Saturday, October 31, 2009

George, Front and Center

There are things happening that I would have never thought could have happened six months into our adoption of George. How well he is doing in school, the amount of English he is able to speak, how well he is adapting to American culture. We had another first tonight.

Our church began Harvest Fest tonight, our annual missions festival. While other kids were dressing up for trick-or-treat, George was standing in front of the congregation holding up a sign that he wrote..."Will you pray for me?"

It is all part of the processional this year, different than most years. Usually, there are celebratory songs, dancers, fabric draped around the sanctuary. This year, we had children scattered throughout the rows of seats holding up simple black and white signs. The signs read, "Will you defend me?", "Will you encourage me?", and "Will you listen to me?". There is a moment of silence in which all there is to do is look at these children holding their signs. It has the potential to be gut wrenching.

George was placed front and center - now, I could speculate about that, but I won't. It was so cute tonight because he held up his sign, so proudly. He stood right on cue, stood still and held his sign for all to see....upside down!

It didn't matter. There he was, proudly holding up his sign in the front of a congregation that hold 3000 people. He wasn't afraid, he wasn't nervous...he felt important and was ready to do a good job. We all knew what his sign said, it didn't matter that it was upside down. And I ask you...will you pray for him?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

..and the Student of the Month Is.....

George Weldie! The crowd goes crazy...students are on their feet chanting "Georgie! Georgie!"

Well, that didn't quite happen, but this was truly a great moment for George! Every Tuesday, my kids who are in the elementary school gather for their school meeting. The principal encourages good behavior, he goes over announcements and then enthusiastically announces the students of the month.

I have to admit that I was very surprised when George came home and said he was the chosen student. Then I read the note from his teacher: "To George Weldie, You are a very hard worker! You make us proud :)"

Yea for George - our hard worker. After our parent teacher conferences, I had such a different perspective of George. I have needed for someone else to point out the good things about my son. Far too often, I focus on the work that still needs to be done, the refinement of character that still needs needs to happen. It is nice to have someone tell me what they see in George - how far he has come and how well he is doing.

Thank you Lord for encouraging me through the teachers at school. You have used them to remind me of how hard George is working and how gifted he really is. Amen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Let Me Tell You About Harry....

There has been a big theme in our family for a couple of years now....BE a Christian, don't just talk about being a Christian. I have had numerous conversations with my children in our long rides to and from different places, where we talk about not "going through the motions." Thank the Lord for that Matthew West song! It truly has sparked many questions among my children.

Harry, in particular, has been asking a lot about this and on one ride home from soccer practice he said, "I don't want to just go through the motions, but what can a 10 year old kid do to live out his faith?"

We brainstormed some ideas, most of which had to do with witnessing to his peers and his teachers at school. I could tell he was unsettled with these answers, but because I know Harry well by now, I know not to push. I just let it go.

Fast forward several weeks to Sunday, and as we are leaving church, he shows me a postcard about Harvest Fest (our church's annual missions festival) and whispers, "Can I talk to you later about this?"

Sure....my curiosity got the best of me and I took a peek at the postcard. It was promoting Kidsfest and gave some specific ideas of how kids can get involved in missions. The first suggestion was to take an envelope home and commit to praying for a child all year long. Sounds like a great idea!

The second suggestion was to give...specifically give our flip-flops to the kids of the Dominican Republic. Another great idea.

I started running through all the possibilities of what Harry might want to do. Does he want to pray for a child? Does he want to give away his flip-flops...yea, that's probably it. On a trip to the zoo this summer, his flip-flops broke and Joe ran into the gift shop to buy some replacement shoes. He bought the only size close - which happened to be about 3 sizes too big! That is probably it because if he was being truthful, he doesn't even really like those anyway.

After figuring out what my son was thinking - and pretty proud of myself for figuring it out, I totally put the upcoming conversation out of my mind. So, as i settled in on the couch after putting all the kids to bed, I heard the pitter-patter of some feet coming down the stairs. It was Harry with the postcard in his hands.

"Mom, you know how we have been talking about not going through the motions?"

"Sure...", I was ready to tell him how proud I was of him for giving up his flip-flops, but I waited.

"Well, a couple of weeks ago, I prayed really hard to God asking Him to show me a way I can start living for Him...for REAL. And I think He answered my prayer. In fact, I know he answered my prayer. He wants me to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic."

I was a little stunned and we simple stared at each other during a moment of comfortable silence. He pointed to the last line of the postcard - a line I had failed to read once I "figured out what Harry was going to ask me." It read "GO!" and then briefly said a short term mission trip was being planned.

"Mom...I need to do this."

I told him that I would need to talk to Daddy about it. He understood and then went back upstairs to his bed. My 10 year old son needs to go...

I talked to Joe and the first thing I said was how I so desperately wanted to go on mission trips when I was young and I simply never had the opportunity. I am sad to this day that I was never able to go. But now I have a child who prayed about going and now has the chance to go. I would not dream of telling him "no."

I have no idea what this may ignite in Harry's heart...but I do know that he already has a love for the world and he cries out for justice! He sees things so differently than most kids his age..well, for that matter, he sees things so different than many adults! He sees injustice and it makes him angry. He sees hurting people and he wants to do something. How could I possibly tell him no.

I have no idea how we will do this. But..we WILL send him...and send him...and send him. That...I am sure of!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Do We Deserve?

