Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Goodbyes and Hello Again

In just a few days we will be official Missourians again. We closed on our house in Missouri on the 18th, drove to Michigan for our annual family visit up there, and then back to Alabama for a few days of tying up loose ends and goodbyes.

The goodbyes are bittersweet. The people in this community are so very special. They have embraced and loved us and our children so well. Their words, messages, and worship have encouraged us and caused us to grow. This has been a pretty remarkable year.

We say goodbye to some amazing friends, both old and new. Our lives have been enriched by these people. It will be hard to leave.

We say goodbye to a natural beauty all around us that feeds our souls and draws us closer to God. We will sorely miss the lovely hikes, and clear, spring-fed streams that have been part of our weekly lives down here. We will miss the easy traffic and laid-back pace of this gorgeous community.

Our favorite creek just 1 minute from the house.

As we close this chapter, we look forward to re-connecting with friends, soaking in the prayer room, and creating our own little suburban homestead in Kansas City. Our new house has nearly two acres which some day, Lord-willing, will host a small orchard, a garden and greenhouse, and food-producing animals.

Part of our backyard.
Say a prayer for me as my car will hold Isobel's mini-farm menagerie for the 12-14 hour trip Saturday. My car will be filled with 5 chickens, 6 rabbits, 2 cats, 1 dog, 1 turtle, and dozens of aquatic animals. I offered to drive the moving truck for Paul. He didn't accept.

A number have asked us what we will be doing in Kansas City. We don't have a clear picture of what the Lord has for us there. So we purpose to follow His leading and keep our hearts open to His plans and purpose for us.

Please pray with us for the trip, for Christian's transition, and for Christian starting preschool the Monday after we move. Here's to quite a crazy year of moving, travels and learning to go with the flow.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mission Trip Recap

First, thank you to those who supported our mission trip. It was great! We are so impressed with the mission organization we went with (groupmissions.com). They were organized, God focused, and connected us with truly life-changing projects.
Jessica and I on the way to Ohio.
This was a stop in beautiful Kentucky.
Our arrival at the mission trip site where we slept, ate,
had worship and fellowshipped.
A few highlights from our trip:
First, Jessica and I were both assigned to jobs that were not tops on our list. We would gladly have switched if we could have. It is a good thing God knew better.

Jessica with her team leader and team.
She really connected with this great group of people!
In Jessica's Own Words: The mission trip to Cincinnati, OH was a really cool week for me personally. It helped me grow a lot in my faith and friendships. 

I loved serving, but honestly, my favorite part was simply hanging out with my team, working with them, doing devotionals with them, and all that good stuff.  When we were told that we would be serving at a nursing home, I was like, no. That was exactly the thing I'd told Mom over and over that I didn't want to do, and now I was stuck doing it for the whole week! I was mad but calmed down pretty quickly. (Ok, maybe I didn't calm down and Mom had to give me a pep talk, but I pulled it around.)
So imagine this. You're about to do something you think you’re gonna hate for six hours a day for a week. That was so me on the first day of work. But, believe it or not, as soon as I got there, I settled right in helping some old ladies play dominoes. My team and I ate a nice lunch outside and did devotions. We got back to base and hung out a little bit before dinner, worship and bed.
Taking a resident back to
her room after activities.
Our days were full of fun and stuff like pushing wheelchairs, playing cards with residents, and sharing good cups of cocoa with my team, but the most memorable day was the last. It was bittersweet, though, leaving all the residents we'd come to look forward to seeing as we walked through those epic-ly structured sliding doors. The last day we got to do some cool things we hadn't done before. One of my teammates, Izzie, did an Irish dance, (she is amazing) with Mario at the sound booth, controlling the music. Our mission trip leader, Chris and I got to sing for the residents. Plus another team member, Logan, showed his epic hangman skills when none of us could figure out his sentence. By the end of the day, we were all worn out and sad about leaving, but it had been a good week overall. 
And so at last we left, exchanging emails and whatnot, sad but happy at the same time. I was convinced I was going to hate it, but I couldn’t have asked for a better job, and I still thank the Lord for what he did in me and through me for the residents.

