Real World Problems: My Head is Stuck Up My Backside

I was going to write a light-hearted post about how the last two weeks of school have gone for James, about witty remarks and so on, but then I realized, as I typed on my MacBook Pro in the comfort of my furnished home, with clean drinking water at my right hand, a gainfully employed and loving husband at my left, a full stomach and a leisurely 3 day weekend awaiting in the morning, that that isn’t what we need to be talking about.

Don’t misunderstand me, orphan care is IMPORTANT, and that our child is learning to thrive and receive love and know what it means to have absolute loss redeemed into something wonderful is A MIRACLE. God’s hand is ALL OVER the hot mess that is now our family dynamic, and there is certainly a time and place for the day to day to be shared.

But right now, there is some unacceptable, disgusting, horrible STUFF going on in the world, and I am all too aware of how my very life style laughs in the face of that reality.

Children are being horribly abused in orphanages and homes around the world, but I daily give more thought to whether a cow led a satisfactory life before it became my burger (animals > people). Men and women are being slaughtered around the world for their beliefs, but OH MY GOSH did you see who just dumped clean drinking water on their head for that disease that—OOOH there’s a fail compilation (entertainment > human life). There are coups and incursions and kidnappings and hate crimes and famines and outbreaks but WHY can’t a person CRAP in the clean, convenient lavatory of THEIR choosing, gender be damned (.3% of the US population >the rest of the world)? WHY can’t I check Facebook messages on my PHONE anymore? WHY doesn’t everyone else think Battlestar Gallactica is the best show ever? WHY are our biggest first-world concerns often about drivel?

I spend my time and effort worrying about animals and things and passing garbage instead of PEOPLE and loving Christ. Sure, people and Jesus are way up there on my list, but they are nowhere near as close to the top as they ought to be. And sure, animals and other things are important to varying degrees, but shouldn’t human beings be higher on the “give-a-rats” chain? Why in the WORLD does this not bother me THIS much ALL of the time?

Next time I am spending my time and resources on nonsense that doesn’t eternally matter in such a way that it leaves less room for the important things, I pray that you will call me out. Brothers and sisters (if you are a believer, I’m talking to you), we need to call each other out. We need to daily wrangle our petty desires and make them subservient to our greater purpose. I don’t know exactly how to make this work, or how to stir others to join me in actively rising to the occasion, but I am sure that by listening to the older and wiser, spending more time in the Word and in active prayer, God will work this thing out in us. I am terrified of reaching the end of my days and knowing in my heart that I could have done more, I should have done more, and I didn’t.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matt. 25:23

Have I been good and faithful??

Working hard and getting it right won’t secure my place in heaven; that is simply not how it works. Jesus already paid the price and only by believing in Him can any one of us be reckoned as righteous. So this intense desire and fear is not driven by the misconception that I must or can earn my way, but rather by the depth of the gratitude that I feel for being pulled from the pit when I was still utterly sinful and wretched. How can I waste such a beautiful gift, the MOST beautiful gift, by holding it to my chest and focusing my eyes on minutia? This is what must be shared with the hurting, the misled, the angry, the hateful, the sorrowful, the broken and the weak; that our hope is built on something far greater, something far lovelier and something far more just than anything found on the earth. Are we sharing that?

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'” Luke 18:13

Countdown to School: 7 days!

In 7 days, James starts 1st grade. He is excited, but I think I might have a stroke. To have spent such a long time waiting to have him home, safe, in a predictable, nurturing environment, only to then have to send him into the unknown under the care of who knows who, around who knows who, for the better part of his weekdays… I might be freaking out a little. This is largely because I remember my public school days and how questionable many of my teachers and influences were, but also because we are in a poorly performing district and our transfer attempts have not panned out. It isn’t the end of the world, but in the moment, it feels that way. Once Jude is home and we aren’t worrying about adoption costs, I look forward to not relying on public education. You’re all allowed to laugh at us when we find out there is a 3rd child in our near future.

Our second post-placement meeting was yesterday morning and went well. One more meeting in October before we can finalize the adoption and make things totally official. So close!

In Ukraine news, it turns out that one of the notarized documents in our dossier (which is in Ukraine now) was incorrect, so Jason will be resigning, re-notarizing, and returning to have a new apostille seal placed on the document. Thank goodness it is only one document, and thank goodness we still seem to be in good shape for meeting our Jason-travels-in-October goal. No new information about our boy, but we are trusting in the One that put him in our life.

Speaking of children that, according to many people, may as well have just been forcibly removed from their mother’s womb (How’s that for a seque?). I’m sick of hearing about it. Here is a great article exploring why you don’t have the right to murder a child REGARDLESS of where the child is in relation to your body or how large or small or dependent upon you they may be.

http://valleygirlapologist.blogspot.com/2013/11/identity-theft_4.html

Some Updates and a Hopeful Reminder

On the Ukrainian front

Jason has finished compiling all of the necessary paperwork for our dossier to Ukraine, so today we finished having the documents notarized, and Friday we will be heading to Los Angeles to have Apostille certificates attached to nearly all of them. After this step is complete, the entire dossier will be sent to over to Ukraine on Monday. Then, as we understand it, we wait. We have not heard anything new about our boy, but we are moving forward with all of the paperwork, all the while trusting that we have correctly understood God’s will for us to do so.

