Sunday, November 29, 2015

There is a stranger living in my house...she calls me "Mom".

***Disclaimer~ this is written from a very raw place of an honest mother's heart. Please do not leave unkind comments if you disagree. These are my thoughts and feelings. If your experience with an older child has been vastly different, that is wonderful, however, these are my feelings. Please do not judge me for them. Thank you for your respect.
This post has been on my heart for months but I haven't been able to sit down and articulate it. Honestly, I am not sure I can even now.

Adoption is hard on a good day. On the day when that cute little 4 year old comes bounding over asking you to play the Minnie Matching game for the 10th time that week. That same little girl who you has been with you since she was 21 months old and had a smooth transition. Her first language was English, and the truth is, that even though this isn't how it should have been, she will never remember not being here. In fact, you have to remind yourself that she is adopted.
That little cute 4 year old with her minimal demands is easy to love. She can be scooped up effortlessly and soothed when her heart is broken. You can whisper in her ear while you hug and kiss the boo boos away that you love her, that God loves her and its all going to be OK. Because, in truth, it will just 5 seconds.
This is NOT the case with an older child. And allow me to say for the record, that our 14 year old is pretty near a "perfect/normal/text book" case. However, she is still behind and while she is 14 in age, most of the time she acts like a 7-8 year old.

When you bring an older child into your home you are basically agreeing to a stranger coming to stay with you; permanently! Now, I don't know about you but when I have company or go and stay with family/friends, it is pretty much understood that a week at maximum is about all anyone can handle. And these are people you know, love and can communicate with. Imagine having someone come and stay with you who you only have minimal knowledge of at best, they don't speak the same language, they are in a completely different culture, different smells, sights etc., oh and they call you "MOM". On your absolute best day with this kid being the best case scenario, and lets face it, that is rare, this is so hard. The realization of just how selfish you really are can bring you to your knees, literally. It is almost impossible to explain, hence the reason I have struggled to write this post. And consider this, when you meet someone for the first time, yes things are slightly awkward but after a few more meetings the tension disappears because you get to know them. Why? Because you have conversations. You learn where their from, how they were raised, their likes and dislikes and on and on.
NOT SO!!!! We have had 7+ months of silence. Now don't get me wrong, we communicate on the most basic of levels but until this past week we knew virtually nothing about our daughter. Nothing about that is easy and of course this is not her fault. She has major trauma bottled up inside her. I can't even begin to imagine things from her perspective. And I've tried. If records are correct, she has now been abandoned TWICE!! Once by her birth parents and now her foster family. I cannot imagine going through it once. So, its possible she doesn't even believe this is permanent. She didn't want this, she didn't choose this, not really. She knew after months of convincing by foster mom and social worker that this was her only choice unless she wanted to go back to the welfare institute and that was the last thing she wanted. She knew (and we have the video) that the reason they were not keeping her was because there was not enough money. I don't know how to wrap my brain around that as an adult let alone being 13 and hearing those words. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not judging this mom. I am not walking her mile, so I have no idea the torment she may have gone through in trying to make this choice for Joy. However, I do know Chinese culture where this is concerned. There was never a chance they would have kept her. NEVER. That just isn't how things work over there. A foster child living with you equals a paycheck. And at 14 when that child has aged out of the system they return to the welfare institute (orphanage) and the paycheck stops.
It doesn't matter how much they loved her, she was never part of that family in the real sense that you and I know.
And I know now that Joy DID NOT want to be adopted. She DID NOT want to leave China. It was heartbreaking. Her opening up came out of the blue and took me by surprise completely. But I believe wholeheartedly this is very possibly the start of her healing. I know, for me, it brought me closer to her. I finally feel as though her trust in me (us) is building. This is so very important for our bonding because up to this point, I have just had a house guest for 7+ months. I now feel like she is a little closer to really thinking of me as her permanent mom and I couldn't be more thankful.

More to come...stay tuned.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Reflecting as Jenna Grace turns 4.

Our sweet baby girl turns 4 today.