After what seemed to be two solid weeks of cold, rainy weather, the sun finally came out and we had a dry weekend. The leaves have slowly been turning a beautiful autumn delight, but they just look different when the sun is shining, don't they?

We happen to have 5 very large maple trees in our front yard, all colored a brilliant yellow...and fallen. On Saturday, I had one particular complaining, whining child who said there was nothing to do. I took one look outside and suggested she pick up a rake and hit the maple trees.

Before I knew it...we had all five kids out there, plus two neighbor kids and one friend. They raked and raked and raked! The ones that had rakes worked feverishly. The ones without rakes filled garbage bags with leaves. The end result? You guessed it...a giant leaf pile just waiting to be jumped upon.

These kids spent at least 5 hours Saturday afternoon playing in the leaf pile. I thought that would be it. But, Sunday morning, I came downstairs after getting ready for church and found all five kids running through the leaf pile (with explicit instructions NOT to get dirty again). And after church? They all raced out of the truck and tore into the leaf pile. It is now 6:06pm and where are the kids? IN THE LEAF PILE!

I had to chuckle - I had no idea that ONE leaf pile (that happens to be very large) would hold the attention and joy of these children for so long. What joy it is bringing to my heart to hear the squeals and see the leaves stuck in their hair as they come up for air.

Yesterday, Joe and I had the chance to go on a mini-date and we drove to Lake Mills to pray. Probably not what most married couples do when they can get away from their five kids, but that is exactly what we needed. We found a secluded spot on the lake shore...it was silent and the skies had just cleared. And we prayed.

You see, we have had some rough days lately, and we are realizing the only people to blame is ourselves. We had a lot to confess to our Father, mainly for not loving the way He has called us to. As I prayed, a verse came to mind and I had meditate upon it: "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve, or repay us according to our iniquities." (Psalm 103:8-9) As I prayed this verse to our kind Father, I had to confess that I often treat George as I think he deserves.

That stings. I think I probably do that at one time or another to all my children, but I definitely think George deserves worse. This hurts to admit. I broke down in my prayer, realizing how sinful I have been thinking George deserves something harsher, stricter and more painful than I do!

God does not treat us as we deserve! Do you hear that? He is holy. He is perfect. He is sinless. We deserve so much worse that what He gives us. And what does He give us? He gives us compassion. He gives us mercy. He gives us LOVE, unconditional love.

How can I possible do less for George?

Lord, forgive my stubborn heart that keeps going back to resentment, to anger, to frustration. Forgive my lack of love, that I am not loving as quickly as I thought I would or as I should. I thank you for this child who laughs with his brothers and sisters for hours in a leaf pile. I thank you for this child who gives a big hug every night and thanks his momma for dinner. I thank you for the smiles off the bus and the little glances he steals. We are getting there Lord. Only with You leading the way. Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Parent Teacher Conference

On Tuesday, Joe and I had the privilege of attending our first parent/teacher conference for George. As we walked out of the school at the completion of the conference, Joe looked at me and said, "That teacher was God-picked for George."

You probably could have picked my jaw up off the floor several times during the course of the 20 minute conference! We heard such wonderful reports of George's academics and his behavior - praise God!

His ELS teacher started and the first thing he said was, "It's obvious George has a lot of gray matter up there."

Joe and I laughed and immediately agreed.

Apparently George is reading at a level equal to some children who were born and raised in the United Stated - that is unbelievable to me!!! To be clear, George is not a fluent reader, or reading by what most people say reading is. But George does "read" the simple reading books that come home every night through the Title 1 program he is involved in. I read the simple sentence, pointing to each word as we go along, and then George mimics.

And...George now has a spelling list! We are working on it every night and enjoy going over our words (see, he, at, in, the).

The teachers marveled at George's handwriting - it's downright beautiful! And they all just gushed about how happy and well behaved he is. Mrs. Nelson (who we just love) said George is so good for her ego because every day he hugs her and says, "I love school!"

There is incredible improvement for a boy who has been home for under 6 months! As adults, we just can't imagine going to a foreign county and within 6 months be relatively fluent and even doing well in school! The teachers encouraged us and let us know something very important about George....he is NO different than our home-made children!

He is NO different - he saves his "worst behavior" for mom and dad. Isn't that what we want as parents? We want our children to respect adults, listen, behave, etc. And George is doing that! We had a few glitches in the beginning of the school year, but I honestly believe that George did not realize that Mom was going to find out what happened at school. Once George found out that Mom hears about everything - his behavior quickly improved.

And here is the other way he is NO different - he is a good student and the teachers are happy to have him in class! I was so worried about how he would treat others, and how he might disrupt the class (and apparently, in his enthusiasm to share answers or ask a question, his hand is pretty much perpetually "up". But, Harry is the same way :)).

Oh - I just feel like gushing! Praise the Lord for carrying us through those rough days to get to this point!!!

After the conferences, we attended Eleanor's first choral concert at the middle school. As we were sitting in our seats waiting for the first number, George spotted a fellow classmate and asked us if he could go say hello. Another huge shock! Here is this little Ethiopian boy, walking on his own away from Mom and Dad, climbing up 15 rows of bleachers and then standing in front of another boy and his mother to say hello. I have no idea if anything was said after that (this little boy is Hispanic and I think they don't speak much English, so it could have been a really interesting conversation), but HE WENT! He has the confidence to walk over there and say hello - wow!

