"He heals the broken hearted...

                    and binds up their wounds"

"Go home!"  If Rachel said it once, she said it a million times this morning...  You'd have thought it was Christmas morning by the look on her face when she woke up... She knew today was supposed to be the day and she expected it as soon as her head popped off that pillow this morning!  Little did she know that the "powers that be" at Shands Hospital were not in as much a hurry to get her home as she was!  So we waited... and we waited... and we waited some more!  And with every moment we waited Rachel's countenance fell a little.  Dr Bleiweis came by the room to tell us good-bye and to have a promised photo made with Rachel.  We chatted with him, thanking him profusely for the incredible gift of hope he had given us, while Rachel waited, ever so impatiently.   God chose to use Dr Bleiweis as a huge part of her healing and we want her to grow up knowing about him and the wonderful people that cared so much and worked so hard to bring her hope.  Somehow I wanted Rachel to understand what she so obviously did not!  She was beginning to appear down right depressed!  A few minutes later, we learned through a translator that Rachel thought that Dr Bleiweis had come to tell us that we could not go home... this brought sad, sad tears... poor, sweet baby!..  She wants "HOME" and everything that means, so desperately!

Finally, finally the happy news was delivered to Rachel that the moment she'd been waiting for had arrived!  She looked at us as if she couldn't believe it!  She was so excited, she was giddy with delight!  And for the two hours it took to finally arrive home... she would smile at us with those gleaming eyes and remind us again... just in case we forgot the way... "Go home!"  Yes, baby...it's true!  We're going HOME!

Just 7 days after walking into that hospital for life-saving surgery... we were walking out with our precious treasure!  We still have a long way to go on this healing journey, but we've had a wonderful start and are so happy to round the next turn and find HOME waiting for us!  

So many people are celebrating your life today Rachel Hope!  WELCOME HOME!   

Home to stay!...

Life-saving open heart surgery ~ check
Intubation tube removed ~ check
Catheter removed ~ check
Chest drainage tubes removed ~ check
Arterial IV line removed ~ check
IV line (left arm) removed ~ check
Every nasty drug know to man by mouth ~ check
Blood drawn from right foot ~ check
Blood draw from left foot (failed) ~ check
Blood draw from right arm ~ check
Nasal canula disconnected ~ check
Oxygen SAT level of 75 or higher ~ check!
All done with a smile from Rachel and even some laughter~ check!!!!  

Going HOME to stay ~ praying for Monday!  (update:  it looks like Tuesday morning will be the big occasion! - exactly one week!)

While doing flashcards with Rachel today, in order to help her learn the names of very common objects, I came to the word "house" with the picture of a little cottage looking home below...  Rachel smiled big as if to say..."I've got this one!"...  "Go home!!!"  

To a little girl that has never known the love of "home"... that fairy tale cottage on a card said so much more than a house... it meant "home", and that's where she is going!  HOME!!!  Hoping all goes as planned and we are reunited as a family with our precious Rachel sometime tomorrow (Monday) afternoon!  

Rachel's surgeon, Dr Bleiweis, said that her recovery from surgery is "astounding!"  Rachel is astounding!  But even more astounding is the God who formed her little heart... has preserved it for this day... and has the all-sufficient grace to bring her hope and to BRING HER HOME!!!

Daddy's back to take me HOME!

 "Butterfly, Butterfly, Eskimo... a kiss and a hug before Daddy goes!"
Have carriage for Bunny and Baby ~ 
will travel! 

Jesus with skin on!

I feel so weak!... so needy!  But I don't like being weak or needy!  (There... I said it!)  I'd rather be the one reaching out to those in need... Not because I'm so holy or righteous, but because when I'm on the "giving end" of need... I set the terms.  I decide how committed I want to be... how much time I'm willing to give... how much money I'm willing to sacrifice... and how vulnerable I'm willing to risk being with the receiver of my giving.   But when I'm on the needy end, I'm helpless and completely at the mercy of the giver... whomever that might be.  

Ultimately, I believe that my times are in the Lord's hands and the satisfying of my needs, no matter how great or small, lies completely in his provision and care.  But I also believe that God delights in using broken people, just like me, to be "Jesus with skin on"...

Sometimes I think it might just be easier if God would skip the "middle man".  Get a human being involved in anything... and it instantly becomes complicated!  I mean, if my need entails money... it seems it would be so much easier if God dropped crisp dollar bills from the heavens as He did with manna.  That way, I wouldn't have to feel at all indebted to anyone or feel obligated to do the same for them when our roles have been reversed...

And if my need is physical... like failing health or a need for warmth and comfort.  Why not do the invisible by just speaking a word and letting it be done?  It seems that would be so much easier than waiting for someone else to rise to the occasion and meet my need, while inwardly taking pride in themselves and putting off an air that they are somehow better than I...  I'm fine with being indebted to God... but my next door neighbor who I'm not crazy about?  I really don't want to have to "owe him" anything! 

