The truth as I know it:

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life. But those who make their journey home across time & miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them, are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us by God's very own hands. ~~~ Kristi Larson

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ever felt pecked to death by your blessings?

Well, I have.

And today when I was explaining to Connor for the 20,000th time that I do not speak "Whinese" and I would either require him to find a translator or speak plain English to his mama, I wondered if God would just like to put His hand on his hip and stare at me. Do you ever stop mid-sentence with your kids and think, "Wow, I bet God is trying to drive home a point here!" I did tonight... I was fussing and stewing because it seems like the only time anyone says my name or even wants to interact with me at all around here is when I can do something for them. They don't really have much interest in just spending time with me on my terms. They don't want to just let me love on them and bless them with all the wonderful things I could tell them about how I feel for them and love them beyond anything they can comprehend. They don't usually just take my advice on something, they want to know why and they always think they know better than me or that just this once my life experience is irrelevant. And it occurred to me that as frustrated and flustered as I am by all this, and as exhausted and spent as I am at the end of the day by all the needs that my little blessings have of me, it's really nothing different from the way I interact with God. I approach the throne of the King of the Universe with petty problems. I rarely go sit with Him just so He can impart some wisdom (or patience, or comfort), but rather, when I do approach the throne, it's generally to ask the King for something that I can't get on my own. It's always on my terms. And I'm trying, really trying, to learn what He wants me to know and let Him make me His and not the world's. I am so ashamed that I can't be better at this. I am so humbled by the fact that I am no better with my Father than my kids are with me... it's all about what He can do for me and very little about what I can do for Him.

In fact, chores are a great example of this broken way I deal with the Lord. When my kids are asked to do one of the few chores they are responsible for, they ALWAYS complain. They don't want to help out at all. And no matter how often they are asked to do it, they still complain every single time. They never get used to the fact that there are a few things around here that aren't about me being in their service. And boy, does that hit home! What? God wants me to give up something, serve someone, do without, postpone, sacrifice, give, love someone unlovable, stop talking, stop blogging, FORGIVE??? And it certainly puts my relationship with Him in a different light. Because no matter how many times I think to myself, "Could someone, for once, just find something on their own without saying 'Mama' first?", I still look at them 1,000 times a day and my heart wants to explode with loving them. I still listen to their little voices and want to put it in a bottle so that I can open it one day years from now when I am not blessed to be serving them every day in the easy ways. I still watch them sleeping at the end of the day and wonder where the time went and why I couldn't have told them one more time how much I love them. Why didn't I make time for one more hug? Why did I fuss or get frustrated over spills, tears, whines, messes, and little sibling rivalries? And if I, selfish and bruised as I am, can want to give more and love more in spite of all their neediness, then how much more must my Father want to wrap me in His mighty arms at the end of a long day and just hold me and love me a little more? And how must He feel when He looks down on this:

And there it is... When you look at your child sleeping, God has thrown back the curtains of heaven and given you a little glimpse inside!

The big boys had a sleepover tonight at the Science Museum with the Boy Scouts. Brian had a prior committment (AC/DC concert with his friends) so he couldn't go with them, even though he is the den leader for BOTH their dens! So, what other 27 year old uncle and 24 year old aunt would take their nephews on a sleepover with about 100 boys 1st through 4th grades? And not only take them, but do it joyfully and LOOK FORWARD to it (at least that's what they told me?) And not even I, as the mom, could have gone with any level of energy and excitement for spending the night with said number of boys and then getting the reward of a concrete floor for a bed (I did send them my blow up mattress.) But my brother and his precious wife can! And they do, and once again I am reminded of how much God knew that it would take a village to raise me and He generously provided me with the best little brother on the planet. Really, I don't know anyone else who has a brother and sister-in-law who are as thoughtful and great as mine!

So when they pulled out of the driveway, Connor ran inside sobbing because he wanted to play with Liam. How precious is that? They had played, literally, all day long already (from about 9 this morning until the boys left at 5 they were not apart for one minute.) I offered to play whatever he wanted to play, but Mama is no consolation prize when your big brother leaves without you. It broke my heart, really. So I did what any other self respecting mama would do... I bribed him! :) We went to eat at CiCi's pizza (his favorite, not mine) and we went to Target (so I could get Breaking Dawn) and I bought him a Super Mari0 toothbrush that plays music (again, like his big brothers.) Poor guy, we had a date with Prince Caspian on the pull out sofa (where he loves to sleep), but he just couldn't make it... and the sweet photo above is how I found him when I came back down from putting Meg to bed. Sleep tight my little warrior... tomorrow you'll have more villians to fight and castles to defend!

"When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit..." Genesis 49:15

Oh yeah, please take a moment to head over to Katie's Journey (button on the top right sidebar.) If you are an adoptive parent (or even if you're not) the story will just rip you to shreds, but what a might work He is accomplishing! To say more would be an injustice, just read it for yourself.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Hidden Agenda...

Okay, really, it's actually Friday and I am actually participating in Favorite Foto Friday on a Friday and before 9 AM no less, but it's not really a photo... it's a video (I hope.) And I am trying to bury a final confession here... I didn't really wash the blueberries before I gave them back to the kids.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Truth Revealed (every dirty bit of it)

My neighbor sent me an e-mail last night. She had accidentally found my blog from a Google search she did on our school district and I guess at some point I made mention of our school district in relation to the weather (another story.) But anyway, she called me this morning to say this, "Ondrea, I had no idea you were so talented. I told my husband to go and read your blog. I can't believe you can do all that you do with four kids. Where do you find the time? And I didn't know you were so spiritual. I had no idea! When I come back in another life, I want to be in your family. Your family looks like so much fun." Now, these are not her EXACT words, but they are something very similar to what she said. So, to that, I must respond. Because if my neighbor, who sees this craziness lived out first hand, thinks I have it all together, then what kind of impression have I left with all of you, who don't see me at school with my hair in a three day pony-tail and mismatched clothing?

First, let me say that the fact that Sharon had no idea I was "so spiritual" just goes to show what a miserable failure I am at the thing that matters the very most in this world, my walk with my Savior! I'm a pit-dweller, of grand proportion, which I have said numberous times. However, I'm obviously not living it out loud that my Lord rescued me from that pit and put me on solid ground. It's ground that still shakes from time to time of my own doing, but He's there holding it together for me. I do not have it all together, in fact, I can't find half of what I thought I had together and but for God I'd be curled up in the fetal position somewhere right now, probably not knowing my own name, much less getting four kids fed and loving my husband. Now, if Sharon does happen to read this post, she is the kind of sweet person who will feel bad that I felt bad about the comment that she obviously meant as a compliment to me. Sharon, stop it! You are an amazing friend and I took it every bit in the spirit in which you said it, but I also know that I left you with the wrong impression because I'm a big fat failure at serving my Redeemer with anything close to what would be appropriate and I want it to be known far and wide that I recognize that!

