Because God loves me, He may give me Alzheimer’s

I don’t remember when my mom first starting showing symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s. I think it was when I was away at college. Regardless of when it began, it’s in full force now, daily degrading her brain, her ability to remember, her ability to think clearly, altering pieces of her personality . . . erasing what makes her her.
Early-onset describes a type of Alzheimer’s that usually begins as early as your forties and is genetically passed from one generation to the next. For me, according to what I’ve read, it means a 50/50 chance that I’ll have it. It’s like a dark cloud that looms overhead, at times storming against my heart and stirring up questions . . . “Will this happen to me?” “I can’t remember where I put my phone . . .is this how it starts?” “How am I going to take care of my kids? How hard will this be on Halim?” I’ve passed many dark days filled with the fears of what could begin a decade from now.
I start to pray, “Lord, protect my mind. Lord, keep my memory.”
But, in my heart, I know that my loving heavenly Father may hear those prayers and answer, “No, My child.”
So, what do I do as I face the truth that my God may have plans for me that include Alzheimer’s?
I read Romans 8:28. I think about what it means. I journal about it. I pray it. I tell it to myself over and over again. God works all things for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.
 
Because He loves me, He may give me Alzheimer’s. Because He has my good in mind, He may take my memory. Because He has called me according to His purpose, He may walk me down this road of loss.
Because God’s greatest good for me is not in my remembering who I am, or who my husband is, or being in my right mind to care for my children and grandchildren, or being able to drive myself or clothe myself or feed myself. His greatest good for me is that I would trust Him and be satisfied in Him for all eternity.
And sometimes the path to trusting Him and being satisfied in Him is not the one we desire. It isn’t the one that “feels” good or easy. Abraham and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and David and Jeremiah and Isaiah and Hosea and Mary declare to us that we may limp our way down the narrow road to eternal life. After all, that life was purchased by a Savior that walked down the hardest road and paid the highest price, though His heart had cried out, “Lord, let this cup pass from me!”
My hope is not that I will remember Him, but that He will remember me. He may take my earthly mind so that He may grow in me a dependence on Him like I have never known, a humility of heart that I desperately need, the removal of approval that I seek from people based on how well I can think or teach. He may take my memory as a means of saving me.
So, tomorrow when I wake up and can still remember, I will ask God to keep me remembering. But, I will also ask, “If it is Your will that I forget, make my heart still trust in You. Help me to believe You are  forever intent on doing what is good and best for me.”

teaching little hearts to face fears

A few weeks ago, my husband went across the ocean on a plane. This wasn’t the first time, but I guess to my kids, it finally clicked that he was travelling a long way to places with strange foods and different words, and they were scared. As I put them to bed the first night, I was met with tears and cries of, “We don’t want him to die!”

Startled by this response, my immediate thoughts were how to dial this frenzy down a notch. I considered talking about the statistics of air travel or the relative safety of the countries he would be visiting relative to war zones. I opened my mouth to recount a list of his travels from which he had returned safely.

But, in my heart of hearts, I have the same fears. I worry about my husband leaving and never coming back. I dream of waking up to an early morning call with tragedy on the other end. And when the dread rises in my heart and leeches onto my mind,  logic and facts are poor anchors. I instantly recall all the instances that planes do crash and people are mugged and shot and daddies and husbands don’t return home. The only hope that calms my anxious heart isn’t bound up in statistics, but in sovereignty.

So, I looked at these three little faces and told them the truths that I have to tell myself every day.

“Guys, I know that you are afraid, but remember what is always true:

God is in control. 

He is good. 

He loves you. 

We can trust Him.”

While odds were favorable that their abba would have a good trip and return home safely to us, I didn’t want their hope gambling on odds. I want their little hearts to learn – whether daddies come home or not, whether the days overflow with great joys or crushing sorrows, even if uncertainties increase – the things that forever remain true are: God is in control. He is good. He loves us. We can trust Him.

These are the things that they will need to fight off the lies of sin and fear for the rest of their lives. These are the truths that Adam and Eve desperately needed in the Garden to fend off the temptations of the deceiver. These are the truths that I attempt to grasp a thousand times a day.

