#XLfamily

There are many ways in which we are just like every other family out there, the ones with fewer children, the ones with no children. But, there are plenty of ways that we are unique from smaller families because of the sheer logistics of nine human beings and multiple pets abiding in the same cramped space. I am thankful for my home (with all of its needed repairs) and thankful for my children (with all of their needed attention). Don’t get me wrong. I am oh so thankful. However, I find myself doing things to survive and even thrive in this environment, in this season of bursting at the seams with children and appointments and chores and homeschool and schedules and activities. I guess you get the picture.

For instance, we recently had the plague run through the whole family, all nine of us, and then came back for seconds. You may decorate with whatnots. But, at such times I decorate with assorted medications and dosage cups all in a row. I changed our bedding and our toothbrushes. I was looking for any way to avoid another round of the crud and that is when it hit me. I knew what had to be done. I confiscated the toothpaste.

Well, first, I threw every tube I could find away and then bought two new tubes, but I kept possession of them. I now dispense the toothpaste onto Q-tips and use that to put it on each child’s toothbrush. How odd is that? I admit it is odd, I do. But, I’ll keep doing it because I’d rather be odd than sick with the plague.

When I am ‘serving’ meals I often look and sound like a cafeteria lady. “Next”, I bellow until no one else responds. One particular morning stands out. Determined to serve a healthy breakfast although short on time, I was dishing up steaming oatmeal. Proud of my ability to remember which child liked which toppings, I hastily moved through the assembly. When it was Jonathan’s turn I moved the brown sugar, choosing the white sugar so he would be satisfied to eat the oatmeal and not complain. I think he was 8 at the time.

When he reappeared with bowl in hand to report it didn’t taste right, I was frustrated. “You get yourself in there and eat that healthy oatmeal that I took time to make! I even used the white sugar!” I added for emphasis.

“But, Mom, it tastes bad. Just taste it.” he protested.

I snatched the bowl none too graciously and put a big spoonful in my mouth to prove my point. I’m not sure what expression came across my face as I gagged and spit and sputtered. But, I’m sure it wasn’t lovely. Salt!! I had generously poured white salt instead of white sugar onto his oatmeal. For months he eyed every bowl suspiciously.

With five of the seven children now teens (well, when youngest girl turns 13 next month), the dynamics of this household have sharply shifted. The hormones! The attitudes! The head wagging! The drama! The tattling!

One of my favorites is, “Mom! Denise hit me back!”

“What do you mean she hit you back?” I am searching for clarity.

“I hit her and she hit me back. You said no hitting back.”

“I also said no hitting in the first place.”

“Well, still, she hit me back and she should be in trouble.”

The three oldest boys are musicians and play the guitar, the drums and the piano. The other four try to equal their volume of noise in giggles and shouts and radios blaring. Some days I am searching for ear plugs that we wear when we are target shooting. Other days may find me dancing in the shower.

Then there is the matter of food. We have plenty, that’s not what I mean. It’s control of the food I’m talking about. On any given night I go into a public service announcement. “The clear dish with the blue top in the fridge is for Dad’s lunch tomorrow! Do not touch it! I repeat, do NOT touch it! There will be dire consequences if you touch it.” Or “These crackers are NOT up for grabs! They are for the meeting at church! Hands off the Triscuits!”

Growing boys never get full, did you know that? They never stop eating from 8-18. My mom told me there was only one way to survive five sons, learn to make good biscuits, seasoned rice and potatoes in every style imaginable. I listened to her wisdom and have done so. Even still, the smallest of the boys, only 9yo and small for his size gets out of bed EVERY single night to come and ask me what is for breakfast the next morning.

I’ve given completely up on finding matched pairs of socks. I just budget buying new packs on a regular basis. Oh, and matched dishes, glasses, cups as well, are a lost cause. What’s the point? After all, we must pick our battles and choose them wisely.

Sure, we have to schedule hot showers or take cold ones. Sure, we can’t quite all fit around the table. Sure, I’ve made a bedroom out of the used to be dining room. Sure, we have squabbles and sometimes want to stomp each other’s guts out. But, we can overlook being squished into this old house like sardines. We can overlook the condition of the living room furniture that I bought years ago at a yard sale. We can overlook being out of milk and not discovering it until you have already poured your cereal.

We can overlook a lot because, well, because that’s not what is important. Everyone of us, in this unique #XLfamily knows that when push comes to shove, we’ve got each other’s backs. We know that we are blessed to have each other and that there are many people longing for the chaos that we experience daily. We know that it is better to be together than alone. We know that the day will soon come that this old house will be quiet and neat and spacious. Well, until they starting bringing the grand kids over. Then, it will begin again.

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Older-Child Adoption

I love to share about adoption and how it has impacted our lives. I will often tell of how God led us in a direction and towards a decision in remarkable ways.

One of the most important adoption decisions we ever made, I was very confused because I had not sensed that direction one way or the other.

In great distress I went to the solid rock that God placed in my life, Henry Rodda. Tears streamed as I told him I just didn’t know what we were suppose to do, that I hadn’t heard from God and I was terrified of making the wrong decision.

It was then that Henry spoke words that I will never forget and deserve to be written down for others to read.

“Sometimes God asks us to do something by putting what needs doing right in front of us.” I knew he was right and we prayed together and took a step into our future with trembling knees.

