Goodbye My Saxon-Love

It’s time now. Our hearts are breaking, but we know it’s time. 

Tomorrow morning (Thursday) we will say our final goodbyes to our Saxon-love. Many of our kids, and all of our grandkids, have no memory of life without his sturdy, loving presence at their side. He patiently eased his way into the horribly broken hearts of each of our children as they came home to us from places of so much trauma (almost always terrified of this big furry lion of a dog). One by one, they fell deeply in love with him, and he silently and joyfully pledged to each new child a lifetime of unwavering devotion and protection. He became so protective that we’ve heard multiple people tell us, after jumping out of their skin, that they have never, ever before heard such a powerful and threatening bark come out of a golden retriever. We knew he would never let anyone hurt our kids and would do everything in his power to keep them safe. 

The day baby Saxon came into our lives

But with our babies . . . oh, this sweet boy was as gentle as a lamb and kept them close in his care. His children used him for a pillow while watching TV or listening to our evening reading, as a soft place to let their tears fall when sad, and as a patient when they pretended to be doctors. Our grandchildren, whom he equally accepted as his own, used him as an aid in learning to stand or walk, climbed all over him like a jungle gym, hugged him regularly with all their hearts. Nothing made him happier. Except maybe his trips to Hocking Hills with Scott and me when we were able to take our occasional getaways there. He was always so peaceful and filled with joy during those times with us. Maybe he, like we, occasionally needed a little rest from the tremendous demands on his time and devotion here with so many to watch over — in spite of the fact that he dearly loved his role in life. 

During Scott’s and my last trip to Hocking Hills in 2019, it rained heavily at the end. I woke up very early that morning, and Saxon and I slipped out for one last walk in the rainy woods together. I felt pretty certain that it would be his last time there, and I drank in every second of that early morning walk with him. I’ll never forget it. And as it turns out, I was right. Our loving boy is tired. He has given his heart so fully to all of us during his twelve years here. It’s time now to let him rest. 

Oh, sweet Saxon, we can never thank you for all that you have been to us. You could be such a stinker, especially when it came to trying to steal food, even to the point of robbing ripe tomatoes from our garden. You never ate the green ones, but waited until they were perfectly ripe, almost always on the day we had planned to pick them ourselves, in fact. But when we went to get them, they were gone. We blamed the wild rabbits until we discovered it was you. I will miss the sound of your paws moving through the house and beside my bed during the night. I will miss seeing you sprawled on the floor, surrounded by your children when we are reading or watching a movie as a family at night. You have become part of the very air itself here, and as I type this post and let the tears fall, I don’t want to face the emptiness ahead. I’m so sorry that you were plagued with so much illness throughout your lifetime, due to your severe allergies. We did our best with all those years of injections and medications to keep you comfortable, but I know there were times when you were miserable. Yet, even then, you just walked through each day, doing your job as our dog, loving everyone as fully as ever. You always seemed to be so happy in spite of the pain. We love you with all our hearts, and we always will. 

Today we will all focus on giving Saxon one last happy day with us, showering him with love, and with all the yummy treats he always wanted, but could never have because of his allergies. Right now, in this moment, I don’t want to think about tomorrow when I will sit with him on the floor of our veterinarian’s office, holding him until he stops breathing. I always hate that moment, but it’s an honor, too, to hold him as he drifts away, smelling our hands and knowing how much we love him up to that last moment. Oh, my heart.

So this post in in memory of our Saxon and all of the dogs who have loved the Rosenow family through the years before passing on to a place of rest. And to all dogs who do this every single day for their own families.

God outdid himself when he created dogs, and we lose a little piece of our hearts every time we say our final goodbyes to one of them. 

Rest deeply, our precious Saxon boy. You have certainly earned it.

I love this dog with all my heart
One of my favorite pictures of him
Good sport and up for whatever the kids wanted him to do
Our beautiful, noble boy – getting so tired
This past Fourth of July – he was mesmerized by the fireworks. As I look back at pictures from this past year, I can see how quiet and peaceful he had become — as if preparing himself for these goodbyes.
Our last walk together in Hocking Hills
He was already getting so tired even last year during this trip
This is how he spends most of his time now; his fatigue is deep although his heart remains fully and truly devoted to all of us.
His precious face in my bed this morning tells me that he is ready for this final journey
Goodbye, my love. I will hold you in my heart forever.

White Mother; Black Son

The past few weeks, months even, have left me in a quiet place of pondering and self-examination.

Racism in America.

What is it exactly?

How will it affect my African-born son with very black skin, or my Haitian-born daughter?

And the thought that has plagued me most: how do I prepare them for what’s ahead?

I’ve been searching everything I can get my hands on and (as mother to twenty-three children) everything I can squeeze in time to read.

One of my favorite sources has been a little book called, Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope, written by Jasmine L. Holmes, daughter of Voddie Bachman — a theologian Scott and I have greatly respected since first hearing him speak at a weekend adoption conference years ago. Jasmine’s book is beautifully written in letter form as the Black, biological mother of a sweet, little, Black toddler.

However, one of the first things I read in this book filled my heart with discouragement and fear: “There are conversations that I will have to have with my little boy—conversations similar to the ones my parents had with me—that are unique to our ethnicity.”

“Wait a minute!” my heart screamed! “I don’t know that script!” The conversations I grew up with, as a little white girl in the American South, were completely different kinds of conversations. Talks about being afraid of big, Black boys when forced integration began at my very white school in the early 1970’s, and talks about how to protect myself if necessary. Although these talks also included statements that “they aren’t all bad” and that “some of them will be nice,” the messages of fear and misunderstanding and labeling that had been sifting down through generations since failed Reconstruction in the South, were passed on to me. Only in the last ten years have I begun to understand the history behind these preconceived ideas, the evil they represent, and the damage they caused and are still causing today. And my heart breaks.

