Invited to walk on water

Invited to walk on water
sisters and brothers waiting on one more

Friday, January 29, 2016

Just like Daddy

Here's a glimpse of my hero, David, through the eyes of Mohale and Joseph:

It was a bit too quiet when I looked up to see this:

"Just like Daddy"

Joseph said "Me Daddy!"

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mohale's first haircut causes us to look back AND want to jump.

Mohale's "First" Hair Cut
As we cherish our new son and watch him beautifully grow in countless ways,
several sad, telling, bald spots inspired us towards getting him a new style-
Mohale's first professional haircut was scheduled.

We love how his hair naturally ends up in stylish, tight, tiny black curls all over his head.
Therefore, his stylist did not cut anything off of the top:)
Mohale was certainly tentative about getting his hair cut while sitting in a children's airplane-shaped barber chair...he held my hand tight.

Our Kid's Cut's "model" afterwards contemplating his "First Haircut Certificate":

Wheeeeee!  Paper airplane!


Looking back....

Mohale sported a darling shaved head when we first met him at the very awesome orphanage
in October.

Day 1-
Liam and Leora with Mohale only hours after we met him.
Growing boy...
Since then, Mohale's sweet, joyful, bubbly personality, bonding confidence and hair have all grown-
along with his precious, amazingly cute, tiny, tight, raven black curls,
several large, harsh, bald spots appeared on the back and sides of his sweet head- evidencing the two and a half years that our son waited for a family.  He repetitively rocks, and rubs his head back and forth whenever he is left alone in his bed.   Often in the dark of night, he curls up into a little ball, face down like he's cold and bangs his head gently on the mattress- over and over and over and over.  Except, he's not cold.  Self-soothing behaviors such as these are common among children who have lived in orphanages.
Some children pull out their hair, scratch their skin, bite themselves, bang their heads on harder surfaces than Mohale does... It's hard to make sense of this response to a neglected, repetitively broken heart.
His first night with us- three months ago in beautiful Lesotho, our hearts ached as, for the first time we saw him rock and gently, repetitively bang his head on his new mattress that first night in his bed.  Because we've become aware of similar behaviors in orphaned children, we were not surprised.  Yet, through tears, our hearts agonized as our son's pain was bubbling up- out into the open.
David and I were up often that night trying to comfort him out of that behavior. 
Each time his rocking or head banging stopped-
only to start up again later.
No doubt, his pain was further exasperated by the fact that his new parents were total strangers to him- strangers who had, without warning, basically abducted him from all he'd ever known.

Every night since his first night with us three months ago, we have spoken his name and rubbed his back in the night when we hear him rock or bang his head.
The "heart" wounds which cause broken, self-soothing behaviors are slow to heal.

The orphanage that cared for Mohale is an incredible jewel of an orphanage.
Children there are highly regarded, loved and cared for.  A superb standard of care is upheld.
Yet, to an orphaned child, alone and afraid at night, even the best of orphanages is not the same as a committed, loving family.

This fact is heart wrenching because the vast majority of suffering orphans and foster children will never experience the love of a committed family-

The vast majority of orphans will never even experience the care of a good orphanage like Mohale did. 

In light of these truths, we hold and cherish our seven treasured children tightly and pray for ways to comfort even one more out of those millions who are not being safely cared for tonight.
(Our family can certainly make room for more.)

A glimpse back at two treasures:
I mentioned this picture below a couple of months ago- it moved our hearts.  Mohale had been in our care for one week when we returned to the orphanage with him for a visit.

