I can't wait!!!!

...In fact, I've decided not to wait anymore!  I am so "over it"!  A cell phone attached to my body 24/7... 8 months of waiting for a phone call that will change our lives... news that Rachel's perfect heart has been found... Plans delayed... A life on eternal "hold"!

Listed for a heart transplant ~ Check

Suitcases packed with winter clothes and ready to walk out the door ~ Check

Suitcases unpacked and repacked with summer clothing ~ Check

Suitcases unpacked and repacked with winter clothes ~  Check

(...and in between all that packing and unpacking?)

Waiting ~  Check
     Waiting ~  Check
          Waiting ~  Check

Decide that you'll stop waiting and start living ~  Check!  Check!  Check!

Jesus voice whispers into my weary soul...  "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."  Weary and heavy-laden?  I think I qualify!  What am I waiting for???  (pun intended!)

I can't help but think about a song my eldest son wrote many years ago, when he became weary of waiting for his perfectly matched wife.  I can hear the words bouncing around in my head - "This is my last song about waiting..."  I honestly don't remember the rest of the tune, but these words are my newest montra - This is my last blog about waiting!

Who would have thought that waiting could have such a wearisome affect?  It's kind of like feeling exhausted after sitting on an airplane for 15 hours.  Key word?  Sitting!  And lest you think waiting is a passive excercise, I am here to assure you that it is not!  To wait for something that has the power to bring life to your dying child is downright exhausting!

Call me crazy, but I've figured it out!  We've been waiting for 8 months!  That is exactly ~ 33 weeks ~ 231 days ~ 5,544 hours ~ 332,640 minutes ~ 19,958,400 seconds!  And we, as a family, have felt every single one of them!  Could someone please stop this ride and let me get off?  I can't take one more person telling me that it will come at "the perfect time"!  I'm still trying to figure out what that even means!  Is that what you tell the family that may lose their child after months or years of waiting?

But upon some thinking on the matter, I've decided that maybe it's not the waiting that is so wearisome, but the unknown instead.  When will a heart come?  Will it come at all?  Will I be away from home for 2 weeks or 2 months?  Will I be home for Thanksgiving...Christmas...my child's birthday...family vacation?  Will Rachel reject the heart or will we have to do this all again?

Sometimes I wonder if God is tired of our constantly asking for a heart... today!!!   In my praying for the outcome I desire, am I missing Him somehow along the way?  And what about my 8 year old, broken-hearted girl?  She has asked this God she's just recently come to know, for a new heart so many times she's lost count?  I figure that if she's uttered this prayer only once a day, it has already passed through those blue lips more than 224 times!  I worry that she might begin to believe that God doesn't hear at all!

I could hear the confusion in Ellie's nightly prayer just a few weeks ago... "Dear Lord, help Rachel get a heart tonight.... or really soon... or as quickly as you can!"  Oh my!  It might be time to re-examine our prayers and make some adjustments in order to line up with God's obvious will for today!  It seems our "unanswered" prayers of 8 months may be pointing us to see all the answers right in front of us!

I can almost hear the Spirit's gentle whisper...  "The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (Philippians 4:5-8)

Thank you Lord, for your sweet reminders when I am weary!  I have so much to be thankful for today... so many gifts worthy of praise!  I have spent endless hours and days focused on a cell phone -- waiting 24/7 for it to finally ring -- while beautiful moments slip by practically un-noticed.  Ask any mother who has lost a child and she will tell you... Hug your child today!  Say "I love you"!  Enjoy every moment!  I've somehow forgotten that we didn't bring Rachel home for the promise of years together, but for every single moment God would give...  As of this writing, He has given us the gift of 610,560 moments since I first wrapped my arms around my little girl in Shanghai, China.  Those moments are precious!  So what am I waiting for?...

Last night I could hear the endless giggling of 3 little girls outside, while they played in the hot tub.  It was music to my ears to hear such sounds of utter delight at the gift of sisterhood.  Thank you, Lord!

Then I soaked up some incredible moments rocking Rachel as she cradled in my arms like a 39 pound, newborn baby.  Somewhere along the way, while I wasn't paying attention, she had finally found comfort in her mommy's arms.  For so long, I had rocked a stiff little girl that had no experience to know what to do with her head and her tired little body when being snuggled with love.  I could have rocked all night as I felt her chest mold into mine and her breathing give way to what almost sounded like sighs of relief!  Last night's beautiful gift of a growing trust...  Thank you, Lord!

