Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Letting Go

Our family has been in a rather long season of Letting Go. And, we have all had to learn how to live in the midst of that.

There have been more stages in my life than I can count when I have felt that the events of my life were somehow just preparation for that which was to come. And as a result of that mentality, I have often felt discontent and impatient in the Present.

In the midst of all of the letting go of late, an unexpected Letting Go has occurred. I no longer seek after the yet-to-come. I no longer disregard the potential of the present moment in order to focus on the elusive promise of the future.

Today, Bella had a doctor’s appointment.
And unfortunately, it was bad news.

Bella has genetic defects in her feet and legs. As a result, she has had increasing pain throughout her legs – especially when running or hiking.

And we thought it was just growing pains?!??

At this point, the long term prognosis is undetermined. We are doing what we can now through orthotics and some minor physical therapy I will do with her to alleviate some pain and avert some of the tension.

There is talk about future surgery in order to elongate the bones in her legs.

Letting Go often means being willing to accept the tension that exists in the Present.

We have to embrace, trust in, and learn from recalibration.

Letting Go often means that we do not give up on those God-given dreams for the future, and yet we make sure we do all that we can to show up and participate in the ongoing thread of moments that make up the Present.

For our family, the result of this has been joy, sometimes through tears, yet joy nonetheless.

Friday, September 28, 2012

It's Not Fair!!

Farewell to our home in Bend
Two months ago, our family packed up our home of nine years in Bend, OR, and traveled south to the Bay Area, CA to start the next chapter of our journey.

We landed in a cute little apartment with, to the delight of our girls, a swimming pool.

Fun with the cousins!
We often get asked why we decided to disrupt our idyllic life in the quiet, peaceful 'burbs and choose to land in the middle of the chaotic city life. Well, there are many reasons. For one, we wanted to be closer to family. My parents live in the Bay Area, my sister and family in Orange County. We also wanted to be closer to Bella's hospital. And we are SO glad we did. More on that later. Lastly, it just was not working for our family in Bend. There is nothing wrong with Bend. And there is nothing wrong with us (although, for a long time - I really did feel there was something wrong with ME). It just so happens that the combination of us and Bend was quite toxic. There are a lot of theories as to why that is the case, but in the end, we may never know for sure why that is. I mention this for one reason only - to encourage others to trust their instincts of a place does not seem to be a good fit for one's family or oneself. It is not you. It is not them. But, it is important to prayerfully consider other options that might breathe life into you and your family. It is worth it.
Bella's first day of school
Abeni/Mama date

So, here we are in the Bay Area and there is no doubt in our mind that it is the right decision for our family. How do I know? Here are some reasons::

1. For a variety of health-related reasons,  Bella cannot go to public school. She got in to a small private school here, and was offered a scholarship. She has already made friends, has play dates, and the staff and families have embraced us.

2. Martin's job description recently changed. One of the changes is that his entire team is located here in the Bay Area. So, instead of being the only one in the Bend office that does what he does, he now gets to collaborate face to face with his colleagues on a daily basis. And if THAT weren't enough, we got here to discover that there is a satellite office DOWN THE STREET from our apartment. What!?!?

3. We grew weary of the ignorant comments and stares at our Abeni by people. And Abeni was beginning to notice. I am sure this is not every interracial family's experience in Bend, but it was ours. And for us, it was very difficult and disconcerting. Our first week here in the Bay Area, we met another ETH adoptive family. Upon seeing them, Abeni jumps up and down and starts yelling, "She looks like me, Mama! She looks like ME!". Already, in the two months we have been here, we have connected with Ethiopians, other families who look like us, and Abeni is getting a lot of time to "fit in". :)

And with this, we live in a very multicultural apartment complex. After the first week or two, Bella commented, "Mommy! I have heard three different languages here! That is so COOL!"

For Martin and I, and for what we value and want for our children specifically, this was music to our ears.

4. We are 15 minutes from my parents. We have so enjoyed spending time with them, being able to integrate our lives and enjoy the ebb and flow of that type of relationship.

