Friday, December 14, 2012

Running For Life....

.....running for water.....running for children.....running for moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas......

Remember the scenes I posted from the Ethiopian countryside?  Beautiful.  Captivating.  But water sources?  Scarce. 

I can't tell you how many people we saw washing clothes, bathing, and drinking muddy water.  Water that was filled with bacteria that would make them sick.  But they had no choice. 

A few times, however, we drove past a community well.  Oh, what a welcome sight!  Lined up by the well were little children, naked or wearing next to nothing.  Moms with babies tied to their backs.  Old, wrinkled women.  They all had whatever container they could find to fill with clean water at the well.  Those women and children would walk miles to come to the well. 

Isn't that like us?  We thirst for clean water.  I love the song, "Come to the Well", by Casting Crowns.  Google it.  It talks about Jesus being our "well". 

Today, however, I want to ask for your support as I run to raise money to build a well in Africa.  A literal clean water well.  A well that will change lives for hundreds of people. 

Won't you consider giving $5?  $20?  $50?  $100?  So someone else can have what you take for granted each and every hour of your life? 

We flush away what many would die for.  DO die for lack of. 

Sad, right?  But you can make a difference.

Here's the link to my World Vision page:
http://support.worldvision.org/site/TR/TeamWorldVision/TeamWorldVision?px=1275895&pg=personal&fr_id=1940

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Attention! Black Friday Shoppers:

What if you could not only give joy to others this Christmas with a gift, but help another human being that you don't even know at the same time?  Wouldn't that be a win/win situation? 

I'd like to challenge you this Christmas season to think outside the box when it comes to shopping for the loved ones on your list.  There are a number of ways to do that.

1)  Support missions that employ people and raise money for the mission.  What missions are close to your heart?  No ideas?  Here are some that are close to mine:

www.embracinghopeethiopia.com employs women to make beautiful necklaces out of magazines.  We spent some time with the founders, Jerry and Christy Shannon, while we were in Ethiopia.  It's an exciting time in the life of the ministry.  The women really role the beads all day long and string them.  They are very creative.  The ministry helps moms keep their children so the children do not become orphans. 

www.livefashionable.com makes gorgeous scarves.  We toured the facility a couple times and talked to some of the women who make the scarves in Ethiopia.  It's all hand made on looms in a large room inside the FashionABLE compound.  The women are now employed after once being on the street or in a life of prostitution.  They support each other and have Bible studies together. 

www.krochetkids.org has the cutest hats!  Their mission is: "To create sustainable economic development programs that support holistic growth of individuals and communities within developing nations. To inspire the knowledge of a generation about their ability to bring change to a world that is in need."

www.justlovecoffee.com offers fair trade coffee (totally delish!) and you can also help families going through the adoption process.

www.solerebelsfootwear.com  is an awesome company that makes shoes out of totally recycled materials like tires.  They employ women to get them out of poverty to make the shoes.  Their first retail store just opened in Ethiopia and we purchased some shoes there.  Just to let you know- their flip flops are the most comfortable I have ever worn, and I've worn a lot!

www.divinechocolateusa.com  is fair trade chocolate.  Chocolate!  Need I say more?  The cool thing is that the farmers own almost half of the company.

www.wiphan.org  is "a Zambian-based Christian ministry that provides biblical teaching, skills training and education to widows and orphans in Zambia, Africa who have been devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Wiphan's Skills Training programs offer widows the opportunity to learn jewelry making, hospitality or typing. This essential training provides the means for these ladies to earn income to feed their families."  *Take a look at the bags the women make in the Store section of the website.  Each one is different- no two are alike.

2) Use sites that, with some research, you can go to and order things that have been made with fair trade.  No sweat shops, no child labor.  Sites like....

www.planetonegifts.com has a huge range of products.  My favorite is The Bath and Body section which "offers a number of natural, Fair Trade spa products, body soaps, gift baskets and other delightfully fragrant and soothing natural toiletries."  (wording comes from their website)

www.fairindigo.com, a great site for fair trade clothing

Try sites like www.thefind.com and enter "fair trade toys"

or www.shopwithmeaning.org, which "connects consumers with brands supporting social causes".

3) Don't know what to get the person that has everything?  Maybe they don't need another thing.  Visit the World Vision gift catalog at www.worldvision.org and give a gift in honor of someone.  For example, give the soccer fan on your list a pretty card with their name on it letting them know you donated two soccer balls to kids in need.  World Vision prints the cards and you donate the money.  Two soccer balls to kids in Africa or Mexico would be $16.  Teacher on your list?  Donate money to send a woman to school in her honor.  Farmer?  How about seeds for someone who's unemployed to start their own garden?  There is a wide range of gifts available. 

Google it!  Get some info!

According to www.businesspundit.com, some of the largest companies that participate in slave labor are..

Victoria's Secret
KYE (a Chinese supplier), who has customers including Microsoft, XBox, and Nokia
Forever 21
Aeropostale
Urban Outfitters

Does this mean I am going to stop letting Alan wear his Aeropostale shirts after doing this research?  Not right now.  It's a personal decision.  I'm not saying you have to go cold turkey.  What I am doing is making myself do more research in the future before I purchase something.  I can't afford to redo our entire wardrobes at the moment, and chances are you can't either.  

But being aware is a good thing.  

Research is a good thing.  

Taking the focus off yourself and putting it on someone else is a good thing. 