So what does my script look like as a white mother to Black children (and brown/Hispanic and Asian children, who will also face some of these same challenges in life)?

My son, like her son, is tall and shows clear signs that he is going to be a pretty big man. She writes, “. . . he is likely to be seen as the biggest kid, the strongest kid, and the one least likely to be seen by outsiders as a kid. We know that he may be perceived as more threatening and aggressive than his non-black peers. We know that . . . he might grow up with stories of having been made to feel ‘other’ because of the color of his skin.”

The reality of these words was not a new idea for me. I’ve known since we adopted our precious Nolan at the age of six-and-a-half (and the same for his sister Madlin, adopted at the age of five) that we would have to learn how to prepare him for life in the world as a Black man. We’ve even had a very few brushes with racism. We knew we had a lot of learning to do ourselves before we could understand how to prepare him for this. But the first years of this baby’s life were not good ones. He was the victim of so much trauma and neglect and abuse and fear. Now, he is finally happy and safe and feels snuggly secure in his family, surrounded by unconditional love.

I don’t want to rob him of these years of joy and safety. For now, he is the son of white parents, this allows him—right or wrong, good or bad—to, in some ways, reap the benefits of our white privilege in spite of his beautifully very black skin tone. That is a fact; a consequence of living in a diverse family parented by a white mom and dad. For now. But what about later when he’s out in the world where people see him only as a tall, Black man who might be wrongly perceived as a threat no matter how polite he might be?

How can I gently prepare him for this future scenario without casting a shadow over the happy, innocent, and safe life he finally has now? I don’t want to take away any of the sunshine from this period in his life.

I still don’t have all of these answers, but we are learning. And as I have begged God to lead me along this path, he is answering those prayers. Jasmine’s book brought me encouraging and hopeful guidance:

But because of your brown skin . . . your exuberance will sometimes be mistaken for recklessness, your passion for anger. Your affection will make some people nervous, especially if your flirtation veers in the direction of the wrong white man’s daughter . . . Some people won’t even take the time to get to know your tenderness. Sweet boy, I do not say these things to jade you. As I teach you these lessons, I pray that they don’t come from a place of bitterness or a life ruled by fear, I want them to flow from a place of wisdom. I can’t just see you as my sweet little boy. I have to visualize the man that you’ll become, and I must prepare you to face the world in his skin. But there is no better preparation for that than to know that you are not defined by the cruelty that some in this world wish to offer you. You aren’t even completely defined by your mama’s love. You are defined by the God of the universe who purposefully gave you that beautiful brown skin for his glory. No matter how the world might perceive you, hold your head high knowing that you are matchlessly loved by your Father in heaven. And you will be fiercely protected by your mother on earth for as long as I possibly can. . . It is no accident that you are black. He placed you in a lineage of glorious complexity and gave you the task of learning how to glorify him in light of the ingredients he stirred into the pot of your identity. He invites you to delve into a deeper understanding of who you are as an individual so that you can see yourself in light of who you are in the grander story that he is writing. You are black. And it is good. . . you will be tempted to question the wisdom of God in speaking your brown skin into existence . . . you will wonder whether God is holding out on you for making you so different from the world you live in. But I pray that you will come to an understanding of who you are that moves beyond your earthly heritage alone. I pray that your heavenly identity will not only supersede your earthly shell, but also give it deeper and fuller meaning as purposeful evidence of God’s grace toward you and everyone around you. My dear, sweet little boy . . . I pray that you will grow to acknowledge your Creator in all aspects of who you are, bowing your knee in gratitude for every single manifestation of his providence toward you . . . He made you a little black boy on purpose. He stuck you into this particular moment in history with intention. I am not your mama on accident.”

“I am not your mama on accident.”

I have held tightly to the truth that God ordained before the beginning of time that each of our twenty-three children would be ours. He brought them each to us in his perfect time and in his perfect way. I am Nolan’s mama! I am Madlin’s mama. The same holds true for every one of my kids. He is not going to leave me alone to figure this out. He will teach me and guide me in the ways necessary to prepare each of them for a life that I pray will be in his service—a life of fulfillment and joy that he has planned for them. A life that will, I pray, enable them to embrace and celebrate their brownness, their Blackness, their “Asian-ness,” and even their blindness, their paralysis, their physical deformities, or their cognitive limitations. They are each “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and Scott and I were the ones chosen by the Creator of the universe to raise them. What an awesome and breath-taking honor!

For now, among other things, we are relearning the truth of history in America for all people created with black skin. This history has been distorted and re-written in abominable ways. We want to know the truth, and we are teaching that truth to all of our children, regardless of their skin color. What happens in the past, matters so very much in the present and in the future.

If you also would like to begin educating yourself about the past, in order to help you better understand the present and hopefully open your heart to fuller acceptance of the racism that is a reality of life here in America, here are a few links to get you started.

“Why the Lies My Teacher Told Me About Race in America After the Civil War Matter in 2019”

“Lynchings, 1921 Tulsa Massacre, and 8 Other Things School Didn’t Teach You About Race in America”

“How the GI Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans”

And I especially love this admission by Christianity Today, of how the Church has failed miserably at carrying this torch. If you don’t read any of the others, please at least read this one:

“Justice Too Long Delayed”

God will continue leading us and bringing others into our lives, as needed. Black, white, brown, Asian friends—we welcome their perspectives in this journey, and we trust God to work through their experience, their wisdom, and their love for our children to continue conducting us along the path he designed for our family.

