Thursday, July 31, 2008

I can finally sleep again!

What is lurking behind this chair? As I pulled the curtains opened this morning, I did my usual glance down to judge the extent of the dust bunnies that usually gather in this particular spot. This window gets lots of afternoon sun, so, due to the blazing sun and our almost $600 electric bill, I haven't opened the curtain here for maybe a couple of weeks. I love having my curtains open, and decided I could at least open them until the afternoon sun hit.

Something caught my eye. A butterfly? No. I look a little bit closer. Eeewww, what is that? I move the chair back to get a better look.

I was going to crop this picture so that our little guy was closer up, but trust me, you don't want me to.

Poor guy. Such an embarrassing position to be discovered in.

If I could figure out a way to turn him over without getting anywhere near him, I would. At least he'd have some dignity until one of the boys in our house can dispose of him properly.

Scott will be relieved that we can finally TURN OFF ALL THE LIGHTS IN THE HOUSE that we HAD to leave on all night for the last 3 weeks. Hmmm, maybe that had something to do with our electric bill.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Brevity is not my gift

We went to Friday night's concert tired, weary, tired, and weary. Did I mention we were weary? We came home from Friday night's concert revived, moved, changed.

Scott's been working extra long hours for 3 weeks now. For the last 3 nights, Piper has woken up crying and had a hard time getting back to sleep. Lots of holding, rocking, the middle of the night.

Our first Steven Curtis Chapman concert, "Speechless", was way back when we were first married, 11 years ago or so. I remember him talking about their 3 kids saying "We have eeney, meeney, miney, and we are going to have no MO!" HA! We didn't have kids yet, and I remember thinking that was funny. We had someone sing "I Will Be Here" as a part of our wedding ceremony - love that song. He sang it that night as well.

Our next concert was in the beginning of 2006, about a year into our adoption process. Our paperwork was in China, but the wait was just beginning to grow, as well as the uncertainty surrounding what was happening with China adoptions. I went to that concert weary. Came home inspired and encouraged. My personal BIG moment at that concert was SCC and Mark Hall singing "Believe Me Now" together. It was a moment I'll never forget. It felt like God took me by the shoulders, shook me gently, but firmly, and reminded me that He was the one who had led us to adoption, and He was working, even when nothing was going according to my time schedule or plan. I had no idea at the time, but on the other side of the world, a woman was about 7 months along with our future daughter.

"My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:15-16

So, Friday night was our first SCC concert since going to China and adopting Piper. It was only his 5th concert since the death of his adopted daughter, Maria, and his first since that time without his band, just him.

He walked out on stage as the audience took in the site of him, first time to actually see him since tragedy entered his family. It was good to see him putting one foot in front of the other, doing what he does so well. The sound of his voice is ripe with brokenness, wisdom, reverence. He sat down behind a keyboard and said, "I don't actually play the keyboard, but just wanted something to hide behind for a little while." He said it was going to be different for him, first time without the band since May 21st. He said the song "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord" was the only real thing that he held onto on the night of May 21st, and it has been his comfort since then. He said he doesn't think he'll ever be able to play a concert without doing at least part of it, and he began playing and singing it. There are many lines to that song that cut deeply given his circumstance, but the end "He gives and takes away....He gives and takes away...My heart will choose to say....Blessed be the name of the Lord...". And I will say, the tone of those words seem to mark SCC now. Surrender, complete brokenness, trust, reverence.

He talked, a lot, maybe even more than he sang. We loved it. Several times he apologized for rambling. I loved how he didn't seem to have a real plan for what he was going to say, just following his heart.

The second song was one he decided to do last minute after seeing the promotional posters they had up in the church "Changing lives one heartbeat at a time". The 7th song on his latest CD, This Moment, is "One heartbeat at a time", a song he wrote for his wife, Mary Beth. Every mom needs to go listen to song! I had listened to it many times before Friday night, but it has taken on a whole new meaning for me after hearing SCC tell about it. Wow, I started crying and couldn't stop, so glad it was dark in there. Like I said before, I'd come to this concert weary, tired, wondering if anything I do really matters all that much. As anyone who reads this blog knows, since going to China and falling head over heels in love with Piper, I carry with me the weight of feeling like I should be doing more, and vacillate between barely being able to sufficiently care for 3 kids and wanting to adopt the rest of the worlds orphans. So that was the place I was in as I sat and soaked in his story behind the words of his next song.

