Operation Smile

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

At 18 weeks pregnant, a sonogram revealed that my Addalyn had a cleft lip and potentially a palate too. The cystic hygroma that was found at 12 weeks had resolved and Addy's only "imperfection" was cosmetic. She was growing (and my belly was too) and just as active as she could be.

I researched all that I could on cleft lips and palates and tried to soak in every bit of knowledge to be as prepared as possible. I knew the plastic surgeon, the surgeries, and the timeline for operation. I knew the nipples and bottles we would need to invest in and the feeding aversion we would potentially face. I knew the possible speech challenges and the dental involvement. I talked with other parents, nurses, and doctors to absorb all that I could. In a pregnancy that had been so far beyond my cookie cutter vision of perfection, a cleft lip and palate was something that could be "fixed."

In my time scowering the internet for all knowledge I could glean, I found myself closing my eyes and attempting to envisioned that moment that I would hand my Addy off for her surgical repair and wait patiently to see her new lip. I tried to imagine what that moment would be like to be reunited. I often questioned if I would recognize her or what the first emotion conjured would be. And a part of me wondered if I would miss the lip that I had come to love.

If you have ventured over to this blog for long, you know that at 24 weeks pregnant (just two days after Christmas 2012), an MRI revealed other complications in Addalyn's development. By 28 weeks, we knew that her life would be limited.

Her time with us was so short, she laid in my arms for mere hours. 
But she was absolutely perfect and I could not be more proud to be her momma. 
And forever her momma I will be.

One of my most favorite features were her lips. 
I traced her cleft lip with my finger more times than I could count and kissed her so sweet mouth over and over. My Addalyn was beautiful.

On my 28th birthday, just three months after her passing, I made a 'Year 28 Bucket List' for myself. I felt empty and hated that I my year would be filled with milestones being marked by the "first ___ without my child." So, I comprised a list of things to accomplish before my 29th birthday. It was my way of giving myself something to look forward to in a year that would undoubtedly be grueling. There were small things and then there were big, big things. I told myself to give it my best effort and if I fall short of accomplishing them all, at least it gave me something to strive for in my valley of darkness.

Again, if you have been here long, you know that in September my world came crashing down on me again. I was depleted and empty and all I could do was pray for hope (Jeremiah 29:11). In my brokenness, I pulled out my 'Year 28 Bucket List' and picked the biggest thing.

To honor my Addy, the biggest box to be checked was to submit an application to volunteer with Operation Smile.  Operation Smile, an organization that I found while researching Addy's cleft lip and palate, provides free surgical repairs to children in need around the world. I skimmed the mission statement and intertwined was a sentence that I haven't been able to get out of my head..."Every child deserves a future filled with hope." 

There is was again...hope...my word, my verse, and my prayer.

In September 2013, I submitted my paperwork to volunteer on an international mission with Operation Smile. Months passed and I hadn't heard back so in April, I called to check on the status of my application. Within one week (and a quick appeal process), I received an email stating that my credentialing had been approved.  Outlined in the email was an explanation that typically it takes up to a year before I would be able to actually board a plane bound for my destination. 

Less than a week later, I was literally on the Operation Smile website scanning upcoming missions when my phone rang. I never answer unknown numbers but for some reason I did and the tears started flowing as the coordinator was looking for a few last minute volunteers. I had prepared my heart to wait another year and this mission was just a mere 5 weeks away...and less than one month before my 29th birthday. Within 24 hours, my time off request had been approved, a few wonderful coworkers agreed to cover a few shifts for me, and all was set. 

There is no other way to describe how it all simply fell into place then God at work. 

In June, I will be traveling with a medical team comprised of Operation Smile volunteers to the Philippines to preform cleft lip and palate repairs. I don't know anyone going but I believe so deeply that this is where God has orchestrated for me to be...for me...to honor the memory of my Addy...to give another momma a moment that I was never able to experience...to pay forward the hope that Christ has renewed in me.

My heart is so full in anticipation for this opportunity.  
This life I am living is not want I had envisioned but my God is a God of hope.

Colorado Roadtrip

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I have four little sisters.
To me, they have always been just that…little.
Except for maybe Emily, who is the closest in age to me, I still see the “little girls” as being 6, 7, and 9 years old.

When Abby and Audrey moved in with me in January, I had a very strange moment when in the midst of a having a real life conversation with them, I realized that they are indeed adults. I know they are 23 and 21 and that the baby in the family, Erica, is 20 but to talk about life with them was surreal.

When my life spiraled, there they were in so many capacities. My family and my closest friends have held me when I was at my darkest.  When I could not, they did.

As a way to celebrate the accomplishments of this year (both Abby and Audrey graduated from college), my sisters, mom, and I embarked on our first ever Girls Trip. It was a week of togetherness, of experiencing something new, and of taking in the goodness of God’s creation in Estes Park, Colorado. 

Envisioning a nice and tranquil raft ride, we went white water rafting on the Poudre River in Fort Collins, CO. One of us, who shall remain nameless, managed to fall out of the raft not once but twice. The water level was high, the rapids intense (Class IV…as an inexperienced rafter, I have no idea what that means), and the water only 34 degrees! 

