To begin with. . .

This is more like a journal for me and therefore, I can't promise that the entries are grammatically free. I usually have time to write at night when I should be in bed or during a brief spare moment during the day when all around me I hear my name, "Mommy," being called. So enjoy the thoughts of Lori (and maybe at times, Kevin). God is awesome! I've been married for 21 years to my best friend. I have 3 precious biological children, 4 born in my heart and at least 4 precious babies in heaven singing and dancing with God's angels. God is good!

Friday, August 18, 2017

In the Quiet

My prayer journal that I write in every night is not enough room to write about today!  So, while I multitask watching the, "The BFG," with some of the family I must write about today. (A side note: the little girls reminds us all of a little how Maleah used to look. 😊) I don't have too long before I need to go get one of the kids from a birthday party, so I have to try and get my thoughts down fast!

As I have said before in other entries, finding people who "get" our family and all of our craziness is not easy. About 2 weeks ago I had a mom that I knew only through some connections contact me about homeschooling.  Over the past several days we have been having conversations. It finally worked out for us to meet today. I am not going to share particulars, because that is not my intent. However, by the end of our time together, I knew God had sent me a new friend, someone that at least on some level is walking a journey that is unique as ours with her family.  It was a beautiful time together, sharing and connecting.  I know homeschooling is not for everyone, but it was so good to share how God has used the talents that I was given to teach and help children.  I have learned just as much about myself and how to reach 7 different personalities over the last 11 years as my children have learned. When I can share with others how they can use their own talents God has given them to connect with the child(ren) God has blessed them with, encouraging them to be the teacher their child needs and not how or what society says we should do, it reminds me of my 7 blessings and a husband who encourages and loves me to do this crazy journey.

Later this afternoon Kevin and I went to the high school to discuss the next steps to help our daughter not just survive, but eventually thrive educationally. Again, I'm not going to go into specific details, but Kevin and I left there with hope and thankfulness that there were at least 2 people, including one of our daughter's teachers who are willing to really help her.  I made it through the entire meeting without completely breaking into tears, but it was close. 😀 Thank you Jesus for people to walk beside us through this part of journey! I know it won't always be easy, but I'm thankful to at least have a beginning - a start.

So it wasn't a typical - I mean productive school day as it could have been, but as I have learned, some of these are the best days!  There were lots of life lessons learned today because of the adjustments that were made to our schedule, and some memories made.  It all comes in the ebb and flow of the ultimate plan God has planned for our family. It's our crazy life and I wouldn't change it for anything.

Now, I'll leave to pick up Maleah from her birthday party - a party she has looked forward to for a long time with some of her friends that she learned while doing the Lion King.  I can't wait to hear her stories.  I'm glad she wanted me to take her and pick her up since it wasn't close to home and late at night when the party ended.  It's these times I cherish.  I'm going to blink and these next 2 years will be gone.

Our God is a mighty God.  In the quiet and in the storm, He is always present.  Blessed to be a child of God, a wife and a mom!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

There's No Such Thing as a Normal Day in the Bryant Family

Two children were woken up early thanks to one sibling who does not know how to put themselves back to sleep if they wake up early and/or be quiet so that siblings can still sleep. So I had 3 grumpy kids to start this morning thanks to the early riser. Of course the 1 that woke up early needed a nap by afternoon time, but didn't get one. Due to the grumpiness it took the child almost 90 minutes to find a joyful attitude (this happens quite often in our home 😧) and talk about what had happened, i.e.. telling the truth. When this happens, we try to do what we call, "Time In," and keep the child close to us. Or in the case of this morning, she sat across the room some of the time. Oh trust me, we don't just allow the child to sit there for that long. There was conversation throughout and trying to reconnect, and she chose the "sit in." 😜 This one, well, this one is stubborn. There is a good reason for it too - it's how she survived. It's been rough for her the last 2 weeks especially. I wish she would allow me to hug her and hold her instead of playing the emotional games, but trust me when I say we have come so far!!!!

At breakfast, 1 child dropped the glass jug of milk while trying to put the lid on and putting it away at the same time. The glass jar fell to the floor, but miraculously did not break. Most of the milk spilled out across the floors and walls of 2 rooms and furniture. After we spent about 10 minutes on our hands and knees cleaning up the mess, I directed the child to put the towels used for soaking up the milk in the washing machine with our bedsheets that I was about to wash, and asked the child to start the load.

At lunch, another child was making a sandwich and somehow managed to knock the pile of glass plates nearby causing them to fall on the floor SHATTERING the bottom plate (how it was only the bottom one I do not understand, and yes I know that I'm sure it can be explained by someone who has a much better knowledge of physics than me 😊) and sending the shreds of glass all over the same two rooms. It took 15 minutes to clean it up, and this time caused 4 people to have to wait to eat lunch (think assembly line lunch for the Bryants). Even after sweeping and then vacuuming twice a child still got cut. 😞 

After lunch I remembered to ask the 1st child if the laundry had been swapped to the dryer, but they had forgotten to start it. So I kindly reminded them (I really did) to start the laundry. Later I noticed that there was clean laundry on the ottoman in the living room, so I knew the sheets and towels had been transferred to the dryer.

