Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What God is Doing In Our Lives

Have you heard of Safe Families? I can't remember when I first heard about it, but I know something in my heart stirred. Safe Families calls itself the Christian alternative to foster care. Ever since Orphan Sunday last November, especially Joe's heart has been toward foster care. And when we saw something about a Christian alternative, we investigated.

But I stopped cold in my tracks. This is NOT what I want to do! Why? Because the goal is to reunite the child with the birth parent. And the safe family who is caring for the child mentors and loves the birth mom/dad in the process. I don't want THAT! I want to adopt a child and have a child who calls me Momma - not Miss Traci. Why would I invest blood, sweat and tears into a child whom I would then kiss on the cheek and say goodbye to? No way, not going to happen!

And then, God called me out to the mat and we began to wrestle.

And I think God dislocated my hip. I have a very, very sore hip and I have trouble even walking without a limp these days.

God pointed out my selfishness...again!

God pointed out what He would do...again!

God asked me to trust Him...again!

So, after running from Safe Families for about 6 months, I finally relented and said, "OK...I'll start the training."

It blew me away!

Then, Joe and I felt it would be wise to meet with a few men we respect, trust and admire and ask them their thoughts. They blew us away! God used these two very different men to each speak directly into our hearts! These men did not know what they were saying...they had no idea what our private conversations were centered on. Yet, each one spoke directly into a secret word or phrase. And we left both meetings knowing God is asking us, yet again, to stretch our faith.

What makes this even harder is that unlike the foster care system, we won't get a monthly check to care for a child. We are already living at the poverty level with very little hope of climbing out of this. We are coming to grips that we may always live this way. Yet, God is clearly saying, "I want YOU to do THIS and TRUST ME."

I have so much to say, so much I have been afraid to start writing about because suddenly it becomes very real. And if we change our minds, there will now be people who will ask, "What ever happened with that Safe Families thing?" Well, now it's out there.

We are assembling a prayer team. The pastor we met with called us missionaries, he then said, "You are like John the Baptist". I can't even put words to how unworthy we feel about being called that! The world is going to look at us and say we are crazy. And I don't know how to respond to the world yet...other than to say that Christ compelled us to do this.

So, if you see us with a few extra kids in the coming months, you'll know why. And I am going to need all the prayers, help and resources I can get because I know I can't do this on my own.

Hang on...the road is about to get bumpy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Busy Summer!

I am finding it pretty much impossible to find the time to sit down at the computer and write what has been going on around here. I am afraid I will lose some of my precious memories, so I need to just get some thoughts down..you see, I use this blog as my personal journal - ha!

Friday, Joe and I decided we must make a much-needed family get-away. So, we drove to University of Wisconsin - Whitewater. We have heard this was a good school, and it is only about 35 minutes from our house, so why not? I actually did get questions, "Why a college campus?"

Why not?

Joe and I love college campuses! They are usually beautifully landscaped, well maintained, and showcase unified architecture. And...most of all...we wanted to begin inspiring our children to GO TO college.

I think we accomplished our goal..at least with the oldest two. The loved it! We walked the entire campus, guessing as to which building was a residence hall, a dining hall and which were classrooms. We explored the student union (the kids' favorite spot) and they giggled with delight at the lounge area and the bowling alley. We then took the kids into the university library - and then couldn't believe the children's section! It was massive and had an amazing selection and a wonderful layout! I resolved right then and there that the next rain-out day, we'll drive to Whitewater and just hang in the library.

Eleanor was "sold" the minute we started walking around. But, when I walked her through the bookstore and showed her how you purchase your books for each semester, she exclaimed, "The next five years are going to be soooo looong!"

We successfully walked every inch of the campus without bickering, grumbling or complaining - always a plus in my mind! So, we rewarded the kids by driving into town to get them each an ice-cream cone! Good ice-cream, I might add.

