Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I love......

I love photography.

 I love capturing moments in my children's lives that I'll never get back again.
Sweet everyday moments that seem like they will never end, but quickly do.
Times that fly by in an instant.

I love capturing moments that others will cherish for the rest of their lives.
I love stealing love from the air and archiving it for a thousand years.
I love storytelling, especially about Jesus.

 I love watching other people's children grow.


 I love capturing words like "comfort" and "joy".
I love that I get to occasionally be a part of complete strangers' most special day and intimate moments.
I love capturing details.

I love helping people remember when.

 I love putting into photographs what could never ever be put into words. 

 I love helping people celebrate.

And sometimes mourn.
I love people.  I love Jesus.  I love photography.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I Cried

I cried.  One week ago tonight, I stood at the alter.  My arms were raised as my tears fell one after the other.  I was moved by the presence of the Lord and I was thanking Him for all He has done in the past few weeks.  Specifically, in my relationship with Caleb's birthmother.  He has given me His love for her.  And He allowed me to show her HIS love for her.  Truly, there is no better feeling.  He joined her into our family.  So I was praising Him.  I was saying how good He is and how much I love Him.  I cried out "USE ME, GOD. USE ME!  USE ME again and again.  I want to be USED BY YOU!"

Wednesday morning I sat in a church lobby during our Classical Conversations and fed sweet Caleb a bottle.  I got a text.  Urgent situation: Ethiopian baby boy, 4 months, special needs, need Georgia family NOW.  My mind began to race.  Who, Lord?  Who do I know that could take this boy and make him their son?  Better question is: Who do I know that WOULD take this boy and make him their son?  I began making phone calls, and networking like many others were doing on his behalf. 

Suddenly, I remembered my cry from the night before.  I thought, "Surely He isn't meaning us", but I bowed my head and prayed.  "Lord, if this is our son, we say yes."  Then I began to go over all the reasons why he couldn't possibly really mean us.  We have ZERO money left after finalization of Caleb's adoption last month.  We don't have an updated home study.  My husband will surely say no.  I have my hands and heart full.  We don't have room in our van for another person.  On and on.  I have 1000 reasons why any normal person would say no to this boy. 

But I'm not normal.  I can't say no to God.  I just can't.  He's the reason that I live.  Literally, he saved my life in 2000 when I flipped my car going 70 mph at midnight.  He saved my soul when I was 7 and asked Him to be my Jesus.  He has given me more blessings in one lifetime than any girl deserves.  He holds me when I cry and shows up when I seek after Him in the secret place.  He supplies all my needs.  He holds the master plan to my life and I can't say no to the only One who knows and holds my future.  I don't want to live a life saying no.  So I said yes to God and I texted Rich.

My precious husband, and best friend.  He loves the Lord and wants to please Him .  He's also the more logical of the two of us and I was counting on him to be God's no.  I texted him about this baby and he texted back "You know my heart.  Seatbelt is on, scared to death, but seatbelt is on!"  My heart skipped a beat.  I googled Pallister Killian Syndrome.  Oh Lord, surely this isn't your plan.  He could die.  He might not walk, or talk.  He has cleft palate.  He has a feeding tube.  I asked for more information.  Our home study isn't current.  Oh that's ok, in Georgia you can just complete it before finalization.  We have no money.  The attorney will wait a month to be paid till we can take a loan from our 401k and is willing to do the adoption for $2500 which is pennies compared to most adoptions!  We prayed.  I kept asking God for a reason we should not present our profile.  The only reason not to was fear.  God has closed so many doors to situations like these in the past 2 years for us that I cannot count.  He is able. 

