Friday, December 31, 2010

the mundane

Since we have committed to adopt, we have been hit with all kinds of struggles. The list includes, but is not limited to, our heat going out, our hot water going out, a flat tire, one car broken down for a month with multiple, unrelated problems every time we thought it was going again, one totalled car, the heat going out in my rented house, and a granite picture falling off the wall and doing major damage. This is a very common story when families move toward following through with the commandment to take care of the orphan. We weren't surprised. However, given what we have gone through this year, our perspective is just to laugh. Those mundane, annoying blips in life have so much less significance now. I have a seriously hard time getting upset over broken down cars and no hot water after living through the death of my baby girl. I have even more of a hard time worrying about a clean house or minor issues with the kids. We have seriously just laughed each time another thing happens right on the heels of fixing the last problem. Each time God has stepped in and shown mercy. Each time, the issue is solved. Yes, I might have had to heat hot water on the stove and wash my hair over the sink, but in light of what I have lived through, it was just a little adventure. I hesitate to say even an inconvienence.

The perspective I have after losing a child is so completely different than I would have had before. I know I don't have control, so why get upset over the small things? This perspective has made the adoptive process so much easier. I can see how the paperchase and snags would be stressful. The before me would have been massively stressed over slow social workers and re-doing documents. The after me could care less. The ultimate goal is a child's life. I am quite willing to fight through the minor bumps along the way.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My husband's blog

My husband is blogging. Crazy but super cool. He is blowing me away at how willing he is to open his heart and expose his deepest thoughts. He is a very private person, so this is huge. And to have a man willing to step out and vocally advocate for children--wow. Check it out...

lifeabandonmentjourney.blogspot.com

A new year

2010. A new year. I have such complicated feelings about moving to a new year. Obviously 2010 was the worst year I can imagine. I buried my baby girl. Our family went through and continues to go through intense trauma. How much worse can it get? But, it was also the year I met my sweet, sensitive Eli, the year I started a journey to adoption, and also the last year I held my baby girl. 2011 is a "new year." A year that she will never see. It is a year where I don't get to hold her, touch her, smell her. It is a year that will be completely empty of her physically. Yes, I have memories, but I want her. A move to a new year represents separation and distance for me. It felt this way moving out of April last year, and it is intensified moving into a new year now. It seems wrong that time continues, that life continues when your child is no longer here. A "new year" after the loss of a child isn't a fresh start--I want no such thing. I want a reset button. I want to start 2010 again and change it somehow.

My sweet Eli did not want to sleep last night and thought that I shouldn't get to either. In the many minutes of last night that I sat holding him and battling my nighttime demons, that familiar feeling of dread took over my body again. You know the feeling right? When you just know something bad is going to happen or has just happened. The feeling of your blood running cold and a physical numbness. I live with that feeling on a constant basis now. I try to remind myself that the thing I dread has already happened. It is done and can't be changed, but my body rebels so thoroughly at that thought and continuously waits in this state of dread and horror. Last night was one of the worst in a long time. We got through Christmas, but as I said before, that doesn't feel like accomplishment. We had a very emotional morning yesterday trying to wrap up some of the business side of death. And now I am facing a new year. All of that compiled into a night of anxiety while my Eli woke me up again and again with screams. I wonder if he can sense my mood? I wonder if my emotion was affecting him?

Night is so hard anyway. When I am drifting off to sleep, my mind wonders with little control. In daytime, I can keep my thoughts focused most of the time, but in those just falling asleep moments, and those just waking up moments, I have no control. I can't tell you how much those moments terrify me. The places my mind goes. The moments and feelings I relive are like being stuck in a nightmare so often. Typically now I fall asleep with the tv on and that keeps my thoughts on ancient India or traveling to Mongolia, or whatever late night PBS is showing. Last night though, as I was up again and again with baby boy, I didn't have the distraction of tv and my gut reactions took over. Sleep deprived, alone and in the dark, and dealing with massively stressful events, I suffered through last night like I haven't in a long time.

I know I am not alone walking through this valley, but it is the darkest depths of pain and despair I can imagine. Abigail, even though I feel like this new year is just one more step away from you, I also know that it is one more step toward you again. I know that even with all the dread and horror I feel now, I wouldn't change one single minute of the time I did have with you. I am greedy for more. I am hungry for reunion. I am praying for dreams of you when I sleep even though they leave me shattered when I wake up and you are gone.

