Sometimes, the best ideas are not ones we create ourselves, but ones we steal (or borrow, if you will) from others. We are grateful to our good friends, the Clemmies, for sharing with us their pretty fabulous way of celebrating a child reaching the rather momentous milestone of becoming a teenager. And so I give you…
13 DAYS OF AWESOME!!
13 Days of Awesome refers to 13 events scheduled at various times on the calendar leading up to the 13th birthday of the child whom is being celebrated. They could be consecutive days leading up to and ending with the actual birthday of the child, but in our case we’ve chosen to stretch it all out a bit given that we are about to enter the holiday season. Admittedly, we did not grab ahold of this tradition when Abigail became a teen (and yes, this oversight has already been expressed to me by my dear daughter) but I always say better late than never.
And so tonight we kicked off our 13 days of celebration for Mr. Jonathan, who, in late December will officially become a teenager!!
Now….those of you young folks who are hard at work calculating when best to try for a baby, come close while I whisper a special secret in your ear, ok?? Listen carefully to what I have to tell you: The most inconvenient week in all the calendar year to celebrate a birthday is the week between Christmas and New Years. Since no one thought to share this little tidbit with us back when we were doing our family planning, our firstborn son’s birthday falls smack dab in between these two wildly popular holidays. Our hope this year is to wrap up this boy’s birthday revelry a full two weeks before the date of his birthday…with the intent that our celebration of Jonathan will hopefully feel a bit more purposeful than it’s ever felt before.
Earlier this evening, we took a family trip out to the Ballpark in Arlington where we were treated to a wonderful concert by Switchfoot. Wow, what a great show, and what a cool band. It was one of the more fun concerts I’ve ever been to — fabulous music, and lots of singing from everyone (including the audience!). My kids love Switchfoot, and I have always been ok with their music, but (for me, at least) there is something hugely significant about seeing someone perform in person as opposed to listening to their music on the radio. That, and the fact that lead singer Jon Foreman shared perhaps my all-time favorite quote ever (by CS Lewis) early in the show, and I was hooked.
Concerts don’t make for amazing photo-opps, but here are a few pics just the same. Per his wishes, I don’t take too many photos these days of my almost-teen, so I was glad he willingly posed for a few this evening.
Pre-concert stop at Steak and Shake to fuel up:
Gratuitous and fuzzy concert pic:
Oh, and a really cute brunch date, too!!
It’s been three years.
Three years ago today, after much soul-searching and prayer, much talking to and gleaning advice from others who have traveled the road to adoption, Jay and I sent in our first $50 payment and “pre-application” to Gladney to officially begin the adoption process. I think it’s safe to say that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! Well, maybe some idea…but the year and half long process we, and all the other families who applied with us anticipated (with good reason – because at that time 18 months was the outer edge of how long the process took) has come and gone. Twice.
So far, it’s been a three year pregnancy. A very unpredictable, emotional three year pregnancy. Admittedly, there have been and still are days when we wonder if, at the end of it all, there will be a little one. The ups and downs of international adoption, and Ethiopian adoption in particular these last few years have been many.
Shortly after we began the adoption process, Jay shared a poignant post on our family blog. I loved what he had to say – he has a gift for words, and he eloquently and earnestly shared our heart as we began our adoption journey. Remembering the way God so clearly and kindly laid a desire for a little girl we’d never met on both our hearts at the same time has been something that has sustained and encouraged us during these past three years. The only thing I’d change today about Jay’s wording is that we are now fairly certain that at the time he wrote this entry, our daughter-to-be was not yet born, as we’d assumed.
May God watch over and protect all the little ones around the world who wait for families to call their own.
Expecting (originally posted May 10, 2010)
Tricia and I are expecting. We are expecting a child to be part of our family soon, a little girl who is already born, whom we don’t know yet and is living a world away. We are expecting God to provide us the means to wrap our crazy family life around this little girl and surround her with love. We are expecting God to provide us with the finances necessary to make it all happen. We’re expecting a whole lot.
