Wednesday, June 26, 2013


This week started off with a bang. I mean, not so much a bang but a Sunday.

Sunday is typically my favorite day of the week.  I love my job. I love worshipping with my church Sunday morning.  I love all my little people and their snuggles. I love my volunteers. I love a good Sunday afternoon nap for as long as I don't have people to keep me awake (gotta see the bright side, yes?) and I especially love my small group.

So why such a bang? Well, here's the thing.  This was my first Sunday back after my absence.  So I knew it would be different.  I am a people person if there ever was one but I knew it would take another level of emotional stability to handle all the support others would give.

And I was right. It was hard. And good.

This book I'm reading was a good reminder as I walked the halls. I am human (no surprise right?? Anyone who's met me knows I am flawed:)). I need Jesus. But I, like all humans, also need people. I need touch. And to be seen. And heard. And I need to allow people to minister and bring joy to me just as I get joy and God's grace and goodness from being able to minister to others.

So as I sat on the side of the aisle at communion with big prayers and my loud singing (as always), people streamed down the aisle with a pat or a hug.  As overwhelmed as I was, I just accepted their graces and was humbled by their love and let the tears stream. Tears as heavy as the people rushing down the aisle to receive the body as the most precious form of grace.

I do truly believe people are full of love and I got to hold it deeply within me. Through tiny, sticky hugs and the little one who fell asleep in my arms (he was under 30 pounds in case my doctor is reading this) and the quick "I'm sorry for your loss"es and the longer, lingering hugs with teary eyes.

I will say, as much of a people person as I am, it was completely overwhelming and humbling. But it was also good. Moving toward normal is really all I can ask for. And Sunday was a huge step toward normal.

Speaking of normal, this week has been back to regularly scheduled. I am driving (!!!), I led a book discussion (about aforementioned book that I truly believe you should read. I know I don't know who you are if you are reading this but you should read it. If you love Jesus and want to live out his love and you struggle with this, read it), I even made dinner twice this week! Just call me overachiever Jess.

Today I had my two week doctor's appointment. And the biggest news of all: I. CAN. RUN.

You guys. I can run.  I can't tell you what a big deal this is.  I keep my sanity by running.  It calms me. It brings me closer to my man (we run together). It keeps me fit.  I was told I must start super slow but I can run again!  Which is good because I signed up for another marathon.

Yes. Another Marathon. Or should I say the same marathon. Because it's still the St. Jude. And I'll still be raising money. And it will still be in December. And I will still be eating potatoes:). So I'm thankful I can start training again, since I'm less than six months away. Hooray for marathons that help kids.

It's true. Life is (still) moving toward normal. And typing that could not please me more if the words were blinging on a glitter sign above my perfectly comfortable mattress while I slept the sleep of exhausted toddlers.

But seriously. Normal. And then again, life is never normal exactly. E and I are heavy in the midst of planning our next adoption fundraiser. Because we are fully believing God is speeding up the pace of our adoption. And we want to be ready to meet the little mister. Or miss. Or both:).  We'll keep you posted.

Maybe normal is overrated after all:).

Monday, June 24, 2013

DTE 19 Months

Yes, I'm behind again. And yes, somehow, it's been 19 months since our paperwork headed to Ethiopia and we "officially" joined the wait.  Wow.  Just wow. Nineteen months.

I decided, just now, to do a little investigating.  When we went DTE, the trend was 10-16 months of waiting for a boy referral. Ha!!! 

Now, we knew that was not what we would wait. We knew everything was slowing down. But I just can't even imagine a world where we would have had a referral three months ago.  God has changed and grown us and our lives are so, so different. So different even from three months ago.

All that to say: the wait is hard but it's changing us for the better.  Even in the midst of it being hard.

We officially (unofficially because it's an unofficial list) hit halfway this month. By that I mean, we started at the list at 71 and we are currently 35. So we feel like we've hit the halfway mark. That being said, we could always move back up if people change their requests. Or we could move faster from here on out. It's so hard to tell!

Sometimes it's easier for me to do updates further apart. Well, that and we've been a little busy:).

Seventeen Months: Psalm 111:10 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!"

Eighteen Months: Added in the Summit booklet since we went to Summit in May. I don't know if I can clearly express how much Summit meant to us but this verse isn't a bad start:

Proverbs 16:9 "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."

Nineteen Months: what backdrop could I have other than the cards and flowers that have blessed us during a hard month?

Psalm 147:11 "But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love."

We are back in action as far as our adoption is concerned. We're very prayerfully considering what God has for us in this realm. We want to be faithful to his call.