Have fun this shopping season.  But if you get to the store and the cool toy on aisle 12 is sold out, use that opportunity to find a creative way to not only help yourself or your kids, but someone else's kids.  Someone who, without you, may not have a Christmas at all.



 

Monday, November 19, 2012

4 Month Update

As of this past Friday, we have been a family of 7 for 4 months.  Time for some highlights of the past month (actually, about a month and a half would be more accurate)!

Easton and Yohannes's flag football team won the championship!  You've never seen two more pumped boys. 
Yohannes had his very first birthday party, complete with friends, family, presents.....

....and a giant cookie.  He picked that instead of cake.

Paulos and Yohannes had eye surgery.  Both of Yohannes's lazy eyes were corrected, and now he looks straight ahead!  We are thankful for All Children's Hospital in Tampa.  Every person we came in contact with was wonderful.
Paulos's pre-school class took a field trip to a pumpkin patch.  He thought the pumpkins were cool.
Yohannes, Paulos, Easton, and Alana had friends over to carve pumpkins.  Even though Yohannes and Paulos chose not to participate (and the moms ended up doing most of the carving- thanks, Stephanie!), they still had fun with their friends.




Have you ever tried explaining Halloween to someone from another country?  Not an easy feat.  However, they lit up at the prospect of filling a bag with candy.  Some years we have participated in trick or treating, some years we have not.  This year we were invited again to our friend's house to join with their family walking around a large neighborhood.  We brought along a genie, a Star Wars clone, cowboy, Spiderman, and an Indian.  

Easton has begged for a real suit for a year.  He finally received one and has worn it almost every Sunday to church.  We'll definitely get our money's worth.  Isn't he handsome?


Paulos lost his first tooth.  He was so proud!  He promptly lost it 10 minutes later, but still woke up the next morning to find a dollar under his pillow.  From his family, not the Tooth Fairy.  We won't even attempt to explain that one.
 
Paulos's class had a Thanksgiving Feast: 
 
Chief Paulos picked out all the chocolate to eat first from his bag.  In this picture he's holding a chocolate kiss up for the camera (not just his middle finger, I promise).
One night while the girls were away, Alan cranked up the fire pit and the boys roasted marshmallows.  It was Yohannes and Paulos's first time ever roasting them over a fire.  Yum!

Our family took Grandpa's boat out (and sang that country song, "On a Pontoon...") to go fishing.  Though we didn't catch anything, they all enjoyed going fast and having a picnic on the boat.
Oh- and helping Daddy drive, too!

 
Today I am thankful for:  a conversation with a new friend that reminded me God is FULLY able to restore- He makes all things new, a bag of clothes for the boys that included new nice shoes for church and even a Darth Vader costume complete with light sabers, and a chance for Jayde to keep playing volleyball at the Y with friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

T'is the Season to Give Thanks

 **Disclaimer: The last thing I ever want to do with this blog is discourage people from adopting.  Yes, it is hard.  But it's also beautiful.  God really does place the lonely in families.  He does not and can not lie.  It's against his nature.  We are in a difficult place that not all families go through.  The majority of my adoption friends are posting stories of their easy attachments with their child/children, the automatic love they feel for them, and the God-given beautiful moments.  We also have had some beautiful moments. Please do not let our small statistic of the reality we live in scare you if you have been considering adoption.  God wants the Church to take care of orphans, and adoption is one way to do that.  Now to move on.......**

I am thankful.  Sometimes I don't think about it like I should.  Deep down, though, it's always there.  Thank you for my breath, Lord.  Thank you for eternal life, Lord.  Thank you for my parents, Lord.  Thank you for my husband and children, Lord.  Thank you for this house, Lord. 

There are some days I just don't think I can parent a child from a hard place for another minute and I want to scream.  I question whether or not I actually listened to God's call.  Did I imagine it? 

The answer is no.  It was as real as the pink toenail polish decorating my feet.

Still, the "what-if" syndrome creeps in on a daily basis.

One of my adoption friends described parenting a RAD child as "the death of a dream".  She was right.  

There have been two rare occasions in which Y rode with Alan to work (because of a bad morning) and I have caught myself at the table with Paulos and Easton with Alana across from us (Jayde does her work in her room).  I looked around and thought, "Yes, this is what I imagined.  A blended family with challenges, but love.  This is manageable."  Then when Y comes back, the entire household is thrown into disarray.  I am no longer able to speak to another child.  He consumes all of me.  Yet at the same time, he does not like or trust me. 

It will be hard for a long time.  We have had the privilege of families contacting us and giving us great leads on therapists for our family who specialize in RAD children.  Also a family camp that we are looking forward to after the holidays.  There is a light.  A dim light, but it's there, and I need to focus on it.  Continue to pray, please. 

We are thankful for the families who have come forward the shared their experiences with us to let us know we are not alone.  Thank you for giving up personal details about your lives to virtual strangers.

This Thanksgiving season, I am grateful for:

My husband, for without him I would go crazy.  I could not do this alone.  We know the research shows the effects of RAD on a family often includes the breakup of a marriage.  We are determined not to become a statistic. 

Our parents:  My parents have provided the Jeffries Shuttle Service (I need to get them chauffeur hats).  They have picked up Paulos from pre-school and fed him lunch while I finish schooling the others more times than I can count.  Alan's parents help with the children, run them to and fro, and let us go on much-needed date nights to keep us connected.  Whoo-hoo!

