Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tragedy

With great sadness, I yet again read about a baby in Milwaukee who is found dead. In fact, there were two stories this week. One mother drank a few beers, decided to sleep with her baby...and, well, I guess you know what happened.

The second is one that is making my blood boil just thinking about it. A 15 year old has a baby. No husband, no mother or father in this young mother's life. She lives with her aunt in what the paper is calling "a cottage". It has no heat. They use 3 space heaters to bring the inside temperatures to 40 degrees. The toilet is broken. The sink leaks. There are knives in every room. This is a known drug user hang-out.

Sounds like a safe place for a 15 year old girl to raise a baby, right?

Oh, wait, it gets better. On Christmas night, the mom decided, at midnight, that she needed to go out. She leaves her beautiful baby girl, 6 months old, with two guys. These two guys had spent the day robbing people in order to buy some crack laced pot. The guys had been doing drugs and drinking beer when the mom leaves them with her baby.

Two hours later, the baby is stuffed between a box spring and a mattress.

Child Protection Services of WI knew about this "family". They had made visits to the cottage. They decided to let the 15 year old keep this baby! What? They decided this cottage was a safe place for a baby to live, sleep and crawl around.
Are you kidding me?

I have started getting involved with the foster care system in Wisconsin. I have been asking some tough questions of my case worker. What I keep coming back to is that the "system" wants to do everything it can to keep biological families together, even if that means saying no to a healthy, stable family who wants to adopt a child. This baby is a perfect example! There are thousands of families who want a baby and can't have one. Where does common sense come in and say that a 15 year old living with known drug dealers in a "cottage" that doesn't even have heat might not be the best scenario for this child?

I know, we go down a very dangerous road when a system is deciding who is a fit parent and who is not. This entry is not meant to stir this debate up. But, I am angry that this is NOT the first or only story of a child, known in the system, that has been killed because they were kept with their biological family.

Foster care needs more loving, stable homes to take kids. Joe and I have talked about what impact it may have on a child to have one week, one month, one year with a Christian family. Suddenly, that child has a picture of a thriving, healthy family in his/her mind. A child hears the name of Jesus and is treated with mercy, love and forgiveness. In Milwaukee county, the county where the system really seems to be broken, there are 2,800 kids in the system. There are 700 licenced foster care families. 3 children are added to the system a day. So, if you do the math, each foster family would need to take 40 kids into their homes to make a difference!

What causes Joe and I to hesitate is the system itself. The system does everything it can to keep kids with their biological families first. That may take years and it may take being moved from family member to family member to family member. In the meantime, what is happening to that child?

There are no easy answers - this is difficult stuff! I don't know what the answer is for Milwaukee County. All I know is that I am tired of opening up the paper and seeing the story of another child dead.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Is Adoption About?

All the kids are outside playing in the snow. George is squealing and laughing so loudly, I can hear him from about 200 yards away! They are sledding down all the mini-hills around here. What fun!

Do you think one year ago, George would have had ANY thought of bundling up in snow pants, hats, gloves and then throwing himself down a snow covered hill....for fun?

It is tempting to say that THIS is what adoption is all about; providing fun, new experiences for a boy, giving him clean clothes and good food, sending him to an American school where he can get educated. But, that is not what adoption is about.

Adoption is about obedience.

I have come to realize that our adoption had very little to do with adding another child to our brood. I do love being a mom and Joe is a wonderful dad. But, we really did have a house full with four. Our adoption was a calling from God and He asked us to obey.

I hear so many people say, "Oh, adoption is not for everyone."

And that is true.

But, adoption is for MORE than the number who are currently doing it. Many more.

Just think...if the church, if real hard-following believers adopted children, what would happen? Those children would more than hear the gospel - they would LIVE it out. They would be put in a God-fearing family that used policies such as forgiveness, mercy, grace, love. They would bring a perspective to a family. If we, the church, invested in some of these 143 million lives out there, how many of them would become devoted followers of Christ?

If those 143 million stay in orphanages, poverty, squalor, how many of them do you think will become devoted followers of Christ? Some will.

We talk about where the world is headed. The church has an opportunity to change that...invest in a LIFE that will come to know Jesus.

Bottom line, God's word is clear about caring for the orphans. Adoption is about obedience.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Morning

So today is my birthday....and this morning I was awoken by George very sweetly saying, "Good mornin' Momma. And happy firstday." He hugged me, sighed and then said he was going back to bed.

It was a good way to wake up.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

All's Quiet

All is quiet....all the presents have been opened...all the treats have been eaten...all the programs have been sung....and the season is over. This was George's first Christmas and tonight I am overwhelmed with just how far we have come. Leading up to Christmas, we had some very tough days. George got upset over things like decorating Christmas cookies, wrapping presents and even getting Christmas cards from friends. These are all things that I would have never expected a problem over. But, all these things represented something so completely foreign to George and he reacted out of fear more than anything.

But as I sit here in a very quiet house, the candles in the windows lit and the tree still glowing, I couldn't be more content with where we are. I have five children snug in their beds, a husband sleeping away as well, and a very large puppy at my feet contentedly asleep. There is a hush. And for the first time since April, I am sure.

Adopting George was the best thing we could have ever done.

This morning, Joe and I went on one of our prayer walks. We bundled up and hit the snow covered streets as the plows had not worked on our streets yet. The clouds have cleared and it was so good to see the sun. We walked and we prayed and we felt that Jesus was, yet again, right there with us on our walk. We simply talked to him. Joe admitted that we chose this very difficult road that we find ourselves on...but he then begged God to keep us there. I almost gasped, but continued to listen as Joe poured out his heart about how this path is one that is refining us, our whole family. If we really are who we say we are, we want to hear at the end of our days, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

We have realized over the past year that we take the chance of not hearing that if we stay stagnant, comfortable, taking the easy path. So, quite a while ago, we both prayed that God would change us from the inside. It's funny how when you are in the middle of that work of change, you don't really realize it is God sanctifying you...it usually isn't until a little time after that you go, "Duh! I asked God to work in my life!" So....God asked Joe and I to make some pretty major changes this past year, one of those being George.

I remember this time last year, crying during Christmas Eve service thinking about my boy who has half way around the world. We had just been assigned our court date and it was starting to feel "real". I wondered what he was doing for Christmas, if there was someone tucking him into bed each night and what he would be eating Christmas morning. This Christmas Eve, I cried. But that's a no-brainer!! But this time it was because sitting down the row from me was George dancing away to the last song of the service. He was smiling ear to ear, drumming along with the beat and doing his "Georgie dance". People all around us were smiling and enjoying the celebration with George. It was precious.

This Christmas I learned there was no one to tuck George into bed each night, he didn't celebrate Christmas at all, and there was nothing special to eat that morning. Life was very different to say the least.

Now, George is safe and sound in his bed, sharing a room with his little brother whom he loves dearly. They both fell asleep looking at a safari night-light from Grammy and the last thing George said to me tonight was, "I see those animals in Africa! But George safe now."

Yes, we are on a tough path, but I have realized what joy there is in doing the hard things! I sit here tonight and think about how different OUR Christmas would have been this year without George. It would have involved the same old same old, I am sure of that. We would have sat through sermons about making this a "different kind of Christmas", but I seriously doubt if it would have been much different from any other year. This year, it IS different. Everything is different. And I am there.

Merry Christmas!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Christmas 2009
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Can I Have $3.00 Worth of God, Please?

I want to share this poem by Wilbur Rees that I have reread many times this week:

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough God to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”
–Wilbur Rees

Envy

I recently read a friend's blog...she adopted a few older children from Ethiopia and she has been someone I have appreciated watching, listening and following along this journey. She is ahead of me in the game, so I am trying to learn from her.

She recently wrote a blog post about her daughter blossoming. What a beautiful word to describe where her daughter is now. It was a challenging start, in some ways very similar to mine. But, now, she writes about her daughter being confident, having friends, doing well in school...all those things we want for our adopted children.

There is a twinge of envy...when will George get there? Or maybe I should say, when will I get there? When will the time come when I say, "Oh - I can't even remember a time in our family when George was not with us!" I am still not there. I DO remember times when we could all cuddle on the couches and watch a funny movie - or when we used to have birthday celebrations without someone crying in his room because he doesn't understand. I am beyond longing for those days, I have accepted this new normal, but I am still waiting for that point to come when we all give a huge sigh and say we are so happy for the decision we made.