We are also restarting fundraising (we hope) and no doubt will have a fundraiser to announce soon.  And finally we will be searching for and applying for grants soon.  We're excited for God to move in our adoption and we don't know what that looks like but we feel like we've waited idly enough. It's time to re-start fundraising so when God does move mountains and we get that call, we'll be ready!

Thanks for praying with us and sticking with us on this long journey.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's a New Day...and I'm Feeling Good

Well it's been a week since I was released from the hospital! Happy day to me!

Things are starting to move toward "normal" except, well, my life is way more glamorous now.  For example:

*I have a chauffeur to take me everywhere I need to go. I just call and a car service shows up.
(shout out to Emily and Caitlin who have been amazing chauffeurs as I wait to be cleared to drive)

*I have gourmet meals delivered to my house.  I don't have to lift a finger!
(seriously, I am so spoiled. Thank you to everyone who has blessed our family in this way)

*My house is filled with fresh flowers in beautiful arrangements.

OK so really, we've been blessed by kindness of friends and family. But things are moving toward normal. No, I can't drive yet. But if I were my own doctor, I would TOTALLY clear myself for driving.  But this way does allow me more quality time with friends so I'm not complaining too much.

Sunday, I officially did housework for the first time. And by housework I mean I made a cake. But for me, baking is a great source of stress relief. Eric told me he knew I was on the mend when he saw me softening butter in the microwave.  No, I didn't have the energy to make the icing and my mom made it instead. One step at a time, people.

Sunday my mom also went home, meaning I've been at home during the day my myself. By myself I mean with 4 dogs (we are keeping a couple extras this week). So don't worry, I'm not lonely.  It was such a blessing to have my mom around. But I do think it was a step toward normal to be back to just the two permanent residents of our home.

Being at home alone means lots of time by myself to reflect.  Sometimes that's good and sometimes it's good and really hard. I find myself spending a lot of time talking to God. Sometimes that time is easier than others.  The first day at home alone I spent a good twenty minutes with Gungor's "Beautiful Things" on repeat.  If you haven't heard it, please listen here.  Friends, he makes beautiful things out of all of us. A quote from my prayer journal from this week,

"I've needed help for every single step I've taken in the past week and the spiritual implications are not lost on me. I want to need You at a distance."

And friends, he is not pleased with distance from his children.  Through this struggle, I found myself verbally saying at one point, "Jesus, if I don't have more of you, I'm not sure I can get through this." And I almost heard him verbally say back, "Good. That's where I want you. I'm enough."  It was a very tender moment. But I am seeking hard to press myself into him and feel him press back, asking me to give up my desire for control.  And slowly I'm relenting, knowing this is a constant and never-ending process.

Well that was deep.  Let's move back...

I have started working again. Slowly.  I went in for half a day yesterday.  I went to the ominous intern meeting I left last week via ambulance.  And no ambulance arrived to take me anywhere so I totally called it a success.  But seriously, it was nice to relive the normal of life and have it actually be normal.  I thought I was doing pretty good but wanted to make sure I wasn't overdoing it.  So I went home at one. As it turns out I was completely exhausted. But I am thankful for a flexible work environment that's allowing me to work some from home and being full of grace on my return.  I have a "home office." My mom seemed really impressed with that. It's a laptop on my couch and my planner next to it. Yup. We are so fancy here.  I have high hopes of a full day in-office tomorrow. We'll see how that turns out.

I had my first glass of wine last night. Oh it was good.  I haven't had any medication in several days so I thought it was high time.  Totally worth the wait.

some things are worth waiting for. like a glass of ozv zinfandel. And check out that nail polish--a gift from my wonderful man friend.

And that's it for me.  Glad to be getting some normalcy, even if it's slower than I'd like it to be.

On a very serious note, thank you to everyone who has commented, written me messages, emailed, texted, or found some other way to share kindness with Eric and me. We are blessed by love during this time.  We'd love to hang out with you all and catch up. But then again, if you want to hang out with me, you have to drive me to our hangout. So think long and hard about your commitment level:).

It's a new dawn. It's a new day. It's a new life for me. And I'm feeling good.

Friday, June 14, 2013

That One Time I Had Emergency Surgery

How do I start this? When a man and a woman love each other very much and their adoption is taking a long time, sometimes they decide to try the old-fashioned route. And sometimes it doesn't go as planned.

In December, we had filled out the paperwork allowing us a concurrent family building option if we so chose. (Yes, you have to get approval to get pregnant if you are adopting).  Looking at the list this spring and realizing how long it would take for IC to reach our family, we figured we had a good window. And so we thought we'd just see what happened. 

