Archive for the 'god' Category

Grafted Branch

Friday, April 26th, 2013

20130203_121351

My husband and I started a ministry for orphans called Grafted Branch. My husband made a pretty website for it too: www.graftedbranch.org. So far we’ve had lots of help from our friends, including Lauren Burke who did the art. We designed this ministry to be picked up by our church so it’s got “Bible” and “Christian” all over it, although everyone can help orphans. If you’re interested you can sign up to be a prayer partner. In May we’ll be helping the little guy who we’ve been advocating for, Raymond.  I hope you can join us!

Pray

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

LandRblogStPDay - Copy - Copy

Guys my heart is breaking! Please, if you pray, please pray. The orphanage my sister is adopting from is right outside Lubumbashi where rebel fighters have just attacked! The last time rebel fighters attacked (they attacked Goma), the militia killed all the women and children they could find… *after* savaging them. My nephew is in this city! Right now the orphanage itself is six miles outside the city and spared, but pray it stays out of harm’s way!

Now remember my sister is not adopting a child currently in the orphanage, but one of the next children to arrive there. So there’s a good possibility that my nephew is in Lubumbashi that is being attacked right now. That means that most likely my nephew is right now becoming orphaned and suffering abuse and trauma at the hands of the militia before being transferred to the orphanage. My sister’s heart is super heavy this morning.

Reminds me of something I read in the book 7 about Jen Hatmaker’s adopted daughter, Remy:

“During the first week of October, I suffered inexplicable sadness for our Ethiopian kids, yet unknown to us. I couldn’t quit crying. I couldn’t stop worrying. [...]

‘God is prompting you to pray for your children for some reason.’ [...]

So Brandon and I prayed desperately for our kids. Were they losing a parent? Were they suffering? Were they tender and lonely? [...]

[Three weeks later]

I went back to those dark days of prayer. It was the week she was brought to the orphanage. Shipped twelve hours north of her village, her people, everything she knew to a crowded orphanage with children and workers who spoke a different language, it must’ve been devastating. She must’ve felt so alone. At age five. Except Jesus never leaves His little ones, His most vulnerable. He was there in the scary van ride north. He was there in her confusion and fear. He was there as she was assigned a bed and communal clothes and had her beautiful head shaved. He was there that first heartbreaking night. And He made sure we were there in spirit, too.”  (pages 198-201)

UPDATE (from my sister): “Thank you to everyone who prayed this morning and this afternoon. The news reports no more fighting in Lubumbashi, as the militia group was stopped by the local army and peacekeeper forces. Please continue to pray for the people of DRC, our child, the orphanage owners/workers, and our future trip there. Only God can provide safety and peace in such a wartorn area.”

The easy life

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

374437_10200732666024869_1493891819_n

I wanted to write a little about how we’re doing considering it’s been six months since we brought our newest little home. I’d describe our adoption as “easy,” not that it was always that way, but because on the grand scale of things we have been incredibly blessed, and that has nothing to do with us. We weren’t especially prepared and we weren’t especially good at patience or parenting tricks. Regardless Roland has fit in really well, bonded incredibly fast and we all love each other. And thanks to our wonderful family and friends we were able to provide him not only a home, but a loving community.

I have incredible respect for those families who choose love during the hard times. I sometimes think I have this so easy because God knows I suck at being a loving mother during a screaming fit. And even though it’s been easy (much easier than we expected) it hasn’t always been roses. I’ve struggled with anger during the last six months. You’d think communication difficulties would just be hard on the little one, but I found myself getting angry! “What in the world do you want?!” has come out of my mouth more than once. And I have felt deeply the irony of yelling, “Stop yelling!” And some days I’m only one more “No!” or “Ow!” away from grinding my teeth to nubs. Oh and have I mentioned that my cute little man still has the well-earned nick name Mr. Screamers? I feel like my major accomplishment in this adoption has been to show the world that ANYONE can adopt.

And even though Roland has had some trauma in his past, most of what we’re dealing with is just two year old boy. I think my biggest parenting handicap is the fact that Laelia was so easy on me!

But really even when we were loving a picture of a boy and imagining what he would be like, I didn’t really think I could have as much love for him as I do. I mean Laelia is my world. She’s my life. Come on, she’s Laelia! So how after six months do I have as much love for my Roland as I do for my Laelia? He’s not flesh of my flesh. I didn’t have his newborn face to memorize or breastfeeding to bond us, but I love him as much as my daughter. How? I don’t know. It’s true that love doesn’t divide, it multiples. But I didn’t expect it on this scale.

Sometimes holding my little cuddly boy is healing. Just goodness.

We adopt because we were adopted. We love because we are loved. We give because it’s all been given to us. Our entire family is one collective response to a divine Initiator.

People say all the time now much Roland looks like us. And I know that’s true, but when I look at him I notice every single Ukrainian feature. I’m drawn to those differences like anyone is drawn to notice the differences in things. The things that look nothing like us are just as beautiful as the things that look like us. His eyes are the same color as his sister’s. His skin has the same paleness as both parents. But that Russian nose and dark eyelashes are on a completely different genetic canvas and they are beautiful.

So I know I haven’t found the time to write endlessly about our days, regretfully, but know that we are imperfect people who are enjoying life and learning as we go. And things have been good.

Really good.

860927_10200610570604612_1988605312_o

860927_10200610570604612_1988605312_o

 

Walking down the aisle… the proudest mommy moment

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

317898_4652836272929_30877909_n

photo6

 

“The doctor leaned across my bed to break the news. He spelled things out and wrote them down. Every time he asked if we had questions, we didn’t know what to ask. We asked if she would be able to walk. He said he didn’t know. I cried some more.” ~October 4th, 2007

“I have a physically disabled daughter. It still hurts to say that.” ~October 7th, 2007

“We went into Children’s hospital and our physical therapist looked like a teenager. [...] They only had two other children come through with Arthrogryposis and only one could walk. His (the walking kid’s) physical therapist said it was nothing she did either, he just could. It turns out that babies with Arthrogryposis that have the leg joints stiff in a straight, outward way are more able to walk. Of course our baby girl has the wide open legs and hope seems dim.” ~October 10th, 2007

“We had our first orthopedics appointment! We called ahead of time to see if they were closed for the fires. Then we covered the baby, held our breaths, brushed the ash from our car and drove through what looked like Armageddon. What felt like little drops of rain turned out to be tiny bits of ash from unusually dark skies. [...] We were getting casts that day. :) We decided to try and fix the club feet with the casts and stretch out the legs (knees).” ~October 25th, 2007