Well, today is the date they gave her when she was found outside on the orphanage steps. She was just days old and so they guessed. Truth is it could have been yesterday or tomorrow or in 2 days. And while that isn't something I focus on, it is hard for me not to think about. 4 years ago JG was born into this world somewhere in China. She was abandoned (probably) because of the birthmark that covered part of her face. The birthmark that we don't even remember is there most of the time.
I think about her parents. Or maybe there was just a mom making this incredibly hard choice. Maybe she was single. Maybe she was all alone in this world with no support. Maybe she was sick. I am sure she was terrified. Most of all she was terrified of getting caught dumping her baby. There is a pretty stiff penalty for that, I am told. I can't even imagine feeling like you can't keep your baby. The very child you have felt growing inside of you for 9 months. I don't care who you are or how calloused you may have become, when life is blossoming, kicking and moving around, you are moved. When I carried my first child, I was not living in the best circumstances and had become a little rough around the edges. But feeling my baby kick. Seeing my growing abdomen, I was moved with a love and compassion that overflowed. And the moment he was born, everything was right with the world...even though it wasn't.

I do not judge this mama, this baba (chinese for daddy) for their choice. I pray for them. I feel for them. I ask God to reach them. I ask God to allow them to know, somehow underneath it all, that their precious baby girl is not just OK, but amazing. And she is.

Jenna Grace has literally lit up our lives. She is wonderful and happy, she is a joy to everyone who meets her. She has a smile that lights up any room she walks into. She is intelligent and has a deep desire to learn. Especially, it seems, about God. She talks about Him everyday. She asks questions that amaze me and I am learning to teach her straight from the same bible I read every day (thanks Shirley). I am thankful for all that I have learned about teaching, training and guiding my daughter for this 5th time around.

She loves Frozen, still (thank you Stacy), Mickey Mouse and Doc Mcstuffins. She loves to pretend she is a ballerina and had her first class at church last night. She likes the colors pink, purple and blue. She loves her brothers and sister but most of all she loves me and Brian. Morning snuggles with her Baba are the best and they never leave each other without a MUAH (big kiss). She prefers yoga pants and flip flops and prefers to wear her hair down. She is proud she can put on her own school shoes and wants to learn how to tie the laces on her converse. She loves to sing and make up songs and tell me she loves us about 100 times in a day. Her favorite food is Chick a Fay (Chick Fil A) and she would happily eat there everyday. Her best friends are Elsie, Hampton, Hansen and Waverly. She loves pre-school and being the boss.
Our best times are at night when we read God's word, pray and snuggle together as we rock. We talk about everything from being adopted into our family and us being adopted into God's. Our latest lesson is Romans 8:28 and learning that we need to seek God for HIS purpose for our lives and not our own.

I can't thank God enough for the blessing that adoption is in our lives. If you are not involved in orphan care ministry in some way, please look into how you can be. You may not feel called to adopt but you are called to DO something. Stop procrastinating and as Nike says JUST DO IT!



My cutie in braids.

This just shows how silly and funny she can be. And that smile...

This was just taken a couple of weeks ago. Not 3 anymore but too cute not to post.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A little slice of heaven

I saw you last night. You were in my dreams. You were as real as you could be. So clear. I stepped closer and placed my hands on your shoulders. I looked at you, knowing in my heart this could be the last time I see you for a while. You hair was exactly the same as when you left us. I studied you so closely. I traced every line on your face, I looked into your eyes and our eyes held each other. It was the most beautiful moment.

I woke this morning with the deepest ache after seeing my mom in my dreams. This was unlike any other time.
Most of time she is still sick, or we are going somewhere or doing something but this time she was just standing there. There were no words between us. I can't tell you what she was wearing, all I can tell you is she was so real to me. I remember thinking in my dream, this is the 5 more minutes I have always wanted. Even as I type I can't stop the tears as my heart aches at her loss and I grieve for her.

As I had time with the Lord this morning I let the tears flow. Healing tears. Tears that bring peace and comfort because He is near to the brokenhearted. I prayed for everyone today where ever they are grieving a loss this big. Grieving a potential loss because sickness has invaded their family the way it once invaded mine. It was so therapeutic.