But right now, all those excuses are irrelevant!  I have needs that I can't meet no matter how I try.  My children have needs that I can't begin to meet in my own strength... Self-sufficiency is out the window.  "Self" has nothing to offer my incredible need!

James 1:27 says that true religion that pleases the Lord is to look after the orphans and widows and to reach out to them in their distress. Through out the Bible, we see again and again how God's heart beats passionately for the most needy among us!  But, wait!  I hate being needy... remember?  But I can't skip over this without asking"why"?  And I think I might already know the answer!  God loves the weak and the needy precisely because they can not provide for themselves... they MUST look outside of themselves for the fulfillment of their needs... they must look to Christ!   

I started this journey with a negative balance in my "sufficient" tank.  I'm certain that most people thought that we'd lost our minds before we even started!  Most days I probably would have agreed.  But part of the joy of this journey has been discovering along the way how ALL-sufficient our God is!  One of the greatest treasures has been meeting brothers and sisters along the way that have been "Jesus with skin on" to us!

Behind every check made out in our names for Rachel's adoption was a family with obligations and needs much like our own.  People gave because they wanted to give hope to a little girl that had never known hope before... and they were willing to sacrifice in order that she might meet the One who is the giver of Hope Himself!... Jesus with skin on!

Strangers from Gainesville's Chinese Christian Church heard Rachel's story and many have come to the hospital again and again to comfort her in words she can understand, to cry and celebrate with us through the ups and downs of discovering God's plan for Rachel, to bring food that is familiar, to pray with her and to talk to her about the true Healer of her heart!... Jesus with skin on! 

Shands has an incredible team of cardiologists that helped us get Rachel home and were willing to try the impossible in order that she could have a chance at life!  They are practically as smitten with her as we are and treat her as if she is their very own.  They have been tender and kind and donated their incredibly valuable time in order to give Rachel hope!... Jesus with skin on!

The day or two after surgery was brutal!  Watching your child cry silently with an intubation tube down their throat and tears spilling down the sides of their face is not for the weak at heart!  I was exhausted!  I made myself lay down when Rachel was resting one of those afternoons and woke to discover a gift next to my chair/bed!  I didn't have a clue where it had come from or who it was from.  There were flowers, a balloon, gifts for Rachel, a card with names I didn't recognize, and tucked somewhere between the tissue paper, a photo of Rachel in the orphanage with a sweet, little friend of hers... this gift was from a literal stranger in Washington, who had been following Rachel's story, praying for her, and had recently adopted her friend, QiuQian as their daughter (now Allison Pegram!)... I am blown away and humbled by such kindness and concern for Rachel and for our family!... Jesus with skin on!

Texts, phone calls, an entire dance ministry to raise money, a babysitter always ready to help, wonderful neighbors, meals, friends to offer whatever... whenever, nurses who went above and beyond to show love to Rachel, my Mom, Dad, and kids (better known as Russ and Steph!) who will sacrifice their time in order to hold down the fort at home and love Kate and Ellie through it all!  I can't even think of them all to list them here!... Jesus with skin on!

We're nearing the end of this part of the journey and the beginning of the wonderful future God has for Rachel and for us as a family!  It is simply not possible for me to express how grateful I am to a God so loving, so kind, so personal... that He would prove Himself so all-sufficient through so many "angels in disguise"!... Jesus with skin on!

Thank you, Jesus!!!

Once upon a time...

a beautiful princess named Cinderella attended the magical ball... Everything about that evening was a most unlikely, unexpected, dream come true!  She had been asked to dance with Prince Charming!  She was certain that he'd enjoyed the dance as much as she had and they'd both been carried away by the beautiful magic of the moment they'd dreamed of for a life-time.  So much so, that Cinderella forgot!  She'd been so excited about her last minute invitation to the ball that she hardly heard what the fairy godmother had said before she was hurried away to the most beautiful night of her life... But then... the clock struck midnight! And what had begun as a fairy tale come true, suddenly became a very bad dream.  With each strike of the clock...everything melted away!  The beautiful carriage returned to it's pumpkin past... and those horses that drew the carriage?... they became mice scurrying about...

Such was the fate of little Princess Rachel Hope!  She too, had been selected for this occasion in the most unlikely way... Who would choose HER to go?  But someone did, and dreamy it was... more than she'd ever imagined!  But then... the clock struck midnight!  And what had begun as a fairy tale pain-free night come true, suddenly became a very bad dream for Princess Rachel.  The carriage of morphine that had been sent to carry her into a dream filled night of sleep, suddenly returned to a useless pumpkin!  And the beautiful doctors and nurses that had delivered her safely to the ball, suddenly scurried away and could not be found...

