Thursday, April 30, 2015

Celebrations and Hope

As we move toward spring, and an ever hopeful renewal of hearts and minds, a lot has been going on that is worthy of sharing.  Saying goodbye to the restaurant at the airport, we have sold off all the equipment, and the kids pitched in and were a huge help as we emptied everything out and cleaned up. Just this past Friday Dominick locked the door for the last time, and turned over the keys.  I have seen a remarkable man leaving behind an entire era of his life, being treated in a less than gracious manner, and yet managing somehow to show a maturity that few do in circumstances such as these.  I am so very proud of Dominick for how he has handled this, for a lesser man would have acted quite differently.

We are looking at one option for our future, which we are hoping works out, but it will require an enormous leap of faith if it all falls into place.  At this time I can't share what that possibility is, and it will be down to the very wire to see if it "flies".  If it doesn't, then we are going to get serious about looking elsewhere and will resign ourselves to leaving the home we love so much, because we will have run out of options. While it is such a gift to live in a small town, one drawback is that in rural areas, there are far fewer opportunities.  Montrose quite literally has two main streets in town with commercial businesses...and that is it.  It is our fondest hope that moving won't be necessary, and we are praying that we are right about hearing the Spirit as we look at this one last option.  If so, then regardless of how difficult it might be to pull off, my heart and mind will be at ease because I can rest easy knowing it will all work out regardless of how audacious it might be.  That won't mean it will be "easy", but we aren't afraid of hard work or risk taking if it feels God directed.  We hope to have something positive to share in the next couple of weeks, and we ask for prayer around this, because this would be requiring a willingness to do a financial "Hail Mary" pass, of sorts.  If it falls apart, well then I guess you will all be along for the ride as we try to figure out the next step of Team LaJoy's journey.

In the meantime, important things are happening...let's go back and catch up a little.

First of all, Matthew had a big night recently at Civil Air Patrol (CAP).  We attended an awards ceremony in his honor as he was recognized for achieving the rank of Captain, and received the Earhart Award.  For those who may not know anything about CAP, this is pretty much the equivalent of an Eagle Scout award for Boy Scouts...only 5% of all CAP Cadets ever achieve this rank.   A Commander came from Grand Junction to present the award to Matt, and just prior to the ceremony we were told that in recent memory, there has been only one Cadet who has reached this rank in CAP in Western Colorado, and that Cadet is currently a junior at the US Air Force Academy.  Here are some photos of the event:

Mr. Steve and Miss Jane came as "adopted family" to witness the ceremony.  Steve has been such a wonderful influence in Matt's life, and Jane has ever-so-kindly been our family seamstress in lieu of my own lack of sewing skills :-)  

Pre-Ceremony Prep.  Captain Irving is working with the group even though his own two children have graduated from the program.    

Cadet Captain LaJoy

Look how tall this kid is these days!  
A man standing beside two other terrific being a very proud papa!

Yes.  It finally happened. He is taller than I am :-( sniff sniff
Where did my baby go?
Love this young man's heart and sense of humor SO much!

Three years of hard work is represented there in that document.

Son to father, man to man...Matthew asked to have his dad and Steve present the award to him instead of the CAP staff.

Matt is such a humble guy, he didn't even let on much about the ceremony. His Squadron leader contacted me with details and asked if I could provide a cake, which we were delighted to do.  It was so cute to see Matthew surprised when the cake appeared out of the back of the van when we arrived...he was shocked that anyone made a big deal about it.  As Miss Jane said, he is a very modest young man, which is its own gift.  Though he is proud of his accomplishments in CAP, it is very clear that it is the journey itself that motivates him, not the recognition.

The entire family was so proud of him,  I loved how on the drive over they were all talking about how when any one of them does well at something, they see it as the family accomplishing something together, because it takes the support and encouragement of each one for us all to make it.  Matt said he totally agreed.

The Big Award!

