Thursday, July 29, 2010

Writing with Permanent Marker

Today was one of those days. Two sick kids and our air-conditioning upstairs decided to take a vacation. It is roughly the temp of the surface of the sun. Thus we are "camping" in our family room tonight. Nothing like the great indoors.

An AC angel will be coming between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. tomorrow to fix it. He will be getting a group hug from one very sweaty family--that is if we haven't melted.

Anyway, we stayed close to home because Ava and Brady felt so crummy and I took the opportunity to catch up around the house. I was picking up the sofa pillows that had been tossed on the floor when I made a horrifying discovery.

I found this.
(Exhibit A.)

That, ladies and the one gentleman who reads my blog, is the cap off of a permanent marker. I knew that somewhere around my house was a Sharpie without it's hat!

(Exhibit B.)

I knew it was quite possibly in the hands of a child who was feeling creative (and immortal) or in the back pocket of a child who was practicing her somersaults. I envisioned carpeting and upholstery, bedspreads and baseboards, getting the business end of this marker on the loose.

Most of the time my Sharpie is my friend. I label things like a rancher brands cattle. Many germs have been contained by the labeling of water bottles. Many wars have been avoided at the community pool simply because our diving toys and floats were autographed by Mom.

Still, I have flashbacks to the time that Olivia (about 3 years old at the time), got hold of a Sharpie and gave herself a Hitler moustache. I scrubbed till her lip was raw, but it just wouldn't come off. I got a lot of nasty looks at the grocery store till it finally disappeared.

I did find the marker before too much damage was done. It was in Brady's hands and he was challenging his brother to a sword fight with writing implements. I handled the situation like an undercover cop and commanded, "Put down the marker and nobody gets hurt!"

Once the marker was safely out of reach and my blood pressure had returned to normal, I shared a little analogy with my kiddos relating to the marker. We've recently had some kidding and sarcasm that I felt was going over the line. Nothing intentionally hurtful, but I have four very sensitive children who wound easily so we have a zero tolerance for things that "do not build up."

I explained that our words to each other aren't written with washable/non-toxic Crayola markers. (Can you tell I've been buying school supplies lately?) They mark our hearts and our spirits with permanence.

You can spot a child who has been told they are stupid or slow or worthless. You might as well have written the words on their faces because the hurt is so evident in their expressions. You can also recognize a child who has been told he is loved and special and a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. There is usually a light about them that says, "I'm cherished."

I still remember things that were said to me--good and bad--as a child and as an adult. Some of those things shaped who I am today.

I'll never forget a Sharpie moment with my high school guidance counselor. I remember having my turn to go into his office and discuss what subjects to take for my junior year. Although he seemed like a nice man, I was very nervous. He looked just like Kenny Rogers and I kept expecting him to burst into song with "The Gambler."

As he looked over my records I could hear the tune playing--"You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run."

And I wanted to run. I knew I didn't look like much on paper. My grades were good, but nothing on a valedictorian level. I don't have a clue what my standardized testing showed, but knowing my weakness in math my score would probably have been higher by penciling in the circles in a pretty pattern.

He looked up at me and asked, "What do you want to do when you grow up?"

I wasn't expecting that question and didn't know what to say. I could have talked for hours about my hopes and dreams but like a ding-a-ling responded with, "I don't know."

The ball was back in his court and I was hoping he would live up to his title as "guidance counselor" and tell me what I was good at, what made me special, and what wonderful options I had to prepare me for the future.

And this was his advice: "I recommend that you take typing next year because you will most likely spend your life typing someone else's letters."


I know he didn't mean it the way it came out. It was actually wonderful advice that I take typing, yet I felt that he had written "worthless" across my forehead. As his instructions echoed, I realized that he envisioned my highest achievement to be recording someone else's words.

But this story does have a happy ending. His words were the kick in the rear that I needed. For the first time in my life I was absolutely determined to do my best. I'm still living out Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

So each day I try to write blessings on my children's hearts--knowing it's so easy to write the encouraging words on, but so difficult to take the hurtful words off.

And guess what? My guidance counselor was absolutely right. Every time I sit down to write, I ask God to give me the words He wants me to share. What a privilege to spend my life seeking to "type Someone Else's words."

More Than Lots,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Okay. It seems every time I log onto my blog I feel like I've been robbed. It started with my playlist below. I added my favorite songs each week so anyone who stopped by could find some encouragement with the listed tunes.

