Friday, August 27, 2010

Blessed Beginnings

Have you ever gone so long without talking to a close friend, that when you finally get together, you don't even know where to start? I guess that's how I'm feeling.

This is the longest I've ever gone without posting. (So sorry!) Part of it is due to my trying to get this adoption scavenger hunt of documents completed as soon as possible. The other part is due to some major changes in how we are schooling our boys.

To explain this I must give a bit of background. Our girls (in the 8th and 5th grade this year), attend a wonderful classical Christian school. We had seriously considered homeschooling them when they were younger, but at the time my mother was battling cancer and we were trying to heal from the loss of our first son. (That story is here.) I was barely putting one foot in front of the other and knew I wouldn't be able to give them the education they needed. And so we found this fabulous school and they have now been there 5 years.

But my plan all along was to homeschool Daniel and Brady in the early grades. I have missed so much of Daniel's childhood that I didn't want to give up another minute. Keeping the boys at home last year was exactly what Daniel (and Brady) needed. I loved every minute snuggled up with my boys reading books, going exploring outside, getting to know my new son, and watching a precious bond form between two new brothers. And when Daniel first came home, even basic things like riding in a car were hard for him. There's no way he could have handled going to school last year.

But as winter turned into spring, Daniel began to thaw and bloom himself. In January we'd open his school books and he would cry that he couldn't do the work, but by March he couldn't wait to see how many pages he could do in a day.

And then we would pick up his sisters every afternoon from a building where the kids were laughing, teachers were hugging them good-bye and friends were waving farewells. The boys attended their poetry recitals, watched their sisters make science projects, attended music programs, and laughed at us dressed in our costumes for Arts Festival Day. (Parent helpers dress up, too.) All the while, Daniel was a spectator . . . many times I could tell he longed to be part it.

A few times Daniel asked, "Will I go to school here some day?" I'd answer, "If you want to." I wondered how long it would take him to catch up to where he could attend. I was a little sad though, because the most fun years at this school are in kindergarten and first and second grades. It's a unique school in many ways. In the younger grades the children only attend till noon and in first and second grades, Fridays are completely taught by the parents. (The parents divvy up a variety of topics and create and teach their own lesson plans each Friday.) I assumed that by the time Daniel was able to attend the school, he would have missed the opportunity to have half days and have Mom and Dad teach in his classroom.

But Daniel was doing so well with our homeschool curriculum that I thought he might be ready for second grade at this school. We had him tested and I couldn't believe the results. When the admissions director called to say they would love for him to attend the next year, I wept. I was just amazed that this little boy, who less than a year ago lived in an orphanage, was going to be able to attend such a wonderful school.

He was giddy with excitement this summer when we bought him his uniforms, backpack, and school supplies. But as the date approached for the first day of school, I could see that he was getting nervous.

But on Monday, August 16, I got to witness a first that I will never forget.

You see, as the adoptive parents of an 8 year old boy, we've grieved a lot of "firsts" that we've missed. First smile, first steps, first birthday . . . eight years of baby pictures and memories. But in exchange, we've been given the privilege of firsts that few parents will ever have the blessing to experience.

Like spending Christmas with a child who has never had a family--who is so overcome with emotion at the sight of the Christmas tree and begins to weep saying, "There are gifts with my name on them!" Like having a child, who has known profound hunger, sit at your dinner table-- laughing with his siblings and eating till he is full. Like watching a child, who spent years in an orphanage, now throwing a ball with his dad or dancing in the waves of the ocean. Like celebrating his first birthday with our family and when he blows out the candle on his cake and his sister asks what he wished for, his response is: "I have everything I've ever wanted. There's nothing left to wish for."

Last week we witnessed a first that even fewer parents will ever experience.

We watched our little boy proudly march into an amazing school in a uniform that announced that he was no longer an orphan without hope, but a boy with a future.

(This is Daniel leading the pack down the hallway--no longer a guest . . . but a student!)

(One last hug and "I'm proud of you, buddy" from Dad.)

We took his photo with his precious teacher and saw his fellow classmates greet him. When we left the classroom, he had a smile on his face that said, "I belong here."

(I don't like to post pics of others without permission, so I just cropped in on the most grateful little guy at that school.)

When I picked him up at noon, he was still smiling--yet about to pop wanting to share about his day. He and his little brother compared stories about the fun they had (Brady is in kindergarten in the same building) and when his two older sisters got home, Daniel couldn't wait to tell them about his day, too. The girls didn't even want to share about their day till they had gotten full reports from their little brothers. It is so sweet that now all four of our children will have memories of being in school together.

Daniel has loved his first two weeks at school, each day he announces that it was better than the day before. But I'll never forget that very first day. I somehow held in the tears of watching my two little guys go to school for the first time. But on the drive home the floodgates finally opened. It was prompted by Daniel's voice from the backseat reciting the school's motto. I have heard it many times over the years, but for some reason hearing it recited by my treasure with a Spanish accent gave it new meaning.
He said, "Mama. Hear this! I am a child of God. I ought to do His will. I can do what He tells me. By His grace alone I will."

Praising God for His abundant grace for my special boy.

