Thursday, September 19, 2013

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