Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pressing Pause







We've been at Panama City Beach, FL this week due to the generosity of some friends letting us stay at their condo. The funny thing is that Nia grew up about one hour from the ocean in Liberia, but has never seen it until this week. The kids were up at 6:30am the first morning chompin' at the bit to hit the beach. We managed to hold them off til 8am. They have dug holes up to their waists in the sand, built castles with moats, splashed in the ocean, pool, and hot tub, and crashed each night. I have loved watching them play together. When the waves threatened their castles, they were all hands on deck to build a wall to block the water. When the seagulls attacked us while we ate snacks, we all stood together waving our arms to fend them off. We SO needed to press Pause and get away from the Daily Grind. We just haven't had enough play time together.

We have collected shells and taken long walks together. We have eaten outside on the balcony. We have stayed in our jammies as long as possible and then worn swimsuits the rest of the day. In case you haven't noticed, I'm sad to leave. I took off my watch the first night we arrived and haven't looked at it since. I'm sure people who live at the beach have problems like the rest of us, but it seems like you'd get over them quicker by feeling the sand between your toes and watching the massive ocean bring waves crashing at your feet. I'm hoping God will give us an idea for a Beach Ministry so we can move here. :- )

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nia's Prayers

Lately Nia has volunteered to pray over our meals. They go something like this....

Lawd Jesus, tank you for dis day.
Lawd Jesus, tank you for dis yummy food.
Lawd Jesus, tank you for our friend, Emily, winning her basketball game.
Lawd Jesus, bless us all.

Then she looks up and waits......we finally figured out that we're all supposed to say a hearty "Amen." Then she grins from ear to ear and starts the family tradition of each of us saying our favorite part about the day.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Loving God


Last night we had the pleasure of hosting the Sheppard family. They have been missionaries in the West African area for about 20 years, and were the family who nursed our Eva back to health before she came home to us. They are in the US until late November raising support during their travels. I was so happy for them to see the After "pic" of their time and sacrifice that they poured into the Before "pic" of Eva. (As an aside, I think Nia thought they might be here to take her back to Liberia. She remembered us staying with the Sheppards while there. She hung close all night and started drawing these pretty pictures with words about Jesus' love, etc. for each family member. That's never happened before.)

Connecting with them again, and in particular, picking Nancy's brain about the Liberian culture was such a joy for me. She gave me more valuable insights into the Liberian way of thinking and responding (ie, Nia's tantrums). But the thing that keeps ringing in my brain and heart is when she answered my question about loving the unlovable, "I had to stop trying to love people, and start focusing on loving God instead" (paraphrase). We just can't love people unconditionally. Only God can do that. People disappoint us, hurt us, betray us, especially our kids and spouses. We can only love those people if we are loving God first. She was also a great testimony to obeying God with the things He has set before you instead of trying to "save the whole world." We can make ourselves crazy thinking about all the horrors, the children that aren't adopted, the people who are starving. But God gives us something to do for His kingdom right in front of us - like the people in Nehemiah who repaired the broken wall that was right across from their house. What a great place to start! For her, something that God set before her was caring for Eva, along with many other children who would cross her threshhold.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nia's Version

Nia had a liver biopsy done yesterday to determine if she has Auto-Immune Hepatitis. This is when the body creates antibodies that attack her own liver. It cannot be transferred to others....it's just something the body does to itself.

Anyway, here's how she told it to her siblings (you might have to read it out loud to understand):

Ma tow me to da hospital and they juke me here wid a needle. Den dey give me books to color, but dey give me noting to eat. Ah was soooo hawngry! Den I get very sleepy and dey take me away and dey cut my flesh. When ah wake up dey make me lay on my side all de day long. Dey finally give me jelly and apple juice. Mah nurse give me dis preddy blanket and little puppy. Ah was very tired of laying in de bed all de day. Ma says I cannot tow you on my back dis week. No running or playing hard. Ah am very sore where dey cut my flesh and here where dey juke me.

My version: Nia got an IV. The biopsy procedure took about 10 minutes. It involved a small, miniscule incision to insert the biopsy needle. They had to take 2 samples since the first wasn't big enough. She got pampered, hand-fed (jello), and lived the life of royalty the rest of the day at the hospital. She can't do anything involving much exertion this week. She might have a little bruise on her side and in her hand from the IV. We'll have the results back in about one week.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Isabel's Bedtime Prayers

Dear God,
Today we went to the park and had a good time.
I had Cheetos.
Thank you for bringing Nia home.
I played with my Diego doll.
We had a yummy lunch of noodles.
Help Nia to sleep well.
I want a Diego bike.
It rained today.

In Jesus' Name,
Amen.
Love, Isabel

My Work Horse


I told Matt that we need to buy a farm so that Nia can work it for us. She's such a Work Horse. My dad would've said we worked her "like a borrowed mule." WE didn't work her, rather she chose to be a hard worker. That bucket? It's full of bricks.