Second, she asked how I have time to write so much. Well, here's the ugly truth of that little secret:


Enough said about the "laundry topic".

And as for my family being so much fun... well, I'll spare you my kids opinion on that, but I wonder how Liam would have replied to that question yesterday as I was shoving him out the door and yelling, "Run, you're going to miss the bus!"

I want you all to know that I often go days without washing my hair (thus, I keep it long so I can wear a pony-tail!) My laundry looks like this more often than not. My floors are never so clean you could eat off of them, in fact, sometimes I worry about the dog eating off them. We do not have a five second rule at our home, it's "If you get it before the dog does, you can have it." I did pick up spilled blueberries yesterday and put them back in the container before I realized I had scooped as much dog hair (love the Golden Retrievers) as I had blueberries so I was forced to actually wash them before letting my kids eat them. Though to be truthful, I'm sure they've eaten worse. If you come to my house it will most likely be dirty. And if it's not, that's because it's all shoved in the mud room. Don't ever look in there if you want to be invited back. My friends ALL KNOW that adults are NOT ALLOWED upstairs at my house. Seriously! And I warn folks, if you go up, you're on your own, I'm not sending a search party if you don't come back. I procrastinate everything until the very last minute, hoping my hubby might do it for me (like unload the dishwasher, call the insurace company, etc.) and I forget almost every birthday on my calendar. Because I also frequently forget to LOOK at my calendar! I have the attention span of a gnat and it's something I don't know how to fix because every effort at fixing it is quickly diverted into "Oh look, there goes a chicken..." Oh yeah, distraction!

Someone left this verse for me in my comments yesterday and I love it, plus it seems appropriate enough:

2 Samuel 22:29-30
"You are my lamp, O Lord! O my God, you brighten the darkness about me. For with your aid I run against an armed band, and by the help of my God I leap over a wall."

Monday, January 26, 2009

Not Me Monday

Is it Monday again already? Head over to MckMama's blog for some rockin' good confessions by moms just like you, who most certainly did NOT do any of the things that are being confessed from the trenches of motherhood.

I have not started and been diligent with my Project 365. And I have not implemented some of the photography lessons from MckMama and LOVED the results. I'll post them here later!

I was NOT up virtually all night with a sort of sick kiddo. That did not happen. Nope, I was not up from 3:30 AM and I did not look at the clock at 7:57 and wonder how in the heck I was going to make it through the day. This most certainly does NOT mean I will be drinking more coffee than I should, which will not have me jittering with a false level of alertness all day long. I know this will make me crash and need more coffee by 3, which will keep me up late again tonight, so why on earth would I do THAT?

I was not in such a foul mood when I was trying to get my two oldest kids out the door that I sent them out the door and immediately regretted how grumpy and evil I was. I did NOT yell at them. I did not get brush Liam's teeth too roughly because he was being so pokey and we were running late. I did not flag down the bus and have him RUN to catch it so I wouldn't have to get the other kids dressed to drive him to school. I am not now planning to have lunch with him (by surprise) to make up for the Mommy Dearest routine this morning.

I am not one of those people who feels guilt when I fail miserably at being the mother I want to be. Because, see, that would require me to first fail, which of course, I do not do. I always get it right and am always something akin to June Cleaver. NOT!

I do not wear the same jeans for days on end without washing them, but fuss at my kids for doing the same. That would be a double standard and of course, I always strive to teach by example.

You will not catch me blogging/e-mailing/reading while my kids are awake because they always get 100% of my undivided attention.

I am absolutely not struggling to get through the next hour, much less the day, on about five hours of sleep (not much of which occurred after 3:30 AM, and I am not feeling overwhelmed by the thought that it will be another nine hours before my husband comes home to offer any level of relief. I am not just trying to put on a happy face for Meg and Connor, even though all I really want to do is go crawl into my bed.

I certainly do not feel like a total whiner for complaining about this. I do not think I should be ashamed of myself because I can't pull this off with two kids on five hours of sleep when Katie is pulling it off with, what is it now, 18, on almost no sleep at all. I do not have it unbelievably easy compared to all the folks who are in the throes of transition, like my friend, Barb. I most certainly don't remember waking up and dreading the day, so I certainly am not now feeling guilty for being such a mamby pampy whining whimp over one foul night. Nope, not me, because I am so much tougher than that. I am such a better mommy and I am just not a part of the equation here!

I am sure there are several other things I did not mean to confess today, but in the fog of my not tired brain, I certainly can't think of any more!

**** Update **********

I also DID NOT end up bringing said offended kid home from school after said surprise lunch... I did not bring him home because there are not 50 (that's 5-0 folks) kids out with a virus from school today and the teacher did not tell me that he has felt bad all morning, further adding to the guilt I am in anguish over... because, you see, that this means that I was mean to my kid when he was SICK. That would certainly never happen... come on, I'm not THAT bad!

They are not predicting (maybe) snow and ice for the area in the next two days. Please God, no, we have only had one full week of school since Christmas break... are you TRYING to break me here?

I did NOT laugh at Lauren's first AND second comment on my blog about the Bible verse... I'm so glad I am not the only one out there who can't keep it all together. And I so did not need the laugh anyway. And then I also did not go look up Meredith's verse and thank God for blogs and people who I don't know who lift my spirits and keep my feet on the path. I love this verse, thanks Meredith, and I will be putting that one on the fridge poste haste!

Judges 16:16
"With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death."

Sunday, January 25, 2009


You have just got to go check out Katie's blog (button on top right side bar.) You won't even recognize this precious CHILD of God. Her first posts back in Uganda have me ashamed of my lack of faith. In the midst of what seems to me to be Satan pressing in on us from every side, in the midst of sickness of precious innocent children, wide-spread advancement of the pro-death agenda, and uncertainty from every direction, Katie is a sparkling beacon reminding us that God is HERE... NOW! He IS among us. And sometimes we need to be just stripped completely bare to get that. When we have too many options, too many ways to help ourselves, we can't truly rely on Him. But in a place like Uganda, people are just dancing and basking in His love... not because they have so much, but because they have so little, they are able to realize how blessed they are. Please journey with me through Katie!

And also, you'll find one of the sick little children there in my side-bar too. Hope continues to need your prayers as Satan one would certainly like nothing more than to strip her and her precious family of life itself... he would love to rob God of his glory in her existence. I'm holding her up. I hope you are too. Please feel free to take the button and encourage others on her behalf!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A new T-shirt, what the heck? Moi?

