Thursday, November 21, 2013

Surgery #2: Centennial Women and Children's Hospital

"Every surgery is different", said the recovery room nurse as we walked Anna Faith with her IV tubes and other taped on probes to her holding room.  I had to agree.  Our experience with surgery this time was quite different from the first.  Some things were better, some things were worse.  Here's how our trip to Nashville for round #2 went:

Since Kris' mom had recently had knee replacement surgery, we were concerned no one would be able to watch our three boys.  Thankfully, a friend at church who stays at home and does some babysitting was willing to take them despite being over 30 weeks pregnant and having 3 other small children in her house at the time.  We don't know what we would have done without her!  We took the boys to her house and they each said their goodbye's to Anna Faith.  It was so sweet how they loved on her and two of them cried as they said they'd be praying for her.  We began our 3 hour trek to Nashville.  She happily played in the back seat with some of her toys.  We stopped for dinner at a southern buffet restaurant off I-40 and she ate her fill of barbecue and mashed potatoes.  At 8:00 we arrived at the hotel and settled in.  Little Lady was not ready to calm down.  She was not fearful like our first trip to the hospital, but full of energy.  I gave her a bath and she acted like she was swimming the English Channel.  Thinking it would wear her out I let her play for a long time in the tub, but when I got her out she was still a rubber band, jumping on us and having the time of her life.  It took until after 10:00 to get her to sleep.  Kris was already so worn out from the trip and work earlier in the day that he fell asleep while she was still tossing and talking to herself in the other bed.
She wouldn't calm down in the hotel!
At 6:00 we got up, and she woke up happy, but soon after started to get anxious.  She must have had a deja vu experience, and was clingy and not happy to be leaving the hotel.  This time we knew where we were going, so easily got parked and to the right building to check in.  There was much less stress because of it.  Anna Faith didn't seem to recognize anything, which was good.  We got her in a room after going through several departments to check in and she sat with us on her hospital bed.  She wasn't crazy about taking her clothes off and getting into a gown though.  When she saw the gown, she grabbed her blanket and it went in her mouth for an hour and never came out.  Blankets are her pacifier.  We know she's either nervous or sleepy when they go in her mouth.  She was still smiling and very compliant with the nursing and anesthesia staff who came in and out to talk with us, fill out forms, and take her vital signs.  They gave her Versed again this time, which makes her forget everything and get kind of relaxed and loopy.  Dr. Chester came in and decided she would go for the cheek nevus and begin on the front of her neck as well.  We were pleased and told her to do however much she wanted this time.  When the nurse came to take her out, Kris and I didn't have a chance to get emotional.  She cried for a just a second until the nurse showed her a phone and she didn't care anymore.  That's the power of Versed!  
Getting ready for surgery- in went the blanket!

She still didn't want her scrub top on- not pretty enough, perhaps?
We didn't get updates on the phone in the room this time.  We waited over an hour before we heard anything.  A nurse came in to tell us Dr. Chester was still working on her but she was doing fine.  Finally we knew what was going on!  I updated everyone on Facebook and worked on reading and journaling.  Another hour went by and we had no word.  I realized she had been in surgery longer this time than the first and was starting to get antsy.  Kris reassured me that if she's in there longer, that means she's getting more taken off this time, and that's good.  I just wanted to hear something!  Finally, 2 1/2 hours after surgery began, Dr. Chester appeared.  She told us that she had to work very slowly because of the nerves on Anna Faith's face being at risk of damage.  She was not able to remove the entire cheek nevus, but will be able to easily take the rest of it off in 6 months.  She took a large portion of the front of her neck nevus off as well, and it will be able to be finished in 6 months too!  We clarified with her that she now only has 2 surgeries left!  One will be in February to finish her scalp and do the back of her neck, and the other, in May, will finish what was started today.  We were so glad to hear the news.  We are HALF WAY!  Woo Hoo!!!
We had to wait a while to get instructions to go to the recovery room.  This time we could both go back, I guess because we were in a bigger space in the room where there was a chair and some standing room by the bed.  I still picked Anna Faith up because she wanted me first (doesn't every baby want their mama when they don't feel good?).  She had bruising and swelling on her cheek. It looked like she had just had a bunch of dental work done.  Her neck and cheek were bandaged where we couldn't see much yet.  We had to wait until morning to take it off.  We were told she woke up in surgery just after they finished and was very upset, so they put her back to sleep to wake up in recovery.  When she woke up this time, she wasn't upset, but very drugged looking.  Her head bobbed around and she could barely keep her eyes open.  She tried to talk to me, but it came out slurred.  When the nurse took her vital signs, she said "thank you" so sweetly we all wanted to cry.  I gave her a tiny sip of water, and she was very eager to get it.  She occasionally coughed to clear her throat where the tube was in surgery.
We went back to her room after about 20 minutes and she was still very tired.  She was starting to cry though, so this time Kris took her and laid in the bed with her to sleep.  It was the sweetest thing to watch.  Eventually he got out the bed and went to call our parents outside where we had phone reception and get us some lunch.  By the time he got back, about an hour later, she had just woken up and was willing to drink some more.  The nurse told us we were cleared to go home when we were ready!  She had not thrown up at all and was becoming alert and had soaked her diaper.  The nurse removed the IV (Anna Faith was very happy about that), the probes on her leg and toe, and she was a happier girl.  They wheeled me and her out together to the car and we were on our way home!

