Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Break

This Christmas break has been FUN!

First of all, my oldest three are getting to be such a wonderful age. I love the teen and tween years - yes, I will at again....I love the teen and tween years. Of course, we have attitudes every now and then, but for the most part, Eleanor, Harry and Isabel are funny, witty and just a delight to be around. We laugh a lot. And then we have some pretty serious, deep conversations. Oh, friends and family, if THIS is the result of home schooling those three for the first two (or six) years of their schooling, it was WELL WORTH IT!

As for the younger three - things ARE getting better. George is responding to his ADHD meds. I am a little afraid (after a pretty rotten day today) that yet again, this dosage is too small. We will see - and continue on this level for a few more weeks before making that decision. We are finding what works right now for discipline. There is no yelling, no emotion, no fighting - I refuse to engage in his arguments anymore. If he has done something that is unacceptable, I simply tell him he needs to go to his room. We have moved a digital clock into his room and I tell him the exact time he can come out. Before the time is up, I go in and calmly tell him why he is in his room, talk about a different/better choice could have been made and then remind him of the time in which his time out is over. The difference now is noticeable - he will now go to his room without an argument (usually - although today he told me he was calling the police and telling them I was sending him to his room - I said, "Go for it!"), and when he has calmed down, he LISTENS to me. He never did that before. So maybe now, he can start really learning because he is finally able to concentrate. So far...so good.

Lincoln is...well...Lincoln. The kid cracked me up so much at my in-laws Christmas party. He come sauntering into the living room, having JUST learned how to snap. He then throws down a few Mich*el J*ckson moves, with the snap, and asks for his relatives to vote HIM the best entertainment of the night. There are times when he is so grown up - off on his own, exploring, playing with George in the empty lot behind us, holding the door open for me, that I get excited about the man he will become. But, he still finds himself comfortably sitting in my lap every night, wrapping his arms around his momma and telling me how much he loves me, which reminds me how he is still my little guy.

We have had the most significant and wonderful changes in Anna this Christmas break. Now, in all reality, they have been coming. But this past week, Anna has sighed a HUGE SIGH. First of all, she mourned. She sat in my lap and sobbed about her Africa Mommy. She tells the same story over and over again about seeing her mommy walk on some rocks, slip, and hit her head so hard she died. She always says the other ladies wouldn't let Anna see her mommy anymore - she couldn't say goodbye. This week, she sobbed "I miss her so much!" All I could do was hold her and love her and listen to her. And then, she wiped the tears from her eyes, kissed my cheek and toddled off.

Something changed in that moment.

Something beautiful emerged.

And Anna started singing. And tonight, she DANCED! Now, to back up, we are a singing and dancing family. We always have music on and will break into funny dances at any given chance. Anna has NEVER joined us. She has always skirted off to a corner where she would just watch us and politely shake her head "no" when we asked her to join us.

Not tonight.

She danced until she had sweat on her brow. And it was the sweetest tasting sweat I have ever kissed.

Good news: We finalize our adoption of Anna on January 18th!!! On that day, I can tell you Anna's story and you, too, will be amazed at her transformation.

I hope you all had just as merry a Christmas break! God bless.

Way To GIVE!

The 2011 ECFA Giving Report revealed that of 29 giving categories, three of the four categories seeing the largest increase in giving related to adoption and orphan care. While the 400 largest fundraising charities in America saw a mere .2% increase in giving in 2010, giving to Christian orphan care rose by 21%, adoption by 15% and child sponsorship by 24%

Monday, December 26, 2011

Anna's Song



We found Anna sitting on the stairs singing this sone tonight...we asked her to sing it to us...and she did! Here are the words.






Every day when you're walking down the street
Everyone's looking at you.
God loves you.
He made us,
He made us special!
He sent His son to us.






This...from the little girl who didn't know Jesus when we picked her up. I love her so much! This song made Joe and I break down and cry.

Snapshot Christmas



The twins sporting their new hats!



I got Joe a whole blues harmonica set. He wants to be able to play them with his guitar.



Mustache McGee :)



Oh, this boy LOVES his mustaches.



Isabel got an art set from Grammy.



Anna can color her own umbrella..oops, I mean her Glambrella :)



Waiting for presents...



Harry and his cousin, Will. Inseperable!



George looking handsome.



Anna inspecting the placemats.




Lighting the candle for Jesus' birthday cake.




Will and George doing acrobats in the living room.




Sisters...sisters...




All the kids with Joe's parents on Christmas Eve.


































Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

It's late on Christmas Day...we have traveled to and from Ohio over the last four days and are all now exhausted. Everyone, but mom, is snug in their beds right now, sleeping peacefully after a wonderful Christmas weekend.

I had to report that it WAS, indeed, a very Merry Christmas.

George was great. In fact, at times, he was downright charming and pleasant to be around.

Prayer works.

But, also, medication seems to be working. A few days before we left for Ohio, I took George to the pediatrician to talk about his ADHD and the medication we had begun. So..here it goes..I am now the mom of a son who needs ADHD medication. God has humbled me..yet again..through this. I was that opinionated home schooling mom who thought ADHD was always over-diagnosed and over-medicated. In my naive ways, I blamed mothers who didn't want to be bothered with their over-active sons. Sigh. God, and time, always seem to correct me from my foolish ways.

So, we started George on meds a few weeks ago. I insisted we start at the minuscule dosage. My doctor kind of laughed at me. Looking back, he knew it would be too low. George responded so well! Joe and I were shocked. Amazed. Stunned. Who was this boy? He was focused. Quieter. Settled.

And about 4 days in, the "old George" was right back.

So, at this latest doctor's visit I explained what had been happening and we both agreed that we should try to next level up. We started the new dosage the day before leaving for Ohio.

And the result? A quieter George. A peaceful George. A George who (for the most part) was a peacemaker.

We had a really nice Christmas! And I am so thankful for that!

God blesses me with these glimpses of what George may be like after the years of healing that need to take place. At lunch, while sitting at Skylin* Chili (YUMMMMM), George brought up the conversation about me having lunch with him when he is a daddy. Obviously, this idea has really stuck with George and he continually asks me if I will be there for him when he is a daddy.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Life is Hard



Things have been tough lately. And I am so tired of writing about it. So, I don't even come here to write at all. The defiant attitude is about to break me.


In fact, on Friday morning, I had a break down. The story actually starts on Thursday night. Thursday night, during our Bible study time, we had the idea of saying a short prayer each morning asking God to help the kids make good decisions while they were at school. Very simple, but something each of the younger ones (the 4 who go to elementary school) wanted to do. So, as we sat in the car waiting for the bus, we folded our hands and closed our eyes and I began the short, simple prayer.


"I love lies. I love Wizards of Waverly Place. I love all the things my mom hates. Yes I do...I love to lie. I will lie to you. I love money. I will steal money...", George was saying in a sing-song way over the top of our prayer.


If I had forgotten that this adoption is more about spiritual matters than anything else...I was just reminded in a rude way! There is a battle in George's soul...a battle of good and evil. And frankly, sometimes evil wins that battle.


I came home and thankfully, Joe was home. I broke down and started sobbing. And then, I yelled at God....I mean, screamed at God. And I even said, "I can't do this anymore."


Now, the word DISRUPTION has never been allowed to be even spoken in our home. It's the same way Joe and I refuse to ever say the word DIVORCE. We have committed to George and won't even let ourselves go down that road...we know God would not be pleased with us. So, what is right? Disruption or commitment? This brings up so many questions..because obviously Anna is doing so wonderfully with us! I tell Anna all the time that THIS was God's plan all along.


However, I have a dear friend who says, "No..that is never God's plan." God CAN use a disrupted adoption to REDEEM and bring HEALING. But, it is a danger to think that God's CAN'T bring redemption and healing into that first forever family. If we would disrupt, we would be sending our son into the deep, dark pit even further. I am not sure if he would ever trust an adult again! We keep telling him we love him and forgive him...and then, we give up? It has taken us almost 3 years to get to THIS point - and I'm not even sure what kind of point this is..but we HAVE gotten somewhere.


And I was ready to give up.


And then God used a pastor on the radio to speak to me. I was listening to Walk in the Word - just catching the very end of the sermon. I realize now it didn't matter - the sentence I needed to hear was at the very end. James was talking about God's promises. So, my thoughts immediately went to the promise God gave me with George. It is found in Hosea. Hosea, who had to love and forgive and live with his adulterous wife. Hosea who was asked to do something that seems so hard. LOVE. Keep loving. Forgive. Always forgive. And WAIT.


