Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas gratefulness.

We sat around the table tonight ... talking about gifts.

It's Christmas Eve.  The night before the greatest gift the world has ever received.  As we heard today...the 'why' behind all the 'what' in our lives. The reason, the purpose, the hope, the answer, the peace, the foundation...the why.

And it inspired a wonderful conversation with our children about gifts. We asked each one of them what the greatest gift they have received aside from Jesus and family.  The answers were wonderful...and then they turned to us to ask the same.

For Dean and I...there is one gift that trumps all last year. A tangible, given-gift.  It changed the course of our year and without a doubt...our lives.  Ever receive a gift so big that you know you will spend the rest of your life thanking the giver..? We received that gift.

And it made me think all evening long of wonderful gifts we received.  Yes...if you have been following our the hardest year and a half of life.

I sat and wrote friends text messages. To the one who taught me how to use the wings I never knew I had. The person who taught me how to fly and assured me that I could and would. heart is so thankful for the gift of her.

To the friend who never ever left my side. Through the heart break, through the confusion, through the despair...she was with me 100%.  Oh my heart...we are bonded for life.

To the friend who barely knew me at the time but felt led to reach out to me for reasons she didn't yet know...and in doing so...connected me with the giver of the greatest gift.  I don't have words for her...but feebly expressed the best I could.

For the gift of Topaz Treasure.  The baby girl who gave me more than she could ever comprehend.

Tonight I sit here in the quiet of a sleeping house...a modest tree glistening with wonderful surprises under it...and most importantly with hope.  Hope of healing. Hope of joy. Hope of better days ahead. Hope of redemption.  Hope of an empty slate of days around the corner.

There's so much excitement in our house on December 24...but there's more in my heart.  I can feel the world in anticipation for a gift it could never fathom receiving.  That God Himself would become man and dwell among us...who could ever even hope for such a gift? Ahhh. He came.

May our hearts be inspired to gratefulness today.  Through the pain, through the loss of the year gone by, through the broken promises, shattered dreams, dreaded diagnosis, unexplained loss of jobs, betrayal of once-loyal friends...may we each take a moment to identify the gifts we have been the pain.  I can honestly say that the gifts are more beautiful this year than any other.  Pain and loss has the ability to do that....who knew?

Merry Christmas, friends.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


We were doing our norm for over 5 years now...driving well over an hour (each way) for a 45m speech therapy appointment.  He was reading his book for the second time...because "it's THAT good"...until Mom interrupted.

"Are you a hero?"  It was immediately followed by a jolt and a quick glance my direction. "What? Me?" Laughter. "No! Definitely not."

"Oh. Really? Why not?"

"Well...for one...heroes the world. And..I haven't exactly done that." Laughter.  Looks back out his window. Back at me. (What in the world is Mom thinking? I mean, really!)

" you know any heroes?"

" real life? No. Never met any.  In my books, I know heroes! But...yeah, not in real life. you know any...?"

Long glance my way. I knew I was smiling.

"Ahh yes. I do.  I'm sitting by one..."

"What? Are you serious? Mom...really. I'm not a hero. Are you joking? What do you mean?"

"We'll...why don't we define a hero.  I think we need to re-define it. Do you know what that means?"

"Yeah. Change its meaning."

"Yeah.  So how about instead of a hero being only a fictional character in your books...what if a hero is really someone who is really courageous and does the hard thing...when others wouldn't....? What if it's someone who, by doing the hard thing...does make a big impact on someone else.  And by doing that...actually...does change the world? Just not in the way you are thinking."

He smiles.  Sparkles. That's what he did.  He can't even help it.  He sparkled long before he ever smiled. 8 weeks old. He was sitting in his infant swing. I'll never forget it. He sparkled...his eyes fully smiled before it ever made it to his mouth. I remember his plastic surgeon telling us that God gave cleft babies extra sparkle in their eyes. Right from birth. And he was so right with Azlan.

" that we redefined what a hero is...I was wondering if your answer has changed....are you a hero?"

No hesitation.  None.  Looking over at me...not out his window.  "Yes.  Yes...I am.  And so is Zion...Azahria...and you. Definitely you. You are a hero! So I guess... I do know real life heroes!"

His smile said it all.  We didn't need to fill in the unspoken gaps...because our newly clarified definition...well, it said it all.

