Thursday, June 30, 2011

Welcome Vlad and Dima!

Vlad (age 9, almost 10) and Dima (age 6), biological brothers from Ukraine,  arrived at the Austin airport Wednesday, June 29, at 11AM, as part of the Charis Adoption Team's summer orphan hosting program.  It took them two full days to get here, but they finally made it safe and sound.  Vlad and Dima traveled with a small group of other Ukrainian orphans, along with their facilitator and translator, Alla.

The boys are from a different orphanage in Ukraine than the rest of the group.  In fact, the facilitator (and the entire Charis Ministry team) had never met these boys.  No one knew what to expect.  The facilitator, Alla, told me that she had only spent two days with the boys, while traveling, but she relayed that they were very hyper, and it would be important to lay down rules for them from the start.  We assured her that we're quite accustomed to hyperactive boys. :-)

The boys arrived with a small backpack with a few items in it.  They each had an unopened soda in one hand.  Shortly after their arrival, they explained, via the translator, that they wanted to give Matt and I a gift.  Both boys handed us their unopened sodas and gave us each a hug!  This brought tears to our eyes, as the only items these boys really "owned" was their cans of soda, and they were willing to give this up in order to bless Matt and me.  Now, I know they were most likely trying to do anything they could think of to make us like them, but whatever their motive, this gesture definitely stole a piece of our hearts. :-)

We stood around the airport, along with the other host families, while we visited and tried to gain wisdom and insight from Alla, the facilitator/translator.  The boys told us that they were ready to go and asked what we were waiting for!  They were eager to get out of the airport and on their way to our home!  The moment we walked out of the airport, the Texas heat hit the boys hard, and they panted and fanned themselves while we walked to our vehicle.  They were good sports, though, and I have a feeling they'll get accustomed to the Texas heat much more quickly than it takes me to adjust to cold climates!

When we arrived at Forgotten Saw Ranch, I thought the boys would be afraid of our dogs.  It can be overwhelming to be greeted by 8 barking canines, even for an American, but for two boys who are stuck within the walls of an orphanage in Ukraine, I didn't think they'd be at ease with the dogs.  Well, surprise, surprise!  The boys LOVE all of our dogs, all 8 of them, and they loved on the dogs, kissed them, petted them, and showed no fear whatsoever. :-)

We had French Dip sandwiches with fresh fruit for lunch, and both boys LOVED it.  They both ate every morsel and crumb on their plates.  Dima is thin and needs to eat more, so I was thrilled that they enjoyed the food.

After lunch, the boys explored the house, then ran outside to play.  It didn't take long for them to ask to swim.  I was SHOCKED at their level of comfort in the pool.  (I'm going to post some videos below.)  They're both dare devils.  I had them both wear life jackets at first, then Vlad explained that he wouldn't drown without it!  Vlad appears to have spent some time in pools before, although I realized he doesn't know how to swim strongly, but he does know to stay in the shallow end if he doesn't have his life jacket on.

Everyone stayed in the pool together for the afternoon, and then we had spaghetti with salad and French bread for dinner.  Dima cleared his plate, completely clean, and Vlad ate most of his.  We had watermelon for dessert.  Dima at 4 slices while Vlad ate 3.  These boys like to eat! :-)

I spent some time Wednesday evening gathering clothes from the attic to outfit the boys.  When they saw their shelves with all of their clothing, they got SOOOOOOOOOOO excited.  They wanted to touch and feel everything.  I felt sad for them that they don't own a thing, and I sure hope to send them back with a bag of their very own belongings, but that's one of the facts of life in an orphanage:  one doesn't have the privilege of owning things.  Everything is given a number and kept track of as best as possible, but the items are all community property.  Not one thing is "owned" or the property of any one person.

It breaks my heart that these two sweet boys are living in an orphanage, wishing more than anything that they'd have a mommy and daddy of their own.  The older boy, Vlad, is so eager to please.  It's obvious he wants us to like him so that we'll adopt him.  Dima is quite mischievous and full of energy.  He has a close relationship with his big brother, and I've felt so very blessed to see their bond.  Vlad is very responsible and mature, and he takes awesome care of his little brother, Dima.

Since the boys are on a hugely different different time zone, they were exhausted at bedtime.  They still wanted to play, but I finally got them into PJ's with brushed teeth.  It took a few minutes to convince them to stop playing and get into bed, but they finally did, and I said their prayers and gave them both big hugs.