I guess what I am trying to say to anyone reading this, through my foggy brain with no sleep is this--in your celebration, remember those hurting around you. People are dealing with loss and grieving. Death is real and all around you. Children are suffering alone around the world--hungry and afraid. In this new year, do something about it. Make a difference in the lives of those hurting around you. Don't make this year about stuff. Make it about people. That knowledge, of those around me hurting as deeply and even more than I am drives me right now. I want to pull in grieving parents and abandoned children. Whatever it is that drives you, do something. Make a difference. Help someone through the long nights like I just had. It is far too easy to put blinders on and isolate ourselves from reality. The night I just had is every night for some of these children around the world.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Proverbs 24:12 the Message Bible

"Rescue the perishing;
don’t hesitate to step in and help.
If you say, “Hey, that’s none of my business,”
will that get you off the hook?
Someone is watching you closely, you know—
Someone not impressed with weak excuses."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dear Abigail on Christmas

Dear Little Bit,
Christmas without you was awful. I thought of you every step of the way. Buying presents for 4 and not 5, wrapping for 4 not 5, putting out gifts for 4 not 5. It all felt so wrong. It is wrong that you aren't here. It isn't fair and we feel that hole so vividly. Each step and each moment, we thought of how things would be different if you were here. What would you have wanted? What would you have said about the lights and Santa this year? You loved him last year. You loved every moment of the holiday. This year would have been such fun.

We kept you in our family's Christmas though. We hung your stocking. We each wrote down letters and memories of you. Your stocking is stuffed to overflowing with the thoughts we have of you and the things we want to say to you. Anna Faith was insistant that Santa would leave you some candy canes and he did. Samuel couldn't stop writing memories and drawing pictures. Nathan wrote you a letter. We all miss you so much.

We went on Christmas day to visit your grave. I like to be there. I feel closer to you. Your big present, your marker, is not a present I ever wanted to buy for you. I hope it does you justice. It will be here soon. We also had other gifts for you--a dolphin you would have loved and a bible verse stone. These things are just momentos for us to feel connected to you from so far away. It wasn't right to have Christmas and not have presents with your name on them under the tree, so we put some there and each of your siblings got to open one and leave it at your grave.

It snowed on Christmas. I know how you would have reacted. You got to see snow before you left us. You did not like the wet or the cold. You did not like the white flakes falling from the sky--too much like the dreaded rain. But you still went out and braved it all. You marched through that snow with purpose...until you fell on your behind and pitched a complete fit. I don't blame you-I don't like snow either. Would you have thought differently of the snow now? My only thoughts on it this year was that it kept me from spending as much time with you as I wanted at your grave.

I think of you as barely 2 still in my head. I can't imagine what you would be like now at 2 1/2. I have a good idea what you should look like since you look just like your big sister, but you are such your own person in personality. I ache to know how you would talk and the things you would know and what your preferences would be now.

We made it through Christmas without you but I missed you every second and everyone else did also. We didn't do much celebrating to be honest. We are celebrating your life and God's love in other ways this year.

I love you princess and always will.

Christmas, movies, and orphans oh my

First of all, I really only have random things to say, but I feel the need to get some thought down, so here I sit. I don't promise coherency.

We were so honored to be in the newspaper on Christmas. Wow. What a great opportunity to get the message out on how desperate these children are around the world. Why wait? Go get them. They need and deserve families. I am praying this article will impact Birmingham in a big way. If you haven't read it, you can find it on www.al.com

Christmas was...impossible. Thank you for all the prayers and words of support. I don't know how to even explain it. The lead-up was full of anxiety and horror. The actual days were excruciating. But here I sit on the other side. Do I feel satisfaction that I made it? No. I feel defeated that I had Christmas without my baby girl. Some people tell me that this will get easier as time goes on. I don't want it to. Does that make sense? I do not want it to get easier. If it gets easier, that means, I am getting used to living this life without my child. That is so completely wrong. I will never be used to it. I hope and pray it doesn't get "easier." I can see being able to fake it, but I refuse to do that also, so don't expect Christmas to be "easier" for me next year. Expect that I will again suffer through now 2 Christmases without my baby. The only thing worse that 1 without her is 2. I don't want that to sound bitter, although I am sure it does. I just want to be honest.

On Christmas day we went to a movie--just Michael and I. We had a gift card. Our kids went to a grandparent's house to celebrate the holiday and we went to the movies to forget for a bit. The movie was ok. Haven't seen anything good in a long time. It takes a lot to impress me these days. Look in the face of death and eternity and see how impressed you are with the new cheesy romantic comedy I used to love. It wasn't the movie that I walked away thinking about, however. It was the preview before the movie that struck me.

