Monday, May 22, 2017


I feel that in our last placement of a sibling group of three children, with four originals in the home, we garner a lot more attention and reactions from those we encounter on a daily basis. Part of me gets it...I even think I'm a little out of my element some days. But the other part of me is like, dude, I have seven kids, big whoop. Cuz they're all in bed right now and I find as the dust settles, really, everything is ok.

In the end, isn't that what you want for your family? The feeling of peace as everyone is settled into their beds that all is well? It's hard, I'll give you that. But it's doable!!

Rewind 9 weeks and a few days, just for some perspective. Just hours post placement. Like 5 maybe. Terror. What have we done??? Anxiety like a giant elephant, positioned on chest. Why did we think we could do this???

As each day passes, more and more peace settles into the cracks and crevices of our souls, and the souls of 7 littles ones who live here.

Somehow, we make it through the first week and realize it's getting easier. Then another week goes by. Then another. Pretty soon, like a baby standing playing with a toy, not realizing he's balancing on his own, we are going hours and days without wondering how we're going to do this. We're just doing it.

Yes, there was a bit of paperwork. A few meetings. A court date, with more to come. Uncomfortable moments that you just get used to.

But somehow we still manage to homeschool (we're always a bit behind) and run a household (it's 100% clean 0% of the time.)

And the reality is just that there's a lot we have to say no to. During this season of cocooning and bonding that means no even to some family events, which is emotionally difficult as we have wonderful extended families, but so necessary, both for our sanity and for our kids emotional well being.

A window into my day, let's take today for example. This is how we do.

6:30 get up for a few moments of reading, prayer and coffee.

7:00 make a bottle and a big ol pot of oatmeal, set out bowls, spoons and cups, maybe empty the dishwasher quick...

7:20 wake up hardest sleeper, Sleeping Beauty, who happens to be the first to leave for school

7:30 allow the early risers to finally get up, do Sleeping Beauty's hair, feed baby, feed hungry hoard, keep peace at table of 6 wild banshees wonderful children.

8:00 cajole first leaver into coat, hat, mittens, boots and backpack, while keeping peace between the other six, all the while keeping an eye out for the wily bus that shows up mercurially in a 20 minute window

8:13 deliver said child to bus, hope my hair doesn't reveal too much of inner state, as I have not looked into the mirror yet today, later realize day-old make up and hair both reveal inner state

8:15 take a bite, grab baby before he pulls that thing down that he shouldn't touch, take another bite break up boy fight, take another bite, remember I should check K's backpack, forget I was eating and start washing dishes, remember, take another bite, jump up to remove object from baby's mouth, etc...

8:30 load dishwasher while running after baby constantly, finally put him in exasaucer...peace reigns for 7 seconds

8:45 have you ever tried to get a 6 year old to get ready for school when he just wants to stay home and play with his brothers??

8:55 bribe Conscientious School Objector into his ride to school
get ready to leave with one year old to go to a meeting with teachers and staff at school

9:10 chat with babysitter, leave

9:30 meeting with important school people, pretend to be calm and in control of everything while wiping spit up off my shirt and the floor and drool from their table...

10:10 arrive home

10:20 start homeschooling

11:30 run outside to get Sleeping Beauty from the bus, make lunch, read science

12:30 do dishes

1:00-4:00 homeschool, have afternoon coffee survival ration, sneak chocolate when kids aren't watching

4:00 make a bottle for baby, turn on the TV for the kids that will actually sit and watch it....because I'm human, that's why

4:10 make dinner

4:15 check what time it is to see if hubby is off work yet

4:18 check watch to see if it's 4:30 yet

4:23 check watch, still not 4:30...

4:25 resign self to the fact that he will NEVER BE HOME

4:30 at least he's on his way home now

5:05 check phone for text from hubby

5:10 look longingly at empty driveway

5:12 (I'm ashamed to admit)

5:17 (Stop reading crazy lady post)


5:23 (Plotting revenge)

5:24 Cute little gold car pulls into driveway, get off couch and pretend I haven't been scanning the region directly in front of the house like a veritable eagle of desperation

5:30 Dinner, aka training feral
sweet and rambunctious children to eat like human beings that were born into civilization with good manners.

6:15 clean kitchen, but wonder why I bother, in twelve hours it will be a disaster, remember oh yeah, we won't have anything to eat on if I don't...

