I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:1-2

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Just a little teaser...

Back in November I posted that I was "distracted."  Although Reece's Rainbow's Angel Tree was ONE reason I was distracted, it wasn't the main reason.  The MAIN reason is our #1 in our Top 10 for 2011 and that will have to wait until tomorrow.  ;)

Today is the last day for the Angel Tree, so hop on over there and help us get each of these angels $1000 in their grant fund and then come back here tomorrow to see our #1.

Here are some of the sweet kiddos that you can donate to on the Angel Tree:




Many thanks to Sydney at Design by Grace and Faithful Always for the blog redesign.  Didn't she do a great job?

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Fun!

Christmas day was wonderful!  Gloriously sunny, blissfully peaceful, and full of family and fun!  I didn't take many pictures, just enjoyed the day, but I did get some photos of the biggest hits of the day: balsa wood airplanes ($1 each), a dollar store "tattoo sleeve" (thanks Grandma!), and scratch off art (4 for a dollar).  I could have spent less than $10 for Christmas.  I'll keep that in mind for next year.  :)

The kids and my brother played "airplane golf" for hours in the back yard.  We also shot off the rocket that Uncle Nate got for LOTL.  Fortunately it wasn't windy, so we got some really good flights.  In the evening we had a scratch art contest.  The day was capped off with Skyping with much loved relatives who live far away.  Of course this consisted of lots of giggling and showing of presents and very little actual conversation.  A great day was had by all!

Little Pud with her airplane.
See the tattoo sleeve?  LOTL loves it!
Airplane golf...see who can get to the target in the fewest flights.
Look at Super T getting some air!
Grandma came out to watch the rocket launch.

Uncle Nate has always been interested in rockets so he was our expert.
Rocket on the launch pad.  The kids apparently are the supervisors.
3...2...1...Ignition!
Somehow I actually got a great shot of lift-off.
Landed safely.
Scratch art was a huge hit.
Uncle Nate won first place in the art contest.
Super T got a huge giggle fit while snuggling with Pa.
Skyping before it degenerated into show-and-tell, giggling, and wrestling to be in front of the camera.

I hope your Christmas was also wonderful!   I am thankful to the One who came to give us hope and joy and peace and love!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

This is how an eleven-year-old boy feels about mistletoe!
Wishing you a wonderful Christmas full of JOY!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Our Top 10 for 2011


10. Little Pud and Super T had fun being involved in Campfire USA.

9. LOTL earned his Arrow of Light and is excelling in Boy Scouts!

8. Justine had lots of patches to sew on because of Scouts and Campfire, but the pricked fingers were worth it.

7. Super T's adoption was finalized in November! We are so thankful!

6. Legos, Lord of the Rings, living history museums, Signing Time, jewelry-making, hiking, and swimming were favorites in 2011.

5. We welcomed 8 precious children into our home on a temporary basis (not all at once!) Little Pud loved it and is the best big sister!


4. Justine enjoyed her Tuesday night ladies' Bible study.

3. Summer was filled with family, friends, field trips, and lots of water!



2. We became a techie family (sort of) with an iPad (Super T's, thanks to Mission iPossible), iPods (LOTL's is a touch, bought with his own money, and Little Pud's a shuffle), and a blog (updated occasionally, but plan to do better in the new year). Fortunately LOTL is Mr. Technology to help things run smoothly.



AND...DRUM ROLL PLEASE...



1.  Will be announced on New Year's Day!  Just keeping it exciting!

Wishing you a merry Christmas from all of us!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tying my hammock strings to Jesus

My big kids and I are reading Bruchko by Bruce Olson.  Bruce went to South America in the early 1960's at the age of 19 to be a missionary to the remote tribe of Motilone Indians.  It is an amazing story of trust, danger, excitement and how to be a missionary while respecting the people's culture.  We aren't finished with the book yet, but one metaphor stuck out to me.  After YEARS of living with the Motilones and not saying anything about Jesus...just living with them and adopting their culture and building relationships, Bruce's best friend wanted to know about Jesus.  Bruce told him (among other things) that he could "tie his hammock strings to Jesus."  The Motilone's lived in communal homes and all slept in hammocks, some suspended as much as 20 feet in the air.  Bruce had been hesitant about getting into the hammock at early in time there, and his friend told him that he had to get both feet in the hammock and be suspended.  Bruce told his friend Bobby (his nickname for the almost unpronounceable Motilone name), "You have to be suspended.  That is how it is when you follow Jesus, Bobby.  No man can tell you how to walk His trail.  Only Jesus can.  But to find out you have to tie your hammock strings into Him, and be suspended in God."



This reminds me of my current "theme verse."   Proverbs 3: 5-7 says
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

Not coincidentally, verses 9 and 10 of the same chapter talk about money, one of the most difficult areas of our lives in which to really "tie our hammock strings to Jesus" and lift both feet off the ground.
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

The picture was taken from Bruce Olson's website http://www.bruceolson.com/index.htm  Check out the book and/or the website and be inspired to trust.  Also check out my other blog today about two precious girls.




Wednesday, November 30, 2011

He cares about the little things

When my mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday I had two things on my list: a wireless mouse and a ceramic travel mug.  My wonderful kiddos got me the mouse and mom and dad gave me the mug, and I also received various other generous and thoughtful gifts.  What I didn't tell my mom, though, was that I really wanted a massage. However I did toss that request up to God in a very quick way.  I was not focused on it at all, but it was a real desire of mine that I briefly prayed about.

The day before my birthday I got a call from a dear friend who I hadn't seen in six months.  She wanted to take me out to lunch for my birthday.  She also mentioned that we'd make another brief stop.  On Black Friday we had a lovely lunch at Abuelo's and afterwards we drove to the mall.  The mall on Black Friday?!?  Yikes!  I am NOT a Black Friday shopper.  The parking lot was packed, but we immediately scored a great parking spot.  After walking through the mall craziness for a bit, suddenly my friend said, "Here we are."  We were in front of the chair-massage kiosk.  I can still feel the effects of the amazing massage she gifted to me. (I had a really tight shoulder that is almost completely better now!)  What was so cool is that we were the only ones there, in this BUSY mall, on the busiest shopping day of the year. Almost immediately after my massage started other people started coming up to get in line for the next one.

The past several months (and especially the past month or so) I have been going through a season of re-learning to trust the Lord--really TRUSTING Him for everything.

This experience helped assure me that He hears my prayers and delights in answering them.  It was also an encouragement to my friend--that she does hear from the Lord.  She really felt prompted to get me a massage, but she wasn't sure I'd like it.  I am thankful she was bold enough to follow through. 

God heard me.  She heard God.  God cares about the tiniest details.  He has my best interests at heart.  I can trust Him.  With everything.








Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy birthday to me!

Today is my birthday!  I have never been a big birthday celebrator.  In fact today I am going to "celebrate" by making several pies for Thanksgiving and doing some laundry.  We will cut into the pies tonight, some friends are coming over, and I don't have to cook dinner, so it is all good.  I truly couldn't be happier (unless Jovie's grant fund was to go up).  Thanksgiving week is my very favorite time of year.  I received the sweetest cards from my kiddos and, of course, I received the best present of all when Super-T's adoption was finalized on Friday.

