Thursday, December 5, 2013

what's your scorpion?

i don't remember exactly where we were.  somewhere in israel.

and i don't remember exactly when it was.  about midway through our 10 day trip, give or take a day.

but i remember the parable.

it was told by our shepherd/rabbi/pastor/leader's wife.

and it went something like this...

"there was once a man who had to journey up a mountain.  as he began his journey, a scorpion stopped him.  the scorpion asked the man, 'may i join you on your journey?'.  of course, the man's first response was, 'no, you are a scorpion.  why would i want you to join me on my journey?'.  the scorpion quickly replied, 'well, i, too, have to get up the mountain and i can keep you company along the way'.  after the scorpion convinced the man that he would not sting him or harm him on their journey, the man picked up the scorpion and set him on his shoulder and continued up the mountain.  the journey seemed to go quickly and the hike wasn't as hard as the man thought it was going to be.  he was glad he brought the scorpion along to keep him company and help pass time.  finally, the two arrived at the top of the mountain.  and the scorpion took his stinger and stuck it in he man's neck.  as the man lay there on the ground dying, he reminded the scorpion, 'you said you wouldn't sting me.'  the scorpion replied, 'i said i wouldn't sting you on our journey.  but our journey is done and i don't need you anymore.'

okay.  so i may have paraphrased a lot of it.  but the lesson of the parable is this...just like the man in the parable i tend to want to make my journey, on this side of heaven, easy and comfortable.  and when things get hard and are only going to get harder, i look for something to make it easier, a.k.a. my scorpion.

and just like the man who carried the scorpion and missed out on all the sights, sounds, quiet moments...i too, when carrying my "scorpion" miss out on all that Jesus has for me and the opportunity for Him to shine through me.

why?  why do i want to make it easier and more comfortable?  because i think i deserve it.  truth is i don't.

as i sit and type this, a pastor is being held in an iranian prison under what is said to be deplorable conditions all for the name of Jesus Christ.

as i sit and type this, a video can be seen online of a group of pro-abortionists in argentina raiding a catholic church but are met with a blockade of praying men.  and the rage of the pro-abortionists is taken out on the men...spray paint in their faces, spitting in their faces, bras wrapped around their necks...all for the cause of LIFE.

i am not trying to minimalize my struggles or your struggles...but i needed this parable reminder to help me put things into perspective.  again.

the hikes in israel up mountains and over rough terrain were and are a true parallel to life.  to life as a follower of Jesus Christ.  while in israel we never knew where we were going, only our shepherd knew.  it was physically exhausting from the heat and constant moving up, down, up, down, scaling the side of mountains.  spiritually, some days you felt so close to God and other days wondered, "where in the world are You?".  emotionally and mentally, trying to do battle between what you know as truth and what you see right in front of you (i.e. hezekiah's tunnel).  and while there i didn't need or even want my scorpion.  as hard as some days were, all i wanted at the end of the day was more of Jesus. 

but now, almost six months later, i've gone back to my old habits, my scorpions.  instead of wanting more of Jesus at the end of the day, i would look forward to a drink or two along with a couple of cigarettes.  just enough to take the edge off of what i considered to be a "hard" day...middles fighting/raging, littles learning defiance, olders secluding themselves in their own rooms when not helping with the littles.  i deserve a little relief, right?

no.  i am tired of using alcohol or cigarettes as my crutch as my scorpion.  i never really understood how somebody could say, "i want to live wholeheartedly for Jesus" and actually do it, 'cuz we're all sinners.  but, can i tell you something?  He is doing something in my heart.  He is asking me to live wholeheartedly for him.  to praise Him when my mind goes to a drink or a smoke.  to cast all my cares at His feet and watch Him move.

if brothers and sisters in Christ are standing up for their faith to the point of being persecuted almost to death, then who am i as a Christ follower to give a scorpion a ride on my shoulder as i journey through life this side of heaven?

i'm broken and desperate and in need of my Saviour.

in His grace. and. always. everything for His glory.







Saturday, November 23, 2013

one month and 11 days...for the love, ninevah?

not too long ago i shared a bit about grief...ya know...how i cried every sunday at church after finding out we were moving to ninevah.

and since that post, i've shared about God's goodness to us here on the farm.

all of it's true.

all of it.

but before i share what's been stirrin' in my heart this week, i feel like i need to let y'all know that i have NO doubts that God wants us here. 

none.

and i have not even one single doubt that He has a plan.

He does.

that doesn't mean i'm not gonna to wrestle with Him and hold onto Him until He shows us why in the world we're here in ninevah.

okay?

okay.

so...let's go down memory lane, shall we?  remember back to your first week as a freshman at college.  remember?  the excitement of it all.  the week was full of new classes, new acquaintances, new freedoms.  everything was new. new. new.

and then the weekend came.

the weekend...when you asked yourself, "do i go home or stick it out here on my own?"  and you would go back and forth battling it out in your mind until you reached a decision.

some weekends you stayed and toughed it out on your own.  alone.  no real friends yet.  no real community yet.  just you in your dorm or apartment wrestling with what it's supposed to look like now that you're on your own.

and the other weekends you would go back HOME.  HOME.  we're everything was familiar.  smells of yummy food.  sounds of laughter.  friends.  family.  HOME made you feel like you were part of something big or small.  but you felt connected.  you could be yourself and be received with love and grace.  no matter what. 

well, for the patten8, over the past month and 11 days, we all very much feel like a freshman in college. 

we're all feeling the lack of community.  and we're all dealing with the grief of moving away from that sweet community of people and fellow followers of Jesus.

so we have eight people (minus mo and j) dealing with grief in six different ways.

there's the:
"i'm goin to my room"
or
"let's be snarky to our siblings"
or
"feelings easily hurt at school which leads to MAJOR meltdown at home"
or
"let's bully the other kids at school in order to have control over something"
or, how about,
"crying every sunday before and after church"
or
"bury myself in my work"

so, yes, "for the love, ninevah?"

now i know it's not ninevah's fault.  heck, it's no one's fault that we are having such a hard time with it all.  except maybe our own. 

'cuz if i sit quietly and listen to Him, i know He is working something out of my heart in order to make room for something better.  because He knows what's best.  for me.  for us.

and when i sit quietly and listen...i can feel Him carefully and gently loosen my grip on what I SO BADLY WANT and He whispers, "i know you're hurting and sad.  but I love you.  I love your family.  and I have plans for all of you.  trust ME.  love ME.  okay?"

okay.

i suck at surrender.  but He doesn't.

He is faithful.  trustworthy.  full of grace and mercy.

and if you go back to your first week as a freshman and then the weeks that follow, you remember that eventually, you gain new friends.  new community. new connections with people who accept you with grace and receive you in love.

oh, how i need Jesus.

in His grace. and. always. everything for His glory.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

a time to share

i wanna share this article with you about adoption. 

why?

well, first off, it's national adoption month.

secondly, it just needs to be shared.

the other night my hubby and i had the privilege of sitting down with a lady from bethany christian services.  she came here to our farm with camera and questions in tow asking us to share our story.  and as the questions started coming and the answers started flowing, so did the tears.  from me.

every time i'm asked to share our adoption journey story there's always a part that chokes me up...that brings healing to my momma's heart...it's the part about how hard it has been BUT God's faithfulness to us throughout it all.

so, even though i don't know katie davis personally, i am pretty confident she would testify to God's faithfulness.  to God's redemptive work in her not because of who she is but because of who God is.

adoption is redemptive. 

but if you have the notion that you are going to put on your superman cape or fancy, red superwoman boots to rush in and save a child from utter despair...please.  please.  rethink that notion.

only God. can. save. through. Jesus. and what He did for each of us on that cross.

in His grace. and. always. everything. for His glory.

amen.

