Attachment so far

There's a word in my mind that's stuck beside the eight letters of adoption: attachment.  Adoptionattachment. In the international adoption/foster care/older child adoption worlds it's a ubiquitous word. It's a word that carries with it thousands of articles and hundreds of lectures and weighty parental concerns and yes, a few horror stories. 

When we talk about attachment in the adoption world we're talking about that important bond between caregiver and child. The bond that sets the stage for all the child's future relationships. And actually, for the child's future understanding of God. Strong early attachments lead to healthy relationships with others and with God. You'll probably remember from your high school or college psychology class that an infant's first major psychosocial task in life is to determine whether or not she can trust the world around her.  Can she trust that when she's hungry she'll be fed? When she's scared she'll be comforted? When she's wet she'll be changed? When she's cold she'll be warmed?

After this "trust vs. mistrust" stage, she moves onto the task of toddlerhood where she learns to do things herself: autonomy. Think of a toddler who's favorite phrases are, "No!" and "I do it myself!"

When a child in an orphanage receives sub-standard care he or she answers that first question (Can I trust the world around me?) with no instead of yes, he or she moves on to autonomy out of necessity or even survival instinct rather than out of a sense of security or self-confidence. This is a detrimental psychosocial move because the child needs to learn trust in order to form future healthy relationships.

In very simplified terms, a child who learns trust and then autonomy will be able to function in future relationships with empathy, genuine love and concern for the other person as well as a healthy respect for self in that relationship. A child who learns mistrust and then self-reliance will be prone to use future relationships pragmatically- for what he or she can get out of it without much thought for the other.  This makes sense if you consider the fact that the child learned to manipulate the world around her just for survival. Again, this is over-simplified but I just want to give you a picture of why attachment is so important.

More and more the research is showing that there is always hope children who received sub-standard care. As a Christian I have to believe that with God, all things are possible, even in the most dire circumstances. So if you are reading this do not let it scare you away from toddler or older child adoption!

When we started our journey to Arie we had no idea what his orphanage was like. We knew God was calling us to pursue his adoption so we worked hard to prepare ourselves to welcome him into our family no matter what attachment issues he had. We read, read, read, talked to our social worker, and watched a couple documentaries dealing with the subject of attachment.

We feel so immensely grateful to God that our precious son spent the first two+ years of his life in a very loving orphanage. It was obvious to us that the staff care so deeply for the children. The children were provided with lots of opportunity for stimulation like music classes, outdoor play, and even weekly speech therapy sessions. Still, even the best orphanages cannot provide the care of a family. Staff shift changes and turnover, high child-to-caregiver ratios, and just the systematic structuring of daily life meant that while Arie was loved and cared for, he still needed to learn and know the unconditional love and care that can only come from Mama and Papa. I will never forget one night of the first nights home Arie was crying in bed- not wanting to sleep- and started to wail loudly like only toddlers can do. We always stayed (still do) in the bedroom with him until he was falling asleep so I was right there by his side, telling him sssshhhhhh. I expected he would continue to wail for a while and slowly settle down with my comfort, but instead he immediately cupped his hand over his mouth and sobbed almost silently as tears poured down his face. A reaction, I'm sure, to previous demands by his nannies for silence as he cried in a room full of other sleeping children. It broke my heart. A two-year-old should be allowed to cry for comfort.

Before we brought him home I posted about our attachment plan. We read that adoptive parents should stick to an intensive form of attachment parenting for at least one month for every year the child received sub-standard care. For us, that meant 2.5 months. We are almost done and I will tell you it was worth every second. Arie's attachment to us is growing stronger by the day!

I also have to say that we needed a lot of heavenly grace during the last two months. For patience and for figuring out exactly how gentle or stern to be with our little man.  And even more to calm those are we doing the right thing fears that came up when John's dad was dying.  John had to leave us for a week before his dad died and then we welcomed his mom and sister into our home for another week. Neither of these are "ideal" attachment scenarios, but God gave us overwhelming peace to assure us that we were making the right decisions and that he would protect Arie's precious little heart from these disruptions.

