Monday, September 19, 2016

Thy Will Be Done

As we begin school this year, this song resonates with my soul... 

"I'm so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don't wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I've got is hurt and these four words
Thy will be done..."

I started another school year with just 4 kids today. Just a couple years ago, I thought I'd be homeschooling 5. 

Yet, here I am. With just 4. 

I knew I heard God loud and clear when we were presented with the complete surprise referral of adopting a second child. God told us "Yes. Bring home Eyob, too." I thought he was going to be ours forever, just like Mikiyas. 

Yet 2 1/2 years after bringing him home, God told us we needed to let go. That in order for Eyob to reach his full potential and to be fully healed and for the rest of our family to heal from trauma and PTSD, along with keeping everyone safe, we needed to find a new family for him... I was so confused and heartbroken. I didn't understand why He wanted us to do this.

As I look back over the last year, and look forward into this next year, I now kinda get it. I honestly don't know how we would've been able to endure life with two cancer diagnoses, various medical conditions, AND a child with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) and severe needs. Life has been hard. So hard. And it's getting even harder as we pursue new specialists to figure out the depth of Aydan's medical needs. After a specialist visit on Friday, we found out that he will very likely need surgery in the coming months on his kidneys and ureters. We also came out of that appointment needing appointments with orthopedics for Aydan (bc of some spine/rib issues) and genetics for all three of our bios (to test for various genetics syndromes) and a kidney ultrasound for Mireya (because it's very likely she has the same kidney problems that ilana had and Aydan now has). Along with that ultrasound, we also have to do yearly thyroid ultrasounds for the younger two, to make sure there are no thyroid growths, as it's likely that the thyroid cancer ilana and I have are genetic. 

I am exhausted. I'm so weary and worn. Yet I am so thankful that we were obedient with what God called us to do a year and a half ago. God certainly knew what He was doing, even when we didn't understand. He knew what we would be facing in the coming years, and knew that dealing with those tribulations, along with the daily hourly fits and completely unsafe tantrums of a RAD child would be my undoing. He knew that this sweet child would be unable to heal in a home with so many medical uncertainties. In a home where we'd constantly come and go with appointment and surgeries and out of state travel for specialists. He knew all of this way before we did. And he ensured healing on both sides by finding the perfect family that would come alongside our family and adopt our son and instill the same Christian values that we hold so dearly in our hearts. They would love him with all their being. And would help his heart to heal and his brain to see that he was able to love again. His brain controlled his heart and because of that, the fear of love blocked all ability to attach to a mother. Yet, through God and this family, he was finally able to. He is healed. He is whole. God turned something horrible like RAD and made beauty from those ashes and helped him be able to love again. I was so confused on why God couldn't do that with me. Why He couldn't allow Eyob to heal in our home. Why He couldn't allow Eyob to love me the way he loves his new momma. But now I understand. God knew that these coming years in our family would just be too much for that trauma filled brain... And He paved the way with so many God-incidences that we knew that putting Eyob in the France family was the perfect plan. 

I still am confused on why God does what He does. Like, why couldn't he heal Eyob's heart in our family AND heal our family of all the medical problems we are facing? But then I'm reminded that we live in a fallen world. And because of that, we humans have to endure things like cancer, death, financial difficulties, etc. Just because we are believers and followers of Christ does not make us immune to the evils of this fallen world. While sometimes I feel like we've gotten more than our "fair share" of medical problems, I'm also reminded that it could be worse. And also that God is using our family in the midst of these hard times. We're able to share how we choose joy, amongst the difficulties that life throws at us. We're able to share with so many, the source of our joy... 

So... While I'm exhausted and weary and ready to just be done with appointments and specialists and surgeries, I'm also choosing joy. Despite the weariness, there's SO very much to be thankful for. 

I live in a country where I can drive to get medical care. I don't have to walk for days. I can see every specialist we need, even if it requires flying out of state. 

I live in a country where I can get (good) HIV meds for my son so that he can finally become undetectable. While he has a damaged heart, from lack of good meds in Ethiopia, I am so thankful for the ability to have heart meds that make it possible for the damage to not get worse!

I live in an area with clean water. 

I have a pantry and freezer and fridge filled with food and ingredients that will last us months. 

I have hot water. A washing machine. A dryer. 

I have a bed. A pillow. A blanket. 

And you know what else that I'm thankful for?!

 I'm thankful that we got some great news from Ilana's doctor this morning.

