Catching Up I: Before

November 11th, 2014

Hello dear friends,

As we head into the cold, dormant part of the year, it’s evident that our family has not only stabilized, but is being strengthened and nourished from the roots up.  We see it in our marriage and in each of the members of this family and the many interactions we have with each other.  There is grace and forgiveness and healing and restoration and hope and peace here because Jesus the Truth is here, and we are thankful.  So thankful.

This blog has served as a journal for our family, and because of that I’m reluctant to carry on without first going back to fill in some empty spaces.

So without words unless words are helpful or necessary, here are some favorite photos from Before, May to July of this year.

[Note:  If the photos are excellent or I appear in them, they were taken by our fifteen-year-old daughter Laura or by Mindy, the college student who lived with us during her summer break.]













Nature notebooking~









Tommy’s bone density improved from -9 to -5 in one year.











Field trip to Gettysburg~








Eighth Annual Big Families and Friends Picnic~








Laura is friends with Sarah Huizinga, and both are sisters to treasures from Pleven.  Oh the joy of holding Penny for the first time that day.




We are so blessed to witness the friendships between our five oldest children.








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The girls weren’t about to accept another year without homemade freezer jam, so they took matters into their competent hands.

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We’re always glad to see the lovebirds when they come over.  Lindsay is a gift to our family as well as to our firstborn, just perfect.



All the wage-earners of the family pooled resources to invest in a worthwhile gift for Laura’s birthday.  She has enormous natural artistic ability.



Road trip to Kentucky was not for the faint of heart, but oh!  So worth it.








Okay, not exactly a favorite photo, but it sure brings back memories of taking the kids to the Cincinnati Zoo without Joe.  Potty/diaper time in the handicapped stall, of course without benefit of adaptive potty seats or diaper changing facilities.  I will spare you further details.  Oh my.  I was thankful Mindy was along to be with the other children so they didn’t have to wait outside the door for an hour every time.  As you can see, Tommy was unflappable.








Her favorite birthday gift and does she ever use it.

















Fourth of July Barnstormers ballgame followed by fireworks



































Verity was very slow to warm up to Mindy, so we considered this a great victory.





There’s more than one way to clean out gutters.












This is the last photo I took of Tom-Tom.  Getting a tube feeding and watching me make cookies for Family Night.  How I miss this little person and his happy spirit.



Ben and Verity are typically the first to wake in the morning.  This photo will always be bittersweet for me, as it is the final photo from Before.  I took it the morning of July 31st.



Photos from After, August to the present time, are planned for the next blog post.  Before too long, I hope also to have updates on the children in the Pleven orphanage ready to share with you.  And other posts are waiting to be written.

So many of you have continued to pray for us and reach out and minister to us in various ways.  You are a blessing and we thank the Lord for you.


Love in Jesus,






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47 Responses to “Catching Up I: Before”

  1. Fiona says:

    I’ve been popping back here so often hoping to see a new post. So great to finally see one, they are beautiful photos. Glad to hear that you are all doing well.

  2. Colleen says:

    Beautiful photos. God bless you.

  3. Mandy says:

    Beautiful ❤️ Always in my thoughts and prayers…

  4. Missy says:

    So nice to see pictures of everyone. Especially nice to see hot summer days as the weather gets colder and grayer! Keeping all of you in my prayers.

  5. Kim says:

    So wonderful to see all the beautiful memories you made. Thanking God for them and praying for your continued healing xo

  6. Elaine says:

    It is so nice to see the pics. Praying daily for healing of your loss. Looking back and looking ahead is good. Love to see how much Katie is growing and changing….and Verity! oh how she is growing too! just precious!

  7. Kelly says:

    I stop by here every day to see how you’re doing, and to see if there’s any new news. So glad to hear you’re being uplifted daily!

  8. What a dear blessing you are to so many here Susanna. Thank you for sharing your family… they are so beautiful. You have a beautiful, blessed life. Thank you again for sharing. : )

  9. Jeannie says:

    Susanna, so glad you are beginning to see healing in your family. Thank you for sharing your joy and sorrow with us. We will continue to pray.

  10. Deborah says:

    Made my day to hear from you and see the pics. God bless you all.

  11. Maureen says:

    <3 this…tears, but beautiful to see. (((hugs)))

  12. Barb says:

    So happy to see a post from you. I am glad to see your beautiful family and to hear that you are beginning to live in your new normal.

  13. Deanna says:

    God is good. We are thankful to be related to you all through the marriage of the “lovebirds.” It is a joy all around.

  14. cathy says:

    Bless you, all
    Thank you for sharing


  15. Tami C says:

    (((Susanna))) – thanks for sharing these beautiful photos. I’ve missed you!

  16. Tiffiny says:

    Perfect ending to my day! Thank you for sharing…I can’t believe how big Verity is!!! When did she turn into a big girl? And Ben! Such a beautiful family. God bless you all.

  17. Rebekah says:

    Blessings to your family. This post was long hoped and prayed for. Thank you for allowing God to heal, help, and restore. Though I’ve never met you, you have been such a rich blessing to me! God Bless You All!

  18. Bri says:

    I loved all of these pictures… especially the fourth of July ones. Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to put this together.. I know it was bitter-sweet for you… thank you! I just had to comment on the picture of Tommy where Katie is sitting in the background at the counter, where it looks like she is sitting without support on the stool… I am so THRILLED with the progress she has made!!!! The fact that she is stable enough to “perch” after not even being able to sit up when she came home and the work she (and y’all) have had to do to strengthen her… wonderful!!!
    Blessings to you all,
    Bri :)

  19. Melissa says:

    So glad to hear from you. Praying for your continued healing.

