Air

The cold smacked harsh on my pasty cheeks. Too much time indoors, hiding away this winter. Dealing with hard, one mucky step at a time walking towards healing.

The husband knew it’d been far too long and I think he breathed a sigh of relief when I gave up on laundry and announced my retreat to the woods.

Off I went to the trail, hidden thick, between two staunch rows of evergreens and pines bordering our property. Narnia. Here to reckon and whisper surrender. All the things racing reckless about my mind.School is back in session. Routine restored. Two geese have been ordered to help stave off the hawks haunting our land.

I duck beneath branches, making note to bring something along next time to help clear the path again. The last windstorm brought down a fair share of branches.

Rolls, handmade and risen, went over well the other night. I can bake two trays at a time, two meals made in one. Further into the woods I trudge, listing off all the things brimming over. Tasks mixed with theory mixed with game plans and garden plots. Slowly they all slipped away, surrendered or sorted.

Tracks appear in the snow. I’ve never learned to track. I wondered how hard it could be. I peered into the imprinted snow. Rabbit. Two big feet, two smaller feet, closer together as she hopped. She must have paused here I thought. I ventured further. Coyote. I recognized the location from earlier in the week when I spied a coyote trotting through the far back at dusk. This must be where he came from I mused. His tracks pressed clear in the snow. I followed his path. Militant. Straight. Purposeful. My path his territory.My Narnia ended soon enough and I made my way back to the house, warm lights glowed welcome. Dusk had arrived. Another day nearly done. Crisp air filled my lungs, courage to carry on. The maker is still making. The potter still shaping.

My tracks line the wooded way, heading homeward. Past the garden, along the fence. One foot at a time. My tracks breaking through the fresh snow. Militant. Straight. Purposeful. Mind at rest. Soul at ease. My path His territory.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

 

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Dear Trauma

Dear Trauma,

You suck. I don’t usually go on rants but I’m on one now. You rob. You destroy. You destroy hope and joy and good.

Our son may have needed your coping mechanisms before his adoption. He may have needed to shut down to cope with situations that were too much for him to handle emotionally or physically. He may have needed to act helpless to get the attention he so desperately needed and craved. To feel loved. To feel cared for.

But no more. This ends here. He is chosen. He is loved. He is adopted. He is fearfully and wonderfully made. Knit together with a plan and a purpose. He is capable. He has a mind that can imagine and dream. He doesn’t need you anymore. He has parents to fight for him and with him. To walk next to him and tell him HE IS ABLE and he knows a God who is more than enough to meet his every single need.

We will not stop fighting. Working to overcome all the chains you’ve wrapped around his mind. He may retreat into the far corners of his mind out of habit, but we will name you for what you are. Fear. Bondage. Liar. We will show him love conquers fear. It conquers death. You will not have victory here. You’ve taught him to cower and fall, but love conquers. It heals. It doesn’t fail. It. Doesn’t. Fail. We cling to these promises when you decide to try and reinstate authority. These promises are bought with redemption’s blood. And, redemption walks here. It rules here. We may have lost our footing for a day or two. But our knees hit the ground hard and there is solid rock beneath to carry us through.

“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” (Isaiah 45:2-3)

All Done!

We did it! Twenty-five physical therapy sessions at the rehab hospital. Done. I am so proud of our kiddos. Such rock stars. Every, single one of them.

Each week we’d pile into the van and head out so Joshua could have physical therapy once or, often, twice per week. We’ve never really been in the habit of giving our kids tech gadgets while out and about so to pass the time while Joshua was in physical therapy we’d bring along coloring books and crayons and a snack. The kids would color pictures and often pass them out to folks at the hospital. Other weeks, they’d play games they’d made up or learned, like old-fashioned “telephone”.The last two weeks or so, kids were getting antsy when we’d go. They must have known we only had a few more visits to go before we take some time off (or maybe they just had the Christmas jitters (you know, the ones where kids bounce off the walls the week or two before Christmas…yeah, those ones). The nursing mom’s room (where we usually go) was occupied both visits that week. With just a few visits left to go, I decided it wouldn’t do any harm to finally introduce our kiddos to the world of a hospital cafeteria. You’d think we were at an amusement park when we walked through the sliding doors to the cafeteria “Mom! They have a cafeteria! We didn’t know there was a cafeteria!!!” They exclaimed like I’d been keeping it a huge secret from them (I was…no need to set myself up for endless begging for treats if I didn’t need too…). I ordered a soda for myself from the vending machine (it’s been ages since I’ve had a soda). We ate Oreo pie for $1.80. The kids learned about tray returns. Everybody was happy as could be and tickled silly over their new life experience.Every visit we’d take a picture all together in the elevator. It was pretty tricky getting everyone in the picture…so it became a challenge for the kids to try different ways to make it work so we could get the picture. Here are some of our favorites.And, here is our final picture. We are all done for 2018. Wahoo! We’re taking a bit of a break from therapy at the rehab hospital for the winter. Joshua did a lot of work each visit, he adjusted to his new AFOs (braces for his legs), his new wheelchair is finally done and ready to pick up next week, and we are all looking forward to a season of rest this winter.

