Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Darkest Hour

We have all experienced tragedy, pain, sorry, and hurt in our lives. Those times weave a thread into our lives that God uses to teach us more about Himself and to draw us to Him. Sometimes, we use that same thread to become bitter and angry. I have recently looked back at several of those times and tried to truly process what God was doing.

Some of the most painful times in my life have to do with loss.....the loss of freedom for my dad when he was sent to prison in 2002, the loss of JT's dad in 2005, the loss of our home to a fire in January of 2005, etc,. There are other losses but these are the ones that come to mind first. Then, there was our adoption of Jett in 2007 (December). A loss? An adoption is a loss? Yes, for us and for Jett, it was. It was the darkest hour in our lives, and no one else knew.

As I said in an earlier post, we are just now even talking about that time in our lives. It has taken us several years to heal from the pain and everything that happened, so I hope to capture what it was like..... I hope that one day Jett can read this and know that we fought for his heart and soul with tenacity. I hope he remembers the long days and knows that we loved him whole-heartedly through it all. I hope our family can recall the spiritual battle lines that were drawn and the war we waged within our home. I hope, more than anything, that God alone is exalted and praised for His faithfulness and His goodness through the trials.

When we saw Jett for the very first time face to face, it was an overwhelming sense of fulfillment for me. The child that we had pursued for almost 2 years sat on the tile floor of an orphanage in Solola, Guatemala. He had NO clue who we were yet he smiled sheepishly anyway. My heart burst open and tears flowed without any stoppage in sight..... As I looked into his little brown eyes, God spoke clearly to me: "I pursued you like you have pursued this child." My heart was full, and I knew that God's purpose in our lives to adopt had been fulfilled. We had finished the race..... We had 2 weeks together in Guatemala, and we were good. There were some red flags along the way but nothing that we didn't think we could handle. We were wrong. Dead wrong.

Less than a week after we got home, JT had to fly to Arizona to finish leading a trip. I was furious.... This could've been prevented, so someone chose their own desires over the good of our family. I wasn't mad at JT, but once he was gone, I was. How could he leave me with a new child who doesn't even speak English yet? I was angry with God. Don't they know that I'm no good at this....I have NO patience....I cannot do this! Jett would rage and grieve every day....multiple times a day. If he did anything he wasn't suppose to do (stick his fingers in an outlet, hit the girls, run out the front door), and I told him, "No,"...well, he would lose it. Seriously lose it. Ugly cry, kick your legs, stomp your feet, grit your teeth ugly cry...scream...cry more....rub your eyes until they are about to pop out, tighten fists, straighten your body and refuse to budge cry.... The girls would generally just go to their rooms or somewhere else in the house. I was left alone to fight this battle. If he did it once a day, he would do it 10 times...or 20....felt like 50.

If the phone rang, I cringed. Do I dare answer it knowing that he could blow at any moment? If I walk out of the room, what will happen? The girls were withdrawing as they saw their "cute little brother" taking over the house. He was clearly running the show, and it seemed that everything revolved around him. He couldn't be let out of our sight for fear of what he might do. I was weary and so over the adoption part of our lives.

The worst part to me....going to church. Yes, going to church. We would go to church and people would see Jett and talk about how cute he is and what a joy adoption is and how great it was that our family had adopted. And, I wanted to scream, "If you only knew the chaos of our house! This is hard...don't adopt! Don't even think about it!"

JT came home from that first trip but had to travel again six weeks later to Africa. It was the WORST time ever....I must have called him 4-5 times a day. Jett didn't want anything to do with the girls...or me. He couldn't stand us. He didn't love me much less like me. It was so hurtful and hard. I would just hold him and cry. God showed me great pain and suffering, and my heart ached for all of us. How was God going to heal this? Was He going to heal this? Was this going to be our lives from now on?

We made some serious mistakes during that time.....having friends over too much (Jett needed to settle in our family and be secure with just us first), traveling to AZ, Africa, Indiana, resuming normal life as if nothing else had happened.....meanwhile, we were dying. It was painful and tiring. But life, as we had known it, was still going on around us, and that was the hardest part. We were isolated, and it felt like no one understood our pain. We couldn't even put it into words. We felt like we were drowning and people were just watching. Pick yourselves up by the bootstraps.....move on...come on, you can go out to eat....it's no big deal....he'll grow out of it....can't you just leave him with a babysitter..... Oh, the many things that people said that were well-meaning but hurt to the core. I felt trapped....I couldn't breathe....and I had no one to turn to who understood.