I am selfish.  That is what I have learned in the past 6 days.  I want what is easy and fun.  I want what God wants but I want it to be sweet and fun and happy.  Like Caleb!  It's a joy and a pleasure to be his mommy.  It is not hard.  Really, it's not.  My flesh delights in caring for him, and for the other 4 children.  But this baby in Atlanta...he will be hard.  Caring for him will be a lifelong journey.  We would have to give up many things and it will affect all of us, and many more.  I found myself face planted to the carpet crying out to God many many hours this week in the middle of the night.  Praying for courage to go through these open doors.  Praying for a closed door if this was not His plan.  BEGGING for grace to get through these agonizing hours of satan torturing me.  God has taught me more about Himself in 6 days than in my entire life.  He has drawn me closer than ever and lifted me higher.  He has united us as a family.  We chose to show our adoption profile to the family.  At 3am I woke up and checked my email and immediately I saw the word.  CHOSEN.  Chosen to be a family to a beautiful 4 month old baby boy who may never utter the word Mama.  Chosen to love a baby not my own skin color.  Chosen to go beyond myself and care for someone else's needs for the rest of my life, or theirs.  Chosen to follow my Savior down a path that scares the daylights out of me.  Chosen for a greater purpose that is yet to be seen.  Chosen for the blessing that God has already named Isaac.

In the wee hours as tears hit my pillow one after another, not out of sorrow, but out of joy in His presence.....I heard the Lord speak.  "Because you have faith like Abraham, I have blessed you with Isaac."  Oh Lord of my heart, hear my cry and the cry of my family.  We will serve you all the days of our lives.  We will be used by you for whatever purpose you call us to.  We will love Isaac as our son, just as you love me as your daughter.  We will care for his every need just as you care for ours.  We will trust your heart and your word.  We will stand on your promises and receive the blessings you hold in store that we cannot even fathom.  Use us Lord.  Use us.

Hebrews 11:8-10
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance.  He went without knowing where he was going.  And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith - for he was like a foreigner, living in tents.  And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise.  Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

Our children are watching and learning to live by faith and not by sight.  They will not be harmed.  They will inherit our blessing.  They are learning, as am I, to work for the Lord with all of our hearts.  They are learning to put others before themselves.  We are so excited to welcome this precious, beautiful baby boy into our home and our hearts.  Please lift us up in prayer.  Pray for our transition.  Pray for provision of a large van and for all adoption expenses. 

My gracious friend started a fundraising site for us this morning and within hours the body of Christ has raised over $1400.  I cannot begin to explain the joy in my heart to see each name pop up, knowing you love and support us.  Whether it's $5 or $1000.....we are so blessed by your love.  Thank you to each of you who has given, and to those who have prayed for us for this past week.  Our hands and hearts are overflowing with love, joy and gratitude for the amazing things God is doing.  Here is the link if you feel led to give.  http://www.youcaring.com/adoption-fundraiser/help-isaac-home/97045

Check out Howell baby #6 !!!!!!!

Isaac Joshua Howell
(we will have him in our arms very soon, maybe next week and yes, he is 100% Ethiopian!)

Monday, August 19, 2013

It's not possible.

I waited anxiously at Caleb's bedside for the neurologist to make his appearance.  I had fought to even get a consult despite the ominous cranial ultrasound and CT of this precious baby's brain weeks before we arrived.  Essentially, they were telling me "you get what you get and you don't pitch a fit" when it came to adopting this baby.  We were okay with that.  This baby was our YES.  God said to go get him and we did.  However, in order to be his best advocates, we wanted more knowledge about what was going on in our little man's noggin.  We finally heard what we had been waiting for.  The ultrasound of Caleb's brain showed "prominence of the ventricular atria and occipital horns."  It also showed "punctate foci of echogenicity along the margins of the lateral ventricle raising the question of mineralizing microangiopathy."  What you ask?  Yeah, me too.  Furthermore, the CT of his brain showed "dilatation of the bilateral atria and occipital horns with basal ganglia punctate calcification and/or hemorrhage."  In fewer words, it revealed brain damage.  The CMV virus caused damage to his brain.  No one could give us an idea how this would affect him.  Wait and see. "Can any of that change?  The calcifications, can they go away?"  No, they said.  They don't go away, but our brains are resilient and can sometimes rewire with therapy and hard work.  I asked each neurologist that we consulted with.  No, they reiterated.  Calcifications don't just go away. 