The highlight of the day was when the judge let Super-T sit in his chair and hold the gavel.  Super-T immediately banged it on the judge's microphone.  Fortunately the judge had a great sense of humor and my brother was able to capture the moment.  I love the expression on LOTL's face!  He gets such a kick out of his brother sometimes.

Now I am officially and legally "mom" to three wonderful kiddos!  I am truly blessed!


I have so much to be thankful for this year!  What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Great and hidden things

This verse was in my morning Bible reading.

Jer. 33:2-3
Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it--the Lord is his name:  Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

The omniscient Creator, God of all the universe who knows EVERYTHING, is the one we pray to.  He can and will teach us things that it would be impossible for us to otherwise learn.

John 14:26 (Jesus talking)
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 16:13 (still part of Jesus' discourse above...this is possibly the best 4 chapters in the entire Bible, if it is possible to rank it: read John 14-17)
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

We should not rely on Google for our information.  Go straight to the source!







Friday, November 18, 2011

Adoption Finalization and $5 Friday!

Today, at long last, Super-T's adoption is going to be legally finalized here in the USA.  The country I adopted him from grants the adoptive parents custody and then, after six months and all the post-placement visits have been made, they grant permission to finalize the adoption.  Well, for one reason and another, we had the perfect storm of delays (paperwork lost in the mail, our attorney in a serious car accident, court system losing paperwork, etc. etc.) and now, just two months shy of two years later, we finally have a court date.  Super-T will legally become my son today!  His name will be changed to what we have been calling him for the past two years, and he will become a U.S. citizen!

In honor of Super-T's adoption I am having $5 Friday over on my new blog Joy Down in My Heart .  All the money raised goes directly to Jovie's grant fund (honestly, I can't even see who donates, but I'll be able to see her total go up).  Jovie is an orphan with Down syndrome who lives in the same child care home that Super-T lived in for three years.  Jovie has a family that recently committed to bringing her home, and I know by experience what an arduous process that can be.  Please help me celebrate Super-T's adoption by helping another orphan come home.

Thank you!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Distracted

So I've been a little distracted lately and have blogged even less than usual (if that is possible).  One reason for the distraction is here.  Come check it out.  And I do plan on blogging here again, but I'm not quite sure when.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Foundational Truth 2: Called and Gifted for a Specific Purpose

Did you know that God already has a plan for your life?  He called and gifted you before you were born for a SPECIFIC purpose.  It is not just up to us to find out what we are good at or what we can make the most money at or what we like to do.  He has a Plan, and that Plan is better than any of the plans we try to make without Him.  I found well over 50 passages in the Bible on this topic.  Psalm 139 is amazing.  Below is an excerpt.

Ps. 139:13-18
For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
   when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book
   before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
   they would outnumber the grains of sand—
   when I awake, I am still with you. 

Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Paul all specifically say they were called while in the womb.  (Isa. 49:1-7, Jer. 1:5-10, Gal. 1:15).  There are many other examples in scripture as well (Samson, John the Baptist, etc.)  On of my very favorite passages is about "regular" people (not people who were called to be heroes for God or write books of the Bible).    This story is about Bezalel and Oholiab and "skillful women," just regular people, called for a job as artisans and craftsmen and teachers.  You can find the story in Exodus 31:1-6, Exodus 35:25-35, and Exodus 36:1-7.  These passages, among others (including the "God shows no partiality" in ESV or "no respect of persons" in KJV passages including Acts 10:34, Rom. 2:11, and Gal. 2:6) shows me that God calls all of us, not just the "super-saints" for a specific purpose.

In the New Testament, Paul uses an interesting word picture.  He calls the Church the Body of Christ and then talks about what that means.  I Corinthians 12 is one of the funniest and most profound passages of the Bible.  What would happen if the whole body was an eye or an ear?  Or a crazy giant nose?  (The nose is the one I use with my kids as it gets the most laughs even though that isn't actually in the passage.)  The body wouldn't function very well without all of its parts.  Sure we can live without an appendix or without tonsils or without a finger or even an arm, and sometimes some parts even have to be removed to keep us healthy or alive, but no one would say that is ideal.  Our bodies have different parts: different internal organs, different sense organs, different limbs, and the individual parts should all work together doing their individual jobs well to keep the whole body functioning at peak performance.  If even your little toe gets banged, your whole body's performance plummets for at least a moment.  Romans 12 also talks about this concept.  If you really take some time to really think about this concept it can revolutionize your view of the Church, education, and your own life.

Here are some more references for you to look up.  No time to link them because the house is suddenly alive with children and it is time for me to go make some Saturday morning pancakes.

Amos 7:14-15 (God changed Amos' career mid-life)
Ps. 71:6
Isa. 45:3-13
Hag. 2:23
Rom. 11:29
Eph. 3:1-13
Eph. 4:1
1 Thess. 1:4
2 Tim. 1:5-12
1 Pet. 4:10-11

Now for some pancakes...





















Owls and Respite

Yesterday morning I woke up at 5:30 to a whooo-oooo sound.  At first I thought Super T was making the sound (he is a notorious early-riser, although it has been getting much better especially now that the days are getting shorter).  A minute later I realized that I was being serenaded by an owl.  There is nothing quite like that whoooo-oooo in the early morning to help me spring out of bed with a smile.  Well, spring might be a rather strong word, but I did immediately get up and go open the front door in hopes of hearing the owl better.  Apparently he was in my parents' back yard because the sound was fainter from the front (my folks live next door to me...a perfect arrangement when you are a single mom and have wonderful parents).  I thought then about blogging (it is usually early morning or not at all around here), but got distracted by a book I was reading.  Peace and quiet is so alluring to me.  :)

Yesterday afternoon two sweet little girls were dropped of for respite.  They have been here before for a longer period and this is just for the weekend, so we are all happy about it, especially Little Pud who desperately wants a little sister and will likely cry when they leave, but even LOTL who balks at having little ones for long periods of time is good with having them for the weekend, and Super T loves anyone who is littler than him since he almost always is around people who are bigger than him and boss him around.  He tries to boss the little girls around, much to their annoyance but his delight.  I am thrilled to help out some hard-working foster parents and care for some precious girls who have been in a bad situation.  It promises to be a busy weekend, so I am up early this morning to try to pound out on the keyboard what is floating around in my brain.  I guess we'll all find out if it gets done before the small fry get up...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy Weekend and Two Links

I plan on continuing my education posts next week. I have a lot to write, but unfortunately very little time in which to write. For today I am just going to give you two links to explore and some book recommendations.

My friend Shannon (yes, the same one who wrote the fruit post I linked to below) wrote an interesting piece about reaching our children's hearts (comparing them to a bridge). Go read it here.

Also, there is some good stuff going on over at Mission iPossible. Note Super T on the sidebar buttons there. I'll write more about that soon, I hope.

In your free time this weekend I would recommend looking at the books on my Shelfari widget to the right. These are all excellent books that I have read in the past few years. Most are primarily about parenting. My current favorite is Raising Kids for True Greatness by Tim Kimmel. It really challenged my view of success for my children.

