African outfits

African outfits
Our crazy family

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Missing Mom

With the holiday season coming up, I find myself thinking about my Mom more than normal.  This will be our 5th holiday season since she died and it has never been the same.  My Mom was definitely the glue that held our family together and I never appreciated enough how much work she put into every holiday to make it  special.  I try to keep up the traditions as much as possible but I fall short in so many ways.

As a kid I never gave Thanksgiving, or Christmas for that matter, a second thought.  We would get together with my Grandparents and Aunts, Uncles and cousins.  The food would be amazing - especially the desserts.  We would play games or football if it were nice out.  It just seemed so easy.  I didn't realize the planning that happened before hand, all the time that everyone put into preparing the menu and the food.  I was blissfully unaware if there was any kind of family conflict.  I didn't know if any one person felt too much of the work was falling on their shoulders.  I barely noticed who set everything out or how it got cleaned up, unless I was asked to help.  I had no idea that someone put hours into cleaning and decorating before any guests (family) showed up.  I just showed up, ate some great food and left the home of my Grandparents or went to my room if the festivities were at our house.  Who knew that once everyone left the house had to be cleaned up again before the host could rest.

It wasn't until years later that I sensed from my Mom that she didn't necessarily enjoy all the work that went into pulling off a great holiday meal.  In fact, thinking back, I can remember a few times that the turkey was really dry or something else went wrong with my Moms cooking.  As a Mom now I can look back and realize that quite a bit of what we did was actually stressful on my Mom.  Maybe it was the subtle or not so subtle way she said "Why do we even do this?  Lets just go out to eat."  I thought she was kidding but I'm starting to realize that she might not have been.

 My Mom was from the 50's she was suppose to be able to whip up a meal and make it look easy.  Even when her health started slowing her down and she asked me to host holidays, she still brought most of the food.  The rest of us brought side dishes and desserts, you can't have too many sweets.  Now that my Mom is no longer here, and my Dad leaves Minnesota long before the holidays start, it's my siblings families and mine carrying on tradition.  I feel like I need to make the holiday meals just like my Mom did.  Maybe it's because I admire my Mom so much that I want to be like her.  Maybe it's just a small way to make me feel like she is still here with us.   I want my house to be as spic and span as my Mom's house would be.  I want it to have the same warm feeling and smells that remind me so much of my Mom.  I want my guests to feel as welcome as my Mom always made people feel in her home.   It can all feel a little overwhelming.

Thanksgiving is less than a week away and not much thought has gone into it, my family is very good about waiting until the last minute.  My house is a mess.  My brother that lives with us has big plans for his dessert he's making and probably has to special order some strange ingredient that goes into it.  He is the gourmet cook, fun to try his creations but honestly we are just plain folk around here.  I haven't talked to my other brother to see if they will be here or what time they can come.  I'm not sure what my sister is bringing but she is a far better cook then I am.  I'm not sure who else will make it that are in Minnesota but we'll set a plate for them if they come.

I know people say you make a new normal when a family member dies, but this "normal" feels so forced.  I miss the way it used to be.  Mom, I understand now why I found you crying in the kitchen after your parents had passed away.  I tried to cheer you up by saying "What's the big deal, they're dancing in heaven?"  I get it now why that made you so angry.  You were not ready for a new normal without them any more then I am ready for my new normal.  You did such a great job passing a new normal on to us kids.  I hope that I am successful in passing this normal on to my kids so that they cherish their holiday memories.

Mom, I will think of you feasting at the banquet table in heaven this Thanksgiving.  I have much to be thankful for and at the top of my list is having had a Mom who showed me how to serve and how to love.  I miss you like crazy and look forward to that day when we will feast together in eternity.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random thoughts about Noah and the Ark

I think it's interesting that anyone can write a blog and whoever reads it gets just a tiny glimpse of what that person is like.  Blog about something deep and spiritual things and people think you are deep and spiritual.  Blog about selfish or evil things and people may think you're shallow or evil.  I could blog about things I have done and people would be shocked.  I could choose to just blog about every good thing I have ever been a part of and give the idea that I am close to perfect.  The truth is we all are human and have failed and had to pick up the pieces from choices or beliefs we have had.  We will fail in the future and our kids will fail at times.  No one is without sin and we all fall short.   I try to be honest with my blogs and not give a false idea of who I am.  I also use caution at times so I don't expose how truly corrupt my mind can be.  My family has a front row seat to how random my thoughts can be and now others get to share a little of what goes on in my mind.

