Thursday, May 30, 2013 our personal lives

 So our pastor was talking about margine the other day.  He referred to our personal lives and our finances both.  So I thought I would pass on a tiny piece of somethig I have been thinking about. 

**Today's pics are brought to you by Fun at the Park :).  We went out and played at the park last week.  We played baseball, kickball, rode scooters, and of course got the famous questions- do you run a local daycare?  ;)  he he he would think it wouldn't still make me laugh, but it does. 
 So margine.  Now that summer is kicking in- do you love the "new routines" you have just started or will be soon, or are you begging for mercy already?  You see sometimes routine changes are the perfect times to reevaluate what we are doing.  Like for me I reevaluate what we will focus on for the summer. 
 Since we homeschool year round I don't do "longer" days of school in the summer.  I focus my efforts on a few things, and try to really do them thoroughly.  It could be a focus on a few curriculm pieces that maybe we have done, but now is the time to really focus and dig a little deeper. 
 The LAST thing I want to do is to make our days miserable anytime of the year.  It's summer, I want to relax, play more, do some fun projects, and focus on the needs of our children.  Not that I don't year round, but this is a time to do extra.  Hope that makes sense. 

So back to margine.  If I want to focus....I have to take things out of the way.  I have to really look deeply at what is most important at this time for our kiddos and learning.  I push things that I would normally do out of the schedule.  Just "redo" my schedule for a while. 
 What about our personal lives.  Are we so busy running like headless chickens (and by the way if you grew up on the farm you know that headless chickens run around like CRAZY!) that we forget to focus.  We get too distracted by the things around us to allow time for God to work in our lives.  For us to solely communicate with HIM? 
 Or is is that we allow our families to get so busy that we "run to church or church events" rather than focus on them?  OUCH!  That has hit me more than once between the eyes!!!!  Because I have read the statistics on how and why children leave the church, but I believe the most important is- we "play church" just like our kids "play house" or in our case sometimes "play orphanage".  We don't allow margine in our lives so we run around yelling at our chidren or spouses instead of preparing our hearts to go to church. 
 I am completely guilty!!!!  I get caught up in "getting school done" that I forget to connect well with my children, to connect well with my husband, or most importantly connect with GOD!  Then my life sets off in a downward spiral.  I am not leaving a margine in my life, in my spiritual life :(.  Everyone around me suffers.........
 My husband laughs because I am very type A.  I know you are thinking- how is that possible with 9 children.  My answer......that is why I a not good at crafts, or messy projects all the time, etc.  I like my lists, schedules, etc.  So if you are a type A person- you will scrap the schedule you have and create a new one.  Scrap the list you have and create a new one with different priorities.  :)  It's refreshing!  It's freeing!!! 
 Most importantly for allows me to REFOCUS!  To CREATE MARGINE in my life so I feel like my goals are in line with what God wants from me. 
 Doesn't mean I am perfect.  NOPE!  Just means I am refocusing......and will continue to refocus until I am in line with what the Holy Spirit is asking of me.  Sometimes that means my blog posts don't get written....sometimes  it means.....FB goes without posts (oh my shock I know).....sometimes it means I don't get any down  time.......but at all costs- am I making sure that God and then my family are getting my focus! 
 So what is your schedule like this summer?  Does it leave time for fun?  Family?  GOD? 
Does it really fit your needs, your families needs?  If is the time to make some changes whether you are a hard core scheduler like me, or someone who is more relaxed.  We all need margine!!  So we don't lose focus on what is most important!
**Just wanted to share some REALLY EXCITING NEWS!!!!!!!!!   We have had 4 clients match in the last month :).  One you have already met- Thomas and Kristi!!!!  Well, there will be more soon.  Will be posting as their precious ones are being born (one is already here- just born a few days ago), and as they are able to get those first fun family pics.  :)  SOOOO EXCITED to share more soon.  I am pretty sure I work with some of the most amazing families on the planet :). 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Christian Alliance For Orphans Summit #9 pt.2