 In the photo, David was holding two treasures- Actually, they were holding onto him...  
The remarkably brilliant little boy above was Mohale's best buddy.  When we stepped into the room, he called to Mohale over and over "'HOLLY!!!!  'HOLLY!!!"  After running and climbing over toys and children to get close once again to Mohale.  This little boy then, clung to David.  Oh how deeply we wanted to bring him home- we wanted to bring so many home. 
The little girl in the picture held tight to David's shirt for the entire time he sat there.  After climbing into his lap, silent tears spilled continually down her wet face.  Occasionally she'd look up at David's face and then wail in grief.  We don't know her story- but her grief was clear and deep.  Her heart was broken.  David held her close.
Then we left. We left grieving children behind- grateful that at least there are beautiful staff and volunteers who care for her. 
Grief spilling from the little girl was painfully familiar-  I've endured seasons of dark, suffocating, agonizing, lonely grief that gripped my soul so hard I could hardly breathe- and perhaps didn't want to breathe, because one I loved was gone.  In that valley, I could not imagine ever smiling again. Yet, I grieved while surrounded by family and friends committed to me and in a comfortable life where my other needs were met.
Tragically, millions of orphaned children, and widows, grieve 
 cast out, banished, terrified, homeless, unheard, despised, vulnerable, starving, thirsty, sick and even wickedly abused- with no one to comfort OR protect them.

God says He's close to the broken hearted.  How often does He ask us to be His voice of comfort and arms that hold broken hearts close?  (Isaiah 58)
The volunteers at this orphanage are His arms, His ears, His voice of comfort.

Specific desires are often placed into our hearts for a purpose.

Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Psalm 37:4

To encourage those who have a desire to volunteer at an orphanage:
Volunteers loved our son.  Because of the love he experienced, Mohale is bonding far easier than most children adopted at his age!
Volunteers can make a world of difference in the lives of orphaned children.
Link: Beautiful Gate Lesotho

For those who may desire adoption: 
Check out my Resource Page here: Adoption Info

For those who may desire to foster or mentor a child:
Here's one of numerous resources: USA KIDS

To those who desire to pray with fervent purpose:
The earnest prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16 

This is war! (Eph. 6:10-18)  This side of heaven I doubt we will ever realize battles won through the prayers of unseen warriors behind closed doors fighting on their knees.

Can I encourage you?
Along with us, research ideas on what to do with unique desires in
your heart-

Most purposeful desires that can be used to bring comfort are not even mentioned here such as...
art, cooking, encouraging, supporting, speaking, writing, teaching, comedy, banking, organizing, building, babysitting, sports, networking,......etc etc etc.


Then JUMP out of the boat 
where miracles are required.

You may walk on water!
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9

David and I each shudder to think that we could have stayed in our familiar and recommended boat, ignoring the desires of our heart.

We could have waited for the perfect circumstances....(which never really come.)

It's painful to consider, we would have missed out on at least 4 of our children-
and much more.

We can afford to loose everything this life has to offer for those who suffer alone and vulnerable,
we are held by the LOVE of One we cannot loose.
Deut 31:6, Romans 8:31-39

Miracles happen when we NEED them, not when circumstances are safe, advisable or perfect.  
If Peter had not stepped out of the boat into irrational faith towards the One he desired, he would have never walked on water.
He would never have experienced falling and the feel of drowning and then being pulled up by our Savior and WALKING ON WATER again in His Savior's close, secure, adoring, close grip.
Peter could have missed out.

Agonizing, vulnerable people need us to step out of the boat.
We need renewed life that comes from stepping out of the boat.

Please, pray with us for direction on how we can jump again.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Happy birthday Joseph!

Happy Birthday Joseph!

I wish there were words to describe the love I have for this son of ours.  Words adequate to portray a mother's love really do not exist. 

Happy birthday boy!!!

Birthdays bring mom's back in time...

We had 5 children:

In 2011, the same week the picture above was taken, our oldest son, Liam (above) prayed for a little brother who looks like his beloved littlest sisters, Sierra and Alyssa.
(Later, that prayer changed to "two little brothers who look like my little sisters.")
I don't know why he had such a specific prayer. Yet, I believe it was God placing that desire into our hearts because He was preparing us for Joseph (and Mohale) who had not yet even been conceived at the time of that prayer.

What desires are in your heart?

