Saturday, May 30, 2009

Another Down

I was about ready to throw my hands up in the air and scream, "Enough, God! How much more do we have to take of this?" We were in the midst of an hour long screaming session. The kids all wanted to go to bed, but no one could even begin to think about sleeping with George screaming and crying.

We have no idea what set him off tonight. We had a wonderful day! It was so beautiful here in Wisconsin, at our new home. The kids had played for hours with their new neighbors, we all went into town to the famous hot-dog joint for local fare, we worked together on Mom's garden and then enjoyed a great cookout. After dinner, the kids played some more - hide and seek through their new yard. Then, Lincoln and George came in asking to put on their pajamas and to watch the Brewers.

That's when things got really weird. Everyone came in, got their pjs on and gathered in the living room for our normal routine - Brewers! But, for some reason, George whimpered and moaned and cried on the floor. Very quietly at first. He obviously wanted attention. Joe invited George to come sit by him on the couch, but George said "no" and pointed to me. I was sitting too close to Joe. Our family has had about enough of that kind of stuff, so Joe firmly said, "No! Mom stays on the couch."

George then ran to his room - hey! At least he has learned not throw out his stuff anymore! Nothing came flying out (I guess that is progress!)? He did walk into the hallway, pause for a few minutes and then come back in. Suddenly, the heat clicked on. Now, it was cooling down, but there was no way that heat should have come on. I then put two and two together and go check the thermostat. Sure enough, it had been re-set to 80 degrees.

I looked at George and calmly stated, "You are not allowed to touch this. Only Mom and Dad can touch this."

He lost it. Screaming, crying and then slapping himself on the face - over and over again. I rushed into his room to hug him and tell him to stop hitting himself and I carry him over to sit with Joe. George makes this really annoying whine - all the time - and we are trying to get him to stop this. But, when he sat down, the whine came out, full force. Joe reminded George not to do that. George whined. Joe said, "You do it again and you are going to bed." George whined.

"Off to bed." So...that is where I find myself ready to give up. Things have been going along so well! The move had gone smoothly and George seemed to have taking it all wonderfully. He liked his new room with Lincoln and he seemed to just love all the space to play and run in our new yard. It was the weekend, Dad was home, all was clicking along.

Why such a huge set back? Why the reminder that I honestly don't even like this child very much, let alone love him? Why did it have to suddenly be thrown into my face that George does not accept my love or my care for him?

I decided to go upstairs and tuck the girls into bed and we quietly got into prayer. I was vulnerable and totally honest with my girls. "I don't know how to pray right now, but I know I need to ask God to do two things. Comfort George and open my heart to love George." We prayed and I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit ministering to me. I noticed the house was very quiet.

Joe called up, "George is ready for bed and want to give you a hug."

After getting all the kids to bed, I remembered an email I had received earlier. An adoptive mom encouraged me to read Hosea. Hosea was asked to love the unlovable, be faithful to the unfaithful and to be kind to the cruel. I have things to learn from this man.

I grabbed The Message and read the introduction and stopped on this sentence: "God loves us in just this way - goes after us at our worst, keeps after us until he gets us, and makes loves of men and women who nothing of real love." God asked Hosea to do this with a prostitute named Gomer. God is also asking me to do this with George.

I need to pursue George with my love. And even when George rejects me time and time again, I need to keep after him. Once I am able to love George, he will learn what love is. And maybe, he has no idea what love is! Who's to say what kind of mother his mom was? Who's to say he had parents who loved him and were attentive to all his needs? I don't know if George knows how to love because I don't know if he has been loved at all in his life?

But, I am sure of this - GOD LOVES GEORGE!

Here is how Hosea concludes:
I will make a fresh start with Israel (George)
He'll burst into bloom like a crocus in the spring.
He'll put down deep oak tree roots,
He'll become a forest of oaks!
He'll become splendid - like a giant sequoia,
His fragrance like a grove a cedars!
Those who live near him will be blessed by him,
be blessed and prosper like golden grain.

After we make it through this, George will bloom! George will have deep roots! George will be splendid, larger than life and those who know him will be blessed.

I find myself once again having to stand on God's word! There is nothing else that matters here. We will make it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Two Cookouts and a Baseball Game

We have just wrapped up Memorial Day weekend. We crammed in two cookouts and a Brewers game on top of packing down the entire house! Some times I really think my head is screwed on backwards. It is simply amazing what I THINK I can do in one weekend - ha!

But, I think I find myself in a running theme...learning over and over again that I am only strong when I am weak. I think God wants me to be hanging on by a thread these days in order to constantly remember who is holding on to the other end of that string. For years, I have been struggling with pride that comes hand in hand with being so self-reliant. I know I have talked before about all those "self" words - how to the world they are words that are admired and held up, but in God's world, they are one thing: sin. So many times I have asked God to show me how to reconcile who He made me to be with being called to surrender and being weak. I just didn't get it.

Until He put so many crazy circumstances into my life that I had no other choice but to cry out to God on an hourly basis asking Him to get me through that next hour. For a while there, I was seriously looking at my watch and praying, "Lord, please get me through until 4:00", or "Lord, it is almost time for Joe to get home. Please just see me through until he walks through the door." While God DID see me through - each and every time - I am so afraid of forgetting those lessons! And, surprisingly, being helpless and afraid was actually a very good place to be. I knew without a doubt that I was being held and led by God. As things are getting better around here, I find myself not being so helpless and afraid and slipping back into the "I can do anything" mode. Will I ever learn???