The tears didn’t completely disappear and the little faces didn’t immediately brighten into smiles. Maybe they would have if I had just thrown the statistics their way. But, my hope is that, by God’s grace, something more lasting is being built– an unfailing trust in our unfailing God.

the marks that cannot be undone

Looking down at my side, I see the faint etch of white lines, looking as though I was clawed by some wild animal and the scars have faded with time. Taking both hands, I push in on the side of my waist, only to find, yet again, that hip bones cannot be pushed back to where they used to be. Childbirth has changed me.
Whatever may happen to me the rest of my life, I will bear all these markings of birth on my body. If I were to die and many years from now, my corpse was exhumed and examined, my remains would testify that I had been pregnant and born children. Some things can’t be undone. A body that has birthed children cannot lie.
So much of me wishes that these changes could reverse to pre-birthing state. No stretch marks tattooed across the midsection. No loosened tendons and ligaments that catch and ache and cause me to groan. But, my body continues to say, “This is a womb that has carried children. You cannot erase the memory of such a thing.”
But, today as I was thinking this, I also thought, “And didn’t God design it that way? And is He telling me something even more? Is He showing me that even this tells me a story of my Savior?”
We read of doubting Thomas and see that he reached out his hands so that he could poke his finger into the hole that remained in the side of his resurrected Jesus. The indention was real. Thomas could graze his fingers across the wounds in the hands and feet where nails had pierced flesh and bone and secured Jesus to the cross. Thomas could see and touch the remnants of that suffering. Why would the Body of Christ bear such marks after a bodily resurrection? Why would He continue to wear such scars?
A body that has brought forth children will always bear the markings of it. Through the pain and agony of death on the cross, Jesus brought forth many children – the sons and daughters of God; a people for God’s own possession.
Jesus carried in His Body the burden of us, and with His death and resurrection He gave us life. To this day and forevermore, He bears the marks that all of this is true. A hundred thousand years from now, we will still be able to reach out our hands and touch the place in His side that was pierced by the sharp spear. We will look upon the marks in His hands and feet where the nails hammered through Him. In His resurrected body, we will forever behold the markings of a Savior that brought forth a people for God.

feeling pregnant with our adopted son

I remember my first pregnancy. My now 7 year-old son was on an ultrasound screen; a tiny blinking shape on a black and white palette that could have been a Rorshach test. I see a peanut? Maybe a little pond in the middle of a landscape? I knew he was a baby, but I didn’t know him. I was excited about this new person growing inside of me and I loved him because I knew he was mine. But my heart still lacked a lot of attachment.

Over the course of weeks and months, this changed. I would pray with a hand across my growing belly and the excitement I had initially felt morphed into an eagerness . . . When will I get to meet him? I can’t wait to hold him. I would talk and sing, knowing that little ears were sprouting on his head and he could hear me. I would sit in the recliner in his nursery and cry (pregnant women are very hormonal) and ask God to help me to be the mother that this little boy would need. And when I was finally full-term, nearly bursting from baby and fluid and whatever else was in there, I was ready for the pregnancy to end. I wanted to birth this child. I wanted to see his face and hold him in my arms.

So far, our adoption feels a lot like pregnancy to me. In late November, we were matched with our son in Korea. He was six months at the time, but the only photos currently on file were of him at one month. I looked at those pictures and had so much excitement, but it was sort of like looking at the blinking peanut on the ultrasound screen. This wasn’t what he looked like now. And as much as I could look at that picture and read his medical files, I couldn’t really imagine who this little guy is.

He is mine, and I love him … but my heart is lacking a lot of attachment right now. People regularly ask me, “Are you so sad that he isn’t here?” I felt guilty at first for saying, “Not yet.” One of the adoptions I watched up close was a dear friend who was able to visit her son many times over the course of their adoption and each time she had to leave him in his home country and come back to wait on all the paperwork and legal parts to be finished, her heart seemed as if it would rip in two. She was living in two worlds – one here with her family, the other with her son who was waiting for her in an orphanage. I expected my heart would feel like hers as soon as we were matched with a child, but it hasn’t. Our adoption is different than hers. I am different from her. Our son is in a different situation than hers. I am guessing that adoption looks different for almost everyone.

Right now, we are waiting. It will likely be 8 or 9 months before we get to go to Korea and meet our son for the first time and then another few months before we get to pick him up. In the meantime, I will ask God to do what He was so faithful to do in each of my pregnancies . . . Father, attach my heart to this child. Grow him to be healthy and strong. Make me into the mom that he will need. And I hope that when the time comes, when this “pregnancy” is finished, my heart will yearn for it to be over – I will be longing to see my son’s face and hold him in my arms. I will be eagerly anticipating my son.

Happy New Year. We have a son in Korea! Wrapping up 2014.

Well, let’s just knock out several birds with a single post, shall we?

First, happy 2015! We crawled to the end of 2014 with a house full of stomach bugs and runny noses, but we made it through and are glad for a fresh start.

Here is a family photo taken by my friend, Julie, to end 2014:

9

This will hopefully be our last photo shoot as a family of 5 . . .