"The Phone Call"
January 22, 2014, when "the call" came, we were shocked.  Our family was waiting to be matched with two little ones from Lesotho, Africa.  Yet, this phone call came from the foster care system in San Diego.  We were in the Costco parking lot when my iPhone spilled a social worker's voice into my heart and mind..."We have the newborn, biological brother of your daughters.....can you foster him?"   
Awareness of a miracle unfolding was smothered under the sting of grief and suffocating brokenness that courses through every adoption story. 
(And, I was deeply afraid.)
Adoption is always born of broken hearts.  This call meant another mother's heart was being broken.  We will never take lightly.  Daily we pray for her.  Our children are being raised aware of her love. 

We got our little brother at "Baby's R Us!"
Our littlest daughters, when asked about their baby brother, often tell listening ears "We got our Joseph from "Baby's R Us!"  They are absolutely correct.  When we were chosen to have the honor of loving Joseph along with his biological sisters, our daughters, the social worker gave us his foster mother's phone number.  Recalling the emotion I felt when dialing her number still takes my breath away.  His foster mother was protective and caring as she described this little one's special needs.  She arranged for us to meet her at a "Baby's R Us" parking lot.  Two hours later we parked in front of "Baby's R Us".  Her white minivan was nearby.  With my heart and hands shaking, our family approached the foster mom's van.  She introduced herself and asked each of our names.  Then, she slid open her van door to reveal the tiniest baby boy.  At 5.5 lbs, his dark, tiny face and thick raven black hair seemed to be enveloped by his carseat.  She told me to unstrap him.  Oh how carefully I unstrapped and gingerly picked him up and held him close...tears flowed.    Tenderly I held this teeny tiny, immensely precious treasure close as she went on to describe his struggles- bloody, acidic stool that burned his skin off into the bloodiest diaper rash I'd ever seen, sores on his tender skin all over his torso, continual acid reflux...the list continued.   Names and numbers of specialists were written down. It felt unreal as we walked through Baby's R us" shopping for basic preemie supplies and clothes as he slept tiny in my arms.  He was too precious-  frighteningly vulnerable.  Here are pics:

In his car seat on the ride home from Baby's R Us.

The next morning...

Treasured and protected.

Immediately adored

The Valley of Treasures:
Treasures are found in darkness...Is 45:3

As anticipated, that first year was painful for sweet Joseph. His body struggled.  Ianna recalls his foster mom telling her "your parents won't be sleeping for a long, long time.  They are going to get huge bags under their eyes."  She had cared for numerous children who struggled with what our treasure was struggling with.  She was right.  Treasured Joseph struggled with every single feeding.  He vomited each time he ate so I held him all night long, every night, for the first nine months of his life.  We were deeply afraid he'd aspirate.  (That fear still lingers- I check him often every night.). His tummy hurt horribly and he needed to be comforted.  We could not stop his pain, but we could be with him in it.  At nine months old there was enough improvement to allow him to sleep in an infant car seat- propped up so he wouldn't aspirate on his vomit.  I'd hold him and then place him into his car seat to sleep awhile.  Our treasure continues to struggle at night- but nothing like he did that first year. 
During the days he continues to struggle.
And he has a lot of fun climbing, laughing and making us all laugh...
He loves people, cars, Starbucks, animals, loud drums, dancing and singing
(he's got a powerful voice.)

(This boy is going to bring life and joy to many.)

No one can touch this boy's Starbucks...

Hugging his Liam

Amazing therapists come several times each week to work with our treasured son.
He enjoys their visits.  We enjoy seeing him overcome obstacles with incredible strength and confidence.  We enjoy watching challenges turn into perfected, refined strengths- that likely would not have been so incredible without the difficult times.
These are more treasures that came from darkness. 

