Nathan turns 12!!

Nathan at home celebrating his 12th birthday

Just a quick blog update to announce that Nathan turned 12 years old today!  It’s hard to believe that he was just 9 when we met him at the airport in July 2010 and turned 10 while we hosted him that summer.  We had a low-key celebration, but it felt good to be celebrating yet another birthday with him.  As we move through time and increase the number of shared life experiences, it feels good as a family.  We know our boy well at this point and we believe that God has good plans for him!  Jeremiah 29:11

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Katie is 9!

Katie at Pizza Hut in Sturgis, SD with her yummy cake from Dakota Mart

We headed out to Sturgis, SD to see Bruce’s parents on June 10.  So we were able to celebrate Katie’s 9th birthday with Grandma Judy & Grandpa Wayne & cousin Kellie on the 12th.  We had delicious pizza followed by a cake that Katie chose at the local grocery store.  Earlier that day, we went up to the open cut gold mine at the Homestake Mining Co. in Lead to look around and visit the gift store because that’s the special thing that Katie wanted to do on her birthday.  We all had a good time!

Interesting fact (that I just read on their website) for you nerds out there:

Before its closing in 2002 Homestake Gold Mine was the oldest, largest and deepest mine in the Western Hemisphere, reaching more than 8000 feet below the town of Lead.

Open cut gold mine – Homestake Gold Mine Lead, SD

Our first teenager

Brian on Mother’s Day 2012

Brian celebrated his 13th birthday on a Wednesday.  Bruce was at one of his spring grad school classes and the rest of us were at church activities for the evening.  Brian attended youth group like usual and enjoyed his night.  When we came home, we celebrated briefly with [another] ice cream cake from DQ.  Unfortunately, things took a turn when we spontaneously decided to hide to surprise Brian when he came downstairs after taking a quick shower.  We flipped off the lights and as we all scrambled to find a good hiding place, this triggered a PTSD response in our wounded one and the night ended very differently than I anticipated.  As a result of this, I didn’t get a picture of Brian with his cake on his birthday. We learned something important that night and it served as another reminder that life just isn’t “normal” anymore.  New house rule:  No hiding in the dark to surprise someone.

Hope Is Renewed

The Same God  by Newsong

Back to the wall, scared you’ll fall
What you going to do
Day and night,
Don’t know why it’s like the worlds’ against you
You’re praying for a break through

There was a day
When your faith couldn’t be held down
God was near enough to hear every word
But somehow you wish He heard you right now
Don’t you know

The same God who was with you then is with you now
The same God who led you in will lead you out
So take all the fear and doubt
Go on and lay them down
The same God, the same God is with you now

Can’t you see
Everything happens for a reason
There’s a time, there’s a place
For every season
He knows what’s best for you
So don’t be afraid

The same God who was with you then is with you now
The same God who led you in will lead you out
So take all the fear and doubt
Go on and lay them down
The same God, the same God is with you now

Just keep holding on
Oh keep holding on

The same God who was with you then is with you now
The same God who led you in will lead you out
So take all the fear and doubt
Go on and lay them down
The same God, the same God is with you now

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

To me, this speaks of confidence that God will work everything out for our good.  I struggle with doubt when circumstances feel very uncertain.  But I think we need hope to have faith.  I think of hope as a glimmer of light in the midst of darkness that allows us to believe that there is something better ahead.  If we don’t have hope, nothing else matters.  Once hope returns, we need to grasp onto faith.  We can intellectually believe the truth, but being able to function in that truth is another matter.

Lately I’ve really been feeling depressed about our situation and the ongoing difficulty of the life we’ve been called to with very little outside support.  I’ve been looking ahead with very sad eyes as I haven’t seen anything to look forward to.  The only thing I have been able to see is commitment, hard days, perseverance, growth, etc.  But no relief in sight.  This is a hard way to live.  We are trying to live out what we believe God has called us to do in every major area of our lives.  We have a larger family than many. We have a strong conviction to provide our kids with a solid Christian education.  We were called to adoption and we followed through in obedience.  We function best and believe it is the best thing for our family to have my first priorities be managing our family and actively parenting our kids.  Working outside the home would take away from my responsibilities as a dedicated wife and intentional mother.  We made a commitment to do our best to live off of one income before we ever had children.  But there is a growing gap between our convictions and our financial ability to carry out those convictions.  We’ve been feeling a lot of pressure lately as we try to figure out what we’re going to do for the upcoming school year.

We’ve been praying about it and asking God to guide us and give us wisdom and lead us to the decisions that he would have us make.  He’s been pretty silent lately.  I can’t say that I feel LED to find more work outside our home, but I am feeling pressure to do so as I’m just not seeing another way.  I’ve been feeling more and more distant from God as I have been unable to hear his voice on these issues.  My faith has been weakened lately as deadlines get closer when decisions will have to be made.  We don’t have all the facts in yet, but we know there is a shortfall to continue what we’re currently doing.  We have sacrificed a lot over the years to keep paying for the education we deeply value at a school we dearly love.  But this is not sustainable with a growing family and the cost of private education increasing at a much steeper rate than our income.

