Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Giving God the Glory


I grew up often being reminded to give God the glory for anything that I thought I had done. It was a great way to grow up...always being told, "It's not you...it's God." I am sure my parents had to remind me of this often, however, because I was slow to learn the lesson. I wanted the glory. I wanted the praise and the accolades. I wanted it all. It has taken some hard face-first falls to finally get it....although, in all honesty, it is now something Joe and I pray for CONSTANTLY for me (that I keep my pride in check).
So I guess it should be no surprise when one of my offspring would struggle greatly with pride. Yes, my joy-give, Miss Isabel. And yes, she is amazing! She is beautiful, talented, smart, kind, generous, thoughtful, able, strong....and the bad part is that she knows it. She is also the middle child who so desperately wants to shine in order to get some attention. Isabel will work the hardest to get the good grade...or be the top reader in her grade....oh, wait, let me take that back. She is working hard to be the top reader in her SCHOOL. She found out about a girl in the grade above hers that has read more books -and that has now motivated my girl to overcome her competitor. When Isabel's volleyball team lost the 4th grade volley-ball championship game, she moped for days and when she finally talked about it, said one thing, "I am going to learn how to serve overhand so that NO ONE can pass my serves!"
And, man...do I love this girl!
And because I so desperately love her, I want her to get it before I got it. And so, we chose this verse for our dear Isabel:
"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving teh Lord, not men." Ephesians 6:7
I shared how we passed out the kids' verses, reading them outloud, and making a big deal about each one. Each child smiled and hugged us as we read their verses to them. I didn't mention that Isabel was not so thrilled with her verse. She did not smile. She did not hug us. And I think it is because we struck a nerve.
Isabel will work the hardest...she will stay the longest...she will volunteer the firstest....ha - just wanted to keep the -est thing going. You get the picture. But I have started to wonder what is motivating her. I believe it IS the praise of men. And what the weed I want to uproot and yank out is that weed of pride, that weed that tells Isabel that man's praises mean everything. I know to road that lies ahead if we don't pull that weed out!
I long for Isabel to continue to do her best, shining out in every environment she is in...but I want her to point people to Jesus Christ! So, first things first, I need her to think she is serving the Lord in everything she does.
Despite her not smiling when she got this verse, it is very special to me. Isabel is so much like me when I was a kid. And I believe that by praying this over her every day, she'll be able to point people to Jesus in a powerful way!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Our Nighttime Routine


When we moved to Watertown, our kids all rode the same bus, which meant all five of them (before Anna joined us) were up at the same time. We used that opportunity to wake everyone up a few minutes earlier than necessary in order to gather at the kitchen table to read scripture.
Moving to South Carolina created a huge challenge in this area. The little ones start school 20 minutes before Harry and 45 minutes before Eleanor. The little ones catch the bus before the other two are even stumbling out of bed. I didn't want to lose the momentum we had gained...and I surely did not want to lose the comfort we had reading the Word together.
But one thing we were lacking was prayer. It just never flowed naturally for us to go from reading Proverbs to then a time of prayer, when in reality, everyone needed to start getting ready. I know..I should have bumped the alarm up fifteen minutes. But, that is neither her nor there at this point.
Joe suggested we move to night.
So, our nighttime routine has drastically changed. And...I love it!!!
At a certain hour, the kids know it is time for pjs and "devotionals". It has become a sweet time that we ALL treasure. We are using a book by Josh McDowell called Family Devotionals. Here is the link, because I highly recommend it:
The book gives you a Bible passage to read, and then there is a verse of the day. After we read the Bible, the devotional goes through an age appropriate lesson that teaches on the scripture. I will admit that sometimes the stories are way over some of the kids heads, and other times completely juvenile for some of the other kids. But most nights, they are all gaining some insight into God, His character, what it means to live like a Christian and gives them practical advice for how to deal with certain situations.
We have had some great conversations lately about mercy, forgiveness and the 10 Commandments.
We always end in prayer. And the kids pray. And I am amazed at some of their honest, heart-felt prayers as they share with God their desire to follow him.
It is in this spirit that we quietly and calmly put the kids to bed.
I am looking forward to starting the second book next year.

