every season

So what I am about to share, I don’t share in order to gain anyone’s approval, though the me from a few years ago may have done so. I share this to point to God’s amazing grace and love, and to communicate to those who love our family how He’s faithfully walked through every season with us.

A couple of friends introduced me to the Enneagram earlier in the year. For me, it’s been a fun and helpful way to learn more about my husband, my kids, myself, and how we can all best relate with one another. Mason was wary of it from day one, but he’s allowed me to have my relational fun with it! ūüôā

I chuckle to myself at how accurate some of the Type 2 descriptions are for me. (I’ve also done other things besides chuckle at how accurate the Type 8 description is for our firecracker firstborn son!)

One site said of the personality type with which our other two children and I identify,

Twos are a feeling-based type with a focus on relationship. They excel at making connections and empathizing with the needs and feelings of other people. They are usually good at supporting others and helping bring out their potential…

A bit like emotional sponges, Twos have to be very careful what they absorb from the people around them. Getting angry or setting personal boundaries can be very hard to do, although they may have emotional outbursts to relieve the pressure.

Has someone been watching me?!

Beth McCord put together this lovely PDF to highlight how the gospel frees each type of personality from their common hangups. I love this! A portion of the Type 2 page says,

Christ’s work removes the need to have the love and approval of others when you have the love and approval of Christ in the work He accomplished for you. His approval of you is based on His perfect life; therefore, you do not need to strive to be the most loving, helpful, and supportive person. You are now free to receive His unconditional love for you.

What a perfect season of my life to fully embrace this truth. My personal relationship with Jesus gives me 100% of the approval I need!

So what I am about to share, I don’t share in order to gain anyone’s approval, though the me from a few years ago may have done so. I share this to point to God’s amazing grace and love, and to communicate to those who love our family how He’s faithfully walked through every season with us.

Recently our kids have brought up repetitive conversations about K – sometimes a couple days in a row, sometimes every couple of weeks, and sometimes once a month. They’ve been freely processing their thoughts and feelings in a way that is both lighthearted and serious.

“I thought she’d be ____________.”

“I didn’t know she’d ____________.”

“I was on board when _________, and then I realized _________.”

This is mostly from our older two. Isaiah (he’s nearing 6) listens thoughtfully. They, too, have experienced loss and are processing it one year later. By the grace of God, I am on the other side of my own health-altering, heart-rending trauma, leaving me prepared to walk through their thoughts and feelings with them. Sometimes Mason is surprised at the end of the day when I relate to him what they said. As Eden decorated our Christmas tree this year, she declared that the white bird ornament on top represented K and all the orphans in the world who need to know about Jesus’ love. Knowledge of His love is definitely the most important thing K gleaned from her time with us!

dove

I’m amazed at how God created our brains to process while we sleep. Sometimes dreams can seem random, terrifying, hilarious or bizarre, and other times they point logically to the processing of recent events. Mine are usually of the outrageous variety, but some realistic ones have acted as nocturnal therapy sessions!

In one dream, I was going through a good day with K, proud of the ways in which she abided by our rules and content with myself for being patient with her. I thought to myself in my dream, “We can do this. We can make this work.” Then I met up with a friend for our kids to play together. At the end of the playdate, I looked around for K and realized she had disappeared hours ago. I went searching for her, describing her to everyone I passed, asking if they’d seen her. They all knew who I was talking about, and finding her in my dream was similar to the way it was in real life whenever she wandered off. She was neither happy to be found nor alarmed she’d been lost. I sat down on a bench with another friend and explained to her the attachment deficit, among others, which caused this kind of thing to repeatedly happen. The next morning in the dream, I entered the hallway on my way to K’s room and saw a broken wall hanging on the floor. Thankfully, I awoke right before entering the room. (It was common in the morning for us to find a wide variety of objects amiss or broken. Entering her room in the morning, unsure of whether it would be a compliant, “easier” day or one beginning in disaster was among the hardest moments of the day.)

I awoke to reality with 5-year-old teddy bear Isaiah sleeping beside me, and I cautiously ventured into the hall where I was relieved to see the wall decoration in one piece in its proper place. The room where K used to stay, which had so often been closed off, was open; and the sunlight flooding through Eden’s pink curtains gave the space a magical, peachy glow. I breathed a prayer of thanks to God for both allowing me to process tough stuff during my sleep, and for waking me up to new mercies!

Down to the very day, it’s been exactly one year since a new season began for both K and the rest of us. Did anyone else listen to Nichole Nordeman in the early 2000s? This song ministered to me back then when I was becoming a young adult. As we’ve experienced each new season as a family since transitioning K, this song has been resurrected in my mind and heart. I’ve been reminded to fully trust God through every season. There are plenty of great songs on this topic; this is just a special one to me because of the way the artist’s words capture both the pain and loveliness of the changes God brings about in us. If you play it, be sure to listen all the way through to winter!

So it is with You and how You make me new with every season’s change
And so it will be as You are re-creating me
Summer, autumn, winter, spring

Which season are you in? Do you see the beauty in it, or can you hardly wait to get out of it? I’m so thankful that this one thing never changes:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

Christen ūüôā

dear EWAG (a letter to my blog)

Humans view you as a window into someone else’s life, and that can be a fine thing until that limited view tricks them into thinking they know the whole story. Sometimes people get so involved in your dramatic storytelling that they grant themselves power to pass judgment. But judgment based on extremely limited knowledge is never a good idea.

Dear EWAG,

May I call you EWAG? It has a ring to it, and it’s easier than writing your full name, Each Word a Gift. I’m not sure if personifying one’s own blog makes sense, but you’ve been with me through a significant portion of my life. You’ve made it as close to being a true friend as a URL can do!

You started out as a simple little page where I wrote about my growing baby and my wonderful husband. Then I grew up (I was 20 when I married him, you know), and you grew into something else… a place to process publicly what God was doing in our growing family. I remember when we announced our plans to adopt, only to announce an unexpected pregnancy soon afterward! That was a special post with you.

That third baby was the best surprise of my life, and then the adoption plans became reality. With joy I shared on your glowing screen the triumphs of rescuing our little girl from a terrible place, and with great relief I poured some prayers and struggles into you. My personality is such that I don’t fully experience an event until I’ve shared it. EWAG, you helped me share and therefore experience a dramatic story of redemption; thank you!

