Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Safety and Celebration

This last weekend we were met with threats of serious storm damage from Hurricane Irene. Days before the storm was to make landfall, our news channels were all abuzz with warnings to secure our outdoor furniture, buy batteries and water. Irene turned out to be a bit of a dud for our part of the state but not so for many surrounding states. My sister lives on the coast in Virginia and the threat there was much more serious than we hoped. She runs an assisted living facility and is responsible for the complete care of three precious elderly ladies. Upon seeing the storm threat, she loaded up her three residents and her three children and headed for my house on Friday.
When my sister arrived with her residents, wheelchairs and walkers in tow, it was such a relief to know they were safe from the storm!
It just so happened that we had planned Francis' 16th birthday celebration for that very same day so our 40+ invited guests, my sister's residents and family and my brother and his wife and kids all enjoyed a big birthday party together the night before a hurricane was set to hit! Several times during the party I had to swallow back tears of gratitude. I would be scooping ice cream and find myself just so thankful for all of the people God has put in my life. It's not unusual for me to feel that way when looking at my children but I don't think I stop often enough to be grateful for the friends, neighbors, and church family that I have been blessed with. Our home was filled with fellow Christians, the newly-adopted Indian children of a friend, a family in the middle of an Ethiopian adoption while expecting their 10th biological child, and so many who helped us with our last TWO adoptions. What a blessing to know these people! How lucky I am to be able to feed them dinner and watch their children play with mine. I will never understand the life of a hermit or the bitterness that makes some folks want to hole up and close themselves off from the world. Human beings are such great creations! We were made for fellowship with God and with each other. Just the presence of these loved ones sharpened my "iron" (Proverbs 27:17). I pray that God will use me to enrich the lives of others just as He has used so many to enrich mine.

Ecclesiastes 4:10-12
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

THE Power of the Zipper

I wore THOSE pants to church on Sunday. You know . . . we all have worn them at least once . . .the pants that randomly unzip fast and hard as soon as you sit down. I forgot I even HAD those pants and by the time I realized it was THEM, I was sitting down in a van full of people and running ten minutes late. I had to keep them on. I worked in the nursery, always bending at the waist and never squatting, for an hour. I kept my Bible on my lap during service and re-zipped while standing for the final prayer. I could not concentrate properly all day for thinking of those PANTS!!!!!
A seemingly small "problem" given the seriousness of world hunger, war in the middle east and the plight of the baby seal but, on that day, it overshadowed every move I made.
After church, my eldest son took his siblings shopping and had a minor confrontation with the two brothers closest in age to him. He had to remind them that he is the Kuya and they need to listen to him. When my children came home from the store, I could FEEL the bad attitude in my home and began to conduct private interviews to get the story. Each child agreed that our eldest had spoken kindly and was simply doing his job. (It appears our newest family member prefers BEING the Kuya to HAVING a Kuya and that was part of the problem- ha ha). The reaction to being corrected by his older brother seemed disproportionate to the situation. It made for a hard, tense afternoon around the old homestead and finally, at 11pm, my husband and I called all three of our oldest into our room for a little heart to heart. Everything is back to "normal" because these are some easily-redirected kids when it comes down to it.
As I laid in bed thinking about the day's events, I wondered why the pants seemed to frustrate me so much and yet I was GLAD the "sibling snit" took place. With those black pants (which are somewhere in a landfill by now, I hope) I was frustrated and sidetracked way MORE than the situation called for (much like our new son felt with our oldest). It feels dramatic and silly now even using the word "situation" when retelling the pants problem!
When I pondered the issue between my teens, I had peace and joy. Suddenly, it dawned on me . . . the squabble with the teens was a bonding event because having a tiff with someone (and then working it out) indicates a level of acceptance and familiarity that is reserved for families and close friends. With strangers, a little irritation can go unmended and feel fine. With guests, you bend over backward to please them and put yourself out without a second thought but with FAMILY, you can "keep it real" and know that it won't end the relationship. I'm ashamed to admit, I say things to my husband that I would never say to anyone who had not signed legal documents committing to me. I can tell my kids when their outfits look ridiculous or they need to brush their teeth better because, they are mine and they know I love and accept them. How many times have you been in conversation with an acquaintance who had . . . um . . .a little something in his nose but you refused to tell him because he'd be embarrassed? I have. With family, forget it! Not only do I tell them, I TEASE them until a state of paranoia sets in that causes them to carry around a hand mirror!!! They would do the same to me. So, although the enemy tried to get a foothold in our family with the sibling issue, the Lord reminded me that He is in charge and even things that seem unpleasant have a purpose. Even the black pants? I guess I needed some humbling so, yes, EVEN THE BLACK PANTS!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Update" . . . yawn . . .