I don’t think we are presuming, in the pejorative sense of making demands of God, that he would align his will with ours. More on that in a moment.
In the fall of 2009, as I soaked up portions of Isaiah over and over, I came to an overwhelming conviction that I was to become a father to someone fatherless. This built up over months, and I did what any normal guy would do who has four children and a hectic life: I kept my mouth shut and hoped the building pressure of conviction would go away. It didn’t.
It turns out Tricia was experiencing her own version of this same conviction. For her, the sense of calling began building several months before I experienced it, but she too kept quiet, rightfully believing I would think she was crazy if she brought it up with me. A few days after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, as we contemplated the carnage and our family prayed nightly for the Haitians, we finally broke our silence.
It was a bizarre conversation. “I feel like I should tell you something.” “Well, I need to tell you something as well.” “Oh, you go first.” “No, you.” “I have this crazy idea that…” “Wait, for real?!? That’s what I was going to say!” “You’re kidding!” (Long, quiet pause.) ”Huh. Does that mean we actually have to do it?”
Jesus commands us to seek first his kingdom and leave the minor stuff like food, clothing, and shelter to him. As we came face to face with a call to adopt, we discovered we don’t have a clue what its like to actually trust Jesus and obey him in this way. There is so much wisdom that says we should count the cost, be a good steward, etc. Yet we realized that in the face of a clear calling, all of that stuff was simply applied to how we obeyed, not if we obeyed.
We wanted to make the cost (financial and emotional) the criteria by which we decided if we would adopt. But how can one claim to seek first the kingdom, if concerns about food, clothing, and shelter (and college, and retirement, and comfort, and vacations, and…) are the reason you don’t obey the call of God? We’ve had offers of advice regarding the pros versus the cons of adoption, but we honestly don’t need help in that regard. We can easily make a spreadsheet that has a far larger “cons” column. But none of the items in that overwhelming list are the kingdom of God. It gets hidden behind the noise of our concerns and comfort.
We have decided to try to obey, plain and simple. It has been a staggering effort, yet we are already seeing the fruit of God blessing us. For myself, I have seen my own heart change from simply desiring to have a heart like God’s that cares for orphans in their distress, to feeling like my family has a hole in it, waiting to be filled by my daughter who is not yet with us. I did not expect this… it has blown me away. I’m the guy who was content with three children, who deals with lots of chronic pain and fatigue, and who wasn’t looking for more complexity in life. Somehow the Lord is taking that weak vessel and filling it with love for a child I don’t even know yet.
Some friends from our church home group moved to Ethiopia last year to manage the in-country side of Gladney adoptions, so we have decided to follow where the Lord has provided. We have initiated the process to adopt through Gladney from Ethiopia. We are in the very early stages, so it could be a year or more before we bring home the newest Horne.
So for the time being, we are expecting.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
~~ Isaiah 58:6-12
This past Saturday marked 27 months for us on the wait list for Little Sister.
I might, just MIGHT be struggling with a bit of a bad attitude over how freakishly LONG it is taking for us to get a referral. It occurred to me last week that even if we get a referral tomorrow, that due to waits for court and embassy, and the need to make two trips over to Ethiopia after we accept a referral, Little Sister would not likely be home before our oldest, Miss Abigail starts her freshman year of high school in August. And for some reason, that milestone is hitting me hard. Maybe because Abigail has been known to ask somewhat incredulously during these past almost 3 years of our adoption process, “Mom, my little sister IS going to be home before I’m in high school….right?” And I would laugh and say glibly, “Of course she’ll be home before then, Honey!”
Except now…she probably won’t be home before then. And I feel anything but glib about it.
But, before this post descends into a negative pity-party…I feel it bears announcing that some friends of ours are actually in Ethiopia right now to pick up and bring their precious girl home. Seeing them at Gladney with their daughter in their arms does my heart a world of good, and reminds me why we are waiting, and encourages me again to be patient in that wait.