Monday, November 4, 2013

little ole me? a guest writer? who woulda thunk it?

so november is national adoption month.

and bethany christian services asked if i would write a blog post, share our story.

and here it is, folks.

in His grace. and. always. for His glory.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

settlin in on the patten8 farm

this farm...

has brought healing. bless the Lord oh my soul!  i see a difference in our children, especially our k.  she is completely and utterly thriving since we've settled here.

has brought freedom.  to run and jump and yell and scream and ride the quad and put on our shitkickers and sit outside at night on the front porch and look up at the stars and watch the amtrack train whiz by on the track across the road.  (run-on sentence is intentional.  freedom, right?)  {smile}

has brought all things good.  breakfast in the morning with my olders which i haven't done in a long time.  along with a little "jesus calling for children" and prayer to start the day before they venture out to the bus stop.

is a gift.  undeserving gift given from our Papa to us...eight broken, desperate, messed-up people some of whom have surrendered their hearts and lives to Jesus and some of whom are being discipled to walk in the way of our Saviour.

has brought life.  to breathe one breathe and think one thought without the chaos.  or doubts.  or fears.  i see fruit, real fruit that i haven't seen before.

has brought laughter...laugh out loud, laugh-til-your-tummy-hurts laughter.  whether it's outside running and romping around or inside rolling around on the floor.  it's a sweet sound to this momma's ears.

has brought tears.  happy tears because it's seems so unreal that we are HERE.  on this place with all this land and barns to explore.  sad tears because friends and church family are missed.  a mini meltdown may or may not have taken place in my bedroom sunday morning while getting ready for church.

has brought back old memories of summers at my grandparents farm...the smells, the sounds, the wallpaper.  and it fills my heart.

has brought work.  and will continue to bring work.  a majority of the rooms upstairs NEED some sort of work to be done if not the entire room.  and next year, Lord willing, we will have animals roamin the acreage...which will require work.  (i can't wait!!!)

has brought shalom.  a banner of shalom.  each corner of the banner tent-pegged into the four corners of this property.  it's here.  not by anything we have done.  but He has done and is doing.

has space.  and lots of it.  that we want to share with y'all.  we want to share what He has done.  we want to share this gift with you.

"The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." - psalm 126:3





in His grace.  and everything. always.  for His glory.

amen.







Tuesday, October 1, 2013

revisiting israel

i've been thinking a lot about israel lately.  what i experienced.  what i learned.  what i never want to forget.

but it's hard.  it's hard to recall what took place over that twelve days.  because it's been three months since we've been back.  which means three months of life has crept in and in some ways snuffed out those twelve days. 

so this morning because my kiddos have a two hour delay, i took the time to read through our tour book/journal.  the first page of the book has the shema written on it in hebrew and english.  we said the shema, "hear oh israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone..." every day, sometimes twice a day.  together.  as a group.  i can't even explain to you what that does to your heart and soul.  so powerful.

beyond the first page, is page after page of the different sites we hiked to with notes and more notes written on each page.  reading through each page brought me back to the spot.  i can picture it in my minds eye.  i can feel the heat.  i can hear the sounds.  and then i came to the page titled, "gezer". 

gezer was our first hike.  after a long flight from grand rapids, to atlanta, to new york, and finally to israel, we got off the plane and grabbed our luggage, walked through the airport and met our shepherd/rabbi/pastor who then took us to our bus and off we went.  to gezer.

once we arrived to our destination, we grabbed our camelbacks, Bibles, and journals and started the hike.  it was beautiful.  the plants.  the land.  the sky.  all of it.  simply beautiful.

as we hiked along, we finally reached what was the remains of a city gate.  and we found a comfy spot on one of the rocky walls and got our journals, Bibles, and pens out, ready to take in what our shepherd/rabbi was going to teach us.

i'm not going to share every detail of what we learned that evening...'cuz maybe you will find yourself sitting in the same spot i was, listening to the same teaching and i don't want to spoil it for ya.  i pray you will have that opportunity.

but i am going to share this part.  because this is the part that grabbed my heart this morning.  this is the part Jesus wanted me to remember.  to give me hope and encouragement and not be weary and worn down by the chaos of my life over the past few weeks. 

our shepherd/rabbi/pastor shared the story of how long ago a plague came through the city.  a deadly plague.  people were dying.  people were fleeing because people were dying.  but guess who stayed?  guess who ran to the help of those dying?  Christ follwers.  not because they had it all together and were better than anyone else.  but because they understood the cost of Jesus Christ's love for them and that motivated them to help others in time of need.

and here's what got me about the story, somewhere it's recorded that one of the dying people asked one of the Christ followers, "why are you doing this?  why did you stay?".

the answer, "i stayed for you".

in all the death and chaos surrounding this Christ follower.  he stayed.

in all the death and chaos surrounding Christ.  he stayed.

so who am i to throw up my hands when my middles' (q and k's) behavior is off the charts terrible?  i could so easily walk the other way in anger and frustration from all that they throw at me.  and believe me, in some sense, i had to.  i implemented a "hands-off" parenting technique.  no instruction from me.  no communication with them.  and do you know how hard that was?  to not communicate with them.  to not give them a word of encouragement or a hug.  but every time i opened my mouth, an argument broke out and nothing was resolved.  so a week of "hands-off" parenting became the result of all that.

so who am i?  if i understand God's huge love for me and what Jesus has done for me, or even if i am just starting to understand His love and the price He paid to save me from my sinfulness and chaos...

then who am i?

He stayed for me.

i, through His grace and mercy and strength and love, will stay for them.

not because i am so good...but because He is so good.  (credit to our shepherd/rabbi/pastor for that line.  and it's also found in Deuteronomy).

in His grace. and. always. everything for His glory.



Sunday, September 22, 2013

the farm (in ninevah...not really ninevah)

*disclaimer - this is a multimedia post.  something i don't usually do but had to just this once. {smile}




the patten8 farm



the patten8's new home



"big red" - the tractor that we'll be using to do work on the farm
"shitkickers" - a necessity for the farm
 
 
 
y'all might think we're a little crazy moving the patten8 to a farm.  and that's okay.  but can i just tell you how completely and totally ecstatic we all are to be able to live on this beautiful piece of land?!?!?
 
only in my wildest dreams did i ever think i would be movin to a place like this.  seriously.  it's only by the grace of God, folks, that we get to live, and work, and breathe country living.
 
and i, for one, can. not. wait!
 
here's why...
 
we're gonna work and get our hands dirty and sweat and feel sore and all kinds of good stuff like that. 
and we're gonna plow the land, cultivate, plant, nuture, grow fruits and veggies. 
and we're gonna raise chickens, sheep, goats, cows and learn about life and death. 
and we're gonna have a horse and learn about breaking a horse to ride and not be afraid.
 
and we're gonna do all of this, ALL OF THIS because...
 

Psalm 126

A song of ascents.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
 Our mouths were filled with laughter,    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
 The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.
 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
    Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
 Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.
(emphasis mine)
 
for those of you who have followed our journey know the tears that have been shed in this home and the many times i've wanted to say "enough.  i give up.". 
 
but He has brought us joy...not just because of the farm.  but because He has given us -broken, desperate, barren and weak followers - a deeper sense of His love for us.  for me. 
 
our first night in israel, my hubby and i had the honor of sitting at the same table as our pastor/shepherd/rabbi rod and his lovely wife/shepherdess/rabbanit libby.  our conversation turned to raising kiddos and how hard it is.  i remember how at one point i passionately shared how i wanted to raise my six kiddos on a farm because i was raised on a farm and it was such a great experience.  not always fun.  but so good.
 
little did i know that only a few short months after that conversation would we be moving to a farm.  the farm.  the one He had picked out for us before time began.
 
