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!