*** Ilana's cancer markers have gone down!  ***

They're still detectable, but they have miraculously gone down!! This is HUGE! This is something we are celebrating and praising God for!!! I am in tears for some (finally) good news!!

Our life sure isn't easy.... But I'm choosing joy in all of His plans. 
Whatever our future holds, 
Thy will be done...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cancer. A curse... or possibly a blessing?

This month is not only childhood cancer awareness month, but it's also thyroid cancer awareness month. As we traveled home recently from Pennsylvania after visiting CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia), I sat on the plane in deep thought about our past year. I just so happened to sit next to a kind, elderly couple. The woman asked us if we were on vacation, so I briefly explained that we were coming back from CHOP because of our daughter's thyroid cancer. This woman had just recently had an ultrasound on her clavicle due to unusual swelling. Swelling in her neck and clavicle that's been there for several years. They found thyroid nodules on the ultrasound and told her to seek a specialist. Coincidence that we sat next to each other? I think not. I told her how important it would be for her to find a good endocrinologist and made a few recommendations for her and further explained our family's story. I told her that I would pray that it was nothing and hoped all would turn out okay.

That got me thinking more as we continued our journey home... The last 9-10 months have been hell at times. Watching my 9 year old go through a cancer battle. Going through an invasive surgery, countless bloodwork, enduring complete isolation for what seemed like forever as she struggled crying out for Mommy, yet I was allowed no where near her for an entire week. There were days when I was just so exhausted from the countless appointments and worries that I struggled with getting out of bed. And then just over 6 months after my daughter's surgery, I was having my own surgery to remove my thyroid, thanks to papillary thyroid carcinoma. The same diagnosis as my daughter's.

It's crazy. Insane, really. Looking back and remembering all that our family has endured. And yet, as much as I remember the pain and the hard stuff, I find that what most consumes my mind are the blessings during this journey.

I look back and I see just how many have followed our journey and lifted us in constant prayer since I first discovered the lump on Ilana's neck on November 9.  I look back and I remember that the day of Ilana's surgery, dozens of people gathered in our church to pray on behalf of Ilana, joining the hundreds across the country. You guys blessed us! I remember looking straight into the surgeons eyes and telling him that he had hundreds praying for him and his team, and he looked back in amazement. As if he's never heard that before. You guys blessed him! I look back and remember while Ilana was in isolation and I cried out to God asking for relief because I couldn't do this, that's when a countless amount of people stepped up to sign up so Ilana was covered in prayer every hour of every day until she could finally be around Michael. It left me in tears to see and as I look back and remember and write about it, I'm brought to tears.

I look back and I see the journey that Ilana has been on and how much her faith has grown. I see how much I have grown. How much my faith has been stretched and strengthened. How our entire family has grown and changed and grown closer. These trials have refined our family and we've realized that while this last year (or few years, really) have been so. stinking. hard... we see just how God has blessed us amongst the hard. I've begun to figure out how to find God in the midst of the darkness (which may be the title of my book I may write someday...). I've realized that His hope will always be there. And that is huge. No matter what our future holds, our hope in Him will always win.

And because of all of the hard, we've been able to use it to bring God glory. We've been able to share this hope in Jesus with SO many people. We've been able to help other families going through similar situations. I was able to talk to the woman on the plane and share the hope we have in Jesus when she talked about how hard our life must be. Yes. Cancer is a curse. Cancer is horrible. I wouldn't wish it on ANYone. But. Because of cancer, we've been able to see and witness so many blessings. We've been recipients of so many blessings. And ultimately, we've been able to share about Jesus during our pain. God is good. SO good.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How to go on...

Sometimes life gets so hard that it feels like you can't go on. 

You feel like you've reached rock bottom and nothing else could make life any harder. 

And then you're struck with something new and you wonder "Oh, Lord... I can't do this anymore."
What do you do? How do you go on? How do you not give up on God?

The last 4 years have been the hardest years of my entire life. Going through life with RAD (reactive attachment disorder) with our 3 year old adopted child. Having to come to the conclusion that this this beautiful boy that we thought would forever be ours... Wouldn't.  Realizing that God had other plans and we were only to be his Moses... It was one of the most heart wrenching decisions of our lives. The night we handed him over to his precious new family, I felt like we could never get any lower in life than that. In the midst of living through the RAD that year, our 5 year old son lost vision in his left eye, due to a detached retina. We went through 3 major surgeries in 6 months, trying to restore his vision. 

