Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Getting to Know You

Yesterday and today were public holidays because of Eid.  Gil took Grace and Josiah to go see the Smurf movie.  Lily and I stayed home.  (We decided she's not quite ready for Smurfs yet).
I was doing some office work in my room, so I brought Lily with me along with a basket of play dishes and food. 

She carefully took everything out of the basket.  Examined it with solemn eyes.  Stacked it.  Brought me some delicious food to try. 

She found a marker in the basket and started coloring on the frying pan.  I quickly pulled out a piece of paper and asked her to color on that instead. 

After about 15 minutes, she picked up each and every toy and put it back in the basket.  Set it aside.  She put the piece of paper back to where she had seen me take it out.  Stood up, crossed her skinny little arms, and stared at me.  Yep.  Crossed her arms.

"Are you all done?" I asked.

Nod.

"Do you want to play with something else?"

Nod. 

I'm not sure if my other kids ever voluntarily picked up their toys at age 2.  (Or age 5).  Well, at least this kid is tidy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How's It Going?

That is the question of the day. 

So.  I will attempt to answer.

One week ago we all met our Lily.  One week ago tomorrow, we brought her home.

Bringing home a 2 1/2 year old is significantly different from bringing home a 9 month old.  At nine months, my other kids still needed to bond, just like Lily.  They still needed to figure out that I was their Mommy.  Lily does too.  But Grace and Josiah were babies.  They were totally dependent on me.  They had not fully developed their own will or have their own opinions. 

But Lily has lived for 2 1/2 years.  In the same place, with the same routine.  She has no concept of a Mommy.  She has been cared for exceedingly well; she has had all her physical needs met; she has had many, many people show love to her.  She is almost completely potty-trained (that's nice!), she knows how to feed herself, and she is starting to talk (some English, some Swahili).  She understands most of what I say to her, and if not, she usually understands if I switch to Swahili. 

Just like I did to help Grace and Josiah bond with me, I am making sure she doesn't leave my side, I am limiting the other people she interacts with, and only I (or Gil) take care of all her physical needs.  She has already started calling me 'Mommy.'  But does she know what that means? 

The hardest part is that she is typically two and can be a little pill.  She certainly knows how to throw a tantrum.  But how do you discipline a child who doesn't have that bond of trust with you?  Yet how can you allow a two-year-old to get away with whatever she wants? 

That is my tension right now.  Sometimes I feel elated; we are finally a family of five; our wait is over; it finally happened!  And other times it feels very, very odd.....I have a stranger in the house.  And she is moody and demanding and sees my other children only as objects of competition.  She has a bad cold with chest congestion that keeps her (and us) up at night.  She is frightened of the dogs and startles herself awake and starts screaming from disorientation.  I am simultaneously filled with compassion, pity, love, frustration, and feeling overwhelmed.  That's how it's going.

A friend of mine here in Tanzania adopted two girls when they were ages 2 and 4, a number of years ago.  Her family is wonderful and beautiful.  I asked her what was her advice on bonding and settling and forming this new family.  She laughed.  "Time," she said. 

I know all about waiting.  So I nod my head, smile, and I wait.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Angels All Around

First, a little about Forever Angels Baby Home. I wrote about this wonderful place when I first got to meet Lily. That time you got to hear about it with my words; now I'll let you see it through Gil's camera. Be prepared to be impressed.

Their capacity is 50 children.  They are always over capacity.


Every child is treated with love, respect, and individual attention.



Rows of individually labeled toothbrushes and cups



Something like 400 diapers a day.....

And then there's the children.  The beautiful, amazing, resilient children.
Tuckered out

Skinny Little Sweetie.  Sigh.  Gil and I really fell in love with him.



I have no words.

The children hang all over anyone around. 
He needs a Daddy, doesn't he? 

Grace was almost offered a job.  She pushed kids on swings, gave them piggy back rides, and chased them around.  Such a fantastic big sister!


 Just one of the many reasons I love this man

 Amy H., the incredible founder and director of Forever Angels.  She helped us in so many ways and is such an amazing advocate for these children (not to mention, she's adopted 5 of them herself).

 One of the qualifications for being a Forever Angels volunteer is a willingness to be a human jungle gym.

Now....

More about our Lily.

So many have commented on the beautiful pictures of our precious Lily.   But I must admit, they are not entirely realistic.  Coaxing smiles out of her has been hard work.  Since we came for her, she has been pretty solemn and quiet....certainly trying to process everything new in her little life.  She's smiling in the pictures in the previous post because I had just given her some sparkly pink shoes, not because she's happy she has a family!  I know that many more smiles are in her future, but I don't want to give you an unrealistic picture of toddler adoption!  This picture is much more representative of the Lily we see.   

 Sisters getting to know each other

 Josiah kept "petting" her and saying, "She's so cuuute!"

And here's the Lily we are just getting glimpses of....a prelude of what is to come! 
I asked her, "Where is Daddy?"
And you can see the response. 

God is good. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

One Less Orphan




We'll start with these for today.  Lots more will come later.  :-)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Firsts

I've had a lot of roles during the 8 years we have served at HOPAC (though not all at the same time, of course!)

