Saturday, January 12, 2013

Park Play...IN JANUARY!?!

Yes. Today we went to the park. To play. Wearing shorts and t-shits, and breaking a sweat. It was glorious.
I took my camera along to capture some moments to remember. Mali makes so many faces, I call this her "Granny smile". She promptly laughs hysterically at me, laughing hysterically at her! Do you see why I say ALL the time "Ah, Aunt B could eat you up!". She is one little butter ball of love and happiness.

Little boys + puddles= hours of play.

Love Liam's mid air jump, and shadow that looks like he is flying!

This boy can make all kinds of faces too.
 Love this sweet smirk on his face.
It  was getting close to nap time, and he was just content to swing.

Mali giving Uncle B kisses...she "kisses" with her mouth open. Like she is going to bite your head off.
 It's hilarious! 
A sure fire way to keep the boys away when she gets older. We keep saying we will never correct her. ;)

Riley is at that age where it's really hard to get a "natural" smile.
Love that I captured this as he was running by me.

Jackson went around the ENTIRE playground, without touching the ground.
I heard many other mothers gasp, and whisper things like "Who's child is that? Way up there?"
I'm used to it. He is really good at climbing. And scaring other mothers.

Daddy was helping Elliott try to climb around too.

  (Mali's first time on a swing!)

 My niece LOVED hanging on this and spinning around! She was laughing she loved it so much! Don't worry, Uncle Brandon was holding on tight to her. (He never dropped any of our kids.)

Pure JOY!

Little fingers hanging on tight.

Playing follow the leader. I loved watching Riley actually be able to participate and PLAY!
 No more physical restrictions anymore! 
His little hands stretched out to "bawance" himself, does not get much more adorable than that. 

Elliott got tired, and spent most of the time in this awesome swing.

Seriously.This little girl is always smiling, and laughing! One Happy Baby!

Riley was being pushed by Daddy, and was going pretty high!

Elliott wanted to try it. He wasn't too sure. 

Our Clara girl can swing so high! I remember doing the same thing, and doing a back flip off the swing. 
And I wonder where my children get it from?

We had so much fun enjoying this unusually warm weather. The first of MANY park play dates this year!

Monday, January 7, 2013

All He Has Done...

Hello sweet blog friends and family!

Hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I took a break from blogging, to really focus on being in the moment. Completely present with my Children. Reflecting over the last year we have lived through, and slowing down to do so, has been so good.

I thought I would share a year in review.

 And don't worry, I will be sharing part 2 of our story soon. I didn't realize how much I still needed to process and pray over before writing it. The photos above we took on a beautiful afternoon, on a friend of a friends property. The most beautiful location! I will share more in another post.

The last year has been one of big changes.

The biggest was selling most of our possessions and moving to Georgia. The way God led us to where we are, is nothing short of miraculous. We stepped out in faith, and He showed up. The months leading up to the kids and I moving to Georgia were hard, really hard. Elliott was hospitalized, soon after Brandon left for Georgia. I realized that I can handle a sick child, the care of three other Children, and moving. I honestly thought to myself on many occasions "I can't do this. I'm not strong enough." But by the Grace of God, and an amazing support system of our church, family and friends, we moved.

 Upon arriving in Georgia, it became obvious that the house that we were moving into, had been smoked in, was run down, and the improvements we thought were going to be made or fixed, weren't. No biggie I thought. We can paint, and make it work. Two weeks after moving, Elliott spiked a high fever, and rash all over his little body. After a night spent in the ER with doctors scratching their heads, we were referred to Emory Children's Hospital. Needless to say, painting didn't happen. Nor did buying new furniture. To say we were in "survival mode" would be very accurate. Then, Riley fell, lacerated his liver, and spent five days in Intensive Care.

Having one child who is medically fragile, is one thing. 
To have two, found me saying "I can't do this". Once again. 

What made it all so much harder, was now we didn't have our village of support like we did in Indiana. Thankfully, my brother and his precious wife live right next door to us. They helped as much as they could. Strangers (like our neighbors across the street) offered rides to the hospital to pick up our van. (We rode via ambulance from a local hospital, to a children"s hospital.) My brother watched our other kids, nurses gave me food vouchers in the hospital, and a cell phone charger, as I didn't think to grab my wallet or charger when rushing to the hospital. God showed me through strangers, that you are never alone. He prompts others to help, when you can't ask for it on your own. But it was still so hard, and never have I felt more alone, than sitting by Riley's bedside, listening to the beeping of machines, watching nurses rush around the unit floor, while it seemed my world sat still. It was so scary, and I missed my family and friends more than ever. God even used a sweet lady working at subway to comfort me, when I broke down bawling after she simply asked "How are you today M'am?", she climbed over the counter hugged me and said "It's okay". Using the last of the cash I randomly found in my back pocket to buy a sandwich, she gave me a drink for free, I made the sandwich last for two days. I whispered as I walked across the street into the hospital...up to the intensive care floor..."I can't do this."

 I came home with our recovering little boy, and another starting medications to help with pain management for his diagnoses. To an empty house, that still stunk to high heaven of cigarette smoke. I was thankful my babies we under one roof, but depressed at the thought of living through the Holiday's in a nearly empty house. No matter how hard I scrubbed, the house smelled. No matter how many times I vacuumed  the carpet was disgusting. And considering the floor was the only place to sit, it was not very accommodating. I took magic erasers to every surface, in my way to "make this whole mess disappear".

Brandon was working long hours at work, six days a week. I was dealing with Insurance mess, follow up doctor's appointments, activity restrictions for Riley. I was feeling very alone.

