Monday, December 31, 2012

Ringing in the new year

Soooooo, what does one get when one openly complains about the abysmal Thanksgivings of the past? Christmas with the flu, that's what. I assume it was the flu anyway. It was the kind of illness that smacks you flat on your face in bed, one leg hanging over the side while you snore with your mouth open until it's as dry as the Sahara Desert. Not pretty, Friends. NOT PRETTY. The kids got hit with it too (all except Will). It was pitiful. They felt really bad on Christmas day. The reactions to gifts were tainted by the feeling that they wanted to die. They looked at Christmas dinner like I'd just served them the innards of a dog...and opted for saltines and water instead. Then they slinked off to my bed (thanks, kids) where they slept most of the day. Where are the photos of them opening gifts and smiling? There aren't any. I'd just cleaned up vomit (Ben) so I decided to forgo the candid shots of early December 25th. Merry Christmas.
So Will's first Christmas didn't turn out how I wanted. Our first Christmas with my parents living here in Birmingham didn't turn out how I wanted. Welcome to Birmingham. Here's the flu. Thanks for coming over. But, somehow it was all alright. We got better. The children began to enjoy their gifts. Leftovers were eaten. Jesus still came--the fact that we were celebrating in our pajamas mattered not!
And so here comes the New Year. No, we're not doing anything special. Are you crazy? Have you been reading? No, we're sitting here on the couch pretending it's just another normal night in hopes that a piano doesn't fall out of the sky. No holiday here. However, I just can't help but think about this past year. It's been a remarkable year for us as we watched God grow bigger and bigger throughout our adoption journey. He revealed His glory in major ways and it left me loving him more and standing in awe of a God who commands everything and everyone. It's been a year of seeing His followers serve us in remarkably sacrificial ways. We're still humbled. Grateful. And this year we met our son. We've watched him change over the past four months and begin to melt into our family and into our hearts. Here are some of the high points:
1. He no longer picks at his fingernails--a nervous habit he's had since the first day we got him. We haven't seen him do it in several weeks.
2. He no longer cries when we discipline him or runs to the corner. He's able to apologize.
3. He doesn't throw 45 minute fits anymore. He does still have tantrums, but they are seldom and short.
4. He kisses mommy on the mouth and readily accepts lots of affection :)
5. He initiates play and understands playfulness.
6. He loves the bath--took us three weeks to get him into the bath tub.
7. He is slowly learning to take turns and to trust that we will be fair and just.
8. He still has food issues, but they are getting better. S-L-O-W-L-Y.
   I just can't express to you what mothering him is like. He is not wired to want us or love us--in fact, he's preconditioned against it. So the fact that those defenses are lowering and he will fall asleep in my arms and holding my hand makes it so so sweet. When he reaches for me in the morning and says "hi momma" in his sweet voice, I know it's only because of Jesus. Oh how much I have learned about love- God's love for me.
   As this new year arrives, I'm not making any resolutions. I'm re-committing. I'm ready to follow Christ into 2013 and ask, what now? Once again, everything is on the table. We've been praying about big stuff--selling our house to make less of us and more of Him. Adopting again. Supporting ministries we care about. Beginning ministries. What next, Lord? Show me. So I'm just re-committing to loving Him everyday and serving him everyday no matter where it takes me. It's scary exciting. Because when we ask, He will answer.
  Tonight I'll hit the pillow with a heart full of thankfulness and I'll say: Wow, God. You are amazing. Thank you for all you have done for us this past year. Thank you for the friends and family who love us so well and serve us so fully. Thank you for the gift of our children and for the redemption taking place in the little life of Will. Continue to change me into who you want me to be. Give me wisdom in my role as wife and mother. Help me to listen and obey when I don't always want to hear your voice and when I don't always feel like yielding to your way. And when things don't go as I would have liked in 2013, help me to remember that you are still God. You are still my God. Don't let me fear. Don't let me run. Hold on to me and show me your greatness.
  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Trusting in the Sovereignty of God

     I had already been thinking about writing a blog focusing on the evil of man....and then yesterday happened. The news of the elementary school shooting propelled my mind back to Columbine, September 11th, the sniper shootings, the movie theatre shooting, various shopping mall shootings, and numerous other horrific events that our country has endured. I have a tremendous fear of somehow being involved in a catastrophic act of violence. I know what you're thinking--who doesn't, right? But I think my fear runs deeper.
     I was student teaching when Columbine happened and it shook me to the core. I had never allowed my mind to contemplate such an act and when I saw it played out on television I was gripped with terror. What if I couldn't protect my students? What if I wouldn't protect them? What if, when placed in a similar situation, I fought to protect myself instead? My fear made me feel tiny. One little seventh grade boy had seen coverage of the event and from that day forth, spent the school day underneath his desk. If I could have, I would have crawled under there with him, held him, and told him that I understood.
    September 11th deepened my fears. I was obsessed with the television coverage to the point that Brent had to intercede and tell me to stop watching. I've feared flying ever since. The fact that I have flown to the Czech Republic and to China is nothing short of a miracle. If I never flew again--I'd be perfectly happy.
     I haven't been to a movie theatre since the heinous shooting during the premiere of Batman. What if I was sitting unsuspectingly in the dark when chaos broke out? The thought makes me sweat. It's safer to just stay home, right? I can hide from evil. It won't find me.
         When I was thinking about yesterday, I realized that my fears are leading me to dread Satan's power in way that is overshadowing my assurance in God as Victor. This should never be. While many wars have been won for evil in the days past, the ultimate battle is already won. We already know history's ending. We have a Rescuer who will thwart evil and hurl it in to the pit of hell....and yet I still struggle. I really really do.
      So, how do I fight against a debilitating fear of man? It helps me to remember that there is a purpose to the heartache felt on earth. I believe that God is slowly removing his hand of grace and boldly showing us our need of him. He wants us to turn to him. To find peace and hope in him. To yearn for his arrival. Yesterday's shooter shows us the version of ourselves when God's hand is not evident. The question shouldn't be: why did this man do this? More appropriately, the question is: why aren't more doing this? It is a wonder that more horrors aren't played out when so many men live depraved lives outside of the Shepherd's care. God has a number. And until that number of souls is claimed, we will continue to mourn over cancer, stillborns, rapes, overdoses and all such atrocities. Evil will not be stomped out until that last precious soul is secured. Is it worth it? I've often wondered. But what if salvation found its way to my presently unbelieving loved ones through this Connecticut tragedy?
      Besides remembering that suffering is not arbitrary, I try to blot out the disturbing imagery that I can't stand to watch and yet can't seem to turn away from. I replace them with this image-- that of the arriving aid. Think back to September 11th, or Columbine, or yesterday. What did you see? I saw men in full stride, faces set and teeth clenched, sprinting towards the evil one. What type of person does this? Are they crazy? No. They believe that evil can be stopped. So did Jesus....when he ran towards evil for the sake of saving my life. That's what I think about. Someone always has to run towards evil in order to conquer it. Everyday Jesus runs towards the enemy for me; a soul counted in the number.
      In the weeks to come, things will quiet down. The event may slip to the recesses of my mind. I'll begin to forget that there are people in the world who elevate themselves to a God-like status and go out and commit sheer evil. Until the next thing happens. Then, I'll start back on the carousel ride of reminding myself that God is in control. Pain has purpose. Aid is coming. What else can I do?
      For those of you who think this world is all there is, where do you find your comfort? No one is coming for you when the ultimate battle begins. But someone wants to. Someone wants to come and get you so passionately that he climbed up on the cross and proceeded to absorb every last shred of evil. Turn your fear into faith. You may struggle, like me, to trust in the sovereignty of God when it seems like evil is presently winning. But the day is coming when all we'll see is Jesus running towards us ready to take us out of darkness. My fears will be slain forever.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fa La La La...Fail

