I don’t usually make a ton of resolutions for the new year, but this year I do have just one.
My New Year’s resolution is that I’ve decided to write no more spiritual-sounding bloggy posts on giving thanks in all circumstances when my family is sick for Thanksgiving…bc it turns out when you do that, you will be given an even greater opportunity in which to give thanks by your entire family being sick with strep and flu for the ENTIRETY of Christmas vacation, and then some…and you will fail miserably again and again at feeling anything resembling thankfulness. And feel sort of like a hypocrite.
This has not been my most favorite of Christmases, not by a long shot. Influenza hit our family the week before Christmas and has lasted past the time when Jay should have returned to work were he not down with fever still. It is no fun to watch your family members, one by one be taken out by the worst flu bug you recall seeing in your 40 years.
It is no fun to watch your babies (yes, they are still my babies) suffer with fevers for 7, 8, 9 days long, to watch them one by one all throw up their flu meds till you disgustedly toss the meds in the trash because they are making things worse. And then to see those same babies, even after the fevers break, continue to lay there with no energy for playing.
It is no fun to watch your oldest son of 11 years old so overcome with fever that he cries when he realizes he has now caught the flu, too, and as a result, will be missing his much-anticipated, first trip ever to Winter Scout Camp.
It is no fun to sleep on an air mattress on the living room floor by yourself night after night during Christmas vacation b/c there is nowhere else left in the house to go sleep where people don’t have high fever and flu germs, and you are the only healthy one left to care for all the sickies, so you’d best do everything you can not to catch it.
And it’s REALLY not fun when the kids finally all get healthy but dear old Dad is taken down and has to spend a week (yes, a week) back in the bedroom while the kids take turns asking over and over when he’ll be well enough to come play and have fun before he has to go back to work!!
But….whenever I’d grumble about how sad I was about our “ruined” Christmas, courtesy of this horrid illness which hit every member of our little family (except yours truly), knocking healthy folks on their backs for a week and more, with high fevers and wracking, painful coughs…my sweet, wonderful husband (who has his flaws, but being discontent is not usually one of them) would smile patiently. And give me a hug (well, at least when he wasn’t contagious!). And he’d propose to me that maybe a Christmas holiday full of sickness and sadness is a much more realistic picture of why we need Christmas in the first place. And even, perhaps, a better representation of the first Christmas long ago. Much more so than any perfect holiday we could dream up.
God’s sacrifice in sending Jesus to earth, though romanticized for the sake of our Christmas stories and songs was not pretty or tidy. Jesus was God, he was king of the universe: immortal, omnipotent, and he humbled himself enough to become human. He chose to leave the glory and majesty of heaven and come live in our world of sickness: flu, strep, fevers, coughing…and sadness….and death.
The first Christmas wasn’t Norman Rockwellian in the slightest. There was no mention of influenza upon Jesus’ arrival in this world. But his impending birth was announced under questionable circumstances to a woman not yet wed, and he made his first appearance in a stable of all places. Labor in a stable? Freshly born baby placed in an animal trough? And this little king’s first visitors: not the wealthy, noble, royal types you’d expect to show up for the birth of God’s son, but shepherds. Some of the most humble, lowly folk in town were the first to worship and pay respects to this little boy.
My guess is that none of this is what Mary had in mind when she dreamed of becoming a mother. And yet this was the incarnation. This was Emmanuel, God with us…because he loved us enough to bring himself into our world of pain and suffering, to know our sorrows, to take them on as his own. Even the manner in which he showed up reflected such humility and recognition of the world in which he’d come to live. And oh how thankful we are that he came to dwell with us, and to save us…from things far, far worse than the flu!!
I haven’t done a good job of feeling thankful in all things this Christmas…and how true it is that my circumstances are nowhere near as hard as some of the realities and hardships that friends of mine are dealing with this year. And you know what? It is ok. Because in spite of my circumstances, and perhaps even more because of our circumstances this holiday, I can still thank God for Emmanuel. Christmas is still Christmas…Jesus still came. And as a friend who himself was also down with the flu this Christmas so simply and beautifully put it…
We don’t need a perfect Christmas for Jesus to be real.
My friend and Gladney buddy, Missy, of It’s Almost Naptime, is in Ethiopia right now on her family’s first trip to meet their new daughter, a darling 25-month-old little girl whom they will spend only a few hours with this week during their visit to pass court, and then hopefully go back within a couple of months to bring home for good. Missy and her husband Walker (whom I’ve been friends with since our days at Texas A & M) got on the wait list at Gladney just three months before we did, so we’ve really appreciated being able to watch each phase of their adoption journey. I’ve loved the pictures and updates she’s sent this week as they meet their daughter, and experience Ethiopia for the first time.
