Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Judge Not"

In December, after being "paralyzed" for four months (and not working) I knew something had to give.  Legal fees were mounting (we hit $45K in December) and I was feeling completely overwhelmed.  David and I had been debt-free (except for our home) for many years and the amount of debt we had accumulated over the past few months was immense and with no end in sight.  I was commenting to a 'friend' about how scared I was of going into that kind of debt-at what point did I say I had done enough?-and expressed how confused I was by the whole situation.  The only thing I knew for sure, was that the first time I saw Izze I knew she belonged in our family.  But THIS was madness to be sure!  She lectured me for half an hour - told me I was lacking faith and that God would provide an answer if I would just exercise faith.  She told me when we started the adoption process I should have known that this was possible (how could anyone KNOW?) and that it was my own decisions that had put us in this awful situation.  By the time she finished ranting and left my house I was sobbing.  I had been praying the entire time and felt I had been exercising my faith, but also believe that God expects us to use wisdom in all our decisions and was seriously questioning whether or not I had done that.  $45k and growing by the minute, did not feel like the smartest thing I had ever done.  On the other hand, if it was the right thing to do, how could I put a price on Izze's life?  I knew exactly what kind of life she would have if we quit fighting for her!  I prayed non-stop for days - and then, without sharing too much- as this was an extremely spiritual and personal experience - I got my answer.  The Lord let me know without question, that He had this!  I was to "stay the course" and in due time, we would have our answer.  I cannot express how personally freeing this was for me.  I went back to work with full heart and literally laid my burden at the Lord's feet.  I did not know how, or when, BUT I knew He would take care of it for me.  I obviously had NO control over any aspect of the situation.  I could not control the attorneys, the birth mom, DCFS, the judge, OR the Lord's timing....  BUT I did trust Him to keep his word.  

Lesson from this experience - judge not!  Unless you have walked in someone else's shoes and had the very same experiences to draw from (which BTW, is NEVER), you do not have the insight to judge another.  Each man/woman's life is their own.  Each of us will have those experiences that will refine us personally and help us to grow.  We are all blessed with gifts and talents that define us.  It is our experiences, combined with these gifts and talents that shape the way we respond to any given situation.  Dieterf Uchtdorf stated, "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you do."  I don't know that I would call my response to my difficult situation a "sin", but I do feel I was being judged harshly because I did not respond the way my 'friend' would have.  I think I have learned - the hard way - that we are all doing the best that we can and that we do not have the right to judge another.  We all come from a different place (different up-bringing, different experiences, different beliefs about life, different ideas even of right and wrong) and no one but our Father-in-Heaven and his son, Jesus Christ, truly understand our hearts and our true motives and desires.  NOT judging another is much easier said than done, but I pray that I will never cause another to feel the way I did after my "friend's" critique of me.  Each experience is a teacher if we will allow ourselves to learn from them and each experience will make us stronger and better prepared for the next one.  I hope I have these lessons firmly etched in my memory forever.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Country Ice Cream

This has got to be the most versatile ice cream recipe out there!  

4 eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 cups half and half
4 cups whipping cream
2 T vanilla

Optional:  1 package frozen strawberries & 1 banana
Crushed Oreo cookies
Crushed Butterfinger bars (I usually use 6-8 regular size bars) OR any other type of candy bar
1 package raspberries or any other fruit

In a large mixing bowl beat eggs with wire whisk until foamy.  Gradually add sugar and beat until thickened.  Add cream, vanilla and half and half mixing well.  Pour into ice cream freezer; add optional ingredients and freeze according to manufacturers directions.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Doubt Not, Fear Not

Loving on my girl one more time

Don't love this one, but it shows me on the saddest day of my life - still can't look at this and not  cry all over again!

Sarah's mom and I saying good-bye in the parking lot

Sarah's mom and brother Alex and I as the reality of having to let Izze go sinks in.  I felt I was dying just a bit inside.....  As if my heart was being ripped from my chest.....

