Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Good Morning

I always feel like I need to run to the computer to share when our days are good....so I remember that many, many days are good ones.

George was just a great kid this morning! He woke up the first time I asked him to get up, he got dressed right away, he sad down to eat breakfast with no complaints...and then he sat on my lap during Bible reading.

What was special about this morning is that George was just one of the kids...no special invitations were needed, no talks, nothing unusual. He was just a Weldie this morning. And it was so nice!

I think God gives me glimpses of what life will be like...someday...just to keep my hanging on. This is what I have been longing for, a day where George is so secure in my love for him, that he simple IS.

Every school morning, the kids and I read our 5 Psalms and 1 chapter in Proverbs. Even though George may not understand all the words, I am so confident that the Word of God is being planted into his heart and mind...and then trusting that The Word will do a work in his life. He always enjoys our reading times in the morning and he know calls his Bible his "Jesus book".

Very appropriate, huh? It really is a Jesus book - for everything points to and then extols the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Even a 6 year old Ethiopian boy gets that.

Anyway... it was a good morning and I praise God for what He is doing in our lives. I am thankful for a beautiful sunrise, a healthy family and a hand-picked boy who is coming along.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

More Grace, More Mercy, More Love

Sometimes it really stinks being so honest about how I feel. I definitely put myself out there, subject to judgements by people I don't even know. That is tough. So, I pray that there is no judgement when I share about the struggles going on in my heart.

I am conflicted in my heart. Here I am, an adoptive mom, and yet, I can't seem to have enough love, grace or mercy for George. He doesn't know that. I do a pretty good job of faking it still. So, that is one side of me. The other side is passionate about adoption and orphan care. My heart breaks for the orphans of the world and I cry as I see pages upon pages of pictures of waiting children. I can't seem to justify these polar sides of me right now.

I feel a bit of a hypocrite encouraging others to adopt, wanting to educate the church I attend, being a part of an adoption ministry. Do I deserve to be an advocate for adoption when I am finding this such a difficult road?

This weekend, I looked at Joe and I said, "I think we are losing our kids." Eleanor had just smashed an innocent caterpillar (very unlike her), Harry retreats to another room every chance he can get, Isabel is lying about lots of things, and Lincoln is picking up habits from George (like throwing things or hitting himself when he is mad). All of these things happened within a five minute span and both Joe and I lost it. And then I realized, they are so stressed from having George around, just like we are! We are all just at a point of saying, "Enough!" We are all exhausted of the tantrums and the whining. We get tired of day after day making concessions for George.

And before you think it...I KNOW this is wrong! I know we need to be full of sympathy, always understanding that we brought a boy, against his will, into a totally new family and lifestyle. OF COURSE he is going to struggle! I know these things, but the reality is that living it wears you down.

But, I have to keep going back to the fact that life is getting better! George is getting better...but we are all so tired right now. This is a marathon, and we have just run about 15 miles and we are worn out, our feet are sore, we need a drink of water and the thought of running another 9 miles seems daunting!

It in ONLY through the living water of God that we are able to wake up a new morning and celebrate the family we are now. Like I have said before, I am no longer mourning the loss of what used to be, but I think I have just moved into another stage of grief. Anger? Probably.

As Joe and I cleaned up from dinner last night, we talked about how we have to stop feeling so sorry for ourselves. What we need is more grace, more mercy, and definitely more love. Bottom line, we need more of Christ!

I know this is hard, but I know that every day it gets a little easier. And this difficult journey has not diminished my passion for an adoption ministry at my church. I long to see more orphans put into loving Christian homes where they can tangibly learn about the love of God...a God who meets all their needs and loves them enough to put them in a home. I know God does not want a world where there are orphans. His word is so clear about that...there really is no room for debate. So, why are there still so many orphans in the world?

So, I vacillate between just getting through the day and learning how to truly love the orphan God has chosen for me to raise, to wanting to educate and encourage thousands of people about the joy of adoption. Doesn't make sense. I think it is, yet again, one of those things can only be made true in God's economy.

Until then, I will pray for more grace, more mercy and more love...for all of us.

Friday, September 25, 2009

An Opportunity to Mother Him

I was awoken at 3:15am this morning. It was that mommy instinct that wakes you up and won't let you settle back to sleep. I couldn't hear anything, but felt the need to go downstairs. I thought I would just lie down on the couch, maybe a change of scenery would help me get back to sleep. But, that is when I heard George whimpering...nothing loud, but very, very softly.

I tip-toed into his room, thinking he might be having another bad dream and I decided to just rub his back, hoping that would reassure him that he was in a safe place now. After a few rubs, he said, "Eye hurts.". He said eye, but he pointed to his ear. I felt his head. No fever.

Immediately, "nurse mommy" kicked into wide-awake, full throttle. I invited George to come out on the couches with me. I got a blanket and snuggled him in. Then I went for a vial of garlic oil (Lisa...I still owe you this! Maybe I have been holding on to it - unknowingly - for just this moment?)that I suddenly remembered had been rolling around my make-up drawer. I heated it up, and then gently dropped the oil into his sore ear. And then we just sat together. For a long time.

We eventually drifted back to sleep and that 5:30am alarm came much too quickly! I grumbled a little as Joe found me on the couch and said it was time to get up. He wondered what I was doing, and I filled him in on George's sore ear. George was awake, now, as well, and began talking about what he wanted for breakfast. He seemed like he was feeling better.