Charles: “We got Laelia’s casts changed again today. My wife asked the doctor how far the knees could get straightened out. We hadn’t seen a ton of progress, and we were wondering if her legs would be straight enough for her to walk. “Oh,” the doctor replied, “we haven’t been trying to straighten out her knees. Right now I’m thinking that she’ll be wheelchair-bound, so her knees are at about the perfect bend to accommodate that.” ~November 19th, 2007

“There’s no cure for what she has. There’s no way to grow the muscle that she lacks. I can’t even get all her parts looking the way they should let alone moving the way they should. And she’s working toward goals that fall short of even the basic normal functioning of typical kids. Right now we’re focusing on getting her to be “less special.” ~December 20th, 2007

“Okay tonight is when we find out how Laelia’s surgeries went. We will discuss braces or more casting and it will be decided split second without a sit down.. as usual. As for more casting, our physical therapist told us that she will not be able to straighten out Laelia’s legs with stretches or therapy, so we are going to request more casting to hopefully achieve that. Unless our orthopedics doctor has major objections or doesn’t think that will work.” ~January 7th, 2008

“They didn’t cast the legs straight. We were told she wouldn’t walk. Ever.” ~January 10th, 2008

“We switched orthopedic doctors today (Friday). This new one also does not believe Laelia will walk either, but actually explained the physicality behind that belief. So even if she were able to be straightened out, she doesn’t have the muscle to walk. Even if we did a muscle transplant, the muscle wouldn’t work. Even if we could get her to stand, she would not be able to do so once she got to be around 60lbs since she won’t be able to hold up her own weight and her muscles will not grow with her.” ~February 15th, 2008

“I was curious as to how a doctor’s note could be three pages long. But what I was reading was the doctor’s impressions and findings in detail. I read over, “…significant deformity…significant upper extremity involvement…certainly require surgery…not significant leg power…goals need to be reasonable…I suspect she will come to utilize an electric wheelchair…the need for good upper body strength to control walker was stressed [to parents] (as in she won’t be able to)…toes will require flexor tenotomies at time of posteromedial releases…all of this was discussed in quite frank detail with the family, trying to paint a realistic picture, though not be overly pessimistic.” ~March 16th, 2008

“The EMG showed extremely poor muscle tone. What we had suspected was now proved on a test. The muscles in her arms and legs are in extremely poor shape. I start to wonder once again how her life will be.” ~July 25th, 2008

“Sometimes I forget what normal movement looks like and am amazed at what my friend’s newborns can do that Laelie will never be able to do. She will move, but she will use technology to help. Of course by the same token, there are a lot of things that Laelie will do that none of her new friends will be able to do. Like move a wheelchair with her head.” ~August 18th, 2008

“Everyday during PT (physical therapy) I get discouraged by Lali’s lack of movement. Stupid arthrogryposis! Stupid amyoplasia! If I try to do her exercises she throws a fit and refuses to do much. I try to encourage her to move her arms and legs, but she will just lie there and cry. And I really start to think, Will my baby ever move?” ~September 14th, 2008

“Laelia may never walk. I was sitting on the couch today playing with my baby and it dawned on me that my baby is not looking like she will be able to stand or walk or lift her arms. Her legs never got straight, her muscles never fired up or grew. Her therapists mentioned that she was one of the worst cases as far as muscle atrophy that they had seen.” ~September 21st, 2008

“Even with all the muscle loss, she is able to roll! That makes all the difference in the world! Now I’m hopeful she’ll be able to get around her home as an adult by rolling or scooting.” ~November 21st, 2008

“I saw two callus doctors today, and my experience was not that great. One largely ignored me while smiling. The other thought I was in denial of the severity of my daughter’s condition and took the opportunity to tell me that Lali “has severe joint contractions and muscle loss that will NEVER go away,” and I needed to “deal with that fact instead of searching for new splints or braces.” Do not treat a child like their worth is the sum of their workable body parts. And that their worth of your time is the sum of their fixable body parts (of which you’ve determined my daughter has little).” ~January 30th, 2009

“When checking out at Target the lady at the counter asked me if Lali could walk yet. I just said, “Not yet.”  The lady looked so confused. “Well why not? Have you tried?” ~May 11th, 2009

“We found out at our last trip to the PT that Laelia’s body is still not in the position for standing. That’s what the two major surgeries were for so we’re bummed as you can imagine.” ~November 21st, 2009

“At PT the other day they strapped Lali up to a giant suspension machine and moved her hovering self across the room while she kicked out her little feet to keep them from dragging. She eventually got a rhythm going: right left right left. She looked in the mirror as she went by and exclaimed with so much pride, “Laelia walking!” ~January 28th, 2010

“Laelia can now stand on her knees for ten seconds! This is her biggest accomplishment to date! Doctors said she wouldn’t be able to do this!” ~February 26th, 2010

“[Flew to Seattle to see another orthopedic doctor.] He said she wasn’t a great candidate for this (osteotomy) surgery, and to wait six months to a year to see if we should do anything with her. He said that 90% of kids with amyoplasia were ambulatory (able to transfer and stand), but it wasn’t looking like Laelia was going to be one of those kids.” ~April 3rd, 2010

“Tomorrow we’ll be in Philly and the next morning we’ll have our appointment with Dr. van Bosse at Shriners. [...] I’m also not sure if I’m ready to hear the straight truth from the arthrogryposis expert on my daughter’s care.” ~June 16th, 2010

“Dr. van Bosse is now our orthopedic doctor!” He said my baby will walk! ~June 19th, 2010

~

“Tonight my baby took her first steps. My baby can walk! My baby can walk! My baby can walk!” ~August 31st, 2011

~

Then it just snow-balled…

In September of 2011 Laelia knee walked for the first time. On November 1st, 2011 Laelia used a walker by herself for the first time. On December 3rd, 2011  Laelia stood independently without holding anything for the first time. The very next day she took her first independent steps and crashed into a couch.

 

Linda and Phong became engaged 21 days later and asked Laelia to be their flower girl. The kid was walking with crutches but we had no idea how she would throw the flower petals. It wasn’t until August 2012 that Laelia started to walk independently for long distances without her crutches and was hands-free. We practiced holding a basket while walking. She fell. A lot. We kept practicing. She fell. Rarely.