Joe and I have talked a lot lately about our love for George. We love him; I have a momma's love for him - I want to know he is safe and he is happy. But, in all honesty, there are times in which I still am so frustrated with him. I know, I know, I know....it is all ME. I forget where George has been. I forget what George has seen. I forget the loss that George has experienced.

A new friend recently emailed me after reading my blog from May 2009. I went back and read that whole month of posts. Wow! I was hanging on by a thread those days. I wrote a blog about getting two hugs from George that day. I wrote about temper tantrums that would make even the strongest mom cry. I wrote about how George would cry and whine every morning looking for Joe. It made me very sad to read those posts.

But...it gave me such perspective! Praise God - we have come so far!!! There are not more monumental temper tantrums (just whines - which I hear is very, very common on ET children - and it is worse than the American child whine), George no longer only goes to Joe, and he eats a variety of foods (breakfast is still limited, but now it is Toaster Strudel and oatmeal). Those things I wrote about in May have all been answered by God's provision. He has seen us through those times.

I loved the post I wrote about the things I like about George. I want to do that again and I am positive some things would be the same, but I would be able to add quite a few new items to the list. Bottom line, I realized George IS BLOSSOMING too!

The key remains that I stay close to the Lord. God's love is so much greater, so much purer, so much higher, so much wider than my love. I am still in a place where I have to ask God to teach me how to love, but what I have learned is that I need to know about that love for ALL my children. We can't parent without God's love...period.

I got an email a few days ago from a new friend who is considering adoption. She asked how God could possibly be asking her to adopt when she feels like she is failing with her bio kids sometimes? God never said he was looking for perfect parents...He is looking for broken, vulnerable, needy parents who know they can't get through a day without HIM. We are to be child-like - knowing our need for God, knowing we need to rely on Him and that we just can't get through a day without His help.

So, I will continue to be broken in this parenting journey - and trust that God is loving my children to the fullest measure through me. I can't do it - that has been made clear this year - but He can. And He does! Amen and amen.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Gifts

We continue to make great progress! Every year, I take my kids to the dollar store to buy gifts for their siblings and Mom and Dad. This has actually become one of my favorite days of the season. I love watching the kids walk through the store, green basket in hand, going up and down the isles looking for that perfect gift for someone. It is fun to look at the teddy bear still lying on Lincoln's bed that Isabel gave him last year. I loved the small nativity set that Harry bought for Eleanor, and it is precious how Eleanor placed it right under the candle in her window. And Joe and I are still drinking out of the Christmas coffee mugs the kids picked out for us.

There was a little big of anxiety concerning George this year. You might remember that back in October, buying a present for Harry was a huge struggle for him. He just doesn't understand going to a story, buying something that is NOT for him, wrapping it up, and then waiting for someone else to open in. That is just not in his frame of reference at all.

So, as we were getting ready to go the dollar store, I had one of those great "mom talks" in the car. You know, the ones where mom talks way too long about something and the kids zone out after about 1.5 seconds. Yea, one of those talks. I talked about getting a basket, walking through the store, being calm and quiet, not running into other shoppers, waiting patiently in line, making sure they give the correct amount of money to the cashier...oh, and make sure you keep your items a secret. But, then I turned to George and Lincoln and explained that they would be getting Christmas presents for OTHER people. The look on their faces was priceless - you mean you are taking us to the store and we can't get things for ourselves?

So, the older kids were off on their own...I took the little boys. They did pretty well! But, the funny thing with them is they wanted to just grab the first thing they saw - pencils? Eleanor! Erasers? Harry! Paper-clips? Isabel!

No - no! You need to think about what your brothers and sisters might LIKE.

Oooohhhhhhhhh.

We made it out of the school supply isle and found some great things for everyone.

But what was so funny was watching George tell Lincoln what he wanted. As we walked down the toy isle George would say, "Oh, cars! I want cars Lincoln!". Linc would put the cars in his basket and then George would cry out, "Oh, jump rope! I want jump rope, Lincoln!" Linc would take out the cars and then put in the jump rope. "Oh, football! I want football Lincoln!" You get the picture. Honestly, I don't remember what Lincoln ended up with for George - I guess when I help him wrap the gifts up this afternoon, I will see.

As soon as we got home, George ran straight to Joe and said, "I got you a coffee mug!"

George asked me this morning, "Can we open presents today?"

"No, you need to wait until Christmas day."

"Christmas day today?"

"No - it's a few days away."

"Oh yea - when Jesus is born. I love Jesus."

"I know George, and He loves you!"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

George Happy and George Mourning

George found out that his best friend, H, is being adopted! He was so excited when we told him, although he was also a bit confused. At first, he thought H would be coming to live with us. Then, we were able to explain that another family had chosen to bring H home. George said, "H have a new mommy and a new daddy?"

We smiled and said, "Yes!"

He asked, "Will he have a new brother?"

We nodded yes.

"Will he have a new sister?"

"Well, his new family does not have a sister...but who knows? Maybe someday."

"H needs a sister."

George was quiet for a while and listened as we pulled out a map and showed him where H is going to live. It is far away, but not so far away that we can't make a long drive if we felt totally motivated. But, we added that with technology, we could use the computer to talk to H, and he could even see H when they talked!

Oh, the joy! George was so excited and said, "I want to write H a letter. I want to tell H to work hard and go to school and learn English. I want to tell H to be a good boy and that I want to still be his friend."

I have had the privilege of getting to know H's new momma. What a servant's heart and a momma who is already in love with her boy. It does my heart so good to know that H is going to be tucked into a comfy bed soon. And that he will get an education and have the chance to be all the God created him to be.It takes quite a special family to adopt an older child, and I am already praying for H and his new family.

George has been greatly impacted by the news about H being adopted. This alone has affected him more than anything that we have ever talked about. George occasionally talks about his "Africa Daddy" when he tells stories about his dad and a donkey or how his dad shot a lion (not sure that one is true). George never talks about his "Africa Mommy". We have brought her up a few times and he shrugs it off and says, "She feed me." That's it. I wonder what kind of relationship they had; he could either be keeping in many feelings of loss and anger, or he simply was not very close to her. I just can't tell at this point.

But, I can tell you this for sure, George loved H. George often asked us to look up his picture on the waiting-child list. He would sit and stare at H's pictures and sing to him. George asked us this summer to send H his bike, his most beloved possession. We have heard many, many stories of H and George sleeping together, both in the orphanage and in their village. George says, "H is my brother. I love him."

This week, we were at a middle school choir concert when out of nowhere, George started sobbing. The tears were just pouring out of his eyes and he was making those distinct sobbing, guttural sounds. I put my arm around him, pulled him close and asked him what was wrong.

"I just said a prayer for H in my heart. I miss him so much!" He continued to cry and all I could do was hold him and let him get it out.

Oh, the pain and the mourning that poured out of George that moment. A real sense of profound loss hit George. A realization that H is leaving Ethiopia, too, and will start a whole new life. Maybe this means George can never go back? In anger, George would tell us that he wanted to go back to Africa to be with H. Now, that is no longer a possibility. I am sure George is filled with such mixed emotions. He is happy for H, knowing life is good here in America. But sad, because he and H must have had some great times in Ethiopia together, times that he wanted to re-create with his best friend some day.

This was the first time I have seen George genuinely mourn the loss of someone from Ethiopia. I am determined to get these boys together as soon as possible, for they deserve to know that each one is being loved, doing well and thriving. I just can't even imagine that first conversation....in English.

I thank God that He has moved a family to adopt H. God cares about each and every orphan, even more than my sweet George cares about H. Imagine the tears God sheds over the pain and loss these children experience.
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Merry Christmas
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Friday, December 18, 2009

Funny Thing George Said

Setting: Very crowded middle school gym

Occasion: Middle school choir Christmas concert

Time: 3/4 of the way through the concert: George is getting very tired

George looks over to the right side of the gym. Standing against the wall is a very tall, very hairy man. His hair is down to his waist, he has a long beard and is wearing a leather coat. George shouts out, "Daddy! Look! There's a very bad man!". Accompanying his shout, a very clear finger point.