God used a multitude of things to stir my heart and Jay’s heart to consider adoption, and one of them was my old college friend, Walker’s and his wife, Missy’s adoption journey. I invite you to enjoy a peek into their day with Bethie and I’ll leave you with this:
Often, in the course of homeschooling, I learn things I somehow missed (or possibly, forgot!) in my earlier life’s education. Sometimes it might be a historical fact here or there, a reminder of a math rule or formula which, frankly, I’d just as soon have forgotten, or perhaps an amazing new animal factoid.
Usually such discoveries accompany study with one of the older children. But today I was delighted with a fascinating new story from, of all humble places, my first grader’s latest reader:
Well, hey, I hate to steal the excitement away from anyone else!
It’s all about a Mexican farmer who is plowing in his cornfield one day when he just happens to witness the birth of a new volcano. This volcano came to be known as Paracutin and it’s inception in 1943 was a huge shock to firstly, this farmer (it sorta ended up destroying his cornfield if you hadn’t already guessed) and ultimately to the people of the two towns which it engulfed.
The event was momentous enough that Paracutin eventually became known as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but, it turns out (and I also learned this today) that periodically, the current wonders become old hat and are voted off the island, and new wonders are voted in.
Regardless, I was surprised I hadn’t heard this story before, and after we finished the book, Josiah and I spent some time together exploring the web for pictures and more information about Paracutin, of which there is plenty.
I suppose if I were a really fabulous homeschooling Mama, the art/science project which would naturally flow, heheheh, out of this little reading/history lesson would be a project where Josiah gets to research and build and then of course ERUPT his very own volcano.
Hmmm…must think on that.
In between nursing all our flu patients, we did enjoy some sweet moments this past holiday. Here is a little recap in photos.
To the delight of the children, we put up our first “real” Christmas tree in many, many years.
Despite two of them being down with the flu on Christmas morning, we got a picture of all four…plus one doggie who was willing to pose. Sasha still had her cone on from her recent surgery and refused to sit for a photo.
The snow on Christmas day was gorgeous, what a treat to have a White Christmas in Texas! Some of us got out to play in the cold stuff…Abigail and Josiah even built a little snowman, complete with baby carrot nose!
When we were well enough, we enjoyed time with some of our presents
(Thank you, Nana for the jingle bell collars!)
Do you remember making these potholders when we were kids? He was so proud!
After people recovered from the flu, there was much merry-making!
And even cake for the two birthday kids.
This random photo doesn’t really have a place in the Christmas story, but I thought Hare E Potter holding his own carrot was absolutely blog-entry worthy!!
By January 6th, Jay felt well enough to crawl to the table for a few minutes. We enjoyed our Christmas ham and accompanying feast on Epiphany this year, but it was nice to finally sit down at the supper table with everyone present.
From our family to yours…
I don’t usually make a ton of resolutions for the new year, but this year I do have just one.
My New Year’s resolution is that I’ve decided to write no more spiritual-sounding bloggy posts on giving thanks in all circumstances when my family is sick for Thanksgiving…bc it turns out when you do that, you will be given an even greater opportunity in which to give thanks by your entire family being sick with strep and flu for the ENTIRETY of Christmas vacation, and then some…and you will fail miserably again and again at feeling anything resembling thankfulness. And feel sort of like a hypocrite.
This has not been my most favorite of Christmases, not by a long shot. Influenza hit our family the week before Christmas and has lasted past the time when Jay should have returned to work were he not down with fever still. It is no fun to watch your family members, one by one be taken out by the worst flu bug you recall seeing in your 40 years.
It is no fun to watch your babies (yes, they are still my babies) suffer with fevers for 7, 8, 9 days long, to watch them one by one all throw up their flu meds till you disgustedly toss the meds in the trash because they are making things worse. And then to see those same babies, even after the fevers break, continue to lay there with no energy for playing.