Joe wondered if he had ever had a cold in Ethiopia. Isn't it funny how we wonder about those kinds of thing? Are there cold viruses in Africa? Has he been sick with a cold and a cough before? Does he even know what an ear ache is? We talked about this and Joe said, "Of course he has had a cold before. Maybe he has just never been "mothered" through it before."

I realized what a difference a mother makes. A mother wakes up in the middle of the night to warm up some oil and put it in his ear. A mother sits with her son reassuring him that he will feel better. A mother doesn't complain about these moments, but actually finds peace in them.

It is heartbreaking for me to now think of all the millions of orphans who are not being mothered. No mothers hugs or smiles or pats on the back for 147 million children. What do they do at night when they have an ear ache?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tests

If anyone struggles with pride, I suggest adopting an older child, preferable from a different country. Seriously, though. I have a pride issue. And for years (starting seriously a few years ago), I have begged God to take away my pride. And, when you ask God for something like that, He will surely answer you with a big fat, "Here you go!"

Oh, if I could just go back in time and un-do so many things that I have said, and so many attitudes I have had, and so many judgements I have made! It saddens me to think of how foolish I was, but I am happy that God has decided to stick with me and cause me to grow.

This has been the most humbling experience I have had. I can't do any of this in my own strength or in my own might. A few years ago, I would have cringed at even thinking this...today, it is a relief to admit that I am totally weak, that I make tons of mistakes, and that I seriously can't do this on my own. I need my husband, I need my kids, I need my friends...and most of all, I need a ROCK to lean on.

Our days are not that bad anymore, keeping life in perspective. George is doing so well in school, and he goes to Awana, and he handles discipline so much better! This past week, as George has exited the bus, he puts his head down and walks away from me. I would rush over to him, hug him and ask him what was wrong. I would hush my other children, who excitedly wanted to tell me about their days.

Today, Eleanor said, "Mom. He is fine. He is laughing on the bus, he is happy to see me. He is smiling when he sees you walk down the driveway. He's playing a game with you."

So that is exactly where we are right now in George's development. In the morning when we read our Bible, George suddenly sulks in the other room, waiting for his personal invitation to join us. When I say it is time for school, he hides in the garage until I come find him and urge him down the driveway. When he gets off the bus, he acts like something is really wrong until I check his backpack and look at his work first. At at night, when I say it is time for pajamas, he sobs in the closet until either Joe or I go in and say, "Enough! It's just pajama time."

I know this is all testing...but with 4 other kids testing me in their own ways, I am getting exhausted with these testings. After Eleanor confronted me about George this afternoon, I realized all the other ways he has been manipulating me to give him my first attentions.

So, how do I convince this child that he is so important to me, but there are lots of siblings that need mommy too? I am at a loss of what to do or how to handle him in these moments. My mommy gut is saying love him through this phase, for that is all it is. My selfish side says, tell him this is ridiculous and to grown up.

Am I the only woman out there who actually has these battles within her mind over many reactions toward her children during the day? I feel like I see all these other moms who calmly go through their days and always make the right decision. I would like to think I usually make the right decisions...it is just that it seems I have this discourse between my spiritual self and my fleshly self every single time. I really have to battle fatigue, hunger, and frustration, all the time - and my "self" who so desperately wants to do something for herself most of the time. Sometimes I feel like a woman on a lonely planet, the only one who has to crucify that ugly part of my mommi-ness every day.

Being a mom is all about being a servant. Being an adoptive mom is all about being a super-servant. Not that I am super, but that my serving needs to be super, above and beyond. Sometimes, I just don't know what to say as I come to the end of my post...this is one of those days. I just need to go pray, again, that I will love my son tomorrow morning when the sun comes up. God is faithful...He'll be sure to fill me up. Until then....goodnight.

Obessessed With Seats - Warning: VENTING!

I think I am about to lose it - the next time we are all in the van, I think I may just have to scream! Well, that is an understatement. I have already been screaming. I was going to write that I might drive my car off the road, but I was afraid that someone out in cyber-land would actually take that statement seriously and write me a nasty annonymous comment again. Anyway, I am getting deseprate, the kids very soon are going to pop in to find assigned seating!

This is no joke...I am so tired of having THE SAME conversation over and over and over and over and over again with George. He wants to sit in the front seat. He doesn't understand seat belt laws. booster seat laws, car seat laws or the fact that children under a certain age can not sit in the front seat. He gets frustrated that Eleanor can sit in the front seat.

So...every single time, and I mean every single time we are about to get in the car I hear the same question...."Can George sit next to Momma?" This means, can he sit in the passenger front seat. I say the same thing every single time, "No. You are not old enough to sit in the front seat."

I get the same reaction every single time, "NNNNNNNNMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAAANNNNNN" (trying hard to figure out how to type this absolutely annoying whine that is similar to finger nails on a chalkboard!)

Next day; "OK kids, let's run to WalMart and get some milk."

"Can George sit next to Momma?"

"No. You are not old enough to sit in the front seat."

"NNHHHHMMMMMMNNNAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!" This lasts for about 10 minutes.

We walk out of WalMart and are about to get into the car.

"Can George sit next to Momma?"

"NO. You are not old enough to sit in the front seat."

"AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHWWWWWWWWWWWWNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN." This lasts until we get home.

So, we also add another scenario into the equation: where does George sit when not all 5 children are going somewhere? At every single chance, George is trying to "move up". He races to the car, shoving Harry and Isabel out of the way to get to one of the chairs in the middle of the van. EVERY TIME!

