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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Memories & Stitching for His Glory

August of 2008 found me terribly full of nervous energy. We were about to go through Anna’s cardiac catheterization and I needed something to keep my hands busy during the procedure. I sat on the morning of the 25th slowly stitching ornaments for our family’s front foyer tree. I knew that this one tree in our house at Christmas adorned old glass balls that Anna would find completely impossible not to touch. Due to that fact I knew I needed to replace those fragile ornaments with cloth one’s to withstand whatever grabbing we would have to work through that first Christmas together.

As I stitched the wreath and added the red beads I had no idea how my life would take a drastic change and the ornaments would become the symbol of something totally different. Each of the ornaments in this pattern pack has a meaning that I know was given to me as comfort by the Holy Spirit. The cross; a sign of the sacrifice made unselfishly on my behalf. The wreath, a symbol of the never ending love our heavenly Father has for each one of us. The dove, a declaration of peace….peace that goes beyond all understanding and guides us here on earth. The star, the beacon that shone that very night in Bethlehem to show the way & to announce the arrival of the Messiah. At the moment I thought my life would be forever shattered my hand was being guided by the Holy Spirit to give me a message. The message that I am forever held & loved by Jesus……without beginning or end….just like the wreath ornament. The full impact of its dear meaning really overwhelms me every December as I bring out the ornaments. Just recently I took out the template (pattern) of the wreath to cut for gifts and I realized the last time my hand touched any of the templates my Anna was still alive. She had watched me make the patterns and cut the fabric to make several that I kept and gave even last year. Then through the tears its meaning rang clear……I am loved forever without end…by my Savior and my precious daughter. She will be waiting for me to share eternity.

Eternity is what I stay focused on with every year that passes. I am sad every year in August and that is O.K. I am allowed to be. The contentment in the blessing I call my life still keeps me going even in the sadness. That contentment comes from only the Lord. So I will start making ornaments to give as gifts later this year & will praise God with every stitch and thank Him for the gift of Anna. To His glory I raise my hands today!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday





Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Only A Mist

How is our family? Well, I will post later on how Gabriel and all of us are adjusting and what the New Year shows us the potential of. Right now I am copying the last post I made to Anna's Forever Families website. I pray that people share this post to make sure Anna's legacy continues to live. God Bless!

~posted on blog today at www.annasforeverfamilies.org~

We are looking at the first financial quarter of 2011 and see that we can again open up to accepting applications. It has been a year since we could do that. I am so excited about this opportunity. Unfortunately, I am also heavy with thoughts on how we continue to give grants when we are not receiving donations? I prayed very hard before our first fund raising effort asking God to show me the direction to go. Back then I was still pretty “raw” in my loss of Anna. The pain was subsiding, but the energy level was just not there to start raising money. I will be honest in telling you that I do not know if the “running shoes” needed to fund raise are ready to be worn even now. I fear God has expectations of me that I can not fulfill. I am not a salesperson in any fashion. I tried to sell Southern Living at Home for the last few years and I have stunk at it. It is now only a hobby of mine. I do not have the badger and pressure tactics needed for serious fund raising. So we have not been able to even sell 1/2 of the 500 cookbooks we had published. I do not think we have even sold enough to cover the cost of the books. I tried so hard to market our cookbook for holiday sells but the sells were limited. I tried at a craft show and broke even with the booth cost but no profit really was made.

I am frustrated and do not know what to do! We have tried to market our fund raising efforts and no one seems interested. I feel like I have failed. I really felt the fatigue of failure when we reached out to our past grant recipients. We only asked for their help in spreading the word of our efforts. We did not expect anyone to donate money. We just wanted AFF’s button to be placed on their website/blogs, maybe a mention of our past grant and how we were selling cookbooks as a fundraiser….anything, and not one family responded. We are a very small non-profit and my hope was that it was the Lords plan to have us continue to glorify Him by helping families bring their specially made babies home. Even if we only awarded one grant a year. I feel like that might not even be possible at the rate we are going. How do you emphasize to people the importance of assisting families in their special needs process that do not “get” adoption when the families that do “get it” do not even respond? If anyone has an answer I would love to hear it! I feel like I am letting Anna down. Will Anna’s Forever Families be a small non-profit that ran for a season and then disappeared like the mist spoken of in the fourth chapter of James? Is the handful of families that we have given monetary grants to going to be the only one’s we were able to help? I do not know and right now I find myself somewhat lost to the answer. I feel so strongly that the Lord has great plans, but where does AFF fit in those plans? I am praying and petitioning and trying very hard to listen to His voice for an answer. So as wonderful as it is to once again be able to accept applications for grant assistance this quarter, there is a big, black rain cloud hanging in the horizon. Will this be the last quarter of giving? Will I have 400 cookbooks in my garage for years to come? How did it not work? How is the importance of continuing God’s kingdom through sweet, special needs orphans so overlooked? Oh, if I had lots of money. Oh, if I had talents that could make lots of money. Oh, the things I would do and the children I would help.