Arie now cries (loudly- might I add) when he's upset in bed. Where he used to dust himself off or even laugh when he fell he now runs to me with every bump and "boo-boo." It is obvious to us that he had good attachments to his caregivers at the orphanage because he has been able to transfer those attachments to us smoothly.  He looks for us when we're out of sight.  When he was in the ER the other night with croup he blessed me so deeply by crying out, "Mama!" for comfort.

After a toddler adoption the work of attachment is never done.  Through various stages of his life, Arie will deal with different questions and issues regarding his adoption but right now on this day we are feeling so thankful and blessed by our attachment process. Ultimately as his parents we can show him love, kindness, and tenderness but it is only our Heavenly Father who knows those walls in our little mans heart that need to be broken down and repaired. We continue to pray for God's grace and wisdom as we walk down this attachment journey, especially as we enter the next phase of socializing beyond our families.  

As we see Arie's attachment to us grow stronger and stronger we are feeling more and more comfortable exposing him to events and activities outside our home.This week we took him to a bouncy-house emporium (I made that up, but I don't know what to call it. A big converted warehouse filled with bouncy castles and slides.) and a local Children's Museum. This is where the hard work of attachment pays off and the fun part of family begins! The bouncy emporium was not camera-friendly due to all the... well, bouncing, but our Museum soundtrack was giggles and click click click.

Doing it wrong.
There we go.
The bubbles were Arie's favorite part. He now refers to the entire museum as "bubbles."
We left a lot soapier than we came.
Waited a long time for a turn on this human sized bubble maker.
Arie (I) really wanted to try it. ;-)
It's all fun and games until someone knocks over your dominoes.
I know many of my readers are in the adoption process or praying about a future adoption. When it comes to all the attachment literature you're reading and/or worries you're having, I pray God guides you with much wisdom and clarity. Above all, set your eyes on the beautiful promise given to us in Proverbs 3:5:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. 
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. 



Being Mama

The occasion slipped by, a quiet mental note underneath the labor of caring for a sick child, but this weekend marked two months home for us.  Two months since our plane landed, carrying with it a puking child and a crying mama.  Two months since that rubber stamp marked my son's Russian passport. Two months since we walked out of that international airport for the third and final time.  Two months since I buckled my tiny little two-year-old into his car seat and drove home.

I've been offered two different reactions to this fact:

One: Only two months? Seems longer!

Two: Two months already? Seems shorter!

My response to both is: yep.

Time seems like such a useless thing in the face of something so divine, doesn't it? It fails completely to capture both the brevity and the fulness of a life, lost and found. So much has happened in the last two months. So much has become. Yet my son fits so perfectly into our lives- into our being- that I could also describe him as having been home forever. 


When he's walking beside me at the grocery store or playing quietly with our toys or singing loudly in the kitchen, he's been here forever. He's my son. He's Arie, who will wander toward the toy aisle but come right back when he's called. Most of the time.  He's Arie who will play quietly for a while but then come out to see what you're doing and push his stool right up next to you at the counter because he wants to be involved. He's Arie who loves to dance and sing and will make your cheeks ball up with a smile as he spins in a circle, tilting his head and carrying a favorite tune.

But when he's putting his arms around my neck and squeezing gently, but tighter than he's ever done before, he's a beautiful surprise. When he's waking up in the morning with giggles and smiles, he's a moment of epiphany. And when he's calling me Mama, he's a breathless wonder.

There are many ways to become a mother, all of them beautiful. Of them all, adoption is perhaps the most mysterious.  How divinely ordained the coming together of mother and child in this way.  How mysterious that in all the years and all the space of the universe, exactly the right child was brought to you. How it came out of brokenness but was redeemed by... redemption.

Arie is not mine by blood or birth.  He was not even mine by continent or country.  But he is mine, redemptively.  In all the wonderment and mystery that brought us together, I'm resting in the fact that by an act of divine redemption is a wonderful way to belong.

Two months home, being Mama is wonderful.



ER trip

I don't believe in luck. I really don't.

That said, the '13 in 2013 is holding true to its terrible reputation for me so far. Started off with the flu, then got that terrible phone call that John's dad had to stop cancer treatment,  experienced the awful loss of my father-in-law, and this weekend we made our first ER visit with Arie.

I am ready for January to be over.

