Monday, November 29, 2010

And then there were 8

Today, November 29, 2010, at 1:00 pm in Bulgaria, a judge declared Alexis to be our daughter. We are now, officially, the proud parents of 8 beautiful and amazing children and Alexis is an orphan no more!

Officially introducing. . . .

Alexis Rayna Rieben

We are still working to finalize travel plans, but it looks like I will be returning to Bulgaria to bring her home the first week of January! I can't think of a better way to begin a new year! Once she is home we will FINALLY be able to move forward, full speed ahead, with Gage's adoption as well, so this day was a pivotal day in the lives of many! Once again, we are humbled and grateful for our Heavenly Father's continual outpouring of blessings! Our sweet little girl is finally coming home!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Celebrating Christ

Dear Family and Friends,

This year will mark a radical change in the way that our family celebrates Christmas.

For years we have struggled to find a balance between gift giving/receiving and celebrating the real "reason for the season," the birth and life of our Savior, Jesus Christ. While we feel that we have come closer to finding that balance each year, we still walk away feeling mediocre at best. As the Christmas season has crept steadily nearer, we have found ourselves on our knees many times, pleading with the Father for His guidance on how we can best celebrate Christ this Christmas.

As I was studying my scriptures I came upon a passage in Deuteronomy (24:19-21):

"When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it; it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless and for the widow: that the Lord they God shall bless thee in all the work of thine hands.

When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless and for the widow.

When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless and for the widow."

As I read and reread that passage, I was overcome by the peaceful presence of the spirit. We have been blessed my friends, SO BLESSED, both temporally and spiritually. We have a roof over our heads, warm clothing, and food on our table. We have a steady soure of income, access to wonderful medical care, clean water, education, and reliable transportion. We are surrounded, daily, by loving family and friends. And most importantly, we have been blessed with the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We have "harvested our sheaves, beaten our olive trees and gathered our grapes" and, because we have been so richly blessed, it is time for us to share those blessings with "the stranger, the fatherless and the widows."

This year friends, there will be no presents under our Christmas tree. There will be no Black Friday Christmas shopping, no toy catalogs, and no visits from Santa Claus, because from this year forward, our focus will be entirely upon fulfilling our Savior's "wishlist," because He has given us the greatest gift of all. . .His blood and His life in exchange for ours.

And what exactly might one find on the Savior's "wishlist?" His request is simple:

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25.40)

Our toy catalogs have been replaced by this, this, this, this, this and this. The time we would have spent shopping will be spent caroling to the residents of several local nursing homes, baking and delivering treats to our friends and neighbors who are unable to be with their loved ones during the holidays, providing meals and crafts for the families and children at our local Ronald McDonald House, sending cards, letters and care packages to the men and women fighting for our freedom overseas and to the missionaries working so hard to "publish peace" and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our Heavenly Father's children around the world. And in the evenings as we gather together around the Christmas tree, adorned with ornament depicting the Savior's birth, we will read one of the many testimonies of the Savior that we have asked friends and family to record for us.

We may not walk away with new shoes, clothes, toys, or electronics, but we do hope to walk away with a gift more precious than all of those combined. . .a deep and abiding love for our Savior and Redeemer and those whom we serve in His name.

Our "capstone" Christmas project this year will focus on a precious little boy in Eastern Europe. Dusty is a 5 year-old little boy living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. He was born prematurely, with Down syndrome and abandoned at birth. Last Christmas, each of our children chose a child on the annual Reece's Rainbow Angel Tree to sponsor and to pray for. Jacob chose Dusty. He has faithfully prayed for a family for Dusty every single day for the past year and his tender heart just can't comprehend why no one has come for "his boy."


As many of you may know, international adoption is expensive. While there is never a shortage of families willing to adopt, sadly, there is almost always a shortage of funds. Dusty is lucky to still be at the baby house, but institutionalization is imminent. The mortality rates at these institutions are high and it is very likely that, if transferred, Dusty would not survive childhood.

Dusty is truly "one of the least of these" and our gift to the Savior this Christmas is to raise as much money as possible for Dusty's grant fund so that finances do not stand in the way of a family being able to commit to bringing him home. This precious boy deserves to know the love of a family.

In an effort to raise money for Dusty's grant fund we will be hosting a fundraiser called "Stitched Together by Love." We will be putting together a "Heart" quilt that will be presented to Dusty's family once they have committed to bring him home (each heart pattern has been designed by my children and will be appliqued to the middle of each quilt square) . For every $5 donation, the name of the donor will be written on a heart that will be stitched to a quilt square. For every donation of $25 or more, your family's name will be stitched to the square. For donations of $35 or more you will also receive a beautiful Christmas ornament from Reece's Rainbow with Dusty's picture (when donations are made BEFORE December 15th).