I just wonder what God has in store for this boy? What is he going to be like when he is a man? Who will he talk to? Who will he influence? Who will he bless? I still read the passage in Hosea often and remember how I clung to the promise at the end of that book - that Israel would be a tree, deeply rooted, and those around it would be blessed.

George's roots are growing deeper....and I am being blessed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"But I Was Worried about George..."

We have dubbed Wednesdays "Crazy Wednesday" around here. I think we can now add an element of craziness to our Tuesdays. Harry and Isabel have been given the opportunity to study Spanish with the local college after school on Tuesdays. Fabulous! Of course we were excited to give those two this chance.

However, this means that Harry and Isabel do not take the bus home on Tuesday afternoons. Taking the bus home involves switching buses at the high school before it swings by the middle school where Eleanor is picked up. For the past two months, Harry has been walking to George's classroom, walking with him to the correct bus and then making sure he gets on the correct bus at the big switch at the high school. Now, on Tuesdays, George is alone to navigate the whole thing.

We have decided that I would drive to school each Tuesday and pick up George. We would then go to a nearby park to "just play" and then get Harry and Isabel when they are done with their class. I called up to the school and asked that someone would make sure George did not go out the buses. Apparently, while Isabel was heading to her Spanish class, she passed George in the hallway, who was all alone and looking unsure of what to do. Her heart leaped.

It all worked out...little did Isabel know, but I was waiting at the front door and George's teacher had asked him to wait outside the door for a minute and she would then walk him out of the building. I reassured Isabel, our little mother of the bunch, that everything was alright.

Well, last night we were driving home from our volunteerism and Isabel AND Harry began worrying about our Tuesday afternoon. They both were thinking of every possible scenario.

"What if...." and "What if..." came from their mouths.

What amazed me was how heartfelt and sincere these two were. They truly were worried about their brother. Yes...their brother. They were thinking of him the same way they would think of Lincoln in that situation. Those two have every reason to be angry, upset, and frustrated with George. He teases them endlessly, he laughs at them inappropriately, he gets in their faces, their stuff, and their way...often.

Yet, they have come so far that they realized the stress of this new situation and felt empathy for their little brother. That was a really cool moment to have with them. I see how far we have come in six months...just imagine where we will be in six years!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chicago

Yesterday found all seven of us, oops, make that all 8 of us (yes, we brought the dog) to Chicago. It was our annual October birthdays celebration with Joe's mom and dad and sister and her family. For days before our trip, I was working with George on saying "Grammy" and "Pop-pop" - the names the kids call them. This brought us many conversations about who exactly are grandparents. The best way to describe this is probably the best we described grandparents to our bio kids - they are "daddy's mom and dad" or "mommy's mom and dad". You should have seen the look of shock when George realized we had parents! We tried to explain aunts and uncles and cousins, to no avail. Every time we talked about a sister, George would say, "Eleanor your sister?" We thought getting the grandparents concept down was a huge step forward. So, much of our free-time conversations centered around extended family...grandparents in particular.

We had a really nice time in Chicago. We walked to a nearby park to let the kids play and I was reminded of how much I enjoy watching George and Lincoln play together. And the best part of the park...there was a teeter-totter! How long has it been since we have seen one of those? The boys had a lot of fun doing all the new-to-them things.

It was a great time for George to just hang out with his grandparents and cousins. He seemed to be very happy. We enjoyed a delicious dinner of chili (perfect for the wet, dreary day it was) and then cupcakes and ice-cream. George did very well while Harry and Lincoln opened their birthday presents and I was so proud of him for that! It was also confirmation that simply doing the parenting thing is always the best way to go.

Looking back, I can't imagine what would have happened if we would have celebrated George's 6 months home or his 1/2 birthday right along with the other October birthdays. Instead, he was just like any 3 or 4 year old, watching his siblings open presents...and having a bit of jealousy, but having the opportunity to grow through the experience.

While Eleanor we enjoying her cake, she took a bit of some taffy and exclaimed, "My tooth fell out!"Oh, there was great excitement at the table, especially from George who yelled with glee, "Eleanor..go throw your tooth at the moon! C'mon, I show you!!!" I can't remember if I had written before about this custom, but apparently where George is from, the children "throw their baby teeth at the moon". I have tried (very little, I'll be honest) to find out the why and the where of this story, but haven't had a whole lot of success. I trust what George is telling us, that he did this and so did everyone in his village. In fact, we just had the opportunity to throw one of his teeth at the moon last week - and it was a very cool, orange harvest moon!This time, George couldn't contain his zeal. He implored everyone to get shoes on and go outside. And we all obliged. Then, we asked George for a demonstration and he did this great slow-motion type throw with a little yell at the end. We all laughed and then counted to three for Eleanor to follow suit. 1 - 2 - 3 - Yea! We all cheered and clapped as Eleanor tossed her tooth at the moon... George being the most excited!

It meant so much to me to have Joe's family see this. THIS is the joy of adopting an older child! He knows his customs and his traditions and he was able to teach us something about his life in Africa. And it was simply a lot of fun. We all listened to him and followed his lead, and oh, how much that meant to this little six year old boy that night.

George ended the day with lots of hugs for Grammy and Pop-pop, and he even told them he loved him...granted he looked at Grammy and said "I love you Pop-pop", but that's OK :)

On the way home...well....let's just say we couldn't get home soon enough. There were some very tired kids and one very tired (and sick - with a cold and cough) mom. At one point, I did turn around and tell every one that I didn't want to hear another word coming from the back of the van...meaning all five children! It got quiet and Joe turned on some music, for as he said, "it was time to worship!"