This New Year I am struggling with where I now fit and my place in this HUGE undertaking. I want our family who has been blessed beyond comprehension with the Lord’s bounty to be in His complete obedience. How do we keep from being only a mist? Where does He want Anna’s Forever Families to go? I pray that some of you that read this will feel the call to forward this to those who can help by giving………not just forward this to those who need assistance. We need people to spread the word of our mission not just the potential of money.

Blessings to you in 2011! I pray the Lord will light your path and guide every step of this New Year.

James 4:14-15
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that." In Him,
JoAnna

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Card 2010~Please mute blog music at bottom before playing!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rewind to China~Part 3~The Walls Come Down

 




So I sit here today in the warm glow of one of our Christmas trees and pray that the Lord will give me the right words to describe the last part of our journey to Gabriel.  Below is a video that will give you a glimpse.  When I watch this now I can honestly say I do not know that same child.  The little guy who is asleep down the hall is a totally different child in so many ways

video

The little guy in that video was so sad.  I know it is hard to tell but it is all in his eyes.  His poor eyes were so dull and full of ache.  He was grieving so hard for his "momma", the nanny that had cared for him for the last year.  I was such a threat to his memory of her.  I did nothing like her.  He was mad about that and in turn since I was in such a "bad" place in my own walk this journey it made me resent him and my sweet husband who was Gabriel's only comfort.  So I finally got to a computer and started asking for prayer.  I had tried to sit down with my bible and pray day after day even from the moment I felt "under attack" but I could not.  I have only had one other time that I found myself unable to pray and that was when we lost Anna.  I had nothing in me.....nothing at all.....I was right back in that state.  I would have never in my wildest dreams ever imagined that this time in China would have thrown me back to such a bleak and sinking place; but it did.  The more I would type details of our struggles and ask for prayer the more I would feel myself being pulled upward.  I was not sinking as fast and I felt like I could sit and meditate on His word and actually hear/feel Him.  Not just look at my Bible and see only words.  I was slowly chipping away at the wall that Satan had quickly erected in my heart and mind.  Guangzhou is when that wall started to tumble down. 

