People are more important than buses.


The other day we were a bit early to pick up Adelyne from school.  So we were outside letting Maxwell run around.  One of her former teachers came out and stopped to visit with us.  After about 10 minutes of conversation, a big, white bus drives off.  The teacher looks at it and said, “Oh, that was my bus.”

Richard and I were so sorry and told her so profusely.  You see, in our village the bus only comes once or twice an hour.

She looked at us and said, “It doesn’t matter.  I believe people are more important than buses.”

And we continued our conversation.

On the day of our 13th anniversary since we stepped foot in Poland, I would like to say this is one of the greatest lessons I have learned while living in Poland:  People.

People are the most important.

Thank you, Poland, for teaching us such truths.

1 John 4:7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.



mom…i didn’t understand you, until i became you.

and now i don’t just appreciate you, i admire you more.  love you more.  and can never seem to learn enough from you.

you taught me to love.

to forgive.

to say i’m sorry.

to accept others.

to give.

you helped us live through laughter.

through creativity.

through giving.

you put others first.

you never complain.

and you are always there when we need you.

mom, words will never be enough, and so i’ll leave you with a simple wish…

i wish you continued beauty and grace.

love and laughter.

cuddles and kisses.

i wish you every bright and shining memory of a gloriously-gifted life.

a healthy countenance.

and joy in your children and our children…

and one day their children.

mom, i wish you a day to be celebrated for being the greatest woman in history.  or, at least, my history!

i love you, mom.

happy birthday!


Orphan Train


There are so many thoughts swirling through my mind today, and they all come back to Maxwell. Today Josephine celebrates her second month of life. She is as cute as a button and big as a bear. I understand that she was born at nearly 11 pounds, but I would lay money on the fact that she is 16 pounds today. Her 2-month appointment is next week, and I look forward to her stats.

So, if today is Josephine’s big day, how do I continue to circle around back to Maxwell? It’s simple. As each day is simple. And it’s simply this, every day I reflect on Maxwell’s milestones and compare them to where Josephine is today.

Is that okay? I don’t know. It’s hard to know because they are close in age, and just as I was recovering from our first year with Maxwell, we find out we’re pregnant with Josephine.

It’s hard to go from watching one baby slowly die, be revived, and fight every day for his life for months on end. After he makes it, you still watch him. Daily. Fiercely protecting the very air he breathes.

Once out of the hospital, you gladly sacrifice sleep as his apnea mat, tucked protectively under his crib’s mattress, ticks methodically soothing your very spirit. The very tick keeping you awake is the same tick keeping you sane. There you have to find your balance between sleep and sanity. And that’s when you realize that sanity wins because sleep eludes you so that you can continue to hear that tick, tick, tick, tick.

Because there is the tick, you know that your son lives another moment. He is with you. The sun has set, he is sleeping, and you have made it through another day. A day with him. You should be sleeping to prepare for the next day, but you can’t. Tick, tick, tick, tick.

And then it’s hard to find out you have another little one coming.

You become a tornado of emotions. Joy being the forefront followed closely by fear. Joy. Fear. Joy. Fear. And sometimes they mesh together and you don’t know where one begins and the other ends.

That’s when you have to make a decision. To stop. To stop living in fear and to focus on joy. But it’s harder than that single word, Stop.

I just finished reading an amazing book, Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. It parallels the stories of two girls that go through the foster care system during drastically different times of American history. One, Vivian, goes through during a time of immigration in our country followed by the Great Depression. The second, Molly, is in present-day foster care. Their lives differ. Their lives imitate. One is 91. One is 17. Decades may separate who they are, but circumstances resonate who they are.

And it is in this book that I saw a bit of where I am. Who I am. And why I am. Today.

Vivian is asked a metaphorical question by Molly. Does she believes in ghosts? It is then that Vivian pauses before she responds. And her answer is simple, “Yes…They’re the ones that haunt us. The ones that left us behind.”

Later in the book there comes a part when Molly is pondering over Vivian, her statement, and her life. And Molly has finally understood what Vivian had to say, coming to this conclusion, “…Vivian has come back to the idea that the people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moments. They’re with us in the grocery store, as we turn a corner, chat with a friend. They rise up through the pavement; we absorb them through our soles.”