Someone stopped me today as I was picking Rachel up from her dance class, where she is preparing to perform in the annual presentation of The Nutcracker.  "Rachel is precious!" she said,  "I love to watch her dance!... She is always so happy!"  And she is right!  This child wakes up happy!  She springs through each day, and goes to bed at night with happiness seaping from her little pores!  What a gift to greet such joy every morning and to kiss it goodnight again and again.  How can I possibly say thank you enough, Lord?

Rachel's dance teacher stopped me before I hurried out the door.  Ms Felicia has an especially soft spot in her heart for Rachel and has loved her dearly since the moment she met her.  Last Christmas she gave a portion of the proceeeds from The Nutcracker to help Rachel, and this year she has promised the same.  It is especially thrilling that for the first time, a beneficiary of The Nutcracker performance will actually be among the dancers!!!  Ms Felicia grabbed my arm.... "Don't misunderstand me," she said, "I want Rachel to get a new heart!  But, please Lord, after December 15th!... I want that precious child to dance!"  I want that too!  Nothing thrills me more than witnessing my daughter's joy expressed through dance!  Thank you, Lord for the strength you have given Rachel to dance this year.  May she dance for You alone!

I've made a life-changing, family-changing decision!  I refuse to miss today, and the overwhelming reasons to give thanks, because I am so focused on that for which I wait.  I simply do not want to waste our lives, waiting to live!  The truth is, that the phone call I am waiting for will usher us into an operating room, where the most life-threatening "exchange" will take place.  Rachel's blood will be bypassed from her beating heart and the organ that God has used to keep her alive for 8 years will be disconnected and removed from her little body.  A new heart will then be sewn into it's place and in a single moment, time will stand still, as a "whole" heart beats in my precious daughter's chest for the very first time!

This incredible transaction will not be the end of Rachel's miracle story, as much as we'd like to envision it that way.  It will, in fact, be just the beginning.  The rest of Rachel's life will be filled with an immune-suppressed body, that could rebel and reject her life-giving heart, without notice.

I wondered out loud to Doug... "If we somehow knew that Rachel would die on the operating table or would never regain her health, or would lose her life in a battle against her new heart...  Would we be in such a hurry?... so anxious in our waiting?  Or would we just enjoy each moment, each hour, each day, each week, each month... and simply give thanks?"

Thanksgiving is next week...  But I can't wait!!!!

"Thank you Lord, for today!"

Tonight was filled with uncontrollable laughter!  Thank you Lord!

As I walked along the beach today, the Lord used this song to speak to my recovering, weary soul!

Are you satisfied?...

...I mean really satisfied?  I'm spending the day looking deep within and asking myself that question again.  I've traveled around the country and spoken to more than a few groups of women and posed this very question.  "Are you satisfied?"  So... are you?

I went to bed last night terribly "unsatisfied".  I woke up this morning feeling the same.  Then it was time to wake my precious girls and break the news that the political candidate we had hoped would win the election had lost...  They were visibly disappointed.  How well I knew the feeling!  But suddenly I realized that a heavy burden was upon me, as their mother, to reassure them that our hope does NOT lie in any political candidate over another.  I had to force the truth from the depths of myself...  "Our hope is not in our President!...  Who is our hope in, girls?",  I asked.  "In Jesus!", they proclaimed as huge smiles brightened their faces and hoped dawned new.

I guess I'm safe to tell you how utterly embarrassed I am... because last night in the middle of the worldly media blitz and bias, exit polls, and vote counting, I wanted to vomit, or maybe just have a gut-wrenching cry.  I was surprised by how emotionally unsettled I suddenly felt by it all.  I had obviously placed more "hope" in the outcome of this election than I wanted to admit!  I tried to rationalize my feelings, since some of them were clearly justified... Sadly, I felt that the country I loved so dearly was slipping away and the little girls rescued from the oppression of China might never know the sweet freedoms I had grown to take for granted. And in the midst of my disappointment,  I discovered that the majority of my fellow Americans do not embrace some of the core values I hold very dear.  But when I woke up this morning with the "gut bomb" remaining, I knew that it was time to face the facts.  I had subtly allowed myself to look to something other than Christ to satisfy my need for security in our very insecure world.  I had taken a bite of the apple along with Eve-  'God + Nothing = Not Enough'

I am struck as I think about it today...  God could have chosen any time in history to send His son to earth to accomplish His plan of salvation.  He could have used a vibrant religious system to get the job done, or a political system that would enable Him to spread the Good News without opposition or oppression.  But He didn't.  He could have sent His son as royalty and led the nations to worship the one true God, through beautiful pomp and circumstance... The Jews expected this... and yet, He didn't!  Jesus, was instead, born into a religious system so bankrupt and corrupt, you could hardly recognize its'  people as "belonging to God".  They had twisted the perfect Law and added so much of the world's system, Moses might not have even recognized it!