Sipping water, and no throwing up!
Unfortunately just down the road she threw up :-(  She didn't even cry,but went to sleep right after I cleaned her up and slept until the last hour of our drive home.  She wasn't happy for that hour though.  I could tell she didn't feel well.  She had soaked her diaper again (I didn't realize until we got home) and was probably in some pain.  I put her in front of cartoons and gave her some power-aide and unpacked while Kris went to get the boys from our friend's house half an hour away.  Then the crying began.  She was not happy at all.  She thrashed and refused to be held.  I gave her Motrin to add to the Tylenol she had already gotten and prayed it would kick in soon.  I hate seeing my girl in pain.  She finally let me hold her and pace the house, then we sat down and played a game together on the iPad.  The laundry and unpacking would have to wait.  When Kris got home with the boys and take out dinner, we sat down and she ate some rice.  Then she cried again.  A lot.  She was tired and still uncomfortable, touching her neck and screaming.  We held her off until 8:30 and noticed she was falling asleep in Kris' lap while I read books to the boys, so we put her to bed.  She woke up only once in the night for more pain medicine and went back to sleep.  We were thankful.  

This morning the pain returned.  She didn't want us to touch her face.  I took the bandages off to apply ointment as instructed and took pictures.  The tears flew.  Poor Little Lady.  The swelling has gone down and only a little bruising is obvious.  Her skin isn't as tight as I thought it would be.  It's amazing what Dr. Chester can do with tissue rearrangement to keep the skin looking normal when it's pulled together.  In six days I take out some of her stitches and the others will come out in a couple weeks.  We'll see Dr. Chester in Nashville for a follow up on December 9th and try to schedule her next surgery for February while we're there.  

We have such a brave little girl.  God has once again answered prayers, and we thank all of you who have supported us, encouraged us, said kind words, and most of all, who have lifted us up to our Heavenly Father.  As we go into Thanksgiving celebrations in one week, we have so much to be thankful for.  WE ARE HALF WAY!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dreams and a dripping shower head