Have a wonderful long weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Foundational Truth 1: The Heart

The heart is what is important, not appearances or behavior! So much of our time as parents is dealing with what are kids are doing, and rightly so. I don't think you can avoid this. The problem comes when we see their compliant actions as success because their hearts can be rebellious while their actions are obedient. We have to consciously focus on their hearts and attitudes even while we work on their behavior (don't ignore the behavior or your job will be tougher, though...I learned this the hard way). As I now tell my children, "what is going on in your heart is more important to me, but I can't just ignore what you are doing."

Think of an apple tree. The behavior is the apples (the fruit). The heart is like the roots. If my apple tree is producing bad fruit can I fix it by going down to Whole Foods and buying some lovely organic apples and duct-taping them to the branches? Yet that is what we often try to do with our children. We teach them the right actions and then practically force them (as much as possible) to do them...duct-taping good apples on their tree while ignoring the real problems. We see that lovely fruit and think we have succeeded in parenting. Now if my apple tree has bad fruit, I may have to buy my apples (teach them the right actions), but meanwhile I need to find out what my apple tree needs to produce better fruit next year. Maybe I need to fertilize it or water it more or figure out some organic pest control or even prune it. I need to deal with the roots and the whole tree, NOT specifically with the fruit, for long-term fruit production. And this doesn't happen just once. It is an ongoing process...a long, long, process. It takes TIME, but eventually the fruit will grow on its own. Incidentally, this process does not just apply to our children, but to ourselves as well. My good friend Shannon posted a great post about this a few months ago. I'd highly recommend reading it.

There are so many scriptures about this (I've found almost 60 different passages so far!) I will write down a couple here (copied and pasted from Bible Gateway) and give you a list to look up yourself.

1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."

Luke 16:15 (ESV)

And he said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.


More passages:

1 Chron. 28:9-10
Prov.1:7 and Prov. 9:10 (these verses go together in my opinion)
Isaiah 11:3
Isaiah 29:13-16
Matt. 18:1-6
Luke 11:37-44
1 Cor. 4:5
2 Cor. 5:11-12
Col. 2:20-23
James 3:13-18

I would encourage you to open your Bible, or make use of Bible Gateway, or Blue Letter Bible (which included a concordance and links to commentaries and other study aids) and look some of these up. Be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who searched the scriptures for themselves to make sure that what they were taught was true.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Relearning...

I am re-relearning lessons I thought I had down pat. The good news is that it usually takes less time to relearn what you learned well in the first place. The bad news is that the lesson still isn't very fun (even when going over it for the umpteenth time). I'm so thankful God is patient with me and His grace is sufficient. The truth is that I don't need to force myself to learn this lesson. I just need to be willing to learn it as He (re) teaches it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

God's View of Education

I was going to call this "God's View of Education: Part 1," but the truth is, this post actually starts with two previous posts. If you haven't read My Collection or What I Did With My Collection start there. For a tiny bit more background that wasn't mentioned in those posts: I was a math education major in college and taught high school math for several years before getting married. I also taught junior high math for a year when I was pregnant with LOTL, and then tutored math for a few years during the afternoons. I was entrenched in the educational system. It was my life for well over 20 years (kindergarten through career). That would help explain why my first attempt at homeschooling "differently" (you need to read My Collection for explanation) was a failure.

I have to admit to you that the description of What I Did With My Collection didn't last terribly long. I got bogged down, so I dropped that plan and decided to organize my collection of education scriptures more efficiently. I simply wrote a list of the books of the Bible in a notebook (leaving several lines between each) and wrote the references under the appropriate book. This also made it handy to write down new references when I found then when reading my ten chapters per day (and lest you think I am amazing, I am currently on day 66 of this plan...I was on day 40 on Feb. 25, but you'll find out some of what I have been doing meanwhile). I ended up with around 400, FOUR HUNDRED, different passages in the Bible about education! WOW! I was shocked! I haven't even gone through the whole Bible yet (especially the Old Testament...I think I made it through the entire New Testament).

I didn't take the next step in organizing these scriptures until after I ran into a former student who was interested in homeschooling. I told her that my views on education had radically changed from the time I was a teacher and that I was finding out that God had lots of information on education in the Bible. She was interested and wondered if I'd share what I'd found out with her and some friends. Although it took us months to schedule (because of my crazy life), we were able to meet last week. In preparing for that, I decided to re-look through all of the scriptures in my collection (now nicely organized, which really helped) to see if I could put them under some broad headings. I ended up with five of what I called "foundational truths" and seven principles on how to follow through.

My focus verse is Ephesians5:15-17. Below it is in the Contemporary English Version.

Act like people with good sense and not like fools. These are evil times, so make every minute count. Don't be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do.
I need to find out what He wants me to do so I can make every minute count, especially with my kids. We all have heard how fleeting our time is with them, and I am starting to find it out firsthand as they grow up before my eyes.

Update July 27, 2013:  I posted the list of scriptures (it is not all of them, but it includes the ones that really "spoke" to me) under their various headings on the "God's Plan for Education" tab at the top right of this blog.  I hope to one day soon blog at least briefly about each topic, but meanwhile you can do your own study (which is actually better.)

Here is a direct link: http://transformationbytheword.blogspot.com/p/gods-plan-for-education.html

Monday, July 25, 2011

FB Note from March 10, 2011: Goodbye Tex: Grief Revisited

This is the final post in my series of Facebook "notes" I am transferring to my blog. If you are interested in seeing them all, click the "Facebook" label. I am mostly doing this so I will have all this information in one place. I may get up the energy later to post some of the comments to this post that included stories about Tex (again this is mostly for my own kids in the future.) Next week I have thoughts and plans for new education posts, so stay tuned!

Warning: This is a long note written mostly so I won't forget the stories to tell my kids, but I thought a few of you who were part of this history might enjoy it. I have been thinking about Tex and his life the last few days because I knew the end was near. I want to write this down while I have the motivation. Don't feel like you have to read it at all or skip straight to the end to read some of my views on grief.

All my life I have been an animal lover. My dad (who has many other wonderful qualities) doesn't quite share those sentiments, so I only had a few brief interludes with pets in childhood, and "my" dog at my grandpa's house four hours away. When a pet fell into my lap in my young adulthood, I jumped at it (and have been collecting critters ever since).

In June (or was it July?) of 1996 I took a trip to see my good friend in rural east Texas. While there we found a stray calico cat with five tiny kittens living in their only-used-for-storage old barn. The solution was obvious. My friend took her pick then I had mine. We found homes for the rest of the kittens and the momma cat. I drove the 5 hours home with a little orange and white ball of fluff snuggled on my lap. The whole way home I was busy thinking of names. I favored math names like Euclid or Isosceles (the cat had a triangle of orange around his nose.) Once home I sprung my pet on my parents. I was living with them after college while I was teaching high school math. My dad said he should be called Tex. My mom and I agreed that my best chance to keep my happy home and my kitten was to use dad's name for him, so Tex he was.