Ready for Enkutatash Celebration  in Oakland
Abeni's first ballet class

As many of you know, we did have quite the scare with Bella's health soon after our arrival to the Bay Area. At Bella's monthly blood draw, two very important labs came back worrisome. These numbers had not altered in five years. Upon a repeat of the labs, the discrepancy was even worse, so we knew it was not a fluke. I packed a bag for the hospital. I was convinced we were going to be admitted. Bella did not look good - greyish pale, whiney, bloated, fatigued. The doctors told us to do one last blood draw. That was a tall order considering the extreme amount of anxiety these blood draws cause Bella, but we did it anyway. Miraculously, her numbers had stabilized!
Family Day in the Santa Cruz Redwood Forest

I entitled this post "It's Not Fair" purposefully. I have been hearing that phrase a lot in our household. My response (thanks to the advice of a child psychologist friend) is to say "Each of you receive specifically what you need from us."

I have been thinking about this a lot. A girlfriend of mine has stage IV ovarian cancer. Another friend of mine is being encouraged to place her daughter on the transplant donor list. Another friend has a child who is experiencing some pretty intense bullying.

Life on earth is SO NOT fair. And sometimes, our sense of entitlement really intensifies that sense of fairness or lack thereof.

And I am the first one to admit that nothing tests my faith more than when my children suffer.

But my faith has also proven over and over again that the God I believe in is in the business of providing for us everything that we need. The un-fairness of it all is really more about us and our perception of what we think we deserve than it is about Him and some sort of lack of provision.

I hope and pray that in this new season of our family's journey, I can take more time to notice that provision, to be thankful for it, and to trust that the God I believe in will provide specifically for my needs -

above and beyond -

even if it does not look like what I think I deserve.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Change is Good

I am sitting here in a sea of a mess. Boxes, toys, home decor strewn amidst moving boxes and plastic containers.

In 4 to 6 weeks, we will be moving from a 2400 square foot house in suburbia to a two bedroom apartment in, well, the Bay Area. We are leaving our beautiful backyard filled with a crab apple and cherry tree we planted ourselves, our daughter's Make-A-Wish playhouse, a hammock, and our beloved patio furniture set. We are leaving our three bedroom house, our playroom, Martin's "man-cave" (office).

Today, at drop off, a mom said to me, "We need to talk sometime. I am having a hard time understanding why you would make such a drastic change."

And I'll be honest. The last two or three days, I have been wondering the EXACT same thing. Why are we doing this? Why are we giving up all of this comfort and security? What are we going to do when the girls get invited over to hang out at a friend's beautiful home and all we have to offer is a 2 bedroom apartment?

Isn't the standard of success and contentment directly related to one's property and assets?

At the beginning of May, we had the pleasure of traveling as a family back to the Czech Republic. All of Martin's family currently live there. We had a fabulous time. One afternoon, we had a wonderful home cooked lunch with Martin's grandmother in Cheb - a town on the border with Germany. Babicka has lived in this same flat for over 45 years, where she and her husband raised Martin's father and aunt. The flat consists merely of two rooms and a hallway. Period. The kitchen itself is about the size of our master bathroom. Martin's grandparents shared one room, Martin's dad and aunt shared the other. Period.

It was during this trip that Martin and I began a conversation - you know - one of those ongoing kind, that never really ends, but becomes such an integral part of your life together. And the core of this conversation centers around contentment. If Martin and I were honest, we would have to say that over the last four to five years, our discontent has grown.

Is there such a thing as too comfortable?

Is it possible that there is a level of comfort and stability, especially in this country, that could actually be harmful ?

Over the past few days, since returning home from the Czech Republic, I have been grieving. I have been purging my home of stuff, letting go of it all. And I thought for sure my predominant reaction would be relief.

