Overflowing with HOPE

There are people who come into our lives who inspire us, people who challenge us, people who we meet and just immediately know that our lives will never be the same.

I have several of those people in my life. Mentors. Friends. Role models whom I haven’t met yet, but so hope to someday. Out of all these, however, there are a few who have affected me the most….two little girls, stuck in tiny 3T sized bodies, but with hearts big enough to touch the entire world. They were the unexpected inspirations. The “un-sought-after” teachers. I never dreamt that someone so small could grow me, expand me, challenge me in such drastic ways.

You all know my sister Brooke, and the impact she has made on my life. If you don’t…you can find the intro to her story HERE. But today, I want to introduce you to Lily.

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Lily is sweet; Lily is sassy. Lily is as “Empress-y” as they come; loves princesses, Hello Kitty, and her Papa’s “noodle soup”. She loves doing puzzles, does NOT like to get dirty, and heaven forbid she step out the door without her signature bow, crowning her the true princess that she is.

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And most of all, Lily is BRAVE. Lily was born with a very broken heart, one just like my Brooke’s. Emily, Lily’s mommy, and I became fast friends, after “meeting” in a yahoo group advocating for Chinese children with congenital heart defects. We soon found out that her Lily and my Brooke had almost identical hearts. Their extremely rare, “one-in-a-million” combination of heart defects, down to the “upside-down-and-backwards” nature of their hearts, was shared. We traveled to China at the same time, where Lily and Brooke first met in person, and the girls became US citizens the same day. Just a few weeks later, Lily and Brooke underwent the same heart surgery, the Fontan, just 4 days apart. Lily’s people were praying for Brooke; Brooke’s people were praying for Lily. Emily and I coined them “Heart Sisters” before they ever met, and now after watching them interact together, compare brave scars, become friends…they truly have become sisters at heart.

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Lily has gone through a great deal since coming home. Several more open heart surgeries. Two belly surgeries. Countless weeks and months spent in hospitals. And most recently? Lily received a new heart just a few days ago. A brave new hero heart, which is now beating inside of her, strong and sure.

Lily is BRAVE, friends. Lily is a miracle. Lily and her Mommy, my precious friend Emily, who has in essence become MY heart sister throughout these years, encourage me daily to choose courage. To dare. To risk. To live each day with “overflowing HOPE”.

I’ve had the privilege of having a front row seat to Lily’s miracle, watching in awe as this brave-hearted girl has undergone surgery after surgery, coming out time and time again ready to keep fighting CHD with every single heartbeat. I was able to spend countless nights with Lily and her Mommy in the hospital, fun “sleepovers” with Tangled playing ad nauseam, watching Lily win the hearts of each nurse, every doctor, and all the other patients on the hall.

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Lily chooses to live with overwhelming JOY, finding laughter in the midst of pain. She is courageous and always concerned for others, even on her “this is not my best day” kind of days, saying “Merduff, I think we should take walk. I need to check on the other patients, you know!”

Oh Lily Grace. I’m so thankful that our worlds collided. You and your sweet sisters have taught me more than you’ll ever know…more than I will probably ever fully comprehend. Your brave heart has touched thousands, and I know this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to see you up, running and playing as fast as you can with your new hero heart, keeping up with your sisters and soon-to-come little brother with a special heart just like you. I can’t wait to see how you teach him to be brave, to love and embrace his brave “heart beeps”, to live with overflowing HOPE. I’ll never forget sitting up one night into the early morning hours with your Mommy, talking for hours about how we just wanted you and Brooke to live. To truly live, not held back by your heart or people saying “You can’t”. Lily Grace, we shouldn’t have worried. You CAN and you ARE living…embracing each day with more hope than most people see in a lifetime. You are one in a million, Lily girl. I can’t wait to see where you go. And someday? Someday I want to live just. like. YOU. 

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*Lily’s family is faced with many upcoming medical bills in the weeks and months to coming, following Lily’s transplant. Right now, I want their focus to be completely on Lily and her healing…not worrying about financial issues. If you would like to help contribute to Lily’s medical fund, a YouCaring site has been set up. Please feel free to contribute, and share the link if you would like. Contact me if you have any questions or concerns! Thank you!!

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/lily-grace-s-brave-new-heart/191157

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To Have Someone

To have someone. To know that you will not be alone. To clench tightly to another’s hand, because sometimes we can’t stand on our own. We all need a “someone”.

Today I was given an amazing opportunity. An incredible gift. Something that I would have never expected just a few years ago.

But now? After how my story has been written and shaped over the last several years, this was the chance of a lifetime…a gift of a day I had been waiting for. Hoping for. Without even knowing how deeply I desired it.

Today I sat in the waiting room of a Chinese hospital; in the pediatric surgical ward. I was waiting for a little baby girl, an orphan with no family to call her own. Waiting as she underwent her first major open-heart surgery, earning her beautiful brave scar of courage.

Today, I was her someone. Praying for her surgeons, her nurses, and her strength through the long hours of the operation. Today I sat. Hoping. Waiting. Jumping at the sight of any doctor or nurse, expectant for the news I so desperately wanted to hear. “It’s done. Finished. She’ll be moved to recovery soon. It went as well as we could have hoped.”

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Today, she is still an orphan. But today, she was not alone.

Today, she was mine. And I was hers. And the gift of being the “someone” to stand, with her and for her, is one I will treasure for the rest of my days.

Because, you see, just a short time ago, my little Brooke’s story mirrored this one. A precious little girl. Newly orphaned, with severe heart disease. Going into her first open-heart surgery in a Chinese hospital. An event and circumstance where by all intents and purposes, she could have been alone. She should have been alone.

