Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Highlight Reel 2013

I was looking back over my f@cebook posts from the year and it was a great snapshot of our lives in 2013. Granted, one must take into consideration the fact that it focuses on the fun and happy, not the ugly.  But just know that there was some ugly in 2013 too.  I decided to post some of the best pics, status updates and videos as a compilation of the crazy and the awesome.  This is our year at a glimpse:

April 19: WHAT THE HECK. We have a murder mystery going on in the T household, and I'm the prime suspect. Our beta fish, King Kong, is missing from his bowl. I cleaned out his bowl several hours ago, and I SWEAR I specifically remember plopping his little body into the clean water. Now he is GONE. The temporary green cup he stayed in during cleaning is empty, and so is his bowl. Don't see him in the sink, no sign of a jumper...and I am feeling the heat, people!

April 21: MURDER MYSTERY SOLVED! Asher has been cleared of all wrongdoing, and my conviction has been lessened from murder to involuntary fish-slaughter, by way of filling the bowl too full, therefore enticing King Kong the beta fish to jump free of his bowl. He (evidently) plopped off the dresser and managed to make his way under it. Ew. Glad I wasn't the one who found him. After the fact, I said, "Maybe he just wondered what was waiting for him outside of his bowl." Carson said "What was waiting for him was a quick trip to the garbage can." CASE CLOSED.

We listened to this song approximately 2934 times from August to December.  Our friend Uncle JJ had a rare glimpse at the VonTrapp family singers belting out Nothing But the Blood: 

Asher developed a hilarious little routine, where he lip syncs passionately to silly little Sunday School songs as if he were rocking out.  It never ceased to crack us all up!

 *Tonight when we were reading Goodnight Moon, for some reason on the page when the cow jumps over the moon, Asher got very serious and started shaking his head. "Cow, BIG no-no." I don't know why, but this totally cracked me up! Think he hears those words a bit too much? I'm glad he's found someone to boss around. Being the baby is rough!

*My two-year-old can't speak in full sentences, but he just totally stomped me in 7 different I-Spy books. He's too fast for me!
 *I need a new measuring scale to categorize my children's meltdowns, like they do with storms, earthquakes or fires. Today we have been hit with multiple F5's and my inner richter scale is measuring about a 9.5. The situation is 1% contained.
 *"Mom, you know that song I asked you about the other day? Well, you were wrong. It's actually: 'Who let the FOG out? Who? Who-who-who?'"  "Um, no, it's not. It's DOG."  "No, it's FOG."  "Ok, sure. You go with that."

*"Carson, who did you eat lunch with today?" "The cold lunchers from A2. We're kind of a club." "Oh really? Who's the leader of this club?" "Me. And kinda Joshua, but mostly me." Yeah, I kinda had a feeling....

Just when you think you're covering all your bases as a parent, you notice something. "Carson, how long have you been wearing those pants?" "Since Christmas day!" he says proudly. (That's six days ago.)  Sigh.

Overheard from the bedroom: "Asher. I PROMISE I will catch you. I PROMISE." Says the girl who weighs exactly 1 pound more than the child she is promising to catch. This should be interesting.
 * Ignoring my frustration at their constant bickering over the play kitchen, Sydney insists on pushing through her brothers with a little menu pad and asking me "What would you like?" "I would like my kids to get along while they play." "We don't have that," she deadpans. Clearly.

*Tonight the kids were discussing something and Sydney gave her opinion. She then paused and said "THAT is a good point." About her own point! Ha!

*If you see my non-facebooking husband in the next couple of weeks, pat him on the back and tell him he was a total rock-star hubby this year. He showered me with gifts and affirmation for our anniversary--a total surprise. This from a man who once gave me an empty fish bowl for a (dating) anniversary, with a COUPON for a goldfish. That costs 29 cents. That never came. He's come a long, long way.  Love this man and so glad to have him for the last 12 years!

*So...this just happened. A) yes, he got shocked, but he is fine.  B) Before you judge the crap out of me, there WAS a plug protector in the outlet and he popped it out. I gotta make dinner, people!

*Today at silver falls was one of those days where you feel like falling on the mossy ground & kissing it & thanking God you're an Oregonian.

*My cup overflows! The first annual Called to Love Retreat was bathed in God's presence and favor. I can't even articulate what a blessing it was to meet so many individual moms who share a similar heart, and to work alongside this tireless, drama-less, ego-less team of women. We're already planning for next year!

