Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas is approaching and we have found ourselves "stuck" in the States. Our precious Jude was just released from his second hospitalization since we have been in NJ. His poor little lungs just have been struggling immensely since we have been back in the States. Because he was born premature, the doctors have explained that his lungs just are not as strong and have some damage and they are having a hard time staying healthy. The doctor prescribed him a daily maintenance steroid and inhaler so hopefully we are on the right path to improved lung function! Please pray with us. While we are excited and eager to get home to Panama, we are grateful for the chance to spend the Holidays with our family and to have this extra time enjoying our loved ones. We know we will miss them greatly once we are back in Panama and are thankful for this chance to make memories and spend quality time together. We hope each of you has a very Merry Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:11-14

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I remember

I remember this day well. We watched you turn blue and stop breathing during our visit and were rushed out shortly after by some cranky nurses. I remember sobbing and laying awake that night wondering if I would see your precious face the next morning. I remember crying out to God and pleading with him for another day, pleading for a chance to at least hold you in my arms one time. I remember the pain I felt each time someone asked how you were. That question seemed unbearable to answer, because I really didn't know. I could guess, I could imagine, I could hope, but I didn't really have anything concrete to base it off of.
I remember anxiously waiting each day to visit you. To touch you, and to talk to you. I remember watching other parents as they too waited for their visit with their child, only to be told that their baby did not make it through the night. I remember watching their tears, and hearing their cries at the realization that they would never hold their precious child. They would never get to see their first smile, or watch them take their first steps. I remember feeling helpless and fighting the urge to run through the doors and escaping with you in my arms. I remember asking God over and over... WHY? What is Your purpose in this? What are You doing through this God? How long will this pain endure? Will the morning ever come?
I remember the panic I felt the morning we found out you were coming home. I remember the mixed emotions of the JOY I was about to feel holding you for the first time, yet concern for the fact that I knew you were not yet ready. I remember the frustration I felt when I just did not know what to do for you, or how to care for you best. I remember the LOVE I felt for you, I remember the feeling of having you placed in my arms for the first time,I remember the hours of just holding you in my arms and feeling your little heart beat on my chest.
To me, you are a miracle. A blessing. A gift. But my hope is that you will be that to MANY others as well. My hope is that through every experience with you, we are able to use this to help other children, other parents, other families. Our eyes were opened to a need that is great, because in that very isolette that you layed in, another baby is likely lying in right now. We don't know that child's situation, but we know that while you were there many other children were in the same room whose parents just could not care for them. For whatever the reason, they live there in the hospital just waiting. Waiting for someone to hold them, to touch them, to talk to them, and to love them. So I am not only thankful for you, but I am thankful for your journey. For the experiences that God allowed us through your birth and NICU stay. I hope one day many other preemies or children with special needs, are able to know the love of a family, and the love of God because of your journey. I am so thankful that God put us exactly where He did in those moments, so that we could better see the needs of the children in Panama. Through the past 6 months of your life, what I remember most is that through it all, God was gracious. God was patient with me. God was faithful. God held us both in His arms, and walked us through the trials to bring us to an opportunity where we can prayerfully make a difference in the lives of many children for Christ.
I love you Jude. You are a true blessing from God, in every way.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Doesn't even cut how I feel this Mother's Day.

There was pancakes, there was homemade cards, there was snuggles, there was laughing, there was kisses, there was holding hands, there was holding babies, there was chai tea, there was pop corn, there was playing, there was walking, there was running, there was nerf guns, there was playground fun, there was cake for dinner, there was "I love you's", there was "You are the best mommy ever", and there were 4 precious boys who I could not love any more that made me a mommy.

These boys make every day incredible. There may be tears, and fighting, and messes, and frustration, and sleepless nights, but those are worth every second. 

These boys are a GIFT. Each moment is a BLESSING. 

They are each so special, so unique, so LOVED. 

Today something hit me even harder than it has before... I have FOUR sons. Four boys who will grow into men. Four men that my husband and I are responsible for raising. Four men that God has entrusted to us for this season. Each moment is a chance to impact their lives. To teach them, to encourage them. Each day is a day that can change their future.

It's an overwhelming thought to truly realize what a great responsibility being a mom is. I have a great opportunity to make a difference in this world. In fact... I have FOUR.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pieces of the puzzle

It’s always hard in the midst of a difficult struggle to understand why things are happening the way they are. It's hard to accept that God is in control and that He does not have to reveal his ultimate plan to us, nor is he required to save us from the difficult times. Someone recently shared this quote and it spoke so loudly to me...