There are so many blog posts in my head... so little time! But first things first, I want to ask if ANY of you sent me a T-shirt anonymously. I know it's a stretch, since my latest obsession I haven't even confessed on the blog yet, but I have exhausted all immediate possibilities, so I need to reach out to all of you. Okay, I guess in order to truly get the dirt on who sent me this shirt, I will have to go ahead and let the dirty little cat out of the ugly little bag he's been hiding in.

I am reading the Twilight series. (stunned silence from the crowd)

Yes, yes, I know, it's "beneath me", I said the SAME thing! (So glad you agree!) But, as it turns out, I'm not actually as smart or as "above average" reader as I actually thought I was. True enough, I love a good Emerson or Dostoevsky as much as the next guy... but it turns out I also like the immortal and the damned. So, my confession is this... I'm not just READING the series, I'm hooked (like the crazy lady who carries her book everywhere kind of hooked) on them. Since January 3 I have read two of the four books. I'm enthralled by the leading man, never mind that he's an ice-cold vampire, about which I could not care less, who is "hard as granite." I am not an Anne Rice fan, I have never been particularly interested in high school level reading, even when I was in high school. And for this reason, I protested and pro-longed when my best friend begged me to read it (she's already finished all four.) Never one to resist peer pressure, when all the mom's starting gushing over it, I couldn't be left out, but I was determined that I was going to read the first one so that I could poo-poo all the trash reading moms who aren't "real readers." Ahem, guess who is a trash reading gutter dweller. Yep... I retract all the statements I made about the lack of seriousness of your reading choices, Amie. Next thing you know I'll be seen with a Danielle Steele book (not that there's anything wrong with Danielle Steele lest you all bombard me with pleas to read HER books and I have to be seen at the pool with a Romance novel! :) Ahem... ahem... I digress.

This brings me to the question of the day... who the HECK sent me a Twilight T-shirt from Cafe Press? I have hidden the fact that I was even reading it, sticking to dark alley's and the cover of my own bedroom after midnight, I haven't told anyone that I am reading these books, let alone that I LOVE these books. So... who among you knew and sent me this T-shirt just to taunt me? I've asked all the usual suspects.... now someone needs to make a confession of their own!

I wish I could leave you with some enlightening quote from the book... but I don't think there actually are any... just good old fashioned teenage girl obsession and one VERY hot (although he's ice cold) leading man! :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Not Me Monday

This is so much fun, if you haven't done a Not Me Monday on your blog, then I highly encourage it. Confessing all the things you DID NOT do during the week is very freeing! So read mine and then head on over to MckMama's blog to take a gander at all the other participants and see what they have not been up to:

Since we were not out of school on Friday for cold weather (around 20 degrees, see Thursday's post), I did not have extra time on my hands with a house full of kiddos. I did not attempt to take them to see Hotel for Dogs and it was NOT sold out after I bundled five kids and drove them to the theatre with my contraband snacks tucked nicely in my diaper bag. I would, of course, never sneak snacks and drinks in, I think that's against the rules.

While at said movie, I did not reenact Linda Blair, causing a total scene right in front of all the perky parents who were happy to have an extra day with their kids. My head did not spin around twice and I did not scrawl "Help Me" on my stomach trying to escape the demon that possessed me. I did not feel guilty yelling at my kids for being selfish and whiney, all the while thinking of all the parents who are longing to hold their children. I did not think of Katie's kiddos while wondering why my kids are so selfish that they don't want to drink an illegal juice box in the movies, they expect Coke!

I did not pray all week for Hope Hollis and Harper and all the other little babies that are fighting for their lives this week. I did not pray for their parents and just ask God to hold them. And I am not praying for Katie as she heads back to Uganda today. And also praying for her parents because I know it's hard to let her go.

I am not already watching the clock because my kids are bored AGAIN and it's only 9:30 AM. I am not thinking to myself... "I have to do this all over again tomorrow." Maybe I'll make them put on their ski gear and go outside. Oh yeah, my kids did not go skiing for the first time this weekend and LOVE it. I will not be posting that video here later this week.

And finally, I did not get nominated for the Lemonade award last week by my pal Barb. And I have not put off posting it because Barb and I have alot of the same blog friends and therefore, I have to go back and double check the other blogs to see who has already recieved it because I had my list and half of them were already recipients... :) I guess in the Oscars you can win more than once, maybe I'll just renominate.

Okay, have fun reading all the other Not Me folks.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Simply Delicious Sunday????

Okay, I had an idea, let me know if you are interested. I am constantly trying to come up with new and interesting things to fix for dinner and I am especially on the hunt for EASY things to cook. I use my crock-pot alot, but my kids aren't huge soup eaters (well, actually two are and two aren't, but that's not the point.) So, I have figured about every possible way to prepare meat in the crock pot that you can imagine. But I had an idea that we could all tap into each other. Every Sunday, assuming there is enough interest, I will post a recipe for something easy and family friendly that I am making for the week. You put your recipe in the comment section. Then, anyone who logs on will have at least two or three (depending on participation) ideas for something different to make for dinner.

So, here goes. This week, I made a VERY yummy soup that I got from the "Family Fun" magazine. It's called Lasagna Soup and it's amazing! And easy!

1 1/2 pounds of Italian sausage
2 onions minced
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 can (28 oz.) diced Italian tomatoes
6 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
8 ounces fusilli pasta
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella

You brown the sausage for 5-7 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. Then toss in the onion and the garlic and continue browning them all together until the onions are tender. Next, I mixed all the ingredients EXCEPT the pasta and the cheeses into the crock pot and set it to cook for 8 hours on low/medium. Right before I was ready to serve dinner, I boiled my pasta until al dente and then stirred it into the crock pot with the other ingredients. Now, this is the key to the yummy-ness of this soup... you put a dollup of ricotta, and the Parm. and Mozzarella cheese to taste in the bottom of your soup bowl, ladle the hot soup on top of the cheese mixture and stir it until the cheeses are melted into the soup. YUMMY!!!

Seriously folks, this soup tastes ALOT like homemade lasagna without all the dirty pots and multi-prep issues. I only used 1 skillet and one crock, easy peasy and simple clean-up. In fact, I doubled the bang because I made my sausage in the morning in the same skillet I had cooked the breakfast sausage in, so the sausage served for both breakfast AND dinner.

Now it's your turn... can you help a sistah (and bored family) out? :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hey MckMama, we call it snow!