And then God promises Hosea that there will be repentance that will bring blessing. This promise was given to me...and so, as I read this passage from the end of Hosea, I always think of George.


"I will heal George's waywardness and love him freely, for my anger will be turned away from him. I will be like the dew to George; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon, George will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. George's splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. Men will dwell again in George's shade. George will flourish like the grain. George will blossom like a vine..." (Hosea 14:4-7)


God's promise to me. God's voice urging me to hang in there.


Suddenly, the pastor's voice breaks through my thoughts as he is getting really passionate and loud (smile).


"You are strulggin, you are frustrated, you are ready to give up, but there is only one thing! One thing! THE ONLY THING THAT STANDS BETWEEN YOUR CHALLENGES AND GOD'S PROMISE IS.....TIME."


Time. That's it. God is faithful! He will do what He said! And all that is needed is TIME!


But, isn't "time" exactly what we all struggle with the most? My 21st century mind says, "Isn't 3 years long enough?"


Ha. God just laughs.


And so, this weekend, Joe took over with George. I didn't talk to him, I didn't answer his questions, I didn't do anything. I went about my normal day serving and loving all the kids, but it was obvious that George was getting nothing from me.


Finally, on Saturday night, George asked Joe, "Why?"


Joe explained some hard truths to George.


I wish I could say the story ended with this wonderful scene where George runs to my arms and cries with sorrow and asks for forgiveness for all the ways he has been so hateful over the last three years.


But..that didn't happen. George did shape up a bit. And yesterday, a day that found me back in the forefront as Joe is out of town, George was a good boy..all day.


This morning, he has already told someone he would stab them in the heart with knife. This morning, he has spent a significant amount of time alone in his room.


But, this time, I promise to WAIT. I want to see God's promise fulfilled and I trust it will happen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Prejudice of Poverty

This is the tale of two moms. Two women with large families who are both devoted completely to their children. Both women do all they can to see their children are well fed, clean, educated and healthy.

But one woman is middle class and one woman is poor. Mom #1 has a husband. Mom #2 doesn't have anyone. Mom #1 graduated from college. Mom #2 barely graduated from high school. Mom #1 comes from a good family. Mom #2 has no father and a mom who has been investigated for child abuse and neglect.

I am Mom #1. Cherish is Mom #2.

There are so many similarities. We are the same age. We are about the same height. We have large families. We love our children desperately. And recently, I had the opportunity to have another shared experience with Cherish.

Our sons ADHD.

Cherish's six year old kid, Sammy, is a great kid. He's the kind of kid that looks you in the eye when he firmly shakes your hand and says, "Hi! My name is Sammy." I met Sammy when we did a Safe Families placement for him last year. Cherish told me that Sammy was a handful. OK - in my world, a handful meant a little loud, a little active, a little out of control. Ummm - a handful was an understatement. My host family called me after a few days saying that Sammy was really out of control. A sweet kid..but a kid who would try to climb into the refrigerator and then turn around and throw action figures across the room and then run into the next room to climb on the couch and shout "Geronimo" as he soared through the air! And he did this non-stop for 18 hours a day.

The host mom said, "I think Sammy needs some real help."

So, I stepped in and started talking to Cherish. She told me that Sammy's pre-school teachers had told her they thought Sammy had ADHD. Now, for the record, I have been a highly skeptical observer of all things ADD and ADHD. I had never come face to face with it before..but after spending a few hours with Sammy, I agreed. This child needs some real help.

I encouraged Cherish to make an appointment with her doctor. Easier said than done. Here is a mom, remember..no job, no husband, and at the moment, no place to live. She doesn't have the pediatrician's number tapped on a pretty piece of paper to the inside of her kitchen cabinet.

She needed some real help. Together, we found a doctor and I talked to the receptionist to explain why we were requesting an appointment with the doctor. "From observations, we think Sammy may have ADHD."

Later that week, I called to remind Cherish to make her appointment. I then told her to call me when she was done.

"He didn't believe me." Cherish sounded defeated. "He is asking for a letter from the host mom who watched Sammy and then I have to go to this clinical place where they watch Sammy for 5 hours."

"What? All he has to do is spend 30 minutes with Sammy in the examining room and he'll get it!"

"He said I have to take the bus to this clinic 2 times. The first visit we have to stay for 3 hours and then the next week I have to stay for 2 hours. Traci, how am I going to do this? I have 4 other kids! They have to be picked up from school and I can't take the baby, so who is going to watch her?"

All I could do was encourage her to make those meetings and together we thought of a plan for the other kids.

I checked in with Cherish about a month later, wanting to know if she was able to make her appointments. She did and Sammy was put on a medication and Cherish said, "He is a new kid!"

Mom #2 (me) has George. George grew up an orphan in the bush of Ethiopia. He has delays and major attitude issues, but Mom #2 never thought he had ADHD. Until some recurring things starting popping up. And then my dad said something about it. Then George's teacher said something about it. And I started doing research and thought...well...maybe?

So I make an appointment with my doctor. You know, the man I have seen a few times now (after all, we did just move), but who I have a good rapport with. The doctor is able to see me right away. I share my observations, the issues at school, and then say that my father, who is also a physician, had questioned if George had some hyperactivity.

During the 30 minute visit, George was being watched. It probably helped that he interrupted us 25 times in 30 minutes. But wham- bam..."Yes...he has ADHD. What type of treatment would you like to start?"

For the next 30 minutes, we go over all the options ranging from fish oil to stimulants. I make my choice, which the doctor totally supported, and we started treatment the next day.

Now this story is not about ADHD or the type of medicine or the results for both of these boys. I will save my experiences for another entry (but must admit that I am hesitant to share this for fear of strong opinions and judgements surrounding ADHD). This story is about the prejudice of poverty.

Cherish's son was bouncing off the walls. And the doctor still did not believe her observations and experiences. He needed to watch Sammy for a significant amount of time before making the diagnosis.

My son is fidgety, can't sit still, touches everything and interrupts constantly. And my doctor immediately believed all my observations, believed what I shared about what George's teacher said, and believed what my dad said.

Why?

Why did Cherish have to work so hard to get a proper diagnosis for her son? Why did she have to jump through so many hoops and delay a much needed treatment? I would suggest that it has to do with her poverty. She probably smelled like cigarettes, I am sure she didn't shower that day, and her clothes are typically wrinkled and bit dirty. She is not educated and so is not a very good communicator. She walks into a doctor's office an is immediately intimated by the diplomas on the wall and the proper etiquette he displays. And so, she probably shrinked back a bit, afraid to share her observations.

But are these reasons for her to be judged? Are these reasons for a physician to not believe her?

This experience has really made me think. In what other areana does Cherish face prejudice? I am sure she does at school...the kids show up dirty, dishevled, hungry. Church? Most churches I know would never SAY she wasn't welcome, but I would ask you when was the last time you sat next to a Cherish in your church service and turned to welcome her? This list could go on and on.

My heart has been changed and God continues to show me ways HIS heart breaks. Cherish loves the Lord. She has been so excited to tell me about reading the Bible with her children. But Cherish faces a much more difficult road than I do...simply because she was born into poverty and has not been able to get out. Just makes me think...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wild Olive Give-Away

My favorite tees are having a great give-away! Check it out here :)
I asked for a word from the Lord this morning.

I am slowly reading through Matthew's gospel in order to prepare my heart for the coming Messiah. This morning, I came to chapter 4 where Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted in the desert. I noticed for the first time that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit...

This caused me to stop and think. I am all about figuring out how to live a Spirit-led life. And here is an example of Jesus following the Holy Spirit, that had just descended upon him at his baptism, into a place of discomfort and temptation. Am I willing to follow the Holy Spirit's lead if that means taking me into places of discomfort? And am I willing to be intentionally tempted? That is Christ' example to us...so I guess I need to follow.

Jesus going into the desert was intentional and necessary! This is not to be looked at as "Oh, Jesus went for a walk in the desert." As a child, I can remember seeing cartoons or comics retelling this story - and the desert never looked very hot or very dry or very awful. And Jesus always had combed hair, clean clothes and looked pretty healthy. But, have you ever seen someone who has fasted 40 days? I have. And he looked SICK. So, I have to wonder why in the world did God, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, lead His son into the desert to fast for 40 days and nights?