A few minutes into the song and George yells out, "Daddy! Daddy!"

"What is it, George?"

"Daddy, I'm crying for Mommy. I'm crying because Mommy's grandpa is in the ground. He died. I'm so sad for Mommy."

Harry quietly said, "Yea, Mom. He IS really crying."

I thought back to one of our many conversations when George asked me if I had grandparents, and very sadly I had to tell him that all four of my grandparents had died. George says "in the ground" as his way of talking about death, so I told him on one particular occasion that all my grandparents were in the ground. At the moment, he didn't seem affected at all by this piece of information. He simply asked if Daddy had grandparents.But, something must have triggered the memory of Mommy telling him about her grandpas.

My heart broke. I do miss my grandfathers..and Oh, how I wish they would have lived to seen their youngest grandchild adopt from Ethiopia! And in the quiet of the car, as a simple worship song played on the radio, George was suddenly overcome with sympathy for his Momma.

Did something click? Did he love spending time with his grandparents that much that he started thinking of MY grandparents? I don't know...maybe this was simply a gift from God! God gave me a glimpse into the heart of this little boy...and honestly, I needed this look! We continue to take steps back, but I am realizing that many of my frustrations over the last week were attacks from the enemy - whispering in my ear, yet again, hopelessness and doubt and frustration. That evil one wants me to give up. I refuse! Thank you, Lord, for showing me a boy filled with the joy of sharing something about his culture with his forever family! And thank you for showing me the heart of a boy who has seen great hurt in his life and how for one minute, he felt sorry for his forever mommy and that she had hurt in her life, too.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Update

So, George gets off the bus today and says, "I like Momma now. Can I go get new shoes?"

The Manipulation Continues - Warning - Another VENT

I really don't like doing this...going from a really positive post to another downer. But, I guess this is the nature of our adoption - constantly up and then down.

We had a good day yesterday..although George came home from school and showed me a little worn out spot on the sole of his shoes. He stands at my side and begs, yes begs, for new shoes. When I say we can't get new shoes today, he storms over to the trash can and threatens to throw his shoes in the trash. I told him he couldn't do that. He then say she wants to wear flip-flops. I tell him it's 38 degrees outside, and no, you can't wear flip-flops.

So, he's mad at me.

He must have stayed mad about that all evening. When it was time for bed, after a late night of being at Awana, I simply say to all the kids, "Time for bed." They all go into their rooms, get on their pajamas, realizing how tired they are and hop into bed. Except George.

George is furious, cries, whines and pouts..the full nine-yards.

As he is getting his pjs on, I try to help him.

"I do it myself. No help from Momma."

OK - that's fine..nothing too unusual there.

"Alright. Hop into bed, you've got school tomorrow and you need your sleep."

"No hug for Momma. I like Daddy, not Momma."

Oh, you've got to be kidding me! I hug and kiss Lincoln and say goodnight. Joe comes in and I tell him what George said and Joe responds by saying, "OK, no hug from Daddy either." And we both walk out.

Cold hearted? We are both so tired of this manipulation game! I PARENT him (tell him we can't afford new shoes, his shoes are actually fine, it's time for bed, etc.) and he doesn't like what I am telling him so he decided he will tell me he doesn't like me. He goes to Dad, then, for his hugs and affection and needs. And up until last night, we gave in to that.

I asked Joe, what if Harry said that? We tell him it's time for bed and he shouts out, "Fine. No hug for you, Mom." Over going to bed? I could understand if I would have pulled out his toenails or something like that, but all I did was tell him it was time for bed! Right now, he has this control over us...do we dare parent him like we do the other kids with certain expectations of how they treat us? Or do we continue to say, "Oh, he's had a hard life and so he can treat his mother like crap?" When does that excuse stop being valid?

I am tired of the manipulation. I need it to stop.

What I see now is another example of the fight that takes place over ONE SOUL! I am to love and be Christ to George - and see Christ IN George. The enemy wants nothing more than for me to give up.

Pray for me, if you think of me. This battle is getting old and I am just ready for a boy who maybe stops treating him Momma as if she were the enemy. I know all the psycho-babble, post-adoption mumbo-jumbo. I don't want to hear it. I just want an end to this cycle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Mother's Broken Heart

It happened again...George decided he wanted to go back to Ethiopia. This time, he grabbed one pair of pants and walked out the door and stood in the front yard. He said he was waiting for a car to take him to the airport where he would get on a plane and go back.



What triggered this moment? We had just had fun watching the snow fall. Our neighbor boys had run over to celebrate the moment with George and he was all smiles. We enjoyed a really delicious lunch together that warmed us all. I decided to watch the OSU/WI football game and George happily took his place next to me on the couch.



I got really sick of all the commercials so I decided to play a music video. We have On Demand and The Gospel Chanel has some music videos. One of George's favorite songs is "Two Hands" by Jars of Clay, and I had noticed earlier that video was now on. So, I thought, "Hey - George will love this!" The entire video takes place somewhere in Africa. The band is spotlighting their work of digging wells in impoverished tribes. It is wonderful work and a very beautiful video. Hundreds of African faces...some carrying water containers, some kids splashing in the clean water, shots of kids in school uniforms. Near the end of the video, the African people are celebrating and dancing. George sighed. "I love Africa."



