Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Emma Leigh Elizabeth.

I sit here staring at en empty page, praying for the words of a story I never expected to write-the story of my little Emma Leigh. A story cut way too short, but a story of love, of risk, of healing, and of family.

I was on my way to hang out with friends when I got the call. There was a 10 day old baby, she was sick and had been left at the hospital. Must be HIV we thought. I immediately turned around, picked up my mom, called my friends to cancel, and went to go see the new baby. Little did I know that she would become my baby, or that she would change my life in such an incredible way.

We were soon told that is wasn't HIV, it was hydrocephalus. Knowing the surgery and special care this would require, I decided to take her home with me, so that she could receive one-on-one attention. As soon as I meet baby Elizabeth (nicknamed Lizzie) and I held her in my arms for the first time, I knew that she was something special, and the whole world started to see it too.

The following days were filled with trips to the city and doctors appointments, and the following nights were filled with cuddles and lullabies. It didn't take long for Lizzie to steal my heart. She quickly had me wrapped around her tiny finger as I argued with surgeons in order to get her the surgery she needed. I refused to allow her to be treated as less because she was a 'orphan', so I was nicknamed Lizzie's fierce mama by the nursing staff.

At 13 days old, Lizzie received shunt surgery.  Four days I spent in the hospital, each day falling more in love with Lizzie. Those four days turned into countless return trips to restitch a head that wasn't healing. The spinal fluid continued to leak out of her head instead of into the shunt. Doctors sat down with me, explaining that the prognosis wasn't good.


The words meant nothing to me as my head swam with terminology way over my head of diagnosis, and quality of life, and treatment, and feeding tubes.

One year, definitely not more, but probably way less.

I began to feel the weight of the words as the significance of them dawned on me.

All of over Facebook, people were following Lizzie's story, and praying for a miracle.

I was on my knees every night, praying and trusting in the only One that held the answers. This was not just the story of a girl in a foreign country. This was not just a diagnosis, this was not just a statistic. This was the little girl I held in my arms. This was the little girl that had stolen my heart long before I began to realize the risk of it. This was my reality.

April 14th, Lizzie had a court hearing. I became her voice when no one else showed up to speak for her. The judges, phycologists, and social workers listened and watched with wide eyes as the white girl with the Guatemalan accent told them that it didn't matter that the baby she held in her arms had special needs, or that she hardly had a brain, that despite the doctors saying that her life wasn't worth anything, this baby girl meant the world to her, and that she was so loved. That the value of a life did not depend on what you achieve. Because Lizzie didn't have a birth certificate, they asked me if I wanted to name her. I told them the name that God had long before put on my heart.

Emma Leigh.

Emma meaning "whole and complete" and "by the tree"

Leigh meaning "healer"

Whole and complete was what I prayed for her brain to be. I didn't understand what "by the tree" would mean until later.

Leigh was my mom's middle name that she gave to me as her firstborn daughter, and it was something I knew that I wanted my first daughter to have as well.

The next day Emma turned one month old. We had such a wonderful day with her as we took her to buy cute little dresses and soft blankets. She finally got the staples in her stomach out so she we gave her her first bath. That night we dressed her in purple with a big flower bow and took her to worship with some friends. And the night wound down the last song we sang was "Set a Fire"

The song goes: 
Set a fire down in my soul 
That I can't contain 
That I can't control. 
I want more of you God. 
I want more of you God. 

No placeI'd rather be. 
No place I'd rather be.
Than here in your love,
Here in your love. 

Getting the words wrong I held Emma close to me and sang, "No place I'd rather be than here in your arms." I guess she took my words seriously.

That night as we both feel asleep with her in my arms, she went to be in Jesus' arms.

The next day was a nightmare for me. Filled with a funeral I never wanted to happen. Filled with saying good-bye to my first daughter.

At her funeral, two passages were spoken over her:

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with the, and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for healing of the nations."

My little Emma was now by the tree of life. 
This last months has been filled will a lot of tears and a lot of heartache. I'm not sure how people are supposed to continue on with their lives after the loss of a child, because I still feel like I'm just barely going through the motions.
But through it all, I'd do it again any day. Emma changed my life. And she was worth every second. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

One Day-One Lunch-One Less

It sounds funny saying that God used a bowl of soup to change my life, but He did.

Looking back, that was the turning point. 

That was what God used to get ahold of me- a bowl of soup. 

When I was 14 years old, I was blessed to go to Ethiopia with my mom to bring home my adopted baby sister, Havyn. While we were there, a missionary couple took us to visit a preschool they worked with. They explained  how they were hoping to start a feeding program, because the kids were so hungry that they couldn’t even concentrate in school. 

As I looked around I saw poverty like I had never seen it before. I will forever have that image of those children, skinny and malnourished, dressed in tattered clothes, with their little bare feet dirty and scabbed, harboring a distant look in their eyes. It seemed that suddenly the things that used to be important to me no longer were. The thought of all the name brand clothes in my closet that I was so adamant about buying now disgusted me. I didn’t care anymore about having the latest technology. Being popular no longer mattered to me. All my ‘first world problems’ now seemed almost embarrassing. 

I didn’t want my life to go back to the way it was before. I couldn’t forget what I had seen and I had to do something about it.

Proverbs 24:12 “Once our eyes are opened we can’t pretend we don’t know what to do, God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows what we know and hold us responsible to act.”

At age fourteen, in the worlds eyes, I didn’t have a lot to give. I didn’t have a job or much money.  I really wasn't qualified in anything. I was just a kid.  But as I prayed, God showed me that I did have something to offer. 

Just before my freshman year of high school, I approached my mom and asked her if instead of buying the school lunch every day for $2.50, I could instead make a small bowl of soup, much like the kind that was served at the feeding program we had visited while in Africa, The soup cost about 78 cents to make and I could then donate the remainder of what I would have spent to the preschool in Africa. She agreed.

So while everyone else in the 9th grade was trying to be cool, I was getting made fun of for the soup I brought every day and for the way it smelled. I guess it was a good thing I had already decided that being popular didn’t matter. :)

 After months of eating soup, a couple of friends decided to join me.  This got me to thinking that if  a group of us would join together and give up our lunch money, even for one day- what a huge difference it could make. So I began to pray. On the 100th straight day of my eating soup for lunch,  I asked everyone I knew, posting on facebook and blogs, to join me for just for ONE DAY. For just ONE LUNCH.

And so, the One Day-One Lunch program began. 

God used the little I had, and He multiplied it.

On Feb. 3rd, 2011 over $6,000 was raised by people all over the world giving up their lunch to give hope to those in need. And at the age of 14, God showed me that He can use anyone if only they are willing.

Just like the little boy with the 5 loaves of bread and two fish, God showed me that when you give what you have, even if it doesn’t look like much, he can use it, and it will multiply. 

Everyone has something to give-even if it’s just your lunch. 

This February 3rd will be the 5th annual one day-one lunch program. Five years ago, God used a bowl of soup to change my life. This year, will you let him use your life/your lunch- to change another? 

Will you join us in giving up your lunch for just one day and instead donating the money you would have used on your lunch that day to help prevent one more child from becoming an orphan?  The money raised this year when you give up your ‘lunch money’ will go towards Village of Hope’s Pure Hope program which aims to keep families together by teaching mothers to care for and provide for their children. 

Grab a group of friends and (don't) do lunch. Instead, let Him use you to do big things in the life of another. 

To donate your lunch money this year visit: