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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Thank You For Bringing Me Home."

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting in my prayer chair reading early in the morning before the pitter patter of little feet woke up. It was quickly after I settled in with my cup of coffee, I heard the knocking on a door with a desperate, "Mommy I'm starving!" being yelled from Myriam's room. It's been her thing lately to want breakfast the moment she opens her eyes. But, for some reason, after I snuggled her down the hallway to my chair she forgot about how hungry she was and instead, nestled her way into my lap with hugs and many kisses for Mommy. 
It was then she softly whispered to me as she was looking straight into my heart and said, 
"Thank you for bringing me home."

Three years ago, Tim and I had just met our birth parents at the local McDonald's with our agency worker making notes and assisting in papers being exchanged. It wasn't even a month later Myriam was making her way into this world. We had managed to make it to two doctor's appointments with Meranda which was a great way for me to connect and get to know our birth mom a little bit more. We spent many nights in the water front hotel for those "just in case" moments thinking that night was going to be it. Many phone calls were exchanged and pictures shared with what and how our home looked like and what we had already purchased for Myriam. On the night of the 23rd, Tim and I picked up Willie and Meranda to drive them to the hospital. 
I cannot tell you how blessed we are to have had that exchange of conversation and willingness to have us participate in the birth of our daughter. Willie was giving us hourly updates, sometimes sooner, as we attempted to settle into the two waiting room areas. At midnight we decided to go back to the hotel to shower and get a short nap before the main event happened. I'm so thankful for the staff that allowed us the space and understood the situation as Willie consumed over 30 cups of coffee in the hours we spent waiting for Myriam to arrive. 
On Thanksgiving morning, I was not able to sit anymore which led me to walk up and down the halls finally ending up right outside the hospital room Meranda was in when I heard the sweet, welcoming cries of our daughter. With my ear pressed against the door, it quickly flung open as Willie said, "She's here!" I instantly gave him a huge hug and he then found Tim and shook hands. It may seem like an odd moment to some, but there is nothing that can take those precious moments away from our memory.
After three hours of signing papers and sending text messages to family, Tim and I were able to meet our brown eyed daughter. 
It was surreal. 
There was a quiet pause with damp eyes when the nurse placed her in my arms. 
We had prayed for this child and she was finally here.

{ Sweet introductions. }

Wanting to give the respected space for our birth parents, we decided that night to go to our friends for dinner who had prepared a traditional Thanksgiving meal. ( We had seen the hospital option earlier and were VERY thankful for this homemade meal! ) Even though we were only 15 minutes from the hospital, it was extremely hard for me to leave. I managed to put my game face on for about an hour then had to get back to the hospital. That night, we got some pictures with our birth parents and spent a little more time with Myriam before heading to the hotel for much needed rest. 
Friday morning we woke up feeling refreshed and prepared for what was ahead for that day. It's hard to know exactly what emotions you need to be ready for going into an adoption; international or domestic. I had prayed for this moment, but never knew what it was going to look like until the moment itself arrived. 
The time was for Meranda and Willie to say goodbye. 
We found our birth mother in the nursery swaying her child as she whispered sweet things into her ears. There were kisses on the cheeks, tightly pressed hugs and more sweet words spoken to Myriam. Our social worker had pulled me into view of the nursery door window so I could have this image forever pressed into my memory. 
The tears started to flow. 
My heart was melting for our new daughter, but breaking for this young mother.
Meranda gently placed Myriam into her bassinet as
she had one last touch and kiss on the cheek. 
Then, she turned and walked away. 
It was an immediate run down of what I needed to make sure Myriam was doing; it was the only thing Meranda had known her to do so I listened intently with
promises of making sure we would care for her. 
Then, she turned and walked away. 
I had to stop her. I embraced Meranda and thanked her for the gift she had
forever given us. 
Her daughter. Now ours. 
Tim and I stood still in the hallway outside the nursery in attempts to gather and process what we just experienced. I'm not sure how long we stood there, but all the nurses and staff understood the intensity of the moment and gave us the space needed. Once we gathered ourselves we immediately rushed back into the nursery to reassure our daughter that she was loved, accepted and safe in our arms.
In the state of Washington, a birth mother has 48 hours to reverse her decision. In our case, we had four days to receive clearance to go home due to the holiday and weekend. It was the longest weekend especially since we were not allowed to spend the night with our daughter and had to stay in our storage closest. Yep. It was a storage room with a muggy towel steamer, un-used equipment, a rocking chair and few other sometimes needed items for the nurses. We were not allowed to take Myriam out of the nursery and were told not to bring visitors in our storage room. Thanks to an amazingly understanding nurse, Judy, who pulled some strings, we were able to wheel Myriam across the hallway to an empty room so the kids could meet their baby sister.
Mom and Dad drove down Saturday morning with my sister and kids so we could introduce our baby girl to the family. It was overwhelming to sit as a family of five as the kids "ooed" and "awed" over their baby sister. God had worked over many months to make that moment happen for us. Our community supported us through multiple garage sales, bake sales and countless prayers. Our church and friends were incredibly gracious serving us meals after we came home and giving
us the knowledge we needed as a new family of five.
Monday morning we had papers signed and notarized from our
lawyer stating we could go home.
Our 48 hours had passed and we were cleared to drive the three hours north to go home.
As we were driving out of the parking lot, I turned around to see our oldest and youngest daughters safely buckled in with tears welling up from contentment, pride and pure joy.
( Addison decided to stay with us until we went home Monday. Thank you to Grandma Judy and Auntie Chris who took her to tea on Saturday to fill in the hours NOT spent in the storage room. The nurses loved watching the bond
instantly become real for the two sisters. )
I'm not sure I can explain what was going on in my heart at that moment.
I had no stretch marks to prove of a pregnancy, no surgery pains from C-sections, I was wearing my jeans, had some abs and
was wearing a normal bra with no double D's to speak of.
But, I did have a newborn in my backseat, a diaper bag full of pre-mixed formula thanks to nurse Judy who stuffed our bags full of binkies, formula and other baby needs and had the emotions that matched a hormonal pregnant mommy. Walking into our house was so much different than the last two babies.