Friends:  Dude.  Our family is blessed with some of the best friends on the planet.  They come over after the kids are in bed to visit.  They donate stuff like scooters, bicycles, balls, and clothes to our family.  They invite us over for dinner and let the kids play in a small setting.  They understand if we need to leave early or cancel plans at the last minute.  They listen to our rants.  They are awesome.

My Children:  Each one teaches me something.  Each one has a special gift from God and is a special gift from God. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Hard Road

This is, to date, the most difficult blog post I have written.  Why?  It's open and raw.  It will be the cause of a lot of opinions, judgements, harsh comments, and gossip.  But it's true.  And I promised to be open and honest here.  At the same time, I know all of my children will read this some day.  I'm going to try to tread carefully.

Alan and I have been debating on how much information to share about our family.  It's hard to get personal, because you open your family unit to so much criticism. At the same time, it has been extremely frustrating to try and find out information about our situation.  What I would like to concentrate on in this post is information and education. 
In the above picture, do you see that sullen boy to the right? It's our oldest son.

Our oldest son has a severe case of Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Our youngest son has a mild case.  This is an introduction to RAD.  http://www.attachmentdisorder.net/What_is_attachment_disorder.htm

These are the symptoms and causes: http://www.attachmentdisorder.net/Symptoms_Causes_Research.htm

If you really want to know a little bit about life with a RAD child, here is a letter to an adult that may work with that child, like a teacher.  I include it because Yohannes does so many of the things she talks about in this article.  Please read it if you want to become informed!!!:
http://www.attachmentdisorder.net/overviewforteach.htm

In the previous article, we are seeing the following (one of many), which she mentions:
"What you may see as a teacher is a child who is, initially, surprisingly charming to you, even seeking to hold your hand, climbing into your lap, smiling a lot, you're delighted you are getting on so well with such a child. "
Our sons can definitely be charming.  It's a classic symptom of RAD- Indiscriminate affection.  Paulos, especially, will hug anyone and go with any person.  He has not made sufficient connections with me and Alan yet.  Yohannes will obey and smile at people for a while.  Then, once he feels comfortable with you, will begin controlling and manipulative behavior.

"They may express an offhand or even seemingly sincere "sorry,” but will likely do the same thing again tomorrow. They are not motivated by self or parental pride, normal reward and punishment systems simply do not work. "
Oh yeah, we experience this every day.  The way we parent our bio children just does not work with a RAD child.  That is difficult to explain to anyone. 

If you'd like to know how I'm feeling, read this page: http://www.attachmentdisorder.net/You're_Not_Alone.htm
Alan and I are between numbers 6 and 7 on the grief scale at the bottom of the page. 

I could share all the gory details about day to day life with our son.  In the future, I may do a "day in the life of a RAD child" post.  The wild-animal-like screaming and thrashing, throwing furniture, knocking things off tables, sending items flying across the room, punching and kicking furniture and walls, yelling at his brothers, hurting himself, the list goes on and on.  For hours.  Tonight I'd like to ask for prayer.  PRAYER.

It has been difficult to have counselors tell us that they wish our son had been placed in a home with no other children because he needs 24/7 one-on-one care that we can not give.  That our choices are: to let the other 4 kids go and focus solely on him, focus on the other 4 and try to get through the next 7 years until he turns 18, look into residential care when he hits adolescence, or consider an adoption disruption and put him with another family who can give him the round-the-clock focus he will have to have to heal.  Paulos is headed down the same road, but we are praying that earlier intervention will help him.

What do we do?  We don't know.  We just honestly don't know right now.  Of course we want to fight for Yohannes.  But what does that look like?  We have no idea. 

Read and pray.  Feel free to ask questions, but please try not to judge what you think we are doing wrong/right with our parenting.  It's hard enough with loving support, much less with criticism.  If you think you may know another family who has a child with RAD, look into becoming educated to be a safe listening ear.  Safe people are few and far between. 

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." - James 1:5

Please join us in praying for wisdom for our family.  This is spiritual warfare, friends!!  If you have a church prayer list, please add our family to it.  If you are a member of a small group, please pray for us in your group, especially Yohannes.  If you do personal prayer time, please, please pray for our family.  I would love to come back a few years from now and tell you how much prayer changed our lives. 

Will you stand with us?  Will you intercede for us?  We need you, body of Christ. We can not do this alone. 





Friday, October 26, 2012

Getting My Thankful Back

Lately I've found myself thinking negatively a lot.  Tense muscles constantly.  Restless sleep frequently.  A gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I realized something. 

I have ceased to express gratitude. 

When was the last time I wrote down what I was thankful for? 

It's been a while. 

Without thankfulness life is harder.  It's more difficult to forgive.  Bearing others' burdens becomes wearisome.  Keeping my focus on Jesus starts to be challenging. 

Lord, lead me back to having a grateful heart!

Remember how I claimed Psalm 34 when we were in Africa?  Revisiting that Psalm tonight took my breath away. 

The answer is there.  Right there in black and white. 

"I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth."-v. 1
I have failed to praise Him lately.  Instead I have questioned Him.

"My soul makes it's boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad."- v.2
Am I boasting in God lately?  Or have I wallowed in self-pity and anger?

"Oh magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together." -v.3
Won't you praise Him with me?

"I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." -v.4
Every time I have said in my heart, "I just can NOT do this one more day", God has sent some one to encourage me.  He does hear me.  But I have to acknowledge Him.