Joe and I could only laugh.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Cookies





School

I am worried about school. George has progressed amazingly in the last 6 months! He speaks fluent English, he spells simple words, he dances around the house thinking of the first letter for every word that everyone says.

But, there is no retention. None. Last night we worked for over an hour on a spelling list. He can spell the words...but he can't read them. So, we worked on sounding out each word, using phonetic rules. He struggles and stammers and stutters his way through the sounding out of the letters, but he can't put the sounds together. He still wants to read the words right to left, which can cause great problems. Then, he will finally get a word, usually after I say it very clearly. We will work on another word, struggling and stammering and stuttering our way through it and then go back to the first word. Nothing. He has no idea what that first word is.

George is a hard worker. He wants to do his homework every night. He wants to read books every night. He enjoys doing the work. So, why does he still struggle so much?

A woman who adopted two girls similar to George (same part of Ethiopia, same age) has discovered that one of her girls experienced a trauma to the brain which resulted in permanent brain damage. She said the description of George sounds just like her daughter. They had an MRI and the injury was right there for all to see.

This is a little heartbreaking. We have no idea what George's life was like before coming here. I can't even say with certainty that I I know what his life was like in the orphanage. I know he had poor nutrition, and there are facts that point to developmental issues when there is poor nutrition.

I just am not sure how far hard work and a good attitude can take him.

Please pray for George. Please pray for Joe and I, that we would have wisdom regarding this issue.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Beauty


It is a season of beauty. My husband thinks I am crazy, but I love the snow and the cold. Of course, I get tired of it by March, but right now, I see so much beauty.

I see a world blanketed with white snow, and I find that beautiful. I see a world that is quiet and peaceful, and I find that beautiful. I see lights, ornaments and decorations that are tucked away 11 months out of the year, and I find that beautiful.


I love to decorate a live Christmas tree, to smell the pine and to have something big and green adorned in our living room. I love the advent wreath and the tradition of lighting the candles each night before supper.

I love the nativity set. Every year, Eleanor has the honor of putting the charcters into place.

I bought a kid nativity set, just so they could play the nativity story out over and over again.

Our pastor keeps challenging us to have a different kind of Christmas. I have George this year....and that is making this SO different. We took the kids to Bethlehem Marketplace this weekend. George enjoyed the market, using his shekles to purchase a bracelet, some grapes and an apple. But, when we entered the cave where Jesus was born, George was mesmerized. There laid a new baby, a real baby, wrapped in pure white swaddling clothes. George whispered, "Is that Jesus?" I replied, "Yes."

George stared and then said, "I want to hug Jesus."

George knows this Jesus suffered and died. He knew this part of the story first. Now, he sees the innocent baby in manger and all he wants to do is hug Jesus.

Jesus came to bring beauty into this world! But he came to die...to reconcile us to God. I want to love Jesus the way George does. It IS a different kind of Christmas this year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

George's First Concert

The time finally has come...George had his first concert! He has been looking forward to this moment for weeks! His shirt was pressed, his hair was nice and his teeth brushed and we drove off to the high school. He walked into the choir room to warm up, he smiled as he sat next to his friend. The auditorium was packed! You would have thought the Jonas Brothers were performing the way all the parents had their cameras ready to go and were squirming on the edge of their seats, straining to get that first glimpse of their child.

He marched into the auditorium with his classmates. He climbed the risers to his perch on the top row. He gave a little wave to Joe and I.

And then he froze.

About half way into the first song Lincoln yells out, "George isn't singing!"

First song was over, not much singing took place. But then again, we are talking about first graders so even those who were "singing" made it sound more like yelling. The next song began...a cute little number about Santa meeting a Mexican mouse (the kids attend a school with a high percentage of Hispanic students, so there were a lot of songs in Spanish and about Mexico). He began to sing a little more. Finally, they wrapped up with a song about the reindeer doing the cha-cha-cha. George was starting to get into it. "HO,ho,ho" (George would make his belly big and round) and then "cha-cha-cha" and he would do a little dance. At the end of the song came his favorite part, getting to shout "ole!". He did it, raised his hand high in the air and smiled.

After five songs, George was finished with his part of the concert and Joe went to fetch him from the lobby. He looked relieved when he was able to come sit with his family.

As I tucked him into bed I asked him if he was scared. He replied, "A little," in a very quiet voice. I told him how proud I was of him and how I thought he did a great job. He smiled and then fell quickly asleep. His first concert under his belt.

Oh, how this boy's life has changed! One year ago today, he didn't even know about the Weldie family. He was lying in an orphanage in Soddo, Ethiopia, sleeping in the same bed as another boy. He was two meals a day, very meager meals at that. All he knew was that he had no father and his mother had brought him to this orphanage and then walked away.

Now, he is wearing a pressed shirt, riding in a car, climbing a stage with spot-lights bearing down on him, and singing songs about Santa, reindeer and Mexican mice!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reading Katie's Blog

If you haven't done so in a while, please go read Katie's blog - the button is on my blog over on the right hand side.

Kinda puts life in perspective.

How many children can we save and why are we not doing more? As we shower our children with presents this Christmas - and YES - we ALL shower our kids with presents comparatively - there are children dying who have never lived in a house with a comfortable bed, with sheets that get washed and dried every week. They never have three healthy meals a day on top of multiple snacks. They live with disease, hunger, darkness.

Oh, my heart aches. If Katie can do this, can't we all do something...even a little bit?

As I was falling asleep last night, my brain was working on a poem about George. Pictures of a starving boy eating until he threw up are forever emblazoned in my mind. A body with scars from tribal "medical" practices. Teeth that are horribly stained due to poor nutrition - or should I say NO nutrition. Eyes that looked dead.

I can't get those images out of my mind, and in a way, I hope I never can let go of those memories. They keep reminding me of other children living that way...today...right now.

I had a wonderful conversation with a man in TX who started a foster care/adoptive ministry. He said Christians "left the table" a long time ago. We decided it was too messy, or it simply was not our problem that there are so many children suffering in the world today. We conveniently turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. Then we criticize and complain. We have no right to criticize - we left the table. Are we finally coming back to the table, ready to admit our failures? We, Christians, people who claim to love like Jesus does, let an entire generation of people down. We let an entire generation of people die.

It is time to belly up to the table again and start living like a follower of Christ. Joe and I just read a devotional yesterday that challenged us that living a life after Christ means living a life of risk. Not risk in God's eyes, but risk in the world's eyes. What Joe and I are talking about now is risky....but in whose eyes? Is God calling us to minister, serve, love more children? Absolutely!

Is he calling the church to do the same? Read Katie's blog and be inspired.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

He Belongs With Us


As if I didn't need any more confirmation that George really belongs with us, I am now amazed at how much he loves the snow!!! George was up at 6:30 this morning ready to go outside and play. We came in for a wonderful breakfast of pumpkin pancakes (a mom speciality), scrambled eggs and bacon and then before I knew it, he was bundled up and outside again. As I write, he has been outside for over 90 minutes. Of course, his brothers, sisters and neighbors are all outside, so I am sure that helps his love. They have snowboarded, gone sledding down the hills, built snowman and now it looks like they are building a fort.

Amazing...he really loves it here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Future Acrobats



A Boy Discovering Jesus

This is George listening to and reading a book about the birth of Jesus. I found this book with a tape and George sits in this chair several times every day with the book and the tape. George is discovering Jesus.

When Joe and I were in Ethiopia, we took George to a store to purchase some gifts for our friends. We were looking for hand carved crosses that were made by leprosy patients, so we had a very specific store in mind. When we got there, we started looking for the crosses and I remember Joe taking George to a different room in the store during our hunt. I wasn't in the room, but Joe tells me the story of George reacting to a cross they found with Jesus hanging on it - like a crucifix. George said "Jesus" in a whisper. Joe asked him, "Do you know Jesus?" And George motioned to his hands, communicating to us that he knew that Jesus' hands had been pierced.

