Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Learning mommie.

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I get asked fairly often why we wanted to adopt and even more, why we would choose to adopt children with additional medical and developmental needs after all we have been through with our son Gavin.  It’s actually a really interesting question for me to answer.  One might think we had deep reasoning, but truth is it just seemed like a natural progression of our family.  We just simply kept living the life we felt God had placed before us.

But then there are times like this, that I’m about to share with you, that reminds me exactly why we do this – why we choose this life.

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Jayden spent the first two years of his life in a medical facility, modeled after a home environment, sometimes known as a transitional home.  He was in one of the best facilities around, yet it wasn’t a true home.  He was loved by all the medical staff who gave him amazing care, but never got to experience what it means to be apart of a real forever family.  He never understood what it means for a mommie and daddy to stay 24 hours a day, not just for  8 or 12 hour shifts.  

Recently over the past few months an amazing thing has happened in Jayden’s life.  He has come to know exactly what mommie means.  He knows that I’m someone special.  He knows that my love for him runs so deep, in both times of joy and times of discipline.  He seeks me out.  He wraps his arms around me so tight and smiles.  He recognizes that in my arms he can find comfort.  It’s one of the most beautiful displays of healing I have seen in my children.

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I was doing a phone interview with ABC news this week and the reporter asked me if I ever think about what life would have been like for my children if life had gone a different way for them.  Honestly – I don’t think about it.  What I do think about is this – how could I have ever have lived my life without them -- each of my four children and their God chosen time and place to enter my world.  I’m so lucky.  I’m both humbled and honored to be called their mother. Of course my heart mourns for a life without suffering for my kids but I’m quickly reminded that this life that they have been dealt, doesn’t limit them, but provides them a catalyst to change the world – to change me.

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We have been teaching Jayden sign language use a technique similar to the one Helen Keller used.  Jayden is both visually and hearing impaired so traditional sign language can be difficult.  With hand in hand gestures Jayden has been able to have basic communication with us.  He has learned to say more, all done, tell us what song he wants to sing and best of all…

He has learned to say mommie.

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Normally “mommie” is one the first words in a child’s vocabulary, but for Jayden this is not just a word.  This is a symbol of hope and healing in his life.  When I see and feel him lift his hand to his forehead and sign my name it reminds me exactly why we have chosen this life, why God has place us on this journey – to be mommie and daddy to those who have none. To be God’s hands to help heal our little ones hearts and bodies.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The pursuit.

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I remember when Adam and I first started dating -- actually, even before it became official.  That man pursued me with every fiber of his being.  I remember him always strategically placing himself within just a few inches of me.  He wanted me bad.  And I loved that.  

I remember the day when he called me on the phone for the first time.  It's not that he did anything special -- he didn't call me and use a deep Barry White type voice, he just simply made me feel wanted.  He made me feel as if nothing else mattered, he made me feel worth pursuing.

I never want to forget that time.  

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The image of first love is something I always want to carry with me.  First love goes way beyond a marriage relationship -- but it flows over into everyday life.  I've learned the importance of displaying first love with my children, particularly Madison.  She needs Mommie to pursue her.  When that pursuit dwindles due to everyday busyness we can tell.  She acts out, disobeys and is generally irritable.  It's crazy how much our children tell us simply through their actions.  

This month we held Camp Madison.  For those who are new to our story, Adam and I created Camp Madison after we begun the process of adopting Angela.  We both recognized that with the addition of special needs siblings Madison would need us to pursue her even more -- she needed to know that her needs will always be met, that mommie and daddy are never to busy to spend time with her.  Camp Madison is a three day event.  Madison chooses all our meals for three days, chooses one big activity each day, such as going to a movie and of course I design official Camp Madison T-shirts.

Camp Madison is a big deal at our house.  We make a chart of five boxes and hang it on the fridge.  In each box is listed three goals for the day: make good choices, try my best and have a good attitude.  If all three goals are met she fills the box with a sticker.  Once all five boxes are filled the celebration and planing being.

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This is the best parenting tool for our little girl. Why?  Because this is three days of Adam and I pursuing Madison -- giving her that first love,  doing everything possible to make her feel worthy and a time for us to engrain into her heart and soul that her life matters in a big way.

I feel like in our society the concept of pursuing anything is lost.  Most of us just simply wait for things to happen.  Life is so easy in our first world society.

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As Christians we are given the ultimate example of first love -- God becoming flesh and giving his life for us.  He wanted us so bad.  So bad that he endured a horrific death, which he knew all along was the ultimate plan.

I want to carry that same first love.  I want to pursue God, I want to pursue my husband and I want to pursue my children.  

What are you pursuing today?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving repost.

