Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Letters from Santa


We are working on lots of different fundraiser efforts to raise money for our adoption. It is Christmas, so we thought a holiday-themed fundraiser might be a good option. I saw this idea on another blog and thought it might be of interest here as well. Introducing...

Letters from Santa!

For $10/letter, your child will receive their own personal, handwritten letter from Santa. Your letter will arrive at your home on Christmas-themed paper and contain an individualized message to your child. To order, donate $10/letter to the paypal button on my blog. Once you have donated, send me an email (bldahlen at aol dot com)with your children's names, ages, and address, as well as specific information about what each one wants for Christmas, likes and dislikes, or any other relevant information. Santa will handwrite a beautiful letter to be delievered before Christmas. It is a great way to stretch out a few weeks of extra good behavior, but also lots of fun! No two letters will be the same. Letters can be mailed to any address, anywhere and do not have to be local. Order away! Santa needs to get his hand excercises in!

Living a life of passion

****enter my giveaway! See below!! I have a couple of entries, but not many so you have a great chance of winning a great prize but you also have a guaranteed opportunity to change the life of a child by helping our adoption. After you chip-in, if you post this on your blog or facebook, let me know in the comments and I will give you an extra entry!****

Living a life of passion...that is what my Abigail did so very well. That is the lesson I am trying to learn from her. I have always tried to live a life that is respectful of how short life actually is. Life is too short to be easily offended or dramatic. Life is too short to waste. I have always tried to parent that way as well. I take 10 million pictures. We don't just have traditions--we have every possible tradition. We don't just celebrate a holiday--we do everything we can find related to that holiday. Birthdays are huge around my house. But in day to day stuff too. I want each of them to feel special and loved. I have always tried to take advantage of every minute

But now, my drive to a life of passion is more than those moments. It is more than just memories and special days. Abigail has taught me an awareness of the fleeting nature of this world even more than I knew before. Instead of spending my days planning our future lives, I want to be focused on our eternal lives. Instead of planning for a new car, or camps, or field trips, I want to be focused on world changing. I don't know if I am even putting this into words that make sense. My eyes are so open right now to how much we take for granted--how much we, particularly in modern-day America, get too content too easily, or too worried too easily about things that just don't matter in eternity. The way we put blinders on to how worthless most of our pursuits are. Studying history my whole life, I know how much we have in this modern world to distract us from truth.

I have been listening to the book Radical by David Platt. This book speaks to my heart in so many ways. Platt puts into words so mucn more clearly than I can this need I feel to get outside of myself. I have always felt that drive, but our experience with Abigail gives me the courage. It gives me the sight.

So I encourage you, as I encourage myself, to step outside of yourself. Re-focus your life on what actually matters. Life is short. Live the one you have to the fullest. Don't take a moment for granted. Life an Abigail-style life full of passion. Minister to the least of these. Take the blinders off and see the needs and the pain around you--in our community and in our world.

As much as I want to just scream in frustration each morning when I wake up without my baby girl, I chose instead to honor her memory. Each time I think of her, I want to check myself. I want to live a life that is worthy of the passion with which she met the world.

Monday, November 29, 2010

First Givaway!!


Ok, so we need to raise a lot of money for this adoption. We are going to do several givaways over the next few weeks, in plenty of time for Christmas gifts. To enter, chip-in to my paypal donation button on the right. Once you have made your donation, post a comment here. I will then draw for a winner. You will get an entry for each $5 you donate on this first one.

The first giveaway is for a $50 gift certificate to Cafe Dupont, which is a Birmingham restaurant. Check out the website here http://cafedupont.net/ According to the website, "The menu, which changes daily, reflects a fresh perspective on regional ingredients. Café Dupont is a strong supporter of the "slow food" movement, which seeks to encourage the enjoyment of regional produce and traditional foods, which are often grown organically." This would make a great date night or even Christmas gift. I will close and gift this giveaway in one week. Thanks for all your support!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Adoption




Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our news

As most of you already know, we are trying to learn from and live a life that is honoring to our God and our Abigail. A life of passion and not fear. We want our daughter’s legacy to be a legacy of hope and love, not of destruction. We chose to move forward from our loss with the same strength Abigail showed in her two short years. What better legacy can she leave than saving the life of another child? I mentioned before that I would soon tell you where our spit-fire is leading us, and the short answer to that is that she is leading us across the world. She is leading us to a country in Eastern Europe where many children are forgotten. Where they sit and wait, wondering what this thing called family is all about. She is leading us to embrace these children with the same love and passion, the same spirit she showed in her life. As most of you know, we have always felt called to adopt. Now, our baby girl has given us the courage to follow through on that God-given calling. Why wait while children suffer? As Steven Curtis Chapman would say, we are “diving in!” We are going to need much support on this road. Pray for us. Pray that the paperwork goes smoothly. Pray that our child that waits is safe and protected until we come. Pray that God will rain down the funding we need to carry out this promise in a way that only He can. Can we afford this? No. But God can. God can make this happen. We as Christians are specifically called to take care of the orphans of the world. Our family can’t save them all, but we are committing to do our part, to offer a hope and future to a waiting child, in honor of our Abigail. We can open our home and our hearts to one of the least of these.

If you are a genius with fund raising (or even if you just have any ideas), please let me know. I can use all the help I can get in that department. Also, I am adding a donate button on this side of this blog. If you feel so inclined to bless us with any amount, please use that button. Even $5 will help. We will keep you all updated as we continue this process (which is already going remarkably fast! We are almost finished with our home study!). Thank you as always for being the most supportive group of family and friends. We have needed each of you over the past 8 months. And, feel free to ask any questions you have. We are very excited to share this journey with you. Thank you Abigail for giving Hope to our family and Hope to a child who has nothing else.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holidays

I don’t think anyone would be surprised if I say holidays are one of the hardest times after the loss of a child. The reasons why are many. Significant days, fun days, memory making days when your family isn’t whole are obviously miserable. However, it is more than that even.

Most days I can just act like it is any other day. If you knew me before, I am the ultimate planner. I plan our school year on Christmas break of the year before. I know the summer camps my kids will attend for the next several years. I have plans that carry my kids through their high school years. As you can imagine, my weeks are planned out to the minute. All of that was before. Before my world came crashing down around me. Before my family was ripped apart.

After. That is where I live now. In the after, I do not plan. I take one day at a time. Sometimes I take one hour at a time. I have a vague understanding of what I need to get accomplished each day. Gone are the days of lists of my lists. Now, I am so distracted, just getting through the next few minutes is sometimes the best I can do. And this is not because I am overwhelmed by grief, although sometimes I am. It is just because the grief takes so much of my brain space. And then there is the time…

Looking into my calendar, the fact that she isn’t here slams me in my face. The fact that she did not see this November. She didn’t see this fall, much less this summer. Those plans I had with her were lost with her. The struggles I imagined at the pool this summer didn’t happen. This day, this moment, she wasn’t with us. I can lose that thought if I stay away from my planner. If I stay away from dates. I can live in the thought that this is just another day to get through. Another moment to hurdle. Nothing significant—not a specific day or date when she isn’t part of us. Not another day further from her touch, her sound, her smell. My calendar feels like a count down away from her and the further I am away from her, the more I want her.

But holidays. It is those days when I can’t ignore the date. Holidays, by necessity, imply time passing because they are specific moments. It can’t just be another Thursday, because it is Thanksgiving Thursday. It can’t just be another Sunday, because it is Oct. 31/Halloween—a specific date, a specific moment she isn’t here. I don’t know if that even makes sense, but in my world, the world of after, dates are feared and avoided, and holidays force me to face them.

So if you try to make plans with me and I act indecisive or put you off till the last minute, it isn’t that I don’t want to see you or our plans aren’t important. It is just the sheer act of “planning” something that doesn’t include one of my children is absolute misery to me. Forgive my current spontaneity and flakiness. I know it isn’t like me. I know avoiding holidays isn’t like me. It is just more than I can do right now.

When I am ready to face holidays again, they will be different. We are different. She changed us and that impact will live forever. We can not and will not go back to the same traditions and celebrations and pretend that my baby girl never even existed. The things we chose to do will honor her memory, will help us focus on what is real and what is important, and will help us to maintain a connection with my Abigail. It is important for my kids and for us.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sisters

Most mornings with Abigail began with intense screaming. Angry screaming. Loud, angry screaming. The screaming continued until you ran across the house, half-alseep, terrified, not knowing where you were going, and opened her door to be greated with a huge smile. Abigail just isn't one to waste any of her day. It was very inconvenient to be stuck in her bed, awake, and wasting moments just because momma happened to still be asleep at 6:30.