Years ago, when Shoahannah was little, he'd called home after concert to an overwhelmed Mary Beth. Shoahannah had been having trouble sleeping, common for these kiddos who have experienced so much in their short lives. Mary Beth was frustrated at her inability to get "anything done" and was worn out from so many nights of being up with Shoahannah. SCC was speaking straight to me - I just know it! I so connected with Mary Beth's feelings, but suddenly I could see just what SCC was getting to - this thought that she wasn't actually "doing anything" worthwhile, barely just making it day to day. Lately, I've started to get frustrated that right now I can't even attend bible study because Piper is having so much trouble separating from me at church. We are sticking to Sundays only, trying to give her consistency in a measured way. My time at church is spent praying she'll make it through the whole service, praying she's doing ok, etc.. The thought of "serving" in any way is out of the question right now, and I think I'm starting to feel like a Christian loafer or something, like I'm not pulling my weight. Like I should be doing more.

SCC said he felt so much compassion for the place she was in, and then jokingly said he wanted to slap this crazy notion out of her head. But being the songwriter kind of guy he is, he sat down and wrote her a song at 1 a.m. instead. He said, "there she was, mothering this sweet child, who not long ago lived in an orphanage with no mother."

He then paraphrased Mark 9:36-37 "He (Jesus) took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

"That word ONE recently jumped off the page at me. Think about what that means. We don't have to save the whole world to welcome Jesus himself, and live in that place. Just one." he said. Something clicked in me with those words. The burden I had carried was lifted off of my shoulders in that very moment, and instantly I felt the significance of those middle of the night sessions with Piper. Gratefulness flooded me as I realized what a wonderful privilege I've been given. I've known this at other times, but like Mary Beth, temporarily lost site of it. Perspective. Scott, knowing the place I was in, looked at me and said, "that's you, one heartbeat at a time". I cried through the entire song. Months of burdens that had piled up without me even realizing it flowed out in those tears.

I also cried everytime he talked about caring for the fatherless, orphans. No words to describe the meaning those words carry when your own child was once labeled an orphan.

It's an amazing experience to be so ministered to by one who is in such extreme grief. There's really no way for me to adequately express it. We got the sense him being there and sharing his heart was healing for him, but at the same time for us too.

He asked for prayers for Mary Beth and said he loves her so much and is amazed by the strength she has shown in the last two months. He then sang, "I Will Be Here". He said himself how the words of his songs take on a whole new meaning now. That song sure does. He said he's gone through all of his lyrics and asked himself if he can still sing those words. He thought he'd never sing "Cinderella" again, but has since realized it's message is more important than ever.

He started talking about Maria and ended up sharing her adoption story. They had already adopted Shoahannah and recently Stevie Joy, when he was in Beijing singing at a worship service. He walked out into a parking lot and was stopped by an American family with 2 Chinese babies. They explained that they were missionaries and their teenage kids would love to meet him. SCC said he was missing his babies terribly and asked who the babies were and could he hold one of them. The family was fostering them and was in the process of adopting one of them and was looking for a family for the other one. He asked the name of the one he was holding and they said "Maria" - an unusual name for a Chinese girl. SCC said that immediately and loudly, the words to a song he'd written 12 years earlier flooded his mind. He'd written it about a friend of his daughter Emily who'd come from a troubled family. The name of the song was, "Who's going to love Maria?" He said with all of the work they do in orphanages in China, he'd never felt so strongly pulled to an orphan in this way, like he was supposed to do something. He called Mary Beth who said he was crazy, so he figured he'd have to help her in some other way than making her his own. He said he got home a week later and Mary Beth had the filled-out adoption paperwork on their kitchen counter, waiting for his signature. Maria became Maria Sue Chapman.

He told about how she had asked to pray to accept Jesus into her heart, completely out of the blue, just weeks before her death because she wanted to go to "God's house, where there are many, many rooms!".

He seemed to think maybe he was talking too much and said, "I guess I just needed to talk about Maria tonight." Tears (mine).

