Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas, Audrey

We love you and miss you

Mommy, Daddy, Ella, and Levi

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Come Into My Heart, Lord Jesus"

December 18, 2011

(I am dating this because I am going to delay posting)

After Audrey died we listened to the Selah CD quite a bit because we all loved hearing the "Carry You" song, as Ella put it.  The first song on the CD is "Into my heart, Into my heart, Come Into my heart, Lord Jesus..." And the words to this song always led to questions from Ella.  She often would look to the sky and say, "Jesus, please come into my heart."  But I would always ask her about it and knew that she did not fully understand the meaning behind asking Jesus to come into her heart, save her from her sins, and take her to live in heaven with Him one day.  So I would answer questions as they came and assure her that when the day comes that she truly understands then she will know she is ready for this decision.

As a parent, my greatest desire is for my children to make the decision to accept God's gift of salvation and choose to follow Him in every area of their lives.  As a young 5-year-old I told my parents I wanted to be saved and my Dad led me to the Lord.  However, as a 13-year-old giving my testimony in youth group, and later telling my mom what I had said, I realized my memory of being saved was not what had happened that night when I was 5.  I have never doubted that as a 5-year-old I truly believed in Jesus and knew that He died for me.  But I was not sure I had completely understood giving my life to Him.  So that night, when I was 13 I made sure of my salvation -- in my bed, just me and God talking.  And I have never once thought again about whether I knew for sure.  I can even remember during those years, before that night in youth group, having fear that the Rapture would take place and I would be left behind.  But after I made sure in my own heart, I have never doubted again.  But my story has made me cautious about how much I urge Ella to make a decision - in fact, I probably have put it off perhaps more than I should have.

Over the past couple of months Ella has often brought up questions about hell and heaven and trusting Jesus as her Savior.  I am sure they have spoken of it often in her classes at church, and when she asks questions I do my best to explain to her in a way she can understand.  After all, childlike faith is what we are expected to have when it comes to accepting God's gift of salvation.  We can't figure it out, we can't make sense of it, and we can't justify it.  God just wants us to take it, believe it, and accept Him as the One and Only way to live with Him forever.

If you have read my blog lately, you will know that recently Taylor, Ella's very good friend, accepted this gift of Salvation.  This past Wednesday at church I told Taylor how happy I was about her decision, and Ella heard me telling her and she told me she accepted Jesus as her Savior too.  I avoided the subject with Ella, thinking perhaps she wanted the praise as well.  But later, when we were driving in the van, I asked Ella about it. She told me that she asked Jesus to be her Savior at school.  Of course the conversation was back and forth with me asking lots of questions, but Ella told me that they were doing balancing at school, pretending to be on a really high beam.  And she was thinking about what would happen if she fell and got hurt, or if she died.  So after they were done balancing she praying during study time and asked Jesus to come into her heart so if she ever died she would go to heaven.  She still had the idea that you have to be good to go to heaven, and that bad people will go to hell.  So I told her that when she wants me to I would read some verses in the Bible that would help me explain it to her.

On Friday I was honored to spend the morning at school with Ella for their Christmas party.  Afterward we went and finished some Christmas shopping.  When we were leaving the Dollar store Ella said, "Can we get a balloon for Audrey?" I told her we needed to but we'll wait until we are headed out to see her grave.  Ella said, "Speaking of Audrey, we haven't gone to see her in a LONG TIME!"

Today after church and shortly after we pulled out of the parking lot (even before she thought of what she was going to eat at McDonald's!), Ella said, "Can we go get a balloon and take it to Audrey? We haven't seen her in a long time."  So of course I told her we would.  We ate some lunch, stopped to get a balloon and then went to the cemetery.  This was also the first time Levi had been there, so it was a special time.

As usual, Ella looked over Audrey's grave stone, checked out the flowers, which looked pretty good she informed me.  Hugged the grave stone, told Audrey she loves her, and just sat there tracing the letters to Audrey's name.  Then we headed back to the van, but she wanted to stop and see Kyler's grave.  She looked at it, then I told her to come get in the van, and she turned and softly said, "Can I hug his stone?"

This may come as strange to some who have not had to experience death, especially with someone as young as Ella.  But it is pretty normal to us.  Most of us get to see, talk to, and hug those we love on a daily basis.  And in this case it makes sense to Ella to talk to Audrey when we go to her grave.  She knows the part of Audrey that is alive is with Jesus and that her body is what is in the grave.