I've been holding off on blogging for a while in hopes that our new family pictures would be ready for the posting. They aren't. They haven't even been taken yet. We keep planning to take family pictures and then some appointment, commitment or unexpected "thing" cuts in line. I am hoping in the next week we will get those pictures taken. I am bothered by the huge portrait that hangs over my couch and contains neither Ezekiel nor Francis. That picture is not my family . . . it's only part of my family. I am even more aware that the five close up pictures that line our stairwell are an incomplete set. It seems tolerable to have a picture missing two children but when just one is missing from a grouping, it seems almost "mean". . . I know I'm waaaay over analyzing this photo thing but, hey, that's the way my mind works these days.
There isn't much news to report that would be of interest to those outside this family but things are changing around here. My husband sold his Harley yesterday. My oldest son sold his leopard gecko and I registered Francis and Elliana for an upcoming driver's education class! In a few months THREE of my children -exactly half- will be driving on either a permit or a license! I am going to be spending more time in prayer than ever when that happens.
We have been homeschooling for exactly two days now and it feels good to have a routine again. Everyone feels purposeful and it is obvious. The lazy feel of our home has given way to a structured, forward motion. Chores are done early, students are at the table with books, computers and pencils. I am circulating the room, Ezekiel on my hip, answering questions and checking assignments. I am going to miss this someday. I am keenly aware that, no matter how many times we adopt, at some point this phase of life will end. I will not have a bustling house full of kids to teach, train and enjoy. I suppose I should be looking forward to that time and planning a Disney trip - or something- with my husband (and Ezekiel - ha ha) but I can not even fathom it yet. I don't want this to end. I LOVE my life. I love my tiny house with too few bathrooms and mismatched interior doors. I love the fact that we fill the 8 passenger van when we go out as a family and there's no more room. I love the rulers, pencils, dried markers and broken crayons that litter my counter top on weekdays and I love how the washer and dryer are always in use, whether by me or one of my teens. I love the way the trash has to be dumped twice a day sometimes and the fact that my top dresser drawer is full on unmatched socks of all sizes and colors, waiting for me to have time to sit and find pairs. I love being called "mom" by voices in all stages of puberty - pre, mid and post - and knowing who's voice it is without ever having to look. THIS is what I was created for. To mother, educate, raise, reach out to, accept and cherish these people - to blur the line between "biological" and "adopted" in such a way that nobody wishes he was one and not the other. I pray for strength to live this life with excellence, knowing that the Lord has given me a calling too high to attain on my own. I just can't do it apart from Jesus. And isn't that just the way it should be? Anything we can tackle easily on our own strength is likely NOT our calling.

