Christmas Peace?

Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

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But, not at Christmastime, Lord. You understand that I have presents to buy and wrap, food to buy and prepare, children to corral in the craziness of a changing schedule this time of year, basketball practices to get to, dinner to make, oh, and don’t forget some self-care in there too: exercise, eat well, and stretch. Lord, you didn’t mean, you have given me peace even at Christmastime.

Not as the world gives do I give to you…

The world offers me peace in the Christian yoga YouTube videos I found. The world’s peace is in letting go. It’s found in circumstances going my way. I can experience it in discovering the perfect gift found on the clearance rack at the first store I step into. Ah…an empty parking spot nice and close to the front. Is this the peace I seek?

My peace I give to you…

Jesus doesn’t offer peace based on the circumstance. Jesus offers his peace based on who He is and what He has done for us. His peace doesn’t depend on me. His peace doesn’t depend on those around me. His peace doesn’t depend on my schedule or the season. His peace depends solely on him…His life, sacrifice and resurrection, and His Spirit dwelling inside of those who place their hope in him.

Let not your hearts be troubled…

Don’t run around in a frenzy. Don’t expect others to do what you want. Don’t search for peace in this world. Don’t make yourself God in your life.

Neither let them be afraid…

Keep your heart and mind set on the Lord. Trust in His love. Trust in His goodness. Trust in His power.

Yes, Christmas peace. 

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I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Who is Like You?

The following poem is really a compilation of “who is like you” questions I wrote each morning for the last few weeks during the beginning of my quiet time. I have really been encouraged to be in awe of the Lord God Almighty. My response to this awe is to ask the Lord, who is like you? The answer? None other than the Lord. 

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11

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Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, waiting on me, listening with patience and kindness?

Who is like you, pouring out endless grace and mercy?

Who is like you, filling my days with purpose and focus?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, steady from beginning to end?

Who is like you, holding my past, present, and future?

Who is like you, full of power, strength, and sovereignty?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, Father to the fatherless?

Who is like you, protector of the weak?

Who is like you, guide to the blind?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, a King in a manger?

Who is like you, humble and meek?

Who is like you, born to sacrifice?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you? Oh, who is like you?

 

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What I Learned in November

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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What We Are Reading in Our Homeschool:

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos
The Story of the World Volume 1
The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
Indescribable: 100 Devotions abut God and Science by Louie Giglio
A Tree For Peter by Kate Seredy
Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling
What I Am Reading or Listening To:
20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
Joni by Joni Erickson Tada
The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
Sacred Parenting by Gary L. Thomas
The Honestly Adoption Podcast
Learning in November:
  • Eye Contact
Just simply looking my children in the eye and requiring them to look me in the eye when we are having a conversation is bringing about healing and connection. This past month, my husband and I learned that some of the struggles we are facing as a family are due to a need to improve attachment for our children. A parent coach we are working with explained how eye contact conveys and builds trust. Our goal is to not talk to our children unless we are looking them in the eye. The other half of that, is requiring them to also look us in the eye when they speak to us. This requirement initially brought about frustration for our kids at times when we told them, “I am sorry, I cannot hear you,” whenever they forgot to look us in the eye. But, as time has gone on, the frustration is gone and we are each reminding each other of our goal to connect through eye contact.
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6:22
  • Jumping on the Trampoline

Another piece of learning the parent coach is helping us to understand has to do with our children’s brains. Due to our children’s unique beginning in this world, their amygdala is quite sensitive. We are learning it’s like an overly sensitive smoke alarm, constantly being on alert. The amygdala is responsible for the perception of emotions. One way to help activate the front portion of the brain and build on logic and problem solving is simply jumping on a trampoline. This brain learning is so exciting and it’s really another chance to be amazed and in awe of our Creator. He truly is a master creator, full of creativity, wisdom, and love.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

 

  • Sharing in Grief Brings Healing

About a year ago, our oldest daughter came to me and asked, “Mom, aren’t you sad sometimes that you never got to be pregnant and have a baby?” I thought for a minute and my mind immediately went to the idea of not having my children as my children. I looked her in the eye and replied, “No, I am so thankful for the children I have. If it happened any other way, I would not have you two!” But recently I began thinking about her question once more. I started to see it as an invitation from my daughter to share in her grief. Of course, in an ideal world, she could have stayed with her biological parents. They would have been healthy enough to care for her and she never would have had to suffer separation from them. But, that is not what happened. So, she has grief. My new response to her question is now, “Yes, I am sad I didn’t get to be pregnant with you. I am sad I didn’t get to know you in my own womb. I am sad I didn’t get to feed you healthy foods. I am sad I didn’t get to protect you from stress and other toxins you had to face in the womb. Yes, I am sad.” We cry and hug and then our bond is more pure, closer, filled with more trust. Thank you, God!