This week is going to be filled with singing this praise song to help me remember.  Do you know it? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE-4DsUf_Uo&feature=related (song starts at 1:08)

The words are:

"Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son.

And now let the weak say I am strong
Let the poor say I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us
Give thanks."

Today I am thankful for:  Friends Rob and Sheri, who have gone over and above what friendship normally looks like; hugs from 5 children; a donated basketball hoop from David and Natalie; and watching our chickens peck the dirt (observing farm animals is therapeutic- try it sometime).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Are You Strengthening or Scrutinizing?

Over the past 3 months, I have  frequently pondered what others may or may not be thinking about our family.  Should I care?  In a way, no.  In other ways, yes. Our family should be living witnesses to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Some days we may visibly be bearing the fruit of the Spirit (A reminder of that is tattooed on my ankle and even then I still fail.  Ok, tattoos?  I'm not even going to go down that road.  I have two.  But that's beside the point. Another post for another day.)  At the same time, dwelling on what others think of us is not constructive when it's done because you want to be impressing people. 

I used to be the kind of person who would watch other people with their children and think in my head things like, "If I was their mom, I'd _____", or "They just need a good spanking", or other similar comments.  All in my head, of course, not verbalized, because that's my personality.  But I was thinking them.  Other people have personalities like Alan, where they automatically speak out loud the first thing that comes into their brain.  Neither is excused, because I would think rude comments, just not say them.  Yes, there is a benefit to that, and it's Biblical to think before you speak, but I was still judging people for no reason.  Let me give you a very long example........

Two of my biological children have special needs.  Not in the sense of the word as it is commonly used.  These two children have learning disabilities.  Yes, full blown diagnosed-with-documentation-from-a-psychologist kind of learning disabilities.  The fact that we educate at home lets me tailor the curriculum to their learning style and they attend "therapy" as well during the week.  People don't know that, because I don't go around with a sign posted on them, "Please know that I have a learning disability and don't make fun of me."  They have received harsh, hurtful comments because of their learning disabilities.  Things like people making fun of them because they were called on to read out loud in a classroom setting, and they have trouble with that because of their processing disorders.  But then they come home bawling because they have been made fun of when they have no control over their disability.  If it was up to them, they wouldn't have it! 

Here's the sad point:  I did that.  That's right.  Many years ago, after I had just graduated college with a degree in Education (You read that correctly.  It just adds to the sadness.)  I was teaching Wednesday night classes at my church to Elementary school students.  There was one boy in particular that I thought negative comments about over and over.  He did not read at the level of the other students when I called on him and had trouble writing down answers.  He was home schooled.  I assumed his mother was to blame and wasn't teaching him well enough.  And each week I judged him in my head and heart, along with his mother.  I never stopped to think that maybe this child had a learning disability.  I should never have asked him to read aloud (Note to people like Sunday School teachers:  if you have a child that struggles to read aloud, chances are that student suffers from some kind of processing disorder, and should not be asked to read aloud.  Just skip them if they are okay with it.  Please don't embarrass them.)  Still, to this day, many years later, I remember that sweet child, and I am so remorseful.  I was not educated, in spite of my "degree".  I was ignorant and immature. 

Now I am also the parent of two boys with special needs, sensory disorders, and traumatic pasts that manifest themselves in different ways.  While we have a few limited friends who we have somewhat shared the extent of their needs, most people are oblivious.  Our boys look like everyone else, just like their siblings blend in with the other children around them.  Their unique circumstances are not visible to the naked eye.  Certainly people can see we are a blended family, but that would be all that most adults could determine from looking at our family across the aisle at the grocery store. 

What I have found is that there are more people in the world that are ignorant about other's needs than not.  More people that are judgemental than not.  More people that are just plain mean than not.  We live in a sinful world and we all fall short every single day.  It's especially hurtful when those of us who make up the body of Christ are doing the judging. 

I'd like to take a minute and share some things you may not know about special needs children and their families.

1)  We love our children and want the best for them.  Are we able to parent the same way as others?  No.  That's okay.  If you would like to read the why's and how's of that different parenting, I have books I can recommend to you.  Just ask. 

2)  We can not always go out without our children.  Sometimes the people you see in the store/doctor's office/church/bank could not hire a babysitter.  They could not get their husband to watch the kids.  Please don't condemn them for bringing children to an establishment when those children end up annoying you.

3)  When our children act out in public, it doesn't necessarily mean we are not disciplining at home. 

4)  Lots of days have us on the verge of tears as we witness the harsh glances or listen to rude remarks from others, whether it's an acquaintance or a stranger.

5)  Our families and our children definitely did not choose to have a special need.  We're working with what we have been dealt. 

Maybe this next part should be a second post, but I'm going to include it here, because I think they connect.

Encouragement is defined as..  "To inspire with hope, courage, or confidence; hearten." or "To give support to; foster."  
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Please try to encourage someone today and tomorrow and the next day.  The cashier that helped you today and was rough and snapped at you may be taking care of an elderly parent and had a bad day.  Maybe her husband left her.  Maybe her kids screamed at her before she came to work.  We ALL need to realize that we can not see behind the mask of each other's faces.  Every person you come in contact with today was made in the image of Christ. 

I am so guilty of judging when I have had no right to do so.  I'm not talking about Biblical discernment, I'm talking about judgement rooted in jealousy or pride. 

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, ...Philippians 2:1-15"

Today I'd like to encourage you to give people grace.  Show mercy. 