"and we are filled with joy."
 
in His grace. and. always. for His glory.
 
amen.
 
p.s. ninevah isn't looking so bad after all...and we'll be subscribing to "small farm journal". 
now click here...our theme song for this chapter of our journey.
 




Sunday, August 11, 2013

oh ninevah!

a few posts ago i mentioned something about grief and writing about grief.

now at that time i was, in my heart, referring to the grief i experience every now and then when i think of my family and what it used to be before the fostering and adoption of the middles and littles.  and i was referring to the grief i experience every now and then when i think about what i thought our growing family was going to look like and what it really looks like.

and maybe just maybe i will write about that grief.

but for now i'm going to write about a new grief.  the grief i experience every sunday as i stand next to my hubby in church and someone smiles or says "hi" and the waterworks start as if someone close to me died.

now before i start, let me say, i've never experienced the loss of a loved one (mom, dad, sister, brother, hubby, or child)  my hubby's father passed away a couple years ago.  and although i was not super-duper close to him, i miss him.  he was one of the most godly men i have ever known.

see here's the thing...we're movin.  i don't know when.  not really sure how.  but we are.  and my hubby is gone all week and i'm home all week with 6 kiddos.  and then the weekend comes and he's home and all 6 kiddos plus me want time with him.  that undivided time with him.  but he can't.  not that he doesn't want to.  he does.  but he can't.  'cuz he's workin on the projects that need to be done before our house can be sold.

so when i stand next to him in church, the same church we've been attending for the last eight years
...the same church where i was baptized (twice - once in GR and once on our trip to israel with our pastor)
...the same church where b and sj were baptized
...the same church that watched our family grow from the patten4 to the patten6
...the same church where we had q and k dedicated
...the same church that invited us to pray with a small group of people to seek God and his will for the Westside
...the same church that saw the patten6 grow into the patten7 and then saw mo dedicated
...the same church that cheered us on when we asked, "what would it look like to start an orphan care ministry?"
...the same church that watched our family grow from the patten7 into the patten8 and then saw j dedicated
...the same church that because of the last reason came around our family and supported us through meals, gift cards, money, babysitting, sleepovers, prayer, prayer, prayer.
...the same church that graciously accepted my stepping down from the orphan care ministry in order to work on my "downward spiraling" marriage and family that was in complete chaos.
...the same church where two other broken and desperate Jesus followers who had worked through some shit  junk in their marriage said "yes" when my hubby asked if they would meet with us and walk us through the valley of our marriage
...the same church that gifted us with a trip to israel and because of that trip our lives have been changed forever (so many reasons i'll have to save that for another post)
...and last and really the most important. because if this didn't happen then none of the other reasons really matter - the same church that every sunday teaches truth and preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  everything.  EVERYTHING.  points to Jesus.
so when i stand next to my hubby in church, i cry.  no.  sob.  because it hurts.  it's like someone told me i have two months to live. and because i want to get the most out of life i go and participate and am real and soak in everything i can before we will no longer be standing next to each other in that church.

have you ever been part of something like that?

honestly.  even with all that.  i have hope, joy, and peace of what God has for us in ninevah jackson.

because whatever His plan is...is far better than we could ever imagine.

so i go back to telling myself what i learned in israel...

walk.
listen.
trust.

Jesus.

in His grace.  and.  always.  everything for His glory.

amen.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

uprooting

that's what i feel is going on in the patten8 home and hearts.  we're s.l.o.w.l.y. being uprooted from what we've known and lived over the past 10 years (give or take).  and in this place of uprootedness we're finding ourselves handling it differently.

my hubby...well, he's in ninevah jackson, mi starting his second full week as the new manager of the store he was given.  which means he's gone all week.  spending his nights in a hotel room.  eating meals either from burger king or red lobster, alone.  and he's talkin about finding an apartment to lease for the next few months just to help with expenses.

my olders (b and sj)...surprisingly they're on board about this move.  before when our family would hypothetically talk about moving neither of them wanted to at all.  now that it's reality and there's no way around it they have had more of a positive response which i can only attribute to God doing a work in their hearts.

my littles (m and j)...have no clue as to what is going on.  although, i'm sure they sense the "uprootedness" from the rest of us.

my middles.  you know the ones (q and k)...they're not handling it well.  which really is an understatement.  they don't like talking about moving.  about leaving their friends.  about leaving all they known.  and it was this reality that brought about a difficult yet honest conversation with the two of them last night as i was putting them to bed.

before we get to that i probably should tell you how i'm handling this uprooting...i have my days of being super excited (especially when looking at the houses and dreaming) but then i also have my days of sadness/questioning/anger.  and then things come up like a dead battery in my van.  husband's in ninevah
jackson.  not helpful.  but trying to see the blessing in it all. {breathe}

okay.  so back to my middles and the convo...i just got back from the shell gas station with pop and candybars for my olders as a "thank you" for watching m and j while i kept my eyes on q and k all day yesterday.  and q made a comment, "wow, they're lucky!".

"no", i said, "they earned that for helping me today because i had to watch you and k to help you make good choices and remind you what happens when you make bad choices."

"oh", q sighed.

and maybe it's all the emotions i'm feeling from all that's taken place this summer so far (israel, trip to iowa, in the process of moving, and now no working vehicle) but i couldn't let it end there.  nope.  i had to keep going.

so i proceeded to say, "i'm praying that one of these days you both will understand how much i/we love you.  and it's okay to have 'yucky' feelings about being scared that we might leave you and that we might stop loving you.  BUT the truth is we will ALWAYS love you and NEVER leave you.  we are your family.  i'm your mom.  that will NEVER change."
"but it isn't easy loving you", i continued, "in fact, it hurts to love you.  it hurts because we, as your parents, love you so much and want to teach you, help you, and grow you into followers of Jesus but you two don't care.  and how we know you don't care is by how you behave and treat each other and others, especially your family."

q pipes up, with tears and flailing arms, "WHY DON'T YOU JUST PUT ME IN A SPACESHIP AND SEND ME OFF TO SPACE THEN?"

thankfully, and divinely, i remained calm during the whole conversation even at this point as he was right in my face.  and i fixed my eyes with his eyes and lovingly yet firmly responded, "yes, it would be easy to do that.  send you off into space."

q interrupts, "see, i knew you were going to say that, you want to send me into space".

"q, listen to me.  please.  just listen.", i whispered, "i don't want to do that.  it would be the easy way out.  but God did not put me on this earth to live with easy way outs.  He put me on this earth for His glory and to love Him and others.  and if people can see Jesus in how i love you, then bless God.  yes, it is hard to love you but i wouldn't take it back for a second.  i wouldn't go back and change a thing or do anything different.  do you think it was easy for God, who deeply loved/s Jesus, to watch him come down to earth to live the life he lived and go through the torture and pain of his death?"

"no."