Then, we have the added problem of where Lincoln sits! I still need to buckle him in, and he is in a booster seat. Because of that, I want Lincoln in one of the middle seats (so I don't have to crawl all the way to the back). This infuriates George. So, he tries to move up. This infuriates Harry who also wants to "move up" in the van.

Finally, the HUGE problem of all 7 of us in the van. This means three kids are in the back...and they ALWAYS fight. I am not making generalizations here; they ALWAYS end up fighting. The common factor in the fights: GEORGE. He is usually so mad about being in the back that he is whining, and those in the back with him get so sick of hearing his whining that they yell at him to stop. This usually leads to George trying to hit or spit on one of the other kids, which of course, leads to retaliation.

I seriously think I am about to lose my mind! If I move George up to one of the middle seats, Harry gets really mad at me because he thinks he is bigger and "deserves" to move up. If I move Lincoln back, we have the problem of buckling up - and anyway, many times these day it is just Lincoln and I! If we need to put three kids in the back and I put Isabel in the middle, she is our nagging reporter who yells up to the front every detail of what is going on (like "George is picking his nose!" or "Lincoln just farted!" or just the very pleasant sound of her yelling "SSSSTTTTOOOOPPPP!!!")

I am so ready to trade my van in for a 15 passenger van. They can each have their own row then!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oh, How He Loves Us

Last night, we were driving home after doing a family service project in the central city of Milwaukee. The sun had set and the car was dark and relatively quiet. A new song came on the radio, one that my family has loved since before the radio started playing it.

The song builds and builds until a soaring chorus sings, "He loves us, oh, how he loves us! Oh, how he loves us! Oh, how he loves us!"

I was suddenly aware of all five of my children singing this part of the song with such passion and intensity. All of them...singing out about how much God loves them.

I couldn't hold back the tears. Isn't this what parenting is all about? Leading our children to the point where they can sing out in a car about how much their Father in heaven loves them?

Thank you, Lord, for being a God who is jealous for our affections and attention. Thank you, Lord, for moments of pure worship. Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with a full quiver. Thank you, Lord, for that minute in the car that gave us the chance to meditate on how much you really do love us.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Good Weekend

I realized I as typed in the title of this post, that I have used this title before! I guess it goes to show how up and down the adoption process is. After a terrible weekend, we bounced back with a good one this time. Praise God that we still keeping trudging forward.

At one point, yesterday, I realized that George has become my shadow of late. I don't know if it is going to school, or that he is starting to really bond with me. It is probably a combination of both. But, George is on my hip whenever we are home at the same time. There are so many ways that I see George wanting to just be a toddler, despite his age, around his mommy. Where there was no desire for physical affection when we picked him up, George now seems to be in constant need of touch.

Every morning we read the Bible. And every morning, George wants to sit on my lap during that time. At night, when it is time to read books on the boys' beds, George now drapes his whole body over mine (sometimes making it difficult to turn the pages :)). When we are out in public, George reaches out to hold my hand.

Yesterday, it was a beautiful September afternoon, so I decided to pull out this huge blanket and lay it on a sunny spot in the front yard. I grabbed a pillow from the deck chairs, and very happily laid down to honor the Sabbath. Before I could completely get comfortable, George ditched out on his soccer game with his sister and ran to lay right beside me. We talked for a while and then slowly the conversation waned..and then George wrapped his arm around me and closed his eyes to drift off into sleep. I looked at his face and saw a boy with contentment and peace. I don't think I have seen that before on his face.

George now asks me a lot if I had seen him when he was a baby. I answer no, that the first time I saw him was when we came to pick him up. He says he wishes I could have seen him as a baby. I don't know exactly what he means, but I wonder if he wishes that I would have been there...and it is now time for us to recreate some of those mommy/son bonding moments.

I will not lie...sometimes it is just awkward to have a 6 year old wanting to be cradled like a baby. But, each moment we have together just cements our relationship with each other, so I never turn him away.

We still have moments that just boggle my mind....behavior that rears it's ugly head out of the blue....and defensive walls popping up suddenly...but I see such progress! I used to doubt that I could ever love this child the way I love my bio kids...now I believe that day will come. Until then, I am grateful for how far we have come in learning how to love each other. And it really is both of us learning. I can't forget that I am a mommy who probably does things totally different than his birth mommy. I probably play with his hair different (which I am constantly twisting into locks), I know I cook differently, I say prayers differently when I tuck him into bed. He has had to learn that this very pale-faced mommy really does love him, even when everything she does is so different than what he has known before.

Adoption is a wonderful thing! I will never be the same...I am forever changed from the lessons of the past year. And I have learned how desperately I want the orphans of the world to be cared for.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Most Important Thing to Teach George

It is so easy for me to get caught up in teaching George how to read, understand numbers, tell time...all the things that any child needs to get along in American society. George is now bringing home homework and I am enjoying sitting at the table working on numbers and letters.

I am suddenly thrust into two completely opposite ends of the educational experience. I have several children thriving in school, two of whom have been chosen for the Gifted and Talented program. And now I have one who gets remedial help. I have children who come home from school telling me, usually in excruciating detail, about every lesson they had that day. I now have one who can't tell me at all what he did, except to tell me about experiences on the playground. It is an odd place to be, but I am grateful for this experience. I see now what it is like to be the parent of a child who struggles academically and who sometimes doesn't understand the rules and ways. It is humbling to walk into the school...wondering if George behaved that day or if all the teachers are looking at me and whispering, "That is the mom of George." Being humbled...that is a good thing! But, that is not the point of this entry..read on :)

I am often, gently, reminded by God that while those lessons are important, I have a most important lesson to teach George...and that is to tell him about Jesus. I think that George must have seen some passion plays, for he is very aware of the crucifixion of Christ. He often talks about the "mean men" (Roman soldiers) who hit Jesus. When we talk about Jesus, he points to his hands and says, "Jesus hurt here." So, he knows the story - up to the point of Jesus dying.