In May I woke up early one morning to a positive pregnancy test. I would tell you I was super excited except I was really just very skeptical. Nervous. E wanted to be excited but saw how I was tentative. A few days (and a few more positive tests later) I called to set up a doctor's appointment. But as soon as I had set it up I had some weird symptoms and called back with questions. Those symptoms sent me into a week of blood tests. At the end, we confirmed I was pregnant and officially set up an appointment a week later for an early ultrasound.

one of the many blood draws

June 3, the day of the appointment, was also the first day of Kids Club. For those who don't know, Kids Club is the busiest week of the year in my job. I figured I would get in and get good news early and head to work. But unfortunately that appointment didn't go as planned. The ultrasound tech was so nice as she scanned and scanned silently.

"I'm not seeing anything," she tried to say as calmly as possible.

The doctor came in and asked for more blood tests. All he could say is that "it wasn't good."

I went in to give blood for the 3rd time in two weeks, tears streaming down my face.  The woman doing the draw asked me, "Is that ok?"  I knew she was talking about the nature of the way she was taking my blood but all I could think is there was absolutely nothing ok about what was going on here. The pregnancy I thought I was going to have wasn't going to happen.  It hadn't been said but it had been implied. And she's worried about my discomfort from giving blood.

After blood tests, all we knew was we needed to keep testing. They should have been able to see something with my levels as high as they were but they were hopeful it was just a miscarriage. At this point this was the best option possible. I prayed for miracles but didn't know what that meant.

the blood draws continue

In between I was living the busiest week of my work life. Tests and ultrasounds every other morning. Evenings filled with laughter and cheers and hundreds of children learning about Jesus.  Somehow vacillating between these two very different things sometimes made it better.  Very few people at church knew the tough stuff.  My coworkers did because I couldn't pull myself enough together the first few hours to fake it. But they loved me and prayed me through and, for the most part, I just got to do my job and dance with kids and hear them marvel at the beauty of the bible.  Lots of people kept asking, "You look tired. I bet you are so ready for this week to be over." And in my head, all I could think was, "You have no. idea."

the in between time, Captain Jess, captain of the Lil Mateys
I wasn't supposed to do the Friday blood draw. My doc was convinced I was miscarrying "normally." But my smart, savvy friend called me and suggested I ask for one more draw on Friday to really make sure my hormone levels were dropping.  I went in on Friday, asking for prayers and truly believing they were going to be answered.  My levels were going to be dropping. This was finally going to be over.

I got a call a few hours later that requested I come in for the 3rd ultrasound that week.  I grabbed Eric and we headed back to the waiting room of doom.  They pulled me in and after several moments, they found what we hoped they never would: a pregnancy. In my fallopian tube.

"But I've looked at the risk factors. I don't have any risk factors."
"You don't. And some people who get lung cancer have no risk factors. Sometimes you're just unlucky."

For those who do not know, I should probably mention at this point ectopic pregnancies are not good.  They account for about 3 out of every 1,000 pregnancies. They are never viable. They are often dangerous.  They can burst and cause a need for emergency surgery and send the patient into shock from blood loss.  But regardless, there's never a happy ending to an ectopic pregnancy.

We were given several treatment options and I was desperate to avoid surgery. With my hormone levels as high as they were, I was told there was a 60-70% chance a drug called methotrexate would work.  Methotrexate is a drug used for cancer treatment, among other things. It's given via injection in very small doses to try to shrink cells in ectopic pregnancies.  We were given quite a few instructions and sent over to the hospital to the infusion center. Several hours and episodes of HGTV's Extreme Houses later, I went back to work.  To the final day of Kids Club.

me, sitting in the infusion center watching TV and chillaxin
I was able to get through the night but methotrexate causes exhaustion and nausea. The weekend was tired and sad.  But I was so hopeful that the drug would work, despite all the odds being against me all week, and I would get to put this all behind me soon.  So after a weekend of vomiting and sleeping and barely moving (and doing work on Sunday), I went to my blood draw on Tuesday and headed in for a regular day of work.

(Cue laugh track)

We had just finished a book discussion with our interns on Sensing Jesus, a book about humanity and humility in ministry. I got a call. It was my doctor. Not his nurse. This is never, ever a good sign.  The blood levels weren't at 7,000 any more.  They were nearing 10,000.

"We can draw again on Thursday. They could be going down then."
"Am I just pushing my luck? Is it time to consent to surgery?"
"Yes, let me call you back."

