Tuesday, July 8, 2014

coming up for air

Summer break? No.  Summer vacation? Nope.  I know these are the references for this time of year, but they are not working for me here.  While we do not have the same demands of school schedules, this summer has just been a different variety of busy!  It's not bad, just different.
Before I get started on the happenings, I want to share that me & my guy started this summer off with the celebration of 21 years together!!  Just recently, our pastor posed the question, "What is key to a successful marriage?"  I was assuming that faith was the given #1, so I really pondered what it takes.  It takes a lot of things, but what I came up with was stubborn commitment.
Stubborn:  having or showing dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.
Yes, after reading the definition of 'stubborn', this is what I have come up with...stubborn commitment.  I am thankful every day to be married to a man that is stubbornly committed to this marriage with me.  There is a sense of comfort & strength in knowing that we are walking this life together constantly spurring one another along the path, regardless of whether we are enjoying the scenery or just trying to stumble through a rough patch.
Thanks to Kameryn, we got to go out to dinner for our anniversary!
I am sooooo happy to report that the full draft of Joe's doctoral dissertation has been turned in!!!  Aside from some minor edits and giving his oral defense, he.is.DONE!!!!  This has consumed much of our time over the last several, well years, but intensely so over the last several weeks.  He had a deadline to meet, so we found ourselves pouring over edits & double checking citations until 2 in the morning last weekend & then up again at 5:30 a.m. to give it one more look.  I'm not gonna lie...when it was finally submitted, I think I just walked around the house in circles while still in my pajamas at one in the afternoon in a bit of a daze, almost unsure of what to even do or think.  I know that sounds dumb, but you really don't realize how much of your mind can be consumed by something!  I finally decided to just sit back & enjoy watching some of my favorite little people having fun.
Speaking of being consumed, I mentioned awhile back that I was giving myself "freedom" by getting off facebook for awhile.  That break has been a very, very good thing for me.  Sometimes, distance gives perspective.  Temptation is everywhere, but I have determined that there are areas where I can have some control over its presence.  Gossip, judgment, & nasty battles purposely instigated with passive-aggressive posts in reference to controversial topics are just not edifying.  So, that being said, I also realized that I was missing some of the wonderful friends that make me smile with their sweet pictures/updates, challenge me with links to interesting posts, & allow me the privilege of praying for things going on in their lives.  Balance, balance, balance.  That's really key, isn't it?  In Proverbs 4:23, it says I am to guard my heart because it is the wellspring of life.  Empowerment:  FB is an extension of my heart & house, so I am no victim here.  I don't have to remain in certain groups or keep subjecting myself to repeated instances of drama.  I also need to make sure it doesn't become a tool of distraction from the times that life is hard. :)
As for being focused, I am very blessed by a surprise that showed up from a special friend via the UPS man:
I am a couple weeks into this, & it has been wonderful.  Most every day, this is the first thing I do.  It almost feels like cleaning off and adjusting my lens for the day.  I also find myself more "in tune", if that makes sense.  I look for Him in the details, & pause to seek Him when one of the kids is pressing every one of my buttons things frustrate me.  I am a work in progress.  I hope to continue growing in my thoughts, attitudes, actions, & reactions to what life brings my way.
The other day on my way into the house, this brought me much hope.  My favorite yellow day lilies began blooming.  My poor stone somehow broke, but I just couldn't get rid of it.  It struck me as I was standing there that even in brokenness, the Truth is still there.  With God, all things are possible.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Yesterday, Kemeri had a follow-up appointment with her orthopedic specialists about 1.5 hours away from home.  About 45 minutes into the drive, I saw traffic suddenly slowing.  Since it was a construction zone, I didn't think much of it.  Soon, it became apparent this wasn't the usual slow down as emergency vehicles began pushing their way through the stopped cars (anyone in the right hand lane had to maneuver onto the sloped shoulder so they could get through).  After about a half hour, word made its way back that it was a really bad accident & it was believed there was a fatality.  At this point, people started turning off their cars & getting out to walk around.
That kind of sobering news puts things in perspective.  Instead of being frustrated at being stuck, I was thankful.  Thankful to be safe.  Thankful that the other kids were home with Daddy.  Thankful that most days my van is a rolling locker room, so on this day the wayward toys came in handy for entertaining Miss Kemeri & a wadded up blanket served as a privacy screen for aforementioned princess to tinkle on the side of the road.  Thankful that my previous frustration at running 10 minutes late getting on the road proved to be a buffer of blessing between us & a terrible accident.
We ended up being stuck in that spot for 4 hours.  In that 4 hours, I stood out in the beautiful sun,  had sweet conversations with my girl, & met new people.  I actually enjoyed some really nice, genuine conversations with people & was on the receiving end of their generosity.  Since we had been running behind getting on the road (we had been at a summer league basketball game Kade was playing in), I opted to grab Kemeri some lunch at one of the exits along our route.  However, when we got close to the one I had planned to stop at, I noticed she was asleep, so I figured I'd just wait.  So, there I was stuck with a little girl that was ready for lunch when she awoke.  One lady gave Kemeri a granola bar, & another teen gave her a fruit snack.  Then a group of teens & an adult set out on foot to go get snacks at an exit behind us 1.5 miles away, so they offered to get Kemeri something.  I have never been so happy to see a bag of chips, apple slices, & a bottle of water & moved by the willingness of others to be so kind!
The reason I share all of this is that I think God used that circumstance to get my attention.  There are times on our journey that we feel stuck, waiting to get to that next thing, but not really knowing what that thing is.  We feel like we should be on the move, but we can't seem to go anywhere.  It's so easy to become fixated and frustrated with the fact that we're not moving, but in reality, God is moving.  He is in the details around us...the sun, the people, the delays...
I could have spent those hours yesterday isolated within my van & grumpy at the situation, but I am glad I didn't but instead, sought to make the best of it.  I pray that in the coming days as we await answers to prayers, we seek to trust Him in what we can't see, enjoy the unexpected blessings in the midst of feeling stuck, & recognize Him in the details.  Amen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