*It was a casual Easter for us.  Love these faces

One of my favorite new songs from 2013 is  "Your Grace Finds Me" by Matt Redman.  The lyrics show how God's grace is in every moment, the good, the bad, and yes: the ugly.  I see His grace in the mundane and the phenomenal.  In the joy and even in the sorrow. My goal is to keep my spiritual eyes open to it always, to continually be "breathing in your grace, breathing out your praise."  Here's a link to the song and the lyrics below.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Love, Brazenlilly


It's there in the newborn cry 
It's there in the light of every sunrise 
It's there in the shadows of this light 
Your great grace 

It's there on the mountaintop 
It's there in the everyday and the mundane 
There in the sorrow and the dancing 
Your great grace 

Oh, such grace 

From the creation to the cross 
Then from the cross into eternity 
Your grace finds me 
Yes, Your grace finds me 

It's there on a wedding day 
There in the weeping by the graveside 
There in the very breath we breathe 
Your great grace 

Same for the rich and poor 
Same for the saint and for the sinner 
Enough for this whole wide world 
Your great grace 

Oh, such grace 

From the creation to the cross 
Then from the cross into eternity 
Your grace finds me 
Yes, Your grace finds me 

There in the darkest night of the soul 
There in the sweetest songs of victory 
Your grace finds me 
Yes, Your grace finds me 

Your great grace 
Oh, such grace 
Your great grace 
Oh, such grace 

So I'm breathing in Your grace 
And I'm breathing out Your praise 
I'm breathing in Your grace 
Forever I'll be 
Breathing in Your grace 
And I'm breathing out Your praise 
I'm breathing in Your grace 
Forever I'll be 
Breathing in Your grace 
And I'm breathing out Your praise 
Breathing in Your grace 
For our God, for our God 

Yes, Your grace finds me 
Yes, Your grace finds me

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

First annual. Definitely.

Last winter when I blogged about a budding new ministry/non-profit that I was starting with my friend Amy, I referred to it as my fourth baby.  I never stopped feeling that way, beginning on the plane ride home from Atlanta when God started developing the vision in our hearts to the moment we walked away from an empty banquet hall after seeing that vision come to reality.  This little ministry, Called to Love, is definitely my thing.  Not MY thing meaning I own it, but rather it's the thing for me.  The perfect task for my gifts and passion.  I have not been so exhausted emotionally and physically in a really long time; but I have rarely felt so fulfilled and confident that I was exactly where I supposed to be. The weekend was not flawless, but overall it went better than I could have hoped.  The feedback was mostly positive, and even the negative was shared in respect and love, offering suggestions and insight, not harsh criticism.  It was clear that God was working in the hearts of the mamas who came, including ours!
We held the retreat at the Oregon Garden Resort, which has a fantastic Grand Hall where we had all of our meals and main sessions.  The venue is not perfect (chairs are uncomfortable, the meeting hall is far from the hotel rooms and the parking lot is too small), but it met our needs and the staff was great to work with.  Thanks to Amy's creative decorating skills and the twinkling lights, the place looked great.  (PS: I stole all these pics from my FB friends, so thanks for that, ladies.)

One of our biggest desires was that the women would CONNECT with each other in real ways, not superficial chatter.  That began happening on the first night, as we saw conversations springing up all over the room.  Each night around 9:45 pm we had to ask women to go back to their hotel rooms so we could lock up.  It happened so naturally, it was amazing to watch.
This picture cracks me up, because these two girls are not new friends, but sisters.  :)  Also, that fireplace is to die for.

Another fun part of the weekend was the vendor tables.  We had 10 different vendors, either promoting their non-profit or selling merchandise to raise funds for their own adoptions.  There was plenty of time to walk around and chat and drink coffee while looking at all the goodies for sale.

One of our team members put in HOURS of preparation for the Encounter room.  It was kind of a prayer room, but so much more.  She designed several different stations for us to stop and reflect on the theme that we adopt (or foster) because WE have been adopted by God.  It was a time carved out from a busy weekend for women as individuals to be alone with God.  We got the idea from a similar concept at Created for Care, and then Jessica just ran with it, adding her own spin.  I couldn't believe how she transformed this rather boring room into a completely tranquil environment.

On Saturday morning we had a panel of six adult adoptees answering questions submitted by the moms.  We learned that panels are kind of tricky, because we want the speakers to be free to share their thoughts, we wanted each to have enough time to tell us what was on their hearts, but we were also on a time schedule, and six was probably too many for 40 minutes.  :)  Although it didn't turn out exactly as we had envisioned, they shared some incredibly valuable insight.  I don't have a picture, but that night we also had a panel of three birth moms.  It was emotional, but really great to hear their stories.