Change the world? Oh yes he did.  Spoke up when it took some boldness, courage...when he felt a little silly...? Yeah, that for sure.

Impacted someone's (more than one's) life forever? Oh...without a doubt.

He went back to his book.  Random chuckles from his own little world of fictional heroes that save the world...maybe they had more meaning now that he knows he's one of them.  I could hope.

As we said our goodbyes after FIVE years with his therapist...there were some misty eyes, no question. I asked if he had anything he wanted to tell her based on our discussion. He smiled. "Yes, that you are my hero..." She pulled him into a hug.


Everyday normal people...that are courageous enough to stand up, speak up, do the right thing even if it's not popular.  People that do hard things with us and for us and impact our lives forever. And those, who in doing so, change the world...our world, forever.


May we know them....recognize them...thank them.  May we raise them...and most importantly may we all find the quiet courage within ourselves to be them.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Saying goodbye.

Saying good bye, first, to all the things.  That's all they are.

And I can tell you though I have loved the things...I've loved saying goodbye even more.

As we sit here in our strangely empty house...we feel so free.  Yes...we are leaving with only what matters...each other.

Any crisis will show you that's all that ever did matter. We just tend to get lost in the things.  Chasing things...and ironically... though we think it's for what truly matters...the people in our lives...we end up trading time with the people in order to get the things.


I've thought a lot about saying good bye to this state. This state that we came to as young, still wet behind the ears, newly weds.  Pregnant with our first child...clueless in many ways. We be sure.  How we gained that wisdom...we'd never wish on anyone.  We leave with our oldest having just turned 14.  What the what...? Crazy. And yet...when we look back on the last fourteen...they have been full. Full of beautiful, wonderful, crazy, and oh-so-heartbreakingly-hard moments.

My mind wants to immediately gravitate to the strong thought that this state stole so much more from us than it ever gave...but. didn't.  As much as it stole..more than I thought was possible even in the land of the worst of the worst fears and nightmares...we are choosing to believe it gave much more.

Yes. It gave these precious 7 babies that were born here. Children that I could not possibly love more.  Ones that know beyond all doubt that we will fight for their safety, their freedom, their healing.   It gave depth and fierce commitment to our marriage.  It gave friendships that will last forever. It gave our counsellor that we never would have known if it weren't for all that it stole.  And she? She's changed my life forever.

So to you, Washington...I say farewell.  We couldn't be more ready to wave goodbye.  And as we go...there is no question what you stole is begging to be front and center in our minds...but we are choosing to look at what you gave.  Maybe most of gave us wings.  And though we wished we never had to use them...that we were never pushed to the cliff and put to the test...we were. And now...we fly.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Run towards the roar.

The same beautiful friend that sent the book to me at the most needed time in my life...often messages me with a reminder to 'run towards the roar'.

"Through The Eyes of a Lion" changed my life. Yes. I said it.

And if you are in the storm of all storms...or the deepest of just might offer you hope too.

The very idea of running towards the roar is against every fiber of my being.  My nature is to duck. Hide. Retreat. Back to my four walls.

And honestly, at this point in our journey...? I'm tired. Truly...just, plain...tired.

I have fought for so long, so very hard...and only done so with strength from Christ, Himself.

Tonight...I took the plunge.  And it's so very hard.

I don't know where this goes...but tonight was step one.  Of running towards the roar.  And don't get me wrong...I'm sitting here at my desk...crying. My house is quiet. I should be watching Fixer Upper or something much more light hearted than what I'm doing.  Just sipping coffee sitting out on the deck. Over a fire. Anything really...but what I'm doing.

Last night, one of the people that has impacted my life the very most, sent me a song. I've heard the song many times before. But this time...something caught my attention.

Though, quite frankly...well-deserved...I had taken a seat.  Stopped standing.  My legs...well...they are tired. Perhaps even...broken.  Wobbly, for sure.  And then I watched this:

I's time to stand.

So tonight I begin to write. To write the story.  And though I'm told healing will come from writing it...I'm not feeling it tonight.  It's horrific. No one should ever have to live this nightmare. And telling it...has me sitting here crying. Wanting to run and puke.

But the time has come. The time to that I can run. Run towards the roar. The very thing I fear...the very thing that terrifies me.  That thing.

In Christ alone.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Freeing. The act...of setting yourself free.

So for me...this was walking into our closet and feeling all the emotions that I have felt for so long...and choosing to be free.

