Friday, September 25, 2015

A Long Journey

One week from today we are going to be adopting our fourth child.  I still can't believe it.  But let me back up a bit.

In January of 2004 God brought us our first child.  She was the most precious 6 month old girl.  The first time we met her I fell in love at first sight.  I can't explain it, how it felt, it was the best feeling in the world.  She was stinky, caked in baby powder because her foster family hadn't washed her in a while. She had on a pink fleece jacket and pants that was clearly a hand me down of a hand me down. She has on these tiny yellow construction boots.  But she had these big beautiful brown eyes that just were searching and waiting for love and I knew I would love her forever.  Two years later, after a lot of paperwork and visits and court dates, we adopted her.

Over the next couple years we adopted two more boys and as a family of three we were very happy and content.  That was last year, 2014.  We adopted our son that July and when we signed adoption papers they ask if you want to be informed of any future siblings.  This doesn't mean you have to take them or adopt them, but it means you get the first call.  My husband leaned towards saying No, but my heart said Yes.  I didn't think we wanted a fourth child but I rationalized that I just wanted to know if one was born.  Didn't think about it again after that until...

October 2014 brought that phone call.  The full biological brother of our youngest son had been born two days ago and they wanted to know if we were interested in fostering him.  They gave us two hours to decide.  No joke.  I called my husband and he didn't answer. So I texted him 911 and he called me right back.  We agreed to take an hour to ourselves to pray about it and then talk about it.  After a half hour my husband called me and we agreed that our hearts were 100% saying YES!

Of course a few weeks before that call we had sold ALL of our baby stuff! Crib and all!  The baby was in the NICU for 1 week so that gave us a little time to try to gather all the baby supplies we knew we'd need.  No baby shower.  No fancy new nursery.  We had a bassinette I grabbed for $25 from Target, a couple boxes of diapers and wipes, and some sleepers and bottles.  Our family chipped in and I found some stuff on the facebook exchanges. It was a whirlwind.  On Halloween we got to visit him in the hospital and hold him and take pictures.  It was our first meeting and I will never, ever, ever, forget it.  I felt the exact same way that I felt when I met my first child.  My heart broke open and I promised this little being I would love him forever.  I never imagined as a foster adopt mother that I could love my children so much, as if they are from my own flesh.

So one week from today, our family will be complete.  Our adoption of our fourth angel will be complete and I will never have to fear losing my children again.  Except to the world of course, but that is what prayer is for.  This time we signed the sheet saying we do not want to know if another sibling is born, we just can't.  We do not have the capacity to say no and God knows our hands are full right now.  But we are thankful.  We are blessed.  Thank you God for my infertility, so that I could have the blessing of being these four's mom.  I wouldn't want it any other way.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Not My Ways but His

This post has been coming for a while.  We have been going through some big things lately.  It has caused me to look back on my life and see all the ways where God's way were not my ways but they were the best for me.

The verse in Isaiah 55:8 says,
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD."

Here are some of the ways of God's that were different than mine.

After I got married and we started trying to have a baby, my first fear was that I would have a miscarriage.  Three months later I did. (It was a chemical pregnancy).  Seeing the pink line and having that hope and joy that I would have a baby, to just days later see it disappear was devastating. My way= to not endure that pain.  God's way= allow me to have that pain because in hindsight I am thankful to have seen that pink line, if only one time.

As we continued to try to get pregnant, my fears grew that I would never be able to get pregnant. That fear came true.  I have never given birth to a baby, nor have I ever seen another pink line on a pregnancy stick.  My way= a natural pregnancy.  God's way= Adoption of four of the most beautiful and wonderful children in the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you Jesus for not giving me my way.

After the adoption of our first daughter, we decided to take on the risk of fostering to adopt. This process is not for the weak.  Nothing has strengthened my faith in God more than trusting Him through an adoption. My biggest fear was falling in love with a child, and then essentially losing him/her to the system or birth family.  When you start the process, you know the risks, but you have to be willing to risk in order to get the reward, an adoption.  Well, my fears were once again realized and our first foster child did return to his birth family after four months.  My way= a seamless adoption process that led to our goal. God's way= for us to love and care for this sweet child who was in transition to the next home God had for him.  I won't lie. It was hard. But we knew that with fostering, all you can do is love the child while you have them, and continue to pray for them if they leave.  

Soon after that little boy left, we got another little boy, 15 months old. We were very hopeful this match would lead to adoption.  However, it was still wrought with challenges.  Our boy was was still having visits with his birth mom and each week would have horrible night terrors on the night after his visit. It would take a few days for him to return to normal. Over time, the visits stopped and we were able to adopt our sweet first son.  My way= a smooth and easy adoption process. God's way= a challenging and stretching process that really stretched us in every way imaginable.  We had to lean on God and trust him more than ever.