We're already falling in love with the boys and can't imagine having to send them back to Ukraine in 5 weeks. :-(  Sawyer (our biological 11 year old) is begging us to adopt the boys.  Ella suggested that we could be their mom and dad while they're here for 5 weeks, then send them back and not be their mom anymore.  I didn't care much for that idea, and I explained to Ella that we never give our kids away or send them away, so I'm not crazy about her suggestion!  I can already tell that the toughest thing about this summer hosting program is going to be sending the boys back to Ukraine on August 4.  :-(

Here are a few videos of the boys that I took while they were swimming.  (Note:  Vlad calls me mom, but that's just what Ukrainian orphans refer to their host families as. :-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Well, the Ukrainian flight from Washington DC to Austin was cancelled, so the boys didn't arrive Tuesday night as scheduled. :-(  We're heading to the airport this morning to get them, so hopefully they'll be there and hopefully I'll have an update to post later in the day!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Crazy Tuesday

Today is going to be a little bit crazy.  Here's what our day will look like:

  • Today is my nephew's birthday.  He's adopted from Russia. :-)  (Happy birthday, Nick!)  He's having a pool party in Austin, so I'm taking 9 kids to that for the day.
  • I have to attend a business dinner party this evening at 6PM with my hubby, so my sister is keeping our 9 kids while I attend the business dinner.  I'll have to leave the pool party and rush to get ready and drive about an hour to where the party will be.  I"ll take my sister's car and leave her with our 15 passenger van.
  • The two orphan boys from Ukraine will arrive tonight!  (I'd still love for you to spread the word that we're raising funds to host these 2 boys for the summer. :-)  Matt and I will have to leave the dinner party early so that we can get to the Austin airport to pick up the boys.  My sister will take our 9 kids in our van to the airport to meet us there, then she'll drive her car back home, after she meets the Ukrainian boys.
  • My mom will be available during the day to help with Selah (our baby).  I'm so grateful to have family to help us with all of the logistics!
Here's a little video clip of Selah and Kiefer, our two youngest lovies.  Wishing you a blessed Tuesday!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday's Meditation, A Boss Your Heart Devo {Saying Goodbye}

Thank you, Kirsten, for today's devo.
Kirsten took this photo May 21, 2010 of Jackson, Jonathan, and Jonathan's brother at the 1st Annual Boss Your Heart Memorial Benefit, in memory of Chrissie.  Jackson is on the left, Jonathan (Jackson's best friend) is in the middle, and Jonathan's brother is on the right.  Please keep praying for Jackson's family and friends, as well as Jonathan and his family.  Thank you!

Saying Goodbye
By Kirsten Walkup

Jackson Norris was someone I considered to be a friend of mine. Even though I was more than twice his age and was his Sunday school teacher, I always found him to be an amiable kid that loved life and had an infectious smile. As a teacher, one of things that irks me is when someone gives me a pre-packaged churchy answer to an honest question just because that’s what they think they’re supposed to say. One need not spend more than five minutes in one of my classes to realize that answers without honest intellectual scrutiny don’t really fly with me. With Jackson, I never had to worry about him giving me one of those irksome answers; if he had something on his mind, he was going to say it. Among other things, I always appreciated the fact that he told me what he really thought. He usually wasn’t among the first to answer questions I threw out, but on those occasions he did hazard his opinion, I could see a real spiritual depth that lived just beneath the shaggy-blonde surface. He will be sorely missed.
Saying goodbye to someone you care about is one of the most difficult things we experience in this life. In the past I’ve written about the fact that some tragedies we suffer and are witnesses to defy explanation and do not seem to make sense. Losing Jackson falls firmly into this category and I’ll not attempt to try and clear murky theological waters in this short writing. Our God is mighty to save and He is still on the throne. One day I’ll understand it all but in this life of flesh and blood mortality, understanding why some friends leave us far too soon is something I’m simply not able to do.

What I do understand is that God is full of love and compassion and cares far more about those who have left us than we ever could. While it breaks my heart that I will no longer see Jackson in the classroom, or bouncing around the halls at church, or riding his skateboard through our neighborhood, I firmly believe that what he’s experiencing at this moment in the presence of God is something so incredible it cannot be described by human words. I also believe God has a divine plan and purpose for those of who feel the sharp pain of loss. Where Jackson is at this moment, there is no pain, no sorrow, and no suffering. Where we are, there are plenty of all of those things…and plenty of people who need the kind of love and comfort that only a relationship with Jesus Christ can bring.

At the moment, my heart is very heavy from the weight of loss, yet that weight would be exponentially compounded were I grieving the loss of one of my many unsaved friends. I take comfort in the fact that I will again see Jackson and many other friends and family members who have gone to be with the Lord. I’m also reminded of the sharp and crushing ache that accompanies the knowledge of someone close going into eternity without having known the saving power that Christ offers to all.

Life is short and precious, and we never truly know when the bell will toll for our own lives. It is through moments like these, when the reality of loss sets in, that a thorough examination of our own life is in order. The question that should most immediately be answered is, “do I have a relationship with Jesus Christ?” It is a simple question, but one that sometimes requires the facing of harsh realities. Jackson Norris knew Jesus as his Lord and Savior. His race is finished and now he is Home.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Boss Your Heart!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Right now, there are several Ukrainian orphans who are preparing to come to Texas as part of the Charis summer hosting program.  Two of those orphans will be coming to our home for five weeks!  Yes, it's true, we'll be bringing two boys from Ukraine into our home this summer for five weeks!  We're so excited!