Tex was a lively funny kitten. Everyone should have a kitten at least once in their life. There is nothing like it. I gave Tex a stuffed armadillo that was bigger than himself. He loved Mr. Armadillo. Tex would chase me around and play. He would go outside and climb trees. My brother, who was also living at home at the time, loved playing rough and teasing Tex. I think Tex enjoyed it, too. Tex treated each member of the family differently. He especially loved my mom, and, right up until almost the end, if she came over he would assume she came over to see him and demand to be petted.

Tex was with me for almost 15 years and through 8 moves. He was the constant while I brought one big person and 3 little ones into our lives and while 7 other pets entered our lives and 5 of those pets left. He has been with me for over one third of my whole life and 80% of my adult life. He was mine while I was a single career-woman. He was with me when I got my first apartment alone (and got a snake Tangle). He was there through my engagement and marriage (without the snake--Michael liked Tex, but said the snake had to go). He moved out East and then back to the plains with my husband and I, although he HATED riding in the car. He coped with a new dog Ranger and a new kitten Ollie out east. He grew to love Ollie (as did Ranger and the rest of us), and a year or two later grieved Ollie's untimely death, sadly searching the house for his friend. When we finally had to give Ranger away a couple years later, Tex rejoiced and became the proud lord of his domain that he had been before the hated dog arrived. Soon we got him another cat friend, Tripod. Shortly after Tripod came home, Michael died. Tex was always there for me to pet and talk to and cry with. A few years later when we moved to the house we are in now, we got a dog Thunder. Thunder had fun chasing the cats until they discovered that they could bully him (thanks to a stray who claimed our home and who was the best cat with the kids...we miss you, too, Oreo). A couple of years ago I made a promise to Tex, not to bring any more pets into our lives until he was gone. It had just gotten too stressful for him. He was turning into an old cat, a grumpy old man with the other pets (but oddly friendlier with his family). He never really liked Oreo and thought Thunder was the cause of all evil. (And in case you are counting pets, there was also LOTL's baby turtle Red-Ear a few years ago, who died an unfortunate death, but Tex didn't really interact with him beyond the occasional sniff.)

Tex has always been there for the kids. He never liked the kids particularly; he knew about kids and would usually run and hide when we had guest kids, but he was very protective of His kids. If Little Pud cried, it was obviously someones fault, and in the last 5 years, that someone was Thunder. Poor Thunder has taken the brunt of Tex's wrath hundreds of times. Fortunately for Thunder, Tex was front-claw declawed. As much as he would hide from child-guests, Tex loved adult guests, usually coming out and asking to be petted. Everyone thought he was "friendly" in spite of his overall grouchy disposition with the family. (I say that with love, I loved my grouchy cat, even though he would bite to tell me he was "done" being petted, and he actually got overall friendlier as he aged.)

Tex was the smartest cat I have ever personally known. He was an indoor-outdoor cat, but was all about his own comfort, so was only outdoors when the weather was great--not too hot or two cold and certainly not if it was rainy. He spend two or three days last week basking in the springtime sun in our front yard [remember this was originally written in March...last week in real time was HOT.] I never worried about him (well, at least not after the first year or two). He always knew exactly where he was and what to do and where I was and where home was and to get out of the way of cars. (I never let him outside in a couple of our houses/apartments that were in too busy areas, but anywhere that it was a possibility he got to go out and he LOVED it.) He also protected the front yard from strange dogs. Often he would chase off the neighbor's schnauzer and occasionally bigger stray dogs. He didn't realize that he was smaller than all of the dogs he chased away or that traditionally the dogs chase the cats. If I was outside gardening or playing with the kids, he would follow me around, jumping the fence if he needed to (although preferring to wait for the gate to be opened for him as he aged, which we usually did for him.) If we were next door at my parent's house he would wait on their porch (or sometimes go in to visit them, since even dad liked Tex by this time.)

One thing he did NOT do was catch mice, that is until Dec. 5, 2010 (yes, just 3 months ago!) I posted this status after Tex caught his first mouse:

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but apparently cats don't follow this rule. My 14 1/2 year old cat Tex, who I have had since he was tiny tiny, caught his first mouse yesterday! I have noticed him watching Tripod, the good mouser, lately. I was truly amazed (a little grossed out, but amazed.)

December 6, 2010 at 1:01pm

Tex died March 10 in the wee hours of the morning. We had all said our goodbyes and cried lots of tears (well, the boys didn't cry, but Little Pud and I did.) Today we will have a brief service for Tex, cry some more tears, and tell some stories about him.

I have some views about grief, and one of them is that losing a pet is one way children can learn about death and how to grieve. In an ideal world, children would experience death first through pets, then the loss of very elderly neighbors or distant family members--and we as parents would take these opportunities to help them understand the value of life, how human life is different from animal life (as precious as the animals are to us), and how to grieve, so they will be more prepared for the bigger losses later in life. Obviously we don't live in an ideal world. My own children's first loss was their father--or in Super T's case, his whole birth family. Many children are never taught how to grieve or encouraged to grieve and may only witness death on tv (in a very removed environment where the actor is not really dead, giving death an unreal quality.) Yesterday (as we knew this was coming) and today I have encouraged each of the kids to express their grief their own way. Little Pud tends to wail and be dramatic, LOTL is quieter and thoughtful. Both are okay. Super T doesn't really understand and never paid much attention to Tex at all (although he loves Tripod.) Losing a pet, although so so sad, is not the same as losing a person. It is however, losing a big part of your life, and the grief process is similar. Tex will be sorely missed, but I am happy for the good memories I have and the almost 15 years we had together.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Choices and Trust

Over the last few days I have been reminded of how important our reactions to bad situations are. Did you know that you have a choice in how you react, even when the circumstances are very bad?

Earlier this week I had an unexpected bad thing happen to me and within the next day or two an expected good thing didn't happen. Both situations were tough and stressful in their own ways, and I had lots of choices to make.

The bad thing (serious car trouble on the highway) could have been REALLY bad (breaking down on the highway with 6 people in the van in 100+ degree heat), fairly quickly resolved itself into being just pretty bad (mostly financially since we made it to the Bass Pro parking lot...if your car is going to break down on a hot day with kids in the car, that is a pretty good place to be.) I will not deny that it was stressful, but after taking a deep breath (or 10) and praying a good bit (silently, while keeping an eye on the kids in the store), I chose to trust God to work it out (while doing my part by making phone calls, etc.) To make a long story short, I anticipated around $1000 in repairs (yes, it was that bad), later was happy to receive the estimate of "only" $500, and finally was ecstatic to get the final bill of $85. Yes, you read that right! It was awesome and amazing! God is so faithful!

The van situation was quickly resolved. The other situation is ongoing. I am not going to go into details here, but a good thing that I expected to happen didn't happen. It was a huge disappointment. I had the opportunity for discouragement, anger, mistrust, etc. I had lots of choices to make. Where do I place my hope? my trust? my focus?

Psalm 121 (KJV)

1I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

2My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

3He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

4Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.