 Hello, as promised there is a lot more coming about Christian Alliance for Orphans!  :)  Above is Gretchen Sloan and Melissa Lazarra- friends from here in Brandon, FL and we all had a blast together! 
 Nicole C. Mullen and her husband have also adopted, and while she was there performing she brought along a group of young people that she helps mentor!  :)
 One of the speakers while we were there was Michelle Bauchmann.  She and her husband did foster care for years....countless children in her home.  Her response to those who say- I could never do foster care....The Lord broke our hearts.  Her encouragement:  Adding to the family doesn't diminish your love for others- it adds!  A child needs to know that at least 1 person in the world is crazy about them!  :) 
 One of the break out sessions I attended while I was there was Multiracial Family.  Now some of you may ask - ummm....Dawn don't you know you already are a multiracial family?  ;)  Why yes I do, but I was thankful I went because they had young adults there talking about how it was to grow up in a family like ours :). 

Some of the great things said during this session: 
I never want my children to feel a debt of gratitude.  In other words- my children don't owe me anything.  They are my family!  :)
If I would choose again I'd choose you!  You didn't have a choice initially- you have to rechoose to be in your family and want it. 
Scripture- Joseph adopted Jesus this was a PLAN A not PLAN B.  You are a fulfillment of God's Plan!
Are you ever going to go looking for your real parents?  Response:  I have already found my real parents.  It is sometimes hard when people outside the adoption community don't know the language. 
 How does it make you feel to be different?  Where are you from?  Other questions along that line.  Response:  Make sure your secure in your family.  Make sure your children know daily that they belong and they know they are a part of you. 
How much of your story do you share?  This is hard because we want to advocate for adoption, tell stories, but be careful to balance that out.  Make sure you have an open dialogue with your children about this.  It is their story!  Some may choose to share it openly.  Some children do not want to share any of it. 
Racism is hating the image of God.  Pretty powerful statement!
 Talk openly about any racism comments!  Make your whole family aware of how to respons appropriately that still shows Christ. 
Make your world colorful!  There are a million ways to do this, but if at all possible have friends that are of different skin colors (this is for everyone on the planet not just adoptive families).  Have a variety of dolls with various skin colors.  Listen to artists that have a variety of skin colors.  Look around your home, your art, your music, your movies, your pictures, everything- include variety!  It's the  spice of life! 
Teach your children that "their own kind" is humankind- we are all a part of God's family.  :) 

**From a personal point of view I think a good friend said it well when it comes to combining skin colors.  Don't make a fuss over it all the time, but don't ignore it either.  You have to combine it into your everyday lives.  Let it just become a part of who you are.  :)
 Now this is Jimmy Wayne, and if you have not heard his testimony YOU NEED TO!!!!!  AS IN RIGHT NOW GO HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Seriously you will be BLESSED!!!!!! 
David Platt spoke as well- and I will elaborate more on that in another post, but here is another clip that you can hear a little part of his testimony about adoption :). 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Together For Life!