Our clue comes in Deuteronomy.

This is where Moses explains to the Israelites why God had them wander the desert for 40 years. He says, "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." (Dt. 8:2) (We know this is a key passage (Dt. 8: 1-5) because Jesus goes on to quote what Moses says later on as His response to the first temptation.)

Obviously, Jesus proved what was in his heart through his time of testing and temptation! Purity, love, humility.

Back to my first sentence. I prayed for a word from the Lord this morning because I feel like I am in the desert with George. And so many times I am like the Israelites - grumbling, complaining, irritated at God...and here is an example of how God wants me to respond to my desert trip. AND...even more important to me...a REASON WHY I am on this long desert trip.

To humble me and to test me in order to know what is in my heart....and whether or not I will keep his commands.

I clearly get the humble me part....oh yes. I have never been more humbled in my life. So many things I said "I will never do that..", I have now done. I have never felt more incapable and lousy and ineffective than I have since adopting George. My faith is no longer in my parenting or in my abilities..it lies squarely on the shoulders of the Lord. Listen God...this is YOUR child...and You've got to do this with me! Yes..I have been humbled.

So, next...testing. I have always had mixed thoughts on this. Does God test us. Well, the answer looks pretty clear here. He has put me through the desert time to test me - to know what is in my heart. It is in the desert time of testing that the TRUE aspects of my heart are revealed. And they can be incredibly ugly.

I never had to face the depths of my heart before. I never had to realized how dark and sinful my heart could be. But...now I am.

I should be grateful. I am being refined. But, it is still a desert time and that is no fun. The testing is to see if I will obey God's commands. That doesn't seem like the warm, fuzzy God of Christmas - a God who tests to see if I will obey. But, folks, that is the reality of God. The testing is not for His pleasure of watching me squirm and fail..the testing is refining me...sanctifying me. Remember, the Bible clearly shares God's will for our lives...TO BE SANCTIFIED. (I Thes. 5:0)

Obviously, going about my normal hum-drum life was not enough to truly be sanctifying me..so God gave me a defiant, angry, stubborn, mean boy that I am supposed to love and cherish and forgive and wrap my arms around. Clearly, this is not what I wanted..but clearly, this is what I needed.

So, what is that word from the Lord I was looking for? I guess I feel a little better being reminded there is a purpose and a plan in this desert trip I am taking. I am not plodding through the desert aimlessly - but instead, I am being refined, sanctified...changed. And for THAT...AGAIN...I am eternally grateful.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lunch and Babies

A few weeks ago, George and I had a very intense discussion. He had been behaving horribly and had been sent to his room to "cool off". At the end of the cool off session, I always go into his room to restore our relationship. We talk.

This particular evening, George asked, "When I am 18, I can leave and never see you again, right?"

I answered, "Well, technically, yes. You can graduate from high school and then decide to leave and never see us again. But, I want you to know that would make Mom and Dad very sad."

"Why?" He asked defiantly with a cold stare coming my direction.

"Because we love you. And we want a relationship with you when you are older."

"What does THAT mean?"

"It means that I want to go have lunch with you when you are in college. It means I want to celebrate when you get married to the woman God has chosen for you. It means I want to visit you when you have your first baby and I want to hold that baby all night."

I can't remember where the conversation went from there. I remember leaving his room defeated and frustrated...wondering if anything I say ever means a hill of beans to George.

That was a few weeks ago and yesterday, in a quiet moment, George came into the kitchen and said, "Momma? I want you to have lunch with me when I am older. And I want you to hold my babies when I am a daddy. Will you promise to do that?"

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Sweet Relationship

I wish I could write more about sweet Anna! I just don't feel comfortable writing too much on a public blog..so I have to pick and chose the things I will share here. But, as we continue to make memories as a family and experience all our "firsts" with Anna, I just have to share how close Lincoln and Anna are becoming.

Twins.

I think I was like most day-dreaming young women who thought it would be so wonderful to have twins! Twins get so much attention, and you have twice as much to hug and kiss and love. Matching outfits, lots of potential for cute pictures..oh, the list could go on and on.

Then I had ONE baby.

And I said, "Thank you Lord that you didn't give me twins!"

I thought raising one baby at a time was hard enough that I couldn't imagine having TWO at the same time. Obviously, God knew what was best for this momma.

But now, He has blessed me with twins - Lincoln and Anna. Their birthdays are 14 days apart - so while not "officially" twins, these two are considered twins in the adoption world through a process called twinning. It is controversial - anytime you mess with birth order you will get hundreds of opinions and thoughts. When Anna was brought into our life, we didn't really think too long about her exact age, we just said yes.

Now, I am a mom of twins! And I am amazed at how quickly they are adapting to becoming twins. They call each other their twin. They are typically together when they are both home. They look out for each other. It has developed into such a sweet relationship.

A few nights after Thanksgiving, Joe and I set up blankets and comforters across the floor of our bedroom and turned on a movie for the kids to watch after baths and showers. And there were Lincoln and Anna, snuggled up close together laughing and smiling from ear to ear as they watched an old M*ppets movie. Eventually, those two feel into a deep sleep still lying there next to each other as the older kids finished the movie. When it was time for bed, the other 4 walked into their rooms and left a serene scene of our twins, holding hands and fast asleep as they laid on their Pillow P*ts.

Joe took a picture on his phone.

And today, he sent it to me with a simple caption of our precious twins.

I am beyond grateful to the Lord for this adoption experience!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Big Day Tomorrow

If you would have asked me, when I was 24, what I would be doing with my life 16 years later, I probably would have said that I would have 4 kids and be teaching high school English and maybe coaching softball.

So, some of that is kinda true - I DID have the 4 kids part. I just decided to add two children from Africa to the mix - something I would have NEVER dreamed of when I was 24!

And I am not teaching and not coaching softball....although it looks like I will be the head coach for Isabel's volleyball team next spring! So, I guess that is kinda true.

But here is where I truly had NO CLUE what God would do with my life 16 years later....

Out of the blue (to me), I got a message from Beth*ny - you know the huge adoption agency? Well...they have been praying for someone to start and lead Safe Families in SC. And apparently, my name came up...many times.

HOW?

I know very few people here...I mean about as many as I can count on ONE hand! And yet, my name kept coming up?

They offered me the job. No interview. No application or resume. Just a job offer.

WHEN DOES THAT EVER HAPPEN TO SOMEONE?

It surely doesn't happen to me!

But it did.

Tomorrow, I go talk to see if this is really a good fit and will be praying for discernment from the Lord...does He really want me to do this.

I'll update when I know ;)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Too Close For Comfort

George and I had been making huge strides. So, as expected, it was all too close for George.

And now, he is backing off and being as mean and nasty as possible to me.

All over jeans and sweatshirts.

So, the nice, warm feelings of hugs and school are gone. He is back to putting the covers over his head when I go in to say goodnight. He is back to doing the complete opposite of what I ask him to do. He is back to yelling that he hates me and wants a new family.

Yes..that is my life. I go from hints of progress and how nice our family will be someday to thinking maybe this was not meant to be from the start. This boy is slowly killing my spirit and my joy. He is taking every ounce of fun out of the day and causes us all to dread the moment he walks into a room.

I was standing outside last night talking to Joe about this and he said, "Well, Babe, you got really close to him the last few weeks. Too close for comfort. Now he is telling you to back off."

Lord, I need strength to get through this. I am dreading Thanksgiving now. My parents are coming and everyone is so excited about that! But this morning, in the car on the way to school, George announced that he is going to be extra bad on Thanksgiving to ruin it for all of us. What kind of boy thinks this way - let alone says it out loud?

I think of how horrible last winter was. And I am begging God to not put me through that again. I can't do it. And I wonder, are we heading into that same cycle now?

Three more Ethiopian children just came up for disruption. That means three more parents said they just can't do it anymore. Friends and family, I am begging you to cover my family in prayer. Some days, living with George is simply a nightmare. But, Joe and I are committed to him and have promised him we would not give up. But, I am at my end (again) and know that I simply can't do this in my own strength and power. God has to arrive - He has to show up in George's life and bring him healing.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Lunch Date



On Thursday, the little kids had a Thanksgiving Feast at their school. You know, the amazing cafeteria turkey (that hardly looks like turkey), bland unsalted mashed potatoes, and a dollop of cranberry gel like stuff. I could hardly wait when Anna and Lincoln invited me to come to lunch and eat with them!