A Parent...Not Momma

Taking a bit of a detour to give you an update on George. We are smack dab in the middle of our hard months and we are still here. That is the good news! That is a huge praise because about six weeks ago, I was so close to giving up. I was desperate and I was completely discouraged. But today, I feel as if we have truly made progress in this thing called RAD.

George has officially started his counseling sessions. The first couple of times we were there, I talked most of the time while George played in a separate room. Then George spent an entire hour just answering basic questions - gaining some level of comfort with Tony. I am glad we are past that point now and Tony feels that George is talking more, opening up more.

Tony and I always talk at the end. And he used an amazing analogy with me. God is God. That is who He is...there is no debate on that. He is sovereign, powerful, creator, the I Am. We give him the title Lord when we make Him Lord of our lives. It is a title we bestow on Him. He is God. And we make Him Lord of our lives.

It's the same with me. I am a parent. It's who I am. But my kids give me the title Momma. There is a big difference between Parent and Momma. For five of my kiddos, I am Momma - the one who loves and nurtures and comforts and soothes. For George, I am a parent - I make food, I clean clothes, I help with homework, I bandage cuts, and I make sure his bike is in the garage at the end of the day. Until George makes me his Momma....I am only his parent.

And I am now OK with that.

And Joe and I have resolved to be the best parents we can be. We are called to raise George at the minimum - for I DO still have hope for a deep relationship some day - but for now, the minimum we must do is to raise George to a point where he can be launched out and be a productive member of our society.

We have had to distance our hearts. George has been thriving on hurting me. And I am no longer allowing him to hurt my heart.

Here is an example:

I make a big deal about my kids' birthdays. I don't do a lot of presents, we never have parties, but I make sure my kiddos feel completely special and loved that day. There are certain things I always do...I share their "story". For each child it is different - of course. They were all born in different cities, under different circumstances and the first time I saw them was very different. But, I pull them close to me and tell them all about their story. They get to chose what we have for dinner and we sing "Happy Birthday" while candles are ablaze on top of the cake of their choice. Nothing fancy...but meaningful for sure.

So, in anger last week, George shouted at me, "Cancel my birthday!"

I asked Tony about this...what should we do? Should we cancel it? Tony talked to George and then followed up with me. George wanted to hurt me, punish me by not giving me the chance to tell his story, buy the cake he wanted, and make him feel special that day. He told Tony that "she loves our birthdays. I want to take that away from her."

Knowing that...we decided to hold him accountable to his words and "cancel" his birthday. But, we also committed to praying about it and letting the Holy Spirit guide us.

On Tuesday, I heard the Lord loud and clear tell me to give George another chance.

When he got home from school, I pulled him into my bedroom and began talking to him about regret. I talked about how sometimes we say things we wish we wouldn't have said. Then, I brought up the example of him shouting in my face that he wanted me to cancel his birthday. I asked him, "Do you regret saying that? Did you really mean what you said?"

We had a tender moment where he admitted that he regretted what he said and he promised that he would work at not saying things he doesn't truly mean. We shared a long hug and then I told George that we would, indeed, celebrate his birthday on Wednesday.

Wednesday morning, he woke up thrilled about his special day. We all said Happy Birthday and gave him big hugs. We talked about what kind of cake he wanted as we waited for the bus, and as he skipped off to school, he yelled back, "I love you,!"

I made sure I got a cake yesterday, had his name carefully written in orange icing on top among the balloons. I bought a big "9" candle and wrapped up the few presents we had for him. Joe and I anxiously awaited the kids to come from school so we could work on homework and then get on with the celebration.

And as the kids, one by one, climbed off the bus and ran to our arms, it was clear that Lincoln, Anna and Isabel were very upset. George had been running his mouth on the bus and evidently said some awful things to them.

Now...I am going to share the "straw that broke the camel's back"...and I think you might say, "Geesh - that is not a big deal!". But can you just trust me on this one? We are committed to teaching George that his words count.....and he can't go on hurting everyone around him with his words.

So he told his siblings that he would make sure that they could not have any of his cake. He told them they were not allowed to have any cake and that only he could decide who was going to have cake.