Things got a little sticky because of your charming effect on people. Some of your followers may have come to believe they had the whole picture about who she was, what she had been through, what the rest of us had been through, and what she needed. I have to break it to you, EWAG: I didn’t tell you the whole story. I was careful to feed you only shareable bits and pieces. But still, because of the way you magically made words glow in front of your readers, some of them fell deeply in love with the child you portrayed. When our path took an unexpected turn – when trusted advisers, adoption experts, family members, and most importantly God Himself spoke clearly about how to save both her and the rest of us – we reached a point where I just couldn’t explain it all to you. It wouldn’t have been wise, safe, or respectful for me to do that. So while your followers may have felt like they knew 95% of the story, in reality it was probably closer to 5%.

Do I regret sharing with you? No, I don’t. I think you did more good than harm. But I think you should also know how much power you and your URL friends have. Humans view you as a window into someone else’s life, and that can be a fine thing until that limited view tricks them into thinking they know the whole story. Sometimes people get so involved in your dramatic storytelling that they grant themselves power to pass judgment. But judgment based on extremely limited knowledge is never a good idea.

I’m glad I changed your name when I did from your original one to the more thoughtful EWAG, because I’ve needed your constant reminder from the biblical book of Ephesians to hold my tongue unless I’m building others up. This is where your name’s double meaning comes in! ūüôā To help me make my speech more edifying to others, and also to do everything else, I rely on this amazing book called the Bible in which every single word is literally a gift from God to us. Through these words He gives us everything we need for life. Here is one portion He sweetly showed me on a rough night when I was struggling under the weight of human judgment. He encouraged me with 1 Corinthians chapter 4:

So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether or not someone is faithful. When the Lord comes, he will bring our deepest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. And then God will give to everyone whatever praise is due.

Yes, oh yes! I am so glad He knows it all, and His is the only judgment I should heed.

So what am I saying about you and me, EWAG? My relationship with you, while real, can never be 100% transparent. I’m sorry to break it to you, but my pen-and-paper journal has always been the writing friend who knows me best. Moreover, I’ve found a safe place to process our recent loss. We’re members of a group of about 150 families who’ve all been through something similar. It’s true we’re connected via screens, but behind each screen is a another mother who understands how it feels to walk this road. Everyone there has experienced the caring, dreaming, praying, traveling, giving, loving, trying, helping, succeeding, failing, accepting, stretching, weeping, breaking, begging, losing, forgiving, trusting, and releasing. This road is a particularly hard one to understand outside of personal experience, so it’s a blessing to share this kind of community.

Moving forward, I’ll be thinking about what direction to take with you. What kinds of things will I find to share when you blink your cursor at me? Time will tell. Until then, I’ll leave you with some of God’s words from Psalm 50 that have helped me get my mind off human judgment and onto thanking and trusting Him.

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.

Love,

Christen ūüôā

how our lives have changed since transitioning Kami

We had no idea what was to come when we moved into this house in the woods! God in His mercy led us to this simple, beautiful retreat because He knew exactly what was to come. 

Back when we moved into our cozy cabin last fall – which at first felt anything but cozy – our resident stoic, Ezekiel, wisely stated that it would take “a month or a season or a year” for us to get used to it. It’s nice to have a rational person or two in this family, someone who can say practical things in difficult moments. We’re coming up quickly on a year here, and boy, was he right. We are content, grateful, and joyful to finally feel settled… like we’re home. We’re home after 7 years of constant change in the Air Force before God brought us to Mason’s dream job; home after a couple years of living in a rented house that we knew was a short-term solution; and home after a long attempt to acclimate someone into our family who was becoming increasingly agitated by these efforts. We had no idea what was to come when we moved into this house in the woods! God in His mercy led us to this simple, beautiful retreat because He knew exactly what was to come.

house.JPG

Sorting our thoughts is a work in progress. Explaining what transpired still takes effort. There’s still more for us to process. Here is what I can share with certainty: God has used these last several months to tear down idols in my heart, specifically the idols of others’ approval and my status with them. We’ve drawn closer to Christ, recognizing our total dependence on Him, and gained an overflow of grace for suffering people.

Some friends may be unsure of how much tiptoeing is necessary and wondering how and what we’re doing as a family these days. This update is for you! ūüôā

I don’t know if Ezekiel, Eden and Isaiah were already thriving like this before, and maybe I just didn’t have the time or energy to notice; but each of their unique personalities seems to have exploded in a good way since April! They’re free to verbally process what they saw and experienced with Kami, and occasionally they’ll make a statement or ask a question that opens the door for a heart-to-heart. What Kami wasn’t able to do with us anymore was thrive. Ezekiel, Eden and Isaiah are now, by the grace of God, thriving in increasing measure!

We’ve been retracing some of our steps, from visiting favorite recreational spots as a family of five, to simply allowing ourselves to soak up special days like birthdays apart from the stress created by unmet needs. I think what made our home feel like a war zone was the vast array of unmet needs which we were not equipped to meet. Home is now a haven again. As we retrace these steps, we’re accepting the fact that that was then and this is now. We thank God for the past and look expectantly toward the future!

We don’t know where Kami is now, nor do we have the legal right to know. One friend visiting our house recently said something to the effect of “if a child can’t thrive here, she might not be able to thrive in any home!” We’ve come to the same conclusion through talking with experts and reprocessing tough memories. A traditional family setting may not always work for someone with Kami’s history. A group home or institution, one far superior to the one she left in Bulgaria, may be the place for her. Only God knows, and it all goes back to our faith in Him as her (and our) Rescuer. He used us to bring her across the ocean to a place where she could get the help she needs.

My experience as an adoptive mom shaped me in profound ways, and my recovery has taken its own form apart from that of Mason and the kids. In recalling my word for the year, rest, I’ve been doing a lot of it, particularly in the form of reading and music. I’ve spent time with Shakespeare, Austen, Tolkien, Alcott, Bronte, Lindbergh, and more. I read aloud to the kids for long, relaxed periods; we take trips to the library and sit on our living room floor beside tall stacks of books, delighting in going through them one by one. We play board games, and on weekends and evenings the five of us can laugh and connect without Mason and me needing to divide and conquer.

Out of respect for Kami’s new life and acknowledgement of the closed chapter of our time with her, we no longer feel comfortable sharing photos of her; but we have many of them and we look at them together often. If the LORD blesses us with more children, we will tell each of them about her, and although it might come out awkwardly as it’s still in the processing phase, we’ll keep on telling her story to the praise and glory of God when an appropriate opportunity comes up.

Here are some snapshots of our family life over the past few months, so you can take a peek into what our¬†thrive looks like right now. ūüôā

Eden received her first full Bible and has been reading and asking us questions!

 

We bike together.

 

We celebrate each other!

 

Our firstborn turned 9.

