Sunday, September 30, 2012

#78: The Most Amazing Family I Have Ever Met.

Thank you for all of the nice e-mails, Facebook messages, and prayers related to our post about infertility last week. This world is full of so many wonderful people! We love you guys.

On a similar note, I would like to take a few minutes to talk to you about the most amazing family I have ever met. A couple of Mondays ago, Diane and I were feeling lazy/hungry after work and decided to go out to dinner. We debated between Cafe Rio, Chick-Fil-A, and Jamba Juice....but eventually settled on Rumbi's Grill (makes sense, right?). As we walked into Rumbi's, the first thing we heard was the familiar tune of "Happy Birthday". It made us smile to know that another family must be out for Family Home Evening, celebrating a birthday together.

Once we ordered our food and sat down, we looked over at the family celebrating the birthday. We noticed a mom, a dad, three clearly identifiable children of the parents, and five other kids of Asian heritage. At first, we thought, "Hmmm. I bet the family must volunteer at a group home and decided to take these other children out to dinner." But as we continued to watch them, we heard one of the Asian children say, "Dada! Dada!". We were amazed to discover that this family had adopted all five of these beautiful children. And then we noticed something even more amazing--each of the adopted children appeared to have some form of disability. One was noticeably blind, another appeared to be autistic, and the adorable youngest daughter had no arms.

When the mother of the family walked over by us to fill up some drinks, we simply could not resist asking her about her family. Although she seemed a little embarrassed to talk about herself, the mother took the time to tell us a little bit about her family. With her permission, I would like to share some of their story. I also absolutely urge you to check out the family's full story on their inspiring blog, A Road Less Traveled.

Jeremy and Christianne Green have three wonderful children of their own, Taylor, Parker, and Jessica. However, in 2004 and 2005, the Green's next two children, Jacob and Emily, were both born stillborn. Jeremy and Christianne were heartbroken at the loss of their two beautiful babies, but continued to stay faithful and united as a family.

In Christianne's own words:

"Shortly after Emily’s death, we began talking about adoption. After a lot of research and prayer, we both knew that our child was in China. In fact, Jeremy felt like his answer was that there were TWO girls for us there! Hmmm… could we be getting twins? We requested the application form and began the process of adopting a healthy infant (or two). I longed to hold a baby and felt that with our three little ones, adopting a child with special needs wouldn’t be the best course for our family. Still, I couldn’t help myself from looking at the waiting child list on CCAI’s (Chinese Children Adoption International) website. One day, just days after filling out our application, a new photo was posted of a two-year-old little girl. I clicked on it and read her special need to be 'pathological changes to the retina.' Her file explained that she was completely blind. BLIND. The word seemed so huge and ominous and something that I definitely wasn’t equipped to deal with. Still, there was something about this girl…

"I called Jeremy and casually mentioned that there was a cute little blind girl on the website. That night he looked at her picture and also felt that same something, but we didn’t discuss it and I really didn’t think it to be an option. However, over the next few days, experiences were given to us that let us both KNOW, beyond a doubt, that this was our little girl. It was overwhelming and scary, but the peace we felt was undeniable, and within days we called CCAI with a 'YES! This is our daughter!'

"February 26 was a day that I will never forget. After months of waiting and praying for this sweet little girl, I finally got to live the moment I had dreamed about. We walked into a room at the Civil Affairs Office and there she was, in her foster mother’s arms—our newest angel and most perfect little girl—Elizabeth Mei Green. The night before we had been given an update on her. It had said that she didn’t talk, only walked in circles, and was very somber. However, as they placed her in my arms, this little girl who we had prayed for so earnestly seemed to know that she was home. She threw back her head and began to laugh. This continued for the entire time we were there. We were crying, her foster mother was crying—it was one of the most joyous moments of our lives."

Over the next few years, Jeremy and Chrisianne also adopted Graci, Xander, Lexi, and Sophi. Each child had challenges, but also brought incredible joy and blessings into the lives of the Greens. In fact, Jeremy and Christianne will soon be adopting two more beautiful Chinese children, Conner and Cali. (Check out the awesome video below of the announcement of Conner and Cali joining the family!)

Diane and I have been so inspired by the Green family. As we spoke with Christianne, we could just tell that she radiated the light of Christ. Is her life easy? No. Does she ever get tired, frustrated, or stressed? You bet. Would anyone consider her and Jeremy to be bad people if they had decided not to adopt? Of course not. But the fact that they have chosen this "road less traveled" is an incredible example to us. God bless this wonderful family!
Clockwise from the left: Xander, Graci, Taylor, Christianne,
Parker, Jessica, Sophi, Jeremy, Elli, and Lexi.
UPDATE: As I was reading the Green's blog this evening, I was humbled by a recent post. As their family has continued to grow, the Green's are running out of room in their current home. Also, their current home is not wheelchair accessible, which would make things very difficult for new family member, Cali. The Greens would never ask anyone for financial assistance, but a friend in their ward has started a fundraiser to help them build a new home. If you feel impressed to do so, please follow the link to "Puzzle Them Home" and make a donation. I have never met a family who deserves it more.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

#77: The Challenge of Infertility.