6The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

7The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

8The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Aha! My help comes from God. Not from people (who God can use, but they are not my source.) If God doesn't use the method I thought He would use I still can choose to trust Him. So much of this is a choice. What do I think about? What is my focus? Where are my priorities? Do I really love people or do I covet things? God made heaven and earth (v. 2 above); He never takes a break (v. 3 & 4); He is who I choose to look to. Because of choosing to look to God and trust Him, I can see the bigger picture, maybe not the whole picture, but enough of it to realize that my disappointment is nothing compared to what other people are going through, enough to give me empathy rather than anger, and confidence rather than shattered hope.

I will leave you with the first nine verses of Ps. 37. If you get a chance, read it in its entirety. Meditate on it. Choose who you will trust. If you feel like you just can't make this choice, or you feel like you have no choice, ask for God's strength and His grace. It is only by His grace that I have been able to make these choices.

Psalm 37

1Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

2For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

3Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

4Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

5Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

6And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.

7Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

8Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

9For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.



Monday, July 4, 2011

FB Note from Jan. 26, 2010: Adoption update--ONE YEAR!

FAMILY DAY!

One year ago today {as of Jan. 26, 2011) Little Pud, my mom and dad, and several friends met us at the airport (after several delays, missed flights, and finally getting the last flight of the night out of Dallas.) LOTL and I stepped off the plane with Super T, and our family was together at last. Now, one year later, Super T is thoroughly Americanized (he would eat pizza at every meal if I let him, although he still loves Chinese food) and is completely entrenched in our family and makes us laugh every day. We all love him so much.

It hasn't always been easy, but it has been so worth it. I thank God for creating our family from opposite sides of the earth through the miracle of adoption. If God is leading you to adopt, please follow His lead. Your life will never be the same.

[I thought it was appropriate to publish this on July 4, which is also a Family Day to us. Michael and I got married on July 4, 1998, first forming this family.]

Sunday, July 3, 2011

FB Note from Dec. 26, 2010: The Best Christmas Present Ever

As of today, Super T has been home for eleven months. We brought him home Jan. 26, 2010. He is such a blessing to me and the whole family, and I love him with all my heart. I was not planning on writing an update, especially since I am taking a break from FB (and have enjoyed a definite upsurge in efficiency in my life), but something happened Christmas Eve at bedtime that I had to share.

As I was lying down with Super T at bedtime, I said, "I love you, Super T." Super T then said (in his own way), "I love you, Super T." I said it again, "I love you, Super T." And he said, "I love you, Mama!" His first spontaneous "I love you, Mama"!!! Let me tell you, there is nothing like that in the world. This little boy who was a stranger one year ago loves me. I got all choked up and happy, and he said it again a few minutes later. He also told me he loved me a couple of times on Christmas day and this morning a friend was the first witness to him saying, "I love you, Mama."

Super T is a wonderful boy, a huge blessing, a treasure. He has been a perfect addition to our family. LOTL, Little Pud, and Super T are my trio of incredible kids. I don't know what I would do without them. I am so thankful to be their mom!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

FB Note from Sept 25, 2010: Adoption update--eight months

Super T has been home eight months today. I cannot say enough good things about adopting him He is the light of our lives. He brings so much fun and laughter. LOTL and Little Pud are crazy about him. They clamor for hugs from him first thing in the morning. Super T's vocabulary and communication skills have exploded (sign and speech.) He is reading 20 sight words (it would be more, but we took a substantial summer break.) He is learning to run. He is learning to jump on the trampoline (instead of just sitting and being bounced.) He can now crawl (an important developmental step.) He now walks around barefoot all the time with good balance even on rough ground. He not only notices the animals (previously ignored), but he loves the cats and always talks about them and to them. He also lets the dog lick him on the mouth, and likes it, but that is not such a positive. A month after his birthday, he still remembers it and talks about it almost daily. He actually watches tv (may not seem like a positive until you have a child who won't sit in front of the tv for even 5 minutes.) He has mostly stopped grinding his teeth. He has decided that he wants to talk as much as LOTL and Little Pud at dinner. He has a great sense of humor (which he always has had) and his joke repertoire has expanded to include the very dramatic (thanks, Little Pud.) He understands everything, and now I realize it. The Down syndrome is really no big deal. Frankly, I am pretty sure that most of the issues we deal with (sensory issues and his self stimulating behaviors like tapping, etc.) have their root in his first 20 months of life, when he was hospitalized the entire time. I try not to think about that too much, because it is just too painful to me. He was much-loved at Mother's Choice in Hong Kong from ages almost 2 to almost 5, and then much loved and in a WONDERFUL family setting at the Home of Loving Faithfulness from age 5 until we picked him up at age 9, so I don't really look on those years with much sadness for Super T, but those first 20 months alone in the hospital bother me if I think about them...so I try not to. I am just THRILLED that he is in our family now. I don't know what we did without him. He is much loved by us all. The struggles of that first month was so worth it...so worth it. I thank God for bringing Super T into my life. People say I have done a good thing and that I am helping him (which I suppose I am) but really, I think I have benefited the most. I love being Super T's mommy. I love having three wonderful kids.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Grief

An unfortunate number of my friends are going through deep and profound grief right now. My heart hurts for them and I pray for them often and seriously. I know, however, that ultimately their grief journey is up to them. If you are in a time of grief, I would encourage you to find a verse that speaks to you (ask God to show you one) and hang on to that. Read it and reread it. Over and over and over. Daily and maybe even hourly. It will soak in. For many months it felt like my life depended on Jer. 29:4-14. I read this passage every day (often multiple times a day) and related to it because I felt like an exile. Those words were life to me and one of the main reasons I have a successful grief story. Later I did a study about widows in the Bible and some of the scriptures I found are listed below, along with some other scriptures that may help you in grief. I would encourage you to find a verse that speaks to YOU. It may be different than one that speaks to me or someone else. Words are so inadequate at a time like this, but The Word is not.

Scriptures for grief:

Psalm 23

Psalm 42

Psalm 56

Ps. 147:3

Is. 57:18

Matt. 5:4

Matt. 11:28-30

John 14:1-4, 16-18, 26-30

I Cor. 12:9-10

*I Thess. 4:13-18*

Heb. 4:14-16

Rev. 21:1-4


Widow Stories:

Gen. 38

1 Kings 7:13-14 (story of the son of a widow)

1 Kings 11:26,28 (story of the son of a widow)

1 Kings 17

Ruth

Mark 12:41-44 & Luke 21:1-4

Luke 2:36-38

Luke 7:12-15


Encouragement for widows:

Ex. 22:22-24

Deut. 10:17-18

Deut. 14:28-29

Deut. 16:11,14

Deut. 24:17

Deut. 24:19-21

Deut. 26:12-13

Deut. 27:19

Ps. 10:18

Ps. 68:5-6

Ps. 82:3-4

Ps. 94

Ps. 146:9

Prov. 15:25

Prov. 23:10-11

Is. 1:17

Is. 10:1-2

Is. 54:4-5

Jer. 7:6-7

Jer. 22:3

Jer. 49:11

Zech. 7:9-10

Mal. 3:5

Matt. 23:14

Mark 12:41-44

Luke 20:45-47

James 1:26-27

[This post was originally published as a Facebook note on Aug. 18, 2010.]

