Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday snapshot: July pics

Just a few recent and random pics of my blessings, some with commentary.
Can you imagine sitting like this?  Hilarious!
My sweet, silly two-year-old.  Yeah, she's on the toilet.
At the local indoor play area
My Chinese cute-patoot son
My non-Chinese cute-patoot son
A rare non-combative moment for these two.  And look at my boy standing!  He's come a LONG way since China.

Sunday Snapshot

Saturday, July 30, 2011

embracing Jesus

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:40 (NIV)               

My husband and I have been thinking about this verse lately.  It started several weeks ago when he came into the room and said to me with a bit of wonder something like, "I just changed Jesus' diaper."  Then later, with a sheepish look on his face, "I just yelled at Jesus."  Or maybe I said to him in mock reprimand, "You just yelled at Jesus!"  We thought it quite funny, really, and also profound.  And sobering.  

Our new son is pretty helpless, not unlike a newborn.  We serve him constantly, as we do our older children, though they are not quite as helpless as Jiushu.  There is very little tangible reward at this point.  Maybe a smile now and then.  Certainly no thank yous or I love yous yet.  And often the opposite.  Need.  Whining.  Screeching.  And not the happy variety.  I won't's very difficult to imagine that I am serving Jesus in those moments.  The "Jesus" who bats food out of my hand onto my carpeted (ugh) kitchen floor.  The strong-willed, impatient "Jesus."  The "Jesus" who throws Cheerios on the floor even after I've told him 6,352 times not to.  

Kris Vallotton wrote in his book Developing a Supernatural Lifestyle:   "It is important to note here that the guys who hung out with Jesus every day didn't recognize Him walking on the water [Mark 6:47-50].  Not only did He not look familiar to them, He seemed scary.  Oftentimes the Lord will appear to us in a way that forces us to push past our fear in order to embrace Him.

I'm pretty sure Kris didn't have adoption and/or parenting in mind when he wrote this.  But that's exactly what came to mind as I read it--that Jesus is showing up in my life daily, perhaps not in a way that seems perfectly safe or comfortable to me.  I am not saying that He only shows up in unpleasantness...of course not!  It's just a bit harder to recognize Him when He does, and to realize that in my challenging parenting moments, particularly in the newness of our son's adoption (to date, the scariest thing I've ever done), I am embracing Him.   The tricky part for me is figuring out how to keep on loving Jesus even while I realize that I'm serving Him.  [Are they always the same thing?]   Now substitute Jiushu's name for Jesus.  Or my husband's name.  Or my other kids' names, for that matter.  I understand I'm ministering to Jesus when I prepare dinner.  When I take my daughter to the potty at 3:30 A.M.  Every single morning.  Or when I give piano lessons to my son, build Legos with the kids, or read Animal Rescuer stories.  But how does it work when I'm feeling ticked about the food on the carpet?  Or out-of-my-mind-annoyed by the screeching?  Or simply tired of reading about the rescue of sloths, humpback whales, and maned wolves?

Mike Bickle (and others, I'm sure) said "It takes God to love God."  That is so very true for me.  I can only respond in love and worship and service to the Lord because of the work and wooing of the Holy Spirit within me.  I need Him to help me love Him!  I need Him to help me love them!  I need help so I don't rob myself of the joy of laying down my life.  I need help so that my ministry is born out of adoration, not merely out of a servant mentality.  And so I come to Him again and again in humility, asking for a changed heart, a transformed mind, and a supernatural love that transcends my own human capacity, that I might push past my fear and my flesh in order not to miss Him, but rather embrace Him.  In whatever form He comes. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is it wrong... unfavorably compare one's child to a screeching barn owl?  'Cause this is what I've heard all day from a certain child of mine who shall remain nameless.  Sheesh.  For the love of all that is good and decent, make it stop! [Seriously.  How do I get it to stop?]  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

in my weakness

I'm feeling like a screw up today.  Details not important.  'Cause they're trivial, really, in the grand scheme of things.  WAY trivial when compared with other mishaps in the recent past.  Sigh.  I'm mad at myself.  Feel like I've let everyone down.  Wondering if I have what it takes for this tough job I've committed to. 

