Monday, June 30, 2014

7 1/2 Months...Trying Verses Training

7 months came and went and we are now at 7 1/2 months home with Nora.  I'd like to say I didn't put out a monthly blog post update at 7 months home because I was just too busy, but honestly, I didn't put one out because of two reasons...1) I was too exhausted and 2) I didn't have anything profoundly different than my 6 month home post to report on.

If you think back to my 6 month home update post (found here if you didn't read it yet), the place I was at a few weeks ago at my 7 month home date was very much the same place.  A place of frustration and lack of answers as to what I needed to be doing to willingly suffer for Nora's sake now that she was home.  A place of discouragement in myself for not being able to get a grip on how to better parent, better love, better listen, better invest, better "suffer".  The daily life in our household did not change much over the course of this past month.  I have all four kiddos home for summer break and I'm being pulled in four different directions for four different kids with four distinctively different needs.  (This will be a post all of its own someday!)  Tantrums were still being thrown (both from Nora and from my inner being), battles were still occurring, love tanks were still unmet, prayers were still prayed, gratefulness was still spoken, and fun times were still experienced in the midst of the pain.

To be honest, last week was the hardest week yet of a very long month.  There were many outside situations also occurring that made it especially tough, but it was downright the hardest week yet in trying to do this "adoptive parenting" thing and yet feeling like a complete and utter failure.  My emotions and reactions to Nora were out of control and every well-meaning word of advice I had been given from others to try to make this work better just fueled my sense of frustration because ALL of them would have made me do things that did not come naturally for me.  I could not believe it.  There was not ONE suggestion I heard where my first response was, "Oh, okay.  I like that idea.  I can do that.  I want to give that one a try.  I can totally see that one working/making a difference."  Nope.  Every single one was met with this response from me, "  Are you kidding me?  I hate doing that.  That would never work--I don't like that.  I don't enjoy doing that.  I can't even imagine how much that will grate me.  No way.  Nope.  No.  Never.  How on earth do you expect this to actually draw me and Nora closer and bond us when I will be hating every moment of these activities???  (Insert audible laughter at even the thought of me trying to do some of these ideas).  I felt like I was down to my last bit of twine in the rope and as much as I wanted to cling on and start climbing upward out of this pit of discouragement, nothing suggested seemed to be the answer I wanted/liked/desired.

However, thankfully we serve a God who never lets us lose our grip of even that last little string in the rope.  This past Sunday our pastor gave a great sermon on discipleship and what all goes into being a disciple of Christ.  How practicing disciplines is not something our generation is very good at doing.  I agree.  Our culture is one of instant gratification and only participating in activities that grant yourself good feelings and successful outcomes.  Practicing the art of discipline is not always exactly that.  He reflected on how our mindset is often focused on "trying" and not necessarily "training".  For example, we often will "try" something new with the intentions that if we don't like it, we will discontinue doing it.  We will "try" harder to accomplish something, but if we don't succeed at it then we must be a failure so we walk away with a self-defeated attitude and an increased fear of tackling anything new, unfamiliar or unnatural to our current lifestyle or abilities.  "Trying" seems to have an instant reward or loss attached to it...either we try it and like it or we try it and don't like it.  We try it and succeed or we try it and we fail.  There is no long-term commitment attached to "trying".

"Training", on the other hand, implies there is a larger goal to be focused on than just what is in front of us at the moment.  Even though there are many things along our path in training for something that we will have to "try", even if we fail at them, we don't stop the training regimen because we know that what we are working towards is ultimately good and worth the effort.  Our pastor brought up the idea of training to run a marathon.  Well, that hit very close to home for our family because my hunk of a hubby is currently doing just that!  Micah is not quite in the middle of his training schedule to be ready to run his very first marathon at the end of September.  His training has not always been "fun".  He has had to try new things like wearing a fuel belt while running, getting up earlier to avoid the hot sun, going for further distances than his legs have ever ran before.  Each time he "tries" something new, he has to view it as all part of the "training" process to become a marathon finisher.  If he views them all as just something he is "trying" without the larger picture or goal of what he wants to accomplish in the end, he could much easier opt out of the rest of the training program and never reach the desired outcome.