Last weekend Laelia the flower girl walked down the white runner towards the waiting bridesmaids and groomsmen. She walked with confidence. No walker. No wheelchair. No crutches. No falling or stumbling. She held her basket of petals with one hand and tossed them down the runner with the other. Her movements were like a synchronized dance as each action swayed her balance.

 

 

photo18

734078_10152402351230434_325564835_n

530378_588356774524828_1843380765_n (1)

 

Laelia was suppose to walk to a specific place near her grandma, but instead she walked straight to me. (I was matron of honor and standing up front.) She grinned up at me with such pride in her eyes, beaming like the sun! I walked her to where she was suppose to be while whispering my own joy and pride into her ears.

photo17

photo16

They said she never would.

She did.

photo1

photo8

 

Thank you God.

*tears*

 

The hard times and the good

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Peek-a-boo!

Today was the day I was going to write about my son’s one month home. He’s been with us one month. I have so many pictures of this trouble-maker, you have no idea. And videos. And accomplishments. And joy. And love. And a high number of just his finger. (Stop pointing at the camera, my love, and keep doing the cute thing you were doing. I give up. Cameras are too cool and must be pointed at.)

But life is happening and it’s too much to find the time to write. I will share–believe me these picture demand to be shared–but not until next week. I hope next week. After we’re back home from medical travels. (Oh I’m not looking forward to having Mr.  Trauma  back on a plane. God help us.)

You see today is hard. Today my husband is sick. Today we missed the school bus. Today Roland has an appointment to get casts and we’re going to the appointment but refusing the casts… again… because our son is not ready. Tomorrow we fly to Philadelphia and Delaware for medical treatment for both kids. We arrive so late that we can’t get into the three Ronald McDonald Houses and must get a hotel. Today I called the rental car company and found out our reservation wasn’t put in. Today I feel defeated, busy and stressed.

But where my focus really is, even if it shouldn’t be, is that today is the last day of work for me. I had to leave my career. It was work-from-home, but my position required coming into the office for some much-needed meetings, and I just can’t. I don’t know when I could as my little one learns he is safe and that we won’t leave him. My family demands so much right now. I was pulling all-nighters to get my work done. Leaving my job to care for my family has made me feel like the biggest quitter ever. Six years I put into my company. Six years. I won’t even have more free time if I do this, just a couple more hours sleep a night… when Roland lets me. Oh and I’m good at what I do. I get a sense of self from what I do. A sense of pride. And we rely on my income. I don’t know what we’re going to do, although I know we have a few months to figure it out. Today is hard. Not just because I have a ton of work to do for my company before I leave everything in other’s hands, but because this was my life. The life I liked.

“If this life I lose I will follow you.”

This life is a blip. A blip. One tiny speck on our timeline of eternity. In that perspective it’s easy to lose this life to gain so much more. Is my son worth it? Damn right he is. Damn right.

(Yep cussing on the blog. First clue that I’m overly emotional.)

And I haven’t packed for Philly yet. In fact (shocker) I haven’t unpacked from Ukraine yet. Heh.

So instead of writing about all the joys of the first month, I’m going to leave you with some of the beauty in the pain.

I’ve talked a lot about the first three days of non-stop, mindless screaming from our new little son. (It helps that I’ve spoken with another family who adopted out of his orphanage and some of my  suspicions  were supported.) That was hard. But by day four, I don’t know, I was filled with love for this screamer. It could have been the wonderful prescription medication I was on, but something was different that day. We had just settled into the uncomfortable knowledge that this could be our life now. It could be our life for months or years. And we needed to function despite that. It’s scary when after three days you have no light at the end of the tunnel. Three days is long when your child is screaming at top volume, but it’s longer when you don’t know if it’s just three days or a lifetime.

Want to see a glimpse of day four? Turn your volume down and click here. By day four I loved this little boy. By day four his screams were not high-pitched anymore, and he seemed to be asking for comfort instead of reacting to an unseen terror. I held him on the couch after not showering or brushing my hair or teeth for three days. I held him and whispered love to him. I was able to smile–a small miracle. My husband took a video. We wanted to capture daily life.

Then, and I cry as I remember this, then this happened: This. For the first time ever he came back to us. Back out of the world he was in. I can’t describe how for three days his eyes were just blank, unfocused. Then he started to make eye contact. Then he didn’t thrash when I touched his face. He came back. He came back.

And he made kissy faces. “More kisses mom. Yep right there on my forehead. Perfect.”

When I wrote the blog post about (not) living happily ever after, I was being very honest. I thought maybe people would not want to adopt after reading how we were adjusting. Then THREE people emailed me after that and said that they read the post and were definitely going to adopt. One started the process. Another picked an agency. A third is definitely, seriously considering it a few years down the road. Wow. Wow. Really guys? After I post about screaming? Welcome my fellow crazies! Haha!

They get it; it’s about people.

Now do me a favor and click here. Read  this story and then you can tell me that we’re all crazy. (We won’t argue.) Go ahead. I read that link and cried my eyes out. It speaks truth to me. It lets me know I’m not a freak show for wanting to go back and get another one, or support others getting theirs even though I know it’s so hard. Just read it. (Despite the amazing support we’ve received, we still have the same crowd mentioned in the story.) Do me a favor and just read it. I didn’t write it, but we sure lived it.

See you in a week, friends. Hold onto this promise from me, incredible joyful stories are coming. Just give us one more week or so of hard. Pray for us.

And they all lived happily ever after… kinda.

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Click to enlarge image.

I started a tradition of drawing really bad cartoons over at my other blog. The above creation was inspired when someone actually said this to me. SOMEONE ACTUALLY SAID THIS TO ME! (Boohoohoo.) For real. Seriously. But  I did not cold cock them. Oh no, I just gently corrected them. And that one  herculean  act of self restraint pretty much means I can yell at the next one hundred people karma free. Pretty sure that’s how that works. Don’t correct me.

(Disclaimer: This is my story as Roland’s mommy. His daddy and sister have their own stories. I may get their permission to share their stories with you, but for now this is my story.)

(Um… other disclaimer: Imma ’bout to get preachy.)

When your child first comes home is a time known as the honeymoon phase. It’s been described as a time where they are so new and well behaved. Then something triggers culture shock or they finally feel safe enough to show you their grief and life gets harder for a time. My girl crush, Jen Hatmaker, describes it really well here.

But for very little guys who don’t yet get self preservation skills, they are brutally honest almost immediately.

When Roland arrived on American soil he was glossy-eyed and shell shocked. I had this wonderful moment with him where after 28 hours of travel and dehydration he let me make a warm bottle of breast milk (donated) and he downed the whole thing and fell asleep in my arms. Precious.