Except she wasn’t.

She also had a “someone”. Someone who loved her, waited expectantly for her, and prayed her through those long hours and days. And that someone has given me a gift that can never be repaid. Because though I wish desperately that I HAD been there…to be the one to love her through, snuggle her tight, obsessively check every monitor alarm, oxygen sat, and medication dosage…there was someone there who loved her for me. Someone who took my place, prayed for her for the long hours of surgery, and was there by her side when it was done. And that is a gift more priceless than breath itself. She was loved. She was hoped for. And she was never alone.

I hadn’t truly grasped the magnitude of this until I found myself blinking back tears, sitting there in that metal chair next to a couple of other staff from her orphanage, amidst other parents and children in that crowded, sterile waiting room. Hearts racing with theirs as we waited for news about “our” children. Because at that moment, it didn’t matter that I had no biological claim to this child. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand exactly what was being said in the chatter of the Chinese parents filling the room around me.

All that mattered was that when it was her turn to be wheeled out through the operating room doors, someone was there to jump up for her. To exclaim over her newly pink fingernails, whisper that she was loved, and follow the team of doctors as far as my eyes could see as she was wheeled into recovery.

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She had someone. My Brooke had someone. And today, I had someone as well. Today, I had her. And the gift of being her “someone” in return, if only for today, is one that will never, ever be forgotten. Be thankful for the someones in your life. Don’t ever take them for granted. They are a gift more precious than gold.

Grow well, little one. Be strong and courageous. Wear your brave scar with pride. You are hoped for, waited for, and not forgotten. You are loved.

For Children Like Her.

“To desire and strive to be of some service to the world, to aim at doing something which shall really increase the happiness and welfare and virtue of mankind – this is a choice which is possible for all of us; and surely it is a good haven to sail for.”
– Henry van Dyke

This is why we work. This is why PLC exists. So that children like Parzheen have a chance to thrive. She is beautiful…and her future is now bright. What a celebration her life is!

God is good. What a beautiful thing.

A Lifesaving Heart Surgery & An Epic After Party from Preemptive Love on Vimeo.

Through the Pain…Hope is Rising

Sometimes, things are beautiful. So beautiful they make you want to sing and jump and cry- all at the same time. Sometimes, you can so clearly see the work that God is doing it’s as if you can almost taste the goodness.

Those things are beautiful.

 A few days ago, we experienced something beautiful. An international team was in the area, and we were able to go into villages to screen hundreds of children for heart defects. Performing hundreds of echocardiograms; hundreds of EKGs. So many squirming, wriggling, oh so precious little bodies…heartbeat after heartbeat echoing down through the rooms. The emotion in each room was high.  Anxious parents holding their hopes and dreams in their arms, waiting to hear the coveted words…”Your child has a beautiful, healthy heart”…while bracing for the worst. Sighs of relief at good news heard are palpable, then quickly followed by endless thanks. But the sharp intakes of breath- the dashing of those hopes and dreams- are what pierce my heart instead.

 Please…please help us. This is my child.

 A family came to this clinic, with a precious twenty day old gift. The little boy was clearly very sick, with a tell-tale blue-ish tint. Again, the familiar chorus from the wearied father…”Please. He is my baby boy. Please help him”. He was diagnosed with Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA)…a complex CHD. There wasn’t much time, but the visiting surgeon thought that he could give him a chance. In God’s perfect timing, he had come into town…just in time to meet this little gem.  He agreed to operate as soon as possible, as early as the next day! Plans were made and things fell into place…this little one had hope. As soon as he could arrive at a city much farther south, he would have his chance. A chance to grow. A chance to flourish. A chance to live.

 This. This, my friends, is beautiful.

 But sometimes, sometimes things are painful. Sometimes things are so painful that you can’t begin to understand. You can’t think. You can’t shout. Sometimes, you can’t even cry. You can only sit stunned, and pray that things will begin to make sense. Pray that it’s wrong…that this can’t be true…that there must be some mistake.

These things are painful.

 Yesterday, we experienced something painful. Something that wrenched my heart, pierced my soul, and left me raw…questioning…trembling. This precious one, for whom mountains had been moved and great hope had been placed…

He passed away.

 Just minutes after reaching the hospital in the south. Just minutes before a life-giving surgery could begin. And it was too late. It was shocking. It was unexpected. It did not match in the slightest our expectations of the hope and joy in this day…for this boy….for his family. Hope was dashed. Life was lost. The reality stings.

 This. This, my friends, is painful.

 But there is beauty in this pain. Because you see, this little one had a chance. He had a hope. He was not turned away…sent home due to a broken medical system…or given up on. His story here was rewritten, and the hope in it shines through.

 He was fought for. He was given a chance for life. And he was loved.

 In a country where this type of medical care is rarely seen…where thousands of children with heart defects have previously sat on medical waiting lists without a chance or a hope for an unbroken life…this story infuses hope. Because maybe someday, all the children of Iraq will have the same chance at life this little one was given. Maybe someday, all the children with broken hearts will be mended, learning to run and jump and play, experiencing life like they never have before.

 This little one was so worth it. He is the symbol of the hope that is to come. Because out of this dusty, broken country where hope is dry…He is creating beautiful things. Because his chance, his fight, his life…is the beauty.

 Hope is rising. Can you feel it?

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All around,

Hope is springing up from this old ground.

Out of chaos, life is being found in You.

You make beautiful things,

You make beautiful things out of dust.

You make beautiful things,

You make beautiful things out of us”

– Gungor “Beautiful Things”