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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Missing It

This morning, I sit and type, thinking about the great day ahead for our Christmas Eve. We have a communion service at church. We come home, have a devotion and open gifts with our children. Historically, we travel to my parent's home on Christmas day so that is why we began the "presents on Christmas Eve" tradition. Practically speaking, it eliminates being woken up at 5am by eager children!
But if I hear one more comment about Christmas being "all about family" or "just about being together", I may just have to pierce my own eardrums with a knitting needle.

We are going to be with our families. It is pleasant to be with them (theoretically, anyway - ha ha) but Christmas is not about that cozy, fuzzy feeling obtained when familiar people get together, eat, and trade presents.

Christmas is about the God who created the universe willingly putting on a body of flesh, submitting to be born and agreeing that the painful death awaiting him at the end of his short 33 years was worth the outcome. Christmas signifies the first step in the redemption of a fallen world. Christmas is God, extending His hand to us, mending a broken relationship, curing our spiritual disease and claiming us as His own. Christmas is the falling of the first domino in mankind's victory over sin. Christmas changed the world FOREVER.
We no longer have to sacrifice animals to have our sins forgiven.
We no longer have to communicate with God through a priest.
We no longer have to live under the law, that only condemns but can not save.
We can have PEACE WITH GOD.
We can have complete forgiveness of sins.
We can have assurance of our eternity spent with Him, enjoying His presence forever!

These things were not free. They are free to us but they cost the Holy, Perfect Creator His very life's blood.

Your forgiveness, my forgiveness. It cost a life. A perfect life. God came to pay a debt He did not owe, and it was no small bill.

Let's not trivialize these next few days by focusing on the holly-jolly-tinsel-wrapped-mistletoe-pie-in-the-oven kind of sentiments.

But let each element serve to remind you of the high price paid for you and for me.
But let that joy come from knowing that God loves you enough to come walk this Earth and ultimately die to cover your sins. And mine.
But do not miss the fact that Jesus loves them even more than you do and wants to have a personal relationship with each member!

Please don't miss it! Please don't have a counterfeit Christmas!

Emmanuel, GOD is WITH US!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Christmas List

"What do you want for Christmas?".
My husband has asked me this question several times in the last 30 days.
I can't think of anything I need or want. Well, that's not true.
There are many things I "want" but none of them can be wrapped in a package and placed under a tree.
These are the things, if money was no object, that I would want this Christmas:
1. To host an orphan from The Philippines this summer
2. To go on to adopt that child - (I can not fathom hosting and NOT adopting0
3. To sell everything we own that will not fit in a suitcase and move to The
Philippines to do full-time ministry
4. To bring Lemuel's older brother to live with us. In our family. And teach him
to read.
5. To have my fear of flying, sickness and harm coming to my children ERASED.
6. For God to accomplish every item on the list above and bring fame to HIS great
name through my little, ordinary family.

My heart hurts every day. I keep thinking that we were created for MORE than the life we are living. That brings me to the next item on my ever-growing Christmas list.

7. To know the will of God for our family and walk in it. To be satisfied with what
He has called us to do whether it is a "list item" or not.

But if all those things are not to come to pass in the next two days, an anthology of Edgar Allan Poe stories and a box of good chocolates would be nice ...

Maybe by next Christmas?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ezekiel

Psalm 139
13For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

Happy 4th Birthday to a WONDERFUL WORK of God! You are everything that God intended. No more and no less. You are right where HE placed you. Nowhere else.
Your life is a reminder of how much God loves us. He gave us YOU . . . and we are humbled by so great a treasure placed in our undeserving hands.
May God grant extra peace and comfort to your birthmom tonight. I'm sure she knows what day it is. May he reassure her heart that you are no longer an orphan but somebody's crown jewel. Cherished. Wanted. Protected. Highly valued.
We can't wait to see who you become. How much you will achieve. How many lives you will touch with your sweet, shy, funny ways.
You are spectacular.
Happy birthday, Ezekiel.
Our amazing wonder baby!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Apples to Oranges

I'm not just a blogger, I'm a blog reader. I like having a voyeuristic little peek into the lives of other families. I like feeling like I'm eavesdropping on the victories and struggles that families like mine sometimes face. But I'm often chagrined as I read.
I get the sneaking suspicion that SOME blogging Mamas are painting too pretty a picture of their lives ON OCCASION. Maybe I'm being snarky here. But I just MIGHT have a point . . .

Early on in my life as a homeschooling parent, I would often read the posts from wiser, more "mature" mothers on our online support group and leave the computer in tears. THEIR children were studying Latin at four years old. THEIR children were willingly giving all their birthday gifts to starving children in Africa. THEIR children were cooking full meals for their families at six years old while Mama milked the goats, milled her own wheat, tilled her organic garden and sewed yet another beautiful garment - ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

I wondered WHY it seemed everyone else had brilliant, altruistic, near-perfect children when mine were just . . . regular kids. It was not until I was invited to the home of one of the most active "posters" on the loop that my fears were assuaged. Pardon the graphic nature of this little stroll down memory lane but, within five minutes of entering her home, two of her children had a SCREAMING fight and one ate a bugger while making eye contact with me. It hit me like a ton of bricks - I compared the "public image" she shared of her family with the intimate, deep, inner workings of my own family. It was apples to oranges! My pride was wounded by her paintbrush ... until the visit.

Those of us who are stay-at-home moms, and especially if we homeschool, have an awful lot of self-worth tied up in our prodigy. Singing their virtues to the world is another way of validating all the blood, sweat and tears invested in these tiny, flawed beings. When they shine, we shine.
It is important, though, to remember that those of us who read blogs are often looking for something: encouragement. We want to be reassured that, despite the failings and missteps our children sometimes take, they are normal and forgiveness is at hand. We want to know that although we are not perfect parents, our Heavenly father is and that HE is working, through the trials and joys, to craft our children into the image of HIS son.
Moms need to know that ALL moms . . . even "good" moms, make mistakes or get tired sometimes. We eat cereal for dinner, let the laundry pile up until we have to "go commando", and we take the day off school when we probably should have opened the books. We slip up and say a bad word every now and then and miss a quiet time in trade for half an hour on Facebook. We don't take pride in our shortcomings but we recognize they are there. We ask for forgiveness when it's called for and strive to do better the next day.
That's what grace is for.
That's why blogs and books by "perfect moms" lose their appeal so quickly. The discouragement of an unattainable standard weighs heavy on the heart. The desire to shrink our babies back to infancy and have a "do over" is not an option and we believe the "goat milking, organic food serving, husband nightly devotion leading" life is the only one that pleases God.
The life that pleases God is laid out clearly in His word.
"A broken and a contrite heart the Lord your God will not despise". Psalm 51:17
"He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble". James 4:6

There is no one perfect but Jesus Himself. Anyone who sets herself up as such is a fraud.
Yes, we moms have much to learn from each other. Many of us are weak in areas where others are strong. Many of us are practiced in disciplines where others are new.
Every word shared should be "seasoned with salt and full of GRACE" Col.4:6.

Read with caution, dear sisters. Stick with what challenges you and spurs you on to love and good deeds.

'Nuff said!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Pride vs. My Prejudice

I have found myself, OFTEN, bristling when a friend or acquaintance announces with glee her intention to adopt a child from an Eastern European country. I have pigeonholed this region of the world as the WORST possible place from which to adopt! Some of my prejudice (and yes, it is prejudice, plain and simple) revolves around my time spent in a large online adoption group. In that group, I followed the adoption processes of many families through EE. Some of those families had to pay bribes while in country. Some had to stay weeks -even months- longer in country than planned due to paperwork snags. A couple of families arrived in country only to find their intended child has living birth family refusing to consent to the adoption. I have read blogs of crushed parents, returning home empty-handed and thousands of dollars poorer. There are no guarantees in any adoption process but in EE, it seems you are almost guaranteed a bumpy ride!
I have asked myself WHY a parent would risk the money, time and heartache adopting from such a tenuous place.
And then I log on to Reece's Rainbow (www.reecesrainbow.org).
And I see the section called "In Loving Memory".
And I look at face after face with almond-shaped eyes, Down Syndrome features like those of my own son.
And I realize they are dead orphans. Never claimed.
They, most likely, died in miserable internats, on plastic mattresses in puddles of their own urine.
Many starved.
Many could have been saved with a simple operation or penicillin.
They would have loved a chance to sleep in a Thomas the Tank Engine or Dora the Explorer comforter, tucked in with hugs and kisses and "I love yous" from parents who can honestly say "the pleasure is all mine". They would have loved that.
Any child would.
I hear stories of teenagers turned out onto the streets at sixteen years old with just a backpack and a "good luck" as they go, with no education and no job skills, to make lives for themselves. I read that the suicide rate is astronomical among these teens and that boys and girls alike, turn to prostitution for survival. I think of my own teens, able to definitively state that they are saving their purity for marriage. It never crosses their mind that they may have to trade it for food or a warm jacket.
And I soften. Not toward a corrupt system or greedy adults. Not toward a culture that views orphans as less-than. But I soften toward these parents, who know they will be walking a tightrope over an open volcano and decide to brave the trip anyway. They go. Hoping it will not be THEY who fall prey to greed or bait-and-switch tactics. But knowing they might. They go. Leaving behind biological children, jobs, commitments and a cushy life of hot running water and Starbucks on every corner.
So, to those friends and readers who are preparing a walk toward your child in Eastern Europe. You have my respect. My prayers. You are far braver than I. Your calling scares me to no end and I feel grateful that God has not (as of yet) called my family to that region. I am frightened of everything related to that part of the word - the mentality, the post-communism harshness,the lack of English speakers (ha ha). . . you name it!
And yet I know that our God is everywhere, all the time. I have no doubt HE has placed HIS angels in the most unlikely places there to reach out to and touch those HE desires. I have heard there is vibrant, active MINISTRY there. People are coming to Christ there. Hearts are being turned toward HIM and, through that, toward the neediest in the country.
So I have purposed in my heart for the next eight days to pray for eight of the countries of Eastern Europe. Some of those are non Hague countries involved in adoptions to the United States. I am weary about even this. Because God has called me out of my comfort zone so many times after this sort of conviction. If he calls us there, I know HE will be the safety net.
The countries I am praying for, starting today (Sunday, Dec. 11) are:
1. Ukraine
2. Russia
3. Latvia
4. Bulgaria
5. Kazakhstan
6. Belarus
7. Moldova
8. Serbia