Occasionally I'd see one disappear. I could handle one loss from the musical cookie jar at a time. But a few weeks ago I looked at my playlist and at least HALF my beloved songs were gone! I'm trying not to take it personally but the paranoid side of me wonders if the heads of major record labels got together, expressed concern that some crazy lady was listing their songs on her blog and calling them "dessert", and decided to put an end to it.

It hurt. Losing Leeland was bad enough, but to take Third Day . . . below the belt.

So today I pulled up my blog and realized my background had disappeared. To most bloggers this is no big deal. They change their backgrounds like they change their clothes. They adorn their blogs with cute little seasonal patterns and accessorize with bloggy buttons that blink like pocket-sized billboards.

Not me. I am loyal to the background that I painstakingly posted by my technologically challenged self. Just seeing "html code" makes me break into hives. If I want to cut and paste, I use safety scissors and a glue stick.

All this to explain why there is a new background. It's not that I'm adventurous, just that someone took my cyber clothes and I grabbed the first thing I could put on. I just hope my new outfit doesn't make my sidebar look too big. ;)

Technically Insane,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Let the Waters Rise

It's so nice to have internet again! After a week without contact with the outside world, we returned home to have a thunderstorm that knocked out our internet for several hours. But at least I wasn't tempted to catch up online when I needed to be unpacking and catching up at home!

I shared a few weeks ago about lessons learned from the ocean (that post can be found here). This past week I had another lesson from sea as we visited the beach again.

The waves were really rough last week when we were vacationing with my extended family in South Carolina. The first day Daniel and I ventured out hand in hand. Our strategy was to get far enough from the shore where we weren't hit by the breaking waves. We'd make a few steps of progress only to be carried back by the tide. We were managing but I could tell he was getting scared.

Then one big ole wave hit us. There were a few seconds that I lost hold of Daniel's hand and his head was underwater. He surfaced with his goggles crooked screaming, "Mama, I want to go back!"

We were trying to hightail it to the shore when I turned around and saw a massive wave coming toward us. We're talking a "Perfect Storm" kind of mountain of water where you know this is going to end with water up your nose, sand in your mouth, and bathing suit around your ankles. There was no way we were going to outrun this one. I instructed him to hold his nose, go under the water, and count to ten.

I wasn't sure if he heard me. It happened so fast. I went under the water, too, and surfaced seconds later. When I came up, Daniel was fine . . . even smiling.

We ran toward the shore, making it before another wave hit. He exclaimed, "It worked! The wave didn't get me!"

I couldn't help but think how this is like life. There are times that I see the wave coming. I panic because there is no way to escape it. Then I remember that it's when I try to fight things on my own will and in my own way that the wave of trials wipes me out. But when I remember to surrender to the One who is greater than the sea, bigger than the waves of pain and hardship, then I know to hide under the protection of the Almighty.

Today's Sunday dinner of scripture is (the idea behind Sunday dinner is here):

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

John 16:33

Wow. Jesus' words in His last days on earth bring such comfort. I remember clinging to this scripture in the days following the death of our first son in the last month of my pregnancy. God blessed us with another new life a few months after and I remember telling my girls that we had been granted the gift of another pregnancy. But Ava looked up at me and asked, "Mom, what if this baby dies, too?"

I wanted so badly to tell her that this baby would be fine, but knew I couldn't make that promise. The promise I knew I could give her was that no matter the outcome, God would carry us through any future pain or grief because we had seen God's faithfulness with the loss of Luke.

This week's dessert of song is called "Let the Waters Rise" by Mikeschair. The lyrics couldn't be more perfect. I love the line "You were faithful before. You'll be faithful again. " Amen!!!

As Daniel and I sat on the shore last week recovering from our adventure with the waves, I asked him if he was afraid to go back in the ocean later. To my relief he said no. (Although he did spend some quality time on his sand castle that day.)

As I sit on the shore of my life, I don't have the fears that I once had. In Christ I have peace. In this world there will be tribulations, but I serve a Mighty God who is greater than the pain of this world!

May you feel His perfect peace this week.

More Than Lots,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

We're Home!

We had a wonderful vacation with my side of the family. I have many photos from the trip but for now I'll just share this one.

After years of mentally Photoshopping Daniel into our family pics, I just LOVE any photo that has all four of my children. I keep hoping and praying that there will be one more sweet face in the family huddle next year.

