Wednesday, August 16, 2017

We're Going to Bulgaria...Soon

When we were filling out our adoption applications 4 years ago, we had no idea what we were getting in to.  And as we have been waiting for the Bulgarian government to match us with a child to adopt for the last 3 years and 2 months, we still didn't know what was going to happen.  On June 21 we received an email from our agency that surprised us and took us from (mostly) patiently waiting to loving a little girl we have yet to meet.

I was sitting on a swivel chair at the local bowling alley with Hannah and 3 of her friends chaperoning the big, end of year fifth grade field trip.  I had gotten my phone out to take a picture of the girls (that came out horrible due to the bad bowling alley lighting) when I noticed a new email from our adoption agency.  I considered not looking at it right away in the name of being fully engaged in life, but the girls were busy ignoring me, so I clicked on the email titled "Special Treasure."  Our agency was, as they have frequently, advocating for a child that needed a family but was difficult to place due to her health history.  I read her bio as Brittany Spears played in the background and then I scrolled down to come eye to eye with the largest brown eyes I have ever seen on a 2 year old.  My first thought was, "she is absolutely adorable!"  And then my stomach twisted into knots.  I quickly turned off my phone and put it away.

A couple of hours later, I met Shad at our house so we could head to the school together for Bethany's kindergarten graduation.  (Yes!  I said KINDERGARTEN GRADUATION!  How is she a first grader???)  As we pulled out of our neighborhood I asked him if he saw the email from our agency.  Our conversation went like this:

Me: "Did  you see that email from our agency?"

Shad: "Yes."

Me: "Did you just want to stick her in your pocket and bring her home with you?"  (This is a term of endearment that I learned back in my nursing days.)

Shad: "Yes!"

It got very quiet in the car.

Shad: "What do we do about that?"

Me: "Well, I guess we need to call our case worker to get more information."

Five minutes later I was standing outside the school gym leaving a voicemail for our caseworker.

The seven weeks since that phone call have been a whirlwind.  I have counted over 70 emails between our caseworker and me.  There have been conference calls with a doctor that specializes in internationally adopted kids and their special needs.  We've filled out pages and pages of paper work, including an application that was sent to Bulgaria asking them to match this little girl with our family.  2 weeks later they said YES!  After 3 years and 2 months of waiting for them to match us with a child that is 0-2 years old and a boy or girl, we ended up finding our girl in an email.

We are so, SO excited that we are very close to traveling to Bulgaria to meet our little girl.  And we are also nervous.  I want to be real about this.  It's not going to be easy.  First of all, just the transition of bringing this little girl out of her world and into ours will be trying and challenging for us and devastating for her.  What will be a happy and exciting day for us will be a confusing and scary day for her!  I pray for her fragile little heart frequently and I would love to ask you to join me in that prayer.  Secondly, she has a pretty complex medical diagnosis.  What we have been learning about our little girl is that she is going to need specialists and a lot of testing before we know exactly what she is going to need medically speaking.  We already have her lined up with a specialist at the local children's hospital.  (I am not trying to sound mysterious by not just flat out saying what her medical needs are.  We just aren't quite ready to make a big announcement about it yet.  Just trust me when I say, we are praying that we can get her here as soon as possible so that we can get her whatever tests and treatment she needs.)

Where do we go from here?  We are waiting for US Immigration to process some paperwork and get our fingerprints done.  Once we have their approval, we will start planning to travel on our first trip to Bulgaria.  It is a two trip process.  On the first trip, Shad and I will travel to the city where she lives and spend 4 or 5 days with her, getting to know her and her getting to know us.  Before we head home, we will submit some adoption paperwork in Bulgaria.  And then, we leave her and come home to wait (which will feel like an eternity!).  Paperwork in Bulgaria and the US will be processed and eventually a judge in Bulgaria will sign off on the adoption making her legally our daughter!  Then we will be invited to travel back to Bulgaria to get our girl and bring her home.  We predict we will be traveling on our first trip next month or October at the latest.  And we should be bringing our girl home around the new year.  After so much waiting, it is still a bit surreal that this is actually happening!