We had heard that Whitewater was one of the most diverse UW campuses in Wisconsin. We always laughed at that. Really? It's in the middle of twenty cornfields - which by the way, made Joe and I feel totally at home coming from Miami U. There were not many students on campus that Friday afternoon, but the ones we saw were definitely diverse! We saw a balanced mix of all races, colors and abilities. We noticed ramps all over the campus, and when we saw several students tooling around campus in their wheelchairs, we understood. This campus really IS diverse!

And that made all the difference...George was comfortable, at ease...he saw people that look like him.

So, it was a wonderful afternoon. Joe and I decided right then and there that our next family get-away will be Eau Claire to check out that campus. Why not? My first visit to a college campus was when I was 8 and my sister was going off to Miami...and look where I ended up? It made such an impression on my mind that I made the decision to be a good student and get to that college some day. We will continue to inspire and challenge our kids...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is The Story Over?

I am not even sure where to start...but I wonder if my "adoption story" is over? Something happened on Father's Day. Something that sent my spirit soaring. Something that said, "We're going to make it." Something that erased all the heartache, all the rejection, all the frustration in one single moment.

George got it.

What is "it"? It is the thing that Joe and I had been praying for from the moment we decided to adopt Georgebush from Ethiopia. It is what we felt motivated our adoption. It is leading a boy into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Oh, how I wish I could have run to the computer to write down everything that happened that evening. But, I couldn't. So I will do my best to share that moment.

Joe and George were on the front porch the evening of Father's Day. They began talking about fathers. George likes to talk about his "Africa-Daddy", and when George asked about what it means to die, Joe naturally thought he was going to talk about his "Africa-Daddy" passing away. They talked a bit about this, and Joe is so frank about death. George likes that. For George has experienced more death than I have! It was a huge part of his life, so talking about it openly and matter-of-factly is fine with him. George said, "My Africa-Daddy stopped breathing and went under the grass. He is still there. I don't want to go under the grass."

Joe replied, "Well, if you believe in Jesus, you won't stay under the grass. You will go to heaven and live with Jesus!"

"Oh, Daddy! Tell me more about this!"

At this point, Joe sent George in to get me so I could join the conversation. He could tell this was going to be a special moment. So, George asked me, "Tell me about Jesus and not dying."

I began by talking about how sometimes we all do bad things, we sin. George nodded his head. He understands. In fact, when Joe was on his way home from the DR, he called and asked George if he had been a good boy. George answered, "Sometimes good. Sometimes bad."


Well, I set up a scenario for George. "Let's pretend that you did something really mean, something really bad to Lincoln. Let's pretend that you took one of his toys and broke it. It was ruined. Then, let's say that I found out and confronted you about this. When you admitted that you stole and broke the toy, I told you there would not be a punishment."

George nodded his head. He understood that if we do something "bad", there is usually a consequence to that behavior and at this point in his life, that consequence is a punishment given out by mom or dad.

"But...here's the good news...let's pretend that Harry heard about what happened with the toy and the punishment. And Harry steps in and says, 'I will take George's punishment, Mom. I love him and don't want to see him get in trouble.' So, I decide to forgive you of the bad thing you did, and take Harry to his room to punish him for what should have been yours."

At this point, George busts into tears. His face is flooded with tears and something sinks in and touches his soul. Something that George never knew about in Ethiopia! I have learned that there are not even words for "sorry" or "forgiveness" in his native language. No one has remorse for their sin, and no one offers free forgiveness.

"George, this is what Jesus did for you! When he died on the cross, when the bad men hurt him, Jesus did that because he loves YOU, George Weldie, so much! He knew that you would sin, and yet He wanted to take your punishment so you could be in heaven some day."

I went on, "This is because God is so holy, He can't even be in the same place as us because he hates sin. So, when we do bad things, we can never be with him. But, even while God is holy, he desperately loves YOU so much that He sent His son to die on the cross."

George is still crying, but looks up at us. "I believe this. Jesus really love Georgie that much?"

