I can’t believe how much time has passed since our last update and since we got word that Lilyan’s surgery had been emergently postponed. It has been a long and frustrating few weeks as we’ve tried to get a new OR time scheduled for the three surgeons involved. I’ll spare you all those details.
In the midst of the frustration and normal life, though, some beautiful things happened.
One of the biggest highlights of the year was Raiza’s adoption. We still marvel at the miracles that brought this about and made this dream a reality. It still seems almost too amazing to actually be true.
After this we moved into the holiday season, and although there was plenty of stress (it would, after all, be impossible to do holidays for this many people without any stress), several of the kids came to us at random times to say that this was the least-stressed and most-relaxed holiday season they could remember having in quite awhile. Considering all of the major medical problems the family has had over the past three years or so, this makes sense. We did have an unusually low number of appointments and/or emergencies, and a lot of happy memories were made.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, our oldest son, Allan, and his wife and two little sons got to come home, and that was such a happy time for everyone. We got our first-ever photo of the two of us with all twenty-three of our children. Also one that included spouses and one with all twelve grands. We had hoped to get one of everybody all together, but by the time we got these three, the grandkids had had enough.
Then Christmas. It was such a special year this year as we celebrated Christmas with Raiza for the first time since December of 2000, and for the first time, ever, with our granddaughter, Jhannel. It was also our first time really to celebrate with our newest Godwin granddaughter, Evie. She was home just before Christmas last year, but seizures resulting from her traumatic brain injury made it impossible for her to be a part of our celebration in any way. Her new incredible neurologist, and the amazing differences that a loving family makes, both combined to change this little girl into a different child over the past twelve months. And while she still has many struggles, and while we all hope to see even more progress for her down the road, she was able to be a part of the family celebration in some ways this year, and we praise God for the miracles that made this possible.
And all through these weeks and months and special events, we’ve been waiting and waiting for a new surgery date for Lilyan. Since we didn’t know how soon this might happen, we have mostly maintained our family quarantine, which has been challenging for such a long period.
As I’ve said before, being away from church for so much of the past three years has been hard in many ways. We miss our church family, we miss gathering with them to worship and fellowship together, and we continue to look forward to the day when this current season in our life is past and we can, once again, attend regularly. But we don’t know how long this season will last. We trust God to walk alongside us until that day.
We still gather as a family on Sunday mornings in our family room, and as hard as this season is, and even though we would never have chosen this if God had asked for our input, it is so clear that God is doing some necessary and beautiful refining in some of our children’s hearts. We have seen, multiple times, that some of these works in their hearts wouldn’t have happened if not for these private and intimate family worship times — that this refining has actually happened because of special family gatherings and periods of teaching and sharing.
Then finally, this week we got the answer we’ve been waiting for. Lilyan’s so-big surgery will now take place (Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise) on March 20. So we will all start again with the process of preparing for the unknowns waiting for us on the other side of this risky and necessary operation for our girl. We are thankful for the relatively calm holiday season we had, and will always cherish the memories that were made over the past few weeks.
We, once again, ask for prayers for our hearts, the children’s hearts, and for Lilyan’s heart as we move through the next few weeks and then through this surgery and very long recovery. We are hearing much in the news about how terrible the flu is this year, so we will be continuing in as much of a quarantine state as possible. So just know, all of you who are part of our church family, that we miss you and look forward to being back with you when God makes that possible again.
I’ll close with one of my favorite Christmas stories from this year. Lilyan, just like all of her sisters, loves playing dress-up and getting all fancy for tea parties. We wanted to get the younger ones new dress-up dresses this year, but finding anything that worked for Lilyan’s deformed trunk began to look impossible. I spent four hours one day in early December searching the Internet and praying for something that would work. And then I found an amazing gal on Etsy. She offered to custom-make a most amazing princess dress for our Lilyan-girl and then wouldn’t allow us to pay for anything but the shipping! It turns out that she and her husband had already been considering adoption someday when their young biological children are older. And then even more incredible, this gal offered to help parents of other children with Lilyan’s disabilities by making dresses for their children, too. She and I are currently working on trying to make these connections between her and these parents. Divinely appointed connections are a regular part of life for followers of this amazing Father of ours. I so love watching Him work and cross paths and make beautiful things happen.
Lilyan was thrilled with her new dress when she opened it up for Christmas. I’ll end this post with a couple of pictures of our little Princess Lilyan.