We are at the 5 month mark and we have seen lots of progress over these last couple of months. We still have lots of hard days, but i can honestly say we have equal good days to the difficult ones now. What have we learned these past couple of months? Eye contact still does not come naturally. Attachment comes hard for an older child. Why would he want to look into our eyes? He has no reason to trust us. It's our job to prove that we are worthy of attaching too. I am constantly making an emphasis to tell both Brenda and Joseph to look in my eyes when we are talking. Too many choices are a recipe for disaster. Even though Joseph is technically 13, choices are difficult. We keep it simple. The less clothes he has to choose from, the less chance we will end up with a meltdown. We no longer ask the kids what they would like to eat. We serve what we serve at mealtime. They are not at a restaurant. The only choice they have is whether they want to eat or not, but they must all sit at the table. Kids need to feel like they are part of a team. We are constantly stressing that we are teammates. We must all help one another do chores. Everyday we spend at least 45 minutes cleaning and doing chores. On some days the older kids do more than the younger kids and no, it's not always fair. They whine and we have tears, but life isn't always fair. I no longer worry about things being fair in our house. The older kids stay up later than the younger ones and on most days they have more chores than the younger ones and someone is always crying, "It's Not Fair!!" Language acquisition has been harder for Joseph than for Brenda. He also has not lost his native tongue, but Brenda lost her ability to speak Rutooro within 2 months of being home. We opt to public school and we will have him repeat the 5th grade again. Brenda is on grade level and will be moving to 3rd grade. We have taken the approach to immerse our children into English with ESL support. Both are thriving at their own paces.
I stand in awe of how far we have come. Brenda has been home for 15 months now and Joseph only 5. It's nothing that we have done personally. I'm holding on by a prayer most days. I can read all of the adoption and parenting books out there, but only Jesus can heal the hole that fills their hearts. My prayer is constantly... please continue to heal their broken hearts Jesus, and give me the strength and wisdom to parent them.
We have been home 3 months now. It's been 3 months of challenges. 3 months of finding a new routine as a family of 7.
Three months of redemption slowly taking place.
I never thought i'd be in this place. A mom of 5 kids. Let alone a stay at home mom raising a blended family. I simply never thought it was my calling.
After all, i had different plans for my life in my younger years.
What have i learned in month 3?
That God secures, equips, and fortifies ME, making me fully capable of raising these kids, even with all of my imperfections.
I fail every day. I am short tempered, cranky...tired of the mundane. Some days before we are even out the door, i'm counting down until bedtime.
However, God in His sovereign plan placed Joseph and Brenda into this crazy chaotic family.
Do i have what it takes to bring them healing? Of course not.
I have to relinquish control. For example, Joseph is very behind in school. Do i home school? Do I advocate for him in the public school system? How on earth will he catch up 5 grade levels? Do we hold him back? Do we promote him to middle school? So many questions without black and white answers.
I have to realize that God is the Source and Sustainer of Joseph and Brenda. Not me.
I have to trust that Jesus has a plan for all of my children AND Jesus will set things securely in order and prepare them for their callings. I simply need to point them to the cross and show them love.
The cross. That's where redemption and transformation happens.
It's not about me or what i do. I simply play a small part in this thing called life. Without the weight of the world on my shoulders, i can relish in my children, and let God be God.
In 3 short months, we see glimpses of joy. We see smiles. We share laughs.
And this month, we celebrate Joseph and Brenda's birthdays. We truly celebrate them and their lives.
I have thought long and hard about what i should share and what i shouldn't in regards to our adoption. I want to protect my children, but time and time again i hear that still small voice that says that they are not your children Sheila. They are mine. I love them more than you ever will. And then i am reminded that God has given us all a story to tell and this is my story. May He ultimately be glorified.
What have i learned this past month?
I have learned that God always meets us right where we are at. This past Sunday my soul was refreshed when i heard the bible story about Peter getting out of the boat and walking on water. I have heard this story many times but it spoke deep into my heart.
God calls us to crazy things in our lives. I remember vividly God revealing His will for us to adopt Brenda. It made no sense. I agonized over the decision, but we trusted and walked through the doors that God opened.
Then we met her brother. It all seems like a whirlwind now. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. Now we are living the hard two months into him being home. She is almost 8. He is 12. Trying to attach to a child that naturally is pulling away. 12 year old boys do not talk or snuggle with their moms. Let alone their adoptive moms.
They miss the food, the music, and their culture. They love Uganda and they are quick to call it their home. It will always be a part of who they are.
They remember their past. The good and the not so good.
