Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Saying Goodbye

I am standing strongly on the top of the largest mountain ever. My Everest. Standing along side me is my sweet husband & rare gem of a daughter. The Holy Spirit is the wind that blows His sweet breeze against our skin. We are alive! We are breathing and no matter how thin the air is it is the view that catches in our lungs. We see the valley that we walked in the shadow of death. We see the unbeaten and unmarked path that the Lord guided us on every step of the way. We know it was His help and His stewards here on earth that helped us every inch. So we take in His complete majesty, raise our hands high and exhale in the mightiest song of praise we have in us. Our salvation is our reward. Everyday that we crawled through was nothing in comparison to His sacrifice. How humbling. How beautiful. So the character of our Jesus!

So we close this blog today. It is with a sore heart that I do this. One that has been worked out so much in the last year. This muscle though sore is strong. Strong enough to welcome the new journey....our journey. We welcome you to join us now HERE.
This will be our blog now. It will follow the beginning of our family's call. The call of Anna's legacy. To unite special needs orphans all over the earth with their forever families. To assist financially with those adoptions and to follow each Christ ordained family after the adoption. We will follow them and when the medical expenses start coming in our foundation will assist with those too. So we welcome you to follow us....we pray that you will. We know God is working His plan in our lives and we are excited in what that plan holds. God bless you all!

Standing Strong but always In His Hands,
Jo, Tony & Gracie

II Corinthians 12:9-10
"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sweet Peach, The Red Cross & Froggy Jammers

August 26, 11:33pm I was surrounded by several of the most special women God could grace a women's life with. They had come to Vandy to pray. We prayed for a divine answer no matter what it was. He would answer that prayer not even 24 hours later. The damage to the cerebral cortex was so extensive no one could survive--especially my little Anna. Anna was wearing 12-18 month clothes at the time of her death. The little embroidered dress I had bought for her in China while there in June is what I picked for her to be presented in at her funeral. That little dress was so sweet.....white with a bouquet of spring flowers at the bodice and then flower petals cascading down from the bouquet to fall to the bottom hem of the dress. It was simple & delicate. Very much like my Anna. Not too much but very feminine. I loved that dress. I had not had the opportunity to put her in it until the day I took it to the funeral home. I carried in my hands that could not stop sweating, the dress, a pair of socks with white bows on the cuff, white China squeaky shoes w/ a pink daisy button on each and a little white bow for her hair. It is the outfit I had planned to have her dedicated in at church the first Sunday after her catherization. She would have loved wearing that dress. I picture her with something similar in heaven. My sweet peach dancing in the golden streets with angels all around her. Did I ever tell you that was what her Chinese name meant? Sweet peach. Grace still refers to her as that. I believe she always will.

So Tony & I sat earlier tonight and expressed our hearts to one another better than we have in the last 12 months. The freedom of surviving the 1st year must allow walls to crumble, tears to fall and praises to be raised. My sweet husband who holds so much in showed me tears for the first time in almost a year. God bless him, he would tear up but to cry was a different thing. He finally let go....thank you God for letting him let go and trust me enough to witness it. He had just shared with me how Christ had convicted him this week and he found himself in the chair at the Red Cross in Nashville giving blood. See, Tony is a big, tough cop that does not like two things: snakes & needles. Especially big needles that take blood. Tony had never given blood before. I have been a blood donor for years and would try to get him to go along but he would not hear of it. Last year this time him & his sister tried to give since Anna was being given so many transfusions while on bypass(ECMO) but the facility was closed. This week while working a case in town he decided to head back to his office. He decided to drive a back way instead of getting back on the interstate to head south. This route he picked found him at a traffic light right at a Red Cross station with a sign that said, "Give blood here today!". So he did. He faced his fear and gave his blood while remembering how brave his sweet peach had been through all the heart testing, genetic testing and immunizations in our short time with her. He found himself sobbing after the experience. A cleansing with thanksgiving for God's mercy to our family, especially Anna.

So tonight as I sign off this post I will face my final fear of this year. I will go into my closet and take off my shelf what has has laid in there since August 27, 2008. The sweet, soft pair of pink pajama's(we call them jammers) that have little frogs all over them. Each frog is wearing a crown and sitting on a cloud. I just noticed that detail just the other day as I was holding them. They lost my Anna's smell long ago but on the bad days I would hold them to my chest and imagine they were filled with my sweet peach. I will finally face my fear of letting them go...letting go of my grief. I was forced to let go of Anna right from the beginning but I have held on to her through my grief. It is time to relinquish that. Not because someone said so but because I feel it. It is time. Time to start really living in the now & not trying to hold on to then. Life is too beautiful and our blessings too overwhelming to be chained down in sadness. No, I know I am allowed & there will still be tears. Till the day the Lord reunites this Momma & her precious child there will be tears at times. That is the pleasure of being one of God's children--I am allowed to cry and He wipes my tears. The Holy Spirit cradles me when I need it just like a Momma does her little one.

I thank those sweet 6 women who cradled me tonight 1 year ago. We as a family thank the countless others who have held us up in prayer and walked this journey of our fist year with us. Your love, support & prayers have been incredible and we see each and every one of you as Christ's hands here on earth. We welcome you to continue on our journey. A journey of discovery....the discovery of how the book continues. The book of our lives that was written by the ultimate Author. We trust in His version completely. We pray you see His signature & writing all over your lives too!

Psalm 63: 7-8
"Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me."

In His Hands,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The World Stopped

I was watching TV tonight and saw a commercial for a new program coming out later this fall on either ABC or NBC where everyone all over the earth blacks out for 2 minutes and during that 2 mins. they experience a premonition. One year ago today I did not black out but the world stopped as I knew it and I had a premonition too. The premonition that I was about to step outside of the life I knew and into a life I did not want to know. The life of a parent after the loss of their child.

That was back then. Today I find myself energized and renewed to the fact I am only inches away from conquering what is known as the "first year". This year has been the hardest year of my life. Like I have said before I have experienced other hard times in my life and the way I handled them--well, honestly I am not proud of how I handled them. Times that only the grace of my Heavenly Father can forgive. This year was different. I am different. My walk is the walk of the humbled servant who can only receive strength from her Lord & Savior. I am so humbled because He still loves me with all my flaws. He saw something in me that I did not even see in myself when He gave me the gift of Anna. He trusted me. He continues to trust me with one of His rare valuables....our Grace. I can see clearly every step He put into place for Tony & I to receive out sweet girls. How humbling. To think He has spent this much time on me? You know there is a lot of us down here? How does He do it? I do not know but I have full faith in everything He does or does not do. Sometimes His answer is "NO!", and no matter how hard that is for our human, weak flesh to hear, He is always right. A year ago I heard "no", to my Anna coming out of Vanderbilt well. Back then I shook my fist and wailed to Him about the unfairness. I did that off/on for a long time. All the while the constant cry out to Him, "God help me"!

Tonight inches away from the pinnacle, I praise Him. I sing a song of thanksgiving in my soul for only my sweet Jesus. I am still alive. I have a beautiful life and He is teaching me daily how to embrace my life around my loss. He holds my future, He holds my present and He holds my past. The past that was good, bad, ugly, sad and Anna. I completely trust Him with each. I praise Him for each.....who has time to wallow in sadness when you have truth like that surrounding you? Like I love to say...."the proof is in the puddin'". Boy, He made my pudding sweet! Just like another song I love...."Just give me Jesus".

Forever In His Hands,

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Leaf Stew

This last weekend was a good weekend. Yes, bitter sweet but good. Saturday was my last day at HHLA/Labcorp and I was shocked to realize how much I was going to miss that group of people as I left. They signify the beginning of starting over in some respects. They are the first stop after I picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again. They got me a very decadent chocolate cake with "Good Luck" in pink. It was perfect and I appreciated it more than they could imagine. The rest of the weekend Tony, Grace & myself just spent together doing some really good stuff. I am not going to bore you with details but it was just nice spending the weekend together. Saturday night ended with Grace and I snuggling on Anna's bench at sunset. What a display of her colors God gave us that night. The hues of peach to pink to rose red. It was spellbinding and we could feel the cool of the evening and smell the sweetness of the rose bushes planted around the bench. I have attached new pictures of this dear place that our sweet neighborhood erected in Anna's memory. It shows the 3 white crape myrtle's and 3 rose bushes all signifying June, July and August 08' when Anna toddled around or strolled around the sidewalks of this neighborhood. She was like a superstar, winning the hearts of every person she met. Always leaving them with a hug or kiss that they did not even ask for. That was Anna.....sweet as those roses smell at her spot.