I never imagined that 9 months later we'd be hit with our daughter having cancer and living through another surgery, radiation and isolation, and all the ups and downs of meds, diets, pain, and exhaustion. This was a new low for us. And we clung to Jesus and thought there was nothing that could be any worse and that we'd definitely hit the bottom and things could only go up from there. 

Until a week ago. When we received the news that the pathology report from my surgery two weeks ago showed that I, too, have the very same cancer as my daughter. And in that same day, what was to be a normal check up for my son's eye, ended in the doctor saying he needed another procedure to remove some growth on his cornea. I plastered on a smile for my son's sake (who struggles with PTSD due to his previous surgeries and trauma that happened at home 2 years ago), shook the doctors hand and scheduled the surgery. We walked out hand in hand and I drove the two hours home questioning everything, wondering how much more our family can take.

I was reminded of Isaiah 40:27-31 -

"Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “ GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”

While I'm struggling a lot and many days feel so weary, it was a good reminder for me...


What do you do when you feel like the entire world is against you? When you feel like you just can't deal with anything more? How do you go on? How do you not give up on God?

I'm still working on figuring this out. In the meantime, I'm pressing on.  I'm reading His Word and will continue to praise Him even when it makes no sense to me. I'm holding onto God's promise that He won't forget me and won't forsake me. I'm trusting that He is carrying me when I struggle to take the next step.  I hope and I pray that even though my life seems so dark right now, that eventually we will see the light. And I pray that God will somehow use my brokenness for His glory and will use this long hard journey for something good.

I know that we have hundreds of prayer warriors who cover our family each day. When I tell you that I appreciate your prayers, I don't think you realize just how appreciative we are. I don't think you understand that your prayers are what helps me get out of bed each morning. Your prayers are what helps our family function. Your prayers are what helps our family go on when we feel like we can't. Please keep praying for us as we travel this long hard journey. Pray for endurance when we feel stuck. Thank you for holding us up... 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016



800 DAYS. 
(2 Years, 2 Months, 1 Week, 2 Days)

Imagine this.

You have a son... An 8 year old son. 

He lives 7775 miles away from you. For 800 days, he has been in an orphanage. 
While he's around nannies and many other kids, he somehow feels alone...

He's seen children come and go. And as he watched them leave with families, 
he's left standing there longing for that same thing to happen to him. 

Longing for parents who would come and scoop him up and take him to his forever home. Longing for a mother to cover his boo-boos with bandages and kiss his cheeks. Longing for a father to play with and to kick a soccer ball to. Longing for nightly hugs and kisses and prayers. 

Yet, there he stands.
For 800 days. 

Two birthdays. Spent alone. Dozens of holidays. Alone. 

Can you imagine being this boy? I can't. But I know someone who doesn't just imagine it.
He lived it. He's LIVING it.

This is "T".
I wish I could show his full picture and share his full name. But due to privacy and laws, we cannot until court has passed.

Just know he's absolutely precious and SO very handsome!

Today is his 800th day of waiting.

 Here are those parents that have to live with this heartache every day. 
Who have been waiting and longing for their son. 
They have been in the process for 1,143 days. 


They received the referral for their son 448 days ago. Yet they stand here in Florida.


Their son is stuck. In Ethiopia.

The process has taken much longer than they ever anticipated. There have been so many unforeseen issues that are holding their son's case up and he's caught up in the middle of a political debacle. And in the midst of all these mix ups and technicalities, this 8 year old boy stands. alone. and waits.

He longs to meet his family. 

His family has decided 800 days is enough. They have decided now is the time to go and meet their son and reassure him that they cherish him. They are there. They are real. They are fighting for him. And most of all: They love him. 

They will be going for two weeks in July for this unexpected trip.

This is our time. Our time to rise up and help them with these unexpected expenses. To help the Richards family get to their son. And to help this sweet boy know that there are hundreds of us back at home who care for him and are waiting for him, too. 

Our goal is to raise $5,000 in two weeks. Seems like a lot, but God can totally do it!


Will you help? Here are FIVE ways:

- ONE -
Pray! This is most important. Please pray for God's provision. Pray for "T" and that God will comfort his waiting heart. Please pray for Duane, Danyelle, and their two sons at home. Pray for their hearts as they wait and fight to bring their boy home.

- TWO -

Will you give $8.00 in honor of his 800 day wait? 

