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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adopting Again?????

I realize the title of this blog post may have caused a couple of friends and family members to "freak out" for a split second. Let me assure you all that we have not, at this point, felt God leading us to adopt again!  I titled this post as I did because several people have asked me this very question "do you think you'll adopt again?".  Now, let me explain something.  Asking adoptive parents this question within mere weeks of placement is like asking someone with a brand new infant if they plan to have more babies!  I don't draw this parallel because of any negative experiences, I draw it because at this stage of the adoption, I can not think more than a week ahead.
We have to navigate homeschooling, work on setting some boundaries and just get to know each other better.
I remember saying "I think we might be done" after each child came into our family and then, not being "done" because the Lord said we weren't.   We are a family that embraces the "quiver full" ideology.  We believe children are a gift from the Lord and we are not in a position to ask him to STOP blessing us.  No, we don't use birth control. We just don't have more than two biological children.  God has called us to adoption and, in doing so, it seems He has divinely "closed the factory".  That is more than fine with me.   He is God and He does what is best.    That being said, when I think about the paperwork, the money and  my heart . . . . goodness . . . I don't know if my spirit can go through another adoption with all the waiting, glitches and emotional "stuff" . . . I tell the Lord that if He feels we are a full house, it is well with my soul.    So, to answer the question that several have asked and maybe others have wondered,  if we are done and God has spoken, that is great.   I am full to overflowing because of God's goodness in giving us the six children He has placed here.   Only HE knows who needs to come to our table.  If there's another E******l out there, needing a family to call his/her own,  God will make it plain.  
This is one area of my walk with Christ where letting go of the reigns has resulted in incalculable blessings.  He always knows best!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

We Are Family

(l to r) my sister, my grandma, me, my mom

My peeps
What a weekend!  I think back over the events of the last two days with such fondness that I'm smiling as I type (although I am home from church today with a head cold).  On Friday, we loaded up the mini van and drove to Charlotte to spend time with my side of the family. My parents, aunt and uncle, my sister and her three kids and my beautiful 91 year old grandmother who is bravely battling cancer.  Add my own six children and husband to the mix and we had a huge, noisy crowd all together eating, talking and laughing.
The next morning, we loaded up the van once again and headed to our adoption agency's annual Philippine Ties pool party.  This gathering is specifically for families who have children from The Philippines. This year's event was especially precious for several reasons.  The most obvious reason is that Francis is home but aside from that, we had the honor of meeting TWO of Ezekiel's buddies from his former home, Gentle Hands.  We met Rammy who was mentioned in Ezekiel's paperwork as his "best friend".  Rammy is a beautiful, tiny little guy who steals your heart just by looking at you!  He is with a lucky family that is madly in love with him, just as they should be!   The second Gentle Hands baby we met was Moriah.  He's a gorgeous little guy with visual impairment and  he is just so engaging and lovely that I had to hold him, even though he wasn't thrilled with it!   Like Rammy, Moriah is in a family that recognizes what a gift they've been given.  He fits in perfectly!
(l-r) me and Zeke, Courtney, Rammy and Kim, Carrie and Moriah
As if seeing these boys in their families was not enough, we got the special blessing of having Courtney Bell  (a precious and beautiful young lady who cared for all these boys before they ever had families) come and join the party!!!!! I met Courtney of facebook while waiting for Ezekiel to come home. I saw her in several pics with him and contacted her with a sheepish "hi, I'm Ezekiel's future mom and if you happen to have a photo or any word on him, I'm all eyes/ears".   Courtney graciously responded and we discovered that she attends the same university I did and that she lives only 15 minutes from my home!!!!!! Tell me that's not a "God thing".  She was all the way in The Philippines  and the odds of us having all these connections were infinitesimal and yet, in God's economy, this is as normal as can be!
I know I've failed to adequately capture the AWESOMENESS of this weekend but I'll add a couple more pictures in an effort to illustrate . .
My Family (yes, Courtney is "mine", too - ha ha)

The "big kids" at the agency party

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Normal" Is Heaven!

