Trust and Obey

*We both (Sarah & Beau) wanted to contribute to this particular post. Beau’s words are italicized, Sarah’s are not.

This blog was originally started to keep up with the adventures of the Cooper family. Since getting married in 2010, Beau and I have been to over 25 states together, countless National Parks, kept a running tally of the amount of Moose we’ve seen (5), kayaked on the Tennessee River, had 3 kids, bought a house, gotten a dog, etc. . .

Throughout all the adventures, we’ve seen God. We’ve seen his artistry and design in the beauty of nature. We’ve seen his faithfulness as he has provided for our family as we’ve grown and moved to a larger home. We’ve seen him answer prayer. We’ve seen him bring peace that passes all understanding when we’ve experienced the heartache of loss and the fear of possible loss. We’ve seen him take care of our children in a way no one else could; including ourselves. We continue to see his grace, salvation, and perfect love on a daily basis.

God has recently called us to embark on a new adventure in the form of international adoption. As we have been adopted into God’s family, as his children, we have been led to demonstrate this act, as much as is humanly possible, by adopting a child into our family.

Ephesians 1:5 says, “He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” What a glorious, beautiful gift God gave us! We were orphans; poor, dirty, helpless, hopeless orphans. The Creator of this beautiful universe CHOSE us. We didn’t deserve his inheritance, his love, his protection. We gave God no reason to love us or call us his children. Instead, God, in the most painful way he could, gave up his rightful Son to die so that we might also become rightful sons and daughters. Our adoption into God’s family required huge sacrifice, unimaginable pain (spiritually and physically), and he planned it all from the beginning of creation. He knew, before we even knew who he was, that he would make us his children. Simply put, we adopt because we were first adopted.

Beau and I believe earthly adoption is a picture of our adoption by God. We have been called to bring a child into our family. The process has already begun, and yet this child has no idea who we are and is possibly not even born yet. The entire process will take years. There will be piles of paperwork, many miles to drive and fly, decisions to make, deadlines to meet, unpredictable occurrences, emotional and spiritual toil.

There is of course, the Biblical basis for adoption which Sarah shared above. It is the first and foremost reason we both wanted to pursue it. I’ll also add that for me personally, when I watch the news, or keep up with what’s going both nationally & globally, it’s easy for me to feel completely helpless and overwhelmed. It’s easy for me to also feel like I’m not equipped or capable of doing anything to improve the world around me. Adoption proves, with God, that’s not true. While Sarah and I may never be able to affect change in the macro, maybe we can in the micro. Change starts at home. 

Maybe it would be easier to ignore this call and continue life as it is. There would be no stress from an adoption process. There would be no strain on our pocketbooks and emotions. However, there would also be a child somewhere in this world who would not have a forever family who will love, support, and provide for them. There would be a child who might not be presented with the Good News of the Gospel.

We have an opportunity to glorify God by answering his call. God doesn’t call us to make easy choices or to be practical according to the world’s standards. He calls us to trust and obey. He calls us to do whatever it takes to further his kingdom, even if it appears absurd to everyone else.

We debated on whether or not to share any of this at all. We want to be very careful that the focus of this adoption – of everything we do – would be God’s glory. However, we decided we wanted our friends and family to know our hearts and our reasons behind this new stage in life.

We’ve just recently started the process, but in the last couple of months we’ve spent a lot of time in prayer. We wanted to make sure we let God lead every step of the way. If you have the patience to keep reading, I would love to share how we were led to the point we are now.

Our first step in the process was deciding what type of adoption we would pursue. After much prayer, we felt God calling us to international adoption. Specifically, we felt God leading us to a country in great need, both physically and spiritually. We began to pray for God to lead us to the right country. We searched. We made lists and marked off places. Very quickly God began closing door after door to country after country. Some countries are not currently open to international adoption. Some have certain requirements that did not line up. Some had age restrictions of children that did not fit with our family’s ages. The list goes on and on. There was one country, however, that always fit. There was every reason we should pursue this path. So, we put our trust in God and said “yes” to starting the very long adoption process with Haiti.

Adoption is something Sarah and I discussed early on in our marriage, even as far back as the first year. It’s something we knew we’d eventually revisit. Several months ago, we both felt the call. When we first started looking into what adoption would look like for our family, international adoption stood out to me specifically for several reasons. Many families who have trouble having children of their own often look to domestic adoption first. We feel we’ve been extremely blessed by having 3 of our own and didn’t want to stand in the way of any other husband & wife who are looking into domestic adoption as a way to start their family. We didn’t want to be another hurdle someone else out there had to jump over.