The boys' original host family apparently fell through.  When we heard that the entire group of Ukrainian orphans might not be able to come to Texas at all if these two boys didn't find a host family FAST, well, we stepped in and offered to host the boys.  We are so very grateful for this opportunity, and we're blessed that Charis raised the majority of the funds needed to bring these boys to America for 5 weeks.  We only have a few days to raise the remaining funds, so we ask you to please spread the word.  This is an awesome opportunity for others to live out James 1:27!

I know our family will always remember the summer of 2011 simply because that was the summer we took a step in faith and hosted two non-English speaking older orphaned boys from Ukraine.  What an adventure!  I can't wait to see what the Lord does through this experience!

Would you please be praying for God to provide an adoptive family for these two boys?  The hope with orphan hosting programs is for the orphans to find committed adoptive families while they are here.  It is our prayer that God will unite these boys with their forever family during their 5 week stay here in Texas.

Thank you for playing a role in bringing this group of orphans to Texas this summer!!!

PS  To donate to bring these boys to Texas, please click on the "ChipIn" button at the top of this post. :-)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Meet the McBrides

Click HERE to meet our friends, the McBrides.  I "met" Mitzi and Shane shortly after the earthquake in Haiti, as they were working with Hope for Orphans to help Haitians in whatever way God asked them to.  We emailed each other many times over the months, and I felt so blessed to get to know this family who has a huge heart for helping the fatherless and living out James 1:27.

Then I met the McBrides in real life at the Baby Conference last summer in San Antonio.  They were working the Hope for Orphans booth, and Shane kept encouraging me to publish Chrissie's story.  They had prayed fervently for Chrissie and our family, and, as we know, when we pray for others, our hearts are connected to them in a way that's not possible without God.  The tears in their eyes and the smiles on their faces as they offered up their love, prayers, and support of our family is imprinted on my heart forever.  A family I had never met before, yet felt like I'd known them for a lifetime as they hugged my neck.  Only God can tie heartstrings together so intimately.

Now it's time for us to pray for the McBrides and support them on the journey God has called them to.  They're moving to Zambia, Africa, to serve Him and His people through Lifesong for Orphans.  They'll be spreading the Good News to the nations, as He has called all of us to do.  They will be serving the weak, the poor, the needy, the fatherless, as He has called all of us to do.  They are selflessly obeying God's call, as he has called all of us to do.

I am  grateful for the McBride family, as they step out in faith, obey, serve, give, love, and model what it means to be a Believer whose hearts break for the things that break our Father's heart.  They are not just broken without action, they are broken WITH action.  They are stepping out to make a difference, and I can't wait to see what God does through them on this journey.

Would you please click HERE to support the McBride family with your prayers?  They're hosting a blog giveaway, for His glory, and I'd love for you to get to know the McBrides and witness God's glory shining through them.  I know you'll be blessed as God ties your heartstrings to the McBrides, as He did with me.

Thank you, friends.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jackson is with Jesus

It is with a very heavy heart, as one who is left behind in grief on earth, that I announce that our friend Jackson Norris, age 15, has left this earth and gone to live with Jesus for eternity.  Jackson's passing was made official this morning, and today doctors will be harvesting Jackson's organs to bring life and healing to others.  Please lift up the family and friends of this sweet young man, as we are the ones who experience pain and grief as the ones left behind.

Please keep Jackson's best friend, Jonathan, in your prayers, as they were walking side by side when the pedestrian/automobile accident occurred.  The thought of what Jonathan is experiencing is just too much for me. If you would like to leave a prayer or word of encouragement for Jonathan, click HERE for a link to his Facebook page. I think you can write on his wall without "friending" him, but feel free to "friend" him while you're there.  He needs to be surrounded with prayer, love, family, friends, and support at this time.

Click HERE to visit Jackson's mom's Facebook page, in case you want to send her a message as well.  I just recall all of the messages you all sent me on the day Chrissie went to live with Jesus, and that outpouring of love was so comforting.  I know God will surround Jackson's family and friends with that same love and comfort.

Thank you, prayer warriors.

Prayers for Friends

The afternoon of Tuesday, June 21, a tragic accident occurred with some friends in our area of Texas.  Two sweet teenage boys (who are best friends) were crossing a street when one of the boys, Jackson, was struck by a truck in a 60 mph zone.  Jackson currently has no brain activity.  I believe he is still hooked up to a ventilator, but the doctors are saying there is no hope, there is nothing more they can do.  The family plans to donate Jackson's organs, but, of course, everyone is still praying for a miracle.

I ask you to storm heaven's gates for a miracle of healing, if that be the will of our Jehovah Rapha.

I ask you to pray for Jackson's best friend, Jonathon, who was walking with him at the time of the accident.  I truly cannot imagine what he's going through.