Then he woke up.

And proceeded to scream.

For three days.

Straight.

I spent most of the first three days curled up on the living room floor with my child who screamed and thrashed. (Full body thrashing convulsions.) I held him while he screamed at top volume for over an hour at a time. As he screamed his whole body jerked violently. He screamed until he threw up. I looked at my husband and we both said without a word, “What have we done?”

During those three days there would be periods of “not screaming.” Not to be mistaken as periods of peace or happiness, just… not screaming. We would walk on egg shells until something triggered him. Food triggered him 100% of the time. He had MAJOR food issues. He had sleep issues. He had abandonment issues. He stimmed. He had sensory issues. Changing his diaper was traumatic. Changing his clothes was traumatic. Holding him in my lap facing away from me was traumatic. Bonding was out the window. We were hunkered down in survival mode.

We were in the trenches.

When people congratulated us on our adoption we felt so hollow inside, like we couldn’t accept their well-wishes on account of feeling so broken like we had ruined this. Obviously things got better. Three weeks later I’m full of cutesy Rolly stories and I go around showing off my son proudly. But for three hard days, and about a week more of “not easy” we were in the trenches.  And it was hard on everyone.

Keep in mind that during this time one of our friends had a  tragic  accident where their adopted daughter drowned and now is suffering brain damage, and another family traveling the same summer as us got word nine days before departing to meet their son that he had died waiting for them. Those stories made me cling to my son, despite the hard times.

Things we heard in the trenches:

“I really hope this was God’s will for you.”

“You asked for this.”

“I’m not sure how much we are suppose to take on other people’s problems. I mean how hard is your life going to be now because of this.”

“Adopted kids grow up weird.”

Okay that last one was said by Pat Robertson who is not a real person, but the other three things were said by real people, aka people in my life. Shockingly, these were professed Bible-believers from three different faiths.

I’ve already written a blog post on why the Bible-believing crowd should support orphans which you can read here. In it I site over a dozen Bible passages (not an exhaustive list) commanding followers to support orphans (and foreigners and widows). One I don’t quote much, because it’s always quoted is James 1:27 which says that you’re not really the good religious person you think you are if you’re not helping orphans and widows. God’s will for someone’s life is not some magical feeling individuals get while they’re meditating where they hear a whisper telling them to buy a car or have a baby. God’s will is outlined in Scripture: Love God. Trust Jesus. Give. Seek justice. Do good. Think good. Care for orphans. Help your neighbor. Etc.

Not God’s will? It’s clear as day!

As far as claiming that the Bible calls people to lives of comfort and never to anything hard (or too hard to handle), well that’s a lie. I’m convinced God does not want you to be comfortable. Peaceful, hopeful, content, sure, but not comfortable. And usually it’s something too hard to handle alone. Let’s just look at some Bible-y peoples and their easy lives, shall we? Jesus was  crucified. God is constantly grieved. All of Jesus’  apostles  died in cruel ways, save the one that got exiled which is no picnic. Most of the prophets were killed, all of them went through cruel things. Their lives were the least comfortable. Job was God’s favorite. Joseph too. Moses. John the Baptist. I don’t want their stories. Do you? The Levites were never given property of their own, despite how valuable that was in that day and age, because God was their portion. Every character in the Bible went through hardship for God, because of God. The Bible says to followers, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) That’s your Bible, people. One that points towards eternal rewards and not toward earthly comforts.

My experience in the trenches may be limited compared to others.  We think Roland was coming off of something, maybe a drug to make him sleep through the night. He screamed like a mindless crack baby. And whatever it was in his system he had to come off it cold turkey. Our friends who adopted from a different orphanage in the same country were given the names of the medications their son was on and they were able to get the prescriptions in country and have their child come off it gradually. Not us. Roland’s little system just crashed. Remember the breast milk and the child in my arms when we first got home? I held that memory through the next miserable 72 hours.

He needed his Mama. Even during the worst of it if I moved away from him a few inches he would roll towards me while thrashing around. He felt safest to scream while right up against my leg. (Yay.) Walking the halls with him helped. I whispered love to him when I didn’t feel it, when I was a shell of a person. My ears were always ringing. He was so angry.

Three days. And then Roland was back. Well hello there Mama!

My sweet, goofy boy.

We still had a long way to go, a lot to grieve, but we had support. We had meals from close friends. We had emails and Facebook messages. We had other adopting families tell me that it’s okay to feel the “what the bleepity-bleep have we done” feelings and to love your child when that biological pull is not there. Roland still had the occasional melt down, especially over food or if he thought we might be walking away from him, but things were better. Everyone was breathing. Laughter came back. When he threw a screaming fit, Laelia and I would just shrug at each other and have an entire conversation through it while I rubbed his back. We were adjusting and eventually I could bring him out of his fits quickly. I was starting to get to know Roland and learn about his trauma and his triggers.

After those three days, that biological pull was there. As if I’d birthed him. Amazing.

Now my son is not just a screamer, although his nickname is Mr. Screamers, but so was Laelia’s when she was little. Just imagine the jolt to his system! He had never been out of that orphanage. Never. been. out. I made him suffer through his very first car ride (which scared him), his first rain (the umbrella scared him), his first walk through the city (which scared him), his first  chew-able  food (which he choked on), his second chew-able food (which he threw up) his first three plane rides (trauma), a new place to live, new smells, new foods, new expectations, new sights, traffic noises outside and a whole host of culture stress and shock.

(But I gave him kitties and he loves kitties. So there you go.)

But it got easier. It got better. After only a week if someone said, “Where’s Mama?” he would turn around and put his arms up for me with a huge grin on his face. I was told to hold and carry him everywhere and I have. I’ve held him while peeing. Don’t judge. ;) I’ve gone days without showering or brushing my teeth like having a newborn. It took a week for him to have a meal without a melt down. Cheerios were a form a torture at one point, and now they are his favorite food. We still are feeding him baby food out of ziplock bags with the corner cut off to squeeze in his mouth, but he ate veggie  lasagna like a champ! I could dry him off after a bath without towel trauma. He started cuddling during nap times. He let me change his shirt without crying. His pants. His diaper. Dear Lord his diaper.

Oh, and I got a tooth brush in my son’s mouth for the first time in his life. Where’s my medal?

