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AMC Awareness Day: June 30, 2014

On: Monday, June 30, 2014

Today is arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC) awareness day. Many of you know that AMC is the rare condition sweet Katee was born with. Before Katee's referral, I had never heard of AMC and was clueless as to what it was. In fact, I found the word pretty scary.

In honor of AMC awareness day, I thought I would share a few facts about arthrogryposis in hopes that your eyes would be opened to this condition and that you would see how incredible these kids truly are (especially if you are considering adoption!).

Arthrogyrposis means "multiple joint contractures present at birth". This condition causes some of Katee's joints to be contracted, or stiff and lacking normal range of motion. AMC only occurs in 1 out of every 300,000 births and is caused by an unborn baby not moving properly during fetal development.

Common joint contractures include clubbed feet, extended or flexed knees, dislocated hips, internally rotated shoulders, extended or flexed elbows, flexed wrists, and fingers fisted or extended.

Arthrogryposis is not progressive, meaning that it is as severe as it's going to get at birth. However, it is regressive in nature. This means that even after effective treatment, the contractures can re-occur. For example, Katee's feet will most likely go back into a clubbed position during a major growth spurt and we will need to cast them again in the future. Post-treatment bracing is important to prevent relapse, but even strict bracing cannot stop all relapses.

Arthrogyrposis can cause height and weight deficits. Children with AMC tend to be on the low end of the growth charts for weight (or in Katee's case, not on the chart at all!). As adults, they tend to be 4-8 inches shorter than familial height and weigh 10-20 pounds less than their peers.

While there is no cure for AMC, many people with arthrogyrposis will walk, but some will need a wheelchair for effective mobility. Those who walk may need braces or walkers/crutches.

Most children with AMC grow up to be independent and successful adults. I am already amazed by how Katee figures out ways to do things and get around.

We are so glad she is ours!!

To learn more about AMC:

Life givers. Life nurturers.

On: Sunday, May 11, 2014

Women are life givers. Life Nurturers. Those words describe the essence of motherhood.

As I read through the first 10 verses of Exodus 2 earlier this week, tears welled in my eyes. I clearly pictured women all over the world who are forced to make hard decisions regarding their children--Katee's birth mama included.

Pharaoh had ordered all the newborn Hebrew baby boys to be thrown into the Nile because he feared the Israelites would fight against them if war broke out. The passage tells of a woman who gave birth to a son. She lovingly hid him for three months, but then could not hide him any longer. She knew if she kept the child, he would die. However, if she made a basket and placed him in the Nile River, at least she wouldn't have to watch him die. And maybe, just maybe, he would be saved. I can't imagine the pain this birth mother experienced when she said goodbye to her beautiful baby boy and placed him in that basket. And then . . . God showed His mighty power. He had plans for this child that even Pharaoh's death orders could not thwart.

The baby was drawn out of the water by Pharaoh's daughter, who named him Moses. Moses's sister, who had been watching, offered to find a woman to nurse the baby. She found her mother (of course!) who was blessed to nurse her own baby for a season before taking him to Pharaoh's daughter for adoption.

The circumstances surrounding Moeses' birth were filled with loss and pain, and yet His adoption story is a perfect picture of the redemptive work our Heavenly Father does.

Just like Pharaoh's daughter saw the baby crying in the basket, about to drown, and in need of salvation, our Heavenly Father sees us lost in our own ways and in need of a Savior.

Just like Pharaoh's daughter rescued Moses from death, God sent Jesus to rescue us from death through the cross and resurrection.

Both stories end in adoption. It's redemption. Beauty in brokenness.

I am forever thankful that I am Katee's forever mama. God created us to be nurtured in loving families. However, on days like today (Mother's Day), I cannot help but hurt for Katee's first mom who could not keep her, yet gave her life. (I pictured her so well when I read that passage in Exodus and it tore at my heart.)

God is a protector and defender. Yes, he hears the cries of the weak and hurting children across the globe; they are not forgotten! But don't forget that He also hears the cries of the birth mothers who (for various reasons) could not raise their babies and carry that pain. And most importantly, don't forget that our powerful and faithful God promises to make all things--even the most difficult and trying--work for the good of those who love him.

I love having a front row seat to see healing take place in Katee's heart as she is grafted into our family. Her birth mom was her life giver, and I am honored to be her life nurturer.

God truly used Show Hope to draw Katee out of the water and give hope. It was through a partnership with them that Katee received amazing care at New Hope Healing Home in China. Show Hope also helped us financially so that we could afford to adopt. I encourage you to pray about sponsoring a child through Show Hope this Mother's Day. It's a gift that will transform a life and hopefully enable a child to enter a forever family.