"i don't think so either, buddy.  so who am i to say i am not gonna love you because it's too hard?  i won't.  ever. say. that.  it hurts to love you but i will always love you.  that will never change.  never. ever."

in His grace and all for His glory.

amen.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

facebook status or "we're moving to ninevah"

okay...i'm sitting at my folks' farm thinking back over the status i posted on facebook.  and i feel like an explanation is in order.

so here it goes...

my status does reflect how i think now and where my heart is now about this whole moving to jackson.  but what you don't know is that for about a week i was very much a jonah (remember his fit throwing about going to ninevah?  that was me). throwing a tantrum.  crying.  stomping of feet.  asking God, "why ninevah jackson?  of all the places in the world, ninevah jackson?  where there's no friends, no family, no church family, and no lake?  just a prison?  really?"  His answer, "yep".

i knew in my head that this is what we needed to do.  and i was excited in my head for my hubby to finally achieve, by God's grace, one of his dreams of becoming a manager of his own store.  but all of this news came almost immediately after we got back from israel, a.k.a life changing/once in a lifetime trip.

in israel and because of israel and what God started in us and what he formed us into (insula), i couldn't understand why He would want us to move now.  i was completely open to moving before we left for israel.  i was open-handed and willing to go wherever He felt best.  then israel.  where we formed an un-compareable bond with 40 other broken, desperate followers of Jesus. in fact, one evening while staying in one of the hotels in israel, my hubby said, "i'd be okay with not moving and staying in GR as an outside sales guy.  i can't imagine not having these people in my life".  yep.  he said that.

and that's only the tip of the iceberg.  i can't even begin to tell you of all the friends in the coopersville community that have become like family...our next door neighbor, connie, who is so patient and tolerant of all the noises that come from the patten8 home.  my running partner and friend, mel, who's stuck with me over the past seven years when i had some bumps in the road - she's been there.  and the teachers at coopersville that have gone above and beyond their call as teachers (y'all know who you are) has been a rare gift for me and my family.  then there's our church, crossroads bible church, and the brothers and sisters in Christ that have locked arms with us over the last five years as they've watched our family grow...meals and groceries brought to us, babysitting, nannying, sleepovers, anonymous gift cards in the mail, praying for us, helping us with our house, helping us with our marriage...oh, and sending us to israel.  to name a few ways the people we gather with on sundays have become part of our family.

and i can't forget family.  biological family that's in the GR area.  they too have only been supportive of our growing family.  and we know and have seen their love in so many ways.

one more thing about israel...that's where we learned, in a deeper way, of trusting and following the Shepherd.  getting into a quiet space and listening to His whisper.  that's where i saw my husband put a stake in the ground and humbly state that with the help of Jesus, he's going to be the spiritual leader of our home.  he's going to be a part of our children's walk with Christ.  i've never doubted either of those things, but it took courage for him not only to confess that but to confess that out loud to 40 other broken Jesus followers.

so trust we will.  follow we must.  and listening.  yes.  always, listening to His whisper.  my hubby and i, hand in hand, are learning by walking.  which is more like an abraham than a jonah.  so jackson, it is.  for now.  and He's made my heart okay with that.

all for His glory.  and in His grace.  amen.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

my 2 cents about israel

so it's been a week since my return from israel.  and over the course of that time i've had some time to reflect and ponder over what took place those 12 days.  i'm putting my thoughts into words so that I won't forget.  because i never want to forget.  ever.  every last minute of that "once in a lifetime" trip.  but, i have to confess, i'm writing it for you as well.  in hopes that maybe, just maybe, His Spirit will nudge you and place in your heart a desire to go to israel.  and if He does, which he very well may, i pray you will be obedient to the nudge.  because it is so worth it. 

and with that being said, here's my two cents...

top 10 reasons to go to israel:

10.  when God clearly makes a way for you to go...you go.  what i mean by clearly is not only were my hubby and i graciously gifted with this trip BUT we also had four families step up and say they would take our 6 kiddos for 12 days.  all i can say is there are many treasures in heaven for y'all. seriously.  treasures. for. y'all.

9.  ethnic food and lessons in dining etiquette.  it only took me a few days of eating breakfast at the hotels when i finally realized having a salad bar with lettuce and toppings and dressing was the norm for that part of the world.  not to mention corn or mushrooms or fish...for breakfast.  i usually stuck with good ole yogurt and granola.  and as far as dining etiquette...there are NO lines.  none.  standing in line for a buffet style dinner means nothing to the native israelis.  there's no such thing as waiting in line.  if you want to get something to eat, just go for it.  which was slightly challenging for this rule follower, recovering type-A personality kinda gal.

8.  an awesome workout.  hiking 6 - 10 miles a day for 12 days is a great cardio workout plus carrying a camelback along with all your gear (bible, guidebook, journal, snacks, shot bloks) is great strength training.  my arms haven't looked better, nor have my legs.  although over time i had a hard time seeing my ankles due to the swelling.  (can you say "cankles"?)  my feet were about three times their normal size by the end of the twelve days.  even with that it was well worth it and i wouldn't have changed a thing.

7.  an insula (family) builder.  when we (41 of us from different walks of life) started out on this trip we each had our own reasons for going and our own journeys we were on.  some were more reserved than others in telling their stories about why they were on the trip or what they were really hoping to come away with when all was said and done.  but after you hike with, eat with, sleep with, carry water bottles for, encourage a fellow teammate who says they can't take another step, grab a hand to help the one behind you up the next steep climb; share snacks with, share sunscreen with, share sweat rags with, smell each other's stinky selves (there was not enough deoderant or body spray in the world to cover all our stink)...with all of that, walls came down and hearts were shared and we became an insula.  'cuz we're all equal at the foot of the cross and it really didn't matter what brought all 41 of us to this place when it was obvious that it was sovereignly ordained by our loving heavenly Father.

6.  to be a sheep.  not literally, of course.  but we were told from the very start that we needed to be able to trust our leader/shepherd (a.k.a. rod vansolkema, one of the pastors of crossroads bible church) which meant we very rarely knew where we were going or what we would be seeing until we arrived at the site and were told whether it would be a 1, 2, or 3 water bottle hike.  and for most of those sites we had to hike up mountains, through valleys, across desert, through wadis in order to reach the spot our shepherd wanted us to land.  and when we landed it was always well worth the trek.  always.  not only because the view was spectacular and breathtaking and made the Bible/Living Word really come to life but because you had to push against yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  or maybe it wasn't you pushing against yourself so much as it was you wrestling with God about your own human limitations.  and you wrestling with TRUST in the Gentle Shepherd.  and wrestling with keeping your eyes on the Gentle Shepherd.  to follow Him.  and Him alone.

5.  a marriage strengthener {smile}.  in order for something to become stronger, it has to be weak or broken. right?  well, broken and weak is what my marriage is without Jesus.  and even as i type those words my mind goes back to a point towards the end of our trip when i literally had an all. out. panic. attack.  (ask me about the holy sepulcher)  and wanted to go home...home as in coopersville, mi, usa (ask me about peeing my pants, if ya want).  through both of those unfortunate events, my hubby was a rock.  he let me share my fears without judging and also gently questioned and challenged me as to why in both of those situations i was not able to trust him.  and he reminded me that he would not let anything bad happen to me.  but me in my pride and being a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" kinda gal wasn't gonna let anyone, even my hubby, tell me what to do. the other question he asked in a non-condemning way was, "why didn't i trust Jesus?".  good question.  and i don't have a good answer.  i could go on and on and on about justifying my actions but the bottom line is i trusted Jesus up until that part of our trip and then i "took my eyes off Him".

4.  to experience the richness of culture.  one of the stops we made was the western wall in old city Jerusalem where men, women, and children of all ages come to pray/read Torah/study.  i could have sat and people watched for hours.  the way the young girls and women were modestly dressed.  and the young men and fathers with their yarmulkes and little boys running around with their payots (sidecurls).  priceless.  another experience was observing a jewish Shabbat shalom.  from Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown, no work.  they rest (except for those who have services for foreigners).  all of it made me wonder is culture alive and well in America today?  if so, what does it look like?