When we got back in the van the questions started again.  This time she was asking if Audrey was in the ground or in heaven.  So I began to explain ~ in 5-year-old words ~ about the rapture.  I told her that Audrey's body is in the ground but she is with Jesus and when he comes to take all of us home -- if we know him as our Savior (and that since Audrey died when she was a baby she was too young to understand how to accept Jesus the way we do when we get old enough) -- that her body will rise from the ground and the rest of us who are still alive and know Jesus as our Savior will meet them in the air.  I asked her if she wanted me to show her some verses that talk about it.  "Yes! she said," and as I opened my Bible she added, "I love to hear verses about Jesus!"

I read verses from the Romans road, told her how Jesus only had to die once to save everyone from their sins, and that he died for her just like he died for me.  I told her how He just wants us to believe and trust Him to get to heaven, and how we are saved by grace.  We can't do anything to get to heaven, and we don't go to hell because we are bad.  We even talked about how bad people can go to heaven - and I told her about the two thieves on the crosses next to Jesus who were very bad men, but one trusted Jesus as his Savior and the Bible tells us that he was in heaven with Jesus that night.  Then I asked her if she would like to do that...

"I already did," she said, with emphasis.  So I went back to the questions - and she told me the exact same story.  She accepted Jesus as her Savior when she was at school, they were doing the balancing and she wanted to make sure that if she every got hurt or died that she would go to heaven.  And that during their study time she prayed and asked Jesus to come into hear heart, that she believes He is her Savior, and that she wants to live in heaven when she dies.

"OK!!!" I said with a smile.  At this point I could not really doubt her any more.  I asked her more questions to the point that she said, "I already told you, Mommy."  She knows what she did, and I believe she understands it.

When Ella has shared her news, then I will share my blog post.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Levi's First Two Weeks

When Levi was 2 days old they noticed him breathing rapidly so they ran some tests to see what was going on.  A lot of the tests were coming back negative, but they only show positive half of the time anyway.  So they went ahead and started him on antibiodics on Oct 9 about mid afternoon.  He was moved to the stage 2 NICU because they do not give IVs in the regular nursery.  They found out sometime during the week that he had developed fluid retention pneumonia and decided he needed to get a full 7 days of medicine.  He was on a feeding tube for the first few days because they did not want to cause him to breathe faster due to eating, some of the time he would be fed through the tube and other times we fed with a bottle.  On Thursday he pulled the tube out himself, and they left it out.  From then on he was doing fine, just finishing up antibiodics and continued to watch his breathing.  He received the last dose on Sunday and was discharged on Monday the 17th.

The week of visiting in the NICU was draining, although we thoroughly enjoyed going to see Levi, hold him, and feed him.  But by Saturday we were itching to hear some news that he would soon be discharged.  They still weren't telling us much (which we found out later was probably because the hospital had previously dealt with adoption situations that were not good, so they were being cautious in a sense).  

Chad and I bought ourselves a birthday present -- a pretty inexpensive laptop computer so we could connect with the world....and Skype with Ella!  So this was Monday evening when she finally got to see Levi on the computer. (They would not let us skype in the NICU)

On Sunday we decided to find a church to go to, so with my dad's help we googled one that looked like a good place to try.  We arrived at Clear Lake Baptist Church for the morning service and entered through the very back door and did not know where to go.  A family was just coming out of one of the rooms so I asked Jenn to show us to the auditorium.  She immediately opened her arms to us and welcomed us into their church family as well as many others we spoke with. She asked if they could do anything to help us while we were there, and just let us know that we had that church family's help and support for whatever we needed.  And although we could not think of anything we needed, I think what we needed the most was the open arms and the feeling of "home" when we joined that church family for worship.  Just placing our eyes on Him for that hour and learning from the message that morning was an awesome break in our week.  And when the music leader began to sing "Because He Lives," I could not keep the tears from coming. 

Everything that has taken place through this all - from the moment we heard there might be complications with Audrey, until standing there singing "Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow..." while our precious son was in the hospital getting ready to come home.  It was all overwhelming and beautiful. 

And I still think about some of the promises I looked to while I dealt with losing Audrey, and what comes to mind is "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."  The pain of losing Audrey will never be completely gone, but gets lesser each day that passes...and already here on earth I have experienced so much joy because of her.  And yet it still does not compare to the glory that will be revealed when we are all reunited with Christ ... and with Audrey. 