There are still days when we sit and stare blankly ahead, unable to conceive of a person treating the fatherless so wretchedly, but on the whole, we are hopeful and ready to battle. He led the grumbling Israelites, surely he will lead us.

“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

On the Thailand/Home front

We have a post-placement meeting with our social worker – our second since James has been home – on August 5. After a few doctor appointments, we have also figured out that since the U.S. snagged his vaccination documentation, James has to get them all again. It is a bummer, but he has been fairly understanding, and thank goodness, because he doesn’t have a choice. His first American eye exam took place yesterday and fortunately, he doesn’t seem to need glasses.

Over the last two weeks, behavior has started to normalize. We aren’t kidding ourselves into thinking tantrums won’t return, but going this long without a marathon fit has been great. Jason suggested having a “write your name once for every time you hit or kick something” rule, and that, coupled with channeling anger/sadness into a stress ball, has nearly eliminated outrageous outbursts. Ah. Dear, sweet, silent dissidence.

In the attachment department, we are still working. There are so many ways that our family of three has become attached and loving. Generally, it feels like we have found a new normal. But we are still working on clarifying our role to him. No, we aren’t just the next in a series of caretakers. No, all of the women at the orphanage were not your mothers, also. No, not every adult is safe and okay to hug. For that reason, please understand if we have to cut in. Please understand if we have to pump the brakes and ask for a step back, or if I lose my temper when you try to discipline/help him while I am already doing so. It’s still essential that he asks us for everything first, and that he learns the three of us are set apart in a special way from all other people. It has only been three months, so the solid foundation is not yet in place, but we are getting closer.

Thank you for your prayer and support and patience.

Psalm 43 – I shall again praise Him

I’m thankful that we were able to spend time with many loved ones during this past week. There were great moments of peace, connection and celebration, and many firsts – first Independence Day, first birthday together as a family, first piñata, first movie theater outing, first successful bike pedaling – took place. There were also many moments that demonstrated how well our family seems to have been matched, how faithful God was to prepare James’ heart for this change, and how much progress has been made in a short period of time.

“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation;
O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Time has been moving slowly since the missed reunion date. Not only that, but as we wait and pray and aim for normalcy, difficulty seems to be mounting. We are clinging to hope, and as we do so, potshots to our health and thoughts and household increase. God doesn’t forget or reject His children, but in the frustrated and sorrowful moments it is easy to project my own weakness onto Him.

O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your dwelling places.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God.

The funny thing about the potshots is that they aren’t innovative efforts from the enemy. They are the same old tactics that we and every other believer have experienced at some point between salvation and glorification. I can practically HEAR Screwtape’s voice. So, we remain confident and can say, albeit weakly at times, “I shall praise You, O God, my God.” (And for this, AS I typed this, one of the very things that I am referring to occurred.) “I shall praise You, O God, my God.”

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.”

Psalm 43

Our own journey as a family is fueling this post, yes, but so are the stories we are hearing from other families: people being terrible to people, bodies decaying in the aftermath of sin, apathy breeding suffering, relief remaining distant. It is normal for people who are clinging to God to find a target painted on their back, so I’ll just remind my soul – and perhaps your soul, too – like the psalmist:

Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.

Lord Willing: The Time We Didn’t Get What We Wanted

I should have been using that expression more frequently.

“Lord willing.”

But here we are, 5 days after our (host) son should have arrived and 2 days after we learned that he will not be coming this summer, barring the miraculous. It seems our plans and prayers were not in line with His will. However, (thank goodness there is a “however”) it seems we are catching glimpses of what His will may be, and we are grateful. Saddened, and frustrated, and hopeful, and PISSED. And grateful.

So, here is the story with as much detail as I can really give in such a public way, so that you can be praying alongside us for our boy:

Rather than being placed on the plane to come stay with us for the summer, he was shuttled to a camp. There is one person that caused this horribly disappointing thing (for our boy, and for us) to happen. He can potentially interfere with the adoption and we have reason to fear that outcome. Please pray that our sons’ hearts would be protected (especially our (host) son), that this person would be dealt with swiftly, that Jason and I would be ready to step up in whatever way we can, that we can protect future children and families from this person, and that the adoption would be successful. Ultimately, we are praying for good to beat evil in this battle.

This has opened our eyes (wide, WIDE) to the urgent need for advocates and families willing to defend the fatherless. We knew it existed, but now we are on fire. So, please, please, please consider how you might begin to or continue to care for orphans-

otherwise Jason and I will have to adopt roughly 200 kids and live in a shack.

