2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Kids are Weird!

I have 2 teenagers..... I know there are many people who would cringe after reading that.  But my kids are weird and don't behave like the "typical" teen and so I really enjoy having 2 teenagers in my house!

Let me first say that my kids are not perfect (and neither am I, which creates an interesting dynamic)!  They don't always listen, they don't always treat each other with kindness, and they don't always have the same goals and standards that I have for them!

But, they just don't seem to be like other teenagers.  They are not obsessed with the latest fashions, gadgets, music or movie stars.  (Ok, so maybe Julia is a little obsessed with texting!)  They don't know what the newest trends are or what is considered "cool".  And we are all ok with that.  They enjoy serving others (in fact, it was their idea to focus on orphans at the beginning of the last school year......read my earlier blog posts to see where that has led our family!), studying the Bible and being challenged (not in ALL areas, but in enough to be considered "different"!).

Several years ago, I read a book called "The Myth of Adolescence: Raising Responsible Children in an Irresponsible Society" by David Alan Black.  Basically, the book talks about how adolescence is a modern term and we wrongly use it to absolve teens of responsibility.  Think about how many times you have said or heard things such as "Oh, well, he's a teen so that ______ is expected!"  Fill in the blank with examples like: eye rolling, attitude, not wanting to spend time with you, disobedience, rebellion, sexual activity, experimenting with drugs, etc.  "Experts" tell us that teens are wired to rebel during those adolescent years, but the Bible tells us otherwise.  1 Timothy 4:12 says "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." 

When I hear other people complain about their teens, I try to hold my tongue.  I don't want to give the impression that my teens are perfect (because they're not!) or that I am a wonderful parent (because I'm not!) or anything like that.  I honestly can say that I have not created these 2 wonderful teens that Rich and I love to spend time with!  It has been all God, who has allowed us to have a part in their lives, but who has, with His power and spirit, worked in their lives to produce the young adults that they are becoming.

Our kids do like talking to and spending time with their friends.  They have some good friends, so we don't mind them doing that.  We don't spend every moment with each other, but we enjoy spending time together!  We play board or card games, watch movies, play tennis, read a book together, go on vacations, run errands, or even just talk!  They don't mind doing chores or helping out when needed. That's weird, I know!  Rich and I have decided that we actually prefer "weird" over "typical", which is why I have no problem with saying that "My kids are weird!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Women Encouraging Women

Titus 2:3-5 "The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things- that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed."

Our family just joined a new church last month.  We had been visiting there since April, were plugged into a great Family Sunday School class and had met some people.  We attended the New Members Class and Rich had talked one on one with the Pastor.  We very much felt that this was the place we could plant our family for years to come and not only be fed, but also serve in some capacity.

We read over the list of available classes on Wednesday nights and saw what the church was offering:  excellent studies in God's Word for our kids in youth classes (Doctrine of Salvation for 6th-8th grades and Doctrine of God for 10th-12th....That's deep stuff!), a World Religions class that Rich wanted to attend when his work shift allows (and it's such a good class that he has even taken a few hours off to be able to attend at the end of a day shift or in the middle of a night shift!), and for me, a Women's Mentoring class.

I have never had the privilege of attending a class that instructs and encourages women based on the Titus 2 Scripture above.  What an experience it has been!   The class has 10-20 women attending, depending on the week.  I like that number because it lends itself well to getting to know each other as well as discussion about the topics we are learning.  And boy, can we discuss some topics!  Our leader, Marny, is always careful to bring us back to what God's Word says when our opinions become too off base for our study.  I really appreciate that.  How refreshing it is to not be instructed in someone's opinion of what I should be doing, but in the biblical instructions for living as a woman.

Some of the topics we have or will discuss include:  Growing Godly Character, Developing Godly Speech, Increasing Self Control, Living Out God's Unique Design for Women, Casting Down Idols, Handling Emotions/Controlling Your Thought Life, and Responding to Suffering.  Halfway through the class time, which runs August-December, there is a "Meet & Mingle", where we will have the opportunity to take part in a short term (6-7 months, or longer if you choose to continue) mentor/mentee relationship.

I'm still trying to figure out if I will be a mentor or the person being mentored.  I am kind of in that in between age where I could be either.....or maybe both!  But I am looking forward to having the chance to learn from godly women as well as to share with others who could benefit from what God has taught me in the last 10-15 years.  As long as I remember to keep my opinion out of it and point the person I may mentor back to what God's Word says, I think I have a chance at succeeding.  And as long as I am open to listening to what God wants to teach me through the godly woman He has in mind to mentor me, I will learn and grow from this experience of women encouraging women!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Welcome to Fall?!