We cut our trip short to come back on Thursday night to attend Brad's sister's wedding rehearsal and dinner. We don't do anything easy around here. We left the beach at 8:00 a.m. but got caught in construction traffic. We arrived home at 3:30 p.m. giving us 30 min. to change clothes and head across town for the rehearsal. I'm sure we looked like a bunch of circus clowns hopping out of the minivan with our pillows and suitcases and minutes later returning dressed up. Never a dull moment. This photo is from Thursday.

Then we attended her wedding last night. It was beautiful. I don't want to publish photos of others without their permission so I'll just share one more of my cute kiddos.

I have many thoughts and stories to share but I'll save them for another time because I can barely keep my eyes open. I hope you are enjoying each day with those you love!

More Than Lots,

Monday, July 19, 2010

Greetings from the Island Without Internet

Okay, I have a really great excuse for not posting for a while. We are vacationing with my side of the family (this year that adds up to 22 people) at a place called Edisto Island, South Carolina. It's about an hour outside of Charleston and my family has been coming here for more than 30 years.

I've heard it described as Mayberry with a beach. There are no high rise hotels, just a few restaurants, and one Piggly Wiggly. The night life consists of Bingo on Tuesday and Thursday nights sponsored by the Lion's Club, walking along the beach watching the sunset, and playing card games at the kitchen table.

We started today with a bike ride, continued with a game of putt putt, spent a few hours riding waves at the beach, followed by a dip in the pool, watched a movie during lunch/naptime, the boys went fishing with their grandpa, my sister made a fabulous dinner, another bike ride, another frolic in the waves at sunset, and we played a bunch of games together till the yawns took over the laughter.

I guess the only thing we are lacking is an internet connection--and really that's not such a bad thing. The house we are sharing doesn't have Wifi but my brother-in-law has a wireless card so he is graciously letting me use his laptop so I can say hi to my bloggy friends. I have much to share but it may just have to wait till we return home.

I hope you all are having some sweet summer days with those you love, too!

More Than Lots,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Whatcha Reading Wednesday: Radical

Okay, last week I started Whatcha Reading Wednesday. I can't promise that I'll have a post every Wednesday, but if I have something worth sharing, you'll see it here. It's funny that my bloggy friend Kristin left a comment last week that she was reading "Radical" by David Platt. I thought that was neat because I've been listening to the Radical series online. Truly convicting.

I have been clicking on the sermons to listen to while I fold laundry at night. And I don't usually get past one towel--this is not "background material." It is "will render you motionless/need to rewind and hear again" kinds of stuff. Although my laundry efficiency is taking a hit, my heart is being renewed and my views about what it means to be a Christian are being challenged.

I encourage you to listen to the sermons or read the book. You can click the button below to access the video series.


I also came across a beautifully written post about adoption and Christ's radical love for us. It is "Grace for the Orphan" from the blog Faithful Remembrances. All I know about the writer is that she is the mother of 5 children--some of whom are adopted--and she truly understands the price paid for her adoption.

Okay, now it's your turn. Whatcha reading?

More Than Lots,

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Sweetest Sound

I had planned on posting a Sunday dinner last night after our busy weekend, but a thunderstorm hit and my kiddos needed comforting. I thought I'd pull a Julie Andrews and started singing to them "Sound of Music" style. My goal was not to soothe them with my talent, but to entertain them with my lack of talent.

It worked. I soon heard giggles in response to my tone-deaf version of "My Favorite Things." Then I dusted off every lullaby from when the kiddos were younger. I had all four piled in the boys' room for this little concert. But it wasn't long till I heard Ava sniffling back tears in the top bunk with Brady. I asked what was wrong and she said, "I'm sad because Daniel never had you to sing to him when he was little."

Oh my. I have already grieved over the same kinds of losses. Eight years missed of being his mom. Eight years missed of him having a mom.

I looked at Daniel as I sat next to him in the bottom bunk. His face was easy to see because even though the lights were out, we have enough nightlights to give the room that "prison break glow."

I could tell Ava's words were being processed in his head. So I quickly responded with, "Don't be sad, Ava, because Daniel's not missing a thing. He has us now, surrounded by a family who loves him and a mom who has a voice that's so dreadful she can drowned out the sound of thunder." Daniel chuckled.

I continued by belting out "You Are My Sunshine" and finished with "God Is So Good." The eyelids began to get heavy and I knew an encore would not be needed.