We knew then that George had some knowledge of Jesus. As the months went by, whenever we talked about Jesus, George made motions and said words that led us to believe that he had seen a passion play in his village. George knew there were "bad men" (Roman soldiers) who hurt Jesus. He acted out men whipping Jesus and then would pretend like he was pounding nails into his hands. That alone was George's image of Jesus.

A man who was beaten and then crucified. For George...the story began and ended there. George doesn't know about the teachings of Jesus or the miracles her performed. And, he doesn't know that Jesus rose from the dead!! But what we are being confronted with now is how George has never even heard about Jesus' birth.

We have asked George if he knows what Christmas is and he will get very quiet, so I just don't have an idea about what he may have done in Ethiopia to celebrate the day. I do know that this little boy has fallen in love with baby Jesus. George is baby-crazy as it is, but when we told him that these pictures and figurines are of a baby Jesus, he was delighted. Every picture, every nativity set we see now, George runs to it and searches for baby Jesus. Then he says, "Oh, there is my baby Jesus. I love him."

Every time, this sentence causes me to pause, and usually well up with tears. What a reaction for a child to have! There is MY Jesus...I love him. George grew up knowing that someone named Jesus suffered and died, and now he is getting the first part of the greatest story, the birth of that man. George knows this man will die, and he sees this baby and wants to love him.

Funny, he asked me why baby Jesus is always naked. He asked, "Baby Jesus not cold?"

We took George to a live nativity Saturday night. It was perfect! A simple little fifteen minute story telling with live animals and actors in great costumes. Mary and Joseph came riding in on a donkey and George was so excited...baby Jesus is coming! When the Mary reached down and picked up a doll baby wrapped in a white blanket, George squealed, "There is my baby Jesus!" We all giggled and said, "It's a doll." But he wouldn't hear of it. After the story was over, we were invited into the church for cookies and hot cocoa, but before going inside, George wanted to see the baby. Mary laughed and said, "Well, he's just a doll." But it was as if George didn't hear those words at all and said, "No, my baby Jesus is sleeping."

What love!

I wonder if we shouldn't teach all our children about Jesus in the order that George has been taught? This man will be punished, will suffer, will die....for YOU. Get that message in their brains and then introduce them to the tiny baby born in a humble stable and see the love the pours out of the children. That is MY baby Jesus lying there, and I know what is going to happen, so I will love him all the more now.

What love!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Understanding George


I am back to the place where I say I've read all the books, I've done all the classes, but some things just take experiencing them to "get it." So, I've known that this journey would be filled with ups and downs. Naively, when we just sailed through a really great period around his 6th month mark, I dared to think the worst was behind us. And, in all honesty, maybe it is!

But, that doesn't mean we will still have set-backs. Yes, I am still humming that Paul Abdul tune..."three steps forward, two steps back..."

I have read that there would be these anniversary set-backs. This means there was something in George's past, something hard or hurtful, that would rear it's ugly head upon it's anniversary. And, it is usually subconscious. George doesn't even really know why he is grumpy and mean right now, but something in the depths of his brain are telling him to protect his heart.

I think that is the issue with his meanness....he wants to protect himself. If he is mean to us, it makes us angry and we lash out or say mean things to him. That in turn gives him the "right" to be more mean or more angry and say things like "I want to go back to Ethiopia." He longs to make decisions for himself and be "in charge" of whether or not he gets hurt. I see it now...I am starting to recognize the patterns. This is not a mean boy, this is a deeply hurt boy. 6 months of love and stability can do great things, but it is not nearly enough time to heal his wounds that cut so deep.

I have learned so much these past 6 months and I wish it could be about some deep theological point or some mind-boggling concept. No, I simply learned about love. Love that is sung about every day, written about in sappy cards, said very casually. Maybe that is why my epiphany seems trite...love has become rather trite. But what I have learned about is not the love of songs or cards or casually rolled off the tongue. I have learned about Jesus' love.

I am literally overwhelmed with the love of God. I can't even put into the words how my body even has a reaction to this immense, passionate, all-consuming love that God has for me. I feel it! And I know that He is asking me to pour that same love into George...and for that matter...all my children! If I ever want to see a picture of how I treat God, all I have to do is look at George. I know he loves me, I know he wants to be here with me, but yet he makes choices to hurt me or to get away from me...still. I know I do this to God. I don't like how He keeps asking me to wait, so I make a choice to let Him know I am angry about it. I don't hear an answer to prayer that I wanted and so I chose to spend my free time on Facebook rather than in His Word. I make choices every day that hurt God...even though by now, I should know better.

Then, I get this picture of God who is always love, always mercy, always grace. And He says, "Traci...be like my son." And I reply, "Oh, God! That is too hard for me!" And He answers, "I will give you what you need. Do you trust me? Then obey me."

I get tired of obeying. I get tired of the same song and dance each and every day. But this is where I am supposed to be right now, and I must chose to trust and obey.

Trust and obey
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus
Than to trust and obey

In our Hebrews study, I was caught off guard by yet another verse commanding me to love. "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." (Hebrews 6:10) I think I was missing a big part about following God before adopting George. I wasn't really loving His people. I was loving my people - my family, my friends. But, I wasn't seeking HIS people and loving them. And, continuing to love more and more of His people. THAT is what God is looking for from me. THAT is the word He is calling me to do, works that He prepared long ago for me to do. People that are out there, His people, that need to be loved. They need not MY love, but this love that can only come through God. But, He needs me to be His hands and feet - to go to His people and wrap my arms around them and hold them and tell them they are loved. Even when they squirm away and when they run the other direction and when they turn their heads, I am to LOVE THEM.

This is not about George...this is about God's love. I will never be the same, I will never love the same. Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Set Back Out of Nowhere

We have had a rough couple of days with George. First, I got an email yesterday during school that George had an accident and then threw away his clothes, refusing to put on the extra clothes the school keeps for instances like this. Eventually, his teacher was able to get some clothes on him, but she was a little concerned about his behavior.

Generally speaking, George was fine when he came home yesterday. We talked a little about what happened and I assured him that I was not angry at him and that accidents do happen. I thought he understood. But then, he was very mean following dinner.

Then, this morning, he refused to eat breakfast. Now, this child never misses a meal and he asked for the oatmeal. It was a little mind-boggling. He was difficult every step of the way, refusing to put his shoes on, telling me he was NOT going to wear his hat and gloves, and then finally telling me that he was going back to bed and not going to school.

Sure enough, when it was time to go outside and catch the bus, he was right there...skipping through the door and calling out, "I love you! Bye!"

Confusing!

This afternoon, the kids were all doing their own thing and George was hanging out with me in the kitchen as I made dinner. We got a Christmas card from a fellow Ethiopian adoptive family. He saw a boy with the exact same ET shirt her wore for Harvest Fest and he suddenly announced that he wanted to go back to Africa. I told him his mommy and daddy were here in America and he had a family that loved him. He said, "I can get a new Africa Mommy and a new Africa Daddy." I try not to take this talks personal anymore and decided to talk about all the things he would have to say goodbye to if he went back to Africa. We talked about saying goodbye to his siblings...no response. Say goodbye to school and your friends there....no response. Say goodbye to our house and our puppy...no response. Say goodbye to your bike and your toys and your shoes..."Ok Momma. I want to stay. I love my stuff."

Sigh.

On the way home from AWANA, George announces, "I want to live at church."

I am tired. I don't even have the energy to analyze why he is acting this way. He was angry all day at Christmas music! I'll think about it tomorrow morning. Until then, I hugged him tight, tucked him into his own comfy bed and said a silent prayer that tomorrow would be better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Refreshment Needed

Maybe it was the busy holiday. Maybe it was trying to cram completely decorating the house into the day after Thanksgiving. Maybe it was the five trips to the hardware store for all the things we kept forgetting in order to decorate the house. But by the time Sunday hit, I was pretty drained. Joe kept asking me, "What's wrong, babe?" and I couldn't come up with an answer.

Finally, as I was putting together our typical soup and sandwiches Sunday night dinner, I looked at Joe and said, "I am just empty." He quickly grabbed by coat, my purse, my cell phone and put the keys to the car in my hand and told me to go. In a nice way, of course! And so, for the first time...I actually did...without feeling guilty.