It was 8:30 p.m., and I hadn't been home since after supper since I was running the 2 that had volleyball and the one that had soccer to their practices (I squeezed in a 40 minute walk too at the park and talked to my mom and a friend!). Kevin came and asked me why the clothes in the dryer smelled like milk. 😩 NOOOO!!! Since the child was already in bed, I couldn't ask, but my guess is the laundry detergent wasn't put in. So the sheets and towels when back in the washer on a sanitize cycle to hopefully get the smell out. Thankfully, Kevin checked the dryer before he put another load in because the dryer smelled like spoiled milk. So we had to clean that first. (I decided not to put the entire load in to test it, so I'll have to check the few that I did to see if the dryer is okay.)
I know I can hear some of you say, so just put another pair of sheets on the bed. Well that would be awesome, but about 5 years ago, I paired all of us down to 1 set. Think about it. 8 sets of sheets x 2!!! Where do you store it all!? Yes, I do have some extra sheets ready for air mattresses, etc., just not the size for our bed.

In the midst of this, we did school today. Micah (I can't believe he is in the 8th grade!!!) had his first Physical Science test today. I told him I wanted him to take it without me giving him any direction on how to study other than his workbook he takes notes in and the study guide he did. He wowed me! I know there will be times in the future as the class gets tougher that Kevin or I will have to give him guidance, but he basically did the entire chapter on his own. We always tell our kids we want them to know how to learn and be able to apply it, not memorize a bunch of information for a test and then forget it. It's not about perfect scores - especially if there is no understanding behind it. Maleah will have her first Chemistry test tomorrow and I'm having her do the same thing. I'm excited to see what she will do! The other 4 finished their first unit as well. I love how they were able to apply what they learned and talk about it beyond the book learning. Our one going to public high school will have her first tests/quizzes tomorrow as well. I can't believe 2 weeks are already in the books.

Tonight my procrastinators, I mean night owl children were sitting in the living room with Kevin and I. Micah began to read out of a collection of Dr. Seuss books, one of which was, "Go, Dog, Go!" It was one of our favorites when the kids were young. They loved to mimic the phrases. So there was Micah, in his deepening voice that sounds like Kevin, reading it to the rest of us. It was awesome! 😍

So as I sit here at 10:50 p.m. listening to my washing machine STILL washing my sheets, I know I have missed some other cool things that happened during my day like hugs from the kids, silly or thoughtful responses to conversations. My days are full of them if I just take time to look. Maybe you need to do the same. It's so easy to have the pity party. I have so much to be thankful for. God is good. He gave me a loving husband, and some pretty amazing kids. I'm thankful that Jesus is walking with me. Just for the fun of it I decided to make a Lessons learned today list since I'm all about education. Ha!!

Life Lessons Learned Today:

1) Put the lid on the milk jug BEFORE trying to put it away.
2) With the amount of food we pull out for lunches, it is safer to put the food at the dining room table and not on the counter. Oh how I miss the amount of countertops I used to have now that the kids consume more food! 😁
3) Always ask/remind the kids about putting soap in the washing machine.
4) Be thankful for the "stubborn" child who will give you hugs and say, I love you," before bed time --- most of the time.
5) Cherish the moments God gives us in the middle of the storms even if it's past bed time, and not grumble that they aren't in bed. I need those moments more than ever during this season.

With all my heart, I am waiting, Lord, for you! I trust your promises.
Psalms 130:5

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Place in This World

Seven years ago we were in the process of doing lots of last minute paperwork on 4 little girls so that we could bring them home.  We had seen all of the reports both in Spanish and English.  From things the girls told us after we got them, we know that at least things that were said on paper of their daily schedule were not completely true. Of course, as we have learned over the years, all those words on the pages did not begin to explain the personalities, emotions and challenges within each of these precious girls.  There are also lots of holes in the history that we do have - things that just don’t add up. So when our girls ask about their history, there are a lot of things we cannot explain to them or do not feel that they are ready to hear, let alone understand.  At times I am in awe that they even survived. They don’t come by their stubbornness by accident, that’s for sure!!

There is an “anniversary” coming up for the girls, although I don’t know that they “know” it.  However I do believe that their minds do.  That is one area where I can relate.  Even though I don't consciously think about it, as it gets closer to when we lost Rebecca Joy, my heart does, and it affects me emotionally. As the girls get older, and as more questions are asked, the more I can see how they are processing and struggling to grasp how their past is part of who they are.  Six and seven years ago, we dealt with a lot of yuck — without hormones raging inside of preteen/teenage bodies.  Over the years we have continued to work through some tough stuff, but it seems like the last year and currently is almost worse in some ways.  Those little girls filled with fear and mistrust, but desired to have a Daddy and Mommy are now maturing into beautiful young women who are trying to figure out their place in this world (Yes, I’m thinking of Michael W. Smith’s song). They are old enough to put “A” and “B” together and realize that it doesn’t make sense. In their own ways they wrestle the information in their heart, and struggle to know how to feel about what they may or may not want to hear, let alone deal with. We have seen how the devil wants nothing more than to tear any peace they may have knowing they love Jesus.  He finds all kinds of ways to feed them lies.