We had a great weekend. Our neighbors threw us a farewell cookout that was a blast! Joe and I were amazed that so many of our dear neighbors would show up on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend! We laughed and reminisced about the past seven years. We joked how I moved in with 2 kids and am moving out with 7! But, what meant the most to Joe and I was seeing neighbors who hadn't been talking to each other for years sitting at a table laughing together. And seeing newly married couples meeting the other newly married couples who live down the street.

I clearly remember the day, about 5 years ago when Joe and I first felt the pull to devote our lives to missions. I went for a walk and God spoke so clearly, "You are not even doing anything in my name in the neighborhood I put you in! How can you go around the world?" It was like the brick upside the head kind of moment. I didn't do enough...I didn't do everything that I know God wanted me to do, and for that I am sorry. But, I did start loving my neighbors - truly wanting to know who they were and what they liked. It was such a wonderful last few years and I will really miss all the great neighbors we had here.

But...God clearly is leading us away from Tosa. And so, Watertown, here we come!

The Sunday of Memorial Day was totally different. This time we were with our Christian brothers and sisters. There is always something so wonderful about being with this group of friends. I realized how much I love them when I was flying home from Africa and I longed to just be in their presence. I knew they would remind me of God's truths and they would love me and they would also encourage me to keep going. These friends called - some of them every day just to check in! They stopped by, just to give me a friendly fact to look at. They sent cards and emails - always giving me just what I needed to get through the day. I truly believe the Holy Spirit was leading each one of them to contact me at pivotal times. Through these women, God was still caring for me!

So, anytime I can be with this group of friends, I will take advantage of it! And for those reading - I love you all!

On a side note, my family and Joe's family has been amazing as well. I have recieved such encouragement from all the women in my life - and I am so grateful for their care and their love, too!

We learned something important about George this weekend. Saturday night we stayed late, until the sun was going down, and then rushed home (across the street) and frantically shouted, "OK - baths, showers and then pajamas. Then, reading in bed. Go, go, go!!!" That didn't go over so well with George. So, we were faced with an hour of a screaming child tearing off his sheets and then his clothes. Not a pretty sight when everyone is tired! Joe finally looked at me and said, "We can't do this anymore to George! We have to establish our bedtime routine every night."

I am a little sad that my mommy instinct did not pick up on this before Joe's daddy instinct. But, I am understanding that at this point, Joe is more in tune with George than I am.

Sunday night saw a much different routine. Even though none of us wanted to leave our friends and the cookout - and we understand a pretty competitive game of kick ball started right after we left - we committed to getting George home. Our bio kids were angry at us - scowls, grunts and even some shouts of life not being fair. But, when we pulled into our drieway and George cracked a joke that made us ALL bust out laughing, we knew we had made the right decision.

We stuck to our bedtime routine and by bedtime we had 5 children snug in their beds falling asleep with smiles on their faces. Before bed, Eleanor said, "Mom...I see that hope we have been talking about. I am really starting to like George." I answered, "Me too, sweetie."

For those who are still hanging in there on this very long blog entry (sorry), George experienced his first major league baseball game today! He wore a Prince Fielder shirt and had a great time. Joe said he started getting into the game after he felt safe and comfortable - clapping with the organ and cheering for another Yovani strikeout. At the end of the night, we were all eating subs around the TV (watching Night at the Museum - a family favorite), I looked at George and actually thought to myself, "I missed you today, kiddo."

Thank the Lord for working on my heart! Thank the Lord for being faithful! Thank the Lord for loving on me through friends and family! Thank the Lord!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Watch The Ball

Two of my boys are outside playing baseball right now. Lincoln and George have found they both love the perfect game of baseball! It is so fun to see how these two little boys take turns pitching to each other and then claiming that every hit is a home run. They really do take turns. They know that once one of them gets a good hit (not a foul ball or foul tip), the other gets to bat. This also means they take turn pitching to each other, which can be very comical to see them trying so desperately to throw a strike.

Every day, George asks, "Lincoln, baseball?" And Lincoln replies, "Sure, George!", and off they run to find the bat and the ball.

When it is George's turn to pitch, he says, "Watch the ball, watch the ball." Obviously he has picked up on Mom and Dad's coaching :)

It struck me that this little boy from Ethiopia has so quickly picked up our national pastime. Now, he happened to be placed with a family that is slightly obsessed with baseball, but none the less, he could have been an artistic, sensitive type who didn't enjoy sports of any kind. Instead, God blessed us with another child who loves to play baseball! George has watched Brewers games with us at night, although that habit has not quite picked up as quickly as other ones, as we usually find him pushing a Matchbox car around the living room and then cheers when he hears the rest of the family cheering. We'll teach him the nuances of the game soon enough.

George will get his first taste of big league baseball this Monday! Joe has 4 tickets to the Brewers game and after thinking about it, we decided that Joe would take the three boys. I am not going to be bitter that Joe and Harry have already been to a game and Mom has not been to any, but no, I am not going to discuss that here. I will be happy for George, and I'll be praying that he enjoys it and they will be able to stay for the whole game.

Driving down North Avenue has been a treat the last few days, as Wauwatosa has decided to blanket the street with American flags. Every flag we pass George shouts, "America!" Now, Lincoln has decided to join in the fun. So, as we drive down North (which I am happy to avoid now), they both are constantly shouting "America!"

I asked George today if he wanted to be called George or Georgebush. He shook his head vehemently and said, "Momma, America. George." It struck me how much he is embracing this new life. I know he is scared and that fear comes out as a difficult, naughty boy at times, but overall, he is excited to be in America. He has a new name, he has new clothes, he has shoes that he adores! And...I am beginning to think he really wants to be here.