 Hello, my name is Michael, and I want to take over mommy's blog today and talk to you all about something that is really important to me- LIFE!  Why?  Because I am thankful that my birth mommy chose life!  I am thankful that my brothers and sisters are alive!  I am thankful for them many many many families out there that didn't know what to do, and some very sweet praying people have shown them what life really looks like- and they CHOSE LIFE!!! 
 These are my gorgeous sisters- faces painted!  :) 
 This is my "twin"!  She is a little crazy, but I love her! 
 So here is the deal.....some people think that Life is not really given to us by our Creator. 
Maybe they are scared? 
There may have been or are ongoing circumstances in their life that are so very hard they think there are no other choices? 
Sometimes a new mommy can be very depressed.  Sometimes the family of this new mommy can be hurtful and not supportive. 
They say things like this is all a mistake, or it wasn't meant to happen- so just get rid of the child.  Don't worry they say- wait until you have more resources to start a family. 
Psalm 139: 13-18
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand
when I awake, I am still with you.
 I think we should all go with what God says ;).  He knows what HE is talking about and what HE was doing when HE created us all!!! 
 Some people think that life is great!  Tey know the importance, but forget that there is sooo many other parts to it.  That is what I want to talk to you about today as well.  We went to this event called "Walk for Life" here in Brandon supporting Life Care.  This year it was themed Together For Life. 
 There was face painting, balloon artists, t-shirts, wristbands, music, bounce houses, worship, sharing by mommies who chose life, other testimonies, and loads of fun.  BUT the purpose was to show that our world needs us to be TOGETHER! 
 We need to be TOGETHER because there are many many needs in our broken world:  people who need encouragement in parenting, people who need help when their family isn't there for them, people who are widows, people who are in poverty, people who sad and have no where to turn, people who have been told for years and years that they are no good, people who need.........
 THE CHURCH TO BE THERE FOR THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!  People who need to see families come together to say we will be your support!  We will help you learn parenting skills, peole who will counsel them on what is best, people who say we will foster children for a while, people who will adopt, people who will say I can make a difference for 1 person, people who will open up their hearts and hands to families that are struggling! 
 THIS IS THE PICTURE OF THE FAMILY OF GOD!  Praying life over our city!  Praying as we show our testimony that we desire God to open our hearts to those in need just down the block from us! 
 This is my family saying- we are TOGETHER FOR LIFE!  This is our way of saying- we support life.  We support all of our birth mothers who CHOSE LIFE! 
 This is the community- wizzing by in their vehicles thinking- what are all of those people doing???  My daddy and mommy said- we pray that people did think that and that next year there will be even more people saying we can help just one other person see their value in Christ!  See the value in LIFE!
 I am pretty blessed by Life myself.  Some people say that I should not have been born.  NOT MY FAMILY, but others in society.  They think that children who are different are scary or too hard to deal with.  I thank God for not just one, but 3 families who thought I was awesome enough to say- WE LOVE YOU- YOU ARE CREATD BY GOD- YOU ARE WORTH MORE THAN ANY OTHER TREASURE!!!!!!! 
 You see this long line- mommy couldn't get all of the people in the camera!  YEA!!! 
This is what the church of God can do TOGETHER!  JOIN US!  YOU WON'T EVER REGRET IT! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Traditional Parenting vs. Parenting a Child from a Hard Place

 This post is not from Christian Alliance for Orphans- although there will be more on that, and they did have breakouts with this topic.  Today's post is just a little hint of the why behind changing your parenting styles.  Pictures provided by fun at Busch Gardens ;) 
 When we first started our adoption journey....I would say that we didn't know at all what we were doing or getting into.  Probably much better that way too!  The thing is that we never even knew we should or the why behind not doing just traditional parenting.  Which is fine.  This post is not to put down traditional parenting at all! 
 Instead I would like to challenge some of my own ideas.  My parents raised me in a traditional home- traditional parenting.  They said it, you do it, or you get a consequence.  Now I know some people get freaked out by spankings (of course for obvious reason when a child has been through trauma), but it is what it is.  Sometimes it was a loss of privilege or something along those lines.  I do have to say "grounding" was popular when I was growing up, but my parents didn't do that. 

For the most part- this worked in our home.  However, our home was stable.  We had both parents, no real ongoing trauma of any kind.  My parents were over the moon excited when we were born!  We were told we were loved daily, given hugs daily, and our parents would come to all of our events (and we were involved in a lot).  My dad during a large portion of my life was a truck driver so he was gone during the weeks, but he made it a point to be home 80-90% of the weekends.  When he was home- we spent all our time together, and only rarely went out with friends later in the evening on Friday or Saturday nights. 
 So that is my background in a quick nutshell.  It worked, I loved my childhood, and grew up happy!!!

However.....for every single one of our children they have gone through loss!  EVERY SINGLE ONE!  They are not in a "traditional" home in the sense that they have lost the ability to be with their biological parents.  Some of our children have been exposed to alcohol and drugs in utero, some have been malnurished, some have come through foster care and lived in "limbo" for a year to three years.  Some have been in abusive homes.  Some have not been "expected".  Some were born with a birth family going through a really tough time. 