What is a Princess to do???  Why, she should call for her Mommy!  And that Mommy will jump into action at the mere sign of any pain.  She will run out into the hallway and holler for people as if trying to catch a taxi cab!  She will push the magic red button on the hospital bed TV remote and demand that someone come help her little girl and do it NOW!!!  She will beg and plead with King Jesus himself to rescue her!... and King Jesus ALWAYS does!  Tonight he rounded up the strongest medications known to man... only the best for the Princess He loves so deeply.  He provided them through the IV carriage and almost instantly, the pain slipped slowly, gloriously... away!  And when all was finally said and done, the dreamy night that had begun like every fairy tale should, ended even more gloriously than before!  And Princess Rachel slept in sweet peace for the entire pain-free night!   All thanks to you King Jesus for coming to her rescue, 'cause her Mommy's heart was breaking! 

A peaceful night, swept into "forever after" land...

"Immeasurably more" can not begin to tell! (photos added!)

Rachel's breathing tube is out and all is perfect again!  Well,...almost perfect!  We've still got some chest tubes to lose that might brighten things further, and an IV line or two, even more so... but for today - no complaining from either of us!  Blessed liquids will begin within the hour (wait a minute... nurse says NOW! and Mommy get's to be the "hero" in delivering it to those little parched lips!), morphine is on board for the ride, and we're enjoying the view from the back-side of surgery!  I've even had a sneak peak to one of Rachel's priceless smiles and a sweet little wink for a sip of water!  :-)  The camera might even re-emerge this afternoon for your "viewing pleasure"!

Our wonderful translator from the local Chinese Church came by this morning and spent some time with Rachel.  She assured Rachel that I would not leave her alone and that I would be right here, should she need anything.  Then, when her heart was "ready", I would take her home... Rachel turned to me and in the sweetest, most tender, post- breathing tube voice, said... "Thank you"   Are you serious?  NO, Baby... thank YOU!  The pleasure, the joy, the gift... is all MINE!  

I don't remember a time in my life when I've felt as grateful as I feel today!  I am smitten with my precious new daughter and soon I will take her home to start the life she's only dreamed of before now...  It is a miracle I still can't believe God has blessed me to be a part of!   "Immeasurably more" does not begin to tell!

Here are the photos I promised earlier!  I want the people that have "labored in love" through prayer to see God's beautiful answers... Our precious Rachel~less than 24 hours after open-heart surgery!

Yes, adoring fans!... this is a wink for YOU!

Mommy could go on and on... but it will suffice to say that my own heart is ready to BURST!  :-)

Immeasurably more HOPE! Update #4...

Hope overflowed when Dr Bleiweis came to meet us grinning from ear to ear!  Surgery was a complete success and Rachel is doing incredible!  After hearing the wonderful news, we were allowed to finally see her!  What a sight for sore eyes!  Our precious baby girl was still sleeping through this most miraculous day!  I stroked her hair and cried like a baby!  The nurse tried to console me and tell me that she understood how difficult it was to see her this way!  What she didn't know was that I wasn't crying in sadness, but in absolute JOY!  It appears that the Lord has "extended the loan" to us on the life of our precious daughter!  All glory to Him for proving Himself immeasurably more than I could ever imagine! I am humbled by His love for me through the gift of this little treasure.  I am equally humbled that He would express such love to me through so many of you that have willingly stood in the gap on Rachel's behalf today!  May His blessings overflow to you in return for your "labor of love"!  I covet your continued prayers for Rachel, as the next few days will be difficult ones...

Rachel is beginning to wake up and begging with her sad, sad eyes for an escape from her pain, her thirst, and the very uncomfortable breathing tube down her throat.  It is heart-breaking to watch the tears roll down the sides of her face and have absolutely no power to do anything about it!  OK... now might be the time for consolation!  Better yet... I'll pray that my God, who has immeasurably more power than I will ever possess will sooth and comfort...  

I'd especially ask you to pray early tomorrow morning, as the plan is to decrease sedation medications at 5AM tomorrow morning, so that they can "wean" Rachel off the intubation tube and hopefully remove it shortly thereafter.  I'm dreading this, even as I type, but can not forget the incredible Father that I serve!

Thank you again for your wonderful support and encouragement!  I will never grow tired of telling Rachel the stories of your love for her...

Immeasurably more Update #3...

Finally heard from the operating room... Rachel is off of by-pass, they are checking last minute details and getting ready to close her up!  They reported no excessive bleeding or major problems during surgery.  I'll update as soon as she arrives at PICU and we talk to the surgeon...  Praising God for being so ever-present today and for so many people  bringing Rachel before the Lord on our behalf...  Thank you will never be enough!

Pre-op fun with Daddy...




Immeasurably more Update #2...

