Monday, November 18, 2013

A Year of Reflecting

Wow, I find it so hard to believe that one year ago today, November 19 (China time, they are 13 hours ahead of us), we were given the gift of another child. That day and the emotions of that time are still so fresh in my mind. There have been so many sweet moments since that time. There have also been some hard times and with those hard times many lessons learned.


The overriding lesson has been trusting in a  Sovereign God. We trusted God throughout the process of the adoption, but when Jaelynn was placed into my arms, I began to learn a whole new level of trust.  I will admit when I first held Jaelynn there was a part of me that was panic stricken. I was no longer reading reports or seeing pictures of her special needs, I was holding a special girl with special needs, and it was frightening. How would I actually take care of her? Had we been over zealous and emotional in deciphering God's will to adopt her? Surely there was someone better equipped to take care of such a special little girl. It was obvious after meeting her that she would need a lot of medical care. I knew this before, but after signing papers that made her legally our daughter, the responsibility felt even more real. Very soon we saw beyond Jaelynn's special needs and saw a five year old that needed a mama and baba like any other five year old. 

The Lord was good to us during our time in China. We only had one day that none of us would ever care to repeat, but even looking back on that day, we are now able to laugh (mostly). 
It was amazing to us that though Jaelynn had never been part of a family, she seemed to have an understanding of what a family was, and she was happy to be a part of us and she fit perfectly.

We are very thankful how God has taken care of Jaelynn during her recent surgeries. Things did not always go the way we planned, but God was good to us and she is doing great now. We are not sure what will be next but we are confident that God will continue to care for her.  
Soon after returning home with Jaelynn it seemed as though the devil was hard at work to discourage me and once again I had to fully trust in The Lord and remember how He had been faithful to us and know that He wasn't going to forget about us now that the adoption was finalized. Between health insurance issues and having to switch companies after meeting the deductible with another company, I was frightened and frustrated. I was confident that I had done the right thing by quitting my job, but the devil was whispering otherwise. I became so worried about all of these things and trying to figure things out on my own that it began to take a toll on me physically. I experienced feelings I have never had and I hope I never have again. I wasn't sleeping well and didn't like being alone. Then we went through a very difficult ministry situation and I knew I had to relinquish all of my anxiety to The Lord. This isn't an easy thing to do, but as I did I recognized how God had been faithful, even in the midst of a very dark time. I saw how he sent just the right amount of encouragement at just the right time. I went from thinking God, what have WE done?, to  God, thank you for what YOU have done, thank you for choosing us to be a part of Jaelynn's life. 
It has been exciting to see Jaelynn flourish over the last 12 months. When we first came home I couldn't even take a shower without her sitting outside the bathroom door and talking to me the entire time making sure I didn't disappear. Now she goes to Sunday School, kindergarten, and does really well on the rare occasions I have leave her in someone else's care. She is doing quite well in school and is making friends. Physically Jaelynn is doing well. She will be finishing a seven week course of IV antibiotics this Friday (YAY). She is starting to move around a lot again. She is even beginning to do some standing exercises (remember she only has the use of her left leg). It is fun to see her accomplish new tasks and see how pleased she is with herself. 

Jaelynn is very much like any other child and we are daily working on issues like patience and obedience. There are daily reminders for her as she likes to test boundaries. She can give you the definition of both of these words and has even been known to point out to us when we are not being patient.  (Which is more often than I'd like to admit)
Since being home we've experienced many firsts with Jaelynn. We celebrated her first Christmas just about 3 weeks after arriving home. Those days are a bit of a blur as we were settling in to life as a family of six. In January we were able to take a day trip to Disney's  Magic Kingdom. My parents and sister were able to join us for that special day and we had a great time. In May, thanks to a very sweet and generous friend, we were so thankful to be able to travel to Nashville for Show Hope's 10th Anniversary Celebration. I can't even describe how fun it was to see so many children together again on this side of the world.

 
I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. David, Jaelynn and I were together last Thanksgiving, but we were in Zhengzhou, China. I really missed the rest of my family that day and I am excited to spend our first Thanksgiving together as a family. 
(Taken last Thanksgiving)

On November 19, 2012, 13 children became orphans no more as CCAI travel group 1928 welcomed these children into their families. Happy Gotcha Day to all of those families. I think of you and your children often and those first happy and difficult days as we were getting to know our children. 


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

National Adoption Month - What are you gonna do?