There are two other big promotions Matt hopes to earn before the end of his CAP career.  There really is no equivalent to those in something like Scouting, because so few Cadets ever attain them.  The Commander from Grand Junction said he doesn't recall a Cadet in Western Colorado ever going higher that this current rank, so Matt has set his sights on going higher.  The highest rank sees a mere .5% of all CAP Cadets reaching it, and it is incredibly rigorous requiring a Cadet to show exemplary leadership gifts, aeronautics knowledge, and more.  It will take another year and a half for him to achieve it, if he is granted a disability waiver for his back...that may be an issue.  We will see, but this is a huge accomplishment, and we will continue to encourage him and hope he can reach his goal.

Next on the list, I guess, is ME! Haha! It is not really anything to celebrate, but I had an event of my own as I traveled to Denver to sing with my wonderful Sweet Adelines group, the DelRose Chorus. What a fun trip it was, laughing and singing with some very funny ladies.  We were not competing against other choruses this time as we didn't have quite enough members to compete, but we did get judged and scores will help us become a stronger chorus.  These ladies are such a hoot, and I am so glad I had the courage to walk into their rehearsal a year and a half ago.  It has been a great way to relieve some stress, and to make new friends.  Here we are in all our sequiney glory:

Hooker Look! I am not fond at all of THIS part of performing...or of actually being onstage in front of others. LOVE the singing though.  

The chorus has been one my one hobby, the one thing that gets me out around a wide variety of women, and has helped keep me sane this past very challenging year and a half or so.  We have had so many major events to deal mom's fall and near death, Dominick's loss of employment, Matt's back surgery, Kenny's ongoing needs, financial concerns, and more.  Having something that allows me to disengage for just a little while once a week is a soul saver.  The group has been enormously kind and flexible as my schedule to take care of everyone has had me traveling so much.

Something odd happened to me at the competition...I became surprisingly enamored of BLING!!!  WHAT??!!?? Me?!?!  Totally NOT the Cindy LaJoy I know, but seeing the beautiful costumes onstage of the large choruses had me shockingly thinking that our group needed more bling! HAHA!  For those that know the real life Cindy, that is completely out of much so as actually wearing makeup in the first place.  However, the feeling was real, and manifested itself in two purchases just for me...also completely out of character...haha! I saw the above canvas bag with a Laurel Burch print on it and I had to have it for my music binders.  I know it is a bit "loud" but those bright colors make me happy and have since I bought a Laurel Burch coffee cup way back on my honeymoon years and years ago.

Then for the REAL bling...taaadaaa...doesn't every Lead need a sparkly pin??
I tell you, being surrounded by that much estrogen and bangles overwhelmed my sensibilities.
Don't worry, I "came to" upon my arrival back in Montrose, and you aren't likely to see me running around town all glammed up.

Next up was Angela's 17th birthday.  Yes, you read that correctly...SEVENTEEN!!  

Angela and Olesya are far more "blingy" than their mom is, and so for her special day just she and I went to Grand Junction for the afternoon for purse shopping, and dinner at a nice restaurant.  Having the time alone with any of the kids is noteworthy, and Angela truly seemed thrilled to be with me, which of course warmed my heart.  We wandered up and down the mall, looking for just the right purse, which proved difficult.  We also decided to shop for Olesya's big 16th birthday gift while we were together and Angela could have the fun of helping select that.  We bought some shirts for Olesya as well, and finally stumbled upon the perfect purse for her at Payless.  It was exactly what she was looking for:

We are so blessed, particularly right now, that our kids' desires are small, and that they are truly grateful for every single thing they receive.

These are the sandals equally sparkly that her siblings gave money for, so while at Payless she felt like she really scored!! Haha!

Here we are at dinner:

We spent two hours at the restaurant, talking well after having finished our meal.  Angela is such a deep, big hearted, intuitive young lady.  The conversation flowed easily from one topic to the next, and I asked her what it felt like to be 17 years old.

"Mom, I don't feel like I am 17.  I feel more like 14 or 15."  She responded.