I would like to say that the big kids are all very excited about their new little sister.  We do not underestimate the changes that are ahead for them and we talk to them about it frequently.  Josh was a little disappointed that he was going to have "another little sister."  When I showed him one of her videos where she is interacting with her caregiver, I watched his face slowly melt into a smile and then he said, "OK.  She is adorable!"

I wish I could show you her picture here on the blog, but I can't.  Not until she is legally our daughter.  If you would like to see her big brown eyes, meet me for coffee and I'll be happy to whip out the picture on my phone that Bethany hugs, kissed and says, "Oh my little sissy" to all the time.  We would love your prayers and support as we continue to move forward with her adoption.  I would ask specifically that you pray for God to prepare her little heart for the HUGE life change that is coming her way, for her caregiver's heart as she has cared for our girl her whole 2 years of life, for Shad, the kids and I as we prepare to care for and love this little girl and for her health to hold steady as she remains in Bulgaria.  We cannot wait for everyone to meet our new family member!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Really Matters

For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. Isaiah 45:4-6


When did I forget that you’ll always be the King of the world?

How could I make you so small, when you’re the One that holds it all?

When did I forget that you’ll always be the King of the world?*


Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are far from righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel. Isaiah 46:3-4, 12-13


Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah. He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles .

For who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb who was slain. For the sins of the world, His blood breaks the chains.

For who can stop the Lord Almighty?**


You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8


Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb who was slain.  For the sins of the world, HIS BLOOD BREAKS THE CHAINS!

And every knee will bow before Him.



Want to know more?  Leave me a comment.


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*Lyrics by Natalie Grant, King of the World

**Lyric by Big Daddy Weave, Lion and the Lamb

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Celebrating 20 Years

This is the day we said “I do”

Twenty years ago, is it really true?

Standing in front of God and Man

Declaring our vows

Hand in hand

As she sang to words “God Bless Our Love”

We lit a candle to symbolize we are one

You kissed me fervently

Then up the aisle we went

We cried as we hugged our family and friends

Hoping the joy of the day

Would never end

They blew bubbles as we departed

For the life that we were eager to get started

So much time has passed since our wedding day

Growing up with you keeps getting better and better

Wouldn’t you say?

Happy anniversary, Shad

You are the man of my life

I’m so thankful that I get to be your wife!




Friday, March 25, 2016

Maui In Pictures

I have been dying to share our Maui trip here.  We have been home almost 3 weeks and I am just now finding the time to do it! 

I would say that taking the kids to Maui was one of the BEST things we have ever done!  We just, plain 'ol, had a blast!  We played hard, relaxed, played hard again, ate tons of delicious food, tried new things, forgot to try some of the new things on our list (shave ice and Dole whip!), shopped, walked, went on family runs, slept HARD and bonded.

Hannah tried the pool.


Bethany played on the steps of the pool and loved it!

We told the kids our first day in Maui would be spent doing nothing.  Shad and I sat by the pool for a couple of hours while the kids played in the water.  Unfortunately, we underestimated the sun in Maui and the kids all started our vacation with a fresh, shiny sun burn. 

They were good sports about the sun burns and wore the rash guards that my friend loaned us for the trip. 
(We are still getting sand out of those Barbies.)

Our fist day at the beach.  We each found something that we enjoyed.  Shad boogie boarded (I did a little), Josh tried boogie boarding too, Hannah played in the waves (her fav!) and Bethany was covered from head to toe with sand.  After I played in the water for awhile, I enjoyed sitting on my beach chair and watching my family enjoy the beach.

Shad got both the big kids on boogie boards.

Love this guy!

Bethany's Olaf sand castle.  Ha!

Sunset at the beach.

Even after she is in dry clothes, you cannot keep this girl out of the waves!


One of my most favorite pics from the entire trip!

More love!

These two were like peas in a pod the whole trip.

Rock diva

These pools were so cool and right. next. to the raging ocean.