Most people assume that they should feel privileged because they live with us. But should they? Finding themselves in our loving family can never make the painful truth of their story go away.
I am not sure i will ever understand why God allows children to endure more than most adults ever will in their lifetime. But He does. He is sovereign. He is God and His ways are not my ways.
God is loving, good and perfect even when our earthly eyes fail to see Him in the mess.
Two months home with Joseph and i have learned, God wants us to step out of our comfort zone and it may not be easy.
I am reminded of Peter. Peter was a skilled fisherman who answered the call. When he was in the boat and Jesus called to him he stepped out of the boat. HE STEPPED OUT OF THE BOAT INTO THE WATER!!!
This is crazy my friends. CRAZY!
And what happened next??? He started to sink.
Like Peter, this month i have felt like i was sinking. Many days i feel the water washing over my head, and i am gasping for air.
Here is the glorious ending to Peter's story of getting out of the boat... The church is founded on the one who dared to get out of the boat. Faith means nothing if we never get out of the boat.
Has this month been hard? Yes.
I have to believe that when my earthly love fails and i have no idea how to parent that the love of Jesus fills in the gap.
Adoption was not God's first choice for my children, but he sovereignly placed these 2 kids into my family and I trust that He will give me the wisdom and grace to parent them.
I have to trust that God is in control of every finite detail. The good and the bad. It's all part of my story.
God can use me with all of my flaws in a mighty way when my will is aligned to Him even on the days that i feel like i'm sinking.
When i have no idea how to parent and when i feel helpless even after reading the books and seeing the counselor i have to trust that God is at work and He is writing my story. If you want to walk on the water, you've got to get out of the boat and keep your eyes on Jesus. God is executing the most brilliant story ever and this is the story He has chosen for me.
I wish there was more information out there on older child adoption, but there simply is not. I understand why. Who wants to put "their junk" out there for the world to see?
It can be a lonely road to travel though when the going gets rough. I would travel to Uganda in a heartbeat to bring these 2 kids home. We do see glimpses of true joy even in the midst the storms.
I have no regrets. Not one, but some days are HARD.
What have i learned this month???
I have learned that bringing home a 12 year old boy is way different than a 7 year old girl. Both bring different challenges.
Bringing home and bonding with older children is also similar to bringing home a new baby.
I have learned that i need to initiate affection. My soon to be 12 year old son is not going to come up and give me a hug or hold my hand. It's just not cool. I have to be creative. I need to put my arm around him if i walk up next to him. I need to sneak in love pats whenever i can. Touch matters.
Even though he acts like he doesn't like affection, i can see it in his eyes that he craves it. It's been years that someone cared that he didn't feel well; let alone feel his forehead to see if he has a fever.
I need to initiate eye contact. The more times i give him a wink, the more i see him looking at me when he does something that he wants me to see. Something so small is so big when it comes to older child adoption. He wants me to look at him. He wants to see me smile at him. He wants me to look deep into his eyes even if he glances away.
Food. Food is where the magic happens.Pure and simple. Kids will stop and eat when you make food. Conversation happens over food. Food brings the family together and bonding happens over food. Y'all adoption weight gain is real!!! And this is why!
Parenting is hard work. There is no magical formula or quick fix and what works for me won't work for you.
However there is Jesus and there is grace. Lord knows, I am making lots of mistakes along the way and I thank God every day for His redemption.
One year ago today, after traveling 30 plus hours, we arrived in Uganda and went from a family of 5 and became a family of 6. We had no idea what to expect, but God somehow blended all of our hearts into a family.
She was scared. She was feisty. We had read the books and attended the classes, but honestly we had no idea what to expect. At that moment, we just knew we were exactly where God wanted us to be. She told us about a brother. An older brother that she loved dearly. We started praying for Him.
And...God told us to do it again. We got on another airplane and traveled 30 hours and God blended our hearts again. We went from a family of 5 to a family of 7 in less than a year. Today we celebrate Brenda's Adoption Day. Tomorrow, we finalize Joseph's adoption in the US. Both of them will now share our last name. This is the final step in our adoption journey and they are officially ours.
It's been one of the most rewarding, God seeking, adventurous year of our lives. When i reflect on all of the mountains God moved to bring these 2 kiddos home, I realize that this was His plan. Not ours. Brother and sister living under the same roof. The way it should be. Happy 1 year to our lives being forever changed! Thank you Lord. To YOU be the glory!
I am a Jesus loving, happily married to Micah, Adopting, Minivan driving, snacking on Cape Cod potato chips, Diet Coke drinking, running, stay at home Mama to Joseph, Alexis, Kaila, Brenda, Brayden. I can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org