In addition to having your name written on a heart, for every $5 donation your name will also be entered into a giveaway for a 16x20 matted and framed print of Del Parson's "Perfect Love" (Recognize this picture? This is the picture on the puzzle that was "Pieced Together by Love" earlier this year that now hangs in my girl's room as a testament to just how loved they are!).

To make a donation you can click on the "Stitched Together by Love" widget on the sidebar, click on Dusty's "Christmas Warrior" button (This will take you to Reece's Rainbow's Angel Tree. If you choose to do this, please make sure you specify Dusty when making a donation) or mail a check (again, be sure to specify that the donation is for Dusty) to:

Reece's Rainbow
PO Box 4024
Gaithersburg, MD 20885

All methods of donation are linked to Reece's Rainbow (including our Chipin) and are therefore tax deductible. Only donations through our "Stitched Together by Love" widget will notify us of your donation, so please be sure to let us know that you have donated if you choose to donate directly through Reece's Rainbow's website or by check. This quilt will be given to the family that commits to bring Dusty home and we want to make sure that he and his family are wrapped up in your love!

As you are considering your gifts to the Savior this Christmas, won't you please think of Dusty? Give the gift of family, love and life and help make this the last Christmas Dusty ever has to spend without a family!

The Rieben's

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NEVER a dull moment

First, let me say THANK YOU for all of the great questions that you have submitted! Richard and I have really enjoyed reading through and discussing them and we are looking forward to sharing our thoughts with you. I had planned to begin on Monday evening once Evan and I arrived in Philadelphia for surgery, but after a long day of driving and a long week ahead of us, sleep found me before my fingers could find the keyboard.

In addition to the bilateral femoral stapling (to correct the flexion contractures in his knees), Evan was also scheduled to have hardware (plates/screws) removed from a previous surgery. Shortly before surgery his doctor also decided to perform bilateral tenotomies on his feet because they were, once again, beginning to turn back in.

Evan was taken to the operating room at 11:30 am. At 4:30 pm I received a call from the doctor. All of the procedures had gone well, but there was a problem. A few minutes later he met me in the waiting room. When they had gone in to remove the hardware from the upper left femur they discovered that the bone had grown over parts of it. They worked carefully to remove it, but had to remove small portions of the bone with it as well. At this point in our conversation I already knew exactly where this was going. . .I know my son and I know his bones and I knew what was coming. Later, as they were stretching the left foot after performing the tenotomy, they heard a pop. His left femur, already weakened from the hardware removal, had snapped.

Unfortunately for Evan, that means that he is back in a hip spica cast (he spent 6 weeks in a spica earlier this year when he fell off the couch and broke his right femur). His doctor feels terrible, but I am relieved that it happened in the operating room, under anesthesia and in the skilled and capable hands of his doctor. You see, knowing my son and knowing his bones, I have a good feeling that a fracture may have been inevitable. With his left femur already weakened by hardware and bone removal, all it would take is one wrong move for his bone to snap. What if that had happened once we arrived home, 10 hours away from his doctor? So, while my heart is aching for my sweet boy, I am grateful for what is very likely a blessing in disguise.

Evan is doing well. He was under anesthesia for six hours so he has spent most of the last 18+ hours sleeping. They are managing his pain beautifully. He has yet to complain of pain and/or discomfort which is wonderful. He is scheduled for discharge on Saturday, but Evan and I are both hopeful that he may be able to get out early for "good behavior" (I never cease to be amazed by how quickly he bounces back). His doctor is hopeful that he will be able to remove the spica in four weeks.

In addition to the unexpected fracture and subsequent hip spica (which Evan lovingly refers to as the "stinky cast"), Richard's grandfather passed away yesterday morning. His funeral is scheduled for this Saturday. . .in Arizona. It is not likely that I will be home until Saturday/Sunday. Initially Richard and I felt that it would not be in Alayna and Lily's best interest for BOTH of us to be gone, but after a lot of thought, prayer and a generous offer from my mom to take care of the kids at home during the interim, we have decided that he needs to be with his family.

I think it might go without saying that there is truly never a dull moment in our lives and, while it is often exhausting (physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually), I find myself deeply grateful that the refiners fire is always burning bright, molding, shaping and strengthening us into the precious gems that our Heavenly Father intends for us to be.

As always, we appreciate your prayers and want you to know that each and every one of them are felt.

Thank you all for your patience as you wait for the answers to your questions! I promise that they are coming and soon!