Time is never a healer of these things but God always is. I encourage you, if this is you today, cry out to God in your brokenness. He hears you. He is sympathetic to us. The word says he keeps count of our tossings; and puts our tears in His bottle...Ps. 56:8
Isn't that amazing? How precious that is to think the God of this universe sees and keeps record of me and you!
So thankful for the the joy that brings. Seek Him today and you will be able to choose joy despite the mourning.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The beginning of the end...for baby number 2

Of course he isn't my baby anymore and he would probably kill me for the reference, however they will all always be my babies. I will never apologize for that.

Jackson and Jayden started back to school today. And for Jackson, as a senior, it marks the beginning of this first "end".

The roller coaster that we, as a family have been on the past 4 months could fill pages and pages of this blog. But silence is what I have chosen as I, mom am processing and working through all the overwhelming emotion.

Knowing that I will graduate two kids back to back was tearing me up inside at one point over the summer. It was all I could do not to crawl into the fetal position, put my thumb in my mouth and commit myself.
But then they went on their very first mission trip to Nicaragua. Things changed for everyone. Their hearts and mine. They both grew up a little more and so did their mama. God filled me to overflowing in my heart and convicted me to my core about things that HAVE to change in my life. And those changes are beginning. Slowly, but they will be changed.

But back to that kid, you know, the second baby...erm...I mean son of mine.
When Jackson was in utero at just about 10 weeks things were not going well. They told us that according to the blood work he had already died and they wanted to do a DNC. Well, Brian wasn't having that and he laid hands on me and prayed. 3 hours later in the doctors office we heard his heart beat, which we were told would be near impossible because I wasn't far enough along. And just 7 or so months later Jackson was born weighing in at 9lbs 4oz. He came kicking and screaming, with an extra thumb on his left hand and has been a pistol ever since. He has a passion and drive that inspires me. He has been on fire for God since he was about 10 and has never looked back. He works and plays hard. He is as loyal as the day is long and he loves his family. As I write this I am overcome with emotion. I spend most of my days this way and it isn't a bad thing. I am so thankful we have come this far. There are thousands of parents across our globe who haven't been given 18 years with their kids. I am thankful for every day. I am thankful for every single school year even though I know it takes me closer to them moving out and potentially away. I am thankful for children who are following after the will of God and not their own. I am thankful Jackson and Jayden know all these things that I did not at this age.

We do not know what tomorrow holds but I do know the choice that I have right now here in this moment. And that is to hold fast to the truth of God's word because it is unchanging. So even though change is coming for Jackson this senior year my prayer is he too, will hold onto the unfailing, unchanging God because that is the only thing that will get him through everything and anything that comes his way today and in the years to come.

We love you Jackson and are so proud of you! Have a great senior year!!!!!
First day of preschool with his friend Kaylie (still in touch today)

He and Jonah at Jack's 5th birthday. Still friends today.

Getting senior pics done. I smiled so big that morning.
First day as a senior. Jay is a junior. My heart is full.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The one whom my soul loves...

"Please." I begged. We were on our second date. I remember it like it was yesterday. A quick lunch between shifts at our respective pizza restaurants. Applebees in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. I was 21, he was 25. We both had pasts that would make you shudder. At the time of said lunch he was engaged and I was dating at least 3 other guys. I came with toddler in tow which made me a ready made family, just add a husband. 
"Please." I begged again. He looked at me, shook his head and smiled. That smile would be my undoing. Laying on the table in front of me scribbled on a napkin was his last name. "Say it" he said. "Come on, it isn't that hard." I stared back unable to keep from smiling. I whined. "I can't. " He laughed, "Just try." I stared at the letters. MACIASZEK. What? How do I even start to say this name. If I say it and I get it wrong will he think I am unintelligent? I like him so much. What's not to like? He was better looking than any other guy who had ever even looked my way, he was smart and funny, oh my goodness was he funny. He made me laugh in a way no one can even to this day. He was tender and he had a strength about him that told me he was going to do big things one day. I felt safe just sitting with him. At that moment I couldn't imagine him not being in my life.
"MA..." I paused. "Uh-huh." he teased. The twinkle in his eye let me know he was having way too much fun at my expense. "Nope, can't do it." I said. Finally, he relented and told me how to say it. 
If I had a nickel for every time I have said it, repeated it and spelled it I would be able to fund more adoptions with no fundraising. 

