"I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you." - John 14:18

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Kindest Soul

The snow storm prevented me from getting online and posting on Hattie's actual birthday but today feels "right" for this post, somehow because today is the home visit for our home study and Hattie has prayed daily for this adoption for years. Literally. Her faithfulness and patience in prayer is nothing short of remarkable and makes me feel ashamed of my attitude of often expecting instant gratification.

When I describe Hattie I often say she is all of the joy of being a parent with none of the work and that is true to the point that I sometimes think we take advantage of her sweet nature...take it for granted even. I used to worry that a mistake had been made - that Hattie wasn't supposed to exist in this world. She is too good. Too kind. Too, well, perfect. In the way that only mothers can be paranoid I used to worry that God would realize that a mistake had been made and take her back and, I will admit, that when Hattie complains a little or takes a rare fit of petulance I breathe a secret sigh of relief that she is human after all. When we made our first frantic steps down this road to adoption (I say frantic because I was in and out of the hospital after a minor surgery had complications and the deadline for our adoption program fell right in the middle of all of that) one of our first steps was to get references from the girls' teachers. The teachers comments about all of the girls made our hearts full but the comments from Hattie's teachers brought us to tears. Let me share a couple:

"I have Hattie in my reading class. It is rare to have a student that is always smiling. Hattie is the exception. She is a very compassionate child. It is not uncommon to see Hattie trying to comfort another child who is feeling upset."

"Hattie is simply a delight to have in class. She has continuously displayed gratitude toward others, including myself. Her work ethic is amazing and her attitude is subservient in a way that is only instilled within the home through Christian values. Hattie has a kind heart toward her fellow students, always being the first child to volunteer to share her supplies and seems to be acutely aware of the needs of others."

As much as I would love to take credit for our outstanding parenting abilities in raising such an exceptionally compassionate child, it would be a lie. Hattie came to us this way. I sometimes half-joke that everything we do messes her up a little bit! So I am left wondering - how do you say thank you for a gift like Hattie? I think the answer is by honoring God. By living a life that gives Him the glory...and, perhaps, by taking our cues from a little girl who turned 10 just yesterday. So here are some things I have learned through having the privilege of her call me Mama:

1) God is in everything - as the grass tickled a 4 year old Hattie's leg she exclaimed "God is tickling me!".
2) Never give up - I have watched this child struggle through several very difficult years in school as a result of not realizing she has Retained Primitive Reflexes and watched her struggle through 2 years of OT treatment with a smile on her face and never once heard her complain about the hand she had been dealt.
3) Be kind - I have often remarked that Hattie is the kindest person I know...and there is nothing that I have seen in her 10 years that would make me question that statement.
4) Bounce back - what a wonder it is to watch Hattie deal with a disappointment, even this past Sunday as her party was canceled due to the weather, Hattie spent no time feeling sorry for herself - she blinked back a few tears and then, that ever present smile was back on her face and she was looking forward to her party this weekend.
5) Put others first - Hattie not only does this but does so joyfully! Whether you are a dog needing a drink, a sister needing a playmate or a parent needing a hug or a hand...Hattie is there. I think her ability comes not from some sort of compassionate 6th sense, but rather from paying attention to others rather than focusing on herself.

So today I am humbled by the gift of this child who has taught me so much. Early this morning she told me her tummy felt the way it does when you are going fast down a steep hill, not because Christmas is coming or because her birthday party is a couple of days away. Hattie felt that way because today we take another step toward a prayer being answered. A prayer that this small child has prayed every day for years. I know I don't deserve her but I sure am glad that I have her.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Unconditional Love

6 Years & 12 Years Old

They actually had the same due date - August 29th - just 6 years apart. My bff said they were like parenthesis. But Gracie stayed put until they induced me September 8th and pregnancy induced diabetes made Dr. Vick suggest that Essie come out on August 20th, my mom's 60th birthday (unless, as he said, I wanted a 14 lb. baby!). So Essie was born just shy of Gracie's 6th birthday. 4 girls in a little less than 6 years, how lucky can one mama get?

I have really struggled to get this post written because words are too solid to capture the emotion of motherhood. I distinctly remember driving newborn baby Grace through New York City traffic. As the horns blew and the fumes came off the trucks and we darted in and out I sat there thinking "No one told me this. No one told me that my entire sanity now rests on this tiny person being okay. All the time. Forever". The vulnerability of being a parent was overwhelming in it's finality. This fragile balance would now define the rest of my life. Of course, looking back, I now realize that what I was feeling so overwhelmingly was unconditional love. There were plenty of people I loved before Gracie came along and I think I loved them well and loyally and as fully as my heart was able, but this love was something new altogether and it made what I had thought of as love before seem as small as a tear in a salty sea.

I loved Gracie so completely, so wholly that I despaired over it when I was expecting Hattie. I knew in my heart that I would never be able to love anyone the way I loved Gracie and I worried that poor wee Harriet would sense that she was loved less than her beloved big sister. Imagine my surprise when Hattie arrived on the scene and I loved her just as ferociously as I loved Gracie! What a miracle of the heart - it just grows and grows the more it has to love. It isn't finite in it's capacity to love and neither am I! So, in turn, when Mabel entered our lives - small and chicken-y compared to her robust sisters, I loved my tiny weirdling with the same joy. Even when she showed a strong preference for Mike, or my mom...or strangers on the street! lol! I thought, "That's my odd little Mabel" and I loved her even more for her quirks that were present from the day she came screaming into the world. By the time Essie was born, the capacity of my heart to love was no longer a surprise to me and I knew that Essie, ray of sunshine that she is, was in no danger of not receiving her full portion of adoration and adored she has been. I can scarcely look at her without beaming, without wanting to hug her and snoodle her to bits!

