Friday, May 16, 2014

Close to Home

I turned on the news before making breakfast yesterday morning. Making headlines were stories of missing children, attempted abductions and a one year old girl locally who was taken to the emergency room for dangerously high blood alcohol levels. I sat down and prayed for our children. It is easy to look out at this world gone mad and think, "I am glad it isn't my kid, or that could never be my daughter", but it is. They ARE our children.

Being a foster mom has brought this notion closer to home than I could ever have imagined. Our children are our future and we are surely not being good stewards of our future. As I placed a plate of pancakes on the table, the phone rang. I looked at the caller ID. It was the Erie County Office of Children and Youth. My heart sank. With each time I see that number, my heart breaks knowing that somewhere there is a hurting child...a child who has been abused, neglected, or abandoned...sometimes all three.

It is hard to go to that place of knowing that right now there is likely a child being exploited, and mistreated. It is hard but it is reality. Until we go that hard place...nothing will ever change. We will never make a can't hide from the hard stuff and expect to grow closer to Jesus. It is in the hard stuff that we find Him ever near.

The call was merely a clerical one, though my mind raced wondering if it were a call to come and get the little girl from the news. Each time we welcome another child into our home, we get to look into the face of Jesus just a little closer. It might seem like we are crazy or hoarding children, or trying to make up for our own losses, or any myriad of things, but it is simply because He calls us to.

If I've learned anything in my life, I have learned not to shy away from heartbreak. We can't live fearing that our hearts will break if we put them out there. We just have to put them out there knowing that WHEN they break, God will pick up the pieces and put them back together to create something even more beautiful...with every break, the masterpiece becomes more intricate and deep. Shying away from it would deprive us of so many wonderful blessings.

So, if you're wondering if we'll open our home again to yet another child....a few weeks ago, I might have told you we were FULL and our van can't hold anymore. In the last few weeks, God has truly been speaking to my heart...just reminding me to keep it open for WHATEVER He has for me. So I'll trust in that, and each time the phone rings, I will pick it up and pray knowing He will provide ALL of my needs for whatever He calls us to. My heart WILL get broken again...foster care is heart ache all around because it isn't the natural order of things...adoption always means a tragedy happened. My heartbreaks with each call from the agency, knowing these kids aren't being cared for, my heart has broken having to let a little one go back after loving them with my whole heart, and my heart has broken as I signed adoption papers, knowing that this child will grieve the loss of his/her natural parents probably all of their life.

God will bring healing to every heart break, and I have no answers for why. I guess I've finally come to a place in my life where I don't really need to know why. I just trust. I trust that He has a good plan for my future and that He has placed each child in my arms for a purpose. Each time I see a news story on the TV about a child being mistreated, it hits close to home because that child could well end up at my dinner table, that child could be MY child, and with every child that comes to my door, I feel closer to Home. They are OUR children...and we need to love them like He would...they aren't just a news story or a headline...this stuff is happening and it BREAKS His heart and it SHOULD break ours...Let it...see what might happen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It's official!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Two Years

Two years ago today, I boarded an airplane and flew across the country to meet my son. It was a day and an experience I'll never forget. The months leading up to the adoption were fast, furious and filled with battles we never could have won if not for God. April 24th 2012, I boarded an airplane and flew by myself to a city I've never been to. God worked out every detail. A dear friend I met via this blog, Christine, lives in that city and she happily offered to pick me up at the airport. I don't know what I would have done without her. I was emotional charged and not thinking clearly enough to navigate a new city and she stepped right in and took me to lunch and then to the hospital.

I will never forget arriving at Phoenix Children's Hospital. We entered the hospital and went to the NICU desk. I explained who I was and a social worker came right out to greet me. She explained that Jacob's birth mother was with him and was waiting for me. We headed down the hall toward Jacob's room. She slid the glass door open and there sobbing in a chair was a beautiful woman and the son she clearly loved. My heart broke knowing the agony of letting go of a child. One look at him and I was instantly in love, but I also fell in love with her, his first mom. She held him and cried and I stood there not knowing what to do.

She stood up and walked over to me and hugged me, still sobbing. We'd talked on the phone many times but this was the first time we'd met. You could see the pain in her eyes and the years of hardship on her face. She was so sweet and just kept thanking me for coming. The nurses were all getting teary and then she handed him to me. It was a sacred moment.  I can only imagine how that must have felt. My heart breaks all over just thinking about it. I was SO excited to finally be holding my son yet I was devastated for her loss. Her attorney was there and took her from the NICU to a counseling appointment.

Jacob and I were alone. I held him but he remained rigid. The nurses started coming in to meet me and talk to me about his care. He cried a lot and was difficult to console. He ate well but wasn't too keen on sleep. He preferred not to be held and if he was held, he liked to be held facing out. Considering all he'd been through in the prior months he was doing great but this was all about to challenge me in ways I never imagined. I tend to be an attachment style parent, and this boy was going to take some retraining to get there.