I ask you to pray for the families and friends of these boys, for God to pour out His mercies, His comfort, His peace the surpasses all understanding.  We know first-hand how powerful prayers are, how comforting it is when God's people pray for His peace to be abundantly showered upon those in need.  I am confident we wouldn't have survived, physically, emotionally, or spiritually, if it hadn't been for all of the kind people lifting us up as we walked through the deepest valley of death.

These two boys were in the very first Rite of Passage class we taught at Hays Hills Baptist Church in Buda, Texas.  (This was a class for 6th graders.)  Both of these boys were at Chrissie's memorial benefit on May 21.  Such sweet hearts.  Such a tragedy.  Oh how my heart weeps.

Being the ones left behind, separated from our loved ones who live a glorious life in heaven with Jesus, is the hardest thing about death.  Praise God for the gift of salvation and the hope and promise of being united in heaven as His children.  Oh what a glorious day that will be.  For now, hearts are heavy.  Abba Father, we need you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Father's Day Gift: Texas Baseball & Hotel Package!

This awesome package is the perfect gift for Father's Day! 
Show Dad he's your hero by giving him this package of America's favorite pastime.  Plus, Dad will be a hero to the fatherless this Father's Day, as all proceeds from this sale will benefit orphans via Boss Your Heart Orphan Ministries! 

  • 4 Reserved Seating Tickets to Round Rock Express vs. Oklahoma City RedHawks, Saturday, June 25 at 7:05PM at the famous Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas.  (Awesome 4th row seats!)  Free Nolan Ryan Bobbleheads to the first 2,500 fans to arrive!
  • One bedroom suite with two queen beds and complimentary hot breakfast at Hilton's Homewood Suites, Round Rock.
  • Retail Value of Package:  $225
  • Bidding begins immediately.  Leave your bid in the comment section at the bottom of this post.  All bids must be in $5 increments.  Opening bid $25.  Bidding ends Saturday, June 18, at 5PM, CST.  A certificate/document will be emailed to the winner to be printed, and once payment is received, the "real" tickets and gift certificate will be mailed to the winning bidder.

Round Rock Express Baseball website

2011 Express vs Oklahoma City RedHawks on 6/25/2011 Tickets

Date/Time:Sat, Jun 25 2011 at 7:05 PM
Home Team:2011 Express
Opponent:Oklahoma City RedHawks
Venue:Dell Diamond II

First 2,500 fans will receive a complimentary Nolan Ryan bobblehead!
Round Rock Express Baseball and Dell Diamond minor league baseball; home of the Triple A Round Rock Express, named after Texas native and Hall of Fame Pitcher, Nolan Ryan.

Spacious one bedroom with 2 queen beeds suite at Hilton's Homewood Suites, Round Rock, plus a complimentary hot breakfast!
Our spacious one bedroom suite with 2 queen beds features a separate living and sleeping area. This comfortable suite features a fully equipped kitchen with full-size refrigerator, microwave, two-burner stove and dishwasher. You'll find enough space for work, study or entertaining - plus all the comforts of home including two remote control TVs, complimentary high-speed internet access, a full-size sofa sleeper, and two phones with voice mail. Enjoy a complimentary Suite Start hot breakfast seven days a week.
Homewood Suites by Hilton Austin/Round Rock Hotel, TX - Suite Homewood Suites by Hilton Austin/Round Rock Hotel, TX - Double Queen Bed Suite
Homewood Suites by Hilton Austin/Round Rock Hotel, TX - ExteriorHomewood Suites by Hilton Austin/Round Rock Hotel, TX - Lobby

Remember the rules:
Bidding begins immediately.  Leave your bid in the comment section at the bottom of this post.  All bids must be in $5 increments.  Opening bid $25.  Bidding ends Saturday, June 18, at 5PM, CST.
A certificate/document will be emailed to the winner, and, once payment is received, the "real" tickets and gift certificate will be mailed via USPS to the winning bidder.

All proceeds benefit orphans via Boss Your Heart Orphan Ministries!

And the Winners Are...

Sorry this is a little late, but better late than never, right?!?  During the Boss Your Heart Memorial Blitz, I said I wanted to have a giveaway each week to those who left comments of support for the focus of the week.  I never had a chance to go in and draw a winner for each week of the blitz, so I asked my sweet friend Kaleigh if she would do this for me.  I'm so thrilled that Kaleigh got it all figured out (thank you so much, Kaleigh!), and now, I'm happy to announce the 4 winners of the giveaways for each week of the memorial blitz:

KAYLA!  Week 1 (Focus: Hope for Ian.  BTW:  He's coming home so very soon!!!  His family's still fundraising, so if you'd like to give a last minute contribution, click HERE.) 
Comment #5
Waiting for the day when I get to adopt, and supporting others in their journey meanwhile. Donated to the Stewart family to help bring Ian home. What a blessing!