  20. Lucy says:

    So glad you’re doing well.

  21. Sandi, bbcooker says:

    Thank you for blogging again/still.

    Love in Jesus back to you, Sandi.

  22. Lorena says:

    Bless you, Susanna. Just, bless you. :)

  23. Heidi says:

    I stop by every couple of days to see if there are any updates on how you are all doing. I keep your family in my prayers. You have some lovely photos there.

  24. Jenny says:

    I second what Bri said, I was marveling over Katie sitting in that stool! What a beautiful sight!
    Thank you for this post. <3

  25. pat spencer says:

    So glad to see a update I have checked a few times a week and always kept your family in my heart and prayers.

  26. cindy w says:

    so good to see these happy pictures of a blessed family. I also pop in and out to check for updates AND continue to have you in thoughts and prayers.

  27. Cassandra says:

    Hi Susanna,

    I love seeing the photos of the children but I am even more interested in how you are holding up.

    I apologize if my comment seems offensive as that is not my intention. I try to imagine what must be going through your mind but of course, I cannot. And I’m sure there are 1 thousand thoughts swirling around inside your head, one competing with another. So when you are able, I will be interested in hearing how you cope. I understand that you are a christian and therein hope is kept alive. But on a second to second basis, I imagine the grieving isn’t so straight forward.

    Grieving feels different from mourning, to me. Grieving is a more active emotion while mourning fundamentally changes the person we used to be.

    Continue to take care of yourself. One aspect of grieving that I didn’t anticipate, never mind expect it to linger for a full year and then some, was that grief is tiring. Exhausting. Bone weary. Our body keeps score and fatigue is communication in its own right.

  28. Georgiapeachie says:

    Continuing to pray for you.

  29. Aunt Erma says:

    Wonderful pictures—moments to be treasured for sure. What a storehouse of memories.

  30. Sarah G says:

    Thanks for sharing these precious memories with us. God often brings you to my mind when I’m praying <3

  31. Susanna says:

    Cassandra, of course your concern is not offensive. We have seen offensive and you are not it! I am grateful for the kindness you and many others have shown us while we have been brought so low.

    How I’m doing now will be part of the “After” post.

  32. Marilyn says:

    Love you… Much.

  33. Heather says:

    Sincerest thanks, Susanna, for sharing such precious memories. Many blessings to your whole family. You all remain in my thoughts & prayers

  34. Shari says:

    Thanks for posting an update. I’m continuing to pray for you.

  35. Joni McComsey says:

    Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing. Continued prayers for your family. I hope we get to meet someday. If we are meant to, it will happen.

  36. Gina in Spain says:

    THANK YOU for sharing…I have been popping in every so often to check if we had news from you…I am glad to see peace in your post.

    Please continue to share with us….Lots of hugs….

  37. April says:

    <3 Continuing to pray for all of you.

  38. Jennifer says:

    I have been reading your blog posts since about the time you first held Katie. You are precious to my heart, and I will continue to pray for you and your family!

  39. alison says:

    Thank you for being such an inspiration and sharing your family’s story. I hope someday to be able to adopt a special needs child. I am so sorry for your loss. You are a great Mom and have done so much.
    God Bless

  40. Anna T says:

    Beautiful picture Susanna! Thanks for sharing them. I’m continuing to pray for you and your family. I’m thankful for the blessing that you are to me and my family, we have treasured time with you! My Jacob turned 5 on 11/13 and I was talking with two of my friends about the mommy that I met “on-line”, so thankful that God is His infinite wisdom brought us together! With love always!

  41. HeatherK says:

    Beautiful pictures. We still pray for you everyday here in VT.

  42. I’m thinking of you this Thanksgiving day. I’m sure it’s a little harder today. Take care… We love you!

  43. Susanna says:

    Hadassah, thank you so much, dear friend. It was harder–lots of tears on my part. I love you, too, and hope you had a wonderful day with your family. <3

  44. KT says:

    I’ve been thinking of you and praying for you. Holidays get so busy, but also make us miss our loved ones who aren’t with us more than ever. I hope you feel like giving us an update soon. Happy Holidays to you and your family!

  45. Susan says:

    Fighting a mild and very unseasonal cold, I took an afternoon nap this afternoon, and unexpectedly dreamed about Katie and your family.

    In my dream, I had just told some church friends about her and about Pleven, and suddenly, there I was, visiting you with the friends and telling them, “See that little girl?? That’s Katie!!”, as Katie excitedly laughed and waved to us. She was walking, running, talking a little, and was as joyful and as beautiful in my dream as she is in reality.

    Your family had built a wonderful sort of roof garden playground atop your house, reached by an extremely long, steep and winding staircase, but filled with delights once it was reached. You were there – I greeted and hugged you – along with Joe and the children, playing on swings and slides and climbing contraptions among the blooming flowers, shrubs, and small trees that adorned the enormous garden.

    It was a beautiful memorial to Tommy…

    It was a very detailed, lovely and comforting dream, with far more detail than my dreams usually contain. I hope some version of my dream comes true for you and your family, after the long, steep climb of these last months.

    Much love to all of you…
    Susan in Kentucky
    (sorry we didn’t connect last summer!)

  46. Joy Horton says:

    I didn’t receive a notification in my email for this, I’m so glad I checked in for updates! What a wonderful surprise to see that you had posted! It is always such a beautiful thing to see the pics of your family and to hear from you, all the more now that it’s After. I think of you so often, Susanna, and pray for you. I love you, my friend.

  47. mamaporuski says:

    Just checking in to see how the holidays are going and to let you know you are all in our prayers as you journey this season. Love the photo blog post! Hugs!

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