 

Eden rode a horse at a special friend’s birthday party!

 

Isaiah has taken off in the areas of writing and reading!

 

These three have spent delightful summer days playing together.

 

We’ve made friends with all kinds of creatures in our adventuresome yard, including a spiny orb-weaver just like this one!

 

The beauty of God’s creation is all around us out here.

No matter how at home or out of place we may feel through various stages of our lives, as followers of Christ we know this world is not our home! What we have to look forward to in eternity is way better than the most serene landscape we could find here.

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Psalm 127:1

Christen ūüôā

 

things as they are

“It¬†wasn’t about things as she might want them to be in India, or things¬†the way people in England imagined they might be. No, it was about things as they are.”

We’ve been enjoying reading aloud the Christian Heroes: Then and Now¬†biography series by Janet & Geoff Benge. Together the kids and I became friends with Nate Saint and his buddies who entered heaven from a jungle beach in Ecuador in 1956, and our faith grew with George Mueller’s as he served the street children of Victorian England. Right now we’re getting to know Amy Carmichael and how she rocked the missions boat with her passionate urgency to reach people of every caste in India with the gospel at the turn of the 20th century. I referred to¬†Amy¬†once before, inspired by the way she changed her rescued girls’ birthdays to the day they were freed. I recently found myself inspired again by her life.

Fueled by the interest generated by¬†From the Sunrise Land,¬†her book of letters from Japan, the Keswick Convention had asked Amy to write a book about India. It took many months of writing and rewriting, but finally Amy felt happy with the result. Then the question came, what to title the manuscript? Amy didn’t want anything too grand or too flowery. She wanted something that was simple and to the point. Finally, she settled on the title¬†Things As They Are. That said it all for Amy. It¬†wasn’t about things as she might want them to be in India, or things¬†the way people in England imagined they might be. No, it was about things as they are.

…It seemed they felt her manuscript was a bit depressing to read. Perhaps, the editor suggested, it needed a lighter touch, more happy stories, and fewer stories about young children and women in unreachable situations. Again Amy was confronted with the desire of Christians in England for “happy missionary,¬†happy ending” stories. She shook her head. If only the committee could have spent a few days with her, they would have quickly seen that for every Arulai [a rescued girl], there were a thousand girls who were temple prostitutes or household slaves. Their lives did not have happy endings, and Amy could not pretend they did. (p. 138)

amy

amy2

Most of us like happy endings, but ministry is messy and often doesn’t result in a neat package adorned with a beautiful bow. Like Amy, we’re committed to sharing the truth whether or not it makes people happy.

Many people, especially those who’ve walked challenging roads with violent behavior in their homes, have given the gift of kind, encouraging words regarding the years and tears we invested in K’s life. They were refreshing to our souls, full of power to help build up during a time when much felt torn down.

We’ve also encountered people who felt the need to tell us how extremely upset they are that their dreams for K’s happy ending with us didn’t materialize.¬†Sometimes people speak with authority on matters they simply don’t understand. I intend to minimize the amount of times I am the one doing this. Here are a few things the Lord gently showed me as we worked through some hurtful words directed at our family:

  1. I should never presume that just because I don’t understand a situation from the outside, God is not working in it. That would be selfish and conceited to expect His ways must always make sense to me.
  2. When someone else is grieving or going through a season of difficulty, my own emotions regarding their situation are obsolete. I don’t need to bring my negative feelings about their difficulty to the table; they’re dealing with enough already. A better option would be to bring grace to the table.
  3. Forgiveness is a moment-to-moment choice. When hurtful words replay and the sting feels fresh, I choose to forgive.
  4. A chance to forgive is a sanctifying experience. It draws me closer to God, so I will not run from opportunities to forgive.

We knew that by choosing to blog about our adoption, we opened up our family to a degree of scrutiny. We don’t regret sharing about K’s adoption. It started with a desire to be transparent about the facts – such as finances and travel timelines – and grew into a desire to share her story of redemption. People who followed her story for years may feel like they know everything, but they don’t.

Amy Carmichael’s example has inspired me to continue telling things as they are. We have an adoption story that did not end up the way many people wanted it to; but we are content in knowing God planned every step and that He clearly showed us which way to turn each time we felt lost. He did this through His Word and through His people.

No matter what our life circumstances, Jesus alone has the words that are more life-giving than the sweetest encouragement from the lips of a friend, and more powerful than the most devastating judgment from the mouth of a critic.

And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63

So, how about you – do you tend toward telling things as you might want them to be, as others imagine they might be, or just as they are?

Like Amy, I’m learning to trust God with things¬†as they are!

Christen

 

a story about my mom: a mom who sees

She didn’t see the 3 of us children as obstacles to achieving her goals. Our health and happiness became her goals. My mom provided me a remarkable example of seeing her children not for who¬†she¬†wanted us to be, but for who God created us to be.

I wrote the following entry about my mom in May 2014, when our three children were all under five and we were between trips to Bulgaria to get K. I’d like to share it again, four years and many miles later, in honor of my mom!

 

 

I’m not much for Hallmark holidays, but this entry happens to fall near Mother’s Day. As I proceed into my late twenties and continue to learn how God would have me mother the children He’s given me, I finally have some coherent thoughts to communicate about my mom. It’s taken me these 5 years to start putting them together. It’s easy for a girl who’s close to her dad to write all sorts of pretty tributes to him throughout the years, but sometimes it takes a few beautiful and gritty years of motherhood to help her sort out where in the world to start thanking her mom!¬†

What I basically have to say is this: my mom is the one who instilled in me the heart of our family culture, which is to¬†see¬†our children. It’s not to simply see our children on the outside, with all their strengths and limitations, and then try to make them fit nicely into a prescribed societal box. No, it requires a willingness to step outside the box entirely. I’m going to share how my mom did that for me. I can’t guarantee it will be exactly accurate, because we all know that kids see things larger than life. I might have some details right and be way off on others, but I’ll leave that to her to correct if she so chooses. This is what I remember about my school years, and these memories continue to impact the way I mother our little ones.