I turned on the IHOP Prayer Room webstream for some help in changing the atmosphere and my state of mind.  Heard my heart's cry and balm for my soul:

I'm holding on to your divine love
I'm holding on and I'm not letting go

It's not my zeal
It's that your love is strong
It's not my strength 
It's that you're faithful

I look into your eyes of mercy
And I remember that your heart is for me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shut it down

Not one to avoid getting back on the horse, having fallen off it last week with great flair (see this post), I took all four kids swimming again today.  I met a friend at her home which is directly across the street from her lovely neighborhood pool. 

After spending 42 minutes getting everyone swim-diapered, sunscreened, and into his/her respective personal flotation device so as to avoid another near-drowning incident, we finally made it across the street to the pool.  We swam for thirty minutes, and then hopped out to eat some pizza.  The kids finished up and wandered back over to the water, while another mom with five young children arrived and began getting her kids prepared to swim.  I sniffed the air a few times, thinking I smelled something foul.  Checked Jiushu.  Not him.  Assumed it was one of the other young children, not yet in the water.  Suddenly it dawned on was L.  Sweet, plumpy, just-turned-two L, the star of last week's library drama and swimming scare.  She had diarrhea in her swim diaper.  Which basically means all of it went into the pool.  Well, not all of it.  There was certainly plenty of it still on her.  Oh the horror.  I apologized profusely to the mom who would now have to leave the pool with her five kids, and my friend called the neighborhood association to alert them before we too left the pool.

I'll leave the details of the ensuing cleanup to your imagination, but suffice it to say it was disgusting.  And so I think I might be ready to give up on the whole taking four kids to the pool thing.

Shut. It. Down. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Birthday (Part 2)

My princess is two today!  (Yes, I have two princesses with birthdays in the same week.)

On Tuesday I lost her at the library, and yesterday I almost lost her in the pool.  We went to a friend's lovely backyard pool to swim.  Amidst the sunscreening, swim-diapering, and floatie inflation, my friend and I got distracted.  I looked up to see my day-shy-of-two year old eight feet away from me, flailing under the water.  She had just wandered down the steps and right into the fear.  I dove in with all my street clothes on, popped her up above water, and got her to the edge.  She was pale, sputtering, and shaken, but otherwise perfectly OK.  I hugged her tight and began to sob, thinking of what could have happened, and imagining how likely it was that my husband would find me unfit to ever leave the house again with the children.  [And my family who are just now reading about this for the first time may make a similar determination.]  He didn't, by the way, and I love him for his grace and his belief in me. 

So you can imagine my increased feelings of tenderness toward my sweet L, especially with her birthday approaching.  She and I went to W@lmart last night, just the two of us, to buy another life vest and 57 other things.  I delighted in all that she had to say, and her particular way of speaking--with pauses in between every word.  "See. It." (referring to the inflatables set up outside a church for VBS)  "Dis. Way."  (to tell me where to look)  "Dis. Kind."  (when asking for something she wants, e.g. the brownies on the counter or my sister's Chinese food, which I find highly preferable to "gimme" or "I want")  And my personal favorite:  "Shu. Sceam."  Then she runs out to where he is, points, and yells, "Stop! Stop!" 

I am incredibly thankful to the Lord for protecting and saving my daughter, and for blessing us with a second daughter as precious as the first.  I am increasingly aware that no amount of wisdom and diligence on my part as a parent can ever take away my desperate need for God's mercy, His help, His power to save and deliver and heal.  May I never take these for granted!  

A few more pics from our morning of birthday fun during which no one was lost, drowned, or otherwise injured:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Birthday (part 1)

My princess is four today!

We haven't had a party yet, or even opened any gifts.  But I hope to make today special for her.  I wrote recently about how things haven't always been great between us.   I didn't really describe in that post all the hard work and endurance that went into strengthening our relationship, and all without much immediate reward.  But time and effort and prayer and love certainly have paid off.  This girl is an absolute treasure, and I love spending time with her.  Which just further illustrates my belief...that attachment takes time, and is a fluid process.  The connection formed through breastfeeding, for instance, is a great foundation, but it doesn't obviate the need for ongoing efforts, new parenting strategies, a different love language, etc., such as I'm learning with my younger daughter, who ran off from me at the library yesterday for a good five minutes.  Not my finest motherly moment.  So there is grace, and flexibility, and patience required to form lifelong attachment and bonding with every child, whether adopted or biological. 

