Sunday, March 26, 2017

Collateral Beauty.

About a week ago, late one night when the kids were in bed, we rented the movie.

It's a very interesting story. And has all sorts of twists and turns. I'm not here to promote it or say you will love it. I'm in a place of deep pain and so watching a story about someone else's deep pain...often has very applicable moments.

This one was no exception.

When the movie was over, I went immediately to bed and sobbed my eyes out.

How in the world could my story have collateral beauty...? How could anything good come from this nightmare?

I blogged months ago, right at the beginning of this story unfolding...about the complete stranger that told me to look for the gifts along the way. And we did. And we saw them. Many.

That's really what collateral beauty is.  The beauty that comes from the pain.  In the movie, the lady who lost her young child was told the same thing also by a complete stranger.  "Be sure to look for the collateral beauty..."

Then there was this moment.

This moment in time when our world changed. For the better.  It was the strangest moment for me because 2 minutes before her entrance into the world...I looked at Dean and said "I'm still prepared for the worst...I can't even imagine hearing a cry...or seeing a baby..."  Yes. What an awful way to go all the way up to the delivery of your child. Our world has been ravaged by pain and loss and horror in the last ten months. I was just terrified of getting my hopes up that something beautiful could really be happening...so my heart blocked it out.

And then there she was.  Actually...for many reasons one I will never forget. My doctor (whom I adore) said "Janice, reach down and help deliver your baby..." and I couldn't even open my eyes. I couldn't see...I just did it.  I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her to me.

I've cried at the birth of all my children. You know...those happy tears. But not these.  This was at least 10 minutes of sobs.  I...sobbed.  I said nothing. I just cried.  The room was full of joy and laughter and she was crying and I had never even entered into that being a possibility.  I was...sobbing.


Dean asked if I was ok and all I could say was "I never believed she'd really be here...that this would really happen..."

I heard my doctor tell everyone that our family has suffered unimaginable trauma and that this was deeply emotional for us.  There was this moment...where the baby is laying on my chest under the blanket and my doctor leaned forward. It was a moment I'm so thankful to have captured. There's a lot of feeling in this picture. Not just the normal feels...the happiness of an amazing entrance into the world. No...it goes further than that.  It was that moment of us both knowing without saying a word...we were looking at collateral beauty.


How could something so very perfect and pure coming from our ashes? How could this story possibly have any positive twist?

Everyone in the room waited with baited breath to hear her name.  My nurse (whom I adored and will love forever) was wiping the tears telling me she had goosebumps.  Her name forever marks the time in our lives she entered the world. The fact that she is indeed our...collateral beauty.

Topaz Treasure.



Topaz is a precious gemstone. A birth stone. Tirzah's, in fact.  A fun way of naming our last after our first.

But it's more.

Topaz is named after an island in the Red Sea called Topazios. An island surrounded in thick fog. It was so difficult to see that only the most skilled of sailors could find it. Once they did...? They were rewarded with the find of this beautiful stone...since named Topaz.  It means "To seek".

Treasure.  A few weeks before our nightmare revealed itself...I woke in the night several times with one line from one of my favorite songs. Diamonds by Hawk Nelson. The line was "Here in the ashes...I'm finding treasure..."

Oh...yes.

In the ashes of the last 10 months...it's hard to imagine anything beautiful being born. But...she's here.

Topaz Treasure.

Our most searched for treasure. Out of the ashes.

Collateral Beauty.

Then the next day...Dean gave me this gift.  Oh...he not only knows me and gets me...he loves me. Deeply.  And this was just one way of him showing me.  This ring.  It's hard to see it...but here's what it says:
"My story isn't over yet; Topaz Treasure 3/23/2017"


I'm crying just writing that.  I have felt like my story was over.  Not in a pitiful, all-about-me way. In a  'where do we go from here...?' way.  In a 'nothing good come every come out of this nightmare'...way.

I love every part of this ring.  That he thought of this. That it was all his idea. His wording.  And that he got right to the heart of the matter. He knows how I feel.  He knows my deepest pain.  He knows I've struggled to find hope.  And yes...he said it so well. She's the proof that our story isn't over.  She's the collateral beauty.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Justice.

Last night Dean said "oh I got something really awesome in my reading today...I wanted to share it with you...."

He went on to read several verses and I had to be on my left side or I start to black out (anyone else like that late in pregnancy...?) so I was turned away from him. But...my jaw was open.  These were for me.

Whispers...perhaps much louder and clearer than whispers.  They spoke right to my soul.  