Associations are powerful.  I would see a shirt...and remember when and where I wore it, if it was attached to a bad memory.  So this resulted in me having a full closet...and yet "nothing to wear".

Does that resonate at all?

The problem is...I love my clothes.  I only buy what I love.  And this means many of my pieces are 7 and 10 years old! SERIOUSLY.  (Doing the kids baby books...proved it!)

I stood in my closet a few weeks ago...holding pieces I didn't want to part with...crying...and choosing to be free.

99% of my wardrobe went to consignment.  Things I wasn't 'done with'. Things I 'still loved'.  Things I wanted to keep for years to come.  My 'favorite pieces'.   But it was time. set myself free.

At least now when I walk into my closet and groan that "I have nothing to wear!!"'s legit! I really...truly...don't. And you know what? I'm ok with it.  Because I chose freedom over stuff.

A few nights after that big moment, Dean came home with a Starbucks and an envelope.  The kids all gathered around for me to open it.  On the outside it said "Janice's clothing fund".  I opened it to see 5- $100 bills inside.  And I cried.

Yes. We share a bank account. Yes...what's his is mine. But he knows...I would never spend the money on me.  It was an amazing gift and the fun part? I still have $432 left.  I have spent it only on things I love.

Not things on sale. Not running to the clearance, as I have my whole life. But just buying things I love...that I will love to wear.

I stopped in the most adorable boutique a few days ago.  I found a shirt that I truly love.  In every other moment in my life, I would have choked on the price and put it back.  But this time...? Without hesitation I walked to the counter with my cash and bought it.  And for good measure...? Bought a pastry to enjoy on my way home.


This was so freeing to me...much more than I could have anticipated...that a few weeks later I walked into our little girl's room.  I saw our six year old's shoulders go up...her body freeze as I started pulling out dresses out of her closet.  I looked at her and asked if she saw happy memories or sad memories with each piece.  99% was sad.  I asked if she was ready to say good bye to the sad and get some new things with happy memories.  Bags of clothing later...they now love going into their closet to choose what to wear.


For may not look like emptying your wardrobe.  It's really symbolic of something much greater. But I suspect each one of us can take a step towards freedom. An active step...towards being free.

This is a small step compared to what we are taking in a few weeks.  But really...should any material thing hold us back from freedom?  Isn't it all just 'stuff'...? Just a car...? Just a house...? Just clothes...?

If you see me...and I'm wearing what you saw me wear 2 times in the prior week....know this.  I am much freer than I was six months ago with a fabulous wardrobe.  In fact...I don't even go in my closet and whine about nothing to wear. Because everything in there...? Reminds me that I'm free.  Nothing has a powerful negative memory attached to it.  And it's all just clothes.  Just stuff.

My heart being free is worth so much more.

So is yours.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Four months.

March 23.  

It's really been four months.

Ever try so hard to savor something that you feel it just keeps slipping out of your grasp? 

Yeah. Me too.  

In a way, that's a good summary of the last four months.  Yet...I have savored every moment.  

This precious little bundle many ways...saved me.  

Gave me a reason to keep eating.  To try to keep sleeping.  And of the most surprising gifts was how getting up with her in the middle of the night to feed her...somehow kept me out of a deep REM sleep and the horrific nights ended. Abruptly.  That..was amazing. 

I went from shaking in the night, waking being woken by the sweetest newborn cry and dragging myself to the rocking chair to feed her. Where all I could see was a sky full of stars out our window. 

Who knew...that a nocturnal little tiny newborn could save me from the trauma I dreaded every single night as the sun set?  

There's so many times I catch Dean just smiling at me across the I coo at this little face.  

He knows. I know.  We all know.  

The gift out of the ashes.  The gift we had no idea we needed.  The collateral beauty.

Oh Topaz Treasure.  I love her little face when she wakes from a nap (as her Mama does, by the way)...still kind of grouchy, puffy eyed but lights up into the most beautiful smile when her eyes catch mine.  I love how she talks and talks and talks to Tirzah. I love how she laughs every time Zion comes near.  I love how she watches as Nazara sings song after song to her all day long.  

If you have more than one child, you have likely wondered if you had the ability to love the second as much as the first. Remember those days? You smile at them now you know.  You know that your heart somehow grows and is simply capable of more love than you ever dreamed. 