Through difficult times with several of our other children, we learned to savor.  I savored every second of those sleepless nights through his first year of life.  Through those long nights, I'd pray over tiny Joseph as he struggled, screaming in my arms.  He'd sleep on my chest between bouts and I'd sleep propped up- until his next bout started.  There is no doubt that being held and comforted helped him pull through.  At his 3 month psychiatric evaluation that was required by the County, his psychologist said she'd never seen a child at his age so connected with people.  I knew it was a reminder of hope- that gifts would come out of his pain- he had learned to use eye contact with me during those painful months to cope with his pain.  Struggles of his infancy have since translated into amazing social skills.  Joseph adores people. He enjoys animals...From a young age he was gentle and nurturing.

Hugging Cat.

Hugging Buttercup

Joseph and the kitten video clip:

J and the Silver Cat:

When we were in Lesotho last October and November (link) to bring sweet Mohale home,
Joseph was a beautiful, unexpected source of comfort.  Joseph comforted Mohale in ways the rest of us could not...
In the pic above, Mohale had been watching Joseph do "pull-ups" on a bar in a linen closet.  Joseph wanted him to play, yet Mohale was still in shock and confusion.  Joseph stopped and went over- slowly- one step at a time and carefully put his arm around him.  By the next day, Mohale was doing pull-ups in the closet with him.

Mom's of babies with long lasting challenges that pain and rob your treasure and you of sleep- 
The nights seem unbearable and tears are inevitable.  I cried buckets with our screaming boy. 
Strength and beauty beyond your imagination will grow up through this pain. 

Another gift our son has is amazing physical strength.  This is no doubt genetic.  And, his muscles are unusually tight from what he experienced in his early infancy- like a continual workout.  It's so darling the way he gravitates towards activities that require physical strength. 

Joseph delights in lifting heavy objects.  Last week I caught him trying to lift the house!  Here he is in Africa lifting 6 liters of milk- just for fun.  He spends hours pushing furnisher around our home.  
Happy hunk baby!

Everyone is given gifts, strengths and talents
Precious Joseph is strong in body and personality. He connects with people and wins them over easily.  He's a beautiful, strong child filled with gentleness and a strong, undeterred will.   

Joseph, you are 2 and already growing into a gentle, powerful, compassionate, and undeterred warrior.

Tears of deepest love and gratefulness come when I ponder the honor it is to be your mom.

Precious Joseph you are loved beyond human comprehension. Your life was designed and created for a purpose.  Never have you been out of His care.  We have loved and prayed for you for years before you were even born. 
At 2 years old, you, our little world changer, you are already changing hearts.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Post holiday burnout blues and how to get renewed strength for the journey.

"In everything give thanks...." 1Thessalonians 5:18


During Christmas break, 
David made this beautiful nest from twigs and branches.  Cozy sheepskins line the inside.

As I amazed and admired this artistic, inviting nest, 
he mused quiet gratefulness into my ear- 
"Our nest is not empty."

Most couples our age range have nests that are quickly becoming empty.
Yet, because of the gift and honor of adoption,

Our nest continues to fill up...

We are head over heals in love with our newest addition.  
He's blooming.
Mohale is gentle, intelligent, funny, eager to please, and clearly resourceful.
Mohale and Daisy

Big Sister teaching vocabulary to her sweet pupils...
(The way they say "caterpillar" makes me laugh:  SOOOO CUTE!!!)

Our delightful, long holiday vacation is over.

David returned to work last Monday. 

Isn't Monday after a LONG vacation HARD????

David has been mostly home since we left for Africa in October to get Mohale.  

David is amazing and doing this parenting thing as a team with him home is almost easy!

But, all good things come to an end. (Almost.)
Anyway, our middle-class family relies on his day job, so back to the office he went.

Our busy day starts before the sun.  
My Monday Morning Moment:  Mama Meltdoooown.
  I dreaded doing this alone.
Words like "inadequate" stuck in my heart- not the best frame of mind to begin with.

By 9am, our home looked like a big hairy giant with ADHD picked it up and shook it. HARD.

