Friday, February 19, 2016

Women of Faith

So many thoughts are going through my mind today, so here goes my ramblings.
We've all had moments where we look back at events in our lives and feel a tinge of sadness or nostalgia over a certain period of time, Not because it was a sad time but because we long to have one of those moments back. Perhaps the way you felt on your wedding day, or the day your children were born, their first steps, the day they started kindergarten and High School (Abby starts High School next year!), seeing your children marry their best friend. I had this sadness or nostalgia feeling last night when I  went to see the Women of Faith: An Amazing Joyful Journey movie.
I remember going to my very first Women of Faith conference, The Great Adventure, in 2003. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it and was doing it because it was the nice Pastor's wife thing to do since I had been approached by a few woman to organize a group to go. I had NO idea the impact these conferences would have on my life. From the moment that even started, I was was drawn in. The conference started with thousands of woman worshipping through music. Hearing thousands of Women singing together was like nothing I had ever heard. Then the speakers got up and spoke. They were relevant, funny, encouraging, and they all shared messages of God's love and redemption. When you left that arena Saturday evening you knew God loved you and you knew that the only way to experience the joy and peace was through a personal relationship with Christ and you were very clearly given the opportunity to make that decision.
Every year after that first conference I looked forward to attending. I became a group leader and brought as many as 30 ladies.
In 2009 I attended the conference in Tampa, FL and one of the guest speakers was Mary Beth Chapman. Mary Beth spoke about the tragic loss of their sweet Maria Sue and the struggles their family had gone through. I purchased her book "Choosing To See" at the conference and little did I know at the time, how God would use that book to change the Altman family... Forever. It was this book that Katie read and then felt called to take a short missions trip to Luoyang, China to show God's love to orphans. I think you know the rest of the story. Well I guess it isn't the rest of the story because our story is still being written
Women of Faith has been a blessing in my relationships. I've developed relationships that started by attending a conference with some women from my church. I don't think I would have gotten to know these women the way that I did if it wasn't for attending a conference together.
I can't say enough about the quality of the speakers I've heard over the years. I just love hearing Lucy speak and tell stories about her mother and daddy and her brothers. It has reminded me of the kind of legacy I want to leave for my children. Patsy Clairmont uses words the way an artist uses a pencil and paints. She has a way of saying something in a powerful way. Shelia's honesty and vulnerability is always refreshing. God has used her brokenness to encourage so many women who struggle with clinical depression. Marilyn Meberg has my sense of's a little quirky. I love the story about the Ajax sticker, and David better watch out for one of those stickers, you never know when it could appear (you had to be there). More than her humor, I love how Marilyn could end the conferences with an invitation to accept Christ as your Savior. Thelma Wells is a picture of strength. She allowed a difficult childhood and racial issues during her years as a young woman to mold her into the woman of faith she is today, when it could have done the opposite. Stories of God's mercy and grace from people like Sandy Patty, Tammy Trent, Carol Kent, and Jennifer Rothschild have been etched in my heart and I will not forget them. Then there is Mary Graham. You could not attend a conference and not feel welcome if Mary was there. I remember when Florida was having the string of hurricanes and life was stressful. We had left our home not knowing what would be left when we returned during one of the storms and when we came home and everything was well, there was a recorded telephone message from Mary Graham telling the people of Florida that Women of Faith was praying for us. I know it was a recorded message, but I felt like she was talking directly to me.
I feel sad and nostalgic as I write this blog, but just like with my children, God will continue to write a story of bigger and better things. I am looking forward to attending the Belong Tour with Patsy Clairmont and Jenn Hatmaker with my girlfriends and my daughter and daughter in law and I can't wait to make new memories with them!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Reflecting and Remembering..... 2015

In July of 2011 I heard the first whispers of God to begin the journey of adopting Jaelynn. Once we were confident that we were hearing Him correctly we began the paperwork that would bring her home in just a little over a year. Life was a whirlwind and we THOUGHT that once we had her home things would slow down and we would have normalcy. Boy was I wrong! That first year at home brought many appointments with specialists, surgeries, and adjustments for everyone.

This year has been no exception for our family as the whirlwind continues! In 2015 we welcomed two new members to our our family. No, we haven't adopted again, our oldest two children were married. Katie married Cole last January. They had a beautiful wedding and are getting ready to celebrate their first anniversary already. Matthew married Rebecca on November 7 in a secret garden themed wedding. It was a magical day! We are so thankful for Cole and Rebecca and for the relationship we have with them. It is a great thing when you love and get along with the one God has given your child. It makes letting them go a lot easier.  Thank you Cole for loving our daughter and for making her laugh, we don't take that for granted. And thank you Rebecca for loving our son and supporting him as you both seek Gods direction for the future.