Although I really enjoy blogging about the events in mine and Diane's lives, most of the time I don't get very personal. Instead, I try to keep things lighthearted (and hopefully funny) by focusing on easy topics like vacations, date nights, or ward activities. However, after some encouragement, today I decided to post something very personal. 

Each year in September, my favorite blogger/mentor, Jocelyn Christensen, hosts a 13-day blogger event celebrating "The Family: A Proclamation to the World", in which she collaborates with a few other big LDS blogs and invites smaller bloggers to guest post about topics related to the family. A few months ago, Jocelyn asked me if I would like to participate in this year's family celebration, and I eagerly accepted. But, after my initial excitement, I was stumped as to what I should write about. I thought that maybe I could write something clever and superficial about Star Wars families, but it just never seemed right for the occasion. I knew that Jocelyn's celebration of the family was meant to inspire and encourage people, not just be funny. 
After praying with Diane and then discussing it with Jocelyn, we felt that it would be appropriate to talk about something that has been a significant part of our marriage--the challenge of infertility. If you would like to read the post, please click here to follow the link to Jocelyn's blog. Our greatest hope is that our story will be able to help others who may be struggling. For those of you who were already aware of this challenge, Diane and I wanted to thank you for your prayers, fasting, and love. We are blessed to have some of the greatest family and friends in the world!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

#76: Inspirational Story from Stake Conference.

For those of you who may not know, Mormon congregations are called "Wards", based on geographical location. Anywhere from five to 10 wards are combined into larger groups called "Stakes" (like a stake to hold down a tent--not like a steak made up of delicious dead cow).
Stake. Not Steak.
Every six months, the members of a Stake get together for "Stake Conference" to hear sermons from the Stake President and other members of the congregation. Since I have never yet had to speak during Stake Conference (knock on wood), in the past I have been tempted to treat Stake Conference as a "Vacation Weekend" with no typical Sunday responsibilities. But as I have matured gotten older, I have changed my perspective. I now look forward to Stake Conference as a great opportunity to be edified, unified, and purified (I can't think of any other "fieds" off the top of my head). My favorite session of Stake Conference is the Saturday evening adult session. I suppose it's because you feel an extra measure of the Spirit since you are making a bit of a sacrifice to go to Church on a Saturday night.

Last night during the adult session, there was a particularly touching and powerful story. Near the end of the meeting, the Stake President asked an older couple to come up to the stand. And this is what they said (paraphrased): 

We're happy, but not because we are rich. We're happy, but not because we are famous. We're happy, yet we've become acquainted with grief. Three of our children have died, and two more are close to the veil. Having one of your children die before you is a difficult thing. It turns out that my wife and I each have an ancestor who married a first cousin. These marriages led to a rare genetic mutation passed down from generation to generation. In past generations of our families, this gene has only been recessive (rather than dominant), and therefore, we were not aware of it. This gene is very rare, and only one in 750,000 people have it. It turns out that when two people who both have the recessive gene marry and have children, then their children may inherit the dominant gene. In our case, five of our children inherited the dominant gene. The result of this gene is diabetes, seizures, kidney failure, urinary failure, occasional deafness, and early death. It is a disease that destroys the central nervous system.

People sometimes ask us, "Once you knew you both had this gene, why in the world did you keep having children?" Well, we didn't. We discovered the mutation only after all eight of our children were born. Imagine our dismay. We were simply left with a dilemma that required us to pull together, rather than pull apart. This was a time to be united. We have been very blessed, because in most families, this disease splits families apart. In our case, staying united was a family effort. Our three daughters who were not affected with the dominant gene were patient and gracious to their siblings. They have now given us seven grandchildren. We have had to learn many things, and we had to learn them the hard way. 

One of the most difficult things to change our minds about were the secret goals we had for our children. They have still done amazing things, but it didn't seem possible at first. Our children are eight extraordinary individuals. All of our sons served missions, even if those missions were served at home, and all of our children have been endowed in the temple. At the time that we discovered the mutation, I was serving as the youngest Stake President in Utah. Many people expected that I was a rising leader in the Church. Indeed I was, but not in the way they expected. I became a leader as a faithful, sustaining member, not as one who would sit on the stand. Our family became the most important aspect of our lives. Our priorities shifted. It was never easy. I went from becoming an important businessman to a humanitarian worker at the Road Home so I could spend more time with my family. Like the people of Alma, the Lord made us equal to our task. We are happy because of the joy that the gospel brings into our lives. We may have lost our children in this life, but we know that our lives our eternal. We look forward to that with all of our hearts. We find no greater joy than to by doing what the Lord would have us do. Our lives didn't necessarily turn out how we planned, but we have learned to be ready to change lanes and even change directions if the Holy Ghost directs us so. We know the gospel to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

#75: Back to Seminary ("Call Me Maybe" Spoof).

While checking out tonight, I stumbled across this awesome video from Lehi High School's Seminary teachers. Nerdy? Yes. But totally awesome? Heck yes.