Our exciting news is that we have been matched with a son in Korea! Our match occurred in December and we are now working on the next stage of paperwork to bring our baby home – which will hopefully happen by the end of this year. I’ll write more soon about all the emotions that have gone along with this, and so many things the Lord is teaching us through it. I would love to tell you about our little boy and show you what he looks like, but it will all need to wait until he gets home and all is official.

Now, I am an inconsistent blogger. But, I love to do end-of-year wrap-ups so here are the top 5 posts from this blog for 2014…

1. The Hope of Imperfect Moms. This post is just as relevant to me this morning as when I first wrote it. There is so much hope found in knowing that God is using all the ways that I fail to show my kids more about who He is – gracious, merciful, mighty to save.

2. The House of Mourning. Here is a reflection on what it was like to walk closely with friends who suffered great losses this past year.

3. The Broken Bow. Another parenting post – about how Halim and I are learning to help our kids experience small losses and hope to point them toward Jesus in the process.

4. Parenting Failures at the Chick-Fil-A Playground. This was actually a post from 2013, but that Chick-Fil-A playground just continues as the battleground for approval, doesn’t it?

5. Serving Others when You have Little Ones at Home. Having babies and toddlers is such a special and distinct season of life. This was a list of a few practical ways to serve others while in this season, if anyone was on the lookout for some ideas.

when faith laughs

We are nearing nine months into our walk down this path of adoption. Many days, I look around at the chaos of my home: the piles of laundry and floor filled with strewn toys. I hear the yelling and tears of my children as they fight over yet another Pokemon card or someone “accidentally” ninja kicks someone in the face. And I think about another child joining our family and I laugh – not the gentle joyous laugh, filled with twinkling eyes and fond dreams – but the sarcastic half-delirious cackle of a madwoman. Really, Lord? You want us to add another child to this chaos? Really?

 I think about my sister, Sarah – the wife of Abraham – who looked down at her 90-year-old sagging body and silent womb and let out a similar laugh. Really, Lord? After all these years? When Abraham is 100 and I’m nearly that – you’re going to fill this belly with a child and I’m going to be a mother? As she listened by the tent door to God promise a child to Abraham, her heart was maybe too sad, too cynical to hope. But, Hebrews 11:11 says of my Sarah: “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.”

In her doubts, God came and met her. Why did you laugh, Sarah? Is anything too difficult for Me? I will come next year, you will have a son. And Hebrews says that she considered Him faithful. Maybe her heart was still plagued with doubts, maybe through those early months she still rubbed her wrinkled stomach and cried because it still seemed impossible. The Bible doesn’t say Sarah had great faith, or trusted perfectly. She may have wavered each and every day . . .but it reads that in her heart there was faith in the One who was Faithful.

So, here I am – looking down this road and wondering what it will look like to become a mother of four children. I wonder how I will love each of them and give them the attention they will need. I wonder how I will endure the increasing number of sibling frustrations and talks about sharing and pray even more prayers for peace and unity. I wonder how I will cook and clean and launder the clothes for a family of six. I wonder how I will be a mom to a Korean child that looks at me and sees no physical resemblance.

But, though my heart swims with doubts and my mouth sometimes erupts with cynical laughter, I know that God is faithful. If He has called me to this, He says that He will do it. That He will give all the grace that I will need, day in, day out. I pray that one day in eternity, it will be said of me as it was said of Sarah, “She considered Him faithful who had promised.”

building Wicked anticipation

Last Christmas, Halim got tickets for my five-year-old daughter and I to go and watch Wicked. I’d seen it before and LOVED it and couldn’t wait to share it with her.

I believed she would love it, but I wanted to prepare her as much as possible so that when the day actually arrived, she would have this great anticipation and excitement because she was walking into the theater with all sorts of hopes for what was in store.

We started by reading The Wizard of Oz and introducing characters like the Wicked Witch of the West and Glenda the Good. We then watched the movie and saw the Emerald City, the Wicked Witch’s green face, her flying monkey henchmen. My daughter listened, she watched, her excitement began to grow. She asked questions, commented on things that were different than the book, talked about her favorite parts.

Then I bought the soundtrack to Wicked. We started listening to it in the car and almost immediately she was singing along. The songs taught her new things about the story and  we had endless explanations about “back stories” and what perception is and why it matters. Daily, she began to ask me, “How many more days until we get to see Wicked?!”