Lord, forgive my prejudice heart.

Children Aging Out of Their EE Orphanage - Off to Start Their "Lives"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Bigger is Better

Recently, it was brought to my attention that my family is considered a "large family". According to yahoo answers and wikipedia, "a family with more than four children constitutes a 'large family' in this century". A family with more than seven children can be considered a "mega family" and a family with more than twelve children . . . well, it was hard to find NICE adjectives online to describe a family with more than twelve children. When you do an internet search of families with more than twelve children, many of those "zero population growth" folks have snatched up domain names and jumped onto soap boxes that leave no room for celebrating a family of any size. For them, even one child is one child too many! Bah! Humbug!
This little research project got me thinking of all the reasons a big family is such a wonderful place to be! I don't mean to slight or show disrespect to families of few children. It's my intention share my heart in praise of large families and mention some of the things I have observed in my own family that have changed for the better as we've added members.

Large Families are Great Because:
1. There is always someone to snuggle/play/hang out with
2. There is generally at least ONE person who is on your side in an argument, no matter how wrong you are
3. Mom and Dad never have to worry about gaining too much weight because there is often a pair of eyes (or two) looking at them pleadingly while they try to enjoy that last piece of pie. Those same eyes are near to a pair of ears that can detect the pantry door or cellophane opening from a mile away!
4. Sharing is second nature
5. Nobody's a picky eater
6. You have many opportunities to serve others right in your own home
7. We can carry the groceries in in just ONE trip!
8. Pet care, chores, and yard work are shared among many sets of hands.
9. Our sitters love our children as much as we do - they are their siblings!
10. My definition of "loud" has changed dramatically and I can now concentrate almost anywhere
11. The bathroom is the only place anyone is ever alone so when someone is missing as we head out of the house, we always know where to look
12. You learn that "me time" is highly over rated
13. Finally . . .a big family is a place where you can be yourself, find a friend, get honest feedback, share ideas, be a counselor and a counselee, share inside jokes, and teach someone something new . . . ALL IN ONE DAY!

Anthony,Aaron, Elliana, Francis, Lemuel, Kyle and Ezekiel - you make life in a big family just one big adventure! I'm so thankful that we get to learn all this stuff together!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Baby For Sale

I recently had the incredible misfortune of reading an article online (sent to me by an appalled friend) that was penned by an adult adoptee. This adult adoptee is a bitter young woman who is angry about being "snatched from her culture, language and homeland" by her wealthy, white adoptive parents. She goes on to lament a lifetime of LOOKING Asian and not BEING Asian. She felt she never fit in anywhere. She was a perfect, chubby, beautiful baby the day her parents boarded the plane to Korea. She was not, however, an orphan. After much research and several trips back to her native country (and years learning the language), the author of this article discovered living parents, aunts, uncles, full-blooded siblings and an entire village built around her lineage. This is one of the saddest adoption stories I have ever read. It's sad on several levels. First, the author never felt fully embraced by her adoptive family, she was always left with an empty ache of needing to find where she truly belongs. Second, she turned out to be right. She was not a true orphan. She was the spawn of a young, unmarried girl who later went on to marry the baby's father and build a life with him. But who knew?
Adoption is laden with miry ethical issues that are often swept aside by parents longing for the warmth and responsibility of a baby. Adoptive parents sometimes don't know the full story. Under the Hague Convention, a "true orphan" is a child who is either:
1. one of parents who are deceased
2. a child who has been legally, voluntarily surrendered by biological parents
3. a child who has been declared neglected and abandoned by the court system

The young woman in the story was none of these. She was taken to a clinic by a distant relative and left there. Her anguished mother searched for her for months.
The relative felt he was doing the mother a favor and, in time, she would see the gift she was given in being unfettered.

Why am I, a four-time international adoptive parent, even discussing such a sensitive topic? Why would I want to put something into print that might make a family second guess the decision to adopt? Because it is VITAL to the future health of your family and your adopted child to be careful when adopting. A child who's parents are deceased should have solid evidence in his paperwork of such. A child who has been legally surrendered should have surrender paperwork (ours even includes the thumbprint from the surrendering parent. I look at these prints often and, for some reason, they are extra precious). A child declared abandoned by the courts will have a long paper trail of attempts to locate birth family, court appearances, and that child will likely be OLDER because it takes time to properly execute a search for a parent who, may not even know their child is on the fast-track out of the country.
Your best chance of being certain that you are adopting a true orphan is to adopt from a "Hague Convention Country". These countries have agreed to abide by rules that decrease the likelihood of child trafficking. They are agreed that beautiful babies "found in a park" might just have more to their stories.
The draw back? Many children from Hague Convention Countries are older children. They have had to wait for documents and signatures to complete their files. Those surrendered directly at birth by parents are not as plentiful and families who feel they need a small, healthy infant must wait a long time in a Hague Country, for a match.
Yes, The Philippines is a Hague County. They are transparent in all their paperwork, fees and timelines, in my experience. The children offered there for adoption are "true orphans". In fact, our agency just received a new batch of files of waiting children. No. There are no tiny babies there (several toddlers, though) but there ARE gorgeous sibling groups. There are children who have waited a long time to be claimed as sons and daughters. There are kids there who my family MET IN PERSON and fell in love with on the last trip to The Philippines. Uh oh . . . (ha ha) yes, there's one little five year old boy on that list who is a heart-stealer. He has some special needs but those only serve to make him CUTER, in my humble opinion.
Are you considering adding to your family through adoption? Please consider a true orphan. PLEASE consider a Hague Convention Country. Adoption is a slow and painful test of patience no matter which route you take but a true orphan from a Hague Country may help your family, in the long run, to avoid some of the doubts and heartache that come with a child who knows, deep in her heart, that she had another life where she was someone's treasure. Kids know. Even young children. Somehow, they know. I believe God placed a sense in us, of where we belong. Is there a true orphan out there who belongs with you?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Jar

I have, by far, the most wonderful blog readers in the WORLD! My previous post regarding Lemuel's list brought so many sweet, affirming, been-there-done-that, comments and private emails that, once again, I am on the receiving end of multiplied blessings. I save those emails like candy in my pocket and read them at the lowest times in our battle with Reactive Attachment Disorder.
RAD is an ugly beast that makes children hard to love and makes parents throw their hands up, no matter how much reading, training, success or "good OTHER kids" they may have. RAD lays low even the most confident parent. Trust me. I have lived on both sides of the tracks. I was smug when my children were 10, 8 and 4. There was no RADish. Our word was law. Our kids were obedient and drew compliments on their behavior, manners and appearances everywhere we went. I remember an older lady approaching me at Taco Bell one afternoon to tell me that she has never seen such polite children in public and that our son's pre-meal prayer brought a tear to her eye. I was thrilled that she was hard-of-hearing and made these statements ten decibels louder than necessary.
RAD is the vehicle God has chosen to use to show us that HIS grace is sufficient. Through RAD, we realize that we are but dust (one "t" in "but" . . .ha ha) and HE is all that matters. RAD has shown us that missing ONE quiet time matters and that hugs and kisses are never to be taken for granted.
God is sovereign and His will can NOT be thwarted. He has handed us both bitter and sweet pills to swallow in this life and all that He allots is, in essence, good, useful and a means to the ultimate end - making HIS name great.
As I hug Lemuel goodnight tonight, things are so sweet. We are having a "good week" and his love feels like a fragile butterfly. I want to catch it and keep it in a jar on my dresser so it can't fly away. But just like a butterfly, I know it will die if I try to trap it. I have to appreciate it while it's near me but not make any sudden moves. I tell him "I love you" at least twice a day. Sometimes he answers in kind and other times . . . silence. The jar sits open.
I'm the ADULT. I'm the MOTHER. I'm the one who had a great childhood in a Christian family and always knew that, to at least two other people, I was a superstar. I must take the risks in this relationship with a child who has none of those benefits.
So I sign off tonight, bolstered by the hearts of my readers, who have shared with me that they, too, often walk down foggy paths, chasing their butterflies.
Thank you, yet again, for filling my pockets with "candy" for those rainy days when the jar is open and the butterfly is nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An Unexpected Gift

Earlier this week, my best friend posted a hilarious, heart warming story on her blog about her oldest daughter (www.fromgodstummy.blogspot.com) called "The List". In this true story, she recounts a situation in which her daughter composed a list of conversation starters in preparation for a "date" with her mom and dad. The list included subjects such as "The Economy" and "Dad's Work" - things your average child ponders daily (ha ha).
The post I'm preparing to write sounds eerily similar to my friend's post but I promise you (with my pinky in the air - since typing while raising my right hand is impossible) that I, too, stumbled on a list just yesterday. I was putting a pair of Lemuel's socks in his drawer when a piece of lined notebook paper caught my eye. I pulled it out and sat on the edge of his bed to read. I will type it below just as he wrote it, misspellings and all, and there is no need to elaborate on it.
He said it all.