"Yes, George. He loves you that much!"

Joe steps in and suggests that we pray and he leads us in a beautiful prayer, just the three of us, standing now in the front lawn. George believes. With this precious faith of a child who suddenly understood his need for a savior.

After the prayer, George threw his hands into the air and said, "I need to sing to Jesus. I need to tell him I love him!"

So, there we stood, all three of us singing at the top of our lungs "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so! Little ones to Him belong. They are week, but He is strong! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so."

George looked at me and said, "I want to hear Jesus' voice, Momma! How can I hear Him? I want Him to tell me how to live."

We told George that Jesus doesn't talk to us with a voice we can hear, but the best way is to read His Word. George ran into the house and brought out his easy-reader Bible and said, "I want to read all about Jesus. I want to know Him. Read with me, Momma!"

We sat on the grass and I read about Jesus calming the storm. George was amazed.

After calling it a night, we tucked the kids into bed and George said, "I'm a Christian now. I want to tell everyone about this. They need to know about not going under the grass, but what Jesus did."

You are so right, Georgie! And I pray this fire in you never goes out. I pray that you tell the whole world about this Jesus and what He did for them! I celebrated my son and I praised my God who loves us so much that He gave His one and only son to die on a cross to cover all my sin.

The next morning, George ran into my bedroom at dawn and exclaimed, "I dream about Jesus last night. I see Jesus."

My breath was taken away thinking of how much our God loves one small orphan boy from Ethiopia. He moved our hearts to adopt. He moved governments to allow an adoption. He changed my life; He changed George's life all out of love: relentless, amazing love!

Do you know that He loves YOU with that same love?

So, I wonder...is this story over? Has the final chapter been written about our adoption?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sometimes Kindness is Hard to Come By

George has moments of pure joy. And then, we are faced with mean George. He tells us often to "be quiet", "mind your own business", "go away, I not listen to you". These phrases get under my skin and do great damage to my heart.

We don't talk to our children that way. Our children used to not talk to each other that way. But there are not times that I hear them saying those same phrases to George...and I don't blame them.

George can unleash fury of mean words on us. And when it is combined with a look of disgust on his face..well....it just gets old. We are all so tired of his mean ways.

I know, this is understandable, usual, I should expect nothing but this...but I want you to know...this a possible reality of adopting an older child. He can be so mean.

I talk and talk until I am exhausted about being kind.

"What does kind mean, Momma?" George will ask, totally frustrated.

"Um, well, being kind means thinking of others, caring about others..."

"I don't want to think of others." He walks away.

How does a child become so hard-hearted? How many more children are sitting in hard places right now, just becoming more and more hard-hearted because NO ONE is showing them love, mercy...and kindness? It is unfair.

I know we are in for years of character development. I am in this for the long haul. But some days, I am just ready for George to be kind.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oh, I Wish I Had My Camera!

I sent my camera to the DR with Joe and Harry...and oh, how I wish I had it now! As I write this, Lincoln and George are playing this amazing make-believe game outside. I am sure the neighbors are laughing away...

Let me see if I can even begin to describe this...

George is wearing camouflage head to toe. He looks like an army guy - yet with an interesting flair. The jacket is tucked into his pants and the pants are then pegged and rolled up at the bottom. For some reason, George thinks pants are too long if they touch the top of his feet and he insists on rolling things up. I think this is from years in the orphanage where clothes never quite fit right. Then he has an army hat on with ear flaps covering his ears. That combined with bright read flip-flops!

Then Lincoln...oh, he is the funny one. He is wearing this metallic, shiny sliver body suit. Yes, we have a metallic, shiny silver body suit - doesn't every family? It's not tight, it is more space-suit looking, but it is one piece. And it billows in the wind. This is topped off with a Green Bay Packer helmet. And blue flip-flops.

And as they chase each other around the yard and call each other names I can't recognize (I think they are Rex and Ben), I am simply humbled by these two boys. They are so different!