Bethany getting brave.

Huge wave!

Bethany now out of the water and NOT going back in. 
The waves didn't get us, but they were powerful and very overwhelming for this spunky girl.

My small man.

I love this family!


4 years ago, this waterfall was roaring down the cliff.  This year: a small trickle.

Day 2 at the beach.  We loved this beach so much, we came back for our last full day in Maui.

Don't let her fool you, Bethany would just sit on the board on the beach.  It took her until just before we left to even let the waves go higher than her ankles.  She was totally content in the sand.

The surf was very high this day with a strong under toe.  Josh and I both tried to go out for the big waves with Shad, but even he was getting beat up by the waves.  Josh and I discovered that we could catch the waves as they came up to the beach and they would push us way up in the sand.

Total blast!

Until you got salt water in your eye.

I LOVE this sequence of Hannah pictures.  This is her at the beach: SHEER JOY!

Photo Bomb!  Mom style.  They had no idea until we looked at the pictures when we got home.  Ha!

Taking a family vacation was such a blessing for us!


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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

4 Years Later

Yesterday I had my last follow-up appointment with my Radiation/Oncology doctor that treated my Skin Lymphoma 4 years ago this month.  I have been on yearly check ups for the last few years with him.  I didn't know it was going to be my last appointment, but I definitely walked out of that place fighting back tears.  Every time I see an appointment with him pop up on my calendar, I go back to that time and feel all the yucky feelings I was experiencing when I was going through radiation treatment.  I get nervous and anxious and start to think about that spot on my left cheek (butt, that is).  After not looking at it or thinking about for the last year, I get out my hand mirror, twist into the light and give it a good hard look.  I see red, dry spots that aren't there and wonder if it's coming back.  I stress over it for a few days, get mad at myself for obsessing over it and then I look at it again.  And all the while, I know the truth.  I know that there are no red, dry spots.  I know that the area looks EXACTLY the same as it has for the last 3 1/2 years.  I know that there are no cancer cells there because it was biopsied 1 1/2 years ago to be sure.  Yet, every time I see that appointment on my calendar, that is where my mind wants to go.  So when the doctor said, "I don't think I need to see you anymore," I felt so much relief and gratitude.

I told the nurse at the clinic, when I was leaving, "I am so glad you all are here, but I really hope I never have to see you again."  She laughed and agreed.  I am sure she hears that all the time.   I know patients used to say that to me back in my nursing days.  I never took offense.  I was so happy to see patients get better and go home.  Sitting in my car, stared at this sign:

I texted Shad, my biggest supporter, and told him the news.  He made a comment about my nice butt and I laughed.  I replied that the doctor said that my "butt is looking good" and he laughed.  And I thanked God for His love and strength and for getting me through the whole cancer experience with a peace I never knew was possible. Next I texted my parents who were a huge help to me during that time.  I remember when my mom came and stayed with us for several days the first week of radiation, we talked a lot about how cancer affects us emotionally.  She shared how she felt when she was driving her 5 year old kiddo an hour each way for his chemo treatments 30 years ago.  Her and I, we think and feel a lot alike.  My dad  told me he was happy for my "clean butt, er diagnosis" from my doctor.  Ha!  And then I texted a few friends.  Some that walked along side me during the treatment.  Maria, who came to my house and watched the kids for me and brought me the best pair of sweat pants I have ever owned.  Rory who prayed for me and encouraged me via text constantly.  And Heather and Meaghan who didn't know me back then, but are always just a text away and love to celebrate good news with me.