As part of our trips to visit Ethiopia, we are given the opportunity to visit government orphanages and see the reality of what life is like for many of the children who are not brought into care at a Gladney or other type facility. Missy’s blog post today after their visit to an orphanage makes my heart hurt, but I want to share it, because the sad truth is that children in so many countries are brought up in these conditions. You can read Missy’s post here as well. As a side note, neither Missy’s daughter, nor our future daughter reside in government facilities like this. Instead they live in a Gladney foster care center where as much as possible, they are held and loved on and played with, and are able to develop an attachment to their caregivers.
No pictures allowed
I’m sorry, but I can’t show you any pictures of this because the government wouldn’t let us take any photographs.
I Thessalonians 5:18 is a well-known verse: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you…”
This verse arrives in the chapter right after we are instructed to rejoice always, and pray without ceasing. All of which God must have known we humans would struggle with, and struggle with aplenty, especially in this fallen, sin-riddled world.
It seems then, that during a season of Thanksgiving, I should not be surprised when my ability to give thanks is tested. Such was the case this year, though nothing we struggled with was nearly as challenging as some of the very, very hard circumstances many in this world are faced with each day. This blog entry will feel a bit long and tedious and I don’t expect many to read it all the way through, but I want to get it down in writing for my own remembrance. Because we truly have so very much to give thanks for this year.
The Monday night before Thanksgiving, our oldest child began experiencing very sharp chest pain which continued through the night. Any sharp intake of breath also caused pain, and she was unable to lie down, and could only get relief while sitting propped up with pillows. We got her comfortable in the recliner in the living room and there she spent a fitful night. These were scary hours for her, and for us, and a morning call to the pediatrician didn’t offer any answers except the directive to go straight to the ER and get a chest x-ray. Jay accompanied Abigail so that I could stay home with the rest of our children, and hours later we learned that our daughter had a nasty case of bacterial pneumonia which had resulted in fluid accumulating in her left lung, thereby causing the excruciating pain. We were shocked at the diagnosis, but actually quite relieved it was “only” pneumonia, given some of the other possibilities chest pain presents. But we called my family immediately to tell them we could no longer spend Thanksgiving weekend with them as planned, and this was terribly disappointing for all of us, because we all get together once a year at best due to one of my siblings living in the Northeast now. My mother had planned a professionally-photographed family portrait for Friday morning since there were two new babies in the family since we had last taken a picture together, and I hated to be the one to ruin her wonderful photograph, but of course it couldn’t be helped.
And yet, here was an opportunity to give thanks: for incredible medical care not five miles from our home, for relief from pain for my precious daughter, for antibiotics to combat the infection in her lungs, for the ability to bring her home and put her to bed in a warm, comfortable place where she could rest and recuperate. For all the family and friends who prayed for us during that day while we waited for news, and loved us enough to keep calling/texting/emailing for updates.
While Jay was with Abigail at the ER, I had to accompany our second oldest to the surgeon’s office to have some pins removed from his arm that had been placed there during surgery several weeks before. The pin removal was done with no anesthesia, and our boy, who has some sensory issues combined with quite a bit of anxiety was rather undone by the procedure. It was not only painful, but a highly stressful ordeal for him, and all this was going on while we continued to wait for results on Abigail’s situation. To say I felt a bit of stress myself puts it mildly. If they’d offered me a margarita to suck down before they began the procedure, I’d have gladly accepted, and shared half with Jonathan.
But here was another opportunity to give thanks: that despite his very real struggles, Jonathan made it through the procedure without fully “losing it”, and had that little victory to be proud of. That after a bad break, and surgery, that his arm was nicely healed, and that we enjoyed care from one of the best orthopedic surgeons in Dallas who tended to his injury. That I had not one but at least five offers of childcare for my younger two while I took him for his pin removal, again for family, friends, and neighbors who care for us so well.
Thanksgiving Day we spent at home; due to the somewhat last minute nature of our holiday plans, we opted not to cook a turkey feast, but Jay kindly offered to try his hand at a prime rib roast, which it turns out he will now be asked to prepare for each and every family holiday because it was so. incredibly. delicious!! While the lovely roast was cooking, and we were cleaning up the kitchen from some of the meal preparations, we noticed the sink starting to back up, not just in the kitchen, but the laundry room as well…and yes, of course, we ended up with a plumbing backup on Thanksgiving Day, when it turns out, no plumbers will call you back even if you offer to pay them a premium to do so. After a couple of hours of effort to dislodge the leak himself to no avail, Jay spent the last hours of the evening on his hands and knees doing dishes in the stand-up shower near the kitchen. Sigh…
So…thankfulness here?? Well…honestly I wasn’t feeling all that thankful. I was actually leaning more toward fretful, because after delaying their visit to us due to the pneumonia, my sister and her family were due to arrive on Friday, and here we were without ability to clean dishes or laundry, and the mess was right in the area of the house where they would have to stay. But I was reminded that I take for granted our constant access to clean, running, hot and cold water, and the reality that we have machines that will wash our dishes while we sleep, and clean our clothes while we take a trip to the grocery store. Amazing. How thankful we should always be for these admitted luxuries.