,I had a blog post all ready in my head to post last night until yesterday happened and things didn't go according to MY plan. You see God had other plans for yesterday. I planned to blog about how happy I was that we (Jaelynn) were finished with hospital procedures and surgeries for a while, but shortly after arriving at All Children's Hospital early yesterday morning and seeing Jaelynn off for her minor surgery the doctor returned from the OR to let me know that she did fine with the anesthesia but because of some swelling we weren't aware of he was unable to perform the procedure and that she will need to return in a couple of weeks for a second attempt. If the swelling is still there then they will have to take a more invasive approach to accomplish what needs to be done and would require approximately three nights in the hospital. Jaelynn had a very bad headache when she was waking up from anesthesia which made her quite upset. Thankfully they were able to give her medication and it wasn't too long before she was feeling good enough to leave the hospital and she has been great since. We are waiting to hear when we will return for the second attempt. Though we were disappointed that things didn't go our way, we know that God's ways are higher and this was no surprise to Him and we are thankful that Jaelynn is doing well over all. The wound on her back that has been so slow to heal is finally healing and she is finally able to crawl and move around by herself again.
Jaelynn is back to kindergarten and doing very well and now that she has been cleared by the doctor, the physical therapist can begin to work with her again. Our goal is to teach her to do as much as possible so that she can be as independent as possible. David and I are often reminded as we lift her and carry her around that she will not be 34 pounds forever and as much as we do not like to admit it, we are getting older. Of COURSE David is older than me (just want to make sure everyone knows this). Jaelynn, like all children also enjoys learning to be independent, so why would we not want that for her?
Katie is doing great and it is hard to believe that she will be graduating from Clearwater Christian College in just a little over a year (December 2014).  
Matt is enjoying his first semester at college (also at Clearwater Christian). He is in a couple of the music groups and he has a You Tube Channel that he enjoys making videos for.
I am excited that Abby is enjoying middle school and is doing very well. She received her first report card and she had straight A's. We plan on taking her out for a special dinner soon to celebrate. She has been enjoying being a nursery helper at church lately and this week during our missions conference she has enjoyed taking care of some little ones. She is growing up!
Well this month is National Adoption Month. Adoption doesn't have to call you to the other side of the world. There are children in the foster care system here in the states who need to know the love of a family and more importantly the love of a Savior. Have you felt God calling you to foster or adopt? Please don't brush that nudging away. You could be missing one of the biggest blessings ever. Is adoption hard?... Yes.  Is worth it? ...YES.  I'd love to share our story or just talk to anyone who is considering adoption. If God hasn't called you to adopt that doesn't mean you stand back and do nothing. I know families who are raising funds to bring a child home that you could help. You could also become a Show Hope sponsor. Visit showhope.org or contact me if you have any questions. Your monthly donation helps provide waiting children with medical care and also provides waiting families with adoption grants. It is a great feeling to see pictures of children who are now with their families as a result of a grant or to see children thriving because of medical care they are receiving and to know that you played a part in their story. So I'll leave you with this question, what are YOU gonna do?


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Time Flies When You're Having Fun