November 24th our feisty, extremely curious, brown-eyed baby girl was born.
December 23rd our family name grew by one.

{ First photo as a family of five. }

Just last week, another family was able to share their last name and forever welcome their daughter into their family. Adoption is not unfamiliar to our culture. Jesus adopted us into His Heavenly family by shedding blood on the cross.
Jesus wants all the little children to come to Him.
It breaks my heart to hear of kids without arms to snuggle them, to safely tuck them into warm beds and to say their goodnight prayers before dreaming of something better. My eyes have now seen how the "system" works for and against families. It's complete torment to hear of babies being transferred from home to home.
Hearing of another family growing from the blessing of adoption, whether it be international, domestic or through the foster system is a joyous occasion.

{ The Oakley's & Tess at the courthouse with dried ink stating she's theirs!
Her three older brothers welcome her joyously into their family. }

But hear me out.
Our little blessing who will be three in a week, could not have brought us such joy unless there was a mother who had so much love to know enough to say yes to our family profile and the process of adoption. I saw firsthand what saying goodbye to a child does to a mother. I have heard her cries over the phone as Myriam says, "I love you Miss Meranda."
Our gift of adoption could not have been possible without the selfless
gift from our birth parents.
As we focus on adoption this month, let us not forget who brought these children into the world. The story may not be pretty; it may not have been told yet; open or closed, the child came from a mother who carried a baby for nine months,
gave birth and said goodbye.
Our story may still be ongoing and the limited communication we have is welcomed. My heart is still twisted over facts and I pray God has everyone in
His hands protecting little hearts in this messy life.
But, shining brighter then heart breaking stories of kids not yet matched with their forever families, is a bright almost three year old girl
who loves her mommy and daddy, her Addi and her Charlie.
Myriam Judith is home.
She has given us laughing wrinkles for a lifetime to remind us to laugh when it's messy, smile while dancing, snuggle because you love someone and chase because her legs need to run. God has big plans for our always moving, always busy, always hugging and singing daughter. I see myself in her eyes, her smile and as some say her nose too,
but will always see Meranda as well.
I will never know what she whispered in her ear as she laid her in her nursery crib, but will always be grateful for the enormous gift she left wrapped in her perfectly snug blanket.

"Thank you for bringing me home."


Friday, October 31, 2014

October Photo Recap


 { Pumpkin Carving Family Party at the Gerlach's! }

Myriam LOVED to pull the ooey gooey parts out of the pumpkin. After she worked through a royal temper tantrum for who knows what reason, she managed to color a pumpkin then have daddy help crave out a heart. Charlie did his own pumpkin and would rather keep his hands out of the slim. Addi didn't carve a pumpkin, but assisted in Teija's orange master piece. 