3.  a lesson in letting go.  leaving 6 kiddos behind might sound easy but for this momma it was a big deal.  i was especially concerned about my middle daughter, k.  so my hubby bought a cell phone plan that gave us unlimited texting and some minutes to talk.  and we also were able to skype twice with most of the 6.  but we had to coordinate times (israel is 7 hours ahead), know where we were going to be, and have internet availability or at least not be out in the middle of the desert in order to make contact with any of them.  so most nights when we had no contact with any of our 6 i had to let go my need to know they were okay and just trust that He was taking care of them.  no news was good news. 

2.  quiet time.  one of my favorites.  there were times during our hike that our shepherd would say, "okay, for the next part of our hike we're going to be silent".  that was like music to this momma's ears.  i was able to quiet my heart and open my ears to hear what He wanted to share with me.  something i find hard to do at home but was challenged to strive for it even when it seems unattainable.  for other insula members it wasn't easy to be silent...to push out the noise and really listen to what God wanted to speak to their hearts.  it's not easy.  but it's part of the journey. 

1.  LIFE CHANGING.  not. even. kidding.  and it's really hard to put into words but let me just say that when our group was told by the shepherdess (a.k.a. libby vansolkema) at jfk airport to do two things, "get alone with God and ask him to open your eyes to see what he wants you to see and open your ears to hear what he wants you to hear while you're in israel.  AND take a good look at yourself in the mirror because you will not be the same person when you come back".  i, honestly, didn't entirely believe her.  (sorry libby, if you're reading this)  i mean really, how can i not come back the same person?  but she was right.  God started doing something new in me while i was there.  something i've never experienced before.  and all i can say is it has been, and i pray forever will be, life changing.

all.  everything.  in His grace. and for His glory.

amen.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

revisiting

if i were to ask you, "what is respite?"  what would your answer be?
 
here's what merriam-webster says it is,
 
re·spite noun \ˈres-pət also ri-ˈspīt, British usually ˈres-ˌpīt\
Definition of RESPITE
1: a period of temporary delay
2: an interval of rest or relief
 
why am i bringing up respite, again
 
well, because there's been a rumbling in the adoption/foster care world over the past few weeks whether on my facebook news feed, blogs, or stories i hear from fellow adoptive parents.  and the rumbling is...there is a HUGE need for respite providers.
 
now i realize some of you may be thinking, "well, i need a break, too, from my own (biological) child/ren.  so what's the diff?"
 
good question.  let me fill you in, if i may. 
 
as a momma of two biological children, i understand the need to take a break, some time for you to breathe.  and when you get your break (i.e. movie, dinner, shopping, salon, etc.) you're ready to dive back in and, usually, you're kiddos are glad to see you and harmony is restored.
 
on the other hand, as a momma of four adopted kiddos, two of whom have some emotional/raging/defiant/trust/control issues, taking a break means almost squat to me and to them.  they, usually, could care less when i return home from a movie, shopping, or whatever.  and the behaviors tend to pick up right where they left off. 
 
BUT what does seem to be effective is respite.  and here's why...i, as their momma, get RELIEF for 24 hours or longer.  and they are continually reminded at respite of how much i (and the rest of our family) love them while they help with chores and do service work for the neighborhood where our respite provider is located. 
they are safe. 
they are fed (not their favorite foods.  no ice cream, popsicles, popcorn.  mostly whole foods and lots and lots of fruits and veggies). 
they are given matching shirts and shorts/pants to wear so no one will argue about clothing. 
they have their own bed, toothbrush, towel. 
they are given books to read and journals to write in. 
they are cared for and loved but not loved in a way where the provider wants to connect with my kiddos.  the provider wants to help them understand the importance of wanting to connect with me, their momma, and the rest of their family. 
and more times than not, when it's time to bring one or both of them home, they are happy to see me and i them.  and the behaviors are held at bay for a little while until something triggers one of them and off we go. 
but because of my REST and RELIEF, i can parent them in a loving way instead of flying off the handle.
 
so bottom line answer to "what's the diff?" is this...connecting.  while at respite my kiddos are learning about the importance of connecting with us, their family.  and i, with Jesus' help, am getting my heart back in a place where i want to connect with them. 
 
i've said it before and i will say it again, there is an automatic connection/bond between a momma and her biological baby/child.  it's innate.  there's a foundation from which you are parenting from. 
 
that's not so between a momma and her adopted/foster child.  that bond is not innate.  it has to begin to form the moment that child comes into your home.  and often times that child does not want to work on bonding because they're too busy figuring out how they can be in control because they don't trust you. 
 
this is one of the things i've learned over the past six and a half years of being a foster/adoptive momma...parenting an adopted child is two-fold...not only do i have to set boundaries, morals, values, but i also have to teach my adoptive child/ren how to bond with me and trust me.  the difficulty comes when my child/ren shows behaviors that make me want to run away from them instead of toward them.
 
that's why i'm so thankful we have a respite "card" to play when my kiddos behaviors have gotten WAY out of control and my momma's heart has become hard and disconnected from them.
 
can i ask you to do me a favor?  please?  if you're reading this and feel a nudge to learn more about respite care, will you leave a reply?  or if you're reading this and someone comes to mind that would be great at respite and teaching kiddos how to connect, will you leave a reply?
 
i know it's a huge step of faith to take but if Jesus is calling you, he will equip you.
 
respite is just another way of helping to care for the orphan...and in turn helping the families who are caring for the orphan.
 
"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." james 1:27 (nlt)

in His grace.

p.s.  next post...grief.  look for it, if ya want to.
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

road trip, respite & 9-1-1 (not necessarily in that order)

so some of you may have known that i took a road trip out to iowa over memorial day weekend for my twenty year class reunion.  i've been looking forward to it for the last five years.  reunions have always been a great time of catching up, laughing, talking memories, and even a little dancin.  so to have it be my twentieth...i was not gonna miss it.  but choosing to go meant choosing to take all six of my precious ones which i knew would be a bit trying/testing for me because one-third of my kiddos do not travel well.  at. all. ever. no. matter. what.

with a lot of prayer, snacks, games, movies, books, pillows, blankets...we set out on the road.  and made it a whole ten miles before the first complaint was uttered from one of my "middles'" mouth and thus began the constant chattering/tattling/arguing which then lasted for a majority of the rest of the eight hours and twenty minutes.  i'm not even kidding.  you can ask my olders.  my middles, q and k, would not stop.  i remember at one point while driving in iowa still two hours or so out from our destination, my mom and dad's farm, i had hit my limit with the two of them.  i couldn't take it anymore.  telling q and k in a rather loud voice (probably would have been considered yelling) that,"it would be your fault if we got into an accident because i keep looking back in the rearview mirror to see what the two of you are doing to each other instead of watching the road" didn't phase them.  so i pulled out a new card, one i've never played before while road trippin...i pulled out the "nevermind waiting for a cop to show up if we get into an accident, i will pull this van over right now and call 911 and tell them i can't drive safely with the two of you in my van and ask them to take you and keep you until i can come back through and pick you up in a couple of days" card.  yep.  those are pretty much the exact words i said.  and you know what?  it worked.  for about one and a half hours they were quiet.  and i felt semi-sane while finishing the last leg of the trip.

the trip back home was not any better but i'll spare you the details.  except that i did tell them that if their behavior didn't change they will be visiting "ms. s", our respite provider, when we get back home.  apparently, that didn't matter to them or they didn't believe me because they seemed quite shocked when i drove by the school yesterday morning on my way to "ms. s's" house.  then the reality of what i said had sunk in and they both sat quiely (which hardly ever happens) the whole thirty minutes to her house.  i pulled into "ms. s's" driveway, walked around to open the door for them because i've learned i need to have the child lock on when driving with them to "ms. s's", walked them into her house, said our good-byes without hugs/kisses/tears, and i got on with my day...even a little israel training workout with some fellow israel team members.  {smile}

now some of you may be thinking, "what kind of mom are you?". or "can't you just cut them some slack?  they're kids, for cryin out loud."