With almost two weeks home and the jet lag considerably reduced, we are crossing into familiar terrain that most people would call "normal life".  The kids are ALL doing their chores again (thank the Lord . . . I really needed the help!) and their own laundry again (double "thank the Lord").  Francis has had no problem falling right into the routine and taking on any responsibility given to him. Even better, he takes it on with a good attitude and a willing spirit!   You can't ask for much more than that . . .
On Friday we took the family to the beach for the day.  I could tell Francis was a little hesitant about this trip and not too excited.  I asked him if everything was okay and he brought up the fact that he doesn't exactly swim.   I tried to offer encouragement and give him several options of things to do at the beach besides swim.  When we finally got to the beach, it was a "red flag" day and due to strong currents, beach goers were not allowed to venture into the water any deeper than their waists!  Just one little example of God taking care of a potentially awkward situation and keeping everyone in the same boat.  I loved it!
Today we all went to see the final Harry Potter movie and then Dad took Francis and Lemuel to the YMCA to play some basketball.  I'm sure when they get home they'll want to watch "Naruto" or some karate movie on Nexfiix before bed and eat the last 6 chocolate chip cookies in the tupperware.
I just  LOVE LOVE LOVE describing the normal events going on over here because each one is made more precious with Francis home.  I dreamed about having him home and in our "normal" family doing "normal" things for almost a year and finally - it's happening!    No drama.  No behavior "issues". No sibling jealousy (well, maybe a tad but that will be saved for another post).  No major adjustment problems.  Just us living life and seeking to please the Lord in the little things while looking for His guiding hand in the big things.
Miraculously normal!
Lemuel and Francis bury Elliana
Lem and Ezekiel
Ezekiel and The Kuya
Francis, Lem and Elliana with their boogie boards

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Little By Little

Everyday with Francis in our family, things seem to "gel" a little more. Today was a really wonderful time for all of us. I got up very early and decided to take Ezekiel (our youngest) to hike at the lake near our house. It was H-O-T outside, even at 7am so I doubted I would have any "takers" when I went to wake the kids and ask if anyone wanted to come along. To my surprise, both Francis and Elliana agreed to join us.  The hike ended up with a huge water fight (ice cubes included) but the soaking was welcome after a hot couple of miles!
At 3pm, our 13 year old son, Lemuel, was to fly home from a trip to visit his best friend out in Michigan. The timing of the trip was stellar as Lemuel tends to require a lot more attention than the average 13 year old and my crew was jet lagging pretty hard since they got home last Thursday.  Lemuel had not met Francis in person until today. Francis and I went to the airport to greet him and the two hit it off quite well. They went to the YMCA together to play some basketball while their Dad worked out.
There have been lots of little "glimmers" of good things ahead and I continue to stand in awe of what the Lord is allowing us to be a part of.
This has been by far, the most emotionally taxing adoption of our four - having a child old enough to "choose you back" is extremely stressful and not for the faint of heart.   Adopting a child who was so deeply rooted in his former life is not for the thin skinned.   Despite the tough nature of this adoption, the transition has been the EASIEST of all of our adoptions.   There is clearly a willingness on both sides of this equation to make this work.  That goes a LOOOONG way. 
I feel very ashamed now of the doubts I had in the last couple of  months. They are almost comical when compared to the reality of the situation!
Please know, precious readers, that if this blog goes silent for a little while, it will only be for the good things going on over here crowding out my time to blog.   The same goes for my facebook.  As much as I relied on this computer to get me through  the last bit of this adoption and all of the travel, I feel like it will go by the wayside a bit.   If you're a parent, I know you'll understand.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Upward and Onward!!!