Grace looks like:

1) Smiling at the cashier who is being snippy and telling her to have a nice day.  Maybe someone was rude to her earlier and she is feeling hurt and tired.

2) Leaving your flustered waiter a little extra tip and saying, "thank you".  Maybe his manager has taken out his anger on him in the back kitchen.

3) Talking to or playing with those kids in the doctor's office who are annoying you when you are wondering why mom's not doing anything about it.  She may be at her wit's end and you are a welcome relief. 

4) Opening the door for the man pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair who butted in front of you earlier in line.  Maybe he is in a hurry, thinking of the person he's taking care of, and never meant to make you upset.  He's just in his "own little world".

5) Using a nice tone of voice with the woman on the phone who is just an employee doing her job.  She may be a single mom who dreads coming to work each day but has to keep this job to put food on the table.

6) Bringing someone a meal who you know has been particularly short with you even if they haven't asked for help.  If they are short with you, I bet there's a reason and it's probably not that they don't like you.  Maybe an act of kindness would open the door to a much needed friendship. 
 
7)  Discreetly asking the waiter to move you to a different table if the family next to you is bothering you, instead of making rude comments loudly in the hopes it will curb whatever behavior is making you upset.  Maybe they haven't been out to eat in months because of their circumstances and they just want to spend this 30 minutes in a restaurant being served instead of serving others. (Dude, this comment is made from experience.) 

People with special circumstances and special needs are all around you. Be conscious about what you say.  Be conscious about your behavior toward others.  If they don't show the same courtesy, please, please do not automatically let anger and agitation get the best of you.  If you really have a question, ask.  But do it in a nice way and not in front of their children.  They may need help or prayer and are afraid to admit it.  Unless you share a home with someone, you probably do not know the details about what they are dealing with.  Don't assume that you do.

Our Associate Pastor, Scott, defined grace in the following way two weeks ago:  "Grace is receiving what you don't deserve." 

Show grace.  Pass out mercy.  Be slow to speak.  Be quick to deliver help. 

One of my prayers for my children is that they will remember that one day they were a "special needs child".  They will treat others accordingly.  They will walk as Christ walked.  Above all they will LOVE. 




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Family 3 Month Anniversary

Today marks 3 months of having custody of Yohannes and Paulos.  The first two weeks were spent by them with me, Alana, and Easton.  We have officially been in the United States for 7 weeks today. 

We went from a "white" family to a blended family, and we absolutely love the way our family looks.  It's a picture of Heaven.  Revelation 7:9 says, "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands."


My head and heart overflow with things to share.  The problem is, my poor body and emotions are so exhausted at the end of the day (and the beginning as well), that I imagine many things to say all day long and when it comes time to write them, well, I choose relaxing with my husband and two daughters on the couch for a few minutes watching "The Voice" with a glass of wine, or I simply fall into bed (the latter is the usual suspect). 

I have been working on a "special needs" post for two weeks, and it's still not ready.  I'll share one quote with you from Karyn Purvis' book, The Connected Child:

"Too often, parents and experts look at behavioral disorders as if they existed separate from sensory impairments; separate from attention difficulties, separate from early childhood deprivation, neurological damage, attachment disorders, post traumatic stress; and so on......
Deprivations and harm suffered early in life impact all the ways that a child develops- coordination, ability to learn, social skills, size, and even the neurochemical pathways in the brain.  These consequences can linger years after a child has left a life of hardship.  That's why formerly neglected and abused children are predisposed to such problem as attachment difficulties, conduct disorder, depression, anxiety, attention deficit, learning disabilities and more."

If we spelled out in detail most of the experiences of the past 3 months regarding our adoption, frankly, you just wouldn't believe us.  Then there's the small number of people that would think, "Well, you brought this on yourselves."  Yes.  Yes, we did.  But the bigger picture is much, much more than that. 

3 months.  3 months of seeing more pain, aggression, and fear than we ever imagined we would encounter.  Yes, we did our homework.  Yes, we had read that these things could occur.  But deep in our hearts we surely hoped, "not us".  "Not our family." 

But God did not spare us. 

There's a reason for that.  We are clinging all day long to that HOPE.  His name is Jesus. 

Jesus is our hope.  Jesus is our peace.  We pray every day that Jesus fills Yohannes and Paulos with His presence and will restore peace to them and our family. 

Last weekend we were able to visit my sister and brother-in-law (Ryan and Ginger) in Jacksonville.  They gave me a photo shoot for our family with a Jacksonville photographer for my birthday.  She took pictures until one child in particular had just plain had enough.  We received a sneak peak this week of the pictures. 

If you would like to see them, the website is http://pinkcoffeephoto.com/blog/2012/10/12/the-kicklighter-family/
and here is one of the pics:
The photographer's name is Lindsay Almeida and she was wonderful to work with.  I have gazed at those pictures every day this week, and right now I'm viewing them as a representation of what God is going to make our family into.  A cohesive unit.  A LOVING FAMILY

Hope. 

"And we[b] boast in the hope(G) of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings,(H) because we know that suffering produces perseverance;(I) 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope(J) does not put us to shame, because God’s love(K) has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,(L) who has been given to us.
6 You see, at just the right time,(M) when we were still powerless,(N) Christ died for the ungodly.(O) 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(P)" - Romans 5:2b-8

 


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Family "Firsts"

Quite a while ago, I stated how much I love words.  They are posted all around my house.  Right now, however, it's difficult to pin down all the things I want to say and box up the words in neat little categories for others to read. 