When I read this post from MckMama, I had a cold chill run down my spine. You see, I'm one of those girls with "y'all" in her vocabulary who considers cold anything under 40 degrees. So, this morning when we woke up to this, I just couldn't resist the urge to show her what she's missing down here! :) And I should also mention that it crossed my mind that I should have checked the school web-site before I got my kids dressed because there was a chance that we might not be going to school this morning!

And if you think this really isn't snow, then just look at how excited Liam got when he saw that it had "snowed" overnight! :)

I know all you Northern girls are laughing your heads off right now! But seriously, we get real excited down here if we see the first flake. We call it the Kroger alert because sometimes even before the first flake falls (when the weather man PREDICTS snow) everyone will rush to the grocery to buy bread and milk. Seriously, you CANNOT find Milk in the store if you go about five hours after a big snow is predicted. And by big I mean like 2 inches or more.

Okay, now we won't tell MckMama who posted a photo of her car thermometer at -12 degrees (and we won't tell Carol, or Amy, or Kar either for that matter!) that Metro Nashville has CLOSED SCHOOL for tomorrow because our low tonight is 3 degrees with a wind chill in the negatives. I am still not sure why they closed the schools or what they think will happen to children if they sit in a warmed classroom when it's single digits outside, but they are closed nonetheless. So far our school district is open, but I'm not holding my breath here. I think it's a distinct possibility that we will also close, but if they do, I'm walking my kids straight down to the superintendent's house (he lives about four doors down) tomorrow morning at 7AM. I'm ringing the doorbell and shoving them inside and telling him I'll be back to get them about 3:30! :) Seriously though, do you think they would care if I told them that my kiddos were weaned on icicles the size of your leg and snow deeper than your boots are tall? Do you think that this photo would make any difference to them? Yeah, probably not... but seriously, in St. Petersburg the largest winter hazard is not freezing to death... it's death by falling icicles! Seriously!

Oh well, I just had to let all my gal pals north of the Mason Dixon know what we consider snow!

**** UPDATE*******

9:55 PM - We get this message from the school district: Good Evening Parents,The following is a message from the Franklin Special School District:Due to the extreme cold temperature and wind chill factors expected in the morning, the FSSD schools will be closed tomorrow. MAC will be open at the holiday site on Cannon Street from 7:00 until 5:00.Thank you and have a safe night.

Now I ask you, can someone PLEASE make sense of that for me? Seriously? We are closing our school because it's COLD? Okay... so now my kids have a FIVE DAY WEEKEND. If it really would snow, at least we'd have something to do! Got any ideas of how to keep 4 kids from destroying your house when it's too cold to play outside and there is no school? ... FIVE DAYS!!!! Is it "ungreen" to strap them all in the car and drive around watching movies while I drink Starbucks? Anyone up for a road trip tomorrow? My car will hold my clan +3! :) Heather?

Genesis 8:22
"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What's good for the blog is good for the children!

Well, I guess I've gone to the extreme with "New Year/New Look". I know my friends will be shocked ot hear that I have taken something to the extreme... never one to do something thoroughly when I can do something totally over the top! :) Anyway, I am taking photos of my house before and after, but they aren't ready for posting because, well, it's not "after" yet... let's just say that my house is going through something along the lines of "extreme makeover, poor persons edition." But look at the CUTE haircut our little princess got this week. I have RESISTED cutting her hair because by golly, I'm going to have dog ears tied with ribbons on some child at some point in my life, so this is my one shot. However, I had to come to grips with the fact that her hair was very "fuzzy" and just not making very cute dog ears anyway... "Maybe if I cut it, it will thicken up and be silky," I thought to myself. And darn if it's not so cute that I'm tempted to keep it this way. What do you think?

I know you're probably thinking that you can't tell that much difference, but check out the back of her head photo below... really, it's almost two inches shorter!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Won't you pray with me on this?

I have asked for many prayers from you before, but never for anything more worthy than this. My dear, sweet friend and sister, Melanie, has asked me to journey in prayer with her for a healing for her daughter, Hope. I am going to copy Hope's story here, in Melanie's words, not my own, but before I give way to Melanie's sweet plea for her daughter, I want you to understand the fervency and the urgency with which I ask you this favor.

Melanie and I have been friends since she and her husband, Chappy, adopted their daughter from Russia about 8 years ago. We shared the same precious driver, Vitaly, and shared an immediate love for this wonderful man. We cooperated to bring Vitaly to America a few summers ago, which he had told us was his life's dream. At the time that Vitaly was visiting us, Melanie was pregnant with Hope and had just found out that Hope was facing a heart condition that would most likely take her life before she could be born. But Melanie and Chappy soldiered on, made Vitaly's visit beautiful for him, and faced their own personal demon with strength and grace.

Melanie and Chappy were taken on a life changing (literally) journey of prayer for a miracle for their daughter. As you will hear from Melanie herself, she is a different person today because of the faithfulness of our Father and His healing hand. I saw the transformation in Melanie and couldn't help but be transformed some myself.

Many would say that Melanie and Chappy did not actually receive healing for Hope, because she was not born "perfect" by worldly standards. But I believe she was born perfectly in accordance with God's plan for her life and her families life and I believe Hope did receive a healing in the womb. There were many doctors who told Melanie that her daughter would never live outside the womb and might not even make it to birth. But she did. And anyone who knows Hope can tell you that she is exactly what God intended her to be. She loves unconditionally, she does not know judgment or social status, she loves all creatures equally and she will always approach life much like she does right now, with the innocence of childhood. And isn't that what God asked of all of us, to come to Him as little children? We could all learn alot from the way Hope approaches life and others.

But Hope isn't the only special thing about this family. You see, Melanie and Chappy have two children (a son and daughter) and could have been content with what appeared to most to be the "perfect" family. (You know, 2.2 kids, three car garage, mini-van, etc. etc.) But they weren't content. They knew God was asking more of them and they put their faith into action by adopting their third daughter from Russia. Then Hope was born. After things seemed to settle down somewhat (as much as it can with four kids) they decided to adopt again. In fact, Melanie and I started out on the process together and they applied with CSS when we did to adopt Meg. Anyway, that was not what God was calling them to do. Their family decided to adopt a second child with Down Syndrome. Charlie is now 5 months old and they are thriving as a family of 5 with two "special" children. On top of it all, Melanie home schools her children and they have a family faith life that is like no other I have ever witnessed. All of the children are delightful and love life, love the Lord, and love one another. I realize that there is just no way I can possibly explain to you how wonderful this family is, but I think you can imagine for yourself when you hear and think through all the attacks Satan has brought against them. That they are fighting this battle again, when Satan would rob God of His glory in healing Hope, rob her family of their joy, and rob the world of a child who is such a perfect example of what God asks from each of us... when you think of how badly Satan would desire to strip all of those things, you can imagine the amount of faith this family has. Won't you journey in prayer with me on this one? Won't you please add her to every prayer list you are part of. Won't you please hit your knees at some time today (how about now) and ask God to please exercise his dominion and authority over death, Satan, and the world to heal Hope, yet again. Hope needs you every day!