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4. 

 

What have you been learning this month? What is the Lord doing in your life?

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

 

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The Power of Sisterhood—Our Adoption Story Part 2

My good friend over at Rich Faith Rising is sharing beautiful adoption stories on her blog this month in honor of National Adoption Month. I had the honor of telling our two adoption stories. Here is the story of our first adoption: A Diagnosis Changed Everything—Our Adoption Story Part 1. Head over to Rich Faith Rising to read more inspirational adoption stories and be blessed!

Our oldest daughter was about 18 months old when I got the wild idea that I was ready to try the process again. We had been told that it could take 2 years or even longer to adopt, and I didn’t want our children to have a big gap between them. My husband agreed to begin the process again thinking it would be at least a year before we welcomed another baby home.

We decided on independent adoption again, using the same adoption attorney and social worker as we did the first time around. This time, the home study was quicker and easier as we just had to update it. Plus, we were experienced now. We now realized the social worker wanted to approve us and wasn’t looking for us to fail.

Once again, we completed the home study in December, but this time it was 2006. We again received many hope-filled calls while we waited. One birth mom had twins in Florida. One was 32 years old. But, none of these were the situation the Lord had for us. Eventually, our attorney contacted us to tell us about a birth mom who was interested in our profile. She had narrowed it down to two families and wanted to meet us both.

We went to meet with her and her family and were instantly at ease. We really liked the whole family. How could we actually feel comfortable in such a situation? Because the Lord had brought us together.

There was something about the other family she met with that was drawing her to them. And, we were told that although she did like us, she had decided on the other family.

This was disappointment down to the core. Disappointed but yet still drawn to this birth mom and her unborn baby.

A couple of weeks passed when we unexpectedly received a call from the birth mom’s adoption counselor. She informed us that the other family had decided they wanted to adopt a girl because they already had two boys. So, although we were runner’s up, we were now the top choice as the other family was out of the running. This particular birth mom was expecting a boy and we were open to either a boy or a girl.

A couple of more months passed, and it was nearing the birth mom’s due date. We were able to get together with her and her family a couple of times and our relationship grew closer. Finally the day came when the birth mom’s adoption counselor called us to tell us the baby was here! Even while on the phone with her, I began getting our stuff together to head to the hospital. “Wait!” she said, “there is something I need to tell you about the baby.” She kind of hemmed and hawed a bit and then finally spewed out, “It’s a girl!”

“What?”

“A girl.”

I was speechless. The ultrasound clearly said male but the baby was now out of the womb and was definitely a girl!

A flood of emotions rushed over me. “You mean that other family could have had their girl? But, we get her? We were the 2nd choice but yet here we are…blessed with another girl!”

We were overjoyed. Abby was perfect. Another perfect baby. Full-term and beautiful. She was calm, slept well, and ate well.

Mikayla and Abby first pic

Down the road we have discovered some sensory and learning difficulties. The Lord is refining me as her mom and teacher to see her wonderful uniqueness, her precious heart, and her love of fun.

One of the reasons I was overjoyed by the discovery that she was in fact a girl was because of my own sister.

Abby and Mikayla babies

My sister and I had a rocky relationship growing up. Ours was one full of competition, envy, bitterness, and anger. But, when our parents divorced when I was 12 and she was 15, we were drawn to each other in a way that no one else could compare. Our parents were hurting and were not yet able to truly be there for us. But, we found that we had each other. God had given us the gift of sisterhood. This gift has only become stronger in our adult life.

Our 12 year old is really beginning to go through the grieving process of adoption. She is experiencing the loss in a deep way. We have had several heart to heart talks about the pain and also the healing and hope that is coming. The other day as we were processing some adoption pain together, she looked at me with big eyes and asked, “Is Abby going to feel this deep pain, too?”

Abby and MIkayla jammies

“I can’t say for sure, baby girl. She might.”

With pleading eyes she said to me, “Oh, I don’t want her to have to go through this, too. No, I don’t want her to feel this pain, too.”

“But, what better way to use your pain for good? We can work through this pain together, relating to each other like no one else can.”

