Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

There is so much in my life to be thankful for. I feel like every year I have more to be thankful for. Maybe it's because I'm maturing. Maybe it's because I'm always on the lookout for opportunities to be thankful. Maybe it's because there truly is more to be thankful for. Whatever the case, I'm overflowing. Not just today, but every day.

On this Thanksgiving, I'm especially thankful for:

  • The baby girl growing in me. 
  • Our 20-week ultrasound on Tuesday that showed that she is developing normally and is perfectly formed. 
  • The wisdom and goodness and power of God in choosing to give us the gift of this baby, after we had spent years thinking our childbearing was over.
  • The adoption of our three daughters
  • The unbelievable growth, healing, and change in them over the last 18 months
  • Our amazing team of doctors, therapists, specialists, and teachers who have poured themselves into our girls
  • My dad and step-mom's purchase of a new home in which to enjoy their retirement years
  • My gorgeous, perfect, amazing niece, Hazel, who was born when we were visiting in California this summer
  • Our summer trip and the memories we made with our family and close friends
  • The connections all five of my kids have with our family because of the time we spent with them this summer
  • My bio mom four years in remission from her breast cancer this month!
  • An amazing circle of friends who have loved us well through the roller coaster we've been on since bringing the girls home
  • John and Lori, dear friends from church who have drawn us into their family and fill the grandparent roles in our kids' lives
  • The perfect fit that Snapper's new school is for her this year
  • Outstanding grades that show us she's in a place that is helping maximize her potential
  • Wonderful managers who love us and are super supportive of our family
  • Our team of ministry partners. We've lost quite a few due to the economy this year and need to rebuild our team. But many of those who are still with us have been with us for many, many years. How thankful we are for their faithfulness!
  • My very best friend, Noel. She blesses me like no one else. Oh how I love her!
  • My other "inner circle" friends, Carol and Karon. Like Noel, they've seen me at my worst and still love me.
  • How many girls are so blessed to have not one, but three best friends? Gosh darn it, though, they all live far away!
  • A church where the Word of God is fearlessly and boldly proclaimed. Where the people love each other and our community well. Where we are loved, accepted, and supported. Our family.
  • Music. 
  • Two sweet cats who adore me and brighten every day of my life
  • Modern technology that allows me to be in close communication with my friends and family across the country
  • Lovely neighbors
  • The freedoms I enjoy as an American
  • The loss of 70 pounds that have stubbornly clung since I had Snapper 11 years ago. Even being 20 weeks pregnant, I am wearing a smaller size pants than I have worn since I found out I was pregnant with Snapper!
  • Perhaps this should have come incredible husband. We've been married almost 13 years now, and I love him more than ever. Watching him step up and be a strong, loving daddy to our five! Our three new girls are sweet girls, but their issues have been so intensely overwhelming that sometimes it is hard to love them well. Matt has risen to the challenge and has been exactly the daddy they need. Throughout the dreadful sickness this pregnancy has thrown on me, Matt has been my rock. Cooking. Cleaning, Caring for the kids. Doing laundry. Loving me. Serving me. Without question or complaint. And he does his normal job with excellence. You're a good man, Matthew. I love you so much.
Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Monday, November 11, 2013

How A Kid Can Help

My husband is constantly looking for ways to help other people. It's one of the things I most admire about him. Whether it's helping push a broken-down car out of an intersection, or slipping a McDonald's gift card to the homeless man on the corner, or buying the coffee of the person behind him in the drive-thru line, Matt loves to help other people. He's the commander of our church's AWANA this year, and he has already organized a food drive for the homeless and a clothing drive for foster care. He's our ministry's point person for foster care and adoption recruitment and support. He looks for needs, meets needs, loves people, and makes a difference. It's one of the things I love most about the incredible man I married.

This weekend he sat down to talk with the kids. He wanted to learn a bit more about their hearts and the people they would like to serve. At this time of year, especially, we like to get our kids outside of themselves and thinking about others. On Friday night he posed this question:

If you could help one kid, what kind of kid would you help, and what would you do to help them?

The kids were silent for a few minutes as they thought about it. Their responses were as unique as the kids themselves.

Sunny misunderstood. At first she said, "I would teach my friend Emma some manners at school so she wouldn't get on red so much." Well hello Pot, meet Kettle! HA HA HA! Wow, did I laugh! Then Matt clarified. He didn't mean a specific kid. He meant a type of kid. Like a homeless kid, or a poor kid, or a kid with a parent in jail. She thought some more and tried again.

Sunny (age 5 1/2): I would help a missionary kid in another country. I would help by sending some of my birthday money to her family so they would be able to have the things they need.

Piper (age 7 1/2): I would help a kid who doesn't know Jesus. Maybe her parents don't take her to church or talk about God. I would invite her to church with me and tell her how Jesus loves her so much that He died on the cross for her.