He then goes to his room, picks out a pair of pants and says he wants to go back to Africa. He doesn't even put shoes on or a coat and just walks out the front door to "find a car that will take me to the airport." I watch, a bit shocked, as he stands in the front lawn.

I could not believe it. Within a matter of 5 minutes George went from happy American child watching football, to sad African boy wanting to go home. I can't blame him. He had just seen beautiful pictures of his homeland. Ethiopia is the place he grew up and he did not think it was "3rd world", dirty, poor...he thought it was home. He was there for six year! He has been here for 6 months. I just think if Isabel was suddenly living in the bush of Ethiopia with a new family...after 6 months she might start settling in. But, she sees a video of America. Oh, how her heart would break remembering all the wonderful things about HOME. It is no different for a boy from Ethiopia. That was his HOME, that is where he grew up, played, ate...granted we in our very comfortable American world can't imagine why anyone would chose THAT over THIS. But, I am here to say my son did.

My heart broke. I went upstairs into my girls' room so I could look out the window and see George. Within a few minutes, he obviously became very cold and came slowly back inside. I met him in the kitchen and just started crying. He asked me why. I knelt down and said, "Mommy does not want you to leave. I love you...I really love you. I want you to stay with me."

I have talked about pivotal moments in George's life in the past...this was a pivotal moment in MY life. I realized that my heart broke when George said he would rather chose Ethiopia, with everything that goes with that life (sleeping in the bush, not having a family, eating twice a day) than to be with us. My love for him had been rejected yet again....but I realized in that moment that for the first time, it was a real love. I realized that I would be devastated if George was no longer my son.

I know some of you may think I am cold-hearted, finally coming to this after six months. I can only say you have not walked in my shoes...and I am trying to be as open and honest as possible about this journey. God chose for Joe and I to adopt a boy who completely rejected us initially. I don't believe all adopted older children are like George was. But this is the child God wanted me to learn how to love; to chose to love. I have begged God to fill my heart with love for George, and God is faithful. I did not want to see my son go....

After I cried to George and expressed my love for him, he was quiet for a minute and then asked, "Momma no want Georgie to go?"

"No, son. I want you to stay with me forever."

We hugged, for a long time....and then he put his pants back in his drawer.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

George Sees Snow!!







The Month of Birthdays - What to Do?

October is upon us, and that brings a month of excitement in our house. In October we celebrate 3 birthdays; Harry, Joe and Lincoln.

This month, though, brought much anxiety into my life. As I turned the calendar page over and saw the picture of pumpkins and fall leaves, instead of my usual enthusiasm, I felt deep dread. What was I going to do this month?

I have shared how insanely jealous George is right now. In fact, when I felt the need to write and I told George that I was going to my room just now, he cried and told me this was not my computer. That is his way of saying he didn't want me to go away (although all I am doing is going to my room, right?) Basically, if he is home and I am home, he is under-foot. He is cuddling up, staring, caressing - constantly. If and I dare sit with one of the other children, he cries, walks away and mutters something mean under his breath. I can't even begin to explain how difficult this is for me right now.

For so long, this is what I wanted! I wanted this in Africa! I wanted a boy who needed a momma's touches and hugs and smiles. Why do I cringe inside when he is that way now? My honest nature is to want to pull away, but I know that would be absolutely horrible if I did. So, I am in the stage called, "Fake it 'til you make it". I have to fake that I am crazy in love with him, showering him with all my love and attention until those feelings truly and deeply come. Those feelings are on their way...I can tell.

But, enough of that...not the point I was going to make in this post :) Back to the birthday delima. So, I have three birthdays, all boys in one month. I have a new son who is the picture of the green-eyed monster right now (in fact he is sitting right outside my door this minute asking why I don't want him - time to open the door). We will have three, no four, celebrations this month with presents, cake and attention that will NOT be on George.

I have debated over and over about what to do....do we tone down our birthday celebrations (and believe me, we are already ultra tame!!!). I even toyed with the idea of moving George's birthday to October just so I could point to a day on the calendar a week away and say, "See...yours is coming!" I even wrote an email to my sister and mother in law asking them to not give the others any presents at the family celebration (never sent it, though), instead giving them in secret to the birthday boys.

During some quiet time this week, God spoke to me, "You're trying to avoid parenting him." It hit like a punch to the gut because it was so true. I wanted to avoid the hard conversations, the exhausting energy it would take to go over the same thing time and time again. I wanted to run away from a hard confrontation. Parenting George is major work right now, good work, but WORK none the less and I just didn't want to be a parent.

But God flooded my heart and peace and said, "I will get you through this. Be weak. Be vulnerable. I am your strength." So, I deleted the email, I rejected the thought of moving his birthday up and I decided to celebrate the October birthdays as usual.

Thursday, in preparation for Harry's birthday, I packed the other 4 kids into the mini-van (and yes, we still have the same one, they have been given assigned seats - no joke!) and we drove to the Dollar General. The kids were given one dollar and told to find a gem for Harry. Eleanor found molding clay - great! Isabel found a joke and riddle book - another winner! Lincoln picked up a pack of University of Wisconsin Badger Gum - I had to swallow my pride a bit and tell him it was a perfect choice. George kept looking for things for himself. I must have said 47 times, "We are looking for presents for Harry's birthday.", so much that the other patrons in the store were really sick of hearing my voice! Finally, George gave up and said, "No present for Harry."

Tough parenting stared me in the face. I understand why George is sad. I understand his confusion and his frustration. I wanted to save him from that. But God reminded me that through adversity and trials is how we learn; and George needs to learn a little about celebrating someone else.