Yesterday I shared the story of our adoption journey and how even though we jumped through all the hoops we never actually adopted a child.  I tried really hard to make it happen but some things just can't be forced.  I know of people who were not even looking to adopt and suddenly they find themselves adopting, as if God just had it all planned out and they had no choice.  I envy those stories.

 I remember a friend telling me that "God brought the animals to Noah".   She was talking about a completely different situation but the thought struck home with our adoption journey.   Noah was just a man - even though the Bible tells us he was a righteous man.  The Bible only gives us about 4 chapters that talk about Noah, building an ark, the flood and starting over.  About 120 years took place from when God told Noah to build the ark until the flood.  I have screwed up quite a bit in my 47 years so I can only imagine that Noah had his share of screw ups during his long life.  The one mistake we know of is when he was so drunk he embarrassed himself, but he must have done more then that.  I wonder if at some point Noah took things into his own hands and went out to try to gather the animals and force them in the ark?   Did he doubt that he had heard from God at all?  Did he ever want to give up?  Did his sons wander off for a while and sew their wild oats and then come back to help their Dad?  Was his wife completely supportive about his building project?  I wonder about the things that are not said.  I love that Noah obeyed God and followed his plan... I love that it is a foreshadowing of God's plan of salvation through Jesus.  I just really wish that Noah would have kept a blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unanswered prayers

Those of you who have been friends with us for years know about our adoption journey that never happened.  November is National Adoption month, so each year I am reminded that what I thought was God's plan for our family didn't happen the way the I had anticipated.  I know that had we adopted we probably would not be going on this extended trip to Africa with our kids.  I'm not "happy" that we did not adopt so that I can give our kids this amazing opportunity.  We all had looked forward to having a bigger family and I know that 'adoption' would have been an amazing opportunity had God given us that chance.  I trust that God will use me to help the orphans in whatever way I can and that his way is perfect.

  Actually it was difficult at first to believe that we would be able to go to Africa together.  Circumstances alone made me doubt that we would ever be able to come up with the money that is needed.  I at one point had believed so strongly that God would want us to adopt children.  When it didn't happen, it left me wondering if I had heard from him at all.  I wanted to have the faith that God would provide a way to go to Cameroon but at the same time I felt uncertain based on the past.  I may never know why God chose to close doors on what we thought was his will, but I do not regret that we took the steps of obedience in trying to reach that goal.

Back in 2006, Drew and I had attended an adoption informational meeting thinking we would love to adopt internationally.  Well, to be honest, I wanted to adopt internationally.  Drew was along to get information and hadn't given it too much thought.  Ever since I was young I had been drawn to other cultures.  Drew and I had been to Mexico, Honduras, Dominican Republic and Africa and the children were always the thing that impacted me the most.  After our informational meeting that evening in January 2006, I saw my husband gain a new passion for the orphans.  I knew it was serious when he went home and wrote more than a page in his journal.  We both believed that we would one day be the parents of a child from another country.  As we prayed about it, the biggest decision was what agency to go through.  I searched the internet and asked everyone I knew who had adopted internationally.  International adoption is very expensive but we were doing pretty well at the time and knew that God would provide for us if this was his leading.  The week that we sent our application in to the agency still seems unreal.  We sent in the paperwork and a few days later Drew got a call that he no longer had a job.  He had worked as a foreman in the concrete business for the same company for 17 years.  Our application was not accepted due to the job loss, we had to put a hold on our plans for international adoption.

