Archive for September, 2011

Its all grace

I cleaned my house today. It sparkles. The yuck I scrubbed off my kitchen floor prompted thoughts I have entertained of other women over the years.

“What IS that icky stuff on her kitchen floor?”

“I just don’t understand how someone can live in such a mess.”

“Well, they don’t even have control over their kids.”

“They use time out instead of spanking.”

And so forth. I had all the answers. My thinking encompassed only two colors: black and white.

God has used the misbehavior of Jonathan especially to reach into my heart, flip it inside out and give it a good shaking. This is both painful and humbling. I no longer have pert wisdom or saucy comments to offer.

All I have is grace. I have grown to crave it so deeply. From God. From others. From myself.

Grace is vivid. When invited, it comes in, and splashes color on everything it touches.

Grace is the selfless love of a friend who comes to help out when my husband is away. Grace is hearing my child forming sentences for the first time. Grace is taking a walk into the hard places of marriage and holding on for dear life.

Grace is accepting of those who are wired differently.

Grace is giving a kind answer to one standing outside of special needs looking in, whose comments show they really don’t understand.

Grace is realizing all we have, all we do, and all we are is through the One who is before all things and who holds all things together. He is holding the pieces of our life, no matter how frayed or raw the edges.

He bids us come to Him, and stand in the grace He offers.

Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2.


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So when life disappoints, when the daily reality does not match the long held heart-dream, what then? It is easy to begin to wonder if God is really all that good after all.

When decisions are made to embrace a child with unique challenges, the expectation is there, even if unspoken, that blessings will follow.  What happens to faith when it is stretched to its breaking point over and over and over again? Where is Christ in the meltdowns, the sleepless nights, the unending therapeutic interventions?

This invites the even deeper soul question: do I love Christ for Himself alone, or for the life I dreamed He would give me?

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Medication week 2

As the week closes, it marks the end of Jonathan’s first week on medication. I really didn’t notice anything significant, either good or bad. I spoke with our neurologist who has doubled Jonathan’s dose of Metadate. Today was the first day he took the larger dose. I really didn’t notice a difference in his behavior so we will give it a few days. We are supposed to watch for signs of rebound, which is behavior at the end of the day that is worse than usual because the medication is leaving his system. That does not sound fun.

We love this time of year and since the kids have been off from school this week, we have baked apple pie, and made a lot of crafts involving paper pumpkins, turkeys and glitter glue. Even as I type this, it sounds perfect and idyllic. These activities begin with me trying to slow Jonathan down and keep the supplies from being dumped, disseminated and destroyed in his enthusiasm. He just can’t regulate his compulsions nor can he organize what steps he needs to take in order to complete a task. Between staying on top of him, and watching that Lizzy doesn’t digest the glue, or that Zoe doesn’t poke a marker into her eye, I am totally frazzled 10 minutes into our fun activity. Yesterday Jonathan looked up at me and said, “Mom are you mad at us?”

This heartfelt honesty coming from my child who really wants to please me strips my pride and leaves me gaping at the ragged corners of my heart. I am so impatient. I am so unaware of my tone and how it sounds to the kids. I am able to assure him that I am not mad. “Just frustrated?” he wants to know. I look into his clear eyes that search mine, trying to understand. I search my own heart, trying to understand. Yes, I am very frustrated, but I don’t want to admit why. I am frustrated that everything about mothering my children calls for a level of availability, grace and energy that is running close to empty these days. It is not their fault. Why am I taking my frustrations out on them?

I pled being tired to my children and apologized for being cranky. They were so willing to quickly and completely forgive.  We continued with our craft and I guarded my tone very carefully. We even had silliness and laughter that broke through my funk and reminded me that, despite the work, these little people are the biggest blessings in my life.

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For when we don’t know

I keep waiting for life to offer me the autopilot button. I just want to push it and coast at a comfortable altitude for a while. A super long while. Turbulence makes me uneasy.

Jonathan is begging us to not make him go back to school after fall break. He is doing well in school, according to his teacher. But he tells me he is confused a lot, that school is loud and hard and he just doesn’t like it. When he comes home, he loses it over everything that doesn’t go the way he wants it to. He simply can’t cope. Our whole household is tense and anxious. I see it in Lizzy’s clinging to me and wanting me to hold her all the time. I watch Zoe stick her thumb in her mouth and clutch her favorite, worn corner of her blanket and wait for his meltdown to pass. His behavior affects us all. Do we switch him back to private preschool that only goes half the day instead of the whole day? Will that drain him less so that he can function better outside the school setting? We are forming these questions into prayers.

Zoe was evaluated through Babies Can’t Wait today. She is only about two months behind in gross motor development and adaptive skills functioning. Since she was right on the margin, the professionals debated. They asked me what my concerns are. What services do I think she needs? Do I want to wait until after her second birthday to see if she catches up? Or by then, she could be farther behind because they adjust her age based on being six weeks premature.  What is a two month lag now could become a four month lag on her birthday. I had a moment of just not knowing what to do. My inability to provide a decisive answer prompted the social worker to speak up and say that we should move forward with music therapy for Zoe. I was grateful for her insight and action.