kemeri's post-surgery progress

Kemeri had her hand surgery the end of February.  I had intended to update before now, but in all honesty, it's been about healing until just recently.  Her cast was on for 6 weeks, & then she was fitted for a custom splint to protect her hand as it healed further.  At this point, I have to tell you peeps that this girl is a rock star.  After a day of complete annoyance with that HUGE purple cast in the hospital, she never complained about it again.  And she managed NOT to clock anyone with it...Bonus!
To recap, once they got into surgery, they opted to do a transfer instead of a bone graft from her arm or thigh.  They found that her forefinger nubbin did not have any viability, so they transferred it to her thumb, which has now become the extension of her thumb.  Since it was done this way, there's actually blood flow & her thumb should grow with her.  Amazing.  The doctors also increased the indent between her thumb & other fingers in the hopes that eventually, she will have some type of grip with her left hand.  And if that wasn't enough, they released little girl's amniotic band on the underside of her arm where it presented as being the most constricted to hopefully encourage more strength in the tendons.  They do this with a zig-zag incision to avoid scar tissue causing a problem.  Here's fair warning:  There are a couple pictures below from right after her cast was removed.  Personally, I don't think they are too horrible b/c everything is scabbed over, but if it's not your thing, scroll quickly. :o)
Here she is post-surgery...Sleeping Beauty
About 6 weeks later, she had the cast removed.  You can see that they placed 2 pins into her thumb to keep everything in place as it healed.  Those pins were long!  Kemeri was amazing & just sat on my lap as the doctor pulled them out.  Bless her heart, I think she was just so happy to be able to rub her itchy arm!
Here, you can see the indent a bit better.  Like I said, a lot of scabbing, but it has been healing really well.
Somehow I have neglected to get a good picture of her special splint, but you can see it here.  It's more fun to share a picture with Grandpa & siblngs anyway.  I was fascinated with how they made her a custom splint.  She got to pick the colors (bright pink plastic with purple velcro straps), & they warmed the plastic material to make it pliable, & then shaped it around her little hand/arm.
Last week, we began therapy with an OT that specializes in the hand.  The girls are quite popular at this facility because all of their patients are typically teens and adults.  The first session was a little sketchy.  This picture was taken as a bribe to do what she was being asked to do & we would show it to Daddy.  Otherwise, she was not real interested in relaxing her elbow to do anything since she's been favoring her arm for so long.  We did find out that we could start weaning from wearing the splint, which I think has really helped her to start thinking to use her left hand again.
Proud Mommy time:  We had another therapy session the other day...Kemeri Abigail worked so hard!!  Her therapist was amazed at her determination & started saying, "Get a picture of this! Oh, this is a good picture!"  She was doing awesome!!  Confession:  I had a lump in my throat.  Her inner strength just overwhelms me.
She was using her left hand so much that I think all the pictures are blurry b/c that hand was in motion, but hopefully you can see how well it is healing!!
And for the finale, THIS.  Miss Jan asked her to place the pegs in her left hand & then place them in the holes.  And she did.  She didn't have much "squeeze", but those pegs were just the right shape to fit in the space between her thumb and fingers.  So proud & amazed by her.

