Monday, June 23, 2014

Making Room

Salome went home to Colombia last week.

She will always be a part of our family.  Always our daughter.  And she will always be welcome in our home.  For now, God has made it clear that His will is for her to be in Colombia.  I know God had many reasons for allowing Salo to be a part of our family for almost one year.  I think Salo learned some lessons.  She definitely touched many lives here in South Carolina.  And we learned a really big lesson.

We have room.

For one more child.

Many years ago, while Joe was fighting to keep his small business alive, we attended a Meet and Greet in the community for business owners.  As we sat there, knowing our business was failing and we were probably going to have to close it, we met a Jewish rabbi.  He asked about our business and then quickly started asking about our personal lives.  While Joe really dislikes talking to strangers, I found it very easy to open up to this man.  We had just brought Anna home and told the rabbi about our four biological kids and our two adopted kids.  He loved listening to the stories of how God told us to do something - and even when we were terrified, we had seen God's faithfulness.  Looking back, it is rather ironic - or even funny - that we could sit there and talk about God's faithfulness when we were in the middle of full-blown RAD (I think George had called 911 on me that week), just adopted Anna from a disrupted adoption, and had a business that was a complete failure.  But isn't it in those times that we are the most sure of God's faithfulness?  I mean, after all, we had healthy kids (thankful because our insurance was bare bones), we had two paid off cars that were running (OK - so my front door made this hideous sound every time I had to open and shut it, but it ran!), we had a good home in the country (but only 1 bathroom for 8 people could be a challenge at times), and a solid marriage (the stress of everything had actually brought us closer together).

Back to the rabbi!  After we talked for about 20 minutes, he looked at us and said, "You know, the perfect number is 7."  He winked at us with a smile and then walked away.  Joe and I looked at each other and laughed a bit.  SEVEN.

SEVEN kids - isn't that entering "crazy-ville"?  We already get stared at every where we go!

SEVEN.  Yea...that does sound kind of nice.

We tucked that experience way back into the memory storage part of our brains and went on with life.  We shut down the business.  We were left with practically nothing.  We moved across the country to start a new job.  We started all over again with friends, a church, schools....

And we never even thought about SEVEN in those years of starting over.

Then, Salome came.

And SEVEN felt natural.  It felt nice.

We realized we had room in our car (our Suburban has room for 9!).  We realized we could move some things around in our house and have more bedrooms - and ALL the kids are happy with several having their own room.  We realized we had the capacity.  And most of  all we realized we all had room in our hearts for one more.

Salo had to go home.  And we suddenly were back down to six.  And as I go places with my kids, I stumble as I get to "six" as I frantically look around for another child to label "seven" until I realize we are no longer SEVEN.  We all fit at the dinner table now and no one has to sit up front between Joe and I as we drive to church...and it is a little sad for all of us.

God showed us something very special over the past year.

And we are making room for the next adventure He takes us on.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Joseph E. Beck Award

I started this post with a two paragraph rant about Awards Days.  After reading it, I wisely decided to DELETE :)

What is left is a tribute to Isabel.  Isabel is special.  And I am not just saying that because I am her mother.  She truly is unique.  I love ALL my kids!  They are ALL special to me.  They ALL have talents and gifts and make me smile and bring joy to my life.  But every once and a while, I think God gifts one child with a little something extra.  And that is Isabel.

But hey, before I get too ahead of myself, clearly this child is not perfect!  She does annoying things.  She has pride issues.  She bugs her siblings.  And she can REALLY get under my skin some days.  So, she's human.

OK - now that all of that is settled, Isabel was awarded a pretty big award today.  Last year, Joe and I were thrilled with one particular award she received closing out her years in elementary school.  She got the Smile that Goes The Extra Mile Award (long title, I know!).  Basically, it meant she was nice to everyone.  Out of all the report cards, athletic abilities, plays, concerts...what Joe and I desire MOST in our children is kindness, gentleness, mercy.  And I will clearly tell you that ALL our children exhibit those characteristics most days.  I could not be more proud, as a momma, to have children who genuinely care about others.

We didn't think Isabel could get much better than being recognized for her ability to be kind to everyone. But, she topped it this year with the Joseph E. Beck Award.  Here is what the principal read as he was announcing the award:

Joseph E. Beck Award:  The Joseph E. Beck Award is entitled for Beck Academy’s namesake and is the most distinguished award given at Beck Academy. 
This award honors a student for outstanding achievement and strength in academics, leadership, service, and extracurricular activities.  Joseph E. Beck recipients are respected by their peers and set an example for other students.

