Thursday, March 31, 2011

Because He Takes it Personal

Often, other people say it so much better than I can. Please read this (click on the word "this").

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Please Watch




I watched this video and was moved to tears. After all, this IS what our Father in heaven did for us. What struck me the most was how the people on the train had NO IDEA the sacrifice that has just been made. Don't let that be you...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Two Girls


I attended my first post-adoption support group. I felt like I needed to stand up and say, "My name is Traci and I am a struggling adoptive mom." And then everyone would smile and say, "Hi Traci!" Support groups are not my thing. I have never been the type to attend one - or even think about attending one. But, this week...I did.

And God gave me a gift.

I had no idea what the agenda was going to be. I didn't even tell anyone I was going to attend. But there were two teenage girls sitting directly across from me who were introduced and then began to talk. They are biological sisters who were adopted from a different country when they were 4 and 2 and they began to share their story.

One started, "I was horrible."

That is how she started. Wow!

"I did everything I could think of to be horrible for my mom." She went on to tell story after story of how she would do the exact opposite of what she had been told to do, how she ruined birthdays and Christmas celebrations, how she was often in trouble at school and how she wanted to make her mom's life miserable.

I sat there stunned. Was I getting a glimpse into the future?

She talked about being drawn to those who also misbehaved and even as a teenager is now drawn to "the bad boys". Her sister then talked about following in those same footsteps, often being rebellious, defiant and being intentionally horrible toward her siblings because she was so jealous of them. They shared how anger was their main emotion and how they were very comfortable being angry. When they were angry, they were in control. When they were angry, they could control the situation and the family. If they would start to feel sadness or nervousness or fear, they would squash that emotion and instead return to ANGER.

When it finally came time for questions, I jumped right in, "Why? Can you tell me WHY you acted this way?"

"I was testing my mom. I was abandoned and I always felt like I had to have done something so horrible for my birth mom to abandon me. I just wanted to test my new mom over and over and over again to see if she was really going to stick with me. I couldn't trust her. I couldn't trust anyone. So many grown-ups had let me down. She would say she loved me, but I didn't believe her."

The other sister began crying, "I was scared."

I followed up with telling them a snippet of what I am going through right now. Then asked, "What advice do you give me as that mom who is being tested and kept at an arm's length?"

The both answered at the same time, "Don't give up on him."

Don't give up on him. Love him. Forgive him.

In desperation I asked, "WHEN will he stop testing me?"

Again, they both answered, "I don't know. Probably years from now. But don't ever stop loving him."

Within 48 hours, I read the article by Tim Keller I shared yesterday and then heard from these two girls. And again, God brings me right back to knowing this is ALL ABOUT LOVE. I look back on my life a few years ago and realized I had no idea what love really was. God definitely is teaching me about the way HE loves - that substitutionary love that says I will substitute

my comfort
and my peace
and my way

to fill you up

and make you comfortable
and give you peace
and give you your way.

That kind of love goes against all our sinful nature. We may talk a good talk about "loving your neighbor" and "loving the way God loves", but the reality is that when we are loving those who love us back or fill us up, we are getting something out of our loving them. I think God wants me to learn how to love someone who never gives back or loves back....yet.

I am happy to report that things ARE improving around here. I am still practicing my firm love. There are clear expectations and clear lines. If George crosses that line, he is disciplined in a firm, non-emotional way. He had a horrible day at school yesterday, spending a lot of time in the principal's office...so we still have a LONG way to go. He is still in the testing phase. He still wants to know that even if he is at the worst he can possibly be, we are still going to love him and stick with him.

We are, George, I promise.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How God Speaks To Me

"Can you hear God? I can't hear him..." George said sadly as we sat on the stairs talking about how God told Momma and Daddy to adopt George. I realized how difficult it is to explain to a child who God speaks to us.

God recently spoke to me again..this time He used the words of Timothy Keller from his book King's Cross.