      It was the Thanksgiving holiday that broke me of having high expectations for any seasonal celebration. To say that our Thanksgiving festivities have been cursed in the past is a vast understatement. They have been downright disasters. Example 1. Family visiting for Thanksgiving at my house. Turkey cooking. Aromas of casseroles wafting through the air....when all of a sudden a suicidal squirrel climbs my power pole in the backyard and gets electrocuted. Power out. No turkey cooking. No casseroles baking. Which lucky Alabama Power employee gets to come out and restore power on Thanksgiving Day?? A very unhappy one.
Example 2. Family risks visiting again for Thanksgiving only to find one of my children is vomiting with the stomach bug. No problem. Except for the fact that she's too young to run, take aim, and deposit in toilet. She's a lose cannon and we have no washer and dryer because we decided to replace them a few days earlier. Stroke of brilliance. Thanksgiving Day spent washing puke sheets at someone else's house who DOES have a washer and dryer. **please note that when new appliances are delivered, they bring gas dryer. We have electric. Thanks. Try again.** Example 3. We have power. We do not have pukers. All major appliances are in the house. Unfortunately, a small family altercation breaks out and all of a sudden it's Jerry Springer. Voices are raised. Tears are flowing. People are exiting into the darkness. Brent and my dad just keep on staring straight ahead at the History Channel as if absolutely nothing is happening. Example 4. Not hosting Thanksgiving. What are we fools? Decide to drive to North Carolina and descend upon my brother and sister-in-law for the holiday. What could go wrong? Drive nine hours straight with three children, but thankfully we borrowed my MIL's comfy ride (loaded new Suburban). Joyously arrive and greet relatives. (Wait for it) Ben begins puking and sprays the living room. Sister-in-law is pregnant, and my parents are there, and so we get back in the car and drive nine hours home immediately so as not to infect others. Thanksgiving dinner consists of Funyuns at a gas station rung up by a cashier with a snake tattoo slithering down her neck. Tried to redeem Thanksgiving a few days later by going out and buying all the goodies to have our own at home. Wreck MIL's Suburban by driving it into the side of my own house instead of into the garage.
And. I. Am. Done.
So when Christmas rolls around, I'm usually still trying to recover from whatever catastrophe has occurred the month prior. The tree goes up. The shopping gets done. However, I'm usually dreading the stress, the busyness, the anticipation that it's just not going to be that great. And this year is no different. The Christmas tree was overpriced and underwhelming. A giant branch-less hole looms on the left hand side, making the tree look very much like nature's interpretation of Donald Trump's hair. My kids looked like hobos in the church Christmas program because I didn't have time or money to get new outfits. Two hundred Christmas cards arrived with the wrong year of Will's birth printed on them. According to the card, he's a very giant 4 month old. Ugh. I bought Brent an L. L. Bean backpack for Christmas. Nice, huh? When it arrived I discovered that it's for a small boy....,or a Hobbit.
 What is my problem???? I'll tell you what it is. I'm not concentrating on advent. I'm not thinking about the tiny savior who was born to free me from the bondage of all this other junk. I miss talking to Jesus. I haven't opened my Bible in days. And I'm longing for time spent with my Father. So in a few minutes, I will put this blog to rest along with everyone else in this house who is sleeping and I will read and pray. Let the story of Christmas overwhelm me in a such a way that the mishaps of the season shrink to nothingness. Yes, I want this to be the best Christmas ever, but not because I've constructed a beautiful experience around me. I'm striving for a heart that is set on the Lord and the wonder of His birth.
Sometimes I like to write out my prayers. Here is my prayer tonight:
Dear Heavenly Father-
  Where would I be if you hadn't come? Why do I live like you didn't come? Lord, forgive me for shifting my focus away from you, my King. Help me to quiet the world around me so that I can hear your voice during this advent season. Help me to find renewed wonder in the story of your birth. Help me to put you back in your rightful place--as Lord of my life and the center of my days, hours, minutes, seconds. Make me comfortable with failure because failure makes me want and need you. In whatever successes I do experience, help me to credit you instead of stealing fame for myself. Lord, please change my heart. The ugliness in it is not what you want for me. Only you can help me. Make me yearn for you as I yearn now for earthly things. May your opinion of me be the only one that matters to me. Make me a daughter worth of your inheritance.
Amen.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

I voted....twice!