I cannot talk about the weekend without talking about the worship.  It was obviously a highlight for many of the women, as reported over and over again in their evaluation forms.  We were so blessed to have some of our dear friends from church come and lead the worship time.  They are absolute professionals with no agenda other than bringing glory to God.  It was incredible.  I don't have a picture of all of them, but this is Kristin and Lori, with my partner-in-crime, Amy, in between them at the podium. The LOVE marquis letters were made by Amy, and they were pre-tty bright!  One mom commented that as she closed her eyes in worship, LOVE was burned into her retinas!  Ha! Sorry if you had headaches, ladies, but it was just too awesome not to use.

There were so many moments in the weekend where I could feel God's presence and favor.  One small thing was on Saturday morning, when we realized that the huge storm the night before had blown away all of our signage, except for one good a-frame sign.  We had several volunteers, panel members, speakers, and breakout leaders still to arrive, and it is very hard to find the building without good signs.  One of our team members, Tricia, and I were standing outside trying to figure out what to do, because the arrow on our one sign was pointing the wrong way.  At this PRECISE moment, a woman walked by and said "We just had an event at our church this week and I have a bunch of big arrows in my car.  Do you want them?"  Boom.  She brought the arrows, Tricia got scissors and tape, and our problem was solved.  Coincidence?  I think not.
But my favorite story of the weekend unfolded slowly and ended with a fabulous bang.  Literally about 10 minutes before registration began, I got a call from our Sunday morning speaker.  She had been diagnosed with pneumonia, and was extremely ill.  She was in the hospital with a PICC-line for antibiotics and was on bed rest.  She would not be coming to speak on Sunday.  I can only give credit to God that I did not panic. I told Amy, and we both just said...OK!  We didn't have time to talk or think about it, we just prayed that God would tell us what we were to do for that session.  Put it on the back burner until we get these women registered.

As we were meeting and greeting the mamas whose names we had prayed over, one of them had a question about the vendor tables.  I began chatting with her about her table, and I instantly liked her.  She's an attachment specialist, a counselor and therapist, and she had just started a ministry with a desire to focus on supporting adoptive and foster moms.  She said she felt God calling her to help fill the gap that exists in the support and care of weary moms.  (So, kind of exactly what our weekend was about.)  She mentioned that she had previously run an adoption agency and placed over 100 kiddos (so, experienced and knowledgeable), but this current non-profit only has only one client. A friend of hers had gifted her this weekend as "kind of a launch" for her ministry.  All I can tell you was that the Holy Spirit was practically standing behind her, frantically pointing at her head, saying THIS IS YOUR GIRL!  Her name is Susan Killeen, and she was instantly likable, humble, and the exact opposite of self-promoting.  At this point, she still thought we were just talking about her 8 foot vendor table!

I asked Susan if she ever did any speaking.  She said something like, "Yes, kind of.  It's one of my goals in the future, but I mostly do one on one right now."  I smiled and called Amy over.  We told Susan our situation, and asked if she would prayerfully consider speaking on Sunday morning, even for 10-15 minutes.  Her eyes filled with tears and she said "In front of EVERYONE?"  I reminded her that this weekend was her launch!  How about a rocket launch?

I continued to check in with Susan throughout the weekend, and she was incredibly nervous and scared, but admitted that she already felt like God was giving her things that our women needed to hear.  Every time I talked with her, I liked her even more, and felt more sure that we had made the right decision.  Even if she was only mediocre, God wanted her up there.

It turns out...she's NOT MEDIOCRE.  She took the podium on Sunday morning and just knocked our socks off.  She was eloquent, wise, FUNNY, insightful, personal, and absolutely perfect for what we needed to end our weekend.  When she left the stage, the women gave her a standing ovation.  After we closed, her table was surrounded by women wanting to talk with her, thank her, buy her Bible study and get her business card.  We feel like we have this wonderful new partner in ministry--our very own resident expert and friend. I'm so sorry for our original speaker, Kerrie, who is so sick!  But I have absolutely no doubt that it was God's plan all along for Susan to be our Sunday morning speaker.  She will be invited to many, many more Called to Love retreats.  Check her out on FB, Hope Rising Coaching Services.

Lastly, I want to mention that Amy and I did not pull of this retreat alone.  We had an incredible team of eight mamas by our side.  Hardly any of them knew each other before this year, but we've come together with a common goal and no other desire than to serve these moms.  Each of them is incredibly capable and willing, and none of them has any ego.  We never had to over-think the tasks we were delegating, worry about anyone being hurt if they were asked to do too much or too little.  We could not have done it without them.