We continued to pray about adopting and the thought burned in my heart all the time.  The next couple of years were tough ones for our family.  Our teenage son brought us through some difficult days with the choices he was making.  The good that came out of that was how much we learned as parents.  His teen years actually highlighted many things in our parenting that could use improvement.  Our 3 younger children have definitely benefited from the support group we attended during those long years.  I also believed that the training we got during that time was good preparation for bringing adopted children into our lives.  We had some things happen with our younger boys that had us on our knees as well.  It just felt like we could barely catch our breath and something else was happening.  Through it all Drew and I were there for each other and clung to Jesus like never before.  I have never felt such an intense battle going on around me.  It was also during some of the worst of this time that my Mom's illness took a turn and she died suddenly.   God knew all the things that we would be going through and spared us from bringing a child into the middle of our chaos.  It would have been very difficult for any child to come into this and understand that it had nothing to do with them.  Obviously, the time was now for us to focus on our family and on helping our children deal with grief as well as walk that unknown path myself.

Time went on and I realized that things were calm around our home again.  The kids were growing, Chris was on his own and we were not getting any younger.  Drew had been working but not making nearly the money he had been making, so International adoption was out of the question.  My heart still yearned for the orphan.   Every time I read a verse about orphans I prayed that God would show us a way to bring one (or more) into our home.  Drew and I decided we were at a better place and should pursue adoption again.  MN Waiting kids seemed like a great place to start once we realized how many kids right here in Minnesota need good homes.  We applied with an agency and started jumping through all the hoops that need to happen before bringing a child into your home.  Drew missed days of work for training and we were assigned a social worker.  She was wonderful and we spent lots of time with her.  Our children also had a social worker assigned to them to see if they were on board with our adoption plans.  They all were but all 3 of the younger ones just wanted to make sure the child wasn't too noisy - we laughed pretty hard about that because they are pretty noisy themselves.  We spent money on back ground checks and fingerprinting.   We made sure our house was up to code and checked off everything that was required of us.  Then we waited... and waited.  We got several calls but never second calls.  Life was going along quite fast and we just knew it was all in God's timing so we were not worried.   We even had a bunch of our closest friends and family come over for a support meeting and a chance for our social worker to see the awesome people we have surrounding us.  During all of this we prayed constantly that God would use our home to be a place of refuge and a place of healing.  We prayed that he would close any doors that would not be the best for our family.  We prayed for the children that we hadn't yet met but who we couldn't wait to love.  We prayed for protection for our children as well as any child coming into our home.  We prayed that we could be the best parents, ready to meet any challenge.

After almost 3 years of classes, preparing and waiting, it was once again time to renew our fingerprints and back ground study.     This costs money so we were wondering how many more times we would have to do this.  One day we received a call that our social worker had been laid off, as well as 12 other social workers.  We were shocked - not only because we really had grown to care for her but because she had been there 20 years.    Our new social worker called and said she wanted to meet with us and since our paper work was 3 years old, she thought it would be best to start over with the paper work.  I felt so discouraged because it is so much work to fill out all those papers.  I told her I would call her back after I talked it over with Drew.  The next day my older brother called and asked if he could live with us for a while.  We had 2 empty bedrooms so we invited him to stay as long as he needed.  A few days later, Drew's brother's daughter called.  She was in college and her housing fell through so she needed a place to stay.  The basement room by my daughter's was available and so she moved in.  Suddenly our house was full and we had 2 adults living here that we would need to get background checks on.  It all felt a little crazy.  As Drew and I were discussing what to say to our new social worker when we called her back we both had to laugh.  We had prayed that God would close doors - and it appeared he was slamming them shut all around us.  We had also prayed that our house would be a place of refuge and healing - which it has been in both cases but that would be a whole separate blog.  It was obvious to us that God was still in control even if we couldn't understand the outcome.

People would ask us, "So what is happening on the adoption front?"  Our reply is "We have adopted a 50 year old and a 20 year old."  Not exactly what they are expecting to hear but that is who has found refuge in our home and we love them both.