After two weeks we could do diaper changes while laughing and playing. He drank his first cup of water without it coming out his mouth or choking on it. Meal time no longer was traumatic and he no longer freaked out if I had to get up to get something during the meal. He also no longer ate until he hurt. He was trusting us to care for him. He was trusting food would still be there. He was gaining weight.

Haven’t seen  stimming  since the first week.

Roland is 23 months old, but had a mental age of 9 months at the time of meeting him. After two weeks of us visiting him in the orphanage daily he was up to a 12 month mental age. Now after a few weeks at home he’s up to 18 months on a good day. That’s what love can do. He can say his sister’s name. He can say kitty and then point to a kitty. But when I try to get him to say Mama, he just gets excited and throws himself into me as if to say, “You’re right here.” :) He said, “Ma ma ma ma?” after a nap the other day and my heart simply exploded with love.

After daily stretching (which he lovessssss, not) his elbows gained 15 degrees of ROM on the right and almost 10 degrees of ROM on the left. For those of you without experience with arthrogryposis and range of motion, that’s a good thing. It means his elbows can bend a slight bit more. It means changing his clothes is easier and soon he can start feeding himself long soft bread sticks. He’s already shown an interest in self-feeding.

But besides the very real triumphs and glorious stories of my son overcoming, well, everything, the real reward is in our changed perspective. I got to experience first-hand the redemptive work of God that he did for me. The Bible says that God adopted us. We are heirs of God and co-heirs (with equal portion) of Christ. The Bible is full of adoption language! Check it out: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)  What a life-changer this is. I thrash and scream at God because I don’t understand him or his ways, and I certainly don’t understand his care of me. But God loves me. Forever.

***Roland, it’s mommy’s job to love you. You’ve already given me more than I could ever give you. I would take you again in a heart beat. You are mine.***

Please consider adoption. And if you do not qualify legally to adopt, go here, pick a  category, find a baby and do something, anything for that child. Or go here and support an adopting family. That counts as caring for the orphan. Orphans are God’s very heart.

The story of Roland continued

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  John 14:18

Being at home was surreal. We were legally a family of four, but could not claim our son from the orphanage until after the appeal time ran out. Not that we didn’t have plenty of distractions. I was unpacking and repacking, Charley was getting documents notarized, Linda (Charley’s sister) was moving in, Niki (our roommate) was getting ready to move out and Laelia was settling back in after a lot of travel. We were also trying to get return tickets set up, which after some back and forth turned out to be one-way tickets. I told Chelsea we didn’t know when we would get to come home. I’m super comforting like that. ;)

When Chelsea and I got to the ticket counter we were told that Ukraine may not let us enter with one-way tickets. It was pretty funny. I also think the guy thought Chelsea and I were adopting as a couple. Let’s just say you get a lot of strange questions when you travel with an empty car seat stroller (that Germany liked to lose).

Traveling without children is glorious. I highly recommend it.

When we landed I recognized Niko and all the sudden realized how comforting and familiar Kiev was. There’s the lemon and chocolate ice cream and there’s the random people in my personal space and there’s where I get  grivnas for my dollars and there’s the unbearable heat (which happened to be a record-breaker for Kiev). Home again home again. :) We were asked if we wanted to wait around for an hour for another family. It turned out to be Chris and Julie who we started this whole process with! Super exciting to see them again! In fact we also got to meet several adopted families who we’d been Facebook friends with but had yet to hang out with. It was a lot of fun!

AMC mommies

Then we settled into our apartment. Chelsea and I scored a better apartment than what my family and I shared a couple weeks earlier. We hauled some water up there and battled the multiple locks to get in. (Three locked doors until you get in the apartment, five locked doors until you get into the bedroom with the  meager  AC unit where we were huddled.) So we were plenty safe. I was so glad to have a friend for this part of the trip.

I’ve got to say that for the first week it was like a vacation. We did a lot of tourist-y things that I couldn’t drag my daughter to while we were here the first time. Plus I could now find my way around. Chelsea wouldn’t sit still so we had a lot of adventures. :) We mastered the metro. We saw all the sights. We visited anyone who was in Kiev for any reason who we kindof knew from Reece’s Rainbow. One night we got on a bus late at night going “somewhere” (we can’t read the signs) and got off after about six stops and found our way back. Just for fun. This was a grand adventure.

While I was gone for the two weeks, Laelia had learned two new tricks (Linda was taking over PT at home). She learned to walk down a step with her crutches (video here) and open doors (video here). She could not wait for me to get home and show off her skills. I was able to Facetime with her one morning and she was so darn cute and showed me how she also learned to lock and unlock the doors. (Ut oh! Haha!) She said she missed me and it about broke my heart. I love my little girl.

The first full day in Ukraine was a big paper chase. We were in a car for over six hours just so I could sign three pieces of paper. It was killer. But I finally got my son’s birth certificate! It now listed his new name and me as his mommy! That was super exciting.

At least they assure me that’s what it said. I can’t read a word of his birth certificate. Our last stop that day was to change his tax code. I guess it’s like our version of a SS number. They need to officially delete (or change, I wasn’t clear) the tax code to show that Yegor no longer existed now that his birth certificate has been changed to Roland. This needed to be done *before* we could apply for his passport. After waiting for hours it was clear something went wrong. Our driver was late to pick up the next family from the airport and we needed to leave. We just prayed it would work out.

It didn’t.

We couldn’t get Roland and take him to get his passport photo without this code change. We couldn’t get this code change. If we couldn’t get the process started on his passport then we couldn’t leave. And without reason to visit (like to get official stuff done on his passport) it was hard to get a driver from the team to take us to the orphanage since there were so many families in need of the team this summer. I posted the following plea for prayer on Facebook Thursday night: “We hit a snag in the paperwork processing part of this adoption. I’ll just say something went wrong and it kept us from getting Roland’s passport photo today or seeing him. It’s been five days and I have yet to hold him, and it may be four days before we can move forward in this process if they don’t fix it tomorrow before the weekend. We’re now behind and may be looking at more days here.”

The next day we waited around for hours for Niko to call us. Finally we got word that we could move forward and at least get the passport photo taken, although the problems had not been completely resolved. We jumped in  the car and drove to his orphanage. I was so excited to see my baby again!

First we had to drive down the road to get a picture taken for our embassy appointment. Upon entering the car for the very first time Roland burst into pathetic, fearful tears. It broke my heart. I started singing to him and he only  whimpered  occasionally after that. Cars are scary. (Ukrainian traffic is more scary.) Once out of the car he hammed it up for the first pictures. He is so darn cute! Then we had to make the long drive to Kiev to get his passport pictures taken. I sang and rocked and comforted. He did okay, considering this was all so new, with only this occasional whimper. It was his nap time, but he couldn’t sleep through something like this, even with the rocking motions. His eyes were wide the whole time.

