A Miscarriage

Several months ago a close friend told me she was pregnant. After years of difficulty trying to conceive, this news took me by surprised.  I was instantly filled with joy for her, and instantly filled with dread. I hated it, but I had a very real sense of fear. Her soon to be family seemed to be too good to be true. My first thought was,

“What?!!!? Are you sure?? Are you kidding??”

My second thought was, “Don’t. Move. A. Muscle.” 

This was a miracle. I wanted to see this little miracle be born at full term; pink, healthy and screaming. 

We have our own little miracle we’re working on. I don’t have a baby on the way; but I am tiptoeing on dangerous ground. I feel like I am coming to the end of a high risk pregnancy. I’ve been careful. I’ve followed Dr.’s orders. I’ve eaten plenty of leafy greens. I haven’t lifted over 5 pounds, and I’ve limited my coffee. (Now you know I’m joking here). All signs point to health. 

“Baby looks good.” as they say. If I can make it full term, I’ll have two boisterous girls lighting up my life with their laughter and love. 

I’m scared. I don’t want to be scared. I don’t like to be scared. I’d rather be strong and fearless. I’d rather have the valor of Jael, or the courage of Esther. But I’m just scared. I’m scared for me, for us, and for them. I’m scared of what may happen, what may NOT happen, and how long everything will take. I’m scared of things falling through, governments changing, or travel going awry. I’m scared because my family is hopelessly precious to me.

This winter hosting only deepened our love for our girls, and them for us. Summer hosting was superglue bonding. Winter hosting was the duct tape you wrap around for good measure. I’ve tasted this joy. I’ve felt the warmth of this goodness. I’ve embraced the tears as I’ve soaked up the laughter. I don’t want to see it fade. I don’t want it to slip out of my fingers into the darkness.

I’ve dreamed the dream and I’m aching for it to come true.

I have to choose to love instead of fear. I have to push onward instead of crumble to my knees. I need to breath deep, walk forward. I need to wait. I need to trust. I need to be strengthened. I need to grow.

I am choosing to be thankful for every moment I’ve been given. I am choosing to be thankful that my eyes were opened. I am choosing to be thankful that the world has needs I felt I should try to answer. I am hoping for good, but I know I have already been blessed beyond my worth.

As this fear and valor clash in my core; I have no choice but to run straight into the arms of my Daddy. He knows what we need. He is for my good. He is my comfort and calm. My only shelter from the chaos and source of contentment. He’s had this in his hands long before it was in my heart. He will see us through full term.

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Top Ten Ways to Embrace the Calm During the Turbulence

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These past few days have been a bit shaky. It’s easy to be over whelmed and undone. Here are a few suggestions to Keep Calm and Host.

1.Pray                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

I constantly have things on my heart that are almost too heavy to put into words. I believe God sees them. I believe He hears them. I believe He knows them long before I do. I believe in the power of prayer. I can see God’s hand in my life because of it.  Mostly changing me instead of giving me what I thought was best.

2.   Get Busy 

For me, it’s best if I just keep moving forward. Because I DO believe that things will happen and I’d rather be ready for them then not. But I’ll admit, getting ready is the best way I know how to love my kids in this situation. I’m working hard for them, whether they ever get to experience that or not. If it helps my keep my sanity, that’s just a bonus.

3. Talk or Not

Like many marriages, I lean on the “verbal processing side” and my husband the “not so verbal side.” I’ve learned a lot from him. His logic keeps me grounded and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful for him. Sometimes, there just isn’t anything to talk about. If there isn’t any new information, if there isn’t anything we can do, if there anyplace to move the situation; I don’t want to beat it to death. It’s better for everyone if we don’t relive it. Updates are welcome, good or bad. But you can’t dig yourself out the bottom of a hole.

4. Trust

In Youth Group we do this thing called a trust fall. Kids fall backwards, off a ledge into a group of people, trusting that they will catch them. We often like to think we have things figured out and in control. But let’s face it; we’ve got nothing. It’s moments like these that force us to come face to face with our frailty. As much as you hate it – you know it’s good for you. It’s an opportunity to trust and fall. It’s also an opportunity to be caught, embraced and held.

5. Be Thankful

No matter how things end in life, whether I get the big prize or not; I  have so much to be thankful for. There have been so many moments and memories that I will always treasure. They can never be taken away. I’ve changed too. I am extremely thankful for that. I see things I was blinded to before. I heart is bigger and softer. And I’ve found my mama bear growl. I am desperately thankful for each of these things a more.