Instead, something unexpected and embarrassing has happened. That dreaded "why me?" snuck in. I have found myself grieving over the loss of stuff. I have found myself feeling resentful that we cannot afford more, nicer, more. And these prevalent and unwelcome emotions have caused me to be an unattractive wife and mom.

I have this devotional book that I love, in fact, I have the iphone app, too. :)  It is called Jesus Calling.  Here is an excerpt from yesterday::

Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs.
When you view your life this way. the most reasonable response is to be thankful. 
Do not reject any of My gifts; find Me in every situation.

And coupled with that, I got an email yesterday with this challenge - to live one month on the salary of  roughly 1.3 billion people worldwide. Can you guess what that is?

$1.25 a day.

(Go here to try the game::

Wow. Attitude check. Entitlement check. What-the-heck-is-my-problem check.

So, our family is committed to living more simply.

I am excited about the possibilities.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Bella turns eight tomorrow. 

My precious, unpretentious girl - full of life, unabashedly affectionate, and eager to share a smile and a giggle. 

Lover of animals. 

Loyal friend.

Tender heart. 


My Bella turns eight tomorrow.

How can this be?

She was not supposed to survive one week.

Then, well, odds were not good pre-transplant.

Hopefully she will make it to her fifth birthday, they said.

And here we are.

Bella turns eight tomorrow.

Do you believe in miracles?

I certainly do.

What about those who have lost their loved ones?

Admittedly I do not know - I plan to ask God about that myself.

But what I DO know

My Bella turns eight tomorrow.

A bright, tangible ray of hope. An answered prayer. An example of how the journey of faith resides in the tension between the brutal and the beautiful.

Happy Birthday, sweet girl. Mama and Daddy love you to the moon and back - times infinity.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Being Bella's Mom

Being Bella's mom means I live with fear.
I awake every night, place my hand across her chest, to ensure that she is breathing.

Being Bella's mom means I live with the difficult choices I have had to make.
I know that in doing so, people will not understand and that can be lonely.

Being Bella's mom means I live with permanent heartache.
I know that, with our current medicinal science, I may someday have to tell her that she cannot bear children.

Being Bella's mom means I live with sheer terror.
I know that it is quite possible that I could outlive her.

Being Bella's mom means I live with sorrow.
I know we will lose our house, and perhaps experience financial ruin, due to her outrageous medical costs.

Being Bella's mom means I live with disappointment.
I know that I can never move my family overseas as I would have loved, due to the lack of her immune system and the proper care.

And yet...

Being Bella's mom means I get to experience pure joy.
I know what it is like to behold a miracle.

Being Bella's mom means I get to experience raw Faith.
I know what doubt looks like, and I know a God who can handle it.

Being Bella's mom means I get to live in the moment.
I know what it means to truly take nothing for granted.

Being Bella's mom means I get to carry another's burden.
I know what it is like to be loved and cared for by a village, and I will do everything in my power to do the same for another.

Being Bella's mom means I have Hope.
I know that there is more to life than this - on any given day.

Being Bella's mom means I get, well, I get what really matters.
Just from witnessing her smile.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


I will sing
sing a new song...

At the end of this month, I will turn 40 years old. Huh. Wow.

I am going to be honest with you.

I am really okay with it.

In fact, I am kind of excited about it. And I will tell you why.

For one, I have been very fortunate to have had phenomenal mentors in my life. These women were where I am now in life when they mentored me. One woman was starting to pursue her doctorate - with four kids. One woman was launching her music career in L.A. One woman had become an advocate of Ethiopian orphans, and started working in advocacy for deaf children.

And my mom - started a non-profit for women at about the same age as I am now - and well, it has become more than she could have ever hoped for or imagined. And here I am - having just launched Someone's Child and it is already moving faster than I can keep up with!

And because I allowed these women to speak Truth into my life in my twenties and earlier, because I took risks and decided early on that I would live outside of the box instead of spending all my time and energy constructing the perfect box, I can honestly stand before you now and say I have no regrets. I am very grateful for all the people I have come to know and learn from, for all the places and countries I have visited or lived in, for all the education I pursued, for all the hardships I have endured.

