Saturday, February 17, 2018

What are you doing Presidents week?

Someone posted the question on facebook.  What are you doing over break week? and don't say work.
Calendar Concept royalty-free stock photo

My first thought was:  I will cook 27 meals for 7 - 9 people, and at least 18 snacks; I will take the dog out, I will let the dog in, at least 63 times; I will settle more arguments than I can count over who pours the milk, picks the TV show, clothing items, etc. etc; I will clean spills and take toys away from the dog and children who are fighting; I will listen to whining and fighting; I will clean up puppy prints from the mud, and even more mud tracked in by the feet of seven kiddos, some little feet some much larger than mine.  I will fold mountains of laundry and remind the owners to put them away. 

Then I thought:  I can't post that on social media.  I need to say something more face book worthy, something like:  I will read lots of books and snuggle with my littles; we will take a day to do something fun with some friends (probably the Science Center); we will bake some yummy snacks, we will sleep late(r); we will not go to therapy appointments, counseling appointments, school activities; we will just be together; if I'm feeling really brave we will play some board games; we may stay up later and watch more of the Olympics; we will watch movies and eat popcorn;  we will stay in our jammies longer; we will linger over our meals; we will sing loud and off key, we will dance and we will laugh!!

The truth is both of these responses are 100% true.  We will do all of these things, and perhaps more.  Why is my first response all the hard things?  Why doesn't the second thought come first?  Why don't they tumble together like our lives really do?  It's not that I'm a negative person, but somehow lately I am counting the wrong things.  I'm counting appointments, meals, baskets of laundry, etc.  I'm not counting my blessings.  Those same things can be blessings - we get to eat 27 meals in the next nine days!! We are so blessed to live in this country and have so much yummy food available and affordable for us. 

I hope this week brings lots of good things and I pray that life and God will continue to remind me to look for the blessings. 

Philippians 4:8 NLT "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." 

Excellence can come in the mundane and small.  I tend to look for it in the grand and extraordinary, but an excellent cup of coffee, a perfectly formed bud, a clean kitchen, aren't they all excellent!!

If I look for it my children and husband do things all the time that are praiseworthy.  When a big brother reads a story at bedtime to a sleepy (possibly even a bit whiny) little sister, Praise worthy! Excellent!! When a little boy cleans up the dogs muddy foot prints without being asked!  Praise worthy! When a small child puts her clothes in the laundry basket instead of the floor.  Praise worthy!  When a struggling reader sounds out a hard word.  Praise worthy!  When a thoughtful husband replaces your windshield wipers without saying a word (at least not until two weeks later when I still hadn't figured out why they were working so much better ;-) ) Praise worthy! Excellent!  When the same husband gets up with the kiddos and lets me get an extra hour of sleep on an ordinary Saturday. Praise Worthy!! 

My final thought: when I think on those things that are excellent and praise worthy, my strength to do the next thing returns.  My spirits lift, and the sun shines warmly on my soul.  My soul is refreshed!! Excellent!! 




Thursday, February 1, 2018

Resiliency, conditioned response, or survival??

           I started this blog to journal our journey.  This entry to the blog may not be for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.  It is sadly our normal, and that's what prompted me to write this post.

           One of our wounded hearts has been acting out in a somewhat unusual way.  Unusual, because most families will never deal with this and if they do I suspect it would be with a toddler.  Our dear child has been experimenting with fecal matter, their own.  Removing it from their body and smearing it around our bathrooms.  This behavior has continued over the past six months or so.  It has varying degrees of frequency and intensity.  We have been working with all the professionals to help our child.  Currently the belief about this behavior is that our child is self soothing anxiety by doing this.  This child is very anxious and this makes sense.  When you do not have a foundation of being comforted when you are anxious, when needs go unmet and neglect is your 'normal' you do not learn healthy ways to cope with your emotions.