BIG GOAL (underlined 6 times)
Things I Must Know!
1. Think before you speek
2. Tell the truth
3. Think of others
4. Do not make up things
5. Say things that are right
6. Be careful what you say
7. Obey your perant
8.ITS Not About Me All The Time!
9. Obey all the rules around the house
10. Wait and think about the things I did and tell them the truth
John 14:21 (Obey) Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.
Psalm 39:1 and 2
I said I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin: as long as the wicked are in my presence. But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased.
Proverbs 10:18
He who conceals his hatred has lying lips and whoever spreads slander is a fool.

He knows how to use his Bible's concordance. That's where the scripture came from.
Upon reading this list, at least some of my ire faded. I still have my guard up. We have been on this roller coaster for years and I believe there are more drops ahead. But there's a slice of hope. A tiny ray of light snaggled in when I read this note. There IS, in fact, a sprout of conscience there. He DOES care about doing right. I feel "safer" when he's on my "naughty list", just like he does. Feeling warm and loving toward him is risky. Your hand gets slapped back inevitably but he's just a CHILD. There's still hope . . .

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Never Sure

I have been actively blogging for about two years now. The original intent of my blog was to allow friends, family and any interested folks to follow the adoption journey of our precious Ezekiel. The blog is aptly named.
At times of great joy or distress, I have branched out and blogged about other subjects. I also follow my stats and have found the blog entries that receive exponentially more hits than any others are those centering around our 13 year old son who has been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. The posts receiving literally thousands of views were the following:
Adoption Disruption, The Down and Dirty
Lemuel's Story, Part 2
Bonding: The Flap and the Facts

I believe there is an unmet need in the adoption community for parents of difficult children to speak out in truth. Many hide in shame. Many blame themselves for not being able to "bond properly". Many are worried about the "I Told You So's" that will come their way. I have worried about those things, too. They are real.

What I am most worried about right now is that I have made myself out to be a liar. I have said countless times in the posts referenced above that Lem is "ours forever" and that he's "home for good" and yet, today, I don't know if I can keep to that. No, he has not been violent or sexually acted out with anyone but the constant lying is wearing me down in a way that I have never experienced. The lies are small and silly in terms of subject matter but they are intentional, ugly and calculated at the same time.

I'm never sure HOW much to share on this blog. I think it's unfair to speak cryptically and in generalities when I know there are families hungry for kinship in this difficult struggle. So I will use plain speak. Lem has lied several times in the last couple of days, and ALWAYS in the evening after a good day of family time together. He is sabotaging himself yet again.

A few nights ago, we all went to a basketball game. Lem was unusually loving to all of us and his efforts were met with great success. After the game, we went to a sandwich shop connected to a gas station (very classy joint - ha ha) and my sons went to the gas station area to buy some candy. Upon return to the table, a younger sibling says "Kuya Lem was breaking candy bars and putting them back on the shelf". Lem quickly pipes up "IT WAS AN ACCIDENT". The younger sibling replies "you went like this" and does a snapping motion with his hand "and you said 'ha ha ha' and you did it lots of times to lots of candy". Lem wilted. "Well, the FIRST candy bar was an accident". We leave immediately. I talk to him on the way home about trustworthiness, about being the same person whether you're being watched by mom and dad or not, etc. etc. etc. I feel like Charlie Brown's teacher . . wah wah wha wha . .. because I have said these things before. We have punished, spanked, grounded, prayed, talked, copied scripture, talked and talked and talked . . . my heart hurts. I want him to evaporate so the rest of us can be happy. Ouch.
The next morning, hubby takes Lem back to the gas station to pick out the amount of candy he believes he ruined and make him pay for it. There was NINE DOLLARS worth of chocolate in his basket. NINE DOLLARS worth of "accidents" . . .yeah, right. Lem paid for the candy and then had to tell the cashier what he had done and leave the bag of candy there for the cashier to give to whomever she thinks might want it. They came home and he sulked but he was in his familiar "cozy" place, the dog house. He was far, in heart and spirit, from the chattering, bustling, fun loving family. He chose to be alone in his room and flog himself for the rest of the day. Fine with me. Perfect, in fact.
Yesterday's lie revolved around him hurting Ezekiel "accidentally" and then, having no idea why the baby was crying. Luckily, he's part of this big family and privacy is as scarce as hen's teeth. The whole incident was witnessed by one of my perfectly trustworthy children who came forth with the truth. Lem did not deny it when confronted but simply said "oh, I didn't feel it". I think a trip to the neurologist is in order to have those synapses checked. He is losing feeling in his extremities, apparently. This,too, happened at the end of a GREAT family day. We cleaned out the shed as a family. We put up the old tent in the backyard and the kids played in it for hours. We even let him watch Ezekiel for about ten minutes when I went in to cook lunch. He was given a bit of trust (yes, I cooked right near the kitchen window but, in THEORY, he was being trusted). He just had to end this yucky closeness and get back to the cozy isolation so he made sure, at 9pm, to end the night with a "bang". I sent him to bed with a very succinct warning about Ezekiel. I confirmed that if he really wants to ruin the rest of his natural life, he will hurt that baby again. I told him using someone who can't talk or understand is shameful. He began to cry. A good sign. There's something rattling around in there. But is it enough? Is there even a baby sprout of conscience that makes all of this family focus worth it? I don't know. I used to think "YES" but now I think "hmmmm?". These seemingly small incidents happen many times each week. Behind closed doors, my husband and I have adjusted a lawyer joke to fit our family.
Me: How can we tell if Lem is lying?
Hubby: Because his lips are moving . . . (cue two drum beats and a cymbal)

I am a huge music lover and there is one song I have listened to dozens of times this week. It is "I Will Not Be Moved" by Natalie Grant. She sings of steadfast devotion to God that can not be shaken by circumstances. I want to have that same devotion. First to my Savior but also to this broken child. I just don't know if I can hang on much longer.
Maybe this whole post is just the result of a couple of hard back-to-back days and I will be back to my positive, hopeful self after church tomorrow. Church always helps. But this time is different. I feel "done". Please forgive me, readers, if the shine has fallen completely off and you feel like giving up, too. It is always my intention to encourage with my posts. I hope to be able to post in a few days that all is well but this time around, I'm just not sure . . .

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Time is NOW

It's time to make the leap! It's time to move on what you feel the Lord is leading you to do, despite the fears and reservations you may be harboring.
It's time to APPLY for Share Your Summer 2012 if you suspect the Lord may be calling you to open your front door and receive a blessing in the form of a child from The Philippines!!!!!!!!!!!! (This hosting program is for families who are in NC, upper SC, lower VA or who are able to spend a month in the Charlotte area this summer).
I have talked, both online and in person, with many families who shared with me their desire to host this summer and to be open to pursuing adoption and the common concern in all these conversations is (say it with me . . . ) THE MONEY!

The financial side of hosting and adopting is real. It's there. It's a necessary part of transporting a human 8,000 miles via airplane with all the required documents and mandatory pre-screening. But it doesn't need to be the sole obstacle that keeps your family from experiencing the life-changing, Christ-honoring, radical step of obedience that adoption can be.

Those of you who have stuck by this blog for any length of time know that we have FOUR sons from The Philippines. FOUR SEPARATE ADOPTIONS - adoption totals over $20,000 apiece. Those of you who know us in real life know that we are a single-income family of modest means. We don't have a large home. We don't drive brand-new cars. We are just "average Joes". HOWEVER, the Lord provided for all four of our adoptions with absolutely NO DEBT! We did not have to use a home equity line, we did not have to take out a loan. We do not even own credit cards . . . please be encouraged that God ALWAYS pays for what He orders! Always! If you are led to adopt an older child, there are many grants available for that. Some organizations specialize in helping older children find their families before it's too late. If your intended child has special needs, more grants are out there.

Let me share a few great fund raising ideas that helped us grow this little, "normal" family into a big, "abnormal" family (ha ha):

1. Write a Christmas letter to people you would normally send a card to. Let them know of your family's desire to host/adopt and ask them to consider a donation in lieu of a gift this year. This is the perfect time of year as people are often pausing to consider how blessed they have been and sometimes those people start to look for a way to share their blessings with others.