 { Had a Friday night date with Mickey. Grant's Burger's then The Sound of Music! }

{ We as a family enjoy Melissa's stress as she unwinds baking for us. }


{Fall desserts & harvest make the best treats. }

 { Pumpkins are beginning to rot and signs of hibernation are showing up
throughout the yard. }


{ Charlie's mind has finally "clicked" and he is doing great reading
CVC words and little books. }

Both kids are doing amazing with their campus classes and have been quite the little writers! Charlie has now written four books and Addi writes stories daily. Myriam now has her own school desk which helps aid in the distraction during study time. She's busy matching colored clothes pins to colored paint samples and attempting to write herself! Charlie has completed one work book and is 8 lessons away from finishing his math book. Amazing!

 { Addison has been challenged a bit in math with division and learning
how to find the area of a shape. }

{ Nothing beats a warm meal, open oven door and smells of home to remind you of fall. }

{ 3rd lost tooth. Pull, twist and done. What a champ! }

After nine years of no costumes or attendance at the NCCTK Harvest Carnival, Mommy caved and was suckered into buying ridiculously expensive outfits that cost more than $5 or FREE. The kicker was the joy of laughter heard throughout the house as the kids were playing around in the new outfits all afternoon. Myriam and Charlie are spider friends and Addi is a sweet 50's gal pulling it off with sass and attitude. The candy may be tossed during the night or secretly placed in an adult only hide-out but either way…I still can't believe I caved! 



 { Who needs candy when there's COTTON CANDY! Myriam was still singing
songs at 9pm from the sugar high. }

 { Spider Cousins: Mason & Charlie }

 { Bringing some cheer to GiGi & Grandma Haak. }

We didn't end up with much candy at all, but the 10 mini brownies I ate today will hopefully be burned off at kick boxing and the post-Thriller Zumba in the morning. With our "Grateful" calendar hung up today, we are now ready to bring in a month of thankfulness during November.




Monday, October 20, 2014

HAND-made With Lots of Love

It didn't take much to put a smile on Grandma Haak's face…
just a village of grands & greats. 
After the devastating news that cancer is riddled throughout Grandma's abdomen, I found myself angry and yet, not that surprised hearing the "C" word once again. Honestly, I'm just done hearing that word and seeing it cause so much pain in our family. It causes grief, sorrow and brings fear into lives that are simply too young. Nothing tears me up more than seeing our oldest struggling to understand why everyone gets cancer and whether or not she'll too get a diagnoses someday. I found myself angry at God this past week and attempting to hide in a shell. 
So, I did something about it to bring smiles to others and distract little minds (and mine own) onto brighter things. Grandma is always layered up in usually 3-5 layers of undergarments to keep herself warm and put together. I would hate to know what happens when you really got to go and the wait time of pulling down those many layers causes an "oops-in-your-pants!!!" It's a guarantee that Grandma Haak's place is set around 70-80 degrees depending on the season. She likes to be warm and cozy. But, truth be told, you're not allowed to wear so many layers or have the temperature set so high when recovering in a hospital bed. 
So, with the help from MANY grands and greats, the kids and I set out to JoAnn Fabrics to pick up all the supplies to make a cozy quilt to wrap Grandma in while recovering from her surgery in Seattle. Addi and I chose the best fitted fleece that matched Grandma's living room so she could then use it back at home as well. A case of fabric markers and some muslin and we were ready to get started! I hacked into Mom's Facebook to reach out to as many cousins as possible and within a day had hand prints starting to come together. When there's 42 of us, it's hard to get everyone in one place. I was able to get most hands traced and the others we're represented with a name and little message. 
My mother gave reason to call her once again a saint as she did all the needed sewing to make this happen. I honestly think she was more terrified for the condition of her sewing machine after I would have attempted this on my own than the quilt itself. Thanks Mom for doing what would have taken me a full day and probably a purchase of a new machine compared to your three hours of attention. 
I will always be striving to be like my mom…
I will continue to always rely on her sewing capabilities as well.




I found my anger decreasing as I poured energy into making Grandma's quilt. It helps that My Love knows exactly how to care for me when I'm in a funk and processing. Sometimes it's the just being there I need most. Hearing Dad needs to have more surgery followed by the tumor marker count for Grandma sent me in a "I want to kick cancer's bootie" tail spin. I'll be the first to say that I'm beyond pissed our family has to fight so much cancer. It's been hard to pray and open the Bible this past week due to the funk I was in. Nothing sends tears to my eyes more than not being able to do anything for my mom and watching her pain from a husbands, a daughters and now mothers cancer battles. Thus being the reason she's a saint. My mother does this cancer supporting with grace. I have much to learn from her.
What makes this situation with Grandma so much easier is how at peace she is with it all. As the rest of the family is running mock ten trying to figure out schedules, decide who is boss and where everyone needs to be at what time, grandma sits at ease wrapped in a blanket listening quietly. 
It's going to be alright. 
I just need to tap into Grandma Haak's peace.