That decision resulted in adopting our oldest son, Josiah . He wasn’t our first adoption, but he was our first older-child adoption. He came to us at 8 years old and we adopted him at 9. It was challenging for us, for him, for Jesse whom we had already adopted and was one year younger. There were days that I was convinced that he would never accept me as his mom. There were days that I prayed and asked Jesus to love him through me because I had nothing left.

This month he turns 19 and we couldn’t be prouder than we are of the young man he has become. We are very thankful that we did what needed doing. That feisty little 8yo needed a family, that was obvious. What wasn’t so obvious, is how much we needed him. He has stretched us and we have stretched him. We are not the same and we are glad.

He has grown over the last decade in every part of his being. Emotionally, he has learned to trust, to trust us as parents and to trust Jesus as his Savior. Physically, he has become a man right before our eyes and walks with purpose and confidence. Spiritually, he has submitted his life to a personal call to music ministry.

Adopting an older child is not the same as adopting an infant, I’ve experienced both. It is not the same journey. It does, however, have the same destination, the forging of a family. As I often say, and mean sincerely – ‘In the end, love wins.’

What has God put right in front of you that needs doing? Will you answer the stirring in your heart?

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This is My Adoption Story

Because we have adopted seven children we truly have seven unique adoption stories. So, while adoption is a family matter I have decided to take this opportunity to tell the story of my own heart and the process it took to become an adoptive mother.

As a young woman, I became pregnant the first and second years of our marriage. We lost both of those babies, a little boy and a little girl, Jacob and Tessie. We never expected that we would never again be pregnant. It was a decade later that we found ourselves discouraged and feeling betrayed by our own bodies. Trying to come o grips with the fact that being parents was not to be a part of our future, I felt the shame that every woman who faces infertility feels. My body was defective, God could have changed that, but, He hadn’t. We had even attempted a private adoption that had been a very costly failure, both monetarily and financially. We felt that our fate was sealed.

When we decided to become foster parents, we were cautioned by practically everyone we knew. This was bound to lead to heartache, a series of heartaches to be more specific. Loving other people’s children, letting them go again would be too painful. But, we were determined to proceed, no matter the risk. Not because we were saints or martyrs or superheroes, but, because our eyes had been opened to a great need. It was simple, I would often say, a matter of one possibility outweighing the other. The possibility of us helping a hurting child outweighed the possibility of us being hurt ourselves. If you could only see it as I did (and do) it would be just as simple to understand.

Imagine that you saw a child entangled in a hedge of briars with ominous thorns all around them. The safest thing for you to do would be to walk away and leave it to the experts. I wasn’t willing to look away and play it safe. I equipped myself as best as I could with training and support. But, I could never allow the thought of a scratch, even a painful bleeding wound, divert me from the child in danger. So many people have told me that they wonder how we have done what we have done. I am just as amazed that everyone is not doing the exact same thing. I could not pretend I do not see what I did so clearly see.

I understand completely that not everyone is called to foster or adopt just as not everyone is called to teach or pastor or be a doctor or a missionary. There are many paths to walk in this life and whatever your path is, you should walk with purpose and passion. We had found our path and for fifteen years we fostered forty-five children. Out of those forty-five, we adopted seven, whom we are still raising today. That means that thirty-eight children came and left again. The friends and family who had cautioned us were right, it was a series of heartaches, I’m not going to pretend otherwise. But, then, we were right too. The possibility of us helping a hurting child outweighed the possibility of us being hurt ourselves.

When we became foster parents, we never dreamed that we would eventually adopt seven children. After our first adoption I was totally satisfied and felt that an impossible dream had come true. One thing that I have learned in my years of walking after Jesus, His plans for me always go far beyond anything I could ever hope or dream. You’ll find the same to be true if you decide to abandon your own path to follow Him. He will take you on adventure that will take your breath away.

Although we are no longer fostering as we devote our time and energies into the seven we adopted, my heart still squeezes at the thought of so many children entangled in dysfunctional families, perhaps even abusive and trapped in a broken system that sometimes makes matters worse even with sincere attempts to make matters better. I don’t believe that we are done. As a matter of fact, I believe we’ve only just begun.

I hope to be an advocate for foster-adoptions. I hope to inspire others to consider adopting older children (like our son who came to us at eight years old). I hope to encourage others to consider adopting sibling groups (like our girls). I hope to persuade others to consider adopting children who don’t have the same color skin, that have special needs, that seem un-adoptable in the eyes of most who see them. I hope to write a book called ‘Adoptability’ and a series of children’s books based on our homestead that will help children in transition. I hope to have a group of homes, safe places, where children can find love and stability. I hope to live my life taking as many risks as I possibly can, giving love every opportunity I possibly can, touching as many lives as I can.

That is my adoption story. That is how I became an adoptive mom of seven, the foster mom of forty-five, the spiritual mom of many. There are days when I still get overwhelmed and wish more than anything that I had more energy, money and time. There are days when I am made starkly aware of my own limitations, my own failings and my own shortcomings. But, about that time I catch a glimpse of a child full of both potential and pain. I see the entangled emotions and the ominous thorns. I understand clearly that this encounter may lead to some wounds and scars. I could walk away, play it safe and say a prayer or I can grit my teeth, reach in to touch a heart and plant a seed of love. I won’t always see the fully developed result of my efforts, but, I can do my best, trust God with the rest and remind myself of what I believe. IN THE END, LOVE WINS.