Joe lost it. And in all honestly, I was so angry I couldn't think straight. All I could do was lead him through all his siblings birthdays and ask, "Did you have cake for Eleanor's birthday? Did you have cake for Lincoln's birthday? Did you have cake for Anna's birthday? Did you have cake for Harry's birthday?" Yes...yes...yes...yes...BUT....I don't want them to eat my cake. It's all mine.

Joe announces, "We will not be celebrating your birthday today."

George goes crazy...and I mean crazy. He picks up the phone and says he is going to call the police on me (of course, it is me even though Joe was the one who made the final decision) and how he wants me to stay in jail for the rest of my life. He runs upstairs to get the money my mom sent him for his birthday and says he is going to walk to the store himself to buy an iPod (he's only short about $150). He then tells us he is running away and slams the door as he is leaving. He then comes back in and says, "It's God's fault I said that. It is Jesus' fault I said that. It is YOUR fault I said that...you made me say it." (Again...he says this about God and Jesus because he knows how much God and Jesus mean to me. He thinks he is hurting ME by saying those things.)

Through all of this, we remind him that he is in charge of what he says and that he really needs to work on his words. We stayed calm. There was no yelling on our part. There was no emotion. We didn't run out after him. We didn't even check on him. We knew he would not go far and sure enough, whenever he "ran away", he was back home within 2 minutes.

He went through anger, then rage, then sorrow...and then there was a hint of true repentance. We ate dinner together as a family and had our usual banter and laughter as we ate.

And at the end of the night, we stood around the kitchen, drinking chocolate milk-shakes, dancing and singing to Mandissa....all of us....George, too.

As Joe and I tucked him in last night, we told him that we loved him dearly and we both said, "Happy birthday, son". He hugged us tight and told us that he loved us.

I don't know if anything sunk in. I don't know if he is somehow trying to manipulate us again. I don't know if he truly was sorry for the way he has been acting. He says he is...but he is a habitual liar, so we are starting to doubt every word that comes out of his mouth. I know this RAD road is a long one....very long...excruciatingly long.... there is no quick fix and we may need to play out this type of scenario ten thousand more times before George is able to trust us, bond with us and really be a part of a family.

Until then..and even if "then" never comes...I am committed to being a parent.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Because You Are Young

Disclaimer: I am not going in any sort of order when I share each kids' Bible verse. This morning, I wanted to share Eleanor's.
There is so much to say about parenting a teenage girl. And it would all probably surprise you. I love parenting my teenage daughter. I love this age. I love watching her mature and make decisions on her own and reject my opinion and form her own.
I used to constantly hear, "Just wait until she is a teenager...." accompanied with eyes rolling and big sighs from moms who were older than me whenever I complained about cleaning up Cheerios off the floor or wiping snotty noses. I didn't get it! Seriously, I never really enjoyed those baby and toddler years or pure physical exhaustion picking up every toy for the 16th time that day, trying to discern what the scream was about, taking a whiff and once more knowing there was a dirty diaper on the lurk.
I love my teenager - and I love my almost teenager in ways that excite me and bring me to tears. Eleanor is so close to being launched out. I have had so many wonderful cuddles and memories and deep conversations with her that I feel confident in her ability to thrive. Now..she has no clue what to do in the kitchen and don't ever ask her to wash clothes...but I believe that, too, will come in time.
But, this is about Eleanor...the young woman who is LIGHT. Eleanor has this amazing ability to be friends with everyone she meets. She is the rare teenage girl who doesn't talk about anyone behind their back, who laughs at all the jokes (because she understands them), and who totally gets a squeeze bunt in baseball or a screen pass in football (Oh - she will make an awesome wife!). She doesn't have that best friend...but she is a friend to anyone who needs a friend.
She has lunch with "the misfits" and doesn't think there is anything wrong with that. Then, she gets invited to the "cool kids" party and enjoys her time there. She can talk sports with the guys in English class and then go to youth group and share her heart with her leader. Unique!
She has this light about her...and eventually...everyone notices is. She has let the whole school know she is a Christian - she said it loud and proud during a school presentation and then when she decided to quit the play because it compromised her Christian beliefs - even more people found out. And the school..is watching.
Eleanor goes to a school where...well...she says she is the only Christian. This unique school has two factors - the neighborhood kids who come from extreme poverty, broken homes, and rampant drug abuse and then the IB kids who come from extreme wealth, intact homes and rampant master's degrees. One group can't see a loving God because their life has been so hard. And one group can't see a mighty God because there has never been a need for Him.
And then, there is Eleanor...straddling the line between both worlds. She is one of the only IB kids who is in the chorus, which is filled with neighborhood kids. And she has made some great friends there. The IB kids don't understand how she can talk to the neighborhood kids. And Eleanor is constantly apologizing to the neighborhood kids for the way the IB kids act.
And some days, this life gets overwhelming to Eleanor.
And she cries.
And she wonders if she is making any sort of difference at her school.
Trust me..she is.
And so...we picked this verse for her...
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech...in life....in love...in faith...and in purity." I Timothy 4:12
And I believe she IS setting an example...not only for a watching school, but also for her watching family.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Self Control