NO GREATER JOY MOM!  Week 2 (Focus:  Taylor, Missionary to Israel/Mending Broken Hearts)
Comment #3
nogreaterjoymom 04/30/2011 09:35 PM
Hello my friend,
 I just read about sweet Taylor. What a beautiful girl. I will direct readers here tomorrow in the hope that some may be willing to help out.
Love and biggest hugs

KELLY BIGHAM!  Week 3 (Focus:  Back the Blocks) 
Comment #43
Just signed on to support the Blocks monthly... We count it a privledge to support this sweet family anyway we can.... thank you Amy for supporting us with your words and prayers. I love how God's tapestry is so much more than we could ever hope or imagine..... sooooo excited for you guys.

SUSAN BAKER!  Week 4 (Focus:  Reach Out to Rowan) 
Comment #3 
Lives with all his might despite his limitations. Reminds me of a sweet Serbian princess. 

Congratulations to the winners!  Winners, please get in touch with me so I can ship your Boss Your Heart book and t-shirt to you!  Contact me via email at Lorraine (at) ForgottenSawRanch (dot) com.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday's Meditation, A Boss Your Heart Devo {Influence My World}

Thank you, D'Lane, for today's message...Sidenote, tomorrow I'm going to announce the winners from the memorial blitz, so stay tuned!:

Influence My World
By D’Lane Moore

Sometimes I wonder how it is that I can influence my world.  I mean I am a stay at home mom who is potty training, sweeping floors, and folding clothes.  My prayer has always been that God would use me to change the nations for his glory.  It does not really seem like God could possibly be answering that prayer in my current situation, or could He?  I mean this is God I am talking about! 

I have recently been thinking about people God uses to change the nations I have thought of well-known people like one of Lorraine’s favorite singers, Steven Curtis Chapman, and I have been thinking of lesser-known people like my grandparents.  My dad’s parents raised 5 kids.  They were nothing special as far as the world is concerned.  My grandmother was a mom and house wife, my grandfather worked in a factory and ran a small farm, but my grandparents loved Jesus with their whole heart.  They certainly bossed their hearts with his word and in his presence, but did they change the nations?  Well in their retirement years my grandparents traveled around and helped build churches, churches where men, women, and children of all cultures have come to hear the gospel, but more than that my grandparents raise my dad.  My dad chose to start following Jesus at a young age and God has used him to influence youth of many nations.  I have an African “sister”, a girl who is from Kenya, but lived in our house for 2 years and served along side us in ministry.  My dad is a director at a camp who actively seeks to mentor and disciple college students, not only from America, but from other nations as well, such as Colombia.  Even when I was in high school the exchange students who came to our school were always welcome in our house and given special treatment at church.  Because of my grandparents influence in my dad’s life the nations have been changed, in a small way, for God’s glory!  Wow! 

All this reflecting has made me think about who it is in my life that I might be influencing- a neighbor, a girl at the gym, another mom at story time, a co-worker of my husband’s- you never know.  But how?  How can I influence others to open their hearts up to Christ?  To take a  chance on bossing their heart? 

Look at Matthew 5:14-16

“Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

Did you catch that last part?  “By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
I may not get the chance to stand on a stage and proclaim Christ to the world, or travel to another country to hold an orphan in my arms, but I do get chances everyday to open myself to others.  I can choose to share my life, my home, and my resources with others.  I can share with them why I do what I do.  I can make sure they know that I have been given so much by a generous Father in heaven that I can not help but want to give to others. 

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for this encouraging word.  I confess it is easier said than done.  Help us to be the light-bearers you have called us to be.  Help us to keep an open house, being open and generous with others.  Use us to prompt people to open up with you.  I know that you are a generous Father that desires to be the boss of every heart of every nation so that they can experience the extravagant love you have for each of us. 
Jesus, you are worthy of our lives!  We love you!  Help us love you even more!  For you glorious name sake,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday's Meditation, A Boss Your Heart Devo

Thank you, Kirsten Walkup, for today's devo:

Submitted By Kirsten Walkup:
I think the kid’s name was Jason. For reasons that aren’t totally clear now, I didn’t really like him. I remember him as being an obnoxious non-believer who frequently challenged me on my beliefs. I don’t think that’s the reason we didn’t get along though, throughout my life I seem to have a habit of making friends with obnoxious non-believers. Something about this kid really grated on me, to call him an outright jerk would probably be taking it too far and to say he was abrasive is something of an understatement. Whatever it was, we didn’t get along at all. Unfortunately we had the same circle of friends and were constantly running into each other.

This was during a time of my life when I was in my early 20’s and attending bible school in Dallas and working a night job in one of the local malls. I lived on campus and there was an enforced curfew. Since I worked evenings, the school couldn’t give me grief about coming in late (a fact I exploited many times). Often after work, a few friends of mine who worked around the area would get together at a coffee shop to unwind for a few hours. There were usually five or six of us, some were believers and some weren’t. We didn’t usually step on each other’s toes though. Back then I was fairly predatory when it came to theology but by the time we all got together late in the evenings, I didn’t really have the energy for a fight…except when Jason showed up.

