Sunday, November 22, 2009

Family Size

Another question I hear frequently is, " you think you are done?" As in done having children. Or adding children. Or parenting more children.

Again...a very touchy and often controversial subject. I have found people have really strong opinions about sizes of families. While large families are nothing new for us (I am one of 6 and Mark is one of 8) it is something akin to a 7th wonder of the world if you are all seen together. And we only have 5 children. And I don't say 'only 5' lightly. Because when you tell people you have 5 they suddenly seem to acquire some sort of bulging eye issue.

I had Heidi and Eden with me on Friday when I was getting groceries. Heidi was asleep in her car seat and Eden was 'helping' me push the cart through the store. In my mind we were having a very successful shopping trip which basically means the mom isn't feeling frazzled by her children. A woman glanced at me and said, "Wow! You have your hands full!" I was thinking to myself....really? Because I have one child who is sleeping peacefully and another child who was actually being helpful. Why were my hands full?

I have heard often and actually at one point almost believed the common argument that there is more dysfunction in larger families. That children feel lost, unseen and cannot have their needs met when in large families. Can I just say this: EVERY family has dysfunction! The size of the family does not dictate whether or not dysfunction will be present. Our human nature and sinfulness is what causes the dysfunction. I know there are varying degrees of dysfunction- you just have to watch people, watch the news, read the news to be aware of that fact. I will never forget the day my therapist confirmed my greatest fears: will hurt your children. You will do many things wrong. They may need counseling of their own. But is counseling so bad? it isn't bad at all. In fact, I learned more about myself sitting on her couch than almost anywhere else.

What about the idea that children will feel lost and unseen in their own home? Again...does the size of the family dictate that? Or do our hobbies, our busy lives, our "stuff" ultimately decide for us. So much hinges on personalities of children too. We have one son who demands very little of my time, is content to play alone, etc. I have to make a very conscious effort to connect with him. He is a child who could become 'lost'. I doesn't matter if we have 7 or 3 children. He would still have the same personality and I would still have to make the effort. We also have children who could dominate all my time and could dictate the dynamics of our home. We are aware of this and work daily to make sure they do not get all the attention. Do we do things perfectly? Obviously not!! Far from perfect. In fact so many days I tell Mark I am screwing my children up. I still have baggage to work through and will all my life.

Which brings me to this: we are flawed! Life is flawed! But there is redemption!! I am who I am because of how I was raised and my life experiences thus far! Has my life been perfect? No. Has it been blessed? Absolutely! I am more appreciative of my Father God because my earthly father did little to meet this "little" girls needs. While God has brought tremendous healing and redemption I sit here and still tear up as I type this. The pain is always raw. But I am who I am because of it. I could sit here and wish things would have been different. I could sit here and wonder what life would have been like. But why? I am comfortable with who I am and extremely grateful for my life! Look at Old Testament. Look at the story of Joseph for example. Obvious dysfunction! He was clearly a favorite out of the boys, his brothers despised him for it, sold know the story. But look at the redemption! Or what about David' life. A very sordid tale. But again...the lineage of Jesus was birthed out of brokenness!

For me, the dysfunction that I have experienced in my life has made me so aware that I need a Savior. I need a Redeemer! It really doesn't matter if there are 2, 4, 6, 8, 10.....children! I will parent, love, mess up, ask for forgiveness, admit my brokenness and do the best I can at raising the children God has blessed me with.

**I started this post two days ago and am just getting back to it. I am just going to wrap it up and continue on with a few more thoughts the next time. I really hope this is filled with grace and doesn't feel in anyway like judgement.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Solitude and Other Swirling Thoughts

I love quietness. I do not mind having time alone and to myself. I don't necessarily crave alone time but when I stumble upon it I welcome it. While I am not alone right now technically (there are 5 sleeping children in the house) I am basking in quietness. An absolute rarity. Mark went to life group tonight and I opted to stay home since Shane is still a bit under the weather and I can't seem to get through more than 2 minutes without coming close to coughing up one of my lungs. My abs have been getting a phenominal workout but unfortunately my lower back isn't too pleased with my coughing spasms. I have been having a little flair up with my bulging disc and this isn't helping matters. But I have nothing to complain about, right Steffany? :)

Just when I thought we were dodging the sick bullet we got hit. Judah first, then Shane. Judah had fever, aches, severe headaches, chills.....for three days. He only missed one day of school since it hit on Saturday. Normally he is very dramatic about being sick but he felt so lousy this time that he hardly spoke a word for 2 days. Monday afternoon he came into the kitchen and wondered if we had any broccoli. He hadn't really eaten anything since Friday so I looked at him funny. He sat down and ate almost 2 complete heads of broccoli. Silly kid!