So back to the story ... when we returned to the hospital on Sunday after lunch the nurse told us he was looking great and from what she can tell he will probably be discharged on Monday.  And sure enough, when the Dr. wrote the orders on Monday he discharged Levi.  The agency had worked hard to get paperwork to the Texas government early to try to get travel paperwork processed quicker.  Normally, after discharge it is a 7-10 day wait until you have permission to leave the state.  (It is a safety against kidnapping) 
They were hopeful that it would process quickly, possibly in 5 days or maybe fewer.  So we decided to leave Clear Lake Shores on Wednesday morning and stay in Texarkana until we got the word we could leave the state.  We had a great evening with Meg and her family on Tuesday, and said good-byes through tears.  Meg and her family will forever have a special place in our hearts. 
Levi's hometown at birth

The Gulf

The town where he was born


We finished taking some picures in the Houston area and started driving through Texas.  A long long drive across that state!  :)  We got a call that Tennessee needed one more paper signed before they could approve.  We were in the middle of nothing....except for a few hotels.  So we stopped and asked if there was a Staples nearby where we could print, sign, and email a form back. They said there was nothing near by, but gave us a key for their business room where we took care of everything! 
Back on our way we waited to hear, but expected it would not be until the next day since it was getting close to the close of business hours.  But at 4:30 Sue called and asked if we had booked a hotel in Texarkana yet, and since we hadn't she told us we could keep going!!!  We called to tell Ella we would be home the next day, and word from Gramma was that she was bouncing off the walls all evening.  

We arrived in Murfreesboro on Thursday around 11:00 a.m., just in time to pick Ella up from school and go home!  We did not tell anyone we were home, we just wanted to enjoy each other before we got busy with other things again.  Ella was tickled to pieces to feed Levi, hold him, and show us all the gifts she had gotten him. She and Gramma had even made a cake!
Welcome home posters


Presents from Ella

She jumped right in and started taking care of her brother

Getting to know each other

Proud of her sweatshirt

We are so grateful for our awesome support system! And especially for Gramma dropping everything to run to Tennessee and take care of our precious Ella while we were away.  We didn't worry once, we knew she was in great hands.

Thanks so much for the prayers and support from those who were thinking of us and for all the offers to help.  The dinners that were brought, the gifts for Levi, and so much more - we appreciate it all!!!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

If Audrey Had Not Died

I think about Audrey all the time, and I miss her in a way I cannot describe, but not the heart-wrenching ache that was once there.  That still comes at times, but now it is more of a piece of our family will always be missing, so during times like Thanksgiving and Christmas we think about her more -- and wish she was here for the traditions, the family pictures, and the excitement that comes with kids.

But if she had not died, Levi would not be here.  Yes, we had talked about our desire to adopt well before Audrey or Ella were ever thought of, but it wasn't until we had to let her go that the timing was right and we felt the tug from God to take this leap of faith.  That journey has been simply amazing, and having Levi in our family has certainly made our hearts a little fuller. One of the biggest blessings to me is watching Ella's pride and joy while she helps take care of him.  Even if it means giving him a bath, which about drives me crazy because she keeps pushing me out of the way!!

If Audrey had not died, a box full of Gideon's Bibles would not have been purchased in her memory. Ella was (and still is!) very proud of these Bibles and gave one to every one of her friends.  We still have some left to give to people as we spread the Word while telling our story of Audrey.  Ella would take them with us everywhere - even to Gramma and Papa's church when we went to visit in Ohio.  Recently, Mom told me a story about a little girl in their church.  (I hope I can get the story somewhat right!)  During a service, the people were asked to give a testimony and this little girl who is about 6 years old was joining in with the other kids.  Later that day she sat in her room reading her Bible ~ The little Bible in memory of Audrey ~ and decided she needed to be saved.  She went and told her mom that she had asked Jesus into her heart.

If Audrey had not died, I would never have had the opportunity to talk with Ella about heaven as much as we have over the past 19 months.  I don't believe she has fully grasped her need of salvation, but our conversations have touched on that subject many many times.  And her friend, Taylor, had many of these same conversations with her mom as a result Audrey's short life.  She was never able to meet Audrey but knew that she could live in heaven one day and be where Audrey is.  And just last week Taylor made the decision to give her heart to Jesus - it is simply an awesome story!  Please read about it on Tiffany's blog.

If Jesus had not died, I could not have written this tonight! It is only because of his death, burial and resurrection that I have this hope and this confidence that Audrey is safe with Him today.  And that her life, as short as it was, brought people to Jesus. 

I am humbled.

So amidst the sadness that comes with having a stocking that won't need to be filled or living with a little piece of your heart missing, comes joy and happiness because of her life and her death.  I can't let the sadness stick around for very long when I think about the people who were touched -- and continue to be touched -- because of the life of my daughter.

~~~We got our miracle!  And we continue to see miracles because of her!!!