I sang every song I could think of to him. From Christmas songs to Take Me Out to the Ballgame. I started singing How Great Thou Art, but when it came to the line of, “And when I think, that God, his son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,” I started totally choking up and tearing up. That was a no go. Wow, now that I have a son… well that means a lot more to me.

Finally we arrived for passport application and pictures and then got in the car to go all the way back. Poor little guy handled it like a champ. I think he was relieved to be dropped back off at the orphanage though.

Then the second of our delays happened. The person in charge of processing our passport had some sort of death in her family and was unable to be reached. So now we were waiting on a passport that was not coming, couldn’t reach the lady doing it (God forbid someone else takes over in this case), and without a passport in hand we could not finish our embassy appointments. We ended up going to the first embassy appointment without the passport. They said we had to bring it to our second and final appointment the next day. We hoped and prayed and waited but it never came. Also there was no word on if it was coming.

We had to cancel our second embassy appointment.

I spent $40 to visit the orphanage for seven minutes that day. It was suppose to be 30 minutes, but between delays and the nannies “getting him ready” our time was only seven minutes. I had just enough time to promise him I would come back for him. (It was either leave then or try to find our way back with a $100 taxi who didn’t speak English.)

The day we were *suppose* to book our tickets home  had come and gone. We were stuck. Chelsea had to work on Monday. I had an important medical appointment in San Diego for Roland on Tuesday with an adoption specialist. It was stressful. And part of the stress was that I didn’t have my little boy who was now legally mine.

So I made the decision to take Roland from the orphanage without having his passport. They recommend taking your child out of the orphanage closer to when you travel home so as not to confuse them with new living arrangements that don’t last. But the thought of leaving him in the orphanage one more day just hurt my heart. So I told the team I was taking him. When we arrived at the orphanage I was asked if I had an outfit for him. I didn’t. I had plenty at the apartment, but was under the impression that they sent them home with one. (They do.) They said, “Then maybe you wait and get him tomorrow.” Nah uh. I just offered to pay for the clothes on his back. It was  unnecessary  as they gave them to me. (Girl socks, pants four sizes too big and a shirt and sweater.) I also requested the blanket on his bed. They handed me a very stinky sheet. (It made my eyes water.)

I had asked to see how he ate his lunch. They put me in a white coat and led me up to the feeding room. Every child sat in a little chair and ate with a giant oversized spoon. Every child except Roland who was on the floor. They told me they fed him tea and stew. They warned that Roland has a tiny mouth and to put the spoon back in his mouth with little tiny bites on it. He didn’t know how to chew and just swallowed the food whole. Roland was “done” before the other children and he sat there watching them eat. Then I took him upstairs to finish signing him out of there. I felt strange in my white nanny coat.

This is the director of the orphanage and our driver, Niko. Both of these people are wonderful, and our family owes them a great deal.

We walked out of the orphanage forever. Here’s the video I posted in a previous teaser post.

He would never go back there. Never be left alone. We took him back to our apartment in Kiev. By this point the unbearable heat was gone and it was raining and cold. We walked around in the rain trying to find diapers since our local pharmacy (because they only sell diapers there) didn’t have any. (The umbrella scared him.) Roland was in the city with it’s noises and he was completely overwhelmed. He  buried  his head in my chest and threw up down my shirt. But finally we found some diapers.

And finally, like magic, the passport came through! We drove out to get it and held it like it was made of gold.

We quickly had Yulia set up a new embassy appointment for Thursday and booked flights home for Friday.

Unfortunately our friends Julie and Chris didn’t end up getting their passport in time and had to cancel their flights home. We visited them and their new son, Ryan, in their apartment before we left. Isn’t Ryan adorable?! They are the same size, but Ryan is several years older.

In Kiev Roland explored the apartment. He loved to turn on the microwave. (Who puts a microwave at toddler level?!) He loved to open and shut the hall door. When I tried to feed him lunch I realized that Roland has a lot of feeding issues. For one thing he doesn’t know how to chew. And I wasn’t about to stick a large spoon down his throat. The first stupid thing I did was feed him a grape that he choked on. Ugh. You’d think I’d never had a kid before. Then we tried little bites of pasta. We settled on baby food in jars and he happily ate that. Little guy couldn’t even bite off a tiny piece of graham cracker. Both Chelsea and I were pointing at our teeth and making exaggerated chewing motions. He sucked everything like a bottle (like chewy granola bars) or swallowed it whole (he gummed and swallowed an entire banana).

Roland got his first real bath. He loved the splashy fun. It was hard to scrub him as he was just a blur of motion. I learned he hates to have his little hands scrubbed so we had to pretend to play games with them. He was so happy. And he finally smelled wonderful. It was easy to curl up with him that night and smell his shampooed little head.

When it was time for bed I put his sheet (eww) on him for a familiar smell and curled up beside him. He didn’t move from that spot and slept almost through the night. This would be the last time this would ever happen. I’ll explain more on that later. It was so nice to sing him to sleep and hold his hand until he drifted off. His arms don’t bend so he sleeps with them out like this.

It had just been one day, one huge day, and his life was forever changed. He was loved. He would never be left again.

Our ride to the airport showed up at 3:00am the next morning. Roland said goodbye (he can wave bye-bye) to the team, and to Erika (Bernadette and Mason‘s mommy) who enjoyed loving on him. Travel was hard, not as hard as it could have been, but hard nonetheless. Roland still has belt burns on his skin where they made him put on a seat belt for the first flight and he twisted and freaked out. The next two plane rides I did not make him wear it. He freaked out and would slide to the floor, then would fall asleep, then would be fine, and then freak out again and slide to the floor. He threw up. He couldn’t keep liquids down. He choked on a tiny piece of bread. He pooped a ton and had to get changed on the plane which he hated. He screamed a lot. I’m sure the other passengers loved us. :) I got through half of the Avengers movie and that was the only break I really got. Even when he was calm I was still worried about him.

We arrived home completely worn out. Just by accident we ran into some church friends in the airport parking lot on their way back from a trip to visit family. I got to show off my new baby. It was fun and I was starting to regret not having a big reception when we arrived. (After 28 hours of travel, one big cheering crowd can’t really add too much more to the trauma, right?) Roland got to see his daddy for the first time in almost a  month. Even though I was starting to get sick to my stomach (probably from a bug I picked up), I was so relieved to be home. We were home.

