Mount Hope – Chapter Three

Alone in the car and driving back home, Jas wanted to know all that was in Jun’s heart concerning the kids, grandkids and Oldfather Lake.

“I’m so proud our new grandkids! It’s fun having young ones in the family again!”

Junia bubbled over with joy. “I feel like they’ve been ours since they were babies.”

Junia looked back through the rear window to see the kids trailing behind in the jeep. “I’m thinking of something fun we can do and invite them over for a visit soon!”

Jas clasped Junia’s hand in his while his other hand remained guiding the steering wheel. “I was thinking of taking the boys to a baseball game…”

“That would be fun for you and Ryan, but I was thinking of something to do at home–dinner, games, making snow cones…”

Both were quiet for a few minutes each with their own thoughts about fun things to do with the kids. Then Jas’ thoughts turned toward Oldfather Lake. “Hope you’re not going to be disappointed going back to your old kitchen after Oldfather?”

Junia remembered with delight the garden patio just outside the french doors in the dining room–the kitchen’s large oak island and griddle where she had made pancakes, eggs and bacon for breakfast–the wide staircase with tapestry carpet leading up to four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom and fireplace. Who would not be tempted to covet this countryside mansion?

“I think Oldfather is a lovely retreat–a wonderful place one looks forward to visiting, but I’m thankful for home–looking forward to getting back there too!”

Jas squeezed Jun’s hand in appreciation of her gracious answer. “We’ll have to think of a special thank-you gift to send to Farmer Johnson.”

Although Jun’s answer satisfied Jas he quietly continued thinking about Oldfather Lake and the bidding process. Junia, sensing her husband was in deep contemplation about something, remained quiet the remainder of the trip–praying for the family including the new grandkids.

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Prayers continued daily for the children and Ryan’s need for a new job. Caitlin already had her own business and worked from home. She and her brother, John had learned the art of carpentry from their dad. And even though she had gone to college, earned a business degree and worked at the same company where Ryan had worked, she longed to work with wood.

After Caitlin married Ryan and they bought their first house, she took her carpentry skills a step further and learned to make furniture for their new home. From her basement workshop Caitlin became an artist in making oak furniture. Friends who visited their home commented on the beautiful, unique furniture and requested Caitlin to make special pieces for them. Her business began with a few orders from friends and then by word of mouth, orders for her furniture multiplied. This venture brought income to cover the costs of materials, tools and her time, but wasn’t enough to cover all the bills. And since the kids had arrived she had postponed accepting orders at least until the kids would be in school. But now that Ryan was home she began working in her studio again hoping the extra income along with Ryan’s unemployment benefit would be enough until “something else” opened up for them. The “something else” still a mystery, yet with hopeful trust in a faithful, heavenly father, who always provides.

Ryan cherished the time at home with Caitlin and the kids. Transitioning from manager to full-time dad–from office environment to kitchen and playground–from production reports to story time and games–proved to be a refreshing contrast to his office routine.

In addition to working on furniture orders Caitlin secretly worked on making a baby crib, anticipating the arrival of a newborn baby soon. Their three boys would soon have a new baby sister to add to foster care. God willing, the four children would stay together in foster care with them for at least another year, maybe longer.

Ryan and Caitlin Roger had tried several years to have their own children. However, God had other plans for them. When offering up their lives to be missionaries in a foreign land, they waited, but never received affirmation from God. Yet when the opportunity came to offer up their lives to be parents to needy children, the confirmation came, along with peace. And now they would just have to trust God for his provision too.

“Now, may the God of peace…equip you with all you need for doing his will…” Hebrews 13:20-21

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Summer days busy with household projects, visiting the new grandkids, weekend campouts, fishing, swimming, backyard cook-outs with neighbors, quickly passed by until it seemed suddenly autumn had arrived. The Jaspers enjoyed their new lifestyle as retirees, especially having grandchildren close by. Even if the new grandchildren could be just a temporary addition to their family, they decided to love them like their own anyway. Their other grandchild, Jenna, lived far away in Colorado, the teenage daughter of eldest son John and his wife Lynette. They kept up with her on Facebook, where she posted pictures of herself with friends and occasionally surprise candid pictures of her parents. John had left home many years ago to attend Colorado State University to study forestry and there he had met his wife, Lynette. His wife often said in jest that John fell in love with Colorado first and her second, so if she had to move he would divorce her and since divorce is not an option, then it was Colorado until heaven. Then John would jokingly say that surely heaven must be somewhat like Colorado.

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3

One crisp, cool autumn morning in October, God brought baby Ava into the world–a new sister for the boys to watch over, a new grandchild for the Jaspers–a newborn baby needing Caitlin and Ryan’s loving care . With bitter-sweet emotions, Charlotte, the family advocate, brought the sleeping baby, bundled in blankets, and carefully placed her in Caitlin’s arms.