Today no matter how I tried my mind just zoomed to a year ago. No the date on the calendar was different but the 2nd to last Sunday in August will always hold the most precious & heart breaking memories. Back then I was fretting because I just could not focus on what to pack for our stay at the hospital. The catherization was the next day and Anna & I would be leaving before sunrise. I needed to be prepared. No matter how I tried I struggled. Looking back on it now Tony and I both agree we knew deep down inside that something was off. No, not wrong or going to happen just off. As I wondered the house sporadically packing, Tony was outside with both girls washing the cars. Yes, washing the cars....that is what men do when they have no idea what to do....right? He could not sit still...he was scared out of his mind. Looking back....we both were. It was a cool August day so similar to today. One thing differed. Where last year the day ended raining, today God in His mercy brought the sun out. My heart probably could not have taken the rain. So back then Tony came in at one point and said, "JoAnna come look at have to see what they are doing." I hate to admit it but we have no pictures of this priceless moment except in our hearts. There in the driveway was my two girls shoulder high in a 10 gallon bucket of water stirring around leaves, sticks and rocks. They were giggling and smiling at one another and singing a tune I can not remember. The words Grace was singing was something like, "leaf stew for you...leaf stew for me". We stood together at our bedroom window and just watched for what seemed like a very long time. In my classic "old" Jo way I said, "they are going to catch a cold playing in that water as cool as it is." Tony looked at me and said, "stop fretting and just watch them." How my heart twists at the fact that I told him I did not have time. I said very accusingly that I had too much to prepare for. Oh, how tears come to the surface when I think about how I did not just embrace that moment with him longer.

I went to the movies with a good friend this afternoon for a much needed distraction. When I came home Tony was just blowing the grass off the driveway from mowing. Grace and Winston were out playing and boy, Winston was dirty. Dirty from being outside with his master all day. I can not handle dogie smell in my house so I quickly changed my clothes and got everything ready to give him a bath. Even though it was cool I did it outside. That is when I got that 10 gallon bucket to fill with warm water to rinse him down. The wave of heartache just hit me. I could see it as if it had just happened. Two sisters having the time of their lives. When I got done with Winston and he was drying on the towels Grace said she had a surprise. She had been busily doing something as I bathed the hound. On the table was this........

It was in her words a picture. A picture just for me. Yes, it was. It was a picture to complete the memory and lesson I will carry forever. The picture of my girls together happily playing. The lesson to try to remember to never take those sweet moments for granted again. I thanked Grace and hugged her. Tony & Grace left to go get a pizza for dinner and I started cleaning up. As I carried the bucket back into the garage I stopped in my tracks. There imprinted in the concrete of the garage where I sat the bucket was leaves. I had seen it before but it had never meant much. Just the fact that when they laid the garage leaves had falling on the concrete as it dried. It means more than that now.......just like those leaves imprinting our garage floor our Anna imprinted our lives. Her imprint will be on us until the day we see her again. We will carry her with us daily and with that imprint we will remember to thank God daily for all our blessings. Leaf stew.....we all have those moments, we just need to make sure we do not let them pass us by.

In His Hands,

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Ascent

I feel like I am climbing Everest. This is not the climb of the "faint of heart". This is the climb of a life time. The type of climb that can kill you if you are not patient & mindful. The part of the climb where you only want God as your lead. You no longer even trust the Sherpa who knows the mountain like the creases of his hand. It is only Jesus Christ who can guide you through this to the pinnacle. August 25, 2008 to August 28, 2009 this has been my Everest. Grieving and working through the loss of Anna.

So today I stand once again in a small cleft in a rock within this massive mountain and I try to find my lungs. They are so collapsed from the heaviness & pressure of my heart trying to maintain blood flow that I do believe I am dizzy. So I stop and rest. I look back and see the amount of ground I have covered since the beach and it is so small. I realize while looking back that even though it has been a small advancement the terrain has been treacherous. Caution & reflection have been the reason for my very slow step at time with the stress of each footstep leaving me completely out of breath. When you are so short of breath it just exhausts you. So I cling to this rock. Jesus is my rock, my cornerstone which I am resting upon. I seem to be crying out to Him a lot in the last few days. Crying because of the pain. Asking for His help and trying so hard to praise Him through every tear. I praise Him because through Him I am going to make it to the summit. He takes the weak, uses them and makes them strong. From the marrow of my bones He will take me and rebuild me. For my faith alone He rewards me with blessing after blessing and the peace of His continuous presence. Blessings in the form of answered prayers. Prayers that I did not even verbalize but felt with every ounce of my being. Like the prayer of wanting a new job. Yes, He has given me the opportunity of another job I know He arranged from heaven. Since coming home from the beach the beginning of August I have been given the privilege of interviewing & being offered the position of assistant teacher at Mustard Seed Preschool. I resigned my position at Labcorp and will complete my 2 weeks of notice tomorrow morning. My last Saturday to work--for what I pray will be forever. I miss my family time way too much when I have to work on Saturdays. It is our only day in a very hectic week to just embrace one another. I never really knew that till it was taken away from me. So starting next week I will be the assistant teacher for one of the W-Th-F 4 year old classes. Mustard Seed is the preschool Grace attended from the time we moved here in
06' till kindergarten last year. It is the sweetest and most God present school I have ever been to. I am so thrilled & feel completely overwhelmed in how God once again this year showed me in "the little details" that this was His plan. He makes no mistakes! He is always right & His timing is always perfect! These unshakable truths are the guide light that will help me continue to navigate the small but extremely steep remainder of my climb.

The pinnacle. It is within eyesight and is not that far ahead but oh, to conquer it will cause such wear on my body. I pray for strength, courage and stamina. Please join me in praying for that over our family. We can do this, we have come so far but we need our Father to hear the prayers of many. We need His and your help. This is hard. The hardest thing we have ever experienced. Even though there are people all around us in their own race to the top of their own Everest we feel so isolated. The top is a lonely place. Pray for His continued presence & our continuous praise no matter the pain we experience. Glory to God in the Highest! We thank you all & love you so!

In His Hands,

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Our Great Escape

We are home. Back from the week down at the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, if you have never
been to the Emerald Coast...GO! It is just the most beautiful beach I have ever seen here stateside. We stayed in Seacrest, FL....right in the middle of Rosemary Beach & Seacrest. It has now spoiled me for all other beaches.....well, all beaches remotely close to TN. You know that narrows it down. No, I grew up going to the Outer Banks of NC, Virginia Beach, VA and later before Tony and I got Grace we would head up to Cap Cod or Maine. Each have their own unique beauty but Rosemary Beach is the perfect beach for a family with a 5 year old. Water so clear that Grace could fish right off the beach with a net. The Lord blessed us with gorgeous weather for FL in July. Low humidity, rain in the evening one night but sunny clear days except for one and mid 80's. It was perfect. We were blessed to have a family we are close to here in Franklin to also be down there last week. It had not been planned but it made our time so special. Thank you Patrice, Richard, Kaia & Mei Li for making our time even more perfect. These dear friends have a place at Rosemary Beach & were a 5 minute walk from our rental. Kaia, Grace & Mei Li all from China were such a special sight on the white sugar sands playing together. Patrice has been one of my precious sounding boards in the last year so to spend time with her "away" in paradise was such a needed joy. The week was such an overdue escape. Tony said on the drive through Alabama yesterday that he just felt so good & rested. That is how we all are. Rested & ready to focus on all the possibilities this fall might bring. We have so many good things on the brink of starting....Anna's Forever Families-giving our first grant, starting adoption #3 and all the loves of fall that our little family adores...Grace's 6th birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. It is amazing how the gift of escaping for just 7 days has helped us. We will be ready for later this month. We will be strong. Our time together uninterrupted has given us a chance to catch our breath for the hard climb ahead. This picture above is the sunset of our last night. Anna's colors all over it. We were greeted back home tonight with a similar sunset just before it clouded up and started raining again. I have no doubt they were little messages from Anna.