And life was about to get interesting. And hard.

To be continued…

The story of Roland

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

I titled this blog post, “The Story of Roland,” but this isn’t really his story. There are parts of his story I will never know. Parts he’ll never be able to communicate to me. His story started in a hospital. He was born to parents who were married and waiting for their first child. He was wanted, probably planned. But the contractures on AMC kiddos are the worst at birth. I remember the first time I saw my daughter’s twist of limbs that would not move and I was pretty scared. But there was a social worker, several doctors and nurses, a geneticist and lovely prescription medication at the ready. I vaguely remember the social worker listing all the resources we would have available. I was grieving heavily at the time so don’t remember much, but we were left with many brochures for when we were ready. I doubt any of that happened for Roland’s parents. They named their son Yegor. They gave him their last name. Then they signed him over to the government and left him at the hospital. He was moved into the orphanage to be fed and warehoused.

He was never visited.

Until two weeks before we showed up. That’s where his adoption story begins.

A family came into the country. They were looking at babies to maybe adopt one. They didn’t want special needs, but were willing to look at children with something “fixable.” They visited Roland because he was still pretty little, but because of his special needs they just couldn’t commit to him. They decided to put off committing to him for two weeks. Their appointment at the Department of Adoptions was set for a Monday. We showed up for our Department of Adoptions appointment the same day, a mere couple of hours BEFORE they did. We committed right away. By the time they showed up the little guy was taken.

This ordeal gave our facilitation team grey hairs. They knew we were coming and that we knew about arthrogryposis and we were a better match for Yegor, but they could say nothing. If the other family had committed to him before we showed up then we would have had to turn around and go home! I knew about the other family as we waited for our appointment that Monday and stressed and worried about it until we were safely done with the process that day.

We met our little guy for the first time that Wednesday at 9:37am. For the video click here.

When they brought him out it took my brain a full ten seconds to recognize him. His strawberry mark was gone and there was a thin scar in its place. His head had a huge flat spot from being left in a crib which changed his features slightly. His hair had grown out, his eyes had settled on brown and he had grown. I actually saw his legs before I realized I was starring at my baby. Roland (or Yegor as that was still his name) was shy. He was scared. His little heart was racing. His little lip was sucked in. He couldn’t make eye contact. He’d already been handed to strangers a couple of weeks ago who never came back. He didn’t know what to think.

I started to sing the Disney song, “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…” which was fitting since I had been dreaming about him like crazy. Slowly slowly he came out of his shell. He started to ask for things. He pointed at a toy and said, “Do.” (We would later call this the “language of do.”) So I took the toy off the window ledge and we started to play with it. Click here for the video of Roland learning to relax around us and start to play.

By the end our little guy’s personality was coming out. This video here is more like he is today.

One nanny asked if we clearly saw his arms and legs. Then she carefully asked us if we still wanted to adopt him. Still? We were so busy in our own little world we had forgotten that we had papers to sign. Still? Oh right because his legs and feet are bent? Or his arms are straight as rods? Why in the world would that keep us from wanting him?!! We replied, ” Still? Yes! Absolutely!” And then we listened to make sure the interpreter put enough  emphasis  into the words.

We got the chance to speak to the doctor on staff about Roland too. She knew that Yegor was severe, but after meeting Laelia she got some hope. She asked us all sorts of questions like how many surgeries we think Roland would need and if he would walk. I answered that he would absolutely walk one day. She looked at Laelia and agreed with me. Then she asked us very hesitantly if we wanted to adopt him. (Remember the last family to visit him were just “looking” and not serious about him.) When I enthusiastically said, “Da! Da! ABSOLUTELY!” she got all emotional and grabbed my hand to warmly rub it and shake it. She started saying, “Good good. You are good. You are very good. Thank you. Thank you.”

Do I want my gorgeous, talented child? Still? Yes and please. Am I in silly backwards world?

As far as arthrogryposis goes, Roland has joint contractures in all four limbs, but he also has strong muscles. (I’ve been in email contact with Dr. Judith Hall about this and we’re trying to figure out if he has amyoplasia or not.)  His fingers and wrists are affected, but barely. His elbows and knees are the most severe. His feet are clubbed (bilateral). He has AMC in his jaw and it’s hard to open his mouth wide or keep 100% of any liquid in his mouth, but he’s getting better at it.

As far as other needs, he’s an orphan who has spent his whole life in an institution. So yeah. He was given a mental age of 9 months old. (He is 22 months old.) He is not attached to a caregiver. He gets scared of things outside the four walls he grew up in. But he’s a tough little guy and nothing keeps him down for long. Within two weeks of visiting him he was up to a 12 month old level and could maintain eye contact. Booyah.

We spent every day with him for about an hour in the mornings. We drove two hours a day in crazy Ukrainian traffic. I got car sick every. single. day. Laelia usually fell asleep so that helped. :)

Going crazy!!!

Konk.

Nausea remedy.

Everyday we saw more and more of our handsome little man come out. And he started to recognize us and put out his arms for me when he saw me. We loved on him a ton for the hour to an hour and a half we saw him in the mornings. Cue the montage!

Is that enough cuteness to crash your computers? Good. It wasn’t all playing with Roland though. We also had to notarize stuff and drive to appointments. But our Reece’s Rainbow team held our hands the whole time. They really are an amazing team of people who are good at this!

At one point in our trip I started to get upset at myself for knowing about this little boy for a year before we committed to him. I raised funds for him and shared his picture on Facebook and wrote blog posts (on this blog), but was unwilling to leave our life of comfort and follow God’s heart for the orphan. How stupid and short-sighted was I?! I cried over it. I cried over my son’s life. Then we picked up the pieces as a family and moved forward to right those wrongs.

We got word that we had a court date, but these things aren’t set in stone so we didn’t count on it until a final phone call from our facilitator. The next morning we got to see Roland for 30 minutes before we had to drive to court. It would be the last time we would see him until after the appeal time ran out. I promised him I’d be back for him. I promised him I’d love him and get him out of there. I promised I’d fight for him. Then they took him (always a sad end to every visit) and I left to go change into something proper for court.

Nothing screams “courthouse” like bubblegum pink.

We passed court!

