Sunday, March 27, 2011

PLEASE join me in praying for this family.  And SHARE this link with anyone who might have a public voice, political pull...ANYONE.  Lord, move this mountain!

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Looking Back

July 4, 2006...
We had just moved into town. It was our third day here and we were invited to a neighborhood street party...BBQ, Fireworks, kids riding bikes in the street, and the chance to meet our new neighbors. Toward the end of the evening, a woman emerged from a group that had been visiting a few yards away. She was tall and elegant with a huge, bright smile and had an accent as Southern as sweet tea.
Over the next few weeks, we became friends. Our kids enjoyed playing together and we enjoyed visiting. Living only a few houses apart, we were able to drop in whenever the mood struck without having to "make a playdate." I found out that she was a breast cancer survivor and wondered at that...she looked so strong and healthy, an avid tennis player. I had such respect for what she had been through.
She began having health problems here and there, but it didn't slow her down. She would have a procedure, take a few days to recoup, then be back on the tennis courts. But one day, she showed up at my house and told me, "I just came from my oncologist."
My heart stopped. "Oncologist?" My mind prayed, oh dear God NO.
"Is it back?"
She nodded. "It's back. It's bad, I just know it's bad."
I hugged her hard and held her as she cried, felt the fear causing her to tremble. "You're gonna beat this. I just know it." I hoped my saying it out loud would make it true.
God please make it true.
She began treatments right away. I learned so much by watching her walk this journey. Cancer is an ugly disease marked by waiting, hope, despair, the roller-coaster of tumor markers rising and falling, and the awful side effects of chemo. She laughed at "chemo brain"...the forgetfulness caused by the poison meant to kill the cancer. She had fun with her wig, grinning when it was crooked and sometimes ditching it altogether. I loved it when she let her baldness show. "You wear that beautiful bald head proudly," I told her, and I meant it. I saw it as a badge of honor, marking her as a fighter and a survivor.
For more than four years she lived life to the fullest and determined to defeat the disease. She adored her husband and children, fighting with every breath for just one more day with them. No matter how sick or weak she was, she relished her role as wife and mother and determined to get up and put on a smile if at all possible...and sometimes when most of us would have thought it impossible.
But even more than the way she lived each day was the transformation of her spirit. This proud, strong woman who loved God began to slowly be betrayed by the very body that she had taken such pains to keep healthy. As her body deteriorated, though, the light of Christ grew brighter and brighter and she went from loving Him to absolutely ADORING Him. In her last months, she was frail and thin but her face was radiant.  
I told her, "I know you don't feel well, but you look absolutely beautiful. You are glowing."
She smiled and said "He has filled me with His presence. It is so amazing. I have never felt like this before!"
She knew her condition was terminal, though she believed God could heal her instantly. She was at absolute peace, though she desperately wanted to watch her children grow up. But I believe, and I told her this the last time I saw her, that being a Christian means we don't miss anything good. I believe we do get glimpses of what goes on here on Earth. Revelation talks about it...about the Saints talking with God regarding events down here.

The last time I saw her...
Nine of us gathered to pray, knowing her days were drawing to a close. We all crawled in bed with her and prayed and cried and sang and just loved on her. Someone read Revelation 21...My precious sister closed her eyes and smiled as she absorbed the promises of the God whom she knew she would soon see face to face. We rubbed her hands, feet and head and told her how much she means to us, how knowing her has changed us, and how we would always be here for her children. I can still feel her cheek against mine as I hugged her goodbye. The warmth of her skin that had become so thin. "I love you," I whispered.
"I love you," she said.

A few days later several of us received text messages...a final goodbye from our friend just in case this was the last time she'd have the strength to do so. I continued to text her often and remind her that I loved her and was praying for her every day...and I would jump every time my phone beeped thinking "this was it."

And finally, yesterday, it was. She was released from her disease-riddled body and set gloriously free into the presence of the Savior...the Jesus whose image she reflected so beautifully to us all.

I can only imagine the relief she felt when the pain was gone and she saw HIM.

I write this to honor my friend and sister in Christ. I feel so blessed and honored to have walked part of her journey with her. May we all learn to live and reflect His glory in the way we love and serve those around us just as she did.
My dear sister in Christ, thank you for sharing your journey with us. Because of the work I saw God do in YOU, I will never be the same. I will see you soon, sweet friend. I am sure your laughter is echoing through Paradise and putting a big grin on the face of Jesus.