On another note...notice the tiny wedding picture in the background of my daughter's photo.  Today is also my ninth wedding anniversary!  I'm so thankful for the fantastic man God gave me as a husband.  And we don't mind at all sharing our special day with the birthday princess. 

Monday, July 18, 2011


My little ol' blog got herself a new 'do!  Now that our adoption process is complete and Jiushu is home with us, I wanted to change the focus a bit, add some new photos, and just make things...well, prettier!  Besides, regretfully, we didn't even see the Great Wall while we were in China, so goodbye to the photo. 

As for the new blog title (the address remains the same):

Several years ago I heard of a sermon, maybe more than once, about God giving "handfuls on purpose."  The reference is from the book of Ruth, where Boaz directs his men to let grain fall purposely for Ruth (the KJV says "handfuls") so that she might have plenty, and of course he then becomes her kinsman redeemer.  I love, love, love this foreshadowing of Christ!  There was a stretch of time during which it was practically guaranteed that I would hear from someone, as I was out shopping with my (then) three children, "Wow, you've got your hands full."  It always surprised me.  Three kids?  Is that a lot of kids?  In my mind I would respond "No, I don't think they're full yet."  And I remembered those sermons about handfuls on purpose.  My blog title is sort of a play on words...but a serious nod to God's abundant grace, and Jesus' redeeming love. 

Fast forward to now.  Four kids.  And yeah, I've actually taken all four to the grocery store.  I didn't hear the "hands full" comment, but something similar like, "Is that all of them?" as we passed through the checkout line.  I think it's safe to say my hands are full, for now.  But full on purpose.  With intention and willingness.  The Lord has stored up blessing and abundance for us--in part, these four children of ours--because we fear His name and take refuge in Him. 

Enjoy the new look! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

DH is truly D

Life can be thorny.  I'm sure thankful to be living it alongside my best friend. 

I'm pretty sure I deserved these after my husband went out of town for three days and left me here with a whole bunch of young'uns. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Early morning comfort

I say "early."  I'm not actually going to tell you the time, because it's embarrassingly late by other people's standards--those of you whose kids get up at 5:00 a.m.  Sheesh.   Jiushu woke up crying about 90 minutes earlier than he usually wakes.  This was the first time for this since arriving home; J is a fantastic sleeper!  And in response to those who say, "Oh, you're so lucky!" I say, "nope."  We are a family of six living in a small, three bedroom house.  Smack-dab-next-to-each-other bedrooms.  So I began praying months ago that our new son would sleep deeply and peacefully every night.  And he does. 

I got up and went into his room, got him out of his crib.  Held him for a minute while his crying subsided and he caught his breath.  He quieted and began to voluntarily snuggle into my shoulder.  This is new for him.  I sat down in my glider and rocked him in the semi-dark, listening to him breathe and praying over him.  I'm not sure how long we stayed there...maybe a half-hour?  Every once in a while I'd look down my nose to see if he'd fallen asleep.  He was wide awake the whole time, gazing around the room, and sometimes up at my face.  I wonder if, after more than a month home, he woke up disoriented, forgetting where he was or how he had come to be in that room.  Then I imagined his inner monologue:  Where the heck am I?  Wait...the door is opening.  Who's that?  Oh...OK...I know that lady.  She's always hanging around, and she gives me food and stuff.  Calls herself "mama," I think.  Hmmm...snuggling.  This feels nice, actually.  I like this.  More, please. 

Mama will take more please, too.  But, and she's being honest here, she'd prefer the snuggling to happen at a more reasonable time of day. 

This photo is unrelated to my post, but I find it so funny, I just wanted to share.  I regularly find J with his legs sticking wonkily out of his today, during his morning nap.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A full, but good, day

I took Jiushu to the doctor today for what we suspect is a hernia.  Surgery is scheduled for later this month, although we may decide to cancel and wait a bit longer on that and another minor procedure which will be performed at the same time.