One from America. One from Africa. One with fair skin, blue eyes and blond hair. One with chocolate skin, brown eyes and black hair. One has had everything he ever needed and most of what he has wanted. One has experienced death, hunger and abandonment.

Yet, here they play as if they have everything in common.

As I was walking in I heard George say to Lincoln, "You are my best friend. You are my brother."

Monday, June 14, 2010

They Look Like Me!

Oh, it has been so hard to blog these days! Once the kids got out of school, I have been totally busy just being with them. I just can't seem to carve out any time to sit at the computer and write out my thoughts.

We enjoyed our first week of summer vacation. Lots of trips to the pool already. Over the weekend, Joe and Harry left for a mission trip, so I took the kiddos to the mall and to see Shrek. It was a good movie, but more importantly the kids really, really enjoyed it. But, something happened at the mall that has stayed in my heart and my mind for the past few days.

The mall is located where we used to live, very close to Milwaukee. And once we were in the mall, I noticed George staring at certain people. It is not unusual for George to stare...it is a constant reminder from me NOT to stare or point at people. But this time, I didn't say anything, for I noticed he was staring at all the African American people walking around. And then I saw his face..he was smiling.

After a while of walking around and then getting some dinner, George finally shouted out with pure joy,"Momma! All these people here look like me! We have the same face and that make me so happy to see them." On one hand, I was so happy for him, simply because he was so happy. On the other hand, my heart broke into thousands of pieces; my son has been noticing that we look different from him.

I have known all along that George knows we look different. He'll ask me, "What color am I?" This question usually comes up when we are coloring and I think he wants to simply know the name of the color he is using. I usually tell him he is a "beautiful, chocolate brown..and I could just eat you up!" and he giggles and giggles. I then ask him, "What color am I?" and he always answers the same, "Yellow."

Yuk. I have never wanted to be known as yellow. We talk about people being sick, jaundiced, as yellow. Never been a fan of yellow, and I get a little sad that I have yellow skin next to this gorgeous rich brown (that is so stinkin' soft!). Is it wrong for me to say that I wish I was brown?

I was listening to a John Piper sermon yesterday as I walked the dog, and I could not believe my ears when he started in on racial harmony and justice. God has been using a mega-phone lately to pierce my heart on this issue. Piper goes on to tell the American church to wake up - he believes that in heaven, the majority of people there will be non-white. And if we are not comfortable with people of different skin colors now, we will be very disappointed in heaven when we are totally in the minority.

He is right..and now my attitude has shifted so dramatically toward race. I am sure it is because I have Georgie in my home and he is my son. But, I guess I had never thought out what adopting an African boy would do for generations down the line. The Weldie name will now have children of brown skin...and who knows? Maybe all shades of brown, yellow, red will eventually come to be known as Weldies!

I am sad that George is the alone brown beauty in our house...Joe and I often talk about this and what we can do. One thing we are certain of is teaching all our children that God made them just the way He wanted to - including skin color, eye color, and hair type. God did not make a mistake in how He created them. But what is just as important is that all skin colors, eye colors and hair types are beautifully and wonderfully made.

I am sure this is just the beginning of a life-time of dealing with race issues. I just can't bear to think about the day when a parent of a teenage girl George likes, tells his daughter that she can't see George because he is brown. I dread the day George comes home from the mall feeling hurt and betrayed by security that followed him through the store. I know I will burn with anger when George is pulled over by the police in Milwaukee simply for being the "wrong color". I know these days will come...until then, I need to pour into Georgie the knowledge that he is perfectly made and is loved beyond measure. I hope that when he is a young man, I can still make him giggle by telling him he skin looks like chocolate and I could just eat him up!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Notes In Church

It was another Sunday with all the kids with us. It is funny, maybe, how we now take up an entire row! I was sitting with George and Lincoln and had the impossible task of explaining to these two boys why they could not have some of the cracker and juice that was going around in shinny silver plates. Not fun. In fact, I ended up in the lobby with one cranky little 4 year old who yelled, "No Mommy!" all the way up the isle on our way out.