There are nearly 1 million orphans in Haiti (out of 10.6 million people). It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Over 70% of Haitians live in poverty. 1 out of 5 children die before they reach the age of 5 years old. Over 80% of the population do not have access to clean drinking water. The main religion is Roman Catholicism often combined with the practice of Voodoo (some estimates put 50% of the population as practicing Voodoo). We pray God will use us to help one of these children; to make a difference in one more child’s life for His Kingdom.

We know that, to some of you, this will not make sense. We know that some will not understand what we are doing and why; and that’s okay. Whether you are confused or excited by this news, we ask that you join with us in prayer. We are humbled that God would choose to call us on this journey. We pray he will equip us to carry out his purpose with our family.

I know that at time’s I’ve been an absolute trainwreck of a Christian. I will always be a work in progress. I also know that as much as this will change the life of a child, it will change me. It’s also very hard for me to describe why I think adoption is so important without sounding like I’m on a soapbox. I think we’re all called to a mission field, whether it’s in church, abroad, at work, at home, etc., we’re all called. More than just expanding our family, we see adoption as a mission field. We may not be able to pack up and move to Haiti, but maybe we can pack up a piece of Haiti and move it here.

John 14:18- “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

these days are numbered

It has been a while since we updated our blog. You know, life and children happen. However, I felt I should share our recent experiences with Mollie.

Our little Mollie will be two months old on June 4th, which means it has been nearly a month since we came home from Huntsville Hospital after our two week stay. But I need to back up a little.

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On April 4th, 2014, Mollie Katherine Cooper decided to show up 11 days earlier than expected. I was not prepared for her surprise decision. My water broke that Friday afternoon and we made the long car ride (5 blocks) to the hospital. We arrived a little before 5:00 pm and she arrived a mere 2 ½ hours later, at 7:28 pm. Despite having almost 9 months of warning, this was still very little time to prepare, and as I soon found out, it also didn’t allow a lot of time for the epidural to be given. The good news was, everything went quickly and smoothly (enough), and my 7 lb 2 oz baby girl with a head full of dark hair was beautiful and healthy. In the days at the hospital after she was born, the only problem was a slight case of jaundice, which subsided shortly after we took her home.

Fast forward to April 19th and my 2 week old girl was having a very fussy day. She wasn’t happy when she was eating and she wouldn’t rest unless I held her. If I moved at all while holding her, she screamed as though she were in severe pain. My initial thoughts were “she must have a bad stomach ache today.” After a couple of hours her demeanor hadn’t improved, and she would also go limp whenever I held her. She didn’t feel very warm, but just to be safe, I took her temperature. It was 100.5, not too high of a temperature but still a fever. I called our on call pediatrician who told us to go ahead and take her to the ER since her office was closed for the day.

After arriving at the Helen Keller ER, we waited about an hour before we were called back (which in my opinion was way too long for an infant with a fever). She was poked, prodded & stuck. She had her blood drawn several times and was given urine tests, etc. . . During all of these tests her heartbeat was sitting steadily above 200. She screamed as loud as any 2 week old baby possibly could. This went on for hours and my heart was past the point of breaking. My helpless baby girl was in pain. She had a fever and didn’t know what was going on or why people were sticking needle after needle into her arms and legs. For a Mom, this was torture. Watching my daughter in pain, I didn’t know what was making her sick, and I couldn’t make it go away.

The blood tests showed a high white blood cell count meaning there was an infection present. She would need antibiotics and a spinal tap to test for meningitis. Hearing the words “spinal tap” and “meningitis” when referring to my 15 day old daughter made me sick to my stomach.

As it turned out, Keller didn’t have a small enough needle for an infant spinal tap. After calling ECM and Shoals Hospital, we were told that none of the area hospitals carried the right size needle. The decision was made to start her on IV antibiotics and send her by ambulance to Huntsville Pediatric ER for the spinal tap.  At first, I was upset about the idea of having to go by ambulance to Huntsville because it sounded so much scarier. In hindsight however, I see just how God orchestrated the whole situation so she would end up exactly where she needed to be – Huntsville.

After starting her IV around 11:00pm, I left with Mollie in the ambulance. Beau drove separately and met us in Huntsville because only one family member was allowed to ride with the EMT’s. Being by myself with a very sick baby in the back of an ambulance was scary and unnerving. I haven’t told a lot of people about that ride because it was such a private experience for me, but I feel I need to share what happened as a testimony to my God.