2.Get Selling! From Craigslist to ebay, get rid of items you aren't using and let that money begin to fund your hosting/adoption efforts.

3. Turn to your church family. The body of Christ was MADE to be His hands and feet to the lost, hurting, fatherless and needy. Ask permission to host a "parents night out" where your family and some volunteers can watch children for three hours while moms and dads have a night out. Leave a donation jar at the door of the child care area for grateful families to contribute to your hosting/adoption fund.

4. Host a spaghetti dinner. Buy those divided foam boxes from a restaurant supply store and then let everyone in your life know that pre-ordered spaghetti dinners can be picked up (or delivered for a small fee) on a particular night. If your own kitchen can not accommodate cooking for many or if your home is out "in the boonies", see if you can use your church's facilities for cooking and pick ups. Include salad, a piece of Italian bread and dessert. How many of your lady friends would love to support a good cause AND skip cooking for the night? I'm always game for that!!!!

5. Hold a talent show at your church. Ask the kids, youth and talented adults to sign up to perform. After half the acts are complete, spend a few minutes sharing your heart with the audience and ask the audience to consider helping your family host/adopt through a financial gift (of course, you MUST tell the folks ahead of time that the talent show is also a fund raiser - NO SURPRISES when fund raising. Always be forthright about your purposes and intentions). Let admission be free. Sell concessions for a reasonable price and pass the offering plate mid-show. You don't even have to speak if you're not inclined to do so. Have a friend stand up for you.

I know some of you may feel tired just reading that short list. It seems a lot of work to fund raise. It causes you to put yourself "out there" and risk rejection. There WILL be people who don't understand your calling. There WILL be people who tell you that you should only be helping children in your own country and not looking abroad but there will also be people who see your heart, understand the need and jump in to toil alongside you.

A sweet, precious woman from our church heard about our plans to adopt Ezekiel and she called me and asked if she could start a fund raising group called "Friends of Ezekiel"!!!!! It blew my mind to know that God was moving OTHERS to go to these great lengths for our family. All the work was not "on me". It was shared among our own family and other believers. Friends of Ezekiel raised thousands of dollars for our adoption! THOUSANDS! I am still in awe when I think back on that time. I know that my friend Cindy, her daughter and the others who worked with Friends of Ezekiel did not do it because they wanted anything in return. They did it out of obedience to the Lord and He blessed it over and over.

Please consider contacting Christian Adoption Services (www.christianadopt.org) and getting started on that application if you have been leaning that way. God is faithful, even when you're fearful! Want to know a little secret? I've been scared EVERY SINGLE TIME (shhhh). . .

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Days Like This

Thursday is the one day each week that our family most closely resembles the "average American family". I have to pack lunches, wake up sleepy teens, prepare a lesson and get the kids to their classes while I teach mine. Our homeschool co-op meets on Thursdays. My children are blessed to have access to classes like Dave Ramsey's Finance for Teens, Chemistry, Bible, Literature and Composition, Insect Study and Grammar Games. I am grateful for the courses that enhance our homeschooling and for the expertise and willingness of my fellow homeschooling parents that is shared so generously with my children. After co-op is when the day got a little "testy" . . .
One of our sons had his final football practice, another son had a basketball practice. Dear Hubby had to go in to work late for an after-hours computer issue while daughter needed to be picked up from Chemistry. Oldest son has a REAL job at the mall and so I needed to get his schedule before including him in my web of transportation drama.
Oh. And I had PROMISED Francis a haircut before I realized what day it was. I was not going to break a promise to our newest family member just when the trust was flowing freely. No Way.
Human cloning was sounding pretty good by about 3:30 pm. I needed another "me" only with more energy and no personal opinions.
I arrived home after my final chauffeuring gig, feeling fairly smug that the drop off/pick up schedule had been accomplished with none of my posterity stranded or even texting the dreaded "wher RU? We R dun". I even got him the haircut. It's a faux hawk. He looks adorable-er.
It was then I noticed it. The five pound "chub" of hamburger in my drainboard! I took it out before lovingly constructing 5 sack lunches early in the morning. I had BIG PLANS for that log of bacteria-infested cow flesh! It was going to be a beautiful rice casserole with golden brown cheddar cheese on top. It was going to evoke "oohs" and "aahs" from the family and I was going to shake my head gently with closed eyes and say "oh, it was no big deal. Eat up".
That never happened.
My first and third oldest saw my eyes dart from the meat to their faces and back again.
"I'll make omelets" said my oldest son, who didn't have to work at the mall after all.
"I'll help" said Ms. Third-in-Command.
"Thank you" I said sheepishly. "I"ll put some rice on" (we can't have a meal without rice in this Filipino-run household).
I settled for a bowl of oatmeal while my children fed one another.
The thankfulness that washed over me was the kind that I don't often experience. It was sheer gratitude that only ONE DAY per week is this demanding. It was appreciation for the bail out my children offered me. It was my willingness to lay down the cape and accept help from those who I knew were not judging me. They were just helping because, hey, it's THEIR family, too.
Mama said there'd be days like this!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Importance of "Four"

November 7th marks four months that Francis has been a part of our family. Four months sounds like such a very short time when I think of how long it took to do the paperwork for his adoption. Four months sounds like a short time when I think of how long it takes to grow a baby "the old fashioned way" or how much time a couple has been married . . . JUST FOUR MONTHS?
But as I ponder all that has taken place in our home in the four short months that Francis has been ours, it feels like a lifetime has passed. From those earliest weeks where we didn't really know each other but worked through the mother/son role to the time it took me to figure out some of his quirks, until now, it seems a million years have passed. I know him so well in JUST FOUR MONTHS. I can list all his favorite foods, I know how much money he's hiding in his special hiding place in his room, I know the tactics he uses to try and wiggle out of school work and I know his past. From long, sometimes sad but often happy hours of listening, I know that, too. The privilege of getting to know this particular person is not lost on me for a moment. He is so special and capable and has limitless potential. He truly can be ANYTHING he wants in this life. God has gifted him in so many ways. Our family is richer for having him in it.
There's so much I wish I could say but I hope readers understand why I have to resist. Some people you share with the world and others, you just keep close and give little peeks. Just trust me when I say that God DOES give good gifts to His children. Amazing, precious, hilarious, perfect-for-us gifts . . .

Friday, November 4, 2011

Old Parent Syndrome

I think we have it, my man and I. We're not exactly "old" - I'm in my very very VERY early 40s and hubby is in his much much LATER 40s but we have contracted the syndrome, nonetheless. We can often be found parenting our sweet little Ezekiel more like grandparents than parents. I had my first baby in my early 20s, my second baby in my mid 20s and adopted for the first time in my 30s. I was one organized, scheduled, chart-keeping, line-in-the-sand drawing Mama. My children were on a fairly rigid schedule of chores, homeschooling, extracurricular activities, one hour of TV a day (or less), healthy snacks and almost no computer access. Fast forward seven years and three additional kids later and you'll see us slightly off script and some loose ends getting looser as the days go by.
Here is quantifiable evidence that we have The Syndrome:
1. Ezekiel's bed time is often 10pm, or later
2. Our teens are allowed to watch shows like "Family Guy" and "The Office" that had formerly been completely off limits
3. Some nights when I make dinner, there are no vegetables (unless you count ketchup)
4. A productive day of homeschooling is marked by a little reading, a little math and the baking of cookies with my younger children.
5. I let my youngest two wear costumes in public anytime they want. Why not?
6. I rarely say "no" when they ask for treats at the check-out counter these days.
7. The kids are allowed to wrestle, jump from high places and ride on the dogs until I just can't stand the noise and have to yell "QUIIIIEEETTTT"
8. I am typing this post while Ezekiel jumps on the bed beside me and any feelings of annoyance at this fact evaporate when I look at his "Downsy Goodness" (a phrase we use often to refer to his shenanigans).
Maybe I'm confusing "Old Parent Syndrome" with "Big Family Syndrome" but whatever the ailment, I hope there's no cure! I am having the most fun with my family and feeling the least amount of control freak-ism that I have ever felt as a mother and wife! It's fun. It's freeing. It's contradictory to the early years but the results are equally gratifying. We are truly enjoying these children - me for the first time in my mothering career. I spent a LOT of time dissecting the hearts and motives of my two biological children and focusing on their LACK rather than finding ways to enjoy their gifts while still guiding them in righteous living when they were small. I did have fun with them. I always loved them with every ounce of my existence but as far as enjoying them, it was hard when I spent so much time feeling like any failure to address their sin would result in their eternal damnation. I have come to understand that parenting is discipling. It is a weighty task, not to be taken lightly but at the same time, it can be joyous, abundant, silly, fruitful and productive. I wish I had learned earlier to seek joy, welcome fun and buy more candy!!!!!!
Live and Learn.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I Just Can't Do It All!!!!!