I want to say that I am thankful for skin lymphoma, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, if you are going to have cancer, have an type that you can see on your skin.  All I have to do is get out a mirror and I can, once again, be comforted that it is still gone.  I see the slightly thinned, slightly lighter skin in that area.  I see the 5 tiny black "tattoos" they gave me for the radiation and I smile because it is all evidence that I had cancer and now I don't.  Secondly, I am thankful that Skin Lymphoma is slow to spread (I had it for 8 years!) and highly treatable.  I am thankful that it was not inside my body, so I did not have to do chemotherapy or be subject to painful needle sticks and bone marrow biopsies.  And then I think about my friends and family members that have gone through "real" cancer in the last few years.  Being subject to invasive surgeries, port-a-caths, chemo, hair falling out, painful radiation burns and that's not even mentioning the crazy, painful, scary emotional stuff.  Cancer really sucks!  Thankfully, we have a God that loves us and gives us what we need to get through.  And I am thankful that He puts people in our lives to help us get through.

I will still see my dermatologist annually.  I am guessing for the rest of my life, which is fine with me.  And there is a possibility that I could get new spots on my skin.  It could even come back in my blood.  I pray that it doesn't.  But, if it did come back, I know that I have a doctor that is there for me if I need him, a husband that is right by my side, family that will drop everything to help and support and friends that love me and pray for me, and know just what I need (like comfy sweats or hot coffee).  4 years ago I had cancer on my skin and now...I don't!  Praise God!

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

It's A Metaphor

Because Shad and I enjoy dumb funny movies and because of the family that I grew up in, movie quotes have become a regular part of our normal, every day conversation.  They mostly come from my mouth, but Shad and the kids have some of their favorites too.  Who knew that our affinity for movie quotes would cause one to become our family motto for the year?  I am almost ashamed to say that one of our favorite, and most frequently quoted movie lines is from the movie Dodgeball.  Yes, it's sad.  Even our kids go around saying this line.  **Please note: they have never seen the movie, they just hear their parents say it and they know we think it's funny, so they think it's funny.**  So, what is our family motto for 2016?

We're grabbing the bull by the horns in 2016!

Cambridge Dictionary defines "taking the bull by the horns" as: to do something difficult in a brave and determined way.  We have discussed this metaphor with the kids and we have all agreed that is what we are going to do this year.  We are going to be brave and determined in all that we do and we are all going to try new things this year.  For our family, trying new things is a big deal.  We are all somewhat reserved when it comes to putting ourselves out there or doing things we aren't necessarily comfortable doing.  I know for some folks that's not such a big deal, but for us it is.  Here we are only 13 days into the new year and we have all already started "grabbing the bull by the horns."

Today Josh became the only tuba player in the fifth grade band.  He has blown us away with his enthusiasm for band.  Since school started in the fall, he has been playing the baritone horn.  His band teacher told him he is doing so well on the baritone that he wants him to try the tuba.  Josh stepped up to the plate and gave it a go.  It is safe to say that Josh is the most hesitant to try new things in this family.  He has always been cautious about new things and it is exciting to see him take this head on.

Hannah is getting ready to start rehearsals for the Easter Bow the Knee production that is put on in our community each year.  She did this last year and blew us away!  She initiated the whole thing.  She walked into a church where she knew no one and interviewed to be in the kids choir.  She got up early each Saturday morning and gave up her Sunday afternoons and her Wednesday evenings for rehearsals.  She did 4 performances on stage in front of 1500-2600 people each evening.  This year she has decided to step it up a notch and try out for a solo!  I feel so nervous for her, but I will never tell her that!  She has been practicing and will be ready for her audition next month.

Here she is last year.

Speaking of Bow the Knee: I am taking the bull by the horns by joining the choir also.  I feel inadequate and a little stupid, but I am doing it!  I went to the informational meeting on Sunday with the intention of getting information.  I walked away with an envelope full of music and a listening CD.  I even ignored my desire to run and run fast! when they said that after the meeting, the choir would stay for an hour and rehearse!  I stayed.  I rehearsed.  I sat in a room full of good singers and I sang with them.  I do not think I am a good singer, but I can carry an OK tune.  I was so intimidated.  Only like 25 more rehearsals and 5 performances to go...

