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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Beyond Circumstances

My children often remind me of what's really important.  Like giving thanks and breaking bread.  Here with their impromptu hamburger bun communion on the porch.

Yesterday Esther had a seizure.

Then today Antonio had the worst one of his life and ended up in the hospital.  (and contrary to what some people in Uganda believe, I promise seizures are NOT contagious!  I think this was just a stupid enemy trick that will no doubt be used against him.)

And I am thankful Esther's seizure happened in a bed surrounded by family and not in an orphanage crib all alone.

And while I really appreciated God providing a friend to act as an "ambulance" driver for Esther in Uganda, it was nice to have paramedics here who have oxygen and IVs and what not.

And God had my back as the big boys were home from work today and were able to hold down the fort until Grandpa came.  Gabriel knows how to remain calm in medical situations, probably from delivering so many goat babies at his friend's farm, or maybe from an early childhood experience when his big brother got pinned under a fence and he told Gabriel, "There is no need to get upset.  If I die I will just go to heaven and you will get all my legos."  

And Princess was the one who discovered both Esther and Antonio having their seizures first, which she said scared her initially but then when she saw that we weren't afraid she realized she didn't need to be either.  She has taken Esther under her wing and I can totally see her working with special needs children in the future.  

One of my favorite children that had some special needs died in Uganda this week.  JoJo was a precious little boy who may have been a "least of these" in the eyes of the world but was very significant in the Kingdom.  A friend in Texas had her children do a fundraiser to purchase a special needs stroller like Esther's for Ekisa.  

To me he is the face of Project Hopeful, who advocates for children with HIV and Down Syndrome (JoJo had both) and other special needs who need families.  After getting home from the hospital I took the little girls to the splash pad and I was admiring this beautiful mom's tattoos when she came up to me and said, "I'm not a stalker or anything...." (LOVE that intro!) "but I think I know you.  I work for Project Hopeful..."  She was from New Jersey! And she knew all about Esther.  And just so happened to be at a park a few blocks from our house in Iowa.  I think it was a kiss from Jesus to me to remind me that He had called me to this place, this time, I am in His will...and His peace destroys all chaos.

Blessing got to attend one of her favorite nurse's wedding.  She was so happy to see her hospital friends NOT in pajamas or hooked up to anything and her nurses in formal wear.  Blessing reminds us to be grateful for food and the ability to swallow and digest it.  And for God's ability to make all things new.

Esther's homeschool looks likes a lot of swinging and spinning at this point.  The next couple months are appointment packed and then I think we will back off some, content with being the "good enough" parent and letting God fill in the gaps.  There can be a fine line between trying to find the best resources for our children and striving to "fix" them and the difference feels like peace versus stress.  

Solomon is our man of peace.  He refuses to let "real life interfere with my imagination."  Faith requires us to see beyond "real" life to the unseen spiritual realities going on all around us. It takes the imaginative mind of Christ to see possibilities instead of just problems.  It's never just about cleaning up after people (what so many moms think their life consists of) or seizures or the mundane/insane circumstances we encounter each day.  There is a bigger story, Christ being formed in us, Christ in the eyes of the least of these we encounter each day, Christ filling all things in all ways.  

So we can be at peace and at rest.

And let His love destroy every shred of fear.  (Esther used to be terrified of water, she now splashes and plays in the bathtub!)

More than a preconceived idea of how my life should look, I want to know Him.  The power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering.  I want to be love like He is, and I typically get stuck right at "love is patient, love is kind." (I obviously needed extra practice so God gave me more than the average number of children)  Praying you will see Him, broken and poured out, then risen and victorious.  His patient, loving-kindness is yours! 

I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the Lord  Isaiah 66:9 NCV

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Walk this way

We have a new homeschool rhythm this year.  It involves a lot of outdoor play in the mornings because the weather has been gorgeous (notice the two big boys are missing because they decided to turn into men and get jobs and take college classes).....

And the kids know what I really value and will make provocative statements like, "We should really just work on our relationships and play games today."  

And because little Miss E and Ari take such great power naps in the afternoon, we can use that down time to be a bit more school-ish.

And potty-training counts as a subject right?!

Physical therapy hooked Esther up with a contraption to help her build her stamina and strength.

And I am not sure why this is, but Esther laughs and smiles a ton when she is laying down.  I don't know if it's because she doesn't have to work so hard or she can see or focus better or what, but I love thinking about how when I lay down and rest on the inside I can better focus on the face of my King Jesus and smiling flows freely.  

Because trying to figure out how to homeschool 15 kids of various ages and stages and abilities never really makes sense on paper.  But somehow there is always a strategy that works for the current season.  It's really important in this season that I have shiny nails to look at because listening to 7 little kids sound out phonics readers really stretches my inner ADHD girl.  