More Than Lots,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Dinner: A Hope and a Future

Some of my best writing is done on napkins. These little notes tucked into my daughters' lunchboxes are my way to give them a mid-day hug in the school lunchroom. School starts tomorrow and I've just finished inscribing pep-talks on paper products.

I'll never forget the first day of school last year. Olivia was starting 7th grade and I wasn't sure if she had outgrown the whole note from mommy on a napkin thing. She was about to grab her lunchbox off the kitchen counter as we were heading out the door. I hadn't yet zipped it up and out of the corner of my eye I saw her open her lunchbox, flip part of the napkin over, and take a quick peek to see if I had written on it. I saw the corners of her mouth turn up into a smile showing me that she still appreciated the paper poetry. My heart rejoiced as I realized she'd never outgrow needing words of encouragement.

Do you ever feel like sometimes God writes on your napkin and when you least expect it, you find it in your lunchbox? There have been many times that I've felt that a scripture was written just for me.

This week's Sunday dinner scripture is a verse that is very special to me (I'll share that story later). I wrote this verse on my girls' napkins tonight along with some other words to start the school year.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah 29:11

This scripture brings such peace--just hearing that He has plans to give us a hope and a future. I look at my children and claim this verse for their lives. As a parent, I want so badly to make the plans and know the plans for my children's lives. But, praise God, that He makes the plans and, oh, His plans are so much better than anything I could have dreamed up.

This week's dessert of song is a sweet one called "The Words I Would Say" by Sidewalk Prophets. It's the perfect back-to-school song. I just might need to jot some of these lyrics on a napkin.

This week, may you get a glimpse of God's plan for you to have a hope and a future!

More Than Lots,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Great Adoption Coordinator

There are clues when someone is newly pregnant. The kitchen cupboards are well-stocked with Saltines. There's a copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" on the bedside table. And the most prized possessions in that home are a stick that has been urinated on and an ultrasound photo proudly displayed on the refrigerator.

And then there are clues that an adoption is in its first trimester. The kitchen counters are overflowing with random papers from tax returns to veterinary records. There's a stack of books about attachment on the bedside table. And the most prized possessions are a copy of a completed homestudy and a referral photo proudly displayed on the refrigerator.

I guess like a second pregnancy, this second adoption already has me comparing our journey to Daniel with our journey to this next child. But it also has me remembering things long forgotten from that time three years ago when we were working on our paperwork for Daniel.

I remember a precious conversation I had with Ava one night as I was tucking her in bed. She asked, "Mom, if I had been a little girl in an orphanage, do you think you would have chosen me?"

My response came before she could even finish her sentence: "Oh, sweetheart, I would have known you were mine the minute I saw you. In fact, I know God would have put a longing in my spirit to find you and somehow God would have provided a way to bring you safely into my arms."

She smiled, so I knew I had passed the essay portion of this test. But I pondered this big question from my little girl (seven years old at the time). It gave a glimpse into how she was processing everything. I had been so worried about how our adopted child might feel left out because he was not given to us biologically, it never occurred to me that my biological children might feel left out not having been chosen through adoption.

Her question still makes me think. Would I really have found my tender-hearted treasure? Out of the approximately 147 million orphans, I've probably only seen photos of a few hundred. Photos that are usually just quick snapshots taken to provide some kind of documentation that this child exists. Bad lighting and bad angles--taken without warning of a child in need of a nap or a meal. That one photo that links them to the outside world and any possibility that they might find a family who can see beyond the orphanage haircut and runny nose.

It makes me look at listings of waiting children differently. It makes me wish that children who need families would no longer be invisible. That EVERY waiting child--all 147 million--could have their portrait taken by someone who could capture the twinkle in their eye and kindness in their smile. That every orphan could have pages written about them sharing what makes them special and what kind of family they long for. That each child could have a video clip giving prospective parents a preview of the melody of their laugh and the potential for their life.

No. It's not fair. It's not fair that often the children who are lucky enough to be listed on a waiting child page are often only afforded a photo the equivalent of a mug shot with a handful of words warning prospective parents of what might be "wrong" with them.

And yet . . . we serve a Mighty God who is the Author of Adoption and the only One who knows the exact number of orphans in the world today. He is able to take that photo and put it before the eyes of the person who will say, "This is my child." That He is greater than intercountry restrictions and governmental red-tape and one-dimensional photographs. The One who enables parents to look past the listing of needs and see only the word "special."

I see evidence of His handiwork when I get e-mail notifications that announce "My Family Found Me." I see photos from "gotcha days" and airport homecomings and cry tears of joy exclaiming "God, you are so good!"

He is . . . the Great Adoption Coordinator.

Three years ago, I tried to convince my daughter that had she been waiting in an orphanage, God would have put a longing in my spirit to find her and somehow He would have provided a way to bring her safely into my arms.

Today I know that it's true.

Gratefully His,


P.S. Some of my favorite photolistings of waiting children are at Rainbow Kids, , and Reece's Rainbow. They strive to provide the accurate information on the children, agencies, and programs available. Take a minute to look at the sweet faces. You just might find your child.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Lists

I love lists. This is not due to stellar organizational skills but born of remarkable lack of memory. I also love makings lists because it helps me feel a sense of accomplishment in a world where sometimes the sun rises and sets and I often feel like I have done nothing but keep everyone in my care alive.