I was a very fearful child, practically afraid of my own shadow – definitely afraid of my own reflection and trees, at times. When I was 3 or 4, my mom took me to preschool. I still remember the feeling that I was somehow supposed to like this. This was a box I knew I was supposed to conform to, but even at this early age, I wasn’t buying it. I remember feeling so out of place in this room that smelled of pencils, paint and glue. I didn’t want to be here. I sat at a little table gluing beads – those ugly triangular ones – to a piece of paper thinking to myself, “I can glue beads on paper at home. Why do I have to stay here? I want to be with my mom. I want to go home.” I must have communicated this in a wisely strategic manner, because Little Big School only lasted 3 days, and I never went back. I guess my mom decided she didn’t want to fight the preschool battle. Maybe I’d be ready for kindergarten, she may have concluded.¬†Nope!¬†Kindergarten taught me what a stomachache really felt like. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my mom to go stuff my things in a cubby hole, play with letters and listen to Mrs. Hammer read stories. I could do those things at home (minus Mrs. Hammer), and I wanted to be with my mom. Again I felt the strange and uncomfortable feeling that I was supposed to like it here; I was supposed to be having fun like everyone else seemed to be doing. But I couldn’t wait to get out of there every day. I remember my mom stuffing my blankie into my backpack pocket to comfort me in the mornings. I don’t think she enjoyed dropping me off, and I surely didn’t enjoy it either. I have a few pleasant memories of getting little toy erasers at the school store with my mom and of my dad visiting my class one day. All the kids were climbing on him, and I was proud that he was my dad. It helped to know that some days my mom was volunteering at the school, cutting out bulletin board decorations and such, which she must have let me watch her do because I remember thinking it looked really fun. More fun than sitting in class or the lunchroom or being herded around with all the other kids in PE class. Halloween season was the worst time of year because I was absolutely terrified of the costumes, decorations and songs. My mom got me out of music class during that time because I couldn’t handle the creepy songs I was supposed to learn. I must have gotten used to the routine at some point, but I can’t tell you if this kindergarten deal lasted for half a year or a whole year. All I know is that I was thrilled when it was over and I could stop trying to fit in. I’m not sure what my mom was thinking during this time, but it’s very likely that her visions of the future were rapidly disintegrating, or at least drastically changing. Whatever it was she had planned on doing while I was in school – maybe working part-time, volunteering, attending a book club, going to lunch with friends – was not looking likely. From my perspective, my older sister Sarah was much better at enjoying school and fitting in there than I was. Either way, my mom was facing some huge decisions when I was 5. The way she negotiated these difficult decisions formed the basis for the way I would make similar decisions with my own children.

Shortly after kindergarten, we moved from Nebraska to Tennessee. I remember visiting a public school open house with my mom. She sat with me through an orientation of sorts and I met the person who would be my first-grade teacher, a Mrs. Rose, I think. My mom didn’t like her. She didn’t like the school, and I think she didn’t like the fact that there weren’t enough windows in the classroom (thanks to my mom, I still carry an attraction to bright rooms with lots of windows). She started homeschooling me and Sarah that year. I was thrilled. I remember coming down to the kitchen table in the morning, learning to tell time and count change. We enjoyed a flexible schedule with plenty of time to play outside, go to the store, ride our bikes, and also get our book work done each day. It felt like a breath of fresh air to my 6- and 7-year-old self. We went to dance and swim lessons and played with neighbors. My mom had done a great thing in my eyes, rescuing me from the institutional school scene. As a homeschooling mom myself now, I’m beginning to imagine how she may have felt quite intimidated, alone, and odd for making the hard choice that she did. Maybe there was also some mourning for the things she had sacrificed to be our full-time teacher. But she saw me for who I was, not who she wanted me to be to suit her own desires. This is key, and I appreciate this so much about the way she raised us all.¬†

Being on the receiving end of this kind of sacrificial motherly love prepared me to deal lovingly with Ezekiel when he suddenly stopped being willing to go to Sunday school and to endure any sort of childcare, from the military wives’ Bible study I attended on Thursday mornings to the Mothers of Preschoolers meetings I looked forward to twice a month. He was terrified. He would try to crawl out the door of the childcare room after me, clamoring on all fours, crying and screaming and pleading with me, around age 3, to please not leave and please bring me with him. He even vomited out of anxiety one time in the car as we neared the building where he knew he’d be dropped off. I’m tearing up just writing this because I understand now what my mom did for me. She didn’t make me suck it up, stick it out, tough it out until I was hardened to the pain of separation from her. Many well-meaning people told me this was what I needed to do. Why? Because it’s what everyone does. Mainstream society sees no choice but to force acclimation to childcare. My mom chose not to make me tough it out. She wasn’t unhealthily sheltering me, she wasn’t depriving me of “socialization” (a word which would require a separate entry entirely), she was¬†seeing¬†me and¬†loving¬†me. I’m forever grateful. As a result of her example, I was prepared to give up some things I selfishly wanted to do (attend meetings and classes alone) in favor of what my firstborn child needed from me. And it was so simple, what he needed – he needed to be with me, to learn from me, to feel secure with me. Having a firstborn who is so much like me in this area has been a huge blessing. It’s allowed me to apply the example my mom gave me, mirroring some of her sacrifices as I started out on my own mothering career. Of course, thanks to this fantastic example she provided me, I wanted to have several children and home educate them since I was a very young girl; so the homeschooling part was not as groundbreaking a decision for me as it was for her. (If Mason were a writer, he could also produce a long essay for you about how his mother influenced the way we are raising our children. She homeschooled him all the way from preschool through high school.)

 


Around age 11, I started wanting to go to institutional school. It was beginning to look like fun as I was growing out of my painful shyness. We had moved from Tennessee to south Florida, and now we were moving to another city in Florida mainly because of a particular Christian school there that sounded promising. At age 12, I became a regular student for the first time since kindergarten. This time, I wanted to face the challenge and was ready to make the transition. It was hard! I had never been away from my mom for that long (unless you count that one failed attempt at church camp when I was ten), and at different points of the day I was almost in tears and wishing it was time to get picked up (I should mention that I also had an adorable baby brother at home!). My mom was so understanding and encouraging. She encouraged me to stick it out for just the first nine weeks, the first quarter of the school year, and see how I liked it by that point. Sure enough, the first quarter wrapped up and my confidence was growing. I had friends, I was making excellent grades, and even though I was still not a social butterfly, I was learning how to function away from my family. Of extreme helpfulness was the fact that my mom had gotten me one full year ahead in my schoolwork, so as I entered the 7th grade I had already covered all of the material. This was a genius setup, as she knew I would need to focus all my energy on acclimating to new surroundings and not on trying to keep up with the academic pace.

As my 6 years at private school progressed, I enjoyed it more and more. I remember some days my mom would check me out of school early just to take me to Disney World – now¬†that¬†is something most people can’t say! Ultimately it was my parents’ decision to send me to this school that allowed me to meet Mason, since a high school classmate introduced us during our freshman year of college. Their decision to encourage me through the momentous transition from homeschool to regular school when the time was right opened the door to the future God had ordained for me, being Mason’s wife and the mother of our own precious children.