"Sometimes God redeems us from our struggles and sometimes He redeems us through them." - Mike Donehey.

Looking back over the past few months of our “trials”, I am beginning to see pieces of a beautiful puzzle coming together. Even in the moments I felt completely alone and wondered why God was allowing things to happen, I am beginning to see that He truly was in control the whole time.

My Mother and Father in law had planned a trip to visit us in early February. Not long before they were supposed to leave, my Mother in law injured her foot and spent 8 weeks in a boot and several more weeks in physical therapy. Do you know when they rescheduled their trip for? The exact week God had orchestrated for Jude to be released from the hospital. Not only were they able to meet their newest grandchild, they were able to hugely bless us by watching our older boys while we spent time in the hospital with Jude. They also happened to be here the exact week we were moving and were a tremendous help with packing the house and moving us. I can’t even imagine the chaos of doing everything without them.

God is good!

While Nathan and I were originally very upset that a doctor who had not been overseeing Jude’s care decided to discharge him directly out of intermediate care without consulting Jude’s doctor, I now see what a blessing that was. Not only were we able to have almost a week with Jude home to snuggle and meet his brothers and grandparents, this also allowed us to monitor Jude and discover he was having some serious issues from his prematurity that needed to be treated. We were able to drive Jude to the capital of Panama and get him the best care available. We have now been able to breathe much easier and we are able to better understand what is going on with him, and better care for him.

God is good!

God has taken such great care of Jude these past 35 wks. I was less than thrilled to be put on bed rest at 25wks but God used that time to help prepare Jude for birth. He was able to get steroids to help grow his lungs and when he arrived at 30 wks, God watched over him every step of the way. I didn’t understand why God would allow me to have a premature baby in a foreign country. I didn't understand why I was having to experience such heartache his first few weeks with barely being able to see my son, but I can tell you now that God has a wonderful plan and He has never left Jude’s side. This experience has brought many different people into my life, it has created new and wonderful friendships, it has opened my eyes to many different situations here in Panama, and most importantly... I believe God is showing us His will for us here in Panama through this.

God is GOOD!

I still may not understand all the pieces of the puzzle and that is ok. God is choosing to redeem me through my struggles right now. I may fight Him on things and beg Him to spare me from the trials, but I am slowly beginning to see that what I have been fighting and struggling against is something beautiful that God is trying to piece together if only I would let Him. I am eager to see the finished puzzle, but I know that God will place piece by piece in His perfect timing, not mine.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

One week.

It's been one week since Jude was born. One week.
One week of...


We love you precious boy. You are one week closer to HOME.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Introducing... Jude Ellis

We are thrilled to welcome our 4'th son...
March 21'st * 4:37am
3lbs 8oz * 16.5in.

A little about his birth...
Wednesday I celebrated 30 wks of pregnancy. I was not feeling well at all. I thought I was probably coming down with a stomach flu. My stomach felt a sharp pain like I had been hit or punched and I was vomiting as well. It wasn't that unusual for me to be feeling the nausea but the pain felt different than the contractions I was used to. I spent the day as I spent every day... in bed laying down and resting. My stomach was tight and felt hard, again I assumed it was a tummy bug hitting me so I just kept trying to drink water and rest. It wasn't unusual for me to feel so uncomfortable so I tried not to get too worked up over it. I was in quite a bit of pain and that night I was having my usual contractions that were painful but nothing shocking. I decided to go to bed and see how I felt in the morning. I went to sleep around midnight and tossed and turned until about 2:30am when I knew something was wrong. The contractions were extremely painful and I could no longer sleep. I went to the bathroom and I immediately knew something was wrong. I was bleeding really badly. I woke Nathan up and told him to hurry and wake the boys we needed to get to the hospital. We called my parents to come get the boys, and we called some Missionary friends who speak spanish and would be able to help with the boys until my parents arrived.

We got there pretty quickly and they had me put on a gown and lay in a bed while they called my doctor. My mind was racing and I started to panic. I still felt him moving and I kept rubbing him and waiting for him to respond. I am not sure how long it took the doctor to arrive the whole night turned to a blur. She got there and checked me and confirmed I was in active labor. She told me she needed to do an ultrasound to confirm his position because she felt a hand. They rushed me for an ultrasound and sure enough, Jude was laying transverse. I was still bleeding very badly and his hand had already presented in my cervix. She quickly went over the options with Nathan. 1.) Have a c-section there at the private hospital and Jude would need to be transported shortly after birth or 2.) Transport me to the public hospital for my c-section and then they would take Jude to the NICU.