The day we met our new son, Nolan
Bringing Nolan home to his family

Nolan’s first birthday with his family—brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews
Nolan’s first Christmas with us
Adoption finalization day!
Hiking with one of his twelve sisters
Precious Madlin before she came home to us
Our beautiful Madlin today
Our amazing and handsome Nolan now, at eleven years of age

Though Thunder Explodes and Lightning Flash

My son Nathan introduced me to this song, Lullaby for a Stormy Night, a few weeks ago. It’s so beautiful. I loved it immediately, and I’ve listened to it multiple times since then. These lyrics made me think of a couple of things.

Little child, be not afraid,
Though thunder explodes and lightning flash,
Illuminates your tear-stained face,
I am here tonight.

And someday you’ll know,
That nature is so,
The same rain that draws you near me,

Falls on rivers and land,
And forests and sand,
Makes the beautiful world that you see
In the morning.

My first mental image, while listening to this song, was that of our little Lilyan when she first came home to us. She was so tiny, but also so spunky! However, thunderstorms reduced her to an absolutely terrified, whimpering (sometimes screaming), trembling bundle of baby girl.

I had never seen anyone as terrified of storms as she was. It broke my heart to see her like that, and even just the prediction of a storm would cause me to feel panic on her behalf. 

She has outgrown this fear now, but I sure wish I’d known of this song back then. I’m no singer (understatement), but I would’ve held her and sung it to her.

The other thing it made me think of is God’s ways. Even though it isn’t a Christian song, and even though it doesn’t even mention God.

Oh man! Sometimes his ways seem so dark and scary and bullying and misunderstood. The rain that falls in the midst of the thundering, flashing, panic-inducing storms of life, causing me to skitter like a terror-stricken rabbit into his arms, is the same rain that makes our walk with him beautiful. And this reminder pricked my conscience.

The same rain that draws you near me,
Falls on rivers and land,
And forests and sand,
Makes the beautiful world that you see
In the morning.

Just yesterday morning, I was so far from his arms. I was consumed with sadness and fear; I was pouting and accusing this Father of mine of being mean. Of tricking me — again — by making me think he was about to answer a prayer a certain way, and then reneging on his promises to care for our family.

This temper of mine. It causes me, in times of fear or in the midst of feeling I’ve been betrayed, to behave in such childish ways. Lashing out at those I love, saying things I don’t even mean, and turning my back on my all-knowing Creator who loves me more than I can ever understand while I’m trapped in this stubborn, foot-stomping, human body that sometimes desires comfort and ease and my own way more than knowing this God in deeper and truer ways.

He loves me so much that he gave his life to save me. He died to make it possible for me to run into those arms when I’m scared to death. Will I ever grow up?

Oh, God. Help me to embrace the thunder and lightening along with the life-giving water that you send to make beautiful our path in this world. Grow in me a desire to run to you, instead of away from you, and to nestle in your arms. I know in my heart that this is the only safe place to be during the storm.

Whose House of Cards is This, Anyway?

“There is nothing that comes to pass but God has His purpose in it. Though the world seems to run at random in blind confusion and rude disorder, yet God governs it to make perfect harmony out of all the seeming discords.” ~ Ezekiel Hopkins (1633-1690)

Even after I woke up this morning I kept feeling sick to my stomach when I thought, “What might’ve happened to her if we hadn’t been there?”

Sometimes God shows us why he totally derails our plans. Often not, but sometimes.

I need to update our family blog. But no time just now. These last few months have been brutal. This month has been especially so. My September calendar currently has seventy-three appointments on it! As of tonight, we’ve completed thirty-four of those, but still have thirty-nine more to go. I’m exhausted and functioning in a mental fog pretty much every minute of every day.

But a couple of weeks ago, Scott and I put a special event on yesterday’s date —  the annual birthday outing for our granddaughters’ August birthdays. For our birthday gifts to our grandchildren, we traditionally give a special outing with the two of us. This insures that we have at least one day a year in which we can be just grandparents to each of our ten in-town grandchildren. We gifted these two with certificates for a date with us at a local indoor, glow-in-the-dark mini-golf place.

Because of our overloaded schedule this month, this outing had to be squeezed in around other appointments yesterday. In spite of this, Scott and I were determined to shut out the world for just those few hours we had with our sweet grands and laugh, talk, and focus only on them. But this proved to be an uphill battle from the moment we walked out of our door yesterday morning.

I had the day very carefully planned, and it was absolutely critical that every piece go exactly according to that plan. Timing was delicately orchestrated, and at one point I said aloud that the day (my life at the moment, actually) was just like a card house. It was essential that no one bump any one card, or the whole day would collapse in on itself.

The first card got bumped at the very beginning of the day, and this started a panicked arm-flailing, hyperventilating, frantic effort on my part to catch all of the falling cards and hold them in place. It was futile. I couldn’t do it. Those falling cards changed the entire course of our day — the timing of every single moment.

My biggest concern was that my happy granddaughters not see my panic or my ridiculous efforts to grab all those cards. I didn’t want anything to spoil this special day for them. Finally, with my level-headed husband’s help, I accepted the inevitable and decided that no matter where the day went from that point, I was just going to drink in this time with the girls.

This string of drastic plan changes eventually led us, at the end of our tiring (but fun) day, to a place we never even intended to go, and at a time of day when we had already planned to be back home.

And at this place, God so very graciously showed us why He had so lovingly and tenderly knocked down my carefully constructed house of cards and put together a different one designed and held perfectly in place by His hands.

One of his special and very precious children needed help, and His plan was to use us!

As we were all leaving this place we had never planned to be, we decided to make potty runs before starting the long drive back home.