It's a way to be a life giver. A life nurturer. 

Easter 2014

On: Saturday, May 3, 2014

With our trip to St. Louis falling during Easter weekend, Easter celebrations continued into this week. We spent Easter evening with Ian's family and the following Sunday afternoon/evening at my mom's house. It was quite the windy day, yet the cousins managed to have a splendid time hunting for their Easter eggs.

Well, minus Katee who was having a grumpy day. If you ask her about the Easter egg hunt she will say with a scowl, "The wind just knocked me down 1-2-3-4 times!! I don't like wind!" Poor girl . . . but her prizes/candy were worth it!

We finished Matthew in Bible Study Fellowship on Wednesday. The lesson was about the resurrection, so we spent Tuesday evening making Resurrection Cookies and discussing the truths of Jesus' death. Each ingredient told part of the story. The kids put the cookies in the oven, taped the oven door shut, and went to bed.

They could not wait to check the oven in the morning and see the surprise! The cookies were hollow inside, just like Jesus' tomb was found empty.

We celebrated that Jesus is alive by eating cookies for breakfast before Bible study and reading about the resurrection. It was a very special morning. :)

We are thankful that Jesus conquered death and allowed a way for us to be free from sin and reconciled to our Heavenly Father. Because of Him, we have hope!

St. Louis

On: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

This past weekend we took a road trip to St. Louis so Katee could be seen at the arthrogryposis clinic at Shriner's Hospital for Children.

We left on Thursday and took our time getting there, enjoying stops/time together along the way.

Shriners had us stay at Haven House St. Louis and we LOVED our time there. I highly recommend it for medical families traveling to St. Louis. The staff is so friendly and we all had lots of fun playing in the gym and playroom. It was also nice to connect with other families seeking medical assistance for their children--it creates an automatic bond.

We spent over 3 hours Friday morning at the hospital. Katee was thoroughly evaluated by a team of doctors and therapists. Lots of x-rays and measurements were taken, and we learned new ways to stretch her joints. All the doctors and therapists said she was doing great and that we are on the right track with her care. So great to hear! Our main purpose for this trip was to  seek a second opinion before proceeding with Katee's hip surgery. The surgery described (along with the risks and outcomes) was the same as what our current orthopedic doctor suggested. Arhtrogryposis hips are tricky compared to regular hip dysplasia and the surgery will be difficult . . .but it looks like we need to do it in the next 6 months. While we didn't learn a lot of new information, we felt the trip to the arthrogryposis clinic was worth our time.

After lunch and brief naps we headed out to see the St. Louis Arch!

It was absolutely beautiful.
Katee called it a "rainbow"; and, if you know her, you know that rainbows are her favorite. ;) (and aren't my boys cute??!)

 And the best part?
My friend, Tera, who I met online through adoption, drove from Indiana to meet us that afternoon!! She was just as sweet and genuine as I thought she would be and we had a great time together. Tera has been such an encouragement to me through our process of bringing Katee home. I emailed her a lot during our process and she encouraged me and answered my questions and pointed me to Jesus through it all.

Our kids hit it off right away, which was an added bonus.

Tera's older two girls took great care of Katee the entire weekend and Katee loved their attention.

Our Chinese princesses were a little unsure of each other, but they did have a cute conversation regarding their next birthday parities. I loved seeing our girls together! Pure sweetness.

I think my kids liked playing in the fountains best. I kinda did too. ;)

I was so impressed with Katee's endurance on this trip. She walked. And walked. And walked. It wasn't all that long ago when she could only walk (with a walker) about 10 feet before tiring. Such progress!

We went to the zoo the next morning, had lunch, said goodbye to our new friends, and headed home. I'm thankful we had this time together as a family and also thankful for friendships deepened.

Hope Spoken

On: Friday, April 11, 2014

I had the great privilege of attending Hope Spoken in March. It truly was a beautiful weekend. I went into the weekend a bit concerned about leaving Katee for the first time since her adoption, having no idea what speakers I had signed up for or even when the conference actually started. My main reason for going to Hope Spoken was to support my sweet friend Jess as she shared her story of blessing and God's faithfulness in her life.

It was a joy to see God give her the strength to stand up in front of a room full of women and share what true blessing really is. To hear her share that God is good and faithful even in the midst of her deepest suffering. Her life is a beautiful testimony and I'm so thankful for her.

It was also pretty amazing to spend four days with my friends. We had lots of late night heart talks and that is always a good thing.