me, my sister and some of our kids
Here we are at day 3 of having our new son home and I feel an update is in order. I feel this way because of the sweet emails I've received asking me "how's it going?" . . . I feel this way because so many precious friends and family members have walked the road to this adoption with us and to leave your questions unanswered seems dismissive of all you've done for our family.   I hesitate to post an update simply because things are in a definite state of transition.  We have had priceless, sweet moments over here when I could tangibly feel the assurance of the Lord throughout this home and there have been moments of  sadness and doubt.   For sure, the moments of blessed assurance have far outweighed the other moments.  I am making a conscious effort to do TWO things that I know will keep our home on a positive note. First, I am going to stop asking him "are you okay" four hundred times a day. I have no doubt I'm driving him a little crazy and that he is perfectly capable of letting us know if something is NOT "okay".  . . he has done this. We already know it's possible! He is being very patient with me and I do appreciate it.
Second, I have to remind myself that this is only day THREE of a new life together and, Lord willing, there is plenty of time to do and say all that needs to be done and said.  The jet lag has caused all of my kids, and my husband, to sleep and eat at odd times and to feel pretty draggy in the evenings. I have to recognize jet lag for what it is and not allow myself to be fearful that there's "a problem".  
I can only speak for myself  when I say that we are more honored and blessed to have Francis in our family than I expected!   I have so much respect for this kid! He willingly left a loving home and everything familiar and consented to be adopted by us.  This is an act of bravery I can not understand and yet, I see the character that it sprang from and I am truly amazed.  
We have tried to keep the first few days at home low key but we haven't been extremely successful. We had my sister and her kids with us for a few days (and the teens had a really good time together), we went to church, out to eat and played around the house a good bit.  We saw a movie at the theater yesterday and have done a couple of chores as well. . . probably not low key enough for just three days post-travel because as I type, Francis is asleep on the couch and has been for over an hour (and it's 7:30pm).
He's definitely an early riser like me and the last three mornings he's been up at about 6:15am or so.  I don't mind a bit.  We took a walk yesterday morning before it got really hot outside and it was such a blessing to me.     I'm sure as the jet lag wears off and we get into a bit of a routine around here, complete with assigned chores and a little school work, I'll have more substantial updates.  For now, suffice it to say that everything is just as it should be. . . and it's all happening in God's perfect timing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Home For Good

Last night at about 9:30pm, our lives changed for the better.   After a 30 minute flight delay, me, my mom, sister, nieces and nephew along with about 25 precious, dear friends met Francis for the first time!   I was truly afraid I might faint as the family headed down the ramp toward our cheering group. There were signs, gifts and a sweet friend of  my teenagers even brought cookies she had made.
Just as I'd imagined, I was the first in the crowd to run forward and hug Francis.   I probably injured him but he was too polite to say so (ha ha)!   It was an amazing night and even my biggest imagination, it was not as wonderful as the reality.  Even as I type this, he is across the room from me, laying on the couch playing with Ezekiel. He is definitely going to be a fantastic Kuya to these little ones!  He's so great with them and they follow him like the pied piper.   Ezekiel has been playing a game all morning where he (while sitting on Francis' stomach) grabs his face and smooshes it around.  Ezekiel thinks it's the funniest thing he's ever seen!
If he knew his cheesy mom was sitting here holding back tears - my heart almost too full to explain - he would probably think I had lost my mind!   It's these little moments, early in the bonding, that I store up and draw on when times get a little rocky, and they might.  This is "day one" and we are all on our best behavior.  I don't have any real worries, though.  The Lord, who created this family just as He designed, will walk with us through every high and low, just as He has done since the day I came to know Him at eight years old.  My redeemer is faithful. That's all I need to know.
Praise to His glorious, great name,
Nikki

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Homeward Bound!