So you can imagine my shock with the neuro office called today and said "Mrs. Howell, I just wanted to let you know that your baby's MRI was normal."  She said it as if this was everyday news.
 I'm sure the lady thought I was nuts.  I asked about 3 times, "Did you just say NORMAL?".  Then I had to further clarify..."Does this mean there are no more calcifications?" 
"All I am saying is that the MRI showed a completely normal brain for a baby his size.  No abnormalities."
At that moment my heart started beating fast inside my chest.  Again I reiterated my question, but with more detail.  "Caleb was born with CMV and he had calcifications on his brain at birth that they said can't go away.  Are you telling me they are gone?"
"I'm telling you the MRI is normal.  They would tell you if they saw anything abnormal."
I hung up and a smile lit up across my face at the realization that the impossible had happened.  Just like our Bible story this morning.  I spoke these exact words this morning to my children.  "It wasn't the small stone, the slingshot, or David's aim that conquered Goliath, it was the power of God."  And so it is with Caleb.  The power of God in and through him has healed my precious boy's brain.  And for this we give God all the glory and praise.  

Our 8 month old miracle boy.

Check out Daddy's logo on his shirt. "Rethink Possible"  Oh how we love our treasure.  Whatever the future holds, he will always be our miracle.  Through Caleb, God has shown us His nature as a loving, forgiving, sovereign, powerful HEALER.  This song is the very heart of our journey.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JI4CPfuLW0  You are I AM.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Looking forward

The world behind me, the cross before me.  No turning back.  No turning back. 

It's been over two years since God spoke to my heart about the little boy who we call Caleb.  I looked forward for two years with such great anticipation to this purpose and this plan that my Father told me about.  I waited with sometimes a great lack of patience, but mostly a heart full of hope for whatever this is that God is doing.  Now I see him.  I hold him.  I kiss his face and tend to all his needs.  I love him more than I ever EVER thought I possibly could.  His little smile reminds my heart of the joy that is found in being in the presence of the Lord and living in His will. 

But this my friends....IS hard.  Like putting Moses in a basket hard.  Because I don't know where God is taking Caleb.  I don't know what is to come or where we are heading in this life.  There are things I'm afraid of , things that I worry about.  Not that I should, because the Lord has given me a spirit of power, love and a sound mind....not of fear.  But I'm also living in an imperfect world where the prince of darkness has access to me and I allow his thoughts to become my own at times.

Everyone loves this precious baby and everyone asks how he is doing.  Usually I just smile and say that he's doing great, because he is.  I mostly keep the hard stuff to myself or my closest friends because there is just too much to explain in a 5 minute conversation.  I realize however, that many of you have invested so much time praying for our boy and even helped us to bring him home financially and I want you to have the truth about what we know so you can continue to pray for him, and for us.  We need your prayers.  Not just so that we can face this hard path physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.

As most of you know, Caleb was born with congenital Cytomegalo Virus (cCMV).  If you would like to read more about it you can do that at www.StopCMV.org.  If you are of childbearing age, I highly recommend you read about this virus and discuss it with your doctor.  Caleb was also born severely drug addicted.  We continue to wean him from a drug called Phenobarbitol for this reason.  Due to the CMV, drug abuse, and possible trauma during pregnancy, Caleb has some major things going on.  He was born with microcephaly (small head), blood problems which have resolved, and for lack of a better word, brain damage.  The ultrasound of his brain and CT scan soon after birth confirmed that he has calcifications (tiny white spots) on his brain.  The brain is so complex that they really cannot offer us any future expectations.  Many children with cCMV never walk or talk, but many do.  When we said yes to Caleb, exactly 6 months ago....we knew that we were getting on a boat with a completely unknown destination.  But we knew that God was in that boat so we jumped on. 

