Monday, March 27, 2017

We Knew She Was Different

The first time we laid eyes on her, we knew she was special. Katerina had a way of lighting up a room with her huge smile and her pure joy. And…when she met her daddy for the first time…oh the joy, such incredible joy. We didn’t know how Katerina would react to Joel, because many children living in orphanages haven’t had a lot of contact with males (most caregivers are women), but Katerina knew this man was HER daddy, and she loved him immensely, and the feeling was mutual.

Katerina has always been such a special little girl, in many respects. She’s the only girl out of the four we’ve adopted. That, in and of itself, makes her very special. She holds her own with the boys, but she loves to be the girl God has created her to be. She plays with dolls, likes to have her fingernails painted, and loves to wear pretty dresses.

Soon after our adoption of Katerina (and her brothers) was complete, we had them all evaluated at an international adoption clinic and by their local pediatrician. It was clear there was something else going on with Katerina. We learned early on there was a developmental delay (not uncommon coming from orphanage life). But, we were referred to the Fullerton Genetic Center to have her evaluated for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Children coming from the part of the world where these children came from are often exposed to alcohol in the womb, and FAS or any of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are very strong possibilities for these children.

Upon her genetic testing (which ruled out some other possibilities) and a battery of testing, Katerina was confirmed with FAS. Our hearts broke for our sweet daughter. It wasn’t her fault, but she’ll have to deal with the effects of a choice by another for the rest of her life (as will her new family).

This past December, Katerina was evaluated yet again, and we learned she also has Autism. That somewhat came as a surprise, because many symptoms of FAS are in direct contradiction to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However, she scored high enough in the other categories that her diagnosis was clear.

Joel and I knew we were in for a lifetime of parenting this little girl who would grow to be a young lady. What would her future look like? Would she be able to learn enough to live independently? Would she ever be able to work a job? So many questions…

This past Friday, I faced the next challenge alone for the first time. Katerina just went through re-evaluation for her IEP (Individualized Education Plan). She was given a large battery of in-depth tests. The results of the all the testing…our baby girl is mentally challenged. Her IQ is very low, and she is now considered “moderately intellectually delayed”. I think we knew it deep down, but I heard it for the first time, and my heart broke again. I had to grieve for my daughter all over again. But this time, I didn’t have her daddy to grieve and share this news with. I truly felt and thought to myself, “How much more Lord? How much more weight can my shoulders take?” I know I won’t feel this way forever, but for now…I feel the darkness is getting heavier and the pit is getting deeper. I’m still praying and waiting for breakthrough and a glimpse of the light breaking through the tunnel.

But, God has great plans for Miss K! I know He does. She is full of compassion and love and seems to know how to comfort people in pain in ways others don’t. I had a bit of a meltdown a week ago that unfortunately happened in front of the kids. The boys kept asking if I was okay and wanted to help with words. But my sweet girl…she walked up to me and started rubbing my back…she didn’t say a word. She just rubbed my back! God used her mightily in that moment to comfort her hurting mama.

He has great plans for my girl! No doubt in my mind. I just want to make sure I listen to His still, small voice to know what role I play in His plans for her. Without Joel to help me make decisions, I’m trusting God to fill the role of “husband to the widow” He’s promised and guide me through some of the hard decisions I might have to make decades from now or even in the next few weeks.

He won’t let me down. His plan is always perfect and always better.

I’ve been working with Katerina on learning some things about herself that I want to make sure she never forgets. She finally knows them, and will repeat them to me when I ask her to tell me her “I am’s”…and, she’ll say…

I am beautiful.

I am special.

I am smart.

I am loved.

Yes you are my precious! You are so, so loved!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Emotionally Beat-Up

Happy Wednesday afternoon friends! I’ve struggled to post for a few days now, because…well…in all honesty, I’m just feeling emotionally beat-up. Those were the exact words I spoke to a friend who recently called to check on me and see how I was doing, and I struggled to come up with what to stay. Finally…it came to me…I just feel…emotionally beat-up! And then she got it. She knew exactly what I meant.

  • I’m in the process of grieving the death of a second husband in less than 6 years, who’s been gone just slightly over a month. That, in and of itself, is almost too much to bear at times.
  • I have four young, adopted children…two with clinically-defined special needs and one probably, yet to be diagnosed. Throw a little, well a lot, of ADHD into the mix, and you’ve got one keyed up, stretched thin, worn through and through mama.
  • Then, this blasted foot surgery. It’s supposed to help restore life in areas where I’ve needed restoration…the ability to walk well (pain-free) again, and the ability to retreat back to those outdoor activities that bring me such joy hiking, camping, river tubing, etc. It was supposed to be an easy surgery. Key words “supposed to be”. Joel’s surgery was supposed to be easy too, and we see how that turned out. I guess I’m blessed to be alive, but I’m struggling with lots of PAIN, and I mean a ton! And…before the surgery I was given instructions that I could be ambulatory immediately post surgery (while using a surgery shoe) as I felt up to it. I had full, weigh-bearing privileges. Now…I’m not allowed to put any weight on it at all. Did you see the part about having 4 young, rambunctious children at home? Nearly impossible doc.