Bam! It’s ironic that on the very day that I am rejoicing upon Josephine’s second month of life and mourning where Maxwell was at that exact moment in his life, that I read this passage.

Today I am in a car, driving to the mountains, to spend quality time with family during Sprint Break. Happy 2nd-month of life, Josephine.

With Maxwell, I was in a hospital, sanitizing every ounce of my being, still having to put on full hospital garb, mask, and booties, while finding myself fortunate that I could grasp his very finger. That his finger still pulsated with life. Very weak, unstable life. But life. Praying to God that one day he would make it out of where he was. Happy 2nd month of life, Maxwell.

Vivian didn’t believe in literal ghosts, but the way that Christina Baker Kline describes the weight of Vivian’s past and the people that traveled with her daily in who she was and how she lived reminded me exactly of where I am today.

Celebrating Josephine. Reflecting on Maxwell. Intertwined. Forever.

I will never be the same person. Woman. Wife. Mother.

I will never be the same human being.

I watched my son take his last breath. I ran into the hospital’s hall screaming for anyone to come and help bring him back to life. He was revived. After that it was a waiting game. A waiting game for life.

And a year and a half later as we celebrate Josephine, I remain haunted by Maxwell.

His life has made me who I am today.

A different woman. A different wife. A different mother.

Fear. Joy. Fear. Joy. Fear. Joy. When will it stop?

It stops long enough for me to celebrate Josephine while playing peek-a-boo in the mirror with Max.

For God does not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

There is no comparison…

When my son stopped breathing and had to be rescued, and yet, once again, was left without any help…I sat next to him.  I had already spent all evening, from 9pm until 5am, shaking him every 10 seconds so that he would be reminded to breathe.  And, yes, I was in the hospital.

But then it happened.  He stopped.  Completely.  He had no more breath left in him.

And I had to run into the halls screaming, while his alarms were going off, because no one was coming.  I had to run into the halls and yell, “My son!  My son!  He is not breathing.”

Finally two nurses came and got him breathing again.  They did not call a doctor.  They never did.  They got him breathing and then left me alone, again, with my son.

And I saw his light begin to disappear.  He had already been fighting for three days.  And for three days, very minimal was done to keep him alive.  When we told the doctor the night before he wasn’t breathing, she looked at him, shook him, and said, “Oh, it’s sleep apnea.  It’s common in infants.”

And she left again.  For the entire night.  From 9pm until the moment I ran into the hall screaming, not a single medical professional came to check on my premature, listless, graying baby, who also hadn’t eaten in 3 days.

No one.

And so I knew.  I knew as I sat next to him that he had very little time left here on earth.  I called my husband to see if we could Air Vac him out of Poland, but they said that the medical doctors would have to declare that they were unable to care for him.  If you have ever met a Pole, there is no way one will declare that they are unable to do anything.  At all.  They are a country of great pride.  In many, many, many areas, they should be.  But not in the care of my son.

Then we debated going to the US Embassy in Warsaw and demanding help.  But that would take 3 hours one way.  And he didn’t have 3 hours left.

We were tired, dejected, and left without anyone fighting on our side.

I sat.  I sat next to my son and I watched as he began to slip away.  And I could only cry.  And cry.  And cry.

My mom and dad had gotten to meet him.  But the rest of our families had not.  And I knew now that they would not.

My heart was broken.  My sister called this baby, Maxwell, her baby-and she had never met him.  But she prayed for him from the moment of our announcement, she ran a Triathlon for him, she wept for him.  She was his biggest champion.  She loved him.  And yet she never had the chance to meet him.

And I knew that day.  I just knew she never would.

So not only did my heart break for my son that was lying next to me with mere moments left to fight for his life.  But my heart broke for the fact that my family would not get to meet our son.  Our beautiful and miraculous baby that we had to fight to even bring into the world.

And I did the only thing I had left in me to do.  I sat there touching my baby and weeping.

Then she entered.  A miracle.  An angel.  The new doctor on shift.  The nurses, they tried to explain away my baby, but she wouldn’t let them.  She didn’t even listen to them.  She took one look at Maxwell dying and said, “There is nothing I can do!”