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Growing up I was always taught that Thanksgiving is a time to think about what we are grateful for -- the blessing we have in our lives.  I remember in Sunday School making little crafts often times listing the top ten things we are grateful for this past year.  In all honesty,  do we really actually take the time to think about just how grateful we are.  It's weird how our human minds work -- it's hard to recognize the good things in our life until they are gone.


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This year my heart is overwhelmed and my mind is just about shot from the countless hours going back and thinking about the past four years.  Did I ever really thank God for life?  Not only my life but the life of my husband and the life of my children.  Life is such a funny thing.  We tend to think it's guaranteed -- and then *poof* one day it is gone.


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I really feel in my heart that Adam and I tried to make the best out what we were handed over these past several years.  But I just have to think back at all the times I should have been thanking God and instead I was looking for a new day, a way out of our situation.  


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Even when life seems unfair, when jobs stink and children are getting on our last nerves -- there is so much to be thankful for.  I remember the day before we took Gavin off the bipap -- I looked at the monitor and just prayed that one of those breaths would be triggered by his own little body.  Each time a breath was taken without the ventilator forcing the air in -- my heart jumped with such excitement. My entire being was so focused on each and every rise of my little boy's chest.  


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 If only we lived each day as it was not only our last day of life -- but our last breath.  

God -- thank you for life. 


Originally posted on Thanksgiving of 2009 -- just a few weeks after Gavin's death.  A post the resonates so deeply with my soul, each and every day. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Welcome to my table.

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We live in a closed society.  Everyone is closed. Our hearts are closed, our minds our closed, our dreams are blocked and the doors to our homes are sealed tight.  This obviously doesn’t describe everyone, but I’m sure the majority of people reading this right now can think of one person – maybe it’s even you.  

There was a time in my life that I was closed.  Totally closed for business.  I wanted things my way, in my time and heaven forbid you offer a suggestion of another way.  Ok, maybe I still am a tad like this, but trust me, I’ve come a long way.

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Today, as we approach Thanksgiving I was reflecting on the huge change that has taken place in my family over the past three or so years.  It seems like almost every year we have another beautiful life sitting at our Thanksgiving table.  I was thinking back to the first Thanksgiving after Gavin died and I vividly remember the pain walking into my first family gathering without him.  I remember the tears and the heartache that came along with our first holiday without our little boy.   Today life is a total contrast.  Today as I think about our van full of little ones and my amazing family and friends who wait to welcome every member of our family with open arms, my heart and soul are warm.

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Powerful things happen when we open the doors to our soul.

We totally had our chance to seal our doors.  We had every right to close ourselves off to this idea of healing and restoration.  

But we didn’t.  

And I’m so glad we made the right choice.

Life is changed when we open our souls to the things God has for us.  Such an easy choice yet it torments our Godless society where we tend to hide in fear -- where we feel the need to fend for ourselves, make our own way and find our own personal wholeness and healing apart from God.

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Lately, I find myself being challenged to open my door a bit wider.  I want all the things God has for me.  I want to hear his voice, even if his answers are not what my mind thinks I need to hear.  I want to crack the windows of my soul and let his spirit refresh this house that I carry on my own two feet.

I want to welcome Him to my table.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The day he died.

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We don’t really ever understand death until be moment we are staring it right in the eye.  I never once  thought I would ever watch my child die – right before my eyes. Gavin's death was unique.  Unique probably isn’t even touching the emotions that lurked in his cold hospital room on that November day just three years ago. 

I thought I had it all planned out.  I had a vision of the way I wanted Gavin to die.  After all, if God wasn’t going to give me a say in determining his fate, I for sure wanted to take control over the style in which he would pass.  I wanted so bad to hold him as he took his last breath, in a beautiful moment between mother and son.

It didn’t happen.

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On November 6th, after Gavin had not taken a breath on his own in more than 48 hours, the decision was made in accordance with the DNR Adam and I had put into place, that it was time to say goodbye.  We lifted Gavin’s swollen body off his bed with the vent attached still breathing for him and had one final moment as a family.  We had Madison come in and say goodbye to her brother, as I held him in my tired arms, with tears pouring out of my soul.  I remember not getting the response from Madison I wanted – what I thought I needed – what She needed.  She didn’t understand.  She had no concept of the fact that this would be the last time she will ever physically be able to see her little brother.  She was four years old – of course she didn’t understand.  I wanted to make that memory for her – but looking back three years later, she never even needed that moment – her memories were already made.  

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We asked everyone to leave the room for one final moment with our baby boy.  The pain was so intense.  My soul ached so deep as if it was being ripped away from my flesh – in a way I guess it was.

The doctors came back in the room to watch as the ventilator was removed.  My groans filled the room as the doctors were preparing to call his time of death.  But this is where his story took a dramatic turn.

After removing the ventilator – he didn’t die.

In fact, he started breathing.

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Talk about dealing with plan B after pouring your soul into Plan A, right?