Then a friend of ours passed away unexpectedly, I got the call while waiting in a hospital room for test results for Riley at one of his follow up appointments. My heart dropped as my Dad informed me that Julie had passed away. Suddenly all the tension and frustration I had from waiting forever at the hospital seemed to disappear  I had been thinking "I can't do this". So focused on us, and our struggles.

It was as if God gave me a good smack in the face. Like a "Life might be hard, but it's not as hard as it could be". Kind of smack in the face. I held back tears, hugged my babies tight. And resolved to do something for the little boys my friend left behind.

Months earlier. A blog I have followed for a long time, Kelly's Korner Blog posted about a friend of her's, who's husband passed away unexpectedly. I remembered it clearly because, he was young, and had everything going for him. In a way only woman can do, I put myself in her shoes for a moment, and grieved as I read Kelly's Blog.  She decided to host a card drive, and I signed up. I got a day assigned to me, and would you believe it's my youngest child's 5th Birthday. A day I could never forget. A day, I might not have been able to celebrate this year, had his accident ended differently.  I remember thinking "Wow, God. Of all the days. You must be up to something."

Little did I know.

Following Kelly's footsteps, I decided to host a card drive for The Rose Family. I contacted Kelly, and she posted a link to my blog. I also contacted a few other bloggers I have followed for some time. Once again, God showed me just how caring strangers can be. So many emailed me to sign up for the Card Drive, even more read the story, and prayed for them. Amazing. By focusing my direction on helping our friends, it helped me not focus on our situation.

One of the people who followed the link from Kelly's blog to mine, is a (now dear friend) named Stacey. She read through my blog late one night, in the bathroom of a hotel at Disney. She realized that I had just moved to her hometown. She read about our family. And left it at that.

As the day's and weeks went on, life was not getting easier. I was up most of the night with one child or another. Elliott in pain, Riley needing medications. I was exhausted. Part of the problem was that we only had one set of bunk beds. Two kids rotated sleeping on the floor. We had planned to get another set as soon as we could. But, medical prescriptions and co-pays were taking every last penny. We were paying our bills, but that was it.

Then a blog that I have followed for a while, posted about a special "forum" they would be hosting during the Holiday's. Monkee See Monkee Do. It's like a craigslist for people needing help, and people wanting to help can respond. After about five nights of little to no sleep, and Brandon and I stressing over how we were going to make things work. In my sleepless,stressed,exhausted state, I wrote an entry on the forum. Well, I wrote it about five times, would delete it. Re-write it, delete it. Finally, I just hit publish.

 It's really, really, really hard for me to ask for help. And putting it out there, for complete strangers to read. I clearly only would have done this, if I had been at a very desperate point. And we were.

I didn't get any responses, and actually thought (this shows you how  little faith I can have, "See, God, I can't do this, and now everyone knows I can't!".) The next day, I got an email from Monkee See Monkee Do. They said "Please check your spam mail, as some people who have g-mail accounts are not getting responses." So, I checked it.

And God said "Sooo, Remember how you said you can't do this? Well, I've been trying to tell you, YOU DON'T HAVE TO! I CAN!"

I was so humbled. Shocked really.

My spam box was filled with people wanting to help us. People all over Georgia, who wanted to welcome us to their sweet peach state, with love.

One of the ladies that responded was named Erin. We'll call her Atlanta Erin. She contacted me, and said she'd ask friends if anyone had an extra set of beds. She put a request out on face book. Explaining our situation. One of her friends, Stacey, yes the same one who had read through our blog weeks earlier. Saw the request. And put two and two together. Stacey lives in Atlanta, but she grew up in the same town we live in. And her best friend, who we will call Warner Robins Erin, literally lives right down the road from us. Stacey was coming to town to visit family and friends, and wanted to stop by, and bring her Mom and a Friend with her.

At this point I hadn't told Brandon what I had done. Late one evening, he walked in the door after a long day at work, and I shared with him what I did. He was cool with it, but a little concerned about a stranger, coming to our house. That I'd met on the internet. After a good laugh, about how crazy it was, he said "Well, it's not like we have anything of value for them to steal, tell them they are welcome to stop by".

So on a Saturday in November. God used three precious ladies who knocked on a door of a stranger, to remind me, once again. That when we say "I can't do this", He steps in and says "But I can!".

This group of woman, set their minds and hearts to action. They went above and beyond. Blessing our family with so much more than just beds, and material goods. With friendship, and love, and understanding. No judgment. And they would not stop, as in, I couldn't say "I'm fine",  or "We are okay".

Because they would keep asking, not in a prying way, but in a way that reflected Christ.

 In a way that said  "Your "I cant's", are safe with us, because together "We can"."

And boy did they ever. Our Holiday's quickly changed from, "Let's just survive", to "Let's Celebrate".
And that's why it's been a long time since I blogged. I've been taking all of this in. Waiting to share. Processing. Reflecting.

What started as a simple "Help", turned into a shower of blessings far above and beyond anything we could have imagined. What have I taken from all of this? That it's okay to be vulnerable, that there are SO many Good people in this world. That strangers can quickly become your closest friends. That God is moving, in every detail of your life. To step back and stand in awe of All He Has Done. That God's true Gift to us, is when He brings us to the end of ourselves. It is then that we can have a glimpse of all He is.
(My adorable niece and nephew,and our four babies.)

To the MANY people who have prayed for us, given to us, shown love to us. Thank-you. We love all of you, and are so very grateful for everything you have done! Consider this a big hug, and if you are ever in the area, we would love to meet you! May you be richly blessed in the coming year and always!
The Hartman Family