He talked about the level of suffering they are in. He says looking back on the place he was when he wrote some of his songs, it was like they were in a foot of water saying, "wow, we are in really deep.". Now it's as if they are in the bottom of the ocean, saying "okay, this is really deep!". Everything he knew before is still as true as ever, just with a whole new view of eternity and the fellowship of the suffering. He kept back tracking, wanting to make sure we understood he didn't think he was experiencing some special kind of suffering or that it was about him. He kept steering everything back to God, His provision, His sovereignty, His plan.

He also asked for prayer as his family shares their suffering and their hope with Robin Roberts of Good Morning America on Monday. The show will air sometime the first week of August, but she is coming to their house tomorrow to interview the entire family. Their hope is to glorify God.

So that's my little recap. Hunter and Ella are spending the night at our friends house tonight! Ella has asked me 584 times today if it is 6:00 yet. I think we are all a bit excited!

Friday, July 18, 2008


Scott and I are going to see Steven Curtis Chapman in concert, tonight! We've seen him twice before and it's always memorable. Both Scott and I are sort of running on empty right now, so we are really looking forward to it.

Thanks, mom, for babysitting - may God be with you!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

You might be having a bad hair day if...

You are "fixing" your hair in the bathroom mirror at church, when a complete stranger casually asks you if you've ever tried a hair product called "Frizz Remedy"!

I am not even kidding. This happened to me today. No, I had not had time to flat iron my hair, and it was humid outside, but are you kidding me???

So in case you are interested, you can apparently purchase "Frizz Remedy" at ULTA and they are having a buy 2 get one free sale! Who knew?

Apparently not me.

The Year - Part 2

The surgeon looked up at my mom, me, my brother, and Wanda. We'd been waiting for 4 hours to hear what he had to tell us, and there was nothing light hearted in his demeanor.

"Don is doing fine, now." I remember wondering why he said "now", like he wasn't fine before. Looking back, I now know that he was giving us the good news first. Basically, he's alive.

"We couldn't get the tumor, it was blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...."

me: "You didn't get any of it?"

"No, because of the location, and how it was wrapped around the main artery, blah, blah, blah...He could have bled out if blah, blah, blah...I'm sorry."

It had not occurred to me that this was a possibility. That they would cut my dad open from one side all the way across his body to the other, work on him for 4 hours, that I would pray fervently and BELIEVE God for total healing, only to have the surgeon tell us that they did not get any of the tumor. At that point anything would have been better, some of the tumor, even if it was a small amount. We could have told ourselves it was worth this huge surgery.

Normally, I'm not one to immediately claim that God will heal someone. In fact, I think the bible plainly shows that sometimes God chooses not to heal or rescue for some divine purpose. My faith does not rest on God being my Santa Clause, but on His sovereignty. Sometimes, God shows Himself in the miraculous, and sometimes in our grief. I knew this. I knew this from the bible and also from my own experience. But, as I said in Part 1, as I was praying during my dad's surgery, something shifted in me. I can't really put it into words, but felt like I was being led to let myself believe that God quite possibly would do something amazing here. It took a leap of faith for me to allow myself to believe that all things were possible, even the statistically unlikely. Because if I let myself go there, then I was setting myself up for a big fall.

And fall I did.

I felt somewhat numb at first, but as the time came for us to go in and see my dad in ICU, the numbness wore off. My heart had taken up residence in my throat. The surgeon had told us that patients generally ask about the surgery when they are ready for the answer, and it may well be tomorrow before he even asks.

As we came into his room in the ICU, we could see that he was in a lot of pain. They were having a tough time getting it under control. But within minutes, he asked.

My mom gently explained that they were not able to get any of the tumor. There it was. The cold hard truth. It sounded so real and cruel, given the state he was in.

"So I'm going to die."

my mom: "Yes, and we are all going to die too."

The focus then shifted to trying to get his pain under some sort of control. The surgeon had explained to us that because they'd tried for so long to find a way to get to the tumor, he had a lot of healing to do. They had put in an epidural during surgery that was supposed to really help with the pain. Unfortunately, it did not work and it took them a while to figure that out, and switch to something different.

Pain, it was everywhere that night. Filling my dad's room. Filling up my entire being. It's hard to admit this now, but I felt God had tricked me, risen my hopes up, just to pull them out from under me. We had prayed about every decision leading up to this moment, every one. Why couldn't his pain at least be under control? I was angry.