Every single one of the above.......makes it harder for them.  I 100% believe they have all healed in sooo many ways!  They are really great and we couldn't love them any more!  However......if we completely ignore the fact that they have experienced these things we are not doing what is needed.  If you were to ask me one thing in raising our children that if I had a do over- what would it be?  It wouldn't be anything to do with our children, but I wish I knew there was another way to parent to help my children MORE! 
If we would have known that slightly different approaches would have helped our children more through the years- WE WOULD HAVE DONE THAT LONG AGO!

Theraputic Parenting, Empwered To Connect, Non Traditional Parenting- can be seen by some as - weird, not practical, not "firm" enough, kooky, some even say it isn't Biblical (which I don't believe after learning more about it).  What I am going to share is that I am specifically talking about Empowered To Connect (there are differences).  And for us it has helped our children in ways I never thought possible.  Were our children out of control all the time maniacs- NO!  Did they need additional healing that wasn't happening before- YES!

Does every child that has been adopted, been through any trauma, or anything from the above list need Empowered To Connect.....possibly not.  Do I think there are benefits - ABSOLUTELY! 

Which is why we are thrilled to be able to get to attend this summer Empowered To Connect's - Train the Trainer!!!  WAHOOO!!!!!  We just found out today :).  We are so very excited!!!!  Why?  Because we want to encourage more people locally to adopt/foster.  I think if we want the Body of Christ to rise up we need to give them tools.  Tools to help them better connect with their children whether with them short term or forever.  There is a need and we want to help other families like ours who are ready, willing, and able to take in children, but need a helping hand! 

So hoping to blog more about it in the future and share with you things we will learn as we read, watch, and go to the train the trainer course!!!  Praying it will be a blessing to many!!!  :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit #9 pt. 1

 So I didn't get to meet everyone I wanted, but I did meet quite a few people!  YEA!!!  The above picture is with Andrea Biggerstaff- who I know through All God's Children International.  She just brought home her son- YEA!! 
 This is someone from Louisiana- but I never met her while we were there.  Crazy huh??  Ashley Gray has done a homestudy for one of my Christian Adoption Consultant clients.  Love the crazy world of this person gets connected through this person....etc.!!!!  It's wonderful!!  I didn't really get tons of time to talk with Ashley, but some day!!! 
 This is a picture of me with Kate McDodson who works for All God's Children International!  Finally got to meet someone from AGCI in person!  :)  She has been with AGCI for quite a while and was involved off and on with our cases. 
 Picture of some of the other sweeties there playing and running around :) 
 Steven Curtis Chapman of course was there- ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITES!!!!!!!!!!! 
 AND- while I was there I was blessed enough to get to stay with Kristi Johnson!  Our whole family stayed with their family a few years back when Joanna was just a babe.  LOVE THE JOHNSON FAMILY!  For those of you who have read her blog (she is not really blogging anymore- seems like having 6 kids has taken up all her time? - he he he he....) they have 6 children all close in age and 2 of them are from Ethiopia. 
I got to go to CAFO with Melissa Lazzara and Gretchen Sloan!  Some awesome moms from our Loving God's Children local ministry.  We have a once a month get together at Mimi's Cafe and we rarely miss it.  Loving God's Children does A LOT of things, but this is one that is important to those living in our area of Brandon, FL because it is a vital support system!  Go check out the page to see the many other things this nonprofit does!

OK So the conference:  was soooo AMAZING!!!!!  Hearing the line up of speakers and going to the break out sessions filled my head to overflowing!  But I will try to recap some of what they said so you can benefit :). 

The first thing I want to say is some really amazing statistics from the Summit.  The very first Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit had 39 people.  Summit #9- had 2,500 and they had to turn people away!!!!!!  WOW OH WOW!!!!!!!!!!!  Does that open my eyes to the fact that the church is definitely getting involved.   People are now seeing that orphan care is not just adoption or foster care, but soooo much more!  It has definitely taken on a new meaning and I love that! 