They always ask why you want a “disabled child.” They don’t get it. We were ready. The judge and jury deliberated for only a couple minutes before they called us back in and rattled off that we were Roland’s parents. His name would be changed to Roland Quest Wesley and his birth certificate changed to reflect us as parents. We just stood there trying to listen to the interpreter and absorb what had happened and what would happen next. We walked out of the room and Laelia asked what happened. (She had been sitting semi quietly in the corner playing with the orphanage director’s purse.) I told her we had passed court. She started cheering, “Yay we get baby brother!!!!” while hugging us. :)

Then we packed all our things quickly since our ride was coming to pick us up and take us to the airport at 3:00 a.m.

Laelia did really well for the next 28 hours it took us to get home with three lay overs.

Then we settled in at home, empty-handed and waiting. It would be ten days before my friend Chelsea and I would head back for two weeks to finish this process.

To be continued…

The history of Laelia’s knees

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

The history of Laelia’s knees.

Once upon a time Laelia had bent knees. (Bent = flexion.)

We tried serial casting, daily stretches and finally KAFOs (knee ankle foot orthotics)  to try and straighten them out.

When we got down to 45 degrees flexion she was able to stand with KAFOs!

Even as we stretched her nightly and the KAFOs pushed her legs straight, those  stubborn  knees were still stuck in 40 degree flexion.

Then Dr. van Bosse did Laelia’s knee surgery to make her knees straighter. (Straight = extension.)

The surgical releases allowed her to gain about 15 degrees of extension overnight!

Still I was a little disappointed that her stubborn knees were still a bit bent.

But with the eight plates inserted we watched her very slowly gain a few degrees of extension every month. This picture is just two months after surgery!

Then last night at dinner I watched Laelia push her knee down to 0 degrees.

That’s perfectly straight.

PERFECTLY STRAIGHT!!!

Now I don’t have a  goniometer, but that looks like 0 degrees to me!

When she let go it was still within 5 degrees of perfectly straight!

They still bend a little when standing, but we are very happy that in three months we’ve gained almost ten additional degrees of  extension  with the eight plates! That’s amazing!!!

Praise God!

Thank you Doctor van Bosse!!!

I love it!

(Click on this picture to make it bigger and more readable. You don’t want to miss this!)

 

 

Mama’s story

Monday, May 14th, 2012

I just have to share something totally amazing that happened today. It wasn’t Laelia gaining a new ability, even though that’s been happening a lot lately. But I’m talking about something personally cool. For me the Mama. (My name is Laelia’s Mom… I mean Alexis. Hi.) Okay this amazing thing  needs a bit of back story. Hang with me, it will be worth it! (Or at least it was really cool for me.)

Eleven years ago I traveled to Egypt and Jordan. I saw the pyramids and Petra and the Dead Sea. It was amazing. But maybe I’m going too far back. Let me start over.

This last week my dad and Christina came down to help us fix up the house. You saw the pictures of Laelia and Roland’s new room in the last post? Well my dad built that bed and the night stand and made a 36 inch crib fit in a 34 inch space by taking it apart and putting it back together again. And he fixed our shower (that my darling husband cracked) and built anything from Ikea that confused me and put up a giant mirror in the dinning room. Oh and they bought us a grill. Here’s a picture of Laelia helping Grandpa set it up. She’s reading the directions upside-down because she’s that good.

So where am I going with this? Well one project I got done while Christina did Laelia’s walking therapy and dad fought with my shower is that I got to set up a bookcase (*cough* okay dad set it up) and decorate it.

Decorating one bookshelf sounds simple enough, but I went through boxes and boxes of pictures and other goodies to fill it up just right. It took me all day and I left a big mess that my scavenger cats pawed through all night.

Ta da!

The top shelf is my husband and me… and our embarrassing prom pictures. WE WERE BABIES! The second shelf is our family picture (soon to include Roland). The bottom shelf is all our photo albums. One up from that is a shelf of Laelia stuff–a photo album, splints, hospital  bracelets, baby footprint (once they were corrected enough), baby handprint (once we could spread her fingers), orthopedic shoes, etc.

Then there’s that middle shelf. I decided to put some bits and pieces of my world travels there. A long time ago this Mama had some wild times.

Eleven years ago I went to Jordan. Even though I lived there for a few weeks, the only real souvenir I have from Jordan (besides pictures) is that awesome stamp collection on the right.

This is something I got ELEVEN years ago. That was well before I was married and well before I had a child with arthrogryposis and another on the way with arthrogryposis.

I got this souvenir during a young and interesting time in my life.

Let me back up one more time. :)  Just the other day I was thinking about how things in my life seemed directed towards me having these awesome kids with arthrogryposis. I mean, I’d NEVER heard of arthrogryposis before my daughter was born. Even after I’d heard of it I couldn’t pronounce it for weeks. But lots of things prepared me for my children. Like the fact that I worked in respite care for a child with DS and then later in life used respite for my daughter. Or the fact that I was a special needs aide in a public school and now my daughter has one of those. There are just a ton of things in my life that have led me, silly ignorant me, to be a well-equipped mother for my daughter and son. It’s amazing. It’s as if my life has been directed all this time without my knowing it.

You see I truly believe in the eternality and omniscience  of God. He knew I’d have a daughter with arthrogryposis. He knew that was coming. He knows the end of things before the beginning takes place.

“Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” –God (Isaiah 46:10 in the New Living Translation)

“It is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time. He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds. Yet, mortals still can’t grasp what God is doing from the beginning to the end.” –King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 3:11 in God’s Word Translation)

Now let’s go back to my Jordanian stamp collection. Check out that stamp in the upper right hand corner.

Notice anything? Club hands maybe? Club feet?

That my friends, is a boy with arthrogryposis.

My eyes lingered there because that’s how my daughter stands.

Then I recognized it from the back cover of my  arthrogryposis textbook  and gasped.

I was in the middle of an  important  conversation with my husband, mid sentence, and I gasped.

The Italian painter, Jusepe de Ribera, painted this in 1642. Jordan put it on a stamp. I bought it.

I bought it the year my mother was killed. The same year I ran away to the Middle East to try and distract myself from the pain. I ended up with people (American people) who were emotionally, verbally and physically abusive. Oh and I got back from the Middle East right in time to watch the World Trade Center go down. 2001 was a hard year. Even then in the darkest year of my life, God saw me. He saw me and he knew life wasn’t over like I thought it was. New life was coming. And she would look just like the picture in the stamp I  flippantly  bought.

Then just when I needed to see it, to prove that arthrogryposis existed outside my small world, there it was.

Cool, right?!