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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Esther said "Mama"

Esther said her first words today:  "Mama!"  I am sure that was one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard.  I found a way to carry her down to get her passport and visa photos done because......WE HAVE A COURT DATE!  We will be returning June 20th to get little Queen Esther HOME!

While I was reading her medical report I saw words I had heard before:  "neurologically devastated."  Many of you know about Esther, but I have another daughter Blessing whom many also know.  She swallowed lye in Liberia (a common problem because it is odorless, tasteless, used for laundry soap and looks like water so kids get into it and burn their GI tracts, most severely the esophagus)  and she could not swallow her spit or food for years.  She had multiple surgeries to try to replace her esophagus with various body parts, and right before she was to be discharged last time she had a crazy complication (like never has happened before) which caused an artery to burst in her neck and she bled out and nearly died.  They could not get access easily to stop it because of all her previous surgeries and scarring and she lost her entire blood volume multiple times before they finally were able to snip off the ends of her burst artery.  The shell-shocked surgeons came to us saying Blessing would be "neurologically devastated" but at least she was miraculously alive.  We actually had a little weekend warfare before we left to come to Uganda where Blessing was briefly hospitalized, but she has perfected the art of bouncing back!

And despite not having 1/4 blood flow to her brain....Blessing is neurologically "normal".  But the beauty of a large family, and maybe adoptive families in particular, is that you kind of lose your definition of "normal" anyway and my first thought when I heard that was just pragmatic as in, "How will I need to accommodate the house to make getting around easier for her?"

That's how I think about Miss Esther.  If she can walk and talk "normally" someday....awesome!  If she is not neurologically what?!  When you boil everything down to is just simpler.  More Kingdom, more grace, more beauty, more joy.  Control is just an illusion anyway and when we give up "the way things are supposed to be" we get to enjoy what God is doing right now, in this moment, without burdening our minds with hypothetical futures and outcomes.  All we have is right now to rejoice always, give thanks in everything, and pray without ceasing.  That's God's will for your life!

So right now I rejoice that God is speedily bringing Esther into her forever family, I give thanks that Blessing has been doing so good this week, and I pray that you will see the miracle of life every time you look into the eyes of each of your children!
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taking the plunge

I am doing it.....I am blogging.  I tend to lag about 10 years behind on technology, kind of seeing if it's really going to stick around.  I have had a yahoo group called "Jenny's updates" that started when we did our first adoption of 5 children from Liberia in 2005.  Now it's 2012 and we are adopting our 9th child (one is already in heaven) and I am in Uganda co-drooling with a little girl named Esther.  She drools sometimes because of seizure-related activity, I am drooling over the goodness of God.  He continues to be the great I AM for every "I am not...." and just when I think, THIS is the coolest thing He could ever do....He outdoes Himself again!

My hesitancy to blog in the past has been drama-related.  We have enough really amazing God-Authored drama in our lives that I never felt the need to add more.  I love the freedom of my little yahoo group to barf out whatever I want to say, whenever I want to say it, with little editing!  I don't really know the rules of blogging, but I do know the human heart's desire to want to idolize or demonize people and I am so not interested in a fan club or a freak show.  I remember our pastor once saying he was baptized in the criticism of man so he could be immune from their praise.  Maybe this blog thing will be good for me because I will have to learn to say more with less words?!

I don't know how long I will do this.  I am jealous about my peace and rest.  Homeschooling the children, all the medical needs, and being true to my core values of spending time alone with God, celebrating life, and enjoying relationships makes me say NO to a lot of things.  Blogging may be one of them if it takes away from my biggies.  Why I am going to start this is because deep in my spiritual DNA I am an advocate, and my voice can be a little louder with a broader audience.

I also want to encourage mothers.  I don't want to forget what it was like to have, say, a 4 year old, 2 year old, and newborn and look at a family like mine and think.....WHAT?!  I am a testimony to God being able to do FAR greater than we could think to ask for.  I spent a lot of time depressed and discouraged as a young mother so it is hilarious and redemptive that God would use me now to shout out:  motherhood is a really, really JOYFUL thing.  Not a picnic, but leading to a banquet.  You CAN be a joyful mother of children.  Traumatized children, sick children, goof-ball children, less-than-perfect-but-each-delightful children.  Children need mothers, strong and joyful mothers who know who their God is.  I am not much of a "how to" girl but more of a "Who to."  Follow the Lamb wherever He goes versus "How to fix everything in your life in 100 easy lessons."

Wow!  I did it.  I blogged my first post!!!  I am not going to stop my yahoo group but I will try this blogging thing out.  For those who are wondering what my husband and I are doing in Uganda here is a heads up:

We are your typical family of 16, with half of our children adopted from Africa! We are a dancing, silly, somewhat loud, Jesus-loving family. We homeschool, live in Iowa, and love to celebrate the goodness of God and His great love to us! We had 5 sons and then adopted 5 daughters in 2005 from Liberia West, Africa. One of our girls died the day before we flew home from Liberia and the others were quite sick. In 2008 we adopted 3 more Liberian children, this time from a disruption. Some of these children had very intense medical needs, had life-threatening complications and surgeries. We have seen miracles and the children are thriving today. A child that couldn’t talk for years now verbal! A child with a very damaged liver..... an anti-viral that has stopped the damage. A child that couldn’t swallow or eat for years.... now having oral intake! Broken hearts mended, diseases goes on!

So here’s what led up to Esther. Last December we updated our homestudy, thinking we would do an easy special need like HIV. Well then we were contacted by a girl who used to live with us when she ran away and came to Iowa from a residential treatment center in South Chicago. She found out she was pregnant and HIV positive and needed help. I know a fabulous QUEEN OF HIV adoptions (Carolyn Twietmeyer of Project Hopeful in Chicago who took her under her wing and helped her out......and told me about a little girl named Esther in Uganda who really needed a family and introduced me to an adoptive mama who had been advocating for Esther for a long time, her name was Love.

Now a couple years ago one of our biological sons started having tonic-clonic seizures out of no where. Perfectly healthy kid and at age 7...seizures became a huge part of our life. For 2 years much of his life revolved around seizures...and then God healed him. He has been seizure free and medication free for a year and a half. Not so much as a headache. Hallelujah! So I have this drawer full of rescue medication to stop status seizures and I wondered what I was going to do with all that?! When I heard about Esther and her seizures I thought, “Hey, we know seizures!” and she was non-verbal and I thought, “We’ve done non-verbal!” and I heard a few other possible labels kicked around and I thought, “We know hypothetical labels!” and then I saw the photos and a video link that some amazing mamas had made to advocate for her and I knew. This is our daughter!

I had a dream that she was in a crib banging her head (either from a seizure or from self-soothing) I and went in and she stood up in the crib and reached her arms out to me and I picked her up. When we told our other children about Esther they were quite concerned she didn’t have hair. Hair braiding and weaving is one of our main crafts/hobbies and because one of our daughters always stayed on the pediatric oncology ward at our children’s hospital when she was there, they were concerned Esther must have cancer! We assured them they just shaved their heads at the orphanage, but soon she too would be introduced to the wonders of beads, braids, and all things fabulous for her hair!

Now that we’ve met Esther and held Esther and prayed over Esther we are even more in love than ever. She is a delight, a treasure, and we thank God over and over we get to be her parents! Thank you, thank you, thank you to those who never gave up praying for her, advocating for her, being her voice, and being a channel of God’s grace to our family!!! We are all in awe and wonder at how the Author and Finisher of our faith can write such a page-turner! His love and favor are all over little Miss Esther and the next chapters of her life will be full of divine reversals and new victories! How great is our GOD!