7:30 happy dance, bed time;)

Life is relentless. Stuff keeps coming at you. Appointments, decisions. It gets complicated dealing with all the legalities, wondering what if and remembering that they're not mine yet. There is risk and there is the cost. But the fact is that regular life would bore me to insanity. Literally. Challenge is good for me, and I daresay, good for most of us. Push yourself. Say the hard yes. If God be for you, who could possibly be against you? I mean really, who???

Because mixed in between the crazy is "mom I love you" and quietly playing for 30 minutes with no brawls!!!! And stick figure moms with heart shapes. Teachers amazed at good behavior after so much trauma. And God bless this stingy Midwest Spring because if it's sunny (about every 10 days or so) and above 45 degrees they think it's summer and ride their bikes around as happy as could be, with no shirts on (the boys I'm talking about here.)

And walks in the woods in the rain, with cold fingers but warm hearts.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Grace For The Day

Sometimes you go around a bend in the road and come upon a need that you just can't ignore. This happened to us. There were these three children. Precious, wounded, needing so many, many things. They had been living as a foster placement with our relatives. We got a chance to know them, their voices, their likes and dislikes, their unique needs. We knew the county was looking for a concurrent placement for them, a place they could stay forever, if...

We felt a very imperative concern. We had many, many late night conversations, and prayed many desperate prayers. Could this be His will for us? Would He lead us to such a cliff of possibilities? Would He give us the wings we would need to navigate such a complex, challenging, heart-wrenching shift to our comfortable life with four kids?

Three more kids, K boy age 6, K girl age 5 and J baby boy, 10 months. Not just any kids, kids with trauma, deep and raw. I felt very certain, from the first little ripple of thought surrounding this possibility that no, I could not do this. Of my own ability, energy and wisdom, I simply could not.

Three weeks in, after K's therapist tells us he doesn't need him any more, he is doing 75% better coping with life, I am convinced...this is not of us. God has shown us so much grace, He is healing these children, somehow, through us, flaws and all.

We went from a family of 6 to a family of 9 and we're starting to thrive. Amazing. This was our path, laid out by the Master Planner.

Before we said "Yes", I tried to find some grand sign that this was meant to be. I needed to make sure I wasn't certifiably insane to even consider it. I didn't want to ruin my kids', really, I didn't want to ruin mine. We were comfortable. We slept well each night, our house was reasonably tidy, I was keeping up. We had four perfect/imperfect children who did what we asked (mostly), played happily (with occasional fights) and were, generally, doing great.

I have long been a strong pro-life advocate. And I have heard the criticism that people like me, Christian, conservative, a group that has the audacity to believe that life is sacred, no matter what...don't care about the babies once they become "unwanted kids." We just want babies to be born, we don't care what happens to them once they're here. And many of us don't put any shoulder behind our belief, it's true (although more and more are becoming aware and finding ways to help those of us who can adopt!)

Dan and I have never taken the easiest path when it came to adoption, for this very reason. Our third child came home with many health issues; we took a risk. Adopting a four-year-old from Uganda was no easy task. Saying yes to three more children when we live in a 1500 square foot home, on a single income, when we already have 4 that are homeschooled, was not an easy decision. It was a risk. But these are children. Their souls will live forever. They are some of God's perfect creation.

The big sign I was so longing for, the slamming door or the giant yes spelled out in the stars, did not come. It was simply a series of small steps revealing themselves to us, and a string around our hearts that kept pulling and pulling us forward.

We say we believe in the sanctity of life. We say we believe in a God who turned water into dry land, water into wine and fed thousands on a few loaves and fish. How could we say no? How could we say this was impossible?

They needed a family; we needed them. I am already seeing how the yes has transformed OUR life. Yes there are challenges. Battles over the souls of these little ones. We are tenacious; we won't give up. We have lost sleep. We have dealt with fear, anxiety, discomfort. When more passengers get on, the little boat is rocked. But we are learning how to sail our little ship.

I couldn't be more convinced that this is where God has led us. I wasn't sure at first but now I am. The signs continue to be small. A genuine smile. Hearing a sweet tone in the voice as he sings. Wet but welcome kisses. Fast crawling and arms upreached when mama gets home. Sharing treasured treats with mama. Even though I'm not yet mama, in their hearts.

This relationship is still tenuous. And there are no guarantees yet that it is permanent. But it doesn't matter as much as I thought it would. Maybe that's a sign in itself, I don't know. I hope this is a forever, but it's not up to me.

We have felt incredibly supported by our different communities and that has made a world of difference. Even though, I know, most of them heard our news and watched us take this step with a mixture of shock and concern.