I could never have imagined what would happen in the next 52 hours that would test my faith in all things God.  

Inhale. Exhale.  The breaths just kept coming.

Just a few hours after life support was removed Gavin was sitting up in his crib thrashing from side to side.  You see, he was breathing, but it wasn’t effective and he basically began to drown in his own fluids that were starting to fill his little lungs.  He would wake up with severe air hunger – panicked, scared and in respiratory distress.

This is were the battle began.  He was in severe pain.  Not only was he in respiratory failure but he was in multi organ failure.  His body was dying and it was painful.  His mind was delusional, in a psychotic break.  He needed to be medicated to eliminate his suffering, yet every time we would give more meds his lungs would fill a little bit more.  He would go in cycles where his oxygen would stay up in the high 80’s and then drop to the 70’s.  Each and every time he would cycle we would embrace him and say good-bye.

Over and over.  The anguish each and every time was just as raw as the first time we said our goodbyes.

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This lasted for 52 hours.  Did you read that?  Do you understand that?  52 hours of watching Gavin drown right in front of our eyes.  By hour 50 the room was filled with a sound that still chills my soul.  Inhale.  Exhale.  It was as if a fright train was nearing.  His lungs so full they were beginning to overflow out his nose and mouth.

Yet he still fought through, desperately trying to get air.

By hour 51 he had finally found peace.  His oxygen saturations were in the 50’s and he was gone, though his heart still was going strong.  We were exhausted – trying to stay awake so we would not miss one sound of his breath.  I sat at his bedside and fervently ran my fingers through his blond hair almost pulling it at the roots,  my other hand pushed firm on his chest feeling every beat of his heart.

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I remember vividly feeling his heart stop. 

Peace.  

Total and complete peace.

If you’re still reading and haven’t needed to step away I want you to know this.

We are still alive. 
Our souls are still thriving. 
We have been restored.

As I said in my last post, you may never experience anything like this but you will experience pain.  Sometimes the healing we all so desperately pray for doesn’t happen in the manner we pray for it to happen.  Sometimes we can’t hold our children as we say goodbye and embrace them as they take their final breath.  Sometimes our plans for both life and death don’t pan out – but it doesn’t mean the plan went wrong.

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God used those last 52 hours with our son to do amazing things. Many of which are not even possible to put into words, as they were moments that formed and shaped our souls – going way beyond earthly events but bridging over into the spiritual.

After we touched his lifeless body one last time we walked out those hospital doors.

Life was forever changed.

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On November 8th 2009 at 10:52pm Gavin took his very last breath here on earth and received the healing and peace he deserved.  

On November 8th 2009 at 10:53pm Adam and I began our healing.

Healing is possible.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meet me here.

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I think so many times in life we feel we need to be or act a certain way before God can use us or even take the time to give us an ounce of his grace or his listening ear.  We live each and every day striving to become a better person, make the right choices, reach a certain status, thinking that once we reach the next level we will be in the perfect place for God to take our lives and make something amazing out it.

That is the biggest lie ever.

In the last days of Gavin life Adam and I had so many emotions running thought our hearts – it was as if our minds kept continually spinning out of control reaching highest of highs and then suddenly dropping down to the lowest of lows.  I felt peace, but I also was so scared.  I hurt so bad, so much so that at times lifting my head felt impossible – yet somehow I also was filled with joy.  I felt so much love and at the same time I hated God – I hated that he was letting my little boy slowly drown in his own fluid right before my eyes.

We are never in a more perfect place then when we are in a moment of surrender -- A moment of raw emotion.  A moment where we put down the Dear Jesus and Amen and simply cry out to God with the purest of emotion.  

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There are things that I still have trouble wrapping my heart and mind around, wanting to understand why things happened the way they did.  I don’t have answers but I’ve got one strong feeling -- He met me there. As I sat at Gavin’s bedside and made decisions that would ultimately determine my own child’s fate -- He met me there.

You may never watch your children die.  But you will certainly walk through your valley.  You will absolutely have a time in your life, if not already, where you question and scream out to God in disbelief and lack of understanding.  Just remember this.

He will meet you there.

Don’t feel like you need to see signs of healing before you are healed.  Don’t feel like you need to find understanding before you can find peace.  Don’t wait for a smile to feel joy.

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He will meet you there -- in the dirt, in the pain, in the confusion and He will walk you out.  Sometimes a long slow painful process and sometimes in the blink of an eye.

God, my words are insufficient.
My pain is softer but still hurts.
My hope is strong but my heart still wonders why.
Restoration is flowing from pain,
Churning my soul,

Jesus meet me here.



November 5, 2009

A little more time.

"More time -- that's all I really want right now.  We have been talking about Gavin's death before he was even born, yet nothing could have prepared me what these next few days or weeks will hold.  I find myself in disbelief as I hear the words come out of the doctor's mouth.  I just want more time.