With our nest in chaos, sour dishes piled high, laundry mounting in a mist of stench, Cheerios strewn all over the dining room and play room, 6 poopy diapers in the bin and at least one lost amidst the chaos, several stinky attitudes (including mine) and a serious toddler tantrum going on, I had a "moment."  In that moment, forgetting all passion, I decided that homeschooling is no longer for me.  Desperately, I called the local public school to find out how to enroll our kids.
Barely audible through the noise, a cheerful voice responded through the chaos: "Just bring in a their birth certificates and proof of vaccines and they will be ready to go!"
My eyes widened in joy and disbelief..."You mean there is not even a waiting list????!!
 I can bring them in- just like that and you will educate them for me???"
Her reply? She laughed and said "Yes!  Just like that!"
I LOVED that lady on the other end of the telephone.  Seriously. 

Late Monday night after a cold cereal dinner,
I flopped my tattered attitude onto David as he came home, stepping around toys, diapers and laundry.
Too eager to notice his tired face, I poured out the glorious news all over him. 

David didn't quite share my enthusiasm.  Deflated from his first day back to corporate reality, he quickly proposed another suggestion- that I return to the corporate workforce and he stay home with the kids.
Uummm.  (Blink blink...speachless.)  
David agreed to support whatever I decided.

After talking, we agreed that only two months into our new normal,
it seems best not to invite more change at this time-

Instead of changing our circumstances, I changed my focus.
And that changed my attitude.
Liam and Cattitude
gently poured in- burning grey clouds of suffocating discouragement away.

In a blink our nest will be empty and I'll wish we'd had more time to invest with each of them.

By evening the thoughts of how many good times we have from homeschooling refueled my heart.

Tuesday morning came with renewed strength.
As music rapped loud lyrics of praise and gratefulness,
we sang and bounced wildly around the house doing the "clean up" dance.

By 9am our full nest actually looked awesome! 

It sparkled with order and laughter.
Dinner was already placed in the slow cooker.
(Just don't look in the closets or drawers:)

Our situation had not changed.  However, our hearts were light from gratefulness.

Gratefulness, praise and encouragement became a source of the Strength that He promises to give.

With gratefulness and renewed strength, Tuesday we hit the alphabet and algebra again while the little boys toddled and vroooomed around us with their play dough and matchbox trucks.  The familiarity of this chosen lifestyle began replacing post-vacation blues.  Laughter had returned to our chosen, amazing chaos and burn out was fading away.

We share life together in a beautifully transparent way-
making mistakes often then learning from and laughing about them later.

Gratefulness, like the sun, burns away grey clouds.

"In everything give thanks...." 1Thes 5:18

Gratefulness is a source of warm redemption and strength.
We are NOT grateful FOR everything.  Ugh, absolutely NOT- wicked cruelty happens in our world every second.

But, we are encouraged to find something to be grateful for in everything.

Gratefulness is a power tool.

Public School?
If we go there at some point, we will celebrate the gifts in that place.

As we homeschool?
We will celebrate the incredible gifts in this place.

In any life situation on this broken side of heaven, there is always a good and a bad, paralleled together.
(this is true in mostly good and mostly bad times.)

Gratefulness brings strength for the journey.

Focusing only on the hard, takes the wind out of our sails before daylight even breaks through. 
Facing a day with gratefulness is a channel by which He renews our strength like a breeze under eagles wings.  

Through gratefulness we have strength for the hard.

Gratefulness allows us to see and savor incredible gifts that surround us.  

Our life is full again as we celebrate in gratefulness

Science.  Liam and "Dzumac" the crested gecko.

Math and Engineering

P.E. with Ianna the scooter coach:)

Precious Sierra, our personal "tutor"

Our nest and our hearts are full.

His renewing strength carries us faithfully like a breeze beneath eagles wings.

Do you crave strength for another hour?
What can you find in the midst of your life challenges to praise Him for? 
Open the door...

Isaiah 40:28-31
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.