The flight to Guangzhou was late.  We had to wait till 8 pm to fly out and we landed well after midnight so by the time we got to Shamain Island and our hotel it was after 1am.  Nerves were tense.  I could sit here and tell you a made up scenario to make things sound good but I am not.  We drove to the Victory hotel in mostly silence.  Our guide who picked us up seemed about as interested in conversing with us as we did him or each other.   Tony had Gabriel.  Of course Gabriel would not even look at me.  We had left his "world" as he knew it and it was clear how well that was going over.  Tony & I were so tired of each other that I tried to take complete haven in Grace.  I tried so hard to just focus on her but sweet Grace wanted her new brother and that meant she would have to hang close to her Poppa not me.  So the lines were drawn and it seemed I was the odd man out.  I know it was just goofy of me to feel this way but even today almost 3 months the other side of that time in hell I can still feel my blood start to boil over being "alone" in my family.  We got to the hotel and lets just say our accommodations were more than lacking.  We had two twin beds for 4 of us to sleep in.  Yes, they had given us a crib but there was no way Gabriel would sleep except in the bed with Tony.  Here is my husband and I both 6 feet tall, and with two little one's trying to sleep in twin beds.  Our feet hung over the bottom of the bed and oh, how hard they were.  The first night in the place we would spend our last 7 nights of this trip and it was not starting on a good foot at all.  I have so many other details that I could honestly whine about but now it seems so minimal and frivolous.  In China though everything is heightened.  Your senses are so heightened due to stress, fatigue and the non-stop emotional roller coaster ride you are on.  What would be little back home is HUGE in China.  So I prayed so hard for patience and to hold my tongue.  I did, miraculously.  I did not want to ostracize myself even further from my husband.  In response to me trying so hard to find the "good in all things" and praise God for those things, the Lord answered.  He answered with my husband scaring me almost to death.  Tony got violently ill not even 24 hours into our time in Guangzhou.  I think it was what he ate on the plane on the flight to Guangzhou.  Whatever it was, it got him good.  He had no idea which end to place where.  I remember Gabriel screaming outside the bathroom as poor Tony heaved and heaved.  I remember trying so hard to comfort him but him pushing me away and saying, "NO!!"  I remember Grace very nonchalantly looking at him and saying, "listen buddy, the Poppa is sick."  From that time on every time Tony went into the bathroom Gabriel would ask Grace if Poppa was sick.  That continued even for a week or so after we got home.  For 3 days in Guangzhou is was true.  Tony became completely dehydrated and lethargic and I feared I would finally bear witness to the comings and goings of a Chinese hospital.  Praise God I did not.  What I did witness was the slow acceptance of my son.  The first night Tony was ill he literally slept on the bathroom floor so Gabriel was forced to find comfort in my bed.  He did.  He crawled up on my chest in his PJ's and fell right to sleep.  Oh, the tears I shed as I laid there listening to his breathing and felt his little hand in my hair.  God bless him he was precious.  I could finally love on him and finally I could smell his sweet little head and feel his skin.  I can not describe in words how everything in me changed but I fell in love with my son.  It was such a great moment and it was in the Lord's perfect timing and in His perfect plan.  Now why in the world Tony had to suffer to have Gabriel and I surrender?  The Lord only knows.  I laugh now with Tony and have told him over and over that honestly I never prayed for or wished him any ill will during my struggle to stay afloat.  I know deep down in he does not believe me and when we got home I did ask my Sunday school class if they had prayed for Tony to get sick(LOL).  No, all kidding aside no one prayed for Tony to get sick but that is the way the Lord knew it had to be done. 

Today I sit here and know with all my heart that if those 3 days had not occurred we might still be struggling....Gabriel & I.  Instead today my little sugar booger(yeah, I know not the greatest endearment...but it fits him perfectly & he LOVES it) gave me a kiss and hug before nap and told me, "Momma, Gabriel loves his Momma soooo much".  Oh, the capacity to love.  Thank you Lord for that gift.  I can not imagine my life without my precious children and the love they give and the love they take. 

Just a little side story for a giggle......
When Tony was so sick I really started to panic about him.  Both kids & I were trying to keep occupied and quiet and it was impossible in that small room.  So I gathered them both up and decided to just walk around Shamian Island for a good bit of time so he could rest without interruption.  On my way out I walked by the front desk to see if they had physician on staff at the hotel.  (Now remember I had done this twice before but both times we stayed at the China hotel off the island in Guangzhou and they had an English speaking doctor on staff there just for us foreigners.)  When the front desk heard my question all four smiled and said they did have a doctor.  So I inquired if the doctor spoke English and was reassured that he did and they would send him up to our room to check on my husband.  Well, (this makes me giggle)Tony did have someone come to the door not once, but 3 times to offer him an "adapter" not a "doctor".  He kept telling them over & over he did not need it but by the third time he graciously accepted it so he could get some rest.  Tonight I still giggle over this.  Sweet Tony.  He was so sick and it is so sad to say but I loved every minute.....because that was the beginning of what now is one of four sweetest relationships I have ever been blessed with. 

For the remainder of our time in China we tried to enjoy our family time with it's newest member.  The Lord blessed us with peace during that time and safely carried us home without incident.  Since then Gabriel has received a thumbs up on his health and a complete O.K. as far as his little legs and feet.  No more surgeries look to be needed and even though he is as pigeon toed as they get, he can run like the wind.  What a miracle!  Our family represents the full spectrum as far as adoptions go.....little Grace was a piece of cake, so sweet and beautiful, little Anna was a piece of heaven that slipped through the clouds and had to return, and now Gabriel.  Little Gabriel was the Great Wall that I realized I did not need to conquer but only trust with love to claim.  Thank you sweet Lord for all three of my journeys to the land of China.  All three different and all three teaching me life lessons that I would never have learned without the journeys.      

Hugs & Blessings,
Jo

Isaiah 60:2
"See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you."

I Thessalonians 5:18
"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."