The preview was for a new Disney movie about orphaned baby animals from around the world. It might have been out for a long time, but I never go to the movies, so it was new to me. It was absolutely freaking adorable. You know the kind of images that make you giggle and sigh and feel gooey inside because baby elephants drinking from bottles and baby chimps playing are just so stinking cute. I want one or 2 of them. Animaniacs anyone? I want to hug them and squeeze them and call them mine.

What struck me when I finished oohing and ahhing though was that these orphaned animals, as adorable as they are, were getting so much attention--a major motion picture by Disney!! Awesome--great cause! Yet, what are the human orphans around the world getting? Why are we not standing on the rooftops screaming their story? Why are we not swimming across the ocean to rescue them? Why are stories about 13 pound 3 year olds and 15 pound 8 year olds hidden and not told? Why oh why are we not outraged at the injustices these kids face living day in and day out without a family? Why don't we act? If they were your child, how would you want them treated? Set aside because of their age or their needs? Cast off? Where is the major motion picture? Where is the call to help? A newspaper article is a good start. Like I said, I was honored to be their voice for a moment. But they need so many more voices. They need people stepping up and living life and going for them. They need you to cast aside your worries and your fears. Yes, you might have to give up cable or your big screen to afford it. Yes, you might give up some movie nights and not get to see the Disney orphaned animals movie (don't worry--it will be $1 in redbox soon). You might even have to scale back Christmas next year. However, you will get to offer life to a child. You will make all the difference in that child's life. And your life will have meaning because of theirs. You will find blessing. Donate sure. Sponor others definitely. But go get them.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Winner!

I want to say congrats to all of you!! I know that I only have one to give, but each of you has helped contribute to save a life. What better prize is there? I wish I had more than one to give to all of you. You all have been so incredibly generous donating to our adotopion fund!! Almost 100 people have donated over the past week and a half to our adoption fund. I can't tell you how much that means to us.

I think we will keep these numbers and draw for a second prize in the next week or so--as an extra thank you.

To make sure we were completely fair here, Michael used the random number generator at random.org from work. I had the list of numbers and names at home. He sent me the number the website drew and I matched to to the person assigned that number.

And the winner is...

Number 980309...



LINDA MORUSAN!!

Congrats Linda! Since you are not local, I will get this in the mail to you today! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Suffering

On my wall..."Hope...rejoice in our suffering, suffering produces perseverance, perseverance-character and character hope... Romans 5:3". I definitely have the suffering thing down...not so much the rejoicing...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Heaviness and Hope

My heart is heavy tonight for those suffering through Christmas without their child. It is heavy for those children around the world going through Christmas without the love of a parent. It is heavy for those caught up in the materialism and mundane struggles of life. It is heavy for those who rush through each minute or waste them in escapism. It is heavy for those who feel like life has no purpose, and for those who know purpose and meaning, but feel helpless to do anything about it.

We have so much wrong in the way we live life most of the time. We obsess and worry about finding the perfect Christmas gift and how much is enough or too much, but there are children with nothing, not even the clothes on their backs. There are parents who want nothing but to hold their child one more time. All the rest seems ridiculous to me now. I am normally the first to get caught up in the rush and the busyness and the buying at Christmas. This Christmas, I just feel overwhelmed and heavy with the loneliness, the pain, the death, the hunger, the ache of those around me here and across the world. I've heard horror stories in the past few days of the life children are having to live in various places in the world. I've heard horror stories from parents who have been separated from their children by accidents that seem so frustrating and unecessary. They are real people living real lives that feel like nightmares.

No amount of escapism is going to fix these problems. I can't sit and do nothing. I can't sit knowing there are orphans desperate for families. I can't sit knowing there are grieving parents that need someone to hear them. I know that horror and pain. The hope comes in knowing this is not my home. Why do we feel so out of place here? Why do so many bounce around from one thing to another, seeking to entertain themselves and find happiness, but never really feeling satisfied? How do I keep moving even when I want to dig my hole next to my Abigail? Hope. I have hope. I have God-induced, God-given, God-originated hope. I will not sit and do nothing. I will go around the world to save a life. I will reach out to those hurting. Not because I have the answers or can solve all the problems, but because He has given me hope.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dear Abigail

Dear Little Bit,
Christmas shopping now is unbearable. Everywhere I go, I see little things I might have been buying you. I can't help but agonize over how big you might have been by now, or what you might have been able to say, or what you would like to do. You were so much life in our family. You were joy. You were entertainment. You were a limitless supply of cuteness. You were my sidekick. I feel like I have lost part of me. My arm aches to hold you. My hand aches to hold yours. I feel the echo of you in all I do.

