Monday, December 22, 2008

Learning Obedience

Sometimes there are moments that I know have been small turning points in the right direction. Today we had one of those.

To back up a bit, the past few days have been fabulous but exhausting days. We have had a flurry of activity - Christmas with Zach's parents and with my brother-in-law and his family. We then went to the high school state championship game for Zach's high school team. And they won state!! Woohoo Wildcats!! So rather than traveling to Zach's parents' home for Christmas - everyone came to our area for the big game. It was lots of fun and a wonderful time to spend with family. The girls really enjoyed getting to know their grandparents and extended family a little better and received some great gifts that have been thoroughly enjoyed. But at the same time it was lots of going, lots of sugary food, and no routine. Oh and then after church yesterday we had a cookie baking marathon. All this led to a few struggles that we saw at Thanksgiving as well. It started slow but by Sunday afternoon I felt an undercurrent of irritability. Nothing major but a lot of us were getting grumpy (me included) and this led to some grumpy attitudes towards one another. Now to be honest - I was feeling perhaps more irritable than anyone and was having trouble with my own attitude. I knew this was occurring but until I had a little time to get away and pray and regain my perspective until today. I was just kinda hanging on but certainly not doing good!

So anyways, the history of the past few days stated - today I had some time to go run some last minute Christmas errands, return some phone calls, and even eat lunch all alone :) Our fabulous helper, Katherine, had done a great job as always of loving on the kids, playing a ton of games, and keeping things on a reasonable routine while I was gone. When I arrived back home everyone was very happy but I could feel still a subtle undercurrent of frustration from Katya. I knew she was feeling frustrated and was being moody. I knew that we had not had the greatest interactions yesterday and that I had not handled her minor bouts of grumpiness and subtle disobedience very well yesterday. I could feel that there was a little distance between us. I knew that we needed to bridge this gap and reconnect. I believe that anytime there is a relational problem between myself and any of my children - no matter how small - it needs to be resolved fully before it grows much bigger. So I invited her to go outside and jump on the trampoline with me. She declined which is very unusual. I went anyways and soon all the other kids were jumping with me. She rode her bike around and seemed happy enough but I knew something was going on. We talked a bit and I asked her again to jump. She happily said no but I knew something was up. Soon she rode on past us and headed towards my parents' house. We have a strict rule that the kids may ride in the circle that goes around the property (and past my parents' house), but that they may not go into my parents' house without asking permission first. We have made this crystal clear and there was no doubt that it was understood. I had the sinking feeling that Katya was not just going for a ride around the circle but was going to their house. I followed her and discovered I was right - she was inside. Now this is not a huge deal all by itself, but it was a clear act of willful disobedience - perhaps one of the first we have really encountered with the girls. She knew that she was wrong and told me that she was sorry but I told her that it was not okay to not listen to us. I took her home and told her that Daddy and I would be in to talk to her.

We went in to her room together, sat with her on her bed, and told her how very much we loved her. We asked her if she had listened to us. She at first said yes with a scowl but after a few more questions she admitted that she had not listened. We explained that it was not polite to just go into people's houses without asking first and that we understood that she wanted to see her grandparents but that she must ask first. We also explained that we loved her and that it was not good for her to disobey - that it hurt her 'heart' to disobey. She agreed! She said she was sorry. We then gave her a small consequence and she began to cry but she hugged me while crying. I told her many times how much we loved her all the time and that I loved her even when she did not listen. The important thing about this is that even though this was a minor offense it was big because she so clearly knew that she was disobeying. So after we corrected her and gave a small consequence she cried but then all the frustration melted away. We played a wonderful game of Uno and laughed together and there was a deeper connection for both me and her. We had reconciled and she learned that we love her too much to let her disobey. It is not about us - it is about her heart being right. She did not feel happy when she was disobeying - she was miserable and distanced from us. But when she was corrected and realized that we loved her enough to be consistent, her anxiety dissipated and she was once again able to feel connected with us rather than at odds with us.

We then went on to enjoy a sweet time together as a family, eating dinner, having a lively discussion about our Christmas devotion, and curling up on the couch for a family movie night - The Nativity (which had to be paused many times for explanations :))!

