Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Lesson My Son Taught Me

We just finished supper at our neighborhood Taco Bell. Not something we do often (McDonald’s is closer), but it was a special occasion. What was the occasion? It was Monday evening, and Mommy forgot to plan supper! Seriously.

I finally wrangled all of the kiddos into the car, and we were getting ready to pull out of the parking lot when Josiah started saying something over and over about the poor lady. The other kids were drowning him out with their chatter, but he finally got my attention.

“Mommy, she’s poor. Look at her holding the sign. Can you give her some money?” He pointed to the woman on the corner of the shopping center exit.

I couldn’t believe he even understood what that was all about. Where had he learned this? This is my child who, along with his two siblings, was living in an orphanage in Bulgaria just 20 months ago. When I asked him how he knew about people holding up signs and things of that sort, he reminded me I had explained that to them before. Oh… How could I have forgotten that? Widow brain is alive and well it appears.

I knew I didn’t have any cash on me, something I rarely carry anymore. However, my son kept asking what I was going to do for her, so I checked my purse and wallet…just to make sure. This time, my memory was spot on. No cash.

I told Josiah I had nothing to give her, but I would be sure to get some cash to keep in the car for these types of occasions from now on. He then asked me how I paid for dinner. Smart kid apparently didn’t accept my answer. I reminded him I paid with a card that worked like cash. His next response was completely unexpected.

“Mommy, I have money in my bank at home. Can you drive me home to get it, and I’ll give her that?”

How do you respond to your 9-year-old former orphan wanting to take money out of his piggy bank to give to the sign-holding lady on the corner of the shopping center? I was honestly taken aback. At this point, I knew God expected me to respond.

I’ll admit I pass by many of those people without ever making an effort to do anything for them. Not because I’m not willing, but because I never have cash and don’t ever seem to bother to think of what else I might have. I know some sign-holders might not be doing it for the right reason, but that’s not up to me to determine. If God prompts me to do something, it’s up to me to obey. This time, the prompting came through my son.

I decided to dig deeper into my wallet. I thought I had some gift cards in there I had been using to shop with. Certainly there was something left on them. The first one I picked up was for Walmart. We happened to be just next door to a Walmart at this particular time. I called the number on the back of my card to check my balance…zero. Nothing left.

Ok, Lord! I sense I’m to do something for this lady. What do you want me to do? Go to the bank and get something out? A gift card? Please direct me here. I don’t want to disappoint Josiah.

I had one more gift card in my wallet. It was a VISA gift card. Again, I called the number on the back to check my balance. This time…$23.87 was the response. I knew He was asking me to give it to her.

“Okay son, I’ve got something with some money available on it,” I shared with Josiah.

“So, are you going to give it to her?” he asked me.

Still a bit unsure, I responded, “I think so. I need to make sure I can get close enough to her, but as long as I can safely do that, I’m going to give it to her.”

We pulled out of Taco Bell’s parking lot and headed to the exit. I was able to pull up right beside the lady. She looked at me with pleading eyes before I ever rolled down my passenger window. As I started to do so, she hurried over to the van, and I simply said, “I’m sorry I don’t have cash, but I have this card with $23.87, and you can have it.”

She immediately responded. “God bless you!” And, as we drove away, I heard her start to pray, “Heavenly Father, thank you for what you’ve just done…” Her voice drifted off, and I heard nothing else as we were out of earshot at that point.

I looked back in my rearview mirror at Josiah, and he was grinning from ear to ear.

“Was that okay Josiah? Did mommy do what you hoped I would do?”

He nodded, while still grinning.

I simply thanked him for pointing her out to me early enough to allow me time to try to find something to give her. We then had the discussion about how everything we have belongs to God. Everything. He simply loans it to us while we’re on earth. I told him how I knew God was pleased with him, and he would be blessed for being obedient.

Thank you Abba for this gift of my son and for continually teaching me through the eyes of these former orphans. I stand amazed!