but...

can i just explain respite to you?  it's not babysitting.  it's not punishment.  it's not daycamp or over night camp.  respite is a safe place for my "middles" to go to when i (and my family) need a break from their behavior.  respite is a safe place where my "middles" are reminded over and over that their family loves them and that the best place for them is with their family.  respite is a safe place where my "middles" are put to work to make restitution for all the exhaustion and craziness they cause the rest of us to feel.  don't worry it is not child labor.  but putting my middles to work causes them to think about their actions and behavior.  there hasn't been any "light bulb" moment with either of them, obviously, but it does cause them to think about their choices and consequences.  respite is a tool that helps the healing process for my middles.  it is not a magical wave of the wand and they're both healed.  it's helpful because it gives me as their momma some time to breathe and collect my thoughts and get my heart back where it needs to be.

so this morning when i got a text from "ms. s" telling me that k had wet her pants again (on purpose) and that the both of them were laughing and joking around because they knew i was coming to pick them up today because it's k's birthday tomorrow and "mom would never make us stay here when it's k's birthday"...i wanted to cry.  i did cry.  because my heart hurt for my middles and the reality that they still don't get it.  this is not some game to see how long they get to stay at "ms. s's" or trying to figure out when i'm coming to pick them up.   my heart hurts for them because all i want them to do is let me be their mom (and my hubby their dad).  that's all.  but for them, right now, that's too much to ask.

i will keep loving them. 
because Jesus keeps loving me.
in all my mess.
He keeps loving me.

Monday, May 20, 2013

4 weeks and 5 days and...on my soap box (just for a minute)

sorry if your're tired of reading a blog with two separate thoughts as the title.  well, sorta sorry.  that's just how this brain of mine works some times. {smile}

4 weeks and 5 days...
is exactly how much time my hubby and i have left to prepare for our trip to israel.  i CANNOT even believe it's coming up that fast.  where did all those weeks go?  what happened to all the time i was going to spend reading, reading, reading, memorizing, working out, reading, etc.?  ahhhh!!!!

last night was one of our israel team prep times.  our team met downtown grand rapids and then walked over to bel knapp park.  but before getting to the park we had to climb 6-ish flights of stairs and then back down...TWICE.  hokey pete!  after all the working out i've been doing (or what i thought was "all" but apparently not enough), i felt like such a loser.  huffing and puffing up the stairs, pushing through the burn in my legs, telling myself, "i can do all things through Christ".  i wanted to die.  oh but wait...we weren't done yet.  nope.  just gettin started.  after the flight of stairs we meandered over to bel knapp or a.k.a the "x".  have you ever been there before?  if you haven't let me explain the scene...it's a grassy, very steep hilled area with a huge asphalt "x" in the center of it that also is on an incline.  can you picture it?  once we arrived, our leader took us down one part of the "x" and then turned around and marched us right back up the steep incline.  got to the top.  took a drink (or two or three) of water from our camelbacks and then did it again.  and again.  and again.  i thought my head was going to explode...it didn't, thankfully.  can i just be honest with y'all?  that workout/training messed with me...physically (obviously), but also mentally and spiritually.  it made me wonder if this trip is really a good idea.  if my hubby and i are really supposed to go?  i watched as other team members effortlessly hiked up and down and ready to do it multiple times.  i heard from other team members how much reading they've done (remember the list?)  and how much packing they've started and things they've bought for the trip and i. about. wanted. to. cry.  because i don't have as much reading done as i'd like.  i have bought NO-THING for the trip aside from hiking shoes and socks.  and the training/working out, well...i was sick.  fred was sick.  it rained.  and rained.  and rained.  so all that excitement at the beginning of has slowly turned into "what in the world was i thinking?".  there's the problem, "i".  me.  i'm not the one who so graciously provided for this trip, God is, through the generosity of a couple who also are followers of Jesus.  and He's also the One who arranged for my hubby to take the time off work.  and arranged for our six kiddos to be farmed out to different friends (who i hope will still be our friends when we return).  {smile}  still have a few details about the kiddos to work out but all in all...we're set.  so why?  why do i question whether or not we're supposed to go?  'cuz i'm human.  and i have control issues and trust issues.  and i see what's going on around me and forget that God is Sovereign. and that His plan is perfect. and that His grace is enough.  i know deep down beyond a shadow of a doubt that my hubby and i are supposed to set our feet on israel ground.  and i know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will meet us where we are while we're training and when we're hiking our butts off in 100+ degree weather.  He's the Shepherd.  we're His sheep whom he dearly loves.  trusting...and uppin' my workout/reading/memorizing.

ok...here's where things might get kinda ugly.  i may even offend some of you...that is not my intention.  what i hope you will hear is my momma's heart as i'm learning to parent kiddos i did not give birth to and raise them to find their identity in Christ and understand how much He loves them no matter what.

soap box...
as most of you know two of my kiddos whom i did not give birth to have behavioral issues.  my daughter, k, was diagnosed with RAD last year.  and recently, my son, q, was diagnosed with "relational disorder" - basically, his role was as a parent (even at 2 1/2 years of age) before he came into our care so since they've been part of our family my hubby and i have been seen as a threat by him.  so we butt heads a lot with him.  and we hear from his teachers at school and sunday school what a great kid he is, so smart, such a leader, a great helper, a great worker...praises.  which i don't disagree, at all.  i've seen him in a certain setting where he is those things but at home he is a different kid.  almost like dr. jekyll and mr. hyde.
here's what i want you to know and hopefully understand, if or when i share with you the struggles i'm having with k and/or q and the difficulty i'm having in mothering them and connecting with them, it doesn't help my momma's heart when your reply is, "oh yeah, my son/daughter does the same thing or something similar."  nope.  not helpful.  here's why: you gave birth to them.  there is a biological connection to your children.  there's a bond that was formed even when that embryo was growing inside you for nine months.  you've been given a head start.  not even a head start.  'cuz i can't catch up to you.  i will NEVER be able to form that kind of bond with my adopted kiddos.  as much as my heart wants to, it won't happen.  they were hurt, broken, neglected at such a young age that all they see me as is the other person who might leave them just like their birth mom.

so instead of trying to relate, can i ask you to pray for q and k, and me?  and for all the other mommas out there who are mothering kiddos they did not give birth to.

so instead of trying to relate, can you just nod in agreement or say "i'm sorry to hear that", sincerely?

and also, i give you permission to say to my face, "girl, you are just plain off your rocker!  get a grip!"

in His grace.

