Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween...just throwing in my two cents...

So, here it is...almost midnight on October 30th.  In 4 minutes it will be Halloween.  I should be asleep, I have tried to get to sleep the last few hours, but sleep seems to be avoiding me tonight (and I didn't even have coffee this afternoon!).  Jon is gone to a work "retreat", don't get me started on the fact that it was scheduled over Halloween.  So, I can't sleep, so I decided to get up and write, hopefully I won't regret posting this in the morning.

Halloween... do you participate or not? That seems to be what has been filling up my newsfeed on facebook the last few days.  You know what?  I don't really care what you do.  There, I said it. I don't care.  I have lots of good friends who will have nothing to do with it and I have good friends who are over the top with it.  Both are fine with me... you know why?  People, we have FREEDOM in Christ.  Yes, I think the people who are in the camp of "I won't touch it with a ten foot pole" have every right to feel that way because I think God does not convict everyone in the same way.  Just like I don't think the people who are over the top with it have a "lesser" relationship with Jesus.  We need to give each other grace and stop being SO AGAINST EACH OTHER.

I always come back to this verse for Halloween.

This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.   Psalms 118:24

Does that mean the Lord has created everyday, except Halloween?  NO!!!!!  This is the day...today...right now...it is God's.  Am I giving the enemy a foothold into my life by letting my kids dress up and get candy?  I don't believe so.  I probably give the enemy a foothold into my life lots of other times during my normal day to day life.  When I give into my anger and yell harshly at my children, or the times when I am lazy, or the times when I eat too much, or aren't as giving as I should be, or tell a half truth.  We give into the enemy so many times that we don't even realize... that scares me more than letting my kids participate in Halloween.

At the end of the day, the King of Kings is still sitting on his throne before a sea of glass.  That sea of glass represents calm to me.  He is not all up in arms, He is calm and He is still in control.

There, I've said it...now hopefully I will sleep.  Whether you participate in Halloween or not, have a good day and be safe.  Hopefully no one will hate me after this...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Looking Back At The First Year - Part 2: Broken Toys but Restored Lives


http://images.mises.org/6087/TinkerBellRIP.jpgOkay, I have to admit that one of my big frustrations this last year has been the amount of toys that have been broken.  Seems like a small thing, but it really gets to me.

The girls have never had anything to call their own; at the orphanage everything was community property, so nothing has ever been "special" to them.  No special "blankie" or doll or stuffed animal... nothing.   So with that, they also don't know how to take care of things.  They break things just because they want to.

The other day, one of them came down with a Tinkerbell doll (that she got to pick out at the store), and told me that her head came off.  Well, her head didn't just come off - it was snapped off so hard that even her plastic neck was broken.  There was no way to fix it.  I would have told you that this was a favorite toy, but when I told her that it couldn't be fixed and we had to throw it away there was not much emotion.  She just threw it away and went on with her day.  It REALLY bothered me!  I wanted her to care!  I wanted her to have something that she really cared about so she would learn to take care of it!  One of my first thoughts was, "there is no way this girl can ever have her own pet!" Ha!

The girls have broken countless dolls and dress-up necklaces, ripped stuffed animals, and destroyed books.  They don't have much because we didn't want them to be overwhelmed, and we really saw a need to cultivate their imaginations.  So when I see them breaking the things they do have, I am at a loss.

I was thinking about this again in the car today (one of my best thinking places, especially when I am alone!) and I asked God, "what do I do?"  Immediately I heard God say, "it's just stuff; they treasure Me."  Wow...

It is true; one of the very first words they learned in English was "Jesus."  To this day they will sing the name of Jesus over and over and over again.  You ask them to bring a book to read and they will bring you their children's storybook Bible.  They ask to bring a book downstairs to read by themselves and it is their Bible.  Our sweet little Milana will sing in our weekly church meeting with her eyes closed and hands raised.  I asked her about this after the first time I saw her do it (I am big on my kids knowing why they do things, and not just doing it because they see others doing it) and she told me she was giving her song to Jesus. They connect with God like I have never seen before, and without most of the religious baggage that somehow attaches itself like barnacles to the hulls of our lives over time.

They didn't grow up hearing about Jesus, and it is HILARIOUS the things they get out of Sunday School class (most teachers are not teaching with the thought of two kids sitting there with English as a third language and having never heard many of the stories being told!).  We usually have to explain the story a little better so they get it.  One Sunday they told us about "Brian" who was sent to the lions by the "scary monsters" where he "prayed forever."  This, we figured out, was from a Veggie Tales cartoon about Daniel in the lion's den.  So, we correct things here and there where we see a need to.