In the adoption process there are certain dates that are monumental. One of those dates is the day you receive your TA (travel approval). Tomorrow 10/26 (or probably today, depending on when I post this) will mark one year that I checked my email and found the most exciting news..... We had travel approval! All that was left to do was to schedule our consulate appointment and buy our plane tickets. It began to feel real and we began to pack suitcases for the trip of a lifetime. It is hard to believe it has been a year since that exciting news, and so much has happened in that year.
When we prayerfully made the decision to adopt Jaelynn, I never doubted that God would provide a way for us to do it and I rarely worried about how we would take care of a child with special needs. In the last couple of months my faith doesn't feel as strong as it did back then. I still know that God will continue to take care of us, but some days it is hard to see past our present circumstances. The last two months have been difficult as we get past one hurdle physically only to meet a new challenge. It has been an exhausting time which have added to feelings of loneliness and frustration. 
Though we had some tough days, God again has been faithful. He has taken care of Jaelynn in some situations that were very scary and she is on the road to recovery. Things are starting to slow down and  I'm looking forward to not having weekly appointments that are two hours away. Jaelynn has handled things fairly well but she is very intuitive and always has her ears open to make sure she knows everything that is going on. 
She has been back to school for about two weeks and she loves it. 
 She is looking forward to celebrating her seventh birthday. Because of some confusion over her birthdate she hasn't celebrated a birthday since coming home. She has requested a princess tea party with lots of sparkle. She is most definitely a girly girl and loves all things pink and sparkly. It's hard to believe it has been a year since we first met our girl. She has blossomed every day from a little girl who did everything to please us to a feisty little girl who is not afraid to speak her mind or give an opinion. At times it can make you want to pull your hair out, but then I think about it and I am thankful she feels so comfortable with her family and that her adjustment has been smooth.
Medically she has a small outpatient surgery coming up in about a week. She will also require small outpatient surgeries about every six to nine months to lengthen the rod in her back to guide her growth. She had several incisions on her back and most have healed up nicely, but she has one that is not healing. Please pray that it would begin to heal and that it would not require any further surgeries. She also had a small spinal fluid leak after the first surgery in August. The neurosurgeon is going to follow up with an MRI in December to make sure it is not any worse. If she begins to have any symptoms she will need to have the MRI before December. She is a tough little girl and has touched many hearts as she has interacted with doctors and nurses over end last several weeks. Our desire is to be a light and advocate for the least of these even through the hard situations. 
Thank you to everyone who has been an encouragement to us. We really appreciate all the prayers and concern for Jaelynn. The road ahead may have some bumps in it, but we know we are not alone. 
Saturday night update:
Jaelynn had a full day today. We started the day off with a community picnic and then did a little bit of shopping. We ended the day with trick or treating (where we live trick or treating is always the Saturday before Halloween). This was her first time to trick or treat and she had a ball! We also got to go on a hay ride which she also enjoyed. She was pretty tired tonight at bedtime. I think she will sleep well.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Scary Times and Happy Endings

Friday:
Well it has been a roller coaster 10 days. Many of these details I posted about on Facebook, but I decided to write it all out so that I could reflect on God's goodness. If you enjoy details continue reading, if not then the important thing is that Jaelynn is doing great and should be going home soon.
 Jaelynn was admitted to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa last Wednesday for a two part (anterior and posterior) surgery for severe scoliosis. The first surgery on Wednesday went great. She did fine with anesthesia and the doctor was able to accomplish what he hoped for that day. A chest x-ray that afternoon after surgery showed that she had developed a pneumothorax (the collection of air in the space around the lungs. This buildup of air puts pressure on the lung, so it cannot expand as much as it normally does when you take a breath). It was most likely caused by the placement of the central line that was placed during surgery. The plan was to keep an eye on it and if it didn't resolve itself they would treat it on Friday when she was scheduled for the second part of scoliosis surgery. On Thursday night Jaelynn's heart rate kept increasing. It went as high as the 180's (normal for her age is like 100-135). She did not have a fever which can often cause an increase. Another measurement that was off for Jaelynn was her CVP (central venous pressure) which as I understand it is a direct measurement of the blood pressure in the right atrium and vena cava. This was measured through the central line that was placed Jaelynn's jugular. The number that we wanted to see is between 3-9, Jaelynn's numbers began to rise with her heart rate and got as high as the 40's. These numbers all pointed to overhydration and heart failure.
Friday morning arrived and several doctors were in and out of the room deciding whether or not it was safe for her to have surgery. They consulted with a cardiologist who ordered an echocardiogram. No one had to say a word we could tell by the the expression on the faces in the room that something was very wrong. The right side of Jaelynn's heart was not functioning and she was experiencing heart failure. We now wondered how long this had been going on, because she has never had any symptoms of any heart or lung issues. The doctors knew after seeing this echo that surgery would not happen that day. The cardiologist ordered all fluids to be stopped and she was put on lasix to help reduce the fluids in her body. A repeat of the echo that afternoon showed slight improvement and the echo the next morning showed even more improvement, but the cardiologist wanted to determine if this was an acute event or something that had been going on in Jaelynn's body and we just didn't know it. The surgeon placed a chest tube at her bedside and that resolved the pneumothorax and the cardiolgist decided to do a heart cath on Monday morning. If the results were good then the back surgery could be performed right after that. Praise The Lord, the results of the cath were good and her heart seems to be okay. The cardiologist feels like this was an acute event due to a combination of the pneumothorax and being overhydrated and she said that the heart was recovering well. We had a follow up echo today and will find out if her heart has fully recovered from everything soon. 
She was taken from the cath lab to the OR and the doctor made his first incision at noon and finished just before 5 PM. Needless to say Monday was a very long day and a day I do not wish to repeat. 
Since the second surgery Jaelynn's heart rate and fluid balance has been a little tricky, but it seems to be controlled well now. She spiked a fever of 103 during the night last night, but a little Tylenol helped with that. 
Today Jaelynn was moved from the ICU to a regular room. The room is much more comfortable and it has a bathroom I can use, YAY. Now again this afternoon she spiked a fever of 104. Someone will be in shortly to check it again, and I'm praying it has come down. You'd never know she had a fever by the way she is acting, she has been very pleasant all day. I think she is excited about the possibility of going home soon since she has met all the milestones the doctor set for her. She's been sitting up in bed and the chair in the room. For short periods she has even sat in her wheelchair, which is a little bit more painful. She is also eating well.
Looking back on the events of the last 10 days, I am very thankful for so many things. I am thankful that the doctor in the ICU consulted with a cardiologist and that the cardiologist ordered and echocardiogram of Jaelynn's heart. Had she gone into surgery on Friday when she was experiencing heart failure, the results would be very different than they are now. Needless to say the technician that performed the test as well as the doctors are very thankful too. I am thankful that through every rough spot the doctors here have been wonderful and have explained things to us so well. We've had great nurses, a special shout out to Ashley who went above and beyond being a great nurse. She stayed with Jaelynn during the process of getting her second chest tube when Jaelynn was so scared and promised to protect Jaelynn with her life since David and I had to leave the room. I'm thankful for the results of the surgery. Though Jaelynn's spine curvature is not perfect, it is so much better than before which will help her in so many ways. I'm thankful for the doctors and nurses that we were able to share our adoption story with, it was evident that Jaelynn touched their heart.  I'm thankful for everyone that prayed for Jaelynn and our family over the last 11 days, we felt them all.

