So we think other things are worth sacrificing in order to date. Frequently.
We really went back and forth between restaurants. Once we chose where we wanted to go...funny enough...we were torn between tables :) We really aren't indecisive people but one table seemed cozier. Yet...we opted for the other one that was closer to the door.
We were enjoying our time together. Each other. The food. The ambience of the restaurant. Our new 3 week old baby girl.
Near the end of our meal, a waitress from the other side of the restaurant, came our way. She paused with a piece of paper in her hand and said "care for some reading material..?" Dean and I exchanged a quick confused look and she smiled...and handed me a piece of paper folded in half.
I opened it to see this:
"Congrats on your beautiful new baby! 8 months ago my husband and I sat in the same booth & had our first night out with our first baby. I hope your evening is going wonderfully & you are enjoying your perfect little girl (and great food)! Keep the date nights going, it gets harder as she gets older & keep the love. Your family is adorable! Enjoy the meal, from a nostalgic stranger! :)"
We looked at each other and I immediately had a lump in my throat. The kind gesture was laced with mystery as I looked around the restaurant wondering where this came from. We kept eating our meal when the server passed by our way again. I asked if the author of this letter was still in the restaurant. She said 'yes'. I looked around wondering where and who ... and I asked if I could write a letter back.
So I did.
I wrote something to the effect of this:
"To say that your kindness was so thoughtful is a gross understatement. What you wouldn't know is that we left 9 young children at home with a baby sitter tonight in order to make this date happen. Yes...nine. We have 6 young biological children and 4 children internationally adopted. Three of our children have special needs. It has gotten harder to make the dates a priority and yet, like you, we see them as more important than ever. Congrats on your new baby girl I'm sure she is lovely! From our hearts, thank you for the sweet note!" and then I shared this blog.
A few moments later, a beautiful girl starts walking towards us. :) We met, talked, she held little Nazara and told us her husband is in Afganistan serving in the military. She said she is a special education teacher and thought it was so perfect how we have 3 children with special needs :) Yes she thought it was our first baby and was definitely shocked that it was our 10th. :)
The rest of the story...is that she paid our entire tab that night.
We walked out with few words. We debated going. We debated which restaurant. Which booth to sit in. And that restaurant, that booth...all were important pieces of a gift that was about to come our way.
I still had a lump in my throat when we got in our car to drive away. From the heart of one sweet lady ... yet I took it as a gift from God.
I haven't spoken of this...but feeding Nazara has been difficult since birth. To keep it concise...at 5 days old she had lost 20% of her birth weight and I sobbed in the nurse's office and she said it was time to move to formula as my baby was starving. As I dried my eyes and sat up a littler taller, she knew I had accepted what I didn't want to hear in that moment. She asked me if I was a praying woman...I smiled through my tears. She was a pastor's wife and told me I needed a small miracle to feed Nazara and that prayer really does work.
I left that day ... again facing surrender. Oh ... a different surrender than being in the heart of Africa having just lost our baby...and too many miles to fathom away from my husband and children...but it was surrender for my heart. Again.
I came home and fed sweet Nazara formula. And rented the most elaborate hospital grade pump in our community. Only one store carries it and I made sure I had it. I went on supplements and called in a RX to increase my supply. I pumped every 2 hours around the clock and cried each time. Partly because there was not enough to feed her and partly because I was still having to surrender each time. I finally got my supply up to where I could feed Nazara in the bottle and eliminate formula.
For 4 weeks...that's exactly what I did.
At about 4.5 weeks old...I decided to give it one more shot. Expecting this to fail miserably...I tried to feed my baby.
It was a flashback to sitting in Seattle Children's with 5.5month old Azlan Honor. He had just had his face dramatically changed as they had operated on his severe cleft lip. I knew it was hopeless as you need a sealed palate to form a section but...I was sure going to try. And I knew that trying would be a huge emotional moment for my heart. I can still remember sitting there sobbing. I knew but I had to really know.
Again at 11 months when he had his palate repaired...I tried to feed him. No...that didn't work.
And here I was with 4.5 week old Nazara that has been 100% bottle fed...and instantly...she started to breastfeed. Perfectly.
She is 6.5 weeks old and is 100% breastfed.
That was a huge gift to my heart.
Izrael is 2 years old. Two.
At the top of her lungs, as long as she doesn't see us looking at her...she can be heard singing these words all day long:
"If I had no voice...if I had no tongue...I would dance for you like the rising sun! And when that day comes and I see your face...I will shout your endless glorious praise!"
And every time I hear her I'm amazed. First because...she's two. Second...because she's a miracle. She was our promised baby...a huge test of my faith. And then she was the most miserable, unhappy, clingy child from 11-12 months to 18 months. And we found out she had a penny completely embedded in her esophagus for 6-7months. Yes. 6-7 months. The surgeon said if she hadn't heard our story (which she assumed was exaggerated...) she would never have believed what she saw. The penny was totally overgrown with bloodvessels as the body had made it part of it. She said it was a miracle...a total miracle that it had not perforated her esophagus and something horrific happened.