One thing I do remember about Jason was that he tried really hard to fit in and did so at the expense of other people. If he sensed a weakness or insecurity in someone, he’d pounce in it. Another thing I remember was that he wasn’t particularly bright. I suspect this is why the others gave him a pass when he was being belligerent. Jason and I would typically verbally spar about things of varying religious significance, but one thing he loved to harp on was creation and evolution. Normally our exchanges didn’t last long mainly because I didn’t want to wear out our mutual friends. Beyond the two of us, I doubt the others had any interest in anything we were talking about and just wanted to relax for awhile. Normally when we’d tangle, I’d offer a token argument and dismiss him with a wave. He managed to catch me on the wrong night though.

Anyone who knows me well knows it takes me a long time to get angry, but once there, watch out. I’ve learned over the years to shorten the fuse a bit so as to avoid becoming enraged when angry, but at 20 I hadn’t yet learned that lesson. What started the argument that night between Jason and I is anyone’s guess. In fact I don’t even remember the details of it or what was said. I do remember unloading on him and thoroughly exposing his arguments and relative lack of intellectual firepower. And I remember still going after him long after the “debate” had been decided. On this evening, in my darkened state of mind, simply shutting the kid up wasn’t enough, I wanted to humiliate him in a public setting. I’d had enough.

What I remember with crystal clarity though, was when he got up in the middle of my rant, shot a baleful injured glare at me through red eyes near tears, and stormed out of our quaint little coffee house. I had succeeded in my goal but the victory was hollow. One by one, the few who had gathered there that evening awkwardly excused themselves and shuffled out and I was left alone with my thoughts and a very troubled spirit. What was I bothering with bible school and preparation of ministry for if not to show Christ’s love in situations like that?

I tried calling Jason a few times to apologize but never got through. After that evening, I never saw or spoke to him again and I don’t really know what became of him. I later heard through mutual friends that Jason was from an abusive household and his alcoholic father frequently beat him up when he was a kid. In retrospect, the reason Jason would often lash out is likely because there was a lot of stored-up pain in his spirit. I didn’t know any of this of course; I have already stated I didn’t like him so why bother getting to know him?

I think about Jason (I’m pretty sure that’s his name) every now and then and when I do I pray for him, wherever his is, whatever he’s doing. I’ve made many mistakes in my life but most of them have hurt me more than anyone else. This one was different because for a moment I utterly rejected the opportunity to live out the gospel in favor of crushing someone. And it bothers me to this day.

Love is a powerful thing. As Christians, we possess the most powerful form of love; the love of God. It was an incomprehensibly selfless love that led Christ to the cross where He laid down His life for the creation that He so dearly loved. And it is that same love that infuses itself into each of us when we accept His gift of salvation. We do not possess this love only to bestow it upon those for whom we have affection, but to give to those who need it the most. It has been my experience that those who are most in need are those that are utterly unlovable. I don’t really know what brings me to talk about this as I type this. I usually only share this story with great reluctance and have done so only a handful of times.

The people in life whose paths we cross we may never see again, and we never know what sort of eternal consequences, for better or worse, the products of our life will have on others. Does our life produce love, joy, and peace, or anger, hostility, and contempt?

I Corinthians 13:4-13
Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Boss Your Heart (and tongue)!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Selah's Surprises and Surgeries

On June 1, Baby Selah turned 8 months old.  She is THRIVING.  Hallelujah!

But Selah will be facing some surgery in the upcoming months, and I'd love to know if any of you have ever dealt with any of this.  I would love to connect with other moms who have experience in any of the things we're facing, as this is unknown territory for us.

Selah must have reconstructive skull surgery.  Her skull is badly misshapen due to her severe hydrocephalus at birth.  (She was born with 3 pounds of fluid in her skull, and only a small sliver of brain.)  We have not seen photos of Selah at birth, but her neurosurgeon told us it was the biggest skull he had ever seen.  We were also told that no one expected Selah to be born alive, and then when she was, they didn't expect her to survive very long.  

Then God sent her to our family, but, of course, we didn't know any of that history, other than the fact that she had hydrocephalus.  Oh my.  Selah has been such an unexpected blessing to our entire family.  Oh how dearly we love this little girl.  Right now, she has been with us the same amount of time that Chrissie was with us, and right now we are facing some serious surgeries.

Sometimes it feels like this can't be true.  How can God allow us to fall so deeply in love with one of His precious children, only to lead us down a path of such high risk?!?  But we trust God and His sovereignty more than the fear of risks and emotions.  We're bossing our  hearts through this experience, falling deeper and deeper in love, opening our hearts fully to another vulnerable state, because that is what life is all about.  That is what God has called us to do, and no matter how much we'd like to protect ourselves, living our lives with our hearts in a casket of safety is not the abundant life He has called us to.