This year’s recipient is the most self-less 6th grader we have ever met. Her family of nine consists of her parents, three biological siblings, two adopted children from Africa and a foster child from another country. She often shares stories of living in a large family and every story is a positive, upbeat lesson for us to learn from.

Every Monday, she volunteers at the Frazee center after school to help with underprivileged students and is very active in her church. She serves as our 6th grade student council president and will serve on Student Council next year as well. Mrs. Burrow stated that her service on Student Council has been invaluable this year. In addition, she plays volleyball outside of school and plans to try out for the Beck’s girls’ team in 7th grade.

Academically, our recipient has maintained A’s all this school year, and she is ALWAYS willing to help her peers in class. Very often she is the one student who has the ability to get through to another student when no one else can.

Both peers and adults LOVE her. When choosing groups for the upcoming field trip to Atlanta, Mrs. Strickland said that just about every fourth person wanted her in their group. Her dimpled smile always lights up any room that she is in.

The 2014 Joseph E. Beck Award is presented to:
  Isabel Weldie

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

These Two

Here is a story of two kids.

Lincoln was born in 2005 on a beautiful fall day, surrounded by peace and love.  He was brought home to a loving family where he found himself the baby of four.  He was loved immensely by his parents and his siblings.  They all marveled as he grew;  at his ability to make us all laugh, how he could hit a baseball by the age of 2, and how caring he was to all those around him.

Anna was also born in 2005.  She was born in Ghana to a single mother.  Anna was the baby, too, the youngest of 11 children.  Anna was raised in an orphanage, as her mother was the cook there.  Anna never knew a father and only knew one sibling, a sister who was severely mentally disabled and lived in the orphanage as well.  When Anna was 4, she watched in horror as her mother fell, hit her head and died.  Anna was devastated that no one allowed her to say goodbye to the only parent she has ever known.  Anna was quickly moved to an older siblings' house, where it only took a few weeks for that brother to say he didn't want her.  Anna was then moved to an aunt's house, and again, they aunt determined that Anna could not stay.  The orphanage where Anna's mom worked took her back in.  And Anna was adopted!  But, within 4 months, Anna's first adoptive family decided they did...not...want...her.

So, Lincoln's parents found out about Anna.  They heard God say, "This is YOUR daughter.  Go get her."

They did.

Lincoln was the introduced to Anna...not just his sister, but his "twin".  Lincoln was exactly 14 days older than Anna!  When Anna came home, Lincoln wrapped his arms around here and said, "Welcome home."

A few months later Lincoln asked his mom, "Why are we twins?  We don't look anything alike and everyone asks me why I call her my twin sister."  Lincoln and Anna's mom told them that twins are brother and sister who are the same age, and for the 5 year olds, that was a good enough explanation.  From that point on, Lincoln and Anna called each other their twin.

Lincoln and Anna are so different.  Lincoln excels at school.  He won a role with a solo in the 2nd grade play.  He has tons of friends.  He is a great athlete.  Anna struggles in school.  Anna was in the chorus for the play.  Anna has a few friends.  Anna has some birth defects in her legs which make it very difficult to run, jump and play.

But...Lincoln and Anna truly LOVE each other!

Here are some of the things they have said about each other:

Anna:  "I really don't want to be on stage for the play.  But I love watching my brother shine on the stage!"

Lincoln:  "Anna, you should consider being a model, because you are so beautiful!  Like that actress on the cover of that magazine!"

Lincoln:  "I want to be in the same class with Anna so I can beat up anyone who is mean to her."

Anna:  "Lincoln is the best brother I could ever have.  I know he protects me."

Just yesterday, at the 2nd grade awards, they were faced yet again with how vastly different they are.  All the second graders piled into the cafeteria for various awards ranging from art and music awards to all As awards.  Anna knew she probably would not get any awards.  Lincoln knew he probably would get some awards.  God would orchestrate that Anna would sit right in front of Lincoln.

More than once, Lincoln's name was called and he walked on to the stage to get his awards.  And for the entire ceremony, Anna sat.  Her name was never called.

But, half way through the ceremony, Lincoln reached forward and touched his twin's shoulder and whispered in her ear, "Don't worry about not getting any awards, Anna.  You know that we all love you so much."  Anna smiled and nodded.

On the way home from school Anna said, "I was so proud of Lincoln today, getting all those awards.  But, I am more proud to say that he is my brother."

