Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Life

Currently Life is full of...

Beautiful tender moments..

Big brothers helping out...

Packing operation Christmas child boxes...


Concerts...

And more concerts... (LANY, need to breathe, and Mat Kearney were AMAZING!!!)

Special thanksgiving tea with sisters and daughters...

Huge bonfires and worship with loved ones...


And tired Black Friday shoppers...

Greg just returned from a week in Haiti and has spent the whole day sick in bed...

Honestly, I am a bit tired from a week alone with the 8 kids amidst traveling, school, and Christmas decorating... But yet, I am so thankful for the full days and the people and things that fill them up!
Every single day is a gift to have the chance to live... 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Another year closer to Heaven...

How do I adequately put into words what it feels like 8 whole years later...
Do I live constantly with this deep heartache I feel right now as I sit quietly alone at Starbucks at nearly 11pm?  Not at all... But am I feeling it now? 
Down to my very core...

But I thank God we don't grieve with out hope... 

I know it may seem odd or depressing to some that my heart still aches over the loss of my precious son 8 years later... 
But I am ok with it... On a daily basis, I barely have time to catch a breath...  So when the hurting hits, it is ok with me... Grieving is healthy and it is a process... 

I have learned it is a process that no one else can judge or tell you how to work through... 

This precious baby boy, my son Samuel, His life had value...
It still does... It ALWAYS will...



It really is hard not to think back to what was happening this time 8 years ago... 10-28-08 (I wrote this a couple of days ago now) 
It was my due date and he was moving like crazy late that night... 

and just like that it would be the last I felt of him...


I don't dwell often on the events that had to occur to bring his body forth... 
But on anniversary days... it is hard for me not to think about it... 

The birth... it was traumatic of course... I will never forget when it was time to push, just crying out that there was no way I could do it... I wasn't ready to really see him, lifeless... 

But the minute all 9 lbs. 2 oz. of him was born there wasn't a dry eye in the room... It was sort of an out of body experience for me... I could hear everyone sniffling... See the tears falling down their faces... Hear the silence from my baby... but  I was just in awe of how absolutely perfect and precious he was... I could not take my eyes off of him...

And so we spent 5 sacred precious hours with him before we handed him over to the nurse... a memory I will never forget... 


(Seriously, could Anna and Samuel be more sweet?)
There were tears... there still are...There was A LOT of passing him around... Not one of the kids hesitated to hold, hug, and kiss him... 

They loved him fully... Something I will cherish and never forget... They were prepared  for this baby boy... They were so excited for him to be born... and I thank God that it was a beautiful time for all of us to spend with Samuel.  How odd... the most difficult time... but yet one of the most beautiful of times...


Now... as I look at the these pictures, I can hardly believe how little my kids were when they experienced the loss of a brother... They look so small... Yet to handle something so big... 
My sweet family... 

I know we don't own the corner on grief or sorrow... There are many that go through much worse... But heartache is heartache... no matter what the cause...

And Life is life... no matter how tiny... 
And his life mattered then while I was carrying him, holding him still in my arms... and now as I remember the precious gift God gave us in Samuel... 


I remember thinking... That if I lived to 80 I would have to live 40+ years with out him here with me... 

Now I think... Wow... 8 whole years closer to seeing him again... Not a month closer... not a year closer...
8 WHOLE YEARS CLOSER TO HEAVEN!!!! 

I rejoice in that... Truly... 


I know my life here is precious... My family here is precious beyond belief...
But I know HEAVEN will be all that more amazing!

I rejoice that we will all have that time together... forever...


No more goodbyes... ever...


Samuel Mark,  I loved you from the minute I knew you existed... 
And I will love you till we meet again...

I wonder what kind of trouble you and Jojo would be getting into each day...

I often think about when Jesus was calling your name as He welcomed you home... 
samuel... Samuel....SAMUEL... SAMUEL... as you got closer...

And when you will call mine when I go home...
mom...Mom... MOM... MOM... 

Oh the joy that fills my heart as I think of Heaven...


I really don't know how people do it without faith in Jesus...
We have so much to look forward to... 

This life is not the end... It really is just the very tiniest of beginnings to eternity... 

To forever... to eternity... 
To forever praising our savior together...
To thankfulness in my heart for the beautiful gift that you are to our family...
To the grace of God in collecting ALL of our tears...
To no more goodbyes...
To making it 8 years closer to Heaven...
To our amazing creator who fashioned your precious body so perfectly... 
To the compassion He works in our hearts to reach out to love others in loss...
To a mother's great love that only grows deeper with time...

To HEAVEN...




Thursday, October 27, 2016

Beans and rice day three...

I have been struggling a bit as life moves full speed ahead... College applications, fafsa forms, soccer games, work, ministry needs, keeping track of Louis as he travels the nation for FMSC's mobilepack team, homeschooling, laundry, laundry, more laundry:)  

I am constantly trying to keep the priorities in place that we value the most... Our relationships with Jesus, our relationships with each other, and then all of the other things that get thrown in with life as a family of ten!:)



Can anyone else relate to trying to balance it all... Get it all done... Keep what is truly important at the top of the to do list??