I was very upset that only one person could be in the ambulance because I felt desperate to have Beau there with me. I felt I needed his strength and support in that situation. As I sat in the back of a speeding ambulance with lights and sirens blaring, it grew oddly quiet. Mollie had exhausted herself from screaming for over four hours at the Keller ER, and was finally sound asleep. The EMT was doing paper work, and I was left to my thoughts. Despite the chaos from the last few hours and the heartache and fear I was experiencing, I felt like I was truly able to listen to God and hear the answers he had for all my questions and thoughts. Obviously God’s answers weren’t spoken out loud, but the following is the way I felt our conversation went:

Me: ”I wish Beau was here. I need him here.”

God: “You don’t need anyone but me. Tell me what you’re feeling.”

Me: “I don’t even know how or what to pray right now. I’m too overwhelmed.”

God: “I know, and I understand. I love Mollie more than you ever could. As much as this is killing you to see her like this, it is even worse for me because I love her perfectly”

Me: “I know there’s a reason for all of this. I know you are teaching me to trust you and love you no matter what may happen. But God, please let this be the extent of whatever you require me to learn from this. Please let me keep my daughter.”

After a long conversation with God about everything I was thinking, I felt like He finally asked me the question I had been avoiding the whole time. “If you don’t get to keep your daughter, how will you respond?” I immediately thought “Surely this isn’t something I need to worry about yet. I should wait to answer that question until I at least know what she’s sick with. “

God wouldn’t let me off the hook. I couldn’t stop thinking about that question, and I knew I had to answer it.

That is MY little girl who is sick and hooked up to an IV. That is MY daughter that I grew in my stomach for 9 months, and went through an intense labor to have. That is MY Mollie with her dark black hair and her penetrating eyes that relies on me to protect her, keep her fed, keep her clean, keep her safe and happy, and to keep her alive. 

And yet, she’s not.

She’s not MY daughter. She’s God’s daughter. He generously chose to give her to me. He trusted me to raise her in a Godly home, to know and love her Savior, for however long or short a time that might be. Oh, that realization hit me harder than a ton of bricks. Sure, I always “knew” that was the right answer, but to be faced with it head on was new territory. It hurt so badly to say, but through lots of tears I was able to tell God, “Yes I trust you. Yes, if you choose to take your daughter home to you I will still love you. You are still my God and I will praise you. I will grieve and I will hurt and I will never have a day that I won’t think about what she would be like growing up, but if this is what you choose, God I will trust you.”

After arriving in Huntsville, I had an opportunity to calm down and think a little more clearly. Even though I was still afraid and hurting for my baby, my trust was in my God. My cousins John and Kathy Tanner – who live in Huntsville – met us at the ER at midnight just to be there for us and pray with us. What a blessing family is in a time like this! The doctors and nurses in Huntsville were immediately on top of things. They took her to a room, asked us the right questions, and began checking her over. I felt relieved after only being there a few minutes, and I instantly knew why God had sent us to Huntsville. The spinal tap went very smoothly. The doctor who performed it made me feel much better than I originally had. After waiting a while for results, we were told the spinal tap did not show infection, but we would need to wait for cultures to be sure. At 4:30 in the morning we were admitted to a room. We slept on a couch for 2 ½ hours before the doctors making morning rounds woke us up.

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After a couple of days in the hospital we were told that Mollie was infected with Group B Strep. No, it is not strep throat. It is a fairly common bacteria for adults to carry without ever knowing because it isn’t dangerous to us. It is something pregnant mothers are tested for before they give birth, because for newborns it can often be deadly. I tested negative for it, but Mollie still got it. The doctors said she could have gotten it from me or from someone coming over to visit after she was born. The pediatrician we spoke to told me, “It’s a really good thing you got her to the ER when you did. This is a very fast growing bacteria and very dangerous for babies her age.”

I felt sick to my stomach. I realized just how close I might have been to losing my daughter, but I also felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to my God who chose to spare my daughter. He chose to open my eyes just enough to feel the need to take her to the ER. He chose to have every hospital in the area be out of the right size needle for Mollie’s spinal tap, forcing the doctors to send her to Huntsville – where she needed to be. Within 24 hours she began showing drastic improvements, and despite the looming 14 days of sleeping on a couch in the same hospital room, I had no reason to complain.

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For the next two weeks we stayed in the hospital while Mollie was hooked up to IV antibiotics, but my daughter was going to be ok. She was growing and responding to medicine. She even smiled for the first time while we were there. I would not even consider complaining about two weeks in a hospital. I would not consider complaining even though I desperately missed my 22 month old son who was back at home being taken care of by his grandparents. I wouldn’t complain because my God let me keep HIS baby girl. I believe I was, and am, the most thankful person in the world. 🙂

She is still doing great. She is growing and smiling and cooing all the time. She’s a great sleeper, currently at 8 straight hours a night. She’s a Momma’s girl and likes me to hold her, and I’m perfectly fine with that because Deegan is slowly becoming a Daddy’s boy.