   

   I love election day. There's always a crisp feeling of hope and empowerment--the opportunity to participate in the process of electing the country's leaders. I was optimistic that once I reduced my kid-load by half, I would be able to seamlessly cast my vote with just the boys in tow.
   I hit the polls early and while en route Ben gave a very convincing campaign speech about the benefits of voting for either George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. IF ONLY! The parking lot was slightly tangled, but I found a spot and got inside before losing a kid under a bumper. So far so good. There's something wrong with the distribution of the alphabet when standing in line for your ballot. Apparently everyone in Birmingham has a last name that starts with A-G! My line was slammed and not one person was in any of the other lines (?) I still wasn't deterred. I stood firm, ingesting the sweet scent of Old Spice from all the cute geriatric voters around me. If they could stay the course--so could I! Ballot in hand, I took to the table and sat to record my knowledge of the amendments up for vote, the local candidates vying for office, and the ultimate winner of the beauty pageant--president.
   Just I was completing my last bubble, Ben decided to try and change my party affiliation by putting a stray mark of pen through the democratic circle. Now both parties were marked!! Awesome. I was hoping beyond all hopes that it was too small a streak to matter so I stuck it in the machine, hands in pockets, eyes averted at the ceiling, whistling "God Bless America". The darn thing vomitted back out at me. Now I'm headed to the reject line for another ballot.
     The kids are getting restless and Granny is eyeing my mismatched kids like I'm some kind of baby snatcher. No time to go back through and vote against the re-allocation of such-and-such land this time. I scan each question with just enough attention to make sure I'm not electing Justin Beiber for congress and turn to see the boys wrestling on the floor!! Good grief. I yell quietly through my clenched teeth to get up immediately and Ben replies (much less silently) with the following glorious statement for all to hear: "But Mom! Will just won't let me pick his nose and he has a booger!"
     I sweetly smile around the room at everyone and grab both boys by the hand, cutting off their circulation to their arms, and sprint for the machine. Shove it in, Lady. Keep the 5 cent sticker. Let's get out of here. Done. All that to vote for the candidate who didn't win.
    While I had hoped to be starring at Mitt Romney's wonderful pompadour of a hair creation for the next four years, I was not surprised or overly disappointed that I wouldn't be. Why? Because as long as I believe in the standards put forth in God's holy word, a candidate who believes as I do will never make it further than the local PTA election. I didn't care for either presidential candidate this year and I can guarantee that I won't be satisfied with any in the future either. So where does that leave me? It leaves me on my knees praying. Barack Obama is our president and he deserves my respect, support, and my earnest prayers that he will open his eyes to a country yearning for a savior. I pray he realizes that he isn't it! Nor is any other fallen man or woman sitting in a seat of temporary power.  The reason we are so desperate, so passionate, so frustrated by national and local politics is because we don't have nor will we ever have anyone who measures up to the task at hand--ruling a world so far gone that we can't even see it. We just need saving from ourselves.
     So now we have four years to search far and wide for the next great disappointment. One day the ultimate vote will be cast--a yes or no to Jesus Christ. I pray you can mark the box for the one and only living God who shall never disappoint. If you can't and you are looking unto man to restore this country, then I fear you will be greatly disappointed. You have been lied to. That kind of saving doesn't exist in this world. It exists beyond this world. Let me tell you about Jesus.

Monday, November 5, 2012

For those of you who have expressed concern over our poor fish with chronic "intestinal" issues (who is absolutely no one, by the way), I regret to inform you that he is no longer with us. He swam the good swim, but it was his time. Well, actually I sort of murdered him. I prefer to think of it as euthanasia. I believe that he was calling out to me for help and he found that help when I dumped him down the toilet and with one flush sent him on his way. While I respect life, even aquatic life, I have to say I'm relieved that he's gone. The fish was occupying too much of my time. I was blanching peas for him, for heaven's sake, when I don't even take the time to prepare myself a PBJ! I was cleaning his tank every other day and trying to keep the water temperature steady...all for a $7 fish which I thought I could call back from the dead like Lazarus. So I freed myself from the bondage of caring for this little thing and flushed him. Does this make me a terrible mother? Don't answer that.
 Speaking of terrible mothers....another Halloween has come and gone. It's my least favorite holiday with the high point being rummaging through the kids' candy and stealing my favorites (you know you do it too). Having only had Will home for two months, I tried really hard to give my children an offer they couldn't refuse while giving myself an absolute out from taking them trick-or-treating. I eloquently baited them with promises of a nice hot bath, fuzzy pajamas, pizza, a good movie while relaxing in their sleeping bags, and all their candy favorites. Or they could freeze to death outside going house to house in the darkness dressed like goons. Their choice. What did they pick? You got it. Option B, darn it.
 Sooooooooooo just to recap, I explained to our newly adopted son that we were about to dress up as fantastical people who we could never actually become in reality, go out into the cold blackness, knock on the doors of strangers, and beg for food. I'm quite sure Karen Purvis wouldn't approve. I mean, what kind of mother does that to her new child? Oh, you got it. ME! Yes, you bet I did. Why? Because it's an incredibly normal thing for a kid to do and Lord knows that this child deserves a bit of normal. It took him a few houses to be assured that we weren't about to trade HIM for a Butterfinger, but then he got it. His faced revealed the simple truth of this strange holiday: I say one phrase and then someone puts something delicious into my bag for me to have. I love this country! After that he started running up to doorways with zeal and delighting at whatever treat he was given. It was so wonderful to see him having fun and to see Molly, Grace, and Ben holding his hand and helping him up stairs or down pathways. Kids just being kids.
 For all the reminders I have to give myself about how William is not like other children at this point, I have also to remember that he is a normal kid in many ways. He loves candy. He thought dressing up was hilarious and all he knew was that if Mommy and Daddy were there along with sissys and bwuther--then it must be ok. So here's to more days spent with my normal kids doing normal things. Carving pumpkins and sticking goolish window clings to every transparent surface is just what Will needs to edge out the kinds of experiences that children should never have.  Let's just hope he doesn't ask where the fish went!
Ben as Captain America. What was he last year? A younger Captain America.
 
This is a member of the U.S.A Olympic Gymnastics Team  (yes, the same girl who broke her collar bone attempting a cartwheel)
A Chinese girl in traditional dress. Remind me to wash those chopsticks before our next use!
 
Our little train conductor....with a ring of chocolate around his mouth.
 
I've totally got this on my own.
 
The whole neighborhood bunch!
 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

First Annual Frugal Housewife Clothing Sale

 I just cleaned out my closet. I want to gag. Apart from having clothing in a size 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 (good grief), I have so many quality things that I just can't wear any more. I would love to donate it all, but the truth is--I don't have the money to go shopping and start over. And even if I did--should I? I'm sure many of you are in the same exact situation and so here's what I'm proposing: a women's consignment sale where we bring together all the things in our closet that the Halloween candy is preventing us from wearing and we sell it at reasonable prices. Simple, right?  Let's help one another be good stewards of what the Lord has given us. Oh, and if you see me wearing your pants...thanks!


The 1st Semi-Annual

FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE

Consignment sale

You calling me cheap? As Believers we acknowledge that every good and perfect gift comes from above. Our Father has greatly gifted us and it honors Christ when we are faithful stewards of that which He has entrusted to us. This is the driving principle behind the first bi-annual women’s’ clothing consignment sale. Let’s recycle and reuse what we have been blessed with!

How it works!

