Thursday, April 24, 2014

One step forward . . . two steps back

How much longer this blog would be if I did not have to keep certain things confidential! With that said, sometimes the hard things are best left unwritten as "love keeps no record of wrongs."  I find myself frustrated this evening with certain choices made.

I can write this bit of history:  Today J was playing and she was "the good princess" and another person was "the bad witch" who was "trying to make her bad."  She boldly told the witch, "You can't make me bad because God is on my side and I want to be good like my parents!"

Whoa.

God IS on her side!  

Sadly, her parents are far from good.  We are "poor miserable sinners" who cling to the truth that we don't have to be perfect because Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

I do rejoice in that she called Michael and me her "parents."  Yay!

So today is like any other day, full of victories and setbacks and the unchangeable truth that GOD LOVES US and JESUS DIED FOR US!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

So this is what 46 looks like

Today I celebrated my 46th birthday by going to the office, having lunch at Olive Garden with Maggie and coming home to an empty house.  Michael and the girls bought my cards after school and so I had a few moments to read a book. 

Michael made chicken in the roaster and then put it on the smoker for 2 hours and it was perfection. Sadly, he burned the potatoes in the oven and the pan is now in the trash.  

Alannah gave me a card that told me that every day with me was like Pizza Day at school. How awesome is that?  J gave me a pop-up card that played a song, which didn't surprise me because she always wants to look at them in the card aisle.  The tune is familiar to me but I do not know the name. Da da da da da da da dah dah dah. Recognize it?  

Michael helped J finish the book report that she and I have been slowly working on the past week.  At first she had a little meltdown when it was time for her to work, but she surprised herself with how much she enjoyed writing once she got into it.  She wrote three times as much as I expected and was quite proud of all of the words she could spell on her own.

The best part of my day was family devotions.  The best part of my day is nearly always family devotions. Before we got started, the girls were acting silly on the loveseat and Alannah shouted dramatically to J, "I LOVE you!"  J spread her arms out and mimicked her tone with a loud, "You're the best sister ever!"  

Okay, that was the best birthday present ever.

I'm headed to bed early tonight.  Allergies are steadily marching towards me and I hope to get some relief while I sleep.

Thank you, dear Lord, for another precious year to share my love for you with my family, friends and neighbors.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He Is Risen! He is risen, indeed!

Oh, glorious day!  Jesus Christ is risen today!  Alleluia!

I woke with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. Easter Sunday is the happiest of days because our Lord Jesus rose from the dead and ended death's stronghold over sinners. 

The girls woke and walked downstairs with their eyes closed and holding my hands.  They were quite surprised at the tablescape and wondered who's was who's. Alannah realized the pink pig stuffed animal was hers and was immediately ecstatic.  I had told her last year that she had quite enough stuffed animals and the next time she could bring one in the house would be when she was 18 and away at college.  She told J that story today as she squished her Olaf the pig in a big hug.  

J gasped when she realized the stuffed lamb was hers.  "My first lamb!" she cried.  Alannah has a stuffed lamb that she got at her baptism from my parents that is quite old and shabby and clearly well loved, plus she has Wooley the lamb.  J sees these lambs being a special part of our family life because of songs like I Am Jesus' Little Lamb, The Lamb, etc. I asked her what she was going to name her lamb, and she wasn't sure.  Naming her stuffed animals is not part of her past, so it's new to her.  But after a minute she said, "What about Love-A-Lot?"  I smiled.  Love-A-Lot is perfect.  Just perfect. 

The girls sang Happy Day with our neighbors in the the 8:30 worship service and Michael was crying when he gave us the Benediction.  He was so moved seeing those sweet girls singing and dancing and praising God. 

Right now the girls are serving beverages at the Easter breakfast and then the three of us will worship at the 11 a.m. service where they will sing their Happy Day anthem again. It's so good to praise the Lord!  HE IS RISEN! HE'S ALIVE!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

As night falls on Easter Saturday

Tomorrow morning the girls are serving beverages at our Easter breakfast at church and need to be dressed and in their aprons at 7:30. 

Here is the sight that will great them as they excitedly run down the stairs to see what I arranged for them as I promised.  Tonight both of them stayed in bed and most certainly did not wander downstairs for a drink of water or one last hug good-night. No, sir, they were told by me to stay in bed so I could assemble their Easter baskets with the candy they made with Miss Gretta on Wednesday.  Both of them have been dreaming in chocolate!