John and I were downstairs around 11:30 on Friday night when we heard Arie over the monitor.  It sounded like he was crying so I ran up to comfort him and when I got there I discovered he wasn't crying but coughing and struggling to breathe. I immediately brought him downstairs where John and I briefly considered whether this was a 9-1-1 emergency or whether we could drive him to the ER ourselves. His breathing didn't seem to be getting any worse so we got him in the car and drove there ourselves.

Thankfully the cold air calmed his bark-ish coughing down so we already felt better about the situation by the time we got to the ER.

After an x-ray and a steroid dose to open up his airway he was diagnosed with plain old croup which was a huge relief. I still can't believe how quickly things got so bad! When he went to bed at 8pm he didn't have as much as a cold and at midnight we were in the ER.

Mixed in with the concern we had for our little guy, was a bit of humor: Just minutes before Arie woke up coughing, John took a melatonin sleeping aid pill with a cup of Yogi night time tea. As soon as the adrenaline of the hospital trip wore off and we were waiting in the ER for Arie's x-rays John started to look terrible.  His eyes got all bloodshot and his head started flopping forward.

I was all, "How can you be sleepy right now?"

And he was all, "sleeping... aid. Plus tea. Took it. Uuuggghhhh. So. Tired."

Which made me laugh so hard and startle my poor son who was laying sick and drowsy in my arms.

We're good parents I swear. I think those little funny moments are just pure divine grace to relieve the stressful tension of these types of situations.

In the end, we were sent home with instructions to come back if his breathing becomes labored again, but other than that we just have to wait it out.  Hopefully we are now on the mend.

So although we had big plans for a fun family time, our weekend has just been pajamas and lying on the couch.

Poor Arie.

And thank goodness for Elmo. 



Restoring the wasted years

Before Arie came home- and even before we started his adoption- I often listened to a song called "Mended" by Watermark. My favorite line was this:

We will dance as You restore the wasted years...

I don't know for sure, but it seems like the line is inspired by God's promise to his people in Joel 2:25. The chapter describes a terrible locust plague that will come on God's people, decimating every ripening crop and inch of fertile land and, in turn, starving the people who depend on that land for survival. After the awful description of this coming disaster, God makes a promise to all those who are faithful to him:

"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten...
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed" (vs. 25-26).

I will repay you for the years.... or: I will restore the years.  Our God is a God of restoration. In my infertility and then adoption journey I often wondered how God would restore the wasted years.  The year I spent longing for a pregnancy and was left empty. More importantly, the 29 months I spent motherless while my son waited for us to come to him. The mother's breast he was never offered. The warm skin-to-skin he never felt. The sound of a daddy's voice welcoming him to the world, he never heard. The crib at in his own room he never lay in.  The familiar sounds of home- the whistle of a kettle or the family dog pawing at the back door- he never heard. How would God restore that for him? 

How would God restore that for me? The fact that I never got to smell his newborn skin or soothe his teething gums with a cold cloth.  I didn't get to watch him pull himself up on the crib rails for the first time or teach him how to crawl up our front porch steps. Two and a half years, eaten by locust. How would God restore those wasted years? 

"You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God who has done wonders for you."

That's how. 

The locusts have eaten the harvest and that can't be undone, but as for the future? The Lord is filling us up, me and Arie alike. 

A little boy who was once without a family now runs into loving arms and my once empty ears now ring with the sound of his joyful cry: Mama!

His little body which at first leaned out and away when carried after months of having to walk on his own, now curls up close to mine, safe and happy on my hip.

Where he first anxiously wiped every speck of misplaced yogurt on his face or crumb on his chin quickly away, he now eats and spills like a typical two year old (and furrows his brow when I wipe his face).

He's learned it's okay to sometimes let go of the stroller when we go for walks with my daycare kids.  He's learning to RUN through the open fields at the park with his Papa.

He's asking for "moi!" (more!) at mealtimes and he's getting humorously upset when his special treats are "all gone."

He's monkeying around at bedtime and starting to crawl into ours for cuddles in the morning.

He's learning how to be taken care of.  He's learning how to receive grace. He's eating his fill of a family love harvest after 29 months of locusts plagues sucking the soil dry.

