I treasure my early mornings as I sip my coffee and spend time with my Savior. It is the only way to start a morning. I can focus my heart on the right things, plan for the day, and spend time in thanksgiving for all things. As it gets lighter earlier each day, I wake up a little earlier and enjoy more time. If it gets too early, I may need a little more coffee! ;-)
Ever since Little Man arrived almost 3 weeks ago, the same thought has been running through my mind. It has been one of my main prayers for the last year or more ~ "Lord, don't let me choose. Don't let me choose because I will choose the wrong thing every time." The more I walk with Him, the older I get, the more I see this to be true. So many decisions are made on the emotion of the moment, not based on a far-reaching or a Christ-glorifying perspective. It is based on my emotions of the moment - which are usually temporary, easily swayed, and so often selfish.
In October, I would have chosen not to be pregnant - and obviously not to have had a stroke. I am NOT saying I would have chosen to abort. I am saying I would have chosen to not get pregnant in the first place. I would have chosen the easy way. Even at the time, based on my life to that point, a niggling voice whispered that once I had seen my little baby's face, I would think it was all worth it - but I didn't want to go through the discomfort and the difficulties. I didn't want to have to battle fear over the stroke and dangers for months and months. I didn't want to figure out how we would get through the last weeks when Grace was too heavy for me to lift and I couldn't get down on the floor to change diapers and clothes. I didn't want to fight off those feelings that I get every pregnancy of feeling like life was "on hold" for almost a year. (Again, this is a feeling, not based in truth.) Life was hard enough each day without adding more to it. I also, honestly, didn't want to give the critics any more targets to aim at as they are always firing off anyway.
I see so many areas that if I had chosen, I would have taken the wrong path. I would have chosen something easier, some that seemed clear compared to the other path, something I could understand, something that took less faith and less risk. Something that seemed like it would partially ease the desires pounding in my heart, but in reality would have been like eating an Oreo when what I really needed was a full day's worth of good, nutritious food. It would have eased the hunger pains for about 5 minutes and then I would have been in need again. But how many times would I have chosen the Oreo instead of waiting for my precious Savior to provide what I really needed? Every. Single. Time. Yes, a very humiliating and humbling answer. I would chose the wildly changing emotions over the truths in Scripture and the unbroken pattern of Christ's faithful provision for me.
I have learned how very dangerous emotions can be if they lead me away from the truth found in God's Word. This is not to say all emotion is wrong. The Bible is full of emotion - the joy of the Lord, rejoicing in all circumstances, abhorring what is evil - the examples go on and on. The danger comes from the emotions that say, "I know You are asking this of me - because all things are in Your perfect Hands - but I don't want to." I may not want to for many reasons - I am too tired, it is too hard, I can't understand why or how, it was not part of my plan, it just seems utterly impossible, I don't feel like doing it, etc., etc.
By the way, I have heard throughout my life people saying that if God truly wanted them to do something, He would make it so that they wanted to do it. Because they don't "want' to do it, it must not be God's Will.....as they brush it from their hands and walk away. Well, following that logic, Abraham must have wanted to sacrifice Isaac, Daniel must have wanted to be held captive by the Babylonians, Paul must have wanted to be beaten and eventually beheaded, and Christ must have wanted to be crucified and suffer His Father's wrath....right? Remember, even Christ prayed that the cup would be removed from Him if it was possible! What all of them wanted above all else - even their own emotions - was to obey whatever God asked of them - not the specific circumstances!!!! There is a huge difference there. A life-changing difference if believers would apply it to their lives.
So, as I snuggle this little man, I am so indescribably grateful that I didn't get to choose...that God knew best, and gave me another perfect gift. All my children are perfect gifts given by a loving Father. He heard the cries and saw the tears of a young woman so many years ago, sitting in an empty baby's room. I thought my arms would always be empty - yet here I am, my cup overflowing by His grace. How do I ever fail to trust His faithfulness and His perfect plan?
Soooo, does this mean that life is easy? Nooooo. Little Man is a very content baby - only our second content baby out of a dozen that came to us before they turned 13 months old! That makes everything much more enjoyable - but still a challenge. I think it helps as well that we have done this so many times - so we know that we must strive to find our new "normal." Our biggest challenge right now is that he usually decides he must eat immediately, when I am in the middle of feeding one of the other three girls. There are a total of 13 feedings that I need to do separately each day between Grace, Mimi, and Hope. Some of them Handsome can help with - in a pinch, the oldest three can help, but it is not ideal. We also are trying to find a new normal with the bedtime routine. I want to rock each of the girls before I put them in bed (some in combination with a feeding), but am having trouble as Little Man also needs me at the same time....hmmm. How to do it all?
It is the end of the school year as well. We did the required testing (by our state) last week. In the past, this has always marked the end of our school year. However, this year due to the trip to rescue Serenity and Hope, my oldest three are not done yet. I have to laugh how important summer break is to me - I obviously went to public school! I want to have a few weeks that we do not have to focus on assignments and due dates....but it may be a precious few weeks this year! If you would, please pray for my oldest three - to have the motivation to get their work done. I know it is discouraging to them even though they say it was more than worth it.