An ambulance was called, and my son was escorted down 4 flights of stairs, into the waiting ambulance and brought to the nearest ICU.  I was kicked out and he was intubated.  He was put on 100% ventilation.  His body was put into a full coma.  And he was put on antibiotics to now fight the pneumonia that was also ravaging his body as well as congestive heart failure medicine, because the hole in his heart had doubled in size—the lack of oxygen caused his heart to work overtime, resulting in a heart that was also now at risk of failing.

He was given a blood transfusion.  And we were given the news.

It was bad.  There was no news if he would make it.  It was now a waiting game.  A waiting game for life.  A waiting game for death.

And my sister.  She again took charge.  An ocean away, and yet she was able to somehow help lead me through this time in my life.  We were only allowed to see our son from 11am-7pm.  Otherwise, we had to wait.  Every evening, we were allowed to call at 10pm and ask if there was a status change.  And every morning at 8am we were allowed to call and ask if he made it through the LONG hours of the night.  If he was still alive.

And my sister, God bless her soul, she would wait for our evening and morning calls, her phone bill, I am sure, ran into the 4 digits of expense, and we would give her the status update.  He was alive.  He was getting a blood transfusion.  His ventilator quit on him and they had to bag him for about 6-10 minutes.  He squeezed his daddy’s finger today, and so forth.

Every morning and every night she called so that she could share with the rest of the world if our baby was alive.  If there was progress.  If he was going to make it.  And, as she shared, the rest of the world prayed.

After all, she considered our baby her baby.

My sister…There is no comparison.

She is the woman I wish I was.  The woman that I would like to be.

Compassion never fails her.  Money never stops her.  And love never leaves her.  Even if an ocean separates her.

Today is her birthday, and I couldn’t wish a more deserving person 100 years, Sto Lat!  I couldn’t wish a more giving person a life of health, happiness, and love.  And I couldn’t ask God for a greater friend and supporter.

And so I’ll leave you with this…our son did fight with all that was within him. And he did conquer every demon that wanted to keep him from us here on earth.  And he did survive.

And because of it, he finally got to meet my sister.  His auntie.  And my best friend…

Happy birthday, Darby.


Top 13 reasons why I am “Lucky” to be married to Rich. Happy anniversary, Baby!



Okay, so I don’t believe it’s luck.  Actually at all.

It’s God.  It’s grace and forgiveness.  And it’s a whole lotta fight!

But today, on two different continents, and 4 babies later (does a belly baby count?), we celebrate 13!

Happy September 30th, Baby!


So, my dear Richie…If I may, here are some of the Top 13 Memories I have with you.

Oh, and I am not going to include our engagement, wedding or children’s births…those are givens.

Starting at 13 and going toward number 1…

13.  Backpacking through Yosemite with you and being robbed of our food by bear cubs and THEN mama bear!

Remember what you and Brian did?  We were told, if a bear approaches, make noise, wave sticks in the air, and throw rocks.  Well…I am still pretty sure it was NOT a good idea to throw a rock at baby cub, knocking it out of the tree.  Mama came back—big and MAD!  None of us got great sleep that night, eh?  Good thing there were two of us couples to take night-watch shifts.

But, truly, the greatest memory from all of this was when the sun was rising and mama and her two cubs were crossing the horizon just in front of the sun merely hundreds of yards from us.  I have hardly, to this day, seen anything so beautiful.

12.  Going backpacking with you in the middle of November—straight up—switchbacks!  I was freezing cold.  My feet were tired.  And it was HARD!  Once we finally reached the top, you put up the tent and ditched me outside in the dark.  Alone.  And threw yourself in and went to sleep.  I was left organizing the packs and fending for myself.  Twas not what I thought my first year of marriage would be like 😉

But the funniest was on the way back down, in the SNOW (because of course it had to snow that night), when you told me to NOT step on the logs.  Yet I did.  And very ungracefully landed on my back.

You came to me and asked, “Are you hurt?”

Do you remember what I said, “Nope!  But my pride is.  And, well, maybe my bum, too.”

We had a good laugh all the way back down.  I still laugh today!

11.  Stinky Feet Jake.  He will always be one of my funniest and favorite memories of ALL times, married.  Remember how it started to pour as we were biking through Austria, so we headed high and decided to sleep on top of the wash?  Well, low and behold, another biker also got caught in the night.  Remember how Stinky Feet Jake only had a kid bike helmet and only rice to eat?  No salt.  Nothing.  So, we invited him to share our meal.  And then, because of the rain, we invited him to share our tent.