For every $8.00, I will put a name on a graphic shaped of Africa that will be cut out of green, red, and yellow (Ethiopian colors) vinyl and be put on a canvas for the Richard's to hang on their wall. This vinyl canvas piece will be a great reminder that they will have forever of all those who supported and prayed for the Richards Family! And what an awesome thing for their son, "T", to see when he comes home... Here's an example of what it would look like, with only the Richards' name. Let's fill this up with hundreds of supporters!

You can do your first name, your family last name, or even each name in your family! 
Just $8.00 per name! You can do this HERE.


Another option is to buy a tshirt HERE! We have many sizes, colors, and styles!

I designed these tshirts for the Richards' adoption with Ephesians 1:4-5 in mind:

 "Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure."

You see, God chose us. God adopted us into His family. God loved us. Every single one of us are chosen, adopted and loved by Him! And this is why the Richards family is adopting their son. They chose him. They are adopting him. They love him! 

These shirts come in various sizes, styles, and colors. There are men, women and children sizes. This is a PRE-ORDER sale, meaning these shirts have NOT been ordered, yet. I will run this sale for 2 weeks. It will end on June 28, in which any shirts ordered will then be purchased. I will email each customer when we have the shirts in hand and again when we ship them. If you want to order a shirt, do so quickly. Again I will not take any orders after June 28!!

(P.S. If you are local and prefer to pick up your shirt order, please use the code FREELOCAL, so you are not charged shipping fees).

- FOUR -

If you would prefer to just give a monetary donation, that would be greatly appreciated, too! You can give directly to their grant page and also keep track with how close they are to their $5,000 goal with all the fundraising options. Just click HERE. Your donation to this site will be tax deductible!

- FIVE -

Please share. Share this post to your friends, your family, anyone!



Friday, April 22, 2016

Ilana's Journey

I know I have a lot of new followers who are just beginning to learn about Ilana's journey. I created this video of her journey a few months ago and shared it on her Facebook group, but forgot to share it here for those who aren't on Facebook... Here you go! Thank you for all your prayers and support!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I can't always stay strong... And it's okay!

What do you do when the world seems so very dark? When it seems like God is gone? When you find yourself so overwhelmed with grief, guilt, exhaustion and stress? When you can do nothing more than hide in a closet, literally crying out to God. Yelling at Him. Telling Him that He doesn't care because He's so far away?

I recently celebrated my 30th birthday... While birthdays are usually an exciting time, I don't know what it was about this one that made me so completely emotional and sad. I looked back at my life over the last 30 years. There were certainly exciting and happy times! I never imagined that by my 30th birthday, I would be married for 10 and a half years to my best friend, my high school sweetheart. That I would have been given birth 3 times. That I would have traveled to Ethiopia twice and adopted two boys. That I would have two 9 year olds, a 7 year old and a 2 year old. I never imagined I'd be living in a beautiful area of Florida...

But I also never imagined that when I turned 30, I would have gone through some of the hardest times imaginable. That at 20, I would have given birth to a child with a cleft palate, who would have to eventually undergo 3 surgeries. That I would have given birth to two premature babies - one at 31 weeks, one at 34 weeks. That I would have a son who suddenly goes blind in one eye and has to endure 3 surgeries to try to correct it. Only to find out on my 30th birthday that his vision now lasts no longer than 2 seconds in that eye. I never imagined that I would have to go through the heartache and pain of having to hand one of my children over to another family after he was my own son for 2 and a half years. For his well being and for my other kids' safety, he had to be adopted into a new family. In the last 2 years, we've had to endure 6 surgeries (a total of 12 in the the last 9 years) between all the kids and I. And then 3 days before my birthday, I found out that we'd have to endure yet another one. Because we found out I have a very high chance of the same cancer as Ilana's. And removal of my thyroid is the best option. We won't know for sure about malignancy until surgery... Even so, it's scary...

Just 3 days before my birthday, I got to see very well just what Thyroid Cancer has done to my daughter. Some have made comments about "One great thing is that she hasn't had to endure chemo." They were right. She hasn't had to go through that. But she had to endure days of complete isolation. She had to endure nights without a hug and kiss from anyone. She had to endure getting violently sick without a single comfort from anyone she loves. Except encouragement in the form of words. From 10 feet away. All while in isolation for her radioactive iodine treatment. She's had to live months of what they call "hypo hell". Where her body has to learn to function without her thyroid. Did you know the thyroid affects just about everything in your body? Without one, your body canNOT function (which is why medication for the rest of her life is absolutely vital). She literally feels like hell every single day while they're trying to regulate her body with medication. Only, looking at her, you'd have no idea. On the outward appearance, she's great at hiding it. It's rare that she'll ever complain. Plus, we homeschool. She's able to sleep in. She's able to take a nap. She's able to lay around the majority of the day if she wants to.