But sitting in the car today, I was reminded that He is precious to them, and our family is precious to them, and that is what matters.  Stuff is just stuff, and maybe our time and energy would be better spent cultivating their relationship to Jesus instead of an attachment to a doll anyway.

This song was also on when God spoke to me... I pretty much cried the rest of the way home.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Looking Back At The First Year - Part 1: Me, Myself, and I

So, I am starting with myself.  Partially because as a mom I don't come first very often.  I am not saying that as a "poor me" thing, it is just a fact (that I think most moms would agree with).  We don't usually put our wants in front of our kids' needs.  Their needs trump everything else. 

From the beginning of our adoption process with the girls, their needs have come first.  Even before they got here I was putting their needs first by getting paperwork done in a timely fashion.  If any of you have gone through an adoption, you know this is no small feat.  The paperwork is long and involved and seemingly never-ending.  It was like a full-time job at times.  We were dealing with government offices in 2 different countries, and things had to be perfect or it would delay the process and make the girls stay in an orphanage longer... That was not cool with me.

I knew in my head that it would be hard after they got here, but I don't think I was fully prepared for how hard it would really be.  My boys have been pretty self-sufficient for years now and I was used to being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted (pretty much).  All of a sudden I was pulled backwards quite a few years.  This was harder on me than I thought it would be.  I struggle every day with my selfish desires.  I have found that it helps to get up early and have a good half-hour to pray before my kids wake up; helps me center myself on Jesus before I have to deal with getting kids ready for the day.

I read this in another blog once:

"I have been the Mama who's punished when I needed to pray.  Who's hollered at kids when I needed to help kids.  Who's lunged forward when I should have leaned on Jesus."

Yep, that's me... I have failed so many times and yet my kids seem to still think I am pretty good at this parenting thing.  My boys, who are now 15 and 13, still like to sit with me and give me hugs and kisses.  One of the girls told me that I was in her heart before she came here because she wanted a mommy so bad, and the other one tells me that she thinks I am the best mommy in the world (although she has also told me that she doesn't think she needs a mom - but that has been when she is mad at me... ha!).  So, maybe I am doing something right.  I find the more I lean on Jesus, the more patience and love I have for my kids.

The first few months our girls were here I daily fought the urge to run away; luckily I had a friend I could text and she would pray for me or offer to run away with me!  The one thing I did do for myself was my weekly dance class.  That was my lifeline.  I would have an hour to an hour-and-a-half to dance for Jesus and laugh with friends.  I didn't have to talk about home if I didn't want to and it was really, really good!

I still yell too much, and I am committed to working on that.  Earlier in the year I found I was able to turn off my emotions with the girls and just take care of them - I know that sounds harsh, but it was reality. I was in survival mode... head down, plowing forward trying to keep my eyes on Jesus and the promise of all of this being better one day.  Turning off my emotions is now harder to do, and I'm grateful that despite the challenge of feeling and dealing with all of those emotions and the pain it brings me, my heart can't help but be open to them at a deepening level.

When the girls returned to Latvia after first being hosted by us, I decided to grow my hair out.  No real reason; just wanted something different.  When we brought them back home I was still letting it grow, partially because it was just easier not to think about it.  Well, anyone who knows me knows that I don't keep my hair color or hairstyle the same for very long.  Poor Jon never knows how it is going to look when I go get my hair done!  But this last year, I didn't do anything different, just let it grow.  Two days ago I went and had my hair dyed red and 9 inches cut off (I was able to donate it!).  For the first time in a year, it seems I feel like me again.  Feels pretty good!



Thursday, September 05, 2013

Looking Back At The First Year... Introduction

So... it's been 6 months since I last blogged.  Lots have happened in those 6 months.  But the most important thing is we passed our 1-year mark with the girls.

We celebrated our "gotcha day" on July 24th.  This was the day that we picked up the girls from their orphanage, and they have been with us ever since.  The actual adoption date isn't until sometime in November, but we decided to use the day we picked them up.

Since that day (July 24th of this year) I have been meaning to blog.  I have wanted to blog.  But, I couldn't get myself to sit down and do it.  It was overwhelming, and there was too much to say.  How do I even try to explain what life is like?  How do I live this openly like I know God has asked me to and still protect my girls?  Do I come across as complaining too much?