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As difficult as the whole situation was with Mollie – and still is because hospital bills aren’t cheap – I am thankful God chose to give me the opportunity to come to Him broken and helpless. I had to be strong for my baby girl, for my son who was confused about his parents not being at home, for my husband, and for all those around me. As a mother, I don’t have the luxury of having a breaking point, but I can run to God. I can be as broken and fragile and tired as I need to be when I come to my Savior because He is all I need. He is the reason we can find hope in trial, and I will always find my strength in Him.

– Sarah

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the quiet things that no one ever knows

My grandfather passed away over a decade ago, but not a Memorial Day passes before I stop to remember what he did for his country.

My uncle worked in graphic design all of his adult life, but his love of art didn’t stop when he left the office. He created the piece below as a memorial to my grandfather when I was still a child, and it’s hung on my parents living room wall ever since.  The story below happened before my dad or his brothers were born. It happened before my grandfather was even married – although he and my grandmother had begun dating.

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I can’t imagine the months of fear, unable to communicate with anyone, and unable to tell his loved ones back home not to mourn him just yet. On days like today, it’s important to realize that it’s not always the people you know who helped get you where you are. More often than not, your freedom was paid for by people you’ve never met, and who’s stories you’ve never heard.

This is just one story out of millions, and I can’t think of a better day to share it.

– bc

the curse of comfort

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Most people hate being uncomfortable, and that’s understandable.  This isn’t some groundbreaking statement.  There’s a reason comfort is expensive.  We crave it to the point that we’ll do everything we can to avoid the unfamiliar.  I try my best to take a different approach.  Sometimes being uncomfortable helps remind us how good comfortable feels.

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The best glass of water always comes when you’re parched. This isn’t a coincidence.

If you haven’t heard by now, a Carnival Cruise Ship’s engine caught fire over the weekend causing a massive power failure.  Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico a boat sits alone and adrift, full of 4,200 people. They’re angry, dirty and underfed.  Countless have taken to sleeping on the top deck to avoid the smell of raw sewage running down the ships interior walls.  Many have waited in lines four hours long to eat onion sandwiches.  There’s no heat for the cool nights, and no air for the warm days. Tuesday, a tugboat arrived to help tow the ship to port.  Slow and steady they’ve managed their way across the gulf.  Today, their feet will again touch dry land.  Food, showers and clean clothes await them in Mobile.

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The best showers always come when it’s been a few days since your last one.

I’m weird, and I know how ridiculous this sounds, but I’d love to be on that ship.  As uncomfortable and miserable as it sounds, no one’s health or life is in danger.  I’m sure it’s hell on board the ship right now.  But given some time for perspective, this will eventually turn into a story that will be retold 10,000 times at family gatherings around the world.  If given the chance, I’d gladly trade places with any person on that boat.  Not because I’d be doing them any favors, but because selfishly, I’d be doing myself a favor.  The lifetime supply of stories I’d be able to store away for later would absolutely be worth the week spent on a nightmare cruise.

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As we age, our lives become a memory.  Everything we’ve ever done we’ve strived to make memorable.  At least, that’s what we pretend we’re doing.  The thing’s that last are typically things that stand out from the ordinary.  No one remembers the beach trip they took when they ended up getting sunburned while reading 50 Shades of Gray.  No one remembers the time they went water-skiing during a weekend trip to the lake.  Sure you remember them happening, but they happened so many different times that all the memories begin bleeding together.  Unless something extraordinary happened, those memories will never stand the test of time.

If you ate nothing but chocolate every day for an entire year, you’d quickly forget how good it tastes. (Also you might get diabetes.)  But it’s not simply variety we need; sometimes we need the bad things life throws at us too.  The good in life is actually enhanced by the bad.  Embrace the unusual, even if it’s uncomfortable.  Those are the stories that last a lifetime and they’ll always remind us just how great being comfortable feels.