When Daddy crashed the car last week, I cried. Yes, I was afraid for him, but I was also grieving that one more tangible loss of you. Your car seat was still in that car. I couldn't take it out. Your scuff marks were on the back of my seat. Your fingerprints were on that window. I have no reason to put your car seat back in the new car and that knowledge is suffocating.

I wake up each morning so frustrated. I am so frustrated that this happened. I am frustrated that we are now separated. I am frustrated that I have to wait so very long to be with you again. I want to scream and yell and rant and rave most of the time. My heart hurts. But I know that just putting my head back under the covers and screaming is not honoring to you, although you did your fair share of screaming yourself...So while I do sometimes scream--from the horror, from the frustration-- some of the time I find the courage to get up and put one step in front of the other. You give me that courage, my spunky baby. Your story is not our destruction.

I so wish I could see you with Eli now. Your baby is all over the place and into everything. You two would have been a fantastic team, and I wish I could be cleaning up the mess in your wake. I know how you adore him and I hurt for not seeing that interaction more than 5 short weeks.

I so wish I could see the joy, shock, and surprise on your face Christmas morning. I live for that. I am normally giddier than you guys on Christmas and usually end up waking you up instead of the other way around. You were so happy on Easter. I can only imagine what this Christmas would have been like. I feel robbed of that.

I hunger for your smell, your touch, your life. I want nothing more than to see your big brown eyes and your dimple again. I think of you non-stop. We have your marker ordered finally. I hope it at least shows people you. I wanted it to be you. I want people walking through that cemetery to see you. To know that you were a little life taken too soon. But more than that, I want you to change lives. And you have baby girl. You will never be forgotten. I will continue to share your story and your passion with the world.

I'm just so sorry you aren't here with us. Mommy loves you my sweet little bit.

You

You all have been so amazing. The support we have felt--through grief and through adoption--is so much more than I could have ever thought possible. With each donation that comes in, no matter the size, my family has felt amazement, blessing, but also burden. We know that times are tough and this is a season of very stretched budget, but you have made sacrifices to help us ransom a little girl's life. When I say ransom, I mean just that. You are helping to literally save her life. We are beyond thankful and very aware of the responsibility of these gifts you have given us. Adoption is an expensive road. We have complete faith that God will provide the needed financing. We can not just sit by and do nothing while children wait. There are so many waiting. So many without hope. So many hurting. Thank you so much for helping us spread a little of Abigail's HOPE.

Consider making a difference in the life of a waiting child this holiday season. There are so many wonderful organizations out there--help sponsor a specific orphan for a year, host an orphan for a month in the summer or over Christmas, or give to families adopting. Help us bring those children home. Go get them yourselves! I am happy to help if you feel moved to do any of those things. We can't just sit and wait. We have to act. Just ask me about the life of an orphan in our little girl's country and you will see why they can't wait. No, you can not solve the orphan crisis yourself, but you can make all the difference in the life of one. What is the value of one changed life? Is it worth a little sacrifice?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sling Giveaway Winner!

Sorry I am late in the day getting this posted. Congrats to my sling winner! You are going to love this beautiful sling and the super cute baby legs!






Congrats Gabe! I will be mailing these out tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I wrote a whole blog post and my computer deleted it. No time now to re-write. I should have time tonight. It is hard to get upset about little things like that when I spent my whole night dreaming about my baby girl on that table in the hospital. Anyway, I had some thoughts on Romans 8:28 I wanted to share. This is a verse I've struggled with.

Don't forget to enter the iPad giveaway and let me know if you want to sell tickets! My sling giveaway is up for 1 more day. Still a great chance to win there.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Massage Gift Card Winner!

Congrats to my winner! I love doing these giveaways. It is so much fun to give these prizes away. I wish I had enough to give to you all. Thanks for another successful one. The sling giveaway is open for a couple of more days. Don't forget to order your goodies from Thirty-one and Just Love Coffee also! See to the right for our ongoing fundraisers...

And now for what you have been waiting for...This time Nathan wanted to help...






Congrats Mendi! Your gift card will be in the mail today.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I'm not suicidal

Ok, I start with that title because I feel like that disclaimer is needed anytime I talk about “surviving” the loss of a child. So many times I have been told, “I don’t know how you are surviving. I wouldn’t be able to live through this” or something with the same basic idea. If I answer that person honestly, they interpret my answer wrong—hence the need for the disclaimer. For those of you that have felt this pain, you will understand that to say the things I am going to say. I want to be reunited with my child. I don’t desire nor intend to do myself any harm.