I’ve been really struggling to find peace myself most days as we help our kids navigate the waters we are all in.  It’s not that I don’t trust God’s plan.  I’ve really been trying hard to identify why I'm struggling so much, and honestly I think it is because it’s lots of things all wrapped into one and I don’t feel like I am doing a good job anywhere.  I know, I know.  God thinks I am more than enough. . . . This journey can be so isolating at times.  We are missionaries in our own home in many ways. I get tired of trying to explain things to others at times because to most it doesn’t make sense. Also, there is so much that I don’t feel that I can share because it’s not my story. It is their story. We can still see behaviors of the girls sometimes that are behaviors we saw when we first got them.  When the trauma sneaks up, their instinct is to revert back to the age where they experienced something.  It’s like they are stuck.  It happened yesterday afternoon.  We hadn't seen a pataleta (fit) like this in months.  Honestly, we had hoped we wouldn’t again, and so had she.  I loved Kevin’s analogy.  It’s like their heart is a cup.  Eventually if you keep pouring in feelings you don’t deal with, it is going to overflow. The challenge comes in helping them through that without them fighting, flying or freezing.  That is so hard sometimes! You see when their brains go into low functioning mode, there is a lot they don’t hear.  During that pataleta, our daughter had no clue Kevin was trying to talk to her.  Tonight at the supper table I gave instructions about how much of what toppings they could have (tacos) since 7 preteen-teenagers can eat a lot! I had already said it twice with everyone there (and supposedly listening) and 2 of the girls looked at me at 2 different times and ask how much they could have of something.  They have both had some tough days lately.  By evening time there is not a lot of energy left to help focus. I’m trying hard to remember that daily, because it is so easy to get frustrated and think that they just don’t care. Especially now that they are older, and except for Sunday afternoon Nazarene Naps :), we struggle most days by mid afternoon.  I feel like I’m back when the magical hour of 4 p.m. arrived and everyone goes stir crazy, and supper is a long way of from happening.

My original intent of this entry was actually to write about a special 2 days I took one of our daughters on to do a program called Passport to Purity. It was a beautiful 2 days with her! I’m so thankful that God asked me to be her Momma!! I was amazed at her insight and thoughtful reactions to what we talked about. God is good!!! Being sexually pure is not something our society is going to talk about, let alone promote. It is also something, Kevin and I believe, that as Christians, we need to talk to our children about.  TV, social media, school, extra curricular activities are all great ways for our children to hear, and honestly learn to be okay with what society says is okay.  Our daughters already know that anyone who wants to date them will have to talk to their daddy first.  Of course, the older ones know that we also must agree that they are mature enough to date in the first place (this is not group things, although we’ve discussed that too). :) Yes, once they are “on their own” that is a different story, but our desire is that whether our children date someone while still living at home or after they leave that they will remember what God desires of them. 

There was more that I wanted to say, but my late nights and early mornings are catching up with me.  It’s another area that frustrates me - taking care of me. I should have just called it quits about 30 minutes ago, but instead here I am struggling to keep my eyes open.  Ha!!

Below are the lyrics to Place in This World.  I was about 19 when this song came out.  It was a difficult time in my life, and I was searching.  I hadn’t thought about these words in a very long time.  This afternoon I decided I would look them up - thanks God for the words and Google for the ease of finding words and music to a song that is close to 30 years old!! :) My heart has been hurting a lot lately for the orphans. You see the fairy tale story doesn’t happen with most. Their stories are beautiful, but they are messy.  That’s where God can work miracles.  That is what I continue to pray for my girls - to heal them completely so that they truly know God’s peace in the midst of the storm.  We all desire to be loved and accepted. Our society is big on “making it big.” I don’t desire that for my family. I want them to seek Jesus and follow Him all the days of their lives here on earth. I don’t want there to be any more orphans or foster children in this world.  I want them all to have a place - a place to be loved and cherished - family to help them work through their fears - a place to be safe and to have a family. I know, a God-sized dream for sure! But I will keep hoping. I’m too tired to get on my soapbox about how much we waste money on “stuff” that we don’t need. Your are welcome. :) Thankful for God, who loves me, even when I am struggling.

Place in This World

The wind is moving
But I am standing still
A life of pages
Waiting to be filled
A heart that's hopeful
A head that's full of dreams
But this becoming
Is harder than it seems
Feels like I'm
Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find
My place in this world
My place in this world
If there are millions
Down on their knees
Among the many
Can you still hear me?
Hear me asking
Where do I belong?
Is there a vision
That I can call my own?
Show me I'm
Looking for a reason
Roaming through the night to find
My place in this world
My place in this world
Not a lot to lean on
I need Your light to help me find

My place in this worldPla

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Chronicles of Education and So Much More, 1

I've had some ask how it is going for our one who is going to public school this year.  Well, day 2 is done, and she is surviving.  How well?  I honestly don't know. If you ask in another week, the answer might have a different tone - or even the week after that. . . . and the truth is I may never really be able to tell you how she is doing.

I can tell you that I have at least 2 who are worried to the point that it is affecting their behavior here at home. :( It may be a daily conversation to remind them that God is with her.  I have another 2, that even after just 2 days of school, I can tell were not getting the support they needed from me for their work.  Sure there were probably at least a handful of times that they could have asked, but didn't.  However, I also know that there were many times that I was too busy helping the one to have time (or I'd forget) to help the others.

August 9
I fell asleep writing this last night.  However, it is just as well, the ending of Day 3 has overturned the apple cart. It is almost midnight and school work is still being worked on.  This was one of my biggest concerns.  :( She is also very tired - another concern.