As I was leaving the room, I heard Daniel say, "Mama, I think you have the most beautiful voice I ever heard."

You don't need the ability to sing in perfect pitch to be able to hear the magnificence of such precious words. I walked back over to his bed and kissed him one more time on the forehead. With a huge lump in my throat I mustered up, "Thanks, sweetheart. I just love being your mama."

His loving words helped me to not regret the time lost, but cherish the moments now.

The belated dinner of scripture for this week is:

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Proverbs 16:24

The song of dessert is "Sweet Sweet Sound" by Sarah Reeves. I have a mental list of singers under the heading "Please, God, when I get to heaven could I sound like. . . . " Sarah Reeves is on that list.

May your own life be filled with the sweet sounds of those God has blessed you with and may you offer up your own sweet sounds to Him of thanks.

More Than Lots,

Friday, July 9, 2010

One in 147 Million

I've spent a lot of time on the computer lately. But not on my blog (as evidenced by my pitiful frequency in posts.) Not on Facebook or e-mail or YouTube or eBay. I'm spending a lot of time on adoption listings of waiting children.

I've Googled medical conditions, researched US and international adoption programs and fees, and contacted agencies. All because my husband gave me the green light two weeks ago for us to proceed on another adoption. And you should have heard the burning rubber on my figurative tires as I stepped on the gas.

Thus far I have come to only one conclusion. There are too many children who need families. I don't think there's a social worker who will approve us for 147 million children*. (The sound you hear is my husband letting out a sigh of relief.) My heart has the capacity to love many more than my hands are capable of caring for. Thus I cry at my computer screen asking God to help us choose. To show us which child is waiting for us--the one God has planned for our family. And then I ask God to find homes for all the others.

I know that God doesn't necessarily call everyone to adopt, but He does command us all to care for orphans. There are many ways to obey this call--through sponsorship, through mission trips, through helping others fund their adoptions, through prayer. But I have to tell you, if you feel that call to adopt but ignore it because you're too busy, or don't have enough money, or, well, you can fill in the blank--you may be missing out on one of the biggest blessings in your life.

I'm not saying the road of adoption is easy. Our adoption of Daniel has been one of the hardest things we have experienced, but any sacrifices we have made to bring him home and parent a child who is trying to heal from such brokenness is so insignificant compared to the price paid for my adoption by my Heavenly Father.

And we have known joys that few will ever have the privilege of experiencing. Like seeing an 8 year old boy have his first Christmas with a family. To see a boy who has known profound hunger eat till he is full while laughing around a dinner table with people who love him. To celebrate his birthday and when he blows out the candle on his cake he says, "I have nothing left to wish for. I already have it all."

I've included the video below. I love the song "Orphans of God" by Avalon that plays in the background. There are many great adoption videos but I like this one because of the hope it shows at the end.

May God bless you in whatever way you are answering His call to care for orphans. And may we all feel conviction and urgency to do more.

Gratefully His,

*I've seen the number of orphans listed as anywhere from 143 million to 147 million. I guess it doesn't really matter what the number is when one orphan is one too many.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Whatcha Reading Wednesday: Happy Homecomings

Okay. I have come to accept the fact that I'm just not going to have much to report on a daily basis. Truly our lives just aren't that interesting. But . . . I have met some amazing bloggy friends who do have interesting lives. So, from now on each Wednesday instead of sharing about my latest trip to the grocery store or an analogy gleaned from a Q-Tip, I'm going to introduce you to some special folks doing amazing things. Some I've met because they have left a comment or become a follower and I have hopped over to say howdy. Some have challenged me, some inspired me, some have made me laugh, some have made me cry.

Yes, I've been known to cry onto my keyboard. Really, there's not a speck of dust on it--clean as a whistle from F1 through F12 right down to the space bar, simply from wiping the tears off.

Nothing opens the floodgates for me like an adoption homecoming. I think that perhaps the closest thing we will witness on earth to a heavenly reunion is the welcoming home of an adopted child.

My poor keyboard experienced rainy season the past few weeks. It started with Kristin and the Ferguson family at Seeing the Up Side of Down adopting their two and a half year old Down Syndrome daughter Nadia from the Ukraine. Such a precious family with an amazing story of how they chose her, why God called them to adopt, and the transformation Nadia is experiencing now that she's home. Just read a few posts and you'll wish they lived next door.

