Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Middle School Years

Can you find me in this photo?
Recently I have been remembering bits and pieces of my middle school years. As two of my children are now walking through this stage of life, I am remembering several of the challenges I faced during these years. I am also realizing how some of the struggles that are common in these years are issues I still struggle with at times. I find myself reliving some of the pain from those years as I try to equip my children and students to process the These are such important transition years as children grow into teenagers and young adults. Here are a few of the things I began learning at this age and still need to remember as an adult.

1- God is my only perfect friend. He is always there for me and I learned to pour my heart out to him through prayer and journaling during these years. Psalm 118 says "His steadfast love endures forever." It is so good to know that even though all friends will disappoint us at times, God never will. He will always love us! He is the best friend I could ever have! As I learn that I am secure in God's love for me, I can think about being a friend to others rather than needing a friend. I still need to remind myself of this as an adult.

2- God has given each of us gifts to be used for his kingdom. During my middle school years, I began thinking about what God might be calling me to do. My youth group leaders and teachers encouraged and equipped me for ministry. I started a Bible study with a few friends in my neighborhood and really enjoyed that opportunity to serve. It is interesting that so many years later I am still starting and leading Bible studies in my neighborhood, although my neighborhood now looks very different. I realized that when I was thinking about how I could love and serve others, I was much less worried about what others thought about me.

3- Words have a great deal  of power. In middle school I was feeling jealous of another girl and said something hurtful about her to one of my friends. A year later she told me that someone told her what I had said. She expressed how much those words hurt her and explained that she avoided me for a year because of the pain those words caused her. I am thankful that she had the courage to confront me and that made a significant impression on me. Proverbs 12:18 says, "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." I still struggle at times with my words, but I pray that my tongue will bring healing to those around me.

These middle school years can be challenging times, but it is also a wonderful time for equipping and growing in many ways. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak into the lives of our children and students in these significant transitional years.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Thankful for my mission family

Bringing a foster child into your home in order to eventually adopt is a very different experience than giving birth. Another adoptive mom on our team suggested that the "birth pains" are stretched out over a long period of time as you go through the whole process. One major difference is a bit of confusion about when to celebrate. If I had given birth to a child, I know that my family and friends would come to the hospital and probably have a shower to celebrate the child. But I didn't know how or when to celebrate Evie joining our family. 

Our missionary team sometimes has game nights where we get together just to have fun. Since many of us had recently returned from the states, I was excited to hear that someone was planning a team game night for last Friday. When we arrived, I found out that it was a surprise baby shower welcoming Evie to our family and to our missionary family! I cannot explain how much I felt loved and understood and so happy that I even began crying! I had longed for this type of celebration for my daughter, but didn't even realize how much I desired it until our missionary family surprised us with this party! 

Our team gave us this basin full of essentials like diapers, wipes, baby wash, formula, etc. and made these beautiful cupcakes to celebrate our baby girl. 

They even had beautiful decorations!

They were all trying to hold an adopted or foster Ugandan "baby" as we walked in to celebrate with us. We are not alone in this process! Our team actually has more adopted missionary kids than biological ones, but many of the children area bit big to carry. 😉

While I am sad that Evie has not yet been able to meet any of her new grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins since they all live across the ocean, I am so thankful that she has such a loving missionary family who took time to plan a beautiful celebration welcoming her into our family! In Psalms 68:6 the Bible says that "God places the lonely into families." I am thankful that God placed Evie with us, but I am also so thankful that He placed our family in a missionary team that has beome a second family to us! 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Rejoicing and Grieving

As I get to know my precious new daughter, I have such a mixture of emotions. I love her deeply and am beginning to see a special bond form between the two of us. 
Yesterday, she wanted to be held close and in the afternoon and evening she kept reaching for my face and bringing her nose to touch mine. It was so precious and I thank God for the connection that is beginning to form. I want her to know that I want to be her mama forever.  I want her to know that she is special to me. She enjoys our whole family and they all love her dearly. Here is a photo from the first time our children met her when she was just a few months old. 

These boys particularly love giving baby Evie cuddles and are thrilled to help care for her, except when she has dirty diapers. 😉 My older two are amazing helpers and I love how they care for her! Evie shares a room with Esther so each morning Esther gets her out of her crib, brings her to me for cuddles and then goes to prepare Evie's bottle and my coffee without me even asking. Esther is such an amazing help to me and will be a wonderful mother one day. One night after I put Evie to bed, she started fussing again. When I went in to check on her Elijah was holding baby Evie and singing Jesus Loves Me for her. My heart was so full! She is enjoying getting to know David and particularly curious about his beard. (She only had women caring for her at the babies' home.) I love watching her connect with each family member in a different way. 

Yesterday was a hard day. It was the first day she was just fussy and I couldn't figure out why. The first week and a half that she was with our family she was generally a happy, easy baby. Then yesterday afternoon she did not want to nap, cried a lot and I was not able to settle her down. I couldn't figure out what was wrong or how to help. I asked Elijah to take over and went to my room and cried. I have had those moments with all of my children, when I couldn't figure out what they needed, but this time I had an added thought. "We have only had you as apart of our family for a little over a week, but you have had 6 months of life that you did not know me. My other children knew my voice when they were born from their months growing inside my womb. You didn't know that I would be your mom when I was visiting you at the babies' home and you are just now learning what it means to have a mother who loves and cares for you." As I processed this grief that we both experience whether consciously or not, I remembered that adoption always comes out of brokenness. As I look at her beautiful face, I see scars that I will never know exactly how they came about. It breaks my heart. But God has given us the privilege and responsibility of loving and caring for her from now on. As we grieve over what was lost, we will also rejoice in the way God has brought her into our family! He is the God who brings the lonely into families and creates beauty out of ashes. And I thank Him that we get to be a little part of that in the life of our dear Evangeline Kisakye. Her names mean, "the one who brings good news" and "His grace." I pray that her life will be a picture of God's grace to all who know her and many will come to know the good news of God's love through her life!