So too, with my journey in parenting Nora and learning to love her passionately.  Thus far, I think I have fallen into the trap of viewing each of these suggestions people have given me as something I need to try in order to make this instantly better.  I have viewed each suggestion as an entirety of itself instead of seeing it a part of a much larger goal I am training for.  When I choose to see all of these littler steps as part of a training program instead of a "trying it out" idea, my attitude shifts from being discouraged about everything I'm failing at, to one that has hope.  Even if I didn't do so great at it this first time, it still will play a critical role in the training process that will eventually, together with all these other things, develop and grow and strengthen me into a person who will and can parent and love Nora in a healthy way.  I no longer feel like I have to keep "trying" new ideas until I find one that actually works, but instead, I have to participate in all of these different ideas in order to train myself well-roundly.  And, just like Micah doesn't enjoy each and every part of the training process for his marathon, I'm not going to enjoy each and every part of the training process in my parenting of Nora either.  Some of these steps will HAVE to be what I called in my 6 month home post--"places of suffering".

So, with my newfound direction and decision to change my way of looking at my situation from a place of "trying harder" and yet continuing to fail miserably to a place of "diligently training well", I have several different activities I plan on implementing over the course of the near future.  I fully admit that almost all of these are things I really don't look forward to or am sad about giving up, but I believe that by doing so, the training steps will eventually get me to my desired place or goal and that will be worth the suffering steps along the way.  To give you a taste of some of these activities for myself, I'll list a few, but remember that each person is completely different so if you need to do this for yourself, you will have to think about what your "discipleship training" should personally look like.

  • Give up 99% of my time on facebook.  I love connecting with people.  I love encouraging others.  I found facebook is a place I can do those two things incredibly well.  I also found that facebook scrolling is incredibly addictive.  Before I know it, I got on there to see how my close friend is doing and find myself watching a video about how the latest animal got themselves out of their own cage without any human help.  It's ridiculous.  I am wasting so much of my day with mindless activity on facebook when I have four kids who need me to be more present with them, a house that needs me physically cleaning it, food that needs me cooking it on time, a husband who needs me talking with him on the couch instead of sitting on one end of it with my computer with him on the other end with his iPad, and I have a soul that needs to be reading my Bible, worshiping God, and thanking Him for what all is going on around me because I am living purposefully and intentionally enough to even know what it going on around me.  Giving up majority of my time on facebook is NOT something I look forward to because I also know it will come with the price of not being as "in-the-know" of what is happening with others near and far from me, however, with one week under my belt here, I have accomplished more off my "to-do list" than I have in months of time and it has been very freeing and refreshing.
  • Reading and playing more with Nora.  This one is a tough one for any mom (and especially as stay-at-home mom) to admit, but it's true...I don't actually super enjoy playing things with my kids.  I think, to some degree, that's why God has us have them all close together--they play with each other and I don't have to as much (ha!).  Seriously, I would LOVE to sit down and talk with them for countless hours or go and do things with them like the park or shopping, but getting my body down on the floor and actually playing with their toys with them is not something that comes naturally or easily for me.  I need to do this more with Nora, however, and it has to become part of my "training" whether I enjoy it or not.
  • Reading a book about adoptive parenting.  Another shocker to many who know me is that I'm not a reader.  I love to journal, write, blog, and talk, but sitting down with a book in my hand is a very, very, very rare sighting.  I like to read short things--blog post lengths--not thick books with tiny words and lots of chapters.  They are overwhelming to me.  I fall asleep so quickly after picking them up and wake up feeling like I have once again failed because I couldn't stay awake for it once again.  I also like to get things done quickly, check it off my list, and move on to the next thing.  The idea of having a book that is just sitting there not completely read yet unnerves me so I just don't like doing it.  However, a counselor and fellow adoptive mama I went to a few weeks back insisted I NEEDED to read this one so, reluctantly, I bought it and started it today.  Again...part of the training process that a much as I roll my eyes in beginning it, I also know it will help me reach my desired goal.
There are many other things I could put into this list but it would turn into a huge list very quickly and I basically just wanted to give you a taste of what my "training" is looking like.  I fully expect there to be challenges along this road, but I do have a renewed sense of direction and excitement as I look ahead instead of seeing things as dismal and hopeless to change.  I know that God is also running this race beside me and I will NEED Him to be my Encourager every step of the way or I will fail miserably.  That would probably be the one thing I've taken away from the past two months--I really can not do anything good and pleasing and heaven-rewarded without Him.  We need Him for everything.  I'm so blessed and thankful for His unconditional love and unwavering commitment to see me through to the end.  Please continue your prayers for me and all of our family.  We appreciate them and know God uses them to sustain, empower, support, encourage, and change us into the likeness of Him.

