That's all I really want!  Waiting and wondering is brutal!  Tomorrow morning at 7AM, our precious Rachel will have a heart catheter to get an "inside look" at what's going on in that little heart of hers and look for answers as to why her single ventricle is weakening.  Most importantly, though, are the answers we need, that until now, have been kept secret within that tiny little body of hers.  Pressures within her lungs and the chambers of her "half heart" will reveal if she is able to support the second surgery she so desperately needs (the Fontan), or if we need to move toward a heart transplant instead.  Most children receive the Fontan many, many years before the age of 7...  so at this point it's all record-breaking, "odds"-smashing, and statistical anomalies, so only the Lord who made that precious heart of hers knows the answers that lie within...  We're praying that He will share some of those secrets with us tomorrow, so that we can finally begin to understand what the next months... what the next years, hold for our Rachel Hope.

Rachel and I headed to Gainesville earlier today for some pre-op echoes,  EKGs, and at least a thousand consent forms.  I was asked the same question, over and over again today, by every person that laid eyes on Rachel.  "Do you have any questions?"  Ummmm.... I have nothing BUT questions!  Maybe the better question is one I should be asking each of you!... "Do you have any answers???"  I finally settled on asking Rachel's cardiologist if he had any "hunches"...  I mean, at this point, I'll take whatever I can get!  He was, as expected, reluctant to share any "hunches" he might have regarding tomorrow's outcome.  I can't say I blame him.... but geezy-wheezy!  Could you throw me a bone or something???  My own hunch is not a very optimistic one.   I can't really narrow it down to one single reason I feel that way... just an overall consensus of my thoughts in several months of mothering.  Most notably is her weight...  She was weighed the first time she walked into this hospital 5 months ago, just a few days after she arrived home from China- A whopping 37.4 pds!  And today?  37 pds!  It's hard to describe just how tiny she is.  I dress and undress Rachel several times a day and have presided over every shower and bath she's had for 5 months counting... and yet the sight of her naked body still takes my breath away!  The only description that might be close is what a child might look like, walking out of a concentration camp.  It alarms me and I have tried every possible tactic under the sun to get weight on her little bones.  The doctors tell me, however, that this problem is typical with a weakened heart like hers...  All available energy must be saved for the "pumping power" that weak ventricle needs, and there's simply nothing extra left!  I would honestly consider donating some fat cells to my precious daughter's thighs, but I'm not sure if that would be more about ME, that Rachel!!!  :-)

I've entered the medical "fog" that seems permanently lowered over Shands Hospital and I can't say I enjoyed my reintroduction to it's hallways today.  But I am grateful to be surrounded by such an incredible staff of doctors dedicated to giving Rachel HOPE!  I am keenly aware, especially around here, that every day is a gift with our precious girl and that life simply doesn't hold any guarantees for her tomorrows.  So today, I tried to do everything I could to make it a special day for Rachel and me to share...  I enjoyed every single moment of it and I'm pretty sure she did too!  She is well prepared for tomorrow (even without a translator this time!) and has chosen to walk into this scary place again with a smile on her face!  This little girl blows me away...  I still have so much to learn!

It's time I close and head to my hotel bed for a few hours of sleep with the little Princess.  I covet your prayers on her behalf tomorrow as you awaken and throughout the day, that the day's blessings will hold for us... ANSWERS!  Pray for my "mommy heart" too-  that regardless of tomorrow's answers, my response would Glorify Christ!  Thank you, sweet friends for standing in the gap for us again!

Something better...

