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To J, With Love

On Saturday my J passed away. Today is 2 years since Nan-Naw passed. I know they are together again and they must be rejoicing. I know that J is walking tall, confident, and pain free once more, as he did when he carried me on his shoulders when I was a little girl. In my mind I can recognize the goodness of his passing, but my heart is still broken.

 He is part of my earliest memories. I remember he and Nan-Naw pushing me on a swing. He was behind me and Nan-Naw in front. He would tickle me when the swing went back and she would tickle me feet when it went forward. We were all three laughing. I remember the warmth of the air and the feeling of being loved. This is one of my earliest memories.

 When I went to their house sometimes I would borrow one of J's t-shirts to sleep in. I remember how soft they were and how they smelled so fresh. I remember the way it felt on the top of my feet where the t-shirt hung to because it was so big on me.

 Through the years he did so many things for us. Once they took us 4 oldest girls on vacation to the Gulf of Mexico. They bought a box of peaches along the way and Nan-Naw was trying to get us to eat the peaches before they spoiled. J would slip us cookies under the peaches when Nan-Naw wasn't looking.

 I remember him sitting on the beach watching us play in the water for hours. His bald head and the top of his feet were blistered the next day.

I remember sitting on his shoulders to feed sea gulls and being terrified as they swooped towards me. I remember "betting" on horses with him at the races.

I remember him always being there. Patient, mostly quiet, through my entire life. Grumbling a little here and there as he patiently baited hooks for us and took us to the fair and bought Long John Silver's and took us to Pizza Hut and made shelves, doll cradles, and kitchen sets for us. But always, always ready to step in and do anything at a moment's notice if we needed anything at all.

And now he is gone. No amount of recognizing that it is better for him takes away the sting of the finality of death. But no amount sting and grief now takes away the hope that I will see him and Nan-Naw, whole and strong again some day.

Thank you, J, for teaching me about love and sacrifice. Thank you for your unconditional acceptance.   

Little Dancer

Last week we went on a cruise. Eliana, as is typical for her with new experiences, was full of questions and anxiety as the time to get on the ship approached. She even shed a fear tears as we waited while Keith parked the vehicle.

On that first afternoon, as we were delayed in port thanks to a tropical storm, there was a kick off dance lesson. At first she was just dancing off to the side, but soon she was right in the middle of it, keeping up move for move, jump for jump.

And she didn't stop when it was over. She kept right on dancing. At first a few people continued with her, but soon she was the only one. Occasionally, over the next hour and a half, someone would join her for a while, but most of the time she danced by herself. On and on, jumping, twirling, joyous and free from inhibition or anxiety.

It was a beautiful start to our vacation. And I think she danced all of her anxiety away, because we certainly didn't see it again.

Birthday Party Day for Annika

We don't do a lot of birthday parties. We have done a few through the years. Last year we did a big one for Eliana, but let the other children invite friends too. It has long been one of Annika's wishes to have a real birthday party.

So we just up and plan it and pulled it off. We kept it small, but we tie-dyed shirts and had cupcake and I think it was a smashing success judging by the pictures!

It was one of those good, old-fashioned invite a few friends over for cake and ice cream parties and it reminded me how much fun a few little girls can have together for an afternoon. We played a few games and had a treasure hunt, but mostly they jumped on the trampoline and played outside. It happened that we planned it for one of the few nice days weather-wise recently, so we were very thankful for that!

I believe my sweet girl is turning 11 in style. It is her birth-week and there are more fun things to come.

Family Day in DC April 2018

On Sunday we loaded up the crew bright and early and headed out to drive to Washington, DC. We wanted to get to the National Cathedral in time for their 11:15 service. (Douglas had to stay behind this time due to a busy schedule. I know it is inevitable, but this mama isn't ready to have a child miss out on a family day!)

There is something about a beautiful, grandiose building that stills the heart and reminds one how small and insignificant we are and how glorious God is. I do believe that you do not need impressive buildings to worship in, but sometimes having a visual reminder of God's glory can make for a meaningful worship service.

They had a special service in memory of Martin Luther King Jr's final sermon there 50 years ago on March 31st, just a few days before his assassination. We sat and listened to a recording of that final sermon from 50 years ago and many challenges rang just as true today as they did then.

After the service we headed to the National Zoo. Our main goal was to see pandas. We were wildly successful. They have beautiful displays indoors where you can just watch the pandas right there. It was so fun! We also saw elephants and lions and lots of other fun animals. I had so much fun watching the girls rush from animal to animal, Casper snapping pictures, and Freeland pointing out unique things about the animals.