Several verses I've found inspiring/encouraging/helpful/hopeful in my last month:
  • God is Present: Psalm 139: 7-12/ Psalm 31:19/ Psalm 91
  • God is Ever-sustaining: Heb. 1:3, 10-12/ Ps. 18:35/ Psalm 147:5-6/ Is. 50: 4-5
  • God is Infusing: 1 Sam. 2:2-4 (The Message)/ 1 Thess. 3:11-13 (The Message)
  • God is Empowering: 1 Sam. 16:13 (The Message)/ 1 Cor. 4:20-21 (The Message)
  • God is Transforming: Phil 3:20-21/ Rom. 12:1-2/ 2 Cor. 3:17-18
  • God is the Alpha, Omega, and "the Middle" (side note: I wanted to reflect on the fact that God began something with this adoption and would be there till the end as well, but found my heart saying, "what about the middle?"  I wanted a Word that also said God was in the middle.  Oh, yes, did He answer!): Rev. 1:8/ Ex. 3:14-15
  • God is Sufficient: 2 Cor. 12:9
  • God is Protecting: Ps. 32:6-8/ Jn 17:11/ 1 Cor. 13:6-7
  • God is Everything we need: Is. 58:11-12/ Mt. 6:8/ Phil 4:19
  • God is Miraculous: Lk. 8:47/ Acts 3:7
  • God is Fresh and Living Water: Is. 49:8-10/ Jn 4:10/ Jn 7:37-39/ Rev. 21:6-7
  • Importance of "training" to see the end of the race: Acts 20:22-24/ 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

And, as always, I love sending you off with some photos from our month.  This post will have some pretty special ones for you to see.  Another amazing photographer gifted us with a session as her way of giving back to our community and supporting our desire to adopt.  We could not have been more blessed or thankful for her willingness to capture our family in these beautiful photos.  Her work is top-notch and her attitude towards working with our four kids was impeccable.  If you are in our area, please, please, please, look her up and give her a try for your next family, baby, maternity, etc. photo session.  Here is the link to her website: Chika Sunoto Photgraphy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A letter to my Grandma on her 90th Birthday

Dear Grandma,

I know that Alzheimers has taken most of you away from us at this point in life, but if you were able to understand what all I could tell you tomorrow on your 90th birthday, this is what I would say...

You are beautiful. Dad just recently showed me some pictures of you when you were younger and I just sat there reflecting on how beautiful of a woman you were.

I had a check in my spirit when I thought the word "were" and pulled up a photo I took with you a few years back and remembered that even at close to 90, you were certainly still beautiful.

Your skin may be stretched and your teeth may be taken out and your hair may or may not be fancy the day I see you in the nursing home, but you, Grandma, are still so very, very beautiful at 90 years old. Don't let anyone tell you different.