So what is Orphan Care then?  It is adoption, foster care, sponsoring children, mentoring children, protecting children from others- as in human trafficking, and trying to support those orphans and widows in any way humanly possible!  Education is key!  If we don't know a problem exists we can't deal with it.  If we don't know about special needs adoptions, what is the truth about HIV adoption, how can we support children aging out of foster care, how do we homeschool effectively children from hard places, how do we connect with children from hard places- Empwered to Connect!, and on and on the list goes. 

The first speaker was Stephen Ucembe from Kenya.  He grew up in an orphanage setting.  This is what he said about his experiences.....
He never had more than a 5 minute conversation
Told he was lazy
He grew up with more than 50 other children
He couldn't be different
He never cried until he was 20
Was over the age of 20 when he got his first hug
He would kill for food or a shower
Didn't see the outside world- ever
Was a number in a crowd
Never heard the words I love you
One day.......he received a the package were some small gifts and a letter from someone from England.  The letter said- I love you!  ??  He held onto that memory......and still has that etched in his mind even today. 
There were many short term missions that came in, but they always left making it hard to trust, hard to be consistent.  They always liked to play with "the cute ones". 

So what can you and I do?
Some missions are all about the numbers.......not about helping people......MAKE IT ABOUT PEOPLE!!!!  The most important thing is you CAN HELP!  So what is the best case scenario?  CHILDREN IN FAMILIES!  Pure and simple.  Think about what would be best for your child or your neice, nephew or grandchild.  That is what ALL children need no different because you don't know them yet or you don't have a picture of them.  They still need a family! 

Other powerful things from someone who lived through this- you can't give what you dont' have.  Make no mistake you will be judged for what we do.  **No we don't get to heaven by works, but works should be the fruit of our faith! 

The hunger for love is more than the hunger for bread! 
We NEED to call them by their names!  Just as God calls us by ours.  An orphan is easy to ignore before you know their makes it real.  Don't remember the sad story- just do something!  Remembering a story won't help other children. 

One of the most powerful statements he made that caught my attention: 
"The pain of losing a parent is not as painful as living without one."   

Let that sink really take some time and reread it.  Write it down and stick it in a place you will brought me to tears. 


His point was that we alone can not solve the world's orphan crisis, but we can - WITH OTHERS!  We can make a huge difference.  By getting involved, finding a niche, finding our passion (so many to choose from see my small list above), and simply DO IT! 

Now you see why this period of 2 days blew me away?  This was just one speaker!!!  He lived through the experience of growing up in an orphanage and has dedicated his life to helping others who have to live through the same thing, but is determined to help make that difference!  PRAISE GOD!!!!  You see it isn't just people from the United States....the whole world sees the problem, and with each other's help we can through Christ care for all of God's children! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My big surprise and what is Michael doing now?

 So I told you there was a huge surprise waiting for me when I got home from the Chrsitian Alliance for Orphans Summit 9- This was my note on the door.  (I was gone from Early Wednesday until late Saturday.) 

**For those who may not know- we love watching "Property Brothers", "Love It or List It", and other such fun programs :).  He says Love it and list it, because we have dreamed of the possibility of moving.  Now that we are not tied down to a specific location we can move around within our neighborhoodish and not worry about how long it would take him to get to work.  :)  A dream.....for now.......
 So THIS is what he did!!! 
 OK so sorry no pre picture was taken- yes I told him he should have, but I had the camera with me....he he he yeah oh well.  What exactly did he do? 
 He repainted the room- a light earth tone
Bought new lamps, and decor
 He put together 3 frames he bought and filled them with 3 pictures of us.....awwwww
 He bought new bedside tables!!!  Now for some of you- you may be thinking- reallly?  But let me explain we have NEVER had bedside tables since we were married.  We had folding wooden tv trays ;) because we are that classy people! 
 He also got myself a power cord because since we have lived here (not the above pic, but the one above that) my bedside- tv tray could never plug in the phone, and the cell phone, and the lamp.....the things you do just because you kind of forget about them over time.  Our old lamps had gotten broken- shock right- and we tried to fix them, but the shade was still never repairable. 
 This window covering had a light purple material in it....he foudn some extra material from our curtains we have in the living room and made new coverings!  YES MY MAN CAN SEW!!!!  :)  I know I know- I am blessed!!!!  I do not take that for granted.
 Oh and he bought a new chair
Installed new closet doors (our were original to the house built over 40 years ago- ewww, gross no matter how many times we cleaned them).
And he installed a new fan!!!  At some point he will put our old one in the girls room because their fan has been broken.  :)
 Awww.......a retreat!!!  You know we didn't "need" this, but wow is it nice!!!  I love the fact that he thought about what we need, and said I will do that as a sweet sweet surprise to my wife.  Again- I am blessed!!! 