Seriously, I was excited! I have had a baby or a little one home with me for so long, it has been over 15 years since I was able to go hang out with my kids for a special lunch at school. So despite the flavorless meal set before me, I really enjoyed my lunch time. Anna was crawling all over my lap and Lincoln was telling me all about his classmates and cracking jokes. When lunch was over, they both hugged me tight, planted wet kisses on my cheeks and then sailed off with their classes with huge smiles on their faces.


Earlier that morning, I had asked both George and Isabel if they would want me to stay and eat with them, knowing they ate at a later time.


"Nah..", said Isabel very hum-drum like.


"No way!", followed George.


OK - my feelings were not hurt and I just thought I would come on home after the Kindergarten lunch. But, as I sat at my special table, decorated with hand-made turkey place mats and paper tablecloths, and watched my twins walk away happily, I had an idea.


I would stay until the 3rd graders came in and offer to stay and eat with George. No pressure.


George came into the cafeteria and was totally surprised to see me there. And to MY surprise, he wrapped his arms around me and said, "Momma! You're here!" as if he never thought I would be there.


"Do you want to have lunch with me? I stayed just to see if you and I could have a date?"


The smile on his face said it all. Of course, he wanted to have lunch with me.


I took George over to my special little table and we talked and laughed as we ate. It was a bonus when a boy in George's class joined our table with his mom. We talked about the usual stuff moms and boys who are 8 years old talk about...football, video games, and what Santa is going to bring for Christmas.


The time went by very quickly and when George saw his class rise to leave the cafeteria, he paused and gave me another bear hug.


"Thanks for eating lunch with me, buddy."


"I love you, Momma."


We hugged and I told him he better hurry up to catch his class. He quickly walked off and joined his class at the back of the line. And then he looked back...to see if I was still watching him...and he smiled and waved.


I texted Joe, "I stayed to have lunch with George. Best decision I have made in a long time!"

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We Remember

The following was written by a special guest blogger: My amazing daughter, Eleanor.

I still remember the feel of fear surging through my heart. I still remember crying for days afterward, and not really feeling the hugs people were giving me. I remember not being able to smile at Music Camp, much less sing or dance. And then I remember letting go of my own selfishness and feeling peace, a peace I hadn’t felt for a long time.

But I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.

It was June 1st, 2011, when I found out we were moving. My family still didn’t know where yet. It was my last week of school, and the 8th grade class was going on a day-long trip to Six Flags: Great America in Chicago, Illinois. When I finally got off the long bus ride back to little Watertown, Wisconsin, and hopped in the car, my head still spinning with thoughts of cotton-candy, exhilarating roller-coaster rides, and Mitchell Klavekuske – the most popular boy in school, my mom broke the news. “We’re moving.” No “hello” or anything, just those simple words.

Simple words I’ve heard nine other times in my life. They shouldn’t have bothered me; I should have been used to them by now. But for some reason Watertown had always felt…different. And now we were moving away. I had only spent two years in Watertown, but I had already made many friends, and I would miss them all. My mom’s words sent me spiraling into a deep, dark, depression. I had always been a happy person, but I got so upset I could barely pull myself through the last week of school – even with all the joy of yearbook signing and “I’ll see you in the summer!” When summer hit all I wanted to do was feel sorry for myself and sleep. So that’s all I did; self-pity and sleep.

Fast forward to the last week of July. My mom was getting worried about me, so she signed my siblings and I up for Music Camp at a local church. It was the same week my parents were going house-hunting in Greenville, South Carolina. Because my parents were going to be halfway across the country my five siblings and I would be taken care of by family friends Betsy and Katie Zimmermann, who also happened to run Music Camp with their parents. So every day, after singing and dancing, we would go home with those cheery girls to practice singing and dancing. Great. Just what my depressed-self needed.

But Wednesday of that week my life changed.

By Wednesday, I had learned all about Betsy and Katie, and I knew there was a lot more depth to them than their cheery outsides displayed. Like how Betsy was patiently waiting for the man of her dreams to propose to her, and Katie’s nervousness about going to college in the fall. I also learned that their parents loved boating – and on Wednesday we were heading out to Sandy Beaches Lake with Katie, Mr. and Mrs. Zimmermann, two grade-school boys Katie “nannied,” and Tyler Baseman. And I was actually really happy to go.

Now Tyler Baseman was a real special kid. He was the Zimmermann girl’s cousin and Katie’s age. But he had cerebral palsy. He was really bright, almost a genius, but he had trouble moving. He was really skinny, most of his clothing was loose, and he was pale and frail. He often walked in a shuffling manner and couldn’t coordinate his body to function like “normal” people’s do. I only just met him on Monday at Music Camp, but there was just something about him that was amazing. Despite his skinny, frail body, he had the best personality. He never gave up on anything and was sweet to everyone. I mean the best. Like, Mitchell Klavekuske, most popular boy in school, eat your heart out.

The day started out normally enough. It was a fun day at Music Camp and then Katie drove us all over to her house, where we had a packed lunch. I remember, after lunch, changing into bathing suits and getting excited about the lake. Mr. Zimmermann attached the boat to the car, and he, Mrs. Z, and the boys all took off. Katie and the girls drove in another car. As we drove off to the lake, Anna told Katie how it would be her first time at a beach, and Isabel share it would be her first time on a boat. And me? Well, for me, it was the first time, in a long time, I was actually smiling. When we got to the beach everyone was excited. The younger kids splashed right in the water, followed by Tyler. I sat on the edge and talked with Mrs. Zimmermann. After a lot of fun, we all retired for snacks and hot dogs. In those last precious moments Tyler’s last photograph was taken. And the irony of it all was that he had the biggest smile on his face.

Part of me wants to say it’s my fault. After all, Mr. Z took all the Weldie kids out on the boat for one last run. I wasn’t going to go tubing, but at the last minute I decided to. And that took 15 minutes. 15 minutes we could have been on shore. 15 minutes we could have saved Tyler with.

When we got back to shore the two boys Katie “nannied” came running up. “Is Tyler with you guys?” one asked. We shook our heads no. I remember, as the wind whipped through my hair around my face, Mr. Zimmermann asking “Is Mrs. Z worried?” Tyler was a strong swimmer, after all, and he wouldn’t run off without telling his aunt or uncle. We got off the boat and made our way to shore, confident we would find Tyler. The beach was still busy and sunny, and he probably just got lost in the crowd. But when we got to where we had set up our things, Mrs. Zimmermann was not there. Mr. Z went and found her, and she said, as clear as day, “Tyler’s missing.”

That’s when the panic settled in. The rest is kind of a blur. The cops were called. I dried off my siblings with towels as Mr. and Mrs. Zimmermann and Katie gave accounts to the police men. One of my clearest memories, though, is a kid trudging through the sand, a frustrated look on his face. “They closed off the water” he told his mom. “Some dumb kid went missing, and now we can’t swim.” I wanted to yell and scream. “If only you knew Tyler!” my mind pounded. “You would be scared to death right now!” And that’s how we all felt – scared. Some of us handled it in different ways. The younger kids cracked jokes to ease the tension. My 10-year-old brother, Harry, popped in his iPod. And me, I tried to stay brave for the little ones, but inside I was screaming and kicking and sobbing all at the same time.

Katie drove everyone home after they were done giving police reports, almost in dead silence. I popped in a Hillsong cd. The first song that came on was “No more sorrow, no more pain. No more failure, He has overcome.” I reached over and grabbed Katie’s hand, and I don’t know if I was being delusional, but I could’ve sworn I felt fear in her touch, but when the song came on, it subsided.

Katie dropped me and my siblings off at home, where I made pizzas and sat everyone in front of the television. I didn’t know how to tell my parents, so I sent them a single text message: “Tyler’s missing.”

In about half an hour I received at least 10 phone calls from people from the Zimmermann’s church (the one we were attending Music Camp at). I had babysat for many of these families, and they were friends of my parents. The phone calls all pretty much went the same way: “Eleanor, sweetheart, are you okay? Do you need anything? You can come and sleep over at our house if you want. Okay…well call me back. And call if you need anything.” I had received so many offers, I didn’t know whose house to go to. When my mom called, after a lot of blubbering on my part, she suggested we just stay home for the night. I called everyone back and told them my plan, after reassuring them I was fine. That night I fell into a fitful sleep around 3:00am.