Revelation 21:1-7
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Time flies...

when you are having fun.

And homeschooling.

And have 5 kids.

And can FINALLY be outdoors again!

It has been four months (and one week...because I am fashionably late) since we arrived home with Mari.

What is she up to these days?

Well, she is growing like a weed!  She is putting on about one pound per month and outgrowing clothes right and left.  Her grasp of the English language grows stronger and stronger, but thankfully she still mixes up words so delightfully that they leave us in stitches.  She continues to enmesh her sweet self into our lives and seems more secure than ever.  Her siblings have grown to truly love her and are quite protective of her, and she loves them right back.

Her memories of Ethiopia continue to trickle out little by little.  She is obviously very young and I know she will not have many detailed memories as she gets older, but I encourage her to talk in the hopes that her memories will stay alive.  Some of our talks have been fun, like what kind of animals she saw and who her friends were at the Transition Home.  But some things are just hard.  Some things, I'm not sure I want her to remember.  For instance...

After a battle over food (she often refuses to eat...I have to find the right "currency"...such as going to bed early or no dessert when the rest of us have it) I asked her if she remembered her food in Ethiopia.  Her reply:  "In Ethiopia, I hungry."
So I tried my best to explain to her that Mommy loves her and does not want her to get sick.  That if she doesn't eat she will get sick, but if she does eat she will grow and get big.  She liked that idea.  :)

Another question, when she seemed to be struggling with her permanency in our family, was about her birthmother.  I felt it was time to bring her up so we would talk about how it was affecting Mari's heart.  I asked her what she remembered about her "Ethiopia Mommy."
She answered "Her sad."
I had to swallow the lump in my throat to explain that her Ethiopia Mommy was sad because she had no food for her, that she loved Mari very much and wants her to be happy, that we have plenty of food and will always be able to give her what she needs and she will never have to go "bye bye" from our family.
And then I wished a million times that I could find her birthmother and fill her home with food and medicine and, well, running water.  It kills me.

Every time we have a conversation like this, it seems to help her.  As her language grows, so does her trust and confidence.

And when I ask her to do something (like pick up a toy) and she replies "Yessa my mommy!" my heart flips and I just want to sing over this precious little munchkin who skips happily around our house and giggles at the drop of a hat.
I. Love. Her.

But WAIT, there's more!

In the past weeks we have chased a squirrel out of our house (twice!) who flew out of our chimney THROUGH the fire, over the couch, under the kitchen table (where we SAT eating lunch) and into the laundry room!

Sweet mercy.  My kids, they were a-freaking!

We have schooled...and schooled...and schooled.  Gracie is reading (!) and DJ's writing skills have exploded!   Katie inhales books faster than I can produce them and Drew has decided he wants to learn, too!   Then Spring came and schooling has been more of an exercise of the will as the birds are singing and the flowers are blooming and...wait, that is SCIENCE out there!  Let's go play!!

The kiddos started an enrichment course today at a local farm that is absolutely amazing.  They came home chattering about all they saw and did and smelling quite ripe as a result!  Good times.

But finally, I have to share a very bittersweet piece of news.  If you are a reader of my former blog, you will remember my precious friend, "A."  Well, on February 19th she stepped out of her cancer-ridden body and into the arms of Jesus.  She went, literally, with a smile on her face.  Though we knew the end of her earthly life was near, it still hit hard.
I miss her.
So the next week was spent saying "see ya' later" and celebrating her life.  Loving on her kiddos who miss their mama so very much, weeping with her husband who would give anything to have had more time with her, and rejoicing at the thought of her healthy, safe, and vibrant in the presence of God. The day after she went Home I wrote a tribute to her that I posted on Facebook.  I think I will share it here, but in its own post.

She deserves to be set apart.

So as you can see, life has been full to the brim as of late.  I have been journaling more and blogging less.  I have been spending more time with Jesus and less time on Facebook.

And I have been counting my by one.

Oh yeah, I also read Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, on a Florida beach over Spring Break.
Go, quick, and buy it.
It will change your life.
I am sure it has changed mine.