She lifted heavy boxes up to Matt while he stood on the rickety attic steps. She loves to do a Good Day's Work. She loves to dig in the garden. She loves to wash clothes in the sink. I'm thinking maybe we should've named her something more practical like Maude or Ethel. She's the kind of girl who would get up early and milk the cows before school. She'll be a great Proverbs 31 woman.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another Window...A Dark One

Warning: This might be difficult to read. It's a reality that's hard to handle.

Tonight while she was eating her pepper-covered rice, I just randomly asked Nia about discipline at the orphanage.

She said one of the "Mothers" used to beat people with switches, like 4 switches at one time. She knows of one girl who was beaten in the face this way and ended up with a swollen, bleeding eye. She said they would be beaten in any position and demonstrated for me how she would sit on the ground with her knees drawn up and head covered with hands for her own beatings. She told of teenage boys taken up to the front of their church at the orphanage, forced to drop their pants and underwear in front of everyone, and then beaten with switches. She said, "Mother _____ was a wicked woman." Yes, indeed. I can't even imagine the shame and humiliation this would bring for a boy. And then the anger and rage that would no doubt grow in their hearts towards the abuser.

She said children could be beaten for a number of reasons: fighting with each other, girls wearing pants, and leaving the orphanage to find their parents, to name a few.

My stomach is in knots over this. I ache for those children, for my daughter who has experienced things no child should have to be put through. I ache for what I don't know about her life....the things she hasn't told me yet. Ugh. I'm a mess.

God, help me to love her the way You love her. Help me to see her the way that You see her. Father, keep breaking down those hard walls of protection around her heart. Thank you for showing me why she had to build them in the first place. Redeem her youth and her life for Your purposes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jacob and Clive

This is Jacob (8) and Clive (7) and Ox (5). Snow is snow is snow to kids. A dusting is just as exciting as a foot to them. Jacob and Clive have a pretty good relationship as brothers. They are 17mths, 1/4 inch, and 1/2 lb apart. Ox has a good 50 pounds on them.

Jacob is my social butterfly. He's a romantic at heart. Matt and I think he'll be the first to marry straight out of highschool and end up living upstairs with his bride since neither one of them will be able to afford an apartment. In fact, we think we'll have to kick him out of the house at some point. In the land of Winnie the Pooh, Jacob is Christopher Robin. For Jacob, where 2 or more are gathered, then it's a Party. His aspirations are to grow up and work at Blockbuster. We're so proud.

Clive, on the other hand, would have no friends if it weren't for his big brother, Jacob. Clive is Eeyore. He's very literal and has a dry sense of humor that can make me pee my pants, he's so funny. We think he will grow up to draw pictures for mechanical engineering books. He's all about Bionicles and Legos. He might never get married. People kinda wear him out. I will say, however, that he's come a long way from his early years. I think he can at least tolerate people now, although he thinks most of them are useless. He's a very sweet, tender-hearted boy, which would surprise most people.....especially since he can be a little blunt at times. ie. "Choir stinks."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Heavy Laden

All the songs I grew up singing in our small country church had words like "heavy laden" in them. That's a good description of life with Nia lately. I'm not down or blue, things are just Heavy. I told Matt last night that I'm tired of blogging about Nia. I know from the reader's perspective it looks like we never interact with our other kids, but that's not accurate. We have a whole 'nother crew of kiddos who are doing fun, naughty, cute, lovable things. And we are all trying to find our place in our changing family.

Any time you bring home a new child, whether it's a newborn baby or an older adopted child, the whole family has adjustments to make. Things shift and we all need to find our new nitch. It takes longer to get out the door and leave the house. It adds extra laundry. You lose a little sleep for a time. You are more tired for a season. You make different choices about what your family participates in, using "Is it worth it today?" as your guiding question. Sometimes it's worth it, and sometimes it's not.

That first year of having a newborn is all about changes and adjustments. Right when you get a feeding schedule down pat, it's time to change it. You go through 4 different sizes of clothes in the first year alone. And the diaper sizes change, too. Feedings go from liquids to solids. Changing nap times. Changing what goes in or out of the diaper bag. Constant change.

It's the same with an adoption of a child. That first year is full of changes. Adjustments. Readjustments. You spend a lot of time just learning about each other. Nia has 8 years of life that we don't know about. She'll say things like, "Eating carrots makes your tummy hot." Does this well of folklore knowledge ever have a bottom? It is true that you get colder after you eat because your body's energy is focusing on digestion instead of keeping your whole self warm. But I don't think carrots alone make your tummy hot.