           I actually don't want this to be about this child's behavior but about our/my response to it.  This morning before taking my shower I went through a little routine.  First, I checked the toilet area, then the floor mat, then the towels and wash clothes I was going to use.  What was I checking for?  Fecal matter or smell.  At first finding these things, would make me angry, frustrated, even a feeling of violation.  This most private moment was often ruined by another person's mess!!  I was especially thrown into a mood when I went into this private space to enjoy a nice warm bath.  As the mother of nine, seven still at home, and many levels of trauma and need, baths are a sacred and special thing I get to do just for me.  Whenever, I would find the bathroom a mess and have to clean it and attempt to eliminate the odors before soaking in the tub....well, my mood was less than compassionate for my struggling child.


Lavender, Soap, Towels, Beauty, Bathroom

           Today I noticed something.  This little routine had become my normal.  After. just about half a year I had learned to cope and expect this behavior.  I had a plan for it and was prepared for it.  You might be thinking, "not me, I could never get used to that in MY bathroom!"  But here's the thing you don't know what you can endure until you have to, and our kiddos have endured a great deal. They have figured out ways to deal with the impossible, the crazy, the unimaginable.  Our kids may have endured years of unusual situations from their living conditions, treatment from other people, including trusted adults.  They have adapted their very routines to unbelievable situations.

         Our family has adapted to this behavior.  Most of us check the bathroom thoroughly, some of us have taken to hiding our towels in our bedrooms.  In just six months our thinking has been reprogrammed to  adapt.  Most of our kiddos spent years adapting to their normal.

         You see when a child comes into foster care they cannot just click a switch and changed their learned behaviors, their perceived reality.  There are deep, deep lessons learned in their hearts and minds about what to expect.  If they never had enough food they will believe they never will.  If they had to take care of certain expectations at school by themselves, they will believe they still must.  They can't simply trust that all that has changed and they are safe and those things will be taken care of now by someone else.

           The children we've adopted have all come with eating issues.  Mostly they would eat, and eat until nothing was left at every meal.  After, a few weeks to a month their stomachs were reprogrammed to know that another meal or snack would soon be coming.  Their minds...I think took a lot longer and most of them are still preoccupied with food. Sometimes I feel like a food vending machine, :-) "Mom, what's for snack, lunch, breakfast, dinner, dessert, etc."

Hygiene, Cleaner, Hygienic, Wash

           Here's the thing in just over six months my family has come to expect, plan for, and even adapt to something I never would have thought possible, and it has made me keenly aware of how deeply my children and many, many, many just like them have adapted to horrible things in their past.  It has renewed awareness and compassion and a desire to fight harder for all of my children.

        I hope this brings new awareness to what it is like to live with someone with a history of trauma.  They do not think the same as you do.  They need your compassion far more than your advice.  Love them, pray for them, help them to heal. 



Monday, January 29, 2018

Why Are You Down?

Why Are You Down?

Just popping in to share a video. 
 Since this blog is all about the journey...
This is a message God put on my heart and allowed me to share at my home church. 

It is a big part of both my journey and my heart. 



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Enough

I have decided on my "word" for 2018.

Enough

2 Peter 1:3 "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."

This word has been coming to my mind in different forms over several months.  As it rolls over in my mind, I find it "right" for this season of my life.  It isn't "enough" like "I've had enough!" My kids have heard it used that way many, many times, but more: enough - sufficient.  

It first came to me in response to a prayer text sent to many people close to me, a request for wisdom.  One response stated, "you have all the wisdom you need." Truth.  I needed courage to use the wisdom I had.  This is not to say I have all the wisdom I will ever need, can there ever be too much wisdom?  This person simply knew the situation and knew I had the wisdom I needed for that moment.  "you have all you need" sounds a lot like 2 Peter 1:3 He has given us everything we need....hmmm, ponder, ponder.

Most recently, I was ready to click on a link to take me to a home planner for 2018.  It promised to make my routines work, my productivity to soar, and all my clutter to disappear by years end (or something like that).  It would definitely be the answer to all my organization needs.  I would be efficient, productive, healthy, and happy if I just purchased and used this planner.  Just as I was ready to click the link a still small voice said, "you don't need another planner, you have everything you need."  The voice was right, He always is...
I have purchased and downloaded so many of these books, eBooks, planners, organizers, bullet journals, etc. etc.  Bottom line they usually don't work for as long as it takes me to set them up.  Oh, I've learned a thing or two from them, but nothing sticks with me for long.  Someone else's system doesn't work for me.  Maybe in another post I'll share the things that do work for me, but the truth was I have enough knowledge, what I lack is implementation and consistancy, sigh.