August 10
One more day to go on this first week.  In some ways it has dragged by.  I'm exhausted, so I can only imagine how she is feeling.  However, I finally was able to get someone to connect with me about next steps for possible testing.  I don't even care when it might all fall into place, I'm just thrilled to have someone in our corner so to speak.  After last night (which we knew was going to happen sooner rather than later with homework), we need to have someone looking into things from the inside. Thankfully she (the school professional) is going to look into getting some answers to our questions/concerns. I think she MAY even have some understanding of the effects of trauma and/or is taking the time to understand where we are coming from with our situation.

As Kevin said this morning at 12:45 a.m. (UGH!) half joking and half not, I wonder if anybody out there needs to do a case study of the effects of adopting 4 older siblings affected by severe trauma at various levels (at the minimum, and adding them to a trio of biological kids all within a 6.5 year age span. We finally had to call a halt after day 3 of 2 of the girls getting up early to say goodbye to their sister before she left for school.  They already don't sleep well or get enough, and then to add an even earlier time to their day.  OH MY GOODNESS.  THE GROUCHY GRUMBLING BEARS HAVE COME OUT OF HIBERNATION!!!!!!! After a comment that one said to their sister about not being able to get up and say goodbye, we've figured out it is out of fear that she will be mad at them for not caring enough to get up. So we have told them all that unless they are sleeping by 8:30 p.m., they cannot get up at 6:30 a.m..  I know some of you may wonder why, but when you deal with sleep issues like we do, taking away from when they already don't get enough makes for some really tough days. :(

School for the rest of us has been okay.  The lack of sleep and different schedule for 1 has definitely affected a few. I realized just how much I had robbed a few of mine these last couple of years with much needed time for instruction.  So our focus is a little different this year depending on which child of mine you ask. (Although, don't ask them right now because this week as been only science, math and reading for all of them.) Next week at least 3 of them will be trying out for Charlotte's Web, and the following week 2 will be trying out for Alice in Wonderland.  That will completely change up our Tuesday schedule, but we are all looking forward to it.  Micah will eventually be involved behind the scenes and then toward the end with sound for each play. I MAY even have part of a day to do what I want/need to do every now and then.  I'm not sure I'll know what to do!!! :)  Recreational sports also started up this week.  At least through the end of September we will be on our toes with 4 playing volleyball (I'll be coaching the 2 youngest girls' team), 1 playing flag football, and one playing soccer. Maleah has decided to train for a half marathon this fall, so Kevin and I are going to do that with her.

The other morning in-between all of the craziness and emotional upheaval, I had a heart to heart with Maleah.  It has been so wonderful to have beautiful and sometimes hard and even painful conversations with her over the last several months! We were talking about friendships and how she wishes she could spend time with people and not have to use technology to connect.  It's just not the same!!! I told her how I have someone that I talk to about once a week who is willing to listen, give encouragement, etc.. No, we don't live close enough to see each other a lot, but over the years our friendship has strengthened from the times we did and do spend together. That's what she desires not.  She left her 2 best buddies when we moved from Jackson 10 years ago.  Yes, they still pick up where they left off and they do communicate via technology, but it is not the same. :) Anyway, we talked about how technology can make you feel lonely and isolated. I told her that is why I took easy access to Facebook off my phone, and do not check it very often.  (I know I've already blogged about this recently.) Fast forward a few hours later and I came across an article that a friend shared that NPR did on how the iGen (kids born from 1995-2012) feels after, they drink less, drive later, etc., but psychologically are more vulnerable for mental health issues. The report goes on to say that it is largely in part to smartphones, and spending less time with their friends in person.  It means they are not able to interact emotionally or get the social support they need.  There is a lot more to the article.  It is called, "How Smartphones Are Making Kids Unhappy," if you care to read more on it.  If nothing else, it should hopefully give you something to think about! All of my children are in this iGen, and none of them have a smartphone, let alone their own cell phone.  All of them at some level or other have struggled as they have been in situations where their peers have their noses buried in their smartphones, and not connecting with others. We do have a smartphone as our home phone, and the older ones do use it some, but with restrictions.  And guess what!? Most of the time it is by texting and not calling. I'll be honest though, caller ID can be bad, because depending on what is going on in my life at that moment, I may not answer myself and let it go to voicemail or see if they will text me. Is it out of convenience.  Not in my case.  Sometimes it is all I can do to pretend to be together, and if I answer the phone I will lose it. If it is not someone I feel "safe" with, and that has an understanding of my life I live, I will probably not answer the phone.  Now please don't think that if you call and I don't answer it's because I don't like you.  If it is during the day, it's probably because we are in school.  Later - I have forgotten to turn it off from vibrate. If you text and I don't answer, again it's more than likely for the 2 reasons above. [SIGH] I COULD GO WITHOUT A PHONE EXCEPT THEN I WOULD HAVE NO WAY TO CONNECT WITH THOSE NOT NEAR ME - AND THAT'S TOO MANY IMPORTANT PEOPLE! :) Okay, so sometimes it's fun to ask Siri crazy questions just to hear the responses. ;)

John 10:10 says: "The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."

The devil is trying his hardest to steal some of our joy and kill the trust that we have worked so hard to build these last almost 7 years.  He does not want us to succeed. But God is not giving up (even when my family or I do at times) on us.  This journey we are on has not been easy, but it has had so many beautiful stops along the way. It's about surrounding everything to God and believing that ours sins were truly forgiven when Jesus died on the cross. I'm not perfect. In fact, I'm a mess.  A beautiful mess. Although the devil likes nothing more than to point out my faults, my physical imperfections, and fill my heart with fear about our family's future, God promises a rich and satisfying life.  I'll take that any day.  Rich in living for Jesus, loving my family and serving others. A wise man named Solomon once asked God for wisdom and not for riches.  Proverbs is full of wise sayings. This has been one of my verses this week from my daily study: You can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

When You Can't Do Anything Else, PRAY!