Oh how we don't want to lose this precious baby girl.  The risk is high, but so is the reward.

Just look at this precious face!  Those eyes.  They get me E-V-E-R-Y time.  And that upper lip.  The arches are shaped just like a heart!  And oh, what symbolism there is in a heart.  When I think of hearts, I immediately think of love, kisses, and hugs.  I also think of Valentine's Day.  And chocolate.  And of course chocolate makes me think of our Chrissie.  And hearts make me think of our princess, too.   Chrissie's precious broken heart is now perfectly healed, and she left us a legacy of bossing our hearts.

And when we boss our hearts, we are able to walk in God's Truth, in His love, trusting in His sovereignty, regardless of the risks.

Even the risk of a highly invasive, high-risk brain/skull reconstructive surgery.

On Thursday, June 2, Matt and I met with the craniofacial reconstructive surgeon, along with the neurosurgeon, for a consultation about Selah's skull shape and surgery.  Both surgeons agree that Selah needs to have this surgery, in two phases.  They believe that because Selah is doing so well developmentally, we need to give her brain the optimal chance at continuing to progress and grow.  In order for the brain to have the optimal chance, it must have the optimal skull shape, which is NOT Selah's current shape.

Selah needs to have a rounder skull, instead of the oblong and horribly misshapen skull she currently has.  Selah also has several places where her skull has fused, known as craniosynostosis.  In order for Selah's brain to continue to grow and thrive the way that it miraculously has thus far, her skull must undergo reconstructive surgery to form it into a more properly shaped skull.

On one note, this is a really positive thing because this means that Selah's brain is progressing in ways the specialists thought impossible.  Since the specialists have witnessed Selah's miraculous developmental progress, they believe it is worth the risk to perform this surgery so that Selah will be able to continue to progress in the miraculous fashion that she has displayed over the past 8 months.  (The surgeons told us that if she wasn't really progressing, the surgery would be a mute point because it wouldn't really matter what shape her skull is if her brain isn't progressing anyway.)

On another note, the surgery is high risk and highly invasive, which is so scary for us.  It's hard to imagine that God has asked us to walk this path, again, just with a different child and a different type of high-risk surgery to a different body part.  I can feel my heart beating more rapidly as I type this, palms sweating.

Boss my heart.  Deep breath.

Boss my heart.  Help me Lord.

Boss my heart.  God's Truth.  Reminders that His mercy prevails, His love never fails.

We must choose trust over doubt.  We must choose God's sovereignty over circumstances.  We must choose His will over our own desires.  We must choose obedience over running a different direction with our fingers in our ears disobedience.

And not only will Selah have reconstructive skull surgery, but she might also need surgery for her recently diagnosed cause of her ongoing chronic constipation: anteriorly placed rectal opening.  Basically, Selah's anus is placed too close to her "girl parts", not in line with her colon (kind of like a kink in the plumbing!), which causes chronic constipation.

Selah was also recently diagnosed with severe acid reflux, which might also cause pain when Selah tries to poop because while one end is clogged, the other end has acid that burns when she pushes and tries to poop (poor baby girl!).  The pediatric gastroenterologist put Selah on Nexium (a 10mg packet of delayed release oral suspension daily), plus she takes Miralax (1.5 tsp dissolved in juice daily), along with a serving of prunes daily to help battle her chronic constipation.  The gastro doc also requested we thicken Selah's bottles using oatmeal cereal, to help reduce reflux.  Selah also takes Keppra (1 ml every 8 hours) , an anti-seizure medication.

In addition to Selah's oral medications, she receives weekly physical therapy and occupational therapy.  Despite all of her "issues", she is still reaching developmental milestones that no one expected her to achieve and she is absolutely THRIVING.  All glory to God, for He has done great things!

At age 4 months, Selah got 2 bottom teeth.  At age 5 months, she was rolling over in both directions.  At age 6 months, Selah was sitting (tripod method, propping herself up with her hands between her legs) by herself, she got 2 top teeth, and she learned to give kisses.  At Selah's 6 month well check, she was 110th percentile in height and 99th percentile in weight.  At age 7 months, Selah began pulling her legs up underneath her when lying flat, standing for extended periods, jumping up and down, clapping, and waving hi, plus she got 2 more top teeth.  Selah just turned 8 months old, and she weighs 22.5 pounds!
Just look at this healthy baby girl! :-)

We believe the first phase of Selah's skull reconstructive surgery will occur in August, but we are waiting for the surgery scheduler to contact us to confirm.  (We want to wait until August so the kids can have a fun summer.  We have a family camp in Colorado (for adoptive families) at the beginning of August, so we're hoping we can schedule Selah's surgery after we get back from family camp.)  

If anyone has any advice on what we can do to help Selah with her constipation and reflux, that would be great.  And if anyone has experience with skull reconstructive surgery and/or surgery for an anteriorly placed anus, we'd love to hear from you.