Our next stop was the tidal basin to see cherry blossoms. After some intense walking along the road with a wheelchair experiences we were happy that the blossoms were truly at their peak and gorgeous!

Part of what made the day successful was that we took my wheelchair this time. Keith and Freeland wheeled me all over the zoo, along busy streets, and to the Jefferson Memorial. I could never have walked the miles we covered that day! But I am not used to being pushed in a wheelchair either. There is this trust factor that enters in and it can be a little scary. At one point Freeland and Casper decided to race. Freeland was pushing the wheelchair. Let's just say I haven't moved that fast in quite a while!

The girls got a little turn in the wheelchair. Keith horrified them by taking it down step backwards. Poor girls! :)
It was such a good day the whole way around.

Bonus Snow Day!

When you have a snow day after the official first day of spring, it feels like a bonus. And when it is a big enough snow storm to actually close school for not only the four younger kids, but also for Douglas, there is great rejoicing in the Martin household. Add in Chick-Fil-A closing for the day and Douglas having the day off and it feels like a true holiday.

I laughed watching the dog running after Freeland, the snow is deep enough that running is pretty difficult, but they had so much fun!

Eliana was just free-falling into the snow. You can do that when there is a foot of snow to cushion your fall.

We are thinking that we can probably count on at least a delay for school tomorrow. We are hoping anyway, not bad for a spring snow storm...

What They Don't Tell You

As moms we pass the wisdom down from generation to generation...

Don't blink... the time goes so fast... before you know it he will be driving or she will be going off to college...

In our hearts we know it is true. From the sleep deprived days of sobbing into the newborn clothes as we put them away and pull out the next size, we know in our hearts that these days are numbered. 

No one tells you that in the middle of a busy getting-ready-for-school morning. The youngest will take off the "rainbow dash" shoes she decorated for herself with such pride last year and announce that they are too small and she wants older kid shoes now.

No one tells you that those little shoes will be left there on the floor, in front of the heater where she always gets dressed, as if it doesn't even matter that she is walking away from the rainbow dash days.

We keep trying. We try to prepare younger moms for these moments. We keep passing on the wisdom in hopes that the next mom will slow down a little more, soak in the moments more often, say yes a little more often. Because one of these days no one in your house will say that rainbow dash is their favorite color.

I Am Chronic Pain

In the world of illness and diagnoses, we often hear the encouraging statements, "You are not your diagnosis" or "Your illness does not define you." These are helpful and well-meaning comments with a measure of truth to them.

There was a point that I said these things and felt good about the many things that I do in spite of my chronic pain. I mean, I travel to Asia every 6 months and survive an emotionally taxing and physically exhausting trip. I crank out those blog posts after long days in the orphanage so that everyone back home can follow along. My illness does not define me!

I get up every day. Fight the early morning pain; get the children off to school; then I sit down and edit photos, write blog posts, and post about children needing homes. I answer emails and send messages to potential families. I am not my diagnosis!

God sometimes takes his children on long, hard journeys. Somewhere in the past 4 plus years of constant pain, he started gently speaking to my heart. "Maybe I have chosen to have illness and pain as a defining part of who you are... Maybe you will someday see yourself as I see you and will see that I have chosen you to define grace through pain..." And I knew he was asking me to embrace the pain, to live with it well instead of living well in spite of it.

It has taken me a long time. But I am chronic pain. The fact of it determines my every move. Every activity is weighed against the toll it takes on my body, from my meager energy stores. I don't live my life in spite of it. I live the life I live because of it. I pray so much going throughout my day that Eliana began saying God's name as an expression because when I stand up or move I often say, "Oh God, give me strength" under my breath.

My family doesn't love me in spite of my illness. They love me through it, along side it, maybe even because of it. It certainly means I have more time to just be with them with nothing else going.

Embracing it opens me to accepting it. Do not get me wrong. If something comes along that would cure me or make my daily life easier I would sign up tomorrow and thank God from the bottom of my heart. And I do take strong pain medicines to help me cope with the pain. But for now, I accept it as part of the plan for me.

Chronic pain is part of me, embracing that is hard, but freeing. Learning to live with it graciously and well? Now that is an ongoing effort. I don't know what the future holds, but right now I believe that God is asking me to be the definition of grace through pain. All I want is to do so faithfully.