I have also been learning how to step up my game at home.  It is very easy for me to sit back and let Shad do all the big stuff and ultimately make most of the big decisions.  He is such a decisive person that I have learned to let him do it.  We have discussed this many times over the last 6 months.  He informed me that he is overwhelmed and needs my help.  He wants me to make more decisions for our family.  So, I am learning how to do it.  I have been taking better charge of our household and the details of it.  I have stopped waiting for Shad's input on every decision that has to be made, put on my big girl panties and started making decisions on my own.  I have also been voicing my opinion more on the decisions that we need to make together.  One task I have taken on is planning our Maui vacation. 

Because I am stepping it up at home, Shad is learning how to back down.  He has always been confident and good at making decisions.  He is learning how to wait and let me take charge of things he would normally just step up and do.  This is a big shift for our family.  Shad is so supportive of me and I really appreciate him.  He has my back and helps me along the way.  He is also learning how to day trade stocks.  He takes it on as a challenge and challenging it has been.  Because he does not back down from a challenge, I am confident he will get it figured out.

For Bethany, confidence and grabbing the bull by the horns is not a problem.  We call her our little spitfire for a reason.  She is full of it.  Fire, I mean.  She will continue with her gymnastics that she totally rocks!  She has already been asked to join the pre-team girls which would put her at the gym for 6 hours a week!  We are not quite ready for that level of commitment for our almost 5 year old.  But we will continue to encourage her to thrive at her one hour per week gymnastics class and enjoy watching her do it.  She is also doing great at preschool.  She is learning her letters and their sounds and can spell her name on her own.  And I know she will not stop cracking us up along the way.

For our family, to "do something difficult in brave and determined way" is a big change.  It is not something we can say we are going to do and then do it.  For most of us, it would be easy to say we are going to do it and then just let it go by the wayside.  The best way we can stick with this motto for 2016 is to rely on God to help us stay determined.  We pray together as a family and ask Him to give us the courage to do these new things.  We also feel like these changes are from Him so we know He will help us accomplish our goals.  I know that He is the only way I will be able to show up for each rehearsal and sing...with other people being able to hear me sing.  And I have no doubt that we are being prepped for the HUGE step we will be taking when we get on a plane and fly to Bulgaria to bring our little one home someday. 

Forget the former things; do not
dwell in the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not
perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:18-19

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Our Day in the Mountains and a New Year

We had big plans to head to the mountains and find the best sledding hill there.  In our attempt to avoid the craziness of going to a Snow Park, we opted to drive around until we found a hill of our own.  The trade for avoiding the crowds and having to pay to sled is to drive around for 3 hours.  The first 2 hours were OK, it was still an adventure.  Hour 3: the natives were getting restless.  Namely, Josh.  Just as was getting to his fifth plea that we "just go home already," we found a side road that was not gated and did not lead to private property.  At the end of this road was a perfect area to sled.  In the immortal words of Josh, "FINALLY!"

I immediately got out my camera to capture the beautiful, feather-like snow crystals.

Truly amazing.

I could not get enough of their sparkly beauty.  When I touched it with my gloved finger, the crystals would stick to my glove and there would be tiny, shimmering feathers hanging from my finger.

After lying in the snow and experimenting with my camera settings, it was time hand the camera over to Shad and do some sledding!

He took this one of me.  I kind of love it.

The munchkin.

This girl is so beautiful.  This could be my favorite picture of her ever because it highlights her sweet demeanor.

This one, on the other hand, shows her crazy, wild side!  It always comes out when she is with her dad.

It happens to Bethany too.

We're so cool.

We caravanned to the mountain with our neighbors and they brought their 6 month old baby, Jade.  Or, Baby Jade, as we all call her.  She was a major trooper out in the cold.  Hannah spent a lot of time pulling her around on the sled and made it her job to keep Jade happy.  Again, her sweet side.

This dude could not be stopped!  He was soaked and cold and loving every minute of it!

After sledding down the hill several times, Shad decided it was time to go extreme.

It looks cool.

No big deal.



Smooth, like butter.

I love this picture of Shad.  It may also be one of my most favorite pictures of all time.

Then he found an even better hill...and sent Josh down.

"Yes!  I made it!"