I slept that night at the hospital. I gave Jacob his bath and made his bottles and slept in a chair right next to him. He enjoyed bath time but loathed diaper changes. We got to know each other as best we could under the circumstances. The next morning I got to sit through his occupational and physical therapy sessions, learning what techniques the therapists were using to help console him and relax his rigid muscles.

I got to meet his doctor that afternoon and he was the kindest man. He hugged me and said that Jacob was going to be just fine, that he just needed some TLC. He told me that he would be a challenge but to continually remind myself that none of it was his fault and that he was doing the best he could. We chatted and he gave me lots of tips and asked that I send the occasional photo as the hospital had been his family for the previous three months. He then handed me discharge papers and said, "It's going to be great. You've got this." It took me more than an hour to pack up Jacob's things. He was well loved there at the hospital, stuffed animals, clothes, blankets, toys, all kinds of things the nurses had brought in for him.

When we were discharged, Christine graciously picked us up and took us to her house to wait until Pennsylvania gave the approval for me to bring him home. It was the longest six days ever. Christine's family was wonderful but I just wanted to get my boy and get home. I was NOT cut out for Arizona weather and I was just eager to get into a real routine with this little guy who desperately needed it. I called home crying daily. Christine's boys were a great distraction. They were so great with Jacob and very sweet. Ultimately the heat was getting to me and I was tired and longed for my own bed. My dear friend Alyssa, whom I also met via this blog somehow moved mountains and got herself a flight to Arizona to be with me knowing how homesick I was. We'd talked and sent messages to each other but this would be our first time meeting. A friend from home, Amy offered to get me a hotel room since her husband had some extra Mariott points and she booked us a room and Christine took me to the hotel to be with Alyssa.

I still missed home but I jacked that AC up and Jacob and I crawled into the big bed and took a nap. Alyssa arrived that evening and we ate pizza, bathed my baby in the sink of the hotel and stuck our feet in the hot tub of the hotel pool. The next morning Jacob's birth mom came to the hotel for a visit. We sat out in the courtyard. I cannot explain it but it was like God granted me a grace that only could have come from him because while part of me wanted to just hide in the room with Jacob, the moment I saw her face that all changed. I wanted her to hold him and I wanted her to know I loved her and that I would always tell Jacob about her and how much she loved him. Jacob's biological grandma was there too and it was great for her to get to meet her grandson and also be there for her daughter. It really was a miracle all around.

Adoption is one of the hardest things I've ever done but it was worth every tear and drop of sweat. God carried us and Jacob every step of the way. I will never be able to tell his birth mom in words how grateful I am for that sweet boy. He has come so far. He LOVES to be held and snuggled. He is developing pretty typically and his speech is coming along! It has been a labor...different from a labor of a child you birth but labor nonetheless. Most things worth doing...are hard. Adoption is one of them.

If you are out there and you are riding the roller coaster that is adoption, please hold fast.  He is with you.  Adoption is is is a war like none I have known, but victory is His.  Ultimately His plan prevails.  Discouragement and doubt do not come from God, they come from the one who wants nothing more than to see God's plan fail.  God's plan can't be thwarted...stay the course, these kids are worth it.  If you're not riding the adoption roller coaster, maybe you know someone who is, or maybe one day you will.  Please take some time and pray about how God would use you to be his hands and feet to children in need. Maybe he is calling you to adopt or maybe he is calling you to help encourage someone who is...he is calling us ALL to do something.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Lesson in Humility

So, today was my first appointment with my new dermatologist. I need to be followed every three months by my oncologist and a dermatologist to check for new melanomas. I arrive at the office and fill out the necessary paperwork. The receptionist was friendly and asked me to have a seat. It is always surreal sitting in a dermatology office to be seen for melanoma. Many of the folks there are for much different reasons. I sat down and began to look around...Botox ads everywhere, the song "Poker Face" comes on. The irony wasn't lost on me and I began to chuckle. I continue to peruse the room to see "Latisse" billboards, chemical peel ads and various other "cosmetic" surgery type literature. Nothing on cancer. When you have melanoma you are basically the kill joy of the dermatology office.

I am taken back to the exam room where I am given what resembled those paper bag vests you make at Thanksgiving in school when you are the Native American in the school play and a giant paper towel type thing to drape on my legs. I stand there staring at them for a moment and then laugh and just put them on. The doctor came in and I immediately knew I liked him. He had kind eyes and was a ball of energy. He explained what he was going to do and took down what information I had for him. He then proceeded to check every single inch of my skin, while his nurse mapped each and every mole coded with letters and numbers. It was so very weird to be sitting on a cold table in a paper vest while the doctor pointed at my moles all the while saying what seemed like random letters and numbers in a language only dermatologists must know.