Many mornings, Anna Faith, who was closest to Abigail's room, would reach her before I did, and I could just hide under the covers for another 30 minutes or so. My little momma would climb into Abigail's bed, lift Abigail over the side, and drop her onto her slide, so that she could slide down and start her day. Terrifying, yet adorable. They would then have girly time--lots of Abigail being bossy (which she loved), and Anna Faith taking care of the her (which Anna Faith loved).

My favorite morning, I awoke realizing that it was one of those mornings. The ones were I had been gifted with those few extra moments of sleep. I could hear a party on the other side of the house and went to check it out. The scene I found is forever stuck in my head. It is the picture I long for--sisters. Anna Faith and Abigail were decked out head to toe in girly-ness...bracelets, earrings, necklaces, tutus, even crowns. They were dancing and singing girly pop songs into microphones--taking turns, singing together, interacting, being the star...

My heart longs for that again. I do not have a sister. I have wanted one my whole life. I was determined to give my daughter a sister, and here she was now. Old enough to really play with her. Old enough to be her confidante, her friend, her partner in crime, her rock star sidekick. It was beautiful. Perfect. I am so thankful we were blessed with Abigail long enough to have that moment. That moment will be something Anna Faith and I both treasure until we meet little bit again.

The Concert

As you probably well know, Michael and I were very blessed to have the opportunity to attend the Night with the Chapman concert last Sunday. I have so many thoughts running through my head about that night. Here are some...

1. Getting to ask questions to SCC and MBC is so worth the extra money we had to spend for VIP tickets.

2. Seeing the Chapmans connect and relate to our story was priceless. They offered beautiful words of wisdom, hope, and understanding.

3. My biggest impression was how honest and raw they are about their pain. Expect to see more on this in days to come. I so appreciate their claiming the freedom to grieve that so many think they can't. Grief is hard. Losing a child is awful. It is not something you get over ever. It is not something you "heal" from completely. Nor do you want to! I don't want to move past my baby. I think I will always keep a slice of this pain close to my heart. Physically, it is my only connection with her right now. The Chapmans have a beautiful story of faith and rising above, but they never downplay the pain. They never act like it was just all ok, or that it is even all ok now. They have suffered and are suffering. They questioned their faith and their God. They wrestled with huge issues. They keep wrestling with big issues. They hurt, and they aren't afraid to talk about it.

4. They have such a passion for their ministry-Show Hope.

5. Cinderella, See, Beauty will Rise, and Heaven is the Face are incredibly hard to sit through, especially if you are sitting next to your husband and he is sobbing.

6. There is a beautiful community of support between parents that have lost children. If you haven't, you can't really understand this pain. Meeting someone who is also walking this path helps me feel a little less of the weight of loneliness that I feel most of the time.

7. I need to read Mary Beth's book. She and I seem to much alike in personality. The things she was saying about God's plans and her own--I just had that same discussion at a Bible study I attend...almost word for word. (And I thought her trick on her daugther in law was hilarious) I could relate to pretty much everything she said. I have thought or experienced most of those same thoughts and emotions. Again, I need to read her book.

8. I couldn't take my eyes off of Will Franklin when he was on stage. My emotions there are a tangled up mess.

9. I loved the informal feel of the concert, but I would have loved a little more of a sit around and talk time.

10. I am too old to sit at a concert from 5-11 or to be out of the house that late. I left there starving, with a massive headache, and hurting all over, lol. And I am too old to hop right up and do school Monday morning if I wasn't in bed until 12. Contrary to popular belief. I adore sleep. Lots of sleep.

Show Hope




I have so many things to say about the concert Sunday, but also so many things I am still processing. What I want to talk about today though, is the Chapman's organization Show Hope. I can not say enough about how much this ministry inspires me. First of all--love the name. Hope is a favorite word of my after my Abigail Hope. Second, adoption is an issue close to my heart. As those that know me know well, we have always known at some point we will adopt. This ministry helps orphans throughout the world, but also helps want-to-be adoptive families find funds. Finally, this ministry, and the love they pour into it, is a sign that tragedy has not defeated the Chapmans. Instead of allowing their Maria Sue's legacy to be one of destruction and anger, they choose to make her legacy one of hope, love, and passion. They are truly passionate about their work. What a beautiful story Maria Sue is now a part of. She isn't the cause of her family falling apart, but rather the inspiration behind their helping so many. This is my heart's desire for my Abigail. Her story is not her death and our destruction. Although I want to fall apart most of the time (and do frequently), I choose to give her a different story. A story of hope and love. A story of beauty from the ashes. A story where we don't end in destruction, but rather we share her love of life and passion with others. More to come in the days ahead about where my little spit-fire is leading us. For now, check out the Chapman's love ministry. Get involved. There are so many hurting in the world. Dare to take a step outside of yourself.