This is my soul-sister, Amy.  We have a lot in common, but we are also very different.  Our gifts and strengths wonderfully complement each other, and I never feel a sense of competition with her. I love being her partner.  She is an amazing woman of strength and resilience.  She's entering her third year of waiting for her adopted children from Ethiopia, and the wait is enough to undo anyone.  I am in awe of her grace.  My only regret is that we waited until the last session was over to take this picture, and we had both been bawling approximately 3 minutes prior to this photo.   (Also, the L and the O were sagging.)  It's a good thing we work well together, because we are absolutely sure that this ministry is here to stay.  In case anyone was wondering, this was not a one-time retreat.  We learned a lot and have room to improve and grow in several areas, but it was clear God's hand was in it.  It was definitely the first annual C2L.  First of many.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The 411 on C2L

My mind is spinning each day with details, details, details about the upcoming Called to Love retreat.   I feel like I've talked about it so much that everyone I've ever met knows all about it.  But then the other day some friends asked, "Now, what is it exactly?"  It's kind of like when I've chatted with another school mom every day for months and months, and the first day we met she may have told me her name, but now we're practically best friends and I don't know her name!   Maybe you have heard me yammer on about C2L for months, but don't know the scoop and feel embarrassed to ask!

Others do know what it is and have asked for an update on how the planning is going.  So here is the full story.  You might as well read it, because I doubt I'll blog much until the darn thing is over.  First I'll give an update, then if you are totally lost, you can keep reading for the background on what the heck Called to Love is and why I'm making such a big deal about it.

T minus 13 days: We are 2 weeks out from the very first Called to Love retreat, and it pretty much is a part-time job for both Amy and me (with no pay, in case that was unclear). It's on my mind night and day and is leading to some serious insomnia.  However, it is a total labor of love.  Every little thing we're doing, whether it's answering emails, creating name tags, choosing menus or discussing table decor, gets me more and more excited. I want these women to have the same sense of refreshing and connection that I received when I attended Created for Care in Atlanta last year.  I want them to feel understood and loved.

Right now we have almost 100 moms who have paid and registered for an event that did not exist before last March!  Their trust and their sacrifice shows me that there is a need for this type of ministry.  These mamas are coming from all over the country, not just the Northwest.  We are still watching the bottom line financially and having to make decisions like: should we serve coffee at this session, or buy C2L pens for every attendee?  Should we get a gift for the breakout speakers (who are all coming for free) or get a tray of snacks on Saturday night? But we feel confident that God is going to provide just what we need, and more importantly, bring just the right moms who need this weekend.

We covet your prayers, if you are the praying type.  Our biggest request is for the women attending, that it will truly meet them where they are--that it will be a weekend of renewal and refreshing, that they will feel supported and encouraged. Pray for their families at home, many of whom are dealing with hurting children. Our second request is just that God would show His favor in the details.  From the right technology to accommodate several different speaker's visual presentations to the food allergies to the weather to the hotel room reservations to the feeling a mama has when she walks in a huge room and doesn't know anyone....our prayer is that all of those pieces will fall into place.  Not so that we look good, but so that there will be no distractions from the purpose of the weekend.

If you are local and looking for a way to help, we have 2 specific needs.  On Friday, November 15, we are looking for some humble servants to help women figure out the semi-confusing grounds of the Oregon Garden Resort as they arrive.  Our goal is to have teams of 2 work in 60-90 minute shifts, to stand outside, greet the women and direct them.  The times we need to cover are 2pm to 6pm, and we need it rain or shine.  (Thus the very humble servant aspect.)

The second need we have is indoors.  ;)  On Sunday morning, November 17th, at the end of our last session, we are going to have an extended time of worship and prayer.  I have already heard the stories of some of the women attending our retreat, and they (and their children) are in the middle of some very heavy situations.  We would like to invite outside friends to come and be willing to pray with any mama who needs it (and requests it).  You do not need to be a person of eloquent prayer, just a willing heart to put your arm around a hurting mom and seek the Lord's grace, wisdom and love.  I know it's often hard to sneak away on a Sunday morning, but the session is at 9:30 am and the prayer time will be around 10:30/10:45.

Lastly, if you feel led to give something financially, we won't stop you. :)  The best way is to give through our paypal account; you can click on the "DONATE" button below. Ironically, our non-profit is not set up for tax-deductable donations yet, BECAUSE we don't have the $750 needed to file with the IRS to obtain 501c3 status, and we don't feel comfortable asking for donations until we HAVE that status!  So, we are not desperate, not actively asking for financial gifts (outside of this paragraph), but we would love to end this year in the black, with perhaps enough to go after that coveted 501c3.