When he was done he told me I was boring and that we were going to keep it that way. He checked each of my lymph node basins and said he had no concerns, and that my surgeon did a "beautiful job" on my arm. He assured me we were about to become BFFs as I would be visiting him every three months and we were gong to stay ahead of anything that may happen. He explained my pathology reports to me in a manner that I actually understood and asked if any of my children had moles. We agreed Luke should be seen soon and followed yearly. He seemed to really know his stuff. He'd say I bet you've had this mole since you were tiny, I bet you've had this mole since your teen years....and he was spot on EVERY time. He even took a look at my hand eczema for me.

I've always dreaded going to the OBGYN because it was so humiliating...this made that seem not so bad, although the doc did make sure to tell me it could be worse. He said if I were at the melanoma clinic at Harvard that I'd be on a turn table in a g-string. So you know...there's always that. Grateful for EVERY normal doctor appointment in a way I never knew possible. While it wasn't fun necessarily, I urge you to find yourself a GOOD dermatologist and visit them yearly. It could just save your life. Melanoma kills a person every hour. Don't let that be you. God isn't going to be me.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Meet Lily Grace

She entered our world in September of 2012 at just three weeks old.  Our lives have never been the same....and we are SO grateful.  In a crazy twist, we received our adoption decree in the mail on April 1st.  So, while we are still hoping for a date to go before the judge for a ceremony.  She is officially our new daughter.  I am trying to gather all of the pictures from the last year and a half that I haven't been able to share, but for she all her cuteness.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

It's a Girl!

Monday I had to head to the OBGYN for my annual exam and to discuss what testing he suggested in light of the recent melanoma diagnosis. It went well....aside from the fact that he came in and said, "hey, your blood pressure is a little high which isn't normal for you, are you doing ok?" And the floodgates broke. I am sure he is very used to dealing with hormonal and emotional women, but the poor man had to endure a blubbering me. He was wonderful and compassionate just as he's always been when dealing with me and all that life has dealt.

I got out to the van where Howard and the kids were waiting to pick me up and take me to dinner. As I got in the van I got a text. It was from our foster daughter's caseworker. She said she had just gotten the judge's report and that the judge chose us to adopt our sweet girl! I was elated and immediately began texting everyone who'd been praying and posted to Facebook. In a moment of excitement I'd forgotten the previous post had been an Instagram photo of the gorgeous view of Lake Erie from my OB's office....then about a half an hour later I post "It's a girl". LOL

I confused a few people. All that to say, my uterus is fine but all done having babies we however, Lord willing, will be officially welcoming a 19 month old little girl into our family within the next month or so!

Thank you all for praying! So grateful for each and every one of you.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

This is JUST Skin Cancer

Several months ago I went to the doctor to have him look at a mole. It had changed a bit but was still relatively regular looking, he said it was nothing to worry about. I had a nagging feeling it was. This is the result of a wide excision to rid my body of melanoma. The mole was no bigger than the eraser on a pencil.

People seem to think that melanoma is nothing really to worry about. They joke using #melanomahereicome as they bake their skin on spring break not realizing that every hour someone dies of melanoma. Melanoma doesn't discriminate and it is as much a young person's disease as it is an older person's disease. Children die of melanoma. One in fifty people will battle this beast.

My cancer they say was found relatively early, but it was aggressive. I will have quarterly appointments with a dermatologist and oncologist. I will have blood tests and x rays. We will be actively watching for any evidence the beast might return. I am trusting the Lord in all of it and doing all I can to take care of my body, but skin cancer, melanoma, IS cancer. It is deadly.

I say all of this because I want you to learn from my mistakes. I want you to take care of your skin. I want you to look at what chemicals you are putting in and on your body and what nutrition your body might be lacking. I don't think sun is bad. We NEED sun, but be responsible. Don't burn. Encourage loved ones to get their skin checked regularly and if ANYTHING seems out of ordinary...get it checked. When caught early, melanoma is VERY the late is often fatal. It doesn't respond to treatments the way other cancers do. It is a sneaky cancer that spreads quickly.

Melanoma isn't to be taken lightly. It isn't something you just remove and forget is a lifelong battle. I intend to fight it, and I pray you don't have to, but ignorance could be deadly so PLEASE see your doctor...know your body and don't be afraid to be your own advocate!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

No Word

I just wanted to take a minute and thank you ALL for your prayers for our foster girl and for our family. Court was long and exhausting on Friday and the judge did not rule yet. We should hear by the end of the week and I will keep you posted as to what he decides. We are praying and trusting God, knowing He loves her more than we can even imagine.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Court Hearing Tomorrow

I've spent the past few afternoons as I continue to recover from surgery on the phone with our attorney and the foster agency attorney preparing for a court hearing tomorrow. Our sweet foster girl has been with us since September of 2012. She was reunited with her family for about six weeks between October and November and has been with us ever since. Nothing is new in her case it has pretty much been the same old same old for months. We petitioned to adopt her back in October and some family members decided to contest.