First of all, my children will read this blog-diary of our lives some day and I don't want to put information that's particularly embarrassing or hurtful to them in the future.  Yet, at the same time, I want other families who are going through adoption, thinking about it, dealing with "junk" in their lives, or just plain curious about the whole "Jesus" thing, to read real life stuff and details.  That's a fine line to walk.  I am not going to walk it perfectly. 

With that said, it's hard to believe we've been home from Ethiopia for over 5 weeks.  Yohannes and Paulos have been members of our family for over 2 1/2 months.  In some respects that time has flown by, in others it has dragged on and on and on and on.......  you get my drift.

Words like "difficult" and "hard" don't begin to describe this transition.  I don't know if my thesaurus holds the correct word for what our family has been going through.  BUT today I want to focus on the GOOD. 

Though I do not know when my newest sons took their first steps or said their first words, I did get to witness a lot of "firsts" over the past few weeks.  I'm throwing in updates for Jayde, Alana, and Easton, too.  I don't want to leave them out.

Yohannes learned to ride a bicycle.  He tried over and over for 2 days and finally took off.  Now he loves to ride.  You can find him at any given time barefoot on his bike pedaling like mad down our gravel driveway.  (When I watch him, I always hear the theme song from "The Wizard of Oz" in my head- remember that?  The one that plays when the lady rides her bike?) 
Easton has learned the art of giving himself a "fauxhawk". 

Paulos rides his bike, too, but he rides with training wheels.

The boys met their cousin, Bode.  Isn't he cute in his traditional Ethiopian outfit?


Both Yohannes and Paulos tried out Grandma and Grandpa's swimming pool.  Paulos is getting to the point where he won't scream when he goes in the water, and Yohannes can now swim all the way across the deep end.  He has tenacity.  When he wants to excel in something, he keeps trying.  What a positive quality!


Yohannes started playing flag-football with Easton on Saturday mornings.  He's learning the rules of "American" football.

Paulos began attending pre-school 3 days a week and loves his teacher!  We are very thankful for the Learning Center.  He makes friends everywhere he goes.

Some school is happening in our house, finally, thank goodness.  No, it's not as much as I would like, but at least it's a start.  Things are getting organized a little bit at a time.

Alana spent her 11th birthday celebrating with family and friends. One night, 4 of her friends came over for a "horse and art" party: 


Another night was spent celebrating with family:
Jayde has been playing volleyball for the Calgary Cougars:


Each day spent together has been a progression.  Okay, sometimes there's regression, too.  A lot of it.  But as I look back over the past 2 1/2 months, I do see a change from the first week I took custody of the boys.  It's incremental, and when you're the one doing the day-in-and-day-out exhausting work, it's hard to see it.  Sort of like how you can't see that a child you look at every day is growing, but if you don't see them for two weeks, you come back and say, "My, how you've grown!" 

Sometimes, frankly, it's been hard to even pray about everything going on.  My mouth and mind fail me.  There are many, many days that I have just asked the Holy Spirit to intercede for me, because I am at a loss to even know where to start. 

This week, I am praying these verses:
"Answer me quickly, O Lord!  My spirit fails!  Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.  Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.  Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul."- Psalm 143:7-8

Before our family left for Africa, I read, The Connected Child, by Karyn Purvis.  I began re-reading it this week and trying to implement some of the strategies that have been proven from her research.  I want to talk more about that in a future post.  It's working, though exhausting, emotionally and mentally at the same time.  Here's a quote that I'll leave you with from the book:

"Adopted and foster children deserve deep compassion and respect for what they may have endured before they were welcomed into your home.  Some of these little ones have survived ordeals that defy the imagination.  On a night while you ate steak and fresh vegetables, safe in your comfortable house and enjoying warm conversation with your family, this child might have gone to bed hungry, dirty, and lonely........A child raised in a harsh or dysfunctional environment becomes a survivalist.  He of she can't be expected to know the rules of family life or to have every intellectual advantage."  We know that our boys spent many, many days hungry.  They were severely malnourished.  They are not on a growth chart yet at all. 

Hope.  That's what I need.  That's what I have in Jesus.  That's what my children have in Jesus.  Restoration.  That's what I'm praying for.  Will you pray with me?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Epic Failures

This very well may be the post that gets my blog kicked off nice websites.

That's your warning. 

After my last post, which I know was not very encouraging, but very true, I intended this week to post some pictures of our first couple weeks home from Ethiopia.  I intended to show the boys' "firsts", and I will.  But not in this post.  I intended to give you some insight into all the blessings God has bestowed on our family in the past 2 1/2 weeks.  But not in this post.

I have received many comments and messages to lift my spirits lately.  I love them.  Please keep them coming.  But sometimes I also start to think that people look at our family and expect us to fit a "perfect family" mold because we stepped out in faith.  Would you like to know all the men and women in the Bible who stepped out in faith?  There are sooooo many.  Guess what?  If you looked at their lives, they wouldn't fit a great mold either.  But they loved the Lord and were Followers, not Fans.  (If you haven't read the book, Not A Fan, go purchase it right now on your Kindle and read it.)

I told my husband tonight that I feel like a complete failure.  Lest anyone think that I am some hyped up fake super-woman/ Martha Stuart figure, let me share with you some of the ways I have failed in the past week alone.  Yes, these all occurred in the past 7 days.