Why? Why did we even do the surgery? All it did was wreck havoc on my dad's body. He would now have to heal from it before he could try chemotherapy or radiation. Why? It seemed so senseless.

I drove home at around 11 pm in disbelief. Exhausted, crying, asking God why. So much life had been lived in this one day. My last drive from the hospital to my house, during my dad's surgery, was so different, filled with hope and anticipation.

I kept hearing my dad's words in my head, "So, I'm going to die." I felt completely helpless.
I didn't see any good that could possibly come from this day. Here was my answer to my prayers for a miracle as I saw it, "NO". I'd love to sugar coat this and say that I felt the peace that surpasses all understanding, but that night all I could feel was a tidal wave of grief. It drowned out everything else. I do remember begging God for mercy for my dad's pain. I remember saying, ok, I get it, you've said "no", and I will learn to accept that, but please be with my dad tonight and ease his physical pain. I remember yelling in my car, "Do Something, Lord!".

I could have never, not a million years, predicted what God was up to. Instead of this being the end, this story was just getting started.

To be continued...


This frog is a sneaky one. We have not seen him since our 3:15 AM brawl.

For the 1st 24 hours, every time I entered a room, I'd scope it out, get down on the floor and look for the little rascal. I was living on the froggy edge and it was wearing me out. So now I've just changed my personality. I am now one of those nature loving Tom boys who would love nothing more than a frog jumping on her pillow as she sleeps. It's all a matter of perspective, really. I just change who I have been for the last 38 years, and I can get through the day just fine with a frog in my house.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Would checking into a hotel be overboard?

What does one do when one knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a medium sized frog loose in your house? Well, if you were me, you'd spend every last bit of energy resisting the urge to sit on the kitchen table until the 8 year boy finds it. We have now been searching for said frog for 6 hours now, and I am beginning to get used to the idea that Kermit is hiding somewhere and may hop at me at any moment.

How did Kermit find it's way into our house? Good question. If you find out, please let me know, because this is freaking me out just a tad little bit. The 8 year boy is the obvious culprit, but has convinced me it wasn't him.

However, whenever, whatever...there's a frog in my house. Unfortunately I discovered him on my way to a bathroom break at 3:15 AM. He was sitting, very peacefully under a night light, just sunning himself I suppose. I couldn't tell what it was and almost reached down to touch it - Eeeewwww. Suddenly I snapped fully awake and screamed - FROG!!!! I woke S up, saying "do something, do something, there's a frog in the house, do something, NOW!" He was not near as excited or alarmed as I was, but did get up, despite his best attempt to play dead.

The scene that followed will forever be etched in my mind. Scott(in his boxers) vs. the medium sized brownish-green frog. I believe he was wearing boxers too.

Basically, the frog won. Scott lost the frog and decided he was going back to sleep. WHAT??? How could one sleep with a frog on the loose? We must find the frog, right? Wrong. I lay awake for an hour. I fell asleep enough to dream about a plague of frogs in my house. Huge, ugly frogs all over my house. I feel so rested today.

First thing this morning I had all the kids on the floor with flashlights, searching. So far the only thing we've found is several piles of rolly pollies, and way more dust than I am comfortable with. Seriously, if you have wood floors, take a flashlight and look under your furniture. Shocking.

I've already called Hunter's top bunk for tonight if we haven't found the frog yet. We've done our best frog calls and even googled "how to find a frog in your house", nothing. Suggestions???

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Lake time!

Ella let Ms. Wanda pull out her first tooth! If you come within 20 feet of Ella, she will tell you all about it, she's a bit excited!
Piper and her cousin, Reed, digging a hole to China.
Yep, that's my mom on the ZIP Line!
Ella had a lot of firsts yesterday...1st time on a Zip Line, lost her first tooth, first time on a jet ski, first time on a go-cart...can you see how proud she is of her little self???
Ready for the parade
We had a great time at the lake yesterday, an annual 4th of July tradition. The kids played all day long, and I got to visit with friends I grew up with and be with my family. The only thing I would've changed about the day was the amount of time I spent sweating. Hunter got to ride behind the boat on a giant inner tube and a knee board. I love to watch him try new things and love them. He had a blast. All the kids did. They really loved sliding down the Zip Line off of the tree house platform. Ella thinks we should buy a lake house so we can have a Zip Line too. Why didn't I think of that?
I appreciated our time there more than ever, because we didn't get go last year. Part 2 of our Year story coming soon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Year - Part 1

A year. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, 4th of July. But for our family, this year also included much, much more than the everyday life that goes along with the changing of the seasons.
I am just now feeling like I can write about the events of this last year. The 4th of July is especially significant to us this year, and I really wanted to write about it, but a little recap is necessary.