But, he does not know about the resurrection. We often read a story about the life of Jesus (one of George's favorite books to read at night) and he focuses on the pictures of Jesus being hurt, and doesn't even want to bother with the picture of Jesus on the third day rising triumphantly from the grave. I don't know why....I can't even begin to guess why. But, here is where I must teach George.

Jesus did not just die a horrible death. No, he rose from the dead and now lives in us. The other day, George was having a very, very hard day and with tears streaming down his face was crying, "Jesus come. Jesus come." Again, not sure why and Joe and I were at a loss trying to comfort him. We have tried to teach George that Jesus is in his heart, but also in heaven - such a tough concept for even an adult to get, huh? But, as he cried that night, he held his heart and cried for Jesus.

The idea of forgiveness is a new concept for George. Luckily, he lives with a family who often needs to ask for forgiveness - including his mom and dad :) George understands when it is appropriate to say "I'm sorry." In fact, last night, as I called the kids in from a rowdy game of football, Lincoln was crying. And I saw George continue to get into Lincoln's face to say something. Lincoln kept crying and George kept saying something to him. It took a about 100 yards of them creeping along continuing this pattern before I could hear what was going on. Lincoln was crying, "George took my ball!" and George was replying, "I am sorry, Lincoln!" Even as recent as a month ago, George would have run into his room crying, not willing to admit he did something wrong and surely not willing to simply apologize. But, it is hard to go the next step...forgiveness.

One morning, I was particularly tough on George. I admit it, I was being a little impatient, unsympathetic, and just downright mean. I yelled, a little too loud and I scared George. When I saw his face crumble, I quickly sat down, held his hands and said, "Mommy is so sorry! I should not have yelled. I am very, very sorry." I asked George if he understood that I was sorry, he nodded and we hugged. I left the room feeling OK, but as soon as I was out of the room, he started screaming at the top of his lungs, "Mommy mean to me! Mommy mean to me!"

I will not lie...I had to count to 10 before going back into the room. How do I possibly teach George about forgiveness? How do I teach him about letting the offense go? With our home made children, they don't seem to really understand forgiveness until they understand they are sinners in need of forgiveness. Once they get that, they seem to be much more ready and willing to forgive others.

The task of teaching George about Chris's amazing love that led him to laying down his life willingly so that our sin would be covered seems huge. But what an honor to tell a child about that love! In the meantime, God has asked me to love with Christ's love...that picture of unconditional love and forgiveness is what is going to move him toward understanding God's love. But, every day it is evident that I am not God...and I don't do this very well most days.

If I am not surrendered to God's will and in His Word daily, I stink about this job!

I went to a mom's group yesterday here in our new town. We were asked to think about what is hard about parenting. It was easy for me to come up with an answer. Then we were asked to think about what we have learned from that piece of hard parenting. For me....being a mom to a child who is not my flesh and blood has been, honestly, hard. But the lesson I have learned is so much greater than just how to parent that child...it has been to understand at such a deeper level the love to God for me, His adopted child. And it is ONLY through God loving me, that I am able to love George....and hey, I do LOVE George!

Now That I Have Seen.....

I will never be the same after being in Africa. Everything from flying on the plane to landing in Addis Ababa, to driving around and seeing immense poverty, to being in an orphanage...I have seen, so now I am responsible.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Difference A Day Can Make

After our challenging day with George, Joe and I spent a lot of time talking with George about his behavior. We needed to make it clear that poor behavior at school was not going to be tolerated in our family. We also wanted him to know that we would find out what he was doing in school...and we cared.

I was a little over-the-top in my discussion with George. I was passionate and animated when I talked with him, but I needed him to know that I felt so strongly about him being a good student while at school. For the FIRST TIME, he just sat there and listened.

Usually, when we are "talking" (meaning I am working on a discipline issue with him), George puts his head down, starts crying and shuts down. I get frustrated because I don't think anything is sinking in...But this time something was very different. He listened.

And this is the response I got from his teacher..."What a difference today! The first thing George said today to me was, "Sorry, Mrs. Nelson"! I told him I forgave him. He really tried hard all day. As we were finishing up math right before School Meeting, he said, "I want to stay. I like school." Yea!!!!

I definitely think he is going to be fine. He does work hard and very seldom gets frustrated when he has to redo some of his work. He also has a great foundation being built at home.


I love having him in class.

Wow! I believe the flood gates opened and I cried out of pure joy.

Oh, this journey...it will be years of taking a few steps forward only to find ourselves falling a few steps behind again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Plodding Along

Ok...I have settled down from my over-the-top emotional ride last night. It was simply that within one hour I was bombarded with emails, notes and stories that all centered around the behavior of George. George's behavior is not only affecting him, it is affecting the students in his class, the kids who ride the bus...and my children who feel the need to come to his defense at the same time they want to correct him. Simply put, this is a very complicated issue.