Redemption Walks

“Mom, why are your and daddy’s thumbs bigger than my thumbs?” The question came just after he snuggled next to me on the couch.Hudson and MommyHe’s been part of our family for a year and those snuggles, carefully given, are sweet miracles. Trust, hard earned.

“God made everyone different, Hudson.” I replied. “He gave you extra special thumbs.” He seemed satisfied with that answer and snuggled further into my arms.

God is fashioning a story of redemption in our home. I forget. Far too often. My feet made of clay, get stuck in busy. Stuck in new diagnoses. Stuck trying to come alongside our kids and help them have courage to overcome. I get stuck researching and talking to doctors, therapists, and teachers trying to figure out plans to help. I get stuck in medical bills and meal planning. I get stuck doing. Time and again. But, it’s still there. It’s happening. Those blossoms are blooming and, despite all my busy, I cannot help but stand in awe of what is happening in our home. So many miracles walk here.

This weekend Hudson zipped his jacket all by himself. For a kid with elbows that don’t bend and thumbs half the size they should be, this is a huge accomplishment.Hudson's zipperWhat’s also astounding is that he figured it out all on his own. No one has been working with him on this. He just figured it out. This is a big deal. In the past whenever he’s come up against something he hasn’t been able to do, it’s taken quite a bit of coaching and encouragement to get him to keep trying at something till he gets it.

There are twins learning to crawl in our family. In case you haven’t noticed, we still haven’t wrapped our brains around the whole twin thing…all of the kids adore the twins, particularly their brothers. We have had no issues with anyone being jealous of the babies in any way. If anything, we have an abundance of love and help from all their brothers and sisters.

Joshua, who had no education whatsoever in China, is now reading (and comprehending), writing and doing math at around a first to second grade level. He’s beginning to understand different events and holidays and instead of shutting down from all the newness, he’s been actively participating and interested in learning all about family traditions and holidays. He is rocking new AFOs (braces for his legs) and it’s been another huge adjustment for him. Last year it took months to adjust. This time around he’s already up and walking two weeks in. It’s slow going and it’s taken a lot of prompting and encouragement, but he is doing it.

Redemption walks here. It breathes here. Nearly half of our family should not be under this roof for one reason or another. But, God, the Creator. God, the Author of life, knit our family together. What an honor to bring up all these littles. I don’t know how we got this privilege. It’s tough going a lot of days. Parenting children from hard, hard places will wreck your heart. But there in the pieces oil runs. Healing oil over jagged edges, as God works redemption, smoothing and reshaping the broken into a masterpiece.

Mountain Blossoms

“And ready, set, here we go.” I announced as I pulled the shower knob on and stuck my entire face in the shower’s stream. I started my pep talk. “You got this. All things. All. things.” I muttered as the water pelted away the tension from today. It was co-op day. Six of the kids and I spent the better part of the day with other homeschool families touching on a variety of subjects- history, science, art/music, math, grammar, Latin (yes, the four year olds are learning Latin), and so on.

Esther and Hudson learning how to play the tin whistle at co-op.

The kids all love our co-op days. Next week they are all dissecting a crayfish. It’s been the hot topic around here for weeks now.

My neck and shoulders were screaming at me today for hauling the twins in and out of van twice. It is a rather high off the ground van for my five foot two self. Tomorrow is therapy day- our once a week adventure to a rehab hospital, nearly an hour away, for Joshua’s physical therapy.