So, the boys are still outside, still playing baseball. And I can hear my son reminding Lincoln, "Watch the ball!" Every now and then I hear a "Whoooo! Home run!" and I can just imagine the smiles on their faces. It is good to be in America, right George?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wise Sayings of a Three Year Old

I just had to write these down before I forgot. Precious words from my precious three year old, Lincoln.

We were all the car, heading out to see our new house, when we stopped to get gas. George had been saying something over and over, we weren't sure exactly what he was saying. We finally agreed it was something like, "We're not horses." So, we all laughed and thought of other funny things to say, "We're not car washes", "we're not mini buses", "we're not iguanas". On and on, each child was coming up with something and they would all giggle. The ever-present teacher in me finally asked, "So, what ARE we?"

I was looking for "human" or something like that. Harry shouted out "people!". Then, from the very back corner of the mini-van Lincoln proudly yelled, "We're a family!"



Next..on the way out to the new house (again!!), Lincoln says this, "Mom, I want to grow brown skin like George. His skin is so pretty. Do you think I can grow brown skin? I want to look like my brother."

Enough to melt the heart, huh?

A Tribute to My Children

I have often been asked how this adoption has affected by four biological children. The answer is much more complicated that what I could possibly answer in a minute or two, so I have decided to write out how much children have grown through this very difficult time.

Eleanor - Eleanor is my oldest. She exhibits much of the typical oldest child traits. She is steadfast, she is a pleaser, and she has a huge heart. Eleanor loves being a big sister, especially to her baby brother Lincoln! From the very beginning of our journey, Joe and I always said Eleanor would be the last to "fall in love with George" but the first to be totally committed to George. Eleanor holds her heart in check and doesn't let people really in very easily. We have a very close relationship and I think she is satisfied with what we have to the point where she doesn't seek much from other places. That is good - but sometimes that can hurt her. Eleanor was shocked at George's behavior initially! And when George would be mean or physical with Lincoln, she would yell "That's my baby brother! You can't do that to him!!". Being a tween hasn't helped much, either. She gets annoyed very easily with all of us! Imagine a tween's reaction to a boy who screams, cries, hits and eats with his fingers - sometimes she just can't handle it. We have given her a lot of space and a lot of opportunities to get away from home. Eleanor has had to establish her role as an authority over the kids recently when I took the kids to school, George decided to run out the door and scream and yell in the yard. Eleanor rushed after him and literally picked him up and carried this kicking, screaming child into the house, put him on his bed and said, "We don't do that around here." When I came home, George was calmly playing in his room and Eleanor was sitting at the kitchen table looking at the comics. Well handled! Soon after that, George started hugging Eleanor and when Eleanor is gone he always asks where she is. That relationship will come, we always knew it would take some time. But, I know in my heart that 10 years from now, they will be very close.

Harry - Harry also struggled greatly in the beginning. I can remember a few days home, Harry sat on the back patio with me and just cried and cried. Harry really struggled with a 7 year old acting like a 3 year old. I think Harry was hoping for a brother that would sit and play Legos with him (not tear them apart), or a brother who would let Harry read to him (not tear the pages as he tried to turn them). What Harry got was another Lincoln! So, Harry went into ignore mode. Harry was never around, always asking to play at friends' houses or disappearing for hours into some unknown part of the house. Eventually, Joe had a talk with Harry about how George needs a big brother! George needs a brother who will be a role model, who will be firm and decisive when there are arguments, who will lead the others. Something must have clicked because Harry started stepping up to the plate. One Saturday morning, Harry was playing wii and sure enough an argument occur ed between George and Lincoln. Before rushing downstairs to intervene, we waited and listened. Harry became a big brother. He dealt with the issue fairly and strictly. George got upset, of course, and threw a typical temper tantrum, but Harry stayed calm and said, "I'll wait until you settle down." I later told Harry he would be awarded the "Big Brother of the Year" award! Now, George and Harry are getting along very well. There are lots and lots of hugs and George is anxious to see Harry every afternoon after school.

Isabel - Oh, how can I even begin to tell you about this amazing child? From day one, Isabel was soft-hearted, kind, forgiving, gentle, and loving! She was the first to hold George's hand, the first to hug him, the first to put lotion on, the first to love him. I am humbled as I watch this daughter of mine be Christ to George each and every day. There have been some tough days, mainly when Isabel feels responsible for the way George is bahaving, but generally, our joy-giver has proven her nickname to be accurate. She has given pure joy to George. At around lunch time, George starts asking for Isabel, knowing that when we pick her up there will be a sister who never gets annoyed, never gets mad, and is always there to keep trying. I wish I could be more like Isabel.

Lincoln - Lincoln is a typical 3 year old boy! So, when you pair a 3 year old boy with another boy who acts like a 3 year old, you get constant chaos in the house!! Lincoln loves George, but at times, he can't stand George. They fight over everything! They are both trying to establish their role in the family so they are constantly battling it out. Every day they are hitting each other, pushing, fighting or yelling. But, they also can play for hours with giggles and smiles on their faces. I am really looking forward to seeing how these two grow up together.

My children have been amazing! I thank them for their honesty and this experience has caused us all to grow so much. The older kids are learning what it means to have empathy. The younger two are simply being Christ to George. I love my whole family and this has just made me appreciate how different and yet how close we all are.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Testing My Parenting

Another way for me to look at what has been going on lately is this is a test of my parenting skills. Let me give you a peek at my day so far:

George wakes up at Joe is leaving for work, he is instantly angry. So angry he won't even say goodbye to Joe. Joe looks at me and say, "You are going to have one heck of a day!" Thankfully, Joe called an hour later to encourage me :)

I tried to give George his breakfast - oh, I am so tired of the drill - he pushes it away. But, within a few minutes, as he sees his siblings eat, he grabs his plate and eats. The day starts going a little better until...dum, dum, da-dum...Lincoln put on the bike helmet! Oh, no - you scream!!!