Once Joe came home, and we talked things over, I settled down. We talked to George about being a good boy, being nice. But the bottom line is that we live in a world that doesn't understand a person's background before making judgements. If only the girl on the bus who laughed at George would have understood that he is from Ethiopia and barely speaks English. If only the boy who then threatened to beat up Harry understood that Harry was sticking up for HIS little brother, George, who is an orphan from Africa. If only George's teacher (who is amazing!) had an extra set of hands and eyes in the classroom to help manage several children in her class who don't speak fluent English.

We were able to keep George in a protected bubble for 4 months...I was always with him wherever we would go. I was there to interpret, to explain, to ease the tension. Now, George is out there in the world and is facing scary looks, mocking laughs and whole new sets of rules. He is not equipped to handle this in our American way...he deals with these experiences with his orphaned Ethiopian way. I can't blame him for that and shame on me for going down that path.

I am waiting for the day he softens (thanks Ann Marie for reminding me of all these truths!), and some day HE WILL. Already I see huge changes in the way he responds to correction. Praise God that he listens to correction and instruction from Joe and I without temper tantrums, cries or screams anymore. He is now quick to say he is sorry...another huge praise! As soon as we get one issue dealt with, or mostly dealt with, another one pops up. But isn't that the case with ALL our kids? I have always said that as soon as we work out one discipline issues, the next one is right there ready to go.

This reminds me of how I have often described my heart. My heart is full of weeds, and those weeds are called sin. Getting rid of a weed is not easy business. For those who garden, you know that you can't just pull of the top of the weed. The root is still there and an new weed will pop up over night. Instead you need a sharp tool that digs into the ground to find the root and then you yank it out, roots and all. That is the only way to get rid of sin. God takes his weeding tool and pokes and prods and loosens the dirt around my sin and then we ready, He yanks, and my heart willingly lets it go, and the sin issue is gone. But, guess what? Just like a garden, my heart does not only have ONE weed there! There are hundreds, if not thousands. It is life-long work.

And here is where plodding comes in. We began a study in James this Sunday at church and our pastor discussed the idea of perseverance. He said sometimes it is like "plodding". My mothering of George is going to be life-long work... and we simply need to plod along, always putting one step in front of another so that we keep moving forward. I will plod along, working on one character issue after another. I will plod along, serving and loving George. I will plod along letting God continue to change my heart in this process.

George needs to work on being nice, for in his defensiveness, he can be very mean toward me and his brothers and sisters. I know he is guarding his heart, and I think he may have picked up the teasing and mocking from older kids in the orphanage or from his village. From hearing stories of everyone hurting George to how he slept in the bushes, this poor child has not had the same upbringing of the children with whom he is struggling. They don't understand George, and right now George doesn't trust any of us enough to become completely vulnerable and loving.

This momma is going to continue to plod along, every day choosing to love George. No matter what notes I get from teachers or what stories I hear, I am choosing to love George for the rest of my life.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Am So Confused

My kids came home from school with stories. I get an email from George's teacher. Things are not going well. Apparently, George is causing great problems on the bus and now Harry is being threatened and older boys are making him cry. George is kicking kids in his class and is not listening to his teacher.

I am reeling...my kids have never been in trouble. No one has ever threatened to beat up my child before. What is going on here?

George has very little social skills. He is mean to people..he says mean things to people... he gives mean looks to other kids. Part of it is that he doesn't understand what the other child is saying or doing...the other part is that George's survival instincts tell him to think only of himself.

I am at a loss....I need some serious prayer time.

We have been working so much on character issues lately...I am exhausted from all the correction and training. George is a mean boy. He treats his siblings horrible. He is mean to me. And now I find out he is being mean to kids at school.

Ugh...pray for us.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Education of George

A while ago, CWA asked me if I would write a contributing post for their new blog. I was thrilled and replied, "Sure! Just give me a topic and I will be happy to write something." I was given a topic...school. Specifically, what going to school looked like for our adopted son.

I buckled a bit. There were things in my heart that I didn't want to admit. You see, I used school last year to run away from the realities of life with George.

I read all the literature. I processed all the advice. I even sent emails out to everyone I knew. Everything said the same thing; don't expect us to do anything, go anywhere, or talk to anyone until George was adjusted and bonded to our family. We knew the importance to establishing a firm foundation and a safe haven for George. It was imperative that he feel comfortable in his new house and with his new family. I was ready to say "later" to all my friends and all my responsibilities.

But I wasn't ready for George.

Remember that awful plane ride home? It was on the plane, probably during hour 12 or so, that I looked at Joe with tears streaming down my face and said, "I need to get George into school...right away!" Joe didn't question me...he was feeling the same thing I was. Although we never talked about it openly, we have been married long enough to know what was at the heart of the decision...time away from George. Let someone else deal with his temper tantrums and his selfishness and his anger. I had received more than I had bargained for with this child.

A few days after returning from Africa, I went to the school to inquire if I could put George in the school for just an hour or two and let him work with the ESL teacher. She happened to be walking by and with much zeal and vigor exclaimed the importance of George being in school right away, that he would thrive being there, learning the language and being around other kids. Somewhere in the pit of my stomach, I knew that was not a good idea...but I was so desperate for my life to go back to what it was like before that I jumped on the plan.

I rushed out with George to buy school supplies. He had some very confused looks on his face, but he was easily satisfied by just getting "stuff" at the store. The morning he was to start, I packed his lunch, laid out some nice clothes and then excitedly drove him to school, along with two of my kids who were attending that school.

