Friday, November 29, 2013

With My Song I Praise Him

"The Lord is my strength
and my shield;
my heart trusts in him,
and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him."
Psalm 28:7
Yesterday was a quiet and reverent Thanksgiving full of family, cousins, laughter and some tears. Luke and I both felt a sense of reverence over the day as our 4 children and their 3 adorable cousins ran around the grandparent's house together. My sweet little niece shared a quiet moment with my Mother in Law snuggling into her neck and just being allowed to be held and gently rocked. I choked up as I thought of Little Mermaid who in the last week has returned to our home and is now deemed too medically fragile to travel anywhere outside our four walls. A caregiver had given up her day so we could spend a day with family down the road after the last 8 grueling weeks since becoming her foster parents.
It's been a physically and emotionally exhausting week and a half since her first release from the hospital and then she was re-admitted just 4 short days later. She is again back home with a sense of relief and at the same time a sadness. During her second stay we again met with her team of Doctors and her bio parents and it was agreed that she be assigned to Hospice-type Care within our home. A court order has gone through as to her care and what she will receive from now on and it brings us a sense of sad relief knowing that she can finally rest.
Our house has become a mixture of quiet reflection and intense crazy love since we fully explained to our children what this all means for our Little Mermaid. Waves of emotion ranging from rage to gut wrenching grief to curious joy have uttered from all 4 of them. Heaven is no longer a place in the clouds where cute little angels sit on fluffy clouds and strum their harps. It is is becoming tangible, real and beautiful even to the smallest of our family members. Questions such as, "Will she be able to walk mom? Could she run around outside like me? Can she play in the sandbox in heaven? She's never touched sand. Will she be able to fly? Can she teleport?! Will her fingers be straight and she be able to hold her toys? Will she finally talk? Will she know us when we get there? Can we still count her as our little sister even after she's gone and even though we never got to adopt her? Will she like dogs or cats better do you think?" Important and real questions from those others who have grown to love her. Death is now a passage to New Life. It is becoming a topic that brings up people past remembered and yet still loved. Heaven has become as exciting as Disney World and the Ocean and playing in the surf. It's tangible and real and the angels that live there don't float on clouds all cute and cuddly. They are mighty warriors greater than any Power Ranger and ready to do battle for their King. The topic of Little Mermaid's life and our role in her passage has dropped the Gospel which is that Jesus is the Good News and our ON.LY salvation onto our front doorstep in the most tangible and real way we could have ever imagined.
We've been asked if this is fair to our kids. We were again given the choice a week ago by DHS to step down as her foster parents. Again, we said we'd stay and fight with and for her. We had discussed it at length with our kids and each one of them were upset at the thought of her leaving our home even knowing full well she may not live more than a few months at best. They embraced the act of selfless love far quicker than Luke or I did. Do they know what hospice looks like? Yes,two Christmases ago we lost Luke's Grandma on Christmas Day. Hospice Care was a part of that. The Christmas before that it was his Grandpa. They know what this all means.
Luke and I are very pointedly learning in the midst of all of this what it means to truly be thankful. Circumstances cannot dictate our hearts. Circumstances right now seem unfair and life appears cruel when you look at the surface. But it's God's love and grace that shines through the hard walk. The grace and thankfulness for what and who He has brought our way has brought us a joy that all I can liken it to is childbirth. We may cry and groan under the weight and pain of it all but the end result is beauty and fresh life that can't be explained and are only really understood by those who've walked through it all. So can we say "thank you" this Thanksgiving? Yes, because Jesus is the author of life and has already defeated death. Death will not win.
So yesterday was a day to re-charge and re-fresh and let the stress that has built mountains on our shoulders slowly melt away for a time. We played games, watched the traditional Thanksgiving parade and ate the wonderful food Luke's dad had grilled (yeah, we grill for Thanksgiving).

Luke's parents had built a bonfire across the road for the later afternoon and the kids ran around playing in the wide open field laughing and rolling in the grass and running across a long sting of hay bales.