Thursday, June 30, 2011

FB Note from June 26, 2010: True Confessions--five month adoption update

In some ways I can hardly believe that Super T has been home for five months already, in other ways it seems like he has always been here. One thing is for sure, I don't know what we'd do without him. He is my awesome little dude. I mostly just want to brag about how far he has come, how comfortable he is in his new family now, and how thrilled we are with him, but first, I have to come clean with two confessions.

First of all, the LOVE...it came gradually for me. It wasn't until Super T had been home for about three months that I felt like I FULLY loved him as my son. Of course, even before I met him, I was in love with his picture, but a picture and a real little boy with real (and sometimes annoying) actions are two totally different things. The first month, I probably felt like I loved him about 50% of the time (usually when he was being cute, funny, or cuddly.) It was pretty tough to act loving when he would wake up super early in the morning or test my discipline or do some of the behaviors that I later figured out had to do with his sensory issues. Oddly enough some of the most irritating things were also the most heartbreaking, like rocking himself to sleep. Somehow, through time spent together and prayer, all the rest of the love crept right in. Now I can hardly imagine that I felt that way, but I know I did, and it was challenging. All the more reason to lean on God. Today I love Super T so deeply that I really don't think I could differentiate between my love for him and LOTL and Little Pud. In fact, the other night I was just so overwhelmed with love for the little guy...it was really amazing to think that he was a stranger just 5 months ago.

My second true confession involves my first impression of Super T on the list that the agency sent me. For the rest of the story see my note from Oct. 28 [published on this blog on June 26.] One thing I haven't told anyone is that, because my printer was running out of ink, I actually misread his description that night that I first felt drawn to the 8 1/2 year old boy with Down syndrome. There was just some very basic information and a very brief description. I thought the description said "can READ single words and phrases" but what it really said was "can REPEAT single words and phrases." My actual thought process was "Well, he is learning to read...Little Pud doesn't know how to read yet, so how bad can it be." I am ashamed to say that my initial impression was that he was very high functioning and that mattered to me (I was initially not open to Down syndrome as a special need.) By the next day, when I read the list on the computer and realized my mistake, I already KNEW he was the child for me. God had so strongly placed him in my heart that there was no turning back. The truth is Super T would not be classified as "high-functioning," but it doesn't matter to me any more. I have always placed WAY too much stock in intelligence and now I am finding out that it is NOT the most important thing. The joke is on me, though, because (BRAG ALERT) Tim is NOW reading...14 different individual words and a book I made for him with SENTENCES in it. He is a very quick learner and has just blossomed.

I could go on and on about how Super T has blossomed and the things he does now that he didn't before and how he memorizes scripture and how he has so much fun with LOTL and Little Pud and his fabulous sense of humor and all the signs he has learned and how he initiates so much communication, but I won't bore you any more. The one thought that really troubles me is the thought of so many orphans (with Down syndrome and without) in orphanages all over the world. If Super T, who was in a wonderful home with incredible house parents who truly loved him, in a first world country with great medical care, in a great school with teachers who doted on him, has grown and learned and blossomed so much in his own forever family; what might be the potential of these other children...many whom will be put in an asylum for life if they are not adopted by age four or five...many who will actually die because of lack of care. What about those children?

Adoption is hard. It can be much much MUCH harder than it has been in our family. But it is worth it. It is so worth it.

[It is interesting to re-read this almost exactly a year after it was written. Super T has now been home for a year and five months. He is amazing and such a source of joy in our lives.]

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

FB Note from April 26, 2010: Adoption-Being Real: Three month update

Not that I am not real other times, in fact the real me tends to be quite upbeat and optimistic and, of course, what I like to share with others tends to be happy, too. The truth is that my life is great. I am thrilled to be fulfilling a dream of mine and what I believe is part of God’s plan for my life. Super T is adjusting very well, and we are all happy. I could write a really upbeat and happy post (and hopefully will soon, telling some of the progress we have made), but I wanted to highlight a difficulty or two for people who are interested in adoption or just whoever is curious and wants a glimpse into our lives. I wanted to write about this after the first month, but wasn’t sure I was confident enough in the good to tell of the not-so-good (not to mention lack of time!)

Super T has adjusted amazingly quickly and well. We have had NO major problems, but this adjustment period has still been quite challenging in many ways. I find myself with so much empathy for people who do have major issues in their adoptions. The truth is, I spent the first month he was home, thinking thoughts like, “I don’t regret doing this…Super T belongs in our family, but this is HARD, and adoption is NOT for everyone.”

Super T has some sensory issues that I didn’t expect (although I probably should have since he spent almost his first two years in the hospital.) It was rather overwhelming and frightening to realize this, but I am so blessed to have friends who have walked this road before and have been a huge encouragement to me and great resources. Fortunately his issues are really relatively minor and now I have some tools to deal with them, but it is a pretty constant issue in our lives (although definitely manageable.)

CONSTANT is the word I would use to describe my life right now. It is good, but it is so constant. There is always one (or two or three) child(ren) who need something from me. I have only sat through one church service in the last three months (although I think I will be able to leave Super T in his class soon…I have been going to his class with him to help him get used to it.) I have to go to bed shortly after the children do, so I can get up before them because, although Super T in many ways is like a preschooler, his body is 9 years old, so he doesn’t need as much sleep as I wish he needed. Weekends were a real adjustment (for me.) Super T doesn’t understand why I would want a break therefore there is no such thing as a lazy weekend.

It truly is three steps forward and one step back. We have had such huge progress in several areas over the last few weeks (speech/sign, playing, security, etc.). It is easy to think that the progress will continue at that pace, then you have a step-back day (last Monday was one) and feel like you are starting all over again (which you are not, but you have to encourage yourself through it.) It can be tricky to realize that this seemingly well-adjusted child just 3 months ago had everything in his life change and now he wonders if this new thing (camping trip, change in seating at meal-time, unexpected guest, etc.) is going to change everything again. Sometimes it doesn’t phase my boy, but other times he really is affected by a seemingly small change. Flexibility is key. I have to not be so attached to my schedule that I am not willing to take the time to comfort him and get him through it. This can make it challenging to complete the best laid plans.

Seven years ago I experienced a year of firsts without Michael…each one brought its own variety of pain and often smiles through tears. I’d have to say that experiencing “firsts” with Super T has been strangely similar. My heart grieves that at age 9 he experienced his first Easter with his family and that he will be 10 when he has his first Christmas with us. All the little firsts are fun, interesting, and/or painful, too: first snow, first pizza night, first time to our church, first popcorn night, first annual spring Woodward park visit, first trip to the zoo, first Turkey Mountain hike, first time to play in the mud, first camping trip, first time to meet his grandma, etc…and then there are the other firsts…like the first time Super T fell asleep without rocking himself…cuddled up to me.

The good FAR, FAR outweighs the bad, but I wanted to let others in on a bit of the reality of the first months with an adopted child, even when things are going great. Two huge benefits I have seen in my own life (not even counting the huge blessing Super T himself is) are that I am becoming more efficient and more fun…efficient and fun…two words I never would have used in the past to describe myself...all thanks to my sweet boy.