I should know better by now.... I've lived in the South for 20 years and experienced what is considered the "Fall" season down here.  It should be no shock to me that the first week after Fall arrived on the calendar we will see lower to mid 80's all week.  YUCK!

I LOVE the Fall!  Growing up in NY, when we headed back to school after the Labor Day weekend, we were already wearing jeans and soon enough we would be wearing sweaters and looking forward to snow days.  Down here, it is safe to assume we will be wearing shorts well into October.

But sometime in October, we will finally experience the changing of the seasons.  The temperatures WILL turn cooler and the air WILL become more crisp.  We will be able to sit outside by the firepit or in the screened porch and not sweat.  Heck, we may even need to put a jacket on!  

I'm a schedule kind of girl (for those of you who know me well, this comes as no surprise to you!) and I am feeling the need to actually schedule times to sit and enjoy the Fall weather on my October calendar.  I don't want the time to move so quickly that we miss it.  I see all that is going on in October (and frankly until February) and I don't want to get caught up in the busyness that I forget to sit with my family and enjoy the quiet.

If I start thinking too much about my "To Do List": School, soccer games, Rich's normal crazy shifts and even crazier off duty schedule (for October at least), planning Julia's Purity Weekend (yes, I'm a little behind with that!), Thanksgiving, Christmas, Matthew's 16th birthday and Julia's 14th (2 days apart in January) and then Rich's 40th birthday in February.... I can feel VERY overwhelmed with all of the planning that needs to happen in the coming months to get everything done.  And I didn't even mention our Homestudy visits and turning in all of our foster care and adoption paperwork!

It is so important in the busyness of life to take some time to sit and be still.  In fact, it's not just important, it is necessary.  It's a time to take a break from all there is to do, but more importantly to sit and meditate on who God is and what He has done and what He wants me to be doing.  I don't want to get so caught up in my list that I miss an opportunity God puts before me......

               Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God...."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Need Your Help!

Orphan Hosting....Our family was able to experience this last winter when we hosted 2 orphans from Ukraine for 5 weeks over Christmas. 

We used an organization called New Horizons for Children near Atlanta, Georgia.  Their website is www.newhorizonsforchildren.org, if you are interested in learning more about their mission.  The reason I post about this now is that their photolisting for children available for winter hosting is now online.  Many children from Ukraine and Latvia need a host family and maybe you or someone on your Facebook friends list can help!

I know some people are wondering why orphans from a foreign country?  One look at the statistics shows how badly these children need our help:  Children leave the orphanages in Ukraine at age 16.  They are expected to fend for themselves with little life or job skills training in a country that has placed little worth on the orphan.  By the time they reach age 18, 10% of the orphans have committed suicide.  60% of the girls will end up in prostitution (prostitution rings target orphan girls because they are vulnerable) and 70% of the boys will end up involved in crime.  Many of those will either die due to violence or end up in prison, where many will contract TB.

Many of the children who participate in an orphan hosting program will get adopted.  For those who are not adopted, they get to experience the love of a family and learn valuable English skills that will help them later in their lives.

Some people will point out that we first need to help those in America's foster care system before we help orphans in any other countries.   I understand their point, but the God I serve doesn't show favoritism between orphans.  He says in James 1:27 "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."  An orphan is an orphan, whether in America or Ukraine or Africa.  They ALL need our help!  

Our experience with orphan hosting in Ukraine has lead us to our decision to adopt through foster care here in North Carolina.  But I still check the New Horizons photolisting several times a week to check on how many children are going to be hosted and what scholarships are available.  Which reminds me.....if you can't host a child but have a heart for orphans, you can donate so that scholarships can be placed on the children, which greatly increases their chance of being hosted!

So, how can YOU help today?  It's SO easy....  Over the past year or so, I cut my Facebook friends list from over 500 to right about 200.  There was no reason other than I didn't want such a large friends list.  The problem I am running into now is that when I need the word to get out about something important such as orphan hosting, I have a much more limited amount of people who will hear about it.  So, PLEASE, either post a link to this blog post and encourage people to read about orphan hosting, OR "Like" New Horizons for Children on Facebook and "Share" a story and picture about one of the orphans on their wall so that more people can know about the need!