Thank you to everyone in my very own support group (yes, ALL of you) who walked through our adoption with us, holding our hands each step of the way.  Now I feel you cheering me on as I seek to hold hands with other adoptive/foster moms who may not have the same level of support that I have.  May God be glorified through it all!

Background:  Last January, my good friend Amy and I traveled to Atlanta for a conference for adoptive moms (Created for Care).  She was entering her third year of waiting for her children from Ethiopia, and I was six months home with our adopted toddler after a 2.5 year wait.  I can't speak for her, but I was hanging on by emotional threads at the time.  I felt like I was failing as parent to my adopted AND bio kids, I was googling things like "post-adoption depression" and could not figure out why everyone on f@cebook seemed to have no issues with their adopted toddlers.  I loved my son and still felt confident in our decision, but I was unprepared for the difficulty I had bonding with him. I thought by 6 months home it would have all clicked into place and we'd be madly in love with each other.  I was filled with guilt for my lack of affection and ability to parent confidently, and I was frustrated with him for his destructive and defiant behavior--some of which was personality, some toddler nature, and some a result of his own attachment struggles.  I knew I loved him fiercely, but I felt like I was drowning in the experience of parenting him.  I had wonderful support from friends and family, but none of them had experienced this personally, and even with them I often didn't feel like I could be totally honest, because I didn't want them to worry about me.

Less than 2 hours after we had landed in Atlanta, I sat in a hotel room with two moms who both looked me in the eye and said "Yes. I've been there.  We adopted a toddler boy internationally and it was VERY hard to attach.  But IT'S GOING TO GET SO MUCH BETTER.  You're going to be OK and so is your son.  I know you love him."  The tears just flowed.  I felt like someone had offered me a life boat, and I climbed in. The rest of the weekend was full of similar conversations.  The discussions were full of HONESTY AND HOPE, two things I needed so badly.  I was told over and over again, "Yes, it's hard, but it's worth it.  Your child is worth fighting for.  It's going to get better.  Seek the Lord and He will give you what you need.  I GET IT."    It was exactly what I needed and was truly a game-changer for me as an adoptive mom.

Amy and I were not rooming together, and barely saw each other all weekend, because we were spending time with other adoptive moms and being renewed in our own specific ways.  During the weekend, they encouraged us to do retreats in our own communities. At one point during the weekend, we met up in an almost empty meeting room and one of us said: "We're so doing this, aren't we?"  And the other said, "Oh heck yes we are."  I don't remember who said what, but we were both 5 steps into planning before we got on the plane ride home.

The Beginning:  Once home, we put some feelers out to adoptive mom friends of ours in the Northwest, and immediately had about 7 other friends and acquaintances who were on board to be our "team."  They just happened to be some of the most intelligent, capable women I've ever come across, and they were  ALL IN.  We discussed the huge need for support and encouragement in this unique role.  On advice from our attorney (who happens to be one of the moms on our team!) and the founders of the original conference in Atlanta, we chose to start a non-profit organization that would be the foundation of the retreat.  Our purpose was simple: encourage and support adoptive AND foster moms in any stage of their journey.  Amy and I prayed and brainstormed and prayed some more about a name, and decided on Called to Love.  It may sound cheesy at first, but it took the broad vision for this ministry and brought it down to a very simple directive.  We are called to love these children. No matter what.  Not called to be heroes or rescuers or perfect parents, just LOVE.  Our theme verse is Isaiah 43:1:  "Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, and you are mine."   We were incorporated as state-sanctioned non-profit organization on March 20, 2013.

Immediately, God started flinging doors open for us.  High quality, sought-after speakers and session teachers agreed to come for little or no charge.  We strongly desired to hear from adult adoptees and birth moms, and both started coming TO US, willing to use their story to encourage these moms.  Foster and adoptive moms from all over the country were expressing great interest.  We wondered if we might exceed our 150 capacity!  Amy is the budget guru, and she worked and reworked the budget dozens of times.  We chose a venue, and found the magic number to be 90 women.  If we could get 90 paying registrations and carefully watched every penny we spent, we could pay all of our bills and neither of our families would go into debt.  We took a leap of faith and opened the registrations up.  We didn't get bombarded like we thought we would, but slowly and surely, moms from across the country have taken their own leap of faith and committed to attending.  We are so grateful for how far God has brought this little dream of ours, and want to give all the credit to Him.   I'm overflowing with joy to have the opportunity to offer a lifeboat to some other moms, and I pray that they will climb in and receive His abounding love and grace.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

September 23--ASHER birthday post

September 23, 2013

Happy birthday, Asher Saran!