There are times I am frustrated with my hubby - being real.  BUT all the time I am grateful for him, for his talents, for his leadership in our home!!!!!!  :)
 YES- I know.....I need to write soooo much about the Christian Alliance for Orphans!!!!  I DO and I WILL.....but man.....look at all of this!!!! 
 I mean......all of this, and over 14 whole pages of notes!  That is probably more than I ever took in 4 years of college- just messin'......??  I will however sit down and put some thoughts down on paper- Promise :) 
NOW- CHECK THIS OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  To understand how big of a deal this is....let me tell you more about our miracle Michael. 

Michael has cerebral palsey, hiv positive (was way out of control when he was an infant due to not getting his meds), small head, had failure to thrive, autism?, and well a whole list of "stuff".  We aren't big into labels, but this short list gives you some ideas of where he has come from and is at now. 

Michael had just learned to crawl- with starting to hold up his head when he came to us.  He couldn't sit up without curling comepletely over.  When he sat on my lap he leaned completely into me because he just didn't have the muscle tone.  He didn't speak, but every now and again would make a noise.  He was just starting to show emotions.  We used to cheer when he came home if he threw a fit!  Put anything in his mouth- NO WAY!  He gagged and choked on his liquidy foods- stage 1 maybe 2!!!  He was on a bottle.  He held eye contact for maybe a second or two if you were really lucky.  He had just gotten glasses!  He had hearing issues off and on. 

Well now a year and 3 months later- he can sit up (his back is still a little rounded, but getting better all the time!  He can stand holding onto something for over 30min!  He babbles like a baby would- not as much as we would like, but he is doing well.  He can say mama, daddy, Michael, bye, and ball- realize this is not consistent, and sometimes he won't say a real word for several days, and then all of a sudden explode with words.  He can verbalize the alphabet sounds- but it is random and spotty.  He can walk with holding onto fingers.  He is working with weights to strengthen those leg muscles even more!  He sits up without needing assistence!  He is eating 3rd foods, and smashed foods from our plates (note he doesn't like it, but he can).  He can pull himself up!!! 

And now.........drum roll please......he is starting ever so slowly to put things in his mouth!!!  Not all the time.  But these teethers that vibrate like the strawberry one above- YES!  He has done this several times now.  We are also feeding him with a spoon as well as a - hmmm....don't know how to describe it, but it looks like a pacifier, but a little bigger and has holes in it.  The goal is to eventually get him to chew on it to get foods "out" and swallow them without fear of choking.  He he he.....a little tricky- yes!  But the first step was to get him to put it in his mouth to begin with not something he liked at first, but does now pretty easily. 

WOW OH WOW!!!  We are soo very proud of our little miracle man!  Today he had a Pediatric Infectious Disease appointment.  The nutritionist, the doctor, the nurses all love him to bits- of course!  But, they all noted how many new and huge things he is doing now.  We see these people every few months, and every time they are blown away- so are we!  God is AMAZING!!!! 

Michael Jason Wright you are a miracle!  Your story is hard, but God is so much Bigger and Greater!  You are a miracle set aside for HIS GLORY!  You will testify to the nations with your healing the wonderful works of HIS HANDS!  We know that HE has saved you, healed you, and continues to heal you for a purpose of giving HIM all the praise!  Rock on little man- Rock on!!!