1) My children were fighting over who gets to sit in the front seat of my Suburban.  My oldest child informed me that in all the "normal" families she has ever met, the oldest always gets to sit in front all the time.  I shook my head as my second daughter quickly exclaimed, "Ha!  We are not a normal family!"  She was right.  Parenting Fail #1

2) Alan was going out of town for 3 nights.  As he was searching for me to tell me goodbye, he finally found me in the schoolroom alone with the door shut.  He said, "There you are!  What are you doing in here?"  I replied, "Hiding."  He asked, "From Who?"  I very not-so-lovingly replied, "From the children."  Parenting Fail #2

3)  When Alan arrived back in town, instead of greeting him with a kiss and smile and telling him how much I missed him (which was true), I not-so-politely informed him that this year I am keeping score on the nights spent out of town during hunting season, and I fully expect to receive equal opportunity of nights without children.  (I actually do not want to do that, but that's what came out of my mouth.)  Wife Fail #1 (okay, technically you could classify that as Parenting Fail #3 as well.)

4)  Alan and I teach the high school Sunday School class.  Well, maybe until the parents of the EPC high schoolers read this, that is.  We love the kids.  We really do.  We were excited to start class again once returned from Africa.  BUT this week I taught without him.  And I was overly tired.  At one point during the class, a student that has a slight sarcasm bone in his/her body said something witty.  Okay, it was really sarcastic.  Instead of sweetly giving that person an answer, I put up my hand did the "What-ever" sign.  Ya' know, the one where you make a "W" and then turn it sideways on your forehead and make an "E".  (If you don't know what I'm referring to, skip this.)  The student informed me that I left off the rest of the sign, the part that says, "Major Loser", where you continue with your fingers, making an "M", then an "L" on your forehead.  I told this student that portion of the gesture was always to be implied in his/her case.  I have a feeling I shouldn't have said that.  What-Ever..... I know I shouldn't have said that.  Teaching Fail #1

5)  I tried starting our homeschool back up with two added students.  Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  There was a lot of yelling that day.  Crying, too.  Maybe stomping.  By the kids?  Yes, but I may or may not have rivaled them in my antics.  I'll leave it at that.  Teaching Fail #2 and Parenting Fail #4

6) I forgot.  Everything.  Well, maybe not everything, but lots and lots of details.  Like forgetting to return phone calls, return messages, pay bills, mail things, pick up things, go to the bank, etc.  One time someone asked me my name this week and I actually had to stop and think because I couldn't remember.  What's that stuff that's supposed to improve memory?  Ginkgo Biloba?  I need some of that.  I think.  Maybe.  I can't remember.  Life in General Failures #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.  (I'm limiting it to one per day.)

7)  A friend stopped by the house.  One of her children walked in and exclaimed, "Wow!  This house is really messy!  It's way messier than ours."  Wife fail #2, Housekeeping Fail #1, and Martha Stuart Fail #287 (I made that one up.)

8)  While cooking homemade spaghetti for the first time since May (Yum!), I set my youngest son who can't see the T.V. in my bedroom with his 2 brothers to watch a short video so I could make the sauce (yes, I know he does not watch videos at all, but I ignored that fact and did it anyway).  He came into the kitchen a few minutes later with a bald streak across his head.  He had gone into my bathroom, found Alan's clippers, turned them on, and shaved part of his head.  All of my children have cut their own hair at some point in time, so I was not hugely upset at this act.  The bad part was that I let him go to school with his head like that, to a friend's house with his head like that, and church with his head like that.  I waited until Alan returned home and asked him to shave Paulos' head.  Parenting Fail #5

9) Here's a good one.  After a pastor search committee meeting (yes, you read that right), I felt the need to drive home slowly.  I drove through a fast food restaurant and ordered a small fry and a coke and savored every morsel and moment eating carbs in peace.  I sang loudly with the radio in between bites.  Though I did sing hymns at the end of my ride home (I love to sing in the car when I'm by myself, and I promise I really did sing hymns and praise- but first.....), the song that was playing while I ate junk food was called, "I Like Girls Who Drink Beer".  Oh yes, it was.  You read that right, too.  Not to incriminate myself, but I may or may not have enjoyed it. Life in General Fail #8 and Keeping My Body Healthy Fail #1, and Keeping the Correct Focus with My Heart Fail #1

Oh my, I could keep going like the Energizer Bunny.  I know I'm digging my hole deeper and deeper. 

But we're keepin' it real, people. 

I assure you, sunshine-flower-and-happiness posts are coming soon.  But until then................

............please share with me: What are some ways you failed this week?  It would be nice to know I am not alone.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tears, Tantrums, and Triumphs

We've been home from Ethiopia for 10 days, and this is my first post.  Partially because my main home computer hasn't let me write on this blog when I have sat down to do put words on a blank screen.  But, frankly, partially because I have struggled with the words to let loose.

America has been a shock. 

A shock to my eyes.  A shock to my body.  A shock to my heart.

A shock to my children, new and old.  In undefinable ways.

We arrived home on last Tuesday, and our family was thankful to have a large homecoming at the airport.  Many family members and friends showed up to welcome Yohannes and Paulos to America and welcome our family home. 

We are very grateful that those moments will forever be etched with pictures and videos for our sons.  If you came to the airport, thank you!!  You are a part of their "forever" memories.  If you sent well wishes to our family, thank you!  We have cherished every email, facebook message, and card that we have received.  Please know that if we did not respond to your message, it wasn't that we didn't read it, it's because these past 10 days have been tough.  We love you and we thank you.