As an adult, it’s become apparent to me that my mom’s and my personalities are not all that similar. This makes all of the ways she cared for me much more amazing, because she wasn’t necessarily doing it out of identification or personal understanding like I do with Ezekiel. She was truly¬†seeing¬†me for who I was, a personality quite different from her own, and laboring to protect and nurture it.¬†She didn’t see the 3 of us children as obstacles to achieving her goals. Our health and happiness became her goals. My mom provided me a remarkable example of seeing her children not for who¬†she¬†wanted us to be, but for who God created us to be. Her sacrificial love and service continue to this day, both to her own children and also to her 3 grandchildren who enjoy every good thing known to little ones whenever they visit her home!

Mom, I am so grateful for your influence on my life, from instilling in me a passion to be a homeschooling mom to encouraging me to make difficult changes when the time was right. I love you and am very grateful to have you in my life and in the lives of Ezekiel, Eden, and Isaiah! I know that for a mom every day is “mother’s day,” so¬†happy Mother’s Day!

weddingday

Christen

an adoption GRACE story

What unfolded during the 3 years, 4 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days during which K lived with our family is a story of grace.

I’ve never been a fan of horror stories of any kind. I remember when I was pregnant with our second child and preparing for our first completely natural birth, I made the decision to avoid or redirect conversations in which women told their purposely sensational and unpleasant natural birth stories. I also don’t enjoy any kind of horror unfolding on a screen before my eyes; I find nothing entertaining about it. Whatever is good, true, pleasing, lovely…think about such things.

When we told people about our plans to adopt a child several years ago, some responded by unloading horror stories on us. I don’t know if their intent was to get us to reconsider, or just to share what they knew about the topic. Either way, we are now on the other side of quite an adoption journey, but it is not one of horror. Though we did experience some horrific things with K, that doesn’t define the experience as a whole. What unfolded during the 3 years, 4 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days during which K lived with our family is a story of¬†grace.

As I’ve said before, adoption is a beautiful thing. It can also be a very complicated thing. The path God called us to was unique, as is every adoption story. So if you choose to read on, know that our experience does not project itself onto any other family. This is simply our experience, and we want to share it with you in praise of the only One who can rescue.

Where I left off in sharing our story with you two months ago, Mason had just enrolled K at our local elementary school. From what we can deduce, she quickly began testing the limits with her teachers. Were they in authority, or was she? At least once, she emerged from the school bathroom with her head, hair and face dripping with hand soap, knowing she did something inappropriate and testing to see if the teachers would enforce the boundaries of social propriety. (If there is a limit, she will test it to see who’s boss.) For K, this test probably looked like approaching a teacher or two and repetitively saying something to the effect of “I discipline you? I spank you?” Spank. It’s not a word generally welcomed by the public school system. K equated the word with training and was wondering if anybody cared enough to train her in this new institutional environment. At least one adult with whom K spoke became alarmed by this talk of discipline, as well as by the bits and pieces of the story which they knew – the tent, the odd situation of Mason dropping her off and picking her up, the unusual fact that I was never seen with her, K’s obvious mental and emotional evidence of longterm abuse and neglect.

So¬†a school official who did not understand her history (the cause of her harmed mental and emotional state) filed an abuse report against us. An investigation followed. Though it was painful to be accused of causing the very hurt we worked so hard to heal in her life, we know that God ordained each of these events. We appeared in court a few days later at an emergency shelter hearing. The hardest part of all this was that we had aggressively sought emergency shelter for her since February 4, the day we found out she was coming back to us after the two-month respite. Now, mid-March, none of our efforts to find safe placement for her and preserve the rest of our family’s safety seemed to matter to the department officials who wrote up the cold, out-of-context report about our family.

We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. As uncomfortable and frightening as parts of this process were, the Lord was with us.¬†A¬†children’s home society that had formerly rejected K (when we called them in desperation in February) accepted her into their temporary care. With the state now involved, help came swiftly. She was taken to a city a few hours away, presumably to a therapeutic foster home, and several days later I received a call from the staffing specialist at her new school. She was full of compassion for our situation and expressed understanding over the phone, after hearing only a few minutes of K’s life story, about why we could not keep her in our home any longer. She respected our years of experience with her and wanted to glean every helpful piece of knowledge she could from us as the school began to create an educational plan for her. The school psychologist also reached out to me with a similar attitude of compassion and love, walking me through a series of mental and emotional questionnaires about K that would help them provide her with the right services as soon as possible. Through these phone conversations, I was encouraged that God had surrounded her with loving, caring professionals who had a special ability to understand her unique situation.

As days and weeks passed with no word from the private agency we hired to help us find a therapeutic home for K, Mason and I felt the Lord was preparing us to terminate our parental rights. I’m grateful He gave us time to process this idea before the case plan conference last week.¬†Expecting I might need a notepad, I brought one along and recorded some of my thoughts.

It’s raining outside the Juvenile Justice Center, and we are back down to three children. We prayed together before terminating our rights, considered delaying it to keep pursuing private placement, and God gave us peace to release her completely into His hands.

The lawyers told us they’d spoken with one of the case workers this morning, and that as harsh as the report sounds – full of accusations of abuse and neglect, stating lies in black-and-white lacking any and all context – they know it’s not all true. They indicated that they can see the whole picture of what we’re dealing with and how difficult this decision must have been for us, and that the report just says what it has to say. We were stuck between a rock and hard place, one of them explained, because if K had hurt one of our other kids, both children would have been involved and possibly both removed from the home. The report coldly¬†portrayed us as abusive, neglectful parents. But God knows the truth. We swore under oath in the courtroom that we understood what we were doing in terminating our rights. This past month has been painful, but in retrospect it was also the most swift and affordable path possible to bring K to a fresh start. We serve a loving God.¬†

This is a unique case, we were told several times. There is not a provision for this sort of case. For one lawyer, it was his 3rd case in 90 days dealing with an aggressive adopted child, each leading to the surrender of the parents’ rights. I told him that perhaps God is telling him something; maybe he could be the one to add a clause or process somewhere to smooth the way for families in this situation!¬†He also said he had never worked with parents who showed our level of interest in the child’s future. We simply asked how the department’s permanent placement process works, how she’s doing, if the foster mom is willing to adopt (she isn’t), and what the future could hold for K if she is not adopted again by a certain age.¬†These questions made the social workers quite uncomfortable, as they aren’t¬†accustomed to caring¬†parents, either.