Step 1. Begin clearing out your winter gear. If you haven't worn in the last three months--you aren't going to. Pitch it.

Step 2. Donate first- There are people in this city who RELY on donations to clothe themselves and their family. Take several quality items and donate them to The Lovelady Center or some other worthy charity.

Step 3. Take the left-over things that you wish to contribute and hang them on any kind of hanger—with the hanger hook facing like a question mark (just like Kids Market requires).

Step 4. Put a strip of masking tape (with your first and last name clearly written and the SIZE of the item) inside the neck of your shirt/jacket/sweater and in the waistband of your pants. Do the same for purses, shoes, accessories—make it visible.

Step 5. Gather your stuff and come on over to my house—4705 Bridgewater Road Birmingham, AL 35243. The sale will be set up in my basement.

Step 6. COME SHOP. You must contribute to shop. Bring cash or your checkbook. Each contributor will have a brown manila envelope with their name on it. When you purchase an item, you will look inside the item for the contributor’s name and then go to her envelope and either deposit the exact cash or make out a check in the correct amount. So—you could be making out many checks to many people. Understand?

Step 7. Pick up your leftover items if you want them back. Pick up your envelope of checks and cash!

Step 8- give back! Tithe off of your earnings and don’t simply use that money to put more items back in your closet. Be creative.

All remaining items will be donated to The Lovelady Center.

 

                                                               NITTY-GRITTY
What we take:

Any size women’s winter clothing that is in VERY GOOD condition: long-sleeved tops, sweaters, jackets, coats and Fleece jackets, pants, sweatshirts etc…

Shoes/boots: in good condition. Lightly worn. Label inside BOTH shoes.

Accessories: purses, bags, totes, jewelry, scarves, gloves, hats etc…

Winter maternity clothes.

Contribution Dates: I will begin accepting contributions Saturday, November 17. It must be hung and labeled for me to accept it because I just don’t have time to do it.

Shopping Dates:

Friday, December 7

Saturday, December 8

Sunday, December 9

Times TBA based on the number of contributions.

 HELP NEEDED! If you want to hang, group sizes, or help check out—let me know.

Contact- Kerry Cobb 968-3253 (h)  567-2061 (cell)

kjgissing@aol.com

Sunday, October 28, 2012

What adoption does to your children

  Baby scorpions crawling through the light fixture in our shower. A constipated Beta fish on a diet of blanched peas. A certain four year old goes missing in action for his flu shot (found in another patient room hiding under the exam table). A pop-tart meltdown at Walmart. A $625 glow-in-the-dark retainer.... so are the days of our lives.
   I think a certain amount of insanity is our new normal. What's not normal (for me), is that I'm learning to roll with it. I'm so hopelessly Type A. When I don't have anything to worry about, I worry that things are going too well. I schedule spontaneity. I plan, control, manipulate and schedule. I very seldom roll with anything.
  Adopting has changed me. More and more, I find myself relinquishing control, throwing up my hands, and saying: What do you have for me today, Lord? I can now put the laundry down when Will grabs my hands and leads me to a toy. I take the time to braid the girls' hair and talk about their day. I even (attempt to) build Lego creations with Ben. The house isn't perfect. Sometimes we have interesting meals, but we're happier. I'm more attentive to my children. I'm less shackled to my own agenda. And it's good. Priorities are changing as we all change.
  One of my biggest fears about adopting (besides being murdered in my bed by a hostile adoptee) was what it would do to my children. They didn't choose this. We were heeding a call they didn't hear. Could they accept as their brother a child from across the world? Would they resent us for this decision? The anxieties and questions were great, but I kept coming back to one basic fact--regardless of how it affected our children, it didn't change the need for us to obey. This was hard for me to reconcile.
  Fellow adopting mothers, listen well and take heart. Adoption IS dear to God's heart. It IS a major sacrifice and leap of faith which will strengthen your relationship with the Lord and unveil more of His beautiful character. And yet, we are not promised a beautiful story. It will be a long time before Brent and I get to see the impact of our adoption on the lives of our other children. We are prayful that it will plant a seed in their hearts to care and love the least of these, but if it doesn't, we can tell our children that we were faithful to our Lord and His big-picture plan for our lives.
  The first few weeks were very difficult for Molly (8), Grace (6) and Ben (4). They were expecting an instant playmate not a screaming ball of fury. They tired of the crying very quickly and would do anything to make it stop. They would look at me to make it stop and I simply couldn't. Our house was not peaceful and it was upsetting to them. We encouraged the children to just be patient. We tried to tell them what Will was experiencing in hopes that they would understand and not try to suffocate him with a pillow! And at night, I begged God for the changes I'd assured them were coming.
 It's been two months home now and our children have changed--bringing about joy and challenges. Molly has assumed a great deal of responsibility for Will which I am so pleased to see. He's brought out some much-needed softness in her and I think she's beginning to understand why we needed to bring him into our family. She constantly loves on him and tends to him and tells us how glad she is that he's ours. I pray it stays that way.
  Grace is naturally loving and nurturing....overpoweringly so at times. She gets frustrated when Will prefers Molly to her. She gets frustrated when he won't do what she wants him to do. She is learning patience and tolerance and to be comfortable with Will's displays of sadness as part of the process. While Molly clams up with concerns, Grace spews out her feelings. I've bought them each a special diary and fun pen. They each write to me at the end of the day and leave it for me on their bed. They can say anything they want. We don't discuss together what they write. I read it and write back. It's been a great tool for them to share their feelings with me without having to come face to face with me. I highly recommend this with older children.
By far, it's been Ben who has had the hardest time with this transition. I thought he'd be jealous of my attention, but he's been more jealous that his sisters have a new play thing. He's territorial over his toys and meets Will's aggression with a higher level of aggression. But he's learning to be an older sibling and to have a brother. We pray that they will bond tightly together and that Ben will be his protector.
Yes, we're all changing along the way and we'll all be different at various stages of this journey. The change we ask for most is that we'll be more like Jesus. That we'll love as he loves. As we work towards that end, I seek to love my children where they are. I seek to give them the freedom to say what they are feeling even when it's not what I want to hear. I seek to spend extra time with them, loving them in the individual ways they each need love. And so we roll with it-- looking unto Jesus.