Finally, the day arrived. We walked into the theater and sat down. She asked an endless stream of questions as we waited for the curtain to rise. “How is Elphaba going to fly? Why will Glenda not go with her if she’s her friend?” I smiled and kept saying, “You’ll just have to wait and see.” The curtain rose and she began to watch the story unfold, pretty mesmerized, a little overwhelmed. Leaning over to my ear, she would whisper, “When are Glenda and Elphaba going to become friends? When is Defying Gravity?” She wanted to see it. She wanted to experience it. She had longed for these things and now they were here. My heart was soaring because I was getting to share this magical moment with my daughter – what I had wanted her to see all along was finally unfolding before her eyes. I spent as much time watching her reaction as I did the performance and got so much joy from showing her something I loved so much.

I keep thinking about my heavenly Father. How He has planned this great Day for us where His Son returns and He reveals our eternal dwelling place, the new heavens and earth. How His heart longs so much to show us Himself and what it will be like to be there with Him. He has such anticipation of it and longs to share it with us.

In preparation for that Day, He wants to build our anticipation of and longing for it, for Him. God gives us His Word so that we can read about what is going to happen, what it will be like. He gives us songs to sing to prepare our hearts. He points to the reality that will be in a thousand ways every single day in His Creation. We whisper to Him, “When is Jesus coming? Is the Day almost here? What will our new bodies be like? What will the new earth feel like? What will your face look like when we see it?” Wait and see.

Our Father anticipates watching our faces light up with delight, as He rejoices over sharing with us what brings Him so much joy: Himself.

why we are adopting

Ephesians 1:5-6 reads, “[God] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Before we even got married, Halim and I have had adoption in mind. This verse spoke to both of us about our God, before He had even formed the world and spoken an atom into being, was already planning how He would adopt people from across ages and locations and cultures to belong to a family . . . His family. To be His children. Co-heirs with His Son, Jesus.

And though we were far off, He came and sought us. One by one. At a great cost to Himself, He sacrificed His Son to make us His. And now He is intending to bring us to our forever Home.

When we think about the Story that has been written across eternity to create the family of God, it has done something to our hearts. We long to adopt and live out this picture that we have seen in His Word.

We believe that God has called us to adopt from South Korea, the country where Halim was born and lived until his family moved to America when he was eight years old. The application process began for us in March of this year and, to date, we have completed our home study and are waiting for the report to be finalized and sent to Korea at which point we will be matched with a child. Based on information from our agency, we are expecting the full adoption process to take approximately two years and at its end, we will likely bring home a boy, around the age of two, with some level of special needs.

Right now, we are in the process of waiting – but we wait with great hope. We trust that out there, likely recently born into this world, there is a small baby that God has always planned to be ours. Just as He planned and brought our three biological children into this world to be part of our family, He is doing the same right now – ordaining every single step to lead us to the child that is ours. We look ahead at the obstacles, the government documents, the large financial payments, the fingerprinting, the social worker interviews, the travel . . . and these seem large and weighty. But, we have seen that our God has been faithful in the past – each time – to put into our family the three children we already have, so we trust going forward that even though this looks much different, the God we serve is great and He is faithful and He will surely do it.

We are thankful for each of you that He moves to give to be a part of this story. We are thankful that we will not be alone in this story of adoption, but that it will be the story of a community of people coming together to bring a child into a family. Because that, too, is a picture of how God is building His own family of children. That He is working through His Church, moving through His Body to share the Gospel and give of resources and serve and teach – so that He can call each of His children, one by one, into His forever family.

If you feel led to give and support us in bringing our child home, please check out our family page at ABBA Fund where you can make a tax deductible donation.

Thank you!!!

The Suhs

talking with our kids about death

Death has walked closely with us these past nine months. In its wake it has left a widow and her young son, taking her husband, his father by bullets in Libya. A rare and aggressive cancer was diagnosed and quickly claimed the life of a two-year-old boy during the course of a three-week hospital stay. There have been tears, hospital visits, funerals . . .

So, we’ve had many conversations about death with our kids (ages 6 c 5 and 3) and we’ve focused in on a few things:

1. Because sin entered the world and broke everything, we all will die one day.
 
Death seems unnatural to all of us. It doesn’t feel “right”. And those feelings are correct. When God first created Adam and Eve in the Garden, there wasn’t death. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve disobeyed and sin entered the world that death came as one of the consequences of sin. We use the words, “we sinned and sin broke everything.”

And part of that is that now we will all die – Adam has passed along to every single one of us a sin nature. We describe it to our kids as all being born with bad hearts.

2. Although death will come for us, it does not have to sting.
Though we will all die, what happens to each person after death is not the same. We talk to our kids about heaven and hell as real places. We share the Gospel and how Jesus paid for our sin to give us new hearts that love and trust God. And, for those who have new hearts, death is the end of this physical life, but it is the beginning of something new and amazing. We tell them that if Halim and I die, that they don’t have to worry about us. They can trust that we will be with Jesus. They know we will be safe and happy.  