I will be honest. Quiet times at the pool by myself I could visualize my sweet Anna toddling around in floaties with a scar down her chest. It was just my mind playing tricks on me as I watched another mother's 3 year old. I missed her not being there in the fun. I missed not swimming with her like I had at the local pool here last July. Her & her funny little float. Then I would pray my prayer of "God Help Me!" & within minutes a peace would cover me. The peace of knowing she is happy...happier than I can even imagine. Happy without a scar down her chest, because a surgery was never intended to happen. Instead of floaties she wears the wings of the smallest of angels. She walks in an ocean of serenity not waves. Then I would thank Jesus yet again for my peace and for my Grace. My strong one. The one I feared would actually pickle herself if she did not come out of the water. She is so strong, so beautiful and such a blessing to my life. I am so proud of the child she is and thank Jesus for the precious time he gave me with her this last week. Such a sweet time that Grace even cried the last night at the idea of leaving. Grace is not a crier so we knew she was heartsick over leaving. Oh, such wonderful memories she will carry with her from this family vacation. That is so precious when you are little.

So it is back to school and work this week. I am energized by the idea. That tells me yet again how rested I am from our great escape. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving us such a wonderful break. His hand print was so visible throughout our week. So many "little" things that just made us so aware that He was close. Again, I will tell you how in awe I am over the closeness of our Savior to our family. He overwhelms me with His presence. So I will end this post with some pics. Two of the picture is of the girls posing together(including friends of the C's who came down the end of the week). These two additional girls are from Africa and are the sweetest most endearing girls. We laughed when we took the picture by saying, "Say, we are the world!" What a gorgeous picture of young girls from our Father's magnificent world. How amazing is His colors! The last pic is of our family. Yes, Winston was even in our wonderful week. God bless you all & thank you for your prayers!

In His Hands,

Friday, July 17, 2009


A few posts back I talked about the song "The Climb" & how it should be a ticker tape on my forehead these days. Well for almost a month now I have just been climbing. Trying to stay on
the path that has been laid in front of me and desperately trying to avoid "sink holes". Anyone who has battled depression knows exactly what I mean by sink holes. The dark, sticky pits of despair you find yourself falling into when everything seems horribly wrong & hard. I have battled depression once before in my life and I have fought since day one to make sure I do not go back to that isolating place. The fact is this journey is one that is just that....isolating, dark, sad & just terribly hard. So to cling to my life lines takes every ounce of energy I can muster at times. The last few weeks have been just that. Exhausting! July 4th & all the days that surrounded the holiday were just devastating to me. Vivid memories in color of one year ago just flooded me. The hole in me seemed to just want to gobble me up. Honestly some days I prayed that it would. Now today resting on the cleft of the giant mountain I am climbing I can see how far I have come. I see the dark valleys & crevices and I am proud. Proud that I kept my composure & just kept climbing. No vines or slippery rocks made me fall into the pit. Some days I just needed to rest but I never went backward. I made it through another hard part of the journey. My beautiful Creator was my all wise & knowing Guide, my best friend who God gave me to help carry my burdens & my saving Grace whose face shows me the most beautiful reflection of Christ every day. Tony & Grace have been my safety equipment. Keeping me on track. Pictures like these two below tore me to my center a few weeks ago but today I feel nothing but complete awe.
Back on track realizing how humbling my path of life is. How blessed I was, how blessed I am & how blessed I will continue to be as the Light of my Life continues to illuminate my path. God is so good! We have so much & He keeps giving!

So we are busy. Grace started school today. Yes, can you believe it? The picture below is her this morning with her new prized possession. Scoobey Doo is the BIG thing to Grace right now..she informed me that no one would have a lunch box cooler than hers. She was so tickled when I surprised her with this last week. I special ordered it from Thermos & she just loved it. I want you to look at last years first day of school picture at the right just below this mornings picture. It is not only Tony & me that has grown older through this last year. It amazes me how grown up she is. Wisdom in her eyes way older than her years. That hurts my heart so for her. I know though Grace is a happy child. I pray for her continued happiness every day. God help me to make sure she stays happy.

She was accepted just a couple of weeks ago to a balanced calendar school here in Franklin. Originally there had not been space in the first grade class but a vacancy opened up & by God's grace we were next in line. I am guessing at this.....this lotto system that Franklin City schools has for their balanced calendar school is very, very confusing to me. Anyway...Grace is at PG starting today. I have prayed off and on all day so far that it was God's hand that made this possible and our Gracie will be comfortable & have another blessed academic year. The decision to leave Johnson was a difficult one--like most decisions these days are to me. I have always had a hard time with parental decision making but now I seem to second guess everything. I pray for the Holy spirit to guide my direction but then wonder if the answer I hear is my will or His. The comfort of knowing we can remove her and place her back at Johnson if she is miserable without issue has made things easier. The other factor that helped was how understanding Mr.K, the principal at PG was when I talked over the fact we were scheduled to go to the beach the second week of school. I explained this was not just an ordinary family excursion but for me especially; was going to be a very overdue escape. An escape that would help renew us for the last of our long climb through our first year without Anna. The anniversary of her passing.
As much as I do not plan on setting myself up for the pain the 1st anniversary will bring I am also realistic. Realistic to the fact that from Aug. 24th to 27th it will be a straight up, back breaking steep climb in every way. The elevation will be the highest thus far & I just know I will find my O2 levels low and it difficult to breathe. I can see those 3 days in my mind today as clearly as how I made cinnamon rolls for Grace for breakfast yesterday morning. I physically can feel the ache of anticipation I felt the Sunday before we left for the hospital. I still feel at times so clearly the void that appeared in my heart as I handed Anna's little, limp body(from the local anesthesia) to the surgeons before her catherization. The clarity of the moment when I said to Tony back in the waiting room what I had whispered in Anna's ear moments before the surgeons arrived. The look of shock on his face & how in that small moment I realized those words had not been mine but the Holy Spirits...."Anna, Momma can not go with you. Please listen, there is nothing to be afraid of....Jesus will come and hold you until Momma can again." Why had I said that? Oh, how I panicked when Tony said, "JoAnna, why did you say that? I hope you really did not say that to her. You sound like she is going to die." How tears stung my eyes at the I told him quickly that it was not what I had meant....that Anna understood what I meant. I explained how Anna had looked up at me with the glaze of the local but whispered back to me, "arms, Momma?" The feeling of terror at the thought I could have willingly provoked what I did not even know was to be the future only minutes later. The stomach dropping sickness of seeing a sweaty co-surgeon shake his head & look down instead of meeting my stare. Watching the slow motion reaction from Tony completely stricken in horror. The tiny, sweet body of my precious Anna Marie with so many tubes, lines & medical personnel all trying to save her. Desperately trying to give her back to me. The All Knowing voice inside of me that wanted to hold on to hope but knew in my deepest place that Anna was already sitting on the lap of the Highest King. That He in His almighty mercy was giving us time to wrap our minds, hearts & flesh around this new twist to an already exhausting journey of adoption. I see with complete clarity today Anna & my sweet Jesus exchanging knowing smiles & hugs to the fact that all was well in the middle of such chaos. The memory of Tony's gift of peace days after Anna was at rest........a female voice that quietly repeated, "Thank You!, Thank You!......I said, Thank You!" The gift I continue to receive daily that comes in the form of quiet reassurance.....reassurance that we did our best & what was right....we obeyed. That He is pleased with me. That I will hold her once more in a day not so long from now. The reassurance I feel with every sunrise, sunset or firefly night that has my Anna written all over it. The reassurance that only Jesus Christ can give with His love.
So today my climb is strong. I climb with the sunshine on my shoulders, a spring in my step and I make up for the loss of ground I have not covered in the last few weeks. My Lord is walking with me today like everyday but today He smiles knowing I will not need to be carried. I have a panoramic view of where I have been and what still lays ahead. I will not panic when I get worn down & tired. I will rest. Then with the strength that my sweet Jesus can only give me I will soon conquer my 1st year missing Anna. So now I need to get my big 1st grader off the bus and hear all about her first day. I know that the sweetness she adds to this good day will only make my walk stronger. Thank everyone for their prayers, thank you for your patience as I rambled through this therapeutic this next month & 1/2 please keep the prayers coming. We need them so much!
Psalm 40:2-3
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave
me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
In His Embrace,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Roller coasters

The last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions. Up, down & all around. I have always been a fan of roller coasters but at the same time I like them in small doses. Two trips to an amusement park usually is enough for me. We adore Busch Gardens back home in Williamsburg & miss those bi-annual visits. The roller coaster I seem to be strapped to these days is a roller coaster I really am not enjoying. This coaster is one I believe I will be riding for the rest of my life. I find myself up one moment then down in a free falling dip the next. You know the female psyche is not the most balanced to begin with. We hormonally go every which way but loose on our own without any outside influences. Now throw all the additions each of us are blessed enough to call our own.....motherhood, being a Godly wife, being a good daughter, sister, professional, friend, home-maker, artist, domestic goddess.....each of us have our own paths, each of us our own story. The strains & stresses of each of our God given lives add to that already rickety old seat. So the next step is to tighten our seat belt and to hold on for dear life, pray to God that the man made machine made to thrill does not kill us. Then we SCREAM!!!!!!!!!......scream with fear, excitement & eventually for just the release of what our bodies are trying to handle. I know I am not the first to compare their lives to a roller coaster & I know I will not be the last but this gives you a clear cut picture of how every ounce of me feels right now. I have never embraced this type of chaos & now I really hate it. There is nothing I can do about it but continue to hold on and pray. I pray so hard at times that it physically hurts.