{ Grandma Haak receiving the quilt with hand made cards & stories too. }

{ A few tears; not of sadness, but of complete JOY! }

It was in a way therapeutic to tie this quilt together. I feel like I've processed my emotions and have helped the kids (mainly Addi) understand that not everyone will get cancer. In that, the kids together wrote a short story about Grandma Haak as a way to think positively about her rather then think of her being sick. Grandma is best known for her chips and dip and the puzzle table with a close third being all the Tom & Jerry films the kids have watched at Grandma's. The story is quite cute but the kids didn't want me to share it…I will later.
For now, we are confident that Grandma is wrapped in the best HAND-made gift possible. It is a quilt that symbolizes love, prayer, and family, but most importantly faith. Faith that God will see us through this. Faith that God will be with Grandma in and out of surgery. Faith that God will protect our family from fighting three different cancer battles and faith that God is STILL GOOD.  
After awhile of this business you start to know how you process and I'm thankful God shook me up, but now has my attention again. Truth is, our extended family, well, we're not all that close and some just met for the first time. If this does anything, let it bring us back together again because nothing is stronger than family. Blood or not. We're apart of a bigger family of Christ and that's all that matters as we pray fervently for Grandma, Dad and Traci. 
The three cancer fighting family members that need all 
hands on deck in support for them. 
As for my hands…
folded and begging God to protect us from any more diagnoses or diseases.



Friday, October 10, 2014

@#*$%!@* Is What I have to Say...



Our family can't seem to kick this beast. 
A few weeks ago while cutting my dad's hair, I noticed a black spot on the top of his head that was far from normal. (ATTENTION to all hairstylist's: PLEASE take a look as you cut your clients hair. You are the only one that sees top down.) I told him to immediately make an appointment with Dr. Bowden which he did…
melanoma.
Hearing those words are crushing and devastating. 
I was hoping it was black pen Myriam may have decorated on top of Papa's head. 
It's not.
We never know what the next doctor will tell us and have heard many diagnoses in the past 20 years from colon to prostate to breast cancer, lung, bone and skin cancer. It's no shock to our family any more besides the emotional weight it brings.
BUT, we have had one constant and that is Christ sustaining us throughout the years. No matter what, God has not walked away. I recently read a quote that stated:

  If God brings you to it; He will get you through it.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."   Psalm 23:4

And that is exactly what our family will do once more. Watch God bring us through this. We will stand together in support, encourage one another (I'm the family cheerleader), make the other laugh and help out where help is needed. My mom, well, she will do what she does best and keep on saying "Yes," to everything and everyone as she's my saint and inspiration. The kids, the distractions, will make Papa laugh and assist in getting his mind off the worst case scenario. It's a family affair getting through another small fight, but we have done it before in great fashion.

And if one diagnoses isn't enough for one family, why not test them with two?
Dad had his surgery this morning which went as well as possible. It only took about 45 minutes and didn't require skin graphing or a larger incision to be made. The kids made sure to bring some cheer with posters and cards once Papa was settled back at home.
It was on the way to Bellingham that my Mom let me know Grandma had gone to the ER with a possible hernia. If only it was that simple.
A CT scan revealed a mass of tumors filling the uterus cavity making things extremely uncomfortable for Grandma. Immediate surgery in Seattle will take place soon. We have our faith to direct us, our family to support us and a community of believers to cheer us up when smiles are the last thing on our minds. As Grandma said to me today, "If this is how the good Lord wants to take me, then so be it."

So, we armor up, gear up and get ready to fight cancer's butt…again. Addi is struggling to understand why everyone has cancer and without words, has fear of this hurting more people and herself. Gonna have to find some thick armor for the young ones with fear of this disease and the unknowns of not understanding at a young age why people have to get sick. This means lots of prayer and heavy armor.
I will have to come up with a new hairstyle for Dad in attempts to cover up the bald surgery spot and gather a squad of grandchildren to brighten Grandma's day. Maybe Dad will want Tim's do??? Probably not. 

 { Delivering some cheer to Papa after surgery. }


{ Another scar; Another story. God is STILL good. }

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken."   Psalm 62:1-2

{ Addi delivering some cheer to Grandma and making sure she knows she's loved. }

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Elements Hospitality Has Moved!!!