Friday, May 9, 2014


I've decided to give myself a gift for Mothers Day.  Initially, it may look like some sort of fast or sacrifice, but in reality, it is freedom.  I'm breaking off my dysfunctional relationship with facebook.  The problem with dysfunctional relationships is they hide behind a mask of normal.  Before you know it, it's a habit with a false sense of security & reality that you develop a dependence on to distract you from the things in life that you'd sooner forget about.  The problem is this dependence turns into a distraction from all the things you treasure the most.
Since I'm all about transparency, these last few years have been some of our hardest around here.  While we had the amazing privilege of becoming parents to four more sweet children during this time, we've also lost a beloved father and  two grandparents, dealt with disappointments in situations & people, forged our way through a doctoral program, experienced two of our babies spread their wings & leave the nest, all the while trying to be mindful of the path God would have us travel.
But I lost my way.  The need for encouragement, affirmation, & comfort had me turning to FB.  Facebook became my connection to a false reality that allowed avoidance of the stuff that hurts. While I believe in transparency, I also believe in not throwing privacy out the window, so my list may not seem like a big deal compared to other tragedies in the news (which right there is part of my problem...I diminish our personal hard by comparing it to other hard), but it has proven to be a challenging season. 
Here's the problem with avoidance...It's kinda like dog poop in the winter.  You can pretend it's not there, but when the snow melts, it's still there.  I wouldn't know this on a personal level.  I did mow the dog poop grass the other day, though.
Where were we?
Oh, right, avoidance.  Doesn't work.  Not good.  And while you're avoiding the crap (ha!), you're also being distracted away from all that's good in your little world & all that God may be trying to teach you in the midst of it all.  We are emotional beings.  We are meant to experience life with feelings, the good ones & the bad ones.  Those feelings...they grow your heart & strengthen your grit.  I fear I have temporarily bought into the lie that my connectedness to a happy life happens through a screen.
So, here we are.  I've missed blogging because it feels more intentional, so as it fits, I will continue to share bits on family & other topics close to my heart.  As for facebook, I'm off indefinitely.  I am off to spend time with the Lord, walk through the grief & other hard feelings, & to enjoy those I treasure most...
"Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."  ~Isaiah 40:30-31

Monday, May 5, 2014

this kid

Kyler David.  My fourth child; my first son.  I realize I don't say a whole lot about him on this blog, but let me tell you, there's much to say.  This kid...well, he's grown into one of the neatest young men I've ever met.  He turned 18 this past November (he & K'Tyo share a birthday, & yes, I'm just now getting around to posting a picture) & shortly after, graduated early from high school.  He is already finishing up his first semester of college!

His heart is huge.  Some people think he's quiet, but he's not.  He just lets his actions and conviction speak louder than his words.  His sense of humor is awesome, & his easygoing, patient demeanor he gets from his father.  He has worked as a junior counselor the past two summers at a camp for children with special needs and behavioral issues & has been hired as a full counselor for this summer.

Anyway, he has been pretty much business about getting through high school with not much interest in school dances.  However, a friend that also works at the same camp asked him to her school's prom.  I don't put much stock in feeling like you have to do all these high school things, but I confess, I was pretty excited to see this guy in a tux!  What a fun time to see them all dressed up, & since it was a little rainy, pictures were taken at a car museum owned by a friend of Emily's family.

I am so blessed by this son of mine.  It is truly a privilege to witness him growing up.  I pray God continues to bless his journey into adulthood with fruitful experiences that help him grow into the gifts He has given him.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

kemeri's day

I am behind, but it's been a tough week.  I had fully intended to do a special birthday post for Kemeri's 4th birthday (which also signifies that she has now been with our family longer than she was without) & to give a brief update about how's she's been post-surgery, but I was caught off guard.  My grandma passed away unexpectedly just 2 months after my grandpa.  I think we are all still in a bit of shock...Grandma, like Grandpa, was actively involved in our lives, & there's just a big void with both of them being gone now.  I am deeply thankful to have been blessed with such wonderful grandparents & that my children have known great-grandparents.
Kemeri's birthday was a reminder to celebrate life & family just a day after losing Grandma.  We didn't get many pictures, but we enjoyed having my parents, my aunt & uncle, & Joe's mom here.  It was good to be together in the midst of hard.
The ginormous purple cast is still here.  It was actually supposed to be removed today, but Kemeri's appointment has been rescheduled for Monday due to the doctor being ill.  She has truly been a rockstar with that thing!  We are all ready for it to be gone, though, so we don't have to be on guard for fear of catching an inadvertent whack.  We also want to see how she has healed up!  I will post an update early next week...promise.
Finally, I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures of Kemeri with my grandma taken this past summer.  I never want to forget her ready smile & the true delight she had in her family.