We are talking about a skateboard helmet, actually, that belongs to Harry. Harry has put some cool stickers on it, and I have to admit it is pretty cool. George found it in the garage on Friday and wore it all day! I mean, all day! That thing was on, along with an old life-jacket until it was bed time. Saturday, same thing. Bike helmet on George all day.

He would look at us and point to his head and ask, "George's?" and we would repeatedly answer, "No. Harry's!" Eventually, he was pointing to the helmet and saying "Harry's!" We then used the word "share" over and over again. In fact, we use the word "share" hourly between George and Lincoln!

So, today, after a morning of grocery shopping, Lincoln put on the helmet. And George went berserk! Screaming, sitting in grease in the garage with the horrible, high-pitched shrill scream we call the tribal war scream. I picked him up and brought him to his room reminding him, "We don't scream like that", and "Lincoln is sharing the helmet". George was so mad! He sat on his bed, continued to scream until I had it and gave him a spanking.

Side note - to all those who don't agree in spanking - trust me! This is working and has worked with many, many Ethiopian boys. Please don't judge me - I am doing what God has led me to believe is the best way to discipline George.

So, now George stops screaming, but decides to throw everything we have ever given him out his bedroom door. One by one shoes come flying out. Then some crayons, a toy airplane, all the stuffed animals anyone has given him (which numbers about 6 Build-A-Bear animals), and he tries to rip his comforter off the bed.

I have a split second to decide how to respond to this behavior. This is where the constant testing of my parenting comes into play. I know I need to be un-emotional, calm and decisive. So, I pick up everything, calmly and state, "I am taking these things and putting them away. You can now earn them back."

Oh, the drama! This goes on and on and I continue to pick things up out of the hallway and calmly state what I am doing with the items. After about 30 minutes - and not much left in the room - George comes out and eats lunch with Eleanor and Lincoln. He asks for more, and as I am dishing out a second helping, sighing to myself about being a servant to a child who has just been a little brat, he jumps off his stool and holds open his arms to me. He wants a hug!

Of course, come here you precious little boy! I know you want to love me! I know you want me to love you! I will always hug you, no matter what you do! I promise to always forgive you and always welcome you back. You are mine, now, please don't forget it.

George was saying he was sorry and he was saying, in his own way, "I love you, Mommy!"

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What Am I? Chopped Liver??

I can't even begin to explain the emotional roller coaster I am on! And frankly, I am ready to get off this ride. The ups and downs are starting to wear me down and I turn to this blog to help me sort through all my conflicting experiences and emotions.

I once wondered why no one who had these smooth, wonderful adoption experiences would blog? I wondered why is was those who are struggling would share their stories. I think I know why - we simply need a place to vent.

I am struggling to love. Which is so ironic because Saturday morning I told Joe, "I now see a boy who wants to be loved, and who wants to love in return." Only one day later, I sat in church growing angrier and angrier by the minute as George was next to me, with his back turned completely on me so he wouldn't have to see me. Yes, it has been that kind of weekend.

George and I had made such progress this week! I got lots of hugs on Friday, and as George was getting ready for bed, we made significant eye contact and he smiled. I think that was the first time since we picked him up that he let his eyes gaze into mine for more than a split second. I realized that action of staring into each other's eyes is something I have done so much with my bio kids! Think of those first few months, as a new momma I would stare at my babies for hours sometimes and when they would start opening their eyes and see me, ah! And then....when that first eye contact was made where the baby recognizes the eyes looking back as Momma's - well, my heart would melt. I haven't had that in any way with George.

I am, in fact, chopped liver. As soon as George wakes up and finds Joe still in the house, it is as if I don't exist anymore. This morning, I made George some toast. I tried to hand it to him and I got that all too familiar finger wag and disgusted look. But, Joe picks up the plate and hands it to Joe and he takes it with a smile and says, "Thank you Daddy."

I am trying and trying and trying not to take these types of this personally, but after dozens of this same experience replaying day after day, I am wearing down a bit. This is the ugly, selfish side of me. I don't like it and I hate admitting it. In fact, God is tugging on my heart to confess lots of ugliness that this adoption has brought to light. Remind me later, and I will share the big sin area of my life that I have had to come fact to face with. But, that's not what this post is about.

This post is my chance to feel sorry for myself and ask everyone I know to join in my pity-party. Ok - that was a joke. Even as I write these things, I hear the Holy Spirit gently ministering to me and reminding me of the truth I know. God will see me through. God is carrying me, even if I think I am doing this on my own. God is faithful!

This morning, I read the following from Psalm 85. "Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth and righteousness looks down from heaven. The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield it's harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps." What is righteousness? Being made right in the eyes of the Lord. My very simple prayer for over 6 years has been, "Lord, make me righteous!" I have begged that God would do a work in me because I long to hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Maybe God is working on my righteousness right now? Ok, strike the maybe from that sentence. God is making me right. It is painful, but it is not impossible. It is challenging, but it is not impossible. It is hard, but it is not impossible. If I want to be found right, I can't stay the way I was! I am realizing how selfish I have been, as a parent especially. I am learning what it really means to put God first in my heart! Oh, it has been so easy to say I was, but the truth is that I had been putting my children first. It is so easy to do when my life was consumed with being a mom. But I really didn't understand what it meant to put God first in my life - to trust him totally, to rely on him for everything.