#HeIsStillGood

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Where Has the Time Gone?

Yes. I’m still here in Blogland. There’s so much I’ve been wanting to share with you, but life has been “huge” as of late, and I’ve honestly had to step back from writing projects for a bit. But, oh how I’ve missed this oasis.

2016 was a BIG…HUGE…GINORMOUS…year for us. If acclimating to life with our newest Bulgarian cuties wasn’t enough, we also completed the adoption of our two-year-old foster son and bought a new house and relocated three counties away! We’ve been in the new house almost three months but still have boxes to unpack!

As for the Bulgarian sibling group we adopted at the end of 2015, they are thriving!

From one year ago to now…such a difference!

They only speak English now, and honestly…they have been doing so since around the three month mark. It’s absolutely astonishing to me to see how quickly these kiddos picked up a new language. We have had our challenges (more to share on some of that in later posts), but we’ve also been blessed immensely. Adoption is the hardest thing we’ve tackled as a couple, but I can’t imagine our life without these precious brown-eyed, olive-skinned, beautiful children.

Then comes Austyn. We simply thought we were caring for him until he was reunified with his biological family, but God had other plans. This little guy is now our son. It brings tears to my eyes to type those words. Our SON! I am overwhelmed at the blessing this little boy has been to our family. He loves his siblings, and they adore him. Sure…they fight sometimes…as siblings do, but the love they have between each other wins out every single time. This little guys brightens up every room he walks into. He’s full of love, laughter, and such an intense personality. He’s a go-getter (even at the age of two), and I know God has great plans for him.

Our relocation a little more eastward has been challenging (as far as moves go), but we’re so excited to finally be in our home and don’t plan to leave for a long, long time. Hopefully not until we retire (if then). Ha! When Joel and I married, he committed to making the commute from my hometown to his job (75 miles one way) in order for my girlie to graduate from high school. He ended up commuting for over four years. We knew we would end up moving eventually, but we didn’t know if that would be in the same county but closer to his work or out of the county. We chose the latter, because we were able to get so much more house for the money. I have the commute now, but I love it!!! I have so much thinking time, and my INFJ personality type desperately needs that.

We can’t wait to see all that’s in store for our life in our new town. We’re open to whatever God brings our way, and we know that could be a wild ride, as it’s been nothing less than that up to this point.

And…if all that wasn’t enough…my first book was published in June. That project produced a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. LOTS of tears, as I had to relive my first year as a widow. There were many days my heart ached so deeply and yet to be reminded of God’s faithfulness time and time again during those dark days of my life was nothing short of gracious. My goal with Rescued and Restored is to bring hope to those in need of it. While it’s a story of grief and restoration from the tragic suicidal death of my husband, it’s so much more than that. It’s not just for widows…it’s for anyone in need of rescue…in need of healing…in need of hope. You can get it here (paperback and Kindle formats available). I’m also willing to come share my story at a women’s event or retreat, and you can learn more about that here.

As for Out of Deep Waters…I plan to be here a lot more often and more consistently. And…believe it or not…you might be seeing me in other places as well. Lots of stuff in the works I’ll reveal as time goes on.

Thank you for stopping by and being faithful even through the “desert periods”. Feel free to comment and say hi! I would love to hear from you!

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Nightmarish Trip

BG2-2You’ve seen a glimpse of our three newest children. Yes…they are adorable. Yes…they are loads of fun. Yes…we are very blessed to be their parents. BUT…

You knew I would have to go there someday.

BUT…it’s not all peaches and cream.

While we didn’t become parents overnight, and between the two of us, we’ve been parenting children for over a decade, I can honestly say there was no amount of education and preparation we could have received to prepare us for the ten days we spent in Bulgaria for our “pick up trip”.

I have experienced many difficult things in life. I lost a spouse to a heartbreaking divorce and another one to suicide. My parents divorced when I was fourteen, and I lived through a very dysfunctional childhood. Even so…our “pick up trip” ranks in the top 3 of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure. Seriously.