When I awoke in that morning I was surprised to find I had fallen asleep with my cell-phone clutched in my hand. I must have fallen asleep texting someone, I thought, and flipped the phone open. I checked my new text messages. One was from my mom. I heard her voice as clear as if she had been talking to me: “Tyler’s body was found. He drowned.”

It was 6:00 in the morning after a three-hour sleep. The perfect way to start my day.

I called my mom, and she advised us to go to Music Camp, even though it would be hard. I called Mrs. Smith, one of my mom’s friends, and asked for a ride to the church. She said she could pick us up. So I woke up all my siblings with a smile, however fake it was. I didn’t tell them about Tyler’s body, because I knew they would talk about it at Music Camp. Tyler had been a strong member of Music Camp since he was little, and he loved it, and we loved him. But no matter how well I could fake happiness, it was still strange to see the sun rising, and cars rushing around on the roads, like they had no idea what was going on. And maybe they didn’t. But I felt in my heart as if the whole world had to stop just to mourn Tyler, even if I knew it wouldn’t happen in my head.

When I stepped into the church I was attacked by numerous hugs. But I didn’t really feel any of them. I mostly cried my way through Thursday Music Camp, stopping to talk with the youth pastor, Pastor Tyler, and Mr. Sina, who was also the chorus teacher at my middle school. By the end of the day I was feeling a little better. Pastor Tyler, or PT as everyone refers to him as, told me something that dawned on me: Tyler’s death had caused me to stop thinking about the lousiness of my situation. My facebook status that night: “Life is funny – one minute it’s all about you, and then something happens, and the world shifts.” Both Betsy and Katie Zimmermann “liked” it.

Despite Mr. Zimmermann not being there for the last two days, Music Camp’s two Friday performances went flawlessly. Fittingly, we dedicated the performance to Tyler Baseman, “who we know now rests peacefully in heaven, his body made perfect.” Us who knew Tyler personally were saying “He’s probably playing basketball right now. He loved basketball.” We decided not to fill the spot where he stood with someone else, but to leave it open. Katie and Betsy showed up for the later performance, and during our break time we crowded into PT’s office and hugged each other. We didn’t even say much, just remembered.

Wednesday, July 27th changed my life forever. Ever since that day I’ve been trying to change my selfish character. Oh, sure, I still want the last cookie sometimes, and I miss a lot of people in Watertown. But we’re going back next summer for Betsy’s wedding. And Katie and I keep in touch because we’re both going through changes – she in college, me in Greenville. So I guess missing people isn’t the biggest part of the move anymore. It’s really the realization that life is funny – one minute it’s all about you, and then something happens, and the world shifts. It’s really just about remembering.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Before My Heart Believed You Came To My Rescue

Yet again, Hillsong is ministering to my soul. This time with one line of one song. I hit this line, and I feel something stir inside me. At first, I thought this was me telling God this truth...but now I know this is also about George.

"Before my heart believed, you came to my rescue..."

George and I have been taking two HUGE steps forward with amazing heart exposing talks...and then we take a GIANT spill backwards. Every day this scenario replays itself, ever since Orphan Sunday. I am thankful for these talks because George has been brutally honest with me, allowing me to see into his heart a bit more.

And here is the issue...George does not believe.

Don't get me wrong, George believes in God and he believes in Jesus. He just doesn't believe in me...yet.

However, just like Jesus came to MY rescue before I believed...I must continue to come to George's rescue even though he doesn't believe me.

Perfect example to illustrate this point: George has an obsession with shoes - and he has about 12 pairs because of this. Yet, last Thursday, he decided to take out an old pair, a pair that was clearly too small. When I saw him take out those shoes, I said very nicely, "Hey buddy, those shoes are too small for you now. Hurry up and grab another pair of shoes upstairs." George slumped onto the ground, did the wonderful Ethiopian whine, and I quickly decided, "OK...lie in the bed you just made." George very proudly put on the too-small shoes and headed off to school.

He came home crying saying his feet were burning. These too-small shoes were causing a lot of pain. But George would not relent...he would not say that I was right. He would not believe me.

Just tonight, as George was putting out his clothes for tomorrow I said, "Hey, it's going to be warm tomorrow so you'll probably want to wear shorts."

"I want to wear JEANS."

Again...he doesn't believe me.

I used to think he was stubborn. I used to think he would do these thing simply to irritate the heck out of me. But now...I think God has given me a glimpse into the real reason WHY. George does not believe me...he doesn't trust me...he doesn't think I am trustworthy.

YET.

I am reading Kisses From Katie and there was one section where she is talking about how hard this life of hers is, especially with her adopted children. She writes:

"How do I tell a child I love her when she doesn't know love? How do I expect her to trust me when all she has ever known is broken trust? I prove it. I earn it. I remind them over and over again with words, actions, hugs and kisses. And I remind myself over and over again that Christ incarnated in the parent is the only hope of incarnating Christ in a child. When a child bites me, hits me, or looks into my eyes and tries to shove me away so she can hurt me before I hurt her, when a child overeats to the point of vomiting because she was so hunger and is afraid of that hunger or she hides food under her covers "just in case", when my child cries out for a birth mother or birth father who was abusive, what then? I love anyway."

Before George believes me, I MUST come to his rescue.

Fighting For Anna



It is so hard for me not to post details...but trust me, God knows them. I am asking you to pray for Anna and our adoption of her. We need seveal things (that are completely out of our control) to fall into place. Phone calls are being made today.


We need TPR to happen - so that is what I am asking for prayers for today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Orphan Sunday

My family and I decided to host The Orphan's Table for Eleanor's teen girl's Bible study. It was an amazing night...but this post is about George.

Knowing this would incite anxiety in George, we discuss at length - for days - what the night would entail. We gave him the option many times to stay home, rather than be in a place where people would be talking about orphans, orphanages, eating "a typical orphan meal", etc. He kept saying he understood.

But, clearly he didn't.

And as the hour grew closer and closer for us to go, George got more and more anxious. And in George, that feeling manifests itself as anger and meanness. Our last afternoon started spiraling out of control: George being nasty, Anna sobbing, Eleanor saying mean things, Harry about ready to throw-down....Joe and I realized we had better turn to the Lord.

We brought all the kids into the living room and started to pray. And then, we decided to have so real honest talk. In that conversation, we talked a lot about what it meant to be an orphan and what it meant to be in a family. George, admitted, that he still thinks only about himself and that it is very hard for him to think about how what he says or does might hurt or affect those in his family. He can ONLY think about how HE feels and how HE thinks. At least he was honest.

Then, his fear came out. "Are we going to an orphanage?"

"No, son. This is a really nice house where the girls meet for Bible study."

"Are you going to leave me there?"

I was surprised. "No, buddy."

By the grace of God, we worked our way through this very complicated issue and assured George that he was part of our family and what we were about to do was teach teenage girls about the life of millions of orphans around the world. George and I snuck away to the computer and looked at the waiting children back in his orphanage in Addis. It hit him then...if we can tell more people about the orphans waiting..maybe someone will adopt them.

We got to the house and George and I had a deal..if he didn't want to talk (which is his usually posture), he wouldn't have to and I would share things that he has told me. But, if he wanted to talk...he was more than welcome to add his experience to anything we were saying.

And ADD HE DID!

While we were eating the orphan food, George told the girls that he ate 1 time a day.

The girls were stunned.

Then, George talked about the dirty water and having to walk a long way to get it.

Then he said he went to bed hungry every night.

At another point in the evening, we were leading the girls through scripture about God's heart for the orphan, and George was sprawled out across the center of the living room floor, just chillin'. And HE would answer the questions I posed after each Bible verse!

What change! Oh, how I LOVE these moments where I see such progress! I had a glimpse of a confident, caring young boy...and it was a beautiful sight.

Oh, Lord...keep me in this race until I see the finish line!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Breaking Through

It rained all night last night. And now, as I sit in my living room next to a cozy fire, I can look out my window and see the sun finally breaking through the dark rain clouds.
The view is so clear I can see the tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains towering over the trees ablaze of color in my neighborhood. It is quite a stunning view.
And in this quite, peaceful moment I am filled with awe of how amazing our God is.
Harry said to me yesterday after school, "Mom...I am finally seeing how beautiful fall is meant to be." It has been stunning here - a fall like I have never experienced in any place I have lived.
When I catch these glimpses of untouched beauty, I can't wait to see what heaven will be like. Harry and I often talk about heaven. He is afraid he will be bored. I remind him that there is no way he will be bored. I believe there will be mountain trails to hike and white water rapids to raft and waves to body surf. I believe there will be amazing banquets where loved ones gather for laughter and joy and fellowship. I believe there will be music - even electric guitars and drums that cause your body to move where people will sing and dance and praise God with nothing holding them back.