Just 8 short weeks later I was standing in my bedroom half dressed waiting for my wedding to start. 
"Is he here yet?" I asked anyone who would listen. "No." someone yelled from the other room. We were supposed to get married downstairs in my parent's garage in 30 minutes. My mom had been begging me to get dressed but I refused. I was so afraid he wouldn't show up and didn't want to go to all that trouble just in case. Meanwhile, Jared, who was 20 months at the time was downstairs all gussied up in his suit causing trouble wherever he walked. 
"He's here!" I heard someone yell. Here we go, I thought. 
20 minutes later I began my very short walk down the aisle only to ask myself if I was making the biggest mistake of my life. I didn't know this man from Adam, sure he's super attractive and makes me laugh and oh yeah, the sex is good too but is that enough? What makes a marriage? 

We both came from train wreck marriages. There isn't enough time or space to talk about everything that we witnessed from our own parent's marriages. But lets put it this way, none of it was pretty. We didn't have one thing to start us off on the right foot. And it didn't help that his groomsman and several of my friends told us we didn't have a prayer. I actually had an ex-boyfriend call me to say please call me in 6 months when its over. WOW.
So, I guess it really came as no surprise to anyone that just about 3 months later I found myself at my mom's back door screaming and crying and wanting to call a lawyer. All the truths of who we both were caught up with us and we didn't like what we discovered. It was ugly at best! My mom sat me down and told me that running away and getting a divorce is not the answer. That with God's help we could work through this. I didn't want to hear any of it. She begged me, please go to counseling she said. They can help you. Yeah right! I told her I would make her a deal, if she could convince Brian to go then OK. 

"So, what gives you the right to tell us what to do and how to change." I spouted to the couple who sat across from us. Mom had convinced Brian to attend counseling. He later told me he agreed to one session but that was it. 
Chuck and Betty sat wide eyed and I am sure were dying with laughter on the inside as I gave them the evil eye. Had I only known the extent of their own pasts, I am sure my judgmental attitude would have given me right to flee the building. Thankfully, God saw fit to keep some of that concealed until my heart was a little more soft. 
I pretty much opened up my own can of worms that day taking on an attitude like that. They tore me a new one and Brian was so happy about it he agreed to come back. Little did he know they were going to tear him up the next week. By then however, we agreed divorce wasn't the answer and agreed to keep coming. We went pretty regularly for about a year. After that it was more for maintenance. You know, like a car. 
We got better as people and our marriage began to grow.
However, at year 7 it took a hit and I didn't think we would make it.

Brian had begun working for a new company that was franchising new restaurants. We were part of the venture and so it was his responsibility for getting them open. Before training began he was working all hours and gone all the time. I had three small kids at home and a little part time job. I felt like a single mom and was battling depression. Before we knew what was happening he was clocking 60, then 70 and finally 80 hours some weeks. I was a wreck. He was a wreck. We were on auto-pilot. I had been battling depression and it became so severe I sought treatment for a week in patient. It ended up being the best decision I ever made but I was still working through things. Brian had been so amazing and supportive but the demands of his job took him away more and more our marriage began to suffer. Then the fire came. He had to leave for training for 6 weeks in Virginia. About 3/4 of the way through it they flew me out to see him. It was awful. I remember it like it was yesterday. I couldn't hide the way I felt about him or the way things were going. "I am not in love with you anymore." We were at the airport. My timing was terrible. My plane was leaving in an hour. "OK." he said. What did I expect him to do with that information? "I can't live this way, I can't do this. I am all alone in this life. I'm sorry." I had nothing. I was completely falling apart on the inside. I knew I had just crushed him into a thousand pieces and I couldn't take it back. So, I got on the plane and I left. About a week later he came home and everything between us had changed. Monotone. We went through the motions and never talked about anything except what we had to. Until one night when my whole world really came crashing down. 
As with most business men back in the early 2000's Brian had a palm pilot. Sorry if you don't know what one is, I don't have time to explain. He kept his contacts, calendar and got his email on it. There I just explained. Anyway, like all computer type thingys it also had games. I liked to play solitaire and one night when I couldn't sleep I began to play. After several minutes I was bored and began looking at other applications on his device. I got to his email. I started scrolling and suddenly my heart began to pound and my body began to shake. What was I seeing? What was I reading? There was someone else? This quickly? What? Who is she? Where is she from? I was reading and reading and another woman was using affectionate terms towards my husband. I lost it. I didn't know which end was up. I was crying and shaking uncontrollably. What do I do with this? How could he? Wait. What did I expect? I had pushed him away for months. I had told him I didn't love him anymore. While this didn't justify his behavior, I knew my part. 
The details of that night aren't necessary but suffice it to say he left. 
I tossed and turned the entire night. I cried and cried. I had never felt more alone. I would like to tell you that I cried out to God but I don't remember. I remember being numb and terrified that my marriage was over. 