The political environment he was greeted by at His birth was even worse.  Corrupt taxes and abuse of power were the norm.  Jesus was born into a family that likely suffered greatly under the political system of the day.  Their "leader" was so narcissistic and power hungry that he killed every male child below the age of 2 in Bethlehem, to assure that no "King of the Jews" would steal his throne.  Then thirty something years later, that same government would, at the suggestion of the Jewish leaders themselves, nail Jesus to a cross and take His innocent life.  Isn't it strange how Jesus hardly mentioned the political system of His day publicly?  Yet His sacrificial life was Heaven's obvious answer to the "satisfaction" everyone longed for!

Is it any wonder I am humiliated at the admission, that for even a brief moment, I looked to a worldly, governmental system for hope?  Give me Jesus, but let me live in a free country, with every "right" afforded mankind, embrace all of my biblical views, and allow me to follow Christ without hinderance or cost....  Then I will be satisfied!  But I know myself well enough after 48 years of living that I would not be satisfied, because political ideologies and freedoms have no power whatsoever to bring true satisfaction at all!  I am regaining strength and finding middle ground again-  'God + Nothing = Enough'  But somehow "enough" just doesn't seem enough today!

Maybe, like me, you've looked in every possible direction and in every nook and cranny to find the satisfaction you so long for.   I hardly have to think twice to name a few of mine here ~  I married "Prince Charming", convinced he would surely satisfy.  I said "I do"!  He did too!  But his faithfulness is human and so is mine!  I am somehow not satisfied...

I looked to my "Phase 1" kids!  Surely I would find it there!  I poured my life into them, knowing that they would be so grateful and love me in return.  But they grew up and started living their way instead of mine.  I am somehow not satisfied...

Maybe my "Do-Over Phase 2" would do the trick!  I'm crazy in love with all three and would literally die for them.  But they will grow up too, and I have a well founded suspicion that they too, will disappoint my need for satisfaction.

Material possessions held such promise too!  When you start in base housing with only a box spring, mattress, a few director's chairs and a Pinto Wagon to drive, there's simply nowhere to go but up!  And we did!  But as I look around my beautiful home today, filled with things I love, I wonder if I am really more satisfied than I was at the start?

If my political party of preference had won last night and I thought that meant my taxes would be lower, and more importantly, my freedoms more secure, would I be satisfied?  What if that political system held promise of slowing the tide of aborting unwanted babies and stopping the legal union of same sex couples?  Wouldn't that be enough to at least help me sleep better tonight?  Maybe.... but it would prove that my hope and satisfaction had been sorely misplaced!

I've finally decided to turn off the TV filled with voices of endless pundants trying to explain my party's losses last night.  I've turned off the radio where I had tuned in to Rush Limbaugh to somehow give me a little hope for our country's future.  It's time to remind myself something I've known all along, but somehow "forgot".  Hope will not be found on the radio dial, or on Fox News!  The satisfaction my heart so desperately longs for is found only in Jesus Christ!  This incredible truth is not just "enough".... It is EVERYTHING!  I need not add anything.... not a relationship, not a material possession, nor a political victory.  The only Hope, and my full satisfaction lives within me and He is there to stay!  Faithful ~ True ~ Comforter ~ Keeper ~ Provider ~ Protector ~ Companion ~ Savior ~ Friend ~ Healer ~ Redeemer!  I am fully and completely satisfied!

'God + Nothing = EVERYTHING!'

Are you satisfied?...

"Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you?  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.  But as for me, it is good to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;  I will tell of all your deeds."  Psalm 73

Gifts from God...