With our first adopted son, the challenges continued. He immediately bonded with my husband.  My husband was the first male in his life to show him love and affection and he just soaked it up.  The connection was not as strong with me, his mom.  I understand that I was his third mom. He had a birth mom, and then a foster mom, and then me.  He didn't really understand who I was to him and I think that the word mom lost some of its love from the experiences he had with his first moms.  It took about a year for him to tell me he loved me and almost two years for him to really express that love with hugs and kisses and just that look of love that kids give.  This was extremely challenging for me, as someone who dreamed of having children and wanted that close bond.  I had to give him the time he needed to trust me and know that I was not going to leave.  He is almost six now and he still asks me about once a week if I still love him.  I might have to reassure him forever but I will do whatever I have to do so that he knows I love him and will never leave him.  My way= instant connection and love with my foster/adopted kids.  God's way= a HUGE learning process, a very long lesson in patience, and persistence.  Little did I know God has been preparing me for more challenges with this sweet boy through these early on days to help me be prepared for the current struggles we are facing.

After this, our first son's birth mother had two more babies.  We were blessed to have two newborns over the next four years.  This was such a blessing.  I never even allowed myself to dream that I would have the opportunity to have 1 newborn, much less two!  I also didn't imagine that we would have FOUR children, after everything we went through to try to get pregnant with no success.  God is so good!!  I love  having a big family (is a family of six even considered big anymore?) and although it stretches me to my limits literally every day, I can't imagine it any other way.  My way= Be thankful for your two kids and don't allow yourself to hope for more so you aren't disappointed. Also, I had given up hope of having a newborn, wouldn't even let myself think about it.  God's way= BLESSING upon BLESSING! Two newborns and the big family I always dreamed of!  His ways are so much better than ours and He does hear our heart and wants to bless us.

The next challenge I have faced as a parent is the school decision.  I have been pretty undecided on this and we have tried a few different things.  Thankfully my oldest daughter is very flexible so she is no worse for wear.  She has been in a charter school, public school, private school, and a homeschool environment.  It sounds crazy but each place had a purpose and reason for it.  As a former school teacher myself, education is extremely important to me and I only want the best for my kids.  Each school option has their pros and cons and I think each parent has to weight what is most important to them.  Last year we solely homeschooled and it was a really great year.  It is very self-sacraficing to homeschool and that was my biggest struggle. I longed for a break, some breathing room to read for pleasure, to run errands with less children. But the spiritual and intellectual growth in my daughter last year made it all worth it.  My way= the easy way.  God's way= the hard, yet blessed way.  

This year our first son started kindergarten.  We already knew going in that this was going to be a tough year for him.  Remember how I told you about all the challenges we had with him his first years? Well, they have continued. After being kicked out of two VBS's and 1 preschool we decided to have him assessed. He was 3 at the time.  They couldn't put their finger on what exactly was "wrong" with him, but they did acknowledge that he was emotional and intellectually delayed about a year and a half.  They agreed he needed special help and he was enrolled in a special education preschool for about a year and a half.  Last winter, we pulled him out of that preschool because he started learning more negative than positive behaviors. We keep trying to put him in social situations, hoping that with age, maturity will help him make better decisions.  So far, this is not happening.  The opposite is happening actually.  He has been politely asked not to return to Awanas both last year and again this past week when we gave it another go.  We decided to enroll him and his sister in a Charter School/Homeschool program.  They are schooled at home two days and go to school three days.  We enrolled our daughter too, hoping it would give our son more peace of mind knowing she was there too.  It has basically been a disaster.  Our son's behavior has become out of control and he has absolutely no ability to even finish a task.  Having so many kids in one class is overwhelming his little soul and he is acting out.  I have had meetings with the teacher and many phone calls trying to find a way to help him. It's not working and it's getting worse.  We have come to the conclusion that school is not a good atmosphere for him and next week will be his last week before I start homeschooling him full time.  This may be the most difficult decision I have had to make yet.  However I feel God calling me to this new challenge.  There is a verse that says, "You were created for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14)  I feel like God has been preparing me for this for years.  My teaching experience, the fact that he gave me this specific child with his specific needs, my years of patience and trust building with him.  These are the skills God has given me to raise him, to teach him.  I am scared to death because it is going to be hard.  But I believe God will give me the strength to handle each day.  My way= Never, ever homeschool my most difficult child, let the professionals handle his needs.  God's way= Homeschool my most difficult child because he needs me, he needs to know he is loved even if he can't keep up. He needs to know he can and will succeed when given time.  He needs to know he is made in God's image and that he is not ruined or flawed because his birth mother made horrible decisions when he was growing in her belly.  This is not his fault.  He is going to be okay.  God wants what is best for him, and right now I am what is best for him.  

Let's be clear. God's ways are not easy.  They are not always rainbows, butterflies, and happy endings.  But they are good. And they are good for us.  They challenge us, stretch us, and force us to rely on HIM instead of ourselves.  God's ways help us to grow, to mature, to become the people He created us to be.  It's easy to do the easy thing, but the result is rarely as sweet as when we do the hard thing.  It's in the hard things that God's grace and love shine through, where we get to see Him intervene and guide us along the bumpy trail.  I will thank Him for every bump in the road because I know it's one step closer to seeing Him.  

Are you facing a situation where God's way seems to hard and you want to do things your way?  Take a moment and remember that He will be with you every step of the way.  The risk is always worth the reward when it comes to trusting Him.