As we got to know our new baby and watched him grow, at first it seemed that he was going to be the exception to the rule and not have many effects.  Many of you have been wondering this as well, I know.  He smiles at you in the halls at church and seems to be doing wonderfully.  He IS doing wonderfully.  Here are the concerns, though, that have shown up in the recent months.  These are not a surprise to God.  He holds healing in His hands and if His plan for Caleb is for him to walk, then he will walk.  If his plan for Caleb is for him to preach, then he will preach.  As of now, Caleb is delayed on all his gross and fine motor skills.  His trunk support and muscle tone are weak.  He feels more like a 3 month old baby in our arms than a 7 month old.  He prefers not to bear weight on his legs, but is progressing. He is learning to sit and progressing slowly but surely.  He loves to smile and laugh and can be very engaging (especially if you are blond and female....), but I notice that he avoids eye contact many times.  He can be fixated on his hands, lights or playing with his hair.  All things adorable, but my discernment says these things are in excess.  He does not open his mouth for solid foods.  Recently, he has started having spasms that the doctor is concerned are seizures.  I honestly do not think that they are seizures, but we will be seeing a neurologist as soon as they can get us in.  He is farsighted, but otherwise his vision is great.  His hearing is perfect (which is a miracle in itself with CMV). 

Please pray for us to have wisdom about Caleb's treatment and care.  I tote him to many specialists a month and we are engaging in physical, occupational and speech therapy on a weekly basis (OT and ST begin soon).  School starts in a couple weeks as well so I ask for your prayers as I incorporate a baby into our homeschool day, along with the extra appointments and such.  Thankfully, Caleb is a very sweet, easygoing baby.  Our children have learned so much from this journey already, and the journey has only just begun.  Their responsibility, helpfulness, and love for those with special needs astounds us.  God has begun a good work in all of us, and we know that He is faithful to complete it.  There are also some really cool ministry opportunities with photography that I am looking forward to as well, so pray with me as I navigate the many rolls I am blessed to have.

My good friend Jackie spoke at church camp this past weekend about the coxswain in a rowing boat competition.  The coxswain is the one person in the boat facing the finish line, yelling directions and encouragement to the other rowers who have their backs facing the goal they are moving towards.  Jesus is my coxswain.  I cannot see the goal or the finish line, as it's behind me. I'm keeping my eyes on my prize. Jesus IS my prize. At the end of this race that leads to nowhere known to me, I will see Him face to face....and it will all be worth it.  The world behind me, the cross before me.  No turning back.  No turning back. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Have thine own way Lord

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

This song brings me back to when I was a little girl sitting next to my Mommy and Daddy in church.  The Spirit has been singing this song in my ear this afternoon.

I can't think of anything that this song describes better, than the adoption process.  It is long, tiresome, difficult, expensive, life changing, mind altering, heart racing, disappointing, and glorious.  Most will tell you the hardest part is the wait.  My closest friends will attest to the heartache that I experienced on so many days as God revealed a "no" to a particular baby or situation.  Each time I would question myself, my family, our adoption profile.....and wonder WHY we weren't being chosen.  Was is that we had 4 children?  Was it that we homeschooled?  Did they not like our home?  Did they think we didn't make enough money?  We were unattractive to them?  In my heart I knew that it was purely because God had a specific child for us, but try telling my mind that!  I prayed for God to close the doors that weren't meant for us, but every time He did I would be disappointed.  It's human nature. 

Then came Selah.  This time last year I was finding out I was pregnant with her.  I mouned at first, in the midst of the excitement.  I cried when Stephanie at the Down Syndrome Adoption Network called to tell me about a baby girl due in August.  I was losing a baby to gain one.  I was over the moon happy to be pregnant and yet surprisingly sad at the same time to not be adopting.  By 16 weeks I had reconciled it all and was just plain EXCITED for my baby to arrive!  Then she died.

Immediately I threw myself into updating our homestudy.  Out of obedience, and out of the need to stay busy and remind myself that God had a plan.  We endured 4 months of someone pretending they had a baby that they wanted us to adopt.  We prepared and waited for that long for a baby that did not exist.  Then we waited on multiple birth families to decide that we weren't the one.  I would cry each time. 