It is no fun to watch your oldest son of 11 years old so overcome with fever that he cries when he realizes he has now caught the flu, too, and as a result, will be missing his much-anticipated, first trip ever to Winter Scout Camp.
It is no fun to sleep on an air mattress on the living room floor by yourself night after night during Christmas vacation b/c there is nowhere else left in the house to go sleep where people don’t have high fever and flu germs, and you are the only healthy one left to care for all the sickies, so you’d best do everything you can not to catch it.
And it’s REALLY not fun when the kids finally all get healthy but dear old Dad is taken down and has to spend a week (yes, a week) back in the bedroom while the kids take turns asking over and over when he’ll be well enough to come play and have fun before he has to go back to work!!
But….whenever I’d grumble about how sad I was about our “ruined” Christmas, courtesy of this horrid illness which hit every member of our little family (except yours truly), knocking healthy folks on their backs for a week and more, with high fevers and wracking, painful coughs…my sweet, wonderful husband (who has his flaws, but being discontent is not usually one of them) would smile patiently. And give me a hug (well, at least when he wasn’t contagious!). And he’d propose to me that maybe a Christmas holiday full of sickness and sadness is a much more realistic picture of why we need Christmas in the first place. And even, perhaps, a better representation of the first Christmas long ago. Much more so than any perfect holiday we could dream up.
God’s sacrifice in sending Jesus to earth, though romanticized for the sake of our Christmas stories and songs was not pretty or tidy. Jesus was God, he was king of the universe: immortal, omnipotent, and he humbled himself enough to become human. He chose to leave the glory and majesty of heaven and come live in our world of sickness: flu, strep, fevers, coughing…and sadness….and death.
The first Christmas wasn’t Norman Rockwellian in the slightest. There was no mention of influenza upon Jesus’ arrival in this world. But his impending birth was announced under questionable circumstances to a woman not yet wed, and he made his first appearance in a stable of all places. Labor in a stable? Freshly born baby placed in an animal trough? And this little king’s first visitors: not the wealthy, noble, royal types you’d expect to show up for the birth of God’s son, but shepherds. Some of the most humble, lowly folk in town were the first to worship and pay respects to this little boy.
My guess is that none of this is what Mary had in mind when she dreamed of becoming a mother. And yet this was the incarnation. This was Emmanuel, God with us…because he loved us enough to bring himself into our world of pain and suffering, to know our sorrows, to take them on as his own. Even the manner in which he showed up reflected such humility and recognition of the world in which he’d come to live. And oh how thankful we are that he came to dwell with us, and to save us…from things far, far worse than the flu!!
I haven’t done a good job of feeling thankful in all things this Christmas…and how true it is that my circumstances are nowhere near as hard as some of the realities and hardships that friends of mine are dealing with this year. And you know what? It is ok. Because in spite of my circumstances, and perhaps even more because of our circumstances this holiday, I can still thank God for Emmanuel. Christmas is still Christmas…Jesus still came. And as a friend who himself was also down with the flu this Christmas so simply and beautifully put it…
We don’t need a perfect Christmas for Jesus to be real.
My friend and Gladney buddy, Missy, of It’s Almost Naptime, is in Ethiopia right now on her family’s first trip to meet their new daughter, a darling 25-month-old little girl whom they will spend only a few hours with this week during their visit to pass court, and then hopefully go back within a couple of months to bring home for good. Missy and her husband Walker (whom I’ve been friends with since our days at Texas A & M) got on the wait list at Gladney just three months before we did, so we’ve really appreciated being able to watch each phase of their adoption journey. I’ve loved the pictures and updates she’s sent this week as they meet their daughter, and experience Ethiopia for the first time.