One last thought on this Easter Saturday:  Tonight as we left the Passion Drama, J remarked, "I don't get why there is a bunny at Easter.  Bunnies have nothing to do with Easter."  So, yes, she'll eat the chocolate bunnies and fall in love with her new stuffed lamb, but she absolutely knows that JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.  


Sundown on Easter Saturday

How I would love to write that all went smoothly with the girls at chore time.  Sadly, I cannot. But the house is 80% clean and I can stress about it or let it go until Monday.  I'm choosing Monday.

The best part of our evening was the Passion Drama at my mom and dad's church. We went with our friends, John, Maggie and Zachary. After we finished the walk, J asked if we could go through again.  We went to dinner together and laughed and enjoyed each others' company. 

Driving away from the restaurant, J asked again if we could go through the Passion Drama again and Alannah seconded it.  Since tomorrow is a long day, I drove home. 

I asked J what she liked about the drama and I thought she'd answer her usual, "I don't know."  However, she said, "I liked everything about it."  Alannah liked the scene with her Papa and her cousin Chelsea in it. 

The girls are already in their pajamas and they have their clothes picked out for tomorrow.  In addition, they each have an apron ready to wear to serve beverages at the Easter breakfast.  


Easter Saturday . . . so far

The girls went to the Easter Egg Hunt at church this morning and both came back with treats.  I had told Alannah that this year she could not hunt for eggs because she's too old, but the 10,11 and 12 year olds were given the opportunity to get candy after all of the little kids did.  The girls quickly made trades and then ran outside to play with the neighbors.  All of them are holding baby dolls in our front yard and pretending to be at the beach. They had planned a picnic, but time ran away with them and they will do so another day.

I made 18 hard-boiled eggs and 5 of them cracked, so we are having egg salad sandwiches for lunch.  It's chore day and I'm nearly done cleaning the living room and dining room and will also work on the TV room. For the first time the girls will work together to clean the kitchen and the bathroom.  Usually that's my job, but one of them made a mess with orange drink and it's all over the counter, down the cupboard and on the floor, so she'll be cleaning it up.  When I heard, "That's not fair! It was an accident!" I simply responded with the fact it would not be fair for someone else to clean up her accident.  Her Fair-O-Meter agreed with that and she'll be cleaning it up after lunch.

That's all for now.  The vacuum is calling my name!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

The girls did not have school today and I did not have to go to the office. Of course, Michael preached at our 8 p.m. Good Friday service.  He and Alannah volunteered at church today to prep for the Easter Egg Hunt tomorrow, and J and I ran some errands and had breakfast at Bob Evans.  We all had a great day.  I even took a little nap while the kids played outside with the neighbors getting muddy and having fun. 

Michael called me at 7:30 to sing an anthem in church at 8 p.m. that he mistakenly had in the order of worship. Yikes.  I printed the lyrics and headed out the door with the girls.  I rehearsed in the multi-purpose room while the girls sat in the sanctuary in silence with the rest of the congregation.  

Tonight was a rare occasion. We sat in the front pew with Michael.  He always sits behind the communion railing, but tonight the cross blocked access. So we sat together, and it was lovely. J wore a sleeveless dress and was very cold through the service, so she sat on my lap for a large part of the sermon. When I sang Why after the sermon and returned to the pew, the girls were snuggled together and remained so for the rest of the service. The songs were contemplative and the readings made us all reflect on why Jesus had to die: for the sins of the world - including me.

After walking home, we got into our pajamas (no PJ race tonight) and had our family devotions while the girls snuggled again.  J asked if she could pray because "I have the PERFECT prayer in my head!" The girls tilted their heads together, held hands and closed their eyes as J prayed a beautiful prayer in gratitude for God sending Jesus to save us from our sins.

If I was asked, "Would you rather have a million dollars or nightly family devotions?" I would answer DEVOTIONS. These moments with these two precious girls are priceless to Michael and me.  Priceless.  And that's how God thinks about YOU too.  For He sent His only Son to pay the price of sin which is death.  For grace is free to us, but it cost Jesus His very life.

Looking forward to tomorrow when we'll color our Easter eggs and attend a Passion Drama. God is so good.

This made me laugh

My friend, Lisa, told me this story about my daughter tonight:

She saw J before church on Palm Sunday. J walked over to the bench where she was sitting and reached under it to pick up a piece of paper.  J exclaimed in astonishment, "What is THIS?! Who would LITTER in God's house?!"  

I love it. 