I have many lists I'm working off of now. There's the never-ending to-do list. There's the ever-changing grocery list. There's our adoption homestudy list. There's currently a school supply list.

The funny thing about lists are the items remaining when most of been marked off. What is it about those lingering items that are so tough? That phone call or errand on my to-do list that I'm just dreading and keep putting off. The item at the grocery store that I just can't seem to find. The item on the homestudy that seems impossible to get. That random school supply item that is out-of-stock.

The Bible seems to include many lists. Starting with the systematic creation of the world and continuing with the 10 Commandments.

One of my favorite lists is:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

Galations 5:22-23, NIV

I also love the passage about love:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

I Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV

What fabulous lists outlining a life that glorifies God. How convicting these lists can be when Christ is not evident in my words or actions.

When my children make poor choices, sometimes the consequence for that action is that they write a scripture verse pertaining to the poor choice. They write the verse numerous times based the child's age (thus my 10 year old would write the scripture 10 times). I have found it to be a great way to correct a child, especially at those times that I'm about exhibit a lack of "peace, patience, and self-control." It forces me to go to the Bible for answers and actually calms my child down as he/she sits and ponders those words.

Anyway, the above two "lists" from the Bible are verses used a lot. My kids know when I ask if they've been "patient and kind" or their behavior shows "they have been easily angered and are keeping record of wrongs" that some quality time with I Corinthians 13 is on the horizon.

Just like my daily lists, I have those lingering items in my daily walk that often are the last to be checked off. It isn't until I remember to go to the Author of those lists for help that I'm truly able to live out Galations 5 and I Corinthians 13.

The dessert of song is "Beautiful Lord" by Leeland. It's the perfect song for when I know I need God's help with those toughest items on my list. (And I just couldn't resist adding a Leeland song after some of his tunes reappeared on

Have a great week!

More Than Lots,

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Whatcha Reading Wednesday: Parenting Wisdom

Yep. I knew this would happen.

I resisted starting a blog because I knew it would give me one more thing to feel guilty about. And right now the guilt caused by the infrequency of my posts is ranking greater than my guilt over not cleaning out my fridge (that no doubt contains leftovers that could be donated to science) and less than my guilt of falling behind on my scrapbooks (I'm approximately 12 years 3 months behind).

Much of my silence is due to trying to pack as much as possible in the remaining days of summer, trying to get everyone ready for the school year ahead, and also working on our adoption homestudy. So if you will forgive me for being a stinky bloggy buddy, I would greatly appreciate it. By the way, thanks for your sweet words of encouragement (written in Sharpie) on my last post.

Lately I've been praying a lot for wisdom. If I had gotten around to doing a Sunday dinner this week, the following would have been my verse.

"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, NIV

I love the first part of this verse like it's saying: "This only applies to those people who lack wisdom. All you naturally wise folks can just ignore this verse." I mean, really, don't we all lack wisdom? So perhaps the significance of this first part is that we recognize that true wisdom comes only from God. We must approach Him humbly, acknowledging our need.

I love the next part. All we have to do is ask. Then He will give us wisdom in abundance and without finding fault. He knows it is in our nature to try to do things on our own. It's like those times that I've tried to assemble something without the instructions, then after realizing that I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm making a huge mess of things, surrender to the fact that I need those instructions. Oh, how often I try to live making it up as I go, only to fall flat on my face to seek God's wisdom from His Instruction Manual of the Bible.

I love the story of Solomon asking God to give him wisdom and the subsequent accounts of Solomon using this gift to rule wisely. Every day I feel I need the wisdom of Solomon to be a parent. And never have I needed wisdom more than parenting my adopted son who comes from such brokenness.

While I find myself pouring over God's Instruction Manual and crying out for wisdom, I know the assembly required to help Daniel heal from past pain and help shape him into a young man who seeks God is relatively easy compared to many I know who are also parenting older adopted children. My heart aches hearing their stories of attachment issues and behavior challenges. I know it is by the grace of God that we are not dealing with the same level of hurt.

So on this Whatcha Reading Wednesday I wanted to share about a blog that I think might encourage those of you seeking wisdom in parenting your biological and adopted children.

The blog is written by Summer at Transformed from Glory to Glory. She is a missionary in Uganda, serving alongside her husband and parenting (soon to be) 12 children. Ten of them are adopted.

She has shared many words of wisdom regarding Christ-centered parenting. One post in particular that really made me think was "A Disorder or Disorder?"
and then there was a response to that post that I thought was wonderful-- "A Wise Adoptee." There's an author mentioned in these two posts that I know nothing about and there seems to be controversy in his views. Thus I want to say that I don't support this author/ministry or necessarily oppose it either.

But there are two books that have been helpful as I seek wisdom in parenting--"Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp and "Age of Opportunity" by Paul David Tripp.

So, whatcha reading right now? Okay, now I've got to go clean out the fridge.

Happy Wednesday!