Saturday, October 13, 2012

 Two children playing in the street with wind-kissed cheeks from the cooling English weather. I remember it so clearly. I can almost smell the salt from the nearby beach and feel the chill whip around my collar. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon when my parents called my brother and I in from nature's playground. I'm quite sure we grumbled and complained as we stomped up the stairs to bundle up for the walk we didn't want to take. And sitting on my bed was a box. A large box. Inside was the most fantastic pair of roller skates I had ever seen. I heard a shriek from my brother's room and realized that he had been greeted by the same gift. To this day I can't remember being more excited about a present. It wasn't my birthday. We weren't celebrating any special occasion--it was just a rare, special treat. When I say that it was rare, I by no means infer that I was deprived. My parents just knew how to live modestly and intentionally and when they gave to us it meant something. I'm not sure we've imparted that to our children and for that I grieve. I wish plenty were a stranger to them.
 Donning our new skates, we took to the beach front as a family and wore ourselves out. We had so much fun. It's obvious that my fun came from the spontaneous gifting of something I had so desired. My parents' joy, however, was rooted in simply watching us receive. They were so content and happy to see us having fun. That's parenting isn't it? Finding contentment in watching your children fully live.
 And now I sit back watching my children live and loving the wonder in their eyes from the things that give them joy. There is a special contentment in seeing Will's orphan mentality temporarily disappear and him just being a normal, happy two-year-old boy.
 I hope my children look back at the things we did as a family and it means something to them. I hope they have a roller skate story where it wasn't about the contents of the box but about knowing that their parents experienced joy in watching them experience joy.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Which China did I visit?

    I'm sitting here tonight stunned by the fact that we've had Will for about five weeks. It seems much longer than that and as I count the weeks of his presence, I think about his foster mother and how she must be counting the weeks of his absence. I actually think about her quite often and how she looked the day I drove away with a very large piece of her heart. She never cried. Her face was intense, however, with the look of self-sorrow. Without language, I was helpless to do anything but reassure her (through our interpreter) that William would be loved and well cared for and that is true. But what about her? Her family? I wonder if they have ever heard the gospel? I wonder if they have been told that they are the beautiful creations of a masterful creator. I wonder if she knows that there is a antidote to sorrow? I pray for her salvation--for the soul saving of a woman who wears a jade Buddha around her neck and a bracelet to ward off evil spirits and I think to myself -how could God get even one little gospel seed to fall there?
I've been pondering those two weeks in China and trying to reflect on the varied aspects of that trip. First and foremost, was the union with our son and the completion of our adoption. But I had prayed all along that God would reveal to me the spiritual needs of China and allow me to see the people (HIS people) with gospel eyes. I long to be burdened for this country. Am I? It's so hard to be when so much about China and her people remain a mystery to me.
     Joanne Pittman, (in her Gospel Coalition article: 8 Myths About China Today) perfectly summarizes my feelings towards China. She writes,
 
In order to understand China today, it's helpful to understand this simple rule: nothing is as it seems. In fact, I would say this rule applies when observing and analyzing nearly all segments of life in China: politics, economy, social relationships, and even religion. To put it another way, whatever China seems to be at any given moment, it is in fact the opposite. This can be difficult for Westerners, because we tend to be dichotomist in our thinking, wanting something to be either this or that. We don't do well with this and that.
   
It may be hard for you to understand, but she is exactly right in her summation. China is like a face at a masquerade ball. Bewildering and confusing.  Double-layered. China is modern, rich, and powerful yet traditional, poor, and unstable. The people are more free than they have ever been, yet the Government's presence hangs heavy in the dirty air. The Church is present and the government boasts  "religious freedom" and yet all religious activity must be approved and registered.  I never had the sense that I completely understood how things really are for Chinese people.
    Our guide in Guangzhou was very open to the questions we had about the Chinese way of life. Knowing that the people are extremely patriotic in China, I was careful to phrase my questions delicately. I broached the subject of the one-child only policy (a policy that is slowly changing and currently does not apply to all Chinese women), questioning the course of action for those women who might unexpectedly find themselves pregnant with a second child. Sadly, Jack reported that the women are reported to the police when they start to show. The police turn them over for a government mandated abortion---even well in to the seven month and beyond. How many of you have now-healthy children who were born prematurely in the seventh or eighth month? My stomach turned and I fought to hide my sheer disgust. I could hardly say anything--we (the United States) voluntarily dispose of our babies like yesterday's leftovers. All of a sudden China's sin problems weren't looking so unique.
    I know God is moving in China but I have never been in a country where there was such a lack of churches and such a presence of pagan worship. But within my own heart, I could not feel God. I could not see Him in the faces of the people like I do here. Superstition replaces scripture and the people pin their entire futures on lifeless, powerless images and rituals. Emptiness. The gospel is an untold story in much of the country. I honestly believe that to serve as a missionary in China is to be a laborer tilling the hardest of soil. The language is a virtual impossibility to learn. The people know their country's history. They have a deep fertile root system sprawled out and wrapped around Buddhism, traditional folk beliefs, and superstition. To renounce that would be to renounce their family, their national pride, their heritage---everything. Lord, help my unbelief! I found myself thinking that there just might be places God himself can't reach. Despite all I have learned and experienced, I still make God smaller than He really is.


 
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
(Romans 10:14-15 ESV) 
 
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  
(Isaiah 53:1-6)
 
One message delivered by way of preaching can sweep that nation for Jesus and I have to want it for them. I have to pray it for them. I have to feel the ache of telling Will that his parents might not ever hear the gospel and might not ever believe. The immovable walls of people closed in on me for two weeks and I thought about the number of non-believers in a country of  1,347,350,000 in a world of 7.044 billion and it meant something.
I want beautiful feet. I want to take the gospel into the home, the community, the schools, the workplace, the grocery store, the world. Tell me how, Lord. Show me where.
 
Perhaps these pictures will show some of the faces of China.
 