“Surviving” the loss of a child, first of all, happens even though you want to not. Believe me, I didn’t think I would “live” through such a loss either. I told Michael time and again that I wouldn’t make it. I couldn’t breathe through the loss of one of mine. Physically, I just knew I wouldn’t make it. I can barely make it through a day without them. I like my children close. I like to see them, smell them, touch them. I enjoy them. They are my life in so many ways. My assumption was that I clearly wouldn’t make it through. You hear these stories of mothers dying of heartbreak only a few excruciating months after they bury their child. I thought I would be one of those. I am jealous of them now.

It was on the evening of April 11th when my body first betrayed what my heart told it to do. My broken heart told it to stop breathing, but it didn’t. My broken heart said, let me rest and be with her again, but no go. My body continued. On many days, I survive because my body is stuck in this pattern of betrayal to my heart and desire. It just keeps breathing. I might be gasping, but the breath continues to come.

I have wrestled with God. I have had deep, painful, roll in the mud wrestles with God over the past few months. I have argued and complained. I have questioned and criticized. But I have also felt drawn to Him in an intimate way that I can’t even express. I have heard Him. I have felt Him. I haven’t liked it frequently, but He is here with me. I have argued that I need to be with her. She is my blessing. He has argued back that she is fine. I am still blessed and that they need me now.
At one point, before, I also thought I wouldn’t survive this pain. If I had only known…the pain is so much worse than I ever imagined, but here I am still. I have wished many times that my body wouldn’t have betrayed me that day or on the many days that followed where my heart cried out again and again that it was ready for reunion. I still have those days. Know that I don’t survive on my own nor do I survive because it is easy. I survive because I have no other choice sometimes. I look forward to heaven in a way I never did before. I don’t have all the answers, but while I am stuck here waiting, because my body keeps me here, I want to keep sharing what God is teaching me and the things Abigail has shown me…until I meet her again and come into His presence, which is the deepest desire of my heart.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shop now through end of day Friday!

We've been given the go ahead to start this fundraiser now!! Go shop and mention Dahlen in comments when you complete checkout to make sure we get credit. Thanks!!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/sarahstreasurebox?ref=pr_shop

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sling Giveaway



Enter to win this fabulous sling set from Seven Slings. This brand new set includes a beautiful fitted sling, a pair of baby legs, and a matching bracelet for mom. The set is a $72 value! This is a great set if you have (or will have) a little one, or it makes a great baby shower gift. Just make a donation to my paypal button on my blog for a chance to be gifted with this set. You don't have to have a paypal account to donate through my button. I will give you 1 entry for each $5 you donate. If you donate and then post this to your facebook or blog, comment here and let me know and I will give you an extra entry. I am willing to ship this set to a winner anywhere in the US. Please let me know in the paypal comments which giveaway you are donating to--the massage or the sling. Thanks!!




I am still taking entries in the massage giveaway also! Don't forget our other fundraisers including letters from Santa, thirty-one party, and Just Love Coffee. See the list on the right for an updated list. Thanks for all your support!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Friday fundraiser!

I am so excited to announce a new fundraiser coming up this week. This fundraiser is for Friday only! Sarah, of Sarah's Treasure Box, has offered to fundraise for us through her etsy store this Friday. $5 of each pendant she sells on Friday will go to fund our adoption.


To participate: visit Sarah's etsy shop (linked below). Choose from among many beautiful pendants listed (special orders do not count for the fundraiser). Shop for yourself and for gifts! Once you have ordered, be sure you complete the full payment process. Be sure to leave a comment at checkout that this purchase is for the Dahlen fundraiser! $5 from each pendant purchase will help us get closer to our goal of saving a child's life.




Remember, this fundraiser is for orders made Friday only. Please share and help me advertise this opportunity before Friday, but place your orders on Friday.


Thanks for your continued support!! Other ongoing fundraisers listed to the right. And the massage giveaway is still open. Still a good chance to win! Get your entry in!

Grief Rituals

My heart is heavy tonight for a family I don't know, but one who is just starting out on their own grief journey. I don't envy where they are. I can't imagine it actually. I know how awful it is to bury my 2 year old. I do know sudden loss. I don't know how hard it would be to bury my 7th grader. I wish they didn't know either.