It was an insane 12 mile ride that confirmed something that I have known forever…in our family, I am not nor will I ever be the adrenaline junkie. Although beautiful and exhilarating, I wanted to curl up in a ball at the bottom of the raft but the guide kept yelling “Forward” which was our command to paddle. By the tone of his voice, it was apparent when he too was scared or nervous and I have never been more thrilled to pile into a school bus once we made it to the final destination! 

My mom and sisters enjoyed the ride and I am pretty proud to say that I survived!

More my speed, was hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. 
We hiked three different trails, totaling 12 miles.


Standing at the top of the mountain, I was in awe of the splendor of creation. 

I have felt like I have been climbing a mountain over the past couple of years and to stand at the top and think literally and figuratively about how far I have come was empowering.

And naturally, looking around at the bottom of the mountain and at the top and seeing those familiar faces was no surprise. Always there, regardless if it is a peak or a valley. 

And, with every step, my Addy was with us. 
May she know the depth of her momma’s love for her. 
Wherever I go, she goes with me…even if that is at the top of a mountain.

This trip was just what I needed to refuel my soul. 
Laughter, encouragement, and quality girl time does a heart good.

I would love recommendations for favorite vacation destinations.
My head is already spinning with where we could venture next.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Abby and I rolled out of bed way too early for a Saturday and ran a 5K today! 
She has been encouraging me to train with her so a couple of months ago, we signed up for the Global Orphan 5K.

When Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep was featured on Sevenly (read about that here), I saw these tanks and thought they would be perfect for our run to honor my precious Addy! Half of being a runner is looking the part and what better than a "Too Precious to Forget" shirt!

We were a little early so while most people stretched, we kept ourselves entertained. 

Our Brother-In-Law ran too 
(only not with us because his pace was a little swifter than ours).

Our goal was honestly just to finish so we were surprised when our time was 4 minutes faster than our training time! 

Up next, a 10k and then perhaps a half marathon! 

One Point For Life

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I have high standards for myself and I know that.
I deeply want to feel "normal" in whatever capacity that is so I push myself, sometimes failing to recognize that even though I want to feel "good" at times there is just too much and that isn't obtainable. It is ok to be sad, to grieve, to feel the hurt. 

There are days, or even weeks, when life just wins.
This week, life is winning.

Sunday was Mother's Day and as much as I tried to tell myself that I was ok, I could feel the hurt and sadness and the weight of that day overtaking me. Through a smile, I stuffed the feelings down hoping that they would just go away and I could celebrate my momma. I was remembered by so many who have faithfully loved me and my role as a momma celebrated. But Mother's Day just doesn't feel like it should. I distracted myself with things...a garden to be planted, flowers to be potted, yard work to be completed, laundry to be done. I went to bed feeling drained and never stopped to address the feelings that were beginning to sink my spirit. 

Monday started off with a bang when I failed to secure the blinder and my morning shake went flying leaving my kitchen a sticky mess and me late for work. My day spiraled and so did my spirit. By the end, I was mad and upset and discontent and resorted to indulging in take-out. 

With suppressed feelings, my weary spirit unraveled today as I went back to my doctor for my yearly appointment. I haven't seen my ob/gyn for a year and let me tell you she is one of my most favorite people...of all time...forever. But sitting in the waiting room, walking the hall, waiting in an exam room that represented such sadness, and then filling my dear doctor in on where my life has gone since I saw her a year ago sent my emotions into overdrive. 

As I walked out, I sat in my car and could hold back no more. The emotions just kept coming. The sobs of sadness, the anger of a life I could not have predicted, the absence of "what should be," and putting myself back in a place that holds such deep feelings was more then I could bare.

A superhero I am not, yet I get upset when I can't handle it all.

I have to give myself grace.
 And to remember that I don't have to have it all together always. 
But mostly, to remind myself that He invites those who are weary and in need of rest to come. 

This week, I am weary.
But God is good and good things are coming...big, big things.
Praise Jesus that He can renew my weary spirit.

Joy > Happiness

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Joy > Happiness   

Let me just pause for a moment to give you time to meditate on that. 

{And for your viewing pleasure while doing so, a pic of my family at Abby's graduation.}

I recently began going to a new church. I honestly haven't had a church home since I moved away from the church I grew up in. Life happened and I always found one excuse or another to not get connected. 

It is not exactly easy to walk into a big body of people alone and feel comfortable. I dread small talk because the normal questions one would ask are the type of questions that can send me into a downward spiral of words flying from my lips. 

Ask a simple question...are you married or do you have children...and, has happened on many occasions, I just delve in and certainly over share to the innocent person who asked what they thought to be a normal question.

Much like now, so back to my point.
In preaching on 1 John 1, the pastor discussed the difference between joy and happiness.
Beyond the dictionary definition, his point hit home for me.

I have many times said that I just want be "happy" again. 
But happiness is only a feeling. It comes and it goes. It can be overriding or overtaken.

Joy on the other hand is a foundation. 
To be full of joy doesn't mean that one is always happy. Joy is when you accept that if everything where to be stripped away...say for example your child and your marriage...there is contentment in Christ. To believe that God is bigger than the hurt, loves you more then the pain, and has a plan grander then you could envision. 

I don't want to merely be happy, I want joy.
Joy > Happiness.
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