It seems for the last year plus that many of our pastor's sermons were directed at me and my family. Today's was on, "The Face of Jesus," and if you want you can search GoodNaz and find a link to the service today. As always I took a bunch of notes on the 1/2 sheet that is given for sermon notes. :) I have them stockpiled in my bedside table and look through them every so often. I needed to hear today how much God loves me, and to be reminded that He desires more than enough for us.

I couldn't sleep well last night.  My mind was going crazy thinking about all kinds of things - things that God already knows and is already there.  I am the one making mountains out of bumps in the road.

Tomorrow is a day of major change in our home.  For the first time since I began homeschooling Maleah in 2006, one of our children will be headed on the bus to school tomorrow.  It's a mixed bag of emotions to say the least, and every last one of us is being affected.  My heart cried for joy and heartache tonight as the 9 of us gathered on the floor in a circle, held hands, and prayed for the school year ahead.  As much as they can get on each other's nerves, it was beautiful to hear their prayers.  The youngest even prayed for me! Some of our sweetest moments are during our school days, and we will be missing one beginning tomorrow.  I know this is the way it NEEDS to be right now, God told me that clearly in May.  However, knowing that and actually following through with it tomorrow is another story!!!

I've written before how there aren't too many who really get what our daily family life is like.  Tomorrow, as we finish day 1 of the school year, a dear friend, her husband, and their adopted daughter from Taiwan are headed to Papa New Guinea to serve for at least 2 years as missionaries.  Stephanie was the first to "get it" and has been my go to when things get crazy or even to celebrate the calm.  She and her husband came to the airport at midnight on the night we flew back from Colombia to welcome us home.  She's been my strongest cheerleader as I've learned to parent our daughters from a hard place. Although I'm thankful for the internet, it won't be the same.  Today we went to a See You Later gathering for them, and it was all I could do to keep it together. Okay, so I didn't. :) By the end I wanted to have a full blown pity party for myself, and I'm not the one flying 30 hours away from family and friends.

So tonight as I lay my head down, I'm prepared to PRAY myself to sleep and through the day tomorrow, and the next, and the next. and. . . . The longer I live here on earth, the more I realize how much I need JESUS --- EVERY SINGLE DAY!

"The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Jehovah Jireh, Part 2

Last night I shared about how God has been my/our provider with our women's group at church.  There was no way I could tell about all of the ways, but I tried to hit on some highlights.  Below is what I kind of went off of.  One thing that is not in there is that 2 of my friends who have been there through some of the toughest parts these last 7 years were there last night.  That meant so much to me!! I had also asked someone from our present church to be there because she and her husband have become like family to ours. At the beginning I told all of the ladies that speaking in front of a bunch of children is definitely more my style. :) I also apologized ahead of time for the tears that I knew would come.  So here is basically what I shared.  Jehovah Jireh!


We each have our own unique story.  Even in our own large family, I remind my children they each have their own unique story.  Kevin and I know what it is like to be parents to both biological as well as adopted children. Our 3 biological children know what it means to have parental love from the beginning. Maleah knows what it is like to be a sister to 2 brothers and to 4 adopted sisters. The boys know what it is like to have a biological brother and sister and 4 adopted sisters.  Even our 4 daughters that we adopted have different stories.  The oldest was 8 when we brought her home and the youngest was 3.  Their memories are very different. 

Before I talk about God’s Gift, I wanted to give you a little history: I am a Christ Follower. I am a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, wife and mom. One of the greatest gifts I have ever had was to grow up surrounded by not only my family, but my extended family.  I never took for granted that I was able to spend time - lots of time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  My life is richer for it. I grew up getting to help clean the church with one set of grandparents and spending the night with them in the barn that my grandpa turned into a home.  Although…I didn’t enjoy the occasional bat that would fly through the upper story when I was trying to go to sleep and night.  My grandma taught me to love like Jesus and to be joyful even in the hard times. Grandma Dale had a lot she could have complained about, but she didn’t - at least I never heard her.  Sunday lunches after church were fun because most of my mom’s family would gather.  My dad’s parents were farmers.  We spent a lot of time there, especially in late spring and summer. I was not particularly interested in “girl” things back then, so any chance I could I was out in the fields riding the tractor, baling hay, playing baseball with my cousins - anything other than domestic things.  Again, Saturday or Sunday lunches were THE BEST! 

Kevin and I met at Manchester College, now Manchester University, in a small town in N. IN, which was a family/church related school for both of us. Some fun facts: My mom was born in Goshen, IN July of 1942. Kevin’s mom was born in Nigeria 2 years later in August 1944 delivered by the same doctor, who had gone over to the same mission field that Kevin’s grandparents went. Kevin’s dad grew up in the same county as my parents family and of course knew each other through church denomination activities and 4-H. My mom worked for Kevin’s grandma in the printshop at the college. I was privileged to spend the year before Kevin and I were married living with his grandma.  She was another grandma to me! Oh yes! I have a picture that I took from my last year of youth camp in the summer of 1989 that has Kevin playing volleyball with my cousins.  It is a small world!!