As Scott went to open the men’s bathroom door, he noticed that a young lady was there, just inside the door. He closed the door quickly, but not before hearing her try to say something to him that made it clear she wasn’t really “okay” developmentally. We know what developmental disability looks like and can spot this at a glimpse with pretty much dead-on accuracy.

The girls had already charged into the women’s bathroom, so I had to get to them. Scott, afraid of scaring this poor girl, posted himself outside the men’s room as her protector, listening for any sounds, praying that no one else was in there with her, worrying about her safety, and waiting for me to come out with the girls.

One of the granddaughters with us yesterday has Down syndrome, and there was a little drama in the ladies’ room that made things take longer than expected. Once I got them both taken care of, we all three went back to Scott. I honestly expected him to tell me that, by that time, someone had exited the men’s room with a perfectly reasonable explanation and that all was well.

This was not the case.

We decided I needed to enter the men’s room and see what was going on while Scott waited right outside in case I needed him. So I stuck my head in the door and called, “Is everything okay in here?”


I called again and walked all the way through the door. I saw a pair of feet inside a stall, but still no reply.

Then I heard someone fumbling with the stall door as if they were trying to get it opened, so I called again, “Do you need some help? Are you okay, sweetie?”

A sweet, very confused-looking, older teen/young adult girl walked out of the stall. She had stripped off all of her clothes except for a pair of black tennis shoes and a thin, cropped t-shirt. She was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t understand her. I was so very upset at her predicament and her alone-ness in the men’s bathroom. Protective mama-mode set in instantly, and with a fierceness I usually only feel toward my own children or grandchildren.

I went to her and tried to calm her down. Once she was calmer, she explained that she had not been able to get to a bathroom in time and had ruined her clothes. I had no idea why she was alone, why she was in the men’s room, or what in the world to do, but I knew I wasn’t about to leave her there.

She was finally able to tell me that her mother had gone to buy her some more clothes, but hadn’t come back. I wondered if it might be possible that she had been abandoned here, but why in the men’s room!?!??

I spent some time talking to her as my mind was racing for some way to get her out of the men’s room and at least over to the ladies’ room. I assured her that she was safe, that I was going to get her some help, and that I wasn’t going to leave her. After awhile, I went to the door to talk with Scott about how to find someone connected with security to come and help us. While we were talking, a woman walked up, looking somewhat frazzled and carrying a bag from one of the stores and started to head into the women’s bathroom. I knew this had to be her. She paused — I assume the sight of me, hanging my head out of the men’s room stopped her. I asked if she was possibly looking for her daughter, and she answered yes, with some panic and confusion in her face.

I told her that she was here, in the men’s room with me. She gasped and dashed past me to get to her daughter and I followed her back in.

She was so embarrassed and looked absolutely exhausted. She kept apologizing to me.

When I told her to please not worry about me, and shared with her that I also have children with special needs, her eyes filled with tears, her face showed hints of relief, and she reached to hug me, thanking me over and over and over again for staying with her daughter. She exclaimed, “God bless you! God bless us both! This is such a hard life!” 

She explained that when her daughter had had this accident, she had been forced to leave her in the ladies’ room, telling her baby to wait there while she went to buy her some clothes and bring them back. She had no idea why her daughter had wandered out of the ladies’ room and into the men’s, and she was so visibly shaken by what could’ve happened to her child. The whole very sad situation, and this mother’s panic and pain, just broke my heart. She seemed to be very alone and at the end of her rope.

Scott and I stayed with our granddaughters and continued to guard the men’s room so this mom could have a little privacy to take care of her daughter. They left the men’s room a few minutes later and headed home.

It actually wasn’t until we had gotten to our van and were driving home that I fully realized just how God’s intricate and providential workings had perfectly rewritten our day to make sure we would be at that very spot, at that very moment, where we were able to make sure this precious girl stayed safe and offer some tiny measure of comfort and encouragement to a mama who was in great need of those things.

Feel free to comment on this post, but if anyone says anything judgemental or critical about this mom, I will delete your comment. You don’t know her story, or her situation, or her daughter’s needs or abilities. God allowed us a tiny snapshot of someone else’s very tough life, but there are a lot of holes and missing pieces in this story. Please do not try to fill in those missing pieces with your imagination. Please just thank God that this child was safe, and pray for this mom as she tries to care for her daughter.

I’ll end with a few photos of our fun day with our granddaughters. I had to reschedule one appointment and totally cancel another, but God made sure the things He felt were important happened yesterday.

We can trust Him.

I will try to remember this the next time my carefully choreographed day falls apart. Only He can see the whole picture, and He always knows what He’s doing.

Aug B'day Outing #4

Glow Golf – so fun!

Aug B'day Outing #3

Gabriela’s turn

Aug B'day Outing #2

Two of our twelve grands

Aug B'day Outing #1

The girls with Grandad



Beautiful Fresh Starts . . . Or Brain Damage?