(Kids making their “serious” faces while they pretend to work at the hospital)

I take all the kids along on that adventure. Medical bills from our twins’ six-week stay in the NICU have made a regular babysitting budget a bit tricky for the time being. The end is in the sight though and so my pep talk continued. “7 more weeks, 7 more weeks. We can do this.” I push away the nagging voice reminding me we are about to up our time at the rehab hospital from once to twice a week and instead I remember Caleb, who in the Old Testament roared, “Give me this mountain!” (Exclamation point and roaring voice are my own additions to this story). Despite all the odds, Caleb asked for the mountain. There were giants there. Great cities. High walls. Caleb wasn’t deterred. At eighty-five years old he told Moses, “I am as strong this day as on the day Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain” (Joshua 14:11). Years later David would be anointed King of Israel on that very land.

I stretched my arms under the pounding water, thinking how absurd I probably look. I smiled. My kids would laugh their heads off if they saw me doing their ballet poses the shower.

Sometimes people tell us they don’t know how we do it. “We don’t either,” we reply laughing before continuing, “It really is the grace of God.” Going from three kids to seven in nine months was quite the curveball. Our feet are made of clay just like everyone else’s feet and it’s not like we have perfect kids either. I mean that would totally make life too simple. No, our kids are well, kids. They can have us tearing up with their acts of compassion and thoughtfulness one second and in a nanosecond have us wondering if we’ve somehow made a wrong turn and are now living in a zoo. Don’t believe me? Today I went in the bathroom and found this. Yes, it is a shoe. On my sink. Sigh. Then there was this lovely learning experience the other day.img_1762-2“Mom, can I make lunch for everyone?” It started out simply enough. “Sure.” I replied. I admit I was a bit distracted by the twins when I was asked about making lunch. I didn’t really think much about it being one of our children who’d never really made lunch before. Everyone loved it- tuna sandwiches (there were two versions of tuna- one regular and one “fancy”), diced plums and cranberry relish. It was nicely done, even if things did get, well, a bit messy. By the end of it, this is what I found on my floor…img_1758Ellie the elephant, comforting the broom who was about to go into a cleaning frenzy…yes, I found them this way and no, I’m not sure which child decided it’d be a good idea for the elephant to hug to the broom (on the floor in the middle of the kitchen nonetheless). No, there is never a dull moment around here.

It’s been twenty minutes of letting the water run healing over my sore muscles, my tense jaw. Tomorrow is another long day for us. I think of Caleb and I smile. That mountain. He fought hard for it. A king walked that soil years later. Sometimes the hard brings the most beauty. Sometimes it’s the grit of grace that washes away all the filth we never knew was hiding under the surface. The hard seasons are often exposing seasons. Healing seasons. Seeds blossom sweetly in soil raked raw. Seven weeks to go. God is all over this and we are beginning to smell sweet blossoms from our mountain.

Sufficient

Fall always seems to bring with it such promise. Promise of rest, promise of a fresh start, promise of a new season ripe with undiscovered treasures. I’m just about to restart my thankfulness journal. I did this several years ago. I’d write down at least one thing I was thankful for each and every day. I even posted whatever I wrote on my Facebook page. I’ll never forget the fall I started that habit. It was the fall my grandfather passed away unexpectedly and we also almost lost our daughter, who was four months old at the time. It took two hospital stays, several blood transfusions and multiple trips to the hospital each week over the course of two months for her to stabilize and fully recover. Somehow in all of that uncertainty and chaos, I wrote “Today I am thankful for…” day after day.

“Today I am thankful for many things. Most of all I am thankful to all of the people in the world who give blood. You saved my daughter’s life this weekend. Thank you.” (October 11, 2011).

The list goes on. I think I made it to around four hundred things I was thankful for from the time I started my list that June till when I stopped. This time around I’d really love to get to 1,000. I’d heard of this from a friend who’d gotten the idea from Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.” I eventually borrowed the book from the library and inhaled it, slowly. I took time to write out all the parts I loved so I would remember them long after I returned the book. It remains one of my favorites and I eventually purchased it for our home library.

I’ve found that thankfulness multiplies. Even in the hard. The past two weeks here have been rather challenging and my spirit is aching for a season of refreshing and hope. Most of the time in life when things get rocky, I’ve realized it’s my own perspective that needs to change not the circumstance. So, I’m sensing in my spirit the need for reflection on all God has done and is doing in my own life and in our home.