I'm so proud of Jessica. Just the other day we received a call from Lyla, one of the women she spent time with. Lyla wanted to call and tell me how wonderful Jessica was and what a blessing to her during the long, lonely days. She is still thinking about their conversations and enjoying the memory.
I ended up leading a group of teens and young adults to a Boys and Girls Club. In the mornings we cleaned, organized, and did hard labor around the place. In the afternoons we hung with the neighborhood kids doing everything from dodge ball to arts and crafts and face painting. I didn't go expecting to lead a team so it was a stretch but a good one. The Lord was gracious and filled me with strength despite lack of sleep. (50 girls packed into a few open rooms makes for late nights. :-)  One highlight of my time at the club was connecting with a 12 year old deaf girl with great artistic talent.
My team - a great group of 'kids'...who worked hard and had fun!
Face painting in the afternoon with the kids. It was a hit!
Jessica has talked about being a missionary for almost a year. She was sad to leave OH when it was time to return home. One of the biggest things she seemed to learn was to go with the flow and trust that the Lord knows what He is doing even if it doesn't seem to make sense.

When you think about it, please pray for her and future mission trips. She is still prayerfully consider missions as part of her future.

Thanks again to everyone who prayed and supported us. It was an amazing and stretching week and a wonderful time for Jessica and I to connect without the other siblings around.

We had an evening free. We joined with another
team for dessert and exploring downtown Cincinnati.

My beautiful girl is no longer a little child.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Will You Be My Forever Mama?

My son is four and has been with us since he was 18 months old.

We have talked about his adoption openly from the day he arrived with us. We have read age-appropriate, adoption-themed books to him, discussed our skin color differences, and talked lovingly of his birth mom. We have visited his biological half-brother (also adopted) and invited his half-sister (still living with his birth mom) to our home.

Depending on his frame of mind we have heard comments ranging from, "I wish I could live with my birth mama." to "I wish none of you were in that picture with me." (speaking of our family picture) to "Will you be my forever mama?"

The questions are normal, though some can be hurtful. Every time my son brings up his adoption story, I say a prayer for grace and wisdom and answer as openly as I can.

My hurt feelings don't really matter at that point because he is NOT trying to hurt me. He is attempting to process the differences in our skin color and how he joined our family compared to his sisters. He is attempting to reconcile the fading memories, experiences, and feelings he has from before he joined our family with his life now. He is trying to cope with the loss of the family who created him.

Really, it isn't about ME or my family or my parenting ability. It is about a little boy who came to us with a lot of hurts and a big dose of rejection by not being kept with his birth family.

Even the comments that seem good come from a place of hurt and fear. The one about being his forever mama is usually whispered into my ear. Sometimes at happy times, sometimes when he is in trouble or our day is a bit crazy.

My answer is always the about the same, "Yes, I will be your mama FOREVER. I am so happy to be your mama and I love being with you. You will be my baby even when you tower over me and no longer fit into my lap."

When the comments are on the hurtful side, I respond with something like, "I know it is so sad that you can't live with your birth mama. You must miss her and I bet she misses you, too. But I am SO thankful God let me be your mama and love and play with you every day because I love you so much!"

No, it is not always easy to hear hurtful comments and remember he isn't trying to hurt me. Some days I do better than others but I always respond lovingly to him and then take my hurts to my heavenly Father who knows my son's pain and my hurt better than anyone else.

I also remember that getting upset with him or responding in a hurtful way would only serve to increase his fear, anxiety, confusion, and rejection. No matter what I may be feeling, it isn't worth that.

This will be a lifelong journey.

What I say today will need to be repeated tomorrow or next week or next month...and many times after that.

What I say today will change as he grows and matures and understands life better.

What I say today will set the course for ALL of our future conversations regarding his adoption.