Lincoln looked and Anna and smiled, saying, "I am glad you are my sister."

Monday, June 2, 2014

Moving Forward

Last Friday, the 5th graders at our school held their annual Awards Day.  A small miracle occurred that day.  
To explain the miracle, I must go back to my experiences of school and George.  I learned quickly with George that he never wanted me to show up at school.  George never invited me to school for things like sharing a birthday lunch, coming to Field Day, or even stopping in for presentations.  All of those stop-ins are very common for me and all the other kids.  In fact, I had lunch in the high school last year with Eleanor and her friends.  Yes, I sat at a table and pulled out a sack lunch and enjoyed lunch with Eleanor - although a few of her friends slept through lunch - not sure it was because of our thrilling conversation or because they were teenage girls and just wanted to sleep through lunch.  Regardless, most of my children not only like when I come to school, but actually LOVE it.

Not George.

If he sees me in the halls, he looks the other way.  If he is outside on the playground when I drive into the parking lot, he quickly runs on the opposite direction.  When we have assemblies, or concerts, or plays, George doesn't scan the audience looking for the familiar face of his mom and wave - no - George looks down with a scowl on his face.  

For 5 years, I have tried to work with George on this, and have agreed to not attend things he is in and to not come have lunch with him and to not wave to him if I see him on the playground when I get to school.  He was very happy with that agreement.  And silently, my heart broke.

Friday, we experienced a miracle.

We knew George would probably not receive any awards at Awards Day.  After all, the school was looking to recognize those children who had great attitudes, were kind to their classmates, and worked hard to get great grades.  None of those categories would find George qualifying.  He simply has far to go in all of those areas.  But, I did think, maybe he would get an Attendance Award.  For the days leading up to the Awards Day, I scanned my memory bank to see if there were any days George needed to stay home.  I just couldn't think of any - but that didn't mean that one or two might have slipped my memory.

There was a moment of thinking, "Why should I bother to go?  George will just ignore me again.  And I will sit there looking at the child scowling on the stage, embarrassed by his behavior all the while feeling my heart break because George just won't let me love him through this moment."  Joe even had the same thoughts and we questioned whether or not one of us should go - not to mention BOTH of us going.

But, I heard the still, small voice of the Lord who said, "Go."

So, I went.  In fact, God told Joe to go, too.  And we sat in the last row on the far side of the cafeteria, allowing all the doting parents with their cameras and iPhones to sit closer to the stage.  I wanted to let THEM get pictures of their kids getting awards and smiling proudly back at their parents as mom and dad stood to snap a shot.  We wouldn't need to take any pictures - and if George DID get an award, he surely wouldn't want me to stand and take a pic of the moment.

It came time for the Attendance Award and I wondered if this MIGHT be the ONE chance George would have to be recognized for ANYTHING for his 5th grade year.  The teacher giving the award began.  Good, they are going in alphabetical order. I will definitely know if when they get the Xs if George was getting an award or not.  

Sure enough...George Weldie was called on to the stage for his Perfect Attendance Award.  He was scared.  He kept his head down.  He looked horribly uncomfortable on the stage and practically RAN off the stage to sit back down. Joe and I just looked at each other and signed.  Yes, that is our son acting that way.  I wish I could pour information into everyone's brain right at the moment and explain how BROKEN this child is.  What is wonderful for most terrorizing for George.  But, I quietly thanked God for urging me to come and that I was thankful for seeing George get an award.

The Awards' Ceremony wrapped up and Joe and I got up to leave.  During this time, kids and parents are scrambling all over the cafeteria.  Moms hugging their children, dad's giving high-fives, and families gathering for photographs.  Joe wondered aloud if George would at least wave to us as we were leaving.

As soon as those words left his lips we saw George coming over to us.  He was actually moving chairs out of the way to come see us before we got out the doors of the cafeteria.  He called out, "Mom!"

And he walked quickly over, opened his arms for a big hug and smiled at us.  

I snapped this picture of George with his award.  

And then we told him how proud we were of him, wished him a great day (the 5th graders had planned an amazing fun day complete with music, fire trucks, games and food!) and then started to leave.  I lost it then.

I cried and said to Joe, "Do you realize what just happened here?  Today was about so much more than a Perfect Attendance Award.  For the FIRST time in FIVE years, George was happy that I was there to see him."  

Our progress is comes in VERY slow, VERY small steps.  But, at least we are moving forward.