And so we face another day after a night of blatant disobedience from Nia, consequences given, tears cried, cold shoulder given, and a morning that did not bring New Mercies according to Nia. It's just our Daily Grind right now. We picked a brew that is particular hard to swallow some days. But I believe the Christian life is not about having an easy ride on the Merry-Go-Round. Real growth, real passion, real zeal always comes from the lowest, hardest points of our lives. It's a lot more like a Roller Coaster instead.

An ancient, old woman in my little country church used to sing this song acapella:

come ye weary, heavy laden
lost and ruined by the fall
if you tarry until you're better
you will never come at all
I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in his arms
In the arms of my dear saviour
Oh, there are ten thousand charms

Monday, February 11, 2008

Potpourri

Isabel (4yrs) adopted from China said yesterday, "My Chinese mommy and daddy taught me how to play cards. Then they died." Isabel came home when she was 11mths old and we have NO idea about her bio parents.

Hudson (5yrs) biological son said, "Mommy, how old was I when you came to Africa to get me?"

We've been watching the Little House on the Prairie TV series and loving it! One of my favorite quote is when Mary and Laura are sitting on the front steps of the Olsons store...

Mary: "That Nellie Olson is the meanest girl I've ever seen. I could never be that mean."
Laura: "I could. Even meaner if Ma and Pa would let me."

I can SO relate to Laura.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Holy Water

I spooned with Nia in her bed today while she cried/moaned. I wrapped my arms around her, but she resisted and fought my embrace. I stroked her back, but she flinched. I rubbed her arm, but she pulled away. So, I just started saying, I love you, I love you, I love you. Those words brought about louder wailing. I said, Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you.

She reacted as if I was torturing her with those words and with my touch. Like holy water on a vampire (I saw w-a-y too many scary movies growing up). At one point I said, Nia, just relax and receive my love. It feels good to be loved.

Finally, I left her alone. About an hour later she emerged quietly and joined the family. We took her into the fold, so to speak, and said we were happy to see her. Then life went on as usual, like nothing ever happened.

I'm planning to talk to her about what happened today once we get a little distance from it.

As Easy As Riding A Bike

This past weekend Nia learned to ride a bike. She was given one for Christmas from some friendds of our's, and after many false starts she finally took off this weekend. She sits straight as an arrow, like a woman from 1920 would've ridden. She's very pleased with herself, and so are we.

Between the moments of joy are the moments of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Today is the latter. Not sure what's going on, but she fell into a funk right before church and hasn't come out of it yet. The worst part is that she just won't talk, not even to tell us what she's thinking or feeling. She just goes silent or else starts this moaning type of cry. It's almost what you'd expect to hear from someone who just lost a loved one. I'm sure she IS experiencing grief and loss, and maybe that's what this is all about today.

Sometimes I just don't know how to love her well. It's good that God never has that problem with us. He always loves us well.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pants

Nia said that Mother Brown would beat any girls that even thought about wearing pants at the orphanage. That explains why Nia insisted on wearing skirts the first month home (November), even to the point of freezing all the time. Can you imagine what she thought of her New Mommy who put on a pair of jeans 30 minutes before leaving for the Monrovian airport? Going to h_ll in a hand-basket faster than you can blink your eye.

I actually liked wearing skirts every day in Liberia. I grew up wearing skirts. Never put a pair of pants on until I was 18 and in college. Skirts and dresses are just cooler for me in the summer. But, honey, come winter my legs never see the light of day.

Anyways, there's just all manner of lies to unearth and replant with Truth.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Hep-C Free!

Friends,
We just found out today that Nia is negative for Hepatitis C. The docs aren't sure why she tested positive the first 2 times, but she is negative now. Whoo Hoo!! No liver transplants in her immediate future.

The weird news is that her spleen is "unexplanably enlarged." Apparently, an enlarged spleen is usually a liver problem, but her liver ultrasound was great. So....we'll just have to keep an eye on that dadgum spleen of her's.

Other news...her iron is up. I attribute that to the large quantities of meat she is eating and the pureed broccoli I put in her soup.

All The Different Layers

Nia truly never ceases to amaze me. Another adoptive family in the US has a child from Nia's tribe, the Kru tribe. Their daughter has been in the States for a while and has forgotten some of the Kru words she knows. I asked Nia if she would let me videotape her saying Kru words that we could send to this family. She said, "I can speak 3 languages.....English, Kru, and Vi (sp?)."

"Three languages?"

"Yes."

And she can sew, cook, braid like nobody's business, draw clothing designs, climb a tree faster than a monkey, and Lord knows what else that we haven't discovered yet.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Clive

This is Clive (7yrs). He often wears The Spirit of Eeyore quite well. He's the one I compared to Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, "My good opinion once lost is lost forever." This was his attitude toward Nia after she burned bridges with him the first 2 weeks she was home.

Yesterday he said, "Mommy, I love everybody in this family...........even Nia."

My heart swelled.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Isabel

This is what happened when I asked Isabel to put away her clean undies.