We knew going in adoption is not an easy road. There are moments of joy, absolutely. We’re realizing, a year in, adoption is very much like a marathon. You see trauma isn’t just something that is worked through and then it goes away. It comes back. It has many layers. Fight or flight rears it’s ugly head whenever a child is stressed or uncertain. Things taught and comprehended are suddenly forgotten in a moment. Regression happens. Change to routine or the norm may result a kaleidoscope of behaviors long thought ended, usually bringing with them new challenges, exposing even more layers that need worked through. A year in is still so very little compared to the years our boys spent without a permanent family.

As we help each of our seven kids settle into our new normal for the school year, I’m resting in the promise that God’s grace is sufficient. We’ve got a whole mess of things going on this year, many of which are new. Some are rather intimidating. Roads we’ve never walked before. Let alone with seven kids. Even in all of the new, in all the challenge, in all of the hard, there’s still reason to thank. Reason for joy. I’m determined to find it. To note it. To not just get through, but to keep His goodness always on my lips and on the forefront of my mind. To rest in His grace. Knowing, full well that it is enough.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee. My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

The Hudson Story

Two years ago today we sent our letter of intent to China to pursue adopting Hudson and he was officially matched with our family. In honor of that anniversary, we’re re-sharing the post we wrote on our fundraising page announcing a second child would be joining our family alongside Joshua. We are so thankful Hudson is now home and is a part of our family.

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An Asking Story – September 2016

We’ve learned a lot of lessons during this adoption adventure. Some lessons we’d expected and other lessons not so much. A lot of the lessons cut our hearts wide open. Other lessons were gentle, whispers of God’s grace. Then, there were the lessons that left us awestruck at God’s handiwork in bringing all the pieces together. This story is about one such lesson. This is a story about a divine delay, puzzle pieces, and wisdom that comes when we dare to ask for it.

From very early on in this process, we felt led two adopt two children. When we switched to countries in June and started the process to go after J, we knew there was another child somewhere that we were going to adopt alongside J. We just were not sure who it was. Since we knew J’s age and special needs, our agency asked us to narrow down what we were hoping for in our second child. We had a two to four month window to figure out a brother or sister for J. We thought about it and, because of J’s special needs, thought the logical thing would be to adopt a second child younger than our youngest, Esther (2), and one that has minor special needs. We had a treatment plan in place for J after talking to several doctors, but, at that point, only had limited information about J’s needs. So, as much as our hearts wanted to have open hands to whatever God had for us, we still had to give our agency some guidance and direction. So, we did what we thought best (per usual) and let our agency know a younger, minor needs child was what we thought would work well.

The evening after we sent J’s letter of intent, we heard from a friend that our agency had just gotten information on a new little one waiting. Actually, this little one had been waiting for a couple of years, but only recently had come to the attention of our agency. We eagerly looked at the pictures and videos. This sweet child’s giggles were contagious, and we couldn’t help but think about how well this little one would get along with Esther. They could be the best of friends. Our hearts ached so very much when we saw in the pictures and videos that this child also seemed to have some pretty major special needs. Among other things, he was two years old and not walking yet. We’d just been talking to our agency and, given all the uncertainty with J’s needs, we weren’t sure how wise it’d be to go after two major special needs kids. And, so, we thanked our friend and let her know we didn’t want to request the file from our agency.

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First picture we ever saw of Hudson

A week or so later, our social worker came over to meet with us to update our home study to our new country. She had the updates all done and off to our agency within two weeks, which is a super fast turnaround. After this step of the process though, we hit a delay.

Time was ticking by. Day. By. Day. By. Week. By. Week. We waited. We called. We emailed. All our efforts were going nowhere. We kept thinking, what are we missing?

As we were waiting, we began to get a lot more information on J. We received several updates including some of J doing things we were not sure would ever be possible. J’s progress was remarkable and it seemed like J’s special needs would not be as much of a limitation as we had initially thought. We had a better picture of what life would look like on a daily basis.  We also had several more in depth discussions with each other about what types of things we were open to and not open to for our second child. The puzzle pieces were beginning to come into focus.

We eventually decided we needed to ask for the file of the little one we had seen a few weeks prior. We had only seen the pictures and videos before and perhaps- perhaps it was not what it seemed. Perhaps there was more to this little one’s story. So, we called our agency and asked for the file.