Over the last few years there are things that have become much clearer to me. Somehow my body is always pushed. I am always needing to push myself to do anything. This has forced me to take a good hard look at my life. What is really worth pushing myself for? There are a lot of things that make that list. There are also a lot of "obligations" that do not make that list. When an opportunity arises if my response to it is not an absolutely yes! then it is a firm no. I wish I had lived more of my life this way.

There is nothing like the emotional trauma of having a life-changing invisible illness to make a person look beyond what meets the eye in situations that come up. If you are hurting in any way, emotionally, physically, spiritually, anything I am so happy to be there for you. Any time. Any where. And I have most likely dealt with any loneliness or dark thoughts that you have faced. Chronic illness can send the mind to dark places. Thankfully God is a God of light even on the darkest days. I am learning this slowly, but I am willing to delve into the darkness with anyone.

But pettiness and drama? Count me out. My mind is too taken up with the difficulty of dealing with life to tolerate gossip or conflict over things that do not concern me. I am out of the loop. I live out of the loop. I need to stay there for my own wellbeing.

If God is asking you to do something hard, you can trust him. He has a purpose. Embrace it. Live well with it. And if you need someone who understands please reach out. Find me on Facebook or email me at Don't even hesitate.

Hi. My name is Erin and I suffer with chronic pain. 

Week At A Glance

Saturday is here with late get up times and pancakes for breakfast, with Freeland working at Chick-Fil-A and Annika at a friend's house, and Eliana and Casper doing chores around the house. This has been a busy week and I am glad to get to Saturday. Keith is working today, which, while not unusual, is the only fly in my ointment today.

I wrote this post on Tuesday morning. I thought the wildness of the day was over at 9 AM. Ha! Ha! Ha! That afternoon I waited for the girls to get home from schools and we left to go to the boys' basketball game. Only I put the wrong school in my GPS. So I drove to a school and there was nothing happening there. Panic ensued. But, other basketball mom to the rescue! I got the correct address and rushed to the correct location. By the time I arrived it was time to leave to get Casper and Annika to Myerstown so that they could go to choir practice with Keith. Casper changed on the way to Myerstown while I got lost in Reading. Only he left his pants at the gym where they had been playing. Fear not! Witmer's to the rescue! He likes his new jeans, so that is a win, right? Eliana and I went to Walmart from there to pick up a prescription and get some food for lunches. She is such a sweetheart and is always so excited to spend time with just the two of us. My heart rate slowly returned to normal as I strolled the store with her.

Wednesday started out great! Casper not only brought me my medicine at 6 AM, he also told me to stay in bed and that he would get the others up when my alarm went off at 6:30. There were easy things for lunches and the house was in decent order when everyone left at 7:25. That afternoon I picked Freeland up from school at 2:30 and went to get his physical then his written test for his driver learning permit. We waited quite a while at the doctor and squeaked into the DOT office 5 minutes before they closed. But we made it and he passed the test. We have a new driver in the house! While teaching a child to drive isn't easy I do love the chauffeur aspect of it.

Cell phone picture is all I have.

Thursday afternoon the girls and I went to the basketball game at school. It was the first time I got to see Casper play on the JV team,  which was super fun! The varsity game was incredibly intense. The score was so close and the BMCS team was playing so hard! They won by 1 point. The other team was ahead less than a minute before the end of the game. I may have been a little hoarse the next morning. I can't imagine why...

Friday the boys did not have basketball practice or a game so they came home on the bus with the girls. It was so nice! They love playing, but it does make them so much busier over basketball season.  I took Casper to get a desperately needed haircut and stopped at these helicopters on the way home to snap a few pictures. I also dropped Annika off at her friend's house where she spent the night. I am planning to pick her up in a few minutes. This is not something she has done much of at all and I have appreciated how her friend's mom has sent me pictures and videos of what the girls are doing. I can't wait to hear all about it from her when I pick her up.

Don't they look like they are having fun? 

And here we are at Saturday. Tomorrow we plan to go to church then go to a family get together with Keith's dad's extended family. Which means I need to get a hot dish and cold dish ready to take.

I am not a lover of busyness. This type of week is not my favorite. In so many ways we have rearranged our lifestyle to keep busyness at bay, but sometimes it can't be helped. Sure, we could decide that basketball makes us too busy, but it is not a long season and it is important to the boys. So I am trying to embrace the busier times in my life too. I always try to balance it with lots of rest and relaxing activities when we are at home, and am normally successful in doing that.