One thing I noticed early on in this walk is the lack of meaningful grief traditions and rituals in our culture. I think, in a large part, most people are so removed from death that they are afraid to face its reality. It is one thing to watch mass slaughter on a movie screen, but a totally different thing to attend a funeral. Death happens. Tragic death happens. Child death happens. No, it isn’t pleasant, but it is so important to grieving families to have the freedom to mourn their lost. So many times I have felt pushed—whether intentionally or not—to just be ok. To not openly grieve. I am sure, if you are reading this, you are not one of those people. I need to grieve. Mothers who have buried their children cry out whether you hear them or not, whether they let you see it or not.

Historically, society has offered a variety of ways to recognize someone is in mourning so that others, strangers, are respectful. So that others know to not give those in mourning a huge grin and ask them if they are having a good day--to not try to make small talk in the grocery line and ask how many kids you have. I hate that question now. I think of Victorian days when those in mourning would wear a black arm band as a sign of mourning. If you met someone wearing such a sign, you would be respectful. You would recognize their pain and maybe treat them with a little more gentleness. And they would be given the freedom to grieve and mourn and not just put on a smiling face and continue about their day as if all was well.

I have to get out of the house. More and more, I have to go to the store or take my kids to the park. I have to face strangers. I avoid crowds and happy occasions as much as I can, but there are times when I get stuck. Times when I have to go. It is during those times more than any that I wish our culture offered some recognition of grief. Some grief tradition and ritual that others would recognize. The pain doesn’t stop for those grieving after you stop for their funeral procession to pass. In so many ways, it is just starting then.

I wear a black bracelet for me. It is my own sign of mourning. It is my outward representation of my inner pain and turmoil. If you see it, say a prayer for me. Respect me in my pain. And when you meet someone who doesn’t return your southern smile when you pass them in the mall, remember, they might be grieving too and treat them with gentleness not superficiality.

For this new family just starting to feel the depths of this pain tonight, I am so completely sorry. Words can't express how my heart is groaning for you right now. I know those holes and pits of grief you are soon to find. I wish you did not have to know this valley of the shadow. Grieve. Cry out. Let others around you carry some of your pain until you can. Don't fight the waves of grief that are coming. You can't avoid them. Take them one at a time as they come. I would love to sit with you if you are open to that.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Massage Giveaway!!



What better win than a free massage to get you through the busy holiday season? Thanks Kim for donating this gift for my giveaway! The winner here will be gifted with a gift card for a 1 hour massage at Massage Envy! Wow! This would be fantastic to give as a gift, or to use yourself. You do not have to be local to win this giveaway. There are Massage Envy locations 43 states across the US, with 3 in the Birmingham area. Check out www.massageenvy.com to see the nearest location near you.


To enter: donate $5 through my paypal button on the right, and I will give you an entry into this drawing. You do not have to have a paypal account to donate! Each $20 you donate will earn you an extra entry (5!). AND, if you post this on your facebook or blog and comment here, I will give you an extra entry as well. I will close this giveaway on Monday. Get busy entering and thanks for all your support!

(And don't forget to order some Thirty-one and Just Love Coffee products, as well as your letter from Santa. See the list to the right to keep up with ongoing fundraisers!)

And the winners are...

Congrats to my winners! Thanks to all who donated to enter!! I had great helpers to draw. If you won, look for your prize soon. And don't forget to enter my new giveaways--coming soon!

Cafe Dupont gift certificate...




Congrats Stephanie!!


His Hands Photographs Session...








Congrats Heidi!

Last day!

Last day to enter my first 2 giveaways! Don't miss out! See list of fundraisers on the right.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Adoption--the story

Ok, so I have had a million questions on this adoption. I am happy to answer all that you have. Some things I can not say in public because of the way adoption works, but ask me privately and I will be happy to answer you.

In short, we have always known we would adopt some day. It was just a matter of when. I have read adoption blogs for years. I have followed lots of stories of domestic and international adoption. This is just where our heart is. The life of an orphan in Eastern Europe, when they age out of the baby house and are moved into an institution...wow, it just breaks my heart into pieces...always has. Even worse, when they age out of the system altogether...

Anyway, we were discussing when we would start pursing our own adoptition around the time Eli was born. We thought our time was soon. God only knew how soon. As you all know, when Eli was 5 weeks old, our world was torn to pieces. Burying our baby girl was unexpected and excruciating. The devasting tragedy has knocked us off our feet, but it has also taught us so many things. Life is so short. So many things we obsess over are meaningless. Anyway, our committment from the beginning is that we refuse to let Abigail's story be one of destruction. Her name is Hope. Her story is Hope. Her story has not been finished yet.