I am sorry. I am ashamed of myself. I am in over my head by at least a mile! While riding in the car with my family yesterday, it dawned on me that a friend reached out to me with a bitterly distressed email and I NEVER ANSWERED HER! I read her plea for prayers and knew how hard it must have been for her to pour her heart out to me and I NEVER REPLIED! I am horrified! I vividly remember thinking after reading her note that I needed to give it the proper time and attention and I would respond when I had a little more time to pray and think.
I am not a blackberry user and from within my Astro Van, I had no way of rectifying this situation. I worried the whole way home from our family trip to the fair.
After our family outing, I headed into the house to first apologize to and then reply to my hurting friend. It was then that I noticed the message light on the answering machine blinking. I hit the button and listened to three new and four old messages. Two of the old messages were from people who needed my attention promptly. If two days later qualifies as "promptly", I guessed I was still in the clear. But it doesn't.
I decided to do damage control regarding those messages later and to attend to my friend's email. When I pulled up my email account, I noticed seven new people are "following my boards on Pinterest". . . . I have only been on Pinterest once and I couldn't exactly get the hang of it. I felt guilty that I needed to either delete my Pinterest account or snazz it up and make it worth following.
My sweet 11 year old niece has tried to skype with me at least a dozen times in the last two weeks. She leaves me the cutest notes on my skype account, complete with little hearts and kisses. I love her. I want to talk to her but I can't seem to milk five minutes from my crazy life to do that.
I am writing this blog post for two reasons. First, to ask for forgiveness publicly from those I have unwittingly (or maybe "wittingly") ignored lately. Second, to tell those family members who have made comments about my needing to "stop biting off more than I can chew" that you are sort of right but a little wrong as well.
We're still in a state of transition and I am trying too soon to jump back into full swing.
As we settle into our "new normal" over here as a family that has gained two children in less than two years, I am still learning. I am learning that everything takes a little longer now than it used to. Everything is on a slightly bigger scale and, as much as I truly love having one on one time with my family members, it is harder to come by as we grow. Amidst trying to do right by my husband and children, serving the Lord in the adoption community and eeking out a tiny bit of time for reading or friends, I have let things slide - some in unforgivable ways. I want to do better but for me, doing better has to mean doing less. My walk with Christ has to come first. If I don't spend time with Him every day - sometimes a LOT of time, I am not the kind of person anyone would share her heart with, in an email or otherwise. Second place goes to my family. Spending time with and taking care of them gives me joy that I have found nowhere else. Having dinner together or playing games (like the big candy hunt we had tonight in lieu of trick or treating) is always restful for my spirit, even when it's noisy and chaotic in my home. Third is the ministry God has given me. The ministry that makes my heart go "thump thump" is anything related to adoption - from praying over files of waiting children to talking to families struggling with a tough placement. I am truly charged up and revived in that role! All the rest, when I can find time for it, is icing on the big, messy cake that my life has turned into.
I have come to realize that "catching up on things" may never happen. I may just have to "start over" with better priorities and pray that anyone I have offended by not being available will show me some grace. So, I erased the answering machine, deleted my Pinterest account, left my niece a message on HER skype wall and canceled a meeting I was supposed to facilitate.
I'm all done overestimating my importance. The world still turns without my direct involvement and that is such a freeing revelation. I can say it loud and proud . . . . . I JUST CAN'T DO IT ALL . . . and I was never meant to.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bonding - The Flap and the Facts

In the adoption world, much is made of the concept of "bonding". Children who are not bonding with their new families in the allotted length of time (usually 6 months) are suspected of having attachment disorder. Parents who do not feel a strong bond to their newly adopted children immediately often become terrified and wonder "what if we DON'T BOND?". Parents who struggle to feel bonded to their new child in the first month or two often assume their adoption is doomed to failure and begin considering disrupting the adoption for fear that a lack of bonding is the kiss of death. I am here to tell you that bonding is important but it is not the only glue that holds an adoptive family together.
Let me tell you straight: I am firmly bonded with three of our four adopted children. Two of them came to us in diapers and I have been up to my elbows in their . . .um . . . excrement and not batted an eye. I could not do that for a neighbor's child or even a niece or nephew. Only for one of my own. Just a couple of weeks ago, our newest son got a stomach virus. I knelt beside him and rubbed his back as cup o noodles poured from every orifice. Not only was I NOT grossed out, I felt only pity for his illness and barely noticed the splashage on my night shirt. Yup . . . he's mine.
Those of you who have been around this blog for awhile know the struggles we've had with our thirteen year old. He came to us at age eight and has put us through the ringer with lying, sneaking, disobeying and hurting other children. He came home from residential treatment last May after a 7-month placement. He is not attached to us and THAT IS OKAY. I am parenting a child who does not really love me. AND THAT IS OKAY, TOO. I am here to tell you that it can be done! Attaching in adoption is beautiful but it is not mandatory for a successful placement.
We recently visited a friend's church and a sweet young man from the youth group came and introduced himself to my teens. He invited them to come and sit with him. All of my teens refused except . . . you guessed it . . . my little RADish. He left us in the back of the church without even looking behind. He is no more outgoing than my other children. He is no more social. He just does not prefer our family to other people - in public or in private. When you read a narrative of a child who is waiting for a family and that narrative says "little Johnny has never met a stranger . . . " you can bet dollars to doughnuts that little Johnny has attachment issues. I used to believe that Reactive Attachment Disorder was a ruse. I thought that psychologists made it up in order to sell books and keep their client lists long. BOY, WAS I WRONG! I have no doubt that our son has a significant attachment disorder. He interacts with us as if he's reading from a script. He is not genuine but his words say the right things. When he hurts someone, he is contrite but his eyes are hard. He tries to give his toys away to kids he just met but then is stingy and greedy with family members or close friends of the family. He compliments strangers about their shoes, cars or physical appearances in an odd cadence and during our church's greeting time, he hugs visitors but stands stiffly if a family member extends their arms. Trust me, he is not suffering from mal treatment in our home. He does not recoil because we have hurt him in some way. He just does not like to be close with us - physically or emotionally.
Recently we were able to start a skype relationship with his older brother who still lives in The Philippines. I once asked Lemuel if he wanted to see if his big brother remembers their mom and dad. He could not, for the life of him, figure out why he should care about his birth family. He knows his birthmom is deceased but he said flatly "I don't want to know anything about that stuff" and went on to put his ear buds in and crank up his mp3 player. I could fill at least ten lengthy blog posts with evidence that our son is not securely bonded to us or to anyone.
He cares little about his past. He does not want to keep ties with former caregivers or orphanage mates. He is happy to see them if the opportunity arises but he never asks. He has a biological brother in the same state we live in and I have reminded him often that he can call or see his brother any time he wishes. He simply says "okay" but never pursues contact. Take my word for it. This child has all the textbook symptoms of RAD except that he does not set fires, does not treat his "mother figure" with contempt and does not have sexual deviance issues. He has been with us for more than FIVE YEARS and has never shown genuine sympathy, remorse or unsolicited affection. . . NEVER. I think you get the point. He isn't very bonded to us. He's happy to have a place to call "home". He likes my cooking and he lives for his birthday and Christmas when he gets lots of cool "stuff". He likes "stuff" an awful lot. He found a way to get a football team mate to get him some very nice Nike cleats and I still don't have the facts straight on that story. I'm sure he painted us as some sort of derelict parents who only shop at yard sales and could never buy new cleats - to be honest, I don't really care to chase that bunny down the trail anyway. He has besmirched our reputation countless times. We are growing immune to besmirchism.
Even as I type, he sits in the livingroom eating popcorn and watching "Mr. Bean" with two of his siblings. He is laughing his head off and having a blast. He HAS TO LIVE SOMEWHERE and I have been blessed with three precious adopted sons and two amazing biological children who truly love me. They all think the sun shines out of my . . . um . . . "eyes" and so, I can muddle through with one child who does not follow suit.
Is it difficult parenting an unattached child?
Absolutely! If he was my first child or if he was my only child, I would be devastated. If he was violent or sexually inappropriate with anyone under this roof, I would disrupt the adoption but he is neither. He is just a broken little boy who, for self preservation, decided early on that he could count on no one but himself. And that is how he lives his life.
How does his attachment problem play out in everyday life?
First, he needs to be supervised 100% of his waking hours. If he is not supervised, he plays waaaay too roughly with younger children. He steals on occasion. He is loud mouthed and obnoxious. He has a "me first" attitude to the Nth degree - and no amount of training, punishing or guilting has freed him from these habits. He is addicted to video games and will literally shed tears over lost games but he is remiss to cry over a flesh and blood person he has hurt. He eats to the point of feeling sick if he is not watched. He puts others down verbally. He tells lies about our family that paint us in a less-than-favorable light.
Would you do it all over again if you knew then what you know now?
No. I would not. Not with this child. It's like asking a person if he would choose to have an amputation without anesthesia. It hurts incredibly. It changes life in ways that nobody would choose but I know it's "right" that he's here. I know that God is sovereign and HE put that boy in our house for the duration of his childhood. He needs to be trained and guided and shown the love of Christ to have even a snowball's chance in hell of having some semblance of a normal adulthood. We've been charged with the task and we must rise to it.
/Why didn't you disrupt the adoption early on when things were so bad?
We didn't disrupt because God placed him in our home and we never felt free to change the arrangement. We had no peace about disrupting. We did not believe that a new family would somehow be able to show him how to attach. We believed, and still do believe, that sending him from our home would just start a chain reaction of multiple placements that would reinforce his innate sense of self preservation.
What if he reads this post?
He won't care. I let him read the post about adoption disruption that featured his life story. He could not have cared less. I wanted to get his permission to publish it because it was so very personal. I shared with him that it could help people to understand some things about adoption. He asked me if I would add something that tells how good he is at football and how he's not scared to fight even if the other guy is bigger than he is.
How do YOU feel about him, really?
Honestly, sometimes it really sucks parenting an unattached child. There's a lot of "give" on my part and a ton of "take" on his. I believe that when he is older he'll leave us for a better deal and may not even keep in touch. That's sad. It's hard to invest in someone when the pay off is miniscule. It's hard to keep tending to the daily needs of a child who casts aspersions behind your back. It's also very freeing. My goals are different with this child than with the five others. I hope to help him learn a little empathy for others so he does not hurt people who want to be close to him. I teach him to fear the law so he does not end up incarcerated. I stress to him the love that Jesus has for him and that it is NOT conditional upon him feeling "warm fuzzy feelings" toward God. We are on a very basic track with him. I know that our other five children will have more "normal" lives. I know there will be weddings and grandchildren (oh, I long for those grandchildren!!!!) and job decisions and that they will call home to my husband and I for advice on life-altering decisions. I know they will. I know Lem won't.
I realize it sounds like I have completely eschewed God's ability to heal. I used to pray for Lem's healing and his bonding a hundred times a day. Five years later, I believe it's time to take another approach. I remain open to and hopeful for God's miraculous hand but realistically, we need to plan for the "what if he never attaches to us". That seems to be the eventuality.
Forgive me if this post sounds dismal. It is meant to encourage! We have a joyous, full, happy family life. There are so many fun times, so much physical affection, so many games, sports and chores together that we treasure and enjoy. Every child, Lem included, is here for a reason. Every life is precious to God and He is refining and shaping us all. It's just that with Lem, his heart is off limits to the rest of us and we have to rely on Jesus to get in there and touch the places that we will not be allowed to go near.
If WE can do it, YOU can do it! So your adopted child doesn't open up to you, tell you with sincerity how much he loves you . . . sometimes knowing he would if he could has to be enough. It has to be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