As I sat down to pray about Lincoln's verse for the year, I knew I wanted something that had to do with self-control. While I love Lincoln's passion and his enthusiasm and his...OCD, he needs some real work in the self-control department.
I laugh about the OCD, but he totally drives us crazy with this personality quirk. For example, when Lincoln makes his bed, he OBSESSES about the comforter being straight and smooth, no wrinkles at all. And if it is just a little to the right hanging a bit, he will cry and I mean cry loudly. And he is six!

I am trying to hard to teach him to relax a bit...to go with the flow when the bed is messy or if someone sits in your chair. Basically, we are trying to teach him how to have self-control.
So, Lincoln's verse is 1 Thes. 5:6..."So let us be self controlled"
He took one look at his verse and he said, "I really need to work on that, don't I?" And I reassured him that I would be praying this over him each and every morning. He looked up at me and smiled, his oh so sweet Lincoln smile.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bible Verses

You know when you hear an idea and something inside of you just goes, "Wow! I should be doing this!" Well, that happened at the C4C retreat I attended earlier this month. A woman who has parented many children from hard places made a simple suggestion and from that moment on, my mind has been focused on that idea.

The speaker mentioned choosing a scripture for each one of her children and praying that scripture over that child every day for a year. She would write out the verse on a piece of paper, have the child decorate the picture, then laminate it and stick it to the refrigerator as a reminder to both herself and the children. It would remind her to pray. And it would remind the children that mom is praying for them every day.

So, I took some quiet time these past few weeks to pray about a scripture verse for each child. I then presented the idea to Joe who had the same reaction I did, "Of course! Why haven't we been doing this all along?"

I wrote out each verse on a piece of clean, white paper and then got ready for our devotionals last night. After reading Psalm 119 (a part of it) and talking about how God's Word teaches us how to live lives that honor and glorify God, I told them about this idea.

One by one, I had a child stand up as I read their verse to them. Then, they each had some time to decorate their papers. After that, Joe and I prayed over our children right there, quoting their verse into their lives.

I wondered how each of them would respond to this...one never knows! They all smiled. Real, deep smiles. Those smiles showed me that they loved the idea of mom taking the time to chose a verse and then those smiles showed me that they loved the idea of mom praying those verses every day.

The woman at the conference showed us some of her kids' verses. She still has them - years later. I thought that was really cool.

So..do you wanna know the verses I chose?

I think I will write a blog entry about each child and their verse....