With that in mind, I continued to read adoption blogs, we made a painful move, and we continued to grieve. Then, God got my attention. I was reading a blog one day and it had the pictures of several sweet orphans in Eastern Europe. The post said that because of overcrowding at their baby house, these orphans were soon to be transferred. The institution they were to go to is unbearable by any standards. They would be ripped from all they knew and moved to this cold, scary place. The first beautiful face on that page was a little girl who was only 3 years old. Can you imagine at 3 being moved to such a place? My heart was broken. I showed her picture to Michael and we spent the night praying for her. By morning we both agreed. God says to take care of the orphans. That call is clear. Why wait? She needed us now, so we committed to bring her home.

At this point, we have mostly finished our home study. We are just waiting on our fingerprint clearances to come back from the FBI. Once they do, we will send our home study off to immigration to be approved. We have just about finished all the rest of our paperwork. We have even renewed our passports. We are just waiting for those steps to process. You know me--give me a good checklist and I am will get it done quickly. I love doing paperwork and making lists. I am just a nerd like that. But there is so much on the other end of this paper trail.

Our entire family is so pleased to make sacrifices to save this little girl's life. All the kids say that they plan to adopt several when they are adults. That makes my heart warm. I love their heart for the plight of these children. I love that they are eager to share their home. I know they are aware of what is important in this world even more than some adults. They have been face to face with death. It changes you. Hopefully, we will be able to submit our dossier in just a couple of months when our country re-opens to new dossiers. Please pray with us that this process continues to go smoothly. I look forward to introducing you to our 3rd daughter (but she is actually older than Abigail) soon.

Just Love Coffee!



http://www.justlovecoffee.com/thedahlens

For all you coffee drinkers out there, we have a new fundraiser to announce! Just Love Coffee is an organization that helps adoptive families fundraise through selling coffee and other produects. A portion of each of these sales will go directly to our adoption fund. All of these coffees are fair trade and organic. They sound yummy even to me, and I don't drink coffee--ha! Click through the menu on the left to see the full variety of coffees available. Thanks for supporting us!

(Letters from Santa and thirty-one party are still ongoing! Cafe Dupont giveaway and His Hands Photograph giveaway are open just through this weekend! Get your entries in now!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

God will not give you more than you can handle

I have heard that my whole life--God not give you more than you can handle. Wow, is that completely wrong. I have to say I almost bought it until I buried my little girl. THAT is definitely more than I can handle. Living a life without my Abigail is FAR more than I am capable of. Christmas shopping and not buying presents for one of my children is not in my capabilities. I am not debating theology here, but we are not promised to be given no more than we can handle. No, we are promised to be given no more than He can handle. God's glory is not shown through us being tough and strong, but rather through our weakness.

I am the first to admit I am weak. I am quite a sap under the best circumstances. Ask my husband, I over-analyze and I worry and I cry. A lot. I am not the one to be brave and confront someone over an issue. As you all know, I even have a fear of phone calls. Text me anytime, but just know I am not likely to call you-ha! In short, I am quite a wimp. No, strong is not a word I would use.

However, my God is strong. He sustains me. When I feel like I can't draw another breath without my Abigail, He breathes for me. He reminds me gently (ok, sometimes, not so gently), that I am still blessed. That I still have work to be done. That I have others that need me. I survive because He carries me. Many times I lack the ability and the desire to continue, but He is strong. Any strength you see in me is only to the glory of God.

So, no, you might face things in life that are more than you can handle. Believe me, this is FAR more than I can handle. You know I won't lie to you about how unbearable this is. We are not promised ease. But we are promised that He will be with us. And He is. My comforter. My friend. The keeper of my baby girl--unitl it is my time to be with her again.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thirty-One Online Party!!


I am so excited to share with you another fundraiser we are starting! I received a sweet email from Angela the other day. I have never meet Angela, but she is a fellow homeschooling mom, but also an adoptive mom who heard about our fundraising efforts. She sells thirty-one products (you know you all love thirty-one!), and she generously offered to open an online party for me. 20% of the proceeds from orders through this link will go directly to our adoption. Your orders will be shipped directly to you. Dec. 13th is the last day to order for a Christmas delivery! So go, shop for yourself, shop for Christmas presents, have fun, and help save a child's life, all at the same time! Thanks Angela!!