But, that isn’t true of everyone, because not everyone will trust in Him. Not everyone will have a new heart that trusts and loves God. And there is a real and painful eternity waiting for those whose sin has not been paid for.

3. Jesus will return and all things will be made new.
We don’t stop simply with talking about us dying and going to heaven because the Bible doesn’t stop there. We tell our kids about the fact that Jesus is coming a second time. That He will give new perfect strong healthy bodies to all of those who believe in Him. This heaven and earth will pass away and God will make a new heaven and a new earth. That we will be WITH God and be able to see Him and know Him in a way that we never have before.

This has been my favorite part of talking about death and what is to come, because the imaginations of children are amazing. While watching t.v., my oldest saw a cheetah and said, “I can’t wait to ride on a cheetah when Jesus comes back and we are on the new earth.” Then they talk about all the animals they are going to be friends with and how they are going to ask God if they can fly. My daughter says that she wants Jesus to come back right now so that we can go there.

I would love for them to grow up trusting that, even at this young age, death can be without sting – because it’s merely the door through which we must walk to get to the great and glorious End. I would love for them to begin dreaming about what the new heaven and new earth could be like with their lovely childlike thoughts. I would love for them to hope in the coming of Jesus because they honestly believe that He will come and make all things new, all things better.
But, to talk about all that is to come, it means first talking about the difficult things – pain, death, loss. And while my heart aches to think about my kids experiencing those things, it is nothing compared to how my heart longs for them to hope in the return of Christ.

serving others when you have little ones at home

Ah, I feel I am just now emerging from the great fog that surrounds moms with newborns and toddlers at home. My kids are now 6, 5 and 3 – which means that we survived days with three kids ages three and under. I’ve watched some old videos recently and thought back to those days where showers were few, the house was a constant disaster and more often than not there was spit-up on my clothes or in my hair (so gross).

I know those days are often difficult,  lonely, mundane. I had many days where I just felt like I was operating in an isolated bubble, disconnected to everyone. I wanted to still serve others, but what could that look like with these littles in tow?

Here are a few things that worked for me in this particular season:

Pray. I know, that seems so simple, right? Honestly, before I had children, I don’t think I really had much faith in or understanding of prayer. The book, A Praying Life by Paul Miller, was so helpful in getting me started. When you are stinky, sleep-deprived and bound to your couch while you nurse your infant, you can still pray. As you scan through Facebook and read status updates, you can pray. When you are up at 4 a.m. and all is quiet, you can pray. As you are walking around your neighborhood pushing the stroller along, you can ask God to move in the hearts of these people. Anywhere and at all times, we can pray . . .  and God has so much that He intends to do through the prayers of His saints.

Write encouraging letters, texts and emails. I want to do such a better job at this. In just a few minutes, you can write thoughtful words and send them to someone. I have been on the receiving end of these words and man, even three sentences jotted down or a short text can make such an impact. For those other moms like you that are out there, feeling alone or struggling with how God is working in them in this season – all the Truth that you need to be reminded of, they need it, too. And as you write, more often than not, God is reminding you as well. So many times I’ve texted something about God’s sovereignty and His working all things for our good and His glory – and then I’ve looked around and realized that yes, this is true, even for me, even right now.

Meals. Likely, there are people that you are connected to that are sick, or having babies, or having a difficult time and they could use a meal dropped off at the door so there is one less thing they need worry about in a day. Now, when I sign up to deliver a meal – it is usually the only single thing that I plan to get done that day. Between naps and changing diapers and tantrums – I know it can seem impossible to get even one thing accomplished. But, having received meals in times of transition or grieving, I know it means much to the person that you have made such an effort for. I have felt so so loved by people showing up and hugging me, giving me food and asking how things are going.

Have people live with you. This is obviously a little more involved than the previous ideas. I’ve written before about having people live with us, but I want to say again – it is both wonderful and difficult, both blesses you and stretches you. We’ve had people live with us during various seasons, including when we had little babies. We’ve mostly had women who were college students, family members or about-to-be-marrieds. Though opening up your home does provide a room and a bed, I’ve found that so much more it is serving people by allowing them into your lives, to be a part of your family.

Being a mom with young kids at home is a special season with all sorts of wonders and joys, and limits and responsibilities. Some days, serving your family and keeping the kids alive is all you can do. But, other days there is grace to do a little more and to serve the Body, even amidst the craziness and chaos.