I’m begging God for a breakthrough, for a release from ALL the pain (even if it’s just temporary)…I just need some relief. I’ve asked Him for a better attitude, because I know I’m struggling in that area too, and I truly don’t want to be…I just want my joy back…even if it’s just a smidgen. It’s that smidgen that will carry me through to the next dose.

Come, Lord Jesus! Rain down bucketfuls of joy upon me, and remove the pain!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rejoice – Pray – Give Thanks (a Freedom Friday post)

I hope you had the opportunity to join me last week for my first ever Freedom Friday post. If not, you can click here and check it out! For the rest of you, welcome back!

Having gone through a life long roller coaster ride…having experienced extreme highs and what appeared (at times) to be bottomless lows…I can say with all honesty there are 3 verses in scripture that I’ve struggled consistently to obey.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) 

Rejoice always (v. 16), pray without ceasing (v. 17), give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (v. 18).

Rejoice. Always?

How do I rejoice over the suicidal death of my husband?

How do I rejoice when my dear friend contracts breast cancer?

How do I rejoice upon learning that I tore the meniscus in my knee while simply playing Wii with my daughter and would require surgery?

Pray without ceasing.

How do I continually pray as I struggle to balance the checkbook for the first time after becoming a single mom?

How do I pray without ceasing when I’m so exhausted from the 16 hour work day I just completed and now have an 8-year-old asleep on my office floor that needs to be carried home and put to bed?

How do I offer up continuous prayers when God seems so far away or non-existent at times?

Give thanks in all circumstances.

How do I give thanks while burying my husband on Mother’s Day?

How do I give thanks that my parents divorced and I’m now being whisked away, as a teenager, from the only support “place” I’ve ever known?

How do I give thanks while tears pour down my face following another heartbreaking conversation with someone I dearly love?

Seriously? Is God really asking me to do these things? Rejoice – pray – give thanks?

In short, yes. But, before you exit this post, because you just can’t listen to one more person telling you that God expects you to live up to something so seemingly impossible…please hear me out. Believe me, I know what you might be thinking…I’ve thought it too. I understand how often you’ve tried to be the person that does all three of these things so beautifully and failed time and time again. Yep – me too! But, will you walk with me for just a couple more minutes as I briefly unpack this? Because, maybe…maybe just maybe…God wants to impart a new nugget to you from some old verses that you’ve read time and time again.

REJOICE – always. Too often, we confuse joy with happiness. I know I’ve been guilty of this time and again, however joy for the Christian is something that is not dependent on our circumstances (which change all the time) but IS dependent on the unchanging character of God. I have learned, first-hand, that it is possible to be joyful even while experiencing hardship and sorrow. How can I do that? By focusing on those promises of God that are unchanging and knowing that I can find all-sufficiency in Christ Jesus alone. I rejoice in the future promises of God – eternal life with Him. The life we live on this earth is so brief compared to eternity. That’s so hard to comprehend, but when I pause to actually try and do that…I am able to rejoice that my eternity is secure. The hardships, the trials, the sorrow I may experience during my time on earth are only temporary…my security in my salvation and eternal home is permanent. I can REJOICE over that! The always part of this verse appears to mean the continual practice of a joyful attitude and spirit. What steals that joy from us? Focusing on our circumstances rather than the God over our circumstances.

PRAY – without ceasing. I love how one commentator puts it, “In the Christian life the act of prayer is intermittent but the spirit of prayer should be incessant. It is not in the moving of the lips, but in the elevation of the heart to God…” I love that. It’s not the very act…God doesn’t expect us to walk around uttering prayers all day long. That would be impossible. How would we pray as we sleep? Rather, God wants our spirit to be constantly devoted to a heart of prayer…a desire to walk in sweet communion with Him. Prayer is a way to develop and maintain an intimate relationship with God.

GIVE THANKS – in all circumstances. Oh boy…this is the one that seems to trip people up the most. Give thanks IN all circumstances. It’s that two-letter word – IN – that we tend to gloss over. God is not asking us to give thanks FOR all circumstances. He is simply instructing us to practice a heart of gratitude towards Him for His continual grace, mercy, and loving-kindness. No matter what we are experiencing at the moment…God is still gracious, merciful, and loving. No matter how deep our pain…God never changes. No matter how often we turn our back on Him…He never leaves us. How can we not offer thanks for all that He’s done for us even in the midst of life’s hardships? Much like I shared last in last week’s Freedom Friday post…Paul & Silas were in prison and yet offered up praise & thanksgiving to God, which ultimately resulted in their freedom. Hmmm…could that be key to the “freedom” we might be looking for as well?

I’m certainly no theologian, and I’ve only begun to understand the full meaning of these short verses, but God is not asking us to do something that we’re incapable of doing, or He would have never asked us to begin with. He sees my heart…He knows if I’m truly joyful and if I’m trying to maintain that intimate relationship with Him via prayer. And…He certainly knows if I have a heart of gratitude.

Whew! I don’t know about you, but when I examined these verses a little further, I recognized an ability (only through Christ) to be able to actually put these things into practice. Will it take away my pain? Probably not. Will it diminish it? Perhaps. Will it draw me closer to Him? Most definitely!

Heavenly Father, Please help me to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all circumstances. Help me to be focused on You, the One I know but can’t physically see rather than on those things that I can see and yet do not understand. In Jesus’ precious name I ask and pray, Amen!