Do you still SMELL his feet when he took off his shoes and socks?  I thought we would die of “stink inhalation” that very night!

And the freakiest part was how he kept talking about the probability of being murdered on a wash in Austria that very night!

I am pretty sure you slept with your hand on your Leatherman.

He was the most interesting creature I have ever met…and I was GLAD when he took off the next day.  I do believe, however, it took us WEEKS to get rid of his “stinky feet”!

10.  Renting scooters with you in Corfu.  Actually, I am going to have to make memories 10 and 9 about Corfu, Greece!

Remember how we got the scooters for $10 for the ENTIRE day!  We scooted all over that island, in our bathing suits, stopping at different cliffs to jump off of, beaches to swim at, and then, oops, a Monastery.  Good thing they had wraps for people like us…a bit unprepared to enter a sanctuary!

When the rain started, remember how we were stuck on the side of the road when an older Greek gentleman invited us into his garage/apartment for cookies and coffee.  He didn’t speak a word of English…We not a word of Greek.  But, somehow, over cookies and coffee, no words were really needed.

We waited out the rain and had an absolute blast with our new Greek friend!

9.  YOU DANCING IN GREECE!  One of my all-time favorite memories of you was when you were called out on the dance floor at the show we were at in Greece!

First of all, you are extremely handsome.  But get you in front of an audience in Corfu, Greece, with Greek music playing—and you are not only FINE but QUITE THE ENTERTAINER!

They were showing you and the other participants how to dance with the table in your mouth.

I am going to go out on a limb and say they never suspected you were going to put that table in your mouth and take over the dance floor!  You had the crowd going wild.

The hosts for the evening lost control—but you were a hit!

I can still picture you twirling all Big Fat Greek Wedding style on the evening.  And you rocked!

Thanks for always being so much fun!

8.  Definitely one of my all time favs was swimming 5 months pregnant with the Manta Rays and you!  Feeding them was also a hoot.  Those Manta Rays would jump up on our legs like little dogs, all hungry and begging for food.  Remember how we had the entire place to ourselves because everyone else left to drink.  We just swam, and swam, and swam with these beautifully graceful creatures, stroking their slimy backs and in awe of how awesome they really were!

You already know I’m a huge animal lover…and so to be on this journey with you was awesome.  I’d swim with them daily if we lived in the Caribbean…Alas, God has planted us in Poland.  So, I guess now I’ll just swim with them in my sleep!

7.  Of course one of my favorite memories with you has to be on the SAME journey…5 months pregnant.  Except this time we’re snorkeling in the crystal blue waters.  And, oh, yes.  I was stung by a small jellyfish.  And yes, I was in pain!  But, you…You saw a lighthouse in the distance and insisted on still snorkeling.  After all, you were SURE you were going to find treasure!

On top of that, you said, “Stay near the boat!  They can help you if you get in trouble!”

And off you swam, leaving your pregnant, snorkeling wife all alone in the same water with the jellyfish that just stung her on the arm.

Again—not exactly what I expected my Prince Charming to do, much like the backpacking adventure.  But, I guess that is a huge part of marriage—realizing that fairytale and reality are two different things!

And, forevermore, I have a story to goad you about-leaving your pregnant, jellyfish-stung wife alone so you could go and find treasure.  You truly are unique (is that putting it mildly?).

6.  Singing a duet with you in church.  Was that brave or stupid?  And, without a doubt, I know the answer.   Stupid!  But, with you, I have already done so many crazy things that displaying my very out of tune, tone-deaf voice was just one other thing that I could now cross off of my bucket list of NEVER SHOULD HAVES…How you made it through the duet without laughing your head off, I’ll never know.  And how our lovely congregation made it through our song without either running out or busting up, is nothing short of a miracle itself!

Why I did it?  Who knows.  Put a microphone in my hand and I’ll pretty much do anything.

Wish it was in the era of digital recording because there are some days when I could REALLY use a great belly laugh.  And this moment of our marriage was one of the biggest of all times.

So thanks for going all Jesus SNL with me.  It probably seemed like a comedy skit—but I, with great intentions, sang my heart out.  With you.  For Jesus.