I am so thankful for the meals that have been so carefully prepared with so much respect for our unique food culture here. I know not everyone can relate to needing to be so careful with food, nonetheless, we have been so well cared for with food, I just can't even find words for this grace. Our church, friends, adoption support group and family were so quick to step in and help, so much love poured out. Blessing upon blessing to us. Even when I know, they all secretly think we're crazy:)

We are thankful for our wonderful friends and family.
For a larger vehicle that carries all of us, and happens to be black, my favorite car color
For a chubby cherub who loves with all his little self and fills early mornings with smiles and kisses
For the beginnings of trust and attachment
For a sweet greeting from siblings, even when hours before there were angry words and frustration boiling over the edges
For a taste of Spring in a month when winter still holds it's claim

Life is not perfect, it is not easy, it is not always fun for us. But I really don't think that's what it's supposed to be, when you're living to the fullest. We would miss out on so much of God's grace if we never put ourselves in a position of needing it. This is just a path deeper into His heart. We are just getting the opportunity to know Him more. He gives us the grace we need for each day. We try not to get too caught up on what comes after that.

As eluded to before, there are still unknowns. But we don't look back. And really, seven is only a number. It's not daunting, or formidable. Just a few little people who were meant to be all together. And it works. And we'll see what is around the next bend for us.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Six Months In

Ah, it has been quite a while since my last post. Life has been moving with dizzying speed, and I have done my best to keep up and stay sane...judging by my house and my hair style right now, perhaps not very successfully.

We have now been a family of 6 for nearly six months. Beginning in a sunny, energetic and exhausting region of East Africa and finally making our way back to the vanilla pudding Midwest after 11 weeks in country, we have had moments of triumph, moments of utter failure and have learned a ton.

It's been on my heart to encourage other parents preparing for and living this reality along with us. As we have gone deeper into the jungle that is adoption, from transracial, domestic infant, to special needs, to international special needs, we have stretched and sometimes broken in ways we never anticipated, although we did all the required training and reading, and then did more. The truth is, with human beings, their is a dynamic unique to each individual. You just can't know what your kid will "be like" or how you will respond.

The one single piece of advice I would have liked pounded into my head pre-adoptions 2 and 3 would be...Give grace. Give grace to yourself. Don't put pressure on yourself at first. I was so quick to re-enter life because I had been gone for so long. I should have taken much more time to heal. The reality is that bringing home a new kiddo, especially an older one, in my experience, can be demolishing. It can rip you apart, temporarily. You need time to solidify yourself and your family members, as a family. We were in a hurry to get back to life, we should have taken more time.

In discipline, give grace. To the new kid and the old kids. This is seriously hard on kiddos. Especially if extended travel is involved. And it's going to manifest itself in weird ways, that take you off guard, and might make you angry! Let's be real, not sleeping, a lot of extra crying, accidents, whining, doing mean things they never did before. This might be your reality for a while. Brace yourself. BUT! The more grace you're giving yourself (i.e. ignoring comments about "we can't wait to see you"!!!!(so well meant, full of love, but for a people pleaser, more like a command), "do you need a maid"? (now I am self-conscious about another realm of my life), or the myriad of inner thoughts of "I shoulds")the better your mental health. Sane people can handle crazy. Crazy people get more crazy from crazy. Can I get an "Amen."???

Now, let me take a step back and declare that there have been millions of wonderful moments amidst the struggles. Getting about 400 million hugs and kisses per day per little one (confession: I wipe the wet ones off, sensory overload). Family outings (most of my kids behave 140% better in public ((except at church)), go figure). Seeing my kids read to each other, play house together, imagine together, hug and kiss each other. Genuine love and friendship. Priceless. Seeing my oldest step up and become a leader, helper and encourager. Watching how the Lord transforms me as a mom. Relishing my marriage (because he's the only sane person in the house, and us crazies are all his fanpeople.) I could go on and on. I could characterize our days as a roller coaster still. We have really low moments, and really high. But truly, things are evening out here. Even though it's January. In the Midwest.

Some mean curious people have asked me if I would ever "do it again." When I think back to the fear, the loneliness, the anxiety that was more intense than I have ever known, the feeling of never really being able to relax, the 7 days in hospital with a very sick child, the 2 days of travel home...I would say, basically, you know, the logical answer is.....yes. Maybe not next year, maybe not in 5 years, but yes. Looking back, it was so, so hard. The hardest thing I've ever done. And being home is also the hardest thing I've ever done, as a matter of fact. BUT when I look at my girl, with all the diagnoses, all the unknowns, all the special needs, underneath all that is a little kid with grit and spunk, more personality than 50% of the world population combined, brilliant and cunning survival skills, resiliency that brought her through what would most likely crush you and I. I get to know her, and what's more, I get to be her mom! This is a gift. Don't we have to work hardest for the biggest treasures? I know, I know, you can't earn a gift, but many who have adopted know this, that there are no guarantees. So yes, a gift.