I am grateful, that through these life experiences, God refined and transformed me and continues to do so. I have learned that people are way more important than one's pride. I have learned that being a truthteller and being strong must be coupled with grace and mercy. I have learned that it is healthy to avoid toxicity and drama, and to cling to encouragement and non-competitiveness in one's relationships. I have learned that my voice is powerful - and it is okay to embrace that, and not try to squelch it for fear that it might offend or be "too much" for people. I have learned the joy that comes from giving one's life away in the pursuit of advocating on behalf of another. I have learned to be comfortable in my own, unique, beautiful skin.

So, as the 40 is fast approaching, I find myself often humming one of my favorite songs, U2's "40" based on the Psalm. And this is how I plan to embrace this number, this season, not as an ending, but as a beginning.

I will sing...
sing a new song

Thursday, March 10, 2011


We recently returned from our twice-a-year trip to Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. As many of you know, Bella's health the past six months has been laden with sickness, with the coup de gras being a kidney infection.

So, I felt a bit more anxiety than normal this trip. It is the first time we have seen Bella's team since the kidney infection, and I could not help but wonder what damage may have been done.

It turns out that indeed, there has been damage, but not because of the infection necessarily! Let me explain a couple of things about pediatric kidney transplantation.

1. Bella's toxic kidneys were removed and replaced with one adult kidney.

2. This means, a majority of Bella's organs, intestines, etc. were literally re-arranged in order to accommodate an adult kidney (she was 14 mos. when she had a transplant) which is now located in the front of her torso, versus the back where we all carry our kidneys.

3. Kidneys do not regenerate. Once they lose function, it is permanent. The shock of transplantation coupled with a child's heart's inability to pump the proper flow of blood to and from an adult kidney caused permanent damage from the start.

4. Bella's anti-rejection drugs are a Catch 22. They will be a part of her daily regimen for the rest of her life in order to suppress her body's natural desire to reject a foreign kidney. At the same time, a side effect of these very rejection meds is that they are toxic to kidneys, thus very slowly killing off the kidney. This is why her medication levels are monitored so closely and why we have so many blood draws.

5. Having an adult kidney as a child, trying to pump enough blood between a child-sized heart and an adult kidney, having your inner parts not be exactly where they are meant to be and supposed to be means that Bella tires faster, needs more restorative time, needs more nurture, and just needs more period.

Upon review of Bella's kidney, it has come to our attention that Bella's kidney is losing function, experiencing more toxicity from the meds, at a faster rate than we would like. So, we have adjusted Bella's meds as the first means of combating this and hopefully slowing it down. If this does not work, well, let's just not go there yet, shall we?

As you can imagine, this news was very difficult to digest. And, I found myself grieving a bit. Let me explain.

When Martin and I got married, part of our vows were to honor the passions and callings in one another. We planned on spending time living in Martin's home country of the Czech Republic. We planned on me working and traveling on behalf of the vulnerable. And of course, having a family was included in all of that as well.

Then, Bella was born. Our world was turned upside down. And all of the sudden, those passions and callings for me (and Martin, too) were put on hold - indefinitely.

Would I change anything? Absolutely not. Do I sometimes grieve that I am not able to live out right now some of the passions God has placed on my heart? Absolutely. And sometimes...

sometimes I grieve more than others.

It also makes me grieve for Bella. She is starting to understand that she is "different". She is starting to work out all of the horrific trauma that she experienced as a baby. We, as a family, have started to receive insensitive comments from people. And that. Well, that just brings out the mother lion in me.

At the same time, and ever more strongly, I feel a sense of resolve. I feel more passionate than ever to ensure that my daughters feel that their parents think they hung the moon. I feel more convicted about encouraging my daughters in what they are gifted in, instilling them with a sense of purpose. I feel more passionate about ensuring that my daughters become beautiful, compassionate, Godly world-changers.

I am woman.

Hear me roar.