Yesterday is a day I got on my knees and asked for help over & over. I got home from work and went upstairs to straighten Grace's room & make her bed. The mornings Tony & Grace get ready on their own leaves little time to get these kind of things done. As I went by the fish tank I realized Dory was swimming yet again upside down. For a lot of you, you know the story of our now almost 2.5 year old goldfish Dory. Dory came home to us in Jan. of 07'. She was a fantail goldfish bought with some of Grace's Christmas money. Nana & Pop had gotten Grace a tank for her Sept. birthday & followed it with some mad money to buy a fish after Christmas. Your usual $5 fish. Well, Dory was a great fish. She had personality plus. Really, I am not lying...she was a neat fish. Last year, right after Anna died Dory started acting more bizarre than usual. She would do this sideways swim then float upside down to the top of the bowl. We figured the end was near. We were wrong. Dory kept as strong as she could until yesterday. Doing her usual dead man float she did not respond when I tapped the tank. You see, back during spring break one night when Tony & Grace took a Poppa/Daughter trip to Chattanooga over night Dory had done the same thing. I went as far as dropping her into the toilet when to my surprise Dory was ALIVE! Let me just say I jumped & about wet my pants I was so surprised to see that crazy fish swimming in Grace's potty. We figure the cold water shocked her heart to move again. So yesterday we took that long life-less walk but Dory never flinched. Dory had finally grown too tired. I know you are thinking it is just a fish. No, to us in this family every member(even the fish) are adored & cherished. So I hit my knees and thanked God that Dory's body was at peace at last but asked him to please help me deal with yet another goodbye. Grace handled the news rather well....since one of her best buddies was coming to stay the night I think it helped. She wants another fish but I think we will wait till school starts so no one has to tend to the fish for us when we travel. I did notice the sad look in her eyes went she went upstairs last night. She looked at me and said, " Momma, now I am really alone up here. Even Dory has gone to heaven." Oh, the pain to see those sad brown eyes looking at me that way.

I called Tony on his cell to share the news & he felt the same as me. Grateful but it made our already sore hearts bleed once again. That is when he shared the glorious news. The IRS has finally determined that Anna's Forever Families is to be a 501c3 non-profit corporation. We got a verbal thumbs up & now we can start the fundraising. We will be getting the official paperwork in the mail within the month. See roller coaster down then roller coaster up. So I have been thinking with this news & the 1st year anniversary of Anna's death approaching I will be shutting down this blog. I want to start a new blog Anna's Forever Family. Yes that is what our title is here but I want the blog address to also reflect the name. That is who we are now. Anna needs no more prayers. She was the sparkling answer to ours. She now resides with the Highest of High. So I will be working the next two months to start a new blog. One that continues my little angels legacy but also tells who we are & where we are & how far we have come. A blog that will follow the roller coaster of our lives but will bring only glory to our King & our angel. So for now I continue to ask for your prayers of strength and endurance. Prayers for my sweet Grace who has lost another loved one.

In His Embrace,

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pushing Forward & Going Fishing

June 16, 2008.....
Memories of this day are hazy in a way. I have been trying to figure out why. Is that God's way of keeping the pain of our loss from killing us? Is it because in the midst of such beautiful memories there is memories of shock of the sight of what was supposed to be a 2 1/2 year old girl. The concern we felt over how sick she was. How her little bottom was so scalded from having constant diarrhea for the 24 hours before they gave her to us. How they did not even give her a day to adjust from leaving her foster family of 2 years before she was thrust into our strange arms. The memory of days that were so frightening in China. Driving over 80 mph for 9 hours with perfect strangers while our sick baby of less than 18 hours laid in my arms lethargic. I am flooded today. I am worn completely out by the overflow of memories....scary, painful, good, beautiful & heart wrenching memories. In the midst of all of this exhausting process of remembering one year ago today I am so homesick for my Anna. I would do every difficult, trying & heartbreaking moment all over again. With complete knowledge of the outcome I would do it all over again & again, if I could only hold her and kiss her today. I MISS HER! I MISS HER! I WISH I COULD SCREAM AND SCREAM AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS UNTIL IT FELT BETTER! I AM HOMESICK FOR MY BABY & IT IS TEARING MY HEART IN TWO ONCE AGAIN!
Then I stop the whirlwind in my head with one sweet memory. How she looked into my eyes, straight into my soul with the realization that I loved her. How as I bathed her two nights later & she screamed in fright she then quickly realized that it felt wonderful. How she held my hands up to her chest for me to keep rubbing the lotion on her dry, parched skin. How she moaned while I put the diaper cream on her sore bottom & kissed both of her sweet hips and told her over and over how much I loved her. How that night, once Tony & Anna went to sleep, I got down on my knees in the bathroom of our hotel & praised God for the blessing of that precious, pitiful little creature. I begged Him for strength. Strength not to fear so many unknowns & to please if it was His will have her strengthen in our care. To have her trust & see me as her protector. For Him to please help Tony & I survive that hard trip and have us return home safe with Anna. To have Anna heal completely. He answered so many of those prayers and so many more. He gave me a gift like no other. He placed a piece of His divine majesty in my hands and asked me to care for her here on earth. I have done so many things in my life that I am not proud of. So many things that I know have broken my Savior's heart but He still entrusted an angel to me. I am proud to say by His guidance I was a good Momma.

June 16, 2009........
A year later I look at who I was then and she seems like an acquaintance but not "me". I do not think there was anything really "wrong" with who I was then but I look in the mirror today & see a different person. Who am I now? Oh, I would love to answer that question but I am such a work in progress. My Maker has taken me to the marrow & is re-building me. Today I feel the pain from all of that work. Today, like I said, I miss her. It is hard to even type. It is hard to put into words or a sentence. I miss my child & there is nothing I can do about it. I can not see, feel or hear her voice in person. She is well & happy and in a place that she would never want to leave--even for me. I would not want her to leave. Heaven.....heaven used to seem to me such a far off distant place. Now heaven is only a heartbeat away. My heartbeat. It is funny how the last several weeks certain things have become very important to me....eating right, exercising and trying to take care of myself. Things that honestly in the last several months I have let go to the wayside. Things that the indifference of I have started to reflect. I have not really let myself go but at the same time I have not kept myself up either. Tony said something the other day that really hit me. He was getting ready to go running & really did not feel like it. He said, "Well, let me go run. I do not feel like it but I want to see Grace grow up so I have to do it". Funny how God allows a simple statement to impact you. I have been trying to eat my veges, fruits & walk at least every other day. So why do I feel horrible? I feel worse than I have in months. I ache all over, my head just pounds and I am tired. So tired that I could sleep for days. Because the fact is I am sad. Sad that one year ago today I was given an angel who would return to heaven 71 days later. I physically hurt because every cell in my body longs to hold her again. The stress & strain that I feel are different than when Anna died but my body feels so similar to how it did those first couple of months. Like I have been placed in a blender, pulled out & told to walk. How do I do this? How do I get through the next 2 months? We saw just in the last month the glimpse of how we can live & enjoy life again. I know God in all His glory gave me that glimpse so that I would keep going. Keep pushing forward. He showed me how the small details in life mean so much. Like hearing Grace's voice with all it's excitement describing how she caught her first fish.

How she tells me everyday, "Momma, I love you all the way to heaven & back." She told me she says that because she knows Anna can not say she loves me to my face anymore. He allowed me to see Tony & Grace fish at the pond here in the neighborhood night after night trying to catch another fish. He gave me two beautiful sunsets in all of Anna's colors and let me know without a doubt it was Anna sending me love from heaven. He guides the lighting bugs all around her "spot" every night so that it illuminates showing me her happiness and telling me to keep moving. Keep moving and not to stop fighting the good fight.