12 years since our first baby, 6 years since our last baby...and now, slow, careful steps toward a brand new member of the clan. I wonder has this child been born yet? I wonder if it will be a boy or if God will add to our giggle of girls, as my mom calls them. I think about the mother trying to make the best choice for her baby and I wonder what will become of her. Does anyone celebrate her birthday? Did anyone ever wonder if they could ever love anyone as much as they loved her? I wonder and I worry - I worry that I am not doing enough. That I need to be reaching out more, touching more lives, making more sacrifices, shining more light. I know that I do not need to earn grace - that gift was free - but God's grace makes me want to be a better person, a better wife, a better friend, a better daughter, neighbor, citizen...a better mama. At the end of the day, I am just trying to do the best I can. Some days this goes better than others but today is going pretty well. I am planning a party to celebrate 12 years of Gracie. I am getting ready to cook spaghetti to feed some firemen in honor of 9/11. Most importantly, I am handing my worries over to God. I am trusting in Him because I know as much as I love my children He loves them more. And I know that unconditional love I first experienced with Grace...God feels for me.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sobering Statistics

It is estimated there are between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide (recent UNICEF report.)

The current population of the United States is just a little over 300 million… to give you an idea of the enormity of the numbers… (The current population of Russia is 141 million)Every day 5,760 more children become orphans

2,102,400 more children become orphans every year in Africa alone

Every 15 seconds, another child in Africa becomes an AIDS orphan

There are an estimated 14 million AIDS orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa (a number higher than the total of every under-eighteen year old in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland combined)This figure is estimated to reach 18 million orphans in Africa alone by 2010 (only two and a half years away)

8 out of 10 children orphaned by AIDS lives in sub-saharan Africa

Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…

Each year 14, 505, 000 children grow up as orphans and age out of the system by age sixteen

Each day 38,493 orphans age out

Every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home

In Russia and the Ukraine, studies have shown that 10% – 15% of these children commit sucide before they reach age eighteen

These studies also show that 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals

Another Russian study reported that of the 15,000 orphans aging out of state-run institutions every year, 10% committed suicide, 5,000 were unemployed, 6,000 were homeless and 3,000 were in prison within three years…

Not everyone feels called to adopt, but I would hazard a guess that everyone has a heart for orphans. I ask you to pray for us and I invite you to be a part of helping us bring our child home. Not everyone can adopt an orphan, but everyone can help one out in ways both big and small. I have installed a Paypal Donate button at the top right hand of the site and, if you feel called to do so, please help us out with a contribution toward our adoption. If you donate I would love to send you a Ugan-Doll (I do monsters or girls/boys) so please make sure and leave me your address. I will also be adding an order form for Show Hope shirts in the next couple of days. Half of the price of each Show Hope shirt will go toward our adoption and there are tons of awesome designs to choose from.

Thank you for supporting us with your kind words and your prayers. We couldn't walk down this road without the support of so many.

May our hearts grow softer and our voices rise louder…

“Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Deliver the weak and needy from the hand of the wicked.” Ps 82:3-4

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is This Wrong?

I am stealing this post from another blog (Life with the Hildebrands). It puts everything in sobering perspective.

Is this okay...

...while this still exists?

The Hebrew Scriptures have a very simple and direct message:

God always hears the cry of the oppressed:

God cares about human suffering and the conditions that cause it.

God is searching for a body, a community of people to care for the things God cares about.

God gives power and blessing so that justice and righteousness will be upheld for those who are denied them.

This is what God is like. This is what God is about. This is who God is.

To forget this, to fail to hear the cry, to preserve prosperity at the expense of the powerless, is to miss what God has in mind.

- Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians

Monday, August 9, 2010

We Will Serve You While We're Waiting

Patience. This is so not my strong suit. We have completed all of the paperwork for our home study (HOORAY!) but now we have to get a loan from the bank to pay for it. That means 4 more weeks of waiting...big sigh. I can look back on my life and see that God's timing was perfect every single time - no exceptions, but, as I move forward in my life I always struggle against His timing. August is a tough month anyway with 5 birthdays in our immediate family and getting the kids all the gear to head back to school, add to that a broken water pump (and no water at the house - yuck!) that has to be replaced, waiting on this loan to come through and living in a rain forest-like climate in our normally temperate state...well, you probably get the picture, I am not the best me I can be. It is at times like this that I need to step back and take in all of the blessings in my life and, boy (or should I say girl!), there are a lot of them. I have been blessed in spades and then some and, as has been our mantra for 13 years of marriage "If money is our worst problem then we are probably doing okay". So today I choose love, today I choose joy, today I choose peace & patience & kindness. Today I choose faithfulness. Today I choose gentleness. Today I choose self-control. Today I choose to see the good in others, to count my blessings and to open my eyes to the need around me. Today I choose to go where He sends me knowing He has prepared the way (but I could probably use a prayer or two because, I am serious, that patience thing is REALLY tough for me!).

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest." - Max Lucado

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Road Less Traveled By

We moved from New York to the beautiful Appalachian mountains nearly 7 years ago with our 3 oldest girls (Grace, Hattie & Mabel). Since then we have added one more (Essie) and we are in the process of completing our home study to add another wee woman or miniature man to our clan. We feel humbled and blessed to be adopting from the African country of Uganda through Nightlight Christian Adoption. We have been praying for several years for God to move in our lives and open the doors for adoption...and it is finally happening! I will feel a lot better about things once our home study is completed and approved so please keep us in your prayers that everything will come off without a hitch. The first few steps down this road have been overwhelming & breathtaking all at once. We have been awe struck by generosity and grace. We have written until we have cramps in our hands. We have prayed (though never, ever enough) and laughed and felt terrified but, slowly but surely, by putting one foot in front of the other, we are making our way - little by little - down this miraculous road to adoption. We'll keep you posted.