Yes my baby. You are singing His praise with every breath you take...!
The gift of Izrael Promise.
(Azahria and Izrael)
Zunduka. Quiet. Serious. Astute. Zunduka.
A few weeks ago, after a busy day, Dean said "Janice the kids are waiting for us outside..." so thinking it was another 'show' of some kind I ran out. Only this time, I was whisked to a chair set up in front of the pool. I'm looking at Dean as if to ask..."what in the world..." and he just smiles. We are both grubby and tired from a long day of work and here we are...sitting on chairs on opposite ends of a Costco table. Suddenly Azlan comes out with a menu. He asks "would you like salad or dessert?" :) We choose salad. Still thinking this is going to be mud pies from the sand pit...we are shocked when a big bowl of spinach arrives to the table. Then plates. Silverware. Dressing. There's even cheese cut up in the salad.
After we eat our salad ... me laughing the entire time. Dessert comes out. Donuts I had bought them earlier that day are wrapped in paper towels. Oh yes...we ate it. They were watching every moment.
Azlan exclaimed that making dinner was much easier than he thought it would be!
Zion came close to say they did this because "you work so hard every day and you make us all our meals, so we wanted you to have a night off!"
As we were wrapping up and getting ready to put them to bed...Zunduka comes up to me and has a half smile on his face. If you know Zunduka you would realize that he must be ear-to-ear on the inside to have a half-smile on the outside. (He often poses for a photo, totally serious faced, and then asks "was I smiling?" and is disappointed to see he looks so serious. Clearly he's smiling on the inside so we tell him that's all that matters.) He then says "Mommy...? This was the best day of my life."
I look at him thinking how that statement was way too easily thrown out there...so I say "why...?" a tad bit suspicious that he was insincere.
What came next...stopped me in my tracks.
He said "well...because tonight I got to serve you. And I've been thinking...I am so glad you adopted me. And that makes tonight...the best night of my life."
What would you say to that? No flippant words would do. I put my arms around him and hugged him. I told him I was so glad. That we adopted him...and that he had the opportunity to serve.
The gift of Zunduka.
Last week we went for a drive. Sometimes we do that. Yes, gas is high. Life is high with 10 children. And gas becomes insignificant. We frequently load the family up and go for a drive while Dean and I grab a frappe. We were driving around and suddenly...we pull into the parking lot of the salon I go to. I look at Dean with my jaw falling open...confused...and before I can say anything ... he jumps out of the van smiling. A few moments later he comes to my window and hands me an envelope. On the outside it says "just cuz...". I open it to see a gift card in the amount I need to get my hair done. He says something to the effect of "I know you are going to do it anyway...but I wanted to get it for you so you can know I love you".
I put the envelope in my diaper bag and I have pulled it out several times since that day...to just look at it and remember the sweet moment that it was.
The gift of my husband.
(Dean and 6 week old Nazara)
She's 9. Nine. She is the best big sister. Ever.
I must hear from her...at least 8-10 times a day..."Mommy, is there any way I can help?" and when I say "it's ok, you can play" she says something like "but you work so hard, can I help?"
A few days ago I went looking for Izrael after I had given her a bath. I peeked my head in Tirzah's room to see this:
Here she is. Brushing her little sister's hair as Izrael read a book.
Yes. The gift of Tirzah Liberty.
A few weeks ago I went to my office to begin my day and this was on my desk, left by my husband:
The gift of being appreciated. (Don't underestimate it.)
Beautiful Nazara Journey.
I look at her and still see that moment ... that moment in the hotel room in China...
Taizi is flailing and we don't know how to help him...
we are so sure he's deaf...and we don't know what else...
I'm sick. I know I'm sick but I'm still thinking it could be jet lag...?
And that moment. That moment of seeing that pregnancy test flash up as positive faster than I've ever seen in my life...
All the swirling questions flooding my brain...seeing the look on Dean's face...feeling my heart pound harder and harder and ...
The questions that I instantly pepper God with...
And here is the gift of precious...Nazara Journey. (8 days old)
Our beautiful princess @ 5 weeks
Last night I was reading in Acts and Dean said he had something he wanted to share with me. He talked about a message he had listened to at work about how God wants us to seek for Him. As in...He hides so that we will search for Him. He wants to be sought.
I started to smile...I had JUST read ...literally was still finishing chapter when he interrupted...and what stood out to me was this:
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of Heaven and Earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
From one man, He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him,
though He is not far from each one of us.
For in Him we live and move and have our being.
Dean looked at me and grabbed his Bible to read it. It was the same thought. What he heard and appreciated during the day, God just gave me that same night.
The ultimate gift...of a God who loves us, cares for us, and gives us His word. His living word.
Were any of these gifts "amazing"...? Well I think they were....but let me ask it another way. Could any of these 'gifts' have been missed...? Overlooked...? I think so. Quite easily. Yet our days are full of them.
Write them down.
Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.