While those of us in the United States are wrapping up our evenings, my beautiful travelers will just be boarding their plane for the 24+ hour journey HOME. . . I have prayed about and imagined this day for almost a year and now that it's here, I don't quite know what to do with myself.  The house is clean (as in, spotless . . . cleaned by a neurotic woman trying to fast forward time with every stroke of the mop), the dogs are groomed, the closets are organized and a couple of casseroles are in the fridge for our Friday family brunch.   I even did my nails, tweezed my eyebrows and loofah-ed.  I have rehearsed the "hello" a million times in my mind - do I hang back and try not to overwhelm him or do I give in to my natural instinct and just throw my arms around him?   When Ezekiel came home, I was not a part of that trip, having decided to give my seat to Lemuel so he could see his biological brother.  I decided prior to the "hello" that I would definitely hold back. Ezekiel was a timid little boy and too young to understand what was happening.   He was reportedly afraid of "white people"  and did not like a large amount of noise or activity.  I was prepared to shake his little hand, maybe touch his hair, and wait for him to give the green light.  Yeah   . . . right!  I ended up practically running down the jetway.  I grabbed him from my husband's arms and squeezed the stuffing out of him!!  It was a force of nature. There was no way I could have held back.   I'm sure tomorrow, the same phenomenon will take place.   I PLAN to play it cool but as a Mama who has waited a looong time to finally see this young man face to face, I can't make any promises!
I skyped with the family just a few hours ago and they were all very tired.  They have gone from place to place all day on this trip, visiting family, sightseeing, shopping, eating out, riding public transportation just for fun, etc.   I believe they will need at least a week to get over the jetlag which suits me fine. A week of napping teens might just provide me the time I need to do all the laundry from this trip! It doesn't matter, just to have them home . . . all under my roof, all sitting around my table at dinner. THAT is the answer to a thousand tearful prayers.   With adoption #4 almost under our belts, we can confidently say that God provides. He delivers. He hears our prayers. He cares. He loves to give good gifts to His children and to answer the desires of their hearts.  He does all things for our good and for His glory.   He uses the weak. His grace is sufficient and His plans can not be thwarted.    All of those character traits of God that we studied as children have shown themselves in this one loving act of allowing us to adopt Francis.  
Lord, you are extravagant!
(l-r)Francis, Ariel(Lem's big brother), Elliana, Aaron at Children's Garden

After days of sightseeing, my boys have had enough!

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Day in Pictures

After a class at the US Embassy, the family went to ICAB for his travel docs!!

Next, a taxi ride to the Mall of Asia . . . where else???

Ironman hangs out at Mall of Asia, too!

This is ice cream from "Thumbs Up" . . you get to pick a bunch of little flavors

Darth Vader chillin' with  my kids at. . . you guessed it . . . Mall of Asia

Sunday, July 3, 2011

One Day At a Time

Although the picture above doesn't show it, Francis is having a bit of a tough time right now.  He's leaving behind an amazing group of caregivers, a school full of friends and a church that he loves. All of these have been in his life for the last ten years, almost to the day.   I knew it would be hard for him.  I also know that God is faithful and weaving together a beautiful portrait of  loss and reclaiming, of giving up something to gain something else.    I do ask for prayer for our precious son.   I am asking the Lord to be merciful and let this grief be short-lived.  I am praying that God gives peace and comfort even in the midst of the sadness.
I just finished a skype with my family and already am seeing improvement in his countenance.  Yesterday, it was so hard to even see him on the camera because I could read him like a book. Just devastated. Today, this morning, I talked to everyone as they were waking up and saw some smiles and even a little joy peeking back in.   I'm not naive enough to think that a smiling face means a heart is healed. That will take time, patience, prayer and many reminders about God's sovereign plan.   I've had to be reminded over the last couple of days.  I've had to revisit our original calling and pray through my own doubts. I needed to reconfirm that the sadness he is going through is not because of my own selfish desire to adopt but because the Lord ordained it and He will supervise every thought and tear.    I end this post by asking the question I have asked in countless blog posts.  How do people without Christ survive?  How are they not paralyzed with fear at such life altering decisions?   How would we be able to bring another person into such drastic life changes if we didn't know that the Creator of the Universe had predestined it?  There's just no way.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Amazing Day

Apparently while those of us in the US were sleeping last night, Anthony and the teens were zip lining near the Taal Volcano!  They got a chance to drive by Francis' preschool, elementary and high schools as well.  I'm so grateful for the time they are spending at Samaritan's Place and the chance they have to be a part of Francis' day to day life.   I'm even more thankful for a husband who is an excellent photographer and for the laptop computer that connects me to these people I love so much!
In front of the Taal Volcano
Aaron and Elliana getting ready to "take off"
soaring above the trees

Francis was a lot more hesitant to try this than the others but he faced his fear!!!!