I am going to try to sum up our family story to give you a rough idea of who is who and what goes on in our house.
First, there is Mike and me. We met 21 years ago when I was 15 turning 16, and he was barely 18. We started dating exclusively in 1990, and married each other in June of 1995. We have grown up together, and the two have truly become one. Mike is a Conservation Officer for the DNR, and I am an adoption and foster care advocate for Bethany Christian Services.
A few years later, in 1998, we were delighted by the surprise pregnancy with Hannah. She was born in March of 1999, and is a delight. After Hannah came Alex. Alex was born in 2002, and surprised up by being born with Down syndrome. We were taken aback for awhile before falling head over heals in love with the little cherub. Less than two years later we brought our niece, Chelsea into our home. Subsequently, her mother passed away, and we have been parenting her for nearly 7 years. Chelsea is 20 years old, and is living at home again after going to Central for her sophomore year of college. Last came Benjamin. Benjamin was my big idea. In 2006 we adopted a "totally healthy" child with Down syndrome. It quickly became apparent that he is hearing impaired, then that he has some pretty big stomach issues (later found to be Hirschsprung's Disease). His thyroid stopped working, and he ended up with Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome as well. Last, but not least, this past December 31, after spending most of the month of December sick and much of it hospitalized, Ben was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.
Despite how all of this sounds, our family is filled with joy and fun. Sure, we have our really lousy days, but for the most part we are laughing and enjoying each other. I fully believe that God is alive and active in our lives and is using all this craziness to make us more like the people He created us to be. God has a plan and a purpose for everyone, and that is His Shalom, His perfect peace and completeness. I don't quite get why hardships have that effect on us, but I can certainly say that the deeper the crud gets in this house, the more filled with peace, joy and love we get, and the only explanation I have for that is what I read in the Bible.
People have been busy touching our lives, and we've also touched a few along the way, making us thankful for each step of our journey, even the really, really painful ones.