I learned very early on that unless you have been through this yourself, you really don't understand.  I am not saying that to bash anyone, it is just the truth.  When people ask me how we are doing, I am usually at a loss as of what to say.  Because if I start talking about an issue and they immediately agree with me and say that their kid is the same way, I get a little bugged.  Really?  Does your kid have 5 years of abandonment and neglect that comes into play with every decision they make? Does your kid jump in fear every time you walk into their room, or flinch and cower thinking that you are going to hit them every time you raise your hand around them? I certainly hope not.

I have felt alone many times this last year, when I have only had my husband and God who truly understand.  God is so faithful... that is what I have learned this year.  He truly is faithful. He has guided me, held me and let me scream at Him.  He has never condemned me when I know I have failed at mothering all 4 of my kids.  He is good and He is faithful.

So, anyway... back to my overwhelmed feeling about blogging.  When I was growing up and my room would get to be too messy (like every week), my Mom would get fed up (who can blame her?) and come into my room and dump everything out of every drawer into a big pile in the center of my room.  She would tell me to start over and clean how it should be cleaned.  I would look at that big pile and not know where to start.  That is how I feel now... I don't know where to start.  It is too much.  Too big of a pile to even know what is there to talk about! Then I think my dad gave me an idea once that I still use to this day.  He pulled out a jump rope and roped off a portion of my room and said, "Start there.  Don't look at the rest of the room until this portion is done, and then move the rope to a new portion."  I still use this technique, just not with a jump rope anymore.  So, that is how I am going to update you on our first year.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  There is a lot of all of it!

I had a song in my head today that I couldn't remember all the lyrics to, so I looked it up tonight.  It is "Here For You" by Matt Redman.  Part of the chorus says, "To you our hearts are open / Nothing here is hidden."  For whatever reason, God used that line to remind me that He has asked us to live openly about our adoption, our work with OM, and basically our lives.  He already knows our story, He is the One writing it, and I haven't done a very good job of telling it lately.  So over the course of hopefully just a few weeks I will catch you up on our story in small parts so I don't feel so overwhelmed by looking at the big mess in front of me... Hopefully you will enjoy reading them!

The top is the very first picture we saw of our girls back in September of 2011 and the bottom was taken on our first "gotcha day" July 24, 2013.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Redemption

I just finished watching our pastor's (in California) video of coming home with his new baby daughter from the Congo.  His wife and 3 of his daughters hadn't even met this little girl yet, and the look of anticipation is one I know well.  It was the same look my family had back in Dec. of 2011 when we were about to meet our girls for the first time.  Excitement, fear, joy, nerves... all wrapped up into one look.  There is a moment right when you meet that you can feel the redemption. You can feel God's mercy and love for His people. Another friend explains it by saying we are standing on Holy Ground at that moment, and it is so true.

This morning I also heard a song for the first time.  Matthew West's "One Less," and it destroyed me.  The first part of the song says:

There is a child, been abandoned out on the street.  Now she's waiting for someone to be her miracle.  There's a wife somewhere half way around the world begging God for a little girl she can call her own.  Well, worlds collide and colors fade, and a man and wife brought their little girl home today.

You see, I was that wife for years.  Don't get me wrong, I love my boys to death and wouldn't trade them for anything.  But growing up I always wanted four kids... 2 boys and 2 girls.  After we had Devon,  we felt like we were done.  But as the years went on,  I longed for that little girl.  Yet, I had no desire to be pregnant again.  I felt like I went through a major grieving process about not having a daughter, but eventually came to terms with it... Even though I asked God many times to take away the desire, it was still there.  Dormant at times, but still there... Now I know why.  God had a plan bigger than I could ever imagine or dream about.  And He revealed it to us in His perfect time.  

As most of you know, I now do have my 4 kids.  2 boys and 2 girls.  There is a strong, powerful story of redemption that will forever be a part of our story.  Not only for our precious girls, but for all of us.  Are we done yet?  We might never adopt again, but I don't think orphan care is something we can ignore any longer.  It is not a suggestion in the Bible, but a command.  I am just not sure how it will look for us in the future.  But, I am positive God will show us again in His perfect time (He is pretty cool like that!).  After all, we are all orphans, adopted into the family of God.  

"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."  Isaiah 1:17

Here is a link to the song "One Less" by Matthew West... or in our case, "Two Less!"



Monday, February 04, 2013

Homeschool - God, Help Me (Literally)!

I'll admit it... not in a million years did I think I would be homeschooling.  There was a time in my life that I thought I wanted to be a teacher, but I didn't finish school, and I got married instead.  My greatest desire was to be a mom, so I went to work for my family's business until that happened.