Some last words to parents who are raising kids from really, really hard places.
Don't give up. I fail, you fail, we make little mistakes, we make big mistakes. Hang in there. Forgive yourself, move on.
Smile. Even if it's a fake one. It still helps. Science backs me up here.
Hug your kids.
Be you. God gave you this particular child because they needed you and you needed them. Don't try to be someone you're not, use your strengths to build up your child.
Do things that you love. This will be good for your kids and you.
Remember, this too shall pass. Try to savor the moments, or at least, just hang on and do your best.
Push out what detracts, hurts, stresses.
Embrace what is healing and refreshing.
Fill your space with sensory pleasing sights, smells, feels and tastes.
Pray that the Lord fills you so you have something to give.
When dealing with the trauma-crazy, pray first.

Good thing there isn't a video camera in my house, showing me not taking my own advice. So. Much. Room. To. Grow. I do not, in any way, claim to be an expert. I'm telling my story and basically reminding myself of things I should be doing. If you are able to glean anything from these ramblings, well, good.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Travel On The Horizon

We are so thrilled to have a departure date, a court date and that the days are flying by! We are busily prepping our home, and stocking up on items we will need in Uganda, as well as figuring out where we will stay!

The legal procedures in country are going to take at least two months. Most likely, it will stretch longer. Your continued prayers over this whole process are much appreciated. Please pray for all of us as we prepare, that we would physically and emotionally ready, clear headed and patient. That the Lord would prepare the way and soften hearts. For safety, health and peace for all of us.

I'm continuing my journey of learning ASL, so if you run into me and you know it, feel free to test my skills!:) I'm looking forward to teaching my little princess from the get go!

We'll try to stay connected while in country. For those interested in getting updates, please email me and I'll put you on the list!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Letting Go

"You've brought me to the end of myself
And this has been the longest road
Just when my hallelujah was tired
You gave me a new song

I'm letting go
I'm letting go
I'm letting go
Falling into You

I confess I still get scared sometimes
But perfect love comes rushing in
And all the lies that screamed inside go silent
The moment you begin

You remind me
Of things forgotten
You unwind me
Until I'm totally undone
And with Your arms around me
Fear was no match for Your love
Now You've won me"

Letting Go by Steffany Gretzinger

click here to see this excellent song!

This song is therapeutic to me today! We have journeyed through this adoption now for 420 days, and have reached the ocean, so to speak, with no boat. We're waiting for our ship to come in, but it's still nowhere in sight.

After waiting for over four weeks to hear something, I couldn't wait anymore, and emailed our agency. I was informed that the judge is now returned from leave. Please pray with us that she appoints a court date soon!

I have become pretty good at distracting myself. It is a unique kind of crazy, waiting for a child you dearly love, but not really having any idea when the day will come when you're actually allowed to go to her! We know that delay can come again at any time during this process. Something could come up and push this out further and further. We had allowed ourselves to start imagining our Easter celebration as a family of 6 in her country of we're just hoping we get a court date some time before the courts recess in August...hopefully well before, but at this point, I'm not holding my breath.

When I am tempted to doubt, I am reminded that He has brought us this far. He is surely able to complete what He has begun. Each step that He had led us through has been miraculous. None of this could have been accomplished in human strength. Only by the will of the Father have we come this far. Only through His strength in us can we accomplish what we have set out to do. He loves our girl even more than we, or anyone else does!

He is the God who is able to perfectly complete...And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

And, after all, there is no fear in love.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. 1 John 4:18

I am letting go. Not giving up, no, never. But I'm learning so much in this waiting. I'm falling into Him, more and more. Trusting it into His hands, over and over.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Holding Pattern

Spring has sprung here in the Midwest. February was bitterly cold. It had us all pining for the warmth of the sun.

About a week ago we received word that our file had been assigned to a judge in Uganda. And now that judge is on a one month's leave. This means we will not be travelling for at least another month. I would imagine it might be reasonable to assume we would get a court date in May. Ambiguity is the flavor of the day around here though. Anything more than tentative gets our hopes too high.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't quite disappointed at this delay. Going from "we could get a travel date any day", to, "we won't travel for at least another month or more", is quite deflating. It's not just a trip we're talking about here. Or a package in the mail. It's a little person. We need her. She, I believe, needs us.