You are THREE years old today.  I’m so happy that we get to celebrate WITH you.  I know we only missed one birthday of yours, but I think I will always be a little sad about that first one.  For some reason that missed birthday also reminds me of the months and months of longing for you to be home, the hundreds--HUNDREDS--of times I would stare at your picture and pray for you and cry a little or a lot.  But this second birthday home also makes me so grateful we get to celebrate ALL the rest with you!  This year we celebrated a little early at family camp.  Many of your friends and family were able to be there and we had monkey cupcakes just for you! 

Right now you are really into trains and cars…pretty typical for a 3 year old boy, I guess!  You especially are drawn to any remote control toy, and you run it in a straight line until it hits a wall or a foot, and then you laugh and laugh like you are playing some crazy trick on the toy (or the owner of the foot).  Another favorite past-time is one you picked up from your big sister.  You love cutting paper.  Cut, cut, cut all day long.  Of course, this is a tricky hobby, as there are papers you are allowed to cut and papers you are not, and that distinction is clear to everyone BUT you.  ;)  But when Sydney is doing something crafty at the table, you are content to sit with a stack of scratch paper and your scissors, making a huge mess, but tuning those fine motor skills!

Everyone you meet confirms what we already know about you: you are a ball of energy!  Even when you are doing very mundane things, like waiting for me to get you a glass of milk, or walking to the school to pick up your siblings, you can’t stand still or walk.  You have to be hopping  or bopping or swaying or dipping or jerking or bowing.  It is not uncommon for you to run 100 circles around me in the few minutes we wait outside of Carson’s school for him to come out!  You have two speeds, buddy: 100 mph or asleep.  Coincidentally, you also have 2 volumes: LOUD or asleep.   You, my dear, are all boy!  But I tell you what everyone ALSO says about you: you are a charmer!  You have a smile and a hug that could melt ice, and a laugh that is insanely contagious.

My favorite thing that is happening for you in the last few months is your language development.  You are still playing catch up to most kids your age…you had never even heard English until you were 22 months old!  I love when you say a word that I’m sure I’ve never heard come out of your mouth before.  For instance, the other morning when I went to get you out of bed, you said “Daddy go bye-bye ALREADY?”  You usually just say “Daddy go bye-bye?”  It’s those little victories that encourage us and make us so proud of the hard work you are doing to communicate.  You also worked really hard to form the “F” sound last week, so that I knew you were saying “My fffffffriend Sam” instead of “My ten Sam.”   Being able to understand each other is a reward in itself for both of us!

This summer you had a HUGE success at swim camp!  Oh buddy, I was so hopeful for you, but I admit I had my doubts.   They usually want kids to be three years old and they need to be able to listen and sit still and obey, which are not often strengths of a 2 year old boy.  But you? WERE AMAZING!  You have absolutely NO fear of the water.  I told your teacher this, and she admitted afterwards that she’d heard that before, but didn't really believe.  But she said she'd never seen a young child so eager to fling his body into the depths of the water with his eyes and mouth wide open!  Teacher Karen was wonderfully patient with you and you responded so well to her.  You listened!  And obeyed!  And sat still until your turn!  (Uh, most of the time.) And more than once you looked over at me and yelled “I DIDIT!  I DIDIT!”   I am so proud of your brave spirit and your determination.

I think summer is going to end up being your favorite season.  You were made to be an outside child.  The happiest days you’ve had in the last several months are when we’ve been camping, at the beach or just outside for hours and hours.  I wonder if it’s because you spent so much of your infancy and toddlerhood toddling around outdoors in Thailand with your foster siblings.  I wish we had a little more sun for you around here!

 On a kid’s birthday, moms usually think about the day they were born.  I do think a lot about the day you were born, even though I wasn’t there.  I have a feeling your birth mom is thinking about you a lot today too.  Even now, 3 years later, she is still a teenager, and my prayer is that she feels a great peace in her young heart about her sacrifice, her choice not to raise you.  I’m thanking God for you today, but I’m praying for her too.  I’m grateful for all the information we have about her and about your birth!  You were born at 7:39 am and you weighed 6 lbs and 12 oz.  You were born on a Thursday--did you know BOTH your brother and sister were also born on a Thursday?!  You like to tell people all the time (including us many times a week) that you were born in Thailand!  I hope you will always have great pride in being born in such a beautiful country.  And that you will have pride in the brave mama who loved you enough to give you the best care possible for a few short days, then surrendered you to another life.  I am eternally grateful for her, because through her?  I have YOU. 