[Super T has now been home for a year and a half. He has completely adjusted into our family and so have we. Everything is going GREAT. I just wanted to transfer these notes from Facebook.]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

FB Note from Feb. 27, 2010: Adoption update--home one month

Super T has been home for just over one month now [he came home Jan. 26, 2010, so as of today it has been a year and a half, but I wanted to transfer all of this from FB] He has made an amazingly smooth transition, for which I am so grateful. Every day I am so blessed to be able to kiss him and hug him and see him settle into our family. So far this adoption experience has just been so wonderful--not perfect by any means, Super T and I have definitely butted heads more than a few times-- but truly wonderful.

My heart is full of things I would like to say, but my time is so limited these days that I haven't been able to organize my thoughts or write them out. I had faithfully journaled my adoption experience up to the second day in Hong Kong, but I haven't picked it back up yet. We are just living life one day at a time. Super T is learning so quickly. I am just amazed. He is really picking up sign language (we are getting the Signing Times DVD's from the library) and his speech is coming along with the signs. He is watching LOTL and Little Pud more and more and learning so much from them. He LOVES the trampoline, playing in water (summer will be fun!), and eating ice cream. He also enjoys playing ball, listening to music, cooking with mom, eating almost anything, and cuddling. One thing that surprised me about him was that he doesn't really play with toys. I think that one factor is that he is much more interested in "real" things than toys (other factors are not quite so positive); however, he is learning about play from watching his brother and sister AND enjoying doing "real" things with mom. He is quite mechanical and is interested in how things work, and he is a wonderful imitator. Super T also has a great sense of humor and can be quite the tease (his latest is to call me "Grand-mama.") Attachment (a BIG deal in adoptions) is also really going well. I think Super T is really starting to feel comfortable and safe in our family and our home and like he "belongs" with us (which he does!) He is always hugging me, wanting to sit on my lap, and generally being a snuggly little boy. LOTL and Little Pud are really wonderful with Super T, and Super T really enjoys them. He makes us all smile, laugh, and appreciate life more.

For me the most difficult thing has been how "constant" it is to be Super T's mommy. I knew it was coming and asked for it, but it was hard to anticipate how much change it would be to go from being mom and homeschooling two relatively self-sufficient kids to doing all that with those two plus a special needs child. Down time is very rare, but we are getting into a routine and Super T really is a pretty "easy" child, which definitely helps. One good thing is that I am getting more exercise these days with all the trampolining! I definitely am not complaining, though. My life is wonderful. I am so blessed to be the mom of three amazing children!

Monday, June 27, 2011

FB Note from Oct 29, 2009: My scriptures for 2009: Addendum to Part 6

God led me to this passage on Dec. 29, 2008 and this has been my theme passage for this year. It is especially cool because the chapter begins, "Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar." Hong Kong is an island far away. I feel like this passage was written over 2000 years ago specifically for me! (And yes, I do know it is actually Messianic, so don't bother correcting me with context.)

Isaiah 49:20-23 (New American Standard Bible) [comments in brackets are mine]

The children of whom you were bereaved [I truly felt bereaved of my planned big family] will yet say in your ears, 'The place is too cramped for me; Make room for me that I may live here.' [anyone who has been to my less-than-1000-sqare-foot house can see the relevance]

Then you will say in your heart, 'Who has begotten these for me, Since I have been bereaved of my children, And am barren, an exile and a wanderer? [after Michael's death I truly felt like an exile...in fact my go-to verses for months were Jer. 29:4-7--God's directions to the exiles to Babylon.]

And who has reared these? Behold, I was left alone; From where did these come?' [obviously with adoption the child comes from outside your own body...this is still a mystery to me, but I know Super T is my son, and I have heard from so many other adoptive families about how they all belonged together even though they don't share genetic material.]

Thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations,[this gives me chills--my child is coming from another nation] And set up My standard to the peoples; And they will bring your sons in their bosom, And your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. [Plurals! Be still my beating heart!] And kings will be your guardians, And their princesses your nurses. [the Hong Kong government has done a wonderful job taking care of Super T] They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick the dust of your feet; And you will know that I am the Lord; Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame." [Such encouragement that this truly will come to pass; ALL the glory goes to the LORD!]

Sunday, June 26, 2011

FB Note from Oct 28, 2009: My story...Part 6 Super T

How do I keep this brief? I have two journals almost completely full of adoption stuff and Super T isn't even home yet. [He came home in Jan. 2010.] The journals have been wonderful ways to remind myself of God's faithfulness, to remind myself of what He has told me, to remind myself not to get sidetracked or worried...do you see the pattern here? They have been invaluable in those moments of confusion, decision, and impatience. Much of what I have written in the journals are scriptures that spoke to me at the moment of scribing them. You would be amazed at the number of scriptures that speak of adoption both directly and indirectly.

When God dropped it into my spirit to adopt from Hong Kong, I got very excited. I had researched HK adoption in my period of adoption research a couple of years before (back before I was content...see part 5.) I knew that HK was VERY economical, as far as adoptions go; that they accept single mothers; and that it was a special needs-only program. Now special needs has a very wide interpretation in adoptions, but all HK special needs available for international adoption are moderate to severe; no minor or correctable needs are typically available.

I felt from the very first that God had a specific child for our family and the child was a boy between the ages of LOTL and Little Pud. My homestudy agency has a policy against changing the birth order, therefore only would approve me for a child ages 6 and under (I had to even request this concession...originally my social worker had written age 4 and under because Lilly was 5 1/2 when my homestudy was done, but I knew she would be 6 by the time my new child came home.) There was a form (actually 2 or 3) that I had to fill out that specified the special needs I was "accepting" of. I was very drawn toward blindness and cerebral palsy and was accepting of most physical special needs, but not mental ones. I really felt that the child would not have Down syndrome (a high percentage of children adopted from HK have DS ). I am not entirely sure why I felt that way...I have a several theories and it probably is a combination of those theories and maybe some I haven't even thought of yet. I have a couple of friends who have adopted children with DS and the kids have been tremedous blessings to them and to me.

I started the adoption paperwork early in the fall of 2008. My home study was finished in February 2009 and was sent to Hong Kong and U.S. immigration. The gory details and dates are interesting only to other people "in process," but suffice it to say, there is a LOT of waiting. Unless you have been through this or something similar, you cannot imagine the mental energy expended during the waiting periods...also known as opportunities to learn to trust God in all things.

The rules have changed recently and I was not able to find out information on individual children until my immigration paperwork had been approved. I received my immigration approval in the mail on April 11, 2009, almost exactly 6 years after Michael passed away. According to my placing agency (in CA) there were no children available that met my criteria so I had to wait some more (actually there was one little boy, but I just knew that he wasn't the one for my family.) On April 30, my worker, I'll call her W, told me she had just received an updated list of available children from the agency in HK. Would I like to see it? Ummm...YES!!!!!