"God calls the unqualified to do the unimaginable through His power, that is immeasurable, in a world that is unreachable apart from Him who is unchangeable".
Author Unknown

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Real Vs. Reality

In the last five or six days, I have taken my seat at this very table and started various blog posts only to delete and never publish them. As every blogger knows, it is crucial to be patently honest in your blogging but there is also a little restraint that sits in the heart while typing. I want so much to be honest and encourage families in their pursuit of adoption or in their walks with Christ! Here is where my dilemma truly lies. Adoption can be so difficult. Teen adoption is notoriously laden with land mines and many such adoptions are unsuccessful. I have done some research and found that between 38% and 75% of adoptions disrupt when the child is over 12 years old at the time of placement. The huge disparity in the numbers seems to be related to the definition of "disruption" - some adoptions are considered "disrupted" when parents retain legal custody but place their child in a group home or alternate care setting. Anyway, I digress . . . My dilemma lies in sharing the reality of our own experience with adopting a teen (which has been absolutely WONDERFUL thus far!) while communicating that our experience is NOT typical. I know the written word carries much weight. I have received countless emails over the course of my time as a blogger that have thanked me for help, teaching, guidance or transparency and it is so humbling. I don't mean to overstate my influence but I certainly do not want a family to believe that adoption is an easy road or that there is any formula for success that I have somehow tapped into. There isn't. It is only by the grace of God that our newest family member has meshed in so easily and is doing so well. It is also by God's grace that we did not disrupt the adoption of our now 13 year old son when he came to us at eight.
It is because of His sovereignty that we have added four precious sons to this family when, in reality, we didn't always know what we were getting into!
The only thing that is "real" and I know to be 100% true is that the God of the universe does what He sees fit when He decides to do it. I know that even when the road to adoption is bumpy and we feel hopeless, He has it all under His watchful eye. I know for a fact that I have grown more in my faith with each adoption and that the hardest adoption has also been the most rewarding spiritually. That is what I know to be true. THAT, is the reality of taking big leaps with the safety net of a sovereign God beneath us the whole time. The reality? We have risked little. We have gained much.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Put the Brakes On!!!!!

Phew . . . what a busy few weeks we've had here at the nut house!!!!! My teenage niece and nephew spent 11 days at our house (yes, I had 8 kids for 11 days - it was actually pretty great) and then we drove them back to their home at the beach.  We went to the ocean, a water park and the kids all went to the movies before we headed back home.  I am finally sitting down to catch my breath and just glanced at the calendar. Francis has basketball practice tomorrow morning  and  Lemuel has a physical for football in the afternoon!
Despite the vast amounts of FUN we have been having, I am feeling so utterly convicted that I am undone.
In the wake of all the partying, guests, cook outs and travel, I am afraid our family has lost focus on the One who deserves the most attention - Jesus!   Yes, we've gone to church each Sunday, and some Wednesdays. Yes, we pray before each meal and I have spent SOME time in God's word but my conviction goes beyond those issues. I have let things slide with my children that are unacceptable.  Attitudes, choices of music and movies, crass speech, laziness regarding their responsibilities at home and so much more.  Finally, two nights ago while at my sister's house at the beach, it all came to a head with some unkindness between my teens. I called my husband up crying and told him how broken hearted I was over the general state of things. He quickly agreed and admitted that he, too, has seen glimpses of these issues but has not addressed them. We apologized to each other for our parental laziness and made a decision to get these attitudes back on track PRONTO!  We have prayed, talked and decided to have a meeting with our teens tomorrow to emphasize how to live a life "worthy of our calling".  We all need a tune up, not just the kids. It's time for us to hole up for a little while and get back to focusing on walking our talk!
I share the embarrassing state of our family, not just to humiliate myself, but to point out just how subtle and crafty the enemy of our souls has been. You see, if he had come into our family foaming at the mouth, dressed like a satan worshipper and inviting my teens to join him, they would have spotted him from afar and been drawn closer to their Heavenly Father. So instead, he slips in disguised as a "harmless" joke, a funny but biting comment, a friend who commiserates when you complain about your family, a show that isn't appropriate for the "little kids" but just fine for "us teens"  . . . and . . . before you know it, the enemy is sitting on our sofa with his feet on the coffee table and we didn't even see him come in!  Well, we see him now and he's no longer welcome.

I Peter 5:8-9
8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.