My brain can't understand ETERNITY. I guess that is where Harry thinks it will get boring.

I just tell him he better make sure he will be there.

It's not about going to church once a week. It's not about being a good person. It's not about saying the same prayer every night for dinner for the past 45 years. It's not about communion or baptism or hymns or clothing or denominations or rituals or habits.

It's about Jesus! Do you love him? Do you want to be in His presence ALWAYS? Do you want to DO what Jesus commanded? Do you even know what Jesus commanded? Do you KNOW Him?

I know him...and I long to know him more and more each day. I want to know his teachings and his words more and more as I grow up. I want to do the hard things that he commanded us to do. I don't want to just check the boxes and act like that is enough.

Jesus did not call us to a life of security and mediocrity. I am constantly measuring my life against that - I don't want to be mediocre. To ME...THAT is a boring life!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My New Heart




Lord, I am trying! Or, actually, I have given up. Yea, that's the better to put it. I have given up once again. I have given up on figuring out George, or convincing him to be good, or banging my head against the wall as we work on homework. I have given up.


But, it's not what you think. I have given up my CONTROL.


And I turned back to my Father in heaven and told Him...it is ONLY through YOU that we will make it.


So, I woke up early and prayed for an hour. I begged God to come and work in me, through me, with me and pour love into George. I begged God to enable me to be a better mom, because I sure fail each and every day...especially with George.




And I told God that I would do my part. I would be in the Word today...I would stay close to Him..I would ABIDE.


Homework was a disaster...sigh....I failed that round.


But then, instead of letting it ruin my evening, I actually asked George if he wanted to help me in the kitchen as I got dinner ready. He was surprised, because I haven't done that for a long time. He helped set the table and then placed each full plate of dinner down carefully at each designated spot. He looked at me...I smiled, gave him a high-five and told him our proud I was of him.


After dinner, I was doing some work on the computer and he didn't leave my side. He was just talking and then he said, "I think I want to go back to the orphanage...the orphanage was fun."


I was stunned. Fun? What? Are you kidding me? I wanted to scream those words at him and shake him until the nonsense was shaking out of him!


But...I quickly breathed a prayer to God....a simply two word prayer..."Help me!"


And I stayed calm and quiet and asked George to tell me about the orphanage. I am learning that he doesn't always mean what he says, or say what he really means. And most times, he just wants to talk about something but doesn't know how to bring it up.


We talked....

and talked....

and talked...


and then, I asked him, "Do you think that all mommies leave?"


He choked on his cry as he tried to say, "Yes."


And he repeated something he has said quite a bit, "I didn't even get to say goodbye to her."


He told me about the day...THE DAY...how his momma got him dressed nicely, found a pair of shoes for him. He was thrilled because he hadn't owned a pair of shoes before. His momma said, "Let's take a walk."


And they walked...and got hungry...and his momma had a piece of bread for him and a yummy drink. He adds, "She didn't eat, but she was very hungry."


He told me how when he got to the orphanage, his momma looked all around and then told George to go to this big play area. George obeyed and started playing with toys. He remember seeing Tegene (Hi, Joseph's mom!!!) and how they smiled at each other and said hello.


And that was it.


She was gone.


He then always talks about having to drink something that tasted so bad and then was put to bed. This time he added how he cried and there was no one there who wanted him.


Tonight...I am so thankful at how God continues to work on BOTH George and I. Obviously, I have some serious heart work that STILL needs to take place...and so does George. And yet again, I am reminded that I need to LOVE him through this.


If you read this and think of me...I need your prayers. I can't do this alone. I can't love the way I should without daily prayers. I trust that God WILL answer those prayers. Help me. Because I WANT to love George with an everlasting love.

Tonight, we got much closer.

The Grateful Project

My dear friend, Amy, comes up with the coolest ideas....the latest being The Grateful Project. And again...I am going to "steal" her idea...or maybe it sounds better if I am going to "join her" in this project.


On FB, I will post each day something I am thankful for. It is fitting to do so in November because of Thanksgiving. Truly, Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday! I love making the turkey and all the fixin's, I love sitting around the table talking about what we are thankful for, I love the smell in the kitchen and the stuffed feeling at the end of the day. Love it all!


I usually pull out our Thankful Box (I am sure I have written a post about that someone - I will try to find it and link here) one week before Thanksgiving and then let the kids fill the box with their thoughts of thankfulness. After we eat our feast, we pass the box around the table and each person reads one of the thoughts. It will be extra fun this year because my mom and dad will be joining us!


So, I am going to focus on being thankful this month.....and in the spirit of continuing to copy Amy...here are some pictures from around our house :)





Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Guys



Two birthdays - yipee!


Throw in Trunk or Treat and it was a FULL weekend of celebrating.

Lincoln was soooooo excited to FINALLY get a DS (it's all he has wanted for over a year).


The kids gave Daddy a little German Shepherd figurine...knowing how much Gunnar means to Joe. Gunnar approved.












Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trunk or Treating



We attended our first ever Trunk or Treating event...and boy was it fun! The kids had a blast - and Joe and I were very inspired to kick our car-decorating up a notch next year - already making plans!


And best of all...we didn't spend a dime on our Halloween costumes :) I still haven't been able to shake the knowledge that Americans have spent over 6 billion dollars on Halloween this year. Like Harry said, "That could provide a lot of wells for clean water in Africa...but does anyone care about that?"

Friday, October 28, 2011

Heart Gallery

I brought home a flier from the adoption conference that I purposefully laid out in the kitchen, waiting to see how my family would respond. The flier is the South Carolina Heart Gallery. If you are not sure what a Heart Gallery is, it is a photograph and description of several children who are available for adoption through the foster care system.

I was heart broken when I looked at the flier. Too many children who have no family. Too many children who just want a hope of a future. Too many children that will continue to be overlooked because they are "too old" or "too broken" or "too messed up". But, what I read were descriptions of my own children...loves music, likes to dance, loves to laugh and play...wants to know the love of a family.

I decided to keep the flier to pray for these kids. But I was curious as to what my children would say.

One by one, my children read or looked at the flier.

Eleanor looked at the flier and noticed that many of the kids were around her age and she said, "They deserve a special mom and dad."

Harry read every word and was very quiet afterward. We ended up having an amazing conversation about people in our lives who are so concerned with making their lives comfortable they are missing out on a life of meaning.

Isabel read the flier and then told me how sad she was, but felt lucky that she was not on that flier.

George announced all those kids need a mom and dad and it isn't good to be a kid alone.

Lincoln looked at the pictures, asked me the kids' names and then said, "We have room in our car for one more! Let's adopt again!"

Anna looked at the pictures for quite a while, didn't say anything and then walked over and hugged me.

Can I just insert here how much I love and adore ALL my children?

Joe shed a tear. He was particularly drawn to a young lady who was beautiful and said really funny things about what she likes.

We all agreed to keep the flier and to keep on praying for these kids.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Anna Banana



I call Anna "Anna Banana". No real reason why - Joe I just love giving nicknames to our kiddos.


So, tonight, Anna was playing outside with her best buddy and it was getting dark. I opened the back door and called out, "Anna Banana! It's time to come in."


To which she replied, "OK Mommy Banana!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Can't Tell :)

Sunshine was streaming through the windows of the church as birds were singing in the beautiful trees ablaze with red leaves. There was a cool breeze to make it the perfect October day in South Carolina.

All the people at the adoption conference were smiling and laughing and carrying on about how much adoption has meant to them. Couple after couple stood to the podium and made the same statements while smiles spread across their faces so wide I thought their cheeks might rip.

"There is NO difference in my love between my biological children and my adopted children."

"I can't even tell which are my adopted children and which are my biological children."

Ahhhhh - adoption.

Even the key-note speaker kept talking about "adopting babies" because "babies" are just so wonderful and cuddly and cute and even more wonderful!

Meanwhile, I sit there thinking I must be a horrible mom.

There IS a difference in my love. I haven't reached a point where I can't remember which of my children are adopted and which are not.

Sigh - adoption.

