery. Key words “supposed to be”. Joel’s surgery was supposed to be easy too, and we see how that turned out. I guess I’m blessed to be alive, but I’m struggling with lots of PAIN, and I mean a ton! And…before the surgery I was given instructions that I could be ambulatory immediately post surgery (while using a surgery shoe) as I felt up to it. I had full, weigh-bearing privileges. Now…I’m not allowed to put any weight on it at all. Did you see the part about having 4 young, rambunctious children at home? Nearly impossible doc.

I’m begging God for a breakthrough, for a release from ALL the pain (even if it’s just temporary)…I just need some relief. I’ve asked Him for a better attitude, because I know I’m struggling in that area too, and I truly don’t want to be…I just want my joy back…even if it’s just a smidgen. It’s that smidgen that will carry me through to the next dose.

Come, Lord Jesus! Rain down bucketfuls of joy upon me, and remove the pain!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Worst Night of My Life (since Joel went to Heaven)

From happier days…

I won’t lie. Every. Single. Day. Since Joel went home to Heaven has been, at minimum, difficult. Some days feel unbearably hard. Without the support of so many people, I honestly don’t know how we would have made it this far. Then came last night…

I thought I would see Jesus last night. I thought my heart was literally going to crush under the heavy load of the burden I was asked to bear for most of the evening. My baby was emotionally hurting. Deeply hurting, and all the hurt was being directed at me. It lasted so long, and was so all-encompassing, I had no choice but to sit on the floor and hold him to keep him safe until his brain would allow his body to calm down. I asked Josiah to video-tape some of it, because nobody would believe this sweet, precious, charming little guy could be so explosive, and I need someone to believe me as I seek to get him the right kind of help.

I continued to hold him, soothe him, rock him, sing to him, pray over him, talk to him…and finally…he broke. He was a sweaty mess and started crying out, “I’m sorry mommy! I’m sorry mommy!”

We were both sobbing. He was so broken. I was so spent. We just held each other and cried more.

Finally, when he was back to his “normal” toddler self, able to play with his siblings, I went into my bedroom and wailed. I could no longer control the emotion I had been trying so hard to control while he had his meltdown. I wailed so loud…it reminded me of my reaction after learning my Joel wasn’t going to make it. That same type of reaction. My kids ran into my bedroom.

Katerina, the compassionate one, immediately started rubbing my back.

Josiah, the leader, started giving instructions to his siblings.

Benjamin, the inquisitive one, started asking me over and over what was wrong.

Austyn, my sympathizer and empathizer, started crying along with me.

And…it started all over again. This time, he consoled me. He sat in my lap, and we cried together.

I prayed through tears!

Abba, you promise to be the husband to the widow and the father to the fatherless! We need to know you in both those roles right now. You are the same, yesterday, today, and forever. You are a God that cannot lie! We trust you! Bring us Your peace. 

Eventually, we all left my bedroom. Josiah cleaned up from dinner. I honestly don’t remember even eating. Katerina followed every single direction given to her (a miracle, in and of itself). Benjamin was calm most of the evening (another miracle), and my Austyn fell asleep in my arms. After placing him in his bed, he slept all night and woke up a very happy little boy this morning!

Last night was just one night. I am seeking help for all my children and for myself. This isn’t my first rodeo with losing a spouse, unfortunately, but this is the first time I’ve had young children to care for at the same time, so we all have so much to learn. And…praying friends…we need SO much prayer! Just pray as God directs please.

For those precious souls continuing to ask how you can help in tangible ways, I’ve put up a list on the website. You can find it here. I’ll update it as needs change. Thank you for being His hands and feet to our family! I am simply humbled and blown away by how loved we are right now!