When we traveled to Bulgaria last July to actually meet our children for the first time, we had some “down time”, which was definitely needed at the end of each day…for us and them. It was a lot to take in and absorb, especially for their precious hearts. Their world was about to turn upside-down, and while they couldn’t fully grasp it at that time, they knew it was coming, and they’d witnessed their friends leaving the orphanage to go to their new homes. They fully welcomed being adopted and were thrilled to finally have a family of their very own. During trip one, we would spend the days together, but they would go back to their friends by dinnertime and would sleep in their own beds at night. We had the hotel room to go back to, but we could process the events of the day with each other and do a little sight-seeing on the side too.

Our November trip looked nothing like the one in July. We arrived after two days of travel and “took custody” of our children the very next day. They were excited and anxious, as we were. The four hour trip back to the capital of Sofia produced tired children ready to get out of the car and explore everything new around them…which was literally…everything! They had no social graces. Manners were non-existent. They knew nothing of personal space, and they laughed in the face of danger. They were very obedient whenever the translator/driver was around, but as soon as he offered his goodbyes, the “Mr. Hyde” children surfaced. Now, don’t get me wrong, we love our children to pieces and don’t regret becoming their mommy and daddy for one minute, however I want to be real about some of our experiences. It was all perfectly “normal”, but normal or not…it was grueling.

We found out rather quickly we had to stay close by the apartment we were housed in, because it was simply too hard to take them most places. We also learned right off the bat we were outnumbered. Yes…we’re adults and bigger than they are, but even so…we were outnumbered 3-2. If we had to do it over again, we would have had a third person with us to help balance things out.

Most of our meals were takeout style, in which Joel or I would venture out for food to bring back to the apartment to eat. If we did go out to eat with them, it was either to McDonald’s, a pizza place, or food from a street vendor. There were two occasions where we took them to a nice sit-down meal, because we were craving it, and we really wanted to make some fun memories with them too. It happened towards the end of the trip and resulted from a little behavior bribery (yes…true that).

Just a snippet of the things we experienced during the pickup trip:

  • One child picked up a piece of chewed up gum from underneath a table at McDonald’s and proceeded to chew it further. Blech!
  • A different child thought cigarette butts picked up on the street were mighty tasty. Even bigger BLECH!
  • A third child thought it would be okay to steal some items from the pizza place we ate at a couple times. This child quickly learned that wouldn’t be tolerated when we took them back to apologize to the owner and return the stolen goods.
  • After being told by zoo staff to not tap on the glass of the reptiles, one child decided to test that theory and continued banging the glass container as loud as possible until we ended up leaving the zoo out of fear of being kicked out.
  • One child thought it would be fun to run away from a certain parent in the park (all in an effort to make said parent begin a chase).
  • On our souvenir shopping day near the time we were to return home, we took a cab to a part of town we hadn’t yet ventured to before. We took turns shopping and watching the children, because we were still uneasy about the little thief in our presence. During my time with the kids outside, we were all supposed to be sitting on a bench quietly waiting on daddy. One child decided that didn’t seem like much fun and pushed a sibling off the bench onto the concrete below only to create a little more excitement. And it did…blood, sweat, and many tears!

Now after reading this,  you probably think we adopted a bunch of little hellions. At the time, we did too. Ha! However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. They really are sweet children who were testing us to the nth degree while we were still on their turf. They didn’t know us well enough to trust us yet. Their whole world had been completely turned upside-down, and while we knew what was coming was better, they had no way of knowing that just yet.

They’ve been home 3 months, and I can truthfully say they are drastically different children. Honestly, the change started the moment they stepped foot on US soil. They still have a lot to learn, as do we all, but they are doing it and working really hard at everything we’re teaching them. And, we praise God for allowing us to be their parents!