I’m not saying I made a joyful noise. It was probably not joyful.  And it was definitely noise.  But it was grand—because it was with you!

5.  Going to the train station with you for the first time to help serve the homeless an evening meal in Poznan, Poland.  You handed me the food and tea and said, “Wait outside!”  And then you disappeared.  Into the train station.  With your blue jacket and green beanie cap.

You emerged about 5 minutes later with 100 men and women behind you.  All hungry.  And all grateful you came.

I was stunned.  I knew you loved the other times you had been (I think 3 before I joined you), but now I understood why you went back.  Again.  And again.  And again.

And it was on this very night that I knew…the homeless had captured your heart.  And their spirits had captured your soul.

Compassion reigned and Bread of Life began.   That was 12 years ago this coming November.  12 years I would NEVER want to go back and erase.  12 years and 3 countries and over 28,000 served annually.

But that night, with your blue jacket and green beanie, will still be one of the most vibrant memories to me.  It was that night I saw how you put others before yourself and your heart expanded to include an entirely new family—strangers they were.  But family they became!

4.  I couldn’t include 13 years of marriage without reminding you of the time you nearly KILLED me in the air.  Yes.  I was brave, bold, and foolish enough to go up in the air with you, a new pilot, in a little tarp plane.  Something that was barely bigger than you and I combined.  And I have no affinity towards heights, air, or small planes.  Yet, because I was so proud of you, I went.  Up. Up.  Up.  And then you did it to me!  You planned my demise.  Because you let go of the controllers and you said, “Take over while I tie my shoes!”

I may have perhaps wet my pants a little on that trip (okay, exaggerating—but still).

I, in my very normal Brooke-nature, freaked out and probably called you crazy.  Perhaps a few other non-loving things, too.

I think you figured out rather quickly that your joke was not funny.  But it is still one of my greatest memories to this day.


Who knows…perhaps because I thought I was going to die.

Perhaps because that is when I actually realized how zany and funny you truly were.

I guess it took thousands of feet in the air with a mere piece of fabric/tarp for me to realize that.

Zany?  Funny?  Or simply crazy?  No matter, it solidified the fact that YOU definitely were the perfect match for me!

Just keep it on the ground from now on.

3.  Playing truth or dare with you in the mountains of Austria.  Remember that camping trip?  It was hilarious—and, although we’d been married for a couple years, we still found out so much about one another.

I think that is all I shall say here, publicly, though!

I do think, however, it was probably one of the first times we were actually vulnerable and honest with one another.  Funny how we were already married and yet still did not fully know the other.

Thanks for learning how to share truths with me.  I love you, crazy man!

2.  When I thought our marriage was over, and was sleeping in the next room, you came in, laid down next to me, and put your arm around my waist.  I did not like you at that moment.  In fact, it was probably near hatred.  And yet, that small gesture let something back into my life.  And it was a sliver of light.  Very small.  And yet it existed.  Then and only then I knew, by the grace and forgiveness of God, we could beat this battle of defeat.

And it was a long road full of complete surrender.  But we made it to the other side.

So, thank you for that “one last gesture”.  It helped keep our marriage alive.

***And the number 1 memory I carry in our 13 years together is this***

1.  The night that I and the doctors were sure Maxwell was going to die.  I had to call you, because you had JUST left to go and check on Adelyne.

I called you and said, “Richard!  Get back here.  Quickly!  You will NEVER forgive yourself if you are not here when your son passes away.”

And I just PRAYED you would make the hour drive back in time to say goodbye to your son.  And I cried the entire time waiting for your return.

You turned the car around and rushed back to the hospital.  But, when you walked in, you looked at me and said, “I will say ‘Goodnight!” but I will not say ‘Goodbye!’”  And you sat, holding your son’s lifeless hand, praying for him, and crying.

I was so weak and had such little faith at that moment in my life.  But you held on.  You remained strong.

And Maxwell eventually made it…out of the threshold of death back into life.

You, my Richard, were stalwart!

Thirteen years, Richie.  We have many memories.  Good, bad, ugly, sad, funny, and full of adventure.

We have them together, you and I, because we chose to say “I do!” and “I do too!” thirteen years ago.  And together we still remain.

Crazy.  In love.  And ready for more adventures together.

I love you, Richard!  Thank you for choosing me.

Forever yours,

Your B