6. Support the Troops

I know, you’re feeling defeating. I know you feel rundown and at a loss. Now think how others feel. People that chose this profession because it is their passion. People who have multiple families depending on them. Don’t underestimate what a message, text, or card can do. They are on the varsity. It’s our job to be the cheerleaders.

7. Create Memories

For months we weren’t sure we were going to be able to host a second time. It was devastating. Suddenly God got involved and a miracle happened that allowed us to. Since then I’ve allowed myself to create new memories. Meaning, I am so looking forward to times with them, I’ve played and replayed their reactions in my mind.  Keeping my expectations low, but knowing my girls will love our time together, gives me motivation to keep going.

8. Ask for Help

I realized it was time to pull out the big guns. I asked our friends and family, basically everyone who’s ever heard of or met our girls, to pray. I alerted them to the need, some of the overall issues, and how we were doing with all of it. I know many of them spend time thinking of us and sending us “warm thoughts” and “hugs”. Coffee, prayer and friendship is a power team. Don’t underestimate it.

9. Keep the End in Mind

Just like labor pains, once they are over, they’re over. Your pain is suddenly replaced with a joy that stretches your heart to full capacity. This process is long and difficult at times. It can be hills and valleys of emotion. But in the end, all the aches of the journey won’t compare to the joy of the destination. Non of this stuff actually matters.

10. Shake It Off                                                                                                                            

Sometimes you have to let go. After one of the most stressful weekends of my life years ago – I yelled at the top of my lungs once I got out of the parking lot. Then I blasted the radio and let the music beat the tension out of me. I encourage you to do the same. Music is powerful – embrace it. Dance it out. Taylor Swift never actually hurt anyone. I promise, you’ll feel better, and I won’t tell anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Ways to Prep for Hosting

Weeks into hosting two sisters ages 16 and 8,  I said,

“This has been so great!  We have the best kids.” My husband responded,

“We do have great kids, but don’t underestimate what an incredible job you did. You made this transition easy.”

I thought, “You know, he’s right!”

1. Make Space

I remember being in the car on the way home from the airport, smiling to myself as I recalled we had the next several days together as a family. My husband had taken off; we wiped our schedules clean. It’s funny. We are extremely busy people. When we hosted, we went MIA. We committed to nothing; because we had committed to everything.

2. Go Slow

We had a leisurely first day. In fact we had a leisurely first several days. Our first morning together we were all a little groggy and sheepish. But it didn’t last long. After a breakfast of pancakes, we strolled outside. We ended up in a shallow creek at the back of our yard skipping stones. Skipping stones. I don’t think a family has done that together since the 1920s. My husband eventually let a 2 pound rock plop into the water right next to our oldest girl; splashing her legs. She responded in kind; and we were off!

3. Limit the TV

As liberal as my husband and I are in hair color and piercings, we’re rather conservative with technology. We never had the TV on in the background or as mindless noise. We always used it as something we would do together as a family. Saturday mornings were for cereal and cartoons. Twice we watched Mary Poppins in Russian, as a family. Our first outing was to a local dinner theater to see it in English. It was extremely successful. We are still feeling the affects of this rule. Our personal TV habits changed permanently.

4. Add Variety

I acquired  bored games, card games, balls and bats; anything we could do together without speaking the same language. I also collected an assortment of craft supplies: colored pencils, crayons, coloring books, beads for jewelry, fuse beads, thread for friendship bracelets. I felt confident knowing I had these activities in my back pocket; for good reason. My entire kitchen is literally covered in pages we all colored together. (Most of these items were from second hand places. No one even noticed)

5. Get Dressed

Realizing that the girls would come with nothing, I asked for donations. By the time the girls came, our cellar was FULL of clothes for both of them. It looked like a garbage dump, but it was actually bags full of love in the shape of shoes, shirts, pants and dresses. I purchased new undies, socks and swimwear once the girls got here and I had a better idea of sizes. Eventually the girls went shopping with me and that was fun too.

* I did NOT set the girls loose these bags. I brought out what I knew they needed slowly; a few items at a time. They went through them, tried them on, and decided what they wanted.  It was only when we had a few bags left, 3 or 4 weeks in, that I let them at ’em.