Total Immersion

Our daughter, J, has been with us for 112 days.  Between Sunday School, parochial school, daily reading from her Children's Bible, prayers at random times as well as meals and bedtime, and listening to K-Love, she's been completely immersed in "that Jesus thing."  I put that in quotes because the first day we met her, she asked if when we went to church that she could stay home because she'd "already done that Jesus thing and was all over that now." I calmly looked at her and said, "It's against the law for a 6-year old to stay at home alone."  By law we cannot force her to participate in worship, but she must at least sit in the pew.  And that's how it started.

Christmas Eve was her first worship service and she loved the Family Service with Wooley the sheep puppet and the mini operetta by the kids to the song, "Mary's Little Boy Child."  

She didn't like Sunday School because she "didn't know anybody" but now she loves, loves, loves it.  The first time she sang in the Psalm 95 Sunday School Choir sang, she was animated and loud. I can't wait to hear her sing on Easter Sunday. 

IN WORSHIP
She learned the Apostles' Creed at school and we taught her the Lord's Prayer, and she proclaims both loudly in church. Many people have commented to me how they love hearing her above the rest of the congregation and how they hope she never stops being so bold. The first time we said the Nicene Creed, her brow furrowed in frustration. She loves being involved in worship. Oh, that everyone in church loved being involved in worship as much as she does! 

Last night at the Maundy Thursday service, we sang The Lamb, a song she learned in chapel and that we sing regularly during family devotions. When I asked her if she liked singing it in church, she yelled, "YES!"  I chuckle every time she sings, "Worthy is the LAMB whose death makes me his own" with beautiful abandon.  You know the song/quote "I hope you dance," well, I hope she always worship with this childlike heart.  She inspires me to do so!

SELF-ESTEEM IS NOT THE GOAL
One thing that broke my heart when J first came to our home was her flat response to my compliment about how pretty she was: "I don't think I'm pretty."  The fact is she's gorgeous. People tell me all the time how cute she is, how adorable she is and several have used the word gorgeous.  One day I casually asked her to do me a favor: J, can you please stop being so cute?  She was taken aback but immediately crossed her eyes, stuck out her tongue and moved her jaw to the left. "PERFECT!" I said, "that is not cute at all!" Then she smiled at me and I quickly cried, "No, no, no, no!  That's cute again!  Go back to the not cute!"  Well, this silly tradition has gone on for a few months, but last week when I asked her to not be so cute, she had this to say:  "I can't help it! That's how God made me!"  Ahhhhhhhhh.  I used this theme today for our Talk for the Babies time with a unicorn she owns. Annika the Unicorn was not happy to have a horn, and J responded, "Wait a minute.  God gave you that horn.  Don't say you don't like it because that's saying that God made a mistake. He didn't. He gave you the horn. Do me a favor, okay? Like yourself just the way God made you."  

I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of that statement. 

With "self-esteem" as a buzzword to increase regarding children in any setting, I saw my daughter transcend "self-esteem" by making it not about HER but about GOD.  This is the answer to our prayers and I know the dear Lord is so happy to have one of His children removed from the clenches of the evil one.  She is HIS child now!

BAPTISM
And speaking of that . . . it's time to record on my blog about her upcoming baptism.  J has wanted to be baptised for a couple of months, but we wanted to wait until her adoption was final, which will be in May or June.  She saw her first baptism a couple of weeks ago and was mesmerized. "Will I get a candle too?" was her only question, but several times she'd lean into me and say "Look at that!"

So I bought her a baptism dress on eBay, which is where I purchased Alannah's.  Both girls will have keepsakes, although one will be size 3 months and the other a girls' size 7. She tried it on this week and twirled in joy. Michael told her she looked beautiful! I blinked back a couple of tears.  She asked me today if she could wear it on Easter, and it was difficult for me to tell her no, but I did. The dress is for her baptism.  

A couple of weeks ago I introduced her to my friend Emily. "J, Emily is a florist and I'd like her to make a bouquet for your baptism day.  Would you please tell her what flowers you'd like?"  Oh, my.  She was not expecting that!  But she quickly said, "Roses and lilies and . . . . violets!"  Emily smiled and wrote her request on a piece of paper.  I cannot wait to see what beauty she creates for J.

Another detail for her baptism day is the service itself.  I wanted it to be during a contemporary service because I pick the songs for the Heartsong Choir to sing. I chose her favorites:  Chief of Sinners, The Lamb and I am the Resurrection. When I mentioned these choices to her, she gasped.  "YES!"  Then she tilted her head and asked, "Wait, we get to pick the songs?"  I chuckled and said, "We know the pastor."  When I shared this story at work, Pastor Korte said, "That's one of the few perks of being a pastor's kid!"  