I grabbed a WI keychain he had been eyeing and purchased it thinking that I could talk to George about it at home. And we did...we talked about birthdays, what they are, why we celebrate. I told him that Harry would chose the dinner, that I would make him a birthday cake and then Harry would receive a few presents from those who love him. I then explained how we ALL would get to each the cake (that brought a big smile).

Friday came and we all gave Harry our birthday greetings in the morning. Off to school, all was well. Joe decided to come home early (yea!!). We had an early dinner, everything was great. Time for presents. I gulped and said a quick prayer, "Lord, give me the tools to be a good parent tonight." And God came through (why do I still have doubt?). In some spiritual way, He ministered to George through all the gift giving and he was remarkably calm and pleasant. I have to admit he was scared of the bb gun, though. But, when we assured him that Harry would not shoot George, he was fine. We sometimes forget the hard things he has seen.

The cake was a huge hit. I made a pudding poke-hole cake. Remember those? We finished off the evening cuddling on the couch watching Cars, and of course, George was nuzzled in right against me. He got made when Isabel came over to sit on the other side, and even more mad when Lincoln eventually came over to sit on my lap. I looked at him and said, "I want you to stay, right here beside me." He smiled and sighed and stayed.

I promised my kids that night, in my heart, that I would always be a parent...even when it gets hard or I am scared of what that will look like. And I know I have a faithful father in heaven who will guide me every step of the way.

My First PIctures of Me and George Together




It has taken a long time, but finally George will pose for a picture with his momma.




Now if only I could get a good one :)




Pictures from Harry's Birthday











Friday, October 9, 2009

It's Harry's Birthday

Today is a wonderful day! It is the day we celebrate the birth of Harry. 10 years ago today, on a very, very hot day in the San Joaquin Valley in CA, I gave birth to our first born son. So, this post is in honor of this amazing boy.



I have always described Harry as being complicated. He is a deep thinker, a very sensitive boy and one who likes to be alone. But..he also is very funny and can make Joe and I bust out laughing with his very mature wit. I am so proud of the young man that Harry is growing into.



Recently, Harry was the "student of the week" in his 4th grade class. At the end of the week, the students presented him with a book all about Harry. The kids each had a page to write something about Harry, and over and over again, the students wrote about Harry's kindness and his joy. One student wrote, "Harry brings light to the class. Our class would not be the same without his smile, his kindness and his joy."



Harry is now facing new challenges, specifically having a younger brother from Africa. Part of the challenge is the cultural difference, part of the trouble is George's immaturity. But weekly, Harry is confronted with the world being mean to George. Many students here in "very white Watertown" don't accept a boy with dark skin. That makes me sick, but that is for another post. George has been called some names. Like I said, sometimes it is because George does not know how to relate to other kids; his social skills are really, really poor (although he has come so far!!) But the kids on the bus don't know that and they just see a child who laughs inappropriately, stares and points, and then turns his head away when someone IS trying to talk to him. The result? He gets called some pretty bad names. And the result of that? Harry sees it and comes to George's defense!



What is interesting about this is that Harry is the last one of the home-made kids to accept and embrace George. In fact, there are very few times the two of them have even smiled at each other, let alone laughed or hugged. Harry was so disappointed in the boy that came home from Ethiopia. He was hoping for a boy that would be close to him, sharing life with him. What came home was a temper-tantrum throwing "baby". Harry was shocked and disturbed at a boy who would strip off his clothes and scream the top of his lungs when we told him "no". I can't blame him.



While the other kids have let go of that image and seen the changes, Harry has struggled a bit in this area. He has forgiven, he is just having a much more difficult time accepting his new brother.



Or so it seems....on the bus, the girls will shrink down in their seats and try to ignore what is going on. Harry, on the other hand, rises to the occasion, defends his brother and then takes the consequences for him. That makes me very proud of my son.



Harry has changed so much since we started reading 5 Psalms and 1 chapter of Proverbs each morning...and I can say that the Word has done a work in his life, not me. When I told the kids last year of my plan to start our mornings this way, Harry was so angry. For most of last year, he would conveniently need to look for his shoes, or have trouble packing up his backpack, and before I knew it, we were done and he hadn't been there at all. We then worked out a deal where he could be in another room while we read, but he had to listen.

Eventually, he joined us at the kitchen table. Then, when we brought home George, something changed and Harry realized he needed the Word more than anything. He started reading with zeal. He began asking question after question. He would sit at that table and want to talk about what we just read.

Today, he was the first one to the table with his open Bible. He talks about how he "gets" the Proverbs where we are told over and over again to accept discipline. He is asking God for wisdom and watching out for folly who calls out from the streets.

I stand amazed at how God is working in his life. Thank you Lord, for this amazing son you have trusted to me to parent.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

You're A Good Boy, Daddy

We had an emotional evening. There are so many circumstances in our lives right now that are causing anxiety, stress, worry...basically, God is wanting Joe and I to be at the end of ourselves yet again. It is like He is bringing us back to the days in Ethiopia where we just held each other in a kitchen crying. So, there we were...in the kitchen. It seems that Joe and I always end up in the kitchen crying.

The kids were upstairs, playing. But kids being kids, the playing turned into some aggressive playing between the boys. That led to some screaming and yelling and then crying. Joe yelled up at the kids, very loudly. We just needed to talk. Sometimes this house is just not big enough.