"Oh no!  I didn't make it!"

I love this one of Bethany.  She just laid back and enjoyed the ride like a ragdoll.  She would lie there for a second after the sled stopped and then jump up and say "woo hoo!"

We had the privilege of having Shad home for 4 straight days over the New Year holiday.  I loved having all that time as a family.

We have big plans and much anticipation for 2016.  We surprised the kids by telling them that we will be taking them for a week in Maui at the end of February.  (I get a giddy feeling just writing that!)  We are all so excited for that and the kids and I spend a lot of time planning everything we want to do there.  Our main intention is to relax and have some quality family time together.  We have never gone on a non-camping, non-road trip vacation together.  This is a very big deal and so special.  Shad and I have been scheming for a couple of months.  You see, 2016 brings some big milestones.  It actually started on December 16, 2015.  Shad's 40th birthday!  It's true, he's been an old man for 19 days now.  (Did I mention his knee has been bothering him since his extreme sledding?)  Fast forward to July 13, 2016.  That day marks the 20th year that Shad and I have been husband and wife.  (Kind of a BIG DEAL!)  And then there's October 23, 2016.  Another adult in this family will also turn 40.  3 guesses who that is...

As for anticipation, this one is HUGE!  May 2016 marks year 2 of being registered to adopt a 0-2 year old boy or girl from Bulgaria.  YES, THAT IS STILL HAPPENING!  This could be the year we get matched with our Bulgarian Baby!  While we are patient with the process, we are also SUPER excited for the day we get the call from our agency saying we have a referral!!!  Because of all of the excitement and potential excitement/life changes/family growth/craziness of adding another member to our family/big birthdays/big anniversary, we decided some family time to bond, grow together and enjoy each other was necessary.  And, since we don't know when the referral will come and because summertime is horrible for Shad to travel because of work, we decided sooner was better than later.

There are other things we are doing to grow as a family and as individuals.  Each one of us has made one or two goals for the new year and we are all asking God to help us accomplish them.  And as we work as individuals to move towards our goals, we are also working together as a family to encourage each other and pray for each other through the process.  We are also being intentional to do family devotions 3-4 times a week.  This month we are going along with the theme at Sunday School and learning about self control.  After we do our devotions, we all pray together, for God to help us with our goals, for some specific friends that we met in Haiti and for our sponsor son, Berkat, that lives in Indonesia.  I love hearing the kids pray for kids they don't know and seeing their outlooks on life change as they look outside themselves and their lives.  I think it's been life changing for them and for Shad and I.

I want to mention one more change that Shad and I have made.  This actually started about 6 months ago.  We have gone through a TON of personal and marital changes since June.  God has shown us that we had a good marriage, but there were some changes that we could make to have a great marriage.  They were not huge things, but they were huge things.  So, one of the ways God has shown us how to have a deeper intimacy with each other and Him is to start praying together in the evenings.  We have both always prayed individually and together with the kids, but not just us and for us.  We pray for our marriage, our relationship with each other and God, our sex life, our attitudes, our kids, how we spend our time and our money, for Shad's work, for our families, our friends, Haiti, Heartline and what ever else we feel needs to be prayed for.  Praying together has been MARRIAGE CHANGING!  It opens us up to a greater emotional intimacy that we have never experienced before.  This is probably the most important marriage change we have ever made.

By the way, if you want to be stretched and learn about having an extraordinary marriage, then you need to read this book.

Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn't Good Enough  -     By: Justin Davis, Trisha Davis

Read this book WITH your spouse.  Do the study questions and discuss them TOGETHER.  It will be hard and scary at times and it will stretch both of you.  But they are all for the good of your marriage.  We read this book with our small group and it was HUGE for Shad and I.  Consider it.  It could change your marriage and you!

It is with excitement, anticipation and a little trepidation that I say:

Welcome 2016!

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We're Going to Bulgaria...Soon

When we were filling out our adoption applications 4 years ago, we had no idea what we were getting in to.  And as we have been waiting for ...