A general timeline:
1/3/07 - We receive our long awaited referral from China for our daughter, Xiu Fu Zhu(8.5 months old)

2/26/07 - Scott and I travel to China and meet Piper Grace for the 1st time, same day, adoption is complete!

3/8/07 - The 3 of us return home, and introduce Piper to Hunter, Ella, and my parents

3/10 - 4/26 - We struggle to get our bearings while Piper endures jet lag, Giardia (which leads to dehydration), ear infections, 2 strains of the flu, an allergic reaction to an insect bite on her eyelid, and allergic response to an antibiotic shot, and gets the measles from her MMR shot!

4/27/07 - And then, the unexpected. My parents tell us that my dad(66 at the time) has had a CAT scan and they are fairly certain he has lung cancer. This hits me really hard. I was already emotionally, physically spent from the prior month. I love my dad. My kids love their Papa. I'm glad I didn't know the worst of it was yet to come.

5/07 My brother and I attend several doctors visits with my mom and dad to find out if my dad is a candidate for surgery, his only real medical hope for a cure. After many tests, the surgeon gives us some hope he will be able to remove the tumor. He cautions us that the tumor is near the main artery in the lung and it will not be easy. All I hear is that my dad is candidate for surgery.

5/21/07 Surgery Day-I felt a lot of stress/guilt for any time spent away from Piper during this important bonding time, so Piper came with me to the hospital for the first half of the day. She was a sweet distraction while we waited and waited and waited some more for my dad's surgeon to arrive from an emergency he'd had to go to at another hospital.

We spent the morning in a little curtained off surgery prep. area just talking, laughing, and waiting. My dad had several visitors which kept us somewhat distracted, but as the hours went by, my dad began to get more apprehensive about having surgery so late in the day. Would the surgeon be tired after such a grueling day? This was my dad's only shot, he wanted it to count. He asked us several times if we thought he should cancel the surgery and do it another day. He decided to talk to the surgeon when he came and voice his concerns.

The surgeon finally arrived and told my dad it was his decision, but that he did this everyday, and felt completely confident in preforming surgery that afternoon. This would be the first of many times I felt helpless to provide relief to my dad. He really struggled with whether to go ahead that day, but finally said, "Let's do it.".

I hugged my dad and told him I loved him. Once he'd gone into surgery, I decided to run Piper home, so she could get to bed on time that night, and so I could be fully with my mom as we heard from the surgeon. For every minute of my 30 minute drive home, I prayed. I was afraid to believe that the tumor could be removed, but as I drove, my prayers shifted and I began to believe that it was possible. I prayed all the way back to the hospital, then found my way back to the waiting room where my mom, brother, and a few friends were waiting. It was now about 6 p.m. or so, and my parent's very good friend Wanda arrived. 3 years earlier, at this exact time of year, the situation was reversed and it was Wanda who sat and waited to hear how her husband, Jack (my dad's best friend), had made it through the same exact surgery. Jack's tumor had been successfully removed, but 6 short months later a complication unexpectedly took his life.

Wanda suggested one of us have some paper ready to take notes when the surgeon came out, she volunteered to do it for us. As the minutes ticked by, the anxiety in the room increased as we waited. We all considered it a good sign that the surgery was taking as long or longer than the surgeon had told us. He must be at least doing something. If he'd gotten in there and it was inoperable, he would have sewn him back up and it would already be done by now. By this point, I had convinced myself that an all out healing was a real possiblity.

My mind is fuzzy on how long my dad was in surgery, but I think it was around 4 hours. Sometime around 7 p.m., the surgeon walked into the waiting room and took took a seat. I desperately tried to read his face as he took off his surgical hat and crumpled it up in his hands.

Somehow, I was not prepared for what he had to say.

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

My new favorite quote

"You are never actually doing nothing. Sitting and laying down are not nothing! They are something!!!"
-Ella, 5 years old