6. Brush Your Teeth

My husband groaned when he realized how many shampoo bottles would be in the shower while living with 3 women (5 if you count the animals)! Nevertheless, I bought them each a new toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and loofa. Maybe they would hate showering, but I would at least tempt them bubbles and sweet smells.

7. Make the Bed

I put a lot of pressure on myself to decorate their bedroom for them. I thought it would be challenging because of their ages. It was a non-issue. I did have to start from square one, purchasing furniture, décor and bedding. I added my books from my childhood, some cute knick knacks, personalized frames, and stuffed animals. Our eldest one told us later,

“We knew you loved as soon as we saw our room. Only loving parents would have decorated the room so beautifully.”

It makes my heart swell even now typing it.

8. Make Dinner

The summer was exhausting. I’m not sure I noticed because I was having so much fun. However, there were a few days when I remembered dinner was in the freezer or crock pot waiting for us. I would have called my Mom to thank her for her work if had had the strength to pick up the phone. It was a great gift she gave us. Dinner; ready to go.

9. Walk the Dog

We have an adorable Siberian Husky puppy. She was very happy as an only child. She had no idea why we failed to walk her as much once the girls arrived. The longer we went, the more her behaviors let us know she needed to run. I made her a bit more of a priority, and asked a trusted friend to step in. Jady got her treks and would come back wet, muddy and exhausted. I was thrilled! No, I mean it. An exhausted puppy is no small feat. I was thrilled for it.

10. Pencil it in

As thrilled as I was to have several home activities planned, I was equally happy to have several community offerings at my fingertips. Our summer hosting was anchored with swimming. There were a few friends who opened their pools to us anytime. I knew strawberry picking and shortcake baking would be fun. We visited a few gardens and saw a free movie with family. This time around I scored day passes to a local rock-climbing facility, pickle ball is huge here, and we will definetly head out to Hershey Park’s Christmas Candylane, plus Holiday Cookies.

I encourage you to ask for help from friends, family, even local businesses. It’s not only life-giving to you and your family, but it brings others into your story. It’s a way to share the journey of hosting, the story of the orphan, and the hope of a family. I hate asking for help; but in our journey, I’ve come to depend on people who absolutely WANT to help and just need to be told HOW.

Having someone mow your lawn, fold laundry, or bring a meal are easy, simple, free and effective. We are all in this together – so be in it together. You might be surprised what you get.

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Ways to Embrace the Language Barrier

What language barrier??

The most common questions we got is “How did you communicate?” As if no one has ever heard 90% of communication happens non verbally.

After our girls spent 5 weeks in our home, I felt like they spoke fluent English. We had established a great routine and connection. Although I can’t wish for them to actually be speaking English – I have no anxiety about the situation we are in.

1. Keep ’em laughing

I’m not one for all play and no discipline – but my husband was right when he said “It’s our job to keep them laughing. If we can have a good time together for 5 weeks that will be a success.” He was so right.

2. Sketch it out

When we arrived at the airport and not a moment too soon, we had drawn pictures of items prevalent in our everyday routine. We also had the words in Russian below them: a toilet, a table setting, a car, a church, a drink, a snack, a bed, and a few smiley and frowny faces to represent pain. These were used every five minutes the first few days.

3. Know your stuff 

We learned Russian for dog, cat, home, car, brother, sister, please and thank you, also good job. Things that helped them connect the dots of our family, and allowed us to praise them. We made it clear to them that we went out of our way to prepare for them. That we were thrilled they were coming. Duolingo and Memrise are great for this.

4. Ask them

Russian phrases are not only helpful to communicate – but they allow your host children to teach you something. In this one small area – let them have the upper hand. Words we learned well; tomorrow, shower, car, shopping, milk, jacket.

5. Act it out

Charades is a great game – play it every time you need to transition. Tap on your wrist for time, use your fingers for numbers, point to what you want as you say it, show and tell. Our first morning together I pulled my little one over to the stove and guided her hand as she tossed blueberries on her pancake. This communicated – we are together, you are safe, this is your food, I want you with me and I value you. Don’t underestimate kindness.

6. Create a loose schedule

Create Russian words like breakfast, swimming, games, family, dog etc. There were no times involved and we allowed the girls to choose what we did when we could. It was also important they knew when church was happening and when Papa would be home from work. (Boy do they love their papa) It also allowed them to mentally prepare for what was next; vitally important.