Drip....Drip....Drip....  Every 13 seconds for the last few weeks, the shower in our bathroom has dripped, and there is nothing I could do to stop it.  I would sit awake in my bed and want to scream, trying sponges under it, closing the door, and trying to count to go to sleep.
Yesterday in Sunday School we talked about the Enemy.  He comes to steal, kill and destroy.  One of the things he wants to steal is our joy.  He wants us to be miserable human beings, wallowing in self-pity, covered in worry, drowning in doubt, and suffocating in bitterness.  He is pure evil, wanting Christians to loose their salt and vitality in a world saturated in darkness.
That dripping, that awful, cursed dripping.  I just wanted to rip the shower out of the wall.  Doesn't that represent the temptations in our life?  We get so mad they are there, we fight thoughts to cause strife, and we want to scream and scratch at them.  We get mad at God for allowing them to be there, thinking "It's not fair, God!"  Why are you doing this to me?  Don't you know I need some peace in my life?  Don't you understand I want a good day?  Why can't I have it easy for a change?
I often don't understand God's purposes.  Why does He want to see His children suffer?  Why does He put thorns in our flesh, dismal circumstances in our path, and cloudy days to block the view of His presence in our lives?
Last night I had an awful night.  I had been struggling with headaches off and on for 4 days, and yesterday the pain hit an all time high.  I still went with our family to church, not wanting my children and husband to miss out on the fellowship and blessing of being able to worship together.  Yes, I'm so stubborn I don't know what's good for me.  After church I went to the car and sat there in tears, eyes closed, waiting for Kris to come with the little kids to go home.  He got in the car and told me "I took a while because there were some guys who were interested in the gospel and didn't have Bibles."  I'm so glad I was stubborn and stuck it out so Kris had the opportunity to share with those guys and put the Word of God into their hands.  Then we went home and he sent me straight to bed.  Drip, drip, drip.  Finally, in an act of desperation, I begged him to do something about that dreaded shower head.  He cut off the valve.  Finally, I could rest.
While I rested, I dreamed.  I've been having so many dreams lately, many about things happening to my children that I couldn't prevent, some about falling, and last night I was on a roller coaster.  Up and down, up and down I went.  Then I went to crystal clear waters somewhere tropical.  There were others there, people I didn't know, but they were all peaceful and happy.  I relaxed and soaked in the warm water.  Then a man came to us and brought us to a table.  I didn't know what was going on until he spoke.  He shared that we have bad things that happen to us, big disappointments that we don't see coming.  Then he pulled out a Bible.  He read 1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it".
 Those words were such a comfort to me.  I woke up, and my headache was finally gone.
My baby girl is about to go under the knife again.  I've been so anxious lately that something would happen to prevent her from having surgery: childcare not working out, my health, one of the kids getting sick, etc.  I don't know why I worry, when God has it all under control.  Why do we try to manipulate our circumstances and play God?  Satan is trying to steal my joy.  I want to crawl into the shelter God has provided for me, the refuge from the temptation to be anxious, miserable, and fretful, and find peace from the storm.  I don't know if any of you are having similar temptations seizing you, but I hope by sharing you will be encouraged to fight off the arrows the enemy is trying to hit you with and return to the joy of the Lord that will keep you strong and keep your light shining brightly.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Here we go again- Round two of plastic surgery

It's one week away....the 3 hour drive to Nashville, checking in the same Best Western, getting up early to arrive at the same hospital 2 hours before surgery, and the same pains of waiting again. It seems like only a couple weeks ago that we went through this before.  She still refers to her scars as "boo boos", because they took 2 months to completely heal last time.  The healing process was long and painful. Now we get to experience the discomforts of healing all over again.  And it won't be the last time.  I hate seeing my baby sick, vomiting every time she drinks because of the effects of anesthesia, pulling at her tubes and bandages and looking so scared and confused.  It only lasts several hours before she's disconnected from the IV and starts feeling herself again, but I feel like I'm the one who brought it on her.  I chose this for her.  She doesn't know why it is happening and why the parents she's grown to trust are allowing her to go through it.  Sure, kids are resilient.  They overcome things so much more quickly than adults.  But it still doesn't make the imminent any easier for us.

This time we don't know what she's going to have removed. It all depends on how the new skin formed from her first surgery is doing.  If it is flexible enough to be manipulated and rearranged on her face, she will be having the entire cheek nevus removed.  I still can't imagine her without it, or how her face will look normal after it is gone.  If the new skin isn't ready yet, Dr. Chester will work some on her neck and only remove the bottom portion of her cheek nevus.  She'd rather not pick away gradually at these spots since it's going to be harder with a few wounds at once than one wound, but that may be the best choice this time.

Surgery is set to begin at 9:00 a.m. on the 20th.  We don't know how long it will last, but imagine it will be comparable to her first surgery which lasted an hour and forty-five minutes.  This time there won't be a huge head bandage to look at.  We'll see her surgical site(s) pretty clearly, which may be visually disturbing if there is a lot of swelling and bruising.  We expect her to have more pain this time as she recovers, as with a scalp wound you don't stretch and touch it versus a neck or cheek, which is moving constantly while one is awake.

Going for a ride with Mommy and Big Brothers
Our Little Lady has continued to amaze us over the last few months.  She is speaking more clearly in small phrases and is becoming pretty opinionated about what she likes or wants.  Yet she is still pretty easy going.  When asked to do something, even by her brothers, she often does it to please us.  She LOVES to say thank you for everything, and answers "yeah" to most questions.

We continue to try to find the source of her digestive issues.  We have been to a GI specialist and an allergist to try to find answers.  She had tests run and all the GI doctor found was that there is inflammation and white blood cells found in her colon.  The allergist determined she doesn't have a specific allergy, but may be sensitive to either lactose, soy, or wheat.  We have ruled out this past week that she is not lactose intolerant.  She has had no changes for the better by changing to soy milk and milk free foods.  We will try wheat elimination next.  It is frustrating, as we still are clueless, but at the same time we count our blessings.  She has finally gained a pound of weight (24 pounds in March and now 25 pounds in November), doesn't seem to be in pain, and is still developing and happy.