But thankfully we mix it up with lots of celebrations.  Like birthdays occur quite frequently.  (one of my kiddos actually called a family with 8 children "smaller-ish")

And proof positive that God uses the weak things of this we headed off to the park today I suddenly realized I had forgotten Solana at home.  She kind of takes after her mom and was sort of flitting around the house in her own little world...

But we finally all made it and through much encouragement Esther walked longer than we had ever seen her go before falling.  She ditched her walker (and her shoes) and gave us a great visual aid of persevering in the course set before us.  We don't have to take someone else's path or try to keep someone else's pace, but as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus He can guide us, keep us focused, and enable us to hear the Spirit say, "This is the way, walk in it."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Free love

Look at these fifteen fabulous children!  They are each one beloved, treasured, and oh so unique.  God just doesn't do clones or copies.

From every angle lately I've been hearing from mothers that are coming to grips with the reality that they can't be Jesus to their children.  It's quite freeing to remember that in spite of the perfect environment, Adam and Eve still made a really poor choice to rebel.  As much as we want to spare our children (and probably ourselves?!) the reality of living in a fallen world, it does no one any good when we continually live under a crushing weight of false-guilt that says"if only we were/did..." then our children would never "do/be x,y,z." 

As mothers we are a piece of their story, a very significant piece, but we aren't their Savior.  We are responsible for our own peace.  And as I remind my children nearly daily, "Your joy doesn't depend on someone else changing."  Choose the joy of His presence today, even if no one in your household has yet "arrived" at whatever standard you had hoped.  

 I take that "Do not worry about tomorrow" saying of Christ's seriously.  I think it's fears about hypothetical futures for our children that can suck a lot of the joy from mothering.  How can we even judge what all is going on in someone's heart or behind the scenes?  Sometimes it's those 'elder brother' types that look like they have their "act together" that are really farthest from relationship with the Father.  Maybe the messier, prodigal-type child is the one who is actually closer to the Father's embrace than we think.  

Realizing that the only one you can control is yourself frees you up to really love without expectations.  You don't need to manipulate circumstances or people to achieve some desired outcome, but you can trust God's processes.  And He loves process.  He who knows the end from the beginning is not hurried, frenzied, frustrated, or out of ideas.  As He is, so are we to be in the world.  Giving everyone a piece of our mind doesn't do as much to advance the Kingdom as giving everyone a glimpse at the Prince of Peace who rules our hearts and minds.  As we currently possess the mind of Christ, we can think the thoughts about our children, ourselves, and our world that line up with the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy.  

That can only make motherhood more fun for everyone right?!

Speaking of fun, Esther made her debut at church this weekend.  She had a great time, except when she got so brave with her walking that I forgot she is still pretty wobbly and she tripped and hit her head on the mailboxes outside the sanctuary.  Thankfully all it takes is a couple cheerios to help her forget her troubles.

Adriana is very sweet with her sister.  She didn't talk for years, but is now a singing, silly, verbal little girl.  Was it all the speech therapy?  Was it just time?  Was it just Jesus? Some intricate combination of the three? I don't really know, but thankfully I don't have to figure it all out.  

According to the Word I just have to love and follow my Good Shepherd.  He is good, He has set us free indeed, and we are loved beyond measure.  Not because we're perfect moms, or perfect anything....but just because we've been adopted by the perfect Father who IS love.  He can't help Himself, it's who He is and the light of His countenance shines on our hearts.  He is always holding our hands, especially when we get a little wobbly!  Praying He is your stability today!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Eyes on HIM!

A lot of our time recently looks like this.  Esther and Ari hanging on either me or Brad as we maintain a state of consciousness that borders between sleep and awake.  


Before I left for Uganda one of the kids drew this picture to resemble what needed to happen to bring Esther into the the fold.

And today one of the 15 sweetest kids in the world wrote these coupons out for me. I think my favorite is "Free Silence" as my little introverted self lives with a fair amount of noise!

I've appreciated little Ari acting as physiotherapist to Esther and getting her used to unstable surfaces.  The favor on her life became evident again as there was a 6 month wait for all occupational, speech,and physical therapy services.  I got a phone call out of "no where" from our favorite spot asking what our top 5 goals were for her this next year.  I rattled off: potty training, more confidence with walking, a way (probably sign language) to communicate basic needs....and a couple others.  I got a call back a little later saying she was moved to the top of the list for all three services (there were 80 kid ahead of her) and she could be seen for evaluation next week.  YEAH!    

I also "just so happened" to have registered for a conference a long time ago on "integrative health" and when I went last week the opening speaker might as well have been describing Esther. We were told she needed surgery for her strabismus (eyes don't track together) and this vision therapist talked about how 50 percent of kiddos with autism (one of Esther's Big Labels) don't have good binocular vision. (she also mentioned how kids on large amounts of anti-convulsants are more suseptible, as well as those with early sensory, yes!)  One of our South Chicago neighbor's babies has had multiple surgeries to correct her strabismus issues and it still isn't corrected.  Makes sense to me to try every less invasive procedure first to help Little Miss make sense of her world through her eyes.  Helps me to understand why kids on the spectrum of autism rely on other sensory methods to make sense of their world.