Lifesong Matching Grant and LEGOS!

Are you on Facebook? Stop by the grid fundraiser to show your support, pick a number and wait to see if your family won an awesome trip to Legoland (or at least 4 annual passes, which is still REALLY cool). If the grid is filled, our matching grant will be completely met, and that will be $8,000 (minus the prize cost- still REALLY cool) for bringing home our boy. All donations will need to be sent to Lifesong with our family name and number (4544), and the details can be found in the group description.

Thank you for your continued prayers and participation in the crazy journey God has planned for

 

Daily Schedules for Predictability and Planning

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Making up a daily schedule has been really helpful with both boys. For both, we started without using one, and about two weeks in (for both of them) we started using them. When they can see what the day will be like, that at the end of the day the routine is the same, that we do what we say we will do, and that fun stuff is what gets cut out when misbehavior runs long, they seem so much more at ease.

We use a computer program to make the schedule now, but with Jude, we just drew them by hand. Some days we use stickers to mark which activities were completed well, and others we only use verbal praise.

Maybe this will be a help for your family, maybe not, but I wanted to share because it has worked so well for us.

2 Months Together and Other News

Today is our two month mark as a family. Over the last week, our comfort level with each other has increased, James has started initiating affectionate interaction, and communication has taken several big steps forward. There was a period of time where he was soaking in English but not spitting much back out, but now he is taking risks, using new word combinations and even daring to willingly speak to other people. There was also a period of time during which, when asked, he would say that he did not enjoy being in a family, but now he says he does. He has explored the possibilities of throwing a fit and saying ‘no’ to EVERYTHING. Now we are in a phase of lying and hiding the evidence and that is fun for everyone (insert sarcastic ‘not-so-much’ face). At the end of the day, it is clear that our prayers asking the Lord to prepare his heart for this transition have been answered. Our son’s sensory, emotional and physical abilities are shockingly typical in most ways, the result of a less-traumatic-than-it-could-have-been childhood, and I am very grateful for the women that cared for him in Thailand. I hope that reading about the progress made in such a short amount of time will be encouraging to those who are waiting for their children. Reading other people’s blogs and books has been so helpful for me!

As you may know, in 9 days, Jude will be visiting America. The three of us are very excited for this time, though we know that it will introduce a new dynamic to the still fresh family bond, so we will trust that the God who has brought us safe thus far will continue to lead the way. When Jude goes home after the visit, we will have time to regroup, assess, and prepare ourselves for the future.

In related news, LifeSong approved a matching grant for our family AS WELL AS a project with Both Hands! Simply put, if we can raise $4000, they will match it dollar for dollar. We have some creative ideas in mind, but those can wait for another post 🙂

 

The Shoe & Clothing Fundraiser is Complete!

Thank you to everyone who collected and hauled and spread the word and sorted and generally supported us through the fundraiser! Thank you, Jennifer, for making it happen, and thank you, Wrights, for allowing us to fill up your garage! Thanks to this shoe/clothing/toy drive, Thirty-One party, and several generous donations, we are nearing the half way mark of what is needed for the adoption. That. Is. Wonderful. We are feeling called to do this crazy thing, and you’re all crazy right alongside us. That is beyond wonderful.

Here are some photos from the final sorting and pickup day:

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10 Things We’ve Learned from Parenting our Adopted Child(ren)

We are 5 weeks into full-blown parenthood, and our brains are finally functioning at about 70%, so we figured it is time to post an update. We’ll keep it short and sweet and itemized.

  1. Never assume that a child of any age already knows how to properly use toilet paper.
  2. It isn’t easy to teach a child the skills needed to calm down when your last nerve snapped an hour ago.
  3. The terrible twos can happen at any age.
  4. It’s always a good time to dance around naked when you’re 6 years old.
  5. Poop jokes are universally hilarious (We may have already known this).
  6. Socks and closed toed shoes are torture devices begotten by the bogey man.
  7. We should have thought more carefully about the first words we taught our child. Let’s just say Jason jokingly taught “kick-u” and “punch-u” instead of kick and punch, and James continues to use them most often.
  8. Overhearing your child quietly praying independently for the first time is shocking and encouraging. “Thank you, God. Food, cat, James, Amen.” Thank you, God, indeed.
  9. You will never ever again have to wonder “Gee, what are the cats doing?” Your child will give you comprehensive play by plays that would make any sportscaster hand in their letter of resignation.
  10. It is difficult to remember that the angry, defiant child is actually a sad/scared/confused child who knows no other way to express himself and requires comfort instead of punishment. This is completely against our nature, but responding properly has beautiful results.

Bonus: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom may have been penned by the devil (Not really, but amIright? “Flip flop flee?”).

We read several adoptive parenting books before diving in, and they prepared us for (or at least made us aware of) quite a few of the adoption related behaviors and milestones that potentially await(ed) us.

Is there anything that you would add to the list?