Well in this pregnancy, I honestly feared if my heart was capable.  I had been through so much pain. SO much loss. So much grief.  I was broken.  Could I feel all of those wonderful things again? What if I couldn't?

And then she arrived.  And every fear just melted in the first moment. I was going to the moment I saw her. But I heard her so much early than I saw her. I couldn't even open my eyes for, what felt like, minutes. I was crying too hard. But I heard her and I was holding her.  And I felt like my heart doubled in size.  Again.

Topaz.  Since the day she was born, people have commented on our "little redhead". I would laugh it off but here we are...4 months later and she's definitely strawberry ish.  Bright blue eyes.  A smile that lights up her entire face.  And one look at her and I melt all over again.  

I am so thankful for this child.  This gift the very hardest time of our lives.  And I...I will love her forever. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Will you speak up?

So this last week has left our community reeling.

Devastated. Shocked. Horrified. Stunned.

There was a huge child sex sting where 26 local men were arrested for child sex crimes.

The community, I suspect, is not so much reeling from the fact that it happens...we all know that. But who the perpetrators were.  Ouch.

People we know. Loved. Respected. People in positions of authority...even with at risk youth.

No...they don't fit the profile we had formed in our minds.

In all of this...I've heard little about the victims of sexual abuse.  Now in this case since it was all a set up by law enforcement, there were no actual victims. But ... we don't really need to fill in the gaps do we?  There were victims. The night before. The week before. The month before. The year before.  There were so many victims.  Thankfully, this night...there were not.

This left us reeling for a different reason.  We are the parents of children...who have been sexually abused.

We know first hand the long, grueling, horrific, hard, heart wrenching road that lies ahead for these children.  Only hoping they get the help they actually need.

Will they have a voice? Will they have people that love them stand up and speak? Will they have people who will fight for them with every breath? Will people hide the awkward news articles that come out about perpetrators? Will people deflect and talk about how sin is sin (as if consequences of our choices are equal not matter the severity of the offense...)? Or will people take the heat and speak? Will they speak up and give a voice to these children?

Because that...? That is what it takes.  And time doesn't heal with sexual abuse.  No...time frees their little spirits up to feel safe enough to talk. And talk. And talk. And talk some more.

Our journey has been hard.  So...very...hard.  And so very hard that we had to fight for them to heal. Fight for their safety. Fight for their protection.

Perhaps it was my own naiveté...but I thought the world was on their side.  People would rally around them and us to fight for them.

I saw, firsthand, differently.  The victim's voice is hushed.  Shushed, even.

In moments of despair...I have cried out to God saying this road was too hard.  That we weren't strong enough for this.  So very tired of having to fight for basic human rights.  And then...Dean would remind me that no one would fight harder to protect our children...than us. That we would do whatever it took.  And that small flicker of a flame would be fanned again with new resolve.

The hours we have spent and ... will therapy.  The falling on the floor at the end of the day in sobs for what these precious children have endured...only to be reminded that they survived.  They...survived.  The longing to see them overcome and thrive in their lives...knowing God gave them...and us...a microphone in this horror. So many are hurting. Hushed into silence.'s time for us to rise up and speak.  Give them a voice. No more sweeping it under the carpet. No more putting 'shame' on those who have been victimized.  No. It's time to empower them to overcome. They are much more. As our counsellor says..."they are not victims...they were victimized."

Not a statistic. Not a nameless number.  No. They are children.  With futures. With hearts...albeit broken ones.  They have families who love them.  They need a village to fight for them.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Still standing.




Battle wounds.





Still standing.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The lifter of my head...

Anyone who knows...has asked us how in the world we have survived. How have you lived that...? I could never live that.  How do you get up each morning...? How...?

I was sitting on the deck a few mornings ago. I was reading my Bible. I have read Psalms HUNDREDS of times. I have never...ever...ever seen this.

I stopped and looked up. It was beautiful and it's mine.  It was for me. No doubt in my mind.

There's a lot of descriptives of God in the Bible.  I have never read this one. I've never heard of it...but make no mistake...I've known and experienced it.

It was just so beautiful to read it.

"But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head..." (ESV Psalm 3:3)

I don't have any other answer. I'm sorry if you don't get it. Think it's a fairy tale or just positive thinking.  Let me assure you positive thinking would not have saved me in the last year. would not.  There was something so much more.

I had a 'lifter of my head".  How beautiful is that?