After Kevin and I were married June 24, 1995, we moved to Jackson, TN where Kevin had lived since the age of 2 months with his family. Honestly, I thought we’d live there 2 years and then move back “home” to northern IN.  Obviously that hasn’t happened yet! 

I have been praying about what I should share since Vicky asked me back in June. Thoughts would come to mind and I would type them into my notes on my phone, but nothing significant was coming.  Then late last Wednesday night, or maybe it was early Thursday morning, as I was making snacks for Kevin and our 3 oldest to take with them on the mission trip, God gave me these 2 words:

Jehova Jireh 

The Lord will provide.  There is no need too great or small that he doesn’t know about or care about. In Philippians 4:19, Paul writes, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

God has always been my provider, but over the last several months He has shown off for my family and me.  I won’t lie and say that I am completely at peace 100% of the time, or that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night and start to worry, because I do every so often. However, as I look back over my life, especially since I’ve been married, I can see how He has provided in both big and small ways. 

In Genesis 22 we see how God provided for Abraham.  God tested Abraham and asked him to take his son, Isaac, to sacrifice him as a burnt offering.  Now remember, he and Sarah had given up on ever even having a child, and then God says that she is going to have a baby even in her old age. I’m not sure that I could have done what Abraham did.  He was ready to kill his own son, when God provided a ram to be sacrificed in Isaac’s place.  He trusted God completely.

It was the spring of 1999 and I was pregnant with our first child.  I lived 10 hours driving time from my parents. My mom called to tell me that a nephew of family friends was moving to Jackson from IN to become the manager of our local Target store.  He was married and they had a 6 month old son.  It ended up that they moved into a house 1 mile from us in a series of neighborhoods that connected. About 2 weeks after Harold, Danielle and their son, Andrew, had moved in, Kevin and I went for one of my appointments. It is a day I will never forget.  We had lost our daughter, Rebecca Joy, at 23 weeks. There is a whole lot more to this story, but what I want to share is how God had sent an angel to me.  Danielle, who really didn’t know me, loved me through one of the darkest times in my life. I can’t tell you the number of times she fed Kevin and I that summer, took me places when I still wasn’t able to drive, let me talk and cry, and shared her little boy with us. We became Uncle Kevin and Aunt Lori. God provided a sister in Christ to help me heal not only physically, but mentally. She was one of my prayer warriors.

After another miscarriage, God blessed us with Maleah Danielle. Again, God provided at the exact time.  Harold was being transferred to a store closer to their family in IN.  Two weeks after Maleah was born, they along with their now 2 boys, moved to OH, but our families friendship has strengthened across the miles and years and we are not just friends, but family. 

In the book of Ruth we find a young woman who leaves her family to marry a man from a different culture.  She learns to love God, and even after her husband dies, her mother-in-law’s husband dies, and her sister-in-law’s husband dies, she chooses to go with her mother-in-law back to her homeland, and not stay with her own family.

As I said earlier, I expected to live in Jackson, TN for 2 years and then move back north. Oh does God have a sense of humor!  I won’t lie, I complained some as the years went by.  I prayed a lot about it - selfishly. It was in late November of 2006.  Jaren, our 3rd child to be born after 7 tries was almost 4 months old.  As much as I wanted to have another child, I was done. I think Kevin was a little disappointed, but my emotions and body said no more. God had provided financially, and I was for the first time staying at home full time and was in our first year of homeschooling Maleah, who was in Kindergarten. I was doing my morning devotional time and God clearly spoke to me and told me to stop praying about moving closer to home. Let’s just say that was hard. . . but I did. Two months later we celebrated Maleah’s 6th birthday with friends and our parents. Two days after that, Kevin came home and said the company was relocating to Nashville, TN.  We could go with the company, or Kevin could find another job in Jackson. It was 10 years ago this past June that we moved to Nashville. Oh there were people in Jackson trying to find Kevin a job so that we could stay, but that was not God’s plan.  Yes, again, God’s sense of humor.  He moved us about 2.5 hours closer to “home.”  God provided us with a shorter journey to see family. :)

10 years ago, we had an almost 6 1/2 year old, a just turned 3 year old and an almost 1 year old.  We were in a city where we knew NO ONE. In September of 2007, Micah got really sick. We ended up having to call 911 late one evening because he was not breathing well.  The paramedics told us we needed to take him to the ER. Kevin’s parents were the closest to us, but they were still 2.5 hours away. We had still not found a church, so there was no one to call. But God provided.  One of our next-door neighbors, who happened to be a nurse, offered to come and sit with the other 2 while they slept so that we could both go with Micah until Kevin’s parents could arrive. It was and is the only neighborhood where our family really connected with our neighbors.  God knew!

Her cousin adopted her into his family after she lost both of her parents. She eventually saved her people - the Jews - from the wrath of a jealous man who wanted to kill all the Jews living in Babylon. But God had a plan. He used Esther to save the people by becoming the Queen.