So I end this entry saying I will keep pushing forward. I will remember the day a year ago that I excitedly rode the elevator of a hot, stinky social affairs building. To walk into a room where the cute tiny boy(so we thought) who sat at a great big conference table caught our immediate attention. To eventually be told that "boy" was our sweet girl. To feel her little 14 pound body in my arms. Thanking God for every scream she proudly shouted. Each scream that made Tony & I hope that her heart was not as bad as we thought. I will hold those precious memories in my heart. Here in Franklin, TN as I sit a half a world away from where I was one short year ago I sit feeling like I have experienced a lifetime. So even though my thoughts & feet feel glued today I will eventually move forward this week. Through the deep, breath stealing hurt. Grace from Jesus will continue to hold me close & will guide my feet. Faith in His abundant Grace is what will eventually give me the strength to start moving again. Maybe not today or tomorrow. The impact of memories hold me steadfast but He will not allow me to go backward. He will lift me as I raise my hands high and say just like Anna used to, "Up, please". He will hold me until I can continue to walk. He will do that because I am His & He loves me. I am not strong today but He will continue to strengthen me in days to come. June 16, 2009.......stumbling a little but still facing forward. We covet your prayers for continued strength. We need all the support of prayer we can get for the next couple months. Prayers to keep pushing forward & again one day soon to just enjoy going fishing.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my Power is made perfect in weakness." "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses , so that Christ's power may rest on me." "That is why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy Birthday....Me!

You know birthdays when you are a kid seem to be the most important things ever! You literally wish your life away as a child due to wanting the next birthday to come quickly. Grace is such a fan of birthdays. I figure it started right when we brought her home since 2 months later we were celebrating her 1st birthday. I know she doesn't recall that one but oh, she has the heart of a kid who likes to make someone feel special on their day of birth.

My birthday started a day early this year May 29th. I had to work on Friday but came home to a house quiet because Grace & her Poppa were gone somewhere. The kitchen table was set with three paper plates, napkins & three forks. Winston was home but no Grace or Tony. I had gotten home about 30 minutes early since we had a small number of requisitions to get done at the lab. I tried Tony's cell phone several times since he was on call for work & knew he needed to get in to the office soon. I was afraid he had gotten called out and had to take Grace with him. Everything did not add up since the table was set. Then I thought maybe they went out to get lunch for a special treat & surprise. An early birthday gift. Well a little while later I heard them come in. I was upstairs & Tony yelled, "please do not come down till we call you!" A few minutes later Grace's little voice hollered "Come on down Momma, we have a surprise for you!" In the middle of the table was a cake with a ton of candles lit(not 39 though--I do not think I had that many in the house), a bouquet of VERY colorful flowers, party hats & a homemade card by my precious Grace. I took a picture so you could see her surprise & her beautiful reads, "I will never take my heart off of you." It has a rainbow, "Anna's sky", hearts & a birthday cake. Ever since Anna died Grace & I think rosy sunsets are the picture of Anna in heaven. The rainbows are to remind us that God never forgets His promises. The hearts are something she is drawing daily here lately. She loves to draw rainbows & hearts. Just like most 5 year old girls.
I was informed by Tony that she woke him at 7:30 that morning to inform him of everything she wanted to do for my birthday. Tony explained over & over to no avail that my birthday was Sat. the 30th. She informed him in Grace's way that she wanted to surprise me starting Friday. She told him I needed to have a party & they were going to throw it. For those of you who have known me for a long time(most of my VA kindred spirits) you also know Tony. You know that Tony is not known for his romantic or even sweet gestures. He is just not that type of man. Never has been & finally I believe after 15 years of marriage I finally have accepted it. So to have my sweet 5 year old crack the whip, yank him to 3 stores & like a dog with a bone not let go of her plan.....well, it is hilarious. You go Grace! That is my baby! She has a HUGE heart. Her Poppa does not have a fighting chance when she is on a mission.
This story actually started about a week ago when Grace asked when I would have my party. I explained that most grown ups just did not have parties. That was something when you were little you did. She informed me that, "Momma, that is messed up!" "Even big people need to be happy." "Birthday parties make me real happy, Momma!" This conversation was going on while driving to the grocery store. Once we got to Kroger she saw a bouquet of daisies that they had died bright blue, yellow, orange, etc. She was so impressed by this. She said, "Momma they remind me of you...happy & full of sunshine & summertime." I told her yes, they were very pretty but was really concentrating on the produce section & my list. I did not say that I thought they were the craziest looking flowers I had ever seen.
So that is why I have the most colorful flowers ever imagined on my kitchen table this weekend. I adore every silly dyed daisy it holds. Tony tried very hard to get her to get some tea roses that he knows I love but she would not budge. She wanted the crazy daisies! While eating my cookies & cream cake with my most favorite person(Tony had a piece & had to head to work) Grace put her hot(her hands are always like little pieces of hot coal), sweet hand on mine and said very sincerely, "Momma, I hope you enjoyed your surprise. I think you have been so surprised you can not take much more. I want you to know I try really hard to do things to make you happy." The cake got stuck in my throat & the tears started to surface. I asked if I had been too sad lately? She shook her head and said "no", then looked right into my face & said, "I like it best when you smile though.....Momma, this made you smile." How can I ever be sad? How can I feel some days like I want to just.....stop. Just stop everything. Breathing, feeling and hurting. How can I feel like that when I have the most beautiful miracle still right with me. God has given me Grace and His will is for me to be happy with her and for her. This is a moment I will hold in my mind every "bad" day that surfaces in the future. I know they will be coming.
This birthday has been bitter sweet. Like most days, hours, minutes here lately. 39, one of those years that is well, really just a number. Next year is supposed to be the "biggie". Well, I look at 39 as "my biggie". It is the year that proves I can survive one of the most life changing and crippling events. It has shown me that I can live & slowly start to enjoy to live again. God can carry me in the cleft of His hand until I can walk again. God can take my bad days & handle the shake of my fist. He hears my cries & wipes my tears with His spirit. He gives me beauty in my family & shows me His face everyday in my Grace. So no, I am not upset to be one year away from 40. I praise God for continuing His unbelievable rebuilding of "me". I praise Him that I am still alive. I praise Him that I have Grace, Tony, Winston(da' hound), Dory(da' Fish) and all of our other family & friends we are blessed with. I praise Him that I am finally able to stand & starting to get my strength to walk maybe one day soon, run. 40--no biggie. If I made it to see 39, well, with my God & the loves of my life I can age without concern. My wrinkles & gray hair are my battle scars but I am still a warrior of the Highest of Kings. Thank you God! Thank you! Thank you!
No matter how many years pass, each of us remain forever new inside.
So celebrate! Souls that belong to Jesus never wrinkle!

Hugs, Jo

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Like The Day After Christmas

I had not planned on writing today. My heart was open & wanting to share on Sunday but
I felt like today would just be too hard. This 27th of May hit me right when the alarm clock went
off. The memories of Anna leaving. You know you would think the fact that she is with Jesus & just fine that I would not grieve so hard. Oh, if I could stop the hurt. Being a human really, really stinks at times. So the alarm clock went off and it was 5:30 & time to go to work. My body did not want to begin this day but my brain knew I needed the distraction. The whole way to work my eyes were welling up. I sat in my car and prayed for God to strengthen me to go in and do my 6-6.5 hours today(since it was a holiday Monday we were backed up-- I got a little overtime in).
Sitting down with my trainer I found myself going to August 27, 2008.....holding Anna for the last time. I kept trying to focus my attention on what she was showing me. Finally, I got going on my own & the morning flew by. At break time this sweet co-worker who is training me said something I will never forget. "Jo, I was thinking about you loosing your sweet baby....9 months ago today,right? Well, driving in I was trying to put myself in your shoes. Would I be strong enough? I imagine it feels like the day after Christmas over & over for you."
I was stunned. The day after Christmas. I had never thought of it that way but man, she nailed it in a new way. Tony & I just LOVE Christmas. We were married in December for that very reason. That is just how I feel the day after. A sadness you can not quite pinpoint. You know next year Christmas will come & you know you will carry the spirit of the season in your heart during it's absence, but you feel sad.
That is how I felt today......melancholy. Sad because I had a little piece of heaven(just like Christmas) for 10 weeks and now she is gone. Just like Christmas I will see her again, just like Christmas I will embrace her again but unlike Christmas I will have to wait until I am called home to do it.
Until then I hold on to one thought......this world was never meant for one as beautiful as my Anna. Thank you all for your prayers today. We felt them! Keep them coming, they help more than you can ever imagine!
In His Love,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Climb

I can almost see it
that dream I am dreaming.
But there's a voice inside my head saying"You'll never reach it".
Every step I'm taking,
Every move I make feels lost with no direction.
My faith is shaking.
But I gotta keep trying.
Gotta keep my head held high.
There's always gonna be another mountain.
I'm always gonna wanna make it move.
Always gonna be an uphill battle.
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose.
Ain't about how fast I get there.
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side.
It's the climb!
The struggles I'm facing.
The chances I'm taking.
Sometimes might knock me down.
But no, I'm not breaking.
I may not know it.
But these are the moments that I'm gonna remember most, yeah.
Just gotta keep going.
And I, I got to be strong.....
Just keep pushing on.
'Cause there's always gonna be another mountain.
I am always gonna want to make it move.
Always going to be an uphill battle.
Someones going to have to lose.
Ain't about how fast I get there.
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb, yeah!
Keep on moving, keep climbing....
Keep the faith, baby......
It's all about, it's all about, the climb!
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa!