Friday, May 10, 2013

sympathy cards pt. 2

remember the sympathy cards i mentioned here.  since then they've been sitting on my kitchen counter in the same bag i brought them home in.  i would pass by them every day, all day long, wondering "what in the world am i going to do with them?" even though i knew full well why i bought them in the first place.  but i can't make my heart feel sympathetic even when my brain is telling me to. does that make sense?  so there they've sat.  all this time.  until this morning.

this morning came after a hard afternoon and evening with my "middles".  this momma who was so full of gratitude all day yesterday quickly slid into the mindset of "how can you do that to me?  don't you see i'm trying to help you?  don't you understand that i love you and want what's best for you?"  it got kinda ugly.  both "middles" went to bed either upset or in tears.  and this momma took off and drove around to think.  pray.  breathe.  and then came home and went to bed early too exhausted to do one more thing.

so back to this morning.  for the first time this week, i had my quiet time with Jesus on the couch in the back room with my cup of french press coffee, a pillow, a fuzzy blanket, my journal, and my Bible.  as i started writing in my journal, confessing the ugliness of my heart, Jesus tenderly led me to think of q and k's birth mom.  maybe it's because mother's day is coming up.  or maybe it's because He is trying to do a work in my heart towards her.  but as i sat and thought of her and how hard it must have been to have four children/babies removed, my heart broke even more at the loss that q and k have experienced in not having their birth mom around to care for them.

and that's when i walked into the kitchen and picked up the bag with the sympathy cards inside and i went back to my quiet place, took out my pen, and started writing in each of the cards.

now what i wrote was nothing profound or life-altering for either of them...they are 8 and 6 years old, for goodness sakes.  my prayer is that what they read out loud from their cards would be truth that they can go to when they are feeling sad, or mad, or scared.  and this is the truth i wrote to them, paraphrased, "i love you.  and will always love you.  but i know that you are sad that you aren't able to be with your birth mom, t.  and i'm sorry about that.  and i'm sorry about the times when i'm a less than perfect mom for you.  sometimes i get confused and don't understand how to be a mom to you.  but i pray that with Jesus' help i can be the mom that you need me to be. love, mom"

it wasn't a hallmark moment.  nope.  just me, q, kiki on the couch reading sympathy cards as m was standing next me upset he didn't get a card and j was in the kitchen screaming for his breakfast.  is there really such a thing as a hallmark moment, anyway?  i'm gonna say, "no".  i'm learning, "no".  and i'm learning that God, the Creator of the universe, Abba does not waste anything.  He uses the good, the bad, and the ugly.  why?  for His glory.  and because He loves q, k, m, j...and me in all our ugliness, brokeness, fit-throwingness.  His mercies are NEW every morning.  bless Him.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

full and yet so empty

i don't know why, really.
but it's been one of those "pass me a kleenex" days.
not because of allergies.
no.
but maybe because...
today
as i look at my j who turns two
and listen to hillsong's "He is Lord"
and read a blog post, "dear moms of adopted children" about being an adoptive momma
and still processing all that i learned from summit9 orphan conference in nashville, tn
and praying for some friends of ours who are closer to bringing their little girl home from across the ocean
and praying through my church's weekly prayer requests and praises
my heart is full.
full of gratitude
to be where i am
to be who i am in Christ
to be a momma to six kiddos (two bio., four adopted)
to be a wife to the most patient man EVER
to be learning that it's not about me but all about Jesus
to be broken
to be empty and desperate.

thank you.  Jesus.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

as good as it gets...and a little bunny trail

bunny trail first...

thank you all for the encouraging words via email, fb msg, text, or face to face.  y'all have been so kind in taking the time to read what i write and then to encourage me?  wow!  bless you!

i've shared this before with some of you...but i think it's worth repeating. so bear with me.  this blogging thing started out as a "look at me and what i can do" type of thing.  and then.  well, and then, i became a momma to more and more kiddos and the blogging had to stop.  so when i felt the nudge to start writing again, i didn't have as much time but prayed about how and when to write.  because blogging/writing has become a way to help me process this crazy journey of mothering kiddos i did not give birth to.  it's no longer a "look at me and what i can do".  when i type it out, i can leave it.  God uses it to teach me.  crazy, huh?  i mean i'm the one that's writing, how can i be taught too?  not sure.  but that's what happens.  my heart is different when i take my fingertips off the keyboard and stand up and walk away from the computer.  and i bless Him for that.

now on with the other stuff...

to bring y'all up to snuff with k.  she's doing better.  when i'm asked how's she doing?  my answer is, "we're in a manageable place with her."  and here's why...

praying.
therapy.
praying.
meds.
praying.

the past two weeks of therapy have been such a blessing.  two weeks ago, i was in tears with k sitting on my lap in tears, too.  and this was after i was determined to throw her under the bus because i came in with the coldest/hardest heart toward her.  all it took for me to break was the question, "do you see a difference in k?"  my response, "no".  therapist's reply, "there is.  she's a different girl now then she was before."  kleenexes please.  and as an expression of k's love for me and our family, she sat and drew a picture with all our names (spelled correctly, kinda a big deal) on it with tears rolling down her beautiful face.

and then this past monday was just more of what took place the week before.  less tears.  but more positive interactions with k.  even when we talked about some hard stuff, she listened.  she knew she was in a safe place.  and she's starting to believe that we really do love her. 

but...

there were a couple doses of reality that were kinda hard to swallow.

first one, the therapist explained that in the five years he's worked with kiddos who have attachment issues not one of them has ever had an "lightbulb moment".  "aha moment".  never.  he continued on saying, "they get better.  they do get better."  but they never really fully recover. 

second one, if you're a parent or have parents you may understand this one.  k has a hard time showing respect.  it will drive me up the wall, if i let it.  she is getting better in a sneaky, manipulative, sassy sort of way.  ha!  it's better than the rages we were once dealing with.  so yes, better.  so i shared this with the therapist with a slightly sarcastic tone to it.  he responded with a smile and a laugh and then said, "that may be the level of respect that you can expect from her."  "that may be as good as it gets". 

in a weird way, even though both of these doses of reality where not what i wanted to hear, they're what i needed to hear.  because the way i think about k is seen in the way i interact with her.  so if, with the help of the Holy Spirit, i can think about her in a different way, not holding the same expectations to her that i do my bio. kiddos.  not placing the same demands on her that i would a "normal" almost seven year old, then that will help her.  and me. 

now don't get me wrong.  i am not losing hope.  nope.  never.  with God all things all impossible.  Jesus died for my precious k (and for all man) to set her free and not be bound by fear, sin, or doubt.  her past was traumatic.  her first months of life were not typical.  but that will not define her.  what will define her is that she is loved by the King of kings and Lord of lords.  and she is beautiful in His sight.
.






Wednesday, April 10, 2013

sympathy cards

the other day i went to k's counselling appointment by myself.  k was home sick with the stomach flu and because my olders were home on spring break, i took the opportunity to talk to her therapist alone.
 
even though things have been going relatively smooth in our home...the occasional defiance, a rage here and there, but overall manageable, there was still something missing or something that needed to get worked out.  and because i had the whole 50 minutes to myself with her therapist and with the help of the Holy Spirit..we hit the nail right on it's head.

nail = me.

yep.  believe it or not.

i'm the missing piece AND the one that needs to work things out.

and here's why.

because k (and q) came from a traumatic background, i often times struggle with the prideful thought of "well, they're better off here than where they were."  and because of that i often go back and forth with feeling angry towards their birth mother to having compassion for her and her circumstances.  and i struggle with thinking they should be grateful for what i've/we've done for them...just being honest.

but this is what the therapist brought to my attention and what i first had a hard time wrapping my mind around...he said this, "Ideally, God's best would be for q and k to be with their birth mom. {gulp} And God's second best is for q and k to be with you. {gulp gulp}  But they will ALWAYS have a place in their heart and a yearning for their birth mom even though that's not what's best for them."