So there we sat in the Juvenile Justice Center, dressed in our Sunday best, the pleasant expressions on our faces showing not delight in the proceedings but peace in knowing¬†only God could have brought us to this place. It was confusing, but it was His doing. As we sat in the courtroom to affirm under oath that we knew what we had signed, I looked around at all of the faces: the social workers who refused to¬†make eye contact with us, the judge, the police officers, the attorneys. I realized in that moment that each of these people had become a part of K’s story. God was working through everyone there to bring closure to this chapter of our family’s history and to deliver K to the next chapter of her life. He saved her life, and He will never leave her.

The wheels have been set in motion to find a permanent new home for K as soon as possible. Barring a miraculous¬†crossing of paths down the road, we won’t be able to update you about her anymore after this, friends. So many of you have cheered, cried, prayed, laughed, and walked with us these past few years as we loved her through a transitional season of her life, the season for which God ordained her to be with us. Thank you!

As Mason and I walked out of the Juvenile Justice Center together into the pouring rain, it felt cleansing and healing. Our home is healing. We are settling in all over again, coming down from the heightened level of stress that seemed to define us for the past few years. Our three children are growing and recovering from what they absorbed, although they were miraculously protected. Eden still mentions K from time to time and draws her in her art projects. We purposely talk about her and pray for her so it doesn’t become as if she never happened. This is a story for our grandkids, and our kids’ grandkids, to know. The big lesson we came away with was to keep attempting great things for God and keep expecting great things from God (a¬†phrase borrowed from William Carey), but to never¬†assume that we know how it will go, and to never predicate our obedience on a certain outcome.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Christen

 

pickup day 2.0

We know Who brought her back into our lives for this season. As sweet Eden matter-of-factly stated, “God wasn’t surprised when Kami decided to attack the other kids.” Nope, He wasn’t. We might not be her forever family, but we are her today family, and we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow.

Drowning in anxiety. This was an appropriate description of me when we heard our respite time was coming to an end much sooner than we’d hoped.

Unlike the original version, Pickup 2.0 happened in a Chick-fil-a parking lot in Georgia. Let me go back and explain: back in¬†December, we realized after 3 1/2 years (about 1,230 faith-stretching days) of daily battles won and lost that we desperately needed a break. We were prepared to pay for a local 10-day respite over Christmas when, unexpectedly, some experienced friends who knew about Kami’s situation offered to give her a fresh start. They were willing and eager to provide not only a respite, but to potentially welcome her into their family¬†on one condition. The one condition was that she must not physically attack their other children. Well, Kami had many problems in our home, but attacking other kids hadn’t been one of them, so we moved forward believing that this may be Kami’s second chance.

After we delivered Kami to the respite home on December 14, 2017, it didn’t take long for her to begin a disturbing display of aggressive behaviors – things she never did with us. Looking back, I imagine she may have¬†wanted to be aggressive against our kids, but chose (wisely) not to. We saw glimpses of this lurking urge over the years, but we never gave it room to develop, and we also gave her the benefit of the doubt. Surely she wasn’t being malicious, we assumed?¬†For whatever reason, she viewed her change in environment as a chance to act out in new and horrifying ways. So, two glorious months of peace and rest later, we found ourselves with Kami back in our care. In my mind, this was NOT how my plan for¬†rest¬†in the new year was supposed to unfold!

Just days before Pickup 2.0, Mason and I had the joy of traveling together to visit two of our sending churches in Louisiana. While there, we enjoyed a sweet and too-brief time of reconnecting with special people who knew us before the adoption, counseled us through it, and loved us after it. As I related my desperate fears about taking Kami back and reiterated why I just couldn’t do it after all we’d been through and all she’d done, one friend shared with me Psalm 18:34. “He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.” Now, this was not exactly what I wanted to hear, because it implied God was going to ask us to do the thing we really didn’t want to do. We were looking for a quick escape, but God was pulling us closer to Him and deeper into His heart by asking us to do the impossible. Again. (Thank you for sharing that Scripture with me, Marsha! You are one of a precious group of people who God strategically placed to speak truth to us at just the right moments in recent weeks.)

This is a time of creative solutions for our family. Mason spent a week living in his parents’ spare room with Kami to figure out this new little girl he picked up in the Chick-fil-a parking lot. That living arrangement only lasted one week because the kids wanted him home so badly. They can understand him traveling out of state, or taking a trip to the other side of the world; but Dad living across town was hard for them to accept. He now sleeps on our couch while Kami sleeps in a tent in the living room – the only safe place for her, since she’s unable to share a room and we don’t have an extra one. Because each of the 12 (yes, TWELVE!) children’s homes we called refused Kami, he is finding creative ways to make this arrangement work. While we await her second placement, Mason decided that public school was the best course of action, and he made it happen. This is her first week.

The reason Mason is doing all of this is so I can hang on to the big strides in personal recovery I was able to make during the two-month respite, and so that Ezekiel, Eden and Isaiah can have my full attention during this transitional time. I am learning that even the most restrictive limits and boundaries can be healthy when in the best interest of everyone. We have other children to protect and the peace of our home to preserve. We have the ability, by God’s grace and guidance, to field this situation wisely. Mason is now able to go to the office during Kami’s school hours, but¬†she has been his¬†main ministry in recent days. I have never, ever been more grateful for or aware of the blessing he is to me. He is laying down his life for me, choosing to keep me separated from Kami (even if he and I can’t be together) rather than risk my health and sanity by placing us in close quarters again. He is more of a gentle, strong, capable leader than I ever noticed before. He is leading us so well!

trauma
Above is a simple glimpse into how this kind of parenting can lead to parental PTSD, particularly for moms.

Now for some good news: our friends who kept her for the two months started her on a miraculous medication. Having been through intense drug withdrawals with her in the beginning, and not being familiar with any positive aspects of pharmaceutical usage, this was a route we hadn’t even considered taking; but it’s made a huge difference in her demeanor. She doesn’t rage nearly as often as before.

Since coming back into our home, Kami has¬†attempted to lash out against the kids in new ways; but Mason is doing an amazing job of keeping them separated and keeping her supervised round the clock. They’re not afraid of her, but we all know this isn’t the ideal environment for her. We are working with an agency that specializes in placing kids from similar backgrounds to Kami into families where they can “be the baby” and have the chance to flourish. Our hope and prayer is that very soon her forever family will be found. Feelings are deceiving and not to be trusted at face value, but from day one we didn’t feel like Kami’s forever family. We were never motivated by our need for a child, but by this child’s need for a chance at life. From the moment we signed her final adoption papers in that stifling office in Sofia, Bulgaria, this felt like a life or death rescue mission. We played our role, and we will assume it is concluding until and unless God tells us otherwise.