Monday, October 1, 2012

In the Boat with Jesus


And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still! And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"
--Mark 4:38-40
 
 
   The seas got mighty rough today. I'm in the boat with Jesus and I'm waiting for the moment when he stretches out his arms, lifts his head to the heavens and in a single breath of ease commands the storm to cease. It hasn't happened. The calm may not be coming.
  Like the disciples sailing on the Sea of Galilee that day, I fear drowning in this storm that has come my way. Like the disciples who lacked the expertise to handle such severe conditions, I lack the knowledge to calm a little heart raging wildly against everything and everyone. I have no plan. I have no power. I have no control. But Jesus is in the boat.
  Today was by far the hardest day yet with Will. The grieving has stopped and anger has set in. He is so desperate to control something, anything in his life that even the smallest decision made for him stirs up a windstorm that leaves me crying out to the sleeping God in the boat: "Why have you called me to this when it's so clear I can't handle it?" Will raged continually throughout the day and by suppertime I was physically holding his writhing body against mine, constricting his arms and legs until he submitted.  Submission came one hour and fifteen minutes later when we were both sweat drenched and I couldn't formulate the words "I love you" without them sounding like a lie. I came undone.
  And laying him down in his crib for the night's sleep, he rolls over and faces me through the slats. I tell him I love him and I mean it. He shakes his head no. I say it again. He shakes his head no. I say it again. He pushes his hand through the gap and I take it in mine and stroke his palm as his eye lids close. His steady breathing holds no memory of the days events. The storm has calmed for this night at least.
 As I was re-reading the story of Jesus calming the storm, I was reminded that though the disciples were fearful and panicked, Jesus was so at peace that he was sleeping. Although my fears rise up from time to time and I doubt my ability to parent this hurting child, God is at peace. He has every power and every remarkable resource available to him which he can call down on my storm. And he's not getting out of the boat.
 Furthermore, Jesus didn't even have to calm the storm in order for the disciples to be alright. God's presence was all they needed...and it's all I need too. Yes, I'd like for things to get easier, but if they don't I will not feel like this endeavor was a mistake. I will not doubt God's sovereignty in orchestrating Will's union with our family.  I will know that God's presence throughout the storm was what I needed and I will praise him.
  Whatever your storm is, I'm praying courage for you. I'm resting in the truth that with God's presence throughout the turmoil, we will all be fine.  I stand in awe of a God who calls nature to obey and I humbly ask him to turn the little heart of a two year old towards mine. Lower his defenses and let him be still enough to feel peace for the first time in his life.  I ask God to help the others in the storm--Molly, Grace, and Ben who are so young in their understanding of who God is and the complicated nature of his ways. Oh, that we can show them more of him throughout this struggle. And I ask for the grace to get up tomorrow and get back in the boat yet again. I can do this because He is the master of the ship.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

An Interesting Little Discovery

 Just a short post this morning as I sit here playing with Ben and Will. The screen door is open and the lovely early fall breeze is floating through the house. I'm grateful for cooler days.
  I've been seeking ways to help William calm down when he enters one of his spectacular crying fits. Sometimes he lets me hold him. Sometimes he sits in the corner. Regardless of the strategy, it takes a very long time for it to be over. Who knew that a two year old could have so many tears to shed? Today I tried something new. I'd purchased a couple of classical music CDs for William to listen to. I've read research about classical music helping to stimulate the "feel good" parts of the orphan brain that have previously been dormant. I wasn't really expecting any results, but the strangest thing happened. He was instantly silent. His beautiful little eyebrows furrowed and he stared intently in the direction of the music. Next, he moved his hands back and forth (left to right) with the music and started humming. He smiled a soft little smile.
  I'm sure it's not my cure-all for crying, but I'm going to make it a point to play some music throughout the day as a sort of mental break for him....and for me.
Check out these classical piano CDs especially designed for babies and toddlers (I have both). You will love them too!

Helen Marlais' Classics for Babies
Helen Marlais' Classics for Toddlers
*Both are roughly $10.00 on Amazon.

Perhaps I have a musician on my hands!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

PSA Part II

 
Hurt children learned early in their lives that smiles are not to be trusted.
They know adult actions may end in pain.
They are hard-wired by early experiences to know that the only safety is in total and complete control of their emotional and physical environment.
---Parenting the Hurt Child
 
 
 

   I thought that I'd sit down to write part II of what I've learned thus far in parenting Will (or trying to). It's been a hard day. The house has seemed slightly chaotic with complaining, crying, and just general discontentment from all the children. Will has cried off and on for most of the day. So, these thoughts are good reminders for myself as we press on in a devotion to love as Christ loves us. Total and sacrificial love.
 
5. You can't know what you don't know. Whatever age your child is when he or she is brought into your family---BIG chunks of their past are missing and probably gone forever. I really have to remember this when William reacts in a manner which I find "strange". I don't know his past. When these "orphan moments" (as we like to call them) arise, I'm quick to remember that his actions are rooted in something...some event...some circumstance that I didn't witness. Some examples: Whenever I do speak to Will in a stricter tone, he runs to a specific corner in our house and stays there until he's ready to come out. I don't know why. Maybe he was put in the corner in the orphanage?? All I know is that he feels the need to do it and he ain't moving until he's good and ready. Control. He has a fascination with closing doors, flicking light switches, and ordering things. He carries his cup around all day long. It has to be in his hand. These things are a mystery to me, but it's part of who he is at the moment. So, give yourself grace that you weren't there during his childhood to understand how the puzzle was originally put together. Just work with the pieces you have.
 
6. Study your child. I think this really goes back to being present...fully present. I spend a lot of time just watching Will. I know he is beginning to sound like my little science project, but watching him is very revealing. Occasionally, through watching him and playing with him, I can fill in one of those missing puzzle pieces and provide and explanation for a certain behavior. This happened soon after we returned home. Any time I'd been out with him, he would come into the house and begin pulling at my feet and ankles. I finally figured out that he wanted my shoes and socks off because in Chinese homes you do not enter the house wearing outside shoes and socks. He is very pleased with me when I remember to kick off my shoes! Makes sense, right? Easy enough. I know that he likes to group things by color and wants to see how things work. He likes for all the t.v. remotes to be in the same place so organization is important to him. He is a very clever little guy. He's probably picked up 20 English words and several phrases. The boy is a fast learner. I feel like I'm getting to know him at a faster rate by just sitting near him and watching him and interacting with him when he feels like having a playmate.
 
7. Be patient. BE PATIENT. I'd better settle in and wait because it's going to take a long time for this superficial relationship to deepen into genuine love on his part. I've been looking at his picture for over a year. He's been looking into my face for three weeks. I want so badly for him to want me and to need me and to be completely comforted by my presence and embrace. But all relationships take time and investment. I'm committed to both and if you've decided to adopt then you are too. Patience really has to be a thread that runs through every part of this experience. I have to be patient with the other children when they feel neglected or frustrated or just plain sick and tired of Will's crying (Ben walks around with his hands over his ears). I have to be patient with Brent when he looks at me with eyes that say---he's crying AGAIN??? I have to be patient with myself and remember that all those hours of holding a baby and feeding a baby and caressing a baby were absent from Will's life and I'm starting over. He's starting over. Two years of difficult can't be erased in three weeks. It will come. I know it will come.
 