There was a point in life that I did consider homeschooling.  Devon had just finished kindergarten and he hated school.  He had had a horrible year, and I couldn't imagine what the next twelve years would be like getting him through school.  I told God that I would home school if that was what was best for Devon.  We never thought we got a clear answer, so we went ahead and sent him to first grade at the same school.  Best decision ever!  He had an amazing teacher who made learning fun for him!  He started first grade reading below his grade level and finished the year reading at a fifth-grade level.

We've also always liked the fact that the boys were in an environment where they were having to deal with a world that didn't always hold our same beliefs and morals.  They have made friends of all races and religions.  I see this as a good thing.  I pray everyday for them to be a light in their schools.

Then the girls came along and I felt completely different when it came to school for them.  When we first arrived back in the States we couldn't have put them in school even if we wanted to.  They were here only on a travel visa, not a student visa.  Plus, we arrived two days before school started and I couldn't even imagine throwing them into that kind of an environment.  They had spent their first five (very important) years in an institution bonding to no one and learning how to survive by themselves.  We have one girl who is overly confident and self-assured, and one girl who is a follower and has never been encouraged to think for herself.  She has learned the art of blending in.

Their first five months here we just focused on learning English, learning what it means to be in a family, and learning about Jesus.  I always said I would start "real" school with them in January.  During Christmas break I realized January was right around the corner and I didn't have anything ready to start school!  We found a curriculum that looked promising and ordered it.  I felt like I needed something to show me step-by-step what I should be teaching.

So, I have been doing school with the girls just about every day since the beginning of the year.  Some days are pretty easy and we get through it with no problems, and some days I want to scream and pull my hair out in frustration.  You see, my personality is, I would rather do it myself than teach you how to do it.  This is why my 14- and 12-year old boys still don't know how to do laundry... but that is another story.  Today was one of those frustrating days.

The overly confident one rushes through her work (all the while telling me how easy school is), though she doesn't follow directions and does extremely sloppy work.  The follower, meanwhile, sits in an almost-comatose state and refuses to give me any kind of answer.  She has had five years of waiting for someone else to speak for her or answer a question first, after which she will just follow along.  I truly think she doesn't know how to stimulate her brain to work when she is asked a question.  It took me 45 minutes to get one answer out of her today.  She gets discouraged and starts to disappear into herself.  We really have to work to keep her engaged.  The frustrating thing is that she is so smart!  She just has no confidence in herself.  All over again my heart breaks.

I have seen victories.  Both girls know the alphabet and what sound each letter makes.  They are learning to count to 100 and learning how to rhyme words.  With each thing that I see them learn, my confidence also grows as a teacher.  God has been growing my patience as well - which is also a good thing! :)  To be good at anything takes practice, right?  I try to remember they have only been here five months and are still dealing with lots of junk.  I am proud of both of them; they are making great strides!

So, what will school look like next year?  I am hoping that with hard work (through the summer), they will be ready to start first grade in the fall.  For now I am committed to homeschool them for the long haul.  They have had five years of being unprotected in the world and I think a little wise sheltering and lots of nurturing is just what they need!  Prayers are always appreciated!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Beautiful Moments

I thought I would blog more than I have... but it is hard for me to decide what I should tell the world and what I just want to keep locked in my heart and memories.  There are so many lessons being learned in our house... not just for the girls, but for our whole family. 

I can't help but learn more about God and how He loves us through this process of becoming a family of 6... how He has adopted us and made us His heirs.  It is pretty flippin cool! 

There was one event that happened today that I did want to share.  It happened so quick, but it has burned itself into my heart and mind forever.

We went on a quick errand to the grocery store today.  Nothing special, just needed milk and a few other things.  On the way home this is the conversation that took place:

Mila: Mommy, my eyes are crying! 
Me: Why? Did you hurt yourself, or are you sad?
Mila: No, I am really happy!
Me: What are you happy about?
Mila: I am happy that my family loves me and Vika, and it makes me so happy that my eyes are crying!

Let me tell you... it was a good thing I was just about home because I wouldn't have been able to see through my tears.  It broke my heart all over again that these two lovely girls went almost 6 years without knowing the love of a family.  She is just now experiencing it for the first time in her life, and she knows how special it is... how life-changing.  Lord, please help me to be the kind of mother these girls need to grow into healthy, whole adults!  

After this conversation, the rest of the day went on as normal.  But as I was pulling my car into the garage, God whispered to me, "Just wait until she realizes how much I love her!"

Mind. Blown.

Photo by Jennie Pollock