O.K., before anyone writes me. Yes, this is a Miley Cyrus song. No, I am not a fan. However,this song should be on my forehead. I just heard this song this last week and it brought me to tears. No, I know that is not hard to do these days but it did make me stop and cry. This is life right now. This is life 9 months later.....9 months ago tomorrow was the catherization. When time stopped for me. When I saw my old life flash in front of me. Three days later I would start a new life. A life without my Anna. Would we do it again? If we knew then what we do now. Would we have signed that application for a special needs-heart disorder specific child? Yes ma'am, Yes sir! In a heart beat(irony at its best). I would not trade my journey to, with or even after Anna. We may be a small family. We are a strong family. Strong in our walk with the Lord. So to "pick up my cross daily- to die daily" so that I can bear His fruit! I/we would do it all again.

So I started my new job. Hard & interesting is a good description. It has been the first two weeks and my mind and body are tired. I realize this is going to take some getting use to. Getting up 4 days a week at 5:30 am is tough for this old housewife of 5.5 years. No, I am not whining. Just stating a fact. It is going to take some getting use to. I turn 39 in 6 days and the ole' body is not what she used to be. The mind is willing but oh, the body likes her sleep! I like the job, it is tough on the eyes but it will do for now. No, I do not think it is a lifetime career move but it is an answered prayer. 5 hours, four days a week I get lost in work. No memories replaying, no sadness and no tears. Just work. This is good!

Grace's last day of kindergarten was last Thursday. Where did the year go? She is a big, bad first grader to be. To celebrate we went to get our toes & fingernails done. Yes, my tough tomboy wanted to go with Momma to spend her Mother's Day gift. What a kick it was to watch that little(even though she is so tall) thing get in that big pedicure chair. We had a blast! I attached two pics because this had to be recorded. Yes, there are flowers on 4 of her nails. Her idea after it was suggested by the nail tech. She was very proud of herself when only 1 nail was smeared. Hey, I think it was good only smearing one after an exciting day of party food at school & just being pooped. We came home after a little side trip to the "Dollar Tree", one of our favorite stores to take a cat nap. I can not remember the last time I curled up with my baby and just took a nap. Her sweet little body warm next to mine and the peaceful rhythm of her snoring. What a sweet time. I love my Grace so much. I love that I was off the last day of school so we could have so much fun together. Sweet and simple fun.

See, 9 months after the loss of my baby I am starting to let myself live again. Last month(April) was the first month I did not wake up on the 27th and realize it was the day Anna died. I was so focused on life....getting Grace signed up for day camp, taking my drug test for the new job and enjoying a gorgeous sunny day here in TN. My dear Cindy called to check on me & that is when it hit me. At first I felt a wave of guilt & then I cried with praise. Praise to my Maker for answering my prayers. Prayers to let me feel like living again & to let me enjoy my beautiful life again. Since then I have started work & realized with in the first week that it was hard to go back to work. Part of my brain still thought I should have a sweet little toddler at home and I should be at home with her. So this last week I have grieved my time with Anna. I have asked God to show me how to make this new place I am in feel right. Driving home one day from work this is what popped into my thoughts..."You have gone through this. Now what are you going to do with it? Be a victim? Show the world what it means to be hurt? Or will you show the world what it means to be Mine? To walk through the valley in the shadow of death and still be strong. To die as yourself & reflect Me! To pick your cross up daily, to die daily and live for and show only Me." This I knew was God once again answering my prayer, giving me direction and showing me the way to strive.
We are healing. One day at a time. One life change or event at a time. We have hope, we carry faith & we are striving to reflect only the love of our Savior. We are starting to live again and actually starting to enjoy it. Who knows what is over the next mountain? The beautiful thing is Tony, Grace & myself are climbing them together. Climbing upward and looking at the horizon. Looking to God for our direction and having the "littlest" of angels as our safety rope. Who would of thought someone so small could have had such an impact?

"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose."
Jim Elliott

Love & Hugs,

Friday, May 8, 2009


Time cannot break the bird's wing from the bird.
Bird and wing together go down, one feather.
No thing that ever flew; not the lark, not you,
Can die as others do.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I read the above poem a week or so ago. I guess the way it describes time & what I believe is my Saviors death drew me to it. Time. Tony & I were discussing time just yesterday. Time is mind boggling. The last months have been so hard but so precious. Time is what God uses to allow us to heal. To have a broken heart is a wound that never completely heals. In time, God shows us that we can focus on living again & live around the wound. We do that because we love Him & we want to glorify Him. We do that because we know Anna is whole. Because we know one day the time we spent here on earth will seem so minuet. That eternity with Jesus and Anna is not only a promise but a fact. Eternity. Our human minds & hearts can not even grasp the meaning or expanse of ETERNITY. Oh, how I look forward to eternity in heaven. I say this humbly not in any way with pride or ownership. I know the living sacrifice & resurrection of Christ is the only reason I will someday see heaven. Nothing I did, do or will ever do will give me that gift. Only my Jesus. For a sinner like me....oh, how sweet my Jesus is!
Time has shown us we can heal. We can hope again with that healing. For Tony I believe I saw the spark of hope return in his eyes the day he ran the Music Marathon. He ran the whole marathon & completed the 26.2 miles under 5 hours. This is not too shabby for a first time runner at the age of 44. That's my man! Grace & I were and are so proud of the bald guy. He now has the fever and hopes to run the Chicago marathon next. No, he decided to do that next year not this year. One year at a time.
I saw the hope return to my Grace the night Tony & I sat her down to tell her we were going to start the adoption process once more in September. From my previous post you know how God showed us this. I feel the day we realized that we were "survivors" and could fight the good fight once more it gave the sparkle of hope to each of us. So since then my Grace has not had any more nightmares or bad dreams. Amazing! Just the promise of having a sibling again....the realization of the original promise not dying with our Anna gave her hope. Oh, thank you God!
For me.....well, I have held on to my hope with both fists clenched tight. I have held on to the robe of my Savior for dear life. My life. So many times I have and know I will continue to feel the swell of darkness closing in on me. He is my life line. My Tony & my Grace are my floatation devices. I have HOPE! He heard my prayers. He heard me even on the days I could only pray, "God Help Me!". He hears me & He answers me. One answer has come in the form of a part time job. I will be a specimen accessioner for Labcorp of America soon. 20 hours a week- four days a week for five hours. I know this is not a "fix". This is hope that will soon return the sparkle in my eye. A way for me to start to find me again. I praise God for providing to me what is so hard for others to find now-a-days---a job. This is a gift I will not take lightly. Here in TN unemployment is at an all time high. This is hitting everyone around us. How blessed Tony & I are. We thank God everyday for our blessed life.
So thank each of you for saying, "it is going to take time". You are so right. Time is what heals. Time is what brings learning, wisdom & growth. Time is what brings HOPE again. God's gift of time. How fortunate we are to have that as a blessing. God Bless You & Keep You!
In His Hands,

Thursday, May 7, 2009

An Early Mother's Day Gift

There are so many of you who monitor this blog that remember the day of Anna's funeral. Parts of that day seem to blur in my mind. One part I remember very clearly was the amazing flowers, plants & bushes that were sent by so many sweet people. The house was full in every room & this house is one that usually has a ton of open space. I remember being in a panic over this. We had requested in lieu of flowers donations be sent to the Nashville Ronald McDonald house. People had done that too but still sent us beautiful arrangements. I am a little OCD about certain things(OK, for those really close to me a "lot" of things). One thing I have a real problem with is watching living things die. I do not have a green thumb or a black thumb. I am just one of those in between people. Due to this fact I try to keep my plants to a minimum so I can hopefully keep everything alive & thriving. I have been very successful with that with a handful of I have had now, an Irish shamrock plant that I received as a partial transplant from a room-mate when I was 19. So Mr. Mac Gregor(yes, I name my plants and talk to them weekly(laugh if you must but it works for me)) has been with me almost 20 years.