Joe's yelling really scared George. We just have not been a yelling house. George sat on the stairs, a little stunned and a little worried. Unlike our other children, who tend to run to another room when things get tense, George comes to us. He looked at Joe and just questioned with his eyes, "Do you still love me?"

"Come here George. George is a good boy." Joe hugged George tight to his chest. George buried his little face into his daddy.

"George, sometimes Daddy makes mistakes and sometimes I yell and say things I don't mean. Daddy was a bad boy to George."

"You're a good boy, Daddy." And then I saw the tear fall down Joe's cheek.

I watched this touching, quiet scene between father and son and my heart swelled with love. I was watching MY SON and MY HUSBAND talk things through.

I can't explain the changes that are going on in my heart, but there are changes. Again, at the end of myself, I can see things so clearly.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Visit Her Blog

If you want to be challenged...if you want to be inspired...if you want to see God using ONE woman to minister to ONE child and then another and then another and then another...go read her blog. See Katie and read about what she is doing in Uganda. Just look for her blog on my side bar - Amazima.

You will be changed.

Looking at Life Through A "Jesus Filter"

We call Wednesdays "Crazy Wednesdays" around here. Everyone who has something extra to do is done on Wednesdays. It is kind of nice, because I have to focus my energies on only one day a week - gotta get it done on Wednesday!

Part of "Crazy Wednesdays" is my chance to attend Bible study. Oh, how that time is necessary and so rewarding. I have to say that I leave every week with some truth or some nugget that I didn't know before.

Today, our small group leader used a phrase that I just loved! She talked about how we tend to filter life's experiences through certain filters. For example, I like to garden, and I have likened my sin to weeds in a garden. I then go further and describe how sanctification (getting rid of the sin) is like pulling weeds out of a garden. Or, I used to be an athlete and I can totally related to "running a race". I equate this walk to a long, hard race. I get it.

What our leader challenged us to do was start looking at our experiences through a "Jesus filter". God is giving us multiple opportunities each day to see Jesus, be Jesus, listen to Jesus, learn from Jesus. But we miss so many of them because we are not filtering those moments through our "Jesus filter".

I thought that was cool.

Everything in my life right now is about Jesus. I am learning how to love like Jesus. I am learning about the supremacy of Jesus. I am being asked to serve humbly like Jesus. Now..I need to start looking at life through a "Jesus filter". I am sure life will look much different.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Who Is Jesus in This Story?

I was a little blown away by a simple sentence expressed at church on Sunday...so I freely admit that I am borrowing from Mike Murphy!

We all know the familiar passage in Mathew 25, but here it is in The Message: "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundations. And here's why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'

"Then those sheep are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me - you did it to me.'

In our very comfortable world, we who are wealthy (and yes, we are all wealthy in the world's standards), we like to "do good" for our hurting world. Maybe it's donating money, maybe it's making sandwiches and taking them downtown. Maybe it's serving dinners to poor inner-city kids. After our service, we pat our selves on the back and say, "Wow.. that felt so good to serve them." And in our minds we are thinking, "Jesus would be happy with me. I was being Christ to them!"

But, look closely at the story again...who is Jesus in the story? It is not the one who served or gave or visited. It is the one who is sick, who is in prison, who is in need. It's NOT US.

We miss out on truly being blessed when we think we are Christ....instead of looking at our service as an opportunity to encounter Christ. No longer is it about what I can teach them...it is about what they are going to teach me.

Last week, Jill Briscoe preached and there is one thing I can't seem to shake...we need to make ourselves lower, lower, lower. This life is not about elevating our status, our position, our reputation...it should be about making ourselves lower, serving more, seeking less attention.

I pray that I would enter a season of my life where I would be lower and serve more; that I would always put others first and myself last; and that I would meet Jesus in the least likely places.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Around the House











Some fall decorations

About The Video

I came home from Ethiopia in late April. It is now early October. Last week was the first time I was ready to make a video about George. I couldn't even look at the pictures I took in Africa until a short time ago. The trip was simultaneously glorious and painful.

We met amazing people living out their faith every day of their lives. We met people who have to pray their way through a day simply because it is the 4th day in a row without electricity or their car broke down and if you don't know how to fix it yourself, you are out of a car. I read journals of missionaries who were stuck in rushing rivers, praying their way out. I listened to a man who ministers to ONE converted man who then goes into his nomadic tribe and preaches. I watched as people handed out food to starving people on a regular basis, always keeping some extra bread in their car. Seeing those things, changed me.

At the same time, I had never been more broken before in my life. I had never felt such rejection.

But, look at how far God has brought us in such a short amount of time! As I put the video together, I smiled and enjoyed looking at the pictures. In fact, that video has been playing almost non-stop in my house, as all five kids enjoy seeing it over and over again. George was especially excited to see it. I wondered what he would think or say about the pictures of us in Ethiopia together.

He actually got really happy and squealed, "Momma and Daddy in Africa with Georgie!!"

Part of me was hoping he would remember the way he treated me and say, "I am so sorry Momma." But that didn't happen...not in the least. Instead he looks at those pictures and has great memories of us picking him up. It is as if he doesn't even remember the way he treated me.