Image may contain: plant, candles, fire and indoor


So the word enough - everything you need, continues to wander around in my head.  I am not a minimalist and I don't think I want to be one.  I like pretty things and a cozy home.  But how many cozy fleece throws are enough?  How many scented candles in a home where I can only light them occasionally, because so many of my kiddos with impulse control issues.  I love them, and I enjoy lighting them when my kiddos are in school or tucked away in bed.  But how many do I need?  How many are enough?  Anyone who knows me knows I love a pair of cute shoes or boots, but how many is enough?  

I want my home to be clean and tidy, but what about clean enough?  Isn't it enough to be safe and be able to find the things we need when we need them?  Is it enough if dishes are clean from a tasty meal and garbage is out side each night?  What is enough for me and my family?  And speaking of meals, I like pretty dishes, but if they stay in the hutch for decoration or special occasions are they being used enough?  Maybe everyday snacks served on a pretty platter is a special occasion?  What makes a meal special and tasty?  Is it enough that it is filling, and mostly healthy?  

No automatic alt text available.

I could continue with many questions in my mind: how many pairs of sock per person is enough? How many pairs of jeans?  How many sheet sets? How many towels?  The truth is there isn't a magic number.  I will spend 2018 trying to figure out what is right for me and my family.  

 1 Peter 1:3  "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."

The second part of the that verse tells the one thing I need more of in 2018, and the rest of my life.  "knowledge of him".  God has given us (me) everything I need for a godly (good) life, through knowledge of him.... I can listen to that voice, I can know him more, and I can experience the peace of enough.  Enough is not scarcity thinking it breathes peace and abundance into the everyday.  

As I homeschool my daughter who struggles to learn, I am enough; the curriculum is enough; her pace is enough.  No more long hours on the computer trying to improve and add to the curriculum.  If she is learning and making progress that is enough. 

Every effort of my husband is enough, a blessing.  Every time we see a little progress in a child, it is enough.  At the end of every single day, when we've given our best, it is enough.  No need to lay awake replaying the mistakes or missed opportunities of the day, nope, I gave it my all and it is enough. 

I don't need to read 20 blogs a week and try to implement someone else's great idea into my world.  This is my life and I have everything I need to live it well.  This doesn't mean I stop reading, and learning, it just means that not everything that works for others is needed for me to be enough.  I am enough.  

By now you are probably tired of my word for the year, but I want to say it one more time:

You my friend are enough!! If you have Christ, you too have everything you need!

Happy New Year
2018



Thursday, December 14, 2017

How did Aladdin get into our Christmas?

This year, for reasons I will not get into in this post, Christmas has been hard.  I love to give gifts to my family and friends that will be appreciated.  I want my children's faces to light up on Christmas morning when they open their gifts.  I don't want to focus on the gifts, but I want the gifts to be something that means something to the one receiving it...I want the gift to say, "I love you, I know you'll love this, you matter to me."  

Yesterday, I shopped the stores with my list, searching for the "perfect" gift to convey how special each of my children and my husband were to me.  The gift that would say "I love you, and know you, and appreciate you."  This year one gift needed to say all that.  I found lots of stuff, so much stuff, so much plastic, at times I felt physically ill.  I know I could find the items on my list online, but I did not know if they would arrive in time for Christmas so I shopped, up and down the aisles, into the car and on to another store, and another.  Feeling more and more discouraged with every trip up and down the aisles...those department store lights are awful.  The vague feeling of sensory overload, and the absence of Christmas music or even worse, some driving new version of an old classic set to music that was jarring and unnerving.  No smiles, and Merry Christmas, no clerks in Santa hats, just plastic carts, and lots of stuff.  

I found a few things on my family's wish list and a few things that I felt would be 'ok' but my heart wasn't full of anticipation.  My heart felt something was missing, something more than the three elusive items still on my list.  