http://www.showhope.org/

Monday, November 15, 2010

My dream

I don't dream much. Never have. When I do dream, I notice. I want to dream of Abigail, but when I do, the experience shakes me. Here are the 3 dreams I have had of her.


1-Early on I dreamed she was sleeping with me. This was the most real dream I have every had. I felt her. I smelt her. I touched her soft baby hair. I couldn't see her. I was asleep myself in my dream. It begain as a realization that there was a little person in bed with Michael and I. Having kids, that isn't an uncommon occurence, but in my dream state, I couldn't quite figure out which one it was. I just enjoyed the moment of snuggling with my little one. As I started to form the thought in my head that this was Abigail, she stood up and jumped from the bed and disappeared. I grabbed for her and woke up sobbing.


2-I dreamed we were in a long hall with lots and lots of people. There were stairs at intervals in this hall. Michael was up ahead of me and he was coming toward me so excited and emotional. He was holding Abigail and screaming "I found her! I found her!" I was so thrilled. My ecstasy at that moment can't even be put in words. We had "lost" her, but now she was back with us. I started trying to share my enthusiam with all the people around us. I was putting her in their faces and showing her to them saying, "she is back! he found her!" To my surprise and annoyance, no one even seemed to notice. They gave me such a strange look and then passed on by. They didn't see her. I was so confused so I carried her to a large mirror in the hall and looked in. The child I thought I was holding wasn't there. I could see her in my arms, but in the mirror, she disappeared.


3-I dreamed that I was crying and was so desperate to see my baby girl. Michael said to me that you know you can visit her anytime you want. I was very surprised and frustrated that no one had told me before. If I could have been visiting her, why didn't anyone say?! Well, I went to visit her (I have no idea how I travelled), and arrived at the gates of heaven. It was very much a pearly gates kind of place, and I could see Abigail but she was behind a heavy plastic sheet--much the same as you would see in construction areas. I could see her and talked to her (though muffled) but I couldn't actually touch her--only through the plastic. My lasting impression of that dream is that she was smiling. Oh, how she was smiling. Her smile was never-ending and didn't lessen the entire time. I knew in the dream that she was smiling because she was happy, but also because she was happy to see me.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My passionate one

Abigail is a spunky little girl (I refuse to use past tense--she IS a spunky girl). She always knows what she wants. A friend visited this week that used to watch Abigail while I taught at co-op. She knew my baby girl's passionate side well. She told me about one day at co-op. The big kids were headed outside playing and the little ones were staying in. Abigail definitely qualified as a little one--both in age and stature. However, when the big kids were headed out, she thought she should go too. She, in fact, was so positive she should go that she proceeded to through a full-fledged fit to emphasize her point to the sweet ladies watching the kids that day. The other ladies were quick to tell my friend that "Abigail is different. Yes, she is a little one, but we let her out with the big kids." (they must have already learned the consequences) She thought she was one of them afterall. She was independent and fully capable of handling herself on the playground--at least, so she thought. My friend also told me about my sweet little momma Anna Faith who would follow Abigail around--at just the right distance to not upset her--to make sure she didn't hurt herself. The two of them are polar opposites, but make the best team. Such a treasure--such a vivid memory--such a perfect picture of my little bit's passion.


Abigail, I miss your fits. I miss the way you would lay yourself on the ground kicking and screaming until you thought we weren't watching you, and the way you would reposition yourself to where you knew you were seen. I miss our daily battle of wills (which you usually won). I miss your zest for life--singing twinkle twinkle or shake your booty as loud as you can in the car, impromptu performances on the fireplace, waving bye to me at the door as you thought you were headed out on your own...I don't have a fraction of the fire you have my baby girl, but I am trying. I am trying because I know you would keep me moving if you were here.