Saturday update:
Woo Hoo, the doctor decided to let Jaelynn come home today. We stopped by my parents house but we've been home now for a few hours and it feels great! We got the results of the latest echo and it showed just a small amount of pleural fluid. We will have a repeat echo in a few days and will also follow up with the spine doctor.
Below is a picture of Jaelynn with Dr Riggs who is one of the doctors in the ICU that treated Jaelynn. The one in the surgeons cap is the general surgeon who assisted the spine surgeon in the first surgery and who placed the chest tubes. We'll post more pictures of the staff that were an important part of Jaelynn's care later.
 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Big Stuff

There have been several changes in our family, and though most are exciting, it has also been bitter sweet. 
Katie moved back to Clearwater in July because of a job opportunity and also for school. After completing a year of full time studies through her colleges online program, she is back as a second semester junior as a classroom student. She lives with my parents and commutes about twenty minutes to school. It was great having her living at home when Jaeynn came home. She was a great help and Jaelynn got to bond with the whole family. I miss her but I'm also excited as I see The Lord work in her life.
Matthew spent the summer working as a camp counselor at Camp Grace in North Carolina and he just started his fresh,an year at Clearwater Christian College. This is his second week and he seems to be enjoying it. Both Katie and Matt have a Bible professor that they really like. This professor also taught David almost 30 years ago. He has made such an impact on many students.
My Abby started middle school last week. I don't know how this is possible, it seems like just yesterday we were anticipating her arrival. She is enjoying spreading her wings and becoming more responsible and independent. I'm not sure how I'm feeling about it though. Abby has taken on the role as big sister and is doing a fantastic job. Jaelynn loves playing with Abby and Abby enjoys taking care of Jaelynn.
One year ago today we received our Letter of Approval from China to adopt Jaelynn. Anyone who has adopted from China knows what a big deal this is. It is China's approval to adopt a specific child and typically from this point things start moving rather quickly. One year later Jaelynn has been part of our family for nine months and we couldn't imagine life without her. She had surgery for a tethered cord three weeks ago (spinal cord surgery) and recovery was a little bit tough, but she is doing much better now and was able to start kindergarten last week and she is loving it. Today was her last day for about six weeks because she will be having surgery for scoliosis tomorrow and on Friday. Typically scoliosis surgery is performed when children are a little older but because of the severity of her case doctors felt it should be taken care of now to protect her heart and lungs and because they were afraid if we waited they may not be able to help her later. So tomorrow they will work from her front side to make some corrections and on Friday from her back. This is quite a big surgery. I was told by a nurse anesthetist yesterday that besides cardiac surgeries this is the biggest surgery they perform at this hospital. She will be in ICU until at least Monday. Please pray for our brave girl and that her recovery will go smoothly.
Having grown children brings varying emotions. It is bittersweet to think back at how quickly time has gone by but also exciting when you see your young adult children making good decisions and living a life that seeks Christ first. My favorite job I have been entrusted with is being a wife to David and being a mommy to Katie, Matt, Abby, and Jaelynn. Those of you with little ones savor every day with your gifts, you will not regret it and they will not forget it.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Happy Referral Day!