Big mistake....as soon as we walked into the classroom, George went berserk! He screamed, he cried, he kicked, he ran...all the while Isabel, his "twin", was sobbing at the spectacle that her new brother was making of himself. The teacher looked at me and said, "You better leave...with him!". The ESL teacher came rushing in and suggested we go to the ESL room, maybe he would be more comfortable there.

George was more comfortable there, but that meant he stopped screaming. He still ran out the door and started jumping down the stairs rushing to leave the building. I gave up and came back home...angry at this child! Why wouldn't he just cooperate? Why wouldn't he just behave and be normal?

The same scenario happened two more days and then I finally said, "Enough!" George was not going to school...he would stay home. I was miserable when I came to this conclusion and ashamed at the same time. I KNEW he wouldn't want to go...he was scared, mourning and unsure of everything. His life had just been turned upside down and the last thing he wanted was to be left in a building full of children.

I had made a huge mistake...and know I needed to rely on God to help me restore what little trust we had between us. I kept George at home and we borrowed books on tape at the library. We listened to lots of music and found that we both loved playing baseball in the yard. The whole time, I would talk to him about what things were called. I was determined to get our language in sync as soon as possible.

I couldn't wait for my children to get home from school, so they could "take him off my hands". But they were reeling from the child that came to live with us as much as I was, and they longed to be anywhere BUT home. So, I found myself scheduling lots of playdates and just sitting in the yard watching George ride a scooter up and down the driveway hundreds of times. Over and over again.

I don't know the moment it happened, or what brought about the change..but at some point God gently shook me into reality. He had called me to love this child, no matter what the child acted like! Loving George included just being with him...all the time! When I made the mental and heart change...when I came to the realization that God was expecting me to love George with His love, everything changed.

Life didn't get easier. But, my heart was now open to loving this child. And love has made all the difference in our home over the last four months.

Fast forward to the last week of August. George is getting ready for school...and I am terrified that we will experience a repeat of last spring. I did everything I could possibly think of to prepare not only George, but also the school! Conferences, tours, practice runs...we did it all. And the day finally came for George to hop on that bus and go to school. He did it! This time, he knew that his momma was not leaving him. This time, he knew that school would be where he would learn. This time, he felt loved.

School is going wonderfully! Last night, Joe and I were talking to our neighbor who works as a reading specialist at George's school. She shared this short story with us: "I was walking through the hall of the school, heading to a class next door to George's. I decided to pop in and wave to the teacher, Mrs. Nelson. Mrs. Nelson rushed over to me and whispered, "Look at George!", and there he was, working with another little boy sorting shapes. They were smiling and working very well. Suddenly George looked up and saw me. He raised his head high, smiled and waved. Then he went back to work."

This story may not mean anything to those of us who have bio kids in school. But for me, this story means the world! My son was learning, working productively..that is a huge praise. Secondly, he raised his head high, smiled and waved...as a confident, content little boy would! Praise God for the changes He has made...mainly in this momma's heart.

I stay in regular email contact with Mrs. Nelson. And George is doing very well. This week he wrote both his first and his last name!

Pray for her....love her

Tiffany had flaming red hair with very blond streaks dyed into it. She wore a nose ring, several ear rings, lots of bangles and charms. She had impeccable make-up, and was wearing all black covered by a blood read jacket. And she sat right in front of me in church on Sunday.

She was obviously a visitor, coming with a boyfriend, his mom and grandmother. Many people knew the grandmother...no one knew Tiffany. As she stumbled her way through the pew, she was facing me and my kids. She glared at George and then made eye contact with me. I smiled. She cringed. Then she plopped down, heavily, into the pew.

She was uncomfortable, and oh so angry. As the worship began, she and her boyfriend refused to stand up. They mocked the people who raised their hands in worship to our Lord. As we sang about an amazing love, questioning how a king would die for us, Tiffany pulled out her wallet and began looking at several tarot-like cards of various gods and goddesses. As the music swelled and more and more people raised hands to worship, her boyfriend formed his hands into "devil horns" (you know, that symbol seen at many rock concerts) and very sarcastically thrust his hand to the beat. They laughed.

I couldn't help but cry. Here I was, in my place of worship where I feel the presence of God so tangibly, and the enemy had sent in a soldier more than willing to laugh, mock and spit in the face of Jesus. My spirit in me wept...I felt it. And I also felt the presence of evil...it was a cloud around the two. Suddenly, I was thrust in the battle...do I watch them, focus on them, obsess about them...or do I turn my eyes upon Jesus and worship in truth and spirit? The battle was on!

It was a good message, one that I needed to hear. And my kids sat listening, as well. We were challenged to take every opportunity to strengthen our "core"; study, prayer, fellowship. But then, stretch out...reach out to our hurting world. Here was an example of that hurting world sitting right in front of me.

Tiffany was one of the most angry people I have ever seen. She scowled constantly, except when she and her boyfriend were laughing their heads off during Jayden's solo (which is a great Willie Nelson song, by the way). As the service went on, George started whimpering (I wrote about this a few days ago) and the boyfriend just stared and stared at us. I couldn't tell if he was just curious, disgusted or maybe, just maybe had a hint of compassion.

Once the service was over, I had an immediate choice. Do I turn around and greet the cute couple sitting behind us who I have been wanting to meet for months (he is obviously from Africa), or do I continue to face forward and wait for this woman to turn around? I chose the latter...even though I really didn't want to. Tiffany was trying so hard to get out of the pew, but Joe was talking to the grandmother. She was stuck...right in front of me.