I asked her why she thought that was, and she said, "I think it is because it took me a couple of years to feel comfortable in my new family.  And I was growing up the whole time.  It's only been five years, and in some ways I feel like I am only five years old just because I don't want to leave you and Dad.  I wish people understood that, and I am grateful to you and Dad for protecting us and letting us be kids still.  I don't want to think about moving out or leaving my family...I just got you all!"

I reassured her that she had no reason to rush it all, and that our home would be hers as long as we were alive.  I told her that we all have our own personal journeys through the world, and often people think ours ought to look the same as theirs, or they judge us if it doesn't.  We both laughed as I recalled and pointed out all the ways in which others have thought our journey was faulty, wrong, fool-headed, or just plain crazy.  She then asked me, "How do you do it, Mom?  How do you keep from getting mad at people who judge you or who talk about you saying how stupid you are to do the things you do?"

I told her, "Angie, I've learned that sometimes people really don't understand.  They don't get that making a conscious decision to follow the Spirit means doing things unconventionally.  Most people aren't willing to risk their hearts, they are far too scared of others knowing them really well.  They put things and security above relationship.  Your Dad and I make decisions based on other criteria than most folks do, and I get that it doesn't make sense to others.  However, it does make us happy, and we wouldn't make a single thing different in our lives, even if it has been hard."  

There she sat, quietly contemplating and sipping from her drink.  She then looked up at me and said, "More than anything I want to be like you and Dad when I grow up.  You guys are so special, and you have helped me see the world totally differently.  You really will be my friend when I grow up enough that you won't have to be my mom all the time, we will be very close always, I think.  I really respect you mom, and I think you are a good, good person.  Even when people do or say mean things to you, you are kind to them.  I was very tough in the orphanage, and sometimes I just want to say mean things to people to get back at them.  But watching you and Dad, I am learning that doesn't make anything better, and it doesn't even make me happy.  Sometimes I don't like to think about what I would be like if you hadn't adopted me.  I wouldn't have liked myself very much."

"Do you like yourself now?" I inquired.

"Most of the time, I think I do.  I am different now, and I still have a lot more to learn from you.  Although it has been hard to have a lot of bad things happen this year, I have learned so much from watching you handle it.  I know I will have bad things happen to me, too, but maybe I will be able to deal with them better.  And if I don't, I know you will make sure I get straightened out!" she laughed.

She was in a mood to reminisce, and we talked about my one and only visit with them 3 years before we were able to adopt them.  She hadn't known that one of her friends there had boldly asked me if I could adopt her and her sister, as she desperately sought a family for them (they were subsequently adopted, thankfully), and she was quite moved to learn that I knew firmly that, despite my compassion for her friend, she was not my daughter, but that I knew instantly upon meeting them that Olesya and Angela were my kids.  We talked about the heartbreak of my sensing that so strongly, and having no idea if they could ever possibly come home.  We spoke with profound gratitude for our Adoption Angel, who made it happen financially for us and stood by with great encouragement and support the entire way.  Angela asked me how I knew that any of the kids were "ours", what it had felt like, and I tried to explain but it was a very hard thing to express.

Finally, it was time to leave, and we headed home where Olesya had baked a cake, and a package awaited her to open, special delivery from her new friend Christi in Massachusetts.  It had arrived several days early and  the suspense had killed her!  Haha!:

A homemade birthday card from her adopted little sister :-)

Surprise beauty products!

It is hard to believe that these two:

Have grown into these two young ladies:

I never could have imagined just what a gift they would be in our lives.  Don't get me wrong, I desperately wanted them, but what I had no clue of was how sweet they each were, how close we would one day eventually be, and how empty my life...all of our lives...would have been without them.