As part of our trips to visit Ethiopia, we are given the opportunity to visit government orphanages and see the reality of what life is like for many of the children who are not brought into care at a Gladney or other type facility. Missy’s blog post today after their visit to an orphanage makes my heart hurt, but I want to share it, because the sad truth is that children in so many countries are brought up in these conditions. You can read Missy’s post here as well. As a side note, neither Missy’s daughter, nor our future daughter reside in government facilities like this. Instead they live in a Gladney foster care center where as much as possible, they are held and loved on and played with, and are able to develop an attachment to their caregivers.
No pictures allowed
I’m sorry, but I can’t show you any pictures of this because the government wouldn’t let us take any photographs.
I Thessalonians 5:18 is a well-known verse: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you…”
This verse arrives in the chapter right after we are instructed to rejoice always, and pray without ceasing. All of which God must have known we humans would struggle with, and struggle with aplenty, especially in this fallen, sin-riddled world.
It seems then, that during a season of Thanksgiving, I should not be surprised when my ability to give thanks is tested. Such was the case this year, though nothing we struggled with was nearly as challenging as some of the very, very hard circumstances many in this world are faced with each day. This blog entry will feel a bit long and tedious and I don’t expect many to read it all the way through, but I want to get it down in writing for my own remembrance. Because we truly have so very much to give thanks for this year.
The Monday night before Thanksgiving, our oldest child began experiencing very sharp chest pain which continued through the night. Any sharp intake of breath also caused pain, and she was unable to lie down, and could only get relief while sitting propped up with pillows. We got her comfortable in the recliner in the living room and there she spent a fitful night. These were scary hours for her, and for us, and a morning call to the pediatrician didn’t offer any answers except the directive to go straight to the ER and get a chest x-ray. Jay accompanied Abigail so that I could stay home with the rest of our children, and hours later we learned that our daughter had a nasty case of bacterial pneumonia which had resulted in fluid accumulating in her left lung, thereby causing the excruciating pain. We were shocked at the diagnosis, but actually quite relieved it was “only” pneumonia, given some of the other possibilities chest pain presents. But we called my family immediately to tell them we could no longer spend Thanksgiving weekend with them as planned, and this was terribly disappointing for all of us, because we all get together once a year at best due to one of my siblings living in the Northeast now. My mother had planned a professionally-photographed family portrait for Friday morning since there were two new babies in the family since we had last taken a picture together, and I hated to be the one to ruin her wonderful photograph, but of course it couldn’t be helped.
And yet, here was an opportunity to give thanks: for incredible medical care not five miles from our home, for relief from pain for my precious daughter, for antibiotics to combat the infection in her lungs, for the ability to bring her home and put her to bed in a warm, comfortable place where she could rest and recuperate. For all the family and friends who prayed for us during that day while we waited for news, and loved us enough to keep calling/texting/emailing for updates.
While Jay was with Abigail at the ER, I had to accompany our second oldest to the surgeon’s office to have some pins removed from his arm that had been placed there during surgery several weeks before. The pin removal was done with no anesthesia, and our boy, who has some sensory issues combined with quite a bit of anxiety was rather undone by the procedure. It was not only painful, but a highly stressful ordeal for him, and all this was going on while we continued to wait for results on Abigail’s situation. To say I felt a bit of stress myself puts it mildly. If they’d offered me a margarita to suck down before they began the procedure, I’d have gladly accepted, and shared half with Jonathan.
But here was another opportunity to give thanks: that despite his very real struggles, Jonathan made it through the procedure without fully “losing it”, and had that little victory to be proud of. That after a bad break, and surgery, that his arm was nicely healed, and that we enjoyed care from one of the best orthopedic surgeons in Dallas who tended to his injury. That I had not one but at least five offers of childcare for my younger two while I took him for his pin removal, again for family, friends, and neighbors who care for us so well.