I stopped at Walmart to pick up some reading material and then went to one of the only restaurants in Watertown, Applebees. I picked up Rick Warren's new magazine - now, before you say anything, I have many mixed thoughts about Rick Warren and his ministry, but I flipped through the pages and saw articles from his wife (who I really admire) and John Piper (who challenges me every time I read something from him), and decided this would be a good companion for my quiet dinner.

Sure enough, it was. And as I read heartwarming stories about adoption (a huge passion of Kay Warren!!), and heart-wrenching stories about ministering in the slums of India, and provocative articles about making this holiday different this year, I was brought to a place of total gratitude.

Look at what has happened this year! We brought in a new son who is growing and changing every single day! He brings JOY to the family now!! Oh, how I wish I could go back and erase all the bad things that happened in those early months - and let me tell you, the memories are really disappearing.

We also moved out into the country. Granted, the house is probably too small and the foundation is a little weak (it is, after all over 100 years old), and I can't have my chickens yet, but I have never felt so "at home" or at peace since we moved to Wisconsin as I do now.

Then, Joe quit his very stable, very regular job. We are now in a place of total dependence upon God...not sure how we will "make it" some months. But, there is a peace that humans just don't understand.

And now, God seems to be asking more of Joe and I, wanting us to continue this path of total abandonment, of total trust.

I wonder what the point is of singing some of today's worship songs that lift words to God like "I give my all" or "everything I have is yours" when we really don't mean it? Do I really know what it means to give all to God - to just lay my life out like an open book and say, "Ok God - You now write the rest of the book. I am no longer going to try to do it my way."? When people follow hard after God, even Christians question it and wonder if it is the "right thing". I have been so scared to live a life that says, "here is my life, all of it, offered completely to YOU." I think I have given about 75% of my life - that last 25% is what God is asking for now.

So, I was totally refreshed from my time alone. And in that time, God asked me for more. I pray that I can give it to Him. I want to live for Him, I want people to look at my life and know that it is being directed by the Lord. I want my children to never doubt who takes precedence in my life; I want my children to be inspired to live a life of unabashed passion for Christ! The rest....all the things we worry about in this life...seem to fall away when I think of that.

So...here I go....are you ready?

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Few Pictures from Thanksgiving




When Joe and I lived in California, we spent all of our Thanksgivings with my second cousin and his girlfriend. Every year, we would put the turkey in the oven and then head out for a walk in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. On those walks, my cousin would stop and pick dried flowers here or dead branches there, and when we would get back home, he would disappear into his work room to put a creation together. Joe and I have continued this tradition, and although we are no longer trekking through some amazing foothill landscape, we do get out and enjoy the beauty of wherever we are. Following in my cousin's footsteps, here is my centerpiece this year.....


After our walk, the kids played some fun games





We had a delicious meal and especially enjoyed reading the entries from our Thankful Box this year.



George had a great time! He LOVED the turkey and all the fixings. It was a great way to introduce him to Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Oh no! Gunnar just ate the turkey!"

That is how Thanksgiving 2009 will always be remembered by...the year Gunnar got into the turkey and ate half of it. Yes, we left last night to dine out, after all, I had been cooking and cleaning all day - that and doing crafts with the kids. We decided to leave Gunnar inside, it was cold and rainy with the chance of snow starting. He was very contentedly sleeping as we snuck out.

When we got home, Isabel was the first one in the door, always eager to greet her beloved puppy. She ran to the garage door to meet me and said these words, "Oh no! Gunnar just ate the turkey!" I looked around and the floor was covered with blood from the turkey, chunks of raw turkey were scattered about and there was the half eaten carcass. Gross!

I run to Joe saying "I've got to run to Walmart and get another turkey! It will take forever for it to thaw and our plans are not ruined. I've got to go now! Eleanor, jump in the car. Let's go!"

About half-way there my car suddenly stalled on me, frighteningly just as I was crossing the train tracks. I was able to get the car off the tracks and off the side of the road. Yup, I had run out of gas...the FIRST time in my life! I have been driving for almost 23 years and up until last night I have never let that happen.

So there we are, sitting in the cold rain/snow, very late at night. I called home and timidly told Joe that I had just ran the car dry and I needed him to come bring some gas to us. Sigh.

Harry later said, "This is the stuff movies are made of."

So, our plans are delayed a few hours, and I discovered that my Suburban can't get to E (I could drive my mini-van a little past the E). But, we are together and after a wonderful morning of egg-bake and cinnamon rolls, we are about to go on a family walk to collect things for a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Funny, I was just listening to the radio yesterday and heard a woman talking about finding joy in the things that wouldn't typically bring joy. And I had an immediate chance to practice that.

No, my joy was not robbed. As I looked at my five children really enjoying their cinnamon buns and laughing about something they had just watched on the Macy's Day Parade, I sat back and thanked God for all the blessings in my life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Being Thankful

As my kids get older and we can have meaningful conversations, I am so thankful that I am a momma. Over the past month, I have had the pleasure of just being alone with all five of my kids at different times.

Eleanor - Eleanor and I have had a few amazing conversations lately, mainly due to her life now in school. Everyday she is bombarded with kids who use foul language, who tell each other to "shut-up" and peers who are disrespectful to their teachers. She is struggling with finding that one good friend and will often say her teachers are her closest friends at school. While this could make me sad, she is confident in herself and has told me that her plan at school is to be nice and friendly to everyone. While this keeps her from making that one true friend, it does give her multitudes of people to hang with or talk to. She has made a goal of sitting with a different group of kids each day at lunch. And she does! One day she sits with the jocks, the next day a group of friends from show-choir, followed by a lunch with the first girls who invited her to eat with them. I think this is a healthy way to get through middle school. The one thing she just can't wrap her brain around is all the kids who "hate" their parents. She has come home completely upset that all the girls will talk about is how "stupid" and "dumb" their moms are. Eleanor and I have a tight relationship and while we are NOT friends, we are mother and daughter who talk about almost everything. And boy, that girl can make me laugh! She has a very sharp sense of humor and I have enjoyed lately seeing this girl blossom into someone who can talk with me and turn around and have me crying because she said something so funny! Watching her grow up is so cool!

Harry - Harry just preached his first sermon! While Joe and I were in Chicago, Toby gave Harry the assignment of preaching at their home-church. And apparently, Harry embraced it - he had three points with scripture for each point to back him up. Toby said I would have sobbed. In the past month Harry has not only preached a sermon, he has decided to go to the Dominican Republic on a missions trip. And, he is now the first to read his Bible each morning, always asking questions or making observations. This boy's soul was battled over for years, and I know we are not done protecting him through prayer, but I can't wait to see how God uses this special boy.

Isabel continues to be our joy-giver, no matter what is thrown at her, she just smiles her way through it. I can't even begin to tell you how thankful I am to have her personality in my home! She giggles, she squeals, she laughs and she always wants a cuddle. Even when she is being disciplined, she smiles at us - absolutely amazing. God knew what he was doing when he gave us Isabel, for we all need a dose of pure joy every day, don't we?

George has simply become my son. It is as simple and as profound as that. The line between home made and hand picked is getting smaller and smaller and I now delight in hearing him talk to his siblings and finish the conversation with, "OK, my sister" or "goodnight, my brother."

Lincoln and I have grown closer this year, due to the decision to put the kids in school. And he is downright funny! He laughs at the silliest things and he has discovered the fun of being the clown of the family. Is is a lot of fun teaching him letters and numbers now, and I am anxious for another year of quiet afternoons to read and learn.

Our day to day life is pretty hard....but it pales in comparison to the joy that comes from being a mom to these precious five. Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings on this eve of Thanksgiving. May I never forget to look at these five wonders as creations of Yours who are fearfully and wonderfully made. And may I never forget how much love I feel for them at this moment. And I pray that love continues to grow exponentially each and every year that I am blessed to have them in my home. Amen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"It Wasn't That Hard"

Joe and I just returned from a wonderful night away. You know, that really is all it takes to be refreshed and re-charged, one night. On the train ride home, we both were melancholy and couldn't wait to get back to our big family! We had a great time...I will write more about that later...but now, I want to share a conversation we had with Eleanor last night.