As I reflected on the parable of the talents this past week in Matthew 25, I couldn't help but think of all the women I met in Dallas a few weeks ago. In the passage, the talents represent God's truth (the Bible and knowledge of Jesus Christ). God has entrusted the Gospel to His servants. "Every individual is born into different circumstances, has different levels of understanding about God and different opportunities. God holds us responsible for the treasure He gives us. We are to use the opportunities He gives, grow in our knowledge of Him and give His treasure to the world" (BSF  Lesson 25 notes on Matthew).

The women I met and listened to at Hope Spoken were women who translated their Bible knowledge into living experience. They loved Jesus and desired to help others know Him too. Many of these women have experienced great pain/trial. Loss of a child, infertility, infidelity, childhood abuse, etc. All of these women could have become bitter. They could have chosen to turn from the Lord and leave their Bibles on the shelf. They could have chosen to reject God's goodness; but instead, their hearts chose to believe and trust in God. They spoke of a loving God who sent His Son to die for us and ultimately each woman chose to believe in who God is over what they felt.

I left the conference encouraged. Refreshed. God has truly designed all our earthly experiences--even the hard, sorrowful seasons--to rid us of our fleshly desires and prepare us for our glorious future with Him. We all have a story to tell!

And this little girl? She did just fine without Mommy for four days (probably because Daddy took off work and took amazing care of our babies). I received the best welcome home hugs and kisses and squeals. I don't think I could have left Katee for that long even in January, but so much healing has happened in her heart recently and I give Him all the glory for that. She is seriously a different little girl. More at peace and filled with a genuine joy. The Lord is so faithful to restore "the years the locusts have eaten" (Joel 2:25). So thankful!


On: Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sweet Katee turned three on February 10th. I really can't believe my baby is three. I've had a baby in the house for five years and feel like we are beginning a new stage . . . and while it is good and beautiful, it's really different.

Katee is such a big girl now. Naps are a thing of the past, although she seems to enjoy an hour or two of rest time in the afternoon.

At 3, she's all about changing clothes a dozen times a day, reading piles of books, and tending to the needs of her "babies" and stuffed animals. She is extremely nurturing and loves to hold our friends' babies. It's pretty sweet.

She is constantly talking and narrating as she bounces around the house pushing a stroller, shopping cart, or some other wheeled contraption. In fact, it really bothers her that her sister doesn't talk much in the mornings. I'll often hear, "Mommy! Calla not talking." I guess she can't fathom that some people do not need to need to talk ;) Thankfully, she is happy to have a conversation with her breakfast food.

 We are so in love with our treasured daughter. God is doing a work in her life and it is a privilege to see her grow and blossom in our family. A little over a month ago she was really struggling emotionally. I was struggling, too, and our days were honestly pretty hard. However, the past several weeks she has transformed into a joyful, content little girl. I'm not sure what caused the change, but I know there is power in prayer and feel like God is bringing healing. I know there will be hard weeks in the future, but getting to see a glimpse of who this little one truly is . . . that is a gift I treasure.

She is such  joy and we all love her to pieces!!!! Happy third birthday, Katee-girl!

Out of the "safe boat"

On: Thursday, January 16, 2014

As I read my Bible Study Fellowship notes this afternoon explaining Matthew 14 (when Peter walks on the water toward Jesus), I am encouraged on an especially exhausting day of parenting.

A little over a year ago, our family climbed out of our "safe boat" and adopted a child. My heart is for the orphan. I LOVE adoption and could talk about it for hours. However,  these little people carry a lot of hurt and pain inside of them--more than I ever thought was possible. (After all, Katee was not even two when she came home.) Please remember that when there is adoption there is always pain. Something happened that wasn't right in a child's life.

Many of our days are filled with great joys. To see our youngest daughter bloom and learn to love and laugh (and walk!) is beyond precious. It's a front row seat to watch God transform and redeem a life. Other days, like today, are days where the pain is raw. The meltdowns? They are around every corner. Honestly, I can tend to feel upset about how her pain is affecting our otherwise "predictable" day. 

Today, the storm was real and I took comfort in this: "Perhaps, as He did with the disciples, Jesus sent [us] into this storm so [we] would see the great security of His presence with [us]. . . . The moment Peter looked away from Jesus, he lost touch with Jesus' power to do the humanly impossible moment by moment. Peter had no power of his own" (BSF notes Lesson 15, p. 5). 

I have no power of my own either, that is for sure. Oh, to see Christ as Lord and keep focused on Him! Jesus still invites us to come and do the impossible by trusting Him. He knows the circumstances involved with adoption and He would not have called us if He didn't intend to bring us through. He won't let us sink.

Today I am challenged to take His outstretched hand and do something hard: love selflessly and hurt alongside my daughter as she heals.