Sisters. Theirs is a rocky, at times even unsafe relationship right now. But, the healing. Oh, the healing that is coming. The bond the Lord is bringing. The connection through grief.

Sisters, thank God for sisters.

Abby and Mikayla girls

And, thank God for choosing me to parent these jewels.

My girls each have shirts which read, Chosen. They proudly wear these shirts. But, oh sweet, girls, it is me that is the chosen one. Chosen by God to be your mom, the greatest title I will ever know. 

A Diagnosis Changed Everything—Our Adoption Story Part 1

In honor of National Adoption Month, my friend at Rich Faith Rising is sharing real life adoption stories. I was honored to share our story. Be sure to hop over to Rich Faith Rising to read inspirational adoption stories.

Oh, I was certain I was ready to be a parent. I began babysitting as soon as the neighbors allowed me to watch their children. I had worked at daycares and preschools. I had my own classroom in a public school for 6 years at that point. I was ready!

Oh, the naivety. Oh, the denial. Oh, the trust from the Father!

Shortly after getting married, my husband and I learned that it would be incredibly risky for me to get pregnant due to an ultra-rare blood disease I have called, aHUS (atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome).

I wasn’t very surprised that the doctor strongly suggested considering other methods to become parents, but it still felt very final and heartbreaking all at the same time.

I wasn’t raised to give up, so I immediately began considering different possibilities. Surrogacy, adoption, fostering? My husband wasn’t ready yet. He needed time to process that our story was not going to be the typical story of getting married, soon after getting pregnant, and then having babies.

It didn’t take long though and after about a month he was ready to talk about it again. I can remember we were driving home from our one year wedding anniversary vacation, a road trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. We were almost home and I said, “Just think a birth mom could be pregnant right now with our baby!” Little did we know, she was!

Through divine intervention we learned that a good friend of ours had an uncle that was a well-known adoption attorney in Seattle. We were told we could have a free consultation appointment with him. We wrote down all of our questions and went to meet him. He explained the differences between independent adoption and adopting through an agency.

My husband would say I have always had too much energy and focus so the independent route sounded perfect for us because it would keep me busy! We would create our own website, business cards, posters, and profile with a photo album to get the word out to birth moms that we were ready to adopt.

We completed our home study with a social worker and on December 23rd 2004, we were all signed off and ready to fully commence our search. Everyday I tried to leave a business card someplace with our contact information. We received several calls from birth moms considering placing their unborn babies for adoption. Each time my hopes soared! One birth mom even told us we were the ones she had chosen, only to never hear from her again. I am not going to lie, this was devastating. And not proudly, I instantly began to doubt God’s plans for us.

After that fail, it was literally 2 weeks later we learned about a lovely birth mom that wanted to meet us that coming weekend. We learned that their had been drug use during the pregnancy. We also learned that the birth mom had a previous child two years prior that had many problems at birth as well as a definite birth mark. We had said to ourselves that due to my health condition, we would not be adopting a special needs child and this included any babies who were impacted by drugs and alcohol. So why were we both drawn to this unborn baby immediately? Because she was to be ours! We went to meet the birth mom and one week later, less than 5 months after completing our home study, our baby was born!

She was perfect. The nurses gave her a 10 on the Apgar test and claimed they never do that! But this one was perfect. My husband and I could not take our eyes off her. We stared at her in the hospital. We took turns staring at her on the drive home. And, then we stared at her once we got her home.

This perfect baby of ours cried a lot. There was little that consoled her except getting out of the house and moving around. She loved being in the front pack and being on the move. She absolutely would not sleep without cuddling, swaddling, and rocking for hours. She was so unlike my friend’s baby whom I had taken care of for months. My friend’s baby would sleep any where. The car, the couch, the stroller, the floor! Literally anywhere. My baby would not sleep. She could not shut out the world.

Looking back, I was in denial. She was very healthy. She was born full-term. All of her fingers, toes, and organs were fully developed. But, this inability to self-soothe and prolonged crying was not normal. Looking back, I wish we had sought help from a doctor who specialized in adoption. I wish I had been able to look at her and trust that God would help her and us and not just deny the problems.

But, God is so very faithful.

Little by little, as we’ve grown in our walk with the Lord, we’ve been able to look more humbly at our need for help. We’ve been able to accept our daughter’s imperfections as well as our own. The Lord continually shows us that we are the perfect parents for our daughter and she is the perfect child for us.

Nothing has grown my faith and trust in the Father and nothing has yielded fruit as much as parenting my children has.