We ran home in the middle of it all and brought a heaping plate full of Thanks to the woman who sat the day with Little Mermaid and we pray that Jesus' love shined through. Last night we kissed our 4 goodnight and left them with cousins to have a sleepover at the Grandparents. We came home to a quiet house, handed a plate of Thanksgiving pies to our helper and said goodnight.
As I lay hear listening to the hum of Little Mermaid's Oxygen Concentrator, I feel a deep sense of tearful joy. Jesus is actively working and present in this home. It is something I have prayed and longed for and begged for. His presence fills every nook and cranny of this little home in the woods and I can honestly say that we are thankful for this unexpected journey He has placed us upon.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hands and Feet of Jesus

I am trying to figure out how in the world to write what I want to write and at the same time keep things confidential on the part of our new sweet little girl.
Honestly things change by the hour right now, so what I write may not even be entirely relevant tomorrow.
I'll start with two weeks ago. I had taken our sweet little girl to one of her first big Dr. appointments where I was hoping to get some more answers to the questions we had about her. Honestly, in the 3 weeks we had had her, we were becoming more and more puzzled with some things. It was during that routine appointment that she had "an episode" that resulted in a life flight to a Children's Hospital nearly 4 hours south of us. She had been fighting a little cold for close to a week and coughing a lot, but had been happy and alert and "talkative" the day before. 
Over the course of the next 48 hours, I met numerous Specialists, Nurses, Therapists and Case Workers who did their best to explain things to me. THEY knew her I found out. They knew her well and were very very concerned. Terms I had never heard before have now become familiar to Luke and I. I felt like an avalanche had just buried us and we was trying to sort through the rocky mess we were discovering.
BUT, something had also clearly and profoundly happened smack in the middle of this that left both Luke and I in a place of total, if not frazzled, trust that we were doing what God had asked us to do.
Many of you have asked in the last couple of weeks how my Vertigo is doing. God took care of that the day our little girl crashed on the Dr's table. I was not allowed to ride the helicopter and therefore had to follow it down in the car leaving late afternoon and not arriving until close to midnight. This was me driving alone, in the dark, through the mountains and on winding roads when I haven't more than driven to town and back. Soon after leaving my house and collecting my stuff, it became very apparent that my driving alone in the dark while still struggling with vertigo was not going to work. I began to pray. I have prayed for specific things before and some things have been clearly answered and many things have not. At least, not in the way I had asked for. This was different. For whatever reason God chose, the vertigo is GONE. It was gone the moment I asked while driving south to be with a little girl who was fighting for her life. Had I asked for it before? Yes. Had He answered it then? No. Is it gone now? Yes. His timing is perfect.
So what is happening now? I've had many people text, call, facebook, and e-mail asking how this sweet little girl who captures the heart of anyone who sees her is doing. How are we doing? How are the kids doing? Honestly, it is a very difficult question for me to legally answer. Sweet little girl would not normally have been placed in our home with what has since come to light. She will never live the normal length of life that other children live.
We have been asked if we want to step down as her foster parents. Both Luke and I know that they most likely won't find anyone else who will take her. Not at this point. We have also come to love her deeply. For whatever reason, God has placed her in our home. Is she aware? She is aware of love. She is aware of interaction. She smiles and squeals when you hold and talk to her. She laughs when you tickle her or when she knows she has once again ripped the oxygen tubing out of her nose when she isn't supposed to. She cries when she is scared or hurting. She "sings" along to music when it is played for her.
Our prayer, Our hope is that we can be a home that lavishes the love of Jesus onto a little girl who will soon be running and laughing and talking like the children around her. Only she will be laughing and talking in the arms of Jesus. We pray that our children will see it as a gift to give her some of the love she has lacked and to show her who Jesus is in their hands and feet. We pray that our children can see the Gospel lived out in front of them in their own home and that they will not experience trauma (not the same as sadness) but be able to be part of that very Gospel we try to teach them.
Does this scare me? Yes and no. The fear of what others think and judgment is more what I fear. That is more selfish. I believe God placed her with us, not as an accident, but for us to learn and our family to learn better what it is to be like Him.
Is this hard? It is the hardest decision we've made in a very very long time. It is not just Luke and I we have considered. We've taken into careful consideration each of our children. We've had to weigh in jobs, lifestyle, family time, relatives and our church. We don't know what it will look like.
For now, we take each day at a time and rely on His strength to carry us through.