As I pondered my feelings this morning...looking for a way to express them that didn't sound too much like a Bah Humbug to Christmas, I remembered something that happened earlier in the week.  We pulled out the Fisher Price Nativity Scene, and discovered that Baby Jesus was missing.  Some how we also found Aladdin had sneaked in with the wise men.  Oh, that silly manger scene, reflected everything in my heart....Jesus was missing and Aladdin had taken his place. 

Aladdin believed if he just had riches he would be happy.  In the end Aladdin got everything he wanted, but he was still a "street rat".  He had to change on the inside and it was love (the love of Jasmine) that made him willing to change.  (It has been years since I watched this movie, this is my memory),

 All my searching left me empty...my bank account, my gas tank, my senses, but most importantly my heart.  Just like Aladdin I had to realize the stuff wasn't really what would fill my heart.  I needed the perfect gift.  I needed Jesus back at the center of our Christmas! I don't know how Aladdin sneaked into our Christmas.  I don't know where baby Jesus went, but just as I told the children, "we will find baby Jesus" and we will.  We will slow down and remember the greatest gift ever given.  The gift that saved the world, the gift of love that came down to become a sacrificial lamb.  Aladdin is going back to the Princess Castle where he belongs!!  

I need the Prince of Peace, and memories with my husband and children.  We don't need riches untold and more stuff.  

My prayer for my family and friends is that you too can find the baby Jesus and put him back in his place in your life. 

 Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Our First Failed Adoption and what God showed me.

In honor of National Adoption month, I thought I would go way back to our first failed adoption.  You see it is very much a part of our journey and it has shaped me profoundly into the woman I am today.

The story begins like so many, it is an ordinary day, late fall I believe, and the phone rings.  On the other end of the line is my brother.  We don't talk on the phone often, so it is an unexpected call right from the start.  He tells me his girlfriend is pregnant with twin girls, and her other children are in foster care, and the babies will be placed in foster care, too...unless they have a different plan.  He asks me to adopt these babies.  As you can imagine the details are a little blurry, and this is my story, exactly how I remember it.  I know I talked to my husband. I know we prayed a lot! I know we decided to say yes.  I know we met with my brother and his girlfriend.  I know we met with a lawyer.  I know we made arrangements to bring home two baby girls.  I know my boys were excited.  We made arrangements for a Pastor and his wife, in the area where my brother and his girlfriend lived, to bring the girls from the hospital to their home, where we would meet them.  We had everything prepared except for two car seats, diapers and formula.  We thought we were ready.





That's when the second call came...this time from my mother.  I have no idea how much time lapsed between the first call and the second.  It was enough to believe that we were really going to adopt two little girls, and we were preparing to bring them HOME.  Some how during the conversation my mom let me know that my brother found out he could get custody of the babies and bring them home, and we would not be adopting them after all.  I never heard a word from my brother.  The anger, the hurt, the disappointment, all the emotions you could imagine raced through my soul and mind over the next few days.  How do you tell your sons 9 & 3 that they are not going to be big brothers after all.  How do you look at the crib, changing table, little girls clothing that you prepared, and not reignite the flames of anger and hurt??





The babies were born about two weeks later, a little premature, but healthy, and my brother did indeed take custody of his daughters and bring them home from the hospital to live with him and their mother.  These were his daughters, after all.

A couple of weeks later, our family was preparing for an Easter get together and I would see my brother and his daughters for the first time.  As I prepared, my emotions were running my show more often than I even realized.

One of those beautiful Spring days just before Easter I was push mowing our front lawn and rehearsing in my mind all the things I was going to tell my brother.  And reminding myself of how much I had a right to be angry!!  After all, he didn't even call me.  We had met with lawyers, and Pastors, and planned, and purchased, I had to explain all this to my boys.  He hadn't just hurt me he hurt my children.  He left me to call the lawyers, pastor's wife, box up clothes, take down the crib, etc.  I was building my case, argument, after argument, and I was going to tell him ALL of it when I saw him at my parent's house for Easter! I convinced myself I had every right to be angry, look what he had done to me! to my family!  Yes, yes, I had a right to be angry, and I was hanging tight to that right with every lap I made with the lawn mower that day.