Upon receiving the e-mailed file with very basic information (date of birth, gender, major diagnosis, a two sentence or so description) I quickly perused, not even looking at anyone born before 2003 or girls or with DS. I was very disappointed that my son was not there. Later that night when I had more time, I thoroughly read all the entries (23 children). One child absolutely leaped off the page at me...but he didn't fit my "requirements." He was 8 1/2 years old and he had Down syndrome. I did some internet research that night to get up to speed on raising a child with DS and prayed prayed prayed. I decided that if I still felt that way in the morning that I would ask for more information on him. Well, I still felt that way in the morning, so I asked and W sent me his latest child study. I immediately knew he was my child...even before seeing his picture. It was a bonus that he is so cute! This was on a Friday, so I had all weekend to pray about it while waiting for more info that W had requested from HK. The knowing that Super T was my child just got stronger and stronger.

There is so so much more I could write (2 journals worth!), but to make a long long story short, I had to contact my social worker and convince my home study agency to approve me (against their rules) for a child up to age 10. She also had to include DS as an acceptable special need. I am so thankful for favor (and for the fact that Super T is very tiny and Little Pud is large for her age--he will really be the "little" brother.) By mid-June I had my amendment and new immigration approval and everything was in the court of the HK adoption unit. I was notified that they had officially matched me with Super T on October 8, and now I am waiting for U.S. immigration approval, which I expect to receive this week. I am believing to bring Super T home before Christmas. [He came home Jan. 26, 2010.]

I am learning so much about trusting God, hearing His voice, the value of worship, God's love for the orphans and widows, and so much more. It is not easy, but God's grace sustains me. It is shocking just how much I can love someone I have never met in person. In my heart, he has been my son since May. I could not possibly be more excited about adopting Super T. Sometimes it is hard to sleep at night because I am so excited about him. LOTL and Little Pud are very excited as well, and already consider him their brother.

I really appreciate all the support I have received from my friends and family. People have been so wonderfully supportive! I know adopting an "older" child with Down syndrome is not an easy thing for some people to understand, but I feel wonderfully blessed to be called to do this. Super T is not the one who is benefiting the most...I think I am.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

FB Note from Oct 25, 2009: My story...Part 5 The Surprise

After studying the Bible and finding out more about God's view of widows, I became more confident in seeing Him fill the roles left vacant by Michael's death. It brought a wonderful contentment and happiness. I remember saying one day, "I hope nothing changes because I am so happy right now." I should have know right then that change was coming!

Who do you think I was studying about along with learning about God's provision for widows? THE FATHERLESS! The vast majority of verses that speak of widows also speak of the orphan or fatherless (depending on the translation.) I always interpreted that as including LOTL and Little Pud [see About Me for explanation], which it does, but there was so much more that was getting down into my mind and spirit. One day in the early summer of 2008, BAM! into my heart dropped the thought, "I am supposed to adopt from Hong Kong." This was out of the clear blue. I knew it wasn't my own thought. It was from God. I took some time and prayed, but it didn't go away, so I started the process to adopt from Hong Kong.

A bit more background: Michael and I had always planned on adopting sometime. We wanted "a lot" of kids. We always said "at least 4," but the truth was we really wanted 6 (or maybe even more.) After I made it through the first year or so of grief for my husband, my bigger struggle was my grief for the children I would never have. At first I thought that maybe I would get remarried and have more children that way. At one point a few years ago I did extensive research into adoption as a single mother, but I just knew that wasn't for me at that time (much to my sadness, because I really wanted to adopt.) FINALLY, gradually, I became completely content with the two wonderful gifts I had been given (not that I wasn't thankful for them before--I enjoyed them so much that I wanted more.) That contentment and my widow/orphan Bible study both came about a year or so before the mandate to adopt suddenly appeared.

I thought this might be my last post, but it is getting too long, so Super T's adoption story will have to wait for next time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

FB Note from Oct 4, 2009: My story...Part 4

As a widow with two young children, I had been placed in a situation where I could not possibly succeed and thrive on my own. Most of my life that had not been the case. I had been blessed with the intelligence, disposition, and talents that made my way through school a breeze, gave me a successful and fulfilling career, and a good family life. Other than a few snags (mostly outlined in parts one and two, and in which areas I had learned to rely on God), my life had pretty much been as easy as can be. Oh, sure, I had my moments and difficulties, but I nearly always had the ability to solve my problems in my own strength. That is not to say I didn't have a good relationship with God. I did. I just didn't feel the need to rely on Him for my daily strength. He was a wonderful add-on to my life; an important part, but not the only part. In fact, being married had actually decreased my dependence on God. Honestly, Michael had become my all-in-all; and Jesus was someone we taught our kids about and someone we worshiped on Sundays. When Michael died, all that crumbled. If I was going to make it, I had to look to God. I knew all the intelligence in the world wouldn't solve this one. Athletic talent would be no help. Even interpersonal skills wouldn't do it. I saw that I had to turn to God. Since I have already talked about this in part 3b I won't go into the details her, but instead will talk about some of the results.

I firmly believe that God has a special plan and purpose for each person's life. I also believe that He give us gifts and talents to use for Him. HOWEVER, often those gifts and talents lead us to rely on them instead of the Giver of the gifts. Those very gifts from God can make it difficult to feel the need to rely on God. Many of the smartest and most talented people are also the most miserable. They are trying to do it themselves. And some of the most unlikely people are happy, fulfilled, and successful because they know they can't do it themselves.

Almost exactly two years after Michael died, God called me to switch churches. At the time I didn't know why, and I really liked my old church; I just knew that was what I was supposed to do. At the new church there was a focus on purpose. I took a class about finding your purpose and boiled my purposed down to two words: Educate and Encourage. Okay, no huge surprise there. I also met two other young widows who were homeschooling their children. What? You mean I am not the only one? Hmmmm...

Meanwhile I was wishing I could find a Bible study where you actually sat down and studied the Bible (instead of preaching/dvd with discussion.) I felt the Lord speak to me that I could study His word on my own. WHAT? I never went to Bible school. I have never had a class that told me how to do that (actually I did, but Mr. Korver's 10th grade Bible class was a LONG time ago.) People don't STUDY the Bible on their own. Pastors do that (it's their job!), but regular people like me have "quiet time" or "devotions." Nevertheless, I knew I was supposed to study my Bible. I borrowed my mom and dad's concordance (they went to Bible school and had the credentials to "study") and using the concordance and a dictionary started studying. The Lord led me to look up the word "widow" in the concordance. I looked up all the scriptures with the word "widow" in them and hand wrote out most of them. It was slow, tedious work, but exciting too, in a strange way. I found myself getting up early to have more time to study. Sometimes I would break out my Bible in the afternoon or evening to get some more time in. What did I discover? More than I bargained for. First and foremost: in order to get the MOST out of the Bible you have to STUDY it for yourself instead of relying on others to do it for you. Let me say that again: you have to STUDY the Bible for yourself instead of relying on others to do it for you! I feel like I cannot say it enough. It is VITAL! I also learned about God's amazing care for widows. I can trust in Him because He cares for me and has said it over and over and over in His Word. It is a theme that runs throughout the whole Bible and now is imbedded deep in my heart.

The "more than I bargained for" will have to wait for part 5. Stay tuned...