We decided to stay for the C-section at the private hospital because we knew the care would be better. We also knew at the public hospital there would be a really strong language barrier and I was frightened enough. They rushed me up for my C-section and at 4:37am Jude arrived. I waited for his cry and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard it. I could see them working on him and pumping his chest and they quickly rushed him out of the room. He was taken by ambulance a few minutes away to the public hospital. I was in a fog.

Jude started out in very serious condition, but he has quickly shown us that he is very strong and he is a fighter. He is currently stable and doing well. While I wish he could have waited another month or two before joining us, I am so incredibly thankful he is here and he is safe and he is thriving. God is GREAT, and we are once again blessed with another son. 

We chose the name Jude because it means "Praise" and words can not express our praise and thanksgiving for our precious new son. His middle name, Ellis, means "The Lord is my God". We thought that fit perfectly. We have no doubts that God will watch over him and use his life as He sees fit. 

" For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him."
1 Samuel 1:27

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


I think it's safe to say I REALLY need to give up with planning. You would think I would have learned this several years ago when God first started really trying to get my attention. Nope. Instead, I decided that while I was willing to give up my plans and move forward with what we felt God wanted us to do, I would make new plans for once we got there. What can I say? I am a huge work in progress.

We found out we were expecting just a few weeks before we left for Panama. While we were very excited, I figured it would be a little challenging to move to another country with a baby on board.

The first 20 weeks I suffered from extreme "morning" sickness called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Thanks to my weakened immune system I got pneumonia, then strep (for 3wks), then an upper respitory infection. That took quite a toll on "my plans" for getting settled and into a routine. After around 20 weeks I finally started feeling human again. I still suffered from morning sickness, but I was finally able to keep liquids and some food down. NOW we could get our plans back in motion. I already have blogged a little about our youngest son and some of the complications he has been having, and then the robbery happened and well once again my plans had to wait.

"God, can't you see I have some really great plans to fulfill?"

Around the 25wk mark in my pregnancy things started feeling off. Strong contractions, lots of cramping and low back pain, extreme dizziness and I started blacking out. I knew something wasn't right. About a week later I lost my mucous plug. Oh boy. We headed to the doctor and I told her what was going on. Sure enough, I had begun dilating and effacing and my cervix was very soft. "This is not good at all", my doctor said. "You must take this very seriously." She sent me for steroid shots to mature our little guys lungs, medicine to stop the contractions and then she put me on medicine every few hours to continue to take to keep the contractions at bay, and full bed rest.

Hmphhh. This was NOT in my plan. 

I am now 28wks along and baby boy is still right where he needs to be. I am hoping and praying he stays put for at least a few more weeks, but I am not planning on anything. He will come not a moment too soon. God already knows his birthday, and while I wish He would shed some light on that day for me, I know that HIS PLAN will be done. So whether this little one holds out until 42wks or if he comes tomorrow, I am excited to see what God has planned for him, AND... for me.

For now, I have plenty of time. Not to try and figure everything out, but to sit. To sit and listen. To pray. To be quiet, and to wait on the Lord.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Some recent blessings---

  • Carrying this precious little boy of ours for 27 weeks now!
  • Celebrating 2 precious years with Kellan.
  • Getting to see my sister and nieces and nephew.
  • Getting to see some wonderful friends from NJ.
  • Being able to bless so many mothers and children with gifts from so many caring people in the USA.
  • Having my parents here right now and willing to help us the second we call with a need.
  • Having a wonderful sister from church come stay in our house while we were away and clean up the mess from the robbery.
  • A friend who is always willing to help me with translating and go above and beyond to make us feel welcome in Panama.
  • Friends who bless us beyond what we deserve in times of struggles
  • Turning another year older.
  • Watching my husband turn another year older.
  • Friends who are faithful to encourage us and pray for us.
  • Eating a delicious falafal and some sorbet in Panama City! (let's be honest... food matters when your pregnant)
I needed to write that out to remind myself just how blessed we truly are!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Overcoming Anger

This is a hard post for me to write. It is hard to admit my flaws, and even harder to admit them when I am still struggling with them.