The worst, most untrue thing anyone could say to us is that adopting Kami was a mistake. We will forgive you if you say that, but please know you are mistaken. It is never a mistake to obey God, and He is the One who drew us to her name, picture, and story. It is never a mistake to show the love of Jesus to a hurting person to whom He specifically calls you to minister, even if it means personal risk. 

We know Who brought her back into our lives for this season. As sweet Eden matter-of-factly stated, “God wasn’t surprised when Kami decided to attack the other kids.” Nope, He wasn’t. We might not be her forever family, but we are her today family, and we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Our responsibility is to honor God and live the Word, which we continue to do to the best of our ability.

So, what is God asking you to do that’s causing you to panic? Have you, too, thrown temper tantrums in your spirit because things aren’t working out the way you planned? When you know the Lord personally, every trial becomes a force that pulls you closer to Christ. The most desperate, intensely challenging times of my life are the ones in which I most powerfully experience the realness of my relationship with Jesus. Michael W. Smith sings it well:¬†“I may look like¬†I’m surrounded,¬†but I’m surrounded by you.”

 

Surrounded,

Christen ūüôā

a welcome challenge for 2018: rest

My word for 2018 comes at the perfect time in our family’s life: it’s¬†REST. Oh, Jesus, thank you for giving me this word for the year!!! I’m not sure I’ve ever been so excited about my marching orders before. However, I’m starting to realize that it won’t be as easy as it first seemed.

“January’s been going on for a¬†long¬†time,” our 8-year-old recently declared. I feel the same way, but the first month of the new year always feels exciting to me, so I don’t mind the feeling of it lasting a long time. Ezekiel’s perception also factors in his concussion at the end of December from falling out of a tall tree, a whopper of a sickness that knocked our family out for two weeks, and his sister’s fun-filled birthday celebration. (She is able to maintain a fever-pitch of excitement that I believe he finds a bit exhausting. :))

Last year I shared with you my word for 2017,¬†joy. My word for 2018 comes at the perfect time in our family’s life: it’s¬†REST. Oh, Jesus, thank you for giving me this word for the year!!! I’m not sure I’ve ever been so excited about my marching orders before. However, I’m starting to realize that it won’t be as easy as it first seemed. Rest doesn’t always come easy, but I’ve already located a favorite spot in the house for little retreats throughout the day, and I’m learning about making the choice to carve out intentional resting time. Ecclesiastes 3 says, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” I’m so grateful that this includes a time for rest! My all-time favorite Scripture about rest comes from Matthew 11, where Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Rest for the soul! That’s something every single person in this world desperately needs if they haven’t yet found it. I’m beyond grateful for this indescribable gift, found in a personal relationship with Jesus, that allows my soul to be at peace no matter what is happening around me.

rest

Along the lines of rest is¬†respite,¬†a term commonly used in the foster and adoption world when a consistently high level of trauma in the home necessitates a period of purposeful rest. Merriam-Webster defines respite as an interval of rest or relief, and we began 2018 with a respite of this kind. It was time to step back, allow ourselves to breathe for the first time since July 28, 2014, and prayerfully pursue God’s best for the child He asked us (and equipped us) to rehabilitate. God allowed us the privilege of seeing the miracle of a whole life transformation unfold in our home over the course of three and a half years! I would say there are no words to describe what we witnessed, but I have clearly put plenty of words to it, as you can see by perusing the blog archives. ūüôā

Kami progressed so far in the three and half years since pickup day that she is now a completely different person. In fact, the difference is that she is now a person rather than a shell of a person! After the drug withdrawals, and after she learned the basics of family life and decent social behavior, and after she learned that her basic needs would be met each day, a child emerged. This new child came with a new set of needs that were finally able to surface a few months ago, praise God!

In the fall, we recognized for the first time that some of these needs could, by the very nature of our family, not be met in our home moving forward. At this point we had a choice: to continue on and pretend everything was fine, seeing Kami’s newly revealed set of needs go unmet, resigning all six of us to an existence that was clearly¬†not abundant life, or to desperately and humbly cry out for help, trusting the God who made Kami and began her rescue to carry it through to completion using whatever means He chose. He surrounded me with not one, not two, but three fellow adoptive moms of children from similarly difficult beginnings in Bulgaria who had made difficult (and unpopular) choices to do what was best for their children. One of them has bravely written about her journey on her blog,¬†Faith’s Feat.¬†She has been a partner in prayer and encouragement to me since before we even brought Kami home, and to say I’m grateful to know her is an understatement. She writes far more articulately than I do about some of the hardest things in life, and with such grace and transparency.

Older child international adoption is a beautiful, complicated, messy miracle, and it can take a huge variety of paths. Our daughter Eden was born to us seven years ago. As we celebrated her birthday this month, I marveled at Kami’s seven years in the orphanage…seven years. Year after year of hunger, pain, unmet needs for affection and healthy touch, loneliness, neurological damage, stunted development, and so much more. As I rewound the years in my mind, thinking through the compounding interest of hurt accumulating in Kami’s young heart (and the hearts of the many, many children like her around the world), seven years seemed like an eternity. When a child has been this deeply wounded for this long, healing does¬†not¬†necessarily look like a smooth process of transition directly from the institution to a “forever family” where healthy emotional bonds grow unhindered. It can take a journey with several stops, a relay race of families in partnership with agencies, therapies, and specialists, to bring this child to a place of abundant life. We were the first stop in the relay race for Kami’s healing.

This past month of respite, during which we’ve been in close communication with her spectacular and experienced temporary caregivers, has revealed some extremely helpful things. Kami’s deepest unmet need moving forward appears to be the need to be the baby. We agree with them that she could thrive in a home where she is either the only child or the youngest by several years. Mason and I can attest to this from the few special times we’ve shared with her alone, just the three of us. At this stage in her recovery, she desperately needs a degree of attention and physical presence that can’t be met with other little ones in the house. She deserves the chance to be the baby, and I believe that given that chance, she will be able to heal and flourish in unimaginable ways! Of all the things that God equipped us to do, He has not equipped us to make Kami our baby. On the contrary, He strategically used our other three young ones (one of which was a baby when we welcomed her into our home) to teach her how to be a kid. They taught her to climb, play, laugh, hug, watch movies, and everything else that comes naturally to a pack of well-loved little ones. But now Kami has graduated from the pack. Among other things, she needs extended one-on-one time and the opportunity to revisit the unbelievably crucial baby stage for as long as she needs to, filling in gaps that are essential to her becoming a healthy and whole person.