We have some camping trips on the calendar this summer, the first of which is next week. However, this year I will be staying home. The Testy Chef has volunteered to stay with me - but, oh, how I wish I was going! But I know this is the best plan for this year. Little Man is so tiny and I just don't think that Hope is ready for such a huge thing yet. Grace will also be happier in her comfy chair rather than having to deal with changes. It would be a good experience for Serenity, but it would also make it very, very hard for Handsome to juggle the needs of the other kids and corral Serenity for her safety. There is another trip planned for mid-July, but Grace will be in her cast from her hip surgery, so I will stay home with youngest again. We have a church camping trip at the end of August that is only 90 minutes away from home. The plan is that we will all try to go for this trip, but that decision will be made as it gets closer.
This is one of the realities of adding kiddos with special challenges. Handsome and I have to balance out the needs of each precious one with the needs of all the others. In this case, the camping trips are a very important part of family life. We go with my parents and my siblings. It is a very precious time of relationships and freedom from the responsibilities at home. Last year, the first trip was hard on Grace, enough so that I came home two days early, but it was so good for everyone else! With such a large group going, my bigger kids get a break from their daily responsibilities and the younger ones can help with chores as adults guide them. Keeping this in mind, Handsome and I knew that we wanted to have those who were able have the ability to go even if others couldn't. I am so thankful for a husband that is able to do so much - even bring 8 kids camping without me!
Hope is doing very well right now. She is consistently sleeping through the night. This is probably due to the fact that she is now mobile! Praise God! She is scooching on her bottom around the house. So now we have to corral she and Serenity and Mimi. We laugh at our "modular" gating system - trying to block off the areas that they are not safe in, yet giving them enough freedom to explore. She is now drinking from a sippy cup on her own as well. Our next food challenge will be for her to expand the "flavors" she is willing to eat and to start taking food with more texture. Honestly, it makes me exhausted to just think of that battle ahead. I have realized that all of my adopted kiddos have wills of iron - except for Grace. I think they have to have this determination and "fight" to survive their circumstances as a orphan - but boy, can it make the learning process at home very hard!
At therapy yesterday, they put Hope in a gait trainer like Mimi's and she was moving until she got cranky about it. We will pull out Mimi's and work on it at home as well. I do not think it will be long until she is walking though. She is now pulling herself up to her knees at the couch to get to things - the drawback of being so much bigger than a 9-12 month old is that there is nothing really tall enough for her to pull up to a stand yet. She listens very intently to all that is going on around her, but she is not trying to babble or talk yet. She makes a lot of "noises" but they are not in patterns or recognizable sounds yet. We are debating when to begin some speech therapy with her. From experience we know, especially with the speech therapy, that there needs to be at least some willingness to cooperate and we are just not sure that is there yet with her. Overall, I am praising God as she grows calmer and more secure. I am working on focusing on the progress already instead of the distance that still needs to be conquered.
Serenity is still full of life! I pray that never changes - but it can be so exhausting. The damage to Hope's emotions and cognitive abilities are very, very obvious. The damage to Serenity is not immediately obvious, but is there nonetheless. There is simply no behavioral control for her. If she is happy, she is EXTREMELY happy. If she is mad, she is EXTREMELY mad. If she wants something, she wants it NOW. If she wants on your lap, she wants on it NOW. If she doesn't get what she wants, she immediately flies into a massive temper tantrum. (We call them grand-mal temper tantrums as they are all-consuming.) I have come to realize that although she was in a good orphanage and was loved by the people there very much, she was on a crash course to be one of the older children that are tied to their beds because no one can control them. I am NOT saying this is okay in any stretch of the imagination - but I have come to see how it happens. Many of the older children that have such huge behavioral challenges, have come to be that way, not necessarily because of their special needs but because of a complete lack of training in self-control. When they are tiny and cute (like Serenity), the behavior can be controlled by distraction and physically moving/restraining them - but as they get bigger and stronger, it is no longer easily done. And honestly, it is no longer "cute" anymore. It gets to the point that no one wants to deal with it and they are then confined to control them. Very, very sad. Handsome and I have discussed several times that although Serenity and Hope's orphanages were extreme opposites, in the end, the consequences end up the same as they grow older. Children need families. There is no substitute for this. None.
My time is gone today....I am so thankful for each one of you that read and pray for us. I pray you can learn from my mistakes and failings without having to go through it yourselves. I pray that you can see God's grace shining over two people who are so imperfect and limited - but are able to do what God has asked of them by His power and grace. I pray that you can see even though we are sinful and flawed, that we desire to serve and glorify our Savior above all else.
Oh, and one last HUGE praise! Samson has a family! Praise the LORD!
We are at the six month mark for Serenity and Hope - so we have a post-placement visit with the caseworker this week. As I gather the pictures for that, I will post them here......
Until He comes....may He be glorified in all things.