Shane started with it on Sunday evening. Fever, huge glands and just overall aches. He is doing some better because he started eating today. His neck is really stiff though and his glands are freakishly huge! If they aren't improved tomorrow morning I will be calling the doctor I think.

And I just have an obnoxious cold. I will get over it though - no need to continue complaining.

Wow!! Peace and quiet is something I would buy if it were purchasable. This is lovely!!

So excited for Lana and Larry who we met while in Ethiopia. They passed court yesterday and they are parents to beautiful sisters ages 6 and 8. I can't help but look at my boys who are the same age and wonder what these precious girls must be feeling. I know some of their story but it isn't mine to tell. Just pray for the transition for them, for Lana and Larry and their other children. This will be number 7 & 8 for them!

Which brings me to a question I hear from people sometimes. "How much money did it cost for you to adopt Eden? Followed by, "How can people afford to adopt?" At first I didn't mind answering the question too much. But as time went on I began to find the question offensive. I found myself wanting to say, "Just how much is too much? How much is a child worth? How much are your children worth to you?"

I view things so often through the filter of if the tables were turned. What if I were the one dying of AIDS? What if my children were about to be orphaned? How much would I value their lives? Would I want someone to let them sit because they were scared of what baggage they might bring with them? Would I want someone to look over them because it cost too much?

Adoption isn't cheap! But more than the monetary investment it is the eternal investment. Rarely do you find someone who has the spare thousands lying around. Almost always it is a life of sacrifice, a life of maybe doing without something that we deem "necessary".

Why is it that so often it is the families who have 4, 5, or six children who return to bring more children home? Is it because they have so much spare cash? Probably not! Is it because they have experienced the Fathers heart and heard His heart breaking over these precious children made in His image? Probably so. Having children isn't a trivial thing. Is doesn't matter how they become your children. It is a lifetime of investing in them: their character, their relationships with each other, their relationship with you, their hobbies, their get the idea. I do not view having children lightly. It is a huge task and responsibility. I am convinced though that the sleepless nights and the intense seasons of molding character are beyond worth it.

I remember when we first started the paperwork process and talking with someone (I think you will remember who you are) about the financial side of things. I said I had numerous people tell me that if God was calling us to adopt we wouldn't go into debt. That is a whole other subject that I have no desire to get into. I remember asking this person how they had completed their adoption and if they had any debt left over. And you know? They said something so simple yet so profound that it really was pivitol in our journey. She looked at me and said, "So what if you have $5,000 in debt left over. People buy brand new vehicles, pay on them for 5 years and have something that is worth nothing in 10 years. A child has an eternal soul! They are priceless!" I walked away thinking to myself that I didn't care what people thought anymore. I didn't care if we had to get an adoption loan.

I talked with our agency this week about some paperwork that I needed to forward to them. Like Eden's re-adoption, her PA birth certificate, etc. I asked them how they process older adoptions since we have been tossing that around. I was shocked....stunned....when they told me that they only do 5-10 adoptions per year of children who are "older" (I am assuming this means past the age of 2). They do approximately 70 adoptions per year of infants. I took in this information but as I thought about it later my heart was saddened. That means almost all the beautiful children who I photographed, touched and bantered with are still there. There are a few other agencies who also adopt from that orphanage so maybe they process the older children. But more than likely the vivacious little boy who had darkened front teeth from decay but whose smile was still so beautiful who daily took my hand and placed it on his head while saying, "Mama?" is still putting the hand of the next lady to walk through the door on his head and still asking, "Mama?"

Do you feel it? The tugging? Maybe you should succumb to it and take a risk. I am so glad we did. Even though my girl thinks she can pea while standing on the toilet seat and proceeds to pea everywhere. More than once a day. Ugggh! Even though she loves to push my buttons and gets a horribly mischievious grin on her face when she knows I am upset. Darn those emotions anyhow!!

Maybe I will write some more another day. I do feel a measure of grace. We will see. But for now.....adoption is worth it and you absolutely cannot put a price on a child. They are indeed precious and priceless!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Toy Eating Couch

Had the carpets cleaned today and found a wonderful assortment of missing game pieces, puzzle pieces, crayons, get the idea. Basically everything you can imagine except for any of the children. Felt a bit embarrassed but figured the guys who were cleaning the carpets have seen worse. At least I hope.