At the dinner table, I was sharing with Joe an email I had read earlier that day about a friend who adopted two girls the same time we were adopting George. This woman and I cried together on the plane ride home, both questioning what we had done. But, she seemed so positive...she kept saying, "Oh, it will be fine." I held on to her words and I used her positive attitude to challenge me. What were people thinking of me as they looked over and saw me fretting and crying? Because of this friend, I determined to "buck-up" and get through it.

We have followed each other's journey since that day. And while I have had joyous reports lately, my friend has not. The sixth month mark has not found things to be easier in her house. She has daughters who want to continue to communicate with their birth mother and they want to keep their Ethiopian language. George, on the other hand, has stopped talking about his life in Ethiopia and even yesterday sat in the kitchen with me and said, "No more Africa Daddy. I love my Daddy here." I don't know which is better or worse?

Joe and I never want to cause or encourage George to forget his amazing culture. We look forward to the day when we will take him back to Ethiopia to explore his native land! But for now, he is bonding with us, he is believing that we are his family and he is turning his back on Africa. For our family, that is working.

So, I was sharing with Joe how my friend is struggling and I brought up that her bio kids are also having a hard time. Joe asked, "Why?" and I looked at Eleanor and said, "I am sure you could tell us why they might be having a hard time."

Eleanor kind of shrugged and said, "I can't imagine still struggling. Mom, it really wasn't that hard...ever."

I couldn't believe my ears! Does she not remember the times George pulled down his pants and screamed at the top of his lungs in our front yard? Did she forget all of us taking refuge in the basement when he was in his room tearing it apart? I realized that she probably had forgotten those moments. Praise God!

It is amazing how that relationship has evolved. George truly looks to Eleanor as his big sister. When it is time to go outside to catch the bus, he wants Eleanor to be with him. He knows Harry and Isabel are older, but he doesn't feel totally safe until Eleanor is with him. George also now shows Eleanor pictures he has colored or letters he has written, wanting to get some praise from her. It is truly special moments like those that Eleanor focuses on now.

Children have an amazing capacity to forget...don't they? They remember the fun times, the joy filled days, the moments of belly laughter. And thankfully, they tend to forget - and let go of - hard times and bad days. I am convinced that is a gift from God and that is how He wants us all to live. We let the enemy in when we force ourselves to hold on to pain and anger and an unforgiving heart. Eleanor taught me a huge lesson in that one statement. It really wasn't that hard, so get over it!

I read a friend's blog who quoted another friend (the wonderful world of blogging) that totally smacked me in the face. Adopting an older child gives our children the capacity to learn how to love!! If we had not adopted George, my children would not have had the opportunity to learn how to truly love. Love in our bio family was easy and pretty clean. Loving George in those early months was hard and messy. But, bottom line, we taught our children that love is a choice...and they watched us chose to love George. They have never had to see that choice being made before...now it was staring them in the face every day. Are my parents going to stick with him? Are they going to continue to serve and forgive and sacrifice? Imagine the eternal lessons they learned in those first few months. My children will never be the same after this....and now they want more siblings! They say, "Why not?"

They are all learning what is important in life and it isn't Gameboys, remote control cars, or Ugg boots. It is family and love. When we got home from our trip away, the seven of us lounged around on the couches for hours - just talking and laughing - just being together. And Joe looked over at me and said, "This is what life is all about." I agreed.

We (Joe and I) were created to be parents. That doesn't mean we don't make mistakes. Goodness, I made mistakes with them already this morning! It just means that we are all at our best when we are doing what God created us to be.

Adoption can be hard. Adoption can be draining. But, adoption is so worth it!! We ALL know a little more what it means to love the way Christ loves. We ALL know a little more what it means to chose to love. We ALL know a little more how innocent children need a good home to grow in and that it is not their fault when they are scared and angry. We have seen what a few months of love and stability can do for a child - it truly is amazing!

I long for the next generation, our children, to wipe out the need for orphanages or foster care. I long for the next generation to give up the idea of success means a big house with "great rooms" and gourmet kitchens, and instead embrace the idea of crowded houses full of love and laughter. I long for the next generation to realize it IS their problem that there are orphans out there.

God says 47 times in the Bible to care for the fatherless....do you think He means it? In the words of my 12 year old, "It really wasn't that hard....and I think we could do it again."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Little Sparks


I just wanted to put this cute picture up here. This is Isabel and George getting ready to go to AWANA where they are both Sparks. They are both memorizing scripture, hiding it in their hearts, and I couldn't be more proud of my two little Sparks. George has been walking around the house for a month saying John 3:16 and it is a reminder to me each time I hear his say it what the good news is all about.

That reminds me of how we are preparing for Christmas this year...we keep asking George if he knows what Christmas is about and he shakes his head "no". As Christian parents, we have a choice to make...do we talk about Jesus AND Santa in the same breath? Do we even mention the red-suited jolly fat guy? George knows all about Jesus' crucifixion and I am so excited to share with him the glory of his birth.

I am looking forward to seeing Christmas through the eyes of George this year. It is like that first Christmas with your child when she is finally old enough to really get excited. We have no choice but to keep things simple this year, but I can't wait for the town's Christmas parade, or the making of the cookies and filling the home with Christmas songs. We have the chance to really set a precedent with our children about what Christmas is all about.

Finally, I just want to share a cute story about George and AWANA: Last week, George's group was talking about transportation in Old Testament times. The teacher was telling the kids how there were no cars or trains or airplanes back then and she proceeded to ask the kids how they thought people would get from one town to another.
George very proudly raised his hand with the perfect answer. (On a side note, as my friend was telling me this story, I thought for sure George would have the right answer. I thought he would say "donkey" since he is always talking about his Africa Daddy and his donkey.) So, the teacher called on George and waited for his answer. George put his hand down and very proudly answered, "A motorcycle!"

Friday, November 20, 2009

Brothers

Lincoln and George have started this game...they pretend they are going to sleep, say their good nights and then flop into their beds. Then they yell, "Good morning!" and fly out of bed, tossing the covers into the sky and racing around the house.

They did this at least 67 times last night...

And this morning, before school, another 2 times.

Then it was time for George to catch the bus for school. And Lincoln cried. Real, crocodile size tears. Not a whiny 4 year old cry (which we hear a lot these days), but a genuine sadness.

And George felt empathy for his little brother and said, "I'll play when home school."

They hugged, tight, and then George went outside to wait for the bus. As he waited he said, "Lincoln is my little brother. I love him."

It is these little moments that mean so much.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Am a Weldie Now!


Today was a very big day for us, but even more for George. Today, we officially re-adopted him. Now he is a US citizen. Now he is a Weldie. He is a new creation!

Oh how meaningful this day was...in so many ways. A few weeks ago, when I took my paperwork to the Jefferson County probate court to set up our court date, I made the decision to just have Joe and I go to court, say our "I do"s and then go home. George would stay in school and he would never know what went on.

You see, I was not trying to be mean. I have come to realize how unfamiliar settings can send George into a tailspin. Those tailspins entail George reverting back to the George of month one or two. A light bulb has finally gone off in my head about this...he is scared, uncomfortable, unsure how to communicate how he feels an so he switches into "survival mode". This means he wants to hurt us before we can hurt him. He will be mean to us before we can be mean to him. He will turn off his emotions before someone can cause him pain. He does whatever he needs to protect his fragile emotions. So, I thought that taking him to a court, standing before a judge, all that stuff, would cause George anxiety. And, I simply did not want to make our re-adoption of him an anxious moment.

But, God whispered to my heart, "He deserves a celebration. I delight in him. I want you to delight in him!" Oh, how those words pierced my soul and I knew at once these were the words of truth. George deserved a celebration!

Passionately, I cried to Joe that I had changed my mind and not only would we be taking George, we would pull all the kids out of school to mark this very special day.

We tried in vain to explain what was about to take place; we would go before a judge and he would review our post-adoption reports and then he would make a decision about whether or not he could officially be a Weldie. George just didn't get it, because in his mind and in his heart, he was already our son. We agreed, but tried to say that we needed to do this anyway. I don't think he understood at all.

On the drive there, George was his usual self, "Can you radio, please?" Translation: can you turn on the radio please? That was soon followed by "I LOVE that song!"