{gulp gulp gulp}

i sat on the couch in his office verbalizing my struggle with what was just said, and as he quietly repeated himself,  it hit me.  i thought, "sympathy cards.  i'm going to give them sympathy cards.  i'm going to go to the store and buy sympathy cards for my eight and six year old."

no, their birth mom is not dead.  but...in a sense, they lost her.  they lost someone they love and that is something i can understand which is a first step in helping me wrap my mind and my heart around their loss and hurt.

i will never be their birth mom.  ever.

i can never fill her shoes.  ever.  as hard as i may try.

and it's true...ideally, God's best for them would be to stay with their birth mom.

but God has given them to me/us.  they are a gift (good days and bad days...gift).  and i will continue to do my best with His grace to love them how they need to be loved.  and that isn't necessarily loving them as if they were my own.  they aren't my own.  i did not grow them in my womb or give birth to them.  and that is part of the struggle but it is also part of His goodness, kindness, and love.  because He knew before the world began that q and k were going to be part of the patten8.  and He knew we would need Him more than ever to love these two in a way that brings glory to Him.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

the talk

now wait...before you let your mind go too far, let me just say it wasn't that "talk".

in some ways, i wish it would have been. it may have been easier.

but.  it wasn't.

nope.

today was the day that we had a real heart-to-heart, tear-filled, booger-running talk with our son q.

let me give you a little background on q...
came to us at 2 1/2 years old with his little sister.
was feisty as ever (because he was just ripped from everything he knew)
but over time (six years) has settled into our family.
with the exception of major anger issues that only occur at home not anywhere else.

and today was the day that his anger really got the best of him (i know how that can be) and he exploded at his older sister to the point that she felt threatened.  not cool.

in response, my hubby and i went to find out the details and also to help q settle down.  he did.  for a bit.  and then went off again, at me this time.

the three of us: q, my hubby, and i sat in q's room and tried to talk through and figure out, "why all this anger?".

and this is what we found out...bottom line...honest truth...q's words, "i don't feel loved." and then with a shake of his head informed us that he does not love any of his family.  us.  not one.

i know i have, we have, not done everything right or perfect since we brought q and k into our home.  and if i could go back and do things differently i would, i think. but honestly, would it change anything?

as much as it hurts to have my son whom i've raised and loved for the last six years tell me that he doesn't love me...in a weird way, i get it.

i used to think that q and k should be tremendously, abundantly, overflowing with gratitude, grateful that we brought them into our family and adopted them.  and, yes, there were times i would get angry at their lack of thankfulness.

but the more i read and learn about kiddos who come from hard places, who have not formed a bond with a parent, who have been abused and/or neglected...the more i realize, i can't expect them to just ooze with that warm fuzzy, lovey-dovey kind of love and gratitude.

q hurts.  and he's confused.  and he's sad.  and angry.

so...where do my hubby and i and q go from here?

we pick up the pieces and lay them at the feet of the One who can and will heal q's hurts.  and we give thanks to Him who is Light.  and Light always overcomes the darkness.  and we ask for forgiveness from the One who drank the cup and took our place on the cross for q, for my hubby, for me, for all mankind.

Friday, March 15, 2013

{eeeekkk} a little trip

i'm just gonna dive right in and give you the BIG news...

my hubby and i will be in israel this summer for ten whole days!!!

i can hardly believe it.  still.  but it's true.

neither of us ever imagined going to israel ever.  for a few reasons: finances.  kiddos.  finances.  kiddos.

neither of us shared with each other that that has always been a deep desire and dream in our hearts to go to israel.

so how did this all come about?  (besides God's timing and prompting)

well, about a month ago we received an email asking us to prayerfully consider going to israel.  that kinda got us excited.
then with the deadline fast approaching, we prayed.  not hearing a firm "yes" or "no" from God, we took a step of faith and we registered for the trip and fred made the first payment...that was on a saturday morning.

sunday passed.  the deadline.  we were feeling a bit anxious about the funding but still knew to trust and...

monday morning as i'm getting ready for k's counselling appointment, i get a message telling me to that our trip has been entirely paid for.  WHAT?!?!?!?  i literally stood in our bathroom and wept for ten freakin' minutes!!  i replied back asap to make sure i read it correctly.  i did.  after gathering myself together, i called my hubby and gave him the news.  he too was in complete shock!

now please hear my heart, friends.  my hubby and i are nothin special.  we're broken, messed up, prideful, selfish sinners.  and feel completely unworthy of being gifted with this trip.

BUT...

as humbling as it is to have an anonymous person(s) gift us with such an incredible opportunity, i will not feel guilty.  and here's why...because our Father's love does not come with conditions or guilt.  His love is pure.  true.  righteous.  holy.  free.

so for the next three months my hubby and i are preparing for the biggest trip of our lives (i've never been out of the country.  ever).  we have a rigorous physical workout and training to be able to hike 5 - 12 miles a day, uphill, in 100 degree weather (hence the membership to snap fitness).  we have a rigorous reading assignment (19 books from the Bible).  and we have a rigorous spiritual workout...trusting Him for ourselves but also for our six kiddos who will be on this side of the ocean while we're away (never been gone for longer than a weekend from any of them).

i cannot wait!  i still have to pinch myself and ask, "God, is this for real?".

He never changes.  He is always good.  forever.  and ever.

amen.


Monday, February 25, 2013

sponge bob and flaming hot cheetos

so...last friday if you would have walked into my home you would have seen "sponge bob square pants" (110 minutes worth) on tv and my middles, q and k, planted in front of the tv with a full bowl of flaming hot cheetos.

my two favorite things in the world.  NOT!

so why? 

because the day before a caseworker from bethany christian came out to visit.  this caseworker is also a foster mom, so she gets it.  she's not the typical fresh-out-of-college, go-by-the-book caseworker.  no.  she sees these kiddos for who they are.  she sees the system and how messed up it is.  she.  gets.  it.

anyway, in our conversation she was telling me how her and her husband occasionally will let two of their foster kiddos play video games all day.  why?  because that's what these kiddos were used to.  it went against everything these foster parent believed in letting their kiddos do but with the encouragement from the therapist, they did it.  they let their kiddos play video games all day long.  they even sat and played with them.

because of that conversation, i was reminded of a note that we received when we first brought q and k home.  the letter told us, "their favorite food is Flaming Hot Cheetos and their favorite show is Sponge Bob Square Pants".  you know what i did when i read that?  i said, "um, no.  and no.  i won't allow either of those things in my house."  and i didn't.  and i haven't.  up until last friday.  (well, we've had an occasional bag of FHC 'cuz my oldest likes them, too).

when i brought those items home last friday, you would have thought i just gave q and k a million dollars.  they were ecstatic to say the least.  q asked, "mom, why did you get these?  i thought you didn't like them."  to which i responded, "i don't like them.  but i remembered that you do like them."

now...it didn't instantly heal q and k from their hurts they experienced before we brought them into our family but it was a step towards healing and bonding.

today when i took k to her attachment therapist appointment (because she has RAD) i told him, "i wish they had told us during foster training classes that our main goal as foster parents is to help these kiddos bond and attach instead of telling us to 'treat and love these kiddos as if they were your own.'"

because...can i just tell you how hard it is to do that?  to love these kiddos as if they were your own?  yeah right!  it's so hard when all they give you in foster training classes is what you CAN'T do with these kiddos instead of what you CAN do to help these kiddos heal.

we've had q and k for six years.  yep.  six years.  you wanna know how many times we've rolled on the floor giggling with them?  or jumped on the bed (in my room) with them?   or snuggled on the bed with them?  or brought them into bed when they were having a bad dream? 

maybe a hand-full of times because as foster parents we weren't allowed to do those things.  and even though they've been adopted for the last four years, we've put up a wall towards them and all that cuddly, fun-loving stuff.

on the other hand...my littles, m and j, who came to us as babies straight from the hospital and adopted while still under two years old, get snuggled, tickled, rolled around on the floor, jumping on my bed, brought into bed when they have a sleepless night...

and my middles, q and k, see that interaction. and, i think, part of them wants that. but the other part of them is scared of that because it's an expression of love. and they, especially k, are afraid to be loved. afraid of feeling loved.

so...i will keep renting Sponge Bob Square Pants and buying Flaming Hot Cheetos and whatever else  i need to do (cuddles, tickles, snuggles, jumping on the bed) until my middles aren't afraid of feeling love.

because they are worth loving.
no.  matter.  what.