7. Applaud the English

Chicken was well loved by the girls. We howled up and down every time they asked for “chicken” for dinner. We would stop the conversation and say “Oh English!! English English!!” They never seemed to tire of the praise.

8. Get the app

There are several apps out there to help with communication. I recommend having 2 on your phone in case one freezes. Use short sentences here. Don’t worry about grammar. Noun. Verb. Done. Don’t depend on this though – trust your gut. If you think it didn’t translate correctly. It probably didn’t.

9. Schedule a date

Early in our hosting we set aside time with a friend who is bilingual. The gift he gave us was priceless. We got to know our kids through him. We asked open ended questions and allowed them to talk as much as they wanted. We were shocked with how much our big one told us about her life. Her sense of humor and wisdom were evident after these sessions. These dates were our most precious times.

10. Call a chaperone

I quickly added the chaperone’s number into my phone. We didn’t need them often, but sometimes you just can’t clarify what you mean. Speaker phone is perfect for these moments. And even if the chaperone doesn’t speak English they can help calm your kiddo so you can move forward.

BONUS 

Show and tell

Demonstrating what you want to accomplish – weather sweeping up or no climbing the bookcase – use yes and no to explain. Kind of like the childhood game of hot and cold. Warmer warmer warmer…. they’ll get it. Just have patience and keep at it.

Just remember – they’re kids.

They’re really not that scary. Your job is to love them well – and that often means stepping out of your comfort zone and putting them first.
I think that’s what being a parent is all about.

Top Ten Ways to Prep for the Airport

Sometimes the airport can be a bit chaotic and stressful. A few moments after meeting your kids for the first time can feel awkward. It’s ok! Embrace the awkward. Just smile and offer warmth. Your goal should be to make them feel safe and establish trust.

Welcome signs are a big deal for these kids! Seeing a sign and a smiling family waiting behind it is a very real relief. It doesn’t have to be pretty – but if you have one it will mean a lot.

1. Hire a driver

Actually I guilted my brother into doing all the driving for us on this day trip. It allowed my husband and I the mental and emotional space to deal with meeting our girls the first time. And it allowed us to sit in the back with them on the ride home and get to know them. Our best idea ever.

2. Feed ’em

(Our girls LOVE American milk!)
Food is a common suggestion – but know some kids may not feel comfortable eating in front of you or opening a snack you gave them. So take some for yourself as well and eat it with them.

Other snacks that work well – popcorn, apples, bananas, m&ms, cheese and crackers, water, fruit roll ups. I also purchased some Russian food from a local European store – as a comfort for them. I was later told – they only wanted American food! Don’t count on yours being quite as adventurous as mine are.

3. Don’t forget meds

Motion sickness meds, Benadryl, cough drops and baby wipes were a help as well. They just spent 20+ hours on a plane. What would you want if you just got off the plane after a 20 hour flight?

4. Take selfies

The selfies I have of us on the way home are priceless. They show tremendous growth in the girls and our relationship. But selfies themselves have a way of tearing down some walls. Especially if your a professional silly face maker!

5. Take a few books and crayons
My little one loved to page through books even though she couldn’t understand a word. And everyone enjoyed tracing hands, drawing smiley faces, and watching me write their names in English. Tic tac toe and the dot game are easy AND interactive.

6. Bring a bag of goodies

A trip to the dollar store works beautifully for this! Sunglasses, gum, chopstick, silly puddy, a disposable camera, army men etc. remember though – they may be too intimidated to open it unless you prompt them to. Just go with your gut here – not everything has to be immediate. (They loved the stuffed huskies we gave them. This was great because it helped them bond with our real live husky at home)

7. Pictures

Where, what, and who they are going home to. We scrolled through pictures of our home, yard, our pets, their bedroom, and their family. I saw the confidence build and the tension release as they realized they were in good hands.

8. Sing along

Something in the background that is kid friendly. Maybe even something that you can do together. Clap your hands – snap your fingers – stomp your feet. Just suggestions. Whether they know the language or not they can enjoy the music and doing things with you.

9. Thumb wrestle

We did a ton of patty cake and thumb wrestling on the way home. I lost every time. You might want to brush up on your patty cake unless you hang out with 10 year old pretty regularly! This is fun, easy, and promotes eye contact and allows physical touch. Something these kids may not know how to handle in large quantities.