As soon as we walked into the lobby of the courthouse, George froze. We had to pass through a metal detector. Immediate flash backs of our time in the various airports on the way home from Addis. Images of a smelly, dirty boy screaming at the top of his lungs, being dragged through the metal detectors filled my brain. Oh no...I totally forgot about these things. Joe bent low to George and simply told him, "I will never leave your side."

That seemed to be enough for George to relax a bit...that and seeing all his siblings go through with smiles and giggles. The sheriff on duty was amazing and joked and smiled the whole time - and not those corny jokes of someone trying to "Funny Guy" - you know, the loud funny guy that seems to pop up in every crowd situation. No, this guy was saying simple jokes to Harry and Eleanor and then reassured George that it would all be OK. Nice guy!

We climbed up a flight of stairs and then walked down a long hallway. The whole time we were passing rooms of people, most of them looking unhappy or nervous. Our brood, on the other hand, was skipping and laughing and holding hands as we excitedly sauntered to our court room. What a contrast in life...here we were celebrating adding a son to our family...and there they were, not exactly sure why, but with looks of fear on their faces.

The courtroom was meticulous and in the waiting room we lectured the kids about proper behavior in the court room. We walked in quietly, took our seat and prepared to see a case that was in front of us. Apparently the docket had become backed up (no surprise) and we were no longer a 2:15 case, probably more like a 3:00 case. I have to admit that Harry and Eleanor in particular were excited about seeing a real live case, and the former home schooling mother was just bubbly inside thinking about the discussions we could have on the way home about law, public defense, judges, etc. But, the court clerk took one look at our brood and said, "Why don't we move case 3021 up." The judge agreed. The defendant of the case before us looked very annoyed when the judge ordered him into the waiting room. We didn't care...we were now up!

The seven of us came forward and sat at the tables: Joe, George, Lincoln and I at the defense table. Isabel, Eleanor and Harry at the prosecutors table. We were all a little giggly and so desperately wanted to talk into our little microphones. George kept putting it up to his ear (which he keeps calling his eye) and trying to hear music. I am sure we were quite a sight!

The judge opened our case and started reading through the file. He asked Joe and I a few questions and then said, "I am ready to make my judgement."

I have to admit, I held my breath a bit. How could he make a judgement already?

"I find that Joe and Traci Weldie are of sound mind and are fit parents and are doing what is in the best interest of the child. I approve of the petition to adopt. From this moment forward Georgebush Joseph Lema will be known as George Bush Weldie."

In the best interest of the child....time seemed to stop as I pondered those words. We really are doing what is in George's best interest. No matter all my hard days and all the arguments and fights and struggles, all this IS in the best interest of George! He is now a US citizen - wow! His life is so different from this moment on. The life expectancy of a male in Ethiopia is 42 years! Now, George has double the life time to love and grow and serve the Lord. Praise God!

The judge said, "Now you can clap." And we all laughed and clapped and smiled huge grins at each other. We took a picture, and actually a man in the gallery volunteered to take a picture of all of us - I am soooo disappointed at how blurry it is, but we do have a picture of all 7 of us with the judge.

The judge came off his bench and gave George a high five and said, "I love your name! George Bush is one of my favorite people - so I am sure you are going to be great man." He then told Joe and I how wonderful it is to reside over adoptions like this: all joy! I looked around and everyone in the room was smiling and clapping - everyone was celebrating George!

On the way home, we explained to George how we all have middle names and we went around the car a few times each sharing our full name. It was quiet for a minute and then we heard George say, "George Bush Weldie. I am a Weldie now."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Six Month Update


I am a little late, but it is time for our sixth month update. On the last day of April, Joe and I landed at O'Hare airport in Chicago with our new son, George. We were dazed, worn out, and absolutely terrified. We had just experienced the worst 20 hours of our lives, with George causing such a commotion in customs back in Dulles (Washington DC) that the federal agents barely checked our luggage, just wanting to get that screaming boy out of there. Joe and I wept on the plane ride home, continuing to ask, "What have we done to our family?"

When we arrived home, our kids had made beautiful sings, they hung bright orange balloons all over the outside of our home, and they raced to the car with smiles, ready to hug and welcome their new brother. What they got was a boy screaming and crying who just stared out the windows of his new house.

Over the first month, we experienced things that had never occurred in our home before. Temper tantrums unlike any other, rooms being torn apart, clothing constantly being taken off in anger, pinching, hitting, spitting.

Each night, when George was finally in bed, we would all let out a huge sigh of relief that the house was now quiet and I would cling to my home made children, not wanting to let them go. And each night, I would fall asleep dreading the cries of "Momma!" that I would inevitably hear as George would scream when he needed to go to the bathroom. He didn't really want me...he just wanted to have permission to get out of bed.

I remember calling Carole, a friend who was about 7 months ahead of me in adopting older boys from Ethiopia. I cried as I asked her, "When will this get better?" I clung to her sweet southern accent as she very calmly replied, "Oh, Traci, it WILL get better! In three months you will see a difference with language. In six months, oh, there will be such a difference. Please just hang in there." I hung up the phone with her and decided on that day I would start marking time...if I could just get to three months, things will be better. Then, I set a goal for getting to six months, just longing to be proven that, indeed, things would be so different.

Well, we just passed the six months mark...and I am not even sure how to put into words the changes that have happened. Joe and I were driving home from the airport this past Saturday, with George happily sitting in the back seat. We both paused to just look at him...he was staring out the window just fascinated with each and every car that zoomed past, and he bopped his head to the music, singing a word every now and then that he might remember. His face is so different...he holds his head up high, he looks at us when we talk to him, and he smiles... a lot now. And, in that moment of looking back at George in the car, Joe and I could not even whisper a word, we simply started crying with each other. We have come so far!

That behavior in those first few months was the behavior of a terrified, angry child. All he needed was love and stability. Look at what six months of love can do for a child! And I am not tooting my own horn here - y'all know how difficult it has been for me to love George...the love that has changed George's life is none other than GOD'S LOVE!

I guess I could go into details about all the ways George has changed over the past six months; how he loves his dog, how he is thriving in school and almost reading (even impressing the Title 1 teachers), how he loves Awana and can't wait to learn more about Jesus, how he sleeps through the night without crying anymore, how he confidently plays with his neighbors...the list could go on and on. Let's just say, those who knew George in Ethiopia would not recognize the boy now..he has LIFE in him again!

The one thing I find very interesting about George right now is that he absolutely hates (and I hardly ever use that word) when we talk about his life in Africa to other people. As soon as he hears us answering some one's questions about Ethiopia and what his life was like, he says, "No talk about Africa!" and hides. He also does not want to be reminded, in any way, about his behavior when he first came home. This is a case of a person being adopted into a family and being a totally new creature, not wanting anything to do with their former life.

It's a reminder of how we are to be when we are adopted into God's family - look at how George doesn't want to even talk about his life before us - why are we still attracted to the things of this world after we are made new? I have a great example right before me of how easy it is to put that old life behind me and embrace my new life. Maybe this topic is for another day...just something to think about for now.

I was kicking the soccer ball with George this morning as we waited for the bus (not sure my neighbors appreciate the noise at 6:30am - but we were cold and needed to do something to warm us up). A ball he kicked raced past me, so I had to run up the yard quite a bit...right then the bus pulled up and while Isabel and Harry just yelled, "Bye mom!", George ran as fast as he could yelling, "I can't go without a hug from Momma!". He threw himself into my arms, hugged tight, and then raced back down the driveway to get on the bus. That says it all.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Joy of a Big Family

George is getting it....what it means to be part of a big family. Over the last month, George has had the chance to see both sets of grandparents...one for the third time, and one for the first time. And we have worked hard over the last month explaining what grandparents are and who they are in relation to Joe and I. I think he is getting it!

My parents flew up from Ohio to spend a few days with us...and mainly to meet their 13th grandchild named George. In a way, I am so happy they waited until 6 months in to meet him, for the George of today is much different than the George of six months ago. The George of today smiles...a lot. He can read books from school, he jokes around and does his "Georgie dance", and he is fun to be around. My parents were amazed at how much English he can speak and when I started to think about it, it is amazing how quickly he has grasped the English language!