But Who's Counting?

I want to tell you a little bit about one of my best friends. Those of you who know me in "real life" probably know her, too. Her name is Thea and she and her husband have nine beautiful biological children with another on the way! Thea helped me lay down my fear of having a large family just by letting me get to know hers - the good, the bad and the messy (ha ha)- she reminds me often that God decides who comes to our table and HIS decisions are always right . . . I need to hear that from time to time.
Recently Thea and Steve read the book "Radical" by David Platt. She and I spent many hours talking about our own lives and ways that we might live more radically for Jesus. Thea has had a heart for adoption for a long time but her calling became even more clear through study of God's word and His mandate for us to truly abandon ourselves to Him . . .no matter how "far out" his path for our lives may look to the rest of the world. So, as crazy as it seems, God called this VERY large family to grow even larger through the miracle of adoption. After much prayer and soul searching, the family decided to request a match with two beautiful brothers from Ethiopia! They ARE beautiful, too. I've seen pictures and video that make me wish I had seen them first . . . but, no, they are destined to be Thea's and the Lord has made it plain.
The family is in the throes of raising money for their adoption. Their precious children have made some incredible stationary and survival bracelets (long pieces of rope that are braided into pretty bracelets but can be unwound and used to save you if you find yourself in a "Bear Grylls" situation sans the years of training).
You can check the bracelets out at www.fromgodstummy.blogspot.com
It's a truly novel idea. I'm getting a purple one!
Another way you can help this family is to come to our local Chic-fil-a restaurant at Cary Towne Center on October 25th from 5-8pm, order some dinner and tell the cashier that you are there to support the adoption fundraiser. Chic-fil-a will donate 20% of your meal purchase price to the family's adoption fund. We had this very same fund raiser for Francis' adoption and it was SO much fun and so very successful!!!!
Finally, the most tangible way you can help my friends is to pray for them. During the adoption process, families tend to face grueling spiritual attacks. There is money stress, extended family's dissension, doubt of hearing God's calling correctly . . oh, you name it! Adoption is hard and wonderful at the same time. Please pray that my friends have a lot more "wonderful" than "hard".

Friday, October 14, 2011

WAR . . . What is it good for?

I'm going through a stretch of bad attitude right now . . .no, not from one of my teens . . my OWN bad attitude! I'm tired. I'm too busy and the joy I normally find in serving my family is at war with a "woe is me" mind set (and woe is kicking joy's butt)!

I know my attitude is wrong. I am trying to fix it. I have been praying and reading God's word regularly. I have been attempting to take those "everyone is dumping on me" thoughts captive but not always succeeding. The sad thing is, nothing around here has changed. My children are generally helpful without me having to ask. They get along well and we rarely deal with fighting (I attribute that to the Filipino style of leadership here where the younger children must listen to the olders - there's no "you're not the boss of me" crap happening around here because, yes, if he is older than you, he IS the boss of you. IF he's a mean boss, I'll take him down myself!). We're not under financial stress or a health crisis (praise God) but I'm just having to work double time NOT to get resentful quickly.

I don't believe I'm having any post-adoption blues. I had those after one of our earlier adoptions and I know how they feel - much worse than this. I think that somewhere along the line, I have allowed the Enemy to slide a paradigm shift into my brain and I'm not looking at things with the most Godly perspective. I also believe that some of my selfless serving of the family was done in my flesh and so it's just not sustainable. Burn out is inevitable when you're not walking in a Holy Spirit fueled manner. On a practical level, I'm just tired. Our public schooler needs to be woken up at 6:30am and I usually stay up waaaaay too late at night trying to get a little quiet time to read or just see what's new on craigslist. It sounds like I need a vacation ALONE but I believe that would be the worst thing I could do. I have found the concept of "me time" to be a big lie! Whenever I do get a little "me time" (out to dinner with a friend or Anthony takes all the kids to a movie and leaves me home alone) I don't tend to feel refreshed afterward. I tend to feel more greedy for just a little more of that time . . .I think "me time" feeds the beast but maybe that's just me. I find the remedy for eyes-on-self syndrome to be serving others just a little bit more.
Now that I've dumped all my dirty laundry on the doorstep of this blog, I think it's time to sign off, spend some more time in prayer and see if I can recognize the cure for my slump when God offers it! I know it's just around the corner. He's always been so good to convict and cure me in the same time frame. I'm definitely convicted . . . looking forward to "cured"!

Romans 7
21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God,in my inner being, 23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Monday, October 10, 2011

WARNING . . .GRAPHIC VIDEO . . .Life Altering Content

I just finished watching this 33 minute video (which is very graphic) and my heart is broken. I have been a pro-life voter and an advocate for LIFE for many years but sometimes it's easy to sanitize the discussion to the point where even I forget the tragedy of abortion. I am the mother of a child who is in the category MOST ABORTED in the United States (Down Syndrome diagnoses carry a 90% abortion rate when prenatally discovered). I am the mother to TWO adopted children who were born despite their birth mother's attempts to end their lives chemically. I am not surprised after watching this video. The thought processes of some of my fellow Americans in this astounds me! Even though many of these Americans being interviewed are young, still forming opinions and not as intellectually developed as they might be in the future, their knee jerk reactions to some of the questions they are asked saddens me deeply.
If you happen to be in the market for a thought-provoking twist on a discussion that often ends in frustration for both sides of the matter, grab a seat and take a look. If you have been duped into believing this issue is "settled" and that only "old school Christians" still fight this fight, think again!
For those of you who take the time to press "pause" on your busy lives and ponder this video, I would love to hear from you, even privately. Those who just can't spare the time or would rather not ruminate on this controversial issue - I am saddest for you. When your heart becomes hard to the most innocent members of society, there is little hope.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Anger - Lies and the Truth

Ephesians 4:26
English Standard Version (ESV)
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.