It was one year ago today that I received a phone call and then an email that our family had been waiting on for nine months. I had been home from work for about an hour  when the phone rang. Caller ID showed it was a call from Colorado. My heart jumped.... Could this actually be the call we had been waiting so long for? It was indeed our adoption agency with the news that they had finally received the file on Dang Yue Lin aka Jaelynn. We were told to check our email and review the information and make a decision as to whether we wanted proceed with the adoption within 48 hours. We responded by the end of the day and sent our Letter of Intent to our agency. 
It's been fun to reminisce on the last year and to reflect on everything that has happened. All the worry over when we would receive our LOA (letter of acceptance) from China,  and when other paperwork would make its way to the proper desk, and then waiting on our TA (travel approval) caused us to really rely on God and His timing. I was constantly figuring timeline scenarios in my head. If these papers are dropped off today then that can be picked up on this day and we could have travel approval by this day and we could be in China by this day. I thought I had all the scenarios planned out, but God had the timing all figured out and it was much better than anything I could have planned myself. 
Jaelynn has been home a little over seven months now and continues to do very well in spite of some physical challenges. She is scheduled for surgery with her neurosurgeon on August 5 for a tethered cord repair and then she is scheduled for scoliosis/ back surgery on Aug 28 and 30.  We are thankful  that these surgeries are not considered life threatening, however they are very complex and there are risks involved. Please pray for the doctors and the medical team that will be working with Jaelynn. Pray for Jaelynn, she is a trooper, but is very scared. Pray for our family. We know these surgeries are necessary but we are anxious and ready to get them behind us.
Happy referral day Jaelynn, we are so thankful God chose us to be your family. We love you!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Family - A Gift



One of the hard things with adoption is making sure your other children feel connected and loved even though so much attention is being placed on the new member of the family. This is even difficult with older children. You still want to communicate love and appreciation for all of your children. 
Last Thursday was the last day of school so I made a lunch date with Abby, our eleven year old. I left Jaelynn with Katie and Abby picked the restaurant. We ran a few errands and then had a nice lunch together. 
Thursday evening David and I drove Matthew to Orlando to pick his girlfriend from the airport. Her flight was scheduled to arrive at 7:28, but because of a missed connecting flight and bad weather her flight did not arrive until about mid night. Ordinarily this would seem like an inconvenience, but it was actually some sweet time spent with our son Matthew who is now in North Carolina working at a Christian Camp for the summer and then when he returns he will be leaving for college within a couple of weeks. We talked about his senior year, the camp ministry he will be involved in, his girlfriend, church and his future. We also enjoyed spending time with Matt and his girlfriend on Saturday when we drove them to North Carolina to camp. Thank you Katie for taking care of Jaelynn so that your Dad and I could make the quick trip to NC and back.

On Wednesday we took the three girls to Adventure Island Water Park. Abby has been wanting to go there and Jaelynn was excited to go swimming in the lazy river. We had a great day and are hoping to make it back there before the end of the Summer. 

Today was an exhausting day. Jaelynn had an appointment with a spine/ scoliosis doctor. Her appointment was at 8:40 and we were there until after 2 PM, but I think we got a lot of answers. She had several x rays and a Cat Scan. This doctor is now going to talk to her neurosurgeon and I hope to hear from him next week so that we can put together a plan for treating her issues. Her case is very complicated (what every parent loves to hear), but we felt confident with this doctor and will continue to trust The Lord to go before us every step of the way. As we left today the doctor thanked us for the challenge. 
At one point today as the doctor was examining Jaelynn and looking at her test results, he was just baffled by what he saw. I felt a sense of panic and then I read some lyrics to a song that Chris Tomlin sings and that a little friend of ours has been singing the last couple of days:
 I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

So thankful for the one who goes ahead of us every step of this journey.

On difficult days when Jaelynn is not being the sweet little girl that you see in all of the pictures, I have to remind myself of all that God has done and is doing through this little girl. The thought of her not being in our family or not having a family at all immediately eliminates any frustrations I might feel. As God continues to write Jelynn's story I feel privileged and humbled to be part of it. 

Thank you to all of you who have prayed for Jaelynn and or the rest of our family. We appreciate everyone of you! We will keep you all posted on what the next steps will be.