In watching my little boy devour our love until he's full, I'm feasting too. The sight of his smile, the blink of his crescent eyes, the scent of his honey skin after bath, the melody of his footsteps on my floor, and the warmth of his hands cupping my face- they are the restoration of my wasted years. Like that line from my favored song- my spirit is dancing as my God restores the wasted years.

I am praising the name of the LORD my God who has worked wonders for me. 

Our God is a God of restoration, indeed.



Reaping songs of joy

Okay.  So.

Life is pretty rough right now.

After bringing Arie home and then immediately diving into the rush of the holidays, I anticipated starting off 2013 quietly. Peaceful routines, slow weekends, and finding our day-in-day-out groove.

Instead 2013 began by knocking the air from our lungs and throwing us into the grieving process as we say goodbye to John's dad. After a two year battle with cancer we knew our time together was limited, but we were optimistic about his treatment and having a few more months together. We were picturing a trip to out to AZ to visit my in-laws this spring and recently even hopeful that Grandpa would take Arie out on his boat this summer.

I now know why people talk about cancer like it's a being.  Why we say things like, "I HATE cancer," and not, "I hate when people get cancer." Because cancer is like a dark claw that rips it's way into life and devours the future.  And while the battle weapons against this terrible disease are getting better and better, they aren't always enough. Last week Sunday we got the phone call we had been dreading and we heard that the treatment had stopped working.  One to three months the doctors said.  In the end, it was only one week.

I'm thankful my husband could fly out to be with his dad during the last days, though they were not days to remember.

After five days away John returned home on a Saturday night. I took Arie to the airport with me and we waited at the end of the gate, to see Papa as soon as we possibly could. When Arie saw his papa, his eyes light up with the love he kept burning bright in John's absence.  He ran through the waiting area with breathless giggles, calling out, "Papa! Papa!" all the while. When John scooped his precious son up in his strong arms, I knew his healing had begun.
Arie and Papa at a local ice sculpture competition last week.
It was Arie's nap time; he's on the verge of consciousness here.
On Sunday I told my friend Ruth about the joy God has given us in Arie, to help us through the pain of my father-in-law's death. Ruth nodded and said she experienced something similar when he daughter was born and her grandmother died.  "It's a spiritual thin place," she said.  A thin place.  A place where the curtain between heaven and earth becomes wispy and soft. A veil that lets the light from heaven's side through to earth. It does feel like that, even in all the pain- like a spiritual thin place.

When the veil seems so shear, though, all you want to do is walk through it. It hurts so much to stay on this side when everything you want- from lost loved ones, to the very fullness of God's kingdom- is on the other side. When you know how bright the world is in heaven, it makes the world on earth seem that much darker.

I have the light with me, though, in this dark world. And as much as I want to go through that curtain- or better, for Jesus to take the curtain away- there's a reason I'm on this side: to share the light of Christ until the whole world is aflame. In another metaphor- to sow the seeds of the gospel until the earth flowers with the Kingdom.

In the midst of my struggle to keep sowing in sorrow, I've found new comfort in Psalm 126.

Those who sow with tears  will reap with songs of joy. 
Those who go out weeping, 
 carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy, 

 carrying sheaves with them.
(verses 5-6)

 Those who go out weeping, will return with songs of joy. 

I've been picturing my husband while reading this Psalm too, thinking about how he'll eventually get up to preach a sermon about the Kingdom of God, while carrying the weight of his father's death with him. Though he may go out to minister with tears, he's promised to reap songs of joy. 

With these promises, we carry our seed sow even in our grief. 

John preaches.
I write. 
We pay the bills. 
We cook our dinners. 
We fold our laundry. 
We give Arie his baths
      and afterwards hold him close and breathe in his honey scented hair.
We pray before bed. 
We hug our friends. 
We hold our family. 
We sow our seed. 

We're weeping, but we're sowing. And our eyes our fixed on the promise that someday we'll reap those songs of joy. 

 Thank you all who left comments on my last posts and my facebook page. Your compassionate words are such sweet salves to our souls. 