Some of you may not read this all the way through. I hope some will.
This isn’t my typical kind of post, but my heart is aching; bleeding. I am haunted continually and having trouble sleeping. I have to write this and hope that it will stop some of my own tears, even if I don’t really expect it to stop the horror that is happening daily in our own arms-wide-open America.
Some of you may stop reading right there. After that last sentence. But I will keep typing anyway.
During the last four weeks, Scott and I have had the incredible honor of welcoming Raiza and her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Jhannel, into our family.
From South America.
Their entry into our country has been as safe, as gentle, as stress-free, and as loving as it could possibly be during such a time of drastic life changes, as they have been surrounded by people who love them, care about them, and are excited about their new lives here.
Jhannel has been doted on by our children, scooped up by the two of us (her new Grandmother and Grandaddy), fed nutritious foods, had all of her needs met through each day. But even under these ideal circumstances, her great need to be in close contact to her mommy, to know constantly where she was and that she hadn’t left her, has been huge. Unfamiliar food, people, language, smells all made it essential that she have the familiar sound, feel, smell of her mother by her side at all times during this upheaval in her life.
We’ve marveled at the beauty of the deep bond and attachment they share. A bond that got them through unbelievably hard times, periods of poverty and need, and constant fear about their future before finally coming to America.
After they had been here for a couple of weeks, we came alongside Raiza to help her ease Jhannel into a place of a bit more independence as we all started working together to help Jhannel learn to sleep in her own little Paw Patrol bed. Still in the same room as her mommy, but for the first time in her life, not in the same bed.
It made my heart hurt as we saw the terror she faced that first night when she tried hard to be brave and follow through with her own desire to learn to sleep in her own bed. She loved that bed, but couldn’t find the courage, all by herself, to sleep in it without her mother’s body nestled against her. Something she had felt every single night since the moment God began knitting her together in her mommy’s womb.
But we all three loved her through that transition, and it got easier for her every night — as long as she knew that Mommy was still in the room with her and would be there when she opened her eyes the next morning. She asked over and over and over again for this assurance.
She now wakes up each morning and runs through the house, announcing happily that she woke up in her own bed, and she is so very proud of this little step toward three-year-old independence, knowing that she is safe and that Mommy is still walking by her side.
And then I think of all the immigrant babies being ripped from their mother’s arms at U. S. borders. I don’t know how the parents or the children ever survive this unbelievably cruel treatment. Hundreds of them! 
In our attempt to be better parents ourselves to our own children from trauma, and to help other parents learn to how to understand their children’s trauma and needs, Scott and I have spent the last few years learning more and more about what childhood trauma does to children’s ability to cope in life, to their emotional and developmental state, even to their actual brain development! So much has been discovered just since the time we adopted our first children in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. It’s huge! Both the amounts of damage done, and the amazing healing that can finally take place when the proper understanding and methods are put in place.
But nothing ever completely undoes this damage. These children are forced to live out their lives limping in ways they would not have done if they had never been through the trauma they experienced. 
Being separated from parents is one of the worst types of trauma that can happen to a child. And we, America, are inflicting this permanent damage onto these massive numbers of children! 
How can this be?!? 
This video is about how to help kids from trauma heal, but it also gives a little peek into how all types of trauma, abandonment, and forced separation damage a child’s brain and development. I urge you to take three minutes to watch it.
These children currently being taken from their parents now are almost always already coming from places of trauma, but at least they had the bond with their parents to help somewhat minimize the effects of this damage — until being pulled forcibly from their mothers’ arms and then driven off to cold, overcrowded detention facilities (sometimes not even in the same state!). I cry again just typing these words.  
Please, please don’t remain silent.
Educate yourself about what’s going on. Here are some articles that help explain it all. (Remember to keep scrolling past all of the annoying adds that pop up in the middle of the articles, so that you read each one to the end.) 
Contact your representatives and cry out on behalf of these families who have no voice. This link will take you to the info you need to do this. In the top left-hand corner, you can click on Change Location to get to the right person for your little corner of the world.
Please share this blog post. Everywhere! I actually write this last paragraph with shaking fingers because I know I will be attacked for writing this post. I already have been attacked on social media for speaking out for immigrants. My heart is passionate for orphans and families and children in need. But I am not brave. I wish I were. Oh, I long to be. But I have the kind of personality, passionate though it may be, that would always prefer to find ways to fight quietly in an invisible corner. So it has taken a lot of courage for me to write this blog post. My heart wouldn’t let me stay quiet any longer, especially as I watched the real-life immigrant story unfold in my own home where God has given us the indescribable honor of being a part of this new beginning.
I’ll end this with some beautiful pictures of Raiza and Jhannel’s transition into their new lives.

Raiza Arrives #5

Raiza’s arrival in Ohio after such a long, hard journey

Raiza Arrives #7

Our kids wanted them to know how happy we all are about their arrival

Celebratory Dinner Out

Big family celebratory dinner

Getting acquainted with all new “aunts,” “uncles,” “cousins,” and pets

Jhannel - Week 2 #4

Dancing with a new very blond cousin and best friend while watching Moana together.

Buddies in a Box

Jhannel and Godfrey

Teddy to the Vet

Jhannel Update #2

Doing some preschool activities in our classroom

Playing in the pool with Mommy

Playing with Mommy in the pool

Precious Cousins

True love at first sight

Jhannel's Prize Box

Jhannel’s prize box – part of our plan for helping her learn to sleep in her own bed

Her Own Bed!

Good morning! So proud of herself!

Our Wrinkles Tell Our Stories

Yesterday was a day filled with joy and thankfulness. Since our daughter Kathryn’s birthday is on May 9, we have developed the tradition of celebrating Mother’s Day and her birthday together each year. It’s always a special day, filled with family and life. Sometimes it’s a hard day (especially those years when Kathryn ends her party with another seizure), but it’s always real, and I cherish the memories of these special days of celebrations, surrounded by the ones who love me best.

Last year, Kathryn was so very sick that there was a shadow hanging over all of us for many, many months — including Mother’s Day. This year, after a grueling surgery and very long recovery during the summer and fall, she is finally healthy and happy, and she sailed through yesterday with smiles and infectious joy. It was a great day.

We also always do a special “photo shoot” of the two of us. I love having these special photos of the two of us. Here are a few from this year.

When I look at these photos, the first thing I see is so much love! I LOVE this girl with all my heart, and she loves me. Her family is her world.

The next thing I see (besides the gray hair that I’ve decided to let go wild now), are wrinkles. These.