I read the next Psalm and found this gem: "Teach me your ways, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name." An undivided heart. A heart that serves no other master, seeks no other. I had a divided heart - part of me was seeking the Lord, but the other part of me was getting filled by the love of my children. While this seems OK - it simply is not God's plan for my life. He wants all of me, a heart that seeks no other before Him. Surely, He will bless the undivided heart with relationships that bring joy and good, but first I must be singly focused on God. It doesn't work the other way around, and I think that is what I had been doing for years.

So, I have no idea what my life will look like a year from now. I think back to what I was doing one year ago today and things are drastically different! God is directing my steps, He is showing me how powerful and sovereign He is, and I have agreed to just go along for the ride - roller coasters and all.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Two Hugs!

We have known George for almost one month now. Our dear international adoption counselor, who we met on the airplane, promised in one month we would see a big difference. That gave me hope. And now, I am seeing for myself the healing power of love and discipline.

When we were in Africa, dealing with a very, very angry young boy, God led me to Proverbs 22:15. "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." Joe and I read this verse over and over again, we prayed it to God and we decided to stand on this verse. I am sure that most adoption counselors would advise opposite of this, make the child feel loved, wanted, secure then you can discipline. We discussed this at length and after a lot of prayer, we decided to stand on God's word.

In the airport, our friend Mark, a Christian, agreed.

So, we started on the path of strict discipline. We set very clear boundaries, sure to point out the line that must not be crossed. Our discipline was swift and unemotional, meaning we didn't get into yelling or crying. We simply would state, "We don't do that in our family", or "That is not acceptable behavior". The statement was usually accompanied with a spanking. At first it felt very weird to spank a 7 year old, we haven't spanked our older kids in years! But, we realized we needed to discipline clearly, so George would truly understand that what he was doing we not acceptable in our family. And, we felt that we had God's Word on our side.

As each day goes by, the tantrums are fewer and fewer, the length and level of tantrum is less and less. We are now able to joke, smile, tickle and play for hours without any discipline needed at all!

However, George still is testing me. I am now able to recognize the look that comes over his eyes when I KNOW a test is coming. He is just like a toddler who needs to feel that comfort of knowing his boundaries. On Monday, there was a big outburst over coming into the back yard. One thing led to another and there was a big tantrum where George pulled down his pants and under ware and screamed on the driveway. I had a prime location to land a small spanking, so I did. I calmly carried him inside, told him that we don't do that in our family, and I sat him on his bed and asked him to calm down. I left the room and within 5 minutes, George had completely calmed down and came out to find me in the kitchen getting dinner ready. He watched me, right by my side, asked what different things were and then...out of nowhere he wrapped his arms around my body and squeezed. We smiled at each other and then he ran outside to play with his siblings.

The same thing happened on Tuesday. There was a time of discipline and soon after, George gave me a huge hug. It has amazed me how George is now responding to the discipline! He needs it. He feels secure knowing where his boundaries are. And, he sees his little brother getting disciplined the same way, which I think is a great example to George how Mom and Dad discipline but then forgive and love. George is now reaching out to me, as if he is saying he is sorry and he knows what he did was wrong and checking to see if I will still love him.

I have been happy to give him that reassurance that yes indeed, Momma still loves him! I will take my two hugs and let that carry me through the difficult times that I am sure will arise today. Who knows, maybe we'll go for three in a row?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day

I laid in bed listening to a very quiet house on Mother's Day. No one was up yet and I thought about what I wanted more than anything this day. I did not want breakfast in bed, a new diamond ring, or even a gift certificate to J. Jill (although - someday those things would be nice!).

What I wanted was a picture. Simple as that. When I first became a momma, I remember Joe lifting a very pudgy baby girl who was dressed in a frilly frock into my arms and grabbing the camera. That was and still is one of my favorite pictures for it represented a new part of my life, being a mother.

A few years later, Joe took a picture in the backyard of the first house we owned. Ellie had her signature bob by now and was sitting at my side with a perfect bow. Harry was squirming in my lap, he was about 6 months old. He had a curl in the middle of his forehead and a knowing smile.

After these, there are two more pictures that signify a new kind of Mother's Day, for they included our newest child. Each one of those pictures mean so much to me

I haven't had a new picture for 3 years. And as I lie there, I thought how great it would be to have a new one, this time representing the new phase of our lives with George.

Our day started out OK - the usual, if you ask me. But, right before church we had a tantrum over shoes. I think it was because I asked him to put his shoes on and since Joe was home, George is all about Joe! I left the house and got the other 4 into the van, but could hear my wonderful husband sitting George down and saying, "You need to listen to your momma!"

George did well in church and we came home and had a small cook out of grilled chicken and sweet potatoes. The kids drew self-portraits in chalk on the driveway and put my favorite verse on the front steps, "He will gently lead those with young." We played two-square, baseball, played on the swings and batted balloons around the yard...it was a fun day. Slowly, George started warming to me, laughing and eventually throwing a frisbee with me.

After dinner we were all tired as could be, so we put the kids to bed early. That night, George let me kiss him on the forehead and say "Good night. Sweet dreams." And he answered, "Good night, Momma."

I didn't get my picture, but I have the memory of my first Mother's Day with George being one that saw us continuing to grow closer together. For that, I am grateful!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Story of God's Provision

I have wanted to share the story about our trip home for quite a while now. It is such an amazing story of ups and downs, but I have debated about whether or not to "start from the beginning" before telling this one. But, the more I think about it, the more I feel that I need to share the amazing thing that God did.