I was minding my own business yesterday, going through a year's worth of paperwork that had been begging for my attention.  From somewhere among the bills and receipts, slipped a picture I had stuffed there many, many months ago.  This was a photo that had been reproduced many times and hung in prominent places throughout our home.... the bathroom mirror; on my bedside table; and as you've probably guessed ~ front and center on the refrigerator door!  I had fallen head over heels in love with a little girl half a world away that I wanted more than just about anything to be able to call "mine"!  I was so smitten by this beautiful "stranger" that hardly a moment went by without my thoughts somehow returning to her sweet face and my dreams of being the mommy she so desperately needed as a 9 year old orphaned girl.  This little girl had done more to stimulate my prayer life than almost anything else I can remember.  I was beyond certain that God had chosen her just for me and was hardly daunted when we discovered she had been matched with another family instead of ours.  If I slept at all following that devastating news, I don't remember it.  I recall only battles in prayer for God to move mountains and bring her back to our family.

It was absolutely impossible that the family matched with "my" girl could possibly love her the way I already did....   Every time the telephone rang or an Email announced it's arrival in my inbox, I would leap from my chair, convinced word had finally arrived from the adoption agency declaring what I already knew... She was mine!!!  A week, then 10 days passed without a single call or Email.  All hope was dwindling... and fast!  Why God?  Why would you even allow my heart to be pulled so completely into a place with no hope of fulfillment?  How could you allow even Doug to surprise me and agree to adopt this precious girl, only to take her away?  It seemed a futile exercise that almost seemed like an act of cruelty on my fragile emotions!  The only reconciliation I could find in the matter was in believing that God did, indeed, have a child for us... but a different one than the one I had already given my heart so completely to!  Out of utter disappointment, I made myself begin to look at several others of the 150,000,000 orphans needing a home.  One caught my eye again and again, but the words "critical medical needs" were all I needed to pass straight by and take a look at others with far less dire needs.

It's rare that I sense God saying something so clearly that I am compelled to listen and act upon it or risk the consequences of flat out disobedience.  But that day was one of those days-- and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what God was asking me to do...  You've got it! - Make a call and look at the files of that critically ill child...  There was an almost literal physical battle that took place in getting my reluctant body out of the recliner and in front of my computer.  And, almost as if against my own will, I dialed the phone number to the adoption agency and asked them to lock her file!  The voice on the other end seemed surprised that I was asking about this particular child... "Are you aware that this child is considered "terminal"?  Doctors that treated her as a baby decided that she was "inoperable".  We want to be sure that you are fully aware of this child's critical needs..."

The Spirit of God took over from there and before I knew it, I had the Emailed files right in front of me staring back from my computer screen!  I immediately took my computer, filled with scary diagnosis' and prognosis' and laid them before Doug...  What were we to do?  I think we both knew the answer before the question passed through my lips.  Neither of us could bear the thought of this precious child dying alone in an orphanage.  We were to bring her home, pray for healing, and be grateful for each day, regardless of the outcome.  D.O.N.E.!  I've never been more scared... or sure... of anything in my entire life!

What I didn't know at the time was that while I was securing the files of this dying child, my cell phone was ringing in the bottom of my purse!  It was the call I'd waited 10 days for!  "My" healthy 9 year old was available for adoption once again and could be mine if I still wanted her!  "WANTED HER"? Are you kidding me??? I honestly have wanted few things in my life as intensely as I wanted HER!  Doug took one look at me and read my mind... We would adopt BOTH of them!    Not so fast!!  Two children with two different agencies is not a good thing!  Especially if one of those agencies refuses to "share" a file with the other.  We had a choice to make and it proved to be one of the more difficult decisions I've had to make in my lifetime!

The tug of war between that which my heart cried for and the direction of the Spirit of God made for a very long weekend of decision making!  How is it humanly possible to make a choice between sickness and health?  Life and death?  The answer seemed obvious on Friday afternoon.  By Sunday night, God's answer wasn't at all what we had expected, but it was sure... unanimous... unquestionable.  We were to extend hope to the hopeless and trust God with the outcome.  "Choose" sickness... "choose" the likelihood that we would experience great loss through the death of a child... "our" child!  I had already cried a river of tears in losing that precious 9 year old girl once.  This time... I would release her files as an act of my will and trust that God had something better in mind...