And, of course, we would be most grateful for everyone's prayers for sweet Selah to continue to thrive.  Glory to God and praises to our Mighty Father!  He never ceases to surprise, shock, AMAZE me. :-)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Benefit Photos

I completely forgot that our friend and generous photographer, Mr. Kirsten Walkup (who also contributes devos on this blog), took photos at the 1st Annual Boss Your Heart Memorial Benefit!  Kirsten set up a photo booth, and he took some candid shots as well.  He doesn't have shots of the decorations or auction items, etc., but he did get some great shots of some of the visitors!  Check the photos out HERE (photo booth shots) and  HERE (candid shots), and if you took photos at Kirsten's booth, be sure to tag yourself in them and/or download them.  Thank you so much, Kirsten, for your generous donation of being the event photographer, as well as sharing your photos with us on Facebook!

Click HERE to see the photos I took at the benefit, although I didn't take any pics after the event actually started!  I only took photos for a few minutes during set-up, but I'm glad I have these, although I really wish I would have gathered all of the volunteers for a big group shot!  And I SO WISH I would have taken photos throughout the event as a record of our first benefit, and a sweet reminder of all those who came out to show support.  I'm grateful that Kirsten took some photos though! :-)

Benefit Update

So sorry for not posting sooner.  I'm still here, just busy, as usual, and focusing on our family, catching up on things after the big benefit, figuring out summer schedules/activities, doing doctor's appointments, etc.  I decided I really need to post a quick update for now, with high hopes of having time to post greater details in the near future. :-)

1st Annual Boss Your Heart Memorial Benefit and Team Roping:

Well, I had really hoped to have a big thank you post with benefit photos and a detailed report, but I'm just going to have to go for the slim, better-than-nothing update for now. :-)  In short, we think we made about $5,000 at the first annual benefit, in memory of Chrissie!  All glory to God because this was supposed to really be a team roping, so making $5K on a team roping with no horses or cows, well, that was most definitely God!  We were worried that no one would show up for the benefit since we had to cancel the team roping (due to the fluke horse virus) not even 24 hours before the roping!  We were seriously concerned that we wouldn't be able to cover our expenses, but God took care of everything and blessed us with somewhere around $5K (net profit).  Praise Him!  We're still working on accounting, but we know the minimum net profit is $5K.  All of that will go to help orphans.  Hallelujah!

Our hearts were so very blessed by all of the people who showed support of the first annual Boss Your Heart benefit!  We truly had no idea what God had in store.  We could NOT have had the benefit without the over-the-top help of Carrie Windham and the many teammates she brought with her who took care of all of the amazing decorations (all focused around Princess Chrissie), as well as a thousand other details.  Such a blessing!  Carrie and her friend Maris and a team of many volunteers handled all of the silent auction details, plus they did set-up and clean-up, too!  Oh, and they did the bake sale and kids' face painting as well!  (And Carrie donated all of the decor and expenses she incurred.)  If it hadn't been for all of the advance effort Carrie had already put into making the benefit beautiful, meaningful, and all around fabulous, we probably would have just canceled it the moment we canceled the team roping portion (due to the horse virus).  Thank you, Carrie, and your fabulous team of many volunteers!!!

And another huge thank you to all of the other volunteers who showed up throughout the day to help with whatever needed doing.  Wow, what a sweet blessing!  Oh, and I mustn't forget all of you who solicited and contributed items for the silent auction, as well as those who purchased items.  We had some amazing stuff up for bids!  Oh, and thank you to all of you who baked so many delicious goodies for the bake sale.  Can I just say, "YUM"?!?  And Byron, Amy, Carlos, and Paul, you did a FABULOUS job on the BBQ.  (Parker said that was the best brisket he'd ever eaten in his entire life!)  And thank you Margarita's Tortillas for donating 150 awesome organic whole wheat tortillas!  Well, the list of people who made this event a success is enormous, but please know that each and every one of you are precious to us, and we truly could not have pulled this off without your help.

While we were concerned that no one would attend the benefit (since we had really focused on the team roping portion and that was canceled at the last minute), God showed His faithfulness in a mighty way by blessing us with so much support.  We were surprised to meet so many new families/people, and our hearts were warmed by the faces and hugs of many precious friends and family who are dear to us.  Please know that we are most grateful for each and every person who showed up on May 21, whether it was to volunteer or to shop or to play or to visit!

And the biggest thank you goes to my husband, Matt, who did more work for this benefit than either of us ever realized would be possible.  You did an awesome job, Matt, especially working within the very short time frame we had.  Everything turned out great, and because of you, we had yummy food and fun entertainment for the kids.  Woohoo!  You also gathered numerous sponsors, and hopefully I'll be able to put together a post to thank all of the sponsors of our first annual Boss Your Heart memorial benefit.

Bottom line is, there are so many of you who made this benefit possible, and our hearts are overflowing with gratitude.  Thank you is not enough!!!  We love you all!
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