Just imagine being with a grumpy, tired, frustrated and angry 6 year old. Then, put that grumpy, tired, frustrated and angry child on a airplane...for 15 hours! And, this 15 hour flight came on the very end of a very long day in which this grumpy child ate until he threw up, practiced riding a scooter on black-top for 4 hours in the heat of the day, refused to clean up, and had a nagging blister beginning to form on his foot. That sets the scene for our trip home.

Joe and I were really struggling in Africa. We longed to just get home, we felt that if we could only get George around our other children, he would see what a family looks like, how children interact with us and how much we long to hug, cuddle and hold hands with our kids. Miraculously, (another story to tell) we were able to get our flight changed to come home a whole day early with NO CHARGE! We were ready to pay big bucks just to get home...but wait, that's another story.

Back to the airport. The Ethiopian airport is different than the US airports. Once you went through security and checked in at the gate, you were trapped with no restrooms - unless you wanted to go through security again. Why would we balk at going through security again? Well, George would flip out! He would see the arch-way screeners that we all have to walk through and he would scream (tribal war scream) become limp, fall the ground, kick, punch - anything to not go through that arch. This happened at the US embassy and also at the front door of the Addis Ababa airport, so we knew the routine well. And we just didn't want to go through it again.

But...of course, we ask George to go to the bathroom before going to the gate. Refusal. About 10 minutes after going through the dreaded arch, we sit down (with a very angry George who doesn't understand why we are not getting on that darn plane!), when he yells out "Ka-ka!" For those who don't know Amheric, you guessed it, that means he has to go #2. We have a choice - wait an hour to board the plane and have him go there (not a good choice), or Joe would have to leave his boarding pass and passport at the ticket counter, leave the gate area, take George to the restroom and then...oh no...go through the arch again. I looked at Joe with the look of, "Are you kidding me? This is a no brainer - you are taking him!"

About 45 minutes later - yes, that is really how long it took to go through the whole process - they finally are sitting with me again. Joe and I are at our wit's end, we are spent, and all we want is to get home. We have had such a horrible week we actually think if we lose George in the airport, we won't feel bad.

Then, this man walks by.. our eyes meet and he gives me a little smile. For some reason, I am drawn to this man. I don't think Joe saw him and soon after the plane starts boarding those with children. Off we go.

For the next 15 hours, we deal with a screaming, kicking, whining child who recoils each time we try to touch him. He insists on wearing the headphones even though they are too big and refuses to let us help him adjust them. He switches the channels on his video screen every 3 seconds. Flip, flip, flip...over and over and over again. He can't understand anything, but he just flips again and again.

I spend a LOT of this flight crying. What have I done to my family? Other adoptive moms walk around the plan with their fresh smelling babies who are cuddled up on their chests. The dads take turns walking around the plane and showing off their smiling babies to all admirers. Meanwhile, we sit with a dirty, smelly, unruly child while people stare at us with looks of disdain. I cry with other moms who assure me, life is not peachy with them either. We all agree, Satan is hard on the offensive here and we are all vulnerable.

I notice the gentleman from before is sitting two rows behind us. I am sure he watched quite a show!

We finally land in Dulles and get shuttled straight to customs and immigration. In the line, things seem to be settling down and I turn around and the man is in line right behind us. We start talking and he introduces himself to Joe and I and then says, "My name is Mark. I am an international adoption counselor with YWAM". (YWAM stands for Youth With A Mission). Are you kidding me? He immediately starts talking to us about what he has seen and gives us some much needed free counseling on the spot. He urges us to get home and establish clear rules and boundaries. Be consistent, firm and loving. Teach him that through discipline, he will learn trust and bonding. He tells us to hang in for one week. One week home will make a huge difference, he kept reassuring us.

At customs, we part ways as we get called into different lines and Joe and I are starting to feel pretty good. George is doing OK, we are moving along and we are so happy be back in the clean and organized USA!!!

Then, and please excuse my language, all hell breaks loose. As we are sitting in immigration, waiting for our name to be called, George freaks out. And this was the biggest freak out ever. Screams that made everyone uncomfortable. Screams that went on and on. We were trapped in this area and could not leave, no one could hear the officers call out names, George starts kicking, punching, taking off his clothes. Joe picks him up and takes him to a back corner and tried holding him down. The screams get worse and worse. Women start surrounding me, not knowing what to say. Then, one beautiful woman asks if she can pray. They all lay hands on me and pray, pray, pray! We are all crying. Women standing afar are crying. Men are troubled and asking what they can do to help. Things could not have been worse - yet at the same time, Christian men and women were loving us.

They were showing the love of Christ in their compassionate looks. They were praying for us. They were doing anything they could to help.

We were rushed through immigration and customs, I think because the officers just wanted us out of there. We got to another counter where we finally figured out what was going on - Geroge's blister was so bad he couldn't stand it anymore. We finally calmed him down and were able to meet his need (a huge step in gaining trust!). We put two bandaids on it, put a clean pair of socks on and found his old tennis shoes. He finally settled down.

But...what was up ahead? Another security check! I almost collapsed to the ground right then and there. This meant not only another dreaded arch, but also taking off the shoes! How do we explain that what we just fixed, we now needed to un-do? He starts a fit over again, more screaming, more kicking. I beg the officer, can he just keep the shoes on? Of course, the answer is no.

Joe and I work as a team to get the shoes off, and then get the screaming, kicking child through the arch way and get all our stuff through the scanner. I don't think I can take another step at this point. I really was ready to give up completely.

