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.