It seems like the past few years, as many other people have, we have had our share of trials. Moving to Panama brought along more challenges and I felt like I was doing ok making my way through them. Our youngest has been struggling with his health, my pregnancy has been a challenge, and while I have felt overwhelmed by it all I was hopeful that "this too shall pass." January came and I was more than excited about my sister and her 3 children visiting from the States. Except things don't ever go as planned. Her 3 wk visit to Panama that I had looked forward to was hampered by loads of sickness and we only got to spend about 1 week together. I was sad and frustrated knowing that I won't likely see them again for nearly 2 years. We said our good byes and a few days later our friends and their 2 children arrived. Our "plan" was to pick them up in Panama City and drive home later that day but complications with Kellan and doctors visits kept us in Panama City for several more days.

We finally arrived home in David and got back in the swing of things with the Comarca and Orphanage. When the weekend arrived we decided to head to my parents beach with our friends for some fun and relaxation. We had a wonderful (holiday) weekend and headed back to our home in David to get back to business. We pulled into the driveway, Nathan went to unlock the door and that is when things just took a horrible turn.

The door was unlocked. The fridge was open, food was thrown on the floor, and immediately as he looked over to the TV cabinet it was evident we had been robbed. The house was completely torn apart and I felt sick trying to think of what could have been taken. It didn't take long to discover that our lock box and our legal documents were all missing. My engagement ring (which ironically I had taken off after being warned to do so to avoid being robbed), ALL of my camera equipment including my 2 professional cameras along with several lenses and accessories, and also most of our other electronics. They dumped out a suitcase and Luke's book bag and must have filled them with things and walked right out.

At first I felt terrified. I panicked. The intruder had gotten in by breaking the bars off the window on the back porch and must have then opened and slid right in the window of the master bedroom. The bedroom that my 3 little boys had slept in the past several months. That night after talking to police, my dad came and stayed at the house while we drove back to my parents to figure out what we wanted to do.

Slowly, as reality sunk in I started feeling very angry. My innocent boys were confused. Luke nervously checked his toys to make sure his bike and his "cozies" (stuffed animals) were all still safe, and Tyler told me to make sure I brought their special bath soap with us incase the robbers came back for it. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. From the outside of our house, you see our windows adorned with many of the boys pictures and drawings. How could someone empty out the contents of a 4 yr olds back pack and decide to take it anyway? The more I thought about the situation the more angry I became. We had just gone grocery shopping before we left and of course since they left the fridge open our food was all spoiled. I saved my photography money along with additional money for several years to be able to buy my camera and lenses and it was suddenly gone. I had hundreds of photos that I had not yet been able to upload to my computer that are now GONE. My engagement ring that was so incredibly special to me was just GONE. Our marriage certificate, the boys birth certificates, all of our socials--- GONE. It just felt so unfair.

I started feeling upset with God. Why did this happen? We moved here to Panama to try and follow His call and WHY, WHY were we facing yet another challenge? I was angry at the landlord for not being honest with us about previous break-ins. I felt anger towards whoever did this. They not only robbed us of material possessions, but they completely shattered my sense of security and my ability to sleep soundly at night. I also started feeling angry at innocent people. We know that whoever snuck in the window was likely a small teenage boy, so whenever I am out and see a slender teen boy I immediately start feeling anger towards them. They have done nothing, but I assume the worst and my mind pegs them as criminals. Lastly, I feel angry at myself. Why didn't I just leave my ring on? Why didn't I bring my camera? Why didn't I think to keep our documents with us? Why can't I just get over it and move on? Why can't I just let it go?

The other day while driving in the car, one of my favorite songs by Casting Crowns came on and the words hit me like a knife...
"Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who's writing in the sand
Make the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees
No one knows what we're for only against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingersLet our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet"
It is easy to see a child hungry and want to feed them.
It is easy to see a child abandoned and to want to rescue them.
It is easy to see a woman struggling to provide for her family and to have compassion.
But it is HARD to see a belligerent teenager and feel love for them.
It is hard to see someone who has hurt you and feel forgiveness.
It is hard to see a murderer and not want justice and revenge.

Sure, I can do the easy things. But what about the hard ones? What about the ones that require me to relinquish my pride and realize that I am not greater than they are? Can I love those who have truly hurt me? Can I be happy for those who prosper at my expense? The truth is, No. I can not. Not on my own strength. So I am putting in a greater effort and begging God to help me. Please pray for me that I am able to overcome this anger I am feeling and to be merciful to all, not just those that are easy to love.

As I was hit with this reality, this song from Matthew West came to mind and I wanted to share this as well...
"It's the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don't deserve

It's the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word...


It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It's always anger's own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It's the whisper in your ear saying 'Set It Free'

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness" 
I will leave you with this passage that could not speak louder to my heart right now---
Matthew 5:43-48
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
- Beckah