I love adoption conferences...but at the same time, I hate them. I left there feeling AGAIN like I am unusual or weird or worse yet...a FAILURE for not feeling like these happy moms cuddling their babies and saying things like "I have to laugh when someone asks me which one is adopted because golly, I just can't remember sometimes." When I look at my 6 lined up, I surely can tell right away which ones are adopted.

When I go to school conferences, I can tell right away which ones are adopted.
When I go to a family wedding, I can tell right away which ones are adopted.
When I walk into a store and get stared at, I can tell right away which ones are adopted.
And when I tuck them in at night, I can tell right away which ones are adopted.

My adopted kids talk differently, they smell differently, they behave differently.

What about us moms who are struggling to make this work? What about us moms that 2 years in are still having daily battles (mainly within myself)? I am part of a board where the moms are brutally and refreshingly honest. We tell each other when we are struggling...and believe me...many of us ARE!

But, who gets paraded on the stage at an adoption conference? They JCrew wearing, clear skinned, recently dyed-hair pastor's wife who announces to the crowd with her bleached white teeth that, "Gee willikers, people always ask me if I love my adopted baby here - isn't he cute - the same as I love my biological kids...and let me tell you, golly gee, that I absolutely love this adorable wubbie-tubbie cutie pie." And the audience all claps and smiles and sighs and thinks, "THAT is what adoption is."

And don't get me wrong - for some people THAT IS what adoption is like. But what about the rest of us?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Trip To Ohio




We took a little, whirl-wind trip back to Cincinnati, Ohio. This is the city where Joe and I met, where we dated for 2 years and where he asked me to marry him. We have been back before with the kids, driving around in the car and saying things like, "That is where Mommy used to live." And then, "This is the street Daddy's apartment was on."


But this trip seemed different. We stayed right on the Ohio River and had the opportunity to walk around downtown Cincinnati. This is where Joe and I had so many dates and where we spent so much of our two years while we both lived here. It really was FUN!






Plus..our kids are getting to an age where THEY are fun! Our older ones have such a good sense of humor and they can make me laugh so hard. No longer do I need to carry around a diaper bag or make sure someone is getting to bed on time. It's pretty wonderful to watch my kids grow up into their own people.

















Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How God Works

God gets the glory.

And here is how He is doing just that in Wisconsin today.

Finally, the Senate will be voting on AB30, The Safe Families Bill. It was one year ago this week that I sat in an office in the state house in Madison and heard the head of DCFS say, "You will never be allowed to do Safe Families in Wisconsin."

It was one year ago this week that I cried in my car driving home from Madison, praying that God would do something.

It was one year ago this week that I determined to keep moving forward. God said, "Keep fighting." So, I did. I recruited families. I placed two little boys.

And then God moved. Along comes Representative Dale Kooyenga. He said, "I'll do this with you." And Representative Kooyenga got busy in Madison.

I and prayed. And I begged everyone I knew in Wisconsin to send emails and make phone calls to their Representatives in Madison. We were making progress!

Then, dum-dum-dum (enter scary music)...the Budget Repair Bill hit. Sigh. Everything halted in Madison - and don't even get me started about the teacher's unions and the ridiculous protests, but I guess from that statement you know how I feel about it all.

God continued to move. He pricked the hearts of certain people in Madison who continued to carry the torch even through the muck of the protests and the fighting and the yelling and the name-calling. Quietly, our little bill stayed alive.

We passed the Assembly committee. We passed the Assembly. We passed the Senate committee. Then....STALL.

I have so much to say about a certain Senator who was annoyed at hearing from his constituents..but I will save THAT for another shout-out after the bill is signed by the governor!

Because of this STALL...we faced uncertainty. Will we ever get this bill to a vote in the Senate? Will it just die here in committee land?

I moved. Now what? I KNOW this is so much bigger than one stay-at-home mom, but who was going to be the bull-dog now?

Um....Traci....you are so foolish sometimes...I AM GOD.

So, here is where it gets really cool! Apparently, a few years ago, this certain Senator had a certain man as his chief of staff. Well...that certain man was called into active duty and had to leave WI, and his job as this Senator's chief of staff. He moved to a state where Safe Families is legal and he and his wife BECAME a Safe Family! Then, in late September, this certain man called up the certain Senator and said, "Hey! I am in town for the night...let's catch up over dinner!" The certain Senator said, "Sounds good."

And over the course of a two hour dinner, the certain man told the certain Senator about this amazing ministry he was involved with..."it's called Safe Families and it is changing our lives and our community". The certain Senator had a light-bulb moment...Safe Families sounds familiar.."oh yes...I have a piece of legislation sitting on my desk waiting for a vote."

God...ONLY God could have orchestrated that dinner. Only God could have known that the once chief of staff for the certain Senator who was holding up a certain piece of legislation would someday become a Safe Family and then advocate for it with NO IDEA that the certain Senator needed to put it to a vote!

To God be the glory!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another Dose of Adoption Reality

Conferences.

I used to love conferences. I would hear wonderful things about my children, "They are doing so well." "They are so smart." "They are natural leaders."

Now, I experience the "other side" of conferences.

"He is failing most of his classes." "She has a hard time listening." "She is way behind." "We are going to have to think about holding him back."

So many words coming at me as I meet with teacher after teacher. I go from one extreme to the other as I bounce around between the different grades. The reality goes like this...my two hand-picked kiddos suffer from developmental delays, educational delays, emotional delays...basically, they are delayed in every possible way except maybe physically.

They were not rocked and sung to as babies. They did not have nurseries and play rooms filled with stimulating colors and shapes. They were not read to as toddlers. They never sang the ABC song. The did not practice counting to 5. They did not watch Sesame Street and hear the monsters rhyme words. They don't know the letters in their name.

And then, they go to school, where they are surrounded by children who HAVE done all those things.

But wait, they are still learning a language. They still have a long way to go to feel safe and secure. They are trying to catch up from years of malnourishment. So, on top of trying to focus on vocabulary words or the seasons or the days of the week, their little brains are trying to take in a clean classroom filled with colorful posters and bins filled with math manipulatives and mobiles hanging from the ceiling and a tee-pee reading tent in the corner and book shelves filled with books!

Then, you throw in the cultural differences. Here, we look adults in the eye. In ET, if a child looks an adult in the eye, they risk a smack on the head. Here, we value education In ET, there is perceived very little need for education. The list goes on and on.

So, I sat in the conferences with teachers who LOVE my children - thank you Lord! They are talking with me weekly, if not daily some times, to do what is best for my kiddos. They are amazed how far they have come...but overwhelmed with how far they have to go.

This is just another dose of adoption reality.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hot or Cold

These days, George is either hot or cold.
He is either stomping off to his room, blabbering something about running away and hating us....
or...
he is curled up by my side, stroking my face, telling me how much he loves me.
There is very little in between.
There is very little normalcy.
I am trying this new method of parenting George. He is no longer getting attention when he misbehaves. And I am trying to remember to lavish him with love when he IS behaving.

But, the struggle is in my heart. Because when he is blabbering about hating me and wanting to run away, I take those words deep into my heart and I don't want to let them go. So, when he cuddles up to me, I almost despise his love because I don't feel it is real.

This is the reality of my life with an adopted child who is broken, fragile, and so deeply hurting. He cried to me the other day that he can't remember anything about his Africa Daddy. That made him so sad.

I laid on the couch about 3:30am this morning (some sick kids) and prayed that God would continue what he has started in George's heart: HEALING. Sometimes, I am angry at how long it is taking....other times I am convicted that I am not doing enough in the healing process....and yet other times I recognize how far we have all come. But, this boy needs HEALING. He needs to know the LOVE that never fails.

I read of a friend of mine back in Milwaukee who suddenly found herself on the news and in the papers. Her adopted daughter from Ethiopia ran away because she was angry about being punished. Oh, how I know exactly what that is like! Oh, how I fear the day George DOES walk out the door in his anger and we find ourselves working with the police to find him. Oh, how I fear the day he hurts someone or makes a really bad decision. It COULD happen.

All the love and stability and forgiveness and comfort and food and shelter we provide COULD lead up to NOTHING. I know a BATTLE rages in George's soul! I see it...every day. This child is so torn between good and evil. Evil has won so many times in his short life that he feels more comfortable with that side. We are fighting hard to pull him to the good side. Some days, I am tired of fighting.