We figured after the plumbing backup was cleared on Friday morning that the worst of this weekend was behind us, and we could concentrate on preparing to welcome our beloved houseguests who were soon to arrive from Austin. But before they could get here we were greeted by houseguests of another kind, and I don’t mean the human kind. During a trip to the garage to grab something out of the fridge in there, I heard the tiniest movement near the wall, and reported my suspicions to the man of the house, who quickly confirmed that yes, there was a critter hiding out behind the refrigerator, likely having come in from out of the cold to take refuge under the warmth of the nice garage appliance. Sigh. Over the next 48 hours, the man of the house and his eldest son trapped 9 of these critters and as I write this, they are still waging war on the uninvited houseguests, much to the dismay of yours truly. I hate critters. Despise them. Get all yucky feeling just imagining them…so let’s just say that knowing they are trying to take advantage of and stake claim to my warm garage is quite upsetting to me. And what’s even worse: I have had the unfortunate experience of being in the garage while a trap goes off loudly, mere feet from where I am standing, accompanied by awful squeaking sounds…and well, this was almost more than I could handle.
I’m still working on giving thanks in this circumstance; the best I can come up with is this: if I have to have critters in my garage, I am so glad I have a brave husband and son who are willing to handle the nasty task of disposing of them. And at least for now, I am very, very thankful that the vermin are out there and not in here…and I pray it stays that way.
I told a friend at church yesterday that I’m waiting for things to settle down to normal around here…that I’m really and truly ready for normal, whatever in the world that looks like. Admittedly, I’d love to experience “normal” before we get that call for a referral for a precious little girlie in Ethiopia who we are dying to meet. I’d like to be able to fantasize about bringing our girl home to a more “normal” household and family. Wouldn’t that be best for her, anyway? Doesn’t God think maybe she could use some “normal” after all she will have been through in her short life? And it is with this thought that it hits me that no, I don’t think I need to be looking around the corner for “normal”…because didn’t that verse back in Thessalonians talk about rejoicing always and giving thanks in every circumstance (even, and especially when life isn’t “normal”?). Because how much more incredible is it that God sees fit to use me, to use us, our family, in all our imperfection and with all our various “issues”, to accomplish his will in this world?!
I don’t really know if I will be any better at giving thanks in all circumstances from here on out. However, I’m quite sure our family will never forget this rather odd Thanksgiving week where we were faced with a little collection of opportunities in which we could choose to rejoice and give thanks, or throw up our hands and pout about life. May God give us all the grace and ability to see his hand at work in each of our lives, so that we can give thanks in both the good and the bad that comes our way. And now it is only fitting that I tell you, dear Reader, that if you have managed to hang with me all the way to the end of this long entry, that I am very thankful for you and your patience!!
Today marks 24 months on the wait list.
Or, if you prefer smaller numbers, 2 years on the wait list.
Which is another way of saying today marks two years since we became what is known as “dossier ready” in the adoption world, ie: our dossier was complete and logged in with the powers that be in Ethiopia. Since that time we have been legally eligible to receive a referral for a little girl who will, Lord willing, some day join our family. We began our process closer to three years ago, but have chosen to keep track of the official dossier-ready date since that is more common among our friends and acquaintances who are in the middle of or have completed the adoption process.
Tonight Abigail and I had the radio on while we drove home. I wasn’t listening all that closely but my ears perked up when the strains of a familiar Christmas tune began. How could that be? It’s only November 16th, and Thanksgiving is almost a full week away. Shocked that this radio station should commit the egregious sin of playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving week has even begun, I tried to change the channel, but Abigail insisted that she loves Christmas music and couldn’t I please just keep it on for her sake? I grumbled and muttered something about people who insist upon running all the holidays together, blah blah blah but eventually I joined my daughter in belting out a few Christmas tunes and we had a jolly time singing together.