Here is the story as Melanie wrote it to me:

Like most proud moms, I could write pages about my little Hope. She has big, green, almond shaped eyes, a mischievous giggle, and she spins around to music every time she gets a chance no matter where she is. Hope is eager to experience the world and all of it's inhabitants....both people and animals. She loves everyone she sees and never meets a stranger. In fact, many old ladies in wheelchairs have become fast friends with her in only minutes. This is ironic, because little Hope (at 3 years of age) cannot speak a single word. You see, Hope is one of the special ones: she has Down Syndrome.

Hope's story began just over 3 years ago when she was comfortably resting in my tummy at 16 weeks of age. At a routine ultrasound, I was told she had a heart defect. Only 4 weeks later, at a follow-up ultrasound, my world began to spin crazily out of control as I heard the doctor say these words: "Not only does your baby girl have a heart defect, she also has brain lesions, a stomach defect, and Down Syndrome. Your baby will probably not make it to birth".

After dealing with tremendous shock and asking God loads of questions through unending tears, I came to terms with what was ahead for me. It was at a church service. The hymn was: "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.....all other ground is sinking sand". That was a "kairos" moment for me: a moment that was life changing. In that moment, I knew that the Lord was asking me to rely completely on Him, and I made a decision that I would do it.

For the next months, up until Hope's birth, my husband, children and I prayed like we had never prayed before. We committed scripture to memory and prayed God's very own Words back to Him, reminding Him of His precious promises that are forever true. We went into labor on September 13th, 2005 expecting and believing for a miracle.

During the labor process, Hope and I both almost lost our lives. I will always believe that the enemy was trying to steal both of our lives that day in order to destroy the mighty work the Father was to do through Hope's life. Because of the prayers of many, the war for our lives was won. The victory was the Lord's.

At 3 days of age, Hope had her first surgery; it was a stomach surgery. Victory two. Then, only 3 months later, Hope had her first open heart surgery, Praise the Lord for Victory number three. Each of these surgeries were supposed to steal the life of our little one, but through the prayers of many, Hope prevailed.

As time passed, I began to become more and more comfortable as my role of being mom to a special needs child. Having come so close to losing Hope, my bond with her was different than with my other children. It is not that I love her more.....just different.

I didn't get to be settled for long. Only 6 months from her open-heart surgery, at a routine check-up, we were told that Hope only had weeks to live. Something had gone horribly wrong and she was in congestive heart failure. The cardiologist was as shocked as we were! The weight I had just thrown off 6 months earlier, was now back on my back and heavier than ever. The doctor's news was something like this: "The surgery Hope needs is not even done in the Nashville area. We'll have to find a specialist, but understand that she may not make it through this surgery. In fact, she may die before we can find a surgeon".

I was at a loss. I tried to find God in this message, but could not hear Him at all. Again, our family resolved to get a miracle for Hope. We would get as many people to pray as possible and beg God to intervene on Hope's behalf. Amazingly, a Pediatric Heart Surgeon took a job with Vanderbilt Hospital only weeks later. You guessed it: he was a specialist in the surgery Hope needed. "Yahweh Yireh"--"God is our Provider" intervened.

Hope had a second open-heart surgery and literally thousands prayed our little girl through. During the weeks before Hope's surgery, our family adopted the song: "Where Joy and Sorrow Meet" by Avalon. As it turned out, unbeknownst to us, Hope's pediatrician is the one who wrote the song. Amazing. Well, right after Hope's surgery, I received a phone call in the PICU while I was sitting with Hope. She had been placed in a state of coma to keep her from moving, her chest was bloody and had just been sewn together, tubes were coming from every part of her tiny little body---but, Praise Yahweh, my baby was alive. I answered the phone, and on the other end was a voice I didn't know. She said: "I am at a Women's Conference in Idaho. The group,Avalon is here performing. They received a forward of a forwarded email from you requesting prayer for Hope and the email mentioned that you had adopted their song as a prayer for Hope. They just played the song in honor of Hope and 15,000 women knelt with them and prayed in unison for your little girl. We all want an is she?"

It would be impossible for me to describe how I felt at that moment. To think that I had asked God to save little Hopey, He heard me and sent an army....literally! Again, Hope's Provider.

Over the last 2 years, the Father has been using Hope in many amazing ways. She is a tiny little girl, she has huge coke bottle glasses that make her eyes look enormous, she wears pony-tails, and she always has a smile plastered across her face. Wherever we go, people are drawn to Hope. When people come to greet Hope, our family is given the opportunity to share her story. Most times, the listener is brought to tears. One of my favorite stories is when my husband and I took the kids to a fancy restaurant while visiting Chicago. We were typical tourists eating with serious business men and women all around us. Hope, who never meets a stranger, turned around in her high chair and began making indian sounds at the 6 "suit-dressed" men at the table next to us. Immediately, the 6 men turned to Hope and made the indian sounds back to her. She giggled with excitement---the men laughed with her (and so did we). This is common in our lives each day---wherever we go.

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, we learned Hope will have to undergo a third open-heart surgery. We were not expecting the news, and we are devastated! We had hoped her heart would've been fixed for good this time. We take Hope back to the cardiologist in June to find out just how extensive the issue is----worst case scenario will be a heart valve replacement, and best case scenario is they'll go in and just clean our some debris from her valve. Both cases mean her chest will have to be sawed and opened up again. I can barely even bring myself to think about it.

My 3 years and 4 months with Hope have taught me so much about life and human nature. Literally, I am a totally different person. I no longer complain about waiting in long check-out lines, a rainy vacation, or an unkempt house. In fact, I relish the noise of the children playing and the mess they leave in their play-time wake. Each and every moment is a gift. This is something Hope gave to me. I understand now, more than ever before, that we serve a Sovereign Lord who is in control of all things.....even Hope's length of life on earth. This humbles me daily and brings me to my knees. Hope gave this to me. I yearn for Heaven when my Hope will no longer be "one of the least of these" but will be one of the greatest in the Kingdom, where I will sit as a mere spectator on the golden streets of the city to watch her lead in the magnificent parade of the Lord. Hope gave this to me. When I see someone who is handicapped, either mentally or physically, I no longer avoid contact with that person, but make a point to speak to that person. Hope gave this to me. The list goes on and on.