"Jesus didn't have to die despite God's love; he had to die because of God's love. And it had to be this way because all life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice.

Think about it. If you love a person whose life is all put together and has no major needs, it costs you nothing. It's delightful. There are probably four or five people like that where you live. You ought to find them and become their friend. But if you ever try to love somebody who has needs, someone who is in trouble or who is persecuted or emotionally wounded, it's going to cost you. You can't love them without taking a hit yourself. A transfer of some kind is required, so that somehow their troubles, their problems, transfer to you.

There are a lot of wounded people out there. They are emotionally sinking, they're hurting, and they desperately need to be loved. And when they are with you, you want to look at your watch and make a graceful exit, because listening to them with all their problems can be grueling. It can be exhausting to love an emotionally damaged person. The only way they're going to start filling up emotionally is if somebody loves them, and the only way to love them is to let yourself be emotionally drained. Some of your fullness is going to have to go into them, and you have to empty out to some degree. If you hold on to our emotional comfort and simply avoid those people, they will sink. The only way to love them is through substitutionary sacrifice."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making A Decision

I am leaning toward making a big decision: home schooling George.

I believe in home schooling. I still love home schooling. And I think getting George away from all the negative influences at school will only benefit him.

Right now we are looking at simply doing this for the remainder of the school year, but I am open to continuing into next year. A lot depends on Joe's job, Safe Families, and how the boys do.

Please pray that I make a wise decision.

The Itch

OK - you will probably think we are crazy. Many will write and say, "What are you thinking!" But, Joe and I have "the itch".

The adoption itch.

We want another child.

There...I said it.

Despite the trials and the heartache and the frustration, we CAN NOT deny the JOY of ADOPTION! I realize as I write about the REALITIES of adopting an older child from Ethiopia, that it may, at times, seem as if I regret our adoption.

NO!

We have such HOPE for George! We BELIEVE he will be a strong oak tree blessing others some day. God continues to speak to my heart to simply TRUST that He is doing a GREAT WORK in George - and many days, He is telling me, "Hey, Traci....this isn't about you. It's about the children I so desperately LOVE."

So, Joe and I have been talking. We both want to adopt again.

But, we have NO IDEA
HOW......
WHEN.........
WHERE................

Our hearts have been moved in areas we had not thought of. We have explored both adopting out of foster care in Wisconsin and domestic Down Syndrome adoption. But, we still long to add another African child to our brood. It saddens me when I look at pictures of the kids together and see George as the ONE who sticks out. He sometimes laments his skin color and the texture of his hair because it is so different from the rest of ours. I want him to have a little brother or sister who looks just like him - and has been adopted. However, the reality is that we can't afford it and we are positive God does not want us to go into debt to adopt.

So...we are WAITING to see where He leads and how He provides.

But hey, if anyone wants to see us adopt again, feel free to cover the costs - ha!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Worst 24 Hours


I experienced the worst 24 hours of my year last week. In fact, last week yesterday I was sobbing on the phone to a friend about how I just can't take anymore. I am going to write about this for those who are going through the same thing I am, having adopted children from Ethiopia who are really struggling.

AWANA. Normal Wednesday night. But, it had been a very hard four weeks before this night. I had been trying the "I'm going to win him over with my love" routine. Obviously, that was not working. On a side note, I have a lot to say now about ability grouping in schools! My bio children have always been placed in the "high" ability group -which I have loved as they are challenged to move forward at a more rapid pace. Now, I have a son who is in the "low" ability group. In this group are mainly boys who not only struggle academically, but also are serious behavior problems. I wondered where George was getting some of the new things he has been saying...now I know. He is picking up everything these other boys say and do; whine and complain, don't obey the first time an instruction is given, and when you mess up, you shout "I am so stupid!" It really, really frustrates me to no end that those influences are the kids George is stuck with - and I can't stand that he is acting like them. This leads me to re-think home schooling him.