Bubbles (age 9): I would help teenagers in foster care. I would tell everybody I could about how every kid in foster care needs a family, especially the older kids, because if no one adopts them, they will age out of foster care and never have a family.
*Side note: Her bio mom told her that no one would want to adopt her and she would age out of foster care when she was 18. Nice, right?*

Snapper (age 11): I would help orph@ns and kids coming into foster care. The kids who feel so alone. I would give them a stuffed animal, kind of like a Build-A*-Bear where you can put a recorded message in the stuffed animal. The message would say, "Because God is everywhere, He is with you and you are not alone. And a girl in Florida is praying for you."

I just love this glimpse into their hearts. I love it! I love seeing the unique passions that are emerging in them, and the desire they all have to meet the needs of hurting people. I don't want my kids growing up feeling entitled. I also don't want them growing up totally sheltered. I want them to appreciate life and the good things they have. I want them to understand how privileged they are. I want them to be grateful human beings. And I want their eyes to be open to the people around them. I think we're well on our way!

For Christmas this year, we are doing a family project. Instead of having the kids give gifts to each other, we take the money we would have spent on those gifts and spend it on someone else. Last year each child purchased a gift for a child whose parents were incarcerated. This year we're adopting the chi!dren's home in Indi@ where my sister-in-law and brother-in-law are the house parents to 22 orph@ns. We're going to purchase a small gift for each of the kids in the chi!dren's home. The kids are so excited, and so am I! It will be good perspective for them, I think, to know that a coloring book and colored pencils are the only Christmas gift the child will likely receive, but they will be thrilled and thankful. Very good perspective!

You may be wondering why I didn't list Pepper's response to Daddy's question. It's because Pepper, in true Pepper form, thought way outside the box. If I had shared it earlier, I wouldn't have been able to make my point about giving kids opportunities to help others. Pepper's response is not what Daddy had in mind, but it made us laugh, and it will make you laugh, too. I love my son and his quirky way of thinking. I love the way he processes things. I love his academic use of vocabulary when he is saying something he thinks is very important. I love how funny he is without even meaning to be.

Pepper (age 7): I would go back in time and issue a formal apology to all the Native American Children. I would apologize that my ancestors took their land and ended the Native American way of life. I think that would help them because maybe it would heal some of the gaping wounds in their hearts.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sweet Gift

This morning I had plans for our homeschooling day. Plans that included reading out of Bubbles' 2nd grade reader. A math page. Working on multiplication facts. Practicing spelling words. Pre-writing activities for a journal piece about family. But then plans changed. While Bubbles was waiting for me to get myself ready this morning, she went to the closet and pulled out a scrapbook. It was one my sister and I had made for our mom when she was battling cancer. Bubbles came into my room with the scrapbook and a whole bunch of questions about my mom. Right then and there, I scrapped my plans for the day and decided to turn it into a "learn about my family" day.

Ever since we finalized our adoption, Bubbles has been starved to make connections with our extended family. Her extended birth family was more important to her than her birth parents. A grandmother, especially, was a VIP in her life. Over the summer we traveled all over the U.S. visiting family and helping our girls make connections to our extended family. It was huge in their adjustment process and attachment to our family. Bubbles, especially, hungers for belonging in the family. Her questions today inspired me to break out the old 8 mm camera and tapes, so I could show her video of my mom. My mom passed away 10 years ago, so none of my kids have memories of her.

Bubbles and I spent three hours today watching video together. She heard my mom sing, laugh, talk, tease, and watched her interact with Matt, Snapper, and me. The most precious moment for me was discovering forgotten video of my mom singing You Are My Lucky Star to 6-month-old Snapper, and seeing Snapper sit there, completely enraptured, smiling and cooing at my mom. I miss that woman so much!

Bubbles was also captivated by my mom--her Grammy--and continued to ask question after question about her. I was more than happy to share. Bubbles also loved watching toddler Snapper's antics. Snapper was a clown of a toddler, and the videos of her are hilarious! We laughed and laughed together. Snapper also got to see videos of the cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents that she met this summer. She loved seeing cousin Claire as a baby and toddler. She rolled with laughter at video of cousin Brenna (as a baby) picking her nose. She got very excited to see Poppa, Grampy, and Uncle Jack making jokes over dinner, and Snapper delightedly screaming "POPPA!" at the sight of my dad.

Today in our home school we studied family connections. Bubbles commented on how lucky she is to be part of such a fun, wonderful family. She felt important because she was able to identify most of the family members in the videos. Today we nurtured her heart and she feels even more connected to us. Tomorrow we will start working on a family tree...the family tree she is grafted into. It will be her next writing assignment. She is itching to start, and so am I.

Can I just say how much I love adoption?