Our experience of adopting our sweet Izze has been a major refinement for me.  I have had to learn to trust the Lord AND his timing (clearly the harder of the two).  I have learned that we should not try to see too far into the distance, but learn to trust Him and learn all that we can from the here and now.  I have learned that we ARE capable of so much more than we think we are.  I cannot tell you how many times I approached the Lord and told Him I was absolutely at the end of my rope - I could do no more - and yet the answer did not come and in the morning I was still hanging on.  He knows us, He strengthens us, and proves as He knocks off the rough edges, that we ARE capable of enduring much more than we think we can.  I think when I get to the other side of the veil, I will find that I was being carried more times than not during our fight for Izze.  How grateful I am.  

In November I was tending Izze while Jonathon and Sarah went to a court hearing.  In less than an hour, just as I was putting Izze down for a nap, I received a phone call from Jonathon.  He was hysterical and telling me I had to bring Izze to the courthouse immediately.  She had been awarded to the birth mom and we had to release her right now.  I was in total disbelief.  The birth mother is a drug addict (Izze was born addicted to drugs as the birth mom used heroin until 6 weeks prior to her delivery), and a prostitute with a rather lengthy criminal history - including child endangerment charges.  I was trying to remain calm, but was feeling rather hysterical myself.  HOW could this be happening?  Where was God now?  I feared for Izze's very life.  She still had many symptoms of an addicted baby and was easily agitated and not easily soothed.  I was so afraid that she would get upset and the birth mom would lose patience and hurt her.  I changed her and loaded her into the car - making a quick stop in the parking lot of a grocery store so Sarah's mom could say good-bye too.  I cannot even describe the agony that I was feeling.  I pulled into the courthouse parking lot a short time later and watched, helpless, as my daughter-in-law and son said good-bye to Izze.  The pain and sobbing was almost more than I could handle.  I did not think we would see her again.  We all watched, sobbing, as our attorney took her to the birth mom and she was gone.  

That night was a very long, difficult one.  I could not soothe my children - how can anyone heal a broken heart?  I was beside myself with grief - it felt worse than if she had died - at least I would have known where she was and that she was safe.  Our bishop came up that night and gave Jon and Sarah a priesthood blessing (we are LDS) - we were way too close to the situation to be able to know the Lord's will for them.  The blessings were beautiful and the spirit of the Lord was very strong.  I cried for the next two days non-stop.  

And then, the first of many miracles occurred.  Sarah had been taking care of her brother's baby (a few months younger than Izze) for several weeks and she was required to go to the courthouse and complete some paperwork on his behalf.  While she was at the courthouse filling out the forms, she suddenly heard the birth mom crying and talking (yelling) on her cell phone.  And she is saying, "they took my baby....."  Sarah realizes she needs to get out of there but cannot leave without going down the same hall where the birth mother is crying.  She grabs the first "worker" that comes down her hall, explains the situation, and is ushered into a room.  As she waits, the Assistant Attorney General comes into the room and tells her that Izze has just been placed in state custody and that they will be placing her back in our home!  Within seconds Sarah has Izze in her arms.  She calls me and asks me how fast I can get her a car-seat and come to the courthouse - I am confused - and then she is telling me she is holding Izze right now!  There was much rejoicing!!!!!

"Doubt not, fear not."  - this is the lesson here.  God is mindful of us.  He knows our situation, and He will bless us when He is able.  I do not claim to understand His ways, but I cannot deny seeing His finger in our lives over and over again - in small things and in big things.  Things DO work out.  Sometimes it just feels like eternity will arrive before the answers come.  

Saying good-bye to our sweet Izze

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Happy B-day Sweet Izze

Our sweet grand daughter Izze turns 1 today!!!!  Sure do love that cute girl!  And she is loving the b-day present from grandma and papa.  Soooo happy to have her as a permanent member of our family!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Death By Chocolate Cake

Mix together for 2 minutes:
1 box yellow cake mix 
1 small box vanilla instant pudding
1 small box chocolate instant pudding
4 eggs
3/4 cup oil
1 cup sour cream
half of a 12 oz bag of semi sweet chocolate chips

Pour half the batter in a bundt pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips, pour in remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  

NOTE:  So freakin' good!!!!!  I made a glaze with 1 bag milk chocolate chips and 1 T canola oil.  Huge hit at my work luncheon today.  I am making it again this weekend and will try to remember to add a pic!  