My Bible was open on my kitchen counter today with the verse Jeremiah 29:11 highlighted in bright yellow. I glanced at it often as the day progressed. “For I know the plans I have for {your family, Rebekah}… plans for wholeness and not for evil…..” I am so thankful for a Father who knows, and who gives just enough grace for the current moment. It is enough to keep us moving forward.

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Medication week one

On Monday I took Jonathan to the neurologist to talk about possible medication to help with his hyperactivity and inability to focus. I really love this particular doctor. He came into the room with an old fashioned doctor’s black bag. He listened to me as if we were his only patients that afternoon. He prescribed Metadate for the mornings and Ritalin for the afternoons. He cautioned me that medication is more of an art than science. The best results are discovered through trial and error. While I was immensely relieved to finally possess a prescription, I so wanted a promised quick fix. I know that no such thing exists. But how my heart hoped anyway.

I had not thought ahead to the part where Jonathan had to swallow the pills. He had a complete meltdown when I presented one to him. Once he calmed enough to speak he told me why he was scared. A few weeks ago, he spent the night at my mother in law’s house. I had forgotten to bring his liquid melatonin and he cannot go to sleep without it. She had melatonin tablets that are supposed to be placed under the tongue and allowed to melt. I thought that would be fine. Apparently, my mother in law had Jonathan swallow the tablet whole, where he promptly choked and threw up. So that set the stage for a total fear of pills and swallowing them. And this was the first time I was hearing about it.

I held him, told him how sorry I was, and promised that if he could try one more time, I would take him to the toy store and buy a present. It took a while, but the promise of something new was larger than his fear. He valiantly swallowed the pill and off to the toy store we went. I glanced at the clock. An hour had passed since I presented the pill. It took an hour. I was emotionally drained but thankful that the pill had been swallowed.

I only gave him Ritalin once and it seemed to make everything worse. I haven’t been brave enough to try it again. The Metadate hasn’t rocked our world much, and is causing some mild issues going to sleep. I am going to give it the weekend then I will call our doctor on Monday.

It’s an art, I keep telling myself. Art takes time.

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This little chub is our surprise after many years of infertility. When I saw two pink lines on the pregnancy test, I literally couldn’t breathe. My chest constricted and I had to sit down. Zoe was five months old, and Jonny had only been home from Afghanistan for six weeks. Pregnancy was the last thing on my mind. I am forever thankful I was able to experience a baby in my womb.

I am able to say substantially what my heart always told me was true: there is no difference in the love for a child through adoption or through birth. Both are a miracle. I love being a mom both ways!

People made lots of comments all throughout my pregnancy.

“Wow! Now you get to have a child of your very own.”

“Oh, how wonderful. It always happens that way. After you adopt, you get pregnant.”

“See, you guys were faithful and now God is blessing you.”

I struggled with how to respond appropriately. I am not trying to be mean. Everyone meant well. But each of my children ARE my very own children. Pregnancy after adoption happens statistically only FIVE percent of the time. And I see EACH of my children as a total, unmerited blessing from God.

But this post is about Joshua. He is a fun, busy, cuddly, bright, babbling, energetic, super sweet baby boy. We love him to pieces and can’t imagine life without him.

And now on the rare occasions that I venture to Target with all four, I smile and say no when people ask me if I run my own in home daycare.

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This little angel is our third child. The adoption agency we worked with to adopt Lizzy called in May two years ago, mere days prior to Jonny’s deployment. The social worker explained that Lizzy’s birth mother was pregnant again and wondered if we would adopt this next child as well. The timing was really inconvenient. The baby was due in November. Jonny would not return until the following March. I would need to update our home study, travel and handle the adoption entirely on my own. We didn’t have any money. In fact, we were still paying down our loan for Lizzy’s adoption. I would be on my own with two young children plus a newborn for four months. It all was really inconvenient. Isn’t that enough of a reason not to do something hard?

But I really wanted this baby. I felt connected to her because of Lizzy. I didn’t want the girls to be raised apart from each other. There was this other little messy detail: the girls’ birth mother is HIV positive. She was on retroviral drugs to reduce the risk of infecting the baby, but still. It was something we wrestled with for the second time around. We wondered what family members and friends would say and how they might react should we adopt an HIV positive child.

We followed our heart and adopted Zoe Grace. Her name is Greek for life. A life of grace. The verse that kept playing over and over in my mind during the time we contemplated and prayed about our decision was from  Luke 9:48, whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. I just knew that God was going to use this child to bring more of Himself into our family.

Zoe is a cuddly, chattery, playful child. She follows Jonathan and Lizzy everywhere and mimics everything they do and say. She is my little mommy-in-the-making who loves to feed and burp her baby doll. Unlike Lizzy who is fascinated by bugs and is more of a tomboy, Zoe is a true girly-girl.

We are beginning to notice some delays and possible underlying neurological issues in Zoe. She is beginning Occupational Therapy and we are in the primary stages of evaluation for fetal alcohol syndrome as well.  That diagnosis, should it come, will be hard. I pray that the behaviors that signal red flags are just the entrance into the terrible twos, but I cannot ignore the very real possibility that she was exposed to alcohol prenatally.

No matter what, God has promised that welcoming her into our hearts brings more of Him as well. So my heart crawls up onto the promise of that verse and there it will stay while we pursue a reason for her delays.

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