But, God used that year (more like 18 months) to strip us down to the core and the basics. He bonded our family in a way that I cannot describe. He showed us His faithfulness. He healed ALL of our hearts. He became our only focus. He convicted us of many areas where He was not being exalted in our lives. He rebuilt trust and established friendships. He cleansed us and even gave us the desire to adopt again. He showed us His love...in abundance. He graciously poured out His mercies upon us.

It was our darkest hour, but it was His shining glory. He drew us to Himself and loved us when we couldn't even utter our gratefulness. Looking back at that time, I see so many lessons, but I think this post is long enough. Hear the cry of my heart....adoption is a beautiful, difficult and uneasy process. It glorifies God....even in the hurt and pain...it brings Him glory. Thank you Lord for the valley that you walked us through and the hills you made us climb. We are grateful.....for You and You alone. You reign, and we do not. You rule, and we do not. You are exalted, and we are not. Praise Your great name!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Encouragement Galore....

After the last blog post, I have been OVERWHELMED with encouragement from family and friends. God has literally used so many people to minister to me. I am so grateful and blessed. Here are a few excerpts that were sent to me:

"I read your blog but didn't want to comment there. Just wanted to say "been there"...maybe not because of adoption but because of other reasons the Lord called us to "stay put" when our kids were young. And a lot of things He showed us to avoid...the large chaotic events...and called me out of teaching at church, too...He called our family HOME.

We didn't understand it at the time. People around us thought we were pulling out of life. But we walked by faith and the Lord did some things in our family that were good. Our calling home to that extreme was temporary (less than a year) but so very worth it.

Your message...it is for more than those who adopt. It is for the new homeschooling family...if this is your first year to homeschool- then stay home! New baby- stay home! Medical illness -stay home. You get the point."

and this one....

"First of all - I don't want you to ever, ever, ever worry about what [my husband} and I think. Ever. I am going to tell you what we are thinking. We are thinking that you are following God in great obedience to adopt and love and bring new life to two very precious little children. This is an all consuming task. We understand that this limits you greatly and we don't expect anything from you right now. We understand that you are pouring your heart and soul and mind into these two precious children and we don't want you to do anything else."

and then there's the friend who said to me in church yesterday,

"Since you are staying put, we'll just come to you."

The words of encouragement and support have literally flooded my soul with great joy. I'm so thankful for the people who truly "get it" and understand the call God has placed on our lives. Please know that I'm thankful beyond measure for each one of you.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Second Time Around

The first time we adopted, we learned many lessons. It was a VERY dark time for me and our family....that is a post for another day. I'm just now ready to talk about that year in our lives. Needless to say, what everyone saw was not what was going on in our home. It was a different picture altogether.

But, now that we've learned those lessons, things are a bit different the second time around. Here's what we have been impressed by God to do:

1. Stay home as much as possible! While JT will be leading mission teams this summer (we have dropped the number of trips to only 5 intend of 8 or 9), I will be managing the home front. The kids and I will not be on any trips this summer. While I may lead one this fall, one of us as parents will always be home with the kids.
2. Do not leave our children (the two youngest ones) overnight anywhere for at least 6 months. They need this time to bond with us as parents and with our family. They need to know that we will always be here for them. (On a side note, Zeke STILL comes downstairs everyday and gasps when he sees us. He runs to one of us with open arms and gives the biggest hug. It's like he's still surprised we are here after almost 5 months.)
3. Delay going to any medical facility until necessary. We have taken Zeke to the doctor (malaria and giardia) but have only taken some parasite testing for Elly. Our kids have been poked and prodded enough, and they are both fearful of the doctor. We're going to spend some time reading all of our doctor books and talking about how wonderful doctors, nurses, hospitals, etc. are first. Preparation is key!
4. We will avoid large, unstructured events to the extent possible (concerts, baseball games, etc) as these tend to overwhelm the children. They don't meet a stranger, and we need to curb that..... Plus, the chaos of these events tends to initiate something chaotic in them too.
5. We will hug and kiss and hold a LOT. Lately (after Kaitlyn's surgery), Zeke has been VERY clingy. He was scared to an extent that none of us predicted. He wanted me to hold him often. He would just lay his head over on me many times a day. This is welcomed. Just yesterday, Elly followed me to the bathroom. As a brushed my teeth, she put her arms around my leg and laid her head on my thigh. Nothing like brushing your teeth with company.
6. We will seek support from other adoptive parents who have already traveled this road. We did this the first time around too, but we realized that we had not fully communicated our needs to our support group. We were desperate and drowning, and we didn't know where to turn.
7. Most importantly, we will PRAY daily for God to heal their hearts and minds of past pain. We pray that He will use their lives in Uganda to deepen their knowledge of His glory. We pray that He will make Himself known to them and call them to Himself. We pray that He will receive all of the glory and honor and praise.