-bc

we will become silhouettes

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It’s been a while since I updated the blog and Beau let me know that it was my turn.  As many of our friends and family know, the past 3+ months have been a chaotic, emotional roller coaster.  We experienced the joy of birth, the sorrow of death and finally excitement over the marriage of my brother Joe & his new wife Leah.  That’s the excuse I’m using for why I haven’t written anything since before Deegan was born.  He is now about 3 1/2 months old, and will be 4 months on October 26th.  It’s hard to believe how quickly he’s growing!  I know all you mothers out there are thinking “just wait…. wait til he turns 1 year!” or “wait til he’s in high school” or “wait til he’s driving” or “wait ’til he has a child of his own”.  I realize that’s the course our lives typically take as we get older, but I’m choosing to not think of my child as a teenager just yet (especially if he’s as stubborn as his parents).  I’m sure every mom out there has had these same thoughts though, and before they knew it, that time was upon them.

In the mean time however, I’m trying to take advantage of all the cuddle time with my boy before he is too old to cuddle with his Mommy.  I’m enjoying every little coo and laugh and the huge toothless grin that melts my heart.  Every day is meaningful because every day brings something new. Having a child has helped me understand just how small I am, as well as how blessed I am.  I am made aware of how great my Savior’s love for me must be.  As I love my child beyond description, how much greater is God’s perfect love for me, his child?

Despite our busy lives, Beau, Deegan and I have made time for a few walks and drives to enjoy what is easily my favorite season, Fall.  It was my favorite season as a child because October is my birthday month, but now, the reasons are abundant.  Now it’s my favorite because of the beauty and the weather.  The humidity is gone, the trees are turning beautiful colors, and I love walking through our neighborhood because there’s a slight breeze in the cool air that blows crunchy leaves on the path.  The trees overhang the street to give a colorful, and almost comforting, canopy as we walk.

We went for a drive on the Natchez Trace this afternoon, and once again, I noticed the beauty of Fall in North Alabama.  A thought struck me that I’d never considered before.  What if Fall is God’s way of showing us that the dying process can be a beautiful thing?  I know that sounds a bit morbid, but bear with me.  When you realize what Fall is, you can understand it a bit better.  Fall is nothing more than the process of nature dying.  How can something that has to do with dying be so beautiful?  Maybe it’s God’s way of showing us that our life, however long or short it may be, is a dying process.  We weren’t created to live forever.  We were created for eternity in another place. So, like nature, everyone’s life has a season that prepares them for death; and, like nature, shouldn’t our lives be beautiful? Shouldn’t our short time on this earth be filled with an evident, beautiful change that brings glory to Christ?  Maybe death is hard for the ones left behind.  Maybe it feels cold and harsh- like winter.  But the season before death is beautiful, and a time when we see a person’s true colors.  It’s a time when we see God glorified. . . no matter what.

– Sarah

love is watching someone die

I’m convinced that fathers and sons have far and away the most complicated relationship any two people on this earth can have.  All a father wants is for their son to become a better version of themselves.  At least, that’s what I’ve gathered from my 2+ months as a father.  I don’t think it ever dawns on you until you have a son of your own.  But that’s your hope.  My dad and I butted heads for 28 years, but it was always out of love.  There’s no father and son who haven’t.  I’ll go toe-to-toe with my own son one day because I don’t want to see him make some of the same idiotic decisions I have made.  And he’ll never realize this until he has a son.  And it’s a cycle that will repeat itself until the end of time.  That’s fathers and sons.

And now, at 28, I find myself at a strange place in life.  My 60 year old father and my infant son both depend on me to hold them up.  Neither of them have the strength on their own to do what they want without my help.  It’s terrifying to sit here and watch the man who raised me to be strong and tough, now unable to sit up in bed or go to the bathroom without my help.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around how I feel about cancer.  I obviously hate the way it’s ravaged my dad’s body.  I hate seeing the strength he spent a lifetime acquiring be so suddenly and painfully taken from him.  But for all the horrible pain cancer causes, it also gives the strangest gift at the very end.  It gives us closure in a way no other form of death can.

Just the other day, I saw where a tow-truck driver died instantly after a tree fell on his truck.  Death came swiftly and without warning.  He had no goodbyes.  He wasn’t surrounded by family or loved ones.  Just himself, alone in a tow-truck.

None of us are leaving this world alive. For most of us it’s sudden and we’re either alone or surrounded by strangers. At least cancer allows us to say “I love you,” one final time with our families ushering us into God’s arms.