This past Sunday I filled the pulpit for our vacationing pastor, and MAN did I struggle with writing a sermon!  I realized one reason I haven't blogged as much the past several months is that stress seems to have taken my language away from me, and I have tucked a lot of things inside.  It was a gradual pulling away from writing, which is really a spiritual practice of sorts for me, and I miss it but find it very hard to write from my soul right now.  It isn't that I am hiding anything, but that my brain space is taken up with urgent matters, and I need to find a way to get more out of my head and onto the screen.  I am going to be diligent about that, and see if I can work my way back into more regular writing.  It's good for me, it helps me process things, and it serves as a Gratitude Journal of sorts...and I have a million things to be grateful for.

After church Sunday, Kenny came up to me and said, "Mom, I have a proposition for you.  Can I take you to lunch?", so I ended up having a wonderful date with my handsome, thoughtful son.  He took me out to Chili's, where we spent a couple of hours talking about all things theology, and then it turned to a more personal note as Kenny admitted he is very worried about his future, and about being a burden on his family.  He has a clear understanding of his real deficits, and I think he is finally beginning to grab hold of how hard it may be in adulthood.  

Can I tell you how heartbreaking it is to have a child who is so sincere, so very deep, so self-aware in many ways, and who really understands that he may never make it to full self-sufficiency?  Kenny is a "fall through the cracks" kid, whose challenges are such that there is no way to pretend it won't affect his future.  This tender young man is so eager to please, so very smart in a variety of ways, and yet is really quite handicapped, too.  His growing realization is something we are going to have to work with to promote the fact that he will have an amazing life, and that he is surrounded by support that is second to none.  His life will, no doubt, look different than the other kids', but even they see the enormous potential inside of Kenny and want to see him live into that potential to the best of his ability.  

Looking him square in the eyes, as my own started to shed tears, I told Kenny that I adored him, that we have never had a moment's regret about adopting him and would have even if we had known he would have problems.  To reinforce that point, I reminded him that we knew very well what the girls had been subjected to, and that it was highly likely they would come with alcohol related challenges, which we have been lucky enough not to deal with in only subtle ways.  I asked him, "Did we ever consider not adopting the girls even though we knew their past and the likelihood there would be some tough stuff to work with?"

The light bulb moment happened, and he looked up at me with a slow grin beginning and said, "Come to think of it, no, you never thought for even one second of not adopting them, and you DID know they would probably have the same kinds of problems I had!"

I them reached across the table and grabbed his hands in mine, and told him, "You never, ever have to consider yourself a burden.  We all take care of each other, we all will always take care of each other.  It is our job as family, it is why we were brought together.  We all have special needs, some of them just look different."

He then said, "I was talking to Matt a little about this a few weeks ago, and I told him I was feeling like a lot of the money for the family and a ton of your time was spent on me, and how that wasn't fair to the other kids.  Matt reminded me that everyone has needed more of you at one time...that he got you and Dad for the first few years before Josh came home, then Josh was a mess and needed you to help him be able to learn how to love, then I came home and took a ton of your time...and I still do...and then the girls who needed you badly to feel safe.  It was nice of Matt to try and make me feel better, but I do know you have had to put more time and money into me than all the other kids put together."

"And I've loved every minute of it Kenny, and you are SO worth it!  And who knows?  I am betting as time goes on, each of the other kids will have a need for us to help them in a big way at some point in time.  And we'll all be there for them.  It's not about being 'even Steven', sweetie, it's about making sure that everyone is OK and gets what they need...and some will just need more than others, and it has nothing to do with you trying to take resources more than the others.  You had no control over how you were born, or what the orphanage did or didn't do for you.  But we all have control over what happens next, and I know you would be willing to sacrifice anything for your brothers and sisters, and they know that, too. " I said.

He thanked me profusely for always being honest and for talking with him about it.  He said he wanted to be a contributor, not a taker, and we talked about ALL the ways he contributes, many of which he had never thought of.  As we eventually walked out the door, my tall, handsome, resilient Kenny threw his arm protectively over my shoulder, and said, "I love that I can always talk with you, you make it easy.  Thanks, Mom..." then he escorted me to our car.  