This is nothing new to most of you. But, to our family, who tends to travel most of the summer, this is huge. We are staying put. We even have a garden (which produced its first bumper crop last evening - 4 cucumbers, 1 jalapeƱo pepper, 2 peppers, and 1 tomato) that we all work in weekly. Our pool is a source of daily exercise and entertainment. We even have a clothesline for drying our clothes. Now, if that doesn't say "Stay home!"....well, I don't know what does.

This will definitely be a different summer for me. As I told my brother David yesterday, we all are concerned (on some level) about what others think. I am. Often, I am more interested in that than what Jesus thinks. I don't like it. I abhor it. I fight it. This summer, as we avoid large crowds and stick close to home, I will not be concerned with the thoughts or words of others. I will seek Him and remember His calling on our lives to do this. I will invest every moment in what He has called us to do. And, I will relish in our mission field here at home.

For those of you with young children, soak up your time together. You may not be able to be involved in every single event at church or go on a mission trip or even visit your neighbors. This time will fade away quickly. Cherish every moment, and raise your family to the glory of God!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What to do when Poppa's gone....

That is the question...what do we do when Poppa's gone. For many people, husbands go off to work for 8 or more hours a day, so this is nothing new. But, for our family, this is TOTALLY different. You see, JT leads mission trips, so when he's gone, he's gone for a week or more at a time. But, when he's home, he's available to us all day. He works in the office downstairs or outside, but we can call him whenever we need him. We all eat meals together every day and just enjoy being together as a family. We have several friends who are in the same position, and it is truly a blessing from the Lord.

So, when Poppa's away, things are VERY different here. Of course, the older girls would like to sleep late because it's summer. But, apparently the new kiddos from Uganda didn't get that message...especially Zeke. When he wakes up, he is LOUD...ultra LOUD. He doesn't have a volume button yet...we're working on that...every few minutes, believe me. So, he proceeds to wake up everyone in the house by playing...LOUDLY. This doesn't exactly get us all off to a cheery, God-bless-you, all is right with the world kind of day. As a matter of fact, I have 3 grumpy girls and a whiny boy to contend with until at least 9:00.

Whiny-ness breeds more whining....just so you know. So, by 10:00 am I've already administered discipline to almost everyone, and well, each person needs some alone time. Keep in mind that the youngest two don't like alone time, so this is alone with Mommy time. We regroup and start the day again.

It may be just me (and I assume it is) but when JT leaves, every light bulb in the house goes out....or should I say every light bulb that requires changing it with a ladder goes out. Of course, it can't be the ones over the stove or even over the bathroom sink. And, then the pool pump starts making noise or the attic fans...and I'm not exactly handy in this area. That's what JT does....and he does it well. Maybe God is reminding me of how awesome my hubby is in that he takes care of those things on a daily basis....yep, that's it. And the enemy is trying to distract me from spending quality time with my kids discipling them and pouring into their lives. And, for sure the enemy doesn't want me to pray more for our mission team in Guatemala.

So, what do we do? We press on for the prize which has been set before us. Christ's call is greater and His aim is higher. So, we will not dwell in the grumpies or whinyland....we will honor one another for the glory of God. We will press in to His grace and His glory!