12:00 PM~  Two hours and they have finally made their way to her heart, have started by-pass, and are going to work!  How I long to be in that operating room to witness the miracle first hand!  God's all sufficient power is at work!...  The goosebumps and resulting inch long hair on my legs remind me on a moment by moment basis how wonderful our Lord is in finally bringing Rachel to this place...

Immeasurably more Update 1...

10:00 AM-  First surgery update!  Rachel is sound "asleep" and they are beginning work to get to that broken heart of hers...  As I pray, I can almost see the Lord guiding Dr Bleiweis' hands and showing him how He made her beautifully unique heart!...   We are humbled to be wrapped in this breath-taking miracle!  

The day she's waited a lifetime for...

TODAY!  Finally... the day we wondered was even a possibility for Rachel has arrived!  God has tenderly held her in His arms and preserved her precious life for over 7 years and today... Rachel's HOPE for many more years to know Jesus and serve Him has begun!

We are so incredibly aware of God's immeasurable grace surrounding Rachel this morning.  She was completely calm and smiling even as they rolled her away toward the life-saving surgery she's needed since the day she was born...  She insisted on taking my Ipod along when we headed to pre-op and was playing "Jesus loves me" for herself and everyone else to hear as we waited and answered the same questions about her a thousand times!  Then the most appropriate tune started as she waved good-bye from her bed and was rolled away!...


Love woke me up this morning 
with a memory
Love came and whispered a story
 that awakened a dream

Imagine a beautiful castle 
and a beautiful king
He left the comfort of His throne
 to fight for victory

I am a dreamer, take me higher
open the sky and start a fire
I believe, even if it's just a dream!

Love woke me up this morning 
and I ran to see
the king in the winners circle 
on the horse he'd won for me

I am a dreamer, take me higher
open the sky and start a fire
I believe, even if it's just a dream!

Only a king could do anything
 to protect the kingdom
only a king can do anything 
to protect the kingdom
Only a king could do anything
to protect the kingdom

I am a dreamer, take me higher
open the sky and start the fire
I believe, even if it's just...

I am a dreamer, take me higher
open the sky and start a fire
I believe, even if it's just a dream

Only a king would do anything 
to protect the kingdom....  

We're praying for you and dreaming for you today, precious girl!

In His Hands...

I'm sitting in a wheelchair outside a hospital room... typing this blog!  Can't say I ever imagined such a thing... but here I am!  And incredibly grateful for the last minute opportunity to do so!  My home phone rang at 4PM this afternoon, and as has become my habit these past few weeks... I sprung to my feet to answer!  It might be the University of Florida/ Shands calling to reschedule Rachel's surgery for an earlier date.  Finally, today,... the phone call was actually them!  A last minute opening in Dr Bleiweis' schedule means open heart surgery TOMORROW morning!  I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall this afternoon as I tried to pack for a "journey" that could last one week.... or drag into a month!  How in the world do you prepare for that???  Oh well... I did the best I could and a few hours later, Doug, Rachel, and I were on our way to Gainesville!  

Our incredible translators from the Chinese Church here in Gainesville were here to explain tomorrow's events to Rachel and to walk her through getting her IV line in place. They were wonderful!  Rachel ~ even more wonderful!  Handled the whole thing like a champ!  I think she's ready to face the giants of tomorrow!  I feel certain that Jesus will take this journey with her, don't you?  Just before saying goodbye to our translators/ brother and sister in Christ, we asked if they would pray with Rachel.  They, of course, agreed and invited Rachel to begin... These were the sweet words that formed our precious Rachel's first prayer...(at least the words that I could understand!)...  "Daddy, Mommy, Rachel's heart,  Russ' Happy Birthday,  Kate and Ellie, .... Jesus,  Amen!  The tenderness of a child's prayer~ spoken in some pseudo-language, somewhere between Chinese and English.  I praise God that He knows her heart and heard every word of it perfectly!  I'm pretty certain that nothing can warm your heart quite like the prayer of a sweet child... so I've attempted to attach her prayer in the car as we pulled into the hospital tonight....(key word would be tonight... meaning it is DARK!-  But it's the prayer spoken that will melt your heart!)

If that's not enough to make your heart happy, I'm not sure much would!  Here's a few sweet pictures of the beginning of our journey to Rachel's new heart... (well~ sadly it is 2:40 and I can't seem to find the photos I wanted to share with you!  I guess you'll have to hold your breath for tomorrow when I can think a little clearer!)  ~ It appears that moment might be now--- 7 hours later!  Here's a few photos of our brave girl...

We covet your prayers for Rachel tomorrow morning (Oct 18) beginning at 7 AM and then for most of the remainder of the day!  Her heart and lungs still need a miracle and we are trusting God for just THAT!  :-)  He is able!... And in His goodness and immeasurable grace we find rest!

I'll post soon with wonderful updates as they become available throughout the day!  The marathon begins!  On your mark... Get set... GO!!!!