Every time I am out with Hope, at least once I hear a voice: "I think she has Down Syndrome" or I see the pointing finger and the mouth covering the whisper. Our children see it too, and we talk about it as a family often. You see, most people just don't know or understand what a blessing Hope is. Can you believe 90% of all babies who are diagnosed in the womb with Down Syndrome are aborted----all because people don't understand. Our Hope will never see the bad in anyone. To her, people will always be good. She'll never understand that people are pointing at her or staring at her because she is different; she will just love them. This is something I have learned all because of her. I have often stopped to wonder who is more handicapped? We, who are "normal", or Hope? After all, God is love. Hope is love too.

I do have a purpose behind all of these words as I'm sure you suspected. My hope is that everyone who reads them will feel in a way like they have met our little Hopey. Then, my hope is that you will pray for a miracle for her; I don't want to lose my baby girl. Specifically, we need Hope's aortic valve to open up and to grow with her heart. I believe with all of my heart that the Lord is not only able, but He desires to give good gifts to His children....including Hope. I also believe the prayers of the saints "availeth much" and the Lord is able to do so much more than we could ever ask or imagine. Our prayers do move mountains and cause aortic valves to open and grow. I would love to send a picture of Hope to whoever will join in prayer with me for my daughter. If you will put on your armor and battle alongside me, I know Hope will have victory again. And some day, in the Kingdom to come, a girl with big almond-shaped, green eyes and pony-tails (no coke-bottle glasses in heaven) will find you and hug your neck for going to battle on her behalf. On that day, Hope will be able to speak and will tell of the wonderful works of her precious Savior who used fallible human beings to bring about healing in her life through the humble act of prayer.

"Whatever you have done for the LEAST of these my children, you have done it unto me".

Blessings from weary warrior mom,
Melanie Hollis

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How can I ever say?

How can I ever tell you how much adoption means to me? How can you ever understand the burning desire I have in my heart for orphans? Not just orphans that I plan to adopt when we have been "in process" (the adoptive parent word for "pregnant"), but the orphans I know I will never adopt... and neither will anyone else? This care, this consumption, this absolute commitment I have to the fatherless has everything and nothing to do with my own children. The road of adoption led me so far beyond three wonderful children that only God could have orchestrated the journey. Birth mothers made me a Mommy, but God's mercy on the journey made the journey my life.

So how do I help you understand how absolutely burdened I am for these children? And how burdened I am for YOU TOO to be burdened! It would be my wish that everyone in the world could experience the beauty and the miracle of a birth. But it would also be my utmost desire that everyone on earth could experience the humility, grace, mercy, awe, and privilege of walking into an orphanage, especially if there will be one less orphan when you walk out. And it's also my hearts most burning desire that there would never be a need for another orphanage. But how? I am only one person and there are so so many orphans (147,000,000 worldwide to be exact.) But then again, I am one... and Gwen Oatsvall is one, and Melanie Hollis is one, and Katie is one, Carrie is one, Becky is one, Michelle is one, Nicole is one, and YOU are one! Together, we are way more than one! And as the old adage goes, if you think you are too small to have an affect on the world, try sleeping with a mosquito.

So where do I go with this burden? Where do I lay it down? Maybe I don't. Maybe the point is to carry it forever and thereby share the load of it with some other sisters along the way. And the sisters who are already sharing my burden have meant everything to me. There is a quote from The Poisonwood Bible that seems to make sense to everyone who's ever adopted or has a true heart for orphans. It goes like this, "Hunger of the body is altogether different from the shallow, daily hunger of the belly. Those who have known this kind of hunger cannot entirely love, ever again, those who have not." This applies not only to hunger in the physical sense, but hunger of any kind. I find that there are two kinds of people, those who "get" my hunger (my burden) for orphans, and those who can never "get" it.

Today in church Father Sappenfield was talking about the world's definition of "rock star." Do we strive to be like the ones we think have what we want? Or do we strive to be like the ones God wants us to be like? Are we imitating Christ or Madonna? I think the two go hand in hand because God is faithful. We alone cannot do alot as one, but together, with Christ working THROUGH us, we can accomplish anything. So, I am just challenging you tonight, to consider and pray for the orphans in Amazima orphanage. Gwen told me tonight that there are only just over 30 kids who still need sponsorship for this year. THIRTY! 30! Three Zero! Can you imagine a whole orphanage of 191 kids who don't have to worry about a meal for an entire year? $300 will provide two hot meals, a school uniform, shoes, and school tuition for a child in Uganda. Please pray with me that there will be another 30 people who are willing to make this $300 sacrifice in such uncertain financial times for our own country. It's a hard time to be seeking charity, and yet...

"And now these three remain, faith, hope and charity. But the greatest of these is charity."

1 Corinthians 13:13

A new year, a new look...

Thanks Becky, for the links to the blog remodeling! :) I am still hoping to make some more changes, like maybe a header that actually has photos in it, but it's a work in progress, right? And since it's well past midnight and I have to get my kids to church in the AM, I guess I better be happy where I am for now. Anyway, the only bummer is that I lost all my links to all your wonderful blogs when I changed it. I think I can find most of you, but if you know that you were previously linked here, but don't see your name here now, could you do me a favor and drop me a comment so I can add you back in there... I don't want to miss a single day of our adventures together.

"I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry."
Psalm 40:1

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Freedom of Choice Act Looming - Your prayer is needed and requested

If you are opposed to abortion then there is bad news on the horizon.
For those of you who do not know, the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is
set to be signed if congress passes it on January 21-22 of 2009. If passed, it would codify Roe v. Wade and "guarantee the reproductive rights of women for generations to come" according to Pro-Choice America. The bill states in its findings section that Congress has the affirmative power to legislate abortion based, in part, on the crossing of state lines by abortion providers, women seeking abortions, and medical supplies used in abortions. The FOCA is the next sick chapter in the book of abortion.

According to the article in Wikipedia, the bill, if passed, will invalidate every restriction on an abortion before the stage of viability, in every state, such as parental notification laws, waiting periods, requirements of full disclosure of the physical and emotional risks inherent in abortion, and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Please stop for one moment and re-read that... yes, it would lift ALL restrictions that require parental consent to abortion for minors who seek one, it would abolish all waiting periods in states that currently require a mother to consider her options before making the final decision, and it would allow far-left leaning organizations like NARAL to offer abortions with NO counseling as to the emotional risks women face when going through with an abortion. My friends, I have dear friends who have aborted children because they were told there was no other choice. Ask them about the emotional cost of this "choice". Opponents further assert that it would challenge the right of religiously-based hospitals or clinics to refuse to perform abortions. In response to this, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is threatening to close all Catholic hospitals, which equates to 30% of US hospitals. If this were to occur, the #1 population that would suffer would be the poor who cannot afford care at private hospitals, but are beneficiaries of Catholic missions. And that it would force the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which restricts the use of Federal funding for abortions. That's right, your tax dollars will now be going to fund abortion. That's hard to swallow for a staunch pro-lifer! In effect, I would be paying for abortion.