Funny thing is, I feel more at peace and my frustration is gone now too. I felt irritation because I was letting small disobedience issues go unresolved. So I am thankful that I had a day to recharge a little and that God gave us such a sweet time of bonding tonight.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

One year ago...

Just a short 12 months ago, we had been staring at this picture for several weeks and praying for the sweet girl with such short hair and beautiful blue eyes. I had cried praying for her several times and had not yet met her. We had imagined what this sweet girl must be like. We had zoomed in on this picture a hundred times and had tried to see what was behind those eyes.

Backing up a bit to last October, we had been seriously praying about adoption for over a year but it just didn't seem like we knew how to take a step forward. We had gone to a Hope For Orphans conference two years ago. I spent countless hours reading about adoptions and scouring photolistings :) I had learned about Ukraine - just feeling sure that it was where we were called for no specific reasons that I could determine. Then out of the blue my friend Alison (who also adopted but from China) told me I should meet Becca because she had adopted from Ukraine. A day or two later I see Becca's name come up on the Ukraine adoption yahoo board. I emailed asked if she was the Becca from New Braunfels. She was of course :) We met the next day for lunch and I met her precious daughter who had been born in Ukraine. Becca was organizing a hosting trip for Christmas for children from Ukraine and asked if we were interested. I said no - this was too short notice and these children were all too old for us - we didn't think we could adopt an 'older child'. We knew many adoptive families but not any of older children. Well God kept nudging my heart. That night I stumbled across this blog and read the whole thing through (crying and laughing), watched the videos, and saw the beautiful reality of how God was bringing this child into the home that He had planned for her and meeting the needs of her soon to be family. It openned up our hearts and minds to both the needs and the possiblities with adopting an older child. Zach and I prayed and agreed to see the pictures of the children that needed homes for Christmas. They were all precious but none really grabbed my heart. Then one more picture was sent to us and we just felt a connection to this child. It is hard to explain but something about her just called us. Zach and I and the kids prayed and talked and were all in agreement that the Lord was leading us to host this girl. So just before the deadline, we got all our paperwork in and began preparing for Nastya to come.

We didn't know if it would lead to adoption but we were just determined to bless her for Christmas and take it one step at a time. We were told she had one sister but that they were not together because the sister was extremely ill and in a heart hospital. We were told that they didn't know each other and that Nastya could be adopted separately from her sister. We didn't think much more about her sister at this point. But in His perfect plan, God did not reveal this information to us, because had we known about Katya we would never have moved forward with the hosting. And oh how thankful now we are that we have each of these precious girls. It is amazing how much God has changed our mindsets and openned our hearts to what He is capable of doing.

So jump forward to December 21st, 2007. We anxiously await their arrival all day. We finally head to the airport around 11:00 at night. Finally at midnight a tired group of children appear at the top of the escalator. My heart sinks. She isn't part of the group. There must have been a mistake because all these children are much too small to be a 9 year old and none of them look like this child in the picture. But then this sweet, small girl grins shyly up at me. I realize - this is her!! Zach and Nastya and I pose for a few pictures and converse a bit through the exhausted escort and then we head home. You can read all about our first night here. It was definitely a douzy of a first night but it was all uphill from there :)

So, who but God could have worked all the details out and moved the mountains that have been moved this year - both externally and in our own hearts and minds - and brought home our two daughters?!?! What an amazing blessing this year has been. We have seen the hand of God at work and experienced a little deeper glimpse into His redemptive love that He has for each one of us.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Is anyone still there?!?

Okay we really haven't fallen off the face of the earth - just have been really busy. I seem to have this problem that when I go for a long time without posting then I get a complete block and don't know how to start again or how to possibly catch up. I'll give it a whirl here and try to be more consistent. Lots of posts have been written in my head but unfortunately never made it here... So this might be a little disjointed as I try to recap a few things.