Abby became a teenager this year. I find it so hard to believe she is 13 already. I'm thankful for her sweet easy going personality and her sensitivity to the Lord. She enjoyed her first missions trip in June to Nicaragua. I am looking forward to seeing what God has in store for her in the future.

Jaelynn turned 9 the day after Christmas. She is growing up quickly. She had a big back surgery in September. This was one of the toughest surgeries as far as pain goes, but that has gotten much better. Her back is still healing. She will follow up with the orthopedic surgeon soon and have X-rays to check things out and be sure everything is healing well... I have a few concerns. We also found out that she has mild sleep apnea and will need to have her tonsils and adenoids removed. We had scheduled it for the end of January, but with the doctors approval we decided to wait until summer. Missing a lot of school and making up work is tough!

David and I celebrated 25 years of marriage in June. Where has the time gone? We celebrated by going on a cruise.... Just the two of us (thanks Katie and Cole for keeping the girls!). We had such a great time! Marriage is such a wonderful gift and I'm so very thankful for my husband and best friend. God has been so good to us!

I'm so thankful God writes our stories because this is so much better than anything I could have written. Now I'll sit back and anxiously await the next chapter. 😊

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Time Flies When You're Having Fun!

I has been quite some time since I blogged, but with Wednesday being the three year anniversary of the day we received Jaelynn's referral and some new things going on it seemed like a good time to catch anyone interested up.
The last time I blogged, Jaelynn was recovering from her back surgery and had started kindergarten. She has now completed first grade. She has struggled with reading and we are working hard on that this summer, but overall she is doing great in school. She has been an example to others that a wheelchair doesn't mean you can not do things, but that you may do things differently.
Jaelynn's personality is very much as it always has been. She likes to be in control of most everything from the television and what she wears to what her older (13 year old) sister is doing. During a recent field day at school, there were not many activities she could participate in, so she took control of organizing the class and telling them exactly what to do.
She is nosey! She thinks she needs to be a part of all conversations and we often have to remind her that, "we are not talking to you" and "its none of your business!" (Insert an eye roll here)😜 She is LOUD and I can usually find her by listening for her voice, so much like her father!
She loves her family and is very forgiving when we mess up. She loves when we are all home together... Just the way I like it too.
Physically, Jaelynn has been healthy. She has had her growing rods lengthened in her back about every six months. Just a month ago she had a more involved surgery for her bowel and bladder. It wasn't a surgery she had to have, but certainly one that has and will continue to be a life changer for her and for me. It has given her more independence and it means she can spend the night away from me. She is excited to stay with her cousins one day!
It seems as though almost every time Jaelynn has some type of surgery it is delayed somewhat because of some issue going on with her heart, ether a fast heart rate, irregular heartbeat, or high pulmonary pressures. Her last surgery was no exception. She was admitted the day before surgery and a physicians assistant came in to check her out and found that she had an irregular heart beat. This led to a EKG being ordered, then an echocardiogram, and then an overnight holter monitor. This caused surgery to be delayed by a couple of hours because the cardiologist had to go over the findings before allowing surgery. All of the results  came back fine except that she had some mild pulmonary hypertension, so she was cleared for surgery.
We have worked with anesthesiologists and finally found anesthesia that works well and doesn't cause delirium as she wakes up. We are thankful surgery and recovery went well.
We followed up with the cardiologist on Monday and Jaelynn had another echocardiogram. She still has the mild pulmonary hypertension and is being referred to a pulmonologist. They also found some other problem, so she is being scheduled for a specialized MRI of her heart. One possibility of what it could be is an ASD (a hole in her heart). An ASD is repairable, so that would be the best and probable case. Would you please pray for us during this period of testing and uncertainty? We kind of had an idea about her other physical problems before bringing her home, but this is a bit of a surprise (not that it would have played a role in us adopting her). Heart issues are a bit scary!
Last night at dinner we were talking about the circumstances surrounding our decision to adopt Jaelynn and we told Jaelynn about when Katie came home from her China trip in 2011 and how she asked people to pray for a special little girl named Jaelynn who was at Maria's Big House of Hope and had spina bifida. Katie asked people to pray for a family for this special girl. Isn't it fun to look back at how God answers prayers! Adoption changes lives. I know it changed mine!

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 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

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.