Just yesterday we had to make a decision to not participate in a winter activitiy for the sake of limiting the schedule... There was some sadness... Some guilt on my part... but lets be real... With 10 people in the house even when we limit outside activities, the schedule can get out of control... 

So in an effort to keep our hearts and minds in check this holiday season... We started our beans and rice challenge just a few days ago... 

And the expressions on day one say it all...


Gosh I love these hilarious kids!!! I am SO THANKFUL that they are mine!

It has been a couple years since we did this before Thanksgiving... We started it as a way to be able to even in the slightest bit prepare our hearts for Uganda and to try to get a gut check on our over abundance here in America and in our family...

That over abundance affects us in every aspect of life...

We literally are busting at the seems with our "stuff" and need to do a major overhaul in purging... This goes for everything... Jam packed closets, jam packed pantry, jam packed freezer...  I could go on and on...

Truly I am extremely frugal... My dad used to say my mom was frugal and could stretch a buck to $2... But that I could stretch it to $10... But yet when I find a good deal, and with a large family, I buy in bulk... Good on the pocket book, but there still comes a time to clean it all up... 

So we are intending to eat beans and rice for lunch till Thanksgiving... (It will do our  hearts good to realize what many have as maybe their only meal of the day)  we plan to give away what we will save on lunch food to one of our favorite ministries. 

We intend to eat from the freezer, pantry, stockpile of food... Only running out for essentials.  This may require some creativity, but I am determined! 

We intend to purge... Taking a room at a time or closet at a time... And I intend on getting everyone involved!!😳😳 Really... Everyone!😊 

I know this will take longer than just making it to Thanksgiving, but I am hoping and praying that it sets our hearts in a better place before the holidays... 

We intend to focus on the gifts we have and not on what we don't have... 

I am all about simplifying, savoring the moments (even more needed as these kids get bigger and more involved), and treasuring each precious person in our lives... But sometimes the clutter can distract, overwhelm, and really take away from our happiness and the beauty set right before us...








Anyone else need to hit the reset button on life before the holidays? 

Join us in getting rid of the non essentials and instead on focusing and cherishing the beautiful precious things around you!!  To God be the glory!



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

That familiar chill in the air...

October for me is hard... there is no other way to slice it...

Is it as hard as it was 7 years ago?  NO WAY!

But it is still hard...

Truth be told... when we had the first chill in the air this year, it was the first time in the last 7 years that I didn't feel like I had been punched in the gut... As wonderful as that is...
Yes for the past 7 years every time I felt that first fall chill my breath was taken away...

Whoosh... fall... cool... cold... sorrow... loneliness... despair... emptiness... shattered heart... it all came back...

But this year was different, praise God... I just took in that first fall crisp air and marveled that it felt OK... it actually felt totally good... Wow... my heart is thankful for the whole process of healing that has taken place and continues to take place in my heart...

But even since then... the tears have come...
First when I caught Jojo looking at Samuel's photo album tears in his eyes as he snuck upstairs not wanting anyone to see... (You can bet I followed after him...:)

More as midwives came up in History and they asked all about their births and Samuel's hard birth...
Jojo then 3 1/2 and Anna was then almost 6 (we held Samuel's memorial service on Anna's 6th birthday... They see it much differently now and have a much deeper understanding of all that is missing from life as we miss Samuel.  They know the fun of their little siblings and know he would have been their partner in crime... especially for Jojo... That hurts my heart for him more than I would ever admit to him:(

Then tonight as Louis and I drove downtown together for a really special night...  more tears from both of us as he asked all about the details of Samuel's death... Being stuck in Chicago traffic left lots of time for recalling details he never knew as an 11 year old but now sees very differently as a 19 year old young man...

It is hard recalling the nurses cold words as she stuck her head in the crack of the door that Samuel didn't have any cardiac activity... WHAT???  Her coldness and lack of compassion left me honestly wondering if she really said what she had just said?

It was hard sharing with Louis the noises that emerged from me in the darkness of night as I labored to bring a stillborn son into this world...

It was even hard sharing through tears what sweet nurses God gave me when he was actually born... Only in the bible belt do nurses put their hands on you and pray boldly for the Holy Spirit to bring comfort...

So even now... these conversations come up... more so this year on a more adult level with the older kids than ever before... I think they are seeing Samuel through different eyes, maybe me through different eyes and the whole situation differently.


Wow... what a gift that beautiful little guy was... despite the pain and sorrow it still brings to my heart... He was worth every single second and every single tear!

Truth is... We still miss him...
It still hurts... some days more than others...
We will never forget him...
We will always honor him...
He is forever loved...

And we are so very thankful for the amazing healing restoring power of our gracious God... I literally thought my heart would be shattered into a million pieces forever... But like I have said before... the Lord has planted those shattered pieces and grown a new, different, but still wonderful and beautiful life!