Sitting there, just on the other side of the arch was the man, Mark. God had told him to wait for us and there he was. Smiling. Like an angel. And, right next to him was another adoptive couple who was a pastor. Immediately, these three godly people wrap us in their arms and pray over us and George. Right there, as travelers are bustling around, people are scrambling to get their shoes back on and catch flights, there is a picture of God's people serving each other. Joe and I just both sobbed.

And we were lifted. We could make it. Peace fell upon all three of us. We caught our next flight and a happy George had a window seat and stared outside all the way from Washington, DC to Chicago! God's grace is sufficient.

A few days later, we emailed Mark just to thank him and tell him how grateful we were for him. His letter in return astonished us! He said he could see Christ radiating through us. I could not believe it! You mean, when we were at our lowest, weakest, most broken place - this man could see Christ?

This lesson slapped my in the face. All those times that I think my having it all together with my perfect little family smiling and healthy was not portraying the Love of Christ. Instead, it was a time of complete surrender and brokenness that Christ had the chance to shine through me. There was nothing of me left - all there was was Christ.

Oh, so many lessons were learned on that day. The power of prayer. The beauty of God's people serving each other. The bond that brings Christians into loving relationships even when you don't know anything about each other. And, what it really means to be a broken vessel that allows Christ's love to shine through.

I want to continue to be that cracked clay pot. I want to continue to let others see Christ in me when I don't even realize it - because I learned that is the only way that He truly does radiate through me.

Thank you, Lord, for getting us through that day. And thank you for your provision. I love you so much!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Emotional Age

I have to admit that I am a bit dumbfounded that I could forget so many things I read while preparing for this adoption! I know certain things could happen, but for some strange reason, it is like a light bulb suddenly coming on and me saying, "Oh yeah. I remember reading that!"

After knowing George for almost 3 weeks now, I keep saying he is very much like a 3 year old. He enjoys playing with Lincoln and he acts a lot like Lincoln. He throws temper tantrums like a 3 year old and I am struggling with the constant discipline it takes to get a 3 year old to the magic year of 4 when things seem to level out. It has always been the case in my family that the 3s were much harder than the 2s, so I never quite understood the phrase "the terrible twos".

So, as I watching the "7" year old who acts a lot like a 3 year old, it finally dawned on me that what George is going through is pretty common among children who have been in orphanages. He has regressed in his emotional age. You know how moms love and cuddle and comfort their children until the kids don't want or need that anymore? Then, those babies become toddlers where they learn what is appropriate behavior under the constant supervision of a loving parent. In that safe zone, they push their moms and dads, challenge all the rules and ultimately (our hope) come out of those years with some self-control, confidence and maturity. I think that in those crucial toddler years, George's emotional stability was disrupted. He buried his father. He watched his mother getting sicker and sicker. He was eventually left at the door of an orphanage watching his mother walk away from him. Talk about stunting emotional growth.

What I am experiencing now is a toddler who is pushing and challenging and testing to see if this is a safe place to learn all those important life lessons. In my mind, a switch has suddenly gone off that is saying, "Let him be a toddler!" By letting him act like a toddler I am showing him that I love him unconditionally and that this IS indeed a safe place to learn and to grow.

I am looking forward to the day when we can talk to George about what these first few months were like and to praise God for how far He has brought all of us!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Utmost for His Highest

The Spirit was leading me to open up Oswald Chambers again. I often go months upon months of meditating on the words this man wrote in his great book My Utmost for His Highest. And then, I tend to put it away for a few months as the material gets so weighty, I need time to digest.

So, I picked it up today and this is how Chambers concludes May 5th: "If Jesus ever commanded us to do something that He was unable to equip us to accomplish, He would be a liar. And if we make our own inability a stumbling block or an excuse not to be obedient, it means that we are telling God that there is something which He has not yet taken into account. Every element of our own self-reliance must be put to death by the power of God. The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moments that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power."

This speaks so much to my heart right now. I can not doubt that God is, in this very moment, equipping me to love and nurture a little boy who has very little feeling for me. I can not doubt that God is teaching me in this moment what it means to crucify my self-reliance (again!) and admit how utterly weak and helpless I am. I can not doubt that He is strengthening me!

I am thankful for these little bits of encouragement!

What I Like About George


Although this morning started out as usual (not good), I am determined to focus on the positive. So...here is a list of things I like about George:

1. He can play with one match-box car for hours and be happy!

2. We have connected through sports; he is very athletic and coordinated. He can already hit a baseball and throw very well!

3. He is very determined. George has mastered a Razor scooter in a week.

4. He acknowledges his boundaries. When I showed him how far he could go on his scooter down the street, he listened and has obeyed each time.

5. He likes to show us how he can write his ABCs and his 1,2,3s.

6. He sat quietly in church!!

7. He enjoyed his first french fry, his first hot dog and his first meal out was a blast at BW3s. He spent the whole dinner pointing to all the TV screens with excitement.

8. He is fascinated with cars and wants to know everything he can about them. He also loves to point out "Momma's car" and "Daddy's car".

9. He loves shoes.

10. He folds up his clothes and puts them away neatly in his drawers.

11. He is starting to have a very cute sense of humor.

12. He goes to bed wonderfully!!! We tuck him in, he throws the covers over his head and then goes right to sleep.

13. By evening, our family is all laughing together and enjoying George's company.

14. He likes to sing "I like to move it, move it!" and do a silly dance.

Each day we see progress. Each day I see hope. Each day I see what my family might look like a year from now. A friend said to me yesterday, "Pretty soon those days will turn into weeks and those will turn into months and before you know it, it will feel like George has always been part of your family."