To all of you who love her as much as we do – who’ve cheered for her every step of the way toward healing – who want the best for her – pray with us¬†for God to make clear the path ahead. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came not just so we could have life, but¬†have it to the full. Only He knows what this looks like for Kami, and we are trusting Him to show us the next step.

What are you carrying that makes you weary and burdened? Come to the only One who can give you rest.

Resting securely in Him,

Christen

 

 

 

greater things have yet to come

I am no victim

I live with a vision

I’m covered by¬†the force of love

Covered in my Savior’s blood

I am no orphan

I’m not a poor man

The Kingdom’s now become my own

And with the King I’ve found a home

 

He’s not just reviving

Not simply restoring

Greater things have yet to come

 

facepalm

 

He is my Father

I do not wonder

If His plans for me are good

If He’ll come through like He should

‘Cause He is provision

And enough wisdom

To usher in my brightest days

To turn my mourning into praise

 

KJ

 

I am who He says I am

He is who He says He is

I’m defined by all His promises

Shaped by every Word He says

 

These lyrics convey more about the last several weeks in our home than any words I could piece together for you right now! They’ve been a huge encouragement to me through some extremely emotional days. I’ve been singing them day and night, in the car, kitchen, bathroom, and everywhere in between. If you’re one of Kami’s faithful cheerleaders, you can pray these words over her. If you’re struggling through your own season of recovery, you can soak them up and repeat them to your tired soul.

We’ve entered into a season in our family that calls for more of a real-life presence and less of an online one. (As I see that typed out, I’m thinking every season of my life should look that way!) I will still be eager to share with you as I’m able what God is doing in our family and around the world through His Word, our greatest source of encouragement.

Believing that greater things have yet to come,

Christen

 

 

they put their trust in you and were never disappointed

I was honestly feeling like God was not seeing our troubles, and for what felt like the zillionth time in my life, when I casually flipped open the Word, daring God to say something to me… He did. And I’m always surprised, even though I really shouldn’t be by now.

Since I last checked in, we’ve settled into this new home of ours. I made a list, and this makes about the 21st home (give or take a few) that I’ve lived in during my 31 years of life. People who’ve moved at all can probably relate when I say that each move can bring an identity crisis of its own.

“In the last place I lived, everyone knew I was talented at _____. Now nobody knows me or my abilities at all.”

“I had friends there who knew me before _______ happened. There’s no way anyone can understand me without knowing that history.”

Who are we in relation to the new people and places around us? It’s a yucky feeling to not know, and it takes time and effort to settle again. I’m grateful that God made us adaptable to new situations, and that time is truly our friend in that process.

The list of places I’ve lived took up almost a whole page of notebook paper and included about 10 states. Seeing it all laid out on paper was a little overwhelming, but I noted that God was with me in every location. He never leaves us or forsakes us. Wow! Processing that truth encouraged me to continue to settle in here and lean into this present adventure.

I shared last month that in the midst of the move, Kami got lost in more ways than one. While she hasn’t wandered off again, she has continued to ask to go to “our house” and continues to look disappointed when we pull up to the cabin. We’ve had her in our family for a little over 3 years now, and we’ve been transparent about how hard it’s been. This encouraged me though: out of the 40 months since we adopted her, Mason has been working from home for 20 of them! What a kindness from God to have him home with us for half of the traumatic transition. He starts at his new job next week after a 20-month partnership development adventure in which God brought together a complete team of people to send him into his role in global Bible translation. It’s been a truly awesome experience to watch Him do this! And to see how God worked that process to the good of our family is amazing. He just loves each of us so much and cares about every detail of our lives!

But as we neared our ministry partnership goal in the past few weeks, we also neared a breaking point in our relationship with Kami. Everyone who talks with me for 5 minutes knows that we’ve had our ups and downs, but this was such a big and devastating down in the way that Mason and I were relating to Kami, and she to us, that it felt almost hopeless. We talked about options. I think the most powerful prayers we prayed were probably the ones of complete desperation that didn’t even sound like prayers. I was honestly feeling like God was not seeing our troubles, and for what felt like the zillionth time in my life, when I casually flipped open the Word, daring God to say something to me… He did. And I’m always surprised, even though I really shouldn’t be by now.

O Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? Have you never heard or understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He¬†never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.¬†Isaiah 40:27-31

It struck me that He gives power to people like us, people who are tired and worn out and weak.¬†So we knew that He saw us, but we didn’t know what was next. I felt led to reach out to some experts (adoptive parents of kids from hard places, with no letters behind their names but the personal experience to understand our predicament), two of which encouraged me to talk to Nancy Thomas.¬†How we got three years into older child Bulgarian adoption without hearing her name or visiting her site, I don’t know! I do know she can help us, as her videos and articles have already begun to do.¬†We are also prayerfully pursuing RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) therapy.

So we essentially went from desperate discussions about last-resort options to hoping again. This was right before Thanksgiving week, when we also met our ministry partnership goal and began to feel more settled in the new house! There has been a lot of thanks given to God around here lately. It feels like a glorious season of answered prayer!

Kami made this drawing below on the Magna Doodle at my parents’ house. It was all her hand, with me only suggesting that she add certain things to the picture. She started with a head, then a smile, two eyes, a body, arms, legs, hair, shoes, and gloves. I listed the body parts or clothes and watched as she carefully drew them in the proper place. The processing skills needed to do this task would probably be absent without the work her three occupational therapists, Jennie, Kathy, and Keri, have put in.

img_2461

What I like most about the above drawing is that Kami drew the person’s body structure to look like the letter K. Letters have felt like a¬†huge and sometimes unattainable goal, but she’s starting to learn them.

Tonight, after a calm day without much crying or raging, Kami got angry about something near bedtime. I had basically written off the remainder of the evening as a total wash with her, so you can imagine my surprise when I found her sitting on her bed with nine perfect Ks drawn on her Magna Doodle. After running around the house making sure that no one else had been practicing Ks on this board, I laid on the cheers for this accomplishment! (She had just stopped crying in this picture, but I hope she felt proud and happy about the praise she received!)
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Hope. We all need it. Like David in Psalm 22, we can say,

Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them. You heard their cries for help and saved them. They put their trust in you and were never disappointed. Psalm 22:4-5

There are three other people living under this roof watching A-L-L of this unfold. Their names are Ezekiel, Eden, and Isaiah, and getting to disciple, teach, and play with them every day is one of the greatest joys of my life!

3 kids

There’s still work to do and battles to win, but knowing that God sees our troubles, gives new strength, and does not disappoint – well, I think we can handle just about anything.

Christen