So back to August 30, very special people left the house that day I gave them one of the many plants we had received. I knew there was no way I could keep them all alive and the panic of having something else die anytime soon was overwhelming. I look back on it and I was really in a state of panic-not quite right. I also wanted these people to have something of my Anna. I know even typing it, it sounds strange but I consider anything that was in anyway connected to my Anna to be special. I am her Momma, what else would I think? So people graciously left with peace lilies, basket gardens, cut arrangements, etc. Late that night I sat at the kitchen table having a glass of wine(my nerves were shot & I am not a drinker-so one did me in) and felt good about the plants that were left. I was feeling very confident that I could keep them alive. In the following days I bought beautiful pots & containers so I could transplant the huge basket gardens & have the individual plants breath with new space. They did for several months. Out of about 20 plants I now have only 3 still with me. The weak nature of so many of them was their downfall and then some got over or under watered, etc. I am proud to have kept the three I still have alive. It was with a very sad heart that the others were eventually discarded. I tried so hard.

One of these three still living is an African violet. Well, lets just say that ole' Jo has never, I mean never had any luck with African violets. This particular one was in a garden basket sent by Anna's pediatrician(Dr. Smeltzer). I love Dr. Smeltzer. I think he is the kindest most wonderful doctor & fellow adoptive parent I could be blessed to know. When I transplanted the violet it was a deep, dark purple still in bloom. Within days the blooms perished but the plant still looked good. By Christmas it was going down hill. I could tell where I had placed it in the house was just not a good place. I was going to loose it too. I hope those of you reading this see the underlining meaning to my need to keep things alive. I had lost my Anna and that was God's will but I wanted to will her plants through my care to live. As I took down Christmas decorations the first of the year I picked up Celeste(yes, that is the violet's name) & I told her I was going to try to find a place for her to be happy. I decided to place her in my master bathroom. The sunken tub sits between two glass bricked windows. I figured the filtered light & humidity of the bath & shower may keep her going. The tiled ledge to the tub was the perfect size for her to sit. I prayed for God to please let her live & please let Anna know how hard I was trying.....even with her plants. Momma was trying so hard to stay strong.

Celeste continued to live week after week. I was happy the plant was still alive but told Grace one night while bathing her in my tub that I had never had any luck having a violet bloom after the initial blossoms died. Grace just looked over at the plant & said, "well Momma at least you have not killed it yet." Classic Grace. This is what I love about my kiddo. Dry, to the point & usually a riot without meaning to be. Last Sunday, May 3rd I notice two little balls forming at the base of Celeste. Now honestly I hoped but did not expect or even get too excited with the idea she would bloom. The above picture is my Celeste today. Now remember she was a deep dark purple initially.....

In the short time I was blessed with my Anna it became very clear to us that her favorite color was pink. She would pick out pink dresses or outfits to wear everyday. If I choose something of another color she would show me her displeasure. So when we had to decide on a casket & flowers for Anna my first & obvious choice was a pink & white gingham plaid liner, ribbon for the flowers & pink baby tea roses with white mini daisies. That was my Anna. Sweet, pink, white, delicate & happy. Anytime Grace & I sit on her bench here in the evenings we watch the colors of the sunset. The rose & pink hues tell us Jesus & Anna are in His heaven & all is well.

So I know without a doubt my Anna sent me a gift from heaven this year. With the help of my Heavenly Father a once deep purple violet was made pink & white. Yes, to some I am just a momma trying to find anything to keep my daughter close. Who me what you see me. I see that I helped & continue to keep something alive. I do that with love. God given and taught love. So to all you Mother's I wish you a wonderful Mother's Day this year. I pray that yours is filled with as much love as I feel every time I look at my Anna's violet.

1 Peter 5:10-11
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen."

In His Hands,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Living Hope

Today my bible study took me to 1 Peter where the title of this post jumped out at me. "Living Hope". Jesus is our living hope. Because of His death & then Resurrection I know that eternal life awaits me at the time of my body's death. I also know that in the 8+ plus months since Anna went Home that is what He has instilled in me. I live everyday out with the hope that He will make something finally clear to me and show me through scripture or verse His direction for my life. Hope that tomorrow will be a day better than today. That tomorrow seeing the round curves of a 18-24 month old in the beauty salon will not stir memories of my Anna's little body and how she felt. That the lump that seems to always find it's way in to my throat will not show up when I am asked, "how many children do you have"? The pain of those moments each day are like the ticks of a clock that the 3 of us have experienced for so many months. With the pain has been such healing. Healing that makes my mind spin when I think about it tonight. It is very late(or I should say early) and my mind will not stop thinking so I felt I should write. The last 2-3 months have been for me the worst. Now on the other side of them I feel like someone who has been bruised. The blunt forced trauma is over but the memory of the pain from the bruise keeps it all too real. Did we go to China just shy of a year ago to bring Anna home? Was that me that stayed with her for 3 days in the hospital to then say goodbye as her heart finally came to rest? Some days it seems like a terrible movie I watched and it was someone else's story and I was a horrified onlooker. Other days I know it is my life & praise God throughout the day for making me who I am today. I am an almost 39 year old that feels like she is 60 from the wearing down of grief & mourning on one day. Other days I am lifted to a height that makes me feel 18 again....those are the days I let Him in enough for Him to show me the way.

Tony & I both experienced such a day of high hopes when the realization that our dream of giving a sibling to Grace to share this life with did not die with Anna. Infertility you see makes our decision a little different than most. Not to downplay the loss of a biological child-any loss of a child is tragic. Our loss does not give you the option of healing then becoming pregnant again. It is like loosing your dreams two times over. It is a vicious circle you feel somewhat trapped in-at least for me it does. So through this vicious, mind numbing cycle of loss God made His intentions to us very clear by what simply was one of His miracles. Not a huge miracle that makes world headlines on the evening news. A miracle none the less that some would call a "coincidence". To steal Beth Moore's wisdom yet again, " coincidents are miracles when Jesus means to remain anonymous." Amen sister Moore! In this beautiful case I want to sing His praises publicly. During my recent "rough" patch I have suffered with insomnia more than once. This period especially just kept going on & on. So in my study at the time it was suggested that sometimes God does not allow us to sleep because He wants our attention & has a message to give. So like Job and others much wiser than me I stood one night on my front porch in the wee hours, looked up to the heavens and said, " O.K., you know you have my attention. What do want to say or want me to know? Not to be too demanding but while you let me know what is on your mind could you please give me some direction? Direction for any aspect of my life. I am a little lost right now on so many levels and could really use a focused direction." There was no shooting star or booming voice as a reply. As I turned to go into the house I was just covered in a rain shower of peace. His peace. Peace of the Holy Spirit that can not be ignored. I sat quietly for a few minutes before going to bed to catch my breath from the experience and just kept thinking, "as long as you have me I AM your direction." Wow! Message delivered. I slept like a baby that night and really have slept pretty good ever since. Only recently have I felt the anxiety of things changing in our lives & me allowing that anxiety to keep me up(like 1am-right now). Two days later I was sitting at the computer looking through my new emails seeing a ton of emails from Rainbow Kids. Each message was titled "child of interest". I took my cursor to delete each one like every day for the last 8 months believing that once again I had taken care of that little issue. Do not ask me why I have not unsubscribed because I can not answer that. So I clicked on what I thought was a career builders email since I have been searching for the ideal part time job. Well, instead it was a Rainbow Kids mailing on a specific little boy. Now due to the sensitivity of this type of waiting child publication I am not going to give a ton of details on the posting. But moments later I & some unseen Force were dialing the phone to the listing agency to inquire about this little 18 month old. This child was from the Philippines & I am going to leave out his need for privacy reasons. One aspect I can not skip was his first name......Jomarie. Yes, Jomarie for a boy(remember the Philippines is a very Catholic influenced nation-no doubt a saint or two was the root). Who could even imagine such a "coincidence"- I mean this is too good for me to make up. My name & Anna's combined. So long story short after consulting with our family pediatrician(also an adoptive Dad with China) we realized with his agreement that the potential for another huge heartbreak was probable with this little guy. This all took a good month & 1/2 to realize after additional updated medical info. was provided to us. So we informed the agency we would have to release the file. We do not feel this was a waste of time at all for anyone involved since the updated medical information will really help any inquiring family know what the future may hold.