As an aside, you might be wondering how we even survived our pick-up trip. PRAYER. Lots of prayer! We sent out multiple requests from friends and other families who have walked similar paths. We know it was the prayer of those standing in the gap for us that allowed us to make it through those very difficult days!

BG2

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Our Family Just Got Bigger!

I noticed my last post was November 11, so I think it’s BEYOND time to let you know…

WE’RE HOME FROM BULGARIA!!!! AND…SO ARE OUR KIDDOS!!!!

Allow us to introduce…Josiah Timothy, Katerina Abigail, and Benjamin Levi!

And…what a wild eight weeks it’s been! Now, that we’re establishing a semblance of a routine, I hope to begin blogging more regularly again. There is so much my heart wants to share.

Here’s a brief glimpse of the major events that have taken place in the last eight weeks:

November 10 – We began our journey from the US back to Bulgaria

November 11 – Arrived in Bulgaria

November 12 – GOTCHA DAY!!! This is the day we picked up our children from the orphanage. 🙂 What a special and unforgettable day that was. I’ll share more about that specific event in a future post. But, for now…here’s the final pic we took of the children with the director in front of their orphanage.

BG_Stanis

November 21 – Arrived back in the US!

November 26 – Thanksgiving!

December 9 – Appointments at the International Adoption Clinic in Charleston, SC

December 13 – Our oldest son got married!

December 18 – Our middle daughter arrived home after having completed her first semester of college.

December 25Christmas!!

January 4 – The older two children started school, and the youngest one started PreK, and I returned to work. Whew!

To say we’ve been a bit busy is quite the understatement. And to think…we thought the paperwork part of this journey would kill us…ha! ha!

The children are doing very well with this huge adjustment. Just think…everything they’ve known in this entire world was left behind in Bulgaria. However, while they’ve lost much…they’ve also gained something they’ve never truly known…a family! And, can you believe…only 4.5 years ago, I was a widowed single mom of one, and now I’m a happily married mom/step-mom/foster mom to nine! Only God can do that!

Thanks for all your love and amazing support through this adoption journey! We look forward to continue sharing highlights of our story…even this side of it…with you as time goes along!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Only 8 More Days!

Only 8 More Days!I can’t believe the time is almost here! In only 8 days, we leave for Bulgaria for what’s commonly dubbed as our “pick up” trip. Unlike the trip we made this past June/July, we won’t be returning home after having to leave our children in their orphanage for a little while longer. This time…THEY ARE COMING HOME WITH US!!!!

While the wait has seemed unbearable at times, we know that compared to many adoptive families, our wait has been very short. We began this journey just under 20 months ago.

We can’t wait to share pictures of the newest Stirewalt kiddos, and believe me…pictures will go out the moment we land safely back in the states (November 21). So stay tuned…

Until then…we still have much to do:

  1. Packing for 5!
  2. Finishing the kiddos’ bedroom.
  3. Purchasing last minute items we still need for them.
  4. Finishing up tasks at work, as I prepare to take adoption leave.
  5. Meal prep and freezer cooking to have some things ready to eat after we get home.
  6. Scheduling doctor/dental/vision appointments for our children for when they get home.
  7. And so much more…

So many of you have “traveled” this adoption journey with us…you’ve prayed for us, donated to our fundraising efforts, prayed, gathered clothing for our children, prayed, sent gifts, prayed, and…did I mention…you prayed!?!?! Without a doubt, prayer has been the single most important gift to our adoption journey! Without it, we shudder to think how difficult and much harder this process could have been. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

While it may seem our adoption is coming to end, it’s actually only just beginning. The paperwork piece of it is finishing up (although, there will still be post-adoption visits and reports for two years), but the parenting portion is just starting. We’ll have many challenges up ahead, and we’ve been as prepared for those as we can possibly be, but we also know the there will be “surprises” as well. As a result, continued prayer is vital. Anytime the Lord prompts you to pray for us, please do so. Thank you, in advance!

We continue counting down the days until we get those cuties home!