8. It's less about changing him and more about changing me. Sure I want Will to heal and grow. But I'm realizing daily that it's me who needs to change. There's so very much I need to change about myself as I work daily in my role as wife and mother. Adoption forces change. The hours I have prayed and the middle-of-the-night conversations with God have begun to turn from praying for certain desired outcomes in my children to praying for a heart change within myself. The Maker needs to remake me. I need a gentle spirit and wise words. I need patience and compassion. I need discernment. Perhaps then the little people under my care will begin to change as they watch their mother change. I'm weary from the carousel-ride of trying to change myself. Failing. Surrendering. Letting God temporarily take over. The ride keeps running and I don't know when I got on or how to get off. I think adoption has slowed the ride a little because I just can't do this. God is going to have to do it through me and He's going to change me to do it. Praise God! The rescuer comes for me again.
 
  I've put all the children to bed now and for the first time all day the house is quiet and still. If I could close with any advice, it would be to remember the call. If God has called you to adopt then reminding yourself of His beckoning towards adoption will help you plant your feet and stand firm. I know the sweet peace of being nestled right in the center of God's will. I feel it now. I know we are doing exactly what He wants us to do. It's what kept me in China when I wanted to run. It's what keeps me calm and tender towards Will when he rejects me over and over. It's what causes my heart to swell when he does run to me or allow me to hold him tightly. Nothing about this is easy and God never promised us easy, did He? But He made many more promises to me personally in His word and I don't have to pray for them. I already have them by way of being his heir and daughter.
  Each eveing as night falls and Will is in my arms before bed, I sing Jesus Loves Me in hushed tones. I sing it for him. I sing it for me.
 
 
JESUS LOVES ME
“Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so:
Little ones to him belong,—
They are weak, but he is strong.
 
Chorus:
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me-
The Bible tells me so!
 
“Jesus loves me,—he who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let his little child come in.
Chorus
 
“Jesus loves me—loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill;
From his shining throne on high
Comes to watch me where I lie.
Chorus
 
“Jesus loves me,—he will stay
Close beside me all the way.
Then his little child will take
Up to heaven for his dear sake.”
Chorus

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Adoption Public Service Announcement

  Today's blog is especially for my friends who are currently in the process of adopting....and for myself when I need a reminder of what to focus on during these early days. I want to share some thoughts that might provide some helpful insight into how to prepare for the time when you walk through the door of your home with your new child in arms. I  have a whole month's worth of experience which makes the following advice highly reputable, don't you think? I thought so. Will, hopefully you'll read this one day and see how loved you are and how far we've come.
Here goes.
1. Get educated. It's time to turn off Dancing with the Stars and pick up some books which offer realistic expectations about what adopted children are like and, furthermore, equip you with helpful strategies for dealing with behaviors that are probably unfamiliar to you.  I read a few books during the adoption process, but I had several here in the house for when we came home.  I wanted to be reading in the midst of our transition so that I wouldn't forget the information and also so that I could look at my child in action and apply the appropriate recommendations immediately. I recommend 1) Parenting your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen 2) The Connected Child by Dr. Karen Purvis and 3) Parenting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky.
You will not be sorry that you read these books. Orphans come into your care pre-wired in very specific ways. Adoption research reveals consistent patterns of behavior among most orphans and understanding   the wiring system is invaluable to how you approach your new child. The main reason (apart from grace) that I'm not curled up in the fetal position within the dark confines of my basement right now is because I know what to expect and I can calm myself down by saying: this is normal. No matter how disturbing a behavior may be- when you know that it is normal for a child to be exhibiting such behavior at this stage of adoption, it makes you feel encouraged and empowered.
***note: If you have the opportunity to attend one of Karen Purvis' Empowered To Connect conferences you MUST go. For Brent and I, it was the single best tool to equip us for adoption. She is a phenomenally dynamic and entertaining speaker. The content is intriguing and you will leave feeling like you have a solid foundation on which to build once you return home with your child.
2. Hibernate. If you look up the word "social" in the dictionary, there's my picture and I'm just a smiling and a waving. I absolutely love people and I thrive on fellowship and companionship and camaraderie etc... But when you return from Who-Knows-Whereville with your son or daughter you have to withdraw for an indefinite period of time. I resigned from every committee, activity, and commitment that I was involved in. I plan on being a vapor for several months and I feel great about it. If you want any shot of strongly and deeply attaching with your child, you have to be present. It really is that simple.  The same goes for taking your child out and about. Really limit it. The more faces he sees, the more confused he becomes about who you are. To put it in perspective, right now William can endure only about 20 minutes of concentrated interaction (i.e. taking him to a friend's house or to church etc...) before he completely melts down.
3. Prepare your children and family.  By choosing to adopt, you (via God) have made a monumental decision on behalf of your children and family members. They have (perhaps unwillingly) been pulled into a really hard place with a child who can be, quite honestly, difficult to love. I should have prepared the children for the amount of crying they would have to endure. With an eight, six, and four year old in the house, we don't really hear a lot of screaming crying like babies do. Enter William to remind us. The kids initially were really bothered by it. They kept asking me to make it stop and I couldn't! It also created a nasty habit of them giving Will whatever he wanted to avoid the on-set of a crying fit. Reassure your children that the crying is normal and is temporary. Try to make them understand what he's feeling. Try to explain why he needs so much care and attention from Mommy right now etc... The same with family members. Transition will go more smoothly if you explain some of that fabulous orphan behavior information you gleaned from those great books above :) That way, Grandma won't run away the first time your child throw an earth-shaking tantrum when all she did is say hello and look him in the eye!!!!!!!
4. Establish some boundaries. Others may disagree, but I feel that one has to establish some immediate boundaries with an adopted child. I can't let Will come in to our family and commandeer every toy from my other children and then persist to scream like a Howler Monkey when he doesn't get it. I can't allow him to hit me or my children. So we sternly tell him NO. If he hits me, I take his hand and show him how to touch my face gently and say sternly, "We do not hit Mommy".  He is understanding already and I've seen a reduction in fit-throwing when his brother or sister has something that he wants. It's a start.