Russell Moore just wrote a blog piece saying :DON'T ADOPT! He is right. ALL of us are not called to adopt because this is a HARD, HARD road. I don't understand why God CHOSE our road to be so difficult. He also blessed us with Anna, whose road has been lined with tulips and butterflies (comparatively speaking!). So, I know adoption CAN be so wonderful. Why did God ask Joe and I to take such a HARD road?

If you know the answer, can you tell me?

In the meantime, I muddle through each day, wondering which George I will have any given minute.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pretty Soon!



Pretty soon, Anna will legally be OURS!


We meet with our new lawyer this week to begin the process. In WI, we had to wait 6 months before we could legally adopt Anna. The end of October marks that 6 month mark. So, we are getting ready.

I have so much to share about sweet Anna! But, I just don't feel comfortable doing so until she is legally ours.


I will say this, disruption is heartbraking! But...I know this....Anna WELDIE was PLAN A. It just took an unexpected journey to bring her to our family.


I can't wait to be able to tell you all about Anna, her life, her story and how perfect she is for our family.


Would you please pray for us? We have to trust the Lord for the money to come - from where - I have no idea - to finalize the adoption. Because of the move, our savings has been wiped out. We are stepping forward trusting that God will provide the lawyer fees and the court costs and the new homestudy fee. Also, please pray for our protection...that we get to finalize the adoption before the end of the year and officially give Anna her new name. Thank you!





Pretty soon!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Not a Good Boy"

Every day I am learning more and more about what makes George tick.

Saturday morning, George was having a rough one. I can't remember exactly what set him off. I think it was that we ran out of T*aster Strudel. Or maybe it was because Lincoln got to go with Daddy for a quick trip to the store. It really doesn't matter what the reason is, George will find any way to be angry these days.

My challenge is to not engage him when he is acting that way. So, he stormed up the stairs saying hateful, awful things. Oh, how tired I am of writing this same story out! But, he does it again and again, so this is my life.

Two days in a row of George pouting and whining about not getting SOME THING that he wanted. And Joe finally had enough.

After a bit, George had finally settled down enough to to talk. Joe talked to him about his behavior, how it simply is unacceptable for him to act the way he does when he doesn't get his way. They talked and then Joe said, "George...you ARE a GOOD BOY...now BE a GOOD BOY."

George's face broke into a million pieces suddenly and the tears raced down his cheeks.

"I don't believe I am a good boy."

Oh, Georgie - why would you say that?

"Because my Africa mommy gave up on me."

I think we are finally getting to a heart issue. George does not believe he is good at heart and so he acts out what he believes he is.

How do I answer? How do I even begin to re-build a child who has been so hurt?

I am learning that this is not a quick-fix and I am learning this is a hard road. Yes, I chose this road....but as I think of my son in all his brokenness and grief...I am willing to walk the hard road.

Through it all, I know God chose THIS broken boy for me. God knew how much I needed to be changed through this . So, not only is my story about adopting a boy from Africa, it is TRULY about a woman who is learning (slowly, I might add) to look more like Jesus.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Fear That Runs Deep

I have observed a couple of things in my relationship with George lately. These things used to drive me crazy, but now, I understand.

George tends to get angry very easily. When he gets angry, he sulks away, usually doing this Ethiopian cry/whine type thing. Needless to say, it totally grates on our nerves. He tries to engage in an argument and I am learning to not go there. I have learned to stay calm, state my case, and then say, "I am done talking about this until you calm down."

We have implemented grounding lately. No more yelling. No more spankings. George now gets grounded to his room. The door can stay open, and he can listen to music or play with his toys, and he can sit in the window and watch what is going on outside...but he must stay in his room. So far.....(huge so far!)....this is "working".

Some times, grounding won't work....like when we are walking to the school bus, or when everyone is going to bed and essentially "grounded" to their rooms anyway. I have noticed that when George is angry with me, he will hang on to that anger for as long as he can. He will do everything he can to make me KNOW that he is angry with me.

Now, for the record, ALL my kids get angry with me. Yes, I am THAT type of mom who sometimes says things the way they are, and a mom who does not treat all 6 kids FAIRLY (not all will get dessert - just those that finish their dinner type of mom). I speak honestly with my children and I let them know what I expect out of them. Sometimes, they don't like that. And they get angry.

When the others get angry, they very easily fall asleep or get on the school bus. But...NOT GEORGE....

I have noticed that George WILL hang on to the anger for as long as he possibly can. Typically, he will climb out of bed after the house gets quiet and tip-toe into my room and say, "I'm sorry, Momma." We reconcile, we hug and George skips off to bed with a smile on his face. This scenario happens over and over and over and over again. I am so used to it I can almost predict to the minute when he will be coming down the stairs.

Well, this morning, something finally dawned on me. This morning, as I was helping Lincoln with his shoes, I sighed and said out loud, "Buddy, you really need some new shoes."

Anna piped in, "Me too, Mommy!"

"Yes, sweetie. You do, too."

"Mom, I could really use a new pair of tennis shoes for volleyball," said Isabel

Another big sigh. "OK. You are right. I will run out to the store today and get you three some new shoes because you really need them."

At this point, George lets us all know how upset he is by his HUGE whine.

"George, I know how important shoes are to you. I know you want to make sure you always have shoes and never want to be without them again. But, can you tell me how many shoes you have right now in your closet?'

He counts in his head meticulously.

"12", he answers. Now, for the record, I think a child having 12 pairs of shoes is ridiculous. But, George needs to have shoes in every room and be able to change his shoes every day in order to feel secure. He has been focused on shoes since the day we picked him up. He would stop on the streets of Addis Ababa when he saw a pair of shoes for sale. He would plant himself and refuse to move. At night, he would cry and scream when we would take his shoes off of him when it was time to crawl into bed. He has purposefully ripped his shoes just to be sure he would get a new pair (I hope this trend is slowly being broken!). And remember the HORRIFIC airport scene? Yup...SHOES...at the center of it all!

I try to talk to him about how he could wear a different pair of shoes each day of the week and STILL have 5 more pair to wear the next week before finally putting on a pair for the 2nd time.

No help.

He is angry. No, he is furious. He just can't get over the fact that he is not going to get a new pair of shoes today.

He walks all the way to the bus ANGRY. He walks about 10 paces in front of us. He refuses to sit with us on the curb as we wait. He won't even look at the rest of us as we talk.

But then the bus comes.

Suddenly, he races over to me, wrapping his arms around me and says, "I am sorry, Momma! I love you so much ."

And I get it....he wants to...no....NEEDS to....reconcile before there is any separation between us. The fear that runs deep in his little heart is that we will never be reconciled. His fear is that this anger will forever separate us. And no matter how angry he is with me...he needs to know I love him before he leaves my presence in any way.

And I wondered...was he angry when his Africa Mommy left him? Had he been pouting? Had he been angry? Did he say something mean to her?

And then....he never had the chance to say he was sorry or say he really DID love her.

Imagine that. Loving someone so dearly and suddenly never having the chance to tell them you love them? I can only imagine how that regret and pain run so deeply in a child.

Separated from the one he loved. And then, left in an orphanage. Then taken by strange ferenji who looked nothing like him and spoke a language he had never heard.

It breaks my heart to think of the fear that runs so deep in his little heart.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Orphan's Table



My love for advocacy for the orphan has not diminished at all! In fact, I have been praying for a few years that God would open up opportunities for me to share the news about orphans.


Orphan Sunday is coming up on November 6th so I thought I would throw something out to the youth leaders at the church we are attending. I said, I would be willing to host the



Orphan's Table. And guess what?


They said, "Sounds like a great idea! Let's get together and talk about it."


So...we will meet next week.


I also decided to join the local alliance for orphans. No, I am not leading an orphan ministry. No, I am not representing Safe Families. No, I am not doing really anything other than refusing to put out the Holy Spirit's fire. God has put this burning into my soul and I need to continue to feed the fire...letting it burn!


Our experiences in adopting orphans could not be more different. But both of my children are so broken and need so much love. And they both need to feel God's love. And KNOW God's love. And then, I think of the other 150 million orphans in the world who don't know God's love and my heart breaks. I have trouble keeping the tears at bay.


There are children going to sleep tonight in Africa who are HUNGRY, have not been kissed goodnight or tucked into a warm, comfortable bed. And that continues to

BREAK

MY

HEART.


YOU can host the Orphan's Table! Check it out here and see how YOU can bring the message to your community, your family or your church.