I'm thankful to my mom for staying at the house with my girls while I took the boys to the hospital.  Big brother, who had his own hernia surgery last year, came along to keep me company.   My mom had brought dinner, and stayed into the evening.  She was supervising J's tummy time when all-of-a-sudden she shrieked with excitement--he had rolled, with no help, from his back to his tummy, in both directions!  I came running, and watched him do it five more times!  I was thrilled, and could tell J was proud of himself too.  It's hitting me with a surge of emotion as I write this that most babies have learned to do this by seven months old.  Jiushu is fourteen months old.  Better late than never, kid.  Mama's proud of you!

Mom left and I had to wrangle the kids into bed by myself tonight.  Started extra early, 'cause the bedtime routine is no simple matter with four kids.  As I was getting the older kids to the bathroom, teeth brushed, etc., I came back to get J in his swing.  He had just finished his bottle.  And...ewwwww.  Poo blowout.  Out his shorts, down his leg.  The mixed blessing is that there was no padded cover on the swing--just bare plastic.  Why?  Because of last night's poo blowout.  The swing cover is clean and still in the dryer.  I had considered putting it back on earlier in the evening but didn't get around to it.  Whew!  Glad I didn't.  So, another bedtime bath for J.  And another load of laundry set to "sanitize."  Finally got the older kids to bed, and now I can breathe easy.

I'll wrap this up by saying we've had a few really good days in a row!  Jiushu seems more at peace, and more receptive to our affection and playfulness.  Therefore, my heart is responding to his heart responding to me.  Make sense?  Let's face it--a two-way relationship is way more fun than a one-way.  We sense J relaxing and becoming more trusting.  Trusting that we'll bring more food.  That I'll be right back.  That brother and sisters are pretty cool to have around.  That our home...our family...our arms are actually a safe and comforting place to be. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

KCPT outing

A few months ago, my big boy A submitted to the public television station a story he had written and illustrated for a kids' writing contest.  He was invited to come to the station and record himself reading his story on camera--we went this morning.  They'll edit it, animate his illustrations, and put the finished product online and on TV at some point!  We'll also get our own copy on DVD.  I wasn't sure I could handle taking four kids to the station by myself, especially knowing we'd all have to stay very quiet.  But everyone behaved beautifully, and we had a wonderful time watching A and touring the station.  Perhaps this now makes me a true Kansas Citian!
Getting his mic on
My handsome firstborn

The 1,042 feet KCTV-5 tower, a KC landmark.  We were standing inside it.
Our host, Lindsey, really went above and beyond, lying on the ground to get this photo--her idea.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How it's going. Really.

It's been a very difficult week.  I had written a blog post several days ago which I decided not to post.  It was too raw.  Too honest.  Too much in the emotion of the moment.  And I was not in the mood to be misunderstood, criticized, or told I hadn't read the right adoption books.  It was the right decision.  Now, several days later, I am feeling better, more hopeful, less exhausted.  Always good to "feel better."  Then again, feelings can be rather unreliable, can't they? 

For a couple of days this week, my house was filled with the screams and cries of a small, angry Chinese boy, fourteen months old.  I don't know if he was sick, tired, grieving, or all three.  But I know I could not make him happy, try as I might.  I am not unfamiliar with this frustration, this inability to satisfy my offspring.  There was a time in recent years when my older daughter and I struggled and fought daily.  Over everything.  She cried and whined.  I yelled and punished.  And we got nowhere.  There were days I honestly did not like her, and I was sure the feeling was mutual.  Now, more than a year later, our relationship is marked by sweet tenderness and great affection.  All that to say, I did not become a parent so I could make my kids happy all the time, though it's nice when it happens.  And to quote my husband, "I did not adopt this boy so I could win any popularity contests."  Presently our younger daughter is, to say the least, a challenge.  She was majorly ticked off that we left her for two weeks and then came home with a new baby.  She is getting into all sorts of mischief, one episode of which necessitated a call to poison control.  I fear she is turning my hair grey.  Sigh.  There are moments I do not like her much.  But we have two years of history, not counting the nine months she grew inside me.  (More on that later.)  We are attached.  We are bonded.  I am crazy about her, mischief and tantrums and all.  