If you are hurting today...
Be encouraged... It is 100% OK to be right where you are... I firmly believe that we need to feel what we need to feel... We can't just blow off grief... It is a process that needs working through... But it won't hurt like it hurts right now forever...

Continually give the Lord your pain and sorrow... Some days he takes it from you and lifts that burden and fills you with peace... Other days, I felt he left it right where it was, where it needed going through, feeling, and processing all of it (in light of HIS faithfulness to walk right beside us in it) to be able to eventually heal in a healthy way...

We love big... we hurt big... and God heals big... You can't really rush the process or skip over any part of it...

My heart is with yours if you are hurting tonight... I would love to pray for you if you need prayer... It would be my privilege... and May you feel the strong arms of our Savior holding you close tonight...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What a difference a YEAR makes... and then there was JOY...





 A year ago we posted these photos sharing that we were hoping to expand our family through adoption... We were waiting to be matched...

Little did we know that a mama had already contacted our agency after seeking out alternatives to carrying her baby full term... but it was too costly for her to end her pregnancy... She had now decided to seek out to make an adoption plan...

Little did we know what the Lord had already put in place and that just a mere 3 1/2 weeks later we would get a call that we had been chosen by this sweet mama to raise her baby...

Little did we know that in less than 3 months we would hold that babygirl in our arms...




All we knew that day was that we had opened up the door for the Lord to work...
We were just going to step forward in faith waiting on God's plans to unfold and His will to be done...

(Truth be told when we first had started to pursue finding an agency to do our Illinois homestudy, I was flat out told that "NO ONE would pick our family with 7 other kids in the house" 
Truth be told, I was discouraged that day... but within minutes of that really downer conversation, our case worker from Isaiah's adoption agency had called to talk to me about something new their agency was going to possibly try in a different area of adoptions... 

God knew I needed to talk with her and my heart was immediately encouraged in what I already knew but needed to be reminded of... It was all in His perfect hands... The BEST place for it to be...

Little did I know that He was already working much out behind the scenes... 

And work He did... and fast!  

And just like that (with a whole lot of added drama, a birthmom changing her mind on Christmas day, an extended 5 week stay in Arizona to get paperwork through... ) She was in our arms!!!



Kaliyah Joy, is just that! Filled with JOY!  She is such a little sweet heart! 
She has become a bit more serious as of late and she checks out people who aren't family with a little more intensity than normal:)


But she knows her family... She knows loads of attention... Loads of hugs, holding, kisses, snuggles, laughs, and LOVE!  
We can't get enough of her and her sweet squishy self! 


God knew she needed us...
And more importantly, God knew we needed her just as much!  

She is a perfect fit for our family! 
Adoption isn't ever easy... but worth every penny, sacrifice, heartbreak, stretching, and beautiful moment along the journey! (I have a story of God's incredible faithfulness to provide that I will share soon! We are blown away!) 


We are BLOWN away by the gift of this sweet sweet baby girl...


BLOWN away that He chose us for her...
And that just like we have adopted her and taken her as our own...
God does the same for us...
adopts us as HIS children...

Just like we love her... He loves us a million times more!

Just like God saw sweet Kaliyah so close to not ever having a chance to live a full life outside her birthmom... 

God saw us with out any chance of living a full life in eternity and He redeemed us through His son...

She is ours... and we are HIS...
My heart is full... 
My heart is overflowing...
Just a year later... What a difference HE can make in our lives... 

Friday, October 7, 2016

A get away with the bigs!!

We were so blessed a couple of weeks back to get away for a very short and quick weekend with our four big kids.  We know adopting four kids has added an abundant amount of blessings to our family... but also an abundant amount of babysitting, diaper changes, bottles, messes etc. for our bigger kids to help with.  So after some talking we decided to give it a shot and try to find some special help to watch the 4 littles! It worked out great!


Caleb spent the previous night with his cousins and best buddy Logan and went and did a college visit with them. We met them all, including my sweet friend Kimmey Sue when we picked him up in Milwaukee!  What a treat to see Kim after so long.  We spent the 5 weeks in AZ while we were adopting Kaliyah with them in their home... (MOST GRACIOUS HOSTS EVER!!! And oh how I miss her!)


Then it was off to Door County Wisconsin!  Eating out was even a treat with out the littler guys:)
We were blessed to stay at the farm home of some friends from church:)



Lake Michigan is really beautiful... You really feel like you are on the edge of the ocean at times.  We stopped at a lot of shops, a lighthouse, let the kids skip rocks, and really took in the beautiful creation God has made:)






Anna and I ended the weekend hanging out in the hammock!  Talk about a beautiful day enjoying a beautiful property.  I was blessed to not have to cook all weekend!  HUGE TREAT! It was really a gift to hang with the 4 biggest kids!


When we got home these beautiful ladies had cleaned the whole house!  It was incredible!  Seriously, my heart was so blessed to come home and have the kids well taken care of and the bonus was a clean home!  It was awesome!  I didn't want these girls to leave:)

I am so thankful for each and every single one of my kids!  What a treat to have the big kids all to ourselves for a few days!