Last week at the Oregon Coast, Dean snapped this picture of me and all I could think as I saw it was "ahhh...the lifter of my head".  I don't have a lot of natural reason to look up and smile right now.  I don't.  That's not me being negative...that's me being raw and real.

I love this picture.  Because he caught me in a moment. My happy place...the sun...the beautiful gift on my chest...and my head lifted.

Maybe the whole 'chin up' is actually Biblical...or let Him lift your head.  Look up.

The passage goes on to say this..."I lay down and slept; I woke again for the Lord sustained me".  And yes...that's my story too. There were many nights I thought I wouldn't wake.  And when I did, I wondered how I had.  Then I read this.  I woke for one reason...He sustained me.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The gift of 'Today'.

Our life came to a crashing halt. And it was the worst of the worst of the worst...yes, of the very worst... of all of my fears combined.  And...nothing could be worse. It was it.

All we did was take the necessary one step at a time...sometimes choosing to just keep breathing to survive it.

But this week I've been hindsight.  Woah.

What was horror then...was only the beginning.  And had I known then...what I know now...? I may not have survived it.

While I wished at the time I had known it all immediately...I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge there's no way I could have handled it all then.

The horror multiplied. And then again.  What we didn't think could ever get worse...did...indeed.

But this makes me think how looking back...the gift of one day at a time...saved me.

If you are like me...and like to at least feel like you are in control (silly...silly me) then you want the full view right up front. Tell me what's coming, tell me all the bad, the good...just lay it out on the table. I'm a realist...I can take it. couldn't.  And though that part of me still struggles with not having known it all right up was God's grace that we didn't.

Could it be that the slow unravelling of all we once knew to be one of the core reasons we've survived...?

Today.  Today is all we've got. Each stage along the way...I've only had 'today'.  I had no idea what would unfold 24 hours later. I had what was right in front of  And now only a tad bit removed from the situation...I can see that was one of the greatest gifts along the way.

God only gave me 'today'.  One day to chew off at a time. One day to a time.  Just one.  I could have never handled even two.

We all know stories...people...who have perhaps been diagnosed with cancer.  The first time they fought with everything in them. Gave it all they had...and they survived.  A few years later...the horrible news came again. It's back.  And they pick up their fight and go for it.  Every day being a choice to survive.  And how many times do you hear those stories of people that have fought 2-3 times over their life? Had they known with the first diagnosis that there were 2 more coming in the you think they would have fought as hard as they did?  Or was it the gift of one day at a time?

We think we can handle the future...but we cannot.

I cannot.  I could not.  And here with my head finally above water more than one inch...I can see that.  I can see looking back that though my 'need to know', 'ultimate realist' personality hated never knowing what was around the large part it's what kept me breathing.  I only had one day to get through.

One day to fight my hardest for what matters the very most. One day to love 100%.  One day to be intentional. One day to laugh. One day to cry.

Just one.

Thank you God...for the gift of a day at time.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Mourn with those who mourn.

Early in the journey of our past year...with a broken, shattered heart...I cried out to God.

I remember it so clearly.  I could barely catch my breath between sobs.  And my question was not "why?" it was a deep longing to know that Heaven cried.

I stood in my bathroom looking at my swollen, blotchy, mascara-stained, notably sleep-lacking face...and sobbed.  All I wanted to know is that God Himself wept.  Did Jesus cry...? Did Heaven mourn as the worst of the worst had occurred?

I think far too often we awkwardly tip toe around people that are grieving. We don't know what to we (wrongly) say nothing.  Perhaps try to distract them and talk about happy things.  No. No one is looking for you to solve their deep pain. No one expects that of you, so why do you expect it of you? In fact...most of the 'wisdom' you have to offer is going to come across as trite at best.

Want to know what we want? We want someone to mourn with us.  Though you could never fully enter in to someone's can for a moment...try.  You can cry with them. There is an odd comfort in knowing that someone is crying with and for you.

Don't worry...your tomorrow will be cheerier than theirs.  You'll get up and go about your day. It's momentary for you. It's ok to go there. And honestly? It's all we want.

Not your words. Not your wisdom. Not anything you are afraid you don't have to give.  Just someone to say "I'm so very sorry".

My dad had reminded me that Jesus did weep. At the death of His friend (even when He knew He was about to raise him from the dead...) He allowed Himself to go there.  To enter in to the pain of His friends...and weep.