So it's hard not to feel horrible that a few days of inexplicable screaming from Jiushu sent me to the dark place it did.  I want to delight in him.  I want to feel love for him.  I do not want to feel like I'm babysitting or watching a child in the church nursery. 

Last night our friends came over for dinner and backyard fun with their four (biological) children.  I shared a bit with mom Sarah about how things are going, and later felt the need to apologize for maybe sounding too negative.  She responded wisely and beautifully:

"No need for sorrys. This is a huge life-changing thing you have done, and it is okay for it to be this way. This relatively short season of getting to know each other, adapt, and grow your love for each other is your womb time. With a biological kid, for moms it is very passive and generally automatic. Yet deep connections are formed. They make the stress of a newborn doable despite it being very hard to assimilate a little life to a whole new world. You just get to do womb time with Jiushu on the outside with two-way opinions and outsiders looking on. But, I have every confidence that a new life will be birthed out of this time. So nourish physically, provide a protective, comforting, and safe environment, and allow time for unseen connections to bind your hearts together. It's gonna happen..."

I read (and reread) a few blog posts this morning which strengthened my resolve to be transparent and honest.  Here's one post in which a mom shares openly about her panic just after being matched with the boy they would eventually adopt...a fantastic testimony.  And the comments on her post encouraged me as much as the actual post!  Statements like these:
"When you get home you may regret your decision to might even feel like you made the biggest mistake! But that this is normal and to be expected."  

"Don't try to analyze/evaluate how you are feeling at every given moment. Just go with it and know that bonding takes time - like months and years, not days or weeks."

"I think that adoption is a terrifying thing. It is part of the emotion that makes us lean in to God. Begging Him for His strength and clarity.  Thanks for being vulnerable in posting this. People need to talk about these feelings more...I think these feelings come to almost everyone at some point in their adoption journey." 

Whoa.  So if I don't expect J to fully attach to us in a matter of days or weeks,  might it also take a bit longer for us to attach to him in a way that feels warm and genuine?  I'm happy for the people who say they felt instant love and connection upon meeting their new child.  I'm sure it happens that way for some.  But please do not think that defines "normal."  Many are afraid to write about their true emotions after adoption, or after childbirth (or marriage, or taking a new job, etc.), for that matter.  And small wonder, when criticism is freely and publicly offered.

As for me, I've decided I want to be a truth-teller.  I want to help other parents normalize their feelings, even the raw, ugly ones.  But most of all, I want to bring my fear and weakness to the feet of Jesus, letting Him refine me and clothe me in His strength.  I am selfish.  He gives generously.  I get agitated.  He is slow to anger.  I am confused and clueless.  He is perfect wisdom.  I make mistakes.  His grace covers me.  My love is weak.  His love is oh-so-strong.  And because I am His, I have access to all that He is.

Which means this little family of mine--every one of us--is going to be just fine. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Fun

I've been a little envious lately of all the folks out and about doing various merry and active things, especially when they post photos.  'Cause having the fun while ALSO taking great photos is really stepping it up to the next level.  Call me lazy or whatever, but it's kinda hard to get out and do much when one has a handful of Very Young Children.  And as my children are currently six, three, one, and one, I feel that I am allowed to make some sort of excuse now and then.  Or maybe it's just that I'm no longer a spring chicken.  We are friends with a delightful young man, R, who happens to be a great cook, and is for all practical purposes, an adult.  I was less than thrilled to discover that I am almost exactly the same age as his mother.  But I digress.

I'm proud to say we did manage to work some Summer Fun (yeah, it needs to be capitalized) into our lives this weekend.  I won't say it was effortless, but it was worth it.  

Me and all four of my kids + my dad

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th!

My little firecracker got left out of yesterday's photo shoot, so here she is today, sparkly red shoes and all.
We'll all go swimming this afternoon...can't wait to see my big boy show off his newly acquired swimming skills.  (Grandpa's been taking him to the pool while mom's been a tad preoccupied.)  Then we'll do some grilling with my parents, and later I'll take the "bigs" to see fireworks.  DH offered to stay home and put Jiushu to bed.  Even though he's our newest American, he's not really old enough to stay up way too late and enjoy colorful explosions in the sky.  Maybe next year. 

I'm thankful today to be a citizen of the United States.  And even more thankful that the Son has set me free!