Tonight, after watching a movie together, we all somehow ended up gathered around the dining room table, snacking and talking.  Dominick is awake later these days, as his early mornings have disappeared.  There was so much nonsense conversation, so much laughter, gentle teasing, and connecting going on.   It was one of those times when nothing important is going on, at least not on a surface level, and yet not a single person wanted to leave the moment behind.   We are going through a hard time right now, but it is still beautiful to live in this family.  Nothing else matters, really, but this love that is shared, this presence we all enjoy, this walking together...more often than not hand in hand, literally...and we have each other.  Nothing else matters.  Daily, I give thanks, that I get to live in the midst of all of this richness, all of this emotional maturity, all of this willingness to speak of matters of the heart.

We also know we have plenty of people pulling for us...people who have threatened to lay down in front of our van if we have to move in order to try and stop us, people who have offered concrete help in our employment search, people who have prayed for us and continue to encourage us.  We're fine, we are strong, we are loving and loved.  That's all anyone really needs.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Few Little Glimmers of Sunshine

I've tried to blog.  I know I promised I would, and I had every intention of doing so, but life has intervened and the truth is, we are going through a very difficult time right now and are doing our best to remain patient, diligent, and faithful.  Some days that is easier than others, but we are hanging in there and doing our best.  I explained to my friend that the past few months it has been very challenging to find the words to share all that I am feeling despite my best efforts...sometimes the language escapes me and all my emotional energy is going into remaining centered and tuned in as best I can be.

We're actually doing quite well, considering the challenges we are facing financially.  Though there is concern, and at moments panic creeps in, we are all pulling together and everyone is encouraging and optimistic that the right thing for work for Dominick will reveal itself eventually.  I am pleased to see that real stress is being handled with considerable grace and unity.  Conversations have not been easy as we have had to prepare the kids for the fact that we are now at the point where we have to consider all option, and that may very well include moving far from what we feel is our heart's home. Living in small town rural Colorado is a little slice of heaven, but it also means opportunities are decidedly limited.  We have been anticipating a change for years now, and have been looking at every possibility for over 2 years, but nothing has panned out as of yet.

So, at the moment, we are in a little grieving process as we say goodbye to the life that was, and remain as open as possible to what lies ahead.  Equipment from the airport restaurant is being sold off a little at a time, final paychecks have been issued and loving goodbyes said to wonderful, dedicated of whom has literally made it possible for us to leave for each and every adoption, and whose daughter we also watched grow up.

And yet, God continues to show up and remind us that we have not been abandoned, and right now I have to tell you that each and every reminder makes a huge difference. We received a very special gift from an anonymous person who has no idea just how much their help brought us hope...if you are reading this, Dear Friend, thank you with all our hearts, not only for the gift, but for the love shown and the faith you have in our family.  I don't know why over and over again our family is blessed so often with the love of others, for we truly don't deserve all that has been showered upon us, but we are eternally thankful and have never ever forgotten all we have to "pay forward" in whatever ways we can...knowing full well it will never equal all we have received.

Easter turned out to be a lovely "gift"of another sort, as it was lining up to be a less than stellar holiday for us.   The last day of ski season turned out to land on Easter Sunday, and Dominick and all the kids except for Matthew worked.  With just Matthew and I attending church, everything felt a little out of kilter, and not just a little lonely.

As usual, just being at church lifted my spirits a bit, and prior to arriving there I turned to Matt and told him,"Thank you for coming to church with me today. I know most 15 year old boys would argue and fuss about it and refuse to go with their mom."

Matt glanced over at me and said, "Mom, you don't have to thank me, of course I'll go with you anytime, even when you are older.  I know I don't show it much, but I like being in church with you."

And a little glimmer of sunshine peeked through the clouds of my soul.