And that's what I needed to know.  I actually longed for rain.  I wanted the sky to wail and lament with me.  I truly did. I hated that I woke to beautiful blue skies and sunshine as if all was well in the world...when in my world...? It was not.

The very best advice I could give...please take it from someone who has lived through unthinkable in Romans 12:15. Rejoice with those who rejoice...mourn with those who mourn.

I remember calling my friend and we both just sat on the phone and sobbed.  She said nothing that I recall. I could just hear her sobs.  And somehow that lessened my pain.

Can you be the one to cry with your friend who is suffering? You don't need the gift of words, lots of money or anything just need to be willing to enter in to their pain and...weep. Mourn.

My friend sent me this song today...

Friday, June 2, 2017

Just look.

She was laying on my lap. The kitchen was buzzing with kids. The puppy laying in her kennel not far from us.  She was fussy. Eyes going all over the place. I was leaning over her...6 inches from her face. happened. She caught my eyes.

And everything changed.

Her legs settled...her face softened...and whatever was frustrating her moments before seemed to disappear.  And then those little eyes squinted and her smile took up her whole face.

She's only 10 weeks old.  I was emotional.

I said out loud to her..."ahhh...this is just like your mama!"

In my own world. My mind racing a million miles a minute. Tormented. Down hearted.  Panicking about the future.  And then...I look up.


He's right there.  Just waiting for me to catch His eye.

Whatever it was...I don't even know in that moment. When I catch a glimpse of him.  And I like to think my smile takes over my whole face just like little Topaz.

She stayed smiling at me for several minutes. Locked eyes.  And then...she got distracted and looked away and started fussing again.

It made me think...we can be right there...He can be right there...but we are so internalizing that we just don't see. I never backed away.  I was still looking at her eyes. I was still smiling.  She looked away.

Today...whatever you are going through...I hope you just take a moment to look up.  See how He is faithful. He's never left you.  Not in the worst of the worst of the worst that you have experienced.  I can say this from just surviving the ultimate fire that life could ever bring.  I'm so thankful I had friends that would constantly remind me that He was right there. Because there were many more moments that I couldn't see him than what I could.

Hang on.  You are still being held.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day...redemption.

Mother's Day weekend marks one year of our lives as we knew it ... imploding.

I have dreaded this weekend for a long time.  As it came got worse. And truly it did.  Friday morning was one of the scariest moments of my life...and that's saying something.  Then Saturday. Oh..the Saturday before Mother's Day. That is 'the day'. The day everything changed.  

Mother's Day last year was spent doing unfathomable things. It's crystal clear and yet all a blur in my mind.  I can feel each moment as time stood still...yet it's all blurring into a fog that only profound trauma could do. And last year's Mother's Day was spent making memories. Because I was relentless in my pursuit of not having more days of our lives stolen.  

Today after church, we stopped by Costco. Dean and the older kids ran in to grab a few things. I was in the van with the little children.  

It was in this selfie moment with our 7 week old baby...that I stopped in my tracks and said, out loud "ahhh...redemption". 

So the end of this day...I find myself doing what I have my children do...often. Thinking of what I'm thankful for to get my focus off of all the hard.  It's not easy making new memories. It's not easy working so hard all day long to push out the horrific memories that are forcing their way in to steal your day.  Last night I got a hot bath and cried.  It hit me that one year before I came running into that same bathroom to sob on the floor...and a few minutes later Dean had joined me there.  

I know we often feebly attempt to comfort others with trite thoughts like 'give it time...' 'time heals'... and honestly perhaps enough time hasn't passed for me to know. But I can tell you that in our case the more time that has passed, the more the reality has set in...the deeper the pain.  The deeper the trauma.  

I don't know the why.  For now..I've stopped asking.  That is something time may reveal.  I do know this last year has taken its toll on us all.  

But today...? I saw a glimpse of redemption.  Topaz Treasure.  Collateral Beauty.  Treasure out of the ashes.  


Next year...I hope I remember this moment on Mother's Day instead of the horror of 2016.  

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 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. 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..."


In the ashes of the last 10'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


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. 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.
A little while, and the wicked will be no more;

    though you look for them, they will not be found.
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 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 " are WAY stronger than I am. I'd never survive THAT!".



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. 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.


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 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, 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".


...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. 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. " 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 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

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.

" 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 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?"


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.