George had been told that when he got off the bus, his grandparents would be home. So, on Wednesday, he ran off the bus right past me! He ran straight into the house, looking for his grandparents. Without even so many words, George knew that his grandparents loved him. I don't know why...I can't explain it...but I think God had blessed him with the peace of knowing he has a big family out there who love him. And so he ran straight into the arms of my mom and said, "Hi Grandma!"

Soon after that, George was outside kicking a football with my dad (whom he called Grandpa all week...we call him Grandad, but no one cared about this little renaming) and Lincoln. I could hear him laughing and saying "Oh Grandpa! Kick it high!" George was just getting the chance to learn what it is like to play ball with a grandfather. It was a priceless moment for me...and I am sure one for George as well.

What a gift to give a child who had so little! He now has a family of four grandparents who shower him with love and attention...four grandparents who all want to know him and learn from him. We were told George lived with his grandmother in Ethiopia, but he flatly refuses that notion. Who know? But now he has the love that is given from grandparents that is unique and special.

Meeting Grandma and Grandad (or Grandpa)





We just completed a very nice weekend with my parents visiting from Ohio...I will post more later, but wanted to share a few pictures. I will say that George was wonderful this weekend and has seemed to really embrace the idea of having a big extended family.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Need A Gift Idea for Teachers or Co-Workers?


I have been a little obsessed with the children at Recce's Rainbow. These are special needs children who need to be adopted, many of whom have Down Syndrome. Every year, they raise money to defray some of the cost of adoption through this amazing Angel Tree program. Check it out:




I am going to have my kids pick out a child to pray for and then we'll make a donation and get an ornament with that child's picture. Instead of a "Your A+ Teacher" mug, my kids will be giving these as gifts to their teachers.


Here is one of the cuties.


HAIR!!!!!!


God knew what he was doing when he put a boy on our hearts....I am struggling with this whole hair thing!!

At Harvest Fest this week, our table was across the isle from Minister Richard from The Captive Project. Joe and I have been in a prayer relationship with him for a while, but had never met face to face. We were so excited to meet him and talk with him and introduce our family to him.

After a few minutes of greetings, he said, "I need to talk to you about George's hair."

Uggghhhh! Really? What's wrong with it?

"His peers, you know, African American peers, are going to make fun of it."

You've got to be kidding me!

But then we were interrupted and we never were able to finish that conversation! I am left with so many questions like what am I doing wrong? What do I need to do?

I have read blogs, I have read adoption board postings, I have seen pictures... but I guess I just don't get it!

So...reluctantly, I have turned to YouTube videos - sigh.

We have all agreed to let George's hair grow out - either to locs or to just a little longer. He doesn't want his head shaved. (THAT would be the easy thing to do! And while I am on that subject, why is it that none of my boys like their hair cut short? They all want to be shaggy and messy.) I have learned that in order for George's hair to grow, it needs to be combed out every night and moisturized. The key is to not let the curls get tight, which apparently leads to breakage. There are also rules about how often we can wash his hair and what types of shampoo to use. Who knew an Ethiopian boy's hair would be higher maintenance than an almost 13 year old girl?

Joe often laughs and says, "What do they do in Ethiopia? They don't have access to lotions and moisturizes?" Well, a friend of mine who is a missionary in Ethiopia just sent me a picture from the southern regions, where George is from, and the men there put massive amounts of wet clay in their hair...hmmmmm.

So, last night we started our new regiment. I pick out George's hair. Then I part a section of hair and apply moisturizer directly onto his scalp. I do this about 85 times around his entire head. Then..off to bed he goes.

Already, I am wondering if I have what it takes to do this every night. If we can get his hair to 3 inches, we are going to take him to a salon on North Avenue in Tosa to have his hair locked. It will take a few hours, but I need a professional to do it...obviously.

Or....next time you see him, he may have a shaved head :)

Boys Laughing

Last night, for the first time, I heard George and Harry laughing together. Lincoln was given some "trick" cars for his birthday, but of course, George was the first one to figure out how to make the cars actually do the tricks. So, after dinner, George was tricking out the cars on the hard wood floor of our den. Harry has been trying to figure out the tricks, but hasn't had much time with them. He obviously saw last night as his opportunity to give it a try.

I was cleaning up after dinner, so I don't know what happened. All I heard was the laughter. Both boys laughing.

Delight.

It didn't last long.

But, it's a huge start!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Orphan Sunday

Last night was Orphan Sunday....I was so tired when I got home, I couldn't even spell the word "exhausted" correctly - ha!

Our family hung out at church all day yesterday, seeing no point in driving all the way back to Watertown just to turn around and drive all the way back to church. During our wait at church, we had some pretty amazing meetings!

First, a young man we have come to bump into regularly, walked through the doors. On a side note here, isn't it cool the way God brings certain people into your path over and over again? It's like he is saying, "I want you to get to know this person!" Well, the young man walked in desperately looking for a box of items from Nigeria that his wife grew up with and his Bible. He had looked everywhere and was starting to panic a bit. Thankfully, I had just seen a woman I have been working with a lot lately, who was in charge of the set-up and tear-down for Harvest Fest. She hadn't see me, I simply saw her moving a cart into the elevator. I suggested that I go to her office and see if she knew where his box might be.

While I was doing that, Joe and this young man sat next to the fireplace and chatted. Then this man asked Joe what he could pray for and then immediately got into pray over Joe's request. I love that! I am humbled by a young man who can instantly get into prayer with someone, not knowing them at all, but knowing they are brothers in Christ.

And...I found his box!

Then, another young man walked in and asked me if I knew where the lost and found was. He has lost his iPhone sometime between church and picking up his kids in the nursery. We walked together through the entire church looking for his phone. During our conversation, we discovered that we had a mutual friend - pretty cool. We did not find the phone, but we walked back to where Joe was sitting by the fireplace to get some paper to leave a note. That is when Joe noticed this man's Michigan key chain and he joking asked, "Babe..did you realize you were helping a Wolverine?"

I gasped, (for those of you who don't know...Buckeyes usually don't talk to Wolverines :))but then that started an hour long conversation with this fascinating man. He is a SWAT policeman for the city of Milwaukee. Fascinating stories and our kids' were pretty excited to have a real, live policeman there talking about storming drug houses and talking out hostages. But best of all, this young man is a follower of Christ...and to know that he is out there on the streets of Milwaukee every day is pretty cool!

When the Orphan Sunday event was finally ready to go, we had some technical glitches. The enemy was at work. Some of us ducked into a small room and prayed - for that was all we could really do. The prayer wasn't answered immediately, but it was answered and eventually we were able to get the live feed with the event in Tennessee!

George was so excited to see the children's choir that included kids from Ghana. He loved the music and was doing his "Georgie dance" in his seat. Then he curled up against me and started dozing off, a boy completely at peace and comfortable with his momma. As I looked around the room, I saw kids from every tribe, tongue and nation in that room. Kids from Africa, kids from Europe, kids from Asia and kids from North America. All these kids were with a mom and a dad, cuddling, smiling, holding hands...and all smiling. Wow! These beautiful children were so loved by God that He made a way for them to be put where they are now - in homes where they get enough to eat and clean clothes and an education. Some kids ran around the church, having fun. Some of them fell asleep in their momma's arms. It was simply beautiful to be in a room that had so much diversity (although I really wish there was even MORE!)

And then I was struck once more with a lesson God has been continuing to teach me. These children ARE Jesus. They were hungry, thirst, homeless...needing someone to care for them. Jesus is clear in his word that when we feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, we are doing those things to HIM. Not that we are Jesus doing Christ-like things..uh-uh...it's the other way around. When we feed the hungry we are given an opportunity to meet Jesus and love Him! Matthew 25:40 says this, "Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me."

How can I ever be the same when I know that those hurting around me ARE Jesus? I cried in my heart last night at all the times I have been unloving or uncaring, especially toward George. I have Christ in my home, longing for love, structure and my commitment. It is not just a little boy...it is Jesus himself. I know that God has forgiven my hard heart and I am amazed at how much I love George now. I look back at those hard days and they are starting to fade away, like a blip in time.

I don't know what lies ahead for Joe and I and our family...I do know that He is not done with us yet. There is more we can do, there are more ways to love Christ, and we plan on doing that!