But, before all this fun started...God gave me another gift. George has been obsessed with ONE song since he came home. He sings this song every day, and if we hear it on the radio, he goes berserk. Personally, I could probably go about 5 years without hearing the song again and be just fine..but I realize how much my son loves this song, so I sing along with him. At one point during the service, we were asked to rise and sing....then the first few chords began and I knew right away...sure enough, "Blessed be your name in the land that is plentiful..." George almost squealed, he jumped up and down, he clapped his hands and then he began to play he air guitar!

"Momma! It's Blessedvbenadmaneme", Yes, that is what it sounds like when he says it...he hasn't quite figure out it is 4 different words.

When the chorus hit, I looked over at my son...my beautiful brown skinned boy...beaming, smiling from ear to ear...and singing!

Yes, Lord, blessed be your name!

I couldn't keep my composure and I started crying right away. Just one year ago, I was shoving George into Sunday School class because I needed an hour away from him. Just one year ago, I was dealing with hourly temper tantrums with war-screams. Just one year ago, I had no idea what George was saying, and he had no idea what I was saying.

After the song was over, George picked up a note pad and wrote something. He then handed it to me and this is what it said, "Dere Mom, I liv you mom. Mom is niec."

I'm saving this one in my Bible to remind me of our first year as Momma and son.

Friday, June 4, 2010

George's Acting Debut

Last night, we attending the kids' school end of the year celebration. It was our chance to see all the work the kids have done throughout the year.

First, we visited Isabel's classroom and enjoyed reading many writing projects of hers. She is really following in her sister's footsteps as her teacher said, "I really think Isabel will be an author some day!". For the record, Eleanor brought home her writing yesterday and this was a response from one of her teachers, "All I can say after reading your work is, this is AMAZING! I have NEVER known a seventh grader to write like this! What talent you have. Not only did I read this aloud to my husband, you brought tears to my eyes with your insightful ending. Someday, when you write a book, I'd love to have a signed copy!"

OK - wait, this is not about the girls' writing ability - although I just had to share because I am so, so proud of those two girls!

Back to George....well, we knew he was going to be making his acting debut at the evening celebration. And in typical George fashion, he began shutting down as soon as he got home from school. The shutting down came first, and then the angry, nasty boy came out. This time, Joe and I understood that George was scared and nervous, he was about to do something out of his comfort level. So, we boosted him up, encouraged him and told him he would do a great job.

The time came for his classmates to start their play. I saw a frightened little boy up at the front of the classroom, keeping his head low and eyes down - reverting back to Ethiopian cultural ways. When it was time for his line, he froze....for about a minute, he stared off in space with a very angry look on his face.

I was squirming in my seat. What would he do next? Would he run out of the room screaming? Would he ever say his line? Would the play be ruined now?

Eleanor, sitting next to me, quietly reminded George of his line, "I am Mercury. I live closest to the sun..." He must have heard because he suddenly snapped "to" and said his line. He even was able to say his last line correctly, "I am very warm." This was a big deal because for weeks he had been saying, "I am very worm."

He did it! And despite the minute freeze, we all praised him, hugged him and told him he had done a wonderful job!

It was a good close to a wonderful school year. George has learned so much in one year's time! His teacher was telling me that in the last week, he was reading books that were the beginning books of 1st grade! So, in one year, George has done the following:
  • learned how to understand the spoken English language
  • learned how to speak accurately the English language
  • spell 50 basic words correctly needed to be mastered in 1st grade
  • learn how to count to 100 by tens, add (sometimes) and know some money values
  • write his thoughts in sentences (with help from an adult)
  • and...read! He can read...and when he sees words, he wants to read more and more and more!

I am so grateful for how far he has come academically!