As an advocate, Charlotte always empathized with the pain the natural birth mother felt when giving up her child, but also rejoiced with relief for the child when delivered to a safe environment. Baby Ava would be safe from her biological parent’s painful situation, a chance to be healthy in every way. Charlotte gave the new parents some helpful instruction and informational resources for additional help if needed. Then she visited with them about the boys, who at the moment were in school.

As Ryan and Caitlin sat side by side in awe of their new child Charlotte looked from one to the other, eye to eye, and after locking in their attention she smiled with her eyes. “I am so delighted about the progress the boys have made in their new home and at school. They seem happy and accepting of their situation. And so I’m confident that baby Ava will be well also.”

Ryan looked at Caitlin as if he wanted her to speak for both of them. “Thank you. We love them like our own and we’re so thankful that we’ll be able to keep them all together with their new sister.”

Charlotte stood up preparing to leave. “And we are thankful for you–for taking care of these children in their time of need.” As she headed toward the door Charlotte turned her head back and added. “And I know you feel like they’ve been a blessing to you too!”

The Rogers glowed with joy acknowledging Charlotte’s statement to be true. The kids had been a blessing and now one more blessing had been added to it.

The new parents reserved this memorable first day to provide full attention to baby Ava, to comfort and attend to every little need. Bottle feeding, burping, diaper changing and rocking her to sleep. Caitlin cuddled baby Ava, softly singing and even reading to her. She observed the little one’s natural routine to establish a schedule that would make baby Ava feel loved, comfortable and cherished.

Soon the boys were home from school and then they too gave their full attention to baby Ava, holding her for a moment and introducing themselves. They giggled about her tiny fingers and toes. The proud, protective, older brothers made Jazzy a little jealous for all the attention baby Ava was stealing from him. He scratched on the door to go out and then retrieved a ball from the corner of the yard, but when the boys played ball with Jazzy, and then gave him a doggy treat, all was forgiven.

A few days later, the Grands came to meet baby Ava too, bringing gifts for all, even Jazzy. Grand Jun presented a baby blanket and booties that she had crocheted and promised a crocheted doll later after it was finished. Jas brought her a fuzzy teddy bear that played music when squeezed. They also gave Caitlin and Ryan a gift card to help out with whatever else they needed. Also, a new board game for the kids and a toy for Jazzy.

Everyone in the Rogers household was elated to have a new baby along with all the gifts and glibly accepted little sister’s crying thinking it would pass in a few days. However, from baby Ava’s shoes, the first few weeks with her new family, must have been quite traumatic, emotionally and physically. Many times she cried till she turned red all over. It seemed the only time she didn’t cry was when bottle feeding or sleeping, but she didn’t sleep as long as she should. Caitlin tried the therapies that Charlotte had recommended–salt water baths, massages with baby oil, keeping her bundled in blankets, cuddling her and soft music. And Caitlin added her own therapy–prayer.

Little sister’s first week had been most trying for the family. For several days she slept for just one short hour before waking with a startling cry and then fell asleep again only after wearing herself out from crying. It was frustrating not knowing what her cry was all about. Was she in pain–was she frightened–was she sick? Oh, how they wished she could tell them.

They tried several routines to soothe her. Ryan prayed while Caitlin held her, rocked her, or patted her back in case there was a bubble in her tummy. Bottle feeding helped for a few minutes, but then after the burping and while trying to rock her to sleep, she cried again.

The next therapy to sooth her was a salt water bath. But no, she cried more.

They rubbed her with the baby oil. Dressed her in the softest flannel gown. Wrapped her up in three soft cotton blankets, all tucked in so only her face was showing, held her again, rocking her and finally she went to sleep, but only because she was worn out from crying.

Then she slept only an hour before waking up crying again. They had taken her temperature, which was very difficult while she was crying. But her temperature was normal, even with all the blankets she had wrapped around her.

After five days of crying and everyone becoming exhausted from lack of sleep, they called their doctor and explained the symptoms.  Dr. Paul asked if there was drainage from baby’s ear. Caitlin checked both ears and no drainage. Then Dr. Paul recommended a small amount of baby Tylenol to ease any pain baby may have and to place a warm drop of olive oil in each ear. Then bring her into the office for an exam the next day.

Ryan went to the store and purchased baby Tylenol, olive oil and baby formula. He decided to try a different brand of formula, even though it was more expensive. While comparing brands of baby formula he saw pacifiers hanging on a rack and on a whim placed one in the cart even though Caitlin promised to never get Ava started on one. He was almost out of the baby isle when his eye noticed baby lotion with lavender, “soothing to baby“, it said on the label. This too he added to the cart, praying and hoping one of these items would help baby Ava get better.