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm Going to be an "Aunt"!

I'm SO excited!  In about 2 weeks, a very special little girl will be waking up in her forever home right here in America!  Her name is Maria Grace and our family has a special connection to her, one that we hope continues for years to come.....

Many of you know the story of our hosting 2 orphan "siblings" from Ukraine for 5 weeks last Christmas.  The story is a long one, but basically it is this: We thought we were to adopt these 2 children.  God, however, had other plans.  He had 2 special families chosen before the world was created to be the forever families for Kiril and Maria.

Knowing we wouldn't be hosting or adopting the children this past summer, but desiring they find host and adoptive families, I expressed my willingness to the hosting organization to speak to any prospective host/adoptive families.  Kelly first called me in late February, if my memory is correct.  We have spoken on the phone at least once a week, and sometimes many more times than that, ever since.  Except for a 1 week mission trip her family took in March and the past 3 weeks she has spent in Ukraine, we have spoken each week.  I miss our chats and can't wait to hear her voice again when she has adjusted back into life in America for the 7-10 day break in between her trips to Ukraine for Maria.

What can I tell you about Maria?  She is small for her age, stubborn, has a great laugh, and is a picky eater.  She likes hugs, but does not like to be told to do something she has no desire to do.  She likes to vacuum, play Uno and Po-Ken-O and listen to Madisa.  When she eats an apple, all that is left is the stem.  And when she says my name, it sounds like "See-you-san" and I love that!

We were able to Skype with Maria (and Kiril!) while she was staying with Kelly's family this summer.  Hopefully, when she is adjusted to her new life in America, we can do that again.  What I have decided is that if all we see of her life is her face in a Christmas picture each year, that will be wonderful!  If we get to talk with her or even see her through the years, we will be thrilled!  I am happy to already have a relationship with Kelly, her mom (it's so nice to say that word!), and so I know there will be some contact at some point.

We don't want to rush our contact with Maria, as she needs time to adjust to her family and her home.  But we will be praying for her often!  How nice it has been to have met her, gotten to know her and now to know that she has a forever family!  And who knows, maybe we will be able to have her (and even Kiril!) at our house for a "cousins camp" sometime in the future!

(For those wondering about Kiril, in just a few short months, I will be able to post that I am an "Aunt" again as his family will be going to Ukraine to start his adoption process.....I am looking forward to a similar blog post to this one as I share our thoughts on this special young man!)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Journey to Adoption- Part 2

This adoption process is hard......  

Technically, it started for us back in April when we made that initial phone call.  In May we had our first office visit and began to collect the documents we will need to submit.  We had to get our fingerprints, a background check, a physical, TB test, DMV records, 5 references, a fire extinguisher and fire safety evaluation of our home...... We had to take 40 hours worth of training, which actually was beneficial in helping us put ourselves in the place of the children and families in the foster care system.  We also chose to take an additional 6 hour class to be certified as Therapeutic Foster Care Parents.  We had to fill out pages upon pages of paperwork and still have to purchase the necessary items that we need in order to double lock all of our medicines, prescription and over the counter.  

So now we wait..... We're hoping to have our Homestudy appointments completed by the end of October and all our paperwork submitted by the end of November.  Then we will wait some more..... After we are "approved", the matching process begins.  I have no idea how that happens, but I can imagine it could be difficult.  We have looked on the state's website that shows the children that are currently available for adoption and we've identified several children we'd be interested in learning more about.  

All of the children available for adoption have experienced trauma in their lives, some more than others.  Adding a child into our home will be hard and we will have to make some changes in our priorities and our schedule to accommodate the needs of the child/children.  Most of all, we will need to depend on God every minute of the day, turning to Him with our needs, knowing that He will provide everything we need!

A friend recently posted her emotions regarding their adoption process....She said they are "overwhelmed and overjoyed".  Those words are a perfect description of this process..... I am thankful for the moments of joy that help to balance out the moments of being overwhelmed!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Was I Thinking?

Last Friday, we picked apples at a local orchard- a bushel and a peck (somehow this reminds me of a song my Grandma would sing to me?).  Truthfully, it was Matthew and a friend of his that did the picking.  I was the supervisor, a job I enjoy!  