So, I did it...I said good morning and held out my hand. She didn't shake it. I told her my name and then asked her what her name was. She didn't want to tell me. I then shook hands with her boyfriend and he told me his name (Dick). She decided to say, "I'm Tiffany." I wished them a good day and then rushed out to pick up Lincoln from the nursery.

But, before I got to his room, God told me to write their names in my Bible. What? My Bible is full of prayer requests of missionaries locked in Iranian jails, dear friends who have chronic issues, my children's life verses. God said, "Don't get your son until you write these names IN PEN in your Bible." So, I stopped at the information desk, asked for a pen and wrote DICK and TIFFANY in black ink in the front of my Bible. Then I wrote "Pray for her...love her...". God whispered to me, "I love her!"

Again, I am overwhelmed by the love of God. How arrogant of me to think that God has given up on her. Even though she was antagonistic and downright rude in His house of worship, He still longs to wrap her in His arms and love on her. God sent Jesus to die for her...does she know that? Has anyone every loved her with Christ's love?

I don't know if I will ever see Tiffany again...but I will pray for her. I will pray that someone would come into her life who would be Christ to her. Who knows? Maybe it is you!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Gunnar

A New Chapter

I am no longer a homeschooling mom. Big sigh inserted here. I loved homeschooling and I truly believed in it. But, the reality was that I started struggling having three children all working at different levels and rates. And when I added a toddler who was getting very little attention from me, and knowing I would be adding an adopted son...well, I just became overwhelmed.

There was a lot of prayer about putting the kids in public school. I had been advocating against public schools for so long, and even my oldest questioned how I could so drastically change my tune after so many years. But, I truly believed God was telling me to let them go. Go to school, that is.

Homeschooling is amazing and my kids thrived academically. But, they were isolated. They hung out with other homeschooled kids, most of whom were Christians. Trust me, there is NOTHING wrong with surrounding your kids with Christian families who love each other and spend a lot of time together...but some of my kids were starting to resent the uniformity of everyone they were meeting. They longed for variety.

So, I read Going Public and felt God was calling OUR family to get back into the public school system. This meant, not only the children, but the also me. God has been clear that I get involved in the classroom as much as I can, and also to be involved with any sort of parent group there may be.

Believe me, I have heard every argument on every side! I believe this...God calls ALL of us to different things at different times. For six years, He wanted me to homeschool my children. Now, He is asking me to get into the system and be light. I know this from the bottom of my heart, that the Weldie family is supposed to shine in the schools.

Now that we are back in, and we are one of about..well, none, families with an adopted Ethiopian child, EVERYONE knows us! I dropped off George at Awana last night and the teacher said, "Oh, I've heard of you!" But, that means people are watching us...closely.

At church on Sunday, we were confronted with the challenge to BE CHRIST to a hurting world around us. My three older children listened intently and they realize that now, more than ever before, they have the opportunity to BE CHRIST in their schools. I love that my kids are now thinking about how to love their teachers and classmates with Christ's love.

But at what sacrifice? I feel that I have sacrificed a few things...their education and our closeness. I am going to say it...public schools dumb down education. Before you get upset, I was a public school teacher and trust me! Even the BEST teachers out there have to dumb down the curriculum in order to suite the average students. You try to challenge the more gifted students, but at the same time you need to encourage and really work with the challenged students. My kids are coming home frustrated...they already know everything they are being taught right now. They are frustrated with disruptions in the classroom (they only had to deal with a baby brother before). They get frustrated with endless worksheets, even if they know the material. Also, I used to spend all my time with my kids! And that is a good thing...we were close and we talked about everything openly. Who says you should start scaling back your influence or time with your children when that child hits 5 years old! I mean seriously, five?

I found out this morning that Harry is being put in the Gifted and Talented program. Isabel is too young, but will be put in next year. Fine...and maybe this is where God is asking me to get more involved as the G&T is led by parents. I'm sure more is come about this in the future.

So, I am sad about what I have lost, but I have to admit that for the most part, my kids are very happy! Harry is in Lego League (with a bunch of 8th graders!), and his classmates have a flag football team. Isabel is playing soccer. Eleanor auditioned for and made the show choir. And George is learning!!

George came home with his first worksheet...he had written his first and last name, circled a sentence (and even read it to Joe that night!) and wrote two words (ran and can). I did not expect that after one week George would be able to do any of that! Eleanor is making friends. Harry is loving art. Isabel is proving to be quite the driven student (she was so upset that she was not chosen the STAR student of the week - even though she was chosen to be the student reporter last week on a note that went home to all the parents AND she was chose to be the first student reader).

Here, again, is where I am reminded that my children are NOT MINE....THEY ARE THE LORDS. And God has asked me to send them into the schools. I continue to wonder why. But, I am trusting God and in His ability to protect them. My job is to continue to guide them in their way. We start our day reading 5 Psalms and 1 chapter in Proverbs...and then I send them on their way. I have to say a prayer each time they get on the bus saying, "Lord, you asked me to do this after years of home schooling my kids. I am not sure why, but I am going to trust you today."

This is truly a new chapter in my life. Our days are totally different now and I don't always know everything my kids are learning. But what is the same is my love and devotion to them, and the importance to teaching them about Christ. I don't know what God has in store for any of my kids...I am sure it is beyond my imagination right now, but I am positive that this year is all part of shaping who they are today to prepare them for who they will be in ten years.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Day of School





Where Do I Start...Again?

I simply can not go over a week between blog posts! Especially a week in which George started school, all the kids are falling in the groove of going to school, and Joe and I bought a business! I want to share all about all of these things, but when I don't blog for a while, it becomes overwhelming to remember all the details. Tip to any bloggers: make yourself blog so you don't forget!