I believe wholeheartedly in trying to keep biological families connected. That was why we went into fostering. It was always my hope to be able to help families reunite and get back on their feet, yet in this case that hasn't been possible. It has made me heart sick. I am so grateful that we have an open and positive relationship with Jacob's biological family. I'd love for this sweet one to have the same thing but I am not sure that is in store for her.

At any rate, tomorrow we go to court and the judge will decide where our girl spends the rest of her growing years. I have peace. I know this decision is not mine to make and that He loves her more than I ever could and that He will do what is best for her and while we love her like our own and will be heartbroken to see her go, I know He is in control. I do not know much about her bio family beyond her parents and I know He does. She's been our little sunshine for about a year and a half...basically her whole life, but today as I prepare myself for court, I am reminded that none of our children are truly our own. They each belong to God and while I don't always understand what he is doing, I rest in knowing He knows what is best for each of them and for me.

Ultimately, this isn't about me. Foster parenting isn't. It is about being obedient to what God called us to and I know we've done that so I can rest in knowing that. What happens from here isn't for me to control. He owes us nothing. Our hearts may well break into a million pieces, but that is what we signed up for. We are here and willing to be her family forever if He'd bless us with this baby girl, but we also know that there are others who have biological connections and we know nothing about them to say we know what is best. We will play whatever role he calls us to and we will love her forever.

Sometimes I sit and I look at my life, the story He is writing and I wonder how much more we can endure, but I know with every storm has come a depth, a love, and a closeness with Him that could have been attained no other way. Tomorrow morning we will go before a judge and promise to always love her and we will face the family members claiming they want the same. I have no idea what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow. Would you pray with me for the judge. That he would truly look at what is best for our sweet girl , whatever that is, and that He would soothe our hearts if that means it is not us. He knows what is best and I am fully confident that whatever decision is made, will be what is best.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

One of Those Days

Well it's been one of those days here at our home. Daylight Savings Time is a cruel joke and we've all been struggling to find our normal. The babies have been fighting a cold and I am still recovering from my melanoma surgery. I am feeling pretty good, but due to the fact that my wound is under tension (from the tissue they had to remove entirely) I still cannot lift over 10 pounds. I have two babies. One is 18 months and the other is 2 and both are over 20 pounds, so guess who has come to my rescue?

My 81 year old grandma. She's been here with me for the past two weeks or so and while it has been a humbling experience to ask my elderly grandma to do things for me, to lift the babies, change diapers put them to bed, etc, it has also been really nice having her here. She's amazing with my kids, and despite her age she can move and clean a house like nobody's business. She is the woman who raised me and as a kid I wasn't always so appreciative for all she did for us. I am grateful to have this chance with her now. She really is an amazing lady, and while I look forward to the day when I can lift my own babies again, I will miss her when she isn't here every day.

Back to today. The older three kids had a dental appointment this morning. I got up early, did my devotionals and ran downstairs to get a load of laundry going. On the way down the stairs I tripped on a pile of laundry and fell. After I sat and gathered myself I gave myself a once over and all was fine. I went in to Jacob's room to see why he was screaming, all the while hoping and praying Howard remembered to diaper him last night (story for another time). He had launched his pillow, blankets and stuffed animal out of the crib and was ready to get up. I asked Luke to get him up for me and put him on the changing table. I got him changed and Luke took him out to feed him breakfast.

Through blood, sweat and tears I got the other four children all ready brushed and flossed all teeth (albeit forgetting my own, GROSS I know), bags packed, grandma got here and we loaded up and headed on our way. The plan was to take the three inside for their cleanings and grandma would feed the babies their snack in the van while they waited.

Victoriously I pulled in to the dentist parking lot ten minutes early, proudly walked the kids in, hung up coats and told the receptionist our names....she looked at me strangely, which I've gotten more used to so I thought nothing of it until she said, "Um, Mrs. Bolte? Your appointment is tomorrow." I am sure she could see the look of sheer exhaustion in my face and she said, "Let me see what I can do". I waited and ultimately they offered to squeeze my three between patients but it could take a while to get them all done. I thanked them and turned to tell the kids I'd made a mistake. They took it well and I promised them lunch tomorrow. Guess today was a practice run. I won't say tears didn't fall as I climbed back into the van, tired, feeling defeated and sore, but I was quickly reminded that in the grand scheme, this was no big deal. It was an opportunity for a cup of coffee and TimBits for the kids. We enjoyed the sunny ride home and we'll do it all again tomorrow. :)

It's been a while since I've shared pictures so I thought I'd show you all how they've grown.

Choosing to count these sweet blessings today in spite of the rough day.  They sure do make each day brighter!