I need to share on this blog more.  So many precious moments have occurred and most will be lost from memory if not recorded and shared.  Every day with my kids is a valuable gift from God.  In the scheme of eternity I only have them home to train them and mold them for a very short time.  Some days I want to wish them away from my care for just a short time so I can go out to town, be around other adults, attend weddings or special meals, retreat to a women's event, fly away on more mission opportunities, participate regularly in outreach and sing again in the choir, and take trips to visit old friends across the state and country or relax at the beach.  People without children have these options, even people with only one or two kids who can easily travel, find childcare, and have flexible schedules and budgets.  But I look at my four little ones and think:  "What is the better gift?  Enjoying my life to the fullest or pouring it to the fullest into theirs?"  What makes me more holy and like Christ?  What is a better investment?  What reflects the heart of Christ more?  My selfish thoughts and wishes are stifled when I hear my 6 year old talk about what he's been praying about lately as we sit and do a discipleship lesson together before bed, my 7 year old in tears tells me as he goes to bed that he wants us to go to the Netherlands one day soon to share with "our people", fellow Dutchmen,  about Jesus, and my four and two year olds sing "Jesus Loves Me" and hug on their children's Bibles throughout the day.  I'm never going to be famous or successful in the world's eyes.  The average stranger looks at me with my car congested with kids as they pour out the door and looks at me with confusion, not admiration.  However, if I'm the mom they need me to be, the mom who consistently points them to Christ, then this life HAS been truly lived to the fullest.

Thanks for your prayers as we approach Round 2 next week.  Surgery is never routine and always has risks.  We know God is holding our daughter in the palm of His sovereign hand and trust Him.  Your prayers are felt and we know we will feel His peace as we wait.  We will post updates on surgery day and share results with you.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

2 Years Ago Today: A newborn with a white baby suit

That's all she has left: a tiny white baby suit.  It still smells musty from where the orphanage kept it for 18 months waiting for her new family to take it home as a memory.  When Anna Faith is old enough to ask questions, I will pull it out and likely with tears tell her the story of how she came to us.  Two years ago today a mother (or possibly father) carried her to a tunnel in Southern China leading to an orphanage and placed her there, likely to protect her from the heat of the August sun, leaving with her some formula and diapers, and disappeared forever.  We can only speculate what they were feeling: fear, sorrow, heartbrokenness...  Did they give her one last kiss with tears streaming down their faces?  Do they think about her often?  Do they ever walk by the orphanage and wonder if she is still there?  Did they even chose to remember August 24th, or have they blocked it out of their memory to prevent the pain?  Does she have a younger brother or sister now, and when they look at their second child do they fight painful memories of their firstborn?  The last question that will linger the most with me is: Are they believers in Jesus?  Statistically, they probably aren't.  It is likely they have never even been told how they can have hope, forgiveness and healing in knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.  I can't imagine the hopelessness one feels after saying goodbye forever to a child and not having the peace of knowing they will see them again in heaven one day if both believe in Christ.  Would you pray with me for Anna Faith's birth parents' salvation?  They chose life for her, they compassionately left her in the care of people at an orphanage, and ultimately she was brought into our family.  This was all in God's sovereign plan, but it started with a choice to spare her.  Millions of children are never even given the opportunity to take a breath on this earth.

This day also marks half a year since Anna Faith was placed in our arms.  It is hard to believe since it seems she's always been in our family.  In just 6 months she has won so many hearts, encouraged and inspired countless others, and has brought joy to everyone who has opened their heart to let her into their life.  She has gone through so much in the last couple weeks: surgery to her head, a spot opening on her forehead a week later, and last night (11 days post-op) a fall from a chair resulting in a second place splitting on her forehead and a black eye.  She has been in so much pain and discomfort, yet bounces back and rarely complains.

Sometimes we just gaze into each other's eyes.  She can't express how she feels in words, but when those little dark eyes penetrate mine, I feel so trusted and loved.  We have truly bonded.  Do we look to our Heavenly Father in the same way?  Do we constantly look to Him in adoration when we hurt, feel joy, need help, or just want to show our gratitude and appreciation for all He has done for us?  I have to admit I don't do it nearly enough.  Imagine the joy He feels over those of us who are His adopted children when we do reciprocate the love He pours over us!