I am a person who has struggled with anger. I remember being angry a LOT as a child. I was generally angry about things that I felt were "not fair" to me. It was a selfish, childlike brand of anger that can not be reasoned with. As I grew into a teenager, I continued to battle feelings of anger that seemed out of proportion to whatever the precipitator happened to be. I was the kind of girl who walked in two worlds. I tried to share my faith and make Jesus Christ a priority in my life but at the same time, I was the girl who would easily get into a fist fight with another girl if I heard she was "talking about me". As I entered college and began to develop some spiritual and personal maturity - not much, mind you, but some- I recognized my anger as something that was a monumental stumbling block, both in peer relationships and my relationship with Christ. I tried in futility to improve but ended up being angry on the inside with a smiling exterior. I was becoming a Pharisee.
As a young mother with two small children, I would feel hot rages come over me in response to seemingly insignificant events. I never physically hurt my children but I sometimes spoke harshly, answered sarcastically or went into my room to scream into my pillow when they needed help or guidance. I blew up at my husband unfairly on a regular basis. He was gone all day and I spent too much time lamenting the hard work of mothering, the isolation of staying at home and the frustration of not having all the pocket money I wanted. I should have been counting my blessings instead.
I had swallowed the world's advice on men and motherhood and I was angry! I was trying to bow down at Oprah Winfrey's altar of "self love" but coming up unable to muster even "self LIKE". I was untrained in a Biblical world view but was drinking the koolaid offered in self help books and by talk show hosts without so much as a scrutinizing glance. I believed that if I did not stand up for myself, I would simply disappear. I would be no more than a maid, caretaker, cook and call girl. I had needs, too, right???? What about ME? I believed my husband's lunch hours at work were more like "boys' night out" and why should HE have restaurant food and friends to chat with when I was home making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watching Barney?
But I was raised in a Christian home.
I knew many things about my own heart and attitude were contributing to my underlying, ever present anger. I think I had known it all along. I just didn't know WHAT to do about it. Wanting to change does not change a thing. It's a nice start but it's kind of like wanting to be physically fit but sitting on the couch all day.
The world told me that if I did not release my anger (through confronting the target of the anger) it would build up like a pressure cooker and I would just explode!!! The world told me it was actually DANGEROUS to keep my feelings inside so I HAD TO let them out. This is a foundational, fundamental lie that is in direct opposition to God's word. The Bible says
"A fool gives full vent to his anger,
but a wise man quietly holds it back". Proverbs 29:11
hmmmm . .. that stands in complete contradiction to what I believed but it settled in my spirit as pure truth.
God's word had some other amazing revelations for me as I began to pray about changing my heart. One scripture that I shared regularly with my children but seemed to forget applied to me as well is:
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in HUMILITY,
consider others better than yourself." Philippians 2:3
So . . . when someone at the grocery store has that "me first" attitude and tries to push ahead, I should just let them? When I think my husband should walk in the door from a busy day at work, drop his lunch box and immediately take over "kid duty" I may be off base?
These are hard principles, friends. Easy to memorize and hard to live out. Holding back anger and letting others be FIRST or letting their needs take precedence over our needs-those are habits that have to be cultivated. First, through daily reminders, prayer, scripture cards and conscious effort and later, they become a part of your internal schema and you find yourself - a little more each day - living them out more effortlessly. Rome wasn't built in day.
I share this with you, not as someone who has arrived and conquered the "anger beast" but as someone who is striving to live in this paradigm shift and who has much regret over the selfishness and anger manifest in years gone by. If ONE young mother reads this post and finds freedom, it would make my joy abound. If any person can take the shortcut to deliverance that I found when taking the "scenic route", it would be marvelous. What a load of time I wasted ruminating on ME when I should have been marinating in God's word - seeking His plan for my life - using my youth and energy and gifts to make HIS name great among my friends and family.
It is my deepest prayer that I will use whatever time I have left and that YOU will use whatever time YOU have left to do those things that bring Him glory. When all is said and done, there is nothing else that lasts. It's just HIM.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Waiting Children - SO Many Hidden Jewels!

I know that many of my readers have a heart for children. Some are considering another adoption or praying about the right time to begin their first. Let me start by saying that I am not a salesperson and generally do a terrible job of pitching anything to anyone. Now that I've cleared that up, let me do my level best to convince you that, if God is calling you to adopt, The Philippines is a MARVELOUS country to consider!
I DO NOT want to be challenged by anyone regarding the tired old "why not adopt from the US . . . so many kids in foster care . . . taking care of our OWN . . .etc. etc.
That is another argument for another post. I have had it too many times and it's wearying. If you are called to adopt strictly American foster children, this may not be the post for you. However, IF you are open to travel, have a heart for kids outside of this country and a belief that EVERY life is precious to God - no matter where that life came to be, you may want to read on.
I have photos and narratives of literally dozens of beautiful, deserving Filipino children waiting for families. These children range in age from 2 years old to 15. There are boys and girls. Some have special needs and some do not, aside from their ages. There are sibling sets and singletons. There are hearing impaired, visually impaired, cognitively delayed and mobility impaired children featured along with perfectly healthy boys and girls who are just a little too old to be "easy to place". I love reading the files our agency receives and praying for each child. I have found three of our treasures from within these files. If you are GENUINELY interested in Philippine adoption, please contact me and we'll talk!
The rules set forth by the Inter Country Adoption Board prohibit any photos or specific information on these precious kiddos being placed on the internet.
I will tell you there is a child on that list whom I find particularly marvelous. He is a 14 year old boy of mixed Filipino/Kuwaiti descent. He is handsome and smart. His narrative reminds me so much of the information we received on Francis while we were pursuing his adoption - no problems, no red flags, he can play guitar and leads worship but simply was not available for adoption until he was already considered "old". It was a legal issue that kept him from being available, not his fault. If you are considering taking a BIG LEAP OF FAITH, please consider this 14 year old young man. PLEASE!
Here are some of the positive aspects of adopting a waiting child from The Philippines:
1. When compared to other international programs, the Philippine program is inexpensive.
2. The write ups, medical information and background info offered on the children are reliable and true. The ages of the children tend to be accurate.
3. ONE TRIP is required by ONE PARENT and the stay in country is only 5-7 days.
4. English is widely spoken in The Philippines and accommodations are very tourist friendly.
5. The process is transparent. Unlike some countries open for international adoption, you will NOT BE asked for additional money after your fees are paid to your accredited US agency. You will know before the process even begins how much each step will cost. There are no unpleasant surprises!
6. The Philippines is a Hague country and works to comply with all Hague regulations.
7. Some of the criteria for adopting from The Philippines (weight and age of adoptive parents) CAN be waived on a case by case basis for special needs/waiting children.
There are other positives to this program but I fear this post is already getting too long.
If you are out there reading and feeling that little flip flop in your belly, maybe that is your cue to email me and learn a little more about the amazing, precious, beautiful, life-changing children who are just a plane ride away and waiting for parents to claim them!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Answered Prayer # 345,653,445,999

If you've stuck by this blog for any length of time, you probably already know that my hubby and I have wrestled for YEARS with the notion of selling all of our worldly goods and moving to The Philippines with our family to dedicate our lives to hands-on ministry. There have been times in the last few months where I have a pain in my stomach from thinking about the fact that the Lord might call us to stay stateside and support the work of others.
My husband recently investigated the possibility of transferring with his present company to a post in Manila. We would be able to live there in comfort and still reach out. That door closed.
We looked into applying with our denomination. They do not endorse families with teens as missionaries. That door closed.
I decided to talk to our newest son about how he would feel IF God called us back to The Philippines to live. I expected him to be THRILLED at the notion because I know how much he misses his loved ones. To my absolute amazement, he said he did NOT want to go back except to visit!!! When I asked why, he couldn't articulate the reasons but the sentiment was clear. No, we do not let our children dictate the direction of the family but in this case, it was very important to us to know how Francis would feel about such a big change.
This is NOT a dream that I am willing to bury at this point but it appears that the answer God is giving us is . . . say it with me . . . "WAIT"!
It brings to mind the John Waller song that was featured in the movie Fireproof.
Part of the song says:
"While I'm waiting, I will serve YOU
while I'm waiting, I will worship.
While I'm waiting, I will not fail.
I'll be running the race, even while I wait."

Even while I wait, I pray I am not wasting my time with anything less than total sold out service to Jesus. Life is so short and the needs are so great . . . here comes that stomach ache again!~!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


As much as I like to blog, and pray that God uses it to encourage others, I think I have an ulterior motive for blogging posts like the one yesterday. It is my hope that friends and strangers alike will pray us through these bumps in the road. That is precisely what happened yesterday! Although I expressed the hope that our son would repent in the morning, he did not.
It was a rainy morning and I drove him to the bus stop. As we sat in the car, he asked me one question "are you coming to my game?".
I said "of course" and he breathed a sigh of relief. I half expected him to make an attempt to fix the problem but he just sat there for another five minutes.
The bus came and he left.
AFTER the football game, in the van on the way home it was just me, Francis and Lem.
Lem began his apology with "I've been a jerk . . ."
I did not argue with him on that one. I told him I forgave him and loved him.
He began to cry and told me he does not deserve it. I didn't argue with him there either (ha ha).
I know Francis was probably super uncomfortable sitting in on this little exchange but I also think it was good for him to see how it works in our home. We mess up. We apologize (theoretically BEFORE nine days pass) and we forgive.
God led Lem to apologize at that time, in the present company for a reason. I don't know the reason but I had to roll with it.
Thank you for the prayers, encouraging comments, private notes and for caring enough about our family to take time from yours.
The pics below are Lem playing in his FIRST football game (pre-apology, mind you) and he played one heck of a game. He tackled three times and caught the ball twice to run for several yards. His team lost 7-33 but for him it was a victory. He played well, we were there to watch and he mustered up the courage to apologize on the way home. All in all, a great day!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Eight Days And Counting