I’ve become more and more discouraged.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had such a hard time hearing God’s voice.  I’d been crying off and on for about 24 hours by the time I heard the above song on KTIS today while driving my 10 year old van to our wonderful Christian school to pick up the kids today.  I can tell you that I HEARD God’s gentle voice speak to me through this song today.  I don’t recall ever hearing this song before today.  It spoke directly into my situation and God touched my hardening heart.

I also “ran across” a poem today from another adoptive parent’s blog (of traumatized children) about how loving a wounded child is a different sort of love.  Here is the link to that blog:  http://urbanservant.blogspot.com/2011/10/love-is-enough-in-adoptionbut-can-you.html  This also spoke to my heart as it resonated deeply within me.

Two dear friends reached out to me in very real, sincere, life-changing ways.  They helped me to keep holding on.

And a very caring, determined to help, understanding social worker arrived on my doorstep.  Our two hour conversation made a tremendous difference in my life today.  My outlook is different.  I have hope again.  I believe that more real help is finally on the way.  I know that God sent her specifically to come to my rescue.

And my sweet, faithful husband tenaciously petitioned our Lord on my behalf.  He did not let up until the breakthrough came.

Stephanie turns 11!

Stephanie with her DQ ice cream cake

Stephanie turned 11 back on this day.  Stephanie is a wonderful daughter and big sister to her two younger sisters and she is struggling a bit to find her place in the new family structure.  At the time of her birthday, life was very hectic for us with Bruce trudging through spring semester at St. Thomas.  I was doing my best to hold the family together to get us through to summer break.  I am posting this months later as I just can’t keep up with my whole life.  There are lots of things that I am successful at keeping up with and then there are many others that I rarely get to!  I refuse to give up and I’m just going to have to keep adding a post in here and there as I can and dating them according to when they actually happened.

Olivia (my baby) turns 6!

My big girl on her 6th birthday

Olivia celebrated big by hosting her first kid party with friends from school.  She was so excited and we had so much fun together during the planning process.  Big sister, Stephanie, was a great help with planning and running the party.  Olivia is very social and really enjoys spending time with friends.

 

Life is Hard

When life gets more challenging, it becomes far more complicated to write about.  These are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself over the last 6 months while I have been experiencing what I will call “writer’s paralysis.”  What do I write about?  What should I include?  What should remain private?  How much do I say?  How do I express some of my feelings without my blog becoming an emotional outlet and nothing more? How do I glorify God through what I share with others? What is helpful to others?  I haven’t been able to get past all these questions and I’ve finally concluded that it is never going to be in a neat little package where I always say just the right thing in just the right way.  But I really need to write for my own sake. So I’ve got to start again somewhere.

There are many things that I wish I would have just banged out a quick post about.  Like Nathan’s 11th birthday, which we celebrated in August.  But then, I want to write about each child’s birthday and then it gets more complicated because of how our lives have been altered because we chose to adopt.  I am creating a permanent record of our family.   And while it is not my goal to present this idyllic picture of who we are as a family, I can’t share every detail of what we’re going through either.  I find it hard to discern where the line is much of the time.  It is hard to know where to begin and where to end.  But writing nothing has also inhibited some of the support that we need and appreciate so much.  So I need to share our lives with you.

We have suffered much as a family since we made the decision to move forward with adoption over a year ago.  When we truly seek God in what he would have us do with our lives, we must be prepared to suffer.  God didn’t put us on earth to just enjoy ourselves and pamper ourselves and spoil ourselves silly with things and activities and experiences that make us feel good and happy and relaxed.  When we open ourselves up to allowing God to work in us and through us, surely he is willing to put us in the fire to refine us and mature us.  Fire is hot.   It burns and hurts.  It causes us to question whether we have made decisions that we can live with.  It causes us to wonder if we will ever truly enjoy life again the way we once did.  While we are interested in growing in the Lord and becoming the people he wants us to be and he created us to be, it’s hard to get excited about suffering.  It’s hard to cling to the joy that God desires for us to have when life is really hard.  It’s hard to love someone who is difficult to love.  In one of the books that we purchased to guide us in parenting our hurt child, wounded kids are described as prickly.  Indeed, it’s hard to try and get cuddly with a cactus.  It’s difficult to live with someone who you don’t have that kind of relationship with.  It’s hard to live with the dynamics that this creates in a family.

We’ve always been thoughtful and intentional people.  Most of the choices we have made (since marriage) about how we are going to live have been contemplated and deliberate.  But we have been forced into living at a whole new level of intentionality where we can do or say almost nothing without prior thought as to what the consequences and reactions to that will be.  It is hard to describe this way of living to others and difficult to fully convey what our daily life is like now.  The one thing I can say is that it is hard.  EVERY day.  Some days are harder than others.