Thanksgiving Day we spent at home; due to the somewhat last minute nature of our holiday plans, we opted not to cook a turkey feast, but Jay kindly offered to try his hand at a prime rib roast, which it turns out he will now be asked to prepare for each and every family holiday because it was so. incredibly. delicious!! While the lovely roast was cooking, and we were cleaning up the kitchen from some of the meal preparations, we noticed the sink starting to back up, not just in the kitchen, but the laundry room as well…and yes, of course, we ended up with a plumbing backup on Thanksgiving Day, when it turns out, no plumbers will call you back even if you offer to pay them a premium to do so. After a couple of hours of effort to dislodge the leak himself to no avail, Jay spent the last hours of the evening on his hands and knees doing dishes in the stand-up shower near the kitchen. Sigh…
So…thankfulness here?? Well…honestly I wasn’t feeling all that thankful. I was actually leaning more toward fretful, because after delaying their visit to us due to the pneumonia, my sister and her family were due to arrive on Friday, and here we were without ability to clean dishes or laundry, and the mess was right in the area of the house where they would have to stay. But I was reminded that I take for granted our constant access to clean, running, hot and cold water, and the reality that we have machines that will wash our dishes while we sleep, and clean our clothes while we take a trip to the grocery store. Amazing. How thankful we should always be for these admitted luxuries.
We figured after the plumbing backup was cleared on Friday morning that the worst of this weekend was behind us, and we could concentrate on preparing to welcome our beloved houseguests who were soon to arrive from Austin. But before they could get here we were greeted by houseguests of another kind, and I don’t mean the human kind. During a trip to the garage to grab something out of the fridge in there, I heard the tiniest movement near the wall, and reported my suspicions to the man of the house, who quickly confirmed that yes, there was a critter hiding out behind the refrigerator, likely having come in from out of the cold to take refuge under the warmth of the nice garage appliance. Sigh. Over the next 48 hours, the man of the house and his eldest son trapped 9 of these critters and as I write this, they are still waging war on the uninvited houseguests, much to the dismay of yours truly. I hate critters. Despise them. Get all yucky feeling just imagining them…so let’s just say that knowing they are trying to take advantage of and stake claim to my warm garage is quite upsetting to me. And what’s even worse: I have had the unfortunate experience of being in the garage while a trap goes off loudly, mere feet from where I am standing, accompanied by awful squeaking sounds…and well, this was almost more than I could handle.
I’m still working on giving thanks in this circumstance; the best I can come up with is this: if I have to have critters in my garage, I am so glad I have a brave husband and son who are willing to handle the nasty task of disposing of them. And at least for now, I am very, very thankful that the vermin are out there and not in here…and I pray it stays that way.
I told a friend at church yesterday that I’m waiting for things to settle down to normal around here…that I’m really and truly ready for normal, whatever in the world that looks like. Admittedly, I’d love to experience “normal” before we get that call for a referral for a precious little girlie in Ethiopia who we are dying to meet. I’d like to be able to fantasize about bringing our girl home to a more “normal” household and family. Wouldn’t that be best for her, anyway? Doesn’t God think maybe she could use some “normal” after all she will have been through in her short life? And it is with this thought that it hits me that no, I don’t think I need to be looking around the corner for “normal”…because didn’t that verse back in Thessalonians talk about rejoicing always and giving thanks in every circumstance (even, and especially when life isn’t “normal”?). Because how much more incredible is it that God sees fit to use me, to use us, our family, in all our imperfection and with all our various “issues”, to accomplish his will in this world?!
I don’t really know if I will be any better at giving thanks in all circumstances from here on out. However, I’m quite sure our family will never forget this rather odd Thanksgiving week where we were faced with a little collection of opportunities in which we could choose to rejoice and give thanks, or throw up our hands and pout about life. May God give us all the grace and ability to see his hand at work in each of our lives, so that we can give thanks in both the good and the bad that comes our way. And now it is only fitting that I tell you, dear Reader, that if you have managed to hang with me all the way to the end of this long entry, that I am very thankful for you and your patience!!