http://www.mythirtyone.com/shop/catalog.aspx?eventId=E429037&from=DIRECTLINK

Grief and Hope

My heart is such a jumbled mess right now. On one hand, I am so overwhelming sad and burdened today. I just miss my little girl. The world has lost so much of its shine for me and that is so crystal clear now in the holiday season. I usually love the holidays (any excuse for an holiday), but I have made a short list of things I have to do to get through this one, and I am not doing anything extra. I am just holding my breath and trying to get through in one piece. I am also hurting for all of those other mommas out there without their little ones. I have a long list of strong women in this club with me-the club no one wants to be in. You all have supported me and encouraged me and cried with me over the past few months. Some of you have been through this before--the holiday season no one wants to have. Some of you are even newer on this journey than I am. I hurt for each of you. It is not fair and it is frustrating and it just makes me angry that we are having to learn how to do this. No matter how far I get from Abigail (or how much closer, depending on your perspective), I will always want her. I will always want her to be here, with us, where she should be. I know each of you are longing for the same with your little ones.

On the other hand, I am emotional today because of the overwhelming support we have received from you all in the past few days with our adoption fundraising. Wow! Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the outpouring of love I have seen. You have been willing to step up and help a child you have never met. You are saving a life. We are called to take care of orphans and you are doing just that. I have had so many wonderful questions about this adoption. I will write up the whole story and post soon the details that I can post in public. Mostly just know this, God has called us to adopt. That calling is clear. We are stepping out on faith to follow through with this calling. Am I worried about financing this? No. That is God's job. Am I waiting till everything is worked out and this is easy? No. That is also God's job. My only job is to follow His calling. I hear so often, I would love to do (fill in the blank here). My question is what are you waiting for? Is it a matter of money? God will provide. So what if it stretches you. You can't take your money with you in the end. In view of eternity, earthly riches mean nothing. Am I a stronger person? No way. ( I have a whole post on that topic that I have yet to write). Our purpose and calling is to share the love of God and that is what we are doing by opening our home and our family to a little girl without one. Thank you all for being a beautiful part of that. Of Abigail's story. Of the story of an eastern European orphan.

Many more fundraisers on the way! You have all had wonderful ideas and I am trying them all out. Keep spreading the word. Keep changing the world--one child at a time.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Photography Session Giveaway!

Thanks so much for my sweet and very talented friend Samantha of His Hands Photographs for the next blog giveaway. She is generously offering a free portrait session with her, as well as a $25 print credit. This is a $125 value!! She makes beautiful pictures. Check out her website and browse her albums http://hishandsphotographs.com/ If your family, needs new pictures, this is the giveaway for you.

To enter: chip-in at least $10 to the paypal donate button on my blog. Each $10 chip-in will get you one entry. Donate $25 and I will give you 3 entries. Once you have donated, share this on your facebook or blog and I will give you an extra entry. Just comment below so I don't miss it. I will draw for this gift on Monday. Get your entry in now! Don't miss the opportunity!

As always, thank you all for your continuous support and wonderful ideas and donations to our adoption. I will write more on the blessing we have seen so far soon.

AND! the Cafe Dupont giveaway is still open. Don't miss out! Let me know on your donation which giveaway you are donating for please!

Me

I warned you in the beginning that I would be blunt in this blog. I don’t do superficial. Life is too short. I get comments often where people are surprised that I share my grief the way I do. First of all, I wouldn’t make it if I tried to bottle it up. I have to let it out. The dark, lonely place I go if I don’t connect to others and bring them along on this journey is so much worse than baring my soul to those who don’t know me well (or at all in the case of this blog). But, there is also just me. I think my youngest daughter got a little of her personality from her mom. I don’t think I have quit the same zest for life that she did, but I can get very passionate. Get me talking about homeschooling, homebirthing, adoption, breastfeeding, exchange students, poverty, the church, or any history subject, and you will see how quickly I get excited and animated. I talk faster. I go into spill your guts mode and don’t know how to stop sometimes. I will talk you into things you didn’t think possible. I don’t do this because I am judging you on your own choices, or even because I think everyone needs to do things the way I do. I just love to share the things in my life that have impacted me the most-the things I wish someone would have passionately shared with me a little earlier. I think this aspect of me is why my grief comes out so bluntly. What a life changer grief is. I hope you never have to personally experience this grief, ( some of you already have) but I feel it is my mission in a way to educate others on grief, because you will come in contact with others in this world who are dealing with grief. If nothing else, maybe one will remember and be able to offer that grieving parent the support they will so desperately need. So in short, I’m sorry. I am sorry that I am blunt and bare my soul and my pain to you here. Just know, if you give me 30 seconds, I quite likely will do the same in person.