Perhaps most importantly the government will now have control in the issue of abortion. This could result in a future amendment that would force women by law to have abortions in certain situations (rape, down syndrome babies, etc) and could even regulate how many children women are allowed to have. I know that this seems like a far jump for many of you, and you might be thinking that this is overstating the case. However, I think if you look at every civilization in history (not only recent history, but history from Babylon to modern day China) you will find that most agregious crimes against humanity, injustice, and even ethnic cleansing, was introduced in a very innocent "that won't apply to me" fashion. Do you think the forced abortions in China as a method of population control was embraced by the Chinese population? Even Hitler knew that you get people to eat an elephant, not by telling them to eat an elephant, but by feeding it to them one bite at a time. It was a very slippery slope from moving Jews into designated areas of town to Aushwitz.

The only way to be sure that we maintain a reasonable level of restriction on the killing of innocent life is to stop the act before it becomes law. It's much easier to stop it than to repeal it. To me, as a parent, the absolute scariest part of this law is that my daughter could choose at the age of 13 to have an abortion without my consent, and forever change her life without the benefit of wise counsel. No worries though, if she needs surgery for an in-grown toenail, I'll still be required to sign off on that!

The Plan:

To say a novena ( 9 days of prayer ) along with fasting
starting on January 11th. Many Catholics have chosen to say the Rosary with intnentions to defeat FOCA. If you are not Catholic, I urge you to say The Lord's Prayer with specific meditation on the defeat of this horrific bill. Or pray from your heart, which we know the Lord always hears with tender heart and open ears. However you pray, please plead with me to the Lord (and your senators and representatives if you feel so inclined) to defeat this act. We know that no authority on earth has dominion over our God and He can wipe this possibility from our country, but we must act fast because there is very little time left.

1) Please link this post to your blogs or forward it to others who you know to be pro-life

2) Pray every day without ceasing that FOCA will not be forced upon us and the unborn

3) Please fast with me for at least two days of the nine days of prayer. Fasting, as defined for Catholics, is two light meals in a 24 hour period to include no meat, sweets or wine. There are many ways and definitions of fasting, I offer this one only as an example, of course, I urge you to abide by your own faith's definition!

Ephesians 1:20-22
"...which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything..."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Six Months Home and a dual Epiphany

I can't believe it's been six months since we walked through these doors with our little angel. WOW! If I look back on the last six months, we have come a very long way in such a short time. I know all of you newly home feel like six months is an eternity away, but it will really fly by. Six months is such a great milestone in an adoption because it's the time when you start to see real rewards for all the hard work. At six months, most kids have truly settled into their homes and you don't feel like you're swimming your way upstream any more. Meg is no different, she is completely at ease here and knows her boundaries and our limits. I think she is pretty secure in our love for her at this point and she adores both of her parents, her brothers, one of our neighbors, and our dog. Meg still gets a little shaken up when she is out of her routine. When we were home this weekend for my grandmother's funeral, she was passed around from one relative to another, slept in two strange beds, and was off her schedule. She was definitely more clingy with me the past two days and I know this is most likely a direct result of her insecurity with new situations. But, it's also a good sign because it means that she is attached to us and "cares" if we leave her with others, etc. To have seen her at the funeral home on Saturday night with my cousin, Archie, you wouldn't know she ever met a stranger. She drug him all over the funeral home and had him singing every song he knew. This is a totally different child from the one we met in May of last year and certainly shows that she is far more secure than she was even three months ago. The little "set-backs" in emotion don't bother me when I see her able to come out of her shell and fear and know that she can run all over the place with my crazy cousin and we will still be right where she left us when she gets back. This is the sign of a child who is gaining security and comfort with the permanence of those she loves.

I looked back at all our referral information and realized that when Meg was born, she weighed over 8 pounds. When Connor was born he weighed less than 7. That's quite a difference in someone so little. It makes me happy to know that she had such a good start in life from a health perspective. She hasn't slowed down either, her growth is still on the high side with her height topping 85th percentile.

Today is also known as the Epiphany. The Epiphany is the day that Russian Orthodox celebrate Christmas. The Epiphany is also a really special day in the Christmas season for Catholics so it fit very nicely for us to make a big celebration out of the holy day. Tomorrow, the kids and I are going to decorate our boxes that we will be using each year going forward to put our "rememberance" memorabilia into. Today, in honor of the three birth mother's who gave life to three of my children, we hosted Katie Davis to share her story. 26 beautiful women (and one awesome man) showed up at my house. We were a little packed in (believe it or not, I don't have seating for 26 for a meal or any other activity.) But I truly believe that everyone who came received a blessing. I don't know how many children were sponsored as a result of Katie's testimony, but I do know that at least 7 children will be educated, fed, clothed and given medical attention this year because these amazing friends of mine were moved to action. What a beautiful way to celebrate these birth mothers, by giving to orphans! Like Karyn, I won't be counting this money on my taxes because I did it to honor the 2 Galinas and Aziza. Yes, two of my children's birth mother's have the same name, but they are NOT the same person, even though my kids do look alike. I always get asked, "Are you sure they aren't related?" But I know they are not, it's just a "red thread" between the two of them and us.