Our family has jumped back into living life since surgery #1.  We began homeschool again this past week, now with a second grader, a first grader, a preschooler, and a toddler running around.  I don't know how we managed, but we met all our learning goals this week, managed to get in all our classes into four hours a day, and I came out with not a single migraine headache or hour of sleep lost!

Surgery #2 is scheduled for November 6.  The next section to be worked on will be the large nevus on  her right cheek.  We've been told it will be very involved with tissue rearrangement so we have to anticipate swelling and pain afterwards.  Just going to the pediatrician for a check-up this week made her nervous.  She now equates going to a medical facility with discomfort and feeling sick.  The 30+ stitches on her head come out on September 3rd at the surgeon's office in Nashville, and we know it will not be a pleasant experience.  Pray we will all have peace and show grace to Anna Faith while she is anxious and uncomfortable, and the process will go smoothly.

We also have a minor health issue we're figuring out.  Since coming home in March, she has not adjusted to an American diet.  After running some tests, everything came out normal, so now we are trying to figure out what part of her diet is giving her problems.  It is pointing toward fructose related foods.  We are still early in the process, but she may be sensitive to fruit juice and some fruits.  We've never had a child with food allergies before, so once again we're in uncharted territory.  Pray we may find out the exact cause of her tummy troubles so she can keep gaining weight.  She's only at the 5% on her growth chart, the weight our boys were at half her age.  Kris jokes and says she'll be a diver one day and just bounce off the water like the female Chinese divers do in the Olympics, ha ha!

Here are a few photos of her 2nd birthday, celebrated at home with our family and Kris' parents.  Her birthday reception/Show Hope Fundraiser we held on August 10th is on an earlier post I put up last week.  It was an amazing day!
Family birthday photo

Getting her gift from China (we got one for each birthday): an owl backpack

Playing with new toys

With Grammy while talking on her new phone

Happy to be opening pretty presents

Blowing out the candle over and over again

Monday, August 12, 2013

Second Birthday Celebration and Show Hope Fundraiser

Getting ready for Anna Faith's reception wasn't easy. I didn't know how many people to prepare for so made enough food for an army. We invited over 200 Facebook friends in the area and also extended family. About 60 attended and we had a blast.  Anna Faith wasn't crazy about all of the attention, but when left alone played and enjoyed all the kids who attended. We held it at our church's fellowship hall so there would be enough room for everyone. It was perfect. There was a big screen in the room that played video clips about the plight of orphans in the world and how Show Hope is helping thousands of them get the medical care and means to get home to their forever families.  We also played our "Gotcha" video which shows our first few weeks with her, beginning with the first moments she was in our arms.   About $700 was raised for Show Hope. I know it will mean a lot to Anna Faith to know one day when she's older that the celebration of her life brought other orphans hope for a future.

The Smith family came with their adopted daughter Micah.  They live in our area and we were delighted to get to know them!

Playing with her new Chinese baby that Grammy gave her

Josiah and his buddy Hayden hanging out at the food table

I made a hydrangea cake with matching cupcakes in honor of our fourth flower in our family

Our big spread

The Show Hope table

Not quite sure about all the people singing to her.  She just wanted to play with the cake!

blowing out candles

At the punch and cake table.

Surgery #1: Centennial Women And Children's Hospital

Today was a journey of faith.  We are tired and thankful.  After driving 3 hours and spending the night at a nearby hotel, we woke up at 5:00 this morning to get ready to be at the hospital at 6:00.  We didn't sleep very well last night.  Anna Faith could tell something was up when we left without her brothers and Josiah was crying.    He left his favorite stuffed animal in her carseat with this message "I love you a hole lot Anna Faith".  She didn't want her favorite foods at the restaurant we ate at on the way.  She was already suspicious something was happening.  We gave her a bath and it took what seemed like forever for her to fall asleep.
Biggest brother Josiah left this in her carseat before we took off for Nashville