Then I heard God's voice...not an audible voice, but his still small voice in my soul.  His Spirit speaking deep into my heart.  "You have no rights, you are a slave."  I had been attending a ladies Bible study and we had recently studied "being a slave to righteousness." I stopped the mower and went inside to look up the verses.  (Romans 6:15-23)  I read these verses over a couple of times, before I returned to mowing.  It was true, I gave up my rights to follow Christ.  I was no longer a slave to my will and emotions, but a slave to his righteousness.

"But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. 
Now you do those things which lead to holiness and result in eternal life."
  Romans 6:22 NLT 

I would be a slave to whatever I chose to obey.  I could hold onto my "rights" and become enslaved to them, or I could trust God and let Him deal with me, my brother, my family, all of it.  I chose to let it go.  I chose to accept that I had no rights, I did not get to stay angry and try to make my brother "pay" for what he did, or "feel" how bad I hurt.  This was not my battle to fight.  I swallowed hard and accepted what God was telling me.

So, I went to my mom & dad's for Easter.  I wish I could say I was gracious;  I wish I could say I was excited for my brother and his girlfriend and couldn't wait to see the baby girls; I can't say that.  What I did was keep my mouth shut!  I kept my distance,  I was cool and avoided any "real" conversations with my brother (with anyone).  I didn't rush in excited to hold my nieces, in fact that day I only held one of them.  I only held her, because my brother proudly deposited her into my arms.  He had every reason to be proud. 

I wish I could say that was it...we lived civilly ever after.  But a couple weeks later we received another phone call.  I cannot even remember who made that call, I think it was my mom, but I don't really remember.   I do remember that the call shattered us all.  One of the twins (the same one I held briefly) had died of SIDS.  The loss of a tiny life touches us all, so deeply.  We gathered a few days later for her funeral.  Two things I remember about that funeral.  The devastation of the tiny little casket with an even tinier lifeless body in it, and her sister crying in the same room.  I also remember putting my arms around my brother and sharing a sincere embrace as I whispered, "I am so sorry for your loss."  Because I was. 

I praise God to this day that He knew so much better than I what to say and do with my brother.  If I had shot off my mouth and voiced all the hurt inside to my brother that Easter weekend, I would have ruined Easter for my family, but most important I could never have been able to wrap my arms around my brother and sincerely, share his grief, and acknowledge his great loss. 

I learned forever that God's ways are so much better than mine.   I also learned that rights and freedom are not the same thing.  I had a right to vent my anger.  My brother had a right to take custody of his daughters.  But because I listened to God and lay down my perceived rights I was free to love my brother and stand with him on a very sad day in all of our lives.  I was free too, of years of guilt that would have followed shooting off my mouth and then losing this tiny life. 

I can honestly say that while I still struggle with my "rights" I rarely make decisions based on my rights...I look more honestly, and compassionately at the other persons rights and point of view.  I am more free to love others than if I never walked this path. There are lots of wounded hearts in this world and everyone of them needs to heal and be set free. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Amazing Faith

Recently, someone told me my faith was amazing.  What she did not know was at that very moment my faith was very, very weak.  My immediate thought,"if she only knew..."
  
My faith had become a small ember buried under  the ash of old wounds, the ash of forgotten hurts resurfaced, the ash of doing hard things,  the ash of longing unfulfilled.  The ashes smother and block out the fresh winds, that can spark even the smallest ember into a roaring flame.  

On top of the ashes someone has thrown new logs...the logs of everyday tasks, the logs of the mundane, the logs of unanswered questions, the logs of waiting for answers, the logs of not enough hours to complete the daily tasks. The logs wait for the flames to lick at them...consume them and bring the light and warmth, but the ember struggles to stay alive.  

Perhaps this is amazing faith
  
Perhaps the tiny flicker that can receive a fresh wind, a new stirring and leap into consuming flame is still amazing faith.  The amazement is in the potential not the size of the ember.  It still glows however faintly.  Still carries the capacity to light, to warm, to set a blaze all that it touches.  
Stir up the ashes oh Lord, Blow them away so your fresh wind can awake the ember. 

Consuming fire rise to tackle logs of daily life, turn the logs into life giving moments.  Turn the darkness into light, the cold into heat.  

Take my small ember and use it to light a fire.  Amazing Faith.  I believe my ember is enough.