I've been struggling so much in our journey with the complete lack of ... how do I say it... justice.  Things have not been 'right' or 'true'. The more the obvious lack of 'justice' the more my heart hurts all over again.  I find myself longing for common sense...heart...and justice. Just for someone to see the story and hear the truth.  I lay awake at night haunted by the lack of it.  Tormented...honestly.  I've learned to see the world so differently than I did a year ago.  And that...saddens me.  I've never lived in a rainbows and lollipops world. My world has been full of 'hard' for years. But doable hard.  Manageable hard.  And hard with great rewards along the way.  Then there was this part of our story. This part that threw us to our knees...literally.  Moments I will never forget so long as I have breath. Moments that increasingly make me wake in the night screaming, sweating, convulsing.  Did this all really happen? Is this really true? Please tell me it's just a horrific nightmare. No. Alas...this is our reality.  And to top it off...a complete lack of justice.  I lay back down to go to sleep and hope for peace just for a few more hours.

And then there were these whispers.

Straight from Heaven.


Psalm 37 (NIV)
Do not fret because of those who are evil

    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good;

    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;

    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord

    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

    do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
10 
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;

    though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 
But the meek will inherit the land
    and enjoy peace and prosperity.


You'd have to know the details of our situation to know how this applies but ... it does. And I'm guessing it doesn't only apply to us.  Verses 5, 6, 7.... tears.  


So right now we wait on Him. To do as He has promised to do.  And to bring peace.  My heart feels more broken and shattered with each passing day.  The healing process is long and grueling and hard. Hard things? Who knew all those years ago when I whispered hope into baby Azlan's ear that he could do hard things...that I was whispering to my own heart for the future? Yes. Yes...God knew.  He knew.  Every step in our journey was leading us right here. To the most heart wrenching, soul breaking, earth shattering place we now find ourselves.  Thank you for praying with us and for us.  It means everything.  Everything.  And yes...this has inspired me to continue to hope and pray for justice. 


Some of you are also feeling stuck in this land ... in between. Knowing His promises, believing His word, and doing your human best to keep your eyes on Jesus instead of the storm...I hope and pray these whispers speak to your heart too.  May He mend us and you. May He bring new life into both of our situations. May you find the glimmer of light to keep giving tomorrow a chance.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

The gift of...too much.

That wording our pastor used this morning just hit me right in the heart.

Have you ever been given the gift...of 'too much'...?

He spoke about the spiritual myth I've long detested. You know...that one that everyone consoles everyone with? That made up... "God will never give you more than you can handle."....? Yeah. That one.

I've always hated it. It's not scriptural at all.

And well...now I'm living...much more than I can handle.

I think in this journey, one of my greatest cringe moments has been when someone hears our story and says "oh...you are WAY stronger than I am. I'd never survive THAT!".

Oh.

Really...?

What makes you think...that I have?

You think I would have ever signed up for this? Who signs up for cancer? Who signs up for the death of a child? Who signs up for financial ruin? Who signs up for a cheating spouse? Who signs up for anything less than lovely? Who signs up for their worst nightmare? Really. I mean...who?

No one does.

Not you. I know. I got that. But not me...either.

I...am not stronger than you.  That is also a myth.

I died hundreds of times along this journey. Somehow...? I lived.

I, like you, have heard of people dying of a broken heart...and I don't know how mine survived.

Truly.

Not stronger.

The likelihood? Weaker. Much, much weaker.

The gift...of too much.

He went on to talk about God telling Paul that His strength was made perfect in Paul's weakness. That.  Broken. Hurting. Weak. Frail.  Done.

And when you are there...you only have one option if you wish to survive.  Yeah. Brought to nothing. All the 'you' stuff is gone.  And God is all of a sudden your everything.

The gift...of too much.

I don't know what your 'too much' is. But I do know I'm not the only broken one. Perhaps in this exact situation...yes. But so many of us are...broken.  Falling apart at the seams.  Amazed we are still here and functioning.  Under the weight of...too much.

Could it somehow, someway...be a gift? Don't over analyze it. Because there's little in our story right now that is silver lined. But did it bring me crashing into the only true solid in my life...? Yes.

One of my favorite songs right now is "Sleep In The Storm".

Watch:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USu2p44kymU

...for the winds that push against me...push me straight into Your arms...

That.  The gift of 'too much' has made my faith a reality.  My absolute foundation. My survival.

You will...have much more than you can handle.  I'm sorry if I'm the first to tell you.  I truly am. But in what you cannot do...He can.  Nothing is more than He can handle. That's not trite...that's coming from someone being tossed to and fro by waves that overwhelm me.

In this gift of 'too much'...let Him carry you. You are not strong enough. You are not stronger.  In our frailty we are carried and see just how very strong He is.




