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.


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.


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, 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 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.


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.


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 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 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 are some pictures from around our house :)