The stingy bit of sunshine we've been getting around here lately is a bit of a consolation. Now that the snow is gone, the little people can at least get out to play and get a change of scenery.

As much as I want to be angry with someone, and rant about foreign governments and judicial systems, I really do know that God's hand directs it all. I don't like it all, but somehow this is right, good and meant to be. Each day that I don't get to hug those little shoulders and caress those smooth brown cheeks hurts. Our grace-giving, all loving God knows this. He knows.

So we wait some more. It's been 403 days since I saw a photo on social media and opened my heart, this possibility, this door. The labor process since has been arduous, and has not yet ended. Relief is not quite in sight, but surely this misery has to end soon. Surely, we will turn a corner, and all these bends in the road will be behind us, and there will be our girl.

We've been tucking away little things for her, here and there. Some new, some handed down. One intangible inheritance from generations ago will precede or accompany her wherever she goes. It is beautiful and we hope she loves it. In my mind and heart it's who she is, blended with the day dreams of a new daughter and the dreams that come, unbidden but welcome, in the sleeping hours of the night, of a beloved memory.

Hopefully, the next time I write will be a hurried announcement of our impending travel! Please continue to pray for a court date, safety, good planning, health and no more bumps in the road. Thank you.

Oh and one more thing, a praise! We are overjoyed that my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, along with their two daughters, will be able to come to help and minister in Uganda for a period of time while Dan returns home. I am so grateful for their willingness to come out of the Comfort Zone, to love in a tangible way! Praise the Lord! Please pray for them as they prepare and fundraise.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Drawing Ever Closer

We are finally going to be able to make some tentative travel plans! We were informed that we will PROBABLY travel in April! This feels like a momentous day! Especially as we are drawing very close to the one year mark. It was February 14th of last year that I sent an email to A's agency. Two weeks later we found out they had accepted us as her family.

There have been multiple phone calls, many emails, hundreds of sheets of paper. Fundraising, prayer upon prayer upon prayer, months of waiting with no news of our girl, days when I open my email to discover the beautiful gift of a new photo or 30 seconds of her little personality, a cancer battle fought, holidays celebrated with the nagging notion that someone is missing, knowing that next time, next time we celebrate, A will be here. We've all been waiting and praying so long, she's a famous person around these parts. Her picture is everywhere. Her story is on many hearts. Will she really be ours? Do I really get to be her mama?

With the joy, there is also much to ponder and much to be done.

Here's a glimpse into my brain at 5:30 a.m., lying in bed with thoughts whirling like a hurricane.

Malaria, TYHPHOID, Yellow Fever, Luggage, Two months, parasite, bills, homeschool, UGANDA, dirt roads, transportation, emergency, HOSPITAL, packing list, GET IT DONE, food, foodborne illness, mosquito, skirts, summer clothes, sunscreen, DEET, guest house, walking to town, three kids, four kids, sign language, anemia, HOME, no hot water, paperwork, delay, water, visa, tickets, what if, leaning in.

God's words rise in my mind as I type these words, to paraphrase what it means in my words "You're not supposed to be worrying about anything Gina. Pray about it. Let ME take care of it." "You have only to be still and watch the Lord defend, protect and fight your battles."

The Israelites were gripped in fear. Why had Moses led them to this dangerous place away from all that was familiar, where they would surely DIE? But Moses, representing Father God, reminds them:

“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

The Lord Himself has brought us here. The Lord Himself was with A every time she was deathly ill and her mama was not there. The Lord Himself has allowed our paperwork to all go through so far. The Lord Himself has moved in each love-motivated heart that sacrificially gave towards the redemption fund of our girl. Allowing us to be FULLY FUNDED, so that we could focus on packing, preparing, cleaning and do a little dreaming of our new daughter too! These are HUGE battles that He has won for A, for us, for our family.

I should not be worried, but I do feel twinges of anxiety. We love to know that there are friends praying for us! It is no small feat, to pack, to prepare, to plan, to bring three young children to a third world country, to stay for two months, and sustain all those little lives, with another joining us, with trauma, and strive to keep them healthy and happy. But it's my job. I can do everything I need to, with Christ giving me strength. Please pray that He would be tangibly near to us, from here on out.

To those who are reading these words and have already been praying, have donated money or time to our adoption fund, who have kindly encouraged or given helpful travel advice, I am so deeply grateful. It shows His love in you, beautifully.