So I am left wondering.....can I re gift any of the lost and now found items to my children? Seems logical since they have been missing for so long.

Of course I am kidding since I am already almost finished with Christmas shopping for my kids. If only I would have had the carpets cleaned a month ago.........

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Orphan Sunday

As most of you is orphan Sunday. My heart is burdened as always but with a bit more intensity lately. Knowing there are 143 million orphans is heart wrenching. Did you know that if those 143 million orphans held hands and stood in a row they would reach around the earth 4 times? Staggering!!

When we started on our journey to bringing Eden home I would never have dreamt that God would take the plight of the orphan and brand it on my heart. He didn't just stamp it - he branded me for life!!

On a daily basis I ask God what it is that I need to do. I cannot walk away from what I saw and not do something. I cannot read the stats and just walk away. I cannot stare into the faces of these precious children and assume that someone else will do something.

It is my responsibility! My job! Until the day I die I will be outspoken for these children. To the point of obnoxiousness possibly.

On that note (and this is the post I said has been swimming in my mind) I will just ask for anyone who reads my blog to go to this link and seriously consider bringing this child home. And for the record....this post hasn't even gotten started!! I have much to say but need to still figure out how to say everything with as much grace as possible. And towards the end of this post make sure you click on her post about meeting her sons birth mother. Read it! Let it go deep! Allow yourself to mourn and yet rejoice with this woman! This is life people!

James 1:27 - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Time for Heidi

Are you ready for the rolls? Because we have some very sweet rolls at this house!! From the back she looks exactly like Shane when he was a baby! Same head shape and hair. Although she has hardly any hair. Maybe someday....
And from the front she looks like Shane too! In fact, we have started calling her Shane Junior. Or Jr for short!
And since Shane loves babies and especially Heidi he is beyond pleased knowing she resembles him. it just me or does time seem to be in overdrive? I have numerous posts that have been swirling in my head and haven't had the time to get my thoughts out. But before I can embark on all those things I have a sweet little girl to write about.

Where to start? At the beginning I guess. I so vividly remember the day I found out I was pregnant with her. I was just getting over mono, starting to feel pretty good yet was a bit suspicious. We had taken the two older boys to a local amusement park to spend the day on the water slides. I had mentioned to Mark that I was a bit suspicious but we both dismissed it since it seemed so highly unlikely. I went into the bathroom and saw these two cute little girls holding hands, whispering and giggling. One was African-American and one was Caucasian. In that instant I felt this whisper in my heart that I was looking at our future. I was not okay with that thought. I decided the next day to pick up a pregnancy test when I was at the grocery store. I came home and took the test while Mark was bathing Tristan and Eden. I ran up the steps crying and showed Mark the test. I was a bit hysterical especially when I realized Mark was so excited!!

Fast forward to now! incredibly grateful and honored I am to parent this beautiful little girl! Literally everyday Mark and I talk about what we would be missing if she weren't here. Seriously...everyday!

What has been one of the best parts of the past year is the work God did in my heart! I was so confident that I was open to whatever the Lord wanted to bring my way. But when he disrupted my plans and things felt outside of my control I realized how much I still wanted to maintain control of my life. I have so far to go but I know my heart is softening and I desire more than ever to embrace the blessings God has for me!
Those of you who know me or who have read my blog for a while know that Heidi was definitely not an easy baby. I had so many days when I just wanted to dig a hole somewhere and hide. But now...she brings immeasurable joy to my day! She still is happiest at home without extra chaos but is starting to handle crowds a bit better. I am amazed by her. Her smile is always ready and she needs no prompting to display it! She is beginning to move around surprisingly well for just an army crawl. I am going to have to invest in a gate real soon so she is safe from the steps.
I am feeling extremely inept today at getting my feelings out. It may have something to do with the interruptions of the other two little ones. Mark took Shane and Judah to his sister Joyce's college field hockey game. I thought that I would have time to finish up this post with minimal disturbances but how silly I was to assume such a thing.
Today I am eternally grateful for the gift God gave us when He entrusted us with Heidi. As always I desire to love her, guide her, lead Her to the Father and set her free to walk in what He has laid out for her. She is the best surprise of my life, hands down!!!