What I Learned in October

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.October path
What We Are Reading:
The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos
The Story of the World Volume 1
The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
The Pond People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb and Mary Lamb
Indescribable: 100 Devotions abut God and Science by Louie Giglio
Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
Don’t let this list intimidate. We usually just read one chapter a day. Slowly reading the books, narrating back the reading for the day, and short discussions, have richly enhanced our learning.
Living Education
Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
I am new to Charlotte Mason. Well, this is not entirely true. The first friend to take the time to sit me down and explain how she homeschooled her children explained Charlotte Mason and her methods to me. But, I am new to understanding and taking hold of the philosophy of Charlotte Mason.
Upon hearing about Charlotte Mason, I was immediately drawn to the idea. Being a lover of the written word and high quality literature, I was hooked.
But, just as the seed in Mark 4 became choked out by thorns, my instant draw to the lovely way to educate according to Charlotte Mason became choked out by the idea that I needed to do more. Longer lessons. Complete more. Produce, produce, produce.
Charlotte Mason was a 19th century educator who believed in using Living Books (books said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit) in order to educate the whole child. There is much more to learn about Charlotte Mason and you could begin here: Simply Charlotte Mason if you would like to learn more.
This Charlotte Mason philosophy brings me a sense of freedom and peace in educating my girls.
Rather than working against the natural way in which my children and I were created, we are now working our way back to the way in which we were designed to learn and live.
We are reading and learning from Living Books. We are spending regular time observing and learning in nature. We are learning and practicing the skill of narration: retelling stories or portions of literature from memory.  We are looking at art and reading poetry.
I am lessening my words with each passing day and allowing my children to process, think, create images, connect ideas and be led by the Spirit.
We are filling our minds with the lovely. We are dwelling on beautiful ideas. We are keeping our lessons short and we are wanting more. We are being led by the Spirit and our homeschool is alive again.
Nature Study
Nature study is one of my most favorite parts of the week. We get outside. We use all of our senses. We observe. We learn. We laugh. We get excited about the beauty of the Lord all around us.
We are using the book, Exploring Nature with Children to help focus our learning. This book has a weekly nature walk activity, a nature journal activity, a poem, and a piece of artwork to study.
Enjoy our photos of our nature study.
What did you learn this month? What books are you reading? Please share your learning in the comments! I’d love to read it!

Wrestling Through the Proof

The overwhelming emotion from the night before is lighter. Sleep has a way of softening us. Meeting eyes. Last nights eyes filled with anger, self-preservation, and hurt are softer after a night of sleep, now gentler, able to see what is truly in front of her.

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We hug, an embrace neither of us want to let go. I hold tighter. Praying the love from my heart will penetrate her‘s. Fill her emptiness. Fill the hurt places. Fill the untrusting places. I won’t be the first to let go. This time she’ll leave my embrace confident of my love. Last night’s hurting words just a memory. A forgiven memory. No longer stinging but lingering. Longing for healing.

Oh, girl, that you would know the depth of my love. That you would know the tears cried. That you would know the prayers uttered on your behalf. That you would know the longing for you before you even existed. That you would know that what you seek from me will never be enough. That it’s the eternal love of the Father that your soul is longing for.

Whether adopted at birth or later into childhood, it seems that children must wrestle with accepting the love of their adoptive parents. They must learn to trust. It’s not a given but instead it’s a working out, a wrestle to determine that although their basic needs were not met by the ones who were supposed to meet those needs, nonetheless, their needs are being provided for.

Our children have never once lived a day on this earth without their needs being met. They have always had enough. Enough food, enough water, enough warmth, enough cleanliness. When their little cries were heard, their needs were met.

Yet, there is a need. A need to prove they are safe. A need to prove their family can be trusted. A need to prove they have enough.

It’s the same wrestling I have done for years with the Lord.

He tells me, “He is the bread of life and if I just come to Him, I will not be hungry.” John 6:35. And my response is, “Prove it.”

He tells me, “You were chosen by me before the creation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4. My response is, “Prove it.”

He tells me, “I loved you first, even while you were still sinning.” Romans 5:8 and 1 John 4:19. And, again, my response is, “Prove it.”

Finally, I feel her shoulders start to drop, pull back slightly. I hold on. And then take a step back, look her in the eye and plead, “Just trust me. I am for you. My love is never-ending.”

Just as Jesus through His Word and through His Spirit pleads with me, reminds me, brings me back to, “Just trust me. Trust me. I am for you, not against you. Just trust me.”

jeff, me and mikayla at lake chelan