In my mind, my dad will always be tough.  One of my favorite stories of his was about the time he and his friend Mike Hicks went backpacking in the Great Smokey Mountains.  They made camp and settled in for the night at a pretty high altitude.  They awoke the next morning with several inches of frost inside of the top of their tent.  That frost was actually their breath which had frozen to the inside of the tent while they slept.  A freak blizzard had hit and they awoke to sub-zero temperatures and several feet of snow.  My dad said that while they were packing up their gear, it dawned on him that they might not make it out alive.  Surrounded by snow & temperatures they weren’t prepared for, they began hiking down the mountain.  They eventually managed to hike down to the nearest known Ranger Station, a good 1,000 feet lower in elevation then where they had made camp.  The thermometer at the station had gotten down to 20 degrees below zero that night, and there was no way of knowing exactly how much colder it had gotten where they had camped. The rangers were surprised anyone could have survived a night unprepared under those conditions.

And that was my dad, as tough as they come.  And that’s why it’s so hard to sit here and watch him weak and dying, struggling to talk. This isn’t who he’s supposed to be, this isn’t how I want to remember him.  For me, that’s one of the things I’ve struggled with the most.  I don’t want these last few days with my dad to be my final memories of him.

Luckily I’m blessed with great friends and on Sunday, Adam, Ben & Ken showed up. We rode around and talked for a while and I expressed these thoughts to them.  Adam’s response was flawless:

“I think you’ve got it all wrong. What better way to remember your dad than by being able to serve him? Your entire life he’s been there to help you whenever you needed it. Now as he’s getting ready to leave this world you’re here to help serve him just as Christ would. What a gift.”

My dad was never a monument to health, but he always bounced back.  Between diabetes, kidney stones, and 4 different types of cancer, he’s been a fighter his entire life, which is why there’s no possible way to describe how it felt to hear him tell me he was ready to die.  He’s not supposed to die.  He’s supposed to be here to help me teach my son how to swing a golf club and how to work on cars.  He’s supposed to be here every Saturday during the fall to teach Deegan the Alabama fight song.  He’s supposed to be here to tease him about first dates and first girlfriends. He’s supposed to be here.

But that’s not true.  He’s not supposed to be here.  That’s just my selfish human nature getting in the way of reality.  God wouldn’t let something happen to us that he didn’t want to happen.  After all, how do you make God laugh?

You make plans.

My dad’s life and his battle with cancer have served as an inspiration to many and his death will be counted as a great loss.  If you asked him, he’d be the first to tell you that he was never anything but a sinner.  An awful, lowly sinner saved by grace.  But aren’t we all? He just had the guts to admit it.

Last Wednesday, when the Doctors told us “We’re focusing on quality of life instead of quantity of life,” was the worst part.  It meant time was running out.  I tried to imagine being in that condition and how it must feel to trust in anyone other than the Lord.  I’d feel hopeless and helpless.  I can’t imagine approaching death scared and alone.  Spending those last days on earth terrified of what awaited you beyond the grave.

My dad doesn’t have that fear.  He knows where he’s going.  He isn’t afraid because he knows that what awaits him is far better than what he’s leaving behind.

–          bc

swim until you can’t see land

I think one of the reasons we love newborns is because they help us forget the unimportant things that don’t hold any real value.  As soon as a new soul enters this world we stop focusing on the mundane day to day activities that absorb and demand all of our attention and we instead focus on a perfect flawless love that can only come from Yahweh.  Instantly we are no longer the center of our own universe, and all of our hopes, fears and goals are instantly replaced with an entire new set.

I love Sarah more than I ever thought possible, but when I saw the way she loved our son from the very first second he entered this world naked and screaming, I discovered an even more incredible love.  Even though he’s only a week old, Sarah talks to Deegan, loves him, and holds him like she’s known him her entire life.  I think the phrase “love at first sight,” must have come from a parent upon seeing their child for the first time.

The very first night we brought him home, he didn’t want to sleep.  He only wanted to see how loud he could scream.  He kept us up until 6:30 AM.  Sarah and I took 1 hour shifts throughout the night.  One of us would sit in a rocker and hold him while the other tossed and turned on the couch or recliner and pretended to sleep.  Finally at 6:30, he had gotten quiet enough to put back into his crib.  I laid down on the couch and within 30 seconds he had begun wailing again.  I laid there and was so exhausted that for the next 2 minutes all I could think of was “please stop, please, please, please let me get some sleep. please stop.”  Finally he stopped, and my very first thought was “Uh oh, is he still breathing?”  So I got up from the couch, ran over and checked on him.  He was fine, but it dawned on me that for the rest of my life I’d have someone to be worried about.

I don’t want to sound like a fatalist, but when I look around at the current state of the world I have to admit that sometimes I feel like saying “What are we fighting for?”  We know that this world is meant to fall apart.  It’s meant to be a temporary home, and sometimes no matter how strong our faith is, we feel like we’re fighting a losing battle.  It feels like we’re patching the Hoover Dam by sticking our fingers in the holes. This world is crumbling before our eyes, but we fight because we’re told to.  We fight because we know that in the end it isn’t a lost cause.  We fight because we want Deegan to have a chance and a choice.