And then it happened. After “Do You Hear What I Hear” finished playing, the station that doesn’t know you’re not supposed to play Christmas music till it’s Christmastime played the song that was performed back in 1984 by a collaboration of British artists known as “BandAid” (including Bono, David Bowie, and Sting plus many others) for the purpose of helping to raise awareness of the terrible famine that was impacting Ethiopia at the time. The performance brought in millions of dollars of aid and the song has become so popular that you’ll hear it over and over again on your local radio stations around the Christmas holiday. And, as I learned today, even well before the holiday. So be it.
The song is called “Do They Know It’s Christmastime” and ok, sure, it’s not the most amazing prose ever crafted, but it was written with Ethiopia’s children in mind so it hit home pretty hard on this, our two year anniversary of officially waiting for Little Sister. And I realized that wherever she is right now, and whatever loss or tragedy she has suffered in her short life so far, she doesn’t yet know she is loved and wanted and yearned for by a family around the globe who wonders how many more months it will be till we see her little face and know who she is. And even if we get a referral tomorrow (which we won’t because I’m pretty sure Gladney doesn’t give referrals out on the weekends) there is no way she’d be home in time this year to spend Christmas with us, here in our home, as part of our family. All of this came in a rush at me while Bono sang his heart out about Ethiopia and I began sobbing and crying for this little girl whom we have spent years journeying to, but whom we have not yet reached.
And now, if I were a great writer, I would pen a paragraph here which ties all this up into some tidy and finished package, bringing in the unmistakable comparison about how we weren’t even aware of God’s love and care for us, or our need for His grace and love, and yet He pursued us passionately and at great cost to Himself. With an undying, unfailing, never giving up, never stopping love. But I don’t feel any compulsion to present you with a neat package or a beautifully crafted ending. Because adoption is not neat or tidy and because we don’t yet know how this story turns out.
And so for now, we continue to wait. And to pray. To love this little girl we haven’t yet met or even seen a picture of. And to trust God for what lies ahead for her and for our family, for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
Last week, Jay was kind enough to take the children to their piano lesson for me, since I was at a dr’s appointment. While I was still waiting for things to wrap up with the appointment, an employee from the front desk area popped in to tell me that my husband had been trying to contact me for some time, but wasn’t getting any answer on my cell phone…and oh by the way, he was taking our son to the emergency room. And then there was something about an injured arm…that was all. Which was not nearly enough information for this Momma.
A trip to the ER is never good, but it seems even worse when you are the parent who doesn’t know what is going on, and with which one of your children? After a bit of panic over what might be happening, my first thought was, “I have three sons-which one’s turn is it for an ER trip?”. After all, two of the sons were supposed to be at their piano lesson by now. How many people have been seriously injured at a piano lesson?
Well, suffice to say we have a new rule at our house: no playing in the tree outside Mr. Q’s house before piano lessons begin. It turns out they’d arrived early for their lessons and while they waited for it to be time to go in, Jonathan was swinging in the tree like a monkey. All was well until he attempted what would have been a very impressive dismount, had it not been for the fact that he slipped, and plummeted to the ground. Where he then began screaming in pain and clutching his arm. Jay told me later that it was fairly obvious the arm was broken…that near the wrist, the point of most pain, he could see that the bone angled oddly.
I met them at the emergency room, where our boy who is normally tough as nails, was clearly in a lot of pain, and none too happy about it.
Little brother provided encouragement in the form of helping his brother watch movies on Daddy’s Ipad while they waited for the x-rays to come back.
The verdict was indeed a break, all the way through the radius. Jonathan received a splint from a very nice EMT, and we were told to follow up with an orthopedist later in the week.
Turns out there are lots of orthopedists in the Dallas area, but among our friends, there was one doctor whose expertise with pediatrics stood out, and we visited with him late in the week. We entered his office in rather high spirits: Jonathan and I both thought we were going to walk out of there in a couple hours with a cool camouflage, maybe even waterproof cast. Instead we received the rather disheartening news that due to the angle of the two pieces of broken bone, Jonathan was going to need to return the following week for surgery in order to properly set the break before they would even consider applying a cast.
To say that this announcement was not happily received is perhaps a bit of an understatement.
And so, tomorrow, our boy will undergo surgery. He is apprehensive about the procedure, and would really like to fast forward to the recovery part of all this so that he can concentrate on figuring out how many signatures he can possibly fit on an arm cast. And me? Well, after the call from the friendly employee who works in the financial portion of the orthopedist’s office, I’m reeling at how expensive it can be to play in trees. And counseling my children that perhaps they ought to strongly consider a career in medicine!
Today marks 23 months since we first got on the wait list with Gladney.