It took a few days for us to get the file and when it finally arrived, early one morning, I promptly cried my eyes out. I cried for babies being abandoned and over this little one’s special needs. I cried over sin. Sin that created this whole stinking mess of a fallen world and for my own wretched self who just didn’t know how we could possibly manage another major special needs kiddo. I was heartbroken. The file was very brief and the most recent information in it was years old. There were a few things in the file that indicated this little one could have more complex issues than what were listed. I was overwhelmed by the unknowns and unanswered questions. As much as we could envision this little one fitting so well into our family, there was no getting around it. This would be another giant leap of faith into all sorts of unknowns. Ryan came in to say “goodbye” before leaving for work, and I cried all over his suit. He just said nonchalantly, “We’ll just have to see what the doctor says” and left for work. I was surprised he didn’t outright say “no”. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wasn’t sure I could even send the file to the doctor because I was so overwhelmed. I gathered up my courage and sent the file to the doctor. Then, we waited. We prayed. We cocooned ourselves from all else and just prayed and waited to see how God would lead us.

It took a few days for us to hear back from the doctors. The first specialist sent us back a list so long of potential issues that she had me call her to go over them all. The phone call was an hour long. She typed up a treatment plan for us should we decide to move forward. I laid in bed that night, reading over her list. She could not promise the child would ever walk. She said a wheelchair might be needed. We are not anti-wheelchair or anything, but there’s just something heart wrenching about finding out a child may never walk independently. Ever. I was devastated for this little person.

In my heart of hearts, I had fallen in love with this little one from the first time I saw the videos our friend sent us and heard this child’s name. It was God’s gentle whisper to my heart that this child was ours. I had tucked it away in my heart, trusting that if this truly were our second child, God would bring it to pass in His way and in His timing. I didn’t need to convince Ryan of it or myself for that matter. God would work it all out. He would make it clear to both of us. He had promised us months before that He would not let us miss our kids.

As helpful as it was to hear from the first specialist, our adoption doctor would have a much clearer picture of the file, as he looks at the whole picture (not just the one special need that the specialist was assessing) and is usually able to tell if there were more needs than what a file listed and how the special needs would manifest over the long term. Five days after we sent the file to our adoption doctor, we heard back. Ryan and I were bursting with excitement to finally have heard something. Our original thoughts about the file were confirmed and our adoption doctor believed the needs would be similar to manage as those of our other sweet child. We knew that the medical care here in America would make an incredible difference in this child’s life.

The next morning I went down and had my cup of coffee and read my Bible where once again, I felt the Lord leading us to go after this second child. I told God, “that’s all well and good, but you’re going to have to tell Ryan.” I walked into our kitchen when I was done reading and Ryan said to me, “Can you grab my Bible? I think God wants us to go after this kid.” I stared at him in disbelief. I went and got his Bible. We sat at our kitchen table and my husband shared verse after verse that the Lord had given him. Tears were streaming down Ryan’s face as he shared all God had shown him.

 

And, there we were. We found ourselves at another startling, breathtaking chance to leap- despite all our fears and uncertainties. We had all the information we were going to get on this little person. We could walk. We had every justifiable reason to turn away, but there was a glimmer. A whisper of hope. God had led us to this place. He had quieted our hearts and gently spoke in his perfect timing. We could not turn away. We knew. This was our other child.

We called our agency the next day and let them know we’d chosen to go after this little person who’d captured our hearts with the sweetest of giggles. The following day our agency received an unexpected update and passed it on to us. We got two videos of our child. Walking. We had just spent a week trying to figure out from doctors if this child would ever be able to walk unassisted. We had gotten no answers. We had gotten no promises that it was even possible. And, then, a day after we were officially matched, we got two incredible videos of this little person strolling down a sidewalk like it was nothing.

Oh sweet child, we cannot wait to see what God does in your life. We cannot even begin to tell you what a gift it is to be your parents. We cannot wait to share with you that your name- the one your caretakers are calling you in the first video we ever saw of you- is a name we had picked out years and years ago as one of our favorite names, but could never use. We cannot wait to share with you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Piece by piece this puzzle is coming together. A few days after we called our agency to tell them we were going after our second child, we found out the one document we’d been waiting on for so many weeks was finally all set. Everything was back in motion once again. Right now, all of our documents are at immigration, the last step before everything gets sealed and sent on its way out of our country to theirs. Here we go. We’re going for two. We can’t wait to bring them home.

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Gotcha Day, July 11, 2017

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14