Feeling self imposed pressure to do something with those apples before they go bad (which really is a few weeks down the road), I decided to can apple slices on Tuesday afternoon and can applesauce tomorrow, Thursday afternoon.  Forget the fact that this week is busier than usual, with a soccer game, practice, piano lessons, church, Rich's promotion ceremony, Mom's Night, Homeschool group, dinner at a friend's house, another adoption class and our Homeschool group Kick Off Party, along with school every morning and everything else we normally do around the house.....  

Canning is something new that I started this year, with help and guidance from my friend, Chris.  I canned tomatoes with her in July and felt so confident in her teaching that I have since canned more tomatoes, pears, relish and now apples on my own.  There is nothing as sweet as the sound of the jars sealing with a "ping"!  

Apparently, I didn't pack the quart jars tight enough......But we did better with our pint jars.  My plan is to use them as desserts throughout the winter.  I have a great recipe for cooked apples spooned over vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

 As you can see in the picture below, there is no room for cans of applesauce, which is on the list to be made tomorrow!  Time for another pantry reorganization while the apples are cooking, I think.  And then it looks like I am done with canning for this year and all that's left is to enjoy throughout the winter!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Can I brag for a minute?

My husband is great!  Now, I am well aware that he is not perfect, so I'm not saying that at all....  But today I'm going to brag on him a little as it is a special day for him.  Even though he was promoted to Sgt back in January and moved back to Patrol February 1st, today is the Promotion Ceremony for him, and for all the deputies that have been promoted so far this year.

I know Rich isn't making that big of a deal about today.  He's worked this new job long enough for the newness to have worn off.  He's had his new badge and ID for months, so there's nothing too exciting about that.

In a thankless job, it's nice to be honored and thanked every now and then.  The issues that Rich has to deal with practically every day he's on shift is more than I'd be able to put up with.  But his personality is perfect for being in law enforcement.

Rich is even tempered, patient, hard working and loyal.  He doesn't mind getting up at 4:30 or 5:30am to work a 12+ hour shift filled with complaints, paperwork, phone calls and non stop work.  He has no problem with missing a night's sleep every time he starts night shift, even though we try to let him sleep in.  He has such a good reputation at work that he is often asked to do extra things above and beyond his job description, which he does without complaint.  Sometimes, though, having that good reputation can add even more stress.  Rich was asked in January to handle the case of his Lt who had committed suicide.  After all the dead bodies and autopsies he has seen in his career, it's different when it's someone you've worked with for years.  That was so hard for him, but he did his job well and that makes such an impression on me and on our children.

So, today I am thankful for my husband!  Not only is he a wonderful father, diligent worker, but he is my best friend.  I helped write the bio that will be read at the ceremony today (because Rich was so busy working!) and I was sure to include not just his career accomplishments, but the character he has that the kids and I admire in him.  I think that's important for people to know today.  While I am quite nervous about standing up in front of people to pin his badge on today, I'm very proud to be the one to stand by him on this special day!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering 9-11-01

Like most adults, I remember exactly where I was the morning of 9-11-01.  I recall how I heard the news of what was unfolding at the World Trade Center as well as my reaction to that news.  I remember hearing about the Pentagon and feeling some fear, knowing that my sister lived fairly close to that area.  I even remember that I forgot my parent's home phone number and had to ask someone at the church office, where I was that morning, to look it up for me so I could call them.  I remember my husband was home asleep from working night shift and my son was in Kindergarten.

I grew up about an hour north of New York City and my dad worked in Manhattan for about 30 years, within walking distance of the Twin Towers.  I've visited several times over the years and so I felt quite a connection to the events unfolding in NYC that day, as well as what was going on in the DC area because my sister lived nearby.  My husband is in Law Enforcement and I have friends and a relative who are firefighters so I felt a connection with how those careers were impacted by the events.  And I learned later that day that the uncle of a good friend of mine died in the collapse of one of the Towers.....Yet another connection....

I remember the images I saw over and over again on the news the days following the attack and how I had little appetite and lost 5 lbs.  I remember hearing stories of bravery and people sharing their faith with others.  I can imagine that countless people heard the Gospel in the days and months following 9-11-01 because they were wanting to understand the "why".

This immediately brings to mind the following verses:
Genesis 50:20 "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive."
God can bring good from anything!  His ways are higher than our ways!

Job 1:21b  "The Lord gave, and the lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord."  
God is good regardless of our circumstances!

                 View of the South Tower from the street below, May 1994 

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Never-ending Classes......

I have another adoption class tomorrow....and the next Saturday.....and the next!