Gods Heart: Adoption

Orphan Awareness Month

Mothers should have their children in their arms. Children should have mothers. It is unnatural to separate the two. November is orphan awareness month. What will you do?







My Week-perspective

This week has been insanity. What an emotional roller coaster. We started out Monday with Samuel's surgery. I prepared for it as I had wished I had been able to prepare for Abigail's accident. I took pictures of him with each of us, talked about all his favorite things, and, in general, tried to remember every tiny detail...just in case... I think so much of my life is lived that way now. The reality of losing my children hasn't changed. Children are just as likely (or not likely depending on your perspective) to die as before, but I expect it now. It is real to me in a way it was never before. I know that pain. Anyway, I walked him to that door and handed him off to the nurse. I watched him walk down the hall and did not expect him to come back. Imagine my surprise when he did come back fine a short time later.

All week I have been dealing with a whiney, miserable, post-op 5 year old. I have been blessed and thankful. It has been a miserable week because he is miserable, but I am so thankful I was able to care for him instead of plan his funeral.

Eli has been teething. Wow, I am once again so thankful for the extra fussy baby. Not because he is miserable. Not because he has made my life difficult this week, but because he is here to cause me distress.

Nathan turned 13. Normally I would have cried endlessly that he is growing up and is closer to moving out. Now I am once again thankful. I have had 13 years with him. I would give just about anything to have had that long with Abigail. I have had the opportunity to see him grow and change. He is so mature and calm now. We have come a long way.

As I sit at the end of a very difficult week and reflect, I know that my perspective has changed. I know that I see life so differently now. Some changes are not good-I expect my kids to die. Some are good-I am constantly reminded of how thankful I am in even the worst moments. Abigail, regardless, you have changed my view of the world. I miss arguing with you most of all. I love your spunk. I have always loved how you know your own mind. In that moment, I didn't enjoy your passion fully everytime, but I do now. You lived every minute and I am so thankful for that.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Heaven

My friend shared with me today a beautiful, sweet dream her daughter had. In her dream, she visited heaven and it was beautiful and happy. I know my friend didn't realize it, but this dream brought me so much peace this afternoon.

Heaven is a topic I can't get enough of these days. If my baby is going to be there, I want to know what it is like. I want to understand what she sees and feels. I want to know she is ok. Just like you would check out a school or a class before you sent your child, I want to check out what heaven is all about.

I have always known things about heaven. I know it is a happy place. I know there is no fear or sadness, but mostly, I just didn't spend too much time thinking about it. But that was before...now I can't get enough. I find so much of how we see heaven is colored by Hollywood. But the Hollywood version is so boring. Floating around in togas on clouds all day playing a harp seems miserable to someone who loves to be busy. Forgive me if that is sacriligous, but it is the truth. It just seemed awful. And then I discovered Heaven Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada. If you don't know her, I recommend reading more about her. I am sure I will talk about her again, but for now, I will just say she is completely amazing. Her view of heaven speaks to me. I don't know if she is right or not. I won't know till I get to go to my Abigail and my Father and then it won't matter. For now it satisfies me. This is how she talks about heaven.

The new heaven and the new earth are real. Heaven is beautiful yes, but more importantly, it is physical and real. It is so much more real than this world. It is a place where we do things. We have our own contributions to make. It is a place where time doesn't matter (so exciting!). It is a place where we celebrate and commune with the Lord of the universe and marvel at His creation (!!!), but it is also a place where we are active and are in relationship with each other.

Several things about her perspective strike me. Some writers want to say all people are adults in heaven. As a grieving mother, this idea is so painful. I want my Abigial, not her adult form. I want my baby. Tada says that since God is love and He knows the desires of our hearts, then He also would know that a mother's arms ache for her child. Of course, what kind of heaven would it be if there were no children?! If you think of the example of Christ, He was always calling the children to Him. A heaven of adults makes no sense.

Also, the idea that times doesn't matter is so important to me. The idea, however ridiculous, that Abigail is waiting on me hurts. It is so painful to think she doesn't understand why I am not with her. However, if time really moves differently than on earth, for her the time between her arrival and mine will be just a blink. What a wonderful thought!

I have so much more to say about what I am reading and learning about heaven. In the meantime, I highly recommend Tada's book if you are interested in the beauty of heaven. I would love to hear your thoughts.