I want so badly to bring him home into the house that so many people have worked so hard to make happen -- but I just don't know if it will happen.  The doctors believe he does not have much longer.  I believe he is going to come home, but as I sit hear and listen to the alarms going off telling me that the bipap is breathing for him I start to question.  My heart feels that if we can just get him home -- give him something to fight for, he will turn around.  I would be happy with just another week.  I want his Doctor there.  I want to make sure the photographer is there.  I want my family there.  I want it all to be prefect and planned.


Death is anything but planned.


It sucks.


The difficult part of this process is that Adam and I's decisions determine how long we have.  He is suffering. In order to relieve that suffering we want to give him the medication he needs to find peace and relief.  More more meds we push, the more difficult it is for him to breath. Although lots of fluid was pulled off him over the past two days his lungs have not improved, but rather have gotten worse.


I just want more time."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Our Superstorm.

This past week our region of the country was hit with one of the largest storms ever to be recorded.   Our eastern coast has been radically transformed – left unrecognizable after the storm passed through and left its mark.  The few days before the storm hit chaos and fear was in the air all across our area.  The unknown was so difficult to swallow.  All across the television stations we were told to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.   Thankfully my specific area was spared. Besides wide spread power outages our lives are still in tact – not true for many others.

Even after the storm has passed my mind keeps playing those words, prepare for the worst and hope for the best, over and over.  I guess those words are difficult for someone like myself to swallow.  I find it interesting that three years ago at this time my heart and mind was in a complete opposite train of thought.  Three years ago in the midst of my own personal storm my soul was desperately clinging to hope and denying reality.  

I went back into old posts from three years ago, which I often do around this time of year and I read over my entry from Nov 2, 2009, less than one week before our little boy would die... 


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"This morning Gavin was showing some signs of improvement.  After the addition of Albumin and lasix last night his swelling seemed to go down a little bit.  He was a little more alert and even watched tv for a short amount of time before falling back asleep.  This afternoon however he wasn't looking so great.  Throughout the day his third spacing or swelling came back with a vengeance.  I hardly recognize my little boy.  His skin is so stretched it looks painful.

Early this evening they rewired a new line into Gavin's groin as they didn't think he has stable enough to endure a new broviac placement.  He did well in the OR and they managed to use the least amount of sedation in order to prevent intubation with the fear that they would not be able to extubate him.  Tonight he will be receiving blood and more lasix, again to try to pull the massive amounts of fluid out of his skin.

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We are going home tomorrow.  I guess I'm happy but it's a bitter sweet time.  I still have hope but it's so hard to hang on to that hope when our doctors are preparing us for the worst, which seems like it is becoming more and more reality.  Today was a difficult day emotionally.  One hour I was a crying fool and the next I felt so detached from the situation.  I guess that's all normal.

It was so amazing to watch Madison and Gavin have some time together.  If I could go back and change one thing it would be to have allowed Madi to have more interaction with Gavin.  I plan on making up for some lost time and giving her some really special time with him.  There is still hope.  If he can get over this respiratory hump then we will be back to our original plan and taking him home with his last line and just waiting until be got an infection we could not treat and then peacefully letting him go.  Our plan is now all messed up and I'm just praying things will quiet down once we get him home.

After all home is the best place to heal."



Ugh.  The pain slaps me right across the face.   I look at the photos of Madison and I just can’t get past her clenched jaw and obvious lump in her throat fighting back tears of confusion and sadness.  Madison was four years old here.  Four years old.  Yet she wears the face of an aged adult.  Somehow in her mind she knew that she was saying goodbye, despite the fact that I was living in an alter reality where I was going to take my son home and live happily ever after.

This was our superstorm.  

It’s so easy to get caught up on my words that can be hard to swallow.  But truth is there is so much more happening in these pictures – more than I will ever understand.  Just what if He was there?  Like really there, not just in spirit and thought but really there with my babies.  

I mentioned this before but after Gavin’s death one of the ways God gave me the most comfort was in this concept that just maybe while we laid at Gavin’s bedside watching him suffer a horrible death, somehow God had lifted our little boy – his thinking and feeling – out of his physical body and just simply held him tight.  That while we saw suffering Gavin was actually experiencing peace and joy.

I can’t help but think the same thing happened on this day three years ago and on many other days such as this.  That just maybe while Madison’s physical body was touching that of her dying brother’s, somehow God took them both for just a bit and held them close – together, in a beautiful moment of connection, a chance for their souls to bond in a way that was difficult to do here on Earth.

As difficult as it is, it’s also so nice to look back.  I can look back with a fresh perspective, having full confidence and hope that the earlier chapters of our story are given more and more clarity as our novel plays out.

Thank God for hope, it makes preparing for and dealing with the worst a whole lot easier.

Never lose hope.