Whenever one of my sweet long-distance friends ask me how life is going, my first response is always "Busy. Crazy Busy. But a good busy." I am sure they may be tempted to think this is just my fall-back response. But it is my honest response. I don't know how to describe our life with 14 beautiful, unique, active children. For those like Grace, who is not physically active, there is always the draw to hold her just a few more minutes...to snuggle just a little longer. Life is....busy. A good busy.
I am starting to put the summer calendar together. For many years now, I have described summer as a steep slide. At the end of May, we are at the top and are so excited to begin playing and WHOOSH! It is the end of August and time to start school again. Why does it seem that the slide gets shorter every year as well?
Last year with a new (cranky) baby and Serenity and Hope still settling in, I just wanted a "quiet" summer. I keep the calendar as empty as possible (relatively speaking - most of you would laugh at what I consider "quiet") and the slide seemed to go a little slower. BUT, then when the end of August came, I was NOT ready for fall at all. I felt like I had missed the summer completely. It was hard to know the cold, rainy, dark days were coming and I had not had much of a summer. I should say that the kids had a wonderful time - their days were full with family and youth camp and sunshine....mine was as quiet as I could make it. Well, not this year! Even if we skid into September exhausted, I want to fully rejoice in the days. Time is seeming so desperately short anymore - my kids are growing up so fast. So we are going to rejoice in family and friends and sunshine.
This month is full of finishing school and being outside as much as possible. A little over two years ago, God answered our prayers for "space" in an amazing and gracious way. He gave us 5 acres just outside of town. We are very close to the freeway (making access to the hospitals easy) - but all the houses around us have to be on 5 acre plats or more - so we have space. He made it possible in ways that we never could have seen and never would have believed if someone had told us ahead of time. We are in a manufactured house - which I used to turn my nose up at - but it is beautifully laid out with high ceilings and lots of open space. The land however was COVERED with blackberry brambles. COVERED. In fact we laughed that it felt like our yard was only slightly bigger than our last house (which was a quarter of an acre) because of the brambles. The kids could go play in the woods with the trails they carved, but it was daunting to look out at the mess of branches and weeds.
As you may remember, we moved in 4 days before I left to bring Grace home from Taiwan. I did get to work outside some that summer - but it was mostly working on painting the south side of the house that the inspector said needed new paint asap. Last summer, as I said, was a "baby" summer with a newborn and newly adopted kiddos. It was hard to watch the brambles grow higher and higher. In January, during a mild weather week, I went into the brambles with a machete to see what I could do. An hour later, the answer was "nothing much".
I had prayed and prayed that God would show me what He would have me do. You see, I have always wanted a "farm" - animals, gardens, fruit trees, flowers. My grandparents had a farm - and to this day it is still my favorite place on earth - even though they have gone on to be with Christ and I can no longer go there. However, I knew that as we began to open our lives to whoever God would ask us to adopt, that their needs would mean that I would have to give up my dreams for a real "farm". It was one of the things I had to deeply wrestle with. It is easy to say, "Yes, I will trade my dream for a child's life." It is much harder to do when wrestling with emotions and dreams that have been there forever. So, as I stood in the bramble patch with an aching arm and not much to show for my work. I let the dream go. Okay, Lord, this isn't what You would have me do. I need to let it go once again. I walked into the house with tears and just snuggled my beautiful children. They were my biggest dream come true - a house full of precious lives. It felt like a book had been closed forever.
But you know, God is always doing more than we could ever ask or imagine....and this was no exception. He was working even when I had closed that book. The next week Handsome came home from church after talking with a new family. I will call them the "Givers" - because they are always serving others. They have lots of kids as well and our families have just bonded together. They are the best of friends and such an encouragement to us. Well, Mr. Giver came to Handsome and said that he had been thinking about it, and he wanted to find a way to get his big tractor over here to clear out the blackberries. What?!?! Their family was so busy with Mr. Givers' job and their own place - how could they do that? I was speechless, but immediately recognized the gift that God was giving to me. Me, who does not deserve it.
The Givers came - all our kids worked and laughed and played. It was so beautiful to see. One of the things that I loved about my grandparents' farm was that I learned the joy of working hard and rejoicing in a job well done. Working with laughter and people we loved and eating good food and relaxing at the end of the day - sore muscles and all. Mr. Giver is a jack-of-all-trades - so he has taken down trees and leveled ground and had wonderful workable ideas for all my "dreams". They have come again and again. The fellowship and friendships with the kids are an indescribable gift. The older boys have competitions to see who can carry more wood or lift a bigger rock...whatever they can have a competition about they do. But it is all so good. They are learning the value of hard work and deep friendships. They look forward to work days, knowing they will see the fruit of their labors and enjoying their friends. God took my deep down dreams and painted them into beautiful reality. I now have an "orchard" in the making and a few raised beds with raspberry starts given us by friends. And so much potential for so much more...In addition, The Givers gave us a ride-on lawnmower to help keep the blackberry brambles down. Another thing we had been praying for since we had moved in. Blackberry brambles are almost impossible to get rid of once they have taken root - so it will be a battle for years to come to stay on top of them and not let them spread.
I have certainly rambled on this post. I am just praying God knows why all of this came pouring out today. Maybe because I am so exhausted right now (Mimi, Grace, Little Man, and Serenity have all been up on different nights - making sleep hard to find) - maybe I just needed to remember that my Savior is so very good. He knows what my heart needs and He knows my dreams. He has good things planned and He does carry us through the "hard". It doesn't mean that life is easy - but it is good. Even with the tears that often come, it is good.
Serenity has another hand surgery this month - the Lord willing. Please pray with me that she is healthy enough for that surgery - no coughs or colds. School ends just a week later with the annual testing our kids are required to do by state law. After that, the summer begins with camping trips and swimming, friends and sunshine.
God also had another amazing gift for us, something to do with this beautiful girl we have prayed for so long....
But that story will have to wait for another time....I need to get my crowd up and moving.
Oh, and we FINALLY received our I-797 from USCIS - the approval from the US government to move forward for our adoption. This has taken a long time this adoption and I was at the end of my rope waiting for it. By Monday night our dossier will be on its way to Washington DC and the authentications that need to be taken care of there. We are praying we are DTC (dossier to China) in just a few short weeks. Then another period of waiting comes as we wait for it all to be processed in China - but at least "our" part will be done. We are told it is a 4-6 month wait from the time our dossier is logged into the system there. How I am praying for the 4 month end....I cannot wait to see that dream turned into an beautiful reality by my Savior....
I am clinging tightly to my Savior - through the tears and the laughter - through joy and frustration. Through the amazing and through the hardships. He is the lover of my soul.
Until He comes......