Tony & I walked away sadly but with Hope. New hope from above.....we had talked like a hopeful couple willing to start over on our dream. A couple who had prayed together for this sweet angel(Jomarie) & God to show us His plan. A couple that now knew they were strong enough to take the leap of faith once more. A couple that knows that unless in the next few months God reveals something else to us we will be applying to adopt once more. We will adopt from the Philippines this time & right now we see doing a healthy child adoption. God in His plan knows our future & His will be done. We as a family have the comfort of knowing our limitations along with His plan. We do not have the strength to go head long, eyes wide open into another potential heart break. Take Tony & I out of the equation and you have Grace. Grace needs to have the comfort of a sibling. A sibling that will be able to walk hand in hand with her through this amazing life, God willing, long after her Father & I are called Home. So I end tonight(this morning) with TO BE CONTINUED......Continued with Living Hope!

1 Peter 1:6-9
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

In His Hands,

Saturday, March 21, 2009


"Your life is like a mist. You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away."James 4:14
"Good people are taken away, but no one understands. Those who do right are being taken away from
evil and are given peace. Those who live as God wants find rest in death." Isaiah 57:1-2

Good Friday, Saturday, March 21, 2008 was the day we were blessed with these pictures. These two pictures were forwarded to me from our coordinator after a brief phone call where she described to me our Anna. I knew the moment she started describing this peanut she was ours. Good Friday is a day that has always filled me with mixed emotions. Usually the day falls in the glorious beginning of Spring. A time of rebirth, a time for everything to be new again. My heart & spirit always ache on this day too when I mentally recount exactly what took place. The suffering has always put the beauty of my eternal life into perspective. Yes, three days later HE WOULD RISE! I am so unworthy of His suffering. I know the emotions I feel are guilt & joy mixed together. What an adoption story....He wants me to be His. Last year though....what anticipation in the midst of the flood of emotions. That face! The first glimpse of our daughter! Oh, she had & I know she still has in heaven the face of this family, a G----N! I could see her with us immediately and remember calling Tony out of breath because I was forwarding this face to him via email at work. Four days later we would accept Yi Tao Dang's referral and she would forever be known as Anna Marie Yitao G----N. AKA: Little Lou, Little Bit, Anna Banana & Baby Anna. Along with every other endearment a family places on the beloved "baby" of the family.

So 1 year later, we find ourselves at peace with one fact- our sweet little Anna is in heaven and completely healed. This Good Friday will fall in April this year but we know no matter what the day or anniversary she is in Jesus' arms and he hugs her for us every day. We are at peace & praise God that we were blessed by Him to be considered special enough in His eyes to call Anna "ours". We are inches away from starting a non-profit organization in her memory "Anna's Forever Families", that one day will assist by financial grants other families adopting a special needs orphan.
Yet there is a full range of emotions that I have yet to fully grasp or honestly convey on this blog. Anger and at times rage. Anger in that 1 year later we are still looking at our 5 year old who cries at night because she is alone. Anger that Grace is mourning the dream of having a sibling. She looks around and sees everyone she knows with someone & she is still alone. Anger that we can not fix that fact. As parents we can not fix this. Yes, we have faith that the plan for our family will be revealed in time but how frustrating to see your child hurt & you can not do a thing to stop it. Play dates & distractions are quick fixes but do not heal with their lack of consistency. No one understands the grief of mourning your "old life" and the dream of a "new life-with your 2ND child". Anger of being told....1)"You need to talk to someone about your anger." 2)"You need to let go of Anna." 3)"You need to embrace the beauty in your life not just the death of Anna." 4)"Do not push away everyone who loves you." 5)"This has just not affected YOU but we have all been AFFECTED by Anna's death." 6)"You should find a better way of "working" through this part of your process--a way that is easier for everyone that loves you." The disappointment of people separating themselves from you because the burden of "YOU" is too much for them to bear. The disappointment in knowing people truly want you to make them feel better by just lying and answering, "We are doing fine, thanks for asking"-now their duty in asking is over & they can walk away unscathed. This is only a brief glimpse of the things that both Tony & I are experiencing. Yes, we are the one's experiencing it. We are so aware of everything that is going on around us that it is like our senses have been heightened. No, not overly sensitive just heightened. To those who feel they have also been affected by our loss please take your feelings and multiply them by 10 and you will still barely glimpse what we carry every day. For those who feel we need counseling....we are counseled every moment of every day by the Highest of Counselors. We do not have a breath to escape our bodies without a prayer going with it asking Him for guidance on how to take the next one. As all sinners(especially those in pain) we sometimes turn a deaf ear & still speak or act without caring. If we were in denial of these facts, or if we could not remove ourselves from our beds each morning or if we found solace in drugs or alcohol we would agree whole heartily that "therapy" is what we needed. What we need is time. Time where no one wants to "fix" us. To be given the allowance to be just who we are....imperfect. Allowance for the days or weeks that you will find our venting brash, harsh, angry & yes, days that we do not see beauty in anything around us. The room for honesty without worrying that we have offended you with that honesty or that you will avoid us afterward. These moments are passing & to date they have been few. They do not linger and they do not define us. The old or new us. No, we are not the same anymore. We will never be the same. We all have to accept that fact. Believe it or not we thank God for making sure we will never be the same. We see what matters now. Tony, Grace & Jo matter. The three of us are good. We are clinging to one another as we work through this dark place and blindly feeling our way to a light switch or window to open. We know without any doubt one day the light will come on/in & we will see all the obstacles that for now we find ourselves tripping & falling over. God is Big Enough, Strong Enough & Forgiving Enough to handle our anger, frustration & fear of our unknowns. We only want the people who say they love us to please try to do the same. Stop feeling obligated to fix us & do not take distance, silence or even an angry outburst from us personally. No, we do not plan on attacking everyone unjustly. We have never been the type to do that. This is our lives now. We will figure out how to fit in this new flesh and we ask nothing of anyone other than time, space & concessions to allow us to do this. To use words of Max Lucado in the book "Traveling Light": "The black bag of sorrow is hard to bear. The bearing is difficult because not everyone understands our grief. They did at first. They did at the funeral. They do if they visit the cemetery. But they do not now: they do not understand. Grief lingers. As silently as a cloud slides between you and the afternoon sun, memories drift between you and joy, leaving you in a chilly shadow. No warning. No notice. Just a whiff of her baby lotion or the reminder of her voice, and you are saying good-bye all over again. Why will the sorrow not leave us alone? Because we buried more than our baby. We buried some of ourselves. We buried our dreams. Because we are dealing with more than memories-we are dealing with unlived tomorrows. We are not just battling sorrow-we are battling disappointment. We are also battling anger. Anger lives in sorrow's house. Anger at anger itself. Anger at life. Anger at death. " Tony & I are aware of this. We know what the score is. We do not need anyone trying to share in this burden. Believe me there is no room. No matter how good the intentions are this is the time in this process that we can not share except with Christ & with each other. The full weight we carry & will continue to carry in some ways all our remaining days. Only time, healing and love from the Divine Healer will lessen our load. No one else is expected or needed to help. Help comes from your prayers for our continued strength and we will forever welcome them & thank you for them. Every prayer is physically felt by each of us.

So, all the cards are on the table so to speak. I have been honest. Honesty is sometimes hard to swallow. Please do not take offense to anything I have shared. Truth does set you free. I hope my honesty in this journey sets so many of you free from feeling troubled by us in any way. We have had the shadow of death pass over us. We are still here & Anna is gone. We DO raise our hands high every day and thank God that we are still here and because of His blood sacrifice we will forever only have the shadow pass over us. Death will come in it's time as it is written, but so will our eternal life. We are His children and we will one day have eternity with Him & Anna. We will embrace every moment of our lives together until then. We love & cherish our Grace so much and that is what fuels our lives. We wake up every day no matter the pain & thank Him for giving us the priviledge of being her parents. We will continue to be happy as a family no matter the size of the void we are learning to live with. We are so blessed and know that without a doubt. We have to live the good days and endure the bad one's. We are so full of hope, trust & faith. Those are the keys to conquer the anger, fear & doubt. For the days that the vision of that truth is clouded we ask for tolerance & forgiveness. He is Big enough to give us that. Our prayer is that everyone can.

"You are good, Lord. The Lord is good and right." Psalm 25:7-8
"Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." Hebrews 12:1-2
In His Hands,