  • 5th grade teacher
  • 6th grade teacher
  • 6th grade homeroom teacher
  • 6th grade Bible teacher
  • Coordinator of after-school activities
  • Recruitment
  • Graduation Committee
  • Strategic Planning Committee
  • Member of Parent-Teacher Association
  • Substitute Teacher
  • Student Council Advisor
  • Teacher Care Coordinator
  • Accreditation Committee
  • Weekly Elementary Chapel Speaker
  • Secretary to the Chaplain (that would be Gil)
  • Youth Group leader
Yet there is one role I have never had until this day.....

PARENT!

She woke up this morning, shot out of bed, and said, "I can't believe it!  It's finally here!"

So yes, you could say she was excited. 

This really was her first day of school.  She did a couple of months of pre-school last fall, but it turned out to be a kind of traumatic experience for her.  And since none of the teachers were speaking to her in Swahili (which was the whole reason I enrolled her), we ended that situation pretty quickly.  So I've done pre-school here with her at home, which means this is her first really real time away from me. 

Sniff

But I'm so thankful she gets to go to the best school in the entire world.  There's no other place I would rather her be.   


We love working at HOPAC.  But to know that my daughter is getting Christ-centered education with dedicated volunteer teachers who are willing to come to Africa to invest in my child is quite an amazing thought.  To know that Grace will play every day with kids from a multitude of ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds is just wonderful. 

With Miss Redfield, her fabulous teacher

(Josiah, looking forlorn)
But what I love even better about becoming a HOPAC parent is that it takes my relationships with other parents to a whole new level.  We've always wanted our ministry at HOPAC to be holistic to the whole family, and this gives us that chance. 


And to top off our very exciting day, Grace lost her very first tooth on her first day of school.  How do ya like that???  She was devastated to find out that she would be missing her second and third day of school, but she is also pretty excited about her little sister coming home.  A lot of excitement for one day in the life of a five-year-old. 

And this is only Monday! 

"Some" day finally became "this" day!

Well, what do you know.  She told me we would have the letter today, and we actually did.  Wonders never cease.

 Interestingly enough, on August 22, 2008, exactly three years ago, we received our final-final letter for Josiah.  Guess that's a good day for us. 
I am so thankful for Mrs. A today.  She went above and beyond the call of duty to get us our letter today, willingly working with me as we crisscrossed town to track it down.  It was an extremely, long, tiring, emotional day, for many reasons, but in the end I came home with a letter.  I would write in CAPITAL LETTERS, but honestly, I'm too tired to talk that loud.  

And now it's 8:00 at night, and I am persistently working with a travel agent to try to get us tickets to go to Mwanza tomorrow.  If it works, we'll leave here at 7 am.  Yikes.

It's ironic, because this weekend I told Gil, "If we get the letter on Monday, maybe we should wait until the weekend to bring her home."  It's the first week of school, Grace's first week of kindergarten, and it would be better for her to come in over the weekend.   Yeah, right.  We got the letter on Monday, and we're taking the next flight out of here. 

Common sense sometimes disappears where love is concerned.  We're coming, baby girl.  I don't care how tired I am. 


But Gracie deserves her own post about today.  So that's what's next. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Labor Pains

I think you will get your letter on Monday.
That's what she told me yesterday. 

But I've learned not to get my hopes up.  I know from experience that even when they tell you the letter is ready, that doesn't necessary mean it is. 

But one thing I know for sure:  She's coming into upheaval, and I'm worried. 

Oh, but I'm not supposed to worry about Lily, right?  Consider the lilies.

Monday is Grace's first day of school.  It's also Gil's first day of school.  Today, this very day, we have an 11th grade student moving in with us for the year.  We have a tick infestation.  And then there is Josiah, who for the past three weeks has been having "stress issues," which is a nice way of saying a general increase in kicking, hitting, stealing, lying, being mean, and peeing in unusual places.  Since he is three and can't tell me what is going on in his little brain, we're just chalking it up to him trying to process his older sister starting school and his younger one still not with us (and Romans 7, of course).

And I'm not anticipating that bringing Lily home will be a walk in the park.  She'll have to process the loss of everything she has ever known.  She is accustomed to screaming to get what she wants.  And there is only 16 months age difference between her and Josiah. 

It's funny--there's a part of me that wouldn't mind at this point if we have to wait another couple of weeks.  But I'm keeping my mind and my heart on those lilies. 

And I'll keep you posted. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Art, Truth, and Fairy Tales

I wish I was better at writing book reviews.  I love reading.  Books have altered my thinking and helped me understand my salvation and made me a more compassionate person and filled me with passion and I think everyone should read them.  And this book has done all of the above, and I think everyone (literally, everyone who reads English) should read this book, yet words fail in knowing how to convince you. 


I could tell you that Saving Leonardo is about art history and worldview.  Uhhh...yeah.  Are you ready to run over to Amazon.com and buy it? 

So how do I explain that this book is a life-changer, and so much more than just about art history and worldview? 