I'm thankful it's November!  Why, you ask?  Because it means that Halloween is behind us once again!  I admitted to all of you last November, that in my own experience it seemed that the holiday of Thanksgiving had somehow lost its' way.  Sadly, the so called "holiday" of Oct 31st has not!  In short... I hate it!!!  In fact, I simply refuse to even acknowledge it as a holiday that needs to be celebrated in our home!  As a Christ follower, I find this popular day counter-intuitive to everything I believe.  I don't mean to offend my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord... but I wonder if the Christ followers of the 1st Century embraced such "dark", cultural, pagan practices the way we Christians do today.  I'm really not trying to stand in judgement of anyone for the way they choose to handle Oct 31st each year.  I have personally struggled with what would be the most God-honoring way for our family to participate in the festivities of Halloween since my 'Phase I' kids were born.  We were blessed to have alternative fun offered through many of our churches through the years, and I was grateful to have that for my kids instead.  Then there were several years that we felt led to get dressed up and join our neighbors in some "evangelistic" Trick-or-Treat fun.  One year, our next door neighbor had a massive cookout and the kids all knocked on front doors and loaded up on candy while the parents all enjoyed the rare occasion to spend some time together.  Some of my favorite Halloween memories are the years we would take our older kids out to dinner and a movie instead of roaming the streets for "treats".  I think the kids loved this tradition as much as I did... The theaters were always empty and I promised to buy my kids all the candy they could possibly want, at 50% off the next day!!!  That's what I call a "win-win" solution to my least favorite "holiday"!  :-)

Then 8 years ago, we began what we affectionately call 'Phase II' of our family, and I was faced with the decision on how we would celebrate this most dreaded holiday with our young children again.  I'm not so cold hearted that I don't understand the pure delight a child finds in dressing up in costumes and filling bags full of candy.  I have wonderful memories myself of when, as a teenager, my entire family would dress in disguise and ring the doorbells of unsuspecting friends and neighbors.  It was the cleanest form of laughter-filled fun and chocolate-filled buckets!  What more can I say?  I loved it!  Why wouldn't I want the same for my kids?  And yet, this year, more than any in the past, I can't seem to make myself go there...

I'll just be brutally honest...  Our family is sadly, and most literally, staring death in the face this year.  I have had more conversations about death and dying with my young children than I ever wanted or could have even imagined!  These things happen to someone else's child, in someone else's family... don't they?  But then, suddenly, as if shaken awake from a bad dream to discover that it is your new reality, I am forced to have another grueling conversation on the subject with my very critically ill 8 year old daughter.  It saddens me to realize that Rachel must think of these things so much, when other little girls her age, can grow up completely oblivious to their own mortality.  I'm sure that as the days of praying for a new heart turn into months and months of waiting, she thinks of it more and more.  Rachel seems to clearly understand that the heart she needs will ultimately come from God.  "But where," she asked, "will God get my new heart?... Heaven?"  Thus began another discussion on death and dying.  I was forced to finally explain, in the simplest terms I could muster, the reality that someone would have to die so that she might live.  Rachel looked stunned by this new revelation, and as expected, it led to several other lines of questioning...  "What happens to our bodies when we die?",  "What do you do with them?"  No wonder she is confused and worried, since each time she saw death in China, she watched as the precious bodies of her friends were stuffed in garbage bags or put onto a shelf in the freezer.  I don't mean to be gruesome or insensitive, but these are, sadly, the realities our daughter faced for 7 years inside the walls of an orphanage where she was told plainly that she was "dying"...    I can hardly force my heart to go to these dark places her memories are filled with.  

Is it any wonder I have absolutely no inclination to celebrate a "holiday" that is focused on darkness, fear, and death right now?  When you are raising a child with a grim diagnoses, life changes in ways you could not begin to imagine.  It would be only natural for us as parents, to live a life of fear and dread, instead of joy and hope ...to focus on the dying, instead of the "living".  But Doug and I made a conscious choice when we adopted Rachel, to live life differently and to celebrate each day that the Lord would give.  Not just for Rachel... but for each of us!  We have learned, through Rachel, how fragile life is...  how each day is a fresh miracle from God...  and how little time we have to waste on things that simply don't matter!   We have chosen to focus on LIFE and trust God with what tomorrow might hold.

I do not want to communicate to my children that death is a "dark" reality, with black, psychotic characters, skeletons, ghosts, goblins, and creepy gravestones.  Because we love Jesus, our dying is a celebration of a very different kind!  I hope my death will be celebrated one day with happy colors, hope-filled singing, and wonderful memories of a loving family and joy-filled living.  I hope that those I leave behind will know that the grave is not my final resting place.  That my hope is more fully alive in my dying, than in my living!  That one day we will be reunited through death and live- REALLY live!  FOREVER!

In light of these things, I decided to use yesterday's festivities to celebrate the gift of LIFE... most specifically, through the most treasured gifts of "life" God has given me... my 3 precious girls!  Here then, are the photos I snapped to remember this most special celebration~