I do want to share how George has been talking so much about Africa these days. We had a particularly important day on Sunday. I don't know if it was the man in the worship choir, or the man sitting directly behind George...but something triggered a memory and George became very sad. He whimpered a few times toward the end of the service, and when we were walking out, he started truly crying. Joe pulled him aside, got down to George's level and asked him what was wrong.

And for the first time, ever, George said he misses his "Africa Daddy", and then just sobbed. Joe gently led George into the empty chapel and held him as he cried. Together, we told George that we wanted to know more about his "Africa Daddy" and as the afternoon progressed, George told us some pretty fun stories.

George told us how he didn't sleep in his house (which really does look like the mud hut I posted a picture of a long time ago!), but that he would sleep in the growth around the hut. We scoured the Internet for pictures of Soddo, and every time we saw these primitive houses he would squeal and point and yell, "Georgie's house!" But, then he would point to the bushes around the hut and say, "Georgie and H sleep there."

This brings us something interesting...H is his best friend from the orphanage, but we are starting to wonder if they were from the same villiage. Some times George says H is his brother, but after some investigating, I discovered that is not true. George did tell me a story about his mom having a baby. "Baby cry. Baby girl cry. We walk to Soddo and doctor give baby shot. Baby cry a lot." I asked George what happened to his sister and he put his head down and said, "Baby go with Momma. George stay in Soddo." Ugh...I just don't even want to think that he had a baby sister somewhere out there! Later Joe asked him about a sister and he said, "Eleanor and Isabel" but wouldn't say he had an "Africa sister".

Sunday afternoon, after looking at many pictures of life in Wolayta, we went to the front porch to hang out. Out of the blue, George tells us the story about his Daddy having a donkey! He got so excited telling us about this donkey and how George would get to ride the donkey. What smiles he had as he remembered the fun of riding the donkey as his father led it. It made us all laugh.

George has been asking if he can go back to Africa, with us. We are going through a critical point in George's life where he it seems that he is ready to embrace life in America, yet does not want to lose touch with Africa. One other interesting point is that so many other adoptive parents say their children say they are Ethiopian, not African. That is not the case with George. He says, "I don't like Ethiopia. I am Africa." I don't know why...maybe some day he will be able to tell me.

We asked George what animals he used to see and he told us a story about a lion and his "Africa Daddy" shooting the lion. At this point, it could be a tall-tale, but he sure seems convincing! He says there was bad water and good water. The good water was after the rains. The bad water was full of crocodiles and frogs. He said after the rains, he would swim in the good water with his Daddy. Explains how well he swims! He has seen elephants and lions, and of course, lots of crocodiles.

At night, George has become so affectionate toward me. Every night, Lincoln, George and I cuddle on one of their beds and read a few books. I am amazed because only one moth ago was when George began letting me read to him. Now, he is laying on my chest, wanting me to wrap my arms around him as I read. The other day, I was on the phone and he just curled up on my lap and started to fall asleep.

As you can see, we have come so far! But here is where my ugly, sin side will rear it's ugly head. After the months of rejection, it is hard for me to truly wrap my arms around him the way I do with Lincoln. And it is a challenge for me to sit there as he sleeps on my lap. I HATE that I still struggle in this area! George is becoming very loving toward me, and I still have some resentment toward him. I pray that those feelings would be drowned out by an unconditional love that overwhelms him (and me!). I do love George, and I want to meet his needs and make him happy, but that bottom of the heart, adoring kind of love that I have for my bio kids just isn't there yet. Someday...I am confident it will come.

George is doing wonderfully in school! He hopped right onto that bus the very first day and hasn't looked back. He has a fabulous teacher who was "God-chosen" for George. We have received a few emails regarding George's progress in school. We knew he was bright, so I wasn't worried about him picking things up once at school. What I have been worried about is how George would fit in socially. He still does these very African things, that a lot of American children might not just understand. But, his teacher said that George has fallen into a group of boys that play very well together. She also said that George has been part of this group as they have been reprimanded. I gasped when I heard this, but Joe said, "Isn't that great!" His teacher followed with, "I think that is great, too!"

I am not sure what he is learning right now...it's difficult to understand. I do know this, George is happy to get on the bus, and he is happy when he gets off the bus! He doesn't even wait to get into the house to show me his work, as he rips out his paper as we are walking up the driveway. On every paper, he is sure to draw "Georgie", these adorable little stick-figure men.

I'll post the pictures from the first day of all the kids. They are all doing well. All getting involved with school and school things. I am happy at home with Lincoln, but an anxious to lay my plans on God's feet and let him lead where he wants me to go now that I am no longer homeschooling. Ah, homeschooling...that reminds me to write on that topic tomorrow. It has been an interesting transition - not all good and not all bad, just different. I DO miss my kids, though, and part of me wonders if not having George with me all day will hurt our relationship. I do know that I am trying to make the most of the hours we do have together, with lots and lots of talking together. It is cute, because George will say, "I want to talk to you!" That is usually only if the neighbor boys aren't out ready to play - but I am fine with that.

I now see a boy who skips through a wooded trail, a boy who laughs while a puppy chases him, and a boy who holds his head up and says he is happy. That is a long way off from the boy in Africa who slept in the bushes, hid from men with guns and though he would never go to school. God truly loved this boy so much that he placed it on our hearts to bring him home. Now, who's next?