Well, this is what the author herself says:  "Artists are society's barometers, sensitive to new ideas as they percolate through the cultural atmosphere." 

Artists reflect culture.  They reflect worldview.  If you want to understand culture, you must understand art. 

And why do we need to understand culture and worldview? 

"To use a biblical metaphor, all Christians are called to be missionaries, responsible for learning the language of the society they are addressing.  Within the boundaries of their native land, they may not face a literal language barrier.  But they do face a worldview barrier as they seek to communicate with people whose thinking differs from their own.  And they need training in how to overcome that worldview barrier.  They must learn how to frame the biblical message in ways that connect with people's deepest convictions."

Have you ever wondered why evolution is seen as the One and Only Truth, despite its many flaws?  The worldview behind the ever-changing definition of gender?  Why Christians are seen as dangerous?  Where postmodernism came from?  Why screeching is considered music and a grid of straight lines is considered art? 

If you feel like you know that abortion, homosexual marriage, transgenderism, and other forms of secular thought are wrong, but you are tired of feeling "intolerant" and "homophobic" and therefore just keep your mouth shut, then you must read this book.  If you are scared about the slide of our society into secularism, and as a result try to shield your children against anything remotely non-Christian, then you need to read this book. 

Yes, this book is intellectual.  In some ways, it is a textbook.  And that description alone will turn off a lot of people.  But I plead with you to believe me when I say that first of all, Nancy Pearcey is far more interesting than any textbook you've read before, and what she has to say is far more important.  Vital, actually, if you want to understand modern culture and why certain movies are being made and what is motivating your next-door neighbor. 

Nancy Pearcey's first book, Total Truth, revolutionized my life a number of years ago because it introduced me to the concept of worldview.  I still highly recommend that one as well, but you can start with either one.  Both are fantastic.  Both are on my Top-10-of-All-Time list. 

I read Pearcey's books and I am very proud to be a Christian.  I read her books and I am convinced more than ever that what I believe is true.  Really, truly true, for all of mankind, literally and historically....not just "true to me," not just "my own personal spirituality" but true in the sense that Jesus Christ was a real person who was God-in-the-flesh, who lived and died and rose again (literally and historically) and that He changed the course of history, and my life.  Some fairy tales really are true.  That's why we like them. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer Dreamin'

Although technically, I guess, it is winter here. 

But still hot enough to spend a week at our favorite beach house! We invited two families and two students, and of course, it was a relaxing, soul-uplifting, rejuvenating time.




Gil watched a fisherman catch this creature, who then promptly sold it to him for 75 cents.

More beautiful than Malibu; yet totally deserted except for us.




Grace and Ruby, rockin' out.

Christa and Lotta....sigh.  I love them.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Grace for the Day

Pouring rain today. 
But determined to visit Social Welfare.

My plan was to visit the big kahuna. I've only met him once, but this man is a blessing to the adoption world. If only there were more like him. If there would be anyone who could help us in this situation, it would be him.

Unfortunately I found he is traveling this week.

But since I was already at Social Welfare, I decided to visit Mrs. A, just in case. She had told me Friday that she still did not have Lily's police report. Well, today was Wednesday. Worth a shot.

When she saw me, she said, "I think I have your report." She took out 25 files and leafed through them. I think I held my breath for 5 minutes. I probably turned blue.

And then suddenly, there it was. A piece of paper that had our name and Lily's name on it. Blessed, blessed piece of paper.

She read it in my presence. Furrowed her brow. Asked me some questions. Uh oh. She had some concerns about the report. And I almost had a heart attack.

I pulled out my phone and got ready to call our lawyer, the director of the orphanage, and the president of the United States. She calmed me down. "I think it will be okay," she said. "Call back on Thursday."

So next week, we'll either be super close to getting our final letter, or back again where we were three months ago.

Consider the lilies.

Grace will come when it is needed.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Consider the Lilies


I've struggled with this waiting.  July has been the hardest.  And still there is no end in sight; the report has not been received.  As I have asked around and pushed and pleaded, I have come to realize that the report is likely in a wasteland....figuratively, of course.  I have no idea what it will take to get it out of there.  There are many others in the same place as we are. 

It's been three months since I met her, and I've had to come to the hard realization that we are still not close. 

I want her, desperately, of course.  And that's not going to go away.  But I've also been worrying.  And I've needed to hear from God. 

Suddenly, I got it.

Lilies. 

Of course. 

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life...Look at the birds of the air:  they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to the span of life?...Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow:  they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

...O you of little faith!  Therefore do not be anxious, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we wear?"  For...your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 





(pictures taken in my Daddy's garden....by Gil Medina, of course)


Consider the lilies.

Because God knows what we need.  He knows what she needs.  He knows when we need it.

Because He is the Provider of all good things.  Because He is Sovereign over the hearts of kings and men and social workers.

Because worrying won't get her here a day sooner.  Because He gives grace for today, and for tomorrow only when tomorrow comes. 

He knows all.  He sees all.  He sees the big picture.  His plan is much bigger and better than mine. 

And all of a sudden, Her Name has a Story.