The day FINALLY arrived when the Element's team could pack the boxes and start the move to the new location at the Dutch Village Mall!!! The fork lift served a purpose as it seemed easier then multiple flights of stairs with loaded arms. It took everyone to make this a successful move. Brandon was the key player as he was, and still is, the Windmill fix-it guy. You may have seen him up high on a ladder, hauling loads to and from the hotel gift shop area back to the office where he had the major upper hand of making this entire project happen. Some may ask why it took so long? Well, take an old building, tear it apart and you will find surprises, dry rot, dead rats and many other unpleasant surprises that prove to be major set backs. 
The design team seemed to color coordinate their outfits for the day! (designers ;)
And to make things even brighter was the "Chalk the Walk" kids field trip where elementary grades make chalk pictures throughout town on all the business sidewalks. 
It was amazing to see everything find a new home so quickly. 
The first week in the office and the musical is wrapping up along with the Lynden Music Festival beginning. Already busy, busy! I don't even work here but I love the team that has made this company come alive. I'm SOOOOOOOOOO proud of My Love and the team of busy bees behind the scenes making it all happen. Thank you for letting me crash your moving party and allow me to hang out with such amazing people!
I will do my best from keeping Myriam's fingerprints smudging the desk and doors. If it does happen…it was somebody else's kid!!!


 { Element's Design Team }


 {Thank you Brandon for all your hard work! }

 { CEO, My Love & COO, Shane Bajema }

 { With the kids in Portland, I made myself busy helping. 
At least made it look like I was helping! }

{ Project Managers new office space upstairs. }

{ Breaking in the office with a beer and snacks. Well worth the celebration! }

 { Tim already busy at work in his new office. I LOVE the doors!!! }

 { My favorite: The wood wall! There's two more upstairs in the conference call rooms. }

{ First day on the job and a little welcome meeting to get the day going. }

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An Empty Tank with Tired Legs & .03 Away

{ Grace, Christie, Melissa, me, Holli & Julie }


A couple of weekends ago, I ran in my second half marathon! Running has become a way of life for me; mainly therapeutic. The problem is this…I get very competitive at any race and end up going out guns a-blazing in attempts to reach my mind-set goal. Last year I ran this same race in 2:09.10.
This year I had a goal of coming in under two hours and was a step away from making that goal:
2:00.02
Now, I realize I need to be happy with that time, and I am, BUT, being that close from making a goal has been eating away at me. 


Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance that race marked out for us."

I could not have asked to have better friends surrounding me on, and during, the race day. The three of us set out early to catch Jackie as she had just begun her 26.2 in the thick fog and on dewy roads. Thankfully, the sun broke free and brighten the morning up, warming us up too! Christie and I were both on the same page of meeting the under two hour marker. Without having "coach" by my side, I would have given in more to the mental game of running miles earlier. Together we kept an average pace around nine minute miles and a few even under 8.5! It wasn't until mile nine that my mind got in the way and really tanked at mile 11.5. Christie was so inspirational, sometimes too upbeat, but overall the exact person I needed to push me, coach me, encourage me and ultimately get me to the fitness shape I'm in today. Credit goes to Christie but the feet belong to me! The 13.1 miles went by quite fast as we pushed and challenged each other the entire way.

Reflecting on the scripture verse and my race time had me thinking:
We have one main goal as believers.
To stand confident at the pearly gates as Jesus welcomes us into Heaven.
Am I giving my all into my faith walk in order to achieve the goal? Am I living, training and executing my decisions in a way that will help me obtain everything God wants me to do in my life?
This is one goal that I (we) will never know what my (our) best time will be when viewed by day, month, and year splits. Terrifying really. But should it be?
I'm confident that I gave every ounce I possibly could on the last 12th street hill. I'm confident in my training and fitness capabilities and how they propelled me to shave nine entire minutes from my last years time.
I should be just as confident in my faith that I, without doubt, know where I am going after life on earth.

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:14

Whether your race is physical or spiritual, pick up the pace. 
"Trot, trot, trot!"
If you need a coach, just open the Bible or ask a friend to walk with you because it's much easier to race together than on your own. I pray that I was just as encouraging to Christie running besides me as she was and has been to me.
I think of my sister (Dad & Lorna too) as she fights against harsh conditions, but has the ultimate goal of overcoming cancer. That's a fight one can't fight alone. Raising our little family is ours to do alone, but a village behind us is due credit for the support and encouragement given to us as parents and then to the kids. No race is meant to be done alone! Jesus blesses us with friends and family for that exact purpose; life is a team effort!





I'm blessed with my crazy running friends and so proud of all of us and our extend E2 family that kicked butt on race day! We have our health to be thankful for and a finishers medal to prove that we did indeed run all steps towards 13.1 miles. (for the crazier one all 26.2 miles!)
Now to the next race…we really are crazy!!!

To be apart of the E2 Fitness Family check out:
www.e2fitnesscenter.com