After church, we learned that two of our dear friends were going to go home and be alone, so we immediately invited them over, and I phoned Dominick to inform him of our guests.  Matthew and I rushed home to clean a very messy house, and ran to the store to purchase a few additional items to dress up our meal. as we had not planned on much of anything to go with our ham since it was just going to be us.  The two of us got everything cleaned up and the meal prepared, and we had no clue that a little surprise would arrive along with our guest, who had planned a Big Kid Easter Egg Hunt for the kids!  What a blessing, as we didn't buy Easter candy this year because...well...honestly...the kids are getting older, and candy for five is a bit expensive, so with trying to save on costs as much as possible we all decided not to do anything this year. Well, in comes our personal Easter Bunnies who hid eggs containing not only a little candy, but also $1 in some eggs to "up the ante".  Oh, how cute it was to see these big hulking monster children of ours act as excited as a 4 year old on Easter morning!:

Our Sweet, Kind Easter Bunnies!

Matt keeping the masses at bay until the go ahead is given!

The hunt is on!

Amazing what a few plastic eggs and a little love can do for someone...

Such a little thing, an egg hunt for older kids, but the thoughtful gesture delighted them all!

Even the 12 year old going on 18 got a kick out of it!

We had another sweet little surprised waiting for us from Massachusetts in the form of a box marked "Don't Open Until Easter" didn't take the kids 2 minutes after arriving home from work to rip  into the box:


Hmmm...what did our MA family send?  Did Candi send...

Candy? Along with beautiful cards!

It has been pointed out to me that our family is the "huggiest" family around.  What a wonderful thing to be known as!  The chocolate bunnies were so thoughtful, and just being remembered and loved long distance was special.  Auntie Kim also gave the kids a little Easter treat and sent it home from church for each of the kids, so they each ended up getting a few small treats from magical bunnies.

Olesya made a beautiful card as a thank you, but it had to be delivered via photos because the real blossoms would fall off in the mail. Love this young lady's caring heart!

These faces...those smiles...and not just from the ones with the last name of LaJoy...God provided us with people to share the day with so it became special for all of us, and not just another lonely holiday for any of the 9 of us.  So glad our home can be a home for many we love.

Afterward a killer game of Scrabble ensued, while Rummikub was played at the other end of the table by everyone else.

Josh is grinning because he just figured out how to double a score with the word "lotuses"...I picked the right teammate!

We actually had a repeat of the week before with our friends George and Wendy coming over on a spur of the moment invitation, as we had gone to hear George sing in a concert the weekend before, what will likely be his last concert with the Valley Chorus.  We all loved being there to support him:

I am glad the kids know it is as important to be there for their adult friends as it is to them to have their adult friends there for their special moments.

And how our friends support the kids. God showed up again when dear family friends sent Matt a "Request for Proposal" for the dream project he had of building his own 3D printer from scratch, then creating plans for a drone and building it from parts made on the 3D printer.  Yea, pipe dream...but they wanted to help him fulfill it, so here he is reading his "RFP", he was SO surprised!  

Their "Investment Firm" required him to put together a written budget and show them plans, then he had to give them an oral presentation about the proposed project.   He is in mid-build of the printer right now, awaiting more parts from China before he can complete it.  He spent SO much time researching this, learning and studying.  He is taking a Udemy course right now online about Engineering and AutoCAD for 3D printers.  All of this was Matt's idea, so I am glad I didn't have to come up with anything to design a course.  At this stage, he is "hacking" his own education in some areas and bringing me ideas of what he wants to learn, then pursuing it.  We still do standard core courses together, and I love that I still get to read side by side with my 10th grader :-)

God showed up in more concrete ways as Kenny has begun to do the same thing as Matt with his own interests, and I am getting such a kick out of watching these kids blossom in their own ways!  Kenny wanted to take a Comparative Religions course (Any surprise there?  I think not!), so I found him a curriculum, but he has gradually added to it on his own, wading his way through a challenging book by Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, in order to better understand Atheism, and he just finished a short read he picked up at the library titled, God's Message to the World: You've Got Me All Wrong.  As he is reading, he decided on his own to create documentation with "pro" and "con" columns to record his thoughts about the major themes he is reading about.  For Kenny, this was a huge leap in self-direction, and I was really proud of him.  