......more to come. You're on the edge of your seat, I know.
I'll leave you with some encouragement--the face I get to see when he's calm and happy. It spurs me on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Taking to the skies with Amelia Earhart

  Yesterday was my first solo flight with all four children. My co-pilot had to return to work and so I took the controls alone hoping that when he returned at the end of the day, we'd all still be here!
  Will woke up happy and playful and I wrangled the cattle into the van for our school run (on time I might add). The girls were dropped off and then Ben. I was looking forward to our first day of just being mother and son. We had a really great morning. We played trains and trucks together, did a puzzle, went outside for a while, cut and ate watermelon (a favorite of his) and just spent time quietly playing and interacting with one another. I have to say, I was totally rockin' this adoptive mother thing. He was taking me by the hand and leading me around the house. He was looking into my eyes and laughing and engaging me in games. It felt really easy and natural. He loves books and so we spent quite a bit of time exploring the pages of different lift-the-flap books. It's so fun to see him delighted with a picture or exclaim something in Chinese in an excited voice. The rest of the day was just as successful and my heart was encouraged. Maybe it's just not going to be that hard. And then the night came.
  Williams goes to sleep very well. No objections. No crying. While it's nice to not hear the screaming protests of a child resisting sleep, it's not a good thing. Think about it. The whole reason little babes scream going down from a very young age is because they sense the separation from their parent and they don't know they're safe outside of the physical presence of mommy and daddy. Over time, they learn that they are, in fact, secure. But even older children delay the separation at night (i.e. I need ANOTHER drink of water. Please scratch my back. Will you read another 1400 page Dr. Seuss book?) It's the simple desire to stay close to that which makes us feel secure. So Will falling asleep without protest means he is disconnected from us and does not yet recognize the need for soothing from us. When he does finally recognize that need, a whole new set of sleep problems will arise.
   He was restless in his early evening sleep--calling out, crying with his eyes tightly closed. I would go in to the room and stroke his cheek and let him hear my voice. At 2 a.m. he woke crying hard and it escalated from there. I can only compare his cry to that of a siren. It's intense, monotone and the only modulation of sound comes when I approach. Given our euphoric Mary-Poppins kind of a day, I was sure I could console him and lull him back to sleep like some kind of orphan-whisperer. ER. WRONG. I am the absolute last person he wants to see during his night struggles. I wanted to say to him, "Do you not remember the lovely day of bonding we've just experienced? I'm cool, remember? I make train sounds and act like I don't know where the puzzle piece goes! We're good now."
Nothing.
The crying lasted roughly the same amount of time as the Vietnam War. Finally, he surrendered his inconsolable outburst and fell asleep on Brent. We laid him in the bed and tried to get some rest.
  Progress with Will these days is like drawing a beautiful image on a magna-doodle and then someone comes along and wipes the screen completely clean. We have to start all over again and I'd just like to see some outline of the image there from day to day.
  It is ONLY because of the Holy Spirit's gentle holding of me that I am able to walk through this right now without becoming frustrated or angry with Will's behavior. I can honestly say that I haven't had one moment where I've wanted to do anything other than hold him tightly and love him. His face is the picture of innocence. His life has been rather sloppily constructed on a platform of choices made by others for reasons unknown. And so he cries.
  In the night I pray. I pray for the salvation of our four children. Without Christ, there is no balm for the hurts of this world. I will fail each of these little people. He won't. They call us an orphan's "Forver Family," bit I don't like the naming. The only one who is forever is God and when we're all in His presence, we'll know peace.
And so I start again today. Anew. Re-drawing an image of beauty for Will to see. One day I'll wake up and find the image intact.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Our God is marvelous. He created us with such detail and delicacy that I just marvel at the complexity of his creation. Take, for instance, the orphan brain. I've been reading a lot about what Will has experienced and is experiencing since his abandonment at just fourteen days old. Did you know that even a newborn who is adopted from birth (i.e. taken home from the hospital) knows the separation from  its biological mother and the brain begins to stress and change? Adrenaline increases (fight or flight) and cortisol (the chemical which manages stress) decreases dramatically. Orphans have a very low level of oxytocin, a socializing biochemical, and therefore they are resistant to touch or play. The list goes on and on. It is so evident that God created us to connect. When important connections are severed, the brain goes wild in rebellion. But in the beauty of a skilled creator's hand, the one and only God allows the orphan brain to be restored slowly. Our journey to restore Will is just beginning. While his brain is changeable, it is not erasable. We are seeking to build new pathways--no easy task.
  We've been home almost a week now and it's been a insightful week. I learn huge amounts about Will each and every day. Here are the good points-- He smiles and laughs and accepts affection. He will make eye contact with me and play games with me where he has to maintain a stare (Peek-a-boo). This is good because it's making a direct connection. He will mimic me and my name (Mama). Again, he's connecting me with a role in his life. He will take my hand and lead me somewhere--connecting. I try to do this with him off and on all day and it's exhausting. I'm always in close proximity--usually right next to him while he's playing. I want to discourage independence and encourage his dependence on me. I want him to know that I can provide all of his needs. In essence, I'm working super hard to gain trust and I wish there was a quick way to accomplish this. There isn't. We'll be working on this for years to come because his brain is wired to survive alone.
   The challenges: any gentle reprimand results in a total melt-down. If we show any displeasure at all, he freaks out. We have to balance our knowledge of how fragile it is to discipline orphans at this stage in our relationship with the need to establish boundaries for the sake of our other children. He cannot hit them, snatch from them etc... It ain't going well. He is very possessive. You touch his shoes--it's over. If he has a toy that he wants to hold all day and you mess with it--it's over. He has a very strong Will (perhaps he's living up to his name). It's like walking on eggshells. You just don't know what will launch Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into an alarming fit of tears, screaming, kicking, swatting etc... You kind of want to step back, look at his darling face, and say-- "This is coming from that???" It's bad. It's "call the Super-Nanny" bad.
 As we stumble along depositing minuscule amounts into Will's trust bank, I'm so thankful that I have a Savior who is trustworthy and faithful to me. As our relationship with our son strengthens, he'll begin to call up past occurrences where we have proven faithful. When I'm facing giant challenges or little anxieties, I can call up a twenty four plus year track record of God's faithfulness to me. He too discourages independence and encourages dependence on Him. I love that I can see myself in Will. When he's struggling with his identity I can share that I too struggle with mine. For our identity is not in the temporary earthly relationships of parents but in the only dependable never failing relationship with our Heavenly Father.
   The photos below show a little of how Will is relating to the children. He is connecting with the girls first because he had three foster sisters. He is not all that taken with Ben, and when he wants Ben's toys--Ben is not all that taken with him! It's going to take a long time for Will to learn how to be part of a family. But he is part of our family. I love him. I'm beginning to understand him. I'm learning that he will never be exclusively mine. By necessity--I have to open my life up to his foster mother and biological mother (even though she's unknown) so that it's always a part of how we relate to him.  I can't pretend that they don't exist.
 
 We're thinking of planting two shrubs to represent his foster family and biological family so that he has something concrete to visit. Our roots are all going to grow together into this wonderful picture of God's family---glorious ruins.