Wednesday she was blessed with a tremendous experience of getting to not only see Pentatonix in concert, but she got to MEET them. It was literally one of her dreams coming true. It was amazing. My heart was so overjoyed to see the pure joy on her face. Yet I was able to see just what a full day of excitement and activity does to her. How is it that this sweet 9 year old was living a completely "normal" life just 5 months ago? Where she could wake up early, play hard all day, go to bed at a normal time, and never have any pain... And now? She can't wake up in the morning without still being tired. She can't go a full day of acting like a kid without being tired? The day she met Pentatonix, she was in tears from me trying to pick her up for a fun photo with her friends. Because every bone in her body hurt to the touch. Her eyes were red and bloodshot from pure exhaustion by 7pm. She couldn't walk long or stand in lines. We had to sit on the floor several times because she just hurt. All over. She was in tears in the bathroom at the concert because she was so sore but didn't want anyone to know. She was so excited to be there and didn't want anyone to worry about her. Seeing Pentatonix for her was SO worth it all. But seeing that floored me. It was so hard to see her this way... It took her several days to recover fully... I thought for days about this...

All these thoughts piled on top of each other and instead of being excited for my birthday, I was sad. I was depressed. I sat in my closet and cried tears of sorrow. Tears of exhaustion. Tears of frustration. I cried out to God asking "why?" I yelled at him angrily, asking why he keeps letting these horrible things happen to our family. I felt so alone. I felt like God just didn't care. I didn't want to go to church the next day because I was just so angry. 

For so long, I've been okay with it all. For the most part, I've stayed strong. Somedays I've felt like, I'm a believer. I know God has this. I have to stay strong. I have to trust Him. But you know what? Sometimes life gets so hard and so overwhelming that you can't stay strong. That saying of "God won't give you more than you can handle" is a bunch of baloney. He does. It's just that He won't give you more than you can handle - with HIS help. But even then, there are times where it feels like you still can't handle it. And that's okay.

God doesn't command us to always stay strong. The great thing about God is that He's such a great father that He can take it. So when I was angry and saying some terrible things about God, He was okay with it. He loved me still. There are times where my kids have told me "I'm so angry with you, Mommy!" and I respond with "I know it. But I still love you!" And I have no doubt that God did the same with me.

The great thing about it is that God understands. He understands we're human - He made us after all! But He also understands through Jesus. He sent Jesus here. Jesus was human. He had real human emotions. In John 11, you'll find the shortest verse in the Bible: "Jesus wept." While cleaning the other day, this verse popped in my mind and I began to think long and hard about it... Jesus' friend Lazarus had died 4 days before. Jesus went to see Lazarus, knowing he had died and knowing he was going to raise him from the dead. Yet when Jesus saw Mary and everyone else weeping, he got angry. He got upset and then he, too, wept.

I may be completely off on the interpretations of these verses, but what I felt like God was saying was despite Jesus knowing the outcome, He still WEPT. Jesus KNEW Lazarus would live again. He TRUSTED that Lazarus would live again. Yet he still became so overcome with grief seeing everyone crying. And so He cried, too. He could've easily "stayed strong" through His belief. But He didn't.

God reassured me that as a human, even when I know and trust the outcome (that God's got it and His plan is perfect), it's still okay to weep. It's still okay to get angry. It's still okay to not be strong sometimes. It's still okay to grieve and cry out to Him. And He can take it. Because He loves me so very much...

I've learned that it's so important that even when you don't feel like praising Him, do it anyway. Even when things don't make sense, praise Him. Even when you don't feel like going to church, go anyway (it's usually a day with a sermon you really need to hear - or was the case for me). Even when you can't pray, ask someone else to. Find a safe person who you can truly be real with and who can listen and then turn it to God for you and can pray against any spiritual attack on your spiritual life. I'm so thankful that I have a husband who does this and who helps me get out of my "funk". I'm sure this won't be the last time as our future holds so many unknowns... But no matter how many more valleys we have to crawl through, even when I feel like I can't go on, I know that God will be right there carrying me through it - even when I get mad at him.... I still hate what all we have to go through. I'm still angry and wish life could be "normal"... But I'm thankful to have a Father who understands and loves me despite my anger and frustration... And I'm thankful that I don't always have to be strong and that I can draw strength from Him...