I wonder if your birthday and other special days like Mother’s Day or Thai holidays that we celebrate as a family will some years cause your heart to feel unsettled.  I wonder if you will struggle with forming your identity around a Thai heritage and an American family.  My instinct is to protect my kids from pain and loss…but you, my son, have already experienced such deep loss in your short life: loss of your birth family and your native country; loss of a foster family who loved you dearly.  I know that we cannot make that loss disappear just by loving you.  However, we promise to continue to love you fiercely in every new stage of processing these losses and how you feel about them.   We won’t be able to heal the wounds or answer all the questions, but we will be right by your side every step of the way.

We love celebrating your Gotcha Day in June, but today is a far bigger celebration!  We are celebrating not just your entrance into our family, but your LIFE!  Celebrating YOU! We love you, sweet boy, just the way you are: your crazy cute smile, your happy wrecking-ball of a personality, your laugh, your songs, your DANCING (which is outstandingly awesome), your sense of humor—everything that makes you uniquely Asher.  We know God has great plans for your life, and we are just grateful to be a part of it.  Thank you for being such a brave boy.  I am so very glad that you are mine.

Happy birthday, my son!

Love, love, love,


Saturday, September 21, 2013

September 22--birthday post

September, 22, 2013

How is it your birthday again already?!  You just turned 7, like, a week ago! 

 I’ve just been reading over my birthday letters to you over the last several years, and there are some significant patterns.   Your personality began to take shape early in life, bursting onto the scene with attitude and energy to fuel it, and your life’s trajectory of filling every room you are in continues on course.

These are some of the ways I could describe you that are consistent with past years:

      *You are funny and smart   I recently found a bunch of old quotes from you that I’ve written down.  One was from December of ’09, when you were 4 years old.  You were sitting next to me drinking pretend coffee while I was drinking real coffee and you sipped, sighed and said “Aaaah.  This is a good cup of joe.” ?!?!  What 4 year old knows to say that?  It makes me laugh just thinking about it.
       Your mind seeks and collects information at an alarming rate for a second grader.  You are not very willing to read fiction for long periods of time right now, but you are completely enthralled with non-fiction books about animals, especially National Geographic almanacs.  You also get a huge kick out of the Guinness Book of World Records.  The other night you were giving me attitude about having to read your 20 minutes out loud, and you kept trying to read r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-w-l-y in dramatic protest.  But after a few sentences, you would speed up and then get interested and make a comment about the many types of bears—then you’d remember you were pouting and slow down again.  You didn’t fool me.  You may not like to be forced to read out loud, but you are a natural learner and a great reader.

        A friend recently pointed out how many random (and unnecessary) details you can recall with no effort.  For instance, directions to just about anywhere we go, the dates of certain events, multiplication tables,  movie and TV quotes from things we saw months ago, and the usual Sonic happy hour order for all five members of our family.   My favorite thing about your awesome memory is hearing you sing worship songs word for word.  Right now your current favorite (and Asher’s) is Nothing But the Blood.  You guys request it every day in the car and sing it at the top of your lungs!  We even had a talk about what it meant when it says “Nothing can for sin atone—nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  I LOVE having deep talks with you, because you listen and consider and ponder and ask some more.

      *You are strong willed.    Oh, mister.  I had no idea what those words meant until I met you!  You who would never stay in time out without trying to break down the bedroom door.  The one time I thought you had decided to be submissive to my discipline, you had actually pushed out your screen and jumped 6 feet out your bedroom window just to walk in the back door and down the hall to where I was standing so you could taunt me.  You who made me LITERALLY DRAG you through the linoleum floors of your school last year because you did not want to be there that day. 

        From the beginning, I prayed this over you:  that your iron will would bring honor to God.  That when God is done using it to refine me as a person and a mother that he would use it and use you to CHANGE THE WORLD, baby!  And I’m starting to see glimpses of that.  When you had a friend over a few weeks ago, he was using words we don’t allow.  Nothing illicit, just not permitted.  You firmly said, “We don’t say that word in our house.  Please stop it.”  I can tell you right now that even as a teenager I would have never had the guts to say that to a friend.  You are confident in who you are, you know right from wrong, and the Holy Spirit is working in your heart—I can see it!