OK - back to the story, diving home from AWANA, George was out of control hyper. He tends to be this way after AWANA, or any other night that he doesn't have a calm routine at home and a regular bed time. I simply tell him, in a loving voice, "It is time to settle down."

You would think I would have just told him that I would be cutting off his right leg when we got home by the way he reacted - or overreacted! George proceeds to start choking himself. He puts his entire fist into his mouth and begins gagging, coughing and gasping for breath. Isabel starts crying (she is SO OVER this!) and Harry yells that I need to pull over the car.

I pull over the car and do the only thing I can think of - I start praying! I pray that whatever evil has found harbor in his heart must leave! We are a family where Jesus is with us and we will not put up with this evil for any longer. Now...I have never prayed like this. I am always that one who has little doubts in the back of my mind when people start talking about demons or evil or praying in Jesus name. But in the moment - it is all I could think of doing. I was shouting my prayer, arms raised to the ceiling of my car. Eleanor started crying, Isabel continued crying. The car was suddenly silent.

And George stopped.

When we got home, the girls and I stood in the garage holding each other and crying. There are no more words I can give them, no more encouragements. All I could do was hold my daughters and let them cry and cry.

George stood in the door to the garage looking a little shocked. I don't know if he realized how much he has been hurting us, but he saw in that moment three of us broken and desperate.

At bed time, George told Joe that he wanted me and Isabel to die. He hoped Isabel would die from coughing and he didn't want me to be his mom anymore and he would be better off if I would just die.

Could it possibly get any worse?

It did.

The next morning, George woke up right where he left off. On the ten minute ride to school, he spent the entire minutes hurling hateful words at the back of my head as I drove.

"I hate you so much. You are the worst mom in the world. You pack up my things and have them ready for me when I get home. I am leaving. I am going to the airport and I find a new family. All moms are better than you are. You are the worst mom. I hate you. I hate God. I hate Isabel. I hate your cooking. I hate the clothes you buy me. I hate the dog. I hate living here. I hate school. I hate you. You are the worst mom ever."

On and on and on it went.

Needless to say, he spent the entire morning in the principal's office.

It was a half day of school and I got a call from the principal asking me to pick up George instead of letting him ride the bus home.

When I got there, and George saw me, he took off his glasses and broke them.

The principal looked at me and said, "I see now what you are dealing with!"

But, while George was at school, I called a friend who has walked this journey before me. And she advised me to go back to "tough love", although we both admitted we hated that term. Understanding Ethiopian culture and how these children were raised in the southern, rural areas reminded me that although there is very little parenting, when a child is disciplined it is very rough and physical. And George responds to that. I decided I needed to do some drastic things, I moved Lincoln out of George's room and took away some of his favorite toys.

So, when George and I got home, I marched him into his room, sat him on the bed and told him very calmly, but very firmly, "There will be NO more talk about finding a new mom. You will not say I am a bad mom any more. This behavior you have been doing is totally unacceptable. If you continue to act this way, you will have punishments. For how you acted this morning, you will not be allowed to eat lunch with us and you will stay in your room all afternoon."

I brought him his lunch and closed the door.

He asked if he could go outside. I asked why. He said because he wanted to run away.

I flatly said no and shut his door again.

Several hours went by. Unlike the first three months of our life together, George did not destroy his room or scream at the top of his lungs. He sat quietly and stared out his window. Around 3:00, he asked if he could talk to me.

"I am sorry, mom."

"I forgive you son. But I have a question for you. Does God make mistakes?"

He thought for a long time and then quietly answered, "No."

"Then, do you think he made a mistake when he told Mommy and Daddy to adopt you?"

"Did God tell you to adopt me?"

"Yes!"

"How did you hear God? I don't hear God."

"Mommy and Daddy have learned how to hear God talk to us in our heart. But, did God make a mistake when he told us to adopt George?"

Silence, but he was visibly thinking this over.

"No."

"God NEVER makes mistakes. God wanted us to be a family! And God still wants us to be a family! He loves you so much..."