As I sat here today, surrounded by these awesome women of faith, listening to Katie talk about her ministry to orphans, I was awed by the power of it. It was not lost on me that the Spirit was strong and moving in our presence. You see, I was careful to invite people that I knew had a strong faith and who would hear Katie's story and not only receive a blessing from it, but would also "get it." It occurred to me during the video presentation that God could take that group of 25 of my friends and change the whole world with the amount of faith that was in that one room. If faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain, then faith the size contained in these special women can surely move the entire world! It was really a palpable presence of God here today. I wasn't the only one to notice it either, my sweet friend Amie said she felt it too. And when everyone left, I just sat down on my couch and wept. I wept mostly because of the power of the presence of God. The Spirit lingered here after everyone was gone. My children were both out of the house and it was quiet, it was just me and the Holy Spirit and I could feel His presence so strongly that I was overcome with emotion. I also wept for how abundantly God has blessed me. Not only with material blessings that far exceed that of 90% of the world population, but with something more priceless, which was all of these fabulous women who came out on this nasty, rainy day, to hear what God would say to them. Really, as I looked around the room, each and every one here meant something special to me and I just realize how blessed I am to know one person that amazing, much less 25! I wept for the Mays family, who lost their son today. He was 4 1/2. I don't know them and I didn't know their beautiful son, but Katie knows them and loves them and I know they must be a special family. And no one should ever have to suffer the loss of a child. I saw my dad go through that when my sister died and I cannot imagine living on after that. I cried for my sweet friend Melanie, who's baby, Hope Hollis, needs open heart surgery. She is only three years old. Melanie and her family have an AMAZING story and I wish it was mine to tell because that alone is enough to drop you to your knees. I won't tell her story, but I will ask you to pray for the Mays family AND for the Hollis family as they are facing two difficult struggles in the months ahead. And last, but not least, I of course mostly wept for the orphans of Uganda, Russia, China, and the world. I wept for every child I couldn't adopt. I wept for the injustice of the fact that there is even a need for someone like Katie or for an orphanage anywhere in the world. I wept for the birth mothers who have died or who have been dealt a life with so few choices that an orphanage was the kinder, safer place for their baby.

I am so thankful for the life God has given me in every aspect and detail of it. There is nothing I want more than to serve Him and follow Him every single day of my life. I came away from today with a renewed spirit, energy, and committment to make the choice each and every day to follow Him, wherever that path may lead.

Baruch 2:18
"He whose soul is deeply grieved, who walks bowed and feeble, with failing eyes and famished soul, will declare your glory and justice, Lord."

Monday, January 05, 2009

Not Me Monday

Confessing all the things you "didn't" do is very freeing. I encourage you to join MckMama's carnival and set yourself free to laugh at all the things we "don't" do in a week... plus reading everyone else's Not Me is just plain fun!

I am not at all thankful for all the comments that you all left me on my blog regarding my precious grandmother's passing. It did not comfort me in the least and I was not at all happy to know that people I have met only via their blogs were lifting my family up to heaven. Thank you all very much, you have no way of knowing what the words meant to me.

My brother actually asked me to post this one, so this is for him. I have not been buying caffeinated drinks for my children over the break as a treat, thinking all along they could drink as much as they wanted because they weren't caffeinated. I did not give them Barg#s Root Beer (which, fyi, IS caffeinated) and Sun Drop (which I mistook for Squirt) and give those to them in massive amounts over the break. First of all, I would never allow my kids to have that much sugar because we all know that's bad for their teeth. Secondly, I would not give them caffeine because, well, that would make MY life harder. SO, that definitely wasn't me! (Thanks G and E for informing me, that actually explains ALOT of our Christmas memories this year! :) By the way, I think A & M is actually caffeine free, but apparently some root beer is not... who knew?)

My brother did NOT get pulled over by the police last night while driving me home from our parents'. And I did NOT take the funeral flowers out of a box and put them in between my brother and sis-in-law so that the officer would notice we'd come from a funeral. They laughed at me, but he didn't get a ticket. My sister-in-law says it was "definitely the flowers". hehehe

Sorry, that's it, short list this week, but then again, there's alot of details of stuff I've been doing that just don't seem to fit on a "Not Me" list. Have a wonderful week. I hope to see alot of you tomorrow at my lunch with Katie.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Circle of Life

Today my new little nephew came home from the hospital, and my beloved Grandmother got her first hug from Jesus. About 9:00 this morning my grandmother, Mary Reuel Hemphill, drew her last breath on earth and took her next one in heaven. She was 99 years old, shy of 100 by only about 90 days. She lived an amazing life and by all accounts was the holder of the most sure ticket into heaven anyone who knew her can imagine.

She is the Mary in Mary Margaret. She was my rock. She led me to Christ as a young child. She prayed for me every day of my life since before I was even known. She influenced me and led me in every way. I am full of words, but they are all inadequate to tell you what this amazing woman meant to me, what she meant to the small town where she lived and I grew up; what kind of woman she was; and how sorely her passing will be felt by a great deal of very "good folks".

My "Granma" as she was known to me, practically raised me in alot of ways. She picked me up from school every day and kept me until my mom got off work. I never once had a babysitter other than her or my dad's parents when they would go out, which was alot when I was young because they had me young. She was always there for me, always there for First Baptist Church members and many many others throughout her 99 years.

My brother and I drove home together today and we had a great drive reminiscing about things and talking about her life. We realized that she has lived through seven wars in her lifetime. The Great Depression. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The assassination of JFK. The fall of the Berlin wall and the rise and fall of Communism in Russia. She saw the rise of Communism in China. She has seen untold number of US Presidents. There was alot of living and alot of knowing that passed with her today. I'm sorry that you never got the chance to know her.

But in the midst of all that was happening to get ready to come home for her funeral, I went to my sister-in-law's house and decorated the door and mailbox so that she would feel celebrated when she arrived home from the hospital with my new nephew, Brody. I did this and it was so fitting, that I would be celebrating life on the day that I was mourning my precious grandmother. Life goes on. The world mourns it's losses and every mourner immortalizes the deceased by mourning and remembering. And sad though I am for the passing of an entire generation of my family (she was the last living grandparent), I am NOT sad for her. She was reunited today with my Granddaddy, her husband of 57 years before his death. She saw Jesus' face and I bet, no I KNOW, that it was better than anything she or I have ever imagined it would be. She saw her mother and father, her sister, her cousins, and her daughter (my mom's twin) who are all whole and well and happy to see her. There was rejoicing in heaven today, for one of their own has returned home.

I would welcome and ask for all of your prayers over the next couple of days. Not for me as much as for my mom. Even though my Granma was my sweet angel, she was something altogether more for my mom. My mom saw her mother almost every day of her life. She was and is her identity in many ways... my mom is "Reuel's daughter" and that is a huge part of who she is and what drives her in the things she does. And beyond that, my mom has cared for my grandmother for the past 13 years. When she went to live in a nursing home, my mom visited her EVERY day without fail. I grew up in Fulton, KY, and word in a small town spreads quickly. The house has been a revolving door of visitors and devoted church ladies dropping off more food than we could eat in a week. But when all the preparation is done and they lay my grandmother to rest, it's going to be a tremendous loss for my mom.

I want to tell you all that my lunch on Tuesday with Katie Davis is still on. I am looking forward to some good fellowship and just being in the presence of God and my dear friends. Until then, I will most likely be absent from blog world as Fulton, KY, is not the hub of world wide connection and getting onto the internet is somewhat akin to a remote region of Russia. I will update you all when I return to civilization on Monday.

Thanks again for your continued prayers. I leave you with Granma's favorite verse:

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path."