Through times of uncertainty, the learning continues all over the place as we finally finished American Government and the kids had their final exam...a 4-5 hour monster test. I have been told I am a little tough as a teacher :-)  Interestingly, those comments come from those who are not my students!  My "students" have come to expect such things...hahaha!  The girls are taking Russian and still really enjoying it.  They feel they have a mentor and friend in Kamala, and Skype has made a lovely relationship possible between them and their teacher who is doing a fabulous job, and no doubt improving her English at the same time.  Josh has just finished a course on Rifles, taken from a Boy Scout merit badge book, and we'll see what he wants to study as an elective next.

And me?  Well...I am lucky enough to continue to be able to sing with our church a capella group and our local Sweet Adelines chorus.  It has helped keep the stress level down, as music is really something that transports me a bit.  We had a performance the past two nights, and here I am in full stage makeup (i.e. The Hooker Look!  Not my thing, clearly...) One of the kids commented that I never post pictures of myself, so I guess I have to once in awhile...dang, I am looking old!!

Over and over again, in our uncertainty, we are reminded that we are being the arms of loving friends who reflect God's love to us over and over again.  And sometimes, that "being held" happens right here and God slides in between our bodies and wraps us all up in a warm hug. Just tonight, as Angela headed off to bed, she gave me a of her firm, lingering ones, the kind you can just sink into for a few moments and say everything without words. Tears sprung to my eyes as I stood there, rocking gently back and forth with her in the kitchen, and I couldn't stop myself from expressing what popped into my mind that very second as this tall, strong young woman was enveloping me.

"Angela, there are so many times I wish we had back the years we lost.  I so wish I could have held you when you were tiny."...and then she heard the catch in my voice and hung on tighter.  We stood there for awhile longer, then I pulled away and said I was sorry, that I didn't know where that came from as I wiped my tears, and she said, "Oh no, mom, don't say you're sorry...I think it is sweet."

Off to her room to ready herself for a good night's sleep, while I sat here on the couch trying to compose this blog post.  A few minutes later, I receive an email from her, sharing all the emotion that she couldn't speak out loud earlier.  I won't share her precious words here, but will tell you that she quoted the refrain from the popular children's book, "Love You Forever", and she changed the words to be loving me forever.  Suffice it to say, Angela is easily able to reveal her heart in writing, and though not genetically connected, she is a bit like her Mom :-)

You know, I needed that this night.  As we try hard to keep worry in it's rightful place, and wonder at moments how we are going to take care of us all, I can't help but remember what someone once told me as we prepared to bring the girls home.  "You'll live in a trailer, you just can't afford to do this and one day you will regret it." I can't tell you just how many times over the years those biting words have come back to me. It is harder to push them aside when times have grown even tougher.  But then I have something like tonight happen where our life is not measured in dollar bills or zeros in our bank account, but in the length and strength of a hug, and the words shared from a heart that had long been hidden from view.

Go ahead, God...give us a trailer if that be the case.  These two were worth it, as were the other three. Others may never understand that even if we end up having little of what the world values, we have all we need.  I simply can not conceive of a life lived without my resilient, amazing, loving daughters...Olesya and Angela would be worth it even to the boys, as Kenny told me recently. He said, "Mom, there is no way the girls weren't ours, and even if we have to do without a lot so we could all be together and so they could have a real life and a real family, then it is worth it. I have the sweetest sisters in the world, and I can't imagine Angela on the streets right now, and Olesya close to it. We need them, and they need us...and God won't let us down. It just may be hard for awhile, but we've got each other."

Amen, Kenny...amen...and you, too, are a blessing of untold worth, as are Matthew and Joshua.

God'll show up, God shows up every single day...maybe not in the ways we wish for, but God shows a smile, a hug, a loving arm draped across a shoulder. God shows up in the music we hear, the unexpected gifts we receive, and in the love we offer others.  I'll keep on looking for God in all the little places, and in the faces of those who surround me.  I have no doubts, no doubts at all...God's there.