I'd cried enough tears over the loss of a child that was never really even mine!  It was time to let go and accept God's final answer on the matter.  His "no" meant that it was time to bring myself to remove the many photos I had hung around our home with such hope only a few months earlier.  Those photos found their way to the pile I was now finally trying to purge from the shelves of our office!  One glance of that sweet face, and my stomach did a complete somersault, followed by a second.  I quickly relegated them to the pile full of things I just didn't know what to do with...  I certainly couldn't throw them away!  But I realized from my surprising reaction that I am not yet to the place where I can bear looking at those photos on a daily basis either.  It's been almost a year since the first sight of that face took my breath away as it did today and if I am really honest, I have to admit that I still struggle deeply with God's "NO" when I so desperately wanted a "YES!"

I obviously had some things I needed to talk to the Lord about!  I had barely shut the door and lowered my head in prayer when the tears came... We're not talking dainty, feminine tears here!  We're talkin' full out wailing; sobbing; snot flying; crying!!!  I had wanted her to be mine and I needed to clear the air between the Lord and me!  If I really believe that you are good and that you can be trusted with the minute' details of my life, Lord... why do I still hurt so deeply?  My tears betrayed my heart and I was suddenly revolted by my utter lack of trust in the God who has proven His love to me in so many ways, it would be impossible to count them all!  I'm embarrassed, Lord, that I am slow to really believe that your "no" means that you have something better in mind!

Even as my tears sting my cheeks in thinking of the child I lost, my thoughts turn to Rachel- the child I "found".  I love that precious little girl with emotions I didn't know resided within my heart.  And if given the choice again- even with hindsight and all the pain clearly ahead- I'd do it again in a heart beat!  But so many unknowns still lie ahead for Rachel.  Doug was the first to be brave enough to give voice to the many fears and questions we share...  "Lor,"  he said into the dark of our bedroom late one night,  "Do you ever think about losing her?"  The question took my breath away...  Yes, I'd been thinking about that a lot lately.  Somehow thoughts about such things seemed a lot more bearable when viewed from a file on a computer screen.  We would love her... for whatever time the Lord would give.  Sounds holy and good...  But now we're not just talking about a little girl a half a world away, but the precious little girl sound asleep down the hall.  We LOVE her!... DEEPLY!  And either of us would give our very lives so that she could live!  She's so much more than facts on a page... She's our daughter!  Can we trust God HERE?  What if our cries on her behalf are answered with "I have something better in mind" and that something better means that we lose her too???  Can I trust the Lord even when His answers make no sense at all?  When His "no" doesn't mean He has a different child for us, but one less to love and raise as our own?

I long for the day when my heart will bend more readily toward His will over my own.  Oh, for the grace to trust Him more, regardless of His answers!  May He be glorified through my response not only when His answer is "YES", or "NOT NOW", but most especially when He answers "I have SOMETHING BETTER"...

Good Enough...

A special "tuck-in"...

As Rachel's grasp on English grows, so do the number of stories she shares from inside the orphanage where she spent the first 7 years of her life.... From bedtime routines; to the one toothbrush shared by all the girls her age; to the "pretty dresses" she was never able to wear because her clothes were chosen for her from the shared allotment of correct sizes.  Last night, as I was tucking the girls into bed, Rachel told of a little boy a bit younger than herself, that had far more purple lips and fingers than her own.  "Oh,"  I said, "that little boy needs a Mommy and Daddy who will take him to a doctor that can fix his boo-boo heart, like you!"  "No!" she said emphatically, "He's mean!"  She shared a list of normal little boy infractions that, from her 7 year old eyes, made him "un-adoptable"!  "But he needs a Mommy and Daddy too!",  I insisted!  She grabbed my arm to silence me and began to explain why there was simply no hope for a boy like him...  "In China, they say only if you are a good girl you get a Mommy and Daddy!  If you are mean,... no Mommy and Daddy for you!"