I struggled with pride when getting 15 kids color coordinated for a  family photo shoot and they managed to stay clean for around 30 minutes.

My sister fell in love with Esther in about 10 seconds.  She impressed her with her drumming routine.

And her sisters prevent her from escaping into solitary-land and realizing other people can be safe and stimulating!

And when Daddy has MBA classes we swing ourselves happy in the evenings!

And when we approach sensory overload there is always the stroller to make our world smaller and safer!

And Iowa sweet corn is alway delicious...

And the arms of a big brother are available when necessary!

Although they aren't always as enthusiastic about pictures as the girlies...

And are prone to goof-ball behavior....

But some will stand at attention while the littlest ones fall over in protest....

But as long as Daddy and Mommy hang in there all is well.  

God has brought these "invisible people groups" into my life time after time that I have no idea how to help.  Psych ward regulars who are having tactile hallucinations and have dissociative identity disorder (formerly multiple personalities).  Gang-bangers from South Chicago who have trauma like I have no experience with.  Kids who have so many diagnosis and psych meds that in the natural it seems like a "lost cause."  Satanists and those into witchcraft that the darkness seems stronger than the Light of King Jesus.  I have no special degrees or insight that makes me feel like,"Sure, this is easy!"  But I KNOW the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Way, the TRUTH, and the LIFE and He is not freaking out by the freaky-deaky behaviors I have no idea how to help.  

I think He enjoys showing up and showing off when we wave the white flag and say, "Yes Father, I need help here and I have no clue what to do but my eyes are on YOU!"  He provides the strategy, resources, and help at that final hour and we can wave the banner of our Victorious Warrior and say, "Yes, YOU are enough and YOU are our wisdom when we are fresh out of good ideas and human understanding!"  It's good to be in over our heads because we are then forced to look to the Head of all things and to Him who is having all things brought under His feet and say, "My Rock and My Fortress.....TAKE OVER!" and He comes in and rescues us from our own ideas of how things should be and does beyond what we could think or ask for!

Sometimes it looks HUGE....and sometimes it looks like a cognitively impaired 6 year old signing "more" and having one success in the potty.  And we rejoice and thank Him for Redemption, Hope, and Second Chances!
Friday, August 3, 2012

Strength and Weakness

Esther made a new sound: "baba."  Not to brag or anything, but I'm thinking about having a bumper sticker made that says, "My kid can string together two different consonants and vowel sounds."  I'm that proud!

Someone else decided to start speaking in paragraphs when I was in Uganda.  Ari is very happy to have me home!

I am pretty good about self-care and making sure I put my own mask on first before trying to help those around me (including everything from making sure I get alone time with God to keeping up on my toe nails for example) but I had my usual sleep deprivation melt-down that occurs whether we adopt or have a biological child where I hear that mocking voice sneer, "How did you ever think you could take care of ANY child when you can barely take care of yourself?" However now I know beyond a shadow of doubt that is NEVER the voice of God, not in tone nor in content, and after I go to bed and get a good night's sleep I wake up a Christian again. And I remember that Jesus really is enough to take care of all of us and His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  

The perfect storm was set up this time by combining my sleep deprivation with Esther having a horrible reaction to a new anti-convulsant med that neurology tried to put her on that absolutely freaked her out.  So thankful for our local pediatrician who quickly agreed with me that we were just going to say no to that one.  So far Esther reminds me of Blessing in that she doesn't respond as expected to anything medical.  Keeps us more dependent on God for sure!  Our pediatrician put her on supplements of various kinds as she has some deficiencies and she is loving every single food we have had.  

And she is definitely loving all the sibling affection and attention!

And when her legs give out, big brother's arms take over and pick her up!

And there are plenty of arms to go around!

So I decided to add a little seat work back to our days.  And everyone was down with art....

But Dominic was less than enthused about math.  Too many stories to tell and pictures to draw to waste time adding and subtracting.....

But addition and subtraction can be really useful when keeping track of everyone at the pool....

Or walking to the park.

Esther enjoyed the sandbox with her sisters.

And speaking of sisters.....Blessing turned 7 today!!!  

And this birthday was a little extra awesome because.....she could EAT!

I love the big and small victories of all 15 of these unique, wonderfully designed gifts from God.

And I love that the heart of this amazing father is turned to his children (and his high maintenance wife!).  There is a safe place for all of us in the arms of our perfect Father who invites us into His embrace and promises to never forsake us.  Even when we're tired and fussy.  He's not intimidated by our weakness, He's drawn to it and offers His strength.  Gotta love Him!