When he arrived home he found Caitlin asleep on the couch and baby sleeping soundly, tummy side down, cushioned on top of all her blankets.  He tip-toed across the room to take a closer look at the peaceful scene and smiled at seeing something new–little Ava with her thumb in her mouth. No need for the pacifier he had just bought. Quietly, he went to his room to take a nap before the kids came home from school–sweet sleep–even if for just an hour.

Since little sister discovered her thumb she began sleeping regularly like an infant should and eventually she slept through the night too.

However, the kids, exhausted from little sister’s crying at night, had trouble staying awake at school. Denver came home with flu symptoms and went right to bed. He had been sent to the school nurse when he fell asleep with his head down on his desk. Then the nurse called for Ryan to come pick him up from school because he was sick. Then whatever it was, cold or flu, Benjie and Corby came down with it too.

Denver trudged into the kitchen one morning, with a tissue over is mouth. “Caitlin–can I–uh sorry–may I have some hot chocolate for my sore throat.”

Caitlin smiled while busily preparing breakfast for everyone. “Hot tea would be better. Want to try it? I’ll put some lemon in it.” He nodded his head. “Deni, when did you last take your Nyquil, maybe it’s time to take another dose?”

“I think it was last night.” He coughed a little, covering his mouth with the tissue.

Caitlin gave him the Nyquil bottle. “Here, take another dose from that measuring cap on the top. Remember, to that first line in the cup. I’ll bring you a tray with hot tea and some breakfast in just a bit…Are Benjie and Corby awake too?”

“They’re still asleep, I think. I’ll check.” Denver being the eldest brother took the responsibility of watching over his younger brothers. All three shared the same large bedroom, furnished with four bunk beds, ladders for climbing up to the top, a tall chest of drawers and two desks that Caitlin had made. He found his brothers awake and needing some Nyquil too. He washed the dispenser cap and after giving a dose to both brothers told them to stay in bed, except for the necessaries, then reported to Caitlin–breakfast and tea for three.

Fortunately, Caitlin, Ryan and baby Ava had thus far escaped getting sick too. Caitlin made hot tea, toasted bagels with cream cheese and orange slices for all the boys and took it to them on a tray so that they could stay in bed. She touched each forehead with the back of her hand to check for fever and then tousled their hair. “Getting better, fever all gone. Here, Deni and Benjie sit at the desk to have your breakfast and Corby you sit on the floor pillow over here. Deni–you say the prayer–then bring the tray with the dishes back to the kitchen after your done–I will appreciate it. Then, everyone get back into bed and sleep or read.”

Jazzy and Rusty had gone out to their place in the kitchen for their morning meal and then out to the back yard, but right back in to sleep on the floor of the boys’ room. There was a week when the whole family was home and in bed trying to sleep, except when baby Ava was awake and crying.

However, the Grands offered to take care of baby Ava for a few days so the family could catch up on rest. But Caitlin didn’t want baby Ava taken out of her new environment wanting to give her time to adjust and feel secure in her new home. So after the boys had recovered from their colds, the Grands invited them to stay over for a long weekend, so they could sleep and rest.

Grand Jas set up an old Nintendo game system that his son, John, had used when he was a teenager. The boys had great fun playing Mario Brothers, then they watched old movies and made popcorn in the fireplace. Grand Jun enlisted the kids to help with putting together a home-made pizza and then making Snickerdoodle cookies. The boys slept late Saturday and Sunday morning, refreshed from ten hours of sleep each night and then they attended the late worship service at church on Sunday morning. The Rogers had been taking the boys to their own church, a different church than their parent’s church, a smaller neighborhood church with young families. The boys had been going to children’s church while their parents attended the worship service in the sanctuary.

The boys noticed the difference in Children’s church and the adult service and as they walked back to the car after the service, Corby with great curiosity asked, “Grand Jas, why not a puppet story in church today?”

Jas chuckled along with Denver and Benjie. “I don’t know. It’s a good idea. Is that what they have at Caitlin’s church?”

“Yeah! They have puppets telling Bible stories.”

“Wow, can I go to church with you next time?” Jas asked in jest. Junia smiled and shook her head no.

But Corby was serious when he said, “I don’t know, I’ll ask Caitlin, I think it’s just for kids.”

Eventually, little Ava felt secure in her new home and one day rewarded Caitlin with a gurgling smile. That little smile was worth all the sleepless nights and frazzled days–hopefully the beginning of better days for baby Ava. This hope she held in her heart for all the kids–a hope for them to know God–prepared for adulthood and life’s journey–walking with the Savior.

This story is a fictionalization. Although, historical events, people and places are used fictitiously, details of the time period have been portrayed as accurately as possible for authenticity. All characters are fictional unless otherwise noted. If an actual historical character is mentioned an endnote with citation will be included.

(To continue reading: Return to Menu + Select Chapter Four)

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