Now to the hard part. 

This whole transition is difficult.  It just is.  I'm having a hard time explaining all that I'm feeling and experiencing. 

I'm angry.  A lot.  I'm sad.  A lot.  I'm mourning.  I'm happy.  I'm relieved.  I'm stressed.  I'm thankful.


I am mourning what my family used to be, and so are my children.  If that sounds mean, just skip this part and wait for the next post.  I knew from reading other adoptive family's blogs that I would experience this emotion, but to actually feel it is unnerving.  I don't want to feel this way.  So I am praying and waiting.

Yohannes and Paulos are beginning to adjust slowly to American life.  They are starting to realize what it means to have a mom and dad.  That's not always what they want.  They want to do what they want to do without being told "no".  Just like other children.  But they're getting off to a late start. 

They have fits frequently.  If you've seen us out in public you may wonder at that statement and think, "Really?  My kids have fits, too."  But these are not like the fits that a toddler throws at 2 years old when they are angry.  They are fits of anger, loss, and grieving.  Our boys are angry that they are in a new environment.  They have lost their family, homeland, food, and way of life.  They are grieving for "E-toe-pee-ah", as they call it, which is evidenced by the screaming of their country name sometimes when they are inconsolable.

Yohannes will cry and withdraw at the drop of a hat and many times we just don't have a clue what set it off.  He will cry for an hour or more and not allow us to be near him.  Other times he will be angry and throw things or trash a room and at that point he will be physically restrained by one of us for 45 minutes or more (a full arm and leg hold) until he stops resisting.  Now I know why God allowed Natalie to whip me into shape in Ethiopia. He was preparing me for the muscles He knew I would be using when I returned home! 

Those fits are getting progressively fewer and farther between.  Still, it's difficult to plan to go out in public.  We're never sure if the boys will be able to be seen or will scream for so long.  There's nothing to do to stop those episodes but wait.  Can you understand why it'd hard to be in a public place with the possibility of physically restraining a 10 year old child in the middle of dinner or a store aisle? 

We've had to say "No" a lot.  Had to not go places we would love to go.  If you have been the recipient of a cold shoulder on our part, please know it's not because we didn't want to see you or do something with you, it's because we couldn't leave the house.  Or sometimes, we leave and then turn around an drive right back home because a child has melted down in the car. 

Our bio kids are having a very hard time, too.  They feel left out.  And they are.  They feel neglected.  And in lots of ways they are.  They feel like Yohannes and Paulos are getting all the attention from their friends.  And they are.  In many instances, Easton especially is acting out. 

Our family needs grace right now.  We need all of you, family and friends, to know that when you see us in public, we need some space.  We are not ignoring you.  We are not trying to not speak to everyone.  We are just trying to get through that particular hour.  Our kids are not well behaved at the moment.  None of them, from the oldest to the youngest.  If they offend you, we are asking for mercy and forgiveness for the next few months, or however long it takes. 

Thank you to everyone who has sent a message and brought a meal.  It was a blessing not to have to cook for the first 10 days. 

If I cry when I talk to you, just ignore me.  I feel like I have post-partum depression, except I did not just give birth. 

Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of firsts this week that were wonderful, and I will post pics of those moments soon. 

I'm just venting a little here right now.  Bear with me.

Thank  you for everything.  All of you.  We love you.

2 Corinthians 12:9

"9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Let me tell you, I am weak right now, so my Lord has to be strong.  He is who I am leaning on.  I said I would not sugar-coat this adoption stuff.  I want to be transparent. 

I want to tell you that adoption is a beautiful thing.  It is.  So if you're thinking about it, there's a reason you're thinking about it.  Do it.  If you're being called to support someone who's adopting, do it.  But support takes many forms, and that means being there and being understanding and forgiving when they come home. 

I am weak, and Jesus is strong.  Thank you, Lord, for carrying me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

FashionABLE

Last year I purchased scarves for some of the women on my Christmas list from FashionABLE.

Their mission is fabulous!  And it's extremely successful.  So when we had the opportunity to visit FashionABLE in person and spend some time with the women there, and the new person helping to run it (Ian Bentley), we were thrilled (okay, I was especially thrilled!). 

The website for FashionABLE is  www.livefashionable.com

When I come back wearing the scarves I purchased directly from them, you're going to want to get some for yourself!  They are beautiful and very well made.  This is a picture of the on site store:
FashionABLE is a division of Women at Risk.  They help women get out of prostitution.  Many women here have led lives of prostitution for a variety of reasons.  For some, their husbands have left and they have no education so they support themselves the only way they know how.  For others, it's because they were trafficked from the country to the city.  No matter the reason, the women are in need of help.  FashionABLE trains them to weave fabric to make scarves.  Here are some pictures of the looms (below).  It is an amazing process!





In this picture the yarn has been spun and dyed and  now is drying to be used for a scarf.

Once the scarves are finished, the women roll the ends using their legs!  It makes the little fringe on the edge of each scarf.

We were allowed to help roll the ends of the scarves.  Here's Jayde trying it out.  She found out it's a simple concept but definitely takes practice to perfect.



We spent part of two different days at FashionABLE.  The second time the boys came, too.  Though they had no interest in seeing the scarf-making process, they found things to entertain themselves, like throwing old tires over a stick (like horseshoes with tires).
 
Check out this awesome ministry (and it's a great idea for Christmas gifts this year)!!