In December, the holidays were here, my due date was approaching and my heart was hurting terribly.  I was crying out to God to bring His plan to fruition quickly!  Two years was long enough!  I'm hurting Lord, hear my cries!!!  I was angry at times and I would go to the basement and cry out to Him.  He listened each time as I questioned Him and I'm sure He was whispering "He's coming my child....Caleb's coming."  And then a few days before my due date we heard about a precious baby boy.  He was already born and he had Down Syndrome.  He was in California, a beautiful Asian baby, and I just KNEW this was it.  God was going to do this thing....and on my due date!  He was going to reconcile it all for me.  Put a baby in my arms by the time Selah would have arrived. 

On my due date I once again locked myself in our library in the basement and cried out in anger to my ever loving and patient Father after I received my final NO.  I was just mad.  He had tricked me.  I was sad.  He had abandoned me.  It had been too long.  I was tired of waiting and losing hope.  I remember calling a close friend and saying "I don't think it's really going to happen". 

Meanwhile, a 3 week old baby boy sat in the NICU of a hospital in Florida.  God's angels were surrounding him telling him all about me.  How loving is my Father to allow me to yell and  scream and pout and question Him, and still give me this blessing that He had waiting for me.  I heard about Caleb on January 18th, 5 days after Selah was due.  He was a month old by then.  My heart had LONGED for that precious baby boy with Down Syndrome.  My plan was so awesome.  He was going to be mine!  But my Sovereign God, in all His power and goodness and knowledge said no.  Of course He said no!  I can see it now!!!!  I'm so glad He didn't hear my pleas for that baby and give me MY way!  I'm so glad He placed him in an amazing home with a beautiful family.  I'm so glad He urged me to contribute to that little guys adoption fund.  Mould me and make me.  Yes, Lord.  I'll give.  I'll help this baby go somewhere else when I really want him here with me.  Why?  Because I trust you, even if I act like I don't.  I believe in the moment I said that, that God opened the doors for Caleb to come to us.

Adoption is a journey, not just to a baby, but to the heart of God.  He has moulded me and tried me and I'm a work in progress.  It's so hard to be yielded and still in this process.  My hope is that those going through this adoption journey will find hope knowing that God has you on a journey.  His love never fails, so don't give up.  His ways are higher than yours, so don't lose hope.  His plan is better than yours, so trust Him through the tears. 

On that Saturday morning when the agency called me and I FINALLY heard God say yes......someone else was hearing a no.  Another broken heart...and her journey continued.  Today God put it all together and reminded me of His perfect plan once again.  It's a journey to His heart.

Please read my precious friend's post about my YES and her NO....and I hope it reminds you that His ways are higher.  Much love to every one of you on this journey.  May you know His heart even more.


One day, I will share her blog post with Caleb.  One day he will see how desireable and precious and needed he was.  And all those lies of the enemy about abandonment and being unwanted will be just that....lies.  Thank you my sweet friend, for sharing your heart, your hurt, and your journey to His heart.


Also, I'd like to mention that when I met Caleb's birthmother, she looked at me and said "Your profile was amazing.  I read it and was like...are these people for real?"  I almost cried right then as all the feelings of the past rejections came back to me.  I told her that after having so many NOs......that I was beginning to wonder if there was something seriously wrong with our family.  She responded with a smile, "That's just because it was just meant for me". 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dear Caleb