The tears continued to flow with Christine and the Reed family from Smiles and Trials. They added their 13th and 14th children (that is not a typo) with the adoption of brother and sister siblings also from the Ukraine. The details of that journey are at Oh Yes We Are. I appreciate how Christine shares not just the things that make them smile, but the trials as well. Such a beautiful story of older child adoption--their love just seems to grow with the addition of each child.

And the tears just kept a comin' with the journey shared by Kat on Momentum. They just brought home twin babies from Ethiopia. Just her description of their flight home caused such a combo of laughing and crying that I was afraid I was going to wet my pants. But no matter how tough things got in bringing them home and no matter how hard things may be now, she is grateful to be the one caring for them when they are sick and comforting them when they are inconsolable. She also has such wisdom on attachment with adopted children (in addition to the twins they have three bio. and two other adopted children)--certainly worth checking out if you are an adoptive parent.

Okay, I've shared some of my favorites and now I want you to share yours. Since I often hear my husband and kiddos ask "whatcha reading?" when I'm laughing/crying at my computer, I'm going to call this "Whatcha Reading Wednesday." (Although spell check is not at all happy with my wording.) Tell me "whatcha reading" in the comments or share about your own blog.

Happy Wednesday,

Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence Day

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend celebrating the birth of our country! Sorry I haven't posted in a while. We've just been busy filling each summer day with fun.

I must share that Daniel thoroughly enjoyed his first 4th of July as an American citizen.

He has pride for his country that far exceeds the six months he's been home.

How grateful I am that this little boy with such potential gets to grow up in the Land of Opportunity.

Although this was Daniel's first Independence Day as an American, he has experienced another kind of independence day in the past. Last December, Daniel and I were living in a hotel trying to get his adoption completed in time to come home for Christmas. (He made it home Christmas Eve!) We picked one day to go back to his orphanage for him to say good-bye to his friends.

He had been away from the orphanage for about 5 weeks. I could tell he was conflicted--missing his friends, yet grateful to no longer be living there. He got a heroes welcome as he came through the gates--all his old buddies calling his name and running up to hug him. He asked me to take photos of him with a few friends and passed out some Christmas cookies we had brought. Then he whispered in my ear that he was ready to go.

I was surprised he was already ready to leave after only an hour. He knew this might be his last visit for a long time and we had planned to spend the day there. I asked again, "Are you sure you're ready to go?" He smiled and nodded.

As we approached the gate to leave, his little hand held by his mom's, the guard said something to me in Spanish and Daniel responded in a very authoritative voice. The guard opened the gate and let us out--our driver witnessed the interaction.

As we drove away, I asked our sweet driver what was said. Victor replied, "The guard said you needed to wait till he got permission for you to leave." Daniel responded with, "We don't need permission. I. DON'T. LIVE. HERE. ANYMORE!"

I fought back tears on the drive back to the hotel. I had witnessed Daniel's first personal Independence Day. Independence from life as an orphan. Released from a past of pain and poverty. Released from a future without hope.

Daniel not only understood what he was leaving last December, he was getting a glimpse at what he was gaining. We had to visit the US Embassy several times during those last weeks of the adoption. We chose a hotel within walking distance and every morning about 6 a.m. people would line up around the building by the hundreds. One day when we were in the waiting area of the USE, Daniel looked around at the sea of Guatemalan faces and asked, "Are they all trying to get adopted?" I couldn't help but laugh--the ages ranged from children to elderly. But I did let him know: "These people are all hoping to get Visas to visit the U.S." It's funny that you have to travel to another country to truly realize how blessed you are.

So this weekend as I watched Daniel proudly waving his American flag, asking questions about what this day celebrates, I became grateful for our freedoms in a different way. Not just for the gift this country has been to me--a privilege I was born into and have been blessed with all my days. But this year, I have a true understanding of the gift my adopted son now has.

I'm grateful for our forefathers--who established a country of life and liberty . . . a nation under God. I'm grateful to our brave men and women in the armed forces--many who have given their lives and all who sacrificially serve to protect our freedom. And I'm grateful for one of America's newest citizens who looks so handsome in red, white, and blue and so eloquently squealed under a fireworks display, "I love America!

Yes, sweet boy, I love America, too!

So Grateful

P.S. It seems is undergoing some major changes. Half of the songs on my playlist are no longer there. Oh no! It was a challenge to find a song for this week with the limited selection but found a beautiful rendition of "God Bless America." It credits Celine Dion as the artist, but it doesn't sound like her voice.