Sarah and I are blessed beyond reason and rationalization.  Sadly, because we’re human, we’ll eventually lose purpose and direction, however temporary, and focus on houses, clothes, jobs, etc…  But we’re here for one purpose, and thankfully the birth of a child will always remind us of that.

– bc

tomorrow is a long time

37 weeks and 3 days along…the countdown has been going fast and yet slow; great and yet miserably; exciting and yet strange.  It’s almost time and Beau and I are ready for the little guy to get here.  However, I make no promises as to Deegan’s due date.  I’ve had requests from certain friends/family that he be born on their birthday or when they are going to be in town.  I can guarantee they will not all line up.  However, I will do my best to make sure as many requests as possible overlap.  I will add though, that Granddaddy has promised me a silver dollar if Deegan is born on his birthday, so I will possibly be shooting for that.

Carrying this baby around has been the most amazing experience.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

First Trimester:  Some morning sickness while also feeling hungry all the time
Second Trimester:  No more morning sickness, still hungry, face gets broken out like a teenager
Third Trimester: No more broken out face, still hungry, heartburn, swollen feet, tingly hands
All 9 months:  Best thing ever to see/hear/feel my baby grow.  I can not wait to meet him!

I am planning to stay home with Deegan instead of going back to teach again.  I will still be coaching Jr. high girls basketball, doing my photography, and I’ve even recently become a Premier Designs Jeweler!  Lots going on, but I’m so excited about all of it!

Beau has been driving to Addison, AL. recently for work so he can help them with their water system.  He stays busy, and loves his job.  I have to brag on him because he does all this mapping stuff that I don’t think I’d ever be able to fully understand, even though I pretend to.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hearing about his adventures at work, but there’s a reason he’s the GIS/GPS/mapping expert and I’m not.  He’s just so talented 🙂

I know I’m not the best at keeping this blog updated, but I will try to update fairly soon. Probably the next update will be after we have a baby.  Whoa!

– Sarah

the river is wild

Protip: you can always click on these pictures to make them larger.

We (Hodge and I) put our kayaks in the water at 12:30 PM, just after a lunch of sandwiches and granola bars. Had we known what was ahead of us, we’d have packed & ate a lot more food, and wouldn’t have left our grill in his truck.

We had a 15+ mile trip ahead of us that we assumed would only take a few hours.  We knew that as long as we averaged 4MPH, we would finish around 4 or 4:30 PM.  What we didn’t count on was how shallow the river was going to be.  At times depths would reach 5-6 feet, and at other times, the times we had to carry our gear, the water wouldn’t make it past our ankles.  It’s not a stretch to say we had to get out of our kayaks and drag/carry them 100 times.  This is not an exaggeration, if anything it may be an underestimation.
In addition to the times we had to get out and drag everything we’d brought with us, there were another 100 times where we were too stubborn to get out of our boats.  We pushed and pushed with our paddles while we were stuck on sandbanks, essentially turning our kayaks into gondolas.  Over the course of an afternoon, this would eventually wear us out.

Hodge “Gondoling” down the river.

At 3:00, an unexpected thunderstorm rolled through, thoroughly soaking any dry areas left on our bodies.  We were at least smart enough to keep our tents/sleeping bags stowed away in dry bags.  Around 4:30, I pulled out the GPS, checked our maps, and realized we weren’t even halfway to the end point, the place we had all of our food and remaining supplies.  If we were going to make it by nightfall, we needed to paddle faster.

Around 6:00 our arms had turned to rubber and we had no idea how much further down the “river” we needed to go to get to the truck.  The water was as clear as any we’d ever seen.  If there was something below our boats, we could see it.  We saw copperheads, fish, turtles and birds all along the river, but we never saw another person.  After 7 hours of continuous paddling we began to wonder if we had taken a wrong turn, perhaps we had branched off into another fork and were lost somewhere in Bankhead.  But there was nowhere to go but downstream.

You can see just how shallow the river was.
One of the many areas we had to get out and drag our gear.