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ten years.

Sunday we drove to Seattle to stay with my cousins before a day at Seattle Children's for Azlan and Zihao.

It's a good thing we did! We woke Monday morning to see many many inches of snow. It was stunning and well...Seattle was all but shut down for the day :) We left the older kids with our cousins since school was cancelled and we headed into the city.

Orthodontia, Pulmonary, Audiology, Cranio Facial, Speech, Plastic Surgery you name it. We were running or waiting non stop.

Azlan will start his first phase of braces in May.  This is in prep for his big distraction surgery on his jaw once his 12 year molars come in.  You can google halo distraction to see what he will have done but it's major. He will have the halo on for 10 weeks or so and when the doctors at Seattle Children's say "I'm SO thankful you homeschool him" you know it's a big deal.

Zihao's audiology report finally came back what we believe to be accurate. I've always felt he would just raise his hand b/c it was fun in that test. So this time I talked to him about how he really struggles to hear and he is to only raise his hand if he hears the sound in his ear. Both ears came back with moderate hearing loss. Honestly...so thankful. He needs help with hearing. So we have an appt with ENT for CT scan and then hopefully hearing aides.

As I wrote the date many times on every document I had to sign yesterday...I stopped in my tracks. Wait... was it really 2/6...?

The plastic surgeon came in. I asked him if he knew what today was. He said "2/6" I said yes...any significance? He quickly pulled up Azlan's history.  He lit up. "Azlan...today...do you know what today is?"

2/6 is the day Dr. Birgfield met Azlan. And met me. He was a resident doctor.  I was a mom with my heart beat being taken from me, wrapped in a warm blanket and whisked down the hall sedated.  I sobbed. Five month old Azlan's eyes seemed somewhat locked with mine.

2/6 was the day I said good bye to the most precious, beautiful, flawless face I had ever seen. Something so perfect in all of it's imperfection.  A face that melted me at the worst moment. A face I mourned ever saying good bye to.

2/6 was a day I dreaded since the moment I met him. I never ever looked forward to his cleft lip being repaired.  I sobbed my way through that day.

I will never...ever...ever...ever forget that day.

That day they whisked him down the hall in his crib and I can still see the sign on his bed that said "Walker, Azlan" and I kept screaming "No, no, no....! That's not my baby!!!" I couldn't see him. My legs were rubber. Dean was holding me. The nurse kept saying "he's there, Janice, he's there. You'll see". His face was swollen. His lip was whole. Complete.  And my heart was anything but.

The nurse put her arm around my shoulders as I wept. I was searching for him. I couldn't see him.  Why...why did they change him so much. Why was the world so unfair that he had to change?  Yes. Don't write me and tell me he wouldn't want to live his life with a wide open cleft. I know that. I know all the logical reasons but none of those mattered in that moment.

I had experienced a love like no other. A love that saw beyond. A love that saw perfection in the notable...imperfection.

I hope you get a chance in your life to love like that.

That love for Azlan is what started us down a road of adoption. Not because we needed. Not because we lacked. But because our love for Azlan opened our eyes and hearts to a world in need.

Oh my darling. I will never forget that day.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Giving 'tomorrow' a chance.

Tragedy and trauma have a way of stopping you right in your tracks.

I remember one night this past summer...standing out on the deck. The stars still shone.  The lights of the community below still flickered.  Cars never slowed down. Sirens could still be heard.  It was the weirdest moment for me.

My world had stopped.  Every beat of my heart was something I marveled at.  Sometimes they actually hurt.  Breathing felt like effort.  Controlling my mind was ... extreme discipline.  The questions haunted me. My new-found knowledge tore at my soul.

And yet... the world went on.

It seemed so...wrong.

Not that the world revolved around me. Of course not.  But that my personal world had stopped. And yet...no one else's did.

The moment of being keenly aware of everything around you.  Seeing the joy on random stranger's faces...knowing they had not just discovered what we had.

Seeing some faces that looked hollow and sad and wondering what pain filled their world.

The moment when everything around you is loud yet so ... eerily silent.  The pulse in my temples so deafeningly loud as I stood out on the deck in the dark.

A few years ago I remember blogging about our friend that took his life. Something that never left me was said by his family member at his memorial service. "Never make decisions in March." He went on to explain that too often we make life altering decisions in a moment of darkness. Just before the sun comes up. Just before the flowers bloom and the world becomes bright again.

I remember my close friend, after finding out a student at her school had taken his life, said "if only he gave tomorrow a chance..." and that line stayed with me ever since.

During this journey...some of the longest months...longest days...longest minutes of my existence, I've thought about 'tomorrow'.