It was the fall of 1992 and I was studying abroad in Ecuador for the semester.  Little did I know at the time, but God was planting a seed in me. . . It was the toughest class I would ever take in college both in the US or in Ecuador.  It was a Spanish Grammar class.  What made up for it though were the friends that I met in the class. It was toward the end of my stay, and one of the friends said he would help me find an Ecuadorian cookbook in English that I had hoped to find.  Santiago was the son of a doctor.  That meant, he was one of the few that were well off financially.  As we walked through the city looking for my cookbook, he would stop frequently and talk to children sitting on the sidewalks.  They were hungry, dirty, barefoot, with clothes that did not fit them well, and they knew who he was.  He would take time to talk to them, and then he would give them money.  Sometimes he would tell them to go buy food right away and indicate to a nearby tiny store where food was sold. However, I noticed he did not give out money to every child. Santiago eventually ran out of money, and would tell the children who came up to him he was sorry and pull out the lining of his pockets to show that they were empty.  I finally got up the nerve to ask him about why he didn’t give money to some of the children.  I’ll never forget his expression.  He shook his head sadly and said that their parents were hiding nearby, waiting and watching for their children to get handouts of money.  They would take it and get drugs, leaving no money for food.  Others he would tell to go get food so that they would have something to eat before a parent would take it.  He did this almost daily! Some of the children were orphans and they survived because of people like Santiago who helped them. It was the first time my eyes were opened to taking care of the orphans and it stuck!

Psalm 82:3New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
Stand up for the weak and for children whose fathers have died.
    Protect the rights of people who are poor or treated badly

Honestly, our adoption journey is a story within itself on how God has provided.  I won’t go into it tonight other than to give you a few facts. In March of 2008 we began our adoption journey. It wasn’t until May of 2010 that we learned we had been matched with 4 (not 1 or even 2) sisters.  In October 2010, the five of us flew to Bogota, Colombia to meet the girls. We did not have the funds to adopt, but God provided. 6 weeks later, after some true miracles of God and an angel name Isabel, who walked with us through the entire process in country, we flew home with the girls.  Our 7 children were ages 9, 8, 6, 6, 5, 4 & 3.  Looking back now, I do not know how we survived those first several months or even first 2 years.  But God provided… And he still is! Friends brought us meals, toilet paper, paper towels, Christmas gifts that first Christmas, and the list goes on.  It was tough.  There were many nights and days I just wanted to to cry and hide.  How were we supposed to love 4 traumatized little girls, let alone love the 3 bio? I was on my knees a lot in prayer.

Within those first few months of being a family of 9, we realized that we needed to move. Our 3 bedroom home was not working, especially with 5 girls sleeping in one room, and 4 of them not sleeping well.  It didn’t take long for our home to sell. However we could not find a place to buy.  We lost a lot of equity in our home thanks to the economy and the flood of 2010. I prayed without ceasing and worked feverishly to find a rental that would take all 9 of us. We were down to about 14 hours before we would need to load a truck when I got word that we could rent a home in Hendersonville.  God provided! This move actually was when part of our family was first introduced to our GoodNaz family.

Over the past almost 7 years, God continued to provide us with a home large enough to meet our needs as we began our journey of being a family of nine.  He provided for us financially through various medical, emotional and family needs.  Eventually He lead us to GoodNaz - almost 5 years ago. We were hurting.  Unfortunately, our church family that had loved us as a family of 5, struggled as a whole to meet our needs as a family of 9. It was a move that we did not want to make, but eventually knew that we didn’t have a choice.  Thankfully, we still have some friendships from those years, who have loved us and walked along side us on our journey. And God provided - a church family here at GoodNaz.

About a year and a half ago a lot of things came into perspective for Kevin and me.  The ways of society had snuck into our family’s life over the last few years.  That’s how the devil works.  HE IS SNEAKY! 

John 10:10
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Money can “provide” for us and help us to feel “safe.” But what was happening was Kevin was working more and more, and society is okay with long work hours. However, it was hurting our family. God showed us some things that weren’t pretty to see. So we drew a line in the sand of sorts.  In February of 2016, Kevin told his boss that although he enjoyed many aspects of his job, he really needed to scale back, because his priorities were not in line - God, his wife, his family first. Working 60-80 hours a week was not where he wanted or needed to be! The short story is that the company didn’t agree, and so Kevin stayed on until a replacement could be found. 

At the beginning of last September, Kevin was told he had 2 weeks.  Even though we knew it was going to happen at some point, it was still hard. However, God’s timing was perfect. Our adoption struggles are real. As of last fall, we had one who was really struggling.  Within 2 months of Kevin being home, we saw a dramatic change. One of the things that really hurt Kevin was the strain on his relationships with some of the kids - especially our biological kids. It has taken time, and no, it’s not perfect, but it is beautiful to see where those relationships are now. There are parts of our family story that I do not share. Although, I cannot share details, I will say that God knew Kevin needed to be home these last several months as one of our daughters has struggled.  It has affected the entire family - some more than others. My relationship with with this child has never been easy.  Trauma runs deep.  Thankfully, she is willing to reach out to Kevin sometimes.  IF he had been working the hours he was I believe there would be a lot more negative consequences right now. . . but God knew. 

Jeremiah 29:11 says For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

God told Noah to build an ark. Jonah tried to run from God. Joseph and Mary had to change their plans. Saul A.K.A Paul became a missionary teaching everyone he could about Jesus, and encouraging others to not give up many times from a jail cell. Joseph was sold as a slave. Job lost everything. The 12 disciples walked away from what was safe to follow a man they did not know. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus instead of helping Martha in the kitchen. There are so many more people from the Bible that I could list, plus people I know, like my Grandma Dale, who didn’t know what was coming next, yet they trusted God, walked in faith, and God provided!