UPDATE:  I made this last night and used a medium size bundt pan for individual sized cakes.  I baked for 20 minutes instead of 50.  I got 12 cakes from one recipe.  They were kind of fun!  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Refinement - Physical - Post #1

This is the first installment in a series that will follow over the next many months about our experience of assisting our son Jonathon and his wife Sarah adopt Izze.  Hardest experience of my life, but also life-changing.  I hope reading about our experience will touch you in some way and that you might gain a bit of insight in your own life.  Thank you Izze - we will never be the same...

Izze-who has taught us much about "refinement" over the last year!

My husband David and I began a diet and exercise challenge almost a year ago - just a few months before Izze was born.  I have learned much during the past year and some of my lessons have come from our physical challenge.  Let me explain....

When we first started our "program" I purchased the books outlining an entire year's meals and exercises.  I like to "cheat" or look ahead to see what is coming up - thinking somehow it will "prepare" me for the upcoming challenges.  The first exercise I absolutely failed at was the 'women's push-ups' (you know, from your knees, rather than the full body type).  To begin with I was expected to do 10 women's push-ups; I could not even complete 3.  Cheating - looking ahead - I saw that I would soon be doing 12 push-ups in sets of 3 - the very thought of that made me laugh out loud!  I could not even complete 3 - how in the world would I ever do 36?!  At the end of nearly a year, I am happy to report that I am doing 25 full-body push-ups - sets of three - that is 75 FULL-body push-ups!  Can you believe that?!  The lesson from that experience for me is this: it is wisdom that God does not allow us to see too far ahead.  Many of us would give-up before we even get started.  The challenges that we encounter in life are hard - in the beginning, many of us fail miserably and it is only through consistent effort and 'building ourselves up' that we begin to see some measure of success.  We also gain strength from each and every one of life's experiences, thus preparing us to meet the challenges that lie ahead.  I can look back on my life and draw courage from those challenges that I have successfully met and conquered.  

I also think it is interesting that, like exercise, each day we 'do the work' helps us to build the strength to meet the next challenge.  It does not come all at once, or even feel like we are making any measurable progress - but when we look back to the beginning - we can see that we have come very far indeed!  I think if I could see the next challenge that was waiting for me, I might run hard and fast in the opposite direction!  

Sometimes I think our Father in Heaven is able to see the amazing person we have the capacity to become and thus 'provides' or allows us to have experiences to achieve our personal best.  I am absolutely stunned at the physical progress I have made since beginning our challenge.  I have lost pounds and inches, developed better/healthier eating habits, and can do many physical things I never imagined I would be able to do.  Last summer we had wood floors installed on the second floor of our home.  I have some rather large pieces of furniture in those bedrooms and my husband and I agreed to move all the furniture and do all the "tear-out" of old tile and carpet/pad to save a bit of money.  Prior to taking on this physical challenge I would have required additional man-power to get the large armoires down our stairs, but my husband and I were able to move everything ourselves (with only an extra set of hands on one piece) down to the garage.  I was ecstatic at my progress - my upper body has always been the weakest part of my body - and thrilled that we could do it ourselves.  I feel like a 'diamond in the rough' and am kind of excited to see a better me emerge.  

I have also decided that, although the scriptures tell us we should strive to be perfect - even as He is, we are also told that we will not become perfect in this lifetime - that my challenge this last year to 'perfect' my physical body is clearly as elusive as attaining perfection in this life is.  I can clearly see however, that I am way ahead of where I started a year ago, and that I MUST keep up the effort, even if I have to wait until eternity to see a 'perfected' body.  I believe that this is why the counsel in the scriptures, NOT that we will actually arrive at perfection, but that we will be so much better than when we arrived.  Life is a journey - a lifetime of learning - life is refinement.