Tomorrow will be Part 1: Lincoln.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Same Old Same Old


The George of January and February is back. We had a wonderful reprieve - thank you, Lord. But now, the angry, temperamental, vindictive George is back in full swing.
I wondered if the nice-George was being manipulative because his birthday is coming up. Sure enough, George told me a few days ago that he wants a pair of red, Nike shoes. They are $115.00. When I told him that I would love to buy him new shoes, but wondered why they had to be Nike shoes, he flipped out.
"They will make me happy!"
I challenged that...what happens when they break? What happens when your feet grow and they don't fit anymore? Do you stop being happy then? Will it take another pair of hundred dollar tennis shoes to make you happy?
"Yes. I just want stuff. You don't get me stuff that I want." And so, the George who fights over everything came storming back.
How does a mom explain to a very selfish child that STUFF does not equal happiness when that child is convinced that he doesn't have enough STUFF and if he had enough STUFF he would suddenly be happy?
I am trying really hard to stop taking his ridiculousness seriously. Instead of getting angry and letting myself fume over it all day long, I am crying out to God with one phrase, "Help me Jesus."
I turned to God a few days ago and said, "OK...when I cry out 'help me, Jesus', you will understand that means I am focusing on George and not on YOU. So, will you help me get my focus back on you?"
And yesterday, as I was reading the account of Peter walking on water and how he suddenly noticed the wind and the waves and the chaos around him. When Peter's eyes turned to his circumstances, he fell into the water. And he cried out to Jesus, "Help me!" And do you know what comes next....IMMEDIATELY Jesus reached for him.
IMMEDIATELY . That word struck me. Jesus doesn't hold back and let me sputter and swallow water and start to drown...he IMMEDIATELY comes to my rescue. He beckons me to look back at HIM, focus on HIM.
So, I call out "Help me, Jesus." and quickly my thoughts turn to the one who is my rock and my redeemer.
I am thankful I am a child of Jesus...and that Jesus never leaves!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Don't Know What is Going On

OK...I can only say one thing.

GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS!

You have prayed. You have told me that you are praying. Joe and I have been on our knees together each morning. We have laid hands on George and prayed as he slept.

And God has granted us peace.

There IS no other answer. In fact, Joe specifically prayed for a break. He prayed that George would have peace in his heart for a few days.

And we have had several good days.

We went to counseling today and George told the counselor that he has been trying very hard lately. The counselor brought me in and send George to the playroom and told me a few things.

"Again, I want you to realize that George clearly has RAD and ODD."

OK, I believe you, you don't need to tell me again and again.

"You need to start creating a tool-kit of how you are going to respond to his defiance and anger. Second, George's issue is with you and only you. When he fights with the other kids, it is really to get to you."

At this point, I breath a heavy sigh. Gee, thanks...I think.

"But, he knows that he is wrong in the way he treats you. Third, you and your husband are obviously doing a great job of teaching him about God and the Bible. He talked about forgiveness and mercy and grace."

OK...maybe there is hope.

"Finally, George is really smart. I mean really, really smart. There is good and bad in that."

Uh-oh.

"The good is that he has the ability to really learn life skills and someday be independent. The bad is that now he can be extremely manipulative. RAD + smart = hard."

I left not sure what to think...and honestly, I was angry about some of the details the counselor shared about things George said. And that anger gnawed at me all evening until I yelled. And George looked at me and said, "You don't need to yell at me."

And I replied, "But sometimes that is the only way you listen to me!"

He looked at me...hurt...frustrated.

I looked at him... hurt...frustrated.

And yet, healing came. Peace came back.

We ended our night the way we always do. All the kids and myself (and Joe, when he is home) sitting together in the living room reading our Bibles. We prayed and during that prayer, the peace came back.

I kissed the kids goodnight, tucked them all into the beds and then retired to my room to write this blog. And while I have been writing, George has come into my room three times to apologize and tell me how he really has liked the peace in our home the last few days.

I smiled, kissed his chubby cheeks and told him, "Me too."

So, if you ever wanted to know if your prayers were being answered...THEY ARE.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Whom Jesus Loves