"I sorry momma, but it is so hard to be good!"

"Well, that is why God gave you a family. Do you know the Bible says 'God sets the lonely in families.'? Were you lonely? God wanted you to be in a family that would help you learn about love and forgiveness and mercy...and having fun and making memories and going swimming..."

I wish I could say everything changed in that instance. It didn't. Since then, every day there are major meltdowns and battles. He is definitely an 8 year old with the emotional age of a 3 year old still. Saying no to George usually entails a temper tantrum and pouting and whining. And he is always looking to what others get and what others have and what others do with me. Despite his words of hating me, he gets so mad when Lincoln climbs into my lap and we cuddle and love on each other. And despite telling me I am the worst mom in the world, he always comes to me when he needs help or wants something.

There is a mighty war raging in his soul. I see it acted out every day. He is drawn to the bad in people and likes to emulate that behavior. But all that leads to is more trouble for him. He longs to be a child who will sit with him momma and cuddle, but he just won't let himself do that for very long.

Every step forward in our healing is followed with more steps back. Last night, I purposefully sat next to George at Harry's band concert. He spent much of the concert draped across my lap with his arms wrapped around my leg. I rubbed and patted his back and often hugged him. Then, in the parking lot on the way home, he became rude and stubborn and then down right hateful toward me. Again, he shouts out horrible words at me the whole drive home and even proclaims, "God is an idiot!" knowing this will really hurt me.

He got a spanking when we got home.

And then I tucked him into bed and told him how much I loved him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hope


I am not even sure where to start. It didn't help that my computer was in the computer-hospital for two weeks (and I am finding that I have forgotten how to type! I keep wanting to use only my thumbs.) Maybe it was a good thing not to report how hard each and every day has been? Maybe God wanted me to spend more time in quiet prayer with HIM than sitting at the computer telling you all about it? So much has happened over the past two weeks that I can't even begin to share everything.

I can tell you that Thursday, I had it! I had spent hours on my knees crying out to God. I was angry at Him and kept saying, "With ONE WORD you could heal him! With ONE WORD you could bring healing to this boy's heart and he might stop hating me! So, why won't you do that?" Joe and I had to come to a place of accepting the worst case scenario, which is the next ten years of heartache and pain and strife, to then see George off on his 18th birthday and he leaves never looking back. We decided, we could accept that.

But, we are HOPEFUL that won't happen! Even in the midst of hateful words being leveled at me in particular for hours upon end, I still have HOPE. Maybe I am crazy? God has blessed us with glimpses of a "normal" life every now and then. And George has had moments of showing love toward me.

The bottom line is that God is continuing to teach me about LOVE. It is so easy to say "I love you", but I have learned how to say "I love you" to someone who has been the most un-loveable for over a month. No awards for me, please - it is a struggle against my flesh every day. I want to with-hold my love. I want to scream in his face that he doesn't deserve my love. I want to love those who love me and then show him what he is missing.

And God...AGAIN....says, "Traci, this is how my children treat me every day." And I get another glimpse into the heart of God who loves lavishly on children who misuse His name, don't trust in His plan, want to go it their own way, dig in their heels and say "not know God!". And, I am here to humbly admit that I AM GEORGE. Despite all my scripture quoting and pithy prayers, in my heart I often say, "I am tired of you plan, so why don't you just leave me alone for a while. I am sure I can do this better on my own!" And I see how hard it is for George to trust me, when I often find it hard to trust God!

Hope. I have hope because of ONE THING...God is in this with us. I have been asking George lately if God makes mistakes. When George answers, "no", I reply with, "Well, then He didn't make a mistake when He decided we needed to be a family." Joe and I often talk about the hope of a future. Sometimes we don't think the hope for a future is for us, maybe it is for our children who are watching every move we make? Either way, we know our purpose here is to bring glory to God! Harry asked me, "How can God get any glory if George never changes?" I didn't know the answer to that, but I am trusting that God will let me know someday.