Eight days . . . that is how long it's been since our 13 year old told a lie, got into a little trouble and stopped speaking to us! I realize this post is going to sound flat out wacky to friends who have not adopted a wounded child AND to those who know how strict we are. Some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering how in the world we have allowed a child to shun us for eight days. Hang with me . . .
For the five years since our 4th oldest has come into the family, we have entered a cycle in which he lies (pathologically), we discipline (through grounding or other consequences that speak to the infraction), he cries hysterically for upwards of an hour and then gives us the "silent treatment" for days at a time. We have tried many methods to cope with this vicious cycle and have not found a way to break this pattern. We can not, as responsible parents, allow him to lie to us without addressing it. He can not, for some unknown reason, be confronted on a lie without spiraling into a crying jag. It is one of life's great mysteries - like Stonehenge or crop circles.
In days gone by, I made sure to put a swift end to his silent treatment by going to him and MAKING him talk it out. I would tell him how much we love him, pray with him, hug him, etc. Sometimes I would even go as far as to take responsibility for the silent time by telling him that I, as the adult, should come to him and make sure our relationship was good after any discipline is meted out. He always acquiesced and things would get back to "normal". This last EVENT hit me right in the heart and my husband and I both became as fed up as we have ever been with the "silent treatment". This young man is hurtling toward 14 years old and he has no idea how to "do" relationships. He is all take and no give. We decided this time around that we are not pursuing him. HE told the lie. HE chose to throw a two hour tantrum in his room and HE needs to "man up" and fix the mess he made with his silent treatment.
I told him so.
I marched into his room after waiting FOUR DAYS for him to start talking to/hanging out with the family again. I let him know that he created this chasm with his attitude and he needed to figure out how to fix it. He said "okay" and proceeded to continue on in silence.
He comes quickly when called to dinner, mind you. He is all too happy to accept rides home from football practice with us. He had no problem ordering off the menu at our recent family dinner out or washing his sweaty football clothes in our washer. He just doesn't want to talk to us.
His pride is killing the relationship between himself and the rest of us.
I have come close, on several occasions, to slipping back into the old habit of having a nice long talk with him and spoon feeding him his repentance. But I can't.
I feel so strongly in my spirit that this NEEDS to come from him. It's okay if it sounds like bumbling. It can be off the mark. It can be out of left field and not really address the problem but it needs to be HIS effort to mend HIS mistakes.
"Why now?"
He is becoming a man. He is handsome and athletic. Girls are stupid around him. Although our family does not condone dating in the teen years (we're a "courtship only" operation), he is under our roof less than the other children as our only public school student. He will have the opportunity to reject our teaching and "date" if he can keep it under wraps. His lying is going to deeply wound some unsuspecting young lady. She will not be so gracious as to chase him down and hand feed him an apology. He MUST learn to mend fences.
He craves friendships with other young men but as a person with no ability to admit his mistakes and genuinely ask for forgiveness, he risks extreme loneliness in the years ahead. He has to acquire the skill of humbly seeking restoration.
He hopes to join the military someday. The ability to accept correction WITHOUT the silent treatment following that correction is crucial. A commanding officer is not going to allow him to stare blankly because he's "mad". The discipline will be sure and swift in this environment and his "hurt feelings" aren't going to amount to a hill of beans in the REAL WORLD.
I can not bend on this one. I can not go to him and fix his mess.
It would be most unloving for me to, once again, show him how to "undo" what he's done.
I could have stopped this snowball of silence on day one by walking right up to him and telling him how ridiculous and disrespectful his behavior is. He would have WELCOMED that contact, as he has in the past, and been grateful for that springboard from which to re initiate communication.
He is waiting for it. I can tell. Even though I told him it was up to him to figure out how to fix this, he is holding out hope that I will miss him so much I'll come and sit on the edge of his bed and start the ball rolling... again.
I won't.
Ever again.
Starting now, I am free from keeping him from feeling the true effects of his actions.
This is a game of "chicken" and I am not flinching. I want to but I won't.
This is the ugly side of older/wounded child adoption. These things that happen in our home are things I would have NEVER allowed back in the day when I knew everything about parenting. . . back when a friend once told me that spanking didn't work with her son and I replied, full of an obnoxious amount of confidence, that she just wasn't doing it hard enough. Back when I had two perfect children, one boy and one girl, and I had "Ezzo-ed" them into little Pharisees, I would have criticized a mom like me for being such a wuss. I would have blamed her for letting a 13 year old have too much power and I would not have been her friend. She would have sickened me.
But that was then. I am much stupider now and those black and white parenting issues sometimes muddle into a gray pool of mush. Every behavior infraction isn't a "sin" and I'm not a meaner version of Jesus - doling out justice but never mercy.
I am feeling my way along the cave wall in the dark and praying that the voice I hear is who I think it to be and not an imposter, giving bum advice on how to deal with this difficult child.
I still, five years into this adoption, have NO idea why God did not give that young man to a more experienced family. Why he did not go someplace where he would be the center of someone's universe instead of such a fringe character in a scenario with parents who still have so much to learn.
Right now, he sleeps under his Pottery Barn Kids comforter with the surfer emblazoned on it. He has his first football game tomorrow where he will play second string. I KNOW he wanted to talk about the game with us today several times but he would not allow himself. He bit back the excitement and stoically trudged along beside us. I know him. He is nervous and excited. He usually chatters incessantly when he's like that but not this time.
I don't know how long he can hold out. We invited him to come watch a DVD with us a few nights ago and he said "okay" and then never came out of his room. He is acting like the offended party rather than the OFFENDER.
I want to shake him and hug him all at once. I think the "shaking" thing is looking more attractive than the "hugging", in all honesty.
It is my prayer that tomorrow, in the morning, as I wake him up for school, he will decide to tear down the wall of silence he has built and humble himself.
If not, I'll do what I do worst . . .wait.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Alive and Kicking!

I apologize for the WEEKS of silence that have preceded this post! I always get a chuckle from the emails that readers send me asking if we're still alive, if things are going alright or bluntly "why haven't you blogged in TWO WEEKS?". The truth is, two weeks ago something crazy happened that sucked my free time away and dropped me into a vacuum. It's called "homeschooling" and I do it for about nine months every year. Along with homeschooling comes the support group for moms that I facilitate, the co-op where my precious prodigy take courses from someone OTHER THAN me, the nightly grading of assignments, the sports -theater - music for the kids who have interests there and just trying to steal a quick date with my husband during this heat wave of activity.
Please don't read my laundry list of commitments with that nasally, whiny voice that we all use at those times when we're feeling overwhelmed. I'm not overwhelmed (yet!). I am just super busy. My oldest son is a senior in high school and, although he and his sister are almost completely independent study students, I do keep tabs on the work and I still sit and grade their Algebra and Geometry each evening. I don't do this because I HAVE to. The curriculum they use allows students to plug in their answers on the computer and grade themselves. I do this because I WANT to. I was a terrible math student. In some aspects of my own life, I feel my lack in this area greatly inhibited me. I want to be sure my children don't follow in my footsteps. I do have to sit with my precious Ky Ky during much of his school as he is still working at about a mid second grade level. He is gaining by leaps and bounds this year, though, and sitting by him while he reads full paragraphs (when he was not even potty trained until 5 years old and was hard of hearing until he was 4) just makes my heart leap for joy! I also work one on one with Francis during his English and Finance courses. He is just fine doing math, journal writing, Bible History and such on his own. I am shocked at the improvement in his English skills in just 10 weeks home. He already had a good foundation and is naturally bright so I can't take much credit here but it's amazing nonetheless. I'm not quite ready to let him be independent study, anyway. I'm just enjoying that school time with him and it often dissolves into joking around or talking off the subject. It always takes more time that it has to but that is perfectly fine with me. Ezekiel is a hand full during school sometimes and I have taken to letting him dump out every toy in his bedroom just to keep him occupied while we work. He also spends a little time in his crib with board books and then in his high chair with a popsicle. Lemuel is our only public schooler and since he recently made the football team, he practices until dinner time daily, comes home sweaty and tired, eats and falls asleep on his homework most nights. He claims to love this set up. I would not have at his age but he is a very different bird. His emotional struggles have resurfaced the last few days and a nice crying jag of two hours or so ensued. I suspect being tired played into this and I had him go off to bed a little earlier the last couple of nights. He can't articulate what is going on so I have to use a little trial and error. He continues to be my most challenging child. I continue to be keenly aware that we are not doing right by him and yet, unable to figure out what God would have us do differently. He does not want to be homeschooled and, although I did homeschool him for his first two years home, it was very rough on all of us. His needs are HUGE and my emotional reserves are puny. The Lord sustained us and we muddled through but those were two school years when I would not have said "enjoyable, abundant or fulfilling" unless I was referring to the weekends.
Well, that's a run down of the school situation here and, although it may seem mundane to a reader, it's a snapshot of our family that makes me happy and proud. I see the way the Lord has guided us into this life and then equipped us to tackle each day and I am awed. My penchant for laziness coupled with the selfish streak I battle would dictate that homeschooling, serving my family and even being patient enough to finish what I start, are all out of reach for me. Thanks be to God who, in His wisdom and good humor, calls us to walk in our areas of weakness!
Well, it's time to rally the troops for co-op and head off to teach my high school English Literature and Composition class. We are almost finished reading and analyzing "Lord of the Flies". Have a vibrant, blessed day, friends.