Kathryn's 14th and Mother's Day 2018 - #6 - Super Cropped

Mostly, I don’t mind these. You can read the stories of people’s lives through the lines on their faces. They are precious etchings of the pain and joy that make us all who we are, and I believe we should wear them with honor — like badges we’ve earned during the shadows and suns of life here on this earth.

But you see that one super deep one right between my eyes?

I hate that one. That’s a worry wrinkle. That’s only there because of the billions of times I was trying to carry my burdens alone.

Lately, I’ve tried to erase it using some wrinkle cream. But it doesn’t work. We can’t undo the paths we’ve walked in life — not those we have chosen to walk, or those that we found ourselves on unexpectedly.

The unique lines engraved into our faces are visible manifestations and vivid reminders of the journeyings of our souls. Those things can’t be erased. But we can learn from them. Therefore, we can cherish them.

This morning, during my quiet time, I came across these words while reading from “God’s Light on Dark Clouds,” written in 1882 by Theodore Cuyler:

“‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you!’ (1 Peter 5:7). The literal meaning of this tonic text is: ‘He has you on His heart.’ He who piloted Noah and all the precious freight in the ark, who supplied the widow’s waning cruse of oil, who put Peter to sleep in the dungeon and calmed Paul in the roaring tempest — He says to me, ‘Cast your anxieties over on Me; I have you on My heart!’ God’s offer is to lighten our loads by putting His grace into our hearts, and underneath the load. He then becomes our strength. This Divine doctrine of trust is a wonderfully restful one to weary disciples. It takes the weariness out of the heart. It is the fever of worry which consumes strength, and furrows the cheek, and brings on decrepitude! The secret [for Paul] was that he never chafed his powers with a moment’s worry. He was doing God’s work, and he left God to be responsible for results. He knew whom he believed and felt perfectly sure that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord Jesus.” ~ Theodore Cuyler, 1882

You see that bold text in that paragraph?

Worry wrinkles! If only I had learned a long time ago to trust my Father more — no matter what. If only I could really learn this now!

I am giving up on the wrinkle cream. That deep, deep worry wrinkle will be with me through life here. When I get to Heaven, I think it will be gone; wiped away (just as the sin that created that wrinkle will be wiped away); smoothed out of my forehead by the gentle touch of my Father who loves me so much and wants me to remember that I need to ask Him for the ability to lean harder on Him.

But until then, every time I look into a mirror, it’ll be there. And each time I see it, I will take a deep breath, consciously relax the muscles in my face, remember that God “has me on His heart,” and ask Him to carry my burdens for me.

And I’ll try to be thankful for this clear and conspicuous reminder that I carry with me everywhere.

Our stories are all precious. Even the parts that we wish we could undo are key pieces of our stories and of making us who we are in this process of becoming. And God writes great stories.

You Adopted Black Ones?!

I am reeling; still so shocked at this woman’s words.

I woke up this morning with clear symptoms of a quickly-worsening UTI. I had to see someone fast on this packed day, so I just ran up to the Urgent Care a couple of minutes from my house (turned out to be a very positive experience), where the doc there did confirm that I have a pretty severe infection. By the time I finally left there and got to Kroger to have my prescription filled, I was in a lot of pain. My meds weren’t ready, so I decided to pick up a few things I knew we needed.

About that time, I remembered that next week is Valentine’s Day. We have always left one of those small heart-shaped boxes of chocolate by each child’s breakfast plate on Valentine’s Day morning, so I quickly grabbed nineteen of these little boxes and stacked them in my cart. I dashed to the check-out and tossed everything on the conveyor. I was hurting so much by this time that I was beginning to see those faint, flashing little star-thingies you see when you’re about to faint. I tried to stay focused as I got my credit card out.

Then I noticed that there was a wealthy-looking woman standing beside the check-out lady, talking her ears off about whatever was in her Kay Jeweler’s bag. The person ringing up my groceries actually seemed kind of embarrassed and like she was trying to tune this woman out as she did her job, but I noticed with some amusement that the “rich lady” didn’t seem to be catching any of her hints. She was about my age and wrapped snuggly in a fur coat. She prattled on and on about whatever she had in her bag, and insisted on pulling it out to show this lady ringing up my groceries. I never saw it because I was trying to do Lamaze breathing to control my pain and desperately trying to remember my PIN so I could pay for my groceries and get my medicine and get home to my comfy jammies.

Suddenly, she stopped talking about her new jewelry when she noticed the long line of heart-shaped boxes waiting to be bagged and exclaimed, “How many children are you buying candy for anyway!?”

If I hadn’t been hurting so much, I would’ve laughed. (There were nineteen of these boxes — not 300, for crying out loud.) As it was, I mischievously decided to really shock her fur coat off her by telling her that the kids were all mine! I could tell she was the kind of person who would react in an entertaining way. So, I calmly said, “Well, my husband and I are parents to twenty-two children, and nineteen still live at home. Those nineteen boxes of candy are for them.”

I was proud to see that I had accurately predicted her reaction as her eyes flew wide, and she said, “They are all YOURS?!” 

“Yes, they are all ours. Eighteen of them are adopted, and they are all ours.”

“Well, do you have a picture!?” 

“Yes, ma’am, I do.” We are always proud to show off our brood, even to people who are only asking out of morbid curiosity. Who knows when a heart might be softened; eyes opened; minds stretched a bit? We’ve seen it happen. So I pulled up a fairly current family picture and handed her my phone while I pulled my credit card out of the chip reader. Her next words kind of took my breath away.

“You adopted Black ones?!?” This was said with something in her voice that I couldn’t identify. It wasn’t exactly disgust, but something kind of close to it. Definitely complete surprise.

