Saturday, September 18, 2010

My first....

In 1998, I was engaged to be married and working.  Brian and I had purchased a house that I was living in alone.  We decided that I would be the one to live there, because he wanted to stay with his dad who had just been diagnosed with cancer...the first time.  I was busy with plans for our wedding and our future.  One day at work, I received a bonus check that I was not expecting to be as large as it was.  I knew immediately what I wanted to do with that check.

I got out the phone book at work, and started calling breeders of bulldogs.  Brian had always said he wanted a bulldog, and I had just wanted a dog, so a bulldog was fine with me.  I called several breeders and no one had puppies and if they did, they were long spoken for.  Apparently, I didn't seem to realize that you can't just pick up the phone one day and decide to buy a full blood bulldog.   The last breeder I called had one.  It was a long shot, but I made my co-worker drive with me after work and take a look at him.

I tried not to get my hopes up as I drove to see the puppy because I knew it might not work out.  I didn't want to get him unless it felt right.  When I got to the breeder and I saw him,  there was no doubt that he was my dog - down to the spot on his eye!  I paid the exact amount of my entire bonus for him and drove to my parents house for the night to show them the newest member of our extended family.
The next day, I surprised Brian by making him stop off with his dad on their way home from chemotherapy.  My hope was that for Brian, Munson would be a pick-me-up in his life.

Munson was my first dog of my very own - my first baby.  He was also my first major purchase paid for by my first bonus.  He kept me company in my first house.  He was the first living thing dependent on me.  Even though he didn't ever seem to understand how big he was, he sat with me every morning while I drank my coffee....and slept with me every night.  He hogged the covers and usually ended up with his head on the pillow by morning.  I just loved him.

When our human babies began to come along, Munson took it hard.  It was not so bad with Ansley because she was a sweet, gentle little girl that didn't get in his way much.  However, Luke was a different story.  Luke always wanted whatever ball Munson had and I could sense it was wearing on Munson.  We invested in training and even hired a in-home pet trainer to come and help us.  However, our efforts were to no avail.  One day, Luke went to grab a ball from Munson and Munson tried to attack Luke.  Luckily, Luke was not hurt, but that was it - the dog had to go.

When this happens there is no turning back, you have to act and act fast to remove the pet from the kids for the kids' sake as well as for the dog's sake.  Beyond the fact that I wanted to protect my children, Munson clearly was not handling life with kids well, and it had altered his personality.  I wanted him to be happy like he had been when he was our only focus.  This was a hard time for Brian and I to have to decide what to do with our precious puppy...we were trying to hold our family together.  This was during the months of Brian's Dad's second round of cancer when he was really sick.  Brian and his family cared for his dad on a hourly basis and the toll was beginning to wear emotionally and physically.  Although Munson was a dog and not a dad or a child, it seemed like dealing with losing him during this time made it even harder.

But where could we even send him?  I certainly didn't want to just hand him over to a stranger, but time was of the essence, we were not comfortable having him in our house with the kids.  I prayed for God to please provide a place for Munson.  The next morning, we took our kids to visit Brian's dad.  While we were there, some family friends dropped by.  They were dear friends of the entire Parker family, John and Sam (Sandra).  They were just popping over to say hello - now get this - on their way to "interview" a dog.  They had only had cats for a while and Sam, a serious animal lover,  was longing for a dog.  Of course I chimed in and told them the situation with Munson...(who they knew and adored).  They told me they would consider taking him, but that they were already obligated to seeing this other dog.

About three hours later, I received a call saying "well, I guess you are talking to Munson's new mom!" They came and got my first baby that afternoon..a perfect home provided within a day of my prayer.  John and Sam were able to give Munson the life that Brian and I had once given him....and honestly, a even better one.  Sam bathed Munson every Friday night and wiped his slobbery mouth everytime he drank water.  She loved him intensely.  She was always sweet to bring him by to see me and always referred to me as his "real mama"....even though she clearly was.  She always had a way of making me feel loved and like I had done her a favor by giving Munson to her, when in fact, she had rescued me. 

Sam and Munson
Last summer, Sam passed away in her sleep while Munson laid with her.    I know he was there to give her comfort and love during her last moments on this earth.  When John found them, they were still snuggled together, Munson refusing to leave her side.  Tears stream down my face now as I consider what a wonderful and loving person she was, I am so grateful that I had the Munson connection with her - a little like family.

It is amazing to me that God cares about our smaller issues in life,  like pets.  He immediately provided a warm home that I could comfortably send my puppy to and simultaneously filled a need Sam had to love on a dog - a dog that would be with her to the end. He knows our needs and cares about even the smallest of them.  We are always able to climb up into our Father's lap and admit to him our concerns no matter how insignificant they may seem.  Not that He will always choose to grant us those desires, but it is experiences like this one that keep me aware that He does care about even the little things in my life.

This past Monday, I got the call I have known would come one day.  John left me a message to call him and I immediately knew why - Munson was gone.  He was 12 years old...way past the usual life span of a bulldog, but then again it had been John and Sam taking care of him!  John was with him when he died and he filled me in on what had happened.  Its silly to cry over a dog that I haven't even gotten to care for in six years, but I did.

Like I said he was my first....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's a Fall Festival Ya'll!

I have some wonderful friends that approached me a few months ago wanting to host an event to raise money to help bring Valor home.  With their efforts and the help of some neighbors that have jumped in, we are having a family fall festival!  It is going to be held October 16 from 3-6 pm in Johns Creek, GA at the Glastonberry Swim and Tennis.  You are all welcomed to come!

My "team" has done a tremendous job of pulling together awesome raffle items, silent auction items, games, pumpkins, food, drinks etc...but we still need more!