Grandma with Lily
Grandma with Lily & Toby

You are included in so many of my favorite childhood memories. Grandma, when I think back on my childhood, I can not think too far without you being involved. Whether it was painting my nails with the nail polish you kept in the refrigerator, singing to the old radio in the basement while playing pool, listening to the TODAY show on the little black and white television in the kitchen while you sliced up my peanut butter and honey toast for breakfast, or wrapping the countless strands of my hair around curlers for my were involved in my life and I'm so grateful. Elaborate birthday cakes, Christmas stockings hung over your fireplace, Easter eggs hidden in the basement, pushes on the swing in the backyard, cutting peonies for the table vase, cutting of aloe plants in the kitchen widow sill for my hurt knees, jars for lightening bugs, slices of bread for my baby doll in the high chair, yearly adventures at the county fair, trips for Kewpee hamburgers or the ice cream joint down the road, and special vacations during our week long stays at your home. Goodness, Grandma, where would I stop with all the childhood memories you were involved in? Thank you for being a Grandma who showed me you loved me by being involved in my life.

I'm also grateful for you being present not only when I was at your house, but for events I was involved in that you had to travel to be a part of. School programs, church programs, choir concerts, plays, volleyball games, graduations, and even the occasional week long stay at our house so the folks could go away on a business trip or vacation. On top of that there were so many cards and gifts given at birthday time, letters written to say congrats or we're thinking of were always present even when you couldn't be. You weren't just my grandma on your turf--you cared enough to come to my turf too. I'm so blessed to see your face in countless photos in my albums.

I love that you loved to sing. You were always singing, Grandma. Singing in the kitchen, singing in the choir at church, singing in the snow bird trailer park, singing in the car, singing in the audience. Heck, even when we didn't want you to be singing you were still singing. Even in these later years when Alzheimers has taken so much from you, you can still be heard occasionally humming a little ditty from your bedroom or wheelchair in the hallway. I believe that much of our joy, sorrow, pain, and celebration in life can be given a strong voice through song. I'm so glad you revolved your life around it and inadvertently taught those around you...even your young find a love for music and song. Keep singing, Grandma, even if it's just in your own head at this point. Just keep singing. You will add to the beautiful harmonies of Heaven some day.

Grandma singing to Sydney and Quinn
I love that you loved Grandpa in your sassy, fun, day-in and day-out kind of way. I watched you care for his every need over the years. Yep, it never went unnoticed. Making sure he was getting his walk in, eating his sugar-free candy, getting a "proper" sized slice of angel food cake, placing his plate, fork, knife, spoon, and glass on the table three times a day for the entirety of your marriage until death did you part. I loved how you two were involved in activities together such as the Lions Club and the art classes in Arizona. Oh, and how can anyone who knew you deny that together you played a mean game of pool? Thank you for winking at each other over jokes us youngsters were too naive to understand, for holding hands on walks, and for getting that last slow dance in at my wedding because it was important to you even though the snow storm was coming in heavy. Mostly, thank you for loving each other through the thick and thin, sickness and health, so that I could cherish that example of true marital commitment. I know losing Grandpa had to have been the hardest thing in your life. I miss him too and hope that your reunion with him in the heavenlies, whenever that happens, will be one of bliss.
Jessie and Richard on their wedding day
Honestly, Grandma, even though you are still alive at 90 years old, I wish you were alive in such a way that I could sit in your presence tomorrow and connect on a deeper level than eye contact. I wish I could hear you sing "Happy Birthday to me" with all of us as we gather around you. I wish I could see you smile and laugh as your great-grandkids gather around you and give you their homemade pictures for the walls of your room. I wish I could hear what all you want us to know about life and love and happiness. I wish you could know those around you, eating cake and wishing your 90th year of life in this land love you so, so much. Despite your inability to say thanks or even acknowledge us at all, I truly hope, deep down inside, you will be touched by our desire to still show you we love you and are thinking of you on this day of celebration. There is much we grieve on this day because of the losses this disease has taken from you, and therefore us, but there is also so much to reflect on and celebrate about the woman you were, the woman you are, and the woman you have helped me to become.

For that, Grandma, I am grateful we get to be with you on your birthday. I wish I could come and visit you more often, but just know my heart and thoughts are not far from you even though distance is.  90 years, Grandma.  Can you even believe it!?! That's a lot of years, lady!  A lot of years full of memories, smiles, hugs, and the warmth of the person God created you to be. You, Grandma, are a blessing and I love you.

Happy sweet, beautiful, lovely, and sassy 90th.