Suddenly I understood why Rachel is so quick to please and so devastated when she senses her actions have been disappointing.  Her approval, her acceptance, and the love she so desperately needs depends on her being the "good girl" she is so determined to be!  I spent the next 15 minutes in the dark of her room, before kissing her goodnight, assuring her of our love, regardless of her behavior!...  She is OURS!  Rachel Hope McCary!  We would always love her... no matter what!!!

I long for the day when she can fully understand the spiritual adoption that is made possible through Jesus to redeem little girls like her!  And yes, even those mischievous little boys that appear to be beyond hope!  It breaks my heart for the millions of orphans that will go to sleep alone tonight... convinced that their lives are beyond redemption because they simply can not measure up!  Jesus died for the least of these and yes, for me... because NONE of us could ever be good enough to merit such love!  Praise God, Jesus was "good enough"!

This is the art project Rachel brought home from school today-
"Don't be mean!"

Make a Wish...

It's Rachel's turn to "make a wish" through the Make A Wish Foundation.  We had thought of putting it off until after open heart surgery #2, but recently decided to go ahead.  One small problem though...  How do you explain to a 7 year old girl, home from China for only 4 months, what it means to make a wish or get her to verbalize what her's might be?  She's so happy and rarely asks for anything much more significant than "noodles" or a pack of gum.  The smallest of things thrill her, including the single quarter she finds dropped into the jar next to her bed as a reward for making it before leaving for school in the morning.  

We sat around the dinner table last night and started by explaining what it means to "wish" for something, like..."I WISH I had some candy", or "I WISH that I could be a real princess" or maybe "I WISH that I could meet Cinderella".  She seemed uninterested!  "No... Nothing!", she said again and again.  I was certain she did not understand this concept we were so eloquently describing for her!  Kate and Ellie looked at her with disbelief and started to offer some suggestions of their own!  Don't you get it, Rachel? You can wish for anything!  Dream big!   Finally her eyes lit up as if, suddenly, the greatest wish of all had occurred to her...  "Oh," she said, "like... I wish for a Mommy and Daddy!"  I choked back the tears and asked her if this had been her wish while she waited in China...  "Yes"  She shook her head and smiled as if to say... "What more could I want?  My greatest wish has already come true!"  

I am humbled!  If given the opportunity to make a wish for myself, I'd have no problem getting started on a list of wishes that I've come to believe would somehow bring happiness, while completely taking for granted the blessings surrounding me!  But to this precious orphaned girl, whose known nothing more than hopelessness for 7 years,  everything else pales in comparison to having a Mommy and Daddy of her own, in a place called "HOME"!  My heart aches for the millions of orphans around the world tonight, wishing for home.  If only there were a "Make A Wish" for every single one of them!  May you prick the hearts of more and more of your people, Lord, that they would become a dream come true for the millions who wait...

Speaking of "wishing"... I'm wishing for many of you that would join us in praying for Rachel in the coming weeks.  We are headed to Gainesville for another heart catheter to determine if Rachel's heart is strong enough for surgery #2 (the Fontan) or if she will need to be listed for a transplant instead.  Hopes were high following her first surgery in October that her heart would remain strong and a Fontan could be performed this year, delaying a transplant until adulthood.  Unfortunately, Rachel's single ventricle is weakening and there is concern that she may no longer be a candidate for the Fontan.  The uncertainty has been the most difficult part of it all, and we are ready to finally know what God might have planned for the next few months.  If Rachel's heart is found to be strong enough and her pressures low enough, then surgery will be planned in the immediate future.  We are also praying that Rachel's cardiac surgeon will agree to operate here in Jacksonville, instead of in Gainesville, 2 hours away...  It would be such a blessing to be near family and friends during that time, and even be able to give this Mommy some opportunities to go home a few times a week to spend time with my other two angels.  Difficult days lie ahead... We are committed to taking each day... one step at a time... trusting in the One who holds us all!  We're leaning hard on His complete sufficiency these days!  Thanks for standing in the gap on our behalf!
I think we could be on to something here!... I'm just not sure "what"!