We've already taken 40 hours of class (plus several hours of homework) for our MAPP (Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting) training, as well as 8 additional hours in training as a Therapeutic Parent.  At our last MAPP class, we learned we needed 24 more hours of training time and that the classes were in September.  Unfortunately, Rich works Saturdays in September so he'll have to make up the class some other time.  He already took 3 days off in July to complete the MAPP training and it's not as easy to take days off when there are only 3 Sgts as opposed to being one out of 24 deputies working that shift.  And so he'll take a class here and there over the next year that they give him to complete that training.

I'm not really complaining about having to go.  The class time seems to move quickly and you always learn something new.  I figure it's better to know all of the worst case scenario situations and never use the information than to feel like we're on our own.

We're really hoping that as I finish these classes in September, we can also begin our Homestudy meetings.  The social worker in charge of adoptions for the organization we are using left in mid June.  Silly us, we thought in a state with 10% unemployment, they'd find a replacement in a week.  Well, someone was just hired last week.  So now I'm thinking maybe our Homestudy will be complete and submitted to the State by the end of October.  September and October are traditionally crazy months for Rich at work and this year is no different, so we're praying for our first meeting to be scheduled soon to get this started!

Looking back, I am remembering that I made the first call to ask about adoption in late April..... My guess is it will take at least 9 months from then before we are ready to begin the matching process....much like having your own child (but for me, without the sickness!).....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our Journey to Adoption....

Before I write about our current experience with our (God-willing) adoption, I thought I'd give some background about how we got to this point.... It's a fairly long story, but I will condense it here.  If you want to know more, feel free to ask!

For years, probably at least 10, I've wanted to be a foster mom.  My grandparents were foster parents for years and maybe hearing stories as a child of their experiences made me think about that more than most people.  Unfortunately, my husband didn't share that same desire.  While I was not happy about the decision to not pursue foster care certification back then, I can see now that God had given my husband the wisdom to know that neither of us was prepared to take on that responsibility.

Fast forward several years.... We hosted a wonderful young girl from Belarus for 7 summers.  We considered Alesia our "daughter", and for the last 3 years of her visits with us, we also hosted her younger brother, Kiril.  What interesting times those were, with 4 kids in the house, each a year apart in age!  They got along so well and Rich & I were both able to see how we could love children that were not biologically ours.

That hosting program ended and there was definitely a void in our house each year.....Enter the David Platt book, "Radical".  This book challenged us to go beyond "church as usual" and really live out our faith in a radical way.  In one chapter, Platt talks about his own experience with orphans and adoption and that got me thinking.... what could our family do to help orphans?  In the age of the internet, the answer was as easy as a Google search, which led us to an orphan hosting program in Atlanta, GA.

Our "plan" to host went something like this:  we'll host ONE orphan from Russia....OK, we'll host from Ukraine....Oh, those 2 siblings are adorable, let's choose them....What if we are to adopt them?....Yes, we're adopting them!....Maybe we'll adopt....We're definitely NOT adopting them!

That's the short story.... But once the decision was made to not adopt K & M from Ukraine (we were not the family for them; God had 2 other wonderful families chosen for them- another LONG story!), adoption had not left my brain.  I would look daily at the NC Waiting Children website and see the 200+ children already free for adoption just in our state.  And so I asked the question of my husband- if we were so willing to adopt from Ukraine, why not consider adopting through foster care?

I was nervous about Rich's answer...if he said no, I was ready to accept that.  If he said yes..... and he did!  I was quite shocked for several days and kept asking if he was serious.  And he was!  Several months and countless hours of classes and paperwork later, we are waiting on our Homestudy to be scheduled so that we can be certified as foster parents and begin the process of matching with a child (or children!) who we might be able to adopt!

I have mentioned to several friends that there are days where I think "I can do this!" and there are just as many days where I wonder what we are thinking!  Those days, I just read the verse I have posted under the title of our blog and remember that WE can't do this, but GOD can!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Here We Go!

Wow- my first blog post.....
I'm a bit nervous.....
I won't always have something interesting to say.  And while I think I have a good sense of humor in person, that's hard for me to translate into writing.
I hope this blog will encourage you, update you, but most of all not bore you!
I don't want this blog to focus on only our homeschooling or only our adoption, as those are only two aspects of our family.  But be warned, there will be frequent posts on both of those topics, as it seems to be how God is growing us more and more.
So, stay tuned and be patient as I figure out the world of blogging!