When we got to the hospital we thought she'd ask for her cup since she hadn't drunk since bedtime, but she didn't.  I was amazingly peaceful.  We know it was prayer. We brought her new favorite toys and they kept her distracted.  It was hard to find where we checked in and we walked around for 15 minutes to find the right department.  That's a little disconcerting when you're late for check in!  Huge hospitals are frustrating in that regard.  The staff was very sweet and compassionate and got us right up to her holding room.  She was weighed and measured by a nurse aide and her vitals taken.  She didn't want to change into a gown right away and seemed a little taken back by all the people in scrubs and hats, but still played and didn't cry.  Anesthesia and Dr. Chester came in to see us and answered all of our questions.
With Dr. Chester before surgery
I held together until anesthesia came in again and decided to give her some versed liquid to make her relaxed before carrying her into surgery.  That is when I broke down and told them it was hard to see what was a part of her go.  Her nevi are a part of who she is, and why she is a part of our family.  When it was time to go, the nurse anesthesist and another nurse were talking over her antibiotic dose and she mentioned her weight as being 15 kg.  I corrected her and said "No, she is 11 kg.".  They were surprised and realized the nurse aide entered it in wrong.  We could have avoided a disaster in the OR!  God is so good for me to overhear their conversation.  Later, the nurse in the holding area told me they are now changing a policy so that only RN's can enter the weight and height on the children.  Maybe more disasters can be spared because of this mistake.  What happened was her height and weight were switched :33 1/2 inches for 23 1/2 pounds.  That's a big difference!
When it was time to go she cried because her toy was being taken from her.  She was loopy and sticking her tongue out at me but having her toy taken made her mad at the surgical team.  They gave it back and took her with it and she was happier.  We walked them to the doors to the OR and had a tearful goodbye.  
Unfortunately we had no cell phone reception so had to communicate via internet.  Kris went outside to call our parents to tell them they took her back.  It was 1 hour later than our 8:00 surgery time.  Half an hour later we got a call in our room to tell us Dr. Chester had just begun the incision.  They we waited.  An hour later we got an update that she was still working on the scalp but it was going well.  Finally at 11:30 Dr. Chester came in to tell us all had gone well.  She got a good portion of the line of nevi along Anna Faith's scalp and forehead but left a clump in the back.  There wasn't enough skin to cut it out and stretch the skin over.  Fortunately she'll be able to finish it in a future surgery while working on another spot.  I'm going to take her gauze off on Thursday so we don't have to drive 3 hours each way to the office, and we'll figure out later when she'll have her stitches out.  I was told she has over 30 stitches that stretch about a foot across her scalp.  Not much hair was cut, and they kept it for me to put in her baby book.  So that means we'll have pigtails soon!

Waiting her turn to go to surgery
After Dr. Chester left the room, surgery told me one parent could go back. I volunteered.  Kris wasn't too happy that he had to wait, but I had them take this picture and bring the camera to him.  She was mad, like they prepared me for.  She hated her IV, BP cuff, and her gauze on her head.  She couldn't hold her head up and was thrashing and moaning.  It was pitiful.  I didn't really cry, because I was so happy to see her awake and responsive.  Her vitals were great and I was told there were no complications during surgery.  I gave her some juice which she took quickly and immediately she threw some up.  After about 20 minutes we could return to her holding room.
First moments in recovery.  She was so mad!
 We took her to her room and gave her more juice.  She threw up again.  She was so tired and just wanted to lay down and be left alone.  Finally after more moaning she fell asleep.  Her IV stopped working, and the nurse took it out.  She didn't flinch.
Finally getting to take a nap
 The nurse wanted to wake her up a couple hours later to see if she'd take liquids so we woke her up.  She seemed more alert and took more juice, which seemed to stay down.  We even got a little smile once when we sat her in front of her ipad.  We signed out and she was discharged!  As soon as we got out of Nashville, she threw up two more times, but went to sleep for the majority of the ride home.  She was so glad to be home and started to play with her brothers when we came in the house and ate two rolls.  At 8:00, no vomitting, but she's getting fussy again.  Praying for good sleep.  She doesn't like her gauze hat at all!
Awake and alert before going home.  
Thank you so much for all of your prayers!  I'll update again on Thursday when we have the "reveal" to show everyone the "new" look for Anna Faith!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

5 months later: While I'm Waiting

  Our family has had lots of excitement this month.  We just returned last night from a 4 day trip to St. Louis, MO and Holland, MI.  It was amazing to see Anna Faith on her first road trip behave with the patience of Job.  She never cried, only whimpered when it was near midnight and she wanted a bed since we were late getting to our destination.  To hear her singing to herself and teaching herself her ABC's and numbers with a toy was precious.  She took in every sight with amazement as we walked along the Mississippi River, went up the Gateway Arch of St. Louis and looked down 600 feet, watched huge windmills in Illinois to Dutch Dancers at Dutch Village in Holland, Michigan where I was born, and practiced climbing stairs for 30 minutes at her great aunt and uncles house at midnight because they were so much fun.  She danced to educational exhibits at the St. Louis Science Center and stared at a realistic T-Rex that was mechanically moving.  She napped without protest on a blanket on the floor in strange homes when told to. With a room full of extended family she played comfortably as if loud, crowded spaces didn't bother her at all anymore.  What a transformation our daughter has undergone in such a short time!
With her Great Grandpa Breuker
With her Great Grandma VanKampen

On the swings at Dutch Village

loving on bunnies 
On the Mississippi River in St. Louis
Looking down from the St. Louis Arch

Fun in bubbles!