Heartfelt thanks to those that have been checking in on our family, whether you knew what was going on or not (funny how people notice blogging absence). 

Monday, March 10, 2014

my grownup birthday list

If you've seen the movie Despicable Me, my favorite scene is when the littlest girl says, "It's sooo fluffy!!!" If you haven't seen it, take a peek:

So cute, right??  The fluffy stuff makes me smile.  But here's the thing:  It can't all be feel-good, fluffy stuff, & I'm giving fair warning that the fluff stops here on this post.
I've been reading a lot of opinions to the tune of, "We need to take care of our own" with regard to helping those outside the borders of the United States.  I even had a neighbor once say to me, "Oh, my husband would never adopt a child from another country.  He thinks we should take care of our own".  This line of thinking makes me want to vomit.  And if you're thinking of checking out at this point because you think this is a pro-adoption, everybody-should-do-it gig, hang tight...it's not.
Let me backtrack for a moment.  Joe attended K'Tyo's school conference last week.  His teacher immediately shared a story from the week before.  Their current unit of study discusses wants vs. needs.  As a class, they had a discussion about the difference between the two.  A few days later, they revisited the topic as a refresher, but K'Tyo was adamant that food, water, & shelter were wants.  His teacher confessed that she was becoming a bit frustrated with him since they had just discussed this a couple days before, so she said, "K'Tyo, why are you saying that when we just went over this?"  His response:
"Because in Ethiopia, everyone wants those things, but not everyone has them."
My son was born in Ethiopia.  I was born in the United States of America.  My son knows poverty, illness, hunger, & unclean water.  I know abundance, available health care, three meals a day plus snacks, & the water in my toilet is cleaner than what he had access to.  I have no idea why I was born here & why he was born there, but God brought our worlds together into one.  Our adopting him was not an act of charity, but an act of love.  And when people meet him, they can't help but love him, too.  Even the ones that are of the opinion that we should take care of our own love him because now it can be justified that he is one of us, right?  Well, yes he is one of us.  But I am now also one of them.  My son has brought this simple truth into reality:  We are ALL brothers & sisters, neighbors, family.
The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
I am not a biblical scholar, but I have yet to find scripture that says, "Okay, folks, here's the deal:  I have divided the world up & you are each to take care of your own."  Am I missing it?  I don't think so.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (New International Version)

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”  29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

People, I see a period at the end of that sentence.  I do not see a continuation that says, "...if they are your own, if they look like you, if they think like you, if..."

Are there people in this country that need help? You'd better believe it, & I am not for one minute saying to forget that!  However, are you telling me that people are more or less worthy of our love & mercy just because we may or may not have been born in the same part of the world?


I've heard the argument, "I just don't think I could do what you do."  Ok, then don't!  But for goodness' sake, DO something.  Work at a soup kitchen? Awesome.  Sponsor a child?  Fantastic.  Support an organization that drills wells for clean water?  Super.  Anonymously donate blessings for backpacks to help children avoid hunger on the weekends?  Beautiful.  Spend time with the lonely? You bet. Teach underprivileged children here or in another country? Cool.  Open an orphanage for kiddos with HIV? Amazing!  Organize brigades to other countries to give help? Absolutely!  Be a support to others through prayer & finances to be the hands & feet of Jesus? Yes, Yes, Yes!!  Obviously, this is not even close to being a comprehensive list, but the point is there is a position for EVERYONE on this team of humanity.  There is no one first or last to be picked because every person matters with what they can do to make a difference in this world, & every person in this world is worthy of love & caring.  Yes, there are evil people in this world, both here & "there", but we cannot judge whole populations on them.  The bottom line is there are people sick, lonely, hungry, & dying, which is just not okay.  And honestly, there are times that even the "bad guys" become world changers for good just because someone took the time & had the courage to love & guide them.
Have you heard Amy Grant's "Grownup Christmas List"?  Well, today is my birthday, & I have a grownup birthday list:  No more division, no more hunger, no more unclean water, no more disease/cancer, no more children without families, no more people living in the streets, no more bullying, no more lots of things.  The needs in this world can be overwhelming to the point that we feel paralyzed.  I realize that I can't do everything or help everyone, but I can do something, one something at a time.  In different seasons of my life & yours, we will be passionate & able to do different somethings in different places, but it all matters because all people matter.  The biggest wish on my grownup birthday list would be that we would all begin being good neighbors,  putting our somethings together to make the world a better place.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." ~Gandhi