I've held you in my arms for 45 days now.  It seems like I've known you forever.  I've been thinking and praying a lot about what the future holds for you and your sweet life.  I've been thinking about where you came from and how one day that will be important to you.  It's hard to imagine you as a 12 year old boy, like Carter is now, and yet I know from experience how soon that moment will arrive.  One day, not too far down the road, you will begin asking me questions.  Questions that will allow me to tell you the story of you. Tears immediately fill my eyes when I think of your story.  Some people will tell you that you are extra special because we chose you, but we did not.  Don't get me wrong, I would have!  You were the most beautiful little 7 pound 4 ounce bundle and I was instantly in love with you when I saw you.  However, when I went in that room on January 21st, 2013 I knew that you were indeed chosen, by God.  You were our Caleb.  Your name was ringing on our lips and in our hearts for 2 years before our eyes fell on your sweet little face. You were set apart and chosen by God long before you even began growing in your birth mother's belly.  I have loved being a mother and giving birth.  Carrying a baby for 9 months and then seeing them for the first time is one of life's most amazing blessings.  I never imagined that something could be as precious and amazing as those moments.  In 2009, a few years before you were born, God began speaking to our hearts about adoption.  He would slowly open each of our hearts one by one to the beauty awaiting us.  God taught us about our own adoption into His family through Jesus and how beautiful our story is because of Him. He taught us that His adoption story is meant to go on and on.  He taught us about unconditional love and "special" needs.  He taught us grace and sacrifice through the love of others on our journey.  He taught us to grieve in His Presence after we lost your sister Selah, and to press on when our circumstances said "Caleb's not really coming."  He taught us to cry out to Him and to hold on for dear life to His every promise.  You, my boy, are His promise.  The fullfillment of His word to us.  Your life is proof of His faithfulness and because of you I see the Lord more clearly.  Where you came from is not a mystery.  You came directly from your Father who was planning for you for a long time and just waiting on our obedience and willingness to walk in His plan.  You are my blessing because I said yes to whatever God wanted in my life.  It seems backwards to think now that at first He called us to what seemed like sacrifice.  You are not one bit a sacrifice to us.  You are perfect.  You are everything we didn't know we needed.  You make our family exactly what it is supposed to be.  You were never unwanted, never unloved, and never without hope.  God's plan for you ALWAYS WAS and from the moment of your conception, I was your Mommy and I was waiting for you with baited breath.  You spent some time alone in the hospital and my heart longs for those moments but God used that time and the virus in your tiny body to make the way for you to be ours.  It was the plan all along, and I refuse to question the God who blessed us with you.  I know you will wonder about the woman who gave birth to you and about your biological father as well.  My prayer is that you will never feel anything but love for them, as they were chosen by God to be a part of your story too, Caleb.  I have only met your birth mother.  I am very hopeful that by the time you are reading this that you know her well and that your life is a blessing to her as well as hers to yours.  Meeting her was pretty indescribable, but I will try.  We met her at the hospital in Florida where you were in the NICU in the cafeteria on a Monday morning.  She is an absolutely beautiful lady.  She has the prettiest eyes and long brown hair.  She was warm and smiled graciously. We hugged.  I wish so much to go back and be there in that moment again.  To hug her again.  I instantly liked her.  She walked us up to the NICU and we had a chance to talk for a bit while they were doing paperwork before we could acutally go in your room.  We talked about how she loved horseback riding and how she enjoys making jewelry.  She is creative, like me.  I wanted to tell her the story of you.  I couldn't though, it wasn't the time.  I wanted to tell her how long I had been praying for her, and for her heart during this time.  I wanted her to know that I loved her, even though I had only met her minutes before.  How could I convey to her the amazing move of God on her life and ours in the few minutes we had together?  I couldn't.  I didn't even try.  She went in first to hold you and then we went in after a few mintues.  She was smiling with you in her arms and there was love on her face.  Love for us, and love for you.  We told her how beautiful you were and how thankful we were to her for entrusting us with your life.  She kept thanking us.  She was so kind and so caring and sweet to us.  She made the moment perfect.  We took turns holding you for the first time and then she took a picture of us together.  You smiled.  At 5 weeks old, you smiled.  She said she thought you knew we were your parents.  I think she was right.  We said goodbye and left her there to say her goodbye to you.  My heart hurt for her and my love grew exponentially for her in that moment.  I will forever be connected to her in a way that cannot be explained.  I love her and I think about her and pray for her multiple times a day.  God chose her to carry you.  It wasn't random and I can't help but wonder what blessings the Lord has in store for her life.  I hope that God reveals Himself to her and shows her what an amazing part of His plan she is. My sweet baby, as you grow, I am praying that God helps me to convey to you the beauty of your life.  When the enemy comes againsts you with thoughts of abandonment and sorrow I am praying that you will learn over the next years how to use the armor of God to do battle and after all else, to stand firm.  I pray that you learn the Word of God so well that it comes as no surprise to you that God has some amazing, not so ordinary stories like yours.  More than anything, I pray that you come to know your Father so closely that you never doubt His love or ours.  You are my promise.  You are my love.  You are my blessing.