Kevin and I do not know what is next, but God has been providing.  And that is what I have to remind myself of when I begin to panic. I have a prayer journal that I write in every night, and almost every night I write, “Thy will be done in our family’s life,” or something like that. One of my favorite hymns says, “Have thine own way, Lord. Have thine own way. Thou art the potter. I am the clay.  Mold me and make me after Thy will. While I am waiting yielded and still.”

While I am waiting yielded and still.  We have been talking to our kids a lot lately about God’s will for their lives - our lives.  What does God want us to do.  How are we to be the hands and feet of Jesus EVERY SINGLE DAY? How does God want to use us? Are we taking time to stop and listen or are we pushing through with our agenda? 

In the midst of this time of waiting, I am so thankful for the time God has given our family to heal and grow more connected in many ways. God provides healing.

There is one last personal story I’d like to share with you.  It is a dream, a vision, God provided to Kevin and me as we climbed a mountain in Maine back in October of 2015. We have a passion for adoption/foster care. Even though we are living it, we want to be used more by God in whatever way that may be along the way. God revealed to us a vision of a place that would be a place of respite for adoptive and foster families. It is an area that is sorely neglected for the majority of these families - we know from experience. I cannot begin to explain to you the feelings of joy, peace and excitement that we had as we descended that mountain. There was a large boulder right in front of our rental car that we sat down on and prayed before we left.  We knew it was not something that would happen right away, but we knew God would provide the right people and resources when the time was right.  We still believe that.  God’s timing is perfect. Why do I tell you all of this? Because maybe you have something that you are really struggling with right now.  Maybe you wonder why God hasn’t done something yet? I’ll challenge you to keep praying, be still AND to listen.

Jehova Jireh gives us shelter, refuge and a hiding place Psalm 91, 
Jehovah Jireh comforts us 2 Corinthians 1:3. Jehovah Jireh is our healer Psalm 103:3,  
Jehovah Jireh is the source of wisdom James 1:5. 
Jehovah Jireh - he gave us the greatest gift - Jesus,

I want to close with parts of Philippians chapter 4.  It is my go to chapter in a lot of circumstances.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.[c]
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
13 For I can do everything through Christ,[d] who gives me strength.
19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jehovah Jireh, Part 1

When we said, "I do," over 22 years ago, I never would have imagined where we'd be now.  When I was a little girl I thought I'd grow up living near my family.  Okay, so my sister and I used to dream we married Ponch or John from C.H.I.P.S sometimes, and maybe we'd live in Tennessee thanks to a few trips to Opryland or the mountains with family. But I never thought that I'd still be in Tennessee. :)

Kevin and the 3 oldest left Thursday morning for a mission trip with our youth group to help with a Vacation Bible Camp down in Biloxi, MS until Tuesday.  Although, I've had fun with the 4 youngest here, I MISS MY HUSBAND.  Actually, I wish I could be serving with him.  We love to work together.  I know for some couples that seems strange, but we really do!  We love working together. No, it's not always roses, but overall we just have a great time together.  However, even after almost 7 years, it is still really difficult to leave all 7 (or less).  Even tonight one is still struggling and will be until everyone is back together. [SIGH] No amount of promises that everyone is coming back (no one is staying behind) helps either.

I am speaking Wednesday for our ladies Bible Study time on God's Gifts.  I had really struggled to focus in until late last Wednesday night as I was helping the 4 with last minute packing.  Then God gave me 2 words: Jehovah Jireh (God will provide).  Of course!  That especially has been His gift to us these past 10.5 months.  I don't want to spoil what I'm going  to talk about for the 1 or 2 of you that might be coming :), but I will post it afterward.

So back to Kevin. This journey that we are on right now is so anti-society (did I just make up a new word?) in so many ways.  Why would anyone walk away from a J-O-B that pays REALLY WELL and more than supported a family of 9?  Because we didn't want a name only kind of faith, and that is what it was becoming in someways.  We have never been twice a year Christians or even Sunday Christians.  Jesus is number 1, then our marriage, our children.  The problem was it was beginning to be Job number 1, which meant the other 3 were not priorities. It wasn't on purpose. It just kind of happened because when you are taught not to give up, to work hard and do your best, it just kind of becomes accepted.  But it wasn't what God wanted, and it definitely wasn't what we wanted.

I'm proud of Kevin.  He has one demo done for voiceovers.  He has been working on some handyman type jobs and now has insurance and title to go with it to help us out.  We've prayed a lot about where God wants us to be and doing what.  It would not be easy for us to pack up with our 7 and become missionaries, but we do want to serve Him in whatever way we can. So we continue to wait for God to open up the doors.  It has been a blessing and a joy to watch Kevin become more involved with church activities again.  He's had the chance to do some drama these last few days for VBC.  It's been fun to watch him on video doing what he loves to do: interact with kids and be dramatic! :)

We don't tend to spend a lot of money (okay so our kids would say none) on each other, or even "go on a date and be romantic" (as one likes to say).  We do love to spend time together.  It's kind of funny, but we are getting good at talking to each other from one end of the table to the other all while ignoring the antics of the other 7 sitting at the same table!  Ha!!

I know this is a rambling post.  I think it is because I'm really missing my best friend.  It's been challenging lately on so many fronts, but I am so proud of how he took a HUGE step of faith to follow God's call.  Jehovah Jireh!!!