Seeing her first 4th of July fireworks

She has learned what beaters are for!

First day to try out a bow in her growing hair

4th of July with her brothers
playing in a big playground with friends

With her Great Grandma Breuker.  She slept in her lap.
Sleeping happily on her first road trip

The next few weeks are those of waiting.  While we wait for her first surgery, we have so much going on.  Her social worker comes for a second post adoption visit tomorrow.  Her brother is having a big sleepover for his birthday this weekend.  We will have a house filled with as many as 10 noisy little boys!   In two weeks her grandparents will be coming to visit us, and shortly after they leave, we will be celebrating her 2nd birthday, reception style at our church.  We are so excited about this special time, because not only will we celebrate her 1st AND 2nd birthday, we will celebrate the gift of adoption.  In honor of our daughter, we are asking our guests who would want to give her a gift to instead give a gift in her honor to Show Hope, an organization that aids families who need financial assistance with adoption fees, helps orphans get life saving surgeries while waiting to be adopted, and gives assistance to orphanages to bless children waiting for their forever families.  What a joy it will be to share with Anna Faith when she is older that children around the world and their families were blessed because of the celebration of her life! 

 Here is a link to her page on Show Hope:;jsessionid=069CD86B64FF3E89BA903443FFE99971.app273b?pg=fund&fr_id=1020&pxfid=2810

Anna Faith's first of at least 4 surgeries will be in just 19 days.  It is hard to imagine her with about a foot of stitches across her little head with drains and dressings all over them.  I can't imagine how hard it will be to watch her be wheeled away to an OR knowing I can't be there to hold her hand.  I don't know how I will react when she wakes up and cries because she is in pain or discomfort and doesn't understand why.  
This song was sung at a church service we attended this past Sunday, the first church I attended as a baby before our family moved south.  There has been so much waiting in my life.  We all have seasons of our life when we wait for a change, an answer, a person, an opportunity, a cure, a blessing.  Waiting is a time when God can become more real to us than any other time in our lives, because we are desperate for His timing to come to fruition and for our waiting to be over.  I hope these lyrics will minister to you like they have for me.  May we worship, serve, and soar with wings like eagles as we wait on the Lord.

I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am hopeful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it is painful, but patiently I will wait

And I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait

I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am peaceful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it's not easy no, but faithfully I will wait
Yes, I will wait

And I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait

I will move ahead bold and confident
I'll be taking every step in obedience, yeah

While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint

And I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You Lord

I will be posting frequently around the time of Anna Faith's surgery on August 12th to help others going through similar situations know what to expect and help keep in touch about how you can be praying for her and our family during this experience.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Four Months with Anna Faith and Four Big Lessons

Lessons, oh so many lessons.  Who would think that adding one little person to your family of five would teach you so much?!  I don't have much time to sit back and reflect on what the last four months has done to my heart but will use this opportunity to write a few out.

1: I am so blessed.  When I look at blog posts about children who come home from China with their families and die shortly after due to their medical special need (two in the last month), when I find myself praying for miracles in the lives of two others who have had major heart surgeries in the last week (read one amazing girl's story here: ), when I hear stories of children who aren't adjusting or bonding to their parents after months of stress and tears, I look at my little 22 month old daughter who wakes up from every nap and night's sleep with a big smile, greeting me with a "Hi ya' " I realize how blessed I am.  God knows what each family can handle.  He knows how big or small our faith is, and how much burden we can carry.  He gave us an "easy" little girl because He knows best.  He knows that Kris works 70-100+ hours a week and I need to teach my older children every day while watching the younger ones.  He knows that my boys are in a stage where they are struggling to find their spots in the world among siblings and peers and often need discipline and training.  He knows our heart's desire to fill up this house with even more children and one day see all of them be lights for Jesus wherever He sends them.  He knows.  And He provides and blesses.