Our loss

Grandpa, Elmo, and Arie over Christmas 2012.
Thankful my sister-in-law got this shot of them playing so sweetly together.
I've been absent from my blog for longer than normal and will continue to be for the next week or so. My heart is heavy with the reason: last night my dear father-in-law passed away.  He battled cancer with courageous determination for the past two years and I am so very glad he did because it meant he was able to meet his first precious grandchild, just three weeks before he died. It seems so cruel and unbelievable that our son will know him only through our stories. Our hearts are so heavy right now, but we grieve as those with hope for we know we share in a common future with the Lord, forever. I covet your prayers for my husband's family as we grapple with the terrible aching emptiness we are left with on this earth.



Five years of marriage and our hospital wedding

January 2, 2008
 On Wednesday John and I celebrated five years of marriage together, although I celebrated mostly with my toilet in between puking episodes, thank you stomach bug. There's nothing like a gingerale toast and saltine meal to celebrate a marriage milestone! Actually we celebrated together a few days early before the holidays were over so my bought of illness didn't ruin our anniversary altogether, thank goodness for that!

Like any couple we spent our celebratory evening talking about the last five years, reminiscing about memories and celebrating our accomplishments. Mostly we thought about our wedding day, which was somewhat unique.

Our engagement started off normally.  John proposed to me in the fall of 2006 and we planned to get married in June of 2008. After 10 months of engagement, however, my mom fell seriously ill. I was home in Ontario for the summer when she arrived home one August afternoon, after visiting my brother in Toronto, complaining of stomach pains. Over the course of about an hour the cramps moved from moderately uncomfortable to severely painful. In Ontario we have a nurses hotline so while my mom lay on her bed clutching her stomach, I got on the phone with them. Before I could even talk to a nurse, however, my dad decided they should see a doctor.

They went to a walk-in clinic and were immediately told to get to an emergency room. My mom was admitted and after a serious of tests she was finally diagnosed.  It seemed 16 years prior- when my mom had a cesarean section to birth my sister- the surgeon had nicked her intestines and scar tissue had been building up ever since. Now her intestines were blocked off completely.

By the time she got her diagnosis, I was only one day away from my scheduled departure to Michigan for my final semester of college. I asked my dad, "Should I stay home?" "No," he said, "the doctors think she'll be fine."

So John drove up to help me pack my things and get me back to college. That night while we slept in Ontario one last time, my mom had surgery to removed the scar tissue.  I will never forget waking up the next morning and asking my dad how it went.

"Well, the surgery went well, but there were some complications when mom was waking up."

"Is she okay?"

"Yes she's fine.  She aspirated a bit so she has to be on oxygen for a day or two until her lungs can recover. Don't worry though- you should still go back to Michigan."

John and I made the six hour journey back to college with plans to return the following weekend and see my mom.  I remember feeling nervous about leaving my dad and sister alone and leaving my mom behind in the hospital. Little did I know then that I would be living with those nerves- and worse- for the next 3 months as our lives tumbled and fell into a nightmare.

The "day or two" that my mom was supposed to be on supplemental oxygen turned into a week.  The oxygen mask turned into a tube in her throat. The tube turned into a tracheotomy. She started off under mild sedation.  Than heavy sedatives.  Than she was put into a coma.

ARDS.  That's what she had.  A four lettered acronym that was destroying her life. Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Basically, her lungs were failing.

I don't remember very much from September and October of that year.  I don't remember what I learned in class or what I did outside of class. What I do remember is the sound of my dorm phone ringing in the middle of the night.  My dad's broken voice on the other side.

Once: Mom's being transferred to a bigger hospital.
Twice: The doctors don't think she's going to make it through the night. 

Three times John and I got in the car and drove to Ontario, not knowing if my mom would be alive when we got there. She always was, but barely.  Her body was so swollen I could hardly recognize her. My sister pinned pictures of my healthy mom on her ICU room bulletin board just so the nurses could see who Mom really was.  She was Margaret.  Happy, outgoing, smiley Margaret. Always busy, always searching for a good deal- be it on yogurt or a new chair at a yard sale- always ready for a long conversation on the phone, Margaret. Wife to Irving.  Mother to Jillian, Wesley, and Jenna.  Daughter, aunt, sister, cousin, loyal friend.
My aunt, Mom, and Dad the summer before Mom's illness.
(And my 16-year-old sister photobombing in the background.)
She was Margaret.  Not this swollen, unconcious body hooked up to a dozen tubes and wires. To us, she was Margaret. She was Mom.