I wanted so much to look her in the eye and say, “You do realize that you just said that out loud, right?” But I didn’t. I just mentally (and possibly unfairly) dumped her in the category of  “Too Ignorant to Ever Have Her Eyes Opened,” and tried to finish my transaction so I could get my medicine. But she just couldn’t stop. Her next words really did leave me so flabbergasted that I couldn’t find anything at all to say. I stood there wondering if I had imagined it in the midst of my pain.

She said, “The [so-and-so’s] in our church adopted some Black ones. Her mother hated it. I love it. I even take them shopping!” She was clearly expecting some kind of high praise for this; exclamations about what an amazing person she is.

I have some vague memory of feeling dizzy, and of words my children don’t even know I have in my vocabulary swirling through my head (I’ll just write that off to the pain), and I remember staring at her. Was my mouth hanging open? Scott tells me that my facial expressions in situations like this are embarrassingly transparent, so I would assume yes. But she never even noticed. She was off again, going on and on about her jewelry purchase.

As I headed over to the pharmacy to finally get my prescriptions, I noticed that there were stinging tears in my eyes. I couldn’t figure out exactly what I was feeling beyond the shock that there are actually still people out there who are this ignorant. I recognized feelings of anger over her racial attitude, but also a desire to laugh out loud at her absurdity and foolishness. I also felt sad and like I had let my kids down by remaining silent. Why hadn’t I spoken up in defense of my babies? Why couldn’t I have thought of something wise and poignant to help her see how precious my kids are and how self-focused and close-minded she is? It didn’t have to be mean, just to the point and full of truth (not for the first time, I found myself wishing I had a script writer by my side at all times).

This is the world my children will grow up in. I know that there will be times when they will face people like this who would have no qualms about saying these kinds of ignorant and ridiculous things even to their faces. I need to prepare them. But what I really want is to just keep them safe in this happy little bubble where they live right now, surrounded by people who know them as the vibrant, funny, beautiful, accomplished people they are, and not the “Black ones,” or the “Hispanic ones.”

But that won’t do. I’m learning this more and more with each passing year. Somehow, it’s our job to teach them how to respond to (or sometimes just laugh off) these kinds of comments and how to never let anyone cause them to get confused about who they are.

They are loved and cherished and each one unique, and I look forward to watching them all make their mark in this world. In spite of people like this woman.

Happy New Year 2018

Responding to the Injustices of Life

This morning, I posted something fairly passionate on Facebook after receiving very disappointing (although not unexpected) news from our insurance company. After four attempts — months-long, tough and exhausting battles — to get coverage for very expensive, but necessary supplies for our kids, we received a final denial. That Facebook post is at the end of this short blog post if you want to read it.

I still believe I do need to speak and fight for my babies and bring wrongs into the light when I’m given an opportunity to do that. Our children spent enough years in orphanages, wearing soiled diapers with no one to fight for their needs before they came home, so I will always fight my heart out for them. But God is bigger than insurance companies; and His plans, full of love, are always better than the plans we devise for ourselves (or even for our babies). So I need to follow up on that post with this.

I read (and shared) a blog post this past week from the mom of a child with significant special needs who was really struggling. She wrote that, during an emotional conversation with her child’s neurologist, the doctor kindly stopped her at one point and addressed what she was saying to him. This is from her blog:
“Okay, how about this — you stop saying ‘this is good or this is bad’ and you just accept what it is that’s going on.” He continued by saying, “When the hurricane hit Texas everyone was ready for it to stop; no one wanted another hurricane to hit Florida, but you know what? It did. This is what Chase’s seizures are like. They come and then we find something that stops them for a while, and then when that stops working we find something else. When a hurricane comes the only thing you can do about it is pick yourself up and start with what you have.”
Our faith in a loving and sovereign God should equip us to do this very thing. We can cry for a little while, but then we have to pick ourselves up and start with what we have. We can trust Him with whatever comes our way — good or bad. Scott and I know that He will guide us through the black and swirling waters we find ourselves in now.
Susannah Surgeon, once more, brought perspective back into my heart this morning with her words from 1898. This is truth! This is where we have to keep our focus:
“‘I will strengthen you — yes, I will help you!’ Who will come with me to the King this morning, to lay at His feet a petition for the fulfillment of this Word of His grace, upon which He has caused us to hope? We shall be a company of Feeble-minds, and Much-afraids, and Fearings, and Ready-to-halts, and we may make but a sorry appearance in His courts. Some of us can say, with tear-filled eyes, ‘O Lord, if weakness is a plea for Your promised strength, then are we truly fit objects of Your mercy, for we are at the lowest ebb of helplessness; we have scarcely strength enough left to feel that we are feeble.’ Oh, the condescension and tenderness of our God! Our extremity is His opportunity! His mercy follows hard after our misery. And, oh! with what joyful hearts and shining eyes do we afterwards walk in the light of His countenance! ‘Dear Lord,’ we say, “it is worthwhile being weak to be thus gloriously strengthened by You!'”
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'” Isaiah 41:13
Scott and I will always fight for our kids and their needs. But when we reach the end of all human ability to change the situation, we must fall back on the sovereignty of our God who knows our (and our children’s) needs better than we do.
Here is that Facebook post from this morning about the evils and unfairness and injustice of Humana’s very wrong decision. And one thing I want to say about this post. In spite of some of the comments on Facebook about this, it was never intended to be a political statement. I don’t actually believe that this is a problem that can be laid at the feet of either political party. We, and many others, have fought similar battles with insurance under every type of healthcare out there, regardless of which party was driving the train. I don’t actually know what the answers are for our huge healthcare problems in this country. But I know that the picture truly is much bigger than just which party is in control.
We can find peace in knowing that, while some may believe that parties or companies hold all of the power, God is ultimately in control of the outcomes of our lives. And He loves us incomprehensibly.