If you have any items that could be raffled or auctioned that you would be willing to donate, please post a response to this message!

We also still need more food and dessert! So, if you have a way of getting some yummy grub to help us out - let me know!!

Thank you all for your support! I have so enjoyed watching how God has provided through you.  We would never be able to bring our baby home without the love, prayers and support from all of is truly a community effort...and how beautiful that is :)

 By the way...thank you to our friend, Katie, for our awesome logo!  We love it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How we ended up with the boy we call Valor - Last Part

I promise I didn't intentionally leave you hanging with the ending of my story... Three kids starting school and already being on our second round of illnesses has kept me busy!  If there is something good about the fact that you've had to wait, it's that you can relate to how I was feeling during the time frame of the story below...

When I left off, we had just been told that some of our friends would be traveling to Ethiopia that very weekend and would be able to go to Valor's orphanage and see him.  What a blessing and an unbelievable thought!  I shouldn't have been surprised, however, that God chose to provide again - considering all of the many "coincidences" He had orchestrated  and that I have described in my other posts.  Remember, all of these events had taken place from Monday to Friday!

On Saturday, our friends left for Ethiopia!  You know what happened next?  Nothing.  You know what happened on Sunday? Nothing.  No encouraging information "hand delivered from God" came on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday either.  After going through such an informational "high" and then this dry patch, I can see why God does not reveal to us His "Grand Plan".  As humans, we would EXPECT to see that plan spelled out for us and most likely begin to take it for granted.  I was beginning to be disappointed  that  amazing events were no longer unfolding.

Tuesday did bring something else, however.  With my sheet of pictures in tow, I went to see the plastic surgeon  to discuss the treatment for  a child I didn't even know would be mine.   To say the consultation was daunting would be an understatement.  I was hit in the face with the harsh reality of not only dealing with the many surgeries and therapy that Valor would need to go through, but also the possibility of other problems that he might have.  I was told that there are over 230 known associated disorders that children with cleft lip and palate can have.  This would likely involve inner ear issues and could even include more serious problems such as heart complications.  The doctor said that Valor's case was severe, but that he had not only worked with these cases before, but had experienced successful outcomes.

I left the office crying.  A flood of emotion overwhelmed me and doubt set in like a dark cloud.  I cried the whole way home.  I had a "what was I thinking?" if the week before had all been a dream.  I prayed for God to show me the answer, give me a feeling, lead me.  Nothing came.  I began to doubt my own ability of being able to handle this baby's special needs.  I began to worry for my three kids at home and how this would effect them.  I began to let fear creep in - and deeply it did creep.

I called Brian to tell him what I had learned.  By that point, I thought it was obvious that we could not do this...I was expecting him to feel as let down as I did.  When I told him, he said "I don't see how this changes anything.  I still think we should bring him home as our own." Brian never wavered...he already felt a peace that God had said "go" no matter the details.

I called my friend, Shannon, and told her what was happening and how the world was spinning.  She said "I don't think anything has changed except your level of fear."  I also shared the situation with a close friend on my back porch and she said the same thing - "nothing seems different to me, you are being fearful."

At first, I wanted to shake all three of them and say "YOU weren't there to hear the doctor! YOU don't know the 230 associated disorders that he listed to me and the serious face he looked at me with when he said them!  YOU don't get it!"

Then, I realized they were right.  The only negative thing that had arisen was my fear.  Had God not shown threw the previous week that He would provide, and that I need not worry?  Had he not more than adequately provided answers then, so I could fall back on them during this moment of doubt? I realized that if the only thing standing in between me and following God's path for me was FEAR, then that was no reason.

Any family that steps up to take on a child has fear.  That's part of the process for natural or adopted children.  We are kidding ourselves if we think that it is our strength, ability or intelligence that brings us through it.  Those things help, but they can not do the job alone.  I truly feel that God brought us all of the answers He did through that previous week, so that I could not doubt that Valor is our matter what.  I also believe He did it to reassure me that He is always with me and always looking out for me.

My kids still love watching Valor's video
Finally, after almost a  week went  since the time our friend left for Ethiopia,  we received the most wonderful video of our baby.    What an amazing gift!  I got to see him sleep, yawn, clinch his tiny fists,  and cry...that sweet little baby cry.  I am glad that the video came after my moment of doubt and not before. By the time I saw it,  I watched Valor, already having the complete knowledge that he was MINE!

Psalm 28:7 "The Lord is my strength and my shield;  in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My sweet little Landry

 I am going to "pause" from my adoption storyline, to share something from present day .  On this blog, so much has been said about Valor, but from my perspective,  my life is equally filled with love, thought & concern for all of my children - all four of them.

My littlest, Landry, just turned two in June.  She's spunky, girlie, sweet and sometimes, well, a little sassy.  She is also a beautiful picture of blind love. 

As we got ready for her preschool orientation this morning, I explained to her that she would get to meet her teacher and her new class.  She was happy to go and  picked out her favorite pair of "fit pops" (flip flops) to accessorize her dress. However, when I told her that Watson was going to be there, too - she was ecstatic!  Watson is her best friend!

Landry and Watson soon after he was diagnosed
My two other kids love Watson, too, but to Landry, he is her best friend.  Since they are older, my other kids pray for Watson and look after him and want to help him.  To Landry, he is her best friend - that's it.  It hit me about six months ago, when I took this picture, that Landry is one of the only people in Watson's life that doesn't know he's sick.  To her, he's just Watson.

She's always asking me to see pictures of Valor and I know that he will automatically benefit from the same blind love that Landry has so willingly offered to Watson.  She never seems to notice anything is wrong with his little mouth...she just gets excited and says "I want Balor!" 

Thank goodness we have this sweet girl.   I can't wait to see what God does with her little life, because  He's using her already!

I Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.