To her doctors, she was very, very sick. She was a person whose lungs "looked like leather." At one point she was "the sickest person in all of Canada."

She was dying.

And in the middle of all this, John and I had a decision to make.

Between college classes, work shifts, and trips to my mom's Ontario ICU room, John and I had met with an immigration lawyer.  Being Canadian, I knew I was eligible for US residency through marriage but I had no idea about the process involved. As it turned out, our lawyer told us we had two options:

1) Get married in the US and stay put together until my green card came through.
2) Get married in Canada and live in our respective countries until my green card came through. John would be able to visit me, but I would not be able to visit him.

8-10 months either way. We hoped for six.

As my mom lay potentially on her deathbed in Ontario, the idea of being stuck States-side was unimaginable to both of us, so we made the only choice we really had: we would get married in Canada and start our marriage living apart.

Then another issue: I was done school in December, so I would not be able to live in Michigan after that. Suddenly our planned June wedding no longer made any sense. In order to get my green card as fast as possible, we needed to get married soon.  "Like, this weekend," our lawyer said.

We opted for January, praying my mom would be somewhat recovered by then.

Miraculously- a story which deserves an entire post in itself- my mom began to recover. Very, very slowly her blood oxygen saturation numbers improved.  The sepsis she developed while comatose began to resolve. She was slowly weaned off sedation and brought back to the land of the living.

In late October, November and December I felt as though I was seeing my mom come back to life. But rising from the dead was a very painful process. Mom's muscles had deteriorated during her time in the coma.  She could barely lift her fingers, let alone stand or walk. She had to learn everything again.  How to write, how to feed herself, how to get dressed. She even had to learn how to breathe.
On her birthday: November 1 2007.
She also had to learn what happened.  At first she was so tired, she didn't really question why she in the hospital.  Slowly my dad began to tell her, "You had surgery but there were some complications with your lungs." Unable to talk due to the ventilator, she would nod with a confused look in her eyes.

Finally one day she was lucid enough to ask my dad again, "What happened?" After he explained she mouthed the words, "How long?"  How long have I been in the hospital?  I knew my dad had been dreading this question.  She went into the hospital in mid-August.  It was almost November.  "Over two months," he replied.  Her eyes got big and she simply mouthed the word, "Wow."


As Christmas approached my mom was finally moved back to the hospital where she was originally admitted. Still in ICU, but a lot closer to home. My dad, siblings and I were overjoyed. The worst part for us was over, but for Mom it had just begun.  Everyday she was taken off the ventilator for longer and longer periods of time, to teach her lungs how to breathe again. "Wind sprints," the nurses called them.  Mom hated them.  She said she felt like she was drowning.  As she came off the ventilator she was finally able to use her voice.  After 4 months in the hospital she spoke to my dad for the very first time.  She choose her words carefully, telling him simply, "I love you."

That night my dad wrote to us in an email saying they were the best words he ever heard.
Back in the hospital close to home, she still needed help turning the magazine pages.
While she was making good progress in her recovery, we soon began to realize that she would not be home from the hospital by our January 2 wedding date. She could not even walk yet.
Christmas Day, 2007
 So again we made the only choice we had: we moved our wedding to the hospital!  By then my mom had moved out of ICU and on to a "long term care" floor, which had a fair sized common room with big windows and lots of chairs. My talked to the floor nurses who agreed, it was the perfect spot for our wedding.

So January 2, 2008 John and I got married in a hospital with our immediate families and a handful of friends and relatives by our sides. The nurses and floor patients covered the chairs with bedsheets and tied Christmas ornaments on the backs. My dad's sister and her family came the night before with a truck FULL of poinsettias from their greenhouse to decorate. My cousin loaned me a wedding music CD she had, so I would have something to walk down the aisle to. I wrapped a white ribbon around a fistful of fake flower for a bouquet. One of my dad's co-workers baked us cupcake and put them in a cupcake tree for our "wedding cake." And my mom's best friend cooked up a feast of appetizers for our wedding guests to enjoy on our laps after the ceremony.

That morning I was so nervous and excited I forgot to put on the special jewelry I bought! My dad was driving me to the hospital in our van when I remembered and asked if we should turn around. "No!" I replied, "I just want to get married!"