"So before we take one step further or Betty and I give you one word of counsel, I have one question." We were back with Chuck and Betty, our faithful counselors. Only because of the seriousness of the situation we were at their house, after hours. We looked back at Chuck and just said, "OK."
"Are you here because you genuinely want to save your marriage?" Chuck asked. 
We both hesitated but truthfully there wasn't a doubt in our minds. "YES."
I was screaming on the inside for help. I wanted my husband. I did not want to face a life without him. And not just for sake of our children but for us. 
That night began another round of healing. God has taken us through several of these. I wish I could sit here and say it has been smooth sailing ever since but it hasn't. We have wanted to quit so many times I have lost count. Some days it seems easier to give up. But it isn't. 

Here we are, 20 years, 5 kids and if I had the time to write it, a book full of God stories and how he has grown and shaped us over all this time. The pain had to happen. It stretched us. It took us to places we know we never could have gotten to without it.
Be encouraged no matter what you may be facing in your own marriage. Know that, with God's help you can keep going. And I don't mean in a monotone-just-tolerating-each other way. You can really be in love and be friends and enjoy each other. This is what God wants. If you are going through the motions, stop! Be intentional with each other. Treat each other the way you want to be treated. Make sure your kids come second (don't bash me please) because as amazing as kids are, they grow up and move away and you are stuck with each other. Make being stuck with each other a great thing. I am so looking forward to being "stuck" with Brian in about 15 years when JG has graduated. 
I truly love him and love being with him more than any other person on the planet. I will take an evening with him over a girls night out any day of the year! He is gracious and patient with me. He teaches me so much and I want to be better because of him. He loves me passionately and even though I am getting older, there are a few more lines on my face and inches to my waist line he thinks I am hot! He is so dedicated to our family and more importantly to God's will for our family. He pushes me and inspires me everyday.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Struggle is Real

The dark is consuming me with negative thoughts and feelings as I struggle to stay asleep. The "what ifs" are now plaguing me in another way.
Joy is here now. Does she wish she weren't? What if she hates every meal I've put in front of her thus far? What if she is screaming on the inside like I am? What if her pain is so great and there are no words because the language barrier is so vast? What if I can't rise up against all the selfishness in my heart? What if I can't help my daughter heal? What if, what if, what if...? I already feel like I am going in sane.

One day at a time. One moment at a time if I must. This is the path I must stay on. Reminding myself that God says DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW!!! Only today. OK, I tell myself. What is going on today? A friend suggested I write out one goal a day so I don't try and take on too much. I feel so lame. I don't ask for help well. I want my weakness to shine God's strength. Yet feel I can't even do that right. He is so much more than I can ever be on my own, Thank GOD. I glance at my wrist that reminds me everyday I AM is enough. HE IS!

I am reminded the jet lag and time change are still ravaging the three of us and I am always more emotional when I'm tired. My Aunt, who is more like a mom to me has been a rock these first few days home and she just left. I am reeling. No matter what there is no support like family support.

As Joy hands me the translating device I can't help but think how frustrated she must be. This is the third attempt trying to make me understand what she needs. I look and say "I don't know", she repeats, "I don't know?" The struggle is real.