I also asked Aja if she would sing an anthem, Hello, My Name Is by Matthew West. She agreed and then asked if she could do another mini operetta like she did on Christmas Eve with the kids. YAY!  What a great idea!  When I mentioned this to J, she again was ecstatic. "I wish I could be baptized sooner!"  

One last thing about her baptism and then I'll share a final story.  

While we were playing Talk for the Babies yesterday, Lamby the stuffed lamb asked, "What do you want written on your baptism cake?  How about I Am Jesus' Little Lamb?"  J thought for a moment and said, "Hmm. How about 'You Are Mine Forever.'"  I smiled and sighed in contentment.  "Yes, that's it.  You are mine forever.  That's what baptism is, J."

WHAT HAPPENED IN 112 DAYS
Some people have asked what J's spiritual background is.  Basically her first foster family took her to church and to a parochial preschool when she was three years old for the six months she lived with them.  

So how did she go from zero to baptism in 112 days?  Total immersion. All of our family's lives are about following God.  We are sinners in need of a savior. We learn about God, talk about Him, talk to Him, follow His commands and encourage each other to do so. 

I happened to stumble across a link to a blog posting called Why I Would Never Force My Kids to Go to Church and realized the author was a friend of mine, Ruth Meyer, who's husband has preached for Michael when he's been on vacation. She encapsulated well what is in my heart about the importance of parents teaching their children to love the Lord and why it's important for them to go to church. 

Both of my girls love going to church and Sunday School, and they love their school and our family devotions.  Most importantly, they love Jesus!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Time does fly! We are having fun!

I don't wish for more hours in the day.  I'm enjoying life during the hours I have.  

Today we received a gift from a dear woman at church: she hauled all of her Easter candy molds to church along with several pounds of white chocolate and milk chocolate and taught my girls how to make Easter candy. They made solid bunnies, hollow bunnies, solid eggs, hollow eggs, chocolate suckers, bite-size chocolates and more.  

Both girls are dreaming of Sunday as I would not let them nibble on the sweet treats today. 

I have photos but will have to wait to post them until after J's adoption is final in May or June.  

Life is hard, but good.  God is good all the time.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sweet Somethings

Last night as I tucked J in bed for the night, I decided to speak to her about Alannah for the first time.  Many times I've explained to Alannah why J acts or says something that is inappropriate or even wrong, but I've not done the reverse.  I wanted to talk to J about Alannah's struggle seeing her mom and dad love another child. I know J understands that sometimes Alannah is angry for no reason, but I know the reason is jealousy. 

I explained to J that Alannah had been an only child for 12 years, and now she was learning to share her parents.  Sometimes when Alannah sees us with her, she gets very upset when we are laughing and playing.  I said, "She sometimes think that I love you more than I love her."

J was very serious when she responded.  "I know that she thinks that because I've heard her say it.  But if I was Alannah, I would believe that you loved me because you tell me that you love me and I believe you."  

We'd not talked about this before, but for some reason I was not surprised that she believed that I loved her.  However, I was very curious.  "Why do you believe that I love you?"

Her answer was emphatic.  "Because you don't let me do anything I want!  Like when I had the knife you wouldn't let me go like this - " she held out her hand like she was holding a knife and thrashed it back and forth - "so I wouldn't hurt myself.  

The right way to chop a carrot
The wrong way to chop a carrot
Ahhhhh.  Last month I taught her how to cut a carrot using my chef knife holding the tip stationary on the cutting board and lifting the knife up and down while moving the carrot towards the blade.  It was a terrifying experience.  J kept lifting the knife like it was a cleaver over a piece of raw meat; she could not remember to keep the tip on the board; a couple of times I nearly lost an eye. I kept saying, "I want you to be safe and I don't want you to hurt anyone.  Please keep the tip on the board."  I saw the exercise through to completion without losing patience, and I guess that experience had an impact on her. I had no idea teaching her how to use a sharp knife would be the impetus for her believing that I loved her, but now I know and am very grateful.

I'm praying for Alannah daily that she will come to understand that love is not divided when a family gets bigger, it is multiplied.  I love my oldest daughter so much and I always will.  I spoke words of truth over her last night, and I will continue to do so.  She's amazing.

Thank you, Lord, for being my Father.