In my story...the immediate tomorrow did not bring hope. Tomorrow felt dark and hopeless.  And daily I would tell myself "just give tomorrow a chance..." b/c tomorrow was the bigger-picture-tomorrow.

I share this, because I'm not the only one going through deep, dark trauma.  Maybe it's financial. Maybe it's marriage. Maybe it's a family crisis. Maybe it's relational.  Maybe it's medical. A diagnosis that has left your world spinning.

Giving 'tomorrow a chance' won't be immediate.  It sure wasn't for me.  But tomorrows run into more tomorrows. And I can tell you ... there comes a moment when you realize you have somewhat survived the darkest days of your life.

When you look out at a beautiful sunny day and it doesn't look as dark anymore.  Tomorrow does hold hope.  Maybe not just one tomorrow...but many in a row...do.

Just choosing to give tomorrow a chance.  As robotic as it might feel...just putting one foot in front of the other.  Regardless of what you feel. There is hope.

Some of my 'tomorrows' brought worse news.  There were days that I had to reach out to friends and tell them to simply remind me if they saw hope. Because I didn't.  I had no problem acknowledging that my vision was skewed.  My heart too shattered to be counted on.  My mind blurring days and weeks and months.  Sleep fled.  Gone.  There were times I just longed for a heavenly touch....that would put me in the most peaceful, DREAM LESS (please!!!) sleep.  Rest.

Giving tomorrow a chance isn't light hearted or silly or shallow. It really is profound. But each tomorrow...commit to giving another tomorrow a chance.  Just one decision at a time.

And surround yourself with people who can remind you of hope...because it's there.  It's always there.



“In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry. May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm. May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem. May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings. Interlude May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. May the LORD answer all your prayers. Now I know that the LORD rescues his anointed king. He will answer him from his holy heaven and rescue him by his great power. Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the LORD our God. Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm. Give victory to our king, O LORD! Answer our cry for help.”
Psalms 20:1-9 NLT

Thursday, January 19, 2017

"It wasn't worth it, Mommy!"

Each night I read 3 chapters of the Bible to the older 3 kids.  Tirzah reads on her own and she's ahead of us.

We just read through the story of Joseph.

When we were done, Zion (11y), looked at me...with a lot of emotion on his face. "It wasn't worth it, Mommy!"

I felt like I could hear the pulse in my temples as I tried to appear totally normal and ask what he meant.

"Well...you know. Joseph.  I mean he was thrown in a pit by his brothers. Sold as a slave.  Then thrown in jail for something he didn't do. For TWO WHOLE YEARS. Then the man he saved by telling his dream...forgot about him for another long time. Then after he finally gets out...he's second in charge of all Egypt. And it's an amazing story...but it wasn't worth it.  Like...if I were him, I wouldn't look back and go 'yeah...I'd totally go through that all again to be where I am now. I just wouldn't.' "

And I knew he was talking about so much more than Joseph.

His eyes were kinda glossy. Azlan looked at me and said "I'm totally with Zion on this". I quickly assured them...so was I.

So I spoke about the very large, scaly, elephant in the room.

I put my hand on Zion's knee. He looked away.  We were all talking about us, not Joseph.

As I was reading the story...I couldn't help but see the similarities to our story. But they are children.  I thought they were taking it at face value.

I spoke up.

"We will never, ever, ever, ever, ever....ever....say it was worth it.  Never.  No matter what God does with our story and how he redeems it. It will never be 'worth it' in our minds. The ends won't justify the means.  We will always be heartbroken over our story. Always.  But.."

There were now tears.  Azahria was weepy.  Azlan was looking back and forth at Zion and Azahria watching how they were doing. Zion's eyes were full...on the verge of spilling over.

"God will redeem. It's what He does. He can take any mess meant for evil and make something beautiful.  But it won't lessen the pain.  It won't erase the horror.  It just won't.  But it will still be beautiful. Somehow. Someway. It's just what God does. Just like with Joseph. He had to leave the room to sob.  Years later. Now in a whole different position. The emotion was right there."

Zion looked at me. "Yeah. You knew what I was talking about all along, right?"

Yeah.

Dean said to me last night..."someday this will all be a memory. A horrific memory...but a distant horrific memory." And I long for that.  Because right now? My heart physically hurts.  It hurts.  Some nights...? It hurts to breathe. It hurts to think.  It hurts to remember. It hurts to not remember.  It hurts to smile.  It just hurts.

I think I'm used to hard things and pain that get better and easier with time.  But this...? No.  Not this.

Time reinforces our reality.  I don't know how to see the last 6 years.  I can't unsee them.  I can't un-remember.  And my memories are so very different from what we now know was our reality.