So, why do I want him to feel bad about it? Frankly, that is incredibly selfish...and I know it. I was raised in a home where forgiveness was abundant. If I did something wrong, it was forgiven and forgotten. Never did I hear something a month or a year later about something I did, as if my parents wanted to hurt me. And that models the forgiveness of our heavenly father who throws our sin as far as the east is to the west. I remember reading Psalm 113 and meditating on "He does not treat us as our sin deserves". Truth. God does not treat us the way we deserve to be treated. Especially when it comes to how we treat Him...if we return and say "thank you for picking me up out of the mud", He doesn't say, "But...you pouted at me."

God's love and forgiveness amazes me! His love is so deep and so wide and so long...we can't even begin to grasp the scope of His love for us. And yet, He is holy. So holy that He can't even be in the presence of sin. So, instead of being content with that separation, He provided a way for us to get to Him in His son Jesus. What should be my response to that love? Unconditional love and forgiveness for one little boy.

I will love. I will forgive.

I see a boy who needs a mommy now. He has become my shadow when he is home. Yesterday, I took my mom-deserved Sunday afternoon nap, and George curled up right beside me on my bed. At one point, I stirred a little and opened my eyes to find his face, propped up on his fists. His eyes were now closed, as he had fallen asleep, but obviously he had been just staring at me. George does that a lot now...just stares. It is as if all those loving stares between momma and baby need to be duplicated now between myself and George. He needs to stare at him mom, memorizing every wrinkle, every feature...to KNOW that crooked mouth and to be able to pick out the exact color of my eyes.

He is jealous now. If any of the other children sit close to me, George gets very jealous. He wants to hold my hand every time we are in a public place together. He is making so much progress.

THIS is the child I longed for in Ethiopia! I refuse to look back any more. I NOW have a child who longs to be with me and know me. I will love him until he gets his fill.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

video

A New Name

One of my favorite times with George each day, is when we work on his homework. I know, that may sound a bit crazy...probably the teacher/former homeschooling mom in me. I truly love to watch my kids learn and grow academically and because George is in school, I do not get to see the progress he is making.

George has math homework every day, so I am getting a good taste of how he is doing with numbers. Right now he is having to re-learn how to correctly write his numbers. Apparently, whoever taught him in the orphanage, did not exactly get the numbers right. For instance, a 3 looks more like a m, and his 7s are always backwards and 8s have a straight line down the middle. 10 looks more like 01. So, George gets frustrated that we are now telling him his numbers are not quite right.

But, the positive side is that we get to work on that every afternoon together, and there is always the reward of being able to run outside and play when he is done. While he may get a bit frustrated, he doesn't give up, and that is a wonderful quality he possesses.

The teacher/homeschooling mom in me is absolutely obsessed with putting names on papers. So, I remind George to write his name at the top of the homework page. He now writes "George" so beautifully! Even one week ago, all his es were upside down and his lowercase g was a mess. I looked at this wonderfully written name and I immediately praised him, "Great job! Look at how beautiful your name looks?" and George replied, "Georgie not done...I'm a Weldie too."

I asked him, "Do you know how to write Weldie?"

He said, "Watch me!"

And sure enough, he wrote out W-e-l-d-i-e. We high fived and both smiled ear to ear.

As I thought of this last night, driving the kids to Awana, I was reminded of the scripture that says God will give us a new name. In Revelation 2:17, Jesus says, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it..." What struck me here was "to him who overcomes"...and I am overwhelmed with the thought of all that George has had to overcome! He watched his father die. He lived in absolute poverty. He slept in the bushes. Bad men with guns came into his villiage. He had to watch out for snakes, flies, crocodiles, hyennas and other animals that kill in Ethiopia. He then gets left by his mother at an orphanage. He is told he will have a new family. He is flown half way around the world. He is thrust into a family full of siblings. He does not understand the language. He misses his food, his music, his smells. And yet, here is is...going to school, high-fiving his mom as he writes his new name, and giving us all hugs and kisses each night. He has overcome...and now God has blessed him with a new name.

But, I just couldn't stop there. I remember that what Jesus was saying is also said by Isaiah!

I turned to Isaiah 62 to read about the new name. Isaiah is referring to Jerusalem and how she will have a new name, but I couldn't help but see the similarities to George here. Indulge me for a while :)

Verse 2 says, this, "The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow." Verse 4 goes on to say, "No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate...for the Lord will take delight in you and your land will be married." The chapter finishes with these words, "They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted." (v. 12)
I was overwhelmed with the similarities..and also the consistency of God's character. While this chapter is specifically about Jerusalem, God feels the same way about ONE CHILD. God saw a son who had been deserted, who's heart was desolate. Can we even begin to understand what it must feel like to be deserted? Completely left alone? Betrayed by the people you trust more than anyone? Deserted, alone, isolated, desolate. These words describe the boy we picked up in Africa.

God SAW this boy who was deserted and he placed in my heart a longing, a desire that I didn't quite understand. God told me, "Seek after a boy I have in Ethiopia waiting for you." And so, Joe and I sought after the boy.

God has given Deserted and Desolate a new name. God has given George a family and with that family comes an identity called Weldie. All of us are identified by that name! How many times do I hear "Boy! I can tell he is a Weldie." or "She sure looks like a Weldie!" There is a strong identity in that last name (especially now that we are in such a small town). And God longed for George to be identified with a family; a family that loves him. George is no longer Georgebush Lema, although that will always be a part of him, he has a new name...George Weldie.

George can also have the name Sought After and No Longer Deserted...both of those names would fit him. He was sought after, and slowly, the feelings of desertion are fading in his memory. And he knows he is a Weldie too!