Let's see~

We had a great Thanksgiving although for Katya it was a bit overstimulating which led to a lot of difficulty sleeping. So we were all very glad to back home and into our routine. The first night we were back home Zach was putting Katya to bed and she said, "Daddy, now me my house. I sleep good now." And she has ever since :) Katya is really doing well - she is an amazingly motivated student who is flying through the Explode the Code books as well as our other school books. She is learning a ton of English! She is very loving and every night when she prays she thanks God for her big family. Although the other day she was telling me that really our family is very small and we should adopt some more children - like her friends :) She gives lots of great hugs and definitely feels love through gifts and through touch. We have seen a great improvement in her confidence level as she can accept mistakes in schoolwork and just correct them without being overly upset anymore. She enjoys being helpful in the kitchen and with other household chores. She also loves to read and gets very nervous when her current book (in Russian) is near the end. It is hard to find good books to order in Russian!! But our little book lover is in good company and she can't wait to know English enough to read all of Allee's books.

Nastya - our little outdoorsy girl. She LOVES animals and is fully convinced that she will catch a bird or a squirrel or some other type of animal. She spends hours making traps with strings and food to lure the animals to the trap. She can't wait for Spring when baby animals will be born and truly believes that she may find a baby bird or deer or raccoon that needs her help. I have probably made matters worse as I have recounted stories of my own childhood when we once found baby blue jays and raised them as well as when my sister and mom raised a baby deer that slept in my sister's bed. She asks me daily for a baby puppy and tells me that one day she may make her house into a real zoo. She reminds me so much of myself as a young girl - I spent untold hours with my sister searching for baby deer and even caught a seagull with some bread and a string one time (it quickly got away from me though)! She is a bit more coordinated than I was though (major understatement), with her incredible athleticism. I love to see her soaking up the outdoors and using her imagination. Oh one story - one day she and Allee and Katya caught some butterflies and when I went into their room they had made these grass beds inside their stools complete with sliced fruit and water for the butterflies. Everything was going along just fine until their beloved cat ate the butterflies!!! Oops! They were soon forgiven though :)

Family Life - Mainly busy!! We have been going full steam since we got home with homeschool, Allee and Jadon and Ben's school stuff, Christmas, work, and lots more!! Oh - we finally got a contract on our house a few weeks ago which is a huge answer to prayer in the current economy situation but it means that we have to move the rest of our stuff out into storage by this weekend. We moved about 10 days before leaving for Ukraine so we certainly just did the primary things and left extra stuff - like everything in the garage and in storage closets and outside. So the next few days I get to move :) Oh and then Thursday I get to go to the dentist to get my tooth fixed that I had a filling fall out of two days ago :) Gotta keep things interesting.

Honestly I have just been a mix of doing really well with it all and then occasionally feeling that I might be losing my mind :). It was also surprisingly emotional for me to go back to clean out the old house. Surprising because I really never liked it all that much but I forgot what a sentimental sap I am... So just lots of emotions. If I think for more than a few minutes about all I have to do right now I feel very stressed - actually I can feel my body tense up just writing the above and thinking about all that I need to accomplish in the next few weeks. But I have tried to keep my focus on what must be done today and on what is most important. I guess somehow it will all get done, right?!? The big picture is that we are oh so blessed and everyone is doing well. "So just don't sweat the small stuff"...I keep saying that over and over.

It has been hard to find quiet time with the Lord to allow Him to renew me and I feel my deep need for Him. There are so many things I need to spend time praying over and just taking to Him rather than trying to figure them out myself. I know that I cannot do this myself and that I need Him desperately but the heavy load of busyness had made it difficult. I find myself working until near bedtime and then just busy with children. So for me - my biggest struggle has been to personally seek my Lord first when everything else seems so demanding. We do have bible time each morning as part of school and I have a few minutes of quiet to pray and read and journal a bit.

A quick update - I wrote all the above on Monday but had to edit a little before posting. Yesterday was even harder and I had a really difficult day. I know that many of you were praying for me. This morning I woke up feeling well rested and then events just fell into place and God gave me some quiet time with Him. I just feel more refreshed than I have in days and feel like I have a fresh perspective. We had a great start to school today too! Thank you Lord!!

I will post more with pics very soon!