In the meantime, I keep praying for a softer heart and a more giving attitude.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mornings

Each morning, I breath a heavy sigh, knowing what my next few hours are going to look like. Mornings have become very tough around here. Each morning, George wakes us and looks in vain for Joe who has already left for work. George races around the house, making whimpering noises and calling for Daddy. I try to explain, again, that Daddy goes to work and he will be home around dinner. Of course, George does not understand.

Each morning I put on a big smile and say good morning to George. Each morning he shakes his finger at me, turns his head and has a look of disgust on his face. He obviously does not want a morning hug from him mom. Each morning I offer breakfast, and each morning George shakes his finger at me, turns his head and has a look of disgust on his face. Eventually, he comes back into the kitchen and asks for the same thing each morning, macaroni. So, each morning, I heat up some saved macaroni and cheese and put it in front of him. I offer him water, and usually he shakes his finger at me, turns his head...well, you get the picture.

Right now, I am hear to serve George. That's it. I provide his meals, I make sure his favorite clothes are clean, I race to put his shoes on when he calls and I get very little in return. This is so painful for a mother who is used to her kids smiling when they see her, giving big hugs, and always saying, "I love you!"

But, I can't stop here. If I stopped here each day, I would never get out of bed. What I focus on is how this whole experience is like a huge metaphor of my relationship with God. Each morning, God wants to greet me, sing over me, love me...and I tend to shake my finger at him and say, "Not now. I need my coffee. That will help me wake up." Then, I remember that load of laundry that needs to be finished, pack the kids' lunches, rush the kids off to school while in the back of my head I am thinking about how I should have spent some time with God before starting this hectic pace. So, God patiently waits for me to just come and sit with him. And, I still don't. In the meantime, I ask God for all kinds of things, "Can you please sell our house? How about giving us a beautiful day so we can play outside? Have you seen Harry lately? Can't you heal his cold?" On and on my list of requests makes it way to God and I expect an answer.

How much I am like my son! What I want from George, is all God wants from me! And I still can't seem to give all of myself to God. I keep telling everyone who asks how this process is like going through the fire - I am being so refined! I am seeing all the junk that is burning away. I have yet to see what is left, because I am still in the furnace, but I need to be thankful that this is where I am.

Every day God has been faithful to me - He has seen me through each and every day, even the mornings! I am praying over and over that God would change my heart because right now I am struggling to love. In my head, I understood that George might not love me right away, but when the reality of the rejection faces me daily, my heart breaks each and every moment. That broken heart then says, "Forget this! This isn't worth it."

This isn't true! I have to keep focus on what I know to be the truth. God called our family to this and He will see us through. I keep going to the Psalms, especially, "lean not on your own understanding." My mind needs to be remade into the mind of Christ; one who willingly sacrificed all, one who loved the unlovable and one who poured out grace and mercy on anyone who needed it. I must become more like Christ!

Lord, forgive me for my selfishness and my lack of compassion. Forgive me for continuing to think of how this is affecting me. Forgive me for not loving the way I should. I need you, Lord. Fill me with your compassion, love and mercy so I can pour that into this little boy. Amen.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Living Hour by Hour

Many friends have been calling! Thank God for friends who call just to check in. Even if I don't answer the phone, it means so much to hear a familiar voice just saying "I'm praying for you," and, "Love you friend!".

I wish I could start describing our trip to Africa, for it was an amazing time of great spiritual growth and learning. I am just not there yet. Right now, I check my watch and say to myself, "I can make it until the next hour." Then, I will myself to hang in there, smile at George and sit on the floor to play with him (even if he doesn't want me to).

I do have to report that there is progress day by day! There really is positive change that is happening right before my eyes. There are more smiles and there are even giggles. There is more communication each day and George is now allowing me to give him a little hug (praise God)!

I am worried about my bio kids - they are all affected during this adjustment period and they are all coping in their own way. Harry just sat down and said, "I think I have lost how to look at the bright side of things." Eleanor gets very protective of her natural siblings. Isabel feels responsible for George's behavior. And Lincoln is dealing with having a sibling who acts very much like a spoiled toddler (not unlike some other spoiled toddler we know and love :)) Joe and I are constantly reassuring them that our family will be closer after this period and we will all have a testimony to the grace and mercy of God.

I was especially encouraged by my friend Carole who has "been there, done that". She had such kindness and such compassion in her voice when she told me everything would be OK. I think that is all I needed to hear! Someone to give me an time table of when things will start getting "easier". I know we face a long, long time of adjustments, communication issues - and then once those are dealt with, we have to help heal George from abondonment issues and leaving his life in Africa.

Sometimes, I get very angry at God for leading my down this path. Why would He chose such a hard road for me right now - my life was getting pretty "cushy". A redeemed marriage, wonderful, healthy children, amazing friends. Why did God want to move us out of that comfortable life? I have to laugh out loud! Of course, God would not want me to stay there - what opportunity was there for me to lean on God? In what ways would my character by refined? How would I learn what it means to pray my way through a day - and find comfort in that?

Oh, the lessons I am learning about our God! He IS faithful! He does give me encouragment, love, hope. He uses His people to minister directly to me and He uses a gentle wind to love on me. Never before has God felt so real to me, and for that, I am eternally grateful for this period in time.

By the way... God blessed us greatly by selling our house! 4 weeks on the market, full asking price and no contigencies - how amazing is that? Where are we going? I have no idea - but I am not anxious about that - God will lead us to where He wants us to be. I know that! Until then, we wait. That has suddenly become a much easier thing to do.