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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

Victory!

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.