I have always said that my strength and my weakness are the same.  I am all or ... nothing.  Awesome when I'm all...right?  I've worked very hard to be all. All...not nothing.  And for the last 6 years I can honestly say I gave all. 100%.  I loved with abandon.  I gave everything.  100%.

So...right now? My heart is 100% broken. 100% shattered.  All.

The depths that I feel this horrendous loss is so extreme.  I've never said "I can't..." so much in my life.  And some how, some way...I find the strength to find my "can".  Even here.  Even in this.

How will God redeem this story? Each piece of it? So very complex.  Yet, He knows. All of it. And all of us.

Though I will always say "it wasn't worth it"...I pray the pain someday...somehow...lessens. As God continues to write this story.  Each story.






Sunday, December 25, 2016

Hope was born.

It's Christmas Eve night.

My house is quiet. Azlan is finally asleep after just returning from the ER for a rather terrifying asthma attack.  Three full nebulizer treatments later, oral and inhaled steroids and we are home.

This year has been traumatic for our family.  You know that.

But we are not the only family that has suffered this year.

There are so very many.  So much sadness. So much pain. So much...loss.

Perhaps things have been 'merry and bright' all year long for your family, and if so, I'm sincerely glad.  This post might not mean much to you, if that's the case.

For our family...? No.

In the quietness of this evening...by this beautiful tree, with the sound of my snoring kids sprawled around the living room tonight...I wonder.

Did it all happen? Is this really where we are? Is this truly our reality?

My head starts spinning.  My heart beats much faster.

No...it's true.

All of it.

Just a few days ago, I sat on the floor with one of my older kids. Holding hands, tears streaming down both of our faces, we promised to never ever stop fighting.  He...with a deep feeling heart like his mama, had just said "I feel I just can't do this"...and I assured him I understood that completely.  Yet his 'this' seems so manageable compared to mine.

It doesn't matter, does it? We all have a 'this'.  And in that space...'this' feels too much. We can do anything...but 'this'.

My 'this' and yours this year, I could guarantee are very, very different.

Yet, our journeys have probably led us to a similar place.  A place of brokenness.  Hearts that feel they are half beating.  Minds going non stop.  Time in a noisy blur.  Late night wide eyes as you question everything you once knew.

This.

Somehow, days pass.  Perhaps...miraculously.   Days just keep passing.  And what you didn't think you could do...you see that somehow...you have 'done'.

So many have whispered to us that time heals.  Does it...?

In my story...I've seen that time can have the opposite effect.  Time has deepened my pain. Time has made my vision more acute.  Time has allowed the numbness to wear off. The shock of the horror of it all.  With time passing...pain deepened.  The awareness of where we are...and why.

For me? There's no comfort in time moving on. With our without my permission.   No.  Time won't heal my 'this'.

Tonight...I sit here, trying to imagine a world in all of it's stillness.  Doubtedly December 24, but it was an evening. It was a 'night before'.  It was a moment in time...right before everything changed.

What was the world like that night?  Unaware...moving along...time racing at the very same speed as it is tonight.  Oh...the night before.

It's easy for us to minimize what happened that day.  A baby.  Born to an unwed girl.  "In a barn" as my 3 year old would say.  But it was so much more.

That was the night that Hope was born.

Everything everyone longed for. The emptiness that people feel today going through the mundane...they felt then too.  We were created for so much more.

As I sit here tonight...deep in thought about all we have miraculously survived...it's all because of Hope.  My Hope that as anchored me in the greatest storm of all (my) time...is exactly what we are celebrating tonight.

Jesus came.  He came.

He came.  Heaven and Earth truly collided.  Heaven chose to come down.  And in that moment...Hope was born.

This Christmas, for many reasons, is deeply emotional for our family.

This Christmas, more than ever before...we celebrate Hope.  That Jesus came...lived...and then chose the ultimate sacrifice. To die.  To change our forever.

We can face our 'this'....our tomorrow...because Jesus lives.  Because Hope came. Hope died. And Hope rose again.

For those of us that have shed tears this Christmas...I don't know your story.  Mine isn't the same. But I, too,  have sobbed leading up to this day.  What do I even do with the old memories? My brain doesn't know what steps to take.  Do we start new traditions? Do we carry on with the old? What...how...oh...WHY...?

Hope.

Merry Christmas.  May you find the courage to face your 'this' because of Him.  And all of that started with Him coming to earth. One 'Christmas Day'.


This morning my friend asked me if I had heard this favorite song of hers. I just listened to it with chills. I wish I heard it weeks ago.  It's perfect. For us and so many of you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSE6ziYcqm0