Your birthmom took this picture of us.
             Some of our sweet time alone while you were in the NICU.

         You have a Daddy.  He's the best....but you know that by now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Loneliness and Locusts

Caleb loves music.  One of the main things that CMV causes in most cases is hearing loss.  I am so thankful that he can hear, and that he loves music.  It dawned on me that he has never heard music before, beside the loud dinging of monitors and the screams of other babies in withdrawal.  Then it dawned on me that no one has ever kissed his sweet face or held his head to bare chest so that he could hear a heartbeat. No one has oohhhed and ahhed over him.  Last night we had an amazing nurse and as she began showing us some things that the volunteers have brought for Caleb, my heart began to hurt.  We have a piece of green paper with his tiny footprint made into an ornament for the Christmas tree.  We have a crocheted red and white miniature santa hat.  We have bags of unused, unseen gifts from people with loving hearts.  But no one kissed my baby.  No one said I love you in his ear.  He's been fed and changed and even held by a few gracious volunteers.  For them I am so very thankful.  The realization that he's been here alone in a crib, in pain, with no one to LOVE him, kills me.  I can't describe what it's been doing to me inside.  I ached inside at Christmastime for Selah.  Just last week I was mourning her due date.  I was sitting at a baby shower for a dear dear friend hurting deep inside for my baby, the one in heaven and the one I knew that God had promised me.  At Christmas we had family in town and enjoyed ourselves.  Every day Cassidy and I would say to each other, I'm ready for Caleb to come.  I would cry out to God in bed at night and ask him why so long, why so hard, why this path.....why why why and when when when.  I would stare at the cradle in my bedroom and wonder if a baby would ever really use it.  For 5 weeks he's been here.  Since before I made my grocery trip for Christmas dinner and before our Little Proclamations performance.  He's been lying in a little bed, alone.  I've longed for him, and the nurses tell me he longed for me.  Each one that comes on duty says the same thing.  "I'm so very glad you are here, he's been needing you."  At first it made me feel good.  Now I just hurt.  I want the past 5 weeks back.  I want to be here for my sweet baby.  I want to kiss his face while he fights a burp and let him hear my heart beat while we sleep.  I want him to know unconditional love....and forget loneliness.  I want him to forget the rushed feedings and quick baths and know the loving touch and adoring voice of his mommy who has been wanting him SO badly for SO long.  So I struggle with loneliness.  Not so much mine, but his.  Today I was singing to him, and again the tears started hitting his little cheeks.  I burst into tears pretty much at the drop of a hat because I am overcome with emotion and love for this little boy who I had never even met 2 1/2 days ago.  Rich and I have always sung the same few songs to our babies.  One of them is "I cross my heart"...an older country song.  I tried my best a few times to get through it but it was almost useless, here's why: 

Our love is unconditional, I knew it from the start.
I see it in your eyes, you can feel it from my heart.
From here on after, let's stay the way we are right now,
and share all the love and laughter, that a lifetime will allow.
I cross my heart and promise to,
give all I've got to give to make all your dreams come true,
in all the world, you'll never find,
a love as true as mine.

As I struggled to get through the song today, the Lord dropped a verse in my spirit.  And now I'm okay.

Joel 2:25
The LORD says, "I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.  It was I who sent this great destroying army against you."

It was God's plan for Caleb to be alone for 5 weeks, because it was in that time that He would lead him to us.  And he will give it back.  I trust Him.