Father's Day
2:  Forgiveness is ever so powerful.  The day before we flew to China in February to get our daughter, a tragedy happened in our lives.  Our world fell apart when, with no warning, our church was devastated due to sin in our leadership.  The night before flying out we weren't sitting up with excitement over driving to the airport, but we were instead praying and pleading for God's help and peace for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ who we felt we were leaving in their darkest hour.  Anna Faith's arrival home was a glimmer of joy for all those in our church body who had been praying for her.  Along with this heartbreaking time,  there were people we love who remained unsupportive and silent when Anna Faith came home.  Every instance we came in contact with them, they pretended she didn't exist.  It hurt deeply each time and I became angry and bitterness began to set in.  I knew that Satan was trying to steal my joy and destroy me from the inside out.  Since those first days I have found that forgiveness is so hard, but ever so powerful in destroying the cold pain of hurt in my heart.  Loving through service and encouragement heals deep wounds.  I may never see these individuals change their hearts and seek retribution but God has healed and restored me.

Playing in the sandbox
3.  Stuff can wait.  Children grow up.  Making memories with my kids while they are young is becoming even more important now that Anna Faith is with us.  I want to take them to the library, take them to the pool, take them to church events, read to them in bed every night, bring them to choir practice, go to the park, and swing them in the swing or jump in the kiddie pool or hammock with them, even if a meal isn't cooked on time, the laundry doesn't get put up, or I don't get a project done.  Reading several books I've been wanting to get my hands on, having friends over for dinner, leading a Bible study, singing in the choir again, watching movies recorded on our DVR, they are all on the back burner these days.  When we spend time together, I am investing in something so much more important.  They are my highest calling at this point in my life and I will never be able to take these days back.

Vacuuming like Mommy.  This has cured her fear of vacuum cleaners!
4. God will reward the sacrifice.
A: Homeschooling.  It's exhausting, draining, and gives me headaches some days.  I've heard my kids tell me some days that they hate school.  They sometimes get on each others nerves so much I wonder if they will kill each other.  Yet when I see their eyes light up when we do a fun project for history,  when they learn to bake, plant flowers, tend a garden, or repair something for me, when their reading improves and they hit a milestone and we rejoice together, when they recall a Biblical truth all by themselves and I want to hug them and do a happy dance, all these little triumphs would not happen if it weren't for home education.  It is so hard, yet so worth the sacrifice.
B: Giving up our winters overseas.  When we returned from the mission field in 2006, I longed to go back almost immediately.  One winter in Paraguay, three in Canada working with internationals, and two in China pursued.  When we decided to start the adoption process, choosing to begin with one girl from China, Kris told me there was no way we could continue to spend our winters overseas with four or more young children.  Logistically it is nearly impossible to temporarily house and get local transportation for so many children and effectively minister at the same time.  Financially, we would have a greater burden as well with more airline tickets and living expenses.  As much as my heart yearned to stay overseas and share Jesus with those who have never heard, I knew what we had to do.  We were receiving a greater calling to bring the mission field to us, to be a part of our family.  We had to obey the call.  I keep trying to figure out "is there any way we can have both?" but have not found a way yet.  It may never come.  Our season of winters overseas may be over indefinitely, just like our season of being full time workers on the mission field.  We just don't know.  But sacrificing these extended trips with our entire family has brought and will continue to reap rewards.  My heart years to be with my former co-laborers around the world, especially when I hear of the needs and reports from them.  But God has a season for us right now and if I don't submit to that and see the blessings and rewards of being planted here, I will miss out on the opportunities He has placed in front of me to do short term trips (one week a year), minister in my church and community, and tend to the mission field that is under my roof!

Eating rice at a Mexican Restaurant.  
Here are a few photos of Anna Faith this month.  She is continuing to grow (finally moving up a half shoe size!) and is learning more words all the time.  She is definitely becoming a Daddy's girl, always wanting to be with him.  She actually prefers going to men than women right now.  We keep counting down to her first surgery on August 12th.  Her nevi are becoming more bothersome now that hot weather has kicked in, and become dry and crusty.  She itches and they become inflamed.  We are getting more used to strangers, especially young children asking abruptly about her spots on her head and face.  It is so normal that our kids answer for me and assure the curious strangers that a doctor WILL take them off.  Despite her nevi, she greets people and waves when we are in public and they are delighted to see such a friendly little girl.  She doesn't realize they stare at her and even whisper after they pass by.  To her they are new friends.  I love her innocence at this age and am glad she will never remember these days before surgeries began.
With Mr. Stevie

With Gran, Kris' grandmother

Giving Daddy kisses

Sitting with her Grandfather at the boys' homeschool promotion