The wait has been hard, hard, hard these past few months…but we are encouraged to see families continue to receive referrals, slow though they are. We know that things are slow because our agency is working harder and longer than ever before to ensure that children’s documents are put together properly, and that these little ones’ cases and histories are investigated thoroughly and honestly before families are presented with referrals. This is comforting…especially given recent allegations of fraud and corruption in the adoption world. Hang in there, sweet baby girl…we hope it won’t be too much longer!!
For 5 months I’ve been MIA on this blog. I’ve considered shutting it down, but I just can’t bring myself to do that. Yet it also would seem I can’t bring myself to sit down and actually write anything, whether of substance…or not! This weekend, I am sick: fever, coughing, and generally just feeling crummy. Given how I feel, the idea of housework is unthinkable. I’d curl up with a good book, but my head hurts too much to read. Even food holds little appeal. So, I thought I’d try a little blogging…here’s a bit of what’s happening here at House of Horne.
We’ve been remodeling our kitchen…whew, what an experience this has been. Maybe some day I’ll write about it. Maybe someday…it will even be done. Very thankful we’ve been able to do this…but there have definitely been days that didn’t merit any Saturday night fever poses.
We are well into our second consecutive (4th overall) year of homeschooling, and I can honestly say that we are loving it. It’s not without its challenges — I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it is sometimes very hard, but the kids are thriving and I am appreciating this time with them more than I ever have.
My baby just turned 7. Oh my heart. What a joy he continues to be…but can anyone tell me: how do the years fly by so fast?
That adoption we used to blog about? Yeah, it’s still very much in the works…I find that many people don’t even ask us about it anymore b/c they assume perhaps we gave up or abandoned the process or something. That’s ok, I understand….and I know folks mean well. The process has certainly stretched out way beyond any timeline I ever imagined when we began this journey. I suppose we Hornes continue to learn that we don’t get to choose how life happens…and I have enough (nowhere near as much as I’d like, but just barely enough) faith to believe that things would not be better were I in charge. No. way. I hope maybe in the not too distant future that we’ll have news to share on this front.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a tv date with this beautiful girl — just the girl, not the horse —
to watch some Wives and Daughters. Hat tip to Aunt Jennifer for the suggestion!! :-)
Yesterday marked 18 months on the waitlist for us….
Referrals have slowed to an average of about 2 per month these days. Those of you asking how much longer…well, we are around #36 on the wait list, give or take.
Not a whole lot more to say.
Last week, Abigail and I had the joy and privilege of flying to Connecticut to spend five days with my sister, Sandra’s family. Many thanks to my wonderful BIL, Keith for masterminding this trip, and helping make it happen!!
Sandra and Keith welcomed Baby Lilian Clare in late March, and I am so very grateful that I got to meet her this soon!!
We don’t see nearly as much of the Nedells as we did when they lived here in Dallas, so it was a huge treat to soak up a few days in their beautiful new home with them.
Most of the pictures included here are pirated from my sister since I didn’t bother dragging our new camera on the trip. Probably just as well: getting through airport security with the few things we did bring felt pretty intimidating after having not flown for more than four years!
I was blown away by how lovely everything is in the Northeast. Yes, I was born and grew up there, but I forget the tallness of the trees, the lushness of the surrounding hills, and the cool crisp air that just smells “right” to me. Don’t get me wrong; I love our life in Texas, but the local topography just cannot compare to the beauty of New England, at least in my book.
Even more wonderful than the gorgeous scenery was the relaxed time we got to spend with two year-old Jacob and his new baby sister, Lilian, or “Yiyee” as Jacob refers to her.
She is the prettiest little baby, and rewarded our efforts to charm her with smiles and coos aplenty! How fun to snuggle a tiny baby again! Abigail, for her part, was also smitten with her newest baby cousin, and announced that we absolutely need another baby in the family, STAT!
Jacob was tons of fun, gave us awesome new nicknames (you hereby have permission to refer to me as “Auntie Cheetah”, thank you very much!), volunteered to make us smoothies a gazillion times a day, and was a complete joy to be around.
Sandra and Keith were wonderful hosts: despite the busyness of a new baby in the family and a full workweek for Keith, we were treated to several outings, enjoyed delicious food, and great company! Here are Abigail and Jacob at Flamig Farm, feeding Indiana, the goat.
Thanks, Guys, for a truly wonderful visit.
My absence from home would not have been possible without the amazing efforts of my sweet Hubby and my dear MIL. Thanks to Jay and Grammy Ruth for holding down the fort in my absence, and even managing to accomplish some schoolwork with our three rambunctious boys!! I’m so grateful to both of you for your hard work while I was away.
I leave you with a short video clip of Baby Lilian showing off her cuteness. Please excuse the silly woman in the background who is trying to speak “baby talk” while filming. :-) (Note: you must click on the link below to see Lilian’s video.)