By 8:30, it was getting pretty dark, and dangerous to portage.  One step in the wrong direction could result in a broken ankle. We had to make a decision to camp, or continue on in the dark.  After weighing our options, we agreed that continuing on would be a mistake.  We found a place to set up camp, tied our kayaks off, and tried our best to dry out.  One piece of information I wish we had known about the Sipsey beforehand is there are no places to camp.  It’s a river that’s cut a gash through the North Alabama limestone and created canyon walls anywhere between 50 & 100 feet high.  The campsite we settled for, was a flat rock jutting out onto the edge of the river.  It was flat because most of the year, water flows over and smooths it out.  However, since the water level was so low, it was exposed enough to set up camp.  It was just big enough to for a pitched tent to fit, and only inches from the water.  If the water level rose in the middle of the night, which was a real possibility given the thunderstorms that had passed to our north, we risked waking up soaking wet and losing all our gear.  We laid out our clothes to dry overnight, climbed inside the tent, and attempted to sleep.

Steep canyon walls.
Nope, can’t camp here.

With humans usually being in short supply, the local bullfrog population had no reservations about approaching us, or giving us an impromptu concert.  If I had to guess, this particular breed of bullfrog was prone to vices such as smoking because they were extra hoarse, and extra loud.  Sleep finally came around 11 and lasted until midnight.  Once you finally figure out a way to comfortably lay on a rock, it becomes uncomfortable, and you toss and turn all night, and you listen to bullfrogs sing about flies and crickets.  I flopped all around the bottom of the tent until 5:15 the next morning.  It was one of the longest nights I can ever remember.

At 6AM, after all of our gear was packed, I located my clothes.  They were as wet as they were the night before, and it was 20 degrees cooler outside.  I hadn’t packed a change of clothes because I had assumed we’d get back to the truck before we made camp.  This proved to be a bad decision on my part.  I had to will myself to put on soaking wet clothes on a 59 degree morning, wade through the water and paddle an unknown distance on virtually no sleep and no energy.  It was awful.

We set off downstream, and much to our dismay, found deeper, faster flowing waters.  It was the easiest mile and a half of kayaking I’ve ever done.  This is where we should have put in to begin with.  It was frustratingly easy.  We pulled into the sandy beach where we’d parked, dragged our gear and kayaks up a 100 foot incline, loaded up and headed out.

My only real regret is not taking enough pictures.  Everything was so wet, and I was afraid of ruining my phone.  Reading over this, and describing it to other people, it sounds miserable.  But I can’t wait to go back.  This time 20+ miles, and with more people tagging along.

– bc

now my feet won’t touch the ground

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for keeping my dad in their prayers.  There’s a couple of things that are certain in this life, one of them being that anytime your phone rings at 5:00 AM, you know it’s bad news on the other end.  I’ve gotten too many of those lately… but hopefully this will be the last for a long, long time.

This morning we left Houston at 3:30 AM and headed to Memphis to see my dad.  We arrived just after 3:00 PM.  I’m not sure if it was the long car ride or what, but Sarah’s been feeling pretty bad today.  Hopefully she didn’t catch something while out in Houston.  We headed up to see my dad, and he looked tired and weary, but also very confident.  I think more than anything he’s just ready to go play golf again!  We visited with my parents for a little while and finally reached home at around 7:00 PM, 15.5 hours after we first piled into the Xterra this morning.

I feel like I needed to finish up our mini-Expidition with a final rundown since we haven’t updated since Monday.  We visited Minute Maid Park (home of the Astros) where we walked on the field, hung out in the dugout, saw the clubhouse, and saw some pretty neat stuff that not too many other people get to see.

We swung by the Houston Aquarium, which in addition to fish, also had a White Tiger exhibit.  They have four total Tigers which they rotate every couple of hours.  This particular Tiger was obviously underfed.

If not for the protective glass, Sarah might be an only child.  They also had a Sting Ray petting area. Weird, but I definitely had to partake.  Sting Ray’s enjoy being petted, who knew?

We also stopped by the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where they had Dino Bones, Mayan Artifacts and stuff they’d drug up from the Titanic.  They even had a Crystal Skull similar to the one from latest Indiana Jones film.  The History Majors in Sarah and I always push us to this type of stuff.  It never disappoints.

That’s about it from Houston.  It was a great trip and we met some great people.  Glad we finally got to see where Joe calls home.

Enough can’t be said about how blessed and thankful we all are for the prayers extended out for my dad.  He obviously is a little discouraged about being in the hospital again, but we think being at Memphis will really help get to the bottom of what’s wrong.  Whatever the outcome may be, we can’t say it enough, THANK YOU for your thoughts and prayers.

Sarah and I go in for our 3D/4D Ultrasound on April 3rd, and when we get done, I’m sure Sarah will be back to post the first ever pictures of Robert Deegan Cooper.

Until next time…

– bc