10. Finally, just have fun

Be silly. Laugh; a lot. Keep expectations low for now. Let them learn to love you in their own time. When you struggle with this -imagine taking a trip across the planet to live with people you’ve never met and can’t speak to. Now imagine being 8 when you do it. Helps keep everything in perspective right?

A Nutshell

We were ready for something more this summer. We were ready for something missional, something international, something orphan care related.

My thumb grazed a P143 add on Facebook. I really didn’t know what I was clicking on. But, curious to see the faces of little ones waiting to be hosted, I registered to check out the photo listing.

I found them. The little one was full of spunk – with her arms above her head and smirk on her face. I smiled back at her picture. And our older one – she was sweet and sincere. She was the kind of beautiful you could only find in a beautiful soul. Maybe we could host them.

I put their bios in front of my husband.

“What do you think about hosting these sisters this summer? 8 and 16 – one for each of us!” He glanced at their pics, he read there bios, he looked at me and said
“Yea sure! Lets do it.”

A breath later he said “Why don’t we just adopt them?”

For all my trying I couldn’t think of a reason not to. They were incredible; we could tell.

3 months later our girls arrived. They were quiet and exhausted. They were nervous and hungry. They were anxious and curious. And they were ours.

When we did this, I knew we were doing something good. I knew we would love them easily. I knew they would love us. But I had no idea how much fun this would be. I had no idea that my daughters would be so incredible.

They laughed with us, they teased us, they yearned for our affection. They wanted to be involved in everything we did. And we encouraged them to be. We baked and cooked together. We played soccer and swam together. We went boating, we skipped rocks, we danced in the living room and splashed down the creek. We ate ice cream and had picnics. We went to the ocean, we saw a lighthouse. We went on a roller coaster, we learned how to bike. We took pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. We were a family. Totally, completely and fully.

The Lord has been so good to us. He guided us to our girls. He crafted us just for them. I am desperately grateful that this is the path He chose for us.

They are silly and wise. Quirky and loving. Smart and adventurous. They are artistic and athletic. They are brave and worthy.

In all our years of youth ministry, I’m all our experiences with kids and teens alike, I could not have ever met two children who I am more proud to know and love. And to someday – in a very real way call our daughters.

Everything I miss…

Everything I miss about my little big one.

I miss her silliness. She had the perfect amount of reserve mixed with ridiculousness. She had a smart and extreme sense of humor. She wasn’t afraid to be goofy for a laugh.

I miss her perception. She was extremely aware and wise of what was going on around her; the tension or temperature of the room, what others needed from the situation.

I miss her affection. She was proud to call us Mama and Papa and she let her guard down often when her sister wasn’t around. She longed to be hugged and kissed and included. She longed to be valued.

I miss the fact that she was proud we are her parents. She made that clear. She told us we were “BeA-Utiful” all the time. She consistently said “My Mama, my Papa beA-Utiful!”

I miss our relationship – we attached right away – but we were really starting to go deeper about a week before she had to leave. She was trusting me, with “mom” things. And I wanted nothing more then to be trusted by her.

I miss her servant heart. From carrying in groceries to washing off her dinner dishes, she knew there was a lot to do to take care of her home. She wanted to be a part of it. It is after all her home.

I miss the fact that I couldn’t spoon sugar into my coffee or flour into a mixing bowl with our her wanting to be involved. I miss that she always looked for opportunities to be close to me.

I miss her compassion. I’ll never forget – this kid who comes from nothing, looking at pictures of our mission trip to South Africa with tears in her eyes begging us to take her their some day. “I want to help these children.”

I miss her laughter. I miss her wisdom. I miss her affection. I miss her hunger for adventure. I miss her selflessness. I miss her curiosity. I miss her willingness to try new things. I miss her humor. I miss her ability to lead. I miss her joy for entertaining. I miss her love for activity. I miss her desire to be with us. I miss being her mom.

I miss treating her to Starbucks. I miss shopping for the perfect T-shirt. I miss watching her scale rock climbing walls. I miss kissing her goodnight. I miss having her cousin sleep over. I miss looking out on the meadow and watching her play. I miss the way she loved her Pop-pop. I miss watching her cuddle her younger cousins. I miss watching her play soccer with her family. I miss walking by her room and over hearing her chat in broke english with her friends.

I miss looking at her and thinking “She is everything I could ever want in a daughter. Why has God blessed us with her?”

I miss everything I know about her and everything I don’t.

We have a huge gap in our family. We will until you come home.

You are missed. You are greatly greatly missed.