       *You have changed me for the better.  You were my game changer, kid.  From the day you were born exactly 8 years ago, you’ve done things your own way.  You’ve challenged what I expected from life and from parenting.   There is no option of taking the easy way out with you, bud.  You keep me on my toes and always learning and growing—as a person and as a mom.  At night, your favorite song for me to sing is from a musical, and the repetitive lyrics say: “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”  And almost every stinking night I get choked up at that part, and I change the words to “because I know you.”  Because I KNOW YOU.  And you in your 8 years of life have spurred me on to be such a better version of myself than I was before you were my son.  Each day you challenge me to raise my game—in every way.   I love that about you.

Those are things that are similar to past years.  But there are a few things in your life that have been unique to this last year.  Some changes in our life and your life.  Here’s some fun facts about Carson Michael at 8 years old:

                *You decided to play flag football this fall instead of soccer.  It’s different and fun and we LOVE to watch you play.  Each game is different, the opponents change, the weather changes, but one thing remains: you play HARD each time.  You’ve scored some touchdowns and I’ve screamed my lungs out for you!  But you know what’s interesting about you?  You love playing defense.  You’d rather haul your buns across the field and snag someone’s flag then be the one to score.  You are a great teammate. 

              * We saved our pennies to let you attend several different camps this summer, and you THRIVE when you are active and stimulated.  You did swim camp three times, geo cache camp, lego robotics, golf camp and VBS.  It was a great summer for all of us, and it was especially fun to watch you trying new things.

                *You have lots of friends who are boys and girls.  You have figured out how to play well with both genders, and consider anyone a possible friend.  When I asked you to name your closest friends at school, you listed 2 girls and one boy.  J  It’s not necessarily that I desire for you to have female influences in your life, but your choice of friends is a HUGE deal to me.  I pray so often that you would have wisdom and discernment as you choose whom to spend your time with, and I’m grateful for the boys and girls that are in your life right now. 

                *There are 2 people in your life for whom you reserve you most sensitive, tender and loving side.  Those two lucky people are your mom and your little brother!  (Also your cousin, Baby Ellie, but we don't see her on a daily basis.)  Something changed in our relationship this year, and I could not be more blessed!  There was a season in 2012 when we were at odds 90% of the time.  We still have plenty of very heated arguments (I’m still me and you’re still you!), but overall our interactions are so much more peaceful and affectionate.  You ask me at least once or twice a day if we can snuggle on the couch, and you usually like to have your arm around me when we talk.  You like to play with my hair. You still want me to walk you to class each day, and give me a big bear hug in front of all your friends when I say goodbye.  I know this will not last forever, and I cherish every gentle word, every quiet conversation, every loving touch.  I mean CHERISH.

                You also are AMAZINGLY patient and kind with Asher.  What makes it amazing is that he’s not known for being gentle.  J  He’s a bit of a happy wrecking ball, and you forgive him immediately and consistently.  You stayed the night away from the house once this summer, and it made Ash very sad.  He often cries for you when he goes to sleep, and if you are home, you go into his room and put your hand through the slats in his crib and rub his arm and say sweet and tender words to him.  It always calms him.  You guys wrestle HARD and give each other bruises and wet willies and hurt one another often, but very rarely are there unkind intentions or exchanges between the two of you.  Your brother and you are exactly five years and one day apart in age, and you like to say you are twins.  Seeing your unconditional love for your brother fills my heart with overwhelming gratitude and pride.  I hope you never lose this special spot in your heart for him.  Now, if you could find a spot in there for your little sister…

Every year I remind you about the life verse I’ve chosen to pray over you—even though I know you don’t really understand all the words yet.  It’s Philippians 1:9-11. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

I want you to hear something loud and clear:  neither you nor I will ever be completely pure and blameless.  We're human, and we’re going to mess up.  A lot.  Sometimes we do and we will make horrible mistakes and decisions.   THANK GOD FOR HIS GRACE!  But what I love about this verse is that  we are to learn and GROW more in knowledge and depth of insight.  My prayer is that you will learn from your mistakes and that you will be able to DISCERN what is best.  That word?  That’s the reason I knew this was your verse.  It’s a word that I’ve prayed over you since you were an infant.  To be able to discern what is best is not always the choice between what is right and what is wrong.  It is often a choice between what is good and what is best.  What is acceptable and what is Christ-like.   I’m SO PROUD OF YOU, my precious first born.  And I see the fruits of righteousness in you all the time.  I see you growing in love and knowledge.  I see my prayers being answered in your life.  And that?  On your birthday, is MY gift.

Happy birthday, sweetness.  Go change the world.

Love, love, love,