When we got to the hospital a local reporter was there to do a human-interest clip for the nightly news! (Embedded at the end of this post.) The reporter, her camera man, and all the floor nurses along with the hospital's chief of staff all gathered in the back of the room to watch my walk down the aisle.

My heart raced as I waited to walk down that aisle to the man of my dreams.  My mom sat beside me in her wheelchair. I heard the wedding music start and looked at my dad to tell him it was time to wheel her down the aisle to the "mother of the bride" spot. He smiled at me and then at my mom, and reached out his hand to her.

And for the very first time in public in over five months, my mom surprised us all as she stood up to walk.  With tears in my eyes I helped her stand while my dad wheeled her empty chair down that make-shift wedding aisle. Then he came back, took her arm, and together- proudly- they walked in.

I watched her from behind and John watched her from the front as he waited for me to come toward him.  When I finally did there was not a dry-eye in the room.

Our pastor preached out of Isaiah with a verse from chapter 43, "See I am doing a new thing!" He told us that God was doing a new thing with our lives.  That our story might not look like we expect it too, but that our God is one who makes a way in the wilderness and streams the wasteland.

A God who breathes life back into lifeless bodies.
Who gives reason to celebrate in a building filled with sickness and despair.
Who carries a married couple through 15 long months of living apart.
Who turns infertility into adoption.
Who makes a family out of brokenness.
Who restores. Who gives hope.  Who grants life.
Who saves sinners.
Who heals the broken.
Who does new things.

Five years later, the wedding text our pastor chose for us is now the text we've passed on to our son.  It is Arie's life verse, Isaiah 43:19:

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

As God did a new thing with our wedding, he continues to do new things in our marriage and now with our family through the life our precious child.  

Six months later John and I renewed our vows on our original wedding date with all our friends and family and had the big celebration we always dreamed of, but we will both tell you that our hospital wedding has come to be our favorite to remember for so many reasons. I love to tell the story of our wedding and my mom's healing.  I pray this story gives hope to your soul if you are in the wilderness or struggling in a wasteland. Have faith. Our God is one who makes a way where there is none and provides streams of life in the wastelands. As he has done a new work in our lives, may he do something new for you. 



10 most popular posts of 2012

From my second most-read post in 2012: the first ever picture of me and my son!
 Boy am I starting the new year off on the wrong foot.  Sometime around 3pm yesterday I started feeling nauseous and I've been in the hands of the black death plague ever since.  It's John and my fifth wedding anniversary today and I had a post planned about that, but my goals for this day have been significantly lowered. Basically if Arie gets fed and his diaper changed it will be a huge success. Ugh. Silver lining: a friend of mine is bringing soup for dinner! Here's hoping I can eat by then!

So here's something nice and easy for me to share: the top 10 posts of 2012.  Enjoy!

10. Merry & Bright A recent post about our very first Christmas together as a family.

9. The last day Our last day with Arie on our first trip. A bitter-sweet goodbye.  So hard to leave him at the baby home, but at the same time we knew we were just moving closer and closer to bringing home home!

8. Parenting, day 3 On our third day with Arie in Moscow. Lots of picture from a trip to the park!

7. Parenting, day one The first day of parenting was exhausting and thrilling all at once! Written in the middle of the night, due to tremendous jet-lag.

6. The trip here A post about our very first flight to Moscow to meet our son!

5. Home On our flight home with Arie and first day together. Something I had been dreaming of for a very, very long time! 

4. Oh look what God has done!  The day when God put our family together at last.

3. Day 2 The second day we spent visiting Arie. The day when happiness overtook me at the sight of my son! Looking back at these pictures now I am amazed at how quickly his happy little personality shone through his shyness. He is definitely a joyful little boy!

2. Meeting him  When we met our little man for the first time. An incredible, emotional, surreal experience. The moment when I realized just how much love my heart was capable of.

1. Adoption "maternity" photo session.  Thanks to pinterest this post is closing in on 30,000 views!  It's also been featured on a few other blogs such as Birth Without Fear and WTF Pinterest. Whether you think my globe belly was endearing, hilarious, or just plain weird, I'm just glad you stopped by!

Hope your 2013 is off to a better start than mine.

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