I am also grateful for the friends he has made. Last night, one of the boys in his class sent his mom over to me to set up a play date! I really did not think this would come yet.

Oh, we still have our bad moments, our selfish Georgie who makes us all want to pull our hair out...but we are getting more and more glimpses of the George to come - the hard working, school-loving, friend-having boy who makes all those around him happy.

A great finish!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sleep-Over in the Living Room

Weldies don't do sleep-overs. There, I said it.

Several years ago, Joe and I made this decision after listening to a respected couple at church share their views on sleep-overs; they don't do them. After talking, we were on the same page and told the kids. They were not happy, after all, EVERY ONE does sleep-overs.

Well, we don't.

I'll share some of my experiences at sleep-overs, starting in the 3rd grade up until I graduated form high school. Let's see...I saw my first pornography at a sleep-over. My hosts' father kept a huge box of Playboy in his basement, and as soon as mom and dad were upstairs, my friend dove into the box. I was 8 years old.

As a middle schooler, I had my bra frozen, and had warm water poured down my legs to make me think I had wet the bed. Both of these incidents horrified me; why would my "friends" do this?

As I got older, I got into mischief. I toilet papered numerous "rivals", even going so far as to use shaving cream on a garage door - yup, took the varnish right off and they had to spend a lot of money getting that repaired. I also broke plastic forks into yards - I am sure the owners loved that when they went to cut their grass. And I was a good kid!

The high school years found me sneaking out of my friends house and hanging out with guys...all night long. I had my first beer doing this. All of these forays were egged on by my "friends". Peer pressure at it's worst!

Again, I was a good kid with attentive parents who I knew loved me and cared for me. I was not the troubled kid who was looking for trouble, but I sure found it when no adult was watching. The least of my troubles were no sleep and feeling horrible the next day, usually sleeping for hours during the day. The worst..well, you just read them.

And these are my stories...Joe's are worse!

So, we decided our kids can hang out with friends until 10:30 or 11:00 when they are invited to a sleep-over and then we will pick them up. They will fall asleep in their own beds, getting a good night's sleep and being safe at home.

Many parents don't agree with our stance - probably most of my friends think we are crazy for our rule. But, Joe and I are standing by it, trusting that this is part of what God meant when He called us to raise our children. (I want to be clear that I am making NO judgements on your choices, just sharing what God led Joe and I to.)

So....in light of our ultra strict policy, we often set up sleep-overs in the living room! We just had one last weekend. The kids spent hours gather every blanket and pillow in the house creating elaborate "tents". Once the pajamas were on, Joe brought out the "Grab Bag of Fun". This is when Joe sneaks to the gas station and buys several Little Debby snacks - you know the ones that go for .35 each. He puts a bunch in a paper bag and calls it the "Grab Bag of Fun". Each child gets to reach in, without looking, to pull out their evening snack - this night, they each got TWO!

They put on Star Wars and watched until their eyelids could no longer stay open. And then...they all ended up back in their beds! As one child put it..."It's just not that comfortable sleeping on the floor when you know your comfy bed is right there."

Here are some pictures from our sleep-over.

PS - Eleanor was babysitting that night

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Gospel in the Family & Church.

Great post! This is how I want my family to be defined!

The Gospel in the Family & Church.

Wordless Wednesday

I'll admit...it's hard for me to be truly wordless...so, here are a few pictures from the weekend. We had family visit and enjoyed a great time of silly string and water fights.

Brothers....not much more to say other than I just love this picture!

Grammy and Pop-pop and my stair steps :)

Silly string...looks like everyone is getting Harry!

But George ended up with the most on his head!

Boys getting Pop-pop!

Another picture of the brothers :)

Dead-eye, Eleanor!

The fun is about to begin.

They paused for a picture just before throwing those cups of water at each other.

This has become an every-day ritual...fill the purple pail, grab cups full of water and then throw the water at each other. Usually ends up in a fight...but they insist on doing it again the next day!