On the upside, the honeymoon phase is in full swing. She loves her sister and JG loves her. They play together constantly. Joy is sweet and loving. She says "I love you". Is already figuring out how to get  her own water out of the fridge door. HA!! Such a first world thing. I taught her to put her plate and silverware in the dishwasher and all the while wish I could get in her head and see what she is thinking about all these new experiences.

There is so much to do between all the doctors appointments that are looming, ESL that will hopefully start this week, and the millions of thoughts swirling around in my head of how I can help her even more. This doesn't include just being a halfway decent wife to B, of which I want to be more than half, mom to my other 4 kids and their needs. Can I do it all? Right now, I don't feel like I can. But I have to remember, God has always told me I will be equipped when I need equipping. So, one foot in front of the other, one day at time, one appointment at a time, one need at a time. His mercies are new every morning. He is so faithful when I am so faithless. I am so thankful and my heart is truly full.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Joys of adoption

Last post before coming home.
Today was a fun and pretty uneventful day.
We had our oath swearing at the consulate this morning at dawn. Not really, but it felt like it. Everything went really smoothly and Joy made friends with all the littles while we were there. I know she misses her foster brother so much. I am hoping JG will ease the pain a little once we are home.
We got back so early in the morning it was a little tricky wondering what to do the rest of the day.
So I taught her the game of UNO and in less than five minutes she had her strategy down and we were laughing our heads off.

I figured after 10 days in China I deserved (not really deserved) some pampering so I went for a mani/pedi. I tried to convince Joy but she wasn't having anything to do with it. She and her daddy went for lunch instead.
UNO took up the rest of the afternoon with so much laughing my face hurt and I gained some new eye wrinkles.
This evening was spent on the Pearl River Cruise which Joy loved. She spent the majority talking to our guide, Joyce. Can't say I blame her. She knows talking to other Chinese people will be minimal once we are home.
When we first started this process and were looking through the long heartbreaking list of children (minus photos) waiting for families there were 2 I was drawn to immediately. A little girl with a similar birthmark to JG (more severe) who is 4 and Joy who at the time was 12 (she turned 13 a week after). I wrestled for a short time just knowing that little four year old would be adopted bc of her age but that Joy had almost no chance at all. So after a few more weeks of wrestling (mainly bc of Joy's age) and wondering if this could be right for our family, a family meeting, prayer and asking for "a sign" (just kidding) we said yes knowing God opens and shuts doors no man can open and shut. We trusted that if it wasn't right He would be clear.
The day after we arrived in Guangzhou we had to meet our guide along with other Holt (our agency) families for our medical check/visa stuff.
As soon as we rounded the corner of the lobby there she was, that little 4 year old girl with the birthmark similar to JG!! I almost fell over. I have been in awe of God in so many ways but this took the cake. It's not astounding that she was adopted. But do you have any idea what kind of odds had to be in play for her to be in our exact group? There is no way I ever would have known otherwise...But God...
The emotion surrounding that one incident alone will forever play over and over in my head.
I encourage you whatever it is you feel led to do but aren't sure, just take steps. God WILL direct. He WILL guide. He WILL calm your fears. But most of all He WILL walk with you every step of the way and beyond. And if you're afraid (and trust me I understand that!), DO IT afraid.

God's hand is clearly evident in this situation. In all situations like this. In just one short week this not so little girl says "mommy, daddy, baba, I love you" and kisses me and her daddy on the cheek. She laughs and acts silly. Doesn't shy away from learning new words in English. She is clearly comfortable. I know there is lots of heartache and heartbreak. There will be difficult times but love always wins. Always. Because Jesus is love and we get to be His hands and feet. And hopefully because we are, Joy will find her joy in the Jesus who not only brought her the forever family she didn't know she needed but also joy in accepting the truth of His love that will save her soul.

Please pray for our very long travel day on Thursday. It starts at 4am and we will land in Raleigh at approximately 9:30pm. Here are specific requests: Pray for no motion sickness for Joy. Her heart as she leaves the country she loves and meets a new family/friends who already love her so much. For us all to sleep on the plane and for zero anxiety for me. Thank you again for being on this journey with us.
Until we see you all again on American soil...blessings. We love you!!