I had time to walk in and tell my coworkers I was headed to surgery before my doc called again. We set up a surgical consult with a doctor in his practice. I was to be there in two hours so after my coworkers prayed for me, I agreed to head home, meet Eric there, and mentally prepare for surgery that afternoon or the next morning. I called my mom.  I texted my friend.  And I grabbed my bag and said goodbye to my coworker with tears in my eyes.  But as I turned to leave, all the blood felt like it had drained from my body.  I couldn't move. I felt hot and bad and my belly was very, very full.  I asked my coworker to grab the other Crossing Kids staff.

They came rushing back and I couldn't stop crying. We moved me to they foyer where I sat on the couch and proceeded to throw up and dry heave as loud as humanly possible, making a scene for everyone who walked in to church that morning. Phone calls went out to my doctor, my husband, and finally, to 911.   My coworkers held me up, held my hair back, and held cold towels to my hot-as-fire head. All I could say was, "I'm so, so sorry" and "This really, really sucks."

Eric showed up. Then the ambulance. I desperately wanted to go in his car.  I fought it. But as I tried to stand up, I fell and things went black. They strapped me to the ambulance bed and in I went. I could see coworkers from the church all around and if I weren't so very sick I would have been embarrassed.

I got even sicker in the ambulance and was given 2 IVs of super cold fluids, Zofran (because I was having more lovely vomiting), and perhaps an anti-anxiety med. I finally got to the hospital, where I became the focus of the moment for a while. 

The hours all run together but my doc eventually got there and tried to assess me. I could barely stand her touch, my abdomen was so distended.  She was certain my tube had burst but I tried to convince her otherwise. After a cat scan, we knew for sure: 

I had internal bleeding.
 I needed surgery immediately (no waiting 8 hours for food from morning to exit my system). 
There was no saving my fallopian tube.

All the things I had prayed for vanished. They weren't possible. The miracle at this point was just getting through.  I had lots of visitors and even got to see my parents before I went in to surgery.  I tried to be in good spirits. My family prayed with me, and the doctors stood near.  And they whisked me into the OR for an emergency laparoscopic surgery.

Turns out 2 liters of IV fluid makes you super cold. So they wrapped me in warm blankets in pre-op. Warm blankets for the win!
Forty minutes later, I woke up shaking and tired and crying. And alone. Thanks, anesthesia. According to sources, surgery went well.  Fast. And my doc thought I could go home. But I just couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't ready. So they admitted me and took me up to a surgical recovery floor.

My dad had to go home but my mom and hubs stayed with me overnight. Between the three of us we probably slept approximately 15 minutes. I kid. More like 45.

As it turns out, they take your vitals every 15-30 minutes in the hospital. And mine weren't so great. So they set off an alarm each time.

By the 4:00 blood draw, my blood pressure was at 82/39 and my hemoglobin was at 7.9. People who know say this is bad.  And so my doc ordered a transfusion.

And that's the story of how I became a Cullen.

I love me some blood.  Perked me up right quick, I tell ya.

The Cullen-like blood sucking happened all morning. Two units later, I quite literally felt like a different person. Before: could barely keep my eyes open. After: eyes can stay open.

My view all day Wednesday. Hospital has more channels than home. Gotta see the positives when they come.
I got lots of visitors. Wonderful friends, family, coworkers, and the sweet, sweet woman who runs our infant loss and miscarriage support group at my church.  She gave me forget-me-nots. I cried. My dad cried. My mom cried. We all cried.

But after a day of resting and a walking trip to the elevator (my first time to walk in 24 hours), I finally was given clearance to go home. I said goodbye to my wonderful nursing staff (shout out to my nurse friends--you guys do amazing, amazing, unsung-hero work) and off I went.

On the way home!

That was Wednesday. I have been home ever since, surrounded by friends and family and Gilmore girls and beautiful bouquets.

Beautiful gifts from beautiful people

I don't have a pretty bow to wrap this up. My work is covering for me this week as I do my best to physically and emotionally and spiritually work toward recovery.  The body of Christ has been amazing.  I've had people to laugh with and cry with. I have more food than I can begin to eat. I have received texts and bible verses and phone calls.  And most of all prayers. So, so many prayers.

I don't know how this will all play out. Another post for that, maybe.  I am sad. Really, really sad.  I didn't expect to lose part of me. Or this pregnancy. But here I am.

When I first got home on Monday morning, almost two weeks ago now, I didn't know what to do with this news. I put on Youtube and listened to a few songs over and over again.  But mostly, I just cried and talked to my Jesus and resonated with this:

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.
But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.
(underlining mine)

I have a lot of healing to do. We don't know what our family will look like. But I pray the same prayer I prayed at the beginning: that my faith would deepen in my precious savior, that others' faith would deepen from seeing this experience and seeing God so close to our family, and that Eric and I would increase in unity.  You can pray, too.  That God would be glorified in the dark.
...Jesus is my life...