I think as humans, we generally do not gravitate toward what is uncomfortable or challenging. Most of us who have the means to own a washer and dryer (or have access to them) choose to use them to get our clothes clean and dry.  Most of us who have the opportunity to use a dishwasher to get our dishes clean, happily choose to use it.  Most of us choose to drive a car (many with heat and air conditioning) opposed to a horse and buggy to get ourselves and our families around.  Most of us use a powered mower to cut the grass.  Most of us prefer to use the phone or email to contact someone rather than running to their house or business to speak with them.  Why do we do this?  Simple!  Because it’s easier!  We like easy.  We like comfortable.  We like fast.  We like free time.  Generally speaking, most of us make many choices that make life easier.  And life is much easier than it could be due to those choices.  Many of you have probably already figured out my point in all of this.  Why would we deliberately make choices that make life harder than it has to be?  Why would we choose the more difficult path?

I suppose that most people who worked hard through college and finished with a degree would say that they were willing to go through it because of what they gained in the end.  Most people who choose to work out and be fit are happy with the results that they achieve.  Most people who work hard at a job and are able to provide for their families, are willing to do it, week after week.  Most of us who are parents and raising kids would probably say that it’s all worth it because of the rewards that come along with the work of caring for our children.

But what about when that college degree didn’t result in a “satisfying job?”  What about when you’ve worked hard to take care of your body and be healthy and you’ve ended up with serious illness or chronic pain?  What about when you lose your job and can’t seem to find another one and can no longer support your family?  What about when you generously invest in a child and parenting them is difficult no matter what you do?  What if the rewards are few and far between?  What then?

As our conversation with God has continued about what he called us to do, our choice to follow him in obedience to carry out what he had for us, and living with the consequences of that choice, He has brought many things to mind to help us work through where we are.  One of those things was an analogy that I believe the Lord gave me to understand how our lives have changed.  When we say yes to God, he may send us into dark places to do the work that he has for us.  He will not send us alone.  He will send light (Jesus) with us, but he is most certainly willing to send us where it is dark, sometimes scary, and where we can only see in front of us as far as the light shines.  We don’t know what lies ahead, but we need to keep moving forward.  As the Lord brought this to mind for me one day, I envisioned a dark cave that we entered with only a candle to guide our steps.  We must hold on tightly to the candle.  We can’t move ahead without it and we have no hope without it.  So we cling to the candle and move forward in faith.  Until our child is willing to take our hands so that we can lead him out of the cave (darkness) we are stuck in the cave with him.  We want to run from the cave and be free and be surrounded by light again.  But God clearly called us into the cave.  So here we are.

On a More Positive Note…

We have seen many improvements and growth in Nathan in the last 6 months.  His conversational English has come so far, it is truly amazing.  We are very grateful for a caring, thoughtful, kind, supportive ESL teacher at his school.  She has become a very important person in our lives who is making a difference in Nathan’s life every day.  Her communication with us as parents has been excellent and we are so thankful that God put her in our lives.  He is reading English at about a 2nd grade level now.  He is a good math student and is doing well in math except when language is a barrier to full understanding as with story problems.  But he also has a good math teacher who has taken an interest in getting to know and understand Nathan and works hard to figure out how best to help him.  She is cheerful and encouraging and I spent about 30 minutes just visiting with her after our parent teacher conference with his homeroom and ESL teacher.  We believe we made the right school choice for Nathan this year and are still praying and thinking about what to do next year.

Nathan has quickly become an “American football” fan and has become a student of all things football.  He has learned much about the rules of the game, is becoming familiar with certain Vikings players, and spends a lot of recess time playing football with other kids at school.  He also does his best to recruit his siblings to join him out in the yard and frequently asks Bruce to come outside and throw the football with him.  We are hoping to get him on a team to play next fall.

He still enjoys soccer and I believe the plan is still for him (as well as Brian) to participate in indoor soccer starting in March.  Katie and Olivia will likely want to play as well, so I have no idea how to juggle that financially and schedule-wise at this point.  It is hard to give all the kids some of the opportunities that they would like to have to participate in different interests.

Nathan has two good friends at school that he spends most of his lunch and recess time with.  We are thankful for Daniel and Eric.  Nathan and Jason remain good friends as well, but they don’t talk on the phone as often as they used to.  They always enjoy seeing each other and spending time together when our families are able to get together.

He has had thorough medical exams and has had some dental restorations, so his health is very good.  He remains to be a very thin person, but he has gained 4-5 pounds since July, so he is definitely growing.  He has been looking taller to me lately as well, but we haven’t measured him.

We have started counseling with a wonderful therapist who I believe God ordained for Nathan.  He has background experience and expertise in all of the areas that are necessary for him to understand what Nathan has been through and what he is currently dealing with.  I am tremendously thankful for how God brought us to this and that we have begun this very important piece in Nathan’s journey of healing.  His therapist even played football in college which really impressed Nathan and will help them connect as they build a trusting relationship with each other.  Even the weekly appointment time that we were offered could not have fit more perfectly into our rather complicated family schedule.  Seeing God’s faithfulness in providing for us through it all has reminded me that we are not alone in this.

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