Facebook Post, October 24, 2017:
To the person at Humana who has the power to make decisions concerning the quality of people’s lives, my heart longs, this morning, for the ability to strike you with total bowel incontinence for a few weeks. Not so much out of anger or spite, but in a very real desire to open your eyes and your heart to the consequences of your decisions. I wish I could arrange things so that you would, multiple times throughout your day, leak liquidy, smelly stool through your diapers (which others your age don’t even wear) onto your clothes and the furniture on which you are sitting while you are trying to attend church, watch a concert or movie with your family, or play in the backyard with siblings and friends. I wish I could then present you with a solution that finally fulfills your dreams of wearing real underwear like others your age, and works well to mostly keep you free of foul smells and embarrassing public soiling of your clothes and skin irritation caused by the constant leaks — only to, then, cruelly snatch that solution away, saying to you, as you said to my babies, “there are no published guidelines recommending this treatment for your incontinence.” Would you beg for mercy? Would you fight through multiple appeals as we have, searching for someone who will listen to reason; begging for someone who actually cares (and holds all of the cards) to come to your aid? Would you then, finally, weep for the pain you have caused others?
Here are their faces. They are real people whose little hearts ache for the same things you want for yourself or your own children. How does a heart become so hard and cold that the bottom line is what decides the length and/or quality of a life?
Roslyn with Jaden and Lilyan - Spring '15

The Back-Look Into My Life

This is not exactly a post about Kathryn’s recovery.

It’s more about our other kids, many of whom are serving on the long list of caretakers for Kathryn during this season of their, and her, lives.

It’s more about my own heart that sometimes cries, “Foul!” when my children, or others close to me, go through hard times.

Do you ever question God, or maybe even shake your fist at Him (guilty!), when you watch your children hurt; or see them having to work really hard through something; or witness their hearts break because of circumstances beyond your, or their, control?

Do you ever wonder if He really knows what He’s doing?

Kathryn’s wound care and dressing changes have to be done two to four times a day and take anywhere from forty-five minutes to two hours each time. It requires the two of us, with four other daughters assisting us, because of Kathryn’s size, combined with limitations caused by her cerebral palsy.

(If you follow our family blog, you probably know about Kathryn’s major surgery earlier this month and the complications that followed. If not, you can click here – Where Love Learns Its Lessons –  to read about that during August and September, 2017) 

As I was setting up for her early morning cleaning session today, I was thinking about how God has built this family one (sometimes two) children at a time. He has chosen each child very specifically as He has woven these lives from all over the planet into something incredibly beautiful and cohesive.

Kathryn's Surgery - Setting Up

Beginning to gather some of the needed supplies for our first wound care session of the day

Each child came from hurting places and entered this family with brokenness and a great need to be loved back to healing. And each has, slowly and gently, been enabled through that love, to realize hidden potential and an ability to give back. Each has discovered strength they didn’t know they had, and it has been such a thing of awe to watch this kind of healing take place as God has brought beauty from ashes. Over and over again.


These broken children are becoming whole and healed brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, children of the King — adults who have so much to offer the world.

And I thought about how wise and kind it is that God has planted them in such fertile soil so that deep roots are being established to start them on their way into an adulthood rich in unselfishness and service and sacrificial love.

The demands on our children’s time and energy are great as we are forced to all work hard together to care for so many with such great needs. And, for the most part, they walk this path with grace and beauty. This is so evident as I watch the girls care so lovingly for this sister whose brain damage will never allow her to progress beyond the age of about three years. They love her! And they derive great joy from pouring that love over her as they help us meet her many needs.

Kathryn's Surgery Wound Cleaining 8-18-17

Wound cleanings are incredibly painful for our girl

Kathryn's Surgery - First Shower

Surrounded by sisters for her very complicated shower time

Kathryn's Surgery - Setting Up for Morning Wound Care

Cheering her on while helping her get into position early this morning to start her first wound care session of the day.

And these thoughts, combined with this quote, made my heart sing this morning:

“O how is my soul delighted with the back-look into my life, and ravished with the sweet survey of the conduct of Providence!! Have I not seen it from a hand I expected nothing from, in a way and manner I never could have contrived, and at at time when least apparent? Sometimes seeming contradictions vex the poor expectant, though only sent to exercise his faith in God. Disappointments beautify the blessing. Your path, O Governor of men and angels! is in the mighty waters, and your footsteps are not known! For who can know the ways of Him who is wonderful in working? Therefore I, where I cannot see His end, am silent, and adore!”
James Meikle (1730-1799)

So many times, we are able to make sense out of senselessness when we can look back and see how God was linking lives and circumstances together although, at the time, it all only looked like a huge mess to us.

So as I watch Kathryn hurt and whimper (sometimes weep) through her pain; as I fight panic in the midst of wondering how I will manage to get school done this coming year while juggling her illness and Roslyn’s upcoming surgery; as I try to stop stressing over our inability to prepare meals right now, or cover the costs of everything Kathryn is needing; as I watch our other kids give and give and give to help each other and the family as a whole, often missing out on fun things for themselves — I will try to believe that these hard things are simply more links in that chain that is part of something incredible. Something that I will be able to look back on later and make sense of.

know that this is true. But sometimes my heart has a hard time believing what my head knows.

I will look forward with breathless anticipation to knowing the people God is molding our children into, and seeing the profound impact each one will have on the world.

Every single brush stroke is necessary to the finished picture. It’s magnificent when He gives me a quick, tiny glimpse of what the finished picture is going to look like. I know it will be beautiful beyond anything I could’ve imagined myself.

” . . . Therefore I, where I cannot see His end, am silent and adore.”