Before I start...this was inspired by Beth Templeton, a keynote speaker at Created for Care. Much of what I will write about in the next few days will be nuggets of encouragement and wisdom this adoptive mommy spoke to a room full of 300 women longing to be fed.
Have you ever read the gospel of John and wondered about this whole "the one whom Jesus loved" thing? Let me give you a glimpse of John's words:
John 13:23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.
John 19:26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”
John 21:7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
John 21:20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”
In case you didn't know, "the disciple whom Jesus loved" was John himself. So, here was John writing his good news book, choosing to often refer to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." How does that sit with you?
Do you find that a little arrogant? Does that mean John was implying Jesus loved HIM the most? And then, I start to wonder, did Jesus tell John he loved him the most?
I have to admit that often as I read this book in the New Testament, I would balk a bit at this phrase. I would say, "Come on, now, John! How stuck up!" If I get really honest, there was something so distasteful about this attitude that is affected how I viewed John over all. In my mind, maybe in combination of the portrait by DaVinci titled The Last Supper, John was this pasty, weak, almost feminine man who just liked to get a dig in with the other disciples by saying with a turned up nose, "I am the ONE whom Jesus loved."
But, over the weekend as I was on retreat and getting respite from a very difficult situation at home, the keynote speaker brought this up. John...a man who had the nerve to constantly refer to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved...said this not to be arrogant or snobby or to one-up the other disciples...but rather said it because he SO DEEPLY KNEW THIS IN HIS HEART.
Jesus..the son of God...who left heaven to serve and teach and ultimately lay down his life did all of this for one reason...HE LOVED US. He loved YOU. He loved John. He loved Lazarus. He loved my grandmother. He loved me. He loved with a love that was so incredibly pure and passionate and wonderful and amazing that he chose to die a humiliating, excruciating death in order for us to be reconciled to God and spend eternity with him. THAT is love.
And when we understand...no, more than an intellectual assent, but a heart-felt knowing that this love has set us free...we would all refer to ourselves as the one whom Jesus loved. Because that love is what defines us and compels us and guides us and teaches us and keeps us going.
I know adopting George was all about one big lesson for me...LOVE. I have learned more about God's unrelenting, never-ending, passionate, amazing love in the last three years than in the first 38 years of my life. And when I sit and ponder the LOVE that God has lavishly poured into my life, I have to sit in awe. And then...when I describe myself, what should that phrase be?
Traci...the one who has six children?
Traci..the one who has a wonderful husband?
Traci..the daughter of Bob and Judy?
All of those things are true and good...but are they the best description of who I am?
No...but this is...
Traci...the mommy whom Jesus LOVES.
So, forgive me if you think me arrogant or haughty when I start referring to myself as "the mommy whom Jesus loves", but..I think it fits these days.
And it's what is going to keep my going.
Traci...the mommy whom Jesus LOVES. I kind of like the ring...don't you?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Parenting a Child With RAD

I have driven myself crazy over the last two days reading blogs, lists, research, and medical journals. I have been hungry for all I can learn about RAD and how I am supposed to be parenting this very broken child.

I have learned a few things:

1. This is going to be harder than I ever imagined. No one, and I mean no one, writes about how quickly their child was healed or how over-night things seemed to be better. On one hand I already know this for it has been a very hard three years. But on the other, I was kind hoping that someone somewhere would have figured out the magic pill that could erase the years that caused my son to not be able to trust or love anyone of significance in his life.

2. There are 10,000 suggested ways to parent a child with RAD. And for each one of those 10,000 ways, there are 10,000 more saying those first 10,000 ways are wrong and you need to do these new 10,000 ways now. It is mind-boggling and borderline infuriating to realize how there really is no one tried and true way to "fix" George.

3. I can't "fix" George.

4. My parenting is not enough. My love is not enough. Nothing I can do will ever be enough.

5. God is enough. His love is enough. He has already done everything that is enough. (Thank you, Cindee.)

6. Before George can attach to me...he must attach to Jesus. I believe in my heart that God has a plan for this child and that plan involves being a Weldie and being in a home where our Lord and Savior is lifted high.

I have to admit that even in the last 12 hours I have gone back and forth 100 times between "I am committing to this child and his healing" and "this child may be better off with a fresh start in a new home". I hate that I am swinging between these two very different options!

Joe has reminded me that we have a plan in place and to stick with it: George will start counseling every other week with a man who totally gets RAD and ODD AND is a believer and knows that Jesus Christ is the key to everything! Second, we need to find respite - respite for us and especially the other kids who desperately need to have fun with no stress of George ruining the day. Haven't figured out that respite part yet...but hopefully God will provide.

Hanging in there today...and that I all I can do.